Bracketology S-Curve Update: 03.05.12

Posted by zhayes9 on March 5th, 2012

Zach Hayes is RTC’s official bracketologist.

  • Last Four In: Northwestern, Xavier, Texas, South Florida.
  • First Four Out: Seton Hall, VCU, Tennessee, Oregon.
  • Next Four Out: Dayton, NC State, Arizona, St. Joseph’s.              

click on bracket to enlarge

S-Curve

  • 1 Seeds: Kentucky, Syracuse, Kansas, North Carolina
  • 2 Seeds: Duke, Michigan State, Missouri, Ohio State
  • 3 Seeds: Marquette, Michigan, Baylor, Georgetown
  • 4 Seeds: Indiana, Wisconsin, Florida State, Temple
  • 5 Seeds: Wichita State, Murray State, UNLV, Louisville
  • 6 Seeds: Vanderbilt, Florida, Notre Dame, Creighton
  • 7 Seeds: Iowa State, Gonzaga, San Diego State, New Mexico
  • 8 Seeds: Kansas State, Purdue, Memphis, Saint Mary’s
  • 9 Seeds: Cincinnati, Saint Louis, Alabama, Southern Miss
  • 10 Seeds: Virginia, Harvard, Connecticut, West Virginia
  • 11 Seeds: Colorado State, Mississippi State, California, BYU
  • 12 Seeds: Miami, Washington, South Florida, Texas, Long Beach State
  • 13 Seeds: Xavier, Northwestern, Drexel, Nevada, Oral Roberts
  • 14 Seeds: Davidson, Belmont, Akron, Montana
  • 15 Seeds: Denver, Valparaiso, Loyola (MD), Bucknell
  • 16 Seeds: UT-Arlington, UNC-Asheville, LIU-Brooklyn, Stony Brook, Mississippi Valley, Savannah State

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Set Your TiVo: 03.02.12 – 03.04.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are going to mix it up a bit for the final three days of the season. There are so many good games on the schedule that it wouldn’t do them justice to leave them unmentioned, not to mention the games with an impact for bubble teams. Here are some quick hitters on all the games you need to be following.

Top games:

West Virginia @ South Florida – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

The Bulls notched a huge win over Louisville earlier this week, but many feel they still have to win this game to ensure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers are hanging on by a thread but could really enhance their chances with a nice road victory in Tampa. This game has Big East Tournament implications as well, but both teams need it more for their NCAA chances. As a member of the Big East, South Florida has beaten 14 of the 15 other teams in the league. West Virginia is the only team they have yet to knock off. This would be one heck of a time to grab that win in West Virginia’s last regular season game as a member of the Big East. Pretty much everything is on the line in this game.

Can West Virginia Win A Big One On The Road?

#11 Georgetown @ #8 Marquette – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com (****)

Both teams are obviously in the NCAA Tournament so this game is about seeding more than anything. A win over the Golden Eagles would be Georgetown’s ninth against the RPI top 50 and fifth against the top 25. Marquette has just one RPI top 25 win (Wisconsin) so adding another could really help Marquette’s seeding when the NCAA committee debates next Sunday in Indianapolis. The winner of this game will grab the #2 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament. The contrast of styles in this game will be fascinating as Marquette looks to run at home against a disciplined Georgetown defensive unit.

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Bubble Watch: 02.27.12

Posted by zhayes9 on February 27th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Locks: Temple, Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Syracuse, Marquette, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Wichita State, Creighton, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Murray State, Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga.

Note: all RPI/SOS numbers compiled Sunday.

Dee Bost and Mississippi State is falling perilously close to the bubble

Atlantic 10

Saint Louis (22-6, 10-4)- The worst thing a bubble team can do this time of year is sustain a “bad” loss. Bad doesn’t even begin to describe Saturday’s setback at sub-#250 RPI Rhode Island. The overall record, #36 RPI, high KenPom/Sagarin rating and wins over fellow bubble teams Xavier, St. Joe’s and Dayton are positives, but the URI loss is undoubtedly a black mark on the resume. The winner of their rematch with Xavier on Tuesday will feel much more secure about their chances.

Xavier (18-10, 9-5)- The Musketeers haven’t exactly impressed lately, barely dodging Dayton and Richmond at home in between a seven-point defeat at UMass. Their resume is boosted by a difficult non-conference schedule which includes wins at Vanderbilt and home vs. Purdue. Xavier sits firmly on the cut line with an RPI of 53, SOS of 50 and a 5-6 road record. If they fall short at SLU, they’ll need to beat Charlotte at home and at least one game in the A-10 Tournament.

Saint Joseph’s (19-11, 9-6)- The Hawks jumped back into the bubble hunt with their win over ranked and red-hot Temple on Saturday and their computer numbers (51 RPI, 44 SOS, 41 non-conference SOS) suggests they could be around awhile. The win over Creighton is also helpful, but St. Joe’s lost five times to sub-#80 RPI teams, including Richmond, Charlotte and American. They’ll need to avoid a potential pitfall at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and forge deep into the A-10 Tournament. St. Joe’s beat Dayton and lost to Xavier.

Dayton (18-10, 8-6)- Dayton’s mid-season four game losing skid keeps them on the outside looking in for now and the Flyers also have the worst RPI (61) of the A-10 bubble teams. Dayton’s lost four games to sub-100 RPI competition including #232 Miami (OH) and #251 Rhode Island. The 3-6 road record also stings. Keeping them afloat are wins at Temple and at home against Alabama, Saint Louis and Xavier. Winning their final two at Richmond and vs. George Washington are musts.

ACC

Virginia (21-7, 8-6)- The Cavs have three chances to lock up a bid to end the season: North Carolina, Florida State and at Maryland. They fell painfully short in the first opportunity, losing to the Heels by three in Charlottesville. Only one RPI top-50 win over Michigan from back in November and a #223 non-conference SOS will hurt their seed, Virginia should get in at 9-7 in the ACC in this bubble climate. Virginia also won at Oregon and beat Miami at home. A win over FSU locks up a bid.

Miami (16-10, 7-6)- Despite Reggie Johnson’s suspension, the Canes soundly handled Florida State, a win tremendously important to their at-large chances. Prior to Sunday, their second-best win after Duke was #81 RPI Massachusetts. Miami has a stellar #48 RPI and #32 SOS, but they’re far from comfortably in with a 4-7 road record and a 4-10 record vs. the RPI top-100. Their Wednesday trip to Raleigh is huge. They can’t afford another road setback after losing at Maryland last week.

NC State (18-11, 7-7)- Mark Gottfried’s bunch had three chances for resume-building wins at Duke and home vs. UNC and Florida State. They lost all three and compounded the problem by falling at #144 RPI Clemson this past Saturday. NC State is 0-8 vs. the RPI top-50 and now stands at 7-7 in the ACC with a #67 RPI. A loss in either of their final two games vs. Miami and at Virginia Tech would all but eliminate them from bubble contention. They’ll need to claw their way to 9-7 and defeat one of the ACC’s big three in the conference tournament to have a chance.

Big 12

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Bubble Watch: 02.20.12

Posted by zhayes9 on February 20th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Locks: Temple, North Carolina, Florida State, Duke, Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, Syracuse, Marquette, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Wichita State, Creighton, New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State, Murray State, Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga.

Tu Holloway stepped up Saturday against Dayton to keep Xavier in the field

Atlantic 10

Saint Louis (22-5, 10-3)- The Billikens tournament hopes could ride on how much the committee factors in their attractive computer numbers (21 RPI, 11 KenPom, 17 Sagarin) and discards a void in the quality win department. Their only decent wins came over bubble teams Xavier (road) and Washington (home) while missed opportunities at New Mexico and home vs. Temple loom large. A 10-3 conference record, stellar RPI and another win over Xavier when the Musketeers return to SLU on February 28 should be sufficient for a bid.

Xavier (17-9, 8-4)- The unpredictable Musketeers stayed on the right side of the bubble by dispatching Dayton in overtime on Saturday and their only opportunity for a resume-building win is the aforementioned meeting with Saint Louis. Avoiding a defeat at Massachusetts on Tuesday is paramount given Xavier’s already questionable losses against Hawaii, La Salle and Oral Roberts when their team was depleted by suspensions. Xavier does have impressive wins at Vanderbilt and home vs. Purdue, but both of those came before December 3. Their #54 RPI and #54 SOS screams bubble team.

ACC

Virginia (20-6, 7-5)- The Cavaliers have long been considered NCAA worthy but their overall portfolio is actually quite lacking. Their only two RPI top-50 wins came over Michigan back in November and a one-point home win over Miami, while regrettable losses to TCU, Clemson and home vs. Virginia Tech loom. The #231 non-conference strength of schedule is another anchor. The remaining schedule isn’t forgiving – revenge game at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, at Maryland– but on the flip side there are two RPI top-20 scalps coming to Charlottesville. Win just one and Tony Bennett can breathe easier.

NC State (18-9, 7-5)- The Wolfpack just concluded a devastating week, blowing a huge second half lead at Duke and 48 hours later getting blown out of the water at home against Florida State. With only one RPI top-50 win after Texas fell out following their own crushing loss, State is barely our last team in. The only chance for resuscitation is by beating North Carolina at home on Tuesday and finishing off a sweep of Miami on February 29. They also face a tricky road game at Clemson sandwiched in between. The computer numbers (57 RPI, 38 SOS, 29 non-conference SOS) are respectable.

Miami (16-9, 7-5)- At the moment, the Canes are pinning their tournament hopes on that crucial road win against Duke on Super Bowl Sunday because they have absolutely nothing else. Their next best wins by RPI is UMass at home, largely because all their important non-conference games – at West Virginia, at Purdue, Memphis– were played without star center Reggie Johnson. The Canes were also swept by North Carolina, lost at Virginia and Florida State and fell to NC State at home. The Seminoles return date on February 26 is a must win or the resume will be too empty to deserve serious consideration.

Big 12

Iowa State (19-8, 7-5)- The most difficult portion of the Cyclones schedule is yet to come with games at Kansas State, at Missouri and home vs. Baylor to wrap up the regular season. Winning either road game would solidify their bid, but even downing Baylor in Ames would give them home wins over Kansas, Baylor and Kansas State, likely enough to punch a ticket in this bubble climate. Iowa State has average numbers (42 RPI, 35 KenPom, 36 Sagarin) and bad losses at Drake, home vs. Northern Iowa and at Oklahoma State. They beat fellow bubble team Texas 77-71 at home in their only meeting.

Kansas State (18-8, 7-7)- The #59 RPI, #250 non-conference SOS and sweep at the hands of Oklahoma are setbacks, but their overall profile appears solid after Saturday’s enormous win at Baylor coupled with wins vs. Missouri, Texas and in the  non-conference vs. Long Beach State and Alabama. Both KenPom and Sagarin like the Wildcats more than the flawed RPI, ranking Kansas Stateat #25 in the country. Tuesday’s trip to Missouri is basically house money with three winnable games vs. Iowa State, at Texas A&M and vs.Oklahoma State remaining on the Big 12 slate. Take care of business in those three and Frank Martin’s squad is in the field.

Texas (17-10, 7-7)- Tonight’s clash with Baylor in Austin is just as enormous to their tournament chances as Saturday’s bad loss at Oklahoma State. The young Horns don’t stand a chance at Kansas; with Texas Tech and Oklahoma their only other remaining games before the Big 12 Tournament, this is their golden opportunity to stay viable for the selection committee. The losses to Kansas and Missouri by a combined five points loom large. Their best wins to date are all at home vs.Temple, Iowa State and Kansas State. Texas has yet to beat a team in the RPI top 100 on the road.

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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by IRenko on February 11th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

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

Top 10 Results of the Past Week

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Night Line: Larry Eustachy Has Southern Miss On Track For Its First NCAA Bid in 21 Years

Posted by EJacoby on February 2nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Head coach Larry Eustachy hasn’t led a team to the NCAA Tournament since his two-seed Iowa State Cyclones were upset in the first round of 2001. But the Southern Miss basketball program has waited even longer, as it’s been 21 years since the Golden Eagles went dancing. This season, the combination of Eustachy’s guidance and a collection of veteran players have USM in prime position to earn a ticket to the Big Dance, whether as the champion of their league or an at-large selection. On Wednesday night, the Golden Eagles snapped a 17-game losing streak against Memphis by defeating the Tigers, 75-72, to earn sole possession of first place in Conference USA. A program that has never won an NCAA Tournament game is well on their way to having a chance to do so this season.

Larry Eustachy is Back in Control of a Potential NCAA Tournament Team (AP/S. Coleman)

Southern Miss (20-3, 7-1 C-USA) has quietly put together a solid resume this season, and Wednesday’s win was the signature victory they needed to justify their sparkling record. The Golden Eagles have only lost to undefeated Murray State in Alaska, at Denver in its first ‘real’ game, and at Memphis by two points earlier in the season. The Denver loss appears rough, but the Pioneers are actually a top 100 RPI team at 16-6, 6-3 in the Sun Belt, and it’s never easy to play a true road game at the start of the season. Meanwhile, Southern Miss has been flawless in the rest of its conference games and also boasts road wins at Colorado State and Arizona State and home victories over Ole Miss and South Florida, both of which are above .500 in the SEC and Big East, respectively. Tally it all up and the Golden Eagles have a spectacular RPI of #11, which is music to the NCAA Tournament committee’s ears.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.01.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two previously Top 10 teams (UConn and Indiana) are in major slides right now and have a chance to regain confidence with road wins tonight, though both are in very difficult spots. Also, perhaps the biggest game of the C-USA season takes place this evening. Here’s what to look for:

#22 Indiana at #20 Michigan – 6:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (****)

Can Indiana Stop Trey Burke's Dribble Drive Tonight? (AP Photo)

  • The Hoosiers have lost four of six games and are rapidly descending in the rankings. However, they are coming off a 103-point scoring performance in a win over Iowa and they hung tough at Wisconsin in their previous game before coming up short. If Tom Crean’s team is really turning the corner in the Big Ten, then they need to prove it tonight with nothing other than a victory. Cody Zeller has been outstanding in conference play and will be the go-to man tonight against a suspect Wolverines interior defense that allowed the freshman to go 8-10 with 18 points in their first meeting, a slim Indiana win at home. IU has been efficient offensively lately without being overly reliant on the three-point shot, which is a good formula on the road. But their chances at winning tonight really boil down to  their ability to stop Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s penetration, as both players have the ability to carve up soft defenses. Indiana has an insanely high 110.4 defensive efficiency in conference, which will not cut it tonight. An improved defensive effort, however, will give them a great chance to win.
  • The Wolverines have held serve at home this season at 12-0 and will look to feed off the Ann Arbor crowd. As discussed above, this game is all about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. for Michigan. The two guards are the only players in double-figure scoring (14.1 PPG and 15.2 PPG, respectively) and should have plenty of opportunities to penetrate a weak Indiana half-court defense. If they are making plays and setting up Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz for open threes, UM is right where they want to be. Michigan has played much better defense at home this season and should not allow Indiana to shoot the lights out like they have been able to in some games.
  • It’s probably getting repetitive, but this game completely comes down to Indiana’s defensive intensity in the half-court. Michigan has the advantage at home and is a four-point favorite, but this would be no upset if Indiana won. If early in the game you see Burke bouncing the ball for 20 seconds during possessions and struggling to get into the paint, you’ll know IU is doing a good job on the perimeter. Prediction: Michigan comes through with a slim victory.

Connecticut at #15 Georgetown – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

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Set Your TiVo: 01.27 – 01.29

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 27th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There aren’t too many big time matchups on the schedule this weekend but it’s still a decent slate of games to keep you occupied.

Mississippi State @ #12 Florida – 1:30 PM EST Saturday on ESPN FullCourt/ESPN3.com  (***)

Florida May Struggle to Contain the Mississippi State Big Men

  • It has gone largely unnoticed but Florida has won six of its past seven games since losing at Rutgers in December. The Gators bring the top-rated offensive efficiency to the table and are a threat to win any game they play because of it. However, Billy Donovan’s team is thin up front and lacks the lockdown defense elite teams exhibit. Against Mississippi State, Florida could very have major problems dealing with the Bulldogs’ front line. Patric Young attempted double figure shots for only the fifth time this season against Mississippi on Thursday. Without a go-to guy in the post, Florida’s offense revolves around Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton with Brad Beal and forward Erik Murphy, a pick-and-pop specialist. Florida will attempt plenty of threes, connecting 40.7% of the time. Scoring from outside shouldn’t be a major problem against Mississippi State but stopping the Bulldogs inside will be.
  • Rick Stansbury has a huge advantage in this game with Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney in his frontcourt. Florida can’t match those two players and the Bulldogs should be pounding the ball inside all day long on Saturday. However, Dee Bost has to be able to create and get into the lane in order to get Moultrie and Sidney going early and often. If Bost isn’t able to penetrate Florida’s defense, the Gators can pack it in and dare Mississippi State to beat them from the outside. Of more concern to Stansbury has to be his defense. In SEC play, the Bulldogs are allowing opponents to shoot 43.4% from beyond the three point arc. If Florida shoots anywhere near that percentage, it’s likely going to be a long afternoon at the O-Dome for the visitors from Starkville.
  • In order to steal an important road win, the Bulldogs have to rebound and score in the paint as well as in transition off long rebounds since neither team turns the ball over much. Fast break points will be at a premium in this game but whichever team wins that category will have an advantage. However, the most important part of Mississippi State’s game plan has to be defending the three point line. If the Bulldogs can’t, they won’t win in Gainesville. Even with all that said, this is a game Mississippi State can win with a strong effort. Florida needed a second half rally to defeat Ole Miss in its last game and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Mississippi State could spring the upset.
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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 13th, 2012

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl.

Reader’s Take:

 

The Week That Was

  • UCF Hits Speed Bump With Transfers: Usually at this point in the season it’s all about lacing up the sneakers and getting to business. However, the challenges striking the Central Florida men’s basketball program persist. Transfer guard Jeffrey Jordan, Michael’s oldest son, left the Knights over the weekend citing “personal reasons” and Central Florida Future announced Thursday that senior forward Dwight McCombs will be following suit after he was handed a season-ending suspension on Wednesday. The losses may not seem like that big of a deal with Jordan sitting on the bench and McCombs only averaging 2.4 points and 2.5 rebounds a night; however, the decisions of both players to leave the school only adds additional trouble to a program that has been marred with the departure of its athletic director this season.
  • Memphis Continues Success Against Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles took the nation’s seventh-longest winning streak into FedEx Forum on Wednesday night (11 games), but exited with their third loss of the season and their 18th consecutive loss to the Memphis Tigers. On the other sideline, the Tigers enjoyed their 135th home victory since the 2004-2005 season. Memphis is the winningest home team in the nation at 135-16 since that year. The Tigers were able to hold to a close victory behind a pair of Chris Crawford free throws with 31.7 seconds remaining.
  • Dennis Tinnon Has A Career Night: Marshall barely escaped with a victory last night, defeating UAB 60-58 and setting up a marquee conference matchup with UCF on Saturday night.  Junior forward Dennis Tinnon led the Thundering Herd, grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds. Another unheralded junior, forward Robert Goff, sealed the victory for Marshall with a gigantic three-point play with under a minute to play. DeAndre Kane also enjoyed a successful evening, scoring 21 points and recording 10 rebounds. UAB senior Cameron Moore put the Blazers up late, but failed to convert on what would have been a game-tying basket in the final seconds.
  • Kazemi Keeps Rolling: Rice’s Arsalan Kazemi continued his case for conference player of the year last night in a 68-52 rout against Southern Methodist. The junior forward recorded his 40th career double-double, the 13th of the season, which ranks him as the nation’s best. The Iran native finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Freshman Ahmad Ibrahim made a solid first career start for the Owls, recording 14 points.

Head Coach Donnie Jones (left) Hit A Bump In The Road When Dwight McCombs And Jeffrey Jordan Decided To Leave The Knights.

Power Rankings

  1. Memphis (11-5, 2-0): They may not have the conference’s best overall record, but the Tigers are the deepest team in conference and they have the most offensive firepower. Wednesday’s win over Southern Miss proved that the Tigers can win defensive bouts too. Memphis has won six of its last seven after falling from the national rankings. Will Barton continues to put forth a First-Team All-Conference effort, averaging 18.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per night.
  2. Southern Miss (15-3, 2-1): The Golden Eagles were unquestionably the best team in conference until last night, which should be a great learning lesson for a relatively young team. Southern Miss can rebound the ball almost better than anyone in conference, averaging 38.1 boards a night as a team, which is third only to UCF and Marshall in C-USA. Senior guard Darnell Dodson has elevated his play.
  3. UCF (13-3, 3-0): With guard A.J. Rompza back in the lineup, the Knights have been unbeatable, winning both at home (carrying a 16-game home win streak) and on the road. Forward Keith Clanton and guard Marcus Jordan continue to be the conference’s best duo for coach Donnie Jones in what has been an up-and-down season for the Knights.
  4. Marshall (12-4, 3-0): If Marshall—the same team that has wins over Cincinnati and Iona—is the fourth best team in conference, then C-USA could be presenting a reasonable case for four teams come March. The Thundering Herd have revived from a two-game losing streak by winning their first three conference games. DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts have found a force in the low post in junior forward Dennis Tinnon. Marshall is fourth in the country in rebounds with over 42 a night.
  5. Rice (10-7, 1-1): Arsalan Kazemi continues to be the story here. The junior forward is averaging 14.4 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, leading the nation in double-doubles with 13 this season. Fellow junior Tamir Jackson has been a pivotal player, running the team’s offense and averaging 12.9 points per game. The Owls don’t seem to be in the upper echelon of the conference, but with Kazemi they will contend throughout the season.
  6. Tulane (12-4, 0-2): After a 9-0 start, the Green Wave has stumbled; however, there isn’t a team in the conference that has played a tougher schedule in recent weeks. Since their December 22 loss to top-ranked Syracuse, the Green Wave has played two of the conference’s best teams in UCF and Southern Miss.
  7. Houston (9-7, 1-2): The Cougars have followed a five-game win streak with back-to-back conference loses at UTEP and UCF. With the losses, Houston has fallen to the middle of the conference rankings, but have a huge opportunity this weekend when they play host to the Memphis Tigers. If the Cougars can continue shooting the way they have this past month, then they can contend with anybody. Currently, Houston ranks 25th in the country in shooting percentage, knocking down 48.3% of their shots from the field.
  8. SMU (9-7, 1-1): Senior forward Robert Nyakundi continues to lead the Mustangs, averaging 15.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The Arlington native hasn’t had to do it alone, though, with the addition of Texas transfer Shawn Williams. The sophomore swingman has been an immediate contributor in Dallas since joining the team on the court eight games ago. Williams isn’t the only transfer making a difference. Junior guard London Giles, a Nevada transfer, has been a crucial performer at SMU all season, averaging 11.5 points per game.
  9. Tulsa (8-9, 1-2): Another team on the outside looking in, the Golden Hurricane have struggled consistently this season in close games, losing three times in overtime and four times by three points or less. Jordan Clarkson will end up on an All-Conference team, but he hasn’t much help thus far.
  10. UTEP (8-9, 1-2): Tim Floyd’s squad enjoyed a bit of a revival before the holidays, but has floundered since, failing to win consecutive games since December 22. The Miners enjoyed a nice home victory over Houston, but haven’t been able to win a true road game all season. Although they haven’t found a replacement for Randy Culpepper, the Miners are extremely deep with a bench of 11 players.
  11. East Carolina (9-6, 0-2): The backcourt has been stout this season for the Pirates. Junior Miguel Paul has emerged as one of the best point guards in the conference, scoring 16.2 points and dishing out 5.7 assists per night. Senior forward Darius Morrow has also been a force for ECU, averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. In addition, the big man is shooting 54 percent from the field for a streaky Pirate club that won five straight heading into conference play, but have gone 0-2 early on.
  12. UAB (5-10, 0-2): The Blazers have continued a porous non-conference run with a rough conference start, dropping contests at home to Memphis and Marshall. UAB’s offense is still the worst in conference, averaging less than 60 points per game. Even worse, preseason conference player of the year Cameron Moore has been spectacular, but hasn’t been able to abate the Blazers’ woes. With their next four games scheduled against Southern Miss, Rice, UCF and Marshall, the losing skid could very well continue.

Looking Ahead

  • UCF at Marshall, January 14 at 7 p.m. ET: While the Southern Miss-Memphis showdown lived up to the hype, C-USA fans will be watching this one with a close eye as first place in the conference is on the line. It will be extremely interesting to watch the backcourt duo of A.J. Rompza and Marcus Jordan duel against DeAndre Kane and Damier Pitts. Marshall boasts a three-game winning streak; however, it is UCF that is undoubtedly the hottest team in the conference. The Knights have won nine of their last 10.
  • Rice at Tulane, January 14 at 8 p.m. ET: Two of the conference’s best individual talents will square off on Saturday when Arsalan Kazemi leads the Owls into New Orleans against Kendall Timmons and the Green Wave. Tulane is coming off a full week’s rest and is arguably the most rested team in conference, which should play into their favor against a Rice team that has played five games since the holiday break.
  • Memphis at Houston, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET: The Tigers are riding an emotional high into Saturday’s contest at the Hofheinz Pavillion, which gives the Cougars the perfect opportunity to pull the upset. Houston is probably the best team in conference to matchup against Memphis’ high-powered offense. Currently, the Cougars are 39th in the nation in points per game with 76.6 a night. Houston has developed a quartet of double-digit scorers in addition to three other players that average more than six points a night. The Cougars are surprisingly deep and shouldn’t be overlooked.
  • SMU at UTEP, January 14 at 9 p.m. ET: Neither of these clubs is able to rebound well, lacking frontcourt talent and depth. The Mustangs rank 326th in the nation in rebounding with an average of 30.4 boards a game, while the Miners are even worse at 335th with 29.6 rebounds a night. However, UTEP has been able to improve its field goal percentage in recent weeks, shooting 47.4% from the field. Last time they played in the Don Haskins Center, the Miners shot 61.2% in a 70-50 thumping over Houston on January 7.
  • Marshall at West Virginia, January 18 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3): This game serves as the conclusion for Marshall’s non-conference schedule and provides head coach Tom Herrion’s club with another opportunity to showcase their talent on national TV. Of course, this is an in-state rivalry so the emotions will be as high as any game this season. So far, Marshall is 1-1 against Big East competition. Another win against the nation’s deepest conference, in addition to their victory over Iona, could serve them come March if they fall short in the conference tournament.
  • Memphis at UCF, January 18 at 8 p.m.: It’s not too early to look towards next week’s conference schedule with Memphis traveling to take on Central Florida in a matchup that could be for first place in the conference. Another marquee game to look ahead at is Marshall at Southern Miss, which won’t be played until January 21 and will be aired on national television. These are the four top teams in conference and for the second straight week in a row, there will be a pair of pivotal conference matchups that feature all four.

Spotlight On…Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan

UCF has greatly benefited from the addition of A.J. Rompza and from the development of sophomore guard Isaiah Sykes. However, it has been the tandem of Clanton and Jordan that has fueled the Knights this season with consistent performance. Clanton is arguably the best post player in the conference, averaging 15.4 points and 9.6 rebounds a game. His latest performance against Houston, a 18 point and 13 rebound outing that included 5 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals, showed that he will be able to dominate teams with inferior big men, which the conference is chock full of. To further understand Clanton’s importance, one only needs to evaluate the Knights as a team. They are ranked 200th or lower in every major statistical category other than rebounding, where they rank 38th in the country with an average of 38.9 boards a night. In addition to Clanton, Marcus Jordan has been playing top-notch ball for head coach Donnie Jones. In addition to be the team’s leading scorer, Jordan has been the epitome of consistency, scoring in double-digits in all fourteen games he has played in so far this season. In a season filled with tons of upheaval for the UCF athletic department, the Knights basketball program has weathered the storm, winning nine of its last ten. They couldn’t have done it without the stellar play of both Clanton and Jordan.

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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 26th, 2011

Steve Coulter—is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl.

Reader’s Take:

 

The Week That Was

  • Rice Upsets Texas A&M; Kazemi Records 36th Career Double-Double: The conference had arguably its best night of the season on Thursday, posting a 6-2 overall record, which was highlighted by Rice’s 65-58 upset victory over Texas A&M at College Station. Junior forward Arsalan Kazemi led Rice with 10 points and 13 rebounds, recording his ninth double-double of the season and 36th of his career, as the Owls snapped the Aggies’ 80-game regular season, non-conference home win streak. Kazemi is now six double-doubles shy of the conference record. The junior carried the scoring load in his sophomore season, but has found help this season from fellow junior Tamir Jackson and senior Lucas Kuipers.
  • Tulane Drops Second Game, Falling to Syracuse: The conference’s only losses Thursday night came against ranked competition. Tulane took on #1 Syracuse, losing 80-61 in a lopsided contest. However, the team’s trio of top scorers Kendall Timmons, Jordan Callahan and Ricky Tarrant were not shut out, combining for 41 points. Timmons was the top performer, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
  • Memphis’ Continues To Tumble: The high-powered Memphis Tiger offense was contained and exposed on Thursday night when it faced the #16 Georgetown Hoyas, falling 70-59. Despite averaging 80 points a contest, Memphis was held in check throughout the game, which has become a trend when the Tigers take on tougher competition. Sophomore guard Will Barton continued his fantastic play, contributing a double-double in the losing effort. Barton finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but fellow sophomore Chris Crawford led the team with 17 points. Barton currently leads the conference in scoring with an average of 19.9 points per game, which is more than two points higher than UCF’s Marcus Jordan, who is second in scoring.
  • UTEP Builds Mo’ In Hawaii: In the first game of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, UTEP had a chance to make a statement and did, dominating Clemson. The Miners walked away with a 61-48 victory, following a 23-8 run during the game’s final 13 minutes. The Tigers recorded a lone field goal during that span. With the win, UTEP improves to .500 for the first time this season. Though they fell to the streaking Wildcats in the semifinal game, UTEP bounced back in the consolation round, holding off Auburn 83-76. The Miners are streaking at the right time, winners of four of their last five. Sophomore guard Michael Perez is finally filling the void left by Randy Culpepper, as he averaged over 17 points per game in the Diamond Head Classic.

Marcus Jordan Is Second In Conference USA In Scoring And The Knights Boast Two Of The League's Top Five Point-Scorers (Credit: Chris Schubert).

Power Rankings

  1. Tulane (11-2): The Green Wave suffered its second loss of the season on Thursday night, but they take a lot of experience away from facing the top-ranked team in the country. Tulane is the best defensive team in conference, allowing only 55.1 points a night. In comparison, the league’s worst defensive team, Memphis, allows 74.3 points per night. Kendall Timmons has found a long-term running partner in freshman Ricky Tarrant, who has blossomed into a star in the early part of this season.
  2. Southern Miss (10-2): It’s hard to pick nits on a team that has won six in a row. Southern Miss has emerged as one of the best teams in conference because they play complete team basketball. Lacking a consistent top performer, the Golden Eagles have relied on several players to make plays.  A lot of credit goes to the Golden Eagles seniors such as Darnell Dodson and Maurice Bolden, who each recorded a double-double in Thursday night’s win over South Florida. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.20.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 20th, 2011

  1. Break up the Utes! After dropping eight straight games and needing ten games to notch its first win over a Division I opponent, Utah has now won two in a row after knocking off Portland Monday night behind a career-high 26 points from senior point guard Josh Watkins. The Utes started hot and never trailed, but needed three big defensive plays – two blocked shots and a drawn charge – in the final two minutes to seal the game. Meanwhile, JuCo transfer Cedric Martin has turned into a solid second scoring option for Larry Krystkowiak’s club, hitting three threes on the night on his way to his third-straight game with double-digit scoring. Their trip to Weber State on Thursday figures to be a bit tougher, but it is good to see this team showing some life.
  2. Once again, we’ve got a Pac-12 team coming up with new and exciting ways to lose basketball games. Well, for Arizona State, I guess this isn’t all that new, as Monday night they lost their second-straight game on a buzzer-beating three. The most recent perpetrator was Southern Mississippi’s Darnell Dodson (formerly of Kentucky), playing in his first game back after having been dismissed from the team in April following a guilty plea to multiple criminal charges. Dodson played just a minute in the first half, but scored 17 points in the second half, including the game winner as time expired. The Sun Devils had rallied from 11-points down with under four minutes to play to tie the game up, after leading for the first 32 minutes. Keala King was spectacular for Herb Sendek’s team down the stretch, scoring five points, grabbing four rebounds, handing out three assists and swiping a couple steals in the final four minutes on his way to his first career double-double and likely his most complete game in a Sun Devil uniform.
  3. Somebody stole USC’s uniforms on Monday night. Either that or the scorekeeper was drunk. One of the two. How else to explain an 83-point outburst for a team that came into the game ranked 340th in the nation with just over 54 points per game. The Trojans scored 36 points in a loss against Cal Poly earlier in the season, but scored more than that in each half last night in its 24-point win over TCU. Maurice Jones led the way with 25 points, but sophomore Dewayne Dedmon chipped in 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, grabbed six boards and was exceptionally active defensively, blocking three shots and getting three steals. Not only did the Trojans put in an unprecedented display offensively (aside from knocking down shots, they only turned the ball over four times), they also got back to playing defense the way they are used to, forcing 20 Horned Frog turnovers.
  4. Weird story out of Eugene today, as ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan posted a story citing quotes supposedly from Dana Altman’s postgame press conference following Oregon’s home loss to Virginia on Sunday, in which Altman apparently ripped everything from the Ducks’ play to the Cavs’ Mike Scott and even the team’s pregame spaghetti. Only problem was, Altman never said any of those things. Oregon sports information director Chris Geraghty said that the Ducks’ website had been “compromised” at some point on Sunday night with a hacker making changes to Altman’s published postgame quotes.
  5. Lastly, let’s put the name Jabari Brown to bed for awhile. Brown, who was Altman’s big program-changing five-star recruit, lasted exactly two games and produced 12 points in his Duck career before suddenly leaving the team in the middle of the semester with the intention to transfer out of the program. On Monday, it became official that Brown has committed to Frank Haith and Missouri, as had been rumored for the last couple weeks, and he will be eligible as a sophomore at the end of the first semester in 2012. In the meantime, Brown threw away a season of eligibility for no obvious reason, and we shall never speak of him again around these parts.
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Checking In On… Conference USA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2011

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for Conference USA. You can also find his musings online at http://www.duclarion.com/sports or on Twitter @broncos2thebowl.

Reader’s Take:

 

The Week That Was

  • Memphis Drops From Top 25: Memphis is unranked following the program’s 76-72 loss to Murray State last week. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Memphis and catapulted the Racers into the Top 25. The Tigers received 13 votes in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches poll along with 27 votes in the Associated Press poll, neither number being high enough to keep Memphis in the rankings with a mediocre 5-3 start. The Tigers have a chance at redemption this Saturday when they travel to No. 4 Louisville for a pivotal non-conference game. Following that contest, they travel to No. 17 Georgetown on December 22, where they will look to avenge an early season overtime loss to the Hoyas.

Once Again, Memphis Has No Shortage Of Mental Miscues To Iron Out

  • Tulane Gains Votes, Syracuse Looms: Before losing its first contest of the season last week, the Tulane Green Wave were marching to the beat of an undefeated drum. And the national media took notice. In the December 5 USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll, the Green Wave received some votes following a 9-0 start. Although the team didn’t receive any votes in Monday’s poll, they have a chance to prove themselves against top-ranked Syracuse on Dec. 22.
  • Washburn Gets Dap: UTEP freshman swingman Julian Washburn claimed his first C-USA Freshman of the Week Award on Monday, following a career-best performance in the Miners’ 73-69 win over non-conference rival New Mexico State. In the contest, Washburn recorded a career-high 16 points, three rebounds, four assists and a block. The win snapped a three game losing skid for the Miners and avenged an early season road loss to the Aggies on Nov. 19. Next up for UTEP is UNLV tonight at 10 PM ET. The Runnin’ Rebels are off to a 9-2 start, including a win over then-top ranked UNC. The Miners are statistically one of the worst offenses in the NCAA, ranking #320 overall. UNLV has had no problems offensively so far this season, averaging over 80 points a game, which is good for 24th in the nation.
  • Tarrant Gathers Accolades: Tulane freshman guard Ricky Tarrant chose a good time to deliver the best performance of his young career, gashing the Georgia Tech defense for 24 points, 20 of which were scored before halftime, en route to a 57-52 upset victory. Tarrant’s performance, which included a seven rebound effort, was good enough for him to take home both Conference USA Player and Freshman of the Week honors on December 5. It was Tarrant’s second consecutive Freshman of the Week honor, winning his first honor just a week earlier. The sweep marks the first time a freshman took home both weekly awards since 2008. In addition to the win over Georgia Tech, Tarrant helped the surging Green Wave past Southern earlier in the week.

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