Checking in on the… Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2009

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

News & Notes.

  • California’s 66.7% from the field against Oregon was the best any Pac-10 team has registered in conference play this year.  Theo Robertson of the Golden Bears still leads the nation in 3-point percentage shooting at a 55.2% clip. 
    Patrick Christopher is just 13 points shy of 1000, at 987.  Jerome Randle is right behind at 957.  Randle also is ninth in career 3-point field goals made at 125, and tenth in career assists with 313. Randle is also first in career free-throw percentage at 85.7%.
  • This is just the third time Washington has started 6-1 in the last 25 years.  Washington has won 13 out of their last 14 games. It is the first time the Huskies have been in sole possession of first place in the Pac-10 since January 2005. It is just the third time Washington has started 6-1 in the last 25 years.  The only time the Huskies ever had a better start through seven games was 1953 when they went 7-0.  Last week Washington averaged getting to the free throw line 41.5 times a game.  If they keep getting to the line this much they will be hard to beat.
  • Arizona forward Jordan Hill’s 30 points and 18 rebounds against Houston, was his first game of his career that he broke the 20 point and 15 rebound plateaus.  Blake Griffin on the other hand has put together 10 such games so far this year. Aubrey Coleman’s face stomp of Chase Budinger was the most classless act I have seen in years.  He should have been suspended multiple games for that.  Each high-five he got while leaving the game, should have added a game to it.
  • Oregon State’s three victories so far match their total of the last two seasons combined.
  • Joe Lunardi currently has Arizona State, California, UCLA and Washington getting in the dance.  It is hard to see any other Pac-10 teams really making a push.  USC has been too inconsistent still and they are the only other team with a shot in my mind.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 01.24.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 24th, 2009

dynamite1After my trip to Chapel Hill last weekend where rtmsf handled all of the duties for Boom Goes the Dynamite while I mingled with ESPN personalities and college basketball stars, I will be in charge of today’s edition while rtmsf does relationship stuff with his significant other. Pretty weak if you ask me. . .

11:00 AM: Although we are a men’s college basketball site, we feel that it’s appropriate to mention the passing of Kay Yow, the former NC State coach, to breast cancer (or more precisely complications related to breast cancer). We can’t really do justice to her impact on the women’s game so it’s probably better just to refer you to a chronology of her life.

11:10 AM: The Notre Dame GameDay crowd looks a lot larger than what I saw last weekend at UNC. I am not sure if it is just a bunch of camera tricks by the GameDay crew, but they definitely have more signs. It may be that UConn is much, much better than Miami was last week or that the UNC crowd may be a bit jaded, but the Chapel Hill crowd was not as into the GameDay experience as I expected them to be.

11:45 AM: Digger Phelps has been doing a good job of working the crowd, which he also did last week at Chapel Hill (even off camera), taking the homer pick of Luke Harangody as his choice of tough player after the other analysts picked Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, and Stephen Curry to boos. As expected the crowd went wild with Digger’s pick. A little later in the show, the crowd gave the stereotypical college crowd response to a Duke segment by chanting “overrated”. Not surprisingly, the analysts all defend Duke. Appropriately enough, Bobby Knight calls out the Notre Dame students by questioning their education. It looks like he is getting more comfortable with his role on ESPN.

11:50 AM: Another awful half-court shot. Where does ESPN find these guys? He deserved to be embarrassed like that on national TV for popping his collar. Someone should tell him that hasn’t been cool since. . .actually it has never been cool. Congrats on the airball.

Noon: Wow. All of the GameDay guys except Knight picked LSU to beat #13 Xavier. I guess it’s in Baton Rouge, but Xavier is definitely the better team. Least surprising pick of the day: Digger picks Notre Dame. Knight abstains from picking a team.

12:15 PM: Duke is off to a good start against Maryland after Jon Scheyer opens the game with two 3s. What’s going on with Brian Zoubek? He actually looks like a legitimate center today. I have seen him play several times this year and he certainly has improved from last year, but he has never played like this. If he can do this even for spurts this year, Duke might have a legitimate chance to win the title this year instead of their usual great regular season and flop in March.

12:20 PM: Villanova is tied at 10 with USF 6 minutes into the game. Dante Cunningham has 8 of Villanova’s 10 points. I don’t have much else to say about this game since I don’t have ESPN360 available since I am out of town. If anybody has this game on TV, let me know if anything interesting happens.

1:00 PM: Duke goes into halftime with a 25-point lead despite having one of the ugliest possessions I have ever seen to end the half. Do you remember when the Duke-Maryland games used to be the best games of the season? I still remember trying to figure out where I could go to watch the game on TV my freshman year of college. (My school didn’t believe in providing cable to dorm rooms.) Meanwhile in Tampa, Villanova is struggling against USF (tied at 32 at halftime).

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Set Your Tivos: 01.24.09 & 01.25.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 23rd, 2009

Set Your Tivos

Check in with RTC on Saturday all day long as we piggyback the slowly burning wick of Boom Goes the Dynamite, your virtually live weekly journal of notes and observations about the day’s biggest games. 

Saturday
Game of the Day
#3 UConn at #19 Notre Dame at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Irish will be looking to bounce back from consecutive road losses (at Louisville and at Syracuse), but that will be a tall task (insert Hasheem Thabeet joke here) against UConn–a team that many consider the best in the Big East (not just based on ranking). Reigning Big East POY Luke Harangody will have his hands full on the inside battling Thabeet and Jeff Adrien. The match-up on the outside should be even more interesting with the Irish backcourt of Kyle McAlarney, Tory Jackson, and Ryan Ayers battling A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson, and Kemba Walker. I’m not sure if the Irish have anybody to contend with slashing ability of UConn, but the key to this game will likely be the production of Price and Walker.

Although UConn is clearly the superior team in this match-up, they will have a tough time in South Bend as the Fighting Irish come into the game with a NCAA-best 44-game home winning streak. Mike Brey desperately needs this game if he wants to establish his team in the upper half of the league. A win for UConn would solidify their place as the Big East favorites and build on their already strong resume. It will be a hard-fought game, but I think in the end Jim Calhoun‘s squad will end the streak tonight.

Others to Watch
#11 UCLA at Washington at 4 PM on FSN: After a slow start (2-3), the Huskies have rallied to win 11 of their last 12 with their only loss coming by 3 points in OT to Cal. I’m not sure what clicked up there in Seattle, but now they are looking like a Pac-10 contender. If they want to challenge for the league title, they will have to knock off UCLA, the current kings of the Pac-10. I’m sure that Ben Howland has been all over his Bruins for their awful execution down the stretch last Saturday in their loss at home to Arizona State. It does not look like the Bruins have fully recovered from that meltdown as they nearly lost in Pullman to Washington State Thursday night and only survived thanks to a career-high 20 points from Nikola Dragovic. UCLA will need more consistent play from its perimeter players (Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, and Jrue Holldiay) or hope they find an inside game if they want to make yet another Final 4 appearance. For those of you who haven’t been following the Huskies, keep an eye on their diminutive freshman point guard Isaiah Thomas (15.8 PPG and 3.2 APG). It looks like is a future star in the Pac-10. Let’s hope that he isn’t charge of personnel moves/recruiting.

#23 Baylor at #5 Oklahoma at 4 PM on ESPNU: This is a match-up of two of the top 3 teams in the Big 12 (at least according to the polls). The Bears rely on a balanced attack with 5 players averaging double figures led by Curtis Jerrells, who averages 17.1 PPG. Scott Drew will need all 5 guys to hit their averages and hope for a little luck to steal one in Norman as Oklahoma is the clear favorite in the league. They are led by national POY candidate Blake Griffin who comes in averaging a ridiculous 22.3 PPG and 13.6 RPG. If he can get consistent support from Willie Warren and Tony Crocker this Sooner team could make deep run in March because I don’t think anybody in the country can guard Griffin.

Keep an eye on
Maryland at #2 Duke at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Even though this has traditionally been a heated rivalry I normally would not keep this game here except for the fact that if Duke wins they will be your new #1 team in the country. If they do get to #1, John Stevens is pretty sure that you will hear about it.

UW-Milwaukee at #17 Butler at Noon on Time Warner Sports 32, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Butler is clearly the class of the Horizon League, but UW-Milwaukee may be the second best team in the conference so if anybody is going to knock Butler off in their conference tournament and create total chaos on Selection Sunday it may well be the Panthers.

#24 Memphis at Tennessee at 3:30 PM on CBS: It’s amazing that this match-up, which featured two powerhouses last year, has been reduced to this level. Memphis has the excuse of losing Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. The Vols certainly lost some key players, but after coming into the season ranked in the top 10, this has to be a very disappointing start for Bruce Pearl. This would be a good way to start to resurrect the Vols’ season.

Wisconsin at #24 Illinois at 4 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Bruce Weber will be looking for his Fighting Illini to continue their impressive start against a Badger team that is coming off 3 straight losses with the last 2 coming in OT.

#13 Xavier at LSU at 8 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Normally I would hype this game as a mid-major team trying to steal one against the mighty BCS, but I can’t really do that this year with Butler ranked 13th and the SEC’s conspicuous absence from the polls (Florida is ranked in one, but will be gone with that awful loss to South Carolina). Ignoring that, this would be a great win for Xavier to add to their already strong resume for Selection Sunday, but they shouldn’t be overconfident heading into Baton Rouge as the Tigers having been playing well this season and are undefeated at home. [Yes. I realize I just warned Xavier not to be overconfident heading into a road game against a SEC team.]

Sunday
Game of the Day
#12 Louisville at #8 Syracuse at Noon on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Finally we have a great game on Sunday. After several weekends with loaded Saturdays followed by a set of duds on Sunday, we get the hottest team in the Big East (Louisville) traveling to play at the team with the most to prove (Syracuse). We at RTC had been critical of Rick Pitino‘s Cardinals when they started slowly but they seem to have turned it around although it seems like the nation did not seem to take notice until they knocked off then #1 Pittsburgh. On the other sideline, Jim Boeheim‘s squad will be looking to bounce back from a difficult stretch where they lost games on the road to Georgetown and Pittsburgh with a win at home against Notre Dame sandwiched between those losses.

This game will likely come down to which team’s strength wins out. Syracuse has the edge on the outisde with Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Andy Rautins having the upper hand in their match-up Earl Clark and Edgar Sosa. Louisville will have the edge on the inside with Samardo Samuels and Terrence Williams going against Arinze Onuaku and Paul Harris. I think these two teams are pretty evenly matched with Syracuse’s advantages being perimeter play and home court while Louisville’s advantages being inside play and momentum. I’ll go with the easy 2s and momentum and take Louisville to continue their current hot streak.

Others to Watch
#7 Michigan State at Ohio State at 3:45 PM on CBS: OSU had been playing better before its trip to Illinois the other night.  Still, West Virginia is the only team to get them on their home court this season, so Michigan St. had best bring a better game than it brought Wed. night against Northwestern, or they’ll be staring at 2 Ls this week.

#4 Pittsburgh at West Virginia at 4 PM on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: This game suddenly became even more interesting considering how dominant the Mountaineers looked tonight in DC against Georgetown.  Pitt recovered nicely with a home win against Syracuse, and they match up very well with the undersized WVU team, but so did Georgetown.  One thing you can be sure about in this one – most players will leave this one black and blue.

Virginia Tech at Miami at 5:30 PM on FSN: Anyone want to lay odds on which Virginia Tech team shows up coming off their victory over #1 Wake Forest on Wednesday?  Will it be the Hokie team that lost to Seton Hall and Georgia, or the one who led Wake from start to finish?  We’re betting it’s the SH/Georgia version.

Georgia Tech at #9 Clemson at 7:45 PM on FSN: This is a really weak set of FSN games this weekend (frankly the entire weekend is disappointing).  Still, if you’ve got nothing else going on, you can spend a couple of hours watching Paul Hewitt try to save his job and Oliver Purnell try to convince you that the Tigers are legit.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.17.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 16th, 2009

Set Your Tivos

Game of the Day #1

#12 Georgetown at #2 Duke on CBS at 1:30 PM

John Thompson III might want to think about asking the AD at Georgetown for a new schedule maker. I can understand wanting to get your team ready for the tournament, but this is ridiculous. Coming off a brutal start to their Big East schedule (Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Notre Dame, and Syracuse), the Hoyas get a respite by heading out of conference with a leisurely trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium where the Blue Devils have a 67-game home non-conference winning streak. Normally a trip to Cameron would be a major focus of any team’s season, but with the Hoyas’ recent schedule it will be interesting to see if they have anything left in the tank.

This has the potential to be an entertaining game with great matchups all over the floor. The most interesting matchup will be Greg Monroe against Kyle Singler. While Monroe has more potential and will be a higher NBA Draft pick, Singler is quite talented too and plays at a high level more consistently. I’m not sure how Duke will open up because I don’t think Brian Zoubek has a chance against Monroe, but with Monroe’s tendency to coast it might not be such a big issue for stretches of the game. The matchup will be made more interesting by the fact that Duke was the front-runner for Monroe (the #1 high school recruit at times last year) for most of the recruiting season before committing to Georgetown. If Monroe had joined Singler in the middle, Coach K could have had a legitimate title contender.

If Coach K decides to put Zoubek on Monroe, Singler will end up playing against DaJuan Summers who has really stepped up his game this year (15.1 PPG on 53.8% FG and 44.4% 3FG). Either way, it should be an interesting match-up on the inside. Singler probably has the most complete game of any of the 4 bigs in the starting lineup, but Zoubek is still the weakest link of the Duke starting lineup despite his tremendous improvement since he has been at Duke.  Singler’s ability to shoot from outside brings up another intriguing aspect of this game about whether Monroe can come out and defend Singler if necessary. The Hoyas might be best served to put Summers on Singler to keep Monroe out of foul trouble because they will need Monroe to play 30+ minutes if they hope to pull off the upset in Cameron. In the end, it might be the battle on the inside and who controls the boards that will determine outcome of the game despite the talented guards on both sides.

The backcourts also provide some interesting match-ups: Nolan Smith vs. Chris Wright, Jon Scheyer vs. Jessie Sapp, and Gerald Henderson vs. Austin Freeman. All of these are intriguing match-ups with solid players who are capable of taking over a game at any time. Keep an eye on Henderson in this one since he’s the one world-class athlete on the Duke team and he has stepped it up recently including taking over the 2nd half of the game against FSU last Saturday.

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ATB: All Ends to Friday

Posted by rtmsf on November 22nd, 2008

afterbuzzer1

Game of the Day. Xavier 63, Virginia Tech 62 (OT).  This ending was almost as ridiculous as the Brandon Roy nonsense from a couple of weeks ago.  After it appeared the Va Tech had won the game on a layup by Jeff Allen with under three seconds remaining, Xavier threw it up ahead to Dante Jackson, who at that point was 0-8 with 2 pts in the game.  So of course he throws in a bank shot from 50 feet to win (see below).  This was easily the best game-winner of the young season, and will probably be in the running for best of the season this year.  XU’s Derrick Brown led the Musketeers with 16/6, but Va Tech may not have been in that position if their star had shown up on the offensive end – AJ Vassallo had a mere 4 pts on 2-13 (0-6 3FG) shooting, 15 pts below his average.  At least he stepped it up otherwise, though, with 10 rebs and 8 assts.

CvC.

  • Duke 71, Michigan 56. Hey, Duke won another tournament title at Madison Square Garden!  Never seen that before!  Coach K is only 94-10 in November at Duke, so if you didn’t see this one coming, then you haven’t watched college basketball in the last three decades.  It got us wondering, how many of these tourneys has Coach K won over the years?  Surpisingly, he’s only won three of the five PNITs that he’s been in (1985, 2000, 2008) – sure feels like more. The Blue Devils relied on a balanced attack–both in terms of depth and playing both halfs (looking at you Henderson and Singler)–to vault themselves into a #1 seed in everyone’s Week 3 NCAA tournament mock bracket. On the other side, John Beilein and the Wolverine faithful should leave New York City happy though as their win over #4 (not for long) UCLA has served noticed that the Wolverines should be significantly better than last season’s 10-22 record. Perhaps the biggest thing last night’s win over UCLA may have done is make more recruits think about heading up to Ann Arbor so one day Beilein can start more Manny Harrises (game-high 25 points) and less. . .well everybody else on his team. We may find out just how far along these Wolverines have come on December 6th when they get a rematch against Duke in Ann Arbor.
  • UCLA 77, S. Illinois 60. UCLA improved its east coast record to 2-3 under Howland by pulling away from SIU in the last quarter of this game today. The Bruins relied on a 20-2 second half run to win this game. This trip to MSG should be a useful motivation tool for Ben Howland to motivate his team, which is made up of hyped freshmen and remnants of a team that has made 3 straight Final 4s. The Bruins relied on their veteran leaders (Alfred Aboya, Josh Shipp, and Darren Collison) to win the game as that trio combined for 49 of the Bruins’ 77 points. If Howland is going to make a 4th consecutive trip to the Final 4, his freshmen will have to grow up fast.

More Paradise Jammation.

  • Miami (FL) 70, Southern Miss 60. Honestly, I’m more interested in what Larry Eustachy was doing between games in the Virgin Islands than this game. However, I suspect that most of you are here for some keen insight into the game. Cliffs Notes summary: Lance Hurdle led the Canes to a victory despite an off night from Jack McClinton. I wouldn’t read too much into this game as a top 25 team should win games against teams like Southern Miss fairly easily, but it is still November so I’ll give The U the benefit of the doubt tonight, but they will have to step it up when they face the winner of. . .
  • UConn 89, Lasalle 81. Speaking of teams that didn’t quite play up to expectations, #2 UConn struggled to put away LaSalle, a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team. Jim Calhoun got big games out of Kemba Walker and Jeff Adrien to avoid the huge upset against the Explorers (seriously, what kind of nickname is that?) who shot 50% from the field. However, the biggest story of the night (other than Psycho T returning) was the return of A.J. Price, who was solid if not spectacular in his return. In a related story, Price maybe getting a Facebook invite from Cameron Newton that is assuming, um, Newton can find a computer to log onto the site.
  • USC 73, UT-Chattanooga 46. It’s the return of Taj Gibson who was AWOL for much of last season (I’m not sure who to name that type of performance after–Taj Gibson or Steve Slaton? We’re a college basketball site, so I’ll go with “pulling a Taj Gibson”.) Gibson paced the Trojans with 17 points and 15 rebounds. For the adolescent girl demographic, the big news of the night was that Lil Romeo took his first college shot. . .and missed.
  • San Diego, 73, Valparaiso 66. The Toreros were led by center Gyno Pomare’s 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Toreros, who knocked off UConn in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year as a #13 seed face the winner of. . .
  • Wisconsin 60, Iona 58 (OT). The 25th-ranked Badgers snuck by the Gaels behind 21 points from Trevon Hughes. Somehow, the Badgers won despite going 15 of 48 (31.2%) from the field. So basically, it was a typical Bo Ryan win. I can’t wait to put my Big 10 TV channel to use this year.

Other Games of Mild Interest.

  • Utah 83, Ole Miss 72. The SEC is now 21-7 with losses to Mercer (x2), VMI, Utah, Illinois, Loyola (IL), and UNC. Other than UNC, not exactly murderer’s row there.
  • Syracuse 86, Oakland 66. Jonny Flynn brought 18/4 off the bench to assist four others in double figures, but most importantly, SU held Oakland’s Johnathan Jones to 7-23 shooting and only 16 pts.
  • Pitt 86, Akron 67. I’ll just leave you with this quote from Akron coach Keith Dambrot about Sam Young:
  • Sam Young physically reminds me of LeBron. Obviously, he’s not as good a player as LeBron, but he’s got that quick-twitch strength and ability to put the ball down. He’s a tough matchup.

    I will be waiting to see Young try LeBron’s patented bullrush to/through the basket this year.

  • Davidson 97, Winthrop 70. Stephen Curry with a ho-hum 30 points and 13 assists. The bigger news for Bob McKillop is the 20 and 15 from Andrew Lovedale. If the Wildcats can get a legitimate inside game going this year, they could be an extremely tough out in March with Curry bombing away from outside.
  • Memphis 84, Seton Hall 70. Not much to say here. Memphis took an early lead and never looked back. One interesting stat: 30/46 or 65.2%. I’ll let you guess what that represents. (Hint: Don’t ask John Calipari about it.)
  • Maryland 89, Vermont 74 (OT). That’s not a typo. The Terrapins outscored the Catamounts 17-2 in the 5-minute OT period. I think even Gary Williams will have to be happy with how his team finished the game. He may be a little pissed off about the other 40 minutes though. . .
  • Tennessee 76, MTSU 66. A thoroughly unimpressive win for the Volunteers. Do top 25 teams really struggle to put away Middle Tennessee State?
  • Notre Dame 65, LMU 54. Luke Harangody with a beastly 27 and 17. Hasheem Thabeet is still not impressed. . .

On Tap Saturday (all games EST):

  • Delaware State at Kentucky – Noon
  • Drexel at #22 Georgetown – 1 PM
  • Gardner-Webb at #12 Oklahoma -2 PM
  • Indiana (PA) at #6 Pittsburgh – 4 PM
  • Morehead State at #3 Louisville – 5:30 PM
  • Wisconsin-Milwaukee at #15 Marquette – 8:30 PM
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After the Buzzer: UCLA Escapes

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2008

afterbuzzer

Game of the Night.  UCLA 64, Miami (OH) 59.  Considering there was only one game of consequence tonight (no, Weber St. over Prairie View 78-68 doesn’t count), the GOTN was the second-round battle of UCLA and Miami (OH) in Westwood.  We just knew this would be a good game, and although once again, we couldn’t see the damn thing, all indications are that Charlie Coles’ Redhawks gave the Mighty Bruins everything they wanted.  Just how close was this game?  The largest lead by either team was 5 pts either way, and the majority of the game was played within one possession.  Whereas last night UCLA was led by its Fab Five freshmen, tonight the Bruins looked to their upperclassmen to secure the victory.  The rooks produced only 10 pts and 5 rebounds, while seniors Darren Collison and Josh Shipp accounted for 32 of the remaining 54 pts (including the last two pairs of FTs to seal the game in the last twenty seconds).  This will be a recurring theme for UCLA this year – when the young’uns produce, UCLA will be able to play with anyone in America; when they don’t, things will get dicey for Ben Howland’s club.  As for Miami (OH), they were led by Michael Bramos’ 22/4, but they were never able to create enough separation from UCLA to truly put the pressure on the Bruins.  We would have loved to have seen this game (leave comments below if you were lucky enough to do so), but we suppose this is a standard-issue Miami team, and they’ll have more than a few more opportunities to frustrate the hell outta some major conference squads in the next two months (@ Pitt, @ Xavier, @ Temple, @ WVU). 

CvC Semifinals.  The Gazelle Group got the F4 it wanted with the host school ‘top seed’ from each regional advancing to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals on Nov. 20.  UCLA will play resurgent Michigan, while Duke will play S. Illinois.  Clearly the tourney was set up to get the top five matchup between Duke and UCLA, but we’re not so sure about that.  By our calculations, UCLA, for instance, is only 1-2 in the eastern time zone on the eastern seaboard during the Howland era, and the single win was a one-point victory at Drexel a couple of years ago.  UCLA just doesn’t seem to travel east very well, and given their struggles tonight against a game Miami (OH) team at home, Michigan might be poised to spring the upset.  The UM Hoops blog encourages us to dampen the hype a little, and we get that sentiment given the Wolverines’ recent history, but with UCLA’s seemingly constant offensive struggles, Michigan could ride Manny Harris to a big upset next week.  In the other half of the bracket, we don’t expect Duke to have much trouble with S. Illinois simply because those are the types of teams that Duke feeds off of.  SIU just doesn’t have the athleticism that is required to close out on Duke’s shooters and finish plays over its defense.  Oh well – that’s why they play the games.  We’ll talk more about this next week.

On Tap Friday (all times EST) – must-see games in red:

  • Florida (-23) v. Toledo (ESPNU) – 6pm
  • Kentucky v. VMI (ESPN FC) – 7pm
  • Stanford (-12.5) @ Yale – 7pm
  • Connecticut (-26.5) v. W. Carolina (ESPN360) – 7:30pm
  • Pittsburgh v. Fairleigh Dickinson – 8pm
  • Maryland v. Bucknell – 8pm
  • Kansas St. v. Florida A&M  (ESPN FC) – 8pm
  • Villanova v. Albany – 8pm
  • Texas v. Stetson (ESPN FC) - 8pm
  • Oklahoma St. v. UT-San Antonio (ESPN FC) – 8pm
  • Oklahoma v. American  (ESPN FC) – 8pm
  • Purdue (-23) v. Detroit (ESPN360) - 9pm
  • Clemson (-18) v. Hofstra  (CSS) – 9pm
  • Texas Tech v. St. Francis (PA) (ESPN FC) – 9pm
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2008-09 Conference Primers: #4 – Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2008

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. UCLA (25-4, 15-3)
  2. Arizona St. (20-8, 11-7)
  3. USC (17-11, 10-8)
  4. Washington St. (17-12, 10-8)
  5. Washington (18-12, 9-9)
  6. California (14-15, 8-10)
  7. Arizona (13-16, 8-10)
  8. Oregon (11-17, 7-11)
  9. Stanford (12-17, 6-12)
  10. Oregon St. (7-22, 3-15)

pac10logo1

WYN2K.  This is not the same Pac-10 conference as last year, plain and simple.  Gone are lottery picks OJ Mayo (USC), Russell Westbrook (UCLA), Kevin Love (UCLA), Brook Lopez (Stanford) and Jerryd Bayless (Arizona).  Gone are Robin Lopez (Stanford) and Ryan Anderson (Cal), also first-rounders.  Gone are Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (UCLA) and Davon Jefferson (USC), who went in the second round and not at all, respectively.  This year’s Pac-10 transition isn’t just limited to players.  There are new coaches at Oregon St. (Craig Robinson), Stanford (Johnny Dawkins), Cal (Mike Montgomery) and Arizona (Russ Pennell).  It’s safe to say that no other major conference will look as significantly different from last year as the Pac-10 in 2008-09. 

Predicted Champion.   UCLA (NCAA #1)Perhaps the only consistency in the Pac-10 this year will be he continued dominance of Ben Howland’s UCLA Bruins over the rest of this conference.  After three straight Final Fours and another superb recruiting class matriculating in Westwood, Howland has built his program to the enviable point where he can lose two lottery picks and another starter as early entries to the NBA Draft and not expect his program to suffer major slippage.  While we don’t believe that this version of UCLA will be as good of a team as the 2007-08 edition, the Bruins’ position relative to the rest of the conference may actually be stronger this time around.  He returns an all-american PG, Darren Collison, who has played in three F4s and led the nation in 3FG% last year (.525, min. 80 attempts).  More importantly, Collison has a chip on his shoulder after a miserable national semifinal performance against Memphis last year (2 pts, 5 tos, 5 fouls) - when he’s directing his team effectively, there are few teams in America that can overcome their bruising defense and efficient offense.  The national #1 recruiting class is headlined by all-world guard Jrue Holiday, who is expected to start from day one.  His talent, along with a cadre of perimeter (Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson) and inside players (J’Mison Morgan, Drew Gordon), will give Howland numerous lineup options to throw at opponents.  Furthermore, UCLA returns a finally-healthy Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya to provide experience and a steady hand at crunch time.  As we said before, we don’t believe this UCLA team will be as good as last year’s squad, but it probably doesn’t have to be.  The Pac-10 has dropped in talent significantly, and UCLA should be able to roll through to another fantastic record and possible high RPI rating to garner another #1 seed out west.  Here’s a pretty good indication of why Darren Collison is so important for this team.

NCAA Teams.  We’re not sure that we see more than four NCAA teams in the Pac-10 this year, which sent six to the Big Dance last season and arguably deserved seven (Arizona St.).  In the best-case scenario, things come together for certain teams and the league hopes for five on Selection Sunday, but there’s a more realistic chance that there will only be three NCAA selections made on that day. 

  • Arizona St. (NCAA #4)Herb Sendek’s coaching resume shows that once he gets a program to the 20-win plateau for the first time, it typically stays there.  In other words, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that ASU, who is returning its top eight players from a 21-13 NIT quarterfinalist, will regress this season.   The key player, of course, is James Harden, a coulda-been-one-and-done, who lit up the conference for 18/5/3 assts, including 41% from behind the arc (and 53% overall).  Harden is a future lottery pick in a league where the only other potential such picks are freshmen (DeRozan, Holiday).  Pac-10 teams are not going to enjoy their trips to Tempe this year.
  • USC (NCAA #8) – We struggled in making this selection, but the thing that pushes USC into the top three of the Pac-10 is simply, talent.  Other than UCLA, no other program has as much pure talent that it can put on the floor.  Undisciplined, maddening talent – sure – but that’s Tim Floyd for ya.  Demar DeRozan wll be a highlight reel for his one year in LA, but he has considerable help next to him, assuming they can all learn to share the ball and play together.  Daniel Hackett, Taj Gibson and Dwight Lewis are all talented players, and if UNC transfer Alex Stepheson is deemed eligible to play for the Trojans this year, USC has enough talent to make a run at the Pac-10 title.  We don’t expect that to happen because Ben Howland is Ben Howland and Tim Floyd is Tim Floyd, but the talent differential excuse doesn’t hold water anymore. 
  • Washington St. (NCAA #10) – We’re taking a bit of a risk with Wazzu at fourth and a bubble team for the NCAAs, but we truly believe that Tony Bennett is a system coach.  Like Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, the names on the backs of the jerseys are largely irrelevant to the success of the program.  They’re going to run their slower-than-Xmas stuff no matter which faces are running around out there, and in so doing, dare the rest of the Pac-10 to figure it out.  Now we’re not saying that the losses of Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill won’t hurt – after all, that trio was the most decorated group of players in Washington St. history; but with center Aron Baynes returning along with guard Taylor Rochestie and small forward Daven Harmerling, Bennett has more than enough experience to continue confounding skeptics up in Pullman. 

NIT Teams.

  • Washington (NIT) – This program has seemed to be in a funk ever since Brandon Roy left the dreary environs of Seattle.  If the Huskies are going to take advantage of a weaker Pac-10 to make a run at the NCAA Tournament (or the NIT), they’re going to have to get another superb season from PF Jon Brockman (18/12 on 54% FG).  But that won’t be enough without improved performances from Quincy Pondexter and Justin Dentmon on the perimeter.  Freshman Isaiah Thomas is getting some hype from Husky fans – perhaps he can push them over the top. 

Others.

  • California – The story here is obviously Mike Montgomery’s return to college coaching at his former employer’s bitterest rival.  Had Cal held onto star player Ryan Anderson, we would have considered the Bears as a bubble NCAA team.  We do think Monty will get there eventually, as he did at Long Beach St. and Stanford (not exactly powerhouses when he arrived), but he’s not a quick-fix guy and it will take time to undo the culture of mediocrity left by Ben Braun. 
  • Arizona – On talent alone, with Chase Budinger, Nic Wise and Jordan Hill, the Wildcats should be a top three Pac-10 team.  However, with the fiasco that unfolded last month and the eyebrow-raising hire of the fomer Arizona State radio announcer Russ Pennell as the head coach, we’re not sure anyone will actually want to play for UA this season.  Putting them seventh was a gift. 
  • Oregon – We still can’t figure out how Ernie Kent got a big contract extension, but we suppose it doesn’t take much to satisfy people in Eugene.  At least until Mark Few takes an interest in coaching in the Pac-10.  With only one significant player returning, the 5’6 Tajuan Porter, and nine new faces, we just don’t see the Ducks making a return trip to the NCAAs this season.
  • Stanford – We think Johnny Dawkins is in for a surprise in Palo Alto this season.  Nobody has any clue as to how good of a coach he will be, but we can say with a degree of certainty that the only thing keeping the Cardinal afloat last year was the interior presence of the comical Lopez twins.  The guardplay was relatively abysmal (39.5% shooting), and oh, well, now the Lopezes are gone.  Good luck with that, JD. 
  • Oregon St. – Hey, did you guys hear that new head coach Craig Robinson is Barack Obama’s bro-in-lawWe hadn’t either.  Screw Corvallis, with Robinson’s financial resume, he should be in DC helping Barry fix the economy.  Seriously though, last year, OSU might have been the worst major conference team we’d ever seen (Indiana has a shot at bettering that this year).  Ferguson had success at Brown, though, which is a herculean task in its own right, so maybe he can get a few Ws in Corvallis this season.  Three or four would be miraculous. 

RPI Boosters.

  • Washington v. Kansas  (11.24.08)
  • UCLA @ Texas  (12.04.08)
  • USC @ Oklahoma  (12.04.08)
  • Arizona @ Texas A&M  (12.05.08)
  • Gonzaga @ Washington St.  (12.10.08)
  • Arizona v. Gonzaga  (12.14.08)
  • Kansas @ Arizona  (12.23.08)
  • Notre Dame @ UCLA  (02.07.09)

Important Games.

  • UCLA @ USC  (01.11.09)
  • Arizona St. @ UCLA  (01.17.09)
  • USC @ Washington St.  (01.24.09)
  • USC @ UCLA  (02.04.09)
  • USC @ Arizona St.  (02.15.09)
  • Washington @ UCLA  (02.19.09)
  • Arizonan @ Arizona St.  (02.22.09)

Neat-O Stat.  The Pac-10, with only ten conference members, is the only BCS league that plays a true round-robin schedule of home/away games with every other team.  We like this because it gives a true measure of the strength of each team relative to one another in the conference.  There are no plans on the horizon to expand the Pac-10 to twelve members (for football reasons, the NCAA requires twelve teams to have a postseason championship game). 

65 Team Era.  The Pac-10 has traditionally been the weakest of the six major conferences in its NCAA Tournament performance, going 127-96 (.570) over the era.  The league simply doesn’t put as many teams into the Tournament as its peers, earning 4.1 bids per year – the next lowest is the Big 12 with 4.8 per year, and the “Super Six” average is 5 bids per year.  As might be expected as a correlation to that fact, the Pac-10 is also last among the six conferences in #1 seeds (12), S16s (36) and F4s (9).  UCLA can’t do it all, folks!

Final Thoughts.  UCLA has led the re-emergence of the Pac-10 conference as a basketball powerhouse the last several seasons, but turmoil among several previously consistent programs (Arizona, Stanford) has put the possibility of UCLA and the Nine Dwarves back into the conversation.  One thing that we can be certain of is that Ben Howland will win and win big as long as he’s residing in Westwood.  He hasn’t won a national title yet, but it seems a foregone conclusion that one of these years he’ll break through and win the brass ring.  The rest of the Pac-10 is going to have to figure out a way to recruit on par with UCLA as well as perform in March before this league will be considered a national power again.  We know that Pac-10 schools can attract star talent across the spectrum, but can they be coached up to taste national success?   

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2008 Early Entry Winners and Losers

Posted by rtmsf on June 16th, 2008

Whew. After an exhausting day trying to track the news feeds seemingly every minute to figure out who was staying and who was leaving college, we can finally take a deep breath and start to sort out what this means for all the parties involved. Of the 69 early entries of US collegians submitted to the NBA league offices last month, 35 will remain in the 2008 NBA Draft pool. Here are the 35 early entries:

  • Joe Alexander, West Virginia
  • Ryan Anderson, California
  • Darrell Arthur, Kansas
  • D.J. Augustin, Texas
  • Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
  • Michael Beasley, Kansas State
  • Mario Chalmers, Kansas
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis
  • C.J. Giles, Oregon State
  • Donte Greene, Syracuse
  • Kalen Grimes, Missouri
  • Eric Gordon, Indiana
  • DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M
  • Kosta Koufos, Ohio State
  • Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State
  • Shawn James, Duquesne
  • Davon Jefferson, Southern California
  • Brook Lopez, Stanford
  • Robin Lopez, Stanford
  • Kevin Love, UCLA
  • O.J. Mayo, Southern California
  • Richard Hendrix, Alabama
  • J.J. Hickson, North Carolina State
  • George Hill, IUPUI
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA
  • JaVale McGee, Nevada
  • Kojo Mensah, Duquesne
  • Trent Plaisted, Brigham Young
  • Anthony Randolph, LSU
  • Walter Sharpe, Alabama-Birmingham
  • Derrick Rose, Memphis
  • Brandon Rush, Kansas
  • Marreese Speights, Florida
  • Bill Walker, Kansas State
  • Russell Westbrook, UCLA

We’d Be Excited Too, Roy

Today’s Winners

  • Roy Williams. Ole Roy could slip into a coke-induced coma for half of next season and still watch his team win 30+ games and make the Final Four. Why? Because the nation’s top backcourt (Ty Lawson & Wayne Ellington) and sixth man (Danny Green) all decided to return to Chapel Hill today to join forces with the reigning NPOY and a top five recruiting class. Yeah, apparently Roy is living right.
  • Lute Olson. It’s been a rough year for Olson, what with all his divorce proceedings and the loss of Jerryd Bayless to the NBA. The surprising return of the sensational Chase Budinger for his junior season provides Olson a key bulding block to get his program back on track.
  • Mark Few. Few only had to sweat out his beefy point guard Jeremy Pargo’s decision, but this player remains the key to Gonzaga’s success next season. With Pargo back to run the system, interior players such as Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt can expect the ball in the right place at the right time.
  • Mark Gottfried. Alabama was facing a seemingly unthinkable situation where they would lose their best player from last season, forward Richard Hendrix, while simultanously losing their best player from two seasons ago, point guard Ronald Steele, even though Steele sat out the entire last season due to injury. We’ve shown previously how important a healthy Steele is to the Alabama attack, and with the additional return of Alonzo Gee to help offset the Hendrix loss, Gottfried must feel as if he dodged a serious bullet.
  • John Calipari. Why is he here? Didn’t he lose super-frosh Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the NBA? Well, yes, but he also retained the services of Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier, which when combined with incoming stud wing Tyreke Evans, there will be more than enough talent for Calipari to roll through CUSA pretty much unscathed again. Calipari isn’t as big a winner as some of the above coaches, but today was a good day for him.

Tough Day For Howland, But He Knows He’ll Have More Chances

Today’s Losers

  • Ben Howland. There was some talk that Kevin Love may return to Westwood, but that quickly died down. When Russell Westbrook decided to leave as well, few were surprised. Josh Shipp made the wise choice to return, but today’s decision by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to leave early has to leave UCLA fans scratching their heads – he’s unlikely to be drafted in either round, according to some people.
  • Rick Stansbury. It’s bad enough that all-SEC guard Jamont Gordon left Stansbury’s Mississippi St. program, but it’s even worse when there’s a strong sentiment that Gordon may not get a sniff of the second round. This feels a lot like Kennedy WInston from Alabama a few years ago.
  • Bill Walker. Yes, he gets his own mention here. The popcorn munching, towel-pissing, former K-State guard had it in his head all along that he was going League. So even though he sat out the NBA Predraft Camp and then proceeded to seriously hurt his knee during a workout last weekend – giving scouts even more pause about his shaky sticks – Walker decided that he was ready for the NBA and shouldn’t be too surprised if he finds himself in the D-League next season.
  • Bill Self. How bad can it be if you just won the national title? Not very. Still, there was a chance Mario Chalmers would return next season to lead Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and the other Jayhawks back to another F4 opportunity. Only Collins of the quartet of he, Chalmers, Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush is returning, but somehow we think Bill Self is still smiling.
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6.11.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on June 10th, 2008

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Thoughts on Memphis-UCLA

Posted by nvr1983 on April 5th, 2008

We’ll provide you with a more in-depth analysis later, but we figured we would offer some of our early thoughts.

1) Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts totally dominated this game. UCLA didn’t have an answer for either one of them. It looked like Rose wasn’t attacking as much when UCLA put Russell Westbrook on him, but for some reason Ben Howland decided to keep Darren Collison on Rose for most of the game until Collison fouled out with 2:53 left. As much as we hate to say it, Billy Packer was right when he kept on saying that Westbrook should guard Rose and Josh Shipp should guard CDR, who probably would have abused Shipp, but at least one of Memphis’s studs would have been contained a little better. Rose is definitely ready to go to the NBA and CDR should be a nice addition to a team if a coach can find a way to incorporate his unique game into the offense. Both guys also did a great job knocking down FTs at the end making the last minute a mere formality rather than a tension-filled FT contest that many people were expecting if Memphis was in a close game. CDR also provided the game’s defining play with his baseline dunk on Kevin Love. It reminded us of Kobe’s “Who’s the MVP?!?” dunk on Nash a couple years ago.

CDR asserting his dominance

Look familiar?

2) Memphis got to play at the pace they wanted. It was evident early on that the game was going to be fast-paced. UCLA was able to hang close for the first half, but eventually the pace wore them down. This was particularly evident with Kevin Love who barely touched the ball in the 2nd half and looked sluggish moving up and down the court. In the end, Memphis’s ability to run and its deep-bench full of guys who can all run (except Pierre Niles) proved to be the deciding factor as they opened up a big gap late in the 2nd half and cruised from there.

3) Despite early foul trouble, Joey Dorsey and Shawn Taggert did a great job battling Kevin Love all game. Love won the battle in the first half, but the rotation of big bodies and the fast pace of the game wore out Love. We hope that Love stays in school at least one more year because he still needs some more work before he goes to the NBA. Tonight should have shown him as much. While the Memphis inside guys aren’t NBA-quality players, they have NBA-level athleticism and strength. Love has the requisite strength, but he isn’t athletic enough to go to the league right now. He will never be a Dwight Howard, but some more running over the summer will help cover up some of his athletic deficiencies. He has been able to get away with it all year because they pace has been slow and he has been the strongest guy on the inside, but today was a preview of what the NBA will hold and hopefully Love will consider that before declaring for the draft.

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Final 4 Preview: UCLA-Memphis & UNC-Kansas

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2008

UCLA vs. Memphis (6:07 PM): Coming into the tournament UCLA was picked by most analysts to win the championship, but after close games in the 2nd round and Sweet 16 several pundits (including your favorite college basketball blogger) wrote them off. The Bruins responded with what may have been their best performance of the year, a 76-57 beatdown of #3 seed Xavier. While super-frosh Kevin Love has given them consistent performances throughout the tournament (hence the West Regional MOP designation), the rest of the team has been up-and-down. The one thing that has carried this team has been that they play great D the entire 40 minutes. However, if the Bruins want to cut down the nets on Monday in San Antonio Ben Howland’s crew will need solid performances out of Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp, who has played poorly in 6 of his last 7 games.

On the other side, Memphis was getting ripped apart by every analyst the entire season for their poor free throw shooting heading into the Sweet 16. It’s true that nobody will confuse the Tigers for a bunch of J.J. Redicks at the free throw line, but it doesn’t really matter when you’re up 50-20 at half (on Michigan State). The Tigers followed up that massacre with a demolition of #2 seed Texas, who was playing a virtual home game in Houston. In that game, Derrick Rose established himself as the premier point guard in college as he totally dominated 1st team All-American D.J. Augustin. Despite all the athleticism this team has, Rose is really the catalyst for everything and that’s certainly saying something on a team that features C-USA POY and 1st team All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts. However, the key for Memphis may be Joey Dorsey who has a penchant for picking up quick fouls (note: Final 4 games tend to be officiated closely; see last year’s semi where Oden and Hibbert barely played in the first half). If Dorsey can avoid foul trouble, he will be a force inside. If he gets in foul trouble, the Tigers will have to rely on Iowa State transfer Shawn Taggert. (Fortunately for Dorsey, there is nobody left in the tournament who can dominate Dorsey on the inside if he decides to run his mouth like he did last year before playing Greg Oden.)

This is the part where I normally would feature the key matchup, but in this case there are just so many interesting matchups: Derrick Rose vs. Darren Collison; Chris Douglas-Roberts vs. Russell Westbrook/Josh Shipp; and Joey Dorsey vs. Kevin Love.

- Rose vs. Collison: Collison is an outstanding college PG, but he’s out of his league here. We all saw what Rose did to Augustin and Texas. He’s just at a different level than any of the PGs in college. While he can get a little out of control at times, his physical skills (size, speed, and strength) would put him near the top of NBA PGs in those categories, which means he’s a nightmare match-up for almost any PG. In addition to this, Rose has shown that he can hit the outside shot and create havoc defensively because of his physical skills. Rose will have to watch out for Collison’s outside shot because he shoots a high percentage even if he doesn’t pull the trigger that often. If Rose is making his jump shot, he’s basically unguardable and could dominate this game. If he does, Ben Howland may have to switch things up and put Westbrook on him. I don’t think it will matter. Advantage: Rose.

- Douglas-Roberts vs. Westbrook/Shipp: This will be an interesting match-up as it features several really athletic players. Douglas-Roberts usuallly has a big edge in almost any match-up, but I think that the UCLA guards have the length and athleticism to bother him. I think Shipp will spend most of the night against CDR, but UCLA might use Westbrook on him occassionally. Westbrook is one of the most athletic players in the country, but CDR’s 4″ height advantage and long arms might be too much for Westbrook to overcome. The key to this match-up is whether Shipp can score. If he does, this match-up might shift more towards a neutral decision, but he hasn’t done it lately and that’s what we’re going with. Advantage: Douglas-Roberts.

- Dorsey vs. Love: This will be a battle of contrasting styles as Dorsey is more of a bruiser in the paint while Love has an excellent all-around game. There is no question as to who will “win” this match-up in terms of the box score and individual match-up. The big question is whether Love will get Dorsey in foul trouble early taking him out of the paint to open up the basket to UCLA’s perimeter players’ drives. Advantage: Love.

The real key to this game is the pace. If Memphis can turn this into a running game in the 70s or 80s, they should win. If UCLA can keep it in the 50s, it will probably come down to free throws and. . .well you’ve heard it a million times in the past month.

Opening Line: Memphis -1.
Prediction: As we said, this game will likely decided by the pace of the game. Everyone likes to talk about the Bruins’ defense, but the key may be the Tigers’ defense. While they are more known for their athleticism and dribble-drive motion offense, the Tigers can play phenomenal defense. If you need evidence, ask Tom Izzo about the first half of their Sweet 16 game when the Spartans looked terrified to bring the ball up the court. The Tigers use their athleticism to put a lot of pressure on the dribbler and fill passing lanes. Collison and Westbrook will be pressured all night, but should provide more resistance than Michigan State or Texas provided. It will be interesting to see how UCLA utilizes Love and his ability to throw the outlet pass to try and avoid this pressure. In the end, I just think Memphis is playing on a different level than the Bruins right now. This all depends on whether the Tigers can carry over their momentum from Houston to San Antonio. I’m going with Memphis pulling away midway through the 2nd half to win by 5 as they hit enough free throws at the end to advance to the championship game to face the winner of. . .

Kansas vs. North Carolina (8:47 PM): The juicy and delicious backstory to this game is ol’ dadgummit Roy coaching UNC for the first time against his former employer Kansas. Although Roy didn’t recruit or coach any of the current players on the KU roster, there are still numerous friends and acquaintances associated with the program who remain stung by Huckleberry Hound’s quick 180 from not giving a sheit about Carolina to taking the job one week later. Naturally, we tend to side with the KU boosters when they rail on Roy because it’s true – he can’t have it both ways. Like Pitino when he took the job at Louisville, you dance with the devil you came with, and both of these gentlemen made professional decisions that they undoubtedly knew would lead to their sanctified statuses at KU and UK being called into question.

So what does this mean for tomorrow’s game between a bunch of players who were all in high school when Roy Williams alighted for Tarheel blue? Not much. We expect that the Kansas players know how much this game means to its fans, and they might come out a little stronger than they otherwise would have, but in terms of the effects on the game over forty minutes, we don’t see it mattering all that much. As always, it comes down to the matchups.

In looking at the numbers and the talent on the floor at positions 1-5, it’s difficult not to like Kansas. Their offensive and defensive efficiency are both in the top five in the nation. Their scoring balance creates a conundrum (whom to stop?) for a defensively-challenged UNC team, as four starters average between 12.7 and 13.1 ppg. And their experience (2 srs, 2 jrs, 1 soph in the starting five) also trumps the younger Heels (2 jrs, 3 sophs).

The player by player matchups tell a slightly different story, though. On the perimeter, we love the way that Kansas guard Mario Chalmers and forward Brandon Rush have been playing, but nobody in college basketball has the quickness and wherewithal to stay with UNC’s Ty Lawson when he ignites the engine on fast breaks. The x-factor we see in the backcourt is Carolina’s Wayne Ellington. He has a tendency to run hot/cold, but when he’s hitting his outside jumper the Heels are damn near unbeatable. In their only two losses of the year Ellington went 9-30, and KU’s guards must make sure to rotate out on him to eliminate his open looks.

In the post, nothing more needs to be said about Tyler Hansbrough. The way he’s playing right now we’re going to just pencil him in for 25/12 and wonder how Kansas plans to counteract him. The trio of Darrell Arthur, Darnell Robinson and Sasha Kaun collective are talented enough to challenge Hansbrough, but once again, the x-factor will be whether UNC forward Deon Thompson can hit his open looks that will come as a result of triple teams on Hansbrough. Whether x-factors Thompson and Ellington will knock these shots down will go a long way to determining who will ultimately win this game.

Opening Line: UNC -3
Prediction: In our view, this game will be a test of just how good Kansas’ defense actually is. Assuming they let Hansbrough get his numbers, will KU then be able to put the clamps down on everyone else, especially the two x-factors mentioned above – Ellington and Thompson? Should Kansas limit those players to poor shooting nights while also corralling Lawson’s fast break opportunities, then the Jayhawks will have a very good chance and probably should win the game. But this is a weighty task, and we have a feeling that there are too many things that need to happen for Kansas to win this game. Therefore, our prediction is that either Ellington or Thompson will have a good game, Lawson will break free enough times to get some easy points, and the Heels will run away with the game early in the second half, winning by 10+ points. Part of the reason for our assessment here is that we simply think UNC is purring too well right now to be denied, but what most worries us about Kansas is what they exhibited last week against Davidson, the same thing we’ve seen throughout the Bill Self era. KU played tighter than a Promise Keeper’s new wife on their wedding night, and it’s that tendency that is pushing us to lean toward the Heels.

FYI – Vegas Watch has its breakdown of the odds for the F4 games here. Pretty interesting reading, and we’re not a “sharp.”

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Elite 8 Preview: UCLA-Xavier & UNC-Louisville

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2008

- #1 UCLA vs. #3 Xavier (6:40 PM): Both teams are coming off hard-fought victories in the Sweet 16. Xavier obviously was challenged by West Virginia, who took them into OT and may very well have won if Joe Alexander had been able to hit a FT at the end of regulation (81% FT) or not foul out early in OT. The Bruins were challenged by Western Kentucky, who came back from 21 down at half as Tyrone Brazelton scored 31 pts abusing Darren Collison (before Collison fouled out with 5:39 to play). The Bruins held strong at the end and won with big efforts from Kevin Love (29 and 14–no surprise) and James Keefe (18 and 12–huge surprise).

The Bruins can count on a big game from Love who finds a way to get his numbers because he knows where he needs to be. What the Bruins can’t count on is Keefe coming anywhere near those numbers. They need Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp to really step up their games this round. If they can get this inside/outside balance, they should control this game, but they haven’t looked that good since their opening round game against Mississippi Valley State. However, I’m not sure if that was more UCLA or their opponent. In either case, the Bruins haven’t looked like the team that most analysts predicted would cut down the nets in San Antonio.

As noted earlier, Xavier escaped with a win in their Sweet 16 game with Joe Alexander’s mistakes and some clutch 3 point shooting from B.J. Raymond. Even though Josh Duncan dominated the scoring last round, the Muskeeters are usually pretty good at spreading the ball around leading to their extremely balanced scoring averages. It will be interesting to see how they try to match up against Love, Collison, and Westbrook as that may be the key to the game.

Opening Line: UCLA -6.
Prediction: As Kevin Love said after their last game, the Bruins play has been “unacceptable”. I think that on paper (and when they are on) UCLA has all the makings of a championship team with a nice mix of experience, talent, and an inside/outside game. If they’re firing on all cylinders, the Bruins could blow this game wide open like they did in the early part of their Sweet 16 game. Unfortunately for Ben Howland, they have not been able to do that consistently. I think UCLA has have played with fire one too many times and tonight it will catch up with them. I’m going with Xavier in a hard-fought game earning a trip to the Final 4.

- #1 UNC vs. #3 Louisville (9:05 PM): This is probably the best match-up of the weekend on paper. Both teams are absolutely loaded and appear to be playing at their peak. The Tar Heels have been the most dominant team in the tournament so far while the Cardinals have matched them in dominance the past 2 rounds. Both teams absolutely crushed their very capable opponents (Washington State and Tennessee, respectively) on Thursday night.

The Tar Heels’ calling card this season has been their phenomenal offense, but in the last round they showed Tony Bennett’s Cougars that they know how to play a little D too. Offensively, Tyler Hansbrough has been solid if not spectacular although he hasn’t needed to be so far in the tournament. One of the major drivers of the Tar Heels dominance in the tournament has been Ty Lawson who appears to be back near 100%. When he gets in the open court, I’m not sure if anybody can keep up with Lawson. Although those two get all the hype, I think the key to the game for UNC will be if Wayne Ellington can hit from outside. He’s the only great outside shooter that Roy Williams has and his ability to hit from 3 will be very important against Rick Pitino’s 2-3 zone. If he is hitting, Pitino will have a decision to make: let him bomb away or go man-to-man and risk having Psycho T go off.

Louisville is peaking at the perfect time. They made a very good Tennessee team look very bad on Thursday night although the Vols PG issues certainly contributed. They don’t have quite the star power that UNC has, but Pitino’s boys (David Padgett & company) are no slouches. Padgett has a lot of help offensively as the Cardinals have another half dozen guys who can get in double figures on the right night. The key for the Cardinals will be how their defense controls UNC. It will be interesting to see how their press is able to handle Lawson and how their zone matches up against Ellington’s outside shooting.

Opening Line: UNC -5.5.
Prediction: I’m going with the Tar Heels tonight. They’ve been the best team in the country in the first 3 rounds and they weren’t even clicking offensively against Washington State. Louisville has a great team and that line is ridiculously high, but I don’t think Hansbrough will let the Tar Heels lose. He’s had a very good college career so far, but he hasn’t been able to get his team over the hump. This will be a tight game, but I think that Hansbrough will come up big down the stretch giving the Heels the slight edge. The Tar Heels were on the verge of going to the Final 4 before collapsing against Georgetown and I can’t see them letting it happen again. As an added bonus, this sets up a potential national semifinal of Roy Williams versus Kansas. . .(more on that set of Elite 8 games later)

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