ATB: Maryland Becomes Everyone’s NCAA Sleeper Team

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2010

Large Wednesday.  It was a big-time night of games, the kind of evening that has you checking the clock all day long in nervous anticipation.  Most of the games ended in predictable fashion, but that didn’t make them any less interesting.  To get this out of the way, ranked teams #3 Kentucky, #6 Purdue, #10 New Mexico, #13 Tennessee, #15 BYU, #16 Temple, #17 Wisconsin and #24 Texas A&M all won, most easily.  UNM won the Mountain West title outright, and Kentucky grabbed at least a share of the SEC title tonight.  We’ll focus on the biggest games, the key games of bubbular interest, and the conference tourneys in this space tonight, though.

  • #2 Kansas 82, #5 Kansas State 65. ESPN got lucky that this game was only interesting for about thirty minutes tonight.  At the 15:39 mark of the second half, K-State’s Luis Colon hit a layup to pull the Wildcats back within one point, and we thought this battle between Big 12 stalwarts was destined to go down to the wire in Lawrence.  We were wrong.  Kansas seemingly awakened from its halftime slumber and went on a quick 9-0 run to open its lead back up to double digits.  KSU made one more push to get it back to six, but the Jayhawks used a 13-1 run to put the game away for the 59th consecutive time in Allen Fieldhouse.  The Kansas defense, virtually nonexistent in their loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday, was back in action here, holding their in-state rival to 40% shooting and limiting the opponents not named Denis Clemente or Jacob Pullen to a mere 24 points.  The old barn was rocking as Kansas won the Big 12 regular season outright and likely wrapped up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as well, but we’re not completely certain because we could hardly see the action on our ESPN360 feed.  KU walks into a trap game at Missouri on Saturday, while K-State should still finish second in the league with a win over Iowa State this weekend.

Sherron Collins: Winningest Player in KU History (KC Star/R. Sugg)

  • #23 Maryland 79, #4 Duke 72.  The better big game of the night took place in College Park, as Maryland outlasted Duke in a back-and-forth contest that resulted in the Terps tying the rival Blue Devils at the top of the ACC standings with one game remaining.  Ultimately, it was Gary Williams’ team, led by the animated and spectacular Greivis Vasquez (20/4/5 assts), who broke a 69-all tie with two minutes to go and ended the game on a 10-3 closing run.  In particular, it was Vasquez’s running, fading, only-the-kind-of-shot-he-would-take-and-make jumper that gave Maryland a four-point lead with 39 seconds left and forced Duke to start fouling soon thereafter.  We really shouldn’t read too much into one result in a rivalry game, so we won’t, but one thing is very clear in that Maryland has been playing the better part of two months much, much better than their ranking might 0therwise indicate.  Since the new year turned, the Terps have only lost at Wake (when WFU was playing well), Clemson and Duke.  That’s it.  Pollsters have been holding four nonconference losses against them, but if Maryland isn’t a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament, then we haven’t seen one.  As for the regular season title, the Terps will play in a trap game at Virginia this weekend, while Duke will actually have the easier home game against rival UNC.  If both win (or lose), then Duke will win the top seed in the ACC Tournament, but suffice it just to say that these two are clearly the best two teams in the ACC.  Now, about that RTC, Terp fans…  we love the quick, full coverage of the court, and we know it’s been a few years since you last beat Duke, but, what if you’re the better team?

Huge Bubble Games.

  • Notre Dame 58, Connecticut 50. There’s absolutely no question that the Irish are playing better without all-american Luke Harangody than they were with him.  Notre Dame won its third straight game over a solid team to put themselves squarely back into the NCAA picture, but with an RPI in the 60s, a win over Marquette this weekend and another in the Big East Tourney are needed.  The Ls keep piling up for UConn (13 now), but how long can you hide behind the excuse of a tough schedule and some big wins before you cut them out of the picture?
  • Florida State 51, Wake Forest 47.  Wake is busily playing itself from a projected #4 seed to outside the field in a short span of two weeks with the Deacs’ fourth straight loss tonight.  Al-Farouq Aminu had a ridiculous zero-point, five-foul performance in the loss, and with a game versus surging Clemson on Sunday, Wake could be staring at five Ls in a row to end the regular season.
  • Memphis 70, UAB 65.  In a battle of CUSA bubble teams, Memphis was able to get a big win while also wrapping up the #2 seed in next week’s Conference USA Tournament in Tulsa.  In most mock brackets, UAB is the second team out of this conference, but now Memphis has swept the season series between the two.  It will be interesting if they meet again in Tulsa with Memphis taking a third game as well.

Helped/Hurt Themselves.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.23.10

Posted by THager on February 23rd, 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 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#13 Georgetown @ Louisville – 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

For how large the gap is between their rankings, Georgetown is not that much better of a team than Louisville.  Georgetown is still aiming for a #3 seed in the Tournament, while Louisville still has some work to do.  However, Louisville is a game ahead of the Hoyas in the Big East standings, and with a victory tonight they will have more wins on the year than Georgetown.  UL has all the momentum, as they are coming off of three straight conference wins and the Hoyas have not won since February 9.  Louisville’s main concern will be guarding the Hoyas, as the Cardinals’ #80-ranked defense will be going up against a Georgetown team that shoots 50% from the floor as a team.  They Hoyas are trying to rebound from a rough performance against Syracuse in which they missed 40 shots and Julian Vaughn was held scoreless.  The Cardinals have a solid offense as well, ranking ninth in offensive efficiency, but they are going to need more help from players other than Samardo Samuels and Edgar SosaJerry Smith is their third leading scorer, but he hasn’t scored more than seven points in a game since February 6.  The Hoyas have lost two straight games, but their second half performance against Syracuse may indicate that they have come out of their slump, and they should get back on track tonight.

#6 Kansas State @ Texas Tech – 8 pm on ESPN360 (**)

The Wildcats have quietly been working towards a potential #2 seed the last few weeks, winning their last five games against the bottom of the Big 12.  Texas Tech, who has lost three straight games to most likely kill their at-large tournament hopes, is now among the worst teams in the conference.  Had the Red Raiders pulled out their recent games against Oklahoma State and Texas, they would have looked like a much more formidable opponent at 18-8, so this game won’t likely be a blowout.  Nevertheless, the Red Raiders are going to have to step up their defense if they want to keep this game close.  Their defense, which ranks #97 in efficiency, has allowed their last four opponents to shoot over 40% from the field, including a road game against Baylor in which they allowed the Bears to make 55% of their shots.  Kansas State, led by Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente, features four legitimate scorers and ranks in the top 10 in offensive efficiency, so they will likely capitalize on any defensive miscues that Texas Tech makes.  Although the Red Raiders don’t have the best offense by any stretch, they shoot almost 39% from the three-point line, and can at least keep the game within reach if they hit their shots.  Against Baylor, they made 8 of their 13 three-pointers, so this game may largely hinge on their three-point shooting.  KSU has a solid defense, and given that Texas Tech dropped their last two home games, I don’t think the home crowd will play much of a factor tonight.

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What You Missed While Watching College Football…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 8th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist plus author of the weekly Ten Tuesday Scribbles and Bubble Watch columns.

With college football crowning another faux-national champion Thursday night in Pasadena, the college sports scene can officially shift its axis to basketball. While a number of college basketball diehards such as yours truly were knee-deep in mid-major box scores and enthralling non-conference tournaments since the season tipped off in mid-November, it’s perfectly understandable for our college football-fan brethren out there to have been entranced in the gridiron scene during this time. For many folks out there, college basketball truly begins when a football champion is crowned and conference play heats up, when Rece and the gang show up on our TVs every Saturday morning at 11 AM and the bubble begins to take its early shape. For those people, you sure missed plenty of exciting hoops action. To get you caught up in what has gone down thus far on the hardwood, here’s a summary for your enjoyment, divvied up into the six major conferences and all the rest:

ACC

What we’ve learned: There was much back-and-forth debate entering this season whether Duke or North Carolina represented the class of this conference. After two solid months of play, it’s fairly evident Duke has separated themselves from their bitter rival as the class of the ACC. While the Tar Heels may top Duke skill-wise up front, Carolina simply does not boast the backcourt to even contend with the Dukies’ tandem of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. The primary knock on Duke heading into this season was point guard play with Elliot Williams transferring to Memphis. As a true sharp-shooting 2-guard who creates his shots coming off screens in Redick-like fashion, could Scheyer handle the responsibility of running the Duke offense? The answer has been resounding in the affirmative: 19.7 PPG, 46% FG, 92% FT, 43% 3pt and an otherworldly 4.8 A/TO ratio that currently leads the nation. Another key to Duke’s early season success has been Coach K’s willingness to adjust his defense to fit his roster. Rather than employing the normal Duke on-ball pressure attack, Krzyzewski is utilizing more of a sagging defense that plays into the frontcourt depth Duke enjoys with six players that receive time at 6’8 or taller.

Scheyer Has His Devils Looking Great This Season

What’s still to be determined: After Duke and Carolina (and let’s not go overboard following the Heels loss to Charleston, they’re still clearly the second best team in this conference), who will emerge as the third contender behind the top two dogs? An ever-shifting proposition, the current edge probably goes to Florida State despite their utter lack of point guard play. The Seminoles are one of the tallest teams in the nation and have a few capable long-range shooters that get open looks when defenses collapse on Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton. Plus, they’re off to a head start with a December win at ACC foe Georgia Tech. Plenty of folks think Clemson could be that team behind powerful big man Trevor Booker, but they lack a second scoring option and I can’t stop thinking back to their collapse at home to an inexperienced Illinois squad. It would be unwise to count out Gary Williams, and the jury’s still out on Virginia Tech and Miami due to their soft schedules, so I’ll give the current edge to Wake Forest as that third team. The road win at Gonzaga’s on-campus arena stands out, Ish Smith has turned into a fine point guard and Al-Farouq Aminu has as much pure talent as anyone in this conference.

NCAA Locks: Duke, North Carolina.

Likely bids: Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest.

Bubble teams: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech.

Make other plans for March: Boston College, North Carolina State, Virginia.

Big East

What we’ve learned: The NCAA picture is shaping up quite similarly to last season when Louisville (regular season champion), Pittsburgh and Connecticut all received #1 seeds. There will be much back-and-forth debate about whether the top three teams this season — Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova -- holds the edge in this conference, but does it really matter? Right now you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and Purdue are the likely #1 seeds (of course plenty could change, we have two months of games left), while those top contenders in the Big East are likely all on the second seed line. Even of greater importance though is the obvious revelation that Jamie Dixon can coach basketball. You wouldn’t be alone if you counted out Pittsburgh following a near-loss to Wofford, a 47-point output at home vs. New Hampshire and a second half butt-kicking at the hands of Indiana, but those losses came without their most athletic player, Gilbert Brown, and their best defender, Jermaine Dixon. Those two have returned to action with the most improved Big East player Ashton Gibbs (who recently broke the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made) as a fearsome trio that has carried the Panthers to road wins over previously-undefeated Syracuse and fringe-top 25 Cincinnati. If Dixon is able to coax his Panthers into a NCAA Tournament team after losing such enormous production and leadership in Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields, there is little debate on his merits as National Coach of the Year.

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Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by jstevrtc on December 17th, 2009

checkinginon

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference.

Standings (as of 12/16):

  1. New Mexico 11-0
  2. UNLV 8-1
  3. BYU 8-1
  4. San Diego State 8-2
  5. Colorado State 7-3
  6. Air Force 5-3
  7. TCU 5-5
  8. Utah 5-5
  9. Wyoming 5-5

Superlatives:

Team of the Week.  New Mexico – As the lone remaining undefeated team in the Mountain West, this one is a no-brainer.  The Lobos combined a hard-fought semi-neutral site win over Texas A&M in Houston with an absolute blowout of Northern Arizona yesterday to improve their record to 11-0, and, especially against Northern Arizona, were the epitome of a team, with all ten of the players who got minutes scoring, and eight players scoring more than eight points.

Player of the Week.  Roman Martinez, Sr, New Mexico – It’s a clean sweep for New Mexico at this point, with Darington Hobson taking home the first two POTWs and Roman Martinez grabbing the last two.  Martinez wins the award this week by averaging 19.5 PPG and knocking down eight more three-pointers, to bring his season total to 40 while shooting 55% from behind the arc.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on December 17th, 2009

checkinginon

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

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas (9-0)- The Jayhawks dominated Radford and La Salle at home this last week, but now the schedule gets much harder.  A Michigan team that is in need of a big win will visit Lawrence on Saturday.
  2. Texas (9-0)- The Longhorns blow out every team they play, probably because they have such an easy schedule, but also because Damion James is averaging a double-double. The matchup between the frontcourts of Texas and North Carolina may provide us with the most evenly matched game of the season, between two final four contenders.
  3. Kansas State (9-1)- Sorry Red Raiders fans, but I have to give the three-spot to the Wildcats despite TTU being the only other team in the conference outside Texas and Kansas that is undefeated. In my opinion, a road win against UNLV is better than a home win over Washington.
  4. Texas Tech (9-0)- John Roberson put the team on his back against TCU after being down five at halftime. Roberson played all 40 minutes and finished with 21 points on 7-11 from the field.
  5. Texas A&M (8-2)- Losing to New Mexico is nothing to be ashamed of; the Lobos can play with anyone in the power conferences.  The Aggies need to look at their game against Washington on December 22nd to get their name back in the national spotlight.
  6. Oklahoma State (9-1)- James Anderson is continuing his great play, and if Marshall Moses keeps averaging a double-double, Oklahoma State will be a hard team to beat in this conference.
  7. Oklahoma (7-3)- The Sooners have a good streak going, and they should have two more wins before they play on the road against Gonzaga.
  8. Baylor (8-1)- The Bears were off last week, but they’re win over Xavier looks a lot better after Xavier beat Cincinnati.
  9. Iowa State (7-3)- Beating their in-state rivals should get this team back on track.  The Cyclones have a lot of talent, they just need everyone to play well at the same time.
  10. Missouri (6-3)- Losing to Oral Roberts?  That’s a sign of a team that is in rebuilding mode.
  11. Nebraska (7-2)- A very ugly win over Oregon State, but it was a win nonetheless.
  12. Colorado (6-4)- Losing against Colorado State, a team that has been dwelling in the basement of the MWC the last few seasons, won’t get anyone in Boulder excited about basketball.

Team of the Week:  Kansas State WildcatsJacob Pullen had a huge night against UNLV (28 points, and 7-10 from behind the arc), which helped lead the Wildcats to their second big win of the week.  Denis Clemente and Pullen can lead this team to a deep run in the NCAA tournament when all other parts of the team are running smoothly.

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ATB: Don’t You EVER Give Up…

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2009

atb

Jimmy V Classic.  As someone whose family and loved ones have been seriously impacted by cancer, this is always one of our favorite events of the season.  We vividly remember the night at the ESPYs in March 1993 when Jim Valvano gave his inspirational speech, and even sixteen years later, it continues to stand the test of time.  “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” became a mantra for people of our generation, and the positive effects that the Jimmy V Foundation has produced over the years gives Valvano a lasting legacy that many of his fellow coaches, many of whom were more successful at coaching basketball, will never know.  As long as this site exists, we’ll do this every year, and we’ll do it for the Green Bay Packers, Coach!

And now, on to the games…  RTC Live was in the building.

  • #13 Georgetown 72, #20 Butler 65.  Georgetown got 25 points and 14 rebounds from Greg Monroe as the Hoyas dominated Butler on the inside, outrebounding the Bulldogs 43-30. Perhaps Monroe’s biggest impact came on the defensive end, as he helped force Matt Howard into one of the worst games  of his career as he finished 1-9 from the floor while looking intimidated in the post before fouling out. Georgetown jumped out to a 52-35 second-half lead, which Butler couldn’t bounce back from. Austin Freeman was 4-5 from deep in adding 18 points for the Hoyas, who picked up a must-needed statement win. Butler, who got 24 and 8 boards from Gordon Hayward, is not the top 10 team that many predicted they would be during the preseason right now, but this is still an impressive win nonetheless. For Butler to be in position to earn an at-large bid should it come to that, they are now probably going to have to beat both Ohio State and Xavier in coming weeks.
  • Indiana 74, Pittsburgh 64.  Indiana picked up their first relevant win over a BCS team (beating Iowa last year doesn’t count) in the Tom Crean era as they thoroughly outplayed Pitt in MSG tonight. Indiana go 20 from Verdell Jones and 18 from Christian Watford as they finally broke through for a good win after losing three heartbreakers this season. The Hoosiers are going to be a dangerous team, as they do have some talented youngsters (we didn’t even get a good feel for Maurice Creek tonight), but IU may still be a year away from really being able to compete and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Pitt, on the other hand, didn’t look like Pitt. They struggled defensively, they were beat up inside, and they settled for tough, deep jumpers. If Ashton Gibbs hadn’t been hitting from three (he had 25 on 8-25 shooting, 5-15 from three), this one could have been ugly (although, uglier than being down 17 to Indiana in this stage of their rebuild is tough to do).

Not an Upset of the Night Illinois 79, #24 Vanderbilt 68. Yes, Vandy was the ranked team, but Illinois was ranked as recently as last week and these teams are roughly even in our eyes.  A very nice intersectional matchup nonetheless.  The Illini shot a lights-out 59% from the field and ran out to a 9-0 early lead that put Vandy behind the eight-ball from the beginning.  Illinois guard Demetri McCamey lit up the Commodore defense for 8-10 from the field and 23/5 assts, while DJ Richardson added 16/3/3 assts in the win.  The Illinois defense has been somewhat maligned thus far this season, but they did a good job tonight of limiting AJ Ogilvy’s (8/3) touches and forced Jermaine Beal into a 4-14 shooting night.

Some Mid-Major Revenge (Some Not).  There were a few good opportunities for mid-majors to take down BCS teams tonight, and the little guys got a split this evening among the four games up for grabs.

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Checking In On… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

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

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas (5-0) — After five games freshman Xavier Henry is leading the Jayhawks in scoring.
  2. Texas (5-0) — Won the CBE Classic in dominating fashion with wins over Iowa and Pitt.
  3. Kansas State (5-1) — The Wildcats are getting solid production from guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente.
  4. Texas A&M (5-1) — The Aggies went 2-1 at the 76 Classic, and the only loss was to #8 West Virginia.
  5. Oklahoma State (6-0)James Anderson is still playing great and helped lead the Cowboys to a win over Utah.
  6. Missouri (4-1) — The Tigers could not find any offense against Richmond in the final of the South Padre Invitational.
  7. Iowa State (6-1) — Losing to Northwestern will hurt this team’s resume in March, but I still believe Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap could lead the Cyclones to a good finish in the Big 12.
  8. Texas Tech (7-0) — We will learn a lot about the Red Raiders on Thursday night when they play host to the Washington Huskies.
  9. Oklahoma (3-3) — The Sooners finally stopped their losing streak with a win over Nicholls State, but so far OU has done nothing impressive this season.
  10. Baylor (6-1) — Finishing 5th in the Old Spice Classic is a good sign for Bears fans.
  11. Colorado (4-2) — The Buffaloes played Gonzaga and Arizona to the wire, but still only came away from Maui with a win over D2 opponent Chaminade.
  12. Nebraska (4-1) — Defeated USC in the first game of the Pac 10/ Big 12 Hardwood Series.

Team of the Week:  Texas A&M Aggies – TAMU defeated two ranked opponents en route to a third place finish in the 76 Classic, and they did it without much production from leading scorer Donald Sloan.

Player of the Week:  Cory Higgins (G), Colorado — Higgins only scored 6 points in a dominating win over Chaminade, but in big games against Gonzaga and Arizona, the guard scored 19 and 28, respectively.

Top Stories:

  • Pac 10/ Big 12 Hardwood Series Tips Off.  With Nebraska defeating USC in the first game, the Big 12 has taken an early 1-0 lead.  The series is in its third year and in the previous two seasons the conferences split the series 6-6.
  • Four Teams Suffer First Loss.  In this past week, previously undefeated teams lost their first game:  Baylor lost to Alabama, Iowa State lost to Northwestern, Missouri lost to Richmond, and Texas A&M fell to West Virginia.

Games to Watch This Week:

  • Missouri (4-1) at Vanderbilt (4-1), 12/2 — Mizzou tries to bounce back on the road against one of the SEC’s best teams.
  • Oklahoma State (6-0) at Tulsa (5-1), 12/2 — Upset Alert:  Tulsa has one of the best players that you’ve never heard of in center Jerome Jordan.  OSU is going to have trouble trying to contain him.
  • Pac 10/ Big 12 Hardwood Series -- The best games this week:  Baylor at Arizona State and Washington at Texas Tech on 12/3, Iowa State at California on 12/5, Arizona at Oklahoma on 12/6
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2009-10 Conference Primers: #4 – Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2009

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

Predicted Order of Finish:

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

All Conference Team:

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

6th Man. James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State

Impact Newcomer. Xavier Henry (G), Kansas

big 12 logoWhat You Need to Know.

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

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Lower Midwest Region

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South and Mid-South) are located here.

It’s time for the sixth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of rust belt and farming states that we like to call the Lower Midwest.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower_midwest

Ed. Note: for the purposes of our analysis in this region, Butler was considered a high-major program.

  • Cole Aldrich – Jr, C – Kansas. Much like North Carolina one October ago, Kansas appears to be the unanimous selection to begin the season atop every poll and ranking. One of the main reasons for such accolades is the continued improvement of Cole Aldrich, the Kansas double-double machine in the post. Remember the national semifinals against UNC in 2008 when Aldrich burst onto the scene recording eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a then career-high 17 minutes? That was the night college hoops fans first saw what Aldrich can provide for Bill Self and his Jayhawks. In a full season of play, Aldrich and guard Sherron Collins were the anchors behind Kansas’ surprising run to a #3 seed and a Sweet 16 berth in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Cole Aldrich and a pretty good player named Blake Griffin were the only players in the Big 12 to average a double-double in 2008-09. Speaking of stats, Aldrich’s triple-double in the second round against Dayton – 13/20/10 blks- was the first recorded triple double in KU’s illustrious basketball history. Aldrich led the conference in blocks with at 2.7 BPG, finished second in rebounding at 12.4 RPG, second in FG% at 60% and tenth in FT% at an impressive 79% for a 6’11 center.  Aldrich possesses great length, a high motor and displays the fundamentals under the basket that Self loves. The insane talent around Aldrich this season will only put less of a load on his shoulders as the big man can rely on Collins for the clutch outside shot, Xavier Henry on the wings, Thomas Robinson on the block or Tyrel Reed to knock down the long-range three. But the pressure will be on Aldrich to provide a post presence that simply cannot be matched in the Big 12 (sorry Dexter Pittman).  If he achieves his potential, a national POY award isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Kansas’ prized junior center.
  • Craig Brackins – Jr, F – Iowa St. Craig Brackins won’t get half the airtime this season as any of the other high-major names on this list, but he could end up becoming the best player of the group when it’s all said and done.  It’s not as if Brackins came out of nowhere – he was a five-star recruit out of Brewster (NH) Academy in 2007, and he turned down offers from Indiana and Pitt, among others – but, when you play in the Big 12 and your team is generally an afterthought (4-12 in 2008-09), it’s tough to get noticed.  But noticed he got on Jan. 24th in a nationally-televised home game against the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks.  Brackins sliced and diced the vaunted Jayhawk defense for 42/14 in a losing effort that had Bill Self afterwards stating that the lanky center could be the “best player in the country today.”  That single game may have put the Iowa State star on the casual fan’s radar screen, but it’s not like Brackins wasn’t tearing it up against everyone else too:  32/16 against N. Iowa; 28/17 against Jacksonville St.; 38/14 against Houston; 25/13 against Nebraska.  The all-Big 12 first teamer nearly averaged a double-double for the season (20.2 PPG and 9.5 RPG) despite seeing hard and fast double-teams every time he touched the ball.  It was widely presumed that Brackins would jump into the NBA Draft last summer after such a spectacular season; after all, projections for him of the lottery and mid-first round were prevalent.  However, Brackins said that he had some unfinished business to attend to at ISU (meaning, getting the Cyclones to an NCAA Tournament), and he returned to what should be an improved squad with 6’7 juco transfer Marquis Gilstrap’s arrival on the blocks and a solid returning backcourt of Diante Garrett and Lucca Staiger.  The only true weakness he has exhibited so far in his career is his 28% from beyond the arc, but with more firepower on the team this year he may be less inclined to feel like he has to do it all (Brackins attempted 37% of ISU’s shots last year).  Regardless of how the team’s season plays out in 2009-10, there should be no doubt that Brackins is on the short list of best post men in America.  With another year of seasoning under his belt at the collegiate level, however, we could be looking at a top five pick next June.  Don’t flip the channel so quickly if you see that Iowa St. is playing on the tube this year – it may be one of your few chances to see one of the best big men in the country.
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08.21.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on August 21st, 2009

It has been a loooooong week around these parts, but now that we’ve crowned a Team of the 2000s, let’s move on to some other goings-on and nuggets of news floating around the college hoops world…

  • Comings and Goings.  There have been a few announcements of players who are out for the upcoming semester as we’re heading into fall matriculation.  The most notable are Villanova wing Reggie Redding and Florida big men Eloy Vargas and Adam Allen.  Redding was suspended by the university arising out of an incident where marijuana was allegedly found in his car at an accident, but he is expected to return for the spring semester.  Allen recently had surgery for a stress fracture and Vargas is academically ineligible for the fall semester.  Although neither were major contributors for Florida in 08-09, they were expected to provide depth in the frontcourt this season.  On the flip side, former Dookie Elliot Williams received his waiver from the NCAA and will be eligible to suit up immediately for his hometown Memphis Tigers this season. 
  • 2009 NIT Bracket.  The pairings were announced a week ago, but we’re just now getting around to analyzing it.  They’ve seeded the top four teams by region (#1 Duke, #2 UConn, #3 LSU, and #4 Arizona St) in a solid, if not spectacular, field.  But did anyone else notice that they mismatched the seedings?  Take a closer look at the thumbnail below.  If the top eight seeds win their first game, then we should be left with pairings of 1/8, 2/7, 3/6 and 4/5, right?  In this NIT bracket, #1 Duke would play #8 Charlotte, so that’s ok; but, #2 UConn would play #6 Hofstra, #3 LSU would play #5 WKU, and #4 Arizona St. would play #7 TCU.  What’s the point of this?  If you’re going to take the time to seed teams by expectation, you should probably do it properly rather than trying to slot teams based on regional travel convenience.  Sigh…   For what it’s worth, Duke seems to always win this thing, but depending on how quickly replacement players develop on the other top seeds, any of the others could surprise.

2009 NIT Brackets

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2010 ESPN College Gameday Sites Announced

Posted by zhayes9 on August 18th, 2009

Saturday mornings in the winter have become a schedule of habit for yours truly- stumble out of bed, put the coffee in the pot and settle down on the couch for another edition of College Gameday: Hoops Edition. The likely candidates will return for another run in 2010 including Rece Davis as the host and Hubert Davis, Digger Phelps, Bob Knight and Jay Bilas (assuming Erin Andrews will once again be involved) providing analysis and heated bracket discussion. While I’d love to see Hubert tied up behind the Bristol studios with his mouth taped shut and replaced by someone smart like Doug Gottlieb or Steve Lavin (or anyone who doesn’t think the eye test is the best way to determine NCAA Tournament teams), the Gameday crew has grown on me. Bilas has always been the most informative and intelligent analyst on the network covering college basketball, and once you can look past how big of a buzzkill Bob Knight is, he provides tremendous insight. Much like Chris Fowler on the football counterpart, Davis does a formidable job moderating and challenging his partners.

Here’s the schedule for this season:

January 16th: Storrs, CT- Notre Dame at Connecticut (women’s)
January 23rd: Clemson, SC – Duke at Clemson
January 30th: Manhattan, KS – Kansas at Kansas State (7 p.m.)
February 6th: Champaign, IL – Michigan State at Illinois
February 13th: Lexington, KY- Tennessee at Kentucky
February 20th: Seattle, WA – UCLA at Washington
February 27th: Syracuse, NY- Villanova at Syracuse
March 6th: Durham, NC – North Carolina at Duke

The women’s game doesn’t surprise me; in fact, I viewed it as inevitable for Gameday to make a trip to Storrs this season to commemorate the perfect season for UConn. And why not? I’ve never watched a full women’s college game in my life, and don’t plan on tuning in to that particular edition because Geno Auriemma will be prominently involved, but it’s well deserved. As for the other men’s contests, I think ESPN did a nice job considering they can only work with Saturday games and make the schedule in August rather than on a weekly basis, i.e., college football. You have potential top-ten teams in Duke, Kansas, Michigan State and Villanova entering raucous environments in Clemson, Manhattan, Champaign and Syracuse, respectively. Expect some memorable RTC moments on Saturday nights this season.

Some quick thoughts:

Best Game- UNC-Duke always gets us tingly inside, but the best game takes place in SEC country this season- Tennessee-Kentucky. The Big Blue will be rocking in appreciation of their highly-anticipated top-five team under new coach John Calipari and will surely bring the heat for their most hated sweaty headman, Bruce Pearl. These two bitter rivals will be the top two teams in the SEC this season. Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism battling down low with DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson will be tremendous to watch.

Likely Stinker- Most would vote for a possible 57-56 final in Champaign as the likely stinker, but I’ll go with Villanova-Syracuse. Some believe the Orange could surprise with the addition of Wesley Johnson, but Villanova is loaded and took care of Syracuse late last season at the Dome even with Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris around. This one has the potential for blowout city rather than upset city.

Who Knows Game- Kansas State isn’t likely anything more than a bubble team this season, yet Gameday is making the trip to Manhattan to see preseason #1 Kansas battle the Wildcats in what should be an insane environment. You’d think the Jayhawks’ immense talent would be able to wipe the floor with Kansas State, but don’t underestimate Denis Clemente, Jacob Pullen and stud frosh Wally Judge. Feels like this could either be an 18-2 KU run to start the game or the most memorable upset of the conference season.

Missing Powers- A little bit surprised to see Texas without an appearance on Gameday. I love their makeup this year under Rick Barnes and coupled with a strong Big 12 + Austin providing a worthy destination = surprised at their absence. Purdue was snubbed. Butler was also a candidate to get some national TV love.

Cult of Personalities- As I mentioned before, the battle between Bruce Pearl and John Calipari, especially coming off the Josh Selby rumors/saga, will be eaten up by ESPN. It’s not exactly Rick Pitino-Calipari, but the storylines will develop.

Plus, we get more halfcourt shots. And those are always fun.

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ATB: Conference Tournament Thursday – Mid-Day Report

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2009

afterbuzzer1There are so many games today, we thought it would be worth a quick look at the afternoon sessions that have already concluded to see what’s going on out there, especially as it relates to BubbleLand. 

Reminder: keep in mind that RTC Live’s correspondents are simul-blogging from both the Atlantic 10 and WAC today, so be sure to check those guys out. 

Helped Themselves.

  • Minnesota - Classic bubble team at this point with a 10-9 Big Ten record, 6-6 in their last twelve games, 9-9 against the RPI top 100, RPI in the low 40s and no bad losses.  A win against Michigan St. on Friday leaves no doubt.  A loss… and Minny is playing with fire.
  • Virginia Tech - Their game against Miami today had all the markings of a knockout game, with both teams holding identical conference records and similar RPIs.  How do you justify a team getting put in that has lost six of eight, though?  VT still needs to beat Carolina tomorrow. 
  • Baylor - The Bears aren’t sniffing the bubble, but they’re looking very interesting as a possibility of this year’s Georgia.  We referred to this in last night’s ATB – they simply outworked Kansas for this one.  If they can survive the OU-Mizzou winner, they can cut down the nets in this thing. 
  • Kentucky – Maybe the news that Patrick Patterson is returning next season inspired the Cats, but they’ll have their work cut out tomorrow against LSU.   They need that game and more this weekend. 
  • Michigan - this easy win over Iowa probably puts Michigan safely in.  Their high-level numbers look exceptionally similar to Minnesotas, but where UM’s profile takes off is six wins against the RPI Top 50, including Duke and UCLA. 

Hurt Themselves. 

  • Kansas - Obviously, not in terms of the bubble, but KU probably dropped a seed line today.  Whereas previous to this afternoon, they were talked about as a 2/3 on the S-curve, this may have dropped the Jayhawks to a 3/4. 
  • Clemson - It’s really not good to lose to the last-place team in the conference in the first round of the ACC Tourney.  Clemson is an NCAA team, but with four Ls in their last five games, they’ve swooned themselves into possibly an 8/9 seed range.
  • UAB - Believe it or not, UAB is still in the conversation with today’s one-point win over Southern Miss.  The Blazers’ RPI is in the low 40s, but they’re 0-5 against the top 50.  If the Blazers can get to the Memphis game on Saturday and just give the Tigers a good run on national tv, that might be enough. 
  • Providence - Providence shot 2-17 from three and 33% overall in an ugly game that, had they won, may have been enough to get them into the NCAAs.   Given their 70+ RPI, the question for the Friars is whether an overall 11-9 Big East record is sufficient when they played the top four seeds six times. 

Mortally Wounded.

  • Arizona - Chase Budinger’s 3-15 shooting sunk the Wildcats, who should be feeling rather nervous about extending their 24-season streak of NCAA appearances right now.  They’ve now lost five of six, and if they do make it in, they’re starting at a double-digit seed.
  • Kansas St. - Denis Clemente picked the wrong afternoon to go ice cold (4-20).  The Cats had a nice second half of the season to get itself on the bubble, but they really, really could have used what was a winnable game against Texas today.  Our gut says they’re going to end up on the outside looking in. 
  • Miami (FL) - The Hurricanes aren’t dead, but they’re on life support.  They needed this game just as much as Virginia Tech did, and they soiled the bed with a flat 35% shooting performance with no player reaching double figures.

Killed Themselves. 

  • Northwestern - The Cats gave a nice run at their first-ever NCAA bid, but 8-11 in the Big Ten and a 70ish RPI isn’t going to get it done.  They really needed a solid run in Indy to make this happen.  The NIT will be a nice consolation, though. 
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