What’s Wrong With Gonzaga?

Posted by rtmsf on February 7th, 2011

Michael Vernetti is an RTC contributor.

“What’s wrong with Gonzaga?” is a question heard more and more throughout college hoops. It is not surprising considering the Zags’ unusual 15-9 overall record and shocking 5-3 mark (4th place) in the West Coast Conference that it has dominated for the past decade.  When any powerhouse team goes into a slump there are myriad reasons, and the same could be said about Gonzaga. Focusing on two major ones, however, helps put the Zags’ current woes into perspective. Simply put, the Zags are suffering from the loss of two players and a vacuum created by those who failed to succeed them.

The Loss of Bouldin (and Pargo) Have Really Hurt the Zag Dynasty

The missing players are Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin. Pargo was the rugged, 6’2, 219-pound point guard who starred in the Zags’ backcourt for four years before graduating in 2009. He was named Player of the Year in the WCC after his junior year, and gave the Bulldogs a solid counterpart to the canny Bouldin. He could take defenders off the dribble, hit jump shots off screens and go to the hoop to flush the ball with authority.  Gonzaga did not directly replace Pargo for the 2009-10 season, instead moving Bouldin into the point guard position and relaying on the mop-head’s court vision and outside shooting skills to maintain the Zags’ superiority in his senior year. The Bouldin-led Zags hit their first speed bump in the post-Pargo era in the 2010 West Coast Conference Tournament championship game against Saint Mary’s. The Gaels’ inside-out combination of Omar Samhan and Ben Allen in the frontcourt and Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova in the backcourt led the Gaels to an 81-62 upset.

Heading into the 2010-11 season, the Zags thought they had finally found a point guard to replace Pargo and Bouldin with JC transfer Marquise Carter, who was a star for Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Carter had impressive stats in two years at Three Rivers – nearly 18 PPG and 5.5 APG in his sophomore year – and led the team to the national JC championship game where he scored 35 points in a loss to Howard of Texas.  Carter, however, who seems much slighter than his roster size of 6’4, 178 pounds (maybe the 178 is correct), has not caught on with the Zags. The Bulldogs started the season with journeyman backcourt player Meech Goodson at the point alongside all-around star Steven Gray, and based their hopes on their strong frontcourt duo of Robert Sacre in the post and Elias Harris at power forward. Redshirt sophomore guard David Stockton, son of the legendary Gonzaga and NBA star John Stockton, has steadily rung up more minutes at the point as this season goes on, and may end up as the Zags’ regular lead guard by season’s end. Or not, as coach Mark Few has tinkered with his lineup from day one and may not be finished trying to find a solution.

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.22.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

West Region Notes (Andrew Murawa)

  • Lower-seeded teams like Cornell, Washington, Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s advancing to the Sweet 16 surprised college basketball fans all over, but Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was not among them, saying that “there’s not a big gap” between teams in the tournament. Of course, he said that after winning by an average of 22.5 points in the first two games, but college basketball coaches never stretch the truth, right?
  • When junior forward Wesley Johnson visited Boeheim at the Syracuse campus to inquire about transferring, the hall-of-fame coach initially turned him down. Luckily for the Orange, he changed his mind.
  • With the big dog in the state back at home watching, the Kansas State Wildcats will be carrying the Sunflower State banner. The Wildcats beat up on their Sweet 16 opponent, Xavier, pretty good in early December in the Little Apple, but Fran Fraschilla says the Musketeers are a different team these days.
  • Pitt and head coach Jamie Dixon are in the unfamiliar position of having to watch the Regional Semifinal round, but the Panthers will be strong contenders heading into the 2010-11 season, when they are expected to return all of their key contributors except graduating senior guard Jermaine Dixon.
  • Gonzaga fans on the other hand will likely have to sweat out some key personnel decisions in the offseason, including the possibility that head coach Mark Few could leave and return to his alma mater, Oregon, to take over the program from recently fired Ernie Kent. With a sparkling new arena in Eugene and all the money that Nike can throw at him, this is undoubtedly the biggest run that another school has made at the popular and successful coach who has reportedly declined numerous other offers from big-name schools in the past. But, while point guard Matt Bouldin having played his last game in a Zag uniform and freshman forward Elias Harris a promising NBA prospect, some big changes could be coming to the recent prototype for mid-major success (no matter how much they despise the term).

Midwest Region Notes (Tom Hager)

  • If there was any question that Northern Iowa might suffer from a hangover after the upset over Kansas, the team did not even wait for Saturday night to end before already getting focused for the next round of games.
  • In addition to his ability to hit clutch shots, Ali Farokhmanesh has also been improving on the defensive end.  Although Kwadzo Ahelegbe usually covers the best guard each game, Farokhmanesh held Sherron Collins to 0-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
  • Joe Rexrode reminded fans today that although Michigan State will miss Kalin Lucas in their next game against UNI, it won’t be the first time the Spartans played shorthanded this year.  In addition to the injury Lucas suffered against Wisconsin, he was also suspended earlier in the season for disappointing Tom Izzo as the team’s leader.  Chris Allen was also suspended earlier this season, and Durrell Summers was benched for a walk-on.
  • As good as Evan Turner has been lately, the Bleacher Report’s Drew Gatewood points out that he turned the ball over nine times against Georgia Tech and had eight turnovers against UC-Santa Barbara.  With the Vols ranking #7 in defensive efficiency, Turner’s assignment may become even more difficult.
  • Although Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press may be getting ahead of himself, he says Tennessee is very close to the first Final Four in UT history.  According to Wiedmer, UNI has overachieved and Michigan State is banged up, so the OSU matchup could be the deciding game in who will advance to the national semifinals.

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Evening

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Friday evening games.

7:10 pm – #8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida State  (Buffalo pod)

This is a very tough game to call, so let’s start with what we know about it.  The Zags, no stranger to cross-country travel, come into Buffalo after an 11-day layoff where St. Mary’s took Mark Few’s team behind the woodshed and beat them handily in the WCC Tournament championship.  Florida State comes in having dropped its quarterfinal game against NC State in an effort that had their fans shaking their heads in disgust.  So needless to say, both teams are looking for a fresh start here.  The Zags are always dangerous, and this year’s squad led by Matt Bouldin and Elias Harris has the offensive firepower to score with just about anyone in America.  Merely an ok three-point shooting team, they tend to rely on the drives of Harris and mid-range game of Bouldin to create offense.  However, they don’t tend to respond well to teams that crowd and push them around, but unfortunately, FSU is just such a team.  The Seminoles enjoy the nation’s top defensive efficiency, and while they have the opposite problem of finding points, they should have no problem putting the clamps down on the Zag scoring options.  The question here comes down to whether the FSU defense, anchored by 7’1 Solomon Alabi and 6’9 Chris Singleton’s combined four blocks per game, is better than the Gonzaga offense, and we think that it is.  And as up/down as the Seminoles were in the ACC, they never came close to losing to the likes of Loyola Marymount and San Francisco, as Gonzaga did this year.

The Skinny:  The Zags this year aren’t quite as good as they usually are, and they’re facing a team that will shut down their biggest strength.  FSU wins this one by eight points to get a date with Syracuse.

7:15 pm – #7 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

Here’s another one that’s got people confused.  For good reason, too.  All year long we’ve been waiting on Georgia Tech to do something with all that talent, and now they’re playing better basketball, just in time.  Oklahoma State’s showing against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament will cost them some support, but we’re going to excuse that performance.  That was a tired basketball team, playing their third game in a six day span with K-State at the end of it — and the Wildcats were coming off of a five-day rest.  Georgia Tech is going to go inside to Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal like crazy, but when the Yellow Jackets actually shoot the three, they shoot it well.  Defending the three is a glaring OSU weakness, so it will be interesting to see how often Georgia Tech eschews their big men in favor of launching it from the arc, because those shots will be there.  So…good outside shooting, great inside players…sounds pretty good for Tech, right?  The question will be whether or not they can get to that point in their offense.  Georgia Tech ranks in the bottom twenty of Division I teams in terms of turning the ball over.  Can the Jackets, then, find a way to keep James Anderson from shredding them or Keiton Page from raining threes?

The Skinny: Oklahoma State won’t have to exert too much energy guarding the three, since Tech’s propensity to turn the ball over will take care of some of that.  The Cowboys have been getting more and more help from their role players, and we feel 9-7 in the Big 12 is better than 7-9 in the ACC this year.  It’ll be a great first round game, but we like Oklahoma State in a close one.

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.16.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Each day this week during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

South Region Notes (Patrick Sellars)

  • The first “upset” of the tournament occurred in the South Region when SWAC champion Arkansas Pine-Bluff took down the Big South tournament champion Winthrop, 61-44. The Golden Lions earned the right to play top seeded Duke on Friday night.
  • When #9 Louisville takes on #8 California on Friday night, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino says he’ll be ready for the Bears’ “organized chaos.”  There is also an interesting quote in the article from Cardinals’ guard Edgar Sosa that says he has heard Cal referred to as “poor man’s Marquette”.
  • Utah State’s leading scorer, junior guard Tai Wesley, broke his nose in the WAC tournament final on Saturday when the Aggies got pounded by New Mexico State.  He will play in the Aggies’ upcoming game versus Texas A&M, but you have to wonder what kind of effect it will have on USU’s star. On TAMU’s side, they will have Dash Harris back in the lineup after he missed the Big 12 Tournament with a bone bruise in his right wrist. Head coach Mark Turgeon said that if his team wants any chance to win this weekend, they will need Harris healthy.
  • Fran McCaffery is not letting his Siena team think they can beat Purdue by just showing up in Spokane on Friday. He says Purdue is by far the best team Siena will face all season even without Robbie Hummel. You’d have to think a Butler Bulldogs fan would think otherwise.
  • Here is an interesting article from The Times-Picayune which highlights the #3 Baylor vs. #14 Sam Houston State game. Not only are the two teams from Texas, but they have two New Orleans natives returning to their home town for the first round. Star senior guards Tweety Carter (Baylor) and Ashton Mitchell (Sam Houston State) both played their high school ball in The Big Easy.
  • Villanova head coach Jay Wright told the Philadelphia Inquirer about his team’s lackluster play in first round games the past two seasons. Wright said “we’ve survived first-round games, but we really haven’t played well in first-round games.”

East Region Notes (Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog)

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RTC Bracket Prep: West Region

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2010

This is the third of our four quick-and-dirty region breakdowns. This will serve to help the quick triggers who like to fill out their brackets first thing on Monday morning. For the rest of you, we’ll be providing more detailed game-by-game analysis throughout the rest of the week.

Energy Solutions Arena Hosts the West Regional

Region: West

Favorite: Syracuse, #1 seed, 29-4.  Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange is the favorite in this region by a good margin.  His team has lost their last two games and there are whispers that center Arinze Onuaku may not be available for the first two rounds, but SU is talented enough to survive the first weekend without him (as a comparison, UNC didn’t have Ty Lawson at full strength for the first weekend last year).  K-State is realistically the only team in this region capable of standing toe-to-toe with Syracuse in terms of relative talent, but they play too loosey-goosey to actually beat the Orange.

Should They Falter: Kansas State, #2 seed, 26-7.  Should Syracuse get upset, K-State is in position to take advantage.  With a dynamite backcourt of Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen capable of going off in bunches, the Wildcats could make a run to their first Final Four since the mid-60s.  The quality of talent in this region just isn’t very deep, so outside of Syracuse or K-State, who else could realistically win the requisite four games?

Grossly Overseeded: Vanderbilt, #4 seed, 24-8.  A team that lost to Western Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi State, none of whom are Tourney teams, should not have gotten a protected seed with only a couple of marquee wins this year.

Grossly Underseeded:UTEP, #12 seed, 26-6.  The Miners really didn’t start rolling until they integrated Derrick Caracter into the lineup, but they’ve been fantastic since then.  At worst, this team should have been in the #8-#10 range.  Instead, they’ll get an opportunity to prove themselves against the annual public darling #5 Butler, where Vegas has UTEP as only a 2.5-point underdog.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower): UTEP.  For the same reasons as above, once UTEP beats Butler, they will also be able to get past #4 Vanderbilt who is probably overseeded, or #13 Murray State, a team they’re simply better than.

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower): BYU, #7 seed, 29-5.  This is an easy one.  Everyone knows that BYU is murder to play at home, and if the Cougars can get past their first two opponents (Florida and K-State), then they will have as partisan a home crowd as possible in Salt Lake City to play two eastern teams,  either Pitt or Xavier and Syracuse.  The problem for BYU will be getting there.  They’ve had NCAA first round problems for the better part of two decades, and even though they’re much better than their initial opponent Florida, they’ll need to play really well to beat Kansas State.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.08.10

Posted by THager on March 8th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

CAA Championship: Old Dominion vs. William & Mary – 7:00 pm on ESPN (****)

This neutral site game will feature two of the better mid-major teams in the country, but neither team is likely to make the Tournament without a win here.  William & Mary was at one time the top ranked team in the RPI in the country, with early wins over Maryland, Wake Forest, and Richmond.   Old Dominion is no slouch either, with OOC wins over Marshall, Georgetown, and Charlotte.  The Monarchs feature a solid defense at #18 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.  Their offense ranks only #83, though, and they are one of the only teams in the country that has just one scorer in the 10-15 PPG range.  However, that offensive weapon, Gerald Lee, is coming off a 26-point performance against VCU in which he went 10-13 from the field.  The Tribe, on the other hand, struggles at #187 on defense, but they make up for it with an offense that features three players who average in double figures.  Their leading scorer, David Schneider, had only three points in his last game, and has shot only 7-29 in their two games against the Monarchs, but he’s shown an ability to step up in the clutch even when he’s not shooting well in general.  If he doesn’t get back on track tonight, though, it could spell trouble for the Tribe as they seek their first NCAA Tournament bid in history.

MAAC Championship: Fairfield vs. Siena – 7:00 pm on ESPN2 (***)

Siena has put together a great season, but they may be on the outside looking in if they lose in the MAAC Championship tonight.  They were 17-1 in the MAAC, and they are ranked #28 in the RPI, but the general consensus is that they need a win against Fairfield if they want to make the NCAAs for the third straight season.  They have good losses against Temple, Georgia Tech, Northern Iowa and Butler, but they have failed to win any big OOC games the entire year.  The Saints swept the season series between the two teams, but Fairfield was one of the only teams in the conference to play them close, and the Stags did so both times.  On January 16, they trailed Siena by just one point at halftime, thanks to 50% shooting from beyond the arc.  In their February 8 matchup, the Stags lost by just two points, and they outscored the Saints 39-33 in the second half.  One of the most interesting elements of both teams is their lack of depth, as Siena played only three reserves in the first game, none of whom scored over three points, and Fairfield had only one bench player who scored.  In the rematch, Fairfield’s bench scored six points, and Siena’s reserves scored two points.  The Stags don’t rank in the top 100 in either offensive or defensive efficiency, but if they can shoot over 61% from inside the arc like they did in their rematch, they may steal a bid from a great Siena team.

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WCC Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2010

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Final Standings (through games of 2/27/10)

  1. Gonzaga                      12-2 (24-5)
  2. Saint Mary’s                11-3 (24-5)
  3. Portland                      9-4 (18-9)
  4. San Francisco              7-7 (12-17)
  5. Loyola Marymount     7-7 (16-14)
  6. Santa Clara                  3-11 (11-20)
  7. San Diego                   3-11 (10-20)
  8. Pepperdine                  3-11 (7-23)

Eyes on the Prize

Although one could reasonably forecast a WCC tournament championship game featuring no. 1 seed Gonzaga battling no. 2 seed Saint Mary’s for the automatic NCAA bid, a lot of interesting basketball will be played before that final matchup on Monday night, March 8 (ESPN, 6 p.m. Pacific) in Las Vegas. The last week of conference play settled the torrid battle for fourth place between San Francisco and Loyola Marymount (San Francisco got the nod and a first-round tournament bye because of a better conference record than LMU, including beating the Lions twice), and also set the stage for the most intriguing tournament contest. Before discussing that, however, here’s a look at the overall tournament schedule:

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Morning Five: 03.02.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

  1. According to a well-connected Kentucky columnist, Sunday will be junior Patrick Patterson’s Senior Day.  We know that John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins will not be in a UK uniform next year either, so why not end the charade and celebrate their final games at Rupp as well?
  2. The Mountain West reprimanded New Mexico coach Steve Alford for his embarrassing outburst against BYU guard Jonathan Tavernari on Saturday night after their game.  We mentioned it last night, but Alford’s later admission that he was just trying to congratulate Tavernari on his career rings a little hollow given the heated circumstances of the game, the jawing between Tavernari and Darington Hobson in the final minute, and the subsequent result with Alford caught on tape.  Next time just tell us the truth, Coach.
  3. We really don’t understand nor can we agree with the decision by Binghamton brass to punish itself by removing its team from the America East Tournament a mere three days prior to the opening round.  It was bad enough when USC officials threw their promising team under the bus midway through the 09-10 season, but the players who remained at Binghamton along with interim coach Mark Macon made the best of a horrible situation this year and actually far exceeded expectations.  The Bearcats finished 8-8 in the conference and were scheduled to be the #5 seed in the tournament.  In a year without a truly dominant Am East team, imagine the story if Binghamton had been able to claw its way to the NCAA Tournament again this year!  It doesn’t make a whit of sense to us to punish the remaining players for prior transgressions, but the school has consistently made poor decisions in this arena for some time now, so it shouldn’t surprise us.
  4. Some awards:  In the WCC, Gonzaga’s Mark Few and Matt Bouldin are the 2009-10 COY and POY, respectively, while in the Big South, Coastal Carolina’s Cliff Ellis and Radford’s Artsiom Parakhouski were likewise.
  5. Seth Davis is back this week with one the absolute best features around this time of year… analysis from coaches off the record about the top teams in each conference.  This week his Deep Throats discuss the Big 12, Pac-10, Mountain West and Atlantic 10.  It’s good to know that we were right about Texas all along (“guys not knowing their roles and not knowing their identity offensively”).
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Set Your Tivo: 02.25.10

Posted by THager on February 25th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Tulsa @ #5 Duke- 7:00 pm on ESPN2 (**)

Singler is Key Cog in the Devil Attack

Tulsa had a great chance of chance of making the NCAA Tournament a few weeks ago, but four losses in their last five games have virtually eliminated any at-large chances for the Golden Hurricane.  Duke, on the other hand, has won six straight games to put itself in contention for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  It is rare to see an out of conference matchup at this time of year, but it will give the Blue Devils one last chance this season to extend their home winning streak against non-conference opponents.  They have won 76 straight games outside of the ACC at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and given Tulsa’s recent performances, it would appear the #77 won’t be that difficult.  The Blue Devils are the top ranked team in Ken Pomeroy’s overall rankings, while the Golden Hurricane don’t rank in the top seventy in either offensive or defensive efficiency.  Despite their recent performances, the one thing Tulsa has going for them is that their two best players, Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan, have continued to play well, scoring over their season averages for much of the last two weeks.  There is no non-conference opponent that has even challenged the Blue Devils on the road, but the key for their success will be to shut down Duke’s big three players.  Virginia Tech recently shut down everybody else on their team, but Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler scored 63 of Duke’s 67 points in a win.  Tulsa, if they have any chance of coming out with a win tonight, will have to minimize the production from those three stars.

Santa Clara @ Gonzaga – 11:00 on ESPN2 (**)

Gonzaga has had a tendency this year to disappoint their fans as soon as they start to believe that this is a legitimate contender.  They lost to San Francisco when they made just 5-18 three-point field goals, and Matt Bouldin was just 3-12 against Loyola Marymount in an eight-point loss a week ago.  With a win tonight, the Bulldogs will achieve something that has rarely been done in the history of college basketball – win a tenth straight conference title.  The last time these teams met in January, Santa Clara had a golden opportunity to win, with a 13-point lead nearly midway through the second half.  However, the Zags held Santa Clara scoreless the last 5:57 of the game en route to the close win.  Gonzaga has gone just 5-2 in the WCC since that game, but they have dominated opponents at home in that stretch, beating three teams (including Portland and St. Mary’s) by a total of 63 points.  Elias Harris has tailed off a little since his fast start in conference play, and Bouldin cannot repeat his recent performance if the Bulldogs are going to win any game much less make a run in the tournament.  Despite their solid play against Gonzaga in their last game, Santa Clara is just 11-18 on the year, so look for the Zags to try and make another late season run to save their protected tournament seed in the Spokane pod.

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ATB: Syracuse Survives but Gonzaga Doesn’t

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2010

Orange Sweep. #5 Syracuse 75, #10 Georgetown 71.  Syracuse looked like a Final Four contender for the first 28 minutes last night. Their zone was impenetrable, their offense efficient and unselfish. Behind big first halves from Andy Rautins and Wes Johnson, the Cuse was able to build a 44-31 halftime lead, a lead they pushed to 23 points midway through the second half. But the Hoyas weren’t about to go away. As the Orange got complacent, the Hoyas started forcing turnovers and getting to the rim. Greg Monroe really began to assert himself in the paint, almost singlehandedly fouling out both Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku. All told, the Hoyas put a 33-11 run on Syracuse, cutting that 23-point lead all the way down to 71-70 with possession of the ball.  But on the one and only possession that Georgetown had with a chance to take the lead, the Hoyas settled for a deep, albeit open, three from Jason Clark, which he clanged off the front of the rim. At the other end, Kris Joseph took advantage of a mismatch, taking Greg Monroe to the hole to score with just nine seconds left for a three-point lead. The Orange fouled, Georgetown missed  a free throw, and Andy Rautins sealed it.  Rautins was the high scorer for the game, finishing with 26 points on 6-11 shooting while knocking down five triples. Wes Johnson had 14 of his 16 points in the first half. But perhaps the most important offensive performance came from Joseph. Joseph had been struggling all game long, but in the final two minutes, he got to the rim three times, twice scoring and the third time drawing a foul. It was his ability to take advantage of a mismatch that kept the Orange ahead late.  Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, and Greg Monroe all went for at least 20, but there was no balance to the Hoya attack. Those three and Jason Clark scored all but two of Georgetown’s 71 points. The Hoyas have now dropped two in a row and four of seven. With a tough final four games (@ Louisville, ND, @ WVU, Cincy), the Hoyas will need some serious help if they want to snag one of the double-byes in the Big East tournament.

Syracuse Held On For the Big Win in DC (D. Nett)

Ghosts of LMU PastLoyola Marymount 74, #9 Gonzaga 66.  The biggest upset by far tonight brought back shades of Hank Gathers, Bo Kimble, and yes, RTC favorite Jeff Fryer, as the LMU Lions did the unthinkable and defeated Gonzaga for their second WCC loss of the year.  It was the first Loyola win over a ranked team in two decades, harkening back to the LMU teams of yesteryear.  Tonight, though, instead of Gathers/Kimble/Fryer, it was Ashley Hamilton (17/6), Drew Viney (16/10/5 assts) and Kevin Young (11/5) leading the way.  The Lion defense frustrated the Zags into 35% shooting as a team, and held Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray to a miserable 7-26 night.  For the second time in a month, Gonzaga was shocked on the road by a vastly inferior team in terms of talent on the floor, and we’re wondering if these Zags are prone to losing focus.  Otherwise, how else to explain commanding wins vs. better teams at Memphis, St. Mary’s and Portland in the same time period?  One odd situation that came from this otherwise-huge win for the LMU program involved head coach Max Good and his sophomore forward Young.  At one point the two traded words and reports from the game suggest that Good placed his hand on Young’s neck.  When asked afterward if he had choked Young, he stated that he was merely trying to calm down an emotional player.  One thing is for certain, though.  His team didn’t choke — and the phalanx of students who RTC’d immediately following the buzzer verified it (send us a pic, LMU fans!) (thanks!).

LMU Fans RTC With Gusto (AP)

Leuer’s Return Unlucky. Minnesota 68, #15 Wisconsin 52.  Minnesota has had a disappointing season with all their off-court controversy and inability to win on the road, but if they plan on putting that behind them and getting back to the NCAA Tournament this year, tonight was an excellent start.  The Gophers used a solid performance from Blake Hoffarber (16/9), Ralph Sampson III (10/8) and Devoe Joseph (10/5/5 assts) to shut down everyone but the two UW stars Trevon Hughes (19/4 stls) and Jason Bohannon (18/3).  Jon Leuer made his return from injury tonight but he was clearly off his game, shooting 2-12 from the field for four points.  The Gophers have five games remaining (three at home), and you have to figure they need to win all of those.  It’ll be the two road games — at Illinois and at Michigan — that could determine how this season will end up for Minnesota.  The Badgers, of course, are safely in the Tourney, but their Big Ten regular season title chances took a huge shot with their fifth loss tonight.

The Last Winless Team. Bryant 53, Wagner 51.  Bryant became the last Division I team in America to win a game in the 2009-10 season with their two late FTs to beat Wagner tonight, a mere 366 days after the school’s last win.  Even with a 1-26 record, Bryant isn’t the worst team in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical profiles… they’re 346th of 347 teams.  The only team lower?  1-25 Alcorn State.

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Morning Five: 02.18.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2010

  1. In an era of slashing budgets, it was surprising to hear that Fordham University is planning on heavily increasing their basketball expenditures in an effort to become a major player in the NYC metropolitan area and the Atlantic 10.  Perhaps given the pathetic status of local high-major programs at St. John’s and Rutgers, it’s a reasonable gamble.  The Rams are searching nationally for a new head coach, and if a higher salary and recruiting budget will draw a dynamic young coach to The Bronx, then perhaps this could elevate the program to an NIT level.
  2. Chalk Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim up as another coach who supports expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams.  The argument he makes is that there are “eight or nine teams” in the major conferences and to leave them out (he specifically cites UConn – 12th – and UNC – 9th) means that the “64 best” are not invited.  To which we say… stick to the coaching, Coach.  If the horrid Tar Heels and the schizo Huskies are good examples of teams that will be getting in under the new 96-team format, then Boeheim’s spouting off has already made the case against the change.
  3. Mike DeCourcy argues that the USBWA made a mistake in leaving off Malcolm Delaney and Matt Bouldin from their list of final sixteen candidates for the Oscar Robertson Trophy.  In reviewing the list, though, we’re not sure who he would suggest they leave out.  Delaney over Jon Scheyer or Dominique Jones?  Bouldin over James Anderson or Robbie Hummel?  We’re not really seeing the obviousness of this.
  4. While we’re on DeCourcy, if you’re interested in who he thinks the most underrated and overrated pro prospects are in college basketball this year, here’s your chance.  We here at RTC love, we mean LOVE, Sherron Collins‘ game at the collegiate level, but we can’t get on board with him as the next Jameer Nelson in any way, shape or form.  At that size, it takes a special talent to excel in the NBA, and we’re just not sure that Collins meets that threshold (which is to say nothing about his heart or will, which are huge).
  5. Did you guys hear that the NCAA has decided to expand the Tournament to 4,096 teams?  We’ve got our money backing the Xenon International School of Hair Design in this bracket.

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Checking in on… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2010

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Standings (through games of 2/13/10)

  1. Gonzaga 9-1 (21-4)
  2. Saint Mary’s 8-3 (21-5)
  3. Portland 7-3 (16-8)
  4. San Francisco 6-5 (11-15)
  5. Loyola Marymount 4-6 (13-13)
  6. Pepperdine 3-7 (7-19)
  7. Santa Clara 3-8 (11-17)
  8. San Diego 2-9 (9-18)

The Dynasty Continues

Barring a collapse of unimaginable proportions, the Gonzaga Bulldogs will win their tenth straight WCC Championship in 2010 – an almost-unprecedented string of single team domination in college basketball. After swatting down pretenders Portland (76-49) and Saint Mary’s (80-61) on consecutive Thursday nights at home, the Zags face a road trip this week to the less-than-fearsome Loyola Marymount Lions and Pepperdine Waves, then finish up the conference schedule at home against lowly Santa Clara on the 25th and San Francisco on the 27th. San Francisco brings the only substantive credential – an 81-77 upset of the Zags on Jan. 30 – into the final weekend, but Gonzaga showed by its overwhelming defeats of strong Portland and Saint Mary’s teams that it has recovered from whatever jim-jams caused it to lose to San Francisco. The Zags never let either Portland or Saint Mary’s get into their offenses, bringing stifling defense and potent offensive efforts by Matt Bouldin, Elias Harris, Robert Sacre and others to authoritatively separate themselves from their closest pursuers. There is no reasonable hope that anything will keep the Zags from running the table on the remaining games, including the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas March 5-8. The Zags’ main preoccupation for the next several weeks will be determining how high a seed they will receive in the NCAA Tournament.

Randy Bennett’s Saint Mary’s Gaels had a terrible trip to the Pacific Northwest after posting six straight wins following a closely-contested 89-82 loss to Gonzaga at home on Jan. 14. The Gaels were 8-1 in conference play and 21-3 overall heading into the Feb. 11 showdown against Gonzaga with the conference lead in the balance. With a win, Saint Mary’s would have put a little daylight between itself and the Zags because of the Zags’ earlier loss to San Francisco. For about 24 minutes the Gaels played as if they were serious about threatening Gonzaga’s long reign as WCC champs, but unfortunately college games are 40 minutes long. After an Omar Samhan basket tied things at 43 all with 16 minutes left, it was all Gonzaga. The Zags’ hounding defense produced numerous turnovers by Gael guards Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova, and to underline the worst game of his college career, McConnell – averaging nearly 14 points per game – was shut out.

McConnell bounced back with a team-leading 25 points in the Gaels’ game against Portland two nights later, but his teammates were unable to stem Portland’s strong guard play and lost 80-75 in overtime. Pilots’ senior point guard T.J. Campbell scored a career-high 24 points and backcourt mate Jared Stohl added 16 to lead their team. Portland pulled even with Saint Mary’s in the loss column with the victory, and is looking to finish its final four games on a roll to gain the number two WCC Tournament seed and an automatic advance to the conference semifinals. The Pilots accompany Gonzaga on the southern California road trip this week to Pepperdine and LMU, then return home to face San Francisco and Santa Clara to end the season. If the Gaels, who have a road game against San Diego and two home contests against Pepperdine and LMU, also win out, they and Portland will tie for second place at 11-3. It will take a lot of head-scratching to determine who earns the number-two seed in that case, as the teams split against each other, with both games being decided by five points, and both lost twice to Gonzaga. Portland, however, had a larger point differential in its two losses to Gonzaga – 30 – than Saint Mary’s, which had a 26-point deficit.

With the league-leaders completing conference play against bottom-tier teams, there are many opportunities for those teams to score significant upsets. San Francisco is playing the strongest ball among the non-contenders, having won four out of five games including a 77-47 rout of Pepperdine and a convincing 75-66 win over LMU at home last week to solidify its hold on fourth place. However, the Dons travel to Bay Area rival Santa Clara on Feb. 20 for a rematch against a team that edged them 66-65 earlier, then head to the northwest to end the season against Gonzaga and Portland. Hard to predict a Dons’ upset of the northwest squads.

LMU and Pepperdine both entertain Gonzaga and Portland this week, and LMU especially will be looking to earn back some respect it has lost since an early-season upset of Notre Dame in South Bend. Max Good has most of the LMU walking wounded back for the Gonzaga and Portland showdowns, with transfer guard Larry Davis the only prominent player still on the sidelines. The Lions are a game-and-a-half back of San Francisco and would love to redeem their early-season promise by ruining the seasons of the top dogs and moving up in the standings. They have the opportunities, but will have to overcome strong momentum to topple either Gonzaga or Portland this week, or Saint Mary’s in the final conference game on Feb. 27 in Moraga.

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