20 Questions: Why Can’t Gonzaga Make Another Serious Run in the NCAA Tournament?

Posted by nvr1983 on November 9th, 2011

Question: Why Can’t Gonzaga Make Another Serious Run in the NCAA Tournament?

It seems like a strange question to ask. Every year ESPN hypes up Gonzaga as a Cinderella team, but a strange thing happened between 1999 and 2011–the Bulldogs failed to advance past the Sweet Sixteen. While the school has had its share of stars in the intervening 12 seasons (Adam Morrison being the most notable) much of its NCAA Tournament reputation is built on the work of Casey Cavalry from the 1999 NCAA Tournament. It is a fact that lost is lost on many casual college basketball fans and college basketball analysts, who at best choose to ignore it to help build a compelling narrative. Much like Duke has been made out to be the symbol of all things right in college basketball by certain media outlets there has been a tendency by many in the media to paint Gonzaga as the perennial Cinderella that always makes a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. That may make for a nice story line and the video of Cavalry flying in to tip in the game-winner against Florida makes for a nice clip (as well as creating the name for the best Gonzaga blog out there), but recently they have been surpassed by Butler as the mid-major du jour. The question is what happened to Gonzaga and what can it do to get back to the Elite Eight and beyond?

Few Has Racked Up Regular Season Accolades, But Not In The Postseason Yet

To start off, we should point out that Gonzaga has been far from a total failure during the Mark Few era, which also happens to coincide with the stretch where Gonzaga has been unable to get beyond the Sweet Sixteen, a fact that is probably not lost on Gonzaga fans. During his 12 seasons as head coach at Gonzaga, Few has compiled a 315-83 record (79.1%, which is 6th all-time in Division I and 2nd among active coaches trailing just Roy Williams) while winning the West Coast Conference regular season title 11 consecutive years and making the NCAA Tournament every season he has been a head coach. However, that success has not translated to the NCAA Tournament where after two consecutive trips to the Sweet Sixteen in his first two years as head coach Few has only been able to guide the Bulldogs out of the opening weekend two out of ten seasons including three years where they lost in the opening round.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Summer Updates: West Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 5th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our first update is from the West Coast Conference and comes courtesy of Will Green, an editor and writer with The Slipper Still Fits.

Readers’ Take One

Summer Storylines

  • Brigham Young University Joins The Conference: When this story was first reported back in September, it was largely forgotten. BYU’s move was a football one with basketball repercussions, not the other way around. If anyone was talking about the Cougars, the dialogue was centered around how much money it would receive from it slew of nationally televised football contests this coming fall, and how many years the vaunted program would remain as an independent before choosing to join another league, securing even more lucrative contracts. The move, however, might make a greater impact on the collegiate basketball landscape than the football one, competitively speaking. For one thing, resident king Gonzaga’s streak of conference championships – which is older than most of your children – or at least its general reputation as the WCC’s top dog, is seriously endangered.  With Jimmer Fredette seizing all available national attention like a Venus flytrap, lost on many fans last year was the fact BYU was not merely a fortuitous program enjoying an unusually good year. The Cougars have been a top 40 RPI team since 2006, with a pair of top 20 finishes. That’s not a second Gonzaga — that’s better than Gonzaga. They also bring by far the largest student body and largest fan base that the league has ever seen. Indeed, the league can leverage BYU’s prominence to grow its influence and scope (more on that later). Despite being a “football move,” BYU’s departure from the Mountain West Conference is not, as so many of the recent realignment moves have been, a casualty of circumstance. The aforementioned “repercussions” became a mutually beneficial improvement for both the Cougars and the league. Credit alert diplomacy and geographical convenience to why commissioner Jamie Zaninovichwas able to lure a team into his league that’s also, statistically speaking, better than any team in his current league.

    Brandon Davies, if Reinstated by BYU, is an X-Factor for the Cougars in 2011-12 (Getty/E. Miller)

  • The League Gets A New TV contract: Over the course of the 2000s, the WCC did a remarkable thing: It became the most widely televised college basketball league of all the leagues in the West, while being only the fourth highest-rated league by RPI of the six in the region. Resident behemoth Pac-12 trusted its games to the insipid hands of Fox Sports’ cluster of regional networks. The Mountain West conference was largely marooned out on “The Mtn,” a network that truncated both its name and its audience by being available in a far more limited number of homes than the heavy-hitting Pac-12. The Western Athletic Conference enjoyed the occasional ESPNU game. The WCC, on the other hand, had its most intriguing matchups beamed into peoples’ living rooms in prime time on Thursday and Saturday nights (and for a time, on Big Monday) via ESPN or ESPN2. Both sides had such a good time putting the whole mess together that when their previous contract expired on June 1, it took exactly one week to renegotiate an eight-year extension. The new deal increases the amount of ESPN games featuring WCC teams by an average of at least five per year, possibly much more, and is spread across Thursday, Saturday and select Monday nights. While some critics contend the new ESPN contract isn’t much of an improvement over the previous one, their voices were provoked loudest during the rather dwarfing aftershock of the Pac-12’s mammoth deal with the same network. While this upcoming season could mark the first time in a long while that the WCC won’t be the most-watched west coast league, the league strengthened its relationship with ESPN and is poised to showcase what should be its most successful year ever in front of its widest audience to date.  In an era of scrambling realignment and a fragile economic landscape, this is a still a huge win.
  • The University of San Diego Suffers A Bribery Scandal: In April, this story looked crippling. San Diego had just finished one of the worst seasons by any WCC team ever when news broke that Toreros’ all-time leading scorer and current Memphis Grizzlies protégé, Brandon Johnson, was allegedly used to solicit current USD player Ken Rancifer on behalf of a delinquent named Steven Goria and several others to fix a game against the University of Portland on February 24. Also revealed was the news that Johnson himself had allegedly fixed a game during his senior season one year earlier. The good news for USD is that the story is quickly losing momentum, due in large part to the recent news that the 2011 team has largely been cleared of wrongdoing (Rancifer turned down the bribe from those attempting to fix the game) Repercussions from the 2010 game will ensue once the FBI is done investigating the entire case, and could involve recruiting sanctions or a postseason ban. Frankly, the Toreros are so deep in the throes of rebuilding that they might not enjoy any such postseason for the NCAA to ban in the first place. All told, this could have been much, much worse for USD. The true damage of the scandal is neither physical nor fiscal, but is still potentially very heavy. While it’s growing steadily, the WCC is not yet a national brand and one dominant negative story can define the WCC and USD for a large group of fans who aren’t very familiar with a non-power six league that’s on TV after they go bed. Show-stealing years from perennial contenders like Gonzaga and BYU, as well as postseason disruptiveness by the likes of St. Mary’s and Santa Clara, would be a good first step toward taking casual fans’ focus off of the scandal. Of course, if USD itself can somehow bounce back from a 6-24 record and win a few games they’re not supposed to, they just might turn themselves into national feel-good story.

Power Rankings Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Paging Scott Drew: Meech Goodson Just Hit Campus

Posted by rtmsf on May 31st, 2011

We’ve known for some time that former Gonzaga guard Demetri “Meech” Goodson was giving up basketball to return to his home state of Texas and pursue college football with the remainder of his amateur eligibility.  We learned today through The Spokesman-Review (via Fox 26 Houston) that Goodson will end up at Baylor for his two seasons on the gridiron.  Presuming that Bears head coach Art Briles is aware that he’s adding a tremendously athletic 6’0, 175-pounder with a ridiculous first step and quick hands to his roster, Goodson told the television station that he will be enrolled in the Waco school and ready to work out very soon.

Goodson Could Provide Spot Defensive and Leadership Minutes at Baylor

Just get my transcript from Gonzaga shipped over to Baylor.  I shipped it out (Saturday). Once they get all that stuff done, I’ll be there. It’s a great feeling.  I’m excited. A bit nervous because I haven’t played (football) in a while. Once I go and start hitting the weights and learning their system, I’ll be all right.  I could probably go overseas and make some money.  But professionally, football will be a better move for me just because of the number of basketball players who make it and the number of football players. That was basically why I did it.

Considering that there isn’t much of an NBA market for undersized point guards who average five points per game and have trouble shooting the ball from distance (career 20% three-point shooter), this is a fairly enlightened move on Goodson’s part.  With the transfer, not only does he give himself two seasons to fully re-adjust to playing football — the last time he suited up on the field was in 2006, during his sophomore year in high school — but he also joins a Baylor team coming off a 7-6 (4-4 Big 12) season where the depth chart shows only one returning starter at his favored cornerback position.  An opportunity to prove himself against the light-em-up offenses of the conference would enable Goodson a pretty good opportunity to eventually become a future NFL defensive back.  Incidentally, his older brother, Mike Goodson, a considerably bulkier player at 210 lbs., is currently a running back with the Carolina Panthers (see video of a TD last season here).

The intriguing part to this transfer saga between sports is what, if any, effect this might have on Baylor basketball.  The Bears are already settled in the point guard slot for the 2011-12 season with incumbent junior AJ Walton manning the spot and JuCo transfer Pierre Jackson coming in to provide relief.  But what if something goes wrong with one of those two players prior to the 2012-13 season (which, coincidentally, is when Goodson would be eligible to play his fourth and final season of hoops)?  Or, what if Goodson’s foray into football doesn’t go as well as planned (injury, rustiness, etc.)?  Is Scott Drew really going to sit idly by and not accidentally “bump” into Goodson at the athletic training facilities or cafeteria when there’s a proven winner on the hardwood walking around his campus?  Would he not want a seasoned veteran like Goodson in his locker room to provide backup minutes as an athletic defender to close out games? 

Drew has made major waves in his ability to recruit nationally at a school with virtually no basketball tradition, earning commitments from top players such as Perry Jones, III (Duncanville, TX), Deuce Bello (Greensboro, NC), and Quincy Miller (Winston-Salem, NC) in recent years.  Are we really supposed to believe that he doesn’t have the power of persuasion needed to entice Goodson for a final run in the gym?  Only time will tell, but it wouldn’t shock us in the least if we see Goodson suiting up for the Bears in both the primary fall and winter sports two seasons from now. 

Share this story

Around The Blogosphere: May 7, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on May 6th, 2011

If you are interested in participating, send your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com as we will be updating these posts throughout the day.

News

  • Brandon Knight to Stay in Draft: “As expected, star point guard Brandon Knight stated at a press conference today that he will remain in the 2011 NBA Draft and forgo his remaining three years of college eligibility. Knight will almost certainly be drafted in the lottery, and currently signs point to him being drafted somewhere in the 5-7 range.” (A Sea of Blue)
  • Maryland Basketball Clamoring For Series With Georgetown: “A Maryland-Georgetown series is something that has been discussed countless times by many publications, but this is the first time in recent memory that a school official has publicly acknowledged a desire to play the other program.” (Casual Hoya)
  • Former UK Recruit At Center Of Academic Scandal: Washington recruit Tony Wroten Jr. is at the center of an academic scandal. (A Sea of Blue)
  • Terrence Jones Announced His Return On Twitter: The announcement came today, setting up UNC and Kentucky as the twin spires of the 2011-12 hype machine. (A Sea of Blue)
  • A Crushing & Historic Victory for UCLA Students on Behalf of the Bruin Nation: “The result was a smashing victory for current Bruin students, who won it for the entire Bruin Nation. For 37 days we had been subjected to relentless propaganda from UCLA athletic department officials and its sympathizers that the decision to banish our students behind the baseline was done with the support of current students. We have been relentless on our pushback methodically making the point how they were full of lies and contradictions. Now we have a crushing mandate from our student body.” (Bruins Nation)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Around The Blogosphere: May 4, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on May 4th, 2011

If you are interested in participating, send your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com as we will be updating these posts throughout the day.

News

  • Rodney Purvis decommits: Louisville is still in the hunt, but now they have plenty of competition. (Card Chronicle)
  • Washington Times: Kevin Anderson Trying to Rekindle Georgetown-Maryland Rivalry: “Two of the best, most historic basketball powerhouses exist within ten miles of each other, each with extremely different makeup in their student bodies and fanbases. They fight for recruits. They fight for fans. They fight for DC media. It’s nearly a perfect rivalry, but it’s been held up by what amounts to the basketball version of political red tape. At least, until now. Maybe. That’s what Maryland AD Kevin Anderson is telling people.” (Testudo Times)
  • Demetri Goodson officially leaves Gonzaga: “Goodson’s transfer also means that not one member of Gonzaga’s 2008 recruiting class will finish their collegiate career as a Zag.” (The Slipper Still Fits)
  • Indiana looking at 2013 point guard Jalen James: “Word of God (NC) Josh Newkirk surfaced on the radar a couple of weeks ago and this week, Illinois Wolves director Mike Mullins tweeted that Indiana is beginning to show interest in Chicago Hope Academy’s Jalen James.” (Inside the Hall)
  • Recruiting Roundup: May 2nd, 2011: A breakdown of Michigan’s recruiting so far. (UM Hoops)
  • Patric Young On His Development Goals: “Relentless … Double-Double Machine”: The rising UF sophomore has gone to Twitter to talk about his goals for next season. (Alligator Army)
  • Recruiting roundup: Makanjuola, McGary, 2012 rankings: A breakdown of Indiana’s recruiting so far. (Inside the Hall)
  • Gopher Basketball 2012 Recruiting: A breakdown of Minnesota’s recruiting so far. (The Daily Gopher)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 05.04.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 4th, 2011

  1. Chalk this one up as weird, but one of Gonzaga’s returning players, Demetri “Meech” Goodson, is giving up his senior season in Spokane to transfer back home to play… football?  You read that correctly.  The junior guard from Spring, Texas, and younger brother of Carolina Panther running back Mike Goodson, will have two years of NCAA eligibility remaining upon his arrival on an undetermined campus (likely Texas A&M) next season.  Goodson started all of Gonzaga’s 35 games last year, but he’s consistently struggled with shooting the ball and his departure will represent the seventh Zag transferring out of Mark Few’s program in the last two years.  Everyone of course remembers Greg Paulus’ one-year stint as the quarterback at Syracuse after a four-year basketball career at Duke, but it’s not often that you see a player transfer to play a different sport midstream through their career (it helps that GU doesn’t have a football team).
  2. As everyone is well aware, the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline is next Sunday, so decisions from players on the fence will be trickling out all week.  Two players Tuesday announced that they would be staying in the June draft despite currently facing a second round (if any) projection.  Louisville forward Terrence Jennings and Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert must have coaches at both schools shaking their heads, as neither appears to be a first round lock even in a weak draft.  Shumpert was second team all-ACC last year, going for 17/6/4 APG in a dreadful Yellow Jackets season, but Jennings in particular is an interesting case. His collegiate numbers of 10/5 last season were not exactly dominant in the Big East, but he says that he’s getting good feedback from scouts and thinks that the NBA will have a place for him.  This has been a tough week all around for Rick Pitino, as he not only learned that Jennings was officially leaving school, but elite 2012 recruit Rodney Purvis rescinded his verbal commitment to the Cards on Monday.
  3. New Pac-10, er, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott must know how to turn water to wine in light of news breaking on Tuesday that his conference has inked the most lucrative television deal in college sports history with Fox and ESPN for twelve years beginning in 2012-13.  The twelve western schools (now including Colorado and Utah) will average approximately a quarter-billion dollar payout every year over the life of the deal, out-distancing the recent Big Ten ($220M), SEC ($205M), ACC ($155M) and Big 12 ($130M) mega-deals.  The league will also go the Big Ten route with its own Pac-12 Network, and the rest of the games will be split between the two other national networks — now that ESPN will be showing Pac-12 basketball four days a week in addition to all of its other commitments, we wonder if there are plans for a few more ESPN channels.  There simply isn’t enough space on the existing family of networks to cover everything they have in the stable.  You might be wondering how Scott pulled this off given that many national viewers never see a Pac-10/12 football or basketball game all season long — the answer is in the numbers.  Eight of the top twenty-seven US media markets are within the Pac-12 regional footprint, the best such aggregate total in the nation (we shudder to imagine if Scott had pulled off getting Texas too!).
  4. Taking a page from the “pro day” that some major football programs have held in the past for their professional prospects, Kentucky held a similarly-styled event for its three early entries Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and DeAndre Liggins, in addition to graduating senior Josh Harrellson.  All thirty NBA teams were invited to the event to have an opportunity to observe the UK players going through workouts at least once prior to the deadline on Sunday, and a good number of those showed up for at least one of the two sessions this week.  Knight told a reporter that he was still at “50/50″ on a final decision, but he is expected to leave; Liggins, on the other hand, is expected back next season, while Jones’ decision will no doubt be predictably unpredictable (see: his recruitment).
  5. Tennessee forward/impresario Renaldo Woolridge was feeling particularly patriotic on Sunday night after the news about Osama bin Laden’s capture was released, so the junior who only scored 13 points in eight games last year did what he does best — he wrote and produced a new rap video.  “Thank You (USA Troops)” was released Monday afternoon, and as Mike DeCourcy points out, the line packing a punch comes at the 2:20 mark: Almost 10 years/feeling kinda alone/But the fact is/Osama is gone.  Full video below.

Share this story

Around The Blogosphere: May 2, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on May 2nd, 2011

If you are interested in participating, send your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com as we will be updating these posts throughout the day.

News

  • Demetri Goodson “strongly considering” Leaving Team: Goodson is reportedly considering transferring to Texas A&M to play football. (The Slipper Still Fits)
  • The 2011 Kentucky Combine: Details on the showcase for the 4 potential Wildcats considering the NBA Draft. (A Sea of Blue)
  • Scoop Jardine Is Going To Summer Camp: Details about what basketball camps Jardine will be at this summer. (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)
  • Gary Harris discusses recruitment in radio interview: Quotes from the class of 2012 guard being recruited by Indiana. (Inside the Hall)
  • The Classiest Basketball Team In The Nation: Details and pictures on Jim & Juli Boeheim Foundation Dinner on Saturday. (Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 02.24.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 24th, 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.

This is one of the biggest Thursday nights we’ve had this year in terms of quality games with NCAA bids and conference titles on the line. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

West Virginia @ #3 Pittsburgh – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

Are Dixon and the Panthers #1? #6? Does It Matter, As Long As It's #4 Or Better?

The Backyard Brawl (Part II) takes place in Pittsburgh tonight. The Panthers won the first meeting in Morgantown on February 7, a game they played without their star Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs returned to the lineup with a bang, scoring 26 points, including 6-9 from deep, in the team’s loss to St. John’s last Saturday. Gibbs will play a central role in a matchup between the Big East’s best three-point shooting team (Pitt) and the best three point defense (WVU). The Panthers are shooting 40% from deep in conference play and 38.4% overall while the Mountaineers allow 28.4% shooting overall and 29.1% in league games.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Ten Tuesday Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 23rd, 2010

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

Pitt has a team capable of reaching that elusive Final Four

1. I had an opportunity to attend the consolation and championship games of the 2K Sports Classic last Friday and learned a great deal about the four teams participating- Pittsburgh, Texas, Illinois and Maryland. The Panthers were one of my preseason Final Four teams and did nothing to give me second thoughts on that prediction. Ashton Gibbs is a true playmaker at the end of the shot clock, Jamie Dixon has an incredibly deep frontcourt and the Panthers play heady, smart, hard-nosed basketball for 40 minutes. It’s possible we overrated Illinois a bit coming into the year. They lack a bruiser down low that can post up on the block and demand the basketball. Mike Tisdale’s the same player he’s been his entire career at Illinois, a capable mid-range jump shooter that lacks any sort of physicality and is often mired in foul trouble because opposing power forwards constantly out-muscle him. Maryland looks like a middle-of-the-pack ACC team that should sneak into the NCAA Tournament because Gary Williams always receives max effort from his teams and Jordan Williams is a force in the post, although he needs to avoid silly fouls and demand the basketball more often. The team that needed to convince me they were a contender after last season’s disaster is Texas. The Longhorns are a top-20 team with a duo of physical, lockdown defenders on the perimeter in Dogus Balbay and Cory Joseph, an athletic low-post presence in Tristan Thompson and an explosive scorer in Jordan Hamilton. A shortened rotation and accepted roles has helped Rick Barnes develop improved chemistry, as well.

2. The story of the first two weeks of college basketball might just be Minnesota. The Big Ten was the best conference coming into the season with Michigan State and Ohio State shaping up to be Final Four frontrunners, Purdue and Illinois mainstays in the polls and Wisconsin as solid as ever. Minnesota was a team that nobody could quite get a handle on, especially considering it was impossible to predict just how much the additions of Trevor Mbakwe and Al Nolen would help Tubby Smith.  After three statements wins in Puerto Rico over Western Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia, the Gophers appear to be yet another contender primed for a deep March run out of the absolutely loaded Big Ten. Al Nolen was superb in the championship game against West Virginia locking down the Mountaineer’s point guard duo of Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant on defense and splitting the West Virginia defense with dribble penetration that either resulted in free throws (11-12 on the night) or open looks for sharpshooting teammate Blake Hoffarber. Where the Gophers have forged their identity, though, is inside with a plethora of size and length. Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson, Mbakwe and big bodied Mo Walker provide Smith a frontline that can go toe-to-toe with any in the nation. Just wait till they get Devoe Joseph back.

3. The most crippling defeat for any team with NCAA Tournament aspirations could have come Monday afternoon at the Maui Invitational for Wichita State. The Shockers inability to contain Kemba Walker (29 second half points) cost them a chance to pick up a quality win over a Big East opponent and a shot at potential #1-seed Michigan State in the semifinals. Why is this so devastating? One, Wichita just blew their best chance for an RPI/SOS booster. The only other challenging non-conference game on the slate is a road trip to San Diego State, where it’s extremely unlikely the Shockers leave with a victory. Merely the addition of the Spartans on their schedule would improve Wichita’s power rating dramatically. Instead, it’s increasingly likely Gregg Marshall’s team will have to win the MVC Tournament. This task is very possible; after all, the Shockers are the prohibitive favorite, a senior-laden squad with talents like Toure Murry, David Kyles and J.T. Durley. Marshall’s goal in Maui was to pick up two quality wins for the resume in March. That chance has gone by the wayside.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivo: 11.22.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 22nd, 2010

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

All of these games are from tournaments played on a neutral floor. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Maui Invitational Opening Round: Connecticut vs. Wichita State — 3 pm on ESPN2 (***)

The best game of Maui’s first day features a matchup of teams with contrasting styles. Wichita State is a very deliberate, low scoring team that will sit back and play half court defense. Connecticut, without a dominant big man such as Emeka Okafor or Hasheem Thabeet, prefers to run with its guards and wings led by Kemba Walker. The junior point guard had a good offseason and is tearing it up so far. He had 42/8/3 in a game against Vermont last week, an 89-73 Husky win. Alex Oriakhi has been great for Jim Calhoun in the first two games of the season averaging 11/13 and 3.5 blocks, a Calhoun trademark. As a team, Connecticut pulled down an astounding 52 rebounds per contest in their first two games. Wichita State does a good job on the defensive glass but they will encounter a tough test against Connecticut. The Shockers are fairly efficient on offense despite their slow pace. One thing they have going for them is their three point shooting versus the Huskies’ defense. Wichita shoots it well while UConn ranks 288th in defending the three. To win, the Shockers need to take advantage of this behind 6’4 guards Toure’ Murry and Graham Hatch. Forward J.T. Durley can also step out and stroke it from three so Wichita clearly has the perimeter threats to make this a close game. The Shockers need a strong defensive effort on Walker as well as wing Roscoe Smith. They don’t create a lot of turnovers because of their pace so holding their own on the boards becomes paramount. If Connecticut wins the rebounding battle handily, it’ll be very difficult for Wichita State to win this game.

CBE Classic Semifinal: #1 Duke vs. Marquette – 7:30 pm on ESPN2 (****)

This game is interesting because it’s Duke’s first test against a good team. Marquette has been vastly underrated by many in the crowded Big East but the Golden Eagles have a solid roster full of young talent and experienced players, always a good combination. Everybody knows about Duke and their stars Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler so let’s shine a little light on Buzz Williams’ crew from the Brew City and see what they have to do to win. Marquette is led by senior swing Jimmy Butler, a candidate for first team all-Big East. Butler broke out last season and is the focal point of Williams’ offense this year. He is surrounded by dynamic guard Darius Johnson-Odom, promising freshman Vander Blue and senior Dwight Buycks. Marquette’s strength is in the backcourt and on the wing, as is Duke’s. If there’s one thing these two teams don’t do all that well it is defend the three, especially Marquette. Williams needs a great defensive effort from his guards if they hope to contain their explosive opponent. The Golden Eagles defend the paint well, ranking fairly high in defensive two point percentage. They must limit the interior players for Duke and force all the action on the guards where a strong effort can possibly contain them. Duke is even deeper off the bench with Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, both deep threats. Duke is a heavy favorite in this game for good reason but Marquette is going to give them a run. We think Buzz can motivate his team enough and parlay that with their talent to be in this game deep into the second half. Marquette needs everything to go right in this game but that’s not as far-fetched as you may think. MU can run but they don’t want to get caught in a track meet with the Blue Devils where transition opportunities will favor Duke. To knock off #1, Marquette has to hold Duke around 40% shooting and get a huge game out of a Butler, Johnson-Odom and someone off the bench like Jae Crowder. We’re not picking Marquette to win the game but don’t be surprised if this one is closer than you may have originally thought.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Standings

  1. Gonzaga     5-1
  2. Portland      5-1
  3. San Diego      5-2
  4. Saint Mary’s     3-1
  5. Santa Clara     3-3
  6. Pepperdine    3-4
  7. USF    2-4
  8. Loyola-Marymount    2-5

Looking Back

Zags, Pilots, Toreros Notch Tournament Wins to Lead WCC Teams

It has been a tournament-heavy pre-season for the WCC, and it was in venues ranging from Maui to Anchorage to Anaheim that the early-season leaders made their marks. Gonzaga led the charge by winning the venerable Maui Invitational with victories over Colorado (76-72), Wisconsin (74-61) and Cincinnati (61-59) in a hard-fought tournament championship in overtime on Thanksgiving eve. The Zags had padded their resume with early home wins over Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and Mississippi Valley State, and put the college hoops world on notice that 2009-10 is not a rebuilding year by taking second-ranked Michigan State to the wire in a 75-71 loss in East Lansing, MI on Nov. 17.

In battling Michigan State evenly and winning in Maui, Gonzaga answered the question of how it would replace departed front-line stars Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt. Seven-foot redshirt sophomore Robert Sacre moved commandingly into the post position for the Zags with an eye-opening performance against Michigan State – 17 points in 19 minutes of play limited by foul trouble. In case no one noticed that, they certainly took note of Sacre’s front-line counterpart Elias Harris, who notched 17 points of his own against Michigan State in the first big-game college appearance for the 20-year-old freshman forward who has logged considerable time internationally with the German national team. Harris has emerged as the early star of Mark Few’s collection of international players, which includes Sacre, freshmen Kelly Olynk and Manny Arop from Canada and Bol Kong, also from Canada by way of Sudan.

As much as Sacre and Harris elicited oohs and aahs, it was the Zags’ veteran trio of guards Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson that led them. Bouldin has emerged in his senior year as the indispensible hub through which all things offensive pass for Gonzaga. An intimidating 6-5 guard, Bouldin stage manages the entire offensive show, plus contributes double-figure scoring from both outside and inside. He can spot up for a three-point jumper or take his man off the dribble. Gray, who has struck many observers as a marvelously talented but under-performing member of the Zags offensive show, evidently decided that his junior year was the time to answer the nay-sayers. He has been virtually unstoppable, moving constantly without the ball and receiving Bouldin’s pinpoint passes anywhere from beyond the arc to under the basket. His jump shot is as sweet as ever, but he is infinitely more aggressive and confident this year.  If opponents somehow limit Bouldin and Gray, Goodson might steal the show as he did in the Zags’ impressive win over the fearsome Cincinnati Bearcats in Maui. On a night when Bouldin was struggling on 1-7 shooting and totaled only 6 points, Goodson made key baskets in clutch time to rack up 12 points. Bouldin and Gray shared the MVP trophy in Maui, but Goodson was an unsung hero.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: Karl Hess Isn’t Invited to Our Thanksgiving Dinner Either

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2009

atb

Sean McDonough Rips Karl Hess.  Rarely will you hear an announcer publically call out an NCAA basketball official by name for a terrible call, but during the second half of the Vanderbilt-Arizona game tonight in the Maui Invitational, ESPN play-by-play man Sean McDonough ripped Karl Hess a new one for calling a bizarre quick-trigger technical foul on Arizona coach Sean Miller for protesting a cheapie on one of his players.  Another blog gives a much more detailed take than we will here, and we’re not really buying the gambling angle they suggest, but McDonough’s comments were without question incendiary and had us thinking that he might even face some sort of internal administrative censure for going after Hess so vigorously.  McDonough’s specific comments were that:

Karl Hess, he was involved in the 54-foul game the other night, and he’s one of these officials, unfortunately, who always finds a way, it seems, to be at the center of the action.  You don’t come here to watch him officiate, but more often than not, he finds himself at the center of attention.  And here he goes again over the scorer’s table to try to sort something out…

We found a video of the situation and posted it below — the relevant parts begin after the 2:00 mark, but there are comments throughout leading up to it.

OT Exotica.  We head into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with a couple of nice overtime battles in exotic locations for tournament titles.  Both were unexpected for completely different reasons.

  • #5 Kentucky 73, Stanford 65 (OT).  Even with Kentucky’s apparent growing pains in terms of defense and turnovers, nobody could have predicted that a team picked tenth in the Pac-10 that already has losses to San Diego and Oral Roberts would be able to hang with John Calipari’s stable of Wildcat stars  in the finals of the Cancun Challenge — even for a half.  Yet there was Johnny Dawkins’ Cardinal with a chance to seal the game away at the line as Jarrett Mann stepped to shoot two with under fifteen seconds remaining.  Problem is… and we see this with struggling teams all the time, Mann missed both.  That gave Kentucky wunderkind John Wall (23/4/5 assts) just enough of an opportunity to slice through the Stanford pressure to get into the lane for a foul and two free throws (which he nailed) with 2.4 seconds left.  This clutch performance came on the heels of another Kobe-style icewater jumper from the right side with thirty seconds left that had tied the game at 61-all.  In the overtime period, Stanford predictably fell apart and Kentucky’s other star freshman guard Eric Bledsoe hit a dagger three to salt the game away with 33 seconds to go.  The Cardinal should be proud of its performance, especially Landry Fields (23/13/3 assts/4 stls), who often appeared to be the best player on the court in this game (yes, just a mirage), but it’s now exceptionally clear that all the squawking Calipari has been doing about how far his team has to go is truth-speak.  The talent for this team to become something special is there, but it’s also painfully obvious that his Cats often rely on God-given abilities (especially on offense) rather than an actual understanding of strategy or the sets.  Decisionmaking by some players, especially DeMarcus Cousins, is also troubling in their naivete and youthful indiscretion.  For example, back to back horrendous decisions by Cousins late in the game to shoot a three (not his shot) and later to purposefully miss a FT attempt in a misguided attempt to get his own rebound only to foul Stanford in the process, exhibits these characteristics.  Kentucky has a chance to be very, very good, and when you have a release valve player like John Wall to cover up mistakes, that can go a long way, but there’s no doubt that UK has a lot of work ahead of it to reach its goals this season.
  • Gonzaga 61, Cincinnati 59 (OT).  The other really good game tonight was in the Maui Invitational finals, where those plucky little Zags from Spokane once again proved to the world that we should never take them lightly regardless of who they lose from year to year.  Mark Few’s team won its first Maui Invitational title behind a balanced scoring effort among its starters — Robert Sacre (14/5), Elias Harris (13/7), Steven Gray (13/7/4 assts), and Demetri Goodson (12/2).  The Zags’ supposed best player, Matt Bouldin, contributed the least offensively (6/11 on 1-7 FGs), yet the others stepped up and held off a very athletic and gritty Cincinnati team that looks nothing like the disaster that Mick Cronin inherited there a few years ago.  The Bearcats’ starting five is extremely athletic and talented, and nobody is going to want to face this team as it continues to develop together (remember, Lance Stephenson is brand new and Cashmere Wright is essentially so).  We were already high on Cincy but now we’re even moreso.  One tiny complaint, though.  When Cashmere Wright decides to take the game into his own hands as he did on the final drive in regulation, Born Ready needs to be ready to get to the rim for the putback and not stand around at the three-point line pouting that he didn’t get the ball.  Just sayin’…

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story