Backdoor Cuts: Vol. VIII

Posted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore, and Mike Walsh. This week the guys wax poetic about the rarest thing in college basketball: the four-year star.

DAVE ZEITLIN: I feel like it happens every year. Whenever a four-year starter has a big game, people start chirping things like “How long has this buy been playing for?” and “Shouldn’t he have graduated by now?” and “I didn’t know seventh-year seniors were allowed to play.” You guys know what I mean, right? The sad truth is that the four-year star player feels like an endangered species — and we’re all victim to that kind of thinking.

Take, for instance, Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds. I remember watching him play in the NCAA tournament as a freshman, and yes while it does feel like that happened some time between the Jurassic Period and the Neolithic Age, my point is, well, my point is it shouldn’t be that way. At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I miss the days when guys all stayed three or four years. And while I certainly can’t blame many stars for bolting early to the pros (I know there are typically many factors at play), I feel like too many are missing out on the full college experience. And, seriously, what’s better than college? Maybe bacon-wrapped scallops. And Will Ferrell. That’s about it.

Dave's Mancrush Scottie Reynolds

And all things being equal, having upperclassmen has got to help the teams themselves, right? Let’s just look at two players for a moment. At Villanova, Scottie Reynolds is on the verge of becoming the greatest player in program history — if he isn’t already. At Kentucky, John Wall is on the verge of becoming one of the best freshmen ever — if he isn’t already. Both have their teams in the top three in the latest AP poll. And while Wall will surely be an NBA star, and Reynolds may have a difficult time even cracking an NBA roster, I’d like to think come tournament time the senior will be better prepared to lead his team on a deep run than the freshman. But then again, Carmelo Anthony won a championship in his only year in college and Greg Oden almost did the same… so who knows

Either way, something bugs me about these one-year rent-a-players. I’m actually not bothered by the players themselves because, as we know, they have no choice but to go to college for a year and the true NBA-bound superstars shouldn’t feel obligated to stay longer. I think I’m mostly bothered by the coaches, who say disingenuous things like “So-and-So will help the program even after he leaves” and “I really want So-and-So to test the draft waters.” Please. Just admit you sold your soul for a season of glory and your recruiting pitch went something like this: “Come to our school and you only have to take four college courses in your entire life! And three of them will be about massage therapy! After that, I’ll help you get rich rich rich!” (Yes, I’m looking at you Calipari.)

What’s my point? I’m not sure exactly. Maybe I’m just hoping that when March rolls around, the Wildcat who’s been through it all will get just one more lucky bounce than the Wildcat who’s already planning his wardrobe for Draft Day.

And with that, my ode to Scottie Reynolds comes to a close as I pass the curmudgeon torch to my two pals.

MIKE WALSH: College basketball rosters are a revolving door, it’s sad, but true. Unlike football or hockey, basketball is one of the few sports where 18- and 19-year-olds can hold their own against guys in their 20s. And let’s be honest, what 18-year-old kid is going to be able to pass up the promise of millions of dollars when the majority of his classmates will be thrilled to rake in $30K after graduation? If someone offered me the NBA rookie minimum right now I’d be gone… I wouldn’t even finish this column (Ed. Note: we’re all replaceable, Mike.). But alas, I’m a doughy white guy with bad knees, a worse jump shot, and a bank account that wouldn’t even cover the small blind in an NBA road trip poker game.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 26th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. I’d be fairly shocked if Gonzaga is any lower than a #3 seed when the brackets are unveiled in March. In fact, I’d be fairly shocked if the Zags lost again this season. Think about it: they’ve already notched wins on the road against the three teams most likely to shock Mark Few’s team by dispatching Portland, Saint Mary’s and San Diego on a single road trip. They have one challenging non-conference game left against a rebuilding Memphis team in which Gonzaga will surely be favored. The only team I could see possibly stunning the Zags is Pepperdine and their explosive guard Keion Bell. The Waves only fell by seven in the Kennel this past week behind Bell’s 37 points, but they’re still 7-13 on the season and I highly doubt Bell is going to post 37 again on a stingier Gonzaga defense. Win out and Mark Few is looking at 27-3 (16-0) heading into the WCC tournament where they could finish with a 29-3 (18-0) overall record and an RPI in the top-20 with their only losses at Michigan State, at home against Wake Forest and Duke in MSG. That sets up Gonzaga for a #3 seed in the Spokane regional, meaning two quasi-home games until the regional (and they could be in the Salt Lake City regional). German import Elias Harris has spear-headed the Zags hot streak. He’s averaging 16/8 and shooting nearly 60% in a tremendous debut campaign.

Vasquez heating up for the Terps

2. Remember that Greivis Vasquez guy on Maryland who’s had a pretty damn good career? After scoring in the single digits in his first four games and struggling mightily with his jump shot in Maui, the brash and often polarizing emotional sparkplug for the Terps is heating up in a big way. And that’s bad news for the rest of the wide-open ACC. Vasquez has now scored in double figures his last 14 games including a 30-point outburst at Wake Forest and 22 in a big home win over Florida State. He played his most efficient game Saturday in the blowout win over NC State, notching 19 points on 7-11 FG and 3-4 3pt. Despite the concerning start, Vasquez is now playing like the ACC POY contender he truly is. His 43% FG is only second to his 44% as a freshman (but he only needs three more shots to match the amount taken that season), his 39% 3pt is far and away a career best, and he’s also contributing with 6.1 APG and 4.6 RPG, solid totals for a 6’6 guard. I fully expect Duke to win the ACC- they’ve already played two of their three most difficult ACC games- but Maryland is absolutely a contender to finish second behind Vasquez, the continued improved play of Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes (46% 3pt), plus the superb coaching of Gary Williams.

3. Other than maybe Georgetown or Notre Dame, the most disappointing team in the nation last season may have been Baylor. The Bears entered the season fresh off reaching the NCAA Tournament just a few years following the Dave Bliss fallout with Scott Drew being lauded as one of the best young coaches in the game. Even though a late-season Big 12 Tournament and NIT push healed some wounds, the 5-11 Big 12 mark a season ago was still a campaign to forget. What led to the downfall? For one, Baylor ranked #103 in defensive efficiency in 2008-09. During their crippling six game Big 12 losing streak, the Bears surrendered 95 points to Oklahoma, 89 to Missouri and 83 to Texas Tech. In a related story, Baylor is ranked in the top 25 this week and ranks 41st in defensive efficiency. What has sparked the change? A big reason is the human eraser Ekpe Udoh in the post, a Michigan transfer who ranks sixth in college basketball in block percentage (Baylor ranks first in the nation in the same category). Baylor as a unit has also turned up the intensity on the defensive end, ranking third in the nation in opponents two-point FG% behind just Mississippi State and Florida State. Baylor hasn’t forgotten how to score, either. They rank 15th in offensive efficiency and eighth in effective FG%. Anyone who watched the Bears go toe-to-toe with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse last Monday knows this team can play.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After weeks and weeks of mediocre matchups, we have FINALLY been rewarded with a big week of games to talk about. So let’s get right to it.

(Plus, my prognostication got off to a great start – just call me Joe Lunardi. Wait, I’m not that nerdy.)

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Tuesday, Jan. 12)

1. Duke (13-2, 1-1)

PAST: The Blue Devils stay atop our rankings, despite the “upset” loss at Georgia Tech (if I see one more person call it an upset – I’m looking at you, ESPN, with your “Upset Alert” – I’m gonna scream). Duke lost to a very good team and in a very tough venue. They showed a few chinks in the armor – namely their lack of any sort of depth – but it was not enough to cost them the top spot here.

FUTURE: Two home games this week – Wednesday against Boston College and Saturday against Wake Forest. Guess which one will be the bigger test?

2. North Carolina (12-4, 1-0)

PAST: We didn’t really have time here last week to talk about the loss at Charleston. Is it one that would bother me if I were a UNC fan? Yes. Would I get hung up on it? Absolutely not. Any time a team like UNC takes a non-traditional road trip like that, the home team and its fans prepare for the biggest game ever on campus. With the players and fans amped up, it’s a tough test for even the best teams. As for Sunday’s win over Virginia Tech? It proved just how experienced and talented teams respond to tough losses.

FUTURE: The Heels face the toughest week of anyone in the league, traveling to Clemson on Wednesday and hosting Georgia Tech on Saturday. If UNC and Duke both go 2-0 this week, we might have a close race atop the rankings.

3. Georgia Tech (12-3, 1-1)

PAST: If the Yellow Jackets had not lost at Georgia, they might have leapt over UNC this week. But Saturday’s win over Duke was enough to make Tech fans forget about that in-state loss. Gani Lawal is emerging as an all-around force, not only scoring 21 points, but also dominating the vaunted Duke frontcourt in the second half, as Georgia Tech out-boarded the Devils 26-12.

FUTURE: After a semi-trap game Wednesday at Virginia, Tech heads to Chapel Hill Saturday for what is easily the ACC game of the week.

4. Wake Forest (11-3, 1-1)

PAST: This is where this gets interesting. I debated bumping Wake down after a one-point loss at Miami, but I’ve never been one to overreact too much to one game, and Wake’s three losses are Purdue, William & Mary and now Miami. They’re on shaky ground here, but I still have faith in the Deacons.

FUTURE: Wake hosts Maryland Tuesday and heads to Duke on Sunday.

5. Miami (15-1, 1-1)

PAST: The Miami win over Wake may not have cost the Deacons a spot, but it bumped the Hurricanes up a few places. Yes, their schedule still stinks, but the Hurricanes proved they can share the court with a real Division I team. Dwayne Collins led the way on Saturday, with 23 and 11, as Miami continued its best start in half a century. But as the schedule proves, that’s all relative.

FUTURE: The ’Canes travel through Virginia this week, facing Virginia Tech on Wednesday and Virginia on Saturday. Both will be tough games, but if Miami wants to be taken seriously in the ACC, they need to win both.

6. Clemson (13-3, 1-1)

PAST: The win over Boston College isn’t enough to bump Clemson up one spot – but everyone else at this mid-level faltered this week, so this was really a process of elimination.

FUTURE: Clemson hosts UNC Wednesday and heads to N.C. State on Saturday.

7. Virginia Tech (12-2, 0-1)

PAST: Yes, I know the Hokies didn’t post a win this week – losing their only game, at North Carolina. But compared to the rest of the middle-ground, I still find the most promise in Blacksburg. Last week, I said I wanted to see how the Hokies fared with a healthy Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson in the lineup. The pair combined for 40 points, but the Hokies let things get away from them in the second half against UNC. Nothing to be ashamed about, especially in Chapel Hill.

FUTURE: The Hokies host Miami Wednesday and head to Florida State Saturday.

8. Florida State (13-3, 1-1)

PAST: In their only game this week, Florida State lost at Maryland. So far, it looks like the same old FSU team: one that struggles away from Tallahassee, and loses to mediocre/good teams.

FUTURE: The Seminoles host N.C. State Tuesday and Virginia Tech Saturday. At least they’re at home.

9. Virginia (9-4, 1-0)

PAST: The Cavaliers posted a very nice comeback win at N.C. State, thanks largely to 23 points from Sylven Landesberg. Virginia is tough to figure out so far, but we should learn more this week…

FUTURE: …with home games vs. Georgia Tech (Wednesday) and Miami (Saturday). A split would be really nice for the Cavaliers, methinks.

10. Maryland (10-4, 1-0)

PAST: A one-spot jump for Greivis Vasquez and Co. after a strong (how strong is to be debated) win over Florida State at home. Maryland nearly let a big lead slip away in that one, and won’t have much time to recover…

FUTURE: … before a Tuesday trip to Wake Forest. They also play at Boston College on Saturday. The Terps desperately need two wins to move up to where I think they belong in these rankings.

11. N.C. State (11-5, 0-2)

PAST: I really do feel for the Wolf Pack. They seem to have some talent, but they keep losing heartbreakers. Now, with a home loss to Virginia, you can add losses they really shouldn’t suffer at all.

FUTURE: The Pack heads to Florida State Tuesday and hosts Clemson Saturday.

12. Boston College (10-6, 1-1)

PAST: The Eagles were never really in it in a 16-point loss at Clemson.

FUTURE: Wednesday’s game at Duke could be ugly. Saturday’s home game against Maryland shouldn’t be close either, but moody Maryland might play down to its competition again.

WEEK THAT WAS…

GANI TIME, GANI-WHERE: Derrick Favors may have gotten all the preseason hype, but try to watch a Georgia Tech game and tell me that Gani Lawal isn’t the most impressive player on the floor. My DVR flamed out for most of the Duke-Georgia Tech game (blame the wife, I was away for the weekend), but I did catch the last 10 minutes or so. And Lawal seemed to have his way with the Duke frontcourt. Sure, Duke missed 22 of its 28 3-pointers, which didn’t help its cause, but with Lawal dominating like this and Favors growing up with each game, Georgia Tech can only get better.

HOW TO TREAT MIAMI?: The Hurricanes are an impressive 15-1, but nearly all of those 15 wins are against the hyphens and ampersands of the world (UNC-Wilmington, USC-Upstate, North Carolina A&T ). This week’s win over Wake Forest was a good place to start, and players like Dwayne Collins, Malcolm Grant and James Dews are talented enough to keep up in the ACC. But no one will believe in the Hurricanes unless they can win some tough ACC games – and do it on the road.

CRYSTAL BALL TIME…

I went 3-for-5 in my first week, including the Georgia Tech “upset.” From here on in, we’ll keep track of overall win/loss record. And if you want to join in, just add on your predictions to my five games of the week.

LAST WEEK’S CORRECT PICKS

DUKE AT GEORGIA TECH

  • My prediction: Georgia Tech by 2
  • Actual result: Georgia Tech by 4

FLORIDA STATE at MARYLAND

  • My prediction: Maryland by 5
  • Actual result: Maryland by 9

VIRGINIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA

  • My prediction: North Carolina by 10
  • Actual result: North Carolina by 14

LAST WEEK’S INCORRECT PICKS

VIRGINIA at N.C. STATE

  • My prediction: N.C. State by 4.
  • Actual result: Virginia by 8

WAKE FOREST at MIAMI

  • My prediction: Wake Forest by 8
  • Actual result: Miami by 1

THIS WEEK’S PREDICTIONS

MARYLAND at WAKE FOREST (Tuesday, 8 p.m., RAYCOM).  Wake Forest rebounds, and Maryland stays moody: Wake Forest by 9

MIAMI at VIRGINIA TECH (Wednesday, 7 p.m.).  Miami realizes what it’s like to play a tough road game, and falls hard: Virginia Tech by 10

NORTH CAROLINA at CLEMSON (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN).  The toughest game to pick of the week. I see UNC eking one out on the road: UNC by 3

GEORGIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN).  My upset of the week comes as the Heels come home from Clemson: Georgia Tech by 2

WAKE FOREST at DUKE (Sunday, 8 p.m., FSN).  Duke finds its 3-point stroke, and its frontcourt scoring: Duke by 6

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 12th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. Other than Kansas students, graduates, former players and all former or current residents of Lawrence, was there anyone in this fine country of ours rooting for the #1 Jayhawks to beat a depleted Tennessee team, a group of kids and a stunned head coach that just dealt with the suspension and/or dismissal of four of its regular rotation players? All of the events that occurred in that two-hour window in Knoxville Sunday was a release of pent-up frustration and anxiety from a tumultuous week in which Tennessee was considered a prime threat to upend favorite Kentucky in the SEC one day and counted out as a SEC contender that must scratch and claw the final two months for an NCAA berth the next. Renaldo Woolridge banking in a three, the Vols maintaining their lead with Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince on the bench with four fouls, the coach’s son Steven taking a critical charge, a miracle Skyler McBee (one of three walk-ons playing substantial minutes) leaning trey that iced the game, and coach Bruce Pearl aiding the Volunteer mascot in waving the orange Tennessee flag while the sounds of Rocky Top reverberated throughout Thompson-Boling Arena summed up what college basketball should be about. Bill Self pointed this out after the game, but there are some moments during a season when a team officially becomes a team instead of a group of individuals. Even though Pearl would gladly reset the timer to New Year’s Eve and prevent four scholarship players from getting in that car, sometimes it takes a catastrophic occurrence that truly tests the mettle of a unit for them to band together and accomplish lofty goals. I think it’s fair to say Tennessee became a team Sunday night.

2. As long as Mike Anderson is employing his Forty Minutes of Hell hellacious press on demoralized opponents, especially on a home floor where his team has won 30 consecutive games, Missouri should never be totally counted out of the Big 12 race. Losing DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence from an Elite 8 squad isn’t easy to overcome, and certainly the ceiling for the Tigers isn’t nearly as high, but the ultra-talented and quick Mizzou backcourt should have enough firepower to carry them to an NCAA berth. Missouri carried an impressive 12-3 record into their Big 12 opener with #10 Kansas State Saturday, yet their overall resume wasn’t incredibly awe-inspiring with their best wins over Old Dominion, Illinois, Georgia and Oregon and opportunities lost in defeats at the hands of Richmond, Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts. The win Saturday was clearly a statement that Missouri will be a contending force in the Big 12 for that #3 spot behind Texas and Kansas. Anderson looks to have a workable combination with experienced seniors J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor (evident by Taylor’s tie-breaking 3 with under a minute to play) making plays in late-game situations, a promising sophomore backcourt duo of Kim English and Marcus Denmon carrying most of the scoring load, and a defensive unit that ranks seventh overall in D efficiency, first in turnovers forced and gives Missouri a fighting chance on any night.

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RTC Live: Florida State @ Maryland

Posted by rtmsf on January 10th, 2010

Welcome to College Park where we at RTC will once again be courtside as the Florida State Seminoles meet up with the Maryland Terrapins. It will be the ACC opener for the Terps, who have not quite lived up to expectations this season. With a senior-duo in the back court, including all-american Greivis Vasquez, and a couple of talented wings, Maryland was expected to be a top 25 team this season. But Gary Williams club is just 1-3 against major conference foes, the only win being against Indiana, and alos has a loss to William & Mary on their resume. Florida State, on the other hand, comes into this one with a 13-2 record, having already beaten Georgia Tech on the road in ACC play. The Noles have length and athleticism for days, but their back court can be suspect at times. There are going to be two keys to watch for tonight: How will FSU’s back court handle the pressure (Maryland has been using a 2-2-1 3/4 press the last month or so) the Terps bring, and will the much smaller Terps (FSU goes 7’0″, 6’9″, 6’9″ across their starting front line) be able to compete in the paint.

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. IV

Posted by jstevrtc on December 16th, 2009

backdoorcuts(3)

Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh. This week the disgruntled fans each pick a new team to root for — and start a friendly competition in the process.

DAVE ZEITLIN: So I know what I want for Chanukah (or, as you guys like to call it, Weird Christmas). I’ve decided I want a new college basketball team to root for.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Penn will always be my No. 1 team and I know better days lie ahead.  But let’s be honest: the only thing my Quakers are competing for this year is whether or not they can become the worst team in Division I (if they aren’t already).  Combine this with the fact that my favorite baseball team is the Mets (don’t say anything, Steve), my favorite football team (the Giants) just gave up approximately 3,500 points in one game (seriously, Steve, be quiet) and neither of my fantasy football teams made the playoffs…and I forget where that sentence was going because I just started crying.  Please, Fake Santa of Chanukah, give me a winning team to root for this holiday season.  Just one.

Here’s my own criteria for picking a new team:  I want the school to be relatively close — as in, driving distance from my home in Philadelphia (sorry, most of the country).  Obviously, the team can’t be any kind of rival of Penn’s (as much as I like Fran Dunphy at Temple).  It can’t be a perennial favorite to win a national championship (that’s no fun) but it also can’t be a team that has no shot of winning it all (rooting for one-mid major is enough).  And even though I’ve followed this conference most of my life, it can’t be any team from the Big East.  (Before going to Penn, I was a big Syracuse fan; I’d feel like an abusive boyfriend going back to them now, but I’d feel like even more of a jerk rooting for one of their rivals.)

So where that does that leave me?  Based on my complex formula, I think I have to go with a middle-of-the-pack ACC school.  And after careful consideration, I realize there’s only one that makes sense.  And the winner is…drumroll please…I don’t hear a drumroll…seriously, give me a drumroll…fine, I guess when you’re writing by yourself and there are no drummers nearby, you’re just not going to get one…Maryland!

Fear the Zeitlin!

Fear the Zeitlin!

I’ll explain more about why I chose the Terps later. But, first, I want to hear who you guys would pick, considering you both root for teams that aren’t making the Big Dance. We can even make this a competition throughout the season. A Chanukah/Christmas competition. Or something.

STEVE MOORE: You may have gotten one of your Weird Christmas wishes when your boy Glen Miller got fired today. Maybe Penn can adopt the Princeton offense (too soon?).

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2009

checkinginon

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A few interesting games in the last week (mostly by those wearing Carolina blue), and the debut of conference play. And yes, I know the ACC lost the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but that has a lot to do with the matchups, and a weak lower tier of the ACC. More on that below. Let’s get right to the rankings:

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Monday, Dec. 7)

1. North Carolina (7-2, 0-0)

PAST: The Tar Heels slide just past Duke this week (barely), despite a tough loss at Kentucky on Saturday. Deon Thompson and Will Graves led a valiant second-half rally for UNC, but a loss in Lexington is nothing to be ashamed of right now. Oh, and there was that up-and-down, 89-82 shootout win over Michigan State. So there’s that.

FUTURE: After a double-dip week like that, UNC deserves a week off, and they’ll get it. The Heels host Presbyterian on Saturday. But another test awaits at Texas on Dec. 19.

2. Duke (7-1, 0-0)

PAST: Don’t go crazy there, Dookies. I know you were No. 1 last week, and losing on the road to a Bo Ryan-coached Wisconsin team isn’t anything to worry about. Heck, just getting back safely from Madison in December is a victory. But you did let St. John’s back in the game on Saturday, and have shown a few chinks in the armor – like the inability to shoot? Duke ranks 10th in the ACC in shooting percentage, shooting just 45%.

FUTURE: Duke does not play at all this week, before facing Gardner-Webb and Gonzaga (at MSG).

3. Georgia Tech (6-1)

PAST: Wins over Siena and USC came by an average of 19.5 points, and the Jackets’ defense continues to impress. With Derrick Favors (2.1 blocks per game), Gani Lawal (10.3 rebounds/game), Tech controls the middle. The perimeter defense ain’t bad either, as teams are shooting less than 25% from beyond the arc against the Wreck.

FUTURE: No games this week for the Jackets, with two cupcakes the week after.

4. Wake Forest (5-2, 0-0)

PAST: The Deacons lost at Purdue, while last week’s No. 4, Clemson, lost at Illinois. No shame in either loss, but Wake’s big win at Gonzaga on Saturday earns the rankings bump. There are not many trips in America tougher than one to Spokane, especially when going cross-country and coming off that loss to Purdue. Wake is holding opponents to just 36% shooting, and Al-Farouq Aminu is averaging more than 10 boards per game.

FUTURE: No games this week, and – in all honesty – no real challenges until 2010.

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RTC Live: Villanova @ Maryland

Posted by nvr1983 on December 6th, 2009

RTCLive
We are back tonight courtside for what might be one of the best early season games of the year with #3 Villanova travelling down to Washington, DC to take on Maryland. Coming into the season, a lot of people expected this to be a huge game, but some of the hype died down after the Terrapins lost back-to-back games in Maui against Cincinnati and Wisconsin. At the time we were down on the Terrapins, but we are willing to forgive them a little for what might have been a little jet-lag (yes, we know the other teams had to travel far except for Chaminade). And it turns out that the Bearcats and the Badgers might have been a little better than advertised coming into the season (ask Coach K about the Badgers). Tonight Gary Williams and his Terrapins have a shot at regaining some respect from the rest of the college basketball universe against Jay Wright‘s Wildcats. A win over the top-ranked team in the Big East would be a big boost for the Terrapins’ chances on Selection Sunday (less than 100 days away now).

While most of the nation’s attention will be focused on the two standout senior guards Greivis Vasquez and Scottie Reynolds, the key to this game might be on the inside. Antonio Pena has filled in the void left by Dante Cunningham, but the Wildcats are very thin on the inside particularly with Mouphtaou Yarou likely out for the season with hepatitis B. That leaves Jay Wright relying on Pena and local Maryland product Maurice Sutton on the inside against a group of Maryland interior players that lacks a big name but is fairly deep with Landon Milbourne, Jordan Williams, and Cliff Tucker in frontcourt. If either Pena or Sutton gets in foul trouble, the Wildcats could be in trouble. One other interesting storyline to watch is Villanova’s 6th man Taylor King, the former Duke McDonald’s All-American who transferred after his freshman year. As you may be aware, the Maryland student body doesn’t exactly like the Blue Devils. Even though he’s no longer at Duke, King would no doubt love to stick it to the Terrapins and their fans who will certainly be ready with plenty of taunts for the former Blue Devil. Be sure to join us for another edition of RTC Live at 7:30 PM.

Update: For those of you who are interested, our correspondent is already there so he will be covering the undercard of the BB&T Classic (George Washington versus Navy).

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ATB: The More Things Change…

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009

atb

The More They Stay the Same… #11 UNC 89, #9 Michigan State 82.  Ok, can we now all just agree that UNC just has Michigan State’s number?  For the fifth straight time, and the third episode within one calendar year, North Carolina made Tom Izzo’s Spartans look like charlatans on the basketball court.  How is this possible?  How can a team like Nevada hang with the Heels a few days ago for most of the game, and a loaded, deep, talented, athletic team like MSU continually get punked and embarrassed by the same squad?  Well, motivation helps.  Ed Davis (22/6) and Larry Drew II (18/6 assts) both had career highs in points, and in watching the game, it seemed as if Carolina could get and make nearly any shot it wanted.  Michigan State, for some reason, seems to think that it can run with Carolina, and as they learned for the third time with the same core of Lucas, Morgan, et al., they cannot.  Why do they try?  The thing about MSU is that they weren’t the second-best team last year, and they surely aren’t this year either — but aren’t we used to this with Izzo’s teams by now?  They typically underachieve in the regular season, only to overachieve in the NCAA Tournament.  The problem is that teams that are routinely blown out do not win national championships.  Granted, Michigan State made a run in this game to get the margin back to a respectable score, but Carolina was never seriously threatened after the first ten minutes of the game.  So what went wrong other than allowing UNC to shoot lights-out again?  How about 2-20 from three (and many of those misses were open looks), a terrible evening from deep for a team that came into this game shooting 37% from distance?  How about allowing point guards Drew and Dexter Strickland to torch the MSU defense for repeated forays to the rim for easy buckets (9-12 FG)?  How about the rough-and-tumble Spartans getting outrebounded (36-34) by the admittedly bigger (but tougher?) Heels?  Honestly, the reason we thought this game would go Carolina’s way was because they were playing at home, but we’re not sure that it would have gone any differently had they played this game on Mars.  Michigan State simply cannot get over on Carolina, and it’s starting to get ridiculous.  At least Raymar Morgan (18/6) looked healthy and played well, right?

Michigan St NCarolina Basketball

ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  We’re deadlocked at 3-3 going into the last day, and yeah, it’s gone exactly as we predicted so far.  Which of course means all five games tomorrow will go crazy — expect all kinds of upset specials.  Seriously, though, we still think it comes down to the BC-Michigan game tomorrow night.  Winner of that one wins the Challenge (our choice: UM).

  • #6 Purdue 69, Wake Forest 58.  Wake played well enough for a half to win this game, but the Deacs don’t have enough offensive threats beyond Al-Farouq Aminu when he has an off game (12/10 on 3-11 FG including 6 TOs) and they turn the ball over like it’s their job.  But we knew that already.  Purdue, on the other hand, is only getting production from their Big Three of Robbie Hummel (11/11 on 3-11 FG), E’Twaun Moore (22/4/3 assts) and JaJuan Johnson (21/9/3 blks) — the rest of the team only scored fifteen points.  That’ll carry the Boilermakers against the lesser teams, especially in Mackey Arena, but we have concerns about when they start playing athletic teams like WFU that also have multiple serious scorers.  Wake played superb defense, holding Purdue to 34% for the game and 1-15 from deep, but their endemic problems with ballhandling and lack of a three-point threat will be problematic all season.
  • Northwestern 65, NC State 53. Northwestern is quickly becoming our second favorite team of this season (behind Portland).  With the injury troubles that they endured to start this season, we would have completely understood if the Wildcats had simply packed it in and hoped for next year.  But they didn’t.  Beating Notre Dame, Iowa State and NC State isn’t exactly equivalent to Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State, as they’ll face in the Big Ten, but the key is that NW is gaining experience with winning and they’re doing it in environments away from the comforts of home.  Tonight Michael Thompson stepped up with 22/4 and Jeremy Nash also chipped in 12/8/4 assts in the win.  The Wildcats could realistically enter Big Ten play at 10-1 by the end of this month.  Good for them.

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Checking In On… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009

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Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

One team continued its dominant start with big wins at the World’s Most Famous Arena. The other struggled to live up to expectations, and did so at a tiny gym in paradise.

That lame attempt at suspense is explained below:

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Monday, Nov. 30)

1. Duke (6-0)

PAST: With solid wins over Arizona State and UConn at the Preseason NIT, the Devils stayed hot to start their season. The UConn game wasn’t exactly pretty, but the defense and rebounding displayed by the Dookies are a good sign going into the meat of the schedule..

FUTURE: The Devils take their first actual road trip on Wednesday when they face Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Outside of that, their next real test doesn’t really come until a return to MSG on Dec. 19 to face Gonzaga.

2. North Carolina (6-1)

PAST: The Heels continue to be ho-hum in their wins, including Roy Williams’ 600th Sunday night against Nevada…

FUTURE: …but they don’t have room to be ho-hum anymore. UNC hosts Michigan State Tuesday night in the season’s first big game (more below), and then heads to Lexington to face Kentucky on Saturday.

3. Georgia Tech (4-1)

PAST: The Jackets handled Mercer in their only game this week.

FUTURE: Siena comes calling Wednesday in an interesting matchup. It should be one Tech can handle pretty easily, as should Saturday’s date with USC.

4. Clemson (6-1)

PAST: The Tigers lost to Texas A&M, but balanced that with a solid win over Butler in the 76 Classic. Senior David Potter is the only Tiger near the top of any ACC stat list, shooting 60% from beyond the arc.

FUTURE: Two interesting home games this week for the Tigers, as they host Illinois Wednesday and in-state rival South Carolina on Saturday.

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ATB: Just Call Him Oscar…

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2009

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Story of the Night.  Evan Turner’s Date With History.  It’s only a matter of time.  So long as Evan Turner stays healthy this year, he should have the new record for triple-doubles in a single season by around New Year’s Eve.  He’s already got two in November, which puts him in select company of 33 others players in the entire history of the NCAA to have multiple trip-dubs in one season.  The record is four, held by Stephane Lasme (UMass), Jason Kidd (Cal), Brian Shaw (UCSB) and Michael Anderson (Drexel).  We should go ahead and dust off the record book because Turner is on pace to not only beat this record, but obliterate it.  With his 16/10/11 asst night in an 84-64 win over Lipscomb, he’s now averaging an absurd 21/14/7 apg over five games this season.  He’s really not that far from approaching an Oscar Robertson-esque season-long triple-double average, but suffice it to say that we’re calling the over/under on this year’s total at 10.  The mere fact that you’re thinking about this — really thinking about this! – should give you pause as to the ridiculousness of how well Turner is playing.  If Ohio State continues to hang around the top 10-15 in America this year, does anyone else stand a chance at NPOY?

Upset of the Night.  Morgan State 97, Arkansas 94.  We guess that the Pac-10 and SEC are simply going to trade spots in this section for the rest of the nonconference season.  Arkansas, with several really good players in their lineup (Michael Washington, Rotnei Clarke, Marshon Powell), dropped a barnburner of a game to a nonconference foe for the first time in a long time (45 games).  Morgan State’s Reggie Holmes went off for 34/5/4 stls, but there’s really no excuse for a loss like this for a team like Arkansas.  Maybe it was something we saw in the body language of John Pelphrey’s players last week in St. Louis, but we feel like there are fundamental problems on this team beyond basic basketball skills. 

Co-Upset 0f the NightSeattle 77, Utah 74.  This is nothing short of amazing, as Cameron Dollar’s Seattle club is playing its first full season as a member of D1, and to get a win on the road in a fairly tough environment as that at Utah is very impressive.  Seattle’s Charles Garcia blew up for 24/8 and is it too early to tell Lorenzo Romar to start looking over his shoulder in the Emerald City?  The Redhawks are already 3-2 this season with wins over Fresno State and Weber State in addition to the Utes.

Maui Invitational.

  • Cincinnati 69, #22 Maryland 57.  Cincinnati is looking good.  Yancy Gates dominated the inside, dropping 17/13 on the Maryland frontline, who often looked confused about where to be and what to do during this game — UC was also +15 on the boards.  Greivis Vasquez finally broke through for double-figure points (19), but he shot poorly (5-17, 0-5 from three) and his percentage for the year is downright icy (30%).  The Bearcats will take one of the other surprises of the young season in Gonzaga tomorrow night in the title game. 

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ATB: Feast Week Debuts

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2009

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Game of the NightPurdue 73, Tennessee 72.  This game between two of the best teams in the Big Ten and SEC was a back-and-forth affair that predictably came down to the final possession.  It was that final possession, however, that exhibited why we tend to not believe in Bruce Pearl’s Vols as a true contender while giving Purdue much more credit.  After Purdue’s Kelsey Barlow bricked two FTs that would have given the Boilermakers a three-point lead with 17 seconds remaining, UT’s Bobby Maze dribbled down and found career 32% three-point shooter Wayne Chism at the top of the key… for a three?  Um, guys, all you need is a two!  Penetrate the lane and put it on the rim!  It’s not that Chism couldn’t have made the shot — he was in fact having a great game with 24/6 — but it wasn’t a high-percentage shot, and the Vol players need to know that.  It’s that kind of shoddy decisionmaking (and defense) that we’ve routinely seen out of these Vols that makes us have our doubts.  Purdue gutted out this one behind Robbie Hummel’s 20/7 and E’Twaun Moore’s 22/3/3 assts, and Matt Painter’s team will go home with the trophy from the Paradise Jam this year.

Maui Invitational.

  • Gonzaga 76, Colorado 72. The Zags’ heads were clearly still on the mainland tonight as they came out very sluggish and allowed Colorado to build a double-digit lead and shoot 53% from the floor before rallying back to take a late lead and win a first-round Maui tilt against Colorado.  Steven Gray (27/4) and Matt Bouldin (25/4/4 assts) led the way for Gonzaga, while Cory Higgins (19/6) led the charge for the Buffs.
  • Wisconsin 65, Arizona 61.  Other than UT-Purdue, this was the next best game of the day, and for a while, it appeared that Sean Miller’s young Arizona team might get a confidence-inspiring win after getting off to a horrific start (down 16-2) in this game.  In a typically ugly fashion, Wisconsin defended all over the place, but Arizona freshman Derrick Williams (25/8) kept making big plays on the interior to keep UA in the game.  Is it possible that Arizona, with all their personnel losses, is one of the best teams in the Pac-10 (answer: yes)?
  • #22 Maryland 79, Chaminade 51.  Is something wrong with Greivis Vasquez?  For the fourth straight game this season, the electrifying guard put up only single-figure points (6/5 assts).  Having not seen his games, it’s possible that he is eschewing individual scoring to set up his teammates (such as Sean Mosley, who had 19/8), but we’re intrigued at this point to see what he does against Cincinnati tomorrow.
  • Cincinnati 67, #24 Vanderbilt 58.  This is the Cincy team that everyone was talking about leading up to the season, as the tougher Bearcats dominated Vandy on the glass (45-27) and took residence in their jerseys the rest of the time, holding Vandy to a paltry 28% from the field.  In an ugly game, Yancy Gates led the way with 16/10, and hyped super-recruit Lance Stephenson contributed 8/5.

Upset of the Night (aka Pac-10 Loser of the Night)Montana 68, Oregon 55.  When oh when will the embarrassments for the Pac-10 end?  Sacramento State, Loyola Marymount, Cal State Fullerton… now add Montana to the list.  Look, we know that Montana is a favorite in the Big Sky, but this is Oregon’s McArthur Court, a place that used to be a difficult venue for opposing teams — especially those from mid-major conferences — to play.  The Grizzlies’ star, Anthony Johnson, lived at the line for 20/4/3 assts as the league picked up its twelfth loss of the early season already.  Montana shot 51% while Oregon foundered in the low 30s… at home.  Things may not get better for this league until they start playing each other in January (it doesn’t look so bad because not everyone can lose). 

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