2009-10 Conference Primers: #22 – Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2009

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Glenn Junkert of GrizzlyJournal.com is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky Conference. Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Weber State (22-9, 12-4)
  2. Montana (20-8, 11-5)
  3. Montana State (16-12, 11-5)
  4. Idaho State (13-16, 10-6)
  5. Portland State (14-15, 9-7)
  6. Northern Arizona (11-17, 8-8)
  7. Northern Colorado (12-18, 5-11)
  8. Eastern Washington (8-21, 3-13)
  9. Sacramento State (7-22, 3-13)

All-Conference First Team:

  • Anthony Johnson, Montana
  • Damian Lilliard, Weber State
  • Steve Panos, Weber State
  • Phil Nelson, Portland State
  • Bobby Howard, Montana State

All-Conference Second Team:

  • Amorrow Morgan, Idaho State
  • Will Bynum, Montana State
  • Dominic Waters, Portland State
  • Brandon Moore, Eastern Washington
  • Shane Johannssen, Northern Arizona

MVP: Anthony Johnson, Montana

Impact Newcomers:

  • Franklin Session, Weber State
  • Eric Platt, Northern Arizona
  • Raason Young, Montana

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What You Need to Know.  Last year Weber State senior point guard Kellen McCoy earned his Big Sky MVP medal by shaping his young teammates into a cohesive unit early. The Wildcats shrugged off a home court loss to Montana State and promptly forged a commanding conference lead with a league-wide road sweep, a rare feat in the Big Sky, though three other stellar guards — Montana’s Anthony Johnson, Montana State’s Will Bynum, and McCoy’s teammate, frosh Damian Lilliard — had second-half performances equal to McCoy’s, the Wildcat senior was a shoo-in for directing his cats to a rare 15-1 record in league play.

Predicted ChampionWeber State (NCAA Seed: #14). Weber State basketball IS coach Randy Rahe, and what Rahe has done best in four years at WSU is: 1) Recruit a balanced combo of quality junior college and freshman talent; and, 2) Demand the utmost in ensemble discipline and teamwork from his players on the court. The result? Deuces wild: two league titles and two “coach of the year” awards in his four years at WSU. The Wildcats graduated seniors Kellen McCoy and Daivin Davis, but Rahe will rely on the leadership of sophomore guard Lilliard, who’s expected to get support from highly regarded JC transfer Franklin Session. Otherwise, Rahe’s stellar coaching should be enough to earn the Cats a second straight league title.

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04.13.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 13th, 2009

Wow, this place clears out as soon as the season ends, doesn’t it?  Let’s talk more early entries…

  • Tweeting Away.  Hasheem Thabeet still hasn’t made up his mind about returning for his senior year, but is there really any question?  The certain lottery pick is just trying to play people with his coy references to coming back to UConn on his Twitter account.
  • Well, that’s one way to do it. Ole Miss’ second-leading returning scorer, David Huertas, packed up his stuff and is headed back to PR to play professionally there.
  • Memphis’ Shawn Taggart – also taking a dip.
  • Someone’s staying! UNC’s Ed Davis will return to try to lead the Heels to B2B titles.  Gary Parrish believes they have a legitimate shot at it (as do we, gulp…).   Also, WVU’s Devin Ebanks is officially sticking around.
  • This is the future, gents.  NCAA Tournament online viewership was way, way up.
  • Portland St. will promote Tyler Geving to head coach to replace Ken Bone.
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Buzz: Coaching Moves at Memphis and Wazzu

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2009

Buzz: Josh Pastner to Take Memphis Job.  After striking out on several ‘big’ names, Memphis announced today that John Calipari’s top assistant coach, Josh Pastner, will take over the head job for the Tigers.  He’s only 31 years old, but he spent the previous five seasons prior to this one  as an assistant to Lute Olson at Arizona.  This is definitely a risk by Memphis in going with such a young, unproven commodity as Pastner, but the word is that he’s an aggressive recruiter, so we’ll see.

Buzz: Portland St.’s Ken Bone to Fill Vacated Wazzu Position.  Bone is willing to leave uber-cool Portland for interior Washington to coach in the Pac-10 at Wazzu.  He was successful at Portland St., having won the last two Big Sky Tournaments for NCAA appearances, and his roots are in the Pacific Northwest (12 yrs as head coach at Seattle Pacific and 3 yrs as an assistant at Washington). 

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QnD East Region Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2009

EAST REGION PREVIEW (by Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore)

Favorite
Pittsburgh
, 1, 28-4 – DZ: We at RTC love the upset. But let’s be honest: Pitt has a relative cakewalk. SM: No argument here. I’m a man of few words (not really).

Should They Falter
Villanova
, 3, 26-7 – DZ: Upperclassmen guards own this tournament. And in that department, Scottie Reynolds is as good as they come. SM: I agree here, as well. Dave and I wouldn’t work well on ESPN First Take – too much agreement. DZ: Could this be because we agreed on mostly everything before we started writing? Maybe.

Grossly Overseeded
DZ: Xavier, 4, 25-7 – The Musketeers have lost five of their last 10 against only average competition. SM: Texas, 7, 22-11 – It’s hard to call a seven seed grossly overseeded, but count me among the non-believers when it comes to the Longhorns. A.J. Abrams can shoot the lights out, but he can also disappear in big moments. Texas feels more like a 9-to-11 seed to me.

Grossly Underseeded

DZ: UCLA, 6, 25-8 – A No. 9 Pomeroy rating should have outweighed a bad loss to USC in the conference tourney. SM: Minnesota, 10, 22-10 – It’s hard to ask for more than a 10 seed when you’re 9-9 in conference, but it’s easy to forget Minnesota’s win over Louisville back in the fall. And Tubby Smith in March is a pretty good bet. The Golden Gophers are the fourth team Tubby has taken to the Dance.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper

DZ: Portland State, 13, 23-9 — Realistically, No. 12 Wisconsin probably has the better chance to get to the second weekend, but we like the little guy here. Portland State has an impressive win over Gonzaga on its resume, too. SM: Binghamton, 15, 23-8 – OK, so it probably won’t happen, but I’ve gotta show the America East some love. My alma mater (Boston University) hasn’t gone dancing since 2002, so I have to support my low-major conference brethren.

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower)
Florida State, 5, 25-9 – DZ: Coming off an impressive run in the ACC tournament – but a tough loss, too – the Seminoles will be hungry to make a deep run. Let’s just hope they leave the tomahawk chop at home. SM: I agree the Seminoles can make noise in the second weekend. Whether those wins will be vacated in 10 years or so? That’s a different story.

Carmelo Anthony Award
DZ: DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh (15.6 ppg, 12.2 rpg, .599 FGP) – Everyone knows how strong Blair is. And everyone who doesn’t should watch this. SM: Toney Douglas, Florida State (21.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 38% 3-point pct.) – Senior guards are critical to March success, as Douglas proved during the ACC tournament last week.

Stephen Curry Award

DZ: D.J. Rivera, Binghamton (20.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.8 spg, .468 FGP) – The Philadelphia product and St. Joe’s transfer is legit – though he’s not quite as cherubic as last year’s Mr. March, Steph Curry. SM: Jeremiah Dominguez, Portland State (12.9 ppg, 3.2 apg, .437 3-pt. pct) – The Vikings could give Xavier some trouble, and yet another senior point guard will be key. Dominguez dropped 22 on Montana State in the Big Sky final just to get into the dance.

Home Cooking
(3) Villanova,
16 miles from Wachovia Center; (2) Duke, 56 miles from Greensboro Coliseum – DZ: Villanova plays plenty of games at the Wachovia Center, so this will feel like a home game for them. And, of course, Duke in Carolina is always a tough matchup. SM: It’s likely that most Philly-area residents who bought tickets months ago for this site are Villanova fans, anyway, which gives the Wildcats a huge advantage.

Can’t Miss First Round Game
UCLA vs. VCU, Thursday – DZ: Darren Collison and Eric Maynor will battle for acronym bragging rights in this intriguing contest between a perennial giant and a strong mid-major. SM: Far and away this is the game I’m most looking forward to. The large Nova-heavy crowd will gravitate toward the underdog anyway, and Maynor should bring them to their feet.

Don’t Miss This One Either

Duke vs. Binghamton
, Thursday – DZ: We love how this game pits the squeaky clean program from the ACC against the thugs and retreads from the America East. SM: As an alum of the real BU, I hate that the Bearcats try to use that moniker. But I’ll be rooting for them anyway.

Lock of the Year:

SM: Villanova cruises to the Elite 8, and is never really challenged along the way. With two games in their quasi-home gym, and a Sweet 16 date with perennial disappointment Duke, this bracket fits the Wildcats better than Jay Wright’s three-piece suit. I understand that hating on Duke is easier than getting away with a travel at Cameron Indoor, but Villanova has an experienced leader in Scottie Reynolds, and a nearly extinct collegiate species in Dante Cunningham: A big man who can consistently drill 16-footers. Want another East Region lock? Wright will edge out Bruce Pearl as the bracket’s best-dressed coach. But it’ll be close. DZ: Are you talking about Pearl’s orange blazer or his bare chest, because either way his outfits would make even Lloyd Christmas blush. I agree with a deep run for ’Nova but I’m a bit wary of its second-round matchup. Also, based on what I just wrote, I clearly don’t know what the word lock means.

Juiciest Potential Matchup – purists
Duke vs. UCLA, Sweet 16. SM: Two traditional powers with some of the most talented recruits in the nation and a bevy of devoted (and often annoying) fans. It would also bring two coaches face to face with their recent reputations for premature exits. Coach K vs. Jamie Dixon – they wouldn’t both be able to fail (there’s no ties in the Big Dance, right Mr. McNabb?). DZ: I think John Wooden deserves to see another deep tournament run before he turns 100. And I think Duke needs to be fined every time they slap the floor on defense.

Juiciest Potential Matchup – media
SM: Pittsburgh vs. Villanova, Regional Final – It’s a long way off, but this one would send the suits at ESPN into a downright tizzy. Not only would it reaffirm the Worldwide Leader’s obsession with the Big East this year (they happen to ignore the atrocities that are St. John’s, South Florida, Depaul and Rutgers), but it would provide a handful of incredible individual matchups: Blair vs. Cunningham, Fields vs. Reynolds, Wright vs. Dixon. Plus, it would further infuriate the Penn State fans to see two Pennsylvania teams fighting for a Final Four spot while they get bounced from the NIT. And as anyone who knows me can tell you, anything that makes Penn State fans cry and complain is fine with me. DZ: Pittsburgh vs. UCLA, Regional final – If UCLA makes it to the regional final against Pitt that would make for an intriguing matchup, as well. Could Howland, Pitt’s former coach, stop his old team, and good friend Jamie Dixon, from making its first final four? UCLA did beat Pitt in the 2007 tourney, but this is a much stronger Pitt team and a far worse UCLA team.

We Got Screwed
UCLA, 6, 25-8. SM: I’m no geography major, but I don’t think Philadelphia is around the corner from Pauley Pavilion. Not only do the Bruins have to fly across the country to face a trendy upset pick in Virginia Commonwealth, but they would likely face Villanova in the second round. That game would take place nearly 3,000 miles from UCLA’s campus, and about 18 miles from Villanova. UCLA may be the only team who would have rather been placed in Boise. Congratulations to the Bruins on three straight Final Fours – now that’ll be $15 for each checked bag. DZ: Agreed. UCLA has made three straight final fours, has a kickass trombone section and once made Adam Morrison cry. The committee clearly didn’t take any of this into account.

Strongest Pod
PhiladelphiaVillanova, American, UCLA, VCU. SM: I don’t want to focus entirely on the lower half of the region – and especially this pod – but there’s no denying the talent at the Wachovia Center. A perennial Final Four contender in UCLA, a possible Final Four team in Villanova, a trendy upset pick in VCU, and … well … American University. Three out of four ain’t bad. The other pods in the East Region include too many first-round walkovers to be taken seriously. And who wants to go to Boise in March, anyway? DZ: Definitely. And American comes into the tourney on a 10-game win streak. Don’t sleep on the Patriot League!

Wild Card, Bitches
Like Charlie, we’re going rogue in our Green Man suits (not really). Here are some other things to watch for over the next three weeks. …

  • Easiest Sweet 16 to (Literally) Write Into Your Bracket: ETSU, FSU, UCLA, Duke (there’s Duke screwing up the all-acronym thing again).
  • Second-Round Rivalry Game That Will Never Happen: East Tennessee State vs. Tennessee. They’re huge rivals, like Duke-North Carolina. Right?
  • Thank Goodness for NCAA Bracketing Rules: Fortunately, the committee won’t pair conference foes against each other in the first round. If they did, we could have had another 5 seed – Illinois – facing No. 12 Wisconsin. What’s the only way to make a Big Ten slugfest less entertaining? Play it in Boise, Idaho.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Curry Award for CBS Parental Crowd Shots: Ralph Sampson III, Minnesota. Yes, they’re related. We don’t get to see the wonder and beauty that is Mrs. Curry this year. So we’ll have to deal with endless shots of this draft day trivia answer.
  • Year of the Sophomore: With plenty of star sophomores roaming this year’s Dance, we could see a potentially good matchup in the second round pitting Pitt’s Blair against Oklahoma State’s James Anderson.
  • Rookie hazing: Of the 43 rookie head coaches this season, five made the tournament and one is in the East Region – Travis Ford of Oklahoma State.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: East Tennessee State head coach Murray Bartow once coached at UAB, while American head coach Jeff Jones once roamed the sidelines at Virginia.
  • Minnesota’s Miracle Man: Not since Gordon Bombay has a sports figure in Minnesota produced more miracles than the Golden Gophers’ Blake Hoffarber. Can he make a third miracle shot this month? Stay tuned.
  • All-Name Team: Nikola Dragovic, UCLA; Uche Echefu, Florida State; Larry Sanders, VCU; Moussa Camara, Binghamton; Teeng Akol, Oklahoma State.

So-Called Experts Prediction
Who cares? We’re just happy Dickie V didn’t cry. Or did he?

Vegas Odds to Win Region

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Brackets Revealed: Instant Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2009

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Some very quick food for thought after the big reveal…

  • At least in the #1-#4 seed positions, the Midwest (Louisville, Michigan St, Kansas, Wake Forest) appears to be the toughest region.  It gets weaker at the lower seeds, but among the top teams, this is a beast (3 BCS regular season champs + a second-place team).   That said, Louisville having to play Ohio St. in Dayton in the second round is an interesting game.
  • The weakest appears to be the South after #1 UNC.  Oklahoma is falling off, Syracuse is up-and-down, and Gonzaga is softer than toilet paper.  Arizona St. and Clemson are darkhorses in this region.
  • Cannot believe that #3 Villanova in the East will get to play essentially at home for the first two rounds.  That’s even more egregious than the annual UNC/Duke games in Greensboro/Raleigh/W-S/Charlotte.
  • How about a Cinderella #13 Portland St. playing in Boise vs. #4 Xavier (slumping) and then the #5 FSU/#12 Wisconsin winner?  Or a WAC team, #11 Utah St. playing #6 Marquette in the same location?
  • We have a feeling #11 VCU over #6 UCLA is going to be a very popular upset choice.  The Bruins don’t travel that far east very well in recent years.  Or #4 Wake, a team that has proven they only get up for “name” teams, losing to #13 Cleveland St. in the first round in Miami?
  • Most vulnerable teams in the first round by seed:
    • #1 – none
    • #2 – Oklahoma (Morgan St.)
    • #3 – Kansas (North Dakota St.)
    • #4 – Xavier (Portland St.)
    • #5 – all of them?  But probably Illinois (W. Kentucky)
    • #6 – UCLA (VCU)
    • #7 – Boston College (USC)
    • #8 – LSU (Butler)
  • Best Games by region (first round):
    • East – #8 Oklahoma St. vs. #9 Tennessee – very up-and-down high-scoring game.
    • South – #7 Clemson vs. #10 Michigan – will the Beilein style frustrate the Tigers?
    • Midwest – #7 BC vs. #10 USC – can the athletic Trojans keep it going?
    • West – #8 BYU vs. #9 Texas A&M – Let’s do this again
  • Best potential games by region (second round):
    • East – #3 Villanova vs. #6 UCLA – if the Bruins survive, this would be a fun guard-oriented game.
    • South – #3 Syracuse vs. #6 Arizona St. -two teams coming on at the right time.
    • Midwest – #1 Louisville vs. #8 Ohio St. – in Dayton.
    • West – #2 Memphis vs. #10 Maryland – the Terps have proven they can beat top-level teams.
  • QnD Final Four (subject to change):
    • Pittsburgh (East) vs. Syracuse (South)
    • Memphis (West) vs. Kansas (Midwest)

Much more later as we get ourselves steady for the rest of the week…

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ATB: Mike Singletary Redefines “The Zone” Tonight

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2009

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Redefining The ZoneTexas Tech 88, Texas A&M 83.  Mike Singletary set a new career-high tonight in Texas Tech’s first round Big 12 Tournament game against Texas A&M… in the last ten minutes of the game.  That’s right, Singletary caught lightning in his shooting hand, as he exploded for 29 straight points (9-10 FG; 8-10 FT) in the last quarter of the game (previous career high: 25) as he brought his team back from a 21-pt second half deficit.  His performance was the second-longest such conflagration of consecutive points, ranking only behind (you know this one, right?) Bill Mlkvy from Temple fifty-eight years ago, who threw up an ungodly 54 in a row in a game against Wilkes.  Courtesy of ESPN FC, we got to see the second half of this one, and we’re glad we did.  Singletary didn’t look particularly quick or athletic or smooth – he just hit nearly everything he threw up at the rim.  Oh, and did we mention that he didn’t even start the game tonight – maybe Pat Knight should just play him in the final ten minutes of the game from now on.  Texas A&M, on the other hand, may have just watched its NCAA dreams die with their second-half gag (Mark Turgeon, double-team the guy torching your defense!!!) tonight.  Probably not, though – the Aggies’ RPI is still strong, and they did finish hot down the stretch.

Other Important Bubble Games.

  • Providence 83, Depaul 74.  PC allowed the Blue Demons to hang around in this one, and by virtue of playing the 0-18 team, they probably didn’t help their RPI or SOS any… but a win is a win, and with the win comes the opportunity to play #1 seed Louisville in the Big East quarters tomorrow.  The good news for the Friars is that Louisville is lifetime 1-3 in this tournament, but the bad news is that the only team that has beaten them all three times has been Pittsburgh.
  • Baylor 65, Nebraska 49.  NU probably didn’t have much of a case for an NCAA bid, but this loss solidifies their exclusion.   The more important question is whether Baylor can salvage their extremely disappointing season by going on a run to win the Big 12 title.  They will play #1 seed Kansas tomorrow, and although highly unlikely, KU is still a rather young team and could be vulnerable.
  • Oklahoma St. 81, Iowa St. 67.  OSU will get a chance to renew bedlam with Oklahoma tomorrow based on their handling of ISU tonight.  The Pokes were already in solid RPI position, but this win ensures their bid.  Now it’s a question of seeding, and with two hard-fought Ls to Oklahoma already, will the third time be the charm?
  • West Virginia 74, Notre Dame 62. ND meekly slithered into the night (NIT) with their loss to WVU today.  The Irish really needed a strong run into the late rounds of the Big East Tournament, and instead they couldn’t out-physical a team that thrives on that style of play today.  Alex Ruoff had 25 pts and Devin Ebanks had 7/18 in the winning effort; the Mountaineers will get Pittsburgh tomorrow in what is sure to be a slugfest.

14 Down, 51 To Go...

#13 – Robert Morris (24-10, 15-3 NEC). Dallas Green instantly became a NEC legend tonight as his shot from the baseline after scooping a loose ball off the floor was the game-winner that sent RMU to it’s sixth NCAA Tournament, but its first since 1992.  It was his only basket of the game, and even his coach said “oh no” when the ball scooted to his direction. Much-maligned Mezie Nwigwe scored three points in eighteen minutes of play.

RMU Begins Celebrating (Gene Puskar/AP)

RMU Begins Celebrating (Gene Puskar/AP)

Projected Seed: #14

Something to Remember: Although it didn’t show tonight (4-14), the Colonials are a strong three-point shooting team, averaging 39.1% throughout the season.  They hit nine against Miami (FL) in an 8-pt road loss.

#14 – Portland St. (23-9, 11-5 Big Sky).  PSU nearly let their second consecutive Big Sky title get away from them tonight, as they allowed upstart Montana St. to come back from ten pts down late to tie the game.  But it was Julius Thomas’ dunk with 3.5 seconds remaining that gave the Vikings the lead back and a strong defensive effort on the ensuing MSU possession ensured that Jeremiah Dominguez and company will make a return appearance in the Big Dance.

Projected Seed: #14

STR:  Beware.  This team is an experienced squad that lost by one point at Pac-10 champion Washington and beat Gonzaga by seven.  #1 Kansas ripped them last season, but they should have a higher seed this time around, and if they can catch a somewhat limited offensive opponent, they have a chance to pull the upset.

Other QnD Tourney Updates.

A10.  St. Louis, St. Joseph’s, Duquesne and Richmond all advanced to the quarterfinals tomorrow.  RTC Live is there with College Chalktalk live-blogging all of the action.  The best game of the day Thursday will likely be the streaking Richmond Spiders (6 of 7) taking on Dayton.

Big 12.  The only other game not covered so far was Texas’ win against Colorado.  There are some juicy matchups in Oklahoma City tomorrow, but we’re most looking forward to the third incarnation of Bedlam – OU vs. OSU in a true neutral venue.  OSU just might do this one.

Big East.  Marquette had an easy time with St. John’s and Syracuse got into a bunchastuff with Seton Hall before finally pulling away late.  We’re going to say it right here, right now.  Tomorrow’s quarterfinal round is the greatest collection of teams in a conference tournament’s quarterfinals round EVER.  There are four teams with realistic F4 chances and seven teams with legitimate S16 possibilities.  Providence is the only weak link, and they managed to beat a #1 team this season.  All of the games are worth watching (damn you, Dauster), but we’re most excited about the Marquette-Villanova game at 2:30 EDT so we can see how to parse these two teams.

Big West. Two minor upsets with UC Davis and UC Riverside today, but this league is completely wide open.  Don’t be surprised if an eight-seed wins this thing.

CUSA.  Over in the Retread Conference, Rice (Ben Braun), S. Miss (Larry Eustachy), Tulane and Houston (Tom Penders) all advanced today.  The best game tomorrow is the Houston-UTEP matchup.

MEAC.  No upsets in this league tonight, as all the higher seeds but one (who will play tomorrow) advanced to the semifinals.

Mountain West.  In the opening round game, Air Force knocked off Colorado St.  Tomorrow keep an eye on UNLV-San Diego St., a game with potential bubble implications depending on how deep the winner of this one goes.

Pac-10.  Stanford and Wazzu advanced to the quarterfinals tonight.  Several good games in the quarters tomorrow, but we’re most interested to see how UCLA responds after its loss a couple of weeks ago to Wazzu, who they’ll play again tomorrow night.

SWAC.  The top two seeds in the SWAC advanced tonight.  Two other quarterfinal games continue tomorrow.

Starting Tomorrow.

ACC.  The first round matchup of Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech holds the most interest, as both teams have been slumping down the stretch, but have enough talent to turn things around in short order.

Big 10.  The first round begins tomorrow, and clearly the best game here is the Northwestern-Minnesota game.  Neither team will get in from winning this one, but they will assuredly be out if they lose it.

MAC. The MAC continues with its quarters after a day off as well.  No idea which game to keep an eye on here.  None whatsoever.

SEC.  None of the first round games are very good, but if you must pick one, go with Kentucky’s attempt to win 4-in-4 to keep the NCAA streak alive, starting with Ole Miss.

Southland. The quarterfinals begin, and Stephen F. Austin is the favorite.

WAC. The WAC is picking back up after a day off in its quarterfinal round.  Remember that RTC Live will be there for the Utah St. vs. Fresno St. game, which should be the most interesting game of this round.

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Bracketology- Never Too Early Edition II

Posted by zhayes9 on December 28th, 2008

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist.   He’ll be regularly out-scooping, out-thinking and out-shining Lunardi over the next three months.

Rather than wallow in my own pity after my Patriots were knocked out of the playoffs, it’s my duty here at RTC to provide our readers with another Monday morning bracketology. While the week was somewhat quiet due to the holiday, there were some significant upsets (Portland State!) and big wins (Texas winning in Madison) to shake up the bracket from last week’s edition. Once again, I took a still-developing RPI with a grain of salt and factored in non-conference SOS, but mostly I’m just digging through each team’s schedule to find quality wins/bad losses and comparing them to the other teams in the field for seeding.

As always, I mixed in a few upsets in the bracket for fun.

Some quick notes about the bracket:

  • You might be thinking that Tennessee, Michigan State and UCLA are overseeded. While that may be true, I had to factor in each of those teams winning their respective conference tournaments before Selection Sunday, meaning they’d garner three significant wins and take the conference title.
  • The four 1-seeds remained the same from last week: North Carolina, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma (I added the individual regions to the bracket and seeded these four teams closest to home).
  • Texas received the final 2 seed with their road win over Wisconsin, slightly edging out Notre Dame.
  • Baylor edged Syracuse for the final 4 seed. Baylor has a nice win over Arizona State and hung with Wake Forest while Syracuse’s three big wins- Florida, Kansas, Memphis- are all overrated.
  • Biggest jump goes to Butler (10 to 7) while the biggest drop goes to Xavier (3 to 6). Butler won at Xavier on Monday.
  • Kansas also took a three seed drop from 8 to 11 after their second half collapse at Arizona. Much like Illinois over Missouri, that was a very important game for a Kansas team looking for a signature win.
  • Maryland continues to be boosted by their two wins over Michigan and Michigan State
  • Portland State moves from a 15 seed to 14 seed with their shocking win over Gonzaga, with the Zags dropping to the last 3 seed on the table

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Conference Winners: Vermont, Xavier, North Carolina, Belmont, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Portland State, VMI, Michigan State, Cal State Fullerton, VCU, Memphis, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Miami (OH), Hampton, Creighton, BYU, Quinnipiac, Austin Peay, UCLA, Navy, Tennessee, Davidson, Lamar, Alabama State, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State

Last Four In: California, Boston College, Kansas, Dayton

Last Four Out: Kentucky, Miami (FL), Cincinnati, Louisville

Departures: Murray State, Stetson

Arrivals: Austin Peay, Belmont

Bids per conference: Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 10 (7), Big 12 (6), Pac 10 (5), SEC (3), MVC (2), WCC (2), Atlantic 10 (2), MWC (2).

Not much change from last week in terms of the teams in the field. Next Sunday it could shake up a bit with all of these key bubble games:

Key Bubble Games for 12/29-1/5:

  • Cincinnati at Memphis, 12/29- This would be a stellar win for Cincinnati, who are currently in the last four out.
  • Seton Hall at Syracuse, 12/30- The Hall probably need wins over Syracuse and West Virginia to climb back into the picture.
  • George Mason at Dayton, 12/30- Big game for Dayton in the bubble picture. If Mason should win this game, I may replace Vermont with the Patriots.
  • Oklahoma at Arkansas, 12/30- Arkansas has a shiny record and zero good wins. This would qualify.
  • Northwestern at Penn State, 12/31- Reaching here a bit, but you never know this early.
  • UNLV at Louisville, 12/31- Louisville needs this game at home for a win over an NCAA team.
  • USC at Oregon, 1/2- If USC wants to start creeping back, winning at Oregon is a good start.
  • South Carolina at Baylor, 1/2- See Arkansas for South Carolina.
  • Arizona at California, 1/2- Huge bubble game for both teams.
  • Missouri at Georgia, 1/3- The Tigers cannot afford to slip up here.
  • Tennessee at Kansas, 1/3- Believe it or not, KU is on the bubble. A win over 2-seed Tennessee would go a long way towards securing a bid down the road.
  • NC State at Florida, 1/3- See Kansas for Florida. They’re lacking quality wins.
  • Charlotte at Maryland, 1/3- If Maryland slips up here, they could be out of the field.
  • West Virginia at Seton Hall, 1/3- Seton Hall needs this one at home.
  • Washington at Washington State, 1/3- Washington State dropped from consideration for this bracket. This is the first step in working their way back.
  • Creighton at Illinois State, 1/3- HUGE game in the Missouri Valley.
  • Cincinnati at Marquette, 1/4- Cincinnati with another chance for a big win here.
  • Kentucky at Louisville, 1/4- Biggest bubble game on the slate this week.
  • Virginia Tech at Duke, 1/4- Virginia Tech can creep back into consideration if they can spring a huge upset at Cameron.
  • Arizona State at California, 1/4- California is barely in. A win over Arizona State gives them more comfort.
  • Arizona at Stanford, 1/4- Another big bubble game for Arizona.
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ATB: Lumps of Coal for Xavier and Gonzaga

Posted by rtmsf on December 24th, 2008

afterbuzzer1Bad Santas. Portland St. 77, Gonzaga 70. Santa Claus made an early visit to the environs of Cincinnati, OH, and Spokane, WA, tonight, but instead of leaving toys and treats for the tots of Xavier and Gonzaga Universities, respectively, he left a couple of lumps of coal and another undisclosed brownish substance in their stockings.  AP #7 Gonzaga and AP # 14 Xavier, both coming off of devastating Saturday losses (in different ways), were unable to shake off their hangovers from losses to UConn and Duke and instead dropped home games tonight that sent shocks throughout mid-major America.   The more surprising upset of the two took place out west, where Gonzaga was thoroughly outplayed by the scrappier, guttier Portland St. Vikings.  PSU was led by 5’6 Jeremiah Dominguez, who hit seven threes for a sick line of 25/6/5 assts.  Yes, a guy shorter than you outrebounded all but Gonzaga’s 6’11 Austin Daye (9 boards) and 6’10 Josh Heytvelt (8) in this game.  Portland St., who has losses to Hampton and Cal Poly on its resume, never wavered in the face of the superior athleticism and size of Gonzaga.  GU, should have come out ready to eat glass in this one, but instead they allowed their heartbreaking loss to UConn over the weekend to mentally affect their play tonight.  Would that have happened to UNC?  Pitt?  Duke?  UCLA?  Gonzaga needs to get tougher mentally.  Butler 74, Xavier 65. Wasn’t Butler supposed to be rebuilding this year?  Amazingly, eight of Brad Stevens’ top nine Bulldogs are freshmen and sophomores, whereas XU starts two juniors and one senior.  So how is it that Butler was able to come into the Cintas Center and earn a victory in a location where Xavier had won its last fifteen games?  Standard Butler-issue hardnosed defense and poise.  Butler was able to keep Xavier under control from three (7-24) while also winning the battle of ball control (-7 turnovers) in a tough game that Xavier will regret losing come March.  Matt Howard (19/14) and Gordon Hayward (19/10) both provided double-doubles, but the key stat of the game may have been Xavier’s 12-22 from the line.  The 198th best FT-shooting team in America didn’t help their cause tonight, several times failing to convert both FT opportunities down the stretch.  If Gonzaga and Xavier want to be taken seriously as “high mids” vying for the Final Four, they cannot afford to lose home games like these.

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Checking in on the… Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on December 13th, 2008

Jordan Freemyer is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Big Sky Conferences.

The non-conference season is winding down in the Big Sky, and teams throughout the league have had a varying degree of success in their tune-ups for the all-important conference season. Four teams in the Big Sky still hold winning records.

Conference Standings:

  1. Portland State (7-1)
  2. Eastern Washington (6-2)
  3. Montana State (4-3)
  4. Montana (5-4)
  5. Weber State (3-4)
  6. Northern Colorado (2-4)
  7. Northern Arizona (2-5)
  8. Idaho State (2-7)
  9. Sacramento State (1-8)

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Checking in on the… Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2008

Jordan Freemyer is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Big Sky Conferences.

(ed. note: this post was originally scheduled for publication on Friday 11/28, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to delay publication until today.  Please accept our apologies.)

In the early going this season in the Big Sky, there are only four teams with less than three losses. Two of them are preseason favorites proving themselves and the others are teams picked near the bottom of the conference but have surprised.

Portland State was the preseason favorite in the Big Sky, and they are showing everyone why that is. The Vikings are 4-0 on the season, with wins over quality opponents including a 76-75 win over Cal State Fullerton.  Senior guard Jeremiah Dominguez is scoring 14 points per game, an average helped by a 24 point effort in PSU’s opener at Rice.

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11.13.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2008

This is long overdue…

  • Injury bug.  Va Tech forward JT Thompson will be out 4-6 weeks with a herniaTyler Hansbrough appears “extremely doubtful” for UNC’s opener against Penn on Saturday.  Ole Miss guard Trevor Gaskins tore his ACL and will miss the entire season.   
  • Nevada’s sticky-fingered trio of Brandon Fields, London Giles and Ahyaro Phillips will be held out of the season opener against Montana St. on Saturday.  Not sure why Fields is still suspended, his charges were dropped.
  • UCLA’s Nikola Dragovic got into a dispute with his girlfriend last week and was arrested for misdemeanor battery.  He did not dress during last night’s game against Priarie View A&M. 
  • Tennessee freshman PG Daniel West was ruled academically ineligible to play for the Vols this season, leaving juco transfer Bobby Maze and junior JP Prince as the only two legitimate ballhandlers to run Bruce Pearl’s attack this season.
  • Georgia Tech senior guard Lewis Clinch is also academically ineligible, but he can earn his spot back on the team after the semester ends.  He’ll miss a minimum of seven games though. 
  • Don’t expect any slicing or dicing of the current 16-team Big East arrangement on his watch, says newly voted Commish John Marinatto, who will begin next July 1.  He takes over for uber-successful commisioner Mike Tranghese.
  • More meaningless exhibitions.  Stephen Curry (41 pts on 15-19 FGs) appeared rusty in an 84-54 Davidson win over Lenoir-Rhyne.  The defending champs, led by Sherron Collins (22 pts) and Cole Aldrich (17/10), handily defeated Emporia St.   Wisconsin plowed through a slogfest to win 64-47 over UW-WhitewaterUConn’s Jerome Dyson and his 18 pts led the Huskies past UMass-Lowell 82-63.  Luke Harongody’s 21/10 helped Notre Dame to an easy win over Stonehenge Stonehill 79-47 last weekendPitt’s Sam Young filled the stat sheet with 18/7/4 blks in an 82-30 mauling of La Roche as well on Sunday.
  • Jeff Goodman gives his version of preseason bracketology, and he also went with the upset over UNC in the finals (Michigan St.).  We see ya with your #15 Belmont (over Tennessee) and #14 Portland St. (over Purdue). 
  • RTC correspondent Baker (he covers the A-Sun and the SoCon) has launched his new site, Mid Major Review, which got off with a bang this week with his podcast interview of Belmont head coach, Rick Byrd, and we expect will provide great substance and analysis of the mid-major world throughout the season.  Welcome to the blogosphere, MMR.   
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2008-09 Season Primers: #24 – Big Sky

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2008

Jordan Freemeyer is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Big Sky conferences.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Portland State  (20-9, 13-3)
  2. Northern Colorado  (21-10, 11-5)
  3. Idaho State  (15-14, 10-6)
  4. Montana  (18-11, 10-6)
  5. Weber State  (13-16, 8-8)
  6. Northern Arizona  (12-15, 7-9)
  7. Montana State  (11-17, 6-10)
  8. Eastern Washington  (10-19, 5-11)
  9. Sacramento State  (6-23, 2-14)

What You Need to Know (WYN2K).  The Big Sky is a nine-team conference stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the southern Rocky Mountains. The Big Sky has historically been an eight-team conference, but added Northern Colorado as its ninth member in 2006. Unlike most conferences that feature a balanced eight or twelve team tournament, only the top six Big Sky teams get the chance to go dancing. The conference is generally a power in FCS (formerly I-AA) football, but does not have a rich men’s basketball tradition. However, Weber State in particular has been noted for big upsets in the NCAA Tournament. In 1995, a #14 seed Weber State team beat #3 seed Michigan State 79-72, and in 1999 the Wildcats repeated the feat, taking down another #3 seed, North Carolina, 76-74. More recently, Montana made a run to the second round in 2006 with a wins over #5 Nevada.

Predicted Champion.  Portland State (#14 NCAA). This is a relatively safe pick, as the Vikings won both the regular season and tournament championships last season. Portland State returns three starters, including 2007-08 Big Sky Newcomer of the Year and Player of the Year Jeremiah Dominguez (pictured below). The 5’6” Dominguez scored 14.4 points per game last season, while averaging 4 assists per game and leading the conference with 1.9 steals per game. Also returning for the Vikings is junior Kyle Coston. The 6’8” forward averaged 7.4 points per game last season and made over 40 percent of his three-point attempts. PSU lost leading rebounders Scott Morrison and Deonte Huff, but return enough firepower offensively to make them the favorites in the Big Sky.

 

Others Considered.  Behind the Vikings is a pack of about four teams that can challenge them. Northern Colorado is my pick to finish second in the league. The Bears return nine letterwinners from last season, the most in the conference, and are led by all-conference center Jabril Banks. Banks led UNC last season with 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Idaho State should also contend for the conference title; the Bengals are led by guards Matt Stucki and Amorrow Morgan, who combined to average just under 22 points per game last season. Perrenial favorites Montana and Weber State should also be in the mix, led by forward Jordan Hasquet and guard Kellen McCoy, respectively.

Important Conference games.

  • Northern Arizona @ Montana State (1/10/09) – This game could go a long way toward determining the final berth in the Big Sky Tournament.
  • Portland State @ Northern Colorado (1/19/09) – This is just Northern Colorado’s third year in the conference, but Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion is already proving to be one of the toughest places to play. The Bears were 9-4 there last season.
  • Idaho State @ Weber State (1/31/09) – Dee Events Center should be rocking for this matchup between rivals that will have a big impact on what the top of the conference standings look like.
  • Montana at Montana State (2/7/09) – It’s Montana against Montana State, when is it ever not important?
  • Big Sky Championship Game (3/11/09)

RPI Boosters.

  • Northern Colorado @ Colorado State (11/18/08) – This is perhaps the biggest college basketball rivalry in the state of Colorado. The Bears beat the Rams, 72-59, last year.
  • North Dakota State @ Northern Arizona (11/25/07) – This is the first of two meetings between the two teams this season, and catches the Bison in the midst of a very tough three-game road trip.
  • BYU @ Weber State (12/3/08) – This is yet another chance for the Big Sky to prove itself against an in-state rival. You can bet the biggest venue in the Big Sky will be nearly full for this one.
  • Portland State @ Washington (12/14/08) – This game presents a good chance for the Vikings to make a statement against a quality Pac-10 opponent.
  • Idaho @ Idaho State (12/29/08) – The Bengals host their former conference-mate and in-state rival at Holt Arena with a chance to prove basketball supremacy in the state of Idaho.

Neat-O Stat.  Sacramento State hired a new head coach for the 2008-09 season, Brian Katz. This is Katz’s first NCAA head coaching job, but he is not the only coach in the league that is in a relatively new place. Only one coach in the Big Sky, Northern Arizona’s Mike Adras, has been at his school for more than four years. Portland State’s Ken Bone is entering his fourth season with the Vikings, and is the second-longest tenured coach in the conference. Idaho State’s Joe O’Brien, Montana’s Wayne Tinkle, Montana State’s Brian Huse, Northern Colorado’s Tad Boyle and Weber State’s Randy Rahe are all in their third season with their respective teams. Last year, Eastern Washington brought coach Kirk Earlywine into the mix.

65 Team Era.   The Big Sky is only 3-24 (.111) over the era, but as stated above, it has some quality upsets on its resume, with #14 Weber St. in both 1995 and 1999, and #12 Montana breaking into the second round in 2006.  Its champion typically receives a #14 or #15 seed in the NCAAs, but generally avoids the dreaded #16.  Here’s an amusing YouTube clip of some of Portland State’s practice and media session before playing #1 Kansas in last year’s first round below. 

Final Thoughts.  The Big Sky should be a very interesting conference to watch this season. There are about five or six teams that could win the regular season title, and the conference tournament should amount to a crap shoot. Whoever wins the league, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see them upset a big conference team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

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