Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on January 7th, 2010

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

Power Rankings:

  1. Texas (14-0) - You can make a great case for either Kansas or Texas owning the top spot, but I think the wins over UNC and Michigan State are better than Kansas’ big wins (Temple, Cal, Memphis)
  2. Kansas (14-0) - Like I said before, the Longhorns have a better resume right now than the Jayhawks do, and with last night’s close call against Cornell I can’t seem to give myself any reason for KU to be considered better than UT.
  3. Kansas State (13-1) - The Wildcats just made their way into the top 10 this week. They’ll need to prove they deserve that ranking during conference play.
  4. Baylor (12-1) - After last week’s sweep of SEC opponents (at Arkansas; at South Carolina), I am a believer in the Baylor Bears. They are just a three-point loss to Alabama away from being perfect.
  5. Texas A&M (11-3) - The Aggies have played the most top 25 opponents (4) of any other Big 12 Team, and they went 2-2 in those four games. Playing without Derrick Roland will definitely affect this team in the future, but I think we should give credit where credit is due.
  6. Missouri (11-3) - The Tigers can be very dangerous especially at home where they are unbeaten this season. The Big 12 Conference Game of the Week is going to be in Columbia on Saturday when Kansas State takes on Mizzou.
  7. Texas Tech (12-2) - Their best win is Washington at home and that win looks worse now after UW flopped against Oregon. TTU hasn’t played enough tough opponents to take them too seriously.
  8. Nebraska (12-3) - I give Nebraska the nod over Oklahoma State only because Nebraska beat Tulsa, and the Cowboys were wiped off the floor against the same Golden Hurricanes.
  9. Oklahoma State (12-2) - If the Cowboys were a legit threat in the Big 12 they would have beaten Tulsa and Rhode Island.
  10. Iowa State (10-4) - I really believed in Iowa State at the beginning of this season, and I think they have the talent to pull some major upsets in the Big 12. However with last night’s terrible showing against Duke, I no longer think that the Cyclones are an NCAA Tournament team.
  11. Oklahoma (9-5) - Surprise team of the year. If the season ended today the Sooners would be lucky to get a CBI bid.
  12. Colorado (9-5) - There is no doubt that the program in Boulder is getting better, but it’s far from being ready to compete at the national level.

Team of the Week: Baylor Bears - The Bears went 3-0 last week beating Arkansas and South Carolina on the road, and then taking care of business at home against Morgan State. I don’t know what would be more of a surprise in the conference this season: Oklahoma missing the NCAA Tournament, or Baylor making it?

Player of the Week: LaceDarius Dunn, G, Baylor - The man with the best name in the conference since Longar Longar has been lighting it up as of late. He averaged almost 19 PPG last week, and shot 45% from the field.

Top Stories:

  • Cornell causes a scare in Lawrence- The Ivy League almost had its best upset since Princeton over UCLA Wednesday night in Kansas. Cornell was leading late in the second half and then the Jayhawks turned on the gas and ended up pulling out a victory. This isn’t the first time Kansas has failed to play to the best of its ability and almost fallen against lesser teams (see Memphis). I don’t know if the Jayhawks can get away with that kind of play during the conference season and beyond.
  • Big 12 play starts this week- Finally, its conference season and we can all see the NCAA tournament on the horizon. Currently the Big 12 is one of the most exciting conferences in the country, and it should be an amazing year.

This Week’s Predictions

  • Colorado at Texas (Saturday, 1/9, 1:45 PM ET) - The Buffaloes look to shock the Longhorns in Austin, but we all know that this will most likely be a 20 point win for Texas. Winner: Texas
  • Kansas State at Missouri (Saturday, 1/9, ESPN2 2:00 PM ET) - I think this will be the best game of the weekend. The teams are very similar, because the main focus of each is in guard play. An interesting matchup will be Jacob Pullen vs. JT Tiller. One of the best offensive guards in the conference going up against one of the best defensive players in the conference. Winner: Kansas State
  • Nebraska at Texas A&M (Saturday, 1/9, 4:00 PM ET) – I haven’t seen a lot of the Cornhuskers this season so this will be an interesting game to watch, especially with TAMU not having Derrick Roland in the lineup. Its an opportunity for Nebraska to steal a win on the road, but I think Donald Sloan should be enough to fight off the Huskers. Winner: Texas A&M
  • Oklahoma at Baylor (Saturday, 1/9, 6:00 PM ET) – I went against Baylor twice last week so I’ll put my faith in the Bears this time around. Plus, Oklahoma has given me no reason to think they can win, especially on the road. Winner: Baylor
  • Texas Tech at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 1/9, 8:00 PM ET) – Tough one to call here, this could be a Pick’ Em game in Vegas. The reason I like Texas Tech is because they have a well-rounded team, giving them more options on offense. The only guy that is doing anything for OSU right now is James Anderson. Winner: Texas Tech
  • Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Monday, 1/11, ESPN 8:00 PM ET) – This time I believe that the Sooners will take care of business and beat they inner-state rivals at home. Norman provides a hostile environment for visiting teams, and I just don’t like the way the Cowboys are playing right now. No doubt this is a must win for both teams. Winner: Oklahoma
  • Texas A&M at Kansas State (Tuesday, 1/12, ESPN2 7:00 PM ET) – This Kansas State team is as good as any that Frank Martin has had in Manhattan. Jacob Pullen is an unbelievable talent and can light up defenses from behind the arc. I think the Wildcats have the potential to be an Elite 8 team. Winner: Kansas State
  • Baylor at Colorado (Tuesday, 1/12, 9:00 PM ET) – Baylor will enjoy starting 2-0 in the conference and maybe sneaking their way into the top 25. However, if they look past this game and lose it will put a damper on their whole season. Winner: Baylor
  • Kansas at Nebraska (Wednesday, 1/13, 9:00 PM ET) – Lincoln will definitely be a very loud place on Wednesday, but the crowd will have no say in this game. Kansas will wipe the floor with NU. Winner: Kansas
  • Texas at Iowa State (Wednesday, 1/12, 8:00 PM ET) - This is definitely a game that the Longhorns can’t look past, because if anyone can match up with Damion James in the conference, it’s Craig Brackins of Iowa State. However, UT has a lot of depth and should get out of Ames with a relatively easy Big 12 road win. Winner: Texas
  • Missouri at Texas Tech (Wednesday, 1/12, ESPNU 9:00 PM ET) – This should be a great matchup and I’m looking forward to seeing a good fight between two potential bubble teams.  I think Missouri is the more athletic team and that is why I’ll give them the edge. Although it’s on the road and Mizzou has not been a good road team, I think their press will be too much for Tech to handle. Winner: Missouri

Non-Conference Games This Week:

  • North Dakota State at Iowa State (Saturday,1/9, ESPNU 4:00 PM ET) - This should be an easy win for the Cyclones going into their matchup with Texas later in the week. Winner: Iowa State
  • Kansas at Tennessee (Sunday, 1/10, CBS 4:30 PM ET) - I would say Tennessee had a chance if they didn’t just suspend four of their players indefinitely, which is too bad because I was looking forward to a great game, now Kansas should have no problem winning this one. Winner: Kansas
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Checking in on… the Mountain West

Posted by jstevrtc on December 17th, 2009

checkinginon

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference.

Standings (as of 12/16):

  1. New Mexico 11-0
  2. UNLV 8-1
  3. BYU 8-1
  4. San Diego State 8-2
  5. Colorado State 7-3
  6. Air Force 5-3
  7. TCU 5-5
  8. Utah 5-5
  9. Wyoming 5-5

Superlatives:

Team of the Week.  New Mexico – As the lone remaining undefeated team in the Mountain West, this one is a no-brainer.  The Lobos combined a hard-fought semi-neutral site win over Texas A&M in Houston with an absolute blowout of Northern Arizona yesterday to improve their record to 11-0, and, especially against Northern Arizona, were the epitome of a team, with all ten of the players who got minutes scoring, and eight players scoring more than eight points.

Player of the Week.  Roman Martinez, Sr, New Mexico – It’s a clean sweep for New Mexico at this point, with Darington Hobson taking home the first two POTWs and Roman Martinez grabbing the last two.  Martinez wins the award this week by averaging 19.5 PPG and knocking down eight more three-pointers, to bring his season total to 40 while shooting 55% from behind the arc.

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ATB: The A-10 Rises. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on December 13th, 2009

atb
In our first college football-free weekend of the season (except for Mark Ingram’s Heisman and ESPN’s phenomenal documentary on “The U”) we had quite a few interesting story lines from the weekend, but one stood out on Sunday — the pair of upset victories by Atlantic 10 teams over highly ranked Big East teams in crosstown rivalry games (Temple against Villanova and Xavier against Cincinnati). Not only does it give those individual programs some bragging rights and a much needed boost on the recruiting trail, but it also gives a huge lift to the national perception of the Atlantic 10 and might cause some consternation amongst the Big East fans who like to promote their conference as the best in the nation for college basketball.

A great night for Xavier and the A-10 (Credit: AP/David Kohl)

A great night for Xavier and the A-10 (Credit: AP/David Kohl)

The A-10 Rising

  • Xavier 78, #19 Cincinnati 75 (2 OT). This might not be as shocking to the rest of the nation, but it might go down as the game of the year so far. It had a little bit of everything you could ask for in a game at this point of the season. Bitter rivalry? Check. Physical play? Check. Biting fan chants? Check (Brian Kelly). Big comeback? Check. Buzzer beater? Check (later waved off). National TV audience? Not so much thanks to ESPNU’s sparse national penetration, but RTC Live was there. In the end it was Terrell Holloway‘s 26 points and Jason Love‘s 19 rebounds that were the difference as the Musketeers overcame 22 points from Lance Stephenson in a game where neither team led by more than 4 points during the last 19 minutes of the game and that was only after the Bearcats fouled Xavier in an attempt to get the ball back when Dion Dixon missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied the game with 21 seconds left in the second overtime.  To get a really good feel as to how intense this game was, definitely read our accounting from RTC Live above and check the highlight package below.

  • Temple 75, #3 Villanova 65: The Owls used an 11-0 run to start the 2nd half to overcome a 6-point deficit at halftime to knock off the Wildcats. The story of the game was Juan Fernandez who scored 33 points including 7 of 9 from 3-point range to knock off the highest ranked Big East team coming into the weekend. While the casual basketball fan will consider this a huge upset, those of us who follow college basketball closely knew that this would be a tough game for Jay Wright‘s crew against a team that had only lost by one to Georgetown (still undefeated) and St. John’s (only one loss by nine against Duke). The Wildcats managed to keep it relatively close with 23 from Scottie Reynolds, 16 from Antonio Pena, and 14 from Corey Fisher, but in the end it wasn’t enough to overcome Fernandez, 20 points from Ryan Brooks, and 10 points and 17 rebounds from Lavoy Allen. The loss was just the 2nd loss for Villanova in their last 23 games against one of their Big 5 rivals. After the victory, the fans began chanting, “We want Kansas!” in reference to their upcoming game on January 2nd. We love what the Owls have done so far this season, but the student body might want to be careful what they wish for because they might just get it. One bright spot for Villanova fans: Reggie Redding (think he might have been helpful against Allen today?) will return to action against Fordham on Saturday in his first action since he was suspended ten games for his arrest for possession of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.

In other action…

Saturday’s Games.

  • #1 Kansas 90, La Salle 65: The Jayhawks were able to overcame an off-night from Sherron Collins (1/12 FG) thanks to a season-high 31 points from Xavier Henry (the last KU freshman to score 30 points in a game was some guy named Paul Pierce) and a 12-point, 12-rebound effort from Markieff Morris. Cole Aldrich added 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 blocks while Tyshawn Taylor had 10 points and 6 assists with no turnovers. The Jayhawks’ next two games should be a bit more competitive as they face a pair of teams—Michigan (12/19) and California (12/22)—that have failed to live up to preseason expectations, but both have a lot of talent.

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Checking In On… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

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

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas (5-0) — After five games freshman Xavier Henry is leading the Jayhawks in scoring.
  2. Texas (5-0) — Won the CBE Classic in dominating fashion with wins over Iowa and Pitt.
  3. Kansas State (5-1) — The Wildcats are getting solid production from guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente.
  4. Texas A&M (5-1) — The Aggies went 2-1 at the 76 Classic, and the only loss was to #8 West Virginia.
  5. Oklahoma State (6-0)James Anderson is still playing great and helped lead the Cowboys to a win over Utah.
  6. Missouri (4-1) — The Tigers could not find any offense against Richmond in the final of the South Padre Invitational.
  7. Iowa State (6-1) — Losing to Northwestern will hurt this team’s resume in March, but I still believe Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap could lead the Cyclones to a good finish in the Big 12.
  8. Texas Tech (7-0) — We will learn a lot about the Red Raiders on Thursday night when they play host to the Washington Huskies.
  9. Oklahoma (3-3) — The Sooners finally stopped their losing streak with a win over Nicholls State, but so far OU has done nothing impressive this season.
  10. Baylor (6-1) — Finishing 5th in the Old Spice Classic is a good sign for Bears fans.
  11. Colorado (4-2) — The Buffaloes played Gonzaga and Arizona to the wire, but still only came away from Maui with a win over D2 opponent Chaminade.
  12. Nebraska (4-1) — Defeated USC in the first game of the Pac 10/ Big 12 Hardwood Series.

Team of the Week:  Texas A&M Aggies — TAMU defeated two ranked opponents en route to a third place finish in the 76 Classic, and they did it without much production from leading scorer Donald Sloan.

Player of the Week:  Cory Higgins (G), Colorado — Higgins only scored 6 points in a dominating win over Chaminade, but in big games against Gonzaga and Arizona, the guard scored 19 and 28, respectively.

Top Stories:

  • Pac 10/ Big 12 Hardwood Series Tips Off.  With Nebraska defeating USC in the first game, the Big 12 has taken an early 1-0 lead.  The series is in its third year and in the previous two seasons the conferences split the series 6-6.
  • Four Teams Suffer First Loss.  In this past week, previously undefeated teams lost their first game:  Baylor lost to Alabama, Iowa State lost to Northwestern, Missouri lost to Richmond, and Texas A&M fell to West Virginia.

Games to Watch This Week:

  • Missouri (4-1) at Vanderbilt (4-1), 12/2 — Mizzou tries to bounce back on the road against one of the SEC’s best teams.
  • Oklahoma State (6-0) at Tulsa (5-1), 12/2 — Upset Alert:  Tulsa has one of the best players that you’ve never heard of in center Jerome Jordan.  OSU is going to have trouble trying to contain him.
  • Pac 10/ Big 12 Hardwood Series -- The best games this week:  Baylor at Arizona State and Washington at Texas Tech on 12/3, Iowa State at California on 12/5, Arizona at Oklahoma on 12/6
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2009-10 Conference Primers: #4 – Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2009

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

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Kansas (15-1)
  2. Texas (14-2)
  3. Oklahoma (11-5)
  4. Kansas State (10-6)
  5. Missouri (9-7)
  6. Texas A&M (8-8)
  7. Oklahoma State (8-8)
  8. Iowa State (7-9)
  9. Baylor (5-11)
  10. Texas Tech (4-12)
  11. Nebraska (3-13)
  12. Colorado (2-14)

All Conference Team:

  • Sherron Collins (G), Kansas
  • Willie Warren (G) Oklahoma
  • Craig Brackins (F) Iowa State
  • Damion James (F), Texas
  • Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas

6th Man. James Anderson (G) Oklahoma State

Impact Newcomer. Xavier Henry (G), Kansas

big 12 logoWhat You Need to Know.

  • KU Dominance.  Of the 13 years that the Big 12 has held a conference tournament, Kansas has won the crown six times, which is the most of any Big 12 school.  Kansas has been deemed the regular season conference champion nine times in those 13 years, sharing the title in three of those times. Every time Kansas has shared the title the Jayhawks were the two-seed in the conference tournament.
  • Two At the Top. It’s very possible that Texas and Kansas could share the Big 12 title this season. Texas’ toughest conference games are Kansas (in Austin), then Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State on the road.  The Longhorns seem to have the advantage over the Jayhawks when it comes to an easier conference schedule, but with KU bringing back all of its talent and adding one of the top freshman in the nation, I still believe that Kansas will stay atop the conference alone.
  • Where are the Tigers. Where do you rank the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 this season? After being picked seventh by the coaches in last year’s preseason poll, the Tigers finished third and won the Big 12 Tournament en route to an Elite Eight appearance. Mike Anderson will continue to play his “Fastest Forty Minutes” style, and behind leadership from senior guard JT Tiller (Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2009), and sophomore guard Kim English, it’s hard to determine where Mizzou will be at the end of the season. Anderson has put together a very athletic lineup, which should be able to play to his coaching style, but their lack of experience and a consistent scorer could hurt them.
  • X-Factor. Freshman phenom Xavier Henry could be the key to Kansas’ hopes of a second national title in just three seasons.  A late decider, Henry could very well be one of the most productive freshmen in the NCAA this season.  He is surrounded by unbelievable talent that will hog most of the attention from opposing defenses, which should open up many scoring opportunities for Henry.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Deep South

Posted by zhayes9 on September 29th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Atlantic South) are located here.

It’s time for the fourth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of states bordering the Gulf of Mexico known as the Deep South region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Deep South Region (FL, AL, MS, LA, TX)

south_impact

Ed. Note: our assumption is that Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney will not be eligible to play this season.

  • Aubrey Coleman – Sr, G – Houston. Young Mr. Coleman was a controversial pick for our panel, to say the least.  There’s no denying his talent, but the 6’4 rock of a player went national (and viral) last season for his footplant on Chase Budinger’s face during a game at Arizona.  Seriously, that thing made what Christian Laettner did to Aminu Timberlake in 1992 look like playtime in the sandbox.  Coleman served his one-game suspension for the ugly incident, and proceeded to take out any residual anger he might have on the rest of Conference USA to the tune of twelve double-doubles and becoming the only player to finish in the top five in both CUSA scoring and rebounding.  Yeah, rebounding.  At 6’4.  Playing guard.  If that doesn’t give you a clue as to Coleman’s toughness (despite his cowardly act against Budinger), we don’t know what will.  Despite his position, Coleman makes it a common practice to regularly venture into the lane for frequent trips to the foul line on offense and for rebounds on defense (ranks #294 in def reb%).  He also ranked in the top 25 nationally in steals, and we should point out that only three guards in the entire country pulled down more boards per game than Coleman.  About the only part of Coleman’s game that isn’t quite honed is his outside shot (21% on threes), but he doesn’t take many, which shows recognition of his strengths and weaknesses.  With two star players (including Kelvin Lewis) returning for their senior seasons in Houston, it’s safe to say that Tom Penders is sitting on an explosive duo who could lead UH to a successful slate in a wide-open CUSA and its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly twenty years.
  • Damion James – Sr, F – Texas. Just three days prior to the declaration deadline for the 2009 NBA Draft, Damion James told Texas head coach Rick Barnes that he’d be returning for a final season in Austin, a decision that drastically alters the expectations of a Longhorns team that underachieved a campaign ago. Texas should be a top-five team in 2009-10 due to an influx of talent from all angles: from returnees like Dexter Pittman, to transfers like Jai Lucas, stud freshmen like Avery Bradley and, most importantly, a senior season from Damion James. James has just about as much pure athletic talent as any forward in the nation featuring an NBA-ready body, constant activity on the glass and an ability to run the floor like few other 6’7 forwards. The issue with James has always been complacency and wavering effort. Often James will hang around the perimeter, settle for outside shots, disappear when his team needs him the most or settle for being a secondary figure when a player with the ability of James should always be The Man. When James is motivated, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player in the Big 12 that can contain him. James finished on the All-Big 12 Second Team his junior season after finishing with 15.4 ppg and 9.2 rpg a year following a sophomore campaign in which James averaged a double-double. James ranked fourth in the Big 12 in rebounding, tenth in the conference in scoring and totaled double-figures on 31 occasions in 2008-09. A player the caliber of James should be right there with Cole Aldrich and Craig Brackins at the top of potential Big 12 POY candidates for the upcoming season. He should be a first round pick and he should average another double-double. One of the reasons I have Texas pegged #2 in the nation preseason is because I trust James to provide that consistent effort for Rick Barnes in search of a very realistic Final Four.
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RTC’s 09-10 Class Schedule: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by zhayes9 on August 19th, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

I’m extremely proud to introduce a new feature here at Rush the Court, one you’ll be seeing every few days or so up until the much-anticipated opening tip in November, called RTC’s 09-10 Class Schedule. The premise is simple: dissect and analyze the schedules of the most notable teams in the nation this season, from the easiest to the hardest stretch, the most intense rivalry to the early season tune-ups, upset watch to RTC potential. If your team is lingering around the expected preseason top-25, their schedule will be scrutinized in the next couple of months. There’s no rhyme or reason to the madness (we won’t be going conference-by-conference or ranking each team), just a prominent school every few days as the releases begin to trickle out from the respective schools.

We figured it would be appropriate to begin the feature with the team expected to represent the class of college basketball in the 2009-10 campaign: Kansas. Here’s the official team schedule:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 8. Bill Self realizes he must challenge his Jayhawks if they wish to reach the promised land in April this season, and while the Big 12 certainly provides distinct challenges, Self has loaded the non-conference slate with three games against potential top-15 competition and two more storied programs on the fringe of being ranked. Kansas will take on Michigan and California at home in back-to-back contests in December, two teams returning plenty of talent from a season ago and featuring playmakers like Manny Harris and Jerome Randle. Self also scheduled a home-and-home with Tennessee (last season’s barn burner) and the Jayhawks will make their return trip on January 10 in one of the more anticipated non-conference games this season. Other than Tennessee and a trip to Philly to take on Temple, Kansas’ only true road game during non-conference play is a meeting with UCLA as part of the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series. They also travel a short ways to St. Louis for a matchup with Memphis. While Kansas playing such big name schools sounds sexy, neither should pose an enormous conundrum for a loaded KU squad. Overall, give Self credit for challenging his team rather than padding the record. The RPI will notice when they’re battling for a #1 seed in February and March.

Cupcake City: The Jayhawks may have scheduled their fair share of below-average competition, but Self did a fairly decent job of bringing teams to Lawrence with a recent history of success. Even the typical November and December schools are somewhat formidable in the big picture (they may not be against KU, of course): Radford, Belmont and Cornell have recent tournament experience, Oakland is the favorite in the Summit and La Salle is one of the sleepers in the Atlantic 10. The portion of the schedule covered with frosting, though, has to be November 19- December 2 with Central Arkansas, Tennessee Tech and Alcorn State coming to Lawrence. I’m not going out on a limb when I say some lopsided scores could be in order.

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Other Draft Withdrawal Deadline Decisions…

Posted by rtmsf on June 15th, 2009

Other than Jodie Meeks (see post below), we promised to keep an eye on several other all-americans who were considering leaving school early, but who had put off the decision until the very last minute, i.e., today.  Here’s a list of their decisions, and how it will impact their team…

early-entry-shield

  • Austin Daye, leaving Gonzaga – we said yesterday that we seriously questioned his reported decision to be leaning toward the draft, and it remains so.  Someone will take him due to his size, length and shooting ability, but he’s proven softer than Charmin, so we’re not sure about his long-term prospects.  As for Gonzaga, this is a substantial blow, as the Zags are already losing Josh Heytvelt, Micah Downs and Jeremy Pargo.  It’s never truly a ‘rebuilding’ year for Gonzaga, but Matt Bouldin will have a load to carry in the Pacific NW next season.
  • Luke Harangody, staying at Notre Dame – this is a good decision, as Harangody stands to have a good nucleus of players surrounding him at ND next season, and with the Big East not as strong as it was in 2009, the Irish will likely be able to ride ‘Gody and Tory Jackson to an NCAA berth after their disappointing campaign last year.  He’ll also have a legitimate shot at becoming the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in ND basketball history – he needs 730 pts and 370 rebounds, both totals less than he got this season.
  • Jeff Teague, leaving Wake Forest – we’re of the opinion that whoever drafts Teague in the late first round will get a steal on par with the Celtics selecting Rajon Rondo several years ago.  In much the same way as Rondo at Kentucky, he mentally checked out of college hoops once he decided he was going pro, but the talent and athleticism is there.  Wake will still have Ish Smith to run point and a decent supporting cast led by Al-Farouq Aminu, but Teague certainly was a difference maker and he will be missed.
  • Greivis Vasquez, staying at Maryland – this is another good decision because a more composed senior campaign from Vasquez could easily push the Terp PG into the top twenty of the 2010 draft.  This is huge news for Maryland because the Terps have an experienced team returning to College Park, losing only Dave Neal, and Gary Williams’ team should compete for third place in the ACC next season.
  • Ater Majok, staying at Connecticut – this was a pipe dream to begin with, but Majok may end up playing in Europe anyway due to his peripheral association to the ongoing Nate Miles recruiting investigation at UConn.  If he does end up playing for Jim Calhoun next season, there’s no telling how productive he’ll be, so it’s questionable what impact he could have.
  • Texas A&M TrioChinemelu Elonu is leaving the Aggies, but Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis are returning.  None of these three leaving made any sense whatsoever, and the 6’10 Elonu was clearly talking to the wrong people because he has no shot at getting drafted.  A&M should still be solid with the returns of Sloan and Davis, however.
  • Taj Gibson, leaving USC - probably a good decision given his age and the apocalypse going on at USC in the wake of the OJ Mayo scandal.  Do we really need to rehash how this will impact USC next season?  No, we don’t.

We’ll try to do some additional analysis on this year’s draft class later this week, but don’t hold us against it if we don’t.

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NCAA Preview: Texas A&M Aggies

Posted by nvr1983 on March 18th, 2009

Texas A&M (#9, South, Miami pod)
Vs. BYU (#8)
Thurs., 3/19 at 12:30 PM
Vegas Line:
Texas A&M, +2

General Profile
Location: College Station, TX
Conference: Big 12, At-Large
Coach: Mark Turgeon, 48-20
08-09 Record: 23-9, 9-7
Last 12 Games: 8-4
Best Win: Defeated Missouri, 96-86 on March 7th
Worst Loss: Lost to Texas Tech, 88-83 in the Big 12 tournament on March 11th
Off. Efficiency Rating: 112.2, 36th
Def. Efficiency Rating:96.6, 79th

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s):
Josh Carter (14.1 PPG and 4.5 RPG) and Chinemelu Elonu (10.1 PPG on 66.7% FG and 7.4 RPG)
Unsung Hero: Donald Sloan (11.7 PPG and 3.0 APG)
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Elonu (54th in 2010). Carter is listed as late second round to undrafted in 2009 by ESPN.
Key Injuries: None
Depth:
31.2% (158th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves
Achilles Heel: Inconsistency. Their best win of the year was followed by their worst loss of the year (their most recent game)
Will Make a Deep Run if…: They play under control like they did last year when they beat BYU in the first round.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: They play impatiently and take bad shots.

NCAA History
Last Year Invited:
2008; lost to UCLA in the 2nd round (on a controversial play)
Streak: 4th consecutive year
Best NCAA Finish: Final 4 (1969)
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): Not enough data (Minimum 8 bids during this period)

Other
Six Degrees to Detroit:
San Antonio Spurs GM R.C. Buford played basketball at Texas A&M. In 2005, his Spurs team defeated the Detroit Pistons in one of the ugliest NBA Finals series in recent years.
Distance to First Round Site: 1,593 miles
School’s Claim to Fame: Kyle Field (where the football team) is the home of the famed “12th Man” and has been consistently ranked as one of the top places to watch a football game even if the on-field product is not that great.
School Wishes It Could Forget: Its hideous court design.
Prediction: Repeat of last year. Beat BYU in the first round and then lose to a Final 4 team in the 2nd round although this time without the controversy.
Major RTC stories: Pics of the Night

Preview written by Rush the Court

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Conference Over- and Underachievers

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.  His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

All right, now we’re talking.  We’re several games into conference play, now, and the leagues are starting to take shape.  We’ve known the fates of some teams for a long time, both the good (your Carolinas and Dukes, Oklahomas and UConns, etc), and the bad (no need to pile on, here).  The most interesting part of it all, to me, are those teams which are doing a little better than they expected and may be making tenuous hotel reservations for a very large dance in March…and others that are becoming quickly aware that they are only one or two losses away from being tossed into the dustbin of NIT-worthiness.  Even worse, many squads are realizing that they may not even have THAT to worry about, that there will be no post-season, that the only thing they have waiting on them after the basketball season is over is — horror of horrors — going to class.

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Many teams know this is all they have to look forward to in March. (photo credit: photobucket.com)

So who’s not behaving like we expected?  Who has both surprised and disappointed us, in terms of conference play?  Without further delay, I give you…our early-conference edition of Over- and Underachievers.

ACC

Overachiever:  Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1)

As much as their win over then-#1 Wake Forest turned heads, I think people were just as surprised (at least I was) that they avoided the usual post-big-victory letdown by going to Miami (FL) four days after the Wake win and knocking off what I still think is a very capable Hurricane squad.  I know it’s early.  But right now it’s the Hokies who sit second in the conference, a game behind new national #1 Duke.  Victories like the ones they’ve enjoyed so far can sometimes set the tone for a great season, or they can make you overconfident so that you screw up the rest of your conference schedule.  We’ll see how far they can take it, but you’ve got to give them props to this point.

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Greenberg and Vassallo, Overachievers. (photocredit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Georgia Tech (9-10, 0-6)

Whew.  What happened here?  After starting 7-2, something happened just before Christmas and the Jackets just haven’t gotten up from it.  Maybe the competition just got a little better, but with all the talent on this team and a coach like Paul Hewitt there’s just no excuse for going one-for-2009.  Their only victory of this year?  A 5-point win at home against Georgia, a bottom-feeder team in a terrible SEC.  To be completely honest, I’m already tired of talking about them.  Maybe next year Derrick Favors will bring the antidote this program needs.

Big 12

Overachiever:  Missouri (17-3, 4-1)

Hands up, who had Missouri at 17-3 after 20 games?  Yeah, me neither.  The Tigers have great individual talent but have succeeded this year by being the epitome of unselfishness, which has led to efficiency.  They average 19.4 assists per game (2nd nationally), just a ridiculous number.  The only question mark…only three true away games so far.  Probably the only reason they aren’t well-entrenched in the Top 25 right now.

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Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll, a large human, happy about overachieving. (photo credit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Texas A&M (15-5, 1-4)

That 14-1 start was lookin’ pretty good, then conference play started.  12 assists per game just isn’t going to get it done (248th in the nation).  Donald Sloan averages the most dimes per game on this team at a mere 3.2.  We’re pretty sure Mark Turgeon is a fine coach, but right now the Aggies are giving the NCAA Tournament committee reasons to deny them entry in March.  They’d best learn to stay afloat for the rest of Big 12 play.

Big East

Overachiever:  Marquette (18-2, 7-0)

Winners of 10 straight.  RPI of 15.  7-0 in a monster conference.  The coolest thing about Marquette is that they’ll beat you any way you wish to get beaten — they can play slow, half-court basketball and cut you to pieces, and they’re also more than happy to outrun you and get it up near triple-digits.  And Monday night was telling — I bet Maurice Acker followed Kyle McAlarney to class today.  McAlarney couldn’t have gotten have rid of him even if he’d cut the brake lines on Acker’s car.  The Jerel McNeal/Wesley Matthews/Lazar Hayward three-headed monster has turned into one of the most fearsome in the game.  DO NOT forget this team when filling out your bracket in the office pool in a month and a half.

Underachiever:  Seton Hall (10-9, 1-6)

The Pirates raised some eyebrows when they started off 9-3 including wins versus Southern Cal and Virginia Tech, and then — sense a trend, here? — conference play began.  Boom, six straight losses.  I think the Georgetown game really showed us something closer to who the real Seton Hall team is, but this conference is going to end up being just too vicious overall for them.

SEC

Overachiever:  Kentucky (16-4, 5-0)

According to a number of my Wildcat connections, before this season, UK supporters were basically ready to give Billy Gillispie another “free-pass” sort of season, inasmuch as a coach can actually have that at Kentucky.  Doesn’t look like Gillispie needs it.  This team is an interesting statistical mix.  They rank 3rd in the country in FG% (50.2%) and 2nd nationally in FT% (79%).  We know about the potency of the Jodie Meeks/Patrick Patterson tandem.  Defensively, they hold opponents to 36.4% a game from the field, which is 3rd best in the nation; and they rank second in the country in blocks per game with 7.5 (and, oddly, second in the conference as well behind Mississippi State’s 8.0/game).  So…great offense, great defense…what’s the problem?  Well, how about 18.1 turnovers per game?  That’s 338th out of 341 Division One teams.  Egad.  Nobody — even Kentucky fans, I don’t think — saw Kentucky improving this fast with so many unknowns starting the year.  Clean up the turnovers and you’re a top five team.

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Class of the SEC? We’ll see… (photo credit: daylife.com)

[Ed. note:  since this was written, Kentucky was defeated by Mississippi on Tuesday night to give UK its first loss in the conference and take them to 5-1.  I think, however, that UK still qualifies for Overachiever status in the SEC so far for reasons outlined above.   --J.S.]

Underachiever:  Arkansas (12-5, 0-4)

If you look at the win-loss pattern on Arkansas’ schedule, you’d say, “Yep, conference play, again.”  I don’t think you can’t say that, here.  It’s baffling, because in an eight-day span less than a month ago, John Pelphrey’s Razorback squad knocked off both Texas and Oklahoma, not exactly a couple of pansies.  It makes absolutely no sense that beginning conference play in a WAY-down SEC (6th in conference RPI, and probably falling) would cause Arkansas any problems at all, but here they sit at 0-4 in the conference, including an inexcusable 22-point home court butt-smoking at the hands of Auburn.  Arkansas is another team that is just loaded with great athletes, and if they straighten up a little the committee will remember those two earlier big wins.  Arkansas reminds me of Avril Levigne.  I’m pretty sure there’s something attractive there…but they’re doing whatever they possibly can to screw it up and make themselves ugly.

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Avril has a message for Mr. Stevens (photo credit: radaronline.com)

This is not a complete list, by any means.  But I think it shows us how breezing through questionable non-conference opponents might not be the best recipe to impress the committee, as attractive as it is to post a nice big number in the pre-conference ‘W’ column.  Everyone knows that late losses simply mean more, that the committee likes you to finish strong.  You can’t allow yourself to be a conference underachiever.  Conference play will give you a bellyache if all you’ve been doing is loading up on cupcakes.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.14.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 14th, 2009

Set Your Tivos

Game of the Night
#8 Syracuse at #12 Georgetown, 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: It’s hard to believe that these two powerhouses are only the 3rd and 4th highest ranked teams in their own conference. [Calm down ACC folks. I realize that you have 4 teams ranked ahead of Georgetown, but the ACC doesn't even come close to the Big East in terms of depth. Look for the next ACC team in the top 25. There are none.] Looking at these teams, I still have a hard time believing that the Orangemen can compete with Pittsburgh, UConn, or Georgetown if all of those teams are playing up to their potential. However, Jim Boeheim has his team playing solid basketball and is one miracle 60-footer away from being undefeated (or at least being in OT to stay undefeated). Syracuse has been able to do this despite the distraction created by the suspension of Eric Devendorf for assaulting a female student as noted extensively here at RTC. Boehiem has been able to do this thanks to solid play from Jonny Flynn (seen below getting away with the most blatant charge that wasn’t called that you will ever see) and Devendorf (when not interacting with the co-eds) on the perimeter and Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku on the inside. The embarrassingly weak early schedule (SOS: 56th in the nation) has certainly helped the Orangemen have a gaudy record.

Tonight the Orangemen will face their first true test against the Hoyas on the road. Unlike Syracuse, Georgetown has already faced a difficult schedule (SOS: #2 in the nation behind only 6-10 Oregon) including 3 brutal games in the Big East (road games at Connecticut and Notre Dame and at home against Pittsburgh). While the Hoyas lack the depth inside (or thugs according to JT2), they will have the most talented player on the court playing for them on the inside in Greg Monroe who has shown glimpses of brilliance this year. Having seen him in person at the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving Break, I can definitely see why he has NBA scouts drooling, but at times he appears too passive at times to dominate games. While neither Harris nor Onuaku can match Monroe’s talent, it will be interesting to see if he can match their intensity the entire game. The other key match-up will be how DaJuan Summers, Chris Wright, and Austin Freeman do against Flynn and Devendorf on the perimeter although I’m not sure how John Thompson III will utilize Summers if Boeheim opts for his patented 2-3 zone. I’m not sure what to make of his experiments with man-to-man, but I would venture that he will go with the more familiar now that he is finally playing some solid teams. I’m guessing that Georgetown has too much talent, the home court, and experience from playing actually competition to lose this game. Syracuse should be able to keep it close until the final 5 minutes when the Hoyas should pull away.

Others to Watch
#2 Duke at Georgia Tech, 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This has trap game written all over it. Duke just came off a win at FSU, which has shocked Duke several times this year, and the Blue Devils have a nationally televised showcase at Cameron against the aforementioned Hoyas on Saturday. Georgia Tech is mediocre enough (9-6) that the Blue Devils may overlook them, but just talented enough that they could shock Duke particularly since the game will be played at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The key thing to watch here will be how the Yellow Jacket bigs–Gani Lawal (16.8 PPG and 10.0 RPG) and Alade Aminu (13.5 PPG and 9.4 RPG)–do since interior play will continue to be Duke’s Achilles’ heel (except when they go 3 for their first 27 from 3-point range). If Lawal and Aminu can dominate inside against Kyle Singler and Brian Zoubek, Paul Hewett just may be able to pull out the win.

#3 Wake Forest at Boston College, 9 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: RTC will be at this game (look for the male equivalent of Erin Andrews typing away on his keyboard) to bring you the latest scoop on Wake Forest, the most intriguing team in college basketball. Even after the Demon Deacons win at BYU to end the Cougars nation-leading 53 game home winning streak, there remained a healthy skepticism of Dino Gaudio‘s young squad. However, after they held off everyone’s national title favorite UNC people have really started to come around on this team (I don’t think their rise of 1-2 spots in the polls reflects the magnitude of the change in perception). On the other hand, Boston College may be the most confusing team in the nation. After pulling off one of the bigger upsets of the season (and ending the media’s speculation of an undefeated season for UNC), the Eagles followed it up with a loss at home against Harvard and then to Miami. While the loss to Miami (preseason #17) is excusable, the loss to the Crimson isn’t. Wake will try avoid a letdown similar to the one BC had by relying on Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Al-Farouq Aminu. Teague will likely be guarded very closely after his explosion against UNC. Wake also hopes to get a big contribution out of Chas McFarland, who was last seen outsprinting Ty Lawson down the court for a crucial lay-up on Saturday. If the Eagles are going to rebound for their back-to-back defeats, they will need a huge game out Tyrese Rice along with solid contributions out of Joe Trapani and Corey Raji. Much like the Duke-Georgia Tech game, this is one to watch to see if the favorite is looking ahead to their next game, which is also a monster match-up for Wake (against undefeated Clemson).

#21 Baylor at Texas A&M, 9:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: A match-up of two lightly regarded teams with impressive records (13-2 and 14-2, respectively). These two teams are my pick to compete with Kansas for the #3 spot in the Big 12 this year. Baylor appears to have recovered from the Dave Bliss fiasco and comes into the game with a top 25 ranking. They have done this with their entire starting 5 averaging double figures, but the unquestioned leader of this team is Curtis Jerrells who will need to have a big game tonight to get a win on the road. Looking through their results so far, I’m having a hard time finding any good wins. A win at College Station would mean a big jump for the Bears in the eyes of the voters. I think a lot of people forget just how good Texas A&M was last year. They were one blown call against UCLA away from potentially forcing OT in the Sweet 16. The Aggies will rely on a balanced attack with Josh Carter, Donald Sloan, Bryan Davis, and Chinemelu Elonu to try and defend their home court.

#24 Michigan at Illinois, 8:30 PM on The Big Ten Network: It looks like a year after his program looked like it was going implode after the Eric Gordon recruiting disaster, Bruce Weber has his team headed in the right direction. Tonight he will try to avenge one of the Fighting Illini’s 2 losses (the other was by 2-points to undefeated Clemson). This should be a close game as the Wolverines won by 10 at Ann Arbor a little over a week ago. Outside of the big guys from each team (Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims for Michigan and Mike Davis and Demetri McCamey for Illinois), my player to watch tonight is Alex Legion, who has shown signs of becoming a big-time scorer since his mid-season addition to Illinois after his transfer from Kentucky.

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2008

Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

Feast week and turkey day are now in the rear view mirror and another week of basketball is in the books.

There were good moments and bad moments, but ultimately this was a positive week for Conference USA basketball. During the UAB/Oklahoma game in the pre-season NIT, ESPN commentator Steve Lavin gushed about the depth of CUSA, talking about how UAB, UTEP and Tulsa could join Memphis in the NCAA Tournament this year. This kind of coverage is the best thing this conference could hope for.

Now let’s get to the happenings of the past week:

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