Set Your Tivo: 03.06.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 6th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

What a Saturday it was. The final day of the regular season for BCS teams is today while another ticket will be punched, this time out of the Missouri Valley. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#22 Kentucky @ Tennessee — 12 pm on CBS (****)

Knight Could ruin UT's Senior Day If He Gets Hot

Tennessee likely locked up a bid Thursday night at South Carolina but a loss today would drop them to 8-8 in the SEC. A win in the conference tournament would be advisable but their solid non-conference resume and strong schedule should probably be enough to push the Volunteers over the top.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.11-02.13

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 11th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

So many games, so little time to talk about them. Here are the biggest games of the weekend and why you should pay attention to them. Fair warning: it’s a long list. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#12 Syracuse @ #19 Louisville – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (****)

The Cards Need Knowles To Catch Fire Over the Angry Syracuse Zone

With Rakeem Buckles and Gorgui Dieng practicing again for Louisville, the Cardinals are starting to get some of their depth back. Their status for this game is unknown but there’s a chance at least one of them will play. The Cardinals beat Syracuse twice last season and they’ll look to do it again in what is an important separation game for both teams. Only one game in the loss column separates third and eleventh place in the Big East with both of these teams in the thick of that jumbled mess.

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ATB: Super Tuesday For Some Middies

Posted by rtmsf on February 9th, 2011

The Lede.  The second night of Rivalry Week continued, but frankly those games were rather boring.  The juiciest matchups occur on Wednesday night when a few old, bitter rivals re-acquaint themselves with each other.  We thought that this gave us a chance to explore some of the lesser-known teams who played on Tuesday and are having excellent second halves this year.

Another Mason Miracle in Store in 2011?

Your Watercooler MomentCelebrating Surprise Teams in the Mid-Major World: George Mason, Princeton and Xavier.  Tonight gave us a good opportunity to discuss three teams that people didn’t necessarily expect to be playing so well at this point in this season, but each continues to win games.  First, how about Jim Larranaga’s George Mason Patriots?  Could it be Mason Madness all over again?  With a win tonight at UNC-Wilmington, 78-63, GMU won its tenth CAA game in a row and has started the whispering around Fairfax about another big-time March run for the small school in northern Virginia.  Their remaining big CAA game is a week from tonight at 11-2 VCU.  A little up the coast in New Jersey, the Princeton Tigers defeated their rival Penn tonight, 62-59, in overtime, the Ivy League school’s seventh win in a row and fifth in the conference.  The Tigers’ key win, of course, was last Friday over expected Ivy champion Harvard, but with that win and the Penn victory, Sydney Johnson’s team is off to a 5-0 start for the second consecutive year.  The caveat is that all five of their Ivy wins have come at home, but with no Cornell juggernaut to compete with, Princeton is well-positioned to make a run at the Ivy title for the first time since 2004.  The last name, Xavier, may surprise you.  After all, the Musketeers are always good, right?  But having lost stars Jordan Crawford and Jason Love from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team and a rough non-conference slate, not many folks expected XU to once again rise to the top of the Atlantic 10.  Yet here they are, sitting at 8-1 in league play and going into a hostile environment tonight in Athens, Georgia, and coming out with a big-time win over a power conference team.  Tu Holloway has been outstanding, and his 18-point second half ensured that the Musketeers of two months ago who lost to every good team they played is no longer wearing the same uniform.  These three teams may not get a lot of press the final month of the season, but they’re definitely worth keeping an eye on the rest of the way.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Clemson as the Fourth ACC Team.  The Tigers have gotten virtually no attention this season at all, but Brad Brownell has done a tremendous job in his first season in South Carolina and Clemson could be well-positioned to finish behind Duke, UNC and possibly Florida State as the fourth NCAA team from the conference.  The Tigers have been outstanding at home this season, going 5-0 in conference play and appearing a different team in the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum.  The key has been offensive balance, as Brownell is getting between 8.0 and 13.7 PPG from six players, led by seniors Demontez Stitt and Jerai Wright (12.8).
  • Kentucky at Home.  The Wildcats are simply a different team than they are on the road this season, and it’s in large part due to how the Wildcats’ role players play much more comfortably in Rupp Arena.  The crystal-clear case in point is DeAndre Liggins, a guard who averages 11/4/4 APG and shoots 46% at home and contributes 5/3 and shoots 26% on the road.  Tonight he was arguably John Calipari’s most effective Cat, going for 19/5/3 assts/5 stls in a complete floor game where he missed only a single field goal and free throw on the evening.  In SEC play, UK is 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 20.0 points, but on the road they are only 1-4 with a margin of -0.8 points.  If the Cats can get just a little better production from the likes of Liggins and company, they would be a much better team.

… and Misses.

  • MVC Leaders.  Does anyone want to win this conference this year?  After Missouri State ran out to a 9-1 record, the Bears lost two games last week; meanwhile, UNI won eight games in a row to get to 9-3 before dropping a game over the weekend to Drake and tonight against Evansville.  Wichita State moved to the forefront with an 11-2 record only to get dropped by a weak Southern Illinois team tonight.  With five games left, Wichita and Missouri State appear to be in the best position to win the league, and the two teams will play each other on the last day of the regular season three weeks from now.

Tweet of the Night.  It was a light night on Twitter, but Wolken brings up a good point that will much discussed in the early offseason not that long from now about the NBA lockout and its (possible) impact on students leaving school early.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on January 4th, 2011

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

- Connecticut is facing a daunting week ahead, one that will give us a clearer picture as to whether their November ascendancy in Maui with wins over Wichita State, Michigan State and Kentucky was a blip on the radar screen rather than the emergence of a bona fide contender. The Huskies and their multitude of underclassmen will face Notre Dame and their roster full of fifth-year seniors tonight in South Bend before embarking on an equally-daunting true road game at Texas on Saturday. Connecticut will be underdogs in both contests and don’t necessarily need to win either game. What the goal should be for Jim Calhoun is twofold: stay competitive for 40 minutes and receive contributions from players not named Kemba Walker. If the Huskies can scratch and claw with Notre Dame and exploit their mediocre defense and follow that up with the same type of effort in Texas, the questions over whether Connecticut will have to rely on those Maui victories to propel them to an NCAA berth will be tempered. Calhoun also needs Alex Oriakhi to put his disappearing act in Pittsburgh behind him and contribute as he did against Michigan State and Kentucky when the 6’9 sophomore posted double-doubles of 15/17 and 18/11, respectively. Calhoun will especially need Oriakhi to stay out of foul trouble against the long and athletic Longhorns frontline of Tristan Thompson and Gary Johnson. That Saturday duel in Austin is worth the price of admission to watch two of the top perimeter defenders in college basketball work their craft- Shabazz Napier likely gluing himself to fellow freshman Cory Joseph and Dogus Balbay chasing Walker.

A difficult two-game week for Calhoun's Huskies lies ahead

- Most expected Purdue to move down a few pegs with the loss of Robbie Hummel during preseason practice, but the Boilermakers have done a commendable job persevering through that demoralizing road block in their season and beginning the 2010-11 campaign at 13-1. JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore have been everything Matt Painter could have asked for out of his senior leaders and top players. Both have played a large bulk of Purdue’s minutes and are filling up the stat sheet in every way imaginable. Johnson’s ability to score with his back to the basket or facing his defender and his constant contributions defensively and on the boards makes him indispensable. Moore has been the go-to scorer, a crafty and smooth operator around screens who is now averaging over 20 PPG. The senior guard poured in 31/7/3 on 11-20 FG in the Big Ten opening win against Northwestern. Still, the real key to the Boilermakers success has been their true identity since the Hummel-led recruiting class arrived in West Lafayette four years ago- aggressive, physical, man-to-man defense. Some anticipated the defensive effort would slip with Chris Kramer departing. Truthfully, it has slipped, from third in efficiency to fourth in efficiency. If Painter can just receive scoring punch from one of his secondary players on any given night, whether Ryne Smith, Terone Johnson, Kelsey Barlow or a few other candidates do the honors, Purdue remains a top-ten team and Elite 8 threat.

- The story of the early part of conference play thus far has to be St. John’s. We discussed their triumphant win over Georgetown Monday night in ATB and in a separate post, and I want to look ahead at the daunting route the Johnnies have to navigate to remain atop the Big East. Starting with last night’s win, St. John’s does not play an unranked team the rest of January with two games on the docket against Notre Dame and clashes with Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville and Cincinnati. The Johnnies did schedule a quick Big East breather on January 30 with a non-conference visit from…#1 Duke. The Georgetown win, coupled with surprising road victories at West Virginia and Providence, is certainly getting this brutal stretch off on the right foot for Steve Lavin. But if St. John’s merely wants to tread water over the next three weeks, they’ll need to improve on a defensive efficiency that ranks ninth in the Big East and a team three-point percentage hovering around 32%. Lavin also needs his three primary weapons D.J. Kennedy, Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee, all of whom played 40 minutes against the Hoyas, to keep up their tremendous level of play. Luckily for Lavin, he has one of the most experienced teams in the nation at his disposal, a group of seniors that have navigated through these treacherous Big East waters in past seasons, albeit with minimal success. After their win over Georgetown, Lavin’s Red Storm are the talk of college basketball in and around the Big Apple. Survive this stretch and they’ll have lasting power in the Big East as a legitimate contender for a respectable NCAA bid.

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RTC Live: Penn @ Kentucky

Posted by jstevrtc on January 3rd, 2011

Game #91. RTC finds its way back to one of the cathedrals of the sport as one of the Ivy’s best ballers comes to town.  

Kentucky is coming off of a big New Year’s Eve win over Louisville and has one final matter to attend to before they begin conference play, and that’s to host Zack Rosen and Pennsylvania on Monday night. Rosen led the Ivy League in scoring last season, is at the top so far this season, is on course to lead the Quakers in assists for the second straight year, and may take home the conference’s Player of the Year award at season’s end. He’s almost certain to get a steady diet of DeAndre Liggins, a 6’6 and 210-pound marble block of a swingman who has begun to relish his role as the Wildcats’ designated defensive stopper. 7:00 pm ET is the scheduled start from Rupp Arena for this one, and we’ll open things up here about 15 minutes before the tip. Hope to see you there as we turn the calendar to a new year, and begin the second act of the 2010-11 season.

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One Man’s Opinion: Contenders After One Month

Posted by zhayes9 on December 6th, 2010

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

After engulfing myself in a nightly binge of college basketball over the first month of the season- taking in games from the Big Apple to the Little Apple and from Cancun to Maui- here is one man’s evaluation on some of the top teams in the country and where they stand heading into the final weeks of non-conference play:

Kyrie Irving has surpassed expectations thus far

Duke- It’s going to take a near perfect effort to beat Duke this season. Being able to lure Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler back to campus coinciding with a severe down year in the ACC was truly the perfect storm of circumstance. One chance a team may have to dethrone Duke is if they lure Mason Plumlee into two early fouls, keep them in the halfcourt and the Blue Devils become three-happy, but Duke does have five players who can catch fire from deep at any time. Kyrie Irving has surpassed any and all expectations during the first month of the season. His court awareness is reminiscent of a 10-year NBA veteran rather than an 18-year old college freshman. His use of the hesitation dribble, ability to split screens, explode to the basket and display innate court awareness has vaulted Irving to stardom. What makes Duke so lethal is that they have a plethora of options that can explode for 25 points on any given night, just as Plumlee did against Marquette or Singler against Oregon or Irving against Michigan State.  There’s three potential lottery picks on this team, but selfishness is never an issue and they flow together seamlessly on the court. I have a hard time pointing out exactly where Duke slips up this season; after all, they don’t face a currently ranked team the rest of the slate.

Ohio State- Here’s the one team I feel would have a good shot at knocking off Duke on a neutral floor right now. They can come close to matching the Blue Devils at every position on the floor if William Buford runs the point. Jared Sullinger has been overrated a bit in the early going. Most of his production has come off easy dunks and layups and I haven’t seen an array of post moves quite yet, although I trust that they exist in his arsenal. It’s his fellow freshmen that should be receiving more attention. DeShaun Thomas is scoring 13 PPG in just over 17 MPG of play and shooting 56% from the floor. I’ve also been wildly impressed with the headiness and intelligence of Aaron Craft at the point. He’s compiled a near 2/1 assist/turnover ratio in the early going and has done a fantastic job finding shooters Diebler and Lighty off screens or Sullinger in low post position. David Lighty is this team’s MVP. He’s a lockdown defender and has really improved his outside jumper, while Buford may have the best mid-range game in the Big Ten. One should always anticipate Tom Izzo’s team to improve as the season wears on, but the Buckeyes have to be the odds-on favorite to win this conference as of now.

Pittsburgh- I know it’s horribly cliché when talking about Pittsburgh, but “tough” is the first word that comes to mind. Jamie Dixon’s teams are never outworked and currently lead all of college basketball is offensive rebounding percentage. Pitt seemingly has an assembly line of big men they can trot off the bench to give Gary McGhee, Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna breathers. Dixon loves to run Ashton Gibbs off screens for open looks and the junior sharpshooter is connecting better than ever, although he still lacks true point guard skills. Although the rotation will eventually be trimmed down, Dixon has the luxury of digging 10-deep into his bench that Big East rivals like Georgetown and Connecticut simply do not have. McGhee is the type of bruiser inside that every team would love to throw out there for 20 MPG. He gives Pitt’s offense extra shot opportunities and shuts down opposing big men inside. Pitt doesn’t necessarily have the star power of other Final Four contenders, but their toughness and execution as a unit may be enough to carry them to Houston.

Kansas- I think we all need to take a moment to applaud the job Bill Self has done in Lawrence. This program lost two lottery picks and an All-American and have taken maybe one step back. This is a credit to the tremendous depth Self has compiled at Kansas and his staff’s ability to develop players. When Josh Selby is eligible on December 18, this team becomes Final Four good. He could be lumped into the same category as Irving, Walker and McCamey come March. I’ve been wildly impressed with how well the Jayhawks know their roles. The Morris brothers complement each other with Marcus as the inside-outside scoring threat (18.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 65% FG, 9/15 from deep) and Markieff perfectly content with doing the dirty work on the boards and in the paint. In and out of Self’s doghouse during his tenure at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor has done a quietly solid job filling in for Selby at the point distributing the basketball.  A player who also flies under the radar is Brady Morningstar. Most just view him as a spot-up shooter, but he’s a valuable cog for Self ushering the fast break and setting up teammates for open looks.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.24.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 24th, 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 tivobut we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Maui lived up to the hype. Kansas City? Not so much. We’ve got two more good ones from paradise today, Thanksgiving Eve. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Maui Invitational Third Place Game: #3 Michigan State vs. #15 Washington – 5 pm on ESPN2 (****)

All Walker, All the Time in Maui

How’s a top 15 matchup for a third place game? Courtesy of Connecticut’s upset of Michigan State, that’s what we have. The Spartans were the latest team to fall victim to the Kemba Walker show as the Connecticut point guard put up 30 points yet again on 10-19 shooting. Tom Izzo’s Spartans did not hold their customary edge rebounding wise which cost them and poor games from Kalin Lucas, Delvon Roe and Korie Lucious certainly didn’t help the cause, either. Washington lost one of the hardest fought, intense games you’ll ever see this time of year to a Kentucky club that dominated the boards and got to the line enough to win. Former Washington commit Terrence Jones torched the Huskies with 16/17 as he and Brandon Knight (24 points) led Kentucky to the championship game. This figures to be another war but Michigan State must get meaner and more physical if they hope to beat Washington. The Huskies are going to get it up and down quick meaning Michigan State has to hold their ground defensively, be active in the passing lanes and stay in front of the Washington guards. Lorenzo Romar hopes Isaiah Thomas can rebound from a sub-par outing and help prevent a 1-2 finish in Maui. The unbelievable thing is that a top 15 team is going home 1-2 no matter what happens in this game tonight. This is a noon local tip so one or both teams may get off to a sluggish start. If Washington can get better looks and shoot it well, Michigan State will have their hands full. Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday need to be strong in the post against a tough Spartan front line for Washington to get an edge on the glass. We don’t think it’s crazy to think Michigan State will be the top 15 team to leave Maui with two losses on the young season.

NIT Season Tip-Off Semifinal: #6 Villanova vs. UCLA – 9:30 pm on ESPN2 (***)

Villanova has defended much better so far this year, ranking 14th in defensive efficiency. That’s a big improvement from last season’s 62nd ranked defense which failed the Wildcats down the stretch and ultimately resulted in a second round exit to St. Mary’s after being pushed to overtime by #15 seed Robert Morris. Offense is not a problem for Villanova but defense will determine how far they can go this year. So far, the early returns look good. Jay Wright loves to get his team out in transition by causing turnovers. Villanova is in the top ten in steal and turnover percentage and ranks 30th in two point FG%, probably a result of all the layups created through turnovers. One thing the Wildcats have not done, surprisingly, is shoot the trey well. That’ll play right into UCLA’s hands as they rank 8th in three point defense. There is reason for optimism in Westwood after last year’s disaster as the Pac-10 is weak yet again and Ben Howland’s team has a great chance to finish second and get back to the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have been led by 6’8 sophomore forward Reeves Nelson (19/10) and Tyler Honeycutt (16/8). These two more athletic players could cause problems for Villanova’s Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou inside tonight. While UCLA can hold their own there, the Wildcats will have a big advantage in the back court. Malcolm Lee is listed as probable for UCLA but will still be hampered by a bum ankle. The Bruins will count on Lazeric Jones to steady the ship and control the basketball against the aggressive Villanova defense. Try as they might, Villanova is too tough for UCLA to handle behind a trio of stud guards. Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns lead the way and Corey Stokes is a big guard who can really shoot it. Villanova simply has too much talent and depth for the thin Bruins, playing with just ten scholarship players. It’s not impossible for UCLA to win but it seems highly unlikely tonight under the bright lights of the big city at Madison Square Garden.

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After the Buzzer: On 800 Wins, Internet Humility, and Fantastic Freshmen

Posted by jstevrtc on November 24th, 2010

Your Watercooler Moment. Yeesh, take your pick. On Wednesday morning the two games the majority of hoop aficianados were most looking forward to from Tuesday night will yield the headlines to a so-called undercard matchup between #3 Michigan State and Connecticut, the latter a team slated to be foraging for leftover scraps in the Big East this year. Jim Calhoun beamed after the effort shown by his players in knocking off the Spartans, saying after the game, “We proved to the world that we can play.” Also in Maui, the Kentucky vs Washington matchup was so intense they played through a freaking 4.7-on-the-Richter scale earthquake that nobody in the building seemed to notice centered 30 miles south-southwest of the island, and four time zones away, Duke gave Kansas State false hope for a half before turning out their lights and inscribing Mike Krzyzewski into the 800 victories book for a single school. Oh, and a game between Appalachian State and Tennessee Tech was cancelled because the former forgot to provide refs. All of this, a feast before the feast…on the day the Spectrum died.

Onward And Upward -- Coach K Earned His 800th Duke Win On Tuesday

Tuesday’s Quick Hits…

  • Connecticut Has A Pulse. And it’s strong. And its name is Kemba Walker. In 38 minutes of floor time in the Huskies’ capsizing of #3 Michigan State, Walker went 10-19 from the floor, 6-7 from the line, and added three boards, four assists, and three steals to his 30 points. Who cares that a kid’s getting up a shot every two minutes of game time when he’s producing like this?
  • Kyrie Lays It On. Kyrie Irving smoked Jacob Pullen as if the latter were a finely aged Cohiba Siglo. He took Pullen to the bucket several times, scored or got to the line, twice producing and-ones. Irving saw other defenders, but it was Pullen in front of him a good deal of the night; this matchup saw the freshman wood-shedding the senior to the tune of 17/5/6 asst/2 steals.
  • Unsung Wildcat Heroes, Take One. The talk will be about Terrence Jones‘ 16/17 (4-13 from the field) and Brandon Knight’s 24 points (he also had zero assists and eight turnovers), but the best line on the Wildcats’ side may have come from Josh Harrellson, the backup center many UK fans felt could barely qualify to be Enes Kanter’s personal assistant before the season. Harrellson had troubles with his handle, but in 34 minutes he contributed nine points on 4-6 shooting (one of those a trey), blocked two shots, and pulled in 14 rebounds, seven of them on the offensive end. DeAndre Liggins only added seven points and four rebounds, but he smothered UW’s Isaiah Thomas for most of the second half, frustrating him to no end (on which more in a bit).
  • Unsung Wildcat Heroes, Take Two. The only bright spot from KSU’s defeat was the play of their reserves. Four players — namely Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels, Martavious Irving, and Will Spradling — played at least 13 minutes (three of them were in for 20+), and they accounted for 47 of K-State’s 68 points, shooting 18-29 (62%) from the field. Could there be lineup changes in store for Frank Martin’s squad?

…and Misses.

  • Kalin, Not His Usual Ballin’. No particular player could be singled out as really letting MSU down, but Kalin Lucas would love another crack at this one. The Spartans actually shot better than UConn, but Lucas’ head-scratcher of a night consisted of a 4-12 shooting night, five turnovers and but a single assist. There won’t be many nights like this for Lucas this season.
  • The Sprint Center Floor. We had the privilege of being in the Sprint Center for the Big 12 Tournament last year. It’s a great arena for college basketball. Plenty of press seating, helpful staff, and even the distant seats in the stands aren’t bad. But for the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic tonight, its floor had ten temporary logos on it, causing it to resemble one of those NASCAR automobiles (I guess they do race for the Sprint Cup, don’t they?) or a jersey from an Australian pro league team.
  • Smeared the Beard. Jacob Pullen not only got schooled by a freshman in terms of how many times he got taken to the hole, but he couldn’t hit an elephant with a handful of rice on Tuesday night. Pullen will not have many 1-12 nights this year, and likely none in which he also throws in a defensive clanger like he did on Tuesday. But big games like this are not the time for these rare occasions to occur for the facially hirsute and usually excellent senior.
  • Isaiah Was No Prophet. When the Maui brackets were released a few months ago, Isaiah Thomas tweeted that he was hoping his squad would run into Kentucky, a sentiment fueled by the bolting of recruits Kanter and Jones to UK after committing to UW. The Wildcats’ DeAndre Liggins intercalated himself into Thomas’ DNA on Tuesday, and as a result the UW guard was flummoxed into a 4-14 shooting night, two of those buckets coming as cosmetic late layups when UK let its defensive intensity slip a notch in hopes of not fouling.

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SEC Media Notes: 06.29.10

Posted by nvr1983 on June 29th, 2010

As part of our attempt to continue to provide you with the best independent college basketball information on the Internet we will periodically bring you information from conference media calls. Today’s entry comes from the SEC, which amazingly was not affected what could have been a massive conference shake-up.

Ed. Note: The conference call actually took place on Monday, but I had an ophthalmologist appointment and I’m pretty sure that they used just about the entire bottle of eye drops to dilate my eyes so I’m just starting to see straight again. The below entries are my some of the key points the coaches made, but are not direct quotes. If you want to listen to the coaches speak directly, click on the link next to their name.

Anthony Grant (Alabama)Audio
– Defense: Last year their defense gave them a chance to be in every game that they played, but they had to have that solid defense because their offense was not always there.
– Returning players: Senario Hillman one of elite athletes in the SEC and can guard multiple positions. He will need to improve shot selection and decision-making, but is making strides. JaMychal Green adds size and strength to the frontcourt, which is as good as any team in the SEC. Should improve with an extra year of experience. Tony Mitchell had a very good freshman year and being named to SEC All-Freshman team was an accomplishment. Grant is looking for the players to make a jump between their first and second year in the Alabama program.

Tony Barbee (Auburn)Audio / Key Quotes
– Lack of Experience: Starting over is exciting because you get to mold a new group of players. It will be hard to judge what he has until he sees the team together in the Fall.
– Plan: Focus on defense because they could be “offensively challenged” because they don’t know what they have outside of Frankie Sullivan. Given their lack of size on the inside they might have to focus on their offense around the 3-point line.

John Pelphrey (Arkansas)Audio
– Frontcourt: They have Marshawn Powell on the inside, but will need to develop more on the inside to help support him.
– APR: We’re all working very hard. We want to see these young men improve in the classroom and on the court. He isn’t sure statistics over the short-term can adequately reflect the academic performance of a program, but is open to more long-term measures.
Andre Clark: Aware of the transfer to TCU and does talk with players who have transferred if they contact him about an issue.

Billy Donovan (Florida)Audio
– Backcourt: Didn’t know what to expect coming into last season having lost Nick Calathes. Irving Walker played his freshman year at 2 guard spot. Kenny Boynton came in with huge reputation out of high school, but you’re never sure with them making the jump. Limited depth in the backcourt meant those two played more minutes than they probably should have, which meant they couldn’t do some of the stuff they would have otherwise done such as press. Coming into this year with the experience should be helpful for those two coming into this season. Still some issues with depth in the backcourt this year although they are adding freshmen Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather to the backcourt.
Alex Tyus: First UF player to put his name in the NBA Draft and return to UF. It was Alex’s decision. He worked out with a couple of NBA teams and listened to what NBA had to say about where he might go. No pressure from UF to come back. Donovan feels that process is only going to help the Gators going forward.
Patric Young: Very physical and aggressive player, but needs some work on the inside. In the near term he will bring energy and a great rebounding presence to the Gators.

Mark Fox (Georgia)Audio
Marcus Thornton: Really big boost after picking him up following his release from his letter of intent from Clemson. Gives Georgia a lot of options because of his versatility.
Trey Thompkins: Had discussion with family and got info from NBA. Felt it wasn’t appropriate. Only would be able to work out for 1 or 2 days due to final exams and the new NBA Draft withdrawal deadlines.
Turnovers: Feels they will take better care of the ball and they should also be able to create more turnovers on the defensive end, which should create more easy baskets.

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Morning Five: 02.15.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 15th, 2010

Happy Presidents’ Day, everyone.  Hope you’re getting to enjoy a nice extended weekend.

  1. Is Savannah State’s Horace Broadnax the best coaching value in college basketball?  We’re still discussing its validity, but we certainly find interesting the analysis by Scott Britton and Darren Heitner at Sports Agent Blog regarding the achievements of the former Hoya as coach of SSU.  You have to admit — all things considered, $25,131 per win isn’t a bad deal, at all, especially when you go from 0-28 in the ’04-’05 season to 15-13 four years later, and your basketball budget is the next-to-lowest in D1.
  2. There have been rumblings from Notre Dame all season, but Luke Harangody’s right knee bone bruise that he sustained  in a loss against Seton Hall on Thursday isn’t helping the causes of the Irish or Mike Brey.  ‘Gody is likely out for Wednesday’s game at Freedom Hall against a suddenly more intriguing Louisville squad fresh off their win at Syracuse.  That he was bench-ridden in South Bend on Sunday night evidently gave St. John’s some chutzpah, as the Johnnies went into the Joyce and stole their first conference road win of the season with a 69-68 victory.
  3. John Calipari states, “There’s no such thing as a 50-50 ball with him.  He’s as valuable to our team right now as anyone.”  Is he talking about John WallDeMarcus CousinsPatrick Patterson?  Nope.  Try DeAndre Liggins, the sophomore guard who didn’t play for the first nine games of the season as he spent time in Calipari’s doghouse, but now humbly realizes that floor burn scars on the knees from diving after loose balls + embracing defensive stopper role = increased minutes, and increased trust from his coach.
  4. On Friday, the Western Athletic Conference reprimanded Idaho head coach Don Verlin after he criticized officials after a 67-66 loss to Nevada on Wednesday.  Verlin will be suspended for any further violations of this kind, according to conference brass.  After the loss last week, Verlin voiced his displeasure with the officiating, and also added that WAC zebras should realize that Idaho is “…a contender, not a doormat.”  We’ll have to check our rule book, Coach V, but we don’t recall anything about the rules changing based on where you are in the standings…
  5. Ever think that Penn/Cornell would be right up there with Rutgers/Georgetown and Louisville/Syracuse in the Monday morning water-cooler discussion of big weekend upsets in college hoops?  Yeah, we didn’t either.  We’ve been digging all of the Ivy League love this season, and it’s not slowing down yet.  After the stunner on Friday, Cornell bounced back to hand Princeton their first conference loss of the year on Saturday, and in doing so regained the Ivy League lead.  They’re not a shoe-in for the Big Dance, though; the three teams atop the standings still have a round of games against each other, starting this Friday with a very important Cornell road trip to Harvard.
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What You Missed While Watching College Football…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 8th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist plus author of the weekly Ten Tuesday Scribbles and Bubble Watch columns.

With college football crowning another faux-national champion Thursday night in Pasadena, the college sports scene can officially shift its axis to basketball. While a number of college basketball diehards such as yours truly were knee-deep in mid-major box scores and enthralling non-conference tournaments since the season tipped off in mid-November, it’s perfectly understandable for our college football-fan brethren out there to have been entranced in the gridiron scene during this time. For many folks out there, college basketball truly begins when a football champion is crowned and conference play heats up, when Rece and the gang show up on our TVs every Saturday morning at 11 AM and the bubble begins to take its early shape. For those people, you sure missed plenty of exciting hoops action. To get you caught up in what has gone down thus far on the hardwood, here’s a summary for your enjoyment, divvied up into the six major conferences and all the rest:

ACC

What we’ve learned: There was much back-and-forth debate entering this season whether Duke or North Carolina represented the class of this conference. After two solid months of play, it’s fairly evident Duke has separated themselves from their bitter rival as the class of the ACC. While the Tar Heels may top Duke skill-wise up front, Carolina simply does not boast the backcourt to even contend with the Dukies’ tandem of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. The primary knock on Duke heading into this season was point guard play with Elliot Williams transferring to Memphis. As a true sharp-shooting 2-guard who creates his shots coming off screens in Redick-like fashion, could Scheyer handle the responsibility of running the Duke offense? The answer has been resounding in the affirmative: 19.7 PPG, 46% FG, 92% FT, 43% 3pt and an otherworldly 4.8 A/TO ratio that currently leads the nation. Another key to Duke’s early season success has been Coach K’s willingness to adjust his defense to fit his roster. Rather than employing the normal Duke on-ball pressure attack, Krzyzewski is utilizing more of a sagging defense that plays into the frontcourt depth Duke enjoys with six players that receive time at 6’8 or taller.

Scheyer Has His Devils Looking Great This Season

What’s still to be determined: After Duke and Carolina (and let’s not go overboard following the Heels loss to Charleston, they’re still clearly the second best team in this conference), who will emerge as the third contender behind the top two dogs? An ever-shifting proposition, the current edge probably goes to Florida State despite their utter lack of point guard play. The Seminoles are one of the tallest teams in the nation and have a few capable long-range shooters that get open looks when defenses collapse on Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton. Plus, they’re off to a head start with a December win at ACC foe Georgia Tech. Plenty of folks think Clemson could be that team behind powerful big man Trevor Booker, but they lack a second scoring option and I can’t stop thinking back to their collapse at home to an inexperienced Illinois squad. It would be unwise to count out Gary Williams, and the jury’s still out on Virginia Tech and Miami due to their soft schedules, so I’ll give the current edge to Wake Forest as that third team. The road win at Gonzaga’s on-campus arena stands out, Ish Smith has turned into a fine point guard and Al-Farouq Aminu has as much pure talent as anyone in this conference.

NCAA Locks: Duke, North Carolina.

Likely bids: Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest.

Bubble teams: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech.

Make other plans for March: Boston College, North Carolina State, Virginia.

Big East

What we’ve learned: The NCAA picture is shaping up quite similarly to last season when Louisville (regular season champion), Pittsburgh and Connecticut all received #1 seeds. There will be much back-and-forth debate about whether the top three teams this season — Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova -- holds the edge in this conference, but does it really matter? Right now you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and Purdue are the likely #1 seeds (of course plenty could change, we have two months of games left), while those top contenders in the Big East are likely all on the second seed line. Even of greater importance though is the obvious revelation that Jamie Dixon can coach basketball. You wouldn’t be alone if you counted out Pittsburgh following a near-loss to Wofford, a 47-point output at home vs. New Hampshire and a second half butt-kicking at the hands of Indiana, but those losses came without their most athletic player, Gilbert Brown, and their best defender, Jermaine Dixon. Those two have returned to action with the most improved Big East player Ashton Gibbs (who recently broke the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made) as a fearsome trio that has carried the Panthers to road wins over previously-undefeated Syracuse and fringe-top 25 Cincinnati. If Dixon is able to coax his Panthers into a NCAA Tournament team after losing such enormous production and leadership in Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields, there is little debate on his merits as National Coach of the Year.

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Daily Obituary: 03.09.09

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009

grim-reaper

Team: Kentucky Wildcats

Record: 19-12 (8-8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

Record: 17-13 (7-9)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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