Saturday Preview: Entering February, Stakes Are Raised

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 1st, 2014

Hello February! College hoops welcomes you into 2014’s second month with a mouth-watering slate of action. You may be sold at “Duke-Syracuse,” but there will be plenty of games that don’t set Carrier Dome attendance records worth watching. That’s not to say that your college basketball fan credentials will be confiscated if you aren’t settling in to your couch for some ACC on ESPN action at 6:30 PM ET today – because they will be – but here are some other storylines to watch on the first day of February.

Perfection Will Be Tested

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

For the first time since 1976, there are three teams 20-0 or better in college basketball, and all three are in action on Saturday. Wichita State shouldn’t have any issues with Evansville (3-6 in the MVC) at The Roundhouse (3:00 PM ET, ESPNU), but both Arizona and Syracuse face serious threats to their dreams of perfection. The Wildcats visit Berkeley to take on a Cal team (10:30 PM ET, P12 Nets) which had been undefeated at home up until Wednesday, when Arizona State squeezed out an overtime win over the Bears. If Mike Montgomery’s team is to add the signature victory of all signature victories to its resume, they will need senior Richard Solomon to have a big game against that impressive Arizona frontcourt. All the way across the country, Duke would be well-served to find a way to match up with the impressive frontcourt of their undefeated opponent. The Blue Devils are not a great rebounding team, but in their game with Syracuse (6:30 PM ET, ESPN), keeping the Orange (ninth nationally in OR%) off the offensive glass will be imperative for Coach K’s squad. On the other end, look for Jabari Parker to get plenty of touches out of the high post. A record crowd is expected at the Carrier Dome for this one, which obviously sounds like good news for Syracuse. Maybe not, though. The last time there was an attendance record set at the dome (last February, versus Georgetown), a do-it-all 6’8” forward named Otto Porter torched the Orange for 33 points and eight rebounds in a lopsided victory for the visitors. Can Parker induce a little déjà vu on Saturday, and end Syracuse’s perfect season while he’s at it?

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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Michigan State Spartans

Posted by BHayes on September 6th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

Watch out for Sparty in 2013-14. Tom Izzo returns nearly every key contributor from his Sweet 16 squad of a year ago, with only bruising big man Derrick Nix since departed. More good news for East Lansing’s finest: the Big Ten shouldn’t prove quite as challenging as it did last season as fellow top-four finishers Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State all suffered major personnel losses in the offseason. That may mean some turnover at the top, especially with a number of teams in the bottom half of the conference looking improved from a season ago. So, sure – you can expect a little reshuffling at the top of the Big Ten. But with the returns of Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne (among others) to East Lansing, you should also feel pretty safe in believing that Sparty will be right where they always are come March – in the hunt for a Big Ten title, preparing themselves for a sustained Tournament push.

The Emergence Of Spartan Big Man Adreian Payne Makes Michigan State A Scary Team

The Emergence Of Spartan Big Man Adreian Payne Makes Michigan State A Scary Team (Getty Images)

  • Team Outlook: Despite the arrival of a relatively underwhelming freshmen class – neither center Gavin Schilling nor shooting guard Alvin Ellis has the look of a minute-eating freshman, Tom Izzo’s cupboard is fully stocked. The backcourt features the Spartan’s two top scorers from a year ago in Keith Appling (13.4 PPG, 3.3 APG) and Gary Harris (12.9 PPG, 41% 3PT). Both battled nagging injuries throughout last winter, so an offseason of rest and rehabilitation may have been just what the Spartans needed although Harris appears to have suffered a temporary setback with a sprained ankle that will keep him out until at least the start of practice. With another year under their belt and improved health (knock on wood), there should be an expectation of increased, or at least more efficient, contributions from the duo. The third centerpiece of this Spartan club is center Adreian Payne, who broke out in his sophomore season posting season averages of 10.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 1.3 BPG as the big man even showed an unexpectedly refined touch from deep. After only attempting two three-pointers in his first season in East Lansing, Payne went 16-42 from beyond the stripe last season, giving Izzo (and NBA scouts) hope that he might progress even further here in year three. Branden Dawson (8.9 PPG and 5.9 RPG) is the fourth Spartan returning starter, while versatile sophomore Denzel Valentine (5.0 PPG and 4.1 RPG) would seem like the top candidate to occupy the starting slot left open by the departure of Nix, an insertion that would necessitate a slide to the power forward position for Dawson. Sophomore Travis Trice (4.8 PPG, 1.9 APG) should operate as a capable backup for Appling at the point, but Tom Izzo will have decisions to make in rounding out the bench rotation beyond Trice. Matt Costello and Alex Gauna only averaged about six minutes per game each a season ago, but both could be thrust into larger roles this time around. Junior Russell Byrd and the freshman Schilling may also be options for Izzo in his quest to sort out the frontcourt rotation, as he seeks to at least partially replace the physicality and production that Nix brought to the table last season. Payne and Dawson should take care of plenty of that by themselves, and let’s also remember that this is Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans – if you can’t rebound you don’t see the floor, so expect the old coach to find some tough role players somewhere on the roster. Read the rest of this entry »
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Virginia, North Carolina, National COY, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2013


Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. If there is one team that personifies this rollercoaster season of unpredictability, it is probably Virginia. Last week was the Cavaliers’ season in a nutshell as they toppled Duke in Charlottesville before laying an egg at Boston College on Sunday. At 20-9 (10-6), Virginia sits squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble with two regular season games to play. In my heart of hearts, I believe this is a tournament-quality team. Virginia has impressive victories against aforementioned Duke as well as NC State, North Carolina and a huge road win at Wisconsin earlier in the season. Additionally, the Cavs sport wins over bubble buddies Tennessee and Maryland (on the road). Unfortunately for Virginia, the story doesn’t end there and turns sour rather quickly. Tony Bennett’s team has lost a stunning seven games to sub-100 RPI opponents, six of them coming on the road or at a neutral site. The loss to #315 Old Dominion is particularly puzzling. With just a 2-6 road record in conference play, an RPI in the 60s and an embarrassing non-conference strength of schedule, Virginia is not in a great spot despite its good wins. Joe Harris and the Cavs need to take care of business against Florida State and Maryland before putting together some kind of ACC Tournament run. This is one of the more bizarre NCAA resumes I’ve ever seen and one sure to create a lot of debate in the committee room.

    Joe Harris and Virginia haven't been consistent

    Joe Harris and Virginia haven’t been consistent

  2. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s comments after his team’s loss to Virginia created a stir throughout the college basketball world over the last few days. Coach K complained about his team not being able to safely get off the floor while Virginia’s students rushed the court after their team’s big win. While the video does show the Duke team unable to enter the tunnel and head to the locker room, I feel Krzyzewski is out of line. His team was protected by multiple arena security personnel who formed a human wall between the Duke team and the Virginia students. At no time were the Duke players in any danger. I understand why things this man says get noticed, after all he is the sport’s winningest coach. But why does everything Coach K says have to be taken as gospel? Let the kids have some fun and stop with the “get off my lawn!” attitude. Unless your team is in danger of being hurt, comments like these serve as a distraction and quite honestly look like sour grapes to me.
  3. After suffering the loss to Virginia, Duke rebounded in a big way by taking down Miami and exacting a measure of revenge for the blowout loss earlier this year in Coral Gables. It was a struggle though as the Blue Devils needed a career-high 36 points from Ryan Kelly (in his first game back since January 8) just to win by three on their home floor. While Kelly clearly sparked Duke offensively in this game, he makes a bigger difference on the other side of the basketball. Kelly is an outstanding defender because he’s a tall, agile forward who can get up into a player on the perimeter and force him to shoot over or pass around Kelly, often going east-west instead of north-south. Kelly’s presence on the floor did not make a huge difference in this particular game when it comes to Miami’s offensive efficiency but he did frustrate the Hurricanes from the three point line. Miami shot just 6-21 from deep and a big reason for that was Kelly and his length. As we head into postseason play, Kelly’s return will make a huge difference on the defensive side of the ball for Duke. Anything he does offensively is gravy for this team. Duke is undefeated with Kelly in the lineup and that bodes well for the Blue Devils as they look to grab a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and make a run at the program’s 16th Final Four appearance. Read the rest of this entry »
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