Big 12 Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 9th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC Correspondent for the Big 12 Conference. With tournament action set to tip from Kansas City on Thursday, get set with RTC’s postseason preview and regular season recap.

Postseason Preview

  • Headed into the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas State is widely considered the hottest team in the conference and is looking square in the face of a semifinal matchup against the Kansas Jayhawks that could be the game of the tournament.   That of course assumes the Wildcats get past potential quarterfinal opponent Colorado, who recorded a regular season sweep of Kansas State.
  • On the bottom half of the bracket, the Longhorns might have to take another shot from Baylor, TexasA&M and/or Missouri in order to play on Saturday.  The Longhorns are a collective 5-0 against these teams during the regular season and all four teams, including Texas, are playing to improve their tourney seed.
  • The reality is that the NCAA Tournament impacts some, but really doesn’t mean much to others.  Barring a minor miracle, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, OklahomaState and Iowa State are teams whose fans will be done following this weekend, unless you consider the NIT or CBI worth watching.
  • The Kansas Jayhawks are a lock for a #1 seed and even a quarterfinal upset wouldn’t change that.  The Jayhawks aren’t likely to pack up and leave without a fight, but the results this weekend just aren’t that important for anything more than bragging rights.
  • Baylor and Nebraska are two teams that need a deep run to jump back on the bubble and the two teams that cannot afford a first or even second round loss if they want to be considered.  A semifinal run by either and they can start making their case to the committee.
  • For the rest, it’s playing for seed.  Colorado probably needs to avoid a first round upset, but beyond that, wins by the Buffs, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas and Kansas State all serve as arguments for a higher seed in the NCAA tournament.  For Texas, it’s probably a two-seed if they play well, a three if they do not.  A&M probably falls in the 4-6 range.  Missouri probably goes as high as a #6 and as low as a #10.  Colorado is looking at something in the 10-12 range while Kansas State could jump quite a bit if they win the tournament and possibly work their way back to a #5 or six seed looking most likely at this point.
  • The Big 12 Tournament has different meanings for different teams, but it’s a weekend that definitely holds March ramifications for many, considering the parity across college basketball in 2010-2011.

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Around The Blogosphere: March 7, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on March 7th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #1 Ohio State 93, #10 Wisconsin 65: “Jon Diebler continued his torrid three point shooting pace, dropping in 27 points on 8/10 FG and 7/8 3FG shooting as the Buckeyes put a thorough 93-65 beatdown on Bo’s Badgers this afternoon in Value City Arena. Diebler’s unconscious effort on Senior Day was complimented by Jared Sullinger’s 22 points and eight rips, William Buford’s 18 and David Lighty’s 13.” (Eleven Warriors)
  • #2 Kansas 70, #21 Missouri 66: “In the end, a huge win for Kansas. Turned the ball over way too much but with a big first half from the Morri and a huge second half from Thomas Robinson, the Jayhawks were able give the Tigers their only loss at Paige Mizzou Arena this season.” (Rock Chalk Talk: Part 1 and Part 2; Rock M Nation: Recap)
  • #11 UNC 81, #4 Duke 67: “In the end, the game came down to two simple facts. Duke came to Chapel Hill and played the same game they had a month earlier – heavy scoring from Nolan Smith and Seth Curry, minimal offense from Kyle Singer and no production from the rest of the team. Carolina played a much superior game though, and won easily.” (Carolina March: Recap and Analysis)
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Morning Five: 03.02.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2011

  1. The biggest news of Tuesday was undoubtedly the loss of BYU’s Brandon Davies, a sophomore forward who was banging his way to 11/6 nightly, picking up scraps left over from Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery, the two leading scorers.  Davies allegedly broke the school’s honor code, and he was suspended for the rest of the season.  The Cougars are tracking toward a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but they’ll need to prove that they can play just as well without Davies in the lineup as they have with him to satisfy the NCAA Selection Committee.  Forward Noah Hartsock is expected to move into Davies’ vacated center position, but Hartsock’s power forward spot will need to be filled by a less experienced player such as Kyle Collinsworth or Charles Abouo.  Very tough break for Dave Rose and the BYU program in its best season in a generation.
  2. In other news involving personnel losses (or non-losses), UNC backup guard Reggie Bullock will miss the remainder of the season with a torn lateral meniscus that he suffered during the weekend’s Maryland game.  This is not a huge loss for the Heels, as Bullock was only contributing 6/3 in about fifteen minutes per game this season, but he was third on the team in three-pointers made (29) and this will make Roy Williams’ team a little more suspect against zone defenses the rest of the year.  In much better news, Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen had his right wrist x-rayed after banging it in Monday night’s game against Texas, and although it was sore and swollen, there is no broken bone.  He is expected to play this coming weekend in Senior Day festivities at Bramlage Coliseum against Iowa State.
  3. Luke Winn gives us his top eight potential bid stealers for the next two weeks — teams who could make strong runs through their conference tournaments to knock someone like Virginia Tech or Michigan off the ‘last four in’ line.  Winn’s list is a good one, but we’d perhaps add a few more names to the discussion: Washington State (Pac-10), Alabama (SEC), San Francisco (WCC) and any number of teams from Conference USA.
  4. Remember former Binghamton guard DJ Rivera, the former America East star whom coaches refused to vote for POY in 2009 even though he was clearly the best player in that league?  Oh, he also was partially responsible for the implosion of the Binghamton program when he was arrested in the fall of 2009 for swiping a debit card and subsequently using it to purchase snacks, cigars and a large-screen television before getting caught.  His arrest along with Tiki Mayben’s commensurate arrest for selling crack cocaine resulted in several players getting kicked off the team and a national scandal that the school is still recovering from.  Why is this relevant now?  On Monday, Rivera pleaded guilty to the crime — fourth degree criminal possession of stolen property — and he will face nine months’ probation, which, if he keeps his nose clean, will allow him to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor and pursue a basketball career overseas.  This plea marks the final chapter in the scandal — BU has gone 20-40 since the program was destroyed that summer.
  5. Maybe these guys should talk to our friends at HSAC so as to learn how to properly perform an interesting study.  Virginia Tech, fresh off three straight years on the wrong side of the bubble, commissioned statisticians at the College of Science to determine what the biases are that go into making bubble selections into the NCAA Tournament.  Their conclusion: a team’s RPI, its strength of schedule, and its historical pedigree factor prominently into successful bids.  In other words, everything you already knew.  Across campus, no doubt, Hokie researchers have recently proven that water is indeed wet and sunshine comprises the majority of daylight.  Here’s a memo to Seth Greenberg: how about instead of hanging your hat on a few big-time wins every season, you beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, especially at home.
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ATB: Another Longhorn Collapse In Progress…

Posted by rtmsf on March 1st, 2011

The Lede.  The last Big Monday of the 2010-11 season was short on games, but heavy on lessons learned.  So what did we learn, exactly?  That one team left for dead in the Big 12 race at midseason is completely back behind a guy playing with a giant chip on his shoulder; that another team who looked like a #1 seed lock two weeks ago is dangerously close to another epic collapse; that a Big East team whom nobody had much faith in (ourselves included) is turning heads on its way to a top two seed in the NCAA Tournament; and that another Big East team that looked Final Four-caliber in January is limping into the postseason with a couple of bloody appendages.  In other words, what we thought we knew we didn’t actually know, and what we think we now know probably isn’t what we know either — all of this is just a convoluted way of saying that, once again, it’s March.


With Digger Young & Old Watching, ND Crushed It From Deep (CT/M. Cashore)

Your Watercooler MomentThe Longhorn Collapse Came Later Than Usual This Year.  We got concerned when the Horns gave up 70 points at Nebraska a little over a week ago; we tried to ignore it when they gave up a 58-point half over the weekend at Colorado.  But to drop a game at home against a team that couldn’t beat anybody a few weeks ago proves that we need to stand up and take notice.  Rick Barnes’ team is going through another one of his patented collapses — it just took longer this year for it to manifest itself.  With its third loss in four games, Texas is beginning to resemble the Horns of the last two vintages, both of whom looked great at midseason only to fall apart as the days grew longer and the calendar turned to March.  In tonight’s game against surging Kansas State, it was once again the Longhorn defense, so spectacular for most of the season, that failed.  The Horns gave up 50% shooting to the Wildcats, the first time all season that a team has reached that mark for the game, and K-State’s 1.15 points per possession is the second-best against UT all season (Colorado’s 1.17 PPP two days ago was the best).  Much has been written already about how Jordan Hamilton cannot hit a shot right now, and that much is true (25.9% in the last three losses), but Rick Barnes knows that it’s his defense that is abandoning him.  Whether that’s a function of players like Hamilton, Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph looking forward to pay-for-play, it’s difficult to say, but without question the tight chemistry that this team showed in dominating the Big 12 defensively during January and most of February is now gone.  As for K-State, Frank Martin has done an excellent job in getting his Wildcats back into the hunt in both the Big 12 and the postseason conversation.  Having now won eight of ten Big 12 games after a miserable 1-4 start, K-State is trending quickly as one of the teams nobody will want to see opposite them as a #4/#5 seed in two weeks.

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. II Irish Eyes Smile to the Tune of Twenty Threes.  If you predicted that the top four teams in the 2010-11 Big East regular season would be Pitt (ok), Notre Dame (what?), Louisville (huh?) and St. John’s (no way!), give yourself a one-way ticket to Vegas because you are clearly some kind of expert soothsayer.  Yet that’s where we stand on the last Big Monday of the season after Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish nailed a school-record twenty threes in an explosive performance to dominate Villanova tonight, 93-72.  Notre Dame star Ben Hansbrough hit for 30/10 assts on 7-10 shooting from deep, while Tim Abromaitis went for 30/4/4 assts while shooting 9-13 from deep.  For the pair of seniors who have led Notre Dame to a surprisingly exceptional season causing Irish fans to think Final Four, it was a capstone performance for a season that has wildly exceeded all reasonable expectations.  The question is whether the Irish are in fact a serious threat to make a run to Houston, and we still hesitate to place this team on the top tier because of its sometimes-questionable defense.  But with shooters like Mike Brey has at his disposal (both Hansbrough and Abromaitis are 40%+ guys) and an ability to dictate pace with less disciplined teams, the Irish are going to be a very tough out both in the Big East and NCAA Tournaments later this month.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2011

Owen Kemp of Rock Chalk Talk and SB Nation Kansas City is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

A Look Back

This week in the Big 12 featured another upset on top along with a fair amount of jockeying in the middle as the tournament bubble becomes more and more crowded. Monday night, the Kansas Jayhawks squared off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in their last Big Monday appearance.  The news of the day surrounding the Jayhawks was the suspension of junior starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor.  Taylor remains with the team and the violation is viewed as minor, but the fact that Kansas is dealing with another player missing time down the stretch is a bit of a concern.  As for the game on the court, Kansas didn’t skip a beat and Taylor’s replacement, Elijah Johnson, scored 15 points including a perfect 4-4 performance from beyond the arc.

Tuesday featured the Iowa State Cyclones heading on the road to take on the Longhorns.  The game was never really in doubt, as Texas eventually won by 23 and got back on track following the loss to Nebraska.

Wednesday was a day that had the potential to separate those on the bubble and those slowly falling off.  Missouri faced off against Baylor in a game the Bears could have used in a big way.  However, the impressive run of the Tigers in Columbia continues and after keeping it close for a time Baylor fell apart.  For Mizzou, it was an 18-point win to move the Tigers into fourth place in the Big 12 standings.

Elsewhere, Colorado kept their slim hopes alive with a close win over Texas Tech in Lubbock.  The three-point road win moved the Buffaloes to 6-7 in the conference and 17-11 overall and while the win on its own wasn’t enough to put Colorado back in the conversation, what they would accomplish later in the week was.

The big matchup on the night featured a trip by the Kansas State Wildcats into Lincoln where Nebraska and Kansas State were both battling for more stable footing.  The Wildcats entered the game considered a team in pretty good position as far as a tournament bid, but Doc Sadler’s Husker team had a chance to boost their hopes in a big way with a win.  The game was close throughout but the Huskers could never get enough consistency on the offensive end as Kansas State would win by four.

Rounding out the Wednesday action was an easy win by Texas A&M over Oklahoma in College Station.  The Aggies have quietly separated themselves in the three spot in the league, but with two tough late season tests, Kansas State and Missouri could easily threaten that.

Saturday is always the premier day of the week in the Big 12, and just like last Saturday, the Texas Longhorns fell in an upset on the road.  Despite jumping out to a 22-point lead, the Longhorns couldn’t hold off a monster day from guard Alec Burks as Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes made their most convincing argument for the tournament bubble in a win.  As for the loss, it means that the Longhorns now sit tied with the Kansas Jayhawks on top of the league as Kansas handled Oklahoma on the road and both teams sit 12-2.

Outside of the Texas upset, there were two more minor upsets in the league when Texas A&M lost to Baylor in Waco and the Missouri Tigers fell in Manhattan.  The win by Kansas State doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as Frank Martin’s team is playing very well of late and looks like a team recovering from rock bottom in early January.

The three upsets mean that the three through seven spots in the conference are separated by just two games and all seven teams, including Colorado and Baylor, now have a very real opportunity to make a late push for another large Big 12 representation in the NCAA Tournament.

Power Rankings

Quick Disclaimer: Power rankings are not meant to be a poll.  They are meant to reflect who is playing the best basketball at a given time.

 1. Kansas (27-2, 12-2) – Kansas continues to be extremely efficient offensively and the door is now reopened for a seventh straight conference title.

2. Texas (24-5, 12-2) Texas loses for the second consecutive Saturday against a team in the league with a below .500 record.  The Longhorns have a few chinks in the armor of late, especially on the offensive end, but they still control their own destiny in terms of winning the league.

3. Kansas State (20-9, 8-6) One month ago, the Wildcats looked like they could very easily find themselves in the NIT.  In the last month, Jacob Pullen has started to play like the POY candidate that many expected and while Kansas State was probably overrated to start the year, they have fought their way back to reality and that puts them as a pretty good team that can make some noise in March.

4. Texas A&M (22-6, 9-5) – A&M has been flying under the radar of late and at the moment, they hold the third position in the standings, giving them that all important first day bye.  Overall though, they haven’t been as impressive as some so it drops them down a bit in the power rankings.

5. Missouri (22-7, 8-6) – Can a team win the tourney when they have been so bad away from home all year?  Honestly, Missouri does seem to sneak up on people in March so they are tough to count out, but the difference between at home and on the road is staggering.

6. Colorado (18-11, 7-7) – Colorado went from a team looking to be down for the count to a team firmly on the bubble with what amounts to a fairly impressive resume.

7. Baylor (18-10, 7-7) – Baylor continues to be as up and down as ever.  The win over Texas A&M keeps them in the hunt, but the team is definitely at risk of going from Elite 8 to NIT.

8. Nebraska (18-10, 6-8) – The loss to Kansas State is one that can be lived with, but losing to Iowa State all but ruins the Huskers hopes for a tournament bid.

9. Oklahoma State (17-11, 5-9) The Cowboys had a strong non-conference season, but they haven’t put together the conference resume to make a play.  The good news is that of the bottom four teams, the Cowboys might have the brightest future.

10. Texas Tech (12-17, 4-10) Tech didn’t win but they were close in both contests.  That’s just enough to keep them ahead of Oklahoma.  It’s still fairly amazing that Pat Knight’s name rarely comes up in any discussion of coaches on the hot seat.

11. Oklahoma (12-16, 4-10) – Another week, another two losses.  The common theme when you look at the two teams at the bottom of the Big 12 is a complete lack of depth.  The good news is that both OU and ISU look to have pieces in place to improve.

12. Iowa State (15-14, 2-12) – The Cyclones snag a second win this week and send the Huskers limping to the Big 10.

A Look Ahead

This week is HUGE for the Big 12, starting with the two teams battling it out up top.   The Texas Longhorns have games against red-hot Kansas State and a trip to Baylor remaining on the schedule.  After two consecutive Saturday losses, the confidence isn’t as high in Austin and a possible one-seed and the Big 12 title are very much at stake.

Meanwhile, the biggest competition for Texas, the Kansas Jayhawks, have two pretty tough matchups themselves.  First off the Texas A&M Aggies head into Lawrence for senior night where Kansas hasn’t lost in a very long time. The game that could be the do-or-die moment will come next Saturday when Kansas heads into Columbia where Missouri is a different team and the Tigers will be fired up as they look to keep their bitter rival from winning or sharing the league for a seventh straight season.

Tuesday night features a winnable game and really a must-win game for current bubble team Baylor.  The Bears head on the road to Stillwater and need to get a win over the Cowboys.

Wednesday night is huge for the Colorado Buffaloes as they head on the road to Ames in a game that could secure a .500 conference record.  Like Baylor, this is a must win for the Buffaloes as they currently sit on the bubble with the chance to close out strong.

Saturday, the league wraps up the regular season with Texas taking on Baylor and Kansas and Missouri locking horns, though a Nebraska/Colorado tilt could be just as big in the overall conference picture heading into March.

It’s been an incredibly balanced and unpredictable year across the Big 12 and the final week has storylines building for multiple teams.  Now it’s just a matter of who rises to the challenge.

Player of the Year Watch: One week left and the preseason pick has surged back to the front of the pack, a darkhorse candidate puts his name back in the mix and the two players on teams battling it out at the top continue to put forth a strong argument.

Marcus Morris, Kansas – (19 PPG, 7.6 RPG): Morris is one of the most efficient offensive players in the country and he has the chance to lead his team to a seventh consecutive league title and a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament.

  1. Jacob Pullen, Kansas State – (21.8 PPG, 3.4 APG): Pullen is coming on strong at just the right time and might mean more to his team of late than anyone in the league.  If voting were today, Pullen would have to like his chances. How much should voters penalize him for his team’s slow start?
  2. Jordan Hamilton – (18 PPG, 7.9 RPG): Hamilton shoots just 7-24 in a loss to Colorado.  The game is another signal that as Jordan Hamilton goes offensively, so goes the fate of the entire Longhorn attack.
  3. Alec Burks, Colorado – (20.3 PPG): Burks is an impressive offensive player and without him, Colorado isn’t even close to the bubble.  He’s a big time talent and led his team to a big time win over #5 Texas.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.28.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 28th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Can you believe March begins tomorrow? This is the final week of the regular season and a lot of mid-major conference tournaments begin over the next few days, as well. Tonight we kick the week off with three NCAA definites and a fourth likely headed for the Big Dance. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#14 Villanova @ #9 Notre Dame – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

A Few Weeks Ago, Wright's Squad Looked Focused and Sharp, But It Appears Lately As If a Certain Ennui Has Arisen

The Wildcats are limping toward the finish line yet again, losers in four of their last six games, including two straight home defeats this past week. Villanova is actually a very solid 7-3 on the road but they’ll have to turn things around quickly in order to win at Purcell Pavilion, a place where Notre Dame is 16-0 this season.

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BGTD: Early Afternoon Games Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on February 26th, 2011

The only question on a day like today after the early flight of games is…how’s the bubble? The biggest worry for bubble teams is not necessarily racking up good wins late in the year, because the schedule is, of course, already set. What you don’t want to do is give the selection committee something negative on which to hang their hat so they can leave you out. In other words, don’t play yourself out of the Tournament. So far today…

  • Let there be no doubt about Kansas State. They’ve already done enough to get in, but if you’re a bubble team you still don’t want to trip up late and drop games at home. The Wildcats, knowing that they’re in, could have come out complacent in an early game today against Missouri and  just gone through the motions. No, sir. The raves will pile up for Jacob Pullen (24 points on 6-10 and 4-4 from three) and Curtis Kelly (15/6 on 7-9), and with good reason. Pullen’s vocal leadership late in the season has been a revelation for KSU, but let’s give some juice to the Kansas State bench today, chipping in 29 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists. And look at the unselfishness on display. The Wildcats hit 28 shots…off of 23 assists!
  • For a team playing themselves out of The Dance, look no further than VCU. A few weeks ago all the talk was about how the CAA might get two or three teams in, with VCU an obvious choice. Over the past two weeks, all the Rams have done is drop four of five, including today’s senior day game against Colonial sixth-placers James Madison (72-69). No disrespect to the Dukes, because you don’t win 21 games (so far) without being a solid squad, especially in a rapidly improving conference. But despite NCAA selectors confirming that the “last 10 games” criteria isn’t considered, bubble teams that run into late losing streaks tend to wind up on the outside looking in on post-selection Monday. Barring a CAA Tournament title, you’ve got to figure that VCU is done.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.26-02.27

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 25th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We are now only about two weeks away from Selection Sunday. Teams are locking up bids and others are hurting their chances down the stretch. It’s another big weekend in the college hoops world, headlined by a top ten battle in the Mountain West. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#20 Syracuse @ #11 Georgetown – 12 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

Coach Thompson and the Hoyas Will Likely Be Without Their Most Important Player on Saturday

The Orange will look to avenge another home defeat by winning on the road, this time in Washington, D.C. Here’s a quirky fact for you: Syracuse has lost to all three of its repeat opponents (Georgetown, Villanova and Seton Hall) at the Carrier Dome but a win on Saturday would give them wins in the home buildings of all three teams. That has become more likely in this one, after Chris Wright broke his hand in Wednesday’s loss to Cincinnati. As a talented senior point guard, Wright is Georgetown’s most indispensible player. He doesn’t wow you with his shooting but he passes the ball well and does an excellent job of running John Thompson III’s complex offensive sets.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.23.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 23rd, 2011


***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

An interesting non-conference matchup and a huge bubble battle in the Big 12 lead the way tonight. Four other bubble teams will also be in search of a marquee win against ranked opponents. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#23 Temple @ #2 Duke – 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

We Don't Expect Randall To Be In the Lineup for Temple, But Then Again, This Is Duke In Prime Time

The visiting Owls will be short a couple of important bodies tonight when they head to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a late season non-conference tilt with Duke. Starting center Michael Eric is out for the season while fellow starter Scootie Randall likely won’t play after injuring his foot recently. Temple has won eight straight games entering tonight’s contest, however, although most of those have been against the bottom of the Atlantic 10. Duke is also hot, winners of six straight and 10 of 11 dating back to mid-January.

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ATB: A Messy Prez Day Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2011

The Lede.  What a wild, wild President’s Day weekend it was.  The second-, third-, and fourth-ranked teams all took a loss over the weekend to join #1 Kansas  from the previous Monday night, the first time that such a thing had happened in a little over seven years.  BracketBusters was in full effect across the land, and although there were some interesting games during the event, only a couple of teams actually helped themselves.  Over the three days, we saw RTCs ranging from relaxed ambivalence to firecracker intensity, another bizarre diatribe from Jim Boeheim, and a number of great games befitting the time of the season where so much is on the line.  Let’s jump in…

Note: For our BGTD coverage from Saturday, please see these three posts examining the early games, the late afternoon/evening games, and the BracketBuster games.

No, That's Not the Actual Ref Screaming Amidst the Mayhem... (AP/N. Harnik)

Your Watercooler Moment1, 2, 3, 4… The last time that the top four teams in the national polls lost in the same week of action, Barack Obama was an unknown state senator in Illinois and Saddam Hussein was hiding in a hole in somebody’s backyard.  It was November 2003, and the names Bieber, Gaga and Twitter had no meaning to anybody yet, but UConn, Duke, Michigan State and Arizona each dropped a game over Thanksgiving week that year and the result was a significant re-ordering of the poll.  The big difference this time around is that we’re two weeks from the end of the season as opposed to two weeks from the start, so the likelihood of four established teams dropping games over the same week was far more unlikely.  So what happened, exactly?

We already knew that #1 Kansas lost to K-State in rough-and-tumble fashion last Monday.  But the next three teams waited until the weekend to join the polling bloodbath. It began on Saturday with the first game of the day — Steve Lavin’s rejuvenated and tough-as-nails St. John’s program took down #4 Pittsburgh on the back of Dwight Hardy’s 19 points and his tap dance routine along the baseline to win the game.  It was the cherry on top of the sundae in a season of breakthroughs for the Red Storm program, and as you can see below, Madison Square Garden has become something more than just the place where Amare and (now) Melo play.

A little later Saturday afternoon, #2 Texas was in trouble at Nebraska late when its vaunted defense and some brain-farts on the part of the Huskers led to a ridiculous 12-1 in a span of thirty-four seconds to tie the game in the final minute, 65-all.  What appeared to be a major meltdown in Lincoln, though, turned to bedlam as Doc Sadler’s team regained its composure enough to hit their FTs down the stretch and notch possibly their biggest win in years.  UT is more than its individuals, but when Jordan Hamilton struggles as he did on Saturday (3-16 FG), the Horns have trouble putting enough points on the board against quality teams.  With the win, Nebraska has vaulted itself back onto the bubble — with a favorable schedule down the stretch, the Huskers could potentially get back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in thirteen seasons.  Nice RTC, fellas.

On Sunday it was Ohio State’s turn to again do battle with a Big Ten road crowd and team dead set on knocking off the much-hyped Buckeyes.  Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore ensured that the home crowd got what they paid for, as the senior guard went Kemba/Jimmer on the Big Ten leaders, scoring in just about every possible way en route to a superb 38/4/5 asst afternoon on 13-18 shooting.  His 13-point stretch over the last three-plus minutes of the first half was as impressive an offensive display as we’ve seen all season, punctuated by an acrobatic circus shot layup (see below) that told the viewers that this was going to be his game.  Talk has increased about Purdue as a legitimate Final Four contender after wins over OSU and Wisconsin last week, but the Boilermakers are an excellent home team.  We’re not as sold on Matt Painter’s team outside the friendly confines of Mackey Arena.

There you have it.  Three of the top four losing over the weekend, and nobody having a clue as to how to rank the top six today.  The AP Poll had six different teams receiving #1 votes, while the ESPN/Coaches had five.  Even the RTC poll, consisting of only six voters, had four different teams ranked at the top.  The takeaway from this weekend, and really, much of the season, is that there are a bunch of really good teams but certainly no great ones.  The NCAA Tournament could look a lot more like the 1997 (Arizona), 2003 (Syracuse), or 2006 (Florida) versions given this season’s continuing and obvious level of parity.

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. IIAnother Diatribe From Jim Boeheim.  Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim must really be frustrated with his team this season.  The smiles and self-knowing mockery that he engaged with the media last season appears to have migrated south with the rest of the snowbirds.  After tonight’s win (note we said “win”) at Villanova, Boeheim again lashed out at the media for its stupid questions and representations about his team. Mike Miller at MSNBC has the goods here (via Soft Pretzel Logic), and we’re a little bit at a loss ourselves as to why Boeheim is acting like such a prima donna lately.  With respect to the questions about “toughening” up one’s team, he can choose to not believe in such a thing but we dare say that he probably does.  Most coaches who have been doing this for as long as he has would probably believe there’s real team-building value in gutting out close wins ten times even if you end up losing a similarly-situated game in the postseason.  We weren’t at the presser in Philadelphia tonight, but it sounded like someone arguing for the sake of being argumentative.  Lighten up, Jim — the university pays you a LOT of money to answer a few minutes of questions after each game, not to berate people and make them feel stupid for doing their jobs.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

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