Set Your Tivo: 03.08.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 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.

Only two games affect the bubble tonight, but four of the five listed here are for auto-bids or will go towards deciding one. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Princeton @ Pennsylvania – 7 pm on ESPN3.com (***)

Coach Sydney Johnson Will Gladly Take Another 25 From Mavraides -- As Long As It Results In a Win

The formula for Princeton is simple: win tonight and beat Harvard in a playoff on Saturday (4 pm at Yale) to earn the Ivy League’s automatic bid. Should the Tigers lose tonight, Harvard will claim the title and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

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O26 Primers: Big South and Horizon League Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 1st, 2011

 

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences. Up first are the Big South and Horizon League.

Being the “Other 26” guy around these parts, I deemed it appropriate to give a quick look into all 25 (the Ivy, of course, has no tournament) of the non-BCS conference tournaments prior to their commencement. I will bring you these previews for each conference on the day their first round games are slated to be played. We kick things off with the Big South and the Horizon League. Both will unquestionably be interesting tournaments as Coastal Carolina’s recent issues and allegations regarding NCAA violations have opened the door for the rest of the conference. Unlike the Big South which was dominated by Coastal for nearly the entire year, the Horizon League had great parity at the top of the conference with six teams reaching ten wins or better.

Big South

The Favorite: Coastal Carolina—dare I say it—no longer the favorite to win the Big South tournament? After coming up just short last year as Winthrop dashed their hopes of advancing to the NCAA Tournament, Coastal came out with a vengeance this year to take back what they thought should have been theirs. They won 22 straight games—14 of them coming in the Big South—and appeared untouchable. But, amidst recruiting violations and eligibility issues, Coastal’s chance at advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993 has taken a serious hit. Now, the league is wide open with Liberty, and UNC-Asheville also vying for the coveted auto-bid. I like Asheville as they have won three straight heading into the conference tournament with one of the wins coming in dramatic fashion against Coastal at the buzzer.

Dark Horse: They score a whole lot of points, but also give up a ton as well. Clearly, I am referring to the VMI Keydets. The scoring ability of Austin Kenon with his deadly shot is an aspect of VMI’s game that always makes them a threat to win games.

Who’s Hot: VMI happens to be the hottest team entering the tournament having won five of their last six games.

Player to Watch: Now that Coastal Carolina’s Desmond Holloway has been ruled ineligible, there is no other obvious player to keep an eye on. Austin Kenon for VMI is certainly one to keep tabs on as he can light up the gym maybe better than anyone in the conference, but I believe Matt Dickey of UNC-Asheville is poised for a big tournament. If Dickey’s name sounds familiar it is due to his heroics as he miraculously stole Coastal Carolina’s inbounds pass and hit an off-balance three to propel his Bulldogs to a big win.

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ATB: Charles Jenkins Shows His Pride From Deep…

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2011

The Lede.  It’s not that often that we lead with a relative unknown on a weeknight, but it’s also not often that a single player rips off 25- and 30-footers to keep his team alive and win the game at the buzzer.  America, meet Charles Jenkins.  If you knew him, great; if you don’t, take a moment.  He’s one of the best mid-major players in America and could probably give the Jimmer and others a run for their money if he got the chance.

Meet Mr. Jenkins (Newsday/J. McIsaac)

Your Watercooler MomentCharles Jenkins, Hero of Men.  It’s one thing to hit a buzzer-beater to tie a game to send it to overtime, but it’s quite another to do it again to win the game a few minutes later.  The video below is entitled “Charles being Charles,” and if you’ve never seen the 6’3 senior guard from Queens play, you’re in for a treat.  The reigning Colonial POY with the ungodly ability to make just about everything he throws at the basket — 53% FG, 43% 3FG, 83% FT — knocked out 28/4 assts tonight against William & Mary, including two long threes as the horn went off to ultimately give his team a top-four seed in the upcoming CAA Tournament.  In the first case, W&M held a three-point lead when Jenkins received the inbounds pass with 6.6 seconds left, begging the question as to why they didn’t foul him rather than let him get off the tying 24-footer.  The Tribe didn’t have that option in overtime, as Jenkins took ball upcourt with 4.5 seconds remaining and the game tied, but maybe they could have employed a little better pressure to keep him from receiving the pass… or at least a double-team on the catch?  William & Mary didn’t, so Jenkins found space on the left side about thirty feet away, and he drilled it, winning the game for his Pride.  Along with Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried, Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock and Cleveland State’s Norris Cole, Jenkins is one of the best players in America most of us have never seen play — but let’s hope that he and the others will be able to find their way into March Madness so that they all can entertain us on the game’s greatest stage.  In the meantime, this mini-compilation of tonight’s highlights will have to do…

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Butler’s Surge.  The defending national runners-up won their fifth game in a row tonight over Green Bay to move to 11-5 in the Horizon League, showing some of the resolve that we expected all season from a Brad Stevens team featuring a couple of studs in Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack.  Mack and Howard combined for 35/10/7 assts this evening, giving the Bulldogs a fighting chance to once again win the regular season title in the Horizon League and guarantee home court during the conference tourney.  Butler only has two games remaining (both winnable), but league leader Valpo has four games remaining and Cleveland State three — if Butler can get into one of the top two slots, we think it’s likely they’ll figure a way to get back to the NCAAs in an otherwise trying season.
  • The Johnnies.  We have to hand it to Steve Lavin’s coaching performance this season.  He’s managed to take a group of talented, experienced kids who had underachieved throughout their careers and turn them into a group that is finally and inexorably playing to its potential.  With three wins in the last six days, including another nice 80-68 win at Marquette this evening, SJU is approaching its first NCAA Tournament bid in nearly a decade.  The Red Storm do not excel at anything other than forcing turnovers (18 tonight for Marquette), but they hustle, claw and defend with a ruffian’s mentality befitting their NYC attitude.  Good for them.
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The Week That Was: Jan. 25-Jan. 31

Posted by jstevrtc on February 1st, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor 

Introduction:

It’s Feb. 1. That means there’s only 40 days left until Selection Sunday, or 40 days left for teams to build up their resume so their bubble doesn’t pop. We’re sure there are going to be a lot of heated discussions about teams hovering within that last four in-last four out zone over the next six weeks. Heck, here at TWTW, we’ll probably change our opinion on certain squads three  or four times until the end of the regular season. It should be a crazy six weeks, but we know it’s going to be fun.  

What We learned

After a weekend that saw 13 ranked teams lose (and the entire top 25 go 22-20 for the week, as Seth Davis pointed out on SI.com) the chic thing to do is talk about the gigantic bulging central part of the bell curve that symbolizes this college basketball season. It’s nearly impossible to make sense of who’s good and who’s bad on a weekly basis, as a team is liable to have a monumental win one night and then lose to a lesser school a few days later. Let’s use Georgetown as an example. Just over two weeks ago the Hoyas were a mess at 1-4 in the Big East and losers of four of their previous five games. Now, they’ve won five in a row, including recent triumphs at Villanova and at home against Louisville. Georgetown isn’t the only school that enjoys playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Check out this paragraph from Davis’ Monday column

“Texas can lose at USC and then win at Kansas. Tennessee, which should be this movie’s poster child, can win at Villanova and Pitt (at the Consol Energy Center) and lose to College of Charleston and Charlotte. Louisville loses at home to Drexel but beats UConn on the road. Providence loses to LaSalle but beats Louisville and Villanova. Auburn loses to Samford, Campbell and Presbyterian, but it beats Florida State, which later beats Duke. What, you didn’t know Presbyterian was better than Duke? And on Sunday, St. John’s (which lost to Fordham) blew out Duke.” 

Given all this uncertainty, can anyone honestly say with any assurance that there’s a clear-cut elite set of teams? Ohio State might be undefeated, but the Buckeyes have had their fair share of nail biters over ho-hum teams (Michigan, Penn State, and most recently, Northwestern). TWTW would like to put its eggs into Texas’ basket. The Longhorns are this week’s Team du Jour, having torched four ranked teams in the last 13 days, but you wouldn’t be shocked if Texas didn’t have a hiccup or two to an unranked team before the season’s end, would you?

This Tristan Thompson-Nathan Walkup Encounter Accurately Summarizes Texas' Throttling of the Aggies Last Night (B. Sullivan/Dallas Morning News)

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Morning Five: 01.31.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on January 31st, 2011

  1. Anyone who watched St. John’s take down Duke yesterday saw a strange and lethargic facsimile of the Blue Devil squad we’ve seen previously this year. That’s by no means an excuse and isn’t meant to take anything from the Johnnies’ victory, but before you fall victim to the tendency to put too much stake in one game and start selling your Duke stock, we offer you the calming tone of Mike Miller’s take at Beyond the Arc. By the way…whither the Red Storm? There are some bad losses there, but they have wins over Duke, Notre Dame, Georgetown, and at West Virginia. Their pressure-cooker January is over, and now we’ll see if that tough stretch of their schedule seasoned them for the second half of their Big East slate. If so, the Tournament awaits as a reward.
  2. Does anyone remember Central Florida? Donnie Jones‘ in-conference move from Marshall to UCF in the off-season (along with his reputation as a good up-and-coming coach) already had people aware of the Golden Knights, and then everybody got wise when they beat Florida and Miami (FL) on the way to winning their first 14 games this year. Since that start, UCF has dropped six straight and find themselves last in Conference USA. The Knights have eleven players who play at least 12 minutes a game, and Jones feels that one of the keys to UCF getting its mojo back is to shorten the rotation to seven or eight players for the last nine games. Unfortunately, that won’t be difficult, now that junior guard A.J. Rompza is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his foot.
  3. Having trouble finding a good comparison for The Jimmer with which to enlighten your unhip friends? Bob Ryan contemplates the methodology and validity of comparing one player to a former player and, in doing so,  offers an outstanding parallel to Fredette that we haven’t seen mentioned anywhere, even considering the unhealthy amounts of time we spend on Twitter and reading the works of our favorite columnists. The article also further justifies why you should be reading Bob Ryan on a regular basis.
  4. After the thrills that Butler provided all of us last season (and remembering how nice the people there were to us on our visit there last April), it’s been tough to watch last year’s finalist come back to earth as much as they have this year so far. Even with the early departure of Gordon Hayward, every Bulldog coach and player is aware of the difference between last season and this one: their effort on defense. In the article, Brad Stevens mentions how he’s ready to give walk-ons more minutes if it means better team defense, and Shelvin Mack includes himself in his own assessment, noting, “We gave up 60 points in one half [to Valparaiso on Saturday]. Last year we gave up sixty points in a game.”
  5. Even without rooting interest, the best part of this weekend of basketball was the hint of a smile we saw on the face of KansasThomas Robinson on a couple of occasions during the Jayhawks’ game against Kansas State. As much as fate has asked he and his little sister Jayla to grow up in the last month, it’s good to see that Robinson even still has the capacity to smile. It would be understandable if he had lost it for a while. One fellow who can relate to what Robinson is going through and recall that kind of loneliness is former Clemson defensive back Ray Ray McElrathbey, whose ordeal from five years ago bears some similarities to Robinson’s. A must-read from the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger.
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Set Your Tivo: 01.07-01.09

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 7th, 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.

The first big hoops weekend of 2011 features many important games across the land. Here are five key games followed by a host of others. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Cleveland State @ Butler – 7 pm Friday on ESPNU (****)

With Butler’s loss at Milwaukee on Monday, folks in the Horizon League used to the Bulldogs’ dominance are excited that this may be the year someone else takes the title. Cleveland State leads the league by a game over Detroit and Wright State while holding a one and a half game lead over Butler heading into tonight’s game. Should the Vikings win on the road tonight and plow through the rest of their Horizon schedule, expect to see Cleveland State win the league. Obviously we’re a long way off from that but CSU is currently in a nice position. Butler’s problems have been on the defensive end. The Bulldogs have given up an average of 73.6 PPG in their losses while their defensive efficiency has dropped significantly from their top five ranking of a year ago.

The Bulldogs Need Mack Back On Track Tonight, And From Now On

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ATB: St. John’s Announces Relevancy to Astonished Nation

Posted by rtmsf on January 4th, 2011

The Lede.  There were a good number of games around the college basketball landscape this evening, but few held any real interest.  There was a Big East matchup in Madison Square Garden, though, that was more than interesting; in fact, it was arguably more compelling than the other 49 games tonight combined.

All of NYC is Jumping With Hardy (AP)

Your Watercooler Moment.  We’ll have more on this topic later this morning, but tonight’s watercooler moment came courtesy of Justin Brownlee’s putback of Dwight Hardy’s missed layup attempt that gave St. John’s the final lead over Georgetown in a game that they typically would have lost in recent years.  Much will be made of the shifting zones that the Johnnies employed to stifle the long-range threats of the Hoya guards (4-17), but the overall inspiration and confidence that Steve Lavin has enabled in this group of (mostly) seniors to make a run at the NCAA Tournament in their final season is remarkable.  Already at 3-0 in Big East play with three tough games under their belt, SJU has an opportunity to all but seal a postseason berth with a .500 record through the rest of January.  Their upcoming schedule is a bear, but with their current momentum and some newfound confidence, we’re starting to believe in those cats from Queens.  Can we just make the Big East Tournament the East Region and let the other regions handle the rest?

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • The Binary Triple-Double.  We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a perfect triple-double of 10/10/10, but that’s what Milwaukee guard Kaylon Williams gave us tonight in the Panthers’ blowout win over Butler.  Williams is a guy that seems to do everything well, but nothing great.  His season averages in this, his transfer sophomore year, are 8/5/4 APG, but he’s had a handful of double-figure assist games in his career and has come close in rebounds a few times.  Kudos to the young fella on a big night for his school.
  • Maybe Florida Should Join the A-10.  Two of the Gators’ four best wins of the season have come in the last week against Atlantic 10 teams, with Florida defeating Rhode Island at home tonight and Xavier in Cincinnati last week.  The key to tonight’s blowout win over URI is that the multifaceted Chandler Parsons finally got his offensive game back on track, going for 18/12/5 assts for his first double-figure scoring performance in a month.  With so many poor shooters on this team, the Gators must have the usually-efficient Parsons higher than fourth on the team in scoring average (9.9 PPG) for Billy Donovan’s team to come anywhere near its SEC and national goals this season.
  • Return of the Beard.  Jacob Pullen returned from his three-game suspension tonight and put in a business-like 24/5 assts on 9-11 shooting in an easy win over Savannah State.  Most everyone has written off Kansas State so far this year as an overrated fraud, but there’s a lot of season left and perhaps a re-focused Pullen coming out of the time off is exactly the medicine that Frank Martin’s team needed.  His teammate Curtis Kelly will not be back for another couple of weeks.

… and Misses.

  • Dear NCAA: Never Trust Florida State.  And this is why — Auburn 65, FSU 60.  Yes, the same Auburn team who has found a way to beat only a single team higher than #300 in KenPom’s ratings (Middle Tennessee at #210), picked apart the Seminoles tonight for without question one of the most shocking scores of the season.  FSU might be the second or third best team on paper in the ACC, and they couldn’t beat a historically awful Auburn team?  Please, NCAA Selection Committee, take note of this when Leonard Hamilton’s squad is on the bubble in March and the ACC offices are lobbying for their inclusion into the Dance.
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Set Your Tivo: Christmas Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 24th, 2010

***** – 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.

Not much action over the Christmas holiday but we do have a few interesting games on tap this weekend. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#11 Baylor vs. Florida State (in Honolulu, HI) – 7:30 pm Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

Chris Singleton is a Wonder to Behold For FSU

Baylor’s strong defense was torched by Washington State’s terrific balance to the tune of 57% shooting. When you don’t make shots and don’t defend, you usually don’t win. That was the case as Baylor shot 37% but was remarkably in the game due to a surge fueled by LaceDarius Dunn and their dominance on the boards. The Cougars were up by 20 at one point but Baylor came back and even took the lead before faltering in the end. Meanwhile, Florida State continued its offensive struggles in a loss to Butler. The Seminoles turn it over too much and are highly inefficient when they have the ball. Expect that to continue against a taller and longer Baylor defense. You’d have to think this will be a low scoring game but Baylor does have the potential to break out offensively. Anyone who watched yesterday’s game saw Dunn singlehandedly take over the game and bring the Bears back to give them a shot. Scott Drew’s team cut down on the turnovers but really struggled to find the range against a fundamentally sound Washington State defense. One key area to watch is Chris Singleton’s defense against the Baylor bigs, specifically Quincy Acy. Acy had a double-double against Washington State but really had to work for it. Singleton has the potential to disrupt him, giving FSU a chance. Leonard Hamilton’s best strategy may be to let Dunn get his points and focus on defending the Baylor supporting cast. Dunn and Acy combined for 45 of Baylor’s 71 points against Wazzu so keying in on Acy could be difference for Florida State. The Seminoles are going to have to hold Baylor under 65 points to have a chance as it’s highly unlikely they’ll reach that plateau themselves. Interior defense and turnovers will be the big stories in this game. It’s a very interesting matchup but one where Baylor should have too much offense for Florida State to handle. The Bears have three solid scoring options in Dunn, Acy and Perry Jones, something the Seminoles can’t quite match. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Florida State play well and have a chance to win but Baylor should be able to close the door and grab third place at the Diamond Head Classic.

Washington State vs. Butler (in Honolulu, HI) – 10 pm Saturday on ESPN2 (***)

This is an intriguing matchup between a team that’s really solid on both ends (Washington State) and one that struggles to shoot but can defend well at times and really disrupt a team’s offensive flow (Butler). Washington State is in the top ten in both offensive and defensive effective field goal percentage while Butler is #219 in the same category on the offensive side of the ball. Klay Thompson and Faisal Aden give Washington State two strong threats from deep with Thompson hitting the dagger three to put Baylor away on Thursday. On Saturday they’ll go up against Butler’s top-rated three point defense, allowing just 26% shooting. However, the Bulldogs are vulnerable in the paint and that could the difference in this game. With DeAngelo Casto and Brock Motum inside, Ken Bone has two offensive threats in the paint that Butler cannot match. The Bulldogs have Matt Howard but nobody else has emerged as the second inside threat. On the perimeter, Butler has struggled shooting the trey. They did well against Florida State behind Shelvin Mack but Brad Stevens can’t count on that every night from his team. The rebounding battle is something to watch and should determine who controls the pace of the game. Washington State isn’t a fast-paced team but they run an efficient offense with good screens and cuts. Butler will look to limit second opportunities and slow the game down, falling back into an aggressive man-to-man defense on the perimeter. Stevens may mix in a zone or two to confuse the Cougars but they can’t allow Wazzu to shoot over them and expect to win. Butler fouls a lot but Washington State doesn’t get many points from the line, nor do they shoot it very well. If the Cougars are to win, it’ll be through strong defense leading to scores on the other end. If Wazzu takes good care of the ball, it’s hard to see them losing this game. For the Bulldogs, they absolutely must rebound well in order to have a chance. Butler will scrap and defend hard but they’re a bit too limited offensively to keep up with Washington State’s dynamic scorers, specifically Thompson. He’ll be the difference in this game in what should be a Cougar title in Hawaii.

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ATB: The Season’s First RTC?

Posted by rtmsf on December 10th, 2010

The Lede.  To RTC or to not RTC, that is the question.  Tonight Temple “upset” Georgetown in a battle between two teams that began the season a little over a month ago at essentially the same ranking.  Since that time, the Hoyas have shot up the rankings into the top ten, while the Owls have fallen out after losing games to California and Texas A&M in the Old Spice Classic.  Still, it’s not exactly as if Georgetown rose to #1 and Temple has been a huge disappointment this year.  In the eyes of most folks who cover this game regularly (and Vegas, who set the line at 1.5 points), the teams came into tonight roughly equal.  The Hoyas might have a bit more upside than the Owls, but everyone expected a close game and both teams are considered dangerous possibilities to do some damage in March.  Apparently the Temple students weren’t hearing it.  Acting like they’d just beaten Big John, Pat Ewing and Reggie Williams at the height of Hoya Paranoia, the Owl fans spilled out of the student section when Austin Freeman’s 50-foot shot went 60 feet, covering the Liacouras floor with what we believe to be the season’s first RTC within seconds.  What’s the basis — an unranked team defeating a top ten squad?  A close game that came down to the final shot?  Does it matter that the two programs are not that far apart in talent or relative stature this year?  Do Georgetown’s Final Fours, national title, and Big East pedigree make a difference?  These and other questions must be considered when making a determination on whether fans should rush the court, but it ultimately comes down to the simplest of analyses — feel.  We’ve been doing these things for a while, and while we love the uniqueness of a great court-rush and  the unabashed excitement of a student body sharing the joy of victory with its team, tonight’s Temple RTC just didn’t feel right.  You may disagree, but that’s our stance.  But let’s hear what you have to say — was Temple’s RTC tonight warranted?

Your Watercooler MomentThe first verified RTC of the 2010-11 season, of course.  Whether appropriate or not, we still recognize it.  The first two students who can verify they were a part of tonight’s court-rush at Liacouras Center will receive an RTC t-shirt in your team’s colors.  Email us at rushthecourt@yahoo.com or hit us on Twitter @rushthecourt.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Atlantic 10. Temple’s win over Georgetown in addition to Xavier’s tough victory over Butler resulted in a memorable night for the A-10.  The conference has had a bit of a rough start to the season, with no team having fewer than two losses at this point and traditional power XU struggling.  Still, the Owls and Musketeers in one night did much to raise the overall profile of the league, especially on an otherwise light night of hoops across the country.
  • Ramone Moore. With teammates Juan Fernandez (7 points on 2-8 FG) and Lavoy Allen (6 points on 2-9 FG) struggling offensively tonight, it was the unheralded Moore who came up with a huge career-high 30-point game on 12-18 shooting to give coach Fran Dunphy his 400th career win.  Moore has emerged as a solid scoring option on the wing this year (14.5 PPG), picking up for the departed Ryan Brooks.
  • Jared Sullinger’s 40.  Now especially true with Kyrie Irving on the shelf at Duke with a toe injury, but we chafed a little bit when we kept hearing that Irving was without question the best frosh in the land.  That hadn’t been proven yet.  Both Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Terrence Jones at Kentucky have looked equally fantastic, and tonight’s 40/13 on 12-17 FGs and 16-23 FTs for Sully definitely catapulted the Buckeye big man to the top of the list.  He played the game with his recently-passed uncle in mind, and when Sullinger puts his mind to it there is nobody in college basketball who can stop him on the interior.

…and Misses.

  • Kenny Boynton’s Three-Pointers.  If we were Billy Donovan, we’d set some kind of a limit on Boynton’s three-point gunning.  Something like, if he hasn’t hit his first two of the game, he doesn’t get to take any more that night.  After another 1-8 night from beyond the arc (coming on the heels of an 0-6 vs. American, an 0-3 vs. UCF, a 2-7 vs. Florida Atlantic and a 2-8 vs. Morehead State), possessions that end with Boynton firing a long bomb are almost as good as turnovers.  The sophomore guard takes 56% of his shots from deep, yet he only makes 23% of them!  How’s that for expected value?
  • Butler’s In Trouble.  Now with a 4-4 record after tonight’s close loss at Xavier, the Bulldogs are facing a serious uphill climb simply to make it back to the NCAA Tournament where they were the runner-up last season.  Other than the Diamond Head Classic, they will not face another likely Tourney team the rest of the way, unless you want to count HL member Cleveland State (11-0) as a possibility.  Butler has an RPI of #36 right now, but it will inevitably slip the farther into the Horizon League they get.  You’d have to figure that in order to have a reasonable chance at an at-large bid in March (presuming they fail to win the HL again), they’re going to have to beat Stanford and Utah handily, perform well in the DHC and then rip through the Horizon with a 17-1 record or similar.  The lack of a game-changing scorer like Gordon Hayward is really hurting them right now — Shelvin Mack had a tremendous summer, but he’s struggled with his shot and nobody else beyond the known commodity Matt Howard has stepped up.

Tweet of the Night.  We don’t like his chosen reference to “court-storming,” but our sentiment is the same.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.09.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 9th, 2010

***** – 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.

A clash of offense vs. defense in Philly and a huge game between two teams needing a big win headline tonight’s schedule. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#8 Georgetown @ Temple – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

Georgetown & Austin Freeman Have Taken On All Comers This Season

Temple earned their biggest win of the year in Washington, D.C. on Sunday night defeating Maryland in the BB&T Classic. Tonight they welcome Georgetown to the Liacouras Center hoping to pick up their fourth win over a power conference team. Temple ranks #7 in defensive efficiency while Georgetown is #6 in offensive efficiency so it’ll be interesting to see which team can impose their will on the other. After all, you’d have to figure something has to give. There are also two great individual matchups, one at the point guard position and the other in the paint. Chris Wright runs the offense for the Hoyas and he’ll go up against Juan Fernandez. They’re both point guards but one can really stroke it. Wright shoots the three extremely well and has distributed the ball effectively, averaging seven assists per contest. Fernandez lacks a strong shooting game but uses his body and basketball IQ to his advantage, driving to the bucket and creating for his teammates. His production is down a bit this year but he’s still a dynamic threat when he has the ball in his hands. In the post we’ll see Georgetown’s Julian Vaughn battle for position and rebounds with Temple’s Lavoy Allen. Each player averages seven rebounds per game and whoever holds the edge on the glass stands a good chance to win this game. Extra rebounds will give Georgetown more opportunities to get the ball back out to the perimeter where they’re one of the best in the country while Temple will look to use extra possessions in the paint. The Owls get 67% of their points inside the arc, tops in the nation in that department. Georgetown is the complete opposite, leaning on the back court trio of Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark for 63% of their scoring output. Freeman is 25-46 (54%) on the year from three while averaging 20 points each time out. The preseason Big East player of the year has lived up to the hype and carried Georgetown to a top ten ranking. Clark has seen his minutes drop by two a game but his production has increased drastically. He’s the glue guy for John Thompson III, a steady hand and a clutch shooter in late game situations. One area of concern for Georgetown tonight will be turnovers. The Hoyas average 15 per game and cannot afford to be handing out extra possessions on the road in what should be a hostile arena. This is Temple’s marquee non-conference home game so you can expect the Philly fans to be ready to rock. Temple can win this game by shutting down Georgetown’s three point attack and you have to believe Fran Dunphy emphasized that in practice this week. Georgetown is the better team however and has already won two games in tough environments, at Old Dominion and against Missouri in Kansas City. This will be a close game but Georgetown has the talent and experience to come away with a very good road win.

Butler @ Xavier – 9 pm on ESPN2 (***)

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Checking in on… the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2010

Jimmy Lemke of PantherU.com is the Horizon League correspondent for Rush The Court

A Look Back

  • How They Fared: The Horizon League, unlike most conferences, begins its conference season the first week of December; most teams play two games, with a couple playing only one game and competing non-conference the rest of the week.  Easily the most impressive team of the week was Cleveland State, who rolled through Wisconsin and preserved their undefeated record.  Norris Cole has the inside track on Player of the Year, and coach Gary Waters has assembled a dominant team behind him.
  • Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot: Fans unfamiliar with the Horizon League would assume that Butler is the team to find at #1 in this week’s Mid-Major Top 25.  They’d be wrong.  Butler has given way to Norris Cole and Cleveland State, who are all the rage as they take no prisoners.  The Vikings absolutely dominated a Milwaukee team at the U.S. Cellular Arena, where the Panthers are almost unbeatable.
  • Tip Of The Cap: This week’s TOTC goes to Matt Howard of Butler, who tied Bobby Plump (you might know him better by his fictional likeness, Jimmy Chitwood of Hoosiers) for 11th on the Butler University all-time scoring list.  Our friends at Victory Firelight were happy to see that.

Power Rankings

  1. Cleveland State (10-0, 2-0 Horizon) – For the past decade, the Vikings were 1-19 in the state of Wisconsin – 1-9 in Green Bay and 0-10 in Milwaukee.  In the week leading up to the games, coach Gary Waters called it “Revenge Week.”  Mission accomplished.  The other mission accomplished? Putting Norris Cole in the driver’s seat for Player of the Year.
  2. Valparaiso (6-2, 2-0) – Coach Homer Drew‘s Crusaders made the short trip to Chicago and calmly walked out 2-0 with a nail-biting victory at UIC and a commanding performance at Loyola.  Winning the latter pushes Valpo past Butler in our conference power rankings for the week.
  3. Butler (4-3, 1-0) – Shelvin Mack and the Bulldogs sweated out a victory on Chicago’s near north side, beating Loyola 65-63.  A strong showing against Duke should have kept them at the #2 spot, but for the uncertainty surrounding Mack’s cramps and Ronald Nored‘s concussion.  Both players should be on the court this week, but the Dawgs are much thinner than last season and need both on the court even more than before.
  4. Detroit (5-4, 1-0) – The Titans split two games last week, losing at home to Akron before dumping Horizon League foe Wright State.  Ray McCallum Sr.‘s Titans could be winning even more if they had some bodies to spell their stellar starting five; four Titans are in the top ten in the conference in total minutes and minutes per game.
  5. Loyola (7-2, 0-2) – It was a sobering week for the Ramblers, who have to be thinking about 2009-10, when they began 11-2 before flopping all the way down to 14-16 for the season.  For the second straight year, the Ramblers put a scare into Butler, but the excitement at the Joe collapsed following a double-digit home loss to Valpo.
  6. Green Bay (4-4, 1-1) – Brian Wardle‘s crew came into the week favored to win a game and lose a game.  They did just that, dropping a home loss to Cleveland State before wiping the floor with Jerry Slocum’s Youngstown State Penguins.  Rahmon Fletcher continues to be a boon for the Phoenix, placing third in the conference in scoring at 16.6 PPG.
  7. Milwaukee (4-5, 1-1) – It’s hard to put the Panthers lower since they did win convincingly over Youngstown State on Thursday.  It’s impossible to put the Panthers any higher given the absolute garbage showing against Cleveland State on Saturday night.  Last week, we talked about their Jekyll and Hyde ways.  That continued this past week, but at least they came out with a W.
  8. Wright State (3-5, 0-1) – Had the Raiders pulled out a victory against middling Big East team Cincinnati or Detroit, they’d find themselves much higher on the list.  Bobby Donlon‘s crew is much different than they were under Brad Brownell, whose defensive mindset has lost its way.  The Raiders are giving up 78 points per game this season, and they won’t be seeing a bye to the semifinals of the conference tournament unless that changes.
  9. UIC (4-5, 0-1) – Akron pulled out the close victory at UIC, the second near-victory for the Flames of the week.  If UIC had been killing teams heading into the conference season, they might find themselves higher.  However, that signature win over Rhode Island seems further in the rear-view mirror every day.
  10. Youngstown State (4-3, 0-2) – The Penguins’ 4-1 start got the fans in Youngstown paying attention, but a quick 0-2 start in conference against struggling clubs in Green Bay and Milwaukee puts YSU at the bottom of the barrel.  Along with Wright State and Loyola, the Penguins are one of the only teams to go winless; unlike Wright State or Loyola, they weren’t playing significantly better competition.

A Look Ahead

Week one of conference play is in the books, and the standings will remain the same until after Christmas.  Three games against high-major foes dot the lineup this week, with Purdue visiting Valpo’s ARC and Milwaukee taking a trip west to Madison.  Loyola hopes to pull off a stunning upset at Kansas State.  Let’s hope the timekeeper knows what they’re doing at the Cintas Center this year as Butler takes its turn as the away team in a home-and-home with Xavier.

  • 12/7 - Purdue at Valparaiso, 9 p.m. ESPNU
  • 12/8 – Milwaukee at Wisconsin, 8:30 p.m. Big Ten Network
  • 12/8 – Wright State vs. Air Force, 7 p.m. HLN
  • 12/9 – Butler at Xavier, 9 p.m. ESPN
  • 12/11 – Milwaukee at South Dakota State, 8 p.m.
  • 12/11 – Loyola vs. #3 Kansas State, 4 p.m.
  • 12/11 – Cleveland State at Sam Houston State, 4:30 p.m.

Remember When… they screwed up the clock at Hinkle last season?  Take a look back:

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Set Your Tivo: 12.04-12.05

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2010

***** – 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.

The biggest hoops weekend of the year thus far features a blueblood clash, a national championship rematch, a good mid-major battle, a key top 25 Battle in Seattle and a bunch of other quality matchups. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#14 Kentucky @ North Carolina – 12:30 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

The UNC-Kentucky Game Is Always Special

Two of the three members of the 2,000 win club meet in Chapel Hill with the Tar Heels holding a 21-11 edge in this series. Even better, Gus Johnson is calling this game for CBS in its first nationally televised game of the season. North Carolina has won five of the last six meetings and could really use a quality win after starting the year 0-3 against major conference opponents. The story for North Carolina will be turnovers. Roy Williams must be going crazy over his backcourt, which committed 14 of UNC’s 18 turnovers in a loss to Illinois on Tuesday. Carolina ranks #217 in turnover percentage but Kentucky, surprisingly is just #305 in forcing turnovers. That could help North Carolina’s confidence in a home game where the place will be sold out and the fans really fired up. If Harrison Barnes can break out of his slump, North Carolina has a really good chance to win this game. Tyler Zeller and John Henson have been the only reason UNC has been competitive. With everyone else on the team having a hard time, Zeller and Henson have combined to average 26 points and 18 rebounds per game. They’ll face a different kind of challenge against Kentucky star freshman Terrence Jones. The 6’8 Jones has been on a tear to start the season, averaging 21/10 while blocking over two shots a game and stretching his game to the perimeter as well. It’ll be interesting to see whether Roy Williams puts Henson or Barnes on Jones defensively as neither comes close to Jones’ strength and athleticism for his size. A better strategy might be to let Jones get his points and focus the defense elsewhere, specifically on getting turnovers from Brandon Knight. The freshman point guard has played well for John Calipari, but his 4.5 turnovers can be a major problem against an up-tempo team like North Carolina. UNC ranks #19 in tempo which is the quickest pace Kentucky has seen since Washington in Maui. Against the Huskies, Knight had eight turnovers and no assists, though he did score 24 points. North Carolina’s guards must be ready defensively against a Kentucky team that shoots 41% from long range, good for #25 in the nation. The Tar Heels have not been good defending the trey, ranking #185. This matchup could tip the balance of this game towards UK if UNC doesn’t defend well. North Carolina gets 61% of its points from inside the arc, something to watch against Kentucky’s tough interior defense which ranks #8 in block percentage. Expect a fun to watch game with a lot of talent on the floor and intensity on the sidelines and in the stands. It’s hard to predict a winner here because UK has the edge overall but UNC is at home where they enjoy a nice advantage. Best to call this one a toss-up.

#1 Duke vs. Butler (IZOD Center, East Rutherford, NJ) – 3:15 pm Saturday on ESPN (***)

The rematch of last year’s epic title game doesn’t have nearly the same feel. Duke is better than last year while Butler has had a rough start to the season with point guard Ronald Nored suffering a concussion against Siena. He’s day-to-day according to Brad Stevens and may miss this game. Butler’s do-everything star from last year’s team, Gordon Hayward, is gone too, averaging just two points a game in less than ten minutes for the Utah Jazz. The Bulldogs were shredded by Louisville and upset by Evansville at home last week, two disappointing losses for a team that came in with high expectations again this year. Look for Duke’s shooters to dominate this game as Butler really struggles on offense and is mediocre defensively inside the three-point line. Butler ranks #171 in two point defense and is one of the worst teams at blocking shots, #312. Duke’s opponents get most of their points inside the arc but Butler is just #246 in two point percentage. Leading scorer and rebounder Matt Howard is making 55% of his shots but as a whole the team is just at 43.5%. Shelvin Mack is back too and has done a nice job distributing the ball, especially with Nored out. Howard’s foul problems are still there but he has yet to foul out of a game this season. Going up against the athletic Mason Plumlee and company inside, it would be naïve to think Howard won’t have foul problems in this game given his history. Duke is the top ranked team in offensive efficiency and should be able to pile up the points against Butler. Kyrie Irving, coming off his spectacular 31-point performance against Michigan State, makes his return to his home state of New Jersey and will surely be ready to play well in front of the home folks. Duke simply has too much for Butler this time around. While it’s sure to be nostalgic for most college basketball fans, don’t expect this game to be close especially if Nored is still out.

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