RTC Bracket Prep: Midwest Region

Posted by jstevrtc on March 15th, 2010

This is the fourth of our four quick-and-dirty region breakdowns. This will serve to help the quick triggers who like to fill out their brackets first thing on Monday morning. For the rest of you, we’ll be providing more detailed game-by-game analysis throughout the rest of the week.

Edward Jones Dome Hosts the Midwest Regional

Region: Midwest

Favorite: Kansas, #1-seed, 32-2. The overall #1 seed.  The experts say there are no dominant teams this year, but for our money this year’s Jayhawks are just as dominant as North Carolina was in 2008-09.  Top-flight weapons at every position.  A solid bench.  Excellent coaching.  Youth.  Experience.  Any way you prefer to be beaten, they’ll beat you.  That switch they flipped to put Texas A&M away in the Big 12 Tournament was scary, but that’s the sort of command of which they’re capable.

Should They Falter: Ohio State, #2-seed, 27-7. We all know how special Evan Turner is.  But teams seem to make the mistake of thinking that this team has no other weapons.  David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and William Buford are all capable of big games.  They defer to Turner, yet Turner enjoys sharing the wealth.  As a team, they almost never take a bad shot, a trait that will serve them well even more this time of year.

Grossly Overseeded: Northern Iowa, #9-seed, 28-4. Northern Iowa’s only win in the NCAA was 20 years ago.  I know that has nothing to do with now, but the last four times they’ve been to the Tournament, they’ve been a popular upset pick and have always come up short.  To be honest, based on their body of work, they’re probably seeded where they should be, it’s just that there are a few teams seeded lower than them that are playing a little better brand of basketball right now.  If UNI can give us some results in the Tournament, then we’ll be happy to put some chips on their square in the future.

Grossly Underseeded: Michigan State, #5-seed, 24-8. At this point, we should all be used to Tom Izzo overachieving in the NCAA Tournament.  This team went 14-4 in the extremely tough Big Ten.  After that stretch in which they dropped three straight (at Wisconsin, at Illinois, and Purdue), everyone forgot about them.  Then they won five of six to end the year before the conference tournament, the only loss coming against surging Ohio State.  Don’t ever sell the Spartans short in the Big Dance.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper: Houston, #13-seed, 19-15. Aubrey Coleman is the nation’s leading scorer at 25.0 PPG, and it looks like he and Kelvin Lewis have finally started to put it together.  Honestly, we thought we’d see more out of the Cougars this year.  They’ll be a tougher out for Maryland than everyone thinks.  Houston is second in the nation in turnovers per game (8.8), and 12th in turnovers forced (16.8), nice numbers when you have a pair of guards who can scoop up those turnovers and score quickly.

Final Four Sleeper:  #5 Michigan State. They can own a game through their work on the boards.

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Big East Tourney Daily Diary: Finals

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is spending the week as the RTC correspondent at the Big East Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the championship game.

West Virginia 60, Georgetown 58

  • Everyone is going to have their own preference about which conference is the best in the country. If you live in Kansas, you may have a different opinion that someone living un upstate New York. I will say this — there is not more competitive of a league in the country, and there is no tournament that matches a league title won in Madison Square Garden. This final pitted an eight seed and a three seed. The semis saw a five seed and a seven seed lose. Don’t bet against the league getting two No. 1 seeds and more than one team in the Final Four. As Huggy Bear said: “If this league isn’t the best in the country, than I need to quit coaching because I don’t know anything.”
  • Is there a player you would rather have take a final shot than Da’Sean Butler? For the second time in three days and the sixth time this season, Butler won a game by scoring a basket in the last 15 seconds. He is the most clutch player in the country, and I don’t think it is even close.
  • Its pretty clear that Chris Wright didn’t know what the score was when he committed that foul on Joe Mazzulla. After the play, Austin Freeman came up to him and said “its a tie game.” In the press conference, an extremely disappointed Wright said “I made a mistake.” That was all he said. His play to tie the game essentially nullified it, however.
  • West Virginia’s length along their perimeter helps them make up for the fact that they lack some quickness. Guys like Jason Clark and a Chris Wright have to be hesitant to shoot it from three simply because they know a guy like Devin Ebanks or Wellington Smith — players with fantastic length who can really get up in the air — are running at them.
  • Are the Mountaineers a No. 1 seed? I’ll let Bob Huggins explain: “We have 18 top 100 wins. We have nine top 50 wins. The 18 is the most of any team in the country. Our non-league RPI was second. Our strength of schedule is going to be one. We’re going to end up in the top two or three in the RPI. They say do those things, we’ve done those things.” I’m not one to argue.
  • Georgetown should end up a three or four seed. While they do have some great wins, and their run through this tournament is commendable — and perhaps even more impressive than what WVU did — they still struggled quite a bit in the middle of the season. They may end up a three depending on how some things shake out tomorrow and the way that locations, conferences and so on break down, but if the Hoyas do end up a four, I don’t think they have a gripe.
  • I’ve written enough about Greg Monroe this week, but good lord is he a talented player. It takes seeing him in person to truly appreciate it.
  • For the third straight game, someone walked away with $10,000 for rolling an oversized die.
  • Tonight was one of the most incredible sports experiences of my life. I was at the 6OT game. I as at game 2 of the 2004 ALCS when Yankee Stadium was chanting “Who’s your daddy?” at Pedro Martinez. I was at the first Redskins game played after Sean Taylor died. Tonight was up there with those three. The atmosphere in MSG tonight was unreal, as both Georgetown and West Virginia fans were loud and into the game from the tip. The game was hard fought and intense. We had great plays down the stretch, a game-winner, and nearly a buzzer beater. But the part that got to me the most was after the game, when all of the Mountaineer fans were still in the arena and sang “Take me home country roads” by Mr. Sunshine on my damn shoulder John Denver. Chills up my spine doesn’t begin to describe it.
  • At some point, Digger Phelps did something to bash West Virginia, because both Huggins and Butler commented on it after the game. In the press conference, Huggins addressed it, criticizing Digger but saying “I like Digger. Digger and I friends.” Butler, on the other hand, made eye contact with Jay Bilas from the podium after the game and pointed at him. Bilas laughed. I asked Bilas what that was about, and as he was saying “Digger said something they didn’t like in the pregame, and…” Butler came up and said to Jay “I told you, I told you.”
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Big East Tourney Daily Diary: Semifinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is spending the week as the RTC correspondent at the Big East Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the semifinal games.

Georgetown 80, Marquette 57

  • Georgetown whooped Duke. They smacked Villanova. Just yesterday they knocked off Syracuse. That said, would you believe me if I told you that this may be the Hoyas’ most impressive win of the season? Marquette doesn’t get blown out. Prior to this, their ten losses were by an average of 3.5 ppg; just 3.0 in seven Big East losses. They hadn’t lost by more than nine on the season (at Wisconsin) and seven in Big East play (Pitt). 14 of their 21 Big East games were decided by five points or less. With 13 minutes left in this game, Marquette was down one. From that point on, the Hoyas blitzed Marquette, something that simply does not happen.
  • Greg Monroe had a two minute stretch where he showed why people are saying he is a lottery pick. From deep in the left corner, he drove baseline and finished with a dunk. The next possession, he knocked down a three. The following possession, he took a rebound and went coast-to-coast, finishing it with a gorgeous bounce pass to Austin Freeman for an and-1 layup. And for good measure, he blocked a Jimmy Butler shot 20 seconds later.
  • Marquette is going to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. At least one. This is a team that is scrappy, tough, and runs a difficult offense to defend.
  • Jimmy Butler is one of the key players for Marquette. Along with Lazar Hayward, his ability to defend inside and play on the perimeter is a huge reason Marquette is able to play – and is successful doing so – the style they play. Hell, two weeks ago he hit a buzzer-beater in overtime to beat St. John’s. He’s a pretty important part of this Marquette team. You wonder, then, why the Marquette fan sitting next to me asked, after Butler’s tip dunk in the first half, “Jimmy Butler? Who’s Jimmy Butler?” Fan fail.
  • Over the course of the night, as with any big time event, the MSG people like to run promotions that give away money. All week, they have been using this game with an oversized die where three of the same roll in a row wins you $10,000. They’ve done it in each of the 12 previous games, and not once did anyone win, only a few times did they even get to the third roll. Well, in both games tonight, the contestant won the $10,000.
  • There’s more. At halftime of the first game, three people came to center court to try and win $10,000 in a Dickie V impersonation contest. The first two were heartily booed by the NYC crowd. The third contestant, however, had shaved his head bald, was wearing a half of a gray wig, had on a fake unibrow, screamed “Are you serious?!?!?” a good five times, and received a standing ovation and $10,000. I had to pay $8 just to take part in the MSG dinner buffet. I think I need to find a new profession.

West Virginia 53, Notre Dame 51

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RTC 2010 All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 11th, 2010

Unanimous 1st Teamer Evan Turner

With the regular season winding down to a close, the powers-that-be here at Rush the Court met in rtmsf’s basement bunker and spent 36 hours without food or water sorting out our 1st, 2nd and 3rd All-American teams for the 2009-10 season. Just kidding, we actually did it by e-mail. Regardless, here is the much-anticipated unveiling (with a slight adjustment to the three-guard lineup for the 3rd team based on the voting). Enjoy:

1st Team

  • G – John Wall, Kentucky (16.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • G – Evan Turner, Ohio State (19.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • G – Greivis Vasquez, Maryland (19.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.6 SPG)
  • F – Wesley Johnson, Syracuse (15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.9 BPG)
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky (15.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG)

There’s not much surprise with Wall, Turner or Johnson. All three garnered 1st-team selections from all four of our voters and accomplished the feat basically wire-to-wire. The two late bloomers were Cousins and Vasquez. Cousins was overshadowed in the early part of the season by his superstar teammate, but more and more attention was paid to his obscene production as the campaign wore on. His numbers spread out over 40 minutes are off the charts. Vasquez really took off late as well, dusting off the cobwebs from a slow shooting start to lead his Terrapins to a share of the ACC crown. His heroics at the end of the Duke win likely was the clincher for our voters.

2nd Team

  • G – Scottie Reynolds, Villanova (18.8 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G – James Anderson, Oklahoma State (22.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • G – Sherron Collins, Kansas (15.3 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.2 SPG)
  • F – Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia (17.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.3 APG)
  • C – Cole Aldrich, Kansas (11.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.5 BPG)

The 2nd-team features the Jayhawks inside-outside tandem of Collins and Aldrich. While many expected at least one of them to finish the season as a first-teamer, I think both players would rather grab that #1 overall seed in the Dance. This honor is not a bad consolation prize, either. Reynolds and Butler provided the backbones for two squads that excelled in the loaded Big East, while Anderson posted the strongest raw stats of any power six-conference player other than Turner. He’s expanding his game to become more of a complete weapon, and, along with Turner, is probably the most important player to his respective team of anyone in the nation.

3rd Team

  • G – Jon Scheyer, Duke (18.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G – Jimmer Fredette, BYU (20.6 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • F – Darington Hobson, New Mexico (15.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.6 APG)
  • F – Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (23.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG)
  • C – Greg Monroe, Georgetown (16.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.5 BPG)

The Mountain West received some serious love on this team with outstanding seasons from Hobson and Fredette both rewarded. Despite missing a good portion of the stretch run, Harangody’s statistics just couldn’t be ignored. Monroe put up a solid campaign for the Hoyas and might be the best passing big man in the nation. The most efficient guard? Could very well be Scheyer. He’s led Duke to #1-seed contention.

Also receiving votes: Quincy Pondexter, Washington, Ekpe Udoh, Baylor, Robbie Hummel, Purdue, Luke Babbitt, Nevada, Damion James, Texas, Kyle Singler, Duke, Patrick Patterson, Kentucky, Gordon Hayward, Butler, Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest.

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Big East Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2010

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

Season in Review

The Big East regular season ended on Saturday, and I think it is safe to say that the league had a bit of an unpredictable season. Don’t believe me? Show me a season preview that had Syracuse winning the league, Pitt getting a double-bye, UConn playing on Tuesday, and with South Florida and Notre Dame finishing above UConn and Cincinnati.  See? Unpredictable.

But what does that mean? Was the Big East better from top to bottom than it was last year? Did teams like Marquette, USF, and Notre Dame benefit from a down year?   The one thing that is for sure is that the top of the Big East is nowhere near the top of last year’s Big East. Five Sweet 16 teams and three No. 1 seeds is a pretty phenomenal feat. But last year the conference only sent seven teams to the tournament, and there is a very good chance that number will be surpassed this season.

The way the Big East bubble is shaping up right now, five teams are in – Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pitt and Georgetown. Louisville and Marquette should be ok, but a loss on Wednesday and things could get dicey depending on how the rest of the bubble plays out. If Notre Dame happens to lose their first Big East Tournament game (to either Seton Hall or Rutgers), then the Irish could be in trouble as they will likely be right on the cut line.  That gives us eight that are reasonably safe.

It is possible, however, for the Big East to get two more teams in. If today was Selection Sunday, then Seton Hall may actually be in the tournament. While they have 11 losses, the average RPI of the team’s that have beaten the Pirates is 26 and they have not lost to a team with an RPI below 64. Add into that mix that the Pirates have wins over Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt, at Cornell and an RPI of 53. Its not a great profile, but its a very weak bubble this year. That could be enough.  The other team that still has a shot of an at-large bid is UConn, simply because the Huskies have more good wins than most of the bubble teams. That said, they also have 14 losses. UConn will likely need to make it to the Big East semis for any kind of real shot at a bid.

The Big East Conference released their all-conference teams today, and there isn’t much there that I disagree with. (Note: there are six players on the first team because one of those six will win POY; POY, COY, and ROY will be announced on Tuesday between Big East Tournament sessions)

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ATB: Hoyas Sink, Horns Swim…

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

#8 West Virginia 81, #20 Georgetown 68. Georgetown’s margin for error is just not very large against good teams, especially top ten teams on the road.  It showed tonight as the Hoyas clearly missed the third primary scoring option that Austin Freeman, out with the stomach flu, typically provides. WVU’s Da’Sean Butler, playing in front of the home fans for the last time, dropped 22/6/6 assts in a well-balanced Mountaineer effort that jumped on top of Georgetown early and never relented.  With this win, West Virginia clinched a double-bye in next week’s Big East Tournament and still has a chance at the overall #2 seed with some luck and a weekend win over Villanova.  Georgetown has now lost four of five games, and two of those losses (Notre Dame and Rutgers) were inexcusable for a team with their talent.  It could be that the heavy minutes are wearing down JT3’s team, as four starters average over 33 MPG and the Hoya defense has been considerably less potent recently than it was when beating top-10 teams like Duke and Villanova.  One thing is for certain, though.  For Georgetown to make any noise whatsoever in the Big East Tournament or NCAA Tournament this year, they have to get production from all four of Freeman, Greg Monroe, Chris Wright and and Jason Clark/Julian Vaughn at the same time.  With one more loss on Saturday against Cincinnati, the Hoyas will drop to 9-9 and jeopardize their chances at an all-important first round bye in the Big East Tournament next week.

WVU Towered Over Georgetown Tonight (AP/David Smith)

#25 Texas 87, Oklahoma 76. For a while it appeared that the Longhorn meltdown was imminent, as visiting Oklahoma took an 11-point lead five minutes into the second half as Cade Davis and Tony Crocker repeatedly lit up the Texas defense.  An 11-2 run got Rick Barnes’ team back into the game, and with Damion James (24/8) and Jordan Hamilton (12/11) finding their way to the hole for layups, UT avoided the unthinkable tonight in a game that should bolster their confidence.  It was just six short weeks ago that Texas was the #1 team in the land, but the shutdown defense that got the Horns to that lofty spot has been largely missing since, and tonight we only saw it in spurts as the Sooners shot 48% and hit ten threes.  Additionally, the J’Covan Brown experiment as a starter appears to have been nixed, as Justin Mason got the nod (3/3 in 21 minutes) and Brown easily outdid his last two performances (15/5  in 33 minutes) off the pine.  Texas is safely in the NCAA Tournament, but right now they appear to be a directionless team who, if they’re not careful, will be walking into a lion’s den at Baylor next weekend.

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ATB: Syracuse Survives but Gonzaga Doesn’t

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2010

Orange Sweep. #5 Syracuse 75, #10 Georgetown 71.  Syracuse looked like a Final Four contender for the first 28 minutes last night. Their zone was impenetrable, their offense efficient and unselfish. Behind big first halves from Andy Rautins and Wes Johnson, the Cuse was able to build a 44-31 halftime lead, a lead they pushed to 23 points midway through the second half. But the Hoyas weren’t about to go away. As the Orange got complacent, the Hoyas started forcing turnovers and getting to the rim. Greg Monroe really began to assert himself in the paint, almost singlehandedly fouling out both Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku. All told, the Hoyas put a 33-11 run on Syracuse, cutting that 23-point lead all the way down to 71-70 with possession of the ball.  But on the one and only possession that Georgetown had with a chance to take the lead, the Hoyas settled for a deep, albeit open, three from Jason Clark, which he clanged off the front of the rim. At the other end, Kris Joseph took advantage of a mismatch, taking Greg Monroe to the hole to score with just nine seconds left for a three-point lead. The Orange fouled, Georgetown missed  a free throw, and Andy Rautins sealed it.  Rautins was the high scorer for the game, finishing with 26 points on 6-11 shooting while knocking down five triples. Wes Johnson had 14 of his 16 points in the first half. But perhaps the most important offensive performance came from Joseph. Joseph had been struggling all game long, but in the final two minutes, he got to the rim three times, twice scoring and the third time drawing a foul. It was his ability to take advantage of a mismatch that kept the Orange ahead late.  Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, and Greg Monroe all went for at least 20, but there was no balance to the Hoya attack. Those three and Jason Clark scored all but two of Georgetown’s 71 points. The Hoyas have now dropped two in a row and four of seven. With a tough final four games (@ Louisville, ND, @ WVU, Cincy), the Hoyas will need some serious help if they want to snag one of the double-byes in the Big East tournament.

Syracuse Held On For the Big Win in DC (D. Nett)

Ghosts of LMU PastLoyola Marymount 74, #9 Gonzaga 66.  The biggest upset by far tonight brought back shades of Hank Gathers, Bo Kimble, and yes, RTC favorite Jeff Fryer, as the LMU Lions did the unthinkable and defeated Gonzaga for their second WCC loss of the year.  It was the first Loyola win over a ranked team in two decades, harkening back to the LMU teams of yesteryear.  Tonight, though, instead of Gathers/Kimble/Fryer, it was Ashley Hamilton (17/6), Drew Viney (16/10/5 assts) and Kevin Young (11/5) leading the way.  The Lion defense frustrated the Zags into 35% shooting as a team, and held Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray to a miserable 7-26 night.  For the second time in a month, Gonzaga was shocked on the road by a vastly inferior team in terms of talent on the floor, and we’re wondering if these Zags are prone to losing focus.  Otherwise, how else to explain commanding wins vs. better teams at Memphis, St. Mary’s and Portland in the same time period?  One odd situation that came from this otherwise-huge win for the LMU program involved head coach Max Good and his sophomore forward Young.  At one point the two traded words and reports from the game suggest that Good placed his hand on Young’s neck.  When asked afterward if he had choked Young, he stated that he was merely trying to calm down an emotional player.  One thing is for certain, though.  His team didn’t choke — and the phalanx of students who RTC’d immediately following the buzzer verified it (send us a pic, LMU fans!) (thanks!).

LMU Fans RTC With Gusto (AP)

Leuer’s Return Unlucky. Minnesota 68, #15 Wisconsin 52.  Minnesota has had a disappointing season with all their off-court controversy and inability to win on the road, but if they plan on putting that behind them and getting back to the NCAA Tournament this year, tonight was an excellent start.  The Gophers used a solid performance from Blake Hoffarber (16/9), Ralph Sampson III (10/8) and Devoe Joseph (10/5/5 assts) to shut down everyone but the two UW stars Trevon Hughes (19/4 stls) and Jason Bohannon (18/3).  Jon Leuer made his return from injury tonight but he was clearly off his game, shooting 2-12 from the field for four points.  The Gophers have five games remaining (three at home), and you have to figure they need to win all of those.  It’ll be the two road games — at Illinois and at Michigan — that could determine how this season will end up for Minnesota.  The Badgers, of course, are safely in the Tourney, but their Big Ten regular season title chances took a huge shot with their fifth loss tonight.

The Last Winless Team. Bryant 53, Wagner 51.  Bryant became the last Division I team in America to win a game in the 2009-10 season with their two late FTs to beat Wagner tonight, a mere 366 days after the school’s last win.  Even with a 1-26 record, Bryant isn’t the worst team in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical profiles… they’re 346th of 347 teams.  The only team lower?  1-25 Alcorn State.

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RTC Live: Syracuse @ Georgetown

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2010

RTC Live is back at the Verizon Center again to bring you coverage of another dandy in the Big East as Syracuse heads south to take on the Hoyas in what might be the Big East’s best rivalry.

Georgetown has been wildly inconsistent this season, mixing big wins over Villanova and Duke with losses to South Florida, Cincinnati, and Rutgers. Syracuse has been a conundrum of late as well, as they have struggled against teams like DePaul and Cincinnati before finally dropping a game to Louisville at home last week. The issue for Georgetown has been leadership. They don’t have a true point guard. Chris Wright has been great at times this season, but he is a scoring point guard. He’s not the kind of player that is going to take control of a team when they are struggling. As a result, when the Hoyas get behind, their offense as a tendency to devolve into players going 1-on-1, which is not their strength. They are at their best when they run that Princeton system and take the open looks they get off of it. Syracuse, on the other hand, has just been off their game. The Orange are not a great half court team offensively. They don’t have many great scorers. They are at their best when they can force turnovers and get easy shots in transition on a secondary break. They have great passers and great decision makers when the numbers are in their advantage.  Georgetown got smacked by Syracuse last month at the Carrier Dome, but Greg Monroe was in foul trouble. If Georgetown can limit their turnovers and utilize Monroe’s ability in the high post to pass and score, they should be able to pick apart the Cuse zone.

It should be another fun one tonight. So drop by, leave a comment, and enjoy another Big East battle.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 12th, 2010

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

The top of the Big East is stacked.  Syracuse is a legitimate national title contender. Villanova may end up as a 1 seed, and West Virginia and Georgetown both look destined to 2 seeds. Hell, Pitt might even be able to play their way into a top four seed if they can figure out their issues down the stretch.

So like I said, the top of the Big East is stacked.  But what about the rest of it?

Once you get past Pitt, the Big East basically turns into one giant question mark. Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame, South Florida, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, UConn. What is the difference between these seven schools? Do any of them actually deserve a bid?  After Louisville lost to St. John’s last night, they probably don’t. The reason why might be a little different than you think.

Clearly, none of those seven teams are great teams, and some would struggle to even put them in the pretty good category. But they also aren’t terrible. They are all rated somewhere between 42d (Louisville) and 66th (Marquette) in the RPI. According to Kenpom, Marquette is 18th, Louisville 23rd, and the other five teams are sitting somewhere between 50th and 73rd.

The problem becomes separation. The seven teams in the middle of the Big East are all pretty average, meaning that during Big East play, they are going to beat up on each other. Usually, the MO for teams in the middle of the major conferences is to defend your home court against the teams you should beat, squeak out a couple on the road, and then hope you can topple one of the big boys in the league. If you can get to .500 or better in the major conferences with a couple of decent wins and a marquee win, that generally is enough to earn an at-large berth.

But this season, no one is beating the best teams in the Big East. Beating Villanova and Syracuse are season-changing wins, but Villanova has only lost to Georgetown and Syracuse has only lost to Pitt.* Wins over Georgetown or West Virginia aren’t quite marquee wins, but even those are hard to come by. The Hoyas lost to South Florida and Marquette, while WVU dropped a roadie to Notre Dame.

*Think about this. Let’s assume that Pitt had lost to Syracuse. They would then be 16-7 overall and 6-5 in the conference with wins over UConn, Cincinnati, Louisville, DePaul, St. John’s, and Seton Hall and losses to Seton Hall and South Florida. Is that really all that different from Louisville, who is 15-9 and 6-5 with wins over South Florida, Providence, St. John’s, Cincinnati, UConn, and Rutgers and losses to St. John’s and Seton Hall?

The issue isn’t that the middle of the Big East is terrible. They aren’t.  The problem is that they aren’t good enough, and that Syracuse and Villanova are too good, for the teams needing a marquee win to get that marquee win.

Let’s take a quick look at what those seven teams need to do to earn a bid (RPI numbers don’t include games from Thursday night):

  • Louisville: The Cardinals’ decent RPI (42) will no doubt take a hit after they lost by 19 to St. John’s on Thursday. With just a 1-6 record against the RPI top 50 (to be fair, they have wins over UConn (RPI 51) and Cincinnati (RPI 52) in addition to the win over South Florida) and losses to Western Carolina and by 22 to Charlotte, the Cardinals desperately need a couple of wins to bolster their resume. They will get the chance, as they play Syracuse twice and get Georgetown at home. My guess is that Louisville needs to go 5-2 over their last seven games for a shot at the tournament.
  • South Florida: Its weird talking about South Florida being on the bubble. They have a couple very good wins (Georgetown, Pitt) and just one terrible loss (Central Michigan). More than anything, the Bulls just need to add some depth to their profile, meaning they just need to pick up some more wins. I think USF has a good chance to earn a bid if they can get 10 wins in the league, assuming they don’t drop one to Providence or DePaul.  Beat Villanova on the road, and the Bulls will get in with a .500 league record.
  • UConn: The Huskies are in big trouble. They have just one quality win (Texas), and even that win is looking less and less impressive. Their RPI (51) is only remaining respectable because their SOS is so high. But UConn will have plenty of chances to boost their resume as five of their last seven games come against teams with a RPI of 52 or better, including Villanova and West Virginia.
  • Cincinnati: The Bearcats, despite the lower RPI, may actually be in better shape than UConn. They have a great win over Vanderbilt and another good win against Maryland, but Cincy hasn’t done anything on the road this season and absolutely needs to pick up a couple more quality wins. Cincy will have their shot to close out the season, as they head to West Virginia, get Villanova at home, and play at Georgetown.
  • Notre Dame: The Irish lost to Seton Hall on Thursday night, which may have all but done them in. ND is now 6-6 in the league and 17-8 overall, but their only really good win is against West Virginia. The Irish played such a weak schedule in the non-conference that they didn’t leave themselves much room for slip-ups like losing to Rutgers or Loyola Marymount.
  • Seton Hall: By beating Notre Dame, Seton Hall also keeps their thin hopes alive. The Pirates are like the Huskies. They don’t really have any horrible losses, but they haven’t really beaten anyone either. The Pirates only play one more game against teams outside of the bottom four in the league. They will likely have to win out for a chance to play in the tournament.
  • Marquette: The Golden Eagles are an interesting case. With so many close losses, they are fairly high on Kenpom’s rankings, but sport a 66 in the RPI. They also have a couple very nice wins – Georgetown and Xavier – but not much else. 5-2 down the stretch, with a couple good wins, will get Marquette in.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Kris Joseph, Syracuse

Don’t look now, but Jospeh, who is the Orange’s sixth man, has become the second leading scorer for the Cuse. We said he would be the x-factor for this team, and it looks like he has become just that. He’s long and athletic like Wes Johnson, he can get out and run the floor in transition, he attacks the rim, and he makes plays on the defensive end. This past week, he averaged 15.5 ppg and 5.0 rpg. His two threes against Cincy sparked a late run.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Georgetown Hoyas

The Hoyas certified themselves as a Final Four contender by going 2-0 this past week, including a beatdown on then-#2 Villanova. Georgetown jumped out to a 50-31 lead at the break on the strength of hot shooting from three, and sealed the game by controlling the ball offensively and hitting their free throws. In the other game this week, Georgetown went on the road Providence and avoided an upset by overcoming a halftime deficit. Austin Freeman continued his fantastic play, averaging 21.0 ppg for the week while Greg Monroe posted averaged of 15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, and 9.0 apg.


1. Syracuse: 24-1, 11-1

Last Week: 2/7 @ Cinci 71-54, 2/10 vs. UConn 72-67

Next Week: 2/14 vs. Louisville, 2/18 @ Georgetown

2. Villanova: 21-2, 10-1

Last Week: 2/6 @ Georgetown 90-103, 2/8 @ West Virginia 82-75

Next Week: 2/13 vs. Providence, 2/15 vs. UConn

3. Georgetown: 18-5, 8-4

Last Week: 2/6 vs. Nova 103-90, 2/10 @ Providence 79-70

Next Week: 2/14 @ Rutgers, 2/18 vs. Syracuse

4. West Virginia: 19-4, 8-3

Last Week: 2/6 @ St. John’s 79-60, 2/8 vs. Nova 75-82

Next Week: 2/12 @ Pitt, 2/17 @ Providence

5. Pitt: 18-6, 7-4

Last Week: 2/6 vs. Seton Hall 83-58, 2/8 vs. Robert Morris 77-53

Next Week: 2/12 vs. West Virginia, 2/18 @ Marquette

6. Marquette: 15-8, 6-5

Last Week: 2/6 @ Providence 82-79

Next Week: 2/13 vs. South Florida, 2/18 vs. Pitt

7. Louisville: 15-9, 6-5

Last Week: 2/6 vs. Rutgers 76-60, 2/11 @ St. John’s 55-74

Next Week: 2/14 @ Syracuse, 2/17 vs. Notre Dame

8. Notre Dame: 17-8, 6-6

Last Week: 2/7 vs. South Florida 65-62, 2/11 @ Seton Hall 87-90

Next Week: 2/14 vs. St. John’s, 2/17 @ Louisville

9. South Florida: 15-8, 5-6

Last Week: 2/7 @ Notre Dame 62-65

Next Week: 2/13 @ Marquette, 2/16 vs. Cincinnati

10. Cincinnati: 14-9, 5-6

Last Week: 2/7 vs. Syracuse 54-71

Next Week: 2/13 @ UConn, 2/16 @ South Florida

11. UConn: 14-10, 4-7

Last Week: 2/6 vs. DePaul 64-57, 2/10 @ Syracuse 67-72

Next Week: 2/13 vs. Cincinnati, 2/15 @ Villanova

12. Seton Hall: 13-9, 4-7

Last Week: 2/6 @ Pitt 58-83, 2/11 vs. Notre Dame 87-90

Next Week: 2/14 vs. Louisville, 2/18 @ Georgetown

13. Providence: 12-12, 4-8

Last Week: 2/6 vs. Marquette 79-82, 2/9 vs. Georgetown 70-79

Next Week: 2/13 @ Villanova, 2/17 vs. West Virginia

14. St. John’s: 13-10, 3-8

Last Week: 2/6 vs. Louisville 60-79, 2/11 vs. West Virginia 74-55

Next Week: 2/14 @ Notre Dame, 2/17 vs. Seton Hall

15. Rutgers: 12-12, 2-9

Last Week: 2/6 @ Louisville 60-76, 2/8 vs. Caldwell 70-62

Next Week: 2/14 vs. Georgetown, 2/16 @ DePaul

16. DePaul: 8-15, 1-10

Last Week: 2/6 @ UConn 57-64

Next Week: 2/14 @ Seton Hall, 2/16 vs. Rutgers

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RTC Live: Villanova @ Georgetown

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2010

DC may be sitting under two feet of snow, but we at RTC threw on our snow boots, busted out the parka, and took the rocket sled out to the Verizon Center for today’s match-up between Villanova and Georgetown. The Hoyas have had an up-and-down two weeks. Two weeks ago during Big Monday, the Hoyas got smacked by Syracuse. A week ago, Georgetown returned the favor to Duke. Then on Wednesday, Georgetown ran into the buzzsaw that is Dominique James, dropping to 6-4 in the league. Villanova, on the other hand, has cruised to a perfect 9-0 record in Big East play, but they have yet to hit the meat of their schedule. Today kicks off what is going to be a brutal February, as Nova will play Georgetown, Syracuse, West Virginia, and Pitt on the road this month.

But that’s down the road. Today’s game will be determined on the perimeter. Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, and Corey Stokes are known names in this league, and Maalik Wayns is well on his way to being the next great Nova guard. But the Hoyas have their own trio of talented back court players in Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, and Jason Clark. When talking about Georgetown, the first name that is always brought up is Greg Monroe, but he may not be the Hoyas’ most important player. When Chris Wright scores in double figures, Georgetown is undefeated. When he doesn’t, they are 1-5. Villanova is improved on the defensive end with Reggie Redding in uniform, but Georgetown’s disciplined and patient offense is a tough one to defend.  Ask Duke.

Should be a heckuva game today. Drop by and join in the conversation!

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