Buzz: ESPN Bracketbusters to be Announced at 6:30 pm

Posted by rtmsf on February 1st, 2010

In less than a half-hour from now, ESPNU will be broadcasting their ESPN Bracketbusters Selection Show, hosted by Lowell Galindo and analyst Mark Adams.  Will this year’s schedule give us some choice matchups such as Siena-Cornell or New Mexico-Northern Iowa?  What about a St. Mary’s-Radford matchup so we can see Omar Samhan battle with Artsiom Parakhouski?  Check back in later as we’ll have a comprehensive analysis of the best games to keep an eye on as part of your viewing schedule in three weekends (February 19-20).  As if you didn’t already have enough good hoops to watch this month!

 

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RTC Live: Gonzaga at San Francisco

Posted by rtmsf on January 30th, 2010

Hello everyone, and welcome back to RTC Live from the West Coast Conference, where the big bad Gonzaga Bulldogs visit the University of San Francisco Dons tonight.  We’ll be interested to see how the Zags respond from their extremely lackluster performance at Santa Clara on Thursday night, where it took a 22-4 run late to finally take control and win the game.  Of course, Mark Few’s team is led by the talents of Matt Bouldin (17/4/4 assts) and Elias Harris (16/9), the latter of whom is already being talked about as a first-rounder in the 2010 NBA Draft.  USF, on the other hand, is suffering a rough season on the Hill.  At 7-14 and 2-4 in the conference, there hasn’t been a lot to cheer about other than the two-time defending WCC scoring champ, Dior Lowhorn.  This year he trails St. Mary’s Omar Samhan and Pepperdine’s Keion Bell in that statistic, but we know that he can blow up for 25+ on any given night.  Gonzaga is the clear favorite tonight, but they also were on Thursday and they had to have a tremendous second half to get out of Santa Clara with a win, so the same thing could happen again tonight.  Join us on RTC Live to find out.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 26th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. I’d be fairly shocked if Gonzaga is any lower than a #3 seed when the brackets are unveiled in March. In fact, I’d be fairly shocked if the Zags lost again this season. Think about it: they’ve already notched wins on the road against the three teams most likely to shock Mark Few’s team by dispatching Portland, Saint Mary’s and San Diego on a single road trip. They have one challenging non-conference game left against a rebuilding Memphis team in which Gonzaga will surely be favored. The only team I could see possibly stunning the Zags is Pepperdine and their explosive guard Keion Bell. The Waves only fell by seven in the Kennel this past week behind Bell’s 37 points, but they’re still 7-13 on the season and I highly doubt Bell is going to post 37 again on a stingier Gonzaga defense. Win out and Mark Few is looking at 27-3 (16-0) heading into the WCC tournament where they could finish with a 29-3 (18-0) overall record and an RPI in the top-20 with their only losses at Michigan State, at home against Wake Forest and Duke in MSG. That sets up Gonzaga for a #3 seed in the Spokane regional, meaning two quasi-home games until the regional (and they could be in the Salt Lake City regional). German import Elias Harris has spear-headed the Zags hot streak. He’s averaging 16/8 and shooting nearly 60% in a tremendous debut campaign.

Vasquez heating up for the Terps

2. Remember that Greivis Vasquez guy on Maryland who’s had a pretty damn good career? After scoring in the single digits in his first four games and struggling mightily with his jump shot in Maui, the brash and often polarizing emotional sparkplug for the Terps is heating up in a big way. And that’s bad news for the rest of the wide-open ACC. Vasquez has now scored in double figures his last 14 games including a 30-point outburst at Wake Forest and 22 in a big home win over Florida State. He played his most efficient game Saturday in the blowout win over NC State, notching 19 points on 7-11 FG and 3-4 3pt. Despite the concerning start, Vasquez is now playing like the ACC POY contender he truly is. His 43% FG is only second to his 44% as a freshman (but he only needs three more shots to match the amount taken that season), his 39% 3pt is far and away a career best, and he’s also contributing with 6.1 APG and 4.6 RPG, solid totals for a 6’6 guard. I fully expect Duke to win the ACC- they’ve already played two of their three most difficult ACC games- but Maryland is absolutely a contender to finish second behind Vasquez, the continued improved play of Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes (46% 3pt), plus the superb coaching of Gary Williams.

3. Other than maybe Georgetown or Notre Dame, the most disappointing team in the nation last season may have been Baylor. The Bears entered the season fresh off reaching the NCAA Tournament just a few years following the Dave Bliss fallout with Scott Drew being lauded as one of the best young coaches in the game. Even though a late-season Big 12 Tournament and NIT push healed some wounds, the 5-11 Big 12 mark a season ago was still a campaign to forget. What led to the downfall? For one, Baylor ranked #103 in defensive efficiency in 2008-09. During their crippling six game Big 12 losing streak, the Bears surrendered 95 points to Oklahoma, 89 to Missouri and 83 to Texas Tech. In a related story, Baylor is ranked in the top 25 this week and ranks 41st in defensive efficiency. What has sparked the change? A big reason is the human eraser Ekpe Udoh in the post, a Michigan transfer who ranks sixth in college basketball in block percentage (Baylor ranks first in the nation in the same category). Baylor as a unit has also turned up the intensity on the defensive end, ranking third in the nation in opponents two-point FG% behind just Mississippi State and Florida State. Baylor hasn’t forgotten how to score, either. They rank 15th in offensive efficiency and eighth in effective FG%. Anyone who watched the Bears go toe-to-toe with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse last Monday knows this team can play.

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ATB: Gonzaga Has a New Star

Posted by rtmsf on January 15th, 2010

Elias Harris Introduces Himself to America/RTC LiveGonzaga 89, St. Mary’s 82.  We really hope you stayed up for this WCC tilt between the two titans of this league tonight.  If you didn’t, you missed what someone less of a wordsmith than RTC might call a ‘coming-out party.’  Gonzaga’s Elias Harris not only had a career-high night in terms of scoring (31/13), but he also spent seemingly half of the game hanging from the McKeon Pavilion rims after throwing down a beyond-athletic dunk.  Maybe it was the soft rims at the Moraga school, but each time Harris was doing chin-ups on their hoops, we thought the entire place might come down with him.  St. Mary’s had the raucous crowd, the early three-pointers from Matt Dellavedova and Mickey McConnell, the late power game from Omar Samhan, and a four-point deficit with under a minute to go (plus the ball).  But what the Gaels didn’t have at all tonight (and was clearly a concern of Randy Bennett’s after the game) was the ability to defend the Zags.  GU shot a scorching 60% from the field and was +8 on the offensive glass, which means that Gonzaga’s percentage of scoring possessions was off the charts at over 71% for the game.  You’re simply not going to be in a realistic position to win many games when you’re getting stops only three of every ten defensive trips. It’s a testament to how well Omar Samhan played in the second half (26 of his 31 came after the break) that SMC had a chance to win within the final few minutes.  Gonzaga leaves Moraga with a 2-0 WCC record, but those two wins already represent what are likely its two toughest road games this season (@ Portland being the other).  Even if Gonzaga drops two games the rest of the way, St. Mary’s would have to lose only one other game AND beat Gonzaga in Spokane to tie them for the regular season title.  Good luck with that.  As for Harris, he wasn’t a very highly recruited player coming from Germany, but he’s proving that once again Mark Few and his staff have a keen eye for talent somewhat off the beaten path.  Tonight he appeared to be the Zags’ best player, and his 15/8 on 59% shooting this year puts him in elite company among freshmen this season.

Pac-10 Wrap. Rather than do an individual breakdown of each game in this crazy conference, since eight teams played tonight we’ll just do a wrapup paragraph tonight.  The lesson in this year’s Pac-10: pick who you think will win the game… then pick the other team — there’s your winner.  The Arizonas visited the Oregons tonight, and if you had Oregon getting destroyed (76-57) for the second straight game at home while Oregon State snuck past Arizona on a Lathen Wallace three with 1.1 seconds remaining, give yourself a pat on the back.  In Washington, we had the NorCal teams visiting tonight, and if you had Stanford getting destroyed by UW  (coming off three straight losses) and Cal winning a road game (!!!) at Wazzu, give yourself a full-on hug.  Jerome Randle had a career-high 39 points, outdoing conference scoring leader Klay Thompson (18/6) in Pullman, while Quincy Pondexter dropped 27/10 on the Cardinal in Seattle.  The Pac-10 standings now have Cal at 3-1, six teams with two losses, and three teams with three.  Can we just set each team at 9-9 for the regular season and get on to the Pac-10 Tournament?

Other Games of National Interest.

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RTC Live: Gonzaga @ St. Mary’s

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2010

It’s already time for the first Gonzaga vs. St. Mary’s game that will establish conference supremacy in the WCC.  For the past several seasons, SMC has set its sights squarely on the Zags with the knowledge that breaking through in the WCC would be the first step toward consistent national recognition for the tiny school from Moraga, California.  The Gaels have gotten close, finishing second in the league (behind the Zags) in five of the last six seasons, including twice (2005 and 2008) where they finished a mere one game behind Gonzaga in the regular season standings.  Last year was thought to be the year, as SMC held a working margin in the first half of the Spokane game when superstar Patty Mills went down with a wrist injury, effectively ending the team’s hopes to catch the Zags last season.  There’s a similar buzz this year, though, even without the mercurial Mills running the show.  With center Omar Samhan coming into his own as a dominant big man (21/11/3 blks), and three-point bombers Matthew Dellavedova (13/3/4 assts; 42% 3FG) and Mickey McConnell (13/2/6 assts; 53% 3FG) torching the nets if left open, Gonzaga’s defense — its worst since 2006-07 — is going to have its hands full tonight.  The Zags are not the nine-time defending WCC regular season champs for nothing, though, and they have been known to step up in big road games a time or two under Mark Few’s direction.  There will be a lot of pressure on Robert Sacre and Elias Harris to handle Samhan inside, but if they’re up to the task and Matt Bouldin (15/5/4 assts) gets his stroke going again (he averaged 17.3 PPG in three games against SMC last year), then we could be looking at another close one.  The combined scoring of the last four games between these two teams in Moraga results in Gonzaga +1, as they have split the last four, all relatively close games.  Join us tonight for another great one!

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RTC Live: St. Mary’s @ San Francisco

Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 2010

A little Friday night college hoops, anyone?  RTC Live will be visiting a historic old gym tonight in an effort to see all the crumbling old beauties before they disappear when we’ll be at the University of San Francisco’s War Memorial Gymnasium for a WCC battle between St. Mary’s and San Francisco.  Why is it historic?  Well, for you young’uns out there, USF may not be relevant these days, but in the mid-50s with a couple of players by the names of Bill Russell and KC Jones, they were pretty much ridiculous.  The Dons won the 1955 and 1956 NCAA titles including  a streak of 55 consecutive victories over that span.  Nowadays, things have changed, and USF has been relegated to a mid-major program with its ups and downs, but they’re usually good for an upset or two each year when a big-name comes to town and St. Mary’s just might fit the bill.  SMC comes into tonight’s game at 13-2 (vs. 5-10 for USF), and Randy Bennett’s team is once again eyeing the WCC championship that starts and ends in Spokane.  The Gaels can’t afford to drop games like this if they want to have a shot at the regular season championship.  The two players to watch are Omar Samhan (21/11/3 blks) of St. Mary’s, one of the most efficient players in America, and Dior Lowhorn (19/6) of San Francisco, the two-time defending conference scoring leader and two-time first-team all-conference performer in the WCC.  We hope you find some time tonight to join  us for a little hoops action from the middle of San Francisco. 

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Checking in on… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 1st, 2010

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

Standings (through games of 12/30/09)

  1. Saint Mary’s     13-2
  2. Gonzaga       9-3
  3. Portland         7-5
  4. Loyola Marymount       8-7
  5. Santa Clara      7-8
  6. San Diego        6-8
  7. San Francisco        4-10
  8. Pepperdine         4-11

Observations

Although several WCC teams have games remaining before conference play begins next Friday (Jan. 8), a few general observations appear to be safe. First, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s (or Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga if you prefer) have erased any doubts about their continued stranglehold on the top two positions. Gonzaga could finish its pre-conference schedule at 11-3 or 10-4 depending on its game on the road against Illinois on Jan. 2, but the Zags have made it perfectly clear they are up to the challenge of competing for a 10th straight WCC Championship. Winning the prestigious Maui Invitational with a scintillating 61-59 overtime win over Cincinnati in November, taking Michigan State to the wire before falling 75-71 in East Lansing and adding wins against Wisconsin and Washington State answered any questions about how Gonzaga would respond to a large-scale roster turnover. The Zags are back.

Saint Mary’s used the pre-conference period to make quite a statement as well: these are not your old, Patty Mills-led Gaels, but a whole ‘nother animal – one with very sharp teeth. The Gaels are putting up eye-popping offensive numbers (82.7 ppg) and playing much more efficiently with Mickey McConnell running the offense in place of Mills. Mills was a spectacular offensive force, but the dynamism of his game would sometimes leave the other four Gael players standing around watching along with everyone else. Everyone is involved this year, as witnessed by the three Gaels averaging double figures – Omar Samhan (20.8), Matthew Dellavedova (13.4) and McConnell (12.8) – and the other two starters close behind: Ben Allen (9.3) and Clint Steindl (7.9). Wayne Hunter was averaging 11 ppg before he went down with a season-ending ACL tear.  Heading into conference play next weekend with away games against San Francisco on Jan. 8 and Santa Clara on the 10th, the Gaels are shooting just under 50% from the floor and just over 40% from three-point range. Their efficiency is emphasized by a team assist/turnover ratio of 1.5, headlined by McConnell’s almost three-to-one pace of 96 assists to 37 turnovers.

Observation no. 2 Portland has not stepped up its game following last year’s 19-13 record and third place conference finish. This columnist picked Portland to wrest the WCC crown from Gonzaga based on its senior-laden roster and steady leadership from Coach Eric Reveno, but that prediction was predicated on the Pilots’ seizing the moment. For the moment, they have been seized by an inability to win on the road and a penchant for being blown out by strong opposition: 84-66 by West Virginia and 89-54 by Washington. Last week’s 78-69 loss to Nevada in Reno didn’t lessen fears that the Pilots will be undone on the road in the WCC, although they get an early opportunity to regain their swagger with a conference-opening home battle against Gonzaga on Saturday (Jan. 9).

Observation no. 3. Loyola Marymount is for real, with peril to San Diego and Santa Clara in the battle for fourth place in the conference and an opening-game bye in the conference tournament in Las Vegas in March. The Lions won their fifth in a row on Dec. 30, a 104-89 victory over the troublesome Seattle Redhawks in Gersten Pavilion, and topped 100 points for the first time since 1998. Coach Max Good has succeeded in grafting high-caliber transfers (Drew Viney, Larry Davis), holdover stars (Vernon Teel, Kevin Young and Jarred DuBois) and newcomers (Alex Osborne, Given Kalipinde) into a compelling force. LMU has only a rematch against Cal State-Bakersfield, which it beat 84-71 on Dec. 19, before entering conference play Jan. 9 at Pepperdine. It then hosts USF on the 14th and Santa Clara on the 16th, giving it a chance to open conference play at 3-0.

Santa Clara and San Diego seem vulnerable to Loyola’s resurgence because of erratic play. Santa Clara fell under .500 on the season with a pair of unimpressive performances in its own Cable Car Classic Dec. 29-30. The Broncos lost to Northeastern 62-50 in the opener and to the Wofford Terriers 80-72 in the consolation game, and have two more non-conference contests before opening WCC play at home Jan. 8 against San Diego. The games, against 5-5 New Hampshire and 9-3 Harvard, don’t figure to be ones to get the Broncos well, as New Hampshire is coming off a 63-55 win over Colgate and Harvard boasts wins over George Washington (66-53)  and Rice (85-64), a team that handled Santa Clara 70-57. Harvard is led by sensational senior guard Jeremy Lin of Palo Alto High School, who will be hoping for a strong performance before a Bay Area crowd.  San Diego won its only game last week, 63-56 over lightly-regarded Savannah State before losing to Mississippi State on New Year’s Eve, and has a final pre-conference game on Jan. 3 against Florida A&M, also at home. The Jan. 8 game with Santa Clara on the Broncos’ court will tell a lot about how those two teams will compete for fourth-place against LMU.

Pepperdine did little to show that its Dec. 23 upset of Utah presaged a turnaround, as the Waves were sliced up by Georgia 64-47 a week later in Athens, GA. Pepperdine’s final pre-conference game is against Miami in Malibu on Jan. 3, leaving the Waves to anticipate the beginning of WCC play at home on Jan. 9 against LMU.  USF can take some solace from its 86-71 loss to Washington in Seattle on Dec. 27, especially in a 14-4 run that brought them within four points halfway through the second half. A three-pointer by freshman guard Michael Williams topped off the rally, and the Dons got another strong performance from junior transfer Moustapha Diarra, who totaled 14 points and 12 rebounds. Another transfer who has been mostly silent for USF in the pre-season, guard Rashad Green, also scored 14 points, giving the Dons hope for a better fate in conference play than their 4-10 pre-conference record. USF has one more tuneup, against Holy Names on Jan. 2, before taking on Saint Mary’s at home in its WCC opener on Jan. 8.

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Checking in on… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on December 25th, 2009

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

Standings (through games of 12/23/09)

  1. Saint Mary’s        10-2
  2. Gonzaga        8-3
  3. Portland         7-4
  4. Santa Clara      7-6
  5. Loyola Marymount       6-7
  6. San Diego        5-8
  7. San Francisco      4-9
  8. Pepperdine       4-10

Dark Horse Rising

All the top dogs took their lumps last week, while dark horse Loyola Marymount continued its rise in both confidence and the conference standings. The Lions leap-frogged sagging San Diego to take over fifth place and served warning on Santa Clara that its fourth-place berth may not be safe. And, in case you missed it or thought it was a media hoax, Pepperdine upset Utah 76-64 on Wednesday night (Dec. 23).

Gonzaga had only one game in the week, and it was a slap in the face. Travelling to Madison Square Garden on Dec. 19 to take on Duke and possibly move up in the national rankings from its #15 spot, the Zags instead got a strong dose of help defense and Jon Scheyer. The final score of 76-41 may have been “an aberration” as Zags’ coach Mark Few described it, but the game itself was a lesson in preparation. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had scouted Gonzaga perfectly, and his team cut off the passing lanes and double-teamed the Zags big men Robert Sacre and Elias Harris. With leading scorer Matt Bouldin possibly feeling the effects of a head injury suffered against Augustana on Dec. 9, the Zags barely topped 40 points and suffered their worst defeat in 25 years. They have a long time to recover before returning to action on Dec. 28 with a home game against Eastern Washington.

Saint Mary’s, cruising along at 10-1 and rising to a #21 RPI ranking, also fell rudely to earth. Like the Zags, the Gaels were undone by a stout defensive effort, in this case administered by resurgent University of Southern California. The Trojans, showing that their 22-point upset of ninth-ranked Tennessee (77-55) on Dec. 19 was no fluke, shut down both the Gaels’ powerful inside game of Omar Samhan and Ben Allen, and its cadre of outside bombers, Matthew Dellavedova, Clint Steindl and Mickey McConnell, in a 60-49 victory in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. After completing the Diamond Head schedule, the Gaels return to action in Moraga in the Shamrock Office Solutions Classic beginning Dec. 29.

Completing a trifecta of peril for WCC leaders, Portland continued its descent from national prominence with an 89-54 thumping by Washington in Seattle on Dec. 19. The Pilots bounced back with an 82-52 revenge win over Idaho at home three nights later, featuring Jared Stohl’s record-shattering 10 three-point baskets to account for all 30 of his points. Stohl broke his previous record of nine threes set against USF last January. The win over Idaho avenged an earlier 68-48 loss in Moscow, ID, and set the stage for Portland to continue its resurgence against Nevada in Reno on Dec. 28

There was no fall to earth for LMU following its 87-85 upset of Notre Dame on Dec. 12, as the Lions dispatched WCC punching bag Cal State-Bakersfield 84-71 on the 19th and then toppled tough Long Beach State 85-80 in overtime on the 21st. That three-game win streak is the Lions’ first since 2007 and doubled the teams’ win total from last year. Loyola also moved up in the WCC standings and appears to be in good shape to challenge for a spot in the upper half of the conference and a first-round bye in the WCC tournament.

If Loyola does so it will be at the expense of San Diego and Santa Clara, both of whom appear to be losing their grip on a top-four finish. San Diego lost both times in the Holiday Hoops Classic in Las Vegas, first a 70-68 heart-breaker to Southern Illinois and then 69-60 to the Big East’s South Florida. The Toreros have three home games, beginning with a Dec. 29 contest against Savannah State, to right themselves before conference play begins.  Santa Clara appeared to have taken a large step forward by beating tough Pacific 54-53 at home on Dec. 21, but then stumbled against so-so San Jose State 74-68 two nights later. The Broncos host the venerable Cable Car Classic on Dec. 28, opening against Northeastern.

Pepperdine enlivened the bottom rung of the standings with its shocker over Utah, a perennial NCAA team and considered a top contender in the Mountain West Conference. Utah has been struggling and dropped to 5-7 with the Pepperdine loss, but the Waves had shown precious little to suggest they were capable of stepping up against the Utes. They came into the game at 3-10 following losses to Cal Baptist, Portland State and New Mexico State.

San Francisco suffered the same fate in the Holiday Hoops Classic as San Diego, falling to both South Florida and Southern Illinois, before bouncing back at the expense of hapless Cal State Bakersfield on Dec. 23. Dior Lowhorn with 27 and Kwame Vaughn with 22 points paced the Dons in their 82-73 win over the Roadrunners, but USF will not rest easily on its laurels: they face Pac-10 power Washington in Seattle on Dec. 27, and coach Rex Walters probably won’t show his guys the tape of Washington’s evisceration of Portland.

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Checking in on… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on December 17th, 2009

checkinginon

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the WCC.

Standings (through games of 12/16/09)

  1. Saint Mary’s       8-1
  2. Gonzaga        8-2
  3. Portland         6-3
  4. Santa Clara      6-5
  5. San Diego      5-6
  6. Loyola-Marymount    4-7
  7. USF      3-7
  8. Pepperdine    3-8

Mysterious Doings

Although the overall conference landscape didn’t change much within the week, a mystery team has emerged in the form of Loyola Marymount. After stumbling through some early-season highs and lows, including a 67-59 win over cross-town rival USC on Nov. 21 that followed a deflating 84-78 home loss to UC Irvine, the Lions pulled off a stunning 87-85 upset over Notre Dame on Dec. 12 behind a Jared DuBois 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining. To say the Fighting Irish don’t often lose at home to non-Big East teams is a bit of an understatement – the last time it happened was four years and 41 victories ago.

Loyola had been hinting at a major turnaround from last year’s injury-plagued three-win disaster, but had been the epitome of close-but-no-cigar until the Notre Dame game. First of all the Lions restocked with high-profile transfers Drew Viney, a 6-7 sophomore forward from Oregon, and Larry Davis, a 6-4 guard from Seton Hall, and recruits Edgar Garibay, a 6-10 forward from Compton, CA, Alex Osborne, a 6-7 forward from Los Angeles, Given Kalipinde, a 6-3 guard from Zambia, Africa, and Ashley Hamilton, a 6-7 redshirt freshman forward from London. Combined with returning standouts Kevin Young, a 6-8 sophomore forward, Vernon Teel, a 6-4 junior guard, and DuBois, a 6-3 sophomore guard, coach Max Good had a strong nucleus to improve the Lions’ fortunes.

Besides the soul-satisfying win over USC, however, Loyola’s other games were mostly heart-breakers: a 90-87 squeaker to Boise State to open the University of Montana Tournament, topped by an even-closer 64-63 loss to the host Grizzlies; an 89-84 home loss to UC-Santa Barbara, then another crushing 76-70 defeat by Wyoming. Garibay then went down with a torn ACL, Davis missed four games with a heel injury and Kalipinde missed the Notre Dame game with a leg problem, but there is a lot of talent to make WCC foes wary of Loyola as the season moves ahead. With five winnable games (including two with Cal State Bakersfield) before conference play begins, the Lions could be well over .500 by then and ready to cause some serious trouble.

Steady as She Goes

Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga continued to coast atop the league standings, each winning two games in the week. The Gaels got additional bragging rights for the WCC by stopping Oregon 81-76 in Eugene for their third win in three years over the Ducks, and then revenged the league against Portland State of the Big Sky Conference with a 101-80 pasting in Moraga on Dec. 15. Portland State had upended the University of Portland and Pepperdine, both on their home courts, in earlier games, and posted perhaps the biggest upset of last year with a victory over Gonzaga on the Zags’ court.

The constant for the Gaels was center Omar Samhan, who scored 22 against Oregon and 31 against Portland State to go with 25 rebounds in a good week’s work against the state of Oregon. Samhan is averaging over 20 points and 12 rebounds per game in an All-American-caliber season for the Gaels. He became the first player in Saint Mary’s history to have a 30-pt, 15-rebound game, and only the second in all of college hoops this season to record 15 field goals and 15 rebounds in a game. Samhan and his mates have a shot at another WCC-slayer Friday night (Dec. 18) with a home game against Pacific, then head to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Tournament over Christmas.

Gonzaga breezed to wins over a struggling Davidson in the Battle in Seattle and over the NAIA’s Augustana College in Spokane. The only event of note was a knock on the noggin suffered by the Zags’ nonpareil guard Matt Bouldin in the Augustana romp, which kept him out of the Davidson game. Gonzaga made no official announcement about Bouldin’s status but most observers expect him back as the Zags take on #7 Duke Dec. 19 in New York, a chance to improve on their #15 ranking. The Gonzaga-Duke game will be televised nationally at 1 p.m. Pacific time on CBS.

Portland had a quiet week, posting a 72-62 win over Denver University and gearing up for a showdown with 24th-ranked Washington in Seattle on Saturday (Dec. 19). After attaining its first top-25 ranking in 50 years with early-season wins over UCLA, Oregon and Minnesota, Portland dropped out of the rankings with losses to Portland State and Idaho. A win over the Huskies would re-start its once red-hot hopes and set up the Pilots for its final four non-conference games before a conference-opening barn-burner against Gonzaga at home on Jan. 9.

Has Santa Clara turned the corner and readied itself for a run at the conference leaders? With two wins over lightly-regarded foes (Dominican, Houston Baptist), the Broncos headed for Rice in Houston Wednesday with high hopes. The streak stopped there, however, as the Owls hung a 70-57 loss on them. Another question mark team, San Diego, had an up-and-down week that didn’t settle anything as far as the Toreros’ ultimate success. They suffered a tough 82-78 loss to undefeated and #19 New Mexico on Dec. 9 at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, then bounced back with a 59-56 road win over Boise State. It must have seemed like old times for Bill Grier’s troops, as Brandon Johnson drained a jumper with 29 seconds left to seal the win. San Diego heads to Las Vegas for the weekend, with games against Southern Illinois and South Florida in the Holiday Hoops Classic.

For Pepperdine and San Francisco it was more of the same last week. Pepperdine surprised even its harshest critics by managing to lose to an NAIA team, Cal Baptist, by a score of 67-65, to go with an 80-72 loss earlier in the week to Fresno State. USF came close but went down 66-63 to Loyola of Chicago on the road.

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ATB: Have You Met Omar Samhan Yet?

Posted by rtmsf on December 16th, 2009

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Samhan I Am. St. Mary’s 101, Portland State 80. Had St. Mary’s not lost to Vanderbilt by two points during Thanksgiving weekend, we’d probably be listing the Gaels as a ranked team and the name of Omar Samhan might be getting a little more publicity at this point.  With tonight’s 61% shooting evening leading to another blowout win, St. Mary’s is currently 8-1 with solid road wins at Utah State and Oregon, and even though fellow WCCers San Diego and Portland were getting the early-season hype, it might be SMC as the team most likely to challenge Gonzaga as tops in the league again this year.  The big reason is that Gonzaga has nobody like Omar Samhan, the 6’11 senior who dropped 31/17 tonight and is averaging 21/12/2 blks on 61% shooting for the year — his efficiency rating of 24.2 puts him in the neighborhood of some other players you may have heard of… namely Evan Turner, Luke Harangody, Aubrey Coleman, Quincy Pondexter and Manny Harris.  Freshman guard Matthew Dellavedova is another player to watch on this team, as he’s averaging 14/3/4 assts and has a healthy 2:1 A/TO ratio.  Don’t be alarmed with what we’re about to say, but those are actually better numbers than what Patty Mills put up as a rookie at St. Mary’s in 2008.  The Gaels are definitely a team to watch as we head into the WCC this year.

Best Player You Don't Know (photo: Tod Fiemer)

Best Player You Don't Know (photo: Tod Fiemer)

Floriani LiveRutgers 80, Rider 70 (OT). Ryan Thompson did not disappoint the nine or so NBA scouts in attendance. The Rider senior scored a game high 26 points while pulling down 8 rebounds. Rutgers adjusted and did a good job defending Thompson in the stretch and OT. “They (Rutgers) face guarded and denied him,” said Rider coach Tommy Dempsey. “Anytime he had the ball they had trouble staying in front of him.” Thompson shot 9 of 19 but forced only two of them and stayed within the framework of the offense.  Another significant note for Rutgers: Mike Rosario scored 18 but was 5-17 from the floor. James Beatty, a junior guard, stepped up leading Rutgers with 21 points. Beatty was 6 of 8 beyond the arc and played some nice defense on Thompson in the stretch. “We recruited Beatty as a point but we knew he had several games in junior college where he knocked down about five treys. Tonight he had the looks, buried them and needs to do that.” Especially when Big East play starts for Rutgers just after the New Year.

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 11th, 2009

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Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

CURRENT STANDINGS:

  1. Louisiana Tech (7-2)
  2. Idaho (5-3)
  3. Boise State (5-3)
  4. Utah State (4-3)
  5. San Jose State (4-4)
  6. Fresno State (4-4)
  7. Hawai’i (4-4)
  8. Nevada (3-4)
  9. New Mexico State (2-5)

Mediocrity continues for the WAC as the league came up largely empty against the toughest competition they faced this week and they now stand 38-32 in non-conference play.  Last week we talked about eight games and eight chances earn RPI boosting victories for the league.  The end result of those eight games was a 2-6 record.  Boise State lost to Illinois, New Mexico State was thumped by New Mexico, St. Mary’s snapped Utah State’s 37-game home winning streak, Pacific was snakebitten at Pacific, Idaho rocked then No. 25 Portland but got crushed on the road by Washington State, Louisiana Tech lost at Arizona and Fresno State knocked off San Diego.

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

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

Standings

  1. Gonzaga     5-1
  2. Portland      5-1
  3. San Diego      5-2
  4. Saint Mary’s     3-1
  5. Santa Clara     3-3
  6. Pepperdine    3-4
  7. USF    2-4
  8. Loyola-Marymount    2-5

Looking Back

Zags, Pilots, Toreros Notch Tournament Wins to Lead WCC Teams

It has been a tournament-heavy pre-season for the WCC, and it was in venues ranging from Maui to Anchorage to Anaheim that the early-season leaders made their marks. Gonzaga led the charge by winning the venerable Maui Invitational with victories over Colorado (76-72), Wisconsin (74-61) and Cincinnati (61-59) in a hard-fought tournament championship in overtime on Thanksgiving eve. The Zags had padded their resume with early home wins over Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and Mississippi Valley State, and put the college hoops world on notice that 2009-10 is not a rebuilding year by taking second-ranked Michigan State to the wire in a 75-71 loss in East Lansing, MI on Nov. 17.

In battling Michigan State evenly and winning in Maui, Gonzaga answered the question of how it would replace departed front-line stars Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt. Seven-foot redshirt sophomore Robert Sacre moved commandingly into the post position for the Zags with an eye-opening performance against Michigan State – 17 points in 19 minutes of play limited by foul trouble. In case no one noticed that, they certainly took note of Sacre’s front-line counterpart Elias Harris, who notched 17 points of his own against Michigan State in the first big-game college appearance for the 20-year-old freshman forward who has logged considerable time internationally with the German national team. Harris has emerged as the early star of Mark Few’s collection of international players, which includes Sacre, freshmen Kelly Olynk and Manny Arop from Canada and Bol Kong, also from Canada by way of Sudan.

As much as Sacre and Harris elicited oohs and aahs, it was the Zags’ veteran trio of guards Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson that led them. Bouldin has emerged in his senior year as the indispensible hub through which all things offensive pass for Gonzaga. An intimidating 6-5 guard, Bouldin stage manages the entire offensive show, plus contributes double-figure scoring from both outside and inside. He can spot up for a three-point jumper or take his man off the dribble. Gray, who has struck many observers as a marvelously talented but under-performing member of the Zags offensive show, evidently decided that his junior year was the time to answer the nay-sayers. He has been virtually unstoppable, moving constantly without the ball and receiving Bouldin’s pinpoint passes anywhere from beyond the arc to under the basket. His jump shot is as sweet as ever, but he is infinitely more aggressive and confident this year.  If opponents somehow limit Bouldin and Gray, Goodson might steal the show as he did in the Zags’ impressive win over the fearsome Cincinnati Bearcats in Maui. On a night when Bouldin was struggling on 1-7 shooting and totaled only 6 points, Goodson made key baskets in clutch time to rack up 12 points. Bouldin and Gray shared the MVP trophy in Maui, but Goodson was an unsung hero.

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