Set Your Tivo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 1st, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

A lot of the college basketball world was in action on Friday and we have just 27 games tipping off on New Year’s Day. However, a handful involve some pretty good teams. A number of games are on Sunday but not many happen to be compelling matchups.  All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

West Virginia @ Marquette – 11 am Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

An important game for both clubs, this one tips at a strange time (10 am local) on New Year’s Day. West Virginia suffered a surprising loss to St. John’s at home earlier this week and doesn’t look like a vintage Bob Huggins team. The Mountaineers have struggled a bit with defense and rebounding, two staples of Huggins’ coaching career. They rank just #278 in defensive rebounding percentage and aren’t as strong inside as they have been. West Virginia fouls a lot, leading to foul problems and many free throws for the opposition. Marquette will look to take advantage of that with their free throw rate against, ninth in the nation. Look for the Golden Eagles to have a significant edge at the line as a result. A big part of WVU’s struggles has been the reluctance of Kevin Jones and Deniz Kilicli to explode and become big time players. Jones is still a good player but he hasn’t improved to the point where most expected him to. One player who has is Casey Mitchell, averaging 17 PPG which leads the team. The Mountaineer offense is very efficient (#9 in the country) due to effective point guard play from Darryl Bryant. “Truck” sets the tone for a very good half court unit. West Virginia does rebound well on their end, resulting in a lot of second chance points, but their defense and rebounding on the other end of the floor has let them down. St. John’s put up 81 points against them, a stunning number for a team that isn’t considered an offensive powerhouse by any stretch. Marquette will look to push the ball and work it inside in order to get easier looks and be fouled. Buzz Williams has an undersized team but they do a great job of using their athleticism by getting in the paint and creating good looks. MU gets 62% of their points inside the arc and is #11 in the country in two point percentage. They have a good turnover margin as well and will look to get points in the paint through lots of transition opportunities.  Jae Crowder has added another dimension to the Marquette attack, giving them a good scorer inside and out as well as a solid rebounder. He and Jimmy Butler will be key players for the home folks today. Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Williams is the play of Darius Johnson-Odom over the last two games. His struggles from three have been well documented this season but he’s hit seven of his last eleven trifectas. Keeping that hot shooting going will be tough against West Virginia’s #4 rated three point defense but you have to think DJO has some good vibes now. Marquette’s three point defense isn’t very good but they must try to contain Mitchell on the wing. This should be a fairly close game but we like the Golden Eagles to win at home. Nobody knows how the players will react to such an early start but Marquette is playing better right now and should take this one.

#16 Notre Dame @ #4 Syracuse – 3:30 pm Saturday on ESPNU (****)

This matchup has turned into a really good one with the surprising success of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish picked Georgetown apart (no small feat) earlier this week and will look to grab a big time road win on Saturday afternoon. The keys here are Notre Dame’s rebounding and three point shooting. The Irish run a great offense at a relatively slow pace and will have to get comfortable in the half court against the Syracuse zone. If the three’s are not falling, this will be a long game for Mike Brey. However, we think they will and Notre Dame has an excellent chance to go into Syracuse and grab a win. Notre Dame is an experienced squad and knows what they need to do here. Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough will look to shoot over the 2-3 zone while Tyrone Nash will play a big role inside against Syracuse’s Rick Jackson. Nash is the best player in the country at drawing fouls, an important statistic against Jackson and Kris Joseph (52 points in his last two games) inside. If the Syracuse bigs are in foul trouble, Notre Dame has a tremendous chance to win. As a team, the Irish are one of the best at getting to the line and keeping their opponent off it. Their free throw rates are very good on both ends so Syracuse will have to get it done shooting the ball from the floor. That’ll be tough against a Notre Dame team coming off a tremendous defensive performance against the Hoyas. Each team takes good care of the ball so turnovers don’t figure to be a huge factor in this game. The rebounding battle may decide the outcome. Both teams do a nice job on the glass but Jim Boeheim has the best rebounder on the floor with Jackson in the middle. He averages 12 RPG and can single handedly carry the Orange to victory. Getting the ball to Jackson on offense falls to Scoop Jardine, a very good point guard averaging six assists per outing. This is a great matchup between two teams that should contend for a double-bye at the Big East Tournament in March. Syracuse will be favored and obviously has a good chance to win but we’re going to go out on a limb here and take the Irish in an upset on the road.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.28.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 28th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Monday was a good night for Pennsylvania as Pittsburgh handed Connecticut its first loss and Penn State knocked off Indiana on the road. Conference play rolls on today with two key Big Ten matchups in the upper Midwest. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#11 Purdue @ Michigan – 2 pm on Big Ten Network (***)

Purdue Handled Michigan Last Season (Mich Daily/T. Sharman)

This Tuesday matinee is a great opportunity for Michigan to put itself back on the Big Ten map. The Wolverines are 9-2 against D1 competition and had a very close loss to a top five Syracuse squad. This game pits two guard heavy teams against one another, though Purdue has JaJuan Johnson in the paint. Michigan is vulnerable inside making Jordan Morgan and Evan Smotrycz important players for John Beilein this afternoon. They have to defend Johnson well but more importantly they must grab rebounds. Purdue is not a tremendous rebounding team and neither team shoots all that well so there are going to be plenty of chances for the Wolverines to pick up extra possessions. Michigan is #210 in offensive rebounding percentage and they’ll have to do a much better job than that in order to score inside. As was the case with his West Virginia teams, Beilein loves the three ball. Michigan launches an average of 24 treys per game but connects on just a third of them. Still, the three pointer is the great equalizer in college basketball and when you shoot that often, a lot of shots are going to go through the net. The problem for Michigan is that Purdue ranks #4 in the nation in three point defense and third in defensive efficiency. It’s going to be difficult for the Wolverines to score but Darius Morris will try to make things happen. Michigan’s dynamic guard is averaging 16 PPG and almost eight assists as well while shooting over 50% from the floor. He needs to have a good game and set the table for others like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Zack Novak, a tremendous rebounder for his position and size. Hardaway is shooting just 30% from deep and must get going for Michigan to take the next step up and into the middle of the Big Ten pack. For Purdue, Matt Painter has hinted he’d like to go big but expect a lot of four guard sets with Lewis Jackson and E’Twaun Moore running the show. Outside of Johnson, Purdue’s bigs have averaged just over four PPG and six RPG in 25 minutes of play combined, clearly not getting it done. In order to win, Michigan has to shoot the ball well, control the boards and play solid defense. Beilein loves his 1-3-1 zone and it can work wonders against a team that doesn’t see it often. Expect him to use it in this game and adjust if Johnson does damage underneath the basket. Smotrycz is a key player because he can pull Johnson away from the basket, possessing the capability of knocking down a triple here and there. If the Wolverines can get Johnson into foul trouble early, they’ll have a great chance to pull the upset at home. Purdue is the better team but this should be a very close game today in Ann Arbor.

#13 Minnesota @ #14 Wisconsin – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

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Set Your Tivo: 12.13.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 13th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Tonight begins a week of almost nothing of significance in the college basketball world. Many schools have finals this week resulting in the annual light schedule for this week.  All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Florida Atlantic @ Siena – 7:30 pm on Time Warner Cable Sports (*)

Siena enters the game at 2-6 coming off three straight losses. The Saints were expected to contend at the top of the MAAC but they’ve looked ordinary so far. It would be foolish to write them off however as they have quality talent for a mid-major league, talent that’s experienced for the most part. Surprisingly, Siena is 0-4 at home under the direction of first year head coach Mitch Buonaguro. He does have two star players though as Ryan Rossiter and Clarence Jackson are back for their senior seasons in upstate New York. Rossiter has been outstanding, averaging 20/13. Those 13 rebounds are good enough for second in the country behind Kenneth Faried of Morehead State. A key matchup in this game will be Rossiter against FAU’s Kore White who had 18/8 in a win at Mississippi State and was 5-8 from the floor in a victory over South Florida. At 6’8/245, White possesses the height and strength to bang with the 6’9/235 Rossiter. The Owls are 5-4 against D1 competition and have won three straight, including the wins against MSU and USF. They’re led by former St. John’s head coach Mike Jarvis who is trying to work his way back up the coaching ladder. Florida Atlantic takes good care of the ball, ranked eighth in offensive turnover percentage. They should win the turnover battle against a Siena team that averages 16 turnovers a game. Siena may be shorthanded as Owen Wignot missed their last game against Fairfield with a head injury. Wignot has been a valuable weapon, hitting 13 of his 21 three point attempts this season. Jarvis has a shooter of his own in leading scorer Gregg Gantt, averaging 15 PPG and 40% from three. The senior duo of Rossiter and Jackson should do most of the scoring for Siena and Rossiter should especially look to take advantage inside. FAU gives up 51% shooting from inside the arc on average but White should be able to contain him somewhat, at least you’d think so. This should be a pretty good game between two decent mid-major teams, despite Siena’s record.

Green Bay @ Wisconsin – 8 pm on Big Ten Network (*)

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Set Your Tivo: 11.20.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

#22 Wisconsin @ UNLV – 7 pm on Versus (****)

Take This Man Lightly At Your Own Risk

Bo Ryan’s Badgers always seem to fly under the radar but you can bet UNLV won’t be taking them lightly. Tre’Von Hughes is back for the Rebels after a suspension and will play a key role going up against a strong Wisconsin backcourt led by Jordan Taylor. UNLV does a lot of things well but one thing they haven’t been successful at so far this year is three point shooting (ranked #241). They make up for that on defense, ranking first in the country in two point FG% defense. That defense will be put to the test against an incredibly efficient Wisconsin offense. All-American candidate Jon Leuer has been on fire to start the season. Leuer leads an offense ranked sixth in efficiency and first in offensive rebounds, not to mention being highly ranked in other offensive categories. Wisconsin’s problem is three point defense. The good thing for them, as we mentioned, is that UNLV is not a good shooting team from behind the arc. Will that change? The teams will probably meet in the middle. We can’t wait to see the matchups in the backcourt between Taylor/Keaton Nankivil/Josh Gasser for Wisconsin and Willis/Anthony Marshall/Oscar Bellfield for UNLV. There’s also a pretty good front court matchup going as Leuer and Chace Stanback go head to head. This is one of the better games of November and will look great on the winner’s resume come March.

Dayton @ Mississippi – 7 pm (no TV) (**)

This is a rematch of a game from last season’s NIT, won by the eventual champion Flyers of Dayton. Both could use a win here to enhance their resume in hopes of moving up to the big tournament this year. Dayton returns three of its top five scorers from a year ago led by senior Chris Wright. The 6’8 forward should have an advantage going up against a relatively thin Rebel front line but he was held to 1-9 shooting in last season’s matchup, though he did pull down 11 rebounds. Chris Johnson led all scorers last year with 22/10 but he’s struggled so far, scoring only nine points in two games. Dayton is going to have to do a nice job defending a fairly efficient Mississippi offense led by Chris Warren (is everybody playing in this game named Chris?) and Zach Graham. Graham had 22 points in a good win over Murray State on Wednesday night, a game many including yours truly thought Ole Miss could lose. Mississippi is not a very good defensive team but Dayton lacks offensive punch. The Flyers have struggled in a few offensive areas, especially free throw and three point shooting. The good news is that Mississippi doesn’t defend the three well so if someone can get hot from deep for Dayton they may be able to parlay that into a victory. Mississippi doesn’t have many opportunities for quality non-conference wins on their schedule but we think they’ll get this one and avenge last season’s loss to Dayton.

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Let’s Kick It Off: Observing a College Football Weekend Through A Hoops Lens

Posted by rtmsf on September 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 Conferences and an occasional contributor.

Hooray! Today is the official end of the Great Sports Desert – you know, that period of time between the first Monday in April and the first weekend of the college football season. Beginning tonight, there are actual meaningful sporting events that I am interested in. Let’s be clear, I love college football. Easily my second favorite sport. But, I’m a college hoops junkie first and foremost, and part of the reason I love the start of college football season is because that means that the start of college basketball is within shouting distance from here. And, while looking over the slate of college football games this weekend, I couldn’t help but imagine some of these matchups as college basketball games. So, here I have, in reverse order, the ten most intriguing matchups of the college football weekend, provided they are re-imagined as season openers in basketball season.  (ed. note: yes, he is sick, but we love him for it)

College Sports is Back on the Calendar!

First, a nod to a handful of games which, being a junkie and all, definitely appeal to me, but were just a bit off of my top-10 list:

  • Pittsburgh @ Utah – on Thursday night, with only six other games on. If this was basketball season, and there were only six other games on, you could bet I’d watch some of this. Sure, Utah isn’t going to be very good, but it would be interesting to see Pitt go on the road early into a hostile environment.
  • Murray State @ Kent State – a very good mid-major matchup between one of last season’s Cinderellas and one of the MAC’s always competitive teams.
  • Connecticut @ Michigan – this game just sounds really good, but in reality, UConn is down and Michigan is, well, I would say Michigan is down, but its been awhile since they’ve been up.
  • Richmond @ Virginia – a big intrastate matchup between the A-10 and the ACC. If Virginia was just a little bit better, this may have made the cut, because UR will be very good again, but a road trip into the John Paul Jones Arena would be a good early test for Kevin Anderson and company.
  • Northwestern @ Vanderbilt – as enticing as this Wildcat/Commodore matchup would be between two talented teams with NCAA Tournament hopes, this just misses the cut.

And on to the top 10:

  • #10 – Washington State @ Oklahoma StateKlay Thompson, Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto invade the Gallagher-Iba Arena to provide a good early season test for a young Cowboy squad minus last season’s two leading scorers. While the young Cowboy guards Ray Penn and Keiton Page keep this close throughout, too much Thompson eventually does them in.

Predicted Football Score: Oklahoma State 31 Washington State 10

Predicted Basketball Score: Washington State 72 Oklahoma State 66

  • #9 – UCLA @ Kansas State – Kansas State is one of the teams on the short list of national title contenders. UCLA is, well, honestly, not very good at least judging by last season’s performance. But, they’re still UCLA. And their frontline of Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith and Tyler Honeycutt will test Curtis Kelly, Wally Judge and company, perhaps even to a draw. We’ll also get a first chance to see if the Bruins have even remotely solved their problems at the point, an area of concern that will eventually be the deciding factor in this matchup as Jacob Pullen eventually gets over on Malcolm Lee and the Wildcats pull away in the second half.

Pullen is Back With Another Strong Team

Predicted Football Score: UCLA 23 Kansas State 17

Predicted Basketball Score: Kansas State 70 UCLA 60

  • #8 – Syracuse @ AkronJim Boeheim taking his Orange on the road early against a Midwest mid-major? Sure, that’ll happen. But, if it did, I’d be thrilled to see my first glimpse of Syracuse freshman center Fab Melo battling the Zips own young center, sophomore seven-footer Zeke Marshall. Sure, the Orange’s talent would probably win out in the end with Akron not having an answer for Kris Joseph, but I’m pretty sure that we’d get at least 30 minutes of pretty compelling basketball here.

Predicted Football Score: Syracuse 24, Akron 20

Predicted Basketball Score: Syracuse 67 Akron 55

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Second Round Game Analysis: Sunday Games

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 16 of the second round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Sunday games.

12:10 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #8 Gonzaga  (Buffalo pod)

In the CBS national game to start the day, everyone will get this very enticing game between Syracuse and Gonzaga.  Given the way this year is winding up, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Orange without their big man Arinze Onuaku found itself on the short end of the score around 2:30 pm today.  But we still have faith in Syracuse even without the talented center and we think that Jim Boeheim’s team is too good to fall short of the Final Four this early.  The primary problem that the Zags are going to have is one they didn’t have to worry as much about with Florida State, and that is in stopping the powerful SU offense.  With offensive scoring threats at all five positions, Syracuse is in a far more advantageous position than FSU was (with their limited offense) when Gonzaga caught fire on Friday — if the Zags want to get into a shootout with Syracuse, that’s not likely to end well for them. Still, with the way the Big East has had so many early round troubles, and the WCC looking great with St. Mary’s already in the Sweet Sixteen, we’re not ready to dismiss the Zags based on that alone.  The Syracuse zone is likely to be something that Mark Few’s team has not seen with such athletes all season, so even with their ability to put the ball in the hole, we hesitate to think the Zags can consistently score on it.

The Skinny: Gonzaga will push the Orange, but we still like this team to advance and make a serious push for the national title in coming weeks.

2:20 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

You might not see it on their faces, but the Buckeyes are smiling.  Northern Iowa’s removal of Kansas puts Ohio State in the driver’s seat in the Midwest region.  That said, there’s still no way Thad Matta and Evan Turner are going to let the rest of that team look past their opponents and assume an open road to Indianapolis.  Good thing, because Georgia Tech showed us that they’re not just made up of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal and a bunch of suckers.  The Yellow Jackets shot 2-10 from the three point line but balanced that by holding Big 12 player of the year James Anderson to a 3-12 shooting night, 0-6 from beyond the three-point arc, and an overall 11 points.  But the most impressive aspect of Georgia Tech’s performance on Friday night — by FAR — was the fact that they went to the free throw line 25 times — and hit 24 of them!  It wasn’t just Lawal and Favors.  Tech played nine players, and eight of them shot at least one free throw.  Evan Turner isn’t just the player of the year in his conference, though — he’s likely the national POY, so the Tech task is that much tougher.  Turner wasn’t himself in their first round game against UCSB, going 2-13 and posting only nine points (though he did contribute 10 boards and five assists).  He’s looking to break out, and knows he’ll have to be at his best.  Lawal and Favors, though, will be looking to get Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler, and Turner in foul trouble early and open poke some holes in that OSU front line.

The Skinny:  You probably don’t want to go with our Midwest picks, since yesterday we took Kansas and Ohio.  It’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that this will be a great second round game, but that stat line of Turner’s shows you that he can play such an important role on the team even when he’s not scoring.  For Tech to win, they’d have to turn in a similar performance at the free throw line, keep Turner under wraps and coax him into a supporting role again, and cool down Jon Diebler.  That’s a tough trifecta to pull off.  We don’t see it happening.  But we didn’t see Northern Iowa dismissing Kansas, either.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on February 10th, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

The big thing from the past week:

  • The Big Ten is wide open – So much for Michigan State being in the driver’s seat. The Big Ten has now split itself almost completely in half. There are the teams in the top who have a legitimate shot at winning the conference, and the rest that have absolutely no shot except for the role of spoiler. Michigan State has lost three straight, Ohio State has won five straight, Purdue has won six straight, and Illinois has won five straight. Now the race is on. There are few head-to-head matchups of top teams in the next week, so be on the lookout for upsets as the only way to continue the conference shakedown.

Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: Purdue #6, Michigan State #10, Wisconsin #11, and Ohio State #13.

Power Rankings

  1. Purdue                                 20-3, 8-3
  2. Michigan State                  19-6, 9-3
  3. Wisconsin                            17-5, 8-4
  4. Ohio State                           18-6, 8-3
  5. Illinois                                   17-8, 9-3
  6. Minnesota                          14-8, 5-5
  7. Northwestern                   16-7, 5-6
  8. Michigan                              11-12, 4-7
  9. Indiana                                 9-13, 3-7
  10. Iowa                                      8-16, 2-9
  11. Penn State                          8-15, 0-11

Coming Up

  • Michigan @ Minnesota – February 11th – 7:00 ET – ESPN – This is really the battle of the two teams in the Big Ten with some of the most unfulfilled potential, at least as far as the pre-season rankings are concerned. Rather surprisingly, these two teams have yet to meet this season, but at home, I am leaning toward a victory for the Gophers, but I look forward to seeing what Team Sims & Harris have to say about that for the Wolverines.
  • Ohio State @ Illinois – February 14th – 1:00 ET – CBS – This is the first of two great Valentine’s Day games in the Big Ten. I know it might get you in trouble to watch this game instead of doing some more traditional things that won’t get you in trouble. For the single guys, or those who are married and who want to get in trouble, this should be a great game, especially in terms of how the Big Ten standings will shake out. It is very likely that, as of press time, Illinois and Ohio State will be tied with Michigan State for the top of the Big Ten. This will be the first matchup for these two teams, so it will be interesting to see what Illinois does to compensate for their lack of size and strength against the Buckeyes. I think OSU is playing too well right now to lose this game, even though Demetri McCamey is going toe to toe with anyone in the Big Ten right now for Illinois.
  • Minnesota @ Northwestern – February 14th – 5:00 ET – This game means more to Northwestern than for Minnesota, at least as far as postseason hopes are concerned. Minnesota won the last matchup by 4 points at home, but it should be a different game on the road. The Gophers have struggled on the road this year, especially against decent teams, so the edge goes to Northwestern, especially if the Big Ten hopes to have five or six teams in the tournament this year, which might be a stretch, based on the conference’s RPI ranking.

Breaking It Down

  • Oh where, oh where have the Spartans gone? Michigan State’s leadership is firmly vested in Kalin Lucas.  Unfortunately for Michigan State, three games ago, when taking on Wisconsin on the road, Lucas sprained his ankle, and the Spartans haven’t been the same since. The Spartans with Lucas don’t lose against Illinois, but I am not sure he could have overcome Purdue at 100%. The problem area for MSU has been their defense and the inconsistent play of Durrell Summers. In their first matchup, Wisconsin shot 33.3% for the game against MSU’s 38.1%. In the second matchup, Wisconsin shoots 50.9% to MSU’s 37.0%. Same with the Illinois games. In the first matchup, Illinois shoots 34.9% compared with their 52.5% for the second. Durrell Summers was good for double figures in losses to Illinois and Wisconsin, but only 2 against Purdue. Summers can’t be that inconsistent for the Spartans to win, especially with Lucas not back at full strength yet.
  • Purdue has now established itself as the top team in the conference again. The Big Three for Purdue are really playing well right now, and that has turned the Boilers around. At times during their losing streak not all three cylinders were firing at the same time, but now they are. E’Twaun Moore just had a season high against Michigan State with a 25/6 asst game. Robbie Hummel is always solid, but now JaJuan Johnson is now much more consistent as well. Johnson averaged 6 PPG during their slide, but has been averaging just shy of 19 PPG in this six game winning streak. Purdue will take care of Iowa, but winning against Ohio State on the road is something that the senior class has never done.
  • Wisconsin loses at home. Wisconsin had an 18-game winning streak and a 51-game winning streak against unranked opponents in the Big Ten under coach Bo Ryan snapped in the past week. I would have expected someone like Purdue or Michigan State to pull off the upset, but instead it was Illinois. Wisconsin actually blew out Michigan State at home, so it is even more surprising that Wisconsin lost this game. There are some interesting differences between the Michigan State and Illinois games. The first has to do with bench minutes. Against the Spartans, the Badgers were able to rest their starters a little bit more with Rob Wilson playing for 24 minutes and putting up 10 points. Against Illinois, the Wisconsin bench only played a combined 18 minutes and contributed 7 points. Keaton Nankivil also had a deep drop in production and shooting percentage against Illinois, once again relying too much on the long range bomb, and only having one drop. The good news for Wisconsin is that their schedule only includes two games that might be tough in the future in Minnesota and Illinois on the road.
  • Ohio State might be the second best team in the Big Ten, if not the best. Ohio State has only lost one game in the Big Ten since Evan Turner has been back, and only two games overall. Ohio State was #13 nationally before Turner went down, #18 the week after, #17 the week after that, then #13, and then dropping from the Top 25 following losses to Wisconsin and Michigan. They are back where they started, but I believe they are a much stronger team now. I don’t think Turner will let this team lose, at this point. The rest of the team didn’t do a ton against Iowa, so Turner went off for a 32/7/5/4 steals game, matching his career high in points. Did we mention this guy is only a junior? Talk about simply amazing. Ohio State has games ahead with Illinois, Purdue and Michigan State that will ultimately determine who wins the Big Ten.
  • Minnesota wins on the road behind Lawrence Westbrook. Minnesota got blown out on the road against Evan Turner and Company, and almost blew another game against Penn State, but some last second heroics by Lawrence Westbrook, helped to dash the Nittany Lions hopes as well as preserve Minnesota from being the first team to lose to Penn State this year in the Big Ten. Four of the five starters have been playing well as of late, with the exception of Devoe Joseph. Where has this guy gone? I saw him at Indiana, and was very impressed, but his production has fallen off a cliff. It might be due to confidence, or something else, but without Joseph, they can’t win the big games. The Michigan game could go either way, and they could take off Northwestern’s glass slipper if they are able to win on the road.
  • Illinois is tied for the lead in the Big Ten, really? I wrote last week that I thought most of Illinois’s success in the Big Ten was due to their scheduling. I don’t think I wrong on that assessment up until a week ago, but the reason Illinois is tied for the lead in the Big Ten is that they have really stepped it up as of late. Beating Michigan State and Wisconsin were huge wins, and really demonstrated the parity in the Big Ten this year. Demetri McCamey has turned himself into an animal in the Big Ten, and making the case that he should be a first team All-Big Ten guy at the end of the year if he keeps this up. He beat Indiana at the buzzer, took over against Wisconsin, and destroyed Michigan State from long range. Give it to Mike Tisdale for exploiting Wisconsin’s lack of height, as he can’t play with the big boys, which has been shown all year. Illinois is atop the Big Ten, but is far from out of the woods. They still have OSU twice, Purdue, and Wisconsin. If they can survive that gauntlet they might be able to prove that they are a tournament team.
  • Northwestern needs to continue to win the must-wins. Northwestern did a great job against Indiana at home, especially with a very balanced scoring attack, with all five starters in double figures. They took the game early and never looked back. They will need to do the same against Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State, and Indiana. They really only have one game left that could get them into trouble, and that’s Wisconsin. I look forward to seeing how Northwestern does when they’re in control of their own tournament destiny.
  • Can Michigan be a spoiler? Michigan has hit the skids in the Big Ten. Ever since their win against UConn, they’ve gone straight downhill. Sure, they beat Iowa, but that’s not really news. At this point, Michigan can only settle for spoiler. The games I see on their schedule in which they would most likely fill that role are Illinois at home, and Ohio State and Michigan State on the road. I am not sure they have enough firepower to beat either OSU or MSU, but they could have a shot against Illinois. Sure, they beat OSU earlier, but that was sans Evan Turner, so I heavily discount that win. Let’s see what Michigan can do.
  • Indiana’s slide continues. Indiana can’t seem to perform with the same level of energy in back-to-back games these days. They brought everything they could against Purdue and took it to the wire against the sixth-ranked team in the nation at home. Then they came out flat against Northwestern on the road and got blown out. Now they have lost four straight with maybe only one game that they should win left in Big Ten play. That could be a good sign for the Hoosiers who tend to play much better as underdogs, anyway. Verdell Jones continues to put up big numbers, but it looks like Christian Watford might have solved his scoring slump against Northwestern, which is a good sign for the Hoosiers.
  • Will Iowa win another game in the Big Ten? Iowa has now lost four straight in the Big Ten, and it doesn’t look good for the foreseeable future. Their best shot is Indiana at home, and that might be the only other game they win this year. Of course, Indiana doesn’t want to repeat what happened to them at home at Iowa, so it is hard to predict what will happen with that game. The good news for Iowa — more for next year than this year — is that they aren’t getting blown out. The bad news is that they are only scoring in the high 40s and low 50s in their games, clearly not enough offensive production to hang with the big boys who are used to putting up a lot more points. To add insult to injury, Iowa is shooting in the 30%-range, and having to rely on offensive put-backs for offense. The Hawkeyes gear up for Northwestern at home before taking on Purdue on the road.
  • Penn State is still winless. It is unfortunate that when looking at the headlines about Penn State games, it is usually about the other team’s heroics in pulling out the big games. The fact is that the Nittany Lions have yet to win a game this year. Their last win goes back to December 21st against American. Maybe Penn State should have been as clever as Iowa to schedule an easy non-conference game in the middle of the year to make sure their confidence doesn’t wane. One would hope that they could pull out one of these close games, but so far they continue to come up empty, with the latest disappointment coming from Lawrence Westbrook’s heroics at the buzzer. Talor Battle continues to be the best player to play on a losing team. Penn State takes on Michigan State at home before hitting the road to take on Northwestern and Michigan.
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ATB: Purdue Gets More From Moore

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2010

Will the Least Ugly Team Please Stand Up#12 Purdue 60, #16 Wisconsin 57. This was your typically ugly conference season Big Ten game; you know, the kind that makes you wonder why you started watching the game in the first place.  But in a battle for standing as to who will be the team to challenge Michigan State if/when they falter, it was Matt Painter’s Boilermakers who protected their home court tonight against Wisconsin (36-2 at Mackey against the Badgers) and pulled a victory out of the slugfest.  Purdue got 20/4 from E’Twaun Moore (including the game-winner with 25 seconds left), 12/13 from Robbie Hummel and was happy to see injured point guard Lewis Jackson back on the court even though he only played twelve minutes and contributed two points.  He’s the true PG that Moore and Chris Kramer are not, and it stands to reason that the Boilermakers will be a better team in the long run with Jackson back in action.  On the Wisconsin side, Keaton Nankivil blew up for 25/8 on 7-8 shooting from three, almost singlehandedly keeping the Badgers in the game at certain points.  Therefore, it was interesting that Trevon Hughes (9/4 on 3-11 FGs) got the ball with Wisconsin down one point and he missed a short runner that would have won the game.  Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson was benched for being late, yet he came off the pine to contribute 14/3.  As we’ve discussed before, Purdue is a much better team when Johnson is scoring and boarding, so it’s a testament to the quality of the Boilermaker defense that he was kept relatively in check tonight.   Both of these teams, along with Ohio State and Illinois, now have three losses in the Big Ten, and while none may catch Michigan State, they’re all vying for position in the #2 through #5 spots.  With Purdue and Wisconsin splitting their season series, it may come down to who has the easier schedule over the next four weeks, and from our viewpoint that team is Purdue (Indiana and Penn State twice, as well as Iowa once).

Moore Hits the Game Winner (AP/Michael Conroy)

The Courtney Fortson ShowArkansas 67, Mississippi State 62. In an otherwise ugly game with about seventeen people in the stands due to inclement weather in NW Arkansas, Courtney Fortson and his braids pulled off their best Devan Downey impression tonight with a 33-point second half that matched the visiting Bulldogs point-for-point.  He ended with a career-high 35/7/4 assts and even found time to have a mini-altercation with his coach during the outburst, and this will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of a disappointing season in Fayetteville.  Mississippi State couldn’t buy a bucket for much of this one (31% FGs, 19% 3FGs), but they still could have won the game deep into the second half had they merely been able to get a handle on Fortson.  They never did, and recently ranked MSU has now lost two in a row and really hasn’t played a strong game in three weeks.  You have to wonder if all the hubbub over Renardo Sidney (is he in?  is he out?) might be weighing upon them a little bit.  Their defense has remained consistently good, but the offense is just not producing enough good shots for talents like Jarvis Varnado and Dee Bost.  With the loss by MSU, Vanderbilt and Kentucky remain as the only two teams in the SEC with one loss or fewer in conference play.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 01.28.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2010

Did you think we’d forgotten?  Oh, no, my friends.  This is the biggest weeknight of hoops this week, so here we are again with another mid-week edition of BGTD.  Last night brought us a LOT of upsets, and we’re sure some more are in store this evening.  We’ll start off by filling our screens with the likes of St. John’s vs Pittsburgh, and of course that huge Big Ten matchup in Wisconsin vs Purdue.  and there’s a darn good chance we’ll be enjoying a little Wake Forest vs Georgia Tech to begin, as well.  Let’s hear what you’re watching, or what you’re thinking in general in the comments section.  We know that refresh-button finger is nice and warmed up, so let’s get this thing going.  See you in a few minutes…

7:02 PM ET: Evening everyone…JStev with you for the first part of this, then I’ll hand it off to rtmsf in a bit.  But who cares about that right now…the guys on ESPN say that Jajuan Johnson showed up late and won’t start tonight.  We all know he’ll be in after a couple of minutes, so I doubt this deserves the emphasis they’re putting on it early.  God, look at this…there is NO team whose players move without the ball like Wisconsin.  Purdue’s defense is exemplary over the first couple of possessions, but no way they can sustain it for the whole game, or even the whole half.  Nobody ever does.

7:12: At the first TVTO at Purdue we can say that we’ve already seen a couple of perfect Wisconsin possessions, despite the tough Purdue defense, especially that three at the last moment before the shot clock expired by Jarred Berggren.  Early checks elsewhere:  Pitt/SJU tied at seven, Wake up 13-7 early, and we even have Seton Hall vs South Florida (SHU up by a few very early).  Lots of good stuff tonight.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 12th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. Other than Kansas students, graduates, former players and all former or current residents of Lawrence, was there anyone in this fine country of ours rooting for the #1 Jayhawks to beat a depleted Tennessee team, a group of kids and a stunned head coach that just dealt with the suspension and/or dismissal of four of its regular rotation players? All of the events that occurred in that two-hour window in Knoxville Sunday was a release of pent-up frustration and anxiety from a tumultuous week in which Tennessee was considered a prime threat to upend favorite Kentucky in the SEC one day and counted out as a SEC contender that must scratch and claw the final two months for an NCAA berth the next. Renaldo Woolridge banking in a three, the Vols maintaining their lead with Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince on the bench with four fouls, the coach’s son Steven taking a critical charge, a miracle Skyler McBee (one of three walk-ons playing substantial minutes) leaning trey that iced the game, and coach Bruce Pearl aiding the Volunteer mascot in waving the orange Tennessee flag while the sounds of Rocky Top reverberated throughout Thompson-Boling Arena summed up what college basketball should be about. Bill Self pointed this out after the game, but there are some moments during a season when a team officially becomes a team instead of a group of individuals. Even though Pearl would gladly reset the timer to New Year’s Eve and prevent four scholarship players from getting in that car, sometimes it takes a catastrophic occurrence that truly tests the mettle of a unit for them to band together and accomplish lofty goals. I think it’s fair to say Tennessee became a team Sunday night.

2. As long as Mike Anderson is employing his Forty Minutes of Hell hellacious press on demoralized opponents, especially on a home floor where his team has won 30 consecutive games, Missouri should never be totally counted out of the Big 12 race. Losing DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence from an Elite 8 squad isn’t easy to overcome, and certainly the ceiling for the Tigers isn’t nearly as high, but the ultra-talented and quick Mizzou backcourt should have enough firepower to carry them to an NCAA berth. Missouri carried an impressive 12-3 record into their Big 12 opener with #10 Kansas State Saturday, yet their overall resume wasn’t incredibly awe-inspiring with their best wins over Old Dominion, Illinois, Georgia and Oregon and opportunities lost in defeats at the hands of Richmond, Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts. The win Saturday was clearly a statement that Missouri will be a contending force in the Big 12 for that #3 spot behind Texas and Kansas. Anderson looks to have a workable combination with experienced seniors J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor (evident by Taylor’s tie-breaking 3 with under a minute to play) making plays in late-game situations, a promising sophomore backcourt duo of Kim English and Marcus Denmon carrying most of the scoring load, and a defensive unit that ranks seventh overall in D efficiency, first in turnovers forced and gives Missouri a fighting chance on any night.

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