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.

Notes

  • 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

checkinginon

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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That’s Debatable: What Excites Us About the 2009-10 Season

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

debatable

That’s Debatable is a new feature that we’re rolling out this season.  Each week we plan on pulling out a theme or topic relevant to the 2009-10 season.  Some weeks it might be embarrassingly whimsical and other weeks serious and muted.  It totally depends on what the relevant news and issues are that surround the game each week.  Our editors and primary writers will contribute most weeks, but often we’ll ask other friends, writers and correspondents to send us something if they’re particularly well-suited for that week’s topic.  To make it palatable, each writer’s argument will be limited to 200 words: brevity will be just as important as the points being made.  We hope to have fun with it and encourage you to join us in the comments.

This week’s topic: What Excites You About the 2009-10 Season?

zach hayes – editor/contributor, RTC.

I’m most looking forward to the return of the great rivalries that college basketball provides. Whether it’s the powder blue of the Tar Heels marching onto the Cameron Indoor floor, the Georgetown grays battling down low with the orange of Syracuse, or the Jayhawks walking into the pandemonium of Manhattan, Kansas, I cannot wait for these rivalry flames to be sparked yet again. It’s not just the major conferences that provide hatred and bitterness: what about Xavier and Dayton doing battle for the A-10 title this year, Northern Iowa and Creighton as MVC foes atop the standings or Nevada and Utah State out west? Think about the individual rivalries that could bloom this season: Luke Harangody banging with Samardo Samuels inside, Edgar Sosa trying to contain John Wall and Robbie Hummel looking to stay with Evan Turner in the midwest. Even the coaching rivalries will spark up: John Calipari vs. Bruce Pearl, John Calipari vs. Rick Pitino, John Calipari vs. Jim Calhoun… you get the picture. What makes college basketball so fun is the intensity and passion. Nothing exemplifies those two qualities more than these historic rivalries.

rtmsf – editor/contributor, RTC.

And so it begins.  Within a matter of a few hours we’ll hear the first squeaks of rubber against hardwood, we’ll smell the popcorn wafting through the air, and we’ll feel the all-t0o-familiar mixed pangs of pride, sentimentality and adrenaline as we get to know these institutions all over again.  For people like us, today is Christmas without the tree or Easter without the Bunny.  But the presents are better.  Instead of an ugly tie and processed marshmallow candy we don’t need, the presents are getting to know the next-gen players like John Wall, Derrick Favors and Lance Stephenson.  It’s wondering which teams will come out of literally nowhere like Washington State in 2007, Drake in 2008 or Missouri in 2009.  It’s breaking down schedules and trying to figure out creative ways to match family vacations with top ten matchups.  It’s dreaming of 6 OTs and upset Saturdays and a 24-hour orgy of televised hoops.  This season, as every season, the cellophane-wrapped newness excites us with its pristine, shiny facade.  Anything is possible.  Everything is possible.  What excites us about the 2009-10 season?  Its existence.  Let’s tip it off and watch the beauty unfold, shall we?

john stevens – editor/contributor, RTC.

“Preseason” tournaments.  Big Monday.  Conference challenges.  Bill Raftery referencing lingerie.  Philadelphia’s Big 5.  The joy of Gus Johnson.  The late-night west coast game (in the East).  Mid-majors.  Kalin Lucas.  Buzzer-beaters.  Championship Week.  Verne Lundquist and Len Elmore.  The sounds of rubber on hardwood and leather through string.  Majors.  A screaming Gary Williams.  The concurrent holiday season.  Dick Vitale.  The love/hate of Duke.  The (presumed) resurrection of Kentucky.  The defending-champ entitlement of Carolina.  The hope of Purdue, Texas, ButlerLuke Harangody.  The perseverance of Miss Andrews.  Low-majors.  Rihards Kuksiks‘ shooting form.  Conference play.  Kyle Whelliston’s Mid-Majority (and Bally).  Dance teams.  Gordon Hayward.  Road trips to games.  Student sections.  The early-season importance of Dayton-Creighton.  The enormity of Duke-UNC.  The new Spring.  Bubbles.  Selection Sunday.  Burst bubbles.  The first two rounds.  The Four.  Monday night.

This is about one hundredth of what I could write.  I’m excited about this season in the same way that I get excited in those minutes waiting in an airport before a relative or a good friend steps off the plane.  It’s the return of something I love, and because it’s been gone for so long.

nvr1983, editor/contributor, RTC.

Two things stick out for me: Kentucky’s freshman class and the potential emergence of a mid-major as a threat in March/April.

  • Kentucky’s freshmen have been one of the major stories of the offseason after Kentucky fired Billy Gillispie and hired John Calipari who had put together one of the top recruiting classes since Michigan’s famed Fab 5. Although Calipari lost Xavier Henry to Kansas when he moved to Kentucky, his incoming class with Patrick Patterson might be enough to get him a chance to face Henry in April.
  • While college basketball has a tournament that college football fans can only dream about that gives the little guy a chance it seems like the talk of the rise of the mid-major has been premature. In the past five years only one mid-major (outside of Memphis) that was feared coming into March has advanced to the Elite 8 (#3 seed Xavier in 2008). While Gonzaga (all hype in March since Casey Cavalry’s sophomore season) and George Mason (one fluky run) are nice I am looking for something more substantial. Right now the top candidates are Butler, Dayton and Siena. I’ll be watching to see if someone steps up.
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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

impactcountry(2)

If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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2009-10 RTC Preseason All-Americans

Posted by zhayes9 on November 5th, 2009

seasonpreview

After vouching for the input of all four of our RTC scribes, here’s our official preseason All-American top four teams:

First Team

  • G- Kalin Lucas (Michigan State)
  • G- Sherron Collins (Kansas)
  • F- Luke Harangody (Notre Dame)
  • F- Patrick Patterson (Kentucky)
  • C- Cole Aldrich (Kansas)

No real surprises for our first team. Kalin Lucas is the anchor of a Michigan State team with Final Four aspirations yet again (would be Tom Izzo’s sixth), while Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich form a tandem that’s reason #1 why Kansas sits atop all preseason rankings. The final two forwards — Luke Harangody and Patrick Patterson — are double-double machines inside that are both looking to send their teams back to the Dance after a year in NIT purgatory. Patterson’s team happens to be a Final Four possibility.

Second Team

  • G- John Wall (Kentucky)
  • G- Willie Warren (Oklahoma)
  • F- Evan Turner (Ohio State)
  • F- Craig Brackins (Iowa State)
  • C- Greg Monroe (Georgetown)

It takes a special player to make any preseason all-second team list before ever playing a minute at the collegiate level. All we’ve heard this offseason from Kentucky practice viewers and his coach John Calipari suggests we could find Wall replacing Collins or Lucas on the first team by season’s end. Willie Warren has a chance to lead all BCS conference players in scoring as the Oklahoma sophomore can flat out shoot the basketball. Evan Turner will play everything from the 1 to the 4 position for an Ohio State team returning nearly every key cog. The most unknown superstar in the land might be Craig Brackins, while Greg Monroe looks to turn around a sinking Georgetown ship.

Third Team

  • G- Jerome Randle (California)
  • G- Manny Harris (Michigan)
  • F- Kyle Singler (Duke)
  • F- Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest)
  • C- Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State)

Can Cal finally win a Pac-10 title? With Jerome Randle and his 46% 3pt at the helm, it’s entirely possible. Manny Harris returns as the #1 scoring option for a Michigan team looking to contend in the all-of-a-sudden feared Big Ten. The biggest surprise may be Kyle Singler, the Duke swingman voted Preseason All-American and yet finds himself on the third team here at RTC (let the accusations of anti-Duke bias begin). Al-Farouq Aminu is the man in Winston-Salem and could take off as a potential lottery pick, while Jarvis Varnado is this year’s Hasheem Thabeet down low making a super impact defensively.

Fourth Team

  • G- Greivis Vasquez (Maryland)
  • G- Devan Downey (South Carolina)
  • F- Robbie Hummel (Purdue)
  • F- Trevor Booker (Clemson)
  • C- Ed Davis (North Carolina)

The biggest decision in April may have been Greivis Vasquez electing to return to College Park and lead the Terps back to the NCAA Tournament. He’s a tremendous scorer and improving floor leader. Speaking of scoring, South Carolina’s Devan Downey can make any shot on the floor and could total 20 PPG this season. We all know what a healthy Robbie Hummel and Trevor Booker provide Purdue and Clemson, respectively, with scoring, rebounding and defense. Ed Davis look to make The Leap we all expect out of the UNC big man.

Also receiving votes: Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), James Anderson (Oklahoma State), Kemba Walker (Connecticut), Nic Wise (Arizona), Damion James (Texas), Lazar Hayward (Marquette), Devin Ebanks (West Virginia), Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech), A.J. Ogilvy (Vanderbilt), Jerome Jordan (Tulsa), Larry Sanders (VCU).

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #3 – Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2009

seasonpreview

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

Predicted order of finish:

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

Preseason Awards.

  • Player of the Year. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
  • Newcomer of the Year. Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Breakout Player of the Year. Kemba Walker, UConn

big east logo

All-Conference First Team.

  • Kemba Walker, UConn
  • Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
  • Devin Ebanks, West Virginia
  • Greg Monroe, Georgetown
  • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

All-Conference Second Team.

  • Jerome Dyson, UConn
  • Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati
  • Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia
  • Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
  • Lazar Hayward, Marquette

All-Conference Third Team.

  • Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova
  • Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
  • Stanley Robinson, UConn
  • Samardo Samuels, Louisville

All-Rookie Team.

  • Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Peyton Siva, Louisville
  • Maalik Wayns, Villanova
  • Dante Taylor, Pitt
  • Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova

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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part Two)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 27th, 2009

seasonpreview

The final two-part edition of our Top 65 games delves into the exciting stretch run of the final five weeks. These highlighted games should have tremendous implications on seeding and conference standings with heated rivals doing battle in the final push towards March Madness. Here’s a preview of what’s guaranteed to be the best slate of games 2009-10 has to offer (top games of November/December, January and the first part of February/March in case you missed them):

February 16- North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (#36 overall)- Many believe Georgia Tech has assembled the talent to play with the supposedly rebuilding reigning champs. Still, UNC should be the favorite to win the ACC and Tech may be right on their heels (no pun intended). Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors make up a frontcourt composed of two possible lottery picks. Iman Shumpert (5.0 APG) returns to bolster the backcourt at the 1 or 2 position while Zach Peacock and Mo Miller provide depth for a Tech squad looking for a late-season impact win.

4880903041245_Miami_at_Georgia_Tech[1]

February 22- West Virginia @ Connecticut (#20 overall)- Whether Stanley Robinson is assigned Da’Sean Butler on the perimeter or Devin Ebanks in the post, Stix is the key for Connecticut this season and in this specific Big East battle. Robinson averaged 14.0 PPG and 9.0 RPG in his final ten contests last year and the UConn coaching staff strongly believes their athletic forward can replicate that success the entire season. He won’t be spending the first half in a sheet metal plant this time around, either.

February 23- Tennessee @ Florida (#62 overall)- The Gators could linger around the bubble this season in a difficult SEC East. Knocking off likely high seed Tennessee at home would send a message to the committee at this late date in the season. It’s imperative Kenny Boynton have an electric shooting game against Tennessee’s shaky defense for the Gators to have a shot. They’ll also need Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons to contain the Tennessee bigs inside and out.

February 24- Purdue @ Minnesota (#32 overall)- A difficult road contest for a Purdue team looking to capture the Big Ten title. Minnesota always plays at a different level defensively at the Barn, meaning this could be a battle of wills in the 50s that sends Big Ten haters screaming in the streets. How Minnesota’s youth, whether it be sophomores Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson or their freshmen Royce White and Rodney Williams, develops into late February should reveal whether the Gophers can pull off this upset.

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10.22.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2009

It’s coming fast and furious now.  Eighteen days…

  • Adidas/Nike Flap at UCF.  So you probably know that Michael Jordan’s other son (the one not acting all wishy-washy at Illinois) is a freshman guard at Central Florida.  It didn’t take long, but Marcus Jordan has already become notorious in the national media for something other than his play on the court.  The issue is that UCF allegedly promised him during his recruitment that he could wear Nike shoes (hundreds of millions of dollars to the trust fund might have something to do with that), but the school has an airtight agreement with adidas that all of their sports teams will be outfitted with their shoes and apparel.  This is a huge deal for UCF, who, as a mid-major cannot afford to lose the $3M that adidas is paying for the privilege; but, it brings up issues of individual rights versus contractual obligations and appears to be getting messy.  The practical solution would be what often happens when a rich kid is in trouble – Daddy Warbucks swoops in with the checkbook in hand.  The Jordan brand could theoretically buy out the adidas contract and add UCF to their portfolio, but ultimately that would have to be Nike’s decision, and we’re not convinced there’s enough added value in a mid-level CUSA team to justify the cost.  Of course, bad publicity is still publicity, and there will probably be people somewhere out there that want to buy the shoes that MJ designed for his kid(s), so that’s another factor that the company may consider.  A final possibility is that Jordan could play in his bare feet, but that would probably reduce his height to 6’1.5 and his quickness by a factor of half. 
  • UK Lowballed Gillispie.  Word was released late last week that one reason Billy Gillispie pursued legal action against UK was because they lowballed him with an offer well below one year of his current salary and buyout ($925K).  Was there a single good decision involving Mitch Barnhart and Billy Gillispie over their two-year relationship?  Let’s recount:  1) hiring him (bad idea); 2) hiring him without a contract, instead relying on an MOU (worse idea); 3) hiring a driver for him and generally ignoring his extracurricular activities all over town (even worse idea); 4) firing him (ok, that was a good idea); 5) lowballing him with a $925k offer of settlement when he was owed $6M from the MOU agreement (horrible idea because it only pissed him off; a reasonable offer would have likely been accepted); 6) settling with him for $3.25M (anything ending this debacle now is a good idea).   
  • Preseason Stuff.  10 teams under the radar in 2009-10, Parrish’s top 10 point guards and top 10 wings, Goodman visits Notre Dame and Michigan State, Luke Winn’s 16 impact freshmen, and Seth Davis breaks down Cal.  The Big East media came out with its preseason awards here, and Zagsblog followed up with its preseason awards this week (Gody: POY; Oriakhi & Stevenson: ROY), but why aren’t Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson and Seton Hall’s Herb Pope (both made the all-Big East team) eligible for the “rookie” award?  Here’s the SEC’s, and it makes absolutely zero sense that John Wall was voted second for SEC POY but didn’t even make the all-SEC first team.  Florida #5 in the SEC East is just painful for Billy Donovan.  And once again, here’s Vegas Watch’s SEC preview, where we too came up with the conclusion that Florida is the fifth best team in that division.   
  • Quick HitsLarry Drew: the key to UNC’s repeat hopesKansas: moving forwardUCLA: facing a ‘rebuilding’ year in Westwood.  Memo to Dana O’Neil: It’s CORN HOLE not CORN TOSSButler & Purdue: seeking to play in their back yard next April.  Midnight Madness: a nice pictorial of several from CNNSI.  Jay Wright: talks about the Bataan Death March of Big East scheduling.  Illinois: back in the mix locally recruiting-wise.  Binghamton: freeze all records for investigation (h/t Carpy).  Rivalry: is UW-Gonzaga back on?  Memphis: makes a statement at Midnight MadnessIsaiah Thomas: yeah, that’s a 5’8 guyOne man’s bracket: not enough B10 teams, and JMU in the CAA?  Brady Morningstar: $500 and keep your nose clean for a year (at least Self suspended him for the semester).  Pitino: finally moving on?
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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: January

Posted by zhayes9 on October 22nd, 2009

seasonpreview

Last Monday we broke down the top games of November and December as part of our season preview here at Rush the Court. As we examine the best games of the month of January, keep in mind what games during this crucial portion of the season usually represent: separating the contenders from the pretenders. With conference play heating up, the true top-seed players emerge from the pack and leap up their conference standings, while teams that may have overachieved or floated along on a cupcake-filled slate during the first two months begin to fall apart. Here are the games of great importance to circle on your calendar for January:

Ed. Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

January 1- West Virginia at Purdue (#7 overall)- The top game in the entire month of January will be played on the first day of 2010. You won’t find a more bruising, rugged and intense contest played all year with Bob Huggins and Matt Painter’s teams battling it out in East Lafayette. West Virginia is led by the shooting ability of Da’Sean Butler, the super-athletic Devin Ebanks, the two headed point-guard combo of Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant and impact JC transfer Casey Mitchell. Purdue will be entering their third full season with the core of E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and Keaton Grant intact.

January 2- Louisville at Kentucky (#23 overall)- This game has been circled for fans of Big Blue since the details emerged of Rick Pitino’s affair and subsequent extortion mess. They’ll be on Pitino relentlessly for these transgressions because they know their ultra-talented Wildcats can back up the berating on the court. Kentucky fans will also be eager for revenge after Edgar Sosa’s stunning game-winning three a season ago crushed Kentucky in Freedom Hall. Sosa will have to handle sensational freshman John Wall this time around.

781090314285_Syracuse_v_Louisville[1]

January 9- Kansas at Tennessee (#12 overall)- If Tennessee gets into an offensive rhythm, they can hang with the Jayhawks. Look for Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism to utilize their versatility to move Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Thomas Robinson and other Kansas bigs away from the basket while allowing their wings — Scotty Hopson, J.P. Prince -- to penetrate inside and draw fouls while Kansas has to recover. This could be an electric, high-scoring affair that may be decided at the foul line.

January 9- West Virginia at Notre Dame (#24 overall)- How about four top-25 games to kick off the month of January? This Big East clash is one of West Virginia’s toughest road tests in their quest of a conference title. Notre Dame recently had a long home court winning streak and the West Virginia forwards Devin Ebanks, Wellington Smith and Deniz Kilici have to deal with the likely BE POY Luke Harangody. Whether the Irish can receive production from their guards is the key.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Lower Midwest Region

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South and Mid-South) are located here.

It’s time for the sixth installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of rust belt and farming states that we like to call the Lower Midwest.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower_midwest

Ed. Note: for the purposes of our analysis in this region, Butler was considered a high-major program.

  • Cole Aldrich – Jr, C – Kansas. Much like North Carolina one October ago, Kansas appears to be the unanimous selection to begin the season atop every poll and ranking. One of the main reasons for such accolades is the continued improvement of Cole Aldrich, the Kansas double-double machine in the post. Remember the national semifinals against UNC in 2008 when Aldrich burst onto the scene recording eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a then career-high 17 minutes? That was the night college hoops fans first saw what Aldrich can provide for Bill Self and his Jayhawks. In a full season of play, Aldrich and guard Sherron Collins were the anchors behind Kansas’ surprising run to a #3 seed and a Sweet 16 berth in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Cole Aldrich and a pretty good player named Blake Griffin were the only players in the Big 12 to average a double-double in 2008-09. Speaking of stats, Aldrich’s triple-double in the second round against Dayton – 13/20/10 blks- was the first recorded triple double in KU’s illustrious basketball history. Aldrich led the conference in blocks with at 2.7 BPG, finished second in rebounding at 12.4 RPG, second in FG% at 60% and tenth in FT% at an impressive 79% for a 6’11 center.  Aldrich possesses great length, a high motor and displays the fundamentals under the basket that Self loves. The insane talent around Aldrich this season will only put less of a load on his shoulders as the big man can rely on Collins for the clutch outside shot, Xavier Henry on the wings, Thomas Robinson on the block or Tyrel Reed to knock down the long-range three. But the pressure will be on Aldrich to provide a post presence that simply cannot be matched in the Big 12 (sorry Dexter Pittman).  If he achieves his potential, a national POY award isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Kansas’ prized junior center.
  • Craig Brackins – Jr, F – Iowa St. Craig Brackins won’t get half the airtime this season as any of the other high-major names on this list, but he could end up becoming the best player of the group when it’s all said and done.  It’s not as if Brackins came out of nowhere – he was a five-star recruit out of Brewster (NH) Academy in 2007, and he turned down offers from Indiana and Pitt, among others – but, when you play in the Big 12 and your team is generally an afterthought (4-12 in 2008-09), it’s tough to get noticed.  But noticed he got on Jan. 24th in a nationally-televised home game against the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks.  Brackins sliced and diced the vaunted Jayhawk defense for 42/14 in a losing effort that had Bill Self afterwards stating that the lanky center could be the “best player in the country today.”  That single game may have put the Iowa State star on the casual fan’s radar screen, but it’s not like Brackins wasn’t tearing it up against everyone else too:  32/16 against N. Iowa; 28/17 against Jacksonville St.; 38/14 against Houston; 25/13 against Nebraska.  The all-Big 12 first teamer nearly averaged a double-double for the season (20.2 PPG and 9.5 RPG) despite seeing hard and fast double-teams every time he touched the ball.  It was widely presumed that Brackins would jump into the NBA Draft last summer after such a spectacular season; after all, projections for him of the lottery and mid-first round were prevalent.  However, Brackins said that he had some unfinished business to attend to at ISU (meaning, getting the Cyclones to an NCAA Tournament), and he returned to what should be an improved squad with 6’7 juco transfer Marquis Gilstrap’s arrival on the blocks and a solid returning backcourt of Diante Garrett and Lucca Staiger.  The only true weakness he has exhibited so far in his career is his 28% from beyond the arc, but with more firepower on the team this year he may be less inclined to feel like he has to do it all (Brackins attempted 37% of ISU’s shots last year).  Regardless of how the team’s season plays out in 2009-10, there should be no doubt that Brackins is on the short list of best post men in America.  With another year of seasoning under his belt at the collegiate level, however, we could be looking at a top five pick next June.  Don’t flip the channel so quickly if you see that Iowa St. is playing on the tube this year – it may be one of your few chances to see one of the best big men in the country.
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