ATB: UConn Remains Relevant and Other Assorted Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2010

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

Good to See Ya Back, UConn...

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

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on January 15th, 2010

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

Power Rankings:

  1. Texas (16-0, 2-0) – Right now the Longhorns are the best team in the nation, and Avery Bradley is playing at the level he needs to if UT wants to win the National Championship.
  2. Kansas (15-1, 1-0) – I was very surprised by the loss to Tennessee, but it isn’t enough for me to think that the Jayhawks still can’t win the Big 12, or the National Championship for that matter.
  3. Kansas State (14-2, 1-1) – The top three teams in the Big 12 have stayed pretty consistent this season. Denis Clemente was lights out in the first half against Texas A&M, and if he can continue to shoot the three like that KSU will be insanely dangerous.
  4. Missouri (14-3, 2-0) – So far, Mike Anderson and his Missouri Tigers are silencing everyone that doubted Mizzou could get back to playing at an elite level with the loss of their “Big Three”.
  5. Texas A&M (12-4, 1-1) – Picking the fifth best team in this conference is very difficult right now. I give the edge to the Aggies because of what they’ve been able to do in non-conference games, and I also think that Donald Sloan is one of the most underrated players in the nation.
  6. Baylor (13-2, 1-1) – Flukes happen, and I truly believe it was a fluke that Colorado beat Baylor on Wednesday night in Boulder. I’m not saying that the Buffaloes are a bad team, but I think Baylor can play at a much higher level.
  7. Oklahoma State (13-3, 1-1) – If I can say one thing about Oklahoma State, it’s that they have not surprised me at all this season. As of today, they are on the bubble like everybody thought they would be and their offense is totally reliant on James Anderson.
  8. Oklahoma (10-6, 1-1)Willie Warren can lead this team to an NCAA birth, but he has to play at the highest of his abilities. Tiny Gallon is finding his stride, and that’s everything but good news for the rest of the Big 12.
  9. Texas Tech (12-4, 0-2) – I cannot explain what happened in Stillwater on Saturday. That will probably be the low point for Texas Tech basketball this season, however they are slowly slipping out of the national picture and the only way to get people talking about you is to win some games.
  10. Colorado (10-6, 1-1) – I didn’t think the Buffaloes would get a conference win this early. Maybe Colorado is going to be a tougher team than everyone thought.
  11. Iowa State (11-5, 0-1) – Cyclones fans had every reason to be excited about this season, but so far it’s more of the same.
  12. Nebraska (12-5, 0-2) – Could we see a winless Big 12 season in Lincoln? It’s possible, but improbable. The Cornhuskers will have chances to beat Iowa State and Colorado at home.

Team of the Week — Missouri Tigers.  Beating Kansas State at home would have meant nothing if they lost to Texas Tech later in the week, but Mizzou pulled it off and are looking at Top 25 candidacy.

Player of the Week — Avery Bradley, G, Texas.  What a start to this youngster’s Big 12 career. 29 points in a big win over Colorado, and then a much-needed 24 in UT’s nailbiter against Iowa State. He also had a combined 15 rebounds and 9 assists in those two games.

Top Stories:

  • Home Court Advantage — One major theme in the conference this season is that, in conference games, winning on the road is a very tough task. Road wins in the Big 12 have been few and hard to come by, and any team that steals a road win should be feeling very good about themselves. So far only 4 road teams have won in conference games.
  • Kansas Falls — Don’t worry Jayhawks fans, I wouldn’t sweat this loss to Tennessee. First off, it’s the nonconference schedule, which has no effect on KU’s first goal (to win the Big 12 Regular Season Title), and I think it will light a fire under this Kansas team. I still believe Kansas will be in the Final Four at the end of this season.

This Week’s Predictions:

  • Texas A&M at Texas (Saturday January 16th, ESPNU 6:00 PM ET) — This should be another easy win for the Longhorns, but the Aggies should stick around for a while. UT has too much depth, and TAMU just can’t matchup with the likes of Dexter Pittman and Damion JamesWinner: Texas
  • Texas Tech at Kansas (Saturday January 16th, 1:45 PM ET) — Its too bad that a Texas Tech team with a lot of promise coming into the season is going to have to start 0-3 in the conference.  Sherron Collins and company are way too much for the Red Raiders to handle.  Winner: Kansas
  • Missouri at Oklahoma (Saturday January 16th, ESPN2 1:00 PM ET) — Although Mizzou may look like the better team on paper, winning on the road is not their strong suit. I think the Sooners will get their first big win of the year Saturday in Norman.  Winner: Oklahoma
  • Kansas State at Colorado (Saturday January 16th, 4:00 PM ET) — This is going to be a much closer game than people think. Colorado fans have been looking for something to cheer about for a long time, and with the chance to knock off a top 15 opponent after defeating a ranked team at home earlier in the week, I think the CU fans will come out strong. However, Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen are not going to let the Wildcats fall subject to this trap game and KSU will pull out a very close one in Boulder.  Winner: Kansas State
  • Iowa State at Nebraska (Saturday January 16th, 8:00 PM ET) — The Cornhuskers are just not a very good basketball team, and Iowa State has Craig Brackins. Brackins should be able to do major damage in the post, and the Cyclones will notch their first conference victory.  Winner: Iowa State
  • Texas at Kansas State (Monday January 18th, ESPN 9:00 PM ET) — This is a tremendous matchup for a Monday night basketball game. Most likely we will have a battle between two Top 10 teams. A very experienced Texas team with a conditioned coach versus a Kansas State team that many think is overachieving.  In the end, I think the play of Avery Bradley will win this game for UT. Pittman and James will do their regular work inside, but Bradley’s outside shooting will dictate how many double teams the big men see. I predict Bradley will have a great game and Texas will march on, still undefeated.  Winner: Texas
  • Oklahoma at Texas A&M (Tuesday January 19th, 8:00 PM ET) — I am starting to believe in the Sooners, which is probably a bad idea because I think they might implode and end up making me look like an idiot. When I look at the talent on that team, and the fact they’re led by Jeff Capel, I see Sweet Sixteen. However, OU is the surprise team in this conference because they are underachieving, and I think they will drop this game to TAMU.  Winner: Texas A&M
  • Baylor at Kansas (Wednesday January 20th, ESPN2 9:00 PM ET) — I think Baylor has what it takes to pull an upset in this game, however I don’t think they will use that talent well enough to actually execute a victory. I could make it simpler: Kansas doesn’t lose at home.  Winner: Kansas
  • Colorado at Oklahoma State (Wednesday January 20th, ESPNU 9:00 PM ET) — If you truly enjoy college basketball there are a lot of things intriguing about this game. Two of them are NBA prospects Cory Higgins and James Anderson. Another is the fact that both teams are dying to make the postseason, and these games can end up being the best (see Texas A&M vs. Baylor 2008).  Winner: Oklahoma State
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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 01.09.10

Posted by jstevrtc on January 9th, 2010

If you’re pretty much anywhere east of the Mississippi today, you’re cold.  At least you are if you bother to venture outside.  We’ve entered the pale and gray days of January, of course, which around here means it’s time to implement our favorite cure for our Seasonal Affective Disorder — college hoops.  We’re not kidding, either.  Nothing gets us through these days like watching (or attending) some fine college basketball, and what’s even better is interacting with other people out there doing the same thing.  Not only will we be live blogging today’s slate of basketball games, but we’ve also got some of our correspondents attending games and cranking up the RTC Live from courtside (schedule at top left).  So  keep checking this space, get that refresh-button finger warmed up, and let’s hear what you’re thinking in the comments section, because it’s another BGTD for your Saturday.  We’ll be back around noon to get things going.  As the mercury plummets outside, this one’s not only fun for us…it’s necessary!

12:35pm: Great timing!  As soon as we decided to light this candle, the internet connection tenders its resignation.  But we’re back up now, it looks like.

12:37: The first thing I should mention is that we have someone courtside at UConn vs Georgetown for RTC Live, so while I might say a few things about that one, for now I’ll be focusing more on some of the other games happening.  A link to the RTC Live for GU/UConn is above left, or just click here.  UConn is currently spanking the Hoyas, 36-21.

12:44: Right now, St. John’s is looking pretty confident at Louisville, up 26-22.  Man, that’s all Rick Pitino needs right now.  A home loss in a Big East game.  St. John’s is very patient on offense and the only threes they’ve taken have been virtually wide open, which is why they’ve hit 50% of them so far.  Just under 3 minutes to go in the first half there.

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ATB: Life On the Road Ain’t Easy

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2010

Playing Away From Home is Tough, Eh?

  • Georgia 73, #17 Georgia Tech 66.  This is why we can’t get on board with this Georgia Tech team just yet.  There’s no excusable reason for a team with Gani Lawal, Derrick Favors, Iman Shumpert and others to lose to a team like Georgia, even in a rivalry game.  Yet the Jackets walked out of Athens with yet another loss, and questions about Paul Hewitt’s coaching abilities continue to be raised.  Georgia got a balanced scoring effort from its starters, with four of its players going for double figures and led by Trey Thompkins’ 20/6, while Tech only had two players reach that mark — Lawal with 21/6 and Zachery Peacock with 16/5.  Thompkins, a sophomore forward who averages 16/8 who almost nobody outside of the SEC has heard of, took over the game with under-four minutes remaining, finishing a three-point play and knocking down a couple more FTs to secure the win.  This is a great win for Mark Fox’s Bulldog program, who won this one in front of a half-empty arena, and signals the rest of the SEC that a trip to Athens isn’t going to be an auto-win this year.  As for Tech, we’re still not sure about this team in the ACC race — they just seem emotionally fragile to us.  Anytime a team punches them in the mouth, as Florida State and Georgia did, they appear all too ready to fold.  They play Duke in Atlanta on Saturday; that’ll be a very interesting test.
  • San Diego State 74, #14 New Mexico 64.  Just another night in the wacky Mountain West.  It’s hard to believe that the same SDSU team that we saw St. Mary’s destroy by about 25 points earlier this year could knock off a top 15 team, but it happened tonight.  Malcolm Thomas had 18/15 to light up the Lobo frontline to help compensate for Bill White’s ankle injury suffered in the first half that knocked him out of the game after only nine minutes of action.  The Aztec defense accounted for itself well also, holding New Mexico to 35% shooting and their two stars (Darington Hobson and Roman Martinez) to 7-26 from the field.  There are arguably four MWC teams that are in the running for an NCAA bid this year, and it wouldn’t be out of the question that all four make it, as their conference profile is trending as the top mid-major league this season.

No Cause For Alarm? #2 Texas 96, Arkansas 85. This was a much closer game than the score indicates, but should it be cause for alarm that Texas seems to be struggling with inferior teams lately (they only beat TAMU-CC by six on Saturday)?  It’s certainly not the offense, as the Longhorns shot 59% from the field tonight and seemingly got whatever they wanted all night long (especially with Dexter Pittman and his 21/10 inside).  But, if anything, the defense has been a little lacking, especially compared to where it was earlier this season.  Two of the team’s worst defensive performances came in the last two games, and you start to wonder if a little complacency is setting in with how easy it was for the Horns earlier this season.  Tonight Pittman was the story.  His monstrous dunk and-one to begin the second half set the tone, and UT thereafter went on a 20-9 run to give themselves some breathing room and hold on to the lead down the stretch when Arkansas made its expected run.  Arkansas’ Rotnei Clarke had 24/3 and Courtney Fortson made his first appearance of the year with 19/3/7 assts, but the Hawgs have the look of a sinking ship this season and we’re not sure that John Pelphrey can do anything to prevent it.  Damion James also added 20/9 for the Longhorns.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on December 29th, 2009

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

1. The most competitive conference in the land this season should spark the most competitive Player of the Year race come March. Top-seeded Kansas boasts three potential candidates once center Cole Aldrich starts to play with a more aggressive mentality on the offensive end. Senior point guard Sherron Collins has the skill set to explode come conference play and should provide the Jayhawks with more than one clutch play the season wears on. Freshman Xavier Henry has surpassed everyone’s expectations early in Lawrence as the Jayhawks early scoring leader. Nipping at the heels of #1 Kansas is #2 Texas and their all-time rebounder Damion James. James has exploded onto the scene the last week-plus with two masterful performances against North Carolina (25/15/4 stl on 8-22 FG) and Michigan State (23/13 on 10-18 FG). You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that argues James isn’t the current frontrunner for Big 12 POY and deserves definite consideration for first team All-America honors. Kansas State has been one of the bigger surprises in college basketball through the first month and a half behind sharp-shooting guard Jacob Pullen. The junior went on a tear recently scoring 28 in a big road win at UNLV then topping himself with 30 points at Alabama. In his last three games, Pullen has nailed an incredible 16 of his last 25 threes. Lurking in the shadows is Oklahoma State’s James Anderson (21.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG) and Iowa State forward Craig Brackins (17.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG) with Baylor’s Ekpe Ugoh and Oklahoma’s Willie Warren also making large impacts on their respective squads.

2. It’s fairly clear the top two teams in a weaker Pac-10 conference will be Washington behind Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter and California behind their big three of Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher. While both teams have encountered their early season struggles, Washington knocking off an emotionally scarred Texas A&M squad at home Tuesday and California hanging in with Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse should convince most critics that those two will compete for the Pac-10 title. Prior to the season, many believed UCLA would be that third team in the Pac-10 to cause some damage and sneak into the NCAA field. But with a week that included wins over Tennessee, St. Mary’s and UNLV, it’s becoming quite evident that USC might very well be that team. Even with early season home defeats at the hands of Loyola Marymount and Nebraska and blowout losses at Texas and Georgia Tech, the Trojans are coming together behind newly-entrenched point guard Mike Gerrity and coach Kevin O’Neill. The two-time transfer Gerrity is already the Trojans leading scorer and far and away their best assist man. He won’t blow anyone away with flash and speed, but he knows how to run an offense and play the position with efficiency. A starting five of Gerrity, Nikola Vucevic, Alex Stepheson, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson all of a sudden doesn’t look too shabby, does it?

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ATB: Texas the New Florida?

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2009

Damion James Makes an Early Case for POY. #2 Texas 79, #9 Michigan State 68. Four days and two games against top ten opponents for Rick Barnes. No sweat, right? Texas passed yet another difficult test prior to the winter break by imposing their hellacious perimeter defense into 22 Michigan State turnovers and allowing the future Big 12 all-time rebounder Damion James to put up 23/13 on 10-18 FG in a statement victory at home. The dynamic defensive duo of Dogus Balbay and lengthy freshman Avery Bradley confused star point guard Kalin Lucas (3-11 FG and 2:6 A:TO ratio) all night while also forcing guards Chris Allen and Korie Lucious into a combined nine turnovers of their own. In a key stretch late in the second half, reserve forward Gary Johnson drained a difficult shot and forced two consecutive Michigan State miscues around the halfcourt line that were converted into easy buckets. But the real story is the utter dominance of Damion James. He’s now been clearly the best player on the floor against two national title participants in a matter of four days, making a case ahead of Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Craig Brackins for the favorite to win Big 12 POY (and perhaps more). Texas also received four treys from freshman Jordan Hamilton and did most of their damage with center Dexter Pittman on the bench with foul trouble. One could certainly make a case for the Longhorns as the #1 team in the land. They play Kansas, right?

Texas is Good Enough to Do the Florida Twin-Title Thing

Down to Seven Unbeatens. Arkansas 66, Missouri State 62 (OT). The undefeated run came to a bitter end in Fayetteville for Missouri State as the enigma that is the Arkansas basketball team edged the Bears in overtime. Regulation ended in crazy fashion with a wide-open Caleb Patterson layup at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. With 18 seconds left in the extra frame, three-point mastermind Rotnei Clarke nailed a clutch trey and then sealed the game with two free throws afterwards. Missouri State struggled from the field all night, shooting just 32% from three and 31% overall in a rare positive showing for the Razorback defense. Kyle Weems led the way for the Bears with 24 points.

Cal Challenges Kansas for a Half. #1 Kansas 84, California 69. Maybe the Pac-10 is improving?  The much-maligned league got three wins over BCS conference teams in the same evening; and considering that coming into tonight’s games, the league was a combined 6-20 against the other five power conferences this season, three more wins in a single night is something to be excited about.  This was not one of those three wins.  For about twenty-five minutes tonight, though, Cal hung right there with the nation’s #1 team on its home court, but eventually the superior talent of KU won out, as the Jayhawks hit a scorching 73% for the second half and used a 15-3 run to open some distance and ultimately put the game away.  All five Kansas starters scored in double figures, led by Sherron Collins’ 17/5 and Cole Aldrich’s 10/10/5 blks.  Patrick Christopher had 21 for the Bears, picking up for the struggling star Jerome Randle (3-15 FG), who had trouble finding open looks against the Jayhawk defense (including seven turnovers).

Texas Tech Loses More Than a Game. #19 Washington 73, Texas A&M 64. UW got 25/13/3 blks from Quincy Pondexter, who is putting up all-america numbers this year, but more importantly the Huskies’ defense was superb, holding A&M to 30% shooting and handling the Aggies on the boards (+10).  The overarching story of this game, though, was the terrible injury that TAMU guard Derrick Roland suffered when he came down awkwardly and broke his leg after jumping under the basket in the second half.  Those who saw it live compared it to the gruesome broken leg that Joe Theismann once endured on national television a generation ago.  If you’re the type of person who does not handle seeing injuries well, you probably shouldn’t make the jump today (we put the video up, but you don’t have to watch it; seriously, it’s bad).

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2009

Power Rankings

  1. Kansas (10-0) - The Jayhawks hold the top spot because they played a bad game against Michigan but still won by double digits.  This team is going to be scary once they start playing their best basketball.
  2. Texas (10-0) - The Longhorns are very close to grabbing the number one spot away from Kansas. A win over Michigan State tonight will probably push them to the top.
  3. Kansas State (11-1) - It looks like KSU will end their non-conference season at 13-1 if they can take care of Cleveland State and South Dakota. Frank Martin and the Wildcats could be looking at a possible top three seed in the NCAA tournament if they finish third in the conference.
  4. Texas A&M (9-2) - The Aggies have a huge game against Washington tonight. This could be a big statement game for TAMU, which has fallen outside the Coaches Poll Top 25.
  5. Oklahoma State (10-1) - The Cowboys had a very close call with Stanford, and then took care of La Salle last week. This is probably the hardest team to rank right now because their non-conference schedule is not very tough.
  6. Texas Tech (9-1) – Losing to the Wichita State Shockers on the road is not necessarily a bad loss, but it makes it harder for the Red Raiders to make the NCAA tournament if they don’t finish in the top six of the conference.
  7. Baylor (9-1) - The Bears are on a long break, but when they resume play against a pair of SEC opponents (Arkansas and South Carolina) is when we’ll really know if Baylor is for real.
  8. Iowa State (8-3) - Marquis Gilstrap had a huge game against Bradley, scoring 25 points. If he can elevate his play during the conference season then the Cyclones could surprise a lot of people this year.
  9. Missouri (7-3) - Last week’s good news is that Mizzou didn’t let Arkansas-Pine Bluff register their first win of the season. The Tigers will have to prove their worth Wednesday in St. Louis when they face Illinois.
  10. Oklahoma (8-4) - I was starting to believe that the Sooners had turned it around, but then they laid a huge egg at home against UTEP. The problem with OU right now is their depth. For instance, in their loss last night, Jeff Capel got just two points from his bench players.
  11. Nebraska (8-2) - The Cornhuskers play Tulsa on a neutral court, and I really don’t see NU coming out with a victory in this game. The good news for Big Red is that they get a lot of production from a lot of different players; their leading scorer Ryan Anderson is averaging just 11 PPG.
  12. Colorado (6-4) - It looks like it will be another long year in Boulder. Cory Higgins is an NBA prospect, but that’s about the only good thing to say about this team.

Team of the Week: Texas Longhorns - Defeating North Carolina at Cowboys Stadium was a tremendous accomplishment for Rick Barnes and the Longhorns. Dexter Pittman snagged twelve Offensive boards in the victory, which may be the most impressive stat for the whole game.

Player of the Week – Damion James (F), Texas- James scored 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the weekend win over UNC. He is now averaging a double-double. One thing he does need to work on his is FG percentage, as he was just 8-22 from the field against the Tar Heels.

Top Stories

  • Missouri to the Big Ten? – PTI was talking about the potential move last week, and apparently Missouri wants to join the other midwestern BCS conference. The move makes sense geographically, and the Big Ten has been looking for a twelfth member for a few years. The likely scenario is that Missouri would move to the Big Ten,  and then the Big 12 would pick up TCU to compensate. Obviously this is all speculation, but it would be quite interesting if the move went through.
  • Texas’ Big Day - Dexter Pittman and Damion James both had a tremendous day against UNC, which helped the Longhorns put up triple digits on one of the nation’s best teams. I think UT answered a lot of questions about how good their team is, and I think the Horns showed that they are a final four caliber team.

This Week’s Predictions (* indicates “Game to Watch”, # indicates “Upset Watch”)

  • Kansas - California 12/22 (W)* – This is not an easy matchup for Kansas because the Golden Bears can get hot and put up a lot of points in a hurry. However, the game is in Lawrence, and that’s spells a win for the Jayhawks.
  • Texas - Michigan State 12/22 (W)* – Another big test for the Longhorns, but if they play as well as they did against North Carolina, they should be able to take the Spartans. I think this one will be closer than the UNC game, but in the end Texas’ frontcourt will prove to be too much for the smaller, more perimeter-oriented Michigan State team.
  • Kansas State is on an off week.
  • Texas A&M – at Washington 12/22 (L)* – The Huskies want revenge against this conference after their loss to Texas Tech. I think A&M has enough talent to upset Washington on the road, but Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas will prove to be too much for the Aggies.
  • Texas Tech - Stanford 12/22 (W) – Oklahoma State took care of Stanford, even though they almost faltered at the end of the game. I think Texas Tech plays better “team basketball” than OSU, and they will overpower Stanford.
  • Oklahoma State is on an off week.
  • Baylor is on an off week.
  • Iowa State - North Dakota 12/22 (W) – This will be an easy win for the Cyclones, before they take a long break until their January 3rd contest against Houston.
  • Missouri - vs. Illinois 12/23 (L)*,  Austin Peay 12/27 (W) – I don’t see Mizzou beating the Illini in St. Louis. It is a big game for both teams that need another win over a power conference team, but I just think that Illinois has a more talented roster and will beat MU pretty easily.
  • Nebraska – vs. Tulsa 12/22 (L) – Jerome Jordan was too much for Oklahoma State, and I think he will also dominate this game against the Cornhuskers. Tulsa is a possible top nine seed in the NCAA tournament, and Nebraska is a possible NIT team.
  • Colorado – Cal State Northridge 12/22 (W) – Cory Higgins and the Buffaloes need to get some momentum before they start the conference season.
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ATB: Snow Problem, Plenty of Hoops…

Posted by rtmsf on December 20th, 2009

The Debacle in Hinkle#17 Butler 69, Xavier 68. The story over the weekend was the bizarre and (some say) unconscionable ending to the Butler-Xavier game on Saturday afternoon.  If you somehow missed it, check out our post on the subject from last night.  We pretty much agree that the referee crew followed the rules as they’re written, but that the rules as they’re written pretty much suck in a situation such as this.  RTC Live was there, and as our correspondent wrote at the time:

That would be one ballsy crew to take a full second OFF the clock against a visitor down by 1 point.  HUGE controversy WOW…. I have been doing bball for years and I cannot believe that they just did that?!?!?!?!?!”

Ballsy they were, but also correct by the letter of the law.  Unfortunately for Xavier and Chris Mack, the Musketeers were left holding the bag when a timing error led them to believe they’d have a final shot to win the game.  The NCAA needs to step up and immediately clarify this rule, including what kind of stopwatch can and cannot be used to estimate the time so that we’re not faced with an equally ridiculous ending on a much bigger stage later this year.

Jerry’s Joint#2 Texas 103, #10 UNC 90.  The featured game of the weekend at Jerry’s World known as the new-and-improved-to-a-ridiculous-degree Cowboys Stadium showed why many people are very high on Rick Barnes’ Texas team to cut down the nets in April.  UT put four players in the 20+ points column, including huge dub-dubs from seniors Damion James (25/15) and Dexter Pittman (23/15) to go along with Avery Bradley’s 20/4 assts/3 stls and J’Covan Brown’s 21/5/3 assts.  Showing the depth that Barnes now has at his disposal, much ballyhooed transfer Jai Lucas (recently eligible) only played six minutes and recorded zero points.  He’d start for most of the teams in the Top 25 from day one.  UNC’s Ed Davis was the only Carolina player who seemed comfortable with the waves of Texas players inside, as he blew up for 21/9/4 blks for one of his best performances of the year.  Texas will get another test on Tuesday of this week as Michigan State visits Austin, while UNC will head back home for a few easier games prior to the start of the ACC in early January.  We’re still worried about UNC’s point guard play, but we’d imagine that Texas is going to make a lot of pretty good teams look bad over the course of this season.  That team is loaded!

The JumboTron Dwarfs the Court (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

Gonz-awfulness#7 Duke 76, #15 Gonzaga 41.  In a game all too reminiscent of other early-season blowouts that Duke has administered on overrated teams, the Devils completely overwhelmed the Zags defensively to, as Mark Few put it after the game, “woodshed” his team on Saturday afternoon at MSG.  Duke’s defense held Gonzaga to a mere fifteen FGs for the game, 28% shooting, a single three-pointer and a quarter-century team low of 41 points.  Despite all the hype for the Duke bigs coming into the season, it’s been the backcourt play of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith, combining for 36 PPG, 7 RPG, and 10 APG that has truly driven this team to have the look as one of the best teams in America this year.  Scheyer’s ridiculous A:TO ratio of 5.8 to 1 actually went down after two TOs in this one, but his 20/5/8 assts more than made up for the miscue.  Smith added 24/3/3 assts, and we’re going to spare talking about the Gonzaga awfulness since not a single Zag got into double figures on the day.

Shot of the WeekendCornell 91, Davidson 88 (OT). Ryan Wittman’s 30-footer at the buzzer in overtime gave the Big Red its eighth win of the year and a shot at a Big East team (St. John’s) on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.  Lost in the heroics and glee of Wittman’s shot was the fact that it wouldn’t have even been possible had Louis Dale not hit a driving layup with 0.7 seconds remaining in regulation.  Cornell’s only two losses this year were against Big East teams (Seton Hall and Syracuse), so this will likely be the Ivy League favorite’s best chance to get a huge win this season (Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse is not realistic).  We haven’t been able to locate a video of this shot yet, but if you see one, let us know.

SEC Sucktitude. A week ago, we were ready to start believing that the SEC is much-improved this year.  Then the SEC East craps itself on Saturday and Sunday.  We’re reserving judgment for now, which of course means we really think this league is terrible and deserves only one bid (ok, not really).

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 12.19.09

Posted by jstevrtc on December 19th, 2009

Welcome back!  Another weekend means another edition of everyone’s favorite college basketball live blog.  Assuming they all actually happen (there was, like, a huge snowstorm, you see), there are actually some pretty darn good games happening today (Michigan at Kansas, anyone?  Maybe a little Xavier at Butler?), and since we know you’ll be watching, and we know we’ll be watching…why not watch with us?  We’ll be commenting all day, but we want to know what your thoughts are on the games as they’re being played.  So keep checking this space and hitting that refresh button, and let’s have your comments as well.  It’ll start at noon and go all day long, so I suggest you grab some hot chocolate (or your beverage of choice), turn on your favorite game, and join us.  Keep checking back every few minutes!

12:03 pm: So here we go.  Starting off with Michigan at Kansas on ESPN as our principle (and as of right now, only noteworthy) game.  This is a good but perplexing Michigan team.  Their four losses are Marquette, Alabama, Boston College, and at Utah.  Michigan was a tournament team last year and returned those two stars in Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, which would make me think they should have at least won a couple of those.  BC is tough, but Michigan has to defend the home floor against a team like that if they want to be taken seriously.  Quite a tall order they’ve got today.  As I type this, Michigan’s last three shots have been threes, none of which went down.  Meanwhile, Kansas has been getting the ball inside every trip down.

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ATB: Can the Big 12 Sweep the Pac-10?

Posted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2009

atb

Who Else is Rooting for 12-0? The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series started tonight (ok, officially it started Sunday when Nebraska defeated USC 52-49, but the bulk of games are over the next four days), and given just how horrible the Pac-10 has been so far this year, there is nothing at all surprising about the Big 12 sweeping tonight’s games to go to 4-0 in the Series.  Can the Big 12 sweep this entire event?  It would be one of the all-time PWNDs if the west coast ballers fail to win a single game, and from our quick analysis, this is a possible, if not plausible, scenario.  In looking at the remaining schedule, there are a couple of sure losses (Kansas at UCLA; Oregon at Missouri), one likely loss (Washington State at Kansas State), three more games where (according to Sagarin’s predictor) the Big 12 team will be favored (Arizona at Oklahoma; Oklahoma State at Stanford; Colorado at Oregon State), and two other games where — admit it — you wouldn’t be shocked if the Big 12 team pulled out two road wins (Iowa State at California; Texas A&M at Washington).  Our curiosity got the better of us thinking about this (see below), and using the Sagarin spreads (which we realize are not fully interrelated yet, but should still give a decent ballpark estimate), we determined that there’s a <1% chance of the Big 12 sweeping the remaining games.  It’s the Iowa State and Texas A&M road games that really hurt, but honestly, we don’t have a lot of faith in any Pac-10 school at this point.  Anyway, that’s the math, but our general sense is that the odds of a sweep are in reality a little greater than that.

big12-pac10 challenge odds

Make Mine a Double (RTC)Texas Tech 99, #10 Washington 92. There weren’t many games tonight, but the matchup between Texas Tech and Washington in Lubbock tonight was a classic.  The game was so nice, the students rushed it twice.  Or something like that.  After TTU’s Mike Singletary rebounded Elston Turner’s second straight miss at the foul line with five seconds remaining, he dribbled it upcourt and appeared to beat the horn with a running three-pointer (see the 1:50 mark in the below video).  The students rushed the court and started celebrating only to be told by the refs that the shot would not count and we were heading to overtime.  After a bizarre interlude waiting for the robotic vacuum to clean off the floor, the players reconvened for the extra period where Texas Tech used a late 6-0 run to pull away and finish off the previously unbeaten Huskies (the last team in the Pac-10 to lose a game), after which the students RTC’d again (good for them).  John Roberson had 25/7 and Mike Singletary had 16/12/4 assts in the winning effort, while Quincy Pondexter dropped 31/5/3 stls for UW.  Quick question — has anyone seen Abdul Gaddy this year?  The freshman phenom had a ridiculously bad 0-point, foul-plagued 10-minute performance tonight, which dovetails nicely with his season averages of 5/3 on 28% shooting (10% from three).  Ouch.  Washington will not reach its goals this season without more production from this talented guard.  As for Texas Tech, the Red Raiders are now 8-0, but tonight was by far their best win of the season.  Still, the defense has been solid, and if they can get through several difficult road games coming up (@ TCU, @ Wichita State, @ New Mexico), then they could be well positioned from an NCAA bid standpoint heading into the Big 12 season.

Other Big 12/Pac-10 Games.

  • #2 Texas 69, USC 50.  Texas’ defense continue to impress, as the nation’s #1 stoppers (according to Pomeroy) held an obviously outmatched Trojan team to 30% from the floor and 10% from behind the line.  Damion James had 19/9 and Dexter Pittman dominated the interior for 13/5/7 blks, including a complete emasculation of USC’s Alex Stepheson (0-8 FG).  UT’s freshman corps didn’t even play well (6-23 FG), but they really weren’t needed tonight, which goes to show just how deep and talented this Longhorn team is.
  • Baylor 64, Arizona State 61.  Baylor’s Tweety Carter remains scorching hot from outside, as he nailed 7-9 threes tonight for 27/4/3 assts in an evenly-matched game between two middling major conference teams.  This gives Carter thirteen treys in his last two games, as he hit six against Xavier the last time out.  ASU led for much of the second half before a 4-minute drought at the 9-minute mark allowed Carter to do his thing, giving the Bears a lead that they would hold onto through the remainder of the game.  Baylor leading scorer LaceDarius Dunn had only 7 pts on a poor 3-10 shooting night.

Was This Really Necessary? Marshall 119, Salem International 35.  We know that it’s not Marshall’s fault that Salem Intl. is going through an especially tough season in terms of breaking in a new coach, suspended players and so on… but did Marshall really need to embarrass them by 84 points tonight?  Even though the Marshall starters barely played, it may have been a good idea to run the clock on possessions after the lead blew up to, oh, say 70 or so.  Can anyone defend this score?  Why is a CUSA team playing a D2 team anyway?  Color us unimpressed.  If there’s any justice in this world, maybe UNC will beat the Thundering Herd by 60 when they visit Chapel Hill in three weeks.

Other Games of National Interest.  After about 100 last night, we had one tonight.

  • Seton Hall 89, Hartford 56.  The Hall has been very quiet in the first month of the season, in part due to their weak schedule, but the Pirates stayed undefeated behind Robert Mitchell’s 15/9 and Jeremey Hazell’s 15/2.
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ATB: Just Call Him Oscar…

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2009

atb

Story of the Night.  Evan Turner’s Date With History.  It’s only a matter of time.  So long as Evan Turner stays healthy this year, he should have the new record for triple-doubles in a single season by around New Year’s Eve.  He’s already got two in November, which puts him in select company of 33 others players in the entire history of the NCAA to have multiple trip-dubs in one season.  The record is four, held by Stephane Lasme (UMass), Jason Kidd (Cal), Brian Shaw (UCSB) and Michael Anderson (Drexel).  We should go ahead and dust off the record book because Turner is on pace to not only beat this record, but obliterate it.  With his 16/10/11 asst night in an 84-64 win over Lipscomb, he’s now averaging an absurd 21/14/7 apg over five games this season.  He’s really not that far from approaching an Oscar Robertson-esque season-long triple-double average, but suffice it to say that we’re calling the over/under on this year’s total at 10.  The mere fact that you’re thinking about this — really thinking about this! – should give you pause as to the ridiculousness of how well Turner is playing.  If Ohio State continues to hang around the top 10-15 in America this year, does anyone else stand a chance at NPOY?

Upset of the Night.  Morgan State 97, Arkansas 94.  We guess that the Pac-10 and SEC are simply going to trade spots in this section for the rest of the nonconference season.  Arkansas, with several really good players in their lineup (Michael Washington, Rotnei Clarke, Marshon Powell), dropped a barnburner of a game to a nonconference foe for the first time in a long time (45 games).  Morgan State’s Reggie Holmes went off for 34/5/4 stls, but there’s really no excuse for a loss like this for a team like Arkansas.  Maybe it was something we saw in the body language of John Pelphrey’s players last week in St. Louis, but we feel like there are fundamental problems on this team beyond basic basketball skills. 

Co-Upset 0f the NightSeattle 77, Utah 74.  This is nothing short of amazing, as Cameron Dollar’s Seattle club is playing its first full season as a member of D1, and to get a win on the road in a fairly tough environment as that at Utah is very impressive.  Seattle’s Charles Garcia blew up for 24/8 and is it too early to tell Lorenzo Romar to start looking over his shoulder in the Emerald City?  The Redhawks are already 3-2 this season with wins over Fresno State and Weber State in addition to the Utes.

Maui Invitational.

  • Cincinnati 69, #22 Maryland 57.  Cincinnati is looking good.  Yancy Gates dominated the inside, dropping 17/13 on the Maryland frontline, who often looked confused about where to be and what to do during this game — UC was also +15 on the boards.  Greivis Vasquez finally broke through for double-figure points (19), but he shot poorly (5-17, 0-5 from three) and his percentage for the year is downright icy (30%).  The Bearcats will take one of the other surprises of the young season in Gonzaga tomorrow night in the title game. 

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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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