Texas A&M Ready to Leave Nightmare Season Behind It

Posted by dnspewak on March 8th, 2012

Danny Spewak is a Big 12 Microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage of the Big 12 Tournament from the Sprint Center in Kansas City this weekend. He filed this piece after Kansas’ 83-66 victory over Texas A&M. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

The two teams selected in the pre-season to win the Big 12 met in the league tournament on Thursday afternoon.

In a quarterfinal.

That’s all you need to know about this disastrous season for ninth-seeded Texas A&M, which survived a first-round game against Oklahoma but fell to regular-season champion Kansas 83-66 on Thursday. “I mean, being here for three years, [I’ve] never lost this many games. It’s hard on everybody. Just hate losing,” junior Khris Middleton said. Five months ago, the Aggies (14-18) appeared to have it all: a first-year coach with a successful track record at a powerhouse mid-major, a budding star in Middleton and an experienced roster to surround him. Billy Kennedy‘s team would surely carry over the defensive principles instilled by Mark Turgeon, and Middleton, Dash Harris and David Loubeau formed a solid core of upperclassmen.

Khris Middleton Is Already Looking to His Senior Season After Thursday's Loss.

But this is a cruel game. And life is cruel in general. First, Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in the fall, which kept him away from the team during critical practice time leading up to the beginning of the season. That left him helpless to establish himself as a new head coach in this program. As Kennedy began to regain his energy and return to his old self, however, the injury bug hit his team in a major way. Middleton missed several weeks during non-conference play after knee surgery and then missed a stretch of time during Big 12 play. The team lost its point guard, Harris, for most of February, and it lost Kourtney Roberson in late December. Backup point guard Jamal Brach transferred, too. By now, you’re starting to get the point, and you can probably guess what happened.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.23.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 23rd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Syracuse has a quick turnaround on the road after losing to Notre Dame on Saturday. Can Cincinnati make it two straight losses for the Orange? Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

#1 Syracuse @ Cincinnati – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • After suffering a surprising first loss at Notre Dame on Saturday, Syracuse is back in action 48 hours later on the road against one of the hottest teams in the Big East. Cincinnati would tie Syracuse in the loss column with a win, becoming one of six teams with two losses. How do the Orange avoid that fate? It’s simpler than you might think. Shoot the ball better (34% vs. ND) and defend at a high level. Even without Fab Melo in the lineup, Syracuse has much more depth than Cincinnati. Good guard play out of Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters will be important for the Orange. Cincinnati will look to slow the pace and make this game a half court battle. Syracuse needs to rebound the ball well and get out and run at every chance. Waiters adds that spark off the bench for Jim Boeheim but Jardine has to take care of the basketball and move the ball well in half court situations.

    With Fab Melo Out, Will Cincinnati Find It Easier In The Paint ?

  • The Bearcats are 5-2 in the Big East and this would obviously be a monumental win for their NCAA Tournament resume. With no Melo, Cincinnati will find it a bit easier to get shots off around the basket as well as to rebound. Cincinnati is ranked a paltry #228 in two-point percentage but Yancy Gates could be the key guy for Mick Cronin. Cincinnati shoots a lot of threes and opportunities will be plentiful against the 2-3 Syracuse zone. If the threes aren’t falling, Gates needs to be there to clean the boards and finish the second opportunities. Without Melo anchoring the paint, Syracuse, already vulnerable on the defensive glass to begin with, could really struggle to keep Gates off the backboards. Sean Kilpatrick shoots 39.4% from deep for a team that gets over a third of its points from beyond the arc. If the Bearcats aren’t shooting the ball well over the zone, it’s lights out for Cincinnati. To get quality shots against the zone, the ball must be moved to the free throw line area. If Cronin rotates players like Kilpatrick back and forth from the three point line to the foul line, Cincinnati should be able to get quite a few open looks.
  • One thing Cincinnati must be careful of is long rebounds off of missed threes. That can lead to easy transition buckets for Waiters and the Orange, increasing the pace to a level Cronin doesn’t want to see. The Bearcats must slow the game down, protect the ball and get back in transition. Cincinnati has not defended all that well in Big East play but it must tonight in order to pull the upset. Keep an eye on the turnover margin. Cincinnati does a fabulous job of ball protection with Cashmere Wright running the point but Syracuse may be the best team in the nation at forcing steals and turnovers to fuel its transition attack. If Cincinnati shoots well and keeps control of the ball, the Bearcats will be in this game to the end with a chance to hand Syracuse its second consecutive loss.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.02.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s a relatively light night of hoops but two interesting games in the South should have your attention this evening.

Texas A&M at #5 Baylor – 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

  • The Baylor Bears keep winning as they head into a conference showdown with in-state rival Texas A&M tonight. This figures to be a good match-up for Baylor although it needs to ensure it controls the pace. Texas A&M gets 65.2% of its points from two-point range (third in the nation) but interior defense happens to be Baylor’s biggest strength. The Bears allow only 39.3% shooting from inside the arc with Perry Jones III and company patrolling the paint. Defensively, look for Scott Drew’s team to try to pick up the pace and pressure Texas A&M’s guards. The Bears force a turnover 24.6% of the time although both teams don’t handle the ball particularly well.
  • Texas A&M is not comfortable playing at a faster pace but therein lies the dilemma. The Aggies don’t run efficient enough half court offense to succeed in a slower-paced game, especially against the strong Baylor defense. Billy Kennedy’s team should take a page out of Louisville’s playbook against Kentucky. A&M should pressure Baylor and try to get turnovers at certain times, but not throughout the entire game. Texas A&M may actually hurt itself while trying to force Baylor into turnovers, something that will speed up the game where the Bears’ superior athletes can take over. Texas A&M has to establish Ray Turner and David Loubeau inside while Khris Middleton uses his versatility to stretch Baylor’s defense, opening up seams. Getting Elston Turner going from long range would also be advantageous for A&M, a team that doesn’t rely much at all on the trifecta. Turner had 20 points on 3-5 shooting from deep in a loss against Florida last month.
  • For Texas A&M to have a chance on the road, it must rebound, rebound, and rebound some more in addition to controlling pace. If the Aggies don’t score inside off second chance opportunities or in transition, Baylor will win this game easily. Keep an eye on Baylor’s perimeter shooting. Texas A&M ranks #6 in three-point defense and will look to shut down Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson. Even if the Aggies are successful in that regard, they need to do a whole lot more to pull the upset.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.16.11 to 12.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 16th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With Dead Week mercifully over, we finally have some good games to enjoy this Saturday despite Sunday being a very slow day in the hoops world.

#6 Baylor @ BYU – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on BYU TV (****)

Perry Jones Leads Baylor into Provo Saturday (AP)

  • The Bears have had difficulty on the road in past seasons but they already passed one important test, demolishing Northwestern in Chicago a couple weeks ago. This game, however, will be an even better measure to see where the highly-rated Bears are really at. The Marriott Center is a notoriously difficult place to play but Baylor has a clear talent edge in this game. BU welcomes Gary Franklin, now eligible after the first semester, to an already highly skilled roster. Franklin didn’t play all that well at California last season but he was a four star recruit out of high school. He should help the Bears out at the point guard position, a place where turnovers are still an issue. Baylor averages 16 turnovers a game and that will be dangerous playing on the road against a team like BYU that likes to push the pace. 5.8 of those 16 turnovers come from the point guard position so Scott Drew is hoping that Franklin can help handle the ball. How Franklin will fit in alongside Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton remains a question mark.
  • BYU’s top six scorers are all 6’5” or taller, an important factor against the length and athleticism of Baylor’s front line. Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and Charles Abouo do the bulk of the damage for Dave Rose, as those three are his top scorers and rebounders. Hartsock in particular has been outstanding, scoring in double figures in every game thus far. All three will have to play well in order for BYU to pull the upset because Baylor’s front court is strong, deep and talented. With Quincy Acy blocking 3.3 shots a game, BYU’s big men should find it more difficult to score inside on Saturday. The Cougars have to get their outside game going as well. Baylor’s defense is very average against the three and BYU has three big deep threats, Abouo, Stephen Rogers and Brock Zylstra. Going up against the top-ranked interior defense in the nation, BYU needs its outside shots to fall in order to win. However, the Cougars can’t afford to settle for threes if they aren’t falling. They must get something going in the paint, even against such a strong defense, in order to balance out their offense.
  • This is an important game for both clubs. Baylor has played only two teams of note so far while BYU’s best win is over a mediocre Oregon team. Baylor shoots well (49.1% FG) but the biggest difference this season has been its defense. The Bears allow only 33.3% shooting inside the arc and their defensive efficiency has been terrific. Both teams get most of their offense from their respective front courts but Baylor may have the ultimate edge with Cory Jefferson off the bench. He adds some scoring punch and, more importantly, rebounding and depth for the Bears. For the Cougars to win, they’ll have to force turnovers to get points in transition because it’ll be awfully tough to score inside in the half court. In addition to making its threes, BYU must rebound well and get to the line while putting the Baylor big men in foul trouble. However, BYU ranks #295 in free throw rate and Baylor doesn’t foul too often. Although BYU rarely loses at home, this is a game Baylor can win. There are some who still doubt the Bears but a win here would put them on their way towards legitimate national recognition.

Texas A&M vs. #10 Florida (at Sunrise, FL) – 2:30 PM EST Saturday on FSN (***)

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Set Your TiVo: 11.17.11

Posted by bmulvihill on November 17th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Now that you have fully recovered from ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon, it’s time to jump into the first of the exotic preseason tournaments.  The Puerto Rico Tip-Off gets going today, along with the big boys’ rounds of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.  Let’s take a look at the action.

Maryland vs. #16 Alabama – 5:00 PM EST on ESPN2 HD (**)

JaMychal Green and Anthony Grant Lead Alabama into the Puerto Rico Tip-Off

  • Rarely do you see a team hit zero three-point shots and still win a game.  However, that is exactly what Maryland did in its first game of the season against UNC-Wilmington.  The Terps finished 0-9 from downtown, but managed to drain 58% of its twos.  Mark Turgeon’s squad is going to have a tough time hitting such a high percentage of shots inside the arc against Alabama’s vaunted defense.  While Terp forwards James Padgett and Ashton Pankey both scored in double figures in the opener, neither consistently demands enough attention to take scoring pressure off the guards.  Sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin needs to have another big game in order for the Terrapins to have a chance.  If the Alabama defense can lock him up, there is not enough fire power elsewhere on Turgeon’s team to beat the Crimson Tide.
  • Alabama is all about defense.  They picked up right where they left off last year giving up only 0.8 points per possession through their first two games of the season.  However, senior forward JaMychal Green should not be overlooked as a big time offensive threat.  Green is averaging 18 points per game in only 25 minutes of action per night.  Coach Anthony Grant’s team needs to improve its shooting, though.  Alabama shot under 50% eFG in 20 of it’s 37 games last season and that trend is continuing again this season.  While they finished a remarkable 10-10 in those games because of a stellar defense, it’s very difficult for a team to have major success shooting under 50% eFG.  If the Tide is hitting more than half of its shots against Maryland, the game will not be close.
  • This game hinges on Maryland’s ability to create baskets in transition.  Maryland plays at a much faster pace than Alabama.  If they get locked down in a halfcourt match-up with the Crimson Tide defense, the Terps’ offense will bog down because they do not have enough weapons in the low post.  The team that dictates the pace and style of this game will ultimately win.

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The Big 12 Week Ahead: Nov. 14-17

Posted by dnspewak on November 14th, 2011

GAME OF THE WEEK

Kansas at Kentucky, Tuesday 7:30 PM CT

In the premiere event of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, these two blueblood programs hit the court under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. It’s all a part of the Champions Classic, a new event designed to grab national headlines for college basketball in the month of November. Although the game is slated for a Tuesday night, that won’t hold back the rabid Kentucky and Kansas fan bases from making the trip to the Garden. Both squads feature all sorts of new faces, especially on the UK side: As usual, coach John Calipari has the task of molding a young group together. For the first time, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague and the rest of the crew will showcase their skills to a national audience. The Jayhawks don’t have as many true newcomers, but coach Bill Self is trying to retool a relatively inexperienced team with just one returning starter. Several players are taking on new roles, including Thomas Robinson, who’s no longer a bench player but instead one of the team’s stars. Robinson looked comfortable in a 100-54 win over Towson on Friday, recording a double-double.

Bill Self's Program Is In the National Spotlight Again

The key individual match-up is… Anthony Davis vs. Thomas Robinson. Robinson is the more experienced player, and he’s primed for a breakout season because of his new opportunity in the starting lineup. The preseason All-Big 12 selection will have his hands full with Davis, however. The 6’10” freshman scored 23 points and grabbed 10 boards in his debut against Marist this weekend, and he’s one of the most physically gifted players in the nation.

Kansas wins if… Tyshawn Taylor controls the offense. The senior point guard dished out four assists in the season opener and turned the ball over just one time. That’s the kind of performance the Jayhawks need out of their leader.

Kentucky wins if… It crashes the glass and gets those forwards involved. Sophomore forward Terrence Jones only took seven shots against Marist, scoring eight points. His guards have to get him the ball, and he needs to form a ferocious trio with Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist. These Wildcats are fast, strong and athletic, and they’ve got an advantage on any team if the offense runs through them.

OTHER GAMES OF NOTE

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Ready to Roll: Texas A&M Kicks off Big 12 Season

Posted by dnspewak on November 9th, 2011

Liberty vs. Texas A&M (7 PM CT, Fox Sports Southwest)

After months of mindless discussion ranging from conference realignment to coaching changes to recruiting, all of the speculation and commentary can finally end.

Finally, it’s time to play some basketball: Texas A&M will kick off the hoops season for the Big 12 at 7 PM tonight with a home contest against Liberty in the opening round of the 2k Sports Classic. The Aggies haven’t lost a home non-conference game at Reed Arena since the 2005-06 season, but the Flames aren’t pushovers. They return several contributors from a team that reached the postseason and finished 19-13 in 2010-11, but they’re missing perhaps their best player in John Brown, who is out for the season with a knee injury.

Maroon 22.

Head coach Billy Kennedy won’t coach A&M this evening after his Parkinson’s diagnosis so assistant Glynn Cyprien is acting as the interim coach for the time being. His team will have to contain guard Jesse Sanders, a terrific assist man and an all-league selection. The Flames have a decent amount of experience surrounding Sanders, but without Brown– who averaged an eye-popping 10.8 rebounds per game last year despite his 6’4” stature– they may struggle to rebound against A&M. Compounding Brown’s absence Dale Layer’s team does not have much size on the front line. It starts 6’10” Joel Vander Pol at center, but he is on the skinny side at 225 pounds. 6’6” Antwan Burris should start opposite of him, and he’ll have a tough match-up with the forwards like David Loubeau. 

If Liberty wants to pull the upset, it will have to find somebody to guard leading scorer Khris Middleton, but that’s a tough task for any team. In the end, A&M’s size and physicality should be too much for the Flames at home.

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RTC Summer Updates: Big 12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 10th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big 12 correspondent, Evan Pfaff.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • Round Robin Scheduling – For the first time since the Big 12 was formed, the conference will implement full round-robin scheduling, meaning each school will play a home-and-home with each of the other nine schools in the conference.  In the past, schools played the teams in their division in a home-and-home, but only played schools in the other division once per season, switching home courts every year.  That meant the epic battles between the Texas Longhorns and Kansas Jayhawks happened only once per regular season, and whichever school hosted the game had a monumental advantage over the other.  With a full round-robin format, not only will each school play two additional conference games, but seeding will be based more on outcomes on the floor than the scheduling fates.
  • Reloading Talent – The Big 12 is used to replacing an enormous amount of talent. In 2010, ten Big 12 players were taken in the NBA Draft.  Two months ago, the Big 12 cupboards were once again raided, as seven players heard their names called. The conference should again be stacked and we might hear as many as ten names called on draft day 2012. From incoming freshmen like Baylor’s Quincy Miller, Texas’ Myck Kabongo and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash, to returning stars like Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, Baylor’s Perry Jones III and Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton, the Big 12 should again be a breeding ground for NBA rosters.
  • New Coaches… EVERYWHERE.  Change is inevitable in college athletics, but stability at the top usually translates into success on the floor. So it is eye opening that from Mike Anderson and Mark Turgeon leaving to Pat Knight and Jeff Capel being shown the door, the Big 12 had a 40% coaching turnover this summer. Now with Frank Haith, Billy Kennedy, Billy Gillispie and Lon Kruger roaming Big 12 sidelines, the conference has some questions to answer. Can Missouri conform to a set offense? Can A&M meet high preseason expectations under new management? Do Billy Clyde Gillispie and Lon Kruger have another run left in them?

Kansas head coach Bill Self has a tall task in front of him after losing most of the punch from last season's potent lineup.

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Texas A&M Goes With Billy Kennedy

Posted by rtmsf on May 15th, 2011

The coaching carousel continued to spin this weekend in the domino-falling aftermath of Gary Williams’ retirement from Maryland ten days ago.  After swinging and whiffing on several names including Marquette’s Buzz Williams, Memphis’ Josh Paster, and former Knicks head coach and current broadcaster Jeff van Gundy (really?), Texas A&M has reportedly gotten its man — Murray State head coach Billy Kennedy.

Kennedy Moves on to Texas A&M

Northern Iowa’s Ben Jacobson was also in the running for the position, as both up-and-coming coaches interviewed with the school on Saturday.  Much like AD Bill Byrne’s last two hires for the Aggies, Kennedy is a coach who has put in his time in the lower reaches of Division-I basketball and demonstrated success at every stop along the way.  The 47-year old originally from Metairie, Louisiana, has spent the last five seasons at Murray State, keeping the Racer program among the elite of the OVC.  His MSU teams finished first or second in the conference regular season race all five seasons, and his last two teams — including 2010’s NCAA round of 32 entrant — played in the postseason.

The Texas A&M head coaching position has become a stepping-stone job under the steady hand and guidance of Byrne, as the last two coaches — Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie — parlayed their success in College Station to big-time basketball jobs at Maryland and Kentucky, respectively.  This is not to suggest, however, that Kennedy can’t have massive success at TAMU; the school’s athletic department budget ranks in the top thirty nationally, and its relative proximity to talent-rich Houston (two hours) and Dallas (three hours) make the program fully capable of moving beyond borderline top 25 status.  Kennedy may not have brought the enthusiasm that a brand-name hire would have, but so long as he keeps the program moving forward and breaks through to that elusive second weekend of the NCAA Tournament (Gillispie took the Aggies there once, in 2007), TAMU fans will be satisfied.

A big opportunity will await Kennedy in his first season in College Station next year.  The Aggies return five of its top seven players from a 24-9 (10-6 Big 12) team, and with conference powerhouses Kansas and Texas gutted by early defections this offseason, there’s a sense that A&M could be poised to move to the top of the Big 12 standings with its existing roster and a little good fortune.  Of the five returning players from the 2010-11 all-Big 12 team, Texas A&M is the only school with two — star forwards Khris Middleton (14/6) and David Loubeau (12/5).  If the perimeter players led by senior Dash Harris and incoming four-star recruit Jamal Branch come through in 2011-12, Kennedy may be in position to do something never before done in these parts: win a Big 12 basketball championship.

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Conference Report Card: Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 25th, 2011


 

 

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

Year In Review

Before the start of the season, pollsters bought into Kansas State as the sexy pick to take the Big 12 in 2011 on the heels of an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. The Big 12 was not overly impressive in non-conference play, as the Wildcats fell hard to Duke in a de facto home game in Kansas City, and Missouri did the same against Georgetown in one of the more thrilling matchups of the early season.

As league play began, the preseason #3 Wildcats disappointed, starting 2-5, and the usual stalwarts of the Big 12, Kansas and Texas, rose to the top. After topping the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in January, the Longhorns looked to be in the driver’s seat, especially after Kansas was blindsided at Bramlage Coliseum to give Texas a two-game lead. However, Rick Barnes‘ team suffered another late-season collapse, going 2-3 to finish the regular season while the Jayhawks dusted off the competition to pull ahead to take their seventh straight conference crown.

Elsewhere in the conference, the Wildcats bounced back to end the season in third place. The middle of the conference wasn’t settled until the latter stages of the season with Missouri falling lat and Texas A&MColorado and Nebraska treading water. Baylor underachieved, given the talented personnel in Waco, and Oklahoma State never really looked in sync. OklahomaTexas Tech and Iowa State all had awful seasons to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In the conference tournament final, Kansas played its best basketball of the season, topping Texas to gain some revenge entering the Big Dance. Colorado was snubbed on Selection Sunday despite beating Kansas State three times, but the Big 12 still managed to get five teams into the NCAA Tournament. However, only the Jayhawks made it out of opening weekend alive, and they fell short of expectations as they lost to Shaka Smart and the Rams’ reign of BCS destruction.

KU's front line of Thomas Robinson (left) and the Morris twins evolved into a strength, and the Jayhawks struggled most when they weren't utilized on offense. (AP/Jamie Squire)

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2011-12 RTC (Way Too Early) Top 25

Posted by KDoyle on April 5th, 2011

The 2010-11 season just concluded — we are just as sad as you guys are — but rather than get all nostalgic, teary-eyed, and lament the next  seven months without college basketball, let’s look towards the future. That’s right, folks, hot off the presses: the first 2011-12 Top 25. Our assumptions on who is staying/leaving are within the team breakdowns.

  1. North Carolina—The Heels have a whole lot coming back and lose next to nothing. Harrison Barnes looked like the stud he was advertised in the preseason as he developed into Carolina’s top player down the stretch, and Kendall Marshall flourished at the point guard position once he was given the keys to the car. It sure doesn’t hurt that a couple McDonald’s All-Americans will be joining the program next year, either. Look for Roy Williams to be significantly happier next season than he was for much of this season.

    Roy Williams should be in a good mood next season

  2. SyracuseJim Boeheim’s squad returns virtually all the pieces to the puzzle — a puzzle that certainly went unfinished this year — and the Orange look like they may be the top dog in the Big East next season. Scoop Jardine has the ability to be one of the top guards in the BE and Kris Joseph is a very explosive scorer, who should continue to develop in the offseason. The development of Fab Melo is an absolute must in the offseason, though, if this team wants to reach its potential.
  3. Kentucky—With the instability of the NBA next year, the Wildcats may be fortunate enough to hang onto their young stars for at least another season. Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones are all NBA talents and all three of them could enter the NBA Draft, but if even one of them returns, this team will be very dangerous, particularly with the class that John Calipari is bringing in, which might be one of the best assembled in the past ten years. If two of those three return to play with that class, this team immediately becomes the favorite to cut down the nets next April.
  4. Ohio State—Will he stay or will he go? Obviously, we are referring to Jared Sullinger’s decision to remain a Buckeye for another year. While graduation will claim Jon Diebler and David Lighty, there is still ample talent returning to help the Buckeyes take care of some unfinished business. William Buford could be the X-factor that determines just how good the Buckeyes will be.
  5. Louisville—The coaching prowess of Rick Pitino and his most important assistant Ralph Willard was a thing of beauty this year. Not much was expected out of the Cardinals, but the ‘Ville had an exceptional season up until their Tournament collapse to Morehead State. Loftier goals will be set for Louisville next year with Preston Knowles the only player departing. The Cardinals might not have quite as publicized a recruiting class as their in-state rivals, but still have one of the top incoming classes in America. Read the rest of this entry »
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Conference Tournament Daily Diary: Thursday

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 11th, 2011

RTC is pleased to announce that we’ll be covering all of the major conference tournaments this year — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC — in addition to the strongest two high-middies, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West.  Each day for the rest of this week, we’re asking our correspondents to provide us with a Daily Diary of the sights and sounds from the arena at each site.  Equal parts game analysis and opinion, the hope is that this will go beyond the tiresome game recaps you can find elsewhere and give you an insightful look into Championship Week.  Today’s coverage:  ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West & Pac-10.

ACC Tournament – by Kellen Carpenter

  • Miami-Virginia.  This was a truly bizarre game that I’m still not sure makes any sense.  Greensboro Coliseum was surprisingly packed for a 12 pm game between the 8 and 9 seed. Both teams boasted sizable and vocal fanbases who were each treated to a game of runs. Miami jumped out ahead, leading by six at the half, and then one of the weirdest second halves I have ever seen happened. Miami only scored eight points over the first 18 minutes of the second half. Virginia, rallying strongly, jumped out to a 50-39 lead with 2:15 left on the clock. Then Miami went nuts.  No, really. I’m still not sure what happened. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy by a series of weird, truly improbably events. Miami cut the eleven point deficit and forced an overtime which the Hurricanes suddenly dominated and walked away with a truly unexpected win. For a the first game of the ACC Tournament, it was not just a dinger, but a hum-dinger. Whenever you can get a crowd of Floridians and Virginians to scream their heads off in the early afternoon in North Carolina, you’ve put on quite a show. Beyond that, nothing about this game mattered.
  • Wake-BC.  After the drama of the Miami and Virginia game, any game with a team that had only managed to win one ACC game over the course of the season was bound to be a letdown. What was surprising to me, was the letdown in crowd energy. Winston-Salem, home of Wake’s campus, is a mere 20 minutes away, yet it seemed like the Demon Deacons had fewer fans present than Miami. Boston College had a very small and quiet contingent who seemed happy to quietly watch as the Eagles just took apart Wake. It really wasn’t much of a game, with the hyper-efficient Boston College offense firing on all cylinders (well, excepting the Raji cylinder). Reggie Jackson scored 27 points on 13 shots. Joe Trapani scored 22 points on 12 shots.  Nicholas Biko scored 21 points on 12 shots. Wake Forest’s porous defense could do little to stop them, and their impotence on the offensive end doomed them. Freshman Travis McKie was a bright spot, going 6-8 in the first half while the rest of his team struggled. But, for some stupefying reason, McKie only got two shots in the second half, one of these being a put-back dunk of his own manufacture. If there is a silver lining to that second half, it’s the fact that Wake actually managed to outscore BC, 36-34. Sadly, this was clearly not enough to make up for the 16 point deficit incurred in the first half. My favorite part of this game, was clearly the few, loud Wake Forest fans sitting directly behind me. One woman seemed particularly keen on trying to coach Travis McKie’s admittedly poor free throw shooting (2-5). Every time he got to the line she would yell “Bend your knees! Follow through!” If only he had listened? The season is mercifully over for Wake, and BC will get it’s chance at tougher competition tomorrow when they take on Clemson.
  • NC State-Maryland.  There were, as you might expect, an alarming number of loud, red-wearing people at this game. Maryland jumped out to an early lead which energized/enraged these loud, red-wearing fans. In response, the N.C. State band played Cee-Lo’s “Eff You,” which, when you think about it, is a perfect pep band song: catchy and insulting to the other team, while the lack of singing effectively makes it family friendly. Well-played, Wolf Pack band. That said, the pep band arrangement of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song was pretty excellent as well. And if the bands played with flair, the teams did too. There was more speed, athleticism, and acrobatic drives on display in this game than in the first two games combined. Cross-overs, spin moves, and behind the back dribbles on the fast break had the crowd frequently on its collective feet. Does Tracy Smith have the MVB (Most Valuable Beard) of this tournament? It’s hard to see anyone overtaking him. Maryland looked in command the whole game, but since Miami’s Miracle, there was a palpable nervousness in the crowd until the buzzer finally went off.
  • Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech controlled this game from the start and once it became clear that Georgia Tech could never catch up, the crowd that had gathered for the previous game started to vanish. Virginia Tech’s fans were consistently loud and even when the Hokies’ lead exceeded twenty, the fans took every call against them as if the game depended on it. Meanwhile, the Georgia Tech fans seemed resigned to his fate. Georgia Tech never managed to score more than a point per minute in the first half. It was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen in a tournament setting, and remember, I watched the Wake Forest game earlier today. Virginia Tech played well enough, but I couldn’t help but be concerned about the minutes that the starters were playing. Malcolm Delaney played 39 minutes despite the massive lead VT held throughout. He only sat for the final minute of the game and that was after he had taken a needless hard foul. You have to wonder how such long minutes on consecutive days are going to affect the Hokies hopes of going deep into this tournament. Well, you don’t have to worry, but I would.

Big East Tournament – by Rob Dauster

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