RTC Presents College Basketball’s Opening Weekend

Posted by nvr1983 on November 12th, 2010

After opening with four games apiece on Monday and Wednesday night, college basketball really starts to pick up this evening with 16 of the top 25 teams in action including Georgetown traveling to play a tough Old Dominion team. By Sunday night, 24 of the top 25 teams will have played with Missouri being the lone exception, as they do not play their first game until November 18th. Even though there are only a few games that I would deem particularly compelling in isolation it will be interesting to see how the new pieces on these teams work with the returning parts.

We will have more about each day’s game with our Set Your Tivo feature, but in addition to those games you can watch on TV, we will also be coming to you courtside from nine games on RTC Live this weekend. Check back throughout the weekend for more (somewhat) instant analysis and join us on RTC Live for action from across the nation.

Friday

  • Boston University at Northeastern, 7 PM – One of the early battles of Boston will occur in Matthews Arena as the Terriers come to play the Huskies, who will be significantly weaker this year after losing four of their top five scorers. Chaisson Allen and the Huskies will be tested against a promising Terrier team led by John Holland, the leading scorer in America East, who has support from a team that includes four transfers.
  • East Tennessee State at #10 Kentucky, 7 PM on Big Blue Sports and ESPN Full Court – This game will be interesting if only for the reaction of the Wildcats and their fans a day after learning that Enes Kanter, whom many said would be the key to their season, would never play in a Wildcat uniform. On the other sideline, the Buccaneers will be without Tommy Hubbard, their leading scorer and rebounder. Ok, technically Hubbard will be on the sideline, but you get my point…
  • Cornell at Albany, 7:30 PM – While the Great Danes should be improved with Tim Ambrose returning for his senior season, most of the college basketball world will be focused on the Big Red, who lost eight seniors, including Ryan Whitman, Louis Dale, and Jeff Foote along with their coach Steve Donahue, who headed to Boston College. New coach Bill Courtney will be relying on Chris Wroblewski as one of the few known elements of his team to help guide the Big Red in the early season while they try to establish a new identity.

Saturday

  • North Florida at #5 Pittsburgh, 4 PM on The Big East Network and ESPN Full Court - We aren’t expecting this to be a particularly competitive game, but it will be worth following to see the co-favorites in the Big East (along with Villanova and Syracuse). The Panthers have one of the best backcourts in America with Ashton GibbsBrad Wanamaker, and Gilbert Brown, but the success of the team could well depend on the interior play of Gary McGhee, who has been quiet so far this season.
  • Harvard at George Mason, 4 PM – Jeremy Lin is gone, but Tommy Amaker returns with a solid squad–led by Kyle Casey and Keith Wright–that is good enough to win the school’s first Ivy League title. [Ed. Note: The Crimson are the only historic Division 1 program to have never won a league championship. And the answer is no, we do not count schools that joined recently in the discussion.] They will have their hands full, however, as they travel down to Fairfax, Virginia to take on Jim Larranaga‘s squad that is led by Cam Long and Ryan Pearson and could very easily end up winning the CAA.
  • #23 San Diego State at Long Beach State, 7 PM – This game should be all about the Aztecs who return all five starters from a team that challenged Tennessee in a close game in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament last March. The Aztecs, who are led by sophomore sensation Kawhi Leonard, should challenge BYU for the Mountain West title this season, but Steve Fisher has higher aspirations for what’s certainly a Sweet 16-level team. Look for Casper White to make his mark for the 49ers, but the Aztecs should win this one fairly easily.
  • Weber State at Utah State, 9:05 PM – An early season Bracket Buster match-up that might be the most interesting game of the weekend. The Wildcats will have the best player on the court in Damian Lillard, projected as a potential first round pick in 2012, but they will have to travel to Logan to take on a Aggie team that returns four of five starters but will really miss Jared Quayle as they have to break in a new point guard against Lillard.

Sunday

  • Cornell at Seton Hall, Noon on The Big East Network and ESPN Full Court – Their second game of the weekend should be significantly more challenging for the Big Red as they travel to play a Pirate team that has a new coach in Kevin Willard and returns two stars in Jeremy Hazell and Herb Pope. We know what to expect from Hazell (shooting, lots of shooting), but we aren’t sure what to expect from Pope who underwent cardiac surgery in the off-season to repair a congenital abnormality. Pope looked pretty good in some exhibition games, but we expect it will be a while before he gets back to the level where he was last year. A year ago, the Pirates won a tight game over the Big Red on the road. Don’t expect this year to be as close.
  • Princeton at #1 Duke, 5 PM on ESPNU – That’s right. We will be courtside for the opening game of Duke’s title defense. Nothing against the Tigers, but this should be one of those 40-50 point blowouts. Still, we will be interested to see how Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry fit into an already loaded perimeter attack for the Blue Devils that features Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.
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… and Four Teams Down

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

Every year teams come out of nowhere and burst into the top 25, while sports writers run to their keyboards to type the requisite “Where Did Team X Come From” story. I mean how many people saw Cornell coming last year? Who said last October that Butler would go on to lose the national championship game by just a couple of inches?  Conversely, there are teams that look great on paper in the preseason but fail to live up to the hype once the season starts. Think North Carolina last season. Why did the Tar Heels begin the year in the top 10 again?  Allow us to sort through the mess and pull out this year’s Cornells and North Carolinas for you. Missouri fans, get ready to be excited. West Virginia fans, start thinking of things to say in your hate mail.

On Monday we took a look at four teams that will be up this season.  Today we’ll examine four teams that will be down as compared to where they were last year.

#1) West Virginia

There's a Lot of Pressure on Kevin Jones to Produce This Year

No Devin Ebanks. No Da’Sean Butler. All kinds of problems for the Mountaineers, who are the only team from last year’s Final Four to begin the season outside of the AP top 25. Bob Huggins’ squad lost a lot of what made last year’s team so tough to handle with the depatures of Ebanks and Butler. The 2009-10 Mountaineers got by on their ability to suffocate opponents with their brutally physical play combined with Butler’s brilliance on the offensive end. Now much of the responsibility falls to forward Kevin Jones, who averaged 13.5 points per game as West Virginia’s third option. Can Jones step up his game this year when defenses single him out as the guy they have to stop? If Jones struggles, then the Mountaineers will have a hard time duplicating even some of the success they enjoyed last year.

Reports coming from preseason practices aren’t too encouraging. Huggins recently told the Charleston Gazette that freshmen Kevin Noreen and Noah Cottrill “look lost” at practice. And that was after Cottrill sparked rumors when he was introduced but didn’t participate in West Virginia’s Midnight Madness. There also was the case of Casey Mitchell, who was suspended for a violation of team rules but is now back with the team. These aren’t the kinds of stories that equate to success in the regular season. This year might be one to forget in Morgantown.

#2) Cornell

Such is the Life of a Mid-Major -- Seasons Like Last Year Come Around Once in Generation

The Big Red was the last year’s feel good story, upsetting Temple and Wisconsin en route to an unprecedented run to the Sweet 16. And what was the reward for America’s favorite brainiacs turned basketball stars? A return to obscurity.

Cornell lost its X&Os wizard in Steve Donahue when he opted for the greener pastures of the ACC, taking the head coaching gig at Boston College. The Big Red lost all-time leading scorer and 2010 Ivy League Player of the Year (Ryan Wittman), the sparkplug and catalyst of its NCAA Tournament run (Louis Dale) and six other seniors from last year’s squad.  That would be a lot of attrition for even a team like Duke to endure, and there’s no doubt Cornell and new coach Bill Courtney are headed for a big step backward this season.

The Big Red was predicted to finish third in the Ivy League, which would require a number of players to step up fill the voids left by the likes of Wittman and Dale. Cornell needs big seasons from proven players like point guard Chris Wroblewski and forwards Adam Wire and Mark Coury. Then the Big Red will need some of its unknown pieces (one if its four freshman or maybe junior transfer Anthony Gatlin) to emerge if Courtney & Co. hope to compete for a fourth straight league title.

#3) Purdue

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Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis: Thursday Night

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal 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 Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

7:07 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #5 Butler  (West Region)

We’re starting to worry about this Arinze Onuaku situation.  Sooner or later, Jim Boeheim’s team is going to need the 11 points, five rebounds and general defensive anchor support on the front line that the 6’9, 260-pound big man provides.  Rick Jackson is a serviceable replacement, but the fact that Onuaku reportedly hasn’t even suited up in practice since his injury against Georgetown on March 11 is cause for alarm.  Even if Syracuse survives to advance to next weekend’s Final Four, how productive could he possibly be?  So far, Syracuse hasn’t shown a need for him yet.  The Orange ran over Vermont and Gonzaga without breathing all that hard thanks to the superb play of Wesley Johnson and friends, but there will be a team in the very near future where they’ll need more than Jackson alone can provide.

That team will not be playing SU in the Sweet Sixteen, however.  Butler is an excellent team and Brad Stevens has gotten players other than Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard to step up this season, most notably Shelvin Mack who went 9-12 from long range in the San Jose pod against UTEP and Murray State.  Syracuse is not UTEP or Murray, though, and the wide-open looks that Mack was getting in those games will no longer be as readily available thanks to the length and quickness of the Orange’s perimeter defenders.  Furthermore, Butler center Matt Howard has enough trouble staying out of foul trouble against Horizon League teams; it’s not realistic to think that he’ll be able to play 30+ effective minutes against Jackson, Johnson and Kris Joseph inside.  The main problem we foresee is that Butler is not a very good offensive team in general — when Hayward and Mack aren’t firing on all cylinders, the Bulldogs have trouble scoring points.  Add that to the fact they’ll be facing one of the best offensive teams in America, and you have a situation where numerous things need to go exactly right for Butler to get this win tonight.  Even without Onuaku on the floor for another game, we just don’t see Butler finding enough offense to win this game.

The Skinny: The last time the Bulldogs made it this deep into the NCAAs, they ran into a long, athletic team by the name of Florida in 2007.  They played the defending and future national champions as closely as they were played in that tournament thanks to their control of the tempo, strong defense and  attention to detail, but it still wasn’t enough because the Florida offensive attack was simply too good.  We think the same thing will happen in this game.  Syracuse has too many weapons for the Butler defense to key in on all of them, and even if they catch SU on an off night, where will the Butler points come from?

7:27 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #11 Washington  (East Region)

Most prognosticators felt that Washington had Sweet 16 talent coming into this season. Lorenzo Romar was returning reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Isaiah Thomas, defensive stalwart Venoy Overton and a forward named Quincy Pondexter ripe for a breakout season. While Pondexter’s prediction panned out, guard play was shaky, road wins were hard to come by, and the Huskies found themselves on the NCAA bubble with seven losses in a weak Pac-10. A conference tournament win punched their ticket, though, and the Huskies have taken advantage of the opportunity, erasing a double-digit second half lead to beat Marquette and wiping the floor with Mountain West champion New Mexico. Their toughest test yet will come Thursday against Big East Tournament champion West Virginia. Washington needs to produce a near carbon copy of their performance against New Mexico. In other words, they need to play a near-perfect game. Thomas must keep his head on straight and continue to make outside jumpers. Overton must frustrate Da’Sean Butler, Elston Turner must continue to produce offensively and Pondexter must out-duel Devin Ebanks.

For West Virginia, Washington seems like a favorable matchup. They may have preferred Joe Mazzulla guarding Isaiah Thomas more than the sidelined Darryl Bryant anyway. Mazzulla is the superior defender and Bryant has been woeful shooting-wise the last three weeks. They also match up well with the length of Washington. Bob Huggins can throw a lineup out on the floor of players 6’6 or above with huge wingspans, meaning the long WVU defense could fluster Pondexter and force him into difficult shots. One possible negative to the Bryant injury is that it increases the likelihood that the Mountaineer offense will become too reliant on Butler to bail them out. He’s done it time and time again this season and in postseason tournament play. Does he have more magic up his sleeve?

The Skinny: West Virginia has a plethora of defenders that can frustrate Pondexter and they boast the best late-game scorer in the nation in Butler. That combination should prove enough to take care of Washington in fairly methodical fashion. Avoiding their typical slow start would be prudent.

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Previewing the Cinderellas: Cornell

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2010

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Preview—Redux

The Friday before Selection Sunday, we published what we thought would be our last Ivy League column of the season. In it we gave some of our thoughts on the tournament as a whole and the Ivy representative, Cornell, in particular. Using what we thought were keys to victory, we thought that St. Marys (#10) and Xavier (#6) would outlive their seedings. They are still alive. We said, that based on those keys, Duke would be the national champion. The Blue Devils have looked impressive. And most importantly, we said that Cornell had the stuff to reach the Sweet 16 and that the country would be talking Ivy hoops. They did and everyone is.

Now it’s on to the Carrier Dome on Thursday and the mission … slay the Big Cats from Kentucky. So whether you are eating Buffalo Wild Wings, 550 calorie meals from Applebees, or any $5 footlong; even if you are walking the Fidelity green line or joining your bags and flying for free, its time to provide an in depth RTC analysis of Kentucky vs. Cornell.

Does Former Cat Mark Coury Bear the Secrets to Beating UK?

Overview

Let’s begin by getting a few things out of the way. We will start with what is sure to be the CBS story line — academia vs. the hired guns; the four year seniors vs. the one-and-dones; the biochem majors/theoretical math minors vs. undeclared. And of course the jokes that will fly around the internet – Kentucky has a lot of double figure scorers but is their aggregate GPA in double figures? Etc. None of that, of course, is relevant. The fact is, if they played this game 50 times Kentucky may win 48 of them. Cornell only has to win once – on Thursday night.

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ATB: Selected Thoughts From an Epic First Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2010

How’s Your Bracket? Of the sixteen top seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament, eight are now gone — one #1 seed, one #2 seed and three each of the #3s and #4s.   The last time that half of the top sixteen didn’t make the Sweets?  2005 (8).  Before that?  2000 (9).  So maybe this is a cyclical thing of around twice a decade, but we’ll take it.  It makes for a wild attention-getting opening weekend, and builds a buzz about the Dance that had been lacking in the last couple of years during the early rounds. In addition to that, we have a #9 (Northern Iowa), #10 (St. Mary’s), #11 (Washington) and #12 (Cornell) crashing the rarefied air of the regionals, the most teams from the lower half of the bracket to make it since 1999 when five double-digit seeds made it to the second weekend.  To the players on those four teams, they don’t care about any of that — the unlikelihood of its occurrence is lost on their youth; all they know is that they’re still playing and they believe they can continue to advance in this tournament.  And why shouldn’t they?  None of the four teams above fit the definition of an overmatched Cinderella that just happened to catch a favorite looking ahead or on a very off night.  No, these four teams have combined to win 113 games this year, and each has shown the ability to win convincingly over quality competition.  Cornell’s 13-point victory over Temple was one thing; but an 18-point pasting over Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin while scoring 87 points is quite another.  St. Mary’s knocking out a strong Richmond team was impressive; but holding Big Shot Scottie Reynolds to 2-11 from the field is a different story.  Same thing for Washington dominating a 30-win New Mexico team, and well, we’re still in astonishment over the UNI victory over Kansas on Saturday afternoon (more on this below).  It was a bracket-busting kind of weekend, and it provided more thrills and memorable moments than the last few NCAA Tournaments combined.  It’s the reason we all love this sport, and it provides additional evidence (although none is needed) that the Tourney is already in its sweet spot in terms of the right number of teams allowed to participate.  If #9 seed Northern Iowa had to play an additional game to get to #8 UNLV before a chance to take on #1 Kansas on Saturday, would they have had the legs to get past the overall top seed?  Would any of the above teams still be dancing?


Un-Farokhing-Believable.  We were among the biggest supporters of top overall seed Kansas as a dominant team that had a great shot at steamrolling to this year’s title, but Ali Farokhmanesh and Northern Iowa had other ideas.  It wasn’t enough that the Iowan with the Persian name that no major college wanted drilled a 25-foot game winner during Thursday’s first round game versus UNLV; no, he one-upped that shot with another three (“a dagger,” according to Bill Self) on a 1-on-2 fast break opportunity where the ‘smart’ play appeared to be pulling things out and running clock.  His platinum-balls three from the right wing was all net, giving UNI a four-point lead with around thirty seconds to go.  After KU’s Tyrel Reed charged on the ensuing possession, the upset was in the books, and it will go down as one of the greatest in NCAA Tournament history.  No matter what the revisionist historians will try to argue, Kansas was the prohibitive favorite to win the NCAA Tournament this season, and in the 64/65-team era, there has never been a bigger Second Round upset.  Bigger than Stanford and Kentucky in 2004, Stanford again in 2000, and yes, even Kansas’ loss to UTEP in 1993.  The difference between those teams and this one is that 2009-10 Kansas was considerably better than all of those other #1 seeds.  If you disagree that they weren’t the prohibitive favorite, send us a screen shot of where you had the Jayhawks losing.  42% of America in the ESPN Tournament Challenge had the ‘Hawks winning it all, and nearly 75% had them in the Final Four.  We would agree that it was the biggest overall upset since George Mason over #1 UConn back in 2006, but at least by that point in time we had a decent idea of what the Patriots were made of (with wins over UNC and Michigan State already).  Here, we had no idea that Ali and his Magic Panthers had in store.

Color Us Impressed…

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Second Round Game Analysis: Sunday Games

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2010

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

This season saw an unprecedented three teams reach the 20-win plateau in the Ivy League — a dominant Cornell team headed to the NCAA Tournament (expected); a young, but extremely talented Harvard team (disappointing); and a resurgent Princeton team (surprising). Hopefully the latter two have earned an invite to one of the myriad of lesser post-season tournaments. Here’s a look at the final standings:

  1. Cornell (13-1, 27-4): The final go-around for 10 seniors proved to be the best. Now the goal for Louis Dale, Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman et al is to win a game or two in the tournament. A preview of their chances can be found below.
  2. Princeton (11-3, 20-8): Two tough losses to Cornell sealed their fate, but they earned runner-up honors with a couple of victories over Harvard. A bright future with their top five scorers returning.
  3. Harvard (10-4, 21-7): Beat everyone except the top two. Jeremy Lin’s loss via graduation will be felt, but in freshmen Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster, the Crimson boast a backcourt that can compete with the best nationally. Next year’s preseason choice.
  4. Yale (6-8, 12-19): An up and down Ivy season for the Elis. The lone bright spot was All-Ivy senior guard Alex Zampier. He leaves New Haven as the school’s all-time assist leader while scoring over 1000 points.
  5. Columbia (5-9, 11-17): The Lions earn the fifth spot over co 5-9ers Brown and Penn by virtue of their head-to-head sweep of both teams. Next year’s team will be built around sophomore Noruwa Agho, their only double digit scorer.
  6. Brown (5-9, 11-20): Little to separate the Bears from the Quakers other than a slightly better overall record, so they get the nod here. Stat machine Matt Mullery (team leader in points, rebounds, and assists) leaves after a fine career.
  7. Penn (5-9, 6-22): The record was something that Palestra fans (those that showed up) were not used to. Nor were early-season injuries and a mid-season coaching change. Sophomore point guard and Player of the Year candidate Zack Rosen is already a star.
  8. Dartmouth (1-13, 5-23): Not much to cheer about in Hanover. Hopefully Mark Graupe can breathe some enthusiasm into a program that has pretty much been the league doormat for a while. Most of the top players return.

Postseason Awards
Without fanfare we present you with the best of the 2009-2010 Ivy League basketball season:

All-Conference Team

  • Ryan Wittman 6-7 Sr F—Cornell
  • Matt Mullery 6-8 Sr. F–Brown
  • Jeff Foote 7-0 Sr. C–Cornell
  • Jeremy Lin 6-3 Sr. G–Harvard
  • Zack Rosen 6-1 So. G–Penn
  • Alex Zampier 6-3 Sr, G—Yale
  • Louis Dale 5-11 Sr. G—Cornell

All-Freshman Team

  • Kyle Casey 6-7 F–Harvard
  • Tucker Halpern 6-8 F–Brown
  • Andrew McCarthy 6-8 F–Brown
  • Ian Hummer 6-7 F–Princeton
  • Brandyn Curry 6-1 G–Harvard
  • Christian Webster 6-5 G—Harvard

Statistical Leaders

  • Points per game: Zack Rosen (Penn)–17.7
  • FG %: Jeff Foote (Cornell)—62.3%
  • FT %: Zack Rosen (Penn)—86.2%
  • 3-point FG %: Jon Jaques (Cornell)—48.8%
  • Rebounds per game: Jeff Foote (Cornell)—8.2
  • Assists per game: Louis Dale (Cornell)—4.8
  • Steals per game: Jeremy Lin (Harvard)—2.5
  • Blocks per game: Greg Mangano (Yale)—2.0

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Bracket Prep: Cornell, Winthrop, ETSU, Murray State

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2010

As we move through the next eight days when automatic bids will be handed out on a regular basis, we’re going to break down the teams for you so that you can start thinking about your bracket ahead of time.  The pearls of wisdom are meant to help you better understand what these teams are good at and how to make fair comparisons between them — all too often, the capsules you see have a lot of information in them, but very little of it is actually helpful.  If you have additional ideas, leave them in the comments.  For the good/bad matchups, we’re not necessarily saying that Team X will win; we’re simply pointing out that in an ideal situation, some of that team’s strengths will be more likely to manifest against those particular opponents — so save the emails.  As of Sunday morning, there have been four auto-bids handed out.  Here are those primers.

#1. Cornell Big Red (27-4, 13-1 Ivy) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #11-#13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. Cornell is the nation’s top three-point shooting team, hitting 43.4% of their attempts from deep and scoring nearly 39% of their total points from outside the arc.  The Big Red hit twenty in their bid-clinching game against Brown on Friday night.  They have five players who have made 30+ this year; you simply cannot leave these guys open.
  2. In their five games against BCS teams this year, Cornell was 2-3.  The wins were against Alabama in Tuscaloosa and St. John’s in NYC. Digging deeper, though, we find that two of the three losses were to #1 seeds Syracuse (by 15) and Kansas (by 6).  In those losses, Brandon Triche and Sherron Collins tore them up, exposing a vulnerability to athletic, scoring point guards who attack the basket.
  3. The core trio of Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale will not get rattled — they’re all seniors playing in their third straight NCAA Tournament.  They have proven they can score with anyone; the problem will be if they are matched up against a team that is equally offensive minded, as the Cornell defense has trouble getting stops.

Good Matchups: Wisconsin; Gonzaga

Bad Matchups: Baylor, Georgetown

#2. Winthrop Eagles (19-13, 12-6 Big South) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #16

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Cornell Goes For First 2010 NCAA Bid Tonight

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2010

Unless half of the Cornell basketball team (the starting half) suffers serious food poisoning or takes a sudden interest in the illicit pleasures of Federal Hill in Providence, we should have our first 2010 NCAA Tournament bid secured at around 9 pm eastern tonight.  With the Big Red’s twelfth Ivy League victory likely this evening, Steve Donahue’s team will have clinched their third straight regular season title (and NCAA bid).

Winning is Gorges (CDS/T. Chou)

In filling the vacuum left by the Penn and Princeton boondoggles, it’s been a phenomenal run for the men from Ithaca as Cornell has won 36 Ivy games over the past three seasons.  Their Ivy scoring margin of +15.6 this year is the best seen in the league since the great Quaker teams at the turn of the millennium, with eight of Cornell’s eleven wins this year virtually in the books by the first timeout.  We’d love to build up some drama about tonight’s game at Brown, but Cornell has defeated the Bears by a 22-point average margin of victory in the last five games between the two teams; given that this is Donahue’s best team of his career, we doubt that tonight’s the night for the 12-19 (5-7) Rhodies to shock the world (ed. note: the previous game this year was closer than the 14-point margin indicates, but we expect Cornell to come strong tonight with their NCAA bid on the line).

The one thing Cornell has so far failed to do in their three-year reign of Ivy dominance is to win a game against an RPI top-50 opponent (0-8), which squares with their 0-2 record in the NCAA Tournament (Ls to Missouri and Stanford).  But they’re getting closer, as a closely-contested January game against #1 Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse showed.  The core group of seniors — guard Louis Dale, forward Ryan Wittman, and center Jeff Foote — have been playing together for so long (and so well) that they know what each other is going to do before they’ve even thought of it yet.  In an era of elite teams led by young players not far removed from the Prom and Selective Service sign-ups, the opportunity is ripe for the Big Red to catch an overconfident, sloppy team in the first round of the Dance this year.

Cornell's Decorated Trio (credit: Cornell Daily Sun)

In Zach Hayes’ latest RTC Bracketology, he has Cornell as a #13 seed playing #4 seed Temple, while Joe Lunardi has the Big Red as a #12 seed playing #5 Georgetown.  While neither of those particular teams fit the criteria as a young, undisciplined team, there are others in that seed range who do (Tennessee in particular comes to mind).  With a little luck in the draw this year, the Ivy League champion could be on the cusp of more than just its third straight trip to the NCAAs but also its first-ever win in Tournament history.

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RTC Aftermath: Cornell 79, Harvard 70

Posted by zhayes9 on February 19th, 2010

The Harvard students changed from white shirts to black shirts at halftime.

Too bad for the Crimson faithful the ploy didn’t transfer to the hardwood.

Cornell maintained a nine-point halftime lead into a nine-point road victory at a raucous Lavietes Pavilion Friday night to hold a lead atop the all-important Ivy League regular season standings and firmly re-establish their status as the top team in the conference. Despite a remarkable 32 of 34 from the line and 48% shooting from the Crimson, Cornell used trademark three-point shooting, strong rebounding and timely scoring from Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale to eek out a victory in quite possibly the most challenging game on their Ivy slate.

Cornell Moving Toward March

The matchup was billed as a duel between the two best players in the conference- Wittman and Harvard’s point man Jeremy Lin. Lin was his usual stellar self- 24 points, 7-12 FG and 10-11 FT- but it was Wittman who stole the show with an array of clutch NBA-distance treys that stymied multiple Crimson rallies. The most importance sequence of the game came near the midway point of the second half when Harvard cut a 17-point Cornell lead to five until Wittman and Dale answered the call one more time with consecutive dagger threes that killed any remaining Harvard hope.

Cornell coach Steve Donahue remarked after the game how terrific the atmosphere was in Cambridge tonight. One could sense the urgency in the air from both sides with the Ivy League not fielding a year-end conference tournament to decide the league’s auto berth. This puts a giant magnifying glass on the regular season results and the players, coaches, fans and students all realized tonight just how crucial of a contest this happened to be.

Donahue made sure to commend a young Harvard team on their effort. Lin is their leader and anchor, but the Crimson rely on three freshman- Kyle Casey, Christian Webster and Brandyn Curry- for a good chunk of their production. Donahue correctly pointed out how vital Cornell’s experience was tonight in terms of both poise and confidence. He singled out Wittman as someone that played with a toughness and confidence unmatched by any other player on the floor for both sides.

Wittman admitted after the game there was a “lack of urgency” before the stunning upset at Penn last Friday. He said the Big Red absolutely has to bring it every night in the Ivy League and Dale remarked that it feels good to get an opposing team’s best shot every time during league play, similar to Gonzaga in the WCC or Butler in the Horizon. Dale also singled out the importance of getting out to a lead so fighting back on the road was not a necessity.

On the losing end, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker was proud of his team for their commendable effort but the Crimson just could not contain Wittman and Dale to pick up the stops in clutch situations. He was straight to the point in his assessment: Cornell just did things better. Lin also made sure to say this was the best atmosphere he’s seen at a home game in his four years as a member of the Crimson.

Too bad the home team could not deliver for the white-then-black-clad fans screeching, whistling, blowing horns and stomping their feet for 40 solid minutes Friday night.  Then again, this was Cornell. They are on a mission to reach the NCAA Tournament as the class of this league. And it does not appear anyone will stop them from achieving that very goal, at least on this night.

- Zach Hayes

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Set Your Tivo: 11.24.09

Posted by nvr1983 on November 23rd, 2009

tivo

After last week when we really kicked off the season, our list of games this week is a little weak to be quite blunt primarily because of the Thanksgiving holiday break. Don’t worry though. It’s not all football games and turkey. There are some interesting games this week that are worth following even if you are travelling (or like some of us here) working during the week. Today we only have one game worth Tivo-ing, but it is one of the more intriguing games so far this season.

Cornell at #9 Syracuse at 7 PM on ESPN360.com: We mentioned this game in our post naming Syracuse as our Team of the Week. Everybody has been praising the Orange (and for good reason), but those who follow college basketball closely know that they could very easily lose to the Big Red, which is something I am sure that Jim Boeheim has stressed to his players since the morning after their huge win over UNC. After their wins over Caland UNC this past week everybody knows about the Orange. They have one of the best frontcourts in the nation with Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, Kris Joseph, and Arinze Onuaku complimented by some outstanding perimeter play (so far) from Scoop Jardine, Andy Rautins, and Brandon Triche. The country isn’t quite as familiar with Cornell who have already notched impressive road wins at Alabama and UMass before falling by 10 at home against Seton Hall. The Big Red are led by Ryan Wittman (17 PPG and 4 APG)–one of the nation’s top  players that the casual fan doesn’t know about–who is complimented by fellow seniors Louis Dale (13.7 PPG and 3.7 APG)  and Jeff Foote(11.0 PPG and 8.7 RPG). If the Orange need any motivation to get up for this game, Boeheim will just have to remind them of last year when they barely outlasted Wittman and his game-high 33 points  before pulling away late. We expect the Orange to win this one since they are the more talented team and are playing at home, but don’t be surprised to see Cornell hanging around as I’m sure their players have been looking forward to this game for quite some time as it is the second biggest game on their schedule trailing only their trip to Allen Fieldhouse on January 6th to take on preseason #1 Kansas. While I think that motivation will aid the Big Red, it probably won’t be enough to make up for their massive disadvantage inside where they won’t have an answer for the Orange big men and Johnson in particular.

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