Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2009

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

Player of the year.

How do you define it. Who put up the best stats? Who is the best player on the best team? The most valuable player? Maybe the guy that, if you were to have a draft involving every player in the league, you would pick first?

My criterion is simple – who is the best player? Easy enough, right?

As of now, there are only four players that should be considered for the award, and another few that deserve a mention in the conversation.

  1. DeJuan Blair, Pitt – 15.7 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 5.8 Orpg, 60% FG
  2. Jerel McNeal, Marquette – 19.9 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.7 rpg, 2.2 spg, 44% 3PT
  3. Terrence Williams, Louisville – 12.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.1 spg, 1.93 a/t
  4. Hasheem Thabeet, UConn – 13.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 4.3 bpg, 64% FG

Others deserving mention: Luke Harangody, Jonny Flynn, Jeff Adrien, Levance Fields, and Da’Sean Butler.

Right now, I have no idea who deserves the award. Two weeks ago, I thought McNeal would run away with it. Last week, I thought Thabeet would made a run at national player of the year. This week, well, just scroll down and read about the player of the week.

There are great arguments to be made for each of these four, as well as the five players deserving mention (I mean, Luke Harangody is the only player in the country to be in the top five of points and rebounds per game, and barely cracks the top five for Big East POY?).

What it is going to come down to is who leads their team to the Big East regular season title. Each of the four players listed are the MVPs of the four teams currently tied (in the loss column) atop the Big East.

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ATB: Define “Game Face,” Mr. Calathes

Posted by rtmsf on February 11th, 2009

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First, Some News & Notes.

  • UCLA’s Drew Gordon may be slowed down by back spams in the Bruins’ next game at Arizona St. on Thursday night.
  • Pat Forde shows which schools are basketball-philic through an interesting analysis of attendance and success this season.
  • We give approximately a 1% chance that this girl is actually Duke forward Miles Plumlee’s girlfriend, and approximately 0.01% chance that she goes to school at Duke.  Everybody knows all the Dookies do their chasing of tails over at Carolina (with good reason).
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No Way She’s From Duke (photo credit: Uncoached)

Getting Down To Business With Rivalry Week.

  • Kentucky 68, Florida 65. This was the game of the night, by far.  For a while it appeared that Nick Calathes’ “game face” (according to Jimmy Dykes) was going to carry the Gators to their eighth victory in nine tries against UK, but Jodie Meeks’ (23/5) ridiculous nearly-falling-down-then-recovering three from the left elbow, followed by Calathes’ (33/7/3 assts) “choke face” missing all three of his FTs (the last intentionally) that would have tied the game, ensured that wouldn’t happen.  UK staved off what would have been another devastating home loss, and kept their NCAA hopes alive for a couple more weeks, whereas Florida is probably still ok unless they go on a severe drought (not impossible with this mentally fragile group).  But several other interesting things happened in this game.  First, Patrick Patterson was carried off the court midway through the second half with what appeared to be a sprained right ankle, and there’s no word on his status yet, but if he’s out for any significant amount of time, UK could be in serious trouble in the short term.  Second, the call where Walter Hodge was ejected for stepping on Perry Stevenson’s arm in what was clearly (to us) an accidental mis-step was a clear example of the Aubrey Coleman Effect – a month ago he would not have been thrown out of the game for that “offense.”  Finally, does any coach in American despise a sideline reporter as much as Billy Gillispie does Jeannine Edwards?  Seriously, the contempt is palpable.  In recent weeks, he’s spot-analyzed her question (conclusion: bad), pretended not to hear her and made a snide reference to she “would know better than him.”  What’s wrong, Billy G – did Ms. Edwards turn you down for a date at Harry’s?  (to be fair, Edwards is painful to listen to, but it just seems as if Gillispie has an elevated distate for her questions)

  • Michigan St. 54, Michigan 42. MSU gave one of its strongest defensive efforts of the year, holding its rival Michigan to 35% shooting and 17% from three on its home floor tonight.  This was especially true because UM, who had lost six of its last eight, really needed a signature late-season win to showcase along with its early season victories over Duke and UCLA for the NCAA Tourney Committee.  MSU’s Delvon Roe had 14/10 as he continues to make his way back from multiple offseason knee surgeries – if he, along with Goran Suton, Raymar Morgan and an assorted cast of Spartans, are completely healthy come March, this is a different team than the one we saw UNC emasculate at Ford Field back in early December.
  • Villanova 102, Marquette 84. Seems like a long time ago when Marquette was undefeated in the Big East, doesn’t it?  Props to whomever we read today that predicted Villanova (not Marquette) would end up in the top 4 of the Big East Tourney (Katz?  Goodman?).  In a statistical oddity, Villanova hit between 54-59% of every shooting category, which is largely a good thing (except FTs, of course).  The Cats hit 13 threes en route to 59% overall to score 100+ pts for the second consecutive game.   Scottie Reynolds (27/4) and Corey Fisher (21/4) did the most damage, but this game was an offensive player’s paradise – nine players hit double figures.  Marquette was led by (who else?) Jerel McNeal’s 23/4/7 assts, but the Golden Eagles suddenly look like a team with severe limitations defensively.  They get a two-game breather before the crucible hits.

Other Games That Caught Your Fancy.

  • Florida St. 68, Virginia 57.  Is there a Dave Leitao watch yet?  If not, when will there be?  Does 60-55 (24-33 ACC) over four years cut it?  Regardless, UVa lost its eighth consecutive game, and FSU solidified its standing in third place in the conference (tied at 6-3 with Clemson).
  • Providence 77, South Florida 62. PC avoided the fate that befell Marquette at USF, and in so doing, continues to gum up the works in the second tier of the Big East for schools like Syracuse and Georgetown.
  • Texas 99, Oklahoma St. 74. UT easily avoided its first four-game losing streak in a long time by putting four players in double figures, led by AJ Abrams’ 20,and holding everyone except James Anderson (35 pts) down for OSU.
  • Clemson 87, Boston College 77. In a game that would potentially define the relative directions of both of these teams, Clemson played a strong second half behind Terrence Oglesby’s 21 pts (6 threes) and came away with a road win to go to 6-3 in the ACC.  RTC Live was there.
  • Minnesota 62, Indiana 54. The Gophers avoided a letdown loss they couldn’t well afford behind reserve forward Paul Carter’s 22/6 off the bench.  No other Gopher hit double figures.
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ATB: Anybody Think Marquette is For Real Now?

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2009

afterbuzzer

Friday Night Hoops. It’s rare that there’s enough going on to justify a Friday night ATB, but it’s also rare that a 9-0  major conference team goes down to a conference opponent who has proven they can only beat Depaul (2 Ws vs. the Blue Demons; zero against all others).

  • South Florida 57, Marquette 56. Thanks to the miracle of ESPN Full Court, we caught the second half of this one, and it was clear that Marquette got themselves into a maelstrom that they didn’t anticipate.  USF came to play, as they typically do at the SunDome (they’ve had tough losses to Louisville and Villanova this year in Tampa), but the story of this game was that the Marquette guards simply weren’t dialed in (4-24 from three), and it showed in their lackadaisical effort throughout.  Shooting 44% from the line didn’t help either.  Marquette can’t say that they didn’t have chances – Lazar Hayward will undoubtedly not sleep the next few nights re-living the easiest of easy putbacks that he blew with one second remaining in the game, and everyone except Jerel McNeal (22/4) seemed “off” tonight.    Marquette is still a good team, and not the first top 10 squad to get punked on the road this week, but with a veritable Murderer’s Row of games coming up in the last four weeks of the season, we think it’s time for the Golden Eagles to realize what they are – a really good team that is good enough to make the Sweet 16 with some nice matchups.   No more, no less.

Tune In Tomorrow! We’ll be back starting at Noon EST with our weekly feature, Boom Goes the Dynamite! Feel free to check in and make comments throughout the day’s games.  There are some good ones, including Syracuse @ Villanova and Memphis @ Gonzaga.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 5th, 2009

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

Remember all that talk about the Big East getting nine, maybe ten, teams into the dance? It seems like a long time ago now, as it is a legitimate possibility the league only gets seven teams in. The three teams in danger of missing out are Georgetown, Notre Dame and Providence.

The Irish are in the worst position right now. They are currently sitting at 12-8 and 3-6 in the Big East, but they are just 2-7 against the RPI’s top 50. Their RPI is 77 and their SOS is 49, which aren’t great. But the Irish still play four teams in the RPI top 20, and three more in the top 70, which means the Irish have plenty of chances to up their RPI rating.

Providence could also be in trouble. Their RPI is 63 and their SOS is 42. Their record is a little better than the Irish (14-7, 6-3), but they have struggled against the best teams (1-5 vs. RPI top 50, but 3-2 against 51-100). They, too, will get plenty of chances to improve their resume as they have five more games against the top 20.

Georgetown looks to be the safest right now. They have an RPI of 20, have played the toughest schedule in the country (and second toughest in Big East play to West Virginia). They are just 3-5 against the RPI top 50, but they do own wins against Memphis and at UConn. All Georgetown needs to keep in mind is Arizona last year. The Wildcats finished 16-14, 8-10 in the Pac-10 (good for 7th), but got into the dance as a 10 seed based on their tough scheduling (#2 in SOS).

The bottom line is that it is tough to rule out anyone near the bubble in the Big East. With so many quality teams in the league, all it would take for a Cincinnati or a St. John’s is a great finish to the season, and a run to the quarters or the semis of the Big East Tourney.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.30.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 30th, 2009

Set Your Tivos
There isn’t any game that really stands out as being head and shoulders above the rest so I won’t have a game of the day per se, but there are quite a few good games worth watching.

#22 Notre Dame at # 3 Pittsburgh at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This should be an interesting game with Pittsburgh coming off a 10-point loss at Villanova and Notre Dame coming in having lost 4 in a row including back-to-back losses at home after coming in with a nation-leading 45-game home winning streak. The big match-up here is obviously Luke Harangody versus DaJuan Blair on the inside. I’m thinking Pitt should win this game relatively easily in the second half. If Mike Brey wants to have a chance to steal one on the road and get back into the Big East race, he will need Kyle McAlarney to regain his touch from the outside.

Michigan at #17 Purdue at 1 PM on CBS: It is amazing that just 2 months ago, the Wolverines were the talk of college basketball having knocked off UCLA and Duke. Now, they are 4-5 in the Big Ten and look like they might not make the NCAA Tournament. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims will need to have a big game if they want to steal one against Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore, and the Boilermakers who come in having won 5 straight in the Big Ten after dropping their first two games in conference.

#23 Georgetown at #8 Marquette at 2 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: I’m not sure what to say about Georgetown. They are undoubtably one of the most talented teams in the country, but they have played themselves out of the top 25 in the past 2 weeks. On the other sideline, after their big win on Monday night at Notre Dame, the Golden Eagles will have a chance to move into the top 5 with a win over a Hoya team that is falling apart right now. The Hoyas have lost 4 (?) straight games and DaJuan Summers, their leading scorer, was injured in their last loss. John Thompson III will need a big game out of Greg MonroeAustin Freeman, and Summers (presumably healthy)  to snap the Hoyas out of their skid. However, if Buzz Williams can get a solid game out of Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews the Golden Eagles should be able to pull off the win.

Stanford at # 16 UCLA at 3:30 PM on ABC, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: I don’t think this one is of particular interest especially with the way Stanford has played so far in the Pac-10, but I think it should be worth watching for our East Coast readers who don’t stay up past midnight to watch some of the mediocre teams out West play.

Providence at #2 Connecticut at 4 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Assuming UConn wins this, they will be your new #1 team on Monday. Keep an eye on this one because Providence has been playing well lately including a victory over a depleted Syracuse team on Wednesday night.

Washington at #14 Arizona State at 5:30 PM on FSN: Ok. I took my requisite West Coast shot earlier when discussing the Stanford-UCLA game, but this one is acutally worth watching. I’m still unsure why Washington wasn’t in this week’s top 25 after knocking off USC and UCLA last week, but maybe the voters knew something as the Huskies followed up those 2 big wins with a loss on the road at Arizona. The Sun Devils will be looking to bounce from a shocking loss at home against Washington State on Thursday night. I’ll be watching the match-up of the star guards in this one: Isaiah Thomas for Washington and James Harden for Arizona State

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2009

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

I’m not sure if anyone actually noticed, but Checking in on the… Big East was absent from RTC last week (amazing the blog could survive, right?). Long story short, I work in the restaurant industry in DC, and last week there was some big, citywide party for some guy who just won some election or something. Did anyone hear about that? Needless to say, I was a bit short on time, which meant my blogging efforts took a serious hit.

But you can sleep easy kiddies and kiddettes. Your favorite RTC correspondent is back to fill you in on the inner-workings of the biggest and baddest conference in all the land. We’re going to mix things up a bit this week, as a lot has happened in the past two weeks and, frankly, I was a little bored with the old format. So without further ado, let’s get you caught up on all the Big East action:

The way that I see it, there are ten teams that can seriously be considered for a spot in the NCAA’s. Of those ten teams, there are essentially two tiers they can be broken into – UConn, Louisville and Pitt (and maybe Marquette, but more on this in a second) in one; Syracuse, Villanova, Georgetown, Providence, West Virginia and Notre Dame in the other.

To be completely honest, the teams in that second tier all are beginning to look very average. The question I am stuck trying to answer is whether these teams are actually mediocre on a national scale, or if it just seems that way because they are getting pounded by excellent teams night in and night out in the Big East.

Take Notre Dame as an example. Once thought to be a top ten team, the Irish have dropped out of the AP Poll after four straight losses. But those losses are to Louisville, Syracuse, UConn and Marquette and the Irish also own a win over Texas and Georgetown (again, more on the Irish in a bit).

As the conference season moves on, one thing everyone needs to be keeping in mind is the way the Big East Tournament is going to work this year. All 16 teams are going to reach Madison Square Garden, but it is not going to be a typical 16 team tournament. The way it is scheduled is that teams ranked 9-16 will all play on Tuesday (9 vs. 16, etc.). On Wednesday, the winners of the Tuesday games will play the teams ranked 5-8 (8 vs. 9/16 winner). From there on, the tournament bracket is normal (1 vs. 8/9 winner, etc.).

Looking at the conference standings, it is going to be tough for anyone to crack the top four and get the double bye.

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Conference Over- and Underachievers

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.  His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

All right, now we’re talking.  We’re several games into conference play, now, and the leagues are starting to take shape.  We’ve known the fates of some teams for a long time, both the good (your Carolinas and Dukes, Oklahomas and UConns, etc), and the bad (no need to pile on, here).  The most interesting part of it all, to me, are those teams which are doing a little better than they expected and may be making tenuous hotel reservations for a very large dance in March…and others that are becoming quickly aware that they are only one or two losses away from being tossed into the dustbin of NIT-worthiness.  Even worse, many squads are realizing that they may not even have THAT to worry about, that there will be no post-season, that the only thing they have waiting on them after the basketball season is over is — horror of horrors — going to class.

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Many teams know this is all they have to look forward to in March. (photo credit: photobucket.com)

So who’s not behaving like we expected?  Who has both surprised and disappointed us, in terms of conference play?  Without further delay, I give you…our early-conference edition of Over- and Underachievers.

ACC

Overachiever:  Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1)

As much as their win over then-#1 Wake Forest turned heads, I think people were just as surprised (at least I was) that they avoided the usual post-big-victory letdown by going to Miami (FL) four days after the Wake win and knocking off what I still think is a very capable Hurricane squad.  I know it’s early.  But right now it’s the Hokies who sit second in the conference, a game behind new national #1 Duke.  Victories like the ones they’ve enjoyed so far can sometimes set the tone for a great season, or they can make you overconfident so that you screw up the rest of your conference schedule.  We’ll see how far they can take it, but you’ve got to give them props to this point.

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Greenberg and Vassallo, Overachievers. (photocredit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Georgia Tech (9-10, 0-6)

Whew.  What happened here?  After starting 7-2, something happened just before Christmas and the Jackets just haven’t gotten up from it.  Maybe the competition just got a little better, but with all the talent on this team and a coach like Paul Hewitt there’s just no excuse for going one-for-2009.  Their only victory of this year?  A 5-point win at home against Georgia, a bottom-feeder team in a terrible SEC.  To be completely honest, I’m already tired of talking about them.  Maybe next year Derrick Favors will bring the antidote this program needs.

Big 12

Overachiever:  Missouri (17-3, 4-1)

Hands up, who had Missouri at 17-3 after 20 games?  Yeah, me neither.  The Tigers have great individual talent but have succeeded this year by being the epitome of unselfishness, which has led to efficiency.  They average 19.4 assists per game (2nd nationally), just a ridiculous number.  The only question mark…only three true away games so far.  Probably the only reason they aren’t well-entrenched in the Top 25 right now.

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Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll, a large human, happy about overachieving. (photo credit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Texas A&M (15-5, 1-4)

That 14-1 start was lookin’ pretty good, then conference play started.  12 assists per game just isn’t going to get it done (248th in the nation).  Donald Sloan averages the most dimes per game on this team at a mere 3.2.  We’re pretty sure Mark Turgeon is a fine coach, but right now the Aggies are giving the NCAA Tournament committee reasons to deny them entry in March.  They’d best learn to stay afloat for the rest of Big 12 play.

Big East

Overachiever:  Marquette (18-2, 7-0)

Winners of 10 straight.  RPI of 15.  7-0 in a monster conference.  The coolest thing about Marquette is that they’ll beat you any way you wish to get beaten — they can play slow, half-court basketball and cut you to pieces, and they’re also more than happy to outrun you and get it up near triple-digits.  And Monday night was telling — I bet Maurice Acker followed Kyle McAlarney to class today.  McAlarney couldn’t have gotten have rid of him even if he’d cut the brake lines on Acker’s car.  The Jerel McNeal/Wesley Matthews/Lazar Hayward three-headed monster has turned into one of the most fearsome in the game.  DO NOT forget this team when filling out your bracket in the office pool in a month and a half.

Underachiever:  Seton Hall (10-9, 1-6)

The Pirates raised some eyebrows when they started off 9-3 including wins versus Southern Cal and Virginia Tech, and then — sense a trend, here? — conference play began.  Boom, six straight losses.  I think the Georgetown game really showed us something closer to who the real Seton Hall team is, but this conference is going to end up being just too vicious overall for them.

SEC

Overachiever:  Kentucky (16-4, 5-0)

According to a number of my Wildcat connections, before this season, UK supporters were basically ready to give Billy Gillispie another “free-pass” sort of season, inasmuch as a coach can actually have that at Kentucky.  Doesn’t look like Gillispie needs it.  This team is an interesting statistical mix.  They rank 3rd in the country in FG% (50.2%) and 2nd nationally in FT% (79%).  We know about the potency of the Jodie Meeks/Patrick Patterson tandem.  Defensively, they hold opponents to 36.4% a game from the field, which is 3rd best in the nation; and they rank second in the country in blocks per game with 7.5 (and, oddly, second in the conference as well behind Mississippi State’s 8.0/game).  So…great offense, great defense…what’s the problem?  Well, how about 18.1 turnovers per game?  That’s 338th out of 341 Division One teams.  Egad.  Nobody — even Kentucky fans, I don’t think — saw Kentucky improving this fast with so many unknowns starting the year.  Clean up the turnovers and you’re a top five team.

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Class of the SEC? We’ll see… (photo credit: daylife.com)

[Ed. note:  since this was written, Kentucky was defeated by Mississippi on Tuesday night to give UK its first loss in the conference and take them to 5-1.  I think, however, that UK still qualifies for Overachiever status in the SEC so far for reasons outlined above.   --J.S.]

Underachiever:  Arkansas (12-5, 0-4)

If you look at the win-loss pattern on Arkansas’ schedule, you’d say, “Yep, conference play, again.”  I don’t think you can’t say that, here.  It’s baffling, because in an eight-day span less than a month ago, John Pelphrey’s Razorback squad knocked off both Texas and Oklahoma, not exactly a couple of pansies.  It makes absolutely no sense that beginning conference play in a WAY-down SEC (6th in conference RPI, and probably falling) would cause Arkansas any problems at all, but here they sit at 0-4 in the conference, including an inexcusable 22-point home court butt-smoking at the hands of Auburn.  Arkansas is another team that is just loaded with great athletes, and if they straighten up a little the committee will remember those two earlier big wins.  Arkansas reminds me of Avril Levigne.  I’m pretty sure there’s something attractive there…but they’re doing whatever they possibly can to screw it up and make themselves ugly.

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Avril has a message for Mr. Stevens (photo credit: radaronline.com)

This is not a complete list, by any means.  But I think it shows us how breezing through questionable non-conference opponents might not be the best recipe to impress the committee, as attractive as it is to post a nice big number in the pre-conference ‘W’ column.  Everyone knows that late losses simply mean more, that the committee likes you to finish strong.  You can’t allow yourself to be a conference underachiever.  Conference play will give you a bellyache if all you’ve been doing is loading up on cupcakes.

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ATB: Code Red at Notre Dame

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2009

afterbuzzer1

News & Notes. A couple of really bad ideas tonight…

  • Please make this stop immediately.
  • One game?!?! Dude stepped on Chase Budinger’s FACE.  CUSA should be ashamed of itself for this penalty.   Well, he was sorry, guess that makes it all better.

Notre Dame is in Serious Trouble. Marquette 71, Notre Dame 64. The Irish are now sitting at four losses in a row, with the following four games on tap: @ Pitt, @ Cincy, @ UCLA, Louisville.  Ridiculous.  This is the kind of stretch that can derail an entire season.  At 12-7 (3-5) after tonight’s second straight home loss, Notre Dame is staring the NIT right in the face if they can’t come out of this tailspin soon.  Kyle McAlarney is most to blame for this downslide, as he has shot a putrid 14-45 in the last three games – without more production from him, the Irish aren’t going anywhere.  The Big East isn’t for the faint at heart, and it appears that Georgetown and ND have been the most negatively affected by its strength to date.  As for Marquette, who had the Warriors Golden Eagles at 7-0 in this conference?  They just continue to surprise, getting big nights from any one of their four stars in a given game (tonight’s stud was Jerel McNeal with 27/4).  And the Eagles may not be done yet – with their upcoming schedule, it’s not preposterous to imagine that Marquette could be 13-0 going into its last five conference games on Feb. 21 (which are very tough).  We still wonder what will happen to MU when they play someone with legitimate size (their studs average 6’3 in height), but it hasn’t hurt them yet.

Oklahoma is Getting No Love From the MediaOklahoma 89, Oklahoma St. 81. In tonight’s Bedlam game, Oklahoma continued its relatively quiet march through the Big 12 (now 6-0) with efficient precision, shooting a ridiculous 58% and withstanding twelve threes from OSU to win its twentieth game of the year.  Why isn’t this team getting more attention?  They have arguably the best player in the country in Blake Griffin (who had his 17th dub-dub tonight with 26/19), they are highly efficient on both ends of the floor and they rebound like maniacs.  Oh, and they haven’t had a close game in their last eight (since the anomalous Arkansas loss four weeks ago).  OSU put up a good fight, cutting the Sooners’ 14-pt lead to only one with seven minutes remaining, but OU responded with what else – going to their NPOY candidate time and time again for kickouts and foul opportunities.   OU should continue its winning ways for at least three more games until a trip to Baylor on February 11th.

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST).

  • Kentucky @ Ole Miss (ESPN) – 7pm. It really wouldn’t surprise us if UK went 16-0 in the SEC this year.  Really.  The league is that bad.
  • Maryland v. Boston College (ESPN2) – 7:30pm. This is an interesting matchup of potential ACC bubble teams.  Both need this one badly.
  • Texas @ Baylor (ESPN360) – 9pm. Baylor’s looking a little shaky of late (losing 3 of 6); they need to protect their home court.
  • Purdue @ Wisconsin (ESPN) – 9pm. Two teams heading in opposite directions – can UW salvage their season?
  • VCU v. Northeastern (ESPNU) – 9pm. Game of the Night that nobody can watch.  The top of the CAA is up for grabs.
  • BYU @ Utah (The Mtn) – 10pm. Act 1 of the Holy War.
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Set Your Tivos: 01.26.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 26th, 2009

Set Your TivosA really weak set of games tonight and only one really worth watching. To be honest, this is a surprisingly weak week of games. I would say there are only a handful of games that I would consider worth watching this week, but I’ll get to that in another post.

Game of the Night (The only one worth watching)
#10 Marquette at #19 Notre Dame at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This game might answer some of the questions I posed this weekend about the Big East. I think the conference is not as good as everyone says they are. I think there are only 3 great teams (Pittsburgh, UConn, and the reborn Louisville Cardinals) and a whole bunch of borderline teams. I am actually starting to think the ACC would match-up pretty well against the Big East if you account for the Big East having approximately 1/4th of D-1 in the conference.

While Marquette has an impressive record (17-2), they have not faced a good team all year (Villanova is questionable and that game was at home). A win at Notre Dame would certainly erase some of the doubts that many in the media have. Do I count as the media? Even though Notre Dame’s aura of invincibility in South Bend went up in smoke on Saturday against UConn, winning there will still be quite challenging. Buzz Williams, who has done a good job replacing Tom Crean, will need big games out of Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal, Lazar Hayward, and Dominic James if he wants to steal one in South Bend and have his Golden Eagles stake a legitimate claim as a Big East title contender.

That said, how likely is it that the Irish, who had a three-year, 45-game home winning streak snapped on Saturday night by UConn, would lose two in a row at home?  Not very.  Mike Brey’s team went stone cold in that game, shooting a miserable 33%, highlighted by Kyle McAlarney’s 12 bricks in a row (after starting 3-3) and a combined 2-15 from Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers.   Luke Harangody was the only scorer that showed for ND in that game (particularly in the second half when UConn’s defense was spectacular), so I expect that we’ll see a much-better Irish team tonight.  They sorta have to win this game – they’ve already lost their last three and a trip to Pittsburgh looms next.  A five-loss losing streak could crush this team’s confidence. 

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“Boom goes the dynamite!”: 01.10.09 Early Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 10th, 2009

In our attempt to provide you with the best college basketball coverage on the Internet, RTC is starting the “Boom goes the dynamite!” project. Yes, it’s a blatant rip-off of Deadspin’s Hugh Johnson Project for college football, but we have found someone who does something similar for college basketball, which is a vastly superior sport. This will be an evolving project so you may see a complete different format next week or even tomorrow as we figure out how to make this better. One thing you may notice is that my coverage of the games on TV may be a little spotty at times, but that’s partially a result of there being 5 early games being broadcast on my TV and the fact that the RTC East Coast HQ only has one television. [We're the fiscally responsible RTC office.]

For those of you who are totally confused by the title, it’s a reference to one of the greatest sports news videos of all-time featuring Brian Collins, then a freshman at Ball State, trying his hand at broadcast journalism. The hilarious result:

For our opening weekend, we’ll primarily be covering top 25 games (due to our lack of resources) unless something notable happens in another game.

Noon Games
#11 Clemson def. NC State, 63-51: NC State was able to keep this game close for 25 minutes (tied at 33 at that point) before Clemson went on a 24-10 run to blow the game wide open. A pretty ugly game overall with NC State shooting 31.5% from the field and having only one player (Courtney Fells) scoring in double digits with 10 points. Trevor Booker was the only good player on the court with 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Not much else to say here since the game was at Littlejohn Coliseum and I don’t think NC State is that good (all of their most impressive games this year have ended in losses). If you want to know what we think of the Tigers, check back with us after the 17th when they play Wake Forest.

#21 Louisville def. #17 Villanova, : After the Cardinals led by as much as 11 points in the 2nd half, Villanova came storming back to cut it just 3 point game with just under 6 minutes left. Louisville was hurt by its inability to connect from long range (3-for-25) and Samardo Samuels (15 points and 4 rebounds) fouling out with 4:43 left. For the next 2 minutes, the game continue at a frenetic pace before Dante Cunningham (a game-high 21 points) hit a 15-footer from the corner to give Villanova their first lead all day at 58-57 with 3:06 left. Rick Pitino immediately called a timeout to tell his entire team they could transfer calm down his team. The final 3 minutes were “highlighted” by both team’s inability to hit shots until Terrence Williams (12 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 assists) made a driving lay-up with 12 seconds left that must have bounced around the rim for 2-3 seconds. After that huge basket, Louisville tried to double-team Scottie Reynolds on the inbounds, but Villanova was able to find a streaking Corey Fisher who found himself with a 2-on-1 and dished it to Antonio Pena (solid with 14 points and 8 rebounds) who was fouled with 4.9 seconds left. Pena missed both FTs, but Louisville was unable to handle the rebound and Villanova got the ball back with 4 seconds left. They ran a good play coming out of a timeout finding Cunningham underneath for a contested layup, but he missed that and his teammates missed 2 more tips giving the Cardinals a hard-fought road win.

#15 Marquette def. #22 West Virginia, 73-55: This game was a lot closer than the final score indicates. The Golden Eagles only led 51-48 with 7:55 left then went on a 22-7 run to close it out. Jerel McNeal was the best player on the court with 26 points and 7 rebounds. The Golden Eagles also had a big edge at the FT line going a Duke-like 24-for-27 from the line compared to the Mountaineers 6-for-10. Bob Huggins will have 2 easy games (Marshall and USF at home) to get the Mountaineers playing well again before returning to the Big East gauntlet with games against Georgetown and Pittsburgh.

#25 Tennessee def. Georgia, 86-77: This was a game of big runs. Fortunately for Bruce Pearl, his team had the last one. The Volunteers, who will likely be out of the top 25 in the next poll, had to come through down the stretch after the Bulldogs took the lead 74-73 with 3:17 left. Tyler Smith led the Vols to victory with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Bruce Pearl will need his team to step it up as their next 7 games are tough (by SEC standards). After coming into the season as the heavy favorites to win the SEC, the Vols have failed to live up to expectations and will likely face a tough challenge from an underrated Arkansas team.

1 PM & 2 PM Games
#2 Duke def. FSU, 66-58: You’ll have a hard time finding a stranger game. After the ugliest first half you will ever see, Duke led 19-14 at break. After that the Blue Devils came out on fire in the 2nd half opening up a 46-21 lead with 12:48 left. Then FSU came back to cut it to 50-40 with 6 minutes to go. Duke held on to win, but FSU earned a lot of respect with that near comeback. Gerald Henderson led Duke win a career-high 25 points. Jay Bilas was correct in pointing out that this year’s Duke team has a lot higher ceiling than last year’s team because of Henderson’s development. Teams should watch out for the Seminoles who played #1 Pittsburgh tough earlier this year. Am I the only one who heard the douchebag behind the ESPN announcers yelling “The Cameron Crazies suck!” and “We want Paulus!”? I guess when you go to a school with girls as hot as they have at FSU you shouldn’t expect to have the most intelligent crowds.

#6 Oklahoma def. Kansas State, 61-53: Blake Griffin is a beast. That’s about all there is to say about this game. Griffin put up 29 points and 15 rebounds. I would have liked to have seen the #6 team in the country win this game by more, but it’s a conference road game so I guess the Sooners still have to be happy. It’s too bad we couldn’t see Griffin matched up against Michael Beasley, who is having fun coming off the bench in Miami this winter. Monday will be the big test for Oklahoma as Texas comes up to Norman in a match-up that will help determine the best team in the Big 12.

#8 Michigan State def. Kansas, 75-62: After a slow start the Spartans opened up a big lead (37-18 at half) and continued to hold it for most of the 2nd half, but the Jayhawks showed a lot of poise at coming back to make it a close game. Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan helped the Spartans counter a strong game from Sherron Collins (25 points and 8 assists, but 8 turnovers).

#10 Georgetown def. Providence, 82-75: Georgetown had to rally to win this game as they trailed by as many as 9 in the first half. After a quiet first half, Greg Monroe ended up having the type of solid all-around game that makes NBA scouts drool (13 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, and 2 blocks).

#13 Notre Dame def. Seton Hall, 88-79: This was actually a tie game with 8 minutes left, but the Fighting Irish were able to pull out another win at the Joyce Center. Luke Harangody had a rough day from the field (8-for-24) but ended up with 30 points and 16 rebounds to lead Notre Dame to the win.

#16 Arizona State def. Oregon, 76-58: Not much to say here except that it’s amazing how far Oregon’s program has fallen. A solid if unspectacular game from Pac-10 POY candidate James Harden (19 points).

#20 Butler def. Detroit, 54-50: Butler came out flat in this one falling behind 26-22 at half to a team that came into the game 4-10. The scarier thing is that they were at home for this too. Matt Howard was the only player in double figures with 15 points. If there was ever a time you should have your ranking drop because of a win, this would be it. If I voted in the BlogPoll, I would kick Butler out of the top 25 for this “win”.

#23 Baylor def. Texas Tech, 73-61: Nice win for Baylor here as they were led by Kevin Rogers with his 14 points and 14 rebounds. They look like a solid #3 in the Big 12 after Texas and Oklahoma.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.10.09 & 01.11.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 8th, 2009

Set Your TivosSet Your Tivos is back with a loaded schedule. It looks like the NCAA is kicking the season into full swing this weekend with that pesky little college football sport and its antediluvian method of determining a champion out of the way, we can all focus on what’s really important.

Saturday
Noon
- NC State at #11 Clemson on Raycom Sports and ESPN Full Court: The Wolfpack will be looking to hand the Tigers their first defeat. Just based on history, I don’t have a lot of faith in Clemson and it looks like the pollsters don’t either. I don’t think this is a particularly interesting game based on the teams playing (especially when you look at the other games you can watch in this time spot), but keep an eye on this one particularly around the end when you could see a team fall from the ranks of the unbeatens.

- #21 Louisville at #17 Villanova on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Will Edgar Sosa’s resurgence lead more disgruntled college coaches to adopt the Rick Pitino method of motivation? Pitino will need Sosa, Earl Clark, and Samardo Samuels at the top of their game if he wants to go into Philadelphia and get Louisville its first quality win of the year. Jay Wright will counter with Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds as the Wildcats hope to return to form after 2 rough games on the road. We’ll be interested to see if Louisville can ride the momentum off their big win over Kentucky to finally play up to the form that we expected them to earlier in the season.

We're big fans of Original Recipe
We’re big fans of Original Recipe

- #22 West Virginia at #15 Marquette on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Honestly, I don’t know if any Big East team is going to be able to make it out of the conference with less than 4 losses. The scary thing is that both of these top 25 teams will struggle to go 8-8 in the conference this year. After a tough loss to Connecticut, the Mountaineers travel north to face the Golden Eagles. Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler will need to outplay Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal, and Lazar Hayward if they hope to get a road win, which will be a rarity this year in the Big East.

1 PM
Kansas at #12 Michigan State on CBS: Tom Izzo has his Spartans playing well after some early struggles. Does anybody want to work out a comparative score about how bad Harvard would beat Michigan State? Bill Self will rely on the inside-outside combo of Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins if he hopes to steal one in East Lansing. The key to this game will be how Collins does against Kalin Lucas. If Collins can outplay Lucas, don’t be surprised if the Jayhawks extend their impressive recent run including a win over Tennessee.

2 PM
- #2 Duke at Florida State on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This could be  potential letdown game for the Blue Devils after their win over Stephen Curry and Davidson on Thursday. [Yes. Curry played well. Much better than he had in previous BCS games, but I don't buy the starting PG, 18-20 PPG as a rookie, and NBA superstar stuff that ESPN was trying to stuff down my throat. I'll post more on this in the near future.] I’m sure that Coach K will remind his team that the Seminoles have knocked off heavily favored Duke teams several times in the past few years (I attended the most shocking of these upsets). I would normally say that Duke should win this type of game without any problem, but with the recent history of this “rivalry” I wouldn’t be too short of anything. As usual with Duke, watch the officials closely.

7 PM
Miami (FL) at #24 Boston College on ESPNU: As we earlier wrote this week, we have no idea what to make of the Eagles. Beat UNC then lose to Harvard the next game. The Hurricanes have been winning all the games they are expected to, but they need to start winning some of the tougher games on their schedule if they want to live up to their preseason top 25 ranking or even make the NCAA tournament. This game will likely come down to a showdown between Jack McClinton and Tyrese Rice. Well that and whether BC decides to show up for this game.

Sunday
Noon

St. John’s at #1 Pittsburgh on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: The Red Storm are coming off a shocking victory over Notre Dame. I don’t really think they should pose much of a challenge to the #1 team in the country, but momentum has a funny way of affecting games like these that shouldn’t be competitive. The Red Storm lost Anthony Mason Jr (son of that Anthony Mason) three games into the season, but have a balanced attack with 4 players averaging between 10.1 and 13.0 PPG. As you’re aware (since you visit this site), the Panthers aren’t quite as balanced, but Sam Young and DeJuan Blair may be one of the best 1-2 combo in nation. Look for this one to be closer than you would expect.

Junior could use some help from daddy this weekend.
The Red Storm could use some help from Junior and daddy this weekend.

1:30 PM
Wisconsin at #14 Purdue on CBS: After years of bashing the Big 10, it looks like the conference is slowly making a comeback. The problem they have now is that they have a lot of solid teams, but no great teams (with the possible exception of Michigan State). After a big win over Michigan at Crisler last weekend, the Badgers go into Indiana looking to pull off another upset. I’m guessing most people will probably be watching the NFL playoffs around this time, but keep this one on “Recall”, “Last”, or whatever function your remote has so you can flip back and forth between the games.

8 PM
#3 UNC at #4 Wake Forest on FSN: Without question, the biggest game of the weekend features the experienced Tar Heels going into Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum to face the extremely young  Demon Deacons. I don’t think there is much to say about the Tar Heels, but here’s a brief summary: Tyler Hansbrough hustles and pulls in the ladies; Ty Lawson is fast, inconsistent, and shouldn’t be let near a car; and Roy Williams wears goofy ties and has a tendency to make comments he wishes he could take back. Oh yeah, they also ball with the President Elect. The Demon Deacons are still kind of an unknown to most of America, but with their win at BYU (ending the Cougars NCAA-leading home winning streak at 53) may be our first glimpse at how good this team could be in the very near future. Al-Farouq Aminu may get the headlines nationally, but be sure to watch for Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Chas McFarland who are all at least as important to Wake as Aminu is. A win here could be big for Wake in getting a high seed in the NCAA tournament. I’d like to take Wake here, but I think the BC game may have woken up the Tar Heels who may have been buying into the hype that was being thrown their way (definitely not from us).

10:30 PM
- #7 UCLA at USC on FSN: The Bruins have quietly rebounded from a couple of close, early-season losses to roll off 8 straight wins (against admittedly weak competition). The Trojans have been inconsistent with some solid wins followed by some horrible losses (Oregon State). This will be one of our East Coast offices first good looks at the Pac-10, which only has two top 25 teams currently. There are a couple of intriguing aspects in this game. How has Darren Collison  adjusting to not having Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook? How is Demar DeRozan adjusting to college hoops and is he legit? Do teenage girls still love Lil’ Romeo? If any of these mysteries interest you or you want to see one of the better crosstown rivalries in recent years, we recommend you tune in at the end of a long weekend. If none of that interests you, tune in to see what Jordan Farmar was complaining about.

0.5 PPG

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2009

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

We are just a week into Big East play, and it is already obvious how much fun this conference is going to be. UConn was supposed to be the best team in the country outside of UNC, but the Huskies lost their Big East opener to Georgetown. At home. And loss isn’t quite the right word. Embarrassed is better. Once everyone was firmly entrenched on the Hoyas jock, they went out and lost back-to-back games to Pitt and Notre Dame. Pitt is the new #1 team in the country, but the Irish were coming off a loss to … St. John’s?

No one is going to make it through this league unscathed. I’d be surprised if anyone finished the season with less than five Ls in league play. If you are one of the nine ranked teams (yes, nine Big East teams are currently ranked), then there are three things you will need to do if your plan on reaching the NCAA tourney:

1) Win your home games. With so many quality teams in the league, defending your home court will guarantee you at least a .500 record in the league. Regardless of your opponent, the top nine teams will almost universally be the favorite when playing at home which leads me to my second point.

2) Beat the teams you are supposed to beat. The top nine (and maybe ten if you include Cincy) are going to beat up on each other all season. I doubt the committee is going to want more than a quarter (8 of 31) of the at-large bids to go to one conference. So if all nine (or ten) want in, they need to take care of business against the South Floridas and DePauls and Rutgers.

3) Pray! Like I said, I doubt that the NCAA wants to have one conference send so many teams to the tourney. If nine Big East teams are going to make it, they will need to catch some breaks during the season. The top four in the ACC need to run through the league (UNC didn’t help on Sunday losing to BC – did anyone else notice that win sent BC from unranked to #17?). The top three in the Big XII need to roll. Likewise for the Pac Ten, Big Ten, and SEC (well, only Tennessee in the SEC). Teams like Davidson, Gonzaga/St. Mary’s, Butler, Xavier, and Memphis need to win their conference tournaments. Essentially, they need to hope that there are as few teams on the bubble as possible.

When it comes down to it, every Big East team is going to have an opportunity to knock off numerous top ten and top twenty teams during the conference play. If any of them finish league play below .500 and without a marquee win in conference, then frankly, they probably are not good enough to deserve a bid.

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