RTC Conference Primers: #8 – Mountain West Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 29th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. San Diego State (13-3)
  2. BYU (12-4)
  3. New Mexico (11-5)
  4. UNLV (11-5)
  5. Colorado State (9-7)
  6. Wyoming (6-10)
  7. Utah (6-10)
  8. TCU (3-13)
  9. Air Force (1-15)

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

  • G: Jimmer Fredette, Sr, BYU (22.1 PPG, 4.7 APG)
  • G: Dairese Gary, Sr, New Mexico (13.1 PPG, 3.9 APG)
  • G: Tre’Von Willis, Sr, UNLV (17.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG)
  • F: Afam Muojeke, Jr, Wyoming (16.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG)
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, Soph, San Diego State (12.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG)

6th Man

Billy White, Sr, San Diego State (11.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG)

If you aren't already, get used to seeing and hearing about Jimmer Fredette.

Impact Newcomer

Drew Gordon, Jr, New Mexico – Gordon left UCLA midway through the Bruins awful season last year after never meshing with Ben Howland and his system, and as a result, he won’t be eligible for Steve Alford until after the first semester. But Gordon showed enough talent in his years in Westwood that he will be a welcome addition for what was an undersized Lobo team last season. However, Gordon did tear the meniscus in his right knee in mid-October and, although he is not expected to miss any game action, he may miss out on valuable practice time leading up to his expected December 17 debut.

What You Need to Know

  • Best In The West? Given the Mountain West’s history as a contender for the title of the top non-BCS conference in the nation, and given that the Pac-10 is at its lowest point in memory, it’s quite possible that, at least for 2010-11, the MWC may be the best conference in the West. Last season, four MWC teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and in just over a decade of existence, only once has the MWC failed to place more than one team to the Big Dance (2000-01). However, major changes are afoot in the conference, as Utah and BYU, both consistently strong basketball forces, will be leaving for the Pac-10 and WCC, respectively. Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada will join the conference, but while those teams are capable of putting together strong seasons (Nevada, in particular, has  recent success on the court), they’ll be hard-pressed to replace the production of the two Utah schools.
  • Familiar Faces: When you look around the conference this season, there will be a lot of veterans up and down the rosters, as 70% of the players that averaged more than five points per game last season return. Only Utah, of the nine conference teams, will look drastically different, as they lost two starters to graduation, a third starter to transfer, and five additional bench players to transfers as well. Bolstering the general experience around the league is a flood of incoming transfers: Drew Gordon and Emmanuel Negedu at New Mexico, Quintrell Thomas at UNLV, Hank Thorns at TCU, Wes Eikemeier at Colorado State and James Rahon at San Diego State. Not only will there be a lot of recognizable players on the court, there continues to be a lot of stability on the sidelines, as for the second consecutive year, every head coach in the MWC returns.
  • Non-conference Boost: Last season seemed to mark the first year of a new era in non-conference scheduling in the MWC. After earning a reputation as a conference whose teams would play consistently tough games, they slipped out of the top 20 in non-conference strength of schedule for a stretch from the 2006-07 season through the 2008-09 season. However, last year, the MWC addressed this in several ways. First and foremost, their teams were able to go out and get games against Pac-10 and Big 12 competition, but they were also able to get their teams in some good early-season tournaments, and they began the MWC/MVC Challenge, guaranteeing every team in the conference a matchup with a team from the Missouri Valley. That MWC/MVC Challenge will continue (the two conferences signed a four-year agreement), as will the involvement of conference teams in early-season tournaments (for instance, New Mexico plays in the Las Vegas Classic, UNLV in the 76 Classic, Colorado State in the Cancun Governor’s Cup, BYU in the South Padre Island Classic, Utah in the Diamondhead Classic, Wyoming in the Cancun Classic and San Diego State in the CBE Classic – and yes, the people that run these tournaments need to consult a thesaurus for an alternative to “Classic”). Additionally, the tougher non-conference scheduling continues, with conference schools making trips to places like Spokane, Berkeley, Logan, Ann Arbor, El Paso, Dayton, Tulsa, Louisville and Kansas City over the course of the non-conference slate.

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SEC Media Notes: 06.29.10

Posted by nvr1983 on June 29th, 2010

As part of our attempt to continue to provide you with the best independent college basketball information on the Internet we will periodically bring you information from conference media calls. Today’s entry comes from the SEC, which amazingly was not affected what could have been a massive conference shake-up.

Ed. Note: The conference call actually took place on Monday, but I had an ophthalmologist appointment and I’m pretty sure that they used just about the entire bottle of eye drops to dilate my eyes so I’m just starting to see straight again. The below entries are my some of the key points the coaches made, but are not direct quotes. If you want to listen to the coaches speak directly, click on the link next to their name.

Anthony Grant (Alabama)Audio
– Defense: Last year their defense gave them a chance to be in every game that they played, but they had to have that solid defense because their offense was not always there.
– Returning players: Senario Hillman one of elite athletes in the SEC and can guard multiple positions. He will need to improve shot selection and decision-making, but is making strides. JaMychal Green adds size and strength to the frontcourt, which is as good as any team in the SEC. Should improve with an extra year of experience. Tony Mitchell had a very good freshman year and being named to SEC All-Freshman team was an accomplishment. Grant is looking for the players to make a jump between their first and second year in the Alabama program.

Tony Barbee (Auburn)Audio / Key Quotes
– Lack of Experience: Starting over is exciting because you get to mold a new group of players. It will be hard to judge what he has until he sees the team together in the Fall.
– Plan: Focus on defense because they could be “offensively challenged” because they don’t know what they have outside of Frankie Sullivan. Given their lack of size on the inside they might have to focus on their offense around the 3-point line.

John Pelphrey (Arkansas)Audio
– Frontcourt: They have Marshawn Powell on the inside, but will need to develop more on the inside to help support him.
– APR: We’re all working very hard. We want to see these young men improve in the classroom and on the court. He isn’t sure statistics over the short-term can adequately reflect the academic performance of a program, but is open to more long-term measures.
Andre Clark: Aware of the transfer to TCU and does talk with players who have transferred if they contact him about an issue.

Billy Donovan (Florida)Audio
– Backcourt: Didn’t know what to expect coming into last season having lost Nick Calathes. Irving Walker played his freshman year at 2 guard spot. Kenny Boynton came in with huge reputation out of high school, but you’re never sure with them making the jump. Limited depth in the backcourt meant those two played more minutes than they probably should have, which meant they couldn’t do some of the stuff they would have otherwise done such as press. Coming into this year with the experience should be helpful for those two coming into this season. Still some issues with depth in the backcourt this year although they are adding freshmen Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather to the backcourt.
Alex Tyus: First UF player to put his name in the NBA Draft and return to UF. It was Alex’s decision. He worked out with a couple of NBA teams and listened to what NBA had to say about where he might go. No pressure from UF to come back. Donovan feels that process is only going to help the Gators going forward.
Patric Young: Very physical and aggressive player, but needs some work on the inside. In the near term he will bring energy and a great rebounding presence to the Gators.

Mark Fox (Georgia)Audio
Marcus Thornton: Really big boost after picking him up following his release from his letter of intent from Clemson. Gives Georgia a lot of options because of his versatility.
Trey Thompkins: Had discussion with family and got info from NBA. Felt it wasn’t appropriate. Only would be able to work out for 1 or 2 days due to final exams and the new NBA Draft withdrawal deadlines.
Turnovers: Feels they will take better care of the ball and they should also be able to create more turnovers on the defensive end, which should create more easy baskets.

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The Two-Week Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline Must Go

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2010

If you regularly read this site, you know that the early entry withdrawal deadline for the NBA Draft passed with much zero fanfare at 5 pm ET on Saturday afternoon.  Prospective draftees, many of whom were in the middle of exam periods at their schools, had a mere two weeks to make a final decision whether to take the plunge and give up their collegiate eligibility for the dream of NBA riches.  The two-week window for withdrawal is a new NCAA rule designed to engender program continuity and recruiting at the expense of the student-athletes they purport to care about.  The elephant in the room question is whether players on the fence about declaring for the draft had enough time to be able to properly consider and assess their draft prospects, and the short answer appears to be that they did not.  Surprise surprise

Let’s take a quick comparative snapshot of last year’s early entry pool versus this year’s.  The 2009 early entries had an additional five-plus weeks to work out for teams, attend the draft combine and communicate with scouts, coaches and family members before making a final call on the matter.  It’s quite possible that two months was too much time, but the salient point is that they had plenty of it from which to make an informed decision.  From a pool of 74 underclassmen who originally declared for the NBA Draft, nearly half withdrew resulting in a final total of 39 early entries, two-thirds (26) of whom were ultimately drafted.  This year there was a rough equivalent of 80 early entries, but only 30 of those players withdrew by Saturday afternoon’s deadline, leaving 50 hopeful underclassmen jockeying for positions in a 60-pick draft (see above list).  Keep in mind that there are numerous international prospects as well as seniors such as Luke Harangody, Damion James, Jarvis Varnado and Jerome Jordan who will also be chosen in late June. 

The key problems are apparent:

  1. NBA teams are not evaluating players yet.  As of last week, there were still eight teams playing games, and the others were still closing out their seasons.  According to Louisville head coach Rick Pitino who was trying to get information for his sophomore center Samardo Samuels, only one of the thirty NBA teams held player evaluations prior to this year’s May 8 deadline.  If the idea behind ‘testing the waters’ is for players to receive accurate evaluations of their game from professional scouts, then we’re at a loss in understanding how this date makes any sense whatsoever. 
  2. The Chicago Pre-Draft Camp needs to move.  This camp that takes place in late May/early June allows fence-sitting players to see how they stack up in drills and workouts against their peers rather than trying to patch together a guesstimate based on little more than rumor and third-hand information.  Obviously, the NBA does not care about appeasing the NCAA, but perhaps Stern & company could be persuaded to move it up by a couple of weeks to reach a happy medium.  Otherwise, if it doesn’t move, then the NCAA needs to give in and make the deadline fit the calendar of this camp. 

Looking at the list of early entries above, we see more than a few names who are likely to be incredibly disappointed come draft night — from Bassett to Young and numerous faces in-between, we wonder if these players would have made the same decision if they’d actually been able to, you know, test the waters, as the original concept of the rule was intended. 

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Appreciation For The Departing Seniors

Posted by zhayes9 on May 7th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a regular RTC writer and resident bracketologist. You can follow his sports-related thoughts at Twitter.

Too often during the month-long period between the Final Four and the early entry deadline of the NBA Draft, the media, hoops blogs and talking heads only focus on the underclassmen that have put their name in the hat. Was it the correct decision? Should he come back to school instead? Did that player sign with an agent? These questions should be forwarded and debated, but it seems a distinguished group of players are left out of the national dialogue during this time: college seniors.

While most drafted seniors are plucked closer to the end of the second round than the lottery (there’s a reason they stayed in school four years, let’s face it) it doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged. There’s an extensive list of four-year college players that have made a memorable impact for the Association. Thus, this article will be devoted entirely to those that battled on the college hardwood for four years, examining their impact on the collegiate game during their long stay and determining how they can have a lasting influence at the next level.

Damion James (Texas)- I wouldn’t rule out another senior sneaking into the first round, but it’s looking likely that James is the lone four-year player to be picked in the top-30. A unanimous selection to the All-Big 12 first team, James averaged a double-double during Texas’ disappointing campaign and passed Nick Collison’s conference record for rebounding. NBA scouts will drool over James’ ferocity in the glass and his superb athleticism. He also features an unblockable mid-range jumper that’s improved in accuracy over his development from a dependable role player to a superstar in one of college basketball’s most premier conferences. While James may not have a defined position at the moment, he will likely build a lengthy NBA career just based on his drive, athleticism, explosiveness, innate rebounding ability and mid-range jumper. James suited up in burnt orange with everyone from D.J. Augustin to Avery Bradley and his name should be lifted to the rafters at the Frank Erwin Center.

Quincy Pondexter (Washington)- Displaying awe-inspiring glimpses of potential throughout his first three seasons in Seattle, Pondexter finally molded into the player that every Washington fan so desperately wanted during his senior campaign. Bumping his scoring average over seven points per contest, Pondexter led his Huskies out of the Pac-10 abyss and into the Sweet 16. Pondexter’s consistency- a constant battle that eventually turned into a strength- was never more evident than during Washington’s Pac-10 Tournament final win over California and first and second round triumphs over Marquette and New Mexico. Pondexter poured in a steady 18 points in each contest and shot a clip under 50%, even notching a key offensive rebound and extending his season two days more with a short bank shot that sent the Huskies to the second round. There’s little doubt in my mind Pondexter will continue to harness that natural talent at the next level. His extensive wingspan, ability to score in transition and comfort with defending multiple positions provide just a glance into Pondexter’s value.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.14.10

Posted by THager on March 14th, 2010

***** – 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 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

SEC Championship Game – #2 Kentucky vs. Mississippi St – 1:00 pm on ABC (****)

Although college basketball coverage has been rare on ABC this season, they will be broadcasting a fantastic game today.  This will be a chance for Mississippi State to avenge their heartbreaking loss to Kentucky earlier in the season.  In the only matchup between these teams, MSU had a 67-60 lead with under three minutes left before imploding.  The Bulldogs failed to capitalize on Kentucky’s 4-24 shooting from beyond the arc and ended up losing 81-75 in overtime.  Although Mississippi State is usually a solid team in the paint, they were outrebounded 49-29 in that game, and Jarvis Varnado will need to top the five rebounds he recorded if they are going to have a chance in this contest.  The Bulldogs, who rank just #60 in offensive efficiency, will likely struggle against a solid Wildcat defense, but guard Dee Bost scored 22 points in the last game and he will provide a change of pace from MSU’s lineup that is stacked with big men.  At the end of the day, Kentucky is still the better team, and will look to win their 26th SEC Tournament today.

ACC Championship Game – #4 Duke vs. Georgia Tech – 1:00 pm on ESPN (****)

The Yellow Jackets may have saved their season with this late run, but a win against Duke is the only way to ensure their name will be called on the selection show later today.  In order to beat a Blue Devils team that has won 11 of their last 12 games, they are going to have to limit their mistakes.  They average more turnovers than assists, and shoot only 65% from the free throw line.  The key for Georgia Tech will be to establish a presence in the paint, as Duke’s best athletes play on the perimeter, while the Yellow Jackets have three solid forwards.  Gani Lawal, Derrick Favors, and Zachary Peacock all average over 10 points per game and shoot over 50% from the floor, and if they can get production from all three forwards, they certainly have a chance to win this game.  GT suffered a 19-point defeat to the Blue Devils in the first game, but in Atlanta earlier this season the Yellow Jackets converted 22 of 28 free throws in a 71-67 victory.  Duke, who ranks among the top three teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency, should be able to contain a GT offense that ranks just #50 in Ken Pomeroy’s offense rankings.

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SEC Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.  The SEC Tournament begins Thursday at Noon ET.

EAST

  1. Kentucky 29-2 (14-2)
  2. Vanderbilt 23-7 (12-4)
  3. Tennessee 23-7 (11-5)
  4. Florida 20-11 (9-7)
  5. South Carolina 15-15 (6-10)
  6. Georgia 13-16 (5-11)

WEST

  1. Mississippi State 21-10 (9-7)
  2. Mississippi 21-9 (9-7)
  3. Arkansas 14-17 (7-9)
  4. Alabama 16-14 (6-10)
  5. Auburn 15-15 (6-10)
  6. LSU 11-19 (2-14)

Despite all the hype and hoopla over the SEC being a much improved conference this season, at this time the SEC still has as many teams locked into the NCAA Tournament as they did last year — three. Kentucky finished up the regular season with their 44th SEC regular season championship and the number two ranking in both the AP and the ESPN/USA Today Top 25. Tennessee finished #13 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #15 in the AP top 25. The Vanderbilt Commodores finished the season ranked #20 in the AP Top 25 and #23 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Other than these three teams, no other SEC school even received votes in either poll so you would figure that if any other teams are to go dancing, they need to get some wins in the upcoming SEC Tournament.

Now that the regular season is over, I am pleased to present my first and second team ALL-SEC roster, as well as my choice for Player of the Year and Coach of the Year:

FIRST TEAM ALL-SEC

  • G- John Wall, Kentucky
  • G- Devan Downey – South Carolina
  • F- DeMarcus Cousins – Kentucky
  • F- Trey Thompkins, Georgia
  • C – Jarvis Varnado – Mississippi State

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

SEC Standings

EAST

  1. Kentucky 27-2 (12-2)
  2. Vanderbilt 22-6 (11-3)
  3. Tennessee 21-7 (9-5)
  4. Florida 20-9 (9-5)
  5. South Carolina 14-14 (5-9)
  6. Georgia 13-14 (5-9)

WEST

  1. Mississippi State 21-8 (9-5)
  2. Mississippi 19-9 (7-7)
  3. Arkansas 14-15 (7-7)
  4. Auburn 14-15 (5-9)
  5. Alabama 14-14 (4-10)
  6. LSU 10-18 (1-13)

It was an interesting week in the SEC as the “titans” spent most of the week knocking each other off. Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee all went through 1-1 weeks this week and Vanderbilt went a perfect 2-0 as the SEC East race got a bit tighter while Mississippi State emerged in the SEC West. Overall. the SEC is a bit improved over last year with four teams certain to make the NCAAs, and as many as six or seven possible when the dust clears. Despite their loss to Tennessee, Kentucky is still on pace to wrap up their 44th regular season SEC title. They just need a win or a Vanderbilt loss to clinch a tie and combination of two of those things to win the title outright. In the West, Mississippi State has clinched at least a tie.

Kentucky fell just one spot with the loss and now is ranked third in both polls. The pollsters seemed a bit confused about what to do with Vanderbilt and Tennessee. The AP Top 25 rewarded the Commodores’ 2-0 week with a jump up to 13th while the ESPN/USA Today poll has them at 19th. Tennessee moved up in both polls as the voters weighed the win over Kentucky more than the blowout loss to Florida earlier in the week. The Vols sit at #13 in the ESPN/USA today poll and #16 in the AP Top 25. No other SEC teams are ranked, although Mississippi State is the equivalent of #35 in the AP Top 25 poll yet they got no votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll. In the player recognition polls of the week, Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins was the freshman of the week and Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado was the SEC player of the week. Next week, we will look at my all SEC teams for the regular season.

Tournament wise, I would say that as of right now, four teams are solidly in… at this moment. Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee are a lock for the tournament. Kentucky should be a #1 seed while I would say that both Tennessee and Vanderbilt have a very good shot at being top four seeds. Both teams could move up to a three seed or even possibly a two seed by winning the SEC Tournament (although both teams would need a lot of help nationally to move up to a two.) Let’s say a three seed and a four seed await these teams. The fourth team I have in right now (if the season was over) is Mississippi State, although I would classify them as still a bubble team with work to do. The Bulldogs must travel to Auburn and then host Tennessee. The Bulldogs are low on quality wins, so a win over the Vols would lock up their status and maybe earn them a #6-#8 seed. A loss to Tennessee puts the Bulldogs solidly on the bubble again with 22 wins and I would say at least one to two wins in the SEC tourney would be needed. If they lose to Tennessee and win just one tournament game, they would have 23 wins… that may be enough but it will still be tenuous.

Another confusing team is Florida. Earlier in the week, they had a very impressive win over Tennessee and I had the Gators in the NCAAs. Then on Saturday, UF lost to Georgia and put themselves back on the bubble. The Gators are back in the position of having to beat either Vanderbilt at home or win at Kentucky. If the Gators lose both, they would sit at 20-11 and on a three-game losing streak to finish the season. They do have two big wins over Tennessee and Michigan State but I don’t see 20 wins being good enough. A win over the Commodores or Wildcats would probably punch their ticket. If not, the Gators may have to win two or three games in the SEC Tournament to feel safe. The Mississippi Rebels would be on the outside looking in right now. Wins this week over LSU and Arkansas would give them a 21-9 record and a four-game winning streak to finish the season. On the surface that may be enough to nudge out the Gators for the fifth spot, if the Gators do not win this week. The Rebels do have just one quality win (over Kansas State) and would be 5-5 in their last 10 games however. You could argue that even if Florida loses their next two games, they are a better tournament team as UF beat Ole Miss head to head and has two quality wins. I would say the Rebels need two SEC wins to seal the deal with 23 wins. I would say that both Florida and Ole Miss would have to win their way into the tournament, but if they play well, they will not be shut out.

So the SEC could have six NCAA teams in… or three NCAA and three NIT teams. There may not be any more teams for the NIT this year. South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama have had some good SEC wins on the year but are hovering at the .500 mark overall. I would think that each team would need to at least be over .500 to make the NIT. Georgia is a team to watch as a darkhorse in the SEC Tournament because despite their poor record, they have more quality wins (Illinois, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Florida) than all of the bubble teams.

Here is a look at this week’s top games to watch for as the SEC closes out it’s action:

  • 3/2- Vanderbilt @ Florida – 7 PM – ESPN
  • 3/3 – Arkansas @ Tennessee – 7 PM – ESPN 360
  • 3/3 – Kentucky @ Georgia – 8 PM – SEC Network
  • 3/3 – Mississippi State @ Auburn – 8 PM – ESPN 360
  • 3/4 – LSU @ Mississippi – 9 PM – ESPN
  • 3/6 – South Carolina @ Vanderbilt – 2PM – ESPN2
  • 3/6 – Mississippi @ Arkansas – 4 PM – ESPN 360
  • 3/6 – Tennessee @ Mississippi State- 6PM – ESPN
  • 3/7 – Florida @ Kentucky – 12PM – CBS
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ATB: Purdue Loses Hummel for Game or Season?

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2010

Hummel’s Knee Buckles — Did Purdue’s Season? #3 Purdue 59, Minnesota 58.  Thirteen minutes into this game, Purdue star forward Robbie Hummel drove to his right into the paint, stopped, and squared his shoulders to the rim.  Simultaneously, his right leg slipped a little causing his knee to buckle and give out from underneath him.  It wasn’t a gruesome injury, but it was certainly forboding.  People say they hate to speculate about someone’s injury, but they proceed to do it anyway, so we’ll avoid those niceties here.  It looked like and his reaction certainly belied what we believe was an ACL injury in his knee:  The inability to initially put weight on the knee; the severe pain immediately after the fact, yet the ability to stay on the bench for the remainder of the game; the crutches; the need for an MRI as soon as possible.  We really hope we’re wrong about this, but as someone who has had a couple of these tears ourselves, we sorta think we know it when we see it.  If Hummel is out for the rest of the season (and Gary Parrish reports that there’s not much optimism to the contrary coming out of the Boilermaker camp), then despite the heart and grit and skill we saw on display tonight at Minnesota, a phenomenal season will without question reach a premature conclusion.  There is absolutely no way that Purdue can go to the Final Four without Hummel in the lineup.  It’s not as if he’s a dominant player in the mold of Kenyon Martin (broken leg in 2000) or Derek Anderson (torn ACL in 1997), but he’s an extremely important piece of what Purdue does, and there simply isn’t enough time (or elite talent) to re-craft a plan for life post-Hummel.   As a microcosm of this unfortunate truth, look at what happened tonight.  Purdue was leading 26-14 when Hummel got hurt.  After his injury the Boilermakers scored two more FGs in the next twelve minutes of action.  Obviously, Matt Painter will have time to adjust his game plan in coming days and the recent emergence of Keaton Grant (10/5/4 assts) doesn’t hurt, but Hummel is such a multifaceted piece of the Purdue attack that someone like him cannot just be plugged in overnight.  The aforementioned Grant was huge down the stretch tonight, and we expect that more will be asked from the talented duo of E’Twaun Moore (11/3) and JaJuan Johnson (14/10), but it’s going to take some really good luck in the form of tomorrow’s diagnosis for Purdue to have a chance to fulfill its lofty goals this season.

Let's All Hope For the Word "Sprain" for Hummel (AP/J. Wheeler)

No Harangody, No ProblemNotre Dame 68, #16 Pittsburgh 53. The Irish came off the schneid in a big way tonight even with its star Luke Harangody still sitting on the bench with a knee bruise injury.  The high-scoring offense slowed down its attack, finding that running down the shot clock resulted in better looks from three, of which the Irish nailed 10-18 this evening.  Pitt, on the other hand, was never able to find the mark from deep, going 4-18 from three and even getting killed on the boards (-10), unusual for a Jamie Dixon-coached team.  Perhaps the Panthers were a little worn out from playing and beating WVU, Marquette and Villanova in their last three games, but it was to ND’s benefit as the Irish took control early and never relented.  Mike Brey’s team still has significant work to do before we start talking about NCAA again, but this was a big step in the right direction.

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ATB: DeMarcus Cousins Laughs Last, Laughs Best…

Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2010

Kentucky Survives in Raucous Starkville.  #2 Kentucky 81, Mississippi State 75 (OT).  After several days of fielding phone calls from Mississippi State fans who ranged in temperament from delusional to deranged, DeMarcus Cousins and his team had the last laugh tonight in Starkville as water bottles and sodas rained down on the court in the closing minutes of this one.  Coach John Calipari was so giddy afterward that he even played up the hostility of the situation in his interview with Jeannine Edwards, ducking for cover at one point and running over to corral his players at another (wow, consider just how different things were last year at this time with respect to UK’s head coach and Miss Edwards).  The story of this game, however, was in the way that Kentucky was able to overcome a seven-point deficit in the last three minutes after having looked shaken and stirred in the previous few as MSU built its lead with inside star Jarvis Varnado on the bench fouled out.  Cousins held up his end of the bargain with MSU fans by dropping 19/14/3 assts, including seven huge offensive rebounds, several of which he converted at key points in the second half to keep the Cats afloat.  Patrick Patterson added a dub-dub himself (19/10), while John Wall ended up just shy of a triple-double with 18/10/8 assts/3 stls.  Come March, when the rest of the country decides to tune back into college basketball, all anyone is going to hear about is the mercurial Wall; but to those of us who know better, it will be Cousins that makes the difference if Kentucky is to make a serious run at the national title.  He has a knack for corralling the ball on the offensive end of the court (the #1 offensive rebounder in America), but he’s probably just as effective at converting those extra possessions into points with his soft touch around the bucket (note: if anyone has hard stats on this, we’d love to see them).  MSU had numerous chances to put a signature win on their NCAA resume, but like much of their season this year, they were close but not close enough.  The Bulldogs played the game without leading scorer Ravern Johnson, who was suspended for conduct detrimental prior to his team’s biggest game of the season, and Varnado had at least two silly fouls that would have allowed his presence to stay on the court longer than 23 semi-effective minutes (10/5/2 blks).  If any one of those decisions were different, perhaps MSU wins the game and we’d have a photo of their fans RTCing underneath this writeup.  But as it happened, Bulldog fans will instead by remembered for their unsportsmanlike behavior, and they’ll have to settle for screaming into DeMarcus Cousins’ voicemail as he moves on to the more important things like winning SEC titles and gunning for the Final Four.

Holla Back At Ya!

Regular Season Champs. Two clinchers tonight…

  • #24 Northern Iowa 70, Creighton 52.  No Jordan Eglseder, no problem.  Even without the big man who was suspended for three games after his arrest for DWI over the weekend, UNI clinches its first outright MVC regular season title with an easy win over the Bluejays.  The Panthers hit thirteen treys for the game, including a 5-10 effort from Ali Farokhmanesh.  It will be a very interesting Bracketbuster game on Friday night when UNI hosts the co-leader of the CAA, Old Dominion.
  • Murray State 80, Southeast Missouri State 62.  Murray moved to 16-0 in the OVC tonight, clinching their 21st regular season title and the top seed in the OVC Tournament next month.  The Racers now have the nation’s longest winning streak (at sixteen) and put twelve players into the scoring column this evening.  This is a team that has six players averaging between 9.5 – 10.8 points per game that nobody will want to see as their first round opponent on March 14.

Other Games of National Interest.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.16.10

Posted by THager on February 16th, 2010

***** – 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 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#25 Wake Forest @ Virginia Tech – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

This game might feature two of the most underrated teams in the entire country.  It took a four-game winning streak for Wake Forest to crack the bottom of the top 25, and the 20-4 Hokies are still unranked in both polls.  In fact, Virginia Tech ranks just #50 in the RPI and are still considered by many to be a bubble team.  VT’s out of conference schedule is weak, but with four straight wins against ACC opponents, they are 7-3 in the league, just half a game behind Wake Forest and still in contention to win the conference.  Before the Hokies can even think about an ACC title, though, they need to prove their legitimacy against a solid Wake Forest team.  This game may only end up in the low 60s for both teams, as neither ranks in the top 70 in offensive efficiency, and both rank among the top 20 defensive teams.  Virginia Tech, whose leading scorer shoots below 40%, ranks #113 in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive ratings, so a below-average shooting night could bring this game down to the 50s.  If the Hokies want to be successful tonight, they are going to have to stop Wake Forest in the post.  Led by Al-Farouq Aminu, the Demon Deacons score the majority of their points from forwards and centers, and they rank third in the nation in rebounds per game.  Virginia Tech has not lost in Blacksburg yet, but they will face their toughest test of the season tonight.

Cincinnati @ South Florida – 7 pm on ESPNU (**)

With their recent performances, South Florida played itself out of the tournament and Cincinnati is on the verge of playing themselves back in.  USF has lost their last two games to other bubble teams (Notre Dame and Marquette) and are now not even in Joe Lunardi’s first eight teams out.  The Bearcats, on the other hand, are coming off a game in which they held UConn to their lowest point total since 2002, and are now the second team out according to Lunardi.  Like the Wake Forest vs. Virginia Tech matchup, this game will also be extremely low scoring.  Both teams give up less than 66 points per game, and neither ranks in the top 70 in offensive efficiency.  Cincinnati has no players scoring over 12 points per game, and they rank #112 in offensive efficiency.  On paper, it would seem like USF would score more than 68.9 points per game, with four players averaging over 10 points per game and two players scoring over 17 points per game.  However, one reason for that is Gus Gilchrist just returned from an injury that kept him sidelined since December 2.  In his first game back against Marquette, he scored 10 points below his season average of 17.4 (most of USF’s earlier games were against weaker teams), but if he can provide some quality minutes and score close to what he did earlier in the year, USF should be able to win this game.  Cincinnati is just 2-6 on the road this year, and despite a relatively empty crowd at the Sun Dome, the Bulls should at least play themselves back in the bubble discussion.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.11.10

Posted by THager on February 11th, 2010

***** – 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 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Ole Miss @ Mississippi State — 9:00 pm on ESPN (***)

This game between in-state rivals could have a big impact on who will be dancing in March.  These teams are in the middle of the SEC standings, but both are within a game of SEC West leader Arkansas.  Their records (17-6 for Ole Miss, 16-7 for MSU) are pretty average, but if one of these teams wins their division it could have a big impact on the selection committee.  Despite their similar records, these two teams could not be much more different.  Mississippi State, who averages less than 73 PPG, ranks 90th in offensive efficiency and but ranks 17th in defense, and second in the country with 8.1 steals per game.  The Rebels average over 80 points per contest, but rank 86th in defensive efficiency.  Four of UM’s top scorers are guards, and Mississippi State may look to take advantage of their small lineup, as the Bulldogs are eighth in the country at over 38 rebounds a game.  The Bulldogs are also playing at home, where they are 10-1 on the year, so look for the Jarvis Varnado (11.3 RPG) to hit the boards hard as usual.  MSU won the first matchup in Oxford, and we expect them to beat a smaller Ole Miss club here.

Washington @ California — 9:00 pm on ESPN 2 (***)

The Pac-10 is a mess at the top of the conference where Cal sits a game ahead of five other teams.  Washington was near the bottom of the conference a few weeks ago, but four straight wins now have the Huskies at the top of the five-loss teams.  All of UW’s wins during the streak came at home, but they will now have to travel to Berkeley, and the Huskies are 0-5 on the road this year.  With the exception of the losses at Texas Tech and UCLA, the games have not even been close.  Cal averages 77.7 PPG and they rank sixth in the nation in offensive efficiency, but their defense is suspect with a defensive ranking of 63.  The Bears have not allowed an opponent to score 75 points in their last seven games, but they will have their hands full with Washington’s offense.  Led by Quincy Pondexter‘s 20.6 PPG, the Huskies have averaged 93.8 PPG during their winning streak.  In the last meeting between the two teams, it was downright ugly (16-48 shooting for Cal, 30-74 shooting for UW).  Jerome Randle, Cal’s leading scorer, only had five points in that game, and he should have a much better night at the Haas Pavilion.

St. Mary’s @ #11 Gonzaga — 11:00 pm on ESPN 2 (*****)

To get a feel for how good these teams are, they have combined for a 15-2 record in the WCC (one of the losses came during their previous matchup) and they have won over 85% of their games this season.  Both teams have won 11 of their last 12, and given the way these two clubs have played, this game will decide the WCC title.  People have been getting on the Zags about their lackluster defense, but they have played solid defense since the game against Loyola Marymount on January 23.  The Gaels, on the other hand, are 105th in defensive efficiency, and gave up 89 points to the Bulldogs in their first matchup.  Although Gonzaga’s Robert Sacre is a bona-fide seven-footer, Omar Samhan exploited the Zags in the post for 31 points.  Elias Harris, who matched Samhan with 31 points of his own in that game, has slowed down since his hot streak at the start of WCC play, but Matt Bouldin has picked up right where Harris left off.  With Bouldin’s ability to snipe three-pointers on fast breaks, both teams rank in the nation’s top 10 in field goal percentage.  St. Mary’s is also third in the country in free throw percentage, while the Zags are having their worst year at the line of the Mark Few era.  With 0.007 points separating these two teams in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, it should go down to the wire.  The key difference in their records?  St. Mary’s schedule is ranked 155th according to Jeff Sagarin, and the Zags have played Michigan State, Wisconsin, Duke, and Wake Forest.  Look for Gonzaga to take this at home.

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Morning Five: 02.11.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 11th, 2010

  1. EA Sports… is no longer in the game.  At least the basketball part of the game, as the company announced on Wednesday that they would not longer produce their popular NCAA Basketball game.  According to the company, this decision has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit about the use of player likenesses that indicts that exact game.  Nothing at all.
  2. Jarvis Varnado is 26 blocks from tying the all-time NCAA record for blocks (535), and if you can name the player he’ll probably replace in a few weeks, you’re lying.  Seriously, there’s no way you know this.  At any rate, nice story about the player they call “Swat” down in Starkville.
  3. Pac-10 expansion appears to be a real possibility in the near future, and Ray Ratto has an interesting take as to how the reconfiguration of that league will lead to a cannibalism effect that will consolidate even more of the power in the BCS leagues.
  4. An example of Kentucky Wildcat spelling FAIL (look closely at John Wall’s jersey, below).

FAIL.

  1. Here’s an example of someone who was clearly more interested in currying favor with the audience than getting the question right.  Or was she right all along?  Alex should have given her bonus points for that answer.

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