Boom Goes the Dynamite: 01.11.09 Early Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 11th, 2009

Back for another day of BGTD. We have a light early schedule today with only a couple interesting early games. I’ll be updating this post throughout the early part of the day so keep on checking back and feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.

St. John’s at #1 Pittsburgh, Noon
- Been a struggle so far for the #1 team in the country. The Red Storm have been on fire from the field while the Panthers have struggled to find their range from the FT line (7/15). The Red Storm have been getting a big game out of D.J. Kennedy, who has 9 points at the half. The only reason the Panthers are in this game has been dominating the glass and a big start from DeJuan Blair, who has been beastly in the first half. It will be fun seeing Blair go head-to-head against the other big men in the Big East.
- Rough start for Sam Young with 5 points on 2/11 FG although he just got a nice assist to Gilbert Brown to put Pitt up by 5 with 1:20 left and then a nasty dunk off a feed from Levance Fields.
- Pitt up 41-36 at half after heating up a little at the end of the half and St. John’s missing a couple shots in a row.
- Interesting fact: Both Kennedy and Blair played at Schenley HS (Pittsburgh) on a team that won the Pennsylvania (PIAA) Class AAAA Championship. Does anybody know if Schenley is a regional powerhouse or just a fluke getting 2 D-1 scholarship guys on the same team?
- Weird setup for the seating at Petersen Events Center. It almost looks like they have luxury boxes behind the benches. Hard to see on TV. Does anybody who has been inside the arena have a little more info on this?
- Pitt is up 58-42 with 13:01 left.
- Wow. That’s a brutal schedule for Pittsburgh for the rest of January (5 straight games against ranked teams after a game against USF).
- Looks like Pitt has opened up a big lead and should be able to cruise the rest of the way. I’m going to switch my focus to the other 2 game below unless something interesting happens in this game.
- Pitt is putting on a clinic now. 85-61 with 2:36 left. Time to call this game.

#18 Xavier at Fordham, 1 PM

- Xavier up 35-22 with 4:34 left in the first half.
- Pretty dominant performance so far. They are shooting 60% from the field compared to Fordham’s 28%.
- I guess this is why people ranked Xavier above Butler in the BlogPoll a few weeks back even after Butler beat them. (Butler barely beat a bad Detroit team at home yesterday).
- Not getting this one on TV so if anybody is actually watching this one and wants to fill us in. Feel free because it’s hard to say something insightful by looking at constantly refreshing box scores.
- Fordham starts the 2nd half on an 13-4 run to cut the lead to 6 with 16:42 left making my above comment look really bad.
- Make that an 18-4 run to cut it to 49-48 with 15:25 left. How is the #18 team in the nation letting this happen against a 2-11 team?
- Xavier finally brought their team out after halftime. Now they’re up by 15 with 9:10 left. If I just saw the box score tomorrow morning, I would have assumed that Xavier rolled in this game.
- Xavier is up by 23 now with 4:07 left. Looks like another “routine” victory.
- Nice balanced effort from Xavier with 6 guys in double figures.

Wisconsin at #14 Purdue, 1:30 PM

- This should be a good game. Wisconsin has played well this year winning their first 3 games in the Big Ten including a big win at Michigan earlier this year.
- The game is being played on Keady Court. Is it too much to ask for a logo with a horrible combover?
- Speaking of the court. It looks like another of the raised courts (benches are below the floor). How many other schools have something like this? Does it have something to do with the colors? The only other one I can think of is at Vanderbilt.
- Looks like Robbie Hummel is healthy as he just hit a 3 after missing some time. He is coming off the bench, but I don’t think that will last long.
- Looks like a football game is breaking out here. Bodies hitting the floor.
- Nasty putback dunk by JaJuan Johnson. I guess the Big Ten does have some athletes.
- The Badgers have played pretty poorly, but is still in the game at half, 32-26 off an 8-0 run to end the half. If Purdue wants to make a run in March, they need to start putting teams away.
- Big first half by Johnson with 14 points on 6-of-7 from the field.
- Wisconsin keeps hanging around, but they haven’t been able to challenge Purdue for the lead. Each time they come close, they fail to convert.
- Tough foul on E’Twaun Moore there. Could have went either way.
- I have no idea what Bill Raftery was trying to say there. Something about Hummel’s 3-pointer, church, and marriage.
- Purdue is opening up a nice working margin here.
- Wisconsin would be right in this game if they could finish near the basket. They must have missed a dozen shots within 5 feet so far today with 7 min left in the game.
- Nice victory for Purdue (first win in the Big Ten after 2 losses). They won a game they should win without ever being in too much trouble. Great game from JaJuan Johnson with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

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Set Your Tivos: New Year’s Eve Spectacular

Posted by nvr1983 on December 30th, 2008

I’ll be honest with you. This doesn’t even come close to Super Saturday from a couple weekends ago, but it’s certainly better than watching all the specials about how your retirement account fell apart this year or some mediocre college football teams play in a meaningless bowl games that nobody has ever heard of. It certainly should be enough to distract Big Ten fans away from their teams getting blown out in the bowl games. In any event it will get the rest of you ready for Dick Clark at midnight. . .

http://www.museum.tv/
Credit: http://www.museum.tv/

Noon ET
- #15 Michigan State at #21 Minnesota on the Big Ten Network: Both teams are riding high after impressive victories on Super Saturday. The Spartans (9-2) have rebounded from a slow start including a blowout loss to UNC (doesn’t seem that bad any more. . .ok losing by 35 in a virtual home game is really bad) to reel off 5 straight wins including a win against Texas on the 20th. Meanwhile, Minnesota (12-0) has been playing consistently good basketball–quality wins over Virginia and an overrated Louisville team–all year despite coming into the season with modest expectations from the media. While the Spartans are more of a known quantity with a number of marquee players, the Gophers are more of an unknown as their soft early season schedule (only Louisville was a RPI top 100) is the reason they are 12-0 yet only ranked #21 in the country. The key to this game will likely be Spartan sophomore PG Kalin Lucas who comes into the game boasting a better than 6.5:1 assist to turnover ratio. If he continues to play at that level, Tubby Smith will have a tough time matching Tom Izzo and the Spartans.

2 PM ET
- #3 Pittsburgh at Rutgers on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: The Panthers are heavy favorites in this game, but we’ll be more interested in how the Scarlet Knights are performing in the middle of the toughest 3 game stretch in college basketball history (#1 UNC then #3 Pitt then current #2 UConn in the same week). Jamie Dixon should have his guys ready for this game after UConn’s loss to Georgetown a couple night earlier, but you never know with college kids particularly ones who probably went home for the holidays and spent time around people who praised them even more than what they normally hear at school. This is definitely an “upset alert” game, but we think the UConn loss should be enough to keep Levance Fields and the Panthers on their toes.

- Wisconsin at #24 Michigan on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: At first glance this would appear to be a mismatch with the Badgers being unranked and the Wolverines receiving a lot of attention from the media this year, but this game should be very close. Most of you know about the Wolverines (10-2) with losses to Duke (avenged) and Maryland, but the Badgers (9-3) come in with a pretty strong resume too–a blowout loss against UConn along with 2 close losses to Marquette and Texas (by a combined 8 points). Despite their strong starts, both teams still have work to do if they want to guarantee themselves a ticket to the NCAA tournament. As usual the Badgers come in without a true superstar, but have a very balanced attack with 5 players averaging between 7.8 and 12.6 PPG. The Wolverines rely on their stars–Manny Harris (19.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 5.1 APG) and DeShawn Sims (17.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG). I figure the Wolverine fans (and Manny Harris) should be enough to put their team over the top in the Big Ten opener.

4 PM ET
- Iowa at #23 Ohio State on the Big Ten Network: Unfortunately we don’t think we will be seeing Mr. Trillion (Mark Titus) make an on-court appearance because this also figures to be a close game. The Hawkeyes (10-3) haven’t been world-beaters, but they should put up a pretty good fight if Anthony Tucker can rebound from his recent suspension and play up to his early-season form. The Buckeyes looked absolutely awful in their last game a 76-48 loss to West Virginia, which dropped them 10 spots in the polls. If the Buckeyes expect to rebound and contend for a Big Ten title, which they have the potential to do, they will need freshman B.J. Mullens to start playing like the big-time recruit he was out of high school. At the very least, Thad Matta needs Mullens to start playing like the 7-footer that he reportedly is. Seriously, 4.0 RPG in 17.7 minutes per game against mediocre competition isn’t going to cut it for someone who has been hyped as a potential lottery pick. If Mullens can raise his game, he and Evan Turner should be enough to make them contenders for the Big Ten title.

6 PM ET
- UNLV at #18 Louisville on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: I would use an “upset alert” on this one, but with the way Rick Pitino’s boys have been playing this year they haven’t played well enough for me to consider another loss an upset. Louisville has the talent to blow out UNLV, but to date they haven’t shown the ability to translate that talent into performance this season. UNLV certainly hasn’t been playing great this year, but their pressing defense has started to pay dividends recently with a big win over Arizona. Normally a team as talented as Louisville shouldn’t have trouble with a trapping defense of the level of UNLV’s (saw it on Christmas Eve on a replay of the Southern Utah game on Mountain TV–don’t ask), but it might just be enough pressure to rattle a team that appears to be as mentally weak as Louisville. My prediction: Let’s just say I have a strong suspicion that Rick will be giving another long speech after this one.

8 PM ET
- #17 Gonzaga at Utah on CBS College Sports: As much as I would like to make this a game about 2 teams (sorry Utah), this game is really all about Gonzaga. The Bulldogs, who were ranked 4th in the nation a couple weeks ago, have lost 3 of 4. We’re willing to let the loss to UConn go (we called it the “Game of the Year (to date)” at the time, but neither team has done much lately to help with that claim), but losses to Arizona and Portland State have basically knocked Gonzaga out of contention for a #1 seed this year. However, Mark Few still has a chance at a #2 seed and spot in the West Region if Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, and company can get back in gear.

10 PM ET

-#1 UNC at Nevada on ESPN2. This is a true road test for the Heels, but it looked better on paper a month ago than it probably will be tonight.  The Wolfpack, with Luke Babbit, Armon Johnson and Brandon Fields, appeared to be ready to compete for another WAC championship and an NCAA bid coming into the season, but they have been nothing short of a disappointment so far, losing to pretty much every good team they’ve played.  Still, there is talent here, and if UNC is looking ahead to hanging out in the seedy casinos afterwards, Nevada could use their homecourt advantage to make a game of this one.  It’s worth keeping an eye on as you lift your glass to toast the new year in the east.

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Credit: www.squaremeal.co.uk

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. 

There are a lot of people out there that will call themselves college basketball experts, myself included (although I may be the only one to think that way). And these so-called experts keep telling you how good the Big East is this year. Once again, myself included.

If the Big East is so good, then where are all the marquee wins?

The Big East only has three really good wins – Notre Dame beating Texas in Maui, Syracuse beating Kansas in a de facto home game, and Georgetown beating Memphis at home. Even in those three, Georgetown won at home and Kansas is, well, not all that good right now.

It isn’t like they aren’t getting the chances either. West Virginia and Villanova lost to Davidson and Texas in the Jimmy V Classic. Marquette lost to Tennessee. So did Georgetown. Seton Hall lost to Memphis. Cincinnati lost to Xavier. Notre Dame lost to Ohio State and UNC.

As far as I’m concerned there are two schools of thought on this. One is that the Big East is actually even better than we expected. As a result, they are beating good teams, which in turn knocks those teams down in the rankings. Case in point, Wisconsin. The Badgers have two losses on the season (UConn and Marquette) which is part of the reason they aren’t ranked. Along those same lines, when lesser teams actually do get an upset of the Big East teams, they end up getting ranked too high.

The other is that the Big East is just a really big conference chock full of pretty good, but not great, teams. Look at the facts – UConn and Pitt are undefeated, but Pitt hasn’t played anyone and UConn has been so inconsistent; Villanova, Louisville, Georgetown, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Marquette all have fatal flaws as a team; Syracuse has been playing well, but struggles to keep their focus at times and will most likely be losing Eric Devendorf for the season.

So what does this mean? Are the ACC and the Big XII creeping up? No, not just yet. Let me ask you this question – if a healthy West Virginia team (Alex Ruoff and Joe Mazzula sat) beat Davidson and a healthy Luke Harangody helped knock off UNC and/or OSU, who we even be having this conversation?

Probably not. Now that is done, let’s get on to the good stuff.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. 

The Big East lost three of their four marquee games this week as Notre Dame lost to Ohio State and West Virginia and Villanova were swept in the Jimmy V Classic (Marquette did pick up a win at home against Wisconsin). Even teams like UConn (four point win over Buffalo) and Syracuse (came back from down 16 against Cornell) barely avoided being upset. Right now, the only team that is playing well and has played well through out the season is Pitt.

If the first quarter of the season taught us anything, it isn’t that the Big East is weaker than expected as much as the rest of the country is not as far behind as it seemed. Look at those three losses listed above. Notre Dame, a team that is not quite as good as they were expected to be, lost to a better-than-expected Ohio State team in Luke Harangody’s first game back from pneumonia (yea, he had 25 and 16, but you have to factor in the adjustment other players – i.e. Kyle McAlarney, who was 3-11 for 6 points – have to make when he comes back). West Virginia, playing without Joe Mazzulla and Alex Ruoff, lost to Davidson. Villanova lost to a very good Texas team.

While the teams may be a little different than expected, the numbers still break down basically the same way. Four teams look like Final Four contenders, three teams are all but locks to make the tourney, and another four have put themselves in excellent position to earn an at-large bid.

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Checking in on the… Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

The Big East is proving why it is the best conference in basketball, as the 16 teams in the conference have lost a grand total of five games. I mean, Seton Hall barely sneaks into the top 10 in the conference and they are 4-1 with wins over USC and Virginia Tech early on. To be fair, most of the games that have been played at this point in the season have come against cupcakes, but a Big East team has already knocked off a marquee team in every other major conference (UConn has beaten Wisconsin and Miami (FL), Syracuse beat Florida and Kansas, Notre Dame beat Texas, and Seton Hall beat USC).

Power Rankings (AP, Coaches):

CONTENDERS

1. UConn 5-0 (#2, #2) – It is pretty tough to argue with UConn atop the BIAH Big East Power Rankings. They are 5-0 and coming off of a victory in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. More on the Huskies in a bit.

2. Notre Dame 4-0 (#8, #8) – Notre Dame gets the nod at #2 because of their win over Texas in Maui. Now that Kyle McAlarney has found his stroke (13-23 from the floor, 11-20 from deep in his last two games after starting the season 2-13), it is clear that the Irish are going be able to put up points with anyone. Their biggest question mark right now is defense and rebounding. Against Texas, Notre Dame was out-rebounded 45-33 and gave up 15 on the offensive glass.

I know that the Irish have two first-team all-conference players on their roster, but PG Tory Jackson is just as, if not more, valuable than both McAlarney and Luke Harangody. He is the guy that makes the potent Irish offense run. He is as quick as they come and can get into the lane against just about anyone, but he plays under control and rarely picks up a charge. When he gets into the paint, he is just as good at finishing as he is at drawing a defender and finding an open man (he’s led the Big East in dimes the last two years). To top it off, he has been knocking down his perimeter shot this season.

3. Louisville 2-0 (#3, #3) – It is tough to gauge the Cardinals at this point in the season. They have played just two games, both cupcakes and both blow outs, and they won’t really be tested until mid-December. What we do know thus far is that freshman Samardo Samuels looks as good as advertised – he’s averaging 21 ppg and 5 rpg through two games. The ‘Ville also got good news when Terrence Williams was healthy enough to play in their first two games (he underwent minor surgery after tearing the meniscus in his knee). He’s not there yet offensively (6-17 from the floor, 14 points in two games), but he has been filling up the stat sheet as usual (9.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 3.5 spg, 1.5 bpg).

4. Pitt 5-0 (#4, #4) – The Panthers, like the Cardinals, are undefeated but have yet to really play anyone. They have, however, been getting phenomenal play out of their big three of DeJuan Blair (17.5 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 71%, but he missed the Belmont game on Tuesday with swelling in his knee), Sam Young (19.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 60% FG), and Levance Fields (13.6 ppg, 7.3 apg, 1.0 t/o’s). While Pitt lost Blair for the Belmont game, they got some good news with the return of wing Gilbert Brown.

The key to the season for this Pitt team is going to be their wing play, which is a big reason why Sam Young, the Panthers best perimeter shooter, is playing on the wing this year. It is still early, but the early indication is that after Fields (10-19) and Young (5-16). If someone can step up and knock down shots (back up PG Ashton Gibbs is trying to, he’s 5-11 from deep), they will see a lot of the court.

5. Syracuse 5-0 – The ‘Cuse are for real this year. They are 5-0 with wins against Florida and Kansas (in what was essentially a road game) and have looked unstoppable on offense at times. But they have also looked disinterested and lackadaisical at times as well, especially defensively. The Orange start and end with the play of Jonny Flynn, who has reinforced the notion that he is one of the best PGs in the country. Flynn is one of the most exciting players in the country to watch (and I am a UConn fan saying that). While Flynn may be the best player on Syracuse, he is far from all that they have. Paul Harris is just as tough as always, but has added a 15-17 foot jumper that you must defend. Arinze Onuaku has gone from a 275 lb fat boy to 275 lb of muscle (seriously, he looks like he should be on World’s Strongest Man). Kristoff Ongenaet, Rick Jackson and freshman Kris Joseph all are going to be able to provide hustle, rebounds, and defense inside. And they’ve gotten back the two things they were missing last year – perimeter shooting from the wings (Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins) and another guy that can penetrate and score or create shots for others (Devendorf). But the biggest change I see in this year’s team is that Jim Boeheim has them playing a lot of man-to-man, which makes it all-the-more difficult for a team to prepare for the Orange. Boeheim has himself a tough team that is going to make some noise this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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Set Your Tivos: Week 3

Posted by nvr1983 on November 23rd, 2008

Our third installment of Set Your Tivos brings us what I consider the first legitimate tournament of the season–the Maui Invitational. It’s your yearly chance to see some of the biggest names in college basketball rocking Hawaiian t-shirts or polos. You could argue that I’m just being nostalgic over the most shocking upset in NCAA history (that barely anybody saw live) except that the famous game actually happened a little less than 3 months before I was born. Anyways, onto our weekly countdown. . .

Courtesy: http://www.gizmodo.com

#10: Boston College vs. #10 Purdue, Wednesday at 7 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: I’m curious to see how one of the Big 10 co-favorites (along with Michigan State and now Michigan) will do against a middle to bottom of the pack Big East ACC team. This game is about getting some respect for the Big 10. If the Boilermakers don’t win this game easily, it could be a sign that we’re in for another season of really bad Big 10 basketball.

#9: Duquesne at #5 Duke; Friday at 3 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: It will still be November when they play this game so the Blue Devils should win this game even though they have struggled at times this year. One of the revelations from last week’s Coaches vs. Cancer was that Brian Zoubek may still be a stiff, but he is a tall one. Look for Coach K to try to get Zoubek involved as he may be a key for Duke if they want to advance deep into the NCAA tournament this year. (Hint: Don’t put Duke too far in your March Madness bracket). 

#8: Maryland vs. #7 Michigan State, Thursday at 7 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: This game seems more interesting on paper (program reputation) than it will be on the court (this year’s teams), but I’ll be tuned in to see what Tom Izzo actually has this season. The Spartans come in with a preseason #7 ranking, but got “UNLV-Duke 1990″ crushed by Memphis in their Sweet 16 match-up and have lost their floor general Drew Neitzel. This year’s Spartan team has the potential to make it to Detroit (for the Final 4–I can’t imagine why you would want to go there for any other reason), but they’ll have to step it up several levels from where they were last week (beating Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne by 11 in a game that was as close as the final margin indicates). 

#7: UAB vs. #14 Oklahoma, Wednesday 9 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: This game will be a match-up of potential All-Americans–Robert Vaden and Blake Griffin–although they won’t match-up against each other outside of the occasional switch off a screen. The Sooners looked like they were still basking in the glow of beating America’s sweetheart Davidson when they almost lost to Gardner-Webb although BIlly Gillispie may disagree. The thought here is that if Oklahoma could hold of Stephen Curry then they can do the same against Vaden.

#6: Saint Joseph’s vs. #8 Texas, Monday at 3 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Rick Barnes managed to get to the Elite 8 one year after losing national POY and the greatest freshman ever (I disagree with rtmsf) Kevin Durant. Now the question is how far he can get the Longhorns after losing All-American point guard D. J. Augustin. The early game of ESPN’s tripleheader will give us some insight into that. The Longhorns should win this one easily since Phil Martelli’s crew is in rebuilding mode (see their loss to Holy Cross), but the Hawks could show us some weaknesses that the Longhorns may have.

#5: Syracuse at #19 Florida, Monday at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Jim Boeheim will need big games out of Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf to pull off the upset tonight. Despite struggling to put away Richmond last week, the Orangemen have the potential to pull off the upset against Billy Donovan’s young squad especially after the loss of last year’s starting PG Jai Lucas. I’m assuming that the Gators will return to the NCAA tournament, but if they want to have a successful season (Sweet 16 trip), they will have to be able to beat teams of Syracuse’s caliber.

#4: Indiana vs. #9 Notre Dame, Monday at 5:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Our first look at Tom Crean’s new squad (Bruce Weber has already told us what he thinks of them). Unfortunately this game isn’t at Alumni Hall. It will be interesting to see how the Hooiser faithful react to Crean and his JV squad. I am imaging the scene out of Hooisers at town hall where they vote Norman Dale out before Jimmy Chitwood shows up and saves the day. Unfortunately, I don’t think Eric Gordon can come back to Bloomington with any eligibility to recreate this. Bottom line: The Golden Domers will have something to look forward to after pelting their football players with snowballs after another embarrassing loss.

#3: #6 Pittsburgh vs. Texas Tech, Friday at 7:30 PM on HDNet: I’m guessing that Pat Knight’s boys won’t be putting up 167 tonight unless this game goes to 6 OTs. So far the Panthers have players compared to Shaq (DeJuan Blair) and Lebron (Sam Young) and that doesn’t even factor in Levance Fields, who may be the most important player on the roster. There is no question that Pittsburgh is the better team in this match-up, but I’ll be following this to see just how good the Panthers are and the Red Raiders have had a tendency to come up with big upsets early in the year.

#2: #3 Louisville vs. Western Kentucky, Sunday at 3 PM on Fox College Sports Atlantic: Our first good look at RTC pre-season bracketology national champion against some real competition. The Hilltoppers lost a lot in the backcourt (Courtney Lee, Ty Rogers, and Tyrone Brazelton), but they return a lot of experience in the frontcourt. If the Hilltoppers want to give Rick Pitino’s Cardinals a game they will need JUCO transfer Sergio Kerusch, Motlow State Community College transfer Anthony Sally, and Dejan Cvoro, a point guard from Serbia, to step up. I’m guessing that Western Kentucky will keep it close for the first 10 minutes before Louisville pulls away, but it should still be interesting to see just how good freshman Samardo Samuels is. If he is as good as advertised, Pitino may have a legitimate title contender.

#1: Oklahoma State vs. #11 Gonzaga, Thursday at 9 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Mark Few comes into this year with his 2nd highest ranked team ever (7th in the 2005-2006 preseason poll) and one of the most talented teams he has ever had. While the Zags lack the superstar they had a few years ago in Adam Morrison, they are not lacking in talent (Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Austin Daye, and Josh Heytvelt). However, as the Zags have steadily moved up in the national conscience andthe regular season polls, they seem to have underperformed in the NCAA tournament. After losing to Cinderella (Davidson) in the first round last year, the Zags are hoping to bounce back and their first big test of the season will be against Travis Ford’s Cowboys. Ford has been quick to keep expectations realistic for his rookie season, but some experts have picked the Cowboys to be a surprise in the Big 12 despite their lack of interior play.

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ATB: Quiet Before the Storm

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2008

afterbuzzer1

News & Notes. We’d like to take a moment at the beginning of tonight’s ATB to honor former Cal head coach and legendary big man guru Pete Newell, who died today at the age of 93.  He led Cal to its only national championship in 1959, won a gold medal as the US Olympic team coach in 1960, and was elected to the basketball Hall of Fame in 1979.  Although he was before our time, we’ve heard the stories of his legend and he is considered one of the most influential figures in basketball history.  May he rest in peace.

pete-newellPhoto Credit:  LA Times

Game of the Night. UAB 64, Santa Clara 61. We’re throwing some love to the mid-majors tonight with this one, but we expected this game to be a dandy, and it was.  Santa Clara led most of the game, but UAB made a valiant comeback in the second half to tie the game with three minutes remaining and held on to win   Robert Vaden had 23/9 and Paul Delaney III had 20/5 for UAB, who didn’t get much production from anyone else.  SC’s John Bryant had a huge 17/15 performance, but it wasn’t enough.  In an interesting sidenote, the game tipped off with 100 people in the stands at the McKale Center in Tucson.  People are really excited about basketball in Arizona right now.

Upset of the Night. Oakland 82, Oregon 79 (OT). We really feel like you could throw Ernie Kent, Mark Gottfried, John Brady, Dave Odom, and a few others into a jar, shake them up and let them float to any school in America, and you’d end up with the same mediocre programs wherever they land.  Not much was expected from the Ducks this year (heck, ATQ doesn’t even have commentary on the game yet), but they could usually count on their home court for the push to win most of their OOC games.  No longer.  Oakland’s Johnathan Jones dropped 32/7 on the Ducks, (10 in OT, including the decisive bucket with seven seconds left) who were outshot from the floor by their visitors (43% to 39%).  Joevon Catron (13/11) and Michael Dunigan (15/10) both contributed double-doubles in the losing effort.  So far, the Pac-10 is not looking too impressive.

Preseason NIT Action.

  • Davidson 99, James Madison 64. Stephen Curry is just ridiculous.  33/9 assts/4 stls on 14-19 shooting.  The Wildcats got off to an 11-0 start and never looked back.  They’ll face Oklahoma tomorrow night.
  • Oklahoma 94, Miss. Valley St. 53. This OU team has looked scary in two games thus far.  Blake Griffin dominated inside, with 20/19/6 stls.  MVSU more than doubled its output from Saturday night against Wazzu, but they looked completely overmatched in this game.
  • BC 90, Loyola (MD) 57. Vermont transfer Joe Trapani led the Eagles with 20/4 as Tyrese Rice came back from suspension to contribute 16/6 assts.  BC might be better than people were thinking, folks – they will play Cornell in round two.
  • St. John’s 86, Cornell 75.  The Johnnies, led by Anthony Mason Jr.’s 24 pts, held off a late Cornell rally that had cut the lead to 80-75.  Cornell was led by Ryan Wittman’s 25/4.
  • Purdue 87, E. Michigan 58. Purdue shook off a slow start to go on a 26-6 run to put this game away by the mid-first half.  E’Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell combined for 35/8/8 assts in the win.  Purdue will play Loyola (IL) next.
  • Loyola (IL) 74, Georgia 53.  Let’s just go ahead and fire Dennis Felton right now and avoid this lame duck nonsense for the next four months.
  • Arizona 75, Florida Atlantic 62.  Get used to this – Budinger, Wise and Hill scored 52 of Arizona’s 75 points tonight.  The Wildcats never really pulled away from FAU – we remain unconvinced.  UAB will beat this team tomorrow night.

Big East Tuneups.

  • Marquette 106, Chicago St. 87. Are teams hitting the century mark more often this year?  Wesley Matthews led Marquette with 26/9/3 assts, but new coach Buzz Williams was largely disappointed with his defense for allowing 51 second-half points to Chicago St.
  • Villanova 107, Fordham 68. Wow, Dante Cunningham absolutely dominated the interior (31/11) as Villanova rolled up Fordham, shooting a blistering 58% with all five starters reaching double figures.
  • Georgetown 71, Jacksonville 62. Freshman center Greg Monroe’s debut at Georgetown went well (14/7), even though the Hoyas struggled to put away Jacksonville.  Georgetown needs to shore up their three-point shooting (5-23), but their defense was typically solid, holding Jax to 35% for the game.
  • Pittsburgh 82, Miami (OH) 53. Miami head coach Charlie Coles gave the nod to Pitt as the better team between the Panthers and UCLA at this juncture in the season.  Levance Fields is just so important to this team, getting 12/12 assts as every starter reached double figures.
  • Connecticut 99, Hartford 56. With 14:30 to go, this was a three-point game.  UConn then went on a late 54-12 run to put this one away.  AJ Price was on the bench for being a knucklehead with a sprained ankle, but Craig Austrie and Kemba Walker both had 21 to make up the slack.  Hasheem Thabeet had a somewhat disappointing 9/8/2 blks.

Other Games of Interest.

  • Xavier 81, Toledo 65. Xavier enjoyed a comfortable margin throughout the second half, but the story of this game was returning MAC scoring leader Tyrone Kent’s 37 pts.  He even went 10-10 from the line – true scorers understand that’s where the easy points are.
  • Austin Peay 86, Belmont 84. Drake Reed’s two FTs with 0.2 showing on the clock sealed a comeback win for Austin Peay over Belmont.  He contributed 24/9 in the win, along with Wes Channels, who put up 25 pts.  AP shot 58% in the second half to come back from 12 down at halftime.
  • Penn St. 74, NJIT 47. NJIT now holds the record for college basketball futility with 35 Ls in a row.  Another 26% FG shooting night.  Can we send them back to D2 now?

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST):

  • 24 Hour Marathon of College Hoops – see separate post here for schedule and times.
  • Indiana v. IUPUI (BTN) – 6:30pm
  • Bucknell v. Boston U. – 7pm
  • Tennessee (-25) v. UT-Martin (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
  • Ole Miss (-10) v. South Alabama – 8pm
  • Texas (-22) v. Tulane (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • USC (-16) v. New Mexico St. - 9pm
  • Gonzaga (-27.5) v. Idaho (FSN) – 9pm
  • San Diego (-5.5) v. Nevada (ESPN FC & 360) – 10pm
  • Arizona St. (-3) @ San Diego St. (CBS CS) – 11pm
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After the Buzzer: Another Nightmare in Rupp

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2008

afterbuzzer1

Upset of the Night.  VMI 111, Kentucky 103.  Well, for the second consecutive year we’ve not even made it to Thanksgiving before we have a nominee for biggest upset of the year because a small college from the South went into Rupp Arena and beat the Kentucky Wildcats on their home court.  Last year it was Gardner-Webb; this year it was VMI, who was picked seventh in the Big South and last defeated a BCS team four seasons ago.  The Cats aren’t ranked this season, but they arguably have more raw talent than they had a year ago.  Most pundits have UK finishing second or third in the SEC East and making its 17th straight NCAA Tournament in 2009.  They still might, but watching tonight’s game showed some serious issues with turnovers (too many players leaving their feet to pass the ball), defensive rotation (or a complete lack thereof), shot selection (how does all-american Patrick Patterson only get four shots in essentially a Y-ball game?), and myriad mental lapses.  Does Billy Gillispie really understand where he’s coaching these days?  These kinds of losses are barely tolerable at Texas A&M; at Kentucky, people start putting moving signs in your yard after close wins.  He somewhat redeemed himself last season after the G-W debacle by going 12-4 in the SEC and making the NCAA Tournament (1st round loss to Marquette), but big losses to rivals UNC, Louisville and Indiana weren’t forgotten.  A VMI loss to start this season followed by a trip to Chapel Hill next week and some other Ls to follow will not help his cause.  UK fans care about every game – not just the SEC and March Madness.  As Truzenzuzex over at A Sea of Blue put it, Billy Clyde tonight represented an “epic failure of coaching.”  As for the game itself, what can you say other than it was a classic run & gun shootout.  UK shot 54% from the field, mostly from dunk range, but other than Jodie Meeks, couldn’t hit a three regardless of whether anyone was defending it or not (3-16, 19%).  Meeks led the Cats with 39 pts, and Perry Stevenson had 20/14, but VMI’s attack was more balanced, with all five starters plus one bench player reaching double figures.  Travis Holmes led with 30/7 on 10-13 shooting, but the key difference in the statistical battle were the fourteen threes that VMI knocked down.  Frankly, UK’s defense simply wasn’t closing out on many of these wide-open shots.  All that said, when UK went on a 17-0 run in the late second half to cut the lead to 90-89 after having been down 23 earlier in the half, we figured that VMI was finished.  Several more bad possessions by the UK offense and lackluster defense on the other side ensured that VMI still had life, and the Keydets were able to hang on and pull off the monumental upset.  This Gillispie situation will remain interesting throughout the season. 

Other Games of Reasonable Interest. 

  • Pittsburgh 86, Fairleigh Dickinson 63.  The return of Levance Fields is worth a special mention.  Pitt is 52-12 when their oft-injured point guard starts, and a mere slightly-better-than-.500 team when he’s on the bench.  Tonight he showed no ill effects from his twice-broken left foot, contributing 15/8 assts in the blowout victory.  Dejuan Blair had his typical beastly 17/13 inside.  Pitt will have an interesting next game against Miami (OH) on Monday.     
  • UConn 81, W. Carolina 55.  Hasheem Thabeet needs to do more of this (23/17/3 blks).  AJ Price was ejected for a sucker punch flagrant foul – nice to see thing haven’t changed much in Storrs.  He made his triumphant return with a 0 pt, 5 turnover night.  Jerome Dyson had 23, and newcomer Kemba Walker contributed 8/5 in his first collegiate game. 

Small Piece of News.  The injury bug continues at Carolina, as it now appears Bobby Frasor will not play in UNC’s opener against Penn tomorrow because he’s been nursing a sprained left ankle.  You don’t think Frasor’s and Hansbrough’s injuries may karmically have anything to do with this, do ya?  Nah.  Didn’t think so. 

Rundown. 

  • UT-Martin 121, Maryville 56.  Lester Hudson’s line: 27/7/7 asst/8 stls.  Sick.
  • Temple 79, ETSU 65.  Dionte Christmas with 26/11 in first round of Charleston Classic.  Next up is host Charleston.
  • Florida 80, Toledo 58Unrepentent gambler Nick Calathes with 16/4/7 assts.
  • Stanford 75, Yale 67.  Johnny Dawkins gets his coaching career off to a solid start with a road win.  Lawrence Hill’s 22/11 helped. 
  • Howard 47, Oregon St. 45.  The same cannot be said for Craig Robinson at OSU. 
  • Wake Forest 94, NC Central 48.  Al Farouq Aminu had 21/10 in his debut with the Deacs; James Johnson with 19/10/5 asst.  This Deacon team could be very interesting this year.
  • Maryland 81, Bucknell 52.  Gary Williams needed a strong opening win to silence his critics some.
  • Oklahoma St. 76, UT-San Antonio 57.  James Anderson with only 10/7 as the Cowboys rolled anyway.  Byron Eaton led with 27 pts.
  • Oklahoma 83, American 54.  Forgive us, Blake Griffin.  Despite going 5-14 from the line, he was otherwise brilliant (24/18) in a game we thought American had a chance to win.  His reverse dropstep jam was NASTY. 
  • Villanova 78, Albany 60.  Nova put six players in double figures with none of them having over 13 pts. 
  • Texas 68, Stetson 38.  AJ Abrams hit five threes as the Longhorns held Stetson to a miserable 26% shooting night.
  • Arkansas 91, SE Louisiana 87 (OT).  Very close to a dreadful opening night for the SEC, as Arkansas rallied from a late 9-pt deficit to send the game to OT, which the Hawgs won behind Michael Washington’s 30 pts in the extra period.
  • Marquette 95, Houston Baptist 64.  Wesley Matthews had a huge night (28/5/8 asst/5 stls) as Marquette rolled. 
  • Purdue 82, Detroit 50.  Hummell and Moore combined for 31/15 in a balanced effort.
  • St. Mary’s 86, Seattle Pacific 55.  Patty Mills with 15/3/8 asst/4 stls. 
  • Arizona St. 80, Mississippi Valley St. 54.  James Harden dropped 24/10 assts in Sendek’s first opening win at ASU.
  • Davidson 107, Guilford 83.  Steph Curry with 29/3/10 asst/9 stls.  Nine steals???  Ridiculous. 

On Tap Saturday (all times EST):

  • Florida vs. Bradley (ESPNU) – 2pm (CBE Classic)
  • St. Joseph’s @ Holy Cross – 4pm
  • Wisconsin v. Long Beach St. – 4pm
  • North Carolina (-30.5) v. Penn (FSN South) – 4pm
  • South Carolina v. Winthrop (ESPN FC & 360) – 4:30pm
  • Duke v. Rhode Island (ESPNU) - 4:30pm
  • UNLV (-11) v. San Diego (The Mtn.) – 5:30pm
  • Michigan St. v. Idaho – 6pm
  • Cincinnati v. South Dakota (ESPN FC & 360) – 6pm
  • Charlotte v. Old Dominion – 6pm
  • Syracuse v. Le Moyne (ESPNU) – 6:30pm
  • Tennessee (-18) v. Chattanooga (SportSouth) – 7pm
  • Notre Dame v. USC-Upstate – 7:30pm
  • Drake (-6.5) v. Butler – 8pm
  • Memphis (-19.5) v. Fairfield – 8pm
  • Kansas v. UMKC (ESPNU) – 8:30pm (CBE Classic)
  • USC (-19) v. UC Irvine – 10pm
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2008-09 Conference Primers: #1 – Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference. 

Predicted Order of Finish (from the coach’s pre-season poll, released at Big East media day):

  1. Connecticut (9)
  2. Louisville (3)
  3. Pitt (3)
  4. Notre Dame (1)
  5. Villanova
  6. Marquette
  7. Georgetown
  8. Syracuse
  9. West Virginia
  10. Providence
  11. Cincinnati
  12. Rutgers
  13. Seton Hall
  14. St john’s
  15. DePaul
  16. South Florida

big-east-logo

WYN2K. You hear that? You know what that is? That’s the sound of RTC stealing my thunder.  I’m not much of a statistician myself, but just by looking at that pre-season poll I can tell you this – the Big East is loaded.  If you live outside of Big East country, then you are probably sick of hearing about how good the conference is, year in and year out. But facts are facts. Four teams are legitimate Final Four threats. Another six teams are, depending on who you ask, expected to be a part of the 65 team field. Three more teams have an outside shot at punching a ticket to the dance if they can catch a few breaks (transfers getting cleared, freshman getting eligible, etc.).  So in this day and age of college basketball, where “early entry,” “parity,” and “mid-major” have become household terms, how did one conference manage to stockpile so many good teams? Well, as you can see, the Big East is HUGE. There are sixteen teams spanning from Rhode Island to Wisconsin to Florida and everywhere in between. When you have that many teams in one conference, there are bound to be years where there are a lot of good teams, especially when so many of the schools have a rich basketball tradition.  This just happens to be one of those years where the Big East got lucky. Last season, 32 players were named to an All-Big East team (1st, 2nd, honorable mention, all-rookie), and only two of those players (WVU’s Joe Alexander and Syracuse’s Donte Greene) declared for the draft with eligibility remaining. Would Pittsburgh be as good as expected if Sam Young left? What about UConn without Hasheem Thabeet? Those two, and a number of other players, probably would be on NBA rosters right now if they left, but for whatever reason (a loaded draft class last year, smarts enough to know they weren’t ready, boosters offered them more than what they would get paid on a rookie’s salary) they decided to head back to campus.

So without further ado, here is your conference breakdown:

Cellar Dwellars.  DePaul, St. John’s, South Florida, Rutgers

  • There are some talented players on these teams. Sophomore Dar Tucker of DePaul is a poster waiting to happen. South Florida’s Dominique Jones scored 17.1 ppg as a freshman. St. John’s has senior Anthony Mason Jr. and sophomore Justin Burrell to carry the load. But with the depth of the Big East this year combined with the loss of some talented seniors, none of these three teams really look like they have a shot at doing much. Rutgers might have the best shot of the group to make some noise, as Fred Hill has landed back-to-back talented freshman classes. Don’t be surprised if you hear the names Gregory Echenique and Mike Rosario (RU’s first Mickey D’s all-american) quite often during the season.

We Should Have Bribed The NCAA.  Cincinnati (NIT), Seton Hall (NIT)

  • Both the Pirates and the Bearcats are awaiting the NCAA’s word on whether or not they will have some key players in their rotation. After struggling with the remnants of the Cincy program in the wake of Bob Huggins, Mick Cronin finally has the program heading in the right direction. He brings back Deonta Vaughn, who is one of the most explosive scorers in the country, and gets former Texas forward Mike Williams back from an Achilles injury. Adding two talented freshman in Yancy Gates and Cashmere Wright only helped matters. But Wright tore up his knee in the first week of practice, meaning that Vaughn is, once again, their only real backcourt threat and that they must rely heavily on their front line, which could be bolstered by the addition of 7’2” center John Riek. The Sudanese refugee, who was considered one of the best prospects in the country two years ago but has battled knee problems, is dealing with eligibility issues but could be in uniform by December. 
  • Seton Hall’s situation is a little different. The Pirates lose leading scorer Brian Laing (18.6 ppg) but return a solid nucleus of Eugene Harvey, Jeremy Hazell and John Garcia. Bobby Gonzalez had also hoped to add transfers Herb Pope (New Mexico St.) and Keon Lawrence (Missouri) without having to wait the mandatory one year for a transfer by having each kid apply for the NCAA’s hardship waiver. Pope’s been denied, Lawrence’s application will wait until after the first semester, and freshman Melvyn Oliver is still waiting to be cleared academically, meaning the Pirates currently have only eight scholarship players.

Pretenders or Contenders?  Providence (NIT), West Virginia (NCAA #7)

  • I know what you’re thinking. Providence? Really, Rob? They haven’t been good since the days of Ryan Gomes and Donnie MacGrath (and even then, good might have been pushing it). But the Friars have the horses to sneak up on some people this year. They were as balanced as any team in the Big East last year, with six guys (five returners) that averaged at least 8.7 ppg.  PG Sharaud Curry, arguably their best player, is back from a stress fracture in his foot and they have added Keno Davis, last year’s national COY at Drake, as the head coach. Davis should have some success in his first year with the Friars if they follow the same spread floor style that was so successful at Drake. One key reason for that is big man Geoff McDermott, who is adept at playing on the perimeter and is a stat stuffer (10 ppg, 8 rpg, 5 apg, 1 spg, and 1.5 bpg). Remember, this Providence team, who battled the injury bug all year, swept UConn and beat Temple and Arkansas last seaso. The talent’s there, but consistency and healthy players will be the key to their season.
  • The Mountaineers are a different story. They really came on towards the end of the season, thanks in (very) large part to the emergence of Joe Alexander, who was probably the best player in the conference (maybe the country) for the last month-plus of the season and is now a forward with the Bucks. Left are a bunch of very good role players that fit into Huggy Bear’s system and play hard. Guys like Joe Mazzula, Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler. There are two major questions for the Mountaineers – who is going to play in the post and who is going to fill to void of “go-to guy” with Alexander gone. Freshman Devin Ebanks may be able to fill Alexander’s shoes with time, but the rest of the Mountaineers front line will be small (especially for the Big East) and inexperienced.

Worst of the Rest.  Syracuse (NCAA #7), Georgetown (NCAA #7), Marquette (NCAA #6), Villanova (NCAA #5)

  • I’ll be completely honest with you. I’m a UConn fan. I hate Syracuse. Despise them. I even hate the color orange. I didn’t even rank them in my top 25. Call it being biased, call it homerism, call it what you like. But I’ve had an epiphany – this team is really talented. Jonny Flynn is one of the best point guards in the country. Eric Devendorf is a very talented combo guard. Andy Rautins can flat out stroke the three. Paul Harris is a linebacker playing basketball. Arinze Onuake is a beast on the block. And this year, they actually have a deep bench filled with role players and hustle guys. They’re not quite in the top four, but Boeheim has himself his most talented team since Melo.
  • Georgetown lost a lot of very important players to graduation (Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace, Patrick Ewing Jr) and transfers (Jeremiah Rivers, Vernon Macklin). They are left with just four guys who were in their rotation last year – guards Chris Wright, Jessie Sapp, Austin Freeman and forward DaJuan Summers. They do add a great recruiting class, headlined by big men Greg Monroe and Henry Sims, but it will still be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Hoyas. Part of the reason is that John Thompson III may have to change up his style of play from the Princeton Offense. Hibbert, Wallace, and Ewing were perfectly suited to a slowed down game, where as Sapp and Wright are quick guards that can make plays in the open floor.
  • Marquette has a new coach, but they will be the same team. By now, you must know about their three great guards – Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews – who, when combined with Maurice Acker and David Cubillan, make up one of the deepest, most explosive backcourts in the country. But, much like Villanova and West Virginia, Marquette needs someone to step up inside. It’s great when you have a bunch of guards that can score and make plays, but will Dominic James 40” vert help him against the likes of Luke Harangody or DeJuan Blair? Dwight Burke is going to have to make some big strides as a senior, or else the Golden Eagles will have to rely on a freshman and two JuCo transfers inside.
  • Remember that Villanova team from a few years back? The one with Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Mike Nardi? Well this ‘Nova team is going to be similar to that squad. Led by scoring machine Scottie Reynolds, ‘Nova has one of the best backcourts in the conference. But the key to their success this year will be the front court. Dante Cunningham, an athletic, 6’9 PF, has proven himself as a capable frontcourt player in the Big East, but the rest of the Wildcats frontline will need to step up if Jay Wright’s club wants to crack the top four.

Crème de la Crème.  Notre Dame (NCAA #5), Pittsburgh (NCAA #3), Louisville (NCAA #2), UConn (NCAA #1)

  • Notre Dame returns basically the entire team that finished tied for second in the Big East, including reigning Big East player of the year Luke Harangody. While I can’t help but comment on his resemblance to a pot-bellied pig, you can’t argue with his production last year (23 ppg and 11 rpg in conference). While he is built like one of Charlie Weis’ lineman, he is actually incredibly nimble and has great feet and balance, which is one of the reasons he is able to scorer against bigger, more athletic defenders. Surrounding him will be shooters Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney (who was a 1st team all-conference performer), as well as Tory Jackson, who is one of the more underrated PGs in the league. Notre Dame is going to be a fun team to watch if you like games with a lot of scoring and a lot of threes.
  • Pitt is going to be a typical Pitt team, with a lot of big, strong, tough kids that are going to play rugged, in your face defense. Sam Young, who developed a deadly jumper out to around the three point line, and DeJuan Blair, a 6’7 270-lb mammoth inside, provide one of the toughest frontcourts to match up with in the country. The biggest questions for Pitt surround their backcourt. When will Levance Fields return from foot surgery, and will he be healthy? Can anyone on this team replace the three point shooting of Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin?
  • Louisville, along with Pitt, is probably going to be the toughest defensive team in the conference. It starts with their backcourt, where they have five guys (Edgar Sosa, Andre McGee, Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles, Reginald Delk) that will really get after you on the perimeter. Earl Clark and Terrence Williams (who is coming off a torn meniscus and should be out another month or so) are both athletic, versatile players. T-Wills is more of a perimeter player and is the Cardinals best creator offensively, averaging more than 4.5 apg last year. Clark is more of a combo forward that will get his points off of fast breaks and cutting to the basket. Louisville loses their entire front line from last year, but they bring in a solid recruiting class, the star of which is Samardo Samuels, probably the best post recruit in America this year.
  • Last, but certainly not least, is UConn. The Huskies probably won’t be at full strength until December, as AJ Price is coming off of a torn ACL and freshman Ater Majok and junior Stanley Robinson (who was last seen on a poster) are both going to be made eligible (hopefully) after the first semester ends. Regardless, UConn is loaded with talent. 7’3” junior and shot blocking machine Hasheem Thabeet returns, as does Jeff Adrien, the Huskies leading scorer and rebounder. Price will be joined in the backcourt by talented but troubled junior Jerome Dyson and Mickey D’s all-american Kemba Walker. UConn’s biggest question mark right now – can they win a big game? They were 8-8 on the road or on a neutral court last year, and are 0-3 in the Big East and NCAA tournaments the last two years.

RPI Boosters.  The Big East RPI is going to be high enough, but here are some of the must-see non-conference match-ups (ignoring the possible match-ups in pre-season tournaments):

  • Wisconsin @ Marquette  (12.06.08)
  • Villanova vs. Texas and Davidson vs. West Virginia in NYC at Jimmy V  (12.09.08)
  • Cincinnati vs. Xavier  (12.13.08)
  • Memphis @ Georgetown  (12.13.08)
  • Marquette @ Tennessee  (12.16.08)
  • Gonzaga vs. UConn in Seattle  (12.20.08)
  • Syracuse @ Memphis  (12.20.08)
  • Kentucky @ Louisville  (01.04.09)
  • Georgetown @ Duke  (01.17.09)
  • Notre Dame @ UCLA  (02.07.09)

65 Team Era.  The Big East earned its chops as a basketball conference in the 80s, and that tradition persists to this very day despite the expansion of the league to it’s current sixteen-team iteration.  Last year the league earned eight bids to the NCAAs, and it’s difficult to envision a future scenario where the conference would ever get less than six bids again.  This obviously will skew their future numbers on a whole scale, but their stats to date are nothing to sneeze at (206-126, .620, 11 F4s, 4 titles).  With the power at the top of this year’s league, we could potentially see another 1985 F4 on the horizon (3/4 of the F4 were Big East teams – Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s). 

Final Thought.  The Big East is wide open this year. Every night is going to be a dog fight. One thing you can be sure of, however, is that any team from this league that makes it to the postseason is going to be battle-tested.

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Rydell’s Excessively Tinted Windows

Posted by rtmsf on May 19th, 2008

In the worst-things-you-can-do-when-pulled-over-by-the-cops anthology, this story as perpetrated by Akron sophomore guard Rydell Brooks must rank near the top.  Around midnight Saturday, Brooks and his buddy, Ed Davis, Jr., were stopped by police on what they called a “routine traffic stop.” 

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later (photo credit: WKYC.com)

Let’s see, we’ve been pulled over many times in our driving days, and we’ve developed a keen sense of what not to do in those situations.  For one, you don’t start moving around inside the vehicle, nor do you start reaching for things that may or may not be hidden in the glovebox or the floorboard.  You try to keep yourself courteous and polite and you avoid arguing with the po-po man over whatever it is he’s saying you did.  Most importantly, you don’t pull out a bitchin’ MAC-10 and start unloading into the friendly officers under any circumstances…

Brooks and Davis had other ideas

A University of Akron basketball player is being held on charges of firing shots at Akron police officers after a traffic stop.  Akron police detectives said Rydell Brooks, 20, a UA sophomore, was pulled over on a routine traffic stop around midnight Saturday.  Police said Brooks fled from the vehicle and fired several shots at officers, who caught him after a short chase.  He is being held in the Summit County Jail, along with Edward J. Davis Jr., 20, of Cole Avenue, Akron. Davis also was in the car, police said.

From today’s arraignment hearing:

Rydell Brooks, 20, a UA sophomore, and Edward Davis Jr., 20, of Akron, are each charged with attempted murder, felonious assault and carrying a concealed weapon.  Bond was set at $1 million.  Brooks is also charged with driving with a suspended license and excessively tinted windows.  An Akron prosecutor said five guns and two ski masks were found inside Brooks’ 1997 Dodge Caravan following his arrest.  According to police, as officers approached the vehicle on Bellows Street around midnight Saturday they were greeted with gunfire. No one was injured in the gunfire. Police have not indicated that they returned the gunfire.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmkaaaaaaaaaaay…  our first question is how the hell did the police catch someone who was shooting at them without shooting that person themselves?  Really, how does that happen?  They’re claiming attempted murder here – did Brooks run out of ammo?  Did he toss the weapon while being chased?  Did the cops have one of those giant cartoon nets they shot out of a cannon?

Your Last TV Appearance (photo credit:  Akron Beacon-Journal)

And our second question is…  excessively tinted windows?  Is that why the cops stopped Brooks in the first place?  They couldn’t have possibly known that Brooks was driving on a suspended license or that he had a veritable armory in the van, so that was their probable cause?  Talk about walking into a hornet’s nest. 

See Rydell, we saw The Wire last week, that’s why you invest in a hollowed-out compartment behind the glove box.  Oh, and call Levance Fields – he seems to know how to get out of these types of messes.  Heck, he assaulted an officer, grabbed at his weapon, and didn’t even get suspended last year (granted, he didn’t shoot at the guy, but these are mere technicalities). 

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South Regional Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2008

This is our final regional analysis and we’re running short on time to get them in before your brackets are due. Consequently, our analysis of the lower seeds will be very brief.

Teams
#1 Memphis:We can’t remember a #1 seed that has gotten less hype as a potential nation champ or more criticism. We know the Tigers aren’t going to remind anybody of a J.J. Redick shooting video. We know that they play in a relatively weak conference. We also know that they are 33-1 and were a short jumper away from being undefeated. We also know they may be the most talented team in the country. What does this all mean? We have no idea if the Tigers will win the title, but we do know that nobody wants to face Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. They have an easy path to the Sweet 16 where they could face a very difficult challenge in Pitt. Schedule/Roster.

#2 Texas:In their first year AD (After Durant), Rick Barnes brings the Longhorns back to the tournament with a much better team even if certain LA residents who like to claim allegiance to Boston sports teams without suffering through the winter don’t care about them (or college basketball) any more. These Longhorns are led by All-American candidate D.J. Augustin (19.8 PPG and 5.7 APG) who brings a strong supporting cast with him to the NCAA tournament. Although they are the #2 seed, some might argue they are the favorites in the region thanks to the committee’s ridiculous decision to give them homecourt in the regional finals. That and the fact that they already have been UCLA and Tennessee this season. If they meet Memphis in Houston, the NBA scouts will definitely be watching for the great PG matchup (Rose vs. Augustin). Schedule/Roster

#3 Stanford: We actually have quite seen quite a few Cardinal games this year thanks to FSN. With Brook Lopez clearing that little issue of going to class, Stanford has become a very good team. Despite playing West #1 seed UCLA close two times in the past 2 weeks, we don’t think Lopez has the support to get Stanford by either the Longhorns (in Houston) or Memphis (anywhere other than Palo Alto) to make it to the Final 4. Schedule/Roster

#4 Pittsburgh:Jamie Dixon’s Panthers have done a great job overcoming injuries since their early-season win over Duke in Madison Square Garden. The Panthers tend to dominate inside with Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, but are yet another good team that struggles at the FT lines (22/44 in the Big East final). While we normally would look at their Big East title as a sign they are ready to make a deep run in the tournament, Pitt has a history of doing well in their conference tourney and failing to reach the Final 4. When we combine that with the fact that their physical style is subject to the tight NCAA tournament officiating (h/t to Jay Bilas), we are unsure about their chances to make it to San Antonio. However, we look forward to seeing Levance Fields against Derrick Rose (and possibly D.J. Augustin) in Houston. Schedule/Roster

#5 Michigan State:It seems like Drew Neitzel has been a Spartan forever. He has grown from a talented if inconsistent player into Tom Izzo’s go-to guy. While he will have difficulty creating against more physical guards, Neitzel finds a way to get it done. If MSU can get there, it should be a very interesting matchup with Pitt in the Sweet 16. If they are to get past the Sweet 16, Neitzel will need a lot of help from Raymar Morgan. Schedule/Roster

#6 Marquette:The Golden Eagles are led by Jerel McNeal, who has overtaken his more hyped teammate Dominic James as the team’s most vital player. While Marquette is not as good as advertised early in the season, but they should be good enough to get by Kentucky, which is a rematch of the 2003 Elite 8 matchup where Dwayne Wade’s triple-double knocked out the last great Wildcat team. Schedule/Roster

#7 Miami (FL): After a torrid 12-0 start (helped by a cupcake schedule), the Hurricanes cooled off in the middle of the season before getting into the Big Dance with some big late season wins most notably over Duke. Miami will be challenged right off the bat by St. Mary’s. To be honest, their potential 2nd round matchup may be easier than playing St. Mary’s despite what the seeds say. Schedule/Roster

#8 Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were able to survive the falling Georgia Dome, but they were unable to withstand their buzzsaw namesakes from Athens, Georgia. MSU is led offensively by Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes and defensively by the human eraser known as Jarvis Varnado. We think they should be able to get by Oregon before meeting a tougher challenge in the 2nd round. Schedule/Roster

#9 Oregon: Perhaps no team has received more criticism for their seed than the Ducks. They made the tournament by winning their last 3 regular season conference games, but we question their ability to make a serious run as they lost every game down the stretch to the top Pac-10 teams including the ones at the vaunted McArthur Court. Schedule/Roster

#10 Saint Mary’s: The Gaels, led by Patrick Mills and Diamon Simpson, are a quick, athletic team that sports wins over Oregon and Gonzaga. However, they struggle with more physical teams that slow the tempo down. This may not matter as they probably won’t play a slow-paced team before they are knocked out. Schedule/Roster

#11 Kentucky: Billy Gillispie has done an outstanding job salvaging this season, which started out so poorly with a loss at home to Gardner-Webb in the 2nd game of the Wildcat season. This is a pretty mediocre Kentucky team especially with the loss of their best player Patrick Paterson to injury. However, Gillispie has molded the team’s style (slow the game down and limit possessions) to maximize what he has. Kentucky isn’t nearly good enough to make a run in the tournament, but they might be able to pull of an upset or two. Schedule/Roster

#12 Temple: The Owls come in having won the Atlantic 10 tournament title, which sends a pretty strong signal that they are playing well late in the season. When you watch, Temple you will realize these aren’t Don Chaney’s Owls. Instead of relying on their physicality, these Owls are very explosive led by Dionte Christmas (20.2 PPG and 6.0 RPG) and Mark Tyndale (15.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 4.3 APG). They should provide the Spartans with a stiff challenge in the first round. Schedule/Roster

#13 Oral Roberts: While Oral Roberts is led by 5’9″ guard Robert Jarvis, their hallmark is their relentless defense. Unfortunately for them, they will be facing what is potentially the most physical team in the tournament in the first round. Schedule/Roster

#14 Cornell: The Ivy League champs usually can at least taunt opposing fans that they will usually be the boss of the fans of the team that is kicking their ass. Unforunately for Cornell and their fans, they play Stanford so they don’t even have that to hang their hat on this year. Schedule/Roster

#15 Austin Peay: They have absolutely no shot against a talented and tough Longhorn team. Schedule/Roster

#16 Texas-Arlington: We give them 5 minutes before their game against Memphis gets out of hand. Just way too much athleticism on Memphis’s side. Texans may get some form of revenge in the regional finals. Schedule/Roster

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ATB: Flowers Blooming in Austin

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2007

ATB v.4

12.29.07

Recap. ESPN2 stepped it up today with its sextuple-header from Noon to Midnight. And heck, at least half of those games were worth watching. Ok, maybe four of the six.

Games We Watched. Wisconsin 67, #7 Texas 66. We started the day with this game, which once again proved to us just how good of a coach Bo Ryan is. Every year we see all these methodical players in those Wisky uniforms, and every year we underrate them because of it – you watch, by March this will once again be a top 3 Big Ten squad. Lesson learned, as winning in Austin today was a fantastic win, and oh my, how they got it done! The Badgers’ Michael Flowers hit the game-winning three with two seconds remaining, and then proceeded to steal the inbounds pass in the corner while flying out of bounds. He then made the smartest play we’ve seen all year – 99% of players would have a) tried to call timeout; b) thrown the ball back into play; or c) simply landed with possession – in all three cases it’s a hustle play but Texas would get the ball back. Instead, Flowers had the presence of mind to launch the ball high into the air, knowing fully well that the last two seconds of the clock would expire while the ball floated out of reach of everyone on its way back to the ground. Brilliance. As with its previous game versus Michigan St., Texas once again showed that it has problems with beefy front lines (making its win against UCLA even more impressive, in retrospect). DJ Augustin (16/4/9 assts) and Damion James (21/15) had nice games for the Horns, while Brian Butch also added 21/11 for the Badgers.

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#11 Tennessee 82, Gonzaga 72. Every time we’ve watched the Zags lately, we have a lingering feeling that they should be better than they’re showing. Granted, Josh Heytvelt clearly isn’t himself yet, as he continues to recover from ankle surgery. But we just wonder if there aren’t issues beneath the surface on this team. In this game, Chris Lofton continued to struggle shooting the ball (4-13), but the rest of the Vols more than made up for his output, as the troika of Smiths combined for 39/14/10 assts. Tayshaun’s cousin, JP Prince, had another fine game, going for 12/3 in only 18 mins – he seems to have a knack for making timely plays. No doubt this is an impressive nonconference win for the Vols, but we still ultimately have questions about how deep a team playing this style can go into March.

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Oklahoma 88, #24 West Virginia 82 (2OT). This was the game of the day, no doubt. West Virginia probably should have won this game several times, but Oklahoma simply would not quit. Yes, we were impressed with OU’s frontline dominance (Longar – 22/4; Griffin – 18/16), but the guy who continually made big shots and dropped superb dimes down the stretch for the Sooners was Austin Johnson (13/4/9 assts). Color us impressed with his heady play and court vision tonight. One play in particular, where the camera from the baseline showed AJ never looked up yet still found Griffin right on the money flying to the hole for a lob, was sick. How did OU lose to Stephen F. Austin??? On the other side of things, WVU looked solid as well. They didn’t shoot that well (41%), but their players clearly remembered the Beilein backdoor cuts, as they used the play several times in the second half to get easy buckets. All the hallmarks of a classic Huggins team are already there – hustle, defense, scrappiness – the only thing missing is the Thuggins personnel that will start showing up in Morgantown next year.

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#1 Memphis 76, #18 Arizona 63. This was one of those games where Arizona was never really out of the game, but they were never really in it either. Not once did we ever have a suspicion that an upset was actually brewing, even though Arizona regularly cut the second-half lead to two possessions. Every time Memphis needed something, they’d get it from CDR (17/5) or Shawn Taggart (15/7) off the bench. Jerryd Bayless (knee) was sitting out for Zona, and the Cats clearly needed his offense, as Chase Budinger (20/6) and Nic Wise (10/4/5 assts) were left to their own devices most of the time. We’re still not sure what we think of Memphis – having defeated the toughest teams on their schedule (Oklahoma, UConn, USC, Georgetown and Arizona), and with only two home nonconference tests remaining (1/26 v. Gonzaga; 2/23 v. Tennessee), we could be looking at a strong possibility of an unbeaten regular season (31-0). Games at Houston (1/30) and at UAB (2/16) figure to be the toughest conference games on their schedule, but both are likely wins. We pretty much agree with Steve Lavin’s comment tonight during the broadcast, though. If Memphis goes into the NCAAs unbeaten, they will most definitely not win the national title.

Upset Alert. #25 Dayton 80, #8 Pittsburgh 55. Look at the A10 again. What an asskicking the Flyers put on Pitt tonight. Things really couldn’t have gone much worse for Pitt – Dayton’s Brian Roberts exploded for 31 pts on their vaunted perimeter defense, and Levance Fields went out with an ankle injury in the early second half. This was a statement game by Dayton, and we heard the message loud and clear. We bet they wish they could get that George Mason loss back now (67-56 in their second game of the year). Winthrop 76, #17 Miami (FL) 70. Was it an upset? Only in the sense that Miami was heretofore unbeaten this season, but Winthrop is undoubtedly the stronger program overall, so we’ll call this one a very minor upset. The Eagles haven’t had a great nonconference run (7-5) this year, but they have beaten two ACC teams (Ga Tech is the other). The question is what will happen to Frank Haith’s Hurricane team now that they’ve tasted their own blood? They get one more breather (v. Penn) before the ACC games start. There are now seven unbeatens remaining.

Other Ranked Teams.

  • #3 Kansas 86, Yale 53. KU continues to roll with 18 steals in this game.
  • #5 UCLA 76, UC Davis 48. Davis had 13 rebounds for the game. Thirteen!
  • #6 Michigan St. 93, Wisconsin-GB 75. Raymar Morgan with 24/8.
  • #9 Georgetown 78, American 51. Roy Hibbert isn’t getting any better, is he (one measly board)?
  • #12 Marquette 77, Savannah St. 37. There are too many D1 teams.
  • #13 Indiana 97, Chicago St. 59. DJ White with 21/15/4 blks. See above re: Marquette.
  • #14 Texas A&M 83, Florida A&M 54. DeAndre Jordan’s FG% actually dropped from this game (6-8 FG).
  • #16 Vanderbilt 92, UT-Martin 85. Surprisingly close home win for Vandy. AJ Ogilvy with 21/9.
  • #19 Villanova 71, Lasalle 58. Dante Cunningham with 12/12 and Scottie Reynolds with 19/4.
  • Boise St. 73, #21 BYU 70. Trent Plaisted held to 12/9. Is Boise (9-3) worth watching this year?
  • #22 Rhode Island 85, Georgia Southern 80. Will Daniels blew up for 28/8.
  • #23 Clemson 78, Samford 45. Before ESPN, were there any good games this time of year?

Other Notable Scores.

  • San Diego 81, Kentucky 72. Prepare for the full-scale mutiny in Lexington soon.
  • Washington 73, LSU 65. Another second-half meltdown for John Brady (LSU led 41-27 at halftime).
  • Florida Gulf Coast 60, Penn 30. Um, Penn had six points at the half in this one. Ugh.
  • Furman 67, Howard 62. The Purple Paladins earn their first win (1-11)!
  • Illinois St. 80, Creighton 67. Early MVC battle for primacy between good teams.
  • Drake 62, Wichita St. 54. Staying in the Valley, Drake is now 10-1.

On Tap Today (all times EST).

  • Mississippi St. (-3) v. Missouri (ESPN FC) 1:30pm – game of the day – MSU needs this one.
  • Wake Forest (-11.5) v. Air Force 2pm. nice intersectional contrast in styles of play.
  • Georgia Tech (-4) v. Florida St. (FSN) 5:30pm - ACC matchup pitting teams vying for 8-8 on Selection Sunday.
  • UNLV (NL) v. Minnesota 7pm - probably Tubby’s toughest test so far in GopherLand.
  • UNC (-24.5) v. Valparaiso (FSN) 7:30pm – Valpo is 10-2, but it won’t matter…
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