ATB: On Baylor’s Legitimacy, Brandon Paul’s Explosion, and Frank Martin’s Billy Gillispie Moment…

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. It wasn’t just any other Tuesday night, as a number of ranked teams were in action and there was more than enough intrigue around the country to keep everyone interested. Whether it was a team few people seem to believe in slowly swaying hearts and minds, or a much-maligned former prep star bringing forth the game of his life, or an acerbic coach showing his true colors in a postgame interview, there was a lot to cover tonight. Let’s jump right in…

Will Some Pundits Begin to Take Baylor Seriously Now? (AP/C. Riedel)

Your Watercooler Moment, Part I. Baylor Stakes a Claim of Legitimacy. One of the knocks against Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears to date has been its lack of exceptional road wins this season. Apparently the non-believers did not take seriously wins at BYU and Northwestern, although neither the Marriott Center nor the Welsh-Ryan Arena these days are the easiest places to escape victorious. Still, Kansas State’s Bramlage Arena is universally regarded as a tough-as-nails venue, borne out most recently by K-State’s dominant weekend victory over an unbeaten Missouri squad. Baylor’s mid-second half run to come back from seven points down behind several eye-popping defensive transition dunks, along with its ability to hold K-State to a single bucket in the last four minutes of the game, showed America how things have changed. Last year, Drew’s Bears hardly played defense, generally preferring to use that end of the court to rest before another wild LaceDarius Dunn field goal attempt. This year, long green-and-yellow-clad arms and legs seem to cover all four corners of the court, and in fact, the two game-saving plays on this night resulted from a strip from behind of Angel Rodriguez with three seconds remaining, and a deflected pass on the ensuing inbounds play. The Bears are not going to win every game this season, but they’ve already won 16 and have survived one of their four toughest road tests on the schedule. With Pierre Jackson (10/11 assts) running the show, Brady Heslip (13/4 stls) providing scoring punch, and an elite corps of forwards in Quincy Acy, Perry Jones, III, and Quincy Miller wreaking havoc defensively, it’s time to stop questioning Scott Drew’s team and take the Bears seriously as a national title contender.

Your Watercooler Moment, Part II. Brandon Paul Hits Everything, Leads Illini Over Ohio State. In two-and-a-half seasons at Illinois, Brandon Paul has been better defined by what he is not rather than what he is. The former Chicago-area prep star who came to Champaign with sky-high expectations has largely disappointed, gradually improving his scoring output over three years but never shooting the ball efficiently (career 37.2% shooter) nor becoming an effective distributor (2.0 APG). Paul must have eaten a full bowl of his Wheaties this morning. The 6’4″ junior literally took over tonight’s game against OSU, scoring his team’s last 15 points en route to a career-high 43 points on 8-10 shooting from behind the arc. Unless you saw the game, you cannot comprehend just how ridiculous a couple of the late threes that Paul hit were, perhaps none more so than his final trey which gave Illinois a four-point lead with 43 seconds remaining.

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ATB: Kroger Kontroversy, Chris Mack’s Dunk, and a Bunch of Non-Upsets…

Posted by rtmsf on January 9th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. This was the first full weekend of conference play, and as expected, teams that hadn’t played many legitimate road games prior to the turn of the new year found life away from home in hostile environments to be considerably tougher than lacing another game up at home. It wasn’t the best of college basketball weekends, nor was it the worst, but as we begin to settle ourselves into competition within the family for the next two months, it’s time to separate legitimacy from fraudulence through actual play on the court around the nation. Let’s jump into this weekend’s action.

Your Watercooler Moment. Kentucky Student’s Half-Court Shot Causes Kroger Controversy.

Meet Vincent Swope. No, he actually isn’t an SEC official, he just plays one when he attends Kentucky basketball games at Rupp Arena. The freshman who has turned a referee getup into his game-day trademark in UK’s eRupption Zone was selected to shoot a half-court shot worth $10,000 during Saturday’s game versus South Carolina. As you can see above, his heave from mid-court was true. According to published reports, shortly after the ball found the bottom of the net and Swope ran around the court rightfully celebrating his newfound riches, a representative from Kroger Foods, the contest sponsor, approached him suggesting that he had violated the terms of the contest by stepping over the half-court line. In the pantheon of snaky moves, Kroger’s reported attempt to screw a young student out of his winnings due to a technicality would have reached a new level of shady business dealings. Luckily, Matt Jones at Kentucky Sports Radio became aware of the situation and immediately mobilized his legion of Twitter followers to #occupyKroger in an anti-corporate social networking throwdown that would make Ralph Nader and Naomi Klein proud. Within an hour of the game’s finish, Kroger had caved and in fact called Jones himself to beg for his forgiveness, asking him to pass along to Swope that the company would make good on his prize. As of Sunday evening, Swope says that he hasn’t yet received the money, but we’d wager that Kroger has learned its lesson and won’t drag their feet too long on paying him. Great work from KSR/Jones in ensuring the right outcome here.

[ed. note: Kroger reached out to us, taking the stance that the company never suggested to Swope that he would not be paid for his shot. This contradicts Swope’s accounting of the sequence of events to Matt Jones, but it appears that Kroger will in fact pay the freshman his winnings, which is all anyone wanted in the first place.]

Then, There Was This. Chris Mack Gives Up His Knee For a Xavier Win. In an exceptionally odd situation, Xavier head coach Chris Mack jumped in the layup line during Friday’s practice and, after dunking the ball once, ended up tearing his patellar tendon in a freakish accident trying to do it again. Andre Walker said afterward that Mack’s injury was “really weird… a freak accident,” and to that sentiment we certainly agree. First of all, props to Mack for trying just about anything to get his team off the schneid (XU had lost five of six before beating Fordham Saturday) and for still being able to dunk a basketball at the age of 42, but he probably should have wowed the players just once and left it at that! What a weird season it’s already been at Xavier.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.06 – 01.08

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are plenty of games to watch over the next few days but these five from the Big East, Big 12 and Big Ten are the best of the bunch:

#9 Georgetown @ West Virginia – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ (***)

  • Now 13-1 with one of the better resumes in the nation, Georgetown seems to be a legitimate Big East title contender despite some question marks on its roster. The Hoyas have scored two big road wins already, at Alabama and Louisville, and this would be another one in the always tough WVU Coliseum. Jason Clark scored 26 points in the Hoyas’ 17-point comeback against Marquette on Wednesday night and the senior guard will look to lead his team on the road yet again. Georgetown will have to win this game with inside play and defense. The Hoyas shoot a high percentage inside the arc and they’ll be going up against a WVU defense that’s ranked #87 in the same area of the floor. With Clark, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims able to score inside, Georgetown has a clear edge in that department.
  • Truck Bryant had 29 points in Wednesday’s win at Rutgers to move WVU to 2-1 in Big East play. Along with his freshmen guard teammates, Bryant will have to keep the basketball away from a Georgetown defense that ranks #15 in efficiency. The Mountaineers won’t get many easy looks so they can’t be turning the ball over against the Hoyas. WVU averages 15 turnovers per game. The Mountaineers do make 53.2% of their field goals inside the arc but they’ll be challenged by the stout Georgetown defense. Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli have to be major factors in the paint but Jones also has to be able to stretch his game to mid-range and beyond in order to open up some looks inside. In addition, West Virginia has to do a terrific job on the offensive boards. It’s not likely that the Mountaineers will be draining a high percentage of their deep shots so they must rebound aggressively and get second chance buckets.
  • West Virginia has won the last four games between these teams and both shot lights out earlier this week against Rutgers (WVU) and Marquette (GT). The Hoyas, despite going only 13-23 from the charity stripe on Wednesday, have a big edge at the foul line should this game come down to the wire, which it very well could. Georgetown is the better team but West Virginia can win with better defense and Bryant staying hot. We’d be surprised if this game isn’t close.

The Dynamic Kim English Is Just One Of Several Players To Keep An Eye Out For When The Tigers Tangle With Kansas State (columbiatribune)

#6 Missouri @ #21 Kansas State – 1:30 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ (****)

  • Missouri’s first big test has arrived. The Tigers have been phenomenal so far this season but they will face a stiff challenge in Manhattan from an angry Kansas State team coming off a blowout loss to Kansas. Mizzou was 1-7 on the road last season in Big 12 play and that has to be in the back of the players’ minds as they head into this contest. Frank Haith’s four guard lineup is ranked second in offensive efficiency and shot 59.3% from the floor in an evisceration of Oklahoma earlier this week. Missouri is top 10 in three-point, two-point and free throw percentage on the strength of Kim English’s resurgence, Marcus Denmon, Michael Dixon and company. This is arguably the best back court in college basketball but it needs to have poise playing on the road in front of what will be a raucous crowd at the Octagon of Doom. Read the rest of this entry »
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Considering the Big 12 Overachievers and Pleasers

Posted by cwilliams on December 20th, 2011

Even though the 2011-12 college basketball season still has its youth, it is already easy to identify some of the individuals who have overachieved this season. Players who, for one reason or another, are not only meeting expectations but blasting through them. Overachievers are on every team and come in all shapes and sizes, but this group has shown through the first month-plus of the season that they will have a major impact on the Big 12 this season. The title of overachiever doesn’t stick with these players forever, though — they either become a star, or are considered an “almost-was.” Here we list the five Big 12 basketball players who are overachieving to this point in the season.

Nobody Likes the Overachievers in College. Except on the Hardwood. (

  1. Steven Pledger, Oklahoma – While it is probably safe to consider the entire Sooner roster as overachievers due to their impressive 8-1 start, Pledger seems to be the backbone of their success. He has become a proven floor general this season and has almost doubled his points per game from last year, even while averaging fewer minutes.
  2. Jordan Tolbert, Texas Tech – While Tolbert was expected to be one of the Red Raiders’ key freshmen on this team, nobody expected him to be the entire team. Tolbert is leading the Texas Tech in both points per game (14.0) and rebounds per game (6.2), and he dropped 22 against Grambling, 16 against DePaul, and 27 against future Big 12 member TCU. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Weekend Edition — Indiana’s Statement Win, a Crosstown Blowup, & Dunkdafied…

Posted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2011

This Weekend’s Lede. Saturday was one of the wildest afternoons of college basketball in recent memory. Within a five-hour window from around 2:30 PM to 7:30 PM EST, we experienced one of the ugliest incidents in the modern history of college basketball, followed by both the nation’s #1 and #2 teams losing their first games of the season on the road. The afternoon’s action had the feeling of March in the intensity and drama of the games played, but the added bonus of insane home crowds hungry for key December victories over a bitter rival or, just because. Let’s jump into a busy weekend of storylines…

Your Watercooler Moment. Malice in the Cintas.

We will have much more to say on this in our sister ATB focusing exclusively on the events that occurred with 9.4 seconds remaining in the Crosstown Shootout on Saturday (the post will go live at 6:45 AM EST). Look, we all know that fights sometimes happen in sports, and they’re more likely to happen in volatile situations involving bitter rivals who don’t like each other. The fight was bad enough — in our view, Cincinnati’s Cheikh Mbodj should face criminal battery charges for his stomp to Kenny Frease’s head while the player was already lying on the floor — but the real shame in all of this was the aftermath. Not only did Xavier completely embarrass itself as a school and program in allowing Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons to get on the dais and act like they were representing XU straight outta Compton, but both schools failed to step up Sunday and properly punish the players involved — the most any player was suspended was six games (UC’s Yancy Gates, Octavius Ellis and Mbodj). We hate to say it, but the image-conscious NBA would have been much harsher in its punishments of these players, and given that all of the adults at both schools went to great pains afterward to suggest that such an out-of-control incident was unconscionable, this appears to be yet another example of actions speaking louder than words.

Grab a Coffee While You’re At It. #1 Kentucky Loses at the Buzzer.

Rules for rushing the court are mostly general guidelines that come down to whether it feels right given the specifics of the situation. There are few scenarios that will feel better than Indiana’s buzzer-beating win over #1 Kentucky on Saturday evening. All of the following boxes were checked: 1) IU beat the #1 team in America; 2) on a buzzer-beating shot; 3) after it appeared the Hoosiers had blown the game; 4) versus a bitter rival; 5) in a statement win for the program that announced its status as a national player again. You simply won’t find many more perfect situations for an RTC, and Hoosier fans responded appropriately, filling the court from all corners of the arena with exalted jubilation. It was an outstanding game, and an even more outstanding RTC. For some great reactions recorded around the interwebs, check out some of these: a real-time call by IU’s play-by-play radio guy, Don Fischeran IU dad goes crazy in his house; a Bloomington bar called Nick’s explodes when Watford’s shot goes down; the scene at floor level for the final play and the ensuing RTC.

Perhaps the best thing we’ve seen from this weekend is this mash-up put together by an IU student (@dbaba12) which shows clips from the camp-out, the game itself (including his halftime prediction of an RTC), the final play, and the aftermath. It’s stuff like this that reminds us why we love college basketball.

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ATB: Double-OT Causes Frank Martin’s Head to Explode, Harvard Acquits Itself Well, & Kilicli’s Beard…

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Thursday was a light night on our college basketball buffet, but there were at least two games that made sticking around the house and avoiding the hordes of hysterics downtown worthwhile. An early look at a team that some have been (wrongfully) calling the best Ivy League team of all-time versus the defending national champs was followed by a double-overtime slugfest in the heartland featuring teacher and student. The quality of basketball on this night was not the highest we’ve ever seen, but it was entertaining and it sure beat getting run over by nutty shoppers at CB2.

Your Watercooler Moment. Frank Martin’s Insanity Is No Match For His Mentor.

The above clip was the result of the play that more or less sealed the game for West Virginia in its key 85-80 double-overtime road victory “at” Kansas State tonight (actually in Wichita, but the place was purple). Frank Martin’s f-bombing eyeball act is a bit to Bobby Knight-ish for our tastes, but his ire may have been better directed in chastising the player(s) assigned guarding West Virginia’s superb forward, Kevin Jones, rather than running down his reserve guard, Angel Rodriguez. Even against a defense as tough as K-State’s, Jones made mincemeat of it. He went for his career-high 30 points using a variety of baby hooks, jumpers, drives and crafty maneuvers around the basket. He also grabbed 12 boards, blocked two shots, and hit the three to send the game to overtime as well as the post move to give WVU the lead for good in the second overtime. In other words, he spent 49 of 50 available minutes giving Frank Martin’s team and coaching staff nightmares. In proving that sometimes you just never know, Jones is bringing 21/12 to the table this season while shooting the ball at a 57% clip. Everybody knew he was good, but he’s putting up All-America type of numbers right now. Whether that is sustainable remains to be seen, what we can say with certainty is that this game between Bob Huggins as mentor and Frank Martin as pupil is a very good one — if this is what WVU’s admittance to the Big 12 will regularly look like, a street fight somewhere on the Plains, we’re on board.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 12.05.11 Edition

Posted by cwilliams on December 5th, 2011

  1. A big weekend for Big 12 basketball. We’ll start with Friday’s marquee matchup, Missouri vs. Northwestern State, a game the Tigers won easily, 90-56. It was all Marcus Denmon, all night, as he cruised to a career-high 31 points. Denmon, however, says the Tigers want more, saying, “I feel that starting off 7-0 is good, but it’s something that we want to build on as a team. It’s not something that we’re satisfied with at all.”
  2. Normally a Top 25 matchup, the UCLA-Texas game lacked the national focus it usually carries. That doesn’t mean folks in attendance weren’t treated to a exciting game, though, one in which Texas rallied from an 11-point first half deficit to earn the 69-59 victory. J’Covan Brown dropped 22 points, but the real story was freshman guard Myck Kabongo filling out the stat sheet. Kabongo finished with 13 points, five rebounds, eight assists, and one steal. In a strange turn of events, the LA Sports Arena encountered a power outage early in the first half. After the lights came back on, Texas played at a different level, narrowing the halftime deficit to six before taking control in the second half.
  3. In another game that usually gathers more media attention, K-State defeated Virginia Tech on Sunday in Blacksburg with a narrow 69-61 victory. The Wildcats have encountered considerable doubt this season, with many pundits expecting them to have only an NIT-caliber season. However, the ‘Cats keep winning, and Frank Martin seems to have just as much faith in this team as he had in his previous teams.
  4. In a matchup of undefeated teams, Baylor easily defeated Northwestern in Evanston, 69-41. While Perry Jones didn’t have the kind of game he did in his season debut, the Bears received contributions from everybody and dominated the Wildcats from the get-go. Scott Drew has taken notice of his squad embracing the team concept, saying, “I’ve really been impressed with the unselfishness of the players.”
  5. While there were some solid matchups this past weekend, many Big 12 basketball eyes are on Tuesday night, when 13th-ranked Missouri will square off against Villanova in the Jimmy V Classic, played at Madison Square Garden. This will be the first time the Tigers have played in Madison Square Garden since 1988, a year before any of the Tiger players were born. Marcus Denmon stated, “the Garden obviously is one of the biggest basketball venues to play in in the world. It’s something that we’re looking forward to.”
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ATB: Entertaining SEC/Big East Challenge Deadlocked After One Night

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Big East Earns Two Road Wins in SEC/Big East Challenge.

The Length of Kentucky Frustated St. John's to the Tune of 18 Blocks (LHL/P. Alcala)

The first of the three-night SEC/Big East Challenge is in the books, and at least at this point, the Big East appears to have the upper hand. After Georgetown and Providence earned road wins at Alabama and South Carolina that neither was expected to achieve, the conferences are tied at 2-2 going into Friday night’s quadruple-header. Kentucky and Ole Miss saved face for the SEC with two wins of its own, but the Rebels barely survived at DePaul and UK was a heavy favorite over St. John’s. With three Big East schools hosting games on Friday night, and all three positioned as significant favorites, the league will be in a great spot to take a commanding lead in the 12-game challenge heading into Saturday’s final four games. Can the SEC simply send Kentucky’s long-armed corps of flyswatters to each Big East arena instead?

Your Watercooler Moment. Hollis If Ya Hear Me!

Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson came through with a big-time play on the road at Alabama tonight when many lesser teams and players would have crumbled under the pressure. After methodically imposing its defensive will on the Crimson Tide for 38 minutes to take a nine-point lead with a little over two minutes remaining, Alabama went on a 10-0 run behind its stars JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell to take a one-point advantage into Georgetown’s final possession. As the video above shows, Jason Clark, a Thursday All-American, dribble handed off to Thompson on the right side and he drained the long three for the win, ending Alabama’s 24-game home winning streak (fourth longest in the nation). The Hoyas are playing better than anyone could have anticipated and have now defeated two top-15 teams (Memphis as well) while giving another (Kansas) all it wanted. Credit is deserving to John Thompson, III, who has fashioned another really good team after losing his stellar backcourt of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman to graduation last season.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #8 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 29th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#8 – Where Get On That Floor Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.17.11 Edition.

Posted by cwilliams on October 17th, 2011

  1. BYU athletic director Tom Helmoe publicly discussed his school’s involvement with the Big 12 in the conference realignment saga in an interview before the BYU-Oregon State football game. Like pretty much every AD involved in conference realignment, Helmoe played it very safe, stating nothing but the facts. He discussed how BYU did not have an invitation but would not comment further on what BYU’s desired result might be during the conference realignment era. He did admit, however, that discussions with the Big 12 have occurred, and that BYU has been “monitoring the landscape of conference realignment for some time.”
  2. The Columbia Tribune recently posted a story debating whether or not the alleged financial benefits of Missouri joining the SEC were true. The AP recently broke the news of a study conducted by the Missouri Board of Curators determining that Missouri could earn up to $12 million more annually if it joined the SEC. Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas stated, “I don’t think that’s accurate… I’d like to see the report. I’d like to know who wrote it.”
  3. The Wichita Eagle has a story up about Kansas State and how the integration of newcomers and veterans is going. Frank Martin stated, “We’ve got a group of guys who are extremely experienced and then we’ve got a group of guys who have absolutely no experience”. One thing is for certain, the Wildcats will have a different look about them this season than they have in recent years.
  4. Also in K-State news, coach Frank Martin said that the addition of TCU to the Big 12 will greatly help Kansas State recruiting. “I’m ecstatic about it. We recruit Dallas a lot,” said Martin, who expresses his pleasure in being able to tell the parents of Dallas-area recruits that they will be able to see their sons play in an arena much closer in proximity to their homes when compared to Waco, College Station, Lubbock and Austin.
  5. The KC Star analyzed the regional differences between various parts of The Show-Me State, from it’s corn fields in the north to the urban sprawl in St. Louis to the mountains in the southwest portion and the southern feel in the bootheel.  Depending on where someone lives in the state of Missouri, it’s likely that geography and culture in that locale influences the prevailing opinion on whether Mizzou should jump ship to the SEC, Big Ten or stick with the Big 12.  It’s an interesting analysis for a state that often has trouble describing its own character as a result of its central location stuck between the Midwest, Southeast and Great Plains.
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