Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by Dan Lyons (@Dan_Lyons76) on November 8th, 2013

College basketball is back! Seven Big East teams open their seasons tonight, including a few big match-ups like St. John’s vs. Wisconsin and Georgetown vs. Oregon. There is no better time to unveil the Big East microsite’s preseason rankings, with comments and analysis from our group of Big East writers:

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

Marquette tops Rush the Court’s preseason Big East rankings.

10. DePaul

  • Dan Lyons – With Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young heading into their senior years, this might be DePaul’s best chance to get out of the Big East basement, but I’m definitely taking a wait and see approach with the Blue Demons.
  • George Hershey - It’s DePaul… They have some talent in Melvin and Young, but they don’t play defense.
  • Todd Keryc - It doesn’t matter what league they play in or who else is in it, the poor Blue Demons are destined for the cellar almost every year.
 9. Butler
  • DL – With the injury to Roosevelt Jones, Butler is without a returning double-figure scorer this season. I’m not one to bet against the Bulldogs, with or without Brad Stevens, but this inaugural Big East campaign isn’t shaping up too well for this Cinderella.
  • GH - They lose many pieces from last year’s team. Roosevelt Jones’ injury really hurts, but they are Butler and they always surprise everyone. Expect Kellen Dunham to have a big year.
  • TK - Bad timing for the Bulldogs. They ride two straight national title appearances into two straight conference upgrades, only to see their boy wonder coach Brad Stevens leave for the NBA.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.11.12 – 02.12.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 10th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Plenty of top 25 games are on Saturday’s slate while conference races heat up and bubble teams look for key wins.

#20 Virginia at #5 North Carolina – 1:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

  • Coming off the crushing home loss to Duke on Wednesday, how will the Tar Heels respond? Without P.J. Hairston (sore foot) in the lineup, things could get a little dicey for #5 UNC. Hairston’s absence severely limits Carolina’s already thin back court depth. This game is going to be all about pace. Virginia plays at one of the slowest paces in the nation while North Carolina is one of the fastest teams. Point guard Kendall Marshallhas to get his team running as much as they can but we’ve seen time and time again how it is much easier to slow a game down than it is to speed it up. Wisconsin did this effectively at the Dean Dome earlier this season and you’re going to see the same blueprint from Virginia. The Cavaliers do a great job defending the three-point arc so UNC will likely get almost all of its points from inside or the free throw line. The Tar Heels are among the bottom five teams in America in terms of threes attempted to begin with and get 61.8% of their points from two-point range on average. Marshall and his teammates must be able to penetrate and move the ball well against Virginia’s strong half court defense.

    How Will Marshall & The Tar Heels Respond To Tuesday's Last Second Loss?

  • Virginia’s biggest strengths are its defense and play of forward Mike Scott. At 60.3% from the field, Scott is among the best interior players in the nation, but will have to receive some help from a thin UVA front line in this game. Led by Tyler Zeller and John Henson, North Carolina has a ton of height up front that could give Scott a lot of problems. With Assane Sene still out with an ankle injury, the burden of helping Scott against UNC’s imposing front line falls to Akil Mitchell. His presence will be needed more on the defensive end to limit Zeller and Henson but Virginia is not going to win if Scott doesn’t score. Mitchell must be enough of a threat to prevent quick double teams on Scott, allowing him to maneuver around the UNC trees. Defensively, Virginia will look to pack its defense in and prevent Marshall from penetrating and dishing to Zeller and Henson. Making opponents take tough shots is something Virginia does really well and the Cavaliers will need to do it again. Harrison Barnes will likely oblige but Mitchell and Scott must force Zeller and Henson into shots outside the paint or falling away from the basket. If you allow those guys to receive the ball in the paint, you’re finished.
  • Even though Virginia will likely slow the game down to a pace of its liking, the Cavaliers still must score the basketball. Sammy Zeglinski is five for his last 19 from the floor over the past three games and Jontel Evans has to have a good game at the point guard position. Virginia can’t turn the ball over and fuel the Carolina transition attack. It would also help if Joe Harris was knocking down triples, especially if Zeglinski can’t get out of his funk. Keep an eye on rebounding. North Carolina did a great job against Duke, showing some toughness on the glass that we haven’t always seen this year. Virginia is fourth nationally in defensive rebounding percentage but the Cavs really struggle on the offensive end. If the shots aren’t falling, Virginia will have a lot of one and done possessions if it can’t do a better job on the offensive glass. Good rebounding also helps a team control tempo and that’s exactly what Virginia needs to do in order to win this game on the road.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.19.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 19th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s a slow Monday night but keep your eye on what happens in these two games, even though neither will be on the tube.

Belmont at Marshall – 7:00 PM EST no TV (***)

  • For Tom Herrion, keeping control of the basketball has to be at the top of his game plan tonight. Marshall has a poor turnover margin, mostly due to its 15 turnovers per game average. It won’t be easy against Belmont either, a team that thrives off of giveaways and easy baskets. Offensively, Marshall has an edge in the paint with Dennis Tinnon (10/10) and Robert Goff. The Thundering Herd averages 42 RPG and is #2 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. If Marshall’s guards, including top two scorers DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts play well and can handle the ball, this team has to be favored at home.
  • With four losses on its resume already, Belmont has pretty much wrecked any chance it had of an at-large NCAA bid should it need one. Of course, the Bruins could win the Atlantic Sun tournament and make it anyway. As we mentioned, rebounding is a strength for Marshall and therefore a concern for Belmont. Rick Byrd’s team needs to create turnovers to help offset what should be a significant disadvantage on the glass. Belmont is #16 in offensive efficiency and it will need a quality game out of guards Kerron Johnson and Drew Hanlen. Hanlen is the team’s best three point shooter at 42.6%. Defensively, the Bruins do not have a good free throw rate. Luckily for them in this game, Marshall is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country.

    After Challenging Duke In Its Opener Belmont Has Struggled

  • Belmont is 1-4 on the road so you’d think it is due for a win away from home. Both teams shoot a lot of three pointers but the Bruins are much more efficient. Marshall shoots only 26.4% from deep but gets a lot of offensive rebounds, leading to a two point FG% of 52.6%. An astounding 43.7% of Belmont’s field goal attempts are triples so you can bet those will have to be falling in order for the Bruins to win this one on the road. Expect a close game throughout with Marshall being the ever so slight favorite.
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RTC Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2010

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

You only need one video clip to sum up the Missouri Valley Conference last season: Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the dagger three-pointer against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Missouri State (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Wichita State (23-7, 13-5)
  3. Creighton (23-8, 13-5)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-9, 11-7)
  5. Northern Iowa (20-11, 10-8)
  6. Bradley (19-11, 10-8)
  7. Illinois State (16-16, 7-11)
  8. Drake (12-18, 4-14)
  9. Evansville (11-16, 4-14)
  10. Indiana State (9-21, 4-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Toure’ Murry, Wichita State (11.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 109 AST)
  • G:  Sam Maniscalco, Bradley (13.1 PPG, 107 AST)
  • G:  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa (10.6 PPG, 97 AST)
  • F:  Kyle Weems, Missouri State (13.6 PPG 6.2, RPG 40.7% 3PT)
  • C:  Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton (13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 82% FT)

6th Man

Adam Leonard, Missouri State  (13 PPG,  39% 3PT)

Impact Newcomer

Greg Echenique, Creighton (Rutgers transfer)

Kyle Weems was nine years old when Missouri State last made the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

What You Need to Know

  • Multiple Bids: Last season, people will easily remember the Missouri Valley Conference with Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the gutsy three-pointer late in the game to lead Northern Iowa’s upset against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  What you may not know is that for the third straight season, the MVC has only sent one representative to the Big Dance.  After several years of sending multiple teams in and hitting a peak of four teams in 2006, the past three seasons have seen the team that won both the conference regular season and conference tournament (Drake and UNI twice) as single-bid teams that went to the NCAA Tournament.  This season the schools in the conference have beefed up their schedules the best they can to hopefully return to a multiple bid league.
  • Coaching Changes: A number of linked events took place this summer regarding the coaches in the MVC. The Dean of the Valley Dana Altman left Creighton after 16 years to take the head coaching job at OregonIowa State head coach Greg McDermott was hired less than 48 hours later.  He had one stint in the MVC already as the head coach of Northern Iowa before Ben Jacobson.  Jacobson released McDermott’s son Doug from his letter of intent so that he could join his dad and play with the Bluejays.   About a month later, Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left to become an assistant once again under Altman.   Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) and Jim Les (Bradley) are now the elder statesmen of the conference, but both of their seats are pretty warm right now as they try to take their teams back to the NCAA Tournament after each of their Sweet 16 runs seem like ages ago for those two schools.
  • Veteran Teams: Many of the MVC teams bring back a lot of veterans to lead their respective teams.  Creighton returns all-conference center Kenny Lawson and point guard Antoine Young.   Missouri State brings back a solid combination of Adam Leonard and Kyle Weems.   Wichita State has the talented JT Durley, Graham Hatch and Toure’ Murry while Bradley has Andrew Warren, Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown returning.   But you can’t leave out Northern Iowa with Kwadzo Ahelegbe and MVC sixth man of the year Lucas O’Rear. With such a large percentage of players retuning this season, a battle for The Valley title could be messy and any of these teams could emerge as the dust clears in March.

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Summer School in the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 5th, 2010


Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

Around the MVC

  • Go Dancing – Despite UNI’s major upset of Kansas, the Missouri Valley Conference suffered a third straight season with just one bid to the NCAA Tournament after four teams received bids in 2006.
  • Coaching Carousel—In April, Dana Altman was wooed from Creighton to Oregon, where he’ll deal with the benefits as well as the slings and arrows of having Phil Knight as a booster.   A few weeks later, longtime Altman assistant and Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left the Sycamores to be reunited with Altman in Oregon. Creighton wasted no time in hiring a new basketball coach.  Greg McDermott was tabbed as the new head coach a mere 48 hours after Altman took the Oregon job.  McDermott left a situation at Iowa State where he had trouble making Hilton magic, with several Cyclones transferring out during his tenure and NBA-caliber players on a team that could not get wins.  Creighton got a coach with previous success in the Valley and Iowa State was able to move in a different direction a year early, so the change looks like a win-win.
  • Indiana State did not waste any time either as they promoted assistant Greg Lansing to the head coaching position.  Lansing was a strong candidate the last time the Sycamores had a vacancy four seasons ago before the hiring of McKenna.  The continuity will be important for Indiana State this season.
  • Coaches on the Hot Seat—The Valley is an interesting place to be a coach.  If you do well, you get a promotion to the big conferences (Keno Davis, Mark Turgeon, Dana Altman, Bruce Weber, Matt Painter). If you struggle , do not meet fan expectations, or wear out your welcome, you are likely out of a job (Steve Merfeld, Porter Moser, Royce Waltman)  So it is not totally surprising that the coaches  with the longest active tenures,  Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois and Jim Les of Bradley,  are on the hot seat, though for different reasons.  Lowery has had to replicate the success that his predecessors, Bruce Weber and Matt Painter, established, and has struck out during the past two seasons with no postseason appearances and losing records.   In Les’ case, after taking Bradley to the Sweet 16 in 2007, the Braves have gradually lost ground, mustering just an NIT appearance in 2008 and a CBI appearance in 2009. They sat out the dance again last year and Braves fans are starting to get restless.
  • MVC Tiebreaker Change—For years, the Valley used a special point system formula for seeding in the MVC tournament. It was unusual in that ties between teams who finished with identical conference were not separated by their head-to-head results.   Well, that is no more.  They have gone to a more simple formula of basing the tiebreaker on the non-conference strength of schedule for the schools involved.  This might be a subtle message to get the Valley schools to do some better scheduling, likely a reason behind the aforementioned NCAA Tournament struggles.

Ali Farokhmanesh is Gone, but UNI Isn't (AP/T. Gutierrez)

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Checking in on… the MVC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 18th, 2010

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week):

  1. Northern Iowa  16-1  (7-0) (1)
  2. Wichita State 14-3 (5-2) (2)
  3. Illinois State  13-5 (4-3) (4)
  4. Creighton  9-9 (4-3)  (8)
  5. Missouri State  13-5 (3-4) (3)
  6. Bradley  8-9 (3-4) (6)
  7. Indiana State  11-7 (3-4) (5)
  8. Drake  8-11 (3-4)  (9)
  9. Southern Illinois   10-6 (3-4) (7)
  10. Evansville 6-10 (0-7) (10)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Big Game Week—Have your TVs tuned to ESPNU on Tuesday night as the top two teams in the conference have their first matchup of the season.  Northern Iowa  tries to take another road game in conference play, having already won at some of the toughest places in the conference—Southern Illinois, Creighton and Illinois State.  They will try to conquer probably the loudest and rowdiest crowd at Wichita State.    On the other side of the coin, Creighton and Illinois State who are tied right now for third in the conference will also be playing each other on Tuesday night.  If Northern Iowa wins Tuesday night, it looks like things will be coming down to a fight for second place in the conference, as UNI could run away with the Valley — and we are not yet into February.

Missouri State starting to slide—The Bears were the talk of the conference coming into conference season, but Cuonzo Martin probably wishes they weren’t so heralded, since they’re playing like most people expected them to play once conference season started.   They now have lost four out of their last five games and are essentially taking themselves out of the MVC race.

Creighton and Drake surging—The Bulldogs and Bluejays have both had some struggles winning games this season but are now on a roll.  Creighton has won four of their last five games  and Drake has won three straight, with surprising wins over Southern Illinois, Illinois State and Missouri State.

Lets take a look at the MVC at just about the halfway point to see where teams are headed:

TEAMS TO BEAT

Northern Iowa (2-0 this week, 15 game winning streak)—Northern Iowa just keeps winning and have their longest winning streak in school history.   They are the toast of not only the Valley but of the state of Iowa as well.  They aren’t the fastest, the best-shooting, or the most imposing team on the court, but they keep finding ways to win with different players stepping up on different nights.  They survived against Bradley and then decimated Indiana State this week.  Wichita State will be big game for them, but they can survive if they don’t win that one.  That could, however, set up a trap game in the return game against the Sycamores later in the week.

Wichita State (1-1 this week, won 5 of last 6)—Wichita had been flying high until they came into the Qwest Center Saturday to take on Creighton.  After jumping out to an early lead the week before and turning on the cruise control the rest of the way, in the return game it looked like the same thing would happen.  But the Shockers were called for too many fouls, and Creighton hit their charity shots to give Wichita State their first loss in six games and keep a losing streak in Omaha intact since 1992.  They don’t have time to sulk on this one as Northern Iowa comes to town on Tuesday and then WSU hits the road again to Drake.  Toure Murry is on his way to being one of the elite Shocker players if he continues his play.

ON THE RUN

Creighton  (2-0 this week, won four of last five)—Considering the way that Creighton played in their two games  this week, you wish they could have played like this since the beginning of the season.  First was a dramatic last second shot by Antoine Young to get the victory against Southern Illinois earlier in the week, and then they had to shrug off a really bad shooting night to hit 22-of-30 free throws and survive the final seconds to edge out a one point victory against Wichita State.  Creighton received a late Christmas gift as Rutgers big man Greg Echenique decided to transfer to the Bluejays and will be eligible in December.  He cannot wait to get started. This week doesn’t get any easier for the Bluejays as they travel to Illinois State before returning home to host Missouri State.

Drake (2-0 this week, three game winning streak)—This feels weird putting Drake up in this spot, but they are two seconds away from a four-game winning streak and the Bulldogs are now playing their best basketball of the season with victories over Missouri State and Illinois State.  The big reason is coach Mark Phelps decision to give his senior players more minutes on the court.  Drake is setting themselves up for a victory over Evansville this week, and could surprise Wichita State, especially if they lose against Northern Iowa earlier in the week.  Fear the Drake.

HEADING DOWN THE WRONG PATH

Illinois State  (1-1 this week, two of four conference wins against Evansville)—Don’t be fooled by the Redbirds at this point in the conference season.  If Osiris Eldridge is not putting up his normal points, this team may not be able to have other people step up all the time like they did against Evansville , but if he does, then no one else gets involved and they are having problems winning games, like against Drake Sunday night.   The easy wins are gone with their series against Evansville completed.  Creighton comes to town this week and then they head to Carbondale to take on Southern Illinois.  Illinois State could be headed for a freefall if they aren’t careful.

Bradley (1-1 this week, 3-7 in their last 10)—Bradley is the most inconsistent team in the conference to this point in the season.  The PJ Star outlines this pretty well.  They have a lot of problems winning on the road as they are 1-3 on the road so far in conference play.  They just missed a big win against Northern Iowa, losing by a deuce.  They may go 1-1 again this week when they go to Southern Illinois and then host Evansville.

Indiana State (0-2 this week, lost threfo of last four)—Just as I was about to jump aboard the Indiana State bandwagon, the Sycamores lost out on a great opportunity to put themselves in a great position in conference play.  The losses to conference leaders Wichita State and Northern Iowa is a big blow.  Instead of getting ahead of others in trying to get to the top of the MVC, they are now in a six-team race to not have to play one of the dreaded Thursday night play-in games of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.  Harry Marshall has stepped up his game, and now we will have to see if the rest of the team steps up as well.    They have an opportunity to redeem themselves on the road against Missouri State and when they host Northern Iowa in the return game.

Missouri State (0-2 this week, lost four of last five)—Missouri State is well on its way to a freefall, unable to win games on the road.  Like Bradley, the Bears are 1-3 on the road in conference play. But they were able to go 3-1 on the road in non-conference play.  That is the difference between non-conference and conference play; it is a lot harder to win on the road against teams in your own league.   The first half has been the key for the Bears as they keep “laying eggs.”  They are in a lot of trouble if they lose both games against Indiana State and Creighton this week.

Southern Illinois (1-1 this week, lost four of last five)—The Salukis are pretty lucky they didn’t lose at Evansville Saturday night.  With rumors of head coach Chris Lowery headed to Depaul at the end of the season and Lowery seemingly losing his players during a four game losing streak, they were still able to salvage a win against Evansvile.  Against Creighton on Wednesday night, Nick Evans got into a little altercation with Creighton’s Chad Millard which led to Evans’ ejection.  He was also out for the Evansville game because of that.  It is important for SIU to beat Illinois State and Bradley at home this week if they expect to return to the postseason.  Otherwise they are headed for their second consecutive losing season.

Evansville (0-2 this week, eight game losing streak)—Evansville can only play spoiler mode at this point in the season, though their seven point loss to Southern Illinois was the closest they have come to winning a conference game.   Colt Ryan is the best thing going for the Purple Aces right now — oh, and how they conduct themselves.  Can they get their first conference win against Drake or Bradley this week?

WEEK AHEAD AND GAMES TO WATCH

This week, the Valley’s two top teams finally meet up, and there are several other intriguing matchups this week.

  • 1/19, Northern Iowa @ Wichita State (ESPNU)—Easily the game of the week as the matchup of the two top teams of the conference takes place.
  • 1/19, Indiana State @ Missouri State (Fox Sports Net)—Who will step up to the plate to turn things around for either team?
  • 1/20, Bradley @ Southern Illinois (Local TV)–Both teams need a win badly to stay in contention.
  • 1/20, Creighton @ Illinois State (Local TV)—Although Creighton has been struggling this season as a whole, they are right in the conference race and can score a key win against Osiris Eldridge and the Redbirds.  Eldridge tears Creighton apart every time he plays them.
  • 1/23, Wichita State @ Drake (ESPNU)—Drake hopes to continue their surge while Wichita State tries to stay at the top. Things will be turned upside down in the Valley if Drake wins this one.
  • 1/24, Missouri State @ Creighton (Local TV)—Two teams headed in the opposite direction.  Can the Bears steal one in Omaha or is their early season start going to become irrelevant?
  • 1/24, Northern Iowa @ Indiana State (Fox Sports Net)—The Sycamores need this win, and could give Northern Iowa their first conference loss — if UNI is still undefeated in conference play at that time.
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