RTC Live: Big East Semis – Georgetown vs. Marquette & WVU vs. Notre Dame

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

For the fourth straight day, RTC Live will once again be present at MSG as we whittle down this behemoth of a conference to try and crown a champion. Four teams are left, as Georgetown takes on Marquette and West Virginia does battle with Notre Dame.

The Hoyas lost to Marquette earlier this year in one of the few nailbiters that Marquette won early in the season. Marquette is a much different team now; more confident, more prepared to play a close game. Believe it or not, both of these teams run similar offenses. They are both perimeter-oriented and thrive in a spread floor situation. But where Marquette creates open looks when their guards attack gaps and either get to the rim or find an open teammate, Georgetown is more likely to try to find a cutter after getting the ball to Greg Monroe in the post. Both teams seems to be playing some of their best basketball right now, but I think that the Hoyas win this. Georgetown, unlike Villanova, has good defenders on the perimeter.  Believe it or not, Notre Dame beat West Virginia in their first matchup this season, and it came before the Irish became Slo-tre Dame. ND jumped out to a huge lead on the Mountaineers before hanging on to win by two. I like the Irish again in this one. If there is anything that West Virginia really struggles at, it is scoring in the halfcourt. the Irish force you to play nothing but halfcourt basketball. So long as Notre Dame can compete on the glass, I think they win this and advance to the finals.

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Big East Tourney Daily Diary: 2d Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is spending the week as the RTC correspondent at the Big East Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action.  Here is his submission on the Second Round games.

Georgetown 69, South Florida 49

  • What is there to say about Georgetown that we don’t already know? This team is balanced, this team is poised, this team has size, they have shooting, they execute offensively, they are tough defensively. There is not anything this team cannot do… when they are playing well. The problem with that caveat is that they don’t always play well. So while they looked like a dark horse Final Four contender today, tomorrow they could come out and lose by 30 to Syracuse and I wouldn’t be surprised.
  • The difference in this game, believe it or not, was Georgetown’s transition game. South Florida loves to attack the basket, be it via the post up, the drive,or the offensive rebound. As a result, the Bulls on far too many occasions got caught with too many players in and around the paint. Georgetown took advantage, getting some easy baskets in transition and a number of open looks in secondary break situations.
  • South Florida didn’t hit their first three of the Big East tournament until there were 30 seconds left. And that was made by a walk-on. Tonight’s performance — five points from outside the paint and the foul line, only two prior to that final three — was only marginally better than yesterday. If you’re counting at home, South Florida had three baskets outside the paint in 80 minutes of basketball in MSG. Yeah, that’s not good.
  • USF was playing for a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. Now they are headed to the NIT.

Marquette 57, St. John’s 55

  • You don’t want to play Marquette in the tournament. There is no team in the country that is more battle tested than this group. The most impressive part? Its so obvious how much they have grown. Winning is a learned skill, and Marquette has learned. Marquette is probably going to end up in the #7-#10 range somewhere. Whatever #1 or #2 seed gets them won’t be pleased.
  • Buzz Williams is hilarious. First and foremost, his dances on the sideline are great. The one that left an impression with me today was the one-footed hop step with a leg kick on a three Marquette hit in the first half. In the presser he had some gems.
    • He said that he’d “play with these guys in the street anywhere in America”
    • He compared his trust for Cubillan to his trust of his wife
    • Regarding the overturned free throws at the end of the game, he said “my wife will get mad if I say anything because it would hurt my kid’s college fund.”
  • And do I need to mention this is a short, pudgy man with a big head shaved bald? All around hilarious guy.
  • Personally, I see no way that St. John’s can fire Norm Roberts this year. I touched on it yesterday, but this is a team that returns ten — 10 — seniors next year. Buzz Williams mentioned it in the presser after the game, but its obvious to those who watch St. John’s, no coach in the Big East has his team play harder than Roberts does. St. John’s has been very close in a number of games this year as well. He deserves at least one more season.

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RTC Live: Big East 2d Round – Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

The second game RTC will be covering at the Big East Tournament pits Notre Dame and Seton Hall in what some are pitting as a play-in game. If the tournament started today, the Irish would be in. Overcoming a tough start to the season, the Irish have managed to reel off four straight wins without all-american Luke Harangody. The difference for the Irish has been movement on the offensive end. With Gody on the floor, too many times possessions end with one or two passes and him taking a jumper. But without the big man taking twenty shots a game, Notre Dame has been able to spread the floor, attack gaps, and take advantage of the multitude of shooters they have at their disposal.  Seton Hall needs this win. While the Irish might be able to withstand a loss, the Hall cannot. While it is true that they have no bad losses, they still would have 12 losses on the season without many quality wins to make up for it. We all know they can score, but in order to beat the Irish again (they won in the game Gody injured his knee) they are going to need a much better performance defensively than they had against Providence, especially in the final 13 minutes.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.10.10

Posted by THager on March 10th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

NEC Championship – Robert Morris @ Quinnipiac – 7:00 on ESPN2 (***)

A few weeks ago, Robert Morris had a chance to secure home court advantage throughout the Northeast Conference tournament, but a pair of losses now have the Colonials playing in Hamden, Connecticut.  RMU is just 9-7 on the road this year, while the Bobcats are 14-0 at home.  However, that statistic can be attributed to the weak out of conference schedule Quinnipiac played, and they rank #343 in the Jeff Sagarin’s strength of schedule ratings.  Neither team ranks high in offensive or defensive efficiency, but Quinnipiac’s #233 ranking on defense is eye-catching in a negative way.  In the only meeting of these teams earlier in the year, Quinnipiac’s James Johnson scored a season-high 28 points, and the Bobcats came out with an 87-79 road win.  The team also shot over 50% from the field in that game, and if they can duplicate that shooting performance at home, they should cement their place in the NCAA Tournament.

Big East Second Round – Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall – 7:00 pm on ESPN (****)

This is not an elimination game for the Irish, but this is a must win game for the Pirates, who are still on the outside looking in due to a #10 seed in the Big East tournament and a weak RPI.  Seton Hall is stealing some of Notre Dame’s thunder late in the season, but people are getting fooled by this overrated Pirates team.  Their last six wins have come against DePaul, St. John’s, Rutgers (twice) and Providence (twice).  The Irish, on the other hand, have defeated Pitt, Georgetown, Connecticut and Marquette, with the wins over the Hoyas and Golden Eagles coming on the road.  This game will feature two of the best players in the Big East, as Luke Harangody is back from an injury and Jeremy Hazell scores over 21 points per game.  In the only meeting between these two teams this year, Hazell scored 35 points while Harangody was limited to 13 points.  Notre Dame’s imbalance (#3 offense, #173 defense) has been well publicized, but Seton Hall has had defensive problems of their own.  The Pirates rank #96 in offensive efficiency and a ridiculous #238 on defense.  Although people are jumping on the Seton Hall bandwagon as of late, the Irish are a superior team and should get into the Tournament even with a loss tonight.

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Big East Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2010

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

Season in Review

The Big East regular season ended on Saturday, and I think it is safe to say that the league had a bit of an unpredictable season. Don’t believe me? Show me a season preview that had Syracuse winning the league, Pitt getting a double-bye, UConn playing on Tuesday, and with South Florida and Notre Dame finishing above UConn and Cincinnati.  See? Unpredictable.

But what does that mean? Was the Big East better from top to bottom than it was last year? Did teams like Marquette, USF, and Notre Dame benefit from a down year?   The one thing that is for sure is that the top of the Big East is nowhere near the top of last year’s Big East. Five Sweet 16 teams and three No. 1 seeds is a pretty phenomenal feat. But last year the conference only sent seven teams to the tournament, and there is a very good chance that number will be surpassed this season.

The way the Big East bubble is shaping up right now, five teams are in – Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pitt and Georgetown. Louisville and Marquette should be ok, but a loss on Wednesday and things could get dicey depending on how the rest of the bubble plays out. If Notre Dame happens to lose their first Big East Tournament game (to either Seton Hall or Rutgers), then the Irish could be in trouble as they will likely be right on the cut line.  That gives us eight that are reasonably safe.

It is possible, however, for the Big East to get two more teams in. If today was Selection Sunday, then Seton Hall may actually be in the tournament. While they have 11 losses, the average RPI of the team’s that have beaten the Pirates is 26 and they have not lost to a team with an RPI below 64. Add into that mix that the Pirates have wins over Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt, at Cornell and an RPI of 53. Its not a great profile, but its a very weak bubble this year. That could be enough.  The other team that still has a shot of an at-large bid is UConn, simply because the Huskies have more good wins than most of the bubble teams. That said, they also have 14 losses. UConn will likely need to make it to the Big East semis for any kind of real shot at a bid.

The Big East Conference released their all-conference teams today, and there isn’t much there that I disagree with. (Note: there are six players on the first team because one of those six will win POY; POY, COY, and ROY will be announced on Tuesday between Big East Tournament sessions)

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.06.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2010

Folks, it’s March and we’re now approximately eight days until Selection Sunday sets the sports world on fire.  By our count, there are about twenty teams fighting for half as many at-large spots, and this weekend’s games will have increased importance in the all-too-important ‘sniff test.’  The NCAA Selection Committee is made of humans just like the rest of us, and if they see a couple of teams look great on tv this weekend, it could be the little extra push needed to earn a Dance card next Sunday.  But it’s not just about those so-called bubble teams; it’s also about positioning.  Which team will step up in the last week to grab the likely one remaining #1 seed, along with Syracuse, Kansas and Kentucky?  Who will be able to secure a top four regional seed in order to play closer to home?  There are so many questions unanswered still remaining.  Today is the last Saturday of the regular season, and as always, we’ll be with you on Boom Goes the Dynamite throughout the day.  Below are the key games we plan on keeping an eye on — of special note is that three more automatic bids will be delivered today, in the Big South, Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley Conferences.

  • Noon – West Virginia @ Villanova on CBS – RTC Live
  • Noon - Texas A&M @ Oklahoma on ESPN
  • Noon – Cincinnati @ Georgetown on ESPN360
  • 1 pm – Tulsa @ Memphis on CBS College Sports
  • 1:30 pm – Maryland @ Virginia on ESPN360
  • 2 pm – Kansas @ Missouri on CBS
  • 2 pm – Syracuse @ Louisville on ESPN
  • 2 pm – Notre Dame @ Marquette on ESPN360
  • 2 pm – UConn @ USF on The Big East Network
  • 2 pm – Notre Dame @ Marquette on The Big East Network
  • 2 pm – South Carolina @ Vanderbilt on ESPN2
  • 4 pm- UCLA @ Arizona State on CBS
  • 4 pm – Texas @ Baylor on ESPN
  • 4 pm – Big South Championship: Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina on ESPN2
  • 4 pm – Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech on ESPN360
  • 6 pm – Tennessee @ Mississippi State on ESPN
  • 6 pm – Atlantic Sun Championship: ETSU @ Mercer on ESPN2
  • 8 pm – OVC Championship: Murray State vs. Morehead State on ESPN2
  • 9 pm – UNC @ Duke on ESPN
  • 9 pm – New Mexico State @ Utah State on ESPN360

We will be back at 11 AM for our continuing coverage so check back then and feel free to comment or ask questions in the comment section.

11:00: Nice showing by the Duke student for GameDay. Not going to be Kentucky because of the smaller student body and smaller arena.

11:10: Ugh. Speedo guy segment coming on GameDay. I will be switching the channel for a few minutes when that segment is going to start. Way to show segments that your audience will be interested in. Would they do a “Bikini girl” segment or would that not be PC?

11:20: Coach K does not approve of “Speedo guy”. I think we have finally found something that UNC fans will agree with him on. Seriously ESPN. Why are you featuring this idiot?

11:25: Be back in 5 minutes. Tell me when it is over.

11:30: Back again. Knight does not look amused, which amuses me.

11:40: Hey Lunardi. We had Zach Hayes on this over a month ago. This is why you don’t want a 96-team tournament. Also DeCourcy was right on expansion.

11:45: So Sherron Collins was a great athlete in high school, plays video games, and like macaroni. I’m glad we found that out. Why can’t GameDay do legit segments like the one on the Syracuse zone they did earlier this year?

Noon: Hubert picks UNC. Big surprise. Knight and Bilas are calling for a Duke beat down. I’d go with something in between the two.

12:05: Three interesting games on right now none of which is the FSU-Miami game that ESPN2 decided to show over Cincinnati-Georgetown. The best of the three games is clearly the West Virginia-Villanova game, which we are doing a RTC Live for so be sure to check that out.

12:15: Interesting news: Both Luke Harangody and Austin Freeman will play today according to Seth Davis and Jeff Goodman respectively.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.06.10

Posted by THager on March 6th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#8 West Virginia @ #9 Villanova – 12:00 pm on CBS (****)

Both of these teams had the potential earlier in the year to be # 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, but now one of them may even drop to a # 3 seed.  With West Virginia ranked eighth in the country and Villanova ranked ninth, this game will probably decide who has to play a # 14 seed in the tournament (which is historically a much tougher game than a # 15 seed).  This should be a great game to watch, as WVU has the sixth best offense in the country, while Villanova ranks fifth in offensive efficiency.  Both teams, especially Villanova, struggle on defense.  One of the few defensive standouts is Devin Ebanks, whose size previously helped force Scottie Reynolds into 1-5 shooting.   Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, Reynolds scored 17 points against everybody else, and West Virginia suffered a rare home loss.  WVU shot below 26 % from beyond the arc in that game, and will have to shoot closer to their 35 % season average if they want to keep up with Villanova’s offense.  The Mountaineers have a bigger lineup, and if they can limit Villanova’s looks inside (VU shot 60 % from two-point range last game) they should come out with a win.

#1 Syracuse @ Louisville – 2:00 pm on ESPN (***)

For those fans who thought that Louisville’s last loss might put them out of the tournament, think again.  According to RTC, U of L is safely in at this point, and it may take a loss here and an early exit in the Big East tournament for the Cardinals to be put back onto the bubble.  The last ever game at Freedom Hall should be a great matchup between the top ranked Orange and the team that shocked them at the Carrier Dome a few weeks ago.  In that game, U of L was the beneficiary of 30 points from their bench in a 66-60 victory.  Although this game will be on the road for Syracuse, it might actually play into their hands, as they are the only team in the country without a road loss.  Louisville’s 80th ranked defense may have a tough time guarding Syracuse’s attack, which ranks eighth in offensive efficiency.  Wesley Johnson was just 5-20 in the last game, so look for more productivity from the fantastic ‘Cuse forward who shoots over 49 % from the floor.  Although a loss here may not put the Cardinals on the “first four out” list, they may need to record at least one win in the Big East tournament to stay safe.

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ATB: Maryland Becomes Everyone’s NCAA Sleeper Team

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2010

Large Wednesday.  It was a big-time night of games, the kind of evening that has you checking the clock all day long in nervous anticipation.  Most of the games ended in predictable fashion, but that didn’t make them any less interesting.  To get this out of the way, ranked teams #3 Kentucky, #6 Purdue, #10 New Mexico, #13 Tennessee, #15 BYU, #16 Temple, #17 Wisconsin and #24 Texas A&M all won, most easily.  UNM won the Mountain West title outright, and Kentucky grabbed at least a share of the SEC title tonight.  We’ll focus on the biggest games, the key games of bubbular interest, and the conference tourneys in this space tonight, though.

  • #2 Kansas 82, #5 Kansas State 65. ESPN got lucky that this game was only interesting for about thirty minutes tonight.  At the 15:39 mark of the second half, K-State’s Luis Colon hit a layup to pull the Wildcats back within one point, and we thought this battle between Big 12 stalwarts was destined to go down to the wire in Lawrence.  We were wrong.  Kansas seemingly awakened from its halftime slumber and went on a quick 9-0 run to open its lead back up to double digits.  KSU made one more push to get it back to six, but the Jayhawks used a 13-1 run to put the game away for the 59th consecutive time in Allen Fieldhouse.  The Kansas defense, virtually nonexistent in their loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday, was back in action here, holding their in-state rival to 40% shooting and limiting the opponents not named Denis Clemente or Jacob Pullen to a mere 24 points.  The old barn was rocking as Kansas won the Big 12 regular season outright and likely wrapped up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as well, but we’re not completely certain because we could hardly see the action on our ESPN360 feed.  KU walks into a trap game at Missouri on Saturday, while K-State should still finish second in the league with a win over Iowa State this weekend.

Sherron Collins: Winningest Player in KU History (KC Star/R. Sugg)

  • #23 Maryland 79, #4 Duke 72.  The better big game of the night took place in College Park, as Maryland outlasted Duke in a back-and-forth contest that resulted in the Terps tying the rival Blue Devils at the top of the ACC standings with one game remaining.  Ultimately, it was Gary Williams’ team, led by the animated and spectacular Greivis Vasquez (20/4/5 assts), who broke a 69-all tie with two minutes to go and ended the game on a 10-3 closing run.  In particular, it was Vasquez’s running, fading, only-the-kind-of-shot-he-would-take-and-make jumper that gave Maryland a four-point lead with 39 seconds left and forced Duke to start fouling soon thereafter.  We really shouldn’t read too much into one result in a rivalry game, so we won’t, but one thing is very clear in that Maryland has been playing the better part of two months much, much better than their ranking might 0therwise indicate.  Since the new year turned, the Terps have only lost at Wake (when WFU was playing well), Clemson and Duke.  That’s it.  Pollsters have been holding four nonconference losses against them, but if Maryland isn’t a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament, then we haven’t seen one.  As for the regular season title, the Terps will play in a trap game at Virginia this weekend, while Duke will actually have the easier home game against rival UNC.  If both win (or lose), then Duke will win the top seed in the ACC Tournament, but suffice it just to say that these two are clearly the best two teams in the ACC.  Now, about that RTC, Terp fans…  we love the quick, full coverage of the court, and we know it’s been a few years since you last beat Duke, but, what if you’re the better team?

Huge Bubble Games.

  • Notre Dame 58, Connecticut 50. There’s absolutely no question that the Irish are playing better without all-american Luke Harangody than they were with him.  Notre Dame won its third straight game over a solid team to put themselves squarely back into the NCAA picture, but with an RPI in the 60s, a win over Marquette this weekend and another in the Big East Tourney are needed.  The Ls keep piling up for UConn (13 now), but how long can you hide behind the excuse of a tough schedule and some big wins before you cut them out of the picture?
  • Florida State 51, Wake Forest 47.  Wake is busily playing itself from a projected #4 seed to outside the field in a short span of two weeks with the Deacs’ fourth straight loss tonight.  Al-Farouq Aminu had a ridiculous zero-point, five-foul performance in the loss, and with a game versus surging Clemson on Sunday, Wake could be staring at five Ls in a row to end the regular season.
  • Memphis 70, UAB 65.  In a battle of CUSA bubble teams, Memphis was able to get a big win while also wrapping up the #2 seed in next week’s Conference USA Tournament in Tulsa.  In most mock brackets, UAB is the second team out of this conference, but now Memphis has swept the season series between the two.  It will be interesting if they meet again in Tulsa with Memphis taking a third game as well.

Helped/Hurt Themselves.

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RTC Daily Bracketbusters: Monday-Thursday

Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2010

Even though ESPN likes to hype up its Bracketbuster day, the fact is that the last few weeks of the season act like an elimination tournament with teams moving in and out of the NCAA Tournament, while other teams move up and down on a daily basis. While each and every game could theoretically have an impact on the Bubble and NCAA seeding, there are a few games that matter more than the others which we will feature over the next two weeks leading up to the conference tournaments. We will feature these in two posts per week. The first will be a post released on Sunday night for games from Monday through Thursday, and the second will be a post released on Thursday night for games from Friday through Sunday.

Tenth
Georgia Tech at Clemson on Raycom/ESPN Full Court at 8 PM on Tuesday – This game is important not just for NCAA seeding, but also for ACC seeding. Both teams are currently occupying a position in the ACC standings where they could easily rank anywhere from 3rd in the conference all the way down to 7th in the conference. That conference rank could be the difference between having to play Duke or having to play UNC (ok, I’ll admit that was a cheap shot Tar Heel fans) early in the ACC Tournament. As you would expect from fairly similar teams, they both sit in the middle of most brackets. I could see either one going as high as a 6-seed or as low as a 9-seed when Selection Sunday roles around and these head-to-head match-ups will play a huge role in where they fit in the bracket.

Ninth
Memphis at UAB on Comcast Sports South at 9 PM on Wednesday – It still seems incredible after all these years of John Calipari‘s teams dominating Conference USA that the Tigers are no longer dominating CUSA any more. In fact, these two Conference USA teams will be playing for more than the #2 seed in the CUSA Tournament (UTEP is in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed) when they meet in Birmingham. They might be playing for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament as well. Most bracketologists have the Blazers as one of their last teams in while the Tigers are one of the last teams out. A win by Josh Pastner‘s squad could cause the teams to flip positions into and out of the bracket overnight. Normally I might make this game even higher, but I’m not buying the UTEP Kool-Aid and the loser could still get in with either a win in the conference tournament over the other or could potentially win the CUSA Tournament outright.

Eighth
Oklahoma State at #24 Texas A&M on ESPN at 9 PM on Wednesday – Both teams are coming off huge home wins. Now the question is whether they can sustain the momentum. The Cowboys will need to show they can win away from the land of perpetual T. Boone Pickens money and the Aggies will need to show they can win against a team that isn’t collapsing. Both teams are currently in a group of five Big 12 teams with in-conference records of either 8-6 or 9-5. A win here or there could mean the difference between finishing 3rd in the conference or finishing 7th in the conference and even though OSU has a win over KU everybody in the Big 12 (and the country) wants to avoid the Jayhawks for as long as possible in any tournament (Big 12 or NCAA). Right now both teams are in the 6-8 seed range, but a hot or cold streak to finish the season could mean anywhere from a 5-seed to a 10-seed for these two teams.

Seventh
#19 Vanderbilt at Florida on ESPN at 7 PM on Tuesday – The Gators are coming off a tough two-point loss at Georgia, but their prior three-game winning streak has assured them a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now they are entering a two-game stretch (home versus Vanderbilt then at Kentucky) where it might appear that they can only help their NCAA seed and a win could boost them 2-3 spots, but if they lose these two and their opener in the SEC Tournament a four-game losing streak might be enough to take them to the NIT for the third straight year. As for the Commodores, they have a treacherous two-game finish in Gainesville then at home against Devan Downey and company. They are currently chasing a #3 or #4 seed, but a loss in either of those games could cripple their chances at getting a top-4 seed (barring an upset victory over Kentucky in the SEC Tournament). Technically they still have a chance of winning the SEC regular season title (if they win out and the Wildcats finish on a 3-game losing streak), but we don’t see that happening.

Can Chandler Parsons and his Gators shoot their way into the field?

Sixth
#9 Villanova at Cincinnati on ESPN2 at 7 PM on Tuesday – The question here is how these teams respond to difficult loses on Saturday. Villanova’s loss was more visible and watched (by just about everyone in upstate New York–aka everything outside of NYC), but the Bearcats suffered a difficult loss in Morgantown where they blew a 2nd half lead before falling just short. The Wildcats loss likely will keep them out of a #1 seed, but the Bearcats loss might be enough to keep them out the NCAA Tournament altogether. A win here for Villanova would be big to ensure that they stay on the 2-seed line while Cincinnati needs a win here and probably at Georgetown along with 1 or 2 wins in the Big East Tournament to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

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Will Irish Get Harangody Back This Season?

Posted by jstevrtc on March 1st, 2010

Today, ESPN.com reported Notre Dame coach Mike Brey’s announcement that Luke Harangody might not return this year because of a right knee injury he suffered in a game against Seton Hall on February 11th.  The injury, diagnosed as a bone bruise, is one that can take — don’t shoot the messenger, Irish fans — months to heal.

“Bone bruise” sounds like a vague term, but it actually provides a good description of what’s happening in this injury.  We associate the word “bruise” with bleeding and leakage of other fluids under the skin that makes that reddish or bluish blotch happen when we bang into something or when something bangs into us.  That’s pretty much what’s happening here, but instead of some external force being applied to a part of the body that causes blood vessels under our skin to break — like bumping into a table, or taking a punch with your face — this is happening within the bone itself.

An MRI of the knee (not Harangody's). The white part in the bone? There's your bruise. The bright white stuff in the middle is fluid inside the joint. (image: images.conquestchronicles.com)

When talking about a bone bruise of the knee, you’re usually talking about a force that goes through the joint, meaning along the length of the bone.  In other words, there’s been a downward, compressive force that has caused the femur (the big bone in the thigh) to press down on the tibia (the biggest of the two lower leg bones).  When that happens, vessels break along the tough, thick outer covering of the bone, leaking blood and other fluid into the bone space.  Because of that thick outer covering, that inflammatory fluid tends to build up and stay in that part of the bone — and that’s what causes the pain.

An x-ray (to check for a fracture) and usually an MRI are then done to make sure none of the stuff inside the knee (like ligaments and other stuff not visible on an x-ray) has been screwed up.  The ESPN.com report cited above states that there’s nothing structurally wrong with Harangody’s knee, so that’s obviously great news.  The problem is that  the inflamed area of bone can take months to clear up, and the inflammation makes it very painful to move the knee or put weight on it.

The treatment consists of the usual stuff like ice, rest, and eventually some form of physical therapy to get the knee back to its full range of motion.  As I’ve said before, these team trainers and team doctors are an extremely crafty  bunch of folks with some really great toys and methods at their disposal, like cold massage and electro-current therapy (those sound fun), that can speed up the healing process.

There’s no doubt Luke Harangody wants to return and hopefully he’ll be pain-free as soon as possible, though he’d probably return even if the pain was at a “tolerable” level.  With a bone bruise, though, because of the intensity of the pain, that tends to be later rather than sooner.  Harangody, as you know, is on just about everybody’s first- or second-team all-America lists.  He’s the second leading scorer in the nation at 24.1 PPG, and pulls down 9.9 boards.  The Irish are 2-2 without him, but the two victories have come in their last two games, and at the expense of two ranked teams in Pittsburgh and Georgetown — exactly what the bubble-dwelling Irish need right now.

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RTC Live: Notre Dame @ Georgetown

Posted by rtmsf on February 27th, 2010

Welcome back to RTC Live as we are here courtside at the Verizon Center as Notre Dame takes on Georgetown. The Irish have been playing arguably their best basketball of the season the last two games despite Luke Harangody still being out with a knee injury. No word yet on ‘Gody’s status (last I heard, Mike Brey had said he was doubtful). Without the big fella in the lineup, Notre Dame has relied on Tim Abromaitis, Ben Hansbrough, and Tory Jackson to shoulder a much bigger load of the scoring. If these three get hot (which they have a tendency to do), Notre Dame can compete with anyone in the country. Georgetown picked up a nice win against Louisville on the road last time out, and it was once a gain a result of Austin Freeman showing up. The junior guard scored the first eight second half points, had 18 in a 24-3 run to open the second half, and scored 24 of his 29 points in the second stanza as the Hoyas cameback from 11 down early in the game. Georgetown has three guys with the ability to carry the team. When they are all playing well at the same time, look out.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on February 26th, 2010

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

Barring an improbable collapse or an unforeseen run through Madison Square Garden, there are just six Big East teams that are still sitting somewhere on the bubble.

Syracuse, Villanova, Pitt, Georgetown, and West Virginia are all playing for seeding and a double-bye in the Big East Tournament. South Florida, Providence, Rutgers, DePaul, and St. John’s are all playing for pride and, well, pride.

That leaves the six teams sitting in the middle of the league — Marquette, Louisville, UConn, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and Seton Hall — with a shot at dancing. Commencing Big East Bubble Breakdown.

Marquette:
  • 18-9, 9-6; RPI: 54, SOS: 65
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 2-6, 3-7, 6-7
  • Best Wins: Xavier, Georgetown
  • Worst Losses: DePaul
As has been the case all season long for Marquette, their inability to win close games early in the season has been a killer. The Golden Eagles’ RPI does not properly represent how well this team has played this season. None of their nine losses have come by more than nine points, and seven have come by less than five points. It seems like Marquette’s luck is starting to turn a corner, as they have now won their last four close games, including Wednesday’s buzzer-beating W at St. John’s. Marquette gets Seton Hall on the road and Louisville and Notre Dame at home before heading to the Big East tournament, where it looks as if they will get a first round bye. Win three more games, and Marquette will lock up a bid.

Louisville:
  • 18-10, 9-6; RPI: 42, SOS: 9
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-5, 2-6, 6-9
  • Best Wins: UConn, Syracuse
  • Worst Losses: Western Carolina, St. John’s
Louisville is in a tough spot. They have a solid RPI bolstered by very good strength of schedule, but they have not really beaten anyone this season. The win at Syracuse is as good as it gets, but after that, their best W is against a UConn team that could lose their last four games by 20 points and no one would be surprised. If the eye test matters to anyone, Louisville will pass with flying colors. They have a very good front line, anchored by Samardo Samuels and the suddenly-dangerous Jared Swopshire. Their backcourt, which has been inconsistent this season (although there have been some injuries), is as talented on paper as any in the conference save Villanova. Louisville has a tough schedule down the stretch, but that means that they will have three chances to really improve their resume — at UConn and Marquette (who are both fighting for a bubble spot as well), and at home for Syracuse (who will likely be playing for the Big East title and will be looking for revenge). Lose all three, and Louisville is in trouble. But if they win all three and make some noise in the Big East Tournament, and this is a team that could be a top six or seven seed.

Connecticut:

  • 17-11, 7-8; RPI: 40, SOS: 2
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 3-5, 3-6, 9-9
  • Best Wins: Texas, Villanova, West Virginia
  • Worst Losses: Providence, Michigan
The Huskies are coming along at the right time. Since Jim Calhoun returned from his illness, UConn is 3-1 with wins over Villanova and West Virginia. Overall, UConn is in a similar boat to Louisville, as their lofty RPI is, in large part, a result of the tough schedule they have played. UConn brings up an interesting question – how will the committee handle the seven games Jim Calhoun missed? With him, the Huskies are 14-7. Without him, they are 3-4 with a loss to Providence. But UConn also beat Texas without him and lost to Cincinnati in terrible fashion without Calhoun. The Huskies get Louisville at home and South Florida and Notre Dame on the road. Win their last three and their first game in the Big East, and this team wins.

Cincinnati:

  • 16-11, 7-8; RPI: 59, SOS: 29
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-3, 4-6, 6-11
  • Best Wins: Maryland, Vanderbilt, UConn X 2
  • Worst Losses: St. John’s
Cincinnati is in a really tough spot. Before beating DePaul, the Bearcats had lost four of their last five games and seven of their last eleven. And now they are sitting at 59th in the RPI without a good conference win under their belts. They will get three chances at getting one in their last three games, as they go on the road to face Villanova, get Georgetown at home, and play West Virginia on the road as well. As I said, the Bearcats are in trouble.

Seton Hall:

  • 16-10, 7-8; RPI: 52, SOS: 18
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-7, 3-9, 6-10
  • Best Wins: Cornell, Pitt
  • Worst Losses: South Florida
You know, Seton Hall’s resume is not as bad as many people think it is. They have a couple of nice wins, beating Cornell on the road and knocking off Pitt and Louisville at home. They do have 10 losses, but of those ten, the only one that can be considered a “bad” loss came in overtime at South Florida during that two week stretch when South Florida was pretending they were good. The Pirates play three more regular season games – Marquette at home and Rutgers and Providence on the road. If they can win all three of those, a task which is far from improbable, the Pirates will head into the Big East Tournament at 10-8 in the league with a very real chance of being able to play their way into the tournament.

Notre Dame:

  • 18-10, 7-8; RPI: 72, SOS: 63
  • vs. RPI top 25/50/100: 1-7, 3-9, 6-10
  • Best Wins: West Virginia, Pitt
  • Worst Losses: Loyola Marymount, Northwestern, Rutgers

Call me crazy, but is Notre Dame playing better basketball without Luke Harangody? Since the all-american went out with a knee injury against Seton Hall, ND has looked downright scary at times. They lost to Louisville on the road in double overtime most recently they just put a whooping on Pitt at home. Without ‘Gody on the floor, ND seems to play better defense and move the ball better. The rest of the team also seems to be a bit more aggressive, knowing that they don’t have to get the big fella touches. In the three games ‘Gody has been out, Tim Abromaitis has up his average to 23.3 PPG in the last three. Ben Hansbrough is averaging 16.3 PPG. Tory Jackson is averaging 13.7 PPG, and scored 25 the night ‘Gody was hurt. Clearly, Notre Dame is a better basketball team with Luke on the floor, and they are going to need him if the Irish are to navigate a difficult stretch run — at Georgetown, UConn, at Marquette. With the losses ND has this season, they probably needed to sweep those three games and pick up at least one win in the Big East tournament for a shot at an at-large.

PLAYER AND TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kemba Walker and the Connecticut Huskies

Since we last checked in with you guys, UConn has gone on a tear. The Huskies have been left for dead a number of times this season, but I think that even the most diehard UConn fans at given up hope after an embarrassing loss to Cincinnati at home. Its one thing to lose at home, its another thing to get upset at home. But to lose the way UConn did was a downright disgrace. They didn’t play with any heart or emotion and showed no energy on either end of the floor. Should I even mention that it was Calhoun’s first game back from an illness? The performance was bad enough that just about everyone at the game questioned whether or not Calhoun had lost this team.

With Villanova looming on the horizon, most had written off the season. But at Villanova, the Huskies — and specifically Kemba Walker — woke up. Walker went for 29 points and a team-high nine boards to lead UConn to an upset win. Five days later, UConn went to Piscataway and knocked off Rutgers. And just this past Monday, the Huskies held off a tough West Virginia team down the stretch, running their winning streak to three games and giving UConn fans a real reason to hope for the postseason this year.

In the three wins, Walker averaged 22.0 PPG, shot 7-15 from three, and got to the line an incredible 36 times. He’s turning into a leader for the Huskies, something they have been waiting for all season long.

POWER RANKINGS

The Final Four Contenders

1. Syracuse (26-2, 13-2)
2. Villanova (23-4, 12-3)

The Sweet 16 Contenders

3. West Virginia (21-6, 10-5)
4. Pitt (21-7, 10-5)
5. Georgetown (19-7, 9-6)

The We-Passed-The-Eye-Test-ers

6. Marquette (18-9, 9-6)
7. Louisville (18-10, 9-6)

The You-Don’t-Want-To-Play-Us-ers

8. Connecticut (17-11, 7-8)
9. Seton Hall (16-10, 7-8)

The Sleepers

10. Cincinnati (16-11, 7-8)
11. Notre Dame (18-10, 7-8)

The Deep Sleepers

12. South Florida (16-11, 6-9)
13. St. John’s (15-12, 5-10)

The Rest

14. Providence (12-15, 4-11)
15. Rutgers (14-14, 4-11)
16. DePaul (8-19, 1-14)

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