Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A Look Back

The biggest news this week (in the country) was Kyrie Irving’s injury.  Here’s what we know: it’s a “complicated” ligament injury that will have him out for an undetermined period of time.  Initial estimates pointed to him coming back in three to four weeks, but Mike Krzyzewski noted that he could be out all season.  I’d be surprised if Irving sat the whole season, but obviously I don’t know exactly what the injury is.  What I do know is Duke has one of the best medical staffs in the country.  Rather than speculate on the nature or duration of the injury, I’ll try and address the effect of the injury on Duke.

Kyrie Irving was Duke’s best player (so far) this season.  If you watched the close games, he totally took over for long stretches.  While he struggled a little making decisions in the halfcourt offense, Irving was phenomenal in transition.  Without Irving, Nolan Smith will be expected to step into the point guard role (a place he struggled last season).  His production will definitely take a hit, and Duke will not be as effective out in transition.  Audacity of Hoops had a very interesting statistical view of Irving’s plus-minus (expounded out to forty minutes) on the floor versus on the bench.  The sample size is small, but the point is clear: Duke is a very good team even without Irving.  Are they number one?  Probably not.  Only time will tell.  Coach K is one of the best “adapters” in the land.  For example: in 2001, he navigated Duke around Carlos Boozer’s broken foot, and Boozer came back just in time for the Big Dance (where they then won the national championship).  Regardless, Irving’s injury is huge, so I’ll keep you posted on any updates (which should be coming in the next week or two).

Team of the Week: Boston College – With a solid road win over Maryland and topping a streaking Providence, BC takes the honors this week.  The Terrapins led late in the game but couldn’t score for the last two and a half minutes.  Maryland did not score a single point down the stretch.  None.  Still, Steve Donahue and his players deserve the credit.  They took advantage of Maryland’s lack of a leader when it counted.  The Eagles have a solid team that has the talent to finish second in the ACC.  Do I think they will?  Probably not.  But Donahue is a good coach, and the players look like they have bought into his system.  The Eagles have won their last five games (losing to Wisconsin on a neutral court), and they have a very winnable nonconference schedule extending into January.

Bizarro Team of the Week – Wake Forest: I’d like to give this to Maryland for coughing up the game to Boston College.  Unfortunately, Wake Forest took note of the Maryland effort and outdid them by losing to UNC Wilmington –by 12.  Really?  UNCW.  Ken Pomeroy ranks UNCW as a solid 234th in the nation.  Defensively, they’re even worse (304th out of 345 teams).  But Wake couldn’t manage to score 70.  I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but Wake is terrible.  They’ve dug a cellar under the ACC and are camping out.  I would not be surprised if they didn’t win one game in conference play (they certainly won’t be favored in any of them).  I really hope Jeff Bzdelik gets things turned around soon (I have faith he will once he gets some of his recruits into the system).  Wake lost a lot of talent, but they’re still much more talented than UNC Wilmington, Winthrop or Stetson.  Those losses are unacceptable.

Player of the Week: Jordan Williams, Maryland – Williams is the obvious choice, but I hate giving this honor to someone who couldn’t get up a bucket in the last two minutes of a close game.  But in truth it wasn’t his fault (at least directly).  As a big man, he requires someone to get him the ball.  Long story short: that didn’t happen.  Still, I’d like to see him get a little more aggressive down the stretch.  But you can’t argue with his numbers: 23 points and 13 rebounds in 26 minutes against UNC Greensboro and 27 points and 13 rebounds against Boston College.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (10-0): Duke didn’t have any trouble with Bradley or Saint Louis this week.  Andre Dawkins looked especially good, scoring a career high 28 points against Bradley in Irving’s absence.  All that talk about the effects of Irving’s injury applies more to Duke’s national hopes than their conference aspirations.  Without Irving, Duke is still the class of the ACC.  They’ll be much more susceptible to a couple of losses, but they still have a lot of offensive weapons.
  2. Miami (FL) (7-2): Miami took care of Stetson this week.  Not a whole lot more to say.  But I encourage you to check out Miami’s game against Central Florida, the only unbeaten squad left in the Sunshine State.  The game is on Fox Sports at 1:00 PM EST Saturday.
  3. North Carolina (7-3): The Tar Heels beat Evansville decisively but weren’t ever able to put Long Beach State away.  The game never felt like Long Beach State was going to win, but Roy Williams probably wanted more separation.  However, two major pieces of good news for Tar Heels fans came out of the game: Harrison Barnes had his first double-double (19 points and ten rebounds), and Larry Drew II hit six of seven from the field to finish with 13 points and eight assists.  That’s the kind of production most expected Barnes to showcase from the start, and the Heels will be thrilled if he can keep his numbers at those levels.  As for Drew, that’s the first competent offensive performance he’s had this season (and more critical fans might suggest in his entire career).  Chapel Hill point guards aren’t known for scoring in bunches, a product of Williams’ system, but a starting point guard needs to be able to hit shots.  He had some particularly important shots late in the second half when Long Beach State was trying to mount a comeback.
  4. Boston College (8-2, 1-0): See “Team of the Week.”
  5. Florida State (7-2, 1-0): Florida State continued their painful offense, but they did get strong contributions from Deividas Dulkys (17 points), Derwin Kitchen, Bernard James and Okaro White (nine points each).  The Seminoles need to find a way to repeat that production night in and night out rather than relying on Chris Singleton for everything.  If they can score 75 every time out, they will win the majority of their games.
  6. Virginia (6-3, 1-0): Mike Scott is a player.  So far, he’s averaging 16.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.  He had an off night against Radford, but finished with ten points and 13 boards.  He’ll be crucial if Virginia wants to keep from sliding back down into the second half of the ACC (where everyone picked them in the preseason).  A lot of credit goes to Tony Bennett for getting this team ready to play and picking up a couple great wins already.
  7. Maryland (7-3, 0-1): This team can’t win close games unless someone steps up.  Sean Mosley is having an awful year (his numbers are down significantly from his sophomore season).  If I had to guess, I’d say his decreased production comes from more pressure in Greivis Vasquez’s absence.  His offensive efficiency rating has dipped from 116.6 last season to an ugly 89.0.  I think Terrell Stoglin may need to be the one to step up down the stretch.  It’s tough being a freshman leader, but someone has to do it (or at least get Jordan Williams the ball).  Otherwise, this team is going to lose a lot of close games.
  8. N.C. State (5-3): Not much to report here apart from a win over South Carolina Upstate.  Although the close loss to Syracuse is looking better after the Orange totally dismantled Michigan State this week.  Once Tracy Smith is healthy, this team could still make a run for second.  Keyword: could.  I’m totally disenchanted with Sidney Lowe’s coaching, so I don’t expect it to happen, but they should at least get to the middle of the pack.
  9. Virginia Tech (5-4, 0-1): Life is tough for Virginia Tech basketball fans.  They get built up and let down season after season.  This week’s win at home against Penn State was nice, but it’s not going to help the at-large resume a lot (Maryland beat the Nittany Lions on the road by a much more convincing margin).  The good news for Hokie fans is that Malcolm Delaney didn’t have to beat Penn State solo: three other Hokie players scored in double figures (Jeff Allen had a double-double, while Terrell Bell and Erick Green added some help).  Seth Greenberg is going to have to find a way to get that sort of production against better teams too.
  10. Georgia Tech (5-4): Georgia Tech blew a lead to in-state rival Georgia to lose a heartbreaker.  The Yellow Jackets bounced back with a win over Savannah State, who is admittedly very bad (1-10 to be exact).  This week, Paul Hewitt can add a real resume booster with a win against A-10 contender Richmond.
  11. Clemson (5-4, 0-1): Brad Brownell got off to a quick start, but they’ve dropped their last three games–most recently choking away a lead at Florida State.  Demontez Stitt is having knee troubles, but luckily for the Tigers, they have two very winnable games ahead of them in Savannah State and UNC Greensboro which they should be able to handle even if they’re without their leading scorer.
  12. Wake Forest (5-4, 0-1): Ugh.  See “Bizarro Team of the Week.”

A Look Ahead

It’s exam time, ladies and gentlemen!  That means the good games are few and far between.  There are a couple of gems coming up.  Saturday is definitely the best day:

  • Central Florida vs. Miami (1:00 PM, FSN)
  • Texas @ North Carolina (4:00 PM, CBS)
  • Georgia Tech vs. Richmond (5:00 PM)
  • Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State (8:00 PM)
  • Wake Forest @ Xavier ** (8:00 PM, CBSCS)
  • Arizona @ N.C. State (4:30 PM, FSN) on Sunday is also one to keep an eye on because Arizona’s Derrick Williams is a beast in the paint.

**OK, so that probably won’t be a great game unless Wake makes some major adjustments.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

  • The ACC looks rough early.  I think I was a little optimistic coming into the season, especially with Virginia Tech.  I definitely underrated Florida State and Maryland marginally (at least so far), but as a whole, play has been underwhelming in the early going.
  • Unfortunately, the ACC wasn’t helped when N.C. State’s Tracy Smith went down with a knee injury.  I really think Smith would have been a major factor in the Georgetown game.  State was absolutely picked apart inside, and Smith’s talent and experience would have been invaluable — especially as things started getting out of hand in the second half.  I’m not sure Smith would have been the difference, but he certainly would have helped significantly.  Smith is expected to be back in around three weeks.  The injuries don’t stop there: Virginia Tech is having major injury issues with J.T. Thompson and Allan Chaney out for the season.  Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski is out for the first couple of months recovering from knee surgery.  Wake Forest is fighting injuries to Melvin Tabb (mono), Tony Chenault (foot, 8-10 weeks) and Nikita Mescheriakov’s eligibility (not to mention anyone who has suffered through watching them play).
  • In recruiting news, the ACC had a huge signing day.  Duke looks ready to reload with three LOI’s from 5-star recruits Quinn Cook, Austin Rivers and Michael Gbinje (not to mention 4-star Marshall Plumlee).  North Carolina inked two 5-stars in James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston.  Virginia Tech also has a sneaky-good class coming in with four-star recruits Dorian Finney-Smith, Marquis Rankin and C.J. Barksdale.

Player of the Week: Chris Singleton, Florida State: Singleton has been absolutely unbelievable for the Seminoles so far.  Through four games, he’s averaging 19.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 3.8 steals per contest.  The performance that sealed the deal was his unconventional triple-double against UNC Greensboro (22 points, 11 rebounds, 10 steals, 6 assists and 4 blocks).  If he can keep his scoring up this season, the Seminoles could be a dark horse in the ACC runner-up race.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (4-0): Through four games, the Blue Devils have been incredible.  Kyrie Irving introduced himself to the college basketball world with nine assists and one turnover against Princeton.  Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have looked good, not great, but Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry can shoot.  If the Blue Devils catch fire from downtown (and with five players who could shoot 40% from beyond the arc in Singler, Smith, Curry, Dawkins and Irving, that should happen plenty) they’ll be close to unbeatable.  It’s still early, but so far the Blue Devils lead both adjusted offense and adjusted defense in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Duke’s ability to get past Marquette in the second half Monday without much from Kyle Singler speaks to their depth across the starting lineup. How will Mason Plumlee build on his big game in Kansas City?
  2. Virginia Tech (2-1): I’m leaving the Hokies here mainly out of respect for Kansas State.  The Hokies have come out flat: they rely too much on Malcolm Delaney and are easily drawn into sloppy play.  There’s a reason Seth Greenberg’s squad didn’t make the tournament last year: they weren’t that good.  I expect Virginia Tech to get better (though losing J.T. Thompson really hurts), but I expected a team that returns all five starters to be ready to go right away.
  3. Florida State (4-0): The Seminoles have a very good defense: color me not surprised.  It’ll be interesting to see how Florida State’s defense evolves as the season progresses, but they’ll get a big test next Sunday against Florida.  If the Seminoles can muster up some solid offense, they’ll be a very tough team to beat this year.  Definitely a tournament-level team, and arguably a top-25 team so far.
  4. N.C. State (3-1): Getting blown out in the second half by Georgetown wasn’t good, but it wasn’t terrible.  N.C. State is a very young team with Tracy Smith, and it’s no surprise they struggled against a veteran Georgetown team with one of the country’s best backcourts (especially if you consider Georgetown’s biggest weakness in the post).  Hopefully, for Sidney Lowe’s sake, the Wolfpack get Smith back before their showdowns with top-25 teams Wisconsin and Syracuse.  In the meantime I expect them to manhandle Fairleigh Dickinson.
  5. Clemson (4-1): The Tigers’ lone loss comes against Old Dominion (one of the top mid-majors in the country), and Clemson made a game of it, only losing by one after an ugly first half.  There’s no doubt they miss Trevor Booker, but Demontez Stitt looks like he’s ready to take on a much bigger offensive role this season.  Consistency will be the biggest question for the Tigers going forward.
  6. Maryland (3-2): I thought Maryland would be totally lost without Greivis Vasquez, but the Terps played Pitt and Illinois down to the last minute.  Gary Williams has done a great job getting this team to such a competitive level very quickly.  Unfortunately, Maryland still turns the ball over a lot, and they haven’t shown an ability to close out big games.  That said, I’m still very impressed with the showing they put up at the 2k Classic against two of the country’s top teams. The Terps would be better served to feed Jordan Williams the ball more than they have.
  7. North Carolina (2-2): This team is having some major growing pains.  Two straight losses to Minnesota and Vanderbilt are not what Tar Heel Nation was expecting out of Harrison Barnes’ debut.  Before you’re too quick to judge Barnes, remember: he’s a freshman (with colossal expectations), and the Heels do not have a legitimate point guard.  If I were Roy Williams, I’d bench Larry Drew II immediately to get some quality time in for frosh Kendall Marshall.  Marshall is the future of the program, and can he really play that much worse than Drew?
  8. Miami (2-2): Miami can deal with losing at Memphis.  And they made a very close game of it.  But getting blown out at Rutgers?  That’s totally unacceptable.  Reggie Johnson (12 points and 14 boards) was the only Hurricane in double figures.  I’m not sure where Durand Scott was, but he needs to step up his game if the Hurricanes don’t want to join the lowest tier of the conference.  Right now, I’m pegging Miami as a horrendous road team that could prove a tough out at home.  They just as easily could be a terribly inconsistent team.  Frank Haith’s seat started warming up this week.
  9. Virginia (2-2): The Cavaliers are the best of the worst this week.  While they notched wins over William and Mary and U.S.C. Upstate, they got blown out by the Pac 10 – first by Stanford, then by #11 Washington.  If it’s possible to have a bad time during a November trip to Hawaii, Virginia has found the way. They’ll try to salvage things against Oklahoma on Tuesday.
  10. Georgia Tech (3-1): 3-1 isn’t that bad, right?  Georgia Tech has looked awful so far-most notably in their blowout loss at Kennesaw State.  The most important question is what was Paul Hewitt doing playing at Kennesaw State in the first place?  What good comes out of that game?  The Yellow Jackets get a chance to prove the doubters (which should be nearly everyone at this point) partially wrong this week with a game against UTEP.
  11. Boston College (2-1): Boston College has got to stop losing to Ivy League teams.  They lost to Yale last week.  Yale isn’t even supposed to be a real competitor in the Ivy League, much less the ACC.  Steve Donahue runs a very different style than Al Skinner, and I’m not sure he or his players have totally adjusted.  It’ll take a few years to get everything optimized to his style of play, but in the meantime he should be avoiding the easy losses. To keep the bad loss from dwelling, the Eagles beat Holy Cross rather soundly.
  12. Wake Forest (2-3): Wake Forest has major issues.  So far they’ve lost to Stetson, been blown out by Virginia Commonwealth, and couldn’t keep up at Winthrop. They check in at a smooth 159th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, lowest among any of the “Power Six” conference teams, save DePaul and Auburn.  So far the Demon Deacons miss Ish Smith more than anything: currently they sport a ghastly 25.5% turnover percentage…  That means they turn it over more than once every four possessions.  If Wake can’t improve their offensive execution by conference play, the ACC will have a new conference doormat.

A Look Ahead

The non-con tournaments continue!  Duke will look to make a major statement this week at the CBE Classic in Kansas City with a big game against #4 Kansas State Tuesday. It may as well be a true road game with the Wildcats’ campus just two hours away.  Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech also participate in early-season tournaments throughout the week.  Most importantly, the Big 10-ACC Challenge is right around the corner (starting November 29).  While the Big 10 looks like a far superior conference on paper, the basketball gods were very kind in placing games (Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Duke all play at home) and somehow Wake Forest drew Iowa and Boston College drew Indiana.  Even if the ACC doesn’t win, there are a ton of great games, so make sure to get it on your calendar early.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.21.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 21st, 2010

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

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

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Third Place Game: #17 North Carolina vs. Vanderbilt — 5:30 pm on ESPN2 (***)

After losing to an upstart Minnesota team on Friday, North Carolina and Harrison Barnes are trying to avoid going 1-2 in this tournament. The star freshman couldn’t get anything to fall against the Golden Gophers as he shot a dreadful 0-12 from the floor. Vanderbilt is one of those teams that always seems to exceed expectations, mostly because of their underrated head coach Kevin Stallings. The Commodores had a strong second half against West Virginia in their last game but fell just short of a berth in the championship game of this event. John Jenkins shot it well from long range but was only 1-8 inside the arc. He figures to have more trouble penetrating and finishing against the taller UNC front court so you have to imagine he’ll play to his strength and shoot quite a few threes yet again. This should be a closer game than some might imagine, mainly because both teams are playing their third game in four days and Stallings always gets his club to fight hard even when they aren’t as talented. Vanderbilt seems to be doing a lot of work on figuring out its rotation as the minute distribution has been fairly balanced and spread out amongst many players. For UNC, Larry Drew II needs to take better care of the ball and get others more involved. His assists are down a bit to start the year but that could also be due to freshman Kendall Marshall earning some quality minutes at the point. North Carolina should win this game but it won’t be easy. Vanderbilt is going to surprise some people this year whether it’s this evening or later in the season.

Paradise Jam Semifinal: Old Dominion vs. Clemson — 6 pm on Fox College Sports (***)

Games like this, where contrasting styles go head to head, are always fun. In this case, the up-tempo Clemson Tigers meet an Old Dominion team that would like nothing more than to turn this game into a slow defensive struggle. Each team got a fairly easy draw in their first round game with Clemson knocking off Long Beach State and ODU taking care of St. Peter’s, though the Monarchs had some trouble closing them out. Blaine Taylor’s team has tall guards and wings who can really get after it on defense by using their length against smaller guards. That’s exactly what they’ll see in Clemson’s Andre Young and Demontez Stitt. Both are talented players but it’s going to be hard for them to get anything going against a stout Monarch defense that ranked tenth last year in defensive efficiency and is 20th so far this year. A great matchup should occur on the wing between each team’s leading scorer, Ben Finney for ODU and Tanner Smith for Clemson. Both are listed at 6’5/220 and have enjoyed solid starts to the season. The teams are evenly matched inside height-wise as they each have two important players that stand at 6’8. You’d have to favor Devin Booker and Jerai Grant for Clemson against ODU’s Frank Hassell and Keyon Carter. One statistic to watch is rebounding, where Old Dominion should enjoy an advantage. Clemson is definitely the more athletic team and probably the more talented one as well but we like the Monarchs to advance to the Paradise Jam finals in a close, low-scoring affair.

Charleston Classic Championship Game: #18 Georgetown vs. NC State — 7:30 pm on ESPNU (****)

NC State received some bad news late Saturday as’s Andy Katz reported that senior forward Tracy Smith will miss three weeks with a knee injury suffered on Thursday against East Carolina. The Wolfpack had no problem against a decent George Mason squad as they placed five players in double figures in a balanced effort, but Georgetown is a different animal. Smith could really have helped NC State expose a suspect Georgetown front court but now they’ll have to turn to others to make up for the loss. The most likely candidate to see his minutes and production increase is stud freshman C.J. Leslie. He scored 21 points in an opening night win over Tennessee Tech and figures to be a main contributor for Sidney Lowe this season. NC State is a very young team, even more so now without Smith in the lineup. That youth, including another freshman star Ryan Harrow, will be tested by the experienced, strong and versatile Georgetown back court trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. Clark has been a pleasant surprise for John Thompson III as he’s increased his production quite a bit from last year. Georgetown’s offense is predicated almost exclusively on the backcourt this season, a far cry from historical Georgetown teams dominated by front court strength. The Hoyas are relatively thin yet again with the three guards all logging over 30 minutes a game. Georgetown has tall players on the roster but they’re very inexperienced and rather ineffective except for Julian Vaughn and Hollis Thompson. Look for NC State to take advantage inside early even without Smith and maybe jump out to a lead, but we expect the experienced Hoya back court to assert itself down the stretch as they did against Old Dominion and pull this one out.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.15.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 15th, 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.

Monday begins an exciting week of hoops featuring a marathon of games and many big matchups later in the week. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Wofford @ Clemson – 7 pm (no TV, live stream on (***)

After a loss to Minnesota on Friday, Wofford gets another crack at a road win against a major conference team. The Gophers were able to hold Terrier star Noah Dahlman in check, limiting him to 15 points. Clemson must do the same as they’re not as talented as Minnesota. The Tigers, under the direction of first year coach Brad Brownell, are coming off an 87-64 victory over Western Carolina in their season opener also on Friday. Clemson is going to pose a significant problem for Wofford in the frontcourt. Wofford has only three players 6’8 or taller on its roster and none of them played against Minnesota. By contrast, Clemson has four guys at least that height. All contributed on Friday, led by Devin Booker’s 16/7. Brownell’s big men scored 52% of their points, while Minnesota’s front line scored 70% (48 of 69) of their points against Wofford including 43 out of 48 in the paint or from the foul line. The Terriers did a nice job limiting Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen to a combined ten points but they got absolutely destroyed up front, including on the boards (41-29 in favor of Minnesota). Coach Mike Young needs a big performance out of his junkyard dog player Tim Johnson (10/13 vs. Minnesota) if the Terriers hope to get this win. The problem for Wofford is Johnson shot 37% from the line last year so if he’s fouled it’s essentially a turnover most of the time. A solid performance out of the Clemson backcourt, led by Demontez Stitt, will only make it much more difficult for Wofford to win. The Tigers lead the all-time series (50-16) between these upstate South Carolina rivals. For Young’s team to win, he’ll need to come up with some clever defensive strategies to counter the serious height disadvantage his team faces. While it’s possible he can do that, it is unlikely Wofford can win the game given the matchups. Ken Pomeroy gives Clemson an 88% chance to win and that’s about how we see it as well.

Miami (FL) @ #20 Memphis – 12 am on ESPN (***)

Josh Pastner is a Man Down But Will Be Ready Regardless

Josh Pastner’s heralded recruiting class lost a piece on Saturday as Jelan Kendrick was kicked off the team by Pastner and his staff. While it’s certainly unfortunate for the Tigers, Memphis fans know they still have a terrific class coming in led by Will Barton and company. Barton has received all the headlines it seems but it was his brother, Antonio Barton, who stepped up in his collegiate debut and led Memphis in a romp over Centenary on Friday. Antonio had 17 points, four assists and five steals in only 23 minutes of action. Chris Crawford also had a big game, hitting every shot he took from the floor for 16 points. Memphis shot 55% overall, including 52% from behind the arc in totaling 104 points. Even more encouraging were 25 assists on 33 made field goals. The bad news? The competition gets much tougher tonight as Frank Haith’s Miami Hurricanes visit FedEx Forum in the first game of ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops marathon. Miami finished last in the ACC last year but made a nice run in the conference tournament. They have one of the better backcourt tandems in the conference in Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, who combined for 43 points and ten assists in an opening win over Jacksonville on Friday. Grant has been around, giving a verbal to Seton Hall back in 2005 then reneging and signing with Villanova. Eventually he transferred to Miami where he seems to have found a home. It’ll be interesting to see these two go up against the deep and talented (but young) Memphis backcourt. Miami has some talent up front, too. Adrian Thomas, Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble return for Haith. Johnson is an absolute brute in the paint. Standing 6’10 and checking in at 300 pounds, he somehow has the endurance to play a number of minutes (24 against Jacksonville) and still put up good numbers. These three combined for 35 points the other night and will be tough for Memphis to handle. That job falls to Will Coleman, Angel Garcia and freshman Tarik Black. We expect this to be a fairly high scoring game as both teams shot over 50% in their openers. Vegas pegs the Tigers as five and a half point favorites at home which seems a tad low given Memphis’ ranking and expectations. We do expect Miami to be in this game but Memphis is at home and should be able to take care of business.

St. John’s @ St. Mary’s – 2 am on ESPN (****)

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – South Atlantic Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2010

It’s October.  The leaves are starting to turn colors.  Halloween candy is already in the stores.  There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat.  Midnight Madness is imminent and RTC is full bore into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials.  For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC)

  • Kyrie Irving – Fr, G – Duke. To get an idea how highly touted Kyrie Irving is, consider this: coming off a season where Duke won the national title and only lost one key playmaker on offense, most people believe that the Blue Devils will run their offense through the talented freshman from New Jersey who many recruiting experts rank among the best to ever come from the state that has produced so many great college players, including Duke legends Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams. His development during his sophomore year of high school when ESPN analysts stated that he “would be a top 300 player nationally in the 2010 class” and then said a few months later “could be an impact player in the Atlantic 10 or a high-major role player” to his senior year when he was a top five recruit (#1 according to some services) and those same recruiting analysts were stating “it will be shocking if he isn’t an all-conference performer and possible all-american his freshman season” portends the potential for his development into a truly special player. Irving is one of the rare players who arrives on campus with the ability to both score and distribute the ball to his teammates. After all the talk about how Coach K had lost his edge in recruiting, Irving might be his most dynamic recruit since Williams arrived in Durham back in 1999. Despite only being on campus for a few months, his Blue Devil teammates have probably already begun to appreciate his high basketball IQ, competitiveness, and all-around ability.  Even though many will question his inclusion on our Impact Player team over his more proven teammate Nolan Smith, Irving has demonstrated a skill set in high school that goes beyond what Smith has demonstrated even with three additional years of experience under the watchful eye of Coach K. If Irving is able to make a smooth transition from the high school game to the college game (and having Singler, Smith, Seth Curry, and the Plumlees around should help), his game could make the Blue Devils heavy favorites to repeat when March arrives. With Irving’s game we don’t think it will be question of if but rather when he feels truly comfortable at the college level, so all the Duke haters should be preparing for a long season ahead.

Kyrie Irving Could be the Best Duke Guard Since J-Will

  • Malcolm Delaney – Sr, G – Virginia Tech. If you’re a Hokies fan and a Twitter fiend, back on May 8th you were probably just a little surprised but very happy that Malcolm Delaney tweeted that he was going to put off NBA riches for a year and return to school for his senior season. Nobody, however, could have been happier than Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg. We shudder to think at the number of blood pressure medications that man must be taking these days, having seemingly been the victim of more last-second heartbreakers and burst NCAA Tournament bubbles (are we allowed to refer to “the bubble” in October?) than any one man should ever be expected to endure, but the return of Delaney to Blacksburg should have lowered Greenberg’s systolic by about 20 points. It probably went back up over the summer, though, after Greenberg lost two of his forwards for the season — specifically presumptive sixth man J.T. Thompson to a left ACL tear and Allan Chaney to viral myocarditis (a condition slightly less than 0.6% of all people in America have) — and has another one in Cadarian Raines recovering from surgery in March to repair a re-fractured left foot. The importance of Delaney, then, and the impact he’ll have in this geographical region become obvious. VT will have to go small, and that means more touches for Malcolm, who we’re guessing will have no problem taking on more responsibility in terms of both scoring and rebounding, and we’re saying this about the top scorer in the ACC last season (20.2 PPG). He played an average of 35.8 MPG last year (4th ACC, 58th nationally) and we wonder if he’ll even sit at all this season. Most importantly, if the Hokies are going to attempt to return to only their second NCAA Tournament in the last 15 years (and what would be Delaney’s first), Greenberg will be counting on emotional and vocal leadership on the floor and in the locker room from Delaney, his RTC South Atlantic Impact Player and ACC Player of the Year candidate.

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20 At The Top: ACC Player Rankings

Posted by zhayes9 on July 9th, 2010

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

For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

Over the next six Fridays this summer, I’ll have the honor of taking you through the top 20 players in each major conference in college basketball. The list is a combination of many factors:  production, expectations, ceiling, skill set, statistics, efficiency, basically anything under the sun that a college basketball fan like myself obsesses over during the dog days of summer. Hopefully healthy debate is opened up in the comments section. Without further ado, here’s my ACC edition:

1) Kyle Singler, Duke — Singler will top many prognosticators’ preseason national player of the year rankings, and his decision to return for a senior campaign at Duke instantly vaulted the Blue Devils to repeat-or-bust expectations. With a more guard-oriented transition attack planned for Duke this season, Singler will only see his scoring opportunities skyrocket and he’ll be the centerpiece of what should be a ferocious offensive attack. He’s a tremendous competitor, can make shots in spurts and will have another full season at the collegiate level to adjust to the small forward position.

2) Harrison Barnes, North Carolina — Barnes seemingly has no flaws on the basketball court and has the potential to make the type of impact Evan Turner had on Ohio State during what will be Barnes’ one and only season in Chapel Hill. He’s the favorite to go #1 overall in the 2011 Draft — a silky smooth shooter with a confident mid-range game and a fantastic attitude/basketball IQ to boot. Barnes will have to deal with the unparalleled expectations of resurrecting one of the premier programs in the sport.

3) Nolan Smith, Duke — Smith has come a long way since being demoted to the bench in favor of Elliot Williams midway through his sophomore season. If anything, Smith will prove even more lethal this season playing alongside Kyrie Irving in a transition attack and Kyle Singler on the wing. He could top 40% with his three-point shooting and is also the type of poised floor leader that Coach K adores. He’s an undersized 2-guard at 6’2, but played the position last year when Jon Scheyer ran the offense and it didn’t seem to deter Duke come March.

4) Kyrie Irving, Duke — Irving is the truest and most refined point guard at his age that scouts have seen in years. The biggest Duke recruit since the Paulus/McRoberts combo entered Durham, Irving immediately has the responsibility of running the offense of the defending national champs. Blessed with innate court vision and basketball IQ, Irving can also score in bunches, thrives in transition and is especially productive in a pick-and-roll game. Think a reincarnation of Jay Williams, although Irving will only be around for one season.

5) Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech — Delaney enters the season as the hands down favorite to win the ACC scoring title. The combo guard is comfortable both slashing to the basket and shooting threes, although we’ve seen his outside shooting numbers plummet the last two seasons in Blacksburg. The main reason Delaney went off for 12 25+ point performances during his junior year is an incredible ability to get to the free throw line (32nd in nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes) where he knocks down 85% of his freebies.

6) C.J. Leslie, NC State — Leslie surprised the college basketball world when he spurned John Calipari and decided to save Sidney Lowe’s job in Raleigh. He instantly becomes the best player on an intriguing Wolfpack squad that will look to climb out of the ACC cellar. Leslie is insanely skilled and loves to run where he can show off his athleticism. The perimeter shot needs work and Leslie tends to lose focus, but Lowe reeled in a special talent with a very high ceiling.

7) Chris Singleton, Florida State — Singleton has all of the physical gifts and athletic ability to dominate and should transition to the next level as a 6’8 small forward with the wingspan to defend power forwards. As for the college game, it remains boom-or-bust for Leonard Hamilton’s most talented and most frustrating player. As a prime example, Singleton sandwiched 22 and 23 point performances with a two point showing during ACC play last season. Free throw shooting and a mid-range game also need improvement.

8) Mason Plumlee, Duke — With Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas moving on, the younger Plumlee brother should have more room to shine as the primary option in a somewhat thin Duke frontcourt. The jury’s out on whether he can match the rebounding and toughness that Zoubek provided, but the athletic spurts that Plumlee showed last season lead me to believe he can become deadly on the boards. He does have considerable development in terms of a low-post offensive game.

9) Tracy Smith, NC State — Smith flew way under the radar last season on a downtrodden NC State team, but should see more publicity this winter with an improved supporting cast. Smith scored in double figures in all but two games during his breakout junior campaign in which he averaged 17/7 as the centerpiece of any opposition’s game plan. Now aided by C.J. Leslie, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown, Smith has the chance to enter the vernacular of more casual college basketball fans.

10) Tyler Zeller, North Carolina — A near-seven footer with a smooth mid-range jumper, Zeller just needs to stay healthy for a full season to maximize his potential. Extend Zeller’s stats from last season per 35 minutes and he was a near double-double performer. Zeller and incoming frosh Barnes could create some serious matchup problems for ACC competition.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on February 9th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every week as the season progresses.

1. One team that I believe could make a run for the Final Four that people seem to be slightly ignoring is Wisconsin. The Badgers should be favored in every game the remainder of their schedule other than possibly at Minnesota or at Illinois. Remember, Wisconsin already played their six games against fellow Big Ten contenders Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State and emerged clean with a 3-3 split. Finishing the season on a 6-1 run basically guarantees the Badgers a top-three finish depending on the fortunes of those rival teams and that could put Wisconsin in the tremendous position to play their first two NCAA games in nearby Milwaukee. Bo Ryan’s team is incredibly efficient, ranking in the top-20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They’re top-40 in the nation in two-point FG%, FT%, blocks and steals and rank just below in effective FG%. The Badgers boast tremendous computer numbers- #9 RPI, #10 SOS, #53 non-conference SOS- and have three wins against the RPI top-15. Not many teams can match that overall portfolio. Throw in the committee factoring in the Jon Leuer injury, and it’s entirely plausible Wisconsin could go from being predicted ninth in the Big Ten to earning a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Throw Bo Ryan’s name in there along with Jim Boeheim, John Calipari and Steve Alford for National Coach of the Year.

Trevon Hughes has emerged as a star during his senior year

2. One team that no high-major wants to see in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is Siena. We know their recent history of winning tournament games, toppling 4-seed Vanderbilt two years ago and pulling out a 2OT classic over 8-seed Ohio State a season ago largely due to the heroics of Ronald Moore. While the Saints did blow their chances to pick up quality wins out of MAAC play- losing to Northern Iowa, Georgia Tech and Temple- Siena is inching towards the polls, boasting an unblemished 13-0 conference record and a winning streak that stretches back to mid-December. A win in Hinkle Fieldhouse against Butler on February 20 would make it an absolute certainty Siena earns a bid regardless of the MAAC Tournament, but even with a loss the Saints should run through their conference regular season and postseason at 21-0 and garner a seed in the 9-11 range. Other than Kenny Hansbrouck, head coach Fran McCaffrey has nearly his entire squad returning from that Ohio State victory. Moore is averaging an incredible 8.1 APG to lead the nation while Edwin Ubiles appears to be inching towards 100% after a banged-up start to the campaign. Ryan Rossiter has developed into a legitimate low-post threat and effective rebounder and fellow frontcourt mate Alex Franklin is one of the most efficient scorers around. There’s plenty to like with regards to Siena’s chances to pulling off another first round upset: top-50 efficient offense, tremendous coaching, four double-digit scorers and, most notably, the experience of success in March.

3. There are a few reasons why the Atlantic 10 has earned an astonishing six bids in Monday’s bracket: 1) the Pac-10 turning into a one-bid league, 2) Big Ten teams like Michigan and Minnesota disappointing and 3) a mediocre middle of the Big East. Most of all, though, the league is just really good. The top-flight teams all challenged themselves out-of-conference and picked up impressive wins to show for it, from Temple knocking off Villanova, to Richmond downing Missouri and Florida, Rhode Island beating Oklahoma State and Charlotte dominating Louisville in Freedom Hall. With the exception of Rhode Island, all of the other five bid-earners have a win over the RPI top 25, and the Rams have the highest overall RPI of the bunch mostly because they played the 28th strongest non-conference schedule in the nation. Dayton could be the team closest to the bubble; if they had fallen to Xavier at home on Saturday, the Flyers likely would have been on the outside looking in this week. Still, Dayton did beat Georgia Tech in November and if they can split their two challenging road games at Temple and at Richmond in February, Brian Gregory’s team should be in decent shape. I’d fathom that Charlotte is still the most likely team to fall out even if they currently sit at the top of the standings. They barely edged George Washington and Fordham on the road this week and still have four games against these NCAA contenders, including roadies at Dayton and URI.

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ATB: UConn Remains Relevant and Other Assorted Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2010

This Weekend’s Big Games.  This wasn’t an exceptional weekend of games, but there were three that, at least on paper, held significant hope.  Two of the three turned out pretty well, but the third was a disappointment.  Let’s see if you can figure out which.

Good to See Ya Back, UConn...

  • #22 Connecticut 88, #1 Texas 74.  If you haven’t beaten a ranked team all year long, then what better place to start than to take out the team on top.  True, Texas was a lame-duck #1, having lost to Kansas State earlier in the week, but let’s not quibble.  For the Huskies, this wasn’t exactly a great time for a possible NCAA Tournament top seed to show up in town; so far this year, UConn had underachieved their way to an anemic 12-6, dropped three of their last four, fallen out of the AP Top 25, and their coach — a man known for his toughness as much as his two titles — was going to miss his second straight game because his doctors told him to get away from basketball for a while.  It’s not a matter of talent on the team, that’s never been questioned.  It just hasn’t been there for UConn; they’ve shown nothing close to the confidence and will to win that they’ve possessed for so long.  Sure, Texas had lost on Monday and was probably going to lose the top spot in the polls, but they were still a potential #1 seed come March, and the K-State loss wasn’t exactly a shocker.  After a half, this looked exactly like the game everyone expected.  Connecticut was listless and turnover-prone.  Texas looked like so many fine teams coming off a loss — angry, and wanting someone to pay.  The Huskies were down 42-34 at the break and showed no signs of a likely second-half charge.  And then — they found something.  Hard to say what it could have been — did they suddenly realize how talented they were?  Did they rally around a “Let’s do it for Coach Calhoun!” mentality?  If you’re a Connecticut fan, do you even care?  Because a different Connecticut team came out of the locker room.  Suddenly, you saw UConn players getting down in defensive stances instead of standing straight up.  They seemed three times as quick and hundred times as interested as their first half doppelgangers.  Like it so often is, defense was the trigger.  Runs of 13-0 and 9-0 paced the Huskies to a second half that saw them outscore the ‘Horns by 22, shut down Dexter Pittman, and frustrate Texas into a game total of 30 fouls.  The offense flowed through Jerome Dyson, whose 32 points (on 12-32 shooting) often came courtesy of Kemba Walker’s 10 assists (not that his 19 points and six steals didn’t help) on possessions started by one of Stanley Robinson’s (17/12) 12 rebounds.  For Texas, Damion James’ 23/7 and Avery Bradley’s 15 points simply couldn’t match whatever transfused into Connecticut at halftime.  Lots of questions, now, mostly on the UConn side.  We know Texas hasn’t peaked already, but what of Connecticut?  Can they continue to summon whatever it was that visited them at halftime of this game?  If they can, the Big East just got even more interesting than it was 48 hours ago.
  • #6 Duke 60, #16 Clemson 47.  This was what you call a defensive lockdown by the Devils.  Taking a page from the way they played Gonzaga earlier this season, Duke allowed do-it-all Clemson forward Trevor Booker to go to work (22/6), but other than Demontez Stitt’s 10-point effort, the rest of the Clemson starters had a grand total of one field goal.  The openings just weren’t there, and with no three-point shooters on the court to help instigate a prolonged run, the Tigers couldn’t get enough consecutive buckets to ever threaten Duke in the second half.  Nolan Smith (22/3) continues to play impressive basketball, as he shot 8-13 yesterday and is showing an aura of confidence that well suits a player shooting lights-out this season (49% FG, 51% 3FG).  It was his nine points during an 11-2 Duke run early in the second half that broke open the game and quieted the combustible Littlejohn faithful.  If you want to know one reason of many that Duke is playing so well this year, look no further than how well the Duke backcourt holds onto the ball.  The trio of Jon Scheyer, Andre Dawkins and Smith all rank among the top 315 players in the country in turnover percentage, with each turning it over less than 15% of the time.  As an example of this, Duke had twelve TOs yesterday in a hostile road environment against a team in Clemson that ranks in the top in forcing them — the Duke backcourt only had three.  We still have concerns about the Duke players wearing down over the course of the season, as both Kyle Singler and Scheyer played the full forty minutes and Smith logged thirty-seven.  But for now, Duke has avoided the injury bug and Coach K is very good at providing his players spot rest during games when needed.  As for Clemson, it’s back to the drawing board for Oliver Purnell’s team.  The Tigers are going to have to figure out how to find more offense beyond the consistently good play of Trevor Booker and the occasional good night from Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: Wednesday 1.13.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on January 13th, 2010

There are some REALLY good games on tonight and many of them will be somewhere on the tube, so we figured tonight we’d step up with a special edition of our weekend live-blogging feature.  To start off, we’ll be checking on Boston College at Duke (ESPN), Pittsburgh at Connecticut (ESPN2), and Cincinnati at St. John’s (ESPN-U), and we’ll branch out to other networks as well throughout the night.  We want to know what you’re watching, as well.  Keep hitting that refresh button and we’ll see you in the comments section.  It’ll all start off momentarily…

7:03 pm ET: Wow, where to start?  This is a ridiculous night of hoops.  SO many games on, which is why we’re here.  The first thing I notice is the wardrobe symmetry between play-by-play man Rece Davis (?!?) and Bobby Knight.  Both in the v-neck sweaters.  Is it good when Bobby Knight is influencing your wardrobe choices?  I guess Rece can make it work.

7:07: Yeesh.  Not exactly a good trip for Nolan Smith.  A missed dunk and then a missed 10-foot jumper from almost behind the backboard.  Meanwhile, over on the Big Ten Network, Minnesota is keeping up with Michigan State early; MSU has a 24-21 lead at the under-4 TVTO.  I’m especially fired up for this UConn-Pitt game.  Can Pitt continue this ascent after being basically forgotten about in the early part of this season?  Up on the Huskies early in Storrs…

7:20: UConn looks like a YMCA club team.  They’re straight up on defense, if you can call it that.  At this point they seem severely uninterested.  Pitt has guys moving on offense without the ball, talking on defense, etc.  That’s how you build an early ten point lead on a team in their own house.

7:23: Maybe that Jerome Dyson dunk will get UConn going.  UConn’s strategy is obvious, and that’s to run Pitt into the ground.  UConn scored on four straight possessions so it looks like they’ve finally shown up mentally.  But what’s this?  Interesting score…South Florida up at home on West Virginia 23-12 over on ESPN 360 with about 7:00 left in the first.  Virginia has an early lead on Georgia Tech and BC just got a NICE dunk by Reggie Jackson to go up one on Duke.

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ATB: Big Ten Victorious on Comeback Wednesday

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2009


Wisconsin: First RTC of the Season? If anyone knows of another one, let us know.  But this is the first one we’ve seen this year.  But c’mon Musberger, get it right!  RUSH.  THE.  COURT.  (Ed. note – apparently UNLV fans RTC’d on Saturday after defeating Louisville, which is about as unjustified of an RTC as we’ve ever heard of… goodness gracious, folks, it’s Vegas.  And beating an overrated Louisville team excites you?)

Story of the NightBig Ten Finally Gets Monkey Off Its Back.  It didn’t turn out the way we thought it would tonight, but it did end up as a 6-5 victory for the Big Ten schools over their ACC counterparts.  Two unexpected events conspired to make this possible — Illinois’ inspirational comeback win at Clemson after being down by as many as 23 points in the second half, and Wisconsin’s home victory over Duke in the type of game the Blue Devils always seem to win (because, well, they do — Duke was 10-0 in the ACC/B10 Challenge prior to tonight).  These two surprises combined with Ohio State’s expected win over Florida State at the end of the evening resulted in three straight victories at the end of the Challenge to put the midwesterners on top for the first time EVER.  So what does that mean?  Does it prove once and for all that the Big Ten is better than the ACC this year?  Well, not at all.  In fact, if anything, this year’s Challenge has shown us that the middle of the ACC might be a tad bit stronger than we thought it was (Wake, Miami, BC, Clemson).  Now… about our predictions for tonight.  Regression to the mean is the lesson here.  After a perfect 6-0 start over the first two evenings of play, it all crashed and burned with a 1-4 record tonight.  But yeah, at least we called it, baby!  That’s all that matters!  6-5 Big Ten over the ACC, just like we said!*

*note – our Caribbean friends disagree with this assessment.

Game of the Night #1. Wisconsin 73, #5 Duke 69. Duke took its first ever loss in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tonight for two reasons as we saw them.  First, their big men other than Kyle Singler (28/6/3 assts) were virtually nonexistent.  Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers combined for just six points and fourteen rebounds.  Compare that with 16/27 against UConn last week, and you’ll see that almost all of the scoring burden fell onto the Duke backcourt + Singler.  Second, Wisconsin’s Trevon Hughes was spectacular tonight.  The senior guard shredded the Duke defense for a career-high 26 pts, using an assortment of drives to the basket to go along with a solid outside stroke (4-7 threes).  After taking an 11-pt lead with five minutes to go, though, Duke guard Andre Dawkins nearly brought the Devils back all by himself, hitting three straight triples to cut the lead down to 2 with two minutes left.  It appeared that this was going to be one of those epic Duke comeback wins, but UW ran clock down the stretch (surprise) and when Singler missed a wild layup attempt off the bottom of the backboard with under thirty seconds left, it was clear the Badgers were going to take the win tonight.  One odd situation occurred in the very last few plays, when color commentator Bob Knight seemed to lose his mind for a moment as he stated that Wisconsin was “for sure” at worst going to overtime after only going up two with 4.9 seconds left (he clearly thought they were up three), and then contemplated whether Trevon Hughes should intentionally miss his second FT (again, thinking up three).  What’s that phrase coaches like to use?  Time and score? Can you imagine if one of Knight’s players had made a similar mistake at such a key juncture?  Maybe now we know why Texas Tech wasn’t nearly as good as Knight’s Indiana teams — he wasn’t paying attention!

Game of the Night #2Illinois 76, #19 Clemson 74. What can you say about Bruce Weber’s young backcourt of Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson tonight other than we’re extremely impressed.  There is absolutely no way that Clemson should have lost this game.  The Tigers ran out to a 20-pt halftime lead, pushed it up to 23 early in the second half, and had Littlejohn rocking.  But Weber’s kids dug deep, showed the kind of composure that belies their age, and dropped a combined five threes in the next ten minutes of a 35-10 run that got the Illini back into the game and ultimately allowed them an opportunity to steal this one away from Clemson and the ACC.  The Clemson players suggested that they relaxed after getting such a big lead, and from our viewpoint, there’s probably something to that.  It certainly appeared that Illinois was the team with the drive and moxie throughout most of the second half, and when it came down to Demontez Stitt’s driving layup attempt at the buzzer, we just had a feeling that it wasn’t going down.  It didn’t, and Illinois has a rallying cry for the rest of this season no matter how badly they’re playing.  Mike Davis had 22/9 for the Illini, but as mentioned above, it was the youthful backcourt of Paul and Richardson (34/8/5 assts) that made tonight happen.

Game of the Night #3.  #21 UNLV 74, Arizona 72 (2OT).  The Runnin’ Rebels justified their shiny new Top 25 ranking by taking to the road for the first time this season, heading down to Arizona, and knocking off the Wildcats in double-overtime.  Despite poor overall shooting from both teams (UNLV 39.7%, UA 36.5%; both teams less than 20% from three!) this one was neck-and-neck from the tip, as neither team ever led by more than six points the whole way.  Arizona got up three in the second OT but UNLV’s Derrick Jasper (12/7/5/3 stls) hit one from deep to tie it at 70, and the Wildcats never led after that.  Tre’Von Willis continued to carve his name out on the national scene with 25/4 for the Rebs, and Arizona got a huge game from freshman forward Derrick Williams with 28/5 on 10-15 shooting.  This kind of win in such a difficult and hostile setting can only help Lon Kruger’s club, which has a few easy ones coming up except for a home game against Kansas State thrown in there on 12/12.  If they can get by those Wildcats, there’s a very good chance UNLV will be 12-0 going into a pair of tough road games in early January at BYU and at (currently undefeated) New Mexico. 

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