Boom Goes The Dynamite: Second Round 03.21.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 21st, 2010

How’s your bracket?  Probably looking pretty sweet if you went to undergrad at St. Mary’s and then took a master’s at Northern Iowa.  Have they stopped partying at UNI yet?  Or campaniling?  Or whatever they do there?  And if not, who could blame them?

That was yesterday, though.  The Panthers and Gaels will be receiving their Official Cinderella starter handbooks in the mail in a couple of days, so the matter now turns to the Sunday games, and any possible candidates that could join them.  Your lineup:

  • #1 Syracuse vs #8 Gonzaga
  • #2 Ohio State vs #10 Georgia Tech
  • #4 Maryland vs #5 Michigan State
  • #2 West Virginia vs #10 Missouri
  • #4 Wisconsin vs #12 Cornell
  • #3 Pittsburgh vs #6 Xavier
  • #4 Purdue vs #5 Texas A&M
  • #1 Duke vs #8 California

Will Northern Iowa’s dismissal of Kansas inspire other underdogs to greater heights?  Or will it cause the higher seeds to sharpen their focus and be even warier of the upstarts?  Keep in mind, things always start and end a tad earlier on Second Round Sunday, and there’s that glut of four games that all start within 30 minutes of each other in the early afternoon.  But no worry, if you can’t see them all — we’ll be here all day, talking about them, updating this post every few minutes, and looking for your comments.  Hard to believe we’ll have whittled the field of 64 down to 16 by Sunday night, and the events of Saturday should drive the point home that we need to enjoy this while it’s here.  We’re here to help.  We’ll start updating the post a few minutes before the first tipoff, and we hope to see you here.

12:00: Here we go, folks!  Day 2, second round.  The day starts with ‘Cuse/’Zags and you see the rest of the lineup above.  Syracuse, Duke, Ohio State…you’ve been put on notice by Northern Iowa.  Let’s see what happens.

12:10: One thing that’s got to make you happy if you’re a Syracuse fan is that Wesley Johnson is being VERY aggressive with the basketball.  Hit his first two.

12:18: See, I don’t think Matt Boldin needs to fire from three for the Zags to put their best foot forward, today.  I think they’ll be better off if he does more creating and dishing, and we know he picks up points that way.

12:27: Goodness, right now it’s Wesley Johnson versus Elias Harris.  Johnson has Syracuse’s first ten and Harris has just made the baseline his second home.

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ATB: Syracuse Survives but Gonzaga Doesn’t

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2010

Orange Sweep. #5 Syracuse 75, #10 Georgetown 71.  Syracuse looked like a Final Four contender for the first 28 minutes last night. Their zone was impenetrable, their offense efficient and unselfish. Behind big first halves from Andy Rautins and Wes Johnson, the Cuse was able to build a 44-31 halftime lead, a lead they pushed to 23 points midway through the second half. But the Hoyas weren’t about to go away. As the Orange got complacent, the Hoyas started forcing turnovers and getting to the rim. Greg Monroe really began to assert himself in the paint, almost singlehandedly fouling out both Rick Jackson and Arinze Onuaku. All told, the Hoyas put a 33-11 run on Syracuse, cutting that 23-point lead all the way down to 71-70 with possession of the ball.  But on the one and only possession that Georgetown had with a chance to take the lead, the Hoyas settled for a deep, albeit open, three from Jason Clark, which he clanged off the front of the rim. At the other end, Kris Joseph took advantage of a mismatch, taking Greg Monroe to the hole to score with just nine seconds left for a three-point lead. The Orange fouled, Georgetown missed  a free throw, and Andy Rautins sealed it.  Rautins was the high scorer for the game, finishing with 26 points on 6-11 shooting while knocking down five triples. Wes Johnson had 14 of his 16 points in the first half. But perhaps the most important offensive performance came from Joseph. Joseph had been struggling all game long, but in the final two minutes, he got to the rim three times, twice scoring and the third time drawing a foul. It was his ability to take advantage of a mismatch that kept the Orange ahead late.  Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, and Greg Monroe all went for at least 20, but there was no balance to the Hoya attack. Those three and Jason Clark scored all but two of Georgetown’s 71 points. The Hoyas have now dropped two in a row and four of seven. With a tough final four games (@ Louisville, ND, @ WVU, Cincy), the Hoyas will need some serious help if they want to snag one of the double-byes in the Big East tournament.

Syracuse Held On For the Big Win in DC (D. Nett)

Ghosts of LMU PastLoyola Marymount 74, #9 Gonzaga 66.  The biggest upset by far tonight brought back shades of Hank Gathers, Bo Kimble, and yes, RTC favorite Jeff Fryer, as the LMU Lions did the unthinkable and defeated Gonzaga for their second WCC loss of the year.  It was the first Loyola win over a ranked team in two decades, harkening back to the LMU teams of yesteryear.  Tonight, though, instead of Gathers/Kimble/Fryer, it was Ashley Hamilton (17/6), Drew Viney (16/10/5 assts) and Kevin Young (11/5) leading the way.  The Lion defense frustrated the Zags into 35% shooting as a team, and held Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray to a miserable 7-26 night.  For the second time in a month, Gonzaga was shocked on the road by a vastly inferior team in terms of talent on the floor, and we’re wondering if these Zags are prone to losing focus.  Otherwise, how else to explain commanding wins vs. better teams at Memphis, St. Mary’s and Portland in the same time period?  One odd situation that came from this otherwise-huge win for the LMU program involved head coach Max Good and his sophomore forward Young.  At one point the two traded words and reports from the game suggest that Good placed his hand on Young’s neck.  When asked afterward if he had choked Young, he stated that he was merely trying to calm down an emotional player.  One thing is for certain, though.  His team didn’t choke — and the phalanx of students who RTC’d immediately following the buzzer verified it (send us a pic, LMU fans!) (thanks!).

LMU Fans RTC With Gusto (AP)

Leuer’s Return Unlucky. Minnesota 68, #15 Wisconsin 52.  Minnesota has had a disappointing season with all their off-court controversy and inability to win on the road, but if they plan on putting that behind them and getting back to the NCAA Tournament this year, tonight was an excellent start.  The Gophers used a solid performance from Blake Hoffarber (16/9), Ralph Sampson III (10/8) and Devoe Joseph (10/5/5 assts) to shut down everyone but the two UW stars Trevon Hughes (19/4 stls) and Jason Bohannon (18/3).  Jon Leuer made his return from injury tonight but he was clearly off his game, shooting 2-12 from the field for four points.  The Gophers have five games remaining (three at home), and you have to figure they need to win all of those.  It’ll be the two road games — at Illinois and at Michigan — that could determine how this season will end up for Minnesota.  The Badgers, of course, are safely in the Tourney, but their Big Ten regular season title chances took a huge shot with their fifth loss tonight.

The Last Winless Team. Bryant 53, Wagner 51.  Bryant became the last Division I team in America to win a game in the 2009-10 season with their two late FTs to beat Wagner tonight, a mere 366 days after the school’s last win.  Even with a 1-26 record, Bryant isn’t the worst team in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical profiles… they’re 346th of 347 teams.  The only team lower?  1-25 Alcorn State.

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Checking in on… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2010

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the WCC.

Standings (through games of 1/16/10)

  1. Gonzaga                       3-0 (14-3)
  2. Pepperdine                   3-0 (6-12)
  3. Saint Mary’s                 3-1 (16-3)
  4. San Francisco               2-2 (7-12)
  5. Portland                       1-2 (10-7)
  6. San Diego                    1-3 (8-12)
  7. Loyola Marymount       1-2 (10-9)
  8. Santa Clara                  0-4 (8-13)

Conference: Week Two

After two weeks of conference play the WCC can claim at least two major surprises along with a host of expected results. The biggest surprise has to be seeing Pepperdine tied with Gonzaga atop the standings with a perfect 3-0 mark, the first time the Waves have been in that position since 2002. In that year, Pepperdine and Gonzaga tied for the conference championship at 13-1.

Surprise no. 2, although not as big, is Santa Clara’s inability to win any of its first four games, which included two at home. The Broncos were picked to finish as high as third by some media outlets, but now find themselves looking up from the bottom without having played two of the conference’s strongest teams, Gonzaga or Portland. With four games coming against those two, plus Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Kerry Keating’s squad will have to scramble to get out of the basement.

Pepperdine achieved the top spot by extending its hex over Loyola Marymount 79-75 in Malibu to start conference play on Jan. 9, squeaking by Santa Clara 61-60 on sophomore guard Lorne Jackson’s steal of a Robert Smith layup attempt at the buzzer, and pulling away from San Francisco 83-68 on the strength of a 24-9 run in the last seven minutes. All three wins came at home, and the Waves will be sorely tested this week with away games against Gonzaga and Portland. Still, Tom Asbury’s troops cannot be disregarded despite their many struggles in the pre-conference, where they went 3-12 including an embarrassing 67-65 loss to lowly Cal Baptist. Pepperdine is an extremely young team and has shown signs of coming together at just the right time.

How young is Pepperdine? Gonzaga coach Mark Few, the league’s master propagandist, has induced the national media to incessantly note that the Zags started the season with ten new players, while omitting the fact that two of its key contributors, Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray, are four-and-three-year veterans, respectively, and redshirt sophomore center Robert Sacre has been in the program for three years. Only 20-year-old European veteran Elias Harris, nominally a freshman, is a truly new face among players that Few has counted on most heavily.  Asbury, on the other hand, starts three sophomores (Jackson, Keion Bell and Taylor Darby), and two juniors, (Mychel Thompson and Jonathan Dupre, a junior college transfer). All five scored in double figures against USF, with Darby notching a double-double (15/12) and Bell just missing a triple-double with 18 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. It is a talented five , but they will be strong underdogs in Spokane Thursday night against the battle-tested Zags, who breezed through a daunting three-game road trip in Portland, Moraga (Saint Mary’s) and San Diego to take a lot of the early air out of upset balloons. Nevertheless, any game against undefeated co-leaders counts as a showdown, and Asbury’s pups will be pumped to throw a major scare into the Zags.

Of the predicted Gonzaga challengers, Saint Mary’s fared pretty well in the first two weeks of the conference season, and Portland slightly less well. The Gaels underwent a bad stretch at the end of the first half against Gonzaga on Jan. 14, letting a close 36-33 game deteriorate into a 45-33 halftime deficit by not scoring in the last four minutes. They would spend the entire second half trying to overcome that 12-point margin, outscoring the Zags 49-44 and coming to within 84-80 with just under a minute left and the ball in their hands. A three-point attempt by freshman Aussie Jorden Page rimmed out, however, and Gonzaga ran out the clock at the free throw line for its 89-82 win. The Gaels averted disaster two nights later by struggling to a 77-72 win over Portland.

Portland came even closer against the Zags than the Gaels on Jan. 9, mounting a furious comeback that culminated with sharpshooting guard Jared Stohl trying a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime. Stohl took a pass on the sideline going away from the basket, under close guard, somehow turned his body 180° and launched a prayer that seemed laser-guided to the basket. It somehow missed and the Pilots were denied a chance to pull out a win in overtime. As close as those games were, however, Gonzaga prevailed in both in hostile environments, and made it three-in-a-row with a routine dismantling of San Diego at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, 68-50. Portland was counting on the season-opening encounter with Gonzaga on its home court to put a new leader atop the conference, but instead finds itself 1-2 with losses to the league’s two top teams.

The Zags get to go home for the next two games, the Jan. 21 encounter with Pepperdine, and a tussle with Loyola two days later. LMU has stumbled in conference play so far, losing its opener to Pepperdine and the next contest to San Francisco 70-67, before righting itself for a convincing 81-70 win over Santa Clara on the 16th. Like Asbury, LMU’s Max Good has a rather untested, up-and-down team to take into the raucous environs of Gonzaga’s McCarthey Athletic Center, where the Zags are 67-4 since it opened in 2004. The Lions will try to focus on their 87-85 upset of Notre Dame in South Bend on Dec. 12 and summon the magic that downed the Fighting Irish.

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Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009

checkinginon

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Standings

  1. Gonzaga     5-1
  2. Portland      5-1
  3. San Diego      5-2
  4. Saint Mary’s     3-1
  5. Santa Clara     3-3
  6. Pepperdine    3-4
  7. USF    2-4
  8. Loyola-Marymount    2-5

Looking Back

Zags, Pilots, Toreros Notch Tournament Wins to Lead WCC Teams

It has been a tournament-heavy pre-season for the WCC, and it was in venues ranging from Maui to Anchorage to Anaheim that the early-season leaders made their marks. Gonzaga led the charge by winning the venerable Maui Invitational with victories over Colorado (76-72), Wisconsin (74-61) and Cincinnati (61-59) in a hard-fought tournament championship in overtime on Thanksgiving eve. The Zags had padded their resume with early home wins over Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne and Mississippi Valley State, and put the college hoops world on notice that 2009-10 is not a rebuilding year by taking second-ranked Michigan State to the wire in a 75-71 loss in East Lansing, MI on Nov. 17.

In battling Michigan State evenly and winning in Maui, Gonzaga answered the question of how it would replace departed front-line stars Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt. Seven-foot redshirt sophomore Robert Sacre moved commandingly into the post position for the Zags with an eye-opening performance against Michigan State – 17 points in 19 minutes of play limited by foul trouble. In case no one noticed that, they certainly took note of Sacre’s front-line counterpart Elias Harris, who notched 17 points of his own against Michigan State in the first big-game college appearance for the 20-year-old freshman forward who has logged considerable time internationally with the German national team. Harris has emerged as the early star of Mark Few’s collection of international players, which includes Sacre, freshmen Kelly Olynk and Manny Arop from Canada and Bol Kong, also from Canada by way of Sudan.

As much as Sacre and Harris elicited oohs and aahs, it was the Zags’ veteran trio of guards Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson that led them. Bouldin has emerged in his senior year as the indispensible hub through which all things offensive pass for Gonzaga. An intimidating 6-5 guard, Bouldin stage manages the entire offensive show, plus contributes double-figure scoring from both outside and inside. He can spot up for a three-point jumper or take his man off the dribble. Gray, who has struck many observers as a marvelously talented but under-performing member of the Zags offensive show, evidently decided that his junior year was the time to answer the nay-sayers. He has been virtually unstoppable, moving constantly without the ball and receiving Bouldin’s pinpoint passes anywhere from beyond the arc to under the basket. His jump shot is as sweet as ever, but he is infinitely more aggressive and confident this year.  If opponents somehow limit Bouldin and Gray, Goodson might steal the show as he did in the Zags’ impressive win over the fearsome Cincinnati Bearcats in Maui. On a night when Bouldin was struggling on 1-7 shooting and totaled only 6 points, Goodson made key baskets in clutch time to rack up 12 points. Bouldin and Gray shared the MVP trophy in Maui, but Goodson was an unsung hero.

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ATB: Karl Hess Isn’t Invited to Our Thanksgiving Dinner Either

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2009

atb

Sean McDonough Rips Karl Hess.  Rarely will you hear an announcer publically call out an NCAA basketball official by name for a terrible call, but during the second half of the Vanderbilt-Arizona game tonight in the Maui Invitational, ESPN play-by-play man Sean McDonough ripped Karl Hess a new one for calling a bizarre quick-trigger technical foul on Arizona coach Sean Miller for protesting a cheapie on one of his players.  Another blog gives a much more detailed take than we will here, and we’re not really buying the gambling angle they suggest, but McDonough’s comments were without question incendiary and had us thinking that he might even face some sort of internal administrative censure for going after Hess so vigorously.  McDonough’s specific comments were that:

Karl Hess, he was involved in the 54-foul game the other night, and he’s one of these officials, unfortunately, who always finds a way, it seems, to be at the center of the action.  You don’t come here to watch him officiate, but more often than not, he finds himself at the center of attention.  And here he goes again over the scorer’s table to try to sort something out…

We found a video of the situation and posted it below — the relevant parts begin after the 2:00 mark, but there are comments throughout leading up to it.

OT Exotica.  We head into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with a couple of nice overtime battles in exotic locations for tournament titles.  Both were unexpected for completely different reasons.

  • #5 Kentucky 73, Stanford 65 (OT).  Even with Kentucky’s apparent growing pains in terms of defense and turnovers, nobody could have predicted that a team picked tenth in the Pac-10 that already has losses to San Diego and Oral Roberts would be able to hang with John Calipari’s stable of Wildcat stars  in the finals of the Cancun Challenge — even for a half.  Yet there was Johnny Dawkins’ Cardinal with a chance to seal the game away at the line as Jarrett Mann stepped to shoot two with under fifteen seconds remaining.  Problem is… and we see this with struggling teams all the time, Mann missed both.  That gave Kentucky wunderkind John Wall (23/4/5 assts) just enough of an opportunity to slice through the Stanford pressure to get into the lane for a foul and two free throws (which he nailed) with 2.4 seconds left.  This clutch performance came on the heels of another Kobe-style icewater jumper from the right side with thirty seconds left that had tied the game at 61-all.  In the overtime period, Stanford predictably fell apart and Kentucky’s other star freshman guard Eric Bledsoe hit a dagger three to salt the game away with 33 seconds to go.  The Cardinal should be proud of its performance, especially Landry Fields (23/13/3 assts/4 stls), who often appeared to be the best player on the court in this game (yes, just a mirage), but it’s now exceptionally clear that all the squawking Calipari has been doing about how far his team has to go is truth-speak.  The talent for this team to become something special is there, but it’s also painfully obvious that his Cats often rely on God-given abilities (especially on offense) rather than an actual understanding of strategy or the sets.  Decisionmaking by some players, especially DeMarcus Cousins, is also troubling in their naivete and youthful indiscretion.  For example, back to back horrendous decisions by Cousins late in the game to shoot a three (not his shot) and later to purposefully miss a FT attempt in a misguided attempt to get his own rebound only to foul Stanford in the process, exhibits these characteristics.  Kentucky has a chance to be very, very good, and when you have a release valve player like John Wall to cover up mistakes, that can go a long way, but there’s no doubt that UK has a lot of work ahead of it to reach its goals this season.
  • Gonzaga 61, Cincinnati 59 (OT).  The other really good game tonight was in the Maui Invitational finals, where those plucky little Zags from Spokane once again proved to the world that we should never take them lightly regardless of who they lose from year to year.  Mark Few’s team won its first Maui Invitational title behind a balanced scoring effort among its starters — Robert Sacre (14/5), Elias Harris (13/7), Steven Gray (13/7/4 assts), and Demetri Goodson (12/2).  The Zags’ supposed best player, Matt Bouldin, contributed the least offensively (6/11 on 1-7 FGs), yet the others stepped up and held off a very athletic and gritty Cincinnati team that looks nothing like the disaster that Mick Cronin inherited there a few years ago.  The Bearcats’ starting five is extremely athletic and talented, and nobody is going to want to face this team as it continues to develop together (remember, Lance Stephenson is brand new and Cashmere Wright is essentially so).  We were already high on Cincy but now we’re even moreso.  One tiny complaint, though.  When Cashmere Wright decides to take the game into his own hands as he did on the final drive in regulation, Born Ready needs to be ready to get to the rim for the putback and not stand around at the three-point line pouting that he didn’t get the ball.  Just sayin’…

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Northwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2009

impactplayers

Ed. Note: the previous posts in this series (Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic South, Deep South, Mid-South, Lower Midwest, Upper Midwest, Mountains and Southwest) are located here.

It’s time for the tenth and final installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of cool, wet Pacific states known as the Northwest Region.   Each week we’ll pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Northwest Region (AK, WA, OR, northern CA)

nw_impact_players_v2

  • Matt Bouldin - G, Sr - Gonzaga.  As anyone in Spokane or among Gonzaga’s growing national fan base can tell you, most of the talk about Gonzaga this off-season has concerned itself with what the Bulldogs have lost.  Understandable, as the excellent Zag firm of Daye, Heytvelt, Pargo, and Downs are a tough bunch to replace, to say the least.  Consider also that Gonzaga is bringing in something like 37 freshmen onto this year’s squad, and one can easily conclude that Mark Few finds himself with his most interesting coaching predicament yet.  With such an inexperienced squad, what’s the one thing Few needs most?  A savvy, intelligent senior leader.  Enter Matt Bouldin, a 2010 preseason Wooden Award nominee to absolutely nobody’s surprise.  Check these stats from last year:  49.1% from the field, 42.3% from three-point range…but only 13.6 PPG.  Even with several other offensive options on his team, you’d expect a shooting guard with those percentages to average more than 13.6 PPG.  But, this means that when Bouldin does shoot, it’s usually a good shot in terms of shot selection, something coaches will tell you is one of the real keys to winning at this level, and an incredibly difficult thing to teach.  Mind you, those percentages are up from his sophomore season even though he registered more attempts as a junior.  Without a doubt, Bouldin’s touches and minutes will increase this season, despite leading last year’s team with 31.7 minutes a game.  He might need to get to the line a little more this year, but with his ability to take care of the ball, Coach Few should have no apprehension adding this to Bouldin’s responsibilites, if he chooses.  Bouldin’s 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio was third in the conference (behind two of his teammates!) and is exceptional for a shooting guard.  So go ahead, feel sorry for Gonzaga if you must.  We know what they lost, and we know Portland might be a fun pick in the WCC.  But with a coach like Few, a leader like Bouldin, and a non-conference pressure-cooker like the one Gonzaga has in store, if Portland so much as twitches, Gonzaga will take them down.  And look at their NCAA Tournament history.  Except for 2007, Gonzaga does best when they get a 10-12 seed and nobody’s looking.  Mark Few is spectacular when it comes to keeping numerous talented players happy and, perhaps better than anyone in the country, instilling in all of his players an immense pride in the name on the front of the jersey as compared with the one on the back.  When you watch Few’s Gonzaga teams, you can almost feel the love the players have for that uniform.  Matt Bouldin possesses this pride just as much as any of his Wooden-list predecessors like Morrison or Dickau.  We guarantee you — he will not go quietly.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #14 – West Coast

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2009

seasonpreview

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.   Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Portland (11-3)
  2. Gonzaga (10-4)
  3. Saint Mary’s (8-6)
  4. San Diego (7-7)
  5. Santa Clara (6-8)
  6. Loyola Marymount (6-8)
  7. USF (5-9)
  8. Pepperdine (3-11)

All-Conference Team:

  • Matt Bouldin (G), Gonzaga
  • Kevin Foster (G), Santa Clara
  • Dior Lowhorn (F), USF
  • Kevin Young (F), Loyola
  • Omar Samhan (C), Saint Mary’s

6th man. Nik Raivio, Portland

Impact newcomer. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s

wcc logoWhat You Need to Know.

  • Going International.  The 2010 season marks the WCC’s most pronounced bow to international athletes, with every team having at least two foreign-born players and two of the predicted top three finishers – Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s – pinning their season hopes on the performance of foreigners. Saint Mary’s gave the trend its biggest boost by establishing an Australian pipeline that produced Daniel Kickert, the Gaels’ all-time leading scorer, and Patty Mills, who opted for the NBA after two sensational seasons. The Gaels continue as the Koala’s best friend this year, with five Aussies expected to make contributions and one, freshman guard Matthew Dellavedova, looming as a potential star.  Gonzaga’s Pacific Northwest pipeline that supplied stars Adam Morrison, Dan Dickau and Blake Stepp, among others, may be temporarily clogged, but the Zags have turned to Canada (Manny Arop, Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynyk), Germany (Elias Harris), and Sudan by way of Canada (Bol Kong), to maintain their position atop the conference. USF joined the crowd in a big way this off-season, luring a Czech (Tomas Bruha), two Frenchmen (Moustapha Diarra, Nikola Stojiljkovic) and a Canadian (Perris Blackwell).
  • Room at the Top: Gonzaga, with nine WCC titles in a row, and Saint Mary’s, a perennial runner-up under Randy Bennett, have dominated the conference in recent years. But Gonzaga lost four of its main contributors from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team (Austin Daye, Josh Heytvelt, Jeremy Pargo and Micah Downs) and Saint Mary’s said goodbye to Mills, all-time leading rebounder and shot-blocker Diamon Simpson, starting forward Ian O’Leary and a trio of valuable back-ups in Yusef Smith, Lucas Walker and Carlin Hughes. That’s why Portland, with all five starters back from last year’s 19-13 team that finished third in the conference, can’t wait to shove its way into the top spot. Santa Clara’s Kerry Keating and USF’s confident newcomer Rex Walters, entering his second year, have recruited aggressively and well, indicating that they, too, are up to challenging Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in the next few years.
  • Multiple NCAA Bids: The conference was shocked last year when Saint Mary’s, 25-6 overall and second place in the conference behind Gonzaga, did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, leaving the Zags as the sole WCC entrant. Just the year before, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and San Diego received bids, the first time in anyone’s memory that three teams had gone to The Dance. Whether the conference elevates itself in the NCAA Selection Committee’s eyes in 2009-10 is one of the biggest question marks looming over the season.

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NCAA Preview: Gonzaga Bulldogs

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2009

Gonzaga (# 4 seed, South, Portland pod)

vs. Akron (#13)
March 19th, 7:25 P.M.

Vegas Line: Gonzaga -13

gonzaga-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Spokane, Washington
Conference: WCC, won the conference tournament
Coach: Mark Few, 262-65 at Gonzaga
08-09 Record: 26-5, 14-0
Last 12 Games: 11-1, 9-game winning streak
Best Win: 83-74 v. Tennessee, November 30th
Worst Loss: 70-77 v. Portland State, December 23rd
Off. Efficiency Rating: 117.9/ 5th overall
Def. Efficiency Rating: 88.4/ 12th overall

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): Jeremy Pargo- 9.8 points/game, 5.1 assists/game, 2/1 assist/turnover, 3.5 rebounds/game; Josh Heytvelt- 14.9 points/game, 6.7 rebounds/game, 0.9 blocks/game, 54.5 FG%

Unsung Hero: Steven Gray- 9.3 points/game, 3.1 rebounds/game, 2 assists/game, 36.4 3PT%

Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Austin Daye/ projected 50th overall….Josh Heytvelt/ projected 59th overall

Key Injuries: None

Depth: 27.3%/ 255th overall

Achilles Heel: At the beginning of the season, this looked like the best team the Gonzaga Bulldogs have ever fielded in terms of sheer talent on the roster. But the ‘Zags don’t really have a go-to scorer. Heytvelt is their leading scorer, but in a tight game late it is hard to see Mark Few ordering the ball to be fed to Heytvelt and let him take over. The team lacks a true star player that they can go to in crunch time.

Will Make a Deep Run if… Maybe the NCAA tournament will inspire Austin Daye to play up to his potential. The ‘Zags don’t desperately need Daye to be awesome to have success, but if he begins to play the way he is capable of, the ‘Zags will be a very tough team to stop. They have all the important pieces of a Final Four team, but they need a true scorer, and Daye has the potential to do it.

Will Make an Early Exit if… When the ‘Zags have struggled this season, it has been against supremely athletic teams. For example, Mark Few’s team looked overmatched when they got blown out by Memphis at home. If they run into a team like Siena in the first or second round, they could have a lot of trouble trying to guard the penetration of Siena’s athletic wing players.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2008, lost in the first round to Davidson

Streak: 10 consecutive seasons

Best NCAA Finish: They made it to the Elite Eight in 1999 before losing to Connecticut

Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.16 wins per appearance

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: none

Distance to First Round Site: 352 miles away from Portland, Oregon

School’s Claim to Fame: Basketball?

School Wishes It Could Forget: Nothing is more embarrassing for a coach to learn that your star center would rather be at a Phish concert that playing basketball. But when Josh Heytvelt was suspended last year for marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms, that’s what Mark Few learned. The pot is a normal occurrence in the world of college sports, but the mushrooms? Was Heytvelt wearing a tie-dye Grateful Dead t-shirt as well?

Prediction: The ‘Zags looked absolutely dominant as they rolled through the West Coast Tournament, and Illinois is one of the worst five-seeds in the tournament. But if the ‘Zags make it to the Sweet 16, they will have to get through North Carolina, and they just don’t have the talent to match the ‘Heels.

Written by… Mike Lemaire

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RTC Aftermath: WCC Tournament Finals

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009

RTC Aftermath will come to you each night where our correspondents are at the conference tournament games as a part of RTC Live.  Michael Vernetti is in Las Vegas all weekend covering the WCC Tournament for RTC.  RTC Live was onsite Friday through Monday, concluding tonight in the Gonzaga vs. St. Mary’s Championship Game.

It was a Gonzaga party in the WCC championship game as the Zags continued a tournament blitz with an 83-58 victory over Saint Mary’s. Gonzaga featured balanced scoring with five players scoring in double figures, led by Josh Heytvelt’s 17 points. Matt Bouldin played another all-around excellent game, scoring 14 points and handing out 7 assists with no turnovers. Other big contributors for Gonzaga were Steven Gray and Jeremy Pargo.

Matt Bouldin Was Tremendous All Weekend

Matt Bouldin Was Tremendous All Weekend

Saint Mary’s returned-from-injury guard Patty Mills was ineffective in his second game back after suffering a broken hand in a Jan. 29 game against Gonzaga. Mills, showing the rust from his long layoff, went just 2-16 for 5 points and sat out much of the second half. Diamon Simpson and Omar Samhan led the Gaels with 17 points each. Samhan also pulled down 9 boards for the Gaels and Simpson grabbed 6.

Gonzaga dominated the all-tournament team, placing guards Pargo and Bouldin, along with forward Micah Downs, who was voted tourney MVP. The rest of the all-star group included Saint Mary’s forward Simpson and Santa Clara center John Bryant. With the tournament championship, Gonzaga won an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA championships, where they are hoping to ride their strong performance in Las Vegas to a high seed. Saint Mary’s will have to await the Selection Committee’s decision next Sunday, March 15 to see if they get an at-large bid.

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RTC Aftermath: WCC Semifinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2009

RTC Aftermath will come to you each night where our correspondents are at the conference tournament games as a part of RTC Live.  Michael Vernetti is in Las Vegas all weekend covering the WCC Tournament for RTC.  RTC Live will be there on Monday night as Gonzaga-St. Mary’s Part III occurs.

Gonzaga had five players in double figures – led by Austin Daye’s 28 points – to crush Santa Clara 94-59 in tonight’s first semifinal game of the West Coast Conference tournament. The Zags got 18 from Micah Downs, 16 from Jeremy Pargo, 12 from Steven Gray and 11 from Matt Bouldin to totally dominate the Broncos.

Santa Clara’s stellar post man John Bryant eked out another of his patented double-doubles – 13 points and 12 rebounds – but it was not nearly enough to slow down the Zags. Bronco freshman James Rahon scored 20 points on 8-15 FG shooting to pace his team, which did not even slightly resemble the team that beat San Diego the night before.  With the win, Gonzaga advanced to tomorrow’s championship game against  Saint Mary’s, who defeated Portland 71-61.

Mills is Back, and Gonzaga is in His Sights
Mills is Back, and Gonzaga is in His Sights

Saint Mary’s benefited from the return to its lineup of point guard Patty Mills, who had missed all of February with broken bones in his shooting hand. Mills had 12 points and energized the Gaels on offense and defense. Saint Mary’s featured balanced scoring, with three players in double figures. Omar Samhan notched a double-double, with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Samhan’s front court mate Diamon Simpson chipped in with 14 boards and 15 points of his own.  Portland was led by guard Nik Raivio with 15 points.

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Checking in on the… WCC

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2009

Michael Chin is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

So now here it comes, the premiere game we have been waiting for all season in the WCC: Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga (1/29 at 11pm EST on ESPN2). Both are ranked, both are undefeated in conference play, and both are really talented.  So with that said lets break this sucker down:

Point Guard – Jeremy Pargo v. Patty Mills:

Advantage: Saint Mary’s

Analysis: A few months ago, most analysts had Pargo winning this matchup. At the time Jeremy was the more physical of the two guards and was believed to be farther along from a maturity standpoint. Fast forward and I think Patty, by many expert’s accounts, wins this matchup. From a draft potential standpoint, one has to say that Mills has the bigger upside, but just looking at the stats, the two are about even. Patty is far and away the more prolific scorer this season, averaging nearly 20 points a game. However Jeremy has over 100 assists and has a 2.76 assists to turnover ratio whereas Patty’s is 1:1. In two matchups last year Pargo beat Patty up with his more physical style of play. I don’t think he will be able to do that this year. Mills’ most improved asset this year has been on the defensive end of the floor. If Pargo holds Patty to under 15, he wins this matchup, as I believe the trio of Bouldin, Downs, and Gray could more than make up those points. However it Patty goes off for 25+, the Gaels have a good shot of scoring the upset

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Set Your Tivos: 01.07.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 7th, 2009

Tonight’s a special night at the East Coast RTC headquarters, as I will intently be watching a game on ESPN based on a little column I wrote a few days ago. The results of this game (more specifically how one player does) will lead to one of two options:

(1) He will go off and the site will be bombarded by hateful comments by people questioning my manhood and my intelligence.

(2) He will pull a 7-for-25 or something similar and the site will be silent. It’s not really right, but that’s just the way these things work. I guess I can be like a superstar walking out of an opposing stadium enjoying the sweet sound of silence. [Note: This doesn't mean I would enjoy seeing Curry struggle. It would just add some validity to my theory.]

Anyways, onto the games. . .

tivos

7 PM
- Davidson at #2 Duke on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Even though Duke is the obvious favorite here and the Goliath to Davidson’s, uh, David, I think the Wildcats have more pressure on them going into this game. They have had 2 shots at the big boys (Oklahoma and Purdue) and came up short both times including a beat-down at the hands of the Boilermakers. Even with a win over West Virginia, the Wildcats non-conference resume is a little weak for a team that came into the season ranked 20th in the nation after their scintillating run last March. If they lose this one, they can forget even getting a 6 seed. This isn’t a death knell for the Wildcats season (see last year), but it would be disappointing for Bob McKillop’s crew after coming into the season with such high expectations. To get a win at Cameron, Stephen Curry will need to have a huge game (40+ points) and get some help from Andrew Lovedale, who will probably have his hands full with Kyle Singler. In addition, McKillop will have to hope that the Blue Devils have an off-night beyond the arc like they did in their only loss this year. As you know the Blue Devils have a much more balanced attack led by Singler with help from Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, and Nolan Smith. One of the interesting things to watch for early in the game will be the mobility of Smith, who will be guarding Curry and is coming off a knee injury. If Smith isn’t up to the task, the task of guarding Curry will be left up to blogosphere whipping boy Greg Paulus. If that is the case, I will be taking back my earlier prediction for Curry for tomorrow night.

The Cameron Crazies will be out in full force
The Cameron Crazies will be out in full force

- #21 Louisville at South Florida on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: The Cardinals will be riding high after their rollercoaster win over intrastate rival Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. They should be careful though going into the Sun Dome where the Bulls nearly beat then #11 Syracuse in a 59-54 game despite a horrendous night from Jesus Verdejo (3/17 FG including 0/10 from 3). Rick Pitino will be expecting a more consistent performance out of freshman sensation Samardo Samuels, who only had 4 points and 1 rebound in 11 minutes due to foul trouble. I’m sure Pitino will be praying for another solid performance from Edgar Sosa, who responded to Pitino’s interesting motivational techniques (reminiscent of my high school coach threatening to put all of us on JV before every game) with a season-high 18 points including a game-winning 3 with 2.8 seconds against Kentucky. Like usual, Louisville has the talent to run away with this game, but the question is whether they will continue to play down to the level of their competition.

7:30 PM
- #15 Marquette at Rutgers on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Honestly, this isn’t a particularly exciting game, but it should be fun to see if Rutgers finds the Golden Eagles below the level of their typical competition (last 3 games vs. last week’s #1 UNC, #2 UConn, and #3 Pittsburgh). The Golden Eagles are only considered the 15th best team in the country. You gotta love the Big East this year.

9 PM
- College of Charleston at #3 UNC on Fox Sports South: See if the Tar Heels, currently in last place in the ACC, can dig its way out the cellar. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about the Tar Heels.

- Gonzaga at #24 Tennessee on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: That’s not a typo. The Bulldogs, who were once ranked 4th in the country, are no longer ranked. I’m not sure what to make of Gonzaga. After being the underdog for so many years, they suddenly became a favorite, but have continued to disappoint and frustrate the nation each March after repeated failures to live up to their NCAA tournament seed. This year, they rose to their 2nd highest ranking ever (spent 2 weeks at #3 at the end of the 2004 regular season) before going into a freefall losing their last 3 and 4 of their last 5 games. To be fair, those 4 losses have been by a combined 18 points and included 2 road games and an overtime loss to then #2 UConn. Despite that, there’s no reason that a national title contender should go through a stretch like that. The Volunteers will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss at Kansas. The key to this game will be on the inside with Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism battling against Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye.  If the Volunteers are able to control the paint, they will have a good shot at knocking off the Bulldogs, who will also need some help from their perimeter guys (Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray, and Jeremy Pargo).

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