Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • B1G is the Country’s Deepest Conference: With nine teams ranked 52nd or higher in the RPI, the Big Ten is the deepest and best conference – top-to-bottom – in the nation this season. The depth of the conference was never more evident than on Saturday, when Iowa hung 75 in a win at Wisconsin and Nebraska hung close with Michigan State deep into the second half. If you don’t come to play on nightly basis in this conference, even the league’s bottom-feeders can pop you with a loss. Expect the conference’s lofty records (and rankings) to diminish some over the next couple of months as the league beats each other up in Big Ten play.
  • Michigan State – So Hot Right Now: Few teams in the country are rolling like Michigan State. The Big Ten leaders sit atop the standings and are currently riding a 13-game winning streak after opening up conference play with an emphatic win over Indiana and a resilient effort at Nebraska. They have their normal interior size and strength with Draymond Green, Derrick Nix, and Adreian Payne, but Keith Appling – a player that Tom Izzo has called “the fastest point guard he’s ever coached” – is really starting to assert himself. The 6’1’’ sophomore had 25 points and seven assists against Indiana then contributed 14 point and six dimes against the Huskers.
  • Giant Killers: For the first time in its illustrious program’s history, Indiana has defeated the No. 1- and 2-ranked teams in the country in the same season. Assembly Hall has always been an intimidating place to play for opponents, with its combination of raucous fans and rich tradition. The key for the Hoosiers to make this a special season will be to duplicate that success on the road.

Tom Crean Tells Us How Many Wins His Hoosiers Have Over Top Five Teams This Season.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (13-2, 1-1) – It might not have seemed like much at the time, but the dubious call that wiped out Jared Sullinger’s lay-up and sent him to the bench in the first half with his second foul against Indiana proved to be enormous. That early foul trouble limited the OSU center’s playing time (nine minutes) and production (five points, two rebounds) in the first half. William Buford was as absent against the Hoosiers (eight points and four rebounds) as he was dominant against Northwestern (28/9) in the conference opener.
  2. Michigan State (13-2, 2-0) – How do you respond when you’ve built a 19-point lead at home, only to watch it disappear after a 25-2 run by your opponent? You go on a 20-0 spurt of your own to regain control of the game. Coming off an emotional victory against Indiana in East Lansing on Wednesday, it’s no surprise that Michigan State came out flat against Nebraska and trailed at halftime. They righted the ship in the second half though, and ended up beating the Cornhuskers by 13. When Michigan State is on their game and playing the kind of hard-nosed, physical brand of basketball that Tom Izzo loves, they are as good as anyone in the Big Ten. Read the rest of this entry »
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NIT: Refresher at the Quarterfinal Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2011

Walker Carey is an RTC contributor.

Given all the media and fan attention on the NCAA Tournament, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there were 32 other teams (several pretty good ones) playing on (mostly) the off days.  The NIT is the grand-daddy of postseason basketball, so let’s get you briefly caught up on where that tournament is at the quarterfinal stage.

Alabama Bracket

The first two rounds in the Alabama Bracket have seen the top seeds advancing in each game, which sets up a quarterfinal game between top seeded Alabama and second seeded Miami (FL) Wednesday night. Alabama has used solid performances from guards Tony Mitchell and Trevor Releford, as well as from big man JaMychal Green to breeze past Coastal Carolina and New Mexico in home games. The Hurricanes have gotten solid guard play from Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott to earn victories over Florida Atlantic and Missouri State in Coral Gables. The quarterfinals will come down to whether Frank Haith’s team can find scoring options against one of the better defensive teams still playing basketball this season.  The winner advance to the semifinals in New York City.

Colorado Bracket

The first round of the Colorado Bracket gave us two of the biggest upsets of the tournament thus far. After getting their bubble burst on Selection Sunday, second seeded Saint Mary’s was upset at home by seventh seeded Kent State after blowing a 13-point lead. The first round also saw third seeded Colorado State lose at home to sixth seeded Fairfield. The Golden Flashes topped the Stags in the second round to advance to the quarterfinal. In the top half of the bracket, Colorado has used strong performances from standouts Alec Burks and Cory Higgins to easily defeat Texas Southern, California and Kent State in succession.  The Buffs are playing like a team with a chip on its shoulder, and will advance to NYC to await the winner of the Alabama-Miami (FL) game.

Boston College Bracket

The first round of the Boston College Bracket saw all the top seeds advance and do so fairly convincingly. However, things changed in the second round, as top seeded Boston College was blown out at home by fourth seeded Northwestern. The Wildcats used a balanced attack led by John Shurna and Michael Thompson to throttle the Eagles. Elsewhere in the second round, Washington State used a strong performance from star guard Klay Thompson to get past third seed Oklahoma State by a 74-64 margin. The second round results set up a quarterfinal matchup between fourth seed Northwestern and second seed Washington State. Considering that the game will be played in Pullman and Klay Thompson might be the best player in the NIT this year, Wazzu should advance to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden next week.

Virginia Tech Bracket

The first round of the Virginia Tech Bracket contained the top individual performance of the tournament thus far. College of Charleston guard Andrew Goudelock netted 39 points to lead the sixth seeded Cougars to an upset victory over three seed Dayton. The Cougars remained hot in the second round by knocking out star guard Norris Cole and the Cleveland State Vikings. The top half of the bracket saw top seed Virginia Tech and fourth seed Wichita State advance to the second round where the Hokies and Shockers battled in an overtime classic. In the end, Wichita State was able to ride a balanced scoring effort to defeat the Hokies and overcome Malcolm Delaney’s 30 points. Both the Cougars and the Shockers are on a roll heading into the quarterfinal Wednesday night, making it a tough game to predict, but if Goudelock catches fire for Bobby Cremins’ squad then College of Charleston will enjoy a trip to New York as the sole mid-major representative next week in Manhattan. 

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Big Ten Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten. With action set to tip from Indianapolis on Thursday, get set for the postseason with RTC’s regular season wrap-up and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

The Big Ten Tournament should prove to be quite the entertaining tournament. With so many teams on the bubble, every game is going to have a do-or-die atmosphere to it. Three of the four quarterfinal games, excluding the one in which Ohio State is playing, could propel teams to NCAA Tournament at-large bids. Another important matchup to watch is Northwestern vs. Minnesota in Round 1 – where they’ll probably be playing for an NIT berth.

  • Cold Teams: Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana
  • Is Battle Ready For last Stand?: The Nittany Lions’ Talor Battle will try to finally make the NCAA Tournament. Can he shoot Penn State off the bubble and into the field?
  • Is Nolen Healthy?: Al Nolen hasn’t played January 22 against Michigan, but he could return this week. Would it be enough to get the Gophers rolling?
  • Can Anyone Stop Ohio State?: The Buckeyes look like a juggernaut, and this isn’t the time to be putting big decisions in the hands of the selection committee. In order to feel comfortable about its #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, OSU probably needs to win the Big Ten’s first. Northwestern played them close at Welsh-Ryan Arena – is a big upset in the making?
  • Will Izzo’s Tournament Touch Get Going?: Of the teams playing in the first round, Michigan State seems like the most likely candidate to reach the tournament finals. It seems like Tom Izzo just has a knack for this kind of thing by now.
  • Is The Next Generation Ready?: There are nine seniors on the three All-Big Ten teams selected by the coaches, and just one freshman. Are players like Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Illinois’ Jereme Richmond, Northwestern’s JerShon Cobb and Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. ready to play significant crunch time roles? Or will they wilt under the bright lights in Indianapolis?

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

The NCAA Tournament is right around the corner and the middle of the Big Ten doesn’t know what to do about it. This week features a bunch of big games for teams like Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State and Minnesota as they make a last-ditch attempt to get into the field of 68. Last week, there wasn’t much separation because few games were played and teams continued to play right into their current three-tier stratosphere.

  • Team of the Week: Ohio State: With none of the bubble teams doing anything particularly impressive, the Buckeyes went about their business and dispatched of Illinois at Value City Arena and Indiana at Assembly Hall. The two wins helped the Buckeyes reclaim top dog status after their loss at Purdue.
  • Player of the Week: JaJuan Johnson, F, Purdue: Johnson scored 20 points in two Purdue road victories last week. He also had nine boards against Indiana and then followed it up by adding 17 rebounds and 7 blocks against Michigan State. The game against the Spartans was a performance that put him right back in the middle of the National Player of the Year and Big Ten Player of the Year conversations.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Tim Hardaway, Jr., G, Michigan: Hardaway had another excellent week as he continues to come on late and help drive Michigan towards an unexpected NCAA Tournament berth. He’s scored in double-figures in his past 11 games and scored 16 points against Wisconsin and 22 points at Minnesota as the Wolverines split a pair.

Power Rankings

This week’s power rankings focus a bit on what the Big Ten teams need to do to get prepared for the NCAA Tournament, or what they might be thinking about come the off season.

1. Ohio State (27-2, 14-2) – The Buckeyes have been in the NCAA Tournament since about the first day of the season. They’re concentrating on grabbing a #1 seed and possibly the #1 overall seed. To do it, they’ll have to beat Wisconsin at home and then make a deep run into the Big Ten Tournament. Star freshman Jared Sullinger seems to be slowing down. He only played 12 minutes against Indiana and scored five points, his lowest total of the season. That’s okay though, because Ohio State has another talented freshman, Deshaun Thomas, who isn’t afraid to shoot. He stepped right in and scored 22 points against the Hoosiers.

2. Purdue (24-5, 13-3) – Matt Painter’s crew hasn’t felt losing since February 1, six games ago. Purdue hasn’t really been challenged during that time period either, with the hardest game being an eight-point win over Wisconsin at home. The Boilermakers look to be in a solid position for a #2 or #3 seed come Selection Sunday.

3. Wisconsin (22-6, 12-4) – This is the best offense in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy, but the Badgers can’t seem to put people away. Still, it’s been an impressive run for Bo Ryan’s club. Jon Leuer’s 26 points against Northwestern helped the Badgers seal that victory. Wisconsin looks in line to be a protected seed as well come Selection Sunday and a team nobody should want to face.

4. Michigan (18-12, 8-9) – The Wolverines weren’t expected to contend for an NCAA berth this season, but a young team has grown up quickly, and with a win on Saturday over rival Michigan State, John Beilein’s team would definitely have a case. Most bracket projections have the Wolverines in the tournament or just barely out at the moment. If they miss, two recent close losses at Illinois (54-52) and versus Wisconsin (53-52 on Josh Gasser’s miracle three) will be cruel deciding factors. Of course, beating Michigan State on Saturday and securing at least one victory in the Big Ten Tournament would do a lot.

5. Michigan State (16-12, 8-8) – Another team from Michigan that has played an incredibly difficult schedule and now finds itself on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Spartans could use the road win in Ann Arbor, but they first have to get past a trap game versus Iowa. There’s no way a team that finishes 10-8 in the Big Ten would get left out, but with such a soft bubble, even 9-9 might be enough for Tom Izzo to get a chance to work his magic. Michigan State’s biggest problem? It’s second-best win is against a quickly fading Washington squad.

6. Illinois (18-11, 8-8) – The Illini are who they are; they blow out anything up to mediocre teams at home and struggle against everyone on the road. Thus, it’s pretty easy to project that Illinois will finish 9-9 in conference. Non-conference wins over North Carolina and Gonzaga will help get them safely into the tournament, but their seed line will be determined by how they play in the Big Ten Tournament.

7. Penn State (15-12, 8-8) – It was a festive day on Thursday for Talor Battle as he became the first player in Big Ten history with 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. He said after the Nittany Lions beat Northwestern that he’d give it all back if Penn State could make the NCAA Tournament. Well, two winnable games remain as Ohio State comes to the Bryce Jordan Center and then Penn State finishes on the road at Minnesota. What it really comes down to is the game against the Buckeyes. Penn State has been close against good teams, but only has a home win over Wisconsin to carry their resume. Adding Ohio State to that list would be a clincher.

8. Northwestern (16-12, 6-11) – The Wildcats have no chance of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large. They’re barely hanging on to NIT status right now. Bill Carmody has a number of juniors and there are a lot of seniors in the league, so next year should be brighter. Unfortunately, Northwestern will say goodbye to the player that always did show up in the big games, Michael “Juice” Thompson. He’ll play his final home game at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Wednesday against Minnesota.

9. Minnesota (17-11, 6-10) – Minnesota has lost seven of its last eight games and has dropped off the bubble. The Gophers haven’t been able to weather the loss of senior guard Al Nolen. You can’t play basketball without a point guard, and while Blake Hoffarber has tried admirably to fill in, he can’t play both backcourt positions at once. Minnesota has two winnable games remaining at Northwestern and home against Penn State, but 8-10 in the conference won’t be enough for an NCAA berth.

10. Iowa (10-18, 3-13) – The Hawkeyes are looking to play spoiler now. Their best chance to really throw a wrench into someone’s plans is on Wednesday when Michigan State comes to town.

11. Indiana (12-14, 3-10) – Tom Crean will be lucky to escape the conference basement as the Hoosiers finish with two difficult games. A last-place finish in the conference might make his seat awfully hot.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 3/1 – Illinois at Purdue, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 3/1 – Ohio State at Penn State, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 3/2 – Minnesota at Northwestern, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 3/3 – Wisconsin at Indiana, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 3/5 – Michigan State at Michigan, 2 p.m., CBS
  • 3/5 – Purdue at Iowa, 4 p.m., ESPN
  • 3/6 – Penn State at Minnesota, 1 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 3/6 – Wisconsin at Ohio State, 4 p.m., CBS

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: I’d actually like to use this space this week to posit a few thoughts about other random topics around the conference.

  • There are four coaches in the conference whose names have come up as being on the “Hot Seat” at some point this season: Bruce Weber at Illinois, Bill Carmody at Northwestern, Tom Crean at Indiana and Ed DeChellis at Penn State. DeChellis will obviously be safe if the Nittany Lions make the NCAA Tournament, but I also expect at least two of the three others will be back next season as well.
  • The top five teams in the Big Ten receive automatic byes to the quarterfinals. 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10 and 8 plays 9. That 8-9 game is the one that intrigues me. Right now it would be Minnesota vs. Northwestern. But if you were the 6 or 7 seed, a loss in the first round would almost certainly kill your NCAA Tournament hopes. The 4-5 game is in the second round. Right now that’d be Illinois versus Penn State, giving the Nittany Lions another chance for a good win. Just some things to think about.
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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 8th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

  • Is the Big Ten, the highest-rated conference according to Ken Pomeroy, a four-bid league? That’s the question facing teams right now as the middle of the pack continues to churn. The only definite teams right now are Ohio State, Wisconsin and Purdue, but some mix of the next six teams in the conference could make it if things were to go well. Still, whether due to injuries, inconsistent play or a lack of opportunities, there seems to be something holding every team back.
  • Team of the Week: Wisconsin: The Badgers staked their claim to being the second best team in the Big Ten with a victory over Purdue and a crushing victory over Michigan State on Sunday. The Spartans didn’t know what hit them as the Badgers rained down threes during the first half; it led to some pretty epic offensive production.
  • Player of the Week: Jon Leuer, F, Wisconsin: Leuer played a big role in both of Wisconsin’s wins this week. He scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against Purdue and then followed it up with 20 and six against the overmatched Spartans. One thing to watch, though, is his turnovers. He had four in each of the past two games, more than half the team’s total of 15.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: Sullinger had two double-doubles last week against Michigan and Minnesota. Days like 19 points and 15 boards against the Wolverines are becoming so typical it’s almost possible to lose sight of how good this freshman is. He’s consistent as well, as he scored 18 points and grabbed 13 boards against the Gophers. The weakness in the big man’s game is free throw shooting. Sullinger shot 7-19 from the line last week and is at 69% on the season.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (24-0, 11-0) – In another week of solid victories for the Buckeyes the most interesting thing with the program happened off the court. Luke Winn featured the Buckeyes’ assists to Jared Sullinger in his Power Rankings last week. That same graphic then appeared in an ESPN broadcast. ESPN gave credit to Winn after the game and has since apologized. The big takeaway? Jon Diebler gives 44.2 percent of the post feeds from guards to the big freshman, as the two of them play the two-man high-low game of pick your poison. Also, I think that Winn should get Subway to sponsor that feature in the future.

2. Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3) – This offense does some unbelievable things, including scoring 82 points in 54 possessions against Michigan State. That’s 1.5 points per possession and absolutely absurd. That’s what happens when a team shoots 64.7 percent from three, shoots 25-26 from the free throw line and turns the ball over just eight times. Jordan Taylor led the way with 30 points for the Badgers.

3. Purdue (18-5, 7-3) – Purdue played one game this week, a tough one at Wisconsin, and lost. There’s no shame in it. JaJuan Johnson continued his excellent season with 23 points and 3 blocks, but the secondary players from the Badgers just made more plays down the stretch.

4. Illinois (15-8, 5-5) – Bruce Weber’s team doesn’t deserve to be in this spot after losing on Saturday on CBS to Northwestern, but honestly, which other collapsing Big Ten squad would you put here? When in doubt, take the talent, even if they do have a propensity for losing close games.

5. Penn State (12-10, 5-6) – A shoulder injury to senior forward Jeff Brooks might have cost the Nittany Lions a key conference game agaist Michigan on Sunday. Brooks injured his shoulder in Penn State’s loss to Illinois and then sat out its 65-62 loss to the Wolverines. Coaches hope to have him back when the Nittany Lions travel to Michigan State on Thursday.

6. Minnesota (16-7, 5-6) – The Gophers have lost three games in a row. Two of them weren’t really a surprise (at Purdue, vs. Ohio State), but a 60-57 loss at Indiana isn’t good. Thankfully, not a single ranked team remains on the conference schedule and games against fellow bubble teams Illinois and Penn State are at home.

7. Northwestern (14-8, 4-7) – Michael “Juice” Thompson carried the Wildcats to a victory at home over in-state rival Illinois, 71-70, with some great three-point shooting (5-8 from distance) and clutch plays. The Wildcats are also starting to get a bit healthier as John Shurna returned from his concussion to play in the game against the Illini.

8. Michigan (14-10, 4-7) – 23 points from Darius Morris was enough to get a victory on the road at Penn State and help the Wolverines get a much-needed victory. With five winnable games left on the schedule Michigan has an outside shot at getting into the NCAA bubble (at 9-9 in conference with a very tough non-conference schedule) talk by the Big Ten Tournament, more likely the Wolverines are headed to the NIT.

9. Michigan State (13-10, 5-6) – The Spartans’ season is quickly spiraling out of control. Tom Izzo in the weekly conference call summed the past week up this way: “Definitely one of the most disappointing weeks of my coaching career.” Michigan State has lost five of its last six games, and suffered two blowout losses last week to Iowa (by 20 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena) and Wisconsin (by 28 in only 54 possessions at the Kohl Center).

10. Iowa (10-13, 3-8) – The Hawkeyes might be one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten. Their 20-point blowout of Michigan State was incredibly unexpected, but then they followed it up with a one-point victory over Indiana at Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Freshman Melsahne Basabe had 20 points and 13 rebounds against the Hoosiers.

11. Indiana (12-12, 3-8) – Just when it looked like the Hoosiers were turning things around a home loss to Iowa might’ve taken the wind out of their sails. Beating Minnesota was the highlight as Tom Pritchard scored 12 points on five shots and grabbed seven boards for Indiana. He also had a dunk-of-the-year nominee.

A Look Ahead (all times EST)

  • 2/8 – Indiana at Purdue, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/9 – Northwestern at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/10 – Illinois at Minnesota, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/12 – Ohio State at Wisconsin, 2 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/12 – Indiana at Michigan, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/13 – Purdue at Illinois, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 2/13 – Northwestern at Penn State, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: As John Gasaway pointed out on Monday, there are no easy games in the Big Ten this season. The lowest rated team, Iowa, has an efficiency margin of -0.11 per possession. On the other hand, the conference leader, Wisconsin, is at +0.16. Yes, the Badgers, not Ohio State, have the best efficiency margin during conference play. The undefeated, #1 ranked Buckeyes are no slouches though at +0.14 points per possession. Seven of the 11 teams have a negative efficiency margin right now.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.06.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 6th, 2011

***** – 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 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

After Jimmer Fredette stole the show late last night, what does Thursday have in store for us hoopheads? Two in-state clashes lead the way, one of them a heated city rivalry. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Xavier @ Cincinnati – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Mick Cronin And His Bearcats Are Ranked And At Home Against a Depleted Xavier Squad

The Crosstown Shootout is always fun but there’s a heightened sense of importance this year for one team. The Cincinnati Bearcats have the upper hand in the city for the first time in years, undefeated and ranked in the both the AP and coaches polls. Xavier has won the last three meetings, and eight of eleven, though Cincinnati leads the series 47-30. The Bearcats will look to snap their losing streak and show the nation they’re legitimate in front of a national audience this evening.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.21.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 21st, 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 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

An intriguing matchup in Knoxville and a clash in KC highlight tonight’s schedule. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

USC @ #17 Tennessee – 7 pm on ESPN3.com/ESPN FullCourt (***)

UT Has Something to Prove Tonight After Last Week (AP/M. Terrill)

All of a sudden this has become a really interesting basketball game. Each team is headed in the opposite direction with USC coming in confident after a close loss at Kansas which saw the debut of Jio Fontan while Tennessee has lost two straight after starting 7-0. Fontan played well for the Trojans but five turnovers did not help the cause in his first game since transferring from Fordham. USC will look to slow down the pace of this game on the road against the up-tempo Volunteers. The Trojans are rated #283 in tempo and should have an edge rebounding wise with Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic up front. Stepheson is a key player in this game. Coming off a season-high 18-point performance at Kansas, Kevin O’Neill needs his big man to be a presence inside against Tennessee’s Brian Williams. Stepheson is more talented offensively but he’ll have to work hard to get off quality shots against Williams. The rebounding battle is a huge factor in this game with USC coming in at #13 in defensive rebounding and Tennessee #16 in offensive rebounding. USC has to control the glass in order to win and can’t afford careless turnovers, giving the Vols extra possessions. Another area to watch is free throws. Tennessee’s stellar free throw rate has fallen in recent games but it still ranks #6 in the country. The problem is they foul a lot and put their opponent on the line at a pretty good clip as well. USC has a decent defensive free throw rate so keeping Tennessee off the line will give them a much better chance to win. Bruce Pearl now has 6’6 wing Jeronne Maymon eligible, a transfer from Marquette. He’ll add depth to the Volunteer rotation but the key player that has to get going is Scotty Hopson, just 6-19 from the floor in the Charlotte loss. When Hopson is on, Tennessee is awfully tough to beat. With Hopson playing well, teams can’t back off him and must spread the floor defensively, opening up holes where other players can take advantage. Another big player for Tennessee is freshman Tobias Harris. Going up against the taller USC defenders inside, Harris may look more towards his mid-range game in this contest. The Trojans won’t be intimidated after playing so well at Allen Fieldhouse. They’ve been up and down however, having knocked off Texas but losing to the likes of TCU and Bradley among others. Tennessee is a seven point favorite and should win, but this game is basically unpredictable after what we’ve seen from these two teams over this past week.

UNLV vs. #14 Kansas State (in Kansas City) – 9 pm on ESPN2 (****)

This is a huge game for both teams as the loser will pick up their third loss of the season. Each team has seen their offense falter recently. UNLV’s effective field goal percentage dropped quite a bit over their last two games while Kansas State’s offense did essentially nothing in a loss to Florida on Saturday. The Wildcats put up just 44 points after taking a 20-8 lead to start the game and missing 19 of 20 shots at one point. In fact, Kansas State hasn’t cracked 70 points in three of their last four games. One thing the Wildcats do very well is defend and rebound, ranked in the top ten in defensive efficiency and offensive rebounding percentage. Kansas State has to get a consistent third option on offense. Curtis Kelly can be that guy but he was ineffective in only 19 minutes against Florida. As for UNLV, the Rebels do a great job inside the arc and that’s where they need to take advantage of Kansas State tonight. Lon Kruger’s team is #8 in two point offense and #22 in two point defense. They get 57% of their points from two point range led by Chace Stanback. Though he’s struggled a bit in UNLV’s recent games, Stanback can also take his game outside where he’s a 38% three point shooter. Kansas State has to do a good job defending the interior in order to win, otherwise UNLV will run rampant inside. With a capable point guard in Oscar Bellfield and three other solid starters, Kruger has a balanced team that can put up points in a hurry when they’re clicking. For Kansas State, Jacob Pullen has simply got to play better. He looks nothing like the All-American candidate he was hyped up to be though he still leads the team in scoring by a wide margin. He’s scored 19 points in each of the last two games but has shot just 11-34 (32%). When he’s off, the opponent can lock up Rodney McGruder making Kansas State incredibly weak on offense. One area to watch in this game is turnovers, specifically how well UNLV does in forcing K-State to give the ball away. The Rebels rank #15 in defensive turnover percentage while Kansas State is #209 in offensive turnover percentage. Should they turn it over often the Wildcats can make up for it on the glass where they should hold an advantage, turning rebounds into extra offensive opportunities. As everyone knows with Kansas State, should this game be close towards the end the Wildcats are an awful free throw shooting team. Playing in front of what should be a partisan crowd, Kansas State should win this game. However, another weak performance on the offensive end will keep UNLV in this right until the very end. The Rebels are talented and have what it takes to win this game. We predict this one will go down to the wire with free throws deciding the outcome.

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ATB: Memphis Survives But Raises Questions

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2010

The Lede.  Another night during this light week of games, another upset.  Ok, not quite.  But Austin Peay sure made us think that another ranked team was going down at home tonight, didn’t they?  Otherwise, it was another very quiet evening of games around the country.

Not Sure About Celebrating a Win Over Austin Peay (MCA/M. Weber)

Your Watercooler MomentMemphis Is Not Good.  Sure, they’re 8-1 now after an overtime win against Austin Peay, but in many respects the Governors outplayed the Tigers, and several of the same issues that have arisen in those first eight games reared their ugly heads again tonight.  Turnovers (24 total, many of which were just careless and unforced); poor shot selection (Joe Jackson and Will Barton combined for a 5-19 night); and a general lack of leadership on the floor (Charles Carmouche jump-starting his team after a 21-0 run by AP is a start).  Josh Pastner by all apparent indications is a recruiter extraordinaire, and if you ask 100 coaches if they’d rather have elite talent or elite coaching ability, 99 of them would say the former.  But he’s yet to prove in his year-plus at Memphis that he’s learned how to engender leadership and accountability among his players, and this is especially more difficult with the caliber of young and often immature players that the 33-year old is corralling.  We’re very interested to see how this year plays out, because with injuries and some defections Pastner is now down to only nine scholarship guys, and although Conference USA is still no match for the talent that Memphis can put on the floor, neither is Austin Peay nor Arkansas State.  They have a week to prepare for a home game against Georgetown (with TAMU-CC in between), and they’ll really need to have their heads on straight for that one or risk embarrassment at the hands of the more experienced Hoyas.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • John Shurna & Michael Thompson.  The two Northwestern stars are killing it so far this season, with another great performance tonight in the Wildcats’ victory over American.  Shurna had 23/4/3 stls/3 blks and Thompson contributed 23/3/3 assts in the 16-point victory.  In seven games so far this season, the two are dropping over forty points per game and shooting well over 50% from the field.  They’ve played nobody of consequence yet, but any year that Northwestern can start the season 7-0 is a good thing in Evanston.
  • The Lumberjacks and Governors.  Neither middie came away from their games with a win tonight but they both represented the little guys well.  NAU did what they needed to do to win — the ‘Jacks hit 53% of their shots in the McKale Center and outrebounded Arizona by ten, but they were unable to defend UA from three, as the Wildcats’ ten treys made the difference in the tightly-battled game.  The Govs didn’t shoot the ball well at Memphis, but they forced 24 turnovers against the Tigers and dominated the glass (especially on the offensive end, +13).  A few bounces here and there could have gone their way, but the key takeaway is that both teams gave themselves great chances to steal one tonight.
  • Damen Bell-Holter.  The Oral Roberts big man had a career night on the glass in Columbia this evening, pulling a man-sized seventeen boards down including ten on the offensive end.  Considering that his team couldn’t hit the ocean standing in a boat tonight (27%), there were plenty of caroms available for him, but anytime a single player has a night like that, it should be noted.

… and Misses.

  • SEC West.  What else is new?  Should we give credit to LSU for eking out a 12-point win in overtime over McNeese State, or should we again pile on the worst division in college basketball?  It’s seemingly night after night after night with these guys.  Can we just go ahead and get to the SEC schedule so they stop having these embarrassing games (and yes, it’s embarrassing to get taken to overtime by McNeese State; imagine if the football team did that!).

Tweet of the Night.  The Tigers were lucky to come out with a win at home tonight against Austin Peay, and this tweet by Andy Glockner crystallized just how fortunate they were.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back:

  • Hot Start: According to Ken Pomeroy’s early season rankings, which are open to a lot of fluctuation, the Big Ten doesn’t have a single team ranked outside the top 100. The Big Ten and the Big 12 are the only conferences that can claim such a feat. With a 36-5 record out of the gate, the Big 10 has made a huge impression whether you go by Pomeroy’s advanced stats or simply wins and losses.
  • Team of the Week: Minnesota: All the Golden Gophers did last week was go to a neutral site and beat Western Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia. Those last two wins are going to be critical if Tubby Smith’s team finds itself on the bubble come Selection Sunday. Though after two wins like that, maybe it is time to consider the fact that the Gophers might actually compete for the Big Ten title. Marquette transfer Trevor Mbakwe has been a revelation in the post this season and is averaging 14.0 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game. Ralph Sampson III has improved his game as well. Teams also have to contend with Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen. At 5-0 this team is off to a roaring start.
  • Player of the Week: Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois: While Illinois lost a game at Madison Square Garden, it certainly wasn’t McCamey’s fault. He was the best player on the court for the Illini in both games. Against Maryland, he was absolutely deadly, as he scored 20 points on just nine shots and dished out seven assists.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, C, Ohio State: The highly recruited freshman has made his mark during the opening of the season. In Ohio State’s three games thus far he’s averaged 18.7 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game. That includes a 26 point, 10 board performance in the Buckeyes’ victory over Florida.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (3-0) – This team isn’t just Sullinger, currently five Buckeyes are averaging at least 10 points. The rotation, which was very short last season, has been loosened a bit by Thad Matta and eight players have played at least 10 minutes per game this season. William Buford, essentially Evan Turner’s replacement at point guard, has performed very well averaging 13.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
  2. Michigan State (3-0) – The Spartans took it easy before heading off to the Maui Invitational this week. They’ll take on Connecticut and one other high-profile program during the week, so it should be a good test. An 82-73 victory over South Carolina was the team’s warmup for the tournament.
  3. Minnesota (5-0) – See the Team of the Week section, but the Gophers are rolling.
  4. Illinois (4-1) – Give the Illini credit as they went to New York and played two very competitive games against Texas, losing in overtime, and Maryland. Demetri McCamey showed more athleticism than in the past and looks prepared to carry this team. Brandon Paul is also giving this team a spark off the bench and averaging 11.8 points per game. Interior defense might be this team’s Achilles’ heel and freshman Jereme Richmond, just 7.8 points per game, should be looking to do more on the offensive end.
  5. Purdue (3-0) – The record might suggest that Purdue is going to be just fine without Robbie Hummel, but Oakland was the first decent team that the Boilermakers played and they led by just four points at the break. E’Twaun Moore has picked up the slack on offense averaging 20.3 points per game. JaJuan Johnson is averaging almost a double-double with 15.7 points per game and 9.0 rebounds per game. Purdue is in the Chicago Invitational Challenge this week and a possible game against Richmond might be a good early season test.
  6. Wisconsin (2-1) – Credit the Badgers for playing a tough road game at UNLV, but the loss isn’t the result that Bo Ryan wanted. Freshman Josh Gasser is starting for Wisconsin and averaging 11.7 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Badgers are already dictating tempo, averaging 64 possessions per game through the first three games.
  7. Northwestern (3-0) – The Wildcats survived a strange trip to Texas-Pan American then came home and crushed Arkansas-Pine Bluff and now are taking 10 days off before playing against Creighton. Bill Carmody will have the team working on defense, because the offense is just fine. John Shurna is averaging 22.7 points per game and Drew Crawford is averaging 20.7. Another worry is that the minutes for point guard Michael Thompson are already starting to build up. He averaged 35.0 minutes per game as Northwestern took down three very easy teams.
  8. Indiana (4-0) – The Hoosiers, like the Wildcats, really haven’t played anyone yet, so it’s hard to judge this team. The trio of Christian Watford, with 17.8 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game, Verdel Jones III, 14.3 points per game, and Maurice Creek, 12.0 points per game, is going to help Indiana put a lot of points on the board. This team does have a bad habit of letting bad teams hang around, so that’s something to watch moving forward.
  9. Penn State (4-0) – Talor Battle has a competent wingman in Jeff Brooks it appears and the Nittany Lions might be more dangerous than people expect. Senior forward Brooks is averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as Penn State has racked up four easy home victories thus far. To his credit, Battle has continued his outstanding play and is averaging 16.3 points per game even though he’s shooting just 26.9 percent from beyond the arc.
  10. Michigan (3-0) – Three terrible opponents has resulted in three home victories for the Wolverines. Things though are about to get much tougher, as Michigan takes on Syracuse in the Legends Classic on Friday.  After averaging just 4.4 points per game last season, sophomore guard Darius Morris is averaging 14.7 points per game and 8.3 assists per game this season. Freshman Tim Hardaway, Jr., has made an immediate impact as well, averaging 14.3 points per game.
  11. Iowa (2-2) – The Hawkeyes lost to South Dakota State in their season opener, but have since righted the ship. Iowa got a victory over a decent Alabama squad in the Paradise Jam Tournament on Saturday.

A Look Ahead

Two big games for the conference include the Spartans taking on Michigan State in Maui and Michigan tipping off against Syracuse in Atlantic City, but the conference is otherwise quiet until the ACC-Big 10 challenge comes.

  • Nov. 23 – Michigan State vs. Connecticut in the Maui Invitational, Lahaina, HI
  • Nov. 23 – Ohio State vs. Morehead St., Columbus, Ohio
  • Nov. 26 – Penn State vs. Ole Miss, Oxford, Miss.
  • Nov. 26 – Michigan vs. Syracuse, Legends Classic, Atlantic City, NJ
  • Nov. 26-27 – Purdue vs. Southern Illinois and someone else, Chicago Invitational Challenge, Hoffman Estates, Ill.
  • Nov. 28 – Northwestern vs. Creighton, Evanston, Ill.

Fun With Efficiency Margin

There’s not much in this space right now, but once conference play begins expect to see tempo-free efficiency margins for in conference play in the Big Ten. Last season Wisconsin won the efficiency crown. We’ll see if the Badgers can repeat or if another team takes the title.

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Ten Opening Night Scribbles

Posted by zhayes9 on November 13th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

It would be foolish to draw too many sweeping conclusions after one rust-filled outing against inferior competition, but there are certain elements within a game that can provide a glimpse into what to expect during the season ahead.  After watching a handful of games last night and tracking each and every box score this morning, these ten things caught my eye:

Tinsley is now the full time point guard at Vandy

1. As is often the case in the SEC, Vanderbilt flew under the radar in the preseason. Kentucky’s ballyhooed freshmen class received the buzz, Florida was crowned the prohibitive favorite due to the return of five starters, Bruce Pearl’s recruiting indiscretions vaulted Tennessee into the spotlight for the wrong reasons and Mississippi State could certainly be dangerous when Dee Bost and Renardo Sidney return nine games into the campaign. The Commodores, coming off a 24-9 season and a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, didn’t receive the same publicity as their SEC brethren. But that’s just how Kevin Stallings, one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the business, prefers it. The loss of senior point guard Jermaine Beal (and the premature departure of A.J. Ogilvy inside) was a big reason why many pegged Vanderbilt to take a step back from a season ago, even with returnees John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor oozing with talent and potential. The question was how junior point guard Brad Tinsley would step in for the grizzled veteran Beal and run the Commodores offense with the same aplomb, finding Jenkins off curls and screens for open threes or big man Festus Ezeli in scoring position on the block. Tinsley showed he’s up for the task in a 41-point romp of Presbyterian at Memorial Gymnasium on Friday, notching Vandy’s first triple-double in school history with 11 points and a career high 10 assists and 10 rebounds (not too shabby for a 6’3 guard). Tinsley also collected three steals and only turned the ball over twice. If Tinsley provides playmaking and stability at the point, Taylor lives up to his future lottery pick billing as an impact wing, Jenkins continues his proficiency from deep and Ezeli gives Vandy a presence inside, the Commodores will win 24 games again.

2. Two wins on Friday night may fly under the radar a bit, but are absolutely worth highlighting. The first is Minnesota’s convincing home victory over Wofford. I expected the Terriers to give Tubby Smith’s squad all kinds of trouble and possibly even win this game straight up. Wofford returns four starters, including potential SoCon POY Noah Dahlman, from a stout defensive team that gave Wisconsin a scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Heck, I even pegged them as my Cinderella last week. Throw in yet another Minnesota suspension on Thursday (this time off-guard Devoe Joseph) and this had all the makings of a super competitive test for the Gophers. Instead, Minnesota controlled the game throughout, leading by ten at half and winning 69-55 behind 20/13 from Ralph Sampson and 14/10 in Trevor Mbakwe’s debut in maroon and gold. The Gopher bigs also contained Dahlman to 15 points and the Wofford guards couldn’t find their stroke from deep. Don’t be surprised if this is an RPI top-100 win for Minnesota by season’s end. A second win that stood out is West Virginia’s romp of Oakland, another squad favored to win their conference behind potential first round pick Keith Benson. Benson did his thing with 22/15 but received no help as the Mountaineers utilized a balanced attack- Joe Mazzulla, Dalton Pepper, John Flowers, Deniz Kilicli, Casey Mitchell and Darryl Bryant all scored in double figures- to romp the Golden Grizzlies 95-71. Without an all-Big East perimeter threat like Da’Sean Butler at their disposal, this type of team effort is imperative if the Mountaineers want to vault themselves into the upper echelon of the Big East this season.

3. It’s painfully obvious that Georgetown is going to live and die with their backcourt this season. Their frontcourt pieces- Julian Vaughn, Nate Lubick, Jerelle Benimon and Henry Sims- are unspectacular, role players that can crash the boards, provide versatility and dish from the top of the key in the Georgetown halfcourt offense, but simply cannot be relied upon as consistent scoring threats. The Hoyas opener at reigning CAA champion and preseason favorite Old Dominion exposed this weakness inside. The Monarchs out-rebounded Georgetown by 11, blocked nine more shots and the Hoya forwards only scored eight of the team’s 62 points. Yet Georgetown eked out an enormous road victory on the heels of their experienced and savvy backcourt trio of Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark. The threesome led Georgetown back from a second-half deficit with clutch threes and free throws down the stretch, including one from Wright on a crosscourt Hollis Thompson feed where the 6’1 senior wasn’t even able to even land as the shot clocked expired. Given the Monarchs defensive prowess and the return of four starters from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, this is in all likelihood a top-50 RPI win for Georgetown in the first week of the campaign. If more of those marquee wins are to come, Wright, Freeman and Clark will be the reasons.

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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Michigan State (15-3)
  • 2. Ohio State (13-5)
  • 3. Illinois (12-6)
  • 4. Wisconsin (11-7)
  • T5. Purdue (9-9)
  • T5. Minnesota (9-9)
  • T5. Northwestern (9-9)
  • 8. Penn State (7-11)
  • 9. Indiana (6-12)
  • 10. Michigan (5-13)
  • 11. Iowa (3-15)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Demetri McCamey, Illinois (15.1 PPG, 6.8 APG)
  • G: Kalin Lucas, Michigan State (14.9 PPG, 3.9 APG)
  • F: Jon Leuer, Wisconsin (15.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG)
  • F: John Shurna, Northwestern (18.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG)
  • C: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue (15.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG)

6th Man

G: E’Twaun Moore, Purdue (16.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG)

Jared Sullinger (above) and three returning double-figure scorers succeed Evan Turner in Columbus, but Michigan State is the team to beat in the Big Ten.

Impact Newcomer

C: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: Sullinger is a consensus top-five recruit. The 6’9 post player from Columbus played his high school basketball at Northland High School and won three national AAU championships with the All-Ohio Red team. He was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball his junior and senior seasons and the Naismith National High School Boy’s Basketball Player of the Year in 2010. While some have compared him to Greg Oden, scouts say that Sullinger has a better face-up offensive game than the former Buckeye, but isn’t as intimidating on the defensive end. The hype reached epic proportions when Gary Parrish named Sullinger to his Preseason All-America team along with Harrison Barnes.

What You Need to Know

The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in college basketball, potentially the best this season. The pace is typically slower (eight of the 11 teams played at an adjusted tempo that ranked lower than 200th in the nation last season) and the play might be a little rougher (the top seven teams in the conference had a defensive efficiency that ranked 53rd or better last season), but there are a lot of teams that are a tough out come tournament time. Michigan State always seems to overachieve in the NCAA Tournament and there’s seldom a shortage of talent. Northwestern is the oddball in the conference, as the Wildcats are the only major conference team to have never been to the Big Dance.

Predicted Champion

Michigan State (NCAA Seed: #1): The Spartans took a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament last season and ran with it all the way to Final Four before falling to Butler in the National Semifinals. Most of that team returns this season. Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers will drive the backcourt, but there is also depth behind those two to help counter the conference grind. Up front, Draymond Green is an underrated force in the paint that should be able to absorb the minutes left behind from Raymar Morgan, the biggest loss from Michigan State’s Final Four team. Adreian Payne and Keith Appling are two high-profile recruits that can only help bolster the Spartans’ rotation. The Spartans have the look of a team that will be in the top five all season. Read the rest of this entry »

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The RTC Big Four State Tournament: Quarterfinals

Posted by rtmsf on September 9th, 2010

We’re back with the next round of the RTC Big Four State Tournament.  As you likely recall, last week we broke down eight first round matchups between the top sixteen states containing at least four NCAA D1 programs, utilizing star players from each of those programs to come up with the bracket that appears below.  We didn’t always agree with the fan vote, picking a couple of true upsets (#9 Illinois over #8 Michigan, and #12 Virginia over #5 Ohio), and disagreeing with the fans on another (#6 Florida over #11 Kentucky).  Regardless, we endeavor to carry on.

We’ll break down the semifinals and finals next week.  Be sure to get your votes in on these matchups below.

Quarterfinal Matchups (1st Round fan vote pct. listed)

#1 Indiana (92%) vs. #9 Illinois (24%)

The plucky underdog Illinois meets another Midwestern foe after downing Michigan in the opening round. This time around, the challenge will be even stiffer — the top seeded and tournament favorite Hoosier State representatives. The primary reason for Illinois’ first round win was the perimeter trio of  Demetri McCamey, Michael Thompson and John Shurna. Different story against Indiana; the hard-nosed play of Shelvin Mack, the scoring ability of E’Twaun Moore,  the all-around game of Tim Abromaitis and even Robbie Hummel’s propensity to step out to the perimeter — his first half performance against Ohio State one that sticks out — provides the Hoosiers more than enough firepower out of their guards to counteract Illinois. Southern Illinois’ Carlton Fay attempting to guard potential first team All-America Hummel is also a key factor. Since it’s doubtful Fay can hang with the multifaceted Boilermaker, we suspect that the Purdue senior explodes for a big shooting night and a near triple-double. There’s simply way too much firepower with JaJuan Johnson coming off the bench in this one. Indiana cruises again.

RTC Choice: Indiana 83, Illinois 67.

#4 Texas (67%) vs. #12 Virginia (22%)

Virginia was the Cinderella story of the first round, continuing the ever-popular 5/12 upset trend and knocking off favored Ohio on the heels of their backcourt consisting of Malcolm Delaney and Kevin Anderson. Those two won’t have it as easy against the twosome that gives a whole new meaning to Don’t Mess with Texas. High-flying Randy Culpepper of UTEP could be one of the best non-BCS players in the land this season. He’ll team with Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn and Texas’ Jordan Hamilton on the wing, meaning scoring can come often and in bunches for this Texas squad. There’s too much athleticism across the board for the Virginia frontline of Mike Scott, Jeff Allen and Justin Harper to contain. Look for Texas to pound the ball inside early to Perry Jones and Gary Johnson to utilize these extreme mismatches and lure the Virginia bigs into foul trouble. If this happens, let the dunkfest ensue. Culpepper and Dunn provide the scoring punch outside to complement the forwards, making this even more of a foregone conclusion, especially since Delaney can’t hang with the crafty Dunn defensively. Texas advances to the semifinals in relatively easy fashion.

RTC Choice: Texas 78, Virginia 65.

#2 North Carolina (89%) vs. #7 Washington (58%)

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