Saint Louis Provides Blueprint For Rattling Brad Stevens and Company

Posted by dnspewak on February 1st, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this from Chaifetz Arena following Saint Louis’ 75-58 victory over Butler.

The world’s leading scientists have two theories on Butler coach Brad Stevens. The first is simple. He is a robot. The second is a bit more complicated — that Stevens is technically a human being, but he intentionally bottles up his emotions on the sidelines and plays up his poker face to keep his basketball team under control in all situations. Not even Einstein’s quite sure how the 36-year-old coaching prodigy’s brain works, but every hypothesis concludes with the same result. Brad Stevens is a mastermind. He is a genius with an unshakeable demeanor, a fierce general who leads with his actions not his words. He never screams, never yells, never loses his cool, never argues with the officials, never lashes out at reporters and does not even offer a fist-pump when his team wins on the most improbable of buzzer-beaters. Nothing rattles Brad Stevens.

Except for the Saint Louis defense. Oh, those Billikens defenders could send General Patton running for the hills. As he watched his team turn the ball over time after time after time after time during a humbling 75-58 loss at Chaifetz Arena on Thursday night, Stevens showed his human side on more than one occasion. When Khyle Marshall threw the ball away under his own basket in the first half and gave Saint Louis two free points – one of 16 turnovers before the break – Stevens called a timeout and lit into his junior forward. Freshman Devontae Morgan was the next victim of verbal abuse after some sort of indiscretion on the defensive end. Stevens chased around official Ted Valentine at times, and in the postgame press conference, he fully admitted his ninth ranked team looked like a disaster for 40 minutes. “It was an absolute joy to watch one team play,” Stevens said. “Problem was, it wasn’t the team I was coaching.” It wasn’t as though Stevens put on a show with his antics on Thursday night. Compared to the rest of the hooligans roaming the sidelines in Division I basketball, he looked like Mother Theresa. Still, Stevens showed noticeable frustration as his team suffered through a 26-4 Billiken run in the first half. The Bulldogs had difficulty getting the ball up the court and running even a single set in the halfcourt.

SLU Players Got to Celebrate Too

SLU Players Got to Celebrate Too During the Rush The Court

It was oddly reminiscent of another vintage performance by Saint Louis back in December, when the Billikens held New Mexico to fewer points (13) in the first half than turnovers (16). They punish teams with picture-perfect help defense, and they have quick forwards who may not block a ton of shots but certainly disrupt opponents with their foot speed. Wing Dwayne Evans’ hands are all over the place. Cory Remuken is the shot-blocker and hustle player in the frontcourt. Jordair Jett is like the Tasmanian devil in the backcourt. They are fast, tough, smart and almost impossible to score against when they are at their best, but Saint Louis stepped it up a notch against the Atlantic 10 newcomers. “We’re just getting stop after stop, just converting on offense, but it started on the defensive end,” Jett said. “We’re just thinking, ‘Step on it. Make the lead bigger.’”

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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.28.13

Posted by bmulvihill on January 28th, 2013

setDVR

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

Things are a little quiet this week with mostly match-ups between top and bottom teams in the conferences.  However, there are a few games that mean a lot to certain teams, including those in some of the smaller conferences. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Pittsburgh at #8 Louisville – 7:00 PM EST, Monday on ESPN (****)

Pitino looks to end a three game slide to in-state rival Kentucky on Saturday (AP)

Pitino needs to stop the bleeding at Louisville (AP)

  • Louisville is in an absolute must-win situation. They have lost their last three games and have struggled at crunch time with opportunities to win. Everyone keeps saying the Cardinals still could be the team to beat in March. However, history shows that teams that lose three games in a row during the regular season rarely win the title. Only four teams since 1980 have lost three games in a row and still managed to win the whole thing – 1982-83 North Carolina State, 1984-85 Villanova, 1987-88 Kansas, and 2005-06 Florida. Only one team in history has lost four games in a row and still won the tourney – Danny Manning and the Miracles (Kansas actually lost five straight at one point that season). The reality is that Rick Pitino‘s team is a poor shooting team and unless they get that corrected quickly, Louisville should not be considered a threat to win it all. Pittsburgh on the other hand seems to be turning things around. After starting 1-3 in conference play, they have managed to rattle off four straight wins. Both teams need a win to stay within two games of Syracuse and Marquette in the Big East. Pitt has improved their shooting and offensive rebounding in the last four contests and has been able to play tough defense without putting teams on the line. Keep a close eye on how Pitt does in the paint against Louisville shot blocker Gorgui Dieng. The Panthers are not a threat from three, so most of their points will come from inside the arc. For Louisville, they need to convert their turnovers into points by simply hitting shots. While Pittsburgh is not as long as Syracuse, Villanova, and Georgetown, they are not short. So Pitino’s crew needs to get to the basket for lay-ups and dunks. Shooting over the top is not a great way to break a shooting slump. Watch Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, as their performance on the interior will be the key to Louisville breaking their losing streak.

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Three Thoughts as Butler Defeats Temple in Rotnei Clarke’s Return

Posted by WCarey on January 26th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday night’s game between Temple and Butler. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Butler suffered its first Atlantic 10 loss and its first loss of any kind since November 21 on Wednesday when the Bulldogs were upended by La Salle on the road. The defense of the Explorers frustrated Butler all night en route to a 54-53 victory. Needing a shot in the arm offensively, Butler received one Friday afternoon when the school announced that leading-scorer Rotnei Clarke had been cleared to play in Saturday evening’s tilt with Temple. Clarke, a senior, had missed the team’s last three games after suffering a sprained neck against Dayton on January 12. With Clarke back in the fold, Butler had a bit of an offensive explosion as the Bulldogs scored their most points in over a month in a 12-point victory over a solid Temple squad. The following are three thoughts from Saturday night’s game.

Rotnei Clarke's Return Fueled the Butler Offense

Rotnei Clarke’s Return Fueled the Butler Offense

  1. Butler’s Complementary Players Keep Improving.  While it was Clarke who led the way for the Bulldogs with 24 points today, the contributions of freshman guard Kellen Dunham and junior forward Khyle Marshall were just as significant. Dunham, who returned to a reserve role due to Clarke’s return, was hot from behind the three-point line all game. He finished with 17 points and shot a blistering 5-of-6 from behind the arc. Marshall, who had scored a total of just 15 points over the last three games, broke out in a major way, scoring 19 points on a very efficient 9-of-11 from the field. While Clarke is still clearly the leading scorer and go-to guy, contributions from Dunham, Marshall, senior big man Andrew Smith, and sophomore swingman Roosevelt Jones are going to be major factors as the Bulldogs face stiff competition every night in Atlantic 10 play. The aforementioned players have all shown they are capable of making an impact, and if they continue to do consistently, Butler will remain a tough opponent on a nightly basis. Read the rest of this entry »
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Night Line: Butler the Latest Casualty of an Unpredictable Atlantic 10

Posted by BHayes on January 24th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Last weekend belonged to the Butler Bulldogs. With College Gameday in town and the national spotlight shining brightly on Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Dogs delivered as dramatic a victory as you will ever see when Roosevelt Jones coaxed in a floater at the horn to defeat Gonzaga. It was a transcendent moment that will stand alone well after this season ends, but it also vaulted Butler into the top 10 of both polls – rarefied midseason air, even for Butler. But the intoxicating high was short-lived in Indy, as Butler dove back into A-10 play tonight, coming up short in a 54-53 loss to La Salle. The Bulldogs weren’t the only team to be smacked in the face with the reality of this rough-and-tumble version of the A-10; St. Joseph’s fell at home to St. Bonaventure, while Xavier’s first Atlantic 10 loss came at the hands of surprising Charlotte – all further evidence that nights off aren’t an option in one of the deepest conferences in America.

LaSalle And Ramon Galloway Showed Butler That Life On The Road In The Atlantic-10 Is Rarely Easy

LaSalle And Ramon Galloway Showed Butler That Life On The Road In The Atlantic-10 Is Rarely Easy

A chaotic night in the conference indeed, but don’t mistake the happenings at La Salle as any sort of major upset. The Explorers were actually favorites in Vegas for this one, although an available Rotnei Clarke may have altered that. Either way, this has to be John Giannini’s most significant win at La Salle, and it adds some real legitimacy to his team’s at-large case. Lots of wins still need to come his way, but at 13-5 overall and 3-2 in the conference, this team undoubtedly will have the opportunity to play their way into the field.

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The Other 26: You Will Be Entertained

Posted by IRenko on January 19th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

After a one-week hiatus, we are back and just in time for a veritable orgy of great college hoops matchups today.  Yes, there is Louisville v. Syracuse, Florida v. Missouri, Oregon v. UCLA, and Ohio State v. Michigan State.  But things get no less interesting as you move down to the mid-major level, where several compelling matchups featuring conference contenders will unfold.  Before we get to the Top 10, let’s take a look at what’s on tap today:

  • Gonzaga at Butler — The nation’s two Cinderella darlings will square off at the storied Hinkle Fieldhouse in a made-for-TV (yes, ESPN College Gameday will be in the house) contest.  It will be the final game of Gonzaga’s non-conference schedule and, arguably, its toughest.  The loss of Rotnei Clarke to a frightening neck injury will take some of the luster off of this matchup, as Butler will be playing without their leading scorer.  The task will be no easier on the other end of the Court, as the Bulldogs will have to contend with a potent Gonzaga frontcourt, led by 7-footer Kelly Olynyk, who has emerged into a bona fide All-American candidate.  But as we all know, being the underdog suits Brad Stevens just fine.
  • Creighton at Wichita StateDoug McDermott has wowed the nation over the past week with a pair of 30-point games, and between his dominance and Creighton’s three-point shooting, the Bluejays’ offense has become quite difficult to stop.  But if there’s a team in the MVC who can do it, it’s Wichita State.  The Shockers have the best defense in the league, which will have the added boost of a raucous home crowd for this premier matchup.  The Shockers’ strong, quick guards will challenge Creighton at the other end, and Cleanthony Early might prove a tough matchup for McDermott.  Carl Hall is also back in the lineup for the Shockers, so both teams will be at full strength.
Siyani Chambers Is Having An Outstanding Freshman Year (Anthony Nesmith/CSM/Cal Sport Media/AP Images)

Siyani Chambers Is Having An Outstanding Freshman Year (Anthony Nesmith/CSM/Cal Sport Media/AP Images)

  • Harvard at Memphis — With Conference USA muddling through a down year, this could be be Memphis’ toughest opponent of the 2013 calendar year.  The Crimson have turned in a quality season despite the unexpected one-year withdrawals of senior leaders Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey due to an academic cheating scandal.  Much of the credit for that goes to freshman point guard Siyani Chambers, who is fifth in the country in minutes per game.  Tommy Amaker has put a great deal of faith in the young man, but he has rewarded him with a 31% assist rate, 50% three-point shooting average, and 88% FT shooting average.  Chambers will lock horns with Joe Jackson, who has steadied himself this season to become a reliable scorer and team leader.  The senior point guard has hit double-digits in points in 12 straight games, the longest mark of his college career.
  • Western Illinois at North Dakota State — North Dakota State has been one of the great underreported stories of the season, rolling up a 16-3 record and supplanting South Dakota State as the Summit League’s favorite.  But Western Illinois has also creeped to the top of the league standings, just a game behind NDSU at 6-1.  The Leathernecks are led by an inside-out combo of big man Terrell Parks (13.9 ppg, 9.4 rbg) and do-everything senior guard Ceola Clark.  Clark is an excellent defender, and he’ll need to be at his best to help stop a North Dakota State that is a well-oiled, methodical, efficient machine.  Marshall Bjorkland, the Bison’s 6-8 junior, is arguably the most efficient scorer in the country.  He leads the nation in effective FG percentage (72.4%) and is fourth in true shooting percentage (71.2%).
  • Utah State at Denver — Louisiana Tech remains at the top of the WAC standings after holding off Idaho on Thursday night, but these two squads are just one loss behind them.  So tonight’s game has a lot riding on it.  Expect a low-scoring contest between two of the lowest tempo teams in the country.  Royce O’Neale and Chris Udofia lead Denver’s Princeton offense, which wears down opponents with movement and relies heavily on the three-point shot.  Utah State will look to Preston Medlin, who leads the team with 16.3 points per game, and center Jarred Shaw who gets lots of touches in Stew Morrill’s offense. 
  • College of Charleston at Davidson — Charleston will have a chance to move into a tie atop the Southern Conference South standings with a win at Davidson.  They’ll be led by their backcourt combo of Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt, while their hosts will rely more heavily on their frontcourt tandem of De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen.  Davidson can fall in love with the three-point shot to their detriment.  They’re better when they get the ball to the versatile Brooks and Cohen.  Getting the ball in the basket won’t be easy against Charleston, which has a pretty good defense anchored in the middle by Adjehi Baru.
  • Belmont v. Tennessee State – You would think that this game between the OVC’s two undefeated teams would lose its luster with the absence of Tennessee State’s star big man, Robert Covington, except for one thing — they’ve won every one of their six OVC games without him.  Covington went down with a torn meniscus in a December 18 trip to Middle Tennessee State that the Tigers went on to lose by 38 points.  At that point, they were 5-7 on the season but they’ve reeled off seven straight since and now sit atop the OVC East standings.   But they may need more than the Ewing Effect when they travel across town to face off with Belmont.  The switch from the A-Sun to the OVC hasn’t dimmed the Bruins’ ability to dominate their conference competition.

So there it is, a day-long feast for the glutton who craves mid-major hoops.  We move on, now, to the updated Top 10 rankings, our weekly (starting this week) Honor Roll, and a few more games to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 18th, 2013

setDVR

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 top teams in several conferences go head-to-head and a non-conference mid-major battle in the midwest should provide a spectacular weekend of college hoops. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

#6 Syracuse at #1 Louisville – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again...

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again…

  • The cream of the Big East crop lock up in what should be an epic defensive battle. This may be the best defensive match-up we will see all season. Jim Boeheim’s match-up zone versus Rick Pitino’s press will be fun to watch. Louisville is known for its ability to create lots of turnovers, but Syracuse is almost just as good at causing teams to make mistakes. Additionally, Syracuse blocks a bunch of shots and locks down the perimeter. Louisville counters with its own shot-blocker deluxe in Gorgui Dieng. The question for Syracuse is how they will break the Louisville press — look to see if they use their length to make passes over the top of the Cardinals’ defense to get down the court.  Also, watch the guard match-up between Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse and Peyton Siva and Russ Smith of Louisville. Triche and Carter-Williams have a significant size advantage that could make scoring from the Louisville backcourt limited, although Smith just seems to find ways to score anyway. Ultimately, this game will come down to whose defense plays better, but this game is shaping up to be a classic.

#17 Missouri at #8 Florida – 2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Florida is coming off a dominant win against Texas A&M and is beginning to separate itself from the rest of the SEC. A win by Missouri on the road would be huge for the Tigers as they head into a stretch of games against the bottom tier of the league. Missouri needs to find a way to control the offensive boards without Laurence Bowers available if they are going to have a shot at winning this game. The Gators have been one of the toughest teams to shoot against this season, so don’t expect the Tigers to get a lot of great looks. However, as one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country, the Tigers have a chance if they can get put-backs and tip-ins. The key will be the battle down low between Alex Oriakhi and Patric Young so pay close attention to those two big men battling inside. Also, keep an eye on Missouri’s perimeter defense. Florida is taking 40% of its total shots from three — if the Gators’ shooters  are hitting from the outside, it’s going to be tough sledding for Missouri in its first SEC trip to Gainesville.

Oregon at #21 UCLA – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (****)

  • The Pac-12 is looking like a three team battle between Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon. With the Ducks already knocking off the Wildcats, they can make a huge statement early in the conference season with a road win against the Bruins. It won’t be easy, however, as UCLA has quietly put together a 10-game winning streak including back-to-back road wins against Utah and Colorado. Keep a close eye on turnovers in this game. Oregon is turning the ball over frequently at a rate of over 21% of its possessions. We have seen road teams get down early recently because of multiple mistakes in a hostile environment. If the Bruins can create turnovers early with some tough defense, it will make things very difficult for the Ducks in Pauley Pavilion. Also, watch the rebounding numbers. The Ducks are a far superior team on the glass at both ends. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and the Wear brothers need to box out. Rebounding will keep Oregon in the game and could prove to be the difference if they are able to avoid turnovers.

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CIO… the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 16th, 2013

CIO header

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic-10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

First Week: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  • The Good: Charlotte is one of three teams still undefeated in conference play. Neither win was against a conference powerhouse, but both were good signs. Beating La Salle at the Holton suggests they will do well at home, while taking their road game versus Rhode Island was a sign that they should be able to win games there as well.
  • The Bad. Temple’s loss to Xavier will not preclude the Owls from drawing an NCAA bid, but it makes the conference-wide bid picture, expected in the preseason season to be five, possibly very murky. The preseason NCAA short list included Saint Joseph’s, Xavier, Butler, VCU, Temple and Saint Louis, but poorer than expected non-conference results for Saint Joseph’s and Xavier seem to have pared that list. Xavier’s win over conference rival Temple may boost morale among the Musketeers’ faithful, but it undercuts the prospects for Temple (who has a very poor outing versus Duke on it’s resume), one of the stronger prospects on conference’s shrinking list.
  • The Ugly: Saint Bonaventure was not expected to perform at the same levels as the Andrew Nicholson-led teams, but the double-figure road loss to rebuilding George Washington lowers the ceiling on the Bonnies’ prospects for this season. That was a game they would have won last year (and the year before). This is a larger-than-expected step back for the program.

Impact Players

CBS Sports named two A-10 players to their mid-season Top 50 Impact players. Butler’s Rotnei Clarke, a senior guard who transferred in from Arkansas and sat last season, was ranked #42 with the comment “Best shooter in the country?” Treveon Graham, Virginia Commonwealth’s sophomore guard, was ranked #45. Recognized as a integral part of VCU’s Havoc defense, Jeff Goodman went on to comment “Makes plays at both ends of the floor.” The list, a collaboration by CBS Sports’ four basketball beat writers — Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Jeff Borzello — focused on the 50 players who they felt had the greatest impact on the first two months of the college basketball season.

Rotnei Clarke May Be The A-10 POY If The Season Ended Today, But Will Miss Time With An Injury. (AP)

Rotnei Clarke May Be The A-10 POY If The Season Ended Today, But Will Miss Time With An Injury. (AP)

Power Rankings

Conference play opened last week with every team playing twice before the end of the first weekend. While the top – and bottom — of the power rankings remains largely unchanged from the end of December, there is some shuffling within the middle eight.

  1. Butler (14-2, 2-0) – A 2-0 start to conference play has extended the Bulldogs’ winning streak to 11. The run is jeopardized by guard Rotnei Clarke’s neck injury, sustained when the senior was fouled as he completed a layup at the end of a breakout play in Butler’s 79-73 win over Dayton. A day-after MRI showed no spinal fractures (or other damage), but Clarke will be held out of the Bulldogs’ next two games (Richmond on Wednesday and Gonzaga on Saturday), pending a medical review. The Butler team doctor took issue with NBC Sports Network which had a crew covering the Dayton game. The crew overzealously opened a nearby microphone and broadcast the injured player’s conversation with attending medical staff, an act Dr. Thomas Fischer contended that was intrusive and unethical. Dr. Fischer will determine when Clarke can return to play. Richmond, without junior Derrick Williams, will be hard pressed to match the Bulldogs’ front court contingent, but Gonzaga, ranked #8 by the AP, could prove to be a very difficult opponent. Freshman Kellen Dunham, sophomore Alex Barlow and senior Chase Stigall will have to take up Clarke’s scoring contribution for at least the next week. Given Clarke’s contribution is 16.5 per game, that will be a task bigger than the collection can probably handle. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 01.14.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 14th, 2013

morning5

  1. And then there were none. With Michigan and Duke going down over the weekend we are without an unbeaten team yet again as we are going on 37 years and counting since the last time men’s college basketball had an undefeated team. This year marks the second earliest point in a season we have been without an unbeaten team dating back to that 1976 season. We are pretty confident that barring some catastrophe or NCAA investigation Michigan will not be repeating the collapse that Clemson experienced in 2007 and became so synonymous with that program that it spawned its own word (even if it was later applied to the school’s football program).
  2. While Michigan and Duke lost their first game of the season Syracuse may have lost much more as senior forward James Southerland was declared ineligible over the weekend for undisclosed reasons that some media sources are speculating is an academic matter. We still are not sure about whether or not Southerland can rectify whatever the problem is that led to this suspension and after last season’s Fab Melo disaster we can understand if Syracuse fans are having a sense of déjà vu, but this appears to be a slightly different situation particularly in that the team still has a chance to regroup. However, this has the potential to derail whatever chance the Orange had of making a national title run.
  3. The scariest moment of the basketball weekend occurred on Saturday in Dayton, Ohio when Rotnei Clarke went headfirst into the basket stanchion and stayed on the floor for nearly eight minutes. Thankfully Butler’s sharpshooter appears to have only sustained a sprained neck. While Brad Stevens has stated that Clarke’s injury  ”is not season-ending by any means,” he is out of Wednesday’s game against Richmond and probably 50/50 for their showdown on Saturday against Gonzaga. Given the gravity of the situation and the potentially devastating/life-alternating nature of these situations we will be glad just to see Clarke back on the court again at any point in the near future.
  4. As if Rick Pitino needed to engender any more animosity from Big Blue Nation he may have done it by comparing his current Louisville team to his legendary 1996 Kentucky team, which is considered by many to be one of the best college basketball teams of any era. Ok, maybe Pitino isn’t saying that this group is as good as that Kentucky team or that they even could be. Instead he is merely using that group of Wildcats as an example of how this group of Cardinals should aim to play in terms of style and fearlessness if not the end result of dominance. We can take issue with the lack of historical perspective that some of his players (particularly Chane Behanan) have. Of course, as the article points out Behanan was only three years old when that Kentucky team was playing so perhaps he deserves a little bit of a break.
  5. With UCLA starting to show signs of life again perhaps it is fitting that both of the players who have transferred from the program this season have found new homes. With Josh Smith having committed to Georgetown recently, fellow former Bruin Tyler Lamb has also found a new home in the form of Long Beach State. Lamb is not quite the talent that Smith is, but he does not have as clear of an underlying issue as Smith does (weight). Instead, it appeared that Lamb’s issue was just that Ben Howland brought in more talented players, which pushed Lamb further down the bench and ultimately off the team. We would expect Lamb to have a prominent role at Long Beach State although it is a big step going from a role player to the star, but Lamb will have the benefit of playing against lesser competition than he did at UCLA (save your Pac-10/-12 jokes).
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Set Your DVR: Week of 01.07.12

Posted by bmulvihill on January 7th, 2013

setDVR

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

There are several very meaningful conference games this week, which is great to see so early in the conference season. There’s lots of great games and even more to cover, so let’s not waste any time and get right to the breakdowns.

#18 Notre Dame at #10 Cincinnati – 6:30 PM EST, Monday on ESPN2 (****)

Things Are Looking Good for Mike Brey, Who Just Might Win Another Coach of the Year Awayrd (AP Photo)

Can Mike Brey and the Irish buck history and win their first true road game? (AP Photo)

  • Notre Dame has played 14 games so far and this will be their first true road test of the season. Mike Brey is known for setting his schedule this way and it has not benefited the Irish much over the years. The Irish have lost their first true road game of the season for three straight seasons, and if you examine Notre Dame’s schedule in the Brey era, you will see that losing the first road game of the season is fairly typical. The Irish run up against a Cincinnati team that has lost two of its past three games, including back-to-back home games. The Bearcats can blame most of their recent troubles on poor shooting. They are under 50% eFG for the past five games. They are also struggling to get to the line, which is an indication that they are taking a lot of outside shots. Look to see if Cincy takes the ball to the hoop more to manufacture some points at the free throw line. Also, watch to see if Notre Dame can hit their shots on the road as well as they have at home. It’s doubtful, particularly against tough field goal defense like Cincinnati. The Bearcats should win in a close one.

#23 Pittsburgh at #14 Georgetown – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPNU (***)

  • Many questioned how good the Panthers really were given their weak schedule, but with two consecutive losses, it’s looking more and more like the critics were correct. Pitt heads to Georgetown for a tough Big East road game in which a loss will drop them to 0-3 in the conference. Georgetown is coming off a tough road loss to Marquette where offensive rebounding and free throws killed them, much like it did in the Indiana game earlier this season. If Pittsburgh is to win this game, they need to control the offensive glass. They rank sixth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, but watch to see if the length of the Hoyas makes rebounding more difficult for Pitt. Additionally, the Panthers present relatively zero threat from three-point land. They rely on twos heavily and almost exclusively. With the Hoyas ranking 13th in the nation in two-point field goal defense, you can expect Jamie Dixon’s club to have a tough time scoring. It says here that the Hoyas should prevail at home.

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The Other 26: Cowboy-ing Up

Posted by IRenko on January 5th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

College basketball has just four undefeated teams left. You can likely recite the identity of the first three:  Duke, Michigan, and Arizona, who occupy the top three spots in the AP rankings. But you may be surprised to learn that the fourth team is the Wyoming Cowboys. Larry Shyatt’s squad sits at 13-0 after a successful non-conference season that featured solid wins over Colorado, Illinois State, and Denver.

Leonard Washington Has Led Wyoming to a Surprising Undefeated Start (Troy Babbitt / US PRESSWIRE)

Leonard Washington Has Led Wyoming to a Surprising Undefeated Start (Troy Babbitt / US PRESSWIRE)

Last year, the Cowboys finished sixth in the MW. Then in the offseason, they graduated three of their five starters. So how have they managed to reel off 13 straight victories to start the year? Wyoming is very strong defensively, but they were just as good, if not better, last year. The biggest difference is a major improvement on offense, as their adjusted efficiency has gone from 0.99 points to 1.08 points per possession. That may not sound like a big difference, but when you realize that a single game is composed of dozens of possessions, it adds up to a substantially better offensive performance. This increased efficiency has been driven by the Cowboys’ ability to get to the free throw line and to convert on two-point opportunities. Senior forward Leonard Washington deserves the credit for leading the team in both respects. The 6’7″ tweener is shooting 63.7 percent on two-point field goals and draws 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes — one of the higher rates in the country.

The second significant factor in the Cowboys’ improvement is the offseason development of senior Derrious Gilmore and sophomore Larry Nance, Jr. (yes, the former NBA player’s son). Gilmore has rewarded Larry Shyatt’s decision to hand him the starting point guard spot by improving his per game averages from 3.1 points and 1.1 assists per contest to 11.8 points and 3.2 assists per game. He averages more than 32 minutes per game, second most to Washington. Nance, meanwhile, has gone from averaging 4.1 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest to 11.2 and 6.8, respectively.  He shoots over 60 percent on two-point attempts and 84.2 percent from the free throw line. Add in the contributions of returning starter and senior guard Luke Martinez (14.5 points, 42.2% 3FG) , and the Cowboys have a feature a surprising amount firepower.

Despite their undefeated mark, it remains an open question as to how good the Cowboys really are. Last year, they got off to 14-2 start during non-conference play but crumpled to a 6-8 record in the Mountain West. This year’s record is even more impressive to be sure and, as noted above, features some solid if unspectacular wins. But the strength of schedule is about to kick into a higher gear, as they enter conference play against a very deep and talented Mountain West. If they can maintain their offensive improvement through the rest of the year and continue to get contributions from a range of players, they may be Dancing for the first time since 2002 and just the second time in 25 years.

Let’s move on to this week’s Top 10, the performances that caught our eye this past week, and the games to watch in the week ahead.

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CIO…the Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 4th, 2013

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Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic-10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Looking Back

Another Saturday, Another Scalp: Reeling from an inexplicable 10-point loss to Canisius (72-62) on December 19, Temple bounced back with a stunning 83-79 upset of #3 Syracuse, all the more surprising given that it happened in the confines of Syracuse’s “second home”, Madison Square Garden, on December 22. The Orange, notorious for not leaving the state of New York before the start of conference play, were unable to contain Khalif Wyatt and sophomore center Anthony Lee as both scored career-high points. Wyatt, a slasher who can play either guard spot in addition to the small forward was a perfect 15-of-15 from the line on the way to scoring 33 points. Lee was manhandled by Duke’s Mason Plumlee two Saturdays before, schooled fellow Philadelphian Rakeem Christmas and his teammate James Southerland to grab nine rebounds to go with his career-high 21 points. Butler traveled to Nashville the next Saturday and housed the Commodores of Vanderbilt by 19 points, 68-49. The Bulldogs’ backcourt paced the team with 40 points (Rotnei Clarke – 22, Kellen Dunham – 12, Alex Barlow – six) while Khyle Marshall missed a double-double by a single point (nine points and 11 rebounds).

Versus Other Conferences

With nearly 98% of the non-conference schedule on the books (as of January 1), the Atlantic 10 has compiled an outstanding 64.3% winning percentage (126-70). Bettering their 2011-12 winning percentage of 62.6% (107-64), the conference posted a number of superb wins over power conference teams in the process.

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The mark is not without a few blemishes, especially with respect to the seven power conferences where the A-10’s conference-wide record declined over their mark last season. Especially disappointing was the conference mark versus the ACC (3-10, 0.231) and Big East (6-11, 0.353). While they continue to dominate against those non-power conferences with whom they share a similar profile (the CAA, Mountain West, Missouri Valley, West Coast Conference, and Western Athletic Conference), the overall record masks losing records versus the Missouri Valley Conference (3-4, 0.429) and the West Coast Conference (1-3, 0.250).

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

The teams largely wrap up non-conference play over the mid-winter break, with only a few standings-changing games on the last and this week.  Games/records are through January 2.

  1. Butler (9-2, #18 AP) – The defense of 2011-12 is starting to round into form for the Bulldogs. Coach Brad Stevens’ squad has allowed opponents on average 0.93 points per possession in the six (Division I) games since their loss to Illinois on November 21. After five starts, freshman Kellen Dunham returned to his sixth man role and appears to be thriving. If Player of the Year polling commenced today, transfer Rotnei Clarke would garner more than a few votes outside of Indianapolis, but as much as the newcomers (Clarke and Dunham) have sparked the Bulldogs, the contributions of the front court, Roosevelt Jones, Khyle Marshall and Andrew Smith are key. Though not the focal point of the offense, Smith and Marshall are a devastatingly efficient combination, contributing over 1.1 points per possession on offense while hauling in over 12% of the offensive rebounds apiece when they are on the court. Butler will host Penn and New Orleans before opening conference play on the road against Saint Joseph’s (see below) on January 9. Read the rest of this entry »
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Butler at the Turn: Just How Good Are the Bulldogs This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2012

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after last night’s game between Butler and Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Butler came into Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt boosting a resume’ that included wins over Marquette and North Carolina in a run to the championship game of the Maui Invitational, and an upset of then top-ranked Indiana in the landmark game of the season on December 15. On the other hand, it included an early-season thrashing from a pedestrian Xavier team, as well as a blowout loss to Illinois in the Maui final. After playing for the national championship in consecutive seasons, coach Brad Stevens’s 2011-12 squad missed the NCAA Tournament in its Horizon League swan song, and as the Bulldogs head into their inaugural run through the Atlantic 10 conference schedule, the question facing them is whether they can be a dominant team in the league, or whether they are merely a team that raises its level of play for big games but is prone to lapses against lesser opponents.  If Saturday’s second-half demolishing of a mediocre Commodores club is any indication, Butler may be the team to beat in the A-10.

Rotnei Clarke and Butler

Rotnei Clarke and Butler Easily Handled the Commodores in the Second Half Last Night

The Bulldogs led just 25-22 at the break, but came out in the second half and blitzed Vanderbilt with an early 19-7 run, riding the hot shooting of senior guard Rotnei Clarke to a 68-49 win. After missing his first six attempts of the game, Clarke went on a torrid run in the latter part of the first half and early part of the second that saw him hit five three-pointers on his way to a game-high 22 points. The Bulldogs’ only other double figure scorer was freshman guard Kellen Dunham, who finished with 12. “When Kellen and Rodney get going, we should win.  Those should be the nights we win,” Stevens said after the game.  Given the performance of his two guards, and the second half run, Stevens had to be pleased that his team took care of an inferior opponent in a hostile road environment.

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