O26 Game of the Week: Hawkeye State Showdown, Harvard-Virginia & SDSU-Cincy…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 17th, 2014

Each week the O26 microsite will run down the biggest upcoming game of the week as well as a handful of others to keep an eye on.

Northern Iowa (9-1) vs. Iowa (8-3) – 7:30 PM ET, Big Ten Network, Saturday.

Northern Iowa has a knack for playing in really good basketball games this season. The Panthers upended Stephen F. Austin by two in overtime during last month’s Tip-Off Marathon, ending the Lumberjacks’ 33-game home winning streak; they squandered a big second-half lead against George Mason earlier this month before escaping in overtime; and on Saturday, Ben Jacobson’s group lost its first game in one of the best games of the season, a double-overtime thriller at VCU. So what does UNI have in store this week, bumping up against intrastate foe Iowa in Des Moines? Probably another barnburner.

Seth Tuttle and the Panthers look to take down Iowa on Saturday. (UNI Athletics Communications)

Seth Tuttle and the Panthers look to take down Iowa on Saturday. (UNI Athletics Communications)

KenPom currently ranks the Hawkeyes and Panthers 29th and 31st overall, respectively, which – on a neutral floor – results in a virtual coin-flip projection. Iowa is one of the nation’s top-30 fastest teams offensively (15.9 seconds per possession), while Northern Iowa is among the 30 slowest (20.4 seconds), yet the Hawkeyes’ strong suit has been its defense thus far this season, while the latter unit has been more offensively proficient. The Panthers, despite their preferred snail’s pace of play, demonstrated an ability to get out and run against VCU, so they should have no problem adjusting if Iowa’s uptempo pace wins out. The Hawkeyes’ most notable strength is its frontcourt, which provides much of the team’s scoring and prevents easy looks on the interior – which might actually suit Northern Iowa just fine, considering the majority of its points come from behind the arc and at the free throw line. This match-up may come down to Jacobson’s guys hitting perimeter shots – they went just 3-of-16 from distance in the game two years ago – and whether Fran McCaffery can get quality production from his backcourt. This should be a really good, really close contest either way.

More to Watch

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O26 Weekly Awards: Northern Iowa, Craig Bradshaw, Pat Duquette & Eastern Washington

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 1st, 2014

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition. 

O26 Team of the Week

Northern Iowa began the week in Cancun and ended it with a home victory over Richmond. (unipanthers.com)

Northern Iowa began the week in Cancun and ended it with a home victory over Richmond. (unipanthers.com)

Northern Iowa. With all of the marquee tournaments and showdowns taking place over the holiday weekend, it’s understandable if Northern Iowa’s trip to Mexico for the ‘Cancun Challenge’ was lost in the shuffle to some extent, especially considering the fellow competition: Virginia Tech, Northwestern and Miami (OH). If you did miss it, here’s a quick synopsis: after hammering Virginia Tech by 19 points, the Panthers held Northwestern to a paltry 0.76 points per possession and pounded the Wildcats by 21 to claim the championship. But although a tournament title is certainly a nice preseason prize, it’s not even the hardware that made Northern Iowa’s week so impressive. No, the reason Ben Jacobson’s club is our Team of the Week is because after delivering those back-to-back drubbings against high-major (if subpar) opponents, thousands of miles away from Cedar Falls, the Panthers flew back to the United States and kept the train rolling against an even better Richmond team. All signs pointed to a post-Thanksgiving, post-showcase letdown, especially against a tough, well-rounded Spiders unit ranked 54th in KenPom and boasting one of the Atlantic 10’s best guards in Kendall Anthony. But instead of coming out emotionally lethargic or physically fatigued or preoccupied with thoughts of warm resort towns, Northern Iowa took control of the game – just as it had in Cancun – and completely outclassed Richmond from start-to-finish, never once relinquishing the lead and defeating the Spiders, 55-50. In all, the Panthers maintained a lead for roughly 110 of 120 minutes this week against Virginia Tech, Northwestern and Richmond combined, a trio of dominant victories that has both propelled Jacobson’s unit to an impressive 7-0 start and further improved its at-large prospects.

Honorable Mentions: Gonzaga (2-0: N-Georgia, N-St. John’s); Green Bay (3-0: N-East Carolina, N-Evansville, N-Florida Gulf Coast); Colorado State (3-0: N-Missouri State, N-Pacific, N-UC Santa Barbara); Valparaiso (3-0: N-Drake, N-Murray State, N-Portland).

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Checking In On… the West Coast Conference

Posted by Michael Vernetti on January 23rd, 2014

Looking Back

Things are beginning to have a more familiar look as the WCC season passes the one-third mark: Gonzaga on top, with BYU and Saint Mary’s trailing closely behind. Early-season pretenders such as Pepperdine and San Francisco have been knocked back, if not out, and BYU seems to have overcome its first-week stumble into losses at Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount by rattling off five straight wins.

Rumors of Mark Few and Gonzaga leaving the WCC keeps getting louder and louder (AP)

It’s been business as usual for Mark Few and Gonzaga, who have once again performed at a championship level. (AP)

  • Gonzaga has gotten Sam Dower Jr. back and is successfully integrating Louisville transfer Angel Nunez into its offense. Only the return of Gary Bell Jr. from a broken wrist keeps the Zags from fielding the team it envisioned at season’s outset.
  • Saint Mary’s has Randy Bennett back at the helm after a five-game NCAA-imposed suspension, and the result has been two wins at home. The Gaels hope to welcome Garrett Jackson back this week after several weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury, which will give Beau Levesque some support at power forward.
  • All the leaders seem set for the next part of the season, therefore, and only one game separates BYU and a game-and-a-half separates Saint Mary’s from the Zags. Let the games continue.

Power Rankings

  1. Gonzaga (16-3, 6-1)
  2. BYU (13-7, 5-2)
  3. Saint Mary’s (14-5, 4-2)
  4. San Francisco (12-8, 5-3)
  5. Pepperdine (12-8, 5-3)
  6. Portland (11-8, 3-4)
  7. Santa Clara (10-11, 3-5)
  8. San Diego (11-9, 2-5)
  9. Loyola Marymount (10-10, 2-6)
  10. Pacific (10-7, 1-5)

WCC News & Notes

  • Dower celebrated his return to the Gonzaga starting lineup with two monster games in Southern California, an effort that won him WCC Player of the Week honors. Dower was a perfect 7-of-7 against Pepperdine, which had a chance to take over first place in the WCC with a win, and added eight rebounds to his 18 points in a 70-53 rout. He matched that with a 28/14 effort two nights later against LMU, leading the Zags to an 82-72 win. Perhaps in recognition of Dower’s importance, the USA Today poll raised the Zags three spots from 24th to 21st.

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Handicapping Next Season’s Best Big Ten/ACC Challenge Matchups

Posted by EJacoby on May 15th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

With the announcement of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge schedule for next season, fans now have some important dates to circle on their calendars. The 14th annual competition between power conference heavyweights will take place on November 27 and 28 with all games televised on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU. Eight of the teams in competition are currently slotted in the RTC preseason Top 25, and there are several enticing matchups between big-time teams. Given that it’s mid-May, it’s far too early to break down the individual strategic matchups, but we’ll give you the best games to look forward to, and why. The Big Ten has won three consecutive challenges after the ACC was victorious in the first 10. Here’s what the 2012 ACC/Big Ten Challenge presents us.

Last Season, Aaron Craft and Ohio State Punked Duke in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge (Getty Images/J. Robbins)

Prestige and Intrigue, North Carolina at Indiana (Nov. 27) – Two of the top five or six programs in college basketball history square off in the headline event of this challenge, and it’s going to be one of the biggest games of the non-conference season. North Carolina loses its four top players from last season, but don’t count out the Tar Heels next year. James Michael McAdoo returns along with a bevy of talented perimeter players in Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland, Marcus Paige, and Leslie McDonald. However, UNC has the task of playing in Bloomington against a Hoosiers squad that might be the top team in the country next season. With a lineup full of talented scorers and the experience of last season’s spotlight, Indiana will be a title contender and a strong favorite in this game. The battle between Cody Zeller and McAdoo inside is a matchup of perhaps the two most talented low post prospects in the country.

The Best of the Bunch, NC State at Michigan (Nov. 27) - While UNC at IU presents the greatest national intrigue, a game on the same night presents a better overall matchup. When NC State hits the floor at Michigan, we’ll be seeing two likely Top 10 teams meet with experienced talent. Lorenzo Brown against Trey Burke pits two of the nation’s best point guards going at it, with two different styles at the position. Tim Hardaway, Jr., and C.J. Leslie are each talented juniors for their respective teams that flirted with the NBA but are back to lead their contenders. Throw in strong recruiting classes for each squad and we’ve got a doozy. Lucky for the Big Ten, they once again have the home court advantage in this one.

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Who’s Got Next? Tony Parker Commits, Ripple Effect of Greenberg Firing

Posted by Josh Paunil on April 26th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Tony Parker Joins Adams, Anderson and Muhammad at UCLA

Parker Choose UCLA Over Duke, Georgia And Ohio State. (Photo: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Tony Parker Gives UCLA Top Recruiting Class.  Class of 2012 power forward Tony Parker committed to UCLA Monday over Duke, Georgia and Ohio State, joining point guard Kyle Anderson and small forwards Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad in head coach Ben Howland’s stellar 2012 recruiting class. Parker brings a tremendous inside presence to Westwood and is someone who will be able to rebound as soon as he steps onto campus. He is an elite big man with a great skill set in the low post and has the ability to score through a variety of moves in the paint. He can make a hook over both shoulders and is able to play facing the basket, although he’s at his best with his back to the basket. The biggest knock on Parker has always been the same — that he’s out of shape and lacks stamina. However, the Georgia native has worked hard to dispel that notion and although he can still improve his conditioning, he’s definitely gotten better at running the court and has an improved motor. Once Parker gets to UCLA, he’ll join a crowded frontcourt that already includes sophomore power forwards David and Travis Wear and sophomore center Josh Smith. Every single person in the UCLA’s 2012 recruiting class worked hard on recruiting Parker and Adams even predicted back in December that the Bruins would land him. UCLA fans should remain cautiously optimistic, though, because as we’ve pointed out at RTC, having a highly ranked recruiting class doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, borne out by UCLA’s 2008 recruiting class. Although, there are some differences between this year’s recruiting class and the one four years ago.

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Marshall Wood on asking for a release from Virginia Tech: “I need to get my release so I can review all my options. If somebody gets the job at Tech that recruited me or something and I have a really good relationship with [him], I possibly could still go back. But right now I just want to get the release so I can have more options to look at.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Who’s Got Next? Muhammad & Noel Commit, Updates On Elite Recruits…

Posted by Josh Paunil on April 12th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Top Recruit In the Country Chooses Kentucky

Noel's Commitment Gives UK the Number One Recruiting Class. (Sports Illustrated)

Noel’s Commitment Gives Wildcats Top Recruiting Class. Class of 2012 center Nerlens Noel, the best player in the high school ranks, committed to Kentucky yesterday over Georgetown and Syracuse. Noel joins shooting guard Archie Goodwin, small forward Alex Poythress and center Willie Cauley-Stein to give head coach John Calipari the best recruiting class in the country again. Goodwin and Poythress are both top-15 guys whereas Cauley-Stein is a top-50 recruit. Noel, a 6’11”, 216-pound big man, is the only person on this planet capable of filling Anthony Davis’ shoes at Kentucky and will provide an even better defensive presence and a great target in transition. The Massachusetts native is an excellent finisher and has good explosiveness and athleticism all over the court. He also has done a great job developing his offensive game and has shown an improved 15-foot jumper as well as better interior scoring moves. His rate of development is an extremely good sign for Kentucky fans since he’s already very talented. The good news for Wildcat fans doesn’t stop there since Coach Cal isn’t done yet in the Class of 2012. They’re still after power forward Anthony Bennett, a top-10 recruit, and have a very realistic shot at landing him too. The addition of Bennett would put this Kentucky recruiting class in the conversation of one of the greatest recruiting classes of all-time.

What They’re Saying

  • Anthony Bennett on how he would fit in at Kentucky: “I can see myself fitting in [with] all schools but Kentucky, they produce great players. Coach Cal produces them to the league and makes them better and also they win national championships on top of that so it’s a great fit.” Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Evening

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#8 Memphis vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

Nice to See Rick Majerus Back in the Dance (AP)

It may be an 8/9 game, but according to advanced metrics, this is anything but your typical 8/9 game. Both teams are among the top 15 teams in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, outscoring opponents by about 0.2 points per possession over the course of the season. Still, looking back over the schedules, the Billikens’ only have four wins over NCAA Tournament teams (Vermont, St. Bonaventure and two over Xavier), while the Tigers have just three (Belmont, Southern Miss and Xavier) – not exactly stunning resumes. However, SLU head coach Rick Majerus is no stranger to NCAA Tournament success, and his ability to scout and gameplan for an opponent is legendary. And while Memphis is used to playing at a fast tempo, you can bet Majerus will effectively slow this game down, using 25 seconds or more on every offensive possession, mostly forgoing any attempts at offensive rebounds in an effort to get back on defense, and making Memphis score over a stingy SLU defense. While Memphis has been killing teams over the past month or so, the two games they’ve lost have been down-tempo affairs (UTEP and Southern Miss), and if they get frustrated against the deliberate Billiken pace, it could spell an early end to the Memphis season. Still, the Tigers will have a significant athletic advantage and while Majerus has a decent matchup for lightning quick guard Joe Jackson in the form of Kwamain Mitchell (and Jordair Jett), it remains to be seen how effective they will be against sophomore win Will Barton. If Barton can find space inside the SLU perimeter defense, he could create serious problems. Of course, that’s a big if.

The RTC Certified Pick: Saint Louis

#2 Duke vs. #15 Lehigh – South Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Located less than an hour’s drive from Cameron Indoor, Duke will do battle with Patriot League champion Lehigh in what is practically a home game for the Blue Devils. Duke is limping into the NCAA Tournament have lost two of their last three games, one of these losses coming in blowout fashion against arch rival North Carolina. Despite having many holes on the defensive end and Ryan Kelly uncertain for the game against Lehigh, Duke does have one of the more potent offensives in the tournament. Austin Rivers and Seth Curry can score from virtually anywhere on the floor, and the Plumlee brothers make for a formidable frontcourt. It is not often that a Patriot League team can put a player on the floor that has the ability to go shot-for- with one of the best teams in the nation, but C.J. McCollum will prove he belongs running side by side with Austin Rivers. The junior guard from Canton, OH ranks top ten nationally in scoring and has the ability to take over a game for long stretches. Although Duke will no doubt focus much of their effort on the defensive end on McCollum, it is no secret that the Blue Devils struggle guarding around the perimeter. McCollum will get his points, but it is just a question if his teammates will be able to follow suit. If Lehigh gets production from Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner, don’t be surprised if the Mountain Hawks hang with Duke for much of the game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke

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ATB: Conference Tourneys Heat Up, Oregon Impresses, and Another FSU Buzzer-Beater…

Posted by EJacoby on March 2nd, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. On the first night of March, the college basketball slate did not disappoint. It was another packed night around the country, featuring some important Pac-12 action and bubble teams blowing opportunities in home games. We also have our first conference tournament final matchup set, as VMI and UNC-Asheville both completed 20-point victories to advance to the championship of the Big South Tournament. There was much quarterfinal action in other tournaments as well. But first, we highlight a crazy finish in the ACC that left the home team stunned and the visitors in a familiar place — victorious after a game-winning shot…

Your Watercooler Moment. Another Seminole Game-Winner.

The previous two times, it was Michael Snaer. On Thursday night, it was Ian Miller. For the third time this season, Florida State converted a game-winning three-point bucket to give the Seminoles a dramatic win. Virginia led 58-47 with under five minutes to play before the ‘Noles made a late surge that culminated in Miller’s buzzer-beater. This result also has major implications in the ACC, as FSU avoided a three-game losing streak to clinch the #3 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament. Virginia, meanwhile, is in a bit of trouble after this loss. The Cavaliers now drop to 8-7 in the ACC, tied with NC State, Miami, and Clemson. Despite still being ranked in the Top 25, UVA has to start getting a bit worried about its NCAA Tournament status. The Cavaliers are 21-8 overall but don’t have a particularly strong overall profile, with just one top-40 win that came over Michigan in November. They have the #226 non-conference strength of schedule that includes a bad loss to TCU early in the year. They have an RPI of #39 that will be falling as well — not exactly lock status anymore. Virginia should be alright going forward if it can get a win at Maryland in its season finale, but a loss in that one on Terrapin Senior Night will definitely spell some worries for Tony Bennett’s team.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Kentucky Won’t Let Up. Throughout the grueling conference season, nearly all teams end up slipping up at least once along the way. Trap games, long flights, three games in a week — there are plenty of excuses that teams use for poor performances. But John Calipari’s team has played at an elite level the entire season. UK, which leads the country in scoring margin, hammered Georgia from the start on Thursday night to remain undefeated in the SEC heading into its season finale in Gainesville this weekend. Don’t expect a letdown from this team in that one.
  • No Howland Hangover. Just one day removed from the Sports Illustrated article that shed light on Ben Howland’s loss of control over the UCLA program, the Bruins did not seem at all distracted on the court. UCLA dominated Washington State for a 32-point victory, led by Lazeric Jones’ and Tyler Lamb’s combined 34 points and 10 assists. How crazy would it be if this team shut everyone up and made a run in the Pac-12 Tournament to win the conference and advance to the NCAA Tournament? It’s certainly possible, given the Bruins’ talent and the overall weak state of the Pac-12.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter at @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, box fans and life.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • Spartan Success: Despite losing guys like Korie Lucious, Kalin Lucas and Delvon Roe, the Michigan State express rolled on. Perhaps no other coach in the country teaches a system and its principles quite like Tom Izzo. Surprise losses on Sunday by both Ohio State and Michigan, however, meant that MSU’s weekend destruction of Nebraska clinched them of the at least a share of the Big Ten title. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Chicago (Evanston) Hope: That wind you felt coming from Chicago might have been a collective sigh of relief from Northwestern fans after senior leader John Shurna sank two free throws with mere seconds to play to help the Wildcats escape Happy Valley with a 67-66 win. Two straight gut-wrenching losses in one week might have been more than Northwestern could have overcome as they sweat out life on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
  • Lousy in Lincoln: It’s no secret that Nebraska has struggled on offense this year. But not since 1961 has Nebraska been so putrid on offense as they were when they were embarrassed by Michigan State, 61-34, at home over the weekend. The Huskers shot under 30% for the game and the loss of leading scorer Bo Spencer to an injured ankle near halftime only hampered their scoring efforts.

The Perennial Lesson In College Basketball 101 Is To Never Count Out The Michigan State Spartans.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State (24-5, 13-3) – As good as Michigan State has been this season, how would the Spartans be if Delvon Roe hadn’t been forced to drop basketball due to chronic knee problems? Roe’s presence would have given them more depth and would have taken the load off of Draymond Green at certain points. But it also forced youngsters like Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne to grow up quickly. While they’ve struggled with consistency, those guys are a big part of why the Spartans are Big Ten champs.
  2. Ohio State (23-6, 11-5) – Strange times in Columbus. After riding a 39-game winning streak and destroying most visitors who dared enter Value City Arena, the Buckeyes have now lost two of their last three games at home. Jared Sullinger has seemingly disappeared in big games and crucial moments this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Who’s Got Next? Gathers Commits, McDonald’s All-Americans Announced And More…

Posted by Josh Paunil on February 10th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Josh Paunil, the RTC recruiting guru. We encourage you to check out his website dedicated solely to college basketball recruiting, National Recruiting Spotlight, for more detailed recruiting information. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to who the hot prospects are at the lower levels of the sport. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Lead Story: Ricardo Gathers Chooses Baylor — Big Get For Bears

Ricardo Gathers Is A Huge Get For Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew.

Top-50 Power Forward Gives Scott Drew A Top-Five Recruiting Class. Three months after backing off his commitment to St. John’s, Class of 2012 power forward Ricardo Gathers committed to Baylor, joining point guard L.J. Rose and centers Isaiah Austin and Chad Rykhoek. The Louisiana native is a terrific fit for Baylor because he’s a double-double machine who can get it done on both ends of the court. He was second in scoring during the Nike EYBL last summer, averaging over 20 points a game while leading the EYBL in rebounding with about 12 a contest. He also recorded 20.7 PPG, 16.2 RPG, 3.9 BPG and 2.3 APG as a junior en route to winning the 2011 Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year award. An interesting story that has unfolded recently is that Gathers de-committed from St. John’s in the first place to give LSU a chance to land him. According to the player, Tigers’ head coach Trent Johnson didn’t recruit him very hard which turned him off to the program. With the new addition of Gathers, Baylor has a top-five recruiting class featuring two of the best big men in the country (between Gathers and Austin).

What They’re Saying

  • Senior Ricardo Gathers on committing to Baylor: “The coaching staff made me feel like I was a main priority, and with the signing class they have coming in, we have a really good chance of being a potential national champion. That was one of the biggest things for me.”

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Set Your TiVo: 02.01.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two previously Top 10 teams (UConn and Indiana) are in major slides right now and have a chance to regain confidence with road wins tonight, though both are in very difficult spots. Also, perhaps the biggest game of the C-USA season takes place this evening. Here’s what to look for:

#22 Indiana at #20 Michigan – 6:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (****)

Can Indiana Stop Trey Burke's Dribble Drive Tonight? (AP Photo)

  • The Hoosiers have lost four of six games and are rapidly descending in the rankings. However, they are coming off a 103-point scoring performance in a win over Iowa and they hung tough at Wisconsin in their previous game before coming up short. If Tom Crean’s team is really turning the corner in the Big Ten, then they need to prove it tonight with nothing other than a victory. Cody Zeller has been outstanding in conference play and will be the go-to man tonight against a suspect Wolverines interior defense that allowed the freshman to go 8-10 with 18 points in their first meeting, a slim Indiana win at home. IU has been efficient offensively lately without being overly reliant on the three-point shot, which is a good formula on the road. But their chances at winning tonight really boil down to  their ability to stop Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s penetration, as both players have the ability to carve up soft defenses. Indiana has an insanely high 110.4 defensive efficiency in conference, which will not cut it tonight. An improved defensive effort, however, will give them a great chance to win.
  • The Wolverines have held serve at home this season at 12-0 and will look to feed off the Ann Arbor crowd. As discussed above, this game is all about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. for Michigan. The two guards are the only players in double-figure scoring (14.1 PPG and 15.2 PPG, respectively) and should have plenty of opportunities to penetrate a weak Indiana half-court defense. If they are making plays and setting up Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz for open threes, UM is right where they want to be. Michigan has played much better defense at home this season and should not allow Indiana to shoot the lights out like they have been able to in some games.
  • It’s probably getting repetitive, but this game completely comes down to Indiana’s defensive intensity in the half-court. Michigan has the advantage at home and is a four-point favorite, but this would be no upset if Indiana won. If early in the game you see Burke bouncing the ball for 20 seconds during possessions and struggling to get into the paint, you’ll know IU is doing a good job on the perimeter. Prediction: Michigan comes through with a slim victory.

Connecticut at #15 Georgetown – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

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Checking In On… The Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • A Bad Saturday for Big East Referees:  It started in Philadelphia in the noon game between Villanova and Marquette. The referees made themselves the story of that game, calling three technical fouls and 45 total foul in a 40-minute game. That game lasted well over two hours as the officials used their whistles to take all the rhythm out of what was a very good game. James Breeding doesn’t have the best reputation across the conference for the quality of his calls, but apparently he has a short fuse as well. Breeding called all three techs and embarrassed himself on national television in the process. I realize the Big East and NCAA want better sportsmanship, but nothing Jay Wright, Buzz Williams, or Maalik Wayns did warranted a technical foul. It’s never good when officials make themselves the story of the game, but that’s exactly what James Breeding did. The bad officiating continued in the Syracuse-West Virginia game as the crew of Karl Hess, Gene Steratore and, Brian O’Connell blew a goaltending call that was obvious to the 28,740 Syracuse fans in attendance at the Carrier Dome, the ESPNU commentators, and anyone who was watching the game. While the proper call would have only resulted in a tie game and actually given Syracuse a chance to win it in regulation, it denied West Virginia a chance to force overtime. Too often, we see officials swallow their whistles in the final minute to “not affect the outcome of the game.” Once again, a crew of officials decided to do just that and that decision negatively affected the outcome. While there’s no guarantee West Virginia would have won if the game went to the extra session, the Mountaineers were denied that chance by incompetent officiating. My beef is as follows:  I’m all for player safety, but this season it has been ridiculous how many times officials have gone to the television monitor to review elbows that may or may not have been thrown during the course of a game. If they can review every elbow that was ever thrown (not needed in my opinion) as well as end-of-half scoring plays, why can’t they review a call like that? Nobody likes slow games, but the officials should be permitted to review every call they aren’t 100% sure about. All in all, Saturday was a disgrace to the officiating profession.
  • Mike Brey, Coach of the Year?: At this point, it would be hard to argue against him. The Notre Dame head coach led his team to two road wins at Seton Hall and Connecticut last week, holding the home teams to a combined 90 points. Brey’s team executed the burn offense to perfection, protected the basketball and got timely rebounds. Notre Dame, considered an afterthought after Tim Abromaitis went down with a season-ending ACL tear, is now in the thick of the NCAA Tournament conversation. Brey seems to get the most out of his teams when expectations are low, and that reputation is holding true as we head into the crucial month of February. The Irish still have work to do in order to overcome a lackluster non-conference performance but Brey has his team well on its way towards a top half conference finish.
  • Pittsburgh Wins a Pair: After starting league play 0-7, Pittsburgh has won two straight. With Tray Woodall healthy and back in the lineup, the Panthers are a team nobody wants to face down the stretch. Jamie Dixon’s NCAA dreams are almost surely extinguished, but the Panthers have an opportunity to finish the season strong and end with a respectable record. Pittsburgh’s offensive efficiency improved in a big way with Woodall’s return, but its defense was outstanding in Saturday’s win over Georgetown. The Panthers posted an 86.5 defensive efficiency rating, by far their best against a quality opponent. Their season-best was 81.0 against St. Francis (PA) on December 20, their last win before beating Providence last week. With a softer schedule in February, Pittsburgh has the potential to make some noise over the season’s final nine games.

Dante Taylor And The Panthers Are Still A Proud Bunch. (Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

Power Rankings

  1. Syracuse (22-1, 9-1) – After suffering its first defeat at Notre Dame, the Orange responded well in a win at Cincinnati two days later. Kris Joseph led the victors with 17 points on eight of 11 shooting. Still without Fab Melo, the Orange big men did an admirable job in his place. Rakeem Christmas had nine rebounds as Syracuse survived an early onslaught of Bearcat three-pointers. Syracuse then beat West Virginia on Saturday in a closer-than-expected game as the Mountaineers were able to score against the zone, mostly because of rebounding. Syracuse was out-rebounded 36-20, but committed only six turnovers as it survived the blown goaltending call in the final seconds. Brandon Triche had 18 points in the win. Rebounding has been a concern all season, but it’s obvious that Syracuse is not nearly as dominant with Melo out of the lineup. Free throw shooting came and went (33% at Cincinnati, 76.5% against West Virginia) but mental toughness is one of its biggest strengths. As we head into the teeth of the season, Syracuse is more prepared to absorb and respond to every team’s best shot. This week: 2/4 @ St. John’s.
  2. Marquette (18-4, 7-2) – I’m not overly impressed every time I watch this team, but it makes the winning plays when needed most. The Golden Eagles won a pair of games last week to push their winning streak to six games. Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder, and Davante Gardner combined for 47 points in a home win over South Florida on Tuesday, equaling the total points scored by the Bulls. Marquette ventured to Villanova on Saturday and was involved in one of the more bizarre games I have seen all season across college basketball. The game lasted two and a half hours and didn’t even go to overtime. 45 fouls (three technical) were called and 57 free throws were attempted in a game that wasn’t the finest moment for the officiating crew of James Breeding, Tim Clougherty, and Pat Driscoll. Breeding in particular had a short fuse, whistling Buzz Williams for a technical when the coach simply slipped and fell down. Memo to Breeding: Get over yourself, he wasn’t showing you up. Johnson-Odom had 26 points, Crowder added 20 points and 11 boards for Marquette and Jamil Wilson added 12 points off the bench. Marquette rallied from an 18-point deficit and forced 20 Villanova turnovers to key the comeback. This is a good basketball team, but one that has a ceiling. I’m not sure the Golden Eagles have the scoring depth to make a big run in March. This week: 1/31 vs. Seton Hall, 2/4 @ Notre Dame. Read the rest of this entry »
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