Around The Blogosphere: March 2, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on March 2nd, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #1 Ohio State 82, Penn State 61: “Jon Diebler might have missed his first and last triple tries but he connected on 10 straight in between, pouring in a career high 30 points as the Buckeyes clinched at least a share of the B1G regular season conference title by routing Penn State 82-61 tonight in Happy Valley.” (Eleven Warriors)
  • #6 Purdue 76, Illinois 67: “The game almost felt secondary tonight, as the Boiler faithful sent off 33 and 25 with many resounding Mackey cheers, as thanks for four years of dedication and hard work. Once again, the place was clearly deafening even through the TV broadcast. Let’s say that first, everyone: great work again, especially the Paint Crew who always brings it. As is always a concern on a night like this, the home team fell behind. However, it wasn’t really that Purdue was playing poorly — Illinois was just shooting the lights out and playing like the team we all thought they were capable of bring this season. Of course, that only lasted about ten minutes and then they reverted to the Illinois who resides on the bubble.” (Boiled Sports)
  • #16 Florida 78, Alabama 51: “With their 78-51 victory over Alabama Tuesday night, the Gators clinched a share of their first SEC championship since 2007. The Gators (23-6, 11-3) were led by Chandler Parsons’ 19 points and 11 rebounds, as the Gators dominated the second-half following an even first half. The Gators used several second half runs to put distance between them and the SEC West champions.” (Alligator Army)
  • #22 Kentucky 68, #19 Vanderbilt 66: “What a game. I have not been more nervous at any time this year. The Kentucky Wildcats and the Vanderbilt Commodores battled to the wire in Rupp Arena in a wild affair that went down to the last tick of the last second before Kentucky could claim their 15th and final home game for a perfect season in Rupp Arena. But it was by no means a perfect game.” (A Sea of Blue or Anchor of Gold)
  • Nebraska 69, #21 Missouri 58: “This was the second game this season in which I was truly and completely disappointed.  The other — Oklahoma State — could be blamed, at least a bit, on ridiculous travel trouble (anytime it takes you two days to get where you’re going, you probably aren’t going to be amazingly sharp).  Missouri is 30 games through the season now, and the fact that they were able to play their worst game of the season now is, in and of itself, cause for alarm.  In each of the past three seasons, they haven’t played their best in the final week before the conference tournament, but to me, at least, this was possibly a new level.  (Then again, I probably didn’t enjoy the 25-point whipping Kansas laid on Missouri two years ago either. That ended up alright.)” (Rock M Nation)

Other Games of Interest

  • Boston College 76, Virginia Tech 61: After a huge win over Duke that led some to predict that the Hokies were definitely a NCAA Tournament team they came out flat on Senior Night against the Eagles. (Tech Hoops)

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2011

 

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

A Look Back

There was little change in SEC standings this week, which bodes well for the SEC’s chances at getting six bids to the NCAA Tournament, the most since 2008.  And that’s just how Joe Lunardi sees it as he currently projects six SEC teams in his bracket.  That means that Tennessee and Georgia both remain in the tournament despite suffering losses this week.  The SEC is second only to the Big East in total conference bids, which is currently projected at eleven.  While I think that is a little excessive, it’s quite obvious that the big winners in the expanded 68-team field are the major conferences; especially with the number of historically strong mid-majors sitting squarely on the bubble.  Memphis and Gonzaga are probably barely in, meaning one more little trip up and they lose their bid.  Saint Mary’s is on the edge of losing its at-large bid after a loss to Utah State on Saturday and Butler, last year’s national championship runner-up, is just barely playing its way back into at-large consideration.  The mid-majors’ loss is the SEC’s gain.

Power Rankings

1. Florida (21-5, 10-2): Florida went to LSU and got a win without Chandler Parsons.  Now on a five-game winning streak, Florida has established enough breathing room to feel confident about its chances of winning the SEC East if not the conference.  I was critical of the Gators early, but they have proven me the fool.

2. Alabama (18-8, 10-2): The Tide is 7-1 against SEC West opponents including wins over Arkansas and at LSU.  Last week, Alabama clinched the SEC West, its third SEC West title and first since 2005.  Alabama is also 14-0 at home.  How’d the Tide do it?  Well for starters, holding conference opponents to a league-leading 38 percent from the field really helps.  This team is only getting better and seems poised to make a good run in the NCAA Tournament.

3. Kentucky (19-7, 7-5): Mississippi State gave the Wildcats more than they wanted in Rupp Arena, closing the Cats’ lead to just four with under a minute left after Kentucky built a 12-point lead with 3:26 to play.  The Wildcats followed that win with an easy victory over reeling South Carolina in a game that Kentucky opened up with 15-0 lead.  Darius Miller, who has been known to disappear at times, scored a career-high 22 points.

4. Vanderbilt (20-6, 8-4): The Commodores have won five straight since dropping two in a row to Arkansas and Florida.  With this week’s two wins, Vandy reaches the 20-win mark for the sixth time in the Kevin Stallings era.  Jeffery Taylor continues to shine, recording a double-double at Auburn where he scored 20 points and pulled down ten rebounds.

5. Georgia (18-8, 7-5) Despite the loss to Vanderbilt, the win over Tennessee should be enough to solidify the Bulldogs’ at-large chances barring a late season meltdown in conference play.  The win in Knoxville was also Georgia’s first in ten years.  Mark Fox is doing everything right in Georgia, which finished with four, three and five conference wins and a last place finish in the SEC East in each of the last three seasons, but now has a good chance of finishing second in the East with just four games to play.

6. Arkansas (16-10, 5-7) The Hogs won easily over Florida A&M at home this week in a rare late season non-conference matchup, but couldn’t get the win at Alabama despite a 31-31 tie at the half.  Then again, no one has beaten the Tide at home this year.  The Razorbacks host Kentucky this week in what should certainly be a rowdy one as it always is when the Cats come into Bud Walton Arena.

7. Tennessee (16-11, 6-6) After dropping three straight to Alabama, Florida and Kentucky in the Volunteers’ toughest stretch of the season, the Vols beat South Carolina, 73-67, but couldn’t get the home win over Georgia despite Scotty Hopson’s career high 32 points.  Inconsistency is making home games very frustrating for the Volunteers, who are now 10-6 at home, including 3-3 in conference play.

8. Mississippi (17-10, 5-7) The Rebels beating Auburn handily 90-59 is good, but losing to in-state rival Mississippi State twice in a season for the second straight year is frustrating.  The Bulldogs controlled the second half despite a 33-33 tie.  On the bright side, Chris Warren made all four of his free throw attempts in the loss to improve his nation-leading free-throw percentage to 94.3 percent.

9. South Carolina (13-12, 4-8) After a strong start to the SEC, where the Gamecocks got wins over Vanderbilt and Arkansas and at Florida, the Gamecocks seem to be withering now.  The Cocks are also losers of seven of their last eight, including five straight after opening SEC play at 3-1.  Credit that to the Cocks’ poor shooting (40.4%) and terrible turnover ratio (0.8:1).  Couple that with a stretch that includes games at home against Kentucky, Florida, Georgia and on the road against Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Kentucky, and wins can be hard to come by.  It doesn’t help either when freshman leading-scorer Bruce Ellington has played nine straight games without shooting at least 50 percent from the field, including a 1-12 performance against Georgia and 1 for 11 at Kentucky in his last three games.  They’ll be better next year.

10. Mississippi State (14-12, 6-6) The Bulldogs suffered a second straight loss at Kentucky following their season low-point loss to Auburn, but were able to follow that up with a 71-58 home win over in-state rival Mississippi.  The Bulldogs have now won five straight against the Rebels and when you’re having a rough year, it’s always nice to be able to say at least you’re dominating your rival.

11. Auburn (9-17, 2-10) As usual, Auburn had a tough week, losing 90-59 at Ole Miss and 77-60 to Vanderbilt despite keeping it close for most of the game trailing by just two with 14 minutes to play.  If you’re looking for a bright spot, Earnest Rost is averaging 19.3 points per game over Auburn’s last four and is shooting 54.5 (12-22) from three and 56.5 percent overall.  Compare that to last year when he averaged just 2.8 points per game.

12. LSU (10-17, 2-10) Monday on the SEC Coaches Teleconference, Tigers Coach Trent Johnson said, “Believe it or not, we’re starting to play better.”  I’m gonna go with the “or not” option.  The Tigers have lost ten straight, including home losses this week to Alabama and Florida.  The dubious stretch has to be among the longest current active losing streaks.  Furthermore, LSU is currently last in conference play in the following categories: scoring, scoring margin, three-point field goal percentage and assist to turnover ratio and second-to-last in free throw percentage, field goal percentage, rebounding, blocked shots, steals and turnover margin.  But Coach Johnson thinks things are getting better.  Apparently those rose-colored glasses are working out pretty well for the LSU coach.

The Week Ahead

At this point, every game matters, whether for seeding or just getting into the NCAA Tournament.  Let’s see what’s on the docket:

  • February 22, Tennessee @ Vanderbilt.  Rivalry games are always fun and the Volunteers probably need to win this one to feel really comfortable with their chances for an NCAA berth, especially with games against Florida and at Kentucky still remaining on the schedule.
  • February 23, Kentucky @ Arkansas.  The Wildcats have to get this win on the road against “Unforgettable” Kentucky alum John Pelphrey in Fayetteville if they want to have any chance of winning the conference regular season, much less the East.  They haven’t been strong on the road and Bud Walton is always particularly hostile to the Cats.
  • February 24, Georgia @ Florida. Georgia won the last one 101-94 in double overtime.  The Bulldogs can stay in the hunt for the East or at least a second-place finish with a win at Florida.  Florida’s NCAA seeding gets better with every win.
  • February 26, Florida @ Kentucky.  Florida holds a 9-4 advantage over Kentucky in their last 13 meetings, a fact not lost on the Wildcat faithful who have learned a special hatred for the Gators of late.  The Gators won the last meeting on February 5, 70-68.  A win by Florida here all but guarantees them an SEC East championship and brings an end to coach John Calipari’s 31-game win streak at Rupp Arena, where he is undefeated in his two seasons at Kentucky.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.22.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 22nd, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Illinois and Tennessee will look to lock up bids on the road tonight while Michigan State and Minnesota fight for survival. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Illinois @ #1 Ohio State – 7 pm on ESPN (***)

We Have Weber And Illinois In...For Now

After starting the season 24-0, Ohio State has lost two of its past three games, both coming on the road. The Buckeyes return home to Columbus tonight to take on an Illinois team looking for that marquee road win that will push them off the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament. At 17-10 (7-7), Illinois is probably in the field as of now, but still has work to do. With a road game at Purdue still to follow, it seems the best the Illini can do is 9-9 in league play, although a win tonight would give them a great shot to go 10-8 while also locking up a bid.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.18-02.20

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 18th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

With only two weeks left in the regular season, it’s time for teams to make their moves. This weekend provides ample opportunities for some to do so. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

VCU @ Wichita State – 7 pm Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Skeen Leads VCU In Scoring (14.6 PPG), But Is Also Top Ten In the CAA In Rebounding (7.7 RPG) And PP40 (19.0)

This could very well prove to be an elimination game. VCU has lost two straight games at home and now has to venture out of conference on the road. Wichita State has lost three games at home already this season, however, and probably has to win out and make a run in the MVC Tournament in order to have a chance at a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers don’t have a win in the RPI top 50 and those three home losses are really holding them back. VCU was blasted on the boards by Old Dominion recently (40-21) and it’s going to be hard to avoid that again in this game. If the Rams can’t create extra possessions through turnovers, it’s going to be a very long night.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.08.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 8th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

An intriguing non-conference game, Bruce Pearl’s return and an ACC bubble battle headline tonight’s schedule. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Xavier @ Georgia – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)

Mack Is Still An Underrated Coach, In Our Opinion

These teams last met in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, the year Dennis Felton’s Georgia team made an incredible run through the SEC Tournament to steal the automatic bid. Xavier has won eight of nine games coming into tonight’s matchup while Georgia has won two straight after starting 3-4 in SEC play.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.04-02.06

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 5th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

On paper, this isn’t the best weekend of games. However, this is college basketball where anything can happen. You just never know what could happen and it may end up being a thrilling couple of days, anyway. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

West Virginia @ #12 Villanova – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (****)

Yet another big game in the Big East features two teams tied for third place at 6-3 in league play. The winner will tie second place Notre Dame, just a game and a half behind first place Pittsburgh. West Virginia has won seven of nine games and rebounding has been a big reason why. The Mountaineers have not been out-rebounded by an opponent since a New Year’s Day game at Marquette, plus their defense has been solid. West Virginia has scored only 58 PPG over their last four games (three of them without leading scorer Casey Mitchell) but has held opponents to an average of 50 PPG over the same stretch, culminating in holding Seton Hall to 44 points on Wednesday. Bob Huggins’ team is #5 nationally in offensive rebounding percentage but will have to bring their A-game on the glass against Villanova. The Wildcats rank 20th in keeping opponents off the offensive boards and were led by the interior duo of Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou in their most recent win over Marquette. They combined for 32/15 and have been huge factors this season as Jay Wright isn’t counting exclusively on his guards to win games anymore. Although West Virginia has rebounded the ball extremely well of late, they still rank only #291 in opponent’s offensive rebounding percentage, allowing teams to grab 35.6% of their misses. Villanova will likely miss a lot of long range shots against West Virginia’s #2 ranked three point defense (allowing 27%) so offensive rebounding will be important for both teams, especially the Wildcats, in this game. Coach Huggins used 6’7 John Flowers on Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell in their last game and he successfully shut down the Pirates’ gunner. Might we see the same thing on Villanova’s Corey Stokes? It’s a good possibility, though Flowers may be needed inside more often to double Pena and Yarou. Flowers leads the Big East in blocked shots and needs to have another good defensive game against a Villanova team that can score in bunches. The Wildcats score 25.6% of their points from the foul line and attempted 33 free throws against Marquette. Villanova is very difficult to beat when they get to the stripe because they shoot 78% and get there so often. Dribble penetration from Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns leads to good looks inside and plenty of free throw opportunities. West Virginia has to do a good job defending the dribble drive and Kevin Jones will be a key player in doing so. Jones is a taller player who, along with Flowers, will form the second line of defense if the Wildcat guards are able to get into the lane. Jones is also a warrior on the glass, going for 13/12 in his last game. With the status of Casey Mitchell still uncertain, West Virginia will have to stick to typical “Huggy-ball” more than ever, and that’s physical defense and great rebounding. Villanova is 16-0 when they score at least 70 points but only 2-4 when they fail to do so. With the way West Virginia is rebounding and playing defense right now, it’s very possible that this game could be in the 50’s or 60’s. We’re going to go with the upset and take the Mountaineers on the road in this game.

#10 Kentucky @ Florida – 9 pm Saturday on ESPN (****)

With a win on Saturday night, Florida can really create some separation between themselves and Kentucky. With a win against the Wildcats, Florida will hold a two and a half game lead over UK and remain ahead of Tennessee, a team they beat on the road already. Quite simply, a win here puts Florida in a commanding position in the SEC East. Of course, that won’t be so easy against the nation’s fourth ranked team in eFG% defense. The Gators have won 9 of 11 games but Kentucky will be their toughest test since a meeting with Ohio State back in November. The Wildcats are coming off a loss at Ole Miss earlier this week, a game in which they committed 18 turnovers and didn’t defend the three point line well at all. Freshman point guard Brandon Knight had six of those turnovers and needs to do a better job tonight. Young teams can’t turn it over and expect to win on the road no matter how talented they are and Kentucky is finding out the hard way. With a 2-4 record in true road games, the Wildcats need to grow up quick if they want to play deep into March. Knight needs to create shots for himself and others, taking advantage of UK’s 40% shooting from deep. With Doron Lamb shooting the ball very well recently, Kentucky has plenty of threats to win this game. A key battle in this game will be at the forward spot as Kentucky’s freshman Terrence Jones goes up against Florida senior Chandler Parsons. Jones averages 18/9 and had 22/12 at Ole Miss while Parsons has been on an absolute tear on the glass of late. Controlling the boards will be critically important in a game that could be all about pace. The Gators would like to slow the game down and work in the half court while the Wildcats are comfortable at a quicker pace. To keep the tempo in their favor, Florida has to win the rebounding battle and make shots. The Gators are #10 in offensive rebounding percentage but the matchup between Jones and Parsons, as well as Vernon Macklin and Josh Harrellson at the center position, will likely determine who controls the glass in this game. If Harrellson can shut down Macklin (Festus Ezeli of Vanderbilt did a good job of this in the last game), the onus will be on Parsons to carry the Gators yet again. With Erving Walker hitting only 7 of his last 33 threes (21%), Florida will work the ball inside even more than they already do. The Gators get 56.8% of their points from two point range but will face the #4 interior defense in the country. Kentucky allows opponents to shoot only 41% from two point range while Florida is making 50.5% of their two point shots. This should be a physical game and whoever controls the interior will likely come out on top. Despite their road woes, we think John Calipari’s team will be ready to play tonight and hand the Gators their fourth home loss, disappointing the big crowd sure to be at the O-Dome for ESPN Game Day.

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Around The Blogosphere: February 2, 2011

Posted by nvr1983 on February 2nd, 2011


If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

Top 25 Games

  • #3 Kansas 86, Texas Tech 66: “So much for Bill Self not being able to win in Lubbock, huh? The Jayhawks came out and immediately went to work inside, feeding Marcus Morris for the first three baskets of the game. Once the lead reached 10-2 after the first four minutes of the game, the outcome was never in doubt. Texas Tech couldn’t find a shot on the offensive end and they showed no inclination of making it difficult for anyone in blue get to the basket on the defensive end. The final score was 88-66 and it wasn’t anywhere near that close.” (Rock Chalk Talk)
  • Ole Miss 71, #10 Kentucky 69: “Well, this was a game that the Mississippi Rebels needed very badly, and they won the game on a near-last second 3-point shot by senior point guard Chris Warren.  It was an exciting game, but Kentucky comes up on the short end, I think deservedly. I was very impressed with how aggressive and how physical the Ole Miss Rebels were in this game.  They took it to Kentucky in every way you can, and they played with a heart and intensity that, if they had played like this all year, might have them in contention for an NCAA bid instead of trying to salvage a season that started with four league losses in six games.  But this game, this time, the Rebels were very, very good, and they sent Kentucky home with their third SEC road loss in four tries.  I can’t say enough about how tough and determined the Rebels were.  They won this game the old-fashioned way — they earned it.” (A Sea of Blue: Part 1 and Part 2)
  • #16 Wisconsin 66, #13 Purdue 59: “Purdue went into another difficult Big Ten venue — perhaps the most difficult — and could have come away with a win. In fact, they likely should have, but they did not, losing 66-59. The Boilers — especially these seniors — are not afraid of the Kohl Center. Closing out a win tonight would have made JJ and Smooge 3-1 at Wisconsin in their careers, a fun stat that would have been awesome to lord over obnoxious Badger fans. However, it was not to be…and while officiating was again atrocious, that was once again not why the Boilers lost.” (Boiled Sports)
  • #24 UNC 106, Boston College 74: “I’m not sure if I can express how good a game this was to people who didn’t see it. Looking at the score, sure you may be excited that UNC cracked the century mark, but you’ll probably just chalk it up to Boston College not being very good. And their defense is indeed pretty bad. But they’re a decent team at home, and Carolina just beat them worse than Duke managed in Cameron. This was the best complete game I’ve seen from the Tar Heels all season; from the moment they took their first lead – off of not coincidentally a Reggie Bullock three pointer – they didn’t let up, putting over 100 points on the Eagles in regulation for the first time since 1996.” (Carolina March)
  • #24 Illinois 68, Penn State 51: “I cannot overstate how important this game was for the Illini. Having lost four of the last five games, including one to this very same Penn State team, the Illini slumped to 4-4 in the Big Ten, and 14-7 overall, and with a loss to Indiana fell to the brink of the tournament field. Talor Battle, as you all well know, has been a total thorn against the Illini and has single handedly stolen victories against Illinois.” (Hail to the Orange)

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Morning Five: Groundhog Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2011

  1. Indiana’s Christian Watford broke his hand over the weekend against Michigan State and had surgery on it yesterday; he will be out indefinitely.  This is just another gut-punch to the stomachs of Indiana fans everywhere, as Watford, IU’s leading scorer, represents the third Hoosier starter to miss significant time (Maurice Creek and Verdell Jones III are the others).  This comes on the heels of what was the most promising week for Indiana basketball in quite some time — a win over Illinois and an overtime loss to Michigan State.  Say what you want about Tom Crean as a head coach (and we’ve said a lot), but it’s especially difficult to get wins in the Big Ten when you don’t have your full hand to play with.
  2. A couple of other significant players suffered injuries recently.  Tennessee’s Scotty Hopson sprained his ankle at practice on Tuesday and is considered uncertain for Thursday night’s game at Auburn.  According to this story, it was bad enough that he had a protective boot on and he left the arena after practice in crutches.  UT has won its last four games and part of the reason for their improved play has been Hopson, so if he isn’t at 100%, even a trip to Auburn could be troublesome.  Meanwhile, St. John’s announced that forward Justin Brownlee had suffered a fracture of his left thumb during Sunday’s huge Red Storm win over Duke, a game in which he had 20/9/6 assts.  He will wear a splint on the thumb, though, and is not expected to miss any time from practice nor games.
  3. Mike DeCourcy writes that Auburn’s Tony Barbee believes that the NBA will go back to the preps-to-pros route as a result of next summer’s collective bargaining agreement between the NBA Players Association and the owners.  He says that he’s been talking to “people” who seem to be in the know, but we question if those people are tied into the owners, management and David Stern — the group that will ultimately drive this decision.  We’re on record stating that both the preps-to-pros and the so-called “baseball rule” are bad for the game of college basketball, but the NBA’s self-interest will rule the day and ensure that names like John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Jared Sullinger have value and cachet behind them prior to entering the league as rookies.
  4. We thought this was an interesting article from the Cleveland State Cauldron lamenting that CSU basketball is a consistent winner in a town that traditionally has not had many of those, yet it still has significant trouble getting any kind of attention from anyone in the community at-large.  The Vikings are currently 20-3 overall and 9-2 in the Horizon League with second-place Valpo and traditional power Butler coming to town this weekend.  We agree, Cleveland… get out there and support this team.  They just might end up being one of the best mid-major stories of the year in all of college basketball again.
  5. In the inaugural year of this blog, we took SI writer Grant Wahl (who has since moved on to cover soccer) to task over his Magic Eight selections for leaving UNC off his list of teams that would win the title.   That season was 2007-08 and, if you recall, he was right.  Both Kansas and Memphis were on his list, but the Jayhawk obliteration of North Carolina in the national semifinals validated his concerns.  Consider our crow eaten.  After what sounds to be significant negotiations, Luke Winn has revitalized the Magic Eight this season, and his choices are a combination of obvious and bold, as such:  BYU, Duke, Georgetown, Kentucky, Ohio State, Texas, Tennessee and Washington.  As he acknowledges, leaving Kansas, Pittsburgh, UConn and SDSU out are rather huge gambles, but we’ll see how he does as things develop over the next month.
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BGTD: Afternoon Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on January 22nd, 2011

The great games don’t let up just because we’ve headed into the latter part of the afternoon.  Even though it’s January, quite a few late afternoon games have NCAA Tournament implications.  Let’s see what’s going on out there…

  • K-State in Serious Trouble.  No team in America has been more disappointing this season than Frank Martin’s Wildcats.  Not Michigan State, not North Carolina, not Gonzaga, not even Memphis.  In what seems like an eternity ago, K-State was ranked in everyone’s top five coming into the season and the Big 12 media even picked them to win the conference for the first time ever.  After this afternoon’s loss to Texas A&M (who is quickly moving into Bo Ryan/Wisconsin territory with their annual ascent up the rankings no matter the personnel), KSU sits at 1-4 in the Big 12 with two games remaining against Kansas and a pair against Missouri and Texas still to come.  It’s clear that the loss of Denis Clemente has impacted the Wildcats far more than anyone expected, but the NCAA Tournament is starting to appear like a mirage unless they can figure out things in a hurry.
  • Maybe Pearl Should Stay Suspended.  It made for a great storyline that Bruce Pearl returned to the sidelines today for a one-game respite from his SEC-mandated eight-game suspension.  But the truth is that Tennessee hasn’t looked all that much different with Tony Jones running the team than it did with Pearl over there on the sidelines.  Despite Kemba Walker’s lowest point output of the season (16 points), Tennessee wasn’t able to capitalize, all too often depending on Scotty Hopson’s wild forays to the rim (and turnovers) to produce points.  UT is without question the most enigmatic team in the country this season, and it wouldn’t surprise any of us if the Vols ripped off its next four before losing six in a row.  You just never know with this team.
  • Muskies Doing What They Do.  The Xavier-Temple game in Cincinnati was a pretty important Atlantic 10 matchup because the Musketeers once again are unbeaten in league play and Temple came in with a single loss.  We’re not sure how XU keeps doing this year after year, but they are doing it again.  Just a couple of weeks ago it appeared that Temple was by far the class of the A10 and could quite possibly run away with this thing.  The Muskies did it today with its highly efficient offense, putting four players in double figures and hitting 53% of its shots and 8-13 from deep.  Temple seemed generally flustered on its end of the court in showing that the only way they could score was to bang out threes (11 today).  As a result of today’s game, XU already has a two-game lead over its biggest rival for the crown on its way to its fifth-straight regular season Atlantic 10 title.  Wow.
  • Texas Breaks KU’s Homecourt Winning Streak.  Texas exorcised a whole host of demons today by going into Allen Fieldhouse and defeating Kansas, 33-33.  The streaks broken — KU’s 69-game homecourt winning streak; KU’s unbeaten season; Texas’ 0-9 record in Lawrence.  We’ve been saying for a while that among teams populating the top 35 in the country, it’s Rick Barnes’ Longhorns who might have the biggest upside of any team in America.  They are absolutely loaded with athletic talent, and with Jordan Hamilton on the wing as a playmaker, they have one of the very best players in the country at getting points when they need them.  After falling behind 18-3 in the early going and looking on the verge of another Allen Fieldhouse nightmare, Rick Barnes’ team kept its composure and continued playing defense.  The rest of the game:  71-45.  Teams not named Kansas don’t make those kinds of runs in Allen Fieldhouse.  We feel that this game says more about UT than it does about KU, but Kansas isn’t going anywhere in March if Josh Selby continues to struggle (2-9 FG, 4 points, 1 assist).
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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VII

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 18th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball. This week, Jesse gives props to the Hopson coiffure and reveals his man crush on Jay Wright — then alienates the entire city of Pittsburgh. We’re sorry…ya Yinzers.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..listening to a Pac-10 nail-biter – that’s right, listening – on a radio this week since the game wasn’t televised. Everything in today’s media market is so visual and video-based, and you can get almost any game on the tube with the right cable package. But there was something very appealing about trying to picture exactly what was happening on the court with 2.5 seconds left using just a single voice and the crowd noise during the Washington vs Stanford game. I’d argue it even upped the drama.

I LOVED…..how I found myself wondering just how in the world Villanova coach Jay Wright always has short, athletic guards every year who can do it all. Every. Freaking. Year. Corey Fisher, Scottie Reynolds, Randy Foye, Allan Ray, and so on. While I always have to pick against ‘Nova in the tourney because I think they’ll run into someone too big, you have to appreciate the fearless perimeter play that Wright gets from his small guys.

Fisher Is Yet Another Product of the Jay Wright Short Athletic Guard Factory

I LOVED…..Scotty Hopson’s Scottie Pippen haircut. So classic. When you have by far the best name ever for a basketball player, it’s important that you back it up with the best basketball haircut of all time – the unbeatable fade. Props to you Scotty, you’re doing Pippen and Will Smith proud with the ‘do.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.14-01.16

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 14th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Another action-packed weekend awaits grateful hoop fans as we’re about two months away from March Madness. Conference play is really heating up and races are beginning to take shape. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#23 Vanderbilt @ Tennessee – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (***)

Often Overlooked, Ezeli Is A Workhorse For the Commodores.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 11th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Three key conference clashes from different leagues take place tonight with two of the home clubs desperately needing a win. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#17 Wisconsin @ #20 Michigan State – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

Leuer Made the Midseason Top 30 Wooden Award List, Yet Many Fans Couldn't Pick Him Out of a Lineup.

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