Summer School in the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 16th, 2010


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

Around The Big East:

  • NCAA Sanctions: From a basketball perspective, the biggest story in the Big East this summer was up at UConn. The Huskies received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in May, informing them of eight major violations in the recruitment of Nate Miles. UConn will find out its final punishment from the NCAA in October, but the violations have already cost them two assistants — Beau Archibald and Brad Sellers, the son of former Husky star Rod Sellers. Jim Calhoun avoided the heavy artillery — getting grazed with a citation for “failure to monitor” the program, which is ironically what the best coaches need to do to succeed.
  • Coaches: The NCAA infractions weren’t the only reason Calhoun was in the news. Ailing health as he nears 70, impending NCAA sanctions, a team that is going to need some rebuilding, and the fact his contract was up made many believe Calhoun would hang ‘em up this summer. Wrong. He signed a five-year deal instead.  Calhoun had far from the worst summer for coaches in the Big East. Rick Pitino let the world — and every single opposing student section — know about his 15-second tryst on a restaurant table with one Karen Sypher. Bob Huggins fell, a result of being in Vegas the medicine he took on an empty stomach making him light-headed, and broke seven ribs. Fred Hill was run out of Rutgers, in part because he lost it on the Pittsburgh baseball team’s coaching staff. Through all of that, perhaps the worst summer was had by Bobby Gonzalez, who lost his job at Seton Hall, had the entire episode come out in the New York Timessued his former employer, was unable to receive credentials at the NBA Draft, and then find himself arrested for attempting to steal a $1,400 man-purse satchel. The three new coaches to the conference: Oliver Purnell left Clemson for DePaul; Mike Rice left Robert Morris to fill in for Hill at Rutgers; and Kevin Willard left Iona and took Gonzo’s spot at Seton Hall.
  • LOIs: Three Big East teams made headlines for issues with recruits signing LOIs. DePaul initially refused to release Walter Pitchford, Jr., from his LOI. He signed with Jerry Wainwright, who was at DePaul before Purnell was tabbed. After appealing both the school and the NCAA, DePaul finally released Pitchford. The same thing is currently happening to Joseph Young at Providence, who as of this writing has not yet been granted a release by the Friars. At MarquetteDJ Newbill was dropped from his LOI when Buzz Williams had the opportunity to bring in former top 100 recruit Jamil Wilson, a transfer from Oregon. All in all, Big East members did not shine bright this summer.
  • Back to Providence: Man oh man, did they have a rough summer. Two freshmen kicked out of school for beating up a student. Their star, Greedy Peterson, thrown off the team. Another player arrested.  Did Keno Davis have this much trouble in mind when he took the job two years ago?
  • Seton Hall Didn’t Fare Much Better: Aside from their coach being kicked to the curb, the Pirates had their best big man spend nearly a month in the hospital because he collapsed after finishing a workouts and saw Robert “Sticks” Mitchell get arrested for (get this) robbing eight people at gunpoint just two days after being kicked off the team.

Villanova stumbled towards the finish line last season. This year, Jay Wright’s troops are Rob Dauster’s favorites to take the Big East in 2010-11.

Power Rankings:

  1. Villanova: While the Wildcats lose All-American Scottie Reynolds, Jay Wright‘s club (as always) will be more than fine in the backcourt. Corey Fisher, fresh off an alleged 105-point performance in a Bronx summer league, and Maalik Wayns will be as dynamic as any backcourt in the country and should be able to thrive in Scottie’s absence. Corey Stokes is still going to be a lights out shooter. Dominic Cheek and James Bell will be dangerous on the wings. Up front, the five-man rotation of Antonio Pena, Mouph Yarou, Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Sutton, and JayVaughn Pinkston gives Villanova a very deep, very talented roster for the upcoming season. The Wildcats should compete for the Big East title and, depending on how well some players develop (Armwood, Cheek, Wayns, Yarou) and how good a couple of freshmen are (Bell, Pinkston), Nova could very well make a run at the Final Four.
  2. Pittsburgh: The Panthers were the surprise of the Big East last season, and with the majority of their roster coming back this season, its tough to envision Pitt falling off. Pitt has almost reached the level of a Wisconsin — no matter who is on their roster, this is a team that is disciplined and well-coached to the point that they are always going to be competitive. As always, expect a gritty, defensive-minded team from the Panthers. An already-solid back court of Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall will be bolstered by the addition of freshmen Isaiah Epps, JJ Moore and Cameron Wright, as well as Lamar Patterson finally getting healthy. Gilbert Brown, who missed the first half of last season due to academic issues, will be back at the small forward spot. Brown had an inconsistent season in 2010, but showed flashes of some serious potential. Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson will bolster the front line, but the real x-factor on this team is going to be sophomore Dante Taylor. Taylor was one of the most highly-touted recruits last year, but it took him awhile to adjust to the Big East. If Taylor can live up to his promise, Pitt is a potential Final Four team. If not, this is still a club that will be competing for a league title.
  3. Syracuse: It is easy to look at the Orange and think that, with the players they lost (Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku), they will be down next season. Well, they might not win a Big East title, but they certainly will be in the mix atop the conference standings. Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine will anchor the backcourt, with freshman Dion Waiters providing an offensive spark as an off-guard. Kris Joseph should blossom into a dangerous weapon as a slasher on the wing, and if he can add some strength and a jumper this summer, could very well be in the running as a first-team all-Big East selection. Rick Jackson will be paired with Fab Melo, who Jim Boeheim has been raving about (he raved about Johnson last summer, and look how that turned out), in the frontcourt. With guys like CJ Fair, Mookie Jones, James Southerland and DaShonte Riley providing minutes off the bench, there is no doubt Syracuse will be a good team. How good — borderline top-25 or a potential Big East champ — remains to be seen. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Conference Chalkiness

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

Three More Dance Cards Drawn Tonight.  With tonight’s three conference titles from Butler, Oakland and North Texas, we’re noticing a trend this year that definitely makes all the bubble teams happy.  Even in the one-bid leagues where it doesn’t impact the bubble picture as to who wins the conference championship, it’s predominantly the best teams that are winning titles.  Out of the eleven auto-bids earned thus far, eight of them were the top seed or co-champion in the regular season.  The only true Cinderella we’ve had so far this conference tournament season came from the Atlantic Sun where ETSU as a #5 seed won the bid; even in the Big South and WCC, the teams who won, while not co-champions, were still pretty good teams (Winthrop and St. Mary’s).  With the Big East starting today and the Big 12 and Pac-10 starting tomorrow, will we see all chalk in those tournaments as well this week?  Only time will tell.

Horizon League Championship#12 Butler 70, Wright State 45.  Butler finished off its dream season in the Horizon League by winning its twentieth conference game in a prolonged coronation that erased many of the bad memories from last year’s home loss to Cleveland State at the same point.  The Bulldogs hit 52% from the field and got strong offensive contributions from Matt Howard (14/9) and Shelvin Mack (14/2) to completely outclass Wright State tonight.  With the 18 regular season wins and the two HL Tourney wins, Butler became the sole conference team to go unbeaten all the way through conference play this year.  This will be Butler’s fourth consecutive trip to the NCAAs, but how good is this team?  With an RPI of #17, and the fourth toughest nonconference schedule this year, we’d expect to see the Bulldogs on the #4/#5 line next week.  This would give them a reasonably easy first round game followed by a second rounder against someone like a Temple, Vanderbilt, Baylor or Maryland.  Butler lost two tough neutral games to Clemson and Georgetown earlier this year, but they also beat Ohio State and Xavier, so we know they can beat teams of that caliber.  The question we have is whether the defense will hold when Matt Howard inevitably gets into foul trouble against a big front line — the Bulldog center was better about this down the stretch of the season, but in games against six BCS teams plus Xavier and UAB, he committed 36 fouls, for an average of 4.5 per game.  Butler will need Howard’s offense and rebounding to stay on the floor if they expect to make another run at the Sweet Sixteen.

Butler is Soaring to the NCAAs Again (Indy Star/R. Scheer)

Summit League ChampionshipOakland 76, IUPUI 64.  Oakland head coach Greg Kampe didn’t hold back on confidence when he stated after his team’s championship tonight that he believes Oakland is the best team in the history of the Summit League and that they plan on pushing on through to the Sweet Sixteen in next week’s NCAA Tournament.  It helps when you have someone like Derick Nelson on your side — broken nose and all — when he shoots 15-23 from the field for 36/9 in a career-best performance.  Whatever Nelson wasn’t doing, center Keith Benson was, as he ripped down 17 rebounds and blocked six shots to ensure the school’s second NCAA berth in its history (OU also went in 2005).  The Golden Grizzlies are now riding an 11-game winning streak and have won 20 of 21 since a pasting at the hands of Syracuse just before Christmas.  With a trio of excellent players at the point (Johnathan Jones), wing (Nelson) and post (Benson), Oakland is certainly an interesting team to consider as a first round cinderella next week.

Keith Benson Blocked Oakland into the Dance (AP/E. Landwehr)

Sun Belt ChampionshipNorth Texas 66, Troy 63.  The Mean Green of North Texas earned its second-ever NCAA bid in the last four years by hanging on down the stretch against Troy and getting a key bucket from mighty mite Josh White with 22 seconds remaining to break a tie and send his team on its way.  North Texas switched to a zone in the second half and dominated the boards (+10) which led to numerous second chances that they were able to convert tonight.  UNT is on a bit of a tear now, having won eleven games in a row and setting a new school record for wins in a season with 24.  In 2007, #15 seed North Texas gave #2 Memphis a solid game en route to a fifteen-point loss.  Coach Johnnie Jones is hoping for another similar performance this time around.

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Big East Tourney Daily Diary: 1st Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is spending the week as the RTC correspondent at the Big East Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action.  Here is his submission on the First Round games.

South Florida 58, DePaul 49

  • South Florida looked really good in the first half. In the second half, a scrappy DePaul team started hitting some shots and made it somewhat exciting. But in the first half, USF looked absolutely dominant. They got just about whatever they wanted offensively, they hit the offensive glass, they scored in transition, and they held DePaul to merely 15 points.
  • Jarrid Famous could be a very good player one day. Great frame, good size and athleticism, but he needs a post game. I like his aggressiveness as well; he had seven offensive rebounds.
  • In one of the stranger stats I’ve ever seen, South Florida scored 58 points. 50 of them came in the paint, and six at the foul line, meaning that the Bulls got just one basket outside of the paint.
  • The most entertaining part of this game was actually the battle of the bands in an empty gym before tipoff. In my opinion, USF clinched it with a stirring rendition of “You Can Call Me Al”.

St. John’s 73, UConn 51 (RTC Live)

  • Where to start about the Huskies?  They turned it over 20 times; they went 6-18 from the foul line; they clearly had no interest in playing this game; Jerome Dyson packed it in three games ago, as he finished with four points and nine turnovers this afternoon. All around, it was ugly.
  • St. John’s is going to be a good team next year given they learn how to hold onto a lead. They will have ten seniors on their team, and the only rotation player they are losing is Anthony Mason, Jr. I’ve already got them slotted as my sleeper pick. They have size, they have athleticism, they have a stud in DJ Kennedy, and they have a couple experienced PGs.
  • Will UConn accept an NIT bid? Did Jim Calhoun just coach his last game in Storrs? Is Kemba Walker going pro? All questions you should keep in mind over the next month.  Another thing to think about with the Huskies – they have not won a Big East Tournament game since the 2005 first round against Georgetown. Jerome Dyson is 0-4 in the Big East Tournamen and 0-1 in the NCAA Tournament. The only year he was on the team and the Huskies had any postseason success was last year’s Final Four run, while he was injured.

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RTC Live: Big East 1st Round – UConn vs. St. John’s

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

Welcome to the first day of RTC’s coverage of the Big East Tournament, live from Madison Square Garden. Today, we will be bringing you a live-blog as UConn starts its foray through the Big East Tournament in an attempt to move themselves back into bubble consideration. The Huskies have been a tough team to peg. They beat then No. 1 Texas without head coach Jim Calhoun only to lose five of their next six, including an ugly loss at home to Cincinnati that seemingly knocked them out of any and all tournament talk. But a fire was lit under this club after the loss to Cincy, and the Huskies went on to win their next three games, which included Ws at Villanova and at home against West Virginia, to put themselves right back into the mix. So how did they follow that up? With losses in three straight to take themselves off what is one of the weakest bubbles in recent memory. What’s worse is that Jim Calhoun benched his three seniors — Gavin Edwards, Jerome Dyson, and Stanley Robinson — at the end of the South Florida game for what seemed like apathy on the part of the Husky “leaders.” Calhoun has not yet announced who will be starting today. St. John’s is not a bad basketball team. They have some athletes, they have some size, and they have one of the most underrated players in the Big East in DJ Kennedy. UConn will have their work cut out for them if they want to climb into the NCAA tournament conversation again.  Join us this afternoon for the action.

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Big East Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2010

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

Season in Review

The Big East regular season ended on Saturday, and I think it is safe to say that the league had a bit of an unpredictable season. Don’t believe me? Show me a season preview that had Syracuse winning the league, Pitt getting a double-bye, UConn playing on Tuesday, and with South Florida and Notre Dame finishing above UConn and Cincinnati.  See? Unpredictable.

But what does that mean? Was the Big East better from top to bottom than it was last year? Did teams like Marquette, USF, and Notre Dame benefit from a down year?   The one thing that is for sure is that the top of the Big East is nowhere near the top of last year’s Big East. Five Sweet 16 teams and three No. 1 seeds is a pretty phenomenal feat. But last year the conference only sent seven teams to the tournament, and there is a very good chance that number will be surpassed this season.

The way the Big East bubble is shaping up right now, five teams are in – Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pitt and Georgetown. Louisville and Marquette should be ok, but a loss on Wednesday and things could get dicey depending on how the rest of the bubble plays out. If Notre Dame happens to lose their first Big East Tournament game (to either Seton Hall or Rutgers), then the Irish could be in trouble as they will likely be right on the cut line.  That gives us eight that are reasonably safe.

It is possible, however, for the Big East to get two more teams in. If today was Selection Sunday, then Seton Hall may actually be in the tournament. While they have 11 losses, the average RPI of the team’s that have beaten the Pirates is 26 and they have not lost to a team with an RPI below 64. Add into that mix that the Pirates have wins over Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt, at Cornell and an RPI of 53. Its not a great profile, but its a very weak bubble this year. That could be enough.  The other team that still has a shot of an at-large bid is UConn, simply because the Huskies have more good wins than most of the bubble teams. That said, they also have 14 losses. UConn will likely need to make it to the Big East semis for any kind of real shot at a bid.

The Big East Conference released their all-conference teams today, and there isn’t much there that I disagree with. (Note: there are six players on the first team because one of those six will win POY; POY, COY, and ROY will be announced on Tuesday between Big East Tournament sessions)

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ATB: UConn Almost All the Way Back…

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

Was It the Refs? Connecticut 73, #7 West Virginia 62.  Jim Calhoun has definitely inspired his listless team in the last two weeks, and it could be no more apparent than tonight when the curmudgeonly old coach picked up a tech less than a minute into the game after his team found itself down 5-o early.  WVU’s Da’Sean Butler missed the two ensuing FTs, and the ‘street fight’ as Calhoun called it, was on.  The game featured a total of 45 fouls and 65 foul shots, leading Bob Huggins to state that “you can’t win” when the home team shoots two-thirds of the foul shots in a given game.  For his efforts, Huggins was thrown out of the game in the last minute for complaining about fouls.  Butler had his own opinion on the foul situation, but after throwing up a lousy 2-10 shooting night, he may be better served focusing on how the long arms of the UConn defense repeatedly frustrated him into tough shots.  On the UConn side, the story tonight was the continued emergence of Kemba Walker as a Devan Downey-style slasher who can get to the foul line for 10+ points per game.  In the Huskies’ last three wins, Walker has paraded to the foul line a total of 36 times (making 31) and is averaging 22/6 over that period.  When he’s playing at his best, UConn becomes a much more offensively diverse team, with Jerome Dyson bombing away from outside and Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards cleaning up the mess inside.  UConn has now defeated three top ten teams this season, but they still have work to do to ensure an NCAA Tournament bid.  You figure that they can get the Louisville game coming up next Sunday at home, but it’s the final two on the road — at Notre Dame and at South Florida — that have us worried.  This team is prone to letdowns, and those are two ripe situations for one.

It's Kemba Time (credit: John Woike)

Is Kansas a Great Team? #1 Kansas 81, Oklahoma 68.  KU wrapped up its sixth consecutive Big 12 regular season title with another dominant performance, overwhelming the Sooners with a 9-0 start and never looking back in a second half that hovered around the 20-point margin throughout.  Xavier Henry looked like the stud he  is surely becoming, with a 23/5 evening on 9-13 shooting from the field.  Sherron Collins (now the winningest player in KU history, along with Brady Morningstar) added 17/6 assts and Cole Aldrich 7/12 in their typically consistent way, but the reason we’re even asking the above question has mostly to do with the re-emergence of Henry on the offensive end.  After suffering through a bit of a January slump, the super-frosh has come on strong in his last five games, averaging 18/5 on 53% shooting and 10-21 from deep.  It’s no coincidence that the Jayhawks have not been seriously tested in four of those five games (A&M was the exception), and they’re the odds-on favorite to win the national title in Indianapolis six weeks from tonight.   KU is now three games from running the table in the Big 12 for the second time in its history (Roy’s ‘Hawks did it in 2002), and if they can do that, they’ll join a select but ignominious company of teams in the last decade to enter the postseason with only one loss (2008 Memphis,  2005 Illinois, 2004 St. Joseph’s, 2004 Stanford).  This KU team, however, is better than every one of those one-loss teams, and might just be the best team they’ve fielded in Lawrence since the 1997 Pierce/Vaughn/LaFrentz juggernaut.

Other Games of National Interest.  Zilcho.

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RTC Live: Connecticut @ Villanova

Posted by rtmsf on February 15th, 2010

Over the past two weeks, the Big East Conference race has become a latter day version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.  The three teams topping the conference since early January have each lost (at least…) one game in the past two weeks. Connecticut head Coach Jim Calhoun took a medical leave of absence on January 20, and the Huskies struggled in their next seven games, logging a 3-4 record under Associate Head Coach George Blaney. Coach Calhoun returned, but the Huskies played their worst game of the season in a 60-48 loss to Cincinnati. Coach Calhoun brings his enigma to the Wachovia Center to play the #4 ranked Villanova Wildcats, winners of their last two games and sole owners of first place in the Big East. Player of the Year candidate Scottie Reynolds, fresh off of a 22 point performance Saturday against Providence, will lead a potent back court offense against the Huskies’ own well-regarded back court of Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson when the two clash Monday night. Connecticut, whose conference record sits at 4-8, needs a signature win in conference, preferably on the road. Their backs are against the wall. Villanova has led the conference from their first game, but seems ill at ease as they wear the mantle of leadership. The Wildcats stumbled at Georgetown on February 6, falling back into a tie with the Orange. Syracuse however, lost again on Sunday, ceding Villanova sole ownership of first place…for the time being.  Join us Monday night at the Wachovia Center as Villanova defends its first place standing against the University of Connecticut.

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ATB: UNC and UConn Running on Empty

Posted by rtmsf on February 11th, 2010

Syracuse Survives#3 Syracuse 72, Connecticut 67. Widely considered the undercard for another rivalry game later in the evening, this one was utterly predictable for about the first 28 minutes.  Isn’t this close to the pattern you assumed, as well?  Connecticut would keep it close for a half, a Syracuse run somewhere in the middle of the second half would put it away, and the announcers would lament for the duration about UConn’s disappointing season and the effects of the loss of Jim Calhoun while the home viewers got their refreshments ready for Duke/North Carolina.  Sound about right?  Connecticut played their role perfectly until there were 14 minutes left, the score 50-34.  The Huskies got themselves back in it with a fantastic 17-4 run over a six-minute period, and Jerome Dyson (19/8/5/2 stls) completed the comeback with a three-pointer to tie it at 65 with 2:38 remaining.  You’ll hear a lot about a controversial time-out that was credited to Syracuse at this juncture, and who knows.  Eyes belonging to supporters of each team will see it differently, but it’s our stance that it wouldn’t have mattered in the end.  Connecticut still had a Dyson three in the air to take the lead with 22 seconds left at 67-65, but it was Kris Joseph (14/6/2 stls) who pulled down the rebound and managed to hit his next four free throws to help the Orange finish it.  The big questions from this game: is Syracuse one of the top four teams in the nation (i.e., deserving of a one-seed)?  Did Connecticut show themselves to be one of the top 64?  As concerns the Orange, the answer is yes, and their status as a presumptive #1 seed is not news.  That probably wouldn’t have changed even with a loss.  As far as Connecticut goes, it’s more an issue of a golden chance squandered.  They have seven games left and stand at 14-10 and 4-7.  This would have been the ultimate signature win, and it would have come on a night when other bubble teams around the country also hurt their own causes.  As it stands, just to get to .500 in the conference race, UConn has to go 5-2 over a stretch that includes four road games — and they haven’t won on the road all year (0-6).  And that would only have them at 19-10 and 9-9 going into the Big East Tournament.  They have one more chance for a win that would give the NCAA committee something to think about: this Monday at Villanova.  Lose that one, and it’s Big East Tournament or bust.

Boeheim Hasn't Had Many of These Looks (AP/Kevin Rivoli)

Carolina is Cooked#7 Duke 64, North Carolina 54.  This game had little of its usual luster given the troubles that Roy Williams’ Tar Heels have endured in recent weeks.  UNC came into this game having lost three in a row, and six of seven, and the conventional wisdom surrounding this game was that Carolina needed to win both Duke games (and a whole bunch in-between) in order to have enough of a resume to make the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight year.  Didn’t happen, and wasn’t ever going to happen.  Sure, the game was close for 34 minutes of action, but eventually the better team started making their shots, and as soon as that happened it was lights-out for the home team tonight.  Jon Scheyer led the Dookies with 24/5/4 assts and Kyle Singler added 19/9, but the game was an ugly affair, as both teams shot the ball in the low- to mid-30s in terms of percentage.  The difference was marginal, as Duke did things just a little better than Carolina, whether it was rebounding (+11), taking care of the ball (-4 TOs) or hitting their long-range bombs (9 vs. 5).  A few questions came to mind in this one as we once again watched UNC struggle to put up points.  First, who decided that Larry Drew II (11/4/4 assts) is the go-to guy?  LD2 chucked fifteen shots at the rim, making only four (and 1-8 from three), and often times it appeared that he really believed that the best available play was to call his own number.  By the same token, how Ed Davis (4/5/6 blks) only gets four shot attempts (making two) is beyond comprehension.  Drew in fact took more shots than his entire starting frontline of Davis and Deon Thompson (10/4 on 3-7 FGs), both of whom have more offensive abilities in their kneecaps than Drew does.  It was reported today that Roy Williams made a horrible analogy comparing his team’s struggles this year to the disaster that killed nearly a quarter-million people in Haiti, but it seems that he may want to spend a little more time explaining to his players what a good shot actually looks like rather than making silly comparisons about what will likely be his first non-NCAA Tournament season in his coaching career (when eligible).

Roy Could Use This Guy Back (credit: Robert Willett)

The Wacky A10Dayton 75, Charlotte 47 Despite holding the A10 lead alone coming into this one, Charlotte was a popular pick to be the most likely team out of the top five in that conference to be left out of the NCAA Tournament, failing an Atlantic 10 Tournament title.  They didn’t help their cause tonight.  Rather, Dayton helped their own.  Chris Wright just exploded for a career-high 30 points and fueled a 23-7 run over the first part of the second half for which the 49ers had no answer.  Dayton was up by only three at the half, 30-27, but Wright had no intention of letting this one stay close, accounting for 15 of Dayton’s first 18 points of the second half with three three-pointers, two dunks, and a pair of free throws.  All is not lost for Charlotte, who now stands in a three-way tie with Richmond and Xavier at 8-2 in the conference; there are four other teams (including Dayton) within a game and a half of those leaders in a conference race that’s going to be a thriller to the very last.

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ATB: Battle of Reelings Goes to Louisville

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2010

Knockout Game? Louisville 82, Connecticut 69. Ok, it’s too early to start talking about knockout games in any serious manner, but we shouldn’t gloss over the fact that this game was very important for both of these teams.  Louisville came into tonight’s game having lost four of five, and UConn had dropped five of seven, as both Big East powerhouses were facing uphill climbs to get back into the NCAA Tournament picture this year.  Tonight Louisville managed to keep hope alive by moving to 5-4 in the Big East with a convincing win over the Jim Calhoun-less Huskies.  Edgar Sosa led Louisville with 15/3/8 assts in one of his better performances of the year, as he set his season high in dimes and also continued his consecutive games streak with multiple threes (Sosa hit two tonight, the eighth game in a row he’s hit at least that many).  Three other UL starters hit double-figures tonight, and the Cards hit the halfway point of the Big East schedule with a reasonable shot at getting to ten wins and the commensurate expectation of an NCAA Tournament berth.  We’re not sold on the long-term viability of this Cardinal team, but they can probably win enough games to get back to the Dance this year.  As for UConn, where to begin?  The good news is that the Huskies have played one of the top schedules in the nation so far; the bad news is that they have one quality win (Texas).  Wins over Harvard and William & Mary and Notre Dame are nice, but they alone won’t get you into the Tournament.    Eventually UConn is going to have to win another marquee game, and they’ll have at least four more chances to do so (home games against WVU and Louisville; road games versus Syracuse and Villanova).  Tonight was more of the same for the Huskies, as the last two games  have been their worst defensive performances of the season, allowing 1.16 points per possession vs. Louisville and 1.04 against Marquette on Saturday.  This is especially disconcerting given that the UConn defense has been the primary reason they’ve avoided a complete disaster — it’s the offense that has struggled.  The Husky offense shot 38% from the field, hit only four threes and committed 17 turnovers, and those kinds of numbers have to improve if UConn expects to earn its first true road win sometime this season.  Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker, in particular, continue to have trouble putting the ball in the basket, combining for 11-32 tonight — only a little worse than their season average of ~41%.  We realize that Jim Calhoun IS UConn basketball, but we’re not sure that he can turn things around when he does return later this season.  Winning just the home games will get the Huskies to 7-11 in the Big East, and that means late road games against Rutgers, Notre Dame and USF are extremely important this year.

Louisville Got the Upper Hand Tonight

Jordan Hamilton Says Hello#10 Texas 72, Oklahoma State 60.  This game was a tale of two halves in Stillwater tonight.  At halftime, OSU looked the more aggressive team and had built as much as an eleven-point lead behind the habanero-like shooting of James Anderson (8-9 FGs for 24 points in the first half).  Texas managed to crawl back within four at the break, and the ensuing half belonged to the Longhorns.  Rick Barnes’ defense held the scorching Anderson to 2-9 shooting and four points for the rest of the game, and in the meantime, may have found a new offensive option on their own team in the form of Jordan Hamilton.  The freshman from LA came into the game averaging less than 8 PPG, but he made the most of his minutes tonight, drilling five threes and hitting 11-16 FGs for a career-high 27/4.  Eighteen of those points came in the second half, including an 11-point burst in the middle of the half that gave Texas the lead for good.  The core of the UT lineup is experienced, with Damion James, Dexter Pittman, Justin Mason, Dogus Balbay and Gary Johnson all juniors or seniors, but the offensive production that Rick Barnes gets from the talented freshman trio of Hamilton, Avery Bradley and J’Covan Brown will ultimately decide how far the Horns will go this season.  The firepower that those three bring to the table surpasses all but what Damion James can do on a regular basis — Coach Barnes would be wise to unleash their talents a little more as his team heads into the stretch run of the Big 12 regular season race still only two back of #1 Kansas in the standings.

Other Games of National Interest.

Is none an acceptable answer?  We’ll be back tomorrow with a fuller slate of games.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 01.30.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2010

Welcome back, everyone!  Boom Goes the Dynamite returns for the fourth weekend of the year with a blockbuster Saturday of games that are so good that we’re getting them up today as a reminder to join us tomorrow afternoon.  With noon-to-night coverage and the fact that most of the country is completely frozen over again, we expect that you’ll be right there with us on the couch, eating a bunch of bad food and breaking down zone offenses.  We hope to see you then!

Here are the games we plan on keeping an eye on…

12 PM: La Salle at #15 Temple on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com
12 PM: Marquette at #19 Connecticut on Big East Network HD and ESPN Full Court
12 PM: Louisville at #9 West Virginia on ESPN and ESPN360.com
1 PM: #7 Duke at #11 Georgetown on CBS – RTC Live
2 PM: #4 Syracuse at DePaul on Big East Network and ESPN Full Court
2 PM: Indiana at Illinois on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com
3 PM: FSU at Boston College on Raycom and ESPN Full Court
3 PM: #25 Northern Iowa at Missouri State
4 PM: Baylor at #6 Texas on Big 12 Network and ESPN Full Court
4 PM: #23 Vanderbilt at #1 Kentucky on ESPN and ESPN360.com A
4 PM: Arkansas at #20 Mississippi on SEC Network and ESPN Full Court
6 PM: Notre Dame at Rutgers on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com
6 PM: New Mexico at TCU on CBS College Sports
7 PM: #2 Kansas at #13 Kansas State on ESPN and ESPN360.com
7 PM: Georgia at South Carolina on Fox Sports (regional) and ESPN Full Court
7 PM: Northwestern at #5 Michigan State on Big Ten Network
8 PM: Providence at Cincinnati on ESPN U
9 PM: Utah at #10 BYU on Mountain Network
9:30 PM: #8 Gonzaga at San Francisco on Fox Sports (regional)- RTC Live

We will be dividing the day into three shifts with nvr1983 starting things off then rtmsf will handle the afternoon games before John Stevens takes you into the night with late night coverage of all the day’s big games.

10:50 AM: Apparently ESPN forgot to pay the electricity bill as the lights just went out on Jason Williams. (As a college basketball fan, I refuse to call him Jay. Jason Williams was a great player. Jay Williams crashed his motorcycle.)

11:00 AM: Dear College Students of America, This is how you show up for a College GameDay. I don’t want to call anybody out, but the Kansas State fans are crushing what I saw when I went to GameDay at UNC last year. To be fair, a game against in-state rival Kansas is much, much more important than a disappointing Miami team. This seems more like a College Football GameDay and that’s what we need for the basketball version too. Right now the pressure is on Illinois, Kentucky, Washington, Syracuse, and Duke to match this atmosphere when GameDay comes to town later this year.

11:10 AM: Does anybody have a link to where we can buy one of those Frank Martin t-shirts?

11:15 AM: According to the Kansas State website, the previous record for College Basketball GameDay attendance was 6,700 at Clemson last year before they played Duke. I haven’t heard an official number for today. Bramlage Coliseum holds 12,528 and I would think they are well over half full.

11:20 AM: Is Coach K advocating for abolishing the requirement for players to spend one year in college or wanting them to stay in school for more than one semester, which is all they really have to do to be eligible to play in their freshman year? It sounds more like the former. Jay Bilas is right that this issue is more a NBA/business issue.

11:22 AM: If you’re wondering who Hubert Davis and Digger Phelps are going to pick to win the Kansas-Kansas State game, their clothes might be a pretty good clue. Hubert is wearing a purple shirt and a purple tie. Digger is wearing a purple shirt and a purple tie and he he has a purple highlighter. . .

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RTC Interview: Seth Davis On College Basketball, His New Show, & Fannovation

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2010

Last week, RTC spoke with Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS to talk about a variety of topics on college basketball and a new promotion for Coke Zero. This is not the first time we have spoken with Seth as we interviewed him last March for the launch of his book “When March Went Mad” about the 1979 championship game between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Before the interview officially began, Seth expressed his displeasure about not getting linked every day in the Morning Five. We would give you the transcript of that discussion, but Chinese government regulations prohibit us from doing so.

Ed. Note: This interview took place last week, but due to some transcribing issues we are just putting it up now.

Seth Davis: Man of Intrigue

RTC: I guess we will start with your alma mater. Duke is looking strong again this year, but is different than they usually look as they are not relying on the outside shooting as much as a complete game. A lot of people have been talking up Duke. Do you think this is the year they can make it back to the Final Four?

SD: I do. I think they are legit. It’s kind of funny. Here they are ranked 5th or 6th in the country, putting together a great record, and there is not a lot of buzz about Duke right now. It’s funny to say that because they are so ubiquitous on television, but I think that we have all seen them get off to these great starts the past few years before they fall in the tournament. This team does things that those teams did not primarily defend and rebound. Those things are very important assets to carry into the tournament because at some point you are going to have an “off” shooting night and I think back for example to when they lost in the 2nd round to West Virginia. I think West Virginia was like +16 on the boards. At some point the shots aren’t going to fall. This team has the ability to overcome that so I don’t know from strictly a talent standpoint if I would put them on the Texas, Kentucky, and Kansas level, but do I think of them on a short list of contenders to get to the Final Four? Absolutely. I think by the way they will have a great chance of getting a #1 seed if they win the ACC regular season and then win the [ACC] tournament. I would be surprised if they aren’t a #1 seed.


RTC: Sticking with a US News & World Report College Rankings theme. Another team that has really made a lot of news this year is Cornell with a lot of close losses to very good teams, but that doesn’t impact their RPI and NCAA seeding as much as some people would think. How good is this team? How high do you think they could be seeded and how far could they go in the NCAA tournament?
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ATB: Vandy is Dandy in Knoxville

Posted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2010

Wednesday Night of Upsets.  Although all four of these games were upsets using the Vegas sense of the word, only UT and UConn were what we’d call significant ones.  Still, it’s not often that we see three unranked teams pull wins over ranked teams on a random Wednesday night.

Is Kevin Stallings' Vandy Team the Most Underrated in America? (AP/Wade Payne)

  • #23 Vanderbilt 85, #14 Tennessee 76.  Behold, the value of senior leadership.  On a night when A.J. Ogilvy and Jeffrey Taylor could only combine for 22 points on 7-18 shooting, senior Jermaine Beal stepped up to lead Vanderbilt to a message-sending road win in one of the toughest places to play in America.  The Commodores earned their tenth straight win behind Beal’s 25 points on 8-12 from the field, which included 4-6 from beyond the arc.  Those four treys were half of Vandy’s total of eight, which came on 14 attempts (57.1%).  Tennessee, by contrast, could only manage 6-20 (30%) from three, often settling for shots from deep when there were better ones to be had.  J.P. Prince led UT with 22/4/3, and Wayne Chism owned the boards in this physical game, pulling down 16 boards in addition to his eight points.  Still, Vanderbilt was able to out-rebound the Vols, 37-35 — a major reason why Tennessee just suffered their first home loss of the season.  At the start of last night, Kentucky was the only undefeated team in the nation; now, Vanderbilt is the only undefeated team (5-0) in the SEC, a game ahead of UK in the East.  Eleven days ago, the Commodores did what Kentucky couldn’t — win at South Carolina — but they’ll visit Lexington this Saturday.
  • New Mexico 76, #10 BYU 72.  The two best teams in the underrated Mountain West Conference faced off tonight with more than just conference pride on the line.  BYU came into the game riding a 15-game winning streak, and New Mexico was trying to get its swagger back after starting 0-2 in the conference including an almost unheard-of loss at their home venue, The Pit.  The swagger might just be back, as the Lobos endured a horrid shooting night from their star Darington Hobson (5/14 on 1-11 FG) in giving the Cougars their first loss in conference play.  Stepping up in his place was Dairese Gary, who scored a career-high 25 points, including nine in the last minute-plus to seal the win.  BYU’s star Jimmer Fredette did his part for the visiting team, but the New Mexico defense made him work for it, resulting in an 8-21 shooting night for 27/7 assts.  New Mexico has shown this season that they can play with anybody — beating four ranked teams — but losses to Oral Roberts, SDSU and UNLV show that they sometimes lose their focus.  Expect to see both of these teams remain at the top of the MWC standings during the next month, with the rematch scheduled for February 27 in Provo.
  • Charlotte 74, #15 Temple 64.  In a great way, the A-10 is a mess.  Charlotte’s win over Temple on Wednesday means there are three teams (Temple, Charlotte, and Xavier) at the top of the league with identical 5-1 conference records, Richmond and Rhode Island just a game back at 4-2, and three other teams have three wins apiece.  The 49ers’ Derrio Green went nuts for 26 points on 9-15 shooting, including a three (one of his four) with two minutes left that lifted a four point lead up to seven, and quelled a last comeback attempt by the Owls.  An under-the-weather Juan Fernandez tallied just 3 points in only 24 minutes for Temple, although Lavoy Allen (12/14/2) and Ryan Brooks (20/3/2) did all they could against a Charlotte zone defense that threw up traps at any possible chance at any location on the floor.  Temple was up 32-38 at the half, but just couldn’t decipher that 49er zone which forced The Owls into a poor shooting night (34.8% FG, 31.4% 3FG).  Charlotte took their first lead with seven minutes left, lost it for thirty seconds, and never trailed again after regaining it.
  • Providence 81, #19 Connecticut 66. Someone needs to tell these schools that Connecticut 2010 is not Connecticut 2004 or even 2009, and they don’t need to be RTCing every time they beat the Huskies (see below).  Trust us, they’re going to lose several more games this year.  According to Gavin Edwards, once the Huskies got a ten-point lead in the first half, they thought the game was won.  Providence, however, had other ideas, and used old-fashioned hustle and grit to storm back and dominate the last eight minutes of the game to blow UConn out of the building.  Despite PC’s porous defense this season, they were able to hold Connecticut to 39% shooting and 4-18 from three.  Kemba Walker (17/8/7 assts) and Stanley Robinson (14/4) were able to get theirs, but Jerome Dyson was poor (3-14 FG) and nobody else stepped up.  For Providence, Jamine Peterson had 23/14/4 stls and Sharaud Curry chipped in with 18 points, but this game ultimately came down to the who-wanted-it-more factor, and that team tonight was clearly the Friars.  Now, about that RTC…

Other Games of National Interest.

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