Circle Your Calendar: The 68 Must-See Games of 2012-13, Part One

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 5th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a contributor for Rush the Court. Let him know what you think at @botskey on Twitter.

Can you believe it? Real, live college basketball begins this coming Friday and continues through early April. From San Diego to Miami to Ann Arbor and all places in between, here is your guide to the top 68 games of the 2012-13 college basketball season. NCAA Tournament and conference title implications ride on each and every one of these games so settle in and mark your calendars. Games later in the season, when teams are gelling and making a postseason push, are valued more than match-ups earlier in the season when teams are still trying to find their identities. We begin our countdown with games #68 to #52, listed below in order. The countdown will continue as we move through the week prior to opening night on November 9. Check back all week for the rest of the list. (h/t to Zach Hayes for his assistance in building this list).

68. November 30: Syracuse at Arkansas (8:30 PM, ESPN) – The marquee non-conference home game for Arkansas (as part of the Big East/SEC Challenge) is also a quality early season road test for Syracuse, a team that rarely leaves New York before conference play begins. The Razorbacks haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2008, having gone 22-42 in SEC play over the last four seasons. With Michigan being the only other top shelf team on their non-conference schedule, this game is a huge opportunity for this potential bubble team to notch a win that will make the committee take notice.

The Hoosiers and Bulldogs Will Bring Its Local Rivalry to the Crossroads Classic

67. December 15: Indiana vs. Butler (2:00 PM, CBS) – It will be interesting to see how Butler performs against their conference schedule in the Atlantic 10 versus the Horizon League but before they get a chance to do that, they’ll take on intrastate rival Indiana in Indianapolis. The Crossroads Classic, as it’s called, is a mid-December boon for a state with basketball entrenched in its culture. Now eligible, sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke (transfer from Arkansas) could keep the Bulldogs competitive against Indiana’s porous perimeter defense but Cody Zeller and company may be too much for Brad Stevens’ team to handle.

66. March 5: Arkansas at Missouri (7:00 PM, ESPN) – Razorbacks head coach and former Missouri headman Mike Anderson makes his return to Columbia for a late season tilt that should have postseason implications. Anderson’s teams love to play in the style of Nolan Richardson’s “40 minutes of hell” but you can bet Missouri will be well equipped to handle it with some holdovers from the Anderson regime still on the roster. With the combination of the return of Anderson and senior night, you can bet the crowd at Mizzou Arena will be fired up and ready to go for this one.

They also meet: February 16 in Fayetteville.

65. February 25: Syracuse at Marquette (7:00 PM, ESPN) – Despite being criminally underrated seemingly every season, Buzz Williams and Marquette will likely be in the Big East mix ahead of this late February matchup. The Golden Eagles will have a different look without Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom but an infusion of newcomers, headlined by Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett and a talented core of returning players ready to take the next step. Syracuse will start a new lineup this season after losing many key players but make no mistake, the Orange are among the favorites to take home the Big East crown in their final season in the conference.

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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #8 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!

#8 – Where A Mountain West Floater Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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Morning Five: 10.10.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2012

  1. There was a scary moment Tuesday morning in Washington, DC, at a session of The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics when former Maryland star and current ESPN college basketball analyst Len Elmore collapsed in his chair during a Q&A session. Luckily, the 6o-year old Harvard Law graduate and resident hoops intellectual was back up on his feet after paramedics arrived and he shortly walked under his own power to his hotel room thereafter. According to the Washington Post, Elmore told SMU president Gerald Turner that this incident was related to a “longstanding health issue” of his and has happened before. We’re glad to hear that Elmore appears to be doing alright, but we sure hope that his ailment is manageable and doesn’t cause him additional and dangerous related problems.
  2. One thing we failed to mention from Monday’s fire hose of preseason information released by CBSSports.com was their article outlining the group’s selections for conference champions, Final Four teams/champions, and major postseason awards. Some of the more interesting choices were Gonzaga making the Final Four on two ballots (Goodman and Norlander), Arizona doing likewise (Goodman and Gottlieb), along with UNLV (Norlander and Borzello) and Michigan State (Parrish). None of the five writers chose the same national champion — Louisville, Arizona, Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana — and they were equally disparate when it came to picking Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year. When it comes to NPOY, though, the group was nearly uananimous — Cody Zeller showed up on four ballots, with Doug McDermott picking up the lone contrarian vote. One thing is for sure: The field is completely wide open this year and any number of schools will start practice on Friday with reasonable dreams of cutting down the nets next spring in Atlanta.
  3. Yesterday the WAC announced two new additions to its basketball-only league — and make sure you’re sitting down when you read that these titans of the sport are joining the once-venerable old conference — Utah Valley and Cal State Bakersfield. After all the recent defections, these two schools will join a ragtag group that now only includes Denver, Seattle, Idaho and New Mexico State. For the next two years, the league will keep its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament under an exemption that allows it to do so without the requisite minimum of seven schools. For a conference that at one time or another boasted such notable basketball schools as Arizona, BYU, UNLV, San Diego State, Tulsa and Utah, this is a little bit like looking at a former supermodel in her 70s — it ain’t pretty anymore.
  4. The Battle of the Midway has been saved from liquidation, much to the relief of both Syracuse and San Diego State, the two schools set to face off on the retired ship come Veteran’s Day. But if you want to grab a ticket, make sure to bring your American Express platinum card — ducats for this outdoor game will start at $150 a pop and increase up to as much as $500 the closer you get to the court. Novelty plus scarcity is a certain way to increase demand for a product, but we’re not convinced that pricing a game like this in the rarefied neighborhood of courtside seats to an NBA game is the right way to handle it. Honestly, we’d have preferred that some deep-pocketed sponsor pick up the tab and let military personnel make up the entire audience, but nobody asked us.
  5. It’s not very often that we’ll mention a SWAC school in this space, but it’s also unusual that a school is hit by the NCAA with the dreaded “lack of institutional control” penalty. Texas Southern received just that news on Tuesday, as the NCAA in a statement said that the school was “responsible for booster involvement in recruiting, academic improprieties, ineligible student-athlete participation and exceeding scholarship limits” over the course of a number of years. As a result, the basketball program, now led by former Indiana and UAB head coach Mike Davis, will be banned from the postseason next season and lose two scholarships for the immediate future. The most surprising punishment is that the school must vacate all of its wins in every sport from 2006-10, one of the most egregious penalties we’ve ever seen the NCAA mete out to a school. Davis was certainly informed that he would be walking into a difficult situation at TSU, but we’re guessing that he’ll spend quite a few days clicking his heels together and hoping that he magically re-appears in Bloomington again.
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Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 8th, 2012

  1. Does anyone even celebrate Columbus Day, and how would you do so if you had a notion — pull out some vials of smallpox and spread it around? At any rate, Happy Columbus Day, everyone. If nothing else, the holiday means we’re on the verge of the start of official practices around the country, and that nip in the air we felt over the weekend was a very welcome sensation. One player almost exactly one year away from competing in his first college practice is Chicago’s Jabari Parker, and the multifaceted big man on Friday announced the five schools who are most likely to earn his services next year. The quintet includes BYU, Duke, Florida, Michigan State, and Stanford, with the Blue Devils and Spartans widely considered the two favorites. BYU and Stanford are outliers with Parker’s faith and interest in academics driving those decisions, but a wild card school here we should keep an eye on is Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators. Donovan has already received commitments from two top 10 players in this class and the pressure that he’s feeling from Calipari’s hauls in Lexington has clearly pushed him to double down on his persuasive sales pitch.
  2. News leaked late last week that the Battle of the Midway, a showdown of preseason Top 25 teams Syracuse and San Diego State on the USS Midway in San Diego harbor, was in danger of cancellation because of a lack of financial support. While we are still on the fence about the need for multiple aircraft carrier games per season (others are planned for Charleston, SC, and Jacksonville, FL), this game projects as the best matchup of the trio so we were hoping it would find a way to continue. With the financial assistance of Fox Sports San Diego agreeing to cover any shortfall, the showcase event will go on as scheduled on the evening of Veteran’s Day (also known as Opening Night). Syracuse definitely will have some holes to fill but Jim Boeheim has considerable talent returning; still, Steve Fisher’s Aztecs no doubt will have this one circled on their calendar as a major seed-line enhancer in front of a home crowd in a very cool environment.
  3. Kansas State put a ribbon on its brand-new $18 million basketball practice facility on Friday, as the arms race in college sports continues to search for bigger and bolder solutions to problems that were arguably never there. According to this article from the Topeka Capital-Journal, K-State had in fact been the only school among Big 12 members without such a facility in place, and new head coach Bruce Weber will surely use its state of the art characteristics to his advantage on the recruiting trail in coming years. Much like Louisville within the state of Kentucky, the Wildcat program runs at a natural disadvantage through its close proximity to the basketball behemoth just a few miles down the road — but, at the same time, a rising tide lifts all boats, and the KU sphere of influence can serve to help Kansas State’s on-court aspirations, even if it is unlikely to ever reach the standard of excellence achieved in Lawrence.
  4. A common refrain around Pac-12 circles is that if three-bill center Josh Smith ever gets serious about his weight and effort on the court, UCLA becomes a much different team. Much has been written over the last two seasons about Smith’s problems with motivation and over-eating, but this weekend article by the LA Times suggests that the gifted big man, while not yet anywhere near where he needs to be, may have at least turned a corner. His body fat is now at 17% (down from 25%) and he is talking the talk about following a better diet protocol and giving maximum effort on the floor. Hey, it’s a start, and for Bruins fans salivating at the possibility of an energized Smith to go along with their super freshmen and other returnees (one of those players, Tyler Lamb, will have arthroscopic surgery and be out 4-6 weeks), the realization is that a player with his gifts giving only 50% is still a valuable asset to a team gunning for a national championship.
  5. We’ll finish off this M5 with a report from Jeff Goodman on a most curious career path for a former college basketball journeyman named Eric Wallace, a player who bounced around between three different schools in his five-year career. The 6’6″, 230-lb. forward enjoyed his best season at Seattle University last year, averaging 9.4 PPG and 7.9 RPG through a combination of grit and athleticism, but it is his next career choice that makes this story interesting. DraftExpress‘ Jonathan Givony recommended Wallace to an Australian Rules Football combine in Los Angeles based on his athletic gifts, and he did so well there that he was subsequently invited to the AFL Combine in Melbourne, Australia. Despite no previous experience with the game whatsoever, he earned the “Best International Performer” award there, and he hopes to use his newfound ‘talent’ to get an invitation to a team’s rookie list allowing him to stay in Australia and learn the game in a more focused manner. So many players end up chasing the NBA dream when they have no realistic shot, it’s great to see someone like Wallace perhaps finding an entirely new way to use his gifts without fear of too much disappointment.
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Morning Five: 09.04.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 4th, 2012

  1. Here’s hoping everyone had a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend, wherever you may have spent it. By now, most colleges are back in session, and the weeks leading up to Midnight Madness (October 12 this year) are often fraught with tales of players getting into all sorts of trouble as the combination of free time and warm weather results in a devilish concoction — let’s cross our fingers that the next six weeks are clean. One player who recently found himself unjustifiably in hot water to the point of school expulsion (at least according to an Ohio grand jury) is Xavier’s Dez Wells. The rising sophomore star spent his holiday weekend flying around and visiting potential new schools — specifically, Oregon, Memphis and Maryland — according to several published reports. Earlier contenders Louisville, Ohio State and Kentucky had been removed from his list for various reasons, and it now appears that Mark Turgeon’s program may be the clubhouse leader as Wells is expected to make his decision in coming days. According to the Washington Post, Wells’ trip to College Park seemed to produce a level of excitement that he didn’t experience (or at least, share) while touring the others. Regardless of where he ends up, that program will receive an unexpected yet instant infusion of talent into its backcourt.
  2. This UCLA situation involving its top recruiting class remains interesting. We mentioned in yesterday’s M5 that the big news over the weekend involved the NCAA investigating potential violations in the recruitments of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker. Athletic director Dan Guerrero fired back at this report on Monday, suggesting that such an investigation is “misleading and inaccurate” but offering little in the way of specific details beyond the simple statement that two Bruin players had yet to receive their amateur certification. A separate Monday report from Peter Yoon at ESPNLosAngeles stated that the two players not yet certified are Muhammad and Anderson (interestingly, Parker has been cleared, according to his source). Whether something substantive actually sticks to one or both of these elite recruits certainly must have UCLA fans nervous right now — the program’s resurgence depends almost entirely on the NBA-quality talent that these two are bringing to Westwood. If they are not available in 2012-13, UCLA likely drops from a top five team to a top 35 team, and Ben Howland’s job would correspondingly be in jeopardy.
  3. No doubt Howland’s blood pressure has risen over the last few days, and with good reason — acting as CEO of a major college basketball program is a stressful job. This is especially true in the midst of a crisis, such as the strong likelihood of a player mutiny that could threaten one’s reputation as well as his employment. Billy Gillispie, as we all now, has been hospitalized since Friday in a Lubbock hospital, and he is not expected to leave the premises soon as he receives ongoing treatment for high blood pressure. An early-morning episode Friday where his BP spiked to “dangerous” levels left the second-year head coach feeling the “worst” he’s ever felt. Presumably aware of what faces him once he returns to campus — to be certain, nothing short of a serious inquiry into how he runs his program — the salve for his long-term health might be to stay in the hospital for as long as possible. We certainly wish him the best in recovery on both his medical and professional counts.
  4. Some vacant assistant coaching positions were filled over the holiday weekend on both coasts, as Arizona State added two new members to Herb Sendek’s staff and Steve Lavin brought on a former one of his players to assist him at St. John’s. As Andy Katz notes on ESPN.com regarding ASU’s new hires, Sendek is clearly trying to make a bold statement in bringing former Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors head coach Eric Musselman in addition to Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach Larry Greer into his program. Three thousand miles away in Queens, Lavin hired former UCLA point guard Darrick Martin to help him with recruiting and coaching up their backcourt. Martin played under Lavin — then an assistant to Jim Harrick at UCLA — in the early 90s, leaving the program as the then-all-time leader in assists and steals before moving on to the NBA for 15 years. He also has ties to the NYC area, having played prep basketball across the Hudson River at Bob Hurley’s famed St. Anthony’s program in the mid-1980s.
  5. It’s not often that the media publishes an in-depth report essentially stating that nothing happened, but that appears to be the case with the bizarre yet compelling story that San Diego State‘s best-ever 34-3 season in 2010-11 was targeted by those involved with the University of San Diego point-shaving scandal as another viable option. FBI agents who at the time were monitoring the key individuals associated with the USD case were also keeping a very close eye on a number of SDSU players — and when we write “close eye,” try this on for size — several players were subjected to “physical and electronic surveillance, GPS tracking devices on cars, phone logs, infiltration of the team by an undercover agent, even recruitment of a player to be a confidential informant.” Uh, yeah — that’s serious stuff. Thankfully, the outcome of all of this surveillance was the aforementioned ‘nothing’ — whether because SDSU players from that illustrious season were never actually approached by point-shavers, or because they were smart enough to turn down those doing the asking — we’re not sure. Still, the FBI never accused any Aztec players of wrongdoing, and the school has been adamant in stating that none of its players were involved in any of the shenanigans that went on across town. Crazy story.
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Rushed Reaction: #11 NC State 79, #6 San Diego State 65

Posted by WCarey on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. NC State simply shot the ball better. The Wolfpack shot a sizzling 58.5% from the field for the game, which included a scorching 65.4% in the second half. On the other hand, San Diego State shot just 37.7% from the field for the game. When you see that big of a discrepancy in field goal percentage, it is easy to see why one team won and the other lost.
  2. Chase Tapley did not play a complete game. While the junior guard scored 19 points and shot 7-13 from the field in the second half, Tapley was held scoreless in the first half and only attempted five shots. If Tapley had been able to give the Aztecs a strong effort in the first half, they might be the team moving on to the round of 32.
  3. NC State has balance. Four players scored in double-figures – Richard Howell with 22, Lorenzo Brown with 17, CJ Leslie with 15, and Scott Wood with 10. It is tough to beat a team that gets such strong contributions from its starters and that was something the Wolfpack did receive.

Star of the Game. Lorenzo Brown, NC State. The sophomore guard was a jack-of-all trades for the Wolfpack, as he scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and handed out eight assists. He also did a fine job of maintaining his composure when San Diego State threatened to come back multiple times during the second half.

Quotable. Steve Fisher. In his opening statement, Fisher said that his squad was “beat by a very good team who played very well.” That is a credit to how good of a job Mark Gottfried has done in his first season in Raleigh. When Gottfried took over for Sidney Lowe, the Wolfpack could hardly be considered even an average team.

Sights & Sounds. NC State had a strong contingent of fans make the trip to Columbus. Clad in mostly red, the Wolfpack fans were in the game from the beginning and were rewarded handsomely in the end.

What’s Next. NC State will move on to face the winner of Georgetown and Belmont. If it faces Georgetown, NC State will need to have an answer for the Hoyas’ length and quickness on the defensive end. If it faces Belmont, NC State will need to contend with the Cinderella factor as the Bruins will be the crowd favorite.

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Charles Barkley

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2012

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Hall of Fame power forward Charles Barkley has become without question one of the most entertaining analysts on sports television. TNT’s Inside the NBA has been must-watch television for over a decade now in large part because of his wit and wisdom, and Barkley’s recent foray into college basketball analysis with Turner Sports has helped pick up what had been a somewhat stuffy studio environment. For the past month, Rush the Court has been providing a weekly column  called What Would Charles Say? on Barkley’s website, and he was gracious enough to allow us to spend some time with him this week for a short Q&A. 

Charles Barkley Will Provide Analysis All March Long for the NCAA Tournament

Rush the Court: Charles, the big news early this week was the news that Fab Melo was ruled ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. I was hoping to get your take on how you feel that impacts the chances for Syracuse and Jim Boeheim to get to the Final Four and win a national championship this year?

Charles Barkley: Well, I think that they probably can’t win the championship, but they’re still deep enough to go deep into the Tournament. But I don’t think they can win it without him… but they’re still the deepest team in the Tournament, honestly, top to bottom.

RTC: So the news has come out that this relates to an academic issue for Melo, and with all the academic services that schools give these guys nowadays, how does that happen? How do you drop the ball so badly that you’re not even eligible for the Tournament?

CB: Well, to me it’s very frustrating, because if you get this deep in the season, you should already have all that stuff squared away. I mean… c’mon man. You’re really letting your team down at this point.

RTC: Certainly. Well let me ask you about last year, there was a little bit of criticism with you, Kenny [Smith], and Ernie [Johnson], as knowledgeable as you guys are about NBA stuff, coming in to the college basketball world and giving your takes with maybe not having watched games the whole season. But that ended very quickly with your take on the Big East — how it wasn’t as good as everybody thought — with nine out of the 11 teams gone by the end of the first weekend. Do you have any early takes this year on maybe a conference or teams that you’re just not buying?

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XI

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 15th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….objectively realizing that you just saw one of the more dramatic shots in college basketball over the last 10 years. Factor in everything – a freshman, playing on the road, time expiring, a three-point shot when you’re down two, UNC/Duke – and I’ll put Austin Rivers’ three up against anything I’ve seen. Cold-blooded doesn’t do it justice – that rainbow was sub-Arctic. The only mark against the buzzer-beater is that it came in the regular season, but for the silent (and I mean drop-a-pin silent) Carolina fans on Wednesday, that was little consolation as they watched Duke pile on their Baby Blue home floor in celebration.

As A College Basketball Fan, Austin Rivers' Three Was As Dramatic As They Come. As a UNC Grad...Well, You Get The Picture (AP)

I LOVED….Michigan State stoning Ohio State on the road. For me, it both validates this Spartans team as a contender and cements the Big Ten as one of the most balanced and competitive conferences this season (five teams currently in the Top 25). Last season might have been a big disappointment, but you can’t say enough about the coaching job that Tom Izzo has done this year.

I LOVED….Michigan State’s Draymond Green getting some love and validation this season. Not to make this a Spartan-happy column, but Green has really stepped up as a senior after maybe getting overshadowed a bit by the talent around him in previous years. He’s one of the most well-rounded players in the nation (15 PPG/10.5 RPG/3.5 APG/1.0 BPG/36% 3FG), and he kept this group focused after a bit of a rough start. Now MSU is looking more legit with each passing week.

I LOVED….Gonzaga reminding Saint Mary’s exactly which program has dominated the West Coast Conference for the last decade-plus. It’s easy to take the Zags for granted or root for more parity in the conference (I often do both), but don’t forget that Mark Few’s Bulldogs thrashed Notre Dame, Butler and Arizona, lost a close game to Michigan State and beat Xavier on the road. Don’t sleep on ‘em.

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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by IRenko on February 11th, 2012

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.

It was a brutal week for the TO26 top 15, as the top four teams lost five games combined.  Read on to see how that shuffled the rankings.  After the revised top 15, we look at the top 10 results of the past week, sorting through both the headline-grabbing upsets and the big games that may have slipped past your radar.  Then we preview the top 10 games of the coming week, which includes a bounty of top matchups this Saturday and several small conference teams putting their first-place records on the line against their stiffest competition.

Top 10 Results of the Past Week

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ATB: On Buzzer Beaters, Murray State’s Road Test, and Indiana’s Legitimacy…

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. What. A. Night. The beauty of college basketball is that you can never quite predict when you’re going to luck into a great evening of hoops. Sometimes you look at the schedule and figure you’ll be riveted to your seat on the couch all night, only to be disappointed with a bunch of blowouts. Tonight the slate didn’t look terribly compelling other than a couple of games, and yet the buzzer-beaters, excitement and even an RTC or two kept pouring in. Let’s jump into a wild and wacky Wednesday night of action…

It Was a Special Night in Lincoln (J. Hannah/LJS)

Your Watercooler Moment. Buzzer, Buzzer, Toil and Trouble. There were a number of last-second shots to win games tonight around the country, and while only one of them involved a ranked team losing, that doesn’t make them any less interesting.

  • Hilton Magic. It didn’t carry quite the same weight as Iowa State’s RTF football victory over then-#2 Oklahoma State back in November, but the Cyclones’ basketball comeback resulting in Scott Christopherson’s banked three at the buzzer was no less compelling. The reaction of the Cowboy players after the ball drops through the net tells the story, but more on OSU’s meltdown a little later in this post. For now, just enjoy the dagger from 25 feet.

  • Kilpatrick Courage. After UConn’s Shabazz Napier drilled a long three with 9.5 seconds remaining to tie the game, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick calmly dribbled up the right side of the court, crossed over right to left to create some space, and sunk an equally long three to give UC the lead (and the ballgame) with 2.5 seconds remaining.

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ATB: On Baylor’s Legitimacy, Brandon Paul’s Explosion, and Frank Martin’s Billy Gillispie Moment…

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. It wasn’t just any other Tuesday night, as a number of ranked teams were in action and there was more than enough intrigue around the country to keep everyone interested. Whether it was a team few people seem to believe in slowly swaying hearts and minds, or a much-maligned former prep star bringing forth the game of his life, or an acerbic coach showing his true colors in a postgame interview, there was a lot to cover tonight. Let’s jump right in…

Will Some Pundits Begin to Take Baylor Seriously Now? (AP/C. Riedel)

Your Watercooler Moment, Part I. Baylor Stakes a Claim of Legitimacy. One of the knocks against Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears to date has been its lack of exceptional road wins this season. Apparently the non-believers did not take seriously wins at BYU and Northwestern, although neither the Marriott Center nor the Welsh-Ryan Arena these days are the easiest places to escape victorious. Still, Kansas State’s Bramlage Arena is universally regarded as a tough-as-nails venue, borne out most recently by K-State’s dominant weekend victory over an unbeaten Missouri squad. Baylor’s mid-second half run to come back from seven points down behind several eye-popping defensive transition dunks, along with its ability to hold K-State to a single bucket in the last four minutes of the game, showed America how things have changed. Last year, Drew’s Bears hardly played defense, generally preferring to use that end of the court to rest before another wild LaceDarius Dunn field goal attempt. This year, long green-and-yellow-clad arms and legs seem to cover all four corners of the court, and in fact, the two game-saving plays on this night resulted from a strip from behind of Angel Rodriguez with three seconds remaining, and a deflected pass on the ensuing inbounds play. The Bears are not going to win every game this season, but they’ve already won 16 and have survived one of their four toughest road tests on the schedule. With Pierre Jackson (10/11 assts) running the show, Brady Heslip (13/4 stls) providing scoring punch, and an elite corps of forwards in Quincy Acy, Perry Jones, III, and Quincy Miller wreaking havoc defensively, it’s time to stop questioning Scott Drew’s team and take the Bears seriously as a national title contender.

Your Watercooler Moment, Part II. Brandon Paul Hits Everything, Leads Illini Over Ohio State. In two-and-a-half seasons at Illinois, Brandon Paul has been better defined by what he is not rather than what he is. The former Chicago-area prep star who came to Champaign with sky-high expectations has largely disappointed, gradually improving his scoring output over three years but never shooting the ball efficiently (career 37.2% shooter) nor becoming an effective distributor (2.0 APG). Paul must have eaten a full bowl of his Wheaties this morning. The 6’4″ junior literally took over tonight’s game against OSU, scoring his team’s last 15 points en route to a career-high 43 points on 8-10 shooting from behind the arc. Unless you saw the game, you cannot comprehend just how ridiculous a couple of the late threes that Paul hit were, perhaps none more so than his final trey which gave Illinois a four-point lead with 43 seconds remaining.

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The Other 26: Week Four

Posted by IRenko on December 16th, 2011

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will bring you his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences each Friday during the season.

It was supposed to be a quiet week in college hoops, but as you know, when you’ve got more than 340 teams playing 30-game schedules over the course of four months, it’s never that quiet. And we found that out in a big way this past week as the fallout from the melee at the Crosstown Shootout reverberated through the college hoops world.  Lots of ink has been spilled on this, and there’s little that I could add to the various rounds of media condemnation and outrage.  So rather than trying to piggyback on all of that commentary, I thought I might take moment to, well, comment on it. 

It should go without saying that college basketball players should not throw punches at each other, stomp on people, or otherwise let the emotion of a high-intensity rivalry spill over into extracurricular violence.  That’s an easy enough point on which we can all agree.  But what has sparked an unusual amount of outrage among the commentariat is not the physical altercation itself so much as the post-game remarks about it by Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons.  Journalists have been tripping over themselves to decry Holloway and Lyons with as much self-righteousness as they can muster.  In this race to prove just how indignant they are, sadly, many observers have obscured the content of what Holloway and Lyons said.

Commentators have oversimplified Holloway and Lyons' post-game comments

To be clear, it didn’t seem like Holloway and Lyons had processed just how unacceptable the ending of the game was.  And they certainly didn’t choose their words carefully given the national audience.  But some of the more inflammatory language that media has seized on has been badly misconstrued and inaccurately portrayed.  Some have condemned Holloway for declaring his team to be a bunch of “gangstas.”  Others have criticized him for throwing around the word “thugs.”  And still others have suggested that the senior guards thought that the fight was simply an acceptable demonstration of their toughness.  It makes me wonder if they watched the whole press conference or simply seized on the most sensational statements that most easily lent themselves to moralizing outrage.

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