Team of the 2000s: #8 – Memphis

Posted by jstevrtc on August 11th, 2009

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Ed. Note: check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

We already know that this selection is going to cause some consternation among teams that weren’t selected as high.  It’s ok.  We get it.  The selection process ultimately comes down to a matter of taste, and Memphis blended with our palates a little better than the others.  If you disagree, let us know…

#8 – Memphis

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Overview. In the period from 2000-2009, few college basketball programs “felt” bigger than Memphis.  John Calipari showed up to run the show in 2000 and everyone knew what was to come — big-time recruits, lots of one-and-done types, scads more wins, deeper advancement in the NCAA.  Also on the way, whether justified or not, was that dirty feeling that comes with knowing that your program is being led by a fellow on whom you always feel you — or maybe a private detective you’ve hired — need to keep a close eye.  In terms of the on-the-floor expectations, Calipari delivered exactly what was expected of him; after a couple of warm-up years things improved and then really took off in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons when Memphis and their collection of ridiculous interchangable-part type athletes rode Calipari’s Dribble-Drive Offense to consecutive regular-season 30-3 records and Elite Eight apperances.  As a basketball power, Memphis was taken more seriously than it ever had been and it looked like Calipari was building a Leviathan.  The 2007-08 squad validated this by putting up such impressive numbers as achieving the school’s second-ever #1 ranking, a 38-win season (jeez), and its first Final Four since the days of Keith Lee and Dana Kirk back in 1985.  Then, in the championship game…well, in case you didn’t see it….about two minutes to go, up by nine, they….um….well, just check this out.  Even with this, even if you didn’t agree with all of their methods, the Memphis program had still reached elite status in the college hoops world.

calipari coaching memphis

Pinnacle. No question, things were sweetest in Tigerland when they posted that 37th win and made it to that 2008 Final Four.  That particular Memphis team, with Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose and a litany of other high-flying gazelles — you remember the likes of Joey Dorsey, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, I’m sure — was so athletic that you forgot about any possibility of, er, shadiness.  For the most part, you just enjoyed the show.  A case could definitely be made for a co-pinnacle for this program mere days later when they were, as noted above, up by nine in the final with only a couple minutes left between them and the true goal inherent in any lofty expectations — a title.

Tailspin. The 63-63 tie that resulted from Mario’s Miracle.  When Mario Chalmers hit that jumper, things were never the same therafter.  You could feel it coming.  Kansas was on fire in that stretch and Memphis couldn’t hit a free throw, but it was that shot, that boot to the forehead, that has started the Tiger program on its tailspin.  The next season (2008-09) was a disappointment by comparison, ending with an upset loss to Missouri in the Sweet 16 even though Memphis was again a popular and sexy pick for the Final Four.  Then came the departure of John Calipari to Kentucky and the NCAA allegations of Derrick Rose’s test-taking naughtiness.

Outlook for 2010s:  Grade: C. While Calipari seems to be pretty much off the hook in this Rose business — and Derrick Rose as well, just because he moved on — in the near future the Memphis program could still possibly feel the NCAA’s bitch-slapping pimp hand, and that Pinnacle as described above could be erased from the history books altogether, meaning Memphis might have to pack up the Aerostar and vacate their ’08 Final Four and all 38 of those victories like they never happened.  Enter former Arizona (and single-season at Memphis) assistant Josh Pastner.  Already known among coaching insiders as a hell of a recruiter, he knows what it takes to win; he was a walk-on on Arizona’s 1997 championship team.  It’s not like he’s going to let the post-Calipari roster totally collapse, and he’ll most certainly bring in his own high-level studs.  The question is, given the recent achievements of this program, how much time will he be allowed?  It’s difficult to speculate as far as an outlook for this program until the NCAA decides what they’re going to do to them, if anything.  The buzz around the program is more positive than you might expect, and that’s because of Pastner.  If he’s allowed the time to get over any penalties the NCAA might unload on the program, it will still be quite a while before they return to the level they achieved in the late 2000s.  But, in the end, I’ll bet that this program will do a little better than, say, to go the way of their former home — the now-empty Memphis Pyramid, previously the residence of the NCAA’s Tigers, NBA’s Grizzlies, numerous concerts and conference tournaments, and more recently (but no longer) the home of the biggest and most oddly-shaped Bass Pro Shops you’ve ever seen.

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Questionable Test Scores Piling Up At Memphis

Posted by nvr1983 on June 3rd, 2009

As we mentioned in an update to yesterday’s column about how Memphis was handling Derrick Rose‘s questionable test scores, more reports of questionable test scores out of Memphis are surfacing. As Gary Parrish reported earlier today, Robert Dozier‘s SAT scores were questionable enough that Georgia refused to admit him. What most of the media has missed is that a third member of that Memphis team (Doneal Mack) that lost to Kansas in one of the most exciting title games of the past 20 years also had a suspicious ACT score that led Florida to deny him admission too.

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While Memphis claims to be innocent in Rose’s case because the actions took place before he enrolled at Memphis and that they were unaware of potential inconsistencies in his test scores, the fact that they admitted two other players who had already been denied admission to other schools because of questionable standardized test scores makes the school’s claims of innocence more laughable unless they are going for another version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with regards to SAT scores. Since John Calipari has already headed to Kentucky the administration at Memphis is left handling this mess.

The question is what kind of punishment, if any, will be handed down by the NCAA. Given the fact that they have done absolutely nothing with the mess at USC, it seems unlikely the Tigers will face any major sanctions particularly since there probably will not be any money trail like there was at Michigan where the Fab 5 played. It will be interesting to see if the NCAA and Kentucky police Calipari more closely than usual to avoid a Kelvin Sampson situation where he committed several violations at Indiana after committing similar violations at Oklahoma.

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Memphis Responds… and Guess What, Everything Was a Big Misunderstanding!

Posted by rtmsf on June 3rd, 2009

Memphis responded to the NCAA’s allegations against their basketball program, and surprise of all surprises, the UM athletic department doesn’t believe that it should be punished even if the NCAA stands by its position that Derrick Rose cheated on his SAT exam to gain his collegiate eligibility.

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In a wide-ranging letter dealing with allegations involving both the women’s golf as well as the men’s basketball program, University Counsel Sheri Lipman revealed that there were rumors involving Rose’s ACT test score being fraudulent (remember, the NCAA’s allegation involves the SAT) prior to his only season as a Tiger.  This is what those lawyer types might call “notice.”  Yet, the Memphis athletic department determined through undoubtedly probing interviews with Rose himself and the coaching staff (whaaa??) that these rumors were unfounded.  Furthermore, the school claims that it attempted to get copies of materials from the applicable testing service, but was “unable to do so.”

Here’s an idea.  You could have had Rose produce the ACT information, and if he is unable to do so, as it were, suspend him until he does so.  That could have, at worst, solved the issue involving the rumor, and at best, put the issue to bed AND provided considerable cover in the form of due diligence when Mr. NCAA came knocking on the door a year-and-a-half later.  But Memphis didn’t do that.  We’d be very interesting in learning why not.

Getting back to the invalidated test score at issue here – the SAT – according to Memphis, the NCAA’s sole evidence that Rose had a stand-in take this test for him comes down to a forensic examiner’s review of his handwriting.  This review determined that Rose “probably” did not write the paragraph that the ETS uses to verify identity.  But according to Dana O’Neil’s reporting at ESPN.com, ETS only invalidates scores when two of the following three pieces of evidence are present in an examination: 1) handwriting comparisons; 2) comparisons to people seated nearby during the exam; and, 3) substantial jumps in scores.   We already know that the ETS (and the NCAA) is relying on #1, so we’re probably also looking at #3 as the other piece of evidence, and if you know anything about statistical probability, there’s virtually no chance that if Rose scored something like a 600-650 on a previous SAT administration, he then jumped up to a 950-1000 to gain eligibility.

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All that said, Memphis is taking the painted corner position that, even if Derrick Rose cheated on his SAT, the program could not have known nor should it have known about such a fraud perpetrated on humanity.  In other words… sorry if Rose cheated in high school, but how were we to know? – we didn’t find out about the allegation until after he was already gone.  If Memphis is acting in completely good faith here, this is a fair argument.  But the only way we’re going to presume good faith is if we see more credible evidence that the university made attempts to get to the bottom of the ACT issue, and if they did no such thing, then they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt here.  Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and if Memphis only scratched the surface of investigation in order to get Rose into school and eligible, then we don’t want to hear any complaining later if they’re nailed for looking the other way.

As for the other allegation involving the Memphis program, of particular comedic value is the Memphis response that the free hotel and plane trips provided to Derrick Rose’s brother, Reggie, were inadvertant administrative mistakes that “could have occurred for any member of the public traveling with the men’s basketball team.”  Right, because universities and athletic departments in particular are in the regular business of accidentally allowing thousands of dollars in freebies to be given to members of the public – especially, as it happens in this case, when the public is none other than the star player’s brother!  This is the less hot-button of the two major basketball allegations in this complaint, but there’s not much defensible here.

It’ll be very interesting to see what evidence the NCAA presents to combat these responses from Memphis.  Saturday is the hearing, and the university should expect to hear something later this summer.  It says here that UM isn’t going to like what it hears.

Update: Gary Parrish is reporting that Robert Dozier also had a “fishy” SAT which precluded his entrance into Georgia in 2004, and we’ve already discussed Doneal Mack’s rejection from Florida based on a test score issue.  Are there others?

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Calipari to Kentucky

Posted by nvr1983 on March 30th, 2009

After a weekend full of speculation about who would replace Billy Gillispie as the next head coach at Kentucky it looks like we finally have our answer in the form of John Calipari. Our sources had been mentioning Calipari as a potential replacement for Gillispie as early as a week ago, but that was obviously delayed by the fact that his Memphis team was still playing in the NCAA tournament. Fortunately, for the administration at Kentucky, even after last year’s title game collapse against Kansas, Calipari still didn’t think it was worthwhile having his team work on free throws and as a result they were bounced by Missouri in the Sweet 16 (their lack of defense against Missouri didn’t help their cause either).

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Although the details of the deal have not been released yet, it would be safe to assume that Calipari is at around the $3 million/year figure that our source was saying it would take to lure him away from Memphis (9pm update: ESPN is now reporting the offer is 8 yrs/$35M). In addition, Kentucky will have also have to come up with the money to compensate for the $5 million bonus Calipari would have collected had he finished his contract at Memphis, which ran through the 2012-13 season at $2.5 million/year. (Break open those checkbooks Wildcat boosters!).

What might be even bigger than the physical switch of Calipari for Gillispie on the sidelines is the potential chain reaction this could have on the Memphis/Kentucky recruiting classes and Tyreke Evans. Going into today, Kentucky only had one 5-star (Daniel Orton) and one 4-star (Jon Hood) recruit who had signed a letter of intent to play in Lexington. With the addition of Calipari, the Wildcats would almost certainly get DeMarcus Cousins (the #2 overall recruit) who has committed to Memphis, but did not sign a letter of intent, and potentially Xavier Henry (the #3 overall recruit) who signed a letter of intent at Memphis, but could petition the NCAA for a release (4-star recruit Nolan Dennis has stated that he has an agreement with Memphis that he will be released from his letter of intent if Calipari leaves). In addition, they would suddenly be in the running for John Wall (the #1 overall recruit) who has not committed to a school yet, but is said to be very high on Memphis Calipari. Adding 2 of those 3 to a Kentucky lineup that leaned heavily on Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks this year would almost certainly make the Wildcats go from a NIT participant to Final 4 favorites. If Calipari were able to pull off a miracle and get Henry released from his letter and bring all three with him to Kentucky to go with Patterson, Meeks, and Orton, the Wildcats would suddenly emerge as the prohibitive favorites and the fans in Lexington might start having visions of the 1996 Kentucky team running through their heads for the next six months.

What would happen to Memphis? Disaster. Tyreke Evans, who has seen his NBA draft stock rebound after slipping during his difficult adjustment to the college game, would most likely head to the NBA leaving the Tigers without a true star for the first time in years (Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson are both seniors). Losing such a great recruiting class (one of the best since the Chris Webber-led “Fab 5″) would be a crushing blow to a program that has risen up from playing in Conference USA to become one of the premier programs in the nation in the past 5-10 years. The next question for Memphis is who will replace Calipari on the sideline. Current reports indicate that Calpari is pushing for his long-time assistant Tony Barbee to be named as his successor, but it’s likely that the Memphis AD will look to lure big-names such as Mike Anderson or Tim Floyd to what has become one fo the premier coaching destinations in the country.

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: West Region Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is our NCAA Tournament West Region correspondent.

Welcome to the Mild, Mild West, which saw a grand total of three upsets in the opening twelve games, and whose Cinderella (if that term can even be used) is a five-seed that boasts the Big Ten Tournament championship.

The upside to having a predictable regional field is, of course, that four obviously superior teams emerge from the first weekend and are sure to provide high quality competition. Three of the four teams won their conference tournaments, and the one that didn’t is a #1 seed. This was the bracket that many experts said was the most accurately seeded, and it looks like they were right.

Hottest Team
Having won their first two games by an average of 41.0 points, this has to go to UConn. The Huskies have played inspired ball and got great performances out of their great players, which is key to establishing confidence on a Tourney run. But UConn is a #1 seed, and their road is (theoretically) the easiest. Both Purdue and Missouri looked excellent in their two wins, with sound performances followed by clutch play when it mattered most. Purdue, though, would simply not have beaten Marquette if not for JaJuan Johnson (or maybe, an inadvertent toe), so if UConn is disqualified, then Mizzou is the best-looking squad right now.

Best Player
I’d be previewing a Marquette/Maryland game right now if not for Memphis’ Roburt Sallie. The reserve guard just couldn’t miss against Northridge, pouring in a career-high 35 points when the Tigers looked dead in the water. He got Memphis rolling again in the Maryland win and finished with 13. For all of the superstar athletes on that team, it’s been Roburt Sallie’s grit and sharpshooting that has kept them alive. Can he keep it up? Can Memphis survive if he doesn’t?

Best Game
The Northridge fiasco was a doozy and nearly the shocker of the year, but Purdue’s victory over Washington was the highest quality of exciting basketball in the West Region so far. Purdue showed how they were victorious in the Big Ten tournament this year, while Isaiah Thomas, Washington’s brilliant freshman point guard, simply refused to let the Huskies die. The 76-74 Boilermaker win was sealed by back-to-back rejections from superfreak-forward JaJuan Johnson, and even Washington fans could leave knowing that both teams left it on the floor.

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NCAA Basketball 2009: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009

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With the release of the brackets on Sunday evening there has been quite a bit of controversy (Arizona over St. Mary’s being the predominant gripe) and there have been some interesting moments with Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps ganging up on Dick Vitale and almost bringing him to tears. However, it was nothing compared to the furor that we saw when the BCS released its final poll that determined the BCS bowl games and more importantly the national championship. We thought it would be a fun exercise to try to make a mock BCS basketball system. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. There are a couple polls I excluded for other reasons: Kenneth Massey’s (wasn’t updated yet) and Jerry Palm’s (not free). I did not throw out the high and low computer polls for two reasons: (1) we only had 3 available and (2) they were fairly similar with a few exceptions (Gonzaga in the RPI, but they weren’t going to be a factor anyways because of Memphis). ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI didn’t include the games from Sunday, but after looking at the final results they would not have had any impact on the rankings  based on the teams involved. Here are the results:

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If you want to try and follow along, here are the BCS criteria.

Now onto the match-ups. . .

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27 Down, 38 To Go…

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2009

There are twelve automatic bids today, so we’ll be updating these as the day moves forward…

#16 – Binghamton (23-8, 16-3 Am East).  Binghamton took care of business today against upstart UMBC to win their eleventh in a row and earn the school’s first ever NCAA bid.  Reggie Fuller had 19/10 and alleged non-POY DJ Rivera added 16/5 in the RTC home win.  We had more coverage on today’s BGTD.

Projected Seed: #16

Something to Remember: Binghamton is um, size-challenged.  Their tallest starter is the 6’6 Fuller.  And have you heard that Tony Kornheiser has an affinity for this school for some reason?  Yeah, we hadn’t either.

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#17 – Memphis (31-3, 19-0 CUSA). 25 straight wins in a row.  61 CUSA wins in row.  Memphis just keeps on truckin’, with another stellar defensive performance in holding Tulsa to 26% from the field and 2-14 from three.  This was also the 135th win for the Tiger senior class, who is focused on getting to #141, according to Coach Calipari.  Robert Dozier had 18/14 and Tyreke Evans had 18/5/6 in the same-old, same-old for Memphis.

Projected Seed: #2

STR:  We’re going to be a little contrarian here, but we’re not buying that Memphis is a national title contender this year.  Are they better than anticipated?  Absolutely.  Are they on the same level as UConn, Pitt, Louisville, UNC, etc.?  No freakin’ way.  Their defense is outstanding, statistically the very best in the land.  And CUSA is a better league than people tend to think it is.  But the fact of the matter here is that Memphis is playing with house money right now.  They were beaten by Georgetown, Xavier and Syracuse in the pre-conference slate.  Tennessee took them down to the last possession.  They rolled up Gonzaga in their building, but the Zags wilted in the face of their athletic defenders.  Memphis is a very good team – but they’re not going back to the F4.  Remember that you heard it here first.

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Conference USA Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2009

Memphis passed its last regular season road test and now only has a few games to go to return to the “promised land” that they’ve never really left.

While the Tigers’ dominance over the rest of CUSA is nearly unparalleled in the history of modern college basketball, it doesn’t mean that every other team is chopped liver. Basically anything can happen in a tournament setting and the Tigers have endured a few close calls this year.

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So here are the teams as they are seeded and some pertinent info:

#1: Memphis Tigers

Coach: John Calipari

Record: 28-3 overall (16-0 in CUSA)

Players to Watch: G Tyreke Evans, F Robert Dozier, F Shawn Taggart, G Antonio Anderson

Season Highlights: In a year that many thought would be fraught with ‘rebuilding’ and the like, the Tigers continue to look dominant. The arrival of the latest one-year wonder: Tyreke Evans, has allowed the blue and gray not miss a beat from last year’s final four squad. But the veteran leadership of guys like Antonio Anderson, Doneal Mack, Shawn Taggart and Robert Dozier has been a huge factor too. They suffered early-season setbacks against Xavier and Syracuse, but they’re currently riding 20+ game winning streak. There have been a few close calls and at the end of the day they’re still undefeated against the rest of the conference.

They Will Win If: They simply show up and play their game. I don’t want to imply that the Tigers will simply cream whomever they play, because they could well lose. But they’re playing an extremely favorable draw on their home court. This is a recipe for success and it also doesn’t hurt that they’ve won over 50 games in a row against CUSA teams.

First Game: vs. the winner of #8 Tulane/#9 East Carolina; Thursday at 8:30 pm.

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on February 11th, 2009

Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

Conference Standings.

  1. Memphis:   20-3 (8-0)
  2. Tulsa:   17-7 (7-2)
  3. UAB:   16-8 (6-3)
  4. Houston:   14-7 (5-3)
  5. UCF:   15-8 (5-4)
  6. UTEP:   13-9 (4-4)
  7. East Carolina:   12-10 (4-5)
  8. Southern Miss:   13-9 (3-5)
  9. Marshall:   11-13 (3-6) 
  10. Tulane:   9-13 (3-6)
  11. Rice:   7-15 (2-6)
  12. SMU:   7-14 (1-7)

Slowly but surely, Conference USA basketball has rounded back into the form that’s earned it the nickname of: Memphis and the 11 dwarves in recent seasons.  I don’t want to completely trash every other team in the league, because there are some good teams and good players out there. Just because things are so ‘top-heavy’ in CUSA basketball, that’s not an excuse to completely ignore everyone else.  But the underlying fact remains: nobody besides Memphis has played well enough up to this point to earn a trip to the big dance.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 01.24.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 24th, 2009

dynamite1After my trip to Chapel Hill last weekend where rtmsf handled all of the duties for Boom Goes the Dynamite while I mingled with ESPN personalities and college basketball stars, I will be in charge of today’s edition while rtmsf does relationship stuff with his significant other. Pretty weak if you ask me. . .

11:00 AM: Although we are a men’s college basketball site, we feel that it’s appropriate to mention the passing of Kay Yow, the former NC State coach, to breast cancer (or more precisely complications related to breast cancer). We can’t really do justice to her impact on the women’s game so it’s probably better just to refer you to a chronology of her life.

11:10 AM: The Notre Dame GameDay crowd looks a lot larger than what I saw last weekend at UNC. I am not sure if it is just a bunch of camera tricks by the GameDay crew, but they definitely have more signs. It may be that UConn is much, much better than Miami was last week or that the UNC crowd may be a bit jaded, but the Chapel Hill crowd was not as into the GameDay experience as I expected them to be.

11:45 AM: Digger Phelps has been doing a good job of working the crowd, which he also did last week at Chapel Hill (even off camera), taking the homer pick of Luke Harangody as his choice of tough player after the other analysts picked Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, and Stephen Curry to boos. As expected the crowd went wild with Digger’s pick. A little later in the show, the crowd gave the stereotypical college crowd response to a Duke segment by chanting “overrated”. Not surprisingly, the analysts all defend Duke. Appropriately enough, Bobby Knight calls out the Notre Dame students by questioning their education. It looks like he is getting more comfortable with his role on ESPN.

11:50 AM: Another awful half-court shot. Where does ESPN find these guys? He deserved to be embarrassed like that on national TV for popping his collar. Someone should tell him that hasn’t been cool since. . .actually it has never been cool. Congrats on the airball.

Noon: Wow. All of the GameDay guys except Knight picked LSU to beat #13 Xavier. I guess it’s in Baton Rouge, but Xavier is definitely the better team. Least surprising pick of the day: Digger picks Notre Dame. Knight abstains from picking a team.

12:15 PM: Duke is off to a good start against Maryland after Jon Scheyer opens the game with two 3s. What’s going on with Brian Zoubek? He actually looks like a legitimate center today. I have seen him play several times this year and he certainly has improved from last year, but he has never played like this. If he can do this even for spurts this year, Duke might have a legitimate chance to win the title this year instead of their usual great regular season and flop in March.

12:20 PM: Villanova is tied at 10 with USF 6 minutes into the game. Dante Cunningham has 8 of Villanova’s 10 points. I don’t have much else to say about this game since I don’t have ESPN360 available since I am out of town. If anybody has this game on TV, let me know if anything interesting happens.

1:00 PM: Duke goes into halftime with a 25-point lead despite having one of the ugliest possessions I have ever seen to end the half. Do you remember when the Duke-Maryland games used to be the best games of the season? I still remember trying to figure out where I could go to watch the game on TV my freshman year of college. (My school didn’t believe in providing cable to dorm rooms.) Meanwhile in Tampa, Villanova is struggling against USF (tied at 32 at halftime).

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2008

Allen R of Houston Basketball Junkies is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA.

The week of final examinations usually equates to a slow basketball week and Conference USA is no exception to the rule.

In fact Houston, Memphis, Tulane, Rice, ECU, UAB, UTEP, Marshall and SMU all refrained from scheduling games during the week.

However there were a few games and storylines worth talking about in this rather uneventful week: Read the rest of this entry »

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ATB: Weekend Wrap

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2008

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Forget the BCS. None of the big college football matchups this weekend were worth your time – Texas Tech/Oklahoma: blowout; Ohio St/Michigan: blowout; Penn St/Michigan St: blowout; Utah/BYU: blowout – so hopefully you found some good hoops to watch instead.

The Return of our Lord and Savior Tyler Hansbrough. UNC 84, UC Santa Barbara 67. This game was a little past RTC’s bedtime on Friday night, so we’ll cover it now.  Did you guys hear?  Tyler Hansbrough made his triumphant return to UNC’s lineup Friday night! The stress reaction is no longer reacting!  There was to be no Santa Clara Pt. 2, as Psycho-T returned for 25 minutes of action and 13/7 in the box score.  The Heels put all five starters in double figures (led by Ty Lawson’s 19) + Ed Davis off the bench, but didn’t really start to pull away until the mid-second half.  James Nunnally had 22/7 off the bench for UCSB, who packed the Thunderdome for its first game against a #1 team in 18 years.  Mild cause for concern?  UNC is allowing its opponents to shoot 44% from the field in three games thus far this season.

Why Do We Ever Sleep on Xavier? Xavier 63, Memphis 58. Sean Miller just continues to get it done at Xavier year after year.  Memphis won’t need this game in March, but Xavier just might, and like Wisconsin, we should just go ahead and put the Muskies in the top 25 no matter what players they’re returning in a given year.  We watched this game, and guess what area of basketball once again bit Memphis in the arse?  Would you believe FREE throws?!?  Yep, 15-30 from the line, including missing seven of the last nine AND the last four as the game still hung in the balance.  Robert Dozier had a double-double (10/11) but Memphis isn’t very good at shooting the ball outside of the paint (24% from three this season), and this area of the game might be their major bugaboo this year.  Xavier exhibited a balanced attack, but Terrell Holloway’s 10-10 from the line helped XU secure the victory and the Puerto Rico Tipoff Championship.

Introducing Samardo SamuelsLouisville 79, Morehead St. 41; Louisville 81, S. Alabama 54. Samardo Samuels was the clincher as to why we chose Louisville to win the national title over UNC next April, and if his first weekend of games is any indication, we might start patting ourselves on the back soon.  Samuels is averaging 21/5 in his first two games, while shooting 17-22 from the field (over half of which were dunks).  Pitino is calling him the best freshman he’s ever coached, which is fairly high praise considering Jamal Mashburn, Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer and Francisco Garcia were all pretty solid players for Pitino in their first seasons.  Louisville has held its first two opponents to 32% from the field thus far.

Will the Hansbrough Effect Kill Another Big 12 Beast? Oklahoma 80, Gardner-Webb 76. Everyone pretty well knows that Tyler Hansbrough is going to win the NPOY awards again this year (assuming his stress reaction days are behind him).  But is he going to win it over a more deserving Big 12 big man for the second year in a row?  Google Michael Beasley/Kansas State for a comparison.  It’s still early, but indications are that Blake Griffin is going to absolutely pulverize everyone that gets in his way this year.  After four games, Griffin is averaging an utterly PREPOSTEROUS 26/20 on 75% shooting from the field.  The reason he won’t win is because of games like this one, where poor shooting (42% FG, 26% 3FG) nearly doomed Oklahoma  who probably should have lost to a vastly inferior team (and the fact that TH will have 30+ games on national tv, whereas Oklahoma will be lucky to have a third of that).  Griffin set personal records with 35 pts, 21 rebounds and 5 assists, but it was his three-point play with 2:36 remaining that finally gave OU a secure lead.  Gardner-Webb, now 0-3, was very close to making a name for itself for the second consecutive November.

Upset of the Weekend. Missouri 83, USC 72. This isn’t much of an upset, but it was a light weekend in that department.  USC was once again the Jekyll and Hyde team in terms of the tale of two halves.  They led Mizzou by six going into the break, but were outscored 46-29 in the second half to lose for the second time in three days.  Demarre Carroll blew up for 29/11 for the Tigers, who are 4-1 with their only loss to Xavier and appear to be finally turning the corner a little bit under Mike Anderson.  It’s going to take time for USC, as Demar DeRozan hasn’t adjusted to the college game yet (9/5) and Floyd’s teams usually get off to a slow start anyway.  What has to be distressing for Floyd is where the Trojans’ are going to get some outside shooting – they’re currently at 23% from deep this year, and if that keeps up, nobody will bother to cover them outside of the paint this year.

Ridiculous Score of the WeekendSan Francisco 74, Academy of Art 23.  Seriously, we think if you choose to schedule art schools and multi-directional high schools, then you should automically cede all claims on an NCAA Tournament berth.

Saturday Highlights.

  • Georgetown 81, Drexel 53.  Greg Monroe was a beast, contributing 20/8/4/3 stls/3 blks in his second game as a Hoya.  Georgetown held Drexel to 25% FG shooting for the game.
  • Georgia Tech 82, Mercer 76 (OT). Ga Tech barely escaped its trip south to Mercer’s home court by storming back from an 18-pt deficit to tie the game with 32 seconds remaining and getting a stop to send it to overtime.  Georgia Tech was led by Gani Lawal’s 27/9, but it was Mercer’s 27 TOs that ultimately killed the Bears.  Still, Mercer is making a name for itself this year in the deep south.
  • St. Louis 53, Boston College 50. In a game that both teams needed to win, Rick Majerus’ SLU team made just enough plays down the stretch to seal the game.  BC’s Tyrese Rice and Joe Trapani combined for 4-22 from the field.
  • Pittsburgh 86, Indiana (PA) 60. Dejuan Blair ripped apart the other Indiana for 27/18 in a mere 21 minutes of play.
  • Purdue 66, Coppin St. 46. Robbie Hummell had 20/11 and E’Twaun Moore had 10/8/5 assts/3 blks in an easy win for the Boilermakers.
  • Rhode Island 92, VCU 86. In a game that must have been played with absolutely no defense, URI put five players in double figures while shooting 54% from the field, while VCU shot an even better 61% led by Eric Maynor’s 22/6/8 assts (he also had an ungodly ten TOs).  So how did URI win?  Home court – the Rams shot 16 more FTS (making 11).
  • Clemson 71, Charlotte 70. In a game Charlotte really needed to win at home if it intends on making a case for an at-large later this year, Clemson managed to hang on led by Demontez Stitt’s 16/4/4 assts.  KC Rivers (12/8) put the Tigers ahead for good with a driving layup with 43 seconds left.
  • Missouri St. 62, Arkansas 57. Can we go ahead and put the SEC in the mid-major grouping yet?  Another loss to a mid-major – at least this one was on the road.
  • Marquette 100, UW-Milwaukee 80. Marquette’s Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward each had 25 pts in a blowout win over crosstown rival UW-Milwaukee.  Matthews is up to a fantastic start this year, averaging 26/7/4 over three games.
  • Nevada 79, Oregon St. 71. We’ll say this for Craig Robinson’s first year at OSU – he has his team playing competitive basketball on the road, and Nevada is no easy venue for a visitor to get a win.  Luke Babbit had 20/7 for the Wolfpack.

Sunday Highlights.

  • Duke 78, Montana 58. Greg Paulus didn’t play because of a bruised ego elbow, but Duke still had no trouble putting down the Grizzlies, despite playing four games in the last eight days.
  • Arizona St. 61, Pepperdine 40. This is a vintage Herb Sendek score, as James Harden’s 33/12 led ASU to a win over a Waves team that literally couldn’t throw it in the ocean (27% FG).
  • Connecticut 76, Miami (FL) 63. UConn advanced to the finals of the Paradise Jam (vs. Wisconsin) by holding Miami to 35% shooting, helped by Hasheem Thabeet’s patrolling of the inside (19/14 to go with 7 blocks).  The game was essentially decided when UConn held Miami to 8 pts for a nine-minute stretch of the first half.  Jack McClinton had 27/5 for Miami and his teammate Dwayne Collins had 16/14 in the losing effort.
  • Wisconsin 64, San Diego 49. The Badgers pulled away late from San Diego, ensuring that there will be no UConn-SD rematch from last year’s NCAAs.  Trevon Hughes appears to be the new stud in the Badger system, going for 22 pts tonight after 21 the night before.  Some things never change – UW held SD to 35% shooting while going for 51% themselves.

On Tap Monday (all times EST). Feast Week is our favorite basketball week until Championship Week starts in March.  There are so many good early-season tourney matchups, between the Maui Invitational, the Preseason NIT semis and finals, the Old Spice and Anaheim Classics, the Las Vegas Invitational, and even the ridiculous CBE and Legends Classic final rounds.  Here are the highlighted games for tomorrow.

  • Texas (-9) v. St. Joseph’s (ESPN2 & 360) – 3pm  (Maui Invtl.)
  • Notre Dame (-13.5) v. Indiana (ESPN2 & 360) – 5:30pm  (Maui Invtl.)
  • Miami (FL) v. San Diego – 6pm (Paradise Jam)
  • Florida (-3) v. Syracuse (ESPN2 & 360) – 7:30pm  (CBE Classic)
  • Connecticut v. Wisconsin – 8:30pm (Paradise Jam)
  • UNC v. Chaminade (ESPNU) – 9:30pm (Maui Invtl.)
  • Kansas (-5) v. Washington (ESPN2 & 360) – 9:30pm (CBE Classic)
  • Alabama (-2.5) v. Oregon (ESPN2 & 360) – 12am (Maui Invtl.)
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