RTC Presents College Basketball’s Opening Weekend

Posted by nvr1983 on November 12th, 2010

After opening with four games apiece on Monday and Wednesday night, college basketball really starts to pick up this evening with 16 of the top 25 teams in action including Georgetown traveling to play a tough Old Dominion team. By Sunday night, 24 of the top 25 teams will have played with Missouri being the lone exception, as they do not play their first game until November 18th. Even though there are only a few games that I would deem particularly compelling in isolation it will be interesting to see how the new pieces on these teams work with the returning parts.

We will have more about each day’s game with our Set Your Tivo feature, but in addition to those games you can watch on TV, we will also be coming to you courtside from nine games on RTC Live this weekend. Check back throughout the weekend for more (somewhat) instant analysis and join us on RTC Live for action from across the nation.

Friday

  • Boston University at Northeastern, 7 PM – One of the early battles of Boston will occur in Matthews Arena as the Terriers come to play the Huskies, who will be significantly weaker this year after losing four of their top five scorers. Chaisson Allen and the Huskies will be tested against a promising Terrier team led by John Holland, the leading scorer in America East, who has support from a team that includes four transfers.
  • East Tennessee State at #10 Kentucky, 7 PM on Big Blue Sports and ESPN Full Court – This game will be interesting if only for the reaction of the Wildcats and their fans a day after learning that Enes Kanter, whom many said would be the key to their season, would never play in a Wildcat uniform. On the other sideline, the Buccaneers will be without Tommy Hubbard, their leading scorer and rebounder. Ok, technically Hubbard will be on the sideline, but you get my point…
  • Cornell at Albany, 7:30 PM – While the Great Danes should be improved with Tim Ambrose returning for his senior season, most of the college basketball world will be focused on the Big Red, who lost eight seniors, including Ryan Whitman, Louis Dale, and Jeff Foote along with their coach Steve Donahue, who headed to Boston College. New coach Bill Courtney will be relying on Chris Wroblewski as one of the few known elements of his team to help guide the Big Red in the early season while they try to establish a new identity.

Saturday

  • North Florida at #5 Pittsburgh, 4 PM on The Big East Network and ESPN Full Court - We aren’t expecting this to be a particularly competitive game, but it will be worth following to see the co-favorites in the Big East (along with Villanova and Syracuse). The Panthers have one of the best backcourts in America with Ashton GibbsBrad Wanamaker, and Gilbert Brown, but the success of the team could well depend on the interior play of Gary McGhee, who has been quiet so far this season.
  • Harvard at George Mason, 4 PM – Jeremy Lin is gone, but Tommy Amaker returns with a solid squad–led by Kyle Casey and Keith Wright–that is good enough to win the school’s first Ivy League title. [Ed. Note: The Crimson are the only historic Division 1 program to have never won a league championship. And the answer is no, we do not count schools that joined recently in the discussion.] They will have their hands full, however, as they travel down to Fairfax, Virginia to take on Jim Larranaga‘s squad that is led by Cam Long and Ryan Pearson and could very easily end up winning the CAA.
  • #23 San Diego State at Long Beach State, 7 PM – This game should be all about the Aztecs who return all five starters from a team that challenged Tennessee in a close game in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament last March. The Aztecs, who are led by sophomore sensation Kawhi Leonard, should challenge BYU for the Mountain West title this season, but Steve Fisher has higher aspirations for what’s certainly a Sweet 16-level team. Look for Casper White to make his mark for the 49ers, but the Aztecs should win this one fairly easily.
  • Weber State at Utah State, 9:05 PM – An early season Bracket Buster match-up that might be the most interesting game of the weekend. The Wildcats will have the best player on the court in Damian Lillard, projected as a potential first round pick in 2012, but they will have to travel to Logan to take on a Aggie team that returns four of five starters but will really miss Jared Quayle as they have to break in a new point guard against Lillard.

Sunday

  • Cornell at Seton Hall, Noon on The Big East Network and ESPN Full Court – Their second game of the weekend should be significantly more challenging for the Big Red as they travel to play a Pirate team that has a new coach in Kevin Willard and returns two stars in Jeremy Hazell and Herb Pope. We know what to expect from Hazell (shooting, lots of shooting), but we aren’t sure what to expect from Pope who underwent cardiac surgery in the off-season to repair a congenital abnormality. Pope looked pretty good in some exhibition games, but we expect it will be a while before he gets back to the level where he was last year. A year ago, the Pirates won a tight game over the Big Red on the road. Don’t expect this year to be as close.
  • Princeton at #1 Duke, 5 PM on ESPNU – That’s right. We will be courtside for the opening game of Duke’s title defense. Nothing against the Tigers, but this should be one of those 40-50 point blowouts. Still, we will be interested to see how Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry fit into an already loaded perimeter attack for the Blue Devils that features Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.
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… and Four Teams Down

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

Every year teams come out of nowhere and burst into the top 25, while sports writers run to their keyboards to type the requisite “Where Did Team X Come From” story. I mean how many people saw Cornell coming last year? Who said last October that Butler would go on to lose the national championship game by just a couple of inches?  Conversely, there are teams that look great on paper in the preseason but fail to live up to the hype once the season starts. Think North Carolina last season. Why did the Tar Heels begin the year in the top 10 again?  Allow us to sort through the mess and pull out this year’s Cornells and North Carolinas for you. Missouri fans, get ready to be excited. West Virginia fans, start thinking of things to say in your hate mail.

On Monday we took a look at four teams that will be up this season.  Today we’ll examine four teams that will be down as compared to where they were last year.

#1) West Virginia

There's a Lot of Pressure on Kevin Jones to Produce This Year

No Devin Ebanks. No Da’Sean Butler. All kinds of problems for the Mountaineers, who are the only team from last year’s Final Four to begin the season outside of the AP top 25. Bob Huggins’ squad lost a lot of what made last year’s team so tough to handle with the depatures of Ebanks and Butler. The 2009-10 Mountaineers got by on their ability to suffocate opponents with their brutally physical play combined with Butler’s brilliance on the offensive end. Now much of the responsibility falls to forward Kevin Jones, who averaged 13.5 points per game as West Virginia’s third option. Can Jones step up his game this year when defenses single him out as the guy they have to stop? If Jones struggles, then the Mountaineers will have a hard time duplicating even some of the success they enjoyed last year.

Reports coming from preseason practices aren’t too encouraging. Huggins recently told the Charleston Gazette that freshmen Kevin Noreen and Noah Cottrill “look lost” at practice. And that was after Cottrill sparked rumors when he was introduced but didn’t participate in West Virginia’s Midnight Madness. There also was the case of Casey Mitchell, who was suspended for a violation of team rules but is now back with the team. These aren’t the kinds of stories that equate to success in the regular season. This year might be one to forget in Morgantown.

#2) Cornell

Such is the Life of a Mid-Major -- Seasons Like Last Year Come Around Once in Generation

The Big Red was the last year’s feel good story, upsetting Temple and Wisconsin en route to an unprecedented run to the Sweet 16. And what was the reward for America’s favorite brainiacs turned basketball stars? A return to obscurity.

Cornell lost its X&Os wizard in Steve Donahue when he opted for the greener pastures of the ACC, taking the head coaching gig at Boston College. The Big Red lost all-time leading scorer and 2010 Ivy League Player of the Year (Ryan Wittman), the sparkplug and catalyst of its NCAA Tournament run (Louis Dale) and six other seniors from last year’s squad.  That would be a lot of attrition for even a team like Duke to endure, and there’s no doubt Cornell and new coach Bill Courtney are headed for a big step backward this season.

The Big Red was predicted to finish third in the Ivy League, which would require a number of players to step up fill the voids left by the likes of Wittman and Dale. Cornell needs big seasons from proven players like point guard Chris Wroblewski and forwards Adam Wire and Mark Coury. Then the Big Red will need some of its unknown pieces (one if its four freshman or maybe junior transfer Anthony Gatlin) to emerge if Courtney & Co. hope to compete for a fourth straight league title.

#3) Purdue

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Summer School in the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 9th, 2010


Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Around The Ivy League

  • Coaching Carousel: Everything began when Steve Donahue left Cornell for his new home in Chestnut Hill, replacing Al Skinner as the new head man at Boston College, a considerable leap up in competition. Donahue’s leaving could not have come as a shock to the Cornell hierarchy. His stock was never higher thanks to the run his Big Red team made in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.  In a bit of tit-for-tat, Cornell AD Andy Noel looked to the ACC for a replacement for Donahue, and found one in Bill Courtney, recruiter extraordinaire, who has had stints at Virginia, Virginia Tech, VCU and most notably George Mason, whom he assisted to an improbable Final Four run in 2006. Can it be too long before Cornell, with a lot of rebuilding ahead, is once again loaded? The Columbia Lions went clear across the country and hired Kyle Smith, the longtime right-hand man to Randy Bennett at St. Mary’s. That school enjoyed much success the past few years with a roster composed of Australian imports. Finally, the Big Green of Dartmouth found a familiar face to take over the reins in the person of Paul Cormier. Cormier spent a few seasons in the NBA after a mediocre string as head man at Fairfield, and if you go further back, a rather successful run at — you guessed it — Dartmouth. The most recent hoop success in Hanover came way back when Cormier was the head guy. Good luck, Paul; while we applaud you giving it another shot, your team is light years away from being able to recruit and compete with the top dogs in the league.
  • Ivy Controversy: Normally, recruiting violations and sanctions are reserved for the bigger programs, but Harvard may find itself in hot water. Tommy Amaker never made it to the Big Dance while at Michigan, but he cleaned up a program that was rife with violations. Now, on the verge of taking Harvard to its first NCAA appearance since 1946, he’s had to answer to what the NCAA calls “secondary violations.” It seems former Duke chum Kenny Blakeney did some circuitous traveling to play in summer pick-up games with potential Crimson recruits, including current Harvard players and Penn POY candidate Zack Rosen. Amaker later hired Blakeney as an assistant coach. These allegations aren’t as reprehensible as those allegedly committed by John Calipari, Tim Floyd, or Jerry Tarkanian; nor will they lead to any meaningful sanctions. But a hint of impropriety in a program that gained prominence because of their national recruiting success does raise some eyebrows.
  • On Another Level: Two former Ivy stars are making news on the pro level tradition. First, former Harvard star Jeremy Lin signed a two-year contract with the Golden State Warriors. Lin became a YouTube sensation after holding his own against top overall pick John Wall when the two went head-to-head during the fourth quarter of a Summer League game. Off the court, former Yale star and 14-year NBA vet Chris Dudley just received the Republican nomination for Governor from the state of Oregon.

New Big Red coach Bill Courtney has the task of keeping Cornell at the top of the Ivy League (VCUathletics.tv)

Power Rankings (predicted league record in parenthesis):

  1. Harvard (12-2): Yes, they lose Jeremy Lin, but they return three ultra-talented sophomores, including Freshman of the Year Kyle Casey. The 6’7 forward began last season as the 6th man but started the last ten games, averaging ten points and five rebounds per game. They also boast a sophomore backcourt that we see as a potential top-10 duo in the country in Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster. The latter scored 24 points in only 28 minutes in Harvard’s postseason loss to Appalachian St. Sprinkle in another prized recruiting class that includes a few players in the top 150 and you have all the ingredients for an Ivy Championship.
  2. Princeton (11-3): They were six points away from hoisting the conference championship trophy last season, as two heartbreaking three-point losses to eventual champion Cornell did them in. Most publications project the Tigers as 2010-11 champs, as this is another team that returns a talented trio in top scorer Doug Davis, leading rebounder Dan Mavraides and late-blooming freshman Ian Hummer. We see a nip and tuck race with the depth of the Crimson being the deciding factor.
  3. Penn (10-4): Don’t be surprised if Penn projects itself into the Ivy race this season. And if they do, it will be most assuredly on the back of last year’s RTC Ivy POY Zack Rosen. The 6’1 junior was at or near the top in five key stats, including leading the league in scoring. If he continues to mature as a player, he very well could receive a lot of national recognition, a la Jeremy Lin and Ryan Wittman last season. Now, if only the rest of the roster can remain healthy — a difficult task the past two years — the Quakers can take aim at what they consider their rightful place at the top of the league. Read the rest of this entry »
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Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis: Thursday Night

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

7:07 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #5 Butler  (West Region)

We’re starting to worry about this Arinze Onuaku situation.  Sooner or later, Jim Boeheim’s team is going to need the 11 points, five rebounds and general defensive anchor support on the front line that the 6’9, 260-pound big man provides.  Rick Jackson is a serviceable replacement, but the fact that Onuaku reportedly hasn’t even suited up in practice since his injury against Georgetown on March 11 is cause for alarm.  Even if Syracuse survives to advance to next weekend’s Final Four, how productive could he possibly be?  So far, Syracuse hasn’t shown a need for him yet.  The Orange ran over Vermont and Gonzaga without breathing all that hard thanks to the superb play of Wesley Johnson and friends, but there will be a team in the very near future where they’ll need more than Jackson alone can provide.

That team will not be playing SU in the Sweet Sixteen, however.  Butler is an excellent team and Brad Stevens has gotten players other than Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard to step up this season, most notably Shelvin Mack who went 9-12 from long range in the San Jose pod against UTEP and Murray State.  Syracuse is not UTEP or Murray, though, and the wide-open looks that Mack was getting in those games will no longer be as readily available thanks to the length and quickness of the Orange’s perimeter defenders.  Furthermore, Butler center Matt Howard has enough trouble staying out of foul trouble against Horizon League teams; it’s not realistic to think that he’ll be able to play 30+ effective minutes against Jackson, Johnson and Kris Joseph inside.  The main problem we foresee is that Butler is not a very good offensive team in general — when Hayward and Mack aren’t firing on all cylinders, the Bulldogs have trouble scoring points.  Add that to the fact they’ll be facing one of the best offensive teams in America, and you have a situation where numerous things need to go exactly right for Butler to get this win tonight.  Even without Onuaku on the floor for another game, we just don’t see Butler finding enough offense to win this game.

The Skinny: The last time the Bulldogs made it this deep into the NCAAs, they ran into a long, athletic team by the name of Florida in 2007.  They played the defending and future national champions as closely as they were played in that tournament thanks to their control of the tempo, strong defense and  attention to detail, but it still wasn’t enough because the Florida offensive attack was simply too good.  We think the same thing will happen in this game.  Syracuse has too many weapons for the Butler defense to key in on all of them, and even if they catch SU on an off night, where will the Butler points come from?

7:27 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #11 Washington  (East Region)

Most prognosticators felt that Washington had Sweet 16 talent coming into this season. Lorenzo Romar was returning reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Isaiah Thomas, defensive stalwart Venoy Overton and a forward named Quincy Pondexter ripe for a breakout season. While Pondexter’s prediction panned out, guard play was shaky, road wins were hard to come by, and the Huskies found themselves on the NCAA bubble with seven losses in a weak Pac-10. A conference tournament win punched their ticket, though, and the Huskies have taken advantage of the opportunity, erasing a double-digit second half lead to beat Marquette and wiping the floor with Mountain West champion New Mexico. Their toughest test yet will come Thursday against Big East Tournament champion West Virginia. Washington needs to produce a near carbon copy of their performance against New Mexico. In other words, they need to play a near-perfect game. Thomas must keep his head on straight and continue to make outside jumpers. Overton must frustrate Da’Sean Butler, Elston Turner must continue to produce offensively and Pondexter must out-duel Devin Ebanks.

For West Virginia, Washington seems like a favorable matchup. They may have preferred Joe Mazzulla guarding Isaiah Thomas more than the sidelined Darryl Bryant anyway. Mazzulla is the superior defender and Bryant has been woeful shooting-wise the last three weeks. They also match up well with the length of Washington. Bob Huggins can throw a lineup out on the floor of players 6’6 or above with huge wingspans, meaning the long WVU defense could fluster Pondexter and force him into difficult shots. One possible negative to the Bryant injury is that it increases the likelihood that the Mountaineer offense will become too reliant on Butler to bail them out. He’s done it time and time again this season and in postseason tournament play. Does he have more magic up his sleeve?

The Skinny: West Virginia has a plethora of defenders that can frustrate Pondexter and they boast the best late-game scorer in the nation in Butler. That combination should prove enough to take care of Washington in fairly methodical fashion. Avoiding their typical slow start would be prudent.

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Previewing the Cinderellas: Cornell

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2010

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Preview—Redux

The Friday before Selection Sunday, we published what we thought would be our last Ivy League column of the season. In it we gave some of our thoughts on the tournament as a whole and the Ivy representative, Cornell, in particular. Using what we thought were keys to victory, we thought that St. Marys (#10) and Xavier (#6) would outlive their seedings. They are still alive. We said, that based on those keys, Duke would be the national champion. The Blue Devils have looked impressive. And most importantly, we said that Cornell had the stuff to reach the Sweet 16 and that the country would be talking Ivy hoops. They did and everyone is.

Now it’s on to the Carrier Dome on Thursday and the mission … slay the Big Cats from Kentucky. So whether you are eating Buffalo Wild Wings, 550 calorie meals from Applebees, or any $5 footlong; even if you are walking the Fidelity green line or joining your bags and flying for free, its time to provide an in depth RTC analysis of Kentucky vs. Cornell.

Does Former Cat Mark Coury Bear the Secrets to Beating UK?

Overview

Let’s begin by getting a few things out of the way. We will start with what is sure to be the CBS story line — academia vs. the hired guns; the four year seniors vs. the one-and-dones; the biochem majors/theoretical math minors vs. undeclared. And of course the jokes that will fly around the internet – Kentucky has a lot of double figure scorers but is their aggregate GPA in double figures? Etc. None of that, of course, is relevant. The fact is, if they played this game 50 times Kentucky may win 48 of them. Cornell only has to win once – on Thursday night.

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ATB: Selected Thoughts From an Epic First Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2010

How’s Your Bracket? Of the sixteen top seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament, eight are now gone — one #1 seed, one #2 seed and three each of the #3s and #4s.   The last time that half of the top sixteen didn’t make the Sweets?  2005 (8).  Before that?  2000 (9).  So maybe this is a cyclical thing of around twice a decade, but we’ll take it.  It makes for a wild attention-getting opening weekend, and builds a buzz about the Dance that had been lacking in the last couple of years during the early rounds. In addition to that, we have a #9 (Northern Iowa), #10 (St. Mary’s), #11 (Washington) and #12 (Cornell) crashing the rarefied air of the regionals, the most teams from the lower half of the bracket to make it since 1999 when five double-digit seeds made it to the second weekend.  To the players on those four teams, they don’t care about any of that — the unlikelihood of its occurrence is lost on their youth; all they know is that they’re still playing and they believe they can continue to advance in this tournament.  And why shouldn’t they?  None of the four teams above fit the definition of an overmatched Cinderella that just happened to catch a favorite looking ahead or on a very off night.  No, these four teams have combined to win 113 games this year, and each has shown the ability to win convincingly over quality competition.  Cornell’s 13-point victory over Temple was one thing; but an 18-point pasting over Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin while scoring 87 points is quite another.  St. Mary’s knocking out a strong Richmond team was impressive; but holding Big Shot Scottie Reynolds to 2-11 from the field is a different story.  Same thing for Washington dominating a 30-win New Mexico team, and well, we’re still in astonishment over the UNI victory over Kansas on Saturday afternoon (more on this below).  It was a bracket-busting kind of weekend, and it provided more thrills and memorable moments than the last few NCAA Tournaments combined.  It’s the reason we all love this sport, and it provides additional evidence (although none is needed) that the Tourney is already in its sweet spot in terms of the right number of teams allowed to participate.  If #9 seed Northern Iowa had to play an additional game to get to #8 UNLV before a chance to take on #1 Kansas on Saturday, would they have had the legs to get past the overall top seed?  Would any of the above teams still be dancing?


Un-Farokhing-Believable.  We were among the biggest supporters of top overall seed Kansas as a dominant team that had a great shot at steamrolling to this year’s title, but Ali Farokhmanesh and Northern Iowa had other ideas.  It wasn’t enough that the Iowan with the Persian name that no major college wanted drilled a 25-foot game winner during Thursday’s first round game versus UNLV; no, he one-upped that shot with another three (“a dagger,” according to Bill Self) on a 1-on-2 fast break opportunity where the ‘smart’ play appeared to be pulling things out and running clock.  His platinum-balls three from the right wing was all net, giving UNI a four-point lead with around thirty seconds to go.  After KU’s Tyrel Reed charged on the ensuing possession, the upset was in the books, and it will go down as one of the greatest in NCAA Tournament history.  No matter what the revisionist historians will try to argue, Kansas was the prohibitive favorite to win the NCAA Tournament this season, and in the 64/65-team era, there has never been a bigger Second Round upset.  Bigger than Stanford and Kentucky in 2004, Stanford again in 2000, and yes, even Kansas’ loss to UTEP in 1993.  The difference between those teams and this one is that 2009-10 Kansas was considerably better than all of those other #1 seeds.  If you disagree that they weren’t the prohibitive favorite, send us a screen shot of where you had the Jayhawks losing.  42% of America in the ESPN Tournament Challenge had the ‘Hawks winning it all, and nearly 75% had them in the Final Four.  We would agree that it was the biggest overall upset since George Mason over #1 UConn back in 2006, but at least by that point in time we had a decent idea of what the Patriots were made of (with wins over UNC and Michigan State already).  Here, we had no idea that Ali and his Magic Panthers had in store.

Color Us Impressed…

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Second Round Game Analysis: Sunday Games

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 16 of the second round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Sunday games.

12:10 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #8 Gonzaga  (Buffalo pod)

In the CBS national game to start the day, everyone will get this very enticing game between Syracuse and Gonzaga.  Given the way this year is winding up, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Orange without their big man Arinze Onuaku found itself on the short end of the score around 2:30 pm today.  But we still have faith in Syracuse even without the talented center and we think that Jim Boeheim’s team is too good to fall short of the Final Four this early.  The primary problem that the Zags are going to have is one they didn’t have to worry as much about with Florida State, and that is in stopping the powerful SU offense.  With offensive scoring threats at all five positions, Syracuse is in a far more advantageous position than FSU was (with their limited offense) when Gonzaga caught fire on Friday — if the Zags want to get into a shootout with Syracuse, that’s not likely to end well for them. Still, with the way the Big East has had so many early round troubles, and the WCC looking great with St. Mary’s already in the Sweet Sixteen, we’re not ready to dismiss the Zags based on that alone.  The Syracuse zone is likely to be something that Mark Few’s team has not seen with such athletes all season, so even with their ability to put the ball in the hole, we hesitate to think the Zags can consistently score on it.

The Skinny: Gonzaga will push the Orange, but we still like this team to advance and make a serious push for the national title in coming weeks.

2:20 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

You might not see it on their faces, but the Buckeyes are smiling.  Northern Iowa’s removal of Kansas puts Ohio State in the driver’s seat in the Midwest region.  That said, there’s still no way Thad Matta and Evan Turner are going to let the rest of that team look past their opponents and assume an open road to Indianapolis.  Good thing, because Georgia Tech showed us that they’re not just made up of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal and a bunch of suckers.  The Yellow Jackets shot 2-10 from the three point line but balanced that by holding Big 12 player of the year James Anderson to a 3-12 shooting night, 0-6 from beyond the three-point arc, and an overall 11 points.  But the most impressive aspect of Georgia Tech’s performance on Friday night — by FAR — was the fact that they went to the free throw line 25 times — and hit 24 of them!  It wasn’t just Lawal and Favors.  Tech played nine players, and eight of them shot at least one free throw.  Evan Turner isn’t just the player of the year in his conference, though — he’s likely the national POY, so the Tech task is that much tougher.  Turner wasn’t himself in their first round game against UCSB, going 2-13 and posting only nine points (though he did contribute 10 boards and five assists).  He’s looking to break out, and knows he’ll have to be at his best.  Lawal and Favors, though, will be looking to get Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler, and Turner in foul trouble early and open poke some holes in that OSU front line.

The Skinny:  You probably don’t want to go with our Midwest picks, since yesterday we took Kansas and Ohio.  It’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that this will be a great second round game, but that stat line of Turner’s shows you that he can play such an important role on the team even when he’s not scoring.  For Tech to win, they’d have to turn in a similar performance at the free throw line, keep Turner under wraps and coax him into a supporting role again, and cool down Jon Diebler.  That’s a tough trifecta to pull off.  We don’t see it happening.  But we didn’t see Northern Iowa dismissing Kansas, either.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: Second Round 03.21.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 21st, 2010

How’s your bracket?  Probably looking pretty sweet if you went to undergrad at St. Mary’s and then took a master’s at Northern Iowa.  Have they stopped partying at UNI yet?  Or campaniling?  Or whatever they do there?  And if not, who could blame them?

That was yesterday, though.  The Panthers and Gaels will be receiving their Official Cinderella starter handbooks in the mail in a couple of days, so the matter now turns to the Sunday games, and any possible candidates that could join them.  Your lineup:

  • #1 Syracuse vs #8 Gonzaga
  • #2 Ohio State vs #10 Georgia Tech
  • #4 Maryland vs #5 Michigan State
  • #2 West Virginia vs #10 Missouri
  • #4 Wisconsin vs #12 Cornell
  • #3 Pittsburgh vs #6 Xavier
  • #4 Purdue vs #5 Texas A&M
  • #1 Duke vs #8 California

Will Northern Iowa’s dismissal of Kansas inspire other underdogs to greater heights?  Or will it cause the higher seeds to sharpen their focus and be even warier of the upstarts?  Keep in mind, things always start and end a tad earlier on Second Round Sunday, and there’s that glut of four games that all start within 30 minutes of each other in the early afternoon.  But no worry, if you can’t see them all — we’ll be here all day, talking about them, updating this post every few minutes, and looking for your comments.  Hard to believe we’ll have whittled the field of 64 down to 16 by Sunday night, and the events of Saturday should drive the point home that we need to enjoy this while it’s here.  We’re here to help.  We’ll start updating the post a few minutes before the first tipoff, and we hope to see you here.

12:00: Here we go, folks!  Day 2, second round.  The day starts with ‘Cuse/’Zags and you see the rest of the lineup above.  Syracuse, Duke, Ohio State…you’ve been put on notice by Northern Iowa.  Let’s see what happens.

12:10: One thing that’s got to make you happy if you’re a Syracuse fan is that Wesley Johnson is being VERY aggressive with the basketball.  Hit his first two.

12:18: See, I don’t think Matt Boldin needs to fire from three for the Zags to put their best foot forward, today.  I think they’ll be better off if he does more creating and dishing, and we know he picks up points that way.

12:27: Goodness, right now it’s Wesley Johnson versus Elias Harris.  Johnson has Syracuse’s first ten and Harris has just made the baseline his second home.

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Afternoon

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Friday afternoon games.


12:15 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #15 Morgan State  (Buffalo pod)

West Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation. They squeaked out an enormous road win at Villanova to end the regular season then swept through Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Georgetown en route to a Big East championship riding the heroics of Da’Sean Butler. The Mountaineers are an extremely gifted rebounding team; in fact, sometimes their best offense comes after a missed shot. They feature multiple weapons that can step out and shoot a mid-range jumper or three from Wellington Smith to Kevin Jones to the all-around dynamo Butler. Also, few teams can match West Virginia’s intensity in the halfcourt defensively. Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman will need a gigantic scoring output from their own star, Baltimore native Reggie Holmes. Holmes scored 25 or more points fifteen times this season, averaging 21.3 PPG and ranking in the top-50 in percentage of shots taken. The Bears also feature a rugged forward named Kevin Thompson who comes in at fifth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. In fact, Morgan State ranks 11th in the country as a team in that very category. Unfortunately for the underdogs, West Virginia is never outworked on the glass, not with Jones, Devin Ebanks and Bob Huggins prominently involved.

The Skinny: This one shouldn’t be close from the tip. Morgan State dominated the MEAC all season, but West Virginia is flying high at this point. Expect the Mountaineers to dominate by 25-30 points.

12:25 pm – #6 Xavier vs. #11 Minnesota  (Milwaukee pod)

The answer to which team will win this game depends entirely on which Gopher team shows up to play in Milwaukee.  Will it be the defensive juggernaut that held Purdue to 11 first  half points last Saturday, or will it be the team that got obliterated by Ohio State 52-29 in the second half on Sunday?  Tubby Smith’s team has been schizophrenic like that all year, following up strong wins with disastrous performances (two losses to Michigan?  really?), which probably explains why they were a bubble team up until Sunday evening.  Xavier comes into this one with the stronger resume, but it’s difficult to say if the Musketeers are the better team.  When he plays under control, XU’s Jordan Crawford is a talent, and his supporting case of Jason Love on the interior and Terrell Holloway running the show makes for nice balance throughout the Xavier lineup.  The question we have is who will win the defensive battle, though.  Xavier defends the three really well, while Minnesota behind Blake Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook both shoot it equally as well.  This game is essentially a tossup (Vegas agrees, setting Minny as a one-point favorite), and we really liked the first seven halves of basketball that the Gophers put up in Indianapolis on a neutral floor last week, so we’re going with the extremely mild 6/11 upset here, in a close game that comes down to the last possession. 

The Skinny: Despite the seedings, this is a tossup game and we like the Gophers to win it on the last possession. 

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RTC Bracket Prep: East Region

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2010

This is the second of our four quick-and-dirty region breakdowns. This will serve to help the quick triggers who like to fill out their brackets first thing on Monday morning. For the rest of you, we’ll be providing more detailed game-by-game analysis throughout the rest of the week.

Carrier Dome Hosts the East Regional

Region: East

Favorite: Kentucky, #1 seed, 32-2.  No surprise here, as UK is considered one of the top two national title favorites along with Kansas.  The Cats have one of the most talented starting lineups in the country, but have made a living this year sneaking past teams in the last few minutes.  The team that thinks they can beat Kentucky will have to find a way to deal with a strong inside tandem of DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson in addition to the playmaking abilities of John Wall.  Can anyone in this region bring that kind of defense?

Should They Falter: West Virginia, #2 seed, 27-6.  WVU comes into the NCAA Tournament with momentum, having won six in a row against top-drawer competition in the Big East.  They rebound with almost as much ferocity as the Cats, while coming in much more battle-tested in terms of schedule.  As an added bonus, they may have the most dynamic player in the bracket with Da’Sean Butler whom no less an authority than Evan Turner predicted would hit the game-winning shot in the Big East Tournament final.

Grossly Overseeded: Marquette, #6 seed, 22-11.  The Golden Eagles have won seemingly every close game they’ve played this year, but they’re probably not as good as you’d expect an 11-7 Big East team to be.  They were 2-6 against the RPI top 25, and most simulations (including Vegas) we’ve seen so far have MU as a relative tossup against #11 Washington in the first round.

Grossly Underseeded: Temple, #5 seed, 29-5.  Temple should have been a protected seed.  The Owls were 6-3 against the RPI top 50 and their defense is stickier then day-old sweat.  In a very competitive A10 this year, they outlasted several other NCAA-quality teams to win the regular season title and won the conference tournament as well.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower): Cornell, #12 seed, 27-4.  Jay Bilas’ nuttiness aside, Cornell is an excellent team that could grind it out with #5 Temple and #4 Wisconsin long enough to steal a couple of wins here.  The Big Red arguably have more offensive options at the end of the game than either of those two higher-seeded teams.  The trick will be to ensure that the game is close in the last five minutes.

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower): Wisconsin, #4 seed, 23-8.  Should Cornell not make a run, Wisconsin might be the team to get past Kentucky and Villanova to crash the Final Four.  With Jon Leuer back in the fold healthy, the Badgers have the inside/outside play along with Trevon Hughes to go along with their typically unbending defense to push the two sets of Wildcats to the brink.

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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2010

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

This season saw an unprecedented three teams reach the 20-win plateau in the Ivy League — a dominant Cornell team headed to the NCAA Tournament (expected); a young, but extremely talented Harvard team (disappointing); and a resurgent Princeton team (surprising). Hopefully the latter two have earned an invite to one of the myriad of lesser post-season tournaments. Here’s a look at the final standings:

  1. Cornell (13-1, 27-4): The final go-around for 10 seniors proved to be the best. Now the goal for Louis Dale, Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman et al is to win a game or two in the tournament. A preview of their chances can be found below.
  2. Princeton (11-3, 20-8): Two tough losses to Cornell sealed their fate, but they earned runner-up honors with a couple of victories over Harvard. A bright future with their top five scorers returning.
  3. Harvard (10-4, 21-7): Beat everyone except the top two. Jeremy Lin’s loss via graduation will be felt, but in freshmen Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster, the Crimson boast a backcourt that can compete with the best nationally. Next year’s preseason choice.
  4. Yale (6-8, 12-19): An up and down Ivy season for the Elis. The lone bright spot was All-Ivy senior guard Alex Zampier. He leaves New Haven as the school’s all-time assist leader while scoring over 1000 points.
  5. Columbia (5-9, 11-17): The Lions earn the fifth spot over co 5-9ers Brown and Penn by virtue of their head-to-head sweep of both teams. Next year’s team will be built around sophomore Noruwa Agho, their only double digit scorer.
  6. Brown (5-9, 11-20): Little to separate the Bears from the Quakers other than a slightly better overall record, so they get the nod here. Stat machine Matt Mullery (team leader in points, rebounds, and assists) leaves after a fine career.
  7. Penn (5-9, 6-22): The record was something that Palestra fans (those that showed up) were not used to. Nor were early-season injuries and a mid-season coaching change. Sophomore point guard and Player of the Year candidate Zack Rosen is already a star.
  8. Dartmouth (1-13, 5-23): Not much to cheer about in Hanover. Hopefully Mark Graupe can breathe some enthusiasm into a program that has pretty much been the league doormat for a while. Most of the top players return.

Postseason Awards
Without fanfare we present you with the best of the 2009-2010 Ivy League basketball season:

All-Conference Team

  • Ryan Wittman 6-7 Sr F—Cornell
  • Matt Mullery 6-8 Sr. F–Brown
  • Jeff Foote 7-0 Sr. C–Cornell
  • Jeremy Lin 6-3 Sr. G–Harvard
  • Zack Rosen 6-1 So. G–Penn
  • Alex Zampier 6-3 Sr, G—Yale
  • Louis Dale 5-11 Sr. G—Cornell

All-Freshman Team

  • Kyle Casey 6-7 F–Harvard
  • Tucker Halpern 6-8 F–Brown
  • Andrew McCarthy 6-8 F–Brown
  • Ian Hummer 6-7 F–Princeton
  • Brandyn Curry 6-1 G–Harvard
  • Christian Webster 6-5 G—Harvard

Statistical Leaders

  • Points per game: Zack Rosen (Penn)–17.7
  • FG %: Jeff Foote (Cornell)—62.3%
  • FT %: Zack Rosen (Penn)—86.2%
  • 3-point FG %: Jon Jaques (Cornell)—48.8%
  • Rebounds per game: Jeff Foote (Cornell)—8.2
  • Assists per game: Louis Dale (Cornell)—4.8
  • Steals per game: Jeremy Lin (Harvard)—2.5
  • Blocks per game: Greg Mangano (Yale)—2.0

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Bracket Prep: Cornell, Winthrop, ETSU, Murray State

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2010

As we move through the next eight days when automatic bids will be handed out on a regular basis, we’re going to break down the teams for you so that you can start thinking about your bracket ahead of time.  The pearls of wisdom are meant to help you better understand what these teams are good at and how to make fair comparisons between them — all too often, the capsules you see have a lot of information in them, but very little of it is actually helpful.  If you have additional ideas, leave them in the comments.  For the good/bad matchups, we’re not necessarily saying that Team X will win; we’re simply pointing out that in an ideal situation, some of that team’s strengths will be more likely to manifest against those particular opponents — so save the emails.  As of Sunday morning, there have been four auto-bids handed out.  Here are those primers.

#1. Cornell Big Red (27-4, 13-1 Ivy) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #11-#13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. Cornell is the nation’s top three-point shooting team, hitting 43.4% of their attempts from deep and scoring nearly 39% of their total points from outside the arc.  The Big Red hit twenty in their bid-clinching game against Brown on Friday night.  They have five players who have made 30+ this year; you simply cannot leave these guys open.
  2. In their five games against BCS teams this year, Cornell was 2-3.  The wins were against Alabama in Tuscaloosa and St. John’s in NYC. Digging deeper, though, we find that two of the three losses were to #1 seeds Syracuse (by 15) and Kansas (by 6).  In those losses, Brandon Triche and Sherron Collins tore them up, exposing a vulnerability to athletic, scoring point guards who attack the basket.
  3. The core trio of Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale will not get rattled — they’re all seniors playing in their third straight NCAA Tournament.  They have proven they can score with anyone; the problem will be if they are matched up against a team that is equally offensive minded, as the Cornell defense has trouble getting stops.

Good Matchups: Wisconsin; Gonzaga

Bad Matchups: Baylor, Georgetown

#2. Winthrop Eagles (19-13, 12-6 Big South) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #16

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