Rushed Reactions: #4 St. Louis 64, #13 New Mexico State 44

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2013

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RTC is reporting on the NCAA Second Round games at the San Jose pod today.

Saint Louis Shut Down the Aggies This Afternoon (Thearon Henderson)

Saint Louis Shut Down the Aggies This Afternoon (Thearon Henderson)

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Saint Louis Was Never Threatened. The Billikens hardly had to sweat against New Mexico State today, as the Aggies really couldn’t put two plays together and never once threatened to make the game interesting. There was a brief period during the second half when NMSU went to a full-court press and caused the Saint Louis backcourt a bit of consternation with consecutive turnovers and some shaky play when they made it past half-court, but that was short-lived. Put simply, it was a methodical defensive clinic, the kind of which you might expect a #4 seed to put on a #13 seed in this round. The stats tell the story: NMSU shot 28% for the game, had a grand total of zero fast break points, and had no answer for Dwayne Evans (his 16 points at the half equaled the Aggies).
  2. Smothering Doesn’t Describe It Well Enough. Everyone knows that the SLU defense is legit — after all, it is ranked seventh in the nation according to KenPom, and its 57.7 PPG allowed is in the top 15. But until you see how they simply do not allow good looks at the basket, it’s hard to believe. Every pass, catch, dribble, and of course shot is challenged. I counted only two solid scoring opportunities for the Aggies in the first nine minutes of the game — situations where New Mexico State had clearly solved the defense for a good look. As noted above, the only time they ever made a “run” was in the second half off of their press — when left to depend on their offense figuring out the defense in the half-court, the Aggies were hapless.
  3. Sim Bhullar is an Interesting Case Study. First of all, this guy is enormous. There were times as he stood in the paint today where it appeared he was the early puberty kid among a bunch of 10-year olds. The difference between his size — 7’5″, 360 pounds — and everyone else was that stark. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him whenever he was in the game, and on his first two catches in the paint, he couldn’t hang on to the ball. But he calmed down as the game went on, and the big burly freshman actually made a couple nice offensive moves and ended up with four points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. He needs to lose 50 pounds to have better conditioning, but he’s got a promising future in college basketball.

Star of the Game: Dwayne Evans, St. Louis. Evans carried the Billikens in the first half, scoring 16 of his game-high 24 and equaling the entire team output of the Aggies at that point, but it was his play early that calmed his team and allowed their smothering half-court defense to get it going. The junior forward is playing great, going for 16 or more points in all of the Billikens’ last nine games.

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Rushed Reaction: #4 Indiana 79, #13 New Mexico State 66

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Indiana Shredded the NMSU Defense. It was obvious from the opening tip that Indiana was going to get the shots it wanted against the porous New Mexico State defense. What was less clear was whether they’d hit most of them. That question was answered with a blistering 59.3% performance that only got better as the game went on, and was equally effective from both outside (7-13 3FGs) and within the arc (25-41 2FGs). Christian Watford, Cody Zeller, and Will Sheehey each contributed 14 points as the Hoosiers consistently worked the ball to open shooters in the right spots.
  2. On the Other Hand… Indiana isn’t known as a very good defensive team, and it showed in this game. NMSU hit for a healthy 55.1% against the Hoosier defense, but they were really hurt by their 17 turnovers and the lack of a team leader on the perimeter. We said during the game at one point in the second half that it felt like Indiana had been ahead by a nine-point margin all game long, and it was because IU was able to itself score almost every time down the court, but NMSU was able to hold its own excepting the miscues. This isn’t something that they Hoosiers are going to want to allow VCU to do on Saturday. If they give up easy and open looks to the Rams, they’re be down 20 points before they know what hit them.
  3. Indiana is On Its Way Back. This is no one-hit wonder. The introduction of Cody Zeller to the lineup this season has converted Indiana from a middling Big Ten program to a pretty good one. The Hoosiers are still not a major player on the national level yet, but they’ve taken the first step by getting to the Dance and winning a game. You can tell that their fans, their players, their coaches and everyone associated with the program believes in it. It’s not Hoosier Hysteria, but it’s not hard to envision that it’s coming.

Star of the Game. Jordan Hulls, Indiana. We gave him a hard time at one point in the first half after he dogged it on a loose ball and let a guy 11 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier out-hustle him for a loose ball, but he had a spectacular night otherwise. It only seemed like he hit everything he threw up at the rim, but he actually missed four shots out of the 12 he attempted as he put together a 22-point, three-assist night.

Quotable. “We’re better for it, and we’re just getting started.” – Tom Crean, answering a question about all the rebuilding that he and his players have gone through in the last four years to get Indiana to a place where it can win an NCAA Tournament game.

Sights & Sounds. What’s better than the traditional Indiana candy stripe warm-up pants? Glad to see the Hoosiers back in the Tournament.

What’s Next? Indiana advances to play Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams on Saturday, which will be a much more equally-matched game than their seeds would indicate. Indiana makes a lot of threes and shoots them at a very high percentage, but as we’ve seen, VCU is really good at forcing teams into zones of discomfort. Can’t wait for this one.

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The Other 26: Bracket Analysis, South and West Regions

Posted by IRenko on March 14th, 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.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen (and maybe beyond).

Joe Ragland Point Guard Play Will be Key to the Shockers' Sweet Sixteen Chances

Wichita State (#5, South) – I’m a great fan of the Shockers, who finished the season atop our TO26 top 15 rankings.  They have a balanced lineup that can do it all.  Inside scoring presence?  Garrett Stutz.  Steady point guard play?  Joe Ragland. Attacking guard?  Toure’ Murry.  Blue-collar enforcer?  Carl Hall.  Three-point marksmen?  Ragland, Ben Smith, and David Kyles.  And they back it up with a solid, steady defense.  If this team has a weakness, it’s the lack of a single go-to player, which can come in handy in crunch time in March.

The key for the Shockers’ getting to the regionals may be slowing their games into halfcourt contests.  They have a tough first-round draw against VCU and its frenetic defensive style.  It will be a challenge to maintain calm amidst the storm that the Rams will bring – Murry in particular can play undisciplined — but if I had to make a call, I’d say that the Shockers will rise to the challenge and get the ball into the lane, where VCU is vulnerable.  In the next round, Wichita State would likely face an Indiana team with a fast-paced offense, but somewhat softer defense that is susceptible to dribble penetration.  Again, if the Shockers can slow things down and turn it into more of a halfcourt game, they could be on their way to the Sweet Sixteen.

Memphis (#8, West) – No team has a more legitimate grievance about its seed than the Tigers.  They have steadily, but markedly, improved ever since a nearly two-hour closed door team meeting following a loss at Georgetown on December 22.  Few have taken notice because it came mostly against C-USA competition, but during this stretch, the Tigers have gone 19-3, with their three losses coming by a combined total of 6 points.  Oh, and freshman standout Adonis Thomas just returned to the lineup.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2010

Sam Wasson, Co-Founder and Editor of bleedCrimson.net covering New Mexico State athletics, and Kevin McCarthy, Founder of Parsing The WAC, are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

[ed note: this WAC Check-In does not include Wednesday's games]

A Look Back

The WAC went 12-5 against their schedule over the past week picking up wins over Pacific and Oregon along the way.  New Mexico State‘s win over Pacific and Idaho‘s win over Oregon represent two of the better RPI-based wins this season by the WAC and the league moved up one spot in the RPI rankings from 19th to 18th.

Player of the Week.  Louisiana Tech’s Olu Ashaolu was named the Player of the Week for the week of Dec. 13-19.  Ashaolu, a junior forward, recorded back-to-back double-doubles for the third time this season in a pair of Bulldog wins. He scored 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds in an 80-57 win at Houston Baptist. He then recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds in a 62-61 win at UT-Arlington.  Ashaolu averaged 16.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 assists per game for the two-game stretch and shot 68.4 percent (13-of-19) from the field and 75.0 percent (6-of-8) from the free throw line.

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (9-2)

Up Next: 12/22 vs. Western Michigan, 12/23 vs. Troy

Utah State had no trouble with Utah Valley or Idaho State and improved to 9-2 on the season.  The UtAgs got 19 points from Brockeith Pane in the victory over Utah Valley and 17 points from Brian Green in the victory over Idaho State in the opener of the World Vision Invitational in Logan, UT.  Head coach Stew Morrill cannot be pleased that his Aggies allowed the Bengals to shoot 58.8 percent in the second half, however, shooting 61.1 percent yourselves eases the pain a little.  USU will face Western Michigan and Troy to wrap up the Invitational.  The Broncos from WMU and the Trojans from Troy did battle in a 102-99 overtime shootout.  With Utah State’s defensive struggles against Idaho State in the second half, one has to wonder if either WMU or Troy can do the unthinkable and knock off USU in their own building.

2. Hawai’i (7-2)

Up Next: 12/22 vs. Florida State, 12/23-12/24 vs. TB

Victories versus Hawaii Pacific and Chicago State (on Maui) have righted the team after consecutive losses to Cal Poly and then BYU. Now it’s the Diamond Head Classic, starting out with Florida State and Baylor, Butler, Utah and San Diego rounding out the field. Hawaii is undefeated at home so far this season.  Four Warriors are scoring in double figures: Zane Johnson at 12.6 PPG, Joston Thomas at 12.1 PPG, Hiram Thompson at 12.0 PPG and Bo Barnes at 10.1 PPG.  Thompson was injured last game — his status is unknown — further depleting the depth at guard after the departures of Anthony Salter and Jordan Coleman.  Forward Bill Amis (15.8 PPG) remains on the sidelines but various reports indicate he will see some action very soon.

3. Louisiana Tech (8-4)

Up Next: 12/29 vs. Boise State

The Bulldogs split a pair last week notching a one-point victory over UT-Arlington before losing to Iowa in Iowa City 77-58.  The Bulldogs were within one at halftime against the Hawkeyes but a late second half surge by the home team made the final margin a little wider than the contest had actually been.  After shooting a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line in the first half, La Tech was awarded just four foul shots in the second half and hit just one.  Olu Ashaolu continued his strong play with 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.  The Bulldogs’ next game will be their home conference opener against Boise State.

4. San Jose State (7-3)

Up Next: 12/22 vs. University of Puget Sound, 12/29 at Fresno State

After falling at the end to crosstown rival Santa Clara, SJSU hosted and beat Eastern Washington (for the second time this season) and then put a pasting on Seattle up in the Emerald City. Puget Sounds comes to town Wednesday for what should be an easy one for the Spartans. One interesting factoid: the Spartans are 4-2 on the road in 2010.  San Jose State is still surprisingly still below 40% in team shooting (.394). Senior Justin Graham is all the way back physically, shooting 49% overall and 57% on threes while also topping the team in assists.

5. Boise State (7-4)

Up Next: 23/33 at Portland, 12/29 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Broncos put up a fight at Utah but came up disappointingly short, a two point loss at the Huntsman Center.  The disappointing part for the Broncos is that not only was it their fourth consecutive loss but they held an eight point lead at the break despite 51.7 percent shooting by the Utes in the first 20 minutes (the Broncos countered with 51.3 percent shooting in the half) and and nine point lead with just under five minutes left to play.  Utah still wielded a hot hand in the second half shooting 53.6 percent while making 6-of-11 threes and 10-of-12 free throws.  The Broncos led by one with 22 seconds left after a layup by La’Shard Anderson but a three from Utah’s Will Clyburn with 11 seconds left was followed by a three point miss by the Broncos’ Westly Perryman sealing the loss.  The Broncos took out their frustration on UT-Pan American winning 91-62 but the second half defensive struggles for the Broncos continued as UTPA shot 63.6 percent in the second stanza.  The Broncos travel to Portland and then open up conference play versus Louisiana Tech.

6. Idaho (6-5)

Up Next: 12/29 vs. New Mexico State

The Vandals nearly extracted revenge against Montana for an early season embarrassment but came up just short falling 64-63.  The teams were tied at halftime but the lead went back and forth in the second half with Idaho holding a pair of four and five point leads while Montana tried to pull away late going up by five with 1:14 left to play.  Idaho would put on a furious rally and took the lead 63-62 on a jumper from Shawn Henderson but Montana’s Derek Slevig would break the Vandals’ hearts with a jumper with six seconds left to send Idaho to a 64-63 loss.  Idaho bounced back by notching the second WAC victory over Oregon this season winning 69-65 (SJSU authored the other Duck killing).  The Vandals led by five at the break and trailed just once in the second half, by one point.  Idaho got the ultimate in balanced scoring as seven players finished with at least eight points.  The Vandals are off until next week when they host NM State in the conference opener.

7. New Mexico State (6-7)

Up Next: 12/23 vs. St. Mary’s, 12/29 at Idaho

The Aggies currently own the league’s longest winning streak (four) which comes immediately after owning the league’s longest losing streak (seven).  The Aggies easily handled a couple of lower level schools (Oklahoma Panhandle State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff) but got their best win of the season to-date with a 69-64 victory over Pacific.  The Aggies trailed by five at the break but rallied to take the lead with 15:17 remaining and did not trail the rest of the way.  Senior guard Gordo Castillo finished with 17 points to lead all scorers.  The Aggies added to the win streak by holding off a pesky Louisiana squad 82-76.  NM State led by as many as 10 in the first half but went into the break with just a one-point lead.  They led by as many as 11 in the second half but needed a late bucket and defensive stop to seal the win.  Up next the Aggies host St. Mary’s on Thursday.  The Aggies will need their most complete effort of the season if they are to come away with the win over the Gaels.  The Aggies lost 100-68 in the season opener last year while playing without Wendell McKines and Troy Gillenwater which they will be doing again this time around.  Hamidu Rahman will also miss the game but the Aggies did receive a bit of good news as McKines is said to be participating in his first walkthrough practice since breaking his foot.

7. Fresno State (4-6)

Up Next: 12/29 vs. San Jose State

“Home Sweet Home” is the Bulldog mantra of late what with three consecutive Save Mart Center wins over San Diego, Pepperdine and North Dakota State respectively prior to a 65-55 home loss to Pacific.  The Bulldogs are off until they start WAC play at home next week: San Jose State then a trip to Nevada. Greg Smith‘s 20 points led to the victory over USD, 15 steals paced Fresno State to the victory over the Waves and a pair of unexpected double-doubles supplied by Nedeljko Golubovic and Bracken Funk sent the Bison (shouldn’t it be the Woodchippers?) back to Fargo. Fresno State is 3-2 at home but just 1-4 away. Smith still leads the Bulldogs in scoring (10.5 PPG) and rebounding (6.8 RPG) but a double-double average is the expectation of him this season. Better outside-shooting from his teammates (currently a collective 25% three-point percentage) will provide more room for Smith to operate but stronger internal motivation is needed from the sophomore.

9. Nevada (3-8)

Up Next: 12/22 at Washington, 12/27 at Portland

The Wolf Pack head to the road to complete non-conference play as they’ll face Washington and Portland.  The Pack narrowly lost to Arizona State (78-75) as Olek Czyz made his Wolf Pack debut with 10 points and seven boards and a monster putback dunk in the second half.  Nevada followed the loss with a 79-73 victory over Portland State.  Malik Story finished with 20 points and six boards as the Pack fought back from a three point deficit late in the second half to pull away with the win.

A Look Ahead

Conference play begins next week but a few teams still have non-conference games to finish up.  The sternest test will come on the island of O’ahu as Hawai’i hosts the Diamond Head Classic with Butler, Baylor and Florida State among the participants.  New Mexico State hosts St. Mary’s, Nevada travels to Washington and Portland while Boise State also makes the journey to Portland.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2010

Welcome to our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Southwest Region (NM, AZ, NV, HI, SoCal)

  • Jio Fontan – Soph, G – USC. Last year, USC was the talk of the college basketball world for a stretch, when senior point guard Mike Gerrity, a transfer from Charlotte, took over the team in December and promptly led the Trojans to an upset blowout victory over then #8 Tennessee in his first game of the season. The Trojans went on to win their next five games, including the inaugural Diamond Head Classic, with Gerrity serving as a big spark. In 2010-11, head coach Kevin O’Neill and his team will welcome another Division I transfer to the active roster over the winter break, and they hope to sustain the bump in talent they’ll get when Fontan joins the team as a midseason transfer from Fordham. In fact, Fontan was in the midst of an on-campus visit last December 19 when Gerrity was leading the Trojans to their win over the Volunteers and he committed to the school just days later, perhaps seeing the blueprint for his own success in Gerrity’s. Luckily enough for O’Neill and the Trojans, Fontan will have more than just the one semester of eligibility that Gerrity had.  But while their paths to the USC roster may seem similar, their games are different. Fontan is more of a combo-guard, capable of running an offense, but more adept at creating for himself than being a pure distributor. Not that he isn’t capable of handing out assists – he averaged more than four assists per night during his one season plus five games at Fordham – but Fontan is at his best with the ball in his hands, able to both blow by defenders and hit from long range, scoring the ball to the tune of 15.3 points per game in his freshman season on his way to Atlantic 10 rookie of the year honors. Paired with established frontcourt returners Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson and a talented group of newcomers, including 5’7 point guard Maurice Jones who will handle the lead guard duties until Fontan is eligible, Fontan will be surrounded by far more talent than he ever was in his time at Fordham. And if things go as well as could be hoped for, Fontan will have a chance to reprise Gerrity’s Trojan debut, as Southern Cal will travel to Kansas (and then, three days later, they’ll play the return game in the Tennessee series) for Fontan’s first game, giving USC a chance to make another big mid-season splash on the national stage.
  • Tre’Von Willis* – Sr, G – UNLV. For a good part of last summer, Tre’Von Willis, the star shooting guard for the Runnin’ Rebels, may have thought that his collegiate career was over thanks to his June 29 arrest for felony battery involving an ugly incident with a woman in nearby Henderson, Nevada.  Willis ultimately copped to a plea agreement of a lesser charge of misdemeanor domestic battery, and in interviews since the incident he has shown considerable sincerity and self-awareness in suggesting that he placed himself in a bad situation.  After he serves a mandated three-game suspension meted by coach Lon Kruger, Willis will likely be back in action for UNLV’s second regular season game against Southeastern Louisiana.  And it’s a good thing that he will be, as the Rebel program has eyes on putting together its best season since the understated head coach rolled into town several years ago.  Considering that the Rebs have been to a Sweet Sixteen and won 30 games in a season under his tutelage (both in 2006-07), those are lofty goals.  But they are also realistic ones so long as some of the injury problems that Willis and several others have recently endured are controlled.  Willis in particular continues to experience knee pain as a result of arthroscopic surgery in August to repair cartilage, a recurring problem which caused the capable scorer to lose some of his lift at the end of last season and definitely impacted his effectiveness.  As an example, after scoring twenty or more points ten times through mid-February, Willis only hit the figure one more time during the last eight games of the year, a sure indication that he was not at 100%.  The hope is that his summer surgery,  a new outlook on opportunity as a result of his legal troubles, a sprinkling of maturity (he also had a daughter) and much-needed rest will encourage Willis to come back with an all-America caliber season.  He was chosen as a first-team all-MWC guard in 2009-10 when he contributed an all-around game of 17.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 3.5 APG while increasing his previously-sketchy shot selection to the point where he added nearly 10% (from 38% to 48%) on his field goal percentage.  If he can truly put everything from last summer behind him and remain healthy for an entire season, the new Aria Hotel may not be the only must-see on The Strip this winter.

Tre'Von Willis Has to Sit Three Games (LV Sun/S. Morris)

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BYU Leaves For the WCC in Hoops: Two Perspectives

Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2010

We asked two of our best contributors to take a look at today’s news that BYU has decided to go independent in football while joining the WCC in all other sports.  As he’s done all summer, our Mountain West correspondent Andrew Murawa breaks down all the moving pieces here in a simple, understandable way.  Additionally, our WCC correspondent, Michael Vernetti, stops by with a profile of the architect of the biggest coup of realignment summer, WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich.

What Does It Mean? by Andrew Murawa

The wait for the next step in conference realignment is over, as BYU announced today its intention to forge ahead as an independent in football while joining up with the West Coast Conference in most other sports, beginning in 2011-12. In the process, the last hopes for the Western Athletic Conference to remain a viable entity have vanished, and the Mountain West Conference has turned its gaze from perhaps earning an automatic bid to the BCS for its conference champion to simple survival.

Jimmer Fredette Won't Get a Chance to Play in the WCC, but We Savor Future BYU-Gonzaga Matchups

A look at the news from the perspective of all the major entities in this move, BYU, the WAC, the MWC and the WCC:

  1. BYU – it appears all along that BYU was set on going independent in football, and just needed to find a soft landing spot for its other sports. In football, they’re working with ESPN on a deal for their television rights and they’ll make a viable schedule out of the remnants of the WAC (Utah State and Hawai’i are already on the schedule for 2011) and whoever else ESPN can convince to play them.  Regardless, they’re certainly not getting a Notre Dame-style sweetheart deal from the BCS and they’ll likely have trouble filling out a schedule decent enough to regularly put them in BCS contention. As for the move to the WCC, this is an excellent destination for a good basketball program, putting the Cougars into a spot where they should be able to compete with Gonzaga for conference supremacy immediately. Given St. Mary’s steady rise, Portland’s continued improvement, Loyola Marymount’s potential and the success of schools like Pepperdine, San Diego and Santa Clara in the past, the Cougars will definitely find some worthwhile competition there. And given that every other school in the league is a religious institution, BYU at least has something in common with its new conference mates (never mind the fact that BYU has a student body of 33,000, while the biggest school in the WCC has an enrollment of less than 9,000). But, the big key for BYU is getting away from what they found to be a limiting television package in the MWC. Now, they’ll be able to make use of their state-of-the-art media center and use it as a nice carrot to make sure that they are able to reach an agreement with ESPN. And, given that the WCC already has a television deal in place with ESPN for basketball and will reportedly retain broadcast rights for games not aired by the WWL, this is likely a big upgrade in terms of the television package for BYU.
  2. WAC – goodbye. If BYU had agreed to join the WAC in its non-football sports, at least there would have been some reason for the continued existence of the conference, but now standing at six teams with schools like Hawai’i and Utah State already considering other options, this venerable conference is on its deathbed as it approaches its 50th birthday. Right now, about the only reason for the remaining schools to stick together is in the hopes of getting the $10 million in buyout money from Fresno State and Nevada, money over which there will clearly be an epic legal battle. WAC commissioner Karl Benson insists that Fresno State and Nevada will have to remain in the conference through 2011-12, but the schools so far beg to differ. With six remaining members, the conference still holds a claim on an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for a couple of years, but the defection of one more school (whether it be Utah State to the MWC or Hawai’i to independence) would be the final nail in the coffin.
  3. MWC – saved from extinction a few weeks back by Fresno State and Nevada’s agreement to join the conference, the MWC is certainly hurt by the loss of BYU but it was going to happen sooner or later anyway. The hope of an automatic bid for its conference football champion to the BCS is now a distant memory and the conference is left with its meager television deal with Versus, CBS College Sports and its own network, The Mtn., now minus the Salt Lake City market  (the regional hub of the conference). In order for the conference to remain a viable entity for the future, it will need to fix its issues with its television contracts, but in the short term, it is still a strong league. However, given that the television contract is locked in until 2015-16, the conference may find itself having to fight off other suitors for some of its strongest members. TCU has already been mentioned as a possible target for the Big 12, and there has even been talk of a merger or some kind of alliance between the Mountain West and Conference USA (talk fueled by meetings between the two conferences in the days after the MWC added Fresno State and Nevada). Finally, there is the possibility that the MWC would be interested in adding more teams. They could certainly finish off the WAC by stealing Utah State (a move that would probably thrill Fresno State and Nevada because it would immediately end the $5 million buyout talk) and maybe even New Mexico State. There have been hopeful rumors of adding some of the western CUSA teams (Houston, Tulsa and UTEP, for example), but the MWC’s television deal probably precludes that, so it will be interesting to see what the next move is for a conference that was very recently thought to be a significant up-and-comer.
  4. WCC – first, you have to wonder what Gonzaga thinks of this. They’ve been the alpha dog in the conference for years as the school casting shadows on the rest of the league, and now, they’re potentially just another tiny school bouncing about in behemoth BYU’s wake. Certainly Gonzaga basketball isn’t going anywhere, but they’re no longer the program that can be immediately penciled in as the favorite in the conference every single year. Looking at it from the Zags’ perspective, the addition of BYU adds a couple more high-quality games during the conference season to bolster its strength of schedule and maintain a high RPI -– perhaps they don’t have to go so nuts with their non-conference schedule anymore. As for the conference as a whole, BYU’s presence in basketball is nothing  but good -– more high-profile games, stronger schedules and a big new market.  The league – now at nine teams with the addition of BYU – will go to a 16-game full home-and-home round robin schedule (although they’ll need to figure out the logistics of that, since there is no longer an easy way to schedule travel partners with an odd number of teams) and they’ll need to rearrange their conference tournament (tournament semifinals have been on Sunday and BYU will not play on Sundays). And there is even the potential for further expansion. Pacific had been considered for possible conference membership in 2008, and the Tigers would be a good fit along with the existing Bay Area schools (St. Mary’s, San Francisco, Santa Clara), but Denver and Seattle have also been mentioned as possible new invitees, given that those schools would add new large markets to the conference.  Denver, in particular, would be a natural travel partner for BYU. All things considered, this is an exciting day for fans of schools all around the WCC, even if the size and particular religious affiliation of BYU may give brief pause.

What’s next?

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Did the Mountain West Just Cannibalize the WAC?

Posted by rtmsf on August 19th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 Conferences and an occasional contributor.

Just a few hours ago, the Mountain West Conference was being left for dead. BYU was on its way to football independence and a WAC address for the rest of its sports, Boise State was potentially considering changing its mind about a move to the MWC, and we were contemplating a landscape in college athletics without the MWC, inarguably the most successful football non-BCS conference and also one of the most successful non-BCS basketball conferences. But MWC commissioner Craig Thompson was able to get quick agreements from Fresno State and Nevada to leave the WAC and join the MWC possibly beginning in 2011, although it could be pushed back to 2012 for financial considerations.

Thompson May Have Just Saved His League

The status of BYU is still somewhat in doubt as no official announcement regarding their future has been made. As of now, according to Thompson, “BYU is a member of the Mountain West Conference.” Given that the WAC is now comprised of just six teams, it is possible that BYU may reconsider and remain in the MWC as if nothing happened. Certainly the MWC would take them back without a second thought. Or, if BYU is still set on independence for its football program, it may look into the WCC as a potential home for it non-football teams.

Earlier in the day, it had been reported that all the schools in the WAC had last week signed a five-year agreement to remain in the WAC with a $5 million buyout penalty for leaving, and, as it turns out, it was BYU who instigated the buyout, hoping it was assuring a safe landing place for the Cougar non-football sports when they left the MWC. However, it turns out that Nevada never signed the agreement, although they did verbally agree to it, so they will have to pay some sort of exit fee, with the $5 million being the ceiling. However, if the WAC ceases to exist (a distinct possibility), it is possible that both Fresno State, who apparently signed the agreement, and Nevada will not have to pay the buyout penalty at all. If they wind up having to pay fees to the WAC for leaving, the MWC will aid those schools in paying their buyout penalties. According to Thompson, “We’re not going to bankrupt them to come into the Mountain West Conference.”

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Morning Five: 04.14.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2010

  1. You already know about Wright State’s Brad Brownell going to Clemson; here are some other comings and goings from yesterday.  Thirty-three year old associate head coach Billy Donlon will be promoted to the top spot at Wright State, making him one of the youngest head coaches in America.  In other coaching news, Dan Hurley has hired his brother, Bobby, to act as an assistant on his bench at Wagner.  On the player side, Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh announced that he will test the waters but he will not sign with an agent, therefore leaving open the (small) possibility of returning to what could be another nasty team in Waco next year.  Udoh is (14/10/4 blks) is projected as a lottery pick.  Duquesne’s Melquan Bolding is leaving the Duke program, whereabouts unknown, while New Mexico State’s Jahmar Young, recently accused of involvement in an attack on an officer in Las Cruces, will sign with an agent and not return to NMSU next season.  In some good news for college basketball, Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson will return to Knoxville next season rather than joining the hordes leaving for the NBA Draft.
  2. Today is a huge day for recruiting, as the first day of the spring signing period begins.  Of particular note are the announcements of the top remaining player in the Class of 2010, Brandon Knight, and the top player in the Class of 2011, Michael Gilchrist, both planning to announce their college choices at 4pm on ESPNU.  Kentucky is rumored to be the leader for both.  Door, revolveth.
  3. The NCAA Legislative Council relaxed a recruiting rule that will now allow coaches to have “recruiting discussions” while players are attending summer camps and clinics on their campuses.  This rule was nearly impossible to enforce in its previous iteration, so this is a natural consequence of what amounted to a worthless measure.  There are still limitations to what coaches can do, but this just validates the conversations that were already happening.
  4. John Wall is joining the Lebron James-backed LRMR Marketing Firm to help build his brand at the next level of basketball.  Considering that James himself is on the fast track to Ali/MJ/Tiger-dom, this is probably a good idea for Wall’s future marketability.  It says here that he’s got the chops (and game) to make himself into quite a conglomerate himself.
  5. This is sick, but totally justifies why police cameras are installed to watch the cops as much as the citizenry.  Dating back to Maryland’s win over Duke in late February, video was released yesterday that supports a student’s claim that he was attacked and beaten by several Prince George’s County police officers for simply skipping down the street in celebration.  This evidence directly contradicts the involved officers’ formal statements about the incident.  No sympathy here.  Strip these animals of their badges, lock them up and throw away the key.  There’s no place for this behavior from those who are supposed to be protecting us.

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Comings & Goings: Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 28th, 2010

We haven’t updated this over the weekend because there were some games to attend to, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the college basketball world stopped in its tracks.  So here goes…

The big news of the weekend was that Siena’s Fran McCaffery eschewed several openings in the Big East for a job outside of his comfort zone in the heartland at Iowa.  His work will be cut out for him in Iowa City, as the Hawkeyes were 10-22 (4-14 B10) last year and appear from a talent perspective to be light years away from the 1990s when they were an NCAA Tournament staple.  This article discusses some of the challenges that McCaffery will face coaching and recruiting in the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, St. John’s is apparently taking a hard look at former UCLA coach and current ESPN commentator Steve Lavin, whose hiring would satisfy the Red Storm’s desire for a big-name coach.  A west coast guy, Lavin would need to hire a strong New York-centric staff to handle recruiting the area.  His charisma and the UCLA ‘name’ would certainly help, and the truth is that a Sweet Sixteen-level coach — which is what Lavin was at UCLA and it wasn’t good enough — is probably plenty good enough for the Johnnies at this point.  At least one NY area columnist thinks this would be a great fit.  BC’s Al Skinner is also still reportedly in the mix.

Seton Hall has its guy, as the Pirates hired Iona coach Kevin Willard, who has led Iona out of a 2-28 quagmire to a situation where the Gaels are expected to be one of the top teams in the MAAC next season.  The Hall struck out on McCaffery in part because their pay offer of $700k annually could not approach what a Big Ten school could offer.  Willard was the MAAC Coach of the Year this past season and Rick Pitino is on record as calling him the “best assistant” he’s ever had.

In NBA Draft news, Michigan’s Manny Harris is expected to announce his intention to leave school on Monday.  Harris averaged 18/6/4 assts in a disappointing season for the Wolverines, who missed postseason play altogether.  The 6’5 guard who sometimes struggles with shot selection is projected as a second-round pick at best, but he will have time to assess his prospective position in the draft before making a final decision.

New Mexico State’s Jahmar Young will also test the draft waters after a junior campaign where he averaged 20/4/3 assts for the season.  The 6’5 wing is not currently projected as a pick in either of the first two rounds, so we’d expect to see him back in Las Cruces again next season.

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That’s Debatable: Five Questions for Discussion

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2010

This one is for our readers, who are with the exception of a few notable gadflies, the most knowledgeable and erudite group of college hoops fans around.  Rather than just giving our opinions on some of the big controversies and issues of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, we want to throw it at you guys.  What do you think?  Each of the below polls will allow comments, so let’s build some discussion through there.   

Q1: Does Last Weekend’s Performance Show That the Big East Was Overrated?

Our answer on this one is a resounding yes.  Eight teams down to two, and four of them among the top twelve seed positions?  The Big East was historically good last year but they failed pretty miserably on the big stage this year. 

Q2: What Was the Biggest Surprise of the Weekend?

A lot of good choices here, but we have to go with Cornell’s margin of victory.  It doesn’t shock us that the Big Red are in the Sweet Sixteen, but the way in which they completely solved two of the better defensive teams in the country in Temple and Wisconsin is astounding. 

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: First Round 03.19.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2010

Alright, we’re through with three-fourths of the first round, and it’s time for the Friday night session.  This round of games always has some interesting television matchups as CBS tries to maximize interest in the after-work crowd.  We’re going to be tracking all of the games but we’ll move around to the most interesting ones as appropriate.  Here’s the lineup:

  • #8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida State
  • #7 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Georgia Tech
  • #1 Duke vs. #16 Arkansas-Pine Bluff
  • #5 Michigan State vs. #12 New Mexico State
  • #1 Syracuse vs. #16 Vermont
  • #2 Ohio State vs. #15 UC Santa Barbara
  • #8 Louisville vs. #9 California
  • #4 Maryland vs. #13 Houston

Let’s tip it off and see where it takes us…

7:15:  FSU-Gonzaga has already started and Gus Johnson is just waiting to explode over something.  I think that he senses this game might be his best chance tonight, with Vermont-Syracuse at his venue next.  One piece of news is that Norm Roberts has been fired at St. John’s, making him the second NYC-area Big East coach to be let go within the past few days.

7:21: So far, Gonzaga offense >> FSU defense.  A 9-0 run by the Zags has given them a nice early margin.  Georgia Tech is pitching a shutout over on the other channel, 6-0 so far.  With both of those ACC teams, you’re never really sure what you’re going to get.  So far it looks like “good” GT and “bad FSU.”

7:31: Goodness, the Seminole offense is ugly.  If they get themselves down too far here, they’re never going to be able to come back.  Quick aside, I was just thinking about this and they confirmed it.  The Big 12 is 5-1 right now, with the lone loss coming with Texas in overtime against Wake Forest.  The others: Big East (3-3), SEC (2-2), Big Ten (3-1), A10 (1-2), MWC (2-2), ACC (1-1).

7:37: The Zag offense is smokin’ hot right now – well over 50% from the field.  This one isn’t looking very good for FSU whatsoever.  Focusing over on Ga Tech-Oklahoma State for a while, which is at 15-15 at the moment.  Our sense on this game was that it would be a close game with OSU pulling it out at the end.  We’ll see whether that rings true.

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Evening

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 evening games.

7:10 pm – #8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida State  (Buffalo pod)

This is a very tough game to call, so let’s start with what we know about it.  The Zags, no stranger to cross-country travel, come into Buffalo after an 11-day layoff where St. Mary’s took Mark Few’s team behind the woodshed and beat them handily in the WCC Tournament championship.  Florida State comes in having dropped its quarterfinal game against NC State in an effort that had their fans shaking their heads in disgust.  So needless to say, both teams are looking for a fresh start here.  The Zags are always dangerous, and this year’s squad led by Matt Bouldin and Elias Harris has the offensive firepower to score with just about anyone in America.  Merely an ok three-point shooting team, they tend to rely on the drives of Harris and mid-range game of Bouldin to create offense.  However, they don’t tend to respond well to teams that crowd and push them around, but unfortunately, FSU is just such a team.  The Seminoles enjoy the nation’s top defensive efficiency, and while they have the opposite problem of finding points, they should have no problem putting the clamps down on the Zag scoring options.  The question here comes down to whether the FSU defense, anchored by 7’1 Solomon Alabi and 6’9 Chris Singleton’s combined four blocks per game, is better than the Gonzaga offense, and we think that it is.  And as up/down as the Seminoles were in the ACC, they never came close to losing to the likes of Loyola Marymount and San Francisco, as Gonzaga did this year.

The Skinny:  The Zags this year aren’t quite as good as they usually are, and they’re facing a team that will shut down their biggest strength.  FSU wins this one by eight points to get a date with Syracuse.

7:15 pm – #7 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

Here’s another one that’s got people confused.  For good reason, too.  All year long we’ve been waiting on Georgia Tech to do something with all that talent, and now they’re playing better basketball, just in time.  Oklahoma State’s showing against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament will cost them some support, but we’re going to excuse that performance.  That was a tired basketball team, playing their third game in a six day span with K-State at the end of it — and the Wildcats were coming off of a five-day rest.  Georgia Tech is going to go inside to Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal like crazy, but when the Yellow Jackets actually shoot the three, they shoot it well.  Defending the three is a glaring OSU weakness, so it will be interesting to see how often Georgia Tech eschews their big men in favor of launching it from the arc, because those shots will be there.  So…good outside shooting, great inside players…sounds pretty good for Tech, right?  The question will be whether or not they can get to that point in their offense.  Georgia Tech ranks in the bottom twenty of Division I teams in terms of turning the ball over.  Can the Jackets, then, find a way to keep James Anderson from shredding them or Keiton Page from raining threes?

The Skinny: Oklahoma State won’t have to exert too much energy guarding the three, since Tech’s propensity to turn the ball over will take care of some of that.  The Cowboys have been getting more and more help from their role players, and we feel 9-7 in the Big 12 is better than 7-9 in the ACC this year.  It’ll be a great first round game, but we like Oklahoma State in a close one.

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