ATB: Friday Night Lights With Jack Cooley, Harvard, and Plenty of Conference Tourney Action…

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Friday night is usually reserved for the likes of the Ivy League and the MAAC, but that’s not the case during Championship Fortnight. With eight mid-major conference tournaments in action and 22 more teams eliminated from national title contention tonight, there were plenty of reasons to stay interested. Furthermore, we were treated with some compelling Ivy action as well as another look at one of the surprise teams of not only the Big East but also the entire country this year. Let’s jump into it…

Your Watercooler Moment. Cooley Than You.

Jack Cooley Is One of the Big East's Biggest Surprises This Year (US Presswire)

Just four days after Jack Cooley’s worst game of the year — a two-point, zero-rebound outing at Georgetown — the junior center returned to the lineup with a vengeance tonight, going for a 27/17 masterpiece on 10-15 shooting from the field to lock his team into a double-bye at next week’s Big East Tournament. The fact that we just wrote the previous sentence — that Notre Dame finished in the top four of the Big East standings and received a double-bye — is nothing less than phenomenal and a testament to the vast improvement of Cooley and several of his teammates this season. After losing its top three players to graduation (Ben Hansbrough, Carleton Scott) and injury (Tim Abromaitis), nobody expected the youthful Irish to do much of anything this year. Instead, Mike Brey’s team is now locked into the #3 seed in next week’s conference tournament and owns the only victory of the season over the Syracuse juggernaut. We’re not completely sold on the Irish making a deep run into March Madness, but the fact of the matter is that Mike Brey is one of the most underrated coaches in the country given that he’s pushed his team to six straight 20-win seasons and will make the NCAAs for the fifth time in six seasons.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Harvard Keeps Hope Alive. It’s seemed a foregone conclusion for months that Harvard would win the Ivy League’s automatic bid this season and earn its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in over six decades. After last weekend’s home loss to Penn, however, the Crimson and Quakers were locked in a tie with two defeats each in the loss column. The Ivy doesn’t do artificial tiebreakers — like last year’s Harvard-Princeton classic, they decide their ties on the court. With alumnus Jeremy Lin watching from the stands in Morningside Heights tonight, Harvard barely survived Columbia in a nail-biting game that went to overtime. Penn kept the pace with an easier win over Brown, but HU will travel next to Cornell while the Quakers still have a home game against Yale before its rivalry game at Princeton on Tuesday. With one more win Saturday, the Crimson are at least guaranteed a berth in the Ivy playoff game again, but they probably do not want to tempt the basketball gods by losing that one.
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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by IRenko on February 11th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It was a brutal week for the TO26 top 15, as the top four teams lost five games combined.  Read on to see how that shuffled the rankings.  After the revised top 15, we look at the top 10 results of the past week, sorting through both the headline-grabbing upsets and the big games that may have slipped past your radar.  Then we preview the top 10 games of the coming week, which includes a bounty of top matchups this Saturday and several small conference teams putting their first-place records on the line against their stiffest competition.

Top 10 Results of the Past Week

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ATB: Iowa State’s RTC, Syracuse’s Goaltend That Wasn’t and Robbie Hummel’s Game Winner…

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. In the season’s first non-football weekend (if you were watching the Pro Bowl, sorry, we can’t help you), we were left with a bunch of ho-hum games this weekend, but that doesn’t mean that they were unimportant. As of right now, there are approximately 60-70 teams that have a realistic shot at putting a run together the rest of the season to earn one of those elusive 37 at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Right now, it’s easier to find teams that don’t deserve an at-large than those that do, but that will probably change as teams separate themselves over the next six weeks. For the time being, here’s what we experienced this weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. Iowa State RTCs Kansas.

In one of the more predictable situations of a hot team playing great basketball facing a hungry, up-and-coming team needing a statement win in its own building, Iowa State took it to Kansas in the last few minutes of their Saturday matchup, resulting in a major RTC and one of the biggest wins in recent Cyclones basketball history. The Mayor suffered an avalanche of criticism for his lack of coaching experience upon his hire two offseasons ago, but sporting a 5-3 Big 12 record and looking every bit the part of an at-large NCAA team for the first time since 2005, it now appears that it is he who will have the last laugh. The other takeaway from this game is that NPOY candidate Thomas Robinson may have met his Kryptonite, at least at the college level, in the form of ISU’s Royce White. The beastly Cyclone big man outplayed Robinson in both of their matchups this season (18/9/5 assts vs. 13/7 yesterday; 18/17/4 assts vs. 11/14/3 blks two weeks ago), and that’s not an easy task to perform. For our money we’d love to see a Round Three in March in Kansas City at the Big 12 Tournament.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

  • The Goaltend That Wasn’t. With Syracuse up two in the closing seconds of a hard-fought game with West Virginia on Saturday, the Mountaineers’ Truck Bryant fired up this wayward shot from the outside:

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That’s Debatable: How Will Murray State’s Season Finish?

Posted by WCarey on January 26th, 2012

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the rest of the season. Feel free to leave your takes below in the comments section.

This Week’s Topic: With Syracuse’s loss last Saturday, Murray State is the last unbeaten team. How do you see the rest of the Racers’ season playing out?

 

Kenny Ocker, Correspondent

I honestly think Murray State is going to go undefeated until the NCAA Tournament. Morehead State doesn’t have a return trip to face the Racers, the matchup against Austin Peay is a home game, and so is the BracketBusters game. If that happens, Murray State will probably get the courtesy of a #4 seed from the committee, and that may mean that the Racers actually get a pretty clear path to the Sweet Sixteen. I don’t see them going any farther than that, simply based on the intense level of scrutiny and attention that will be given to a team that hasn’t seen another NCAA Tournament-bound team since early December. But it’s going to be one hell of a fun story to follow for the next couple of months, regardless of when there is finally a blemish on Murray State’s record.

Brian Otskey, Big East Correspondent

Murray State is a real tough team for me to get a read on because of its schedule. Sure it’s 20-0 but with only one or two quality wins, I don’t think anyone can say with certainty just how good this team is. I believe Murray State is a borderline top 25 team. Going forward, it should be able to win out in the regular season and will likely take the OVC Tournament title as well now that Ivan Aska has been cleared to play. Playing with a target on your back every night is never easy but this team is good enough to run the table against the incredibly poor completion its conference offers. The Racers’ final three games are on the road and that’s where they’re most likely to fall as the pressure mounts and they don’t have the home crowd behind them. Plus they will get a still to be determined BracketBuster matchup, another possible stumbling block. With an RPI in the high 30s and an SOS well over #200, I don’t see this team getting more than a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It has the potential to make a run but I foresee it bowing out in its first or second NCAA game. 

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Morning Five: 01.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 24th, 2012

  1. It seems like we’ve been doing a lot of this lately, but we all should get used to it because three of the top six leaders in Division I men’s basketball all-time wins are actively coaching and within 50 wins of each other. With Syracuse’s win at Cincinnati last night, Jim Boeheim earned his 877th career victory to pass Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp for fourth place on the career wins list. With three more wins he’ll pass North Carolina’s Dean Smith (879) and with 26 more he’ll move past Bob Knight (902) for second place behind Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (916 and counting). Just behind Boeheim is Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun, sitting at 867 with a reasonable shot to pass Rupp himself before the end of this season. After Calhoun, it’s a substantial drop to the next active coaching leader, UNC’s Roy Williams with 659 wins to his name.
  2. Not only did Murray State receive positive national news on Monday when the school achieved its highest-ever national rankings (#11 AP; #9 USAT) as the last unbeaten team in America, it also received good news in the form of the return of a key player from injury. The Racers’ starting all-OVC forward, Ivan Aska, has been cleared to return to practice after missing several weeks with a broken hand, and is expected to be back in action for Saturday’s game against Eastern Illinois. Despite season averages of 13/6, Steve Prohm’s team was able to make do without him in the lineup, although the Racers were outrebounded in four of the six games he missed. With the burly senior back in action going forward, Murray State’s already-deep team will become even more dangerous.
  3. Speaking of Murray State, Seth Davis‘ Hoop Thoughts this week focuses on a program that is a lot better than most people are aware of. For example, only three other programs can claim longer streaks of winning seasons than the Racers (now at 25) — a not-shabby trio of Syracuse, Arizona and Kansas. The current squad, certain to win the OVC regular season title this season, is the two-time defending champion, and the junior class — led by Isaiah Canaan (18.7 PPG, 4.0 APG) and glue-guy Ed Daniel (7.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG) — has gone an astounding 74-14 in its two-plus seasons together. Those two players were instrumental in the Racers’ 66-65 upset of Vanderbilt in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, and everyone forgets that it was upstart Murray State who gave Butler its toughest test en route to the Final Four that season, barely escaping the Racers, 54-52. This is no flash-in-the-pan program, and Davis eloquently makes that case.
  4. Former Oklahoma State guard Fred Gulley has enrolled at Arkansas and will become a Razorback at the semester break next season. The Fayetteville native averaged 4/3/2 APG in eight games for the Cowboys this season, but he apparently believes that getting back home and into Mike Anderson’s up-and-down style of play will help further his collegiate career. Next door to Arkansas, Memphis guard Charles Carmouche is considering sitting out the remainder of this season because of recurring pain in his knees (tendinitis). The danger with this strategy is that there’s no guarantee that the NCAA would approve a redshirt season for the senior, so he runs a significant risk of his career being finished if he is ultimately denied. He’s only seen action in seven games this season, but that number represents more than the maximum 20% of a team’s scheduled games to qualify for the hardship waiver. Given that fact, he’d need to make a compelling case to the NCAA to earn the extra year, certainly no easy task.
  5. Finally, after a compelling weekend of college basketball where three of the top five ranked teams lost and a number of other intriguing storylines emerged, The Onion reminds us that it’s all just fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Love this line: “College basketball went on to remind fans it puts a great deal of work into making each season dramatically satisfying, unlike college football, which just hands its championship to whichever school’s boosters give it the most money that year.”
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The Other 26: Week Eight

Posted by IRenko on January 20th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

TO26 is back after a one-week hiatus, and do we have a doozy of a column for you.  Today we take a look at the race for the top in every single non-power conference.  We categorize each conference based on the number of contenders who have emerged after the first 2-3 weeks of conference play.  Which conference looks like a fight between five legitimate contenders?  Which conferences seem to be just one team’s to lose?

In our breakdown, we focus not just on the top of the W-L standings, but dig into the team’s non-conference performances, their specific results and their remaining schedules to get to a true picture of which teams are likeliest to take home a regular season crown.   (Note that for our purposes, we have ignored the two-division setup in some conferences.)

But first, the updated Top 15.

Now on to our conference reviews …

Five Team Battle Royale

CAA — After a brutal 2-4 start to their season, preseason favorite Drexel (5-2) has turned things around, winning 11 of their last 12.  That includes a home sweep of perennial contenders and recent Cinderellas George Mason (6-1) and VCU (5-2).  Georgia State (5-2) is the conference’s biggest surprise.  After being picked to finish 11th in the preseason poll and starting the year 0-3, the Panthers reeled off 11 straight, including wins over Drexel and VCU, before losing narrowly at George Mason.  After a loss at Northeastern on Wednesday, skeptics may wonder whether they might start to fade, but for now, they should be taken seriously.  Old Dominion (6-1) rounds out the top 5 here, as the Monarchs are tied for first at the moment, but they’ve faced a lighter schedule than the other teams in this group.

Four Team Scrambles

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ATB: On Buzzer Beaters, Murray State’s Road Test, and Indiana’s Legitimacy…

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. What. A. Night. The beauty of college basketball is that you can never quite predict when you’re going to luck into a great evening of hoops. Sometimes you look at the schedule and figure you’ll be riveted to your seat on the couch all night, only to be disappointed with a bunch of blowouts. Tonight the slate didn’t look terribly compelling other than a couple of games, and yet the buzzer-beaters, excitement and even an RTC or two kept pouring in. Let’s jump into a wild and wacky Wednesday night of action…

It Was a Special Night in Lincoln (J. Hannah/LJS)

Your Watercooler Moment. Buzzer, Buzzer, Toil and Trouble. There were a number of last-second shots to win games tonight around the country, and while only one of them involved a ranked team losing, that doesn’t make them any less interesting.

  • Hilton Magic. It didn’t carry quite the same weight as Iowa State’s RTF football victory over then-#2 Oklahoma State back in November, but the Cyclones’ basketball comeback resulting in Scott Christopherson’s banked three at the buzzer was no less compelling. The reaction of the Cowboy players after the ball drops through the net tells the story, but more on OSU’s meltdown a little later in this post. For now, just enjoy the dagger from 25 feet.

  • Kilpatrick Courage. After UConn’s Shabazz Napier drilled a long three with 9.5 seconds remaining to tie the game, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick calmly dribbled up the right side of the court, crossed over right to left to create some space, and sunk an equally long three to give UC the lead (and the ballgame) with 2.5 seconds remaining.

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ATB: Kroger Kontroversy, Chris Mack’s Dunk, and a Bunch of Non-Upsets…

Posted by rtmsf on January 9th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. This was the first full weekend of conference play, and as expected, teams that hadn’t played many legitimate road games prior to the turn of the new year found life away from home in hostile environments to be considerably tougher than lacing another game up at home. It wasn’t the best of college basketball weekends, nor was it the worst, but as we begin to settle ourselves into competition within the family for the next two months, it’s time to separate legitimacy from fraudulence through actual play on the court around the nation. Let’s jump into this weekend’s action.

Your Watercooler Moment. Kentucky Student’s Half-Court Shot Causes Kroger Controversy.

Meet Vincent Swope. No, he actually isn’t an SEC official, he just plays one when he attends Kentucky basketball games at Rupp Arena. The freshman who has turned a referee getup into his game-day trademark in UK’s eRupption Zone was selected to shoot a half-court shot worth $10,000 during Saturday’s game versus South Carolina. As you can see above, his heave from mid-court was true. According to published reports, shortly after the ball found the bottom of the net and Swope ran around the court rightfully celebrating his newfound riches, a representative from Kroger Foods, the contest sponsor, approached him suggesting that he had violated the terms of the contest by stepping over the half-court line. In the pantheon of snaky moves, Kroger’s reported attempt to screw a young student out of his winnings due to a technicality would have reached a new level of shady business dealings. Luckily, Matt Jones at Kentucky Sports Radio became aware of the situation and immediately mobilized his legion of Twitter followers to #occupyKroger in an anti-corporate social networking throwdown that would make Ralph Nader and Naomi Klein proud. Within an hour of the game’s finish, Kroger had caved and in fact called Jones himself to beg for his forgiveness, asking him to pass along to Swope that the company would make good on his prize. As of Sunday evening, Swope says that he hasn’t yet received the money, but we’d wager that Kroger has learned its lesson and won’t drag their feet too long on paying him. Great work from KSR/Jones in ensuring the right outcome here.

[ed. note: Kroger reached out to us, taking the stance that the company never suggested to Swope that he would not be paid for his shot. This contradicts Swope’s accounting of the sequence of events to Matt Jones, but it appears that Kroger will in fact pay the freshman his winnings, which is all anyone wanted in the first place.]

Then, There Was This. Chris Mack Gives Up His Knee For a Xavier Win. In an exceptionally odd situation, Xavier head coach Chris Mack jumped in the layup line during Friday’s practice and, after dunking the ball once, ended up tearing his patellar tendon in a freakish accident trying to do it again. Andre Walker said afterward that Mack’s injury was “really weird… a freak accident,” and to that sentiment we certainly agree. First of all, props to Mack for trying just about anything to get his team off the schneid (XU had lost five of six before beating Fordham Saturday) and for still being able to dunk a basketball at the age of 42, but he probably should have wowed the players just once and left it at that! What a weird season it’s already been at Xavier.

Five More Weekend Storylines.

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ATB: Jared Cunningham’s Reversal, Wisconsin’s D, and 1,092 Days…

Posted by rtmsf on December 16th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Whether you’re a student-athlete feeling the stress of exams or a fan of those players ready to pull your eyelids out with no excitement on the tube this week, the worst is nearly over. On Saturday we’ll have a full slate on the schedule and next week there will be a lot more action around the country in a mad rush before the Christmas holiday weekend. Let’s jump into what little there was going on tonight, secure in the thought that the worst is indeed over…

Dunkdafied. Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham didn’t have the best shooting night, but one of his two buckets on the night more than made up for it…

Tonight’s Quick Hits...

  • Oregon State’s 8-2 Start. Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how down certain programs have been for so long, but Oregon State is one of those schools. With tonight’s easy win over Howard, the Beavers moved to 8-2 on the season. That record, a good but not exceptional mark for mid-December, represents the best start to a season in Corvallis since the 1984-85 season. That was last season before the shot clock, folks. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Weekend Edition — Indiana’s Statement Win, a Crosstown Blowup, & Dunkdafied…

Posted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2011

This Weekend’s Lede. Saturday was one of the wildest afternoons of college basketball in recent memory. Within a five-hour window from around 2:30 PM to 7:30 PM EST, we experienced one of the ugliest incidents in the modern history of college basketball, followed by both the nation’s #1 and #2 teams losing their first games of the season on the road. The afternoon’s action had the feeling of March in the intensity and drama of the games played, but the added bonus of insane home crowds hungry for key December victories over a bitter rival or, just because. Let’s jump into a busy weekend of storylines…

Your Watercooler Moment. Malice in the Cintas.

We will have much more to say on this in our sister ATB focusing exclusively on the events that occurred with 9.4 seconds remaining in the Crosstown Shootout on Saturday (the post will go live at 6:45 AM EST). Look, we all know that fights sometimes happen in sports, and they’re more likely to happen in volatile situations involving bitter rivals who don’t like each other. The fight was bad enough — in our view, Cincinnati’s Cheikh Mbodj should face criminal battery charges for his stomp to Kenny Frease’s head while the player was already lying on the floor — but the real shame in all of this was the aftermath. Not only did Xavier completely embarrass itself as a school and program in allowing Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons to get on the dais and act like they were representing XU straight outta Compton, but both schools failed to step up Sunday and properly punish the players involved — the most any player was suspended was six games (UC’s Yancy Gates, Octavius Ellis and Mbodj). We hate to say it, but the image-conscious NBA would have been much harsher in its punishments of these players, and given that all of the adults at both schools went to great pains afterward to suggest that such an out-of-control incident was unconscionable, this appears to be yet another example of actions speaking louder than words.

Grab a Coffee While You’re At It. #1 Kentucky Loses at the Buzzer.

Rules for rushing the court are mostly general guidelines that come down to whether it feels right given the specifics of the situation. There are few scenarios that will feel better than Indiana’s buzzer-beating win over #1 Kentucky on Saturday evening. All of the following boxes were checked: 1) IU beat the #1 team in America; 2) on a buzzer-beating shot; 3) after it appeared the Hoosiers had blown the game; 4) versus a bitter rival; 5) in a statement win for the program that announced its status as a national player again. You simply won’t find many more perfect situations for an RTC, and Hoosier fans responded appropriately, filling the court from all corners of the arena with exalted jubilation. It was an outstanding game, and an even more outstanding RTC. For some great reactions recorded around the interwebs, check out some of these: a real-time call by IU’s play-by-play radio guy, Don Fischeran IU dad goes crazy in his house; a Bloomington bar called Nick’s explodes when Watford’s shot goes down; the scene at floor level for the final play and the ensuing RTC.

Perhaps the best thing we’ve seen from this weekend is this mash-up put together by an IU student (@dbaba12) which shows clips from the camp-out, the game itself (including his halftime prediction of an RTC), the final play, and the aftermath. It’s stuff like this that reminds us why we love college basketball.

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