South Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

North Carolina v. Radford (#1 v. #16)

This is probably the most interesting 1 v. 16 in the tournament. North Carolina will be heavily favored, and will probably win the game, but the Radford Highlanders are no slouch. They have four players that score in double digits, led by 7-foot-0 Artsiom Parakhouski, who is leading the team in scoring (16.3), rebounding (11.2). Matching Parakhouski with Tyler Hansbrough will be fun to watch. One analyst said the Tar Heels don’t even need to start Ty Lawson, but this is the NCAA Tournament, if he is ready to go, he will play.

The Tar Heels are more talented and deeper than Radford, so this wouldn’t be the game to hope for a monumental upset. Radford’s best win is against VMI in the Big South Conference Final, and they have been blown out by every team they have played in a major conference. I will still tune in, just to see Hansborough post up Parakhouski.

LSU v. Butler (#8 v. #9)

This game pits two teams that were under-seeded by the NCAA and as a result, will give the viewers a competitive, fast-paced game to watch. Both teams are in the middle of the tournament pack in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency but they both have great athletes and fun players to watch.

The key match-up will be on the wing where Butler’s Gordon Hayward and LSU’s Marcus Thornton will see a lot of each other. Both players can light it up offensively in a number of ways. Matt Howard and Chris Johnson should be a good one down low. Johnson has a significant height advantage, but Howard scores  a lot of points of hustle, and can be a crafty scorer in the post.

Illinois v. Western Kentucky (#5 v. #12)

Everyone’s trendy upset pick is looking even better with the news that the Illini senior point guard, and best defender, Chester Frazier, is a “long shot” to play according to coach Bruce Weber. But, the Hilltoppers are not the same team they were last year when they made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to UCLA; however, they are good.

Illinois has not played well away from home (4-6), and Portland is quite a trip from Champaign. The Illini have not shot well from the field, and they will need to get Mike Davis (11.6 pts/game, 53.2 FG%) involved early if they want to keep up. The Hilltoppers have four players between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-5 who average double digits and they will run away with this one if the Illini aren’t careful.

Gonzaga v. Akron (#4 v. #13)

I don’t think this game will be as close as many people think. The ‘Zags are one of the hottest teams in the country having won 18 out of their last 20 games, and dismantled Saint Mary’s 83-58 in the WCC Final.

The ‘Zags are in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and Akron just does not have the firepower or the athleticism to keep up with Gonzaga for 40 minutes. Akron has the advantage in depth though. The Zips can go ten deep, and defend well. If they can wear down Jeremy Pargo, they have a chance.

Arizona State v. Temple (#6 v. #11)

Anyone who thinks these teams are both one-man shows is sadly mistaken. There is absolutely no doubt the Sun Devils’ James Harden and the Owls’ Dionte Christmas can take over a game offensively, the there will be another battle to keep an eye on down low.

ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph (14.5/8.4/66.5%) and Temple’s Lavoy Allen (10.9/8.9/57.9%) will be banging on the low blocks, and crashing the glass will be extremely important for both teams. The role players will be the deciding factor in this game, and if ASU point guard Derek Glasser minimizes mistakes, and finds Harden often, ASU has the advantage over the surprising Owls.

Syracuse v. Stephen F. Austin (#3 v. #14)

The Orange enter the tournament playing some of their best basketball of the season, and despite their fatiguing run through the Big East Tournament are a heavy favorite over the Lumberjacks. Jonny Flynn and Andy Rautins have been absolutely on fire, and there is no one on the Lumberjacks roster to match up with them.

The Lumberjacks are an interesting case. They are in the top 20 in defensive efficiency, but are 242nd in offensive efficiency. They beat Drake in December, but they also lost by 16 to Arkansas and 14 to Texas Tech, and neither one of those teams are as good as the ‘Cuse. The Lumberjacks will rotate in a lot of guys, and they only stand a chance if Syracuse isn’t fresh and comes out slow.

Clemson v. Michigan (#7 v. #10)

Both teams and their coaches come into the game with something to prove. The Tigers have to prove they are for real this year, and that they can make noise in the tournament, and the Wolverines need to prove their system works outside of the plodding Big Ten.

The game will feature two of the more athletic combo forwards in Clemson’s Trevor Booker and Michigan’s DeShawn Sims. It will be interesting to see if the two guard one another. But, the Wolverine offense goes as Manny Harris goes, but he is inconsistent as he has nine games with single-digit point totals. If Clemson’s KC Rivers can frustrate Harris, the Wolverines will have a tough time offensively.

Oklahoma v. Morgan State (#2 v. #15)

On paper, the Sooners have a clear advantage in every facet of the game, but the Bears have beaten both DePaul and Maryland, and played close games with Mississippi and St. Mary’s. The problem is, they don’t have anyone who can guard Blake Griffin, or Willie Warren.

Oklahoma has been struggling late and if ever there was a time to strike for Todd Bozeman’s club, now is the time. But they might not have enough weapons to keep up with the Sooners, and Griffin will get to have his way on the low blocks.

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NCAA Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2009

Arizona St. (#6 seed, South, Miami pod)

vs. Temple (#11 seed)

March 20th, at 2:45 P.M

Vegas Line: Arizona St. -5.5


Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Tempe, Arizona

Conference: Pac-10, at-large bid

Coach: Herb Sendek, 51-42 at Arizona State

08-09 Record: 24-9, 13-8 PAC-10

Last 12 Games: 8-4

Best Win: 74-67, v. UCLA, February 12th

Worst Loss: 64-74, v. Stanford, March 5th

Off. Efficiency Rating: 116.6/ 12th overall

Def. Efficiency Rating: 91.7/ 30th overall

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): James Harden, 20.8 points/game, 5.4 rebounds/game, 4.1 assists/game, 50.4% FG; Jeff Pendergraph, 14.4 points/game, 8.5 rebounds/game, 66.5% FG

Unsung Hero: ·Derek Glasser, 8.0 points/game, 4.9 assists/game, 2.2/1 assists/turnover, 40.9% 3PT

Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): James Harden, projected 4th overall

Key Injuries: Jamelle McMillan (day-to-day)

Depth: 19.9%/337th overall, and McMillan is included in that statistic.

Achilles Heel: 337th overall as far as bench minutes are concerned is not going to cut it for Herb Sendek;s club. Even scarier is that the players that do come off the bench are not real difference makers, and their best bench player is McMillan. The Sun Devils will only go eight deep if they absolutely have to.

Will Make a Deep Run if…: If James Harden performs like he has all season, if the role players like Glasser and Rihard Kuksiks make their three-pointers, and if Jeff Pendergraph is able to assert himself in the paint, then the Sun Devils could make a deep run. Similar to Duke, Arizona State is thin inside and will need Pendergraph to play huge.

Will Make an Early Exit if…: If they play an athletic team that loves to push the tempo. The Sun Devils aren’t a bad defensive team, but they can be exploited at certain positions (see Glasser and Kuksiks). If a team gets out and runs against them the Sun Devils will eventually get tired, and there won’t be anyone on the bench to bail them out.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2003, Lost in 2nd round to Kansas (76-108)

Streak: 1

Best NCAA Finish: They made the Elite Eight in 1975.

Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): n/a


Six Degrees to Detroit: None

Distance to First Round Site: 2362 miles away from Miami, Florida

School’s Claim to Fame: Arizona State is a staple in the Top 10 of pretty much every “party” school ranking that has ever been conducted. The warm weather, attractive coed population, and large undergrad enrollment make it a good place to enroll if you are looking for fun and sun/

School Wishes It Could Forget: Along the same line, be careful what you wish for. Although there are tons of babes on campus, the Sun Devils ranked 119th out of 139th in Trojan Condom’s 2008 Sexual Health Report Card. Still better than the basketball team’s depth though.

Prediction: Often, teams that rely so heavily on one player are good bets to make an early exit, even if that player is as good as James Harden. The Sun Devils have a lot of moxie, and point guard Derek Glasser is much better at running the team than people give him credit for. Aside from the loss to USC, they are peaking at the right time and should probably be able to escape a Temple team that doesn’t belong in the tournament. But if they meet Syracuse in the second round their lack of depth will shine through, and they will go down,

Preview written by… Mike Lemaire

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Checking in on the… Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2009

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

Pac-10 Tidbits.

  • Freshman extraordinaire Isaiah Thomas is averaging 16.5 points a game for Washington. His 413 points so far on the season are the second-highest point total for a freshman in Washington history.
  • Jon Brockman is putting together another solid season for the Huskies.  Against Oregon he registered his 54th double-double of his career. That is the most of any active player.
    • Jon Brockman, Washington      54
    • John Bryant, Santa Clara           45
    • Jeff Adrien, Connecticut           44
    • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame   43
    • Tyler Hansbrough, UNC           41
  • Brockman also holds the Washinton career record for rebounds with 1,159 and is the only Husky in history to total 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds.  Check out this video the University of Washington made to market its All-American  candidate.
  • Arizona State’s season sweep of UCLA was their first since 2002-03 and first by any team over UCLA since Washington did it in 2005-06.
  • Arizona’s six-game conference winning streak is the longest by any Pac-10 team this year.
  • When you hear “Big Three” Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen shouldn’t come to mind, but rather Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise.  They have combined to account for 69 percent (1,303 of 1,877 points) of the Wildcats scoring.

Read the rest of this entry »

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ATB: Can ND Make the Recovery?

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2009

Starting with some News & Notes…

Tonight’s Big Games.

  • Notre Dame 90, Louisville 57. Hey T-Will, maybe you were right… some of the worst teams in the Big East can beat some of the best teams in the…  Big East.  You should recall that Carolina handled the very same team that just pasted you with your worst loss in BE history tonight.  The same team that had just lost its last seven games.  The same team that absolutely had no recourse other than to win this game (and damn near every other game) to try to get back into the NCAA Tournament this season.  The opportunity is there – out of the Irish’s final seven games, only the game at UConn is probably unwinnable.  4-7 in the Big East could turn into 8-7 if they simply handle their remaining home games (USF, Rutgers, Villanova, St. John’s).  Split the two roadies at WVU and Providence (+ the UConn L) and they can get to 9-9.  That’s why tonight’s game was such a must-win.  The Irish lit Louisville up for ten threes and 54% shooting behind Gody’s 32/17 while holding Louisville to 39% on the other end and a mere 16 pts from T-Will and Earl Clark.  Pitino said his team was embarrassed, and they should be – this humiliating loss more or less ensures that the Cards won’t be winning the 2009 national title – teams that lose by 30+ never win it all.  Go ahead, look it up.
  • Arizona St. 74, UCLA 67. Apparently UCLA can beat everyone in the Pac-10 except for Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils.  This game was back and forth until a late block/charge call on Darren Collison went ASU’s way, essentially ensuring ASU’s second victory over UCLA this season.  Surprisingly maybe to people who haven’t watched much of UCLA this season but ASU shot 60% and hit eleven threes to keep the game competitive throughout; the Bruin offense is quite a bit further along than its defense this season, which is odd for a Ben Howland team.  Five Sun Devils ended up in double figures, but none more than 15 pts (James Harden and Derek Glasser).  This loss by UCLA really tightens up the top of the Pac-10, with five teams now within one game of first place.
  • Gonzaga 72, St. Mary’s 70. We checked into this one to see if St. Mary’s could parlay its raucous home crowd into an upset over Gonzaga without their star, Patty Mills, on the floor.  The answer was no, but one thing is fairly clear to us – St. Mary’s is the best team in the WCC with Patty Mills, and it’s really not close.  The Gaels were unbeaten and whipping Gonzaga when he was injured in Spokane, and the fact that they were this close at home with the mercurial Mills playing announcer (still can’t get over that accent…), convinces us that SMC is the better team.  Gonzaga has better individual talent in our eyes, but for some reason, they’re just not maximizing their potential this season (or any season).  Josh Heytvelt had 20/10 but it was his three missed FTs down the stretch that kept the door open for St. Mary’s, who had two possessions in the last ten seconds to win the game.  Keep an eye on SMC in the NCAAs, but forget about the Zags.

Other Games Heading into the Weekend…

  • Illinois 60, Northwestern 59. Utterly heartbreaking loss for NW and inspirational comeback win for Illinois in Evanston.  NW led 57-43 with 5 mins to go, but could only manage two more points as Demetri McCamey’s shot with 2.9 seconds hit bottoms for the Illini win.
  • Temple 61, St. Joseph’s 59. Ahmad Nivins had 21/6 in this Big 5 matchup that resulted in St. Joe’s taking its second A10 loss of the year.  Dionte Christmas had 19/11 for Temple.
  • Davidson 78, Wofford 61. Steph Curry Watch – 39/5/3 assts on 14-24 FGs (5-8 3FGs).
  • Washington St. 67, Oregon 38. Please tell us Ernie Kent is gone after this season.
  • Arizona 83, USC 76. The winner of this one was going to have a definite bubble advantage going into the last few weeks of the season, and both teams seemed to know it.  Arizona used a late 6-0 run fueled by USC turnovers to win its sixth in a row and go to 7-5 in the Pac-10.  Nic Wise had 27 pts and Chase Budinger had 25 pts in the win.
  • Utah St. 62, Idaho 53. USU struggled for a while in this one, but pulled away late to go to 24-1 (12-0) on the season.  Gary Wilkinson had 17/10.
  • Washington 79, Oregon St. 60. No letdown for the Huskies at home tonight, as Justin Dentmon had 28/7 assts to go to 8-3 in the Pac-10 (tied with UCLA).

On Tap Friday (all times EST). Actually, another fairly good Big East game on Friday this week…

  • Villanova @ West Virginia (ESPN) – 9pm.  Villanova’s been hot, having won its last six games, but WVU sorta needs this one.  Should be an interesting environment on a Friday night in Morgantown.
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Dynamic Duos in Search of a Third Wheel

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2009

John Stevens is featured columnist for RTC.  His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season. 

Ask any college basketball coach what a team needs to succeed in March and you’ll get a variety of answers — solid point guard play, a big inside threat, conditioning, luck, a guarantee that John Stevens will NOT bet on you — all popular answers.  A “go-to” guy is also a popular response, but I think history has shown that simply one standout player will not prove sufficient.  These days you have to have a balanced squad in addition to having at least two players you can call actual “go-to” guys.  A viable third option can have you breathing rarified air, indeed.  This season has proven incredibly interesting in that we have a lot of teams that are being seemingly led — whose very identities are made — by a couple of standout players.  In addition, if these teams that are led by Dynamic Duos see a helpful third option emerge — watch out.  There’s at least one of these teams in each of the major conferences, so let’s take a look at them.

ACC — Miami (FL)
True, the Hurricanes’ schedule is a little bland, but you can’t ignore a team with tough wins both at Kentucky and at Boston College.  Jack McClinton (16.9/2.8/3.1) and Dwayne Collins (12.1/7.8/1.3) have propelled this Miami team that has eleven guys who average at least 10 minutes a game which means that they have many options in terms of developing that third option.  Cyrus McGowan is an efficient player who provides 7.2/6.1 and he does it averaging 5 minutes less than the other significant scorers on that team, but the most likely candidate here to step up as the third option is James Dews, who averages 9.2/2.7 but upped his game in those big wins above against UK and BC by contributing 18 and 12, respectively.  You gotta give props to a guy who elevates himself in the big games.

Big 12 — Missouri
On their way to a 13-3 record so far, Missouri hasn’t exactly been sleeping on the job schedule-wise, tallying wins against USC and a surprising California side and losing a tough one to Xavier.  To that end, DeMarre Carroll (16.1/6.6) and Leo Lyons (14.6/6.2) have been a true Dynamic Duo for the Tigers because after that the production falls off to Matt Lawrence (9.6/2.3), especially in terms of rebounding (note: of course, Lyons needs to get this recent traffic thing sorted out).  Along with J.T. Tiller, Lawrence represents the most likely candidate to be the next option; Tiller averages the third most minutes on the team but Lawrence is actually more productive despite playing 4 fewer minutes per game.

I bet Demarre can beat me at curls. (photo credit:

Big East — Notre Dame
I know I don’t have to tell you about Luke Harangody; despite the special player he is I personally find more excitement watching Kyle McAlarney (16.6/2.6/3.4) because the man just has locker-room range.  Seriously, he’d shoot from his dorm room if they’d let him.  And even then you better get a guy on him.  ND might not seem like a Dynamic Duo-led team because they have two other starters — Tory Jackson and Ryan Ayers — averaging over 30 minutes a game (Jackson actually plays more than Harangody, by the numbers), but the offensive dropoff is certainly evident after McAlarney and the team is defined by those top two fellows.  Jackson is the obvious third option candidate, here; he puts together a good floor game on the whole (4.6 rpg/5.9 apg/1.5 spg).  It’s not like he doesn’t do enough, but if he became even more of a third scoring option to take even just a little of the heat off of the Harangody/McAlarney exacta, Notre Dame will become an even bigger Final Four threat come March.

Big Ten — Michigan State
People still seem to be defining the Fighting Izzos by that rectal-exam-with-an-audience that UNC gave them a while back.  This is a mistake.  Raymar Morgan (15.1/7.1) and Kalin Lucas (13.9/5.9 apg) have been the Dynamic Duo for Sparty so far, as everyone knows, but these guys have reeled off nine straight since getting tuned-up by the Tar Heels and they basically have their third option back, now, in the form of Goran Suton, already averaging 9.2/6.8 in only nine games back.  This will likely continue to rise.  It makes Michigan State a team you cannot ignore as we enter the second half of the season.  They’ve obviously put the North Carolina game behind them.  Everyone else should, too.
Pac-10 — Arizona State
We all know James Harden (23.1/5.8/4.7) and we’re getting to know Jeff Pendergraph (13.6/7.1).  After that, the offensive production and glasswork drops off a little to Richard Kuksiks (10.9/3.6), the apparent choice for presumed third option, here.  He’s up to playing even more minutes than Pendergraph on the average, and he’s shooting a pretty tasty 53% from 3-point range.  I am, however, going to anoint Derek Glasser as the best option for third-man-in; he’s only contributing 6.4 points (fifth on the team) but he’s a great distributor of the ball (5.3 apg, leads team), has shown a tendency to come up with a timely pilfer, and is darn reliable at the line (81.1%, second on team) — all important qualities during tournament time.  Even the slightest increase in his point production would make ASU even more dangerous than they already are.
SEC — Kentucky
The textbook Dynamic Duo team.  Probably not a better example in all of college basketball this season.  We’re not even going to talk about Jodie Meeks’ (24.2/3.4, 90.1% FT) legendary performance last night and Patrick Patterson (18.9/9.3) is creeping up every online NBA mock draft, a bittersweet fact for Wildcat fans.  After that, the offensive production falls all the way down to Perry Stevenson at 7.1ppg.  Heck, Patterson is actually third on the team in assists (2.6).  As far as possibilities for third-option status, with this team that’s a tough question.  They are absolutely loaded with pure, talented athletes, but UK followers have waited all year for a third player to assert himself.  Still hasn’t happened.  It has to for this team, because Meeks can’t score 54 every night and there will probably be more than one night where Meeks goes cold and Patterson is well-defended (or vice-versa).  My choice for third option for this team is DeAndre Liggins, the team’s assist leader at only 3.6 apg.  If he can cut down on freshman mistakes and provide even a small increase in his point production, Kentucky will be formidable — and that means this year, not next year.  Without a third option, Selection Sunday might get a little tense for this Kentucky team.

It will be especially interesting to see if Miami (FL), Missouri, and Kentucky eventually see a third player emerge for them, since they’re…well, it’s too early to use the “b-word,” but let’s just say they’re fighting for tournament entry right now.  Even if it isn’t the player I’ve predicted, if any of these squads see a third person elevate his game in hopes of providing more assistance to the Dynamic Duo already leading them, you best keep an eye out for them.  These teams are close to making the jump, even now.  Adding a good third option to their particular Dynamic Duo will improve them exponentially, and I wouldn’t want to see any of them in my sub-bracket.

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