Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2009

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Until Tuesday night, it was a relatively uneventful week in the Big East. The teams that should have won got the Ws, while the teams that were supposed to lose generally lost. That is, until Providence knocked off Pitt in front of packed house at the Dunk (for the record, Friar fans had one of the best ‘rushings of the court‘ that I have seen in a long time – they absolutely swallowed up the three Friar players in the center of the court).

Back to the point, not only were there not many upsets during the week, their weren’t that many outstanding performances. Weyinmi Efejuku of  Providence had 31 in a loss to Notre Dame. Ryan Ayers scored 28 in that same game, but earlier in the week struggled as the Irish lost to West Virginia. Luke Harangody had 26 and 13 in the Irish loss, but was non-existent until the final few minutes (when the game was decided) against Providence. DeJuan Blair’s 20 and 18 against DePaul (which should technically make the performance not count … it’s DePaul) is overshadowed by his 17 and 8 (and 5 turnovers and 5 fouls) in the loss to Providence.

You get the point.

Why should I be pointing that out to you? What is the significance of it? Is it just so I don’t look like a fool making my Player and Team of the Week picks?

Not exactly. It should show you that no team or player in the Big East (save for Providence, the damn Friars ruined my whole column) is stepping up to make a run at the NCAAs. As of this moment, the league should expect seven teams. After this win, Providence may be the eighth.

But Cincinnati, Notre Dame, and Georgetown all still had a realistic chance to get in by winning. Cincy’s loss to Louisville gives them a two game losing streak. A win at South Florida is not going to be enough for the Hoyas, who have now lost 9 of 11. Even Providence had lost two straight before the upset of Pitt.

Notre Dame is the only team that looks to have a little bit of life left in them. They have now won three of four, including wins over Louisville and Providence, with the loss coming at West Virginia. If the Irish can keep up their winning ways, there is a good chance the Big East could actually end up with nine tourney teams.

For the record, I’m sick of everyone talking about the Big East as the toughest conference in the country.

It isn’t.

Let it go.

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ATB: Griffin Sits, Kansas Benefits…

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2009

afterbuzzer1

So How Long Until Blake Griffin Returns? Kansas 87, Oklahoma 78.  Ok, so we’re fairly certain that OU would have beaten Texas in Austin on Saturday night had Blake Griffin not suffered a concussion that nobody can actually pinpoint when occurred.  But we’re not sure that OU would have beaten Kansas tonight at home even with Griffin in the lineup.  This KU team is proving that, despite losing six players to graduation and the NBA, Bill Self is running a self-sustaining program over there in Lawrence.  Actually, KU ’09 is starting to remind us a little of the Kentucky teams that went to the final game in 1997 and won another national title in 1998 playing with the backups of the 1996 championship team.  With Sherron Collins (26/3 assts) on the perimeter, Cole Aldrich (15/20/4 blks) in the post and a collection of young talent including Tyshawn Taylor (26/3 assts) and Marcus Morris providing depth, Kansas is proving they’ll once again be heard from this March.  As for Griffin, he did not look good over there on the OU bench tonight, constantly wiping his eyes and looking a little dazed.  We’re no medical professional, but how long will it take for him to recover from this – a few more days?  A week?  Two weeks?  OU goes to Texas Tech this weekend and Missouri next Wednesday, two road contests that suddenly look a lot more difficult if Griffin cannot get back on the court soon.

Stick a Fork in the Hoyas – They’re DoneLouisville 76, Georgetown 58.  How silly we were – we actually thought that Georgetown had a chance at winning this game and making a run at 8-10 in the Big East to get itself back on the bubble.  Not guh happen.  Georgetown looks a lot better in the layup lines and on paper than they actually are when the clock is running.  Louisville tonight shredded the GU defense by hitting its first nine shots of the game and first seven threes to take a quick double-digit lead that they pretty much never relinquished.  Earl Clark had 22/8/4 stls and T-Will had 10/12/7 as the Cards continued to impress by staying in the hunt for the Big East regular season championship at 13-2.  With two games at home (Marquette/Seton Hall) and a road game at WVU, Pitino’s team probably has the inside track on the title.  Pitt and UConn still have another game against each other, and Marquette has a murderer’s row schedule the next two weeks.  So why does Georgetown suck?  Frankly, their usually-solid defense has been suspect for a long while – the Hoyas are the 102d most efficient defense, down from 11th and 37th the last two years, and they don’t force turnovers.  Additionally, anyone with a little toughness can get a rebound against their front line – Georgetown ranks in the bottom third of teams in rebounds per game and the in the bottom fifty teams in rebound percentage.  Greg Monroe and DaJuan Summers’ combined 11.2 rpg simply aren’t getting it done.  Add those two things together and you’ve got an ok offense that is getting marginalized by poor (by Big East standards) defense, and a situation where the inertia of losing caused this team to lose its confidence midway through the season.

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ATB: Can ND Make the Recovery?

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2009

Starting with some News & Notes…

Tonight’s Big Games.

  • Notre Dame 90, Louisville 57. Hey T-Will, maybe you were right… some of the worst teams in the Big East can beat some of the best teams in the…  Big East.  You should recall that Carolina handled the very same team that just pasted you with your worst loss in BE history tonight.  The same team that had just lost its last seven games.  The same team that absolutely had no recourse other than to win this game (and damn near every other game) to try to get back into the NCAA Tournament this season.  The opportunity is there – out of the Irish’s final seven games, only the game at UConn is probably unwinnable.  4-7 in the Big East could turn into 8-7 if they simply handle their remaining home games (USF, Rutgers, Villanova, St. John’s).  Split the two roadies at WVU and Providence (+ the UConn L) and they can get to 9-9.  That’s why tonight’s game was such a must-win.  The Irish lit Louisville up for ten threes and 54% shooting behind Gody’s 32/17 while holding Louisville to 39% on the other end and a mere 16 pts from T-Will and Earl Clark.  Pitino said his team was embarrassed, and they should be – this humiliating loss more or less ensures that the Cards won’t be winning the 2009 national title – teams that lose by 30+ never win it all.  Go ahead, look it up.
  • Arizona St. 74, UCLA 67. Apparently UCLA can beat everyone in the Pac-10 except for Herb Sendek’s Sun Devils.  This game was back and forth until a late block/charge call on Darren Collison went ASU’s way, essentially ensuring ASU’s second victory over UCLA this season.  Surprisingly maybe to people who haven’t watched much of UCLA this season but ASU shot 60% and hit eleven threes to keep the game competitive throughout; the Bruin offense is quite a bit further along than its defense this season, which is odd for a Ben Howland team.  Five Sun Devils ended up in double figures, but none more than 15 pts (James Harden and Derek Glasser).  This loss by UCLA really tightens up the top of the Pac-10, with five teams now within one game of first place.
  • Gonzaga 72, St. Mary’s 70. We checked into this one to see if St. Mary’s could parlay its raucous home crowd into an upset over Gonzaga without their star, Patty Mills, on the floor.  The answer was no, but one thing is fairly clear to us – St. Mary’s is the best team in the WCC with Patty Mills, and it’s really not close.  The Gaels were unbeaten and whipping Gonzaga when he was injured in Spokane, and the fact that they were this close at home with the mercurial Mills playing announcer (still can’t get over that accent…), convinces us that SMC is the better team.  Gonzaga has better individual talent in our eyes, but for some reason, they’re just not maximizing their potential this season (or any season).  Josh Heytvelt had 20/10 but it was his three missed FTs down the stretch that kept the door open for St. Mary’s, who had two possessions in the last ten seconds to win the game.  Keep an eye on SMC in the NCAAs, but forget about the Zags.

Other Games Heading into the Weekend…

  • Illinois 60, Northwestern 59. Utterly heartbreaking loss for NW and inspirational comeback win for Illinois in Evanston.  NW led 57-43 with 5 mins to go, but could only manage two more points as Demetri McCamey’s shot with 2.9 seconds hit bottoms for the Illini win.
  • Temple 61, St. Joseph’s 59. Ahmad Nivins had 21/6 in this Big 5 matchup that resulted in St. Joe’s taking its second A10 loss of the year.  Dionte Christmas had 19/11 for Temple.
  • Davidson 78, Wofford 61. Steph Curry Watch – 39/5/3 assts on 14-24 FGs (5-8 3FGs).
  • Washington St. 67, Oregon 38. Please tell us Ernie Kent is gone after this season.
  • Arizona 83, USC 76. The winner of this one was going to have a definite bubble advantage going into the last few weeks of the season, and both teams seemed to know it.  Arizona used a late 6-0 run fueled by USC turnovers to win its sixth in a row and go to 7-5 in the Pac-10.  Nic Wise had 27 pts and Chase Budinger had 25 pts in the win.
  • Utah St. 62, Idaho 53. USU struggled for a while in this one, but pulled away late to go to 24-1 (12-0) on the season.  Gary Wilkinson had 17/10.
  • Washington 79, Oregon St. 60. No letdown for the Huskies at home tonight, as Justin Dentmon had 28/7 assts to go to 8-3 in the Pac-10 (tied with UCLA).

On Tap Friday (all times EST). Actually, another fairly good Big East game on Friday this week…

  • Villanova @ West Virginia (ESPN) – 9pm.  Villanova’s been hot, having won its last six games, but WVU sorta needs this one.  Should be an interesting environment on a Friday night in Morgantown.
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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 5th, 2009

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Remember all that talk about the Big East getting nine, maybe ten, teams into the dance? It seems like a long time ago now, as it is a legitimate possibility the league only gets seven teams in. The three teams in danger of missing out are Georgetown, Notre Dame and Providence.

The Irish are in the worst position right now. They are currently sitting at 12-8 and 3-6 in the Big East, but they are just 2-7 against the RPI’s top 50. Their RPI is 77 and their SOS is 49, which aren’t great. But the Irish still play four teams in the RPI top 20, and three more in the top 70, which means the Irish have plenty of chances to up their RPI rating.

Providence could also be in trouble. Their RPI is 63 and their SOS is 42. Their record is a little better than the Irish (14-7, 6-3), but they have struggled against the best teams (1-5 vs. RPI top 50, but 3-2 against 51-100). They, too, will get plenty of chances to improve their resume as they have five more games against the top 20.

Georgetown looks to be the safest right now. They have an RPI of 20, have played the toughest schedule in the country (and second toughest in Big East play to West Virginia). They are just 3-5 against the RPI top 50, but they do own wins against Memphis and at UConn. All Georgetown needs to keep in mind is Arizona last year. The Wildcats finished 16-14, 8-10 in the Pac-10 (good for 7th), but got into the dance as a 10 seed based on their tough scheduling (#2 in SOS).

The bottom line is that it is tough to rule out anyone near the bubble in the Big East. With so many quality teams in the league, all it would take for a Cincinnati or a St. John’s is a great finish to the season, and a run to the quarters or the semis of the Big East Tourney.

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ATB: Huskies Put Out Cards’ Fire

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2009

afterbuzzer1Where’s It Been? Connecticut 68, Louisville 51. This game illustrates what worries us about the Huskies.  When they bring it all the way, there are only a couple of teams in America that can play with them.  But all too often, despite the Huskies’ 20-1 record coming into this game, we’ve felt that they simply don’t have enough fire and focus to get up for six straight games when it counts most.  Maybe tonight’s thrashing of Louisville at home is their first step in proving us wrong.   This game was a total mismatch, otherwise how else to explain that UConn was 0-8 from three and still was never threatened by the Cards (winner of nine straight coming into this one).  Of course the Husky defense is what has always separated their great teams from their merely good ones, and holding UL to 34% shooting (second worst of the season) while also keeping them off of the FT line, was an impressive display.   Seriously, keep in mind that Louisville was favored in Vegas by 2-3 pts and UConn was coming in as the new #1 team in America – this was a Statement Win by the Huskies, and it will be interesting to see if they keep the same focus and commitment to defense the rest of the conference slate.   As for Louisville, they’ve obviously come on very strong of late, but this is a seriously flawed team in its backcourt (5 pts on 2-9 FGs from the starting tandem of Sosa/Smith), and against teams with big, athletic guards who can defend, they will continue to struggle.  It also didn’t help that Earl Clark laid a giant 2-16 FG egg tonight, but we really don’t think even a solid performance from him would have changed the ultimate outcome tonight.

Some Other Quick Hits.

  • Davidson 89, Western Carolina 65. Stephen Curry with 26/8/8 assts in another SoCon romp.
  • Wisconsin-Green Bay 75, Butler 66. Upset of the Night as UWGB pulled a half-game back of previously unbeaten Butler behind Ryan Tillema‘s 21/6.   Maybe our bracketologist knew what he was talking about after all.
  • Kansas 75, Baylor 65. BU is now officially in crisis mode with four straight losses, two of which were at home.  Curtis Jerrells and Quincy Acy combined for a total of 8 pts on 2-14 FGs.  They need to get well, fast.

What to Watch: None of the games tonight are worthy of Set Your Tivo status, but there are several worth checking out.

  • #13 Purdue at Ohio State at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Boilermakers are in position to take over the lead in the Big Ten with Michigan State’s recent stumble, but will need to pull off a road win against the Buckeyes who are still waiting on David Lighty to come back from injury.
  • Rutgers at Georgetown at 7 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: The Hoyas need to start playing better pretty soon or they may find themselves on the NCAA bubble.
  • Mississippi State at Kentucky at 7 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Check this out for the match-up on the inside, which will feature Jarvis Varnado (4.7 BPG) against Patrick Patterson (18.5 PPG on 66.1% FG). Oh yeah, Jodie Meeks (25.5 PPG) isn’t bad either.
  • Maryland at #4 UNC at 8 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Will the Tar Heels top Duke’s margin of victory over the Terrapins? Will Greivis Vasquez make any more ridiculous proclamations?
  • South Carolina at Florida at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Can they come close to the finish the last time they played?
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Set Your Tivos: 02.02.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 2nd, 2009

Set Your TivosNow that the nation has been relieved of this football non-sense, we can move forward onto more important topics. . .like the latest game of the year in college basketball.

#1 UConn at #7 Louisville at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: With Duke’s loss to Wake Forest last week, Jim Calhoun‘s Huskies have taken over the perilous #1 ranking. As a reward for this accomplishment, they have to travel down to Freedom Hall to face a squad that is likely the hottest team in the nation. The victor (particularly if UConn can pull off a road win) will likely emerge as the favorite to win the Big East regular title in what is shaping up to be a 4 team race (UConn, Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Louisville) entering February.

To pull off the win on the road Calhoun will need Hasheem Thabeet to play like he did on Saturday when he posted a triple-double (15 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 blocks) against a hot Providence team. Thabeet and Jeff Adrien will be the key inside if the Huskies are to contain Louisville’s trio of interior stars (Earl Clark, Samardo Samuels, and Terrence Williams). This is probably one of the best interior match-ups you will see all season unless Blake Griffin and Tyler Hansbrough meet up in the NCAA tournament.

While the battle on the inside will likely grab all the headlines, the play on the perimeter will likely determine the outcome of the game as getting consistent play from perimeter players is the key the title hopes of both teams this year. The Huskies have 4 perimeter players (Jerome Dyson, A.J. Price, Kemba Walker, and Craig Austrie) who can have a major impact on the game while the Cardinals are a little more limited on the outside with only 2 players who have emerged as threats from the perimeter (Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith). Dyson will likely be matched up against Earl Clark, which might be the most interesting match-up on the court as Dyson try to take Clark outside while Clark will try to get Dyson in the post. If either guy gets in foul trouble, that could cause some major problems for their team.

On paper, UConn seems to have the advantage particularly on the perimeter, but the Cardinals have the home court and are probably the hottest team in the nation. It will be a close one and probably be decided in the last minute. I’m going with the homecourt and momeuntum and take Louisville here.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2009

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

I’m not sure if anyone actually noticed, but Checking in on the… Big East was absent from RTC last week (amazing the blog could survive, right?). Long story short, I work in the restaurant industry in DC, and last week there was some big, citywide party for some guy who just won some election or something. Did anyone hear about that? Needless to say, I was a bit short on time, which meant my blogging efforts took a serious hit.

But you can sleep easy kiddies and kiddettes. Your favorite RTC correspondent is back to fill you in on the inner-workings of the biggest and baddest conference in all the land. We’re going to mix things up a bit this week, as a lot has happened in the past two weeks and, frankly, I was a little bored with the old format. So without further ado, let’s get you caught up on all the Big East action:

The way that I see it, there are ten teams that can seriously be considered for a spot in the NCAA’s. Of those ten teams, there are essentially two tiers they can be broken into – UConn, Louisville and Pitt (and maybe Marquette, but more on this in a second) in one; Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, Providence, West Virginia and Notre Dame in the other.

To be completely honest, the teams in that second tier all are beginning to look very average. The question I am stuck trying to answer is whether these teams are actually mediocre on a national scale, or if it just seems that way because they are getting pounded by excellent teams night in and night out in the Big East.

Take Notre Dame as an example. Once thought to be a top ten team, the Irish have dropped out of the AP Poll after four straight losses. But those losses are to Louisville, Syracuse, UConn and Marquette and the Irish also own a win over Texas and Georgetown (again, more on the Irish in a bit).

As the conference season moves on, one thing everyone needs to be keeping in mind is the way the Big East Tournament is going to work this year. All 16 teams are going to reach Madison Square Garden, but it is not going to be a typical 16 team tournament. The way it is scheduled is that teams ranked 9-16 will all play on Tuesday (9 vs. 16, etc.). On Wednesday, the winners of the Tuesday games will play the teams ranked 5-8 (8 vs. 9/16 winner). From there on, the tournament bracket is normal (1 vs. 8/9 winner, etc.).

Looking at the conference standings, it is going to be tough for anyone to crack the top four and get the double bye.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 01.25.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 25th, 2009

dynamite1Today is going to be a little different than our typical Boom Goes the Dynamite posts based on the fact that rtmsf is on vacation and I will be in-and-out of the house throughout the day. It looks like there are only 3 games worth focusing on today (Louisville at Syracuse, Michigan State at Ohio State, and Pittsburgh at West Virginia) and given our situation, that is what I will be doing.

Noon: Thanks to ESPN’s greediness (putting it on Full Court) and the non-functional ESPN360 log-in system, I’ll be bringing you the Louisville-Syracuse game via GameCast. If any of you are getting the game, let us know what is going on in the comment section.

1:00 PM: It looks like we have two close games at the half. One was expected (Louisville at Syracuse), but the other was not (Minnesota at Indiana). In the first game, which Louisville leads 38-33 at intermission, the Cardinals have led the entire game (biggest lead at 30-20). Terrence Williams (11 points and 5 rebounds) and Earl Clark (9 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists) are leading the Cardinals, but Samardo Samuels has had a rough start (0 points on 0/4 FG with 2 fouls ). Eric Devendorf (10 points and 3 assists) has kept the Orangemen in the game. In the other game, Minnesota does not appear to be out of its current funk (2-game losing streak). Indiana actually had a 8-point lead in the first half before the Gophers rallied back to take a 31-30 lead at half. The Hooisers will need to keep up the hot shooting from 3 (6/9 in the first half from beyond the arc) if they want to pull of the big upset.

1:15 PM: The Orangemen have cut the lead to 2 off a Devendorf 3. TV timeout with 15:41 left. Looks like a great game that approximately ~10% of college basketball fans have access to. Congrats to ESPN and the NCAA. Way to promote college basketball.

1:45 PM: Thanks to Matt for the updates. I briefly got side-tracked by putting up a post about the ugly incident involving Aubrey Coleman stepping on Chase Budinger‘s face last night.

1:50 PM: It looks like we have a pair of great finishes and I’m stuck waiting for GameCast to refresh.

1:55 PM: ESPN News is giving a live look-in. Final minute on now. I’d recommend checking it out.

1:57 PM: Nice. ESPN.com is already calling the game even though I can clearly see that it is still going on thanks to the ESPN News look-in.

ESPN calling the game before it was done
ESPN calling the game before it was done

2:00 PM: Well Louisville won anyways. Final score was 67-57 not 63-57 (see above).

2:03 PM: Minnesota is barely hanging on (64-62 with 0:29 left). Big game from Ralph Sampson III (13 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 blocks).

2:10 PM: Minnesota hangs on to win the game 67-63. The Gophers will need to step it up if they want a NCAA bid this year.

2:30 PM: Only notable game right now is Georgetown at Seton Hall. The game is tied at 14. Georgetown will probably drop quite a bit in the new poll on Monday. They might need to win this on the road to stay in the top 25. My updates will be infrequent over the next hour or two due to a prior commitment. I’ll update this when necessary. Keep the comments coming.

5:30 PM: And I’m back. . .This is what happens when rtmsf leaves me out to dry. Here’s a quick recap of what happened while I was away: Georgetown will be out of the top 25 on Monday after losing at Seton Hall. The Hoyas  were held to their worst shooting day of the season (32.7% FG and 13.6% 3pt). I’m starting to believe more in my earlier statement that there are only 2-3 really good/great teams in the Big East and a bunch of good teams that are inconsistent. Meanwhile, there’s a good game going on in Columbus (Michigan State is leading Ohio State, 64-56 with 4:23 left). I’ll be following it on CBS.

5:35 PM: Thad Matta picks up a stupid technical with the Buckeyes down by 11 with 2:27 left. Good job maintaining your composure there Coach.

5:50 PM: Big game by  Durrell Summers (26 points) is enough to get the Spartans a nice road win.

6:00 PM: It looks like Pittsburgh is pulling away from West Virginia. The Mountaineers hung tough for the first 25 minutes before  Jamie Dixon’s team began to open up a lead. Bob Huggins has gotten big games out of Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff, but Pittsburgh superior depth is coming into play with 4 players in double figures.

6:10 PM: Pittsburgh hangs on for a 79-67 win. Nothing remotely interesting on until Georgia Tech at Clemson at 7:45 PM. If that game is worth watching, I will be posting again so check back then.

9:00 PM: Clemson is only up 37-34 on Georgia Tech at half. Oliver Purnell needs Trevor Booker (5 points on 0/3 FG in the first half) to step up if he doesn’t want to start another ACC freefall this year.

9:10 PM: Is this a different Clemson team? I know they still can’t win in Chapel Hill, but they’re actually showing some toughness tonight and have opened up a 49-37 lead with 16 minutes left in the game.

10:00 PM: Well it looks like Clemson has avoided their annual ACC collapse for at least one more game. Terrence Oglesby‘s big night from the outside (5/13 from 3) and Trevor Booker’s double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds) were enough to hold off the Yellow Jackets.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.24.09 & 01.25.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 23rd, 2009

Set Your Tivos

Check in with RTC on Saturday all day long as we piggyback the slowly burning wick of Boom Goes the Dynamite, your virtually live weekly journal of notes and observations about the day’s biggest games. 

Saturday
Game of the Day
#3 UConn at #19 Notre Dame at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Irish will be looking to bounce back from consecutive road losses (at Louisville and at Syracuse), but that will be a tall task (insert Hasheem Thabeet joke here) against UConn–a team that many consider the best in the Big East (not just based on ranking). Reigning Big East POY Luke Harangody will have his hands full on the inside battling Thabeet and Jeff Adrien. The match-up on the outside should be even more interesting with the Irish backcourt of Kyle McAlarney, Tory Jackson, and Ryan Ayers battling A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson, and Kemba Walker. I’m not sure if the Irish have anybody to contend with slashing ability of UConn, but the key to this game will likely be the production of Price and Walker.

Although UConn is clearly the superior team in this match-up, they will have a tough time in South Bend as the Fighting Irish come into the game with a NCAA-best 44-game home winning streak. Mike Brey desperately needs this game if he wants to establish his team in the upper half of the league. A win for UConn would solidify their place as the Big East favorites and build on their already strong resume. It will be a hard-fought game, but I think in the end Jim Calhoun‘s squad will end the streak tonight.

Others to Watch
#11 UCLA at Washington at 4 PM on FSN: After a slow start (2-3), the Huskies have rallied to win 11 of their last 12 with their only loss coming by 3 points in OT to Cal. I’m not sure what clicked up there in Seattle, but now they are looking like a Pac-10 contender. If they want to challenge for the league title, they will have to knock off UCLA, the current kings of the Pac-10. I’m sure that Ben Howland has been all over his Bruins for their awful execution down the stretch last Saturday in their loss at home to Arizona State. It does not look like the Bruins have fully recovered from that meltdown as they nearly lost in Pullman to Washington State Thursday night and only survived thanks to a career-high 20 points from Nikola Dragovic. UCLA will need more consistent play from its perimeter players (Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, and Jrue Holldiay) or hope they find an inside game if they want to make yet another Final 4 appearance. For those of you who haven’t been following the Huskies, keep an eye on their diminutive freshman point guard Isaiah Thomas (15.8 PPG and 3.2 APG). It looks like is a future star in the Pac-10. Let’s hope that he isn’t charge of personnel moves/recruiting.

#23 Baylor at #5 Oklahoma at 4 PM on ESPNU: This is a match-up of two of the top 3 teams in the Big 12 (at least according to the polls). The Bears rely on a balanced attack with 5 players averaging double figures led by Curtis Jerrells, who averages 17.1 PPG. Scott Drew will need all 5 guys to hit their averages and hope for a little luck to steal one in Norman as Oklahoma is the clear favorite in the league. They are led by national POY candidate Blake Griffin who comes in averaging a ridiculous 22.3 PPG and 13.6 RPG. If he can get consistent support from Willie Warren and Tony Crocker this Sooner team could make deep run in March because I don’t think anybody in the country can guard Griffin.

Keep an eye on
Maryland at #2 Duke at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Even though this has traditionally been a heated rivalry I normally would not keep this game here except for the fact that if Duke wins they will be your new #1 team in the country. If they do get to #1, John Stevens is pretty sure that you will hear about it.

UW-Milwaukee at #17 Butler at Noon on Time Warner Sports 32, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Butler is clearly the class of the Horizon League, but UW-Milwaukee may be the second best team in the conference so if anybody is going to knock Butler off in their conference tournament and create total chaos on Selection Sunday it may well be the Panthers.

#24 Memphis at Tennessee at 3:30 PM on CBS: It’s amazing that this match-up, which featured two powerhouses last year, has been reduced to this level. Memphis has the excuse of losing Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. The Vols certainly lost some key players, but after coming into the season ranked in the top 10, this has to be a very disappointing start for Bruce Pearl. This would be a good way to start to resurrect the Vols’ season.

Wisconsin at #24 Illinois at 4 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Bruce Weber will be looking for his Fighting Illini to continue their impressive start against a Badger team that is coming off 3 straight losses with the last 2 coming in OT.

#13 Xavier at LSU at 8 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Normally I would hype this game as a mid-major team trying to steal one against the mighty BCS, but I can’t really do that this year with Butler ranked 13th and the SEC’s conspicuous absence from the polls (Florida is ranked in one, but will be gone with that awful loss to South Carolina). Ignoring that, this would be a great win for Xavier to add to their already strong resume for Selection Sunday, but they shouldn’t be overconfident heading into Baton Rouge as the Tigers having been playing well this season and are undefeated at home. [Yes. I realize I just warned Xavier not to be overconfident heading into a road game against a SEC team.]

Sunday
Game of the Day
#12 Louisville at #8 Syracuse at Noon on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Finally we have a great game on Sunday. After several weekends with loaded Saturdays followed by a set of duds on Sunday, we get the hottest team in the Big East (Louisville) traveling to play at the team with the most to prove (Syracuse). We at RTC had been critical of Rick Pitino‘s Cardinals when they started slowly but they seem to have turned it around although it seems like the nation did not seem to take notice until they knocked off then #1 Pittsburgh. On the other sideline, Jim Boeheim‘s squad will be looking to bounce back from a difficult stretch where they lost games on the road to Georgetown and Pittsburgh with a win at home against Notre Dame sandwiched between those losses.

This game will likely come down to which team’s strength wins out. Syracuse has the edge on the outisde with Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Andy Rautins having the upper hand in their match-up Earl Clark and Edgar Sosa. Louisville will have the edge on the inside with Samardo Samuels and Terrence Williams going against Arinze Onuaku and Paul Harris. I think these two teams are pretty evenly matched with Syracuse’s advantages being perimeter play and home court while Louisville’s advantages being inside play and momentum. I’ll go with the easy 2s and momentum and take Louisville to continue their current hot streak.

Others to Watch
#7 Michigan State at Ohio State at 3:45 PM on CBS: OSU had been playing better before its trip to Illinois the other night.  Still, West Virginia is the only team to get them on their home court this season, so Michigan St. had best bring a better game than it brought Wed. night against Northwestern, or they’ll be staring at 2 Ls this week.

#4 Pittsburgh at West Virginia at 4 PM on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: This game suddenly became even more interesting considering how dominant the Mountaineers looked tonight in DC against Georgetown.  Pitt recovered nicely with a home win against Syracuse, and they match up very well with the undersized WVU team, but so did Georgetown.  One thing you can be sure about in this one – most players will leave this one black and blue.

Virginia Tech at Miami at 5:30 PM on FSN: Anyone want to lay odds on which Virginia Tech team shows up coming off their victory over #1 Wake Forest on Wednesday?  Will it be the Hokie team that lost to Seton Hall and Georgia, or the one who led Wake from start to finish?  We’re betting it’s the SH/Georgia version.

Georgia Tech at #9 Clemson at 7:45 PM on FSN: This is a really weak set of FSN games this weekend (frankly the entire weekend is disappointing).  Still, if you’ve got nothing else going on, you can spend a couple of hours watching Paul Hewitt try to save his job and Oliver Purnell try to convince you that the Tigers are legit.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.17.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 16th, 2009

Set Your Tivos

Game of the Day #1

#12 Georgetown at #2 Duke on CBS at 1:30 PM

John Thompson III might want to think about asking the AD at Georgetown for a new schedule maker. I can understand wanting to get your team ready for the tournament, but this is ridiculous. Coming off a brutal start to their Big East schedule (Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Notre Dame, and Syracuse), the Hoyas get a respite by heading out of conference with a leisurely trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium where the Blue Devils have a 67-game home non-conference winning streak. Normally a trip to Cameron would be a major focus of any team’s season, but with the Hoyas’ recent schedule it will be interesting to see if they have anything left in the tank.

This has the potential to be an entertaining game with great matchups all over the floor. The most interesting matchup will be Greg Monroe against Kyle Singler. While Monroe has more potential and will be a higher NBA Draft pick, Singler is quite talented too and plays at a high level more consistently. I’m not sure how Duke will open up because I don’t think Brian Zoubek has a chance against Monroe, but with Monroe’s tendency to coast it might not be such a big issue for stretches of the game. The matchup will be made more interesting by the fact that Duke was the front-runner for Monroe (the #1 high school recruit at times last year) for most of the recruiting season before committing to Georgetown. If Monroe had joined Singler in the middle, Coach K could have had a legitimate title contender.

If Coach K decides to put Zoubek on Monroe, Singler will end up playing against DaJuan Summers who has really stepped up his game this year (15.1 PPG on 53.8% FG and 44.4% 3FG). Either way, it should be an interesting match-up on the inside. Singler probably has the most complete game of any of the 4 bigs in the starting lineup, but Zoubek is still the weakest link of the Duke starting lineup despite his tremendous improvement since he has been at Duke.  Singler’s ability to shoot from outside brings up another intriguing aspect of this game about whether Monroe can come out and defend Singler if necessary. The Hoyas might be best served to put Summers on Singler to keep Monroe out of foul trouble because they will need Monroe to play 30+ minutes if they hope to pull off the upset in Cameron. In the end, it might be the battle on the inside and who controls the boards that will determine outcome of the game despite the talented guards on both sides.

The backcourts also provide some interesting match-ups: Nolan Smith vs. Chris Wright, Jon Scheyer vs. Jessie Sapp, and Gerald Henderson vs. Austin Freeman. All of these are intriguing match-ups with solid players who are capable of taking over a game at any time. Keep an eye on Henderson in this one since he’s the one world-class athlete on the Duke team and he has stepped it up recently including taking over the 2nd half of the game against FSU last Saturday.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by nvr1983 on January 14th, 2009

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Give me an honest answer. What do you think is a more impressive accomplishment? Winning the Big East regular season title, winning the Big East Tournament, or reaching the Final Four?

Me? I’m going with the Big East regular season title. Every single time you step on the court in this league, it is a dogfight. It’s ridiculous what these teams go through. Take a look at the next six days for Syracuse: they head to DC on Wednesday to take on Georgetown, return back to Syracuse to face Notre Dame on Saturday, then travel to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers for Big Monday. Three games against top 15 teams in the span of six days culminating in a date with the #1 team in the country. And that isn’t an uncommon occurrence this year. Every team does it at least once (Running the Gauntlet, we’ve gone over this kiddies). The only conference that can match a run like that is the ACC, and that would have to mean one of Wake Forest, Clemson, Duke, or UNC plays the all of the other three. Tennessee playing Kentucky, Florida, and Arkansas in the span of a week just isn’t quite the same thing.

What I love about this year’s version of the Big East is the unpredictability. I could legitimately see four different teams winning the regular season title and three others that, if they get hot, could reel off six or seven straight wins and end up on top. Before league play started, it was UConn. Then they lost to Georgetown on opening night, and the Hoyas became the team to beat. Then Pitt rolled through DC to become the new and current favorite. Who is next? Pitt plays Louisville and Syracuse this week. If one of those two knocks off the Panthers, are they the favorite of the week?

The more I think about it, winning the Big East tourney title may be a tougher feat than reaching a Final Four as well. For the first time, all 16 teams will be headed to Madison Square Garden to participate in the conference tournament, which just so happens to be the number of teams that play in each regional in the NCAA’s.

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ATB: T-Will’s House of Cards

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2009

afterbuzzerNews & Notes.

  • Miami (FL)’s Eddie Rios was suspended indefinitely for the second time this season for a violation of team rules.  Missouri’s Leo Lyons was also suspended indefinitely relating to his arrest for failure to pay an outstanding traffic ticket.   Pay your tickets, kiddies.
  • Billy Packer (where’s he been?) and Bob Knight plan on doing their own show on FSN during March Madness between filling out parlay cards at the Wynn Las Vegas this year.
  • LMU’s Bill Bayno resigned due to medical reasons; he will be replaced by assistant coach Max Good (currently 1-11 this season).

The First of Many Ginormous Mondays.

Louisville 87, Notre Dame 73 (OT). This was a fantastic game, and the third in a row that came down the last possession of regulation for the battle-tested Cards (who won all three).  The Big East is going to be like this all year long, and the teams that can make plays in the last two minutes will be sitting at 11-7 and staring at a top four NCAA seed, and those that don’t will be at 7-11 and needing a nice run in the Big East Tournament to get back on the bubble.  Terrence Williams and Luke Harangody were both pretty much unstoppable in a mano-a-mano passion play that rivaled anything we’ve seen in a while.  T-Will blew up the stat sheet, going for 24/16/8 assts/3 stls, while Harangody showcased a variety of spins and fadeaway jumpers in a 28/13 night.  Both teams stepped up their games defensively down the stretch, as Louisville outscored ND 3-2 in the last seven minutes.  Harangody in particular didn’t score a single point during that period and overtime.  Louisville moved to 3-0 in the conference, with #1 Pitt coming to Freedom Hall on Saturday.  It’s amazing to think that a mere two weeks ago everyone was writing the Cards off, including us.  A couple of final notes on this game – the Earl Clark slam “over everyone in the building,” according to Jay Bilas, was phenomenal (see below).  It really seemed as if his arms were something like the trees in Lord of the Rings on that dunk.

Also, the final play of regulation where ND threw the ball into the backcourt did not appear from our view to be a backcourt violation as it was called by the ref.  It was a harmless error from Louisville’s perspective, but how amazing would that ending have been if T-Will had ended the game on a wild play like that?

Oklahoma 78, Texas 63. What was most surprising about this game was just how uncompetitive Texas was throughout.  Texas couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (34%), and AJ Abrams was the chief culprit (8-27 incl. 3-15 from three).  Blake Griffin was his usual self, going for 20/10, but he was assisted by three other Sooners in double figures.  Honestly, we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop in terms of production for Oklahoma outside of Griffin/Warren, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Jeff Capel really has this team playing well.

Other Games of Mild Interest. Not much on the slate tonight, but Davidson and Steph Curry were in action.

  • Davidson 70, Appalachian St. 52. Curry Watch – 16/6 assts for Curry on 7-13 shooting in a road win.
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