RTC Summer School: West Coast Conference

Posted by rtmsf on August 10th, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Up next: the WCC.

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

Three Key Storylines

  • Ex-champs Fight Back. Gonzaga’s streak of 11 consecutive seasons with at least a share of the WCC crown came to an end last year as Saint Mary’s won both the regular season title and the WCC Tournament. How will the Zags react as a challenger rather than defending champion? Is Saint Mary’s for real or just a pretender? This is the key storyline for the WCC heading into the 2012-13 season. Gonzaga answers with a strong returning lineup boasting conference leaders Elias Harris at strong forward and dual freshmen sensations Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. at the guard spots. Rather than miss the graduated Robert Sacre, Zag partisans insist more playing time for Sam Dower will equal more production in the post. Saint Mary’s answers with a possibly even stronger backcourt of Olympics hero Matt Dellavedova and defensive terror Stephen Holt. The Gaels will have a rebuilt front line anchored by redshirt sophomore Brad Waldow and transfer forward Matt Hodgson, and looks forward to proving last year’s title was no fluke.

These WCC Stars Will Determine the Storyline of the 2012-13 Season

  • Revamp or Disaster? San Francisco coach Rex Walters was consistently cool when asked about the unsettling defection of six players from his roster following last season’s disappointing season (8-8, fifth place in WCC). For the most part he knew they were leaving, Walters said, and he has replaced them with players of equal or better value. Maybe, but any time a team loses its top four scorers (Angelo Caloiaro, Perris Blackwell, Rashad Green and Michael Williams) and returns only two players with significant game experience – Cody Doolin and Cole Dickerson – it puts tremendous pressure on the newcomers. Of the many new faces on the Hilltop, former UCLA recruit De’End Parker, recently cleared to participate in the upcoming season, looks to be the Dons’ best bet for stardom.
  • Broncos Healthy Again. Things could not possibly have gone worse for Santa Clara last year – really, they lost all 16 conference games – so maybe karmic forces are aligned to bring the Broncos salvation. Marc Trasolini, the hard-nosed 6’9″ forward who was looked upon to provide senior leadership, instead tore his ACL in the preseason. Outstanding shooting guard Kevin Foster was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence following a Bronco home loss to Saint Mary’s, and never returned to action. With Trasolini and Foster back this season, Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating should smile more. Keating will also have improving 7-foot center Robert Garrett and slick point guard Evan Roquemore back in the fold, so the Broncos have a solid foundation for success

Reader’s Take

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Morning Five: 08.08.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 8th, 2012

  1. For college basketball fans over a certain age watching the Summer Olympics, an oft-repeated nickname uttered by the likes of Bob Costas, Mary Carillo, Ryan Seacrest and others probably grates a little more than it should. The gold medal-winning US women’s gymastics team, as we all now know, has been labeled by someone lacking any institutional sports memory with the nickname “The Fab Five.” The five girls aged between 15 and 18 didn’t memorialize themselves with the name, but others — most notably former Fab Five mouthpiece and current ESPN commentator Jalen Rose — may stand to make bank from the trademarked name as the team rides its 15 minutes of fame on a barnstorming tour throughout the US this fall. As we saw mentioned on Twitter last week, the Olympics are fundamentally sports for people who don’t typically like sports, and there is no better example of the two groups weirdly crossing paths than this one. If anyone’s wondering, nobody will be talking about this ‘new’ F5 two decades from now — we think the iconic maize and blue legacies of Webber, Howard, Rose, Jackson and King are still safe.
  2. It’s taken much of a couple of decades for Michigan basketball to get back to an elite status, as the Wolverines will be a preseason Top 10 team next season. Another local school, Oakland University, has as a matter of fact been to just as many NCAA Tournaments under head coach Greg Kampe in the last decade as Michigan. On Tuesday, Kampe started the first day of a fast where the longtime Golden Grizzlies coach will imbibe nothing but juice for an entire month in support of Coaches vs. Cancer. Um, we just drank a glass of orange juice over here, but, wow. Seriously, though, this is a herculean task for someone no doubt accustomed to eating solid, and undoubtedly, good food — Kampe tweeted last night that his first day of fasting was complete and that “even a yogurt commercial” makes him hungry. To donate to Kampe’s fast in support of CvC, make sure to hit this site. We always make sure to donate around the time of the Jimmy V Classic, but the CvC is getting a double dip from us this year.
  3. Team USA’s men’s basketball team will play Australia this afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Olympic tournament, which will allow one of the two college basketball players in the event to take a shot at a team he no doubt idolizes. As Jeff Goodman wrote yesterday, St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova is looking forward to the challenge of matching up against NBA All-Stars Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. The rising senior and current WCC Player of the Year is one of the two SMC starters in the Aussie backcourt (playing off the ball with Patty Mills), and his 8.2 PPG and 4.6 APG have helped his country reach the medal round. For a complete look at his Olympic statistics, check out the FIBA page on the shaggy-haired star. The only other collegian in the basketball Games, College of Charleston’s Andrew Lawrence, played roughly 18 minutes per game for host Great Britain, but he was only able to convert 4-19 field goals and committed nearly as many fouls (15) as he scored points (16). His Olympic experience — engaging though we’re sure it was — is now over as the Brits did not advance to the medal round.
  4. While on the subject of Dellavedova, his college coach at St. Mary’s, Randy Bennett, was voted by his peers as the second most underrated head coach in college basketball. The most underrated was Temple’s Fran Dunphy, who garnered a commanding 14% of the votes (Bennett got 9%). A couple surprises on the list were two of the most prominent names in college basketball — Kentucky’s John Calipari (7%) and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins (5%). With tomorrow’s release of the most overrated coaches in the game, is it possible that one or both of those two will also show up on that list? Check in tomorrow at CBSSports.com to find out.
  5. Finally today, it is clear that Oklahoma State center Phillip Jurick has little to no interest in playing college basketball again. Just two months after an incident where he was cited for driving on a suspended license, the 6’10″ player who was already dealing with recovery from an Achilles tendon tear was arrested over the weekend for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Predictably, he was suspended by head coach Travis Ford and will not accompany his team on a 10-day exhibition tour to Spain, which begins today. A transfer from Chattanooga State who averaged 17 MPG in 26 games prior to the injury, he’s certainly piling on the hurdles that he must overcome to ever see another day in an OSU uniform again.
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Morning Five: 07.31.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2012

  1. With most of America tuning into the London Olympics — brought to you in living color on tape delay — college basketball is considerably off the radar of most sports and Olympics fans alike. But there are still a few connections to the sport we love during the Olympics fortnight, and one of those is St. Mary’s star guard Matthew Dellavedova‘s representation as the lone one of only two collegians participating in this year’s basketball competition [ed. note: as noted in the comments, Andrew Lawrence of College of Charleston is the other]. A member of the Australian squad that dropped its first game on Sunday, 75-71, to Brazil, Dellavedova provided six points and three assists in 27 valuable minutes of action. The rising senior will no doubt use his experience in London this summer to prepare for what could be an All-American campaign in 2012-13. Another player with recent collegiate ties is quite obviously the 2011-12 NPOY Anthony Davis, who only saw spot action in Team USA’s convincing win over France Sunday, with three point and three rebounds in eight minutes on the floor. His head coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyezewski, was recently “got” by Deron Williams while stretching out his back in a yoga pose at a team practice. Funny, at first glance, we thought he was just instructing his stars on the finer details of how to slap the floor on defense.
  2. While on the topic of Davis, Coach K, and the game that just won’t quit even 20 years later, it appears that the Kentucky superstar (born in March 1993) found some recent time in London for shenanigans with Public Enemy #1 in Lexington, Christian Laettner. The duo decided to re-enact the infamous “Laettner Stomp” on Wildcats forward Aminu Timberlake, only this time the roles were reversed. Of course, this does nothing to exorcise any lingering demons that UK fans may have toward the Duke superstar, but in the last calendar year Laettner has shown up in Rupp Arena to act as a “villain” — even going so far as mopping up the floor — and now this? Maybe in his middle aged years, he just really, really wants to be liked.
  3. One current UK villain is Louisville head coach Rick Pitino — perhaps you’ve heard of him. Like him or hate him, he could always coach young players, though. Some of his motivational techniques are legendary, but he’s always been skilled in relating to his athletes by making comparisons to current NBA stars. In one such example as reported by the Courier Journal, Cardinal sophomore Kevin Ware has reconstructed his admittedly broken jump shot by reviewing frame-by-frame comps with Celtics star Ray Allen’s perfect form. It goes without saying that knocking down Js in practice during July is incredibly different than doing so in Madison Square Garden in March, but if Ware can provide scoring punch from the wing next season, the Cards’ might actually be the team to beat.
  4. Although we don’t believe any sea changes are coming where elite recruits start to eschew high major programs in favor of mid-majors where they can become stars right away, the idea that the next group of Damian Lillards could go middie is interesting in the context of the transfer epidemic and the reality that high draft picks can come from anywhere. In just the past four NBA Drafts, lottery picks have come from Davidson (Stephen Curry), Butler (Gordon Hayward), Fresno State (Paul George), BYU (Jimmer Fredette), and Weber State (Lillard) — the average is a little more than one per year these days, so it’s definitely an attainable goal for players who find themselves somewhat off the beaten basketball path.
  5. Could former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni be signaling his interest in exploring college coaching through some of his latest comments made while at the London Games? The long-time professional coach whose unique offensively-oriented style of play would certainly find a willing suitor if he were indeed available, but he said that there’s a sense of “fun” and “energy” surrounding the college game and experience, which is more or less the exact difference between going to an NBA game versus an elite college basketball game. The two things simply are not comparable in most cases.
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Dellavedova Makes Australian Team, Could Become Only Current NCAA Hoops Olympian

Posted by EJacoby on June 22nd, 2012

For all the speculation that Anthony Davis could end up earning a spot on Team USA for the upcoming London Summer Olympics, it seems highly unlikely that the future #1 draft pick will make the final cut. The same goes for several other former college players – for example, Fab Melo and Scott Machado – who have had to focus their time this offseason on the NBA Draft Combine and other local workout preparations rather than try out with their respective countries to make their Olympic squads. But Basketball Australia announced Friday afternoon that Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary’s rising senior guard, has made the 12-man Aussie squad heading to London. The release notes that there’s “a strong possibility [Dellavedova] will be the only current college player to participate in the sport of men’s basketball at this year’s Games.” Dellavedova joins Patty Mills, another former St. Mary’s star, as lead guards for the ‘Boomers.’

Matthew Dellavedova, the reigning WCC Player of the Year, has qualified for Australia’s Olympic roster (St. Mary’s Athletics photo)

There are some other college players or recent graduates who did not get invited to the NBA Draft Combine that still have a chance to make their international homelands for the Olympics. Yahoo! Sports‘ Jeff Eisenberg detailed seven NCAAB players vying to make the Olympics, but all of those players have faced challenging training camps to qualify for their countries, and none have yet made their teams. Deividas Dulkys has a good shot to make the Lithuanian team, but he’s also a recent graduate of Florida State and won’t return to the college game. Dellavedova, on the other hand, has already notched his spot for the Aussies and will represent his country in the Olympics as part of his training regimen for his rising senior season at St. Mary’s.

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Rushed Reaction: #10 Purdue 72, #10 St. Mary’s 69

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Exploiting interior defense. Purdue took advantage of one glaring weakness for St. Mary’s — its lack of interior defense. The Boilermakers continually exploited the middle with guard Terone Johnson leading the way with 21 points. He took advantage of the openings in the first half and the rest of his teammates got involved after that as Purdue scored 36 points in the paint. They can be successful further into the NCAA Tournament by attacking the basket.
  2. Key Outside Shooting. Although Purdue didn’t shoot very well from three, the ones that did go down were at critical points in the game. Both of DJ Bird‘s three pointers and the lone Robbie Hummel three made in the second half came when St. Mary’s was trying to make a run. The ability of Purdue to get to the paint so easily made the few outside shots Purdue attempted in the second half count.
  3. Gaels will miss Jones. Rob Jones is a 6’6″ forward that is basically playing the job of center while also being a threat outside. He works hard underneath and plays bigger than he really is. St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett must have told his team at halftime to get the ball to Jones because he was a lot more involved after halftime. He scored the first five points of the half and seemed to be involved in every play throughout the rest of the game including the shot at the end of the game that could have sent it into overtime. He finished with a game high 23 points. The senior will be missed after this season.

Star of the Game–Lewis Jackson, Purdue. Although Terone Johnson set the example for Purdue to attack the basket in the first half, it was Jackson who took advantage of the St. Mary’s interior defense that led the Boilermakers to the win. The point guard got the final field goal of the game that was huge for Purdue.

Quotable. “The thing is about this team is that they will let you take three point shots. You have to make shots. We finally hit some at the end, but we didn’t do good enough.” — Randy Bennett, St. Mary’s Head Coach.

Sights & Sounds. The atmosphere at the CenturyLink was still buzzing over the Norfolk State upset of Missouri in the previous game. Since they also had to clear out the arena for the evening session, it took a while for it to get full again, but by the end of the game the stands were packed to enjoy the finish of this one. When St. Mary’s took the lead 69-68 with 44 seconds to go, the crowd was clearly behind the Gaels.

Wildcard. With the win, Purdue has now won their fourteenth straight opening round game in the NCAA Tournament. They are also now 3-1 as a #10 seed.

What’s Next?–The Boilermakers now head to Sunday with a trip to St. Louis on the line against either Kansas or Detroit in the next game tonight. With two #2 seeds already going down today, you are never quite sure what is going to happen.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Evening

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#8 Memphis vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

Nice to See Rick Majerus Back in the Dance (AP)

It may be an 8/9 game, but according to advanced metrics, this is anything but your typical 8/9 game. Both teams are among the top 15 teams in the country according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, outscoring opponents by about 0.2 points per possession over the course of the season. Still, looking back over the schedules, the Billikens’ only have four wins over NCAA Tournament teams (Vermont, St. Bonaventure and two over Xavier), while the Tigers have just three (Belmont, Southern Miss and Xavier) – not exactly stunning resumes. However, SLU head coach Rick Majerus is no stranger to NCAA Tournament success, and his ability to scout and gameplan for an opponent is legendary. And while Memphis is used to playing at a fast tempo, you can bet Majerus will effectively slow this game down, using 25 seconds or more on every offensive possession, mostly forgoing any attempts at offensive rebounds in an effort to get back on defense, and making Memphis score over a stingy SLU defense. While Memphis has been killing teams over the past month or so, the two games they’ve lost have been down-tempo affairs (UTEP and Southern Miss), and if they get frustrated against the deliberate Billiken pace, it could spell an early end to the Memphis season. Still, the Tigers will have a significant athletic advantage and while Majerus has a decent matchup for lightning quick guard Joe Jackson in the form of Kwamain Mitchell (and Jordair Jett), it remains to be seen how effective they will be against sophomore win Will Barton. If Barton can find space inside the SLU perimeter defense, he could create serious problems. Of course, that’s a big if.

The RTC Certified Pick: Saint Louis

#2 Duke vs. #15 Lehigh – South Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Located less than an hour’s drive from Cameron Indoor, Duke will do battle with Patriot League champion Lehigh in what is practically a home game for the Blue Devils. Duke is limping into the NCAA Tournament have lost two of their last three games, one of these losses coming in blowout fashion against arch rival North Carolina. Despite having many holes on the defensive end and Ryan Kelly uncertain for the game against Lehigh, Duke does have one of the more potent offensives in the tournament. Austin Rivers and Seth Curry can score from virtually anywhere on the floor, and the Plumlee brothers make for a formidable frontcourt. It is not often that a Patriot League team can put a player on the floor that has the ability to go shot-for- with one of the best teams in the nation, but C.J. McCollum will prove he belongs running side by side with Austin Rivers. The junior guard from Canton, OH ranks top ten nationally in scoring and has the ability to take over a game for long stretches. Although Duke will no doubt focus much of their effort on the defensive end on McCollum, it is no secret that the Blue Devils struggle guarding around the perimeter. McCollum will get his points, but it is just a question if his teammates will be able to follow suit. If Lehigh gets production from Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner, don’t be surprised if the Mountain Hawks hang with Duke for much of the game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke

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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by EJacoby on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Evan Jacoby (@evanjacoby) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmwregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Evan breaking down the Midwest Region here.

Midwest Region

Favorite: #1 North Carolina (29-5, 14-2 ACC). The preseason #1 team in the country, UNC is among the elite on both sides of the ball with a roster full of NBA talent. The one 33-point loss at Florida State in January remains a massive aberration in this otherwise sterling season. Roy Williams knows a little bit about postseason success; he’s taken North Carolina to the Elite Eight or further five times in the past seven seasons.

An Injured John Henson Might Be The Only Blemish For A Loaded North Carolina Squad Favored To Win The Midwest (AP)

Should They Falter: #2 Kansas (27-6, 16-2 Big 12). Kansas was on track for a #1 seed before a loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. Led by one of the two front-runners for National Player of the Year (Thomas Robinson), KU has been rock solid all season. The Bill Self era has included a National Championship as well as several early upsets. The makeup of this year’s Jayhawks leads us to believe they’re more likely to make a deep run than an early exit.

Overseeded: #11 NC State (22-12, 9-7 ACC). Not a whole lot of complaints with the seeding in this region, but NC State seems to have been rewarded a bit too much for its recent performance. The Wolfpack made a great run in the ACC Tournament and will be a difficult out in this Tournament, but they were squarely on the bubble just two days ago. A win over Virginia and close loss to North Carolina appears to have moved this team up from the potential First Four play-in game matchups to a solid #11, and it seems a bit unwarranted.

Underseeded: #8 Creighton (28-5, 14-4 MVC). Again, there’s nothing egregious in this bracket but Greg McDermott’s Creighton team got a really rough draw. Consider that the Bluejays won their conference tournament and finished with five losses while Gonzaga lost in the WCC finals and finished with six losses, both with a similar strength of schedule, and Gonzaga received the better seed. Creighton has a beef that it should be on the #7 line.

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Bracket Prep: St. Mary’s, Western Kentucky, Detroit, and South Dakota State

Posted by EJacoby on March 7th, 2012

As we move through Championship Week (the second half of Championship Fortnight, of course), we’ll continue to bring you these short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. In this post, we’ve got the WCC, Summit, Horizon, and Sun Belt winners from the past two nights…

St. Mary’s

Matthew Dellavedova (And His Mouth Guard) Are Dangerous (AP/ Tony Avelar)

  • WCC Champion (27-5, 16-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #25/#43/#35
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +11.3
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #6-#8

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. St. Mary’s has been a nationally-recognized mid-major for a number of years now, but the Gaels program did something this year that it had never done before, and especially not in the Mark Few/Gonzaga era — win both the outright regular season WCC title and the conference tournament championship. Whether this is a notable achievement en route to a nice run in the NCAA Tournament or something that represents the highlight of the season remains to be seen, but there’s no question that this group has the team chemistry, coaching, and talent to do some damage in the coming week. Two years ago, the Gaels rode a red-hot Omar Samhan past two perimeter-oriented teams into the Sweet Sixteen, and if the matchups break favorably for them again, Randy Bennett‘s team certainly has the capability of breaking through again.
  2. The straw that stirs the Gaels’ drink is WCC Player of the Year, Matthew Dellavedova. The sneaky-quick Australian point guard can score (15.6 PPG), shoot (59 threes, 36.0% 3FG), dish (6.4 APG) and board (3.3 RPG), but more than any of that, it is his ability to successfully run Bennett’s offensive sets that makes him invaluable. St. Mary’s has an elite offense (#20 nationally), which is roughly on par with the Sweet Sixteen team of two seasons ago. Where it struggles, of course, is on the defensive end. As exhibited on nights against athletic teams when the shots aren’t falling, the Gaels have trouble keeping the game close enough to grind out a victory.
  3. As good as Dellavedova and his senior compatriot Rob Jones are (14.8 PPG, 10.7 RPG), the duo struggles against superior athletes. Jones was harassed into a rough outing against the waves of rangy athletes that Murray State threw at the Gaels in their Bracketbuster game last month, while Dellavedova was bumped into a 3-10 shooting performance (1-8 from three) against Baylor earlier in the season. This is why matchups are absolutely key for St. Mary’s next week. If they come up against a first game opponent that can out-run and out-jump them at most positions, they’re probably in big trouble — Connecticut or Mississippi State comes to mind — but if they instead find themselves matched up against a team that plays under the rim like they do — say, Harvard or Purdue — they have a great shot to advance one or two rounds.

Western Kentucky

  • Sun Belt Champion (15-18, 11-9)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #193/#192/#203
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = -2.4
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #16 (First Four)
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIII

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 7th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this 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….pureness. Some would argue that there’s nothing better than a last-second buzzer-beater. FALSE. There’s nothing better than a last-second buzzer beater that also touches zero iron on the way down. Ohio State’s William Buford gave us one of those on Sunday against Michigan State for a huge win, and for me the swish adds even a little bit more to the drama. I’m thinking back to Isaiah Thomas’ Pac-10 conference tourney walk-off last year, and some others, too – maybe I’m just an absurdly picky fan, but nothing beats the twine tickler with the clock ticking down.

I LOVED…..Buford. The senior has had some subpar games during this conference season, and he’s the main reason why I’ve started to sour a bit on the Buckeyes. But if he plays like he can, he can take this OSU team to a different level on both ends of the floor. They need his long-range shooting to diversify their O, and his freakish athleticism on the defensive side, too. If he’s that guy in March, the Buckeyes could be there at the end.

If William Buford Can Play Like He Can, Ohio State Becomes That Much Better (USA Today)

I LOVED….the tables being turned. My UNC loyalty has been mentioned before, and I’ve truly never been as heartbroken as when Austin Rivers’ three dropped into the Dean Dome net back in February as time expired. I wondered if anything could make up for that painful disappointment, and I have to say, this might have done it. Absolutely demolishing, obliterating, dominating, embarrassing, and – oh yeah – BEATING Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Senior Night was heavenly (and I can’t say that watching Mason Plumlee cry didn’t give me some sick sort of pleasure). You make the pick though – comparing the two outcomes, which would you prefer?

I LOVED….Florida State following through. The 33-point win over Carolina, the buzzer-beater at Duke, it would been easy for these overachieving Seminoles to be happy with what they did and settle for another ho-hum conference season. But Leonard Hamilton kept FSU focused, and they’re fully deserving of their impressive 12-4 conference record and a guaranteed NCAA tourney berth. Well done down in Tallahassee.

I LOVED….Murray State both keeping pace and getting some cred in the rankings, even after that one loss. With their clutch tourney title finish, the Racers head into March Madness at 30-1 and have to start drawing some comparisons to last year’s San Diego State squad.

Five Things I Hated This Week

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ATB: Madness Ensues During Four Classic Conference Tournament Finishes Monday Night

Posted by EJacoby on March 6th, 2012

Last Night’s Lede – Not a single power conference team played on Monday night and there were only 12 total games played, yet it ended up being one of the best nights of the entire season. Why’s that? Because it was the first full night of Championship Week, in which all games taking place from here on out will come during postseason tournaments. Monday saw four conference tournament finals take place – two at 7:00 PM ET, two at 9:00 PM ET – on ESPN or ESPN2, and each game came down to the final possession. The four championships were decided by 13 total points and included three overtime sessions. There was also important action taking place in other mid-major tournaments, so let’s jump right into it…

Your Watercooler MomentVCU Returns to the Tournament

Brad Burgess and VCU Shot Their Way Back to the Big Dance (Washington Examiner/L. Alvarez)

Last year’s unbelievable Cinderella story has guaranteed itself a place in the Big Dance once again this year. Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams were squarely on the bubble heading into Monday night’s CAA Tournament final, as was their opponent, Drexel. A hard-fought game in which VCU led by double-digits for much of the game wound up being close at the end and came down to the final possession when Drexel guard Frantz Massenat’s three for the tie hit the back iron. VCU earned itself an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and there’s not a single team in the bracket that wants to face Shaka Smart’s team in the first game next week. The Rams got 16 points, five assists, four rebounds, and five steals from Darius Theus while their star Brad Burgess had just six points. Drexel, which had just eight assists compared to 18 turnovers, now must sweat it out on Selection Sunday with a very strong conference showing but some weak overall profile numbers such as the #226 strength of schedule that won’t be pleasing to the NCAA Tourney committee. Don’t be shocked, though, if Drexel ends up making it so that you’ll see both of these teams playing again next week.

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Set Your TiVo: 03.05.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Four conference tournament titles will be decided this evening. The most important game may be in the Colonial where the loser of the game needs to make a good impression for the NCAA Selection Committee. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

Colonial Athletic Association Championship: Drexel vs. VCU (at Richmond, VA) – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

Will Shaka Smart Earn Himself More Nets Tonight?

  • This is a huge game because the loser is going to be sweating it out for the next week. Drexel won the first and only meeting between these teams way back on January 8. The Dragons bring the #4 eFG% defense to the table along with one of the slowest tempos in Division I. That combination could really frustrate a VCU team that likes to play faster and score in transition. The Rams are the best team in the nation when it comes to defensive turnover percentage but creating turnovers against Bruiser Flint’s Dragons is going to be very difficult. It’s always easier to slow a team down than it is to speed one up and that’s exactly what Drexel has to do in order to win in Richmond tonight. Drexel point guard Frantz Massenat will have to play a complete game and set the tone for his team in front of what should be a quasi-road atmosphere.
  • The one problem an aggressive team like Shaka Smart’s group can have is foul trouble. Drexel is a solid free throw shooting team (76% in CAA play) so VCU needs to avoid fouling and putting the Dragons in the bonus early and often. VCU’s defensive free throw rate is not good and Drexel had a remarkable 89.7% free throw rate when these teams got together in Philly in early January. VCU simply can’t afford another effort like that if it hopes to win the CAA’s automatic NCAA bid. The Rams are not a particularly great shooting team but Bradford Burgess and Troy Daniels pose major perimeter threats. Burgess has last year’s experience to fall back on in a pressure situation and you have to believe that helps when faced with what should be a very close elimination game.
  • The point guards could decide this game. Massenat can distribute and shoot with the best of them in this conference while VCU’s Darius Theus must play the role of facilitator and not as the go-to scorer. Theus went 1-6 from the floor in the first meeting but did record six assists. A few less shots and a couple more assists could be the difference for VCU tonight. For Drexel, Samme Givens has to come up big on the boards. The 6’5” swingman is a terrific rebounder for his size and should look to take advantage of VCU’s weakness on its offensive glass. We think this is going to be a contest that comes down to the very end. With an NCAA bid on the line and no guarantees for the loser, it should be quite an atmosphere in Richmond on this night.

West Coast Conference Championship: #20 Gonzaga vs. #24 St. Mary’s (at Las Vegas, NV) – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • These teams will meet for the third time after splitting the regular season series, each winning at home. Gonzaga smashed BYU on Saturday night behind 30 points from Kevin Pangos and the Bulldogs will look to do more of the same against a St. Mary’s defense that is vulnerable to the three-ball. The Gaels allow opponents to shoot 37.5% from deep and that’s not something Randy Bennett wants to see when going up against a shooter as talented as Pangos. While the SMC defense is a concern, the Gaels shoot more threes than Gonzaga and can gain an edge because of it. When Clint Steindl and Matthew Dellavedova are knocking down triples, St. Mary’s is tough to beat. Gonzaga’s defense is pretty good on the perimeter but it will be tested significantly by the Gaels’ guards and forwards. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the WCC correspondent for RTC.

Reader’s Take

 

The Final Week

It all comes down to this week, WCC fans: Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga, BYU and Loyola Marymount all have legitimate shots at the conference title and the one and two seeds for next week’s WCC Tournament. In an age where parity is the Holy Grail of organized sports, the WCC has it going on. And, although this season’s nine-team schedule caused some distortions in the first half of the season, no one could have planned a more compelling finale.

Consider:

  • Saint Mary’s can seize the regular season championship and a number one tournament seed by beating Portland tonight in Portland and San Francisco on Saturday in San Francisco. By beating Portland, the Gaels will guarantee at least their second consecutive share of the title. But there has to be a series of asterisks next to that hypothetical, as the Gaels are bucking several negative trends: they have lost at Portland for the last three years and they appear to stumbling toward the finish line as they did last year when they lost an unexpected league game (San Diego in San Diego), a home BracketBuster game against Utah State, then another home game against Gonzaga, before pulling out a season-ending victory over Portland to earn a share of the conference title.

    Despite Recent Struggles, Matthew Dellavedova and Saint Mary's Still Control Its Own Destiny (AP)

  • Last week the Gaels lost an unexpected home game to Loyola Marymount, 75-60, lost to Murray State on the road, 65-51, in another BracketBuster contest, and now face a young, talented Portland team with nothing to lose on its home court tonight. Combined with injuries to starting two-guard Stephen Holt, out indefinitely with a torn meniscus suffered in the LMU loss, starting post man Brad Waldow, nursing bruised ribs, and team leader Matthew Dellavedova, who turned his ankle in the LMU game, the Gaels are wobbling into Portland.
  • Gonzaga and BYU square off tonight in a monumental battle (ESPN2, 8:00 PM Pacific) that could vault either of them into a tie with Saint Mary’s for first or, if the Gaels win, eliminate one of them from title contention heading into Saturday’s final games. LMU, which is smoking hot coming off its blistering of Saint Mary’s in Moraga, sits at home for very winnable games against San Diego tonight and Santa Clara on Saturday. With just a minimal effort, the Lions could finish with four losses and cash in on whatever misfortunes befall the three teams ahead of them.
  • Not to be overlooked, San Francisco hopes to take continuing advantage of a scheduling gift that brought BYU, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s onto its home court in successive weeks. The Dons battled BYU right down to a potential game-winning three-point attempt by Angelo Coloiaro that rimmed out at the buzzer for a heart-breaking 85-84 loss last Thursday. Rather than be deflated, the Dons battled Gonzaga equally hard on Saturday, and triumphed 65-64 on a last-second runner in the lane by Rashad Green. The Dons are off tonight and can devote maximum preparation to ruining Saint Mary’s season on Saturday.

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s (23-5, 12-2) might seem surprised to find itself still in first place considering the confidence-shattering losses to LMU and Murray State, which knocked it out of “lock” status for a favorable seeding in the NCAA tournament and leaves the Gaels needing a win tonight or Saturday to keep its NCAA hopes alive. Randy Bennett’s troops are wounded and have to be wondering why they continue to struggle late in the season. Even with these concerns, the Gaels still control their own fate. Read the rest of this entry »
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