Game #131. RTC Live is back in Eugene with its interesting court design to see if the Huskies can get back on track after a shocking loss Thursday night.
The suddenly slumping Washington Huskies are coming into Eugene to face the now-hot Oregon Ducks in a fierce rivalry game. The Huskies have lost two games in a row to regional rivals Washington State and Oregon State, while the Ducks have won four of their last six games to sneak back up to .500, while playing what is arguably their best stretch of basketball all season. The Huskies won the teams’ first matchup in Seattle nearly a month ago, but since that game, Washington and Oregon sport identical 4-3 records, and Oregon has since defeated all three teams to which Washington has fallen. The Huskies are led by diminutive guard Isaiah Thomas and British pivot Matthew Bryan-Amaning, arguably the most talented inside-out combo in the Pac-10. The Ducks are led by undersized redshirt senior power forward Joevan Catron, who is the team’s scoring, rebounding and emotional leader. Thomas gutted the Ducks for 20 points and nine assists in the teams’ first matchup, but had nine points on 2-for-11 shooting and committed seven turnovers against Oregon State on Thursday. Catron had 20 points and 10 rebounds in Seattle, and scored 17 points to lead the Ducks in their shellacking of the Cougars on Thursday night. The game is also a homecoming of sorts for Washington forward Terrence Ross, who eschewed his home-state Ducks for their hated rival Huskies and torched Oregon for 25 points in his first game against the team. Given the bad blood between the schools, a Kevin Love-like reception at Knight Arena would not be wholly unexpected. Join us Saturday afternoon to follow the rivalry game from Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.
Game #128. RTC Live makes its first trip to the new Matthew Knight Arena on the campus of Oregon to see the Ducks take on Wazzu.
Washington State heads to Eugene for Thursday’s matchup on a completely different track than Oregon. The Cougars, led by Pac-10 scoring leader Klay Thompson, knocked off the Washington Huskies in Pullman on Sunday night, and sit fourth in the conference at 5-4. The Ducks are coming off of a split at the Bay Area schools, having won at Stanford for the first time in 25 years, but falling to reigning Pac-10 regular-season champs California. Washington State won the first game in Pullman, but this week is the start of the second half of the Pac-10 season, the last year in which the conference will play a double-round-robin schedule. Junior college transfer Faisal Aden, a native of Somalia, has made a huge impact on the Cougars this season, helping guide them from the conference cellar to NCAA Tournament bid contention. Washington State’s starting backcourt, featuring the 6’4′ Aden and 6’6 Thompson, will likely give fits to Oregon’s diminutive guard rotation, the tallest of whom are 6’1. The Ducks will have to attack the Cougars inside, with the now-healthy Joevan Catron and Jeremy Jacob teaming up with the hot Tyrone Nared to give Oregon quality interior play it has been lacking for most of the season. Join RTC Live Thursday night for its first game at Oregon’s new $200 million-plus Matthew Knight Arena, the most expensive on-campus arena in America.
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Top 25 Games
#3 Kansas 86, Texas Tech 66: “So much for Bill Self not being able to win in Lubbock, huh? The Jayhawks came out and immediately went to work inside, feeding Marcus Morris for the first three baskets of the game. Once the lead reached 10-2 after the first four minutes of the game, the outcome was never in doubt. Texas Tech couldn’t find a shot on the offensive end and they showed no inclination of making it difficult for anyone in blue get to the basket on the defensive end. The final score was 88-66 and it wasn’t anywhere near that close.” (Rock Chalk Talk)
Ole Miss 71, #10 Kentucky 69: “Well, this was a game that the Mississippi Rebels needed very badly, and they won the game on a near-last second 3-point shot by senior point guard Chris Warren. It was an exciting game, but Kentucky comes up on the short end, I think deservedly. I was very impressed with how aggressive and how physical the Ole Miss Rebels were in this game. They took it to Kentucky in every way you can, and they played with a heart and intensity that, if they had played like this all year, might have them in contention for an NCAA bid instead of trying to salvage a season that started with four league losses in six games. But this game, this time, the Rebels were very, very good, and they sent Kentucky home with their third SEC road loss in four tries. I can’t say enough about how tough and determined the Rebels were. They won this game the old-fashioned way — they earned it.” (A Sea of Blue: Part 1 and Part 2)
#16 Wisconsin 66, #13 Purdue 59: “Purdue went into another difficult Big Ten venue — perhaps the most difficult — and could have come away with a win. In fact, they likely should have, but they did not, losing 66-59. The Boilers — especially these seniors — are not afraid of the Kohl Center. Closing out a win tonight would have made JJ and Smooge 3-1 at Wisconsin in their careers, a fun stat that would have been awesome to lord over obnoxious Badger fans. However, it was not to be…and while officiating was again atrocious, that was once again not why the Boilers lost.” (Boiled Sports)
#24 UNC 106, Boston College 74: “I’m not sure if I can express how good a game this was to people who didn’t see it. Looking at the score, sure you may be excited that UNC cracked the century mark, but you’ll probably just chalk it up to Boston College not being very good. And their defense is indeed pretty bad. But they’re a decent team at home, and Carolina just beat them worse than Duke managed in Cameron. This was the best complete game I’ve seen from the Tar Heels all season; from the moment they took their first lead – off of not coincidentally a Reggie Bullock three pointer – they didn’t let up, putting over 100 points on the Eagles in regulation for the first time since 1996.” (Carolina March)
#24 Illinois 68, Penn State 51: “I cannot overstate how important this game was for the Illini. Having lost four of the last five games, including one to this very same Penn State team, the Illini slumped to 4-4 in the Big Ten, and 14-7 overall, and with a loss to Indiana fell to the brink of the tournament field. Talor Battle, as you all well know, has been a total thorn against the Illini and has single handedly stolen victories against Illinois.” (Hail to the Orange)
Game #120. RTC Lives makes its first-ever trip to Arizona’s McKale Center for a battle between Pac-10 stalwarts.
Today’s game between USC and Arizona at the McKale Center represents the turning point of the conference season. Arizona has designs on catching first-place Washington in the standings, sitting only one game behind the Huskies with the difference being the Wildcats’ loss at Seattle nine days ago. Secure in the knowledge that UW will have to pay Sean Miller’s team a return trip in late February, Arizona knows that it can’t afford a home loss here today. USC is coming off a solid road win in Tempe on Thursday night, and it’s clear that when their inside/outside duo of Nikola Vucevic and Jio Fontan have it going, they can compete with anyone in this league. Arizona has a strong frontcourt anchored by All-American candidate Derrick Williams, but guard play has been troublesome and inconsistent. Nevertheless, we’re excited to be headed to McKale tonight, site of so many great games over the years. Join us on RTC Live…
Game #117. RTC Live makes its first trip to the desert Southwest with a trip to Tempe for some Pac-10 basketball.
It’s been a trying first half of the Pac-10 season for Herb Sendek’s Arizona State Sun Devils, but there’s a lingering sense that they should be better than they are. Having only played two home games en route to a 1-6 start, the schedule certainly breaks favorably for a renaissance. Two of the issues are that ASU’s usually staunch defense has been lacking and guard/forward Rihards Kuksiks has been in what seems like a season-long funk. Tonight’s visit from USC provides an opportunity, as the Trojans come in struggling as well. After starting off strongly by beating Washington State and UCLA, and nearly knocking off league gorilla Washington, USC lost to both Oregon schools away and split against the Bay Area schools last weekend at home. Jio Fontan and Nikola Vucevic have played well, but there hasn’t been much consistency beyond those two. It should make for an interesting game here tonight in Tempe. Join us for a little Pac-10 hoops from the desert.
We’re back with the second episode of AITF, a semi-regular piece that will take a closer look at each of the six power conferences to see what interesting tidbits relating to the national picture might be occurring. And yes, for those of you asking, we’re still classifying the SEC as a power conference (even if KenPom has the Mountain West ahead of it).
Power Conference Rankings
1. Big East.
Everyone in the Big East has now played between six to nine conference games, so we have a somewhat decent sense as to how the pecking order in this league looks at this point. So far, Pittsburgh (7-1), Villanova (5-1) and possibly Connecticut (4-2) have separated themselves in our eyes as the cream of the conference. Syracuse (5-2) is just a shade below that group, but they’re going to have to figure out some things before we anoint the Orange among this year’s Big East elite – we’ll keep them at the bottom of the top tier for now, though. The next level is a muddled mess of seven teams — Louisville, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Marquette, Cincinnati, St. John’s and Georgetown. The most likely candidate from this group to play up to the next level is (unsurprisingly) Notre Dame after last night’s big win at Pitt, while the most likely candidate to fall completely apart is Steve Lavin’s Johnnies. ND has already played the toughest part of its schedule whereas St. John’s is already sputtering and still faces four games versus the top tier (plus Duke and UCLA). The lower tier — Rutgers, Seton Hall, Providence, South Florida and DePaul — isn’t likely to do much more than spring an occasional eyebrow-raising upset (witness PC’s win over Louisville on Saturday).
Notre Dame has been the beneficiary of the scheduling gods thus far. The Irish have played nine games (6-3), winning five in the friendly confines of South Bend while going 1-3 away from home. With nine games left, Mike Brey’s team has only four remaining contests at home, BUT five of their remaining games are against bottom-tier teams, more than another school in the mid-pack. If the Irish can simply win all of those, they’ll already have eleven wins this season, good enough for an NCAA Tournament bid and a strong seed. On the other hand, West Virginia, already with wins over three of the bottom tier en route to a 4-2 record, has four games remaining against the elites including a home date with Pitt.
We’re simply not a believer in Louisville despite their 15-4 overall and 4-2 conference record. The Cards shoot 41% of their attempts from three, and when the bombs aren’t falling, bad things happen. In UL’s two bad performances this season, vs. Drexel and at Providence, Rick Pitino’s modern-day bombinos shot 8-39 (.205) from outside the arc. When you keep in mind that the Cards have had a soft Big East schedule thus far and escaped Marquette on a miraculous comeback, it wouldn’t surprise us to see the wheels come off soon.
Rutgers is at 3-4 after defeating after defeating fellow bottom-dwellers South Florida and Seton Hall last week. But credit is due to Mike Rice’s team for separating the Scarlet Knights a little from the true bottom of the barrel by beating those two plus Providence so far this season. Having lost the personnel they did and to already be well past last year’s pace of five wins is a solid achievement even if the schedule toughens up from here on out.
2. Big Ten.
There was some consternation over the weekend about Michigan State suffering its seventh loss of the season and whether that puts Tom Izzo’s team in danger of falling onto the bubble, and that worry is misguided at this point. According to Pomeroy, MSU has played the toughest schedule in the nation to date, and various bracketologists (Glockner – #7; Lunardi – #6; Hayes – #6) as of this morning have the Spartans still feeling comfortable. Still, the Spartans are a couple of bounces away from having lost six in a row (instead of three of six), and it’s clear that Michigan State is struggling to find answers. Kalin Lucas still doesn’t appear to be himself, and the continued inconsistency of Durrell Summers and Delvon Roe remains perplexing. Sparty needs to win its next three easily (vs. Michigan, vs. Indiana, @ Iowa).
Big Ten schools must be so tired of Bo Ryan and Wisconsin. Year after year no matter the personnel the guy finds a way to become an annoying thorn in the side of every team in the league. After a road destruction of Northwestern in Evanston on Saturday, the Badgers sit at 5-2 in the league with four shots to overtake league leaders Ohio State and Purdue on the horizon. Since the Big Ten expanded to an 18-game conference schedule, the Badgers have averaged a 13-5 record, with Purdue (13.3 wins) and Michigan State (13.7 wins) just barely ahead. Would you bet against them?
Illinois has been close-but-no-cigar in losses to Texas and Ohio State this season, and there’s a general sense that Bruce Weber’s team is just one little thing short of being truly elite. That one thing is interior defense. Despite having the very large Mikes (Tisdale and Davis) inside to man the post, Jared Sullinger and Tristan Thompson shredded the Illini frontline for easy scores when they needed them down the stretch. If Illinois had made stops in those situations (in addition to losses to UIC and Wisconsin), they would very likely be 17-3 or thereabouts and sitting in the top eight of the polls.
It’s no big surprise, but Northwestern’s NCAA prospects are dim and fading to black after the beatdown that Wisconsin put on the Wildcats Sunday. Now at 3-5 in the league with Minnesota away followed by Ohio State and Illinois at home, it’s very likely that the next two weeks will finish them off. The sad part is that both Michigan State losses were there for the taking; had Northwestern won those, we would be handicapping a very different situation.
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 Moment. Gonzaga 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.
That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season. We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week’s Topic: We’re a couple of weeks into conference play and early results are in on some of the contenders and pretenders. Which conference race have you found the most compelling so far and why?
Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor
The most compelling conference race this year is in the SEC. The reason is that out of the twelve conference teams, only Auburn is so ridiculously bad so as to not cause problems for another conference team on a given night. And hell, even the Tigers beat Florida State (y’know, the team that defeated Duke last week). It’s a veritable trainwreck of a league this year, but what’s the adage? You can’t take your eyes away from it, because you have no idea what will happen. Which Tennessee team will show up — the one that beat Pitt and Villanova or the one that lost to Oakland and Charlotte? Will Mississippi State gets its act together or will Renardo Sidney start throwing haymakers on some fans during a timeout? Will Kentucky figure out how to play on the road or will they self-destruct due to selfish m*****f***** play? Consider that the SEC East, by far the better division, has South Carolina at the top of its standings at 3-1. South Carolina! Three of the teams from this division projected to make the Tournament are 2-2 already. On the other side, Alabama and LSU are on top. This isn’t football, folks — those two teams have been largely terrible for the better part of the last three or four years. Yes, this year’s most compelling league is the SEC, if for no other reason that nothing would surprise us about this basketball quagmire of a conference.
JL Weill, RTC contributor
Another year, another dog fight in the Missouri Valley. No unbeatens in the conference and all five teams with three losses or fewer have a chance. And as with most so-called mid-major conference teams, there isn’t a lot of meat on the pre-conference menus for any of the contenders. Wichita State beat Virginia and LSU, but they already have two losses in the MVC. Last year’s NCAA Tournament darling Northern Iowa took out Indiana and Iowa State but has three losses to conference foes. The firing squad effect means that the team that finally emerges from the pack will be battle-hardened for the conference and postseason tournaments. It also means that there’s a good chance that for the fifth year in a row only one team from the MVC will make it to the NCAAs. While the conference has four teams in the RPI top 100, only one of them is in the top 40 — Missouri State — and Cuonzo Martin’s Bears haven’t beaten anyone of note. Finding an at-large berth from the MVC, even with an expanded field, could be tough. Wins are at a premium, and it’s a multi-horse race. Gotta love it.
Kevin Doyle, RTC contributor
It is anyone’s best guess as to what team will be the last one standing in the Atlantic 10. Throughout much of the non-conference slate, the Temple Owls and Richmond Spiders emerged as the frontrunners. Bill Clark and the Duquesne Dukes quickly knocked Temple off of their pedestal, while Richmond lost a heartbreaker to Bucknell at the buzzer in their final OOC game. Now, it is the school from Pittsburgh along with Xavier who are the lone squads undefeated in the A10. There are, however, five schools that are 3-1 in the conference who are nipping at the heels of the two leaders. You’d be foolish to think that the two teams up front won’t fall at some point in the coming weeks. Even Dayton—the lone .500 team in conference—has a supreme amount of talent and is fully capable of going on a run. But, losses at UMass and Xavier have set them back in the conference. Unlike many of the BCS conferences—although, the Pac-10 and ACC sure are weak this year—the Atlantic 10 is likely to only receive two bids to the NCAA Tournament this year. Ranging from 2-2 Dayton all the way up to 4-0 Xavier and Duquesne, there are a total of eight teams that are vying for an Atlantic 10 championship and that coveted automatic berth.
Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball. This week, Jesse gives props to the Hopson coiffure and reveals his man crush on Jay Wright — then alienates the entire city of Pittsburgh. We’re sorry…ya Yinzers.
The Five Things I Loved This Week
I LOVED…..listening to a Pac-10 nail-biter – that’s right, listening – on a radio this week since the game wasn’t televised. Everything in today’s media market is so visual and video-based, and you can get almost any game on the tube with the right cable package. But there was something very appealing about trying to picture exactly what was happening on the court with 2.5 seconds left using just a single voice and the crowd noise during the Washington vs Stanford game. I’d argue it even upped the drama.
I LOVED…..how I found myself wondering just how in the world Villanova coach Jay Wright always has short, athletic guards every year who can do it all. Every. Freaking. Year. Corey Fisher, Scottie Reynolds, Randy Foye, Allan Ray, and so on. While I always have to pick against ‘Nova in the tourney because I think they’ll run into someone too big, you have to appreciate the fearless perimeter play that Wright gets from his small guys.
Fisher Is Yet Another Product of the Jay Wright Short Athletic Guard Factory
I LOVED…..Scotty Hopson’s Scottie Pippen haircut. So classic. When you have by far the best name ever for a basketball player, it’s important that you back it up with the best basketball haircut of all time – the unbeatable fade. Props to you Scotty, you’re doing Pippen and Will Smith proud with the ‘do.
It’s nothing new that athletes love to talk. Mostly about themselves, but sometimes about completely unrelated things too. Such as… girlfriends, coaches, other players, fans, referees, or anything that tangentially relates back to themselves. This is part of the reason that social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have had to become so regulated by coaches and universities — players don’t always have the ability to filter their thoughts from their mouths (but honestly, who does?). Two incidents in college hoops this week help to crystallize this point.
The refs, honestly, were terrible. They were giving me B.S. answers [about fouls]. They were telling me this, this, this. Hopefully, they can watch tape and correct themselves.
He also left the Galen Center on Sunday night hoisting a one-finger salute to a USC fan who had obviously irritated him. All in all, not the greatest debut for the rookie in his first rivalry game of the series. Predictably by Tuesday, Smith had been reeled in by UCLA staff and forced to apologize (after all, he’ll see those Pac-10 referees again), with head coach Ben Howland acting the role of disappointed parent: