Big 12 Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 9th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference. With tournament action set to tip from Kansas City on Thursday, get set with RTC’s postseason preview and regular season recap.

Postseason Preview

  • Headed into the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas State is widely considered the hottest team in the conference and is looking square in the face of a semifinal matchup against the Kansas Jayhawks that could be the game of the tournament.   That of course assumes the Wildcats get past potential quarterfinal opponent Colorado, who recorded a regular season sweep of Kansas State.
  • On the bottom half of the bracket, the Longhorns might have to take another shot from Baylor, TexasA&M and/or Missouri in order to play on Saturday.  The Longhorns are a collective 5-0 against these teams during the regular season and all four teams, including Texas, are playing to improve their tourney seed.
  • The reality is that the NCAA Tournament impacts some, but really doesn’t mean much to others.  Barring a minor miracle, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, OklahomaState and Iowa State are teams whose fans will be done following this weekend, unless you consider the NIT or CBI worth watching.
  • The Kansas Jayhawks are a lock for a #1 seed and even a quarterfinal upset wouldn’t change that.  The Jayhawks aren’t likely to pack up and leave without a fight, but the results this weekend just aren’t that important for anything more than bragging rights.
  • Baylor and Nebraska are two teams that need a deep run to jump back on the bubble and the two teams that cannot afford a first or even second round loss if they want to be considered.  A semifinal run by either and they can start making their case to the committee.
  • For the rest, it’s playing for seed.  Colorado probably needs to avoid a first round upset, but beyond that, wins by the Buffs, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas and Kansas State all serve as arguments for a higher seed in the NCAA tournament.  For Texas, it’s probably a two-seed if they play well, a three if they do not.  A&M probably falls in the 4-6 range.  Missouri probably goes as high as a #6 and as low as a #10.  Colorado is looking at something in the 10-12 range while Kansas State could jump quite a bit if they win the tournament and possibly work their way back to a #5 or six seed looking most likely at this point.
  • The Big 12 Tournament has different meanings for different teams, but it’s a weekend that definitely holds March ramifications for many, considering the parity across college basketball in 2010-2011.

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Second Round Game Analysis: Sunday Games

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 16 of the second round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Sunday games.

12:10 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #8 Gonzaga  (Buffalo pod)

In the CBS national game to start the day, everyone will get this very enticing game between Syracuse and Gonzaga.  Given the way this year is winding up, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Orange without their big man Arinze Onuaku found itself on the short end of the score around 2:30 pm today.  But we still have faith in Syracuse even without the talented center and we think that Jim Boeheim’s team is too good to fall short of the Final Four this early.  The primary problem that the Zags are going to have is one they didn’t have to worry as much about with Florida State, and that is in stopping the powerful SU offense.  With offensive scoring threats at all five positions, Syracuse is in a far more advantageous position than FSU was (with their limited offense) when Gonzaga caught fire on Friday — if the Zags want to get into a shootout with Syracuse, that’s not likely to end well for them. Still, with the way the Big East has had so many early round troubles, and the WCC looking great with St. Mary’s already in the Sweet Sixteen, we’re not ready to dismiss the Zags based on that alone.  The Syracuse zone is likely to be something that Mark Few’s team has not seen with such athletes all season, so even with their ability to put the ball in the hole, we hesitate to think the Zags can consistently score on it.

The Skinny: Gonzaga will push the Orange, but we still like this team to advance and make a serious push for the national title in coming weeks.

2:20 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

You might not see it on their faces, but the Buckeyes are smiling.  Northern Iowa’s removal of Kansas puts Ohio State in the driver’s seat in the Midwest region.  That said, there’s still no way Thad Matta and Evan Turner are going to let the rest of that team look past their opponents and assume an open road to Indianapolis.  Good thing, because Georgia Tech showed us that they’re not just made up of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal and a bunch of suckers.  The Yellow Jackets shot 2-10 from the three point line but balanced that by holding Big 12 player of the year James Anderson to a 3-12 shooting night, 0-6 from beyond the three-point arc, and an overall 11 points.  But the most impressive aspect of Georgia Tech’s performance on Friday night — by FAR — was the fact that they went to the free throw line 25 times — and hit 24 of them!  It wasn’t just Lawal and Favors.  Tech played nine players, and eight of them shot at least one free throw.  Evan Turner isn’t just the player of the year in his conference, though — he’s likely the national POY, so the Tech task is that much tougher.  Turner wasn’t himself in their first round game against UCSB, going 2-13 and posting only nine points (though he did contribute 10 boards and five assists).  He’s looking to break out, and knows he’ll have to be at his best.  Lawal and Favors, though, will be looking to get Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler, and Turner in foul trouble early and open poke some holes in that OSU front line.

The Skinny:  You probably don’t want to go with our Midwest picks, since yesterday we took Kansas and Ohio.  It’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that this will be a great second round game, but that stat line of Turner’s shows you that he can play such an important role on the team even when he’s not scoring.  For Tech to win, they’d have to turn in a similar performance at the free throw line, keep Turner under wraps and coax him into a supporting role again, and cool down Jon Diebler.  That’s a tough trifecta to pull off.  We don’t see it happening.  But we didn’t see Northern Iowa dismissing Kansas, either.

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Afternoon

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Friday afternoon games.


12:15 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #15 Morgan State  (Buffalo pod)

West Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation. They squeaked out an enormous road win at Villanova to end the regular season then swept through Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Georgetown en route to a Big East championship riding the heroics of Da’Sean Butler. The Mountaineers are an extremely gifted rebounding team; in fact, sometimes their best offense comes after a missed shot. They feature multiple weapons that can step out and shoot a mid-range jumper or three from Wellington Smith to Kevin Jones to the all-around dynamo Butler. Also, few teams can match West Virginia’s intensity in the halfcourt defensively. Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman will need a gigantic scoring output from their own star, Baltimore native Reggie Holmes. Holmes scored 25 or more points fifteen times this season, averaging 21.3 PPG and ranking in the top-50 in percentage of shots taken. The Bears also feature a rugged forward named Kevin Thompson who comes in at fifth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. In fact, Morgan State ranks 11th in the country as a team in that very category. Unfortunately for the underdogs, West Virginia is never outworked on the glass, not with Jones, Devin Ebanks and Bob Huggins prominently involved.

The Skinny: This one shouldn’t be close from the tip. Morgan State dominated the MEAC all season, but West Virginia is flying high at this point. Expect the Mountaineers to dominate by 25-30 points.

12:25 pm – #6 Xavier vs. #11 Minnesota  (Milwaukee pod)

The answer to which team will win this game depends entirely on which Gopher team shows up to play in Milwaukee.  Will it be the defensive juggernaut that held Purdue to 11 first  half points last Saturday, or will it be the team that got obliterated by Ohio State 52-29 in the second half on Sunday?  Tubby Smith’s team has been schizophrenic like that all year, following up strong wins with disastrous performances (two losses to Michigan?  really?), which probably explains why they were a bubble team up until Sunday evening.  Xavier comes into this one with the stronger resume, but it’s difficult to say if the Musketeers are the better team.  When he plays under control, XU’s Jordan Crawford is a talent, and his supporting case of Jason Love on the interior and Terrell Holloway running the show makes for nice balance throughout the Xavier lineup.  The question we have is who will win the defensive battle, though.  Xavier defends the three really well, while Minnesota behind Blake Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook both shoot it equally as well.  This game is essentially a tossup (Vegas agrees, setting Minny as a one-point favorite), and we really liked the first seven halves of basketball that the Gophers put up in Indianapolis on a neutral floor last week, so we’re going with the extremely mild 6/11 upset here, in a close game that comes down to the last possession. 

The Skinny: Despite the seedings, this is a tossup game and we like the Gophers to win it on the last possession. 

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Big 12 Tourney Daily Diary: Quarterfinals

Posted by jstevrtc on March 12th, 2010

After two days of hoops at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, what’s all the talk?  The rocking of chalk.

I don’t just mean the Jayhawk victory over Texas Tech.  The crowds in KC are definitely enjoying themselves and taking in some high-quality hoops, but they’re wondering where the upsets are.  So far, the only real upset we’ve had so far was the first round toppling of Missouri by Nebraska.  As I was talking to some Kansas State fans about this in a local restaurant after the game, one of them spoke the truth:  “Upsets are great, as long as it’s not happening to your team.”

Upsets or no, I’ll say this:  these flyover country folks know how to enjoy college basketball.  It’s obvious from being here how much everyone who’s taken over downtown KC this week, from the fan with the worst seat in the Sprint Center to the highest Big 12 administrator, loves college hoops.  My spot on media row is right beside ESPN’s (and Big 12 Network’s) Holly Rowe, who couldn’t be nicer, and is probably a bigger overall sports fan than anyone in the arena.  Like most experts, she says it’s coming down to Kansas and Kentucky in the final, but also is high on Ohio State.  And when I asked her about certain colleagues of hers who are appearing on certain ABC dancing shows later this year, she smiled, suddenly turned serious, and said, “I’m the better salsa dancer.  That’s all I’m saying.”

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Big 12 Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.  The Big 12 Tournament begins on Wednesday at Noon CT.

Final Standings

  1. Kansas (15-1, 29-2) - Obviously the Jayhawks are above and beyond the best team in the Big 12, and regardless of what they do in the Big 12 Tournament, KU will be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, this season has been a wildly successful one for the Jayhawks, but Bill Self and his team will not be satisfied unless they’re hoisting the trophy in Indianapolis.
  2. Kansas State (11-5, 24-6) - After losing two straight games, one to Kansas in Lawrence and another to lowly Iowa State at home, its safe to say that KSU backed its way into the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas State was one of the many surprise teams in the conference this year, and they’ll hope to continue surprising people all the way into April.
  3. Baylor (11-5, 24-6) – This is probably the best team in college basketball that few people are really talking about. Ranked #20 in the nation, Baylor has the resume to be a three seed in the NCAA tournament. After where I picked this team in my preseason poll, I think Scott Drew is a safe pick for my coach of the year in the Big 12.
  4. Texas A&M (11-5, 22-8) - After the loss of Derrick Roland I thought the Aggies were done. But behind great leadership from Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis, TAMU had a legitimate shot at finishing in second place. Even though they didn’t achieve that feat, Mark Turgeon’s team looks pretty good heading into the conference tournament as the winners of three straight. I think if anyone is going to beat Kansas again it could be the Aggies from A&M.
  5. Missouri (10-6, 22-9) - The Tigers are still adjusting to life without Justin Safford (1-2 without him, the one win coming off of a last second buzzer-beater in OT against Iowa State). Mizzou has the best shot to improve their tournament seed if they can beat A&M in the quarterfinals. A third shot at Kansas is what everyone in Columbia is wishing for, but I’m not sure another 20-point loss to Kansas is what MU needs before the NCAA Tournament.
  6. Texas (9-7, 23-8) – If there is any sportswriter in the world that picked Texas to finish sixth in the Big 12 please come forward and let me bask in your wisdom. I think its safe to say UT is the surprise team of the season in this conference, even more so than Oklahoma. The Longhorns have one of the most talented teams in the nation and they will probably end up being a #7 seed in the NCAA tournament. No one in Austin is satisfied. However, if the Longhorns go on a run we could still have the Big 12 final that everyone expected, Kansas vs. Texas.
  7. Oklahoma State (9-7, 21-9) – If the Cowboys want to make some more noise on the national level now is the time to do it. James Anderson will keep you in just about every game, but the other players around him need to step it up. I think this team could be the surprise of the Big 12 Tournament this season, remember they beat Kansas State in Manhattan back in late January and the Wildcats would be their second round matchup if OSU gets past Oklahoma.
  8. Colorado (6-10, 15-15) – Find me one person in Boulder that isn’t happy with an eighth place finish in the Big 12 and I’ll be overly surprised. CU has finally gotten themselves out of the cellar, and this could be enough reason for Cory Higgins to skip the draft and make a run at the NCAA Tournament next season.
  9. Texas Tech (4-12, 16-14) – What started out as a promising year for the Red Raiders has ended quite terribly. Right now TTU is riding a seven-game losing streak and even if they were to beat Colorado in the first round of the conference tournament, it is highly unlikely they could beat KU to make some kind of improbable run.
  10. Oklahoma (4-12, 13-17) - OU fans would love to see an upset of their in-state rival in the first round game, but I also think many Sooners fans feel the same way about this season that the Coates family felt about Old Yeller. Sure, you’d love to see the season go on, but it might be time to put this team out of their misery and head to the offseason.
  11. Iowa State (4-12, 15-16) – I think ISU pulled off the biggest upset of the year in the last game of the regular season. The Cyclones are playing their best basketball at the right time, and Texas can’t take this first round game lightly or they could find themselves on a bus back to Austin as early as Wednesday night.
  12. Nebraska (2-14, 14-17) – The Cornhuskers and Mizzou will meet for the third time this season, and the good news for NU is that usually its hard to beat the same team three times in the same season. However, I don’t see the Huskers pulling off an upset of that caliber, and it looks like NU fans can finally focus on the women’s team, which is undefeated.

Season Awards

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Set Your Tivo: 02.24.10

Posted by THager on February 24th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Dayton @ #18 Temple – 6:30 pm on A-10 (****)

All the Dayton fans who thought that the Flyers had locked up a bid when they beat Charlotte by 28 turned out to be sadly mistaken.  After losses to Saint Louis and Duquesne, the Flyers are again on the bubble and probably would be on the outside looking in if they lose tonight at Temple.  Dayton has been an enigma this year having beaten solid teams like Xavier and Charlotte while having some horrendous losses in conference play. They only have two players scoring in double figures, and they also only have two players averaging more than 1.9 assists per game.  Their offense is also ranked just 105th in efficiency, yet they have shot well over 40 % in each of their last seven games, a stretch in which they went just 4-3.  For the Owls, their main problem is their inconsistency as they are one of the most erratic three-point shooting teams in the country.  Against Richmond, they were just 1/10 followed by a 6/6 performance against Rhode Island then a 2/15 effort against Saint Joe’s.  One of the biggest things the Owls have going for them is that they are playing at home, where they have beaten Villanova, Xavier, and Rhode Island this year.  However, if Dayton shoots close to 50 %, and Temple struggle from the 3, the Flyers might be able to save their at-large status for at least one more game.

#16 Pittsburgh @ Notre Dame – 7:00 pm on ESPN 2 (***)

Pitt may not have the longest winning streak in the country right now, but nobody has been more impressive than the Panthers over the past three weeks.  They have won five straight games, with victories against West Virginia, Marquette, and Villanova in their last three contests.  The Panthers are now just two games out of first place in the Big East, and could be a # 3 seed in the tournament by the time selection Sunday rolls around.  The Irish, on the other hand, are looking at another NIT bid after blowing a golden chance to reach 20 wins before their last stretch of the season against several tough teams.  After losing three close games to mediocre teams in Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Louisville, they are now 10th in the conference.  Going back to their loss at Rutgers in January, Notre Dame’s last four losses have been by a combined seven points.  Luke Harangody, who may be one of the more under-appreciated players in the country due to his team’s record, will be out for the game and may not come back the rest of the season.  Unless he returns up soon, the Irish have no shot at the tournament.   With Ashton Gibbs playing so well for Pitt (he has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games) the Panthers look to be unstoppable right now, and should send Notre Dame to a fourth straight loss.

An Early Candidate for National COY

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

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

  1. Kansas (13-0, 27-1) - After taking care of Texas A&M in College Station and Oklahoma on consecutive Big Mondays, there is only one game left that I could see the Jayhawks losing (at Mizzou). However, after Kansas dominated the Tigers at home earlier in the year, it looks like KU is in great shape to finish the Big 12 season undefeated.
  2. Kansas State (9-3, 22-4) - This year’s surprise team won two games against some of the conferences’ worst teams. The Wildcats are in the best position to finish second in the conference as of today, but their next three games (at Texas Tech, vs. Mizzou, at Kansas) are definitely not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
  3. Texas A&M (8-4, 19-7) - The Aggies and Wildcats are in similar positions. TAMU has the tiebreaker over Missouri, so if they take care of business down the stretch they will grab the three seed in the conference tournament. However, their last four games are all losable (at Baylor, vs. Texas, vs. Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma). Bryan Davis is coming on strong for this team as of late, and he will have to continue his dominant inside play if A&M wants to hold on to a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament.
  4. Baylor (7-5, 20-6) - I can’t fault the Bears for losing in Stillwater, especially when the best player in the conference is on the opposing team. In my opinion, Baylor has the best chance of any Big 12 team outside the state of Kansas to make the Elite Eight. Watch out for Quincy Acy, he is going to be key for Baylor in this home stretch.
  5. Missouri (8-4, 20-7) - The Tigers got a huge win over Texas at home on Wednesday that probably propelled them into the NCAA Tournament. Of the teams fighting for a first round bye in the Big 12 tournament I think Mizzou is least likely to get the spot because of its two games against Kansas State and Kansas, plus Baylor and Texas A&M have tiebreakers over them. Still, Mike Anderson and this MU team have been proven many critics wrong all season, so there is really no science to accurately predicting how the Tigers will finish.
  6. Texas (7-5, 21-6) - Luckily for the Longhorns they somewhat control their own destiny. If they beat Texas A&M in Lubbock and Baylor in Waco they will most likely finish in the top four of the conference. The problem is that UT has been a pretty bad road team in Big 12 play (3-4 to be exact), so any Longhorns fans that blindly assume they’ll win those two games are most likely hallucinating.
  7. Oklahoma State (7-5, 19-7) - The best news for the Cowboys in the last two weeks has to be the fact that Obi Muonelo has been stepping up his game. In games when Muonelo is in double figures scoring, OSU is 14-3. So it is pretty obvious that he is key to the Cowboys’ success. Outside of Muonelo, James Anderson continues to awe college basketball fans around the nation. He is certainly making a case for why he should be a First Team All-American.
  8. Texas Tech (4-8, 16-10) - The Red Raiders are officially dead after dropping two games last week. To their credit, no one thought they would even be in the discussion come February. Good news for Tech fans is that Pat Knight has this program going in the right direction, and he is recruiting some pretty good players for future seasons.
  9. Colorado (3-9, 12-14) - The Buffaloes picked up a nice win over OU in Boulder on Wednesday, and they have the opportunity to maybe get two more wins before the season is over (vs. Iowa State, at Nebraska). I’d say this year has been somewhat of a success for CU, the Buffs acquired another prolific scorer in Alec Burks and they have been a lot more competitive in conference play.
  10. Oklahoma (4-9, 13-14) - The 09-10 Oklahoma Sooners are the definition of letdown. They were returning one of the best freshman from the 08-09 season, and had a stellar recruiting class around him yet they couldn’t get it done. Tiny Gallon has returned, but with Willie Warren out due to mono it’s hard to see OU pulling off an unprecedented run in the Big 12 Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.
  11. Iowa State (2-10, 13-14) - The Cyclones have lost some heartbreakers this season, but overall it has also been a big letdown. Many people thought this would be the year ISU returned to its glory days and got back into the NCAA Tournament on the back of Craig Brackins. However, Brackins has seemed to have regressed from last season, and while JUCO transfer Marquis Gilstrap has made a huge impact it hasn’t been enough to get ISU even on the bubble.
  12. Nebraska (1-11, 13-14) - One of the more underrated players in the conference is Ryan Anderson of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers’ leading scorer is a great three-point shooter, and does a pretty good job rebounding the basketball for his height (6’4). Outside of Anderson, NU has few bright spots.

Player of the WeekJames Anderson (G), Oklahoma State - Anderson had his third thirty-point game this week in a huge win over Baylor at home. In that game he also pulled down 12 boards and was 80 percent from the free throw line. Since his “bad” game against Texas Tech the Cowboys are 3-0 and Anderson is averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Team of the Week – Oklahoma State Cowboys – Travis Ford and his Cowboys need only two more regular season wins to feel good about their chances for an NCAA at-large berth. This last week moved OSU from a team on the wrong side of the bubble to feeling comfortable especially after the huge upset over Baylor at home on Saturday.

This Week’s Predictions

Kansas State at Texas Tech (Tuesday February 23,  8:00 PM ET) - I usually wouldn’t see Kansas State losing this matchup, but they have been cutting it close against lesser opponents recently. If the Wildcats let up at all in this contest they will be on the wrong end of the scoreboard. On top of that, Mike Singletary is one of the better players in the conference and he usually plays very well in Lubbock. It isn’t a Big 12 Weekly Update if I don’t mention Jacob Pullen, but I think he will have a tough time against the Red Raiders who still haven’t given up hope on making the Tournament. By no means will a win get TTU instant consideration for a bid, but Pat Knight will have his players going hard like it’s a tournament play-in game. So I’m picking a huge upset here, and saying that the Red Raiders take down one of the hottest teams in the nation on Tuesday.

Winner: Texas Tech

Nebraska at Iowa State (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) - Both teams are on long losing streaks and they really want a win. You never know what can happen with a talented team like Iowa State if they can put together a run before the conference tournament starts. Nebraska is an abysmal road team, and I don’t see them putting up too much of a fight, even against Iowa State.

Winner: Iowa State

Colorado at Missouri (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) - The only team the Tigers have really dominated in conference play is Colorado. Mike Anderson has never lost to the Buffaloes in his tenure at Mizzou, and I don’t see it happening for the first time in Columbia with his team playing their second to last home game of the season. Keith Ramsey had a big game in the first matchup between these two teams so look for him to be a key part of Missouri’s attack.

Winner: Missouri

Texas A&M at Baylor (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) - Here is a tremendous matchup that has huge implications for first-round byes in the conference tournament. Neither team can afford a loss, especially Baylor, because teams like Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma State are nipping at their heels attempting to overtake them in the conference standings. It provides a great inside matchup between Bryan Davis and Ekpe Udoh, and also a great guard matchup between Donald Sloan and B.J. Holmes of A&M vs. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter of Baylor. These teams are about as even as any in the conference, so I will go with the home team in this game and say the Bears win an overtime thriller.

Winner: Baylor

Oklahoma State at Texas (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) - If any of you remember the Big Monday game between these two teams a few weeks back, you must recall James Anderson’s stellar first half performance. Then OSU faded in the second half and Texas took care of business in Stillwater. UT has a lot to play for because they still think they can win out, including the Big 12 Tournament, and maybe get a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would be a tremendous accomplishment at this point in the season. Damion James is the key to UT’s success, as he had an ok performance against Mizzou and the Longhorns lost that game on the road. If UT wants a big win they need James and Dexter Pittman to play like they were at the beginning of the season. I don’t like how Texas has been playing lately, but you still have to go with the Horns in Austin.

Winner: Texas

Iowa State at Colorado (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) - It’s a possible CBI Final preview in Boulder on Saturday. I like the Buffs in this game because they are the better team, and believe it or not they are not easy to beat at home.

Winner: Colorado

Baylor at Oklahoma (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) - The Bears should watch out here because it is the definition of a trap game. Norman will be loud as always, and the possibility of having Willie Warren back (although there is no way he would be close to 100 percent) is scary for BU fans. Tommy Mason-Griffin of OU is one to look for in this contest, as he has been the most efficient player for the Sooners all season and can be deadly from behind the arc. All that said, I don’t see any scenario in which Scott Drew lets his team lose focus and let this one slip away.

Winner: Baylor

Texas at Texas A&M (Saturday February 27, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) - The Longhorns seem to always struggle in College Station, then again so does most of the conference. I think Texas has the advantage of many mismatches in this game, for example UT’s experienced frontcourt against TAMU’s relatively inexperienced one. It’s hard for me to pick against the Aggies at home though, especially when the game is going to be sold out against an intrastate rival.

Winner: Texas A&M

Texas Tech at Nebraska (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET) - The Red Raiders should be hot coming off the Kansas State game and will blow out the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. NU is just overmatched athletically against every team in the Big 12, so its hard to think they will win any more games this season.

Winner: Texas Tech

Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET CBS) - The best player in the conference will be going up against the best team in the conference on Saturday in Stillwater. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are looking to stay undefeated, but James Anderson and Obi Muonelo should provide a tough roadblock for the Jayhawks to break through. I love Travis Ford and what he has done with the Cowboys’ program, and there is no doubt that Stillwater will probably be one of the louder places in the country this weekend, but I’ve learned my lesson picking against KU before. This team is too good, and they always find a way to win the big game.

Winner: Kansas

Missouri at Kansas State (Saturday February 27, 8:00 PM ET ESPNU) – Everyone in Manhattan has been waiting to get revenge on Missouri since the Tigers upset K-State in Columbia back in late December. Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels will be the key players for K-State if they are going to destroy MU like they’re capable of doing. I think Mizzou comes in and plays tough for the first 30 minutes, but then they will hit a second half scoring drought and the Wildcats will pull away with a big conference win over a rival.

Winner: Kansas State

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on February 16th, 2010

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

I like to mix it up here on Tuesday’s with my Scribbles column. Rather than the usual listing of ten players/coaches/programs catching my eye, I’m going to give this column a bit of a twist. My ten this week will attempt to rank the top ten conferences in America and highlight an underappreciated player residing in that conference. Sure, labeling someone as underrated can be completely subjective, but that’s the joy of having my own weekly column. And team success is not a factor, here; in fact, that’s what makes these players underrated on an individual basis. Let’s get right to it:

1. Big 12: Donald Sloan, Texas A&M- Most thought Derrick Roland’s crippling knee injury would devastate the Aggies both on and off the court enough to destroy their NCAA chances. Instead, Donald Sloan tossed on his Superman cape and carried the load in the absence of his best friend. The run began for A&M with a stunning road victory at a place where nobody wins- Missouri- coupled with a sweep of Texas Tech and a home win over fellow NCAA team Baylor sandwiched in the middle. Sure he struggled in the second half in A&M’s valiant effort vs. Kansas, but just ask head coach Mark Turgeon if Sloan has been the senior leader, the backbone, the constant force behind the A&M attack. Sloan has scored in double figures in every Big 12 game save a loss at Kansas State and even poured in three performances of 26+ points. His 18.2 PPG is good for third in the Big 12 and Sloan is shooting a cool 46% from the field, 78% from the line and 37% from three. The 6’3 senior ranks in the top-75 in the nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, meaning if a defender respects Sloan’s reliable mid-range shot, he can penetrate and get to the charity stripe as good as any offensive player in the Big 12. Cole Aldrich, James Anderson and Jacob Pullen may get more publicity, but Sloan is just as vital to his team on the offensive end of the floor.

Sloan has done an admirable job leading the Aggies

2. Big East: Jamine Peterson, Providence- This high-flying Friar might be the most athletic player in the Big East outside of Stanley Robinson. I witnessed his athleticism first-hand during the late stages of a win at Northeastern early this season when, inbounding under their basket, Peterson leaped over two Huskies on an alley-oop dunk that iced the game for the Friars. His skill set is incredibly rare: a 6’6 redshirt sophomore that can score with ferocity in the paint, step out and drain a three (40 made on the year) and absolutely dominate the glass. Peterson and the rest of his Friar teammates do have a propensity to turn the ball over with extreme frequency, but Jamine more than makes up for it with his 18.9 PPG. His rebounding ranks even a notch higher as Peterson is just 0.1 RPG from averaging a double-double, ranks in the top-50 in offensive rebounding percentage and has two games this season with 20+ rebounds, including an otherworldly 29/20 effort vs. Rutgers in January. A suspect overall floor game and woeful free throw shooting percentage are the only facets of Peterson’s game hindering his quest towards becoming a top-flight Big East player. With two years left at the Dunk (appropriately named), I’d be willing to bet Peterson receives more and more love from the national media as he averages 20/10 and the Friars improve under Keno Davis.

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ATB: Season-Saving Win for UConn?

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2010

UConn Not Ready to Go Quietly. Connecticut 84, #3 Villanova 75.  Does every men’s conference in the Northeast have ADD? Is it the snow or maybe a mid-winter funk? Most likely a number of very good teams have begun to believe their season-long press clippings, while a number of other good teams have taken a hard look at their resumes, the one the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will review in about four weeks. And they don’t like what they see. They are down to their last chances. Villanova may have been reading their press clippings. And Connecticut may have taken a hard look at their resume.  UConn bounced back from their worst performance of the season (a 60-48 drubbing by Cincinnati on their home court) with what might be their best performance of the season, as the Huskies downed the #3 Villanova Wildcats 84-75 in front of 18,123 loyal Wildcat fans at the Wachovia Center in downtown Philadelphia. Leading by one at the half, UConn broke the game open with a 16-9 run in the first five minutes of the second half.  Villanova shaved UConn’s lead to five several times over the last 15 minutes, but could get no closer. Kemba Walker scored a career-high 29 points on 6-10 FGs. “We had no answer for Kemba Walker. He just had a great night,” noted Coach Jay Wright in the postgame press conference. Scottie Reynolds scored a team-high 18 points for Villanova, on 8-14 shooting.  Villanova did not match up well on the inside against the Huskies’ frontcourt rotation of Alex Oriakhi, Stanley Robinson, Charles Okwandu, Gavin Edwards and Jamal Coombs-McDaniels. Antonio Pena was saddled with two first half fouls, and fouled out of the game at the 3:44 mark of the second half, having played only 18 minutes. Backup center Maurice Sutton fouled out in nine minutes of play, leaving freshman Mouphtaou Yarou to finish the game. In all Villanova committed thirty fouls, putting Connecticut on the line for 44 free throw attempts. The Huskies did not squander their opportunities, outscoring the Wildcats from the charity stripe to the tune of +19, well beyond the margin of victory. Fouls have become an issue for Villanova, but in most games they have been able to negate their opponent’s free throw opportunities with their own. In all three of their losses this season they have conceded many more FTAs to their opponents than they have been able to earn themselves. Losing the battle on the boards by 10 further confirms the Wildcats could not compete on the inside. “I think Villanova is good enough, if they don’t get overwhelmed on the inside to go to Indianapolis.” Put simply, tonight they were overwhelmed on the inside.

Not Much Happiness This Year for UConn... Yet

The Case For Kansas. #1 Kansas 59, #23 Texas A&M 54.  We’ve noticed a bit of revisionist history among media types when they make the inevitable comparisons between the 2009 and the 2010 seasons.  How often have you heard someone say that “there is no team that stands above the rest” when discussing this year’s grouping of teams, especially when contrasted with the alleged dominance  of the 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels.  Last year’s UNC team was really, really good — don’t take this the wrong way — but to hear it told after the fact, you wonder if any other team (say, UConn) ever had a chance.  The Heels were 27-3 in the regular season (13-3 ACC) and held the #1 ranking for nine weeks last year.  By comparison, the 2010 Kansas Jayhawks are sitting at 25-1 (11-0 B12) and have already held the top spot in the polls for twelve weeks this year.  After tonight’s gutty win at Texas A&M and with five regular season games left (including three at home), KU is well-positioned to enter the postseason at 30-1 holdin one of the more dominant regular season resumes we’ve seen in a number of years.  So why do we continue to hear that the field is wide-open this year, and any number of teams have a great chance to win it?  Hogwash.  This Kansas team is every bit as good (or better) than last year’s ‘prohibitive favorite’ Tar Heels and from our perspective it will be a major upset if the Jayhawks are not the team cutting down the nets in early April.  Once again, Kansas showed why they’re such a stalwart favorite by gutting out a hard-fought victory in a hostile environment (Bob Knight called it the best home crowd he’s ever seen, and sounded serious…) through big plays in the clutch.  Down four late in the game, Bill Self’s team stayed calm and relied on their defense and foul shooting to finish the game off with an 11-2 run, sealing another win and further cementing the perception that this team can win games in any number of ways.  A poor game from Sherron Collins (7/1 asst on 2-9 FGs) allowed A&M a fighting chance, but when it came time to play or fold, Collins made several key plays including a steal leading to a layup that tied the game just before Kansas made its final push.  Cole Aldrich had his usual 12/10/5 blks, including control of the boards during the stretch run, and Xavier Henry had 12/6, mostly from the line.  Furthermore, the KU team defense held Mark Turgeon’s two Aggie stars — Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis — to 8-27 shooting for a total of only 19 points.  Kansas has the #2 most efficient offense and #4 most effecient defense in America according to KenPom: It’s going to take a tremendous game by any one team to defeat this Jayhawk-naut.

Other Games of National Interest.

  • Maryland 85, Virginia 66.  This was a makeup game as a result of last week’s inclement weather in the greater DC area, and Virginia probably wishes that the reschedule had been set for another night.  Because on this night, Maryland couldn’t miss, hitting 70% in the first half en route to a dominant performance over the surprise team in the ACC this year.  Greivis Vasquez had 25 of his 30/8/5 assts in that half, and with the win, the Terps move into a three-way tie at three in the loss column along with Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, one game behind Duke.
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ATB: Blowout Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2010

Blowout Weekend.  On paper, it looked to be a dog of a weekend, and for the most part it turned out that way.  Among nearly 150 games, you’re bound to find some good ones, but among the Top 25 there were twelve games where the favorite won by 10+ points and of the six “upsets” involving ranked teams, even three of those were blowouts the other direction.  Maybe everyone knew that the sports world’s focus would be on the Super Bowl, so they figured they’d save some drama for the rest of the month.  Whatever the case, we’re expecting some much better games this week during ESPN’s self-described Rivalry Week.

Game of the WeekendIllinois 78, #5 Michigan State 73. For the second consecutive weekend, ESPN got lucky in that the best marquee matchup of teams happened to coincide with their Gameday game.  In a wild Orange Krush environment in Champaign on Saturday night, it was Demetri McCamey who brought the noise with a 22/11 assts night that included six threes, every one of which seemed to be of the timely variety.  Perhaps his biggest of the night was with less than a minute to go, a shot that effectively put the game away from the Illini.  MSU got a huge night from Draymond Green (17/16), but it seemed as if the Spartans lacked a little of their usual poise with their star point guard acting as an assistant due to his ankle injury (18 turnovers, six from his replacement, Korie Lucious).  It didn’t seem to bother the Illinois students who RTC’d afterward in a questionable display for a program of that caliber.  The win puts Illinois in a virtual tie with Wisconsin, Purdue and Ohio State just one game back in the loss column behind MSU, but we’re not sold on the long-term viability of that team as much as the others.  Still, they were the better team on this night, largely due to McCamey’s heroics, and we’re thankful that the Big Ten race has now gotten a lot more interesting.

Orange Krush Fail (AP/Heather Coit)

Notable Upsets This Weekend.   The theme here?  Home teams.

  • Oklahoma 80, #10 Texas 71.  It was Wayman Tisdale Day at Oklahoma, and the Sooners used the inspiration from the sweet-shooting big man and musician to jump out on the reeling Longhorns behind 20/10 from Cade Davis and 24/5 from Tommy Mason-Griffin.  The Horns once again looked indecisive and like a team without on offensive identity in this one, and it didn’t help that they were a putrid 10-27 from the foul line.  Can Texas find their mojo in time for a visit from #1 Kansas on Monday night?
  • UNLV 88, #12 BYU 74.  This was a good old-fashioned asskicking, as UNLV jumped out to a 47-18 first-half lead and never looked back.  Tre’Von Willis had a career-high 33 points as his team hit their first nine three-point attempts and effectively walloped the Cougars from their perch atop the conference.  BYU star Jimmer Fredette had 21 points, but he worked for it on 4-15 shooting.  The MWC might have three teams that are NCAA-worthy this year if you include New Mexico in that mix.
  • Richmond 71, #17 Temple 54.  It was Richmond that appeared to have one of the nation’s top defenses (and offenses!) on this night as the Spiders moved into a four-way tie in the loss column by torching Temple.  The Spiders shot 58% from the field and held Temple to just 32% behind Kevin Anderson’s 29/5/3 assts on 11-17 shooting.  With the Pac-10 looking like a one-bid league, could the A10 be a four-team league this year including some combination of UR, Temple, Rhode Island, Xavier, Dayton and Charlotte?

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Set Your Tivo: 01.27.10

Posted by THager on January 27th, 2010

***** - quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** - best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** - set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** - set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* - don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#23 Vanderbilt @ #14 Tennessee – 7pm on ESPNU (*****)

Bruce Busts Out the Orange Blazer in Big Games

This should be an absolutely fantastic game. It features one of the country’s favorite teams right now in Bruce Pearl’s new-look Volunteers, as well as the most underrated team in the country in Vanderbilt. These teams are in-state rivals, and a win will be huge for either team. Tennessee just suffered their first loss since the arrest of four players earlier this month to Georgia over the weekend. This group of “new” players has not had to face adversity yet this year on the court, so it will be key for their confidence to win this one at home. Vanderbilt is on a tear, winning their last nine games en route to becoming the only undefeated team remaining in the SEC. They have shown the ability to play both sound offense and defense at times, but tonight’s game will truly test their grit when they play in Knoxville, where the Volunteers have not lost since last season. As Wayne Chism goes, so goes the Vols. He only scored six points in UT’s loss to Georgia and eight points in their loss to USC, but he has shown the ability to carry the team on his back as well (Ole Miss comes to mind). If Chism gets going against the Commodores, Tennessee will keep their home winning streak alive.

Notre Dame @ #3 Villanova – 7 pm on ESPN (***)

This is a fantastic game, but it may be lost among the plethora of incredible matchups available tonight. The Irish are right on the bubble if the season ended today, and they have six winnable games coming up on the horizon, so a victory over Villanova tonight could spark the fire they need to push through this season. Notre Dame is not getting much love in the polls, at #68 in the RPI and #80 according to Ken Pomeroy, but they are comparable to Villanova statistically. They average over 80 points a game and give up just 0.6 points more per contest than the Wildcats. Villanova is one of those teams that finds ways to win games, but Notre Dame has already beaten a top ten team previously this season in West Virginia. That victory was at home, though, and they will need to step up their game to win at the Wachovia Center, where the Wildcats are undefeated. Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher are the two guards to watch in this game, but Notre Dame also has some underrated guards in Ben Hansbrough and Tory Jackson that get overshadowed by their big men. Those two average more than five assists per game (Villanova has just one guard averaging over 3.5 per game) to complement forward Luke Harangody who can get down the court fairly quickly for a 246-pound player. Villanova has had more success this season, and is probably more talented as well, so expect the Wildcats to get off to their best start in school history tonight.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on January 21st, 2010

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

Power Rankings:

  1. Texas (17-1, 3-1) – I can’t fault Texas for losing on the road to Kansas State for two reasons. First, Kansas State is a great team that deserves their top ten rankings, and second because it was a road game in a conference where the home team consistently comes out on top.
  2. Kansas (17-1, 3-0) – The Jayhawks just barely squeaked out a win over Baylor behind great play from Marcus Morris and Sherron Collins. KU looks like they’re ready to make a big run and separate themselves from all the other contenders in the conference.
  3. Kansas State (16-2, 3-1) – I really thought that KSU would be overmatched against Texas, but the Wildcats won the game by dominating what was thought to be the best frontcourt in the nation.  Jamar Samuels and Rodney McGruder were the heroes for Frank Martin’s squad in their biggest home victory since 1994.
  4. Missouri (14-4, 2-1) – The Tigers blew a big lead against the Sooners in Norman on Saturday, but they should be able to rebound at home against Nebraska. Mizzou will put their 30 game home winning streak on the line against the Cornhuskers.
  5. Baylor (14-3, 2-2) – I really like how the Bears are playing at this point in the season.  Last night they played a very close game against KU on the road, which shows that this Baylor team has a lot of pride.  Ekpe Udoh is the key to this team’s success, but it should be easy for them to win most of their games against Big 12 South opponents (excluding Texas).
  6. Texas A&M (13-5, 2-2) – The Aggies are squarely on the bubble as we head into the last week of January. The win over Oklahoma was key for this team’s tournament hopes, and it is nice for TAMU fans to see production out of guard B.J. Holmes.
  7. Oklahoma State (14-4, 2-2) – The Cowboys have the toughest stretch in their schedule coming up, so it should tell us if this Oklahoma State team is good enough to play in the NCAA Tournament or if they are destined for the NIT.
  8. Oklahoma (11-7, 2-2) – The Sooners got a huge win over Mizzou at home, but they may have seen their tournament hopes slip away with the loss to Texas A&M on Tuesday night. Seven losses before we hit February is far too many for a team with so much talent.
  9. Texas Tech (13-5, 1-3) – The Red Raiders’ very weak non-conference schedule probably is hurting this team more than it is helping them. TTU needs to get back to .500 in the conference before we can start talking postseason again.
  10. Colorado (10-8,1-3) – I think we will see more wins for Colorado in Boulder, but I really don’t think CU will be able to pick up any wins on the road unless the game is in Ames or Lincoln.
  11. Iowa State (12-6, 1-2) – The Cyclones have fought hard in all of their conference games thus far. Their first three, that is.  It’s a long Big 12 season and it’s a loaded conference.
  12. Nebraska (12-6, 0-3) – NU may have seen its only potential win slip out of their hands when they blew a halftime lead against ISU.

Team of the WeekKansas State Wildcats - Really a no-brainer here, after the Wildcats knocked off the number one team. KSU got a lot of help from the Longhorns’ terrible free throw shooting, but that shouldn’t take any credit away from the outstanding play from Kansas State’s frontcourt.

Player of the WeekJamar Samuels, F Kansas State – Coming off the bench and having a 20 point/12 rebound performance against the top rated team in the nation warrants you a Player of the Week honor in my book. Without Samuels I don’t see how KSU wins that game.

This Week’s Predictions:

Colorado at Texas A&M (Saturday January 23rd, 1:30 PM ET) - Donald Sloan and company have a lot to play for in this game. They can’t let CU steal a win from them on their home court. I think Cory Higgins will keep this one close, but in the end TAMU will pull away with the victory.  Winner: Texas A&M

Kansas at Iowa State (Saturday January 23rd, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) – I really think Iowa State can win this game. Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap are a tandem that can reek havoc on any team, and Kansas is not playing their best basketball as of late. I wish I had the guts to pick ISU, but I’m taking the safe route and going with the Jayhawks.   Winner: Kansas

Oklahoma State at Kansas State (Saturday January 23rd, 4:00 PM ET) – Historically, teams are very vulnerable after coming off a huge win. However, the crowd will be loud in Manhattan and I think we’ll see a hard-fought but relatively easy win for Frank Martin and Kansas State. Winner: Kansas State

Nebraska at Missouri (Saturday January 23rd, 6:00 PM ET) – The worst team in the Big 12 is coming into Columbia, where the Tigers have not lost in 30 straight contests, and the game is sold out. Nothing is pointing to a possible win for the Huskers.  Winner: Missouri

Oklahoma at Texas Tech (Saturday January 23rd, 8:00 PM ET) – Texas Tech is coming off their first Big 12 victory, but it was just a seven point win over Iowa State at home. TTU has been the team with the least bit of “home court advantage” in this conference, so I think OU comes into Lubbock and steals a win.  Winner: Oklahoma

Missouri at Kansas (Monday January 25th, 9:00 PM ET ESPN) – KU hates Missouri, and loves every opportunity it gets to thrash the Tigers on their home court. I don’t think that MU will get destroyed, but I don’t see any way how Mizzou could get a win over the Jayhawks in Lawrence.  Winner: Kansas

Kansas State at Baylor (Tuesday January 26th, 8:00 PM ET) – Baylor is in search of their first big win in the conference, and I think they will get it Tuesday night in Waco. Ekpe Udoh and LaceDarius Dunn will be too much for KSU to handle, and the Bears will help their case for the NCAA Tournament.  Winner: Baylor

Texas Tech at Texas (Wednesday January 27th, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) – This will be Texas’ first home game since their loss to Kansas State, so there will be plenty of fans cheering on the Longhorns as they take on an in-state rival. Damion James may have his best game of the season against TTU, and show you why he should be National Player of the Year.  Winner: Texas

Texas A&M at Oklahoma State (Wednesday January 27th, 7:30 PM ET ESPN2)- Wow, this is going to be a very important game for both teams. Both are on the bubble looking for another win to help their tournament hopes. I like Oklahoma State in this one just because it is in Stillwater, but I will not be surprised at all if TAMU comes out with a victory.  Winner: Oklahoma State

Iowa State at Oklahoma (Wednesday January 27th, 9:00 PM ET) – Cade Davis and Willie Warren should each have big games, but there is no one in Oklahoma’s frontcourt that can contain Brackins or Gilstrap. I’m picking an upset here, as I think ISU will be too much for OU on the inside.  Winner: Iowa State

Nebraska at Colorado (Wednesday January 27th, 10:00 PM ET) – Colorado can match their win total from last season if they pick up a victory against lowly Nebraska, and that’s exactly what they will do. The Cornhuskers are just too far behind the rest of the conference in terms of talent level.  Winner: Colorado

Non-Conference Games:

Texas at Connecticut (Saturday January 23rd, 4:00 PM ET CBS) – UConn is overrated, even when they are out of the Top 25. I know that the game is in Connecticut, but there is no way that the Huskies will have an answer for Texas’ talent and depth.  Winner: Texas

Massachusetts at Baylor (Saturday January 23rd, 4:00 PM ET ESPNU) – UMass currently have seven wins. I really like Baylor’s chances in this one.  Winner: Baylor

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