Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 5th, 2010

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

1. More than the countless Big East tournament runs at the Garden, or the contention for conference regular season titles on a yearly basis, or reaching upper-echelon status in college basketball playing with no flashy All-American recruits, Jamie Dixon is proving his worth as a coach this year more than ever. Few teams lost as much talent, leadership, and production as senior point guard Levance Fields, dominating big man DeJuan Blair and outside threat Sam Young. The departure of these three mainstays plus two projected starters for 2009-10, Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown, beginning the year MIA prompted many preseason prognosticators (including myself) to deem Pittsburgh a non-contender in the rugged Big East. My mistake, Jamie. The Panthers just finished one of their most difficult Big East road stretches of the year with two statement victories at previously undefeated Syracuse and at fringe-ranked Cincinnati. Sophomore Ashton Gibbs is taking his experience from playing under Dixon at the U19 Games to good use, running the Pitt offense with superb efficiency, shooting the ball lights out from deep and breaking the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made in the process. Brown has his academics in order and used his athleticism to make a few back-breaking baskets against Cincy last night. Dixon provides stellar defense and outside shooting. It remains to be seen whether Pitt can stay at the top of the Big East with less talent than the other squads, but we do know that Dixon’s team will play smarter and tougher than any opponent. And that always gives them a fighting chance.

2. The most significant win this New Year’s week had to be Purdue running away from West Virginia to remain unblemished and surpass the Mountaineers as a projected #1 seed at this stage of the season. Purdue and coach Matt Painter have constructed their program unlike many of their other counterparts atop the rankings on a weekly basis. There’s no Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Devin Ebanks or John Wall walking through the doors of Mackey Arena to play for the Boilers for one or two years; instead, their 2009-10 highly ranked squad features a group of players that have been together for three straight seasons, such a rarity in the age of one-and-done players and the glorification of NBA riches. This specific group of players- Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant- have practiced and played together for three straight years now, stepping up the ladder slowly but surely in the college hoops landscape. They took the Big Ten by surprise in 2007-08 before falling in the second round to Xavier and climbed up another step by reaching the Sweet 16 a season ago. This year they hope to reach the top and cut down the nets in nearby Indianapolis with a group of kids that have been through the ups and downs of a college basketball season together more than once- a group of lightly-recruited but tough-minded individuals that will utilize defensive intensity and offensive efficiency to reach the ultimate goal Hummel, Johnson, Moore and others been striving for since arriving in West Lafayette.

3. Think about this for a second: Despite losing three four-year starters that all played 30+ MPG and notched 10+ PPG, Marquette coach Buzz Williams would probably tell you that his Golden Eagles should be staring at a 12-2 (2-0) record with wins over top-ten Villanova and West Virginia and another top-25 team in Florida State. Typical of young, inexperienced squads, Marquette has simply been unable to close games this season against stellar competition. If Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler don’t miss two front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities, Da’Sean Butler’s game-winning shot never happens and Marquette has the second most impressive road win in the country this season (just behind Pitt stunning Syracuse). Up two Saturday against Villanova, Johnson-Odom again stepped to the line up two points and 2:35 left on the clock. Both of those attempts bricked, and, couple that with a bunny missed by Butler at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles again fell just short. Rewind back to November in the Old Spice Classic where Marquette held a 30-18 lead at half against FSU and a 10-point cushion midway through the second half, but squandered the lead. I haven’t even included the NC State game where Marquette lead by 11 at the intermission. Closing out games has been a devastating problem for Buzz Williams’ squad this season, and these close losses could very well cost Marquette a spot in the field come March if they’re sitting on the bubble.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 12.19.09

Posted by jstevrtc on December 19th, 2009

Welcome back!  Another weekend means another edition of everyone’s favorite college basketball live blog.  Assuming they all actually happen (there was, like, a huge snowstorm, you see), there are actually some pretty darn good games happening today (Michigan at Kansas, anyone?  Maybe a little Xavier at Butler?), and since we know you’ll be watching, and we know we’ll be watching…why not watch with us?  We’ll be commenting all day, but we want to know what your thoughts are on the games as they’re being played.  So keep checking this space and hitting that refresh button, and let’s have your comments as well.  It’ll start at noon and go all day long, so I suggest you grab some hot chocolate (or your beverage of choice), turn on your favorite game, and join us.  Keep checking back every few minutes!

12:03 pm: So here we go.  Starting off with Michigan at Kansas on ESPN as our principle (and as of right now, only noteworthy) game.  This is a good but perplexing Michigan team.  Their four losses are Marquette, Alabama, Boston College, and at Utah.  Michigan was a tournament team last year and returned those two stars in Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, which would make me think they should have at least won a couple of those.  BC is tough, but Michigan has to defend the home floor against a team like that if they want to be taken seriously.  Quite a tall order they’ve got today.  As I type this, Michigan’s last three shots have been threes, none of which went down.  Meanwhile, Kansas has been getting the ball inside every trip down.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on December 17th, 2009

checkinginon

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas (9-0)- The Jayhawks dominated Radford and La Salle at home this last week, but now the schedule gets much harder.  A Michigan team that is in need of a big win will visit Lawrence on Saturday.
  2. Texas (9-0)- The Longhorns blow out every team they play, probably because they have such an easy schedule, but also because Damion James is averaging a double-double. The matchup between the frontcourts of Texas and North Carolina may provide us with the most evenly matched game of the season, between two final four contenders.
  3. Kansas State (9-1)- Sorry Red Raiders fans, but I have to give the three-spot to the Wildcats despite TTU being the only other team in the conference outside Texas and Kansas that is undefeated. In my opinion, a road win against UNLV is better than a home win over Washington.
  4. Texas Tech (9-0)- John Roberson put the team on his back against TCU after being down five at halftime. Roberson played all 40 minutes and finished with 21 points on 7-11 from the field.
  5. Texas A&M (8-2)- Losing to New Mexico is nothing to be ashamed of; the Lobos can play with anyone in the power conferences.  The Aggies need to look at their game against Washington on December 22nd to get their name back in the national spotlight.
  6. Oklahoma State (9-1)- James Anderson is continuing his great play, and if Marshall Moses keeps averaging a double-double, Oklahoma State will be a hard team to beat in this conference.
  7. Oklahoma (7-3)- The Sooners have a good streak going, and they should have two more wins before they play on the road against Gonzaga.
  8. Baylor (8-1)- The Bears were off last week, but they’re win over Xavier looks a lot better after Xavier beat Cincinnati.
  9. Iowa State (7-3)- Beating their in-state rivals should get this team back on track.  The Cyclones have a lot of talent, they just need everyone to play well at the same time.
  10. Missouri (6-3)- Losing to Oral Roberts?  That’s a sign of a team that is in rebuilding mode.
  11. Nebraska (7-2)- A very ugly win over Oregon State, but it was a win nonetheless.
  12. Colorado (6-4)- Losing against Colorado State, a team that has been dwelling in the basement of the MWC the last few seasons, won’t get anyone in Boulder excited about basketball.

Team of the Week:  Kansas State WildcatsJacob Pullen had a huge night against UNLV (28 points, and 7-10 from behind the arc), which helped lead the Wildcats to their second big win of the week.  Denis Clemente and Pullen can lead this team to a deep run in the NCAA tournament when all other parts of the team are running smoothly.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2009

checkinginon

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference.

Three things from the past weekWisconsin loses to Wisconsin-Green Bay. The second thing is Ohio State loses without Evan Turner. The third thing is freshman Maurice Creek from Indiana and Drew Crawford from Northwestern are filling it up with more 30 points in their last games. Now three Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #4 Purdue, #12 Michigan State, and #18 Ohio State.

Standings

  1. Purdue 9-0
  2. Northwestern 7-1
  3. Illinois 8-2
  4. Michigan State 8-2
  5. Ohio State 7-2
  6. Wisconsin 7-2
  7. Minnesota 7-3
  8. Penn State 6-4
  9. Michigan 5-4
  10. Indiana 4-5
  11. Iowa 3-7

Top Storylines

  • Can Purdue win on the road against top teams? Purdue had to use the whole game to polish off Alabama down in Tuscaloosa. Granted that Alabama team is now 6-3 and beat Michigan earlier in the year, but still, Alabama is no Wisconsin in Madison. That will be Purdue’s first difficult road test, and a good one at that, as Wisconsin is practically unbeatable in the Kohl Center under Bo Ryan.
  • Was Butler a fluke or is Ohio State on the verge of dropping out of the top 25?  Butler is definitely on the way back up, but I am questioning whether OSU has enough in its tank to make up the difference. William Buford, who is averaging 12/4 on the year, stepped up for 20/7 for the Buckeyes. David Lighty, who is 12/5 on the year, went for 16/7 against the bulldogs. OSU is averaging 85.4 points per game this season, and scored just 66 against Butler. That’s about the gap of one Evan Turner.
  • Is Illinois as good as their record suggests? It’s hard to say, but after their big Clemson upset, they haven’t played anybody too great. Yes, you could argue that Vandy is tough, but you definitely can’t make the case for Western Michigan. If you play Illinois, just don’t do so at their place. They are 8-0 at Assembly Hall in Champaign. A big test will be against Northwestern on December 30th at home.

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ATB: John Wall is College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2009

atb

The Face of the 2009-10 Season#4 Kentucky 64, #12 Connecticut 61. Ladies and gentlemen, if there was any doubt whatsoever about who the face of college basketball was, is, or will be this season, consider it no more.  The buzz was already there.  There have been sketchy highlights of  Johnathan Hildred Wall  from Raleigh, NC, dressed in a Kentucky uniform and easily floating game-winners over Miami and Stanford; there have been a couple of filthy dunks and drives against North Carolina that had you out of your seat shaking your head when you saw them on SportsCenter; but there wasn’t this.  No, not thisThis being a nationally-televised game with no other competition on the tube where the too-young-to-know-how-good-he-is Mr. Wall emphatically and with reckless abandon introduced himself to the sports world beyond the hoops diehards, shouting from the top of New York’s Empire State Building to the rest of the world… “I am College Basketball.”  Dramatic?  Possibly.  Truthful?  Absolutely.

Sure - Why Not??

Sure - Why Not??

John Wall (25/2/6 stls) scored twelve of the last fifteen points of the game for his team, and as our RTC Live correspondent Ballin is a Habit put it at the game, “Garden security should kidnap Wall and throw a Nate Robinson jersey on him. Who will know?”  That’s the point.  Wall is probably nearly as good as anyone on the Knicks (or Nets) roster, and the star-studded NYC crowd was electric tonight as they knew this was but a first glimpse of WonderWall and that they would be seeing this kid play for a very long time  at the Garden.  When it came down to the last five minutes of the game tonight, the scoring went back and forth, but as you were watching the action you already knew where the ball was going when Kentucky got it.  You also knew what the result would be — several clutch jumpers followed by a strong and-one when Wall drove from the left side, absorbed contact, and still finished the play to put UK up two with a half-minute left.  After a Kemba Walker (12/8/6 assts) miss and  Ramon Harris FT for Kentucky, UConn took and missed a couple of threes to finish the game and push Calipari’s team to 9-0 and John Wall into hype overdrive.

We’re just as guilty as anyone of being awed by the guy, but the last time we saw a freshman player who was so spectacular (must-see tv) was when Kevin Durant was dominating everyone in his path at Texas.  You tuned in because you sensed that anything could happen when Durant had the ball, and people are starting to sense that about John Wall as well.  One key difference in their careers at this point – Wall has already won three games down the stretch by himself.  We’re not sure that even Durant did that before Christmas of his freshman season!  John Wall — the 2009-10 Face of College Basketball.

Upset of the NightGreen Bay 88, #23 Wisconsin 84. Students RTC’d after the Fighting Phoenix of Green Bay upset the flagship university of the state in overtime tonight (send pics or vids!) in a classic trap game for Bo Ryan’s Badgers.  Bryquis Perine (22/3/3 stls) and Randy Berry (13/12) led the way for UWGB, who, despite having ten fewer boards than Wisconsin were able to force 18 turnovers from normally surehanded Badgers to grit out the win.  For the Phoenix, this was the first win in their last fifteen games against Wisconsin, and the Badgers will now face home games against Marquette and UW-Milwaukee in the next two weeks to try to regain state supremacy.

Another UpsetOral Roberts 60, Missouri 59. We had a feeling that this would have upset written all over it, and sure enough it did (complete with a mini-RTC at the end – see below video).  Missouri fans have to be beating themselves up over this one, though, as the Tigers had a ten-point lead on the road with just over five minutes remaining and they couldn’t close out the game.  Michael Craion’s layup with 0.9 seconds remaining (first video) capped a 15-4 closing run for ORU that gave the Golden Eagles their second win over a BCS team this season (although a considerably better one than Stanford).  ORU got 21/7/4 assts from Dominique Morrison and 10/13 from Kevin Ford, and it was just enough for Scott Sutton’s program to pull off the upset tonight.  One major concern for Mizzou has to be that they only attempted three FTs tonight (making one), which signals a lack of aggressiveness on the offensive end.

And a ThirdHarvard 74, Boston College 67. Is this an upset after how well Harvard has been playing and especially after last year’s Harvard win at BC?  Well, it is still Harvard, so we’ll say yes.  Jeremy Lin continues to impress, dropping 25/3/4 assts just a few nights after ripping the Connecticut defense up for thirty, and BC is at some point going to have to realize that winning a single ACC game doesn’t mean they can take the next night off (as they did last year as well).  The Crimson shot 50% from the field, held BC to 38%, and stood toe to toe with the bigger Eagles on the boards.  Furthermore, when crunch time came around, Harvard, especially Lin, calmly walked up to the line and sealed the win, which is something winning programs tend to do.  It’s been a foregone conclusion that Cornell would once again own the Ivy League this year, but could Harvard challenge the Big Red in the Ancient Eight?

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RTC Live: Michigan @ Utah

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2009

RTCLive

Tonight RTC Live comes back to the Huntsman Center for a showdown between Michigan and Utah. Michigan is 4-3 so far in Head Coach John Beilein’s 3rd season and is still looking for a couple of good resume-building wins in the non-conference. The Wolverines’ four wins have come against some creampuffs (Average RPI: 209) and their three losses have come against some pretty good teams (Average RPI: 73).  UM is led by junior forward Manny Harris who is your prototypical stat sheet stuffer. Harris leads the Wolverines in points (21.1 PPG, which is also in the top 20 nationally), rebounds (8.7), assists (5.4), and steals (2.0).  On the other side of the coin, Utah is looking for some consistency.  The Utes have pretty good wins against Utah State (in a previous RTC Live game) and in Las Vegas against Illinois, but also lost to D-1 newbie Seattle at home and to Weber State on the road. The Utes get it done with a lot of players (six players average at least 7 PPG) but the man to watch is Carlon Brown. Brown isn’t shy when it comes to shooting (11.5 attempts a game) but hasn’t shot the ball well so far this season (37%, down from 45% last year).  Utes coach Jim Boylen used to routinely beat Michigan while working as an assistant under Tom Izzo at Michigan State, will he be able to continue the trend with Utah? 
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ATB: Big Ten Victorious on Comeback Wednesday

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2009

atb

Wisconsin: First RTC of the Season? If anyone knows of another one, let us know.  But this is the first one we’ve seen this year.  But c’mon Musberger, get it right!  RUSH.  THE.  COURT.  (Ed. note – apparently UNLV fans RTC’d on Saturday after defeating Louisville, which is about as unjustified of an RTC as we’ve ever heard of… goodness gracious, folks, it’s Vegas.  And beating an overrated Louisville team excites you?)

Story of the NightBig Ten Finally Gets Monkey Off Its Back.  It didn’t turn out the way we thought it would tonight, but it did end up as a 6-5 victory for the Big Ten schools over their ACC counterparts.  Two unexpected events conspired to make this possible — Illinois’ inspirational comeback win at Clemson after being down by as many as 23 points in the second half, and Wisconsin’s home victory over Duke in the type of game the Blue Devils always seem to win (because, well, they do — Duke was 10-0 in the ACC/B10 Challenge prior to tonight).  These two surprises combined with Ohio State’s expected win over Florida State at the end of the evening resulted in three straight victories at the end of the Challenge to put the midwesterners on top for the first time EVER.  So what does that mean?  Does it prove once and for all that the Big Ten is better than the ACC this year?  Well, not at all.  In fact, if anything, this year’s Challenge has shown us that the middle of the ACC might be a tad bit stronger than we thought it was (Wake, Miami, BC, Clemson).  Now… about our predictions for tonight.  Regression to the mean is the lesson here.  After a perfect 6-0 start over the first two evenings of play, it all crashed and burned with a 1-4 record tonight.  But yeah, at least we called it, baby!  That’s all that matters!  6-5 Big Ten over the ACC, just like we said!*

*note – our Caribbean friends disagree with this assessment.

Game of the Night #1. Wisconsin 73, #5 Duke 69. Duke took its first ever loss in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tonight for two reasons as we saw them.  First, their big men other than Kyle Singler (28/6/3 assts) were virtually nonexistent.  Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers combined for just six points and fourteen rebounds.  Compare that with 16/27 against UConn last week, and you’ll see that almost all of the scoring burden fell onto the Duke backcourt + Singler.  Second, Wisconsin’s Trevon Hughes was spectacular tonight.  The senior guard shredded the Duke defense for a career-high 26 pts, using an assortment of drives to the basket to go along with a solid outside stroke (4-7 threes).  After taking an 11-pt lead with five minutes to go, though, Duke guard Andre Dawkins nearly brought the Devils back all by himself, hitting three straight triples to cut the lead down to 2 with two minutes left.  It appeared that this was going to be one of those epic Duke comeback wins, but UW ran clock down the stretch (surprise) and when Singler missed a wild layup attempt off the bottom of the backboard with under thirty seconds left, it was clear the Badgers were going to take the win tonight.  One odd situation occurred in the very last few plays, when color commentator Bob Knight seemed to lose his mind for a moment as he stated that Wisconsin was “for sure” at worst going to overtime after only going up two with 4.9 seconds left (he clearly thought they were up three), and then contemplated whether Trevon Hughes should intentionally miss his second FT (again, thinking up three).  What’s that phrase coaches like to use?  Time and score? Can you imagine if one of Knight’s players had made a similar mistake at such a key juncture?  Maybe now we know why Texas Tech wasn’t nearly as good as Knight’s Indiana teams — he wasn’t paying attention!

Game of the Night #2Illinois 76, #19 Clemson 74. What can you say about Bruce Weber’s young backcourt of Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson tonight other than we’re extremely impressed.  There is absolutely no way that Clemson should have lost this game.  The Tigers ran out to a 20-pt halftime lead, pushed it up to 23 early in the second half, and had Littlejohn rocking.  But Weber’s kids dug deep, showed the kind of composure that belies their age, and dropped a combined five threes in the next ten minutes of a 35-10 run that got the Illini back into the game and ultimately allowed them an opportunity to steal this one away from Clemson and the ACC.  The Clemson players suggested that they relaxed after getting such a big lead, and from our viewpoint, there’s probably something to that.  It certainly appeared that Illinois was the team with the drive and moxie throughout most of the second half, and when it came down to Demontez Stitt’s driving layup attempt at the buzzer, we just had a feeling that it wasn’t going down.  It didn’t, and Illinois has a rallying cry for the rest of this season no matter how badly they’re playing.  Mike Davis had 22/9 for the Illini, but as mentioned above, it was the youthful backcourt of Paul and Richardson (34/8/5 assts) that made tonight happen.

Game of the Night #3.  #21 UNLV 74, Arizona 72 (2OT).  The Runnin’ Rebels justified their shiny new Top 25 ranking by taking to the road for the first time this season, heading down to Arizona, and knocking off the Wildcats in double-overtime.  Despite poor overall shooting from both teams (UNLV 39.7%, UA 36.5%; both teams less than 20% from three!) this one was neck-and-neck from the tip, as neither team ever led by more than six points the whole way.  Arizona got up three in the second OT but UNLV’s Derrick Jasper (12/7/5/3 stls) hit one from deep to tie it at 70, and the Wildcats never led after that.  Tre’Von Willis continued to carve his name out on the national scene with 25/4 for the Rebs, and Arizona got a huge game from freshman forward Derrick Williams with 28/5 on 10-15 shooting.  This kind of win in such a difficult and hostile setting can only help Lon Kruger’s club, which has a few easy ones coming up except for a home game against Kansas State thrown in there on 12/12.  If they can get by those Wildcats, there’s a very good chance UNLV will be 12-0 going into a pair of tough road games in early January at BYU and at (currently undefeated) New Mexico. 

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Checking In On… the Missouri Valley

Posted by jstevrtc on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

Current Records and My Standings:

  1. Missouri State  (5-0)
  2. Wichita State  (5-1)
  3. Bradley  (4-2)
  4. Illinois State  (6-0)
  5. Indiana State  (5-2)
  6. Southern Illinois  (3-1)
  7. Northern Iowa  (4-1)
  8. Evansville  (2-2)
  9. Drake  (2-4)
  10. Creighton  (2-4)

STORIES OF THE WEEK

Creighton lays an egg.  Creighton had Michigan on the ropes in their opening game of the Old Spice Classic with a five point lead in the closing minutes but let Michigan back.  It took a full court drive by Creighton’s Antoine Young to send the game to overtime, but the Bluejays could not stop Manny Harris from taking over the OT period and sending Creighton to a loss. They then looked like they were stuck in quicksand against Xavier in the losers’ bracket and then finished things off with a loss against a young Iona squad. Many thought Creighton had a chance to really make some noise in this tournament and even an opportunity to win it all, but they had the worst possible scenario happen to them, going 0-3 in the tournament and creating only negative buzz for themselves on the national stage.

Missouri St. On Fire.  Missouri St. took out an undefeated Tulsa team to up their record to 5-0.  They already have two nice wins on the season with their first road contest coming up this week.

Performance in tourney play.   The Valley had varying degrees of success in the holiday tourneys held last week. Wichita St. lost to Pittsburgh, but then came back to defeat Iowa in the CBE Classic.  Bradley kept Oklahoma St. close before losing to them, but turned around to defeat Illinois.  Creighton, as mentioned earlier, went 0-3 in the Old Spice Classic.  The conference is now 36-17 in the non-conference season.

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ATB: Gator Chomp & Upset Friday Night

Posted by rtmsf on November 28th, 2009

atb

Gators Chomp Spartans. Florida 77, #2 Michigan State 74.  We’re still trying to figure out why this was a semifinal game at the Legends Classic instead of the title tilt tomorrow night, but we’re sure there was a method to the madness somewhere in that decision.  So given that the game was only available on something called HDNet, we’re trying to figure out how this happened.  First thought — had to be hot shooting by the Gators, right?  Errr, nope.  Florida shot 41% from the field compared to MSU’s 53% for the game.  Ok, a bunch of threes then?  Nope again.  UF hit more than the Spartans, but a margin of five to two from deep isn’t exactly dominant.  Second chance points?  Wrong again.  MSU dominated the boards to the tune of +15 overall and +5 on the offensive end of the court.  No, the only two areas of the game where Florida outperformed the second-ranked Spartans were on turnovers (forcing 22 vs. their own 12) and getting to the foul line (25 attempts vs. MSU’s 14).  Well, that, and Erving Walker’s three (his only one on a 12/7/3 stls night) from NBA range to put the Gators up 72-71, providing just enough cushion down the stretch with some additional FTs to hold off the Spartans’ last-ditch efforts by Durrell Summers to tie the game and send it into OT.   We’re not about to say that the Gators are anywhere near back to where they are nationally relevant again, but this is their biggest win since 2007, and we will give some props to John Stevens for having ranked Florida in the three RTC Top 25 polls so far this season — maybe he knows something that the rest of us don’t?  Florida will advance to play Rutgers in the championship game of the Legends Classic tomorrow night, while Michigan State gets UMass in the consolation game.

kenny boynton fla

WCC Continues to Impress.  The WCC continues to flex its mid-major deltoids this season.  With wins over Wisconsin, Minnesota, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Oklahoma and now Houston, the top half of this league is not messing around.  And why should it – there’s some good basketball being played in this league, and if the bottom-feeders like LMU and USF can manage just halfway-decent records in the OOC, the league could be looking at three solid NCAA bids again this year (as in 2008).

  • Portland 61, #16 Minnesota 56.  If you haven’t caught the Portland Pilots on tv yet this season, make a point of watching these guys on Sunday night in the 76 Classic title game against West Virginia — they’re really entertaining in a plucky Gonzaga-ten-years-ago sort of way.  Their mixed defenses left the Minnesota big players who had such nice games last night — Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson, III — confused and relatively unproductive tonight.  TJ Campbell was superb for Portland, carving out 23/5 to supplement the work that Nik Raivio (9/11) and Robin Smeulders (13/6) were putting in.  Minnesota shot only 33% from the field and a terrible 16% from deep, and got killed on the boards, but they managed to turn UP over just enough to stay in the game throughout.
  • San Diego 72, Houston 65. USD moves on to the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout, where they will face Washington State, arguably the weakest opponent they will have faced while in the frozen northern environs of Palin-land this weekend.  Clinton Houston (irony?) led San Diego with 21 pts, while Brandon Johnson stepped up to drop 13 of his 15 in the second half to ensure the win.

Other Upsets Tonight.  We were all set to destroy the SEC for another terrible night before we saw the Florida-MSU score, which saves considerable face for the league.  But we’re definitely watching you, SEC.  The Big Ten didn’t have a great night either, but at least they lost at neutral sites to teams that are better than their ranking.

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ATB: A Strange Sense of Distant Familiarity Fell Over UCLA…

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2009

atb

Word of the Day.  Exposure.  What we’re starting to see throughout this week of holiday hoops as good teams play other good teams is which teams are better than we all thought and which teams aren’t.  Like last night with Kentucky, some teams such as UCLA and Oklahoma are being exposed as works-in-progress with a lot of problems who are a long, long way from making any noise in March.  Others, such as Minnesota and Marquette, might be better than anyone thought they were and could be extremely underrated at this point in the season.  This is what’s great about this time of the year and all of these tournaments — it provides some clarity for how good these teams actually are — much moreso than the standard garbage game against Northeastern State U.

UCLA Gets Waxed in the 76 ClassicPortland 74, UCLA 47. Ben Howland took the worst loss of his UCLA era, as the Portland Pilots shot a blistering 57.9% from three-point land to defeat his Bruins in front of a large fanbase from nearby Westwood.  In a weird irony from the basketball weauxfgods, Steve Lavin, the last coach to get obliterated like this on the UCLA sideline, was there calling the game for ESPN.  Portland’s lead was as great as 31 (!!!) in the second half, and UCLA had trouble against a zone defense for the second time they’ve faced one this season. Pilot guards T.J. Campbell and Jared Stohl (yeah, it really does always go in) led the Pilots with 15 points each, as the former hit three treys and the latter was a perfect 5-5 from downtown — the whole team ripped UCLA for 54% while the Bruins could only muster 33% from the field themselves. Meanwhile, UCLA is searching for leadership that has yet to show itself (Michael Roll?  James Keefe?) and has another tough matchup against Butler on Friday. Portland is beginning to turn some heads and has a chance to make real noise in this tournament if they can  beat #16 Minnesota tomorrow.  As for UCLA, the best way to sum it up may be like this

Portland UCLA Basketball

  • #16 Minnesota 82, #10 Butler 73. Tubby Smith’s team looked the better squad from start to finish of this one.  Minnesota appeared much stronger, more athletic and quicker to the ball as the Gophers repeatedly got production from its deep bench (even with three players currently suspended).  The Minnesota bench contributed 46 pts (to 8 for Butler), but we were struck by how UM’s inside players such as Colton Iverson were getting to the rebounds and physically knocking Butler stars Matt Howard (who fouled out) and Gordon Hayward around.  The Gophers’ defense was in Butler’s face on everything, holding the Bulldogs to a tepid 33% from the field and (ouch) only 5-23 from deep.  While the big three of Hayward, Howard and Shelvin Mack combined for 56 pts, they were hard-earned, and the Minnesota defense was busy locking everyone else on the team up.  If Tubby gets his suspended players back in the lineup, his team could be one of the deepest in the Big Ten this year.
  • #8 West Virginia 85, Long Beach State 62.  LBSU looked completely outmatched today against WVU’s suffocating man-to-man defense and they were never really in the game.  The big story of course was that star forward Devin Ebanks dressed out but did not play, as his ‘personal issues’ seem to still be bothering him (snicker).  The Mountaineers hit twelve threes in a scintillating shooting peformance, led by Casey Mitchell, who went for 18 pts in only fifteen minutes of action.  In a nice sidenote, Jerry West’s son, walk-on Johnnie, also had a career-high eleven points to get in on the action.  Bottom line: WVU has the pieces, but Texas A&M will be a good test tomorrow.
  • Texas A&M 69, #19 Clemson 60. TAMU got into Clemson’s shorts defensively early in this game, and ultimately held the Tigers to 34% for the game and 3-18 from deep in a mild upset for the Aggies.  BJ Holmes and David Loubeau came off the bench to combine for 32 pts and 14 rebounds for Mark Turgeon, but the story of this game was their defense as only Trevor Booker (18/6) and Tanner Smith (14/5/3 assts) were able to get going.  Clemson will get well in a hurry with LBSU tomorrow, but A&M will need that defense against the top ten Mountaineers.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2009

checkinginon

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

  1. Michigan State (AP #2) 4-0
  2. Illinois (AP #20) 3-0
  3. Minnesota (AP #22) 3-0
  4. Purdue (AP #6) 3-0
  5. Michigan (AP #15) 2-0
  6. Wisconsin 2-0
  7. Ohio State (AP #17) 3-1
  8. Northwestern 2-1
  9. Penn State 3-2
  10. Indiana 2-3
  11. Iowa 1-2

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It is no coincidence that Michigan State, the team at the top of the AP poll from the Big Ten at #2, also has the most successful coach in school history in Tom Izzo. Michigan State, except for its close call against Gonzaga, has been bringing teams up to East Lansing and disposing of them. Kalin Lucas has been leading the Spartans into battle by putting points on the board and stuffing the stat sheet from his guard position. Purdue, not to be outdone at #6, squeaked out a nail biter against #11 Tennessee to win the Paradise Jam Tournament. E’Twaun Moore, leading Purdue with 16 PPG on the year, was named Tournament MVP. Michigan at #15 has played two teams that most people haven’t heard of in Northern Michigan and Houston Baptist. The good news is that they won both, and the dynamic duo of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims combined for 47 of their 77 points against Houston Baptist. It doesn’t look like they should be challenged in the upcoming Old Spice Classic this weekend either. Ohio State at #17 in the AP is the only other team in the Big Ten to have really played anyone so far. They went toe to toe with UNC and lost, even though they shot terribly from the field. Evan Turner is tops in the Big Ten, having garnered player of the week status the past two weeks while stuffing his stat sheet at 21.8 PPG, 14.8 RPG, and 6 APG. His stats are so ridiculous that he has gone off for a double double in every game, and even pulled off a triple double against Alcorn State. Illinois so far hasn’t played anyone of note, although they might get their first test at the Las Vegas Invitational in the next week. Minnesota has steamrolled through an easy schedule thus far, cruising to a 3-0 record, but they will have to contend with Butler and potentially UCLA in the very near future. Minnesota has actually made more news off the court than on, as three players are currently suspended pending team rules violations or pending investigations, things that Tubby Smith would rather avoid if he could. Northwestern has its only loss against a strong Butler squad and will have another upcoming battle against Notre Dame. Penn State, not thought to have any serious chance of competing this year, might surprise a few teams, although their three wins are really due to soft scheduling. They did beat Davidson in a nail biter, but that might be a better indicator of how poor Davidson will be this year than anything PSU is doing. Indiana, on year 2 of their recovery, is showing their youth by dropping all three games in Puerto Rico to teams that weren’t that great. Iowa, not getting let off the hook at all, had to contend with #3 Texas in the semifinals of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic. They had enough to stay with Texas for one half, but the game ultimately ended with Texas winning in a 25-point rout.

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After the Buzzer: Man Oh Manny!

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2009

atb

Another intriguing “opening” day of college hoops, as mostly everybody who didn’t play yesterday played today.

Story of the Day. Manny Harris Records Michigan’s Second Ever Triple Double. These triple-double things are spreading among Big Ten players, as Michigan guard Manny Harris today dropped 18/13/10 assts in 29 minutes in a 97-50 shellacking of D2 Northern Michigan. Does it matter that Harris had his historic night (Gary Grant in 1987 was UM’s only other) against a non-D1 school? Not to us — Harris is a tremendous player and a dime is a dime. Passing the ball should always be rewarded, and Harris did his best today to make his teammates happy. DeShawn Sims could only muster a dub-dub (22/10), but his biggest crime was one of omission, as in, zero assists — share the wealth a little bit, DeShawn!  Harris’ achievement joins fellow Big Ten-er Evan Turner as the second player with a trip-dub in the last week, as the Ohio State star recorded his first on Monday. These Big Ten guys can play a little bit, which is once again why we expect the league to do some great things this year. Other than Turner and Harris, who’s next? Talor Battle? Robbie Hummel? Kalin Lucas?

photo credit: AP/Mike Ding

photo credit: AP/Mike Ding

Upset of the DayCornell 71, Alabama 67. Another day, another SEC team embarrasses itself at home.  Did anyone in Alabama care?  Probably not.  Don’t get us wrong here – Cornell is a fantastic Ivy League team with all five starters returning and gobs of game experience under their collective belt.  And Alabama is dealing with a new coach, a new system and a fanbase that is on its best day mildly interested in basketball, to put it nicely.  But an SEC team with two top 25-type players in its lineup should never lose this game at home (sorry, Goodman, but we disagree with you here).  This is not to take anything at all away from Cornell, who completely deserved the win today and will assuredly push everyone on its schedule this year, BCS team or not.  The Big Red shot 10-18 from three, and when Bama made a run to cut a 15-pt second half lead to two, Ryan Wittman (23/3), Louis Dale (13/4/5 assts) and Jeff Foote (17/7/3 blks) held steady down the stretch.  When Anthony Grant gets this thing going later this year, and we honestly believe he will, this win alone will probably be worth an additional seed line for Cornell.  Its first win over an SEC school since 1973 (!!) is quite simply a huge boon for this program, and the forty-plus excited comments on Cornell Sports Blog seems to confirm it.  Congrats, fellas.

RTC Live. We were privileged to provide online coverage for four of the top mid-major programs in America today.  Here are a couple of recaps.

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