Morning Five: 04.16.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 16th, 2010

  1. After a big day of comings and goings Wednesday, not as much action yesterday so we’ll handle it here.  BC junior forward Rakim Sanders will transfer from the school, most likely to Fairfield, for his senior season.  This is a bit of a coup for the Stags, as Sanders is the type of inside player (11/4 last year) who will excel in the MAAC.  Meanwhile, across the country, Washington guard Elston Turner also announced his transfer to a school closer to his hometown of Houston, Texas.  Turner had an inconsistent year for the Huskies (6 PPG in 15 MPG), but he came on during the NCAAs and scored 14 against Marquette and 10 versus New Mexico in consecutive games to help UW get to the Sweet Sixteen.  Finally, some good news as Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn announced that he will return to the Bears for his senior season.  This will be a huge boost for Scott Drew’s team, as Dunn will join Quincy Acy and newcomer Perry Jones to produce another formidable team in Waco.  And in late breaking news on Thursday night, Georgia’s Trey Thompkins also stated in an impromptu manner at the season-end basketball banquet that he is returning to the Bulldogs for his junior year.  Thompkins is an unheralded player nationally, but he was among the leaders of the SEC in scoring and rebounding (18/8) and with the return of uber-athletic Travis Leslie, Georgia should be positioned to make a leap forward in the SEC East next year.
  2. KenPom: last effing laugh.
  3. This was written prior to the Final Four, but we’re just now finding it.  The author makes some interesting observations about (mostly male) college hoops fans and the way in which they (we) get all teary-eyed over One Shining Moment.  She even called it “cheesy” before finally succumbing to its magic.  Guess you have to have grown up on it.
  4. Luke Winn writes that John Calipari’s recruiting prowess is a bit overstated when it comes to actually making the Final Four and winning national championships.  If we’re lucky, we’ll have a post up analyzing this sentiment later today.
  5. It’s a good thing Rick Stansbury got that recent contract extension to stay at Mississippi State or he wouldn’t have been able to afford the $30K that the SEC is fining him for criticizing officials on a lane violation no-call that he said they missed by “eight feet.”  Here’s the video from under the basket — what do you think?

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Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis: Thursday Night

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

7:07 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #5 Butler  (West Region)

We’re starting to worry about this Arinze Onuaku situation.  Sooner or later, Jim Boeheim’s team is going to need the 11 points, five rebounds and general defensive anchor support on the front line that the 6’9, 260-pound big man provides.  Rick Jackson is a serviceable replacement, but the fact that Onuaku reportedly hasn’t even suited up in practice since his injury against Georgetown on March 11 is cause for alarm.  Even if Syracuse survives to advance to next weekend’s Final Four, how productive could he possibly be?  So far, Syracuse hasn’t shown a need for him yet.  The Orange ran over Vermont and Gonzaga without breathing all that hard thanks to the superb play of Wesley Johnson and friends, but there will be a team in the very near future where they’ll need more than Jackson alone can provide.

That team will not be playing SU in the Sweet Sixteen, however.  Butler is an excellent team and Brad Stevens has gotten players other than Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard to step up this season, most notably Shelvin Mack who went 9-12 from long range in the San Jose pod against UTEP and Murray State.  Syracuse is not UTEP or Murray, though, and the wide-open looks that Mack was getting in those games will no longer be as readily available thanks to the length and quickness of the Orange’s perimeter defenders.  Furthermore, Butler center Matt Howard has enough trouble staying out of foul trouble against Horizon League teams; it’s not realistic to think that he’ll be able to play 30+ effective minutes against Jackson, Johnson and Kris Joseph inside.  The main problem we foresee is that Butler is not a very good offensive team in general — when Hayward and Mack aren’t firing on all cylinders, the Bulldogs have trouble scoring points.  Add that to the fact they’ll be facing one of the best offensive teams in America, and you have a situation where numerous things need to go exactly right for Butler to get this win tonight.  Even without Onuaku on the floor for another game, we just don’t see Butler finding enough offense to win this game.

The Skinny: The last time the Bulldogs made it this deep into the NCAAs, they ran into a long, athletic team by the name of Florida in 2007.  They played the defending and future national champions as closely as they were played in that tournament thanks to their control of the tempo, strong defense and  attention to detail, but it still wasn’t enough because the Florida offensive attack was simply too good.  We think the same thing will happen in this game.  Syracuse has too many weapons for the Butler defense to key in on all of them, and even if they catch SU on an off night, where will the Butler points come from?

7:27 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #11 Washington  (East Region)

Most prognosticators felt that Washington had Sweet 16 talent coming into this season. Lorenzo Romar was returning reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Isaiah Thomas, defensive stalwart Venoy Overton and a forward named Quincy Pondexter ripe for a breakout season. While Pondexter’s prediction panned out, guard play was shaky, road wins were hard to come by, and the Huskies found themselves on the NCAA bubble with seven losses in a weak Pac-10. A conference tournament win punched their ticket, though, and the Huskies have taken advantage of the opportunity, erasing a double-digit second half lead to beat Marquette and wiping the floor with Mountain West champion New Mexico. Their toughest test yet will come Thursday against Big East Tournament champion West Virginia. Washington needs to produce a near carbon copy of their performance against New Mexico. In other words, they need to play a near-perfect game. Thomas must keep his head on straight and continue to make outside jumpers. Overton must frustrate Da’Sean Butler, Elston Turner must continue to produce offensively and Pondexter must out-duel Devin Ebanks.

For West Virginia, Washington seems like a favorable matchup. They may have preferred Joe Mazzulla guarding Isaiah Thomas more than the sidelined Darryl Bryant anyway. Mazzulla is the superior defender and Bryant has been woeful shooting-wise the last three weeks. They also match up well with the length of Washington. Bob Huggins can throw a lineup out on the floor of players 6’6 or above with huge wingspans, meaning the long WVU defense could fluster Pondexter and force him into difficult shots. One possible negative to the Bryant injury is that it increases the likelihood that the Mountaineer offense will become too reliant on Butler to bail them out. He’s done it time and time again this season and in postseason tournament play. Does he have more magic up his sleeve?

The Skinny: West Virginia has a plethora of defenders that can frustrate Pondexter and they boast the best late-game scorer in the nation in Butler. That combination should prove enough to take care of Washington in fairly methodical fashion. Avoiding their typical slow start would be prudent.

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San Jose Pod Daily Diary: 03.20.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 20th, 2010

We’ve got two pretty cool matchups today here in San Jose.  First, we’ll start with the strange situation of everyone’s favorite giant-killer, #5 seed Butler, acting as the heavy favorite over #13 seed Murray State, who of course advanced on Thursday when Danero Thomas’ shot at the horn against Vandy dropped.  In the second game, we’ll enjoy the Pac-10 renaissance for at least another game, as #11 Washington will try to continue its hot streak (now eight Ws in a row) against #3 New Mexico.  We’ll be checking back in throughout the day with our thoughts on the games.

Game 1: #5 Butler vs. #13 Murray State

1st Half

  • Getting ready to come out for the tip of this game, I got into a conversation with two of the young female intern-types who were helping out with the drinks for media.  They were discussing whom to root for in this game, and one said to the other: “well, you have to go with the underdog, Murray.”  Sensing a teaching moment (hey, Scottie), I said, “yeah isn’t it interesting that Butler is the favorite when they’re usually the giant-killer and Murray is the underdog now?”  They were both amazed with that role-reversal and asked a bunch of questions about it.  But it illustrates a point about programs such as Butler and Gonzaga — there comes a tipping point where you’re no longer viewed as the plucky little team anymore, and I think Butler is close to getting there (Gonzaga has been there for years).
  • Butler came out off to a great start 12-3 as Murray State looked a little off kilter, which is to be expected coming off a great win like they had on Thursday.  But eventually they got their sea legs under them and were able to start getting some stops.
  • It’s always interesting to watch The Butler Way…  they take care of the ball; they look for open teammates; they crash the boards; they contest every shot.  Rarely will you see a shot out of the offense, although I did count a couple of them this half.
  • Murray’s defense really picked up about mid-half and it showed in that Butler ended up shooting a horrid 8-28 from the field (29%).  The Bulldogs were held scoreless for the last 6:24 of the first half.  In that time, Murray went on a 9-0 run.  That may not sound like much, but in a game trending toward the 50s, that’s a huge disparity.
  • It took a while to figure out, but the crowd is definitely pro-Murray State.  Again, that’s just weird.  Usually Butler is the team that has the non-partisans on their side.  Ed Daniel’s follow jam with about a minute left on the break really brought the house down.  If this stays close down the stretch, definite home advantage to Murray.
  • I’ve been very impressed with Murray’s Isaiah Canaan in this pod so far.  He has 8 points and has a real swagger about him like nobody can stop him offensively.  Only a freshman and six feet tall standing on a phone book, he is undoubtedly going to be a star in this program the next few years.
  • Coming into the second half, I’m reminded of how Butler had played so poorly in the first half on Thursday, but then used the first five minutes of the second half to completely put UTEP under.  Will that happen again today?  I somehow don’t think it will.  I just don’t see Murray getting as frustrated into making poor decisions as UTEP did the other day.  I really like the poise of this Racer team.

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Second Round Game Analysis: Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2010

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

1:05 pm – #2 Villanova vs. #10 St. Mary’s  (Providence pod)

A great opening game of the day for the group of teams that produced the best opening day of the NCAA Tournament ever. A lot of experts are going to be calling for an upset here and based on the way these two teams are playing we can’t say that we blame them. The Wildcats came into the NCAA Tournament having lost five of seven games and nearly lost to Robert Morris (down by 7 with less than 4 minutes left before some controversial calls went ‘Nova’s way). On the other side, the Gaels stormed through the West Coast Conference Tournament and knocked off Richmond, a team that a lot of people had as a potential sleeper, in the first round. The key to this game will be how Reggie Redding handles Omar Samhan. After watching Samhan rip apart the Spiders, Jay Wright has to be concerned about his interior players going against one of the best low-post players in the country. On the other side, Saint Mary’s has to figure out how to deal with Scottie Reynolds and the rest of the Wildcat backcourt. They are certainly better equipped to match-up with Villanova’s perimeter players with Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova than the Wildcats are to handle Samhan. Saint Mary’s perimeter players pack enough offensive punch to make keep up with Villanova’s guards, but Mouphtaou Yarou and Redding shouldn’t challenge Samhan too much defensively. The one wildcard here is Reynolds. Will he “learn” from Wright’s “teaching moment” and become the Scottie Reynolds we knew for most of the past two seasons or will be the 2-15 from the field Reynolds?

The Skinny: Samhan overwhelms the Wildcats on the inside and advance into the Sweet 16 as this year’s Cinderella.

3:20 pm – #5 Butler vs. #13 Murray State  (San Jose pod)

The second game of the second round will feature the top mid-major program in the east versus an upstart who would love to get there themselves.  In their first round game, if you haven’t heard, the Racers’ Danero Thomas hit a shot at the buzzer to knock Vanderbilt out of the Tournament, but what you may not know about that game is that Murray State pretty much controlled it throughout.  It was very late when Vandy regained the lead and set the stage for Thomas’ game winner.  The point: Murray is better than your typical #13 seed Cinderella.  Butler, on the other hand, had a weak first half and a superb second half to put away UTEP.  It was two of the staples of Butler’s attack — relentless halfcourt defense and the three-ball — that allowed the Bulldogs to quickly take the lead and never look back against the Miners.  As for this game, Murray State does many of the same things that Butler does, it’s just that Brad Stevens’ team does those things better.  It will certainly be interesting to see how Butler responds to being the Big (Bull)Dog in an NCAA Tournament game, as they’re usually the upstart taking on some higher-seeded Kansas or Florida type of team.

The Skinny: We’d love to take Murray State here, but Butler isn’t going to let a johnny-come-lately out-Butler them en route to the Sweet Sixteen, so we expect Butler to hang on and win by 6-8 points.

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2009

checkinginon

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big West and Pac-10 Conferences.

Sometimes it’s not so painful to watch a once proud and mighty warrior fall from grace, as it is bizarre.  You may be able to accept that nothing lasts forever, and that eventually the tide must turn. But it’s one thing to have a rebuilding year, and quite another to be a national laughingstock.  Yet, that term best describes the way that Pac-10 teams have performed so far in this early season. It also describes the way that the conference’s flagship program, the UCLA Bruins, has performed so far in this early season.  The Pac-10, we knew, was a conference in decline. But few predicted that the decline would be so far, so fast.

The conference’s two Top 25 teams have each suffered losses to unranked, seemingly-lesser teams.  The conference was soundly beaten in this week’s Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge, losing each of Thursday night’s three games. In fact, until late Friday, the Pac-10 Conference has not won a single game since Monday night, when Arizona State defeated 0-5 Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  Obviously it’s early in the season, and this is a conference that will play its best basketball later in the season, but the Pac-10 was considered mediocre among the power conferences this season and has instead looked dreadful, while the two teams that did possess national potential are obviously flawed and UCLA continues to trip all over itself. It’ll take a lot for the Pac-10 to rebuild its reputation this season, so let’s take a look at what’s transpired thus far.

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

Posted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2009

atb

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

big12-pac10 challenge odds

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

Other Big 12/Pac-10 Games.

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

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

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

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