O26 Game of the Week: Hawkeye State Showdown, Harvard-Virginia & SDSU-Cincy…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 17th, 2014

Each week the O26 microsite will run down the biggest upcoming game of the week as well as a handful of others to keep an eye on.

Northern Iowa (9-1) vs. Iowa (8-3) – 7:30 PM ET, Big Ten Network, Saturday.

Northern Iowa has a knack for playing in really good basketball games this season. The Panthers upended Stephen F. Austin by two in overtime during last month’s Tip-Off Marathon, ending the Lumberjacks’ 33-game home winning streak; they squandered a big second-half lead against George Mason earlier this month before escaping in overtime; and on Saturday, Ben Jacobson’s group lost its first game in one of the best games of the season, a double-overtime thriller at VCU. So what does UNI have in store this week, bumping up against intrastate foe Iowa in Des Moines? Probably another barnburner.

Seth Tuttle and the Panthers look to take down Iowa on Saturday. (UNI Athletics Communications)

Seth Tuttle and the Panthers look to take down Iowa on Saturday. (UNI Athletics Communications)

KenPom currently ranks the Hawkeyes and Panthers 29th and 31st overall, respectively, which – on a neutral floor – results in a virtual coin-flip projection. Iowa is one of the nation’s top-30 fastest teams offensively (15.9 seconds per possession), while Northern Iowa is among the 30 slowest (20.4 seconds), yet the Hawkeyes’ strong suit has been its defense thus far this season, while the latter unit has been more offensively proficient. The Panthers, despite their preferred snail’s pace of play, demonstrated an ability to get out and run against VCU, so they should have no problem adjusting if Iowa’s uptempo pace wins out. The Hawkeyes’ most notable strength is its frontcourt, which provides much of the team’s scoring and prevents easy looks on the interior – which might actually suit Northern Iowa just fine, considering the majority of its points come from behind the arc and at the free throw line. This match-up may come down to Jacobson’s guys hitting perimeter shots – they went just 3-of-16 from distance in the game two years ago – and whether Fran McCaffery can get quality production from his backcourt. This should be a really good, really close contest either way.

More to Watch

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Mid-Makeovers: Which O26 Units are Poised for a Turnaround?

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 12th, 2014

With the season now only a few days away, let’s look at five teams in great position to improve considerably this year – and in some cases, even compete for a conference crown.

Detroit – Horizon League – 2013-14 record: 13-18 (6-10). After finishing eighth in the Horizon League standings in 2013-14 (out of nine teams) and graduating its top rebounder and second-leading scorer, Evan Bruinsma, Detroit was picked third in this year’s preseason poll. Why such high expectations? The simple answer is twofold: Juwan Howard Jr. is back, and a wave of talent joins him. Howard, a 6’5’’ senior who led the Titans in scoring last season (18.3 PPG), should be one of the best players in the conference this year, even if his numbers do not drastically improve. He was probably relied upon far too heavily a season ago – the wing took 20-plus shots on six different occasions – so this year’s additions should help reduce the pressure and enable Howard to score more efficiently. Those reinforcements – transfers Chris Jenkins (Colorado) and Brandan Kearney (Arizona State), along with redshirt freshman Paris Bass – will bring depth at small forward and provide supplemental offensive punch. Add that to the trio of quality guards in the backcourt, plus 6’10’’ Penn State transfer Patrick Ackerman down low, and Ray McCallum’s team should rediscover its winning ways this season.

Juwan Howard Jr. and the Detroit Titans should be much better this season. (Courtesy of Detroit athletics media relations)

Juwan Howard Jr. and the Detroit Titans should be much better this season. (Detroit athletics)

Lafayette – Patriot League – 2013-14 record: 11-20 (6-12). Lafayette forward Seth Hinrichs missed 10 games in the middle of last season because of a knee injury, and the Leopards proceeded to lose all 10, including their first eight league contests. When he returned to the lineup? Fran O’Hanlon’s group won eight of its last 12. Needless to say, the 6’7’’ senior – a versatile wing who can stretch the floor – is enormously important to Lafayette’s success. With virtually the entire roster back alongside him, including now-seasoned point guard Nick Lindner and sharpshooter Joey Ptasinski (43.5% 3FG), Hinrichs (16.3 PPG) should make the Leopards legitimate Patriot League contenders and put himself in discussion for conference Player of the Year. A postseason berth is more than possible for the Patriot’s most offensively-efficient unit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Flipping the Switch: On Waiting For DeAndre Daniels to Explode

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 16th, 2013

For a six-minute stretch near the start of the second half of yesterday’s blowout win against Detroit, Connecticut forward DeAndre Daniels looked like the kind of player that should have Huskies’ fans excited. Of course everyone would be more excited if the mercurial junior could play like that when it matters and not in the second half of a game against an overmatched opponent that UConn was already beating by 20. In that win, Daniels missed his first four shots and spent the majority of the first half on the bench because of foul trouble, but he wasted little time atoning for that slow start in the second half with a three-pointer, a dunk, two easy baskets around the rim, and a pair of free throws all before the 12-minute mark of the second half. He finished the game with 11 points and four rebounds in just 15 minutes of play — his best line of the season — which only served as proof that Daniels is one of the most frustrating players to watch in all of college basketball.

The Huskies Are Still Waiting For DeAndre Daniels To Fulfill His Vast Potential. Credit: IMG Academies

The Huskies Are Still Waiting For DeAndre Daniels To Fulfill His Vast Potential. Credit: IMG Academies

Remember, we aren’t talking about an unpolished freshman who is still growing into his body and has plenty of raw ability but little experience. We are talking about a 6’9″, 210-pound junior who has the size and length to protect the rim, the shooting touch to score inside and out, and the athleticism to create mismatches no matter who is guarding him. We are also talking about a player who last February laid waste to opposing defenders on his way to 25 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks in a one-point loss to Georgetown and followed that up two games later with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks against South Florida.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 04.29.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 29th, 2013

morning5

  1. There were so many early-entry decisions over the past three days that we will have break them into groups. The first group will be the guys who left. Perhaps the most notable is Shane Larkin, who is leaving Miami after a sophomore year in which he took his stock from not being on the NBA’s radar to being a potential first round pick. We are not quite sold on Larkin as a NBA point guard–his limitations were exposed in a few games this season–but we do not see his NBA Draft stock getting much higher especially with how little Miami will be returning next season so it made sense for him to leave. On a smaller scale, but probably more important in terms of the landscape of his conference Ray McCallum Jr. announced that he is leaving Detroit after his junior season. McCallum is in a similar Draft position or possibly a little worse than what Larkin is based on the mock drafts that we have seen, but given the information that his father (Detroit’s coach) has we would expect that he has some pretty good information on where he could expect to be selected. Finally, there is Andre Roberson, Tad Boyle’s first recruit in Boulder, who announced that he will forgo his senior season at Colorado to enter the NBA Draft. Roberson’s draft stock appears to be similar to the other two although Roberson’s position in mock drafts has varied more than the other two.
  2. While a trio of players announced their departure from the college game another trio announced that they will be staying. The most significant in terms of the national championship picture is Adreian Payne, who announced that he will return to Michigan State for his senior season. Out of all of the players considering entering the NBA Draft early opinion on Payne may have been the most divided. He probably could have come out and been a first-round pick, but if he returns and improves his game he should be a lottery pick next year. The next biggest announcement was the Isaiah Austin will be returning to Baylor for his sophomore season. Austin seemed to be a fairly safe bet to be a first-round pick so his decision is a bit surprising, but it has been reported that he was diagnosed with a torn labrum, which would affect his NBA Draft workouts, and he clearly has some areas to work on his game so it doesn’t seem unreasonable. We will leave the question of coming back to Scott Drew to work on those deficiencies for another column. Shabazz Napier may not garner the same headlines as the other two players that we mentioned, but his decision to return to Connecticut for his senior season may have an equally significant impact on his team’s success. We are glad that Napier decided to return to school because he was at best a late second round pick although the fact that he waited so long to announce might suggest that someone was putting thoughts in his head that he could have been a first-round pick. Fortunately he did not listen to those voices and will return to finish his college career in Storrs.
  3. Most of the attention has been focused on NBA Draft decisions, but there were a pair of notable transfers. On Friday, Ahmad Starks announced that he is transferring from Oregon State. Starks, who has one more season of eligibility left is reportedly looking at Bradley or Illinois to be close to his ailing grandmother. Starks would be a huge addition for either program and given the way the family hardship waivers have been getting cleared by the NCAA we have no doubt that he would be able to play next season. The other transfer announcement is more of an update as Rutgers transfer Eli Carter has narrowed his list down to Florida and Maryland. Normally we would assume that Carter would have to sit out a year, but after the NCAA’s ruling on the players at Rice and how they received a waiver due to the abuse they alleged at the school we would not be surprised to see Carter and other Rutgers transfers to try for a similar waiver given the video evidence against Mike Rice.
  4. We may have finally moved past conference realignment, but it appears that conferences are looking at creating their own version of Manifest Destiny as the ACC is looking at expanding its brand into Europe by playing games there. As the article notes the entire idea is in the preliminary stages so a lot of work needs to be done, but other schools have played games overseas with some success. Our big qustion is how this would work at the conference level. It works great when teams are playing glorified exhibition games or when there is well-defined revenue-sharing the way that professional leagues do, but what happens when a school loses a lucrative home-game that could be the difference between them becoming bowl-eligible or being on the right side of the bubble. Obviously pro sports teams deal with this issue too, but they have more well-defined revenue-sharing agreements and have a much stronger central leadership structure that allows them to issue edicts that will be followed.
  5. It is a move that probably will not attract much attention on the coaching carousel, but UNC-Asheville filled its head coaching vacancy as it introduced Nick McDevitt as its next head coach. McDevitt, who played for the school from 1997 to 2001, had been an assistant with the team before taking over the head coaching responsibilities when the former coach left to take a job on the staff at UNC-Wilmington. McDevitt has no experience as a head coach so we are withholding judgement on his ability to coach so hopefully his alma mater gives him a chance to prove himself.
Share this story

Big East M5: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 2nd, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Georgetown fans received some measure of consolation after a disappointing Second Round upset when the AP named Otto Porter a first-team All-American yesterday. Tying Trey Burke for the most first-team votes received, Porter became the first Hoya to claim the honor since Allen Iverson did so in 1996, and was the sixth first-team All-American in program history. (Patrick Ewing earned the distinction in three difference seasons, so Porter’s appearance is actually the eighthin Georgetown history.) Joining the Big East’s Player of the Year with AP team honors was Louisville’s Russ Smith (third team), while teammates Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley captured honorable mentions.
  2. Shortly before going into surgery to repair the compound leg fracture he’d suffered against Duke on Sunday, Louisville guard Kevin Ware borrowed a nurse’s cell phone to contact his mother, knowing “she’d be freaking out.” Six hundred miles away in suburban Atlanta, Lisa Junior was just as much in the dark regarding her son’s status as anyone watching the CBS broadcast: “He didn’t even say hello. He just said, ‘Mom, I need you to calm down.’ He knew I’d be a mess. Once I heard his voice, I was better.” Ware was walking with the aid of crutches yesterday after surgeons successfully stabilized his broken tibia with a metal rod and closed the ghastly wound where it had broken skin. He will reportedly travel to Atlanta with the Cardinals this week and sit on the bench for the Final Four match-up with Wichita State.
  3. USF has inked a home-and-home deal with Detroit, to begin in Tampa in 2013-14. Detroit’s visit to the Sun Dome will feature three returning rising senior starters, including star Ray McCallum Jr. (18.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.5 APG this season). But the return trip to Detroit in 2014-15 will be a homecoming for native sons head coach Stan Heath and incoming guard Byron Ziegler, while freshman JaVontae Hawkins will be playing an hour down the road from his hometown of Flint. It will also probably be a rebuilding year for the Titans, giving Heath a golden opportunity to recruit the area and sell the idea of a non-conference series close to home to Detroit prospects.
  4. Tulsa is slated to announce in a late-morning press conference that it will join the New Old Zombie Big East in all sports. The impending additions of Tulsa and ECU reflect an emphasis on football stature in Mike Aresco’s new lineup, but Rob Dauster points out that Golden Hurricane basketball isn’t a complete disaster, and says “[coach Danny] Manning has the team going in the right direction, despite a depleted roster from transfers.” After winning 17 games in 2011-12, Manning held serve at around .500 in his first year as head coach, going 17-16 before losing to Wright State in the CBI.
  5. Just to salt the wounds from last weekend’s loss, Carmelo Anthony subjected Marquette fans to further indignity yesterday when he shamed Golden Eagles alum and fellow Knick Steve Novak on Instagram yesterday. Novak was apparently on the losing end of a bet on the Elite Eight game between their alma maters, and well, he made good on his wager in this shot:
steve novak carmelo

Carmelo’s Orange got the best of Steve’s Golden Eagles

Share this story

The Other 26: Saturday’s Top Five Bracketbuster Games and More…

Posted by IRenko on February 22nd, 2013

other26

This weekend marks the end of the decade-long Bracketbuster era — or experiment, depending on your perspective. Sadly, if appropriately, it looks like the event will go out with more of a whimper than a bang. Not a single game features a top 25 team, resulting in little hype for this year’s slate. But for true mid-major basketball fans, no top 25 ranking, or lack thereof, is going to dissuade them from devouring the late season, inter-conference action among the country’s best, under-the-radar-until-March teams. Here’s a preview of the five Bracketbuster games we’re most looking forward to, followed by an updated Top 10, our weekly honor roll, and the most compelling non-Bracketbuster games of the coming week.

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

  1. Creighton at St. Mary’s (6 pm, ESPN) — Both teams enter what is perhaps the premier Bracketbuster matchup with a great deal to prove. Creighton’s hot 17-1 start has given way to a rough 5-5 stretch, as the depth of the MVC has taken its toll. In four of those five losses, Creighton’s once unstoppable offense slowed to a pace of less than a point per possession. An at-large Tournament bid remains a safe bet, even with a loss to St. Mary’s, but the Bluejays are no doubt looking to this game to reignite their offense and their season. St. Mary’s, on the other hand, is in desperate need of a quality win for its Tournament resume. Having been swept by Gonzaga, Saturday’s matchup is a virtual must-win for the Gaels. Both teams have highly efficient offenses that rely heavily on the three-point shot. Whichever defense can step up its game may emerge with the win.
  2. Ohio at Belmont (10 pm, ESPN) – This should be a really entertaining game between two teams who love to run and gun. But for the colors of their jerseys, it may be hard to tell the two apart, as the Bobcats and Bruins have remarkably similar statistical profiles. Both are high-possession squads that shoot more than 40 percent of their field goals from three-point range and rank in the top 20 nationally in forcing turnovers. Both have high effective field goal percentages, but rebound poorly and allow their opponents to shoot far more free throws than they do. Toss in a great point guard matchup between seniors D.J. Cooper and Kerron Johnson, and you have the ingredients for a great nightcap to the day’s action. 
  3. South Dakota State at Murray State (8 pm, ESPN2) – Neither team is as good as it was last season, but both returned their star player. And it’s their matchup at the point guard spot, with Nate Wolters squaring off against Isaiah Canaan, that makes this a must-see game. The two players are the heartbeats of their respective team’s offenses. Each uses roughly 30 percent of all possessions, ranking them in the top 50 in the country. Wolters has been on a particularly nasty tear of late, averaging more than 33 points over his last five games, though two of his 30-plus efforts in that stretch were in defeat. Canaan, meanwhile, is coming off his own 35-point outburst in a win over Morehead State.
  4. Detroit at Wichita State (4 pm, ESPN2) — Wichita State has bounced back from a recent three-game swoon with a four-game win streak that includes two close victories over Illinois State and Indiana State this past week. They’ll be the favorites against Detroit, but his game has definite upset potential. Detroit is on the upswing, winning six of their last seven, and developing a potent offensive attack with a multitude of options, from Ray McCallum’s attacking ability to Jason Calliste’s three-point shot to Nick Minnerath’s versatile inside-out game to Doug Anderson’s physical interior play. The Titans will try to push the tempo, while the Shockers will try to slow things down and pound the ball inside to their big men Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall, who may find success against Detroit’s mediocre interior defense.
  5. Denver at Northern Iowa (8 pm, ESPN3) — After a rough 4-6 start to MVC play, Northern Iowa has righted the ship and fought its way back to where we thought it would always be — at the top of the league standings, just a step behind Wichita State and Creighton. They face a Denver team that has flown a bit under the radar, recovering from a slow start to the season to win 13 of their last 14 games. A trip to Cedar Falls will be a test of just how far the Pioneers have come. Expect a low-possession, halfcourt-oriented game, with a steady barrage of three-point shots. The Panthers have a balanced attack, with five players averaging between 9 and 13 points. Denver will turn primarily to Chris Udofia, the versatile forward who is the hub of their Princeton offense.

And now on to our updated Top 10 rankings, weekly honor roll, and the (other) games we’re keeping an eye on …

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 02.18.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 18th, 2013

morning5

  1. On Friday the Naismith Hall of Fame announced the 12 Finalists for the class of 2013. Almost by definition there are plenty of big names on the list, but three stand out for us as a college basketball site: Guy LewisRick Pitino, and Jerry Tarkanian. Pitino’s induction should almost be a formality with his national championship and being the only coach to lead three different schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to the Final Four. We are not sure why Lewis has not gotten in yet with his 592 wins (all at Houston), five Final Four appearances (separated by a generation) as the only thing we can see missing from his resume is a national championship, but it seems like five Final Four appearances would make up for it. As for Tarkanian, we pointed out his omission from the Hall of Fame thus far may be the most notable omission that we can think of. Based on his credentials–729 wins and a national championship–he is more than qualified, but his off-the-court (sometimes in court) issues might make a few voters squeamish. We hope that the voters can look past that and finally put the original Shark (sorry, Mark Titus) in the Hall of Fame.
  2. Many of our younger readers may not be familiar with George Raveling, but those of us who have followed the sport for years are no doubt familiar with his contributions. And on Friday he was recognized for that work as he was awarded the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. Named after John W. Bunn, the first chairman of the Basketball Hall of Fame Committee, the award as its name suggests is given to recognize an individuals work in the game of basketball anywhere from the high school to the professional or international level. For those of you who are not familiar with Raveling’s work his website has an excellent biography that is worth checking out including his involvement with Martin Luther King Jr. that led to Raveling owning the original “I Have A Dream” speech.
  3. It seems like we talk about conference realignment and the Catholic 7 too frequently in this section, but John Feinstein’s article detailing the Catholic 7’s expansion plan is one of the better inside looks we have read. Outside of the usual posturing about the relative strength of various conferences Feinstein points out why if the conference decides to stay completely “Catholic” it would mean going from adding Butler to adding Detroit and why Creighton is not even in the discussion at this point. There are also a few interesting notes on the leadership of the budding conference, which may be of interest to those of you into the behind the scenes action that is going on before the conference officially forms.
  4. If you were on Twitter this week you saw a lot of tweets originating from Indianapolis where a group of writers gathered for the annual mock bracket selection. As you can see the from the mock bracket the mock committee had no issues handing the number #1 seeds to ACC and Big Ten. Of course, this may have changed with this weekend’s results from the ACC. One of the most amazing things about the process is the anger it creates in some fan bases that feel that they have been wronged. With one of our co-editors having taken part in this (last year) we can assure you that it is much more complex than in looks. Plenty of people can try to poke holes in the mock bracket for individual teams, but it any move creates a ripple effect and in general it is there for a reason.
  5. This weekend (actually the entire week) was filled with countless articles on Michael Jordan both on the man, his accomplishments, and his impact on the game. Outside of the outstanding inside look at Jordan by Wright Thompson, the one piece that really caught our eye was from Luke Winn, who took a look at Jordan the college player through advanced statistics. One of the things we feel has not been talked about enough is how good of a college player Jordan was. He was obviously an excellent player having won a Player of the Year award, but looking back at the era he was hardly the force that he became in the NBA even early in his career. While Winn’s piece does not exactly answer that question it does provide a better glimpse at the type of player he was in college even if the comparison players may make some critics roll their eyes.
Share this story

ATB: Terps Dump Duke, Cowboys Edge OU in OT and Kentucky Fails First Post-Noel Test…

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 18th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The Weekend’s Lede. A Not So Special Weekend. Not every Saturday is a jam-packed day of must-see top-25 matchups and earth-shattering upsets. This season has deluded us otherwise with an immaculate set of weekend slates, so when you get a day like this Saturday, where – with a few exceptions; college basketball is never actually boring – big-time matchups are hard to come by, disappointment is inevitable. This weekend was not as fun as most in 2013, but at this point in the season, as teams labor for resume points and RPI upgrades, most every game is hugely important. A multitude of teams either buttressed or damaged their NCAA hopes, while others remained in neutral. If those general descriptions aren’t enough (and, really, they shouldn’t be) follow along to get the all the gritty details.

Your Watercooler Moment. Terps Talk The Talk.

Must-win is a fuzzy qualifier this time of year. Can any game honestly be termed a “must” when the conference Tournament always providing a final safety net? What if the bubble unexpectedly softens up, and your previously unqualified resume starts trending in the right direction by virtue of other teams’ misfortunes? Those are always possibilities, sure, but you never want to rely on other teams crafting your NCAA Tournament fate. So Maryland took control of its own by picking up its biggest win of the season over No. 2 Duke Saturday, a win it sorely needed (there, I said it) after an uninspiring 11-point home loss to Virginia last week seemed to suck dry the final remnants of its improbable at-large hopes. The Terrapins have been one of the biggest disappointments in the ACC this season. After loudly and persistently clamoring for national poll recognition throughout November and December based on a gaudy 13-1 record that lacked anything resembling a good win, the Terrapins dropped five of their first eight ACC games, including a three-point home defeat to Florida State. Mark Turgeon’s eminently talented team – Dez Wells and Alex Len are surefire pros, and the complementary pieces are credible assets – looked vastly underprepared (or overrated) for the rigors of ACC play, the Terrapins’ Tournament hopes were evaporating and that hot start UM fans eulogized throughout the nonconference season felt like nothing more than a schedule-crafted mirage. With the exception of a home win over NC State, Maryland had basically played its way out of national relevancy. Canning the Blue Devils will help; storming the court is always fun, right? And I’d love to pencil Maryland in for an at-large berth, or at least provide some assurance with a comforting percentage projection. I just can’t, and I won’t, because I don’t know what to expect from this team in its final six conference games. The next four (at Boston College, Clemson, at Georgia Tech, and at Wake Forest) have to be wins. Get through this stretch, and the Terrapins could (could, not will) be inching toward tourney inclusion.

Your Second Watercooler Moment. Big East Movement.

The Golden Eagles are on the rise in the Big East (Photo credit: AP Photo).

The Golden Eagles are on the rise in the Big East (Photo credit: AP Photo).

At the outset of Big East play, it was easy to look at Marquette and Georgetown and see two good but flawed teams. The Golden Eagles run one of the most efficient offenses in the Big East; even after losing Darius Johnson Odom and Jae Crowder, Buzz Williams’ team gets the most out of every possession by leveraging the superb interior precision of Davante Gardner and the intuitive creativity of Junior Cadougan. The only problem? Marquette isn’t nearly as good on the other end of the floor(The Golden Eagles ranked eighth in the Big East in defensive efficiency heading into Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh). The Hoyas are the complete opposite of Marquette: they play top-five efficiency defense, but rank just inside the top-100 in offense. Offense-defense splits are not uncommon – most teams are demonstrably better at scoring or preventing points. Only the elite of the elite can master both. But as we enter the final five or six games of conference competition, the Golden Eagles and Hoyas (along with Syracuse) find themselves on top of one of the most competitive leagues in the country. How exactly did they get there? The most recent set of results shows Marquette handling Pittsburgh at home Saturday and Georgetown delivering another home loss to Cincinnati (its fifth of the season) Friday night, but both have been playing steady if not spectacular hoops for most of the league schedule. Marquette and Georgetown butted heads last week, with the Hoyas’ superior defense besting Marquette’s superior offense. Which team reaches a higher perch on the Big East pecking order by season’s end, I don’t know. Based on last week’s outcome and empirical results from over the weekend, I’ll cast my lot with Georgetown and that suffocating defense.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Other 26: This Is Not Mark Few’s Best Team… Yet

Posted by IRenko on February 16th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

After a 17-point win at St. Mary’s on Thursday night pushed Gonzaga’s record to 24-2 and cleared its biggest hurdle to a regular season record tainted with just two losses, some are wondering whether this is the best team that Mark Few has put together in his 14 years at the helm. It’s a fair question, given the way they’re playing. But the best ever? Sure, not since Adam Morrison was dragged off the court after a heartbreaking loss to UCLA ended his college career, have the Zags had a player with the combination of star power, All-American credentials, and curious hairstyle that Kelly Olynyk has brought this year. And, true, moreso than the Morrison-led team of 2006, this squad is a well-balanced offensive machine, with a multitude of frontcourt and backcourt options. They proved that on Thursday, when Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, who have deferred most of the scoring load this year to Olynyk and Elias Harris, dropped a combined 38 points on St. Mary’s.

This Gonzaga Team is Good, But Not Mark Few’s Best … Yet (James Snook / USA TODAY Sports)

This Gonzaga Team is Good, But Not Mark Few’s Best … Yet (James Snook / USA TODAY Sports)

But Few’s best team ever? They have a ways to go before they can claim such an honor. Take, for example, the 2004 team, which also dropped just two contests heading into the NCAA Tournament.  That squad was led by All-American senior guard Blake Stepp, and like Olynyk, he had lots of help. Junior Ronny Turiaf, sophomore Morrison, and senior Cory Violette shared the scoring load, with all four players averaging in double-digits. They coasted through league play undefeated, never winning a game by less than double digits, and ended the season on a 20-game win streak en route to a 2 seed in the Tournament, Gonzaga’s best ever. Their two pre-Tournament losses were to St. Joe’s and Stanford, both of which went on to earn 1 seeds that year. By contrast, this year’s Gonzaga team lost to Illinois, a bubble team, at home by 11 points.

Of course, this year’s squad could prove itself a superior to the 2004 team — or any team that Few has coached — if it can get past the Sweet Sixteen. Since Gonzaga burst onto the college hoops scene 14 years ago with a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight, they’ve yet to get reach the brink of a Final Four, much less a Final Four itself. The ballyhooed ’04 squad was upset by 10th-seeded Nevada in the second round, the ’05 team squandered a 3 seed with a second round loss to Texas Tech, and the ’06 Zags memorably collapsed against UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen (a game to which one cannot refer without remarking that it was perhaps the finest moment of Gus Johnson’s illustrious career). This Gonzaga team stacks up well with those predecessors, but unless it breaks through to the second game of the second weekend, it won’t prove to be their clear superior.

What’s undisputed, however, is that the Zags have been dominant enough to remain at the top of this year’s Top 10.  On to that, our Honor Roll, and this week’s games to watch  . . .

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ATB: Spartans Soar, Noel’s Future In Doubt and Indiana State’s Inconsistency…

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 13th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. BIG and SEC Are Main Attractions. Two of the so called power conferences assumed the national spotlight Tuesday night. One of those leagues, the SEC, resides at the bottom of the power six food chain. The other is the Big Ten, which has produced some of the most entertaining and hotly-contested hoops these eyes have seen in years. The intra-league disparity could not have been greater, but the chasm in conference quality is where the differences end, at least as far Tuesday night’s schedule goes – for both leagues showcased two pre-eminent teams on big stages, with each game carrying conference title and NCAA Tournament implications. Those match-ups, plus a couple of other sneaky-good fixtures, filled your Tuesday college basketball quota.

Your Watercooler Moment. MSU Bullies Its Way Into First Place.

It was an eye-opening performance from Michigan State Tuesday night in East Lansing (Photo credit: Getty Images).

It was an eye-opening performance from Michigan State Tuesday night in East Lansing (Photo credit: Getty Images).

By the time Michigan and Michigan State finished the first top-10 rendition of their heated rivalry, only one team looked like it merited that elite numerical tag. The Spartans shredded Michigan at the Breslin Center with suffocating defense, balanced offense (four Spartans finished in double figures), and a resounding reminder about the state of Michigan’s recent basketball hierarchy. MSU has been the better program over the last decade-plus, was better Tuesday night, and has all the pieces to be better down the stretch in conference play. The win pushes it into first place in a clustered B1G top tier, with Indiana sitting a half game back and Wisconsin one and a half back. The Wolverines have some major catch-up work to do, and they do get both the Spartans and Hoosiers at the Crisler Center in March, but it’s not crazy to suggest – and I’ll probably (almost certainly) regret typing this, what with the shifting paradigms about who’s who in the Big Ten this season – that Michigan is just a bit undercooked for this brutal league race. There’s no crime in losing to good teams on the road – especially not Ohio State, Indiana, Wisconsin and MSU, all fearsome outfits in their own right. It’s just that Michigan was brimming with national championship potential not so long ago, and for as fuzzy and baseless as this may seem, I just can’t get behind projecting a team that loses by 30 in a critical intrastate rivalry game to cut down the nets in April. This being the Big Ten, I reserve the right to pivot on that hard line later this season. On Tuesday, Michigan State inherited Big Ten frontrunner status. Next week, when the Spartans host Indiana, who knows what happens.

Tonight’s Quick Hits. 

  • Florida’s Fine. I address the biggest takeaway from Tuesday night’s Florida-UK tilt below. Nerlens Noel’s knee injury, needless to say, is disconcerting. If you can decompress and divorce that sad topic from the game itself, hear me out on this Gator-focused blurb. It was easy to panic and scrutinize and work up a lather over Florida’s convincing loss at Arkansas last week. The Gators had dismantled practically everything their schedule had to offer leading up to it, and Arkansas reciprocated that treatment by dominating Florida from the tip. But when you remove the inconsequential subjective noise and dig up exactly why the Gators fell into such a big hole – they didn’t make shots in the first half – what you get is a team that walked into a rabid Bud Walton Arena, stuffed to the gills with a geeked-up fan base, and a Razorbacks team that played some of its best basketball of the season. Questioning Florida’s rebound credentials – its SEC title control and NCAA Tournament seed – is petty and myopic. As of this writing, Florida tops Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ranks, counts one of the most balanced and versatile roster constructs to its name, and has racked up a stable of quality wins so far (both in and out of league play). The Gators beat Kentucky Tuesday, and that’s a nice win. It is not definitive proof that Florida has finally regained its stride after that “questionable” Arkansas loss. The Gators are one of the three or four best teams in the country. One road setback didn’t change that. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Morning Five: 02.05.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday the match-ups for the last BracketBusters were announced and given the lack of enthusiasm generated by the announcement we can understand why the event is ending. In the past it seemed like there were at least 3-4 games that we could point to as “can’t miss” games. This year the only game that measures up to that is Creighton at St. Mary’s. The game is bigger for St. Mary’s in terms of getting an at-large bid since most would consider Creighton a near-lock for the NCAA Tournament, but a road win would be a big boost for the Bluejays in terms of their NCAA Tournament seeding. On the other end of the spectrum is Wichita State, who is scheduled to play at home against Detroit in a game that would be huge for the Titans if they could pull out a win, but it could also be potentially devastating for the Shockers if they were to lose at home and might push them on the wrong side of the bubbble on Selection Sunday. Outside of that there are a few moderately interesting game, but nothing that we would plan our day around.
  2. We have covered some of the recent legal proceedings in the San Diego sports betting case and now we can provide you with an update on the Toledo point-shaving scandal (a case we first discussed back in 2008). Yesterday, Mitchell “Ed” Karam pleaded guilty to bribing basketball players to shave points in several games played between 2004 and 2006 as well as fixing horse races and defrauding others in Detroit real estate deals. Karam along with his partner, Ghazi “Gary” Manni, bet approximately $331,000 on the basketball games, but as Karam’s attorney claims his client was the unlucky individual who happened to associate himself with Manni. With Manni set to go to trial on March 12 we suspect that his attorney will be telling a vastly different story than Karam’s attorney did.
  3. Murray State  guard Zay Jackson, who was suspended from the team for this horrific hit-and-run incident in September, pleaded guilty yesterday to second-degree assault and wanton endangerment with a sentence of 60 days in jail of which he still has 49 more days to serve before being on probation for three years. Before the plea deal was reached Jackson was looking at five years in jail before he entered the plea deal. In addition to the jail time and probation Jackson will pay for the victims’ medical expenses. Interestingly, Jackson had originally been sentenced to 30 days in jail by a previous judge who subsequently admitted to having ties to Murray State before recusing himself from the case. While we find it hard to believe it is expected that Jackson will return to the team next season. We are guessing this will be brought up by more than one group of opposing fans.
  4. We have all heard plenty of stories about unsavory scouts so it is refreshing to read The New York Times‘ profile on Tom Konchalski, a New York City scout who is well-known in recruiting circles for his HBSI Report which he bought from Howard Garfinkel after initially working for Garfinkel. Konchalski’s knowledge of the high school basketball scene in the New York City metro area and beyond borders on encyclopedic and as the article notes on several occasions Konchalski can recall meeting players and the circumstances of their meeting almost instantaneously when meeting them again even it was over 30 years ago. Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Konchalski is that we have never heard his name mentioned in any scandals (or maybe that fact that we find it refreshing is reflective of the state of scouting). If you are looking for a more in-depth profile on Konchalski check out this 2010 feature from New York Magazine, which is goes into his life and passion in more detail.
  5. We focus almost exclusively on men’s college basketball, but on certain occasions we will venture over to the women’ game for particularly notable events. Unfortunately this time the reason is a sad one as Monica Quan, an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton, and her boyfriend were killed in their apartment late on Sunday night. As of late Monday night no leads into the double-murder had become public. We don’t know much about Quan or the women’s program at Cal State Fullerton, but we want to send our condolences to the family members of these two individuals and any others who may have known them as this appears to be yet another senseless act of violence.
Share this story

Breaking Down the Horizon League Race

Posted by WCarey on January 31st, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between Detroit and Wright State. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

While Detroit represented the Horizon League in the NCAA Tournament last season, prior to this season Butler had long maintained a virtual stronghold on the top position in the conference. Luckily for the current members of the Horizon League, Butler is no longer around as the Bulldogs bolted after the 2011-12 season to join the Atlantic 10. With the Bulldogs’ departure, teams who had long played second fiddle to Brad Stevens’ program were now given the opportunity to make themselves known as serious contenders. The following is a breakdown of the four teams who currently possess the best chance of taking home the conference crown this year and represent the Horizon League in the NCAA Tournament.

Broekhoff Leads A Dangerous Valparaiso Team

1. Valparaiso – 16-6 overall (6-2 in Horizon League) – Bryce Drew’s Crusaders are not only in first place in the conference, but they are also one of the hottest teams in the league. After dropping their conference opener, a home match-up with Loyola, the Crusaders have notched wins in six of their last seven games. Valpo is led by a duo of foreign-born front line standouts. Australian senior forward Ryan Broekhoff – last season’s Horizon League Player of the Year – leads the team in scoring (17.2 PPG) and rebounding (8.5 RPG), while fellow senior forward Kevin Van Wijk, a native of the Netherlands, trails only Broekhoff for the team lead in scoring (13.5 PPG) and rebounding (5.2 RPG). While the Crusaders dropped their most recent contest – a road setback to Youngstown State on Wednesday – the remainder of their schedule is manageable enough for the team to remain the favorite to earn the regular season crown and the top seed in the league tournament.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story