Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009


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


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

Looking Back

Zags, Pilots, Toreros Notch Tournament Wins to Lead WCC Teams

It has been a tournament-heavy pre-season for the WCC, and it was in venues ranging from Maui to Anchorage to Anaheim that the early-season leaders made their marks. Gonzaga led the charge by winning the venerable Maui Invitational with victories over Colorado (76-72), Wisconsin (74-61) and Cincinnati (61-59) in a hard-fought tournament championship in overtime on Thanksgiving eve. The Zags had padded their resume with early home wins over Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and Mississippi Valley State, and put the college hoops world on notice that 2009-10 is not a rebuilding year by taking second-ranked Michigan State to the wire in a 75-71 loss in East Lansing, MI on Nov. 17.

In battling Michigan State evenly and winning in Maui, Gonzaga answered the question of how it would replace departed front-line stars Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt. Seven-foot redshirt sophomore Robert Sacre moved commandingly into the post position for the Zags with an eye-opening performance against Michigan State – 17 points in 19 minutes of play limited by foul trouble. In case no one noticed that, they certainly took note of Sacre’s front-line counterpart Elias Harris, who notched 17 points of his own against Michigan State in the first big-game college appearance for the 20-year-old freshman forward who has logged considerable time internationally with the German national team. Harris has emerged as the early star of Mark Few’s collection of international players, which includes Sacre, freshmen Kelly Olynk and Manny Arop from Canada and Bol Kong, also from Canada by way of Sudan.

As much as Sacre and Harris elicited oohs and aahs, it was the Zags’ veteran trio of guards Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson that led them. Bouldin has emerged in his senior year as the indispensible hub through which all things offensive pass for Gonzaga. An intimidating 6-5 guard, Bouldin stage manages the entire offensive show, plus contributes double-figure scoring from both outside and inside. He can spot up for a three-point jumper or take his man off the dribble. Gray, who has struck many observers as a marvelously talented but under-performing member of the Zags offensive show, evidently decided that his junior year was the time to answer the nay-sayers. He has been virtually unstoppable, moving constantly without the ball and receiving Bouldin’s pinpoint passes anywhere from beyond the arc to under the basket. His jump shot is as sweet as ever, but he is infinitely more aggressive and confident this year.  If opponents somehow limit Bouldin and Gray, Goodson might steal the show as he did in the Zags’ impressive win over the fearsome Cincinnati Bearcats in Maui. On a night when Bouldin was struggling on 1-7 shooting and totaled only 6 points, Goodson made key baskets in clutch time to rack up 12 points. Bouldin and Gray shared the MVP trophy in Maui, but Goodson was an unsung hero.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #14 – West Coast

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2009


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

Predicted Order of Finish:

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

All-Conference Team:

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

6th man. Nik Raivio, Portland

Impact newcomer. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s

wcc logoWhat You Need to Know.

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

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: South Region Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NCAA Preview: Gonzaga Bulldogs

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2009

Gonzaga (# 4 seed, South, Portland pod)

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

Vegas Line: Gonzaga -13


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

General Profile

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

Nuts n Bolts

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

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

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

Key Injuries: None

Depth: 27.3%/ 255th overall

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

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

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

NCAA History

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

Streak: 10 consecutive seasons

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

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


Six Degrees to Detroit: none

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

School’s Claim to Fame: Basketball?

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

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

Written by… Mike Lemaire

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QnD South Region Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vegas Odds to Win Region


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ATB: 9 Down, 56 To Go…

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2009


Four More Automatic Bids Tonight.  We’re combining this feature tonight because every game of interest involved a conference tournament final.  The CAA, MAAC, SoCon and WCC all crowned champions tonight, and only one of the four would be considered a surprise.  The other three will all be very tough outs for whichever team(s) have to face up against them in the first round of the NCAAs next week.

#6 – VCU (24-9, 14-4) – Anthony Grant’s VCU Rams rode a home crowd to a 71-50 obliteration of George Mason for its second CAA championship in the last three seasons.  You already know Eric Maynor from his game-winner over Duke in 2007’s first round; also keep in mind his 6’9 frontcourt mate Larry Sanders (not the host of a dated HBO show), who dominated GMU with 18/20/7 blks tonight – this talented duo will make any higher seed nervous on Selection Sunday.

Projected Seed: #10

Something to Remember: VCU wasn’t a good road team this year, going 7-6 compared to 11-3 two years ago when the Rams last made the Dance, but they were 2-1 against the RPI top fifty (an 11-pt loss against Oklahoma).

This is Why We Love Championship Week (photo credit: AP/Steve Helber)

This is Why We Love Championship Week (photo credit: AP/Steve Helber)

#7 – Chattanooga (18-16, 11-9) – This is exactly why conferences are moving away from penalizing high seeds from playing on opponents’ home floors in conference tournaments – instead of having a Davidson in the NCAAs with a chance to win a game or two, the SoCon will send Chattanooga to become cannon fodder for a #1 seed.  Chattanooga came into the SoCon Tourney three days ago as a team with a losing record – tonight they left it with more than a winning record; they also got a ticket to the Big Dance by virtue of their 80-69 win over College of Charleston (who may have still been feeling the effects of knocking out Davidson yesterday).  The Mocs used a 20-0 run bridging the half to build a commanding lead that left CofC shellshocked.

Projected Seed: #16

Something to Remember: Chattanooga started the season 2-8, and has one of the worst defensive efficiency ratings in the nation (#296).  Take the over.

#8 – Gonzaga (26-5, 14-0) – The Zags made quick work of a St. Mary’s team that still looks a little lost while Patty Mills tries to return to form from his wrist injury, defeating the Gaels 83-58.  Six players reached double figures for the Zags, led by Josh Heytvelt’s 17/6.  Gonzaga won its nineteenth in twenty tries, with the only defeat coming at the hands of a red-hot Memphis team in February.  It’s definitely difficult to ascertain whether the ‘potential Zags’ have crossed over into actualization, but if things are clicking and they continue to play strong defense (#5 nationally), the Zags are a darkhorse for the Final Four.

Projected Seed: #4

Something to Remember: The Zags are the #1 team in America in 2-pt defense (38.9%), but when the Zags struggle (and lose), they also have a tendency for poor shooting – Memphis, Arizona, Utah and Portland St. all held them under 43% shooting from the field.

#9 – Siena (26-7, 16-2) – Siena was the best team in the MAAC, and after what the Saints did to Vandy in last year’s first round of the NCAAs, nobody is going to want to see Fran McCaffery’s team in their pod.  Tonight they held off a good Niagara team that had given them one of their two conference losses behind Kenny Hasbrouck, who shook off a 1-10 first half to score 17 second-half points on his way to 19/6/3 stls.  This is a dangerous team – they return the bulk of last year’s squad, and they were competitive early in the season in losses at Kansas, Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

Projected Seed: #9

Something to Remember: Siena is an offensively balanced team, with six players averaging between 8-15 ppg, and all six of those players having at least one game of 20+ this year. Who do you stop?


QnD Conf Tourney Update.

The Big East, MAC, MEAC and WAC begin their tourneys tomorrow, but there are three more auto-bids in store.

  • Horizon League Championship – Butler vs. Cleveland St. RTC Live will be there.
  • Summit League Championship – North Dakota St. vs. Oakland. Here’s hoping Ben Woodside makes the Dance.
  • Sun Belt Championship – Western Kentucky vs. South Alabama.  WKU goes for its second straight trip to the dance against the upstarts from S. Alabama.

It’s the last chance saloon for Georgetown, Notre Dame and possibly Cincinnati beginning tomorrow.  Who wants to keep playing?

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RTC Aftermath: WCC Tournament Finals

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009

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

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

Matt Bouldin Was Tremendous All Weekend

Matt Bouldin Was Tremendous All Weekend

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

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

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Checking in on the… WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2009

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

So now here it comes, the premiere game we have been waiting for all season in the WCC: Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga (1/29 at 11pm EST on ESPN2). Both are ranked, both are undefeated in conference play, and both are really talented.  So with that said lets break this sucker down:

Point Guard – Jeremy Pargo v. Patty Mills:

Advantage: Saint Mary’s

Analysis: A few months ago, most analysts had Pargo winning this matchup. At the time Jeremy was the more physical of the two guards and was believed to be farther along from a maturity standpoint. Fast forward and I think Patty, by many expert’s accounts, wins this matchup. From a draft potential standpoint, one has to say that Mills has the bigger upside, but just looking at the stats, the two are about even. Patty is far and away the more prolific scorer this season, averaging nearly 20 points a game. However Jeremy has over 100 assists and has a 2.76 assists to turnover ratio whereas Patty’s is 1:1. In two matchups last year Pargo beat Patty up with his more physical style of play. I don’t think he will be able to do that this year. Mills’ most improved asset this year has been on the defensive end of the floor. If Pargo holds Patty to under 15, he wins this matchup, as I believe the trio of Bouldin, Downs, and Gray could more than make up those points. However it Patty goes off for 25+, the Gaels have a good shot of scoring the upset

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Checking in on the… WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 9th, 2009

Michael Chin is the RTC correspondent for the WCC. 

WCC Conference Action opens this week. After what can only be characterized as a mediocre non conference season, the eight west coast teams will begin play on Friday. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are heads and heels above the rest of the competition, the Gaels sporting an impressive 13-1 record and GU coming out 9-4 after playing the most brutal non conference schedule in the country. Other than the two headliners only Portland has exceeded expectations this season, posting a winning record going into action this weekend.

Looking towards March, I would say that if Saint Mary’s or Gonzaga do not win the conference tournament, don’t expect both to get a bid to the Dance. Although both teams may be deserving, the bottom half of the conference is simply terrible. Loyola Marymount hasn’t even won a game yet. With that said, here are some things to watch for over the conference season:

(1) Which Gonzaga team comes out to play?

When the Bulldogs are playing confident, as they did against Tennessee last night, they can play with anyone in the country. Between Stephen Gray, Austin Daye, Matt Bouldin, Josh Heytvelt, and Micah Downs, they have as many scorers and perimeter threats as anyone in the country. Additionally, this team has shown they have some heart, playing team defense without a force in the middle. However, as Mark Few has said himself, the Zags are thin down low. If their confidence takes a shot, they could be in for a few upsets and a surefire loss to the Gaels. However, if they hit their stride, and continue to stroke it, as they are capable of doing, watch out.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.07.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 7th, 2009

Tonight’s a special night at the East Coast RTC headquarters, as I will intently be watching a game on ESPN based on a little column I wrote a few days ago. The results of this game (more specifically how one player does) will lead to one of two options:

(1) He will go off and the site will be bombarded by hateful comments by people questioning my manhood and my intelligence.

(2) He will pull a 7-for-25 or something similar and the site will be silent. It’s not really right, but that’s just the way these things work. I guess I can be like a superstar walking out of an opposing stadium enjoying the sweet sound of silence. [Note: This doesn’t mean I would enjoy seeing Curry struggle. It would just add some validity to my theory.]

Anyways, onto the games. . .


7 PM
Davidson at #2 Duke on ESPN and Even though Duke is the obvious favorite here and the Goliath to Davidson’s, uh, David, I think the Wildcats have more pressure on them going into this game. They have had 2 shots at the big boys (Oklahoma and Purdue) and came up short both times including a beat-down at the hands of the Boilermakers. Even with a win over West Virginia, the Wildcats non-conference resume is a little weak for a team that came into the season ranked 20th in the nation after their scintillating run last March. If they lose this one, they can forget even getting a 6 seed. This isn’t a death knell for the Wildcats season (see last year), but it would be disappointing for Bob McKillop’s crew after coming into the season with such high expectations. To get a win at Cameron, Stephen Curry will need to have a huge game (40+ points) and get some help from Andrew Lovedale, who will probably have his hands full with Kyle Singler. In addition, McKillop will have to hope that the Blue Devils have an off-night beyond the arc like they did in their only loss this year. As you know the Blue Devils have a much more balanced attack led by Singler with help from Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, and Nolan Smith. One of the interesting things to watch for early in the game will be the mobility of Smith, who will be guarding Curry and is coming off a knee injury. If Smith isn’t up to the task, the task of guarding Curry will be left up to blogosphere whipping boy Greg Paulus. If that is the case, I will be taking back my earlier prediction for Curry for tomorrow night.

The Cameron Crazies will be out in full force
The Cameron Crazies will be out in full force

#21 Louisville at South Florida on ESPN2 and The Cardinals will be riding high after their rollercoaster win over intrastate rival Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. They should be careful though going into the Sun Dome where the Bulls nearly beat then #11 Syracuse in a 59-54 game despite a horrendous night from Jesus Verdejo (3/17 FG including 0/10 from 3). Rick Pitino will be expecting a more consistent performance out of freshman sensation Samardo Samuels, who only had 4 points and 1 rebound in 11 minutes due to foul trouble. I’m sure Pitino will be praying for another solid performance from Edgar Sosa, who responded to Pitino’s interesting motivational techniques (reminiscent of my high school coach threatening to put all of us on JV before every game) with a season-high 18 points including a game-winning 3 with 2.8 seconds against Kentucky. Like usual, Louisville has the talent to run away with this game, but the question is whether they will continue to play down to the level of their competition.

7:30 PM
#15 Marquette at Rutgers on ESPN Full Court and Honestly, this isn’t a particularly exciting game, but it should be fun to see if Rutgers finds the Golden Eagles below the level of their typical competition (last 3 games vs. last week’s #1 UNC, #2 UConn, and #3 Pittsburgh). The Golden Eagles are only considered the 15th best team in the country. You gotta love the Big East this year.

9 PM
College of Charleston at #3 UNC on Fox Sports South: See if the Tar Heels, currently in last place in the ACC, can dig its way out the cellar. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about the Tar Heels.

Gonzaga at #24 Tennessee on ESPN2 and That’s not a typo. The Bulldogs, who were once ranked 4th in the country, are no longer ranked. I’m not sure what to make of Gonzaga. After being the underdog for so many years, they suddenly became a favorite, but have continued to disappoint and frustrate the nation each March after repeated failures to live up to their NCAA tournament seed. This year, they rose to their 2nd highest ranking ever (spent 2 weeks at #3 at the end of the 2004 regular season) before going into a freefall losing their last 3 and 4 of their last 5 games. To be fair, those 4 losses have been by a combined 18 points and included 2 road games and an overtime loss to then #2 UConn. Despite that, there’s no reason that a national title contender should go through a stretch like that. The Volunteers will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss at Kansas. The key to this game will be on the inside with Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism battling against Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye.  If the Volunteers are able to control the paint, they will have a good shot at knocking off the Bulldogs, who will also need some help from their perimeter guys (Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray, and Jeremy Pargo).

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