#rushthetrip: Wrapping Up 12 Games, 17 Days and 5,476 Miles on the Road

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on February 25th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

They say that all good things must come to an end, and so is the case for my 17-day journey through college basketball’s Western lands. Large cities and small towns alike took turns as temporary homes, while the miles of passing scenery morphed from desert to snowy mountains and back to desert again, with plenty of change in between. The whirlwind ride reinforced the breadth of variety in the towns, arenas, and fan bases that stand behind Divison I’s basketball programs — only further mythologizing the notion of a “typical college town.” They make you work out West (note to future college basketball road trippers: the Heartland will be far kinder to your car’s odometer), but the payoff was worth every exhausting mile. By the numbers and some personal favorites, here’s the story of my trip.

Opening Night Was The Highlight Of This Trip, When The Pit Proved Worthy Of It's Elevated Standing Among The Home Floors Of College Hoops

Opening Night Was The Highlight Of This Trip, When The Pit Proved Worthy Of It’s Elevated Standing Among The Home Floors Of College Hoops

#rushthetrip, By The Numbers

  • Days: 17
  • States: 10
  • Games: 12
  • OT Games: 3
  • Miles Driven: 5,476
  • Distance from Tucson, AZ, to Spokane, WA: 1,494 miles
  • Tickets Received: 2
  • Biggest Arena: BYU (capacity of 20,900, sixth in D-I)
  • Smallest Arena: Sacramento State (capacity of 1,200, 348th in D-I)
  • Most Points (Individual): Stephen Madison, 42 (Idaho)
  • Smallest Margin Of Victory: 1, Boise State over New Mexico
  • Largest Margin Of Victory: 15, Gonzaga over Pepperdine
  • Best Team (by KenPom ranking): Arizona (#1)
  • Worst Team (by KenPom ranking): Southern Utah (#351)

#rushthetrip Favorites

Best Venues

  1. The Pit, Albuquerque, NM
  2. Marriott Center, Provo, UT
  3. McKale Center, Tucson, AZ

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#rushthetrip Day One: The Pit Delivers

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 6th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

New Mexico’s famed stomping grounds “The Pit” marked the first stop on my #rushthetrip. Considering I tacked on some 600 miles to the journey with this eastern loop into New Mexico, getting to Albuquerque was quite clearly a priority. And why wouldn’t it be? The Pit has long been one of college basketball’s most-prized stages, and Sports Illustrated even ranked the Lobos’ home floor as the 13th greatest venue of the 20th century – not just in college basketball, mind you, but in all of sports. I think the relatively obscure location also offers an element of intrigue – The Pit possesses that hidden gem feel to it, what with Albuquerque’s relatively isolated post on New Mexico’s high desert and the wide open spaces all around. End summary: this was a place I had to find a way to get to.

Even A Little Snow Couldn't Keep Things Quiet Inside The Pit

Even A Little Snow Couldn’t Keep Things Quiet Inside The Pit

Oh but the weather gods didn’t make it easy. A rare New Mexican snowstorm (or so I heard) turned a seven-and-a-half hour drive into something closer to 10, but I arrived at the arena with a few minutes to spare. Emphasis on few. Honestly, though, the later arrival time probably worked out for the best, as walking down the ramp to the floor into an already-buzzing Pit offered a truly imposing first impression. When Deshawn Delaney led the home team down onto the floor (an odd leader, I agree), I couldn’t help but harken back to a John Feinstein observation after he visited there, when he likened the combatants to Roman gladiators, “emerging into a wall of sound.” The snow may have been falling outside and the opponent was a less-than-intimidating Wyoming team, but the combination of arena noise and the emerging-out-of-nowhere, sharply descending gateway to the floor, created an entrance fit for Spartacus.

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Introducing #rushthetrip, a College Basketball Journey

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 5th, 2014

Last Saturday, more than 35,000 fans watched a college basketball game in upstate New York. Just a couple hours later, fewer than 1,000 people squeezed into a glorified high school gymnasium in Sacramento — also there to watch a college basketball game. The first game had been hyped for months, maybe even years; build-up for the second included little more than the unfolding of the courtside bleachers. But somehow, by the end of another wild Saturday of college basketball, fans across the country were talking about both the Carrier Dome Classic and the Sacramento State Miracle.

First Stop On The College Basketball Road Trip: New Mexico's Famed Home Floor, The Pit.

First Stop On The College Basketball Road Trip: New Mexico’s Famed Home Floor, The Pit.

And herein lies the beauty of college basketball. Each season, you can count on the storied programs – the Dukes, Kentuckys and Kansases of the sport — to deliver a number of games, performances, and moments worth remembering. Helping the cause for recollection are the stages that house them — college basketball would not be college basketball without its home courts. The iconic venues only magnify the power and emotion of the moments: places like Cameron Indoor Stadium, Allen Fieldhouse, and the Carrier Dome are worthy porters for many of the sport’s most cherished memories.

But college basketball extends well beyond the blue-bloods and bucket list buildings. We saw it on Sunday morning, when we woke to find the 292nd best team in Division-I, owners of the 348th largest gymnasium in the country, sharing headlines with the soon-to-be-#1 in the land — a team which the night before had exceeded its capacity in the largest home arena in college basketball. On any given night, during any given season, a college basketball story can arrive from literally anywhere. It can come from any one of 49 different states (sorry Alaska). It can come from Wichita, Kansas, just as easily as it can from New York, New York; Sarasota, Florida, as often as from Los Angeles, California. The game is ubiquitous. College basketball’s footprints do not discriminate.

  • Wednesday February 5: Wyoming at New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)
  • Thursday February 6: Oregon at Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
  • Saturday February 8: Saint Mary’s at Pepperdine (Malibu, CA)
  • Saturday February 8: UCLA at USC (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Monday February 10: Southern Utah at Sacramento State (Sacramento, CA)
  • Wednesday February 12: New Mexico at Boise State (Boise, ID)
  • Thursday February 13: Pepperdine at Gonzaga (Spokane, WA)
  • Saturday February 15: UNLV at Utah State (2PM)  (Logan, UT)
  • Saturday February 15: Idaho at Utah Valley (7 PM) (Orem, UT)
  • Tuesday February 18: Boise State at Colorado State (Fort Collins, CO)
  • Wednesday February 19: Arizona at Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • Thursday February 20: Gonzaga at BYU (Provo, UT)

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Night Line: Meet New Mexico, the Mountain West’s Most Complete Team

Posted by EJacoby on February 16th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

In a two-day span, the entire complexion of the Mountain West conference has changed. Those who don’t think that’s a big deal should consider that the MW is actually the fifth strongest league in the country according to cumulative conference RPI, ranking above both the Pac-12 (no surprise there) and the ACC. It appeared as if UNLV was the team to beat in this league, but a shocking loss to TCU on Tuesday night left the door open for the winner of Wednesday’s showdown between the other two top competitors to get a leg up in the race. New Mexico wound up victorious in this matchup, winning at Viejas Arena over No. 18 San Diego State to add a huge road win to its resume and move into sole possession of first place in the conference. The Lobos host UNLV at home this weekend in the final matchup between the Mountain West’s ‘big three’ teams, and a win in The Pit will make the title race theirs to lose. The only MW team of the three that’s not currently ranked in any top 25 poll, Steve Alford‘s squad may actually be the most complete team of the bunch.

Steve Alford's Lobos are Rising to the Top of the Mountain West Conference (AP Photo/I. Brekken)

Wednesday night was a revenge victory for the Lobos, who were thoroughly beaten by San Diego State in Albuquerque back on January 18. New Mexico returned the favor by jumping out to an early lead and extending it to double digits in the second half to a point where the home team could not mount a big enough comeback. Shockingly, the Lobos got it done this time while seeing nothing from their top playmaking guard, Tony Snell, who was held scoreless in the game after he had only scored three points in their first matchup. But that’s what separated these two teams on this night — SDSU got virtually nothing from its top guard Chase Tapley, and the Aztec offense completely stalled for long stretches. New Mexico, meanwhile, was just fine without Snell as their other stars shined and a multitude of other players added important contributions. UNM certainly proved that they were the deeper and more complete team on Wednesday night.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.18.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 18th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are lots of good conference matchups tonight across the country. We will give you full breakdowns of the two best games to watch, including a big-time Big East matchup early in the evening. Check the comments section for other games to track tonight!

Cincinnati at #12 Connecticut – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

Yancy Gates and UC Are Trending Up, Up, Up (AP)

  • Cincinnati is an impressive 4-1 in true road games this season, including victories at Georgia, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown. They have played at an increasingly high level and are 9-1 since the brawl against Xavier that left several players suspended. At full strength now, the Bearcats will not be intimidated in Gampel Pavilion and will look to establish their physical defense early in the game. Mick Cronin’s team gives up just 58.8 points per game on the season and is strong with the ball, averaging a +5.5 in turnover margin. On the offensive end, Sean Kilpatrick has developed into a true scorer this season (16.2 PPG) and will look to establish an inside-out game with Yancy Gates (12.3 PPG, 8.9 RPG) to put the UConn defense in a difficult position. Establishing their brand of physical game early on will give Cincinnati a chance to win another big road game.
  • UConn has had their ups and downs this season, though the Huskies are still undefeated at home and have perhaps the most talented roster in the Big East. It’s looking like Ryan Boatright will not be available tonight as he’s being investigated by the NCAA, which could be a significant blow to the Huskies’ offense. The freshman, averaging about 10 points, three rebounds, and three assists per game, is adept at creating his own shot, but then again UConn has been dealing with suspensions and off-court issues all season and should be fine without him. Stud big man Andre Drummond continues to improve and gain confidence, averaging 15 points, 12 boards, and 2.5 blocks in his previous two games. Going inside early and often has been working for the Huskies, allowing Jeremy Lamb (17.9 PPG) to create his own shot without the defense keyed in on him all the time. Allowing just 36.8% field goal shooting in conference, UConn can match the defensive brand of basketball that Cincinnati brings to this game.
  • There are some great matchups to watch in this game, including Kilpatrick vs. Lamb on the wing as explosive scorers and Gates vs. Drummond inside as a clash of interior styles. Who wins tonight could come down to who is making the most shots, which seems obvious, but really applies here between two teams with similar physical defenses and offensive playmakers. Give Connecticut the advantage at home.
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ATB: Duke Gets ‘Noled Again

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2011

The Lede.  It was billed as a blockbuster night of college hoops, and as happens more often than not in this sport, there was no letdown.  It culminated in this great photo snapped immediately after the game’s finish… is there any better view on a cold January night?

Completely Justified and Encouraged RTC at FSU Tonight

Your Watercooler MomentThe Nation’s #1 Team Goes Down.  Not only was it the consensus #1 team… not only was it one of the few remaining unbeaten teams… not only was it DUKE… but the Blue Devils lost to a team in Florida State that had recently gotten thumped by Auburn, quite possibly the nation’s worst power conference team (apologies to Wake Forest and DePaul).  Set your transitive property flowcharts to ridiculous mode.  Video of the final few seconds of the game and the RTC afterward is below (fantastic coverage of the court, FSU fans — quick and complete!), but for a more detailed analysis of tonight’s upset victory, click over to our post that went up a little while after the game.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • The Other Unbeatens.  Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse and San Diego State were all in action tonight, and all of them pulled through to keep their streaks alive.  All except for Syracuse were challenged tonight, which once again shows why we’ll be lucky to get to February with a single team still standing with an unblemished record.  We plan on doing an analysis later this week to dissect that very thing, so stay tuned for that.    
  • Jeremy Hazell’s Return.  What can you say about this kid?  He wasn’t expected to be ready for another week or two, but tonight in his first game back after breaking his wrist AND getting shot in a robbery on Christmas night, he went for 23/2 on 10-17 shooting coming off the bench.  His arrival back in the rotation can’t come at a better time for the Hall, as the Pirates have already lost three games and really need to stay in the lower mid-pack to make a run at the postseason again.
  • Clemson Pitches a Perfect Game.  Well, nearly.  This won’t sound that great until you think about it , but tonight Clemson missed only sixteen shots for its entire game against Georgia Tech, including FG and FT attempts.  The Tigers went 27-39 from the field (69%), including a scorching 11-14 from three (79%) and 22-26 from the line (85%).  The Tigers’ effective FG% of 83.3% tonight ties Virginia (vs. Howard) for the best performance of the entire season in over 5,400 games played this year.  Brad Brownell is doing a great job with this team in his first year.

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