Set Your TiVo: 01.19.12

Posted by bmulvihill on January 19th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

More great conference action tonight as one team looks to prevent history from repeating and repeating and repeating.

Festus Ezeli has Vanderbilt back on track

Vanderbilt at Alabama – 7:00PM EST on ESPN2 HD (****)

  • Vanderbilt is a different team with Festus Ezeli on the court. The Commodores are 5-3 without Ezeli and 8-1 with him. While the schedule was also more difficult when he was injured, his impact on both the offense and defense is undeniable. Keep a close eye on how he manages the interior against Alabama’s JaMychal Green.  Green lit up the Commodores for 23 points last year in a losing effort. Vanderbilt has certainly torn through its first three SEC opponents this year, shooting 47% from three and almost 55% from two. Alabama and its top-five defense will present very difficult obstacle for Kevin Stallings’ team particularly on the Crimson Tide’s home court. A key factor in this game will be Vanderbilt’s ability to get second chance points on missed shots. Alabama’s field goal defense is so strong, especially against the three, that the Commodores can easily go one and done and shoot themselves out of this game.
  • Alabama is only allowing teams to shoot 25.7% from three-point land. With Vanderbilt’s bread and butter being the long ball, this sets up for very interesting situation on the perimeter when Alabama is on defense.  Give the edge to Alabama as they have only allowed two opponents to shoot over 50% eFG so far this season. The Commodores shoot 42% of their field goal attempts from downtown. Look to see how Vanderbilt adjusts their offense against such tough perimeter defense.
  • This game sets up as another offense versus defense match-up. However, the key may actually be on the offensive boards. Neither team is particularly fantastic on the defensive glass and offensive rebounding is a key factor in the offensive efficiency of both teams.  The team with more second chance points should win this game.
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Set Your TiVo: 01.13-01.15

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 13th, 2012

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

A couple of Mountain West battles highlight Saturday’s action but the big one is late Sunday afternoon in the Big Ten.

#14 Connecticut @ Notre Dame – 11:00 AM EST Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

  • Led by Andre Drummond’s 20/11 on 9-11 FG, Connecticut got back on track by defeating West Virginia on Monday night. To win on the road, the Huskies will need quality efforts from most of their roster. That starts with Shabazz Napier protecting the basketball. Jim Calhoun’s sophomore point guard sets the tone for this team, good or bad. Napier (and UConn as a whole) has struggled with turnovers, especially in Big East play. On the road against a team looking to make its mark in the middle of the conference, the Huskies have to do a better job handing the ball if they are to win this one. The more possessions UConn can earn by using its strong rebounding advantage while minimizing turnovers, the more opportunities there will be for talented players such as Drummond, Jeremy Lamb (25 points vs. WVU) and Ryan Boatright to score.

    Can Napier Step Up To Lead The Huskies?

  • Believe it or not, Notre Dame actually has an outside shot at the NCAA Tournament. 37 at-large bids have to come from somewhere and the Fighting Irish are on the bubble according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. This will be a tall order for Notre Dame, even at home. The Irish have won 29 consecutive home games but that will be tested mightily against the Huskies. The emergence of Jack Cooley in the paint could be the biggest reason why Notre Dame has a chance to upset UConn. Cooley has averaged 16.5 PPG and 9.7 RPG over his last eight games, the latest Notre Dame big man to develop nicely under Mike Brey. However, Cooley will likely have a more difficult time against Connecticut’s stifling interior defense. The Huskies have always owned the paint under Calhoun and this year is no different. Notre Dame has to make outside shots in order to win because it can’t count on Cooley alone inside. Jerian Grant has turned into a consistent scorer but the Irish need a third option. Brey had hoped Scott Martin would be that guy but he has really struggled. However, Martin is impacting the game in other ways, rebounding well even when the shots aren’t falling. Notre Dame must try to get to the foul line as well. UConn historically doesn’t foul often so this could be difficult even at home.
  • If Drummond plays like he did against West Virginia, the Huskies will be a strong favorite. UConn must rebound aggressively to counteract any turnover problems it may have. The Irish have struggled shooting the three ball this year and Connecticut ranks second in interior defense. If those statistics hold true, Notre Dame will have an incredibly difficult time scoring. The good news for the Irish? They have been the best team defending the triple in Big East play (20.9%). For UConn, it’s simple. Protect the ball, rebound, and defend the paint. If the Huskies do that, they will snap ND’s 29-game home winning streak. Easier said than done, of course.
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SEC Morning Five: 01.13.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 13th, 2012

  1. Forward Murphy Holloway picked up right where he left off for the Ole Miss Rebels.  Ole Miss was on a downward spiral losing four of its last five games, but Holloway’s 19 points and 14 rebounds propelled the Rebels over Arkansas on Wednesday. “Sometimes you wonder, ‘Boy, you’ve lost four out of five. What’s wrong?’” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “He wasn’t playing. That’s what’s wrong. Good players make good coaches. With him back we dominate the glass, it’s the reason we win the game.” Holloway helped the Rebels control the rebounding advantage by a margin of 22.
  2. Transfer guard Mike Rosario is finally healthy, but he is still learning to adjust to a new role within the Florida offense. Rosario scored seven straight points for the Gators against Georgia on Wednesday, but coach Billy Donovan is still expecting to see some improvement from his top bench player. “Getting those seven points in the first half, that helps your team,” Donovan said. “It’s interesting because I feel like people look at us as being this great scoring team. When you talk about scoring — guys that can put the ball in their hands, guys that can score — we’re a really, really good shooting team, but what we’ve got to do is we’ve got to understand we have to utilize our shooting.” One of Donovan’s greatest challenges with this Florida backcourt will be quality shot selection. Rosario went 3-9 against the Bulldogs. There is no doubt Rosario can score, but can he eliminate mistakes and bad shots and still accumulate points?
  3. John Calipari wasn’t so sure his Kentucky Wildcats were going to pull off the win on Wednesday night over Auburn. “They wanted it worse than we did,” Calipari said. “They played with a desire that we didn’t have. I’m telling you, if we don’t understand going in we’ve got to go and just from start to finish play like a team that’s on a mission, then we’re going to lose games. Because every team is going to give us their best shot.” The Wildcats certainly didn’t give their best effort. Kentucky shot just 40.4% on the night, and were outrebounded 35-29 by the Tigers. The Cats were 2-6 on the road in the SEC last year, and they hit Thompson Boling Arena on Saturday for a showdown with the defensive minded Tennessee Volunteers.
  4. Rebounding played a major factor in Auburn’s near upset of Kentucky. The Tigers outrebounded the Cats 31-14 in the first 30 minutes of the game, but something clicked with the Wildcats in the last 10 minutes as they snagged 15 of the 19 available rebounds. UK scored 21 points in the last half of the second half as Auburn only managed to score six down the stretch. Kentucky was awakened just in time to win the game, but the Cats gave Calipari quite a scare. “At one point I looked at the staff and said, ‘this has nothing to do with X’s and O’s, boys. We could be going down,’” Calipari said. Whatever the reasoning for the Cats’ resurgence in the second half, UK couldn’t afford a collapse to Auburn, so kudos to the Cats for winning on the road despite their poor play.
  5. Alabama forward JaMychal Green started for the first time in five games after suffering from a shoulder injury earlier in the year. Green played 27 minutes against LSU, grabbing three rebounds and scoring nine points on 4-9 shooting. Through shuffling the lineup around in Green’s absence, coach Anthony Grant may have found the right combination of players going forward. The Birmingham News says that the combination of Green, Tony Mitchell, Trevor Releford, Trevor Lacey, and Levi Randolph should be the lineup that Grant sticks with moving forward. This was the first time this combination had started together.
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SEC Morning Five: 12.22.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 22nd, 2011

  1. Before Vanderbilt‘s much needed 31-point victory over Lafayette the Commodores were coming off a bad loss to Indiana State. Just how bad? Vanderbilt’s offense was putrid as you can see from these statistics. They scored just 0.83 points per possession, their worst offensive output of the year (tied with Cleveland State game). It was also the worst field goal percentage and three point percentage that Vanderbilt has had since the Cleveland State game at the beginning of the year. How much better did the Commodores play on Wednesday night against Lafayette? A lot better. Sharp shooter John Jenkins scored just 11 points (3-10 FG) against Indiana State, but rebounded against the Leopards for 27 points (9-12 FG). That is more along the lines of what Vanderbilt will need from Jenkins to continue its winning ways.
  2. Terrence Jones has not lived up to his preseason hype so far this year. The preseason All-American came back to Kentucky this year to improve his NBA draft status and maybe even win a championship for his Wildcats. Both remain to be seen, but at this point it seems he is more likely to get the latter. Jones is averaging 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds on 48.4% shooting from the field. Those are not the All-American numbers that were expected from him this year. Jones missed Kentucky’s last game against Samford and is likely to miss today’s game with Loyola. It will be interesting to keep an eye on Jones’ body language even more than his play. Jones looked frustrated and disinterested in a loss to Indiana last week, but he has vowed to silence his critics with positive play once he returns.
  3. Tennessee broke out of an early season slump, and they did it the old fashioned way–with tough, hard-nosed defense. Cuonzo Martin‘s club forced North Carolina-Asheville into nine first half turnovers, but were down 35-32 going into the locker room. The Volunteers held the Bulldogs to 37.5% shooting in the second half to eventually secure the victory. Tennessee appears to have more of a scoring by committee approach as the top three scorers on the team are separated by 0.6 points per game. The top scorer in the UNC-Asheville game was  Renaldo Woolridge,  who had a  career-high 17 points. Tennessee needed this win after the Vols had lost their previous four games and six of their last seven.
  4. Free throw shooting has been a major factor in determining how Arkansas has done this season. In the Hogs 71-57 victory over Eastern Kentucky, they were 17-18 from the free throw stripe in the first half and finished  29-35 for 82.9% on the night. This was drastically different from the previous game where Arkansas struggled from the line, shooting 11-23 (47.8%). Arkansas narrowly won that game, escaping with a 62-55 win over Southeastern Louisiana. Coach Mike Anderson has required the Razorbacks to shoot 500 free throws a week, and it looks like the hard work may be paying off.
  5. Trever Releford willed the unranked Alabama Crimson Tide to victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Wednesday night. Releford scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half while the Tide played without forward JaMychal Green. Three-point shooting had been the achilles heel for Alabama, and the Tide hit six of nine three pointers in the first half (7-15 3FG overall). The 46.7% three-point shooting accuracy was the Tide’s best all season. Several freshmen got additional playing time with Green out of the lineup, which is a good sign that Alabama was still able to secure the victory.
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Set Your TiVo: 12.21.11

Posted by EJacoby on December 21st, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

After several consecutive slow weeknights, Wednesday night offers some very good games. All eyes should be tuned in, especially, to the ESPN2 early game.

Texas at #4 North Carolina – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (****)

UNC Will Attack Texas With Their Forwards, Tonite on ESPN2 (Getty Images/P. Williams)

  • Since their collapse against NC State on November 21, Texas has won seven straight games by double digits, including some nice wins over Temple and at UCLA. Their talented guard combo of J’Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo is starting to click, with Brown’s numbers up to 19.3 points and 4.3 assists per game and Kabongo at 10.8 points and 6.0 assists per contest. Four of the Longhorns’ five leading scorers are freshmen, including Kabongo and exciting reserve guard Sheldon McClennan. The Longhorns are ranked seventh nationally with 1.18 points per possession and eighth in overall offensive efficiency (117.5). For Texas to hang in this game, they’ll need their young guards to keep scoring at a high rate, and hope to contain UNC’s massive frontcourt from dominating the offensive boards.
  • North Carolina has a massive size, experience, home court, and overall talent advantage in this game, which is why they’re 10-point favorites. Look for the Tar Heels to feature Tyler Zeller and John Henson inside to feast on Texas’s smaller front line. The bigs should be able to control this game on the boards, where UNC ranks 16th nationally in offensive rebounds per game, and number one overall on the defensive glass. Even if Texas’s guards can score effectively, Carolina can counter with its wing scorers of Harrison Barnes, Dexter Strickland, and Reggie Bullock, lead by the nation’s top assist man in Kendall Marshall (10.2 APG).
  • Texas has won four straight games against Carolina since 1995. The Longhorns are playing well and will certainly be ready for this game. But it’s hard to envision UNC losing this one at home given their huge advantage in the paint and with just as many talented guards. Expect a super exciting, high scoring affair between two of the top programs in the country, with Roy Williams’ team coming out on top.

Seton Hall at Dayton – 7:00 PM EST, no TV (***)

  • This is a huge road test for 9-1 Seton Hall, whose only loss came in the finals of the Charleston Classic against Northwestern. Senior Herb Pope has been an absolute stud all year and he leads the Big East in scoring (22.1 PPG) AND rebounding (11.9 RPG). His fellow senior leader, point guard Jordan Theodore, leads the conference in assists with 7.1 per game. Sophomore guard Fuquan Edwin leads the Big East in steals per game with 3.4 per contest. He and Theodore each average about 14 points per game, as well. This dangerous trio will look to lead coach Kevin Willard’s team to a big road win and legitimize their strong start to the season.
  • Dayton is a talented but very inconsistent team. They have strong wins over Alabama, Wake Forest, and Minnesota on their resume, but they also have a shocking home loss to Buffalo by 29 (!) points. They lost road games to Miami (Ohio) and Murray State, as well. First year coach Archie Miller’s team has five players that average nine or more points per game, lead by junior lead guard Kevin Dillard. A transfer from Southern Illinois, Dillard leads the team in scoring (11.9 PPG), assists (5.1 APG), and steals (2.3 SPG).
  • This game is not televised nationally or on ESPN3.com, but be sure to follow along, or even watch if it’s being shown locally. Dayton is a four-point home favorite in this one, but this is anyone’s game. The Flyers have several big home wins and another awful home loss. Seton Hall will look to control the game with the dominant Pope inside, who will be a load to handle for Dayton’s short interior players. I’d take Seton Hall and their experienced leaders to come out with the road win, but this one could go either way.

Middle Tennessee State at Mississippi – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN3.com (***)

  • Middle Tennessee is coming off a big home win over Belmont to push its record to 10-2. They are the class of the Sun Belt Conference, and are only two-point underdogs in this game. When you factor in the three-point cushion given to home teams in Vegas lines, that means MTSU is considered the slightly better team. This is a fair assessment, as the Raiders have an impressive trio of upperclassmen in guard Marcos Knight and forwards LaRon Dendy and J.T. Sulton who all average at least 12 points and 6 rebounds per game. These three all shoot at least 53.6% from the field, as well, which powers the nation’s best field goal shooting team (53.2% as a team for the year).
  • Ole Miss also comes into this game with just two losses, the most recent of which came on Saturday at a pretty good Southern Miss team. Ole Miss features five players that average nine points or more, lead by junior Murphy Holloway’s 10.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Not included in their five leading scorers is new addition Jelan Kendrick, who is now eligible for Mississippi after transferring from Memphis when he was kicked off the team at the beginning of this year. Kendrick is a very talented freshman who could start to make his mark tonight. Andy Kennedy’s team will have the athleticism advantage in this game, such as their 6.2 blocks per game which ranks 13th in the country.
  • This game might be the best of the 9:00PM EST slate, so be sure to have ESPN3 ready on your computer even if you’re tuned in to the television for another game. We expect Ole Miss to take care of business at home, but MTSU will offer a great challenge and could come out with another impressive victory.

Oklahoma State at Alabama – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN2 (***)

  • Oklahoma State comes into this game at 6-4 having lost two straight games. The Cowboys have a collection of talented players but have not found the best way to utilize their pieces; nine different players have been in the starting lineup in the first 10 games. LeBryan Nash, the McDonald’s All-American freshman, is starting to play better of late, seeing his minutes increase in the past three games. He’s now up to 12.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the season. Markel Brown is a talented sophomore guard (9.7 PPG) and Cezar Guerrero is a freshman with a quick trigger that can fill it up in a hurry (7.7 PPG), though takes plenty of questionable shots per game. Upperclassmen Jean-Paul Olekemi (9.7 PPG) and, especially, Keiton Page (12.7 PPG) are the leaders of the team that will look to ignite the upset in this one.
  • Alabama was ranked in the top 15 to begin this month, but the Crimson Tide have suffered three disappointing losses in the past three weeks, albeit to some good teams. Anthony Grant’s team lost at home to Georgetown on a game-winning three from the Hoyas, and they followed that one with two road losses to Dayton and Kansas State. Bama has had trouble scoring in those games. They aren’t a very effective offensive team, with a 104.8 efficiency that ranks 120th nationally. The Tide get it done on the defensive end where they allow an eFG% of 40.6 that is seventh best in the country. Jamychal Green, Tony Mitchell, and Trevor Releford are big time athletes who all average double figure scoring and can lock down defensively.
  • This game is technically not a home game for Alabama, since it is being played in Birmingham as part of the 2011 Legacy Credit Union Holiday Classic. But for all intents and purposes, consider the Crimson Tide the home team as they will draw the much larger crowd in their home state. Bama has fallen victim to a few upsets this season, as they were the favored team in all three of their losses. But don’t expect a repeat in this one, as Oklahoma State is still a work in progress and the solid defense of Alabama should lead them to a victory.

***** – 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 201
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

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Set Your TiVo: 12.16.11 to 12.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 16th, 2011

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

With Dead Week mercifully over, we finally have some good games to enjoy this Saturday despite Sunday being a very slow day in the hoops world.

#6 Baylor @ BYU – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on BYU TV (****)

Perry Jones Leads Baylor into Provo Saturday (AP)

  • The Bears have had difficulty on the road in past seasons but they already passed one important test, demolishing Northwestern in Chicago a couple weeks ago. This game, however, will be an even better measure to see where the highly-rated Bears are really at. The Marriott Center is a notoriously difficult place to play but Baylor has a clear talent edge in this game. BU welcomes Gary Franklin, now eligible after the first semester, to an already highly skilled roster. Franklin didn’t play all that well at California last season but he was a four star recruit out of high school. He should help the Bears out at the point guard position, a place where turnovers are still an issue. Baylor averages 16 turnovers a game and that will be dangerous playing on the road against a team like BYU that likes to push the pace. 5.8 of those 16 turnovers come from the point guard position so Scott Drew is hoping that Franklin can help handle the ball. How Franklin will fit in alongside Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton remains a question mark.
  • BYU’s top six scorers are all 6’5” or taller, an important factor against the length and athleticism of Baylor’s front line. Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and Charles Abouo do the bulk of the damage for Dave Rose, as those three are his top scorers and rebounders. Hartsock in particular has been outstanding, scoring in double figures in every game thus far. All three will have to play well in order for BYU to pull the upset because Baylor’s front court is strong, deep and talented. With Quincy Acy blocking 3.3 shots a game, BYU’s big men should find it more difficult to score inside on Saturday. The Cougars have to get their outside game going as well. Baylor’s defense is very average against the three and BYU has three big deep threats, Abouo, Stephen Rogers and Brock Zylstra. Going up against the top-ranked interior defense in the nation, BYU needs its outside shots to fall in order to win. However, the Cougars can’t afford to settle for threes if they aren’t falling. They must get something going in the paint, even against such a strong defense, in order to balance out their offense.
  • This is an important game for both clubs. Baylor has played only two teams of note so far while BYU’s best win is over a mediocre Oregon team. Baylor shoots well (49.1% FG) but the biggest difference this season has been its defense. The Bears allow only 33.3% shooting inside the arc and their defensive efficiency has been terrific. Both teams get most of their offense from their respective front courts but Baylor may have the ultimate edge with Cory Jefferson off the bench. He adds some scoring punch and, more importantly, rebounding and depth for the Bears. For the Cougars to win, they’ll have to force turnovers to get points in transition because it’ll be awfully tough to score inside in the half court. In addition to making its threes, BYU must rebound well and get to the line while putting the Baylor big men in foul trouble. However, BYU ranks #295 in free throw rate and Baylor doesn’t foul too often. Although BYU rarely loses at home, this is a game Baylor can win. There are some who still doubt the Bears but a win here would put them on their way towards legitimate national recognition.

Texas A&M vs. #10 Florida (at Sunrise, FL) – 2:30 PM EST Saturday on FSN (***)

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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 14th, 2011

Gerald Smith (@fakegimel) is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference. 

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • That’s Why You’re Mad: Kentucky was seeing red on Saturday as they dropped a game to Indiana. Coaches across the country (especially in the SEC) had a good look at the blueprint to upset Big Blue: Hot outside shooting, strong post play, and good interior defensive positioning to take charges on driving Wildcats. Much has been made about Terrence Jones‘ malaise and Marquis Teague‘s resurgence. Although the Wildcats have plenty of time to lick their wounds the pride of being the last undefeated SEC team was trampled by the Hoosier faithful rushing their court.
  • Desperately Seeking 3-Goggles: Another SEC power-team also had its pride damaged last week. Dayton exploited Alabama’s weakness — awful three-point shooting — to pull off a 74-62 upset. Though the Crimson Tide’s next game yielded a better result (64-52 win over Detroit), the three-point shooting woes continued (2-15 vs. Detroit, 10-58 the last four games). Coach Anthony Grant was counting on one or more of his freshmen guards — Trevor Lacey, Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph — to provide the outside shooting. None of them have risen to the challenge yet. Alabama will be particularly vulnerable to upsets from streaky-shooting teams until they find a solution to their outside shooting woes.

The Iron Has Been Unkind To Trevor Lacey's Three-point Shooting. (Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE)

  • Big: A pleasant surprise in the SEC this season has been the play of Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie. The transfer from UTEP, averaging 17.1 PPG and 11.2 RPG, is exceeding the expectations set for him. Unfortunately the 6’11″ forward is battling with knee tendinitis. He has missed three games for the Bulldogs, including yesterday’s 75-68 victory over FAU. Moultrie will hopefully be ready for Mississippi State’s next series of games which include two away games, including a tilt at #6 Baylor.
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Big East/SEC Challenge Face-Off: Thursday Night Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 1st, 2011

To preview the match-ups in the Big East/SEC Challenge, the RTC Big East & SEC Microsites are facing off in conversational analysis. Brian Joyce and Michael Lemaire take on Ole Miss vs. DePaul and Alabama vs. Georgetown. 

Mississippi at DePaul – 9:00 p.m. (ET) ESPNU

Mike: At first glance, this looks like one of the least compelling match-ups. A tale of two teams we still really don’t know much about, DePaul doesn’t play defense (#190 in adjusted defense), but their only blemish is a one-point loss to 6-1 Minnesota. Mississippi is #29 in adjusted defense, but they haven’t played a difficult schedule and their loss was a 30-point bludgeoning at the hands of Marquette. The Blue Demons have two talented sophomores in Brandon Young (12.6 PPG, 3.7 APG) and Cleveland Melvin (14.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG), but their bench is very young. All things equal I would be inclined to pick Mississippi, but they are coming off a tiring 64-61 overtime win against Miami and they are due for a letdown. Prediction: DePaul 70 — Mississippi 68

Brian: I agree that this doesn’t appear to be especially compelling, but this game could get interesting. The difference in the Minnesota-DePaul game was the 23 offensive rebounds by the Golden Gophers. That and Trevor Mbakwe’s 16 points and 12 rebounds. In short, the Blue Demons struggled on the interior, and that is exactly where Ole Miss will attack. 6’7” forward Murphy Holloway (10.8 PPG, 10.2 RPG) and 6’9” forward Terrance Henry (12.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG) will be tough for Depaul to stop on the low block. I think this game will be a close one, but the Rebels have too much inside for Depaul to handle. Prediction: Mississippi 64 – DePaul 60

Will Thompson and his Hoyas be ready for Alabama's defense?

Georgetown and Alabama should be one of the more interesting games of the entire Big East/SEC challenge.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.01.11

Posted by bmulvihill on December 1st, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter.  See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The conference challenges roll on as the Big East / SEC Challenge gets started with two games at home for the SEC.  Let’s take a look at the action for Thursday night.

John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats face another young team in St. John's in the Big East / SEC Challenge

St. John’s at #1 Kentucky – 7:30PM EST on ESPN2 HD (**)

  • After a quick 3-0 start, St. John’s has dropped its last three out of four including a home loss to Northeastern. With such a young team and Steve Lavin’s health situation, Red Storm fans should expect this type of up and down play all season. The Red Storm have four starters scoring in double figures, but their bench is extremely thin. When faced with an athletic, hard-charging team like Kentucky fatigue will probably be a factor by the second half. While the Red Storm shoots a very respectable 54% from two, their three-point shooting is an abysmal 27.7%.  Look for Kentucky to pack the lane and clean up the defensive boards.
  • Kentucky’s defense has been incredible all year. Granted the Wildcats have not faced an extremely difficult schedule thus far, they are still holding teams to an eFG of 36%. Additionally, their block rate is an astronomical 25%. If St. John’s continues to struggle from outside the arc and cannot extend the Wildcat defense, expect a block party in Lexington. The UK offense is firing on all cylinders as well. John Calipari’s team has five players averaging double figures and key contributors off the bench in Kyle Wiltjer and Eloy Vargas. If Kentucky continues to play offense and defense like they have thus far, this game will not be close.
  • Playing in Lexington is a tall task for any team. However, playing without your coach (Lavin needs more time to recover from prostate surgery) and playing with such a young team makes the task nearly impossible. While St. John’s may be able to keep the game close for a short period of time on sheer athleticism, expect this one to get ugly by the second half.
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SEC Morning Five: Thanksgiving Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 24th, 2011

 

  1. Alabama’s 6-0 start has put the college basketball community on full alert. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports writes about the ten things that have impressed him so far in this early season, and Alabama’s solid play is the first mention. He cites the excellent defense from Anthony Grant‘s Crimson Tide and assertiveness of forward Tony Mitchell. Mitchell and his thunderous dunks have been impressive thus far, helping this Alabama squad enter the discussion as one of the SEC’s best teams, an exclusive club of which they were not a member in the preseason. Grant’s exciting athletes and intense defense has brought praise not only for the Crimson Tide, but the legitimacy of the Southeastern Conference.
  2. But don’t get too comfortable, Alabama fans. The injury bug that has hit multiple SEC teams thus far is headed to Tuscaloosa. JaMychal Green was held out of Wednesday’s game Alabama A&M with a hip pointer. And the Tide’s leading scorer, Mitchell, left the game on crutches. The Daily Bama Blog reports that Mitchell’s injury appears to be only a sprained ankle.  “When it happened I’m sure it was painful, but I think our medical staff will do a great job making sure he’s healthy,” coach Grant said. A huge sigh of relief for Alabama as both Mitchell and Green are crucial to the Tide’s success. Alabama returns to action Sunday against VCU, and both players should be back in action.
  3. The guys at Anchor of Gold spent some time praising Jeffery Taylor’s outstanding defensive presence. Taylor was assigned to Oregon State star Jared Cunningham who was coming off a 35-point effort against Hofstra and a 37-point massacre of Texas. When Taylor matched up with Cunningham one-on-one, Cunningham went 2-6 and managed 7 points in 28 minutes of action. Defensive specialist Dai-Jon Parker spelled Taylor for spurts and held Cunningham to 2 points in 8 minutes. Taylor and Parker’s perimeter defense remains key to Vanderbilt‘s success this season. A number of athletic and high scoring guards from Kentucky, Florida, and others will come into Nashville this season, and Taylor will need to repeat his “ferocious” defensive effort for the Commodores to continue to string together victories.
  4. John Calipari‘s Kentucky Wildcats played a little 2-3 zone in their 88-40 route of Radford on Wednesday night. “I think it’s something that we need to think about doing some,” Calipari said. “And we’ve got to get better than we are right now.” A zone could be a viable option on defense for the Cats because of Kentucky’s length and athleticism.  “I don’t see us giving up wide-open shots because we’re so big,” Calipari said about the possibilities of playing more zone. “I would probably do it with a big lineup so that every shot is a contested shot.” Kentucky has just over a week and a half to figure out what defense to play before the Cats take on the number one ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.
  5. It’s an abbreviated Morning Five today as we encourage you to enjoy the holiday. And of course, enjoy lots and lots of college basketball. Happy Thanksgiving to all SEC fans. May your dunks be thunderous and your defense be ferocious.
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Breaking Down the Play: The Effectiveness of Alabama’s 2-3 Zone

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 21st, 2011

Breaking Down the Play is a regular feature during the season to provide in-depth analysis on the Xs and Os of an SEC team. Today’s Breaking Down the Play goes in depth on Alabama’s use of the 2-3 zone.

Alabama’s defense is the key as to whether the Crimson Tide will simply make the NCAA Tournament or advance deep into it this season. Anthony Grant’s teams always pride themselves on the defensive end, and this year he has the athleticism to compete with anyone. JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell and Trevor Releford fill the stat sheet on offense, but it’s their length and hustle on the other end that earns their team marks in the W column. For the perfect example, Alabama’s rematch with Wichita State shows how much difference a year can make. In last year’s game, the Shockers shot 50% from the field, including 46.7% from three-point land. This year was a different story. Friday night, Wichita State shot just 33.8% from the field. Alabama was extremely active on the defensive end throughout the game, but Grant’s switch to a 2-3 zone in the second half ended any chance the Shockers had at making a comeback.

Below are three defensive plays by Alabama that show the effectiveness of its 2-3 zone against Wichita State:

Play 1 (11:09 remaining in second half)

Alabama switches to a 2-3 zone, and displays excellent spacing throughout the floor. The Crimson Tide defenders are prepared to cover almost any area of the court. The first picture shows the end of the defensive set for Alabama as Wichita State has allowed the shot clock to dwindle down to nine seconds.

The Tide are spaced out in the 2-3 zone

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Alabama’s Defense the Key to Making the NCAA and Beyond

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 20th, 2011

Alabama didn’t make the NCAA Tournament last year. Even though they were a bubble team by the end of the year, the Crimson Tide didn’t have the resume necessary to get over the hump. They just weren’t able to string together enough quality wins (or any quality wins other than a home win against Kentucky, a team that struggled mightily on the road in the SEC last season) to make a good argument. But this year, the Tide are hoping things will be different.

If Alabama continues to play the kind of defense they have played thus far this season, there is no reason that Bama won’t make it to the Big Dance. They have plenty of opportunities to get good resume wins (games against Georgetown, Detroit, Oklahoma State and many others, not to mention conference games against the big three in the SEC). But Friday night’s rematch of the NIT championship game against Wichita State proves this year’s Bama squad is much different than last year. Unlike 2010-11, Alabama will win big games because of its improved defense.

JaMychal Green and company hope to go dancing this season

Alabama’s defense has been smothering so far. In four games this year, the Tide are holding opponents to 34.9% shooting from two-point range and 22.5% from outside the arc. They are dominating the rebounding battle as well, including a +18 rebounding margin against Maryland this past week. Here are some quick stats showcasing the Tide’s dominant defensive performances from Alabama’s first four games:

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