Boom Goes The Dynamite: Second Round 03.20.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 20th, 2010

Now it’s a party.  The first round is done.  The next 48 hours of games will define which big-time teams can handle the pressure cooker that is the Big Dance, and it will identify the Cinderellas we’ll be talking about for years.  If you’re a double-digit seed, winning one game is nice, but you don’t receive your wicked stepsisters, pumpkin coach, and glass slipper until you at least reach the Sweet 16.  Oh, you’re a big-conference bigwig?  Then the next round is still probably less than what was expected of you.  People don’t remember Second Rounders.  They remember teams that make the Sweet 16 and beyond.  The first round was fun.  But it’s over.  Here are the teams vying for the Sweet 16 on Saturday:

  • #2 Villanova vs #10 St. Mary’s
  • #5 Butler vs #13 Murray State
  • #6 Tennessee vs #14 Ohio
  • #1 Kansas vs #9 Northern Iowa
  • #3 Baylor vs #11 Old Dominion
  • #3 New Mexico vs #11 Washington
  • #2 Kansas State vs #7 Brigham Young
  • #1 Kentucky vs #9 Wake Forest

We’ll be here all day, watching the games with you.  We hope you’ll join us, and we definitely look forward to seeing you in the comments section as we all climb in to ride this rollercoaster for the third time.  See you right here about fifteen minutes before the first tip!

12:55: Here we go!  For the Sweet 16, gentlemen…let’s play!  Some interesting matchups throughout the day.  Looking especially forward to Baylor vs ODU and KSU vs BYU.  To me those look like the more intriguing games.

1:05: St. Mary’s off to a quick start!  The inside battle between Omar Samhan and Mouphtaou Yarou and/or Maurice Sutton is gonna be fun to watch.  God, Samhan looks bigger every time I see him.

1:15: I guess Jay Wright’s “minor teaching point” is over.  Samhan could not have asked for a better start to this game.  Eight points on 4-6 shooting.  SMU does not look intimidated early.  I fact, Villanova still looks like they’re getting over whatever hangover they were nursing that caused them to almost get beaten by Bob Morris.

1:26: Samhan just rooked with that second foul.  I agree with Raftery.  That should have been a no-call.

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Big 12 Tourney Daily Diary: Quarterfinals

Posted by jstevrtc on March 12th, 2010

After two days of hoops at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, what’s all the talk?  The rocking of chalk.

I don’t just mean the Jayhawk victory over Texas Tech.  The crowds in KC are definitely enjoying themselves and taking in some high-quality hoops, but they’re wondering where the upsets are.  So far, the only real upset we’ve had so far was the first round toppling of Missouri by Nebraska.  As I was talking to some Kansas State fans about this in a local restaurant after the game, one of them spoke the truth:  “Upsets are great, as long as it’s not happening to your team.”

Upsets or no, I’ll say this:  these flyover country folks know how to enjoy college basketball.  It’s obvious from being here how much everyone who’s taken over downtown KC this week, from the fan with the worst seat in the Sprint Center to the highest Big 12 administrator, loves college hoops.  My spot on media row is right beside ESPN’s (and Big 12 Network’s) Holly Rowe, who couldn’t be nicer, and is probably a bigger overall sports fan than anyone in the arena.  Like most experts, she says it’s coming down to Kansas and Kentucky in the final, but also is high on Ohio State.  And when I asked her about certain colleagues of hers who are appearing on certain ABC dancing shows later this year, she smiled, suddenly turned serious, and said, “I’m the better salsa dancer.  That’s all I’m saying.”

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RTC 2010 All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 11th, 2010

Unanimous 1st Teamer Evan Turner

With the regular season winding down to a close, the powers-that-be here at Rush the Court met in rtmsf’s basement bunker and spent 36 hours without food or water sorting out our 1st, 2nd and 3rd All-American teams for the 2009-10 season. Just kidding, we actually did it by e-mail. Regardless, here is the much-anticipated unveiling (with a slight adjustment to the three-guard lineup for the 3rd team based on the voting). Enjoy:

1st Team

  • G – John Wall, Kentucky (16.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • G – Evan Turner, Ohio State (19.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • G – Greivis Vasquez, Maryland (19.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.6 SPG)
  • F – Wesley Johnson, Syracuse (15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.9 BPG)
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky (15.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG)

There’s not much surprise with Wall, Turner or Johnson. All three garnered 1st-team selections from all four of our voters and accomplished the feat basically wire-to-wire. The two late bloomers were Cousins and Vasquez. Cousins was overshadowed in the early part of the season by his superstar teammate, but more and more attention was paid to his obscene production as the campaign wore on. His numbers spread out over 40 minutes are off the charts. Vasquez really took off late as well, dusting off the cobwebs from a slow shooting start to lead his Terrapins to a share of the ACC crown. His heroics at the end of the Duke win likely was the clincher for our voters.

2nd Team

  • G – Scottie Reynolds, Villanova (18.8 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G – James Anderson, Oklahoma State (22.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • G – Sherron Collins, Kansas (15.3 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.2 SPG)
  • F – Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia (17.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.3 APG)
  • C – Cole Aldrich, Kansas (11.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.5 BPG)

The 2nd-team features the Jayhawks inside-outside tandem of Collins and Aldrich. While many expected at least one of them to finish the season as a first-teamer, I think both players would rather grab that #1 overall seed in the Dance. This honor is not a bad consolation prize, either. Reynolds and Butler provided the backbones for two squads that excelled in the loaded Big East, while Anderson posted the strongest raw stats of any power six-conference player other than Turner. He’s expanding his game to become more of a complete weapon, and, along with Turner, is probably the most important player to his respective team of anyone in the nation.

3rd Team

  • G – Jon Scheyer, Duke (18.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G – Jimmer Fredette, BYU (20.6 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • F – Darington Hobson, New Mexico (15.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.6 APG)
  • F – Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (23.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG)
  • C – Greg Monroe, Georgetown (16.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.5 BPG)

The Mountain West received some serious love on this team with outstanding seasons from Hobson and Fredette both rewarded. Despite missing a good portion of the stretch run, Harangody’s statistics just couldn’t be ignored. Monroe put up a solid campaign for the Hoyas and might be the best passing big man in the nation. The most efficient guard? Could very well be Scheyer. He’s led Duke to #1-seed contention.

Also receiving votes: Quincy Pondexter, Washington, Ekpe Udoh, Baylor, Robbie Hummel, Purdue, Luke Babbitt, Nevada, Damion James, Texas, Kyle Singler, Duke, Patrick Patterson, Kentucky, Gordon Hayward, Butler, Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest.

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Big 12 Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.  The Big 12 Tournament begins on Wednesday at Noon CT.

Final Standings

  1. Kansas (15-1, 29-2) - Obviously the Jayhawks are above and beyond the best team in the Big 12, and regardless of what they do in the Big 12 Tournament, KU will be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, this season has been a wildly successful one for the Jayhawks, but Bill Self and his team will not be satisfied unless they’re hoisting the trophy in Indianapolis.
  2. Kansas State (11-5, 24-6) - After losing two straight games, one to Kansas in Lawrence and another to lowly Iowa State at home, its safe to say that KSU backed its way into the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas State was one of the many surprise teams in the conference this year, and they’ll hope to continue surprising people all the way into April.
  3. Baylor (11-5, 24-6) – This is probably the best team in college basketball that few people are really talking about. Ranked #20 in the nation, Baylor has the resume to be a three seed in the NCAA tournament. After where I picked this team in my preseason poll, I think Scott Drew is a safe pick for my coach of the year in the Big 12.
  4. Texas A&M (11-5, 22-8) - After the loss of Derrick Roland I thought the Aggies were done. But behind great leadership from Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis, TAMU had a legitimate shot at finishing in second place. Even though they didn’t achieve that feat, Mark Turgeon’s team looks pretty good heading into the conference tournament as the winners of three straight. I think if anyone is going to beat Kansas again it could be the Aggies from A&M.
  5. Missouri (10-6, 22-9) - The Tigers are still adjusting to life without Justin Safford (1-2 without him, the one win coming off of a last second buzzer-beater in OT against Iowa State). Mizzou has the best shot to improve their tournament seed if they can beat A&M in the quarterfinals. A third shot at Kansas is what everyone in Columbia is wishing for, but I’m not sure another 20-point loss to Kansas is what MU needs before the NCAA Tournament.
  6. Texas (9-7, 23-8) – If there is any sportswriter in the world that picked Texas to finish sixth in the Big 12 please come forward and let me bask in your wisdom. I think its safe to say UT is the surprise team of the season in this conference, even more so than Oklahoma. The Longhorns have one of the most talented teams in the nation and they will probably end up being a #7 seed in the NCAA tournament. No one in Austin is satisfied. However, if the Longhorns go on a run we could still have the Big 12 final that everyone expected, Kansas vs. Texas.
  7. Oklahoma State (9-7, 21-9) – If the Cowboys want to make some more noise on the national level now is the time to do it. James Anderson will keep you in just about every game, but the other players around him need to step it up. I think this team could be the surprise of the Big 12 Tournament this season, remember they beat Kansas State in Manhattan back in late January and the Wildcats would be their second round matchup if OSU gets past Oklahoma.
  8. Colorado (6-10, 15-15) – Find me one person in Boulder that isn’t happy with an eighth place finish in the Big 12 and I’ll be overly surprised. CU has finally gotten themselves out of the cellar, and this could be enough reason for Cory Higgins to skip the draft and make a run at the NCAA Tournament next season.
  9. Texas Tech (4-12, 16-14) – What started out as a promising year for the Red Raiders has ended quite terribly. Right now TTU is riding a seven-game losing streak and even if they were to beat Colorado in the first round of the conference tournament, it is highly unlikely they could beat KU to make some kind of improbable run.
  10. Oklahoma (4-12, 13-17) - OU fans would love to see an upset of their in-state rival in the first round game, but I also think many Sooners fans feel the same way about this season that the Coates family felt about Old Yeller. Sure, you’d love to see the season go on, but it might be time to put this team out of their misery and head to the offseason.
  11. Iowa State (4-12, 15-16) – I think ISU pulled off the biggest upset of the year in the last game of the regular season. The Cyclones are playing their best basketball at the right time, and Texas can’t take this first round game lightly or they could find themselves on a bus back to Austin as early as Wednesday night.
  12. Nebraska (2-14, 14-17) – The Cornhuskers and Mizzou will meet for the third time this season, and the good news for NU is that usually its hard to beat the same team three times in the same season. However, I don’t see the Huskers pulling off an upset of that caliber, and it looks like NU fans can finally focus on the women’s team, which is undefeated.

Season Awards

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.06.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 6th, 2010

Folks, it’s March and we’re now approximately eight days until Selection Sunday sets the sports world on fire.  By our count, there are about twenty teams fighting for half as many at-large spots, and this weekend’s games will have increased importance in the all-too-important ‘sniff test.’  The NCAA Selection Committee is made of humans just like the rest of us, and if they see a couple of teams look great on tv this weekend, it could be the little extra push needed to earn a Dance card next Sunday.  But it’s not just about those so-called bubble teams; it’s also about positioning.  Which team will step up in the last week to grab the likely one remaining #1 seed, along with Syracuse, Kansas and Kentucky?  Who will be able to secure a top four regional seed in order to play closer to home?  There are so many questions unanswered still remaining.  Today is the last Saturday of the regular season, and as always, we’ll be with you on Boom Goes the Dynamite throughout the day.  Below are the key games we plan on keeping an eye on — of special note is that three more automatic bids will be delivered today, in the Big South, Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley Conferences.

  • Noon – West Virginia @ Villanova on CBS – RTC Live
  • Noon - Texas A&M @ Oklahoma on ESPN
  • Noon – Cincinnati @ Georgetown on ESPN360
  • 1 pm – Tulsa @ Memphis on CBS College Sports
  • 1:30 pm – Maryland @ Virginia on ESPN360
  • 2 pm – Kansas @ Missouri on CBS
  • 2 pm – Syracuse @ Louisville on ESPN
  • 2 pm – Notre Dame @ Marquette on ESPN360
  • 2 pm – UConn @ USF on The Big East Network
  • 2 pm – Notre Dame @ Marquette on The Big East Network
  • 2 pm – South Carolina @ Vanderbilt on ESPN2
  • 4 pm- UCLA @ Arizona State on CBS
  • 4 pm – Texas @ Baylor on ESPN
  • 4 pm – Big South Championship: Winthrop vs. Coastal Carolina on ESPN2
  • 4 pm – Virginia Tech @ Georgia Tech on ESPN360
  • 6 pm – Tennessee @ Mississippi State on ESPN
  • 6 pm – Atlantic Sun Championship: ETSU @ Mercer on ESPN2
  • 8 pm – OVC Championship: Murray State vs. Morehead State on ESPN2
  • 9 pm – UNC @ Duke on ESPN
  • 9 pm – New Mexico State @ Utah State on ESPN360

We will be back at 11 AM for our continuing coverage so check back then and feel free to comment or ask questions in the comment section.

11:00: Nice showing by the Duke student for GameDay. Not going to be Kentucky because of the smaller student body and smaller arena.

11:10: Ugh. Speedo guy segment coming on GameDay. I will be switching the channel for a few minutes when that segment is going to start. Way to show segments that your audience will be interested in. Would they do a “Bikini girl” segment or would that not be PC?

11:20: Coach K does not approve of “Speedo guy”. I think we have finally found something that UNC fans will agree with him on. Seriously ESPN. Why are you featuring this idiot?

11:25: Be back in 5 minutes. Tell me when it is over.

11:30: Back again. Knight does not look amused, which amuses me.

11:40: Hey Lunardi. We had Zach Hayes on this over a month ago. This is why you don’t want a 96-team tournament. Also DeCourcy was right on expansion.

11:45: So Sherron Collins was a great athlete in high school, plays video games, and like macaroni. I’m glad we found that out. Why can’t GameDay do legit segments like the one on the Syracuse zone they did earlier this year?

Noon: Hubert picks UNC. Big surprise. Knight and Bilas are calling for a Duke beat down. I’d go with something in between the two.

12:05: Three interesting games on right now none of which is the FSU-Miami game that ESPN2 decided to show over Cincinnati-Georgetown. The best of the three games is clearly the West Virginia-Villanova game, which we are doing a RTC Live for so be sure to check that out.

12:15: Interesting news: Both Luke Harangody and Austin Freeman will play today according to Seth Davis and Jeff Goodman respectively.

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ATB: Maryland Becomes Everyone’s NCAA Sleeper Team

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2010

Large Wednesday.  It was a big-time night of games, the kind of evening that has you checking the clock all day long in nervous anticipation.  Most of the games ended in predictable fashion, but that didn’t make them any less interesting.  To get this out of the way, ranked teams #3 Kentucky, #6 Purdue, #10 New Mexico, #13 Tennessee, #15 BYU, #16 Temple, #17 Wisconsin and #24 Texas A&M all won, most easily.  UNM won the Mountain West title outright, and Kentucky grabbed at least a share of the SEC title tonight.  We’ll focus on the biggest games, the key games of bubbular interest, and the conference tourneys in this space tonight, though.

  • #2 Kansas 82, #5 Kansas State 65. ESPN got lucky that this game was only interesting for about thirty minutes tonight.  At the 15:39 mark of the second half, K-State’s Luis Colon hit a layup to pull the Wildcats back within one point, and we thought this battle between Big 12 stalwarts was destined to go down to the wire in Lawrence.  We were wrong.  Kansas seemingly awakened from its halftime slumber and went on a quick 9-0 run to open its lead back up to double digits.  KSU made one more push to get it back to six, but the Jayhawks used a 13-1 run to put the game away for the 59th consecutive time in Allen Fieldhouse.  The Kansas defense, virtually nonexistent in their loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday, was back in action here, holding their in-state rival to 40% shooting and limiting the opponents not named Denis Clemente or Jacob Pullen to a mere 24 points.  The old barn was rocking as Kansas won the Big 12 regular season outright and likely wrapped up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as well, but we’re not completely certain because we could hardly see the action on our ESPN360 feed.  KU walks into a trap game at Missouri on Saturday, while K-State should still finish second in the league with a win over Iowa State this weekend.

Sherron Collins: Winningest Player in KU History (KC Star/R. Sugg)

  • #23 Maryland 79, #4 Duke 72.  The better big game of the night took place in College Park, as Maryland outlasted Duke in a back-and-forth contest that resulted in the Terps tying the rival Blue Devils at the top of the ACC standings with one game remaining.  Ultimately, it was Gary Williams’ team, led by the animated and spectacular Greivis Vasquez (20/4/5 assts), who broke a 69-all tie with two minutes to go and ended the game on a 10-3 closing run.  In particular, it was Vasquez’s running, fading, only-the-kind-of-shot-he-would-take-and-make jumper that gave Maryland a four-point lead with 39 seconds left and forced Duke to start fouling soon thereafter.  We really shouldn’t read too much into one result in a rivalry game, so we won’t, but one thing is very clear in that Maryland has been playing the better part of two months much, much better than their ranking might 0therwise indicate.  Since the new year turned, the Terps have only lost at Wake (when WFU was playing well), Clemson and Duke.  That’s it.  Pollsters have been holding four nonconference losses against them, but if Maryland isn’t a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament, then we haven’t seen one.  As for the regular season title, the Terps will play in a trap game at Virginia this weekend, while Duke will actually have the easier home game against rival UNC.  If both win (or lose), then Duke will win the top seed in the ACC Tournament, but suffice it just to say that these two are clearly the best two teams in the ACC.  Now, about that RTC, Terp fans…  we love the quick, full coverage of the court, and we know it’s been a few years since you last beat Duke, but, what if you’re the better team?

Huge Bubble Games.

  • Notre Dame 58, Connecticut 50. There’s absolutely no question that the Irish are playing better without all-american Luke Harangody than they were with him.  Notre Dame won its third straight game over a solid team to put themselves squarely back into the NCAA picture, but with an RPI in the 60s, a win over Marquette this weekend and another in the Big East Tourney are needed.  The Ls keep piling up for UConn (13 now), but how long can you hide behind the excuse of a tough schedule and some big wins before you cut them out of the picture?
  • Florida State 51, Wake Forest 47.  Wake is busily playing itself from a projected #4 seed to outside the field in a short span of two weeks with the Deacs’ fourth straight loss tonight.  Al-Farouq Aminu had a ridiculous zero-point, five-foul performance in the loss, and with a game versus surging Clemson on Sunday, Wake could be staring at five Ls in a row to end the regular season.
  • Memphis 70, UAB 65.  In a battle of CUSA bubble teams, Memphis was able to get a big win while also wrapping up the #2 seed in next week’s Conference USA Tournament in Tulsa.  In most mock brackets, UAB is the second team out of this conference, but now Memphis has swept the season series between the two.  It will be interesting if they meet again in Tulsa with Memphis taking a third game as well.

Helped/Hurt Themselves.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.03.10

Posted by THager on March 3rd, 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 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Connecticut @ Notre Dame – 7:00 pm on ESPN (***)

This game will be absolutely crucial to the tournament stock of both teams.  If UConn gets in the tournament this year, it will be by the skin of their teeth, and if Notre Dame is actually dancing in March, they will likely be one of the last teams in.  Both of these teams are dangerous right now, as the Huskies have recently beaten Villanova and West Virginia, while the Irish are coming off victories against Pitt and Georgetown.  What is ironic about Notre Dame is that their recent run has come without superstar Luke Harangody.  If the Irish win their last two contests and win a game in the Big East tournament, how will the NCAA selection committee view his absence?  The more that ND wins without him, the less it seems they will be punished come selection time.  Tim Abromaitis, who has been Harangody’s sidekick this year, scored 53 points in the first two games Harangody was out (both games were losses), but when his point totals and shooting percentages dropped in his team’s last two games, the Irish won.  The team has only had seven bench points in their last two games, but every other starter has stepped up at times to take the weight off of Abromaitis.  In the previous matchup of these teams early in the year, Harangody scored 31 points and the bench did not score at all in a 12-point loss for the Irish.  If they can get double figure efforts from at least three starters and keep up their 1.7:1 assist to turnover ratio, they have an excellent shot of moving into one of those last spots in the field.

#5 Kansas St. @ #2 Kansas – 8:00 pm on ESPN 360 (*****)

Can KU's Mr. Big Shot Do It Again (Getty/P. Aiken)

KSU coach Frank Martin has already built up the game to be one of the biggest in school history, and nobody can blame him.  With a win tonight, Kansas State would make a huge jump in their bid for a top seed.  Unfortunately, the viewing for this game could be tricky.  It is being broadcast on the Big 12 network, which is not accessible to many fans across the country, and ESPN360 is available intermittently.  Fans can try to access channelsurfing.net and atdhe.net in order to view this game, because almost everybody can agree it is worth watching.  When these teams met earlier in Manhattan, Sherron Collins came up with a huge three-point play at the end of overtime to give Kansas the key victory.  The Jayhawks were unable to pull away earlier because they missed 11 free throws in the game.  Kansas actually shoots below 70% from the line on the year, and if the game goes down to the wire again, their free throw shooting could become a factor.  Kansas State has won seven consecutive games, and their wins have become increasingly more impressive, with solid victories at Texas Tech and against Missouri in their last two contests.  Now that some of KSU’s former opponents are now struggling, the Wildcats are still looking for a win against a great team, and if they can keep up their outstanding defensive efforts like they had against the Red Raiders and Tigers, they will have a great chance to win tonight.  Still, Kansas has an even better defense (the Jayhawks rank third in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive rankings), and with 58 consecutive wins at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks should likely win again in a highly entertaining matchup.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

  1. Kansas (13-0, 27-1) - After taking care of Texas A&M in College Station and Oklahoma on consecutive Big Mondays, there is only one game left that I could see the Jayhawks losing (at Mizzou). However, after Kansas dominated the Tigers at home earlier in the year, it looks like KU is in great shape to finish the Big 12 season undefeated.
  2. Kansas State (9-3, 22-4) - This year’s surprise team won two games against some of the conferences’ worst teams. The Wildcats are in the best position to finish second in the conference as of today, but their next three games (at Texas Tech, vs. Mizzou, at Kansas) are definitely not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
  3. Texas A&M (8-4, 19-7) - The Aggies and Wildcats are in similar positions. TAMU has the tiebreaker over Missouri, so if they take care of business down the stretch they will grab the three seed in the conference tournament. However, their last four games are all losable (at Baylor, vs. Texas, vs. Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma). Bryan Davis is coming on strong for this team as of late, and he will have to continue his dominant inside play if A&M wants to hold on to a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament.
  4. Baylor (7-5, 20-6) - I can’t fault the Bears for losing in Stillwater, especially when the best player in the conference is on the opposing team. In my opinion, Baylor has the best chance of any Big 12 team outside the state of Kansas to make the Elite Eight. Watch out for Quincy Acy, he is going to be key for Baylor in this home stretch.
  5. Missouri (8-4, 20-7) - The Tigers got a huge win over Texas at home on Wednesday that probably propelled them into the NCAA Tournament. Of the teams fighting for a first round bye in the Big 12 tournament I think Mizzou is least likely to get the spot because of its two games against Kansas State and Kansas, plus Baylor and Texas A&M have tiebreakers over them. Still, Mike Anderson and this MU team have been proven many critics wrong all season, so there is really no science to accurately predicting how the Tigers will finish.
  6. Texas (7-5, 21-6) - Luckily for the Longhorns they somewhat control their own destiny. If they beat Texas A&M in Lubbock and Baylor in Waco they will most likely finish in the top four of the conference. The problem is that UT has been a pretty bad road team in Big 12 play (3-4 to be exact), so any Longhorns fans that blindly assume they’ll win those two games are most likely hallucinating.
  7. Oklahoma State (7-5, 19-7) - The best news for the Cowboys in the last two weeks has to be the fact that Obi Muonelo has been stepping up his game. In games when Muonelo is in double figures scoring, OSU is 14-3. So it is pretty obvious that he is key to the Cowboys’ success. Outside of Muonelo, James Anderson continues to awe college basketball fans around the nation. He is certainly making a case for why he should be a First Team All-American.
  8. Texas Tech (4-8, 16-10) - The Red Raiders are officially dead after dropping two games last week. To their credit, no one thought they would even be in the discussion come February. Good news for Tech fans is that Pat Knight has this program going in the right direction, and he is recruiting some pretty good players for future seasons.
  9. Colorado (3-9, 12-14) - The Buffaloes picked up a nice win over OU in Boulder on Wednesday, and they have the opportunity to maybe get two more wins before the season is over (vs. Iowa State, at Nebraska). I’d say this year has been somewhat of a success for CU, the Buffs acquired another prolific scorer in Alec Burks and they have been a lot more competitive in conference play.
  10. Oklahoma (4-9, 13-14) - The 09-10 Oklahoma Sooners are the definition of letdown. They were returning one of the best freshman from the 08-09 season, and had a stellar recruiting class around him yet they couldn’t get it done. Tiny Gallon has returned, but with Willie Warren out due to mono it’s hard to see OU pulling off an unprecedented run in the Big 12 Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.
  11. Iowa State (2-10, 13-14) - The Cyclones have lost some heartbreakers this season, but overall it has also been a big letdown. Many people thought this would be the year ISU returned to its glory days and got back into the NCAA Tournament on the back of Craig Brackins. However, Brackins has seemed to have regressed from last season, and while JUCO transfer Marquis Gilstrap has made a huge impact it hasn’t been enough to get ISU even on the bubble.
  12. Nebraska (1-11, 13-14) - One of the more underrated players in the conference is Ryan Anderson of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers’ leading scorer is a great three-point shooter, and does a pretty good job rebounding the basketball for his height (6’4). Outside of Anderson, NU has few bright spots.

Player of the WeekJames Anderson (G), Oklahoma State - Anderson had his third thirty-point game this week in a huge win over Baylor at home. In that game he also pulled down 12 boards and was 80 percent from the free throw line. Since his “bad” game against Texas Tech the Cowboys are 3-0 and Anderson is averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Team of the Week – Oklahoma State Cowboys – Travis Ford and his Cowboys need only two more regular season wins to feel good about their chances for an NCAA at-large berth. This last week moved OSU from a team on the wrong side of the bubble to feeling comfortable especially after the huge upset over Baylor at home on Saturday.

This Week’s Predictions

Kansas State at Texas Tech (Tuesday February 23,  8:00 PM ET) - I usually wouldn’t see Kansas State losing this matchup, but they have been cutting it close against lesser opponents recently. If the Wildcats let up at all in this contest they will be on the wrong end of the scoreboard. On top of that, Mike Singletary is one of the better players in the conference and he usually plays very well in Lubbock. It isn’t a Big 12 Weekly Update if I don’t mention Jacob Pullen, but I think he will have a tough time against the Red Raiders who still haven’t given up hope on making the Tournament. By no means will a win get TTU instant consideration for a bid, but Pat Knight will have his players going hard like it’s a tournament play-in game. So I’m picking a huge upset here, and saying that the Red Raiders take down one of the hottest teams in the nation on Tuesday.

Winner: Texas Tech

Nebraska at Iowa State (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) - Both teams are on long losing streaks and they really want a win. You never know what can happen with a talented team like Iowa State if they can put together a run before the conference tournament starts. Nebraska is an abysmal road team, and I don’t see them putting up too much of a fight, even against Iowa State.

Winner: Iowa State

Colorado at Missouri (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) - The only team the Tigers have really dominated in conference play is Colorado. Mike Anderson has never lost to the Buffaloes in his tenure at Mizzou, and I don’t see it happening for the first time in Columbia with his team playing their second to last home game of the season. Keith Ramsey had a big game in the first matchup between these two teams so look for him to be a key part of Missouri’s attack.

Winner: Missouri

Texas A&M at Baylor (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) - Here is a tremendous matchup that has huge implications for first-round byes in the conference tournament. Neither team can afford a loss, especially Baylor, because teams like Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma State are nipping at their heels attempting to overtake them in the conference standings. It provides a great inside matchup between Bryan Davis and Ekpe Udoh, and also a great guard matchup between Donald Sloan and B.J. Holmes of A&M vs. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter of Baylor. These teams are about as even as any in the conference, so I will go with the home team in this game and say the Bears win an overtime thriller.

Winner: Baylor

Oklahoma State at Texas (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) - If any of you remember the Big Monday game between these two teams a few weeks back, you must recall James Anderson’s stellar first half performance. Then OSU faded in the second half and Texas took care of business in Stillwater. UT has a lot to play for because they still think they can win out, including the Big 12 Tournament, and maybe get a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would be a tremendous accomplishment at this point in the season. Damion James is the key to UT’s success, as he had an ok performance against Mizzou and the Longhorns lost that game on the road. If UT wants a big win they need James and Dexter Pittman to play like they were at the beginning of the season. I don’t like how Texas has been playing lately, but you still have to go with the Horns in Austin.

Winner: Texas

Iowa State at Colorado (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) - It’s a possible CBI Final preview in Boulder on Saturday. I like the Buffs in this game because they are the better team, and believe it or not they are not easy to beat at home.

Winner: Colorado

Baylor at Oklahoma (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) - The Bears should watch out here because it is the definition of a trap game. Norman will be loud as always, and the possibility of having Willie Warren back (although there is no way he would be close to 100 percent) is scary for BU fans. Tommy Mason-Griffin of OU is one to look for in this contest, as he has been the most efficient player for the Sooners all season and can be deadly from behind the arc. All that said, I don’t see any scenario in which Scott Drew lets his team lose focus and let this one slip away.

Winner: Baylor

Texas at Texas A&M (Saturday February 27, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) - The Longhorns seem to always struggle in College Station, then again so does most of the conference. I think Texas has the advantage of many mismatches in this game, for example UT’s experienced frontcourt against TAMU’s relatively inexperienced one. It’s hard for me to pick against the Aggies at home though, especially when the game is going to be sold out against an intrastate rival.

Winner: Texas A&M

Texas Tech at Nebraska (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET) - The Red Raiders should be hot coming off the Kansas State game and will blow out the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. NU is just overmatched athletically against every team in the Big 12, so its hard to think they will win any more games this season.

Winner: Texas Tech

Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET CBS) - The best player in the conference will be going up against the best team in the conference on Saturday in Stillwater. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are looking to stay undefeated, but James Anderson and Obi Muonelo should provide a tough roadblock for the Jayhawks to break through. I love Travis Ford and what he has done with the Cowboys’ program, and there is no doubt that Stillwater will probably be one of the louder places in the country this weekend, but I’ve learned my lesson picking against KU before. This team is too good, and they always find a way to win the big game.

Winner: Kansas

Missouri at Kansas State (Saturday February 27, 8:00 PM ET ESPNU) – Everyone in Manhattan has been waiting to get revenge on Missouri since the Tigers upset K-State in Columbia back in late December. Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels will be the key players for K-State if they are going to destroy MU like they’re capable of doing. I think Mizzou comes in and plays tough for the first 30 minutes, but then they will hit a second half scoring drought and the Wildcats will pull away with a big conference win over a rival.

Winner: Kansas State

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ATB: UConn Almost All the Way Back…

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

Was It the Refs? Connecticut 73, #7 West Virginia 62.  Jim Calhoun has definitely inspired his listless team in the last two weeks, and it could be no more apparent than tonight when the curmudgeonly old coach picked up a tech less than a minute into the game after his team found itself down 5-o early.  WVU’s Da’Sean Butler missed the two ensuing FTs, and the ‘street fight’ as Calhoun called it, was on.  The game featured a total of 45 fouls and 65 foul shots, leading Bob Huggins to state that “you can’t win” when the home team shoots two-thirds of the foul shots in a given game.  For his efforts, Huggins was thrown out of the game in the last minute for complaining about fouls.  Butler had his own opinion on the foul situation, but after throwing up a lousy 2-10 shooting night, he may be better served focusing on how the long arms of the UConn defense repeatedly frustrated him into tough shots.  On the UConn side, the story tonight was the continued emergence of Kemba Walker as a Devan Downey-style slasher who can get to the foul line for 10+ points per game.  In the Huskies’ last three wins, Walker has paraded to the foul line a total of 36 times (making 31) and is averaging 22/6 over that period.  When he’s playing at his best, UConn becomes a much more offensively diverse team, with Jerome Dyson bombing away from outside and Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards cleaning up the mess inside.  UConn has now defeated three top ten teams this season, but they still have work to do to ensure an NCAA Tournament bid.  You figure that they can get the Louisville game coming up next Sunday at home, but it’s the final two on the road — at Notre Dame and at South Florida — that have us worried.  This team is prone to letdowns, and those are two ripe situations for one.

It's Kemba Time (credit: John Woike)

Is Kansas a Great Team? #1 Kansas 81, Oklahoma 68.  KU wrapped up its sixth consecutive Big 12 regular season title with another dominant performance, overwhelming the Sooners with a 9-0 start and never looking back in a second half that hovered around the 20-point margin throughout.  Xavier Henry looked like the stud he  is surely becoming, with a 23/5 evening on 9-13 shooting from the field.  Sherron Collins (now the winningest player in KU history, along with Brady Morningstar) added 17/6 assts and Cole Aldrich 7/12 in their typically consistent way, but the reason we’re even asking the above question has mostly to do with the re-emergence of Henry on the offensive end.  After suffering through a bit of a January slump, the super-frosh has come on strong in his last five games, averaging 18/5 on 53% shooting and 10-21 from deep.  It’s no coincidence that the Jayhawks have not been seriously tested in four of those five games (A&M was the exception), and they’re the odds-on favorite to win the national title in Indianapolis six weeks from tonight.   KU is now three games from running the table in the Big 12 for the second time in its history (Roy’s ‘Hawks did it in 2002), and if they can do that, they’ll join a select but ignominious company of teams in the last decade to enter the postseason with only one loss (2008 Memphis,  2005 Illinois, 2004 St. Joseph’s, 2004 Stanford).  This KU team, however, is better than every one of those one-loss teams, and might just be the best team they’ve fielded in Lawrence since the 1997 Pierce/Vaughn/LaFrentz juggernaut.

Other Games of National Interest.  Zilcho.

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The Knight/Self Matter: Your Move, General

Posted by jstevrtc on February 18th, 2010

Sherron Collins‘ line after logging 16 minutes in the first half of Kansas’ eventual win at Texas A&M on Monday night:  three points, 0-3 shooting from the floor, 3-4 from the free throw line, three turnovers, no assists.

Not exactly his best half, of course.  Is it worth a benching?

Bob Knight thought so on Monday.  Providing color commentary for ESPN’s broadcast, Knight proclaimed that he would have benched Collins to start the second half, presumably to send a message.  What would that message be, exactly?  We’re guessing something along the lines of, “Hey, Sherron.  Play better.  And if you don’t, someone else  (like Brady Morningstar) will, so you’re expendable.”

Knight benching tactic: shrewd or outdated?

Keep in mind…this is Sherron Collins.  Leading returning scorer for KU over the last two seasons.  Pre-season All-American.  This is the guy who came off the bench for 11 points, six assists, and three steals in the 2008 title game as s sophomore.  That Mario Chalmers three-pointer to tie it with 2.1 seconds left in that championship game?  Collins had the assist.  Just three weeks ago, this was the kid who cringed through back spasms that had his muscles knotting up as if they were in vise grips during the Kansas State game…and still, in overtime, in one of the most raucous road environments of recent memory, when it came time to drive to the basket and take contact with less than ten seconds left, said to his coach and his team (as he has in many similar situations), “I want the ball.”

So…expendable?  We know Knight was just talking about not starting Collins; he wasn’t proposing sitting him for the game.  That would have been ludicrous.  But aren’t you taking a chance with that tactic?  If you’re going to use it, you’d better be sure that your star player will hear the message you’re trying to send, as opposed to another one that would do more damage.

Knight has taken a few hits in the media about his pro-benching comment.  And now, Bill Self has responded.

On the weekly Kansas coaches’ Hawk Talk radio show, Self was asked about Knight’s statement.  His response:  “Well, I think Coach Knight is very very wise, obviously with winning games and having a great mind…to be honest, we’re not just trying to win the game.  We’re trying to win over time.  I don’t believe in showing guys that you don’t have faith in them when things are not going well, when they’ve delivered over and over for you.  I’d never do that.”

Bill Self stuck up for his point guard and sent a message to his players -- current and future.

On a few levels, that’s great stuff from Bill Self.  From my view, that really seems to represent how he feels and isn’t just lip service.  And if you’re a recruit, isn’t that what you love to hear?  I’d feel much better knowing that the coach I could end up playing for isn’t going to sit me down or possibly give up on me when I make a mistake, or even when I’ve had a bad half.  It would be good to know that, if I’ve come through for my team on several occasions, a single bad half isn’t going to trump all of that in my coach’s eyes.  The current Jayhawks have now also witnessed another example of how he’ll stick up for them, even in this case where it’s the winningest D1 college coach of all-time offering his opinions about them.   While simultaneously complimenting Knight — though Self probably didn’t mean to put this spin on it — Self’s response makes Knight look like a stodgy, outdated disciplinarian who advocates a mind-game approach to dealing with players.  I don’t mean to put words in Coach Self’s mouth, there.  But can you think of any big-time college basketball player these days who would respond well to such a tactic without losing a little faith in his coach?  Knight’s move may have worked on his players back in his earlier days at Indiana, but this is a different time.

What will be interesting, now, is whether or not someone from ESPN asks Knight on the air about Self’s response.  I doubt that will happen, so the matter is probably concluded.  You have to admit, though — it’d be great to hear, and you know The General would love to offer his opinion.  Maybe somebody on the ESPN GameDay crew will step up for us this weekend if Knight makes the trip to Seattle.

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Morning Five: 02.18.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2010

  1. In an era of slashing budgets, it was surprising to hear that Fordham University is planning on heavily increasing their basketball expenditures in an effort to become a major player in the NYC metropolitan area and the Atlantic 10.  Perhaps given the pathetic status of local high-major programs at St. John’s and Rutgers, it’s a reasonable gamble.  The Rams are searching nationally for a new head coach, and if a higher salary and recruiting budget will draw a dynamic young coach to The Bronx, then perhaps this could elevate the program to an NIT level.
  2. Chalk Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim up as another coach who supports expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams.  The argument he makes is that there are “eight or nine teams” in the major conferences and to leave them out (he specifically cites UConn – 12th – and UNC – 9th) means that the “64 best” are not invited.  To which we say… stick to the coaching, Coach.  If the horrid Tar Heels and the schizo Huskies are good examples of teams that will be getting in under the new 96-team format, then Boeheim’s spouting off has already made the case against the change.
  3. Mike DeCourcy argues that the USBWA made a mistake in leaving off Malcolm Delaney and Matt Bouldin from their list of final sixteen candidates for the Oscar Robertson Trophy.  In reviewing the list, though, we’re not sure who he would suggest they leave out.  Delaney over Jon Scheyer or Dominique Jones?  Bouldin over James Anderson or Robbie Hummel?  We’re not really seeing the obviousness of this.
  4. While we’re on DeCourcy, if you’re interested in who he thinks the most underrated and overrated pro prospects are in college basketball this year, here’s your chance.  We here at RTC love, we mean LOVE, Sherron Collins‘ game at the collegiate level, but we can’t get on board with him as the next Jameer Nelson in any way, shape or form.  At that size, it takes a special talent to excel in the NBA, and we’re just not sure that Collins meets that threshold (which is to say nothing about his heart or will, which are huge).
  5. Did you guys hear that the NCAA has decided to expand the Tournament to 4,096 teams?  We’ve got our money backing the Xenon International School of Hair Design in this bracket.

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Evan Turner Favored in NPOY Straw Poll

Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2010

For the third week in a row, Michael Rothstein at AnnArbor.com has taken a straw poll of nearly fifty journalists from around the nation who have a vote in one of the major national Player of the Year awards (presumably the AP, Wooden, and Naismith).  Like the annual Heisman Trophy analyses that pop up every November, the straw poll gives us a sense as to who the top NPOY candidates are heading into the final few weeks of the season as well as any trends for better or worse that are occuring.  This week’s list, released Wednesday prior to tonight’s games, is below.

Right now it appears to be a two-horse race between Ohio State’s Evan Turner and Kentucky’s John Wall, but for the first time in the three weeks of the straw poll, The Villain received more votes.  It’s unclear whether these votes were tallied before Wall’s near-triple double on Tuesday night, but Turner more than held his own tonight against Purdue with 29/7/5 assts himself (although OSU lost the game).  If DeMarcus Cousins keeps putting in the work for John Calipari’s Wildcats, he could begin shaving off even more of Wall’s supporters, as murmurs of an anti-Wall hype backlash are already surfacing in some circles.

Evan Turner is #1, For Now...

It’s somewhat interesting to us that Scottie Reynolds outpolled Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson in the Big East, even though Johnson has been the more celebrated player throughout the season — their relative placement on this list could literally come down to one game in Syracuse on February 27.  If Kansas keeps winning, expect to see Sherron Collins rise up this list fairly quickly, especially if he has another big game where he leads his team to a close victory.  We wouldn’t think Cole Aldrich will have a similar track, though, simply because his overall numbers are so pedestrian compared to the other names above him on the list (note: we recognize his substantial impact, but NPOY winners have better numbers than Aldrich will have this year).

With nearly four weeks until Selection Sunday, keep in mind that college basketball writers are a fickle bunch.  At this time of year, one particularly inspiring nationally-televised game can seal it for a player near the top of this list.  For example, who could ever forget the dominating Kenyon Martin performance against DePaul that sealed his NPOY award in 2000, or the 30/16 game that a baby-faced freshman Kevin Durant dropped in a double-overtime win against rival Texas A&M in 2007?  There may not seem like there’s a lot of basketball to be played, but writers fairly or unfairly place much more emphasis on the games near the end of the season when making their selections.  It’ll be worth keeping an eye on this straw poll the final few weeks to see how it ends up.

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