Morning Five: Veterans Day (Observed) Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 12th, 2012

  1. Friday was supposed to be about the games, but perhaps the biggest news all last week came out of NCAA headquarters where it declared UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad ineligible to play “due to violations of NCAA amateurism rules,” citing his travel and lodging on unofficial visits to two schools — reportedly Duke and UNC — in addition to the already discussed relationship between his family and financial advisors. Perhaps given the timing of the announcement, for which the NCAA probably figured it would receive criticism, they also mentioned how long it took the Muhammad family to produce the necessary documents (a full three months) meaning that the NCAA took a little over one week to come to a decision and within a few hours of completing the necessary interviews. It should be pointed out that this ruling does not mean that Muhammad is done for the season, as the NCAA did not specify the duration of his ineligibility and UCLA plans to appeal the ruling. As we said before we are not that surprised by this decision, but expect this to play out over the next few weeks. Hopefully Muhammad stays at UCLA long enough for a final decision to be made.
  2. As for the actual games, there were quite a few interesting storylines over the weekend, but the one that stood out was the cancellation of the two naval ship games on Friday night due to issues with condensation. The only outdoor game that was actually completed was the Sunday afternoon match-up between Syracuse and San Diego State and even that one had to be moved from Friday due to inclement weather. As we have said on this site before, the naval ship idea is nice as a morale boost for the troops and brings some good publicity to the sport when it is pulled off correctly, but as this weekend demonstrated there are too many confounding variables to make it a viable repeatable event. As much as we hate to say it just one year after the Carrier Classic was one of the highlights of last season, but the outdoor ship games need to go. If you want to do something to honor the troops on Veterans Day weekend, do something like what Michigan State and Connecticut did in Germany and play in front of them indoors — an airplane hangar works out just fine.
  3. On Friday we ran a column featuring the winners and losers of the week. If we were doing another one today, Tom Crean would have to be at the top of the winners list as he not only added Noah Vonleh, the #8 recruit in the class of 2013, but he also signed a contract extension that runs through 2020 and pays him $3.16 million per year in base salary. As big as the Vonleh signing is (he might end up being Cody Zeller’s replacement if Zeller opts to enter the NBA Draft after this season), the contract extension should be a huge recruiting tool for Crean particularly as he recruits against more established coaches at the other top schools around the country. Kentucky fans might still mock the Hoosiers and their Sweet Sixteen rings, but the way things are looking we could have a very competitive interstate rivalry over the next decade even if the schools can’t come to an agreement to play each other.
  4. Butler announced that it was starting a public fundraising campaign to get to the $16 million it needs to renovate Hinkle Fieldhouse. The school has already raised $11 million on its own, but needs to raise an additional $5 million to meet its goal. As much as we love Hinkle we understand the need to raise money to renovate it and help Butler stay competitive with the other high-level programs it competes against, but we are having a hard time with the naming opportunity section. For a place that seems essentially a temple/church of basketball, naming every nut and bolt in the place seems a little strange. Having said that if one of our generous benefactors wants to name something after us we would be willing to lend our name so long as it isn’t something particularly offensive, like a urinal.
  5. Over the years we have commented on more than one occasion about the Taylor King saga as the former McDonald’s All-American bounced around from school to school, but we never knew much about his background. Jeff Goodman was able to get access to Taylor and his family to produce an excellent piece about the issues that King was dealing with including an overbearing father and a marijuana problem. King is currently in Taiwan trying to make a comeback while getting his his life together. It seems like we often hear about players failing to live up to their potential and writers and fans inevitably make fun of them (hello, Reeves Nelson), but as this case illustrates there is usually a lot more going on in the background that we never know about at the time.
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Villanova: The Season Is Lost, But Hope Is On The Horizon

Posted by mlemaire on February 27th, 2012

Coaches often explain their team’s struggles by saying his group is “still learning to play together” all the time. And Villanova coach Jay Wright used the team’s furious comeback win over lowly Providence on February 7 as a chance to dust off the age-old coaching platitude once more. The only problem is that the season is almost over proving the Wildcats have had a more gradual learning curve than most.

Since that win over the Friars, the Wildcats have lost all four games they have played including games against Notre Dame and Connecticut in which they had a 20-point and 18-point lead respectively. Just three seasons removed from a Final Four appearance, the Wildcats now sit at 4-12 in the conference and have almost no shot at playing any postseason basketball, let alone games in the NCAA Tournament.

After Turning Villanova Into An Elite Program, Things Have Not Gone Well For Jay Wright This Season

Needless to say it has been a trying season for Wright, his team, and Wildcat fans who had grown accustomed to annual NCAA Tournament berths and the occasional Elite Eight appearance. The Wildcats were expected to struggle when they lost Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, and Antonio Pena off last year’s squad, but Wright seemed to have amassed enough talent to make sure the decline wouldn’t be all that steep. Unfortunately, the Wildcats would miss that trio more than anyone could have imagined.

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NAIA Adds Grueling Twist, Familar Names To March Madness

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 25th, 2011

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor and contributor.


Seemingly every March, pundits put forth the idea that playing on consecutive days in conference tournaments wears teams down for the Big Dance. While Connecticut has laregly debunked the theory, imagine playing nearly every day for the whole thing. Welcome to the reality of the Buffalo Funds NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship, which recently concluded in Kansas City.

Operating outside the parameters of the NCAA are nearly 300 small schools from across the country, 32 of which make the championship’s field. After the 32 schools are selected to compete, a frenzy of 31 games in seven days determines the national champion. All told, the tournament’s finalists played five games in six days, with no days off between the semis and the final. Touting itself as “college basketball’s toughest tournament, ” the event was held solely in Kansas City, which meant nonstop opening round action from 9:00 a.m. local time to around midnight.

Though the schools may be obscure, some of the players are anything but. The tournament featured its share of players with familial connections and histories with some of D-I’s top talent:

  • Brian Wanamaker (Texas Wesleyan College) – The twin brother of Brad Wanamaker of Pittsburgh, Brian ran the point this season, averaging 19.1 points per game.
  • Michael Stockton (Westminster College, Utah) – Gonzaga fans are familiar with the Stockton family, with David following in the footsteps of his father and NBA legend John Stockton, but Michael isn’t too bad himself, averaging over 18 points per game to go along with four helpers.
  • Taylor King (Concordia College) – King’s journey began as a 14-year-old UCLA commit before stops at Duke and Villanova left him a journeyman. Returning home to Southern California, King feels comfortable at Concordia, where he led the Eagles in scoring (15 PPG) and rebounding (7 RPG) this season.
  • C.J. Henry (Southern Nazarene, Oklahoma) – The one-time New York Yankees draft pick followed his brother, Xavier, first to Memphis and later to Kansas, but carved out a niche at a smaller school, averaging 13 points per contest.

In Tuesday’s final, televised nationally on CBS College Sports, Pikeville (Ky.) College topped Mountain State (W. Va.) 83-76 in overtime behind 32 points and 17 rebounds from Trevor Setty. Quincy Hankins-Cole, a transfer from Nebraska, also chipped in with 21 and 16.

Pikeville College Won the NAIA Title This Week

Next time they hear about a team losing its legs or looking worn out, a handful of players from a small college in Kentucky can deservedly scoff at their televisions, knowing they conquered a grueling test of stamina to capture a national crown.

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C.J. Henry Leaves Kansas For The NAIA

Posted by nvr1983 on August 27th, 2010

The past six years have been nothing if not an interesting journey for C.J. Henry. The former Yankee prospect/Memphis-Kansas recruit announced yesterday that he would be transferring to Southern Nazarene, a NAIA school. A year ago Bill Self was being congratulated for adding C.J and his brother Xavier Henry after they had initially committed to Memphis before John Calipari decided to head to Kentucky. Although the subsequent transition to Lawrence were complicated by what appeared at times to be a soap opera the Jayhawks had an exceptional season before being cut down by Ali Farokhmanesh and the brothers performed at the level that everybody expected them too.  Now after just one year Self is left without either Henry as both have become one-and-dones in an unusual fashion. Xavier did it the traditional way by entering the NBA Draft following a solid, but uneven freshman campaign. On the other hand, C.J. was confined primarily to the end of Self’s bench as he played just 5.6 minutes per game in 13 games and only played double figure minutes in three blowouts. Although C.J. had been a fairly highly rated prospect coming out of high school he had spent 4 years (2005-2008) playing minor league baseball and redshirted the 2008-o9 season so most people did not consider his minimal production particularly concerning especially given reports that he had battled injuries all season long.

C.J. in one of his many uniforms (Credit: NJ.com)

However, in a surprising move, Kansas announced last week that Henry had decided to transfer from the school with some speculating that it was due to the amount of competition at the guard position potentially limiting his ability to get playing time. Still many in the Kansas area ripped him apart for his decision (not surprising given the allegiance of many writers/fans in the area). Given Henry’s limited basketball experience in the past 6 years, his injuries last year, and relatively advanced age (24 with 3 years of eligibility remaining) many programs would undoubtedly have reservations about taking on Henry, but we assumed that his basketball pedigree and athleticism would get at least  several major programs interested in his services. Instead Henry has opted to go the NAIA route and not forgo a year of his eligibility, which is not a small thing for a 24 year-old sophomore who still harbors NBA aspirations (unlikely since he would be 27 if he goes straight through college). For their part, the coaches at Southern Nazarene, who won the NAIA title in 1981 and made it to the NAIA championship game in 1998, say that their conference is chock full of Division 1 talents [Ed. Note: We can’t confirm since our knowledge of the Sooner Athletic Conference is limited to this post.] that should give Henry the competition he needs. At the very least he will have someone to text in Taylor King (formerly of Duke/Villanova/USC) who is currently enrolled at Concordia (at least the last time we checked).

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Morning Five: 08.26.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 26th, 2010

  1. Yes, USC is expensive (almost $50k per year).  Ex-Dookie, ex-Wildcat Taylor King found that out the hard way when he realized just how much his family would need to pay out-of-pocket to transfer to Southern Cal for one more year of eligibility in 2011-12.   Instead, he’ll play at NAIA Concordia in nearby Irvine, perhaps a much nicer locale but not exactly on the standard tour of most NBA scouts.  We wish him well, nevertheless.
  2. “All indications are that the [BYU] Cougars will remain in the MWC,” according to the Denver Post.  There has been no formal word yet, and BYU officially has until next week (Sept. 1) to decide whether it’s coming or going in the league, but with the WAC blowing up after the Cougs’ initial inquiry, the decision comes down ultimately to whether the LDS elders think that BYU football can sustain itself as an independent.  It would be a bold move, but not one without some credibility; still, it says here that BYU (for now) sticks with the Mountain West.
  3. Matt Snyder has an interesting piece at Fanhouse ripping the John Beilein hire at Michigan after a dismal performance in Belgium (they play basketball there?) that he thinks portends a miserable hoops season in Ann Arbor.  He’s probably right about the dismal upcoming season, but we’re not ready to give up on Beilein as a head coach.  His WVU teams in the later years in Morgantown played a style of basketball that was very difficult to prepare for, but it took him several years to develop such hidden jewels as Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey in order to get to that point.  Given that Michigan had gone over a decade (!!!) between NCAA Tournaments prior to Beilein’s 2009 second round appearance, we’re willing to let him have more time to build his program.  As for UM fans — we’re not as sure.
  4. Morehead State was placed on a two-year probation by the NCAA yesterday, but the sanctions will affect scholarships and not impact postseason play for the school.  This is a good thing, as the Eagles return one of the better mid-major players in America in senior Kenneth Faried, a 6’8 forward who won the Ohio Valley Conference POY and DPOY awards last year while dropping 17/13 per night en route to 25 double-doubles.  If Murray State drops the ball in the OVC, Morehead will likely be there in 2010-11 to pick up the slack, and we hate to see when great players are punished for something they had no involvement in.
  5. Yes, even 7 am isn’t too early for the west coasters to roll out of bed on Saturday mornings to check in with College Gameday this coming season.  As our very own Zach Hayes broke down the 2010-11 Gameday slate, it’s good to know that the weekly festivities will begin an hour earlier on ESPNU at 10 am ET before heading over to the big daddy channel (ESPN) at 11 am.  Then, as ZH said, fourteen straight hours of the manna known as winter hoops.  Prepare yourselves: it’s coming sooner than you think.
http://www.msueagles.com/news/2010/8/25/GEN_0825100228.aspx
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Taylor King Throws Down the Academic Gauntlet

Posted by rtmsf on August 11th, 2010

Jeff Goodman reported today that former-Duke, current-Villanova forward Taylor King is transferring yet again, this time making his way from the cooker known as the East Coast to the balmier weather and lifestyle of Southern California.   And when we say Southern California, we mean it literally.  King will enroll at USC this fall and, after sitting out a second transfer season in 2010-11, he will be eligible to play his senior year in his home area, a little less than an hour’s drive from where he grew up in Huntington Beach.  The 6’6 forward was a key contributor at Villanova last season, averaging 7/5 per game in bench duty, but he’s shown flashes of offensive skill with eight double-figure games in points and a solid three-point stroke (career: 37%).

Right. It's the Academics.

King has had some family issues and after spending a few weeks at home this summer decided that giving up the 3,000-mile commute back to the Main Line was in his best interests.  He considered a couple of local NAIA schools, but ultimately found that sitting out the additional transfer season to play at USC was the best option.  However, it was a quote from King buried at the end of Goodman’s report that really caught our eye.  When asked about his decision-making process:

King said while he would like to continue his playing career beyond college, academics and connections at USC played a role in his decision.  “The education is off the charts at SC. No offense to Duke or Villanova, but they don’t compare.”

All snickering aside, most people reading this site may not be aware that USC is a very strong academic school despite its iconic status relating to babes and football (wonder why they’d ever have that perception?).  The latest US News & World Report ranks Southern Cal as the 26th best national university, holding a 24% acceptance rate and SAT scores that it claims are greater than crosstown rival UCLA’s (by and large considered the more academically-minded school).  But Duke?  A perennially top-10 school by any measure?  Villanova?  The top Masters University in the Northeast for more than a decade?  Questionable.

We figured that the denizens of the two dissed schools would come running to their defense, and it didn’t take long.  Villanova fans seemed to find great hilarity in the comment, while the Duke people hardly even gave his comment much consideration due to its absurdity.  Of course we realize that King is only trying to justify his decision to himself when he made that comment, but it would be fourteen kinds of awesome if USC managed to find itself in a road game at Duke or Villanova two seasons from now.  We’re fairly certain that the lesser-academically-inclined students at those places would find clever ways to make him feel welcome.  Hey, we can always hope, right?

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Morning Five: 06.23.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 22nd, 2010

  1. Villanova’s Taylor King has now quit on his second program, deciding in the past few days to transfer out of Villanova.  Well, not really.  According to the release, King has decided to “voluntarily withdraw from the men’s basketball team,” but he plans on sticking around the school to complete his degree requirements.  Is this for real?  Despite what Gary Parrish writes about King’s oversized expectations, he was solid for at least half the season on the Main Line last year (7/5 in 19 MPG) and we find it hard to believe that he’s given up on basketball completely.  The guy could probably be a star in the WCC or a similar league.
  2. Luke Winn examines how the new coach at Wake Forest, Jeff Bzdelik is adjusting to his new job.  Bzdelik claims that he will adapt to his personnel and keep the Deacs as an uptempo team that pushes the ball, but every coach says that in the summertime.  The story about how the Wake coaching staff kept their top twenty recruiting class intact is pretty cool, though.
  3. Fred Barakat, a longtime ACC  official and executive as well as former Fairfield coach, died on Monday at the age of 71.  He is widely regarded as one of the key players in the extraordinary growth of ACC basketball as a brand in the 80s and 90s.  RIP, Fred.
  4. Class of 2011 super-recruit James McAdoo was considering bailing on his senior year of high school to matriculate in Chapel Hill a year earlier than expected, but ZagsBlog reported yesterday that he would instead remain in Hampton Roads next year.  You only get to be a kid once, so we fully support this decision.
  5. This interview of Jay Bilas, Gary Williams, Jay Wright and Jim Boeheim at the CvC Golf Invitational shows that coaches are definitely concerned about realignment.  Bilas, as usual, has the best take: the NCAA needs to get in front of this realignment business or risk getting left completely behind in a few years when the super-conferences decide that the entity is no longer necessary.

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(Elite) Eight Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on February 23rd, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver permeating thoughts every week as the season progresses.

This week’s Scribbles column will take on a new twist- which eight teams I’d select to reach the four regional final games in late March. Now, I realize individual matchups within the bracket will determine the fate of these teams, but these are the eight clubs I feel like have an excellent chance of winning three games to reach the Elite 8 regardless of the teams that stand in their way. Some of these teams are the favorites, those expected to reach this level or their season will be labeled a colossal disappointment. The others are mild sleepers that certainly have the capabilities to make a serious run. Without further ado:

1. Kansas- One screaming commentator keeps telling me there’s not one clear favorite heading into March Madness this season. There’s no one team that stands above the rest akin to last year’s North Carolina entering the field as the favorite to hoist the championship trophy on that Monday night in April. This claim continues to baffle me for two reasons: 1) North Carolina was NOT the clear favorite to win the national championship last season. They entered the NCAA Tournament coming off a semifinal loss in the ACC Tournament to Florida State and were chosen as the #3 overall seed in the Dance behind Louisville and Pittsburgh. They were also dealing with question marks around Ty Lawson’s playing status. For a sample, I checked back to the NCAA Tournament pool I conducted last season and North Carolina was picked to win it all less than both Pitt (the most frequent) and Louisville. Even though the Heels featured the most pure talent, let’s put an end to this false claim. I also vehemently disagree that one team doesn’t stand alone this season ahead of the pack. To me, Kansas is the clear cut #1 favorite to win their second title in three years. Bill Self has the second most efficient offense and the third most efficient defense. He’s slowly but surely cut down his rotation and found a perfect balance. Most great teams start with a dominant point guard and center and Self has both of those covered. Even the enigma known as Tyshawn Taylor received a jolt from a surprising start by Self last Saturday and responded. I haven’t even mentioned the scorching hot Xavier Henry. The Jayhawks are an obvious Elite 8 team.

Taylor and Self finally on the same page?

2. Kentucky- If any team can hold a candle to Kansas at this stage of the season, it’s Kentucky. The Wildcats have matched Kansas’ road triumphs in the Big 12 with impressive wins away from Lexington against Florida, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. John Calipari has blended complicated personalities to perfection and found the ideal concoction to finally win a national title. I mentioned Kansas has a tremendous starting point with Collins and Aldrich; they’re actually topped by the inside-outside duo of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Wall has emerged from a mid-season turnover slump to play more like the December John Wall the entire college basketball world fell in love with. He’s absolutely deadly in transition and continues to make clutch plays down the stretch. Cousins will be the single most difficult player to guard in the entire NCAA Tournament, evident by his top-five rank in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. He has guard skills in a 6’11 body and is the most effective rebounder in the nation. The real question is if Kentucky can play a halfcourt game against the likes of Purdue and West Virginia should they run into either team. The Wildcats are much more ordinary than spectacular when they play a game in the 60s and are forced to settle for outside jump shots. Still, this team has the goods and the talent to reach a regional final.

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 02.08.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 8th, 2010

We couldn’t resist.  This evening we’ll witness two of the biggest games of the year.  I don’t have to tell you, but I’ll tell you anyway — we’re talking Villanova at West Virginia at 7 PM, then Kansas @ Texas at 9 PM.  We’ll be commenting the whole evening on the games, so hit that refresh button and let’s hear what you have to say as well!

7:03 PM: Big Monday?  Heck no, how about HUUUUUGE Monday?!?  Two great games.  Raftery has already given us a “mn-a-mn!!”  Aside from the obvious excellent guard matchup, I’m interested to see how the refs are going to call this one.  PLEASE, let these guys play.

7:12: First question…did the Pirates at least give a tryout to the kid who hit the Pittsburgh assistant coach with that coin?  I’m not saying there was anything like that in the works, and we at RTC certainly don’t advocate such terrible behavior in spectators, but are you going to tell me that the Pirates’ outfield couldn’t use a guy who can throw a 500-foot strike with a nickel?  Senators, maybe?  Just a thought.

7:18: It led to free throws only, but Corey Fisher just put a Bozo the Clown suit on Da’Sean Butler.  Took the ball on a long outlet pass, took a dribble, saw Butler in front of him, gave him a QUICK shimmy-shoulder fake, and went around Butler as if his feet were in cement.  It even got a WOW and a WHOO! from Bilas and Raftery (respectively).

7:24: It has to be said: I like watching Taylor King play this game.  The guy does everything.  I dig the way’s he’s ALWAYS the first guy on the floor going after loose balls, he’s back-tapping balls, grabbing steals, snagging some offensive boards, blocking a couple of shots…and you can’t leave him open from anywhere on the floor.  He’s a difference-maker.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles… (With a Wednesday Twist)

Posted by zhayes9 on February 3rd, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every week as the season progresses.

This week’s Scribbles column will look ahead to a couple months down the road in Indianapolis, where 65 deserving teams will be whittled down to just four, and to that blissful Monday night in April when one lucky group will be dancing at mid-court to the tune of One Shining Moment. In my estimation, there are ten squads with a promising-to-slight chance of hoisting a 2010 National Champions banner during their home opener next season. I’m here to tell you those ten teams, why they have hopes of winning a national title, what’s holding them back, and the most realistic scenario as I see it come late March or beginning of April. These teams are ranked in reverse order from 10-1 with the #1 school holding the best cards in their deck.

10. Duke

Why they can win it all: Their floor leader and senior stalwart Jon Scheyer is the steadiest distributor in all of college basketball, evident from his incredibly stellar 3.28 A/T ratio and a 5.6 APG mark that ranks third in the ACC and 23d in the nation. Scheyer is also a deadly shooter coming off screens when he has time to square his body to the basket, nailing a career-high 39% from deep to go along with 44% from the floor overall. Duke is also a tremendous free-throw shooting team as a whole and Coach K has the ability to play a group of Scheyer-Kyle Singler-Nolan Smith-Mason Plumlee-Lance Thomas that doesn’t feature one player under 70% from the charity stripe. Duke also features a ton more size in the paint than during previous flameouts in the NCAA Tournament. When Singler plays small forward, Coach K can rotate Miles and Mason Plumlee, the glue guy Thomas, rebounding force Brian Zoubek and even Ryan Kelly at two positions with no player under 6’8. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more efficient backcourt in the nation than Scheyer and Smith. And it’s widely known that exceptional guard play is the ultimate key to winning in March.

What Makes Duke 2010 Different than Duke 2006-09?

Why they won’t win it all: Depth could certainly be an issue for the Blue Devils’ chances of raising their first banner since 2001. Andre Dawkins has fallen almost entirely out of the rotation and Coach K has started to limit Mason Plumlee’s minutes during important games. Also, Brian Zoubek’s tendency to immediately step into foul trouble limits his availability. It wouldn’t shock me to see Duke play Scheyer, Smith and Singler 40 minutes per game during their time in the NCAA Tournament. That could cause those key players, who rely primarily on their jump shot, to lose their legs and start throwing up bricks. Kyle Singler isn’t quite the superstar he was last season, either. Singler’s numbers are down across the board — scoring, rebounding, FG%, 3pt% — and he’s been dealing with a nagging wrist injury that may not improve in the weeks and months ahead. Duke also lacks the athleticism of teams like Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Texas. They could struggle with quicker guards like John Wall and athletic rebounders of the Damion James mold.

Likely scenario: I see Duke reaching the Sweet 16 as a #2 seed where they fall to a more athletic, quick group of guards that can explode to the rim and draw fouls. Duke may have height, but most of that height just isn’t a threat offensively by any stretch of the imagination. Eventually getting into a jump shooting contest could be the Blue Devils’ downfall if two of Smith, Scheyer and Singler go cold.

9. West Virginia

Why they can win it all: Da’Sean Butler is one of the best players in the nation when the chips are on the table. If the Mountaineers need a big shot to keep their season alive, Butler will demand the basketball and more than likely deliver. He’s downed Marquette and Louisville on game-deciding jumpers and led the second half charge against Ohio State. West Virginia is also supremely athletic and Bob Huggins’ teams always crash the boards with a tremendous ferocity. No contender can match the height across the board that West Virginia touts other than Kentucky. Huggins has experimented with lineups in which all of his players are 6’6 or taller, including 6’9 Devin Ebanks acting as a point-forward and 6’7 Da’Sean Butler capable of posting up smaller two-guards. Sophomore Kevin Jones is an incredible talent and a rebounding machine (7.7 RPG) that hits 55% of his shots from the floor and 44% from deep. West Virginia has the luxury of any of their forwards being able to step out and drain a mid-range jumper, from Ebanks to Jones to Wellington Smith to John Flowers every once in a full moon.

Ebanks is the X-factor for West Virginia

Why they won’t win it all: Let’s face it: Bob Huggins doesn’t have exactly the best track record when it comes to NCAA Tournament success. Huggins hasn’t reached the Elite 8 since 1995-96 with Cincinnati and only one Sweet 16 in the last ten years. In 2000 and 2002, his Bearcats lost just four games all season and yet didn’t reach the second weekend of March both times. Most also question whether the Mountaineers can hit outside shots on a consistent basis. They’ve struggled mightily in the first half of Big East games and can’t afford to fall behind against elite competition in March like they did against Dayton last season. Point guard play is a prudent question for West Virginia, as well. Joe Mazzulla is a quality perimeter defender and a capable distributor, but he’ll never be the offensive threat he was two seasons ago due to that shoulder injury. Darryl Bryant can certainly catch a hot streak shooting-wise, but in all honestly he’s more suited as an undersized two-guard. Bryant is averaging just 3.6 APG in 25+ MPG of action.

Likely scenario: I’m still fairly high on this team. I love Butler at the end of games and Ebanks can do anything for Huggins — from score to rebound to run the point — and Kevin Jones is one of the most underappreciated players in the Big East. In the end, I see a clankfest from outside ultimately costing West Virginia their season. And for all their rebounding history, the Mountaineers are in the mid-60s in the nation. The Elite Eight seems like a proper place for their season to conclude.

8. Texas

Why they can win it all: No team boasts better perimeter defenders than Texas. Anyone that watched Dogus Balbay completely shut down James Anderson in the second half Monday night knows he’s the best perimeter defender in the nation, even stronger than Purdue’s Chris Kramer. Avery Bradley came in with the reputation as an elite defender and he’s certainly lived up to that billing. Even J’Covan Brown off the bench is a capable defensive player and Justin Mason is a plus defender. When Dexter Pittman stays out of foul trouble, Texas boasts a legitimate shot-blocking presence that can negate quick guards on the rare occasion they slip past Balbay or Bradley. Texas is also the deepest team in the nation and Rick Barnes has the capability of playing 10 or 11 men on any night if he feels the need. The preserved minutes could pay dividends in the form of fresh players come March. Damion James should also be on a mission come March as a senior. He’s never reached a Final Four during his Longhorns career and came back for a fourth year in Austin to accomplish that very feat.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 26th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. I’d be fairly shocked if Gonzaga is any lower than a #3 seed when the brackets are unveiled in March. In fact, I’d be fairly shocked if the Zags lost again this season. Think about it: they’ve already notched wins on the road against the three teams most likely to shock Mark Few’s team by dispatching Portland, Saint Mary’s and San Diego on a single road trip. They have one challenging non-conference game left against a rebuilding Memphis team in which Gonzaga will surely be favored. The only team I could see possibly stunning the Zags is Pepperdine and their explosive guard Keion Bell. The Waves only fell by seven in the Kennel this past week behind Bell’s 37 points, but they’re still 7-13 on the season and I highly doubt Bell is going to post 37 again on a stingier Gonzaga defense. Win out and Mark Few is looking at 27-3 (16-0) heading into the WCC tournament where they could finish with a 29-3 (18-0) overall record and an RPI in the top-20 with their only losses at Michigan State, at home against Wake Forest and Duke in MSG. That sets up Gonzaga for a #3 seed in the Spokane regional, meaning two quasi-home games until the regional (and they could be in the Salt Lake City regional). German import Elias Harris has spear-headed the Zags hot streak. He’s averaging 16/8 and shooting nearly 60% in a tremendous debut campaign.

Vasquez heating up for the Terps

2. Remember that Greivis Vasquez guy on Maryland who’s had a pretty damn good career? After scoring in the single digits in his first four games and struggling mightily with his jump shot in Maui, the brash and often polarizing emotional sparkplug for the Terps is heating up in a big way. And that’s bad news for the rest of the wide-open ACC. Vasquez has now scored in double figures his last 14 games including a 30-point outburst at Wake Forest and 22 in a big home win over Florida State. He played his most efficient game Saturday in the blowout win over NC State, notching 19 points on 7-11 FG and 3-4 3pt. Despite the concerning start, Vasquez is now playing like the ACC POY contender he truly is. His 43% FG is only second to his 44% as a freshman (but he only needs three more shots to match the amount taken that season), his 39% 3pt is far and away a career best, and he’s also contributing with 6.1 APG and 4.6 RPG, solid totals for a 6’6 guard. I fully expect Duke to win the ACC- they’ve already played two of their three most difficult ACC games- but Maryland is absolutely a contender to finish second behind Vasquez, the continued improved play of Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes (46% 3pt), plus the superb coaching of Gary Williams.

3. Other than maybe Georgetown or Notre Dame, the most disappointing team in the nation last season may have been Baylor. The Bears entered the season fresh off reaching the NCAA Tournament just a few years following the Dave Bliss fallout with Scott Drew being lauded as one of the best young coaches in the game. Even though a late-season Big 12 Tournament and NIT push healed some wounds, the 5-11 Big 12 mark a season ago was still a campaign to forget. What led to the downfall? For one, Baylor ranked #103 in defensive efficiency in 2008-09. During their crippling six game Big 12 losing streak, the Bears surrendered 95 points to Oklahoma, 89 to Missouri and 83 to Texas Tech. In a related story, Baylor is ranked in the top 25 this week and ranks 41st in defensive efficiency. What has sparked the change? A big reason is the human eraser Ekpe Udoh in the post, a Michigan transfer who ranks sixth in college basketball in block percentage (Baylor ranks first in the nation in the same category). Baylor as a unit has also turned up the intensity on the defensive end, ranking third in the nation in opponents two-point FG% behind just Mississippi State and Florida State. Baylor hasn’t forgotten how to score, either. They rank 15th in offensive efficiency and eighth in effective FG%. Anyone who watched the Bears go toe-to-toe with Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse last Monday knows this team can play.

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RTC Live: Villanova @ Maryland

Posted by nvr1983 on December 6th, 2009

RTCLive
We are back tonight courtside for what might be one of the best early season games of the year with #3 Villanova travelling down to Washington, DC to take on Maryland. Coming into the season, a lot of people expected this to be a huge game, but some of the hype died down after the Terrapins lost back-to-back games in Maui against Cincinnati and Wisconsin. At the time we were down on the Terrapins, but we are willing to forgive them a little for what might have been a little jet-lag (yes, we know the other teams had to travel far except for Chaminade). And it turns out that the Bearcats and the Badgers might have been a little better than advertised coming into the season (ask Coach K about the Badgers). Tonight Gary Williams and his Terrapins have a shot at regaining some respect from the rest of the college basketball universe against Jay Wright‘s Wildcats. A win over the top-ranked team in the Big East would be a big boost for the Terrapins’ chances on Selection Sunday (less than 100 days away now).

While most of the nation’s attention will be focused on the two standout senior guards Greivis Vasquez and Scottie Reynolds, the key to this game might be on the inside. Antonio Pena has filled in the void left by Dante Cunningham, but the Wildcats are very thin on the inside particularly with Mouphtaou Yarou likely out for the season with hepatitis B. That leaves Jay Wright relying on Pena and local Maryland product Maurice Sutton on the inside against a group of Maryland interior players that lacks a big name but is fairly deep with Landon Milbourne, Jordan Williams, and Cliff Tucker in frontcourt. If either Pena or Sutton gets in foul trouble, the Wildcats could be in trouble. One other interesting storyline to watch is Villanova’s 6th man Taylor King, the former Duke McDonald’s All-American who transferred after his freshman year. As you may be aware, the Maryland student body doesn’t exactly like the Blue Devils. Even though he’s no longer at Duke, King would no doubt love to stick it to the Terrapins and their fans who will certainly be ready with plenty of taunts for the former Blue Devil. Be sure to join us for another edition of RTC Live at 7:30 PM.

Update: For those of you who are interested, our correspondent is already there so he will be covering the undercard of the BB&T Classic (George Washington versus Navy).

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