Missed Chances Leave AAC With Precious Few Quality Wins

Posted by CD Bradley on December 10th, 2013

The AAC has missed several opportunities for quality wins early in the season, which will increase the difficulty of getting four or five teams safely into the NCAA Tournament come March. As it is finals week for many schools, we get a bit of a breather at the one month mark before wrapping up most of the non-conference slate and opening league play over Christmas break. There are enough games left that team RPIs are still of little use as a comparison metric, but there is RPI value in examining where the conference stands relative to other leagues. After Monday’s lone AAC game, the league currently ranks ninth in conference RPI, with just the barest of leads over the West Coast Conference one spot behind.

Shabazz Napier's game winner over Florida gave the AAC one of its best wins in the season's first month. (AP)

Shabazz Napier’s game winner over Florida gave the AAC one of its best wins in the season’s first month. (AP)

“[T]here’s no question in my mind that six teams will come out of this league to play in the NCAA Tournament,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said at AAC Media Day in October – and he’s hardly the only coach who has overstated his conference’s prowess – but history suggests otherwise. Only once since 2000 has a conference ranked as low as ninth in the RPI sent even four teams to the tournament, but here’s the interesting part: Those four teams included Louisville and Cincinnati (along with UAB and Charlotte) from Conference USA in 2005, and Louisville made it to the Final Four that season.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.16.09

Posted by nvr1983 on November 15th, 2009

tivo

After a relatively slow opening week things begin to start picking up this week so I’ll be going back to the daily version of SYT to avoid writing a 5,000 word post. RTC will be doing our “world famous” RTC Live from multiple major games this week so it’s definitely worth checking out. That feature has become so popular that our correspondent at the Davidson-Butler game noticed that another writer in the row in front of him on Saturday was following the simultaneous Creighton-Dayton game on RTC Live. Anyways, there are two games on the slate for tonight and coincidentally we will be covering both of them. Some of you may think this is even more shameless self-promotion (and it is to a certain extent), but as always if you think another game should be mentioned or if I make a careless mistake let me know in the comment section.

Miami (OH) at #5 Kentucky at 7 PM on Big Blue Sports, Fox Sports South, and ESPN360.com: Unfortunately, Wally Szczerbiak will not be in action although we hear that he has some free time now. Fortunately, John Stevens will be there with RTC Live though as well as some guy named John Wall that you may have heard some people talking about the past few months. Quite frankly the RedHawks, fresh off an 11-point loss to mighty Towson to open the season shouldn’t be much of a hurdle for the Wildcats, but this game is worth watching to see how the young Wildcats function in a regular season game with Wall playing alongside Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt. Coming into the season it was widely expected that Bledsoe would serve as a backup to Wall, but in the first game of the season it was Bledsoe not Wall (serving the 2nd game of his split suspension for a suspected infraction relating to his time in AAU) who stole the show. It will be interesting to see how those two play with Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins. Scoring shouldn’t be a problem given the prodigious talents of those four players, but the thing to look for if you are wondering if this Wildcat team can win a NCAA title is their defensive effort. Although we doubt you will see “Rick Pitino at Kentucky” level defense out of these young Wildcats don’t be surprised if their effort is much better after their first game (minus Wall) left John Calipari wanting more defensively out of his team. If they heed Calipari’s advice and turn up the defensive intensity, it could be a very long night for the RedHawks.

Pennsylvania at #6 Villanova at 7 PM: It looks like this game will not be on television, but RTC has all the coverage you need with yet another installment of RTC Live. As for the game itself, this rivalry (both teams are part of Philadelphia’s famous “Big 5″) hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in recent years. Since the Quakers last beat the Wildcats with Ugonna Onyekwe, Koko Archibong, and Andrew Toole in both 2001 and 2002 the two programs have gone in opposite directions. Penn is no longer even a contender to win the Ivy League title (it is Cornell‘s to lose this year) while Villanova is coming off a Final Four trip highlighted by one of the best NCAA Tournament games ever and is expected to contend for another Final Four trip this season. The story here is obviously the Wildcats and how they will continue to develop without Dante Cunningham controlling the paint. The Wildcats are loaded in the backcourt with Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, and Corey Stokes leading the way, but will need to develop an inside game if they want to replicate the success of last season or even the 2006-07 team that featured Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, and Allan Ray. While I don’t think this year’s backcourt is as good as it was in 2006-07, they do have an impressive set of newcomers –f reshmen McDonald’s All-Americans Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns and another McDonald’s All-American in Duke transfer Taylor King – who might enough to push them over the top. The real key to Villanova’s success this year may be how Antonio Pena and freshman Mouphtaou Yarou, who just started playing basketball in 2004, develop as threats on the inside. Normally, I wouldn’t give Penn a chance in this game, but it is rivalry game and Penn looked better than expected (remember this is a relative thing) in a loss at Penn State and Villanova looked a bit shaky in the 1st half against Farleigh Dickinson on Friday night so you never know. Regardless, Penn’s Tyler Bernardini and Jack Eggleston will have their hands full against a Jay Wright-led team that is deeper and more talented than Glen Miller‘s crew.

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Full Breakdown Of The Top November Tournaments

Posted by zhayes9 on November 8th, 2009

seasonpreview

What’s the best part of the college basketball season kicking off? The early-season tournaments, of course! Coaches vs. Cancer, Preseason NIT, Maui Invitational, Anaheim Classic…these are our first opportunities to see the top teams in the nation, gauge exactly how much of a force they could pose this season, evaluate the progression of upperclassmen and estimate the talent level of the much-ballyhooed freshmen. The preseason tournament fields this season are not quite as loaded as in year’s past (you’ll recall last season Maui featured three top-ten teams, although two — Texas and Notre Dame — didn’t pan out), but there’s plenty of potential for memorable early-season classics. Let’s delve into the cream of the crop in November:

2K Sports Classic Benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer (Regionals: November 9-11, NYC: November 19-20)

* RTC Live will be at the California subregional and the NYC semis and finals.

The Field: The powers-that-be decided to avoid any clunker matchups at MSG in mid-November, so they’ve given the four hosts — North Carolina, California, Ohio State and Syracuse – an automatic pass to the semifinals in NYC, so don’t expect any Gardner-Webb Cinderella stories invading the Big Apple. The tournament kicks off Monday and Wednesday at all four sites with Syracuse battling Albany and Robert Morris, California taking on Murray State and Detroit, North Carolina facing Florida International and North Carolina Central and Ohio State matched up against Alcorn State and James Madison. The semifinal games are set for November 19 with Syracuse vs. California as the under-card and North Carolina vs. Ohio State in the nightcap.

The Sleeper: The bigger news, in my opinion, that came out of the Carrier Dome last Wednesday when Syracuse stunningly fell to Le Moyne was not the final score, but Wesley Johnson scoring 34 points after a clunker in the exhibition opener. Big-time programs have been stunned in exhibitions before — you’ll recall Michigan State fell to Grand Valley State a few years back and still reached the Sweet 16 — and Syracuse was primarily experimenting with a man-to-man defense that Jim Boeheim could very well scrap for the season. Johnson exploding for 34 points shows he could be the go-to scorer Syracuse needs with Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf no longer manning the orange.

The Pick: I’ve been on their bandwagon all off-season so why not? My pick is Ohio State. Dallas Lauderdale keeps saying he should be ready to play. They return all-around performer Evan Turner who has a triple-double in his plans this season. William Buford and Jon Diebler can shoot the lights out and should really extend the Carolina defense. Receive steady point guard play from P.J. Hill and Jerime Simmons and that’s a possible top-ten team. I’ll take the Buckeyes to knock off UNC and California.

CBE Classic (Regionals: November 15-19, Kansas City: November 23-24)

*RTC Live will be at the semis and finals.

The Field: Much like the 2K Sports Classic, the semifinals are already set for Kansas City pitting Texas against Iowa and Pittsburgh against Wichita State. The four regional games are as follows: Texas facing UC Irvine and Western Carolina, Binghamton and Eastern Kentucky visiting Pittsburgh, Fairleigh Dickinson and Arkansas-Monticello taking on Wichita State and Iowa getting Duquesne and UTSA. The one possible upset here (not that it matters) is a high-scoring Duquesne team upsetting Big Ten bottom-feeder Iowa.

The Sleeper: It’s really hard to see Texas not annihilating this field, but could Wichita State knock off Pittsburgh? The Panthers won’t have Gilbert Brown (suspension) and possibly Jermaine Dixon (foot injury) for this one while already attempting to overcome the loss of DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields and Sam Young. Gregg Marshall returns seven of his top ten scorers for a squad that could linger near the top of the MVC led by senior guard Clevin Hannah and junior forward J.T. Turley, who is poised to become a star. If the Shockers can contain freshman forward Dante Taylor, they could live up to their name and pull a shocker in Kansas City.

The Pick: I have Texas ranked #2 in my preseason top-25 and they don’t have much sterling competition in this field. Pittsburgh was depleted by losses and may not even be an NCAA tournament team this season, Wichita State is a few rungs behind Creighton and Northern Iowa in the MVC and Texas’ first round opponent, Iowa, won’t be able to stay on the floor with the supremely talented Longhorns. Rick Barnes’ team is extremely deep at every position and could be a national title contender if Florida transfer Jai Lucas or newly-eligible J’Covan Brown provides stability at point guard. Damion James and Dexter Pittman are constant double-double threats inside.

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RTC Class Schedule 2009-10: Villanova Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on October 1st, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

There’s not a single program in the entire 16-team Big East in as strong a shape as the Villanova Wildcats.

Even in a league loaded with top-ranked mainstays like Louisville, Connecticut, Georgetown and Pittsburgh, it’s Villanova in the best position to dominate the pre-eminent college hoops conference in the land for the foreseeable future. Their coach, Jay Wright, is the ideal face of a dominant program, a terrific leader and communicator who has done a phenomenal job recruiting since arriving at Villanova, from assembling the guard-oriented Foye-Ray-Lowry-Nardi foursome to the 2009-10 class of top-50 quartet Mouphtaou Yarou, Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood. They play in the strong media market Philadelphia and at the NBA-fitting Wachovia Center. Last season, the Wildcats won 30 games and reached their first Final Four since 1985.

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Wright has built such a program that another Final Four remains a viable expectation for Villanova fans heading into 2009-10. Along with the star-studded recruiting class, Wright returns potential All-American guard Scottie Reynolds to team up with junior Corey Fisher for a tremendous backcourt, a strength that’s par the usual since Wright took the helm in Philly. Duke transfer Taylor King and sharpshooter Corey Stokes can certainly stretch the floor and hit big outside shots this season. Losing senior leader and double-double forward Dante Cunningham, along with glue guy Dwayne Anderson, stings, but Reggie Redding and Antonio Pena are experienced cogs. Most importantly, the #2 recruiting class in the nation (behind Kentucky) should provide a huge boost immediately for a squad that will likely be named the Preseason Big East favorites.

How does the schedule look for the Wildcats? Let’s take a peek:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 5. Incredibly, Villanova only has five true home games in the non-conference slate. Two of their road games are in the city of Philadelphia with back-to-back short trips to St. Joseph’s and Temple scheduled. Their other three Philly foes- La Salle, Drexel and Penn- will face the Wildcats at their on-campus arena. There’s some potential for difficult games on Jay Wright’s schedule, but no truly elite opponents in November and December. Villanova will travel to DC to take on ACC contender Maryland at the Verizon Center in what should be their most challenging test. A trip to Puerto Rico in November could pit the Wildcats against either Dayton or Georgia Tech in the second round and either Mississippi or Kansas State in the final. The second round could be trickier than the final as Dayton and Georgia Tech are borderline top-25 teams with talented frontline players Chris Wright (Dayton) and Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech) that should be hard to handle for an inexperienced frontline.

Cupcake City: While no single challenger blows you away, the only true “cupcake” on the non-conference schedule is the first contest of the year against Farleigh Dickinson. The other home games shouldn’t prove too much of a test- Penn, La Salle, Drexel, Delaware and a neutral site game vs. Fordham. The Wildcats also face George Mason in the first round in Puerto Rico. None of those CAA/Atlantic 10-type teams will prove huge tests for Wright’s squad, but credit the Villanova coach for going light on the lightweights.

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