Morning Five: 01.10.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 10th, 2011

  1. The big news of the weekend other than all the road “upsets” was the NCAA denying Kentucky‘s appeal on behalf of Enes Kanter. As you can imagine, this set off a huge response online, which we will have much more on later, but we were particularly surprised by one notable college basketball personality — Dick Vitale – calling out the NCAA, saying that if Kanter had gone to Washington, where current NCAA president Mark Emmert previously worked, he would not have been declared ineligible. This led to a pretty interesting back-and-forth online, which Seth Davis will apparently answer with a column on SI with direct quotes from Emmert that will appear sometime this morning. We aren’t surprised that somebody mentioned it, but Vitale was just about the last person in the world that we’d have expected to call out Emmert like that.
  2. Vitale’s ESPN colleague Doug Gottlieb put up a column on Saturday morning asking 10 questions that he wasn’t sure about the answer (ESPN Insider required). The questions themselves — (1) Are UNC/Butler/San Diego State legit?; (2) What’s Purdue‘s ceiling?; (3) Does Kemba Walker have enough support?; (4) Will Tennesee survive without Bruce Pearl?; (5) Will Demetri McCamey come through in big spots?; (6) Can Villanova/Syracuse play defense/shoot?; (7) Will Baylor or Kansas State rebound first? — are pretty good, but Gottlieb’s answers are a bit superficial for my liking so we are interested to what you think the answers are to those questions.
  3. A local columnist poses an interesting question about Pittsburgh, asking how the Panthers have changed from a hard-nosed defensive team into a group of sharpshooters. It should be pointed out that most of Pittsburgh’s reputation for being a tough defensive team that wasn’t able to score much comes from Ben Howland‘s time on the sideline there, and that Jamie Dixon‘s teams, to my knowledge, have been better offensively although not to the level of this season’s team. In any case, don’t expect any 47-32 games out of this Pittsburgh team unless you are talking about halftime scores.
  4. By now you may have heard that Roy Williams has a bit of a point guard problem in Chapel Hill. Ever since Ty Lawson left UNC they have been struggling to find someone who would even be described as serviceable. By now, Tar Heel fans have realized that Larry Drew II is not the answer (at least if they want to get deep in the NCAA Tournament) and although Kendall Marshall shows flashes of brilliance, Roy is hesitant to hand over the keys to him. It looks like help may be on the way in the form of Marcus Paige, a top-five point guard in the class of 2012, who has committed to play at UNC. Paige follows in a fairly strong line of Iowans who have committed to play for Williams either at Kansas or UNC with the most recent being Harrison Barnes. For the sake of Tar Heel fans, we hope that Paige doesn’t struggle in adjusting to the college game as much as Barnes has so far.
  5. Finally, our Morning 5 wouldn’t be complete with a shout out to Roscoe Smith for his ill-advised 75-foot heave with nearly 10 seconds left in the game. Honestly, we are shocked that there aren’t around 100 videos on YouTube documenting the funniest shot we have seen in some time. Fortunately for Smith and UConn they were able to escape, thanks to Kemba Walker doing his thing. We have a pretty poor clip below for those of you who missed it, but consider this a plea from RTC to please upload a decent quality clip of this shot.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.06.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 6th, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

After Jimmer Fredette stole the show late last night, what does Thursday have in store for us hoopheads? Two in-state clashes lead the way, one of them a heated city rivalry. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Xavier @ Cincinnati – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Mick Cronin And His Bearcats Are Ranked And At Home Against a Depleted Xavier Squad

The Crosstown Shootout is always fun but there’s a heightened sense of importance this year for one team. The Cincinnati Bearcats have the upper hand in the city for the first time in years, undefeated and ranked in the both the AP and coaches polls. Xavier has won the last three meetings, and eight of eleven, though Cincinnati leads the series 47-30. The Bearcats will look to snap their losing streak and show the nation they’re legitimate in front of a national audience this evening.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2011

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

A Look Back

Conference play has finally started in the Big Ten and it came with some surprises – like Indiana losing at home to Penn State and Minnesota being 0-2, but mostly it’s business as usual here in the deepest conference in America.

Team of the Week: Illinois.  The Fighting Illini are 2-0 in conference with a victory over Iowa in Iowa City and a win at home against Wisconsin. That’s good enough to get the award this week. Demetri McCamey leads his team against Northwestern on Thursday at home in an in-state rivalry game.

Player of the Week: E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue.  Moore averaged 26.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in two wins for the Boilermakers last week. He started the game against Northwestern, shooting 5-6 from three-point range as Purdue built an early advantage.

Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State.  Sullinger won the Big Ten’s official Freshman of the Week award for the seventh time this season by averaging 18.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game against overmatched Tennessee-Martin and Indiana front court players. His numbers will just keep getting better as Thad Matta is forced to play him more in Ohio State’s closer conference games.

Power Rankings

  • 1. Ohio State (14-0, 1-0) – The Buckeye express continues to roll along. Early season slip-ups by Minnesota mean that Ohio State might not play a real tough conference game until January 22 against Illinois.
  • 2. Purdue (13-1, 2-0) – The Boilermakers went to Ann Arbor and handled Michigan with ease to start conference play. Northwestern tried to give them a game, but E’Twaun Moore was just too much for the Wildcats to handle.
  • 3. Michigan State (9-4, 1-0) – Big game for Michigan State on Monday night at Northwestern. Can Tom Izzo’s team turn it on in conference play? Friday’s victory over Minnesota sure was a good start.
  • 4. Illinois (10-3, 2-0) – See the “Team of the Week” section above.
  • 5. Wisconsin (11-3, 1-1) – Playing at Illinois is a tough second game of conference play, but the Badgers return home to the Kohl Center to take on Michigan this week for a bit of a breather.
  • 6. Minnesota (11-3, 0-2) – No team in the country has a harder conference schedule to start out with games at Wisconsin, at Michigan State and then at Ohio State as the Golden Gophers’ first three Big Ten games. Thus Tubby Smith has to find a way to get a victory over a reeling Indiana on Tuesday.
  • 7. Michigan (11-3, 1-1) – Don’t look now, but the Wolverines are starting to sneak into the NCAA bubble territory and are one of Joe Lunardi’s first four out. A murderous next three games at Wisconsin, home versus Kansas and Ohio State, gives Darius Morris and company three chances to get that marquee win the resume is currently lacking.
  • 8. Northwestern (9-2, 0-1) – If Minnesota doesn’t have the hardest schedule to start conference play, than Northwestern probably does. The Wildcats started at Purdue – and lost – and now play Michigan State and at Illinois this week.
  • 9. Penn State (8-5, 1-1) – Winning at Indiana boosts this team up a bit in the rankings.
  • 10. Iowa (7-6, 0-1) – The Hawkeyes have to be looking at Northwestern’s trip to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on January 12 as the team’s next possible victory. Unfortunately, they go to Ohio State and Purdue comes to town before that game.
  • 11. Indiana (9-6, 0-2) – The Hoosiers lost the battle for last place to Penn State in the first game of the season, 69-60.

A Look Ahead (all times EST)

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

  • 1/3 – Michigan State at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/5 – Michigan at Wisconsin, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/6 – Northwestern at Illinois, 9 p.m., ESPN2
  • 1/9 – Minnesota at Ohio State, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/9 – Kansas at Michigan, 4:30 p.m., CBS

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: While most Big Ten teams have only played one or two games there is in-conference efficiency margin data available! Here are some fun nuggets from the first few games.

  • Best Offense: Ohio State – 1.308 points per possession
  • Best Defense: Michigan State and Purdue – 0.969 points per possession
  • Luckiest: Michigan – 0.57 games ahead of expected
  • Unluckiest: Minnesota – 0.36 games behind expected

Ohio State and Purdue are currently at the top of the conference. With Northwestern and Indiana bringing up the rear. You can see more about these at Chicago College Basketball.

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Set Your Tivo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 1st, 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 lot of the college basketball world was in action on Friday and we have just 27 games tipping off on New Year’s Day. However, a handful involve some pretty good teams. A number of games are on Sunday but not many happen to be compelling matchups.  All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

West Virginia @ Marquette – 11 am Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

An important game for both clubs, this one tips at a strange time (10 am local) on New Year’s Day. West Virginia suffered a surprising loss to St. John’s at home earlier this week and doesn’t look like a vintage Bob Huggins team. The Mountaineers have struggled a bit with defense and rebounding, two staples of Huggins’ coaching career. They rank just #278 in defensive rebounding percentage and aren’t as strong inside as they have been. West Virginia fouls a lot, leading to foul problems and many free throws for the opposition. Marquette will look to take advantage of that with their free throw rate against, ninth in the nation. Look for the Golden Eagles to have a significant edge at the line as a result. A big part of WVU’s struggles has been the reluctance of Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli to explode and become big time players. Jones is still a good player but he hasn’t improved to the point where most expected him to. One player who has is Casey Mitchell, averaging 17 PPG which leads the team. The Mountaineer offense is very efficient (#9 in the country) due to effective point guard play from Darryl Bryant. “Truck” sets the tone for a very good half court unit. West Virginia does rebound well on their end, resulting in a lot of second chance points, but their defense and rebounding on the other end of the floor has let them down. St. John’s put up 81 points against them, a stunning number for a team that isn’t considered an offensive powerhouse by any stretch. Marquette will look to push the ball and work it inside in order to get easier looks and be fouled. Buzz Williams has an undersized team but they do a great job of using their athleticism by getting in the paint and creating good looks. MU gets 62% of their points inside the arc and is #11 in the country in two point percentage. They have a good turnover margin as well and will look to get points in the paint through lots of transition opportunities.  Jae Crowder has added another dimension to the Marquette attack, giving them a good scorer inside and out as well as a solid rebounder. He and Jimmy Butler will be key players for the home folks today. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Williams is the play of Darius Johnson-Odom over the last two games. His struggles from three have been well documented this season but he’s hit seven of his last eleven trifectas. Keeping that hot shooting going will be tough against West Virginia’s #4 rated three point defense but you have to think DJO has some good vibes now. Marquette’s three point defense isn’t very good but they must try to contain Mitchell on the wing. This should be a fairly close game but we like the Golden Eagles to win at home. Nobody knows how the players will react to such an early start but Marquette is playing better right now and should take this one.

#16 Notre Dame @ #4 Syracuse – 3:30 pm Saturday on ESPNU (****)

This matchup has turned into a really good one with the surprising success of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish picked Georgetown apart (no small feat) earlier this week and will look to grab a big time road win on Saturday afternoon. The keys here are Notre Dame’s rebounding and three point shooting. The Irish run a great offense at a relatively slow pace and will have to get comfortable in the half court against the Syracuse zone. If the three’s are not falling, this will be a long game for Mike Brey. However, we think they will and Notre Dame has an excellent chance to go into Syracuse and grab a win. Notre Dame is an experienced squad and knows what they need to do here. Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough will look to shoot over the 2-3 zone while Tyrone Nash will play a big role inside against Syracuse’s Rick Jackson. Nash is the best player in the country at drawing fouls, an important statistic against Jackson and Kris Joseph (52 points in his last two games) inside. If the Syracuse bigs are in foul trouble, Notre Dame has a tremendous chance to win. As a team, the Irish are one of the best at getting to the line and keeping their opponent off it. Their free throw rates are very good on both ends so Syracuse will have to get it done shooting the ball from the floor. That’ll be tough against a Notre Dame team coming off a tremendous defensive performance against the Hoyas. Each team takes good care of the ball so turnovers don’t figure to be a huge factor in this game. The rebounding battle may decide the outcome. Both teams do a nice job on the glass but Jim Boeheim has the best rebounder on the floor with Jackson in the middle. He averages 12 RPG and can single handedly carry the Orange to victory. Getting the ball to Jackson on offense falls to Scoop Jardine, a very good point guard averaging six assists per outing. This is a great matchup between two teams that should contend for a double-bye at the Big East Tournament in March. Syracuse will be favored and obviously has a good chance to win but we’re going to go out on a limb here and take the Irish in an upset on the road.

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RTC Top 25: NPOY Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on December 28th, 2010

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

Every week here at Rush the Court, the powers-that-be provide our RTC Top 25, unanimously labeled as the most accurate college basketball poll in the nation by a team of Harvard scientists. Rather than focusing on the teams, here’s my take on the top 25 players in the nation as it stands now. Don’t think of it as 25 candidates to win national player of the year. There are only a handful of players that have a realistic shot to take home that award barring some unforeseen breakthrough. Instead, consider it a power ranking of the cream of the crop in college hoops. Exceptional efficiency, consistent production and value relative to their team are just a few of the traits these 25 players have brought to the hardwood thus far in 2010-11.

No surprise who the frontrunner for NPOY is

1. Kemba Walker, Connecticut- Change the wording from “national player of the year” to “most valuable player” and Walker’s stock only rises. The Bronx native made an early mark in Maui, notching 31 against Wichita State, 30 against Michigan State and finishing off the superhuman performance with 29 in the championship game vs. Kentucky. Walker is averaging nearly 27 PPG and shooting 50% with opposing defenses centering their game plan on his offensive capabilities. He’s a jet in the full court, a crafty scorer in the lane and has improved his outside jump shot tremendously.

2. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State- When Evan Turner suggested over the summer than Sullinger was going to win Big Ten POY, many didn’t take his prediction seriously. Sullinger’s play this year has silenced even the most fervent doubters. The local hero is averaging a double-double at 17.5 PPG and 10.2 RPG while shooting 59% and already posted a 26/10 at Florida, a 40/13 against IUPUI and 30/19 vs. South Carolina. Sullinger is also the fifth best defensive rebounder in the nation while playing for a team that appears destined for a Final Four.

3. Derrick Williams, Arizona- This sensational sophomore truly does it all for Sean Miller and is one of the most versatile forwards the nation has to offer. The proof is in the pudding: Williams is shooting 13 for 19 from deep and hauling down seven rebounds per contest. Williams is also averaging 19.3 PPG on an incredible 63% from the floor and ranks 15th nationally in offensive rating, 11th in efficient FG% and seventh in true shooting percentage. His ability to step away from the basket at 6’8 makes Williams nearly impossible to lock up.

4. Jon Leuer, Wisconsin- Leuer has been the prototypical player under Bo Ryan that improves substantially each season until he’s one of the top players in the Big Ten come senior season. Leuer can operate in the paint at 6’10, but like most Wisconsin forwards, is comfortable around the perimeter with a dependable mid-range game that extends out beyond the arc. Leuer is averaging almost 20 PPG and 7.3 RPG while making 79% of his free throws and 50% of his treys.  Leuer’s numbers have increased every season in Madison.

5. Kyrie Irving, Duke- When Irving was directing the Duke offense, the Blue Devils operated like a well-oiled machine. The New Jersey native possesses incredible court vision, a smooth jump shot and maturity beyond his years. An ankle injury has temporarily derailed his season, but Irving’s impact is still worth mentioning. He’s averaging 17.4 PPG and 5.1 APG while making 53% of his twos, 90% of his free throws and 45% of his threes as a true freshman in the pressure cooker position that is Duke point guard.

6. Austin Freeman, Georgetown- Freeman has been a darling of the efficiency geeks for a few years now and his senior campaign is changing none of that. The DeMatha graduate is top 25 in the nation in offensive rating, efficient FG% and true shooting percentage, a surprise to nobody that’s watched Freeman pour in the points this season for the Hoyas. He’s a sneaky capable athlete with a quick release that can nail any shot past the halfcourt stripe. Freeman is pouring in 18.9 PPG and draining 49% of his threes.

7. Marcus Morris, Kansas- Morris is another ultra-versatile forward who is comfortable utilizing drop steps in the paint or facing up to hit a three in a defender’s grill. Morris takes less than ten shots per game and is averaging 15.5 PPG. Along with a 60% mark from the field and 46% from three, Morris is an elite rebounder. There’s a reason why Bill Self reminded the masses that the Kansas offense would still revolve around Morris when Josh Selby put on a Jayhawk uniform.

8. Demetri McCamey, Illinois- The fact McCamey led the nation in assist rate as a junior and currently ranks 12th as a senior with a 2.5 A/T ratio would be enough to justify consideration for this list. But McCamey is also one of the best scorers in the country, using his strong frame and unlimited range to spark the Illini offensive attack. He’s averaging 15.7 PPG and 7.1 APG on 50% shooting and 49% from deep. McCamey may be the best passing point guard in the nation.

9. Klay Thompson, Washington State- Thompson has overcome a late-season shooting slump last season to emerge as one of the top pure gunners in the nation. He’s vitally important to the Cougars, averaging 22.3 PPG, grabbing over four boards and dishing out over four assists all while shooting an efficient 50% from the floor and 42% from three. Thompson has already scored 35 against Portland, 24 in the win over Gonzaga, 28 against Mississippi State and 31 vs. Butler and is even an asset for Ken Bone on the defensive end.

10. Jimmer Fredette, BYU- Here’s a dire warning for upcoming Mountain West foes: The Jimmer is fifth in the nation in scoring (24.2 PPG) even while shooting 7% lower from three this season than last. When Fredette reclaims his stroke from downtown, watch out. He’s simply the most gifted scorer the college game has to offer. Fredette is confident from long range, but also has an uncanny way of penetrating the lane for floaters, short jumpers or scoop shots. His array of offensive moves is second to none.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the Rush the Court correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

Last week the Big Ten was almost able to avoid any bad losses (Penn State’s loss to Maine being the only exception), but it also couldn’t secure any good wins in the final big week of non-conference play. Losses by Michigan State (home against Texas), Illinois (versus Missouri) and Northwestern (versus St. John’s) left the conference behind the eight ball a bit.

A more comprehensive look back on an individual scale can be found at Chicago College Basketball where I named the 1st and 2nd team all-conference performers. Here’s a sneak peak at my first team:

  • F Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
  • F John Shurna, Northwestern
  • C JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
  • G Demetri McCamey, Illinois
  • G E’Twaun Moore, Purdue

The post has the second team, honorable mentions and an explanation about some of the tougher picks, including why Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer wasn’t included.

  • Team of the Week: Iowa. The Hawkeyes beat Louisiana Tech 77-58 and considering the struggles of the rest of the conference last week, especially that of the bottom tier, this was a good win. Plus, this might be the last time I’m able to write something positive about the Hawkeyes as Ken Pomeroy currently projects them for a 6-12 conference record (which seems awfully generous to be honest).
  • Player of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State.  Sullinger averaged a double-double with 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in victories over UNC-Asheville and Oakland last week. He’s won the Newcomer award so many times I thought maybe it’d be good to let these two outstanding freshman split the awards this week.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Michigan.  Hardaway Jr. scored 20 points in the Wolverines’ victory over Bryant this week. He also had five rebounds and two assists.

Power Rankings:

  1. Ohio State (12-0) – Jared Sullinger continues to dominate and the Buckeyes had no problems with UNC-Asheville or Oakland last week. Ohio State has a relatively easy start to the Big Ten season playing at Indiana and at Iowa, so it just has to avoid a slip-up early.
  2. Wisconsin (10-2) – Blasted Coppin State. Who cares?
  3. Purdue (11-1) – More shrugs, we will actually figure something out on Tuesday when the Boilermakers play Michigan. According to Ken Pomeroy the Wolverines are the third hardest team Purdue has faced all season.
  4. Minnesota (11-1) – The Golden Gophers beat South Dakota State. Yeah!
  5. Michigan State (8-4) – It’s officially time to start worrying about the Spartans as they dropped a game at the Breslin Center to Texas last week. Washington is the only elite team that Michigan State has beaten this season.
  6. Illinois (10-3) – Mike Tisdale’s really poor decision on an intentional foul helped Missouri pull out a 75-64 victory in the rivalry game last week. The Fighting Illini enter Wednesday’s game against Iowa on a two-game losing streak.
  7. Michigan (10-2) – For a team that wasn’t expected to do much the Wolverines are sitting pretty entering conference play. Can they keep it going as the competition gets tougher? This is a good piece from UM Hoops about that exact topic.
  8. Northwestern (9-1) – The Wildcats failed their first major test against St. John’s, but also got two victories over lesser opponents. Northwestern now starts a brutal early Big Ten slate: at Purdue, versus Michigan State and at Illinois.
  9. Indiana (9-5) – The Hoosiers are in a bit of a slide having lost two very winnable games in Las Vegas last week and Monday night’s home game against Penn State.
  10. Iowa (7-5) – The Hawkeyes’ defense appears to be keying a mini-resurgence here at the end of non-conference play. It’s back to reality in Big Ten play though with Illinois, Ohio State, and at Purdue to start.
  11. Penn State (8-4) – A double-digit loss at home to Maine gets you sent to the doghouse even with a win on Monday against the Hoosiers in Bloomington.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 12/28 – Purdue at Michigan, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/28 – Minnesota at Wisconsin, 7 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/29 – Illinois at Iowa, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/31 – Northwestern at Purdue, 12 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/31 – Minnesota at Michigan State, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/2 – Wisconsin at Illinois, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/3 – Michigan State at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Big Ten play starts on Monday! Next week this space will get interesting.

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball (link: http:// chicagonow.com/blogs/chicago-college-basketball/) is the Rush the Court correspondent for the Big Ten Conference

A Look Back:

Last week the Big Ten was almost able to avoid any bad losses (Penn State’s loss to Maine being the only exception), but it also couldn’t secure any good wins in the final big week of non-conference play. Losses by Michigan State (home against Texas), Illinois (versus Missouri) and Northwestern (versus St. John’s) left the conference behind the eight ball a bit.

A more comprehensive look back on an individual scale can be found at Chicago College Basketball (http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/chicago-college-basketball/2010/12/all-big-ten-non-conference-teams.html) where I named the 1st and 2nd team all-conference performers. Here’s a sneak peak at my first team:

F Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

F John Shurna, Northwestern

C JaJuan Johnson, Purdue

G Demetri McCamey, Illinois

G E’Twaun Moore, Purdue

The post has the second team, honorable mentions and an explanation about some of the tougher picks, including why Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer wasn’t included.

Team of the Week: Iowa

The Hawkeyes beat Louisiana Tech 77-58 and considering the struggles of the rest of the conference last week, especially that of the bottom tier, this was a good win. Plus, this might be the last time I’m able to write something positive about the Hawkeyes as Ken Pomeroy currently projects them for a 6-12 conference record. (Which seems awfully generous to be honest.)

Player of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State

Sullinger averaged a double-double with 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in victories over UNC-Asheville and Oakland last week. He’s won the Newcomer award so many times I thought maybe it’d be good to let these two outstanding freshman split the awards this week.

Newcomer of the Week: Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Michigan

Hardaway Jr. scored 20 points in the Wolverines’ victory over Bryant this week. He also had five rebounds and two assists.

Power Rankings:

1. Ohio State (12-0) – Jared Sullinger continues to dominate and the Buckeyes had no problems with UNC-Asheville or Oakland last week. Ohio State has a relatively easy start to the Big Ten season playing at Indiana and at Iowa, so it just has to avoid a slip-up early.

2. Wisconsin (10-2) – Blasted Coppin State. Who cares?

3. Purdue (11-1) – More shrugs, we will actually figure something out on Tuesday when the Boilermakers play Michigan. According to Ken Pomeroy the Wolverines are the third hardest team Purdue has faced all season.

4. Minnesota (11-1) – The Golden Gophers beat South Dakota State. Yeah!

5. Michigan State (8-4) – It’s officially time to start worrying about the Spartans as they dropped a game at the Breslin Center to Texas last week. Washington is the only elite team that Michigan State has beaten this season.

6. Illinois (10-3) – Mike Tisdale’s really poor decision on an intentional foul helped Missouri pull out a 75-64 victory in the rivalry game last week. The Fighting Illini enter Wednesday’s game against Iowa on a two-game losing streak.

7. Michigan (10-2) – For a team that wasn’t expected to do much the Wolverines are sitting pretty entering conference play. Can they keep it going as the competition gets tougher? This is a good piece (http://www.umhoops.com/2010/12/27/recalibrating-expectations) from UM Hoops about that exact topic.

8. Northwestern (9-1) – The Wildcats failed their first major test against St. John’s, but also got two victories over lesser opponents. Northwestern now starts a brutal early Big Ten slate: at Purdue, versus Michigan State and at Illinois.

9. Indiana (9-4) – The Hoosiers are the favorite on Monday night against Penn State, but they’re in a bit of a slide having lost two very winnable games in Las Vegas last week.

10. Iowa (7-5) – The Hawkeyes’ defense appears to be keying a mini-resurgence here at the end of non-conference play. It’s back to reality in Big Ten play though with Illinois, Ohio State, and at Purdue to start.

11. Penn State (7-4) – A double-digit loss at home to Maine gets you sent to the doghouse.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 12/27 – Penn State at Indiana, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network with Gus Johnson
  • 12/28 – Purdue at Michigan, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/28 – Minnesota at Wisconsin, 7 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/29 – Illinois at Iowa, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/31 – Northwestern at Purdue, 12 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/31 – Minnesota at Michigan State, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/2 – Wisconsin at Illinois, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 1/3 – Michigan State at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Big Ten play starts on Monday! Next week this space will get interesting.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.22.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 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.

Tonight you’ll catch three really good games (including two heavyweight Big 12/Big Ten clashes) if you sit down, relax, and watch ESPN2 all night. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#25 Texas @ #12 Michigan State – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Like It or Not, Izzo and the Spartans Need This One

It’s always fun when two name-brand programs go at it and this one is no exception. This is a big game for both teams but especially so for the homestanding Spartans. A loss here would drop Michigan State to 7-4 against D1 competition and once again ignite the questions about this team’s ability over the long haul, regardless of Tom Izzo’s history. Speaking of Mr. Izzo, he’s back after serving a one-game suspension for employing someone connected to a recruit at his basketball camp. Sparty had no problems against Prairie View A&M but Texas poses a stern test for State. The Longhorns look like a better team this year, playing with good chemistry and stronger defense. Both of these teams rank in the top 15 nationally in defensive efficiency with Texas in the top three in defensive effective field goal percentage. Rick Barnes has a cohesive unit this year that can score as well. With Jordan Hamilton draining threes and Cory Joseph taking over at the point, Texas may just be starting to hit their stride. The key matchups in this ballgame are Hamilton against Durrell Summers and Joseph versus Korie Lucious. When he’s on, Summers can match Hamilton shot for shot. Izzo has moved Lucious to the point many times while shifting Kalin Lucas off the ball. It is essential that each point guard control the ball and get others involved, plus we’re curious to see how the freshman Joseph reacts to the intense environment of the Breslin Center. Each team is deep and talented so the point guards cannot expect to be the stars of the show. The problem for Michigan State all season has been turnovers, something Texas will be eager to force. The Longhorns are deadly when they get out in transition and Michigan State just can’t afford another game chock full of giveaways. Pay attention to the three point line tonight. Michigan State is a very good three-point shooting team, the least we’d expect from what Izzo called a “pretty-boy jump shooting team” after their loss to Syracuse. However, Texas is very good at defending the arc and even better inside it, ranked seventh in two-point defense. The Spartans have three legitimate deep threats and will look to put Texas on notice early and often. On the other end, Michigan State is not good at defending the three. That’s a potentially lethal situation when you have a gunner like Hamilton on the other side. This would seem to be a great time for Michigan State to turn the corner and re-establish itself as a contender with a convincing win over a solid Texas team. We see this game as a closer contest however and Texas can put themselves on the map for good this year with a strong road win. Michigan State is the favorite at home and we’ll take the Spartans by single digits.

#10 Missouri vs. #21 Illinois (in St. Louis) – 9 pm on ESPN2 (****)

The annual Braggin’ Rights game between these two border state rivals is always a must-watch, especially when the teams are good as they are this season. Plus, don’t you love seeing that dividing line right in the middle of the arena separating black and gold from orange? Each team is in the top 25 for the first time in seven years but both programs are dealing with a bit of adversity. The Illini are coming off a brutal loss to Illinois-Chicago while Missouri lost freshman Phil Pressey to a broken hand and will welcome Michael Dixon back from suspension in his place. The story of this game will be pace, essentially who establishes their style of play. Everyone knows Missouri loves to get out and run but Illinois can control this game by protecting the ball against the aggressive Mizzou defense, running efficient half court sets and playing to their strength, defense. Ranked #18 in efficiency, the Illini defense needs to always have a man between Missouri and the basket to stop the ball, otherwise the Tigers will carve them up in both the half court and in transition. Illinois will have success if they force Missouri to play half court offense, taking time off the shot clock and limiting possessions. The most important player in this game is Demetri McCamey. The Illinois senior runs their offense and can shoot the lights out from three. He has to take advantage of Missouri jumping the passing lanes and make good passes to his teammates leading to open looks. Bruce Weber’s team has to take advantage of the mismatch on the perimeter when they have the ball. Illinois ranks #19 in three point shooting while the Tigers are #215 in defending the trey. Meanwhile, Missouri can exploit a weak spot in the Illinois defense inside with Ricardo Ratliffe. Illinois’ interior defense is ranked #118 and the Missouri big man should be able to get Mike Tisdale and/or Mike Davis into foul trouble. Missouri has a bunch of scorers on its roster but, remarkably, they don’t get to the foul line often. Illinois is even worse when it comes to free throw rate but they may get there more often against the foul-prone Tigers. Expect a very close game between two fierce rivals with the outcome in doubt late into the second half. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a determined and focused Illinois team rebound from the UIC loss by knocking off Missouri this evening.

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The Week That Was: December 4-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 10th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC Contributor

Introduction

As far as TWTW is concerned, December is one of the worst months of the sports calendar, just edging out July when all there is to watch is baseball and a couple of golf tournaments. In December, you have the end of the NFL regular season and the potential of teams tanking for draft picks or teams resting players for the playoffs. You have about a 30-day break until college football becomes interesting again. And a lot of the time you have uninteresting college basketball matchups. December’s the time of the year that coaches schedule easier opponents to make sure everything is in order before conference play begins.

Yet this week, there’s plenty to talk about. We had the Jimmy V Classic featuring Michigan State-Syracuse and Kansas-Memphis. There was a basketball experiment at Illinois. And oh yeah, Duke just might have lost Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season.

Off we go …

What We Learned

Boeheim Has a Lot to Be Pleased About

  • Tom Izzo is not happy with his Spartans right now. Izzo had strong words for his team after MSU’s lackluster effort against Syracuse at Madison Square Garden, in which Michigan State looked soft and tentative against a physical and charged-up Orange squad and lost 72-58. Here are a few of Izzo’s money quotes from the postgame presser, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press. “I’m as disappointed in that performance as I’ve been in any since I’ve been at Michigan State. …We turned into a pretty-boy jump-shooting team instead of the blue-collar, fist-fighting team we should be. … I feel like the New York Jets.” On the bright side, Izzo at least was sensitive enough to compare his team to the Jets and not the local team — no child should ever be talked about in the same sentence as the Lions. Izzo’s concerns are justified, though. The Spartans have gone 1-3 in their four biggest tests to date with their one win being a five-point triumph over Washington in Maui. And against Syracuse, MSU got decimated in the paint as Rick Jackson exploded for 17 points and 16 rebounds. That’s not a good sign for a team that has to face Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson several times in Big Ten play.
  • If Izzo is disgusted with his team’s play, then Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim has to be ecstatic with how quickly his team has adapted to life without Wesley Johnson. For anyone who thought the Orangemen were just getting by after close calls against Georgia Tech and N.C. State, their beatdown of Michigan State confirmed their legitimacy. Syracuse is 9-0, and its vaunted 2-3 zone is as effective as ever. Opponents are only hitting 37.6% of their shots for the floor (222-515) and are shooting a paltry 28.1% (68-242) from downtown. If freshman Fab Melo (2.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG in 13.4 MPG) ever gets going, then Syracuse should compete for a Big East title.
  • Apparently Vanderbilt’s Kevin Stallings and Missouri’s Mike Anderson hate timeouts. They think they’re worthless exercises, and there’s no reason to talk to your team during the game — even to, say, draw up a final play of a tied game. That’s the only conclusion that could be made after watching the Tigers-Commodores rock-fight of a game Wednesday night. Both coaches left two timeouts on the board during regulation, and Anderson didn’t call a timeout once the Tigers crossed halfcourt down 72-71 with about 25 seconds left to draw up a possible game-winning play. Ricardo Ratliffe bailed out his coach when he hit one of two free throws after drawing a foul. In overtime. it was Vandy’s turn to neglect to talk things over on the sidelines. After Michael Dixon tied the game at 82 with 33 seconds left in the game, Vandy took the ball and decided to freelance a play. It didn’t work. Dixon stripped Brad Tinsley with about eight seconds to go, and his layup and free throw won the game for the Tigers. You know who didn’t win, though? Anyone who appreciates competent end-of-game coaching.
  • Is Notre Dame a fraud? Time will tell as the Irish’s uneven performance against Kentucky did not validate their inclusion into RTC’s top 25 (The Irish checks in at #23) nor did it show that they will fade from the national scene once conference season starts. When the Irish are hitting their outside shots, they can light up just about any team in the nation. ND hung 40 points on Kentucky in the first half when Ben Hansbrough buried five 3-pointers. But in the second half, the outside shots stopped falling and the offense sputtered. Without a great inside presence, the Irish are too dependent on their perimeter game and vulnerable to shooting slumps. When Kentucky amped up the pressure, ND went 6-30 from the field. Checking in with our friends at KenPom, there are reasons to think that the Irish’s early success was a mirage. Notre Dame isn’t a great defensive team. The Irish rank 81st in adjusted defensive efficiency, and the defense isn’t forcing turnovers. According to KenPom, Mike Brey’s team forces TOs on only 15.6% of opponent’s possessions — good for 341st in the nation.
  • Kansas is doing just fine without Josh Selby. Yeah, the Jayhawks just barely got past a frisky UCLA squad last Thursday, but they had no problem dismantling Memphis by 13 points at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. Eight Jayhawks scored at least six points in the win, four scored at least ten and no one finished with more than 16. That’s balance, the kind of balance that makes you believe Kansas’s 57.1% night shooting wasn’t a fluke, in fact the Jayhawks are the #1 team in the nation in effective field goal percentage (62.7%) according to KenPom. The only area in which Kansas failed to impress Tuesday is turnovers. The Jayhawks committed 22 turnovers against Memphis, but we think that problem will fix itself with the addition of another capable ball handler in Selby.

Pour This Man A Gin

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ATB: Coach K Climbs to Third All-Time in Wins

Posted by nvr1983 on December 9th, 2010

The Lede. A Leader Who Happens To Coach Basketball. If you can’t stand Duke and/or Coach K you might want to stay off the Internet for a while because you are going to be hearing about them a lot over the next few months. While the Blue Devils picked up their 19th straight win and 27th in 28 games, this game will be remembered (particularly by those in The Bluegrass State) as the game where Coach K surpassed Adolph Rupp on the all-time Division I wins list. In Duke’s first game without Kyrie Irving, who could be out indefinitely with a toe injury, the Blue Devils relied on their superior athleticism, depth, and execution to crush a respectable Bradley team, 83-48. The Braves’ four losses this season coming in were by a combined 22 points, but they weren’t that fortunate tonight as the Blue Devils blew them out by 35 points. Playing in place of Irving, Andre Dawkins was more than adequate as he scored 28 points including 8 of 14 from beyond the arc. Duke may not be the same dynamic team without Irving, but they are still really, really good. As for Coach K, now that he has passed Rupp for third he only has two more coaches ahead of him (Dean Smith at 879 and Bobby Knight at 902). We don’t think we need to tell you about the type of hysteria that you will see when he approaches those two living legends in the coming weeks and months.

Coach K has his sights set on The General

Your Watercooler Moment. Playing with a women’s ball in Illinois. Coach K might have dominated the mainstream college basketball media’s attention tonight, but the Twitter-verse was dominated by the strange situation in Illinois where the Fighting Illini and Oakland Golden Grizzlies played the first seven minutes of their game with a women’s basketball before Mike Tisdale noticed that something felt wrong and pointed it out to the official who switched the ball. Having dealt with that the Fighting Illini rallied from down nine early to defeat a tough Golden Grizzlies team by a score of 74-63. Although we would like to be able to attribute the Golden Grizzlies early success to playing with a women’s ball (they outscored Illinois 15-6 while playing with the women’s ball and were outscored 68-48 with the men’s basketball) that would be selling their effort short as they led the #16 team in the country until there were 15 minutes left in the game.  Demetri McCamey scored nine points in 62 seconds to give Bruce Weber’s squad a quick seven-point lead, which they never relinquished after that point.

Tonight’s Quick Hits...

  • Steve Fisher’s Quips.  His team is now 9-0 after defeating California tonight, but the longtime coach of the San Diego State Aztecs thinks that his home folks might be going a little overboard with their support and faith of the team.  As he put it, “they think we can play the Celtics… and if Kevin Garnett didn’t play, they think we’d have a chance.”  In this clip, he also talks about how big of a deal it is for his squad to defeat a Pac-10 opponent on their own floor, as it hasn’t happened for a very long time (the answer: SDSU last did it in 1982 vs. Oregon in Eugene, well before Fisher could even spell Fab Five).

  • Glens Falls, New York.  Seemingly an entire town came out to watch its prodigal son, Jimmer Fredette, return to play basketball.  The star guard scored 26 points in variety of ways to thrill the beyond-capacity home crowd at the Glens Falls Civic Center tonight.  Take a read through Tae Andrews’ RTC Live at the arena tonight — people were sitting or standing in every available space in this building.  We love to see support like that — more teams should do this sort of thing for the local HS heroes that move on.

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One Man’s Opinion: Contenders After One Month

Posted by zhayes9 on December 6th, 2010

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

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

Kyrie Irving has surpassed expectations thus far

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

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

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

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

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RTC Instant Analysis: Evening Games

Posted by nvr1983 on December 4th, 2010

As part of our on-going attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage on-line, we are introducing a new feature where we give your our thoughts after each set of games over the weekend. We’ll be back later tonight for the late game analysis.

  1. Illinois is back: Illinois might have missed the NCAA Tournament last year, but this year they should be a Sweet 16 team and have an outside shot of making the Final Four. Much like Florida, who actually made the NCAA Tournament last year, the Fighting Illini did not that much in terms of new players (freshman Jereme Richmond is the one major addition with 9.0 PPG and 4.4 RPG), but unlike the Gators they have made significant strides this year. A convincing win at Gonzaga along with solid wins against Maryland and UNC should help ensure that Bruce Weber gets back to the NCAA Tournament agian barring a major me)ltdown in the Big Ten.
  2. Demetri steals the show: Kyrie Irving may be dominating the headlines in the early season and he might be the best point guard in the country already, but Demetri McCamey isn’t far behind. The Illinois senior has been nothing short of sensational this season as he has averaged 15.3 PPG (on 52.3% FG and 51.6% 3-point shooting) and 7.8 APG (2nd in the nation) thus far. He has also shown the leadership ability that Bruce Weber expects coming up big in big games so far against Texas, Maryland, UNC, and Gonzaga. The Fighting Illini may not win the loaded Big Ten this year, but because of McCamey they will have a chance in every game they play this year.
  3. Is Syracuse a top 10 team?: Syracuse may have escaped yet again, but I can’t believe that anyone would be buying this team after what we have seen this season. They will probably still be a top 10 team next week, but they have been underwhelming so far as they have yet to play a legitimate NCAA Tournament team yet, but have struggled with a 3-point win at home against William & Mary, a 3-point win against Michigan, a 4-point win against Georgia Tech (lost to Kennesaw State by 16), and a 6-point win at home against NC State (lost to Wisconsin by 39). Simply put, Jim Boeheim cannot be looking forward to their game against Michigan State on Tuesday. If the Orange don’t improve significantly before that time, I would expect the Spartans to rebound from their loss against Duke and expose the Orange.
  4. Steve Donahue is getting it done at BC: Boston College might not threaten Duke this year, but things are looking good in Chestnut Hill where new coach Steve Donahue has the Eagles playing solidly. Outside of an early loss to Yale (perhaps he thought he was still at Cornell), the Eagles only loss has been against Wisconsin. The Eagles also piled up wins against Texas A&M, California, and Indiana before beating an undefeated UMass team today. The Eagles don’t have a “star”, but the combination of Reggie Jackson, Joe Trapani, and Corey Raji provide them with a solid nucleus and they have a good group of role players who can contribute on any given night (like Josh Southern tonight with 16 points on 7/7 FG and 7 rebounds). Look for the Eagles to compete for a NCAA Tournament spot in the weak ACC this year.
  5. Who is in charge of scheduling?: Who is in charge of planning these big in-season match-ups? I understand that it is hard to do too much because every school has a lot of committments and there are a ton of sports, but why would you schedule Duke-Butler, a rematch of the national title game against the SEC title game? I’m not going to blame the people who “run” college basketball for scheduling against Oregon-Oregon State because nobody expected that to be for a BCS title game bid, but the SEC title game has essentially been a game that is a direct bid for the BCS title game. Even if it was scheduled on this date was scheduled well ahead of time ESPN should have been able to adjust the time to give the game the attention it deserves.
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The Week That Was: November 27 – December 3

Posted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2010

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

LeBron James’ big return to Cleveland on Thursday night got TWTW thinking if something similar could ever happen in the college hoops world. Now obviously it would be tough/impossible to create the exact same circumstances surrounding James’ seven-year tenure in Cleveland, his love affair with the city and their subsequent breakup on national TV this past summer. First we’d have to end the NCAA’s policy that forces transfer players to sit out for a year, as that would let players move freely to and from teams in a manner similar to free agency in the NBA. Then we’d have to find the right player that could possibly inspire the right amount of anger/hatred if he just so happened to “take his talents” to the wrong team.

Imagine if Hansbrough Moved to Duke...

OK, ready? Imagine if Tyler Hansbrough announced after UNC’s Final Four loss to Kansas in 2008 that he was going to transfer to Duke for his senior season. Kinda the same situation. A ringless player jumps ship in search of a possible championship. Imagine the public outcry. Imagine the reaction in Chapel Hill. Imagine Hansbrough’s first trip to the Dean Dome in a Blue Devils’ jersey.  You think Cleveland hates James? Just think about hatred felt by Tar Heel Nation if the reigning player of the year jumped ship to play for its bitter rival. Cleveland fans harbored no ill-will toward the Heat before this year, UNC fans don’t need any reason to wish bad things upon Duke and Coach K.

I don’t know if the environment in our hypothetical Dean Dome would trump the Quicken Loans Area. But it would be a memorable night… one of the most epic evenings of hoops in college basketball history.

Anyway let’s get back to reality with our third installment of TWTW.

What We Learned

  • Despite its overtime win at Virginia Tech, I don’t like what I see from Purdue. While discrediting the Boilermakers’ chops as a national player was a popular thing to do in the immediate aftermath of Robbie Hummel’s season-ending ACL tear, there was still a small group that warned people not to overlook Matt Painter’s club.  “Hey! We’ve still got E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson!” There’s no debating Moore’s and Johnson’s basketball credentials, but the problem is there’s not much firepower apart from that inside-outside duo. Against Richmond and Virginia Tech, the Boilermakers put up some pretty dreadful offensive numbers. They only made four field goals in the first half against the Spiders en route to a 16-53 shooting night (30.2%). They improved slightly against the Hokies (36.2%), but Johnson and Moore combined for 43 of Purdue’s 58 points Wednesday night. To compete in a Big Ten that’s looking more and more loaded as the season progresses, the Boilermakers are going to have to find some offensive balance.
  • Even though it boasts the best team in the country, the ACC stinks. Thank god for Duke (how many times has that sentence been written?). The Blue Devils provide some much-needed respectability to a conference that views itself as the center of the college basketball universe. This year, though, the ACC shares more in common with the Atlantic 10 than the Big East. #1 Duke is the only squad ranked in RTC’s top 25. Let’s take it a step further. If you look at the AP poll, the ACC only boasts two teams outside of Durham, N.C., that received votes. North Carolina checks in at #29 and Virginia Tech at #32. The conference lost the ACC/Big Ten Challenge by a count of 6-5. And for every positive result like Duke’s 84-79 win over Michigan State or Virginia’s upset at Minnesota, there were disasters like Georgia Tech’s 20-point thumping at Northwestern, Clemson’s home loss to Michigan and N.C. State’s 87-43 loss to Wisconsin. Could Duke possibly go 15-1 or 16-0 in conference play this season? TWTW wouldn’t bet against it.
  • Maybe all of that talk about Florida’s return to national prominence was a little bit premature. The Gators began the season expecting to battle Kentucky and Tennessee for the SEC East title because they… ummm, they… why did everyone think this team would be great, again? Billy Donovan’s bunch definitely is going through some growing pains. Since its blowout loss at home to Ohio State on November 16, Florida struggled to beat the likes of Morehead State and Florida Atlantic and then got beaten by Central Florida on Wednesday. Like Purdue, the Gators aren’t performing on the offensive end. Florida has only topped 70 points once in the past four games, and its 75.3 points per game rank 94th overall as of Wednesday night. The most troubling stat for Florida is that it ranks 93rd in the nation in assists as only three players on the Gators’ roster (Erving Walker, Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton) average more than one dime a game.

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