Would the word flood be an appropriate representation?
Early Entry Fatigue. LSU’s Tasmin Mitchell will test the waters, but he won’t sign with an agent. Ditto for Memphis’ Shawn Taggart. And Miami (FL)’s Dwayne Collinshas the same idea. UCLA’s Jrue Holiday is a bit of a surprise given how he struggled at the end of the season, but he too will take a dip.
Curry Watch. One player who has yet to throw his hat in the ring is Davidson’s Stephen Curry. Will he be back to make a run at Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring record next season?
Nice raise. Alabama’s new coach Anthony Grant will earn $1.8M annually through the term of his seven-year contract.
Nobody? It’s really hard for us to believe that nobody currently in D1 wanted this guy after he did a pretty good job keeping the Arizona program together this season.
Xavier Coaching Search. Word is that assistant coach Chris Mack is the most likely candidate to take over for the departed Sean Miller.
Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv). If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.
Location: Los Angeles, CA Conference: Pac 10 Coach: Ben Howland, 149-53 08-09 Record: 25-8 (13-5 in the Pac 10) Last 12 Games: 8-4 Best Win: 85-76 vs. Washington, February 19 Worst Loss: 82-81 vs. Washington St., February 21 Off. Efficiency Rating: 121.2, 3rd Def. Efficiency Rating: 92.5, 40th
Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s): Darren Collison, PG, senior- 14.8 points, 5.0 assists, 1.6 steals, 54% FG, 92% FT; Josh Shipp, SF, senior- 14.4 points, 1.3 steals, 51% FG, 44% 3PT Unsung Hero: Alfred Aboya, C, senior- 10.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 58% FG Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Darren Collison, 1st round, 24th overall Key Injuries: None Depth: 31% (165th nationally); percentage of minutes played by payers coming off the bench Achilles Heel: 250th out of 330 in field goal percentage defense Will Make a Deep Run if…: Jrue Holiday steps up his game on both ends of the court and the perimeter defense improves, while the Bruins continue to shoot at the 50.6% that leads the nation. Will Make an Early Exit if…: The perimeter defense allows easy penetration so opponents shoot at a high percentage and Alfred Aboya gets in foul trouble early.
Last Year Invited: 2008, Final Four (Lost to Memphis) Streak: 4 consecutive years Best NCAA Finish: National champions 11 times, 1995 most recent Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.31. UCLA wins 0.31 more games on average each year than would be expected based on this historical performance of teams with a similar seed.
Six Degrees to Detroit: UCLA has played a team from the state of Michigan in every year since 2002. Distance to First Round Site: 2,709 (Philadelphia, PA) School’s Claim to Fame: UCLA has more applicants than any other school in the country and counts Jack Black, Francis Ford Coppola, James Dean, Will Forte, James Franco, Heather Locklear, Rob Reiner and Ben Stiller among its enterainment alumni. School Wishes It Could Forget: Their loss to Princeton in the first round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament as defending champions. Prediction: Can the Bruins make it to a fourth consecutive Final Four if a couple higher seeds in their bracket are upset? Sure, but a Sweet 16 appearance sounds like a better guess, which isn’t too bad for a down year. Is it?
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
Pac-10 Final Regular Season Standings
1. Washington 14-4, 24-7
2. UCLA 13-5, 24-7
3. Arizona State 11-7, 22-8
4. California 11-7, 22-9
5. Arizona 9-9, 19-12
6. USC 9-9, 18-12
7. Washington State 8-10, 16-14
8. Oregon State 7-11, 13-16
9. Stanford 6-12, 17-12
10. Oregon 2-16, 8-22
Player of the Year: James Harden
The third sophomore in Pac-10 history to win player of the year. The others were Jason Kidd (1994) and Mike Bibby (1998). Harden is also the third ASU player to win it following Ike Diogu (2005) and Eddie House (2000).
Freshman of the Year: Isaiah Thomas
Thomas set the freshman scoring record for Washington with 477 points and is the fourth Husky to win the award.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
My checking in on the Pac-10 this week is a breakdown of each teams’ chances at postseason.
Overall: 19-4 Conference: 8-2
Home: 13-1 Road: 4-2 Neutral: 2-1
Last 10: 8-2
Good Wins: at USC, Arizona, California, USC
Bad Losses: Michigan (neutral),
The Bruins have really picked it up under Ben Howland and won 15 of their last 17. This is the team that was ranked four in the country in the preseason. Darren Collison is leading this tear, while freshman Jrue Holiday scored in double figures three straight games for the first time this season before facing Notre Dame. They have held home court with only Arizona State beating them at the Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins are in the driver’s seat in the Pac-10 the rest of the way. They have won their last four games by an average of over 22 points a game. Out of the four losses Michigan is the only inexcusable one, at Texas, at Washington, and even at home against Arizona State are not big deals. At this point they are just fighting for seeding, right now I would have them at a three seed.
Overall: 17-6 Conference: 8-3
Home: 12-2 Road: 5-3 Neutral: 0-1
Last 10: 7-3
Good Wins: USC, UCLA, at Arizona State
Bad Losses: at Portland
Only one loss out of first place is not a bad situation for the Huskies. They have held home court well in the Pac-10 going 3-1, with the only loss a triple overtime game against California. They have managed to go 5-2 on the road in the Pac-10 so far. The early season losses to Florida and Kansas will hurt them, but only when it comes to seeding. Isaiah Thomas is going to be a force for years to come. Right now I would put them at a six seed.
I’m not sure why everyone complains about February. Sure the NFL season is over, but at least we don’t need to hear about steroids, holdouts, and whether or not both feet were in bounds. There isn’t a blockbuster “Game of the Year” match-up today, but there are several solid games for the hoops aficionado. So just settle into your favorite spot on the couch and dig in. In the spirit of promoting healthy habits, we suggest that you try to have some vegetables today so use some ketchup on your food today.
#20 Syracuse at #16 Villanova at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The appetizer for a great day of basketball. This isn’t necessarily a must win for either team, but a win today would probably boost their NCAA seed by at least a spot on Selection Sunday. Both teams have virtually assured themselves a NCAA bid (particularly with Syracuse’s relatively easy remaining schedule in the Big East). One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that if the Orangemen lose, there is a decent chance that they will drop out of the top 25 leaving the Big East with only 5 teams in the top 25 after having as many as 9 teams earlier this season. Anyways, back to the game. Watch the match-up at point guard featuring Jonny Flynn against Scottie Reynolds. The winner of that match-up will likely win the game barring an explosion by either Eric Devendorf or Dante Cunningham.
Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Cincinnati at Georgetown at Noon on The Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Georgetown is killing me this year. I saw them play in Orlando against Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic. They lost that game, but it was pretty clear to me that day that they had the talent to make it to the Sweet 16 at the very least. I never imagined that they might be in a position at this point in the season that they might not make the NCAA tournament. To be fair, at that time I was also operating under the assumption that Tennessee was good. The Hoyas were able to break their 5-game losing streak against Rutgers and will need to beat the Bearcats if they want to get some momentum heading into their game against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. If John Thompson III is able to figured out a way to keep Deonta Vaughn in check, the Hoyas should be able to ride Greg Monroe and DaJuan Summer to a victory.
Notre Dame at #12 UCLA at 1 PM on CBS: The Irish are desperate for a victory having lost 6 straight games. They will have to end their losing streak in one of the rare non-conference match-ups this month. Everybody knows Luke Harangody is going to get his (25.3 PPG and 13.2 RPG), but Notre Dame will need Kyle McAlarney to break out of his prolonged shooting slump and get a great game out of Tory Jackson, who will be matched up against the Bruins veteran PG, Darren Collison. Look for UCLA to pull away in the 2nd half behind Collison, Josh Shipp, and Jrue Holiday.
Miami (FL) at #3 Duke at 1:30 PM on Raycom, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: I’m fully expecting Duke to come back strong at home after the massacre at Littlejohn on Wednesday night, which is something that rtmsf actually predicted before the game (sort of), but nobody picked up on until after the game. (Ok, nobody has really picked up on it yet.) On the other hand, Miami was on the right side of the other blowout upset beating Wake Forest by 27. Look for Kyle Singler to rebound with a strong game after a weak “effort” against Clemson that was plagued by foul trouble. Coach K will likely use Gerald Henderson, the only Blue Devil who showed up against Clemson, on Jack McClinton in an attempt to slow down the mercurial Miami star. If Singler and Henderson can contain or at least equal Dwayne Collins and McClinton, respectively, the Blue Devils should return to their winning ways. Well at least until UNC invades Cameron on Wednesday night.
#17 Texas at Nebraska at 2 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Texas will be looking to rebound after back-to-back losses on the road. Today, they return to Austin to take on the Cornhuskers. Look for A.J. Abrams and Damion James to have big games as Rick Barnes‘s squad will definitely be motivated in this one after falling 3.5 back of conference leader Oklahoma. If Abrams and James have big games that should be enough to hold off Nebraska’s balanced attack.
Michigan at #1 UConn at 6 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This is a game that the Huskies should be able to win fairly convincingly particularly with the game in Gampel Pavillion, but as this year has taught us never expect too much out of the #1 ranked team in the country. A Michigan win would obviously do wonders for their NCAA tournament chances, but it will tough particularly with John Beilein‘s recent changes in his rotations including bringing DeShawn Sims off the bench in their 71-51 win over Penn State in their last game. The new lineup, which is still led by Manny Harris, may provide some match-up problems for UConn and their big men. I expect UConn to pull this one especially with the recent play of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, but Michigan could give them problems and Beilein certainly knows all about the Huskies dating back to his days as the coach at West Virginia.
Charleston at Davidson at 6 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Most people will tune in just to watch Stephen Curry, but this could actually be a realtively close game (a rarity for the Wildcats in the weak Southern Conference). When these teams met earlier this season, the Wildcats escaped with a 4-point win on the road after Charleston had a chance to tie it with a 3 with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game. This is particularly meaningful as the Wildcats haven’t lost a Southern Conference game since January 20, 2007 (a 43-game winning streak). As an added bonus, you can see Bobby Cremins (former head coach of Georgia Tech) try to come up with a scheme to guard Curry. Cremins is one of the few coaches in the country who has had a player who was at Curry’s level or even above that as he coached Kenny Anderson (along with Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver aka “Lethal Weapon 3”) to the NCAA Final 4 in 1991.
Florida State at #10 Clemson at 7 PM on NESN and Fox Sports: I’m actually more interested in this game than the others for my own selfish reason since I’ll be doing another RTC Live when Clemson comes to Boston College on Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers have returned to Earth after their beatdown the hated Blue Devils just a few days ago. Oliver Purnell‘s squad had better be ready because the Seminoles are a fairly dangerous team (ask Roy Williams, who needed a Ty Lawson 3 at the buzzer to pull out a win against FSU). This is a classic letdown game so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on it especially if Toney Douglas gets hot or if either Trevor Booker or K.C. Rivers isn’t on his game after the celebrations following the Duke win.
#19 Minnesota at Ohio State at 8 PM on The Big Ten Network: Minnesota will be licking its wounds after getting crushed by Michigan State at the Breslin Center earlier this week. Unfortunately for Tubby Smith, the Gophers have to head to Columbus to take on a Buckeye team that just knocked off Purdue. If Evan Turner is hot, the Buckeyes could make a move into the top 25 with a win here knocking the Gophers out in the process.
#23 Arizona State at Oregon State at 8:30 PM on Fox Sports: James Harden and the Sun Devils will be looking to complete the Oregon sweep against Craig Robinson‘s Beavers. [Ed. Note: Isn’t Robinson related to some famous guy? I thought I heard something about it on the news.] The Beavers, who were undefeated following Barack Obama‘s Inauguration, finally lost to Arizona ending Oregon State’s hopes of riding Obama-mania to an undefeated term. If the Sun Devils can contain Calvin Haynes, they should hand the Beavers a second consecutive defeat.
No, Mr. President. I’m not Reggie Love.
#15 Memphis at #18 Gonzaga at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Spokane is the site of ESPN GameDay today and it features a match-up of two highly regarded programs that hit rough patches this season, but have rebounded well. Gonzaga appears to have used their victory over Tennessee in Knoxville as a catalyst for their resurgence (Patty Mills‘s injury didn’t hurt either). Memphis, on the other hand, appears to have found its rhythm again with John Calipari‘s decision to move freshman Tyreke Evans from shooting guard to point guard (the kid is lost when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands). Evans has responded with his best play of the season and the Tigers have not lost since the move. Interestingly, both teams dominance in their leagues means that this is a huge game for each in terms of NCAA seeding. A win today would probably be worth 2 seeds on Selection Sunday assuming both teams are able to run the table for the rest of the regular season. Despite the fact that both teams have pretty balanced scoring attacks (4 starters in double figures for each team), the key to this game will likely be the PG match-up of Evans versus Jeremy Pargo. If the more experienced Pargo can outplay Evans, the Bulldogs should be able to run away with this one. If he isn’t, we could be in for a hard-fought game.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
News and Notes
Arizona State‘s Rihards Kuksiks leads the nation in 3-point percentage, but is only third in the Pac-10. How is that possible? Well NCAA statistical leaders need to make a minimum of 2.5 per game from three-point range to qualify, while Pac-10 needs to make one per game and play in 75 percent of the team’s games. Theo Robertson is shooting 56.2% and Michael Roll is shooting 54.5%, both ahead of Kuksiks’s 46.7%. Either way Kuksiks has had a tough time the past two games going 3-for-20 from behind the arc.
Ben Howland‘s 13-4 record against California is his best against any team in the Pac-10.
UCLA’s recent victory over Stanford was UCLA’s largest victory over Stanford at Pauley Pavilion in over 30 years. It was also UCLA’s highest scoring game under Howland. UCLA shot 73% from 3-point range and only 62% from the free throw line. Maybe they should start taking their foul shots from behind the arc.
California, the best three-point shooting team in the nation at 47%, shot 2-for-16 from three-point range against USC.
UCLA dominated teams this week. The Bruins went 3-0 with average margin of victory over 21 points.
Darren Collison, who earlier this year broke the UCLA record for consecutive free-throws with 43, is shooting 94.4% from the line, which leads the nation.
Craig Robinson has turned it around for Oregon State. The Beavers have four wins in the first half of the Pac-10 schedule for the first time since 2002-03.
After another week of ups and downs in the Pac-10, there are really only two locks for the tournament at this point: UCLA and Washington. Four others (Arizona, Arizona State, California, and USC) still have work to do.
After last night’s relatively weak slate of games, we’re back to normal tonight with a great set of games.
Game of the Day #3 Duke at #10 Clemson at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Our second top 10 match-up of the week. Once again the road team is the higher ranked team, but I feel like this time they are also the favorites coming in to the game. All of you know about Duke by now thanks to their frequent appearances on national TV so I will keep it brief. Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson have emerged as their two most consistent players. Usually that is enough to get them by most teams even if they only get minimal support from the rest of the team. However, when that happens against quality teams the result isn’t always that good (even if they come really really close). The key for the Blue Devils in this game and for the rest of the season will be the play of Brian Zoubek (go ahead and snicker Duke haters) and Nolan Smith. Zoubek merely needs to be a mediocre 7-footer and Coach K and the rest of the Blue Devils staff will be happy. Smith, who replaced Greg Paulus in the starting lineup, has to improve his decision-making. He must have one of the worst assist-to-turnover ratios (1.03 to 1) of any starting PG on a top team in the nation. On the other side of the ball, Clemson may be the most under-appreciated team in the country. I’m not sure if it is the Tigers’ recent history of falling apart down the stretch, but I never hear anybody mentioning them as a team that could make a run in March despite the fact that they probably have the most reasonable losses of any team in the country (Wake Forest and at UNC). The key for Oliver Purnell‘s team will be to have Trevor Booker dominate on the inside. I doubt that Duke will let him play against Zoubek so he will probably have to do it against Singler, which could make for an interesting match-up. If Booker can win that match-up, Clemson will have a shot. After that they will need a strong game out of K.C. Rivers and hope to contain Duke’s outside shooters (particularly Jon Scheyer). I think Clemson will keep it close until midway through the 2nd half when Duke will go on a run and pull away to win by about a dozen.
Worth Watching West Virginia at #20 Syracuse at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Mountaineers are a a perfect example of why it is so hard to read Big East teams. They are only 4-4 in the conference, but all 4 of those losses were to top 10 teams (UConn, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Marquette). Likewise, Syracuse comes in having lost 3 straight and 4 of 5, but 3 of those losses have been on the road (Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and Providence) and the other to one of the hottest teams (Louisville) in the country. The Orangemen should be able to break their recent skid if they can contain Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff, but a lot of that will have to do with whether or not they will have their full compliment of players available. Mookie Jones is done for the year with a hip injury, but someone will have to step up as Jim Boeheim can’t expect to get 62 points from Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf every game (and even that didn’t work in their last game).
#19 Minnesota at #14 Michigan State at 8:30 PM on The Big Ten Network: What is going on with the Spartans? Tom Izzo‘s team has lost back-to-back games at the Breslin Center to pretty weak competition (Northwestern and Penn State). Just two weeks ago everyone was talking about this team as a potential Final 4 contender with the return of Goran Suton. Unfortunately for Izzo, the Spartans will be without Raymar Morgan, who is out with “walking pneumonia”. To turn things around, the Spartans will need improved play out of Kalin Lucas, who still boasts an impressive 3.09 to 1 assist to TO ratio, but most of that is from his early season play. They will have to do it against a Gopher team that held Illinois to a ridiculous 36 points in their last game. Keep an eye on Al Nolen and Ralph Sampson III in this one for the Gophers as they will be matched up against Lucas and Suton respectively.
#6 Wake Forest at Miami (FL) at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Wake needs to develop some consistency if they want to be a national championship contender. We know that they can beat the big boys as they knocked off UNC, Clemson, and Duke in a three week stretch. The question is why they can’t maintain that level of play when they go up against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech (both losses). Dino Gaudio will need to figure this out if he wants to get this team up to the level of Duke and UNC at the end of the season. Maybe it’s just a focus thing, which hopefully shouldn’t be an issue in March. Either way, this trip to Miami should be a nice challenge for the Demon Deacons. Jeff Teague will be matched up against Jack McClinton and Al-Farouq Aminu will be up against Dwayne Collins. I think Miami may be able to hold its own in those match-ups. Unfortunately for Frank Haith, the Hurricanes run into depth problems after their top 2 while the Demon Deacons run much deeper. Perhaps Haith should look into giving more PT to his ridiculously athletic freshman DeQuan Jones.
#16 Villanova at Providence at 8 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Villanova finally got the signature win we were asking for by beating Pittsburgh last week in the last college basketball game at the Spectrum. This time they will have to do it on the road against a Friar team that was playing well before they ran into the UConn buzzsaw. Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds will need to have solid games if Jay Wright‘s crew is going to pull out a rare Big East road win against a Providence team that is actually above them in the Big East standings. Providence will need a solid effort out of its 8-deep rotation including Weyinmi Efejuku and Jonathan Kale to defend its home court tonight.
Keep an Eye On Notre Dame at Cincinnati at 7:30 PM on ESPN360.com: Mike Brey needs Kyle McAlarney to snap out of his funk and start helping Luke Harangody out or the Fighting Irish might be looking at trip to the NIT this year. This is a game Notre Dame needs to win if they expect to make the NCAA tournament.
Tennessee at Arkansas at 8 PM on Raycom, Fox Sports South, and ESPN360.com: Can freshman Scotty Hopson be the one to reenergize the Vols who have struggled to play up their pre-season #8 ranking? Bruce Pearl might want to give him some more PT against the confusing Arkansas team that beat Texas and Oklahoma (the Sooners only loss), but is just 1-5 in the SEC.
Texas A&M at #2 Oklahoma at 9 PM on The Big 12 Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Watch this one for Blake Griffin, who will be your national Player of the Year barring some freak injury or sketchy voting. I guess the Aggies played Oklahoma close at College Station so this could be a decent game, but since it is in Norman I doubt it will be that close after the half unless the Sooners are already looking ahead to Texas and Kansas two weeks from now.
USC at #12 UCLA at 10:30 PM on Fox Sports:Ben Howland‘s will be going for a sweep of the California Pac-10 teams at Pauley Pavilion against their cross-town rivals. The Trojans are my pick for secretly good team that nobody is talking about, but could make a run in March. Watch this one for the battle of the freshmen: DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday. They won’t be matched up against each other, but it should be fun to see Josh Shipp guard DeRozan. As an added bonus, you might get to see Lil’ Romeo (ok, maybe not).
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.
The regular season is flying by. Believe it or not, we’re only nine weeks away from having an official NCAA Tournament Bracket to review and obsess over. We also happen to be nine weeks removed from opening night, so yesterday marked the official midpoint – 63 days on each side – of the regular season. Which means, of course, for all you folks who have been busy with the holidays, busy with the bowl games, busy with the NFL Playoffs… let’s get you caught up.
From now until the first tip in Dayton March 17th on the Road to the F4 in Detroit (ugh), roughly 150 or so teams are realistically jostling for position to be selected as one of the Chosen 65. As we nestle into the familiarity of conference play (only the Ivies have yet to begin) and America once again wakes up to our game, weaknesses will be exposed, experienced teams will try to avoid complacency and young teams will start to figure it all out. Come Selection Sunday, many of these prospective bracketeers will have fallen by the wayside, but there will be 50 or so at-large teams holding NCAA-caliber resumes, even though only 34 will be taken. Before we jump in with both feet into the fun that the next two months will bring, let’s take a look back at the first two months to see what we’ve learned.
Carolina is Not Unbeatable, but Are the Heels Still the Favorite? A mere month ago we wrote that North Carolina was playing like a team with plans to lose no more than a couple of games (if that many) all season. Then the last eight days happened. First, UNC lost at home to an underwhelming BC team, followed by a road loss at Wake Forest last night to start 0-2 in the ACC. So what’s going on – how can this juggernaut of a team with nearly everyone returning look so… mortal? It’s easy, really. So far, UNC’s defense hasn’t been up to snuff. It’s more efficient as a whole than last year’s version, but their statistical profile is elevated on the defensive end by forcing turnovers which in turn fuels their lethal fast break. In a halfcourt set, as Wake and BC repeatedly and effectively showed, UNC can be penetrated and exposed. The key to playing with the Heels is limiting those TOs that Ty Lawson turns into the quick strikes that overwhelm teams. Is it a fatal flaw? It could be (how’s that for a hedge?). Teams that can’t consistently make stops don’t win championships, but we really don’t see why UNC’s defense shouldn’t be able to make the commitment to improve over the next two months. The 2005 title team only became legit once Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May got serious about stopping people in addition to outscoring them. Can the 2009 Heels – specifically, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Deon Thompson – do the same? Stay tuned.
These Guys Have to Commit to Better Halfcourt Defense
The Big East Should Have Its Own Region. Seriously, let’s just rename the E. Rutherford Region this year and invite every Big East team. Or at least the top 12. Of course, if we did that, it would prohibit the possibility of the conference placing four teams in the Final Four this year – a plausible scenario. Tell us that you couldn’t envision a situation where four of the following teams – Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse – would reach Detroit in April. Throw in Villanova, Marquette and West Virginia and you might just have nine of the Sweet Sixteen. The top half of this conference is really that good. So who is the best of the best? It depends on when you ask the question. Two weeks ago it was UConn. A week ago Georgetown. Now it’s Pittsburgh. Next week… probably Syracuse. The point is nobody knows. UConn has the most raw talent, but they’ve exhibited problems putting it together consistently. Georgetown, haven’t you heard, has rebounding issues. Pittsburgh isn’t reliable from behind the arc. Syracuse has a tendency to lose to teams like Cleveland St. on miracle shots. Louisville spends much of its time looking for its ass with both hands. Notre Dame has a maddening tendency to play defense with its hands. Marquette and Villanova are too guard heavy. West Virginia has Bob Huggins. And on and on. All we can say for certain is that the quality of play in the seemingly-nightly matchups between Top 25 teams is top-shelf, and it makes up for all those other nights where we’re stuck watching Auburn-Ole Miss.
The Big Ten Doesn’t Suck This Year.Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying that our friendly midwestern conference is on par with the Big East, or even the ACC, but it’s a lot stronger in the middle of the pack than it has been in recent years. Not much was expected out of Minnesota (15-1), Illinois (14-2) or Michigan (13-3) this year, but each of them are playing excellent ball and have marquee wins over the likes of Louisville, Missouri, Duke and UCLA in their pockets. Combine their success with the standard good seasons expected from Michigan St. (13-2), Purdue (12-4), Ohio St. (11-3) and Wisconsin (12-4), and you have a competitive six-bid conference. Even traditional cellar dweller Penn St. (13-4) has shown signs of life this year. Heck, they even made the ACC/Big Ten Challenge competitive (losing 6-5) this year!
Our Midwestern Friends Have Been Practicing
They’re Putting It Together. Now that Tom Izzo once again has a full complement of players with Goran Suton back in the fold, Michigan St. has looked much better since their abysmal performance in the ACC/B10 Challenge against UNC. They’ve run off nine in a row with wins at Texas, at Minnesota and Ohio St. – everyone wrote this team off after that UNC game, but they’ll be heard from in March. UCLA is also quietly going about its business, also reeling off nine in a row (including a 3-0 start in road games in the Pac-10) since their loss to Texas in mid-December. Ben Howland is getting production from eleven players, and if anyone really thought the Bruins were going to have a ‘rebuilding’ season, they need to have their head checked. This team will win close to 30 games again. It’s amazing how a series of close games that go your way can make or break a team’s confidence. After Louisville had dropped tight ones to Minnesota and UNLV in late December, everyone was ready to write off the Cards. Now that they’ve won three of their lost four on the last possession, they sit at 3-0 in the Big East (with two road wins) and appear to be in relatively good shape compared to some of the other Big East contenders (UConn, ND, and Georgetown in particular). We’ll see just how good they can be when #1 Pittsburgh visits on Saturday.
Pleasant Surprises. Obviously, Wake Forest is a pretty big surprise – we expected them to be pretty good, but nobody saw a top five team coming from Dino Gaudio this year. What about Syracuse? – at 16-1 and the lone loss to Cleveland St. from 75 feet, Jim Boeheim’s crew has as much talent as just about anybody in the country. Clemson is pulling its annual ridiculous start, but there are signs that this Tiger team is legit – they have a balanced attack, they’re strong at both ends of the court, and they have good road wins at Illinois, South Carolina and Miami (FL) so far. Butler is a HUGE surprise, although we shouldn’t ever be surprised with that program. The Bulldogs sit at 14-1 and two of their top three players are freshmen, yet they once again appear to be the class of the Horizon and a top mid-major. Tubby Smith has Minnesota playing great ball, and the Gophers are on a fast track to the NCAA Tournament at least a year ahead of schedule. Coaching matters – Mike Montgomery also has California playing hard for the first time in a decade. The Bears look like a top three team in the Pac-10 at this point.
Syracuse Has the Look of a Team Built for March
Disappointments. Since the Q1 update, Gonzaga has done nothing but crap itself, losing games to Arizona, UConn, Portland St., and Utah. They did get a key OT win at Tennessee last week, and their defense is still stronger than in recent years, but for some reason or another, the Zags are having trouble putting it all together. USC is destined to become this year’s NC State (a preseason ranked team that won’t make the NCAA Tourney). The SEC – Tennessee, Florida and Kentucky – have all been various shades of disappointing. Between the cream of the SEC East, there’s what, three quality wins? On the other side of that conference, only Arkansas has even been mildly interesting, with big home wins over Oklahoma and Texas. At the mid-major level, Southern Illinois (6-8 ) and Wright St. (9-8 ) have a long way to go before they’ll turn their seasons around.
RTC Midseason All-Americans. We’ll take some heat for not putting defending NPOY Tyler Hansbrough on our first team, but his numbers, particularly his rebounding average, are off from last season. Granted, he’s still probably recovering from a stress reaction injury, so he’ll have time to recover his (rightful?) place on the 1st team, but for now, we like Griffin (obvious choice) and Harangody in our frontcourt. Curry and Harden are also easy choices in the backcourt, but we’re making a leap of faith choosing Teague – his last two games against BYU and UNC were very impressive performances (he averaged 32/5/4 assts on 59%) and we’re riding on the Wake bandwagon right now.
Jeff Teague, G – Wake Forest(21/4/4 assts on 54%/54% 3fg shooting)
Stephen Curry, G – Davidson (29/4/7 assts/3 stls on 45%/37% 3fg shooting)
James Harden, G – Arizona St. (23/6/5 assts on 56%/42% 3fg shooting)
Blake Griffin, F – Oklahoma (23/14/3 assts on 65% shooting)
Luke Harangody, F – Notre Dame (25/13 on 51% shooting)
Knocking on the Door (2d Team).
Tyler Hansbrough, F – North Carolina (22/8 on 54% shooting)
Patrick Patterson, F – Kentucky (19/9/3 assts on 71% shooting)
Dejuan Blair, F – Pittsburgh (15/13 on 61% shooting)
Manny Harris, G – Michigan (19/8/5 assts on 44%/31% 3fg shooting)
Ty Lawson, G – North Carolina (15/3/6 assts on 53%/42% 3fg shooting)
All-Freshman Team. Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest), Jrue Holiday (UCLA) and Gordon Hayward (Butler) were tough to leave off this list.
Greg Monroe, C – Georgetown (14/6/3 assts on 57% shooting)
Sylven Landesberg, G – Virginia (19/6/3 assts on 49%/30% 3fg shooting)
Tyreke Evans, G – Memphis (16/6/4 assts/3 stls on 45% shooting)
Seth Curry, G – Liberty (20/4 on 45%/40% 3fg shooting)
Paul George, F – Fresno St. (16/7 on 54%/46% 3fg shooting)
Big Games (Q3). Here are the top 10 games of the next month.
Syracuse @ Georgetown – 01.14.09
Pittsburgh @ Louisville – 01.17.09
Georgetown @ Duke – 01.17.09
Wake Forest @ Clemson – 01.17.09
Texas @ Baylor – 01.27.09
Duke @ Wake Forest – 01.28.09
California @ UCLA – 01.29.09
Connecticut @ Louisville – 02.02.09
Duke @ Clemson – 02.04.09
Michigan St. @ Minnesota – 02.04.09
Notre Dame @ UCLA – 02.07.09
Extremes. This won’t last much longer, as we fully expect all three of the unbeatens to have a loss by this time next week, if not sooner. That’s what conference play does to you. NC Central will get a win against a D2 squad soon, but poor little NJIT has no relief in sight. They’re sitting on 49 in a row and, according to KenPom’s projections, 60+ in a row is within reach. Memo to NJIT coach Jim Engles – take a page from the NC Central playbook and schedule some JVHigh School D2 teams.
Unbeaten (next possible loss)
Pittsburgh (Big East):15-0 (@ Louisville 1/17)
Wake Forest (ACC): 14-0 (@ BC 1/14)
Clemson (ACC):16-0 (v. Wake Forest 1/17)
Winless (next possible win)
NJIT (Ind): 0-16 (Bryant 1/21)
North Carolina Central (Ind): 0-18 (D2 Central St 1/16)
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.
Last week’s player of the week, UCLA’s Michael Roll, was back in a reserve roll and scored five points in 26 minutes.
Early on in the Pac-10 schedule will dictate if the Arizona St. Sun Devils are for real, as , their first two games are at Stanford and Cal. Four of Arizona State’s wins have come against teams with two wins or fewer, including winless Mississippi Valley State.
In Arizona’s win Chase Budinger played 40 minutes for already the fifth time this season, In all of last year he only played 40 minutes or more four times.
Cal is shooting a nation best 50.6 percent from three-point range. Theo Robertson leads the country at 61.5 percent and Jerome Randle is in fifth at 56.1 percent.
Stanford is one of only six teams still undefeated in Division I competition.
Player of the week- Calvin Haynes – Calvin Haynes of Oregon State scored 24 of the Beaver’s 59 points in the victory over Seattle. He shot 6-for-9 from the field and went 10-for-12 from the stripe.
Honorable Mention:Jrue Holiday of UCLA who scored 12 points, had 10 rebounds, and had 5 assists in the Bruin’s win. James Harden of Arizona State who scored 24 points this week for the Sun Devils.
Game of the Night.Michigan 55, UCLA 52. Remember our stat from last week about Ben Howland’s UCLA teams going 1-2 on the eastern seaboard in his five seasons there? After tonight’s semifinal matchup with Michigan, make that 1-3. It’s true that his teams don’t seem to play well back east, but there’s more to it than that. One of the few coherent things that Vitale said during tonight’s game was that we all had rated UCLA based on Ben Howland and his ridiculous freshman class rather than the current experience and skills of players he is actually putting on the court. There’s some validity to that, and it showed tonight. UCLA will end up being a good team, but they have serious offensive flaws in their frontcourt (6-17 tonight). Even though they defended and rebounded well (holding Michigan to 43% from the field), in close games they have to depend on their playmakers Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday to produce points because their frontcourt players simply aren’t reliable in that role (yet). And what about John Beilein’s Michigan team? The backdoor cut by Deshawn Sims (18/5) that led to the dunk effectively ending the game was classic Beilein. Manny Harris also contributed 15/5/4 assts, but the key takeaway here is that Michigan is 3-0 and is showing signs of putting together a good season regardless of what happens tomorrow night vs. Duke (who will likely kill Michigan). The victory tonight over UCLA was the program’s biggest in twelve seasons (#1 Duke in 1997). It is absolutely incomprehensible to us that a program with the prestige and resources of the University of Michigan hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998. With John Beilein’s system already beginning to bear fruit in Y2 of his rebuild, it won’t be long before we see the Wolverines playing in the March again. (Yes, we realize that former coach Tommy Amaker played deep into March several times… in the NIT.) For more detail on the partisan side of things, check the UM Hoops and Bruins Nation writeups.
Tale of Two Halves.
Duke 83, S. Illinois 58. The other half of the CvC semifinals was a decent game for twenty minutes until Duke’s Gerald Henderson woke up and delivered his best performance of the year (see below) in the form of several timely threes and nasty dunks, and the rest of his teammates stopped throwing the ball to SIU (17 first half TOs). A few things struck us in this game: first, Duke had 17 turnovers in the first half and still went into halftime with a 6-pt lead. How? SIU head coach Chris Lowery had the answer – The Blue Devils spent the final nine minutes of the half parading to the free-throw line, where they had just as many tries (19) as field-goal attempts. “That killed us,” Lowery said. “We felt we had a good game plan going in, we just didn’t expect to be in that kind of foul trouble.” – stop us if you’ve heard this before. Duke shot 47 FTs to SIU’s 19. Maybe this is explained by SIU’s tendency to foul, right? Nah. In their first two games this season, they’ve allowed 49 total free throws. In two games. Next, Duke’s defense continues to be as good as ever. The Devils held SIU to 35% from the field, and only two Salukis made it into double figures. Third, Duke’s presumptive center, Brian Zoubek, will never be confused with Bill Walton, but he doesn’t have to be. What he needs to be, though, is merely serviceable. Tonight he was – 10/6 in 19 minutes was one of the best games of his Duke career. Duke will play the upstart Michigan Wolverines tomorrow night for the CvC Championship. Final comment on this game: Bob Knight’s first shot at commentator was a good effort. His coaching insights are invaluable to students of the game (esp. when he says something like “Duke has only gotten 1 of their last 5 possible points.”), but his demeanor is a little more boring than his role as studio analyst. Perhaps he’ll get a little more animated as he grows into this position.
Seton Hall 63, USC 61. This also doubles as the Upset of the Night, but we wanted to use both of these screen grabs showing the tale of two halves. Rough night for the Pac-10, losing to two unranked teams, but USC under Tim Floyd has made a habit of these early losses. to unranked teams Seton Hall worked its way back from a late first-half 15-pt deficit when USC seemed to fall asleep (see below). Daniel Hackett missed a three at the buzzer which went along with his otherwise miserable shooting game (0-7), while Taj Gibson had 19/18 in a losing effort. The Hall was led by John Garcia’s 11/18, and at 3-0 might be an early surprise out of the Big East.
Memphis 83, UT-Chattanooga 71. Memphis opened the Puerto Rico Tipoff with a late first-half surge to put UTC away. UM shot 52%, led by Doneal Mack’s 19 and Shawn Taggart’s 16/11, but they once again really struggled from long range (Mack hit 5-9, but the rest of the team was 1-14 from three). UTC was led by Stephen McDowell’s 27 pts.
Xavier 75, Missouri 71. The Muskies came back from a seven-pt deficit with seven minutes to go in the game behind Terrell Holloway’s perfect game (10-10) from the line. DeMarre Carroll led Mizzou with 17 pts. Xavier severely outrebounded Missouri in this game 39-24.
Virginia Tech 74, Fairfield 57. AD Vassallo had 24/4 in his home ‘state’ and Jeff Allen 18/8 as the Hokies rolled over Fairfield by shooting 56% for the game.
Ridiculous Score of the Year.Texas Tech 167, East Central 116. Apparently Pat Knight decided to beef up his schedule this year with a high school team – what, Riverdale or Poly was already booked? But seriously, a 77-pt first half followed by a NINETY-point second half? The Red Raiders shot 59% while putting an absurd TEN players into double figures tonight. We definitely feel bad for TT freshman guard Tyree Graham, who was the only player of fourteen who did not score for the Red Raiders tonight (0-5 in 18 mins).
Other Games of Mild Interest.
Florida 64, S. Utah 50. It took 39:37 for Florida to hit a three to keep its streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer (546) alive. The Gators went 1-16 from three, but 22-34 otherwise and managed to stay just enough ahead of S. Utah to avoid an upset possibility.
Illinois 69, Vanderbilt 63. Another home loss for an SEC team. Illinois shook off a poor shooting night by hitting its threes (10-19) and FTs (11-11) and capitalized on a late 7-0 run to beat Vandy in Memorial Gymnasium, no small task. Good night for the Big Ten.
Ohio St. 70, Delaware St. 42. We only show this score because we couldn’t believe that the OSU court was doubling as a volleyball court (see below). We know OSU can afford to not do this, so what gives? It looks terrible. Oh, and BJ Mullens had 7/3 in his debut.
On Tap Friday (all times EST):
Xavier v. Virginia Tech (ESPNU) – 1:30pm (Puerto Rico Tipoff)
Miami (FL) (-7) v. Southern Miss – 3pm (Paradise Jam)
S. Illinois v. UCLA (ESPN2) – 5pm (CvC)
USC v. UT-Chattanooga (ESPNU) – 5pm (Puerto Rico Tipoff)
San Diego (-6) v. Valparaiso – 5:30pm (Paradise Jam)
Ole Miss (-2) v. Utah – 6:30pm
Duke v. Michigan (ESPN2) – 7pm (CvC)
Syracuse v. Oakland – 7pm
Memphis v. Seton Hall (ESPNU) – 7pm (Puerto Rico Tipoff)
Story of the Night. UCLA’s freshman class. Last year’s freshman class arguably boasted the best player in the country in Kevin Love, but this year’s version, while lacking in equivalent star power, may more than compensate for Love’s loss with its depth and diversity of skills. Jrue Holiday was the only rookie starter tonight in UCLA’s win against Prairie View A&M, but his four classmates (Drew Gordon, Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson and J’Mison Morgan) each came off the bench and contributed aplenty. The quintet accounted for 41% of the minutes, 44% of the points, 44% of the rebounds and 43% of the assists tonight in the 82-58 win. Ok, and 54% of the turnovers, but still, not a bad start for this freshman class of Bruins. As for the game itself, it appears that UCLA still knows how to rebound (41-18) and the defense is still stingy – Prairie View was held to a mere 23% shooting in the first half; the fact that they shot 42% for the game indicates that either UCLA lost focus in the second half or Prairie View settled down – we’re leaning toward the former as an explanation. Darren Collison led the way as he hit five threes en route to a 19/3/4 asst night. The Bruins will play Miami (OH) tomorrow night in the second round of the CvC in a game that should combine for about 50 total pts. Once again, ESPN isn’t allowing embedded videos so we’ll have to settle for linked highlights.
Other Games.S. Illinois 80, UMass 73. We thought this would be the best game of the night, and it looks like we were right, as S. Illinois got themselves down nine at halftime to UMass before storming back behind nine threes in the second half to pull away in the last few minutes to win another home game. Bryan Mullins had a huge night for SIU, going for 16/13/4 stls for the home team, but Kevin Dillard’s four threes in the second half didn’t hurt. UMass was led by Ricky Harris with 24/5, but the stat that jumped off the Minutemen’s page was starting PG Chris Lowe’s TEN turnovers (with zero assists). Michigan 76, Northeastern 56. Gotta admit that we thought this game had upset potential, and we couldn’t have been more wrong. Michigan’s Manny Harris followed up his impressive season debut with nearly a trip-dub (26/10/8 assts), as UM held Northeastern to 29% shooting (17% from three) for the game. UM Hoops points out that, if Michigan is going to threaten this year, they’ll need to shore up their work on the boards. Northeastern grabbed twenty offensive rebounds tonight (amazingly, they only had 29 total boards), and with UCLA looming on the horizon next week in MSG (probably), the Wolverines will need to repair that deficiency. Miami (OH) 70, Weber St. 66. So in the other half of the Westwood bracket, Miami (OH) won a game on a three by Kenny Hayes (24 pts) with 1.7 seconds left on the clock, despite losing nearly every major statistical category in the game. The Redhawks were outshot (by 10% FG), outrebounded (by 7), outassisted (by 3), and yet they still prevailed. How? Turnovers, kids. Seven additional TOs by Weber St. gave Miami just enough extra possessions to sneak by. Miami will play UCLA tomorrow night for the right to play at MSG, and we expect Charlie Coles to have something up his sleeve to make this game interesting for a while.