Set Your Tivo: 12.28.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 28th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Monday was a good night for Pennsylvania as Pittsburgh handed Connecticut its first loss and Penn State knocked off Indiana on the road. Conference play rolls on today with two key Big Ten matchups in the upper Midwest. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#11 Purdue @ Michigan – 2 pm on Big Ten Network (***)

Purdue Handled Michigan Last Season (Mich Daily/T. Sharman)

This Tuesday matinee is a great opportunity for Michigan to put itself back on the Big Ten map. The Wolverines are 9-2 against D1 competition and had a very close loss to a top five Syracuse squad. This game pits two guard heavy teams against one another, though Purdue has JaJuan Johnson in the paint. Michigan is vulnerable inside making Jordan Morgan and Evan Smotrycz important players for John Beilein this afternoon. They have to defend Johnson well but more importantly they must grab rebounds. Purdue is not a tremendous rebounding team and neither team shoots all that well so there are going to be plenty of chances for the Wolverines to pick up extra possessions. Michigan is #210 in offensive rebounding percentage and they’ll have to do a much better job than that in order to score inside. As was the case with his West Virginia teams, Beilein loves the three ball. Michigan launches an average of 24 treys per game but connects on just a third of them. Still, the three pointer is the great equalizer in college basketball and when you shoot that often, a lot of shots are going to go through the net. The problem for Michigan is that Purdue ranks #4 in the nation in three point defense and third in defensive efficiency. It’s going to be difficult for the Wolverines to score but Darius Morris will try to make things happen. Michigan’s dynamic guard is averaging 16 PPG and almost eight assists as well while shooting over 50% from the floor. He needs to have a good game and set the table for others like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Zack Novak, a tremendous rebounder for his position and size. Hardaway is shooting just 30% from deep and must get going for Michigan to take the next step up and into the middle of the Big Ten pack. For Purdue, Matt Painter has hinted he’d like to go big but expect a lot of four guard sets with Lewis Jackson and E’Twaun Moore running the show. Outside of Johnson, Purdue’s bigs have averaged just over four PPG and six RPG in 25 minutes of play combined, clearly not getting it done. In order to win, Michigan has to shoot the ball well, control the boards and play solid defense. Beilein loves his 1-3-1 zone and it can work wonders against a team that doesn’t see it often. Expect him to use it in this game and adjust if Johnson does damage underneath the basket. Smotrycz is a key player because he can pull Johnson away from the basket, possessing the capability of knocking down a triple here and there. If the Wolverines can get Johnson into foul trouble early, they’ll have a great chance to pull the upset at home. Purdue is the better team but this should be a very close game today in Ann Arbor.

#13 Minnesota @ #14 Wisconsin – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

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Morning Five: 12.27.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 27th, 2010

  1. The big news of the weekend was Ricardo Ledo committing to play for Providence, which might help Keno Davis save his  job. Ledo, widely considered one of the top 10 players in next year’s class, is so highly regarded that some pundits speculated that the ability to recruit Ledo (a native of Puerto Rico who might play for the team) was the primary reason why Rick Pitino agreed to coach the Puerto Rican national basketball team. Now that Ledo has committed to Providence we have to wonder if Pitino will find other commitments that might decrease his ability to coach another team.
  2. Speaking of recruits, Kadeem Jack, who left his prep school early to enroll at Rutgers, practiced with the Scarlet Knights for the first time yesterday, but according to coach Mike Rice they will not be using any of Jack’s eligibility this season. Instead, Rice expects Jack to join the team officially in the fall of 2012 along with the rest of a heralded recruiting class. We are interested to see whether Rutgers and St. John’s, another program in the area with a hyped recruiting class, can translate these hauls into wins in the next few years.
  3. While most of the college basketball world relaxed and spent time with their friends and family there was also quality basketball being played in Hawaii, the big winner was Butler, who ran off three straight wins knocking off Utah, FSU, and Washington State in succession to win the Diamond Head Classic. After a rough start to the early season, the Bulldogs appear to be rounding into shape and should be a team to be reckoned with despite what Joe Lunardi might have thought (Insider access: Basically an absurd column questioning if Butler and Gonzaga would make the NCAA Tournament).
  4. Unfortunately that wasn’t the only noteworthy thing to happen at the Diamond Head Classic. We have already mentioned it and the Twitterverse has been buzzing about it over the holiday weekend, but in case you missed it Renardo Sidney got into a fight with his teammate Elgin Bailey and the two were suspended indefinitely. Although there was an unsubstantiated rumor about Bailey being kicked off the team (since he reportedly started the fight) we have to think if talent weren’t such a mitigating factor in determining punishment that it would be the troubled Sidney who would be getting the boot first.
  5. In our opinion it is still early to be thinking about NBA Draft prospects, but Jonathan Giovany has an excellent look at six players who were established stars or at least solid players who have done a lot to help their draft status (assuming there is a NBA Draft this summer). Some of the choices are obvious (like Kemba Walker), but others (like Jon Leuer) are a little more interesting. Either way, we have to say that we agree with all of his selections although we hope that all the players stay in college with the exception of the seniors, whom we wish we could keep anyways.
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference.

A Look Back

  • The Big Ten took on some road challenges this week against mid-major opponents and came out on the right side. Unfortunately, Michigan State lost the marquee non-conference game against Syracuse and now the Big East is getting a lot of credit, but objectively, the Big Ten is still the best conference in the country.
  • Team of the Week: Wisconsin: The Badgers defeated Marquette 69-64 at the Bradley Center on Saturday. Jordan Taylor led the team with 21 points and Jon Leuer added 17. Wisconsin had 15 offensive rebounds and just 10 turnovers in the victory. Leuer was also the leading scorer with 20 points as Wisconsin thrashed Milwaukee, 61-40, earlier in the week.
  • Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: Sullinger looked unstoppable against IUPUI as he scored 40 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against an overmatched front line. He shot 23 free throws, making 16, and also showed good feet around the basket. He followed that up with a ho-hum 17 points and five boards against Western Carolina. Still, it’s obvious that this freshman is making a big impact on the court for the Buckeyes.

  • The Leaders and Legends of the Big Ten Conference are going to be playing under the above new logo come next season. Gone is the subtlety of the ‘eleven’ hidden inside of the ‘Ten’ and, instead, we’ve got a conference logo that won’t have to change until they reach 20 teams. Despite the expansion to 12 teams, the Ten stays in the name. “Leaders” and “Legends” refer to the new names for the divisions in the 12-team conference. This isn’t little league, but all the Leaders will sound like they’re in first. I can’t wait till I have to write a sentence like ‘Ohio State now leads the Leaders by a game over Illinois,’ or some such nonsense.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (8-0) – Jared Sullinger had a great week and the Buckeyes got two victories. IUPUI put up quite a fight, though. The most interesting part of Ohio State’s week was the fact that head coach Thad Matta did a lot of lineup experimentation, including not subbing until almost garbage time against IUPUI and playing five freshmen at once against Western Carolina.
  2. Illinois (10-1) – Illinois didn’t let up, taking down Oakland and Northern Colorado. The game against Oakland had the funniest story of the week, as part of the first half was played with a women’s basketball.
  3. Wisconsin (9-2) – Offensive rebounding was the key to the Badgers’ not-as-close-as-it-looks 69-64 victory over Marquette. The game was at the hostile Bradley Center, so it’s a good victory. Wisconsin got the unofficial state crown on Monday with a victory against Green Bay.
  4. Purdue (9-1) – Give the Boilermakers credit for going to Valparaiso and taking the Crusaders’ best shot before pulling out the 76-58 victory. Purdue’s defense has been excellent this season and will be the way this team wins games in Big Ten play and beyond.
  5. Minnesota (9-1) – Tubby Smith’s team went on the road and won at St. Joseph’s, then came home and beat Eastern Kentucky. Two more home snoozefests against mid-majors probably won’t teach us anything about the Golden Gophers, so we’ll wait until they open Big Ten play against Wisconsin on December 28.
  6. Michigan State (7-3) – At some point, the Spartans are going to have to beat a good team to be considered one. While the victory over Washington is nice, a miss against Syracuse and a narrow escape against Oakland just added to the national narrative that Michigan State is underachieving. Expect Tom Izzo to figure this out shortly. His team has one more big non-conference game against Texas on Wednesday, December 22.
  7. Northwestern (5-0) – The Wildcats didn’t play until after this writing, so they stay right here at number seven. Northwestern is done with finals, thanks to the quarter system, and thus plays twice this week – both at home and both against inferior competition.
  8. Michigan (7-2) – This team is starting to figure out its identity. Against Utah, the Wolverines did a great job of getting open looks on the way to scoring 75 points in 68 possessions. Darius Morris (16.8 PPG in his last five outings) continues to look like the real deal. This is a more dangerous team than any Big Ten opponent wants to admit.
  9. Indiana (7-2) – The Hoosiers played Kentucky tough for a while, but they couldn’t do enough to make it close down the stretch in an 81-62 loss. Now Tom Crean’s powder puff scheduling comes back with a games against SIU-Edwardsville and South Carolina State at Assembly Hall.
  10. Penn State (7-3) – Until the Nitanny Lions fix their defense, they’re going to be ranked pretty low. Talor Battle took 20 shots in a 79-69 loss to Virginia Tech, and made nine, but the odder thing was that he didn’t have an assist or a turnover in the game.
  11. Iowa (5-5) – The Hawkeyes split against in-state rivals Northern Iowa and Iowa State. This team isn’t going to be as bad as everyone thought and might even get a few wins in conference play, which might make it even more difficult for the conference to sneak seven teams into the NCAA Tournament.

A Look Ahead (all times EST)

  • 12/13 – Wisconsin vs. Green Bay – Big Ten Network, 8 p.m.
  • 12/15 – Minnesota vs. Akron – Big Ten Network, 8:30 p.m.
  • 12/18 – Ohio State vs. South Carolina – CBS, 2 p.m.
  • 12/18 – Illinois vs. UIC – Big Ten Network, 2 p.m.
  • 12/18 – Iowa at Drake – 8 p.m.

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: The Big Ten is ranked first in Ken Pomeroy and first in Jeff Sagarin’s ratings. The rating systems get to their conclusions in very different ways, though, as neither really agrees about how the bottom of the conference stacks up.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.13.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 13th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Tonight begins a week of almost nothing of significance in the college basketball world. Many schools have finals this week resulting in the annual light schedule for this week.  All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Florida Atlantic @ Siena – 7:30 pm on Time Warner Cable Sports (*)

Siena enters the game at 2-6 coming off three straight losses. The Saints were expected to contend at the top of the MAAC but they’ve looked ordinary so far. It would be foolish to write them off however as they have quality talent for a mid-major league, talent that’s experienced for the most part. Surprisingly, Siena is 0-4 at home under the direction of first year head coach Mitch Buonaguro. He does have two star players though as Ryan Rossiter and Clarence Jackson are back for their senior seasons in upstate New York. Rossiter has been outstanding, averaging 20/13. Those 13 rebounds are good enough for second in the country behind Kenneth Faried of Morehead State. A key matchup in this game will be Rossiter against FAU’s Kore White who had 18/8 in a win at Mississippi State and was 5-8 from the floor in a victory over South Florida. At 6’8/245, White possesses the height and strength to bang with the 6’9/235 Rossiter. The Owls are 5-4 against D1 competition and have won three straight, including the wins against MSU and USF. They’re led by former St. John’s head coach Mike Jarvis who is trying to work his way back up the coaching ladder. Florida Atlantic takes good care of the ball, ranked eighth in offensive turnover percentage. They should win the turnover battle against a Siena team that averages 16 turnovers a game. Siena may be shorthanded as Owen Wignot missed their last game against Fairfield with a head injury. Wignot has been a valuable weapon, hitting 13 of his 21 three point attempts this season. Jarvis has a shooter of his own in leading scorer Gregg Gantt, averaging 15 PPG and 40% from three. The senior duo of Rossiter and Jackson should do most of the scoring for Siena and Rossiter should especially look to take advantage inside. FAU gives up 51% shooting from inside the arc on average but White should be able to contain him somewhat, at least you’d think so. This should be a pretty good game between two decent mid-major teams, despite Siena’s record.

Green Bay @ Wisconsin – 8 pm on Big Ten Network (*)

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Set Your Tivo: 12.10-12.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 10th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Friday’s schedule is barren but Saturday has a bunch of terrific matchups. Two ACC conference games highlight a soft Sunday to close out the weekend. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#13 UNLV @ Louisville – 12 pm Saturday on ESPNU (****)

Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are a surprising 7-0 but when you really look at their schedule you realize they haven’t played top teams. Louisville’s best win is over Butler, a team clearly not even near the level it was last year. Including Butler, Louisville’s opponents have an aggregate record of just 25-31. That changes on Saturday when 9-0 UNLV heads to the KFC Yum! Center. The Rebels have already played five games away from home so they’ll be ready for a tough environment. UNLV is a strong team on both sides of the ball but they’ve really piled up the numbers on offense. They’re in the top ten in effective field goal percentage behind Chace Stanback and his 59% shooting. Stanback is a 6’8 wing/forward type player who can cause a lot of problems for the opponent matching up with him. His game extends to the three point arc as well, hitting 41% of his treys this year. It’ll be interesting to see if Pitino puts Rakeem Buckles (10/9) or Terrence Jennings (56% FG) on Stanback. Buckles is the better rebounder so Louisville may not want him drifting away from the basket trying to defend UNLV’s leading scorer. Buckles has made significant strides in his sophomore season, a theme seen throughout Louisville’s starting lineup. Pitino’s top five scorers have increased their scoring by a total of 31 PPG, making up for a lot of what they lost from last year’s team. We recall Pitino saying he’d have a bunch of guys averaging 8-15 PPG and that’s exactly what he has so far. Louisville is a strong defensive club, rated eighth in defensive efficiency. UNLV gets a lot of points from two point range (#5 in two point %) so Louisville will have to live up to their defensive billing in order to win. The Cardinals rank in the top ten in three point defense and effective field goal percentage against so UNLV point guard Oscar Bellfield (53% from three) has to have a good game controlling the ball and getting quality shots for himself and his teammates. Louisville will look to use their pressure defense to push the pace and create turnovers. Pitino said he’s been using a 24-second shot clock in practice so expect Louisville to really get up and down the floor looking for extra possessions. The Cardinals like to shoot a lot of three’s but they aren’t very good at it (32%). Mike Marra should hoist the most, averaging nine three point attempts per game while converting just 30% of the time. With Tre’Von Willis back in the fold, Lon Kruger can go nine-deep if he so chooses. Fresh legs will be needed against Louisville and could play a role late in the second half. UNLV should look to get to the free throw line to stop the flow of the game and take advantage of a Louisville team rated just #252 in opponents’ free throw attempts per field goal attempts. The Cardinals should have an edge on the boards (42 RPG) as UNLV struggles to keep opponents off the offensive glass. This is going to be a really good game, one that may come down to the very end. Louisville will probably be favored to win at home but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Runnin’ Rebels pick up a key road victory, either.

Wisconsin @ Marquette – 2:30 pm Saturday on ESPN2 (****)

This annual rivalry is one of the most underrated in the country. Wisconsin holds a 63-53 edge but there’s an added twist this season. Marquette freshman Vander Blue originally committed to Wisconsin before signing with Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles giving Marquette a valuable piece for the future. Each team has a star player going at it in this one, Marquette’s Jimmy Butler and Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer. They’re similar, but Leuer is taller and has a better three point game. The UW big man shoots 48% from deep and is the key man in Bo Ryan’s deliberate offensive system. With Marquette giving up 39% shooting from three on average, expect Leuer and his Badger teammates to have a big game from long range. Wisconsin’s tempo is one of the slowest in the country but they run their offense well and take terrific care of the basketball with Jordan Taylor running the show at the point guard position. Taylor has a stunning 3.92 assist to turnover ratio and teams with Leuer to provide Wisconsin with just under half of their points. Taylor is also a strong defender who will look to disrupt Marquette’s offensive flow. With Dwight Buycks questionable for this game (he did not play Tuesday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), Buzz Williams will turn to the inexperienced Junior Cadougan who missed most of last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Wisconsin is solid just about everywhere but they’re vulnerable on the three point line. Unfortunately for Marquette, they shoot just 31% as a team from three and that’s where Darius Johnson-Odom comes in. When hot, the dynamic junior can be one of the best shooters you’ll see. He broke out against Milwaukee on November 27 (29 points, 5-7 from three) but struggled in the two games since. For the year DJO is shooting just 29% from three, down almost 20% from last season’s 47% mark. He can get it going at any time though and that’s what makes this game unpredictable. If Johnson-Odom is on, Marquette has an even better chance to pick up a home win over their rival. Tuesday night’s Marquette game saw Vander Blue break out, scoring 21 points on 9-13 shooting. However it also included the loss of Joseph Fulce, an important glue guy for Marquette. The 6’7 Fulce went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, the same knee that had been giving him problems before. How Marquette responds to the loss of one of their emotional leaders will be important in this game. Don’t expect Wisconsin to get to the foul line much at all so they’ll have to make up for that disadvantage with strong defense and efficient offensive sets. Marquette is third in the country in keeping opponents off the line while Wisconsin is near the bottom of D1 in getting there. The Badgers are a very good rebounding team and they should hold an edge there against smaller Marquette. Though inexperienced, Cadougan is a talented player who’s capable of replacing Buycks at the point if necessary. Look for Marquette to use Butler and fellow forward Jae Crowder inside the arc, trying to penetrate the stout Wisconsin defense. Rivalry games are usually close and this one figures to be no exception. There are a lot of unknowns on the Marquette side in this game but it would be a very big resume-building win if they can get it in front of the home folks at the Bradley Center.

SEC/Big East Invitational: #11 Tennessee @ #3 Pittsburgh (CONSOL Energy Center) – 3:15 pm Saturday on ESPN (*****)

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference.

A Look Back

The Big Ten went out and got the necessary victories to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge 6-5 for the second season in a row. While Minnesota almost screwed things up by losing to Virginia, Purdue winning in overtime over Virginia Tech and Michigan upsetting Clemson on the road bailed out the Gophers. Also, Michigan State acquitted itself well against Duke, making the power rankings even more of a jumble.

Team of the Week

IllinoisThe Fighting Illini got two good victories this week over North Carolina and Gonzaga. Both teams are talented, but Bruce Weber got his team prepared for the young Tar Heels team and then got them back up for a game in Spokane with the Bulldogs. Illinois started bombing threes in the game against Gonzaga (12-23 from three-point range), which probably has future opponents a bit worried.

Player of the Week

John Leuer, F, Wisconsin – Sometimes, Leuer’s stats don’t look so great because he plays for Bo Ryan, but this week, they were off the charts no matter how you measure them. The 6’10 senior forward had 22 points and 11 boards in a blowout of North Carolina State and then added 29 points, including 6-11 from three-point range, and nine boards against South Dakota.

Newcomer of the Week

Tim Hardaway, Jr., G, Michigan – Hardaway scored 15 points, including 7-9 from the free throw line, in Michigan’s road upset over Clemson. He then followed it up with a 1-7 shooting, three-point performance against Harvard, So he’s still got quite a bit to learn. For the season, he’s averaging 10.7 points per game.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (6-0) – Another week, another victory. This time, it was a 58-44 win at Florida State. There’s not much left to challenge the Buckeyes on the non-conference slate; A home game against South Carolina on December 18 is the toughest one left before Big Ten play begins.
  2. Illinois (8-1) – See the Team of the Week section. Mike Davis had two good games in the victories with 20 points and 10 boards against North Carolina and 10 points and six boards against Gonzaga.
  3. Michigan State (6-2) – Give credit to the Spartans for hanging with Duke in an 84-79 loss. It was a “good” loss if there ever was one. Tom Izzo’s team then went out and shellacked Bowling Green, for whatever that’s worth. Draymond Green had two solid games with 16 points, six boards, three steals and three blocks against the Blue Devils and then 10 points and 12 boards against the Falcons.
  4. Wisconsin (6-2) – Bo Ryan’s team delivered an absolute shellacking to North Carolina State in the challenge, 87-48. Now a more experienced Marquette team is waiting at the Bradley Center as the Badgers begin the Wisconsin part of their schedule.
  5. Purdue (7-1) – The Boilermakers got some rough news when they found out that John Hart is going to be out for a month with an injured foot. The sophomore guard was averaging 8.4 points per game this season, third best on the team. The team has played stifling defense thus far this season, including locking down the perimeter. Opponents are shooting just 25 percent from beyond the arc, which will be very helpful in conference play.
  6. Minnesota (7-1) – Al Nolen was missing for the week as the Golden Gophers went 1-1 overall, including a surprising loss to Virginia in the challenge and an escape against Cornell. He’ll probably miss another week at least, so Tubby Smith needs to find a way around the problem. Trevor Mbakwe had one the oddest double-doubles you’ll ever see against Cornell, with 12 points and 16 boards. Why is that so weird? All 12 points came from the free throw line as he shot 12-20 from the charity stripe and 0-3 from the field.
  7. Northwestern (5-0) – The Wildcats shot the lights out in the first half against Georgia Tech and had everyone raving about the NCAA Tournament. Since then, Northwestern hasn’t played a game. Bill Carmody’s squad doesn’t play again until Monday, December 13, against Long Island.
  8. Indiana (7-1) – The Hoosiers are ranked 60th overall in Ken Pomeroy, but after losing to Boston College on the road by 12, they sort of look like paper tigers. Tom Crean’s team has built up a nice record against really soft competition. Indiana gets another test on Saturday when it takes on Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
  9. Michigan (5-2) – The Wolverines pulled off the surprise of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge by winning at Clemson, 69-61. Michigan then came back to Ann Arbor and survived an upset bid by former head coach Tommy Amaker’s Harvard squad 65-62. It’s possible that John Beilein’s team might be better than people thought coming into the season. Sophomore Darius Morris is one of the top five point guards in the league. He’s averaging 13.7 points and 6.9 assists per game this season.
  10. Penn State (6-2) – Once thought to be an NCAA Tournament bubble team, the Nittany Lions are looking more like an also-ran. Maryland went to University Park and rocked Penn State, holding them to just 39 points. Talor Battle scored 31 points to make sure the Nittany Lions didn’t lose to Duquesne. They get another chance to prove they’re legit with a game at Virginia Tech on Sunday.
  11. Iowa (4-4) – Iowa actually plays two of the more interesting games this week. Tuesday, the Hawkeyes take on last season’s NCAA Tournament darlings, Northern Iowa, and then on Friday, Iowa State comes to visit.

A Look Ahead (all times EST)

  • 12/7 – Michigan State vs. Syracuse, Jimmy V. Classic from Madison Square Garden, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 12/7 – Purdue at Valparaiso, 9 p.m., ESPNU
  • 12/7 – Iowa vs. Northern Iowa, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/8 – Illinois vs. Oakland, 8 p.m.
  • 12/8 – Minnesota at St. Joseph’s (PA), 7 p.m.
  • 12/10 – Michigan vs. Utah, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/10 – Iowa vs. Iowa State, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 12/11 – Wisconsin at Marquette, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2
  • 12/11 – Indiana at Kentucky, 5:15 p.m., ESPN
  • 12/12 – Penn State at Virginia Tech, 1 p.m.

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Conference play is just a few weeks away, but Ken Pomeroy’s numbers are already singing the praises of the Big Ten. The conference has five of the Top 20 teams overall, five of the Top 20 offenses and five of the Top 20 defenses. Most of those are the Top 5 teams in the Power Rankings, but Northwestern has the #11 offense in the country.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.28.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 28th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Sunday is the last day of all hoops, all the time. We have some good championship games and a great in-state battle later this evening but it’s back to reality tomorrow. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Old Spice Classic Fifth Place Game: #24 Temple vs. Texas A&M – 11 am on ESPNU (***)

Neither team has to be happy with their position in this tournament. Texas A&M probably feels they should have beaten Boston College in the first round and would have been playing for third at worst. On the other hand Temple, the co-favorite along with Wisconsin in this field, has been very disappointing. The Owls suffered an inexplicable loss to rebuilding California on Thursday but did get by Georgia in their second outing. The story for Temple has been the struggle of point guard Juan Fernandez. He is shooting just 5-23 (22%) overall and 1-12 (8%) from three in this tournament. Moreover, Fernandez is averaging only 2.5 assists here and has a 0.71 assist to turnover ratio for these two games. This is a guy who shot 43% last year and had an A/T ratio of 1.85. Fernandez is such a play maker that when you lock him up, Temple goes south. The action in this game centers on the forwards, Lavoy Allen for Temple and Khris Middleton for A&M. Middleton has averaged 19.5 in two games at Disney while Allen is a steady low block presence for the Owls. The Aggies average more rebounds than Temple but Fran Dunphy’s team does a nice job on the defensive glass. Texas A&M is #2 in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage so this area will be one to watch. It’s an early start so expect a little rust offensively in a close game that should be in the 50’s or low 60’s.

Old Spice Classic Championship Game: #25 Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame – 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

This is your classic battle between two teams that play almost completely opposite styles. Wisconsin emphasizes discipline and efficiency on offense and plays strong defense under Bo Ryan. Notre Dame likes to shoot the three and capitalize offensively, not paying as much attention to the other facet of basketball. Both teams rank in the top 15 in offensive efficiency but the real contrast is on defense. The Irish, #87 in defensive efficiency, gave up 155 points in the two games prior to a strong defensive effort against California in the semifinals, holding the Bears to an astounding five first half points and 44 for the game. Offense has been at a premium in this tournament and you’d figure that trend will continue in this game today. Jon Leuer has been rock solid for Wisconsin however, leading the Badgers at 18 PPG on the season and 17 per game at the Old Spice. Wisconsin did break out of their mini-shooting slump against BC, hitting 26-57 (46%) from the floor. Neither team forces many turnovers and both take good care of the ball so this figures to be a clean, well played game. Notre Dame could use a good rebounding effort from Tyrone Nash and Tim Abromaitis, while freshman point guard Eric Atkins has to hold his own against Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor. This is going to be a good game and should be close throughout. Wisconsin has to be favored though and should take home the Old Spice title.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.26.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 26th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

There are lots of good games today, most with implications are from tournaments. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Old Spice Classic Semifinal: #25 Wisconsin vs. Boston College — 12 pm on ESPN (***)

Wisconsin enters today’s game coming off a brutal to watch 50-35 win over Manhattan in the opening round yesterday at Disney. Jon Leuer led the Badgers with 16/13 in a game that had the same halftime score (17-10) as the Patriots/Lions NFL game. Boston College scored a thrilling 67-65 win over Texas A&M as Dash Harris’ coast-to-coast layup try fell off the rim as time expired. Reggie Jackson scored 21 points on 8-12 shooting to pace an Eagles team that shot 47% overall from the floor. BC held off a second half charge from the Aggies and overcame a 29-14 shellacking on the boards to pull out the win. Wisconsin is rated eighth in offensive efficiency but has struggled shooting the ball recently. They’ve shot under 40% in their last two games but have made up for it on the defensive end, especially yesterday. Bo Ryan’s stingy defense held Manhattan under 50 FG attempts and 28.6% shooting. Wisconsin is strong on the boards as well, ranking #1 in offensive rebounding percentage and #7 in the same statistic on the defensive side meaning they clean the defensive glass very well. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin has out-rebounded every opponent it has faced this season. That’s going to be a problem for Boston College, a team that ranks #267 in offensive rebounding and had a rough time against the Aggies yesterday. The Eagles shot it well from three for the first time all year against A&M and that’s something Steve Donahue may want to take advantage of again today. Wisconsin ranks #298 against the three, the one thing they don’t do well defensively. BC isn’t much better however, ranking #293. Expect a well played game at an average to below-average speed as Boston College protects the ball very well and Wisconsin doesn’t force many steals and turnovers due to their deliberate style of play. The Badgers have assisted on 63% of their made shots this year, a sign of a disciplined offensive system led by Jordan Taylor. We expect this to be a close game but Wisconsin has the edge in most areas and that should be good enough to advance to the finals of this tournament.

76 Classic Semifinal: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State — 2:30 pm on ESPN (**)

Oklahoma State got by a pesky DePaul team in the first round on the back of Marshall Moses’ 27/9 on 11-14 FG while Virginia Tech rolled over Cal State Northridge. This game features a lot of statistical contrasts and most would seem to favor the Hokies. The most glaring of which has to be turnovers. Virginia Tech does turn the ball over too much but they also force a bunch due to their style of play. Oklahoma State turned it over 25 times against an up-tempo DePaul team while Virginia Tech forced the same number against Northridge. That doesn’t bode well for today’s matchup if you’re a Cowboy fan. The Hokies get to the line extremely well and that should give them a big advantage in this game. The Pokes of OSU foul a lot, ranking #321 in FTA/FGA, a measure of how often your opponent gets to the line. Virginia Tech doesn’t take advantage as much as they should, averaging 69% from the stripe. Malcolm Delaney is the creator and best player for Seth Greenberg while Jeff Allen has had a nice start to his senior season in the post (11.5/9/4). He’ll play a key role defending Moses if he chooses to enter the paint. Virginia Tech blocks a lot of shots, ranked #16 in blocked shot percentage. Oklahoma State is even better at #12 so expect a war in the paint. Neither team shoots or defends the three very well so a lot of the action should be confined to be inside the arc with guard penetration and dishing to guys like Allen and Darrell Williams for OSU. The Hokies have an edge in talent and Travis Ford still isn’t too sure about what to expect from his club in a transitional year. Virginia Tech is a solid favorite here and should advance. For Oklahoma State to win, they’ll need to do a great job controlling the ball and getting rebounds in order to limit opportunities for the Hokies.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.20.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

#22 Wisconsin @ UNLV – 7 pm on Versus (****)

Take This Man Lightly At Your Own Risk

Bo Ryan’s Badgers always seem to fly under the radar but you can bet UNLV won’t be taking them lightly. Tre’Von Hughes is back for the Rebels after a suspension and will play a key role going up against a strong Wisconsin backcourt led by Jordan Taylor. UNLV does a lot of things well but one thing they haven’t been successful at so far this year is three point shooting (ranked #241). They make up for that on defense, ranking first in the country in two point FG% defense. That defense will be put to the test against an incredibly efficient Wisconsin offense. All-American candidate Jon Leuer has been on fire to start the season. Leuer leads an offense ranked sixth in efficiency and first in offensive rebounds, not to mention being highly ranked in other offensive categories. Wisconsin’s problem is three point defense. The good thing for them, as we mentioned, is that UNLV is not a good shooting team from behind the arc. Will that change? The teams will probably meet in the middle. We can’t wait to see the matchups in the backcourt between Taylor/Keaton Nankivil/Josh Gasser for Wisconsin and Willis/Anthony Marshall/Oscar Bellfield for UNLV. There’s also a pretty good front court matchup going as Leuer and Chace Stanback go head to head. This is one of the better games of November and will look great on the winner’s resume come March.

Dayton @ Mississippi – 7 pm (no TV) (**)

This is a rematch of a game from last season’s NIT, won by the eventual champion Flyers of Dayton. Both could use a win here to enhance their resume in hopes of moving up to the big tournament this year. Dayton returns three of its top five scorers from a year ago led by senior Chris Wright. The 6’8 forward should have an advantage going up against a relatively thin Rebel front line but he was held to 1-9 shooting in last season’s matchup, though he did pull down 11 rebounds. Chris Johnson led all scorers last year with 22/10 but he’s struggled so far, scoring only nine points in two games. Dayton is going to have to do a nice job defending a fairly efficient Mississippi offense led by Chris Warren (is everybody playing in this game named Chris?) and Zach Graham. Graham had 22 points in a good win over Murray State on Wednesday night, a game many including yours truly thought Ole Miss could lose. Mississippi is not a very good defensive team but Dayton lacks offensive punch. The Flyers have struggled in a few offensive areas, especially free throw and three point shooting. The good news is that Mississippi doesn’t defend the three well so if someone can get hot from deep for Dayton they may be able to parlay that into a victory. Mississippi doesn’t have many opportunities for quality non-conference wins on their schedule but we think they’ll get this one and avenge last season’s loss to Dayton.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players: National Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2010

Over the past month-plus, we’ve been presenting our RTC Impact Players for the 2010-11 season. From coast to coast and the Canadian border down to Mexico, we’ve selected the sixty players nationally who we believe will have the most impact on the game this year.  Each of the ten geographic regions was allotted five “starters” and a “sixth man,” an artificial construct that was easy to fill in some areas while much more difficult in some of the others.  In case you’ve missed the series along the way, this post will serve as your wrap-up.  We’re rank-ordering the ten “teams” by geographic region and list some of the near-miss players in each one.  Each regional post has a much more extensive writeup on each player chosen, so be sure to click on its respective link if you’re looking for additional information.  Here’s the view of the 2010-11 college basketball world from 500,000 feet.

The 2010-11 RTC Impact Players Map

The Ten Regions

(* denotes current injury, suspension or ineligibility)

1. Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL). Wow, and imagine if Robbie Hummel hadn’t gotten hurt.  Another group of first-rounders has everything, but what really sets this team apart is the inside dominance that Sullinger and Johnson can impose.  There isn’t a region on our list this year that would be able to stay out of foul trouble against those two, especially with the heady play of Mack, McCamey and Moore finding the big men in the right spots time and time again.  It’s no coincidence that the nation’s best conference — the Big 10 — has its footprint located here.

  • Shelvin Mack, G, Butler
  • E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
  • Chris Wright, F, Dayton
  • Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State
  • JaJuan Johnson, C, Purdue
  • Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois (6th)

Near Misses: William Buford, Ohio State; Maurice Creek, G, Indiana; John Shurna, Northwestern

2. South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC). Obviously, if you can’t find a space for a likely all-american like Nolan Smith, this is a sick team.  Its only weakness is that other than Tracy Smith, it is extremely perimeter-oriented.  Granted, nobody can put a more talented five on the floor, but if a team like the above can pound the ball inside on them, that could make the difference.

  • Kyrie Irving, G, Duke
  • Malcolm Delaney, G, Virginia Tech
  • Kevin Anderson, G, Richmond
  • Harrison Barnes, F, UNC
  • Kyle Singler, F, Duke
  • Tracy Smith, F, NC State (6th)

Near Misses: Nolan Smith, Duke; Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston

3. Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX). This is a ridiculously talented region, with first-rounders everywhere on the floor.  The only possible issue would be who would be willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team, but if Selby is eligible to run the show, we’re not sure there’s a much better group anywhere else in America.  This region is so strong we had to leave a high-major conference POY (Culpepper) off the team.  Wow.

  • LaceDarius Dunn*, G, Baylor
  • Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State
  • Perry Jones, F, Baylor
  • Marcus Morris, F, Kansas
  • Cory Higgins, F, Colorado
  • Josh Selby*, Kansas (6th)

Near Misses: Alec Burks, Colorado; Gary Johnson, Texas; Randy Culpepper, UTEP

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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Michigan State (15-3)
  • 2. Ohio State (13-5)
  • 3. Illinois (12-6)
  • 4. Wisconsin (11-7)
  • T5. Purdue (9-9)
  • T5. Minnesota (9-9)
  • T5. Northwestern (9-9)
  • 8. Penn State (7-11)
  • 9. Indiana (6-12)
  • 10. Michigan (5-13)
  • 11. Iowa (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Demetri McCamey, Illinois (15.1 PPG, 6.8 APG)
  • G: Kalin Lucas, Michigan State (14.9 PPG, 3.9 APG)
  • F: Jon Leuer, Wisconsin (15.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG)
  • F: John Shurna, Northwestern (18.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG)
  • C: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue (15.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG)

6th Man

G: E’Twaun Moore, Purdue (16.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG)

Jared Sullinger (above) and three returning double-figure scorers succeed Evan Turner in Columbus, but Michigan State is the team to beat in the Big Ten.

Impact Newcomer

C: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: Sullinger is a consensus top-five recruit. The 6’9 post player from Columbus played his high school basketball at Northland High School and won three national AAU championships with the All-Ohio Red team. He was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball his junior and senior seasons and the Naismith National High School Boy’s Basketball Player of the Year in 2010. While some have compared him to Greg Oden, scouts say that Sullinger has a better face-up offensive game than the former Buckeye, but isn’t as intimidating on the defensive end. The hype reached epic proportions when Gary Parrish named Sullinger to his Preseason All-America team along with Harrison Barnes.

What You Need to Know

The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in college basketball, potentially the best this season. The pace is typically slower (eight of the 11 teams played at an adjusted tempo that ranked lower than 200th in the nation last season) and the play might be a little rougher (the top seven teams in the conference had a defensive efficiency that ranked 53rd or better last season), but there are a lot of teams that are a tough out come tournament time. Michigan State always seems to overachieve in the NCAA Tournament and there’s seldom a shortage of talent. Northwestern is the oddball in the conference, as the Wildcats are the only major conference team to have never been to the Big Dance.

Predicted Champion

Michigan State (NCAA Seed: #1): The Spartans took a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament last season and ran with it all the way to Final Four before falling to Butler in the National Semifinals. Most of that team returns this season. Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers will drive the backcourt, but there is also depth behind those two to help counter the conference grind. Up front, Draymond Green is an underrated force in the paint that should be able to absorb the minutes left behind from Raymar Morgan, the biggest loss from Michigan State’s Final Four team. Adreian Payne and Keith Appling are two high-profile recruits that can only help bolster the Spartans’ rotation. The Spartans have the look of a team that will be in the top five all season. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Upper Midwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 25th, 2010

For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Upper Midwest Region (MI, WI, MN, IA, NE, SD, ND)

  • Kalin Lucas – Sr, G – Michigan State.  Few elite players and certainly no other senior elite players will enter this season as more of an unknown quantity than Kalin Lucas. Coming off a solid junior season where he averaged 14.8 points and 4.0 assists per game, Lucas and the Spartans were poised for yet another run at the Final Four before a torn Achilles tendon in the second round against Maryland supposedly ended those hopes along with the possibility that Lucas might declare for the 2010 NBA Draft, already lacking in depth at the point guard position. We all know what happened instead (MSU rallied to yet another Final Four even without their starting point guard).  All indications point to Lucas having recovered from the untimely injury to near 100%, but we can’t help but wonder if his explosiveness, which already was a concern for NBA teams, might be compromised. Lucas is certainly fast enough when he gets going in the open court, but his first step has never been at the level of the other elite point guards he has been compared to and a potential reluctance to push off that torn left Achilles tendon may hinder that more. Despite the questions, Tom Izzo is certainly happy to have Lucas and his all-around skills and intangibles back in East Lansing—there are very few All-American point guards in BCS conferences that stick around for their senior season—and if Michigan State is going to make a push to yet another Final Four it will be Lucas who will again be the driving force. Having lost the enigmatic but explosive Raymar Morgan and equally enigmatic but troublesome Chris Allen, Izzo will expect Lucas to carry an increased offensive load while still distributing the ball to wings Durrell Summers and Draymond Green along with the talented Delvon Roe, who has yet to fulfill the promise he showed coming out of high school. If Lucas is able to meet those expectations, he could have a senior season much like one of his Spartan predecessors (Mateen Cleaves) that results in the Spartans cutting down the nets in Houston next April.

Lucas Returns For a Last Final Four Shot

  • Blake Hoffarber – Sr, G – Minnesota. Here’s the thing about Blake Hoffarber: he’s probably not the best player on this Minnesota team, maybe not even the third or fourth best player, but he is absolutely critical to their success, perhaps the most important player on the team in that regard. Guys like Al Nolen and Devoe Joseph, Ralph Sampson, III, and Colton Iverson, are all probably more talented and more complete players than Hoffarber, but last year’s Golden Gopher results tell the tale of a team that succeeded when Hoffarber succeeded and failed when he failed. In the 15 games in which Hoffarber scored ten or more points last season, Minnesota went 13-2; in the remaining 20 games when he scored less than ten, they were 8-12. The lesson is simple: Hoffarber needs to score for this team to be successful. And given that Hoffarber’s offensive game is almost entirely predicated on hitting spot-up threes, maybe the true impact player here should be Joseph or Nolen, getting Hoffarber good looks on drive-and-dish. Or maybe it should be Sampson and Iverson for sucking in defenders in the post or kicking out offensive rebounds that eventually find their way into Hoffarber’s hands. But the point remains, Hoffarber needs to get and hit threes for the Gophers to be successful. His offensive numbers tell the story well, as last season Hoffarber was the most efficient offensive player in the nation, but only used 14% of all Gopher possessions when he was in the game. He scored a total of 351 points last season, 255 of which came from behind the arc (at an impressive 46% clip, leading to an effective field goal percentage of 67.3%, good for fourth in the nation). Of the remaining 96 points, 28 came from the line, meaning he scored just 34 hoops inside the arc, less than one point per game. Basically, Hoffarber is the very essence of a pure shooter – you really don’t need to worry about him going around anybody and the only open looks he’ll create for teammates is when he draws defenders to him at the line and rotates the ball around the arc. Sure, he contributes a handful of rebounds a game and rarely turns the ball over, he passes pretty well and is a decent if unspectacular defender, but when it comes right down to it, he’s “just a shooter” – one of the best in the nation upon whom the Golden Gophers’ chances depend, but in the end, still “just a shooter.”

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