It’s a Make or Break Week for the Pac-12

Posted by RJ Abeytia on November 30th, 2016

After a sizzling opening weekend followed by some Feast Week struggles, the Pac-12 finds itself facing a potential do or die week in terms of its national perception. Three teams will be front and center this week under the bright lights of ESPN and CBS, and after 71 games and even with all of December left, chances are it will be this week’s main events that set the tone for the Pac-12 come March. Part of the concentration on these games stems from factors out of the league’s control. Oregon’s injury issues have left it a shell of the team most expected it to be come March — the Ducks have already dropped games to Baylor and Georgetown without the services of Dillon Brooks (and have looked shaky even with him back). While the committee will factor Oregon’s injuries into its analysis, that doesn’t help the Pac-12’s overall profile. And that brings us to this week, starting this evening on the Peninsula.

St. Mary’s at Stanford: Wednesday 11/30 8:00 PM PT (Pac-12 Bay Area)

So far, so good for Jerod Haase and Stanford. (Tahoe Daily Tribune)

Jerod Haase and Stanford have a monster week ahead of them, including a trip to Haase’s alma mater where dreams tend to fade. (Tahoe Daily Tribune)

Not only is the Pac-12 counting on Stanford — the team picked to finish 10th in the league standings this season — but the Cardinal actually have two games with national ramifications this week. First, Randy Bennett’s St. Mary’s bunch (11th nationally, per KenPom) comes to Maples Pavilion tonight. The Gaels may not yet be a nationally-renowned name, but they drilled Stanford last season and will be a contender in a league (WCC) that has been quite the thorn in the side of the Pac-12 in recent years. This is one of two big Pac-12/WCC showdowns this week, and while it’s definitely the undercard, it’s still a big game for both teams and conferences.

UCLA at Kentucky: Saturday 12/3 9:30 AM PT (CBS)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

2016-17 RTC Top 25: Preseason Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on November 11th, 2016

And so it begins — that wonderful time of year when we again hear familiar voices on the television and our favorite teams playing college basketball games that count. It is a beautiful time, indeed. With a sizable slate of games commencing this evening, we officially unveil the RTC 2016-17 Preseason Top 25. This poll will hold for about the next 10 days or so, but you can expect our weekly regular season poll to come out every Monday morning starting on November 21. Along with the RTC25 rankings will be the usual quick and dirty analysis that dives a bit more deeply into how those teams shake out from top to bottom. To see how we did last year, check out our 2015-16 preseason poll — sure, we nailed a few (Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Villanova), and missed on some others (Maryland, Michigan, LSU, Vanderbilt). We promise we will try to do better this time around. Here’s the preseason poll.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-9-52-50-pm

Quick n’ Dirty Thoughts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

St. Mary’s: The Best Team No One Knows About

Posted by William Ezekowitz on January 21st, 2016

The Saint Mary’s Gaels have risen from seemingly nowhere to become one of the best teams in the country. Quite likely, they are the best team that you know nothing about. But you may be forgiven for your ignorance, because the revolution has rarely been televised. In the seventeen games the Gaels have played, they have appeared on national television (if you call ESPNU national television) just twice: once in November when they beat Stanford by 17, and then again on New Year’s Eve, when they beat BYU by 11. Now, here they are, poised to soundly defeat Gonzaga (that’s right, soundly) at home tonight—again on ESPNU—and yet no one knows about a thing about the Gaels. Let’s fix that.

The 2014-15 iteration of St. Mary’s was a perfectly good team. Led by All-Conference big man Brad Waldow, the Gaels narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament and instead settled for the NIT; it wasn’t the best season Randy Bennett has ever had at St. Mary’s, but it was perfectly respectable. The Gaels were graduating five of their top six players, though, and replacing them with the following cast: rising sophomore point guard Emmett Naar, who had looked good his freshman year but was never expected to carry the load; Boston College transfer Joe Rahon, who had a solid but unspectacular two years with the Eagles; four underclassmen reserves who had been asked to do very little last year; and a freshman class led by three star center Evan Fitzner and four guys no recruiting service had bothered to rank. A down year seemed imminent.

Saint Mary's Sophomore Emmett Naar Leads The Nation In Three-Point Percentage (Photo: SMCGaels.com)

Saint Mary’s Sophomore Emmett Naar Leads The Nation In Three-Point Percentage (Photo: SMCGaels.com)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Weekly Primer: SEC Squishy Middle, Love for Big 12, Coach 1K, More…

Posted by Henry Bushnell on January 20th, 2015

Okay, okay, we get it… the Big 12 is awesome. I’ve made that pretty clear in past columns, and you probably don’t need me to tell you something so obvious. Monday night offered up yet another prominent example, when a “Kansas is back to its dominant self” narrative in the first half against Oklahoma turned into one of the best games of conference play this season. But rather than raving about it, let’s think big picture: What do we make of the Big 12 race? A few teams will definitely be involved. One is Kansas, of course, which hasn’t missed out on at least a share of the regular season crown since Bill Self’s first year in Lawrence. Two more are Texas, which seems to have found its footing, and Iowa State, which finally cleared the Kansas hurdle over the weekend. Oklahoma should be in the running too, despite losing three of its last four. What other teams could have a say in the matter? How about Kansas State, which is tied for the conference lead at 4-1? What about West Virginia, currently 15-3 and a top-15 KenPom team? Or Baylor? Or Oklahoma State?

The Big 12 Will Remain a War Zone For Most of the Season (USA Today Images)

The Big 12 Will Remain a War Zone For Most of the Season (USA Today Images)

It’s probably safe to rule out those last two teams even though both are ranked among KenPom’s top 25, but neither is likely to beat the teams above them on a consistent basis. It’s also fair to exclude Kansas State from the discussion. The Wildcats are clearly much better than their non-conference performance suggested, but recent wins over Baylor and at Oklahoma don’t tell the full story either. They have some flaws. However, it’s probably a tad premature to rule out West Virginia. The Mountaineers play such a distinctly effective style this season, forcing turnovers on over 30 percent of opponents’ possessions, that will remain a problem to solve for all nine conference foes. They’re a possession away from a 4-1 Big 12 record and the upcoming schedule suggests that we shouldn’t be surprised if Bob Huggins has his team sitting at 6-2 when this column runs two weeks from now. It appears to be a five-team race. But whether you think the Big 12 has four, five, or even six or seven teams capable of winning the league crown, the takeaway here is that the race is wide open. And with Kansas’ astounding decade-long run in jeopardy, the next two months in Middle America are must-watch sports television.

Three for the Money

  • Iowa at Wisconsin | Tuesday, 9:00 PM EST, ESPN. Around this time last year, Iowa sat at 13-3 on the season and waltzed into Value City Arena to take on 15-1 Ohio State. The Buckeyes at the time were KenPom’s second-ranked team and their only loss had come earlier in the week at Michigan State. They also hadn’t given up more than 70 points in a game. The Hawkeyes delivered one of the more impressive Big Ten performances last season, winning by 10 points and vaulting themselves from seemingly out of nowhere into KenPom’s top five. They are presented with a similar opportunity tonight against Wisconsin. With the memory of last year’s collapse still fresh, many people remain unsure of what to make of Fran McCaffery’s team – the Hawkeyes have defeated a questionable Ohio State team twice and won at North Carolina, but the rest of their résumé is dubious. A win in Madison would force the nation to take notice. For Wisconsin, this is its first real test since the loss of senior point guard Traevon Jackson. It could provide a platform for replacement Bronson Koenig to step up his game, but it also could reveal a major midterm problem for Bo Ryan. Tonight’s game will tell us a lot about which it will be.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by Michael Vernetti on December 16th, 2014

Michael Vernetti is the Rush the Court’s correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Looking Back

Maybe finals were unusually hard this year, causing a build-up of aggression within WCC members. Maybe the conference is ready to establish itself alongside the Mountain West as one of the best outside the Power Five. Whatever the motivation, conference schools celebrated their first post-finals games with a handful of memorable efforts on Saturday.

Kyle Wiltjer has fit right in with a talented Gonzaga squad. (AP)

Kyle Wiltjer has fit right in with a talented Gonzaga squad. (AP)

  • Gonzaga toyed with UCLA as if the Bruins were a middling WCC opponent, leading wire-to-wire in an 87-74 romp at Pauley Pavilion.
  • Saint Mary’s broke Creighton’s 24-game home winning streak with a 71-67 overtime win in Omaha.
  • BYU went 2-0 on the road by topping Weber State 76-60 in Ogden.
  • Santa Clara notched its fourth straight win by knocking off Washington State 76-67 – its first home win against a Pac-12 school in 10 years.
  • San Diego trounced New Orleans 85-60 to remain undefeated at home.
  • Pepperdine almost made it an epic fail for the Pac-12 against the WCC, leading Arizona State 43-42 with less than 12 minutes left before ultimately succumbing, 81-74.
  • Only rebuilding Loyola Marymount went down Saturday, losing 71-69 to Northern Arizona.

It has been a mostly satisfying non-conference performance so far for the WCC, with only one team, Loyola Marymount, posting a losing record through December 13.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

O26 Weekly Awards: SMC, D.J. Balentine, Kyle Smith, Incarnate Word…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 16th, 2014

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition.

O26 Team of the Week

Saint Mary’s. It’s a full month into the season and we still didn’t know much about the Gaels before last weekend. They were transfer-laden, proficient on offense and led by Brad Waldow (21.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG) down low – that much we understood – but Randy Bennett’s club had yet to play a road contest (or even leave Moraga) through its first six games. And aside from a pair of solid wins over New Mexico State and UC Irvine, Saint Mary’s most noteworthy performance prior to Saturday was a 83-71 loss to Boise State on December 6. Was this team good? Mediocre? An at-large contender? Even if the Gaels’ 71-67 victory at Creighton over the weekend doesn’t fully answer all of those questions, it does make one thing clear: These guys are going to be competitive in the WCC.

Saint Mary's pulled off a huge road victory in Omaha. (MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD)

Saint Mary’s pulled off a huge road victory in Omaha. (MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD)

Creighton entered Saturday on a 24-game home winning streak, an impressive run that coach Greg McDermott probably would have assumed safe if you had told him Waldow would end up with just 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting. “Obviously, our game plan was to slow down Waldow, because he’s such a big part of their offense,” McDermott said afterwards. Unfortunately for the Bluejays, the Saint Mary’s backcourt more than picked up the slack, as Stanford-transplant Aaron Bright scored 22 points and Kerry Carter dropped in 19. Equally as important was sophomore forward Dane Pineau, who – having never reached double figures in his career – stepped up enormously in wake of Waldow’s off night, scoring 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting and ripping down 10 boards. The Gaels withstood an early-second half Creighton surge by responding with a 12-0 run of their own, ultimately forcing an extra period – where Bright and Pineau sealed the deal. Now at 6-1 and with a marquee road victory under its belt, Saint Mary’s looks capable of challenging BYU for second-best in the WCC and putting itself in the NCAA Tournament discussion. This weekend’s victory at the CenturyLink Center could go a long way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 02.19.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 19th, 2014

pac12_morning5

  1. So, late on Monday night I am navigating my way through the college basketball hub on ESPN.com, and I find this piece with different writers making predictions for the rest of the season that will either make them look smart or stupid. About a quarter of the way down the page is the headline “Take notice of the champs… and Oregon State“. John Gasaway’s “prediction that will make him look stupid” is centered around the Beavers upsetting UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament championship, giving the program its first trip to the Big Dance since 1990. Stupid or not, a prediction is a prediction, and Oregon State fans will take it. Also included in this predictions post is C.L. Brown’s prognostication that Arizona will not receive a one seed for that NCAA Tournament. With four of its final six on the road and its performance without Brandon Ashley not exactly inspiring, this isn’t a bad pick.
  2. Joe Lunardi released his latest edition of Bracketology on Monday, and the Wildcats remain as a #1 seed in his projections. UCLA follows as a #5 seed, and then four Pac-12 teams (Stanford, Arizona State, California, and Colorado) are represented on the #9 and #10 lines. John Templon released his NIT projections as well earlier this week, and Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, and Utah appear in that field.
  3. Shortly after we talked to you on Monday morning, both the AP and Coaches polls were released and saw Arizona drop two spots to #4 after falling at Arizona State last Friday. The only other team to appear inside the Top 25 were the Bruins after their sweep of Colorado and Utah, but both Arizona State and Cal appear in the “Also Receiving Votes” section. Click here to check out Rush the Court‘s weekly rankings, where the Cats once again appear at fourth, the Bruins take 22nd, and Arizona State comes in at #29.
  4. Stanford guard Aaron Bright will be transferring to St. Mary’s and be eligible to play immediately next season in Moraga. The senior appeared in seven games this season for the Cardinal before dislocating his right shoulder during a late November practice. In order to be able to play immediately, Bright has to find a graduate degree program that is offered by St. Mary’s and not by Stanford. According to this tweet, the Gaels have at least three of those; Kinesiology, an MA in Leadership, and an MFA in Creative Writing. Oh, and Australian Basketball Recruiting.
  5. I must warn you, the next link is a bit disturbing. Coaches at both Arizona and Arizona State are proposing the ridiculous notion that Pac-12 court rushes be prevented, possibly by as soon as next season. Sean Miller thinks the situation is a threat to the visiting team’s safety and inconveniences them when trying to get back to the locker room after the game is over. My thoughts? Who cares if you have to wait by the bench for a few extra minutes after the buzzer sounds? Have security in place like the ACC does to surround the staff and players, and let the kids have their fun on the floor.
Share this story

Morning Five: 12.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 26th, 2013

morning5

  1. We hope all of you had an enjoyable Christmas holiday yesterday. Fortunately for college basketball programs across the country it was an uneventful day as the only news that happens for programs on holidays and it appears that players (and coaches) across the nation were on their best behavior yesterday. Today should be more of the same and in fact should be even quieter with no games scheduled today, but that will change later in the week (more on that later).
  2. The only real college basketball action happening yesterday was in Hawaii where the Diamond Head Classic finished up. The big news out of Hawaii was Iowa State adding another quality win to its NCAA Tournament resume with a four-point win over Boise State. At this point, the Cyclones have a very solid top-10 resume and probably will end up there when the next poll comes out. On the other end of the spectrum we have St. Mary’s. Coming to Hawaii the Gaels were undefeated and a borderline top-25 team. Three games and three losses later (by a combined 11 points) they have just one game to rebound before a big showdown at Gonzaga on January 2.
  3. With all of the talk about scoring and fouls one of the things that not many people have talked about is the number of players who have had big scoring nights. Matt Norlander took a look at that using a 40-point performance as the threshold and breaking it down by season, conference, and game location. The one thing that jumps out (other than the big drop-off in 40+ point games since the four-year stretch spanning 2005-2009) is how many of these games came in BCS-level conferences (ok, maybe not the Big Ten) since many people would expect these performances to come in more free-flowing, less physical mid-major games. Clearly, the BCS-level conferences tend to get more talented players, but that is not always necessarily reflected in scoring output.
  4. We missed this over the weekend as we were traveling, but we remiss we did not mention the retirement of longtime official Ed Hightower, who officiated his last game on Sunday. Although Hightower’s final game was not a high-profile game (Iowa vs Arkansas-Pine Bluff) perhaps that is fitting as Hightower is one of the more well-respected high-profile officials that we can think of. Unlike some of his colleagues who are well-known for making specific calls Hightower does not have that type of reputation (ok, there are probably a few fans who harbor some resentment over random calls). As Dan Wetzel noted last week, Tom Izzo’s admiration for Hightower speaks volumes for Hightower’s work. Actually, we suggest you take a look at the comment section on Wetzel’s article, which might be the first time we have seen the comment section full of positive comments, to get an idea of the quality of Hightower’s work.
  5. If you still have some more time with your family this holiday season, we suggest you use today and tomorrow to get your family time in. If today isn’t enough, you should have some time on Friday too with three ranked teams playing, but doing so against really weak competition. On Saturday, it is a completely different story with a solid slate featuring games between Villanova and Syracuse at 2 PM and Kentucky and Louisville at 4 PM. Outside of that there are several other interesting games to keep you occupied the rest of the day so you might want to invest compression socks because you might be on the couch for a very long time.
Share this story

Vegas Odds to Win It All: Season Opener Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2013

seasonpreview-11

It’s opening week and we’ve already gotten a taste of what’s to come through the first weekend of college basketball. As we head into the start of the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon tonight, culminating in tomorrow night’s top-five double-header at the Champions Classic, it’s time to take a look at how oddsmakers view the upcoming season. As we mentioned last week upon the release of the RTC Preseason Top 25, there appears to be a consensus top five (Kentucky, Michigan State, Louisville, Duke and Kansas), followed by a second-tier group of six more teams (Arizona, Florida, Ohio State, Syracuse, Oklahoma State and Michigan). Although the order might be a little different, that is also more or less how Las Vegas is viewing the 2013-14 national championship race. Keeping in mind that unlike those of us who can make any ridiculous prediction we can think of without an appreciable fear of repercussion, oddsmakers stake their livelihoods on this practice. Therefore, they generally have a good idea of what they’re doing.

Let’s first take a look at the odds below (NCAA basketball lines taken from a prominent international sportsbook, where the listed odds are not much different from those in Vegas), then we’ll analyze some takeaways after the jump below. (ed. note: for those unfamiliar with futures odds, +380 represents the amount of money a potential gambler would receive back if he placed a $100 wager on that team and it won.  He would, in other words, win back 3.8 times his original wager.)

2013-14 vegas odds

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 10.24.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 24th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Run the Floor: Michael Rogner brings a fresh look at the NCAA punishments for Miami by comparing the school’s case and response directly with that of Saint Mary’s. As you might expect, the violations are not comparable in the least. The punishments? I’ll let Rogner’s piece speak for itself. For a little more context that likely led to these discrepancies, we have you covered. Not a great look for the NCAA.
  2. Daily Orange: The bigger TV money apparently wasn’t everything. Syracuse has already reportedly exceeded the basketball tickets sold last year (or any year in the past two decades, for that matter). Football and other sports have also seen a boost. Part of this may be the novelty of it all, and some stars certainly aligned with the Orange being very good this year and hosting Duke. Maybe the increased excitement among fans is what has Jim Boeheim warming up to the ACC, although he still stresses holding the ACC Tournament in either New York or Washington, DC.
  3. Washington Post: Maryland freshman Damonte Dodd sounds like a piece of what looks to be an incredible Big Ten frontcourt at Maryland in a year or two. Mark Turgeon touted him as an “energy guy,” but his athleticism should turn that energy into great skill. With Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell also showing lots of promise in the post, Turgeon may have an embarrassment of riches should all three stay in College Park for a while and continue developing.
  4. ESPN: Eamonn Brennan wants everyone to get ready for the new-look Duke team this year. Unlike many coaches, Coach K adapts his teams to fit his personnel. Combine his flexibility with his recruiting and you understand why Duke has been so consistently good the last 30 years. This year’s Blue Devil team is a very different one from last year: It’s younger, more athletic, and perimeter-oriented. I’m guessing (hoping) that means a high-tempo, in-your-face defense, though we won’t know until the season starts. While you’re over at the Worldwide Leader, check out John Gasaway’s ACC team previews. (Clemson is free!)
  5. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Speaking of those ESPN previews, Gasaway picked Virginia second in the league behind Duke. It’s easy to forget how good Tony Bennett’s team was last season, although the Cavaliers were offensively limited outside of Joe Harris. This year Harris expects the team to be much more balanced, which is bad news for opponents if it is true. A healthy Mike Tobey would add another potent, hard-to-guard offensive weapon. The biggest challenge facing the Cavaliers is finding someone to run the offense without turning the ball over this season.
Share this story