Backdoor Cuts: Vol. VIII

Posted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore, and Mike Walsh. This week the guys wax poetic about the rarest thing in college basketball: the four-year star.

DAVE ZEITLIN: I feel like it happens every year. Whenever a four-year starter has a big game, people start chirping things like “How long has this buy been playing for?” and “Shouldn’t he have graduated by now?” and “I didn’t know seventh-year seniors were allowed to play.” You guys know what I mean, right? The sad truth is that the four-year star player feels like an endangered species — and we’re all victim to that kind of thinking.

Take, for instance, Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds. I remember watching him play in the NCAA tournament as a freshman, and yes while it does feel like that happened some time between the Jurassic Period and the Neolithic Age, my point is, well, my point is it shouldn’t be that way. At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I miss the days when guys all stayed three or four years. And while I certainly can’t blame many stars for bolting early to the pros (I know there are typically many factors at play), I feel like too many are missing out on the full college experience. And, seriously, what’s better than college? Maybe bacon-wrapped scallops. And Will Ferrell. That’s about it.

Dave's Mancrush Scottie Reynolds

And all things being equal, having upperclassmen has got to help the teams themselves, right? Let’s just look at two players for a moment. At Villanova, Scottie Reynolds is on the verge of becoming the greatest player in program history — if he isn’t already. At Kentucky, John Wall is on the verge of becoming one of the best freshmen ever — if he isn’t already. Both have their teams in the top three in the latest AP poll. And while Wall will surely be an NBA star, and Reynolds may have a difficult time even cracking an NBA roster, I’d like to think come tournament time the senior will be better prepared to lead his team on a deep run than the freshman. But then again, Carmelo Anthony won a championship in his only year in college and Greg Oden almost did the same… so who knows

Either way, something bugs me about these one-year rent-a-players. I’m actually not bothered by the players themselves because, as we know, they have no choice but to go to college for a year and the true NBA-bound superstars shouldn’t feel obligated to stay longer. I think I’m mostly bothered by the coaches, who say disingenuous things like “So-and-So will help the program even after he leaves” and “I really want So-and-So to test the draft waters.” Please. Just admit you sold your soul for a season of glory and your recruiting pitch went something like this: “Come to our school and you only have to take four college courses in your entire life! And three of them will be about massage therapy! After that, I’ll help you get rich rich rich!” (Yes, I’m looking at you Calipari.)

What’s my point? I’m not sure exactly. Maybe I’m just hoping that when March rolls around, the Wildcat who’s been through it all will get just one more lucky bounce than the Wildcat who’s already planning his wardrobe for Draft Day.

And with that, my ode to Scottie Reynolds comes to a close as I pass the curmudgeon torch to my two pals.

MIKE WALSH: College basketball rosters are a revolving door, it’s sad, but true. Unlike football or hockey, basketball is one of the few sports where 18- and 19-year-olds can hold their own against guys in their 20s. And let’s be honest, what 18-year-old kid is going to be able to pass up the promise of millions of dollars when the majority of his classmates will be thrilled to rake in $30K after graduation? If someone offered me the NBA rookie minimum right now I’d be gone… I wouldn’t even finish this column (Ed. Note: we’re all replaceable, Mike.). But alas, I’m a doughy white guy with bad knees, a worse jump shot, and a bank account that wouldn’t even cover the small blind in an NBA road trip poker game.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.27.10

Posted by THager on January 27th, 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

#23 Vanderbilt @ #14 Tennessee – 7pm on ESPNU (*****)

Bruce Busts Out the Orange Blazer in Big Games

This should be an absolutely fantastic game. It features one of the country’s favorite teams right now in Bruce Pearl’s new-look Volunteers, as well as the most underrated team in the country in Vanderbilt. These teams are in-state rivals, and a win will be huge for either team. Tennessee just suffered their first loss since the arrest of four players earlier this month to Georgia over the weekend. This group of “new” players has not had to face adversity yet this year on the court, so it will be key for their confidence to win this one at home. Vanderbilt is on a tear, winning their last nine games en route to becoming the only undefeated team remaining in the SEC. They have shown the ability to play both sound offense and defense at times, but tonight’s game will truly test their grit when they play in Knoxville, where the Volunteers have not lost since last season. As Wayne Chism goes, so goes the Vols. He only scored six points in UT’s loss to Georgia and eight points in their loss to USC, but he has shown the ability to carry the team on his back as well (Ole Miss comes to mind). If Chism gets going against the Commodores, Tennessee will keep their home winning streak alive.

Notre Dame @ #3 Villanova – 7 pm on ESPN (***)

This is a fantastic game, but it may be lost among the plethora of incredible matchups available tonight. The Irish are right on the bubble if the season ended today, and they have six winnable games coming up on the horizon, so a victory over Villanova tonight could spark the fire they need to push through this season. Notre Dame is not getting much love in the polls, at #68 in the RPI and #80 according to Ken Pomeroy, but they are comparable to Villanova statistically. They average over 80 points a game and give up just 0.6 points more per contest than the Wildcats. Villanova is one of those teams that finds ways to win games, but Notre Dame has already beaten a top ten team previously this season in West Virginia. That victory was at home, though, and they will need to step up their game to win at the Wachovia Center, where the Wildcats are undefeated. Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher are the two guards to watch in this game, but Notre Dame also has some underrated guards in Ben Hansbrough and Tory Jackson that get overshadowed by their big men. Those two average more than five assists per game (Villanova has just one guard averaging over 3.5 per game) to complement forward Luke Harangody who can get down the court fairly quickly for a 246-pound player. Villanova has had more success this season, and is probably more talented as well, so expect the Wildcats to get off to their best start in school history tonight.

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The RTC Midseason All-America Team

Posted by rtmsf on January 23rd, 2010

We’re a little past the halfway point of the 2009-10 season now, and we wanted to make sure that we had given the players who had performed at an elite level their due and propers with a little love from the crew here at RTC.  Here is our 2009-10 Midseason All-America Team.

First Team (** unanimous)

  • John Wall** (G), Kentucky (17.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 6.8 APG, 2.1 SPG) – Wall has been the most electrifying and clutch player in America so far this season.
  • Wes Johnson** (F), Syracuse (17.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.8 BPG) – Johnson does it all for Jim Boeheim’s team, proving the cranky old man right.
  • Luke Harangody** (F), Notre Dame (24.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG) – the nation’s scoring leader isn’t just a bomber; he’s also in the top five in overall efficiency.
  • Damion James (F), Texas (17.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG) – James is the clear leader of a Texas roster brimming with talented players.
  • Evan Turner (F), Ohio State (18.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 5.5 APG) – Mr. Triple-Double (two this year) missed a month and still made it onto the first team.

Second Team

  • Sherron Collins (G), Kansas (16.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.3 SPG) – Collins has proved his worth in late-game situations where he’s taken charge.
  • Cole Aldrich (C), Kansas (10.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 3.4 BPG) – Aldrich doesn’t get enough touches, but his impact on the game is invaluable to the Kansas attack.
  • Jon Scheyer (G), Duke (19.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 5.8 APG, 4.0 A:TO ratio) – Scheyer has proven he can handle Duke’s point guard duties exceptionally well.
  • Scottie Reynolds (G), Villanova (18.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 SPG) – Big Shot continues to improve, leading Villanova to 17-1.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu (F), Wake Forest (17.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG) – the Leap that we all expected from Aminu in year two has happened.

Third Team

  • Da’Sean Butler (F), West Virginia (15.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.4 APG) – Butler’s superb numbers get crowded out by the other talented forwards in the Big East.
  • Quincy Pondexter (F), Washington (20.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.4 SPG) – it’s been a disappointing first half for UW, but not because of Pondexter.
  • Jarvis Varnado (F), Mississippi State (14.1 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 5.3 BPG) – the nation’s most feared interior presence continues to erase possessions for the opponent.
  • Patrick Patterson (F), Kentucky (16.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG on 63% FG) – Patterson is not as hyped as Wall or fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins, but he’s more efficient than both.
  • Jimmer Fredette (G), BYU (19.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.6 SPG) – Fredette’s elevated production has helped BYU get off to a fantastic 19-1 start.

Others Receiving Votes:  Jacob Pullen, Kansas State; Ekpe Udoh, Baylor; Xavier Henry, Kansas; Avery Bradley, Texas; Kyle Singler, Duke; Dexter Pittman, Texas; Greg Monroe, Georgetown; Jerome Dyson, Connecticut; Robbie Hummel, Purdue; Ed Davis, UNC; Omar Samhan, St. Mary’s; Klay Thompson, Washington State.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 19th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

I’m taking a bit of a detour from our normal Ten Tuesday Scribbles format this time around. Rather than list and discuss ten players/teams/developments in college basketball that caught my eye this past week, I figure this would be an opportune time to properly gauge the debate-friendly National Player of the Year race. Here’s my top ten ranking of the players I feel are most deserving of capturing this esteemed award when the season comes to a close.

10.  Jacob Pullen (Kansas State)– The 2-15 FG, 0-6 3pt stinkbomb last night against Avery Bradley and Texas puts a bit of a damper on this ranking, but dropping him out of this list would be remiss given his phenomenal junior campaign to date. Pullen has put together some spectacular performances against quality opponents, including 26/5/4 against Dayton in Puerto Rico, 28/6 on 10-16 FG against UNLV in Vegas and one of the best shooting efforts of the season in a win at Alabama: 30 points on 10-15 FG, 4-4 FT and 6-9 3pt. While Pullen has encountered a bit of a shooting slump since, he’s still one of the quickest guards in the nation with one of the smoothest jump shots. Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly led the way last night, and backcourt mate Denis Clemente is also potent, but coach Frank Martin knows how Pullen plays will determine how far the streaking Wildcats can go this season.

9. Jimmer Fredette (BYU)- A bout with mild mononucleosis has slowed down the explosive Fredette in recent weeks, but the complimentary pieces on a super-talented BYU team have certainly picked up the slack en route to a glamorous 18-1 record. Fredette is the catalyst and offensive machine that makes Dave Rose’s offense work, utilizing 31% of BYU’s offensive possessions and scoring at a clip below 20 per contest. Fredette shoots a stellar 44% from deep, 50% from two-point range and a remarkable 91% from the charity stripe. The junior guard isn’t just an explosive scorer, though, ranking 58th in the nation in assist rate. He’s best known for one of the best individual performances of the season at Arizona on December 28. Fredette scored 49 points on 16/23 FG and 9/13 from three to go along with nine assists and seven rebounds. Mono doesn’t seem to be slowing down Fredette too dramatically, either. This past Saturday against Colorado State, Fredette scored 21 points in just 24 minutes.

8. Quincy Pondexter (Washington)– Always a player blessed with tremendous length and talent, Pondexter had been a bit of an enigma during his career at Washington, showing glimpses of stardom but unable to maintain any sort of consistency. This year, the 6’6 senior has molded into a bona fide superstar. The last five Pac-10 games are a perfect example of how important Pondexter is to the fortunes of the Huskies, even more so than sophomore point guard Isaiah Thomas. After defeating Oregon State, Washington lost their next three games in conference and Pondexter totaled just 32 points in those three contests while battling foul trouble. Washington has rebounded nicely with two blowout wins on their rocking home floor in which the lanky forward has scored 52 points on 19/31 FG and 12/12 FT. Overall though, Pondexter’s senior season has been of the consistent variety, scoring 20.3 PPG and grabbing nearly eight boards per game while shooting 56% from the floor.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on January 15th, 2010

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

Let me paint you a picture.

Pitt is loaded. They have the Big East player in the post, an all-conference 20 PPG scorer on the wing, and a senior leader at the point running the show. They have depth, balance, quality role players, and one of the most unappreciated coaches in the game.

That was last season.

This season its a different story.

DeJuan Blair is gone. Sam Young is gone. Levance Fields is gone.

Before the season started, the consensus seemed to be that with those three went Pitt’s hopes of an NCAA Tournament trip. Nothing the Panthers did before the start of Big East play changed that assumption. Not coming back from a 13 point second half deficit against Wofford. Not an ugly, two overtime win over Duquesne. Not the 47 points they scored against New Hampshire. Not the loss to Indiana in Madison Square Garden.

But there’s something we didn’t take into consideration.

Jamie Dixon isn’t like most coaches.

Jamie Dixon doesn’t rely on talent to win. He doesn’t need a roster full of McDonald’s all-Americans. In fact, when Dixon brought freshman Dante Taylor into the program, he was Pitt’s first McDonald’s all-american since Bobby Martin and Brian Shorter joined the Panthers in 1987.

What we ignored was the fact that Dixon develops players. He grooms the kids that are overlooked by other programs to fit his system. Like Keith Benjamin and Ronald Ramon and Tyrell Biggs and even Levance Fields and Sam Young before them, guys like Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Gary McGhee bided their time last year. They played their limited minutes while practicing every day against some of the best players in the country, while learning how to defend, execute, and carry themselves like Big East champions.

Now that Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown are back in the rotation, now that this Pitt team is finally complete, we are finally seeing just how good the Panthers are; just how good of a program and system that Jamie Dixon runs.

Pitt’s team is built on toughness, defense, and execution on both sides of the ball. While we pointed out in the preseason that the Panthers had flaws this year — they don’t have any sure-fire lottery picks, they don’t have a dynamic playmaker at the point, they don’t have anyone that can go out and get you 25 points on a given night — what we didn’t point out was that they have a group of kids that bought into what Dixon was selling.

Like every team in Dixon’s tenure, this year’s Panthers defend. They rebound. They get seemingly every loose ball. They run their offense until they get an open look or a lane to the rim. They hit big shots. They demonstrate the physical toughness and the mental make-up required to compete with more talented teams, and to beat them on the road.

And they have just enough natural talent to get by.


How about a 4-0 start in the Big East.

Three of those wins came on the road — in Syracuse, in Cincinnati, and in Hartford. All three are difficult places to play, and all three were NCAA tournament caliber teams.

When playing the cream of the Big East crop, there will be few games where the Panthers will be considered the more talented team on the floor even with their run the last two weeks. But rest assured, the Panthers will come away with more than their share of wins.

If the Big East was a car show, Jamie Dixon would be me and Pitt would be my 1995 Honda Accord. While the Jags breakdown, and the Lambo’s get speeding tickets, and the Corvette’s are traded in for newer models, and the Hummers guzzle gas, my Accord keeps getting the job done. The paint may be chipped on the side, the AC may be broken, there may be four blown out speakers that are useless because I don’t have a CD player and the radio antenna was ripped off, but you better believe that Accord gets me where I need to go and gets me there on time, all on 30 miles-per-gallon.

And while Pitt may not be the most aesthetically pleasing basketball team to watch, Dixon keeps steering this team right where it wants to be.

Atop the Big East standings.

Other notes from this week

  • I think it is safe to say we have the choke of the year, possibly in the country. Up 50-48 with 15 seconds left, Cinci’s Rashad Bishop took the ball out of bounds under St. John’s basket. He thought he had Deonta Vaughn open deep, but pulled a Pennington and underthrew the baseball pass. It was picked off by Dwight “Buckets” Hardy, who was fouled, making both free throws. With the game now tied and just 8.5 seconds on the clock, Lance Stephenson threw an inbounds pass away, which was stolen by Hardy who, again, knocked down two free throws. Vaughn missed a three at the buzzer that would have won it as the Bearcats snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
  • Speaking of “Buckets” Hardy, one thing I’ve noticed in watching, and attending, a lot of these games is the number of fantastic nicknames in this conference. You know about Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson, but how about Jamine “Greedy” Peterson of Providence, Stanley “Sticks” Robinson of UConn, Robert “Sticks” Mitchell of Seton Hall, or Darryl “Truck” Bryant of West Virginia. I know there are more out there, as well.
  • Pitt wasn’t the only team getting to 100% as the season progressed. Villanova has now played six games with Reggie Redding, who has been exactly what we expected – 10.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.8 SPG. Take away a two points/seven turnover debacle in Monday’s yuck-fest against Louisville, and those numbers are much more impressive. Nova also got Mouph Yarou back. Yarou had been out with Hepatitis B, but came back on Jan. 6th against DePaul. While his numbers have been less than stellar as he works his way into the rotation, what has impressed about Yarou is his conditioning (Wright is on record saying Yarou is in better-than-expected shape). If Yarou can provide some strength on the glass and on defense, he could end up being a very nice complement to Antonio Pena. All of a sudden, with these two in the line-up, Villanova got a lot more physical.
  • Samardo Samuels was a monster against Villanova. He finished with 21 points and seven boards, hitting every shot he took (4-4 from the floor, 13-13 from the line) and blocking four shots. The problem? Louisville was too concerned about shooting threes to consistently get Samuels the touches he deserved in the paint. The Cardinals will be at their best when they play inside-out, because if Samuels is scoring and defenses are helping down on him (which will more often than not be the case), it will get the Louisville guards better looks on the perimeter.

CO-PLAYERS OF THE WEEKScottie Reynolds, Villanova, and Austin Freeman, Georgetown

Georgetown was dead in the water against UConn. The Huskies had absolutely imposed their will on this game, forcing Georgetown into turnovers and poor shot selection while making it a glorified pick-up game. In other words, they were playing Husky basketball. In Jim Calhoun’s words, it was UConn’s best half of the season. But during the break, Georgetown regrouped and came out more focused on the offensive end. They started to run their offense, to work through their sets, and as a result got much better looks at the rim. It just so happened the majority of those looks came with the ball in Austin Freeman’s hands. Freeman would go on to score 28 of his career-high 33 points in the second half (his previous career high was 21). For the week, Freeman averaged 23.0 PPG  as the Hoyas went 2-1.

Scottie Reynolds, on the other hand, solidified himself among the best player’s in the country with the most efficient display of clutch shooting I’ve ever seen. Villanova, down 17 points at one time in a first half that saw them turn the ball over 17 times, turned the tables on Louisville in the second 20 minutes, and Reynolds was the reason why. He scored 30 second half points, 36 on the game, while shooting just 9-10 from the floor, 13-17 from the line, and making all five attempts from three. For the week, the Wildcats went 3-0, and Reynolds averaged 24.0 PPG in the three games.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Clearly, the team of the week was Pitt, but seeing as I’ve already wasted the majority of this column on the Panthers, I’m giving the Irish the nod. All-in-all, the Irish are not a bad team. They have the most productive player in the conference in Luke Harangody. They have two solid shooters/scoring options on the perimeter in Tim Abromaitis and Psycho-B Ben Hansbrough. They have a veteran point guard in Tory Jackson. They have some talent coming off the bench. But what the Irish didn’t have was a win to justify their record. They got that on Saturday, as they hit their first nine shots and opened up a 25-4 lead on West Virginia before the Mountaineers decided to start playing. While Notre Dame wasted away just about all of that cushion when WVU got hot (they hit 9-19 from deep in the second half), Harangody scored a big bucket with three minutes left to answer a Dalton Pepper three and put the Irish back up, 69-66. After getting some key stops down the stretch, the Irish can now add claim a resume win.


1. Villanova: 15-1, 4-0

Last Week: 1/6 vs. DePaul 99-72, 1/9 vs. Marquette 78-76, 1/11 @ Louisville 92-84

Next Week: 1/17 vs. Georgetown

2. Pittsburgh: 14-2, 4-0

Last Week: 1/13 @ UConn 67-57

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Louisville

3. Syracuse: 16-1, 3-1

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Memphis 74-57, 1/10 vs. South Florida 82-65, 1/13 @ Rutgers 81-65

Next Week: 1/16 @ West Virginia, 1/18 @ Notre Dame

4. Georgetown: 13-2, 4-1

Last Week: 1/6 @ Marquette 59-62, 1/9 vs. UConn 72-69, 1/14 vs. Seton Hall 85-73

Next Week: 1/17 @ Villanova

5. West Virginia: 13-2, 4-1

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Rutgers 86-52, 1/9 @ Notre Dame 68-70, 1/13 @ South Florida 69-50

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Syracuse

6. Connecticut: 11-5, 2-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Seton Hall 71-63, 1/9 @ Georgetown 69-72, 1/13 vs. Pitt 57-67

Next Week: 1/17 @ Michigan

7. Louisville: 12-5, 3-1

Last Week: 1/6 @ Providence 92-70, 1/9 vs. St. John’s 75-68, 1/11 vs. Villanova 84-92

Next Week: 1/16 @ Pitt

8. Notre Dame: 14-3, 3-1

Last Week: 1/9 vs. West Virginia 70-68

Next Week: 1/16 @ Cincinnati, 1/18 vs. Syracuse

9. Marquette: 10-6, 1-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Marquette 62-59, 1/9 @ Villanova 76-78

Next Week: 1/17 vs. Providence

10. Cincinnati: 11-6, 2-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield 87-58, 1/9 @ Seton Hall 76-83, 1/13 @ St. John’s 50-52

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Notre Dame

11. Providence: 11-6, 3-2

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Louisville 70-92, 1/9 vs. Rutgers 94-81, 1/14 @ DePaul 79-62

Next Week: 1/17 @ Marquette

12. St. John’s: 11-5, 1-3

Last Week: 1/9 @ Louisville 68-75, 1/13 vs. Cincinnati 52-50

Next Week: 1/17 vs. DePaul

13. Seton Hall: 10-6, 1-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ UConn 63-71, 1/9 vs. Cincinnati 83-76, 1/14 @ Georgetown 73-85

Next Week: N/A

14. South Florida: 10-6, 0-4

Last Week: 1/10 @ Syracuse 65-82, 1/13 vs. West Virginia 50-69

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Rutgers

15. Rutgers: 9-7, 0-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ West Virginia 52-86, 1/9 @ Providence 81-94, 1/13 vs. Syracuse 65-81

Next Week: 1/16 @ South Florida

16. DePaul: 7-9, 0-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ Villanova 72-99, 1/14 vs. Providence 62-79

Next Week: 1/17 @ St. John’s

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 12th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. Other than Kansas students, graduates, former players and all former or current residents of Lawrence, was there anyone in this fine country of ours rooting for the #1 Jayhawks to beat a depleted Tennessee team, a group of kids and a stunned head coach that just dealt with the suspension and/or dismissal of four of its regular rotation players? All of the events that occurred in that two-hour window in Knoxville Sunday was a release of pent-up frustration and anxiety from a tumultuous week in which Tennessee was considered a prime threat to upend favorite Kentucky in the SEC one day and counted out as a SEC contender that must scratch and claw the final two months for an NCAA berth the next. Renaldo Woolridge banking in a three, the Vols maintaining their lead with Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince on the bench with four fouls, the coach’s son Steven taking a critical charge, a miracle Skyler McBee (one of three walk-ons playing substantial minutes) leaning trey that iced the game, and coach Bruce Pearl aiding the Volunteer mascot in waving the orange Tennessee flag while the sounds of Rocky Top reverberated throughout Thompson-Boling Arena summed up what college basketball should be about. Bill Self pointed this out after the game, but there are some moments during a season when a team officially becomes a team instead of a group of individuals. Even though Pearl would gladly reset the timer to New Year’s Eve and prevent four scholarship players from getting in that car, sometimes it takes a catastrophic occurrence that truly tests the mettle of a unit for them to band together and accomplish lofty goals. I think it’s fair to say Tennessee became a team Sunday night.

2. As long as Mike Anderson is employing his Forty Minutes of Hell hellacious press on demoralized opponents, especially on a home floor where his team has won 30 consecutive games, Missouri should never be totally counted out of the Big 12 race. Losing DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence from an Elite 8 squad isn’t easy to overcome, and certainly the ceiling for the Tigers isn’t nearly as high, but the ultra-talented and quick Mizzou backcourt should have enough firepower to carry them to an NCAA berth. Missouri carried an impressive 12-3 record into their Big 12 opener with #10 Kansas State Saturday, yet their overall resume wasn’t incredibly awe-inspiring with their best wins over Old Dominion, Illinois, Georgia and Oregon and opportunities lost in defeats at the hands of Richmond, Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts. The win Saturday was clearly a statement that Missouri will be a contending force in the Big 12 for that #3 spot behind Texas and Kansas. Anderson looks to have a workable combination with experienced seniors J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor (evident by Taylor’s tie-breaking 3 with under a minute to play) making plays in late-game situations, a promising sophomore backcourt duo of Kim English and Marcus Denmon carrying most of the scoring load, and a defensive unit that ranks seventh overall in D efficiency, first in turnovers forced and gives Missouri a fighting chance on any night.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 01.09.10

Posted by jstevrtc on January 9th, 2010

If you’re pretty much anywhere east of the Mississippi today, you’re cold.  At least you are if you bother to venture outside.  We’ve entered the pale and gray days of January, of course, which around here means it’s time to implement our favorite cure for our Seasonal Affective Disorder — college hoops.  We’re not kidding, either.  Nothing gets us through these days like watching (or attending) some fine college basketball, and what’s even better is interacting with other people out there doing the same thing.  Not only will we be live blogging today’s slate of basketball games, but we’ve also got some of our correspondents attending games and cranking up the RTC Live from courtside (schedule at top left).  So  keep checking this space, get that refresh-button finger warmed up, and let’s hear what you’re thinking in the comments section, because it’s another BGTD for your Saturday.  We’ll be back around noon to get things going.  As the mercury plummets outside, this one’s not only fun for us…it’s necessary!

12:35pm: Great timing!  As soon as we decided to light this candle, the internet connection tenders its resignation.  But we’re back up now, it looks like.

12:37: The first thing I should mention is that we have someone courtside at UConn vs Georgetown for RTC Live, so while I might say a few things about that one, for now I’ll be focusing more on some of the other games happening.  A link to the RTC Live for GU/UConn is above left, or just click here.  UConn is currently spanking the Hoyas, 36-21.

12:44: Right now, St. John’s is looking pretty confident at Louisville, up 26-22.  Man, that’s all Rick Pitino needs right now.  A home loss in a Big East game.  St. John’s is very patient on offense and the only threes they’ve taken have been virtually wide open, which is why they’ve hit 50% of them so far.  Just under 3 minutes to go in the first half there.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

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

Here we are on the brink of Big East play. What does that mean? MID-SEASON AWARD TIME!!!

Co-Players of the Year: Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia and Wes Johnson, Syracuse

Depending on who you ask, these two are in the mix for the national player of the year. Butler (16.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.8 apg) has been the best player for West Virginia, even sliding over and playing some point guard in the past few games as Joe Mazzulla works his way back from a shoulder injury and Truck Bryant battles ankle and groin injuries. Butler may not be West Virginia’s best NBA prospect, but he has been the Mountaineers’ most valuable player this season. He is their best scorer in the halfcourt, and is quick becoming their best creator. He can step outside and knock down a three or run the point just as well as he can post up a smaller defender. He’s also hit two game-winners in the last two weeks.

Johnson has really lived up to the excessive hype he had in the preseason. He is averaging 17.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.3 spg, and 2.0 bpg while shooting 51.1% from three. His length, athleticism and versatility has been his biggest assets; he makes it so difficult for opposing players on the baseline in the Cuse zone; he plays like a three on the offensive end, but blocks shots and rebounds like a four on the defensive end; and most importantly, he can really score, be it in transition or in the half court set. Think the love child of T-Mac and Shawn Marion. Scary, right?

Freshman of the Year: Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati

Born Ready wasn’t quite born ready, but 11 games into the season, its pretty clear that Stephenson is going to be a player in this league. Stephenson has averaged 12.5 ppg and 2.4 apg, but more than the numbers he has put up, it has been what he hasn’t done that has been most important – this kid is not a distraction. Yes, he does have his outbursts (his reaction at the end of the Gonzaga game and his yapping at Chris Mack in the Xavier game come to mind), but what 19 year old doesn’t? Cincy has struggled a bit early in the season as they haven’t quite lived up to some of the lofty expectations, but none of that has been Lance’s fault. He makes smart plays, he makes unselfish plays, and, most importantly, he simply makes plays.

All-Conference Teams

1st team

  • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame: 24.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg
  • Jerome Dyson, UConn: 19.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.7 apg
  • Lazar Hayward, Marquette: 19.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg
  • Dominique Jones, South Florida: 18.6 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.8 rpg, 2.2 spg
  • Kevin Jones, West Virginia: 15.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg

2nd team

  • Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall: 23.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.2 spg
  • Stanley Robinson, UConn: 17.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg
  • Scottie Reynolds, Villanova: 17.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg
  • DJ Kennedy, St. John’s: 16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg
  • Greg Monroe, Georgetown: 15.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3.0 apg

3rd team

  • Andy Rautins, Syracuse: 9.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 2.5 spg
  • Herb Pope, Seton Hall: 13.8 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg
  • Samardo Samuels, Louisville: 16.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg
  • Antonio Pena, Villanova: 13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg
  • Gus Gilchrist, South Florida: 18.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg

Biggest Surprise – team: Syracuse

If I have to explain this to you, you should be reading Perez Hilton and not Rush the Court.

Biggest Surprises – player: Kevin Jones, West Virginia and Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame

We knew that Jones was good. He’s long, he’s strong, he’s athletic, and he has a nose for the ball, which makes him a perfect fit for a Bob Huggins-coached team. But did anyone expect him to be West Virginia’s best low post player? He has given the Mountaineers a true low-post threat, he can knock down threes, and he attacks the offensive glass very hard. 15.1 ppg and 7.6 rpg is just the beginning for this kid.

Tim Abromaitis is a different story. He barely played as a freshman and redshirted last year, and when Scott Martin went down with an ACL injury in the preseason, a chance was given and Abro has made the most of it. He is averaging 15.8 ppg while shooting 50.7% from three, giving Notre Dame another option if defenses collapse on Harangody. If he can bulk up a bit and become a better rebounder, Abro may be an all-conference player when it is all said and done.

Biggest Disappointment – team and player: Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati

I really thought that the Bearcats were going to make a push for the Big East crown this season. With Vaughn teaming up with Stephenson and Cashmere Wright on the perimeter and Yancy Gates anchoring a big, physical front line, I thought this team had the roster to be a factor. But with Vaughn’s early season struggles, Cincy has lost three games in the non-conference, and has yet to look like a contender. For the first time in his career, Vaughn is averaging below double figures at just 9.8 ppg, but lets face it – he is just too talented to struggle for a full season. I’m not writing off the Bearcats just yet.

The runner-up for most disappointing team is Seton Hall. The Pirates have a ton of talent, but they just don’t have the team chemistry to compete with the big dogs. I’m not talking about the players getting along. They may very well be best friends. What I mean is that this team just doesn’t play well together right now. Jeremy Hazell, as good as he is, seems to be more concerned with finding his best shot of offense as opposed to the team’s best shot. Herb Pope is a load on the block, but he can’t hit free throws, turns the ball over too much, and seems lost offensively at times. Eugene Harvey, Keon Lawrence, Robert Mitchell, Jeff Robinson – these guys over-dribble and don’t consistently take good shots. Seton Hall could easily be 2-0 in the league right now, but instead they have dropped two heartbreakers early on, and in a league as balanced as the Big East is, that is going to be a tough thing to overcome.

Coach of the Year: Norm Roberts, St. John’s

The Johnnies are flirting with the bubble this season, and with a good performance in the Big East, the Red Storm could very well make it back to the tournament this season. And keep in mind that St. John’s has done this without Anthony Mason, Jr., playing a minute yet this season and with Justin Burrell missing a few weeks with an ankle injury.


  • West Virginia is currently playing with five forwards in their starting line-up – Butler, Jones, Ebanks, Wellington Smith and John Flowers – as Truck Bryant battles ankle and groin injuries and Joe Mazzulla makes his way back from a shoulder injury. This creates two problems for the Mountaineers – they are struggling against pressure defenses and creating easy shots in the halfcourt, and they give up way too much penetration. This was completely evident against Marquette, as the Golden Eagles spread the floor, attacked gaps, and got a number of wide-open looks from three. But this is a good thing for WVU, believe it or not. Mazzulla is not going to be healthy this season (he’s playing right now with the inability to raise his left arm – he’s shooting free throws right handed as a lefty), which means that once Bryant gets healthy, they will have one true point guard. If injuries our foul trouble strikes later in the season, learning to play with five forwards now is better than learning in March.
  • UConn has two major achilles heels this season – depth and free throw shooting. The addition of Ater Majok is not going to be as influential as many believe. Majok is long and plays with energy, but he has no basketball IQ and he is nothing more than length right now – he’ll block a few shots and grab a few boards, but he’s a 12-15 mpg player at best. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel has played well in the last couple of games, but he is still learning what it takes to compete in the Big East. This is still basically a five player team. But the bigger issue will be free throw shooting. Neither Stanley Robinson nor Jerome Dyson are great free throw shooters, which is a big problem when you consider how often these two are going to get to the line the way they attack the rim. UConn is going to struggle to put points on the board, and a few missed free throws are going to make a huge difference. You can argue pretty convincingly that it cost them both the Duke and Kentucky games.
  • Villanova is not going to be a great team until they play better defense. KenPom has them at 89th in the country right now in tempo-free defensive efficiency. They give up too much penetration, allow too many open threes, and don’t have the size inside to prevent post-ups and defend at the rim. This team is really going to miss Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark, but hopefully getting Reggie Redding back will make a difference.
  • Jeremy Hazell scored 41 and 38 points in losses to West Virginia and Syracuse, respectively, but it took him 64 shots to do so. He needs to be more efficient and/or take better shots for the Pirates. Any above average guard in this league could put up those numbers with that many shots.
  • Chris Wright had 34 points in Georgetown’s win over Harvard, but lost in that was the fact that he still had 4 turnovers and just 4 assists. On the season, he is only averaging 3.5 apg and 3.0 turnovers.

Power Rankings

1. Syracuse – 13-0, 1-0

Last Week: 12/29 @ Seton Hall 80-73

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Pitt

2. West Virginia – 10-0, 2-0

Last Week: 12/26 @ Seton Hall 90-84, 12/29 vs. Marquette 63-62

Next Week: 1/1 @ Purdue

3. Villanova – 11-1

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Delaware 97-63

Next Week: 1/2 @ Marquette

4. Georgetown – 9-1

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Harvard

Next Week: 1/3 @ DePaul

5. UConn – 9-2

Last Week: 12/27 vs. Iona 93-74

Next Week: 12/30 @ Cincy 69-71, 1/2 vs. Notre Dame

6. Louisville – 9-3

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette 84-69, 12/27 vs. Radford 79-53

Next Week: 12/30 vs. South Florida 73-52, 1/2 @ Kentucky

7. Cincinnati – 8-3

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 vs. UConn 71-69, 1/2 @ Rutgers, 1/4 vs. Pitt

8. St. John’s – 10-2

Last Week: 12/23 vs. Bryant 80-44

Next Week: 12/31 @ Georgetown, 1/3 vs. Providence

9. Marquette – 9-4, 0-1

Last Week: 12/27 vs. Presbyterian 102-62, 12/29 @ Marquette 62-63

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Villanova

10. Notre Dame – 10-2

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 vs. Providence 93-78, 1/2 @ UConn, 1/6 @ South Florida

11. South Florida – 10-2

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 @ Louisville 52-73, 1/5 vs. Notre Dame

12. Seton Hall – 8-3, 0-2

Last Week: 12/26 vs. West Virginia 84-90, 12/29 vs. Syracuse 73-80

Next Week: 1/2 @ Virginia Tech

13. Pitt – 11-2, 1-0

Last Week: 12/28 vs. DePaul 65-52

Next Week: 1/2 @ Syracuse, 1/4 @ Cincinnati

14. Rutgers – 9-3

Last Week: 12/28 @ UNC 67-81

Next Week: 1/2 vs. Cincinnati

15. Providence – 8-4

Last Week: none

Next Week: 12/30 @ Notre Dame 78-93, 1/3 @ St. John’s

16. DePaul – 7-6, 0-1

Last Week: 12/28 @ Pitt

Next Week: 1/3 vs. Georgetown

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Checking in on… the Patriot League

Posted by jstevrtc on December 26th, 2009

Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League and America East Conference.

Current Standings (overall record):

  1. Army  9-2
  2. Lafayette  7-5
  3. Lehigh  5-6
  4. Bucknell  4-8
  5. Navy  4-8
  6. Holy Cross  2-9
  7. American  2-10
  8. Colgate  1-9

Hottest Team: 

Army (3-0) — W 59-46 at Dartmouth, W 62-56 vs. Mount St. Vincent, W 54-46 vs. New Hampshire

The Black Knights continued their hot streak and are in the midst of their second four-game winning streak of the season.  They finished the road trip with a record of 2-1 winning the final game at Dartmouth before handling Mount Saint Vincent and New Hampshire at West Point.  This is the first season since 1978-79 that Army has put together two four-game winning streaks.

Stud Player:

Vlad Moldoveanu  Jr., American — 19 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 26.7 MPG

Moldoveanu has shined in his first three games since transferring over from George Mason.  He scored 26 points in the upset victory over Depaul, the conference’s biggest win to date.  Moldoveanu is shooting great from all over the floor: 45% from the field, 43.5% from downtown, and 84.6% from the charity stripe.  It is going to be great to watch this 6’9 shooter during the conference schedule.

Thoughts on the Patriot League:

The Patriot League has gotten some national recognition over the past two weeks.  The hottest team in the league received a vote in the Associated Press Top 25 for the second consecutive week and, for the second straight season, Marquis Hall was nominated for the Bob Cousy Award, an award given to the top collegiate male point guard across all divisions.  Finally, an upset by a league doormat over a Big East team brings some legitimacy to the league.

Army already has their second four-game winning streak of the season going.  In the streak the defense is giving up an average of only 47 PPG.  A big reason for that is their ability to force turnovers.  Seniors Cleveland Richard, Josh Miller, and Marcus Nelson are ranked 1-2-3 in the Patriot League in steals this year.  Richard leads the way with 2.2 per game. They also are 2-4-5 on Army’s all-time list at 128, 124, and 122, respectively.  The all-time record at Army is 143 steals held by George Tatum.  The Black Knights have some consistent scorers, too.  Richard has broken double figures in every game throughout the stretch.  Sophomore guard Julian Simmons and backcourt mate Miller also have each reached double figures in two games during the streak.

The hottest team that does not reside in West Point is the Lafayette Leopards.  They went 2-0 in the last two weeks before exams.  Lafayette is riding a three-game winning streak into the holiday break.  The next game is not until the 29th at Delaware.  The last two wins came against two New York teams.  First they beat Long Island at home by fourteen, followed by a five-point victory at St. Francis.  In Brooklyn the Leopards shot 70% in the second half, but St. Francis managed to hang with them throughout the game.  A seventeen-point lead turned into a four-point game with under two minutes to play.  Sophomore guard Jim Mower led the way with 16 points off of 4-7 shooting from three-point range.  Three other Leopards scored in double figures.  Mower is shooting over fifty percent from downtown this season, good enough to lead the Patriot league.

Lehigh went 2-1 over the past two weeks.  In the 66-55 win over Marist, Lehigh led by as many as 21 points in the second half.  Marist made a run to pull themselves within seven with under nine minutes to go.  Lehigh was then able to buckle down and stretch it back to 11, which ended up being the final difference.  Seniors Zahir Carrington and Marquis Hall each scored in double digits with 12 and 16 points, respectively.  Carrington also finished with 13 rebounds for the Mountain Hawks.  Lehigh hit fewer field goals and threes than Marist, but got to the line 21 more times.  That ended up being the difference in the game.  In the loss to St Joseph’s the two seniors couldn’t have played any worse.  Hall finished with only one basket and Carrington had ten turnovers.  The Mountain Hawks as a team committed ten turnovers. Even with their early 10-0 lead, the turnovers were too hard to overcome.

Bucknell is in the midst of a five-game winning streak.  The most recent loss was a 32-point thrashing by Notre Dame in South Bend.  Bryson Johnson had 17 point and Stephen Tyree had his best game this year with 15 points and six rebounds.  They had no answer for Notre Dame’s star Luke Harangody, with 20 points and 11 rebounds, or the Irish’s hot outside shooting.  Notre Dame went 9-15 in three-pointers in the first half.  Ben Hansbrough scored 14 points in the first half.

Navy is also suddenly on a serious slide losing the last four games in a row.  The Midshipmen played Seton Hall close in the first half before getting blown out 66-34 in the second half in Newark.  Senior guard Chris Harris was the only Navy player to finish in double figures with 12 points, but it took him 17 shots to reach that total.  In the two most recent losses he has shot an abysmal 6-31 from the field.

Holy Cross lost their only game of the most recent session, an 82-79 setback to Sacred Heart.  Sophomore guard R.J Evans led the way with 20 points and five rebounds.  Holy Cross had a five-point lead at half and was up by as many as 11 points in the second half, but could not put Sacred Heart away. Sacred Heart regained the lead with under five minutes to play and never relinquished it the rest of the way.  The Crusaders shot well from the field, 50% from three-point range.  Holy Cross also out rebounded the Pioneers 47-34, but turned the ball over 23 times.

American picked up their second win of the year over Depaul.  The win was huge for the Patriot League over the legendary Big East conference.  Vlad Moldoveanu led the way with 26 points and eight rebounds in the 62-57 victory.  Stephen Lumpkins added pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds inside and Nick Hendra scored a career-high 17 points. American led at half 32-24 and was able to hold on in the second stanza.  The Eagles were down 57-56 with three minutes to play but scored the final six points of the game for the victory.

In the last version of Checking In on the Patriot League the key upcoming matchup was Colgate’s game against Dartmouth.  It wasconsidered Colgate’s best chance at getting a win before the conference schedule started up.  The prophecy turned out correct.  Colgate was victorious against Dartmouth to break their nine-game losing streak, 63-44.  It was a five-point game with five minutes to play, but Colgate allowed only one basket the rest of the way.  It was the least amount of points they had held an opponent to since the 2008 Patriot League semifinals.  Sophomore forward Yaw Gyawu led the way with 14 points.

Key Upcoming Matchup:

01.06.10 – Holy Cross at NC State – 7 pm.

With American’s recent victory over Depaul the Patriot League can start envisioning some more upsets over teams from the bigger conferences. American has Florida on December 28th, but the above game might be a better chance for the league.  Sean Kearney is still trying to put together the parts to get this team playing how they should be.  Will they have it together by the matchup in Raleigh?

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Checking In On… The Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on December 2nd, 2009


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

Despite the holiday, loyal readers of RTC may have noticed something missing last week.

Where was Checking in on the Big East?  Without BIAH waxing poetic about the happenings within the nation’s biggest conference, how were you able function?

For that, I must apologize.  But, you see, it wasn’t all my fault.  For starters, the editors at RTC are ruthless.  Not only did they have me traveling up and down the eastern seaboard during the busiest travel weekend of the year, they forced me to cover the semifinals and finals of the Preseason NIT for RTC Live.

Brutal, those guys.  I guess that’s why they pay me the big bucks.

Anyway, I probably could have found the time to put together a recap for you, but apparently grandmas don’t realize that having dial-up isn’t the same as having the internet.  Old folks, you gotta love ’em.  She made me a mean Thanksgiving leftover sandwich as a peace offering.  She’s not all bad, that one.  I forgave her, just like I hope you all will forgive me.

Back to the point, since we have a lot to go over, and seeing as the first few weeks of the college hoops season are a bit hectic, the structure of this post is going to be a bit different than future posts.  But never fear, as your trusty Big East expert is here to guide you through it.  So tuck the children in, strap on your seat belts, and, well, you tell them, B.B…

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