Boom Goes The Dynamite: Wednesday 1.13.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on January 13th, 2010

There are some REALLY good games on tonight and many of them will be somewhere on the tube, so we figured tonight we’d step up with a special edition of our weekend live-blogging feature.  To start off, we’ll be checking on Boston College at Duke (ESPN), Pittsburgh at Connecticut (ESPN2), and Cincinnati at St. John’s (ESPN-U), and we’ll branch out to other networks as well throughout the night.  We want to know what you’re watching, as well.  Keep hitting that refresh button and we’ll see you in the comments section.  It’ll all start off momentarily…

7:03 pm ET: Wow, where to start?  This is a ridiculous night of hoops.  SO many games on, which is why we’re here.  The first thing I notice is the wardrobe symmetry between play-by-play man Rece Davis (?!?) and Bobby Knight.  Both in the v-neck sweaters.  Is it good when Bobby Knight is influencing your wardrobe choices?  I guess Rece can make it work.

7:07: Yeesh.  Not exactly a good trip for Nolan Smith.  A missed dunk and then a missed 10-foot jumper from almost behind the backboard.  Meanwhile, over on the Big Ten Network, Minnesota is keeping up with Michigan State early; MSU has a 24-21 lead at the under-4 TVTO.  I’m especially fired up for this UConn-Pitt game.  Can Pitt continue this ascent after being basically forgotten about in the early part of this season?  Up on the Huskies early in Storrs…

7:20: UConn looks like a YMCA club team.  They’re straight up on defense, if you can call it that.  At this point they seem severely uninterested.  Pitt has guys moving on offense without the ball, talking on defense, etc.  That’s how you build an early ten point lead on a team in their own house.

7:23: Maybe that Jerome Dyson dunk will get UConn going.  UConn’s strategy is obvious, and that’s to run Pitt into the ground.  UConn scored on four straight possessions so it looks like they’ve finally shown up mentally.  But what’s this?  Interesting score…South Florida up at home on West Virginia 23-12 over on ESPN 360 with about 7:00 left in the first.  Virginia has an early lead on Georgia Tech and BC just got a NICE dunk by Reggie Jackson to go up one on Duke.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2010

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

It has been a long time since there was a good college basketball team in the NYC metro area.  Unless you consider Storrs, CT, in the NYC metro area.

This season was supposed to be different. Seton Hall had added transfers Herb Pope, Jamel Jackson, Jeff Robinson, and Keon Lawrence to a solid core. St. John’s was bringing everyone back, including one of the most underrated players in the league in DJ Kennedy. Rutgers lost Corey Chandler, but with Mike Rosario returning alongside Gregory Echinique and Hamady Ndiaye, the Scarlet Knights were expected to be much more competitive in the league.

The non-conference season seemed promising. They combined to go 28-7 before the Big East season, which included wins over Temple, Siena, and Cornell, three teams that could very well be playing in the Tournament.  Hell, it seemed like both the Pirates and the Johnnies had a good shot at making a run to the Dance.

But a week into league play, these teams have yet to win a game, going 0-5. What’s worse is that four of those five losses have come at home.  So what happened?

For starters, injuries have played a big role. St. John’s is just getting Justin Burrell back after a sprained ankle held him out for a couple weeks, and still hasn’t had Anthony Mason, Jr., who is battling hamstring problems. Rutgers lost Gregory Echinique for the season to an eye injury. And if you look closer, four of those five losses came against teams that look destined to be dancing. In each of those four games, the loser wasn’t blown out as much as outlasted.

But the bigger issue may a bit more subtle. You see, winning is a skill; a learned trait. It takes experience, it takes leadership, and it takes smarts. It’s the ability to understand time and score, knowing when to step on the gas and when to rein it in offensively and run some clock. Its knowing what is a good shot, and the ability to run your offensive sets and get those good shots.

After watching any (or all) of these games, do you believe that Seton Hall, St. John’s, or Rutgers knows how to win a close game?

I don’t.  Can the same be said for Marquette?

The Golden Eagles were written off by a lot of people before the season started, but after an impressive showing at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, it seemed like Buzz Williams’ team might be better than some of us thought.  But Marquette has had just as much trouble in close games. They are currently sitting at 9-5 on the season, losing those five games by a combined 17 points, three of which came on the final possession.  Two of those losses came in Marquette’s first two Big East games, as Da’Sean Butler and Scottie Reynolds both hit game-winners in the final seconds.

What does this all mean?

Well, what we know for sure is that Marquette is much better than expected, Seton Hall has a ton of talent, and that St. John’s is good (they beat Temple in Philly, and regardless of what Kansas did on Saturday, beating this Temple team in Philly is impressive) and will only get better when Mason returns.

Maybe this says more about the Big East conference as a whole than anything about a specific team.  Maybe this proves what we expected – that the Big East is incredibly balanced this season.  Maybe this shows us that the difference between finishing 12-6 and 6-12 in the league, the difference between making the Tournament and heading to the NIT, isn’t a matter of talent. Its a matter of leadership, of experience, of smarts.

Maybe the difference is simply having guys that know how to win these close games.

Other Notes

  • Of the 16 teams in this conference, there are only three that I am ready to write off: Providence, Rutgers and DePaul. One team that you may notice missing from that list is South Florida. Yes, the Bulls have started Big East play 0-2. No, the Bulls don’t have many impressive wins this season (their best are UVa and San Diego). But keep in mind that Stan Heath’s club is currently missing two of their best players – Gus Gilchrist, their leading scorer who has missed the last six games and will be out for about another month with a severely sprained ankle, and Anthony Crater, an Ohio State transfer that was suspended after he became eligible in mid-December. The Bulls are not a deep team – without Crater and Gilchrist they basically go five deep – but a seven man rotation headlined by Crater, Gilchrist, Jarrid Famous and Dominique Jones, one of the best kept secrets in the country, the Bulls will make a lot of believers.
  • UConn might be the best team in the conference in transition. Kemba Walker can lead the break as well as anyone, Stanley Robinson may be the best in the country at finishing above the rim, and Jerome Dyson attacks the rim like a running back hitting the hole on third and short. That said, where UConn will struggle is in the halfcourt until Walker learns how to run a team and an offense. Far too often, the Huskies pass the ball around the perimeter for 30 seconds, ending a possession with a headlong drive at the rim. UConn had the same problem last season, but AJ Price was excellent at taking the ball with 10 seconds on the shot clock, beating his defender, and either finding a big man at the rim or setting up an iso on the wing. Walker can’t do that. He also hasn’t developed Price’s best shot – the 10 foot pull-up. Walker isn’t going to be finishing at the rim against a set defense in this league, but he is quick enough to get into the paint any time he wants. Until Walker becomes the on-court leader that Price was, the Huskies will continue to struggle.
  • Another UConn note: has Gavin Edwards been the most surprising player in the conference this year? Probably not, but there are few that have impressed more people than Edwards. He is the Huskies’ only real threat to score in the post on anything other than a catch-and-dunk, he rebounds the ball well, he plays smart defense, and he doesn’t make mistakes. Hell, he has played well enough to garner attention from the NBA. I guarantee not one person thought this kid had a shot at the league after his first two seasons.
  • West Virginia’s point guard issues were exposed by Pitt. They couldn’t run any offense in the second half, committed far too many live-ball turnovers, and as a result dug themselves into a big hole as Purdue got layup after layup. But we knew that was going to happen as the Mountaineers dealt with injuries to Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla. The bigger concern may have been on the glass. Granted, there are few teams in the country as adept at boxing out as the Boilermakers, but WVU still managed just seven offensive rebounds. With how much this team struggles in the halfcourt offensively, they aren’t going to win many games without easy second-chance points.
  • We’ll talk about Pitt in a bit, but if you’re a Cuse fan, don’t read all that much into the loss to Pitt. I guarantee that Jim Boeheim will put a stop to that lackadaisical defense very quickly, and there won’t be too many games where the Orange goes 1-13 from deep while their opponents shoot 10-24.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Ashton Gibbs, Pitt.  Pitt thrust themselves back into the Big East conversation with wins over Syracuse and Cincinnati this week. (Oh, and should I mention they were both on the road? Well, they were.) And Gibbs was the biggest reason why, averaging 21.5 ppg. He wasn’t just scoring points either, he was scoring important points. Against the Orange, he knocked down a number of big threes in the second half as the oft-scoring-deficient Panthers posted 53 points to overtake the Cuse. In the Cincy game, Gibbs hit the important free throws down the stretch as the Bearcats were trying to mount a comeback. With Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown back for the Panthers, this team has a number of weapons on the perimeter and is playing as well as any Jamie Dixon-coached team has. But it is Gibbs’ leadership and scoring ability that is going to determine how far this team goes. When he’s efficient, they are good. When he isn’t, just go back and rewatch the Indiana loss to see what happens.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Pittsburgh Panthers.  I don’t like doing this. I don’t like giving the POTW and the TOTW awards to the same program. But who else deserves this? Georgetown went 2-0 this week, but beating St. John’s at home and DePaul shouldn’t get you a TOTW. Villanova won at Marquette, but is that anywhere near as impressive as Pitt winning at Syracuse and Cincinnati? West Virginia and Louisville both lost marquee non-conference games. Everyone else had a loss during the week. Marquette was two good defensive possessions away from being 2-0 with wins over two of the Big East favorites, but as it stands they went 0-2 on the week.  Which leaves us with Pitt. In the paragraph above, you already learned about Pitt’s two impressive road wins. Perhaps the key for the Panthers this week was their two mid-season additions. Jermaine Dixon scored 21 big points against Syracuse, while Gilbert Brown had 13 of his 17 points in the second half to hep the Panthers pull away from Cincy. What this means is that Pitt now has four or five legitimate scoring threats on their perimeter. While neither Dante Taylor, Nasir Robinson or Gary McGhee will be confused with an offensive force in the paint, the three provide toughness, defense, and the ability to finish at the rim. All of a sudden, the Panthers have enough offensive firepower to allow them win games with their defense. Is this just a flash in the pan, or is Pitt for real? I’m leaning towards the latter after this week.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Syracuse: 13-1, 1-1

Last Week: 1/2 vs. Pitt 72-82

This Week: 1/6 vs. Memphis, 1/10 vs. South Florida

2. Villanova: 12-1, 1-0

Last Week: 1/2 @ Marquette 74-72

This Week: 1/6 vs. DePaul, 1/9 vs. Marquette

3. West Virginia: 11-1, 2-0

Last Week: 1/1 @ Purdue 62-77

This Week: 1/6 vs. Rutgers, 1/9 @ Notre Dame

4. Pitt: 13-2, 3-0

Last Week: 1/2 @ Syracuse 82-72, 1/4 @ Cincinnati 74-71

This Week: N/A

5. Georgetown: 11-1, 2-0

Last Week: 12/31 vs. St. John’s 66-59, 1/3 @ DePaul 67-50

This Week: 1/6 @ Marquette, 1/9 vs. UConn

6. UConn: 10-3, 1-1

Last Week: 12/30 @ Cinci 69-71, 1/2 vs. Notre Dame 82-70

This Week: 1/6 vs. Seton Hall, 1/9 @ Georgetown

7. Cincinnati: 10-4, 2-1

Last Week: 12/30 vs. UConn 71-69, 1/2 @ Rutgers 65-58, 1/4 vs. Pitt 71-74

This Week: 1/6 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield, 1/9 @ Seton Hall

8. Louisville: 10-4, 0-1

Last Week: 12/30 vs. South Florida 73-52, 1/2 @ Kentucky 62-71

This Week: 1/6 @ Providence, 1.9 vs. St. John’s

9. Marquette: 9-5, 0-2

Last Week: 1/2 vs. Villanova 72-74

This Week: 1/6 vs. Georgetown, 1/9 @ Villanova

10. Notre Dame: 13-3, 2-1

Last Week: 12/30 vs. Providence 93-78, 1/2 @ UConn 70-82, 1/5 vs. South Florida 74-73

This Week: 1/9 vs. West Virginia

11. South Florida: 10-4, 0-2

Last Week: 12/30 @ Louisville 52-73, 1/5 vs. Notre Dame 73-74

This Week: 1/10 @ Syracuse

12. St. John’s: 10-4, 0-2

Last Week: 12/31 @ Georgetown 59-66, 1/3 vs. Providence 74-59

This Week: 1/9 @ Louisville

13. Seton Hall: 9-4, 0-2

Last Week: 1/2 vs. Virginia Tech 94-103 OT

This Week: 1/6 @ UConn, 1/9 vs. Cincinnati

14. Providence: 9-5, 1-1

Last Week: 12/30 @ Notre Dame 78-93, 1/2 @ St. John’s 74-59

This Week: 1/6 vs. Louisville, 1/9 vs. Rutgers

15. Rutgers: 9-4, 0-1

Last Week: 1/2 vs. Cincinnati 58-65

This Week: 1/6 @ West Virginia, 1/9 @ Providence

16. DePaul: 7-7, 0-2

Last Week: 1/3 vs. Georgetown 50-67

This Week: 1/6 @ Villanova

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

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

Here we are on the brink of Big East play. What does that mean? MID-SEASON AWARD TIME!!!

Co-Players of the Year: Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia and Wes Johnson, Syracuse

Depending on who you ask, these two are in the mix for the national player of the year. Butler (16.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.8 apg) has been the best player for West Virginia, even sliding over and playing some point guard in the past few games as Joe Mazzulla works his way back from a shoulder injury and Truck Bryant battles ankle and groin injuries. Butler may not be West Virginia’s best NBA prospect, but he has been the Mountaineers’ most valuable player this season. He is their best scorer in the halfcourt, and is quick becoming their best creator. He can step outside and knock down a three or run the point just as well as he can post up a smaller defender. He’s also hit two game-winners in the last two weeks.

Johnson has really lived up to the excessive hype he had in the preseason. He is averaging 17.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.3 spg, and 2.0 bpg while shooting 51.1% from three. His length, athleticism and versatility has been his biggest assets; he makes it so difficult for opposing players on the baseline in the Cuse zone; he plays like a three on the offensive end, but blocks shots and rebounds like a four on the defensive end; and most importantly, he can really score, be it in transition or in the half court set. Think the love child of T-Mac and Shawn Marion. Scary, right?

Freshman of the Year: Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati

Born Ready wasn’t quite born ready, but 11 games into the season, its pretty clear that Stephenson is going to be a player in this league. Stephenson has averaged 12.5 ppg and 2.4 apg, but more than the numbers he has put up, it has been what he hasn’t done that has been most important – this kid is not a distraction. Yes, he does have his outbursts (his reaction at the end of the Gonzaga game and his yapping at Chris Mack in the Xavier game come to mind), but what 19 year old doesn’t? Cincy has struggled a bit early in the season as they haven’t quite lived up to some of the lofty expectations, but none of that has been Lance’s fault. He makes smart plays, he makes unselfish plays, and, most importantly, he simply makes plays.

All-Conference Teams

1st team

  • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame: 24.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg
  • Jerome Dyson, UConn: 19.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.7 apg
  • Lazar Hayward, Marquette: 19.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg
  • Dominique Jones, South Florida: 18.6 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.8 rpg, 2.2 spg
  • Kevin Jones, West Virginia: 15.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg

2nd team

  • Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall: 23.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.2 spg
  • Stanley Robinson, UConn: 17.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg
  • Scottie Reynolds, Villanova: 17.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg
  • DJ Kennedy, St. John’s: 16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg
  • Greg Monroe, Georgetown: 15.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3.0 apg

3rd team

  • Andy Rautins, Syracuse: 9.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 2.5 spg
  • Herb Pope, Seton Hall: 13.8 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg
  • Samardo Samuels, Louisville: 16.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg
  • Antonio Pena, Villanova: 13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg
  • Gus Gilchrist, South Florida: 18.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg

Biggest Surprise – team: Syracuse

If I have to explain this to you, you should be reading Perez Hilton and not Rush the Court.

Biggest Surprises – player: Kevin Jones, West Virginia and Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame

We knew that Jones was good. He’s long, he’s strong, he’s athletic, and he has a nose for the ball, which makes him a perfect fit for a Bob Huggins-coached team. But did anyone expect him to be West Virginia’s best low post player? He has given the Mountaineers a true low-post threat, he can knock down threes, and he attacks the offensive glass very hard. 15.1 ppg and 7.6 rpg is just the beginning for this kid.

Tim Abromaitis is a different story. He barely played as a freshman and redshirted last year, and when Scott Martin went down with an ACL injury in the preseason, a chance was given and Abro has made the most of it. He is averaging 15.8 ppg while shooting 50.7% from three, giving Notre Dame another option if defenses collapse on Harangody. If he can bulk up a bit and become a better rebounder, Abro may be an all-conference player when it is all said and done.

Biggest Disappointment – team and player: Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati

I really thought that the Bearcats were going to make a push for the Big East crown this season. With Vaughn teaming up with Stephenson and Cashmere Wright on the perimeter and Yancy Gates anchoring a big, physical front line, I thought this team had the roster to be a factor. But with Vaughn’s early season struggles, Cincy has lost three games in the non-conference, and has yet to look like a contender. For the first time in his career, Vaughn is averaging below double figures at just 9.8 ppg, but lets face it – he is just too talented to struggle for a full season. I’m not writing off the Bearcats just yet.

The runner-up for most disappointing team is Seton Hall. The Pirates have a ton of talent, but they just don’t have the team chemistry to compete with the big dogs. I’m not talking about the players getting along. They may very well be best friends. What I mean is that this team just doesn’t play well together right now. Jeremy Hazell, as good as he is, seems to be more concerned with finding his best shot of offense as opposed to the team’s best shot. Herb Pope is a load on the block, but he can’t hit free throws, turns the ball over too much, and seems lost offensively at times. Eugene Harvey, Keon Lawrence, Robert Mitchell, Jeff Robinson – these guys over-dribble and don’t consistently take good shots. Seton Hall could easily be 2-0 in the league right now, but instead they have dropped two heartbreakers early on, and in a league as balanced as the Big East is, that is going to be a tough thing to overcome.

Coach of the Year: Norm Roberts, St. John’s

The Johnnies are flirting with the bubble this season, and with a good performance in the Big East, the Red Storm could very well make it back to the tournament this season. And keep in mind that St. John’s has done this without Anthony Mason, Jr., playing a minute yet this season and with Justin Burrell missing a few weeks with an ankle injury.

Notes

  • West Virginia is currently playing with five forwards in their starting line-up – Butler, Jones, Ebanks, Wellington Smith and John Flowers – as Truck Bryant battles ankle and groin injuries and Joe Mazzulla makes his way back from a shoulder injury. This creates two problems for the Mountaineers – they are struggling against pressure defenses and creating easy shots in the halfcourt, and they give up way too much penetration. This was completely evident against Marquette, as the Golden Eagles spread the floor, attacked gaps, and got a number of wide-open looks from three. But this is a good thing for WVU, believe it or not. Mazzulla is not going to be healthy this season (he’s playing right now with the inability to raise his left arm – he’s shooting free throws right handed as a lefty), which means that once Bryant gets healthy, they will have one true point guard. If injuries our foul trouble strikes later in the season, learning to play with five forwards now is better than learning in March.
  • UConn has two major achilles heels this season – depth and free throw shooting. The addition of Ater Majok is not going to be as influential as many believe. Majok is long and plays with energy, but he has no basketball IQ and he is nothing more than length right now – he’ll block a few shots and grab a few boards, but he’s a 12-15 mpg player at best. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel has played well in the last couple of games, but he is still learning what it takes to compete in the Big East. This is still basically a five player team. But the bigger issue will be free throw shooting. Neither Stanley Robinson nor Jerome Dyson are great free throw shooters, which is a big problem when you consider how often these two are going to get to the line the way they attack the rim. UConn is going to struggle to put points on the board, and a few missed free throws are going to make a huge difference. You can argue pretty convincingly that it cost them both the Duke and Kentucky games.
  • Villanova is not going to be a great team until they play better defense. KenPom has them at 89th in the country right now in tempo-free defensive efficiency. They give up too much penetration, allow too many open threes, and don’t have the size inside to prevent post-ups and defend at the rim. This team is really going to miss Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark, but hopefully getting Reggie Redding back will make a difference.
  • Jeremy Hazell scored 41 and 38 points in losses to West Virginia and Syracuse, respectively, but it took him 64 shots to do so. He needs to be more efficient and/or take better shots for the Pirates. Any above average guard in this league could put up those numbers with that many shots.
  • Chris Wright had 34 points in Georgetown’s win over Harvard, but lost in that was the fact that he still had 4 turnovers and just 4 assists. On the season, he is only averaging 3.5 apg and 3.0 turnovers.

Power Rankings

1. Syracuse – 13-0, 1-0

Last Week: 12/29 @ Seton Hall 80-73

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Pitt

2. West Virginia – 10-0, 2-0

Last Week: 12/26 @ Seton Hall 90-84, 12/29 vs. Marquette 63-62

Next Week: 1/1 @ Purdue

3. Villanova – 11-1

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Delaware 97-63

Next Week: 1/2 @ Marquette

4. Georgetown – 9-1

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Harvard

Next Week: 1/3 @ DePaul

5. UConn – 9-2

Last Week: 12/27 vs. Iona 93-74

Next Week: 12/30 @ Cincy 69-71, 1/2 vs. Notre Dame

6. Louisville – 9-3

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette 84-69, 12/27 vs. Radford 79-53

Next Week: 12/30 vs. South Florida 73-52, 1/2 @ Kentucky

7. Cincinnati – 8-3

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 vs. UConn 71-69, 1/2 @ Rutgers, 1/4 vs. Pitt

8. St. John’s – 10-2

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Bryant 80-44

Next Week: 12/31 @ Georgetown, 1/3 vs. Providence

9. Marquette – 9-4, 0-1

Last Week: 12/27 vs. Presbyterian 102-62, 12/29 @ Marquette 62-63

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Villanova

10. Notre Dame – 10-2

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 vs. Providence 93-78, 1/2 @ UConn, 1/6 @ South Florida

11. South Florida – 10-2

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 @ Louisville 52-73, 1/5 vs. Notre Dame

12. Seton Hall – 8-3, 0-2

Last Week: 12/26 vs. West Virginia 84-90, 12/29 vs. Syracuse 73-80

Next Week: 1/2 @ Virginia Tech

13. Pitt – 11-2, 1-0

Last Week: 12/28 vs. DePaul 65-52

Next Week: 1/2 @ Syracuse, 1/4 @ Cincinnati

14. Rutgers – 9-3

Last Week: 12/28 @ UNC 67-81

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Cincinnati

15. Providence – 8-4

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 @ Notre Dame 78-93, 1/3 @ St. John’s

16. DePaul – 7-6, 0-1

Last Week: 12/28 @ Pitt

Next Week: 1/3 vs. Georgetown

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Floriani: A Tempo-Free Look at the PNIT

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.  He also regularly covers all levels of basketball in the New York City area.

NEW YORK CITY – The morning started on a Northeast Conference note. I officiated three basketball games in the NJ Goats (love that name!) Thanksgiving Tournament. My partner was Ed Mills, a NEC official who occasionally will do a 12-and-under boys tournament such as this. Our third and final game had a former NEC official, Tony Banks, who stepped down a few years ago due to illness.  Three nice games in the book and off to New York. Forget Black Friday shopping.

A final look back on the Pre-Season NIT finals and consolation. Duke knocked off UConn 68-59 for the championship.

pnit table 3

Think of Duke and the images of motion offense, passes quickly distributed around the perimeter, precision cuts and open shots come to mind. Friday’s Pre-Season NIT final gave us a look at this year’s Duke, a team that will battle you in the paint and contest everything. The offensive rebounding rate is proof enough. Overall the Blue Devils outrebounded UConn 56-43 with a 25-14 edge on the offensive glass. And this was against a Husky team with several skilled, tough big men.  The principal damage on the offensive glass was inflicted by Brian Zoubek (7 off boards) and Lance Thomas (5 off rebs). Zoubek scored only 2 points but impacted things contesting the paint and adding 11 rebounds overall. Coach Mike Krzyzewski noted two of Zoubek’s offensive rebounds resulted in pitches back out to the perimeter that resulted in three point field goals.

UConn shot 0-4 on the afternoon from three. Not a big concern for Coach Jim Calhoun as the gameplan was to attack the basket. Offensively two things stood out for the Huskies: the field goal percentage of 37% (22-59) and worse yet, a 15-28 mark from the charity stripe. Time and again as UConn was in the process of a run a missed free throw or two put a serious dent in their momentum. Two key points were emphasized by Calhoun. “I can’t remember holding an opponent to 28% field goal percentage (for the game) and limiting them to eight second-half field goals and losing.” Calhoun answered his own question looking at the stat sheet and lamenting the loss of the battle of the boards.

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RTC Live: Preseason NIT Consolation & Finals (Ariz St vs. LSU; UConn vs. Duke)

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2009

RTCLive

Welcome back to MSG as we take in the third place game and the finals of the Preseason NIT. In the first game, tipping right at 2:30  pm today, LSU takes on Arizona State. The Tigers were run off the court against UConn, as their backcourt was unable to handle the pressure from the Huskies. The Sun Devils come out strong against Duke, but looked lost on the offensive end over the final 30 minutes of the game. A big issue for the Tigers is going to be how they match up with Arizona State defensively. The Tigers are pretty big — Storm Warren and Tasmin Mitchell are the two forwards, but neither is what you would call a “pure” small forward. ASU plays four guards (including Rihards Kuksiks), meaning that Trent Johnson is going to have to decide between dealing with the mismatch or playing zone. At the other end, ASU is going to have their hands full with Warren inside. He had 15 and 6 in limited minutes against a good Husky front line. Eric Boateng (4 points, 4 boards, 9 turnovers) will need to play much better for ASU.

The final is the game everyone will be waiting to see. There are a few certainties in life — gravity exists, turkey puts you to sleep, Dickie V loves Duke — and one of those certainties is that Duke-UConn is going to be a classic. Think back to 1990 and Christian Laettner‘s heroics; or the 1999 title game and Trajan Langdan’s travels; or the 2004 national semifinal and the UConn comeback. Whenever these two teams tango, it is an event, and tonight will be no different. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith have been playing fantastic basketball, but they have yet to face a team that has the athletes that UConn has in the backcourt. Jerome “Slicin’” Dyson (ESPN really needs to stop using that nickname, it is terrible. What’s wrong with Romey?) and Kemba Walker are as good defending on the ball as anyone in the nation, and the ability of the Duke guards to handle the 2-2-1 press (with Romey and Kemba up top) will be a huge determinant in the outcome of this game. That said, the difference between UConn last night and UConn of the first three games was their aggressiveness going to the glass. But for the first time all season, they will play a team that can match up with them size-wise. Will the Huskies still be able to rebound the basketball?

Two things to keep an eye on: 1) Who controls the tempo of this game. UConn is going to want to get this thing going up and down, as Duke does not have the athletes to run with them. But Duke is going to want slow this down, sit back in a packed-in zone, and let the Huskies try to shoot their way to the title. 2) Stanley Robinson vs. Kyle Singler. Singler is the best player on this Duke team, and is the guy they look to for big shots. But Sticks is a phenomenal athlete, and will be counted on to slow down Singler.

Is it 5 pm yet? In the immortal words of Fergie, “Let’s get it started in here.”

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RTC Live: Preseason NIT Semifinals (UConn vs. LSU; Duke vs. Arizona State)

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2009

RTCLive

RTC Live is taking over the Garden… again. Just last week, we were there to watch Syracuse run roughshod over the rest of the Cal and UNC en route to the CvC tournament title. This time around, we will be there to provide instant analysis of the semifinals and finals of the Preseason NIT. The semis kick off with LSU taking on the UConn Huskies. Not much was expected out of the Tigers this season as they lost Chris Johnson and Marcus Thornton, but Trent Johnson’s group has played well. They are 3-0, including a win over Western Kentucky in the NIT regional final. Bo Spencer (20.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 apg) and Storm Warren (16.3 ppg, 11.7 rpg) are putting up the best numbers, but senior Tasmin Mitchell is the best player on this team. UConn, on the other hand, has been playing below expectations. With underwhelming wins over William & Mary, Colgate, and Hofstra (a game they were down nine with nine minutes left), the Huskies look like they are a long way from being a top three team in the Big East. That said, Jerome Dyson has played like an all-american (20.0 ppg, 6.0 apg), and Stanley Robinson (16.7 ppg) is forever a threat for a big dunk or three.

The second game of the night pits the Duke Blue Devils and the Arizona State Sun Devils. ASU, and the Pac-10 as a whole, could really use a strong showing in NYC. Herb Sendek’s teams are usually expected to low-scoring, but ASU has hit 80 points three times already this season, including breaking the century mark in their last outing against San Francisco. Sharpshooting Rihard Kuksiks leads five players averaging double figures at 13.8 ppg. The Dukies are shorthanded in their backcourt this season, as Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Andre Dawkins are the only scholarship guards Coach K has. Smith and Scheyer are playing like stars, however. Smith is averaging 22/6 apg through his first two games back from suspension, while Scheyer is posting 16.5 ppg and 5.3 apg through four games. His most impressive stat? 0. As in the number of turnovers he has this year. With Kyle Singler playing like Kyle Singler, this Duke team looks a lot better than the pundits gave them credit for during the preseason.  Join us for an exciting night of RTC Live hoops again from the mecca of college basketball, Madison Square Garden. Read the rest of this entry »

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ATB: Tired Yet?

Posted by zhayes9 on November 18th, 2009

atb

An After the Buzzer recap for your liking as you catch up on some much-needed sleep…

What We Learned.  It’s very simple.  Often we get all jazzed over those little numbers we put in front of each team’s name, but the line between top-ranked teams like Kansas/Michigan State and Memphis/Gonzaga is finer than any of us would like to admit.  Teams are good; teams have players; and teams can perform.  There’s no dominant team in college basketball, and we shouldn’t be surprised if we see a steady rotation of #1s throughout the year, just like last season.

Game of the Marathon. #2 Michigan State 75, Gonzaga 71. You rarely see such intensity, tenaciousness and pure effort this early in the season, but the battle between Michigan State and Gonzaga surely provided all three and more. Tom Izzo has to be pleased after his team showed toughness and poise coming back from double digits in the second half against a Gonzaga squad that should be ranked in the Top 25 next Monday. Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas were the stars – Summers going for 21/11 on 8-9 shooting (plenty of foot-on-the-line long shots) and hitting the biggest three of the game to give the Spartans the lead with just over three minutes to play, and Lucas displaying his usual leadership throughout the second half, finishing with 19 points and five assists in a solid all-around effort. Raymar Morgan sunk 10-11 from the stripe and appeared to come back at 100% later in the game after rolling his right ankle and writhing in pain on the floor. Concern for Tom Izzo: the success in the paint for Gonzaga forwards Robert Sacre and Elias Harris. Lack of post production both offensively and defensively (Delvon Roe was a no-show last night) could be their downfall. Even in defeat, Mark Few has to be thrilled. Sacre (17 pts, 7-12 FG) looks incredibly improved, Elias Harris (17/9 on 6-16 FG) is a future star with a great inside/outside game and they nearly knocked off the #2 team in the nation on the road in November with plenty of overhaul on the roster and their starting point guard, Demetri Goodson, laying an egg. This was a thrilling game to watch from start to finish.

RTC Live (or Co-Game of the Marathon).

  • #1 Kansas 57, Memphis 55. ESPN got a perfect prime-time matchup to crescendo its 24 hours of hoops coverage tonight.  Although Kansas never trailed after Memphis led 7-6 in the early moments of the game, the Jayhawks could never quite put the Tigers away either.  After literally scratching and clawing and biting its way back to within one possession in the waning minutes, Memphis caught a break when the usually-reliable Sherron Collins (80% last year) missed one of two at the line to leave the door open with a 2-pt KU lead.  Josh Pastner told his team to go for the win, and the Duke transfer/soon-to-be star of Memphis Elliot Williams (21/6) took a contested three on the wing that looked pretty good in the air but ultimately missed, meaning that there would be no Elliot Miracle as a slight payback for Kansas’ heartbreaker in 2008.  In the media interviews afterwards, Bill Self was clearly not happy with his team’s performance, especially on the offensive end, where it seemed the only play they ran was to try to throw the ball into Cole Aldrich (18/11/5 blks) and let him go to work.  Twenty-one turnovers, many of the careless variety, seemed to really chafe Self’s craw.  Josh Pastner, on the other hand, seemed happy with his team’s performance, and why not?  Memphis took the nation’s #1 team to the wire on a night where they didn’t shoot the ball well (35% FG, 24% 3FG) and in the process, probably gave his team more confidence than a string of wins over UALR and the like ever would.  Our final thought on this game is that Elliot Williams is a lot better than anyone seems to have known – he didn’t shoot lights-out tonight (6-18 FG, 3-11 3FG), but he seemed comfortable with the role of becoming the Tiger go-to guy, and several of his shots and finishes were nothing short of spectacular.

  • #22 Louisville 96, Arkansas 66. This game was a game of runs; it’s just that Louisville seemed to be the team that had all of them.  That’s not completely true, of course, but depending on who you ask, this was an expected result.  Rick Pitino said that Arkansas’ suspensions have left them shorthanded (true), and that they wore down in the second half because they simply didn’t  have enough bodies (questionable).  John Pelphrey said that his team simply didn’t compete at a high enough level that you must do so to beat a team like Louisville (possibly).  Here’s what we saw.  We saw an Arkansas team that competed in the first half.  The Cards got hot from three in the last several minutes of the half to run out to a 48-31 lead, but Arkansas then countered after the half with significant energy and movement to go on a 13-0 run of their own to cut the lead down to six.  Then Louisville got hot again (especially Reginald Delk, who had 20/5), drained a bunch more threes (15 for the game) and Arkansas began to noticeably lose its motivation.  By the last five minutes of the game, we actually wondered where all this “compete” stuff that we kept hearing about was coming from.  Because we weren’t seeing it.  The Cards placed six players in double figures, and Peyton Siva looked like a keeper with some of his defensive intensity and drives to the hole.  Arkansas was led by Rotnei Clarke, who cooled off from 51 to only 16 this time around.

Bruce Pearl’s 100th win at UT unforgettable. #11 Tennessee 124, UNC-Asheville 49. Where do I start recapping this otherworldly performance for the Volunteers against a Division-I opponent? Tennessee set a school record for points (124), held Asheville to two field goals in the first half (2-26 FG, 7.7%) and 16:50 without a field goal, scored 49 points off 29 Asheville turnovers, started the game on a 20-0 run and finished with a 66-14 one and led at one point, 119-39. I’m not a math major, but I believe that’s an 80-point Tennessee lead! The Vols shot 60% as a team with sophomore Scotty Hopson notching his most impressive game in orange with 25/4/5 on 8-11 FG and 6-7 3pt. Someone hose down Rocky Top.

Big East Powers Narrowly Avoid Upsets.

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Morning Five: Opening Night Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2009

morning5This is a new feature we’re going to try our best to keep up with.  It’s very simple (which is good for us), but the premise is that we’ll drop five bits of college basketball knowledge and/or links to you in a format that synthesizes nicely with your morning caffeination ritual.  In other words, short, sweet and piping hot.  Here’s our first effort…

  1. Virginia center Assane Sene will miss the school’s first three games (Longwood, S. Florida, Rider) due to a suspension for violation of unspecified team rules.
  2. The UCLA injury bug continues, as freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt will miss 3-4 weeks with a stress reaction in his right tibia.
  3. Some games over the weekend that don’t count: UConn 88, UMass-Lowell 50 (Jerome Dyson: 32 pts), Ga Tech 82, Indiana (Pa) 76 (OT) (Derrick Favors: 9/3 blks), Illinois 84, Quincy 63 (DJ Richardson: 23 pts), Butler 75, Taylor 44 (Matt Howard: 11/10); Mississippi State 90, Georgetown (Ky) 70 (Jarvis Varnado: 17/5 blks), Kentucky 117, Clarion 52 (John Wall: 27 pts), UNC 107, Belmont Abbey 59 (Deon Thompson: 23/8); Clemson 99, Francis Marion 51 (Noel Johnson: 17 pts); Michigan 73, Wayne St. 54 (Manny Harris: 25 pts).
  4. Seth Davis writes about one of our biggest pet peeves about the start of the college hoops season: no opening day.  Yeah, we have a de facto opening day (i.e., today), but there’s hardly any hype about it and nobody but people who would already visit this site have a clue about it.  Hopefully his article will start the momentum for getting something done.
  5. Big day around here at RTC – be sure to check out our preseason wrap-up post here, and we’ll be at Cal tonight for the first RTC Live event of the young season.  Bring your coffee along and watch some late night hoops with us at 11pm.  Hope to see you there…

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

impactcountry(2)

If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #3 – Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2009

seasonpreview

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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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: January

Posted by zhayes9 on October 22nd, 2009

seasonpreview

Last Monday we broke down the top games of November and December as part of our season preview here at Rush the Court. As we examine the best games of the month of January, keep in mind what games during this crucial portion of the season usually represent: separating the contenders from the pretenders. With conference play heating up, the true top-seed players emerge from the pack and leap up their conference standings, while teams that may have overachieved or floated along on a cupcake-filled slate during the first two months begin to fall apart. Here are the games of great importance to circle on your calendar for January:

Ed. Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

January 1- West Virginia at Purdue (#7 overall)- The top game in the entire month of January will be played on the first day of 2010. You won’t find a more bruising, rugged and intense contest played all year with Bob Huggins and Matt Painter’s teams battling it out in East Lafayette. West Virginia is led by the shooting ability of Da’Sean Butler, the super-athletic Devin Ebanks, the two headed point-guard combo of Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant and impact JC transfer Casey Mitchell. Purdue will be entering their third full season with the core of E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and Keaton Grant intact.

January 2- Louisville at Kentucky (#23 overall)- This game has been circled for fans of Big Blue since the details emerged of Rick Pitino’s affair and subsequent extortion mess. They’ll be on Pitino relentlessly for these transgressions because they know their ultra-talented Wildcats can back up the berating on the court. Kentucky fans will also be eager for revenge after Edgar Sosa’s stunning game-winning three a season ago crushed Kentucky in Freedom Hall. Sosa will have to handle sensational freshman John Wall this time around.

781090314285_Syracuse_v_Louisville[1]

January 9- Kansas at Tennessee (#12 overall)- If Tennessee gets into an offensive rhythm, they can hang with the Jayhawks. Look for Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism to utilize their versatility to move Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Thomas Robinson and other Kansas bigs away from the basket while allowing their wings — Scotty Hopson, J.P. Prince -- to penetrate inside and draw fouls while Kansas has to recover. This could be an electric, high-scoring affair that may be decided at the foul line.

January 9- West Virginia at Notre Dame (#24 overall)- How about four top-25 games to kick off the month of January? This Big East clash is one of West Virginia’s toughest road tests in their quest of a conference title. Notre Dame recently had a long home court winning streak and the West Virginia forwards Devin Ebanks, Wellington Smith and Deniz Kilici have to deal with the likely BE POY Luke Harangody. Whether the Irish can receive production from their guards is the key.

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Buzz: Will Anyone Make It to the Season?

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2009

UCLA and Washington Can’t Even Hold Full Practices.  But for different reasons.  At UCLA, five players (Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson, James Keefe, Brendan Lane and Mike Moser) all have had minor injuries that are holding them out of practice.  None are serious enough to worry about, but is this a sign of bad luck or Howland toughening up his troops in Westwood?  At UW, seven players, including Quincy Pondexter and Venoy Overton, have been out sick with the flu so far this very young season.   

Breakable in the Big East.  St. John’s star Anthony Mason, Jr., has re-aggravated a hamstring injury that he originally suffered while on a Labor Day trip  to Canada, and will miss the next 4-6 weeks, possibly missing their first 3-4 games.  The  wing player sat all but three games last season after tearing a tendon in his foot, and is expected to play a big role in the Red Storm’s plans for this season.  UConn guard Jerome Dyson  suffered a less-serious contusion on his left knee over the weekend, the same knee that he tore the ACL in last February.  He should be fine, according to Jim Calhoun. 

Let’s play hard but be careful out there, huh?

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