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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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 the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2008

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

Big East play has officially begun! For each and every team in this conference, you can essentially throw out their non-conference games because they are guaranteed at least seven games against top 25 teams (or eight, can someone please explain to me how West Virginia is not one of the top 25 teams in the country?). Get hot at the right time, reel off five or six straight wins during the right part of your schedule, and you can thrust yourself directly onto the bubble.

Granted, that is MUCH more easily said than done. As you will see, every team in this conference has a run where they will play four or five top 25 teams in the span of two weeks. Because it was a slow week (thanks Santa, but you did get me Fifa ’09 so you’re not all bad) and more than a few teams didn’t play, I am going to be giving you what I like to call “Running the Gauntlet” (patent pending), which is the string of three or four or five (or sometimes even nine) games which you will only see in happening in the Big East.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Darryl “Truck” Bryant, West Virginia

Statistically speaking, Truck had far from the best week in the conference, even on his own team. In the Mountaineers’ only game (a blowout of Ohio State) Truck finished with 11 points and 2 dimes. But it is more than his performance, it is the importance of his play to this West Virginia team. It looks like there is a real possibility that Joe Mazzulla will be out for the season, meaning that Truck is basically the only PG Bob Huggins has on his roster right now. West Virginia does not need Truck to carry this team. In fact, they are probably better when he is blending in more than standing out, so to speak. What they need from him is tough defense, ball control, and the ability to make a big shot or big play when WVU needs it. He did that perfectly against Ohio State. The Mountaineers did not play all that well against the Buckeyes, but in the second half when they were pulling away, Truck was in the middle of everything. He had a couple tough finishes on drives to the basket, he scored a few times on a fast break, and on a team that struggles to move the ball at times, he orchestrated a beautifully run offense (especially in the second half) against a pretty good OSU zone. You want a good comparison for this kid? Think Levance Fields as a freshman.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Georgetown

The Hoyas played just one game this week. It just so happened that game was a win over UConn, the #2 team in the country. The Hoyas thoroughly dominated the Huskies throughout. If there was a word that defined the Hoyas performance, it was execution. JT3 had the perfect game plan against UConn. His Hoyas controlled the pace of the game by running through their offensive sets, then exploiting any UConn break down defensively. And when they attacked, they scored just about every time, especially down the stretch. UConn just couldn’t get any stops. If it wasn’t a back door cut, it was an open jump shot or a drive to the rim, which resulted in either a lay-up or a trip to the foul line (the Hoyas hit their last 18 free throws in the second half). Last week I told you I was finally coming to terms with the fact that Greg Monroe was not going to be a star just yet. Well, against UConn, Monroe proved why he had so much hype coming out of high school. He knocked down two threes, but was able to put the ball on the floor and go by Hasheem Thabeet when the big fella came out to guard him. He made three gorgeous back door passes, two of which came off the dribble. He blocked shots, and even ripped AJ Price at half court, which led to an and-1 lay-up. The most impressive part about Monroe right now is that he does all of this within the Georgetown system. The Hoyas still have some depth problems (the only starter that didn’t play 35 minutes against the Huskies was Monroe, and he was in foul trouble during the second half), but if guys like Jason Clark, Omar Wattad (side note: I think the best sign I have seen this year came at the Georgetown-Memphis game when some fan held up “Let’s Get Wattaded”), Julian Vaughn, and Henry Sims can provide anywhere between 8-15 minutes a game each, the Hoyas should be ok because of the pace they play at.

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12.29.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on December 28th, 2008

This is the last installment of Fast Breaks for the calendar year, but it’s a loaded one with lots of news before the New Year’s ball drops.

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ATB: Holiday Weekend Wrap

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2008

afterbuzzer1

Let’s start with some news & notes…

  • Which of the ten (now nine) unbeaten teams are frauds and which are legit?  Not sure we agree about Minnesota, Goodman.
  • On Jan. 7th, ESPN will have its announcers switch roles, using its NBA team of Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Mike Tirico to call the Duke-Davidson game, and its college team of Dan Shulman and Dick Vitale to call the Heat-Nuggets game.  One can only hope that Van Gundy and Jackson will get into an argument over how to best defend Stephen Curry.
  • Just tuning in to college hoops?  Here’s a season recap.  And here’s Jeff Goodman’s Xmas gift column.

Weekend Wrap. The weekend was generally light, with only a few really good matchups.  So we’ll just hit the highlight games in short order tonight.

Saturday Games.

  • LSU 64, Washington St. 52. Is LSU a team to watch in the SEC West?   Well, the Tigers are 10-0 at home and 0-1 on the road against the nation’s 300th toughest schedule.  You tell us.
  • Kentucky 76, Florida Atlantic 69. The Cats struggled in this one as a team, but Patrick Patterson (27/14/3 blks) is entering himself into first-team all-american consideration with his consistently superb numbers.  Consider that PP is averaging 20/10 on 71% shooting and is the second most efficient player in America (behind only Blake Griffin).
  • Louisville 82, UAB 62. Rick Pitino benched Earl Clark and Andre McGee and the Cards responded with the new lineup by pulling away from an overmatched UAB team with little depth.  T-Will nearly had a trip-dub with 21/10/7 assts.
  • West Virginia 76, Ohio St. 48. Unbeaten no more.  WVU put the smack down on the Buckeyes in their house, ending a 14-game winning streak and giving Bob Huggins sweet vindication given his previous snubs by the flagship university of the state of Ohio.   A 27-4 run in the mid to late-second half did the trick.
  • Michigan St. 82, Oakland 66. This game is only notable because Goran Suton started, contributing 16/9 in the process.  A healthy and effective Suton is key to MSU’s season.

Sunday Games.

  • St. Mary’s 87, San Jose St. 78 (Sat.) and St. Mary’s 76, Morgan St. 60.  Don’t look now, but SMC has now won nine in a row against a top 60 schedule.
  • Wagner 68, NJIT 58. That’s 45 Ls in a row now.  The next best chance for a win – try 1/21 against Bryant University.
  • UCLA 78, Lousiana Tech 55. It’s hard to tell whether UCLA is actually improving, but they’ve won their last six by an average of 25+ pts.  Jrue Holiday had 12/10/5 assts/3 stls today.
  • Illinois St. 72, Missouri St. 69 (OT). In a key early-season MVC matchup, ISU stayed unbeaten.  Down 15 in the mid-second half, the Redbirds used a 22-2 run to take the lead and held on in OT.
  • Florida St. 82, W. Kentucky 69. FSU pulled away late against the most schizophrenic team in America behind Toney Douglas’ 27/5/5 assts.
  • USC 66, Oral Roberts 56. Demar DeRozan had his third consecutive solid game (18/5) as the Trojans held off ORU.
  • Virginia 88, Georgia Tech 84 (OT). In an entertaining battle of two teams going nowhere this season, the Wahoos were able to steal a conference road win behind super frosh Sylvan Landesberg’s 26/6/5 assts.  We still can’t figure out why Ga Tech isn’t better than they are with the talent they have on that roster.
  • Lipscomb 74, Indiana 69. This is what we were afraid of with this IU squad.  With 5 minutes to go in the first half, IU led 37-16.  They were outscored 58-32 the rest of the way.  A four-win Big 10 slate should be considered a huge success this year.
  • Florida 74, Winthrop 45. Winthrop (1-10) is an abomination these days.   Halftime score – Florida 53, Winthrop 11.
  • Minnesota 82, High Point 56. Minny is now 12-0, its best start in sixty years.  That Tubby hire looks good right now, doesn’t it?
  • Siena 75, St. Joseph’s 74. Siena rallied from eighteen down to get this win, and in turn, may have saved its season.
  • UNC 97, Rutgers 75. Another methodical blowout win for the Heels.  Hansbrough had 26/10.  Up next for Rutgers…  #3 Pitt, then #2 UConn.
  • Stanford 111, Texas Tech 66.  This was the most shocking score of the weekend.  Certainly right now Johnny Dawkins is looking like a national COY candidate – he’s never lost a game!

On tap Monday (all times EST). Big Monday gets a jump before the new year with a blockbuster game – Georgetown at UConn.  The nightcap – Cincy at Memphis – isn’t half-bad either.

  • Connecticut v. Georgetown (ESPN2) – 7pm
  • Villanova v. Temple (ESPNU) – 7pm
  • Baylor v. Portland St. – 8pm
  • Davidson @ Charleston (ESPNU) – 9pm
  • Memphis v. Cincinnati (ESPN2) – 9pm
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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 25th, 2008

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

With conference play starting next week, four teams have emerged as the favorites to win the league – UConn, Georgetown, Pitt and Syracuse. After that, it is a mess of talented but enigmatic teams. Notre Dame, Marquette, West Virginia, Louisville and Villanova have all shown flashes of dominance, but have also had their flaws exposed on national TV.  By far the biggest disappointment has been Louisville. The Cardinals were a top 5 preseason team on pretty much everyone’s list, but unless Santa leaves a jumpshot under the tree for their each of the perimeter players, it could be a long year for the ‘Ville.

I’m at a cross roads right now. Is the Big East really not as good as they were made out to be, or were expectations for this conference so high that they could not have possibly lived up to them?  Clearly, Louisville is not who anyone expected them to be. Notre Dame has struggled, but they are still a top 15 team. Marquette, Villanova, and West Virginia were all borderline top 25 teams in the preseason, and not much has changed six weeks into the season.  I guess what I’m saying is that while the conference has hit a few bumps in the road, it is still as good as any conference I can remember. One thing is for sure – any Big East team that reaches the dance is going to be battle-tested.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: AJ Price, UConn

AJ Price was the reason that UConn rose from a middle of the pack Big East team to a conference title contender and a top 15 team last season. But coming off of off-season ACL surgery, Price has not been himself. Going into the Gonzaga game, he had no confidence in the strength of his knee, which is why he was not penetrating like he did last year. He was playing so poorly that Jim Calhoun was actually considering benching him (the same guy that was a top 5 point guard in the country in the last three months of the ’07-’08 season) for freshman Kemba Walker. Against Gonzaga, he returned to the Price of old. He finished with 24 points and 10 assists, getting to the line eight times (three less than he had the rest of the season combined) and hitting big shot after big shot. He hit six threes, including four in the last 11 minutes of the game. UConn’s biggest knock is their lack of perimeter shooting, which combined with their quick guards and finishers inside means that a lot of teams are going to go zone against the Huskies. Having an AJ Price that can penetrate and create against a zone makes them a much more balanced team.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Syracuse

The Orange proved a lot to me with their win over Memphis on Saturday. I’ve been up and down on the ‘Cuse team this season, mainly because of their inability to start a game strong. It happened again versus Memphis, as Syracuse found themselves down 19-9 early on before coming back to win. What was most impressive about the come back is how they did it. Eric Devendorf missed the game (but had his season long suspension reduced, maybe to as short as two games) which meant that Jonny Flynn was their only ball handler against a tough Memphis defense. Flynn, despite finishing with 24 and 6 dimes, had an up and down game where he took some ill-advised shots and made some bad passes. Neither Arinze Onuaku or Andy Rautins played all that well. Kristoff Ongenaet played just a few seconds in the first half after being benched for Rick Jackson. Outside of Jackson, no one (except maybe Paul Harris) played their best game. And Syracuse still beat a pretty good Memphis team. One more note, if Rick Jackson can emerge as another scoring threat in the post, it makes Syracuse so much tougher. Onuaku is one of the best big men in the Big East, but he has a tendency to fade during games. It almost seems as if he is pouting because of a lack of touches on the inside. Jackson has averaged 12.7 ppg and 7 rpg in the last three.

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A John Stevens Holiday Wish List

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2008

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC.  His columns appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.

I can’t believe how I soaked my parents when I was a kid.  Right after Thanksgiving they’d start asking me to make a Christmas list so they could just go ahead and start buying me everything on it and I’d have yet another memorable holiday.  My sisters did the same thing.  True, we were good kids; we racked up enough academic and athletic achievements during the rest of the year to keep them stocked in stories to bore the crap out of their friends and the rest of the extended family with, but looking back on it, we were really lucky.  Still are.

These days, when Christmas rolls around, my wants are not of games for my Atari 2600, or life-size Shogun Warriors, or the like.  Today, I only ask for one thing for the holidays, and that is Time.  I want to sit in the recliner at our home in the country with a drink in one hand and a remote control in the other, my brain awash in college basketball images, Christmastime tournaments and match-ups lighting up my television screen until I can hardly remember my own name.  There will be family time, present-opening time, time for playing with the nieces and nephews of the family.  All of that is fantastic and it can’t be beaten.  But this year I’m especially looking forward to having the time to just devour Mom’s cooking, forget what my next obligation is, stay warm from the marrow-cracking cold outside, and enjoy some college hoops as we close the book on non-conference play for this season.

Santa is Checking John's Wish List

Santa is Checking John's Holiday Wish List

But make no mistake.  I’m a giver, as well.  I don’t just want those things above for myself, I want them for everyone.  And as I got a headstart on things this past Saturday by watching some freaking amazing games, I couldn’t help but wonder – what would be my college basketball wish list for this year?  Hey, sounds like a column idea!  So, here goes.  Six things I want inside the world of college basketball for this season.  Why six?  Because I say so.  I even ranked them for you.  You’re welcome.

John Stevens’  Holiday Wish List

#6.  Davidson to find other options. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE watching Stephen Curry and his lightning-quick release go nuts for 42/8/10, and I don’t want to minimize the work by Andrew Lovedale (13.5 and 10.1), for whom I actually feel a little sorry.  Its not easy being Salieri, is it?  Those are solid numbers and yet almost nobody knows this guy’s name.  But after him there’s just not a lot going on.  I think this is something we all suspected but didn’t want to admit because we’ve been mesmerized by Curry’s game, and we wanted to think this Stephen could lead this team to heights even loftier than last season.  That is yet to be disproved, but the Purdue game this past Saturday was damning.  Davidson’s tournament chances hinge on other options emerging when Curry is smothered by excellent defense like he was this past weekend, or when he’s just plain having a tough shooting night.  ESPN’s Pat Forde had a great article about this topic yesterday, incidentally.  We’ve seen what Curry can do as a virtual one-man show.  Now I’d like to see other fellows step up and for the team to go even farther even if it means that Curry might take a hit on his scoring average.

(Will settle for:  more amazing feats by Curry; no matter how deep Davidson’s tournament run, Curry is that enjoyable to watch.)

#5.  A nice airplane companion for my Vegas trip in March. I haven’t taken that many flights in my life, but the ones I have taken have been pretty lengthy and there’s only been one case where I had an enjoyable neighbor in the seat next to me.  I was flying to California this past Summer to attend a friend’s wedding and the fellow to my right just happened to play Division I college hoops about 40 years ago.  He told me stories of games he played against Wooden’s UCLA and Rupp’s Kentucky; the secret, behind-the-scenes stuff was amazing, some of the best sports stories I’ve ever heard.  I sat there motionless and listened until he got tired and actually had to take a nap.  But that was my only pleasant experience so far, as far as who I’ve had next to me on a plane.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?  You’re sitting there in your seat as the plane loads, watching who’s coming down the aisle, and every attractive girl who approaches you’re thinking, “Come on, come oooooon…” but then you end up getting some foul-breathed 400-pound pet store employee who didn’t have time for a shower that morning and wants to talk to you about how his life totally changed after he saw The Blair Witch Project.  I don’t care if you’re single, married, or whatever, if you’re a male and you’re flying alone on a long trip, it’s the same.  We all want the Padma Lakshmi or Robin Meade look-alike, or maybe the stray USC Song Girl, to slide into the neighboring empty seat, look at us with puppy-dog eyes and whisper to us about how she’s “the bad girl of the team” but, alas, doesn’t have a place to stay in your destination city.   Hasn’t happened yet.  Maybe someday.

Keep Dreaming, John...

Gals Like Her Don't Sit in Coach...

(Will settle for:  the plane to land in one piece, both coming and going.)

#4.  A Final Four for Gonzaga. I’m not affiliated with the place in any way – didn’t go to school there, never have even been to the state of Washington, though I’d love to visit – so here’s my thinking on this.  I’m hearing more and more alleged college hoop pundits using the terms “high mid-major” and “low mid-major” to denote a certain cadre of teams that…well, I probably don’t have to explain it.  A few years ago there were just mid-majors.  A few years before that there were just the big time programs and the rest of the world.  I kind of miss those days.  Now we have teams that actually feel insulted when you call them a low mid-major when they think they’re a high mid-major, and so forth.  That’s pure crap.  Gonzaga was the first team to really relish the “mid-major” moniker since I’ve been into this sport and they’ve certainly put in their time.  Mark Few has always come off as a perfectly nice guy and quite honestly his teams, without exception, play a brand of basketball that’s always been fun to watch for me, even though I can’t point to one particular thing that makes it so.  We’re long past the honeymoon phase with Gonzaga, meaning that it was one thing when they did well in the tournament while nobody was looking, but for over a decade now we’ve come to expect more from the Zags.  It’s important that they get to a Final Four when people actually expect something from them – like maybe this season.  I specifically admire Josh Heytvelt’s comeback and Austin Daye’s a pleasure to watch.  A Final Four would also move Coach Few more toward that elite level of coaches, which is due for a new member.

Another reason:  go back a few years to another Vegas trip.  Some of the boys and I are in the front row of a standing-only section of one of the sportsbooks watching the end of a game; the start of Gonzaga’s first game of that tournament was a couple of minutes away.  The Gonzaga supporters – and there were well over a hundred of them – gathered behind us and were definitely a polite crowd, meaning no pushing or jockeying to steal a spot in front of us, or anything.  And they certainly came prepared to support their team.  They were a fun lot, and definitely social.  Many of them started conversations with us and we shared a few beers and so on.  Pretty cool, eh?  Well, I noticed that from where I was standing, just behind and to the right of me was a pretty dark-haired girl in a big Gonzaga sweatshirt and an almost-empty beer in her hand.  I figured I’d maybe talk to her before the game started, so I turned to say hello, when, at that very millisecond, she takes a deep breath and, at a deafening volume, belts out:  “GOOOOOON-ZAG-UH BAAAAAAS-KET-BAAAAAALLLLL!!!!”  The crowd behind her echoed this offering.  I thought, “OK, she’s cool, probably knows the game, definitely loves her team.  Here we go…” and I turned around again.  What does she do?  She lets fly another, “GOOOOOOOOOON-ZAG-UH BAAAAAAS-KET-BAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!” at twice the original volume.  The crowd behind her really began frothing.  I was impressed on one hand but hoped she would be able to at least carry a conversation or scream another cheer.  I never really found out, because for the next two hours, at random times she would scream this same cheer, in the manner of the Detroit Pistons’ announcer Mason.  I never heard her say anything except that as she kept pounding those beers.  So, maybe if Gonzaga finally gets to a Final Four, this girl, wherever she is, will feel that her yelling has done its job and she can now preserve her voice, or learn another cheer.  In all seriousness, they were good fans, and they deserve a Final Four.

This Was Not Her

This Was Not Her

(Will settle for:  an iTunes gift card.)

#3.  Eric Devendorf to get this nonsense settled and rejoin his team. According to the ESPN.com article, Devendorf’s suspension for introducing his hand to a female student’s face earlier this year is that he has to complete 40 hours of community service before he can ask to be reinstated as a student by Syracuse University and resume his place on the basketball team.  The spring semester on the Syracuse campus starts January 12th and the Orange(men) have a game two days later at Georgetown.

Devendorf has said all the right things in the press since this incident, and he seems genuinely contrite.  He probably knows that to sock a female student in the jaw with the heel of your hand for any reason is the move of a black-belt douchebag and I’d speculate he understands the need for punishment.  Fine.  40 hours.  I say get it done as fast as you can, Eric.  Do a Monday-through-Friday, eight hours a day.  Better still, do four ten-hour days.  By getting it done quickly, you get it over with, and you send a message to your teammates that you really can’t wait to get back on that squad, if they’ll have you.  You’re showing them that you want to miss as little game and practice time as possible.  That ruling, in point of fact, came down on December 19th, which means that by the end of today you could been DONE with this if you’d have chosen the ten-hour-day option.  Whatever schedule you can set – the point is, get it done as fast as you can.  You’ll impress your teammates, you’ll fulfill your obligation, you’ll send a message to your coaches, and I bet you’ll return to the Carrier Dome to more cheers than anything.  Your team is good, but they’re better with you there.  Despite their curious history in the NCAA Tournament, they are a dangerous team this year and I wouldn’t want to be the guy responsible for Syracuse fans wondering how good they could have been.

(Will settle for:  Nothing.  This one’s not negotiable.)

#2.  An end to the objectification of Miss Erin Andrews. That’s right.  I’m going to be the champion for Miss Andrews’ cause.  I think it’s high time that we recognize the hard work this woman puts into actually being a journalist, interviewing coaches at halftime when they’re more annoyed than anything and don’t want to convey any real information to the viewers.  It’s thankless, and I for one want to say a big Thank You to Miss Andrews.  And on top of all that, she has to do it while most of the viewers are wondering how snug her shirt is or how high her heels are, probably not even hearing what she’s saying.  I can’t even fathom the catcalls she must endure from horny college kids while she’s just trying to do her job.  I even hear that some sports blogs actually use any possible reason to post pictures of her on their sites, hoping to generate cheap pageviews.  I am appalled!  Who, I ask you, WHO would do such a thing?!?  Anyway, I think we need to do a better job of showing her how much we love her reporting as well as her…*sigh*…looks.  And, I dunno, if Miss Andrews feels like talking about this subject with me, she can use the e-mail link for this site located at right, and perhaps we can discuss it over dinner.  Not that I said all that stuff above for that reason, or anything.

I Have No Objection to this Photo of Miss Andrews

I Have No Objectification to this Photo of Ms. Andrews

(Will settle for:  Not taking a beating.  You see what I’m doing there, right?  Remember that kid back in, like, the 8th or 9th grade who was friends with all the girls because he sucked up to them like crazy?  You know the guy, he always thought he could parlay that ill-gotten friendship into something else if he wanted (even though the girls knew it would never happen) once he got to high school, and he liked to rub your nose in it a little.  I ALWAYS wanted to administer a beating for the ages to that guy.  If you see what I’m doing with my above paragraph about Erin, you’ll exempt me from a similar throttling.)

(Will also settle for:  ESPN to make some airtime for another Andrews, namely Thea, who I always dug in a major way even though Cold Pizza was an abomination.)

And finally, the number one item on the John Stevens Holiday List for 2008 is:

#1.  A Duke fan to admit that…it’s getting to be a little much.
Well, this should be good.  It all started with those American Express commercials a couple of years ago where Coach K talked about how he doesn’t just prepare you for basketball, he also prepares you for life, etc.  Then I’m sitting watching the amazing United States victory over the Europeans in the 2008 Ryder Cup on TV earlier this summer and what do I see?  A smiling Krzyzewski on my TV screen doing a lead-in to the coverage about every hour; I mean, it’s a GOLF tournament.  And it happened in Louisville, which means that among college basketball coaches, Rick Pitino would have been a more appropriate choice.  It’s an event that Coach K’s mug should have been nowhere near.  In my opinion, the most mind-blowing example of the Coach K free pass is his weekly hour-long talk show on Sirius XM, called “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K,” now entering its fourth season.  It’s basically an hour of Coach K hanging out with special guests, talking about basketball, talking about life in general, talking about whatever he wants.

Many people have argued that these appearances by Krzyzewski constitute a recruiting advantage, and it’s a tough argument to refute.  He seems to be the only coach out there doing it, though it should be said that he’s probably the most desirable spokesman out there, as far as coaches go.  But honestly, in addition to everywhere else he shows up, the guy’s got an hour of satellite radio time every week where he kicks it with famous friends and espouses his opinions on just about everything – including subjects that might even come up during, oh, I don’t know…in-home and/or campus recruiting visits?

To be sure, I don’t know if these things provide much of a recruiting advantage; let’s be honest, even without Coach K’s extra appearances there’s a lot about Duke that sells itself.  We all know the place’s academic reputation, and the basketball program had reached elite status long before Krzyzewski started with the commercials/promos/radio shows/etc.  But the problem is that other coaches certainly don’t get to do these things.  Yes, Krzyzewski has created these opportunities through his achievements as a college basketball coach.  But let’s say Coach K retires tomorrow and Sirius XM decides to give a show to only one coach – say, Ben Howland, or Roy Williams, or Billy Gillispie, or Jamie Dixon.  It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the NCAA stepped in and nixed it, saying it provided an unfair advantage.  As chronicled by this very website, the NCAA chooses to apply its disciplinary bitch-slap in such strange and uneven ways at times – but THIS, a weekly hour-long pulpit for a coach – ANY coach – to freestyle about any subject he wants to millions of people – is allowed?  The NCAA claims to try to keep things fair, to keep the playing field even.  Is that what we’ve had for the past few years with Coach K preening himself as the official brand face and name of college basketball?

So that’s my number one wish for this holiday season.  One single Duke fan to admit that their coach, despite his successes, might just be getting away with something.  In the meantime, enjoy this clever YouTube spoof of Coach K’s AMEX ads.

(Will settle for:  a winning Powerball ticket.  I’m more likely to actually get that.)

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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Set Your Tivos: Super Saturday Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 20th, 2008

Super Saturday is a term usually reserved for the final Saturday of the US Open where the two men’s semifinals and the women’s final are played, but this Saturday of college basketball trumps any day at Flushing Meadows (unless we could somehow get a Kournikova-Ivanovic final). Normally I would cover all the interesting games on the docket, but today is so good that I’m only going to cover the ones featuring ranked teams matched up against each other.

No naps this Saturday afternoon

No naps this Saturday afternoon

The Undercard: On any other Saturday, these games would be the headliners, but today they are merely an appetizer to get you ready for the even bigger match-ups to follow.
#22 Michigan State at #5 Texas at 2 PM on CBS: Tom Izzo’s Spartans come into Saturday badly in need of a victory against a quality foe. Although Michigan State comes in with a respectable record of 7-2, they have been underwhelming and certainly nowhere near the level they were predicted to be coming into the season (AP #5 back on November 24th). On the other side, the Longhorns have been surprisingly strong with their only loss coming against Notre Dame (81-80) in what was the best game of the Maui Invitational. Texas has responded well to the setback with wins over 2 ranked teams in December (UCLA and Villanova). The last time Michigan State played a team of this caliber was in their much-anticipated match-up against UNC (clearly Texas isn’t quite at that level), they were blown off the court in a virtual home game. Tom Izzo will need a big game from Raymar Morgan and hope that his defense can contain A.J. Abrams and Damion James if he hopes to steal one in Austin.

- #20 Davidson vs. #18 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS: Both teams are all but assured of NCAA tournament bids. However, neither team has a signature win yet. Davidson certainly has the marquee value with national POY contender Stephen Curry, but they lost their only game against a ranked team (82-78 at #14 Oklahoma on November 18th). While the Wildcats can hardly be faulted for losing a road game against Blake Griffin and the Sooners, it still leaves them without a win they would need to merit a potential 5 seed or better. If they are unable to win today in Indianapolis, their only other chance to beat a top 25 team will be on January 7th against Duke at Cameron (ESPN might be hyping that game a little bit in the time leading up to the BCS title game). The Boilermakers are in a similar situation albeit without a star anywhere close to the level of Curry. The Boilermakers lost their only games against ranked teams back-to-back (87-82 in OT against Oklahoma on November 28th and 76-60 at home against Duke on December 2nd) and after tomorrow they don’t have a game against a currently ranked team until February 3rd against Ohio State. This game will likely come down to how well the Boilermakers can contain Curry (31.9 PPG and 6.8 APG) and limit his sidekick on the inside Andrew Lovedale (13.9 PPG and 10.7 RPG). The Boilermakers will counter with a much more balanced attack (4 players averaging between 9.9 and 15.6 PPG).

National POY?

National POY?

- #11 Syracuse at #21 Memphis at 6 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Orangemen (other than Jim Boeheim) responded well to their crushing loss at the buzzer on Monday night. However, they will be without Eric Devendorf for at least 2 games so Jonny Flynn will have to hope that Paul Harris and/or Arinze Onuaku can pick up the slack as John Calipari will almost certainly be focusing on Flynn on the perimeter. The Tigers could use a quality win here as they have lose both of the games they have played against quality opponents (Xavier and Georgetown). Tyreke Evans and Shawn Taggert will need to play well, but this is a game that the Tigers should win.

The Title Bouts: These games are as good as you will find any time this season (in-conference or out-of-conference) until we get to March.
#7 Xavier vs. #6 Duke at 2 PM on CBS: Although this game is a “neutral” site game and quite far away from North Carolina, East Rutherford, New Jersey has become a de facto home for Coach K and the Blue Devils over the past 20 years. Despite that edge, I don’t think Coach K will be starting his bench (including everybody’s favorite whipping boy Greg Paulus) like he did in the Blue Devils last game against UNC-Asheville. Sean Miller didn’t have quite the same luxury in Xavier’s last game as they had to fight hard to beat crosstown rival Cincinnati 76-66 a week ago. Both teams rely on a balanced scoring attack, but the outcome of the game will likely be decided by Duke’s ability to hit the 3. The Blue Devils don’t shoot a particularly high percentage from 3 (32% for the season), but they are such high-volume shooters (20.6 attempts per game compared to 15.3 attempts per game for the Musketeers) that it becomes a major factor in all of their games. Their only loss this year was their rematch against Michigan in Ann Arbor where they opened the game hitting 3 of their first 27 attempts for 3 point range before hitting 4 in a row late to close the gap. The key match-up in this game should be Kyle Singler versus Derrick Brown, which should be interesting to watch if Singler tries to pull Brown away from the basket with his outside shooting. This should be a close game, but look for Duke to win this one as they have had a tendency to pull out big games before conference play starts.

- #2 UConn vs. #7 Gonzaga at 4 PM on CBS: This game could have very easily been a 2-4 match-up if Gonzaga hadn’t slipped up last week against Arizona in Tucson. One of the interesting subplots, which I’m sure that CBS will cover repeatedly, is that it was match-up that introduced the nation to Gonzaga basketball less than 10 years ago and propelled UConn to its first Final 4 trip. While I remember the game for its significance for Gonzaga’s program, I had completely forgotten that it gave UConn its first Final 4 trip ever (won the title that year in a nail-bitter over Trajan Langdon’s Blue Devils). This Gonzaga team is significantly different than the one you might see on ESPN Classic. They are no longer just the team that relies on exceptional skill and execution. Now they have the athletes to compete with anybody in the nation. However, UConn has been playing better than anyone in the nation not wearing baby blue so Gonzaga will have its hands full trying to keep up with the Huskies, who have a balanced scoring attack led by Jerome Dyson, Hasheem Thabeet, and Jeff Adrien. Dyson leads the Huskies in scoring at 15.4 PPG and provides Jim Calhoun with a versatile one-on-one scorer. Thabeet, his counterpart on the inside, has finally started to show some of the promise that has had NBA scouts salivating over him in the past as he has started to score on a consistent basis to compliment his always strong defensive presence. The one area that the Huskies need to improve upon if they want to compete for the national title (read: challenge UNC) is for A.J. Price to step up as an elite college PG. His 35% FG and 36% FT isn’t going to cut it in March and may even be a liability in Big East play, which may be more competitive than the NCAA tournament itself on a nightly basis. The Bulldogs have also been playing exceptionally well this year with the exception of their loss last week to Arizona last week. They also come in with a balanced attack, but they are led by PG Jeremy Pargo whose scoring is slightly down (12.1 PPG to 8.9 PPG) from the past 2 season as he has focused more on running the team (3.4 assist:turnover ratio compared to 1.8 last year). To beat the Huskies, Mark Few will need everybody–Pargo, Austin Daye, Josh Heytvelt, and Matt Bouldin–to be near the top of their games. In the end, the Huskies depth and superior interior defense will probably be too much for Gonzaga to overcome.

Tyler who?

Tyler who?

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2008

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

There are a lot of people out there that will call themselves college basketball experts, myself included (although I may be the only one to think that way). And these so-called experts keep telling you how good the Big East is this year. Once again, myself included.

If the Big East is so good, then where are all the marquee wins?

The Big East only has three really good wins – Notre Dame beating Texas in Maui, Syracuse beating Kansas in a de facto home game, and Georgetown beating Memphis at home. Even in those three, Georgetown won at home and Kansas is, well, not all that good right now.

It isn’t like they aren’t getting the chances either. West Virginia and Villanova lost to Davidson and Texas in the Jimmy V Classic. Marquette lost to Tennessee. So did Georgetown. Seton Hall lost to Memphis. Cincinnati lost to Xavier. Notre Dame lost to Ohio State and UNC.

As far as I’m concerned there are two schools of thought on this. One is that the Big East is actually even better than we expected. As a result, they are beating good teams, which in turn knocks those teams down in the rankings. Case in point, Wisconsin. The Badgers have two losses on the season (UConn and Marquette) which is part of the reason they aren’t ranked. Along those same lines, when lesser teams actually do get an upset of the Big East teams, they end up getting ranked too high.

The other is that the Big East is just a really big conference chock full of pretty good, but not great, teams. Look at the facts – UConn and Pitt are undefeated, but Pitt hasn’t played anyone and UConn has been so inconsistent; Villanova, Louisville, Georgetown, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Marquette all have fatal flaws as a team; Syracuse has been playing well, but struggles to keep their focus at times and will most likely be losing Eric Devendorf for the season.

So what does this mean? Are the ACC and the Big XII creeping up? No, not just yet. Let me ask you this question – if a healthy West Virginia team (Alex Ruoff and Joe Mazzula sat) beat Davidson and a healthy Luke Harangody helped knock off UNC and/or OSU, who we even be having this conversation?

Probably not. Now that is done, let’s get on to the good stuff.

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Set Your Tivos: Finals Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 15th, 2008

After a couple weeks off spent touring the country, Set Your Tivos is back. When I started to look at this week’s slate of games, I thought it was one of the worst weeks of the year. Then I saw Saturday, which is without a doubt the best set of college basketball games so far this season. In fact, Saturday is so good that I am going to do a separate Set Your Tivos for it.
http://bigpicture.typepad.com/

Source: http://bigpicture.typepad.com/

Monday
– Stony Brook at #2 UConn at 7 PM on ESPN Full Court, ESPN360.com, and the Big East Network: The only way this game stays within 20 is if the Huskies actually have to take final exams. Nothing to see here unless you know one of the Huskies benchwarmers and want to see him get some PT.

- Cleveland State at #11 Syracuse at 7 PM on Time Warner-New York: Should be another snoozefest, but you might want to check the Orangemen out to see how they are adjusting to life without Eric Devendorf (or not). If Time Warner-New York is on their game, they will run a feature on the 1985-86 Cleveland State team that upset Indiana in the NCAA tournament that was documented in John Feinstein’s classic “Season on the Brink” (great winter break reading for the erudite RTC fan).

Tuesday
– South Florida vs. Vanderbilt at 7 PM on ESPN 2 and ESPN360.com: This game is officially at a “neutral” location, but the game is being played in Nashville. Even Coach K would be embarrassed to call that a neutral site. The Commodores could use a win here as they have been disappointing so far while the Bulls have been surprisingly competitive. However, since Vanderbilt plays in the SEC and USF plays in the Big East the reverse will be true during league play.

- #23 Marquette vs. #19 Tennessee at 9:30 PM on ESPN 2 and ESPN360.com: The game of the week (before Saturday). Another “neutral” site game in Nashville. The Volunteers will be looking to bounce back from their loss to Dionte Christmas Temple. The loss dropped them 11 spots from a #8 ranking. They can make a case for a top 10 ranking again if they can beat Marquette. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles have been playing well (7-1) and come into the game with a top 25 ranking. Unfortunately, that only makes them the 8th highest ranked team in the Big East. I know it’s early and sounds ridiculous for a top 25 team, but Marquette could use a win here to start building a case for a NCAA tournament bid in case they fall back a little in the Big East because I still have a hard time believing the Selection Committee will give the Big East 10 bids.

Wednesday
– Cram for your last finals or go through the games you missed while studying for those finals/writing that term paper because this is a weak set of games.

Thursday
- Mississippi State at Cincinnati at 6:30 PM on ESPN 2 and ESPN360.com: The Bearcats (6-2) are off to a respectable start–losses to FSU and Xavier–by almost any league’s standards except for the Big East where they will struggle to stay out of the bottom third of the conference. The Bulldogs (7-3) are also off to decent start, but may be without coach Rick Stansbury who was admitted to a local hospital for new-onset migraines (the administration expects him to be able to coach that night). The Bearcats will have their handful trying to score inside with “The Human Eraser” Jarvis Varnado who comes into the game with a 6.2 blocks per game average.

- Evansville at #1 UNC at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: I’m expecting the line for this game to be UNC by 20, but don’t sleep on Evansville. They come into the game with a 7-1 record including a 32-point win over a Western Kentucky team that handled preseason Final Four favorite Louisville its only loss. The Tar Heels may also be a little off their game if they start buying into the hype (we aren’t) or if they continue to have late-night trysts with America’s sideline princess.

- Mississippi at #9 Louisville at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Rebels shouldn’t really present a challenge Louisville, but I haven’t bought into Rick Pitino’s Cardinals yet. In their only game that could be considered moderately challenging, they fell apart losing to Western Kentucky. If Pitino hopes to contend for a national title this year, his team needs to be able to put away teams like Mississippi early. We’ll also be watching to see Samardo Samuels, who is playing like the best freshman in the country right now.

Friday
- Get some sleep or go get some sun because you’re going to be glued to your couch all day tomorrow.

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