Set Your Tivo: 02.11-02.13

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 11th, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

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

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

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

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

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Set Your Tivo: 02.10.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 10th, 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.

It’s another big night with post-season implications, as Connecticut and Vanderbilt look to improve their seeding while the other six teams need wins to make their cases or avoid falling farther towards the bubble. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#10 Connecticut @ St. John’s – 7 pm on ESPN (***)

St. John’s is an interesting case when it comes to the possibility of inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve beaten a bunch of quality teams, but the record isn’t anything special, just 13-9 (5-5) coming into tonight’s game. A loss would give the Johnnies double-digit losses, not something you want to brag about before the Selection Committee. More importantly, they’d dip under .500 in conference play and would obviously need to win plenty of games down the stretch — and they’ve got a few tough ones left.

Lavin's First Year Has Been Better Than Expected, Though We're Sure He's Nowhere Near Content

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Morning Five: 02.08.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2011

  1. The Mountain West has received a lot of attention this year due to the excellent play of top ten teams San Diego State and BYU and, of course, the NPOY candidacy of the Cougars’ Jimmer Fredette.  Yesterday the attention on the league was of a different sort, though, as Wyoming, dead last in the league standings at 1-8, fired head coach Heath Schroyer after three-plus seasons at the helm.  This move comes after the Cowboys lost its seventh consecutive game on Saturday, a three-point home loss to Colorado State.  Schroyer was 49-68 during his tenure in Laramie, with his best season coming in 2008-09 as Wyoming went 19-14 (7-9 MWC) and made the NIT.
  2. Ugh.  Oklahoma State forward Darrell Williams was charged with three counts of rape and one of sexual battery on Monday stemming from an incident in December where he allegedly assaulted two women at a party.  The junior college transfer has given head coach Travis Ford a solid season, averaging 7/7 in twelve starts and around 21 minutes per game, but according to the coach, he will be held out of the lineup and practice until his legal issues are resolved.  His preliminary hearing is scheduled for the first week in March, which probably means that Williams’ season is effectively over.  OSU has been playing better of late, beating Missouri and Oklahoma to get back to the middle of the Big 12 pack, but any further push will be that much more difficult without the sometime-starter available to bang bodies down low.
  3. Dan Wiederer delves further into the phenomenon known as Kendall Marshall going for a record sixteen assists in UNC’s destruction of Florida State over the weekend.   We didn’t know, for example, that Marshall has a tendency to pull a Bill Russell during halftime of games, but we do now and we’re quite sure that Roy Williams will provide the rookie with his own four-year supply of barf bags if he keeps dropping double-figure dimes the rest of the season.
  4. A new Monday meant another version of Seth Davis’ Hoop Thoughts.  In this week’s edition, he deplores the fly-by-night departure of Larry Drew II from the program (blaming Drew’s mother more than his famous father), St. John’s as the most interesting bubble team at this point, and a Kyrie Irving update that you haven’t seen anywhere else.
  5. The ten final candidates for the Bob Cousy Award given to the nation’s top point guard were announced on Monday, and there were a couple of surprising omissions.  The complete list is below, but as Mike Miller at Beyond the Arc points out, there’s really no legitimate excuse for leaving out Xavier’s Tu Holloway and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor.  Both players have been outstanding for their respective teams, and outside of the NPOY candidates Fredette, Smith and Walker, arguably better than any of the other names on this list.
  • Norris Cole, Cleveland State
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova
  • Jimmer Fredette, BYU
  • D.J. Gay, San Diego State
  • Brandon Knight, Kentucky
  • Demetri McCamey, Illinois
  • Mickey McConnell, St. Mary’s
  • Nolan Smith, Duke
  • Isaiah Thomas, Washington
  • Kemba Walker, UConn
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BGTD: Late Afternoon Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on February 5th, 2011

The afternoon games gave us a couple of squads needing and getting redemption wins, despite still having a lot of work to do on their resumes. We also saw The Jimmer get creative and show you other aspects of his game besides the leaning scissor-kick threes from the hash marks (though those are really fun to watch), and we’re preplexed by Washington’s road-o-phobia.

  • Wildcats Win a Wild One. We’ve written so much negative stuff about Kansas State this year, let’s say something good for once. Jacob Pullen used a tasty little crossover to wrong-foot his defender and get to the hoop for an easy lay-in with about two seconds left to give the Wildcats their first Big 12 road win this season, an 86-85 squeaker over Iowa State. Congrats on the nice win, but let’s keep a big-picture perspective. KSU’s next two are at Colorado (tough) and at home against Kansas. If they can win those two, then they’ll have our attention. That’d put them at 18-8 (6-5) with a late-season win over a title contender. Ironically, that KSU vs KU game is a Valentine’s Day tilt.
  • Speaking of Wildcats Needing Wins… Northwestern has a pulse, at least, having pulled out a close road win at Illinois, 71-70. We’re still scratching our collective head regarding the change over the last month in Demetri McCamey (14/4 asst). In the Illini’s first 16 games, McCamey had only one game in which he had less than five assists (three in a win vs Oakland on 12/8). At that point, they were 13-3. In their last seven games, McCamey has had only one game with more than five assists (11 in a win vs Michigan State on 1/18). The Illini have lost five of those seven games.
  • Along Came (the other) Jones.  Another team that earned a little redemption (and needed it) with a road win: the Baylor Bears. Perry Jones (27/7) deserves every bit of the hype he gets, but today it was Anthony Jones (10/8) who saved the Bears with a lay-in with 3.1 seconds remaining, giving Baylor a good solid win (76-74) over a 16th-ranked Texas A&M squad. Checking the schedule, Baylor has seven Big 12 games remaining, and we see a minimum of three wins out of those (Nebraska, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M, all at home). That would make Baylor 8-8 in the Big 12…which isn’t even as encouraging as it sounds. In the past 18 years, a .500-or-worse team has only been to the NCAA Tournament four times. The Bears still have two games against Texas ahead of them. They might need to steal one of those.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on February 1st, 2011

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

- As we head into the crucial weeks of February, three groupings of teams will likely emerge: one group that’s been playing over their heads through the first couple months and will quickly take a nosedive down the rankings as their flaws become more evident and exposed, one that has likely hit their peak and will consistently maintain their current ranking for the remainder of the season and, the most intriguing group, the teams that will continue to improve, develop and progress before hitting their crescendo right around March Madness. Some possible candidates for the third group include Texas, Missouri, Washington, Connecticut and North Carolina. The most obvious possibility for rapid improvement as we head into the stretch run, though, has to be Kentucky. One could make an argument they’ll be a top five team in the nation by tournament time as their trio of ultra-talented freshmen — Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and the incredibly undervalued Doron Lamb – see their comfort level rise and their overall floor games advance. Regardless of the personnel upheaval that John Calipari welcomes during his recruitment of one-and-done players, his team’s always defend. This Kentucky team, led by the lockdown length of DeAndre Liggins and the wily experience of junior Darius Miller, has proved no different, ranking tenth in the nation in overall defensive efficiency and fourth in opponents two-point FG%. Before you point out that last year’s Kentucky team led by John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins – a team that was probably more talented with five first round selections – flamed out in the Elite 8, remember that this Wildcats squad can do what last year’s version could not: make perimeter jump shots. Kentucky is shooting 40% from three as a unit this season, good for 17th in the country.

Knight and UK still have room to grow, a scary thought for their SEC opposition

- Jimmer Fredette has become the face of college basketball. Due to his dynamic scoring prowess, cult-like following and unusual name (seriously, if Chris Smith was doing this, would this fad be quite as viral?) my Twitter feed was flooded last Wednesday night with everything Jimmer from friends that I never knew had a real interest in the sport until their post-Super Bowl hangover was complete. With every Kemba Walker misfire, it’s more and more clear the frontrunner for National Player of the Year is currently starring  in Provo. Walker is mired in a prolonged slump over his last four games, shooting a porous 23% from the floor in 74 attempts including a 7-for-23 performance in Saturday’s home loss to Louisville. Fortunately for Walker, the emergence of his young supporting cast, notably Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, hasn’t caused the Huskies to dip into a considerable funk. Despite Walker’s post-Maui craze and his repeated heroics late in games against Texas and Villanova, Fredette has cleared usurped Walker as the talk of the college basketball world. What ultimately matters, though, is team success, and I still feel the undersized Cougars, who are increasingly over-dependent on Fredette late in games as they were Saturday at the Pit, have a much lower ceiling than Walker’s Huskies.

- What can I possibly say about Texas that hasn’t already been said? Never did I expect to be outwardly commending Jordan Hamilton’s effort on the defensive end at any point in his collegiate career, but the work he and Dogus Balbay did last night against A&M leading scorer Khris Middleton was phenomenal. Hamilton even said after the game he was going to “guard him as hard as I’ve ever guarded before.” We all know the Longhorns have scoring weapons – from the smooth operating of Hamilton to the mid-range game of Gary Johnson and the post ability of Tristan Thompson – but it’s the Longhorns unwavering commitment at the defensive end against capable Big 12 opponents that has college basketball fans bullish about Texas’ prospects of cutting down the nets in Houston. Texas has climbed the defensive efficiency rankings to tops in the nation and also rank first in effective FG% against. They’re third in the country in both two-point and three-point defense and can throw out A-plus perimeter defenders in Cory Joseph and Dogus Balbay and lengthy, shot-blocking, interior weapons like Thompson, Johnson and even Alexis Wangmene off the pine. The Big 12 totals are stellar- no opponent of Texas has scored more than 63 points and they’ve held their last four opponents to 33% shooting from the field and 20% from three. And they’re doing it on the road against ranked teams. If you appreciate aggressive, tenacious, inspired, man-to-man defense, there’s no better team to watch than Texas.

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ATB: The Day After

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2011

The Lede. Hopefully everyone was over their Jimmer hangovers by the time the games started tonight. Judging by Twitter, and…well, pretty much every sports outlet in the nation, the transitive verb “to Jimmer” has entered the American sporting lexicon with some serious impact. We can’t remember when a college baller’s name has ever been used in this fashion; nobody ever said “You got Turnered/Walled,” or “He Morrisoned them,” or “They Hansbrough’d the heck out of that poor team.” And the only name we can think of that contains a reverent “The” at the beginning that’s in regular use today belongs to U2 guitarist The Edge, though — and credit to Seth Davis for starting the trend — “The Jimmer” is now commonplace usage in referring to just about everybody’s favorite player.

Darius Morris and Crew Start the Celebration (J.Gonzalez/Detroit FP)

But enough of that for now. We’ll have many chances to discuss him later. Tonight we saw three tough conference road wins, two of them in games involving bitter rivals. We have a couple of RTCs we have to weigh in on, and a pair of outstanding tweets from the Gonzaga vs St. Mary’s game. First, though, we start…with Sparty.

Your Watercooler Moment. On the halftime coverage of ESPN2′s St. Mary’s @ Gonzaga game, when asked about how dire the situation was for Michigan State this year after their loss to Michigan tonight, even the understated Dan Dakich hesitated for effect and said gravely, “Well…it’s pretty serious.”

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

The national narrative about the Big Ten has been about the “tiers” in the conference. Last week, those tiers were even more pronounced as the top teams kept on winning and the middle and bottom ones battled it out. In the process, Illinois – a classic example of this philosophy – escaped with a solid home win over Michigan State, but a disappointing loss to Ohio State and Iowa got its first conference win of the season over Indiana. The top teams will start battling it out this week, as Ohio State welcomes Purdue on Tuesday for what will be the “Game of the Year” thus far in conference.

Those middle teams are ones you have to know come March. That’s when the true depth of the conference will be on display and teams like the Illini, Michigan State, Minnesota and maybe a Penn State or Northwestern will be trying to prove they belonged in the discussion all along.

  • Team of the Week: Ohio State: A big victory over Illinois on the road was the best win by any Big Ten team last week. The Buckeyes also took care of business against Iowa and now just have to beat Purdue at home and Northwestern on the road to enter February with a shot at perfection intact.
  • Player of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: With his team facing a tough situation at Illinois, the freshman put Ohio State on his back and carried them to an important road victory. He scored 27 points, including 13-15 shooting from the free throw line, grabbed 16 boards and blocked three shots. That was the follow-up to a ho-hum game against Iowa where he notched just 13 points and nine boards. It’s becoming hard to describe Sullinger’s day-to-day work. This Tweet from Monday afternoon summed up his ranks amongst NCAA freshmen very succinctly.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Josh Gasser, G, Wisconsin: I’m cheating a bit here by not giving both weekly awards to Sullinger, since he is technically a freshman even if he doesn’t play like one, but I wanted to highlight Gasser’s triple-double against Northwestern. In the 78-46 victory on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena he had ten points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. That’s a heck of a day, and the first in Badger history.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (20-0, 7-0) – Jon Diebler is second in the nation in offensive rating according to Ken Pomeroy at 138.5. He’s shooting 47.6 percent from three-point range and is committing just 1.1 fouls per 40 minutes. No one has benefited more from DeShaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger patrolling the middle than this 6’6 senior shooting guard.

2. Wisconsin (15-4, 5-2) – After Sunday’s demolition of Northwestern, the Badgers have the second best offense in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy. Wait, let’s repeat that: Wisconsin has the second best offense in the country. Bo Ryan knows his offense is built upon solid principles, which is what made this article all the more amusing. Can we all agree the Wisconsin offense isn’t “struggling” anymore? (Not that it ever really was.)

3. Purdue (17-3, 6-1) – How Penn State lost a 6’10 forward that was the best player on the court at the end of a critical game, I’ll never know, but JaJuan Johnson knocked down the game-winner and Purdue got two home victories last week. Johnson has scored 20-plus points in each of his last four games and hasn’t scored fewer than 15 since December 7 against Valparaiso. Oddly, his rebounding totals are down lately. He grabbed seven boards combined against Penn State and Michigan State last week.

4. Michigan State (12-7, 4-3) – Tom Izzo must have an ear-to-ear grin on his face now, because while his team lost two games last week, they’ll get healthy with a three-game stretch against the bottom third of the conference. Of course if they lose one of those games I don’t want to be anywhere near that locker room.

5. Illinois (14-6, 4-3) – Oh, what might’ve been for the Illini. Illinois was up eight with under 13 minutes to play against Ohio State, but it failed to contain Jared Sullinger down the stretch. Demetri McCamey was 2-11 from the floor in the game and scored five points to go along with five assists and four turnovers. It’s a good thing Jereme Richmond and Bruce Weber have straightened things out, because it was the superstar freshman’s play that kept the Illini in it with 18 points, on 9-12 shooting, and 10 boards.

6. Minnesota (15-4, 4-3) – While Minnesota won its only game on the court last week it came at a terrible price. The Gophers will be without starting point guard Al Nolen for at least four weeks due to a foot injury, and possibly the rest of the season. Nolen is going to have surgery on Wednesday and will do anything to get back on the court, but for now, Tubby Smith is going to have to deal with this latest blow to his backcourt. The team was already thin at the guard spot after the transfer of Devoe Joseph.

7. Penn State (10-8, 3-4) – The Nittany Lions were the odd team out on Saturday, so they haven’t played since Wednesday, January 19. What a game that was. JaJuan Johnson had to hit a shot on the Boilermakers’ final possession to eek out the one-point win. That game showed the fight that Penn State has and no team can take them lightly during the rest of conference play. Still, the final play that Ed DeChellis drew up seemed designed for a lot less time. You’d hope to at least get a look at the basket on the final possession.

8. Northwestern (13-6, 3-5) – The Wildcats found out what both sides of a blowout feel like last week against SIU Edwardsville and Wisconsin. Even without star John Shurna, who was resting his injured ankle, and the third string playing the majority of the second half Northwestern ran past the overmatched Cougars, 98-55. Bill Carmody had his players run out the clock the final two possessions rather than score 100 on the obviously overmatched visitors. On Sunday though it was the home team that struggled. Northwestern got down early and never recovered against Wisconsin as the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes were dealt another crippling blow. Teams that blow out the Wildcats take away Drew Crawford. When the sophomore forward doesn’t score Northwestern’s offense struggles a lot and he didn’t score a point in 27 minutes against the Badgers.

9. Michigan (11-9, 1-6) – Tim Hardaway, Jr. has been given the green light for the Wolverines. In two losses last week the freshman attempted 28 shots, an even 14 in each game. He struggled against Northwestern, making three and scoring eight points, but on Saturday he exploded for 20 points against Minnesota in a five-point loss.

10. Iowa (8-11, 1-6) – Freshman Melsahne Basabe’s third 20-point game of the season was enough to carry the Hawkeyes to a 91-77 victory over Indiana and get them out of the conference cellar. This team still doesn’t look like it’ll bother anyone but the bottom tier of the conference, but players like Basabe are pieces to build on for the program’s future.

11. Indiana (10-10, 1-6) – A loss at Iowa probably wasn’t Tom Crean’s idea of a good time. While Christian Watford scored 30 points, Jordan Hulls was held under 10 points for the first time in seven games. Hulls is Indiana’s most efficient scorer and a three-point gunner that has connected on 49.4 percent of his attempts this season. Maurice Creek’s right knee can no longer elude surgery, and he’ll again miss a big chunk of conference play as he gets shut down.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 1/25 – Purdue at Ohio State, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/26 – Northwestern at Minnesota, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/27 – Michigan at Michigan State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/29 – Minnesota at Purdue, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 1/29 – Wisconsin at Penn State, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/30 – Iowa at Michigan, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: We’re starting to see some trends develop in the tempo-free statistics. A couple might be surprising and here are some of the highlights:

  • Wisconsin has joined the elite tier of the conference.  The Badgers play slowly, so sometimes you don’t see their blowouts as the great feats they are, but Bo Ryan has his team playing at peak efficiency in conference. After Sunday’s blowout Wisconsin is right in the middle of the upper tier behind Purdue (+0.18 efficiency margin per possession) and Ohio State (+0.14) at +0.16 points per possession in conference. That’s a very impressive mark.
  • Michigan State’s offense is in trouble as the Spartans rank 10th in the Big Ten in conference offensive efficiency at 1.04 points per possession. The fact that they’re scoring more than a point per possession and still near the bottom also tells you how deadly efficient every team has been this season. Still, Tom Izzo has to find a way to coax some more points out of his team or they’re going to struggle during the rest of conference play.
  • You might think that those great offensive efficiencies in Big Ten play are because of teams like Indiana and Iowa, but that’s not true. No Big Ten team is allowing less than a point per possession in conference play. Ohio State leads the way at 1.002.
  • The numbers indicate that Ohio State is really lucky to still be undefeated, not just overall but also in conference. Maybe the other shoe drops on Tuesday night against Purdue? On the other side you’ve got Wisconsin and Indiana as the unluckiest. All that said, it seems like this is related to two teams that are moving in different directions. The Hoosiers are playing worse lately and the Badgers better, which is skewing both of their respective numbers.
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BGTD: Early Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on January 22nd, 2011

The noon-to-3pm stretch today was one of those that helps make the case in favor of an electronics upgrade here at the RTC Southern Compound, specifically for a multi-screen video wall. Having two games like Ohio State @ Illinois and Villanova @ Syracuse happening at the same time was both fantastic and painful. Then Tennessee @ Connecticut after that, as well as Temple @ Xavier and the small matter of Texas @ Kansas? Oh, yeah. we’re hittin’ the electronics store at some point this weekend. But not until the games are done.

  • Wayns’ World. One of the basic strategies against any zone defense is to use quick perimeter passing  and penetration to create openings for shots and passing lanes. Of course, it’s never a bad strategy to just get hot from outside and shoot over the zone, and that’s what ‘Nova did early on against the Orange. When the defense extended, that opened up gaps for those quick, fearless Wildcat guards and even some nice interior passing between Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton. We’d say Jim Boeheim didn’t game-plan for Maalik Wayns, a 20% three-point shooter on the year (40% overall), to drill a trio of threes and go 6-11 from the field.
  • Blue Horseshoe Loves ‘Nova Basketball. We know a lot can happen between now and March, but if I’m playing the college hoops market, I’m pulling a Gordon Gekko on Villanova. I’m getting in there at a 45-degree angle and gobbling up all the Wildcat stock that I can. Top-flight coach, quick guards who can shoot as well as break down defenders anywhere on the floor, long big men who play even longer on both ends of the floor, and not to mention that they have guys who were in the Final Four two seasons ago? Time to accumulate.
  • A Buckeye Beauty. No, we’re not talking about a girl on the Columbus campus. We’re talking about one of the great performances of the season, this one by Jared Sullinger. Certainly, the 27 points and 16 rebounds are impressive, to say the least. We’re just as impressed by the 40 minutes played, though – ten minutes above his average — and the mere two personal fouls. You don’t get 27/16 if you’re not on the floor, or don’t know how to stay on the floor. And you’ve seen Sullinger. Not exactly a little guy who shies away from contact. We all knew Sullinger could play basketball, but he showed us today that he’s got guts as well as game.
  • The Arts of Craft. Another note from OSU’s win: Deshaun Thomas (a pair of threes, 8 pts in 12 minutes) sparked that second half run when the Illini had the lead, and Jon Diebler (15 pts, 3-5 from three) was his usual steady self. When your team takes a fair number of treys and shoots better from three-point range (46.7%) than your opponent does from the field (43.1%), you’re going to be fine most of the time. But we need to give some props to OSU freshman point guard Aaron Craft. He only had five points, but that’s not something they necessarily need from him. In his 31 minutes (more than two of the starters), he dished four assists, only turned the ball over once — he leads the team with a 2.3-to-1 assist/turnover ratio — and, most importantly, he found himself on Demetri McCamey for most of the game and covered the Illinois star like red ants on a Snickers bar.
  • We’re Cold, But Kemba and Melvin Aren’t. For the first half, Tennessee-Connecticut has been more evenly matched than we anticipated, and Kemba Walker needed that buzzer-beating three to give the Huskies the halftime lead. As we’ve mentioned often around here, you never know which of Tennessee’s multiple personalities you’re going to get on a given night, and for the first half the “good UT” has shown up. The Vols have done a good job bodying up to Walker and have held him to just eight points so far, including that three before the half. Melvin Goins has been UT’s best player, surpassing his 8.0 PPG average with ten points and he’s perfect from the field. By the way, it’s about 14 degrees outside and there’s a whole lot of action yet to come today. We ain’t goin’ anywhere…
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Set Your Tivo: 01.21-01.23

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 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.

Almost all of the action is on Saturday but what a day it will be. A couple of huge games start us off right away at noon but the rest of the day will not disappoint. It’s very unfortunate but #21 St. Mary’s @ #23 Vanderbilt is not on television and neither is Belmont at East Tennessee State on Sunday, a battle for first in the Atlantic Sun. You obviously won’t be able to watch those games unless you’re attending but definitely check and see how they play out. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#1 Ohio State @ #18 Illinois – 12 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

Sylvester and the Buckeyes Had the Last Laugh When Illinois Was #1 in 2005

It should be a crazy environment in Champaign on Saturday when the #1 team in the land pays a visit. Illinois is having a good year but probably not as good as some of the more optimistic Illini fans would have hoped. That can change in a big way with a marquee win over the Buckeyes. You’ll recall what happened almost six years ago in Columbus. Illinois was #1 at 29-0 on the last day of the regular season and lost on a Matt Sylvester three with five seconds to play as the unranked Buckeyes knocked off the eventual national runner up. By the way: Gus Johnson was working that one in 2005 and he’ll be in Champaign on Saturday if you even needed another reason to tune in.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 18th, 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.

A few teams face key road tests tonight, one night after the home squads went 3-1 in the season debut of ESPN’s Big Monday. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#19 Michigan State @ #18 Illinois – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

A Top 50 Rebounder, Green Has Been Solid Of Late For MSU (Excepting That 2-10 Against Penn State)

The Spartans needed overtime to dispatch their last two opponents at home, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Michigan State is doing just enough to get by as Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers have struggled lately. Lucious went 0-8 from the floor against Northwestern while Summers has scored just seven points in the last two games. For MSU to have any sustained success going forward, Tom Izzo must get these two players going somehow. Luckily for them, Draymond Green has stepped up, averaging 21/8.5 over the last two games.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.14-01.16

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 14th, 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.

Another action-packed weekend awaits grateful hoop fans as we’re about two months away from March Madness. Conference play is really heating up and races are beginning to take shape. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#23 Vanderbilt @ Tennessee – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (***)

Often Overlooked, Ezeli Is A Workhorse For the Commodores.

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Checking in On… The Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2011

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference.

RTC is interested in learning how to improve our Checking In On… series in each conference.  Let us know in the below poll where we can improve this weekly piece (feel free to add specific comments).  Thanks.

A Look Back

  • The Big Ten powers continued to dominate this week, as Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State are a combined 10-0 in conference. The other teams though are starting to look very vulnerable. Michigan State’s loss at Penn State revealed some problems with the Spartans’ attack, while Minnesota doesn’t seem to have the firepower to hang with the top teams in the conference. And where is Wisconsin going to be when this all shakes out? The Badgers are the conference’s biggest enigma.
  • Oh and Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament hopes? They were probably dealt their deathblow on national television at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois. Matt Norlander wrote a lovely obituary over on CBS’ new college basketball blog. That said, maybe life support is the better analogy as the Wildcats did beat a reeling Indiana team on Sunday night.
  • Team of the Week: Purdue – Two blowouts over inferior opponents get the Boilermakers the team of the week award this week. If Saturday showed us anything it’s that winning on the road in conference isn’t easy and Purdue won at Penn State, where Michigan State went on to lose, and also blew out Iowa at home. This team is really coming together and looks to be a dangerous NCAA Tournament style squad.
  • Player of the Week: Rhyne Smith, G, Purdue: Smith scored a team-high 18 points on 6’9 three-point shooting in Purdue’s victory over Iowa. He also was leading scorer in the Boilermakers’ victory over Penn State with 20 points on 5-5 three-point shooting and 5-7 free throw shooting. He’s a catch-and-shoot scorer who thrives off the open looks that come from playing with two All-Americans.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Melsahn Basabe, F, Iowa – Basabe went for 22 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks on Tuesday against Ohio State. He was held to eight points, with four turnovers, against Purdue.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (16-0, 3-0) – The Buckeyes are showing a disturbing trend of letting teams back into games. Iowa and Minnesota both played them close before falling late. This could come back to haunt Thad Matta’s team at some point. Jared Sullinger had a double-double in both games this week with 24 and 12 against Iowa and 15 and 12 against Minnesota. The first team to stop him is going to have a legitimate chance to knock off the Buckeyes.
  2. Purdue (15-1, 4-0) – Check out the player of the week section about Ryne Smith. Players like Smith, Lewis Jackson and Terone Johnson are starting to step up for Purdue and are making this team even harder to beat.
  3. Illinois (13-3, 3-0) – If the Illini continue to shoot as well as they have in Big Ten play, they’re going to be unbeatable. Northwestern got shellacked at Assembly Hall as Illinois shot 70.5 percent from the field. The one weakness for Bruce Weber’s squad is that they turn the ball over too much. Even in the 25-point victory, it was evident, as the Illini turned it over 22 times. Of course, Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey both had seven assists on the way to a team total of 25.
  4. Wisconsin (12-3, 2-1) – Jon Leuer gets a lot of the press, but Jordan Taylor is the guy that drives the Badgers’ offense. He’s in the mold of other Wisconsin point guards like Devin Harris and Trevon Hughes where he just gets his points. Taylor scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Wisconsin’s 66-50 victory over Michigan. That’s 66 points in 54 possessions, by the way. This offense is absolutely deadly.
  5. Michigan State (10-5, 2-1) – It’s time to accept that this Michigan State team isn’t that good right now. The Spartans barely escaped at Northwestern and then lost to Penn State. Kalin Lucas had an okay week scoring the basketball, but the assists aren’t there right now. If he doesn’t have more games like the one against Minnesota where he had seven assists and two turnovers, the Spartans are going to struggle in league play.
  6. Minnesota (12-4, 1-3) – While a three-point loss to Ohio State isn’t a big deal, the Golden Golphers suffered a bigger loss off the court when Devoe Joseph, who started 25 of 76 games in his Minnesota career, was granted his release by the team on Wednesday. Joseph clashed with head coach Tubby Smith. The versatile guard had averaged 11.2 points per game this season and his departure will prove to be a big loss moving forward. The team needs a lot of depth to play Smith’s system and doesn’t really have it right now. One player benefitting is freshman Maverick Ahanminsi, who had a total of 25 minutes of time in the games versus Indiana and Ohio State after just three total minutes in the games against Wisconsin and Michigan State.
  7. Michigan (11-5, 1-2) – Man are the Wolverines going to be wishing they beat Kansas come Selection Sunday, but still, a 67-60 overtime loss to the No. 3 team in the country isn’t bad. Zack Novak played a strong game with 12 points and 11 boards to follow up on a 15-point performance in the loss to Wisconsin earlier in the week.
  8. Penn State (9-6, 2-2) – Penn State seems to be a dangerous team in league play. The Nittany Lions really struggled in the non-conference, but they’re slowly getting better. Even though Talor Battle didn’t have his best game against Michigan State, Penn State still won because Jeff Brooks stepped up with 17 points and 12 boards. Of course, Battle eventually hit the clutch shots down the stretch that allowed Ed DeChellis to get a big league win. Big Ten teams are locking in on Battle, who shot 6-22 against Purdue and 3-14 against Michigan State, so someone else will have to continue to step up for the Nittany Lions.
  9. Northwestern (10-4, 1-3) – John Shurna’s ankle is still bothering him, but he did manage to drop 24 on Indiana. I’m sure all the Wildcats want to forget the game against Illinois, but freshman JerShon Cobb did score 18 points in that game and followed it up with 11, on 3-4 three-point shooting, against the Hoosiers.
  10. Iowa (7-8, 0-3) – While the Hawkeyes can be dangerous at home, they’re going to struggle on the road, especially when teams like Purdue can shut down Matt Gatens and force other players to score points. Before Penn State’s victory over Michigan State, Iowa near miss, 73-68, against Ohio State was the most shocking score of the week.
  11. Indiana (9-8, 0-4) – Not much is going right for Indiana right now. The Hoosiers were down big to Northwestern before making the margin more respectable. Freshman Will Sheehey played well against the Wildcats with nine points and another freshman Victor Oladipo started and scored 13, but it’s hard to win Big Ten conference games relying on freshmen. The game against Northwestern was Oladipo’s fifth in a row in double-figures.

A Look Ahead

While every game is big in conference play, here are the key match-ups to keep an eye on in the upcoming week (all times EST). It also includes one special non-conference CBS Sunday afternoon treat.

  • 1/11 – Wisconsin at Michigan State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/12 – Ohio State at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/12 – Northwestern at Iowa, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/13 – Purdue at Minnesota, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 1/15 – Illinois at Wisconsin, 3 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/15 – Michigan at Indiana, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/16 – Purdue at West Virginia, 1:30 p.m., CBS

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Three teams, Purdue (0.27), Illinois (0.18) and Ohio State (0.13) have efficiency margins greater than 0.10 during conference play. That’s very impressive.  Of course, those numbers will come down once they start playing each other, but each has been dominant thus far. The Boilermakers are just tearing things up on a per possession level.  On the other end of the spectrum are three teams: Indiana (-0.17), Michigan (-0.18) and Iowa (-0.19), all below -0.10 per possession. Michigan is at the level even with a win because of two blowout losses. The Wolverines’ game against Wisconsin is especially troublesome because the 16-point loss came in just 54 possessions as the offense disappeared in the second half. Michigan has shown in non-conference play that it can be very competitive against elite teams, so maybe this is a hiccup that will be corrected as the conference plays some more games and things even out.

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