Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.13.09

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2009

dynamite

Hello hoops fans, and welcome to our first weekday version of your favorite semi-live journal, Boom Goes the Dynamite.  We’re still feeling the effects of that six-overtime Goliath of a game last night, but we’re caffeinated and ready to rock with you all day while we move through what is traditionally the best day of the conference tournament weekend.  It’ll be hard to top what we saw yesterday, though.  Here are a few of the games you should be tracking; as you can see, today is an absolute blockbuster:

  • ACC – UNC vs. Virginia Tech – Noon, Maryland vs. Wake Forest – 7pm, Duke vs. BC, 9:30pm
  • Patriot – American vs. Holy Cross – 4:45pm
  • Big 10 – Michigan St. vs. Minnesota – Noon, Illinois vs. Michigan – 6:30pm, Purdue vs. Penn St. – 9pm
  • Big East - Louisville vs. Villanova – 7pm, Syracuse vs. West Virginia – 9pm
  • Big 12 – Baylor vs. Texas – 7pm, Oklahoma St. vs. Missouri – 9:30pm
  • Mountain West – San Diego St. vs. BYU – 9pm
  • Pac-10 – Arizona St. vs. Washington – 9pm, USC vs. UCLA – 11:30pm
  • SEC – Florida vs. Auburn – 9:45pm

Another couple of PSAs before we get started.  Be sure to check the site throughout the weekend, as we’ll be doing these BGTDs each day, in addition to a revised bracketology on both Saturday and Sunday, all leading to a liveblogging of the Selection Show on Sunday.  We’ll also be putting up the information for RTC’s Second Annual Bracket Challenge later this afternoon.

12:20 pm. Let’s get started here.  UNC looks flat so far against Virginia Tech, and they should, given that Ty Lawson is over on the bench sitting next to Roy Williams.  He is dressed, though, so it wouldn’t surprise us if his Big Toe makes an appearance.  That crafty Roy – always using the element of surprise.  Or something like that.

12:27 pm.  Over at the Big Ten, Minnesota is leading Michigan State 22-20 in a high-scoring game.  Yes, we said high-scoring and Big Ten in the same sentence.  Wow, ESPN is already re-showing the Syracuse-UConn game on ESPN Classic.  Tivo time.  If these two games get worthless, we’re definitely moving back over there.

12:33 pm. They’re really hyping that game from last night – looks like they’re going to show the whole thing on ESPNU at 3pm.  Getting back to business here, Virginia Tech looks poised right now, playing like a team that wants to keep playing in March should be playing.  Carolina looks a little flat, but the question will be whether they can still make a patented run with Lawson sitting.

12:42 pm. Most of the ACC people are annoyed with the conference tournament being in Atlanta this year, but we think it’s refreshing that it’s not in the same old tired venue of Greensboro or Charlotte again.  The home-state advantage that Carolina gets in those two building is ridiculous.  Speaking of advantage, it looked like UNC was about to make a run until Va Tech came down and hit two consecutive threes.  Ed Davis is going to be a player someday.  He has really nice touch around the rim, and his per-40 rebounding average is in the 15 rpg territory!

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Daily Obituary: 03.09.09

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009

grim-reaper

Team: Kentucky Wildcats

Record: 19-12 (8-8)

Preseason Expectations: The Wildcats fell into the “others receiving votes” category in both the AP and the ESPN/USA Today polls. But in a year most people predicted the SEC to be weak, Kentucky was predicted to finish third in the SEC East by most publications, and were considered a good bet to be in the NCAA tournament come March. A distant glimmer from AD Mitch Barnhart saying the Wildcats would accept an NIT bid.

Best Wins: Kentucky won the Las Vegas Invitational at the end of November, and had to beat Kansas State (74-72) and West Virginia (54-43) to do so. But there most impressive win is obviously their 90-72 victory in Knoxville over Bruce Pearl and co. If you were hiding under a rock during that game, Jodie Meeks dropped 54 points on the Volunteers. They beat  Tennessee again in late February, 77-58.

Worst Losses: Allowing VMI to score triple digits in a 111-103 loss on in their opening game was not the start that Billy Gillispie was looking for. But their worst loss came just five days ago when they had a chance to strengthen their tournament resume and got beat by a scuffling, rudderless Georgia team at Rupp Arena.

Where it ended: Right after their second victory of Tennessee, it looked like Kentucky was in a great position to make it to the field of 65 as they sat 19-8 (8-4). But just four days later the ‘Cats got embarrassed on the road by South Carolina (77-59), which started the four game losing streak they are currently on which includes uninspired losses to LSU, Georgia, and Florida.  Now a deep SEC tournament run is the only thing that will save them.

What went wrong: It should be impossible to finish just 8-8 in the SEC with two players as good as Meeks and Patrick Patterson, but the Wildcats did a darn good job of it and their lack of a point guard is to blame. Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, and most recently, Michael Porter, have all tried their hand at the position with mixed results. In fact, no one on Kentucky averages more than 3.1 assists per game and only little used reserve Landon Slone carries an assist/turnover ratio better than 1.2/1. Sloppy play and rookie mistakes plagued the ‘Cats all season and have cost them down the stretch.

What’s next: A lot of analysts seem to think that if Kentucky fails to make it to the NCAA tournament, they could lose both Patterson and Meeks to the NBA which would be a crippling blow to Gillispie. Kentucky has four prospects signed for next year, including five-star center Daniel Orton, but no one outside of Lexington thinks that three-star GJ Vilarino will come in and save the team at the point position. Kentucky’s best hope is to put on the full-court press for uncommitted stud Eric Bledsoe and hope that Meeks and Patterson stay around another year.

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Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

Record: 17-13 (7-9)

Preseason Expectations: The Hokies were predicted to finish sixth in the ACC but received no love from the national polls and were left out of everyone’s top 25. But, they were a trendy sleeper pick at the beginning of the year if they could get improvements from sophomores Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen.

Best Wins: In the middle of January the Hokies traveled to play a streaking Wake Forest team that had just earned the No.1 ranking, and thoroughly outplayed the Demon Deacons, weathering a late rally to hold on for a 77-71 victory. Their only other victory of note came in late February when they beat Clemson 80-77 in Blacksburg and get Hokie fans talking about the tournament.

Worst Losses: For Seth Greenberg and his team, it really depends on how you define “worst”. This team wouldn’t even be on the bubble if it hadn’t been for some heart-palpitating, last second losses. The team lost to Xavier in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tipoff 63-62 on a 60-foot buzzer beat from Dante Jackson. Just 10 days later they got beat by Wisconsin 74-72 when Trevon Hughes hit an improbable runner in the lane with less than one second left. Then, at the end of January, they lost to BC by one point (67-66) on a Rakim Sanders put back with less than one second left as well. The team also had bad losses to Seton Hall, Georgia, and Virginia, but those three heartbreakers are what they will remember if they are playing in the NIT this year.

Where it ended: One might say in ended when Sanders hit that put back, because since then, the team is just 3-6, and although they have beaten Clemson and North Carolina State over that time, playing well down the stretch counts, and the Hokies have lost their last three games, albeit all to ranked teams. The Hokies don’t have the worst RPI (59), but they are the No. 8 seed in their conference tournament, and even if they do make it past Miami, that means a date with No. 1 seed North Carolina in Greensboro…Good Luck!

What went wrong: Virginia Tech is a very hard team to figure out. You could cite end of the game execution and focus as to where they went astray with those three back-breaking losses because if they didn’t lose those games, we would be talking about a 20-win team. But really they went wrong when their big three (Delaney, Allen and A.D. Vassallo) started disappearing in key games. For example, in losses to Wisconsin, Georgia, and Florida State, Allen had two, eight, and six points respectively. In losses to Xavier and Duke, Vassallo had four, and seven points respectively. And, in their past three losses, Delaney has shot a combined 10-40 from the field. If those players had stepped up in crucial moments, this season would have gone differently.

What’s next: Seth Greenberg must be getting frustrated. Every year, the Hokies are so close, and yet fail to come up big down the stretch. But, assuming that both Allen and Delaney will be back for their junior seasons, the Hokies are in good shape. They lose their leading scorer in Vassallo, but they only lose one other player, and Cheick Diakite is a non-factor. Greenberg has also been successful on the recruiting trail. He has signed a solid, well-balanced, five-man class that features all three-star players. With added depth, and continued improvement, the Hokies should be a tournament team in 2010.

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State Of The Big Blue Nation: Mood Indigo

Posted by jstevrtc on March 2nd, 2009

(OR, Why Rick Pitino Is Like School On Thanksgiving)

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.

Kentucky basketball fans are wondering if they might have built their new state-of-the-art basketball practice facility on a Native American burial ground.

(credit:  Kentucky.com)
(photo credit: Kentucky.com)

As if the Wednesday night emasculation at South Carolina and yesterday’s home-court disappointment against LSU weren’t enough, two pieces of news are currently at the forefront of the collective mind of the Big Blue Nation, as Kentucky fans are known.  First, it looks like Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino has decided to take a giant crap on any good will he had left in the non-Louisville part of Kentucky by profiting off of one of the worst moments in Wildcat basketball history.  We’ll get to that in a moment.  Second, in addition to the growing possibility of watching this year’s NCAA tournament from their dorm rooms, this weekend the team and their supporters have had to deal with this now well-publicized incident in which sophomore forward A.J. Stewart, sick of watching from the pine as his team loses more games than they should, told everybody where they could go a few days ago and actually quit the Wildcat squad for about 24 hours after the aforementioned South Carolina loss.  He’s obviously been reinstated by his team, since he played in the home loss to LSU yesterday.

Reinstatement or not, Kentucky fans have to be wondering — what on EARTH have we done to deserve all of this?

“This” all started two years ago, specifically when Tubby Smith decided he’d had enough of (whether warranted or not) the second-guessing in Lexington and hit the road for Minnesota, which might have well been any place, as long as NCAA Tournament bids and occasional Sweet Sixteen appearances are acceptable goals there.  If you recall, it was at this time that the one coach in the country that just about every Kentucky supporter considered their Heir Apparent, Florida’s Billy Donovan, flirted very seriously with the Kentucky job before actually accepting the same position with the Orlando Magic…only to back out on THAT commitment 48 hours later to stay at Florida.  At that moment, Kentucky fans had to know — something was up.

Enter Billy Gillispie, not exactly the program’s first choice but a good selection for them since he had earned the reputation as the New Resurrector after his stints at UTEP and Texas A&M.  He made friends early by ensuring that the Tubby Smith-recruited Patrick Patterson would still attend UK, but then dropped games to the likes of Gardner-Webb and San Diego (both at home), causing much head-scratching.  Despite a tough season with injuries and personnel-juggling, Gillispie’s first UK team battled back, made the tournament (and it looked bleak for a while), and Gillispie won co-Coach of the Year honors in the SEC.  About twelve seconds after their first-round loss, Kentucky fans were looking forward to the next season, knowing it would be better once everyone was healthy and some new bad-ass recruits came into the fold.  The Billy Donovan snub was virtually forgotten.

One of those players returning to health in that off-season was versatile point guard Derrick Jasper.  Having gotten over all the physical and mental hurdles that come with microfracture surgery of the (left) knee, the 2008-09 edition of the Wildcats was his to lead.  Jasper was poised to be the floor general of one of the storied programs of college basketball.  It was to be “his” team.  But instead, in a move that nobody saw coming, after a mere two years of living in Lexington — citing “homesickness” — Jasper bailed on his chance to lead the program, choosing relative obscurity over an amazing opportunity.  He transferred to UNLV and left Kentucky high and dry with point guard problems that Gillispie hasn’t been able to solve with junior Michael Porter and freshman DeAndre Liggins.  How big was this loss?  Considering that the point guard handles the ball 60% of the time for any given team, is it a coincidence that Kentucky is 338th out of 341 Division I teams in turnovers per game?  Probably not.

Only 1 of these three remains at UK.  (daylife.com)
Only 1 of these three remains at UK. (photo credit: daylife.com)

Then came the home loss to VMI earlier this year, an inexcusable loss given the Gardner-Webb debacle from the year before and the alarming talent disparity between the two teams.  With that loss still stinging, a few games later (in a game Kentucky still won), Liggins refused to re-enter a close game against Kansas State in a protest about playing time.  For a day or so it looked like Liggins’ status with the team was tenuous at best, but (just like what’s happened with the current A.J. Stewart situation) the players voted to reinstate him.  This had to remind Kentucky followers of the Alex Legion strangeness from the previous season; Legion was a prize recruit with a nice outside shot, and who they were going to count on for some serious point production…but he didn’t even make it to Christmas in his first year at UK, leaving because he (and his mom) felt he wasn’t getting enough PT.  And now — this weekend’s situation with Stewart.

Kentucky fans are left wondering what has happened to the culture in their program.  Their obvious Heir Apparent in Billy Donovan declined to return even though he had been groomed for the job since the Pitino years; with inexcusable losses to comparatively talent-bereft teams (and not too many surprising wins) Billy Gillispie is starting to look like a good example of the Peter Principle; some important players have jumped ship, seemingly preferring oblivion over recognition and opportunity, and others choose unproductive ways to protest lack of playing time; and despite having two lottery picks on the team and some hard-working young role players, the Wildcats find themselves sliding down the bubble’s surface this season and are giving the tournament selection committee every reason to leave them off the bracket two weeks from now with these stretch losses.  This is a program that didn’t exactly weep when Tubby Smith left town; I’m not even saying they’re wrong about that, since after Smith’s 1998 title run with the Wildcats, he never returned to the Final Four in his next nine seasons — would UNC, Kansas, Duke, or UCLA fans put up with such a streak these days? — but keep in mind that, for unknown reasons, Billy Gillispie hasn’t even signed his contract at UK even though he’s basically got two seasons under his belt, now.  Many folks in Lexington wonder if he should even bother, with UK’s performance this year, even if the team slips into the tournament somehow.  And to make matters worse, if Kentucky fans have to watch this tournament without their Wildcats for the first time in 17 years, this is the time of year that a certain shot by a certain former Duke player gets played over and over again…

Oh, but if only that were the end of it for the Big Blue Nation.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.21.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 21st, 2009

dynamite1

It’s BracketBuster Saturday, and we’re back with another compelling edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite.  We don’t know how it is where you live today, but it’s rainy and chilly here at the RTC Western Compound, which means it’s a great day for huddling up on the couch, firing up the three tvs, ordering up some pie and watching hoops all day.   There are some pretty strong games on the slate today, starting with Butler v. Davidson early and finishing with BYU v. UNLV late.  Settle in and feel free to make your own observations in the comments section.

12:08pm. Oh no, Steph Curry’s mom is NOT at the Davidson game today!!!!  Who will the cameras show in the crowd?!?!!?  Oh yeah, Dell’s there.  Ok.  Whew.

12:10pm. Wonder how ESPN decides who gets to host these games?  Seems like a pretty big decision considering Butler and Davidson are so tough at home, and the loser could drop a seed line or two based on this game.  Curry doesn’t like quite as quick as normal so far – the ankle is probably a little tender.

12:17pm. Our new uber-intern sent over some interesting news today – looks like Patrick Patterson might go for Kentucky today against Tennesee (coming up at 1pm), and surprise of all surprises, the NCAA is investigating USC with respect to recruiting Daniel Hackett.   His dad is the strength and conditioning coach at USC (which is legal, btw).

12:30pm. There are a couple of other BB games that started at 11am, and the most interesting one is Northeastern at Wright St., which is on ESPN2.  NE is leading by six right now, while CAA sibling ODU is crushing Liberty and Seth Curry.

12:46pm. How many games this year have we watched Davidson only to hear some announcer talking about Steph Curry having an “off” game.  It would be nice if he’d just come out and blow up one of these nationally-televised games.   As it now stands, he’s 1-10 and 0-6 from three.

12:50pm. Interesting stat from Brad Nessler there – that if Curry continued his 30 ppg pace for another season-plus at Davidson, he could conceivably catch Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring total record.  Of course, Pistol Pete did it in three years, but that would be a phenomenal record to approach.  We’ll see if we can figure the math and get back on that.

12:52pm. Early afternoon bubble watch.  Miami is smoking BC in S. Florida at halftime (up 12) and ND is also up 12 at halftime on Providence.  These are both pretty much must-wins, although Notre Dame needs it a little more than Miami.

12:57pm. Somehow three of the top four CAA teams drew road games in the BracketBusters event.  So far, the CAA looks good.  VCU only lost by one at Nevada last night, and Northeastern is finishing off Wright St.  ODU already won, and it’ll be very interesting to see what George Mason can do at Creighton later this evening.

1:02pm. Wow, Doug Gottlieb just eviscerated Jay Williams as to why Georgetown was going to make the tournament.  He must have thought he was back on that motorcycle there.  No inside presence?  Except the best freshman big in the country, Greg Monroe.  We get his point about frontcourt depth, but we’re with Gottlieb here – we think Georgetown makes a run to get to 9-9 in the Big East.

1:06pm. We’ve got some 1pm games starting here, incl. Bruce Pearl’s orange blazer at Kentucky (speaking of bubbles), Buffalo at Vermont on the deuce, and the second half of ND-Providence on ESPN FC.  Oh, and did we mention Gus Johnson is in Lexington today.  Oh yes.

1:11pm. Thanks CBS for showing me a graphic telling me that UK is on a 5-0 run in the last 3:20…  or, to start the game.  Brilliant.

1:18pm. Ok, here’s the deal on Curry catching Maravich.  Curry had 2414 coming into today.  Maravich ended with 3667 pts.  If we assume eight more games this year (three regular season; three SoCon Tourney; two NCAA Tourney), and 35 games next year, that’s 42 games.  He’d have to average 29.84 over that stretch to pass him.  Since he’s averaging 29.0 already this season, this is eminently possible should he stick around another season.  That would be fairly cool to track next season – let’s hope he returns.

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