CIO… the West Coast Conference

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Top Storylines

  • Zags supreme? The steady rumble of Gonzaga media support reached a higher pitch than usual this preseason, perhaps fueled by the Zags’ strong showing in the NCAA Tournament last March (dispatching West Virginia 77-54 and taking Ohio State to the wire before succumbing 73-66). With everyone back and anticipation building over incoming 7’1″ freshman Przemek Karnowski, the Zags’ success this year seemed foreordained. And their fast start, humbling West Virginia for the second time in eight months, 84-50, and roaring through the Old Spice Classic with wins over Clemson, Oklahoma and Davidson, amped up the volume. By the time Gonzaga faced Illinois last Saturday in Spokane, it was off to its best start in school history at 9-0 and ranked #10 in the AP poll. The Illini, however, under new coach John Groce, have dreams of their own, and were also riding an undefeated start (9-0) and high AP ranking (#13). Illinois spanked the Zags 85-74, temporarily derailing the express train to the Final Four, but didn’t dislodge Gonzaga from the top spot in the preseason WCC poll.

    What else is new? Mark Few has his Gonzaga squad playing at a high level (AP)

  • Welcome back, Traz and Kevin: If ever a team was glad to get back two stars temporarily sidelined, it was Santa Clara and seniors Marc Trasolini and Kevin Foster. Without Trasolini out of action all last year because of a knee injury, and without Foster for the last eight conference games following a drunken driving arrest, the Broncos stumbled to a humiliating 0-16 record in the WCC. Things are looking up for Kerry Keating’s Broncos this year, thanks to a heavy dose of Foster and Trasolini. Foster was named WCC Player of the Month for November after averaging 21.7 points per game, moving past Kurt Rambis to become Santa Clara’s all-time leading scorer and moving to third-place in WCC history for made three-point baskets. Trasolini has also been stellar, averaging nearly 15 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as Santa Clara fights back toward respectability.
  • Cousy for Delly? Saint Mary’s Matthew Dellavedova was among the final five candidates for last year’s Bob Cousy Award given to the nation’s outstanding point guard (North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall won the award in 2011-12) and has been nominated again this year. Can Delly buck the headwinds from players from larger conferences (e.g., Aaron Craft of Ohio State, Phil Pressey of Missouri, Peyton Siva of Louisville) and capture the prize this year? He seems to be building the type of season that would make a great case for it, leading the Gaels in scoring with 18.4 points per game and dishing out 5.6 assists per game, but his non-statistical contributions are even more compelling. Without muscular Rob Jones in the Gaels’ lineup this year, Dellavedova has shouldered both the scoring and leadership roles, twice scoring more than 30 points (32 in a win over Drexel, and 31 in a win against Drake) and holding his team together until newcomer Matt Hodgson settles in on the front line. A lot may depend on how well Saint Mary’s does in the postseason, and Delly will need some help if that is the deciding criterion.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. Gonzaga (9-1):Until they ventured into Pullman, Washington on December 5 for their first true road game of the year against Washington State, the Zags seemed to be building toward a dominating season. They let the pesky Cougars, who had already suffered a 58-56 loss to Pepperdine and were picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12, tie them with 14 seconds left, however, and were saved by a last-minute layup by Kevin Pangos to pull out a 71-69 win. Things got worse three days later with the Illinois loss, but Gonzaga has shown intimidating depth on the front line with the rejuvenation of 7’0″ forward Kelly Olynyk, who redshirted last season to work on his game. Olynyk, interrupting teammate Sam Dower’s expected break out season, scored 22 points in the second half against Washington State and 16 against Illinois. The Zags face daunting opponents Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State in the coming weeks, which will either restore them as postseason favorites or dampen their luster heading into the WCC season. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: And Then There Were 64 — First Four Breakdown

Posted by EJacoby on March 15th, 2012

The First Round Lede. Debate all you want about the structure of the new NCAA Tournament (since last year) – the First Four format is the new norm, and it must be appreciated because of the momentum it can give to the teams that win these play-in games. Of course, last year VCU began its run to the Final Four from the First Four. Over the past two nights, we saw a couple of really interesting games and a couple of blowouts. We’ll analyze the best moments for you here, as well as preview what’s next to come for the four winners. Here’s your First Round wrap-up…

Your Watercooler Moment. BYU Mounts An Enormous Second Half Comeback

Noah Hartsock Brought Intensity to BYU's Second Half Comeback (AP Photo/S. Peterson)

At the 4:00 mark of the first half of their game against Iona, the BYU Cougars trailed 55-31. Not a single soul watching this game on Tuesday night was thinking about a BYU comeback, and even the announcing crew on truTV was discussing how Iona could pose a serious threat to Marquette in the next round. But Dave Rose was not having it; the BYU coach made the necessary adjustments that included putting his defense into a 2-3 zone that it had hardly used during the season. The result was a complete shift in momentum, and the Cougars continued to convert on the offensive end while holding the Gaels to nothing offensively. Just 16 minutes later, at the 8:00 mark of the second half, Iona’s lead had vanished. BYU controlled the game from there and pulled away with a 78-72 victory, a seemingly impossible result after watching the events of the first half. The upperclassmen forward combo of Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies was terrific, combining for 41 points and 20 rebounds against the undersized Iona front line. The Cougars will take this momentum into Friday night when they take on Marquette in the Round of 64.

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WCC Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on February 29th, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the WCC.

Showdown in Las Vegas

So, it’s decided but it’s really not. Saint Mary’s closed out the WCC regular season with a tough 67-60 victory over San Francisco on the road, earning an undisputed conference championship for the first time since the 1989 squad coached by Lynn Nance. The Gaels tied Gonzaga for the regular-season title last year – the Zags’ 11th straight WCC championship – and needed a win over San Francisco to avoid another tie this year. They got it, but not without a dogged fight from the Dons, who closed out the season with home games against the conference’s top three teams – BYU, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. They made them all pay, losing narrowly to BYU (85-84), edging Gonzaga, 66-65, and giving Saint Mary’s all they could handle before a frantic home crowd.

The WCC Tournament beginning Wednesday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas will have a lot to say about how many conference members advance to the NCAA Tournament, and, almost as important, where they will play and how high they are seeded. The tournament champion receives the automatic NCAA bid, but almost all commentators agree that both Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga will receive bids no matter what happens in Las Vegas. The same cannot be said for BYU, however, so the Cougars’ need to make a strong showing in Las Vegas – perhaps even win the championship – in one of the compelling stories that will play out over the weekend.

Can Saint Mary's Earn The Automatic Bid Into The Big Dance? Conference POY Matthew Dellavedova Will Have A Huge Say In That (AP)

Others revolve around the conference’s mystery team, Loyola Marymount, and whether San Francisco can maintain the fierce defensive intensity it displayed down the stretch at home with days off between games. The Dons’ road to a high tournament finish requires victories on Thursday against the winner of a play-in game between Portland and Santa Clara, a Friday win against a Loyola team that beat them twice in the regular season, then a semifinal contest on Saturday against the Gaels, who also beat them twice in conference. Not an easy path.

Loyola is in a better position to wreak havoc than San Francisco. Earning a first-round tournament bye with its fourth-place conference finish, the Lions play first on Friday against the winner of the San Francisco/play-in winner game. If it’s a rematch with the Dons, tournament fans will see San Francisco take a third shot at a win that eluded them in two excruciatingly close conference games – a 77-76 overtime loss at home that saw LMU erase a 17-point second-half deficit, and a 90-88 loss in Los Angeles in which LMU had to come from 16 points down. The Dons desperately want another shot at the Lions, and feel they finished stronger than LMU because of their tough battles with the league leaders and LMU’s less-than-overwhelming finish: an inexplicable 60-57 loss to San Diego and a 68-65 nail-biter win against Santa Clara, which was winless in conference play.

Figuring out the psyche of Max Good’s squad would challenge a team of Freuds, however, as the Lions bounced back and forth between helpless – a 76-63 home loss to North Texas – and sublime – a 75-60 upset of Saint Mary’s in Moraga, the Gaels’ only home loss all season. One of the Lions’ quirks is they play better on the road than at home, so maybe a trip to Las Vegas is just what Dr. Freud would order. If they do, indeed, meet and beat San Francisco in the quarterfinals, they will move on to another encounter with Saint Mary’s in Saturday’s first semifinal game (6:00 PM PT, ESPN2). That the Gaels would like another shot at LMU goes without saying, as that loss cost them both a lofty national ranking and injuries to guard Stephen Holt, whose return from a torn meniscus is still undecided, center Brad Waldow, who re-injured a bruised rib and had to sit out much of the action, and even indestructible guard Matthew Dellavedova, who turned an ankle and left the game for several minutes in the second half.

Who Us? Rex Walters and USF Are Playing Great Basketball (Comcast Sports Net)

BYU’s path to a possible tournament championship takes them through a quarterfinal match with the winner of a San Diego-Pepperdine contest and a semifinal rematch with Gonzaga, with whom they split regular-season games. BYU was without outstanding forward Noah Hartsock (knee injury) for all but the first seven minutes of the second Gonzaga game on Feb. 23, a 74-63 loss. Hartsock also sat out BYU’s final conference game, a 76-66 win over Portland, and his status for Las Vegas has not been announced. With Hartsock in the lineup, a BYU-Gonzaga rematch in Saturday’s second semifinal match (ESPN2, 8:oo PM PT) could be a classic, but we’ll have to wait to see whether Hartsock can go.

As for the championship game on Monday night (6:00 PM PT, ESPN), it has featured Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s for the last three years (Gonzaga won two of the three), and a similar match-up would surprise no one. It would be a rubber game, as the teams split in conference play, and could determine whether either team receives a favorable or dicey NCAA seeding.

Reader’s Take

 

Final Standings

Here’s how the 2011-12 WCC season ended up:

  1. Saint Mary’s (25-5, 14-2).
  2. Gonzaga (23-5, 13-3).
  3. BYU (24-7, 12-4)
  4. Loyola Marymount (19-11, 11-5)
  5. San Francisco (18-12, 8-8)
  6. San Diego (12-1, 7-9)
  7. Pepperdine (10-18, 4-12)
  8. Portland (6-23, 3-13)
  9. Santa Clara (8-21, 0-16)

WCC Honors

For the second year in a row a Saint Mary’s guard is the West Coast Conference Player of the Year. This time it is Matthew Dellavedova, the 6’4″ junior from Maryborough, Victoria, Australia, who led the conference in assists (6.6 per game) and was third in scoring (16.4 PPG). The Gaels’ Mickey McConnell rated the POY nod last year, and not many observers of the conference would bet against Dellavedova repeating in 2013. In addition to his conference honors, Dellavedova is a finalist in the Bob Cousy Award competition for the nation’s best point guard. Last week, he was named a Capital One Academic All-American, the first Saint Mary’s player to be so honored.

While the choice of Dellavedova raised no eyebrows, selecting Max Good of Loyola Marymount as coach of the year might – even among Loyola fans and alumni. Good has been on the hot seat at LMU ever since last year’s team – picked to compete for conference honors – finished in last place at 2-12. While not ducking his share of blame for the team’s collapse, Good insisted that without crippling injuries his team would have been much better. The Lions weathered some early-season injuries – most notably to All-Conference Forward Drew Viney and his front court mate Ashley Hamilton – and, indeed, did do better this year, finishing fourth in the conference with an 11-5 mark. Along the way, LMU posted wins over UCLA, St. Louis and Valparaiso in non-conference play and over BYU and Saint Mary’s in conference. Good’s fellow coaches – who make the conference honors selections – evidently believe in redemption.

Other individual honors announced by the WCC on Tuesday were Defensive Player of the Year to Gonzaga’s 7’0” senior center Robert Sacre, whose 25 blocks led the league; and WCC Newcomer of the Year to Gonzaga freshman guard Kevin Pangos, whose deadly three-point shooting accounted for 12.8 PPG and 36 three-point field goals. The WCC All-conference team is composed of:

  • Angelo Caloiaro, San Francisco
  • Brandon Davies, BYU
  • Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s
  • Elias Harris, Gonzaga
  • Noah Hartsock, BYU
  • Anthony Ireland, Loyola
  • Rob Jones, Saint Mary’s
  • Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
  • Robert Sacre, Gonzaga
  • Drew Viney, Loyola

The conference all-freshman team:

  • Gary Bell, Jr, Gonzaga
  • Matt Carlino, BYU
  • Johnny Dee, San Diego
  • Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
  • Brad Waldow, Saint Mary’s

Honorable mention was accorded to Perris Blackwell, center, San Francisco; Carlino and Dee; Rashad Green, guard, San Francisco; Stephen Holt, guard, Saint Mary’s; and Corbin Moore, center, Pepperdine.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.23.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 23rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

#8 Duke at #17 Florida State – 7:00PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • Duke lost to FSU on their home court at the buzzer the last time these two played. Going on the road to exact revenge and keep pace with North Carolina for the ACC lead looms large for the Blue Devils. There are two key areas that Duke needs to focus on in order to beat the Seminoles – three-point defense and getting to the free throw line. While the Blue Devils have the top three-point defense in the ACC, they let the Seminoles hit 50% from downtown in the first game. It’s a key area of focus because in 3 of the 4 Duke losses, they have allowed an eFG of over 60%. Additionally, keep a close eye on their ability to get to the line. When Duke does not get to the line frequently they are vulnerable. Their three worst free throw rate performances of the season are all losses.

    Can FSU Knock Duke Off Again?

  • Florida State was able to beat Duke in their previous match-up with its strongest shooting effort of the season. For a team that is known for its defense, FSU is the best shooting team in the ACC. Their three-point shooting has gotten much better in conference play to give their eFG a big boost. Only Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Clemson have been able to hold the Seminoles under 50% eFG in a single game. They must watch the turnovers though as they are turning the ball over at a rate of 22.3% in ACC play.
  • This game will come down to free throws and three-point defense. Both teams rely on free throws to win ball games. When taken away with good defense and no fouls, they lose. With so many of Dukes shots coming from beyond the three-point line (40%) and FSU’s recent success from downtown, the team who defends the three better should win.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.02.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 2nd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Gonzaga at Brigham Young – 11:00 PM EST on ESPN2 HD (****)

  • Gonzaga is basically in a must-win situation if they want to have a shot at the regular season West Coast Conference title. If they can beat BYU tonight on the road, they will then get both BYU and St. Mary’s at home over the next few weeks. If they lose, they will drop two behind SMC in the loss column with a month to go, making it extremely difficult for the Bulldogs to win another WCC regular season crown. GU is by far the best defense in the WCC, so it is certainly possible for Mark Few’s team to win in Provo. This team is reminiscent of the UCLA teams that made the Final Four under Ben Howland in that their defense is good enough to survive very poor shooting nights and still win. Mark Few’s team is 6-1 when their eFG% is under 50%. The teams that have been able to beat Gonzaga have killed them from inside the arc, though. With the size that GU possesses, this seems unlikely. However, when you look at their losses to Michigan State, Illinois, and St. Mary’s, each of those teams shot between 55% and 62% from two against the Zags. Keep a close eye on how Elias Harris, Robert Sacre, and Sam Dower defend the interior.

    Matt Carlino and BYU Will Get Another Shot At St. Mary's In Provo (AP)

    Matt Carlino (10) Is Going To Play A Big Role In BYU's Critical Matchup Against Gonzaga

  • BYU has already been beaten twice by St. Mary’s, so their regular season title chances are essentially done. They are positioning themselves for either a run in the WCC Tourney or an at-large bid. A win against the Zags will go a long way to help their cause. The game could be shaping up to be a size versus speed matchup. At 73 possessions per game, BYU likes to get up and down the court. They need to tire out the bigs from Gonzaga and get easy transition buckets if they want to win this game. Keep a close eye on 6’8” forward Noah Hartsock and guard Matt Carlino. Hartsock needs to go inside-outside on the GU big men and Carlino needs drive and dish to create easy two point baskets for his teammates.
  • Do not expect a lot of second chance points in this game, as both teams are excellent on the defensive boards. However, the team that is able to grab a few extra offensive boards will have an advantage. Give the edge to the Zags in that area because of their size. The game will ultimately be decided by BYU’s ability to make two-point shots. They are going to have to hit between 55% – 60% of their interior shots to win. Not an easy task against the size and defensive toughness of Gonzaga.

Other Games to Watch:

  • Duke at Virginia Tech (8:00 PM EST on ESPN HD): Until Virginia Tech can show they are able to win consistently, they cannot be considered a serious opponent against any of the top tier ACC teams. The game is in Blacksburg, but nothing indicates they can win because they can’t shoot.
  • Oral Roberts at South Dakota State (8:00 PM EST): Nobody is giving any TV love to the top two teams in the Summit League, so you can’t TiVo it. Maybe there is local coverage that I’m missing. Regardless, ORU has won 13 consecutive games including a 22-point beatdown of San Diego State during the streak. Look for Nate Wolters and company to step-it up at home, where they are undefeated this season.

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2014

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 26th, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Reader’s Take 

 

Looking Back

  • Suddenly there is a fourth guest at the party. Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU had dominated WCC play in the pre-season and until the halfway point of the conference race, but last Thursday Loyola Marymount rudely interrupted their revels. An 82-68 thumping of BYU in a half-full Marriott Center in Provo sent notice that Max Good’s squad is healthy and hungry to compete for a top spot with the Big Three.
  • Good is enjoying the benefit of having star forwards Drew Viney (15.9 PPG) and Ashley Hamilton (12.5 PPG) in the lineup at the same time, and is receiving outstanding point guard play from Anthony Ireland (15.9 PPG), who was good enough to win Player of the Week honors in the WCC. Ireland’s line in the LMU win over BYU and a subsequent 74-62 win over Santa Clara was remarkably similar: 27 points and five assists against BYU, 25 points and five assists against Santa Clara. That earned him the Lou Henson Award for National Player of the Week from CollegeInsider.com in addition to the WCC honor.
  • The additional factor allowing LMU to separate from its opponents is contributions from other players besides its three leaders: LaRon Armstead, the rugged (6’5”, 200 lbs.) senior forward from Los Angeles, is averaging nine points per game and has been a big factor in the Lions’ success since he recovered from a concussion several games ago. Armstead moved into the Lions’ starting lineup for the first time against BYU and contributed 12 points and six rebounds. Another bruiser from Los Angeles, 6’7”, 240-lb sophomore forward Alex Osborne, has also come on strong lately, racking up nine rebounds and five points in 22 minutes against Santa Clara.

Drew Viney (34) and LMU Are Slowly Fighting Their Way Towards The Top Tier Of The WCC

Power Rankings

  1.  Saint Mary’s (19-2, 8-0) quietly moved up in the national rankings last week, to #20 in the ESPN/Coaches Poll and #21 in the AP poll, thanks to steady wins over Pepperdine at home (61-47) and Santa Clara on the road (93-77) that gave the Gaels their best start in school history. Overshadowed by Ireland’s stellar week was Gaels’ point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who averaged 20 points and six assists in his team’s two wins, including a clinic in the high pick-and-roll against Santa Clara. Time and time again, Dellavedova cruised into the lane against the Broncos and either dropped in runners or found teammates Rob Jones or Brad Waldow for easy buckets. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the West Coast Conference correspondent for RTC.

Reader’s Take 

 

Looking Back

  • Holding serve was the key note last week, as Saint Mary’s slapped down the second of its main competitors for the WCC title, Gonzaga, by a convincing 83-62 margin in Moraga. That followed the Gaels’ first-week trouncing of BYU by 98-82, also at home. Playing the cards dealt to them by an unbalanced conference schedule, the Gaels now have a one-game edge on both rivals before facing them on the road.
  • For Saint Mary’s, the nine-team schedule – reflecting the addition of BYU to the ranks – was front-loaded with rivals (and home court-loaded as well). Gonzaga and BYU, on the other hand, have yet to face each other and both had to travel to Moraga for their initial showdown with the Gaels. The WCC held on to its true round-robin form, however, so each team plays each other twice, meaning Gonzaga and BYU will have their shot at revenge. The Gaels travel to Provo on January 28 and to Gonzaga on February 9; BYU and Gonzaga tangle in Provo on February 2 and in Spokane on February 23.
  • Everything that has transpired in the first three weeks of conference play indicates that the league championship and seeding for the March 1-5 conference tournament in Las Vegas will be determined by those three teams.

Dellavedova and the Gaels Held Serve, Now What?

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s (17-2, 6-0): The key matchup in Thursday’s game with Gonzaga was supposed to be in the frontcourt, where the Zags’ trio of Robert Sacre, Sam Dower and Elias Harris was reputedly superior to the Gaels’ mixed bag of post players along with stalwart power forward Rob Jones. Sly ol’ Randy Bennett, however, had been tinkering with his post players throughout the pre-conference schedule and by league time had it figured out. The three-headed contingent of redshirt freshman Brad Waldow (6’9”), senior Kenton Walker II (6’9”) and junior Mitchell Young (6’8”) outscored and outrebounded Sacre and Dower by an overwhelming 31 points and 17 rebounds to 12 points and eight rebounds. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2012


Michael Vernetti is the West Coast Conference correspondent for RTC.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

Welcome to the wacky world of nine-team scheduling. WCC members knew some changes were coming with the addition of BYU to the league, but it has taken two weeks of conference play to absorb all that was required to make the odd-numbered format work. Here’s what the 2011-12 season has introduced:

  • Monday night games in addition to the regular Thursday-Saturday format
  • Asymmetrical scheduling, meaning teams play some opponents twice before playing others at all
  • Front-loaded key games for some, delayed timing of key games for others

For whatever reason, Saint Mary’s has seen most of the anomalies in the early-going: a Monday night game in the same week as a crucial showdown with Gonzaga; a home game against Pepperdine which will complete the Gaels’ schedule with the Waves before they play Loyola Marymount even once. And with Thursday’s tilt with Gonzaga, the Gaels will have hosted both of its two top rivals for the league championship (98-82 win over BYU on Dec. 29) while those teams have yet to play each other.

Pending the result of tonight’s crucial contest with Gonzaga, the Gaels have weathered the changes well. They had only one game last week, a clunky 78-72 victory over energized San Diego at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, and dispatched San Francisco handily Monday night (87-72) in Moraga, thanks to a scorching 67.3% shooting performance, including 57.9% from three-point land. The Gaels were carried by WCC Player of the Week Rob Jones against San Diego (31 points, 12 rebounds) and by Matthew Dellavedova (27 points, four assists) against San Francisco.

Brandon Davies And BYU Are Ranked #3 In Our Latest Power Rankings (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s (15-2, 4-0 WCC)—is the first WCC team to play four games. The Gaels have overpowered both BYU and San Francisco at home, while struggling to contain San Diego’s freshman backcourt combination of Christopher Anderson (7.5 PPG/4.4 APG) and Johnny Dee (14.5 PPG) in the victory over the Toreros. The Gaels’ other win was a convincing 74-45 pasting of Pepperdine in Malibu. Jones (15.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 10 double-doubles) and Dellavedova (15.2 PPG, 6.5 APG) continue to lead the Gaels, with sophomore guard Stephen Holt (9.5 PPG, 3.5 APG) hovering around the double-figure mark in scoring. Holt, a dangerous defender at 6’4″ with quick hands, also leads the WCC with 34 steals on the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 12.16.11 to 12.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 16th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With Dead Week mercifully over, we finally have some good games to enjoy this Saturday despite Sunday being a very slow day in the hoops world.

#6 Baylor @ BYU – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on BYU TV (****)

Perry Jones Leads Baylor into Provo Saturday (AP)

  • The Bears have had difficulty on the road in past seasons but they already passed one important test, demolishing Northwestern in Chicago a couple weeks ago. This game, however, will be an even better measure to see where the highly-rated Bears are really at. The Marriott Center is a notoriously difficult place to play but Baylor has a clear talent edge in this game. BU welcomes Gary Franklin, now eligible after the first semester, to an already highly skilled roster. Franklin didn’t play all that well at California last season but he was a four star recruit out of high school. He should help the Bears out at the point guard position, a place where turnovers are still an issue. Baylor averages 16 turnovers a game and that will be dangerous playing on the road against a team like BYU that likes to push the pace. 5.8 of those 16 turnovers come from the point guard position so Scott Drew is hoping that Franklin can help handle the ball. How Franklin will fit in alongside Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton remains a question mark.
  • BYU’s top six scorers are all 6’5” or taller, an important factor against the length and athleticism of Baylor’s front line. Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and Charles Abouo do the bulk of the damage for Dave Rose, as those three are his top scorers and rebounders. Hartsock in particular has been outstanding, scoring in double figures in every game thus far. All three will have to play well in order for BYU to pull the upset because Baylor’s front court is strong, deep and talented. With Quincy Acy blocking 3.3 shots a game, BYU’s big men should find it more difficult to score inside on Saturday. The Cougars have to get their outside game going as well. Baylor’s defense is very average against the three and BYU has three big deep threats, Abouo, Stephen Rogers and Brock Zylstra. Going up against the top-ranked interior defense in the nation, BYU needs its outside shots to fall in order to win. However, the Cougars can’t afford to settle for threes if they aren’t falling. They must get something going in the paint, even against such a strong defense, in order to balance out their offense.
  • This is an important game for both clubs. Baylor has played only two teams of note so far while BYU’s best win is over a mediocre Oregon team. Baylor shoots well (49.1% FG) but the biggest difference this season has been its defense. The Bears allow only 33.3% shooting inside the arc and their defensive efficiency has been terrific. Both teams get most of their offense from their respective front courts but Baylor may have the ultimate edge with Cory Jefferson off the bench. He adds some scoring punch and, more importantly, rebounding and depth for the Bears. For the Cougars to win, they’ll have to force turnovers to get points in transition because it’ll be awfully tough to score inside in the half court. In addition to making its threes, BYU must rebound well and get to the line while putting the Baylor big men in foul trouble. However, BYU ranks #295 in free throw rate and Baylor doesn’t foul too often. Although BYU rarely loses at home, this is a game Baylor can win. There are some who still doubt the Bears but a win here would put them on their way towards legitimate national recognition.

Texas A&M vs. #10 Florida (at Sunrise, FL) – 2:30 PM EST Saturday on FSN (***)

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Morning Five: 12.15.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2011

  1. In a recent interview with a local radio station, Purdue coach Matt Painter had some interesting things to say about last weekend’s Xavier-Cincinnati brawl. He laid a considerable amount of blame on the officials working the game for allowing things to escalate to the point of on-court mayhem (“experienced officials and guys who have control of games, they handle it, take care of it early and it’s not an issue […] to me, it was avoidable.”), but he also took some candid shots at XU’s players for their physical style of play and running mouths. “Right away, from watching film, they talk. They talk a lot. That was one of the first things we talked about in the scouting report (to our players) was don’t get caught up in that. In the game, I’m talking to officials about their guys coming running on the court and (bumping into, pushing) our guys coming off a time out and the referees look at me like I’m crazy. I go back and watch the film, and it’s easy to see and they just ignored it.” Cincinnati has rightfully taken the brunt of this week’s criticism for its role in the brawl, and much of the associated vitriol with UC well predates the Mick Cronin era, but if you listen to Painter, maybe fans and media should take a closer look at how the Musketeers are composing themselves on the court too.
  2. Well, at least he didn’t shove a guy to the ground, instigate a full-on brawl between two teams, and subsequently refer to his squad as a bunch of ‘gangstas’ and talk about ‘zip[ping] ‘em up” when discussing the other team. No, New Mexico State guard Christian Kabongo (cousin of more-heralded Myck, at Texas), is guilty of grabbing his crotch area twice during a recent game against UTEP and has been suspended indefinitely as a result of his transgression. Kabongo is a significant loss to the Aggies, even in the short term, as he brings averages of 16/4/4 APG to the table for Marvin Menzies’ team. Just imagine how long he’d have to sit out if he was any better.
  3. With news Wednesday that the Hamilton County (OH) prosecutor will not pursue criminal charges stemming from last weekend’s brawl between Cincinnati and Xavier, it appears that we’re finally putting this ugly incident behind us. Had charges been filed, they would have most likely come against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their respective punch and stomp to the face/head of Xavier center Kenny Frease. But prosecutor Joe Deters (a law enforcement name if ever there was one) said that he was satisfied that Frease’s recent outreach to Gates was met with a subsequent apology and, among other factors, his mea culpa contributed to Deters’ decision to not pursue the case. Historically speaking, US criminal law as a general rule has shied away from imposing jurisdiction on athletes during the bounds of competition, but there have been some precedents, particularly in the NHL, where that is not the case.
  4. While on the subject of legality, the NCAA‘s new rule allowing conferences to offer $2,000 stipends to next year’s recruits is in jeopardy after 97 of the 345 Division I institutions have signed a petition that will force the organization into a reconsideration of the measure at its upcoming January meetings. If 28 more schools sign the petition in the next 11 days to get to 125 institutions, then the legislation will be automatically suspended until further review or modification. Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the support for rescission is reportedly coming from the non-BCS football schools whose budgets are far below its peers who can better afford up to a $2 million annual price tag for its scholarship athletes. As we wrote a couple of months ago when this news first came out, “this policy initiative could be another step toward the permanent stratification of college basketball between the haves and have-nots.” This petition to the NCAA from the have-nots clearly bears this out. If you’re interested in more analysis on this topic, USA Today‘s Christine Brennan skewers the idea in her commentary published Wednesday.
  5. SI writers Seth Davis and Luke Winn are going a little crazy with the “breakout” players angle this month. Recall that last week Davis published his list of 10 breakout sophomores; this week he’s decided to give us his list of eight breakout juniors (plus a mailbag). Not to be outdone, Winn comes correct with his list of five breakout seniors! If we see an article on breakout graduate students next week, we’re coming to the Sports Illustrated offices and with a sole intent of burning the place down. All kidding aside, we might have added juniors CJ Harris (Wake Forest), Chase Tapley (San Diego State) and Isaiah Canaan (Murray State) to Davis’ list, and Jae Crowder (Marquette) and Noah Hartsock (BYU) to the Winn’s. Give both pieces a read and see what you think.
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BYU’s Brandon Davies Keeps His Profile Low, Productivity High

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

Kraig Williams is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between BYU and Weber State in Provo.

You don’t have to be a huge college basketball fan to know the story of Brandon Davies last season. As the calendar turned from February to March, BYU was America’s darling. The team was ranked #3 in the nation and had vanquished conference foe and #4 San Diego State on the road in its last outing.

Davies Is Back on the Team and Keeping a Low Profile (Salt Lake Tribune)

The national spotlight that had shown so brightly on BYU quickly turned into an interrogation lamp with the news that Davies had been kicked off the team and out of school for an honor code violation. The violation was widely reported as him having premarital sex with an undetermined female. [ed. note: the actual facts surrounding the honor code violation remain unknown to us at this time, and we make no further claim as to the identification this female or any other sexual partner.] Something that would be so commonplace at many colleges and universities around the country ended Davies season in March and consequently sparked a firestorm of national debate regarding BYU’s honor code. Without him in the post,  the Cougars still went on to have a dream season before being knocked out in the Sweet Sixteen by Florida.

Whether you believe Davies deserved the punishment or not, he accepted it without complaint.  After the season ended, Davies quietly went about getting himself reinstated to the university and did just that and on August 26 when he was readmitted for the fall semester. When BYU had its first exhibition game against Midwestern State in late October, Davies was noticeably cheered louder than the rest of the starting lineup. The BYU faithful had forgiven and forgotten, his sins had been redeemed, and basketball could again become the focus.

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Life After Jimmer: How Has BYU Moved On This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

Kraig Williams is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Oregon vs. BYU game on Saturday.

Both figuratively and literally, the shadow of Jimmer Fredette looms large over the BYU program.  Last year’s National Player of the Year has not missed a Cougar game yet this season. Fredette has taken up a permanent spot behind the BYU bench while waiting for his professional career to begin later this month with the Sacramento Kings. From the best seat in the house, Jimmer watched the new-look Cougars easily handle Oregon at Energy Solutions Arena on Saturday, 79-65.

The Looming Presence of Jimmer Hangs Over the BYU Program

It would be natural to assume that the Cougars would struggle to replace the offense of a guy who led the nation in 2010-11 with nearly 29 points a contest. Early into the new season, though, you wouldn’t even know the difference looking at the numbers. When looking at the tempo-free statistics, the BYU offense has hummed right along. The Fredette-led Cougars were the nation’s 16th most efficient offense last year, averaging 1.102 points per possession. In early results this year, BYU has slipped all the way down to 1.101 points per possession. That .001 loss moves them to 29th in the nation this year. Dave Rose’s team plays a little bit slower than last year’s run-and-gun model (down to 70 possessions from 72 last year), and consequently it doesn’t average quite as many points. However, that is more likely just the result of games against Utah State and Wisconsin early in the season, two of the slowest-paced schools in the country.

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