Set Your TiVo: 01.13-01.15

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 13th, 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.

A couple of Mountain West battles highlight Saturday’s action but the big one is late Sunday afternoon in the Big Ten.

#14 Connecticut @ Notre Dame – 11:00 AM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

  • Led by Andre Drummond’s 20/11 on 9-11 FG, Connecticut got back on track by defeating West Virginia on Monday night. To win on the road, the Huskies will need quality efforts from most of their roster. That starts with Shabazz Napier protecting the basketball. Jim Calhoun’s sophomore point guard sets the tone for this team, good or bad. Napier (and UConn as a whole) has struggled with turnovers, especially in Big East play. On the road against a team looking to make its mark in the middle of the conference, the Huskies have to do a better job handing the ball if they are to win this one. The more possessions UConn can earn by using its strong rebounding advantage while minimizing turnovers, the more opportunities there will be for talented players such as Drummond, Jeremy Lamb (25 points vs. WVU) and Ryan Boatright to score.

    Can Napier Step Up To Lead The Huskies?

  • Believe it or not, Notre Dame actually has an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament. 37 at-large bids have to come from somewhere and the Fighting Irish are on the bubble according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. This will be a tall order for Notre Dame, even at home. The Irish have won 29 consecutive home games but that will be tested mightily against the Huskies. The emergence of Jack Cooley in the paint could be the biggest reason why Notre Dame has a chance to upset UConn. Cooley has averaged 16.5 PPG and 9.7 RPG over his last eight games, the latest Notre Dame big man to develop nicely under Mike Brey. However, Cooley will likely have a more difficult time against Connecticut’s stifling interior defense. The Huskies have always owned the paint under Calhoun and this year is no different. Notre Dame has to make outside shots in order to win because it can’t count on Cooley alone inside. Jerian Grant has turned into a consistent scorer but the Irish need a third option. Brey had hoped Scott Martin would be that guy but he has really struggled. However, Martin is impacting the game in other ways, rebounding well even when the shots aren’t falling. Notre Dame must try to get to the foul line as well. UConn historically doesn’t foul often so this could be difficult even at home.
  • If Drummond plays like he did against West Virginia, the Huskies will be a strong favorite. UConn must rebound aggressively to counteract any turnover problems it may have. The Irish have struggled shooting the three ball this year and Connecticut ranks second in interior defense. If those statistics hold true, Notre Dame will have an incredibly difficult time scoring. The good news for the Irish? They have been the best team defending the triple in Big East play (20.9%). For UConn, it’s simple. Protect the ball, rebound, and defend the paint. If the Huskies do that, they will snap ND’s 29-game home winning streak. Easier said than done, of course.
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Freeze Frame: Attacking Arkansas’ Full Court Press

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 10th, 2012

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson is known for his patented full court pressure, and that defensive intensity caused a headache for the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday. The Razorbacks scored 23 points off turnovers, pressuring the Bulldogs into 18 miscues for the game. Mississippi State looked flustered all night, making a parody of costly errors. Today’s version of Freeze Frame will look at where coach Rick Stansbury’s squad went wrong on Saturday. We’ll also discuss how HD channels should be a prerequisite for watching college basketball. Watching ESPN Full Court’s free preview this week is like watching an old Atari game on your 1980s television complete with drunk goggles. Not good.

Play 1 (14:05 remaining in the first half):

The first rule of attacking Arkansas’ press is you don’t talk about the press. The second rule of beating the press is you DO NOT talk about the press. Ok, the third rule is you don’t try to dribble through it. Freshman guard Deville Smith received the ball in the corner as two Arkansas guards closed in on him.

Don't dribble towards the baseline!

He committed another cardinal sin by dribbling towards the baseline (That’s the fourth rule, by the way). With nowhere to go, Smith’s best option is a skip pass to a streaking offensive player near the half-court line. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cousy Award Finalists Announced: Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor Still On the List

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2012

The Bob Cousy Award list was whittled down from its original 60+ names in the preseason to a more manageable 20 on Wednesday afternoon. In case you’ve lost track of what the Cousy is specifically for, it is the award given to the nation’s top point guard/floor general in college basketball. Often that player will also be in the running for National Player of the Year honors, as in the recent cases of Jameer Nelson (2004), Ty Lawson (2009), and Kemba Walker (2011). Last year, you might recall that Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor was somewhat infamously left off the February list of 10 finalists, causing the Naismith Hall of Fame brass to reconsider and eventually reinstating the All-America Badger onto the list where he advanced to become one of the five finalists before Walker was selected for the award. To be clear, this version represents the preliminary finalists before the super-finalists before the super-duper-finalists list. The committee will make two more cuts over the next eight weeks before awarding the prize to the winner during Final Four weekend in New Orleans.

The Cousy Award Is Prestigious Because It Is Given By the Naismith HOF

Let’s take a look at the current list, and signify using (10) or (5) the players who we expect to advance further. A few notes follow after the jump:

  • Pierre Jackson, Baylor
  • Shabazz Napier, UConn (10)
  • Ray McCallum, Detroit
  • Seth Curry, Duke (10)
  • Erving Walker, Florida (10)
  • Scott Machado, Iona (5)
  • Casper Ware, Long Beach State
  • Peyton Siva, Louisville
  • Trey Burke, Michigan (10)
  • Dee Bost, Mississippi State (10)
  • Phil Pressey, Missouri
  • Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (5)
  • Aaron Craft, Ohio State
  • D.J. Cooper, Ohio
  • Zack Rosen, Pennsylvania 
  • Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh
  • Scoop Jardine, Syracuse
  • Damian Lillard, Weber State (5)
  • Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin (5)
  • Tu Holloway, Xavier (5)

A few notes:

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SEC Morning Five: New Year’s Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 2nd, 2012

  1. Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost broke the school’s all-time assist record on Saturday. Bost recorded four assists in the two=point win over Utah State giving him 515 in his career. He broke the career mark set by former Bulldog Derrick Zimmerman. “That’s quite an accomplishment when you consider all the guys that have played at Mississippi State,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. Otherwise, it wasn’t a banner night for Bost. He was just 1-10 from the field scoring just five points as the Bulldogs struggled to put the Aggies away.
  2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist thrived in a physical and rough win for Kentucky as the Wildcats defeated intra-state rival Louisville Cardinals. “He wasn’t bothered as much as some of the other players by the physical play,” coach John Calipari said. “He almost relished it and just went after it, and that’s why he played the way he did. […] He was vicious today.” Kidd-Gilchrist agreed with Calipari’s assessment. “I’m built for this,” he said after Kentucky’s 69-62 victory. “I just love the challenge. I’ve always been that way. I’ve got a lot of heart.” Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 24 points and 19 rebounds, both career highs, in 39 minutes of play. Kidd-Gilchrist has showed up for big games. He scored 17 points and 11 rebounds against UNC, and 18 points and nine rebounds in a one-point loss at Indiana. He is quickly becoming not only the best freshman in the country, but one of the best players overall in the nation.
  3. The Lexington Herald Leader had more love for Kidd-Gilchrist, but Kidd-Gilchrist was giving all his love to his mother. She was in the hospital last week, but was healthy enough to make it to Lexington to watch her son play. “My mom was here,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “She smiled at me,” he said admitting he was looking at her in the stands. “I had to smile back.” With the way he played on Saturday, Calipari should find a way to get Kidd-Gilchrist’s mother in Rupp Arena more often. Kentucky won by seven despite shooting just 29.8%. Kidd-Gilchrist’s play was a big reason why the Wildcats were able to preserve the victory.
  4. Tennessee’s coach Cuonzo Martin turned to the bench on Saturday to beat The Citadel. Reserve center Yemi Makanjuola had a career-high 18 points and 11 rebounds. His coach knew it was possible. “I’m not surprised. I knew eventually it would come at some point, maybe next year,” Martin said. “I just think you’re happy for a guy who puts the work in and doesn’t complain and puts his head down and works every day and doesn’t make excuses.” The Citadel’s coach may have been a bit surprised by Makanjuola’s performance. He didn’t even know his name. “The guy coming off the bench killed us. We did not expect that,” coach Chuck Driesell said. The Volunteers needed a comfortable victory after several close calls. This 86-55 win gives Tennessee a three-game winning streak
  5. Vanderbilt’s defense is usually the subject of scorn and criticism, but in the their win over Marquette it was the defense that led the way. Vanderbilt switched its defenses several times confusing the Golden Eagles’ offense. Marquette was held to 32.2& shooting, a season’s best for the Commodores’ defense. In fact, they have only held one other opponent under 40% percent on the season, a 37.8% shooting night for Xavier in an 82-70 Musketeers win. Vanderbilt’s backcourt, not normally known for its stellar perimeter defense, held its own against Golden Eagles’ guard Vander Blue. The sophomore guard averages 9.4 points per game, but was held to one of seven shooting for only three points.
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Baylor Preserves Its Undefeated Record, But Hardly in Encouraging Fashion

Posted by dnspewak on December 29th, 2011

Baylor beat a top-15 team on Wednesday night, and that’s terrific. The undefeated Bears locked down Mississippi State on the final possession of the game to ice the win, holding the Bulldogs to 41% from the field and they actually won the rebounding battle for a change. For good measure, they even threw down a few electric dunks in the second half to give a partisan crowd in Dallas something to cheer about. But this 54-52 win wasn’t anything for Baylor to brag about. In fact, the play on the court at the American Airlines Center hardly resembled a marquee matchup between two ranked squads. After Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson combined for five three-pointers in the first half, the Bears failed to make a trey after halftime and finished with almost twice as many turnovers (15) as team assists (8). With scouts from nearly every NBA franchise in the building, star Perry Jones scored just eight points, and Baylor’s big men looked frustrated all night against the beef and length of Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. Scott Drew‘s halfcourt offense was not pretty in the second half, and that was punctuated by several missed layups, missed free throws and silly turnovers near the end of the game.

Baylor Knocked Off Mississippi State, But It Wasn't Pretty (credit: Austin Statesman)

You think that’s bad? Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney committed a technical foul with his team leading by two points in the final minute, and after BU took the lead, the Bulldogs’ final possession consisted of a few passes 30 feet from the basket and a wild, contested mid-range attempt by Rodney Hood to end the game. It was blocked, but you could have guessed that. The Bulldogs scored just 19 points in the second half, one less than Baylor’s 20. Point guard Dee Bost‘s struggles from three-point land continued with a 1-5 effort, and as usual, Sidney dominated when he played but only logged 19 minutes due to foul trouble. Rick Stansbury‘s team shot seven free throws but made just three, and it also finished with just nine team assists.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.28.11

Posted by EJacoby on December 28th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See the bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Tonight’s action offers a variety of 4-star matchups, including some exciting conference openers and one of the last top-25 non-conference showdowns. Carve out some time tonight to catch these great games.

Perry Jones and Undefeated Baylor Face Their Final Non-Conference Test Tonight Against Mississippi State (AP/T. Gutierrez)

#12 Georgetown at #10 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)

  • One of the biggest surprises in the country thus far, Georgetown is now looking to prove it can hang with the top teams in the Big East. Given how the Hoyas have played recently, they should have a great chance to add another impressive win to their resume tonight in the KFC Yum! Center. Georgetown has already won a true road game over then-top-15 Alabama, and tonight it heads west looking to rely on a veteran big three that have been consistent all year. Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark are getting it done from the perimeter, each averaging about 15 points per game and hitting exactly two three-pointers per game to lead the team from deep. Henry Sims, the most unlikely assist man in the nation, has executed his point forward role to perfection in Coach Thompson III’s Princeton-style offense. Sims leads the team with 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game while continuing his low-post impact to the tune of 12.5 points and 5.5 boards per contest. If Georgetown can continue its current pace of 1.16 points per possession, which is ninth best in the country, then they will have a shot to pull off the road win tonight.
  • Before taking on Kentucky later this week in a massive in-state powerhouse showdown, Louisville has this fierce test to begin Big East play. Rick Pitino’s team has been well-prepared all season leading to an undefeated record, but they have been vulnerable at home and have nearly been upset several times at the Yum! Center. The Cardinals, though, continue to collect wins thanks to a spectacular defensive effort. Louisville’s defensive efficiency of 83.0 is the fifth-best number in the nation, and they are also ranked top-10 defensively in field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, points per possession, and rebounding. Coach Pitino will run out a nine- or ten-man rotation and look to speed up the Hoyas’ efficient offense by implementing high pressure and different defensive looks throughout the night. How guards Kyle Kuric, Russ Smith, Chris Smith, and Peyton Siva shoot from behind the arc will be the key to the Cardinals’ offense.
  • This should be a tremendous game, as two red-hot conference foes do battle with their conflicting styles of play. Louisville is a five-point favorite at home, and their depth across the board will give them an advantage tonight. But the Hoyas are able to counteract any opponent’s strengths when their offense is clicking. Keep an eye on who can establish their style of play early in the game.
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Big 12 Weekly Primer: December 28-29

Posted by dnspewak on December 28th, 2011


  • #11 Mississippi State at #6 Baylor, Wednesday, 8 PM CT in Dallas (ESPN2)

Scott Drew's Team Is Flying High Heading Into Tonight's Game

At 12-0 and fresh off a Las Vegas Classic sweep of St. Mary’s and West Virginia, there’s not a whole lot left for Baylor to prove. The 6th-ranked Bears seem to have it all: dominant bigs, freakish athleticism, terrific dunkers and, most importantly, steady guard play. Junior college All-American Pierre Jackson, Boston College transfer Brady Heslip and junior A.J. Walton have formed a strong trio in the backcourt, and they’re helping Perry Jones and the crew lead the way in the paint. Cal transfer Gary Franklin has also impressed since gaining eligibility, as he’s turned the ball over just once in four games. That’s a striking contrast from last season, when Scott Drew wasted a boatload of NBA talent due to poor guard play and other issues. Baylor still has some work to do in the rebounding department, and it also turns the ball over a bit too much at times. But those are kinks Drew will work out during the course of the season, and they shouldn’t hold Baylor back against Mississippi State. In many ways, the Bulldogs are a mirror image of Baylor. They have a dangerous frontcourt duo in Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney, but Rick Stansbury’s guards have stepped up to help the Bulldogs to a 12-1 start. Dee Bost may be this team’s most important player as both a scorer and leader of the offense, and it’s going to be up to him to make smart decisions on a semi-neutral floor in Dallas tonight. Let’s not be silly here, though. This game will be won in the paint, and it all depends on which stars show up to play. Jones had a lot of questions to answer this season after a somewhat disappointing freshman season, but he has looked like a new man so far in 2011-12. That’s also an accurate description for Moultrie, who has embraced his role as the enforcer in Starkville after two modest seasons at UTEP. In his first year of eligibility, Moultrie has already recorded seven double-doubles, and he’s both getting to the line (6.0 attempts per game) and converting his free throws (88.3 percent). Against Jones, Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy and the other forwards with giant wingspans on the Baylor roster, Moultrie has a chance to prove his worth on national television.

The key individual matchup is… Dee Bost vs. A.J. Walton/Pierre Jackson/Gary Franklin. Jackson has not started a game this year, and Franklin just became eligible four games ago, but they’re both stealing time away from starter A.J. Walton at the point. It’s not a bad problem for Drew to have, since all three are playing reasonably well. It’s no secret who runs the show for Mississippi State, though. Dee Bost will likely attempt the most shots for the Bulldogs tonight, he’ll lead the team in assists and he will also be the most disruptive defensive presence on the floor. After all, he’s in the top-10 all-time in steals at Mississippi State, which means Walton, Jackson and Franklin better take care of the basketball. The elite forwards in this game cannot get to work unless the point guards play well. For Bost, that means taking good shots. When MSU plays well, it’s usually because Bost finds a groove and plays within the offense. But when Bost struggles– say, like his 2-9 effort in a loss to Akron or a 4-16 performance in a near-collapse at Detroit– this team is in trouble. It will be interesting to see who Drew leans on at his point guard spot. Franklin and Jackson actually played more minutes than Walton in the team’s overtime win against West Virginia, and Jackson starred in that game with 23 points and a tying three-point in the final minute.

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RTC Top 25: Week Seven

Posted by KDoyle on December 27th, 2011

With the holiday season in full swing, last week’s slate of games did not significantly alter the Top 25. Syracuse remains perched atop the rankings with Ohio State and Kentucky lurking close behind. In fact, there was virtually no movement in the Top 10 at all. One team that continues to spiral downward thanks to suspensions following the Crosstown Brawl is Xavier, who was once a legitimate Top 10 team, but now sits at #20. The Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…

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SEC Morning Five: 12.23.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 23rd, 2011

  1.  In Mississippi’s 68-56 loss to Middle Tennessee State, the Rebels’ guards failed to take care of the basketball turning it over 21 times. Freshman Jelan Kendrick, playing in just his second collegiate game ever, might be the answer Andy Kennedy needs at point guard. Kendrick turned the ball over just one time while scoring eight points, dishing out three assists, grabbing four steals, and securing three rebounds.”I’m just looking for somebody that doesn’t throw it to the other team,” Kennedy said. “I don’t mean that flippantly, but that’s the truth.” Although that might be the first time we have ever heard a coach use the term “flippantly”, the point, both literally and figuratively, is not lost. Kennedy gave Kendrick a chance to restore his troubled career, and he may give the 6’7″ guard a chance to run this Rebels team at the point guard position.
  2. Kenny Boynton‘s increases in field goal and three point shooting percentages are not by chance or simply another year of experience. Boynton reviews film after each game to improve upon his shot selection. “I watch the whole game,” Boynton said. “Every game. I’m looking at the shots I’ve taken. Were they open shots or tough shots? I didn’t do that my first two years. It’s really helped me a lot, because it’s helped me learn about shot selection.” Boynton is averaging 18.3 points and 3.0 assists per game. His extra time has not only made him a better player, but has made Florida a legitimate SEC title contender.
  3. It’s the holiday season, and what Florida really needs in its stocking is a focus on entry passes to the low block for its big man Patric Young. Young is currently shooting 63.3% from the field, but his touches have been limited by an abundance of overzealous shooting guards on the perimeter. He is highly efficient and helps open up the three point shot in the inside-out game. Young’s best game of the year came against Arizona when he took 15 shots, converting on 12, to score 25 points and grab 10 rebounds. Now Florida’s guards need to make sure those kind of performances come more often for the center. And if it isn’t too much to ask, all I really want for Christmas is for Young to keep wearing those protective glasses. He is so much more intimidating in a cool pair of shades.
  4. Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney continues to make strides on the basketball court, and he is now making solid contributions for the Bulldogs. In his last three games, Sidney has averaged 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. “I’d like to still get more minutes from him but, again, I’ll take less minutes as long as they’re more productive,” Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said. “There have been signs of him getting better.” While Sidney still breathes towards the end of games like a dog in 110 degree heat, he is averaging 21.8 minutes this season. Sidney’s increased presence in the post could give Mississippi State one of the most dominant frontlines in the country as forward Arnett Moultrie continues to be one of the most consistent performers in the SEC. Moultrie got his seventh double-double of the season against Northwestern State on Thursday.
  5. Speaking of Mississippi State, senior point guard Dee Bost still feels like the Bulldogs are underrated despite staking a solid spot in the polls. “I feel like people don’t respect us enough,” Bost said. “We just have to keep winning to get people’s respect. With polls, that’s people’s opinions. We have to keep winning because that’s all we can control.” MSU is playing top-10 ranked Baylor next week, and Bost, for one, is looking forward to the opportunity to knock off a talented team. “We have another chance to prove where we are in the nation. People don’t respect us. If we win that game, people will respect us.” Alright Bost, it’s a deal. Beat Baylor next week and you will have our respect. Fall short, and we reserve the right to keep questioning the Bulldogs’ legitimacy.
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RTC Top 25: Week Six

Posted by KDoyle on December 19th, 2011

With final exams taking places at many colleges throughout the nation, it was a relatively quiet week in the college basketball world as there were only a handful of games. One major change in this week’s poll is Syracuse’s elevation to the #1 team in the country as they garnered five first place votes. Meanwhile, Xavier has fallen out of the Top 10 after dropping their first game of the season against Oral Roberts—mind you, the Musketeers were without the services of Mark Lyons and Tu Holloway. You may have heard that they were in a minor altercation with Cincinnati not too long ago. As 2011 winds down, so do many of the marquee non-conference games leading into league play as no Top 25 games grace the slate this week.

The Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…

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