Madison Square Garden Passes Up ACC Tournament: Huge Mistake?

Posted by Chris Johnson on September 26th, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

Over the past three years, conference realignment has precipitated a shift of thriving programs away from the Big East into the ACC. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, three valuable pieces of the Big East’s hoops power hierarchy, saw weakness in the Big East’s deteriorating leadership and declining status in the BCS power structure. They sought greater stability and a more lucrative TV payout in their new conference. The Big East was fracturing, so it was not at all surprising that these programs wanted out. It is hard to fault their move. But like so many of the realignment-related movements of late, their league hop had detrimental consequences on the Big East’s basketball league. For years Syracuse and Pittsburgh have contended for conference titles, played fierce rivalry games and did their part to help make the Big East one of the nation’s most compelling hoops leagues. Notre Dame is, by all accounts, a football school, but had itself risen among the league’s hoops upper-tier under head coach Mike Brey. When these programs announced their departures, it wasn’t just a blow to the league’s membership, but to the Big East brand itself, the very essence of which rested upon such fierce hardwood drama. This was a familiar wave of movement; it wasn’t long ago that the ACC poached Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami, another football-motivated move that impacted its basketball competition at the expense of the Big East. These six defections over the last decade (Boston College, Miami, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Pittsburgh), along with West Virginia’s jump to the Big 12, has conspired to reconstitute the Big East into an amorphous heap of disparate programs, a depleted league robbed of much of its hoops equity.

The Big East won’t serve up the same tantalizing display of hoops heavyweights in its conference tournament after the current contract with Madison Square Garden runs out in 2016 (Photo credit: Chris Chambers/Getty Images).

The realignment-powered decline of Big East basketball is nothing new. It is a topic I (along with many other college hoops scribes around the web) have visited before in this space. This latest bit of news counts as a rare positive step for the revamped league, and it was brought to light Tuesday by ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy. The ACC may have stolen the Big East’s basketball talent, but it can’t take its legendary conference tournament venue! Take that, conference realignment! Madison Square Garden, according to McMurphy, did not submit a bid for hosting rights to the 2016-21 ACC Tournaments. The newly-unveiled Barclays Center, home of the re-branded Brooklyn Nets, also passed up the soon-to-be hoops super-conference’s league tourney. The Big East’s current deal with MSG runs out in 2016, but an extension is in the works to keep the league’s tournament at the historic New York City arena through 2026, according to the New York Post.

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More Fireworks in the Nation’s Capital? NCAA Selects Washington, D.C. as Last 2013 Regional Host

Posted by EJacoby on May 17th, 2012

The 2013 NCAA Tournament will be a milestone, marking the 75th all-time ‘Big Dance’ since Oregon won the first one in 1939. A lot has changed over the years, and it’s much harder to win the Tournament in its current 68-team format than it was for the Ducks in a total field of just eight schools then. In “a concerted effort to include cities with a rich history to help mark the milestone,” according to the new VP of NCAA Championships, Mark Lewis, the committee selected Washington, D.C. as the final host of the 2013 Regionals. The nation’s capital joins previously selected Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and Arlington, Texas, as the four regional locations, with Atlanta hosting next year’s Final Four. The Verizon Center in DC has played host to several classic tournament games in recent history, and the NCAA hopes to recreate that magic next year.

George Mason Provided Fireworks in Washington, D.C. in 2006 (Washington Post)

“In the end, we think celebrating 75 years of one of the country’s favorite sporting events in our nation’s capital and a great basketball city is fitting,” said Lewis, whose committee’s decision came down to Syracuse, Brooklyn, Madison Square Garden (Manhattan), and the District of Columbia. It would have seemed fitting for MSG, the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” to have won on this criteria of rich history, but the arena faced scheduling conflicts with its priority tenants, the Knicks (NBA) and Rangers (NHL). The Verizon Center, while not nearly as historic a venue, is a more frequently-used arena for college games, serving as the primary home court for Georgetown and hosting a number of other games such as the BB&T Classic. The Hoyas will be the official host of this site and as such will be unable to play in that venue during next season’s Tourney.

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Cincinnati Can Make Serious Postseason Noise… If They Qualify

Posted by EJacoby on February 10th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a correspondent and regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. He filed this report after Cincinnati’s win over St. John’s on Wednesday. 

While it may not have even been the fourth or fifth biggest game across the country on Wednesday evening, Cincinnati taking on St. John’s in Madison Square Garden was a massive matchup for the road team. The Bearcats had lost three of four games, including two straight on the road, and needed this win away from home. That wasn’t a problem as Mick Cronin’s team shellacked the Red Storm for a 76-54 victory and made it look easy. Cincinnati played 12 players in the game, 11 of whom scored, and played incredibly crisp basketball on both ends of the floor. Three different guards scored in double figures alongside leading scorer Yancy Gates, and the team used a stifling 2-3 zone defense that caused problems all night for St. John’s. You would have never known that the Bearcats were a bubble team, a label that they look to shed in the coming weeks.

Mick Cronin's Bearcats Could Make Some Noise if they Make the NCAA Tournament (AP Photo/J. Fuqua)

In the process of the 22-point victory, Cincinnati looked like a Top 25 team, one that could pose some serious matchup problems for opponents in the postseason. Gates scored 14 points with nine rebounds in just 21 minutes, going 6-8 from the field and playing strong interior defense in the zone. He was joined by starters Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright, and Dion Dixon in double figures, as the guards found easy baskets by way of strong possessions against the St. John’s zone. Wright, Dixon, and Gates are upperclassmen who have been through the fire for this team and it shows. Kilpatrick is the sophomore but just happens to one of the more talented scorers in the Big East (15.4 PPG). A deep bench joins these leaders to combine for a great formula of talent, experience, and depth – and it was all on display on Wednesday.

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Tracking The Four: Syracuse Gets Melo & Its Swagger Back

Posted by EJacoby on February 7th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

What made Syracuse look so beatable in the past three games? Perhaps the answer is as simple as we thought, and Orange big man Fab Melo is just that important to the team’s success. He returned on Saturday and the Orange completely ran St. John’s off the floor in a performance worthy of a number one team. Meanwhile, Indiana and UNLV each split their two-game schedules full of tough road matchups. Murray State continues to cruise along undefeated and is getting closer to its big matchup with St. Mary’s. Let’s see how each team got it done this week:

Syracuse Orange

Michael Carter-Williams Had the Memorable Highlight from Syracuse's Dominant Win Last Week (AP Photo)

  • Trending UP Because… – They put together perhaps their best performance of the season on Saturday by scoring nearly 100 points on the road at St. John’s in their only game of the week. Center Fab Melo returned from suspension for the game and had a solid individual performance (14 points, two blocks, 5-6 shooting), but it’s the collective play of the team’s defense and transition offense that is more telling of his impact. The Orange (23-1, 10-1 Big East) held its opponent to 38% shooting on two-point attempts, whereas they were allowing an average of 44.4% in three games without him. Melo was on the receiving end of several lobs in transition as the team consistently found easy offense in the 95-70 win. The Cuse look to have their swagger back and will try to keep up this strong form with two home games this week.
  • This Week’s Key CogMichael Carter-Williams. This week was a reminder of how truly deep this team is. Carter-Williams is a McDonald’s All-American freshman averaging just 12 minutes per game this season, and he looked like the best player on the floor during his 17 minutes against St. Johns’s. The frosh had 13 points on 5-6 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, and just one turnover in limited playing time.
  • Play of the Week – This was a no-brainer, as our guy Carter-Williams throws down a vicious dunk in transition that was one of the top plays of the week.
  • Talking PointMelo talked about his return to the team after a three-game suspension: “I had fun. It felt good to be back on the court with my teammates. I felt a little rusty and I wanted to do everything at once but Coach told me to slow down and I did.”
  • Coaching Legend - Jim Boeheim continues his ascent up the coaching wins list. Saturday’s victory was the coach’s 879th career victory, tying him with Dean Smith for third all-time. The only men ahead of him are Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski, with Knight’s 902 victories a very passable number next year.
  • Stats Central – Although Kentucky owns a near unanimous top ranking, the Orange have the far more impressive overall resume. If the season ended today (which, of course, it doesn’t), then Cuse would be the top overall seed of the NCAA Tournament, boasting the #1 RPI ranking and 12 victories over RPI Top 100 teams. Kentucky has seven Top 100 wins, by comparison.
  • What’s Next? – Syracuse has two tough opponents this week, but both games are at home. First comes rival Georgetown on Wednesday (7:00 PM ET, ESPN), followed by struggling Connecticut on Saturday (1:00 PM ET, CBS). The Hoyas look like the second best team in the Big East right now, and the Huskies could be playing for their postseason lives come this weekend. It’s never easy against these talented conference rivals.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

  • Trending EVEN Because… – They did lose last week to a team in the mid-70’s of the RPI, but it was a two-point loss in Laramie against tough conference foe Wyoming. The Rebels had several chances to tie or win the game on their final possession of the game, and we can’t knock the team very much for this tight road game. They also easily disposed of Colorado State earlier in the week at home. UNLV (21-4, 5-2 MW) remains in good shape in the Mountain West and has a huge matchup coming up on Saturday.
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St. John’s Freshmen Making the Most of a Rebuilding Season

Posted by EJacoby on January 17th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. He filed this report after Georgetown’s win over St. John’s on Sunday.

As a basketball program, St. John’s and its fans have not had a whole lot to smile about this season. Sunday afternoon was no exception, when Georgetown came into Madison Square Garden and handed the Red Storm their fourth loss in five games with a 69-49 victory. But despite the result, freshman forward Maurice Harkless dazzled a packed crowd with 21 points and 10 rebounds in a comeback effort when his team was down, in the process showing why there’s so much promise for the rebuilding Red Storm. Between Harkless and fellow freshman star D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s has the necessary pieces to turn a losing, learning season into future success.

Times are rough for St. John's, but Harrison and Harkless (above) have what it takes to turn around the program (AP Photo)

St. John’s’ season record reflects all of the turmoil within the program. After Sunday’s loss, the Red Storm dropped to 8-9 overall and 2-4 in Big East play. But there’s much more than just a silver lining to this dark cloud of a season. Five of the Red Storm’s six leading scorers are freshmen, which includes guards Sir’Dominic Pointer and Phil Greene in addition to the versatile trio of Harkless, Harrison, and Amir Garrett. By nearly all metrics, Harkless is the best freshman in the Big East and might be one of the most talented players in the whole conference. His totals against Georgetown upped his season averages to 15.8 PPG, 8.4 RPG, and 1.8 BPG, all team highs. He’s top five in the conference in the latter two statistics and possesses the dynamic offensive game of a future NBA small forward. Harrison has been nearly as productive, averaging 15 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, and 1.6 SPG, and he’s had the ball in his hands most often this season when St. John’s needs a big play or shot to be made. Pointer has the look of a potential ‘glue guy,’ and he already contributes across the board on a nightly basis with about seven points, five boards, and over a block and steal per game.

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Three Thoughts on Washington and Duke from Madison Square Garden

Posted by mpatton on December 12th, 2011

The Duke-Washington game on Saturday was an interesting look at both teams. Here are three thoughts, for each team, that I garnered from each team that will be interesting to follow going forward.

Duke was much better with Tyler Thornton on the floor. Thornton’s stat line at the end of the first half: 18 minutes, 0-0 from the field, two assists and two turnovers. But there’s a reason he played more minutes than any other player: He locked down Abdul Gaddy and the Husky offense. There’s no other reasonable explanation for why Washington’s offense looked so stagnant at that time. Thornton is a sparkplug for this Duke team. He may not fill up the stat sheet, but the team visibly has more energy when he’s on the floor. His on-ball defense also covers up Duke’s mediocrity at defending dribble penetration. The offense also played very well, despite his apparent lack of production. Don’t be surprised to see Thornton start for Duke going forward.

Tyler Thornton

Tyler Thornton is Duke's Leader on the Defensive End (Eugene Tanner/AP).

On a related note, Washington’s offense is almost entirely based on its backcourt’s ability to utilize dribble penetration. Tony Wroten was really the only effective offensive weapon the Huskies had in the first half; luckily, he was a one-man scoring machine then. Wroten is the real deal. He was by far the most talented player on the floor. It remains to be seen whether he just took advantage of a huge mismatch with Duke (he’s a 6’5″ wing with boatloads of athleticism; no one that gets playing time at Duke fits that description), or whether he can be the go-to guy for the Huskies this year. But one thing I do know is that he’s an NBA talent.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IV

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 12th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED… Tom Crean taking a giant step forward with his Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday. Having taken over a disastrous situation in Bloomington, no one deserved that finish more than Crean against the Kentucky Wildcats. Christian Watford’s rainbow swish as the buzzer sounded is one giant recruiting tool for the future, and the only thing better would have been Gus Johnson’s voice on the call. What a game, and what a relief for Crean after several years of frustration.

Christian Watford's Game-Winner Represents IU's Renaissance

I LOVED… seeing Madison Square Garden for the first time. I made it to MSG for Saturday’s Washington/Duke matchup, and there is a different type of atmosphere in that historic arena that takes hold the moment you get your ticket scanned and step inside. Players on both teams were bouncing up and down as soon as they stepped on the floor, which isn’t something you always see at a neutral location. The crowd is basketball-savvy, and you can’t help getting caught up looking at the retired Knicks greats in the rafters. As Coach K said after the game: “I love playing at Cameron, but outside of Cameron, Madison Square Garden is the place.” Very cool.

I LOVED…UCLA coach Ben Howland making a gutsy call by getting rid of Reeves Nelson. It’s a tough situation when one player is setting a terrible example, but your team is still probably better off with him on the floor. We talked about Nelson a couple weeks ago and I questioned whether Howland was going too easy on him, but this is a decision that obviously places principles ahead of short-term benefits. It could be a rough year in LA for Howland, but the Bruin program will be better off in the long run.

I LOVED… trying to decide about Washington freshman guard Tony Wroten. I actually got to watch Wroten play in high school because he went to my alma mater in Seattle, and he’s been a top-5 prospect in his class since about age 14 (he likely would have been top-3 without a football knee injury as a junior, but he seems to have fully recovered). Anyone who caught Washington/Duke saw what I’m talking about – Wroten is usually too showy, at times the best scorer on the floor, at times the best passer on the floor, at times the most selfish on the floor, often times the most unmotivated on the floor, the most exciting, the most excited, and almost always a turnover waiting to happen.

It can be mesmerizing to watch though (when it’s not infuriatingly aggravating), and it will be interesting to see how Lorenzo Romar will develop this uber-talented frosh. If he refines his game and focus, he could be up there with the best in the nation.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.18.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 18th, 2011

  1.  In case you missed the marquee Big 12 contest of the night on Thursday, ESPN posted a quick review of Texas A&M‘s loss to Mississippi State in the 2k Sports Classic. For those of us who turned the game off after MSU took a 20-plus point lead in the first half, it’s hard to believe the Aggies eventually lost by only nine points. They were outclassed in almost every way without star Khris Middleton, but they at least deserve credit for battling all 40 minutes. After such an atrocious start, Billy Kennedy has to be pleased at his team’s effort to cut the lead to eight points late in the second half.
  2. If you’re an ESPN insider, here’s another look at the 2012 recruiting classes in the Big 12. Once again, it’s worth mentioning the Texas schools are completely dominating the recruiting trail lately within the conference. John Stovall ranks Texas first overall in these rankings, and interestingly, he points out that UT only has one player taller than 6’8” right now. That’s why Barnes hauled in a talented group of forwards, all of which should form the nucleus of his program in the near future.
  3. Speaking of Texas, the play of J’Covan Brown has been ridiculous this season. It’s early, of course, but Brown has played like the star Rick Barnes needs him to be. If he keeps up the pace, he’s easily a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate; but again, it’s only been two games. So what do we make of the hot start? There’s one thing we can all agree on: Brown can play. The former sixth man was productive last season and looks like a budding star, and he’s the key to this team’s success this year.
  4. Oklahoma may not be the most notable team in the league, but the Sooners have a decent core of players in Cameron Clark, Andrew Fitzgerald and others that get their names in the paper a lot. Calvin Newell almost never gets his name in the paper– until now. He’s starting to get a little more attention for his scoring ability, and he looks like leading-scorer material down the road. For now, he’ll have to settle for being a spark off the bench, and we’re guessing coach Lon Kruger won’t complain about that.
  5. The folks over at Big 12 Hoops have published their first “Conference Call” of the year, and they hit on a variety of topics. One of the more interesting discussions centers around Kansas and its decision to play Kentucky during the first month of the season. They wondered out loud whether or not it was worth it to lose a game so early, but we don’t see any sort of problem here. If you’re a program like KU, why not play more games like that at Madison Square Garden? Any exposure is good exposure, even in a loss.
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The Big 12 Week Ahead: Nov. 14-17

Posted by dnspewak on November 14th, 2011

GAME OF THE WEEK

Kansas at Kentucky, Tuesday 7:30 PM CT

In the premiere event of ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, these two blueblood programs hit the court under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. It’s all a part of the Champions Classic, a new event designed to grab national headlines for college basketball in the month of November. Although the game is slated for a Tuesday night, that won’t hold back the rabid Kentucky and Kansas fan bases from making the trip to the Garden. Both squads feature all sorts of new faces, especially on the UK side: As usual, coach John Calipari has the task of molding a young group together. For the first time, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague and the rest of the crew will showcase their skills to a national audience. The Jayhawks don’t have as many true newcomers, but coach Bill Self is trying to retool a relatively inexperienced team with just one returning starter. Several players are taking on new roles, including Thomas Robinson, who’s no longer a bench player but instead one of the team’s stars. Robinson looked comfortable in a 100-54 win over Towson on Friday, recording a double-double.

Bill Self's Program Is In the National Spotlight Again

The key individual match-up is… Anthony Davis vs. Thomas Robinson. Robinson is the more experienced player, and he’s primed for a breakout season because of his new opportunity in the starting lineup. The preseason All-Big 12 selection will have his hands full with Davis, however. The 6’10” freshman scored 23 points and grabbed 10 boards in his debut against Marist this weekend, and he’s one of the most physically gifted players in the nation.

Kansas wins if… Tyshawn Taylor controls the offense. The senior point guard dished out four assists in the season opener and turned the ball over just one time. That’s the kind of performance the Jayhawks need out of their leader.

Kentucky wins if… It crashes the glass and gets those forwards involved. Sophomore forward Terrence Jones only took seven shots against Marist, scoring eight points. His guards have to get him the ball, and he needs to form a ferocious trio with Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist. These Wildcats are fast, strong and athletic, and they’ve got an advantage on any team if the offense runs through them.

OTHER GAMES OF NOTE

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ESPN’s Toughest Arenas Survey: Analyzing Coaches’ Responses

Posted by rtmsf on September 7th, 2011

ESPN.com had an interesting series of stories that went up today regarding various folks’ favorite college basketball arenas to visit and the toughest ones to play in.  As always when you read blurbs of primary source information, it’s enlightening to see the reasoning behind their choices.  For example, we never knew that NC State’s old home was such an ACC snake pit, but ESPN commentators Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis both independently cited Reynolds Coliseum as the toughest arena they ever played in. Davis even claimed that he never scored “on the opposite basket away from our bench in the first half” due to the flustered situation he found himself in all four years he visited Raleigh.

A number of media types also weighed in with their favorite places to experience a game, and several of the old faithfuls represent well here — Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium (3 votes), Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse (2 votes) and the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden (2 votes) — along with a few other tried-and-trues including Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stanford’s Maples Pavilion, Penn’s Palestra, and UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion (1 vote each).  But it was the list provided by Dana O’Neil (excellent usage of “sepia,” by the way) from her interviews of several head coaches back in July on the recruiting trail that really caught our eye. First, here’s her list:

Fifteen prominent coaches chose nine different arenas between them.  Three of those are already retired to the dustbin of history, and three others are clearly a personal house of horrors to specific coaches.  Not many people in this business will choose a place like Murray State Arena over somewhere like the Kohl Center or Breslin Arena, but Big Ten coach Bruce Weber did.  The remaining joints are again places we’re all familiar with as incredibly difficult to walk out with a win, but we quickly noticed that there was something peculiar about the responses among O’Neil’s interviewees.  Take a closer look — of the 15 coaches, only one of them gave an answer that includes a site where his team must regularly play games.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIII

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 28th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse pumps up Harrison Barnes, weighs in on Cheerleadergate (and no, that doesn’t refer to any of Seth Greenberg’s offspring), and tells you what he thinks about BYU as a 1-seed.

The Five things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..a different way of watching college basketball. I found myself on a treadmill at the gym on Tuesday, and alas, the one TV with ESPN was as far away as it could possibly be and still be in the same room. Naturally I tried to watch the Tennessee/Vandy game anyway, but could only see tiny players moving around the screen and a dot for the ball. You should try this out – since you can’t always tell the score or know if the ball goes in the hoop, you find yourself guessing who is winning by the flow of the game, fouls, spacing, etc. It’s good for 30 minutes of entertainment, plus you almost forget that you’re…running on a treadmill.

I LOVED…..Two minutes worth of “How do you like me now??!!” from Harrison Barnes against NC State. There is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING better than sticking it in the face of a big-time rival on the road. And when you do it with two consecutive rim-rattling putback dunks, followed by a deep dagger from three, you’re just tacking on style points to what was already a perfect 10.

It Will Be Interesting To See How Far Everyone Has Barnes And the Improved Tar Heels Going In March

I LOVED…..seeing the look on Seth Greenberg’s face Saturday night after the Duke win. For whatever reason, I’ve always liked the guy. I think it dates back to that time he got thrown out of the game at Cameron Indoor. But mostly it’s because he’s stuck it out at a school where football is really all that matters, and basketball is just something people follow in the late winter and spring. The guy coaches his butt off against the basketball royalty in his conference, and he 100% deserved that monster win to push his injury-ravaged Hokies into the tournament (knock on wood, but they have to be in).

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ATB: Coaches vs. Cancer Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2010

We’re going to make this one fairly quick as it’s a travel day here at the RTC west coast compound.  Gotta get to Maui…

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Talib Zanna.  The Pitt freshman is making the most of his opportunity to start, going for 14/12 in the first double-double of his young career.  He’s now averaging 10/9 in four games and proves once again that Jamie Dixon really knows how to find recruiting diamonds in the rough.  This guy wasn’t even a top 150 player on Rivals (although he was listed as the #10 center on Scout).
  • Coming Out Party of Harrison Barnes.  In a mere half of action, Barnes showed everyone watching why he is considered the top amateur talent in the world right now.  He hit all four of his trey attempts en route to a 19/7 first half that allowed UNC for at least a game to look like the dominant force they usually are under Roy Williams.  If the Heels destroy Minnesota as easily as they did “Hoftra,” then we may want to re-assess our preseason ranking of them.
  • Dogus Balbay & Tristan Thompson.  Balbay’s late game defense on Illinois’ Demetri McCamey allowed his Longhorns to seize control of the semifinal game of the CvC, while Thompson did just about everything else — 20/7/4 assts/3 stls/5 blks for the budding superstar.  It’s never too early for UT to tank, but so far this team seems to like playing together a lot more than last year’s team did.
  • Georgetown Guards.  The Hoya trio of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark scored 54 points and dropped 17 assists in an easy win over Coastal Carolina at the Charleston Classic.  This is all fine and well until the guards go cold from outside — they hit 14 threes tonight, but we seriously doubt that’ll be the norm.

…and Misses.

  • K-State Looking Ahead.  Here’s how you know that you’re a top-shelf program.  You don’t look past teams like Presbyterian because you’re playing Gonzaga and Duke next.  If you feel that you’re on par with those programs, there’s no reason to look ahead.  KSU was only up 69-65 against the Blue Hose with 2:30 remaining.  That level of effort won’t work in the CBE Classic on Monday/Tuesday.
  • Madison Square Garden.  It’s difficult for us to believe that MSG is the self-described Mecca of College Basketball when New Yorkers don’t fill the seats for four quality teams such as Texas, Pitt, Illinois and Maryland.  We’ve been there a few times ourselves and even when local favorites Syracuse and UConn were playing, there were still seats available.  Give us a college arena with people packed in like sardines to the rafters any day.
  • Missouri’s Late Start.  As the last team in the country to play its season opener, Mizzou looked terrible.  How bad was it against Western Illinois?  For the first time in 59 years, the Tigers won a game without a single double-figure scorer.  Ugh.

Tweet of the Night.  This one didn’t have to do with any of tonight’s games, but it’s an 8.8 on the unintentional comedy scale.  Have at it, UNC fans…

RTC Live. We were back at the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer for the second year in a row, and we got to see two pretty good games.

#5 Pittsburgh 79, Maryland 70.  Maryland hung tough with a very good Pitt team on Thursday night. The Panthers’ focus coming in was slowing down Maryland’s Jordan Williams, and they did a pretty good job of it for the first 35 minutes of the game. With Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs both playing subpar basketball, Talib Zanna stepped up to the tune of 14 points and 12 boards. In a closely contested first half, Jordan Williams picked up two fouls early on. After he would come out of the game, Pitt hit the Terps with 22-8 run. And while Maryland’s back court — Cliff Tucker, Terrell Stoglin, Adrian Bowie — led the charge back, Pitt threw a counter-punch with Nasir Robinson’s three point play. Maryland never threatened again.

Texas 90, #16 Illinois 84 (OT). Texas got a dominating performance out of Tristan Thompson. The talented big fella went for 20 points, seven boards and four assists. Jordan Hamilton, the Longhorns’ best player, went for 21 points.  After watching Illinois suffer a disappointing, 90-84 overtime loss to Texas in the nightcap of the Coaches vs. Cancer semifinals at Madison Square Garden, I can’t help but ask those same questions of Illinois. The Illini are a talented team. There is no questioning that. Demetri McCamey is a scoring guard that became the nation’s leader in assists last season. Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson, known last year as a promising but inconsistent freshmen duo, are back for their sophomore seasons as McCamey’s sidekicks. Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, and Meyers Leonard provide a long and versatile front court, while Bill Cole and Jereme Richmond are combo-forwards that give Bruce Weber the option of playing really big or really small. On paper, this is a team that is good enough to contend for the Final Four. But projected success on paper is far from a sure thing once the teams take the court.

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