After the Buzzer: The Opening Night That Isn’t

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2010

College Basketball comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over the BCS and NFL
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

The Season Surrounds Us, But Where Is It?

We’re reminded of this (slightly modified) poem every year when one day we wake up and find ourselves facing an “opening” Friday night of 135 games with nearly zero hype and fanfare ahead of it.  Like the fog in Carl Sandburg’s world, the game creeps up and appears all around us rather damp and sticky, but unless you have an alt-network like ESPN-U or the Full Court package, you probably missed the whole thing.  And that’s sad.  We’re certainly not the first and we won’t be the last to belabor the point of just how badly the NCAA needs to work with its television partners so that there is a real opening night that celebrates the sport’s return.  But it’s only four days until the ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops extravaganza — why not make that the season opener each year?  We hear it every day, folks — everyone is happy that college hoops is back on their sets and in their local gyms, but nobody is pleased with the week-long trickle followed by the firehose way in which the season begins every year.

Your Watercooler Moment. Tonight’s watercooler moment is that there were a handful of teams on opening night who already have pretty bad home losses on their NCAA Tournament resumes, regardless of how they do the rest of the season.  Let’s take a closer look.

  • Wake Forest.  Stetson chalked its first win over an ACC opponent in nearly thirty-five years by taking advantage of the Deacs’ weakness on the boards (+11) and the obvious adjustment of having a new sheriff in town (Jeff Bzdelik).  We knew Wake would struggle, but this is beyond expectations.
  • Tulsa.  Tulsa is not an easy team to beat in their house, but Appalachian State and its brand-new young coach, Jason Capel, pulled off the feat tonight behind 35/4 from Omar Carter.  There was some heat given over App’s hire of the 30-year old Capel, but after one game it looks like a grand slam, huh?
  • UTEP.  Tim Floyd’s first game in El Paso didn’t go so well as his star guard Randy Culpepper shot poorly (6-15) and Pacific picked up a very nice RPI booster win for the Big West over CUSA.
  • Auburn.  Nobody expects much from the Tigers this year (or, ever), but losing to UNC-Asheville in the christening of your new building isn’t the best way to start a hoops renaissance.  We have a feeling that Tony Barbee is going to rue the day he ever ventured onto the Plains of Alabama.
  • St. Louis. Rick Majerus’ Billikens sans its two knuckleheads dropped a home game to Austin Peay, 64-62, they type of game that SLU would have never lost had Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed still been on the team.  Even if Mitchell returns to the team in January as expected, St. Louis could be too far behind the eight-ball at that point to catch up.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Class of 2010. It was a very solid first night for the rookie class in college basketball tonight, with many players stepping right into productive roles from the opening tip.  More details on this below.
  • Temple. Despite not being able to hit anything from outside, the Owls manhandled Seton Hall on the glass and held the Pirates to 30% shooting in a good intrasectional matchup between A-10 and Big East.
  • Tu Holloway’s Second Half.  Holloway scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half when it appeared that XU was going to drop its opener to Western Michigan.  The Muskies have really struggled so far this year (losing an exhibition last week), but we have faith in Chris Mack that he’ll figure it out.
  • Brad Tinsley. The junior guard recorded Vandy’s first-ever triple-double tonight with 11/10/10 assts and 3 stls.
  • Morgan State.  Todd Bozeman’s team went west and eked out a win against a game Loyola Marymount squad that many believe can contend with Gonzaga and St. Mary’s this year in the WCC.  Great RPI win for the Bears.
  • Alex Oriakhi.  UConn will need its talented post to have a bunch more nights like tonight (11/18) if the Huskies hope to get back into the NCAAs this year.
  • John Henson.  The 6’10 sophomore resembled a young Tayshaun Prince in UNC’s win over Lipscomb tonight, going for a near triple-double with 10/16/7 blks.
  • Markieff Morris.  Forget his more-hyped brother — Markieff blew up the stat sheet with 14/15/5 assts/4 stls/2 blks in a dominating KU win.
  • Georgetown Backcourt.  Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark combined for 54 of the Hoyas’ 62 points in a really nice road win at ODU.  Georgetown is really going to struggle inside, though, as they were -11 on the boards and looked lost inside without Greg Monroe.
  • Keith Benson.  The Oakland center and legitimate pro prospect put up nice numbers against the bruising front line of West Virginia (21/15/2 blks), but his team simply wasn’t competitive (tough night for the Summit).
  • Kalin Lucas’ Return. Lucas showed no signs of his nasty Achilles injury from March as he dropped 18/3/6 assts in 26 minutes of action against EMU.
  • John Shurna.  The Northwestern big man dropped 31/9/3 assts in the first game of the latest NW attempt to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time.  Gotta win games like these, though (and they did).
  • UMass Comeback.  The Minutemen came back from 21 points down at the half versus Rider to win comfortably by ten, 77-67.  Anthony Gurley had 31/4 in the winning effort which featured the student section exiting en masse at halftime.  Guess they shoulda stuck around?
  • Brandon Bowdry.  The talented Eastern Michigan forward exposed a soft spot in the Michigan State defense with a 32/15 effort that still ended in a loss.

… and Misses.

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RTC Conference Primers: #30 – MEAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 5th, 2010

RTC is still seeking a MEAC correspondent.  If you are interested in covering this league, email us for further information at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Morgan State (13-3)
  2. South Carolina State (12-4)
  3. Norfolk State (10-6)
  4. Delaware State (9-7)
  5. Bethune-Cookman (9-7)
  6. Maryland-Eastern Shore (8-8)
  7. Hampton (8-8)
  8. Howard (7-9)
  9. North Carolina A&T (6-10)
  10. Coppin State (4-12)
  11. Florida A&M (2-14)
  12. Savannah State (*provisional member — ineligible for postseason and league awards)
  13. North Carolina Central (*provisional member — ineligible for postseason and league awards)

All-Conference Team

  • CJ Reed (G) — Bethune-Cookman
  • Hillary Haley (G) – Maryland-Eastern Shore
  • DeWayne Jackson (F) — Morgan State
  • Kyle O’Quinn (F) — Norfolk State
  • Kevin Thompson (F) — Morgan State

6th Man

  • Darnell Porter (G) — South Carolina State

Impact Newcomer

  • Dominique Sutton (F) — North Carolina Central.  NCCU isn’t yet playing a complete MEAC schedule nor is it eligible for postseason play this year, but the Eagle program is already making noise on the recruiting trail with the announcement of high-major transfer Sutton returning to Durham to suit up for his hometown team.  As of this writing, the 6’5 junior forward who averaged 7.2 PPG and 5.8 RPG as a full-time starter last season for Kansas State was practicing with the team and awaiting an NCAA decision on whether he can play this season.  He moved back east to be closer to his girlfriend and two daughters in Durham, and the wing player who terrorizes the glass on the offensive end (especially given his size) will automatically become one of the best players in the MEAC as soon as he is eligible.

Bozeman is Building Quite the Program in Baltimore

What You Need To Know

  • All Morgan, All the Time. Todd Bozeman has built a powerhouse in Baltimore to the tune of three straight regular season titles, two straight NCAA bids, and a 46-6 record against MEAC teams the last three seasons.  But like all consistently great programs, Morgan doesn’t re-build anymore as much as re-load.  From Jamar Smith to Marquis Kately to Reggie Holmes to the next generation (Thompson and Jackson), Bozeman continually has high-mid major talent playing for him.  The Bears’ strategy is clear — play a tough non-conference schedule to build up their RPI (beating DePaul, Maryland and Arkansas in recent years), dominate the MEAC, and get back to the NCAA Tournament.  Morgan State earned #15 seeds the last two seasons, but they haven’t yet been matched up against the right team in order to pull off the upset — #2 seeds Oklahoma (2009) and West Virginia (2010) were simply too powerful inside for them to handle.  Could it come this season?

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.18.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2010

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

South Region Notes (Patrick Sellars)

  • Duke and guard Nolan Smith don’t think they’ll have an easy path to Indianapolis even though all the “experts” agree that Duke has the easiest road to the Final Four of the number one seeds. Smith said, “This is the NCAA tournament, there’s no such thing as an easy path.”
  • California, who was considered by many a lock to make the Tournament, was not feeling at ease after the first three brackets were announced and their name was yet to be called. Head coach Mike Montgomery thinks with his team at full health they will be a very tough out for anyone in the tournament.
  • If there was any doubt that Old Dominion was coming in confident against Notre Dame it should be washed away after reading this New York Times article on their upset victory. I know it is obviously after the fact, but Frank Hassell, ODU’s leading scorer, said “We really weren’t worried about them or Luke (Harangody). We were worried about us.”
  • Another “after the fact” article, but here is a nice interview with Baylor head coach Scott Drew on being in the NCAA Tournament and how he handles each game. Baylor survived a scare from Sam Houston State, which is a big deal because the #14 seeds were on their game today, and it’s Baylor’s first NCAA Tournament win in 60 years.
  • With Omar Samhan in foul trouble Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett went to his bench to look for someone who might be able to fill the void, and he went to a player used sparingly during the regular season. The San Francisco Chronicle looks at the freshman’s role in SMC’s big win.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer looks at Villanova’s stingy victory over Robert Morris and Jay Wright’s decision to bench star guards Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher to start the game. Wright also said “If we can win this next game and get some practices, we’ve got a chance to be better. But I don’t know if we’re ready for this next game.” That’s music to the ears of all Saint Mary’s fans. What has happened to the Villanova Wildcats?
  • Overall the South Region is exactly what everyone though it would be, which is that its Duke’s region to win. With Baylor and Villanova both struggling against double digit seeds it looks as if the Blue Devils are now the heavy favorites. However, the NCAA Tournament is all about surviving and advancing, one day your team can beat a #14 seed narrowly, the next thing you know they’re in the Final Four (ex: Villanova 2009).

West Region Notes (Andrew Murawa)

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.17.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2010

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

East Region Notes (Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog)

  • President Barack Obama picked Kentucky to lose in his bracket’s final game but Coach John Calipari is worried about just getting momentum. “Land the plane. Survive and advance,” Calipari told Chris Low of ESPN. “That’s all we’re thinking about. We’re not worried about the score and who scores and what. Just land the plane and move on.” To that end, East Tennessee State lost by ten to Pitt last year as a #16 seed in the first round. Can they be the first to pull off the historic upset?
  • Perhaps both Texas and Wake Forest should just throw out their recent struggles.
  • Temple is only favored by 4 points over Cornell. Meanwhile Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon has worked with both coaches and is rooting for both.
  • Would professors at Wofford dare to not pick the Terriers over Wisconsin in their office pool? And apparently message boards hounded Badger junior Tim Jarmusz earlier this season as he moved from starting forward to coming off the bench.
  • Washington’s Isaiah Thomas has a broken bone in his shooting hand, which is why he wears a glove.
  • Last year Marquette’s players shaved their heads in solidarity, but this time they got a different haircut.
  • New Mexico’s Darington Hobson is predicting a run to the regional finals. Meanwhile the New York Times has a great profile on Montana’s Anthony Johnson.
  • Is this Mike Anderson’s best coaching job at Missouri?
  • West Virginia is looking to beat Morgan State after losing to Dayton as a #6 seed last year.

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Afternoon

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

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


12:15 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #15 Morgan State  (Buffalo pod)

West Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation. They squeaked out an enormous road win at Villanova to end the regular season then swept through Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Georgetown en route to a Big East championship riding the heroics of Da’Sean Butler. The Mountaineers are an extremely gifted rebounding team; in fact, sometimes their best offense comes after a missed shot. They feature multiple weapons that can step out and shoot a mid-range jumper or three from Wellington Smith to Kevin Jones to the all-around dynamo Butler. Also, few teams can match West Virginia’s intensity in the halfcourt defensively. Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman will need a gigantic scoring output from their own star, Baltimore native Reggie Holmes. Holmes scored 25 or more points fifteen times this season, averaging 21.3 PPG and ranking in the top-50 in percentage of shots taken. The Bears also feature a rugged forward named Kevin Thompson who comes in at fifth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. In fact, Morgan State ranks 11th in the country as a team in that very category. Unfortunately for the underdogs, West Virginia is never outworked on the glass, not with Jones, Devin Ebanks and Bob Huggins prominently involved.

The Skinny: This one shouldn’t be close from the tip. Morgan State dominated the MEAC all season, but West Virginia is flying high at this point. Expect the Mountaineers to dominate by 25-30 points.

12:25 pm – #6 Xavier vs. #11 Minnesota  (Milwaukee pod)

The answer to which team will win this game depends entirely on which Gopher team shows up to play in Milwaukee.  Will it be the defensive juggernaut that held Purdue to 11 first  half points last Saturday, or will it be the team that got obliterated by Ohio State 52-29 in the second half on Sunday?  Tubby Smith’s team has been schizophrenic like that all year, following up strong wins with disastrous performances (two losses to Michigan?  really?), which probably explains why they were a bubble team up until Sunday evening.  Xavier comes into this one with the stronger resume, but it’s difficult to say if the Musketeers are the better team.  When he plays under control, XU’s Jordan Crawford is a talent, and his supporting case of Jason Love on the interior and Terrell Holloway running the show makes for nice balance throughout the Xavier lineup.  The question we have is who will win the defensive battle, though.  Xavier defends the three really well, while Minnesota behind Blake Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook both shoot it equally as well.  This game is essentially a tossup (Vegas agrees, setting Minny as a one-point favorite), and we really liked the first seven halves of basketball that the Gophers put up in Indianapolis on a neutral floor last week, so we’re going with the extremely mild 6/11 upset here, in a close game that comes down to the last possession. 

The Skinny: Despite the seedings, this is a tossup game and we like the Gophers to win it on the last possession. 

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.16.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

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

South Region Notes (Patrick Sellars)

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

East Region Notes (Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog)

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NCAA Region by Region Tidbits: 03.15.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2010

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

East Region Notes (Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog)

  • #8 Texas was once the top team in the nation, but now they are reeling. However, a team trending even worse might be their opponent: #9 Wake Forest. Demon Deacon Head Coach Dino Gaudio said Al-Farouq Aminu had an x-ray done on his hand and appears to be ready to play on Thursday. Meanwhile, Texas, who comes in having lost seven of their last nine games to teams in the NCAA Tournament, said he is trying to deflect questions that the Longhorns are done this year. “There are people saying Texas is done,” Texas coach Rick Barnes told the Dallas Morning News. “I don’t think our guys have felt like that at any point.” Meanwhile Wake Forest’s last road win against an NCAA Tournament team was their December 5 win over Gonzaga, 77-75.
  • #5 Temple against #12 Cornell will be the game to watch on Friday to start. The subplot of course is that Cornell head coach Steve Donahue spent ten years as an assistant under Temple head coach Fran Dunphy, who crossed town from Penn to Temple in 2006.  Donahue said he purposely does not schedule Dunphy’s Owls for a reason.  “See, we would never play each other in a regular season game because it would be torture. In this profession, you want your friends to advance,” Donahue told the Ithaca Journal. “The NCAA tournament is the pinnacle of what you do, so both of us will have to get over that.”  Dunphy reflected similar sentiments to the Philadelphia Daily News.  “If you had said to me who do you not want to play? Cornell,” Dunphy said about the matchup. “We’re good friends and there is a no-win situation in that.”
  • #11 Washington, the Pac-10 Tournament champion, had to play to get into the field of 65. Their opponent, #6 Marquette, is not happy about traveling to San Jose to play the Seattle school.  “They going to fly, or drive?” Marquette coach Buzz Williams asked the AP of the Huskies’ trip to the neutral site. “I think anytime you play on the West Coast against a team from the Pac-10, you are the underdog.”
  • #3 New Mexico, the regular season champion of the Mountain West Conference, will have their hands full with #14 Montana’s Anthony Johnson who scored 34 of his 42 points in the second half to clinch their Big Sky championship and NCAA Tournament bid. When asked about his ability, Lobos head coach Steve Alford told the AP, “We know he’s extremely talented … a potent scorer.” The Lobos will be playing to try to reach their first Sweet 16 in school history.
  • #7 Clemson taking on #10 Missouri will be an interesting matchup, guaranteeing an up-tempo pressuring style that Clemson coach Oliver Purnell favors. Missouri coach Mike Anderson told The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, “It won’t be one of those, walk it up and pass it about 20 times or five times. It’s going to be end-to-end. (It’s going to be) some athletic kids hopefully making some athletic plays.”
  • #2 West Virginia will tip off the NCAA Tournament against #15 Morgan State on Thursday. Coach Bob Huggins did not mince words when asked on whether or not West Virginia should be a top seed.  “I thought statistically we were a 1,” Huggins said Sunday to the AP. “The disappointing thing is that when they stand up there and say, ‘Let’s look at the full body of work,’ and if you look at the full body of work, we were probably a 1.”  The Mountaineers probably have a case for a #1 seed and will look to come out and show it to start the Tournament.

West Region Notes (Andrew Murawa)

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Morning Five: 02.04.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 4th, 2010

  1. You probably already knew that Michigan State star Kalin Lucas sprained his ankle in the game against Wisconsin on Tuesday evening, but yesterday MSU officials confirmed the important news that there was no broken bone in his foot.  As of now, he’s listed as day to day but he’ll be re-evaluated after treatment today to determine if he might be back for Saturday’s game against Illinois.
  2. Minnesota forward Royce White has officially retired from basketball as he formally withdrew from the Minnesota program on Wednesday.  You’ll certainly recall White’s bizarre YouTube announcement that he was quitting basketball in mid-December, and it was clear that not all was right with the budding impresario.  A tough week gets tougher for Tubby smith, who lost Al Nolen to academic problems on Tuesday.
  3. This is an internal link, but we want to make sure everyone sees it who comes here.  Have you wondered who some of the teams are that would be invited to the NCAA Tournament if they stupidly expand it to 96 teams?  Check out our analysis for the answer to that.  If you’re not as appalled as we are that the likes of Alabama and Boston College would be part of the field, then you’re a better person than us.
  4. Impressive.  The February 27 Gameday matchup between #2 Syracuse and #3 Villanova has already sold out the Carrier Dome (34,616), and it will set a new record (breaking SU’s own 2006 makr) for the largest crowd to ever see a college basketball game in an on-campus arena.
  5. Mike DeCourcy thinks that the three most likely teams to run the conference table will be the MEAC’s Morgan State, the Horizon’s Butler, and the MAAC’s SienaCornell in the Ivy is another obvious choice, but they do have to visit Harvard, and of course #1 Kansas has a tough road game coming up at Texas on Monday night.
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Breaking Down the Bracketbusters…

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2010

Special to RushTheCourt.  Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!

The BracketBuster matchups are out, and as promised, RTC is here with some analysis of some of the top games!  Five Colonial Athletic Association teams lead the pack into these February weekend matchups. The Western Athletic Conference drew four bids and the Missouri Valley drew three.  One problem with the BracketBusters? Five of the television games will be on ESPNU, which of course means they’re not available on ESPN360.  However I’d say there are five games where you must, to quote another piece here, “quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live.”

Friday 2/19  (RPI)

Old Dominion (#46) @ Northern Iowa (#17)  – 7 pm on ESPN2/ESPN360

Get to Know Gerald Lee

The Monarchs will travel to Cedar Rapids to play where the Panthers have won every home game by an average of 14 points per game entering this week. 6’8 UNI senior Adam Koch is a tough-to-contain inside presence, scoring a team high 12.7 points per game. 6’10 ODU senior Gerald Lee will likely be assigned to the task of guarding Koch, an he has been a beast this year for the Monarchs, shooting 53% from the field and leading the team with 14.3 points per game. The matchup to watch in this game will be to see if Old Dominion can defend Koch on the inside while keeping their shooters, junior Kwadzo Ahelegbe (11.1 ppg) and Senior Ali Farokhmanesh (team high 42 3-pointers made), at bay. Both teams are first in their respective conferences in FG percentage defense at eerily similar numbers: Old Dominion’s 39.5% FG-defense is 21st while Northern Iowa’s 39.9% ranks 37th nationally. The Monarchs have had some defensive trouble lately, trying zones at Northeastern on Saturday when facing a team with similar size and offensive weapons as the Panthers, to give up a season high 59.5% field goal percentage. 

Saturday 2/20 (RPI)

Siena (#44) @ Butler (#19) – 11 am on ESPN2/ESPN360

The owner of the nation’s longest winning streak, Siena at thirteen straight, will go into an extremely tough environment at Butler in Saturday’s first Bracketbuster game. The Saints are led by 6’5 senior Edwin Ubiles and his 15.8 points per game as he makes his case for MAAC Player of the Year despite some lingering shoulder issues. Alex Franklin plays bigger than his 6’5 frame to lead the Saints down low with 16.1 points per game. On the other side, Butler’s Gordon Hayward has been a beast for the Bulldogs this year, scoring 16.1 points per game and tying a season-high 25 in Sunday’s comeback win over UW-Milwaukee. Hayward, a sophomore, is already attracting the attention of NBA scouts. Fellow sophomore Shelvin Mack has scored 15 points per game and Matt Howard, when not in foul trouble, scores 11 points per game. Howard has been tough to defend inside, going off for 23 points in Butler’s nine-point loss to Minnesota, but has had issues with foul trouble, getting disqualified in three of the Bulldogs’ four losses. It will be interesting to see how Siena defends Hayward and Howard and how this veteran Saints team led by seniors Ubiles, Franklin and Ronald Moore can contain this explosive offense on the road.

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ATB: Cornell Loses Its Way in the Phog…

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2010

The (Big) Red Scare. #1 Kansas 71, Cornell 66.  Normally, an early January game between a top-ranked Kansas squad and…well, pretty much any Ivy League school sounds about as thrilling as getting the measles twice.  Tonight was different.  Cornell came into Kansas’ dreaded Allen Fieldhouse already with a few wins over big-conference teams like Alabama, Massachusetts, and St. John’s.  They were riding the momentum of a ten-game winning streak and could boast a kid in Ryan Wittman who is nothing close to a kept secret any more.  Wittman (24/4/3 assts), a 6’6 long-range bomber averaging 19 PPG and 44% from distance, had appeared on various “best outside shooters” lists (including ours) and already had people wondering if Cornell was actually good enough to get in as an at-large team this year.  But this is no ordinary place or opponent.  This is Kansas, and this is Allen Fieldhouse, they of the 50-game home winning streak and current #1-ranking that, to be honest, hasn’t really been challenged yet.  It was close from the start; neither team led by more than three in the first half, and Cornell actually led at the break by that margin.  You still had the feeling, though, that this was one of those games in which Kansas would come out in the second half and end it early.  We’ve all seen this game before, right?  A team hangs around for a half by playing the best 20 minutes of basketball they’ve ever played, like Mike McD thinking he’s going to complete his run on Teddy KGB’s place.  We all know it’s a matter of time until Kansas turns over the two aces and sends whatever upstart they’re facing back to law school, a bratty Gretchen Mol, and Joey Knish’s delivery truck, right?  But when Cornell jumped on the Jayhawks to start the second half and extended their lead to eight, panic began to take root.  With Kansas up 53-47 with 9:45 left, the calls, texts, and more frequent network updates started.  When Kansas had still failed to reclaim the lead with under five minutes left, it was on.  Upset alert.  #1 is in trouble.  And it’s an Ivy League team. I mean, come on — ESPN even broke off of a DUKE GAME to provide bonus coverage!  Kansas, elevated by the home crowd, would eventually break free from Cornell’s expert control of the pace and take a 61-60 lead with 4:03 left, and you got the feeling that Cornell was done.  They would actually take the lead once more at 64-63 with less than a minute left, but Sherron Collins decided it was time to take over.  Handling the ball almost exclusively for Kansas, Collins (33/4/3) scored his team’s last eight points and four out of five FTs down the stretch.  Give Cornell credit for going for the kill, though.  Down 66-64, they found Wittman off a screen with 29 seconds left and he was never thinking about a two.  He would miss that three, and a later one to tie, and Kansas would eventually prevail.  This was probably the worst thing that could happen to the rest of the Big 12, since now Kansas has learned (if they weren’t aware before) not to take their position for granted, and they know there’s no such thing as a night off.  Coaches secretly love these close games early in the season because it empowers and tempers your squad, making them tougher for eventual tournament games.  As for Cornell…if the committee still considers “quality losses,” it doesn’t get much more quality than this one — to #1 Kansas, in their house, a 50-game home win streak on the line.  The Big Red will probably gain Top 25 votes from this, and it should actually help their curb appeal.  So, hands up, who wants to see Cornell opposite them as a first round opponent on Selection Sunday??  Yeah, we thought not.

Evan Turner Triumphantly ReturnsOhio State 79, Indiana 54.  OSU wasn’t going to lose this game at home regardless of whether Turner played or not, but his presence on the court was apparent in terms of inspiring confidence in his teammates and his ability to share the ball.  He played twenty minutes, contributed 8/4/5 assts while committing three fouls, but most importantly, he didn’t really appear rusty out there other than the first few sets.  The only thing that kept him from playing more than half the game was early foul trouble, but the most important takeaway from this blowout game was that it was obvious to anyone who has watched the Buckeyes play without Turner that everyone else appeared comfortable again.  Jon Diebler in particular was the primary beneficiary, as he had a 21/3 assts/3 stls night on 5-8 from three without having to worry about running the offense (along with William Buford) nearly as much.  Turner said afterwards that the eight-week prognosis originally suggested by OSU officials was a bit of a hedge, and he was only out of commission for 4.5 weeks, but all that matters now is that Turner is back in the lineup and OSU should be back in contention for the Big Ten title and the Top 25 in short order.

Unreal Score of the NightSeattle 99, Oregon State 48.  Right now Craig Robinson’s numbers are looking even worse than his brother-in-law’s, as Seattle — barely a D1 school, as a brand-new Independent — came into Corvallis and obliterated the Beavers in their own building.  A 58-21 second half is simply unconscionable for a Pac-10 team playing at home against a mid-major of any kind.  Seriously, even Gonzaga with Adam Morrison, Dan Dickau and Austin Daye all starting shouldn’t be able to do what the Redhawks did to Oregon State tonight.  Cameron Dollar should be proud of his team with road wins over Utah and OSU this season already, and circle 1/26 on your calendar as Seattle will visit crosstown rival Washington for another program-making shot at glory.  

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ATB: Just Call Him Oscar…

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2009

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Story of the Night.  Evan Turner’s Date With History.  It’s only a matter of time.  So long as Evan Turner stays healthy this year, he should have the new record for triple-doubles in a single season by around New Year’s Eve.  He’s already got two in November, which puts him in select company of 33 others players in the entire history of the NCAA to have multiple trip-dubs in one season.  The record is four, held by Stephane Lasme (UMass), Jason Kidd (Cal), Brian Shaw (UCSB) and Michael Anderson (Drexel).  We should go ahead and dust off the record book because Turner is on pace to not only beat this record, but obliterate it.  With his 16/10/11 asst night in an 84-64 win over Lipscomb, he’s now averaging an absurd 21/14/7 apg over five games this season.  He’s really not that far from approaching an Oscar Robertson-esque season-long triple-double average, but suffice it to say that we’re calling the over/under on this year’s total at 10.  The mere fact that you’re thinking about this — really thinking about this! — should give you pause as to the ridiculousness of how well Turner is playing.  If Ohio State continues to hang around the top 10-15 in America this year, does anyone else stand a chance at NPOY?

Upset of the Night.  Morgan State 97, Arkansas 94.  We guess that the Pac-10 and SEC are simply going to trade spots in this section for the rest of the nonconference season.  Arkansas, with several really good players in their lineup (Michael Washington, Rotnei Clarke, Marshon Powell), dropped a barnburner of a game to a nonconference foe for the first time in a long time (45 games).  Morgan State’s Reggie Holmes went off for 34/5/4 stls, but there’s really no excuse for a loss like this for a team like Arkansas.  Maybe it was something we saw in the body language of John Pelphrey’s players last week in St. Louis, but we feel like there are fundamental problems on this team beyond basic basketball skills. 

Co-Upset 0f the NightSeattle 77, Utah 74.  This is nothing short of amazing, as Cameron Dollar’s Seattle club is playing its first full season as a member of D1, and to get a win on the road in a fairly tough environment as that at Utah is very impressive.  Seattle’s Charles Garcia blew up for 24/8 and is it too early to tell Lorenzo Romar to start looking over his shoulder in the Emerald City?  The Redhawks are already 3-2 this season with wins over Fresno State and Weber State in addition to the Utes.

Maui Invitational.

  • Cincinnati 69, #22 Maryland 57.  Cincinnati is looking good.  Yancy Gates dominated the inside, dropping 17/13 on the Maryland frontline, who often looked confused about where to be and what to do during this game — UC was also +15 on the boards.  Greivis Vasquez finally broke through for double-figure points (19), but he shot poorly (5-17, 0-5 from three) and his percentage for the year is downright icy (30%).  The Bearcats will take one of the other surprises of the young season in Gonzaga tomorrow night in the title game. 

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ATB: Weekend Wrap – Pac-10 and SEC Struggle Again

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2009

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It was an odd weekend of basketball.  The games weren’t all that interesting — at least when compared to Friday night, for example — but there was plenty to talk about when scores started rolling in.  Mainly, it was a weekend that had few storylines other than Pac-10/SEC incompetence and prep work for all of the holiday tournaments that start this week.

Pac-10 Nightmare Saturday.

  • Loyola Marymount 67, USC 59. Will this ultimately be the worst BCS team loss of the entire season?  LMU won a total of three games last season, and while the Lions are undoubtedly better, there is absolutely no excuse for them to beat a Pac-10 team on their homecourt.  Ever.  We understand that Kevin O’Neill has virtually no depth at his disposal, but come on…
  • Sacramento State 65, Oregon State 63.  Regression to the mean on OSU this year?  All the great work Craig Robinson put in to make a horrid team competitive seems to have gone by the wayside this year, as the Beavers laid another stinker against a team they should easily handle at home.  Down 22 at the half, OSU rallied back behind Seth Tarver’s 14/10, but it was too little too late.  The Pac-10 RPI continues to sink.
  • Portland 88, Oregon 81. This is actually the one loss that should have been expected, as Portland is likely to be the better team this year.  Nik Raivio had 24/8 and his frontcourt mate had 17/8 as they shredded the Duck defense for 53% from the field and 58% from deep.  This will end up being a win that Portland will look favorably upon later this season.

More Upsets This Weekend.

  • VCU 82, #17 Oklahoma 69.  This seemed like a trap game when reviewing schedules, and it turned out to be one.  Willie Warren had a disastrous game, shooting only 3-14 (0-8 from three) and committing six turnovers in the outing.  Freshmen Tiny Gallon and Tommy Mason-Griffin combined for 25/18/6 assts, but VCU’s stars Larry Sanders (17/4/3 blks) and Jay Gavin (20/5/3 assts) outperformed them in Jeff Capel’s return trip to his old coaching haunt.
  • Temple 71, Siena 67.  The Saints found themselves on the wrong end of a 13-0 second half run by Temple that gave up their hard-earned halftime lead.  Juan Fernandez led the Owls with 20/3 assts, but it was Siena’s poor three-point shooting (1-9) that ultimately doomed them in this game.  Alex Franklin had 22/6 and Ryan Rossiter had 8/11, but Siena will need to play better in coming weeks to make a push for an at-large should they not win the MAAC Tournament.
  • Vermont 77, Rutgers 71.  Vermont should be proud to have gone into a Big East arena of a team that some expect to make waves this season and get a big win.  Marqus Blakely did everything — 17/9/2 assts/4 stls/5 blks — as UVM gutted out a hard-fought victory in Piscataway.
  • Kansas State 83, #21 Dayton 75.  Really not much of an upset, but a good team was going to leave Puerto Rico 1-2, and Dayton is the unlucky recipient.  Jacob Pullen had 26/5/4 assts for K-State, while Dayton’s Chris Wright came through with 15/10 on the other side.

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