ATB: New Year’s Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2010

New Year’s Football? Coulda fooled us, as there were nearly 200 basketball games over the last four days in every corner of America.  And here’s the rub — a couple dozen of those games held more value than all those meaningless bowls over the same time period.  The bowls are fun for the players and the fans of the teams involved (another reason to tailgate), but they have absolutely no (as in zero; as in 0.00%) bearing on the national title picture in football.  At least games like West Virginia @ Purdue and Louisville @ Kentucky and William & Mary @ Hofstra have implications toward invitation and seeding in the NCAA Tournament in March.  These games matter.  The bowls (save Thursday night) do not.  Let’s see what some of the highlights of the long weekend were.

Unbeaten No More.  Two of the remaining six undefeated teams lost over the weekend — one expected, one unexpected.  On Friday afternoon, a New Year’s Day tilt between the #4 (Purdue) and #6 (West Virginia) teams in America resulted in the Boilermakers running away with the game 77-62.  JaJuan Johnson was awesome on the interior (25/10), completely outplaying the WVU big men Da’Sean Butler (17/7) and Devin Ebanks (11/6) and showing that when he, Robbie Hummel (18/2) and E’Twaun Moore (15/3 assts) are clicking, the Boilermakers can play with anybody in America.  Oddly, WVU shot the ball ok enough to win, and was absolutely scorching from deep (9-12 3FG), but it was the 17 turnovers that did them in.  Time and time again a poor possession on the WVU end (in large part because of their lack of a true PG) led to Purdue points on the other end.  This game was arguably the ‘biggest’ game of the preconference schedule, and Purdue made a real statement as to its legitimacy in this one.

The unexpected loss was #5 Syracuse, who has looked so fantastic this season, dropping a game to rebuilding Pittsburgh on Saturday.  There were quite a few people in the preseason who were writing off Pitt after what was admittedly huge personnel losses from last season, but those people obviously don’t know or care to know that Jamie Dixon is a phenomenal coach (same as Bo Ryan at Wisconsin).  He always figures out how to win with the team he’s got.  His guards attacked the Syracuse zone to the tune of ten threes while holding their own on the boards and forcing Syracuse to miss most of theirs (1-13 from deep).  A 55-point second half behind Ashton Gibbs’ 24 /8 and Jermaine Dixon’s 21/5/4 assts/5 stls for the game gave Pitt its defining win for the season, and it was clear throughout the second twenty minutes that the Panthers were the more aggressive team.  Syracuse’s Wes Johnson (19/6) didn’t have his usual double-double, but the Cuse players are going to have to remember that Big East foes know how to play against their zone and will need to adjust accordingly.

There are four unbeatens remaining. You may have heard of them.  #1 Kansas, #2 Texas, #3 Kentucky, #4 Purdue.

Bluegrass Bloody Brawl#3 Kentucky 71, Louisville 62. This was an ugly, ugly game, and the tone was set from the first eight seconds when it was clear that one of Rick Pitino’s primary strategies was going to be to rough up the young Wildcats in an attempt to get in their heads.  It worked with Louisville’s first target, Eric Bledsoe, as he was sent to the bench almost immediately, but it never fazed DeMarcus Cousins (18/18/3 assts) or John Wall (17/4), who were subject to repeated hacks and hard fouls throughout.  This game was a turnover-filled foulfest that included five techs, but when Louisville came back to take a one-point lead at 42-41, it was Wall (who later said he’s not even close to fulfilling his potential) who once again took over the game and made several key plays to give the Wildcats breathing room.  This put UK at 15-0 and at its best start in forty years, making the Wildcat faithful apoplectic over the possibility of what lies ahead.  UK will most certainly lose a game or several in the SEC, but what’s even more amazing to us is that John Calipari is now 86-6 over the last two-plus seasons.  Those are John Wooden/Coach K in their prime type of numbers (before you get all crazy, we’re not saying Calipari is as good as those guys… yet).

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2009


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

You all were waiting for it.  And it finally happened.

You may not have noticed due to the beer and football induced stupor you were in on Sunday, but the Big East had a pretty rough weekend. Louisville, Providence, DePaul, Notre Dame, Villanova, Cincinnati and Marquette all lost as the Big East went 7-7 over the course of Saturday and Sunday. That’s seven losses in two days from a league that had 20 losses over the first month of the season.  Throw in the losses that UConn and Pitt suffered in the Garden during the week, and nine different teams from the league lost this week.  The question now becomes, is this simply the Big East coming back down to earth – hey, they had to lose at some point, didn’t they – or is it a sign that the league is not quite as powerful as some of us speculated in the last few weeks?

Last season, the consensus was that the Big East was one of the strongest in the history of college basketball, but most of that strength was at the top of the league. Less than half of the teams in the Big East made the NCAA Tournament, but of the seven that did, five reached the Sweet 16, four made the Elite 8, and two reached the Final Four.  Can a league be one of the best even when 9 of the 16 teams don’t even qualify for the Big Dance?  Part of the reason there was so much hype regarding the Big East was that they started off so strong. At one point early in the year, nine teams were ranked in the top 25. Two teams that spent time in the top 10, Notre Dame and Georgetown, ended up missing the dance completely.

So, as any reasonable blogger would do, I’ll compare.  Last year on December 16th, the Big East was 116-28 as a league. This year? 119-29. That’s a one game difference in the loss column.  Crazy, right?  Now take into account the disastrous weekend the league just had, and it is pretty obvious that as of last Friday, the Big East was well beyond where they were at this same point last season, and last season the conference was considered one of the best ever.

There’s more.  Seven teams that got out to great starts last season fell way off as the year went along:

  • Seton Hall and St. John’s both started the season 8-1 before hitting a mid-year swoon and finishing 17-16 and 16-18, respectively. Both the Pirates and the Johnnies are much improved this season, and despite neither playing at full strength right now, St. John’s is 8-1 while Seton Hall is 8-0.
  • Notre Dame (7-2) and Georgetown (7-1 on Dec. 16th, 10-1 to start the season) both shot up the polls early in the season, but for a variety of reasons collapsed during the rigors of Big East play, finishing 21-15 and 16-15, respectively. Georgetown is 8-0 this season and once again approaching the top 10, while Notre Dame is 9-2.
  • Cincinnati started the year 7-2 and looked like a team that could compete for a bubble spot, but struggled during conference play as a result of their lack of balance offensively and finished 18-14. They are 6-2 this year and have much more help for Deonta Vaughn.
  • Providence looked like they could also compete for an at-large bid as they started the season 6-3. They are 7-4 this year, but don’t look like they will be a factor come March.

What does all this mean?  Could the Big East actually be better this season than it was last season?  Depends on what you mean by better.

No, they don’t have the same powerhouses at the top of the league. Sure, Syracuse, West Virginia and even Villanova and possibly Georgetown may compete for #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, but will three of those teams be #1 seeds? Not with Kansas, Kentucky, and Texas around.  But the Big East is deeper this season. Teams like Marquette, Louisville, Pitt and UConn, traditional Big East powers, are going to occupy the middle of the league standings. Seton Hall, South Florida, St. John’s, Cincinnati and DePaul, teams that have been consistently at the bottom of the league, also look to be middle of the pack teams.  Does that make it a better league?

Player of the Week: Greg Monroe, Georgetown. Monroe carried the Hoyas to a 2-0 week against top 25 teams. On Tuesday against Butler, he went for 24 points and grabbed 15 boards while dominating in the paint. On Saturday against Washington, Monroe was much more of a distributor, as he went for 15 points, 8 boards, and 6 assists while orchestrating the Hoya offense. The most impressive part of his week was that he was seamlessly able to move between the roles of being a dominant post presence and being a a guy that the Hoyas can run their intricate offense through. While I still believe he needs to be assertive in the post for Georgetown to reach their potential, his versatility makes you realize just how good of a basketball player he actually is.

Honor Roll

  • Jamel Jackson, Seton Hall – Jackson scored 40 points and hit 12 threes off the bench in a 134-107 win over VMI.
  • Kevin Jones, West Virginia – Keep an eye on this kid. He averaged 19 ppg and 10 rpg in a 2-0 week for the Mountaineers, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds.
  • Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame – Fresh off of a 31 point performance, Abromaitis averaged 20.5 ppg in a 1-1 week for the Irish. His ability to shoot, score, and take prressure off of Harangody will be a huge factor in the Irish success this season. Full disclosure – I’m biased, Abro is a product of the same AAU program as me.

Team of the Week: Syracuse Orange.

Syracuse gets the nod thanks to their win over Florida in the SEC/Big East challenge in a game played in Tampa. What can I say about the Orange that hasn’t already been said too many times? Their ability to create points off of turnovers is astounding for a zone team, they can shoot, they are big, and they have a star in Wes Johnson. The Orange are arguably the best team in the East.


1. Syracuse

Last Week: 12/10 vs. Florida 85-73; 12/13 vs. St. Francis NY 75-51

Next Week: 12/19 vs. St. Bonaventure

See above.

2. West Virginia

Last Week: 12/9 vs. Duquesne 68-39; 12/12 vs. Coppin State 69-43

Next Week: 12/19 @ Cleveland State

The Mountaineers just keep rolling along, as they have been playing suffocating defense, overwhelming smaller, less physical teams. If there has been a knock on WVU this year, it is that they are not the most efficient offensive team. That could change once Devin Ebanks starts playing better. As I mentioned above, Kevin Jones might be the most pleasant surprise in the league this side of Abromaitis.

3. Georgetown

Last Week: 12/8 vs. Butler 73-65; 12/12 vs. Washington 74-66

Next Week: 12/19 vs. Old Dominion

I’m not completely sold on the Hoyas yet, but you can’t argue with their performance thus far. In depth analysis here.

4. Villanova

Last Week: 12/9 @ St. Joe’s 97-89; 12/13 @ Temple 65-75

Next Week: 12/19 @ Fordham

While you never want to lose a game, dropping a game on the road against a Big 5 rival is not the worst loss in the world. As you should know, you can throw the records out when rivals play, and it also serves to note that Temple is not a terrible team this season. They were a Greg Monroe layup away from winning at Georgetown. Two things to be concerned about: Nova allowed 53 combined points from Juan Fernandez and Ryan Brooks, and Antonio Pena was out played (especially on the glass) by Lavoy Allen, who had 17 rebounds.

5. UConn

Last Week: 12/9 vs. Kentucky 61-64

Next Week: 12/20 vs. Central Florida; 12/22 vs. Maine

Tough to knock the Huskies after their loss to Kentucky. UConn is going to be up and down all season. Their success is going to be a result of their effort. When this team is hustling defensively, crashing the boards, and attacking in transition, they are going to be able to compete with anyone in the league. But when they get pushed around inside like they did against Duke, UConn will look like a NIT team.

6. Cincinnati

Last Week: 12/10 vs. Miami OH 63-59; 12/13 @ Xavier 79-83; 12/16 vs. UAB 64-47

Next Week: 12/19 vs. Lipscomb; 12/22 vs. Winthrop

Like Villanova, take the loss at Xavier with a grain of salt. Losing a double overtime dogfight on the road against your rival isn’t a bad loss. The bigger worry should be the Bearcats offensively. Cincy can bang inside with anyone in the country, and they really have embodied their coach by playing intense defense, but until they become a more efficient offensive team and figure out how to utilize talents like Lance Stephenson, Deonta Vaughn and Yancy Gates, they are going to suffer some losses like this.

7. Seton Hall

Last Week: 12/12 vs. VMI 134-107

Next Week: 12/19 vs. Temple; 12/22 vs. Navy

Its pretty obvious that the Pirates are going to be able to score with just about anyone, but how well they defend this year is going to be the determining factor in where they end up this season. This team has so much talent. You should know about guys like Eugene Harvey and Jeremy Hazell and Herb Pope, but how many teams in the country have a guy like Jamel Jackson on the bench, capable of scoring 40 in a game? Seton Hall will finally play at full strength when Keon Lawrence returns Dec. 19th.

8. St. John’s

Last Week: 12/9 vs. Georgia 66-56; 12/13 vs. Fordham 73-56

Next Week: 12/20 vs. Hofstra

DJ Kennedy is one of the most underrated players in the league, and have quite a few talented role players. When SJU finally gets Anthony Mason back (and that could be a few more weeks), this may be a team that can make the tournament.

9. Louisville

Last Week: 12/12 vs. Western Carolina 83-91; 12/16 vs. Oral Roberts 94-57

Next Week: 12/19 vs. Western Kentucky

Simply put, Louisville just isn’t playing well. Jerry Smith isn’t hitting threes, Terrence Jennings isn’t playing defense, and Samardo Samuels isn’t rebounding. Typical early season swoon for Louisville?

10. Pitt

Last Week: 12/12 vs. Kent State 71-59

Next Week: 12/19 vs. Mt. St. Mary’s

This isn’t your typical Pitt team, but getting Jermaine Dixon healthy and Gilbert Brown eligible will help this team get better offensively.

11. Marquette

Last Week: 12/12 @ Wisconsin 63-72

Next Week: 12/19 vs. North Florida

Marquette has now lost three of four before losing Jeronne Maymon, who left the team. Could that cost them Vander Blue as well? I’m not sure that the mismatches on the offensive end for Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler outweigh their ovewhelming lack of interior size.

12. Notre Dame

Last Week: 12/9 vs. IUPUI 93-70; 12/12 vs. Loyola D 85-87

Next Week: 12/19 vs. UCLA, 12/22 vs. Bucknell

Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough have been nice complimentary players for the Irish, but this group still needs to get better defensively on in the paint.

13. South Florida

Last Week: 12/12 vs. Central Michigan 56-59; 12/16 vs. Central Florida 69-65

Next Week: 12/19 vs. San Francisco; 12/20 vs. San Diego

I wonder how much the NCAA investigation (if there actually is one) will effect this team, that could get a boost from the return of PG Anthony Crater.

14. DePaul

Last Week: 12/10 vs. Mississippi State 45-76; 12/13 vs. Illinois Chicago 77-56; 12/16 vs. American 57-62

Next Week: 12/19 vs. Texas State

DePaul came back to earth when they played MSU. They really need to get Mac Kowshal back.

15. Rutgers

Last Week: 12/9 vs. Monmouth 66-52; 12/15 vs. Rider 80-70 OT

Next Week: 12/19 vs. NJIT; 12/22 vs. St. Peter’s

The Scarlet Knights may end up dropping down these rankings in the coming weeks as second leading scorer Gregory Echinique is out for eight weeks with an eye injury.

16. Providence

Last Week: 12/9 @ George Washington 110-97; 12/12 vs. Iona 73-82

Next Week: 12/21 vs. Yale

With guys like Greedy Peterson, Marshon Brooks and Sharaud Curry, the Friars can put up points. But defense and depth is going to be an issue all season long.

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RTC Live: Jimmy V Classic

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2009


Welcome back to RTC Live, as we are here in MSG for the Jimmy V Classic. In the first game on the night, we get the Georgetown Hoyas squaring off with the Butler Bulldogs. Butler comes into this game having lost two of three out in Anaheim at the 76 Classic, but bounced back with wins over Valpo and Ball State. Georgetown is undefeated, but they have not been tested yet. That will change tonight, however. In the nightcap, Pitt takes on Indiana. Pitt is not your typical Panther team this season, as they are currently playing without their top six from last year’s team. But if you believe Jeff Goodman’s twitter feed (and you should), Jermaine Dixon will be in the lineup tonight. Indiana is struggling this season, once again, as they are still trying to recover from the dismantling of their roster. That said, there is some talent on this team that will be fun to watch – Maurice Creek and Christian Watford both have a shot of being an NBA player one day.

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Checking In On… The Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on December 2nd, 2009


Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Despite the holiday, loyal readers of RTC may have noticed something missing last week.

Where was Checking in on the Big East?  Without BIAH waxing poetic about the happenings within the nation’s biggest conference, how were you able function?

For that, I must apologize.  But, you see, it wasn’t all my fault.  For starters, the editors at RTC are ruthless.  Not only did they have me traveling up and down the eastern seaboard during the busiest travel weekend of the year, they forced me to cover the semifinals and finals of the Preseason NIT for RTC Live.

Brutal, those guys.  I guess that’s why they pay me the big bucks.

Anyway, I probably could have found the time to put together a recap for you, but apparently grandmas don’t realize that having dial-up isn’t the same as having the internet.  Old folks, you gotta love ’em.  She made me a mean Thanksgiving leftover sandwich as a peace offering.  She’s not all bad, that one.  I forgave her, just like I hope you all will forgive me.

Back to the point, since we have a lot to go over, and seeing as the first few weeks of the college hoops season are a bit hectic, the structure of this post is going to be a bit different than future posts.  But never fear, as your trusty Big East expert is here to guide you through it.  So tuck the children in, strap on your seat belts, and, well, you tell them, B.B…

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #3 – Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2009


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

Predicted order of finish:

  1. Villanova
  2. West Virginia
  3. UConn
  4. Cincinnati
  5. Louisville
  6. Georgetown
  7. Syracuse
  8. Seton Hall
  9. Pittsburgh
  10. Notre Dame
  11. Marquette
  12. South Florida
  13. Rutgers
  14. Providence
  15. St. John’s
  16. DePaul

Preseason Awards.

  • Player of the Year. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
  • Newcomer of the Year. Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Breakout Player of the Year. Kemba Walker, UConn

big east logo

All-Conference First Team.

  • Kemba Walker, UConn
  • Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
  • Devin Ebanks, West Virginia
  • Greg Monroe, Georgetown
  • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

All-Conference Second Team.

  • Jerome Dyson, UConn
  • Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati
  • Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia
  • Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
  • Lazar Hayward, Marquette

All-Conference Third Team.

  • Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova
  • Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
  • Stanley Robinson, UConn
  • Samardo Samuels, Louisville

All-Rookie Team.

  • Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Peyton Siva, Louisville
  • Maalik Wayns, Villanova
  • Dante Taylor, Pitt
  • Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova

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Where 2009-10 Happens: Reason #25 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by zhayes9 on October 10th, 2009


Shamelessly cribbing from the very clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present to you the Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we gear up toward the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.

#25- Where HugginsBall Is Back Happens

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Tough Day in College Hoopdom…

Posted by rtmsf on September 16th, 2009

A series of unfortunate events came down the pike to ruin what had previously been an exciting day when ESPN released it’s 24 Hours of Hoops schedule for November 17.  Let’s briefly cover each so that we can move on to more pleasant things (hopefully tomorrow).

  • We woke up to the news that Pitt’s best returning player, Jermaine Dixon, broke his right foot for the second time this summer while playing in a pickup game.  Given that it’s already mid-September and the doctors are telling him that it’ll take at least eight weeks to heal, this news clearly puts Jamie Dixon’s squad behind the 8-ball going into October practice and the first few games of the season.  We would be completely shocked if Pitt fell off the map this year because Dixon is such an excellent coach, but on paper the 09-10 team already appears to be the weakest of his seven-year tenure.  Losing their only returning starter for a while near the start of the season cannot help.  And what’s up with that right foot – is this mere coincidence or does he have a problem there?
  • From the crime blotter, Wisconsin freshman guards Jeremy Glover and Diamond Taylor are now off the team (Glover was dismissed; Taylor withdrew) after their arrest for allegedly stealing ipods, a cell phone and $400 in cash last week from a UW dorm.  The two players were expected to provide backcourt depth this season for Bo Ryan’s team, but he’ll need to lean more heavily on returnees Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon than anticipated.
  • Finally, as you’ve probably heard by now, NCAA President-cum-Reformer Myles Brand died today from pancreatic cancer.  As the head honcho of the NCAA over the last six years, we’ve certainly had our fair share of criticism directed at his leadership, mostly with respect to investigations of alleged violations and selective enforcement of the rules.  But there can be no question that we completely respect and admire the work that Brand did in terms tying academic performance of athletes at the sport-level (and soon, coach-level) to key athletic assets such as scholarships and postseason appearances.  The Academic Progress Report (APR) that Brand initiated to achieve this end definitely contains some loopholes, but at the very least, he has schools, ADs and coaches thinking about performance of their players in the classroom, which is a far, far cry from where it was ten years ago.  RTC lauds Myles Brand for this impressive and hopefully lasting achievement, and we hope that to honor his legacy, his replacement will continue to tweak the APR, giving it teeth, so that schools will take it seriously.  RIP, Mr. Brand.
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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Mid-Atlantic Region

Posted by zhayes9 on September 9th, 2009


Last week we took a look at the five impact players in the Northeast Region, so now we’re ready for the second installment of our ten-week RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

impactplayers mid-atlantic

Mid-Atlantic Region  (NYC, NJ, PA, WV, MD, DE)

  • Scottie Reynolds – Sr, G – Villanova. There might be players in this region who can score more points or dish out more assists or shoot a higher percentage from the floor than Reynolds.  There might be more physically imposing and athletically gifted players than the 6’2 guard from Northern Virginia.   There could even be a few ‘upside’ guys you’d pick before him if you were starting an NBA franchise.  But is there any player as capable of putting his team on his back and doing this (ok, maybe Vasquez, but he hasn’t done it yet)?  Is there another player on this list who you’d prefer to have the ball in his hands as the clock is ticking down, knowing that he’ll give your team a superb chance to win?  Reynolds is the player that every coach loves to have on his team – he plays heavy minutes, never misses a start, shows great leadership and clearly has a calming effect on his team whenever he’s on the floor.  This is a long way removed from the early days of his career, where the ‘Nova legend has stated that he had trouble seeing the ‘big picture’ due to trust issues with coaches and other players.    There are no such issues now, as everyone in the Big Five (and the Big East, for that matter) understands who the top dog in the Philadelphia area is.  If things come together right for Reynolds and VU in 2009-10, he could look back on a collegiate career that includes three all-Big East nods, an all-american selection, the second-most number of steals (he needs 58), and the most points (Kerry Kittles) in the long history of the Villanova program (he needs 624).  Considering all that, Reynolds will captain the best team in the Big East and may also have another Final Four appearance in his sights.
  • Da’Sean Butler – Sr, F – West Virginia. If there’s a team that should challenge Villanova (on paper) as the class of the Big East in 2009-10, it should be West Virginia.  The biggest reason for that is Butler, the 6’7 wing set to replace Pitt’s Sam Young as the most multi-dimensional player in the conference.  Butler scores (17.1 ppg), rebounds (5.9 per game) and even finds time to play the passing lanes (1.7 spg).  Last season he seemed to really find his groove in the conference slate, as his numbers all rose, culminating in his 43-pt explosion during a blowout win against Villanova on Friday the (Feb.) 13th.  But it was his performance over the summer at the World University Games that really caught our eye – on a team with shooters such as Robbie Hummel and James Anderson, it was Butler who led the squad in three-point percentage (55%) by nailing nearly two per game.  His perimeter shooting has always been solid (~35%), but if his shot improves next season to the 38-40% range to replace Alex Ruoff’s deadly range, Butler’s ability to get to the rim and finish becomes even more of a threat.  With sophomore Honorable Mentions Devin Ebanks’ size and rebounding, Truck Bryant’s scoring and playmaking, plus the addition of two five-star recruits to the roster, it’s clear why WVU looks to improve on last year’s 23-12 record and first round NCAA exit.  Mountaineer fans have an expectation of a top ten team in Morgantown and it’s understandable why they think so – it’ll be up to their star Butler to deliver on those expectations.
  • Jeremy Hazell – Jr, F – Seton Hall. Jeremy Hazell’s inclusion on our Mid-Atlantic all-region team was the toughest decision we had to make.  There’s absolutely no question that the 6’5 guard/forward who blew up on the Big East last season has talent.  You don’t score 20+ against sixteen Big East defenses without the ability to score the ball from every which way (22.8 ppg).  The primary issue was that it’s difficult to claim to be an impact player if your team isn’t very good, and last year, the Hall finished 7-11 in the conference with all seven of those wins against fellow bottom-feeders.  Nevertheless, we recognize that past results do not necessarily predict future outcomes, and with three impact transfers arriving (Herb Pope, Jeff Robinson and Keon Lawrence) amidst a much leaner Big East landscape, it wouldn’t surprise us if Seton Hall, led by Hazell, made a run at the NCAAs this year.  Getting back to Bobby Gonzalez’s star player, his scoring numbers might actually decrease this season depending on how well the new players orient to North Jersey, but with fewer shots (he took 32% of SH’s shots last year) he could become a more complete player by improving his shooting percentages (43%/36%) and offensive efficiency (28th in the Big East).  Regardless of how this season goes, Hazell is undoubtedly one of the most talented players the nation has yet to hear about.
  • Talor Battle – Jr, G- Penn State. While the electric Penn State point guard Talor Battle may have been known within Big Ten circles and around Happy Valley, national attention wasn’t forwarded his way until one performance on February 1 in East Lansing, MI. The heavily favored top-ten ranked Spartans, a team that would reach the championship game just months later in Detroit, fell to the underdog Nittany Lions, who were 0-16 in their Big Ten history at the Breslin Center. During that game, Battle emerged as one of the top scorers in the conference and the nation. In a league where hard-nosed defense on every possession is the norm, Battle averaged 16.7 ppg, including seven 20+ point performances in conference play. And on that night in East Lansing, Battle scored 29 points on 11-19 shooting and 6-12 from three, leading Penn State to a 72-68 upset win. Battle certainly has some areas to improve – namely shooting 34% from deep and hitting just 70% of his free throws – but the scoring guard truly has the capability to put up 30+ points on any given night. With Jamelle Cornley and Stanley Pringle no longer at PSU, the onus lies almost completely on Battle to lead the way for Penn State and coach Ed DeChellis if they have any hope of reaching postseason play again. Considering such a lackluster supporting cast, one could argue Battle will have the most singular impact of any player in this entire region, as on many nights Penn State will completely rely on Battle’s scoring potential to win basketball games.
  • Greivis Vasquez – Sr, G- Maryland. Love him or despise him with every bone in your body, there’s no denying the talent of Greivis Vasquez. There’s also no denying that Vasquez’ decision to stay at Maryland for his senior season rather than enter the NBA Draft had the greatest impact of any April decision in the country, vaulting the Terrapins from a likely-NIT team to a possible top-six seed and ACC contender. Much like Battle’s performance against Michigan State, one 2008-09 performance from Vasquez defined his season and launched the fiery Venezuelan into Maryland basketball lore – a 35-11-10 triple-double in an 88-85 overtime win against #3 North Carolina in College Park when Maryland was lingering around the bubble. Vasquez backs up his never-resting mouth with impressive play on the court, notably being named to the all-ACC second team for the second straight campaign and, in Oscar-like fashion, leading his Terps in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and minutes, becoming just the sixth player in ACC history to accomplish said feat. The main knock on Vasquez during his first two seasons in College Park was a recurring propensity to commit foolish turnovers, but that criticism is quieting after Vasquez finished third in the conference in assist/turnover ratio a season ago. There’s no argument against Vasquez making a tremendous impact for Maryland and Gary Williams once again this season.
  • Ryan Thompson (MM) – Sr, G- Rider. In doing research for this feature, I have yet to find one thing that Ryan Thompson does not do well on the basketball court. The younger brother of Kings forward and fellow Bronc Jason Thompson, Ryan is surely creating his own identity as a bona fide NBA prospect.  A first team all-MAAC performer a season ago as a junior, Thompson did it all for Rider: ranking second in the conference in scoring, first in minutes played (he played 40+ minutes in nine games), second in three-point percentage, seventh in assists, eighth in field-goal percentage, eighth in free-throw percentage and eighth in rebounding. That’s right, Thompson can shoot from deep, score inside, rebound, pass and play nearly every minute. While the competition doesn’t always rank with other elite performers in college basketball, one could argue Thompson is the top all-around player in the game this season. He also plays his best when the stakes are high, totaling 57 points and 17 rebounds in two conference tournament games for his Broncs, including a bucket with 3.4 seconds left to knock off Siena last year. The sky’s the limit for Thompson in 2009-10, an already immensely talented individual playing with motivation as Rider has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament in his three seasons in Jersey, and coming off of a rare and disappointing seven points on 2-13 shooting against Liberty in his season finale.

impact players mid-atlantic

Honorable MentionLavoy Allen, Temple.  Sean Baptiste, FDU.  Jamal Barney, Loyola (MD).  Darryl Bryant, WVU.  Jermaine Dixon, Pittsburgh.  Devin Ebanks, WVU.  Corey Fisher, Villanova.  Darrin Govens, St. Joseph’s.  Rodney Green, Lasalle.  Charles Jenkins, Hofstra.  Anthony Mason, Jr., St. John’s.  Herb Pope, Seton Hall.  Mike Rosario, Rutgers.  Damian Saunders, Duquesne.  Corey Stokes, Villanova.  Devin Sweetney, St. Francis (PA).

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Summer Bracketology: 07.23.09

Posted by zhayes9 on July 22nd, 2009

Did you all miss Bracketology as much as I did? While the intense days of February and March seem like eons away, here’s a dose of bracket madness to keep you college basketball diehards happy in the heart of Summer 2009. Some brief notes regarding the bracket:

– The preseason #1 seeds are (in order) Kansas, Kentucky, Texas and Michigan State. As the number one overall seed, Kansas plays the closest to home in St. Louis, Kentucky is placed in Houston as higher priority over Texas, and so on. The only #2 seed that was considered for a top seed was Purdue, but I gave the slight Big Ten edge to last year’s national runner-up from East Lansing.

– They lost Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, Danny Green…and North Carolina is still a #2 seed? It’s true. Due to an outstanding recruiting class, an overall decrease in talent across the board in college basketball (especially from upperclassmen) and returnees like Ed Davis, Larry Drew and Deon Thompson expected to make a significant leap in production, North Carolina will most likely be at the top with Duke as preseason ACC favorites.

– The other difficult call was in the Pac-10 between Washington and California. While the Golden Bears return all of their talent from an overachieving season, I’m in love with the Huskies backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy. As the returning champions, I gave them the slight nod as the #3 seed in the Salt Lake region, with Cal sliding to a #4 seed.

– This might be painful to swallow for all the Big Ten haters out there (I’m definitely not one of them), but it’s going to be the best conference in the land this season. Michigan State and Purdue are both potential number ones, Ohio State returns nearly everyone besides the disappointing B.J. Mullens, Illinois returns a talented group (losing Frazier and Meachem could hurt initially), and both Minnesota and Michigan have plenty returning. You can never discount Wisconsin either.

– The last team in? Vanderbilt from the SEC. The last team out? Pittsburgh from the Big East. Really, I wanted to put the Panthers in, but they lost DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields, Sam Young, Jermaine Dixon and Tyrell Biggs. That’s just too much to overcome, even if Jamie Dixon is their head coach and the Petersen Events Center is one of the most difficult places to play.

– The Pac-10 has only three teams in at this point. I expect them to receive more bids when it’s all said and done, but right now I just can’t put anyone else in the field besides Washington, Cal and UCLA. Both Arizona and USC are total messes. Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon State appear to be NIT clubs at this point.

07.22.09 bracketology

Last Four In: Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, LSU

Last Four Out: Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Mississippi, Miami (FL)

Next Four Out: Marquette, Creighton, Florida State, Arizona

Bids per conference: Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 12 (7), Big Ten (7), SEC (7), Pac-10 (3), Atlantic 10 (2).

Automatic bids: Binghamton, Dayton, North Carolina, Jacksonville, Kansas, Villanova, Montana, Radford, Michigan State, Long Beach State, Old Dominion, Tulsa, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Akron, Morgan State, Northern Iowa, BYU, Mount St. Mary’s, Murray State, Washington, Holy Cross, Kentucky, College of Charleston, Sam Houston State, Prairie View A&M, Oakland, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State.

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Villanova and Pittsburgh put the madness back in March Madness

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2009

After nearly 10 days of college basketball critics bemoaning the lack of excitement in this year’s edition of March Madness, two of the Big East’s best teams answered all of those critics by submitting an all-time classic. After one of the strangest 10 seconds you will ever see, Scottie Reynolds made an end-to-end run that might replace the Danny Ainge and Tyus Edney versions on NCAA Tournament highlight reels from now on as this was on a much bigger stage with a trip to the Final 4 on the line. Even with Reynolds miracle, Pittsburgh still had its shot, but a 75-foot desperation heave by Levance Fields was off-target and the Villanova fans which filled TD BankNorth had their biggest moment since 1985 when Rollie Massimino, who attended the games in Boston, guided the Wildcats to their only national championship.

It was a game that showed off everything that the Big East was this year: tough, physical, surprisingly high-scoring, and always entertaining. The Wildcats came out of the gates strong and held a 22-12 lead with 9:27 left before the #1 seeded Panthers joined the fight. Relying on its three stars (DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, and Fields), Jamie Dixon‘s squad cut the lead to 2 with an 8-0 spurt in 1:09. From that point forward, the two team traded punches like world-class heavyweights (back when being a heavyweight actually meant something) as neither team was able to stretch their lead beyond 5 points. Villanova relied on a balanced attack (Dwayne Anderson with 17 points, Reynolds with 15 points, Dante Cunningham with 14 points, and Shane Clark with 11 points) while Pittsburgh relied heavily on its two 1st team All-Big East performers (Young with 28 points and 7 rebounds and Blair with 20 points ant 10 rebounds) to keep it in the game.

A tight game throughout. . .

A tight game throughout. . .

After trading haymakers for nearly 37 minutes without either team achieving any separation, Pittsburgh appeared to have a chance to do so coming out of a Villanova timeout with a 4-point lead and the ball out of bounds with 3:05 left.  Instead, that’s just when the madness started. Jermaine Dixon, who had hit a tough jumper just moments earlier  (with a shot that was reminiscent of one that his brother Maryland star Juan Dixon used to hit not too many years ago) to give the Panthers the lead, had the ball stolen from him and in an attempt to recover fouled Dwyane Anderson for the conventional 3-point play. A Sam Young turnover and a Corey Fisher lay-up later, the Wildcats had the lead with 2:16 left, but Fields hit a pair of free throws to give the Panthers the lead back. The Wildcats showed their mettle by scoring the next 5 points to take a 4-point lead with 47 seconds left. As he has done all night long, Young provided the answer for the Panthers with a clutch 3-pointer (“Onions!” as Bill Raftery would say) with 40 seconds left to cut the lead back to 1. A pair of Fisher free throws and a Reggie Redding free throw allowed the Wildcats to stretch the lead back to 4 with 20 seconds left.

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