Texas Trampled: Longhorns Need to Find Offensive Purpose Before Big 12 Play

Posted by mpatton on December 21st, 2011

Matt Patton is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from tonight’s Texas vs. North Carolina game in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina absolutely pummeled Texas from buzzer to buzzer Wednesday night in Chapel Hill. From the opening tip the Tar Heels came out swinging, and the Longhorns immediately departed from the game plan. Needless to say Rick Barnes was livid after the game. He noted his team’s lack of offensive discipline, which he implicitly tied to Myck Kabongo‘s poor first half play. Apparently, Kabongo abandoned the team’s plan for the opening possession for the second straight game. After a horrendous first half, Barnes only played his freshman point guard two minutes in the second half. Why? “Guys aren’t gonna play if they don’t want to play.”

Myck Kabongo is still Adapting to the College Game.

Inconsistent point guard play has plagued Texas two of the last three seasons. Two years ago, Barnes rotated Avery Bradley — a score-first guard — and Dogus Balbay — a defense-first creator — at the one to mixed success. The Longhorns climbed to the top of the polls only to plummet in conference play before eventually losing to Wake Forest in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. Last year, again Barnes employed two point guards with Cory Joseph and Balbay running the team. The team’s offense was significantly more productive thanks in large part to Jordan Hamilton’s development and Tristan Thompson’s ownership of the offensive glass. Coming into this year it finally looked like Barnes had one point guard, the freshman Kabongo.

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Conference Report Card: Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 25th, 2011


 

 

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.

Year In Review

Before the start of the season, pollsters bought into Kansas State as the sexy pick to take the Big 12 in 2011 on the heels of an Elite Eight appearance in 2010. The Big 12 was not overly impressive in non-conference play, as the Wildcats fell hard to Duke in a de facto home game in Kansas City, and Missouri did the same against Georgetown in one of the more thrilling matchups of the early season.

As league play began, the preseason #3 Wildcats disappointed, starting 2-5, and the usual stalwarts of the Big 12, Kansas and Texas, rose to the top. After topping the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in January, the Longhorns looked to be in the driver’s seat, especially after Kansas was blindsided at Bramlage Coliseum to give Texas a two-game lead. However, Rick Barnes‘ team suffered another late-season collapse, going 2-3 to finish the regular season while the Jayhawks dusted off the competition to pull ahead to take their seventh straight conference crown.

Elsewhere in the conference, the Wildcats bounced back to end the season in third place. The middle of the conference wasn’t settled until the latter stages of the season with Missouri falling lat and Texas A&MColorado and Nebraska treading water. Baylor underachieved, given the talented personnel in Waco, and Oklahoma State never really looked in sync. OklahomaTexas Tech and Iowa State all had awful seasons to finish at the bottom of the standings.

In the conference tournament final, Kansas played its best basketball of the season, topping Texas to gain some revenge entering the Big Dance. Colorado was snubbed on Selection Sunday despite beating Kansas State three times, but the Big 12 still managed to get five teams into the NCAA Tournament. However, only the Jayhawks made it out of opening weekend alive, and they fell short of expectations as they lost to Shaka Smart and the Rams’ reign of BCS destruction.

KU's front line of Thomas Robinson (left) and the Morris twins evolved into a strength, and the Jayhawks struggled most when they weren't utilized on offense. (AP/Jamie Squire)

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Set Your Tivo: 03.12.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 12th, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

When we’re this late into Championship Week, every game is dynamite and a must-see event. There are too many games to preview in their entirety so here are a handful you absolutely have to watch today. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

ACC Semifinals (at Greensboro, NC): #5 Duke vs. Virginia Tech – 3:30 pm on ESPN (****)

With the status of Nolan Smith uncertain after suffering a toe injury yesterday (bad toes have killed the Blue Devils this year, right?), Virginia Tech can lock up a bid for certain with another win over Duke this afternoon. After a scintillating conclusion to their game against Florida State, one tenth of a second may be enough to vault this Hokies team into the Big Dance regardless of what happens today. If Smith can’t go, Kyle Singler and Seth Curry become Duke’s go-to players. Singler played like the guy we saw last year against Maryland yesterday, posting 29/9 on 10-15 FG, while Curry did a nice job filling in at the point after Smith left. Virginia Tech slowed the pace down in their win over Duke last month but more importantly committed only five turnovers in that game. The Hokies also held the Blue Devils to 20% shooting from three and owned the paint with Jeff Allen and Victor Davila combining for 29/25 in the win. To beat Duke for the second time, Seth Greenberg needs a similar game plan. If Duke can get out in transition, Virginia Tech’s limited depth will become a major concern, as will their propensity to turn the ball over. The Hokies are at their best playing in the half court where they work the ball inside to Allen and crash the glass, not when Malcolm Delaney is jacking up ill-advised deep shots leading to long rebounds and fast break points for the opponent. If Smith can’t go and Curry doesn’t make his teammates better, look for Virginia Tech to use a lot of zone (they might anyway) to force Duke into deep jumpers, especially Singler. He shot the ball poorly in the first meeting and was a big part of why Duke lost that game. A game like he had against Maryland will lead Duke to a win but Virginia Tech knows what is at stake and can definitely win this game if they stick to the blueprint we just outlined.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.28-01.30

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 28th, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor

This weekend brings us yet another great slate of games with plenty of ranked teams heading out on the road to face unranked opponents. How many will go down this time? All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#21 Georgetown @ #6 Villanova – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (****)

Despite their win at the Carrier Dome over Syracuse last week, Villanova has lost two of its last three games and now welcomes their rival Georgetown Hoyas to the Wells Fargo Center. The Hoyas have won three straight over the New York-area schools to climb back to 4-4 in Big East play. Georgetown has won four true road games but none of those wins were against teams the caliber of Villanova.

If Freeman and the Hoyas Plan On Finishing Strong, Tonight's a Good Night To Start

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Set Your Tivo: 01.21-01.23

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Almost all of the action is on Saturday but what a day it will be. A couple of huge games start us off right away at noon but the rest of the day will not disappoint. It’s very unfortunate but #21 St. Mary’s @ #23 Vanderbilt is not on television and neither is Belmont at East Tennessee State on Sunday, a battle for first in the Atlantic Sun. You obviously won’t be able to watch those games unless you’re attending but definitely check and see how they play out. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#1 Ohio State @ #18 Illinois – 12 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

Sylvester and the Buckeyes Had the Last Laugh When Illinois Was #1 in 2005

It should be a crazy environment in Champaign on Saturday when the #1 team in the land pays a visit. Illinois is having a good year but probably not as good as some of the more optimistic Illini fans would have hoped. That can change in a big way with a marquee win over the Buckeyes. You’ll recall what happened almost six years ago in Columbus. Illinois was #1 at 29-0 on the last day of the regular season and lost on a Matt Sylvester three with five seconds to play as the unranked Buckeyes knocked off the eventual national runner up. By the way: Gus Johnson was working that one in 2005 and he’ll be in Champaign on Saturday if you even needed another reason to tune in.

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BGTD: Late Afternoon Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on January 8th, 2011

Some mid-afternoon thoughts on today’s games filling the heart of the day…

  • Alex Oriakhi hits the boards. Kemba Walker may get all of the post-game hype after his great finish in UConn‘s big road win at Texas, but for our money the player of the game and the one that we think Jim Calhoun will credit most for the win will be Alex Oriakhi. Calhoun has been all over Oriakhi lately for his lack of rebounding (seven straight games with single-digit rebounds including just one rebound in their loss at Pittsburgh). When I spoke with Calhoun after the Huskies’ New Year’s Eve victory over USF all I had to say was “Alex” before he cut me off and went on a rant about Oriakhi’s lack of rebounding. He was quick to note that Alex was working hard, but that he thought he might have been pressing. After speaking with Calhoun I went back to Alex and asked him about it and he essentially told me that he couldn’t really do anything about rebounding because it wasn’t something that he could do anything about, which I disagree with completely, but he seemed like such a nice kid and seemed troubled enough about it that I didn’t want to tell him that he was wrong (especially since my 5’10” frame and lack of a vertical has been a major hindrance in the progress of my basketball career). He followed it up with an even worse game against Notre Dame where he failed to score a point and only had six rebounds. I wasn’t at the game, but I imagine that Calhoun was very critical of him after that game. Fast forward a few days to today against a Texas team that came in to the game ranked 3rd in the nation in rebounds and one that was expected to dominate the Huskies on the inside with Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson, and Gary Johnson. Instead of getting dominated on the inside, Oriakhi turned in by far his best game since Maui and nearly matched the Longhorn trio in rebound total (22 to 21). Even though he struggled from the field going 5 of 16, Oriakhi more than made up for it on the boards and was probably the star of the game even if the rest of the media is going to focus on Kemba’s late game heroics. UConn is still a flawed team as it relies too much on Kemba to do what he did in overtime and it has too many young players who are still working on learning their roles playing around Kemba, but if Oriakhi can play like this on a more consistent basis the Huskies could be a team that nobody wants to play in March with Kemba on the outside and Alex on the inside.
  • Kemba Walker saves the day. Now that we have talked about Alex Oriakhi, we can get to Kemba Walker who shrugged off a rare off-night (going 8-27 from the field even with his late game heroics including the ridiculous heave to beat the shot clock with a little over 2 minutes left in OT). We have to give the Texas guards some credit for their defense on Kemba throughout the game, but we saw at the end of the game that there really isn’t anybody in college who can guard him. Rick Barnes had Dogus Balbay, who for our money is one of the best defensive guards in the nation, on Walker at the end of the game and Walker just brushed him off to him the game-winner with 5 seconds left in overtime. Walker might lose some of his early lead in the National Player of the Year race if UConn struggles in the Big East and he has plenty of competition particularly from Jared Sullinger and Nolan Smith, but the UConn PR department will probably have plenty of moments like late in today’s game to hype Walker’s candidacy if they choose to do so.
  • Roscoe Smith’s heave. We aren’t even sure where to begin with Roscoe Smith. Although it doesn’t quite rank up there with Jamelle Horne‘s pair of boneheaded plays from 2 years ago Smith’s 75-foot heave with nearly 10 seconds left in regulation is going to be replayed on blooper shows for years to come. We are going to give Smith a little bit of a pass (a very little bit) as I would imagine that the frantic finish and blocked shot by Alex Oriakhi that led to the ball ending up in Smith’s hands would have made it very difficult for anybody to be aware of how much time was left on the clock especially a 6’8″ freshman forward who is probably never asked to touch the ball late in games (and after this probably won’t for some time). I’m not sure words can do justice to just how bad this heave was and we can’t find any video footage of this shot yet, but when we do we will be sure to put it up.
  • Georgia knocks off Kentucky. It has already been a rough weekend for Kentucky. First there was the Enes Kanter ruling then there was the football team getting blown out by a Pittsburgh team that was playing without its recently hired head coach who had been fired after getting arrested on charges of domestic violence. Now their basketball team drops the SEC opener at Georgia. Before the fan base goes crazy (and we are guessing that based on the 4,573 fans on CatsPause at the time we wrote this that they are going crazy) we should point out that that the Bulldog team that they lost to could be very good. They have flown under the radar after losing two games at the Old Spice Classic to Notre Dame and Temple (two very good teams) in Trey Thompkins first games back after an early-season ankle injury. Since that time the Bulldogs have reeled off nine straight wins against some admittedly uninspiring opponents in somewhat unconvincing fashion (four games decided by three points or less). We are not sure if Georgia is a top 25 team, but we should have a better idea by January 18th as they play at Vanderbilt and at home against Tennessee during a three-game stretch. If they come out of that stretch with a 2-1 record don’t be surprised if this team is near the top of the SEC East standings by the end of the season.
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Set Your Tivo: 01.07-01.09

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 7th, 2011

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The first big hoops weekend of 2011 features many important games across the land. Here are five key games followed by a host of others. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Cleveland State @ Butler – 7 pm Friday on ESPNU (****)

With Butler’s loss at Milwaukee on Monday, folks in the Horizon League used to the Bulldogs’ dominance are excited that this may be the year someone else takes the title. Cleveland State leads the league by a game over Detroit and Wright State while holding a one and a half game lead over Butler heading into tonight’s game. Should the Vikings win on the road tonight and plow through the rest of their Horizon schedule, expect to see Cleveland State win the league. Obviously we’re a long way off from that but CSU is currently in a nice position. Butler’s problems have been on the defensive end. The Bulldogs have given up an average of 73.6 PPG in their losses while their defensive efficiency has dropped significantly from their top five ranking of a year ago.

The Bulldogs Need Mack Back On Track Tonight, And From Now On

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Set Your Tivo: Weekend Review

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 17th, 2010

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

This is the last major weekend before conference play begins in earnest and it features a bunch of solid games but none that really jump out at you as must-watch. All in all it’s a pretty good set of games. Don’t forget about the two games in the Bahamas on Saturday (Richmond vs. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State). They’re not on television but are meaningful, especially the latter. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Texas vs. North Carolina (Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC) – 4 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

A Smaller Venue in Greenboro, But Still a Great Game

You may never see a game between two unranked teams have this much talent on the court as this one. Yes the Longhorns are ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls but they aren’t in our own top 25. Texas has played better this year on the strength of defense and better chemistry though a loss at USC was cause for concern. Still, Texas has a ton of talent and has the ability to turn this season into a successful one. Leading scorer Jordan Hamilton still has a so-so shot selection but he’s connecting on 41% of his treys, a positive sign for Rick Barnes. Freshman Tristan Thompson has also been a plus for the Longhorns, giving them an athletic post presence who can score and defend very well. When you look at this matchup with North Carolina however, Tyler Zeller (16/8) is going to have a significant height advantage inside. You may see Barnes turn to Matt Hill for a bigger defensive presence in the paint in an attempt to control UNC’s big man. Each team has had some issues at the point guard, especially North Carolina. The Tar Heels have seen better play from Larry Drew II (2:1 A/T ratio) but questions remain with the team averaging 15 turnovers per contest. With a talented freshman in waiting, Roy Williams has to make a decision on who should see the majority of time at the point as they head into ACC play. For Texas, Dogus Balbay has seen his minutes drop in favor of freshman Cory Joseph, a move that’s understandable from an offensive standpoint but questionable in the eyes of some who see the experienced Balbay as a team leader and an effective distributor, not to mention an outstanding defender. Texas is not a particularly great shooting team as a whole so the transition to Joseph could be more about transition opportunities and easy buckets plus Joseph is a much better shooter. As for North Carolina, getting Harrison Barnes going could be the key between middling outside the top 25 and being a consistently ranked team and #2 in the ACC. Barnes is still in a slump, shooting just 33% overall over his last five games including a dismal 5-24 (21%) from three. He’s still averaging double figures and has done a nice job rebounding but the Tar Heels need more out of their star freshman. To become a really good team, UNC needs John Henson to become a consistent third option. He rebounds very well but he’s in double figures one night and single digits the next. He may have a hard time with Thompson inside but Henson is able to stretch his game out a bit and that may open things up inside for the Tar Heels. This figures to be another close game, far different from last year’s Texas blowout. This time North Carolina has the crowd to their advantage and may come out on top by a few points. It’s a huge game for UNC, their last non-conference opportunity for a quality win. Texas still has games with Michigan State and Connecticut but this is a big game for them too in a quasi-road environment. We wouldn’t be surprised either way but a slight edge has to go to UNC in this game.

#5 Kansas State vs. Florida (BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, FL) – 3:30 pm Saturday on FSN (****)

This is the first of two key games for Kansas State, the second coming on Tuesday against UNLV. Winning one or both will certainly help the Wildcats grab a better seed in the NCAA Tournament come March. Against Florida, K-State will have to contend with the Gators’ trapping pressure defense, something that could be a problem given their propensity for turnovers and some point guard issues. Jacob Pullen has been the main distributor at four assists per game but he turns it over more than three times per game, the most on a team that averages 16 turnovers as a unit. Florida’s back court pressure could cause a lot of problems for Kansas State and plenty of extra possessions for the Gators. Pullen doing a lot of ball handling could also be a factor in his overall struggle relative to last season. He’s never been a great shooter, 40% overall from the floor for his career, but his three point shooting is down over six percent to 33% this season. It is true that other teams are trying to lock him up like Duke did, but Pullen has to work through this and become a better player in order to lift Kansas State to the next level where they can compete for a national championship. Frank Martin may go with Will Spradling at the point in order to take some pressure off Pullen. As for Florida, expect them to fire up three’s as usual (17 per game) even though the Gators shoot just 32% as a team. Billy Donovan loves the trey, yet another Rick Pitino protégé who sticks to the system no matter the personnel he has. Erving Walker has improved dramatically but Kenny Boynton still can’t find the range for Florida. Walker shoots 20% better than Boynton from deep yet Boynton has 15 more attempts this season. Kansas State should look to isolate Walker and aggressively defend him, keeping the ball out of his hands. Pullen and Rodney McGruder may have to match Walker’s deep shooting but Martin will be content with Boynton chucking shots up and hitting once in a while, requiring Kansas State to clear the boards well. Both teams rank high in offensive rebounding percentage so the Wildcats must put an emphasis on keeping Florida off the glass as that will lead to easy Gator put backs. Florida is #15 in two point percentage, largely a result of offensive rebounds and the play of Vernon Macklin inside. Macklin against Curtis Kelly will be a key matchup to watch in the low post as each player finishes well and can rebound the basketball effectively. Kansas State should not bank on outscoring Florida from the line considering their awful free throw shooting (55%) and Florida’s ability to keep opponents off the line, second in the nation in defensive free throw rate. Only three players on K-State’s roster shoot over 70% from the line and Pullen is the only one of those three who gets there often. Martin’s depth will take a hit if Wally Judge is out, dealing with personal issues, but we don’t think that will have a major impact on the game. Kansas State is still a very deep team, able to go eight or nine deep if necessary. This should be a terrific game that may come down to the very end. Ken Pomeroy predicts a two-point Florida win so this game is essentially a toss-up. We see it that way as well.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 23rd, 2010

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

Pitt has a team capable of reaching that elusive Final Four

1. I had an opportunity to attend the consolation and championship games of the 2K Sports Classic last Friday and learned a great deal about the four teams participating- Pittsburgh, Texas, Illinois and Maryland. The Panthers were one of my preseason Final Four teams and did nothing to give me second thoughts on that prediction. Ashton Gibbs is a true playmaker at the end of the shot clock, Jamie Dixon has an incredibly deep frontcourt and the Panthers play heady, smart, hard-nosed basketball for 40 minutes. It’s possible we overrated Illinois a bit coming into the year. They lack a bruiser down low that can post up on the block and demand the basketball. Mike Tisdale’s the same player he’s been his entire career at Illinois, a capable mid-range jump shooter that lacks any sort of physicality and is often mired in foul trouble because opposing power forwards constantly out-muscle him. Maryland looks like a middle-of-the-pack ACC team that should sneak into the NCAA Tournament because Gary Williams always receives max effort from his teams and Jordan Williams is a force in the post, although he needs to avoid silly fouls and demand the basketball more often. The team that needed to convince me they were a contender after last season’s disaster is Texas. The Longhorns are a top-20 team with a duo of physical, lockdown defenders on the perimeter in Dogus Balbay and Cory Joseph, an athletic low-post presence in Tristan Thompson and an explosive scorer in Jordan Hamilton. A shortened rotation and accepted roles has helped Rick Barnes develop improved chemistry, as well.

2. The story of the first two weeks of college basketball might just be Minnesota. The Big Ten was the best conference coming into the season with Michigan State and Ohio State shaping up to be Final Four frontrunners, Purdue and Illinois mainstays in the polls and Wisconsin as solid as ever. Minnesota was a team that nobody could quite get a handle on, especially considering it was impossible to predict just how much the additions of Trevor Mbakwe and Al Nolen would help Tubby Smith.  After three statements wins in Puerto Rico over Western Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia, the Gophers appear to be yet another contender primed for a deep March run out of the absolutely loaded Big Ten. Al Nolen was superb in the championship game against West Virginia locking down the Mountaineer’s point guard duo of Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant on defense and splitting the West Virginia defense with dribble penetration that either resulted in free throws (11-12 on the night) or open looks for sharpshooting teammate Blake Hoffarber. Where the Gophers have forged their identity, though, is inside with a plethora of size and length. Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson, Mbakwe and big bodied Mo Walker provide Smith a frontline that can go toe-to-toe with any in the nation. Just wait till they get Devoe Joseph back.

3. The most crippling defeat for any team with NCAA Tournament aspirations could have come Monday afternoon at the Maui Invitational for Wichita State. The Shockers inability to contain Kemba Walker (29 second half points) cost them a chance to pick up a quality win over a Big East opponent and a shot at potential #1-seed Michigan State in the semifinals. Why is this so devastating? One, Wichita just blew their best chance for an RPI/SOS booster. The only other challenging non-conference game on the slate is a road trip to San Diego State, where it’s extremely unlikely the Shockers leave with a victory. Merely the addition of the Spartans on their schedule would improve Wichita’s power rating dramatically. Instead, it’s increasingly likely Gregg Marshall’s team will have to win the MVC Tournament. This task is very possible; after all, the Shockers are the prohibitive favorite, a senior-laden squad with talents like Toure Murry, David Kyles and J.T. Durley. Marshall’s goal in Maui was to pick up two quality wins for the resume in March. That chance has gone by the wayside.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.19.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 19th, 2010

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

All five of these games come from tournaments. Here are your brackets: Puerto Rico Tip Off, 2K Sports Classic and the Paradise Jam. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Vanderbilt vs. West Virginia – 12:30 pm on ESPNU (***)

This is a really good under the radar game between two teams that were overlooked in the preseason discussion that went on in their respective conferences. Vanderbilt struggled a bit against a physical and plodding Nebraska team in a low scoring affair on Thursday. Today they’ll face another, even more physical (and talented) team in West Virginia. Vandy’s John Jenkins needs to get going in terms of shooting the three. Jenkins, one of the better shooters in the nation, has averaged 16 points in Vanderbilt’s first two games but he’s just 1-11 from three. Kevin Stallings needs a big game out of his star, as well as Jeffery Taylor and Brad Tinsley (triple-double against Presbyterian). The Commodores need to shoot it well and adjust to the pace and physicality of West Virginia in order to come out victorious. For Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers, they should take a page out of Nebraska’s playbook. If they can get Vanderbilt into a tough grind it out game, they stand a good chance of winning. WVU is obviously much more talented than Nebraska so the same type of game with better players should cause a lot of problems for Vandy. John Flowers has been a pleasant surprise so far while Kevin Jones has yet to really get his game going. Huggins is going to need production out of Deniz Kilicli, who fouled out in only six minutes of action against Davidson. These teams will likely be in the NCAA Tournament but a quality non-conference neutral court win will help whoever comes out on top today with seeding come March.

Texas vs. #5 Pittsburgh – 7:30 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Texas is loaded with talent and has played up to their potential so far this year. It seems when the pressure is off a bit, Texas and Rick Barnes excel. They won a terrific battle with Illinois on Thursday night with tough defense and big shots down the stretch. Though he only scored five points, Dogus Balbay was the story for Texas. The senior held Illinois star Demetri McCamey in check at the end of regulation and into overtime which forced the younger Illini players into very poor shot selection and eventually cost them the game. As a unit, the Longhorns limited Illinois to 38% shooting, held their own on the boards and blocked ten Illini shots. They’re going to need another superb defensive effort to knock off a physical Pittsburgh team that loves to grind games out. The Panthers killed Maryland on the boards, 43-25, to make up for a weaker than usual Pitt defense that allowed the Terps to shoot 48% from the floor. Texas will have a chance to win if Balbay can repeat his second half performance against McCamey and lock down Ashton Gibbs. Gibbs is the creator and leader for Jamie Dixon so shutting him down should significantly hamper the Pitt offense. The Panthers will counter that with excellent passing wings and big men like Gilbert Brown and Talib Zanna who are smart basketball players that always seem to be in the right place at the right time. Texas has been very efficient on defense so far this season, a nice improvement from last year’s dysfunctional group. If their defense continues to hold firm, this game could come right down to the wire. If that’s the case, players like Tristan Thompson are going to have to step up from the free throw line. Thompson had a great game everywhere else but his free throw shooting was abysmal. For Pitt, Gary McGhee and the aforementioned Brown must control Thompson and Jordan Hamilton in order to win comfortably. Pittsburgh is very good but Texas is a much better team than last year. We have a feeling this game could be another tight one at Madison Square Garden.

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ATB: Coaches vs. Cancer Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2010

We’re going to make this one fairly quick as it’s a travel day here at the RTC west coast compound.  Gotta get to Maui…

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Talib Zanna.  The Pitt freshman is making the most of his opportunity to start, going for 14/12 in the first double-double of his young career.  He’s now averaging 10/9 in four games and proves once again that Jamie Dixon really knows how to find recruiting diamonds in the rough.  This guy wasn’t even a top 150 player on Rivals (although he was listed as the #10 center on Scout).
  • Coming Out Party of Harrison Barnes.  In a mere half of action, Barnes showed everyone watching why he is considered the top amateur talent in the world right now.  He hit all four of his trey attempts en route to a 19/7 first half that allowed UNC for at least a game to look like the dominant force they usually are under Roy Williams.  If the Heels destroy Minnesota as easily as they did “Hoftra,” then we may want to re-assess our preseason ranking of them.
  • Dogus Balbay & Tristan Thompson.  Balbay’s late game defense on Illinois’ Demetri McCamey allowed his Longhorns to seize control of the semifinal game of the CvC, while Thompson did just about everything else — 20/7/4 assts/3 stls/5 blks for the budding superstar.  It’s never too early for UT to tank, but so far this team seems to like playing together a lot more than last year’s team did.
  • Georgetown Guards.  The Hoya trio of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark scored 54 points and dropped 17 assists in an easy win over Coastal Carolina at the Charleston Classic.  This is all fine and well until the guards go cold from outside — they hit 14 threes tonight, but we seriously doubt that’ll be the norm.

…and Misses.

  • K-State Looking Ahead.  Here’s how you know that you’re a top-shelf program.  You don’t look past teams like Presbyterian because you’re playing Gonzaga and Duke next.  If you feel that you’re on par with those programs, there’s no reason to look ahead.  KSU was only up 69-65 against the Blue Hose with 2:30 remaining.  That level of effort won’t work in the CBE Classic on Monday/Tuesday.
  • Madison Square Garden.  It’s difficult for us to believe that MSG is the self-described Mecca of College Basketball when New Yorkers don’t fill the seats for four quality teams such as Texas, Pitt, Illinois and Maryland.  We’ve been there a few times ourselves and even when local favorites Syracuse and UConn were playing, there were still seats available.  Give us a college arena with people packed in like sardines to the rafters any day.
  • Missouri’s Late Start.  As the last team in the country to play its season opener, Mizzou looked terrible.  How bad was it against Western Illinois?  For the first time in 59 years, the Tigers won a game without a single double-figure scorer.  Ugh.

Tweet of the Night.  This one didn’t have to do with any of tonight’s games, but it’s an 8.8 on the unintentional comedy scale.  Have at it, UNC fans…

RTC Live. We were back at the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer for the second year in a row, and we got to see two pretty good games.

#5 Pittsburgh 79, Maryland 70.  Maryland hung tough with a very good Pitt team on Thursday night. The Panthers’ focus coming in was slowing down Maryland’s Jordan Williams, and they did a pretty good job of it for the first 35 minutes of the game. With Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs both playing subpar basketball, Talib Zanna stepped up to the tune of 14 points and 12 boards. In a closely contested first half, Jordan Williams picked up two fouls early on. After he would come out of the game, Pitt hit the Terps with 22-8 run. And while Maryland’s back court — Cliff Tucker, Terrell Stoglin, Adrian Bowie — led the charge back, Pitt threw a counter-punch with Nasir Robinson’s three point play. Maryland never threatened again.

Texas 90, #16 Illinois 84 (OT). Texas got a dominating performance out of Tristan Thompson. The talented big fella went for 20 points, seven boards and four assists. Jordan Hamilton, the Longhorns’ best player, went for 21 points.  After watching Illinois suffer a disappointing, 90-84 overtime loss to Texas in the nightcap of the Coaches vs. Cancer semifinals at Madison Square Garden, I can’t help but ask those same questions of Illinois. The Illini are a talented team. There is no questioning that. Demetri McCamey is a scoring guard that became the nation’s leader in assists last season. Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson, known last year as a promising but inconsistent freshmen duo, are back for their sophomore seasons as McCamey’s sidekicks. Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, and Meyers Leonard provide a long and versatile front court, while Bill Cole and Jereme Richmond are combo-forwards that give Bruce Weber the option of playing really big or really small. On paper, this is a team that is good enough to contend for the Final Four. But projected success on paper is far from a sure thing once the teams take the court.

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Around The Blogosphere: Pe’Shon Nails A Dagger

Posted by nvr1983 on November 11th, 2010

We are still early in the season, but things are starting to kick into gear with our first huge shot of the (regular) season. Like we stated after opening night, if you are interested in participating in this feature and getting your site linked to contact us at rushthecourt@gmail.com.

Game of the Night

  • Maryland 75, College of Charleston 74: “For 39 and a half minutes, there was no shortage of things I could’ve said about Maryland’s game against College of Charleston: the missed free throws, the turnovers, the sensational Andrew Goudelock, the fact that Maryland lost to College of Charleston in their second game, and so on. And then Pe’Shon Howard happened. And then I was left speechless.” (Testudo Times: Part 1 and Part 2)

Top 25

  • #4 Pittsburgh 97, Illinois-Chicago 54: “Pitt played nearly perfectly in every facet of the game. The team shot about 60% from the field, rebounded extremely well, and only turned the ball over six times. When the Panthers play that well, they will be nearly impossible to beat.” (SB Nation: Pittsburgh)
  • #16 Illinois 84, Toledo 45: “This was more like it. Illinois played its first complete game of the season on Wednesday with a 84-45 blowout of Toledo at Assembly Hall. All 11 Illini players that saw playing time scored, including walk-on Kevin Berardini.” (Chicago Breaking Sports)
  • #25 Texas 89, Louisiana Tech 58: “Through two games, this Texas team has looked as solid as anyone could have imagined. They are playing as a team, moving the ball, crisply on offense, and not settling for jump shot. On the other end, they’ve been able to win the rebounding battle in both games and held both opponents to under 40% from the floor. J’Covan [Brown] and [Jordan] Hamilton look like different players; [TristanThompson and [CoryJoseph have already been impactful; and [GaryJohnson and Dogus [Balbay] are leading by example. Heck, even Jai Lucas and [MattHill have provided some quality minutes. The competition takes a giant step up next week, but, again, through two games, I’m impressed.” (Burnt Orange Nation)
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