Which Villanova — Elite Defensive Juggernaut or Solid Top 10 Team?

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on November 30th, 2015

Rankings come in two varieties, those based on statistical metrics (e.g., the RPI, KenPom, Sagarin and Massey ratings systems) and those based on individual votes (e.g., the RTC, AP and USA Today/Coaches polls). Changes in specific rankings tend to follow certain patterns — the “numbers” rankings do not tend to change all that much with a single win or loss; the human polls tend to change weekly as a reflection of the voters’ reactions to the latest batch of wins and losses. This season’s plethora of upsets has already introduced an element of chaos to the rankings and each type of system has responded in ways that break with their historic patterns for dealing with upsets and overlooked teams.

Jay Wright and Villanova have been on point. (Getty)

Jay Wright and Villanova have been on point. (Getty)

The metrics-based systems have shuffled their top 10 to 25 teams radically, while the polling systems have resisted a common tendency to drop teams that lose below those that remain undefeated. Villanova’s treatment by each system can be viewed as this season’s Exhibit A. Both systems were consistent in the preseason on where Jay Wright’s Wildcats belonged. KenPom (which ranked his team around #11) as well as the AP and the USA Today/Coaches polls (#11 and #9, respectively) agreed that Villanova was very good but not among the elite handful of teams that the Selection Committee rewarded with top-two seeds during the last two NCAA Tournaments. Through the first two weeks of the season, however, the two ratings systems have diverged greatly on this squad. As of today, the trio of KenPom (#2), Sagarin (#1) and Massey (#4) all agree that Villanova is the working equivalent of a #1 seed, but the humans voting in the polls largely remain skeptical. The AP has moved Villanova up only three spots from preseason #11 to #8, while the USA Today/Coaches have kept the Wildcats in limbo at #9. Only RTC, which moved Villanova up five spots to #5 in its latest poll, seems to feel a promotion has been earned. Read the rest of this entry »

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Arizona Proved It’s a National Title Contender and Isn’t Shy About It

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on November 30th, 2013

Brian Otskey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Friday night’s NIT Season Tip-Off championship game at Madison Square Garden where Arizona toppled Duke.

After most early-season games, especially in November, head coaches and players are very hesitant to make bold statements in public about what heights their team can reach by the end of the season. You’ll usually hear statements like, “we’re a work in progress; I like some things about our team; I’m proud of our guys; etc.” After his team’s impressive 72-66 win over Duke at Madison Square Garden last night, Arizona head coach Sean Miller was anything but conservative when discussing the potential of his 7-0 Wildcats. “I think we can be special, no question,” Miller said. “We have to be an elite defensive team. We have to be able to get stops. We have to be able to use our size rebounding.”

Arizona Came East and Proved Its Worth on Friday Night

Arizona Came East and Proved Its Worth on Friday Night

Special may be an understatement. It’s ironic because what Miller said they need to do to be special is exactly what the Wildcats did last night. Arizona took control of the game in the second half after trailing by three points at the break. Using its significant height advantage and defensive pressure, the Wildcats held the Blue Devils to 17 points over the first 17+ minutes of the second half to put the game away. It was a fantastic defensive performance against a team that entered the game averaging 90 PPG in seven games played. Freshman phenom Jabari Parker scored 19 points for Duke but Arizona limited him to the tune of a 7-of-21 shooting night, including an 0-of-5 mark from beyond the arc. Miller had his freshman star Aaron Gordon as well as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson take turns guarding Parker and it worked, keeping the 6’8” freshman out of sync all game long. “When you think about our team being versatile, two players really stand out, Rondae and Aaron, our two freshmen, because they are so interchangeable. But we can get better,” said Miller.

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ATB: Calipari On Duke’s Flopping, Harvard Heartbreaker, Appling Revival, and Poythress’ Putbacks…

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Hoops Marathon Ends With Basketball Royalty in Atlanta. The fifth iteration of ESPN’s College Hoops Marathon went from Spokane to Albuquerque to Honolulu to New Jersey to Indiana to Amherst to Ohio to NYC to Cincinnati to Atlanta, with 16 games of varying quality and competitiveness, but it finished at the Champions Classic with two hard-fought and generally well-played games befitting the assembled hoops royalty of Izzo, Krzyzewski, Calipari and Self. Last season’s inaugural event in Madison Square Garden featured Krzyzewski’s 903d all-time victory and the coming-out party of Calipari’s talented band of super-freshmen. This year’s set of games in Atlanta featured a Michigan State team finding itself after a surprising loss to a scrappy Connecticut team last week in Germany, while Duke was looking to shore up its perimeter defense to reclaim its usual spot among the nation’s elite as a national title contender. Tonight’s losing teams, Kentucky and Kansas, came away from the experience not feeling terrible, realizing that November games — while important to their resumes — are more a time for reflection and focused learning than worrying about finished products. Let’s jump into the day’s games…

Your Watercooler Moment. Calipari Calls Out Duke’s Flopping. 

What else could it be? In one of the better preaching to the choir moments in recent college basketball history, John Calipari told ESPN’s Andy Katz at halftime of the Champions Classic nightcap in a half-joking/half-serious manner that Duke’s players were “flopping all over the place.” The Twitter-verse immediately seized the moment because if there’s anything that gets Duke haters riled up, it’s the tendency for Coach K’s defenders to find their backs on the floor with the ball headed the other way. For what it’s worth, Calipari said after the game that he was just joking. Nevertheless… the head coach may have made some new friends tonight.

This Other ThingBoth Kentucky and Duke Impressed. Duke walked out of Atlanta as the clear winner of the event, knocking off the #2 Wildcats and showing that some of the defensive deficiencies that caused so many problems for the Blue Devils last season may be solved. Seth Curry (23 pts) was outstanding in his twin roles as leader and scorer, and his game-finishing drive to fake Nerlens Noel off his feet and drop in a right-handed layup was a thing of beauty. Mason Plumlee, when not in foul trouble, showed that he is an elite big man (18/3 on 7-8 FG) and the rest of the Duke cast was at least serviceable on this night. Coach K was not going to let the Kentucky perimeter beat his team, and a 9-25 shooting night from Kyle Wiltjer, Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays ensured that Duke wouldn’t have to get into an 80- or 90-point game to win this one. As for the Wildcats, we anticipated that John Calipari would get a much better effort on the glass, and he did (27 each) while also allowing his talented big men, Alex Poythress and Noel, to pick their spots and follow the fluidity of the game. The duo combined for 36 points and 16 rebounds, and the mere sight of those two flying around the airspace above the rim should send shudders throughout the rest of college basketball wondering how good they’ll be when they figure out the plays. Brian Joyce was at the game and provided his takeaways here from watching it courtside, but from the perspective of talent (Kentucky) and cohesion (Duke), it wouldn’t surprise us to see both of these squads matching up again in that very building next April.

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RTC Live: Preseason NIT Consolation Game & Finals

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2011

The Preseason NIT finishes up its sixteen-team field at Madison Square Garden in NYC tonight, with the consolation game followed by the championship. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds out at the stores today, join us for some holiday hoops with Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State in the first game, followed by Syracuse vs. Stanford this evening. Join us for the conversation, after the jump.

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RTC Live: Albany @ Syracuse

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2011

RTC Live is back with a few more games this evening. Syracuse romped all over Manhattan College last night in the first round of the Preseason NIT, so they’ll face another Empire State team in the Dome this evening against Albany — join the fun from the Dome, after the jump.

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RTC Live: Preseason NIT Finals

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2010

Games #37-#38.  Back at MSG for the Preseason NIT consolation game and finals.

VCU really needs this win against UCLA. The Rams don’t have much else on their schedule that can be considered a quality victory outside of conference play. They do get Richmond, but will the Spiders be good enough to be a marquee win for this team? It will be interesting to see if Joey Rodriguez, who reinjured his ankled on Wednesday, will be available. He could really have a day against a backcourt that is not as athletic as Tennessee’s. For the Bruins, this is a chance to avoid embarrassment. This program has fallen a long way from the one that made three straight Final Fours. Beating VCU would be a good win, which is not a good sign for the Bruin program.
Villanova and Tennessee, which tips of at the awkward time of 5 pm, is the marquee matchup. The Wildcats actually match up well with the Vols. They have a backcourt that is just as athletic as Tennessee’s (although the Vols are a bit bigger), they can play with size on the perimeter, and they have a couple of big bodies in the paint. As I see it, the key to the game will be in the paint. Which frontcourt will assert themselves? Who wins an intriguing matchup between Brian Williams and Mouph Yarou? I am also interested to see who rises to the occasion. Will Corey Fisher find his shooting touch? Will Scotty Hopson attack the basket or settle for jumpers? This will be a fun one to watch.
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Preseason NIT: Weakened Field But Still Special

Posted by rtmsf on August 17th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago we broke down what will arguably be the top holiday tournament of the 2010-11 season, the Maui Invitational.  The other Big Daddy of pre-conference tourneys, the Preseason NIT, released its brackets today, and at first blush, the field is not all that exciting this year.  Take a look at the below bracket and tell us where you get a little tingly thinking about the downstream matchup possibilities?

The only legitimate national contender in the field is Villanova, with 105-point scorer Corey Fisher returning along with a whole cadre of talented inside players including Mouph Yarou, Antonio Pena and Isaiah Armwood.  If the expectation is that productive freshmen become superb sophomores, then the Wildcats are a team with as much upside as anyone else in America next year.  The dropoff in talent from VU to the next best squad, Tennessee, is significant, but the real precipice occurs after that point.  The Vols lost Wayne Chism, JP Prince and Bobby Maze from their Elite Eight team, but they bring back star-in-waiting Scotty Hopson and add Tobias Harris to a solid cast of role players, so UT has a chance to be very good again.  We’d expect these two teams to sleepwalk their way to the finals on Black Friday in Madison Square Garden.

The third and fourth seeds and regional hosts Wake Forest and UCLA are two of the weaker teams we’ve seen in this position in some time.  Neither is a likely NCAA Tournament team next season, and it says here that both schools will have trouble getting out of their PNIT region despite the fact that it will be played on their home courts.  Wake returns two promising sophomores in CJ Harris and Ari Stewart, but the loss of all-ACC players Al-Farouq Aminu and Ish Smith, not to mention head coach Dino Gaudio (replaced by Jeff Bzdelik), will be too much for the duo to bear so early in the season — expect the Deacs to crumble against a strong VCU team with something to prove.  UCLA returns more than Wake Forest, but if you’ve somehow been in a fugue state for the past twelve months, the Bruin program has fallen on hard times due to poor recruiting, team chemistry and injury problems.  The talented but enigmatic Malcolm Lee returns along with several other young players (Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson, Jerime Anderson), but the addition of five-star stud Josh Smith to the mix isn’t going to suddenly remind UCLA how to win games.  A second-round matchup against Pacific, with its top four players returning, or Nevada, always looking for a Pac-10 scalp as a member of the overlooked WAC, will be difficult for UCLA, even in Pauley Pavilion.

The one thing we will continue to give the PNIT folks credit for, though, is that they actually still understand the meaning of the word “Tournament.”  Yeah, yeah, we know that other entities get around it by using words like “Classic,” but a bracket is a bracket and it really only makes sense when a team advances into the later rounds by, you know, winning.  There are no guarantees — Villanova, Tennessee, Wake Forest and UCLA will actually have to beat two visiting teams to earn the privilege of a trip to New York City during Thanksgiving week to play in the World’s Most Famous Arena.  So from that perspective, we’ll still enjoy watching the Preseason NIT this November if for no other reason than they get it right.

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Checking In On… The Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on December 2nd, 2009


Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Despite the holiday, loyal readers of RTC may have noticed something missing last week.

Where was Checking in on the Big East?  Without BIAH waxing poetic about the happenings within the nation’s biggest conference, how were you able function?

For that, I must apologize.  But, you see, it wasn’t all my fault.  For starters, the editors at RTC are ruthless.  Not only did they have me traveling up and down the eastern seaboard during the busiest travel weekend of the year, they forced me to cover the semifinals and finals of the Preseason NIT for RTC Live.

Brutal, those guys.  I guess that’s why they pay me the big bucks.

Anyway, I probably could have found the time to put together a recap for you, but apparently grandmas don’t realize that having dial-up isn’t the same as having the internet.  Old folks, you gotta love ’em.  She made me a mean Thanksgiving leftover sandwich as a peace offering.  She’s not all bad, that one.  I forgave her, just like I hope you all will forgive me.

Back to the point, since we have a lot to go over, and seeing as the first few weeks of the college hoops season are a bit hectic, the structure of this post is going to be a bit different than future posts.  But never fear, as your trusty Big East expert is here to guide you through it.  So tuck the children in, strap on your seat belts, and, well, you tell them, B.B…

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Floriani: A Tempo-Free Look at the PNIT

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.  He also regularly covers all levels of basketball in the New York City area.

NEW YORK CITY – The morning started on a Northeast Conference note. I officiated three basketball games in the NJ Goats (love that name!) Thanksgiving Tournament. My partner was Ed Mills, a NEC official who occasionally will do a 12-and-under boys tournament such as this. Our third and final game had a former NEC official, Tony Banks, who stepped down a few years ago due to illness.  Three nice games in the book and off to New York. Forget Black Friday shopping.

A final look back on the Pre-Season NIT finals and consolation. Duke knocked off UConn 68-59 for the championship.

pnit table 3

Think of Duke and the images of motion offense, passes quickly distributed around the perimeter, precision cuts and open shots come to mind. Friday’s Pre-Season NIT final gave us a look at this year’s Duke, a team that will battle you in the paint and contest everything. The offensive rebounding rate is proof enough. Overall the Blue Devils outrebounded UConn 56-43 with a 25-14 edge on the offensive glass. And this was against a Husky team with several skilled, tough big men.  The principal damage on the offensive glass was inflicted by Brian Zoubek (7 off boards) and Lance Thomas (5 off rebs). Zoubek scored only 2 points but impacted things contesting the paint and adding 11 rebounds overall. Coach Mike Krzyzewski noted two of Zoubek’s offensive rebounds resulted in pitches back out to the perimeter that resulted in three point field goals.

UConn shot 0-4 on the afternoon from three. Not a big concern for Coach Jim Calhoun as the gameplan was to attack the basket. Offensively two things stood out for the Huskies: the field goal percentage of 37% (22-59) and worse yet, a 15-28 mark from the charity stripe. Time and again as UConn was in the process of a run a missed free throw or two put a serious dent in their momentum. Two key points were emphasized by Calhoun. “I can’t remember holding an opponent to 28% field goal percentage (for the game) and limiting them to eight second-half field goals and losing.” Calhoun answered his own question looking at the stat sheet and lamenting the loss of the battle of the boards.

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Checking In On… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009


Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

One team continued its dominant start with big wins at the World’s Most Famous Arena. The other struggled to live up to expectations, and did so at a tiny gym in paradise.

That lame attempt at suspense is explained below:

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Monday, Nov. 30)

1. Duke (6-0)

PAST: With solid wins over Arizona State and UConn at the Preseason NIT, the Devils stayed hot to start their season. The UConn game wasn’t exactly pretty, but the defense and rebounding displayed by the Dookies are a good sign going into the meat of the schedule..

FUTURE: The Devils take their first actual road trip on Wednesday when they face Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Outside of that, their next real test doesn’t really come until a return to MSG on Dec. 19 to face Gonzaga.

2. North Carolina (6-1)

PAST: The Heels continue to be ho-hum in their wins, including Roy Williams’ 600th Sunday night against Nevada…

FUTURE: …but they don’t have room to be ho-hum anymore. UNC hosts Michigan State Tuesday night in the season’s first big game (more below), and then heads to Lexington to face Kentucky on Saturday.

3. Georgia Tech (4-1)

PAST: The Jackets handled Mercer in their only game this week.

FUTURE: Siena comes calling Wednesday in an interesting matchup. It should be one Tech can handle pretty easily, as should Saturday’s date with USC.

4. Clemson (6-1)

PAST: The Tigers lost to Texas A&M, but balanced that with a solid win over Butler in the 76 Classic. Senior David Potter is the only Tiger near the top of any ACC stat list, shooting 60% from beyond the arc.

FUTURE: Two interesting home games this week for the Tigers, as they host Illinois Wednesday and in-state rival South Carolina on Saturday.

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