Morning Five: 09.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 24th, 2012

  1. Andy Katz reported on Friday that the Saint Mary’s men’s basketball program is currently under investigation by the NCAA for potential recruiting violations of an as-yet unknown variety. Few additional details were forthcoming over the weekend, but what little smoke that there appears to exist is surrounding former assistant coach David Patrick (currently an assistant at LSU), an Australian who was instrumental in recruiting former star guard Patty Mills to the campus. The tiny school that is coached by Randy Bennett has become one of the pre-eminent mid-major programs in America in large part due to its Australian talent pipeline — defending WCC POY and Olympian Matthew Dellavedova is only the latest and greatest Gael product of Oz — it makes you wonder if the attraction to Moraga, California, involved incentives beyond a beautiful campus surrounded by verdant hills. We’ll have more on this topic later this morning.
  2. Now that the Billy Gillispie era has officially ended at Texas Tech, the university is left picking up the pieces of its reputation and trying to figure out what to do next. It’s not like there’s a lot of tradition or much fan support for the basketball program anyway, but the danger of making a poor decision now is that it could realistically embed the program at the bottom of the Big 12 for the next half-decade. Nevertheless, the school hopes to name an interim head coach for the upcoming season within the next two weeks, and assistant head coach Chris Walker by virtue of his association with Gillispie’s antics may not be the choice for the permanent job. Andy Katz suggested three viable candidates last week — Rob Evans, Doc Sadler, and Reggie Theus — all of whom have significant and successful head coaching experience along with ties to the region that would help the program transition to a new, and hopefully, better era.
  3. Oregon received great news over the weekend as Dana Altman’s program reportedly has received a transfer commitment from former Rice star Arsalan Kazemi, a double-double machine who will apply for a hardship waiver to play immediately. Kazemi is notable as the first Iranian to play Division I NCAA basketball, but the “Beast of the Middle East” is certainly more than a demographic footnote — the 6’7″, 220-pounder consistently pounds the glass as one of the best defensive rebounders in America, and his free throw rate is annually one of the best in the nation. We’re not sure the basis for Kazemi’s waiver request to play this season, but if approved, an all-senior front line of Tony Woods, EJ Singler, and Kazemi would be one of the best in the Pac-12, if not the nation.
  4. It’s not very often that you’ll read a piece from a national columnist encouraging his readers to rise up as one and not let an issue drop out of the collective consciousness. And yet, that’s exactly what CBSSports.com‘s Gregg Doyel does when he outlines what he calls the “hypocrisy of the NCAA” in predicting that absolutely nothing will happen to Duke as a result of the Lance Thomas jewelry loan situation. Doyel is a flashpoint writer — pretty much every major fan base thinks he has a specific beef with them, when in reality being critical is his style — but he has the status to make something his crusade if he chooses to do so. We’re guessing that many of the enemies he’s made over the years would turn on a dime and become his biggest fans if he actually was capable of nailing the Blue Devil program on this one.
  5. We’re willing to root for Northwestern to finally make the NCAA Tournament as much as the next guy, but the storyline gets a little tiresome when every piece of news surrounding the program is viewed through that particular prism. Still, the weekend news that junior guard JerShon Cobb has been suspended for the entire 2012-13 season because of a violation of team policy has to be disconcerting to Wildcat fans. Cobb has been a part-time starter who offers solid offensive production (career 7.3 PPG) in around 20 minutes per contest; his removal from the lineup changes the complexion of a team already anticipating the replacement of the offense of its former star, John Shurna. In a loaded Big Ten conference where a .500 record is a reasonable goal, Bill Carmody will need to find additional offense from unexpected places if his team is to have any shot at getting the NCAA albatross off its back.
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RTC Summer Updates: West Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 5th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our first update is from the West Coast Conference and comes courtesy of Will Green, an editor and writer with The Slipper Still Fits.

Readers’ Take One

Summer Storylines

  • Brigham Young University Joins The Conference: When this story was first reported back in September, it was largely forgotten. BYU’s move was a football one with basketball repercussions, not the other way around. If anyone was talking about the Cougars, the dialogue was centered around how much money it would receive from it slew of nationally televised football contests this coming fall, and how many years the vaunted program would remain as an independent before choosing to join another league, securing even more lucrative contracts. The move, however, might make a greater impact on the collegiate basketball landscape than the football one, competitively speaking. For one thing, resident king Gonzaga’s streak of conference championships – which is older than most of your children – or at least its general reputation as the WCC’s top dog, is seriously endangered.  With Jimmer Fredette seizing all available national attention like a Venus flytrap, lost on many fans last year was the fact BYU was not merely a fortuitous program enjoying an unusually good year. The Cougars have been a top 40 RPI team since 2006, with a pair of top 20 finishes. That’s not a second Gonzaga — that’s better than Gonzaga. They also bring by far the largest student body and largest fan base that the league has ever seen. Indeed, the league can leverage BYU’s prominence to grow its influence and scope (more on that later). Despite being a “football move,” BYU’s departure from the Mountain West Conference is not, as so many of the recent realignment moves have been, a casualty of circumstance. The aforementioned “repercussions” became a mutually beneficial improvement for both the Cougars and the league. Credit alert diplomacy and geographical convenience to why commissioner Jamie Zaninovichwas able to lure a team into his league that’s also, statistically speaking, better than any team in his current league.

    Brandon Davies, if Reinstated by BYU, is an X-Factor for the Cougars in 2011-12 (Getty/E. Miller)

  • The League Gets A New TV contract: Over the course of the 2000s, the WCC did a remarkable thing: It became the most widely televised college basketball league of all the leagues in the West, while being only the fourth highest-rated league by RPI of the six in the region. Resident behemoth Pac-12 trusted its games to the insipid hands of Fox Sports’ cluster of regional networks. The Mountain West conference was largely marooned out on “The Mtn,” a network that truncated both its name and its audience by being available in a far more limited number of homes than the heavy-hitting Pac-12. The Western Athletic Conference enjoyed the occasional ESPNU game. The WCC, on the other hand, had its most intriguing matchups beamed into peoples’ living rooms in prime time on Thursday and Saturday nights (and for a time, on Big Monday) via ESPN or ESPN2. Both sides had such a good time putting the whole mess together that when their previous contract expired on June 1, it took exactly one week to renegotiate an eight-year extension. The new deal increases the amount of ESPN games featuring WCC teams by an average of at least five per year, possibly much more, and is spread across Thursday, Saturday and select Monday nights. While some critics contend the new ESPN contract isn’t much of an improvement over the previous one, their voices were provoked loudest during the rather dwarfing aftershock of the Pac-12’s mammoth deal with the same network. While this upcoming season could mark the first time in a long while that the WCC won’t be the most-watched west coast league, the league strengthened its relationship with ESPN and is poised to showcase what should be its most successful year ever in front of its widest audience to date.  In an era of scrambling realignment and a fragile economic landscape, this is a still a huge win.
  • The University of San Diego Suffers A Bribery Scandal: In April, this story looked crippling. San Diego had just finished one of the worst seasons by any WCC team ever when news broke that Toreros’ all-time leading scorer and current Memphis Grizzlies protégé, Brandon Johnson, was allegedly used to solicit current USD player Ken Rancifer on behalf of a delinquent named Steven Goria and several others to fix a game against the University of Portland on February 24. Also revealed was the news that Johnson himself had allegedly fixed a game during his senior season one year earlier. The good news for USD is that the story is quickly losing momentum, due in large part to the recent news that the 2011 team has largely been cleared of wrongdoing (Rancifer turned down the bribe from those attempting to fix the game) Repercussions from the 2010 game will ensue once the FBI is done investigating the entire case, and could involve recruiting sanctions or a postseason ban. Frankly, the Toreros are so deep in the throes of rebuilding that they might not enjoy any such postseason for the NCAA to ban in the first place. All told, this could have been much, much worse for USD. The true damage of the scandal is neither physical nor fiscal, but is still potentially very heavy. While it’s growing steadily, the WCC is not yet a national brand and one dominant negative story can define the WCC and USD for a large group of fans who aren’t very familiar with a non-power six league that’s on TV after they go bed. Show-stealing years from perennial contenders like Gonzaga and BYU, as well as postseason disruptiveness by the likes of St. Mary’s and Santa Clara, would be a good first step toward taking casual fans’ focus off of the scandal. Of course, if USD itself can somehow bounce back from a 6-24 record and win a few games they’re not supposed to, they just might turn themselves into national feel-good story.

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Saint Mary’s Adds A 31st Regular Season Game

Posted by nvr1983 on February 21st, 2011

In a somewhat unusual move, St. Mary’s announced earlier today that it had added a game at home against Weber State to its regular season schedule. The game, which is scheduled to take place on March 11th, occurs after the West Coast Conference Tournament is finished and before the NCAA Tournament and NIT start. More importantly, it will be played before Selection Sunday, which is on March 13th, and would be factored into both teams’ NCAA Tournament resumes. The addition of an extra game on the Friday before Selection Sunday is nothing new to the Gaels who did something similar back in 2009, when they played Eastern Washington in a game that was added to their schedule just a week earlier after an embarrassing loss to rival Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament. Operating under the assumption that the Selection Committee would see just how good they were when Patty Mills played, the Gaels won by 20. Unfortunately for Mills and SMC, it wasn’t enough to sway the Selection Committee, which relegated St. Mary’s to the NIT where they lost in the quarterfinals.

St. Mary's Seeks to Recapture This Feeling in March (AP/E. Amendola)

Although many observers will claim that this is a similar last-minute attempt by the Gaels to sway Committee members back to their side after they lost back-to-back games against San Diego and Utah State, St. Mary’s SID Richard Kilwein says that is not the case. Instead, he stated that Weber State approached St. Mary’s approximately six weeks ago with an offer for the extra game as both teams had not reached the maximum number of regular season games allowed by the NCAA. Given the long layoff between the end of the WCC Tournament and postseason play, St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett agreed to the game and a deal was reached late last week. Also, unlike last time, this game will be no cakewalk for the Gaels. In 2009, the Eastern Washington team that they scheduled was 12-17 coming into the game and had failed to even qualify for the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Although this year’s Weber State team has failed to live up to high preseason expectations, they still are a solid opponent at 15-10 overall and 9-4 in the Big Sky, with close losses against BYU (by six points) and at Utah State (by 12 points in a game that was closer than the final margin indicates). If St. Mary’s were to win this game it would certainly provide at least a small boost to their resume before the Selection Committee makes its final decision over the ensuing weekend.

[Update: There is some speculation that Weber State added this game to try to get a medical redshirt for its star point guard Damian Lillard who has only played in 10 games this season. To qualify Lillard would need to have played in fewer than 30% of the team’s games so if Lillard did not play another game this season the Wildcats would need to play 34 games to make him eligible. They are currently scheduled to play 29 regular season games including this one and at most could play in 3 conference tournament games, which would still leave them 2 games short of that goal although they could meet that target if they qualified for one of about a dozen postseason tournaments.]

[Re-Update: It looks like this game allows Weber State to get a medical redshirt for Damian Lillard who broke his foot earlier this season. Our apologies for the earlier incorrect update. The lesson here is never trust an ESPN box score.]

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Checking in on… the WCC

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2011

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

A Look Back

It’s been mostly preliminary skirmishing in conference play so far, but the race heats up next week with some key showdown games. Saint Mary’s (4-0) and Gonzaga (3-0) remained undefeated in conference play, with Portland and San Francisco tied for third with 2-1 marks. Santa Clara (1-2) kept a half-game lead over Loyola Marymount, which continued to struggle at 1-3, the same record as Pepperdine, while San Diego (0-4) is still searching for its first win.

Saint Mary’s boasts the conference’s longest winning streak at ten in a row, and the Gaels eased into the national rankings for the first time after strong home victories last week over San Francisco (71-57) and Santa Clara (84-59). The Gaels were ranked 22nd in the AP Top 25 poll and 21st in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, while Gonzaga placed 29th in the AP poll and 30th in the Coaches poll.

Portland may be looking over its shoulder at three teams who look as if they could challenge for third or fourth place behind the Gaels and Zags: San Francisco, Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount. San Francisco may have gained the most confidence – and the most respect – in last week’s play, as the Dons fought Saint Mary’s hard in the first half in Moraga and ended up losing by “only” 14 points. The face-saver in that is the Gaels’ average margin of victory this year has been 22-plus points. The Dons also chalked up road wins over Santa Clara (74-67) on January 8 and over San Diego (65-55) on Saturday.

While the Dons surged, Portland treaded water frantically. The Pilots blew a seven-point lead with less than three minutes remaining against Loyola Marymount last Thursday, then needed two overtimes to beat the Lions 79-78. Two nights later, they shot only 30% from the field in the second half in a 57-42 win over Pepperdine. One factor remained constant for the Pilots, however – Luke Sikma continued his outstanding season with 24 and ten against Loyola Marymount and 15 and nine against Pepperdine. For the season, Sikma is averaging 13.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

Although Loyola Marymount went 0-2 in its Pacific Northwest swing, falling to Gonzaga 79-59 two nights after the heartbreaking Portland loss, Max Good finally has his full team available. Slow-recovering post man Edgar Garibay played 34 minutes in the Portland loss, contributing 10 points and four rebounds, then came back for 14 minutes against Gonzaga. Perhaps more cheering for Lions fans, Garibay was joined in the frontcourt by Ashley Hamilton, coming back from a hand injury, who logged 33 minutes against Portland and 19 against Gonzaga in putting up six points and five rebounds. Baby steps, but Good will gladly accept them.

Santa Clara squeezed in a 61-52 road win over San Diego last Thursday between the disappointing loss to San Francisco and the scorching by Saint Mary’s to keep alive its hopes of a top-four finish.

Player of the Week: Gonzaga’s 7’ post man Robert Sacre has been solid all season, anchoring a sometimes-sporadic offense with consistent production. He outdid himself in a pair of games last week, however, earning WCC Player of the Week honors for his performances against Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. The LMU game was a somewhat typical Sacre outing with 18 points and seven boards, but he was literally perfect against Pepperdine, notching 24 points on 8-for-8 shooting from the field and the same mark from the free throw line. Perfect is good.

A Look Ahead

Now it gets interesting, as someone once said. Saint Mary’s undergoes the biggest trial-by-fire of its season with a three-game sojourn to Nashville to take on previously-ranked Vanderbilt on Saturday (1/22), then to Spokane for a barnburner against Gonzaga on Thursday (1/27). If the Gaels have anything left in the tank they’ll take it to Portland two nights later (1/29) to finish off the trifecta against the Pilots. The Vanderbilt game is the closing act of a home-and-home set that began with a 72-70 Vandy win last season in Moraga. Ironically, the Gaels moved into the national rankings the same week the Commodores fell out following their 67-64 loss to Tennessee in a game they once led by 17 points. The ‘Dores (12-4, 1-2 SEC) would love nothing more than to move back in to the Top 25 courtesy of a win over the Gaels.

The Thursday night matchup between the Gaels and Zags is the most compelling West Coast game of the season so far. All that is at stake is the Gaels’ national ranking, their desire to post their first win at Gonzaga since 1995, first place in the WCC and Gonzaga’s unwillingness to cede leadership in the conference it has dominated with ten straight regular-season titles. Some games need no excess hype, and this is certainly one of them.

Portland is hoping to play the role of coup de grace administrator as it has the past two years. Saint Mary’s limped into Portland following a deflating loss to Gonzaga in 2009 which saw a near-season-ending injury to Patty Mills, and last year after failing to engage the Zags in an 80-61 embarrassment heightened by McConnell’s 0-for-5 shooting night. McConnell rebounded with a 25 and 4 effort against Portland, but it wasn’t enough to stave off an 80-75 overtime loss. Ouch! and double ouch! has been the tale for Saint Mary’s the last two years in the Great Northwest, and it will be a true test of their mettle to avoid that fate in 2011.

At the other end of the conference geographically, Loyola Marymount will visit Pepperdine in Mailbu on Saturday for the annual slugfest between the two LA-area schools. Loyola Marymount has not won on the Waves’ court in many years, and Pepperdine will be geared up to continue that trend. After bombing out at Portland and Gonzaga last week, Loyola Marymount cannot afford to drop another conference contest. Game on.

Gonzaga will repeat the annual Bay Area trip to Santa Clara and San Francisco that proved difficult last year with a narrow (71-64) win over the Broncos and an 81-77 OT loss to the Dons. Portland will also be along for the ride.

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RTC Conference Primers: #12 – West Coast Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 25th, 2010

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

Predicted Order of Finish

  • 1. Gonzaga (11-3)
  • 1. Saint Mary’s (11-3)
  • 3. Loyola Marymount (9-5)
  • 4. Portland (8-6)
  • 5. Santa Clara (7-7)
  • 6. San Francisco (6-8)
  • 7. San Diego (2-12)
  • 7. Pepperdine (2-12)

All-Conference Team

  • G: Mickey McConnell, Saint Mary’s
  • G: Steven Gray, Gonzaga
  • F: Elias Harris, Gonzaga
  • F: Drew Viney, Loyola
  • C: Luke Sikma, Portland

6th Man

Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s

Impact Newcomers

  • G: Steven Holt, Saint Mary’s (12.7 ppg, 6.0 apg in senior year at Jesuit High School, Portland)
  • G: Ben Vozzola, San Diego (21 ppg, 6.0 apg in senior year at Centennial High School, Las Vegas)
  • F: Charles Standifer, San Francisco (24.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg in senior year at Capital Christian High School in Sacramento)
  • F: Yannick Atanga, Santa Clara (15.2 ppg, 14.8 rpg in senior year at Besant Hill, Ojai, CA)
  • C: Kenton Walker, Saint Mary’s (5.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg as sophomore at Creighton University in 08-09)

Just imagine the smile on Mark Few's face if he knocks off some of Gonzaga's top-flight nonconference opponents. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

What You Need to Know

The WCC sent 10-time regular-season champion Gonzaga and conference tournament champion Saint Mary’s to the NCAA Tournament last year, with the Gaels advancing to the Sweet Sixteen after victories over Richmond and Villanova and the Zags winning their first-round game against Florida State. Loyola Marymount and Portland also played in the CollegeInsider.com Post-Season Tournament (CIT), with the Lions losing to Pacific in the first round and Portland losing to Northern Colorado, also in the first round. The conference is hopeful to return to its high-water mark of 2007 when Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and San Diego made the NCAA Tourney. LMU is bidding for the third NCAA invite in 2010-11, counting on a strong performance from its veteran core (four of five starters return) that produced an 18-16 record last year. Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga will be favored to fight for the automatic NCAA bid or an at-large berth.

Predicted Champion

  • Saint Mary’s (NCAA: #10) and Gonzaga (NCAA: #6) will tie atop the WCC regular-season standings at 11-3 each, with Saint Mary’s receiving the automatic bid with a victory over Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament Championship. The Gaels will match their #10-seed of last year, while the Zags, on the strength of a monster out-of-conference schedule, (San Diego State, Kansas State, Duke/Marquette, Illinois, Xavier, Wake Forest and Memphis) receive a #6-seed.
  • The situation regarding Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga was best exemplified by SI.com’s preseason pick of the Gaels as the 15th-best college backcourt and the Zags as the 13th-best frontcourt. Will the Gaels’ wily veteran Mickey McConnell, he of the gaudy 51% three-point average, and Energizer Bunny Matthew Dellavedova, with his ill-fitting jersey and oversized mouthpiece, edge out the Zags’ fearsome frontcourt of 7’0 center Robert Sacre, 6’7 forward Elias Harris and either 7’0 Kelly Olynyk or 6’6 swingman Manny Arop? This face-off will headline the WCC race and might not be decided until the Feb. 24 showdown between the two in Moraga.
  • In the postseason, Saint Mary’s will be hopeful of crossing the Sweet Sixteen divide in 2011, erasing the memory of its collapse against Baylor (72-49) in the 2010 tournament. Gonzaga, which lost in the first round in ’07 and ’08, the Sweet Sixteen in ’09 and the second round in ’10, looks to revive the glory days of deep tournament runs.

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RTC Bracket Prep: South Region

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2010

This is the first of our four quick-and-dirty region breakdowns. This will serve to help the quick triggers who like to fill out their brackets first thing on Monday morning. For the rest of you, we’ll be providing more detailed game-by-game analysis throughout the rest of the week.

Reliant Stadium Hosts the South Regional

Region: South

Favorite: Duke, #1 seed, 29-5. Yeah, I know it isn’t shocking that they are the favorites especially in what many are calling the weakest of the four regions, but the Blue Devils have a solid combination of perimeter talent (albeit limited in numbers) and interior players (quantity more than quality, but still something). With the way Jon Scheyer has been playing this season and the sudden re-emergence of Kyle Singler in the ACC Tournament, Coach K and the Blue Devils should have their sights set on Indianapolis.

Should They Falter: Villanova, #2 seed, 24-7. A Final Four team last year, the Wildcats had the appearance of a Final Four team a month ago (many will still pick them now), but after losing five of their last seven games to close the season some of that luster has worn off. Still we would be remiss not to list them here as all but one of those losses came on the road (neutral site in one case to a #6 seed) against a team that is in the NCAA, another team with a top-3 seed and another to a UConn team back when Jim Calhoun’s players still cared.

Grossly Overseeded: California, #8 seed, 23-10. I know they won the Pac-10 regular season, but as you may have heard the Pac-10 was awful this year. When we asked Mike Montgomery about the possibility that the Bears might miss the NCAA Tournament this year he was perturbed. While he might have made it into the NCAA Tournament it does not erase the fact that they did not beat a single team in the top 50 of the RPI ratings. The Bears might deserve a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but I think most people would agree that they have not earned a seed this high.

Grossly Underseeded: Siena, #13 seed, 27-6. This might be where they deserve to be seeded based on their resume this year, but this is the team with the most “growth potential.” The Saints struggled in their conference final, but they have won first round games as an underdog in each of the past two years. Last year they knocked off Ohio State as a #9 seed and the year before knocked off Vanderbilt as a #13 seed. With an experienced squad they would be a tough out as a #13 seed in any bracket.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower): Siena. Like we said they won their first round games each of the past two years and there might not be a team more set-up to be upset in the first round than the Robbie Hummel-less Purdue Boilermakers. If they get past Matt Painter’s crew, they will play the winner of the Texas A&M and Utah State. It won’t be an easy second round game, but since it is in Spokane, Washington, we can’t imagine that either team will have a huge following there (although Utah State could conceivably travel up there).

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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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Checking in on… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2010

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

Final Pre-Conference Standings (through games of 1/4)

  1. Saint Mary’s         13-2
  2. Gonzaga         11-3
  3. Portland          9-5
  4. Loyola Marymount       9-7
  5. Santa Clara        8-9
  6. San Diego        7-9
  7. San Francisco       5-10
  8. Pepperdine         4-12

Table Set for Early Drama

With several key conference match-ups scheduled in the first two weeks of play, the WCC race could be either very interesting or very boring within a short period. Because of an unusually front-loaded schedule, Gonzaga goes on the road against three conference foes considered most likely to upset them – Portland, Saint Mary’s and San Diego – within a one-week period (Jan. 9-16). If one or more of those teams stops the Zags, the race could be worth watching; if the Zags run the table, it’ll be all over but the shouting.

In the early conference season, the curtain-opening game between Gonzaga and Portland at Portland this Saturday (Jan. 9) looked like one of the most intriguing WCC contests in recent years. Portland’s stumbles against West Virginia, Portland State, Idaho, Washington and Nevada, however, have taken some of the luster off that game. For their part, the Zags won respect and frequent flyer miles with their final two OOC games, an 83-69 win over Oklahoma at home on New Year’s Eve followed by an 85-83 overtime win over Illinois in Chicago barely 48 hours later. The Zags will have a full week to recharge before making the reasonably sort trip to Portland to stare down the Pilots, who must summon all their early-season moxie (wins over Oregon, UCLA and Minnesota) to have a chance.

After Portland, Gonzaga travels to the snake pit known as McKeon Pavilion for a Thursday-night (Jan. 14) barn-burner against Saint Mary’s in Moraga, then continues south to take on San Diego in the Jenny Craig Pavilion on Saturday. It will be quite a week for the Zags, but they have proven impervious to tough travels to tough venues, and all their opponents must bring their A-games to have a chance for victory. A 3-0 Gonzaga squad with its tough road games behind it (except for a potentially intriguing Feb. 18 game against Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles) will not be a pretty sight for WCC teams to behold.

Saint Mary’s stands a good chance of facing Gonzaga with a 2-0 conference mark, as the Gaels open on the road Friday night (Jan. 8) against San Francisco, which has struggled in the pre-conference slate, and then at up-and-down Santa Clara on Sunday afternoon. Saint Mary’s had established McKeon Pavilion as one WCC stop Gonzaga didn’t want to make with consecutive victories there in ’07 and ’08 before stumbling there last year without injured star Patty Mills.  With an NCAA berth hinging on a victory over Gonzaga at some point this year, Saint Mary’s will bring all its Aussie chants, Samhan juju and Randy Bennett strategy to the showdown.

Another Friday night game of interest pits San Diego at Santa Clara, with a possible fourth-place conference finish and first-game WCC tournament bye at stake. San Diego has been difficult to figure out this year, compiling a 7-9 record that includes encouraging wins over Stanford, Oklahoma and Houston, and puzzling losses to Fresno State, Pacific and UC-Riverside. San Diego split its last two OOC games, hanging with a tough Mississippi State team on New Year’s Eve before losing 77-68, then bouncing back to beat Florida A&M 74-64 three days later. The win over Florida A&M was accomplished without 6-2 senior guard De’Jon Jackson and 6-8 freshman forward Chris Manressa in uniform, and their status is uncertain for the Santa Clara game.

Loyola Marymount, one of the hottest teams in the WCC with a six-game winning streak that includes a road win over Notre Dame, will have something to say about that fourth-place spot in the WCC standings as well. The Lions open Friday night against perennial saddle burr Pepperdine in Malibu with a lot at stake: Beach Brat Bragging Rights over the Waves, who have a multi-year home winning streak against them, and a shot at a 3-0 conference record by week two. After Pepperdine, the Lions host San Francisco and Santa Clara, both beatable, in the following weekend’s play. LMU’s moment of truth could come the weekend after that (Jan. 21-23), when they travel to Portland and Gonzaga.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #14 – West Coast

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2009

seasonpreview

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.   Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

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

All-Conference Team:

  • Matt Bouldin (G), Gonzaga
  • Kevin Foster (G), Santa Clara
  • Dior Lowhorn (F), USF
  • Kevin Young (F), Loyola
  • Omar Samhan (C), Saint Mary’s

6th man. Nik Raivio, Portland

Impact newcomer. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s

wcc logoWhat You Need to Know.

  • Going International.  The 2010 season marks the WCC’s most pronounced bow to international athletes, with every team having at least two foreign-born players and two of the predicted top three finishers – Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s – pinning their season hopes on the performance of foreigners. Saint Mary’s gave the trend its biggest boost by establishing an Australian pipeline that produced Daniel Kickert, the Gaels’ all-time leading scorer, and Patty Mills, who opted for the NBA after two sensational seasons. The Gaels continue as the Koala’s best friend this year, with five Aussies expected to make contributions and one, freshman guard Matthew Dellavedova, looming as a potential star.  Gonzaga’s Pacific Northwest pipeline that supplied stars Adam Morrison, Dan Dickau and Blake Stepp, among others, may be temporarily clogged, but the Zags have turned to Canada (Manny Arop, Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynyk), Germany (Elias Harris), and Sudan by way of Canada (Bol Kong), to maintain their position atop the conference. USF joined the crowd in a big way this off-season, luring a Czech (Tomas Bruha), two Frenchmen (Moustapha Diarra, Nikola Stojiljkovic) and a Canadian (Perris Blackwell).
  • Room at the Top: Gonzaga, with nine WCC titles in a row, and Saint Mary’s, a perennial runner-up under Randy Bennett, have dominated the conference in recent years. But Gonzaga lost four of its main contributors from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team (Austin Daye, Josh Heytvelt, Jeremy Pargo and Micah Downs) and Saint Mary’s said goodbye to Mills, all-time leading rebounder and shot-blocker Diamon Simpson, starting forward Ian O’Leary and a trio of valuable back-ups in Yusef Smith, Lucas Walker and Carlin Hughes. That’s why Portland, with all five starters back from last year’s 19-13 team that finished third in the conference, can’t wait to shove its way into the top spot. Santa Clara’s Kerry Keating and USF’s confident newcomer Rex Walters, entering his second year, have recruited aggressively and well, indicating that they, too, are up to challenging Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in the next few years.
  • Multiple NCAA Bids: The conference was shocked last year when Saint Mary’s, 25-6 overall and second place in the conference behind Gonzaga, did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, leaving the Zags as the sole WCC entrant. Just the year before, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and San Diego received bids, the first time in anyone’s memory that three teams had gone to The Dance. Whether the conference elevates itself in the NCAA Selection Committee’s eyes in 2009-10 is one of the biggest question marks looming over the season.

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Welcome to the 2009 NBA Predraft Camp

Posted by rtmsf on May 26th, 2009

Starting today, 52 NBA hopefuls will descend upon Chicago to go through a battery of athletic drills, medical testing and interviews in the hopes that an NBA team will see something dreamy along the way.  For our purposes at RTC, the twelve players we’re primarily interested in, the early entries who are still on the fence, are listed below in red.  It’ll be very interesting to see how these players perform in these tests, especially considering that unlike past years, there will be no five-on-five games where players can show their wares in a full-court setting.

In individual drills, we’d expect smooth athletes like Daye, Holiday, Mills and Teague to shine, but you never really know with these things.  It’ll be interesting to listen to the reports coming out of Chi-town the rest of the week with respect to these players.  According to Andy Katz (provider of the below list), this week will probably not determine the decisions of Teague, Lawal, Holiday, Mills, Gibson and Brown, but he expects Vasquez, ‘Gody, Meeks and Smith back in school soon.  He also says Damion James is expected to remain in the draft, but has nothing to say about Daye.   Stay tuned.

  • Jeff Adrien, Connecticut
  • Rodrigue Beaubois, Cholet (France)
  • DeJuan Blair, Pitt
  • Jon Brockman, Washington
  • Derrick Brown, Xavier*
  • Chase Budinger, Arizona
  • Nick Calathes, Florida
  • DeMarre Carroll, Missouri
  • Omri Casspi, Maccabi Elite (Israel)
  • Dionte Christmas, Temple
  • Earl Clark, Louisville
  • Darren Collison, UCLA
  • Dante Cunningham, Villanova
  • Stephen Curry, Davidson
  • Austin Daye, Gonzaga*
  • DeMar DeRozan, USC
  • Toney Douglas, Florida State
  • Wayne Ellington, North Carolina
  • Tyreke Evans, Memphis
  • Jonny Flynn, Syracuse
  • Taj Gibson, USC*
  • Danny Green, North Carolina
  • Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
  • Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina
  • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame*
  • James Harden, Arizona State
  • Gerald Henderson, Duke
  • Josh Heytvelt, Gonzaga
  • Jordan Hill, Arizona
  • Jrue Holiday, UCLA*
  • Joe Ingles, Melbourne South Dragons (Australia)
  • Damion James, Texas*
  • James Johnson, Wake Forest
  • Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech*
  • Ty Lawson, North Carolina
  • Eric Maynor, VCU
  • Jack McClinton, Miami
  • Jerel McNeal, Marquette
  • Jodie Meeks, Kentucky*
  • Patrick Mills, Saint Mary’s*
  • B.J. Mullens, Ohio State
  • Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona State
  • A.J. Price, Connecticut
  • Tyler Smith, Tennessee*
  • DaJuan Summers, Georgetown
  • Jermaine Taylor, Central Florida
  • Jeff Teague, Wake Forest*
  • Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut
  • Marcus Thornton, LSU
  • Greivis Vasquez, Maryland*
  • Terrence Williams, Louisville
  • Sam Young, Pitt
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Breaking Down the 2009 Early Entries…

Posted by nvr1983 on May 1st, 2009

The 2009 NBA Draft Early Entry list is now official, and there are 75 collegiate players with eligibility remaining who think they have a shot at the League this year.  Keep in mind that there are only 60 picks in the 2009 NBA Draft, and the above number doesn’t even include graduating seniors as well as foreign players.  Mathematically speaking, it would serve a number of these players with stars in their eyes well to return to school for at least one more season.  Let’s evaluate each of them.

Players With Agents
First, the players who have already signed with agents, effectively ending their collegiate careers.  For the most part, this group is first-round material, but Brandon Costner, Eric Devendorf, Daniel Hackett and Dar Tucker must know something about their draft status that nobody else does. 

2009-ees-agents

Likely to Stay in Draft 
Next, we have a much smaller group of players who are very likely to stay in the draft, but they have yet to sign with an agent, and there’s been no official word yet.  All five of these players are probably first rounders, but with Nick Calathes, Jrue Holiday and Patty Mills, there remains a possibility of a return to school next season. 

2009-ees-likely

On the Fence
These thirteen players will decide the complexion of college basketball in 2009-10, much as Lawson, Ellington and Green did this season.  For example, if Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson return to Kentucky, that’s a top five team.  If Jeff Teague returns to Wake Forest, same thing.  Derrick Brown at Xavier, Austin Daye at Gonzaga, Luke Harangody at Notre Dame, Gani Lawal at Georgia Tech, Tyler Smith at Tennessee, Jarvis Varnado at Miss. St., Greivis Vasquez at Maryland.  Each of these players is all-american caliber.  This group of players could break a lot of hearts in the next six weeks.

2009-ees-fence-v2

You Gotta be Joking
This group of players has a fair mixture of guys who just want to get evaluated (even though Parrish points out most won’t actually get evaluated) for next season’s draft and players who have no idea what their true value is in terms of NBA scouts.  There are also several who have nowhere else to go, having worn out their welcomes elsewhere.  This list always makes RTC feel a little sad, yet as we now know, the NCAA has enacted a new rule making it so there will be even more ill-informed choices such as these in the future.  Thanks, guys.  Way to look out…

2009-ees-joking

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Four

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2009

dynamiteAfter a thrilling finish last night that made Demetri Goodson a household name for at least a few days, we think the tournament has officially begun. Even being fairly selective, we think there are at least 3 outstanding games today. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering tomorrow:

  • 12:10 PM: #6 Arizona State vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 2:20 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #4 Xavier
  • 2:30 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #3 Kansas
  • 2:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #12 Arizona
  • 2:50 PM: #8 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 4:50 PM: #6 Marquette vs. #3 Missouri
  • 5:00 PM: #10 USC vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 5:20 PM: #9 Siena vs. #1 Louisville

A couple thoughts on the scheduling: (1) It’s nice to see the early finish for those of us who have to work on Monday morning and (2) I think the NCAA and CBS might have finally figured out the spacing issue. Outside of the early game, I don’t think there should be any point during the other 2 sets of games where  we have all the games at halftime. I’m guessing the NCAA and/or CBS must have hired a bunch of McKinsey consultants at $500/hr to figure out how to stagger the games. Now I’m looking at it without a fancy Excel model, but this looks like a reasonable set-up, which should get the job done, but I’ve been wrong before. . .

12:08 PM: One piece of big news from the morning: Dominic James has been cleared to play today. I’m not sure what kind of experimental medical techniques they have up at Marquette, but that’s a shocking piece of news. I’d be surprised if he could even go 10 minutes today as he was expected to be out for at least 2 months when he broke his foot (don’t remember which bone) back on Febraury 25th, but we will wait and see.

12:25 PM: This game looks like it should be fairly entertaining and competitive. Interesting back story about Jonny Flynn and James Harden. I know the old school guys won’t like it, but with the growth of AAU and all these summer camps I think it should be expected that stuff like that will happen.

12:30 PM: For those of you who questioned my earlier assertion that the arenas looked dead this year, the NCAA is backing me up. I guess it should be somewhat expected with the economy although most tickets are purchased via the lottery well in advance. The 50% in Miami is appalling though. One more thing to remember about these numbers. . .they reflect the number of tickets purchased not the attendance. I’m sure there are a lot of tickets that have been purchased by ticket brokers that have not been purchased by people who actually go to the games.

12:40 PM: As talented as Harden is, I really question his tendency to disappear for long stretches. Is he unable to play hard for 40 minutes or is he “letting the game come to him”?

12:47 PM: Arizona State is getting run out of the gym right now. I wonder how much the early start hurts the West Coast teams here. I’m not sure if any of you have data on this.

12:50 PM: We just posted the next part of our Mascot Challnege. Be sure to vote for your favorite mascots and help him/her win the national title.

12:52 PM: Rihards Kuksiks is single-handedly keeping the Sun Devils in this game with 15 of their first 30 points. Syracuse goes into half with a 41-32 lead. Harden still doesn’t have a point. If I’m a NBA GM, his tendency to do this drops him a few spots on my board.

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