BGTD: Saturday Night Tourney Sessions

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day.  If you are interested in the action earlier today check out our afternoon post.

  • 5 for 5. The UConn Huskies capped off a historic run winning their fifth game in five nights with the last four coming against ranked teams in scintillating fashion knocking off a game Louisville team. Led by another solid performance by Kemba Walker who was nothing short of sensational the past week in Madison Square Garden the Huskies likely played themselves into a #3 seed and a favorable regional placement. While Jim Calhoun may be dealing with some significant professional struggles he has a team that is capable of making a run deep into the NCAA Tournament behind a solid, but inexperienced group of role players and a superstar in Walker. On the other side the Cardinals are probably looking at a #3 or #4 seed as well and Rick Pitino should be looking forward to making a push towards Houston.
  • The Aztecs stand up to Jimmer. The closing moments of the Mountain West Conference final will be remembered for Kawhi Leonard jawing at Jimmer Fredette, but in reality the Aztecs had been making a statement to the Cougars for the previous 40 minutes. In avenging their two losses to BYU (the only two blemishes on their resume this season) San Diego State showed signs of a being a team that could make a run to the Final Four. While Fredette still got his 30, the Aztecs dominated the Brandon Davies-less Cougars on the inside outscoring them 38-14 thanks to big games out of Billy White and Leonard. The Aztecs and Cougars are likely headed toward the 2 and 3 lines respectively, but the two teams appear to be headed in opposite directions as the Aztecs have few glaring holes and Cougars still have a big one in the middle.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 11th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

One auto bid and a host of major conference games are on tap today, two days out from Selection Sunday. The afternoon session features plenty of bubble teams making their closing arguments to the Selection Committee. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

SEC Quarterfinals (at Atlanta, GA): Georgia vs. Alabama – 1 pm on ESPN FullCourt (***)

We’ve heard all kinds of things about this game from an elimination game to a play-in game. Whatever it may be, one team will be looking better than the other by the time it’s over. Alabama beat Georgia in the regular season finale six days ago and now they meet again in another game with major NCAA implications. RTC’s resident bracketologist had Georgia in and Alabama the first team on the “out” list as of last night while Joe Lunardi over at ESPN has the Bulldogs as the last team in the field and the Crimson Tide in the same position as RTC. This game will be played almost exclusively in the paint as neither team shoots it well from deep. Both teams rank in the top 20 in interior defense but Georgia has to avoid turnovers to win. Alabama thrives on giveaways despite their slower tempo, ranked #28 in defensive turnover percentage. Georgia committed 16 turnovers in the loss to the Tide last week and lost the game despite out-shooting Alabama from the floor. Senario Hillman leads Alabama in steals and will look to harass the Georgia guards all game long. The battle in the paint between Trey Thompkins and JaMychal Green could determine the outcome of the game if the Bulldogs don’t turn it over often.

Big Ten Quarterfinals (at Indianapolis, IN): Michigan vs. Illinois – 2:30 pm on ESPN (***)

Illinois is generally considered to be in the field of 68 but Michigan could really use a win. The Wolverines are likely in as of now but a loss here and other results around the country could make it a very close call on Sunday. The Illini won the only meeting of the regular season, a two point win in Champaign on February 16. Michigan protects the ball very well but rebounding and defense did them in against Illinois in that game. John Beilein would love to play this game in the half court where his team can probe and dissect the Illinois defense, although the Illini rank tenth in three point defense and Michigan fires up almost 23 triples per game. With two dynamic playmakers in Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr, Michigan can break a team down off the dribble of spot up for a three. This is a game they definitely can win but a better effort on the glass is needed. Michigan ranks near the bottom of D1 in offensive rebounding percentage (that will happen when you shoot so many threes) and was out-rebounded in the loss to Illinois last month.

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Big Ten Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten. With action set to tip from Indianapolis on Thursday, get set for the postseason with RTC’s regular season wrap-up and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

The Big Ten Tournament should prove to be quite the entertaining tournament. With so many teams on the bubble, every game is going to have a do-or-die atmosphere to it. Three of the four quarterfinal games, excluding the one in which Ohio State is playing, could propel teams to NCAA Tournament at-large bids. Another important matchup to watch is Northwestern vs. Minnesota in Round 1 – where they’ll probably be playing for an NIT berth.

  • Cold Teams: Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana
  • Is Battle Ready For last Stand?: The Nittany Lions’ Talor Battle will try to finally make the NCAA Tournament. Can he shoot Penn State off the bubble and into the field?
  • Is Nolen Healthy?: Al Nolen hasn’t played January 22 against Michigan, but he could return this week. Would it be enough to get the Gophers rolling?
  • Can Anyone Stop Ohio State?: The Buckeyes look like a juggernaut, and this isn’t the time to be putting big decisions in the hands of the selection committee. In order to feel comfortable about its #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, OSU probably needs to win the Big Ten’s first. Northwestern played them close at Welsh-Ryan Arena – is a big upset in the making?
  • Will Izzo’s Tournament Touch Get Going?: Of the teams playing in the first round, Michigan State seems like the most likely candidate to reach the tournament finals. It seems like Tom Izzo just has a knack for this kind of thing by now.
  • Is The Next Generation Ready?: There are nine seniors on the three All-Big Ten teams selected by the coaches, and just one freshman. Are players like Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, Illinois’ Jereme Richmond, Northwestern’s JerShon Cobb and Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. ready to play significant crunch time roles? Or will they wilt under the bright lights in Indianapolis?

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Set Your Tivo: 03.06.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 6th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

What a Saturday it was. The final day of the regular season for BCS teams is today while another ticket will be punched, this time out of the Missouri Valley. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#22 Kentucky @ Tennessee — 12 pm on CBS (****)

Knight Could ruin UT's Senior Day If He Gets Hot

Tennessee likely locked up a bid Thursday night at South Carolina but a loss today would drop them to 8-8 in the SEC. A win in the conference tournament would be advisable but their solid non-conference resume and strong schedule should probably be enough to push the Volunteers over the top.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

The NCAA Tournament is right around the corner and the middle of the Big Ten doesn’t know what to do about it. This week features a bunch of big games for teams like Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State and Minnesota as they make a last-ditch attempt to get into the field of 68. Last week, there wasn’t much separation because few games were played and teams continued to play right into their current three-tier stratosphere.

  • Team of the Week: Ohio State: With none of the bubble teams doing anything particularly impressive, the Buckeyes went about their business and dispatched of Illinois at Value City Arena and Indiana at Assembly Hall. The two wins helped the Buckeyes reclaim top dog status after their loss at Purdue.
  • Player of the Week: JaJuan Johnson, F, Purdue: Johnson scored 20 points in two Purdue road victories last week. He also had nine boards against Indiana and then followed it up by adding 17 rebounds and 7 blocks against Michigan State. The game against the Spartans was a performance that put him right back in the middle of the National Player of the Year and Big Ten Player of the Year conversations.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Tim Hardaway, Jr., G, Michigan: Hardaway had another excellent week as he continues to come on late and help drive Michigan towards an unexpected NCAA Tournament berth. He’s scored in double-figures in his past 11 games and scored 16 points against Wisconsin and 22 points at Minnesota as the Wolverines split a pair.

Power Rankings

This week’s power rankings focus a bit on what the Big Ten teams need to do to get prepared for the NCAA Tournament, or what they might be thinking about come the off season.

1. Ohio State (27-2, 14-2) – The Buckeyes have been in the NCAA Tournament since about the first day of the season. They’re concentrating on grabbing a #1 seed and possibly the #1 overall seed. To do it, they’ll have to beat Wisconsin at home and then make a deep run into the Big Ten Tournament. Star freshman Jared Sullinger seems to be slowing down. He only played 12 minutes against Indiana and scored five points, his lowest total of the season. That’s okay though, because Ohio State has another talented freshman, Deshaun Thomas, who isn’t afraid to shoot. He stepped right in and scored 22 points against the Hoosiers.

2. Purdue (24-5, 13-3) – Matt Painter’s crew hasn’t felt losing since February 1, six games ago. Purdue hasn’t really been challenged during that time period either, with the hardest game being an eight-point win over Wisconsin at home. The Boilermakers look to be in a solid position for a #2 or #3 seed come Selection Sunday.

3. Wisconsin (22-6, 12-4) – This is the best offense in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy, but the Badgers can’t seem to put people away. Still, it’s been an impressive run for Bo Ryan’s club. Jon Leuer’s 26 points against Northwestern helped the Badgers seal that victory. Wisconsin looks in line to be a protected seed as well come Selection Sunday and a team nobody should want to face.

4. Michigan (18-12, 8-9) – The Wolverines weren’t expected to contend for an NCAA berth this season, but a young team has grown up quickly, and with a win on Saturday over rival Michigan State, John Beilein’s team would definitely have a case. Most bracket projections have the Wolverines in the tournament or just barely out at the moment. If they miss, two recent close losses at Illinois (54-52) and versus Wisconsin (53-52 on Josh Gasser’s miracle three) will be cruel deciding factors. Of course, beating Michigan State on Saturday and securing at least one victory in the Big Ten Tournament would do a lot.

5. Michigan State (16-12, 8-8) – Another team from Michigan that has played an incredibly difficult schedule and now finds itself on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Spartans could use the road win in Ann Arbor, but they first have to get past a trap game versus Iowa. There’s no way a team that finishes 10-8 in the Big Ten would get left out, but with such a soft bubble, even 9-9 might be enough for Tom Izzo to get a chance to work his magic. Michigan State’s biggest problem? It’s second-best win is against a quickly fading Washington squad.

6. Illinois (18-11, 8-8) – The Illini are who they are; they blow out anything up to mediocre teams at home and struggle against everyone on the road. Thus, it’s pretty easy to project that Illinois will finish 9-9 in conference. Non-conference wins over North Carolina and Gonzaga will help get them safely into the tournament, but their seed line will be determined by how they play in the Big Ten Tournament.

7. Penn State (15-12, 8-8) – It was a festive day on Thursday for Talor Battle as he became the first player in Big Ten history with 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists. He said after the Nittany Lions beat Northwestern that he’d give it all back if Penn State could make the NCAA Tournament. Well, two winnable games remain as Ohio State comes to the Bryce Jordan Center and then Penn State finishes on the road at Minnesota. What it really comes down to is the game against the Buckeyes. Penn State has been close against good teams, but only has a home win over Wisconsin to carry their resume. Adding Ohio State to that list would be a clincher.

8. Northwestern (16-12, 6-11) – The Wildcats have no chance of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large. They’re barely hanging on to NIT status right now. Bill Carmody has a number of juniors and there are a lot of seniors in the league, so next year should be brighter. Unfortunately, Northwestern will say goodbye to the player that always did show up in the big games, Michael “Juice” Thompson. He’ll play his final home game at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Wednesday against Minnesota.

9. Minnesota (17-11, 6-10) – Minnesota has lost seven of its last eight games and has dropped off the bubble. The Gophers haven’t been able to weather the loss of senior guard Al Nolen. You can’t play basketball without a point guard, and while Blake Hoffarber has tried admirably to fill in, he can’t play both backcourt positions at once. Minnesota has two winnable games remaining at Northwestern and home against Penn State, but 8-10 in the conference won’t be enough for an NCAA berth.

10. Iowa (10-18, 3-13) – The Hawkeyes are looking to play spoiler now. Their best chance to really throw a wrench into someone’s plans is on Wednesday when Michigan State comes to town.

11. Indiana (12-14, 3-10) – Tom Crean will be lucky to escape the conference basement as the Hoosiers finish with two difficult games. A last-place finish in the conference might make his seat awfully hot.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 3/1 – Illinois at Purdue, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 3/1 – Ohio State at Penn State, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 3/2 – Minnesota at Northwestern, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 3/3 – Wisconsin at Indiana, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 3/5 – Michigan State at Michigan, 2 p.m., CBS
  • 3/5 – Purdue at Iowa, 4 p.m., ESPN
  • 3/6 – Penn State at Minnesota, 1 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 3/6 – Wisconsin at Ohio State, 4 p.m., CBS

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: I’d actually like to use this space this week to posit a few thoughts about other random topics around the conference.

  • There are four coaches in the conference whose names have come up as being on the “Hot Seat” at some point this season: Bruce Weber at Illinois, Bill Carmody at Northwestern, Tom Crean at Indiana and Ed DeChellis at Penn State. DeChellis will obviously be safe if the Nittany Lions make the NCAA Tournament, but I also expect at least two of the three others will be back next season as well.
  • The top five teams in the Big Ten receive automatic byes to the quarterfinals. 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10 and 8 plays 9. That 8-9 game is the one that intrigues me. Right now it would be Minnesota vs. Northwestern. But if you were the 6 or 7 seed, a loss in the first round would almost certainly kill your NCAA Tournament hopes. The 4-5 game is in the second round. Right now that’d be Illinois versus Penn State, giving the Nittany Lions another chance for a good win. Just some things to think about.
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Set Your Tivo: 03.01.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 1st, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Welcome to March, the best month of the year for all hoops fans. It’s a huge night for bubble teams across the country, with a few having a chance for that elusive marquee win that may put them over the top. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#19 Vanderbilt @ #22 Kentucky – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

Tonight, Josh Harrellson Will Be the Lone Kentucky Player Honored By the Senior Night Playing of "My Old Kentucky Home"

This is the only game in tonight’s preview that doesn’t feature a bubble team as both of these clubs are solidly in the field. They’re both projected to get 5-seeds and are actually right next to each other on the S-curve. The Commodores won the first meeting in Nashville by means of a strong shooting night on which they hit 55% from three. Kentucky held Vanderbilt to 41.2% shooting inside the arc in that game, however, and that’s something the Wildcats do very well on the whole. They rank fifth nationally in two point defense and block percentage, plus they rebound well with Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellson up front. Both teams have the ability to get silly from beyond the arc, so this game could very well come down to interior play.

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Checking in on… the Big 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 22nd, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

  • The Big Ten bubble picture is so muddled that it’s not worth even trying to sort through it at this point. Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Minnesota have all thought they were assured of dancing this season before some difficult events transpired. Right now, the Fighting Illini look to be at the top of the heap, but it’s almost guaranteed that some middling Big Ten team will end up on the outside looking in.
  • Thankfully, the conference will have three heavyweights waiting to defend it in the NCAA Tournament. Purdue vs. Wisconsin and Purdue vs. Ohio State showcased the quality of the upper tier teams in this league. They’re built for March and all three have contributors that can have a big night.

Team of the Week: Purdue – You can’t have a better week than Purdue had last week. The Boilermakers beat Wisconsin on Wednesday and then followed it up with a victory over Ohio State on national television. Lewis Jackson had a big game against the Badgers with 18 points and five assists and JaJuan Johnson had 20 points and ten boards. Sunday, though, belonged to the guy named Player of the Week.

Player of the Week: E’Twaun Moore, G, Purdue: Moore scored 19 points against Wisconsin, but with his team playing the #2 team in the country on Sunday, he really delivered. He scored 38 points. He did it efficiently too, shooting 13-18 from the field, 7-10 from three-point range and committing three turnovers. The senior shooting guard also had five assists and two steals.

Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: After an off night against Michigan State – during which he had 11 points, Sullinger went out and dominated the Purdue front line on the way to 25 points on 9-14 shooting. His rebounding totals have slipped a bit lately, but he’s still averaging almost a double-double at 18 points and 9.9 boards per game on the season.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (25-2, 12-2) – Thad Matta keeps shortening his rotation, but if he does it much more, he won’t be able to put five players on the court. In the victory over Michigan State, DeShaun Thomas played three minutes. While he logged 12 against the Boilermakers, a lot of that was due to foul trouble from Dallas Lauderdale. Can the Buckeyes make a deep tournament run with only six players?

2. Purdue (22-5, 11-3) – Purdue beat the team above it and the team below it in the Power Rankings this week. So why are the Boilermakers ranked below Ohio State? Through a full season of work, the Buckeyes have been slightly more consistent and both of Purdue’s victories came at home. Maybe Matt Painter’s team will get a chance to even the score in the Big Ten Tournament final?

3. Wisconsin (20-6, 10-4) – Purdue showed that Jon Leuer can get his points and Wisconsin can still lose. He scored 23 against the Boilermakers, but it wasn’t enough. At home versus, Penn State Keaton Nankivil went 5-5 from three and scored 22 points and Josh Gasser added 11 in a much more balanced effort that ended in a 10-point victory. The Badgers are going to need to have players step up on the road moving forward.

4. Illinois (17-10, 7-7) – If Illinois follows its up-and-down pattern, the Illini are in for a huge victory at Ohio State on Tuesday. Their last seven games have evenly alternated between wins and losses. The latest, a loss at Michigan State, may have helped the Spartans jump back onto the NCAA bubble.

5. Michigan (17-11, 7-8) – The Wolverines needed overtime and 30 points from freshman guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., to beat Iowa. Still, they got the win and that’s all that matters right now. Darius Morris had 20 points and nine assists in the victory and Jordan Morgan continued to build on his strong play of late with 18 points and eight boards.

6. Michigan State (15-11, 7-7) – The chances just keep on coming for Michigan State to prove it deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans played well but faded down the stretch against Ohio State on the road before beating Illinois at home. Kalin Lucas has been playing great basketball as of late. He scored 25 points against the Illini and was the only Michigan State player in double-figures.

7. Penn State (14-12, 7-8) – Talor Battle is always going to get his points. The senior guard scored 28 against Minnesota to keep the Nittany Lions in the NCAA discussion. A tough schedule makes their overall record a bit deceiving, but a loss to Maine and zero road wins are pretty tough sells. Penn State gets another chance for a road victory when it goes to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday.

8. Minnesota (17-9, 6-8) – In-season strife has hit the Gophers harder than any other team in the Big Ten. Minnesota will now essentially play four straight bubble elimination games down the stretch of the regular season. Three of them are home games, though, which should give the Gophers a leg up on the competition.

9. Northwestern (16-10, 6-9) – After beating Iowa and winning at Indiana, the Wildcats’ record looks somewhat respectable. Now comes the hard part. Northwestern has to win at the Kohl Center in Wisconsin to have any chance of finishing .500 in league play, but before that comes a tough test against a Penn State team that just seems to have Bill Carmody’s number.

10. Iowa (10-17, 3-12) – Two close losses against Michigan and Northwestern don’t help the Hawkeyes. They want victories. Melsahn Basabe and Jarryd Cole both scored in double-figures in both games this week. Cole’s 17 points against Northwestern tied a season-high that he set in the very first game against South Dakota State.

11. Indiana (12-15, 3-11) – The Hoosiers allowed Northwestern to come into Assembly Hall and win for just the second time ever even with a week to prepare and the Wildcats coming off a two-day turnaround. The Wildcats shot 21-25 from the free throw line compared to 14-19 for the Hoosiers in the six-point game. With four really tough games to end the season, Tom Crean could be looking at some angry fans come March.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 2/22 – Illinois at Ohio State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/22 – Michigan State at Minnesota, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/23 – Wisconsin at Michigan, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/24 – Penn State at Northwestern, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/26 – Michigan at Minnesota, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/27 – Purdue at Michigan State, 1 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/27 – Indiana at Ohio State, 4 p.m., CBS

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom:

  • Ohio State is no longer the #1 team in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Duke passed the Buckeyes after their loss to Purdue. The game against the Boilermakers was Ohio State’s worst per possession offensive output in conference play this season.
  • The Wisconsin-Penn State game featured some spectacular offense, and not much defense. 76-66 on 55 possessions is one high-scoring affair. It was Penn State’s second best showing of the conference season, just behind its opener against Indiana.
  • The metrics don’t believe in Michigan or Ohio State at the moment. Both teams have suffered from difficult schedules. It should be noted that the Buckeyes (+0.11) are third in efficiency margin in the conference behind Wisconsin (+0.13) and Purdue (+0.12).
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ATB: A Little Evergreen State Flavor

Posted by jstevrtc on February 18th, 2011

The Lede. There were only two ranked teams in action this evening but a number of bubble dwellers took the floor tonight, and if you were looking for a few teams to rise out of the big percolating bog of mediocrity that’s trying to gain admission to The Dance, such teams were in short supply tonight. If you’re a college hoops fan in the great state of Washington, you can be happy knowing that two of your three teams fared well (though we doubt you’re a fan of all three, right?).

Lamont Jones (above) And Solomon Hill Supplemented Derrick Williams Well On Thursday (K. Presnell/AZ Daily Star)

Your Watercooler Moment. #14 Arizona and #23 Temple have no worries when it comes to Selection Sunday this year — just over three weeks away, mind you — and they took care of business against foes who had the added motivation of needing wins over the very types of squads they were facing. The Wildcats let Washington State get to within five points with six minutes remaining but were only moderately challenged by the Cougars, now 17-9 (7-7) with the time to better that resume’ running short. The advertised matchup between WSU’s Klay Thompson and UA’s Derrick Williams did not disappoint; the two stars obviously didn’t guard each other, but Williams used his power in the paint (7-10 FG) and his finesse at the line (12-12 FT) to tally 26 points in addition to pulling eight rebounds. Thompson countered with a valiant 30 points which included five threes, but his supporting cast simply couldn’t hang with that of Williams. If things continue to go badly for the Cougars over the last couple of weeks of the regular season, Thompson will have missed out on his first three chances to showcase his skills on our game’s biggest stage. He’s projected as the 28th pick in 2012’s mock draft at NBADraft.net (he’s not mentioned in the 2011 version), so if he decides that this is his year to move on, there’s a good chance he’ll never play in the NCAA Tournament.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 15th, 2011

John Templon is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

All eyes were on Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday when undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State went into the Kohl Center to play Wisconsin in their toughest game of the regular season. The Buckeyes had a 15-point lead but watched it slip away thanks to heroics of Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor, which led to a very justified court rush from the Badger fans.

Elsewhere, though, the top of the conference was solidifying its reign. It’s now a definitive three-horse race between Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin at the top of the standings. Their games will continue to be must-see events. On the other hand, four teams are desperately clinging to bubble hopes below them.

  • Team of the Week: Wisconsin – Maybe the Badgers were looking ahead to Saturday, because they had to survive a game on Wednesday that went to overtime in Iowa City. The 62-59 victory, combined with 71-67 victory over the #1 team in the nation, is certainly a solid week’s worth of work.
  • Player of the Week: Jordan Taylor, G, Wisconsin – Taylor scored 27 points against the Buckeyes while making every big shot his team needed. He also had seven assists, four rebounds and shot 5-8 from distance. That was after going for 16 points and eight assists the game before against Iowa. Those types of performances get you noticed.
  • Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State – It wasn’t Sullinger’s fault that Ohio State lost on Saturday. The freshman had a double-double with 19 points and 12 boards. Unfortunately, his claims of a spitting incident after the game grabbed a number of headlines.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (24-1, 11-1) – It was the Buckeyes’ defense not offense that let them down on Saturday. Still, it was going to be a tough game to win nonetheless. Ken Pomeroy saw it coming in the middle of the game. Before Taylor took over Aaron Craft had a chance to be the hero. The freshman point guard sparked the Buckeyes with eight points and six assists in 34 minutes.

2. Wisconsin (19-5, 9-3) – See the Team of the Week section.

3. Purdue (20-5, 9-3) – JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore got on a roll this week scoring a combined 84 points against Indiana and Illinois to lead the Boilermakers to two key victories. Lately it has been Lewis Jackson’s turn to be the third banana as he scored 13 points against the Hoosiers and 10 against the Illini.

4. Illinois (16-9, 6-6) – When Bruce Weber isn’t questioning his team’s motivation, he’s overseeing a thoroughly mediocre season. Illinois fans seem to think Demetri McCamey has one foot out the door already and his poor play against Purdue, four points on 1-10 shooting, didn’t help matters.

5. Michigan (16-10, 6-7) – A three-game winning streak has catapulted the Wolverines back into the middle of the conference race. Michigan still needs a quality victory to get into serious NCAA Tournament discussion. It was freshman week as Jordan Morgan scored a career-high 27 points against Northwestern and then Tim Hardaway, Jr. followed it up with a career-high 26 points against Indiana.

6. Minnesota (17-8, 6-7) – Minnesota broke a four-game losing streak on Sunday against Iowa and is desperately clinging to NCAA Tournament hopes. The Gophers are a depleted team and Tubby Smith keeps rolling out lineups with four forwards and Blake Hoffarber and crossing his fingers. Those are his most talented players, but if one of the freshman trio of Maverick Ahanmisi, Chip Armelin or Austin Hollins can give the team something they’ll see their role increase a lot. Ahanmisi played 11 strong minutes against Iowa with seven points, two dimes and a steal.

7. Michigan State (14-10, 6-6) – The Spartans got back on track this week with a blowout home victory over Penn State. Draymond Green joined Charlie Bell and Magic Johnson as the only Spartans to have a triple-double in a game when he went for 15 points, 14 boards and 10 assists.

8. Penn State (13-11, 6-7) – Talor Battle went over 2,000 points for his career against Northwestern and the Nittany Lions got a much needed victory to keep hanging around a weak NCAA Tournament bubble. Penn State, though, is still a long shot, especially because the remaining schedule is difficult with two games against Minnesota, at Ohio State and versus Wisconsin.

9. Northwestern (14-10, 4-9) – When a jump-shooting team goes 3-33 on jump shots during a game, things will get ugly. That’s exactly what happened with the Wildcats on Sunday. Northwestern shot 18-52 from the field against Penn State and scored .695 points per possession. It looks like the Wildcats will be waiting till next year, a common refrain in Chicago.

10. Iowa (10-15, 3-10) – Iowa did everything right except finish against Wisconsin. Melsahn Basabe and Jerryd Cole both had double-doubles against the Badgers, and four players were in double-figures, but Jordan Taylor hit the game-tying shot and then Wisconsin took control late in overtime to get the victory.

11. Indiana (12-14, 3-10) – Tom Crean’s squad will look to get a victory over a reeling Northwestern team at Assembly Hall on Saturday. It might be Indiana’s last chance to get a conference victory. Christian Watford returned from injury against Michigan and scored 14 points in 22 minutes.

A Look Ahead (all times EST)

  • 2/15 – Michigan State at Ohio State, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/16 – Wisconsin at Purdue, 6:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/16 – Michigan at Illinois, 8:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/17 – Minnesota at Penn State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/19 – Illinois at Michigan State, 9 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/20 – Ohio State at Purdue, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 2/20 – Penn State at Wisconsin, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: Ken Pomeroy introduced the “Conference Only” check box (h/t RTC) to the statistics on his web site this week. It has opened up a plethora of new opportunities, but here are a few observations.

  • Wisconsin has the best offense in conference and it’s predicated on one thing, not turning the ball over. The Badgers rank first in the conference only turning the ball over 11.9% of possessions.
  • Everyone was talking about how great the Northwestern offense was coming into conference play, but in Big Ten play it seems like teams have caught up to Bill Carmody’s strategies. The Wildcats rank ninth in the Big Ten in offensive efficiency.
  • Ohio State has the second best offense in conference play and has been the best shooting team thus far. The Buckeyes rank first in two-point and three-point percentage, but 10th in free throw percentage. A lot of attempts by Jared Sullinger, a 69.6 percent shooter, and David Lighty, a 65.0 percent shooter, are weighing that average down.
  • I find it shocking that Illinois has the best defense in the Big Ten during conference play. Defense seems to be an “effort” statistic and that’s supposed to be the Illini’s downfall, but they’ve allowed barely over a point per possession in league play. The problem for Illinois is that it doesn’t force many turnovers, so it’s hard for Bruce Weber’s squad to get back into a game quickly.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.10.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 10th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

It’s another big night with post-season implications, as Connecticut and Vanderbilt look to improve their seeding while the other six teams need wins to make their cases or avoid falling farther towards the bubble. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#10 Connecticut @ St. John’s – 7 pm on ESPN (***)

St. John’s is an interesting case when it comes to the possibility of inclusion in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve beaten a bunch of quality teams, but the record isn’t anything special, just 13-9 (5-5) coming into tonight’s game. A loss would give the Johnnies double-digit losses, not something you want to brag about before the Selection Committee. More importantly, they’d dip under .500 in conference play and would obviously need to win plenty of games down the stretch — and they’ve got a few tough ones left.

Lavin's First Year Has Been Better Than Expected, Though We're Sure He's Nowhere Near Content

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 1st, 2011

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

A Look Back

This look back is better summed up in three short lists.

  • Rising: Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Michigan
  • Falling: Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern
  • Steadying: Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa

It seems like very few teams have found their level thus far in the Big Ten. Every week brings some notable surprises and last week was no different. One point can be the difference between an awesome week and a tough one as Northwestern, Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan State all found out this week.

Team of the Week: Indiana: The Hoosiers look much improved recently. A victory over Illinois was followed up by a heart-wrenching one-point loss at Michigan State in overtime. Tom Crean’s squad was left as an afterthought at the beginning of the season, but they’re starting to prove the mantra that there will be no easy games during conference play this season. Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford are taking over the offense for the Hoosiers and it’s proving to be an effective strategy. Hulls missed the final shot against Michigan State, but he scored 18 points against the Illini on nine shots, and followed it up with 15 against the Spartans.

Player of the Week: Darius Morris, G, Michigan: Morris scored 17 points dished out eight assists in Michigan’s victory over rival Michigan State and then against Iowa he recorded a triple-double, the third in Michigan history, with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Newcomer of the Week: Jared Sullinger, F, Ohio State: Sullinger had 17 points and seven boards against Purdue and then 21 points and eight boards, including the game-winning free throw, against Northwestern. Sullinger is the best player on the nation’s best team and is incredibly impressive in person. His steal, behind-the-back dribble, fast break dunk against Northwestern was one of the more nimble plays you’ll see a power forward make.

Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (22-0, 9-0) – The number one team in the nation and only undefeated left, the Buckeyes sure do like to make things interesting. After blowing out Purdue and essentially staking their claim as the biggest bully in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes needed a Jared Sullinger free throw with 3.2 seconds remaining to escape Welsh-Ryan with a hard earned victory. It was Ohio State’s sixth conference victory by five points or less this season.

2. Purdue (18-4, 7-2) – Purdue went 1-1 last week and firmly solidified its place as the second-best team in the conference. The Boilermakers, though, need to figure out what’s happened to E’Twaun Moore’s shot. The senior guard from Chicago shot 4-13 against Ohio State and 3-13 against Minnesota. He’s had a few of these clunkers this season, including a 2-10 performance against Penn State and a 2-14 game in Purdue’s other Big Ten loss at Minnesota.

3. Wisconsin (15-5, 5-3) – The Badgers are a much better home team than they are road team. All three of their conference losses have come away from the Kohl Center, with the most recent being a 56-52 loss to an improving Penn State team. Wisconsin went just seven deep in the rotation in that loss.

4. Penn State (12-8, 5-4) – When the Nittany Lions lost to Maine I don’t think anyone would’ve fathomed they’d put it back together like this. Talor Battle isn’t going to let this team fall behind by too much ever. Penn State hasn’t lost a game by more than three points since a January 15 drubbing by Purdue and is 4-2 in the conference during that stretch. This is a team on the rise and one that is starting to put together a good NCAA bubble resume.

5. Minnesota (16-5, 5-4) – The Golden Gophers survived their first test without Al Nolen against Northwestern relatively comfortably, but against Purdue on Saturday both Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith found room on the perimeter scoring 13 and 15 points respectively to carry the Boilermakers to the win. Perimeter defense is a place where Tubby Smith is going to definitely miss his senior point guard.

6. Michigan State (13-8, 5-4) – After Sunday’s one-point overtime escape against the Hoosiers, the Spartans maintain an above .500 conference record, but it’s a mirage of sorts. The team turns the ball over too much and doesn’t shoot many free throws and opponents are able to find clean looks beyond the three-point arc. Michigan State has picked up its last four conference victories by a total of 11 points and three of those were against teams in the bottom tier of the conference. Now Korie Lucious has been suspended for the rest of the season and Tom Izzo has a lot of work to do in East Lansing.

7. Illinois (14-7, 4-4) – There is a ton of talent in Champaign, but the results just aren’t there. A perplexing loss to Indiana led to a court storm for the Hoosiers. Unfortunately Bruce Weber’s team had an extra day or two to ponder the loss too, because they were the odd team out in the Big Ten’s weekend schedule of games. One of Illinois’ big problems is that they’re not getting to the foul line. The Illini rank 320th in the nation in free throw rate, and even against the hack-happy Hoosiers, the Illini attempted only eight free throws against 59 field goal attempts.

8. Michigan (13-9, 3-6) – The Wolverines went into the Breslin Center and got a big upset victory in a rivalry game thanks to some hot shooting. Michigan shot 10-21 from three-point range to get its first victory in East Lansing since 1997. Then on Sunday against Iowa there was no letdown thanks to Darius Morris’ outstanding effort. His triple-double helped lead Michigan, which had all five starters score at least 12 points in the victory.

9. Northwestern (13-8, 3-7) – It was another moment of coming so close, but falling short for the Wildcats against Ohio State on Saturday night. Playing without John Shurna, who suffered a concussion when his head bounced against the basket support after a nasty tumble against Minnesota, Northwestern did everything right for about 39 minutes, but it couldn’t figure out a way to get the victory. With a tough schedule remaining, Bill Carmody’s squad might be hard pressed to qualify for the NIT. Northwestern has a week off to regroup before a nationally televised game against Illinois on CBS on Saturday. Northwestern has picked up the tempo this season, but after almost upsetting Ohio State playing the old 35-second routine, you might see slower games in its future as well.

10. Indiana (11-11, 2-7) – See the “Team of the Week” mention above.

11. Iowa (8-13, 1-8) – The Hawkeyes are playing competitive basketball, but lost a close one to Penn State and played Michigan tough before succumbing to Morris’ triple-double. One of the more interesting players to watch in the Big Ten is on Iowa. That’s freshman Melsahn Basabe. He alternates between great games, 25 points on 11 shots, eight boards, two blocks against Michigan, and poor ones, four points on 1-4 shooting against Penn State. It typically has to do with the experience of the front line he’s playing against.

A Look Ahead (all times EST):

  • 2/1 – Purdue at Wisconsin, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/1 – Penn State at Illinois, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • 2/3 – Michigan at Ohio State, 7 p.m., ESPN
  • 2/5 – Illinois at Northwestern, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 2/5 – Iowa at Indiana, 4 p.m., ESPN2
  • 2/6 – Michigan State at Wisconsin, 1 p.m., CBS
  • 2/6 – Ohio State at Minnesota, 2 p.m., ESPN

Fun with Efficiency Margin and KenPom: There is no defense in the Big Ten. None. It’s crazy, but every team is scoring above a point per possession in league play and every team is allowing more than a point per possession as well. Ohio State slipped over the mark after allowing Northwestern to score 57 points in 49 possessions, which also happened to be the second slowest game in the NCAA this season behind Notre Dame’s effort against Pittsburgh. Iowa slipped over the point per possession mark in scoring due to the Hawkeyes’ 65-possession shootout against Michigan, which ended 87-73. Michigan shot 50 percent from three during the game (14-28) and finished with an effective field goal percentage of 71.4 percent. Of course that’s nothing compared to the 80.7 percent mark Illinois put up against Northwestern earlier this season or even the 80.2 percent mark it hit against the Hawkeyes on December 29.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.28-01.30

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 28th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor

This weekend brings us yet another great slate of games with plenty of ranked teams heading out on the road to face unranked opponents. How many will go down this time? All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#21 Georgetown @ #6 Villanova – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (****)

Despite their win at the Carrier Dome over Syracuse last week, Villanova has lost two of its last three games and now welcomes their rival Georgetown Hoyas to the Wells Fargo Center. The Hoyas have won three straight over the New York-area schools to climb back to 4-4 in Big East play. Georgetown has won four true road games but none of those wins were against teams the caliber of Villanova.

If Freeman and the Hoyas Plan On Finishing Strong, Tonight's a Good Night To Start

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