Ten Opening Night Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 13th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

It would be foolish to draw too many sweeping conclusions after one rust-filled outing against inferior competition, but there are certain elements within a game that can provide a glimpse into what to expect during the season ahead.  After watching a handful of games last night and tracking each and every box score this morning, these ten things caught my eye:

Tinsley is now the full time point guard at Vandy

1. As is often the case in the SEC, Vanderbilt flew under the radar in the preseason. Kentucky’s ballyhooed freshmen class received the buzz, Florida was crowned the prohibitive favorite due to the return of five starters, Bruce Pearl’s recruiting indiscretions vaulted Tennessee into the spotlight for the wrong reasons and Mississippi State could certainly be dangerous when Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney return nine games into the campaign. The Commodores, coming off a 24-9 season and a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, didn’t receive the same publicity as their SEC brethren. But that’s just how Kevin Stallings, one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the business, prefers it. The loss of senior point guard Jermaine Beal (and the premature departure of A.J. Ogilvy inside) was a big reason why many pegged Vanderbilt to take a step back from a season ago, even with returnees John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor oozing with talent and potential. The question was how junior point guard Brad Tinsley would step in for the grizzled veteran Beal and run the Commodores offense with the same aplomb, finding Jenkins off curls and screens for open threes or big man Festus Ezeli in scoring position on the block. Tinsley showed he’s up for the task in a 41-point romp of Presbyterian at Memorial Gymnasium on Friday, notching Vandy’s first triple-double in school history with 11 points and a career high 10 assists and 10 rebounds (not too shabby for a 6’3 guard). Tinsley also collected three steals and only turned the ball over twice. If Tinsley provides playmaking and stability at the point, Taylor lives up to his future lottery pick billing as an impact wing, Jenkins continues his proficiency from deep and Ezeli gives Vandy a presence inside, the Commodores will win 24 games again.

2. Two wins on Friday night may fly under the radar a bit, but are absolutely worth highlighting. The first is Minnesota’s convincing home victory over Wofford. I expected the Terriers to give Tubby Smith’s squad all kinds of trouble and possibly even win this game straight up. Wofford returns four starters, including potential SoCon POY Noah Dahlman, from a stout defensive team that gave Wisconsin a scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Heck, I even pegged them as my Cinderella last week. Throw in yet another Minnesota suspension on Thursday (this time off-guard Devoe Joseph) and this had all the makings of a super competitive test for the Gophers. Instead, Minnesota controlled the game throughout, leading by ten at half and winning 69-55 behind 20/13 from Ralph Sampson and 14/10 in Trevor Mbakwe’s debut in maroon and gold. The Gopher bigs also contained Dahlman to 15 points and the Wofford guards couldn’t find their stroke from deep. Don’t be surprised if this is an RPI top-100 win for Minnesota by season’s end. A second win that stood out is West Virginia’s romp of Oakland, another squad favored to win their conference behind potential first round pick Keith Benson. Benson did his thing with 22/15 but received no help as the Mountaineers utilized a balanced attack- Joe Mazzulla, Dalton Pepper, John Flowers, Deniz Kilicli, Casey Mitchell and Darryl Bryant all scored in double figures- to romp the Golden Grizzlies 95-71. Without an all-Big East perimeter threat like Da’Sean Butler at their disposal, this type of team effort is imperative if the Mountaineers want to vault themselves into the upper echelon of the Big East this season.

3. It’s painfully obvious that Georgetown is going to live and die with their backcourt this season. Their frontcourt pieces- Julian Vaughn, Nate Lubick, Jerelle Benimon and Henry Sims– are unspectacular, role players that can crash the boards, provide versatility and dish from the top of the key in the Georgetown halfcourt offense, but simply cannot be relied upon as consistent scoring threats. The Hoyas opener at reigning CAA champion and preseason favorite Old Dominion exposed this weakness inside. The Monarchs out-rebounded Georgetown by 11, blocked nine more shots and the Hoya forwards only scored eight of the team’s 62 points. Yet Georgetown eked out an enormous road victory on the heels of their experienced and savvy backcourt trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. The threesome led Georgetown back from a second-half deficit with clutch threes and free throws down the stretch, including one from Wright on a crosscourt Hollis Thompson feed where the 6’1 senior wasn’t even able to even land as the shot clocked expired. Given the Monarchs defensive prowess and the return of four starters from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, this is in all likelihood a top-50 RPI win for Georgetown in the first week of the campaign. If more of those marquee wins are to come, Wright, Freeman and Clark will be the reasons.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.12.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 12th, 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.

Although the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer was granted an exception, tonight is the NCAA-mandated start of the college basketball season. Here are five games to keep an eye on this evening. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

#18 Georgetown @ Old Dominion – 7 pm on Comcast-D.C. and WSKY Hampton Roads (VA) (****)

Georgetown & ODU Re-Convene a Solid Rivalry Tonight (WaPo/J. McDonnell)

 Perhaps the most anticipated game of the night features two teams starting a new era without their best players. Gone are Greg Monroe of Georgetown and Gerald Lee of Old Dominion, but each team returns its four other starters. Both teams are known for playing excellent defense and a slower tempo style, so tonight’s game figures to be in the 50s or low 60s as a consequence of that. Among the Georgetown returnees are Austin Freeman, the Big East preseason POY, and senior point guard Chris Wright. Freeman is a terrific all-around player and a major threat from the three-point line for the Hoyas. If you’re looking for a good indication of the final result during the game, look no further than the enigmatic Wright. In games where he scored ten points or less last year, Georgetown was just 3-7. When he had at least 11 points, the Hoyas were 20-3. In contrast to past Georgetown teams, this group of Hoyas will run their offense almost exclusively through their backcourt. Freeman, Wright and Jason Clark are arguably Georgetown’s best players and none of them happen to be taller than 6’3. That isn’t to say Georgetown has nobody up front. Julian Vaughn returns for his senior season after transferring from Florida State at the conclusion of his freshman year. Last year against Old Dominion, Vaughn had 13 points on 5-8 FG. Gerald Lee was saddled with foul trouble and thus a non-factor in the game (six points and only one rebound). With Lee now departed, Vaughn may have another good game in the paint for Georgetown. For the Monarchs of ODU, four starters return from a 27-win team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Their key players in this game will be Frank Hassell battling inside with Vaughn, point guard Kent Bazemore and Ben Finney who had 13/6/5 assts the last time these teams met. That last meeting was on campus at Georgetown, a game won by the Monarchs. In fact, the visiting team has won every game in this series since it started in the 2006-07 season. Bazemore is an interesting player. He’s a lefty point guard (there are actually two other lefties on the ODU roster) who shot the exact same percentage from the floor and the free throw line last year (48.6%). For Blaine Taylor’s team, free throw and three-point shooting could cause major problems in this game, especially against a defense as tight as Georgetown’s. Keyon Carter is Old Dominion’s best returning three-point shooter and he only shot 34.7% from behind the arc last season. This should be a hard fought, close game that may come down to the final possession. Georgetown was a difficult team to prepare for last year as they had the talent to beat both NCAA finalists Duke and Butler, but also lost games to the likes of Ohio, Rutgers and South Florida. Good guard play and a solid effort from Vaughn should allow Georgetown to grab a nice road win to start the season. For ODU, Hassell must contain Vaughn while Finney and Bazemore have to hold their own against Georgetown’s vaunted backcourt. If Taylor’s team can hold the Georgetown backcourt in check, look for the Monarchs to pull out a win. We hate to go cliché but that’s easier said than done.

Northern Iowa @ #11 Syracuse – 7 pm on ESPN3.com (***)

The last time Northern Iowa won a game, this happened. Times have changed as Ali Farokhmanesh, Adam Koch and Jordan Eglseder have graduated. This is Kwadzo Ahelegbe’s team now. The senior averaged 10.6 PPG last season and now anchors a relatively young team. Against Syracuse’s strong 2-3 zone tonight, Northern Iowa must work the ball into the paint and free throw line area effectively. To do that, sophomore Jake Koch must start to become the impact player coach Ben Jacobson hopes he’ll be. Playing largely behind Eglseder last year, the Ashwaubenon, WI, native only played 13.6 minutes a game last year. He’ll be counted on for much more this time around, along with Johnny Moran and Lucas O’Rear. For UNI to win tonight the guards must be on fire shooting over the zone and Koch has to avoid foul trouble. The Panthers have nobody else on the roster 6’8 or taller who saw any significant action last season. Look for Syracuse to take advantage of that and eat Northern Iowa alive in the paint. The player most likely to do just that is freshman stud Fab Melo. At 7’0 and 265 lbs, Melo is a force inside for which UNI has no answer. You could see a really big freshman debut for Mr. Melo this evening. Syracuse just has too much up front for Northern Iowa to contend with. Rick Jackson, Melo and everybody’s favorite breakout candidate Kris Joseph should dominate at home for the Orange. The backcourt tandem of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine only adds to the ‘Cuse’s talent and depth (we haven’t even mentioned their bench). Both can play the point and shoot it well from the arc. All in all, Jim Boeheim’s club just has too much talent for Northern Iowa tonight. We’d be surprised if the final margin was less than ten points.

Oakland @ West Virginia – 9 pm on ESPN3.com (***)

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players: National Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2010

Over the past month-plus, we’ve been presenting our RTC Impact Players for the 2010-11 season. From coast to coast and the Canadian border down to Mexico, we’ve selected the sixty players nationally who we believe will have the most impact on the game this year.  Each of the ten geographic regions was allotted five “starters” and a “sixth man,” an artificial construct that was easy to fill in some areas while much more difficult in some of the others.  In case you’ve missed the series along the way, this post will serve as your wrap-up.  We’re rank-ordering the ten “teams” by geographic region and list some of the near-miss players in each one.  Each regional post has a much more extensive writeup on each player chosen, so be sure to click on its respective link if you’re looking for additional information.  Here’s the view of the 2010-11 college basketball world from 500,000 feet.

The 2010-11 RTC Impact Players Map

The Ten Regions

(* denotes current injury, suspension or ineligibility)

1. Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL). Wow, and imagine if Robbie Hummel hadn’t gotten hurt.  Another group of first-rounders has everything, but what really sets this team apart is the inside dominance that Sullinger and Johnson can impose.  There isn’t a region on our list this year that would be able to stay out of foul trouble against those two, especially with the heady play of Mack, McCamey and Moore finding the big men in the right spots time and time again.  It’s no coincidence that the nation’s best conference — the Big 10 — has its footprint located here.

  • Shelvin Mack, G, Butler
  • E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
  • Chris Wright, F, Dayton
  • Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State
  • JaJuan Johnson, C, Purdue
  • Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois (6th)

Near Misses: William Buford, Ohio State; Maurice Creek, G, Indiana; John Shurna, Northwestern

2. South Atlantic Region (VA, NC, SC). Obviously, if you can’t find a space for a likely all-american like Nolan Smith, this is a sick team.  Its only weakness is that other than Tracy Smith, it is extremely perimeter-oriented.  Granted, nobody can put a more talented five on the floor, but if a team like the above can pound the ball inside on them, that could make the difference.

  • Kyrie Irving, G, Duke
  • Malcolm Delaney, G, Virginia Tech
  • Kevin Anderson, G, Richmond
  • Harrison Barnes, F, UNC
  • Kyle Singler, F, Duke
  • Tracy Smith, F, NC State (6th)

Near Misses: Nolan Smith, Duke; Andrew Goudelock, College of Charleston

3. Plains/Mountains Region (KS, CO, WY, OK, TX). This is a ridiculously talented region, with first-rounders everywhere on the floor.  The only possible issue would be who would be willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team, but if Selby is eligible to run the show, we’re not sure there’s a much better group anywhere else in America.  This region is so strong we had to leave a high-major conference POY (Culpepper) off the team.  Wow.

  • LaceDarius Dunn*, G, Baylor
  • Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State
  • Perry Jones, F, Baylor
  • Marcus Morris, F, Kansas
  • Cory Higgins, F, Colorado
  • Josh Selby*, Kansas (6th)

Near Misses: Alec Burks, Colorado; Gary Johnson, Texas; Randy Culpepper, UTEP

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RTC Conference Primers: #7 – Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 30th, 2010

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Temple (14-2)
  2. Richmond (13-3)
  3. Xavier (13-3)
  4. Dayton (11-5)
  5. Rhode Island (9-7)
  6. Charlotte (9-7)
  7. St. Louis (9-7)
  8. Duquesne (7-9)
  9. George Washington (7-9)
  10. St. Bonaventure (6-10)
  11. Massachusetts (5-11)
  12. Saint Joseph’s (4-12)
  13. La Salle (3-13)
  14. Fordham (2-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from 2009-10 in parentheses)

  • G Tu Holloway, Xavier (31.9 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 3.9APG)
  • G Kevin Anderson, Richmond (37.8 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 2.7 APG)
  • F Damian Saunders, Duquesne (36.7 MPG, 15.0 PPG, 11.3 RPG)
  • F Chris Wright, Dayton (28.6 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG)
  • F Lavoy Allen, Temple (34.5 MPG, 11.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.4 BPG)

6th Man

Aaric Murray, La Salle (12.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.3 BPG)

Impact Newcomer

SG Daniel West, Rhode Island (transfer from Pensacola State College)

A-10 Conference All-Rookie Team

  • G Juwain Staten, Dayton
  • G/F Jay Canty, Xavier
  • F Maxie Esho, Massachusetts
  • F C.J. Aiken, Saint Joseph’s
  • F/C Rob Loe, St. Louis

What You Need to Know

The conference, identified by Kyle Whelliston of the Mid-Majority blog as neither above nor below “The Red Line,” sent half of its conference members to post season tournaments last March. Three (Richmond, Temple and Xavier – one more than the Pac-10 Conference) went to the NCAA Tournament, while two each went to the NIT (Dayton and Rhode Island) and the CBI (St. Louis and George Washington). Xavier, seeded #6 in the West Region, advanced to at least the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in three postseasons, losing to Kansas State in a two-overtime game, 101-96. Rhode Island was eliminated in the NIT semifinals, while Dayton beat North Carolina 79-68, to win the NIT. St. Louis lost the CBI finals series 2-0 to Virginia Commonwealth.

Reigning A-10 POY Kevin Anderson returns for Richmond, but will he get the Spiders over Temple?

The Predicted Champion

Temple (NCAA Seed: #4). Coach Fran Dunphy brings back 66% of the Owls’ 2009-10 minutes and 70.3% of the scoring of the team that tied Xavier for the regular season title and won the A-10 Conference Tournament outright. The 2009-10 season ended on a down note, but the casual fan could not tell from the raft of 2010-11 season previews that place the Owls in the Top 25 – 30, usually at the head of the A-10 contingent.

Dunphy returns three starters and a solid rotation. Juan Fernandez (31.6 mpg, 12.6 ppg, 3.6 apg), a 6’4 180 pound point guard, who started his freshman season late but made huge strides last season, earned an All A-10 Honorable Mention and Conference Tournament MVP award last March. He dished a team-high 122 assists and yielded a 24.4% assist rate, ranking #254 in Ken Pomeroy’s Top 500 assist leaders. Junior Ramone Moore (18.0 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 1.5 apg), sophomore T.J. DiLeo (6.4 mpg, 1.1 ppg), freshman Aaron Brown, a 6’4, 185 pound gunner out of St. Benedict’s in New Jersey, along with sophomore Rahlir Jefferson (16.6 mpg, 3.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and junior Scootie Randall (7.0 mpg, 1.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg) will compete for starts at #2 and #3 spots vacated by glue guy Ryan Brooks and 2009-10 starter Luis Guzman.

Returning starter senior power forward Lavoy Allen (34.5 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and 6’11, 225 pound junior center Michael Eric (15.7 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg), will anchor the frontcourt. Eric is a raw talent who will need to cut down on his fouls if he wants to log significant minutes this season. Allen was voted to the 2009-10 All A-10 First Team and subsequently invited to play on Team USA’s Select squad last summer that prepped the USA Men’s Team. Graduate transfer (Monmouth University) Dutch Gaitley, Craig William sand freshman Anthony Lee round out the front court rotation, though Williams is rehabbing from a right foot injury.

The conference schedule maker was kind to Dunphy, matching the Owls with three mirror opponents (Fordham, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s) who sported a collective conference record of 9-39 last season, the poorest for any set of mirror opponents. All three recruited good talent over the spring and summer months, but if the Owls focus, they shouldn’t have much trouble in disposing of those three teams. The Owls may have road rendezvous with Dayton and Xavier (Saturday 2/12 and Saturday 1/22 – mark the dates), but will host their biggest rival, Richmond (Thursday 2/17). Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Mid-Atlantic Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 7th, 2010

It’s October.  The leaves are starting to turn colors.  Halloween candy is already in the stores.  There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat.  Midnight Madness is less than two weeks away and RTC is ready to jump into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials headfirst, like a ten-foot stack of those leaves that you just raked into a giant pile.  For the second October in a row, we’re going to bring you our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this throughout September and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Mid-Atlantic Region (NJ, PA, WV, DE, MD, DC)

  • Austin Freeman – Sr, G – Georgetown. It’s hard to find a glaring weakness in Austin Freeman’s game. In a conference lacking the star power it normally touts, Freeman is the one player without a handful of flaws, concerns and question marks heading into 2010-11, a big reason why we believe he should be the preseason favorite to take home Big East Player of the Year honors next March. It’s obvious Freeman can shoot. Just ask Jim Calhoun about when the DeMatha HS product lit up his Huskies for 33 points on 5-9 from downtown in a comeback victory. Or just ask every coach in the Big East conference because it’s extremely likely Freeman made them pay on at least one occasion last season. The 6’3 junior shot a staggering 44% from three and 53% overall as a shooting guard who attempted 383 field goals last season. He also ranked in the top 100 in both effective FG% and offensive rating. Sure, plenty of the open looks were a result of opposing defenses keying on departed Hoya big man Greg Monroe, but GU still has enough playmakers on this year’s roster — Chris Wright, Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson to name a few — to free up shots for Freeman. While he may not be the most explosive athlete on the planet, Freeman makes up for that weakness with tremendous strength, especially fighting around screens and utilizing his quick release from deep. He also stays on John Thompson’s good side by limiting turnovers to around two per game. Off the court, Freeman has now had an entire summer to adjust to the news he received in February that he was diabetic. Reaching the charity stripe at a higher frequency should also be a point of emphasis for Freeman to improve on this season. In the Big East championship game loss to West Virginia and the embarrassing defeat at the hands of Ohio in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Freeman did not attempt a single free throw. In fact, he didn’t even shoot 100 FTs all season. Maintaining his efficient shooting totals and increasing the chances for free points is a combination that should combined to produce the most complete player in the Big East.

Freeman Will Keep Georgetown Near the Top of the Big East

  • Talor Battle – Sr, G – Penn State. Talor Battle dabbled with the thought of entering the NBA Draft last spring, and who could blame the electrifying guard from central Pennsylvania?  After a tremendous sophomore season where his team went 27-11 and won the NIT title, he lost talented teammates Stanley Pringle and Jamelle Cornley to graduation, resulting in a severe free fall back to the bottom of the Big Ten (11-20, 3-15).  Still, Battle persevered through the mounting number of losses by playing heavy minutes (37.0 MPG) and continuing his march toward the very top of the Penn State basketball record books. Despite his diminutive 5’11, 160-lb frame, the two-time all-Big Ten guard (1st team in 2009; 2d team in 2010) who can do a little bit of everything is on pace to become Penn State’s all-time leading scorer and the best rebounding guard in the history of the program.  His season averages of 18.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 4.2 APG in 2009-10 were matched by only one other player in all of D1 basketball (NPOY Evan Turner) and he was also the only player among the 73 BCS programs who led his team in total points, rebounds, assists and steals.  Individual statistics are nice, but Battle would rather see more wins this season and there are some encouraging signs that his decision to return may be a good one.  Seven of PSU’s fifteen Big Ten losses last season were by six points or less, and the Nittany Lions were 3-3 in their last six regular season games with close losses to league leaders Purdue and Michigan State.  With all five starters returning for Ed DeChellis’ team, the hope for Battle is that some of those close games will break the other way with his senior leadership and shot-making abilities making the difference at the end.  It’s unlikely that PSU has an NCAA Tournament appearance in its immediate future (its last was a decade ago), especially in the brutal Big Ten, but an overall winning record and another trip to the NIT is a reasonable goal for Battle and friends to aspire toward.

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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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Morning Five: 05.10.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2010

  1. We hope to have a post up later today evaluating the winners and losers from the NBA Draft early entry withdrawal deadline on Saturday, but for now, here’s what you need to know.  Leaving: Dee Bost (Mississippi State), Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky), Daniel Orton (Kentucky), Dominique Jones (South Florida), Darington Hobson (New Mexico), Willie Warren (Oklahoma), Jordan Crawford (Xavier).  Staying: Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech), Ravern Johnson (Mississippi State), Talor Battle (Penn State), Lavoy Allen (Temple), Jimmer Fredette (BYU), Alex Tyus (Florida), E’Twaun Moore (Purdue), JaJuan Johnson (Purdue), Demetri McCamey (Illinois), Mike Davis (Illinois), Kevin Anderson (Richmond).
  2. The fact that former Baylor coach Dave Bliss — you remember, the guy who tried to posthumously frame his murdered player as a drug dealer to save his own arsecan get a job teaching young men about the value of hard work, ethics and morality at Allen Academy in Texas proves that we are a very forgiving society.  Wow.  Just, wow.
  3. Tony Barbee has hit the ground running at Auburn, and has very high hopes for his program there.  With a new arena and a fertile recruiting base, AU could be poised as a sleeping giant for the right coach, but the uniform lack of interest in roundball at the school makes things very difficult.  Here are a couple of recent interviews with him about how he plans to handle life in the SEC West.
  4. Arizona’s new law dealing with immigration (SB 1070) may impact the recruiting of international student-athletes to the major D1 schools in the state, according to this article.  It makes sense, given that opposing schools will use anything to make a competitor look bad in comparison, and especially if out-of-state students are passing on Arizona schools based on the law.
  5. Bob Knight gave the commencement address Saturday to the graduating students at Trine University, a small private school in northeastern Indiana.  How a school nobody has ever heard of got a hold of him we’ll never know, but we assume it involves some hunting buddy with a connection to Trine.  If you’re into this kind of thing, his entire speech is embedded below (in five parts).

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Morning Five: 04.26.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2010

  1. As of Midnight ET last night, the NBA Draft early entry deadline had passed.  Most of the big names had already thrown their hats into the ring, but there were a few last-minute additions over the weekend.  Most notably, Florida State’s Solomon Alabi entered his name on Friday, representing the last likely first rounder who had remained on the fence.  Temple center Lavoy Allen has decided to test the waters, choosing to not sign with an agent while gauging what he needs to work on next year.  These two and all 758 of the others will now have fourteen days (until May 8) to make a final determination as to whether they’re staying or leaving, which is great for us but a little tight during exam time for them to get reliable information.
  2. Oregon fans are coming to terms with the arrival of Dana Altman in Eugene and his high-intensity, pressing style of play.  As we said on Saturday, we believe this is a good hire for the next seven years for the Nike Duck program, even if not everyone was initially thrilled with this decision.  Altman may get an early shot to build good will with a win over visiting #1 Duke at the Rose Garden in the pre-conference schedule, it turns out.
  3. And this is yet another example of why we shouldn’t allow people who don’t understand the game of basketball (and college basketball in particular) anywhere near our game (see: Malcolm Gladwell).  We love March Madness because it’s like American Idol?  Just.  Stop.
  4. We hope to have something more substantial up about all the potential conference realignment spurred by the Big Ten’s rapacity soon, but for now many others have plenty to say on the matter.  One commentator points out that the league has been the butt of jokes in recent years, but nobody is laughing at it now, while another points out that four sixteen-teams conferences from sea to shining sea could result in a football Final Four for the ages.  Speaking of the gridiron, one thing is crystal clear to everyone — whatever happens, basketball tradition and rivalries will be an afterthought, a real shame given how hoops powers with little to no football tradition are being forced into decisions based on a sport that matters less to them.  Meanwhile, to really cap off your Monday morning, how about discussing a future doomsday scenario where those four super-conferences break off and hold their own version of March Madness someday.  Honestly, we’re not even sure we could continue RTC if that were to happen.
  5. Michigan State is breaking out new unis starting next year.  The “State” we’ve all become accustomed to on the front has now been replaced with “Spartans.”  What do you think?

We Always Thought That "State" Thing Was Presumptuous Anyway

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Afternoon

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first 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 Friday afternoon games.

12:15 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #15 Morgan State  (Buffalo pod)

West Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation. They squeaked out an enormous road win at Villanova to end the regular season then swept through Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Georgetown en route to a Big East championship riding the heroics of Da’Sean Butler. The Mountaineers are an extremely gifted rebounding team; in fact, sometimes their best offense comes after a missed shot. They feature multiple weapons that can step out and shoot a mid-range jumper or three from Wellington Smith to Kevin Jones to the all-around dynamo Butler. Also, few teams can match West Virginia’s intensity in the halfcourt defensively. Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman will need a gigantic scoring output from their own star, Baltimore native Reggie Holmes. Holmes scored 25 or more points fifteen times this season, averaging 21.3 PPG and ranking in the top-50 in percentage of shots taken. The Bears also feature a rugged forward named Kevin Thompson who comes in at fifth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. In fact, Morgan State ranks 11th in the country as a team in that very category. Unfortunately for the underdogs, West Virginia is never outworked on the glass, not with Jones, Devin Ebanks and Bob Huggins prominently involved.

The Skinny: This one shouldn’t be close from the tip. Morgan State dominated the MEAC all season, but West Virginia is flying high at this point. Expect the Mountaineers to dominate by 25-30 points.

12:25 pm – #6 Xavier vs. #11 Minnesota  (Milwaukee pod)

The answer to which team will win this game depends entirely on which Gopher team shows up to play in Milwaukee.  Will it be the defensive juggernaut that held Purdue to 11 first  half points last Saturday, or will it be the team that got obliterated by Ohio State 52-29 in the second half on Sunday?  Tubby Smith’s team has been schizophrenic like that all year, following up strong wins with disastrous performances (two losses to Michigan?  really?), which probably explains why they were a bubble team up until Sunday evening.  Xavier comes into this one with the stronger resume, but it’s difficult to say if the Musketeers are the better team.  When he plays under control, XU’s Jordan Crawford is a talent, and his supporting case of Jason Love on the interior and Terrell Holloway running the show makes for nice balance throughout the Xavier lineup.  The question we have is who will win the defensive battle, though.  Xavier defends the three really well, while Minnesota behind Blake Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook both shoot it equally as well.  This game is essentially a tossup (Vegas agrees, setting Minny as a one-point favorite), and we really liked the first seven halves of basketball that the Gophers put up in Indianapolis on a neutral floor last week, so we’re going with the extremely mild 6/11 upset here, in a close game that comes down to the last possession. 

The Skinny: Despite the seedings, this is a tossup game and we like the Gophers to win it on the last possession. 

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Daily Diaries: ACC and Atlantic 10 Tournament Finals

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC covered several of the conference tournaments from the sites over the weekend. We had RTC correspondents at the ACC and Atlantic 10 Tournament finals on Sunday; each of them wrapped up the day’s action in these diary submissions.

Atlantic 10 Championship

Temple 56, Richmond 52

  • “It is tough to win both the regular season title and the conference tournament. I have to congratulate Temple on their achievement” said Richmond Coach Chris Mooney to start his last press conference at the 2010 A10 Tournament. His Richmond team had lost to Temple, 56-52, in front of 10,000+ fans at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. The cheers from the arena floor could he heard in the background as the reporters asked Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper to analyze their team’s performance. Richmond came out cold in the first half, missing their first four shots. A dunk by center Darrius Garrett put Richmond on the board, but Temple had already converted three times. Three minutes into the game it was 7-2 Temple, just like the day before, different day and opponent perhaps, but the same start. That was the story of the A10 Championship game. Like their semifinal game with Rhode Island, the Temple Owls scored first and never relinquished the lead. Richmond however was not Rhode Island and the Spiders did not go quietly. The crowd was Temple’s by a 60-40 margin, and when the Spiders came close cutting Temple’s lead to one with 39 seconds left in the game, the Spider faithful came to their feet and gave their team a loud cheer.
  • “Threepeat!” shouted the fans as the Temple team cut down the nets. “It’s the beginning of a dynasty!” a fellow member of the media said as he packed his bags, “They bring back Fernandez, Allen, Eirc and Jefferson. They will own the A10 for at least two more years.” Dynasty talk will have to wait for next season’s previews however, because the talk along press row was whether the game would help Temple’s argument for a #3 (or better) seed.  There is another month to this season, and the growing expectation that this Temple team (and most probably the two other A10 teams who will participate in the NCAAs next week) will play through the first weekend, and possibly into the second weekend.
  • Weather and a leaky roof aside, the A10 Conference Tournament was everything an eastern basketball fan could ask for. Three days of terrific basketball, ten games in all. Throw in an overtime game and two of the last three games decided by six or fewer points and play after play by athletic and skilled basketball players. The work of Kevin Anderson and Juan Fernandez in particular stand out. Anderson put the Richmond team on his back and brought them back against Xavier in the semifinal game. Anderson scored the last four points in regulation to tie the game, and hit the first points in overtime that put Richmond in the lead. Fernandez is a oddity for American audiences. Temple fans remember Pepe Sanchez, an Argentine guard brought over by John Chaney very fondly. Fernandez is about six inches taller and very skilled. In the championship game he called for the ball again and again, taking to the lane or hitting a pull-up jumper, a small lapse at the midpoint of the second half aside, he was composed throughout, chewing on gum, as if to set his internal clock. In the championship game Anderson played 38 minutes and scored 14 points. Fernandez played 38 minutes and scored 18 points: the margin of the game.


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