2009-10 Conference Primers: #4 – Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2009

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

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Kansas (15-1)
  2. Texas (14-2)
  3. Oklahoma (11-5)
  4. Kansas State (10-6)
  5. Missouri (9-7)
  6. Texas A&M (8-8)
  7. Oklahoma State (8-8)
  8. Iowa State (7-9)
  9. Baylor (5-11)
  10. Texas Tech (4-12)
  11. Nebraska (3-13)
  12. Colorado (2-14)

All Conference Team:

  • Sherron Collins (G), Kansas
  • Willie Warren (G) Oklahoma
  • Craig Brackins (F) Iowa State
  • Damion James (F), Texas
  • Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas

6th Man. James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State

Impact Newcomer. Xavier Henry (G), Kansas

big 12 logoWhat You Need to Know.

  • KU Dominance.  Of the 13 years that the Big 12 has held a conference tournament, Kansas has won the crown six times, which is the most of any Big 12 school.  Kansas has been deemed the regular season conference champion nine times in those 13 years, sharing the title in three of those times. Every time Kansas has shared the title the Jayhawks were the two-seed in the conference tournament.
  • Two At the Top. It’s very possible that Texas and Kansas could share the Big 12 title this season. Texas’ toughest conference games are Kansas (in Austin), then Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State on the road.  The Longhorns seem to have the advantage over the Jayhawks when it comes to an easier conference schedule, but with KU bringing back all of its talent and adding one of the top freshman in the nation, I still believe that Kansas will stay atop the conference alone.
  • Where are the Tigers. Where do you rank the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 this season? After being picked seventh by the coaches in last year’s preseason poll, the Tigers finished third and won the Big 12 Tournament en route to an Elite Eight appearance. Mike Anderson will continue to play his “Fastest Forty Minutes” style, and behind leadership from senior guard JT Tiller (Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009), and sophomore guard Kim English, it’s hard to determine where Mizzou will be at the end of the season. Anderson has put together a very athletic lineup, which should be able to play to his coaching style, but their lack of experience and a consistent scorer could hurt them.
  • X-Factor. Freshman phenom Xavier Henry could be the key to Kansas’ hopes of a second national title in just three seasons.  A late decider, Henry could very well be one of the most productive freshmen in the NCAA this season.  He is surrounded by unbelievable talent that will hog most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should open up many scoring opportunities for Henry.

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06.24.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 24th, 2009

What’s this?  Two days in a row with FBs?  Indeed.  There’s a lot to get caught up on…

  • Duke Downer.  The biggest news today was the news that Duke point guard Elliot Williams (he of the happy, happy feet) will be leaving the Duke program so that he can move closer to Memphis, his hometown.  Reportedly his mother is facing a life-threatening illness there and Williams wants to be nearby for support as she battles her disease.  He plans on petitioning the NCAA to waive the one-year transfer obligation so that he will be able to play immediately at his new school (presumably Memphis).  This is undoubtedly a major blow to Coach K’s backcourt in 2009-10, as he’ll now be left with only Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith to log minutes there.  Big things were expected of Williams based on his insertion into the starting lineup at midseason and his excellent all-around play down the stretch.  Duke fans are largely crushed by this news, given the unfortunate circumstances causing it as well as the huge, gaping hole in the backcourt it leaves (while, ironically, the perfect fix named Seth Curry can only wait and watch next season).  In other Duke news that came out today, Coach K is the highest paid Duke employee by far ($3.6M last year) – no surprise there.
  • Like Father, Not Like Son.  A bit of a surprise today is that Jeffrey Jordan (you know, that Mike guy’s son) is ending his basketball career at Illinois to focus on his studies.  This comes on the heels of news from earlier this year that Jordan’s hard work and commitment to the program had resulted in a scholarship for the rest of his time at the school.  Guess he’d had enough.  Actually, we can totally understand this.  Jordan was undeniably under more pressure to perform than any walk-on turned scholarship player in the history of college basketball, and although it made for nice copy, it’s safe to say that Jordan probably didn’t love the sport anywhere near the same as his famous dad.  He probably reached a personal epiphany of some kind that included a heart-to-heart with pops, and once MJ gave him the blessing, he’s now free to pursue the activities he truly enjoys.  Good for him.  And good for him for working his tail off in his two years at Illinois to go from walk-on to scholarship to expected contributor, despite limited talent.
  • Vegas, Baby.  The WAC has followed its mid-major brethren WCC and Mountain West Conferences by moving its postseason tournament to Las Vegas, where the Orleans Arena will host beginning in 2011.  This comes on the heels of a very successful WCC Tournament at the Orleans last year, where a sold-out, raucous arena was shown on national television for St. Mary’s vs. Gonzaga.  The MWC already holds its conference tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center down the street, and this move by the WAC means that Vegas will become the basketball destination for every legitimate conference (save the Pac-10) west of the Rockies every March.  Sounds like a really fun environment for fans of these leagues.
  • No, No, NoEveryone got this wrongDerrick Rose wasn’t flashing a gang sign in the below pic, he was practicing universal remote hand signals for the letter “B” on the SAT exam.

derrick rose hand signals

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NCAA Preview: Missouri Tigers

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

Missouri (#3, West, Boise pod)

vs. Cornell (#14)
Friday, March 20 @ 3pm

Vegas Line: Missouri -13

missouri-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Columbia, MO
Conference:
Big 12, Automatic bid
Coach: Mike Anderson (62-34 in three seasons)
08-09 Record:
28-6 (12-4)
Last 12 Games: 10-2 (streak: 3 wins)
Best Win:
62-60, Kansas, 2/9
Worst Loss:
56-51, at Nebraska, 1/10
Off. Efficiency Rating:
114.9; #18
Def. Efficiency Rating: 88.2; #8

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): DeMarre Carroll (Sr), 16.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 37.8% 3-pt FG; Leo Lyons (Sr), 14.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.0 APG
Unsung Hero
: Zaire Taylor (Jr), 6.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG, two game-winning shots (vs Texas, Kansas); J.T. Tiller (Jr), 7.9 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.8 SPG, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s):
none
Key Injuries: none
Depth: 38.7% mins (#23)
Achilles Heel: Free-Throw shooting (66.8%, #242 in the country)
Will Make a Deep Run if…: They can avoid an early hole. They are 1-5 this season when trailing by double digits at half, 27-1 when they’re not.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: Cold shooting sets in, and Mizzou cannot press after made baskets

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2003 (NCAA Second Round)
Streak:
1
Best NCAA Finish:
2002, 1994, 1976, Elite Eight
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present):
-0.31 wins per appearance

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: Some of Missouri’s best players in the late-’80s–Doug Smith, Lee Coward, Nathan Buntin, John McIntyre–were from the Detroit area, leading to the “Detroit Tigers” nickname for some of those squads.
Distance to First Round Site:
1498 miles
School’s Claim to Fame:
Nothing specific, just a montage of Don Faurot (inventor of the Split T!), Brad Pitt, Norm Stewart, Sheryl Crow, Jon Sundvold & Steve Stipanovich, Robert Loggia, Chase Daniel & Jeremy Maclin, ESPN’s John Anderson (and Matt Winer), and the invention of Homecoming.
School Wishes It Could Forget:
The Paige Sports Arena incident, the Popcorn incident, Ricky Clemons, Athenagate, and pretty much everything that happened to Mizzou basketball between 2003 and 2008. You appreciate a high-character team like Mizzou’s current squad a lot more when you’re seen some less-than-stellar characters make their way through town.
Prediction:
The main expectation for this team is to make the second weekend and play a strong game against (likely) Memphis in the Sweet Sixteen. There is nobody in the West Region that Mizzou cannot beat, but Memphis has the defense to force bad shots and the streaky offense to potentially make a run in the first half to build some cushion for a Mizzou second half run. A second round game against Marquette could be explosive and fun, but Mizzou should have the depth and inside presence to wear down the Golden Eagles.

Major RTC stories: None
Preview written by… Bill Connelly, Rock M Nation

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NCAA Basketball 2009: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009

bcs-fail

With the release of the brackets on Sunday evening there has been quite a bit of controversy (Arizona over St. Mary’s being the predominant gripe) and there have been some interesting moments with Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps ganging up on Dick Vitale and almost bringing him to tears. However, it was nothing compared to the furor that we saw when the BCS released its final poll that determined the BCS bowl games and more importantly the national championship. We thought it would be a fun exercise to try to make a mock BCS basketball system. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. There are a couple polls I excluded for other reasons: Kenneth Massey’s (wasn’t updated yet) and Jerry Palm’s (not free). I did not throw out the high and low computer polls for two reasons: (1) we only had 3 available and (2) they were fairly similar with a few exceptions (Gonzaga in the RPI, but they weren’t going to be a factor anyways because of Memphis). ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI didn’t include the games from Sunday, but after looking at the final results they would not have had any impact on the rankings  based on the teams involved. Here are the results:

bcs-2009

If you want to try and follow along, here are the BCS criteria.

Now onto the match-ups. . .

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27 Down, 38 To Go…

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2009

There are twelve automatic bids today, so we’ll be updating these as the day moves forward…

#16 – Binghamton (23-8, 16-3 Am East).  Binghamton took care of business today against upstart UMBC to win their eleventh in a row and earn the school’s first ever NCAA bid.  Reggie Fuller had 19/10 and alleged non-POY DJ Rivera added 16/5 in the RTC home win.  We had more coverage on today’s BGTD.

Projected Seed: #16

Something to Remember: Binghamton is um, size-challenged.  Their tallest starter is the 6’6 Fuller.  And have you heard that Tony Kornheiser has an affinity for this school for some reason?  Yeah, we hadn’t either.

tony-kornheiser-2

#17 – Memphis (31-3, 19-0 CUSA). 25 straight wins in a row.  61 CUSA wins in row.  Memphis just keeps on truckin’, with another stellar defensive performance in holding Tulsa to 26% from the field and 2-14 from three.  This was also the 135th win for the Tiger senior class, who is focused on getting to #141, according to Coach Calipari.  Robert Dozier had 18/14 and Tyreke Evans had 18/5/6 in the same-old, same-old for Memphis.

Projected Seed: #2

STR:  We’re going to be a little contrarian here, but we’re not buying that Memphis is a national title contender this year.  Are they better than anticipated?  Absolutely.  Are they on the same level as UConn, Pitt, Louisville, UNC, etc.?  No freakin’ way.  Their defense is outstanding, statistically the very best in the land.  And CUSA is a better league than people tend to think it is.  But the fact of the matter here is that Memphis is playing with house money right now.  They were beaten by Georgetown, Xavier and Syracuse in the pre-conference slate.  Tennessee took them down to the last possession.  They rolled up Gonzaga in their building, but the Zags wilted in the face of their athletic defenders.  Memphis is a very good team – but they’re not going back to the F4.  Remember that you heard it here first.

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Big 12 Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and MVC Conferences.

big-12-final-standings

Kansas didn’t rebuild, they reloaded this season.  After questions whether this team would be able to be as good as they were last season with basically only Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, this new class has gelled together and Bill Self was able to prove that he is one of the best developers of talent in the nation and also the Big 12 Coach of the Year.   As I said in my preseason predictions, Kansas could fly under the radar and by the end of the season have a seasoned team.  I just didn’t think they would actually win the conference.    Oklahoma has also had a great season, but the loss of Blake Griffin over two key games was the difference between winning the conference and finishing second.  I’m sure a lot of people were surprised to see Missouri be as successful as they were this season.  You just didn’t know if Mike Anderson had the guys he wanted to play high pressure defense.    But probably the surprise for me is the performance of Texas.  To be real honest, I am really surprised how many people feel so confident Texas is comfortably in the tournament after the inconsistencies this team has had this season.    I had high expectations for them to win the Big 12, but the non-existence of a player to step up to play point guard has really hampered this team.  But I’ll have more on Texas later.  Kansas St., Texas A&M and Oklahoma St. all have realistic desires of making the NCAA Tournament.

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ATB: Misery in Missouri

Posted by rtmsf on February 10th, 2009

afterbuzzer1


Some News & Notes.

Your Gigantic Monday.

  • Pittsburgh 70, West Virginia 59. As soon as Pitt beast DeJuan Blair picked up his second foul with fifteen minutes remaining in the first half, we immediately went into “upset” mode at the RTC compound.  In the Panthers’ two previous games where Blair’s effectiveness was limited by the whistles, Pitt lost both games (@ Villanova; @ Louisville).  Granted, both of those losses were road games, so maybe the key to beating Pitt is to get Blair in foul trouble away from the Steel City.  Sam Young (20/7) and Levance Fields (13/7 assts) picked up the slack while Blair was on the pine, and WVU never had enough offensive firepower or rebounding of their own to make a serious push at the Panthers.  What to make of Bob Huggins’ Mountaineer squad?  They’ve lost four of six, and they’ve pretty much beaten everyone and lost to everyone they were supposed to in the conference this year.  The computers love them, but their best win of the year was the destruction of Ohio St. in December; other than that, what?  At Ole Miss?  At Georgetown?  They play teams tough, but to date, they haven’t won many of these games.
  • Missouri 62, Kansas 60. Mizzou rode its rabid home crowd and pressure defense to a 19-6 closeout run capped off by Zaire Taylor’s 10-footer + the roll to knock rival KU from the ranks of the Big 12 unbeatens.  This is a classic example of a game where you can’t believe that the same team you watched for the first 3/4 of the game is the one you’re seeing down the stretch.  Kansas looked poised and in control throughout, whereas Missouri was the team that consistently had trouble putting two good plays together (case in point – watch the end of the first half).  But the bottom line was that Kansas went cold at the wrong time and that, combined with the TOs Mizzou was forcing all game long, led to the devastating run at the end of the game that gave Missouri the program-inspiring win.  The kind of win that can turn a so-so season into a superb one.  DeMarre Carroll led Mizzou with 22/7, but Bill Self’s club should really be kicking themselves after letting this one get away.  The Jayhawks looked like the better team.  Nevertheless, Missouri got the huge win in tonight’s Border War (RTC – justified or not?), and Zaire Taylor “can’t hear nothin’ you’re sayin,” Holly Rowe.  Looked like fun.

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST).

  • Florida St. v. Virginia (ESPN FC) – 7pm.  FSU has gotten itself into a good spot (5-3) in the ACC race, but they can’t afford a letdown at home.
  • Providence @ S. Florida (ESPN360) – 7pm.   PC can’t allow another Marquette-style upset to happen here.
  • Michigan v. Michigan St. (ESPN) – 7pm.  This is a dangerous game for MSU and a necessary one for the Maize and Blue.  UM has won the last two in AA.
  • Marquette @ Villanova (ESPN2) – 7:30pm.  It’s Jerel McNeal vs. Dante Cunningham in the race between hottest players in the Big East.  Nova has won 25 in a row at home.
  • Texas v. Oklahoma St. (ESPN360) – 8pm.  UT cannot drop this one at home if the Horns expect to be playing in March Madness.
  • Florida @ Kentucky (ESPN2) – 9pm. This game used to be a battle for a #1 seed; now it’s a battle to stay off the bubble.
  • Clemson @ Boston College (ESPN FC) – 9pm. This is a key game for positioning in the top-middle of the ACC.  RTC Live will be there.
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Checking in on the… Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 10th, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Oklahoma (23-1)(9-0) (1)
  2. Kansas (19-4)(8-0) (2)
  3. Missouri (20-4) (7-2) (3)
  4. Nebraska (15-7) (5-4) (7)
  5. Kansas St. (16-7) (5-4)(8)
  6. Texas (15-7) (4-4) (4)
  7. Texas A&M (17-7) (3-6) (5)
  8. Baylor (15-8) (3-6) (6)
  9. Oklahoma St. (14-8) (3-5) (9)
  10. Texas Tech (12-11) (2-6)(11)
  11. Iowa St. (12-11) (1-7) (10)
  12. Colorado (8-12) (1-7) (12)

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Conference Over- and Underachievers

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.  His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

All right, now we’re talking.  We’re several games into conference play, now, and the leagues are starting to take shape.  We’ve known the fates of some teams for a long time, both the good (your Carolinas and Dukes, Oklahomas and UConns, etc), and the bad (no need to pile on, here).  The most interesting part of it all, to me, are those teams which are doing a little better than they expected and may be making tenuous hotel reservations for a very large dance in March…and others that are becoming quickly aware that they are only one or two losses away from being tossed into the dustbin of NIT-worthiness.  Even worse, many squads are realizing that they may not even have THAT to worry about, that there will be no post-season, that the only thing they have waiting on them after the basketball season is over is — horror of horrors — going to class.

photobucket.com)
Many teams know this is all they have to look forward to in March. (photo credit: photobucket.com)

So who’s not behaving like we expected?  Who has both surprised and disappointed us, in terms of conference play?  Without further delay, I give you…our early-conference edition of Over- and Underachievers.

ACC

Overachiever:  Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1)

As much as their win over then-#1 Wake Forest turned heads, I think people were just as surprised (at least I was) that they avoided the usual post-big-victory letdown by going to Miami (FL) four days after the Wake win and knocking off what I still think is a very capable Hurricane squad.  I know it’s early.  But right now it’s the Hokies who sit second in the conference, a game behind new national #1 Duke.  Victories like the ones they’ve enjoyed so far can sometimes set the tone for a great season, or they can make you overconfident so that you screw up the rest of your conference schedule.  We’ll see how far they can take it, but you’ve got to give them props to this point.

daylife.com)
Greenberg and Vassallo, Overachievers. (photocredit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Georgia Tech (9-10, 0-6)

Whew.  What happened here?  After starting 7-2, something happened just before Christmas and the Jackets just haven’t gotten up from it.  Maybe the competition just got a little better, but with all the talent on this team and a coach like Paul Hewitt there’s just no excuse for going one-for-2009.  Their only victory of this year?  A 5-point win at home against Georgia, a bottom-feeder team in a terrible SEC.  To be completely honest, I’m already tired of talking about them.  Maybe next year Derrick Favors will bring the antidote this program needs.

Big 12

Overachiever:  Missouri (17-3, 4-1)

Hands up, who had Missouri at 17-3 after 20 games?  Yeah, me neither.  The Tigers have great individual talent but have succeeded this year by being the epitome of unselfishness, which has led to efficiency.  They average 19.4 assists per game (2nd nationally), just a ridiculous number.  The only question mark…only three true away games so far.  Probably the only reason they aren’t well-entrenched in the Top 25 right now.

daylife.com)
Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll, a large human, happy about overachieving. (photo credit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Texas A&M (15-5, 1-4)

That 14-1 start was lookin’ pretty good, then conference play started.  12 assists per game just isn’t going to get it done (248th in the nation).  Donald Sloan averages the most dimes per game on this team at a mere 3.2.  We’re pretty sure Mark Turgeon is a fine coach, but right now the Aggies are giving the NCAA Tournament committee reasons to deny them entry in March.  They’d best learn to stay afloat for the rest of Big 12 play.

Big East

Overachiever:  Marquette (18-2, 7-0)

Winners of 10 straight.  RPI of 15.  7-0 in a monster conference.  The coolest thing about Marquette is that they’ll beat you any way you wish to get beaten — they can play slow, half-court basketball and cut you to pieces, and they’re also more than happy to outrun you and get it up near triple-digits.  And Monday night was telling — I bet Maurice Acker followed Kyle McAlarney to class today.  McAlarney couldn’t have gotten have rid of him even if he’d cut the brake lines on Acker’s car.  The Jerel McNeal/Wesley Matthews/Lazar Hayward three-headed monster has turned into one of the most fearsome in the game.  DO NOT forget this team when filling out your bracket in the office pool in a month and a half.

Underachiever:  Seton Hall (10-9, 1-6)

The Pirates raised some eyebrows when they started off 9-3 including wins versus Southern Cal and Virginia Tech, and then — sense a trend, here? — conference play began.  Boom, six straight losses.  I think the Georgetown game really showed us something closer to who the real Seton Hall team is, but this conference is going to end up being just too vicious overall for them.

SEC

Overachiever:  Kentucky (16-4, 5-0)

According to a number of my Wildcat connections, before this season, UK supporters were basically ready to give Billy Gillispie another “free-pass” sort of season, inasmuch as a coach can actually have that at Kentucky.  Doesn’t look like Gillispie needs it.  This team is an interesting statistical mix.  They rank 3rd in the country in FG% (50.2%) and 2nd nationally in FT% (79%).  We know about the potency of the Jodie Meeks/Patrick Patterson tandem.  Defensively, they hold opponents to 36.4% a game from the field, which is 3rd best in the nation; and they rank second in the country in blocks per game with 7.5 (and, oddly, second in the conference as well behind Mississippi State’s 8.0/game).  So…great offense, great defense…what’s the problem?  Well, how about 18.1 turnovers per game?  That’s 338th out of 341 Division One teams.  Egad.  Nobody — even Kentucky fans, I don’t think — saw Kentucky improving this fast with so many unknowns starting the year.  Clean up the turnovers and you’re a top five team.

daylife.com)
Class of the SEC? We’ll see… (photo credit: daylife.com)

[Ed. note:  since this was written, Kentucky was defeated by Mississippi on Tuesday night to give UK its first loss in the conference and take them to 5-1.  I think, however, that UK still qualifies for Overachiever status in the SEC so far for reasons outlined above.   –J.S.]

Underachiever:  Arkansas (12-5, 0-4)

If you look at the win-loss pattern on Arkansas’ schedule, you’d say, “Yep, conference play, again.”  I don’t think you can’t say that, here.  It’s baffling, because in an eight-day span less than a month ago, John Pelphrey’s Razorback squad knocked off both Texas and Oklahoma, not exactly a couple of pansies.  It makes absolutely no sense that beginning conference play in a WAY-down SEC (6th in conference RPI, and probably falling) would cause Arkansas any problems at all, but here they sit at 0-4 in the conference, including an inexcusable 22-point home court butt-smoking at the hands of Auburn.  Arkansas is another team that is just loaded with great athletes, and if they straighten up a little the committee will remember those two earlier big wins.  Arkansas reminds me of Avril Levigne.  I’m pretty sure there’s something attractive there…but they’re doing whatever they possibly can to screw it up and make themselves ugly.

radaronline.com)
Avril has a message for Mr. Stevens (photo credit: radaronline.com)

This is not a complete list, by any means.  But I think it shows us how breezing through questionable non-conference opponents might not be the best recipe to impress the committee, as attractive as it is to post a nice big number in the pre-conference ‘W’ column.  Everyone knows that late losses simply mean more, that the committee likes you to finish strong.  You can’t allow yourself to be a conference underachiever.  Conference play will give you a bellyache if all you’ve been doing is loading up on cupcakes.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on January 26th, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Oklahoma (19-1)(5-0) (1)
  2. Texas (14-4) (3-1) (2)
  3. Kansas (15-4)(4-0) (4)
  4. Missouri (17-3) (4-1) (6) 
  5. Baylor (15-4) (3-2) (3)
  6. Oklahoma St. (13-5) (2-2) (8)
  7. Texas A&M (15-5) (1-4) (5)
  8. Texas Tech (11-8) (1-3)(11)
  9. Nebraska (12-6) (2-3) (7)
  10. Iowa St. (12-7) (1-3) (9)
  11. Kansas St. (12-7) (1-4)(10)
  12. Colorado (8-10) (0-4) (12)

As expected, the top of the Big 12 was going to be dominant in conference play this season with a Missouri team really starting to look good.  Baylor and Texas A&M have struggled as of late and they need to get things turned around quickly. 

GAME OF THE WEEK

Oklahoma 72, Nebraska 61—This game had all the drama and the wakeup call needed for Oklahoma.  Nebraska came out with a stifling defense to start the game and double and triple-teamed Blake Griffin and basically took him out of the game.  The Huskers were up 6 at halftime and in the 2nd half, they were not able to play Griffin as well as they did in the first half.  Griffin went 7-8 in the 2nd half from the field and Nebraska was not able to score for  about 5 minutes down the stretch.  By the time they were able to start scoring again, it was too late. 

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Blake Griffin, Oklahoma—Though I considered DeMarre Carroll (Missouri), Sherron Collins (Kansas) and Craig Brackens (Iowa St.), I have to go with Griffin as he continues to dominate the games he is in and averaged 23 points and almost 18 rebounds a game this week.    He didn’t even play that much the 2nd half against Baylor.  He is well on his way to Player of the Year.

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Dynamic Duos in Search of a Third Wheel

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2009

John Stevens is featured columnist for RTC.  His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season. 

Ask any college basketball coach what a team needs to succeed in March and you’ll get a variety of answers — solid point guard play, a big inside threat, conditioning, luck, a guarantee that John Stevens will NOT bet on you – all popular answers.  A “go-to” guy is also a popular response, but I think history has shown that simply one standout player will not prove sufficient.  These days you have to have a balanced squad in addition to having at least two players you can call actual “go-to” guys.  A viable third option can have you breathing rarified air, indeed.  This season has proven incredibly interesting in that we have a lot of teams that are being seemingly led — whose very identities are made — by a couple of standout players.  In addition, if these teams that are led by Dynamic Duos see a helpful third option emerge — watch out.  There’s at least one of these teams in each of the major conferences, so let’s take a look at them.


 
ACC — Miami (FL)
 
True, the Hurricanes’ schedule is a little bland, but you can’t ignore a team with tough wins both at Kentucky and at Boston College.  Jack McClinton (16.9/2.8/3.1) and Dwayne Collins (12.1/7.8/1.3) have propelled this Miami team that has eleven guys who average at least 10 minutes a game which means that they have many options in terms of developing that third option.  Cyrus McGowan is an efficient player who provides 7.2/6.1 and he does it averaging 5 minutes less than the other significant scorers on that team, but the most likely candidate here to step up as the third option is James Dews, who averages 9.2/2.7 but upped his game in those big wins above against UK and BC by contributing 18 and 12, respectively.  You gotta give props to a guy who elevates himself in the big games.


 
Big 12 — Missouri
 
On their way to a 13-3 record so far, Missouri hasn’t exactly been sleeping on the job schedule-wise, tallying wins against USC and a surprising California side and losing a tough one to Xavier.  To that end, DeMarre Carroll (16.1/6.6) and Leo Lyons (14.6/6.2) have been a true Dynamic Duo for the Tigers because after that the production falls off to Matt Lawrence (9.6/2.3), especially in terms of rebounding (note: of course, Lyons needs to get this recent traffic thing sorted out).  Along with J.T. Tiller, Lawrence represents the most likely candidate to be the next option; Tiller averages the third most minutes on the team but Lawrence is actually more productive despite playing 4 fewer minutes per game.

I bet Demarre can beat me at curls. (photo credit: kansan.com)

Big East — Notre Dame
 
I know I don’t have to tell you about Luke Harangody; despite the special player he is I personally find more excitement watching Kyle McAlarney (16.6/2.6/3.4) because the man just has locker-room range.  Seriously, he’d shoot from his dorm room if they’d let him.  And even then you better get a guy on him.  ND might not seem like a Dynamic Duo-led team because they have two other starters — Tory Jackson and Ryan Ayers — averaging over 30 minutes a game (Jackson actually plays more than Harangody, by the numbers), but the offensive dropoff is certainly evident after McAlarney and the team is defined by those top two fellows.  Jackson is the obvious third option candidate, here; he puts together a good floor game on the whole (4.6 rpg/5.9 apg/1.5 spg).  It’s not like he doesn’t do enough, but if he became even more of a third scoring option to take even just a little of the heat off of the Harangody/McAlarney exacta, Notre Dame will become an even bigger Final Four threat come March.


 
Big Ten — Michigan State
 
People still seem to be defining the Fighting Izzos by that rectal-exam-with-an-audience that UNC gave them a while back.  This is a mistake.  Raymar Morgan (15.1/7.1) and Kalin Lucas (13.9/5.9 apg) have been the Dynamic Duo for Sparty so far, as everyone knows, but these guys have reeled off nine straight since getting tuned-up by the Tar Heels and they basically have their third option back, now, in the form of Goran Suton, already averaging 9.2/6.8 in only nine games back.  This will likely continue to rise.  It makes Michigan State a team you cannot ignore as we enter the second half of the season.  They’ve obviously put the North Carolina game behind them.  Everyone else should, too.
 
Pac-10 — Arizona State
 
We all know James Harden (23.1/5.8/4.7) and we’re getting to know Jeff Pendergraph (13.6/7.1).  After that, the offensive production and glasswork drops off a little to Richard Kuksiks (10.9/3.6), the apparent choice for presumed third option, here.  He’s up to playing even more minutes than Pendergraph on the average, and he’s shooting a pretty tasty 53% from 3-point range.  I am, however, going to anoint Derek Glasser as the best option for third-man-in; he’s only contributing 6.4 points (fifth on the team) but he’s a great distributor of the ball (5.3 apg, leads team), has shown a tendency to come up with a timely pilfer, and is darn reliable at the line (81.1%, second on team) — all important qualities during tournament time.  Even the slightest increase in his point production would make ASU even more dangerous than they already are.
 
SEC — Kentucky
 
The textbook Dynamic Duo team.  Probably not a better example in all of college basketball this season.  We’re not even going to talk about Jodie Meeks’ (24.2/3.4, 90.1% FT) legendary performance last night and Patrick Patterson (18.9/9.3) is creeping up every online NBA mock draft, a bittersweet fact for Wildcat fans.  After that, the offensive production falls all the way down to Perry Stevenson at 7.1ppg.  Heck, Patterson is actually third on the team in assists (2.6).  As far as possibilities for third-option status, with this team that’s a tough question.  They are absolutely loaded with pure, talented athletes, but UK followers have waited all year for a third player to assert himself.  Still hasn’t happened.  It has to for this team, because Meeks can’t score 54 every night and there will probably be more than one night where Meeks goes cold and Patterson is well-defended (or vice-versa).  My choice for third option for this team is DeAndre Liggins, the team’s assist leader at only 3.6 apg.  If he can cut down on freshman mistakes and provide even a small increase in his point production, Kentucky will be formidable — and that means this year, not next year.  Without a third option, Selection Sunday might get a little tense for this Kentucky team.


 
It will be especially interesting to see if Miami (FL), Missouri, and Kentucky eventually see a third player emerge for them, since they’re…well, it’s too early to use the “b-word,” but let’s just say they’re fighting for tournament entry right now.  Even if it isn’t the player I’ve predicted, if any of these squads see a third person elevate his game in hopes of providing more assistance to the Dynamic Duo already leading them, you best keep an eye out for them.  These teams are close to making the jump, even now.  Adding a good third option to their particular Dynamic Duo will improve them exponentially, and I wouldn’t want to see any of them in my sub-bracket.

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ATB: Weekend Wrap

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2008

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Forget the BCS. None of the big college football matchups this weekend were worth your time – Texas Tech/Oklahoma: blowout; Ohio St/Michigan: blowout; Penn St/Michigan St: blowout; Utah/BYU: blowout – so hopefully you found some good hoops to watch instead.

The Return of our Lord and Savior Tyler Hansbrough. UNC 84, UC Santa Barbara 67. This game was a little past RTC’s bedtime on Friday night, so we’ll cover it now.  Did you guys hear?  Tyler Hansbrough made his triumphant return to UNC’s lineup Friday night! The stress reaction is no longer reacting!  There was to be no Santa Clara Pt. 2, as Psycho-T returned for 25 minutes of action and 13/7 in the box score.  The Heels put all five starters in double figures (led by Ty Lawson’s 19) + Ed Davis off the bench, but didn’t really start to pull away until the mid-second half.  James Nunnally had 22/7 off the bench for UCSB, who packed the Thunderdome for its first game against a #1 team in 18 years.  Mild cause for concern?  UNC is allowing its opponents to shoot 44% from the field in three games thus far this season.

Why Do We Ever Sleep on Xavier? Xavier 63, Memphis 58. Sean Miller just continues to get it done at Xavier year after year.  Memphis won’t need this game in March, but Xavier just might, and like Wisconsin, we should just go ahead and put the Muskies in the top 25 no matter what players they’re returning in a given year.  We watched this game, and guess what area of basketball once again bit Memphis in the arse?  Would you believe FREE throws?!?  Yep, 15-30 from the line, including missing seven of the last nine AND the last four as the game still hung in the balance.  Robert Dozier had a double-double (10/11) but Memphis isn’t very good at shooting the ball outside of the paint (24% from three this season), and this area of the game might be their major bugaboo this year.  Xavier exhibited a balanced attack, but Terrell Holloway’s 10-10 from the line helped XU secure the victory and the Puerto Rico Tipoff Championship.

Introducing Samardo SamuelsLouisville 79, Morehead St. 41; Louisville 81, S. Alabama 54. Samardo Samuels was the clincher as to why we chose Louisville to win the national title over UNC next April, and if his first weekend of games is any indication, we might start patting ourselves on the back soon.  Samuels is averaging 21/5 in his first two games, while shooting 17-22 from the field (over half of which were dunks).  Pitino is calling him the best freshman he’s ever coached, which is fairly high praise considering Jamal Mashburn, Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer and Francisco Garcia were all pretty solid players for Pitino in their first seasons.  Louisville has held its first two opponents to 32% from the field thus far.

Will the Hansbrough Effect Kill Another Big 12 Beast? Oklahoma 80, Gardner-Webb 76. Everyone pretty well knows that Tyler Hansbrough is going to win the NPOY awards again this year (assuming his stress reaction days are behind him).  But is he going to win it over a more deserving Big 12 big man for the second year in a row?  Google Michael Beasley/Kansas State for a comparison.  It’s still early, but indications are that Blake Griffin is going to absolutely pulverize everyone that gets in his way this year.  After four games, Griffin is averaging an utterly PREPOSTEROUS 26/20 on 75% shooting from the field.  The reason he won’t win is because of games like this one, where poor shooting (42% FG, 26% 3FG) nearly doomed Oklahoma  who probably should have lost to a vastly inferior team (and the fact that TH will have 30+ games on national tv, whereas Oklahoma will be lucky to have a third of that).  Griffin set personal records with 35 pts, 21 rebounds and 5 assists, but it was his three-point play with 2:36 remaining that finally gave OU a secure lead.  Gardner-Webb, now 0-3, was very close to making a name for itself for the second consecutive November.

Upset of the Weekend. Missouri 83, USC 72. This isn’t much of an upset, but it was a light weekend in that department.  USC was once again the Jekyll and Hyde team in terms of the tale of two halves.  They led Mizzou by six going into the break, but were outscored 46-29 in the second half to lose for the second time in three days.  Demarre Carroll blew up for 29/11 for the Tigers, who are 4-1 with their only loss to Xavier and appear to be finally turning the corner a little bit under Mike Anderson.  It’s going to take time for USC, as Demar DeRozan hasn’t adjusted to the college game yet (9/5) and Floyd’s teams usually get off to a slow start anyway.  What has to be distressing for Floyd is where the Trojans’ are going to get some outside shooting – they’re currently at 23% from deep this year, and if that keeps up, nobody will bother to cover them outside of the paint this year.

Ridiculous Score of the WeekendSan Francisco 74, Academy of Art 23.  Seriously, we think if you choose to schedule art schools and multi-directional high schools, then you should automically cede all claims on an NCAA Tournament berth.

Saturday Highlights.

  • Georgetown 81, Drexel 53.  Greg Monroe was a beast, contributing 20/8/4/3 stls/3 blks in his second game as a Hoya.  Georgetown held Drexel to 25% FG shooting for the game.
  • Georgia Tech 82, Mercer 76 (OT). Ga Tech barely escaped its trip south to Mercer’s home court by storming back from an 18-pt deficit to tie the game with 32 seconds remaining and getting a stop to send it to overtime.  Georgia Tech was led by Gani Lawal’s 27/9, but it was Mercer’s 27 TOs that ultimately killed the Bears.  Still, Mercer is making a name for itself this year in the deep south.
  • St. Louis 53, Boston College 50. In a game that both teams needed to win, Rick Majerus’ SLU team made just enough plays down the stretch to seal the game.  BC’s Tyrese Rice and Joe Trapani combined for 4-22 from the field.
  • Pittsburgh 86, Indiana (PA) 60. Dejuan Blair ripped apart the other Indiana for 27/18 in a mere 21 minutes of play.
  • Purdue 66, Coppin St. 46. Robbie Hummell had 20/11 and E’Twaun Moore had 10/8/5 assts/3 blks in an easy win for the Boilermakers.
  • Rhode Island 92, VCU 86. In a game that must have been played with absolutely no defense, URI put five players in double figures while shooting 54% from the field, while VCU shot an even better 61% led by Eric Maynor’s 22/6/8 assts (he also had an ungodly ten TOs).  So how did URI win?  Home court – the Rams shot 16 more FTS (making 11).
  • Clemson 71, Charlotte 70. In a game Charlotte really needed to win at home if it intends on making a case for an at-large later this year, Clemson managed to hang on led by Demontez Stitt’s 16/4/4 assts.  KC Rivers (12/8) put the Tigers ahead for good with a driving layup with 43 seconds left.
  • Missouri St. 62, Arkansas 57. Can we go ahead and put the SEC in the mid-major grouping yet?  Another loss to a mid-major – at least this one was on the road.
  • Marquette 100, UW-Milwaukee 80. Marquette’s Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward each had 25 pts in a blowout win over crosstown rival UW-Milwaukee.  Matthews is up to a fantastic start this year, averaging 26/7/4 over three games.
  • Nevada 79, Oregon St. 71. We’ll say this for Craig Robinson’s first year at OSU – he has his team playing competitive basketball on the road, and Nevada is no easy venue for a visitor to get a win.  Luke Babbit had 20/7 for the Wolfpack.

Sunday Highlights.

  • Duke 78, Montana 58. Greg Paulus didn’t play because of a bruised ego elbow, but Duke still had no trouble putting down the Grizzlies, despite playing four games in the last eight days.
  • Arizona St. 61, Pepperdine 40. This is a vintage Herb Sendek score, as James Harden’s 33/12 led ASU to a win over a Waves team that literally couldn’t throw it in the ocean (27% FG).
  • Connecticut 76, Miami (FL) 63. UConn advanced to the finals of the Paradise Jam (vs. Wisconsin) by holding Miami to 35% shooting, helped by Hasheem Thabeet’s patrolling of the inside (19/14 to go with 7 blocks).  The game was essentially decided when UConn held Miami to 8 pts for a nine-minute stretch of the first half.  Jack McClinton had 27/5 for Miami and his teammate Dwayne Collins had 16/14 in the losing effort.
  • Wisconsin 64, San Diego 49. The Badgers pulled away late from San Diego, ensuring that there will be no UConn-SD rematch from last year’s NCAAs.  Trevon Hughes appears to be the new stud in the Badger system, going for 22 pts tonight after 21 the night before.  Some things never change – UW held SD to 35% shooting while going for 51% themselves.

On Tap Monday (all times EST). Feast Week is our favorite basketball week until Championship Week starts in March.  There are so many good early-season tourney matchups, between the Maui Invitational, the Preseason NIT semis and finals, the Old Spice and Anaheim Classics, the Las Vegas Invitational, and even the ridiculous CBE and Legends Classic final rounds.  Here are the highlighted games for tomorrow.

  • Texas (-9) v. St. Joseph’s (ESPN2 & 360) – 3pm  (Maui Invtl.)
  • Notre Dame (-13.5) v. Indiana (ESPN2 & 360) – 5:30pm  (Maui Invtl.)
  • Miami (FL) v. San Diego – 6pm (Paradise Jam)
  • Florida (-3) v. Syracuse (ESPN2 & 360) – 7:30pm  (CBE Classic)
  • Connecticut v. Wisconsin – 8:30pm (Paradise Jam)
  • UNC v. Chaminade (ESPNU) – 9:30pm (Maui Invtl.)
  • Kansas (-5) v. Washington (ESPN2 & 360) – 9:30pm (CBE Classic)
  • Alabama (-2.5) v. Oregon (ESPN2 & 360) – 12am (Maui Invtl.)
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