Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by jstevrtc on January 15th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin Is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Let me paint you a picture.

Pitt is loaded. They have the Big East player in the post, an all-conference 20 PPG scorer on the wing, and a senior leader at the point running the show. They have depth, balance, quality role players, and one of the most unappreciated coaches in the game.

That was last season.

This season its a different story.

DeJuan Blair is gone. Sam Young is gone. Levance Fields is gone.

Before the season started, the consensus seemed to be that with those three went Pitt’s hopes of an NCAA Tournament trip. Nothing the Panthers did before the start of Big East play changed that assumption. Not coming back from a 13 point second half deficit against Wofford. Not an ugly, two overtime win over Duquesne. Not the 47 points they scored against New Hampshire. Not the loss to Indiana in Madison Square Garden.

But there’s something we didn’t take into consideration.

Jamie Dixon isn’t like most coaches.

Jamie Dixon doesn’t rely on talent to win. He doesn’t need a roster full of McDonald’s all-Americans. In fact, when Dixon brought freshman Dante Taylor into the program, he was Pitt’s first McDonald’s all-american since Bobby Martin and Brian Shorter joined the Panthers in 1987.

What we ignored was the fact that Dixon develops players. He grooms the kids that are overlooked by other programs to fit his system. Like Keith Benjamin and Ronald Ramon and Tyrell Biggs and even Levance Fields and Sam Young before them, guys like Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Gary McGhee bided their time last year. They played their limited minutes while practicing every day against some of the best players in the country, while learning how to defend, execute, and carry themselves like Big East champions.

Now that Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown are back in the rotation, now that this Pitt team is finally complete, we are finally seeing just how good the Panthers are; just how good of a program and system that Jamie Dixon runs.

Pitt’s team is built on toughness, defense, and execution on both sides of the ball. While we pointed out in the preseason that the Panthers had flaws this year — they don’t have any sure-fire lottery picks, they don’t have a dynamic playmaker at the point, they don’t have anyone that can go out and get you 25 points on a given night — what we didn’t point out was that they have a group of kids that bought into what Dixon was selling.

Like every team in Dixon’s tenure, this year’s Panthers defend. They rebound. They get seemingly every loose ball. They run their offense until they get an open look or a lane to the rim. They hit big shots. They demonstrate the physical toughness and the mental make-up required to compete with more talented teams, and to beat them on the road.

And they have just enough natural talent to get by.

Proof?

How about a 4-0 start in the Big East.

Three of those wins came on the road — in Syracuse, in Cincinnati, and in Hartford. All three are difficult places to play, and all three were NCAA tournament caliber teams.

When playing the cream of the Big East crop, there will be few games where the Panthers will be considered the more talented team on the floor even with their run the last two weeks. But rest assured, the Panthers will come away with more than their share of wins.

If the Big East was a car show, Jamie Dixon would be me and Pitt would be my 1995 Honda Accord. While the Jags breakdown, and the Lambo’s get speeding tickets, and the Corvette’s are traded in for newer models, and the Hummers guzzle gas, my Accord keeps getting the job done. The paint may be chipped on the side, the AC may be broken, there may be four blown out speakers that are useless because I don’t have a CD player and the radio antenna was ripped off, but you better believe that Accord gets me where I need to go and gets me there on time, all on 30 miles-per-gallon.

And while Pitt may not be the most aesthetically pleasing basketball team to watch, Dixon keeps steering this team right where it wants to be.

Atop the Big East standings.

Other notes from this week

  • I think it is safe to say we have the choke of the year, possibly in the country. Up 50-48 with 15 seconds left, Cinci’s Rashad Bishop took the ball out of bounds under St. John’s basket. He thought he had Deonta Vaughn open deep, but pulled a Pennington and underthrew the baseball pass. It was picked off by Dwight “Buckets” Hardy, who was fouled, making both free throws. With the game now tied and just 8.5 seconds on the clock, Lance Stephenson threw an inbounds pass away, which was stolen by Hardy who, again, knocked down two free throws. Vaughn missed a three at the buzzer that would have won it as the Bearcats snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
  • Speaking of “Buckets” Hardy, one thing I’ve noticed in watching, and attending, a lot of these games is the number of fantastic nicknames in this conference. You know about Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson, but how about Jamine “Greedy” Peterson of Providence, Stanley “Sticks” Robinson of UConn, Robert “Sticks” Mitchell of Seton Hall, or Darryl “Truck” Bryant of West Virginia. I know there are more out there, as well.
  • Pitt wasn’t the only team getting to 100% as the season progressed. Villanova has now played six games with Reggie Redding, who has been exactly what we expected – 10.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.8 SPG. Take away a two points/seven turnover debacle in Monday’s yuck-fest against Louisville, and those numbers are much more impressive. Nova also got Mouph Yarou back. Yarou had been out with Hepatitis B, but came back on Jan. 6th against DePaul. While his numbers have been less than stellar as he works his way into the rotation, what has impressed about Yarou is his conditioning (Wright is on record saying Yarou is in better-than-expected shape). If Yarou can provide some strength on the glass and on defense, he could end up being a very nice complement to Antonio Pena. All of a sudden, with these two in the line-up, Villanova got a lot more physical.
  • Samardo Samuels was a monster against Villanova. He finished with 21 points and seven boards, hitting every shot he took (4-4 from the floor, 13-13 from the line) and blocking four shots. The problem? Louisville was too concerned about shooting threes to consistently get Samuels the touches he deserved in the paint. The Cardinals will be at their best when they play inside-out, because if Samuels is scoring and defenses are helping down on him (which will more often than not be the case), it will get the Louisville guards better looks on the perimeter.

CO-PLAYERS OF THE WEEKScottie Reynolds, Villanova, and Austin Freeman, Georgetown

Georgetown was dead in the water against UConn. The Huskies had absolutely imposed their will on this game, forcing Georgetown into turnovers and poor shot selection while making it a glorified pick-up game. In other words, they were playing Husky basketball. In Jim Calhoun’s words, it was UConn’s best half of the season. But during the break, Georgetown regrouped and came out more focused on the offensive end. They started to run their offense, to work through their sets, and as a result got much better looks at the rim. It just so happened the majority of those looks came with the ball in Austin Freeman’s hands. Freeman would go on to score 28 of his career-high 33 points in the second half (his previous career high was 21). For the week, Freeman averaged 23.0 PPG  as the Hoyas went 2-1.

Scottie Reynolds, on the other hand, solidified himself among the best player’s in the country with the most efficient display of clutch shooting I’ve ever seen. Villanova, down 17 points at one time in a first half that saw them turn the ball over 17 times, turned the tables on Louisville in the second 20 minutes, and Reynolds was the reason why. He scored 30 second half points, 36 on the game, while shooting just 9-10 from the floor, 13-17 from the line, and making all five attempts from three. For the week, the Wildcats went 3-0, and Reynolds averaged 24.0 PPG in the three games.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Clearly, the team of the week was Pitt, but seeing as I’ve already wasted the majority of this column on the Panthers, I’m giving the Irish the nod. All-in-all, the Irish are not a bad team. They have the most productive player in the conference in Luke Harangody. They have two solid shooters/scoring options on the perimeter in Tim Abromaitis and Psycho-B Ben Hansbrough. They have a veteran point guard in Tory Jackson. They have some talent coming off the bench. But what the Irish didn’t have was a win to justify their record. They got that on Saturday, as they hit their first nine shots and opened up a 25-4 lead on West Virginia before the Mountaineers decided to start playing. While Notre Dame wasted away just about all of that cushion when WVU got hot (they hit 9-19 from deep in the second half), Harangody scored a big bucket with three minutes left to answer a Dalton Pepper three and put the Irish back up, 69-66. After getting some key stops down the stretch, the Irish can now add claim a resume win.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova: 15-1, 4-0

Last Week: 1/6 vs. DePaul 99-72, 1/9 vs. Marquette 78-76, 1/11 @ Louisville 92-84

Next Week: 1/17 vs. Georgetown

2. Pittsburgh: 14-2, 4-0

Last Week: 1/13 @ UConn 67-57

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Louisville

3. Syracuse: 16-1, 3-1

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Memphis 74-57, 1/10 vs. South Florida 82-65, 1/13 @ Rutgers 81-65

Next Week: 1/16 @ West Virginia, 1/18 @ Notre Dame

4. Georgetown: 13-2, 4-1

Last Week: 1/6 @ Marquette 59-62, 1/9 vs. UConn 72-69, 1/14 vs. Seton Hall 85-73

Next Week: 1/17 @ Villanova

5. West Virginia: 13-2, 4-1

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Rutgers 86-52, 1/9 @ Notre Dame 68-70, 1/13 @ South Florida 69-50

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Syracuse

6. Connecticut: 11-5, 2-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Seton Hall 71-63, 1/9 @ Georgetown 69-72, 1/13 vs. Pitt 57-67

Next Week: 1/17 @ Michigan

7. Louisville: 12-5, 3-1

Last Week: 1/6 @ Providence 92-70, 1/9 vs. St. John’s 75-68, 1/11 vs. Villanova 84-92

Next Week: 1/16 @ Pitt

8. Notre Dame: 14-3, 3-1

Last Week: 1/9 vs. West Virginia 70-68

Next Week: 1/16 @ Cincinnati, 1/18 vs. Syracuse

9. Marquette: 10-6, 1-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Marquette 62-59, 1/9 @ Villanova 76-78

Next Week: 1/17 vs. Providence

10. Cincinnati: 11-6, 2-3

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield 87-58, 1/9 @ Seton Hall 76-83, 1/13 @ St. John’s 50-52

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Notre Dame

11. Providence: 11-6, 3-2

Last Week: 1/6 vs. Louisville 70-92, 1/9 vs. Rutgers 94-81, 1/14 @ DePaul 79-62

Next Week: 1/17 @ Marquette

12. St. John’s: 11-5, 1-3

Last Week: 1/9 @ Louisville 68-75, 1/13 vs. Cincinnati 52-50

Next Week: 1/17 vs. DePaul

13. Seton Hall: 10-6, 1-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ UConn 63-71, 1/9 vs. Cincinnati 83-76, 1/14 @ Georgetown 73-85

Next Week: N/A

14. South Florida: 10-6, 0-4

Last Week: 1/10 @ Syracuse 65-82, 1/13 vs. West Virginia 50-69

Next Week: 1/16 vs. Rutgers

15. Rutgers: 9-7, 0-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ West Virginia 52-86, 1/9 @ Providence 81-94, 1/13 vs. Syracuse 65-81

Next Week: 1/16 @ South Florida

16. DePaul: 7-9, 0-4

Last Week: 1/6 @ Villanova 72-99, 1/14 vs. Providence 62-79

Next Week: 1/17 @ St. John’s

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Summer Bracketology: 07.23.09

Posted by zhayes9 on July 22nd, 2009

Did you all miss Bracketology as much as I did? While the intense days of February and March seem like eons away, here’s a dose of bracket madness to keep you college basketball diehards happy in the heart of Summer 2009. Some brief notes regarding the bracket:

- The preseason #1 seeds are (in order) Kansas, Kentucky, Texas and Michigan State. As the number one overall seed, Kansas plays the closest to home in St. Louis, Kentucky is placed in Houston as higher priority over Texas, and so on. The only #2 seed that was considered for a top seed was Purdue, but I gave the slight Big Ten edge to last year’s national runner-up from East Lansing.

- They lost Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson, Danny Green…and North Carolina is still a #2 seed? It’s true. Due to an outstanding recruiting class, an overall decrease in talent across the board in college basketball (especially from upperclassmen) and returnees like Ed Davis, Larry Drew and Deon Thompson expected to make a significant leap in production, North Carolina will most likely be at the top with Duke as preseason ACC favorites.

- The other difficult call was in the Pac-10 between Washington and California. While the Golden Bears return all of their talent from an overachieving season, I’m in love with the Huskies backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy. As the returning champions, I gave them the slight nod as the #3 seed in the Salt Lake region, with Cal sliding to a #4 seed.

- This might be painful to swallow for all the Big Ten haters out there (I’m definitely not one of them), but it’s going to be the best conference in the land this season. Michigan State and Purdue are both potential number ones, Ohio State returns nearly everyone besides the disappointing B.J. Mullens, Illinois returns a talented group (losing Frazier and Meachem could hurt initially), and both Minnesota and Michigan have plenty returning. You can never discount Wisconsin either.

- The last team in? Vanderbilt from the SEC. The last team out? Pittsburgh from the Big East. Really, I wanted to put the Panthers in, but they lost DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields, Sam Young, Jermaine Dixon and Tyrell Biggs. That’s just too much to overcome, even if Jamie Dixon is their head coach and the Petersen Events Center is one of the most difficult places to play.

- The Pac-10 has only three teams in at this point. I expect them to receive more bids when it’s all said and done, but right now I just can’t put anyone else in the field besides Washington, Cal and UCLA. Both Arizona and USC are total messes. Washington State, Arizona State and Oregon State appear to be NIT clubs at this point.

07.22.09 bracketology

Last Four In: Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, LSU

Last Four Out: Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Mississippi, Miami (FL)

Next Four Out: Marquette, Creighton, Florida State, Arizona

Bids per conference: Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 12 (7), Big Ten (7), SEC (7), Pac-10 (3), Atlantic 10 (2).

Automatic bids: Binghamton, Dayton, North Carolina, Jacksonville, Kansas, Villanova, Montana, Radford, Michigan State, Long Beach State, Old Dominion, Tulsa, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Akron, Morgan State, Northern Iowa, BYU, Mount St. Mary’s, Murray State, Washington, Holy Cross, Kentucky, College of Charleston, Sam Houston State, Prairie View A&M, Oakland, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State.

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Boom/Bust Cycle

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2009

It’s a little less than an hour before tonight’s NBA Draft, and this should have probably been done days ago, but we wanted to use our undeniable RTC expertise when it comes to projecting college hoops talent to the pros so we can say “told ya so” when the one undervalued player we said would be a star pans out (while the other ten we said would be don’t, but let’s not quibble).  We’ll use Andy Katz’s final mock draft from this morning, and we’re only going to evaluate college players (because we’ve seen them play for at least one year).  The criteria is BOOM or BUST – either that player is undervalued or overvalued based on his selection.  That’s it.  Here we go…

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1.  Blake Griffin, Oklahoma – BOOM, although the fact that he’s going to ClipperLand means drug addiction and/or horrific injury.  Bill Simmons agrees

2.  Hasheem Thabeet, UConn – BUST, his offensive game won’t develop any further and he’s no Dikembe.

4.  Tyreke Evans, Memphis – BUST, not seeing it at this selection; opposing defenses can lay off of him out to 18 feet. 

5.  James  Harden, Arizona St. – BOOM, a Joe Johnson/Monta Ellis clone.  Kid can really play.

6.  Stephen Curry, Davidson – BUST, limitless range but really, #6?  Too many question marks to be this high.

7.  Jordan Hill, Arizona – BUST, nice player but he’s not even as good as Big Baby.

8.  Jrue Holiday, UCLA – BUST, classic example of being a better athlete than player. 

9.  Demar DeRozan, USC – BOOM, DeRozan really came on at the end of the season and appears poised to break out.

10.  Jonny Flynn, Syracuse – BUST, is Flynn really the best true point in this draft?  No way. 

11.  Terrence Williams, Louisville – BUST, seems like the kind of player who will be out of the league in 3 years (does everything well, nothing great).

12.  Gerald Henderson, Duke – BOOM, second best guard in the draft behind Harden.

13.  DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh – HEDGE, this is about the right position for an undersized beast like Blair. 

14.  Earl Clark, Louisville – BOOM, should have been higher but has a reputation for being lazy.  Will shed that and become an excellent NBAer.

15.  Austin Daye, Gonzaga – BUST, we used to love this guy, but he hasn’t shown much improvement in two years of college.  We don’t believe in him.

16.  BJ Mullens, Ohio St. – HUGE BUST, this is a joke.  Either he’ll be washing cars in two years with Patrick O’Bryant or turn into Chris Kaman, who knows?

17.  Ty Lawson, UNC – BOOM, he’s proven that he’s a winner and has improved his game substantially.  Could be TJ Ford w/o the back problems.

18.  James Johnson, Wake Forest – BOOM, has a reputation for being lazy, but he’s silky smooth at his size and will succeed in this league.

19.  Tyler Hansbrough. UNC – HEDGE, we all know what kind of player he’ll be.  Average at best.

20.  Sam Young, Pittsburgh – BOOM, an absolute steal at this pick; Young could end up being a star.

21.  Jeff Teague, Wake Forest – BOOM, would have been a lottery pick had he not packed in the second half of the year; the talent and athleticism is apparent.

24.  Eric Maynor, VCU - HEDGE, nice pickup for this position. 

25.  Jon Brockman, Washington – BUST, sorry, but Brockman just isn’t NBA material in the long run.

26.  Toney Douglas, Florida St. – HEDGE, could go either way here, but we’d expect Douglas to find a niche in the League.

27.  Darren Collison, UCLA – BUST, Collison has always struck us as someone who should have been better than he was. 

29.  Nick Calathes, Florida – BOOM, Calathes will find a way to make himself a good pro if he decides to play in good ole USA instead of Greece.

30.  DaJuan Summers, Georgetown – BUST, but it’s worth a gamble given his natural abilities.  Could become a defensive stalwart at some point if he tried.

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Villanova and Pittsburgh put the madness back in March Madness

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2009

After nearly 10 days of college basketball critics bemoaning the lack of excitement in this year’s edition of March Madness, two of the Big East’s best teams answered all of those critics by submitting an all-time classic. After one of the strangest 10 seconds you will ever see, Scottie Reynolds made an end-to-end run that might replace the Danny Ainge and Tyus Edney versions on NCAA Tournament highlight reels from now on as this was on a much bigger stage with a trip to the Final 4 on the line. Even with Reynolds miracle, Pittsburgh still had its shot, but a 75-foot desperation heave by Levance Fields was off-target and the Villanova fans which filled TD BankNorth had their biggest moment since 1985 when Rollie Massimino, who attended the games in Boston, guided the Wildcats to their only national championship.

It was a game that showed off everything that the Big East was this year: tough, physical, surprisingly high-scoring, and always entertaining. The Wildcats came out of the gates strong and held a 22-12 lead with 9:27 left before the #1 seeded Panthers joined the fight. Relying on its three stars (DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, and Fields), Jamie Dixon‘s squad cut the lead to 2 with an 8-0 spurt in 1:09. From that point forward, the two team traded punches like world-class heavyweights (back when being a heavyweight actually meant something) as neither team was able to stretch their lead beyond 5 points. Villanova relied on a balanced attack (Dwayne Anderson with 17 points, Reynolds with 15 points, Dante Cunningham with 14 points, and Shane Clark with 11 points) while Pittsburgh relied heavily on its two 1st team All-Big East performers (Young with 28 points and 7 rebounds and Blair with 20 points ant 10 rebounds) to keep it in the game.

A tight game throughout. . .

A tight game throughout. . .

After trading haymakers for nearly 37 minutes without either team achieving any separation, Pittsburgh appeared to have a chance to do so coming out of a Villanova timeout with a 4-point lead and the ball out of bounds with 3:05 left.  Instead, that’s just when the madness started. Jermaine Dixon, who had hit a tough jumper just moments earlier  (with a shot that was reminiscent of one that his brother Maryland star Juan Dixon used to hit not too many years ago) to give the Panthers the lead, had the ball stolen from him and in an attempt to recover fouled Dwyane Anderson for the conventional 3-point play. A Sam Young turnover and a Corey Fisher lay-up later, the Wildcats had the lead with 2:16 left, but Fields hit a pair of free throws to give the Panthers the lead back. The Wildcats showed their mettle by scoring the next 5 points to take a 4-point lead with 47 seconds left. As he has done all night long, Young provided the answer for the Panthers with a clutch 3-pointer (“Onions!” as Bill Raftery would say) with 40 seconds left to cut the lead back to 1. A pair of Fisher free throws and a Reggie Redding free throw allowed the Wildcats to stretch the lead back to 4 with 20 seconds left.

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Notes from the East Region Open Practice

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2009

Because of the NCAA’s refusal to give us a media credential (or discuss the issue and our side of the case), we were forced to go to today’s open practice to get an up-close look at the teams. As an aside, if anybody has extra tickets for the games in Boston for the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8 (in case your team gets cheated by the refs), send me an e-mail at rushthecourt@gmail.com and I might be able to take them off your hands.

The guys who don't want me covering the game

The guys who don't want me covering the game

Let’s get one thing out of the way. The East Region open practice might have been the most boring 5 hours of my life (not counting lectures). There’s a reason the NCAA makes this event free (outside of the fact that they more than make up for it through the $8 programs, $5 Cokes, and $23 baseball caps). The crowd was 95% white males in their mid-30s or above along with a handful of kids chasing autographs from players who they were looking up during the practices checking to see which ones had the best stats. My favorites were the old guys sitting behind me who kept on commenting on how good Gary McGhee and Brian Zoubek were (the tallest guys on the court) and what outstanding pros they were going to be. Anyways, here are my thoughts and pictures (some pictures are from my iPhone because I forgot to charge my digital camera) from each team’s “practice”.

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: East Region Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

The East Region: A Look Back, A Look Ahead  (By Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore)

A look back: Here are some of the bests and worsts of the first two rounds of the East Region – as well as some other haphazard notes …

Most impressive team remaining: Villanova. The Wildcats’ dismantling of UCLA was a sight to behold.

Shakiest team remaining: Pittsburgh. I sat next to a diehard Pitt fan at a sports bar Friday. I knew it was a bad sign when he turned to me disgusted midway through the second half and said, “Just root for East Tennessee State. I know you want to.”

Don’t forget about us:  In Xavier’s opening-round win over Portland State, the Musketeers shot 54 percent from the field and committed just seven turnovers. In their second-round win, they held Wisconsin to 25 percent shooting. Xavier has now won at least one game in six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments.

Don’t forget about us either: Duke is back in the Sweet 16. Oh, how we missed you.

Best performance: Pitt’s Sam Young was electric against Oklahoma State, scoring 32 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Four

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2009

dynamiteAfter a thrilling finish last night that made Demetri Goodson a household name for at least a few days, we think the tournament has officially begun. Even being fairly selective, we think there are at least 3 outstanding games today. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering tomorrow:

  • 12:10 PM: #6 Arizona State vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 2:20 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #4 Xavier
  • 2:30 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #3 Kansas
  • 2:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #12 Arizona
  • 2:50 PM: #8 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 4:50 PM: #6 Marquette vs. #3 Missouri
  • 5:00 PM: #10 USC vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 5:20 PM: #9 Siena vs. #1 Louisville

A couple thoughts on the scheduling: (1) It’s nice to see the early finish for those of us who have to work on Monday morning and (2) I think the NCAA and CBS might have finally figured out the spacing issue. Outside of the early game, I don’t think there should be any point during the other 2 sets of games where  we have all the games at halftime. I’m guessing the NCAA and/or CBS must have hired a bunch of McKinsey consultants at $500/hr to figure out how to stagger the games. Now I’m looking at it without a fancy Excel model, but this looks like a reasonable set-up, which should get the job done, but I’ve been wrong before. . .

12:08 PM: One piece of big news from the morning: Dominic James has been cleared to play today. I’m not sure what kind of experimental medical techniques they have up at Marquette, but that’s a shocking piece of news. I’d be surprised if he could even go 10 minutes today as he was expected to be out for at least 2 months when he broke his foot (don’t remember which bone) back on Febraury 25th, but we will wait and see.

12:25 PM: This game looks like it should be fairly entertaining and competitive. Interesting back story about Jonny Flynn and James Harden. I know the old school guys won’t like it, but with the growth of AAU and all these summer camps I think it should be expected that stuff like that will happen.

12:30 PM: For those of you who questioned my earlier assertion that the arenas looked dead this year, the NCAA is backing me up. I guess it should be somewhat expected with the economy although most tickets are purchased via the lottery well in advance. The 50% in Miami is appalling though. One more thing to remember about these numbers. . .they reflect the number of tickets purchased not the attendance. I’m sure there are a lot of tickets that have been purchased by ticket brokers that have not been purchased by people who actually go to the games.

12:40 PM: As talented as Harden is, I really question his tendency to disappear for long stretches. Is he unable to play hard for 40 minutes or is he “letting the game come to him”?

12:47 PM: Arizona State is getting run out of the gym right now. I wonder how much the early start hurts the West Coast teams here. I’m not sure if any of you have data on this.

12:50 PM: We just posted the next part of our Mascot Challnege. Be sure to vote for your favorite mascots and help him/her win the national title.

12:52 PM: Rihards Kuksiks is single-handedly keeping the Sun Devils in this game with 15 of their first 30 points. Syracuse goes into half with a 41-32 lead. Harden still doesn’t have a point. If I’m a NBA GM, his tendency to do this drops him a few spots on my board.

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East Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round (pt. 2)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 20th, 2009

EAST REGION GAME PREVIEWS – PART TWO (By Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore)

Once again, we will be picking the East Regional games, while also pitting non-basketball alums from each school in a no-holds barred battle for March supremacy.

Friday’s Games – Dayton, Ohio

(8) Oklahoma State vs. (9) Tennessee (12:25 p.m.)

DZ: This match-up is about as even as they come. Both teams play fast-paced, high-scoring basketball. The Cowboys’ James Anderson (18.6 ppg) will be the best player on the court, but the Vols are stronger in the interior with Tyler Smith (17 ppg) and Wayne Chism (13.8 ppg). I’ll go with Bruce Pearl and the Vols here – but you might be better off just flipping a coin.

SM: Usually, these 8 vs. 9 games include at least one so-called mid-major team against a BCS conference team, and I usually lean toward the little guy with my pick. But as the only 8/9 game between two mediocre big boys, this is a total toss up. I have to go with the team I know more about, and that would be Tyler Smith and Tennessee. The real question is whether Bruce Pearl will break out the day-glo orange blazer.

Alumni Throwdown – Gary Busey (Oklahoma State) vs. Chris Hadfield (Tennessee)

DZ: Like the real game, this has all the makings of a great match-up with an actor lost in space going up against the first Canadian to walk in space. But the astronaut wins when Busey gets distracted trying to figure out the life force of a basketball.

SM: Busey had a great turn in a recent season of Entourage. But once you’ve appeared on a reality show called Celebrity Rehab, you’re disqualified. I’ll go with the Canadian astronaut, eh?

(16) East Tennessee State vs. (1) Pittsburgh (2:55 p.m.)

DZ: If the national championship hopeful Panthers have a hard time with this one, they could be in trouble. High-scoring guard Kevin Tiggs (21.5 ppg) helped ETSU win the Atlantic Sun tournament championship, but you may have heard Pitt has a couple of stars in its own in DeJuan Blair (15.6 ppg, 12.4 rpg) and Sam Young (18.8 ppg). The Panthers coast into the second round.

SM: I’ll lay it on the line – Pitt is my pick to win it all. So if they show ANY signs of trouble against a school whose finest alum is a late bishop, my bracket could be in trouble. Tiggs may be a small-conference gunner against Lipscomb and South Carolina-Upstate (yeah, that’s a real school), but DeJuan Blair is a big enough force to block out the (Atlantic) Sun. Panthers rest the starters late, and still run away by 20-plus.

Alumni Throwdown – Bishop Earl G. Hunt Jr. (East Tennessee State) vs. Mark Cuban (Pittsburgh)

DZ: It will take a wing and prayer for ETSU to beat Pitt, but prayers are what the late bishop has (sorry, there aren’t many famous ETSU alums). Look for the bishop to prove faith is stronger than money by knocking off the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks in the feel-good upset of the (fake) tournament.

SM: I don’t want to vote against a bishop, but I also don’t want Mark Cuban to rip me on his blog or his Twitter or whatever it is the kids are doing these days. Cuban politely edges Bishop Hunt in this one, but then gets fined by David Stern for excessive celebration.

Friday’s Games – Boise, Idaho

(4) Xavier vs. (13) Portland State (7:25 p.m.)

DZ: The Musketeers notched some signature wins early but have just a .500 record since Feb. 7. Meanwhile, pint-sized guard Jeremiah Dominguez, the two-time Big Sky MVP, fuels a very good shooting Portland State team that knocked off Gonzaga, on the road, earlier in the season. Xavier is a tourney-tested team under head coach Sean Miller, but I like Portland State here in the East Region’s upset special.

SM: I’m on record saying Xavier is a little high as a four seed, but Portland State may be the one team in this region with an even more favorable ranking. I was the one person who watched the Vikings win the Big Sky title at the buzzer, and they did not look like a 13 seed. The Musketeers handle their business rather easily in this one. After that, though, I make no promises.

Alumni Throwdown – Robert Romanus (Xavier) vs. Holly Madison (Portland State)

DZ: Madison, one of Heff’s girlfriends on Girls Next Door, matched up against the actor who played Mike Damone in Fast Times at Ridgemont High? This one would be over before it starts with the Playboy model easily wooing the overconfident sleazeball. (“I woke up in a great mood. I don’t know what the hell happened.”)

SM: Blondes aren’t usually my thing, but in this matchup, it’s a no-brainer. I mean she’s a Playmate, for goodness sake. Personally, I would’ve gone with Phillies legend and Xavier grad Jim Bunning, but a certain Mets’ fan picked this alumni matchup. At least he has a World Series title to back it … oh, wait.

(5) Florida State vs. (12) Wisconsin (9:55 p.m.)

DZ: Averaging over 20 points per game, the Seminoles’ Toney Douglas is one of the best players in the region. But Wisconsin is a pretty solid team for a 12 seed, allowing less than 60 points per contest. Florida State should win a close one, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 12-13 game in Round 2 here.

SM: I’m much higher on the Big Ten than most folks this year (Purdue to the Elite 8!), but not in this case. The Badgers have been totally unimpressive this year, and first-round games are often decided by the best player on the floor. In this case, that is FSU’s Toney Douglas – this year’s breakout star in the East Region. The ’Noles win a tight one late, possibly on a Douglas trifecta.

Alumni Throwdown – Burt Reynolds (Florida State) vs. Stephen Ambrose (Wisconsin)

DZ: Because why wouldn’t we pit a famous actor and former Florida State football player against a late historian and author of Band of Brothers? I’m going with cool guy Reynolds since Ambrose was accused of plagiarizing one of my old professors at Penn.

SM: That’s the best a large state school like Wisconsin has to offer? No Bud Selig, Steve Miller, Joan Cusack, or Charles Lindbergh? This one goes to Burt Reynolds in a landslide. The man nearly stole the show in Boogie Nights – a film that included Heather Graham and not a lot of clothing.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2009

dynamiteWe’d like to apologize for our coverage yesterday. We had some technical/communication issues regarding the post yesterday, but I’ll be back covering the games today so everything should be back to normal. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering today:

Early Games

  • 12:15 PM: #14 Stephen F. Austin vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 12:25 PM: #9 Tennessee vs. #8 Oklahoma State
  • 12:30 PM: #11 Utah State vs. #6 Marquette
  • 12:30 PM: #14 North Dakota State vs. #3 Kansas

Afternoon Games

  • 2:45 PM: #11 Temple vs. #6 Arizona State
  • 2:55 PM: #16 East Tennessee State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 3:00 PM: #14 Cornell vs. #3 Missouri
  • 3:00 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #6 West Virginia

Evening Games

  • 7:10 PM: #16 Morehead State vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:10 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #5 Utah
  • 7:20 PM: #10 USC vs. #7 Boston College
  • 7:25 PM: #13 Portland State vs. #4 Xavier

Late Night Games

  • 9:40 PM: #9 Siena vs. #8 Ohio State
  • 9:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #4 Wake Forest
  • 9:50 PM: #15 Robert Morris vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:55 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #5 Florida State

Quite frankly, today’s slate looks a lot more interesting than what was on yesterday. There are 3 games in each of the 4 groups that seem like they will be entertaining except for the afternoon set where only the 6/11 match-ups really catch my eyes. Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions on any of these games or the ones from yesterday in the comment section. I’ll be back around noon to cover the day’s action.

12:15 PM: Ok. We’re about to get underway. I was a little delayed by the fact that the bus to RTC East decided to pick up 3 people in wheelchairs, which slowed down my trip significantly (had to get them in/out during 6 stops). Is anybody rooting for Stephen F. Austin just because they can’t stand Eric Devendorf?

12:20 PM: “The best look the Lumberjacks have had so far”? That was only their 2nd possession of the game. The crows is awful in Miami. I know its early, but there is nobody there. I have to say the NCAA did a pretty poor job with their pod placement. I’ll have to double check, but Miami is probably the worst pod location in terms of distance from the participating schools (and the fact that they don’t care about sports in Miami).

12:30 PM: Rough start for Stephen F. Austin in Miami. Already down 10-2. Hopefully they can keep it close although this was probably the game that was the most likely to be a blowout in this group.

12:35 PM: Did anybody pick upsets in this group of games? I have North Dakota State and Utah State.

12:40 PM: Good game in Dayton (Ok State 14, Tennessee 13 with 12:20 left in the first half). In Boise, Lazar Hayward is up 7-5 on Utah State.

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NCAA Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

Pittsburgh (#1, East, Dayton pod)

vs. East Tennessee State (#16)
Mar. 20 @ 2:55pm

Vegas Line: Pittsburgh -20

pitt-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Conference: Big East, at-large
Coach: Jamie Dixon, 150-41
08-09 Record: 28-4, 15-3
Last 12 Games: 10-2
Best Win: 76-68, Connecticut, 2/16/2009
Worst Loss: 81-73, Providence, 2/24/2009
Off. Efficiency Rating: 122.9 [2]
Def. Efficiency Rating: 92.2 [34]

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): DeJaun Blair – 15.6 ppg/12.2 rpg; Sam Young – 18.7 ppg/6.1 rpg; Levance Fields – 10.7 ppg/7.6 apg
Unsung Hero: Jermaine Dixon – 9.0 ppg
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): DeJuan Blair, 13th overall in 2009 / Sam Young, 22nd overall in 2009
Key Injuries: No injuries to report
Depth: 29.4% mins, #206
Achilles Heel: DeJuan Blair and fouls – Pitt is 0-3 when their big guy fouls out, and 28-1 when he stays on the court.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: Everything goes as expected.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: Blair gets in foul trouble, and the other Pitt stars can’t make up the difference.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2008, Round of 32
Streak: Pitt is dancing for the 8th straight year.
Best NCAA Finish: 1941, Final Four
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): -0.40 wins per appearance

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: Head coach Jamie Dixon (1) took over in 2003 at Pitt after Ben Howland (2) left for UCLA. Howland’s Bruins won a spectacular game again Gonzaga in the 2006 tournament, with Adam Morrison (3) starring for the Zags. Morrison was the first draft pick by Michael Jordan (4), who famously played for the Chicago Bulls (5), who were at the time the chief rival of the Detroit Pistons (6).
Distance to First Round Site: 256 miles
School’s Claim to Fame: “Send it in Jerome!” In 1988, Pitt forward Jerome Lane had one of the most spectacular highlight reel dunks ever, shattering the backboard with a slam against Providence.
School Wishes It Could Forget: In 2005, a University of Pittsburgh scientist named Gerald Schatten was linked to a South Korean embryo-cloning debacle that made international controversy. Generally, schools don’t like their faculty members getting involved in such things.
Prediction: FSU doesn’t have the firepower, outside of Douglas, to take down Pitt, and Blair should dominate over Duke’s tepid post players. In the end, Pittsburgh makes it all the way to the Final Four, but can’t quite make it to the title game.

Major RTC stories: None

Preview written by…  Matt the Intern

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NCAA Basketball 2009: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009

bcs-fail

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

bcs-2009

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

Now onto the match-ups. . .

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.15.09

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2009

dynamiteIt’s officially here. . .Selection Sunday is upon us. Time for a bunch of whining and complaining by grown men about how their team that went 20-12 deserved to get in or for Billy Packer to rip some mid-major for getting in at 26-7 over an ACC team that went 17-15. Thankfully, the slate today is a little lighter to let us get some work done on our NCAA tournament preview. We’ll be covering all 4 games today and we will be doing a separate live blog (RTC Live style, but we won’t be inside the Selection Committee room although give it time). Here are the games today in chronological order and a brief synopsis of what is at stake in each game:

  • 1 PM: #22 FSU vs. #8 Duke on ESPN, Raycom, and ESPN360.com: This is only for seeding purposes. FSU is probably a solid #5 after knocking off UNC yesterday. A win here might be able to move them up to the last #4 seed. Duke is pretty much locked into a #2 seed. There is no way they are getting a #1 seed and they won’t fall to a #3 seed because the two teams above them and three teams below them in the rankings all had worse weeks.
  • 1 PM: Tennessee vs. Mississippi State on CBS: This is the biggest game of the day because of its implications on the bubble. I’m guessing 95% of the people who have any rooting interest in this game will be pulling for Tennessee. The Vols are solidly in the field at a #7 seed in most predictions and I can’t see them jumping much higher, which would essentially mean they should be ranked, if they beat a good, but not great MSU team. The Bulldogs on the other hand can wreck a bunch of teams NCAA dreams by winning the SEC title.
  • 1 PM: Texas-San Antonio vs. Stephen F. Austin on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: The winner of this game will end up with a 14 or 15 seed. SFA might be an interesting first round opponent since they actually had a decent RPI for a Southland team (#79) and boast a win over #94 North Dakota State. Honestly though, unless you’re a fan/grad of one of the schools, you’re not going to be watching this over the other two games.
  • 3:30 PM: Ohio State vs. #24 Purdue on CBS: Another game that is about seeding. I think Purdue has moved up about as far as it can after destroying Illinois in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Ohio State has a chance to move up to a 7 if they can win this after knocking off Michigan State yesterday.

12:20 PM: Ok. Some quick questions for you that ESPN.com posed this morning:

  1. Which teams are the #1 seeds?
  2. Is UConn better off as a #2 seed?
  3. Which conference will send the most teams to the NCAA tournament?
  4. Will the SEC really only put two of its teams into the NCAA field?
  5. Will Arizona’s 24-year bid streak finally end?
  6. Which teams will be seeded higher than you think?
  7. Which teams will be seeded lower than you think?
  8. Which mid-major teams will the big boys hope to avoid in the first round?

Let me know what you think and I’ll give you my thoughts in a little bit.

12:45 PM: Why does CBS drag these Selection Committee people onto the show? I know they’re trying to hype up the Selection Special at 6 PM, but they add absolutely nothing. They just give generic, PR firm answers. I almost prefer the bickering that ESPN has arguing whether or not a team deserves to be in.

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