Set Your Tivo: 03.05.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 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.

The final Saturday of the regular season is also the best of the year. Epic would be one way to describe the schedule today. Bids will be clinched, bubbles will burst and conference titles will be decided. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#2 Kansas @ #21 Missouri in progress on CBS (****)

It's Title Time (Again) For Markieff and KU, Though We Don't Expect the Tigers To Go Quietly

The Jayhawks can clinch the Big 12 title with a win here or a Texas loss at Baylor this evening. Through Texas’ surge and preseason projections brandishing Kansas State and Baylor, we learned one thing in this conference in 2010-11: the conference title goes through Lawrence until proven otherwise. Missouri will be in the NCAA Tournament win or lose, but a win here would really improve their seeding and give them confidence heading into the postseason. The Tigers are a different team at home and should give KU all they’ve have in front of their raucous crowd and a national television audience, looking to complete their home slate undefeated. Kansas will need to protect the ball and dominate in the paint and on the glass in order to win on the road. Missouri’s preference for a quick pace means rebounding is a vulnerability, and the Morris twins should be able to pull down a lot of missed shots assuming they stay out of foul trouble.

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ATB: Panic in Provo?

Posted by nvr1983 on March 3rd, 2011


The Lede. The obvious story here is BYU falling apart at home against New Mexico in the aftermath of the suspension of Brandon Davies for the season. While most of the Twitter-verse if flipping out over the game and many are questioning the wisdom of BYU in suspending Davies for violating the Honor Code for what appears to be consensual premarital sex with his girlfriend, there are two things worth pointing out from this game: (1) It wasn’t just that the Cougars got dominated on the inside. They got dominated everywhere on the court. (2) The Lobos appear to be the perfect foil for the Cougars as BYU is 0-4 against them in the past two seasons and 26-1 against the rest of the Mountain West Conference. While the loss of Davies obviously hurts the Cougars — who were paper thin on the inside before his suspension — their play tonight revealed a team that was sloppy and distracted rather than one that was just short-handed. The loss may drop the Cougars out of contention for a #1 seed, but if they can regain their focus, which will be difficult with the coming media circus, they should be in good shape for the NCAA Tournament.

Jimmer needs to rally the troops

UNC and Duke win to set up the biggest game ever! Ok. Not really, but we all know that ESPN and CBS will be hyping up Saturday’s prime time match-up as if it was. To be fair, it is for the ACC regular season title, which nobody thought would be up for grabs at the start of December. Since that time, a lot has changed. Duke lost Kyrie Irving, the heart and soul of its team, no matter what Coach K tries to tell you. UNC has seen the emergence of Harrison Barnes, who might not be quite the player that he was expected to be when he was named the first AP Preseason freshman All-American ever, but in the past month he has played solid basketball and you would be hard-pressed to another player who has hit as many clutch shots this season, freshman or otherwise. His latest addition to the resume was a cold-blooded three in the closing moments against FSU in Tallahassee that proved to be the game-winner when the Seminoles were unable to get off a shot at the end. While neither team was particularly impressive today –particularly the Blue Devils, who struggled to wake up against Clemson after the traditional Senior Night festivities honoring Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler – it’s an intriguing match-up, as UNC will hold an edge on the inside, particularly with the recent solid play of John Henson (double-doubles in seven of the last 10 games) and the continued development of Kendall Marshall (eight assists tonight), while the Blue Devils have the stars (Smith and Singler) and the experience.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

Hold onto your seats, Hokie fans, you’re on the right side of the bubble after a statement win against Duke this week.  Virginia Tech’s win was just what the doctor ordered, but the Hokies are far from a lock (for everyone but Dickie V).  The Hokies won despite a very poor night from star Malcolm Delaney, who did hit a huge three late but was otherwise ineffective.  Jeff Allen picked up any slack Delaney left, finishing with 18 points and 15 boards.  But the real credit goes to Virginia Tech’s defense, which held Duke to under 40% from the field.  Kyle Singler helped those numbers a lot with one of the worst 22 and 12 lines you’ll ever see.  Singler has been in a real shooting slump (he’s 8-36 from beyond the arc in his last nine games).  He got plenty of open looks against the Hokies but just couldn’t convert anything from outside 15 feet.  Singler played very well when he was taking shorter jump shots and getting into the lane and drawing contact, but the set jumper just isn’t there.  Duke fans need to hope this is part of his yearly slump because this team is much less dangerous without Singler as an outside threat.  Virginia Tech also stymied Seth Curry, who only played 15 minutes because of foul trouble, but managed to finish with no points and a crucial turnover on Duke’s last possession (where he tried to do too much).  I think Curry was just a little too emotionally wound up before the game: in case you don’t know the back story, Curry’s father, Dell Curry, was one of the best players in Virginia Tech history (the first Hokie to have his jersey retired).  Regardless of shooting slumps and emotional windings, this was a huge win for Virginia Tech, which was starting to drift towards the wrong side of the bubble.

Major indirect benefactor of the upset in Blacksburg: North Carolina.  Now if the Tar Heels can beat Duke in Chapel Hill this weekend, they share the regular season ACC title and grab the top seed in the conference tournament.  Ironically second-seed could be the desired seed depending on how the rest of the field works out because I think any sane coach would rather face Florida State (set to be the three seed currently) without Chris Singleton than Virginia Tech (lined up to be the fourth seed right now).

Team of the Week: Virginia Tech in a runaway.  Not too much more to be said, but the Hokies would probably be looking at an 11-seed if Selection Sunday was today (at least if Andy Glockner or Bracketology101 was seeding the bracket**).  That’s obviously better than not being in the field, but far from “lock” status.  To ensure a bid, I still think Virginia Tech needs to win out the regular season or win one game in the conference tournament (against a decent team).  Still that’s totally doable.  Between a couple of solid wins and a tough nonconference schedule, things should be looking up in Blacksburg.

**By the way, if you don’t follow Andy Glockner (@aglock) on Twitter, you should.  He’s one of the most responsive sports writers in the business and does a tremendous job with Bubble Watch at SI.com.  In addition to responsive, thoughtful analysis, you should expect a wealth of tweets on Team Bubble Watch (Marquette), Fulham, the Knicks and the New York Giants.  Most of you probably already knew this, but just in case anyone is new to Twitter, I thought I’d pass along the tip.  [ed note. – agreed]

Bizarro Team of the Week: Georgia Tech has lost its last eight conference games.  Next up: Wake Forest.  Looks like the ultimate place for the Demon Deacons to pick up a second conference win to me.  The frustrating thing about the Yellow Jackets is their talent to performance ratio.  Really Iman Shumpert, Glen Rice and Brian Oliver should make a much better team.  Truthfully, Mfon Udofia isn’t bad either, and Daniel Miller is developing.  The team needs a point guard and more consistency in the post.

Player of the Week: John Henson.  He’s been in double digit rebounding eight of his last nine games and double digit scoring in seven of his last nine.  Oh yeah, and he averaged six and a half blocks this week.  Most importantly, Henson hasn’t missed a free throw in three games (six for six).  The free throw stat is probably a mirage, but the rebounding and blocks are very real.  Henson is a huge defensive presence on North Carolina’s front line.  With Chris Singleton injured, I think he’s close to a lock for ACC defensive player of the year (at least he should be).  North Carolina has the second-ranked defense according to Ken Pomeroy, and Henson’s length deserves a lot of credit.

Power Rankings

1.  Duke (26-3, 12-2) barely edges out the Tar Heels this week.  The Blue Devils crushed Temple (a top 25 foe) at home this week before the loss to desperate Virginia Tech.  The game at North Carolina should be great.  I think Duke is marginally better, but the Dean Dome is going to be huge for North Carolina.  Mason Plumlee, especially has looked much better for Duke recently.  He’s quietly shooting almost 60% from the field (albeit on mainly dunks), and nearly averaging double digit rebounds.  He’ll be crucial in dealing with North Carolina’s length Saturday night.

2.  North Carolina (22-6, 12-2) can claim the top seed in the ACC Tournament with a win over Duke Saturday.  This team plays really well in spurts (cliche alert: it’s a game of runs), but there are still problems.  I think Roy Williams needs to trim his lineup down a little bit: the constant substitutions kill offensive flow for the Heels, especially early in a half.  Kendall Marshall still has a tendency to force things sometimes, but he makes the Tar Heels absolutely lethal in transition.  Look for Duke to try and force him to score.

3.  Virginia Tech (19-8, 9-5) isn’t out of the woods yet.  Don’t test the selection committee!

4.  Florida State (20-8, 10-4) is playing surprisingly well without Chris Singleton.  Yes, they got spanked at College Park this week, but really Leonard Hamilton has to be thrilled with the way his squad has adapted without its best defender and primary scoring option.  One possible wrench in the above plan for North Carolina stealing the top spot from under Duke is Florida State knocking off the Tar Heels in Tallahassee.  Without Singleton it will be difficult, but if North Carolina’s offense vaguely resembles what it trotted out against Boston College, Florida State is in the gold.

5.  Clemson (19-9, 8-6) needs a decent run in the ACC Tournament if it wants to make the Big Dance.  Though if Duke is willing to help another bubble team out Wednesday, that would help too.  Clemson’s other game is against Virginia Tech (bubble on bubble brawl), which is a must-win for both teams.  Regardless of what ends up happening, Brad Brownell has done a tremendous job with this team.  Give him a couple of years, and Clemson will be back on the right side of the bubble.  This is a team most people picked much lower in the preseason.

6.  Maryland (18-11, 7-7) is probably out of the bubble picture after its loss to North Carolina, which is really a shame.  The Terps are clearly good enough to be a tournament team, they just couldn’t win games (somewhat of an oxymoron, I know).  Maryland closes out the season with games at Miami and against Virginia.  But Terrell Stoglin has really improved.  He’s averaging over twenty points a game over his last six games (with three games of at least 25 points).  Between him and Jordan Williams (who should come back, as he’s a little slow and undersized for the next level), they’ll be really good.  Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Maryland gets a decent draw and goes to the finals of the ACC Tournament this year (which would probably draw a bid to the Big Dance in the process, assuming the run included a win over North Carolina or Duke).

7.  Boston College (17-11, 7-7) lost to Miami this week.  That’s no way to sell an already lacking mediocre resume to the committee.  Reggie Jackson is a tremendous player; Joe Trapani makes a great right-hand man; and Corey Raji is one of the most undervalued offensive players in the ACC this year.  But for whatever reason, Boston College struggles to bring a consistent product to the floor.  One thing the Eagles really need to do during the offseason is try and get students excited about the team.  Boston College has good players, a good coach in Steve Donahue, and is probably just on the wrong side of the bubble: how can it not attract students to the games?

8.  Miami (17-12, 5-9) completed its season sweep of Boston College before losing to Florida State.  If Reggie Johnson can stay out of foul trouble, the Hurricanes are a very difficult team to beat.  They still need to make the transition from “tough out” to “favorite”, but I like Johnson, Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott a lot.

9.  Virginia (14-14, 5-9) picked up a win against Georgia Tech on the road before falling to a Boston College team desperate to improve its resume.  This week looks like another split week between a very winnable game against NC State and a tough one at Maryland.

10. NC State (15-13, 5-9) lost to North Carolina before beating Georgia Tech.  State fans still react negatively when Sidney Lowe chooses to play Javier Gonzalez over Ryan Harrow.  Credit the upperclassmen for a great game against Georgia Tech though: Tracy Smith and Scott Wood combined for 38 points on 20 field goals.  That’s efficiency.

11. Georgia Tech (11-17, 3-11) should just count down the days till the end of the season.

12. Wake Forest (8-21, 1-13) shoots free throws pretty well (second in the ACC at 73.6%).  Everything else?  Not so much.  Actually, the youth is promising, so there’s that, too.

A Look Ahead

  • Tuesday Bubble Struggle: Boston College at Virginia Tech (9:00PM, ESPNU) – The Hokies fight to stay on the right side of the bubble while Boston College faces a win-or-go-to-the-NIT (probably) game.  Should be fun to watch.  Keep an eye on Reggie Jackson and Malcolm Delaney.
  • Wednesday Upset Watch: North Carolina at Florida State (7:00PM, ESPN) – Can the Chris Singleton-less Seminoles knock off the streaking Tar Heels?  It’s possible, especially if the Tar Heels are missing shots from the outside.  The question is whether Florida State has any way to keep John Henson and Tyler Zeller off the boards.
  • Primetime Saturday: Virginia Tech at Clemson (12:00PM, ESPN2) – Another battle for the bubble showcasing Virginia Tech.  I’m not sure Clemson is cut out for the Big Dance this year, but a win here keeps them in the conversation.
  • Rivalry Rematch: Duke at North Carolina (Saturday, 8:00PM, CBS) – For the first time in the rivalry’s storied history, it’s coming to primetime.  This really should be a pick ‘em game.  Neither team can afford to get off to a slow start.  UNC needs to keep Duke cold from the perimeter, and Duke needs to not look soft inside.  My pick: Duke in a very close one on the back of Nolan Smith.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.23.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 23rd, 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.

An interesting non-conference matchup and a huge bubble battle in the Big 12 lead the way tonight. Four other bubble teams will also be in search of a marquee win against ranked opponents. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#23 Temple @ #2 Duke – 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

We Don't Expect Randall To Be In the Lineup for Temple, But Then Again, This Is Duke In Prime Time

The visiting Owls will be short a couple of important bodies tonight when they head to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a late season non-conference tilt with Duke. Starting center Michael Eric is out for the season while fellow starter Scootie Randall likely won’t play after injuring his foot recently. Temple has won eight straight games entering tonight’s contest, however, although most of those have been against the bottom of the Atlantic 10. Duke is also hot, winners of six straight and 10 of 11 dating back to mid-January.

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ATB: Some Kind of Kemba-ssance…

Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2011

The Lede.  Wednesday nights are always chock full of action from coast to coast, and there was no shortage of storylines across the hoops landscape this evening.  From Kemba blowing up to Tai’s rim-rattler to Jenkins’ late explosion to celebrating the first conference champions, it’s all here tonight.  Let’s jump right in…

Kemba Felt Great Tonight, As Did UConn Fans (H-C/J. Wolke)

Your Watercooler MomentThe Kemba-ssance.  Tonight you witnessed the reason why UConn should be a darkhorse pick to go to the Final Four.  This was the Kemba Walker who slashed, dashed, shot and fought his way to the Maui Invitational title three months ago.  This was the player who literally picked his team up, placed it squarely on his back, and carried it to bucket after bucket down the stretch using any means possible.  Such as… finding himself stuck in a spot 18 feet from the basket and nobody to pass to nor a decent look to shoot.  Instead, using the self-assist method, he simply rifled a pass to himself off the backboard, caught it, and laid it in the hole.  We’ve all tried this play in pickup ball, but you rarely see it in games outside of the And-1 Mixtape Tour because it’s simply too risky.  Nevertheless, Walker successfully executed the play, and several others with a high degree of difficulty, which reminds us all that when this player finds a groove, there’s nobody tougher in the country to contain off the bounce.  His 31/7/10 asst night on 13-23 shooting was his best all-around performance since before Christmas, and it makes us wonder if he’s found the lifeblood that made him so spectacular in November and December.  Even if Kemba plays well, the Huskies still need the others to step up consistently — players such as Alex Oriakhi (10/8) or the suddenly effective Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (23/6); but he sure can erase a whole bunch of mistakes, can’t he?  A quick note on Georgetown: the Hoyas’ eight-game winning streak came to an end tonight, but it wasn’t going to go on forever.  They’re still in good position to finish strong and get a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament.

That Backboard ThingTai Wesley Shatters Glass at Halftime.  It’s a shame that it wasn’t during the game, but USU’s Tai Wesley broke the backboard during halftime warmups this evening in a worthless game against NAIA team Montana-Western.  Luckily nobody was hurt, but arena officials managed to break a second one while trying to replace the first, resulting in a 45-minute delay of the game.  With breakaway rims and triple-reinforced stanchions, you hardly see these sorts of things at the D1 level anymore; still, we kinda wish it had happened during the game!

Tai Wesley, USU Halftime Legend (AP/J. Urquhart)

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Illinois, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Memphis & Duquesne.  All four of these teams either on or near the bubble with 24 days left until Selection Sunday helped themselves this evening.  The Illini are clearly the safest of the three (#7 seed in our latest RTC bracketology), but Bruce Weber’s team came into tonight having lost six of nine and really couldn’t stand another loss to a mediocre team like Michigan.  Tennessee is relatively safe (#8 seed), but the Vols needed a win in a big way after three Ls in a row.  You never know what to expect with this UT team, so even a simple home win over South Carolina shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Cincinnati and Memphis, on the other hand, are legitimately on the cut line (#12 seeds) and although the Tigers have never appeared to be an NCAA quality team this season, they’ve done just well enough to remain in the discussion.  Beating second-place UAB tonight to take over the top spot in Conference USA both amazes us and scares us at the same time.  Conversely, Cincy has at times appeared to be a decent candidate for an NCAA bid, but having lost three of four coming into tonight, the Bearcats really needed a nice win over a ranked team for its resume.  Mick Cronin’s team got that win over old rival Louisville tonight.  Duquesne is on the outside looking in in our latest bracket, but with a solid win tonight at UMass the Dukes got off a two-game schneid and are now 9-2 in the Atlantic 10 with a chance to make a strong finish.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.09.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 9th, 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.

Rivalry week kicks into high gear tonight with a clash of Big East titans and the greatest rivalry of them all on Tobacco Road. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#13 Georgetown @ #12 Syracuse – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

JT3 Has the Hoyas Back On Track and Peaking At the Right Time

Syracuse has stabilized itself after losing four straight but will run into a streaking Georgetown club tonight at the Carrier Dome. The Hoyas have won six straight games and look to be back in the thick of things with a chance for a double-bye at the Big East Tournament. Syracuse leads this classic Big East rivalry 46-38 and will have to keep up their defensive effort if they want to win for the 47th time against the Hoyas.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A Look Back

You probably know this by now, but the biggest news of the week was Larry Drew II leaving North Carolina.  He was immediately ripped by fans and experts alike (the word “quit” and phrase “addition by subtraction” probably started trending on Twitter) largely–in my opinion–because he didn’t tell the team his decision, instead letting his father do it for him.  It’s hard to tell if this is a case of “selfish kid” (as most have interpreted the story) or “overreaching parent.”  My guess is it’s a combination of the two, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter was the deciding factor.  Everyone from college professors to recruiting analysts will tell you that parents are the hardest to deal with because they have a tendency to only see one side of the story.  The transfer was still very surprising based on timing (he has to sit out a year anyways), and Drew was coming off a career game (in assists) against Boston College. Regardless, Drew’s transfer may show why Roy Williams was so hesitant to start Kendall Marshall in the first place, if he suspected a delicate situation.

On the other side of Tobacco Road, Duke picked up its first commit from the class of 2012 in Alex Murphy, a 6’8 wing player.  The comparison that has been tossed around most frequently is Kyle Singler, though I think that’s a somewhat lazy comparison.  The other name I’ve heard a little is Mike Dunleavy, which seems a little more accurate in terms of skill sets based on the very limited video I’ve seen of Murphy on YouTube.  There are rumblings that Murphy may reclassify and join Duke next year, as he’s in his fourth year of high school, but I don’t think he’d gain a considerable advantage by coming a year earlier based on Duke’s talent-laden 2011 class.

And last but not least, NC State’s CJ Leslie was suspended for violating team rules and missed a romping at the hands of Duke.  He certainly wouldn’t have made an appreciable difference in the outcome (Duke was up by thirty at one point in the first half), but his suspension is just a microcosm of NC State’s disastrous season.  For a fun (but depressing read), I highly suggest checking out Backing the Pack’s Profile of a Possible Savior series on current coaches that might make a good replacement for Sidney Lowe (currently they’ve profiled Old Dominion’s Blaine Taylor, Missouri State’s Cuonzo Martin and Richmond’s Chris Mooney, South Carolina’s Darrin Horn, Providence’s Keno Davis, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Dayton’s Brian Gregory).  My favorite “Important Question” by far: “Does he run the Princeton offense?”  Even if you’re not a State fan, I highly suggest checking these out as the Wolfpack probably won’t be the only team on the lookout for a new coach and it’s a nice group of successful, under-the-radar coaches.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alabama’s Anthony Grant gets profiled soon after the season he’s put together this year.

Player of the Week: Kendall Marshall wins after tossing 22 dimes in games at Boston College and against Florida State.  If anything, Drew’s transfer highlighted Marshall’s outstanding play.  Harrison Barnes was also in double figures for the seventh straight game (he is averaging just under 23 points a game in his last three outings), which brings us to our team of the week.

Team of the Week: North Carolina, without a doubt.  I briefly considered pushing the Tar Heels to the top spot in the power rankings, but Duke also had two dominant wins this week, so I held off.  But the Tar Heels are playing their best basketball of the season right now, having reeled off five straight wins (only one in single digits) after the embarrassing loss to Georgia Tech.  Everything is clicking right now: Barnes, Marshall, John Henson, Tyler Zeller and even Reggie Bullock (even if he still hasn’t found consistency).  This is the team that was picked in the top ten before the season.  This team is capable of beating Duke in Durham Wednesday night.  It’s also capable of losing by 20, but I’d put my money on a close game.  So far this season, Carolina has been an elite defensive team (ranked eighth, right behind Duke, in defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy), but in their last two games, they’ve put up unfathomable offensive numbers.  Against Boston College’s admittedly porous defense, the Heels put up a gaudy 139.5 offensive rating (100 is average) on the road.  More impressively, Carolina followed its dismantling of the Eagles with a 122.7 offensive rating against Florida State.  The previous best offensive efficiency mark came against the Seminoles: only one team prior to North Carolina had been able to break a 101 offensive efficiency rating.  Long story short, Wednesday night’s game at Duke just got a lot more interesting.

Bizarro Team of the Week: NC State, though Wake Forest and Georgia Tech also had dogs in this fight.  It’s safe to say that losing seven of your last eight followed by a suspension for your second best player is not really what Sidney Lowe had in mind.

Power Rankings

1.  Duke (21-2, 8-1) barely held on to the top spot in the power rankings after taking it to Maryland in College Park and unsurprisingly cruising to a big win at home over NC State.  Nolan Smith is playing like one of the best guards in the country, but he’s not the one that should scare opponents.  Mason Plumlee put up two double-doubles in Duke’s wins this week, notching 12 and 11 against Maryland and 16 and 12 against NC State (don’t forget Maryland and State have two of the strongest post players in the conference).  Plumlee has quietly become one of the best rebounders in the conference, with double-digit board totals in his last seven conference contests.  Keep an eye out for how the Plumlees handle John Henson and Tyler Zeller this week.

2.  North Carolina (17-5, 7-1) had its best week of basketball of the past two seasons last week and is finally living up to expectations.

3.  Florida State (16-7, 6-3) ran into a buzzsaw in Chapel Hill, but beat up on Wake at home.  Thanks to non-conference struggles and a weak ACC, Florida State could get a fairly bad seed come Selection Sunday.  But away from Tallahassee, the Seminoles have an offensive inconsistency that will make it nearly impossible to succeed in the one and done format of the tournament.

4.  Maryland (15-8, 5-4) lost to an angry Duke team at home before beating up on Wake at home.  Discounting the Duke game, the Terrapins have won four of five and have winnable games (other than at North Carolina) the rest of the way.  They’ll need to win most of those to lock up an at-large position.

5.  Boston College (15-8, 5-4) stopped the bleeding with a huge home win over Virginia Tech.  I was at the game, and the Eagles are very lucky to have come out with the win.  The Hokies could not buy a jump-shot in the first half (they literally had nothing but paint points and free throws) despite getting numerous good looks.  The game was a must-win for Boston College, and it can thank Reggie Jackson’s great final eleven minutes for the win.

6.  Virginia Tech (15-7, 5-4) lost a tough game at Conte Forum, but the Hokies were in less trouble than the Eagles.  That’s no excuse for how Virginia Tech lost the game, though.  First, Malcolm Delaney was sent to the foul line with a chance to tie with under thirty seconds left.  Then the Hokies decided it was a good plan to drop the ball off to slumping Erick Green, who hadn’t hit a single shot all game, for the final hurrah.  Regardless, I don’t think the Hokies’ at-large hopes are crushed by the loss.  They still have a couple of chances for good wins–home against Maryland and Duke–left on the schedule.

7.  Clemson (16-7, 5-4), otherwise known as the fourth team in the conference at five and four, lost a killer at Virginia before flirting with disaster against Georgia Tech.  As much as I like Demontez Stitt and Jerai Grant, I’m not sure either is cut out to be the go-to guy on an ACC team.  Unfortunately, I think Clemson is going to be the odd man out (or one of two odd men out from the five and four bunch) unless they can grab two of North Carolina (home), Boston College (home) and Virginia Tech (home).

8.  Miami (14-9, 3-6) turned the tables this week, winning two more excruciatingly close games at home over Georgia Tech and Virginia.  Not that home wins over Georgia Tech and Virginia are that impressive, but this Hurricane team really needed them.  If Reggie Johnson can find a way to commit less fouls, he’s going to be an immovable object in the post.  Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott both have some work to do before becoming primary playmakers for a team in conference contention (also known as not disappearing during important stretches), but this team will only get better next season with nearly everyone coming back.

9.  Virginia (12-11, 3-6) almost blew a huge lead to Clemson, but somehow managed to hold on in the final seconds.  Tony Bennett has done a great job with what’s been available for him and his team the past couple of years, but he’s still decidedly in the “rebuilding” process at Virginia.  Give him two more years and Virginia should be back in the top half of the conference.

10. Georgia Tech (10-12, 3-6) has lost three of their last four, including losses to Miami and Clemson this week.  Things aren’t going to get any easier from here as the Yellow Jackets have to face Florida State (home) and Virginia Tech on the road this week.  In stark contrast to Tony Bennett, Paul Hewitt has struggled mightily getting the most out of his normally quite talented players.  Hewitt seems like a great guy, but he’s just a level too high in coaching.

11. NC State (12-11, 2-7) is discovering how it feels to have the bottom fall out.

12. Wake Forest (8-15, 1-7) already knows how it feels to have the bottom fall out: if having the bottom fall out is losing 11 of your last 13 games.

A Look Ahead

Welcome to Rivalry Week.  The best rivalry in all of college basketball–if not all of sports–opens the first game of the season in Durham Wednesday night at 9:00 PM on ESPN (or the ACC Network depending on your location).  North Carolina seems to be peaking right in time for the big game, while Duke looks like it has bounced back from the ugly loss at St. John’s.  Really, this should be a phenomenal game: the atmosphere and emotions will be off the charts, and these are the two best teams in the ACC (by a very solid margin).

The other two teams with a very big week ahead are Clemson and Boston College–who both look dangerously close to the wrong side of the bubble right now.  The Tigers play at Boston College Tuesday in a must-win for both teams (9:00 PM, ESPNU).  After that, Clemson gets North Carolina at home Saturday in what could be an epic letdown game and a great chance to get revenge for what transpired in Chapel Hill (1:00 PM, ACC Network).  Boston College gets another chance to boost its at-large resume when the Terrapins come to town Saturday (1:00 PM, ACC Network).

Needless to say, this should be one of the more exciting weeks in the ACC.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.02.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 2nd, 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.

Two big rivalries lead the way tonight while a couple of key conference clashes comprise this evening’s undercard. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#19 Syracuse @ #5 Connecticut – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

It’s a matchup of the deans of the Big East as Jim Calhoun faces off yet again with Jim Boeheim. Both teams are coming off of losses on Saturday, but the Orange have lost four straight and are looking dead in the eye of a fifth as they head on the road to face Connecticut. Facing a Connecticut team that shoots the ball at a fairly average clip and has recently thrown up a couple of sub-40% performances, however, may be the prescription needed for a win.

The 2-3 Zone Has Been Porous and Passionless Of Late

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

ACC storylines abound this week.  Duke embarrassed by a bubble-worthy Saint John’s team in the normally friendly Madison Square Garden; North Carolina finally got some hype-worthy play out of Harrison Barnes as they solidify their runner-up status; Maryland won a couple of near must-win conference road games to stay in the hunt for an at-large bid; Florida State showcased the offense that lost to Auburn in a hideous defeat at Clemson; Virginia Tech joined the ranks of ACC squads to lose big in Atlanta; Boston College was forced to play in Cameron Indoor; Georgia Tech sniffed the top half of the conference before Brian Oliver’s untimely injury left them undermanned against the Terps; NC State continued its quest to remind Wolfpack nation why they should have never run off Herb Sendek; Miami upped its resume as the unluckiest team in the conference to notch two more losses by less than five points (their fifth in conference play); Wake Forest booted their potentially historically bad legacy with their first conference win; and Virginia rapidly progressed towards the team we thought they would be to start the season.

As you can see, the ACC–and really college basketball as a whole–creates a wild landscape.  Yes you have your leaders (Duke in the ACC; Ohio State and Texas in their respective conferences), your disappointments (Virginia Tech still qualifies; nationally, Kansas State fits the bill) and your stragglers (Wake Forest joins Auburn and DePaul).  But as last week showed (the top 25 went 22-20), anything can happen.

Player of the Week: Nolan Smith’s team may have left their defense and three-point shooting in Durham, but he played like a star.  Kyle Singler came into this season with all of the POY hype, but people should have looked at Nolan Smith.  Yes, Smith is still behind Kemba Walker (he’s closing that gap), Jimmer Fredette and probably Jared Sullinger (who, no offense, is starting to feel like the Mark Ingram “best player on the best team” Heisman).  But he’s at least gaining on Walker and Sullinger.  The ugly loss at St. John’s didn’t do Smith any favors, but to his credit, he was outstanding.  This week, Smith averaged 30 points and six assists between the two games (and probably should have had more assists in the Saint John’s game, but as Tim Brando would say “the iron was unkind” to his teammates).  Smith has really picked up as much slack left by Kyrie Irving as anyone could have hoped, forced to move into an on the ball position.  He currently leads the ACC in both points and assists per game, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  No, Smith isn’t the most athletic player on the court.  But he’s still a very good shooter with the ability to create his own shot while remaining the primary facilitator.  To really have a chance at the award Smith needs Fredette to cool off, Walker to stay in his slump, and run the table in conference play.  Likely?  No, but it’s possible.

Team of the Week: Maryland finally may be living up to its statistical hype, after two very strong road wins over Virginia (66-42) and Georgia Tech (74-63).  Those wins won’t go a long way in making a resume much better, but they keep it from getting worse.  I’m still not entirely sure why this team hasn’t gotten into a groove: it has plenty of talent and a great coach.  I know the guard play leaves a little to be desired, but between Terrell Stoglin, Adrian Bowie and Pe’Shon Howard, Gary Williams should find someone who can effectively run the offense.  To say that Wednesday’s game at home against Duke will be a big game will be an understatement.  Duke looks like it’s skidding, and Maryland looks like it may be getting things together.  While it’s not a must-win for either team, everyone knows how much Maryland hates to lose to Duke.

Bizarro Team of the Week: Virginia came down to earth this week with ugly losses to Maryland and at Wake Forest.  Yes, the Cavaliers gave the Demon Deacons their first conference win and for that alone deserve this week’s award.  The Cavaliers allowed Wake its second most potent offensive performance of the season, largely because Wake hit nine of 19 from beyond the arc and got offensive production out of almost everyone with six players in double figures.  I don’t think this is a sign that Wake is turning things around (though hopefully it’s steadily improving) so much as Virginia falling into its place near the bottom of the conference without Mike Scott.

Power Rankings

  1. Duke (19-2, 6-1) took one on the chin at Madison Square Garden, but don’t overreact.  St. John’s played its best game of the season and Duke played its worst.  Going into the game, Duke as a team was shooting 40% from three.  They started the St. John’s game 1-22.  Some were forced, but no more than usual.  This team (like most Duke teams) relies very heavily on jump shots, and some nights, they just won’t fall.  Duke’s defense left much more cause for concern.  The Blue Devils couldn’t find a way to stop St. John’s penetration and backdoor cuts to save their lives.  Mike Krzyzewski cited effort (and St. John’s playing a beautiful game) afterwards, but giving up more than 90 points is always cause for concern.
  2. North Carolina (15-5, 5-1) has quietly moved into second with wins over Miami (on the road) and NC State.  And look out, because Roy Williams has started playing Kendall Marshall at point, and Harrison Barnes is starting to live up to his potential (at least some of it).  Barnes has scored in double figures in five of six conference games and hit huge shots along the way.  In the Miami win, Barnes scored the last five points for UNC in the final minute and change to tie the game and then take the lead for good.
  3. Maryland (14-7, 4-3) looks like they may be getting things together.  Duke’s trip to College Park Wednesday should tell us a lot more. See this week’s “Team of the Week” section above for an in-depth update on the Terps.
  4. Florida State (15-6, 5-2) is one of the most frustrating teams in the country.  When Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen are playing well, the Seminoles are very tough to beat.  Unfortunately, they don’t run any real offensive sets.  So when Kitchen and Singleton are not creating their own shots, this team struggles to put up fifty.  Leonard Hamilton’s teams are notoriously good on defense, but they’re looking worse and worse on offense.  I’m not sure if that’s because of player personnel or coaching personnel, but I’d definitely start thinking about trying to pick up an offensive minded coach during the offseason.
  5. Clemson (15-6, 4-3) beat NC State and Florida State convincingly at home.  You can’t overstate what a great job Brad Brownell has done with this team.  While they may end up on the wrong side of Selection Sunday, the Tigers have really impressed me at times this season.  By the way, Clemson has impressed Ken Pomeroy too: they’re 29th in his ratings.
  6. Virginia Tech (14-6, 4-3) seemed to be on the right track before going and losing to Georgia Tech.  This team is still puzzling.  They’ve had a ton of injuries, but that’s not it.  When the Hokies are effective offensively, they win (12-0 when they score more than a point per possession).  When they’re not, they lose (2-6 when they don’t).  That might not be all that surprising, but you would think a team with that many veterans would be a little more consistent offensively.  Despite their inconsistency, Ken Pomeroy has the Hokies ranked 31st.
  7. Boston College (14-7, 4-3) can’t really take too much heat for losing in Durham.  They need Reggie Jackson to be a factor to beat good teams.  But they’ve lost three out of four, so they’ll really need to at least split with Virginia Tech and North Carolina.  Unfortunately for the Eagles, they’re projected to lose their next five games.
  8. Georgia Tech (10-10, 3-4) is a puzzling team to me.  They don’t get to the free throw line (despite very aggressive guards) and they can’t shoot.  There’s no reason Iman Shumpert, Glen Rice, Brian Oliver and Mfon Udofia shouldn’t be able to get to the line at will.  They’re all tall (at least 6’5 except Udofia) and athletic, which creates huge mismatches for most teams.  Why even settle for threes?
  9. NC State (12-9, 2-5) has lost five of their last six only sporting wins over Wake and Miami in conference play.  To say this team has underachieved would be sugar-coating it.  There is no reason this squad shouldn’t have made the NCAA Tournament.  None.  They have good guards (albeit young) and great post presence.  I don’t see any way State hangs on to Sidney Lowe after this disaster.
  10. Miami (12-9, 1-6) may be the unluckiest team in basketball.  If not for a one point win over Boston College, it would be defeated in conference play.  The last five Hurricane games have been decided by a total of 12 points.  Miami lost four of those games.  Hopefully Frank Haith can turn things around with home games against Virginia and Georgia Tech this week.
  11. Wake Forest (8-13, 1-5) is out of the cellar for the week!  Offensive balance and good shooting ruled the day in Winston-Salem.  I’m not sure I see any more great shots at a win left on the schedule (though you should never bet on NC State or Georgia Tech on the road), so it’s good that the Demon Deacons got a win when they did.  Things can only go up from here.
  12. Virginia (11-10, 2-5) fell to a desperate Wake Forest team looking for its first conference win to fall to one and five in their last six games.

A Look Ahead

  • Tuesday Blizzard Warning: North Carolina at Boston College (9:00 PM, ACC Network)
  • Wednesday Upset Watch: Duke at Maryland (9:00 PM, ESPN)
  • Sunday Ticket: Florida State at North Carolina (2:00 PM, FSN)
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ATB: Wild Weekend Across the Hoops Universe

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2011

The Lede.  What a weekend.  Unless you care about the Pro Bowl (and really, other than gamblers, who does?), we here in the college hoops universe had the sports world to ourselves, and the weekend gods in charge made sure that we had a wild and woolly preview of March even though the calendar still said otherwise.  Fully half of the ranked teams in the RTC Top 25 lost over the weekend, and quite a few others including two of the top three teams in America hung on by the skin of their teeth.  What this shows us once again is that there are no dominant teams in basketball this year; even though Ohio State remains undefeated, they’ve had numerous close encounters and it’s clear that the Buckeyes are merely one of a dozen teams with the goods to win six straight this spring.  It should be a wild ride through the remaining five weeks of the regular season; if this weekend’s results are any indication, we should all down a few anti-vertigo meds and strap ourselves in.

St. John's Made the Garden Rock Again Today (Getty/N. Laham)

Your Watercooler MomentDuke Destroyed in the Garden.  The last time we saw the Duke Blue Devils so thoroughly undressed as they were in today’s matchup with St. John’s at the Garden, many observers at the time believed that Coach K had lost some of his touch on the recruiting trail and his teams simply could not compete at the highest level of college basketball anymore.  On that day, Villanova used a dominant second half to rattle the Devils with its superior quickness and athleticism, forcing Duke to fire off 22 bricks from beyond the arc (versus five makes) in the game and generally embarrassing a team that had been ranked as high as #1 at one point that season.  Today’s game against Steve Lavin’s fun group of Johnnies was not entirely dissimilar.  Duke looked generally slow, uninterested and incapable of making an outside shot (shooting 5-26 from deep after starting out 1-19) while SJU had all the energy and emotion of a home crowd desperate for a winning program again.  Whether this is emblematic of a bad day for Duke or indicative of a deeper set of problems, we’ll have to see how February goes before making that decision.  Make no mistake, though, today’s result was a major red flag for the defending national champs.  Teams that win titles don’t find themselves down 50-25 to anybody, much less unranked teams.

We have much more on this destruction of Duke from our correspondent’s report from the game here.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

  • Ashton Gibbs and Jared Sullinger.  A couple of big-time players making big-time shots in the clutch with their teams on the verge of defeat.  #1 Ohio State appeared to be in serious trouble when David Lighty got the ball into Sullinger deep in the post off a steal.  He was fouled and subsequently hit 1-of-2 free throws with three seconds remaining and all the noise and pressure of the Northwestern students weighing on him at the time.  Just another day at the office (21/8) for the impressive freshman.  At Rutgers, it was the junior Gibbs (24/4) who played the role of Mr. Clutch, drilling a 25-footer as the shot clock wound down and the Panthers clinging to a precarious one-point lead.  His three gave Pitt just enough breathing room to keep Rutgers on the fouling strategy, ultimately unsuccessful as Pitt hit twelve down the stretch to salt away another win.
  • The Texas Defense.  It’s starting to scare us.  We know that the Longhorn defense is already the most efficient in America, but to put the clamps on an offensive juggernaut like Missouri in holding the Tigers to 58 points (25 below their season average) is ridiculous.  In six Big 12 games, they’re holding teams to 54 points per game, a statistic that is particularly amazing when you consider that three of those wins were against teams in the top 15.  If Rick Barnes can coax a little more offense from his young team, the Horns might end up as the best team in America by March.
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The Perfect Storm Leads to St. John’s Rout of Duke and Raises Questions About the Blue Devils

Posted by nvr1983 on January 31st, 2011

It was a game with a result that was shocking not so much for the fact that St. John’s beat Duke, but the manner in which they did so. Coming into the game on Sunday afternoon, the Red Storm had lost five of six after raising expectations with a win over Georgetown at the beginning of an unprecedented stretch of eight consecutive games against top 25 teams. That skid had threatened to put a damper on all the hype that had accompanied Steve Lavin‘s arrival in New York City and his much-ballyhooed incoming freshman class, but for one afternoon all of that was forgotten as the Red Storm put on as dominant of a performance against such a high caliber opponent as any St. John’s team has had since the days when they were still called the politically incorrect Redmen, Lou Carnesecca roamed the sidelines, and Walter Berry and Chris Mullin donned the uniform. Today, the newest generation of St. John’s players turned in a performance that certainly made Carnesecca and Berry (both in attendance today) proud.

St. John's Brought Back Ancient Memories This Afternoon

Behind a full court press than left Duke looking sloppy and some hot shooting, the Red Storm ran away with a 93-78 victory that was not as close as the 15-point final margin indicates. In front of a sellout crowd of 19,353 at Madison Square Garden that was nearly 50-50 in terms of allegiance to Duke or St. John’s, the Red Storm played their best basketball of the season and took advantage of the Blue Devils playing their worst. Even though Mike Krzyzewski seemed to imply in his post-game press conference that this game was an isolated incident, it does raise questions about the defending champions. On one hand we can probably discount Duke’s 5-for-26 shooting from 3-point range (and 1-for-19 before a late hot streak after the game was out of reach made the final numbers more respectable) as an aberration, but there were several other aspects of the game that should not be dismissed as easily.

  • Duke’s lack of athleticism: Last season Doug Gottlieb caught some heat from Coach K for calling the Blue Devils “alarmingly unathletic.” While it may not have been the politically correct thing to say, there was some truth to the statement. Outside of perhaps Mason Plumlee, none of the current Blue Devils will amaze any NBA scout with their athleticism. This doesn’t mean that Duke isn’t athletic enough to win the title (their biggest losses from last year’s championship team are Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, who were probably the two least athletic players in last year’s starting line-up), but it does mean that this Duke team isn’t going to blow any elite team off the court with their athletes, and, in certain situations like today when their shots are not falling, they are vulnerable to inferior teams.
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RTC Live: Duke @ St. John’s

Posted by nvr1983 on January 30th, 2011

Game #121. RTC heads to Madison Square Garden (aka “The World’s Most Famous Arena”) as the defending champs invade The Big Apple.

The Red Storm head into today’s game having finished what is likely the hardest seven-game stretch that any team has faced this season and things won’t get any easier as Coach K and the Blue Devils come to town. After initially raising expectations in New York City after a 3-point will over Georgetown on January 3rd Steve Lavin and the Red Storm have fallen on hard times losing 5 of their last 6 games. If the Red Storm are to reverse their fortunes today they will need big games out of Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee and try to find a way to contain Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler while defending the 3-point line against a Blue Devil team that is loaded with excellent shooters, but has struggled from 3-point range since starting ACC play.
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