Ed. note – Check out our Boom Goes the Dynamite post covering all of today’s big games until 6pm EDT tonight, when our on-site coverage of ESPN GameDay will continue.
After my first attempt at trying to live blog earlier this week during the Boston College-Wake Forest game, I decided to head down to Chapel Hill to to cover tomorrow’s season-opening ESPN GameDay game (Miami at UNC). All the big names (Dick Vitale, Bobby Knight, Erin Andrews, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, etc.) will be there so it should be a big night. RTC will be courtside to bring the action to you (if your big-screen HD wasn’t enough) along with answering whatever (appropriate) questions you may have for coaches, players, and TV personalities. I’ll have access to the media room, courtside reporters, post-game press conferences, and the locker rooms so if you have any questions, post them in the comment section throughout the day and I will try our best to get you the answers.
We’ll be inside tomorrow night
One early (random) note: I ran into some of the ESPN GameDay crew a few hours ago. It looks like most of them were support staff, but I did notice that Howie Schwab was there, who technically is support staff too. I guess might be considered a F-list celebrity after his now defunct TV show “Stump the Schwab”. Apparently Howie wasn’t sure how to get to his hotel (out of respect for their privacy I’ll avoid posting it online). Being a good Samaritan, I decided to help them out since they knew the name of the hotel and I had an iPhone. I offered to look it up for them on my iPhone, but was completely ignored because apparently the Schwab is above talking to the common folk. I guess Deadspin was right. (To be fair one of the other guys acknowledged my existence briefly then followed the Schwab.) Hopefully the other media members will be a little more receptive tomorrow night. Feel free to leave “Stump the Schwab” jokes in the comment section.
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.
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 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.
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
(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 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.)
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.
– 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).
– 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.
– 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.
Feasting on a feastly week of hoops… here’s the news…
Remember 73-yr old Ken Mink’s first game where he scored two points? We wondered who and how he could possibly get fouled?!? Believe it or not, watch the video here of this CBS News report where Mink pump-fakes on the wing and gets hammered by some 19-year old defender (#23) who never learned to properly close out on shooters.
Loyola Marymount head coach Bill Bayno is taking a leave of absence from his position, effective immediately, due to an undisclosed medical condition.
UCLA’s Alfred Aboya didn’t break his hand in Friday’s game against SIU, but SIU’s Nick Evans did (out 4-6 weeks).
Another blow for St. John’s basketball – their best player Anthony Mason, Jr is out for the year with a torn tendon is his foot (ouch).
The 2009 Maui began today, but the 2010 field is already set with: UConn, Kentucky, Washington, Wichita St., Michigan St., Oklahoma, Virginia and Chaminade.
The news is piling up again, so let’s knock one of these out quickly today…
The injury bug continues to strike the nation’s #1 UNC Tarheels. Tyler Zeller broke his wrist in a breakaway foul near the end of last night’s game vs. Kentucky (see below video) and will likely be out for the remainder of the season.
Here are your 2012-16 F4 sites, in order: New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, Indianapolis, Houston. The dirty south is the place to be, sayeth the NCAA.
Caught this in a brief mention – did you know that former NBA guard David Wesley is now the equipment manager at Baylor? Apparently he’s finishing his degree there and is using his time to help out the team. We think that’s just awesome.
It would be shameful if UAB lost out on its best recruit, um, EVER, because they won’t promise to release DeMarcus Cousins if his presumptive coach, Mike Davis, leaves the program. Get some stones, UAB.
Everyone’s favorite sideline reporter Erin Andrews gives her top college basketball venues in an interview. She also mentions that she would have liked to have attended UCLA, USC or Texas had she not gone to Florida. Interesting.
10:02 am — OK, back for more. A little Drexel-Penn for your Tuesday morning. Come on, is ESPN serious about this this stuff? They don’t even have a GameCast going for this one. Amateurs! OK, I’ll stop. Right now I have to give props to the Drexel students, because they have stepped up, here. They’re in full face/body paint, wigs, etc. Even for the ones who are just in their “Fear the Fire” t-shirts, they’re there in force. They’ve filled that arena. It’s rare that ANY college student is gonna get up at 10am for anything, so to show up like they have for a game at this time of day — even if it is a Big Five game — has got to earn some props. This looks just like a night game in terms of the crowd behavior. What this really is, is a total bonanza for any professors at Drexel who might be the attendance-taking type. They could literally just pause the broadcast periodically and check off truant students on their roll sheets by the dozen. I hated those professors…
10:26am — Drexel is the better team so far. They’re outhustling Penn, who actually does look tired. Drexel is up 8 with 12 minutes to go in the first half and this could get out of hand for the Quakers in short order if they don’t get their heads in it.
10:30am — Drexel extends…up ten at the under-8 timeout.
10:35am — Drexel is doing this with defense and hustle. They’re winning every loose ball. This is a Penn squad who only lost to UNC by 15, and they’re already down 14 to the Dragons and we’re coming up on the under-4 timeout.
10:41am — The first hyping of UNC-Kentucky. I’m reminded of the time in 1995 when CBS was broadcasting an elite eight game involving those two teams (the one where Rasheed Wallace got choked — I don’t mean he CHOKED, I mean he GOT choked by Kentucky’s Andre Riddick during a scuffle early on) and Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery showed up in tuxedos, given the history of the two programs. I think whoever’s calling tonight’s game should do the same, especially with the almost constant hype.
10:51am — Halftime…34-27, Drexel. This could have been worse for Penn who are in full sleepwalking mode. Drexel decided to chuck (and miss) some threes late in the half; they have the better athletes but a couple of ill-advised shots and a couple of hand-checking fouls let Penn back into this. If Penn wakes up at halftime, things could get interesting.
Right now, I’m actually a little impressed with Drexel. Bruiser Flint has got his team mentally ready, except for that hiccup at the end of the half, and I’m gonna repeat my props to the crowd. Drexel doesn’t look like a team playing their first game of the season, they look like they’re on number five or six.
I’m not complaining (heh heh….) but I’m starting to realize that maybe grabbing a nap before starting this endeavor may have been a good call, instead of working a whole day. Oh, I’m not goin’ anywhere…but the coffee machine is now operational.
For the third consecutive weekend we have Midnight Madness celebrations going on around the nation, and frankly, we’re tired of it. Will the NCAA please dictate that all MMs need to occur on the same weekend, or better yet, the same night?!!? This is getting ridiculous.
Anyway, here are the remaining laggards. As always, we’ll try to have some photos/video up later on this post…
Here’s some pics from Florida’s Dancing with the Stars knockoff, featuring some next-gen Erin Andrews knockoffs and Nick Calathes in some kind of ridonkulous afro wig… (photo credits: GatorCountry.com)
The Vanillanova kids looked like they were having a good time last night (btw, it’s sad that we’re scooping not 1, not 2, but 3 VU sports blogs and their student newspaper on coverage of this event…) (photo credit: Villanova Athletics) ed note: the photo we took directly from the VU Athletics site was from 2007 – we guess everyone at Nova was a little slow after the festivities of Fri. night
– #1 Memphis vs. #5 Michigan State (9:57 PM): It seems like a lot of analysts consider this the best of the Sweet 16 games. I just don’t see it. I’d take either of the 2-3 matchups (Tennessee/Louisville or Texas/Stanford) over this game, but I still think it should be an interesting game.
Tom Izzo has done a good job getting the Spartans back on track after a bad February stretch where they lost 3 of 4 games. The Spartans returned all 5 starters from last year so they obviously have experience, which helped them withstand that rough stretch. However, coming into the tournament not a lot of people were giving them much respect particularly with Pittsburgh waiting in the 2nd round. The Spartans surprised a lot of people, including me, by knocking off the Panthers. The Spartans are led offensively by a pair of 2nd team All-Big 10 players: Raymar Morgan and the more-heralded Drew Neitzel. The duo, who average 14.2 and 14.1 PPG respectively, will need a big performance out of freshman PG Kalin Lucas if they want to try to run with the Tigers (IMO not the best strategy).
If you’re a college basketball fan (and if you’re on this blog you certainly are one unless you ended up here doing a Google search for Erin Andrews), you know about Memphis’s inability to hit free throws. I don’t buy into John Calipari that Memphis won their 2nd round game against Mississippi State at the free throw line because they made more free throws despite going 15/32 from the line. It seems like there hasn’t been a single analyst who picks Memphis to win the title, but when I look at this team I see an unbelievably athletic team that is 35-1 and came very close to being undefeated at this point in the season. The Tigers like to run and utilize a Dribble-Drive Motion offense. Leading the attack are Chris Douglas-Roberts and the ridiculously fast freshman PG Derrick Rose. While having those two along might be enough to sustain an offense, Calipari also has solid players in Robert Dozier, Joey Dorsey, and Antonio Anderson. The result is an unconvential offense filled with freakish athletes, a combination that is very hard to defend. One big key for Memphis will be is if they can keep Dorsey out of foul trouble as he is their muscle inside (at least as long as he doesn’t try to talk trash like he did last year before he got beat down by Greg Oden).
Opening Line: Memphis -5.
Prediction: A lot of analysts think the Tigers will be the first #1 seed to lose. I could definitely see that happening, but just not in this round. The Tigers have too much talent for the Spartans. If the Spartans have an X-factor, it would be Lucas. Unfortunately, he will be going against Rose who is several levels above Lucas at this point in their careers. The result is Memphis winning by 5-10 points. I think they will outplay the Spartans, but will keep the game close with their “winning” free throw shooting.
– #2 Texas vs. #3 Stanford (7:27 PM): Along with the Tennessee-Louisville game, this was our favorite game of the long weekend. Hopefully, this turns out to be more exciting than than the Cardinals rout was.
I’ll get this over with now: nobody left in the tournament can guard Brook Lopez. If he’s on, he should be getting 30 a night for the rest of the tournament. By now everyone knows that his twin brother Robin is the more defensive-minded one, which has led some people to speculate that Robin may be more successful as a pro (think Joakim Noah or Anderson Varejao). While those two will control the inside, the Cardinal use Lawrence Hill, Anthony Goods, and Mitch Johnson to control the perimeter. This trio hasn’t gotten much respect including from yours truly. However, if Stanford wants to beat Texas in Houston, they will need this group to control D.J. Augustin (and for Trent Johnson to stick around for the 2nd half).
Rick Barnes has done a great job making the Longhorns into a national title contender a year after losing Kevin Durant to the NBA. The Longhorns are led by D.J. Augustin, who has taken his game to another level as he has not had Durant to bail him out like last year. Augustin also has great support from A.J. Abrams, Damion James, and Connor Atchley. While the Longhorns don’t really have an answer for Brook Lopez, I don’t know how well the Lopez twins are going to be able to guard Atchley when he steps behind the 3 pt line where he has shot 42.3% (41/97) for the year.
Opening Line: Texas -1.
Prediction: If this game was outside of Texas, I probably would have gone with Stanford and the big guy inside. In the end, I think the homecourt and the Longhorns edge on the perimeter will let them pull away at the end of the game.
– #1 Kansas vs. #12 Villanova (9:40 PM): This weekend in Detroit will once again focus all the attention on Bill Self and his heretofore confounding inability to get extremely talented teams into the F4 (o-4 trips to the E8). Considering that this bracket was blown apart by Cinderellas last weekend, the Jayhawks are the odds on favorite to win this region.
Villanova has looked really good in their two games against Clemson and Siena, shooting 52% and holding its opponents to only 37%. Scottie Reynolds has found his stroke, averaging 23 ppg thus far in the Tourney, and dropping eight threes in the two games. Look for Kansas to focus in on stopping Reynolds, as Villanova simply isn’t nearly as good of a team when he’s misfiring (27 total pts in Nova’s last three Ls).
But let’s be serious here. Kansas is the most talented team that Villanova has faced this season, and their season-long inconsistency is the reason they ended up a #12 seed. Their best wins of the year were probably close wins over Pitt and UConn at home, and neither of those teams bring the noise on offense (#1 off. efficency) and defense (#5 def. efficiency) as Kansas does. Villanova will play hard, but by most measures, a run to the Sweet 16 renders their season a successful one, and they’ll be happy to be there tonight. Kansas has much larger aspirations in mind, and as such, we expect a blowout win here tonight.
Opening Line: Kansas -11.5.
Prediction: KU jumps out early and often. Villanova makes a run in the second half to make things interesting, but they never seriously threaten the Jayhawks tonight. Bill Self’s albatross will be judged on Sunday.
– #3 Wisconsin vs. #10 Davidson (7:10 PM): The undercard in Detroit tonight could end up being a total washout, we’re afraid. Davidson has looked fantastic in its two come-from-behind upsets of Gonzaga and Georgetown last weekend, and Stephen Curry’s legend is already concretely imprinted into the national consciousness. But we have a sneaky suspicion that the #1 defensive team in the land will absolutely lock up Curry, leaving the rest of the Wildcats struggling to pick up the slack.
The game that concerns us was the 6-19 (3-10 from 3) clunker (15 pts) that Curry put up against UCLA back in December. The Bruin defense (#2 nationally) keyed on Curry, which allowed the other Davidson shooters to get open looks early, as Davidson ran out to a quick early lead. But once UCLA figured out that they were going to have to guard all the Davidson shooters, they took control of the game and pulled away easily in the second half.
Wisconsin will probably employ a similar strategy. They’ll slow the game down to a crawl, and essentially dare anyone but Curry to beat them. You can count on a bruising, grinding, no-mistakes gameplan by Bo Ryan’s team, and honestly, short of a superhuman effort by Curry again, we don’t see any way that Davidson wins their way into the Elite 8. Gonzaga was soft mentally, and Georgetown forgot that they had a 7’3 beast underneath the basket, but Wisconsin is a different story.
Opening Line: Wisconsin -4.
Prediction: As much as we’d like to see the Curry bandwagon continue for another game, we just don’t think it’s possible. The Badgers will bump and grind him into a poor shooting night, giving him and his teammates more motivation for next year’s possible dream season.
If you’re expecting more Erin Andrews, you’re out of luck unless you want to check out the link (and we suggest you do). Tonight I will leave you with these pics that I found on a Texas A&M message board:
It’s a good thing that UCLA got away with it instead of Duke. If that had been Kyle Singler instead of Josh Shipp hacking Donald Sloan, the masses would be calling for blood.
Well, I was going to wait for the blog’s daddy to introduce me but it looks like he is MIA and I lack a certain patience to start posting so here goes. . .
I’ll be Rush The Court’s stepfather for the tournament (and possibly longer if the money is right) while the blog’s biological father goes off to Vegas, which I guess is sort of like how the typical real father/stepfather thing unfolds. A quick plug since “rtmsf” won’t allow me to change the site to a Christian Laettner shrine complete with video of a foot stomp on Aminu Timberlake (Sidenote: Aminu appears to be on LinkedIn.com), I normally and somewhat infrequently pen a blog Health Care Watch about the health care industry that gets roughly 1/100th the traffic RTC does or 1/1000th what RTC does when it posts pictures of Erin Andrews. Apparently, Bruce Pearl doesn’t keep up-to-date on health care.
Getting back to the topic at hand, I’ll be posting pretty frequently throughout the week with links to relevant articles/video and the occasional analysis/prediction. I’m planning on trying to live blog (not the fake day-after blog that rtmsf’s boy Simmons does where he miraculously “predicts” what will happen a minute later) for those unfortunate souls who can’t watch the games or like me don’t have passionate college basketball fans around them. I am also thinking about creating an AOL chat room so you can have a real-time chat with each other and give me feedback along with the regular comments section on the site. This is all pending the approval of the blog’s biological father upon his return and that he won’t go apeshit about what I am doing to his baby. Let me know what you think and we will try to convince him.
I’ll leave you with some links for today while I try to figure out what I’m going to write for the next week or three.
– NCAA tourney is the best, but it could be even better: ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski (no relation to the 1998 National Defensive Player of the Year and huge snub from ESPN’s 25 Greatest College Basketball Players of All-Time) does what any writer would do when he has no idea to write about; he writes a list on how to make something better. In this case, he picked our beloved NCAA tournament. I’ll probably end up making a post like this during that interminable wait until the first game on Thursday (if you think I’m missing a game in there that’s a hint about one suggestion I will be making).
– The Bracket, Cracked: From the same geniuses who overvalued subprime mortgages and created the collateral debt obligations that sent the stock market into its recent freefall comes a pseudo-scientific way to fill out your bracket. Actually that’s a little exaggeration since the people who write for the Wall Street Journal are actually the ones who couldn’t get jobs on Wall Street so they didn’t actually cause the credit meltdown. Anyways, it’s a decent read with a couple extra features linked on there.
Since we just continue to get slammed by work and life in general, we can’t even find time to post new Erin Andrews pics (so a video will have to suffice today)… but here are a few things that we enjoyed from the weekend’s events.
#1 v. #2.This was the only game we got to see this weekend, but it looked a lot like we had expected. Seriously, who didn’t see this one coming after Memphis’ recent struggles? To paraphrase Luke Winn today, Memphis looks like the same team of athletes that they always have – a bunch of guys who can’t run a halfcourt offense or make a clutch foul shot under any circumstances. When John Calipari came onto PTI last week and said that his players traditionally were clutch at making FTs down the stretch, we almost fell off our chair in hysterics, considering the Tigers’ pathetic performance in the last five minutes of the game (1-8) last week at UAB. We still don’t love the Volz come March, but they seem to be a lot tougher mentally than the previous renditions. Major trap game upcoming for UT at Vandy on Tuesday night.
EA v. BP. What coach hasn’t been romantically linked to Erin Andrews at one time or another? After Saturday night’s halftime interview goosing at the hands of Bruce Pearl, we think it’s safe to say that EA isn’t busily canoodling with the Tennessee coach in her spare time. Ok!
Kelvin No More. So there was no player mutiny at IU over the weekend, but there may have been one on campus had the Hoosiers actually dropped their weekend game at Northwestern, currently winless (0-14) in the Big Ten. How will interim coach Dan Dakich handle what are obviously bruised player egos and emotions? The Hoosiers could be looking at a crash-and-burn in a big way here if he can’t get their buy-in very soon.
Other Games. A few other scores caught our eyes this weekend…
Oklahoma St. 61, Kansas 60. There is absolutely no excuse for KU losing to this OSU team.
Drake 71, Butler 64. Battle of the mid-majors involved Drake going to Hinkle and showing they’re going to be heard from in March.
Arizona 65, Washington St. 55. The strange and curious middle of the Pac-10 continues to confound us.
Miami (FL) 78, Maryland 63. Last week the Canes just made themselves relevant.
LSU 69, Ole Miss 49. Ok, so Andy Kennedy still had a good year in getting Ole Miss to the NIT.