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.

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.

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.

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.

#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?

#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.

  • 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.

  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


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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ATB: Purdue Loses Hummel for Game or Season?

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2010

Hummel’s Knee Buckles — Did Purdue’s Season? #3 Purdue 59, Minnesota 58.  Thirteen minutes into this game, Purdue star forward Robbie Hummel drove to his right into the paint, stopped, and squared his shoulders to the rim.  Simultaneously, his right leg slipped a little causing his knee to buckle and give out from underneath him.  It wasn’t a gruesome injury, but it was certainly forboding.  People say they hate to speculate about someone’s injury, but they proceed to do it anyway, so we’ll avoid those niceties here.  It looked like and his reaction certainly belied what we believe was an ACL injury in his knee:  The inability to initially put weight on the knee; the severe pain immediately after the fact, yet the ability to stay on the bench for the remainder of the game; the crutches; the need for an MRI as soon as possible.  We really hope we’re wrong about this, but as someone who has had a couple of these tears ourselves, we sorta think we know it when we see it.  If Hummel is out for the rest of the season (and Gary Parrish reports that there’s not much optimism to the contrary coming out of the Boilermaker camp), then despite the heart and grit and skill we saw on display tonight at Minnesota, a phenomenal season will without question reach a premature conclusion.  There is absolutely no way that Purdue can go to the Final Four without Hummel in the lineup.  It’s not as if he’s a dominant player in the mold of Kenyon Martin (broken leg in 2000) or Derek Anderson (torn ACL in 1997), but he’s an extremely important piece of what Purdue does, and there simply isn’t enough time (or elite talent) to re-craft a plan for life post-Hummel.   As a microcosm of this unfortunate truth, look at what happened tonight.  Purdue was leading 26-14 when Hummel got hurt.  After his injury the Boilermakers scored two more FGs in the next twelve minutes of action.  Obviously, Matt Painter will have time to adjust his game plan in coming days and the recent emergence of Keaton Grant (10/5/4 assts) doesn’t hurt, but Hummel is such a multifaceted piece of the Purdue attack that someone like him cannot just be plugged in overnight.  The aforementioned Grant was huge down the stretch tonight, and we expect that more will be asked from the talented duo of E’Twaun Moore (11/3) and JaJuan Johnson (14/10), but it’s going to take some really good luck in the form of tomorrow’s diagnosis for Purdue to have a chance to fulfill its lofty goals this season.

Let's All Hope For the Word "Sprain" for Hummel (AP/J. Wheeler)

No Harangody, No ProblemNotre Dame 68, #16 Pittsburgh 53. The Irish came off the schneid in a big way tonight even with its star Luke Harangody still sitting on the bench with a knee bruise injury.  The high-scoring offense slowed down its attack, finding that running down the shot clock resulted in better looks from three, of which the Irish nailed 10-18 this evening.  Pitt, on the other hand, was never able to find the mark from deep, going 4-18 from three and even getting killed on the boards (-10), unusual for a Jamie Dixon-coached team.  Perhaps the Panthers were a little worn out from playing and beating WVU, Marquette and Villanova in their last three games, but it was to ND’s benefit as the Irish took control early and never relented.  Mike Brey’s team still has significant work to do before we start talking about NCAA again, but this was a big step in the right direction.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.24.10

Posted by THager on February 24th, 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

Dayton @ #18 Temple – 6:30 pm on A-10 (****)

All the Dayton fans who thought that the Flyers had locked up a bid when they beat Charlotte by 28 turned out to be sadly mistaken.  After losses to Saint Louis and Duquesne, the Flyers are again on the bubble and probably would be on the outside looking in if they lose tonight at Temple.  Dayton has been an enigma this year having beaten solid teams like Xavier and Charlotte while having some horrendous losses in conference play. They only have two players scoring in double figures, and they also only have two players averaging more than 1.9 assists per game.  Their offense is also ranked just 105th in efficiency, yet they have shot well over 40 % in each of their last seven games, a stretch in which they went just 4-3.  For the Owls, their main problem is their inconsistency as they are one of the most erratic three-point shooting teams in the country.  Against Richmond, they were just 1/10 followed by a 6/6 performance against Rhode Island then a 2/15 effort against Saint Joe’s.  One of the biggest things the Owls have going for them is that they are playing at home, where they have beaten Villanova, Xavier, and Rhode Island this year.  However, if Dayton shoots close to 50 %, and Temple struggle from the 3, the Flyers might be able to save their at-large status for at least one more game.

#16 Pittsburgh @ Notre Dame – 7:00 pm on ESPN 2 (***)

Pitt may not have the longest winning streak in the country right now, but nobody has been more impressive than the Panthers over the past three weeks.  They have won five straight games, with victories against West Virginia, Marquette, and Villanova in their last three contests.  The Panthers are now just two games out of first place in the Big East, and could be a # 3 seed in the tournament by the time selection Sunday rolls around.  The Irish, on the other hand, are looking at another NIT bid after blowing a golden chance to reach 20 wins before their last stretch of the season against several tough teams.  After losing three close games to mediocre teams in Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Louisville, they are now 10th in the conference.  Going back to their loss at Rutgers in January, Notre Dame’s last four losses have been by a combined seven points.  Luke Harangody, who may be one of the more under-appreciated players in the country due to his team’s record, will be out for the game and may not come back the rest of the season.  Unless he returns up soon, the Irish have no shot at the tournament.   With Ashton Gibbs playing so well for Pitt (he has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games) the Panthers look to be unstoppable right now, and should send Notre Dame to a fourth straight loss.

An Early Candidate for National COY

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Set Your Tivo: 02.17.10

Posted by THager on February 17th, 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

#4 Purdue @ #12 Ohio State – 6:30 pm on BTN (*****)

The Villain Looks for Big Ten Separation Tonight

Ohio State made the biggest statement of any team last weekend with the clinic they put on the Illini in a 19-point road win.  Now Purdue has the opportunity to make a statement of their own.  These two teams have combined for 13 consecutive wins, and they have been using some of the best defense in the country to make their respective climbs atop the Big Ten standings.  In five of Purdue’s seven games, they held opponents under 70 points, and the Buckeyes have not allowed any team to score over 63 points during their six-game winning streak.  The score in their last matchup was 70-66 in a road win for OSU, but the offenses played surprisingly well, with Ohio State shooting over 50% from the game (including 46% from beyond the arc).  Evan Turner, who has been the catalyst for Ohio State’s late-season run, scored 32 points in that game and will have to play well again for the Buckeyes to come out with a win.  The Buckeyes rank third nationally in two-point field goal percentage, and are eighth in offensive efficiency.  Purdue has a bigger lineup, but the Boilermakers took almost half their shots from the three-point line in the last game, so look for them to get the ball more often to big man JaJuan Johnson, who only had four points last time around.  OSU is undefeated at home this year, but hasn’t played many tough teams besides Wisconsin at home, so this game should come down to the wire.

Notre Dame @ Louisville – 7 pm on ESPN 2 (***)

The Cardinals saved their season with a huge road upset over Syracuse last weekend, and are ranked as a #11 seed according to Joe Lunardi.  The Irish do not have any games left against Syracuse, Villanova, or West Virginia the rest of the regular season, so they need a strong push in order to make the Tournament this year, and a good way to start would be a road win over Louisville.  Some people said that the Irish needed to win out before they lost to St. John’s at home, but now that UL is coming off a victory over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, it would look more impressive for Mike Brey’s team to walk away from Freedom Hall with a win.  Everybody knows what they are going to get from forwards Luke Harangody and Tim Abromaitis, but when it comes down to it, Louisville may be the tougher team down in the paint.  The Cards rank in the top 20 in both rebounds and two-point field goal percentage, and Notre Dame doesn’t even rank among the top 50 teams.  That really doesn’t help Notre Dame’s cause when they have one of the underwhelming defenses in the country (#247 according to Pomeroy).  Notre Dame’s offense ranks in the top five in offensive efficiency, but they have not proven they can stop anyone when it counts, and I don’t see them beating a confident Louisville team on the road.

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Morning Five: 02.15.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 15th, 2010

Happy Presidents’ Day, everyone.  Hope you’re getting to enjoy a nice extended weekend.

  1. Is Savannah State’s Horace Broadnax the best coaching value in college basketball?  We’re still discussing its validity, but we certainly find interesting the analysis by Scott Britton and Darren Heitner at Sports Agent Blog regarding the achievements of the former Hoya as coach of SSU.  You have to admit — all things considered, $25,131 per win isn’t a bad deal, at all, especially when you go from 0-28 in the ’04-’05 season to 15-13 four years later, and your basketball budget is the next-to-lowest in D1.
  2. There have been rumblings from Notre Dame all season, but Luke Harangody’s right knee bone bruise that he sustained  in a loss against Seton Hall on Thursday isn’t helping the causes of the Irish or Mike Brey.  ‘Gody is likely out for Wednesday’s game at Freedom Hall against a suddenly more intriguing Louisville squad fresh off their win at Syracuse.  That he was bench-ridden in South Bend on Sunday night evidently gave St. John’s some chutzpah, as the Johnnies went into the Joyce and stole their first conference road win of the season with a 69-68 victory.
  3. John Calipari states, “There’s no such thing as a 50-50 ball with him.  He’s as valuable to our team right now as anyone.”  Is he talking about John WallDeMarcus CousinsPatrick Patterson?  Nope.  Try DeAndre Liggins, the sophomore guard who didn’t play for the first nine games of the season as he spent time in Calipari’s doghouse, but now humbly realizes that floor burn scars on the knees from diving after loose balls + embracing defensive stopper role = increased minutes, and increased trust from his coach.
  4. On Friday, the Western Athletic Conference reprimanded Idaho head coach Don Verlin after he criticized officials after a 67-66 loss to Nevada on Wednesday.  Verlin will be suspended for any further violations of this kind, according to conference brass.  After the loss last week, Verlin voiced his displeasure with the officiating, and also added that WAC zebras should realize that Idaho is “…a contender, not a doormat.”  We’ll have to check our rule book, Coach V, but we don’t recall anything about the rules changing based on where you are in the standings…
  5. Ever think that Penn/Cornell would be right up there with Rutgers/Georgetown and Louisville/Syracuse in the Monday morning water-cooler discussion of big weekend upsets in college hoops?  Yeah, we didn’t either.  We’ve been digging all of the Ivy League love this season, and it’s not slowing down yet.  After the stunner on Friday, Cornell bounced back to hand Princeton their first conference loss of the year on Saturday, and in doing so regained the Ivy League lead.  They’re not a shoe-in for the Big Dance, though; the three teams atop the standings still have a round of games against each other, starting this Friday with a very important Cornell road trip to Harvard.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.07.10

Posted by THager on February 7th, 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

South Florida @ Notre Dame – 12 pm on ESPN 360 (***)

If somebody told you two weeks ago that USF was a tournament team, you would be shaking your head and laughing.  Now, with four straight wins, including victories against Pitt and Georgetown in their last two games, the Bulls are looking to dance in March.  Today’s game will be in South Bend, but considering South Florida held the Hoyas to 64 points in Washington, D.C., they may in fact be ready for this game.  While USF continues to impress, the Fighting Irish are disappointing fans again with four losses in their last six games, including defeats to Cincinnati and Rutgers.  Luke Harangody has held up his end of the bargain, with at least 37 minutes and 19 points in each of the last five games.  What is killing ND is how one-sided they are.  They rank fourth in Ken Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency rankings, but are an astounding 239th in defensive efficiency.  Statistically, Notre Dame can still play smart basketball, as they are third in the nation in assists per game and are in the top team in assists/turnover ratio.  However, given play of the most underrated player in the country in Dominique Jones (he has scored 20 + points in every game since December) I expect the Bulls to put another dagger in Notre Dame’s at-large chances.

North Carolina @ Maryland – 2 pm on FSN (***)

The debate is now over: UNC is out of the tournament as things stand now.  For Maryland, however, questions arise if this team is a serious threat to do some damage in March.  After having the four-game win streak ended by Clemson, they responded in a big way with a road win against Florida State.  The Terrapins rank in the top ten in Ken Pomeroy’s standings, thanks to top ten rankings in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  North Carolina, with losses in six of the last eight games, is sniffing the bottom of the ACC with a 2-5 record.  Neither their offense nor defense rank in the top 60 in Pomeroy’s efficiency rankings, so their chances in College Park do not look promising.  Maryland’s has not lost all year at the Comcast Center, but the Terps have shot around 20 % from beyond the arc in their last two games, a trend they will not be able to keep up if UNC scores near their 80.4 season average.  The difference between these two teams is that North Carolina is finding ways to lose and Maryland is finding ways to win, as shown by their late comeback against FSU.  Look for North Carolina to fall even further with another L in ACC play.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2010

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

Pitt started the Big East season on fire. They won five straight out of the gates, including a three game road trip in which they took down Syracuse, UConn and Cincinnati.  But after a loss to West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl, the Panthers have dropped four of their last five games to fall to 6-4 in league play, just a half-game in front of Louisville and a game in front of South Florida, Marquette, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame.

So what happened?  How did Pitt go from the darling of the national media to a team in free fall?

Its simple. They can’t score.  Through five Big East games, the Panthers were averaging 74.0 ppg. In their last five, that number has dropped to 60.3 ppg. When the Panthers were 5-0, Ashton Gibbs was averaging 20.0 ppg, shooting 52.0% from the field, and hit 16-22 threes. In his last five games, he’s averaging just 13.4 ppg while shooting 26.4% from the field and 6-29 from deep.

Don’t put it all on Gibbs, however. He isn’t the only one struggling. Brad Wanamaker is averaging just 9.6 ppg over the last five games, including being shut out against the Mountaineers. Jermaine Dixon sprained his ankle in the St. John’s game and missed the Panther’s loss to South Florida. Dante Taylor hasn’t scored in four games, and Travon Woodall has just eight points in that span. Gary McGhee, Pitt’s 6’10, 260-lb center, couldn’t hit a layup if his life depended on it. There is no reason someone should go 3-11 from the field when they don’t take a shot outside of two feet from the rim. Nasir Robinson has scored 23 points in five games in his 26 point outburst against Louisville. Gilbert Brown is really the only guy playing well offensively right now, and even he has been painfully in consistent. He scored 20 and was 8-9 from the floor in the loss to Georgetown, but scored just 16 points on 3-13 shooting over his next two games. After dropping 25 in the loss to South Florida, Brown was shut out against West Virginia.

Its really that simple. The biggest reason that Pitt was thought to be down this season was their lack of firepower offensively. There isn’t anyone on this roster that is considered a go-to scorer. Even Ashton Gibbs, who has been one of the most improved players this season in the Big East, is more of a secondary scoring option. He’s not great at creating his own shot, especially against a set defense, and it is starting to be exposed.  But Pitt has never exactly been known as a team with tremendous offensive prowess. They aren’t going to be scoring 85 points a game and beating teams in a shootout.  Pitt’s success hinges on their ability to defend, which is something they haven’t exactly been doing great of late either. Their four losses have been some of their worst defensive performances of the season.  What is a good way to go on a losing streak?  Struggle to score the ball while playing shoddy defense.

Other News and Notes

  • I told you South Florida was going to be good, didn’t I? Believe it or not, USF is now on the bubble. They are 15-7 and 5-5 in the Big East. Their RPI is in the mid-40s. They have wins over Pitt and at Georgetown (not that it makes a difference, but that win came just three days after the Hoyas smacked Duke). While the Bulls are just 2-4 against the RPI top 50, they are 6-6 against the top 100. They have one ugly loss against Central Michigan, but that can be somewhat excused as it was their first game playing without Gus Gilchrist. Speaking of Gilchrist, the 6’10 center who was averaging 18.8 ppg and 7.4 rpg before suffering a severe high-ankle sprain is scheduled to return against either Notre Dame or Marquette. With their schedule down the stretch (they only play one game at Villanova against a team with an RPI higher than 48 and a winning record in the Big East) and Gilchrist’s pending return, if USF could get to ten Big East wins and 20 wins on the season, which may actually be shooting low, they have a very good chance at getting a bid.
  • Jeremy Hazell was pulled late in Seton Hall’s loss to Villanova on Tuesday. Hazell had scored 32 points, but also had thrown up three terrible shots in a row. Bobby Gonzalez benched him with 4:06 left and the lead only at 11. Many speculated that it was the result of poor shot selection by Hazell, but Gonzo cleared it up during the Big East conference call by saying that Hazell “didn’t run back on defense” and that he did “not join his teammates in the huddle.”
  • Did any team in the league have a stranger week than Georgetown? On Saturday, the Hoyas beat the snot out of Duke in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Four days later, the Hoyas became the fourth victim in South Florida’s run. And, as you should be accustomed to by now, Chris Wright struggled in the loss and flourished in the win. He has yet to score double-digits and lose this season.
  • Want another crazy prediction? Marquette is going to make the tournament. The hardest of the hard-luck losers this season (their five Big East losses have come by a total of eight points, and their three non-conference losses were by one, four, and nine points), Marquette has won three straight Big East games to get to 5-5 in the league. They have a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way, as they don’t play any of the Big East’s big four, they get Pitt at home, and play just one of their four road games against a team in the RPI top 50 (Cincy).
  • Cincinnati, on the other hand, won’t make the tournament. And it isn’t due to a lack of talent as much as it is a lack of coaching. Or effort. Or something. Because in a game they needed Thursday night against Notre Dame, the Bearcats were embarrassed. Luke Harangody had 37 points and 14 boards as Cincy was outrebounded and out-toughed. By Notre Dame. Cincinnati is a team that is supposed to pride themselves on their toughness, their defense, and their board work. Notre Dame is a finesse team. It looks like the Bearcats may have given up on the season.
  • Villanova’s schedule gets a whole lot tougher over the next month, starting this week. On Saturday, they head to Georgetown before going to West Virginia on Monday. Don’t be surprised if the Wildcats are in third place in the conference come Tuesday. That said, going 2-0 over that stretch could all but seal a #1 seed come Selection Sunday.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dominique Jones, South Florida

Jones went for 37 points on Sunday against Pitt and 29 points Wednesday against Georgetown. He’s averaging 35.0 ppg in the Bulls’ four-game winning streak. In those four games, he is shooting 61% from the floor and has gotten to the free throw line (…wait for it) 63 times! I think the best way to describe Jones’ game is that he attacks the rim with ruthless efficiency. He’s too strong to be defended by smaller guards, and too quick to be guarded by small forwards. He goes right almost every time he puts the ball on the floor, and yet teams are still struggling to slow him down. Up next for Jones is Notre Dame, a team that ranks 255th in defensive efficiency, far and away the worst in the Big East. Could Jones go for 50?

TEAM OF THE WEEK: West Virginia

Its really South Florida, but I’m sick of writing about the Bulls, so I’m giving West Virginia the team of the week award. The Mountaineers have gone 2-0 since you last checked in with us, beating Louisville on Saturday and knocking off Pitt in the Backyard Brawl on Wednesday. WVU has now won five straight games since they lost three of five. The biggest reason for their resurgence has been the play of Truck Bryant. Bryant was banged up earlier in the season, but has started coming on of late, playing really solid basketball. He knocks down open jumpers, he can get in the lane and draw a foul, he can create shots for his teammates, and he does so without turning the ball over. Over his last five games, Bryant is averaging 11.8 ppg, 4.8 apg, and has turned the ball over just eight times.


1. Villanova: 20-1, 9-0

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Seton Hall 81-71

This Week: 2/6 @ Georgetown, 2/8 @ West Virginia

2. Syracuse: 22-1, 9-1

Last Week: 1/30 @ DePaul, 2/2 vs. Providence

This Week: 2/7 @ Cincinnati, 2/10 vs. UConn

3. West Virginia: 18-3, 7-2

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Louisville 77-74, 2/3 vs. Pitt 70-51

This Week: 2/6 @ St. John’s, 2/8 vs. Villanova

4. Georgetown: 16-5, 6-4

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Duke 89-77, 2/3 vs. South Florida 64-72

This Week: 2/6 vs. Villanova, 2/9 @ Providence

5. Pitt: 16-6, 6-4

Last Week: 1/31 @ South Florida 61-70, 2/3 @ West Virginia 51-70

This Week: 2/6 vs. Seton Hall, 2/8 vs. Robert Morris

6. Louisville: 14-8, 5-4

Last Week: 1/30 vs. West Virginia 74-77, 2/1 vs. UConn 82-69

This Week: 2/6 vs. Rutgers, 2/11 @ St. John’s

7. Marquette: 14-8, 5-5

Last Week: 1/30 @ UConn 70-68, 2/3 vs. DePaul 80-69

This Week: 2/6 @ Providence

8. South Florida: 15-7, 5-5

Last Week: 1/31 vs. 61-70, 2/3 @ Georgetown 72-64

This Week: 2/7 @ Notre Dame

9. Notre Dame: 16-7, 5-5

Last Week: 1/30 @ Rutgers 73-74, 2/4 vs. Cincinnati 83-65

This Week: 2/7 vs. South Florida, 2/11 @ Seton Hall

10. Cincinnati: 14-8, 5-5

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Providence 92-88, 2/4 @ Notre Dame 65-83

This Week: 2/7 vs. Syracuse

11. Providence:12-10, 4-6

Last Week: 1/30 @ Cincinnati 88-92, 2/2 @ Syracuse 68-85

This Week: 2/6 vs. Marquette, 2/9 vs. Georgetown

12. UConn: 13-9, 3-6

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Marquette 68-70, 2/1 @ Louisville 69-82

This Week: 2/6 vs. DePaul, 2/10 @ Syracuse

13. Seton Hall: 12-8, 3-6

Last Week: 2/2 @ Villanova 71-81

This Week: 2/6 @ Pitt, 2/11 vs. Notre Dame

14. Rutgers: 11-11, 2-8

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Notre Dame 74-73, 2/3 vs. St. John’s 84-72

This Week: 2/6 @ Louisville, 2/9 vs. Caldwell College

15. St. John’s: 12-9, 2-7

Last Week: 2/2 @ Rutgers 72-84

This Week: 2/6 vs. West Virginia, 2/11 vs. Louisville

16. DePaul: 8-14, 1-9

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Syracuse 57-59, 2/3 @ Marquette 69-80

This Week: 2/6 @ UConn

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