Belmont Leaves Atlantic Sun for OVC

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2011

You may have thought that after last summer’s seismic shifts of conference realignment (or the threat of it) involving nearly all of the major conferences, we’d have an uneventful offseason in that regard this year.  So far, that’s generally been true.  With the the moves pending at Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, BYU, Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and TCU, and the television dollars already in place for the new Pac-12 and Texas/ESPN deals, it’s generally been all quiet on the realignment front this year.  The ridiculous incentives and free-for-all mentality that drove last year’s posturing and maneuvering among the major players of the sport have now settled; but at the lower levels of Division-I basketball, the party never ends.  Schools are always looking for ways to upgrade from one conference to another, and Friday’s announcement that Belmont University will switch from the Atlantic Sun to the Ohio Valley Conference beginning in 2012 should surprise nobody.

Belmont is a Mid-Major Hoops Powerhouse These Days

The driving force behind this move is, what else, money.  Belmont, located in Nashville, is in the northwestern hinterlands of the A-Sun’s footprint, a league that stretches from Tennessee east into the Carolinas and all the way down to south Florida.  The OVC, on the other hand, is clustered in Tennessee and Kentucky, with the majority of its schools located within a couple-hour drive of Nashville.  As Belmont AD Mike Strickland noted, the school stands to save at least a quarter-million dollars a year on travel costs alone.  Even with the $200,000 buyout required to leave the Atlantic Sun, the program expects to have that cost more than covered in its first year within the OVC.

While we certainly understand the financial incentives and the better “fit” aspect of this move, we’re not as convinced as to the benefit to Rick Byrd’s basketball program.  The Bruins have made four of the last six NCAA Tournaments out of the A-Sun, and it will be joining a top-heavy OVC led by Murray State, Austin Peay and Morehead State.  The problem is that even with the inclusion of Belmont into the Ohio Valley, the league is still going to be a one-bid conference, so it appears to us that Belmont’s move will only make it more difficult for the school to earn its way into the Big Dance.  In a comment relating to the move, Byrd stated that Belmont will now have a “one in twelve” shot to make the NCAAs, whereas it was “one in nine” in the A-Sun — notwithstanding the probability error inherent in his analysis, why would viewing your odds of going dancing as less likely ever be a good thing?

Byrd’s team will bring back nearly everyone from a 30-5 (19-1 A-Sun) team that made the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11, losing to Wisconsin, 72-58, in the Second Round.  The methodical ball-control style of Bo Ryan’s Badgers was a bad matchup for the Bruins, but they’re already getting some buzz as a team to watch next season.  As you’re well aware, the OVC’s Morehead State upset Louisville last season, and Murray State knocked out Vanderbilt the season before, yet despite Belmont’s considerable hype, Rick Byrd’s program is still awaiting its first-ever NCAA Tournament win.  As a final encore in a league they’ve owned the better part of the last half-decade, perhaps 2011-12 will be the year, serving notice to its future OVC brethren that their treasured automatic bid will be significantly tougher to secure in the future.

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N.C. State Goes With Gottfried

Posted by jstevrtc on April 5th, 2011

The coaching carousel is really gaining momentum now that the season has ended, and Mark Gottfried has decided to turn in his ESPN mic-plates for North Carolina State colors.

Gottfried Takes On the NCSU Coaching Job -- And a Whooooole Lot Of Headaches

Ending a long and frustrating coaching search, the Wolfpack announced the hiring of Gottfried within the last hour. Gottfried’s last gig was at Alabama, where he coached for ten seasons and part of an eleventh (1998-2009). He posted a 210-132 (0.614) overall record and an 84-83 record in SEC play as leader of the Crimson Tide, taking his team to the NCAA Tournament for five straight seasons from 2001-02 to 2005-06. His 2003-04 team made the Elite Eight before losing to the eventual champion Connecticut Huskies. Gottfried left in January of the 2009 season after star guard Ronald Steele decided to jump ship, and hasn’t coached since.

Before his time at Alabama, he coached three seasons at Murray State from 1995 to 1998, taking the OVC crown all three years, and making NCAA Tournaments in his last two seasons there. He was 68-24 (40-12) at MSU. Gottfried also won a  national championship in 1995 in his last of seven seasons at UCLA as an assistant under Jim Harrick.

The initial reaction to this hire appears to be to compare it to St. John’s’ taking on Steve Lavin last year, since, like Lavin before him, Gottfried most recently worked as a color commentator and studio analyst as part of ESPN’s college basketball coverage. To us, though, the hiring of Gottfried in Raleigh is more a product of how many coaches at smaller programs — for example, guys like VCU’s Shaka Smart and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, two targets of the NC State search — are choosing to live by the Valvano Doctrine of “don’t mess with happiness” and stay at programs at which they’re already successful, as well as hoping that they can mimic Brad Stevens‘ recent successes at Butler. With what Stevens and his Bulldogs have achieved in the last two years, if you’re a coach at a mid-major program, it makes staying at your smaller school a lot more attractive of an option than, say, the prospect of going up against Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski at least four times a year on the court and fighting them for local stud recruits off of it. What also can’t be ignored is the reluctance that some coaches may have had to work with NC State athletic director Debbie Yow, whose stormy relationship at Maryland with coach Gary Williams was well-publicized.

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The Week That Was: Feb. 15-21

Posted by jstevrtc on February 22nd, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor 

Introduction

Monday’s Syracuse-Villanova and Kansas-Oklahoma State games kicked off Judgment Week at ESPN, and TWTW has no idea what that exactly means. Are our opinions (or “judgments,” if you will) supposed to be dramatically altered based on this week’s outcomes? Syracuse’s win over ’Nova doesn’t mean they’re no longer a flawed team that’s capable of looking great one night and mediocre the next. And barring any game-changing injury, you shouldn’t think differently about a squad based on a couple of games at the end of February. You are who you are at this point — no extra judgments are necessary. So why does ESPN feel the need to dub almost every week now? Just stop at Rivalry Week. Sometimes games are just games, they don’t need any extra labels. There’s only one real judgment to be made this week — Battle: Los Angeles looks like a god-awful movie. 

What We Learned

Smith And the Devils Are Back On Top of the Polls, But It Means Less At This Time of Year

We thought that Tristan Thompson was just speaking for Texas when he said that the Longhorns would prefer not to replace Kansas as the No. 1 team in the next AP poll — turns out he was expressing the sentiments for just about every possible No. 1 team in the nation. On Saturday #4 Pittsburgh went down at St. John’s, followed by #2 Texas at Nebraska, and then on Sunday #3 Ohio State lost at Purdue. ESPN Stats & Information said it was the first time that the #1-4 teams in the ESPN/USA Today poll all lost in the same week since 2003 — yikes. But this isn’t the first week that we’ve seen this level of attrition in the polls; remember, it was just a few weeks ago that 13 of the AP’s Top 25 lost and half of the top 10. So who deserves to be #1 now? Duke got the nod on Monday, but do the Blue Devils deserve to be vaulted all the way from #5 to the top? In all honesty, you could probably just put the top six teams on a dartboard (top seven if you want to include BYU who got two first place votes), close your eyes, throw your dart, and there’s your #1 team. Not that it matters — during the season #1 in college hoops has always felt like a superficial title to TWTW. What’s really important is who’s in position for a #1 seed. It’s not important to determine who’s #1 now. The competition to watch is the race to distinguish between teams #4 and #5.

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ATB: The Day After

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2011

The Lede. Hopefully everyone was over their Jimmer hangovers by the time the games started tonight. Judging by Twitter, and…well, pretty much every sports outlet in the nation, the transitive verb “to Jimmer” has entered the American sporting lexicon with some serious impact. We can’t remember when a college baller’s name has ever been used in this fashion; nobody ever said “You got Turnered/Walled,” or “He Morrisoned them,” or “They Hansbrough’d the heck out of that poor team.” And the only name we can think of that contains a reverent “The” at the beginning that’s in regular use today belongs to U2 guitarist The Edge, though — and credit to Seth Davis for starting the trend — “The Jimmer” is now commonplace usage in referring to just about everybody’s favorite player.

Darius Morris and Crew Start the Celebration (J.Gonzalez/Detroit FP)

But enough of that for now. We’ll have many chances to discuss him later. Tonight we saw three tough conference road wins, two of them in games involving bitter rivals. We have a couple of RTCs we have to weigh in on, and a pair of outstanding tweets from the Gonzaga vs St. Mary’s game. First, though, we start…with Sparty.

Your Watercooler Moment. On the halftime coverage of ESPN2’s St. Mary’s @ Gonzaga game, when asked about how dire the situation was for Michigan State this year after their loss to Michigan tonight, even the understated Dan Dakich hesitated for effect and said gravely, “Well…it’s pretty serious.”

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ATB: Zags Seem Wobbly While Washington Does Not

Posted by rtmsf on January 21st, 2011

The Lede.  To give you a sense of what tonight’s basketball landscape looked like, it was a Pac-10 game that commanded the most national attention.  A lot of games out there, but few that were all that interesting.  Still, it’s our job to find those nuggets, so here goes…

Santa Clara's RTC Was Delayed by the Players' RTCrowd (h/t DLeung)

Your Watercooler MomentGonzaga in Trouble.  Hear us out, first.  We’ve seen Gonzaga play at least a half-dozen times or more this season, and the excuses made for Elias Harris’ injury notwithstanding, we’re still waiting to be impressed.  Tonight’s loss at Santa Clara where Kevin Foster went all kinds of crazy for a career-high 36 points did not help Gonzaga’s standing in our eyes.  Given that this was their first true conference road game and SCU isn’t very good, we’re starting to wonder if Mark Few’s team could be on the verge of a giant letdown this year — yes, to the point where the Zags don’t even make the NCAA Tournament.  Consider that coming into tonight’s game, GU was #46 and Pomeroy has them at #36, neither spots what you would call in the true safety zone for an NCAA bid; then, also consider that we think the Zags are looking at one, possibly even two, losses to St. Mary’s in addition to whomever else rises up to defeat them on the road this year (USF again?  LMU?  Portland?).  Another problem is the non-conference schedule — in a different year, wins over Baylor, Xavier, Oklahoma State, Wake Forest and (projected) Memphis would be more meaningful than they are this season.  The Zags’ only true quality win this year was way back in November over Marquette at the CBE Classic.  Pomeroy projects Gonzaga to go 12-2 in the WCC this year, which means a single loss more at St. Mary’s, but frankly, we think they have a few more stinkers left in their queue this season.  Call us crazy, but we think there’s a better-than-even chance that the mainstay program from Spokane will be sweating bullets come Selection Sunday this year.

Tonight’s Quick Hits….

  • Isaiah Thomas’ Slide Save Into the Tunnel.  After this season is completed and in the books, if there’s a single play that will define the success that Washington enjoyed, it will be the incredible dive and save behind his back that Isaiah Thomas made in the second half of tonight’s game against Arizona that resulted in his body sliding at least twenty feet into the corner of the arena as well as a bucket on the other end for his team off the break.  It was one of the most fantastic hustle plays we’ve ever seen in the collegiate game, and needless to say, we’ve logged quite a few hours over the years.  The play epitomized why this Washington team has a chance to do something special this year — since Abdul Gaddy’s ACL injury, Thomas has stepped into the point guard role assiduously, upping his scoring to just over 20 PPG and his assists to over 9 APG, including double figure dimes in his last two games.  The guy is simply giving an all-out effort each night and, as Sean Miller said after the game, Thomas should be getting more credit for his play than he is getting.
  • Klay Thompson’s Near Trip-Dub.  Washington State’s Klay Thompson was all over the place in the Cougars’ win over struggling Arizona State tonight.  The 6’6 junior is no stranger to filling up the stat sheet, but this evening’s performance was particularly exceptional.  Not only did he shoot his way to 22 points, but he also grabbed eight rebounds, dished out nine assists, ripped three steals, blocked a couple of shots and committed four fouls just for good measure.  The assist total tied a season high while the rebound total was two off, but it was the closest he’s gotten this season to an elusive triple-double.  With Reggie Moore back tonight, we still believe that Wazzu is one of the better teams in the Pac-10, but they have some work cut out for them to catch cross-state rival Washington.
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Weekend Check-Ins…

Posted by rtmsf on November 29th, 2010

Remember, every Friday is mid-major day here at RTC.  Half of the mid-major leagues are covered one week, with the other half the next.  Here are last week’s Check-Ins in case you missed them while dealing with the holiday weekend…

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.06.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2010

Folks, it’s March and we’re now approximately eight days until Selection Sunday sets the sports world on fire.  By our count, there are about twenty teams fighting for half as many at-large spots, and this weekend’s games will have increased importance in the all-too-important ‘sniff test.’  The NCAA Selection Committee is made of humans just like the rest of us, and if they see a couple of teams look great on tv this weekend, it could be the little extra push needed to earn a Dance card next Sunday.  But it’s not just about those so-called bubble teams; it’s also about positioning.  Which team will step up in the last week to grab the likely one remaining #1 seed, along with Syracuse, Kansas and Kentucky?  Who will be able to secure a top four regional seed in order to play closer to home?  There are so many questions unanswered still remaining.  Today is the last Saturday of the regular season, and as always, we’ll be with you on Boom Goes the Dynamite throughout the day.  Below are the key games we plan on keeping an eye on — of special note is that three more automatic bids will be delivered today, in the Big South, Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley Conferences.

  • Noon – West Virginia @ Villanova on CBS – RTC Live
  • Noon - Texas A&M @ Oklahoma on ESPN
  • Noon – Cincinnati @ Georgetown on ESPN360
  • 1 pm – Tulsa @ Memphis on CBS College Sports
  • 1:30 pm – Maryland @ Virginia on ESPN360
  • 2 pm – Kansas @ Missouri on CBS
  • 2 pm – Syracuse @ Louisville on ESPN
  • 2 pm – Notre Dame @ Marquette on ESPN360
  • 2 pm – UConn @ USF on The Big East Network
  • 2 pm – Notre Dame @ Marquette on The Big East Network
  • 2 pm – South Carolina @ Vanderbilt on ESPN2
  • 4 pm- UCLA @ Arizona State on CBS
  • 4 pm – Texas @ Baylor on ESPN
  • 4 pm – Big South Championship: Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina on ESPN2
  • 4 pm – Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech on ESPN360
  • 6 pm – Tennessee @ Mississippi State on ESPN
  • 6 pm – Atlantic Sun Championship: ETSU @ Mercer on ESPN2
  • 8 pm – OVC Championship: Murray State vs. Morehead State on ESPN2
  • 9 pm – UNC @ Duke on ESPN
  • 9 pm – New Mexico State @ Utah State on ESPN360

We will be back at 11 AM for our continuing coverage so check back then and feel free to comment or ask questions in the comment section.

11:00: Nice showing by the Duke student for GameDay. Not going to be Kentucky because of the smaller student body and smaller arena.

11:10: Ugh. Speedo guy segment coming on GameDay. I will be switching the channel for a few minutes when that segment is going to start. Way to show segments that your audience will be interested in. Would they do a “Bikini girl” segment or would that not be PC?

11:20: Coach K does not approve of “Speedo guy”. I think we have finally found something that UNC fans will agree with him on. Seriously ESPN. Why are you featuring this idiot?

11:25: Be back in 5 minutes. Tell me when it is over.

11:30: Back again. Knight does not look amused, which amuses me.

11:40: Hey Lunardi. We had Zach Hayes on this over a month ago. This is why you don’t want a 96-team tournament. Also DeCourcy was right on expansion.

11:45: So Sherron Collins was a great athlete in high school, plays video games, and like macaroni. I’m glad we found that out. Why can’t GameDay do legit segments like the one on the Syracuse zone they did earlier this year?

Noon: Hubert picks UNC. Big surprise. Knight and Bilas are calling for a Duke beat down. I’d go with something in between the two.

12:05: Three interesting games on right now none of which is the FSU-Miami game that ESPN2 decided to show over Cincinnati-Georgetown. The best of the three games is clearly the West Virginia-Villanova game, which we are doing a RTC Live for so be sure to check that out.

12:15: Interesting news: Both Luke Harangody and Austin Freeman will play today according to Seth Davis and Jeff Goodman respectively.

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ATB: Cornell Shoots Their Way to Third Straight NCAA Bid

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2010

Big Red Freshness Lasts Right Through It. Cornell 95, Brown 76.  It probably took a little longer than the nervous Big Red faithful hoped to put away the pesky Brown Bears tonight, but in the end, it was simply a formality because Cornell players were so narrowly focused on winning their third straight Ivy League title and NCAA bid that there was no way they were going to lose this game tonight.  How focused were they?  Try a season-best 57% shooting and an utterly ridonkulous 20-30 from deep tonight.  At one point during the conflagration of shot-making by the Big Red, they hit eight treys in a row en route to an 11-13 first half.  But it was the second half where Cornell exhibited its dominance, using a 14-4 run early to take control of the game and ensure another title coming to Ithaca this season.  All five starters reached double figures, but it was lesser-known forward Jon Jaques who took the scoring honors with 20/7 tonight (including six threes).  In all, four players had four or more threes, which we figure has to be some kind of a record for versatile and voluminous shooting!  Cornell will now wait to see where their NCAA seed lies, but the smart money is on a #12 seed when the brackets are released.  Anyone up for a #12/#5 upset this year?

Will 3d Time Be the Charm For Cornell? (Ithaca Journal/G. Ertl)

RTC Live.

  • Wichita State 73, Missouri State 63.  On Quarterfinal Friday in St. Louis, top seed Northern Iowa defeated Drake, Bradley upset Creighton and Illinois State won the nightcap. And in the game you followed here on RTC Live, Wichita State held off Missouri State, 73-63. A close, hard-fought and well-played game, the Shockers were paced by Garrett Stutz, whose play in the paint helped them overcome hot outside shooting of the Bears. Stutz finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds, and converted on back-to-back possessions during a key stretch of the second half to help them pull away. The Shockers advance to play the Redbirds of Illinois State tomorrow afternoon here in St. Louis.

Conference Tourneys.  Eight conference tourneys tonight, and a ridiculous thirteen tomorrow.  Let’s see what was interesting…

  • Ohio Valley.  The top two teams — Murray State and Morehead State — both advanced tonight to the finals on Saturday.  Murray has put together a phenomenal 29-win season, so it’d be a shame to see them miss out on the NCAAs, but Morehead is the only OVC team to have beaten the Racers this year.  It was Morehead tonight, though, not Murray, who had the comfortable win in the semis.  Should be a great one on Saturday for the auto-bid.
  • Atlantic Sun.  #6 seed Mercer continues to use its home court advantage to knock off higher-seeded teams with tonight’s victory over #2 Jacksonville.  #5 East Tennessee State was able to get by #8 Kennesaw State whom had knocked off top seed Belmont last night.  So it’ll be Mercer vs. ETSU for the automatic bid.  The Bucs will be playing in their third A-Sun title game in four years, and will be looking to win back-t0-back NCAA bids despite having not finished first in the regular season in either of the last two years.
  • Horizon.  In the Horizon second round tonight, #7 Detroit continues to turn heads with another upset win behind Eli Holman’s dub-dub (16/11), while #4 Milwaukee earned the pleasure of facing #1 Butler in the semifinals on Saturday by defeating #5 Cleveland State.  The Titans will play #2 Wright State in the other semifinal — neither of the top two seeds have played yet in this tournament, while Detroit has already played two games and Milwaukee one.

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ATB: Not Michigan State, Villanova or Tulsa? What?

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

Feeling Title-y.  There were three conference championships won tonight around the nation, and you can count the number of people on one hand who had these three picks back in November.

  • #7 Ohio State 73, Illinois 57.  Evan Turner put in his usual work (16/12/5 assts) for the Buckeyes and Jon Diebler rained seven threes as OSU pulled away in the second half to win at least a share of the Big 10 regular season title.  Both Purdue and Michigan State will need to win both of their remaining games this week to tie the Buckeyes at the top of the standings, but regardless, OSU will be the top seed in next week’s Big 10 Tournament.  If you’re looking for a darkhorse Final Four candidate, look no further than this Buckeye team with NPOY Turner leading the charge.  We heard that they RTC’d tonight in Columbus to celebrate the championship, but we’ve yet to have visual confirmation of this.

Who Had OSU as Big Ten Champs in November? (AP/T. Gilliam)

  • #1 Syracuse 85, St. John’s 66.  Newly-minted #1 Syracuse put five players into double figures in an easy win that captured the Big East regular season title outright tonight.  The Orange were led by Arinze Onuaku’s 21/8 as the senior played in front of his mother for the first time in his career.  SU will now travel to Louisville for a Saturday matchup against one of the two teams that has beaten them this year, while the presumably-motivated Cards will be playing for their postseason lives as they simultaneously close down Freedom Hall.  Will Jim Boeheim’s kids have the focus needed to overcome the expected Cardinal surge with their top seed in the Big East Tournament already sewn up?
  • #21 UTEP 80, Marshall 76.  The Miners clinched the CUSA regular season title with a strong second half showing led by star Randy Culpepper, who poured in 22 of his 31 points after the break.  UTEP has now won thirteen in a row and they’re doing it with great defense and balanced scoring from the aforementioned Culpepper and big men Derrick Caracter (14/9 on the year) and Arnett Moultrie (10/7 on the year).  Marshall’s Hassan Whiteside threw up another ridiculous line (20/14/6 blks), but it wasn’t enough for the Herd, who now drop to 10-5 in the conference.  UTEP is ranked #50 in the RPI, but you’d have to believe a strong showing in next week’s CUSA Tourney will get them in.

Teams That Helped Themselves.  There were a lot more teams that seemed more interested in hurting themselves than helping themselves this evening.

  • Clemson.  The Tigers guaranteed themselves a winning ACC record with tonight’s win over Georgia Tech, in so doing also likely cemented a spot in the NCAA Tournament.  With a win on Saturday at Wake Forest, Clemson will also earn a first-round bye into the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament next week.
  • Marquette.  The Golden Eagles were already in the NCAA Tournament, but their win tonight solidifies things and also gives MU a shot at the prestigious double-bye in the Big East Tourney next week.  Now at 11-6 in conference, they need Pitt to lose twice this week, but at worst with this win Marquette will end up with the #5 seed.
  • Missouri.  Mizzou played with fire in allowing its game with Iowa State to go into overtime, but Zaire Taylor’s driving two at the buzzer gave them the escape they needed to make a claim on third place in the Big 12 standings.  Taylor essentially won the game for the Tigers, with three clutch shots in key situations.  They’ll have an opportunity to make some noise on Saturday when they host Kansas in Columbia.

Teams That Hurt Themselves.

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Thus Begins Championship Fortnight…

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

You know why we don’t need NCAA Tournament expansion to 96 teams?  The are a lot of other good reasons, but the simplest reason is that we already have it.  In fact, about 300 of the 347 Division I teams have an opportunity starting tonight to ‘play their way into’ the NCAA Tournament.  It’s easy — survive and advance.  As long as you win, you’re still alive.  And if you win three or four games in (mostly) consecutive days, you’ll see Greg Gumbel reading your name off the Big Board on Selection Sunday.  Keep winning beyond that and suddenly you’re channeling NC State circa 1983.

Tickling or Madness?

There will be thirty conference tournaments played from coast to coast (and all points in-between) in the coming days, with the Big South, Ohio Valley and Horizon all starting postseason action tonight.  The Atlantic Sun and Patriot will get going tomorrow, and by Saturday night, we’ll have already crowned the first three automatic bids.  Twenty-seven more (plus the Ivy) will be decided over the course of the following week of play.  It seems like a lot to keep up with (and it is), which is why we’ve come up with an internal tracking matrix (below) that we’re happy to share with everyone.

During our nightly ATBs, we’ll be keeping you updated as well, but here’s the high-level view of the world.  Strap in folks, because March is here!

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Checking in on… the OVC

Posted by rtmsf on February 21st, 2010

Greg Waddell of Murray State News is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference.

Standings (as of 2/18)

Team of the Week – Murray State captures the honor this week at the Racers continue a run of dominance through the OVC. Sitting at 16-0, Billy Kennedy’s team secured the regular season crown on Tuesday in a 80-68 win over Southeast Missouri State. Joe Lunardi of ESPN currently has Murray as a No. 13 seed in the NCAA tournament, playing Temple in Spokane.  It will be interesting to see how the brackets unfold if Murray falls in the conference tournament as the OVC has typically been a one-bid conference.  As Doug Gottlieb noted, it may be hard to turn down a Racer team with only four losses.

Player of the Week- In an unorthodox move, this week’s edition will nominate two players for the top honor.  Seeing as how coverage is divided into a bi-weekly segment it would only seem fair to have two winners.  Week one winner, Nick Murphy of Jacksonville State averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per game as the Gamecocks split a pair of games from Feb. 8 through Feb 15 while week two winner Mark Yelovich from SIU – Edwardsville earned the award after dropping 34 points on the University of North Dakota.

Play of the Week – Instead of the typical game of the week, this edition will instead focus on a single play.  This week’s honor goes to Isaiah Canaan, a freshman on the Murray State basketball team, after a half court shot from his knees earned the guard the top spot on the Sportscenter Top 10 and an interview with Jay Crawford on ESPN2 First Take.  The heave has been mentioned as a possible nominee for an ESPY as Play of the Year.

League Notes

  • According to OVCSports.com the OVC has a conference RPI of 19th nationally entering this week, a 10-spot improvement over two seasons ago.
  • Also as of now seven OVC teams have clinched a spot in the eight-team tournament as Tennessee State, UT Martin and SEMO fight for the final spot.

Roundups

  • Murray State.  The Racers wrapped up a conference championship and no. 1 seed in the OVC tournament Tuesday, coasting past the Redhawks of SEMO 80-68.  Senior Danero Thomas recorded 18 points in the win and Isaiah Canaan hit a circus shot from half court to earn a date with ESPN.  This season has been All-Racers thus far. Can it continue? We’ll see.
  • Morehead State.  The Eagles played one of the toughest conference games this week, taking on Eastern Kentucky in a battle of the OVC’s No. 2 and 3 teams.  Kenneth Faried was, well, Kenneth Faried, notching 15 points and 16 rebounds for the his 20th double-double on the year. Maze Stallworth added 20 points and four three-pointers and State rolled, clinching second place in the conference in the process.
  • Eastern Kentucky.  The Colonels played admirably but fell just short against Morehead, stumbling 77-64. Josh Taylor played well for EKU, notching 21 points in the loss, but it just wasn’t enough.  Eastern will get a shot at Murray State on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.
  • Austin Peay.  The Govs had an exciting week as they opened play against Jacksonville State, drubbing the Gamecocks 83-63, before edging the Golden Eagles on Tennessee Tech in overtime. Austin Peay got a little help from two players this week, as Anthony Campbell and Wes Channels team to lead the team in scoring both games. The highlight of the week came in the second contest as Channels dropped 24 with Campbell adding 23.
  • Tennessee Tech.  Overtime is just not good to the Golden Eagles as both games this week went to extra periods and both ended with losses. Tech is now 1-4 in extended play this season with Elijah Muhammed remaining one of the few bright spots after notching 26 points and 8 assists against Tennessee State and 15 against Austin Peay.  Frank Davis added 15 in the loss to Peay.
  • Jacksonville State.  Jacksonville State had another bad week, stumbling in back to back games at Austin Peay and Tennessee State.  Dominique Shellman and John Barnes recorded 13 points apiece in the loss to the Govs.
  • Eastern Illinois.  Eastern Illinois only played one game this week but that one game was a win, knocking off UT-Martin 83-68. Zavier Sanders, notched 16 points on eight of 10 shooting, to lead the Panthers.
  • Southeast Missouri State.  SEMO played an integral role in Murray State’s conference championship Tuesday. Mainly in that they lost, but it’s a role they played nonetheless.  There really isn’t anything to positive to say about the Redhawks at this point other than Marland Smith (19 points) and Derek Thompson (17 points) played well in the loss.
  • Tennessee State.  The Tigers managed a two game winning streak this week, knocking off the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State in succession.  Jeremiah Crutcher and Robert Covington teamed up for 48 points (24 apiece) in the win against Tech and Jacquan Noble dropped 18 points in the win over State.
  • UT Martin.  Marquis Weddle was the only thing to write home about again as the Skyhawks lost their only game of the week.  Weddle scored 18 points but it just wasn’t enough.  Maybe next week.
  • SIU Edwardsville.  Playing a JV team this week, the Cougars picked up their fourth win of the season as Mark Yelovich exploded for 34 points against North Dakota.  That was pretty much the only bright spot for SIU-E
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ATB: DeMarcus Cousins Laughs Last, Laughs Best…

Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2010

Kentucky Survives in Raucous Starkville.  #2 Kentucky 81, Mississippi State 75 (OT).  After several days of fielding phone calls from Mississippi State fans who ranged in temperament from delusional to deranged, DeMarcus Cousins and his team had the last laugh tonight in Starkville as water bottles and sodas rained down on the court in the closing minutes of this one.  Coach John Calipari was so giddy afterward that he even played up the hostility of the situation in his interview with Jeannine Edwards, ducking for cover at one point and running over to corral his players at another (wow, consider just how different things were last year at this time with respect to UK’s head coach and Miss Edwards).  The story of this game, however, was in the way that Kentucky was able to overcome a seven-point deficit in the last three minutes after having looked shaken and stirred in the previous few as MSU built its lead with inside star Jarvis Varnado on the bench fouled out.  Cousins held up his end of the bargain with MSU fans by dropping 19/14/3 assts, including seven huge offensive rebounds, several of which he converted at key points in the second half to keep the Cats afloat.  Patrick Patterson added a dub-dub himself (19/10), while John Wall ended up just shy of a triple-double with 18/10/8 assts/3 stls.  Come March, when the rest of the country decides to tune back into college basketball, all anyone is going to hear about is the mercurial Wall; but to those of us who know better, it will be Cousins that makes the difference if Kentucky is to make a serious run at the national title.  He has a knack for corralling the ball on the offensive end of the court (the #1 offensive rebounder in America), but he’s probably just as effective at converting those extra possessions into points with his soft touch around the bucket (note: if anyone has hard stats on this, we’d love to see them).  MSU had numerous chances to put a signature win on their NCAA resume, but like much of their season this year, they were close but not close enough.  The Bulldogs played the game without leading scorer Ravern Johnson, who was suspended for conduct detrimental prior to his team’s biggest game of the season, and Varnado had at least two silly fouls that would have allowed his presence to stay on the court longer than 23 semi-effective minutes (10/5/2 blks).  If any one of those decisions were different, perhaps MSU wins the game and we’d have a photo of their fans RTCing underneath this writeup.  But as it happened, Bulldog fans will instead by remembered for their unsportsmanlike behavior, and they’ll have to settle for screaming into DeMarcus Cousins’ voicemail as he moves on to the more important things like winning SEC titles and gunning for the Final Four.

Holla Back At Ya!

Regular Season Champs. Two clinchers tonight…

  • #24 Northern Iowa 70, Creighton 52.  No Jordan Eglseder, no problem.  Even without the big man who was suspended for three games after his arrest for DWI over the weekend, UNI clinches its first outright MVC regular season title with an easy win over the Bluejays.  The Panthers hit thirteen treys for the game, including a 5-10 effort from Ali Farokhmanesh.  It will be a very interesting Bracketbuster game on Friday night when UNI hosts the co-leader of the CAA, Old Dominion.
  • Murray State 80, Southeast Missouri State 62.  Murray moved to 16-0 in the OVC tonight, clinching their 21st regular season title and the top seed in the OVC Tournament next month.  The Racers now have the nation’s longest winning streak (at sixteen) and put twelve players into the scoring column this evening.  This is a team that has six players averaging between 9.5 – 10.8 points per game that nobody will want to see as their first round opponent on March 14.

Other Games of National Interest.

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