ATB: Solomon Alabi Making His Presence Known

Posted by rtmsf on December 18th, 2009


Game of the Night. Florida State 76, Auburn 72. You know we’re having a slow as molasses night when this is our top game.  No disrespect to FSU or Auburn but this isn’t a bowl game, and we know just how apathetic these programs generally are about basketball.  The ACC moved to 6-3 against its southeastern brethren tonight with this hard-fought victory over Jeff Lebo’s team behind Solomon Alabi’s (22/9/3 blks) second straight superb and fourth straight good game.  If this isn’t a fluke and the FSU big man is starting to really find his game — and the evidence supports that he is (20/8/3 in his last four games) — then the Seminoles are a completely different team than they were just a few short weeks ago.  Freshman stud guard Michael Snaer also had his his fourth straight good game, garnering 14 points in 24 minutes of action.  We know that Auburn is one of the bottom teams in the SEC, but thirteen threes (on 39 attempts!) is a peculiar strategy considering that the Tigers came into this game hitting only 30.4% from deep this year.

Alabi (right) Brought His Game Tonight (AP/Steve Cannon)

Alabi (right) Brought His Game Tonight (AP/Steve Cannon)

Some Close Calls.  Two BCS schools were forced to fight back from halftime deficits tonight to avoid disastrous losses at home, both teams winning by a mere three points on an otherwise very blase’ evening.

  • NC State 79, Elon 76. Elon held a six-point lead at halftime of this one in Raleigh, and it took until the last five minutes of this one for the Wolfpack, behind Tracy Smith’s 21/8, got the lead and put this game away.  NCSU is hard to gauge this year, with an away win at Marquette and a home loss to Northwestern on its resume, but if the Wolfpack are going to endeavor to move out of the cellar of the ACC this season, they’ll need a much better showing than tonight on Sunday when they travel to Wake Forest for the first ACC game of the season.
  • LSU 63, Nicholls State 60. Tasmin Mitchell hit a three with 36 seconds remaining to give LSU a three-point lead, which the Tigers used to get the win in the final seconds versus a Louisiana school for the 79th consecutive time.  Mitchell had 27/6/3 assts for the now 7-2 LSU team, who are completely reliant on he and Storm Warren (13/11) and Bo Spencer (12/4 assts) to lead this team.  Other than that, there is no depth for Trent Johnson’s team.

Other Games of National Interest.

  • #23 UNLV 72, Weber State 63. UNLV pulled away from Weber State in the second half behind 16/3 from Matt Shaw and 15/5/4 blks from Chace Stanbeck tonight.  The Rebels look to head into Mountain West play on January 6th against BYU at 12-1 with two more easy wins in the next two weeks.
  • Nevada 73, Eastern Washington 70. Luke Babbitt dropped 29/9 in another stellar performance for the big man from Reno tonight.  Babbitt is averaging 19/10 while shooting 50% from the field and 90% from the line.  Still, his team has struggled to a 5-4 record this year, although each of the four losses came in road games against top 100 opponents.  If Nevada wants to get back into the picture for an NCAA Tournament bid, though (as in 2004-07), they’ll need to figure out a way to shore up a leaky defense.  In tonight’s game Brandon Fields (17/8/3 assts) hit the game-winning three with 4.3 seconds remaining.
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 16th, 2009


Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.



  1. Kentucky  10-0
  2. Florida  8-1
  3. Tennessee  7-1
  4. South Carolina  6-2
  5. Vanderbilt  6-3
  6. Georgia  4-4


  1. Mississippi  8-1
  2. Mississippi State  7-2
  3. LSU  6-2
  4. Alabama  6-3
  5. Auburn  5-4
  6. Arkansas  4-5

It was a very slow week in the SEC as three teams did not see any action at all.  Kentucky and Mississippi State represented the SEC well in the SEC/Big East Invitational while Florida and Georgia lost their matchups.  Both Mississippi teams have been coming on strong and supplying some firepower to the West; Tennessee has only one setback and they should challenge UK all season.  The big story for the rest of the year will be the race to 2000 wins between UK and North Carolina.  Kentucky has pretty much assured themselves of being the first team to break the 2000-win plateau as they currently have 1998 wins to 1992 for UNC.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 8th, 2009


Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.


  1. Kentucky  8-0
  2. Florida  8-0
  3. Tennessee  6-1
  4. Vanderbilt  6-1
  5. South Carolina  6-2
  6. Georgia  4-3


  1. Mississippi  7-1
  2. Alabama  6-2
  3. Mississippi State  5-2
  4. LSU  4-2
  5. Auburn  5-4
  6. Arkansas  4-5

Anyone doubting the SEC’s resurgence this season had to be pouring themselves a big glass of “hater-ade” after taking a look at the weekly Top 25 polls.  The SEC, which sent only three teams to the NCAA Tourney last season now has three teams perched in the Top 10 and four teams are among the Top 25 in the nation.

Kentucky used a win over North Carolina to leapfrog Purdue into the #4 spot in the AP Top 25 and now have that spot in both polls.  Tennessee only had one game last week, but moved to #9 in both polls due to other teams’ misfortunes, and the resurgent Florida Gators now occupy the #10 spot in the AP Top 25 and the 11th spot in the ESPN/USA Today Poll.  Mississippi debuted in the AP Poll at #25 and fell just outside the top 25 at #29 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.  In contrast to that, Vanderbilt was #24th in the ESPN poll and #28 in the AP Poll.

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Floriani: A Tempo-Free Look at the PNIT

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.  He also regularly covers all levels of basketball in the New York City area.

NEW YORK CITY – The morning started on a Northeast Conference note. I officiated three basketball games in the NJ Goats (love that name!) Thanksgiving Tournament. My partner was Ed Mills, a NEC official who occasionally will do a 12-and-under boys tournament such as this. Our third and final game had a former NEC official, Tony Banks, who stepped down a few years ago due to illness.  Three nice games in the book and off to New York. Forget Black Friday shopping.

A final look back on the Pre-Season NIT finals and consolation. Duke knocked off UConn 68-59 for the championship.

pnit table 3

Think of Duke and the images of motion offense, passes quickly distributed around the perimeter, precision cuts and open shots come to mind. Friday’s Pre-Season NIT final gave us a look at this year’s Duke, a team that will battle you in the paint and contest everything. The offensive rebounding rate is proof enough. Overall the Blue Devils outrebounded UConn 56-43 with a 25-14 edge on the offensive glass. And this was against a Husky team with several skilled, tough big men.  The principal damage on the offensive glass was inflicted by Brian Zoubek (7 off boards) and Lance Thomas (5 off rebs). Zoubek scored only 2 points but impacted things contesting the paint and adding 11 rebounds overall. Coach Mike Krzyzewski noted two of Zoubek’s offensive rebounds resulted in pitches back out to the perimeter that resulted in three point field goals.

UConn shot 0-4 on the afternoon from three. Not a big concern for Coach Jim Calhoun as the gameplan was to attack the basket. Offensively two things stood out for the Huskies: the field goal percentage of 37% (22-59) and worse yet, a 15-28 mark from the charity stripe. Time and again as UConn was in the process of a run a missed free throw or two put a serious dent in their momentum. Two key points were emphasized by Calhoun. “I can’t remember holding an opponent to 28% field goal percentage (for the game) and limiting them to eight second-half field goals and losing.” Calhoun answered his own question looking at the stat sheet and lamenting the loss of the battle of the boards.

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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 1st, 2009


Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.


  1. Kentucky  (7-0)
  2. Florida  (6-0)
  3. Tennessee  (5-1)
  4. South Carolina  (5-1)
  5. Vanderbilt  (4-1)
  6. Georgia  (3-2)


  1. Mississippi  (5-1)
  2. Mississippi State  (4-2)
  3. Alabama  (4-2)
  4. LSU  (3-2)
  5. Auburn  (3-3)
  6. Arkansas  (2-4)

The big story in the SEC this week has been the re-emergence of Florida as a national threat.  The question being asked everywhere is, “Is Florida back?”   As of now, that answer is a resounding YES.  The Gators just completed a very impressive week (see team updates), and have a good core group in the 2010 recruiting class.  Add to this the speculation that Florida may be taking the lead over Kentucky in the race for #1 2010 recruit Brandon Knight and it appears that this season and the future for UF is very bright indeed.  Thanks to Florida, the SEC East is shaping up as possibly one of the best divisions in the country with Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt combining for a 27-3 record.  The SEC East has three teams in the Top 17 in the country (Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida) with Vanderbilt lurking in the fringes of the Top 25.  The SEC is still looking solid for a possible eight NCAA bids this year.  I know it’s early, but the five teams in the East, plus the two Mississippi teams and darkhorse Alabama are clearly the class of the conference thus far.

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RTC Live: Preseason NIT Consolation & Finals (Ariz St vs. LSU; UConn vs. Duke)

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2009


Welcome back to MSG as we take in the third place game and the finals of the Preseason NIT. In the first game, tipping right at 2:30  pm today, LSU takes on Arizona State. The Tigers were run off the court against UConn, as their backcourt was unable to handle the pressure from the Huskies. The Sun Devils come out strong against Duke, but looked lost on the offensive end over the final 30 minutes of the game. A big issue for the Tigers is going to be how they match up with Arizona State defensively. The Tigers are pretty big — Storm Warren and Tasmin Mitchell are the two forwards, but neither is what you would call a “pure” small forward. ASU plays four guards (including Rihards Kuksiks), meaning that Trent Johnson is going to have to decide between dealing with the mismatch or playing zone. At the other end, ASU is going to have their hands full with Warren inside. He had 15 and 6 in limited minutes against a good Husky front line. Eric Boateng (4 points, 4 boards, 9 turnovers) will need to play much better for ASU.

The final is the game everyone will be waiting to see. There are a few certainties in life — gravity exists, turkey puts you to sleep, Dickie V loves Duke — and one of those certainties is that Duke-UConn is going to be a classic. Think back to 1990 and Christian Laettner‘s heroics; or the 1999 title game and Trajan Langdan’s travels; or the 2004 national semifinal and the UConn comeback. Whenever these two teams tango, it is an event, and tonight will be no different. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith have been playing fantastic basketball, but they have yet to face a team that has the athletes that UConn has in the backcourt. Jerome “Slicin'” Dyson (ESPN really needs to stop using that nickname, it is terrible. What’s wrong with Romey?) and Kemba Walker are as good defending on the ball as anyone in the nation, and the ability of the Duke guards to handle the 2-2-1 press (with Romey and Kemba up top) will be a huge determinant in the outcome of this game. That said, the difference between UConn last night and UConn of the first three games was their aggressiveness going to the glass. But for the first time all season, they will play a team that can match up with them size-wise. Will the Huskies still be able to rebound the basketball?

Two things to keep an eye on: 1) Who controls the tempo of this game. UConn is going to want to get this thing going up and down, as Duke does not have the athletes to run with them. But Duke is going to want slow this down, sit back in a packed-in zone, and let the Huskies try to shoot their way to the title. 2) Stanley Robinson vs. Kyle Singler. Singler is the best player on this Duke team, and is the guy they look to for big shots. But Sticks is a phenomenal athlete, and will be counted on to slow down Singler.

Is it 5 pm yet? In the immortal words of Fergie, “Let’s get it started in here.”

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Floriani at the Preseason NIT

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2009

Ray Floriani is an occasional contributor and the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.  He covers college basketball in the greater New York City area.

NEW YORK CITY – A few Preseason NIT semifinal impressions as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade marches on. For years it was the Macy’s parade, long before corporate sponsorship entered our stadia and arenas.  UConn looked very good pushing the pace. The Huskies entered the semi with LSU averaging 66 possessions. Against the Tigers, UConn had a 37 possession first half and a 45-29 lead at the break. The final possession total was 69, somewhat misleading as the Huskies started using more clock the last six minutes with the game in hand. Their final offensive efficiency in the 81-55 rout was 117.

alex oriakhi uconn

I’m impressed with the UConn bigs, Gavin Edwards (15 pts), Charles Okwandu and Alex Oriakhi (9 boards). They are all skilled and can run the floor like deer. Don’t forget Stanley Robinson (14 pts, 11 reb), a matchup problem on the wing or in the paint and point guard Kemba Walker (20 pts, 5 assists). It all adds up to a strong cast.  The Huskies had some less than spectacular performances before getting here. LSU saw the Big East refs at their best to date. Coach Trent Johnson was upset that his Tigers could not handle the transition. Coach had to be concerned as well about Tasmin Mitchell (9 pts on 4-12 shooting) and point guard Bo Spencer (5 pts and 2-14 from the floor).  Storm Warren (15 points 7 rebounds) was the lone Tiger consistently productive on this night.  My baseline press vantage point saw Johnson not ranting but in virtual conversation or debate with the officials all night. Clearly, LSU had a lot more issues with execution that needed addressing.

I’m impressed with Arizona State coming out tough. Too often teams are prepared and ready for Duke but play tenuous, afraid to miss a shot or make a turnover. Herb Sendek has plenty of experience facing Duke while at NC State, so he had his team ready and playing the role of aggressor. I was especially impressed with the grit and penetration skills of Sun Devil senior guard Derek Glasser who consistently gained access to the paint.  To their credit on a night they could have been headed to a third place game on Black Friday, Duke was resilient to meet the challenge and respond. Kyle Singler (1-6 first half) hit a huge trey that sparked a mid second half spurt that allowed Mike Krzyzewski’s club to prevail 64-53.

This is Duke’s biggest team in years if not the biggest under Coach K. Still, the motion offense, movement and presentation of great looks is there. I’m looking forward to the big man matchup. UConn blocked 13 shots or 21% of the LSU field goal attempts on Wednesday. Their shot-blocking ability has to be a big concern for Duke.  I’m also interested to see how well LSU can respond after Wednesday as they meet ASU in the consolation.

To all… a happy holiday!!!

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RTC Live: Preseason NIT Semifinals (UConn vs. LSU; Duke vs. Arizona State)

Posted by rtmsf on November 25th, 2009


RTC Live is taking over the Garden… again. Just last week, we were there to watch Syracuse run roughshod over the rest of the Cal and UNC en route to the CvC tournament title. This time around, we will be there to provide instant analysis of the semifinals and finals of the Preseason NIT. The semis kick off with LSU taking on the UConn Huskies. Not much was expected out of the Tigers this season as they lost Chris Johnson and Marcus Thornton, but Trent Johnson’s group has played well. They are 3-0, including a win over Western Kentucky in the NIT regional final. Bo Spencer (20.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 apg) and Storm Warren (16.3 ppg, 11.7 rpg) are putting up the best numbers, but senior Tasmin Mitchell is the best player on this team. UConn, on the other hand, has been playing below expectations. With underwhelming wins over William & Mary, Colgate, and Hofstra (a game they were down nine with nine minutes left), the Huskies look like they are a long way from being a top three team in the Big East. That said, Jerome Dyson has played like an all-american (20.0 ppg, 6.0 apg), and Stanley Robinson (16.7 ppg) is forever a threat for a big dunk or three.

The second game of the night pits the Duke Blue Devils and the Arizona State Sun Devils. ASU, and the Pac-10 as a whole, could really use a strong showing in NYC. Herb Sendek’s teams are usually expected to low-scoring, but ASU has hit 80 points three times already this season, including breaking the century mark in their last outing against San Francisco. Sharpshooting Rihard Kuksiks leads five players averaging double figures at 13.8 ppg. The Dukies are shorthanded in their backcourt this season, as Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Andre Dawkins are the only scholarship guards Coach K has. Smith and Scheyer are playing like stars, however. Smith is averaging 22/6 apg through his first two games back from suspension, while Scheyer is posting 16.5 ppg and 5.3 apg through four games. His most impressive stat? 0. As in the number of turnovers he has this year. With Kyle Singler playing like Kyle Singler, this Duke team looks a lot better than the pundits gave them credit for during the preseason.  Join us for an exciting night of RTC Live hoops again from the mecca of college basketball, Madison Square Garden. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.


If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #5 – SEC

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2009

seasonpreviewPaul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:


  1. Kentucky  (13-3)
  2. Tennessee  (11-5)
  3. South Carolina  (10-6)
  4. Vanderbilt (10-6)
  5. Florida (7-9)
  6. Georgia  (2-14)


  1. Mississippi State (10-6)
  2. Mississippi (9-7)
  3. Arkansas (9-7)
  4. Alabama (7-9)
  5. LSU  (6-10)
  6. Auburn (4-12)

All-Conference Team:

  • John Wall (G), Kentucky
  • Devan Downey (G), South Carolina
  • Tyler Smith (F), Tennessee
  • Patrick Patterson (F), Kentucky
  • Jarvis Varnado (F), Mississippi State

6th Man. Terrico White (G), Mississippi

Impact Newcomer. John Wall (G), Kentucky

sec logo

What You Need to Know.  After missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 16 years, the Kentucky Wildcats are poised to regain their role at the top of the SEC, having added the number one recruiting class and top coach John Calipari. This year looks to be a year of redemption and resurgence not only for UK but for the whole SEC which placed just three teams in the NCAA last year.  Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are very strong, experienced teams in the East that should go dancing.  Mississippi State hopes to win the West behind Jarvis Varnado and Mississippi and Arkansas look to be much improved and can give any team in the SEC fits.

Predicted Champion. Kentucky  (NCAA Seed:  #1).  Kentucky returns Patrick Patterson and the core group of the team that won 22 games last season.  The main loss for UK was junior Jodie Meeks who went to the NBA, but in his place, UK added the number one recruiting class and hired head coach John Calipari.  Obviously, Calipari faces the task of instilling a new offense with six new faces, but the Cats are so deep that freshman Daniel Orton, a top 25 player, will have to battle for significant playing time.  The Wildcats achilles heel last year was at point guard and UK added two of the top four freshman points in John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.  Talent and depth alone make this a top 10 team and if Calipari can install his DDMO effectively, this is a legitimate Final Four team.

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