What’s Wrong With Gonzaga?

Posted by rtmsf on February 7th, 2011

Michael Vernetti is an RTC contributor.

“What’s wrong with Gonzaga?” is a question heard more and more throughout college hoops. It is not surprising considering the Zags’ unusual 15-9 overall record and shocking 5-3 mark (4th place) in the West Coast Conference that it has dominated for the past decade.  When any powerhouse team goes into a slump there are myriad reasons, and the same could be said about Gonzaga. Focusing on two major ones, however, helps put the Zags’ current woes into perspective. Simply put, the Zags are suffering from the loss of two players and a vacuum created by those who failed to succeed them.

The Loss of Bouldin (and Pargo) Have Really Hurt the Zag Dynasty

The missing players are Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin. Pargo was the rugged, 6’2, 219-pound point guard who starred in the Zags’ backcourt for four years before graduating in 2009. He was named Player of the Year in the WCC after his junior year, and gave the Bulldogs a solid counterpart to the canny Bouldin. He could take defenders off the dribble, hit jump shots off screens and go to the hoop to flush the ball with authority.  Gonzaga did not directly replace Pargo for the 2009-10 season, instead moving Bouldin into the point guard position and relaying on the mop-head’s court vision and outside shooting skills to maintain the Zags’ superiority in his senior year. The Bouldin-led Zags hit their first speed bump in the post-Pargo era in the 2010 West Coast Conference Tournament championship game against Saint Mary’s. The Gaels’ inside-out combination of Omar Samhan and Ben Allen in the frontcourt and Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova in the backcourt led the Gaels to an 81-62 upset.

Heading into the 2010-11 season, the Zags thought they had finally found a point guard to replace Pargo and Bouldin with JC transfer Marquise Carter, who was a star for Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Carter had impressive stats in two years at Three Rivers – nearly 18 PPG and 5.5 APG in his sophomore year – and led the team to the national JC championship game where he scored 35 points in a loss to Howard of Texas.  Carter, however, who seems much slighter than his roster size of 6’4, 178 pounds (maybe the 178 is correct), has not caught on with the Zags. The Bulldogs started the season with journeyman backcourt player Meech Goodson at the point alongside all-around star Steven Gray, and based their hopes on their strong frontcourt duo of Robert Sacre in the post and Elias Harris at power forward. Redshirt sophomore guard David Stockton, son of the legendary Gonzaga and NBA star John Stockton, has steadily rung up more minutes at the point as this season goes on, and may end up as the Zags’ regular lead guard by season’s end. Or not, as coach Mark Few has tinkered with his lineup from day one and may not be finished trying to find a solution.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #14 – West Coast

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2009

seasonpreview

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.   Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Portland (11-3)
  2. Gonzaga (10-4)
  3. Saint Mary’s (8-6)
  4. San Diego (7-7)
  5. Santa Clara (6-8)
  6. Loyola Marymount (6-8)
  7. USF (5-9)
  8. Pepperdine (3-11)

All-Conference Team:

  • Matt Bouldin (G), Gonzaga
  • Kevin Foster (G), Santa Clara
  • Dior Lowhorn (F), USF
  • Kevin Young (F), Loyola
  • Omar Samhan (C), Saint Mary’s

6th man. Nik Raivio, Portland

Impact newcomer. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s

wcc logoWhat You Need to Know.

  • Going International.  The 2010 season marks the WCC’s most pronounced bow to international athletes, with every team having at least two foreign-born players and two of the predicted top three finishers – Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s – pinning their season hopes on the performance of foreigners. Saint Mary’s gave the trend its biggest boost by establishing an Australian pipeline that produced Daniel Kickert, the Gaels’ all-time leading scorer, and Patty Mills, who opted for the NBA after two sensational seasons. The Gaels continue as the Koala’s best friend this year, with five Aussies expected to make contributions and one, freshman guard Matthew Dellavedova, looming as a potential star.  Gonzaga’s Pacific Northwest pipeline that supplied stars Adam Morrison, Dan Dickau and Blake Stepp, among others, may be temporarily clogged, but the Zags have turned to Canada (Manny Arop, Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynyk), Germany (Elias Harris), and Sudan by way of Canada (Bol Kong), to maintain their position atop the conference. USF joined the crowd in a big way this off-season, luring a Czech (Tomas Bruha), two Frenchmen (Moustapha Diarra, Nikola Stojiljkovic) and a Canadian (Perris Blackwell).
  • Room at the Top: Gonzaga, with nine WCC titles in a row, and Saint Mary’s, a perennial runner-up under Randy Bennett, have dominated the conference in recent years. But Gonzaga lost four of its main contributors from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team (Austin Daye, Josh Heytvelt, Jeremy Pargo and Micah Downs) and Saint Mary’s said goodbye to Mills, all-time leading rebounder and shot-blocker Diamon Simpson, starting forward Ian O’Leary and a trio of valuable back-ups in Yusef Smith, Lucas Walker and Carlin Hughes. That’s why Portland, with all five starters back from last year’s 19-13 team that finished third in the conference, can’t wait to shove its way into the top spot. Santa Clara’s Kerry Keating and USF’s confident newcomer Rex Walters, entering his second year, have recruited aggressively and well, indicating that they, too, are up to challenging Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in the next few years.
  • Multiple NCAA Bids: The conference was shocked last year when Saint Mary’s, 25-6 overall and second place in the conference behind Gonzaga, did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, leaving the Zags as the sole WCC entrant. Just the year before, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and San Diego received bids, the first time in anyone’s memory that three teams had gone to The Dance. Whether the conference elevates itself in the NCAA Selection Committee’s eyes in 2009-10 is one of the biggest question marks looming over the season.

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RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Michigan State Spartans

Posted by zhayes9 on August 20th, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

As we continue our ongoing feature RTC’s Class Schedule for the upcoming 2009-10 season, let’s delve into the slate for the national runner-up of a season ago out of the Big 10: Michigan State. The Spartans entered last season with expectations to win their first regular season conference title since 2000-01 and accomplished said feat with a 15-3 Big 10 record, overcoming two stunning losses at home to Penn State and Northwestern along the way. The Spartans entered the tournament with high hopes as a #2 seed and, after dodging two bullets from USC and Kansas, smoked #1 seed Louisville and edged past Connecticut in the national semifinals before running into the buzzsaw known as North Carolina. With 2008-09’s successful season in the past, Tom Izzo is moving on with his point guard (Kalin Lucas), sharpshooter (Durrell Summers), enigma (Raymar Morgan), sophomore stud (Delvon Roe) and emerging big man (Draymond Green) all in the fray. Michigan State fans will accept nothing less than Tom Izzo’s sixth Final Four appearance this season in East Lansing.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the game-by-game journey Michigan State will have to endure if they wish to meet such lofty expectations. The official schedule can be found here:

4390903142044_Ohio_St_v_Michigan_St[1]

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 9.5. Tom Izzo never backs down from a challenge. Last season, Izzo traveled to the loaded Old Spice Classic, a trip halted by a stunning defeat at the hands of Maryland. He also faced Texas in Houston and North Carolina at Ford Field for the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Both the latter contests will also be featured in the 2009-10 edition of Michigan State’s non-conference slate, but this time as true road games rather than semi-neutral floors. That’s right, on December 1 the Spartans will play UNC in Chapel Hill and, on December 22, Texas in Austin. Rarely do you see a team with the status of Michigan State play such challenging road contests in non-conference play. Victories in either venue will provide Izzo with a significant quality win to tout during arguments for top seeds in March. Izzo also signed up his Spartans for the Legends Classic in November in Atlantic City where he’ll face Florida and either Rutgers or Massachusetts in the final (you’d think it would be Florida-Michigan State in the final, but I digress). Another program with a perennially loaded non-conference slate is Gonzaga. Mark Few’s team will travel to East Lansing for one of the top November contests, even with Austin Daye, Jeremy Pargo and Josh Heytvelt departed.

Cupcake City: In between the two road games in North Carolina and Texas, Michigan State packed in some much-deserved cupcakes. The challengers will be Wofford, The Citadel (that game being played in Charleston, oddly enough), Oakland and IPFW. While The Citadel had a surprising 20-win campaign last year, the only team that may be able to stay on the floor with Michigan State is Oakland, a 23-13 squad from a year ago that nearly toppled North Dakota State in the Summit final. Michigan State will also face Florida Gulf Coast and Texas-Arlington at home.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

dynamiteWe’ll be doing a full BGtD today so you won’t have any interruptions in coverage tonight. Honestly, last night’s games were kind of disappointing. Pittsburgh-Xavier was entertaining, but that was the only game that I would say was memorable from a pure basketball standpoint. Now the other games did have their own interesting subplots. UConn rolled over Purdue in a game that was close at points in the 2nd half, but I never really got the sense that the Huskies were in any danger of losing. I was particularly impressed with how the Huskies played despite the media circus that is going on around them. Missouri‘s victory over Memphis was entertaining although for me it was marred a little by the atrocious free throw shooting. As we mentioned last night, I really wonder what John Calipari does, if he does anything, for his team’s free throw shooting. At this point, I’m convinced J.J. Redick would have shot 70% from the free throw line if he had gone to Memphis. Also, what happened to vaunted Memphis defense. Missouri has a good offense, but they shouldn’t be able to hit triple digits in regulation against a team that went into the game with the #1 defense according to the Pomeroy numbers. I’m sure some of you took great pleasure in watching Villanova pick apart Duke leading to another early March exit for Coach K, but the game wasn’t exactly exciting if you didn’t have a rooting interest for (or in most people’s case against) a team.

The line-up for tonight should give us a couple of interesting games:

  • 7:07 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:27  PM: #3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 9:37 PM: #3 Kansas vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:57 PM: #4 Gonzaga vs. #1 UNC

We’ll be back around 7 for the start of tonight’s action. Leave your comments/questions and we’ll respond to them as soon as we start.

6:55 PM: A couple quick pieces of news to pass along in the midst of this Billy Gillispie madness and these somewhat important games tonight. Clemson‘s star forward Trevor Booker will return for his senior year. The news out of Iowa isn’t as good after Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, and David Palmer announced that they are transfering, which means that Todd Lickliter will need to replace 2 starting guards and a reserve forward.

7:10 PM: Chase Budinger makes a great play to temper Louisville’s great start. He’s going to need to have a great game tonight. If both teams use the press tonight, we’re going to get a blowout (and I think it will end up going in Louisville’s favor).

7:12 PM: I should warn you that I’m a big Chase Budinger fan so you’ve been warned. I haven’t seen a lot of him this year (stupid west coast starts), but I think he has the makings of a very solid NBA player.

7:14 PM: That’s not a good stat for Arizona. Only 6 Wildcats have scored in the NCAA tournament.

7:19 PM: Great play by Edgar Sosa feeding it to Preston Knowles. This pressure is going to kill Arizona if they only go 6 deep.

7:28 PM: I don’t think it will matter tonight, but I hope you paid attention to that FT statistic. Louisville shoots 63.8% as a team (307th out of 334 teams). That will come back to bite them. Just ask John Calipari. Actually he probably wouldn’t admit it because his team was just as bad last night. . .

7:30 PM: I think that any Blue Devil who mentions that they made the 1994 title game should put an asterisk by it on their resume saying that they rode Grant Hill‘s coattails there. If you don’t agree with me, see what happened the next year even if Coach K missed the last 2/3 of the season.

7:31 PM: It looks dead in Memphis. What do you guys think? I’m guessing it’s only 20% full. UNC fans must have bought up most of the stadium.

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: South Region Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2009

RTC interns Matt P. and Mike L. are our NCAA Tournament East Region correspondents.

Isn’t it amazing how perfectly paired the Sweet 16 games look in the South Region? It’s almost as if the best four teams advanced, or something like that. Currently, Ken Pomeroy has both match-ups at nearly 50-50 odds: UNC with a 55% likelihood of beating Gonzaga and Syracuse with an even slimmer 52% of moving on over Oklahoma. Here’s hoping both games come down to the last shot so all the chalk haters out there can’t complain about a boring tournament.

Team That Almost Went Home
The Gonzaga Bulldogs were 0.9 seconds, some semblance of transition defense, and an acknowledged timeout away from going to an overtime session with Western Kentucky. Luckily for them, none of that happened and a guy who averages 3.8 points per game hit the shot of his life at the buzzer helping Mark Few’s team advanced. Things don’t look to get any easier though. After WKU’s starting guards, A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez, dropped 24 and 25 points each on the Zags, they get to try to slow down a rested Ty Lawson and hot-shooting Wayne Ellington from UNC.

Team That Has Cruised So Far
After their marathon time in the Big East Tournament, Syracuse desperately needed two no-sweat wins in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, in which they only trailed once – a 24 second stretch in the first four minutes against Arizona State. Most likely, the ho-hum affairs end when they meet Oklahoma in Memphis. Guard Jonny Flynn is currently projected as a mid/late first round draft pick, but a dominant performance against Blake Griffin’s team could boost him into lottery contention.

Team With the Most to Prove
Despite having the player expected to be Player of the Year and first pick in the upcoming draft, there is still a bit of uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma. They’ve yet to win that defining game. They seemed to sputter a bit at the end of the season, but much of that is due to Blake Griffin’s injury. But what seems most uncertain is how freshman guard Willie Warren will play when facing the more experienced guards of Syracuse.

Team With Highest Expectations
For Gonzaga, Syracuse, and Oklahoma, a trip to the Sweet 16 might constitute a respectable 2008-2009 season. For a North Carolina team that came in with talk of running the table, it would mean an embarrassing failure. The week off before Friday’s game against Gonzaga has to help UNC’s chances of surviving, giving point guard Ty Lawson a chance to heal the injured toe that hobbled him for much of March. It should be interesting to watch the Josh Heytvelt/Tyler Hansbrough match-up after the Zags center owned Psycho T two years ago, admittedly while Bobby Frasor was still UNC’s main point man. Then, the Heels went as Tyler Hansbrough went. Now, they go as Ty Lawson goes. He’ll be the key to any championship hopes in Chapel Hill.

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South Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

North Carolina v. Radford (#1 v. #16)

This is probably the most interesting 1 v. 16 in the tournament. North Carolina will be heavily favored, and will probably win the game, but the Radford Highlanders are no slouch. They have four players that score in double digits, led by 7-foot-0 Artsiom Parakhouski, who is leading the team in scoring (16.3), rebounding (11.2). Matching Parakhouski with Tyler Hansbrough will be fun to watch. One analyst said the Tar Heels don’t even need to start Ty Lawson, but this is the NCAA Tournament, if he is ready to go, he will play.

The Tar Heels are more talented and deeper than Radford, so this wouldn’t be the game to hope for a monumental upset. Radford’s best win is against VMI in the Big South Conference Final, and they have been blown out by every team they have played in a major conference. I will still tune in, just to see Hansborough post up Parakhouski.

LSU v. Butler (#8 v. #9)

This game pits two teams that were under-seeded by the NCAA and as a result, will give the viewers a competitive, fast-paced game to watch. Both teams are in the middle of the tournament pack in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency but they both have great athletes and fun players to watch.

The key match-up will be on the wing where Butler’s Gordon Hayward and LSU’s Marcus Thornton will see a lot of each other. Both players can light it up offensively in a number of ways. Matt Howard and Chris Johnson should be a good one down low. Johnson has a significant height advantage, but Howard scores  a lot of points of hustle, and can be a crafty scorer in the post.

Illinois v. Western Kentucky (#5 v. #12)

Everyone’s trendy upset pick is looking even better with the news that the Illini senior point guard, and best defender, Chester Frazier, is a “long shot” to play according to coach Bruce Weber. But, the Hilltoppers are not the same team they were last year when they made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to UCLA; however, they are good.

Illinois has not played well away from home (4-6), and Portland is quite a trip from Champaign. The Illini have not shot well from the field, and they will need to get Mike Davis (11.6 pts/game, 53.2 FG%) involved early if they want to keep up. The Hilltoppers have four players between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-5 who average double digits and they will run away with this one if the Illini aren’t careful.

Gonzaga v. Akron (#4 v. #13)

I don’t think this game will be as close as many people think. The ‘Zags are one of the hottest teams in the country having won 18 out of their last 20 games, and dismantled Saint Mary’s 83-58 in the WCC Final.

The ‘Zags are in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and Akron just does not have the firepower or the athleticism to keep up with Gonzaga for 40 minutes. Akron has the advantage in depth though. The Zips can go ten deep, and defend well. If they can wear down Jeremy Pargo, they have a chance.

Arizona State v. Temple (#6 v. #11)

Anyone who thinks these teams are both one-man shows is sadly mistaken. There is absolutely no doubt the Sun Devils’ James Harden and the Owls’ Dionte Christmas can take over a game offensively, the there will be another battle to keep an eye on down low.

ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph (14.5/8.4/66.5%) and Temple’s Lavoy Allen (10.9/8.9/57.9%) will be banging on the low blocks, and crashing the glass will be extremely important for both teams. The role players will be the deciding factor in this game, and if ASU point guard Derek Glasser minimizes mistakes, and finds Harden often, ASU has the advantage over the surprising Owls.

Syracuse v. Stephen F. Austin (#3 v. #14)

The Orange enter the tournament playing some of their best basketball of the season, and despite their fatiguing run through the Big East Tournament are a heavy favorite over the Lumberjacks. Jonny Flynn and Andy Rautins have been absolutely on fire, and there is no one on the Lumberjacks roster to match up with them.

The Lumberjacks are an interesting case. They are in the top 20 in defensive efficiency, but are 242nd in offensive efficiency. They beat Drake in December, but they also lost by 16 to Arkansas and 14 to Texas Tech, and neither one of those teams are as good as the ‘Cuse. The Lumberjacks will rotate in a lot of guys, and they only stand a chance if Syracuse isn’t fresh and comes out slow.

Clemson v. Michigan (#7 v. #10)

Both teams and their coaches come into the game with something to prove. The Tigers have to prove they are for real this year, and that they can make noise in the tournament, and the Wolverines need to prove their system works outside of the plodding Big Ten.

The game will feature two of the more athletic combo forwards in Clemson’s Trevor Booker and Michigan’s DeShawn Sims. It will be interesting to see if the two guard one another. But, the Wolverine offense goes as Manny Harris goes, but he is inconsistent as he has nine games with single-digit point totals. If Clemson’s KC Rivers can frustrate Harris, the Wolverines will have a tough time offensively.

Oklahoma v. Morgan State (#2 v. #15)

On paper, the Sooners have a clear advantage in every facet of the game, but the Bears have beaten both DePaul and Maryland, and played close games with Mississippi and St. Mary’s. The problem is, they don’t have anyone who can guard Blake Griffin, or Willie Warren.

Oklahoma has been struggling late and if ever there was a time to strike for Todd Bozeman’s club, now is the time. But they might not have enough weapons to keep up with the Sooners, and Griffin will get to have his way on the low blocks.

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NCAA Preview: Gonzaga Bulldogs

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2009

Gonzaga (# 4 seed, South, Portland pod)

vs. Akron (#13)
March 19th, 7:25 P.M.

Vegas Line: Gonzaga -13

gonzaga-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Spokane, Washington
Conference: WCC, won the conference tournament
Coach: Mark Few, 262-65 at Gonzaga
08-09 Record: 26-5, 14-0
Last 12 Games: 11-1, 9-game winning streak
Best Win: 83-74 v. Tennessee, November 30th
Worst Loss: 70-77 v. Portland State, December 23rd
Off. Efficiency Rating: 117.9/ 5th overall
Def. Efficiency Rating: 88.4/ 12th overall

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): Jeremy Pargo- 9.8 points/game, 5.1 assists/game, 2/1 assist/turnover, 3.5 rebounds/game; Josh Heytvelt- 14.9 points/game, 6.7 rebounds/game, 0.9 blocks/game, 54.5 FG%

Unsung Hero: Steven Gray- 9.3 points/game, 3.1 rebounds/game, 2 assists/game, 36.4 3PT%

Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Austin Daye/ projected 50th overall….Josh Heytvelt/ projected 59th overall

Key Injuries: None

Depth: 27.3%/ 255th overall

Achilles Heel: At the beginning of the season, this looked like the best team the Gonzaga Bulldogs have ever fielded in terms of sheer talent on the roster. But the ‘Zags don’t really have a go-to scorer. Heytvelt is their leading scorer, but in a tight game late it is hard to see Mark Few ordering the ball to be fed to Heytvelt and let him take over. The team lacks a true star player that they can go to in crunch time.

Will Make a Deep Run if… Maybe the NCAA tournament will inspire Austin Daye to play up to his potential. The ‘Zags don’t desperately need Daye to be awesome to have success, but if he begins to play the way he is capable of, the ‘Zags will be a very tough team to stop. They have all the important pieces of a Final Four team, but they need a true scorer, and Daye has the potential to do it.

Will Make an Early Exit if… When the ‘Zags have struggled this season, it has been against supremely athletic teams. For example, Mark Few’s team looked overmatched when they got blown out by Memphis at home. If they run into a team like Siena in the first or second round, they could have a lot of trouble trying to guard the penetration of Siena’s athletic wing players.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2008, lost in the first round to Davidson

Streak: 10 consecutive seasons

Best NCAA Finish: They made it to the Elite Eight in 1999 before losing to Connecticut

Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.16 wins per appearance

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: none

Distance to First Round Site: 352 miles away from Portland, Oregon

School’s Claim to Fame: Basketball?

School Wishes It Could Forget: Nothing is more embarrassing for a coach to learn that your star center would rather be at a Phish concert that playing basketball. But when Josh Heytvelt was suspended last year for marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms, that’s what Mark Few learned. The pot is a normal occurrence in the world of college sports, but the mushrooms? Was Heytvelt wearing a tie-dye Grateful Dead t-shirt as well?

Prediction: The ‘Zags looked absolutely dominant as they rolled through the West Coast Tournament, and Illinois is one of the worst five-seeds in the tournament. But if the ‘Zags make it to the Sweet 16, they will have to get through North Carolina, and they just don’t have the talent to match the ‘Heels.

Written by… Mike Lemaire

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QnD South Region Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009

SOUTH REGION PREVIEW (by Mike Lemaire)

Favorite
North Carolina, #1 seed, (27-3, 13-3 ACC)

Should They Falter
Syracuse, #3 seed, (23-8, 11-7 Big East)

Grossly Overseeded
Illinois, #5 seed, (23-8, 11-7 Big Ten)

Grossly Underseeded
Butler, #9 seed, (25-4, 15-3 Horizon)

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower)
Western Kentucky, #12 seed, (21-8, 15-3 Sun Belt)

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower)
Clemson, #7 seed, (23-7, 9-7 ACC)

Carmelo Anthony Award
James Harden, Arizona State- 20.8 points/game, 5.5 rebounds/game, 4.2 assists/game, 50.2 FG%

Stephen Curry Award
Reggie Holmes, Morgan State- 16.9 points/game, 5.5 assists/game, 37.8 3PT%

Home Cooking
North Carolina (#1 Seed), 50.7 miles away from Greensboro
Radford (#16 Seed), 135.8 miles away from Greensboro

Can’t Miss First Round Game
LSU v. Butler- Thursday, March 19th

Don’t Miss This One Either
Illinois v. Western Kentucky- Thursday, March 19th

Lock of the Year
Illinois will not make it out of the second round. Call me a Big Ten hater, but I am not a fan of any of the teams in the Big Ten, despite the fact they put seven teams in the tournament. Even if the Illini escape Western Kentucky, which will be difficult, there is no way this team will make it out of the second round. Chester Frazier is injured, and this team lacks any sort of offensive firepower. If they fall behind early, they aren’t capable of catching up

Juiciest Potential Match-up (Purists)
North Carolina v. Gonzaga could meet in the Sweet 16. Just the thought of Jeremy Pargo matching up against Ty Lawson makes purists start to salivate. The ‘Zags have a ton of talent, and could be a trendy Final Four team, but they will have to make it through the best team in their region. Two great coaches matching wits, two uber-athletic teams, and two fantastic point guards? Count me in!

Juiciest Potential Match-up (Media)
North Carolina v. Oklahoma would only meet in the Elite Eight, but if they do, I can already see the media firestorm that would engulf the game. Not because they are the two best teams, but because ESPN would love to get a Tyler Hansbrough vs. Blake Griffin storyline going. Griffin is assuming the throne from Hansbrough, and the thought of the two best big men in college basketball squaring off might even knock A-Rod out of the headlines.

We Got Screwed
Butler, #9 seed, (25-4, 15-3 ACC).  So let me get this straight. The Bulldogs lose only four games all season by a combined total of 19 points, and they get rewarded by playing a, the strongest #8 seed in the whole tournament, and if they win that, they only have to play what amounts to a home game for North Carolina. The Bulldogs had a fantastic season, but it doesn’t look like they have a great shot to make moves.

Strongest Pod
North Carolina vs. Radford and Butler vs. LSU.  From a talent standpoint, there are probably other pods in this region that are the strongest. But from a relative standpoint, you won’t find a better 16 seed, 8 seed, or 9 seed in the entire tournament. A lot of people will pick North Carolina to win it all, but just in this bracket alone we have the SEC regular season champ, one of the best mid-majors in the country, and a vastly underrated team which features a potential lottery pick in Radford’s Artsiom Parakhouski.

Wildcard, Bitches…
NBA scouts will be watching this region closely as there are a ton of juicy pro prospects.  Here is a Top 10 list:

1. Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)…(No. 1 on NBA Draft Net’s Big Board)
2. James Harden (ASU)…(No. 3)
3. Willie Warren (Oklahoma)…(No.18)
4. Ed Davis (UNC)…(No. 28)
5. Ty Lawson (UNC)…(No. 29)
6. Tyler Hansbrough (UNC)…(No. 32)
7. Wayne Ellington (UNC)…(No. 40)
8. Trevor Booker (Clemson)…(No. 51)
9. Jonny Flynn (Syracuse)…(No. 53)
10. Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga)…(No. 59)

So-Called Experts
UNC.  Almost every expert from CBS and ESPN has picked the Tar Heels to move on to Detroit.

Vegas Odds to Win Region

2009-south-odds


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RTC Aftermath: WCC Tournament Finals

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009

RTC Aftermath will come to you each night where our correspondents are at the conference tournament games as a part of RTC Live.  Michael Vernetti is in Las Vegas all weekend covering the WCC Tournament for RTC.  RTC Live was onsite Friday through Monday, concluding tonight in the Gonzaga vs. St. Mary’s Championship Game.

It was a Gonzaga party in the WCC championship game as the Zags continued a tournament blitz with an 83-58 victory over Saint Mary’s. Gonzaga featured balanced scoring with five players scoring in double figures, led by Josh Heytvelt’s 17 points. Matt Bouldin played another all-around excellent game, scoring 14 points and handing out 7 assists with no turnovers. Other big contributors for Gonzaga were Steven Gray and Jeremy Pargo.

Matt Bouldin Was Tremendous All Weekend

Matt Bouldin Was Tremendous All Weekend

Saint Mary’s returned-from-injury guard Patty Mills was ineffective in his second game back after suffering a broken hand in a Jan. 29 game against Gonzaga. Mills, showing the rust from his long layoff, went just 2-16 for 5 points and sat out much of the second half. Diamon Simpson and Omar Samhan led the Gaels with 17 points each. Samhan also pulled down 9 boards for the Gaels and Simpson grabbed 6.

Gonzaga dominated the all-tournament team, placing guards Pargo and Bouldin, along with forward Micah Downs, who was voted tourney MVP. The rest of the all-star group included Saint Mary’s forward Simpson and Santa Clara center John Bryant. With the tournament championship, Gonzaga won an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA championships, where they are hoping to ride their strong performance in Las Vegas to a high seed. Saint Mary’s will have to await the Selection Committee’s decision next Sunday, March 15 to see if they get an at-large bid.

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RTC Aftermath: WCC Semifinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009

RTC Aftermath will come to you each night where our correspondents are at the conference tournament games as a part of RTC Live.  Michael Vernetti is in Las Vegas all weekend covering the WCC Tournament for RTC.  RTC Live will be there on Monday night as Gonzaga-St. Mary’s Part III occurs.

Gonzaga had five players in double figures – led by Austin Daye’s 28 points – to crush Santa Clara 94-59 in tonight’s first semifinal game of the West Coast Conference tournament. The Zags got 18 from Micah Downs, 16 from Jeremy Pargo, 12 from Steven Gray and 11 from Matt Bouldin to totally dominate the Broncos.

Santa Clara’s stellar post man John Bryant eked out another of his patented double-doubles – 13 points and 12 rebounds – but it was not nearly enough to slow down the Zags. Bronco freshman James Rahon scored 20 points on 8-15 FG shooting to pace his team, which did not even slightly resemble the team that beat San Diego the night before.  With the win, Gonzaga advanced to tomorrow’s championship game against  Saint Mary’s, who defeated Portland 71-61.

Mills is Back, and Gonzaga is in His Sights
Mills is Back, and Gonzaga is in His Sights

Saint Mary’s benefited from the return to its lineup of point guard Patty Mills, who had missed all of February with broken bones in his shooting hand. Mills had 12 points and energized the Gaels on offense and defense. Saint Mary’s featured balanced scoring, with three players in double figures. Omar Samhan notched a double-double, with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Samhan’s front court mate Diamon Simpson chipped in with 14 boards and 15 points of his own.  Portland was led by guard Nik Raivio with 15 points.

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WCC Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2009

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.  He will be reporting from the WCC Tournament this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Check for his game liveblogs at RTC Live: WCC Tournament throughout the weekend.

A little unexpected news on the injury front has turned what looked to be a rather drab WCC Conference Tournament into a hotbed of excitement. The news concerned the broken right hand of Saint Mary’s star guard Patty Mills, who had been told by his doctor not to count on being ready for the tournament. That was before a visit with the doc on Monday (3/2), at which time Mills was pronounced fit to resume practicing with the Gaels. Current plans from coach Randy Bennett had Mills participating in non-contact drills on Tuesday and Wednesday and full five-on-five scrimmages on Thursday, Friday and maybe even Saturday since Saint Mary’s doesn’t have to be in Las Vegas for its first game until Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

The condition of Mills’ hand is significant because it permits speculation about a possible rematch between Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga with revenge and an NCAA tournament bid in the balance. As the number one and number two seeds in the tournament, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s need only to get by a single semifinal contest to face each other for a third time this season in the WCC championship game Monday night, March 9. Their first game on January 29 on Gonzaga’s home court in Spokane was shaping up to be Mills’ finest effort as a collegian, as he rattled the Zags for 18 points in the first 17 minutes of the game. Then as he eluded the Zags’ Jeremy Pargo on a dash into the key, Mills lost his balance and fell to the floor, with his right hand striking the hardwood first. Given the spills taken regularly by the fearless Mills it didn’t seem to be much to be worried about, but appearances were deceiving. He had broken metacarpal bones, requiring surgery, insertion of pins to stabilize the area and fitting of a cast. Things immediately went downhill for the Gaels, who were 18-1 and possessing the nation’s longest active winning streak at 15 heading into the Gonzaga game.

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Checking in on the… WCC

Posted by nvr1983 on February 16th, 2009

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

There is no drama left in the race for the WCC conference title and favorite’s role heading into the conference tournament – it’s Gonzaga by a landslide – but that doesn’t mean the excitement is over in the West Coast Conference. With Portland’s emergence as a threat to Saint Mary’s for number two behind the Zags and a wild scramble underway to fill out the top four league spots, the last two weeks of play will be interesting.

Here’s how it is shaping up:

Saint Mary’s vs Portland
The Gaels may have righted themselves following the loss of Patty Mills on Jan. 29 by losing a winnable rematch against Gonzaga 72-70 (2/12) and pulling away from Portland in the second half to win 77-65 (2/14), both games in Moraga. Not only did the win over the Pilots give the Gaels as a team a much-needed confidence boost, it may have given even more to sophomore point guard Mickey McConnell. McConnell rebounded from a miserable outing as Mills’ stand-in against Gonzaga – six turnovers and five points is not a line to be remembered – to score 20 against Portland and post a gleaming line: four-for-four from three-point land and six-for-six from the foul line. McConnell has been up and down this year for the Gaels, but may be coming into his own at a crucial time. A coaches’ son from Mesa, AZ, McConnell has held coach Randy Bennett’s praise and confidence since arriving in Moraga, and now has a perfect opportunity to show everyone else what Bennett sees.

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