Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

The big thing from the past week:

Hummel-less Purdue headed for free fall? Robbie Hummel tore his ACL against Minnesota last week, and now he is out for the season. Purdue hasn’t been the same since. Hummel was the second leading scorer and the leader of the Boilermakers, a void that has yet to be filled. Purdue survived against Minnesota, but couldn’t repeat the same result against Michigan State. How will Purdue respond in the postseason to his injury?

Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #6 Ohio State, #7 Purdue, #11 Michigan State, and #15 Wisconsin.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State 24-7, 14-4
  2. Purdue 24-4, 12-4
  3. Michigan State 22-7, 12-4
  4. Wisconsin 21-7, 11-5
  5. Illinois 18-12, 10-7
  6. Northwestern 18-11, 7-10
  7. Minnesota 17-12, 8-9
  8. Michigan 14-15, 7-10
  9. Iowa 10-19, 4-12
  10. Penn State 11-17, 3-13
  11. Indiana 9-19, 3-13

Coming Up

  • Indiana @ Purdue – March 3rd – 6:30 ET – Nobody expected their last matchup to be a 3-point thriller, but this is a cross-state rivalry that has endured no matter how each team is doing. Indiana has never really recovered from that last loss to Purdue, but maybe this is the game they need to salvage their season. Purdue is reeling from the loss of Robbie Hummel and this is the type of game they need to win to figure out just how good they will be come tournament time.
  • Michigan @ Michigan State – March 7th – 4:00 ET – Don’t underestimate this intrastate rivalry, even though Michigan State has dominated the series in recent years. Their first meeting was a one-point thriller won by Michigan State; this one is the end of the regular season for both teams, so this is their last chance to prove themselves before the Big Ten Tournament.
  • Wisconsin @ Illinois – March 7th – 12:00 ET – Their last matchup was a big Illinois upset over Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, but this one could be much different. Illinois has struggled of late, losing to Minnesota in addition to OSU and Purdue. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has been playing extremely well, especially with Jon Leuer starting to get his groove back. Illinois has played well at home this year, so that could be the advantage they need to win this one.

Breaking It Down

  • Ohio State downs Michigan State and Illinois, good enough to share. Ohio State has done everything they could lately by winning their last four in the Big Ten, including a big win at Michigan State. They got a little help of their own this past week when the Spartans took down the Boilers, leading to a possible three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten. Evan Turner joined forces with William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale to take down Michigan. Turner was his usual self, taking over at times, but also making the rest of the team better. Most impressive has been the play of Lauderdale, dunking his way to 14 points against the Wolverines. Jon Diebler hasn’t been too shabby either, pouring in 21 points all from long range against Illinois.
  • Purdue should get a share of the Big Ten, but what happens next? Purdue had just gotten its highest ranking of the year at #3 in the country when Robbie Hummel went down, so it is even more unfortunate that the top two teams (Kansas and Kentucky) lost this past weekend before Purdue did. Now they have been leapfrogged by Syracuse and others on the way to dropping to #7, right behind OSU. In watching the Michigan State game I was curious as to who would step up for Purdue, and I think I got my answer: Chris Kramer. Kramer poured in 11 points, 5 points above his average. The downside for Purdue though is that E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson both had off games. That led to their lowest point production of the year, but more importantly, I think it left Purdue wondering what their potential is now without Hummel. They have Indiana and Penn State, two teams that might not test Purdue, but once the Big Ten Tournament begins, a new Purdue must emerge or they will be exiting the Big Dance early.
  • Is Michigan State ready for the dance? Their last game was bittersweet for the Spartans. They beat Purdue at Mackey Arena, giving them a chance for a three-way tie in the Big Ten, but the way in which they won is a problem. It was rather fortunate that MSU could win a game in which they barely shot 40% from the field, 22% from long range, and committed 22 turnovers. It was partly their defense that held Purdue to 30% from the field, but it was also Purdue’s offense sans Hummel that was to blame. Raymar Morgan had a monster 16/11 game and Draymond Green’s 12/11 game wasn’t bad either. The problem for the Spartans had to do with Kalin Lucas and the rest of the team. Lucas was responsible for eight turnovers to go with his eight points, so he will need to cut down on that before the Spartans head into the postseason. MSU should handle Penn State and Michigan, but consistency is an issue with this team.
  • Wisconsin blowing away the bottom. Since their unexpected loss to Minnesota on the road, Wisconsin has been getting it done against teams they should be beating. It’s a little hard to say if they are back to their pre-Jon Leuer broken wrist shape or not, but all signs are pointing to yes. Jon Leuer himself is getting more comfortable and is close to putting up the same type of numbers as he was before the injury. Just tracking his games shows that he is getting close in terms of points: four against Minnesota, 11 against Northwestern, and 13 against Indiana. More impressively and demonstrating his impact on defense is his progression of blocks: one against Minnesota, three against Northwestern, and four against Indiana. Trevon Hughes hasn’t been a slouch either, taking over against Indiana while going 3-4 from long range. They have Iowa and then Illinois to close out the regular season before the Big Ten Tournament.
  • Can Illinois stop the slide and go to the dance? Illinois has now lost four out of their last five games, including two against OSU and Purdue. Those games were somewhat expected, but the real killer was the Minnesota game. They should have been beaten Minnesota, especially at home, but that was a game that really hurt their postseason chances and added a layer of pressure that they really didn’t need going into their last regular season game against Wisconsin. Demetri McCamey really struggled against Minnesota, but at least he showed the type of offensive aggressiveness that they need from him. I think he could lay off a couple of threes and take it to the basket a little more. He actually played very well against OSU, putting up the type of numbers they need from him. Unfortunately they couldn’t stop Evan Turner and that was the reason why they lost. They will need to bring everything to beat a team in Wisconsin that is starting to heat up.
  • Oh where, oh where, has Northwestern gone? Northwestern took care of business against Iowa behind a 29-point effort from John Shurna. The Iowa game was payback for an earlier loss that took away their tournament hopes. That was the high note for the past week, as they took a shellacking from Penn State and Talor Battle next. The question of that game was, John Shurna, where did you go? Shurna struggled from the field on his way to nine points, and fortunately for the Wildcats, Michael Thompson really picked it up on his way to 21 points and was the only player to score in double figures. That’s the type of consistency that has plagued Northwestern during their losses. Next up is Chicago State before closing out their regular season on the road against Indiana. They will be going somewhere in the postseason — it just won’t be the Big Dance.
  • The peaks and valleys of Minnesota’s season. Minnesota was making a strong push to finish out the season and maybe trying to surprise some teams in the Big Ten Tournament, but then the wheels just fell off against Michigan. Minnesota has proved they can play with the big dogs in Purdue and Wisconsin, but then they have also lost to the likes of Indiana and now Michigan twice, the second being a blowout. Devoe Joseph and Lawrence Westbrook led the Gophers against Illinois, but it was all Damian Johnson and Colton Iverson in their loss to Michigan. You just never know what you are going to get from this team, as they continue to prove. I am sure Tubby Smith is looking to next year so he can get some sleep at night.
  • Michigan snaps its third three game losing streak of the season. Michigan has struggled of late, not being able to get more than two guys on the scoreboard. That all changed during their blowout of Minnesota at home, putting up 83 points, their biggest total of the Big Ten season. It happened that Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims both lit it up on the same night, while getting help from Stu Douglass as well. The key to the win, though, was that Harris drove to the basket much more than normal, beating his man for easy layups. That high percentage and not relying on the long range shots led Michigan to a scorching 60.4% from the field. That’s what they should have been doing all year. They could be dangerous come Big Ten Tournament time. They close out at Michigan State before then.
  • Iowa sweeps Indiana. Iowa was supposed to be the team that Indiana should beat, but the Hawkeyes didn’t agree. They swept the Hoosiers and passed them in the standings, ensuring a good possibility of avoiding the bottom of the Big Ten to end the year. Matt Gatens was sensational for Iowa, dropping 25 points on the Hoosiers. They also got their usual performance from Aaron Fuller inside, and that’s all it took to take down Indiana. It will be a rough journey ahead for the Hawkeyes as they finish their season on the road against Wisconsin and Minnesota, as both teams that play very well at home.
  • The Lions bury the Cats. All I have to say here is, who knew? Penn State couldn’t win a game in the Big Ten all year, and now they have won three of four. They have distributed the scoring load which has really helped them not have to rely entirely on scoring from Talor Battle. They have two tough teams coming up in Michigan State and Purdue, but they could upset one of them, as their last matchup against MSU was close. They play a different Purdue team this time at home though, so maybe they could be a spoiler.
  • Indiana’s loses the fight along with their confidence. Count them, ten straight losses for Indiana, and the formula has been pretty clear lately. Indiana sticks around in the first half, or at least for the first 10 minutes, and then lets the other teams pull away, never to be seen again. Indiana is throwing the ball away close to 20 times a game, including a lot of unforced turnovers. The most exciting moment for Indiana in the past week is the first ejection of their coach, Tom Crean. The crowd loved it and was chanting Crean’s name. Too bad for the Hoosiers, Crean isn’t able to suit up, as it is now evident that he has a lot more passion than the young Hoosiers, who have packed it in since their game at home against Purdue. There is some hope that Indiana could come alive against Purdue, but most fans have given up on this team for the year.
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Set Your Tivo 02.21.10

Posted by THager on February 21st, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#12 Ohio State @ #11 Michigan State – 12 pm on CBS (****)

Kalin Lucas Leads the Spartans Against OSU

The Buckeyes blew a golden opportunity to advance in the Big Ten standings when they lost at home to Purdue last week, but they have another great chance this afternoon against possibly the best team in the conference.  They are still only one game behind the Spartans in the standings, and if they can beat Michigan State on the road, they are once again in the running to win the Big Ten title.  In addition to potentially deciding the conference champion, Big Ten player of the year honors may also be on the line, as Evan Turner will try to wrest the POY award away from Kalin Lucas.  Both players have suffered injuries this year, but appear to now be at 100% for this game.  With Turner in the lineup, the Buckeyes are a completely different team with his ability to create shots for himself and find open players.  They rank #13 in offensive efficiency, and are third in the country in two-point field goal percentage, so the Spartans may have a tough time defending them (MSU is #41 in defensive efficiency).  These teams play different styles, as OSU uses a guard-heavy lineup and three of MSU’s top scorers are forwards, so I expect the Spartans to exploit the Buckeyes in the paint.  Among Ohio State’s top four scorers, no player is taller than Turner at 6’7, so Raymar Morgan and Draymond Green may try to carry their team at home.  Michigan State is 13-1 at home this year, and shoots over 53% from inside the arc, so look for the bigger team to take one step closer to a Big Ten title.

#3 Villanova @ #19 Pittsburgh – 12 pm on CBS (****)

If somebody told you two weeks ago that entering the Villanova vs. Pitt game, one of these teams would be coming off a loss and the other was in the midst of a four-game winning streak, that wouldn’t surprise too many people.  What does surprise fans is that the losing team is Villanova, while the Panthers seem to be firing on all cylinders.  Pitt had lost four of their five games from January 20 to February 3, but now has wins over three quality teams since that slump, with victories over Seton Hall, West Virginia and Marquette.  These teams have not met since their classic last year in the NCAA Tournament, when Scottie Reynolds sent the Wildcats to the Final Four with a last second shot.  Reynolds has carried his great play into this season, and shoots 49% from the field, an impressive percentage for a smallish guard.  Pitt’s Ashton Gibbs, on the other hand, had no points in their last game against Marquette, and will have to be a contributor for the Panthers to have a chance in this game.   This contest may come down to Villanova’s unbalanced play, as they rank fifth in offensive efficiency but are #68 in Pomeroy’s defensive rankings.  Their points per game is also deceiving, as they only rank 45th in field goal percentage, so look for the Panthers to at least give Villanova a run for their money at home.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles… (With a Wednesday Twist)

Posted by zhayes9 on February 3rd, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every week as the season progresses.

This week’s Scribbles column will look ahead to a couple months down the road in Indianapolis, where 65 deserving teams will be whittled down to just four, and to that blissful Monday night in April when one lucky group will be dancing at mid-court to the tune of One Shining Moment. In my estimation, there are ten squads with a promising-to-slight chance of hoisting a 2010 National Champions banner during their home opener next season. I’m here to tell you those ten teams, why they have hopes of winning a national title, what’s holding them back, and the most realistic scenario as I see it come late March or beginning of April. These teams are ranked in reverse order from 10-1 with the #1 school holding the best cards in their deck.

10. Duke

Why they can win it all: Their floor leader and senior stalwart Jon Scheyer is the steadiest distributor in all of college basketball, evident from his incredibly stellar 3.28 A/T ratio and a 5.6 APG mark that ranks third in the ACC and 23d in the nation. Scheyer is also a deadly shooter coming off screens when he has time to square his body to the basket, nailing a career-high 39% from deep to go along with 44% from the floor overall. Duke is also a tremendous free-throw shooting team as a whole and Coach K has the ability to play a group of Scheyer-Kyle Singler-Nolan Smith-Mason Plumlee-Lance Thomas that doesn’t feature one player under 70% from the charity stripe. Duke also features a ton more size in the paint than during previous flameouts in the NCAA Tournament. When Singler plays small forward, Coach K can rotate Miles and Mason Plumlee, the glue guy Thomas, rebounding force Brian Zoubek and even Ryan Kelly at two positions with no player under 6’8. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more efficient backcourt in the nation than Scheyer and Smith. And it’s widely known that exceptional guard play is the ultimate key to winning in March.

What Makes Duke 2010 Different than Duke 2006-09?

Why they won’t win it all: Depth could certainly be an issue for the Blue Devils’ chances of raising their first banner since 2001. Andre Dawkins has fallen almost entirely out of the rotation and Coach K has started to limit Mason Plumlee’s minutes during important games. Also, Brian Zoubek’s tendency to immediately step into foul trouble limits his availability. It wouldn’t shock me to see Duke play Scheyer, Smith and Singler 40 minutes per game during their time in the NCAA Tournament. That could cause those key players, who rely primarily on their jump shot, to lose their legs and start throwing up bricks. Kyle Singler isn’t quite the superstar he was last season, either. Singler’s numbers are down across the board — scoring, rebounding, FG%, 3pt% — and he’s been dealing with a nagging wrist injury that may not improve in the weeks and months ahead. Duke also lacks the athleticism of teams like Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Texas. They could struggle with quicker guards like John Wall and athletic rebounders of the Damion James mold.

Likely scenario: I see Duke reaching the Sweet 16 as a #2 seed where they fall to a more athletic, quick group of guards that can explode to the rim and draw fouls. Duke may have height, but most of that height just isn’t a threat offensively by any stretch of the imagination. Eventually getting into a jump shooting contest could be the Blue Devils’ downfall if two of Smith, Scheyer and Singler go cold.

9. West Virginia

Why they can win it all: Da’Sean Butler is one of the best players in the nation when the chips are on the table. If the Mountaineers need a big shot to keep their season alive, Butler will demand the basketball and more than likely deliver. He’s downed Marquette and Louisville on game-deciding jumpers and led the second half charge against Ohio State. West Virginia is also supremely athletic and Bob Huggins’ teams always crash the boards with a tremendous ferocity. No contender can match the height across the board that West Virginia touts other than Kentucky. Huggins has experimented with lineups in which all of his players are 6’6 or taller, including 6’9 Devin Ebanks acting as a point-forward and 6’7 Da’Sean Butler capable of posting up smaller two-guards. Sophomore Kevin Jones is an incredible talent and a rebounding machine (7.7 RPG) that hits 55% of his shots from the floor and 44% from deep. West Virginia has the luxury of any of their forwards being able to step out and drain a mid-range jumper, from Ebanks to Jones to Wellington Smith to John Flowers every once in a full moon.

Ebanks is the X-factor for West Virginia

Why they won’t win it all: Let’s face it: Bob Huggins doesn’t have exactly the best track record when it comes to NCAA Tournament success. Huggins hasn’t reached the Elite 8 since 1995-96 with Cincinnati and only one Sweet 16 in the last ten years. In 2000 and 2002, his Bearcats lost just four games all season and yet didn’t reach the second weekend of March both times. Most also question whether the Mountaineers can hit outside shots on a consistent basis. They’ve struggled mightily in the first half of Big East games and can’t afford to fall behind against elite competition in March like they did against Dayton last season. Point guard play is a prudent question for West Virginia, as well. Joe Mazzulla is a quality perimeter defender and a capable distributor, but he’ll never be the offensive threat he was two seasons ago due to that shoulder injury. Darryl Bryant can certainly catch a hot streak shooting-wise, but in all honestly he’s more suited as an undersized two-guard. Bryant is averaging just 3.6 APG in 25+ MPG of action.

Likely scenario: I’m still fairly high on this team. I love Butler at the end of games and Ebanks can do anything for Huggins — from score to rebound to run the point — and Kevin Jones is one of the most underappreciated players in the Big East. In the end, I see a clankfest from outside ultimately costing West Virginia their season. And for all their rebounding history, the Mountaineers are in the mid-60s in the nation. The Elite Eight seems like a proper place for their season to conclude.

8. Texas

Why they can win it all: No team boasts better perimeter defenders than Texas. Anyone that watched Dogus Balbay completely shut down James Anderson in the second half Monday night knows he’s the best perimeter defender in the nation, even stronger than Purdue’s Chris Kramer. Avery Bradley came in with the reputation as an elite defender and he’s certainly lived up to that billing. Even J’Covan Brown off the bench is a capable defensive player and Justin Mason is a plus defender. When Dexter Pittman stays out of foul trouble, Texas boasts a legitimate shot-blocking presence that can negate quick guards on the rare occasion they slip past Balbay or Bradley. Texas is also the deepest team in the nation and Rick Barnes has the capability of playing 10 or 11 men on any night if he feels the need. The preserved minutes could pay dividends in the form of fresh players come March. Damion James should also be on a mission come March as a senior. He’s never reached a Final Four during his Longhorns career and came back for a fourth year in Austin to accomplish that very feat.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Three things from the past week:

  • Spartans in the driver’s seat – Michigan State had a scare from Minnesota on national TV and another from Michigan, but being the experienced and tough-nosed team that they are, closed out the game, while Minnesota and Michigan let them get away. They are two games ahead of Wisconsin now, and even more ahead of Purdue, Ohio State, and Illinois. Will the Spartans run the table? They have to get by Purdue twice before the season is over, so I am not betting on it.
  • Superman shut down in the 2nd half Evan Turner was putting up big numbers in the first half against West Virginia, but then couldn’t get it going in the second half. He had 13 at intermission, and ended up with an 18/11/4 asst game. Anyone other than Evan Turner would be happy with those stats. West Virginia had the answer in the second half for Turner though, and his name is Da’Sean Butler, who ended up with a 21/8/5 asst, and won the game for the Mountaineers.
  • Iowa is on a roll – Looks like Iowa is picking off opponents in reverse order these days. First Penn State and now Indiana. Who’s next? Michigan? Northwestern? Who knows. Iowa is hitting the boards well and playing a very physical brand of basketball these days.

Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: Michigan State #5, Purdue #10, Wisconsin #16, and Ohio State #20.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State                  18-3, 8-0
  2. Purdue                                   16-3, 4-3
  3. Wisconsin                            16-4, 6-2
  4. Ohio State                            15-6, 5-3
  5. Illinois                                   13-8, 5-3
  6. Minnesota                           13-7, 4-4
  7. Northwestern                   14-6, 3-5
  8. Michigan                              10-10, 3-5
  9. Indiana                                  9-10, 3-4
  10. Iowa                                         8-13, 2-6
  11. Penn State                            8-12, 0-8

Coming Up

  • Wisconsin @ Purdue – January 28th – 7:00 ET – ESPN – This game is Purdue’s chance to get back at Wisconsin for starting Purdue’s three game slide. Wisconsin has a huge advantage at the Kohl Center, but given that Wisconsin should still be without Jon Leuer, this one could be all Purdue at Mackey Arena.
  • Michigan State @ Wisconsin – February 2nd – 9:00 ET ESPN – This could be the most likely game for Michigan State to lose prior to the matchup with Purdue. If Jon Leuer is back, it could be a closer game, but even without him, the home court advantage of Kohl’s Center could be the 6th man that Wisconsin needs.

Breaking It Down

  • The Spartans are beatable, but haven’t succumbed yet. Michigan State has won its last two games by a total of two points. Sure, one could say that it is luck, or maybe they are headed for a loss, but at the same time, to me it says that they are a team that has what it takes to close out games. The Spartans are solid across the board when it comes to scoring, even though they are led by Kalin Lucas. Raymar Morgan tore it up against Michigan with a 20/8 effort that is even more impressive because it came on 8-9 from the field and 4-5 from the line. I would give the ball to him all day long when he is shooting like that. I think the Spartans will take care of Northwestern at home as well as Wisconsin on the road, unless the Badgers can summon some big bodies to stop the Spartans in the lane.
  • What about Purdue’s bench play? Purdue has started to turn around its slide in the Big Ten, winning their last two games against Illinois and Michigan. What I find potentially troubling in their last game is their bench play, which was practically nonexistent from a statistical point of view. Last game their bench only contributed five points. Is that a problem? Well, not exactly, but when I looked at their losses, the same trend appears. The bench scored nine in their loss to Wisconsin, two in their loss to Ohio State, and five in their loss to Northwestern. This team needs to find a couple guys to come off the bench to contribute, or else any sign of foul trouble will spell doom for the Boilermakers. Let’s see what happens against Wisconsin at home, though.
  • Wisconsin almost loses to who? That’s right folks, Wisconsin needed a heroic effort by Jordan Taylor to escape an upset by winless Penn State. Credit Taylor for pouring it on with a 20/6 asst game, but still, how far has this Wisconsin team sunk? They escaped a close one at home against Michigan and then a nail-biter against Penn State. I think everyone will see what this team is made of in their next two at Purdue and then Michigan State at home. The results, in my opinion, probably will not be pretty for Wisconsin.
  • Ohio State evens it up for the Big Ten against West Virginia. The momentum had been building for Ohio State the whole week leading up to West Virginia. Each team claimed one of the two halves:  Ohio State won the first half, West Virginia the second. Like their respective teams, one player won the first half and the other won the game. Evan Turner was his usual self in the first half, and then disappeared in the second, whereas Da’Sean Butler was nowhere to be seen in the first, and then puller a superhero down the stretch to put it away. It proved that Ohio State is a tournament team, because West Virginia clearly is as well. The bad news for Ohio State is that they had to travel to Iowa last night to grind out a win against a much-improved Hawkeyes team, and then continue on the road in a tough battle at Michigan State.
  • Minnesota can’t close out the close ones. There are a couple trends that are easy to see with this year’s Minnesota team: they can’t win on the road and they can’t win close games. There are a couple exceptions to that: a win at Iowa and a close win against Penn State and Northwestern. Winning on the road and winning the close ones takes mental toughness and this team doesn’t have it. They have a lot of other things: great upside with Ralph Sampson, great scoring ability and athleticism from Devoe Joseph, and Lawrence Westbrook has had some great moments throughout the year. This team won’t be going to the tournament unless they shock everyone by winning the Big Ten Tournament.
  • Illinois’ scheduling luck has run out. Illinois came out for a quick start in the Big Ten, and looked like they might contend for a Big Ten title, until they started playing teams that were better than them, and they haven’t been able to stop their downhill slide yet. It’s interesting to compare the first Northwestern game with the second. In the first, Illinois won by six in OT; in the second, they lost by five in regulation. Digging deeper reveals what happened. In the first game the big men dominated. Mike Tisdale had a career night with 31 and Mike Davis was good for 20. That’s 51 of the team’s 89 points. Fast-forward to the second game: Tisdale with 14 and Davis with zero. Looks like we have a paint problem, here. Northwestern has gotten more aggressive, and Illinois has gotten less aggressive. There’s the season right there. Illinois beat Penn State on Wednesday, and needs to continue with wins against Indiana and Iowa to salvage this slide.
  • Northwestern bouncing around, but is that enough? Northwestern is definitely much-improved from last year, and is seen as a credible opponent in the Big Ten this year. But is that enough? How will the committee take into account what the Wildcats have done outside of the conference, as well as in it? I think they need to go over .500 in the Big Ten to make the tournament. They stand at 3-5 now, and with ten games left, they are going to have win six or seven of them. I think it might come down to the wire because as I see it, the teams that they have the best shots at beating are Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, and Penn State. If they win all of their games against those opponents, they will be 10-8 in the Big Ten.  With a win against Chicago State, that will get them to overall record of 22-9, and definitely good enough to make the tournament. Can they do it? I am not sure, as some of those road games will be tough.
  • Was the UConn game the peak of Michigan’s season? On Tuesday, Michigan lost a tough game against Michigan State at home, one they should have won. This team is erratic, and usually has to rely on the two man show of DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris. They continue to shoot too many threes, and miss more than their fair share. The upside is that they are continuing to hang with top teams, and have a nice break in their schedule if they wanted to go for a  big run late in the season. I feel that all of their games left are winnable with the exception of Ohio State and the regular season-ending rematch with Michigan State. Lets see what the Wolverines can do.
  • Indiana has to be the underdog. Indiana has surprised teams all year, in that they can hang around against just about anyone. They beat Pitt, they beat Michigan, Minnesota, etc. The theme with all of those games was the expectation that they shouldn’t have won, but they did. It has been said that Tom Crean is ahead of schedule as far as returning Indiana to its past glory, but the game against Iowa was an exception. Against Iowa, Indiana was actually the favored team. They didn’t play like it. They didn’t have any cockiness or swagger, no real energy at all. Seeing the Hoosiers play right after the Colts’ victory was a huge letdown. There was no fight in the team that time, but fortunately for Indiana, they have a whole week of practice to find some of that fighting ability before traveling to Illinois. They will need it, too, as Illinois is enduring its own freefall, and will look at this game as a must-win. Indiana needs to rebound better, and take both Davis and Tisdale out of the game. Tisdale destroyed Indiana in their past matchup.
  • Iowa has Hawkeyes. Iowa couldn’t buy a win earlier.  Throw in a sprinkle of their second leading scorer getting suspended, and you have the recipe for a disaster of a season. Someone didn’t inform Iowa, though, as they are actually picking it up each game, and had a chance to score a huge upset against Ohio State. Jarryd Cole destroyed Indiana with his 11/10 night, with eight of those rebounds on the offensive end. Aaron Fuller has been solid all year for the Hawkeyes, but the real surprise was Brennan Cougill, especially when the big man stepped out and knocked down two big threes against the Hoosiers. He literally played a perfect 13 minutes of basketball, not missing a field goal or free throw.
  • Penn State is still winless. OK, I haven’t had to change the title here for a while, and plan on keeping it this way until Penn State wins a game. With the exception of their first Wisconsin game, this squad has kept every Big Ten game close…and has still yet to find a W. I hate to say it, but after looking at their remaining schedule, I am not sure this team will win a game this year. Their best bets have already come and passed. Surprise me, Penn State. I will put you in the headlines if you do.
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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 01.23.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on January 23rd, 2010

Once again we find ourselves with another stacked weekend of college basketball.  142 games in Division I today, and quite a number of those are somewhere on the tube.  It’s getting interesting.  Some of the big names are starting to come back to the pack a little, and some teams we’d all forgotten about are starting to put some wins together.  We’ll be here all day, watching it, commenting on it, enjoying it.  We’d like to know what you’re watching and what you think of it all, too, which is why we’re back with another version of BGTD today.  We’ll start off checking out Michigan State vs Minnesota and Villanova vs St. John’s, and head for points south and west after that.  We’ve even got a man on the ground for RTC Live at the latter game, there, as well as a few more spots today.  By all means, join us for a bit.  We’ll kick it off in about 10-15 minutes!

12:11 PM ET: Greetings from us to you on this big hoops day.  JStev here, starting it off with you.  My goodness, Villanova sure has wasted no time in jumping on the Johnnies.  Up by seven early and they’ve already forced SJU into five turnovers.  We’re just now at the under-16 TVTO.  Over on the Big East Network we have Georgetown/Rutgers, with the Hoyas trying to avoid a letdown after their impressive performance at Pittsburgh a few nights ago.  Against Rutgers at home that should be no problem, and I’m thinking G’town will have quite a jump in the polls, come Monday.  Hoyas up by three early, and Rutgers is already standing straight up in their zone.  Minnesota has also shown up early and taken a quick nine-point lead against Michigan State…and ladies and gentlemen, say hello to MR. GUS JOHNSON on the call on CBS.  I’ve found my primary game.

12:28: Gus Johnson could comment on the progress of a slug slithering along a rain gutter and, if you heard it, it’d be the most exciting thing you did that day.  We’ve said that — or something similar — about a gazillion times on this site and it’s always the truth.  He’s showing you why in this game, even this early.  Minnesota’s kept their lead in this one despite a little comeback from MSU.  Still up seven under seven minutes to play.  Dwight Hardy has come out on fire, hitting 5-6 against the Hoyas, and the Johnnies have looked like a different team in the last ten minutes.  They’re up by TEN on ‘Nova, now!  It’s physical, and if St. John’s wants to have a shot at pulling this off, they better be ready to grind it out against Villanova.  They’re glad to bang it out with anyone.

12:46: Great point by Doris Burke as they go to commercial in the ‘Nova/SJU game.  When it comes to pulling an upset, you can’t expect to play on an equal footing in ANY aspect of the game.  You have to OUT-do your opponent in EVERY aspect of the game.  You can’t just hustle as much as them, you have to OUThustle them, etc.  That seems like an obvious point, but I bet coaches out there have a harder time getting that across to their teams than you might think.  Oh, and Scottie Reynolds just hit a running bank shot off glass that was so gorgeous it almost brought tears.  It’ll bring him millions of bucks.  Soon.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on January 23rd, 2010

Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Three things from the past week:

  • Purdue’s slide stops – After getting knocked off by Wisconsin on the road, Ohio State at home, and Northwestern on the road, Purdue stops the slide against Illinois on the road. It was Illinois’ first loss at home on the road. The big key in the victory was JaJuan Johnson, who poured in a 24/12 game against Illinois after struggling in their previous losses. Will Purdue continue its ascent in the Big Ten?
  • The Buckeyes  are back – The main reason why the Buckeyes are back isn’t only due to them knocking off Purdue, Wisconsin, and Northwestern in successive games, but more with the way they won. True, it was the Evan Turner show against Purdue, but with him in foul trouble against Wisconsin, the rest of the team stepped up in his absence to win the game. That’s why they are not only back, but I believe they are better than before Turner went down.
  • Iowa gets first win in the Big Ten – I was giving Iowa a bit of a hard time scheduling Tennessee State in the middle of Big Ten play, but it looks like it paid off. They not only won a close one at home against Tennessee State, but then they captured their first victory in the Big Ten against Penn State, both nail biters. I will talk more about that game when I talk about each team.

Now four Big Ten teams are in the top 25: Michigan State #6, Purdue #13, Wisconsin #18, and Ohio State #21.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State                  16-3, 6-0
  2. Purdue                                 15-4, 3-3
  3. Wisconsin                           15-4, 5-2
  4. Minnesota                          12-6, 3-3
  5. Ohio State                          14-5, 4-3
  6. Illinois                                  12-7, 4-2
  7. Northwestern                   13-5, 2-4
  8. Michigan                             10-8, 3-3
  9. Indiana                                  9-9, 3-3
  10. Iowa                                      7-12, 1-5
  11. Penn State                          8-10, 0-6

Coming Up

  • Michigan State @ Minnesota – January 23rd – 12:00 ET – CBS – The scheduling gods don’t have much of a sense of humor for Minnesota, as they just played Michigan State on the road last week, and lost by seven. Minnesota suffered another bruise against Indiana on the road, but Minnesota is tough at home, and I think they will give the Spartans a run for their money in this one. The Spartans are still undefeated in conference and playing very well, but the Gophers might be able to catch them off guard. Big game for both teams for different reasons. Plus it’s the first of a Big Ten double header on CBS, so how much better can this get?
  • Ohio State @ West Virginia – January 23rd – 2:00 ET – CBS – OK, so this isn’t totally a Big Ten double header on CBS, but both games feature at least one Big Ten team. That counts right? West Virginia just lost a nail biter to Syracuse at home, so you know their fans are going to be hungry to take down a Big Ten opponent, especially after losing to Purdue on the road earlier in the season. Evan Turner wants to show just how well the Buckeyes are playing right now, and this will be a great game to show it. This is assuming that Ohio State takes care of Northwestern prior to this game.

Breaking It Down

  • The Spartans take control in the Big Ten. The Spartans are sitting atop the Big Ten conference with a 6-0 record, and have been able to win both at home and on the game, a rarity in this conference. In watching the Illinois game, it was clear that even though Illinois started off hot, once the Spartans gained momentum they never let go, and didn’t let Illinois back in the game. Kalin Lucas led the team with a 20/4 assts game, but had quite the supporting cast, with Raymar Morgan coming off the bench for a 14/10/4 assts game. I was impressed with the unselfishness and physical play of the Spartans. They completely shut down Mike Tisdale like I thought they would. They get to feast on Iowa before traveling to Minnesota, which should be a battle.
  • Purdue starting to turn it around. I have already talked about Purdue’s woes earlier, so I won’t focus too much on it here. I guess the most surprising thing is the rebounding, though. Purdue is getting outrebounded by a margin of six in the Big Ten, and the Northwestern game had a 19-board differential. Rebounding is purely heart and effort, so that’s not a good sign for Purdue. They turned it around against Illinois, so I look forward to seeing if it continues. If you want to check out more on the Northwestern game, RTC was there: RTC Live: Purdue @ Northwestern
  • Wisconsin missing Leuer – Wisconsin stumbled a bit last week losing to a much improved Ohio State team. Wisconsin thrashed them at home earlier in the year without Evan Turner, but not this time. Both teams are different. Wisconsin is no longer at full strength and they’re without an inside presence, whereas Ohio State is a full strength. The reason why Wisconsin is missing Jon Leuer so much is because of what he does for the Badgers inside. They only shot five free throws against the Buckeyes, making four. Contrast that to their Duke game earlier in the season, when they shot 19 free throws and made 13. Jon Leuer shot eight of those free throws. Wisconsin did turn it around against Michigan, but still had troubles on the inside.
  • Ohio State has a huge week. This past week was supposed to be the week that took down Ohio State. Instead, this was the week that will most likely define the turning point in their season. The task of taking on Purdue at Mackey Arena is more than most teams could handle, but the Buckeyes staged a late rally that Purdue couldn’t stop. Wisconsin at home is more realistic than at the Kohl Center, but put Evan Turner in foul trouble and that would spell a loss. Not this time. Evan Turner decided to go for another triple-double against Northwestern, and came up just a bit short with 20/13/8 assts.
  • Minnesota stumbles on the road. It’s no secret that Minnesota would rather play at home, especially in the Big Ten, as they stumbled on the road this week against Michigan State and Indiana. The Michigan State game was expected to be close, but I am not sure many people expected Indiana to lead through much of regulation before staging a very late comeback to win in OT. Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber weren’t even a factor in the Indiana game, so they will need to step up if Minnesota should reach their potential. This is a super-talented team that just isn’t quite getting it done. I expect that Tubby Smith will have a heart-to-heart with his team, and they will give Michigan State a run for their money on Saturday after a tough week of practice. If you want to see more about the Minnesota – Indiana game,  RTC was at the game (shameless plug alert): RTC Live: Minnesota @ Indiana
  • Illinois runs into the Spartans, literally. I talked a little bit about Illinois when mentioning the Spartans, so I will try to keep it a little brief here. Illinois apparently loves being on national TV, as they got off to a hot start against Michigan State, but couldn’t hold on once the momentum shifted. I kind of laughed when the announcers were wondering why Mike Tisdale wasn’t a factor in the game, because he was averaging 20 PPG in the Big Ten. He wasn’t a factor because he has done well against Big Ten teams without height in Indiana and Penn State, and once he finally had to muscle up against some true big men in the Spartans, he just got pushed out of the way. The same thing happened against Purdue. If Illinois wants to win against physical teams they are going to have to get it from someone other than Tisdale. The big bright spot for Illinois is Demetri McCamey, who had a 28/9 assts game against Purdue.
  • Northwestern gets board heavy. The big story for Northwestern was how they dominated the boards against Purdue, so it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up. Purdue has some physical and tough big guys like JaJuan Johnson, so I think they should do well against Illinois on the boards. Northwestern got manhandled by Ohio State, down by 21 points at half. They will have to keep from thinking about that game too much, or they will have recurring nightmares throughout the rest of the season.
  • Michigan takes two, and knocks out UConn. The great story for Michigan really is knocking UConn out of the Top 25, and finding a third player beyond DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris. They introduced the national television audience to Zack Novak, who made his only trey at a very crucial time. This was actually the first game I have seen where Sims and Harris didn’t lead the team in scoring. The same couldn’t be duplicated against Wisconsin, who held off the Wolverines’ late charge.
  • Indiana has a down then up week. Watching the Michigan game was disappointing, as everything that could be done wrong late in the game was done. The Hoosiers threw away the basketball at will, and turned what was a semi-close game into a 20+ point blowout. That was the ‘down’ part…now for the ‘up’ part. Indiana did a ton of maturing between the Michigan and Minnesota game. They continued to build on that maturity by winning their first road game of the season against Penn State. Indiana was lights-out in the first half, and then, unlike past games, they didn’t fade midway through the 2nd half. They took it to OT, and even when they started down six, they battled back and forced Minnesota to take a three with seconds remaining to tie. Verdell Jones stepped up with a career high 23 point effort, with Devan Dumes and Christian Watford rounding out the scoring. The usual suspects carried the load for Indiana as of late: Jones, Dumes, and Watford. If you want to see a more in-depth view of the Indiana-Minnesota game, RTC was there: RTC Live: Minnesota @ Indiana
  • Iowa’s scheduling pays off.  Aaron Fuller had a career night against Tennessee State that got him ready for a big game against Penn State. He was good for a 24/10 night against Tennessee State and a 20/10 night against the Nittany Lions. Things are looking up for the sophomore, and for Iowa. Both games were nail biters, so if they get another W this year, expect it to be close. They are in  for a rough haul though, with upcoming road games against Michigan State and Indiana.
  • Penn State is still winless. I feel bad for Talor Battle because he continues to put up big numbers, and almost all of their losses have been close, but they just can’t seem to finish one out. Battle had a 31/7 game against Iowa and a slight disappointing 9/4 game against Illinois in a low-scoring close one. Unfortunately for Penn State, their comeback came up short against Indiana. They will have to keep up their confidence at this point, or else it will be a long road ahead.
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What You Missed While Watching College Football…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 8th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist plus author of the weekly Ten Tuesday Scribbles and Bubble Watch columns.

With college football crowning another faux-national champion Thursday night in Pasadena, the college sports scene can officially shift its axis to basketball. While a number of college basketball diehards such as yours truly were knee-deep in mid-major box scores and enthralling non-conference tournaments since the season tipped off in mid-November, it’s perfectly understandable for our college football-fan brethren out there to have been entranced in the gridiron scene during this time. For many folks out there, college basketball truly begins when a football champion is crowned and conference play heats up, when Rece and the gang show up on our TVs every Saturday morning at 11 AM and the bubble begins to take its early shape. For those people, you sure missed plenty of exciting hoops action. To get you caught up in what has gone down thus far on the hardwood, here’s a summary for your enjoyment, divvied up into the six major conferences and all the rest:

ACC

What we’ve learned: There was much back-and-forth debate entering this season whether Duke or North Carolina represented the class of this conference. After two solid months of play, it’s fairly evident Duke has separated themselves from their bitter rival as the class of the ACC. While the Tar Heels may top Duke skill-wise up front, Carolina simply does not boast the backcourt to even contend with the Dukies’ tandem of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. The primary knock on Duke heading into this season was point guard play with Elliot Williams transferring to Memphis. As a true sharp-shooting 2-guard who creates his shots coming off screens in Redick-like fashion, could Scheyer handle the responsibility of running the Duke offense? The answer has been resounding in the affirmative: 19.7 PPG, 46% FG, 92% FT, 43% 3pt and an otherworldly 4.8 A/TO ratio that currently leads the nation. Another key to Duke’s early season success has been Coach K’s willingness to adjust his defense to fit his roster. Rather than employing the normal Duke on-ball pressure attack, Krzyzewski is utilizing more of a sagging defense that plays into the frontcourt depth Duke enjoys with six players that receive time at 6’8 or taller.

Scheyer Has His Devils Looking Great This Season

What’s still to be determined: After Duke and Carolina (and let’s not go overboard following the Heels loss to Charleston, they’re still clearly the second best team in this conference), who will emerge as the third contender behind the top two dogs? An ever-shifting proposition, the current edge probably goes to Florida State despite their utter lack of point guard play. The Seminoles are one of the tallest teams in the nation and have a few capable long-range shooters that get open looks when defenses collapse on Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton. Plus, they’re off to a head start with a December win at ACC foe Georgia Tech. Plenty of folks think Clemson could be that team behind powerful big man Trevor Booker, but they lack a second scoring option and I can’t stop thinking back to their collapse at home to an inexperienced Illinois squad. It would be unwise to count out Gary Williams, and the jury’s still out on Virginia Tech and Miami due to their soft schedules, so I’ll give the current edge to Wake Forest as that third team. The road win at Gonzaga’s on-campus arena stands out, Ish Smith has turned into a fine point guard and Al-Farouq Aminu has as much pure talent as anyone in this conference.

NCAA Locks: Duke, North Carolina.

Likely bids: Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest.

Bubble teams: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech.

Make other plans for March: Boston College, North Carolina State, Virginia.

Big East

What we’ve learned: The NCAA picture is shaping up quite similarly to last season when Louisville (regular season champion), Pittsburgh and Connecticut all received #1 seeds. There will be much back-and-forth debate about whether the top three teams this season — Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova -- holds the edge in this conference, but does it really matter? Right now you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and Purdue are the likely #1 seeds (of course plenty could change, we have two months of games left), while those top contenders in the Big East are likely all on the second seed line. Even of greater importance though is the obvious revelation that Jamie Dixon can coach basketball. You wouldn’t be alone if you counted out Pittsburgh following a near-loss to Wofford, a 47-point output at home vs. New Hampshire and a second half butt-kicking at the hands of Indiana, but those losses came without their most athletic player, Gilbert Brown, and their best defender, Jermaine Dixon. Those two have returned to action with the most improved Big East player Ashton Gibbs (who recently broke the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made) as a fearsome trio that has carried the Panthers to road wins over previously-undefeated Syracuse and fringe-top 25 Cincinnati. If Dixon is able to coax his Panthers into a NCAA Tournament team after losing such enormous production and leadership in Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields, there is little debate on his merits as National Coach of the Year.

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RTC Live: Michigan State @ Northwestern

Posted by rtmsf on January 2nd, 2010

The last time Northwestern (10-2) and Michigan State (10-3) met the Wildcats pulled out a stunning 70-63 victory on the road. Of course the two leading scorers in that dramatic upset were Kevin Coble and Craig Moore, neither of whom will be on the court this afternoon. Instead the Wildcats are led by point guard Michael Thompson – one of the most underrated players in the Big Ten, forward John Shurna and freshman Drew Crawford. #11 Michigan State was supposed to be the class of the Big Ten this season, but the Spartans have struggled a bit early in the season against good competition. They come into the game 10-3 on the season and are led by all-everything point guard Kalin Lucas – who has earned the ire of his coach Tom Izzo – along with two excellent forwards in Raymar Morgan and Draymond Green. #25 Northwestern lost its Big Ten opener in a thrilling game against Illinois, so the Wildcats need to bounce back against a Michigan State team that is making their conference debut. It should be an excellent game, and we hope to see you drop by.

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ATB: The More Things Change…

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009

atb

The More They Stay the Same… #11 UNC 89, #9 Michigan State 82.  Ok, can we now all just agree that UNC just has Michigan State’s number?  For the fifth straight time, and the third episode within one calendar year, North Carolina made Tom Izzo’s Spartans look like charlatans on the basketball court.  How is this possible?  How can a team like Nevada hang with the Heels a few days ago for most of the game, and a loaded, deep, talented, athletic team like MSU continually get punked and embarrassed by the same squad?  Well, motivation helps.  Ed Davis (22/6) and Larry Drew II (18/6 assts) both had career highs in points, and in watching the game, it seemed as if Carolina could get and make nearly any shot it wanted.  Michigan State, for some reason, seems to think that it can run with Carolina, and as they learned for the third time with the same core of Lucas, Morgan, et al., they cannot.  Why do they try?  The thing about MSU is that they weren’t the second-best team last year, and they surely aren’t this year either — but aren’t we used to this with Izzo’s teams by now?  They typically underachieve in the regular season, only to overachieve in the NCAA Tournament.  The problem is that teams that are routinely blown out do not win national championships.  Granted, Michigan State made a run in this game to get the margin back to a respectable score, but Carolina was never seriously threatened after the first ten minutes of the game.  So what went wrong other than allowing UNC to shoot lights-out again?  How about 2-20 from three (and many of those misses were open looks), a terrible evening from deep for a team that came into this game shooting 37% from distance?  How about allowing point guards Drew and Dexter Strickland to torch the MSU defense for repeated forays to the rim for easy buckets (9-12 FG)?  How about the rough-and-tumble Spartans getting outrebounded (36-34) by the admittedly bigger (but tougher?) Heels?  Honestly, the reason we thought this game would go Carolina’s way was because they were playing at home, but we’re not sure that it would have gone any differently had they played this game on Mars.  Michigan State simply cannot get over on Carolina, and it’s starting to get ridiculous.  At least Raymar Morgan (18/6) looked healthy and played well, right?

Michigan St NCarolina Basketball

ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  We’re deadlocked at 3-3 going into the last day, and yeah, it’s gone exactly as we predicted so far.  Which of course means all five games tomorrow will go crazy — expect all kinds of upset specials.  Seriously, though, we still think it comes down to the BC-Michigan game tomorrow night.  Winner of that one wins the Challenge (our choice: UM).

  • #6 Purdue 69, Wake Forest 58.  Wake played well enough for a half to win this game, but the Deacs don’t have enough offensive threats beyond Al-Farouq Aminu when he has an off game (12/10 on 3-11 FG including 6 TOs) and they turn the ball over like it’s their job.  But we knew that already.  Purdue, on the other hand, is only getting production from their Big Three of Robbie Hummel (11/11 on 3-11 FG), E’Twaun Moore (22/4/3 assts) and JaJuan Johnson (21/9/3 blks) — the rest of the team only scored fifteen points.  That’ll carry the Boilermakers against the lesser teams, especially in Mackey Arena, but we have concerns about when they start playing athletic teams like WFU that also have multiple serious scorers.  Wake played superb defense, holding Purdue to 34% for the game and 1-15 from deep, but their endemic problems with ballhandling and lack of a three-point threat will be problematic all season.
  • Northwestern 65, NC State 53. Northwestern is quickly becoming our second favorite team of this season (behind Portland).  With the injury troubles that they endured to start this season, we would have completely understood if the Wildcats had simply packed it in and hoped for next year.  But they didn’t.  Beating Notre Dame, Iowa State and NC State isn’t exactly equivalent to Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State, as they’ll face in the Big Ten, but the key is that NW is gaining experience with winning and they’re doing it in environments away from the comforts of home.  Tonight Michael Thompson stepped up with 22/4 and Jeremy Nash also chipped in 12/8/4 assts in the win.  The Wildcats could realistically enter Big Ten play at 10-1 by the end of this month.  Good for them.

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RTC Team of the Week: Florida

Posted by nvr1983 on November 30th, 2009

This week’s selection for RTC Team of the Week was not as easy as last week’s as you will see when you look at our honorable mentions, which we didn’t even bother to do last week when we selected Syracuse as our inaugural team of the week. We had several potential choices, but when it was time to pick a team there was one school that stood above the rest –  the #1 team in the country and the defending national champions (in football), the Florida Gators.

Coming into the season, we were not that high on Billy Donovan‘s crew, who had failed to make the NCAA tournament in consecutive years after winning back-to-back titles. To further compound matters, they had lost heralded recruit Jai Lucas and their best player last year, Nick Calathes, decided to forgo his senior year to go play in Greece, which is a decision that still has us scratching our heads. After opening the season with three wins against Stetson, Georgia Southern, and Troy that could only be described as big in margin if not significance, the Gators had a significantly more difficult schedule with their annual rivalry game against Florida State and then headed to Atlantic City for the Legends Classic where they would open against #2 Michigan State.

We're as surprised as you are Billy
We’re as surprised as you are Billy

The Gators traded baskets early with the Seminoles and were tied at 10 with 12:30 left in the 1st half before going on a 31-9 run that stretched into the 2nd half giving them a 41-19 lead. The Seminoles, who are still trying to find their identity without Toney Douglas, cut the lead to 5 at 43-38 with 12 minutes left. The Gators managed to stretch out the final margin to 16 behind a balanced scoring attack with 13 points apiece from Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker, and Alex Tyus. That win certainly boosted our respect for the Gators, but it was against a FSU team that didn’t have Douglas and it certainly wasn’t Tom Izzo‘s Spartans that they would be facing in Atlantic City.

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ATB: Tired Yet?

Posted by zhayes9 on November 18th, 2009

atb

An After the Buzzer recap for your liking as you catch up on some much-needed sleep…

What We Learned.  It’s very simple.  Often we get all jazzed over those little numbers we put in front of each team’s name, but the line between top-ranked teams like Kansas/Michigan State and Memphis/Gonzaga is finer than any of us would like to admit.  Teams are good; teams have players; and teams can perform.  There’s no dominant team in college basketball, and we shouldn’t be surprised if we see a steady rotation of #1s throughout the year, just like last season.

Game of the Marathon. #2 Michigan State 75, Gonzaga 71. You rarely see such intensity, tenaciousness and pure effort this early in the season, but the battle between Michigan State and Gonzaga surely provided all three and more. Tom Izzo has to be pleased after his team showed toughness and poise coming back from double digits in the second half against a Gonzaga squad that should be ranked in the Top 25 next Monday. Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas were the stars – Summers going for 21/11 on 8-9 shooting (plenty of foot-on-the-line long shots) and hitting the biggest three of the game to give the Spartans the lead with just over three minutes to play, and Lucas displaying his usual leadership throughout the second half, finishing with 19 points and five assists in a solid all-around effort. Raymar Morgan sunk 10-11 from the stripe and appeared to come back at 100% later in the game after rolling his right ankle and writhing in pain on the floor. Concern for Tom Izzo: the success in the paint for Gonzaga forwards Robert Sacre and Elias Harris. Lack of post production both offensively and defensively (Delvon Roe was a no-show last night) could be their downfall. Even in defeat, Mark Few has to be thrilled. Sacre (17 pts, 7-12 FG) looks incredibly improved, Elias Harris (17/9 on 6-16 FG) is a future star with a great inside/outside game and they nearly knocked off the #2 team in the nation on the road in November with plenty of overhaul on the roster and their starting point guard, Demetri Goodson, laying an egg. This was a thrilling game to watch from start to finish.

RTC Live (or Co-Game of the Marathon).

  • #1 Kansas 57, Memphis 55. ESPN got a perfect prime-time matchup to crescendo its 24 hours of hoops coverage tonight.  Although Kansas never trailed after Memphis led 7-6 in the early moments of the game, the Jayhawks could never quite put the Tigers away either.  After literally scratching and clawing and biting its way back to within one possession in the waning minutes, Memphis caught a break when the usually-reliable Sherron Collins (80% last year) missed one of two at the line to leave the door open with a 2-pt KU lead.  Josh Pastner told his team to go for the win, and the Duke transfer/soon-to-be star of Memphis Elliot Williams (21/6) took a contested three on the wing that looked pretty good in the air but ultimately missed, meaning that there would be no Elliot Miracle as a slight payback for Kansas’ heartbreaker in 2008.  In the media interviews afterwards, Bill Self was clearly not happy with his team’s performance, especially on the offensive end, where it seemed the only play they ran was to try to throw the ball into Cole Aldrich (18/11/5 blks) and let him go to work.  Twenty-one turnovers, many of the careless variety, seemed to really chafe Self’s craw.  Josh Pastner, on the other hand, seemed happy with his team’s performance, and why not?  Memphis took the nation’s #1 team to the wire on a night where they didn’t shoot the ball well (35% FG, 24% 3FG) and in the process, probably gave his team more confidence than a string of wins over UALR and the like ever would.  Our final thought on this game is that Elliot Williams is a lot better than anyone seems to have known – he didn’t shoot lights-out tonight (6-18 FG, 3-11 3FG), but he seemed comfortable with the role of becoming the Tiger go-to guy, and several of his shots and finishes were nothing short of spectacular.

  • #22 Louisville 96, Arkansas 66. This game was a game of runs; it’s just that Louisville seemed to be the team that had all of them.  That’s not completely true, of course, but depending on who you ask, this was an expected result.  Rick Pitino said that Arkansas’ suspensions have left them shorthanded (true), and that they wore down in the second half because they simply didn’t  have enough bodies (questionable).  John Pelphrey said that his team simply didn’t compete at a high enough level that you must do so to beat a team like Louisville (possibly).  Here’s what we saw.  We saw an Arkansas team that competed in the first half.  The Cards got hot from three in the last several minutes of the half to run out to a 48-31 lead, but Arkansas then countered after the half with significant energy and movement to go on a 13-0 run of their own to cut the lead down to six.  Then Louisville got hot again (especially Reginald Delk, who had 20/5), drained a bunch more threes (15 for the game) and Arkansas began to noticeably lose its motivation.  By the last five minutes of the game, we actually wondered where all this “compete” stuff that we kept hearing about was coming from.  Because we weren’t seeing it.  The Cards placed six players in double figures, and Peyton Siva looked like a keeper with some of his defensive intensity and drives to the hole.  Arkansas was led by Rotnei Clarke, who cooled off from 51 to only 16 this time around.

Bruce Pearl’s 100th win at UT unforgettable. #11 Tennessee 124, UNC-Asheville 49. Where do I start recapping this otherworldly performance for the Volunteers against a Division-I opponent? Tennessee set a school record for points (124), held Asheville to two field goals in the first half (2-26 FG, 7.7%) and 16:50 without a field goal, scored 49 points off 29 Asheville turnovers, started the game on a 20-0 run and finished with a 66-14 one and led at one point, 119-39. I’m not a math major, but I believe that’s an 80-point Tennessee lead! The Vols shot 60% as a team with sophomore Scotty Hopson notching his most impressive game in orange with 25/4/5 on 8-11 FG and 6-7 3pt. Someone hose down Rocky Top.

Big East Powers Narrowly Avoid Upsets.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

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If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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