NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round — Thursday Afternoon

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#6 Murray State vs. #11 Colorado State – West Region Second Round (at Louisville, KY) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Steve Prohm Brings His One-Loss Team to the Dance (US Presswire)

Anytime you enter the NCAA Tournament with just one loss and 4-0 record over NCAA Tournament teams, you’re a big story and a threat to go deep in the tournament. That’s the situation Murray State finds itself in. The fact that they’ve got a recent history of some success in the tournament (they knocked off Vanderbilt in the first round in 2010 before losing a heartbreaker to eventual national runner up Butler) makes them an even bigger challenge. In that 2010 loss to Butler, then-freshman guard Isaiah Canaan had the ball in his hands with the clock running down and threw an errant pass that got deflected by Gordon Hayward, effectively sealing the Racers’ fate. Two years later, Canaan is this team’s leader and one of the best guards in the nation, capable not only of getting his own opportunities in a variety of ways, but also creating for his teammates. And he’ll certainly be a problem for a Colorado State team whose guards, though talented scorers offensively, struggle to stay in front of their men on defense. Another issue for the Rams is the fact that they are one of the smallest teams in the nation (there are only five teams smaller, according to Ken Pomeroy’s effective height statistic), with a frontline that doesn’t go any larger than 6’6”. Murray may not have a lot more height (their two main interior players – Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel – go just 6’7”), but the lack of size has been an issue for CSU this year. Still, the Rams can score with just about anybody, but their inability to lock down defensively will be a problem. A bigger problem could be the fact that the Racers are playing not only within an easy drive of their campus, but that the hordes of Kentucky fans who show up for the early session will most certainly convert their allegiance to the Racers, at least temporarily.

The RTC Certified Pick: Murray State

#8 Kansas State vs. #9 Southern Miss – East Region Second Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

This could be an ugly game right off the bat. Neither of these two teams shoots the ball particularly well, especially Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have an awful two point field goal percentage (43.3%) and rank second to last among NCAA Tournament teams in effective field goal percentage. Only 16th seeded Western Kentucky is worse. Despite the poor shooting numbers, Larry Eustachy’s Golden Eagles have a respectable offensive efficiency number thanks to a minimal turnover percentage and solid offensive rebounding. If Southern Miss is going to win this game, it must rebound the basketball and score on second chance opportunities. While Kansas State is regarded as a team that plays terrific defense and rebounds well, the Wildcats are vulnerable on the defensive glass. Provided Southern Miss and point guard Neil Watson can keep a good handle on the ball and get some decent looks, this team will hang around. For Kansas State, it must get Rodney McGruder going early and often. McGruder is the best offensive player on this team and has been playing at a high level of late. Kansas State should win the game if it rebounds well and plays its typical brand of physical hard-nosed basketball. The Wildcats should get plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities against a Southern Miss team that has just one player taller than 6’7.” The free throw battle could be important as well. Each team gets to the line well but also fouls a lot when playing defense. The Golden Eagles shoot it much better from the stripe and they’ll need to today in order to offset the rebounding disadvantage.

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Set Your TiVo: 03.05.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Four conference tournament titles will be decided this evening. The most important game may be in the Colonial where the loser of the game needs to make a good impression for the NCAA Selection Committee. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

Colonial Athletic Association Championship: Drexel vs. VCU (at Richmond, VA) – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

Will Shaka Smart Earn Himself More Nets Tonight?

  • This is a huge game because the loser is going to be sweating it out for the next week. Drexel won the first and only meeting between these teams way back on January 8. The Dragons bring the #4 eFG% defense to the table along with one of the slowest tempos in Division I. That combination could really frustrate a VCU team that likes to play faster and score in transition. The Rams are the best team in the nation when it comes to defensive turnover percentage but creating turnovers against Bruiser Flint’s Dragons is going to be very difficult. It’s always easier to slow a team down than it is to speed one up and that’s exactly what Drexel has to do in order to win in Richmond tonight. Drexel point guard Frantz Massenat will have to play a complete game and set the tone for his team in front of what should be a quasi-road atmosphere.
  • The one problem an aggressive team like Shaka Smart’s group can have is foul trouble. Drexel is a solid free throw shooting team (76% in CAA play) so VCU needs to avoid fouling and putting the Dragons in the bonus early and often. VCU’s defensive free throw rate is not good and Drexel had a remarkable 89.7% free throw rate when these teams got together in Philly in early January. VCU simply can’t afford another effort like that if it hopes to win the CAA’s automatic NCAA bid. The Rams are not a particularly great shooting team but Bradford Burgess and Troy Daniels pose major perimeter threats. Burgess has last year’s experience to fall back on in a pressure situation and you have to believe that helps when faced with what should be a very close elimination game.
  • The point guards could decide this game. Massenat can distribute and shoot with the best of them in this conference while VCU’s Darius Theus must play the role of facilitator and not as the go-to scorer. Theus went 1-6 from the floor in the first meeting but did record six assists. A few less shots and a couple more assists could be the difference for VCU tonight. For Drexel, Samme Givens has to come up big on the boards. The 6’5” swingman is a terrific rebounder for his size and should look to take advantage of VCU’s weakness on its offensive glass. We think this is going to be a contest that comes down to the very end. With an NCAA bid on the line and no guarantees for the loser, it should be quite an atmosphere in Richmond on this night.

West Coast Conference Championship: #20 Gonzaga vs. #24 St. Mary’s (at Las Vegas, NV) – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • These teams will meet for the third time after splitting the regular season series, each winning at home. Gonzaga smashed BYU on Saturday night behind 30 points from Kevin Pangos and the Bulldogs will look to do more of the same against a St. Mary’s defense that is vulnerable to the three-ball. The Gaels allow opponents to shoot 37.5% from deep and that’s not something Randy Bennett wants to see when going up against a shooter as talented as Pangos. While the SMC defense is a concern, the Gaels shoot more threes than Gonzaga and can gain an edge because of it. When Clint Steindl and Matthew Dellavedova are knocking down triples, St. Mary’s is tough to beat. Gonzaga’s defense is pretty good on the perimeter but it will be tested significantly by the Gaels’ guards and forwards. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 02.23.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 23rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

#8 Duke at #17 Florida State – 7:00PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • Duke lost to FSU on their home court at the buzzer the last time these two played. Going on the road to exact revenge and keep pace with North Carolina for the ACC lead looms large for the Blue Devils. There are two key areas that Duke needs to focus on in order to beat the Seminoles – three-point defense and getting to the free throw line. While the Blue Devils have the top three-point defense in the ACC, they let the Seminoles hit 50% from downtown in the first game. It’s a key area of focus because in 3 of the 4 Duke losses, they have allowed an eFG of over 60%. Additionally, keep a close eye on their ability to get to the line. When Duke does not get to the line frequently they are vulnerable. Their three worst free throw rate performances of the season are all losses.

    Can FSU Knock Duke Off Again?

  • Florida State was able to beat Duke in their previous match-up with its strongest shooting effort of the season. For a team that is known for its defense, FSU is the best shooting team in the ACC. Their three-point shooting has gotten much better in conference play to give their eFG a big boost. Only Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Clemson have been able to hold the Seminoles under 50% eFG in a single game. They must watch the turnovers though as they are turning the ball over at a rate of 22.3% in ACC play.
  • This game will come down to free throws and three-point defense. Both teams rely on free throws to win ball games. When taken away with good defense and no fouls, they lose. With so many of Dukes shots coming from beyond the three-point line (40%) and FSU’s recent success from downtown, the team who defends the three better should win.
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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the West Coast Conference correspondent for RTC.

Readers’ Take

 

Looking Back

Gonzaga roars back into contention, Saint Mary’s faces the specter of repeated collapse and BYU tells anyone who listening, “Don’t count us out.” It was quite a week in the WCC.

  • The Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s game last Thursday at the McCarthey Athletic Center on the Gonzaga campus was almost a reverse of their earlier encounter in Moraga in January, an 83-62 Saint Mary’s win. The Zags were the aggressors and the Gaels seemed unable to counter with their usual efficiency and defensive poise. The Zags triumphed, 73-59, behind their all-freshman backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who hit a combined 7-9 from behind the three-point arc and finished with 39 points. The Gaels’ stellar back court of Matthew Dellavedova and Stephen Holt countered with just 20 points, all of them from Dellavedova as Holt threw up an 0-fer on the big stage.
  • The stat that probably registered most vividly in Randy Bennett’s mind, however, was the Zags’ 40-26 rebounding edge, a stunner that countered a Gaels’ strength and contrasted with a 36-33 edge of their own in the previous contest.
  • While all this was taking place in Spokane, BYU had the night off and worked up a head of steam for a Saturday encounter with lowly Pepperdinein the Marriott Center. The result, an 86-48 rout, seemed to position BYU for a stretch run to move them back into contention for a double-bye in the WCC tournament beginning March 1.

    Randy Bennett's Crew Did Not Have Much To Smile About This Past Week (AP)

  • Saint Mary’s bounced back from the Gonzaga loss – its first in WCC play – to handle Santa Clara, 82-67, while the Zags continued on a high note with a 78-59 smackdown of Loyola Marymount, which failed in its effort to move into position for a top-three finish. The Gaels, however, stumbled again last night against a hot-shooting Loyola Marymount team, losing 75-60, and falling into a virtual tie for first place with two losses (the Zags have played two fewer games than Saint Mary’s).

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s (23-4, 12-2) is hearing footsteps for the first time in a season that was going swimmingly until Max Good’s LMU Lions dropped by McKeon Pavilion last night. Not only did the Gaels lose the game, but starting guard Stephen Holt left the game with a knee injury of uncertain severity and emerging post man Brad Waldow re-injured a bruised rib and had to sit for large segments of the game. Bennett’s boys could not have had a worse send-off for their Saturday BracketBusters game with Murray State in Murray, KY.
  2. Gonzaga (20-4, 10-2) got its mojo back with last week’s convincing home wins over Saint Mary’s and LMU, but has some work to do before getting ready for another NCAA tournament run. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the West Coast Conference

Posted by rtmsf on February 9th, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the WCC correspondent for RTC.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

Gonzaga failed in its second big test of the season last Thursday, succumbing to the fast hands of BYU’s defenders and losing 83-73 in Provo. Coming after the Zags’ 21-point pasting by Saint Mary’s in Moraga back in January, the BYU loss cast serious doubts about Gonzaga’s chances to notch its 12th consecutive claim to at least a share of the WCC regular season title. Both Gonzaga and BYU play “fast,” meaning they bring the ball up quickly and go into high-speed motion offenses to catch defenders on their heels and score easy buckets. The problem last Thursday was BYU was better at that game than Gonzaga, forcing 19 turnovers consisting mostly of steals (14). The Zag back court tandem of Kevin Pangos and Marquise Carter were responsible for eight turnovers against five assists, and erratic forward Elias Harris committed four turnovers and scored just seven points. The Zags do not have a player as complete as BYU’s Noah Hartsock, who put on a clinic for Harris and various other defenders, scoring 24 points, pulling down 14 rebounds and committing just one turnover.

For a brief period last Saturday it seemed as if the WCC universe was about to tip off its axle: San Francisco was up big against Loyola Marymount in the second half; BYU was struggling against Portland; and Gonzaga, desperately needing a win following the loss to BYU, was having problems with the lowly Pepperdine Waves, who pulled within two points of the Zags (42-44) with 12:24 left in the second half. Order was restored, however, as Loyola made a furious comeback to erase a 17-point San Francisco lead with a little more than seven minutes left and handed the Dons a crushing 90-88 loss. BYU, making its first trip to Portland, figured out a way to overcome a four-point Portland lead with 16 minutes left – get to the free-throw line and turn ‘em over. BYU shot a mind-boggling 53 free throws, making 38, and turned over Portland 24 times en route to a 79-60 win. And Gonzaga righted itself long enough against Pepperdine to manage a 72-60 win.

Noah Hartsock (34) Was Outstanding In BYU's Key Victory Over Gonzaga (Getty)

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s (22-2, 11-0) avoided the Saturday night drama, but had enough trouble with improving San Diego last Thursday before overcoming a 60-58 deficit at the 12:03 mark in the second half to post an 84-73 win. By continuing to win the Gaels continued to rise in the national rankings, notching a program-best #13 ranking in the ESPN/Coaches’ Poll and a #16 in the AP writers’ poll.
  2. Gonzaga (18-4, 8-2) finds itself two-and-a-half games behind Saint Mary’s heading into tonight’s crucial rematch with the Gaels in the frenzied atmosphere of their home court. A win and the Zags can hope for a repeat of last year’s swoon by Saint Mary’s that allowed the Zags to tie for the conference title. Another loss and the Zags fall three games behind in the loss column with only four games to go. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 02.09.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 9th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The conference showdowns have been spectacular thus far. We have learned how dominant Kentucky is, that Kansas isn’t ready to give up the Big 12 crown yet, and that Duke-UNC is amazing theater nearly every time. Tonight, the WCC take center stage as the old guard and the upstart do battle out west.

Dellavedova looks to repeat his performance from earlier in the season against Gonzaga tonight.

#11 St. Mary’s at #24 Gonzaga – 11:00 PM EST on ESPN2 HD (****)

  • St. Mary’s has won 12 games in a row and is 3-0 against their biggest conference threats, BYU and Gonzaga. A win on the road against Gonzaga will give the Gaels a three-game lead in the West Coast Conference and all but wrap-up the regular season conference crown. In their first go around with the Zags in Moraga, St. Mary’s shot 61.7% from two-point land. Hitting a high percentage of two-point shots has been the proven method to beat Gonzaga. The Gaels were led by Matthew Dellavedova in their win against the Bulldogs earlier this season. Dellavedova had 26 points on 10-16 shooting. Look for a steady does of Dellavedova from both outside and inside, along with some assistance from Brad Waldow, who dropped 17 on Gonzaga in the first game. Dellavedova will be the barometer for St. Mary’s. If he’s knocking down good looks early, Gonzaga will have a tough time beating the Gaels.
  • Gonzaga needs their defense and their bigs to step-up in this game if they want a shot at another WCC crown. While Elias Harris picked-up 17 points in the previous match-up, Robert Sacre and Sam Dower were a combined 2-11 from the field. These two players cannot disappear from games if the Zags want to win. Watch their play on offense closely. Sacre has to demand the ball in the post and take advantage of his size.
  • The game hinges on Gonzaga’s defense. They simply cannot allow St. Mary’s to hit such a high percentage of two-point shots. While it is important for them to continue to defend the three, too many made shots from inside the arc kill the Zags. Additionally, they must keep the Gaels off the glass on offense. With a significant size advantage in the starting line-up, this should not be an issue but is certainly worth watching. Finally, Gonzaga needs to create turnovers. If Dellavedova is not being pressured enough, he will do exactly what he did in the last game.

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the WCC correspondent for RTC.

Reader’s Take 

 

Looking Back

Saint Mary’s was in the spotlight last week and the Gaels did not shirk from the attention. First came a businesslike, 71-64, win over Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, then an epochal, 80-66, romp over BYU in Provo that seemed to unhinge everyone connected with BYU basketball. It wasn’t only the 22,000-plus rabid fans in the Marriott Center, it wasn’t only normally low-key BYU coach Dave Rose losing his cool, it wasn’t just Noah Hartsock earning a flagrant foul with a blatant forearm shiver to the neck of Gaels’ forward Rob Jones. It was almost a fan riot, an atmosphere so riddled with boos, objects thrown on the floor and technical fouls that ESPNU announcers Dave Flemming and Sean Farnham repeatedly warned about the need for officials to gain control.

The Battle On The Court Between Saint Mary's and BYU Wasn't The Only Storyline Of That Contest (AP)

Fat chance, as the officiating crew of Frank Harvey, James Giron and Glen Mayberry seemed incapable of providing the right answer to a surly crowd – calling the game tight on both sides and leaving it up to BYU officials to calm the masses. Instead, the crew seemed to come to a collective decision that ignoring repeated fouls by BYU players and cracking down on Saint Mary’s would do the job. This theory came to a head about halfway through the second half with a technical foul called on the Saint Mary’s bench for allegedly standing up and/or crowding the floor – it was never made clear. The spuriousness of that call was caught by a BYU fan who happened to be shooting video of the BYU and Saint Mary’s benches at the time the technical was called.

Check it out:

Everyone on the Saint Mary’s bench is seated at the moment the technical is called. Even if they were all jumping up and down, one wonders how the ref would know since he made the call with his back to the bench and from the opposite end of the court. It seems bizarre and indicative of the desperate measures the refs applied to deal with a bad situation. No one from BYU stepped forward to calm things down, no one addressed the crowd, no one made any placating gestures (except for a routine announcement from the public address announcer after the fans were warned for their first barrage of object-throwing). All in all a big black eye for BYU’s first year in the WCC and a testament to the cool of Randy Bennett’s Gaels, who didn’t panic under relentless pressure from BYU and the crowd.

Power Rankings

1.  Saint Mary’s (21-2, 10-0) spent another week at the top of the league standings and another week moving up in both major rankings – to #16 in the ESPN/Coaches Poll and to #18 in the AP poll. To top it all off, ESPN announced that Saint Mary’s would travel to Murray, Kentucky, on February 18 to play currently undefeated Murray State in the premiere contest of ESPN’s Bracket Buster event. Never mind that neither Saint Mary’s nor Murray State – ranked in the top 10 by both polls – needs the game to break into the NCAA Tournament brackets, it still will be a closely-watched contest with obvious benefits for whichever team wins.

2.  Gonzaga (17-3, 7-1) bided its time last week, topping Portland,74-62, in Portland in its only contest. The Zags saved their energy for their showdown with BYU tonight in Provo, a game with huge importance for both teams. The Zags are two games behind Saint Mary’s at present, although only one behind in the loss column. A loss to equally-desperate BYU would put them two back in the loss column with Saint Mary’s coming to Spokane on February 9.

Mark Few and Gonzaga Is Still Very Much Alive For The WCC Title (AP)

3.  BYU (18-6, 6-3) and Loyola Marymount (13-9, 6-3) (tie): Tonight’s contest with Gonzaga might be BYU’s last chance to salvage its season, as a defeat would drop the Cougars four games back from Saint Mary’s and three behind Gonzaga. Not only how it plays but how its team, coaches, and fans, behave will be under scrutiny for BYU, as a repeat of last week’s meltdown against Saint Mary’s could have dire repercussions for the school’s reputation and self-respect. Loyola split last week, following up the Saint Mary’s loss with a throat-tightening, 62-59, win over Portland that wasn’t decided until the final minutes. The win was important to keep LMU close to the conference leaders and to prove they could win a league game at home. Before dispatching the young Pilots, LMU was 5-0 on the road and 0-3 at home.

5.  San Francisco (15-9, 5-5) began to look more and more like last year’s team (well, it IS last year’s team), as it appears to be peaking at the same time. By beating Santa Clara on the road and San Diego at home, the Dons evened their conference record and began looking ahead to see how far they can advance in the standings. It’s crowded at the top, and it won’t be easy to move into fourth place and earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament. The Dons, with a tough challenge in Los Angeles against LMU on Saturday, seem ready to take it on.

6.  San Diego (8-13, 3-6) showed some signs of life in its, 65-56, home win over Pepperdine – its third win in five games – but then regressed in an, 84-70, road loss to San Francisco. It was enough to keep the Toreros out of the depths of the conference’s lower half.

7.  Portland (5-17, 2-7) is in seventh place only because it has fewer losses than Pepperdine, but the Pilots were more than competitive against LMU and their 74-62 loss to Gonzaga wasn’t as lopsided as the score indicates. Eric Reveno’s achingly young troops scare everybody they play but Portland hasn’t figured out how to beat most teams. Yet.

8.  Pepperdine (8-13, 2-8) recovered from the loss at San Diego to topple hapless Santa Clara, 74-62, at home. The Waves continue the PCH Cup series with LMU tonight, then hitch up their shorts for the invading Gonzaga Bulldogs on Saturday – it may get ugly.

9.  Santa Clara (8-13, 0-8) continued its nosedive with losses to San Francisco and Pepperdine, and face Portland at home tonight before going on the road to face San Diego. Most observers feel the Broncos will pull out of this swoon some time, but the clock is ticking on the 2012 season.

The Post Intrigue Between Robert Sacre (left) and Brandon Davies Is Just One Of Many Key Matchups In Tonight's Big Contest Between Gonzaga and BYU

Looking Ahead

  • You don’t have to look far for this week’s drama, as Gonzaga vs. BYU in Provo (ESPN2, 8:00 PM Pacific) tonight should have all you want. BYU is barely hanging on in the WCC race and Gonzaga can’t afford to fall further behind Saint Mary’s, which has only tonight’s home game against San Diego.
  • A week from tonight comes the battle between Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga in Spokane, which should be as riveting as the Gaels’ assault on BYU. The Gaels throttled Gonzaga, 83-62, on January 12, and the Zags have not forgotten.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.02.12

Posted by bmulvihill on February 2nd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Gonzaga at Brigham Young – 11:00 PM EST on ESPN2 HD (****)

  • Gonzaga is basically in a must-win situation if they want to have a shot at the regular season West Coast Conference title. If they can beat BYU tonight on the road, they will then get both BYU and St. Mary’s at home over the next few weeks. If they lose, they will drop two behind SMC in the loss column with a month to go, making it extremely difficult for the Bulldogs to win another WCC regular season crown. GU is by far the best defense in the WCC, so it is certainly possible for Mark Few’s team to win in Provo. This team is reminiscent of the UCLA teams that made the Final Four under Ben Howland in that their defense is good enough to survive very poor shooting nights and still win. Mark Few’s team is 6-1 when their eFG% is under 50%. The teams that have been able to beat Gonzaga have killed them from inside the arc, though. With the size that GU possesses, this seems unlikely. However, when you look at their losses to Michigan State, Illinois, and St. Mary’s, each of those teams shot between 55% and 62% from two against the Zags. Keep a close eye on how Elias Harris, Robert Sacre, and Sam Dower defend the interior.

    Matt Carlino and BYU Will Get Another Shot At St. Mary's In Provo (AP)

    Matt Carlino (10) Is Going To Play A Big Role In BYU's Critical Matchup Against Gonzaga

  • BYU has already been beaten twice by St. Mary’s, so their regular season title chances are essentially done. They are positioning themselves for either a run in the WCC Tourney or an at-large bid. A win against the Zags will go a long way to help their cause. The game could be shaping up to be a size versus speed matchup. At 73 possessions per game, BYU likes to get up and down the court. They need to tire out the bigs from Gonzaga and get easy transition buckets if they want to win this game. Keep a close eye on 6’8” forward Noah Hartsock and guard Matt Carlino. Hartsock needs to go inside-outside on the GU big men and Carlino needs drive and dish to create easy two point baskets for his teammates.
  • Do not expect a lot of second chance points in this game, as both teams are excellent on the defensive boards. However, the team that is able to grab a few extra offensive boards will have an advantage. Give the edge to the Zags in that area because of their size. The game will ultimately be decided by BYU’s ability to make two-point shots. They are going to have to hit between 55% – 60% of their interior shots to win. Not an easy task against the size and defensive toughness of Gonzaga.

Other Games to Watch:

  • Duke at Virginia Tech (8:00 PM EST on ESPN HD): Until Virginia Tech can show they are able to win consistently, they cannot be considered a serious opponent against any of the top tier ACC teams. The game is in Blacksburg, but nothing indicates they can win because they can’t shoot.
  • Oral Roberts at South Dakota State (8:00 PM EST): Nobody is giving any TV love to the top two teams in the Summit League, so you can’t TiVo it. Maybe there is local coverage that I’m missing. Regardless, ORU has won 13 consecutive games including a 22-point beatdown of San Diego State during the streak. Look for Nate Wolters and company to step-it up at home, where they are undefeated this season.

***** – 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 2014

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 26th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take 

 

Looking Back

  • Suddenly there is a fourth guest at the party. Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga and BYU had dominated WCC play in the pre-season and until the halfway point of the conference race, but last Thursday Loyola Marymount rudely interrupted their revels. An 82-68 thumping of BYU in a half-full Marriott Center in Provo sent notice that Max Good’s squad is healthy and hungry to compete for a top spot with the Big Three.
  • Good is enjoying the benefit of having star forwards Drew Viney (15.9 PPG) and Ashley Hamilton (12.5 PPG) in the lineup at the same time, and is receiving outstanding point guard play from Anthony Ireland (15.9 PPG), who was good enough to win Player of the Week honors in the WCC. Ireland’s line in the LMU win over BYU and a subsequent 74-62 win over Santa Clara was remarkably similar: 27 points and five assists against BYU, 25 points and five assists against Santa Clara. That earned him the Lou Henson Award for National Player of the Week from CollegeInsider.com in addition to the WCC honor.
  • The additional factor allowing LMU to separate from its opponents is contributions from other players besides its three leaders: LaRon Armstead, the rugged (6’5”, 200 lbs.) senior forward from Los Angeles, is averaging nine points per game and has been a big factor in the Lions’ success since he recovered from a concussion several games ago. Armstead moved into the Lions’ starting lineup for the first time against BYU and contributed 12 points and six rebounds. Another bruiser from Los Angeles, 6’7”, 240-lb sophomore forward Alex Osborne, has also come on strong lately, racking up nine rebounds and five points in 22 minutes against Santa Clara.

Drew Viney (34) and LMU Are Slowly Fighting Their Way Towards The Top Tier Of The WCC

Power Rankings

  1.  Saint Mary’s (19-2, 8-0) quietly moved up in the national rankings last week, to #20 in the ESPN/Coaches Poll and #21 in the AP poll, thanks to steady wins over Pepperdine at home (61-47) and Santa Clara on the road (93-77) that gave the Gaels their best start in school history. Overshadowed by Ireland’s stellar week was Gaels’ point guard Matthew Dellavedova, who averaged 20 points and six assists in his team’s two wins, including a clinic in the high pick-and-roll against Santa Clara. Time and time again, Dellavedova cruised into the lane against the Broncos and either dropped in runners or found teammates Rob Jones or Brad Waldow for easy buckets. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2012

Michael Vernetti is the West Coast Conference correspondent for RTC.

Reader’s Take 

 

Looking Back

  • Holding serve was the key note last week, as Saint Mary’s slapped down the second of its main competitors for the WCC title, Gonzaga, by a convincing 83-62 margin in Moraga. That followed the Gaels’ first-week trouncing of BYU by 98-82, also at home. Playing the cards dealt to them by an unbalanced conference schedule, the Gaels now have a one-game edge on both rivals before facing them on the road.
  • For Saint Mary’s, the nine-team schedule – reflecting the addition of BYU to the ranks – was front-loaded with rivals (and home court-loaded as well). Gonzaga and BYU, on the other hand, have yet to face each other and both had to travel to Moraga for their initial showdown with the Gaels. The WCC held on to its true round-robin form, however, so each team plays each other twice, meaning Gonzaga and BYU will have their shot at revenge. The Gaels travel to Provo on January 28 and to Gonzaga on February 9; BYU and Gonzaga tangle in Provo on February 2 and in Spokane on February 23.
  • Everything that has transpired in the first three weeks of conference play indicates that the league championship and seeding for the March 1-5 conference tournament in Las Vegas will be determined by those three teams.

Dellavedova and the Gaels Held Serve, Now What?

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s (17-2, 6-0): The key matchup in Thursday’s game with Gonzaga was supposed to be in the frontcourt, where the Zags’ trio of Robert Sacre, Sam Dower and Elias Harris was reputedly superior to the Gaels’ mixed bag of post players along with stalwart power forward Rob Jones. Sly ol’ Randy Bennett, however, had been tinkering with his post players throughout the pre-conference schedule and by league time had it figured out. The three-headed contingent of redshirt freshman Brad Waldow (6’9”), senior Kenton Walker II (6’9”) and junior Mitchell Young (6’8”) outscored and outrebounded Sacre and Dower by an overwhelming 31 points and 17 rebounds to 12 points and eight rebounds. Read the rest of this entry »
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What To Make Of Gonzaga?

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2012

In the history of college basketball, Gonzaga’s string of 11 straight conference titles is second only to UCLA’s streak of 13 straight Pac-8 titles during the heyday and immediate aftermath of the Wooden era. Gonzaga, a small Jesuit school in Spokane, Washington, with an undergraduate enrollment of less than 5,000 students and no real history of basketball success prior to its first NCAA Tournament in 1995, has put itself into the same paragraph as one of the most dominant teams in sports history, even if the Bulldogs are playing on a different level than the Bruins were.

However, there is no doubt that recently Gonzaga’s dominance in the West Coast Conference has been challenged. Saint Mary’s has emerged as the conference’s most serious contender to the Zags’ throne, twice in three years finishing just a game back in the conference. And last year, with just three conference games remaining and SMC holding a two-game lead, the Zags saw the Gaels somehow lose to San Diego (a 6-24, last-place WCC team) and then knocked off Saint Mary’s in their head-to-head matchup to salvage a tie for the regular season title. It’s been creeping closer and closer, but could this finally be the year where Gonzaga fails to win the WCC? After losing by 21 points at Saint Mary’s on Thursday night, it is certainly a possibility.

Robert Sacre, Gonzaga

Gonzaga Has Been Dominant In The WCC, But They'll Need Robert Sacre's Best To Win The Title This Season (photo credit: Associated Press)

Saturday, the Zags got back on track by heading to Los Angeles and squeaking out a road victory over Loyola Marymount, using a second-half opening 17-4 run predicated on eight forced turnovers to erase a two-point halftime deficit. But they had to hold on as the Lions fought back and turned it into a one-possession game for much of the final five minutes. Toughness has been a question mark for the Zags with junior forward Elias Harris even calling out his team for being outhustled and outcompeted by the Gaels, but on Saturday the Zags won down the stretch with toughness, hustling to loose balls and playing smart and hard-nosed defense. “In a game like this, it is about toughness,” said head coach Mark Few. “I thought we strung together some nice stops and got a little more confidence in our defense.”

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Set Your TiVo: 01.12.12

Posted by bmulvihill on January 12th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Tonight we’ll see two match-ups that may be previews to conference championship games in the ACC and the WCC. All four teams are in the RTC Top 25 and both games should be fantastic. Let’s take a look at how things break down.

Senior forward Mike Scott takes his efficient offensive skills into Cameron Indoor for UVA's toughest test of the season (The Sabre)

#19 Virginia at #8 Duke – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN HD (****)

  • Virginia has only lost one time this season and is looking for its 13th consecutive win. Playing at Duke will be UVA’s toughest test of the season. The Cavaliers play at a sloth’s pace. While their offense is nothing more than average, their defense has been stellar. They are holding teams to 27% from beyond the arc and are in the top 10 in the country in defensive rebounding. Although offense is not the Cavaliers’ strong suit, 6’8″ forward Mike Scott is one of the most effective scorers and rebounders in the country. Considering how slowly Virginia plays, Scott should be considered one of the top big men in the country. Keep a close eye on how he matches up with Duke’s Mason Plumlee. It should be a great battle between two future NBA forwards.
  • Duke still possesses one of the top offenses in the country. The Blue Devils shoot an outstanding 41.7% from downtown. Much like Virginia, Duke knows how to get to the line. The free throw battle in this game will be extremely important. In both of Duke’s losses, two key statistics emerged. They did not get to the line and their opponent shot the lights out. On the season, the Dukies have a free throw rate of 51.5%, which is good for third in the nation. In losses to Ohio State and Temple, Duke had a free throw rate of 25% and 27%, respectively. Virginia does not put teams on the line, so it will be interesting to see how the free throw situation plays out.
  • While it appears that this game will come down to Duke’s offense versus Virginia’s defense, the UVA offense actually may hold the key to the win. In Duke’s two losses, OSU and Temple both had an eFG of over 60%. Look to see if Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski can hit his threes. Zeglinski is the Cavaliers’ top three-point shooter, hitting 31-of-74 attempts (41.9%). Also, keep an eye on Duke’s offensive rebounding. The Cavaliers’ defense will contest Duke’s three-point shots and the Blue Devils are a poor offensive rebounding team. If Mike Krzyzewski’s squad goes one-and-done too many times, the Cavaliers could pull the upset at Cameron Indoor. However, it may be too much to expect for the Virginia offense to win in such a tough environment.

#16 Gonzaga at #25 St. Mary’s – 11:00 PM EST on ESPNU HD (****)

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