RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.22.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

West Region Notes (Andrew Murawa)

  • Lower-seeded teams like Cornell, Washington, Northern Iowa and St. Mary’s advancing to the Sweet 16 surprised college basketball fans all over, but Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was not among them, saying that “there’s not a big gap” between teams in the tournament. Of course, he said that after winning by an average of 22.5 points in the first two games, but college basketball coaches never stretch the truth, right?
  • When junior forward Wesley Johnson visited Boeheim at the Syracuse campus to inquire about transferring, the hall-of-fame coach initially turned him down. Luckily for the Orange, he changed his mind.
  • With the big dog in the state back at home watching, the Kansas State Wildcats will be carrying the Sunflower State banner. The Wildcats beat up on their Sweet 16 opponent, Xavier, pretty good in early December in the Little Apple, but Fran Fraschilla says the Musketeers are a different team these days.
  • Pitt and head coach Jamie Dixon are in the unfamiliar position of having to watch the Regional Semifinal round, but the Panthers will be strong contenders heading into the 2010-11 season, when they are expected to return all of their key contributors except graduating senior guard Jermaine Dixon.
  • Gonzaga fans on the other hand will likely have to sweat out some key personnel decisions in the offseason, including the possibility that head coach Mark Few could leave and return to his alma mater, Oregon, to take over the program from recently fired Ernie Kent. With a sparkling new arena in Eugene and all the money that Nike can throw at him, this is undoubtedly the biggest run that another school has made at the popular and successful coach who has reportedly declined numerous other offers from big-name schools in the past. But, while point guard Matt Bouldin having played his last game in a Zag uniform and freshman forward Elias Harris a promising NBA prospect, some big changes could be coming to the recent prototype for mid-major success (no matter how much they despise the term).

Midwest Region Notes (Tom Hager)

  • If there was any question that Northern Iowa might suffer from a hangover after the upset over Kansas, the team did not even wait for Saturday night to end before already getting focused for the next round of games.
  • In addition to his ability to hit clutch shots, Ali Farokhmanesh has also been improving on the defensive end.  Although Kwadzo Ahelegbe usually covers the best guard each game, Farokhmanesh held Sherron Collins to 0-6 shooting from beyond the arc.
  • Joe Rexrode reminded fans today that although Michigan State will miss Kalin Lucas in their next game against UNI, it won’t be the first time the Spartans played shorthanded this year.  In addition to the injury Lucas suffered against Wisconsin, he was also suspended earlier in the season for disappointing Tom Izzo as the team’s leader.  Chris Allen was also suspended earlier this season, and Durrell Summers was benched for a walk-on.
  • As good as Evan Turner has been lately, the Bleacher Report’s Drew Gatewood points out that he turned the ball over nine times against Georgia Tech and had eight turnovers against UC-Santa Barbara.  With the Vols ranking #7 in defensive efficiency, Turner’s assignment may become even more difficult.
  • Although Mark Wiedmer of the Chattanooga Times Free Press may be getting ahead of himself, he says Tennessee is very close to the first Final Four in UT history.  According to Wiedmer, UNI has overachieved and Michigan State is banged up, so the OSU matchup could be the deciding game in who will advance to the national semifinals.

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Second Round Game Analysis: Sunday Games

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 16 of the second round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Sunday games.

12:10 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #8 Gonzaga  (Buffalo pod)

In the CBS national game to start the day, everyone will get this very enticing game between Syracuse and Gonzaga.  Given the way this year is winding up, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Orange without their big man Arinze Onuaku found itself on the short end of the score around 2:30 pm today.  But we still have faith in Syracuse even without the talented center and we think that Jim Boeheim’s team is too good to fall short of the Final Four this early.  The primary problem that the Zags are going to have is one they didn’t have to worry as much about with Florida State, and that is in stopping the powerful SU offense.  With offensive scoring threats at all five positions, Syracuse is in a far more advantageous position than FSU was (with their limited offense) when Gonzaga caught fire on Friday — if the Zags want to get into a shootout with Syracuse, that’s not likely to end well for them. Still, with the way the Big East has had so many early round troubles, and the WCC looking great with St. Mary’s already in the Sweet Sixteen, we’re not ready to dismiss the Zags based on that alone.  The Syracuse zone is likely to be something that Mark Few’s team has not seen with such athletes all season, so even with their ability to put the ball in the hole, we hesitate to think the Zags can consistently score on it.

The Skinny: Gonzaga will push the Orange, but we still like this team to advance and make a serious push for the national title in coming weeks.

2:20 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

You might not see it on their faces, but the Buckeyes are smiling.  Northern Iowa’s removal of Kansas puts Ohio State in the driver’s seat in the Midwest region.  That said, there’s still no way Thad Matta and Evan Turner are going to let the rest of that team look past their opponents and assume an open road to Indianapolis.  Good thing, because Georgia Tech showed us that they’re not just made up of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal and a bunch of suckers.  The Yellow Jackets shot 2-10 from the three point line but balanced that by holding Big 12 player of the year James Anderson to a 3-12 shooting night, 0-6 from beyond the three-point arc, and an overall 11 points.  But the most impressive aspect of Georgia Tech’s performance on Friday night — by FAR — was the fact that they went to the free throw line 25 times — and hit 24 of them!  It wasn’t just Lawal and Favors.  Tech played nine players, and eight of them shot at least one free throw.  Evan Turner isn’t just the player of the year in his conference, though — he’s likely the national POY, so the Tech task is that much tougher.  Turner wasn’t himself in their first round game against UCSB, going 2-13 and posting only nine points (though he did contribute 10 boards and five assists).  He’s looking to break out, and knows he’ll have to be at his best.  Lawal and Favors, though, will be looking to get Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler, and Turner in foul trouble early and open poke some holes in that OSU front line.

The Skinny:  You probably don’t want to go with our Midwest picks, since yesterday we took Kansas and Ohio.  It’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that this will be a great second round game, but that stat line of Turner’s shows you that he can play such an important role on the team even when he’s not scoring.  For Tech to win, they’d have to turn in a similar performance at the free throw line, keep Turner under wraps and coax him into a supporting role again, and cool down Jon Diebler.  That’s a tough trifecta to pull off.  We don’t see it happening.  But we didn’t see Northern Iowa dismissing Kansas, either.

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Evening

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Friday evening games.

7:10 pm – #8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida State  (Buffalo pod)

This is a very tough game to call, so let’s start with what we know about it.  The Zags, no stranger to cross-country travel, come into Buffalo after an 11-day layoff where St. Mary’s took Mark Few’s team behind the woodshed and beat them handily in the WCC Tournament championship.  Florida State comes in having dropped its quarterfinal game against NC State in an effort that had their fans shaking their heads in disgust.  So needless to say, both teams are looking for a fresh start here.  The Zags are always dangerous, and this year’s squad led by Matt Bouldin and Elias Harris has the offensive firepower to score with just about anyone in America.  Merely an ok three-point shooting team, they tend to rely on the drives of Harris and mid-range game of Bouldin to create offense.  However, they don’t tend to respond well to teams that crowd and push them around, but unfortunately, FSU is just such a team.  The Seminoles enjoy the nation’s top defensive efficiency, and while they have the opposite problem of finding points, they should have no problem putting the clamps down on the Zag scoring options.  The question here comes down to whether the FSU defense, anchored by 7’1 Solomon Alabi and 6’9 Chris Singleton’s combined four blocks per game, is better than the Gonzaga offense, and we think that it is.  And as up/down as the Seminoles were in the ACC, they never came close to losing to the likes of Loyola Marymount and San Francisco, as Gonzaga did this year.

The Skinny:  The Zags this year aren’t quite as good as they usually are, and they’re facing a team that will shut down their biggest strength.  FSU wins this one by eight points to get a date with Syracuse.

7:15 pm – #7 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

Here’s another one that’s got people confused.  For good reason, too.  All year long we’ve been waiting on Georgia Tech to do something with all that talent, and now they’re playing better basketball, just in time.  Oklahoma State’s showing against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament will cost them some support, but we’re going to excuse that performance.  That was a tired basketball team, playing their third game in a six day span with K-State at the end of it — and the Wildcats were coming off of a five-day rest.  Georgia Tech is going to go inside to Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal like crazy, but when the Yellow Jackets actually shoot the three, they shoot it well.  Defending the three is a glaring OSU weakness, so it will be interesting to see how often Georgia Tech eschews their big men in favor of launching it from the arc, because those shots will be there.  So…good outside shooting, great inside players…sounds pretty good for Tech, right?  The question will be whether or not they can get to that point in their offense.  Georgia Tech ranks in the bottom twenty of Division I teams in terms of turning the ball over.  Can the Jackets, then, find a way to keep James Anderson from shredding them or Keiton Page from raining threes?

The Skinny: Oklahoma State won’t have to exert too much energy guarding the three, since Tech’s propensity to turn the ball over will take care of some of that.  The Cowboys have been getting more and more help from their role players, and we feel 9-7 in the Big 12 is better than 7-9 in the ACC this year.  It’ll be a great first round game, but we like Oklahoma State in a close one.

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Pac-10 Tourney Daily Diary: Finals

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. One of our RTC correspondents is at the Pac-10 Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the championship game.

Washington 79, California 75

  • Right before the game started, the Washington band got the fans going with a stirring rendition of the NCAA/CBS lead-in song…  was that prescient or just lucky?  I heard eight different pep bands this weekend, though, and none of the other ones did that song, so maybe they were on to something.
  • This was my first experience at the Pac-10 Tournament, but as someone who has been to the ACC and SEC Tournaments before, I leave completely underwhelmed with the fan support.  The Staples Center does a great job with their facilities and Los Angeles in general is an enticing destination (although not so much the downtown core), but where are all the fans?  I can’t believe that there aren’t more than a couple thousand Washington and Cal fans in the SoCal metro area who can’t be bothered to buy a ticket for an afternoon of exciting basketball that may result in your team making the NCAA Tournament.  I’m willing to give this year a slight pass because of the poor quality of the teams in this league, but I seriously question whether it was all that different in 2008, for example, when there were six or seven really good teams in the conference.  This article written prior to the Tournament touches on some of the problems I too noticed with the choice of venue (downtown LA, not the Staples Center).
  • I noticed about a half-hour before the game that Lorenzo Romar was standing alone in the tunnel area seemingly enjoying the quiet for a few moments.  He was looking out onto the court, but it was clear that his mind was working to take in the moment.  Coaches have a stressful job, and it was an interesting insight into how this particular one deals with the pressure.
  • In the first half, Washington held Cal to 37% shooting and Jerome Randle to 4 pts.  In the second half, it was 48% and 8 pts.  Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin were phenomenal (17-26 for 45 points), but the Cal starting backcourt was completely flummoxed today.  Randle and Patrick Christopher combined for 6-22 shooting and 2-11 from behind the arc for a total of 23 points.  The game really comes down to that.  As Mike Montgomery said after the game, they didn’t hit shots they normally hit.  When Cal has that kind of a night against a good team, they lose.
  • Washington seemed more aggressive most of the day, as if they realized they were in a little more trouble with the Selection Committee.  Quincy Pondexter (18 pts) and Isaiah Thomas (16 pts) both played under control and utilized good shot selection.  It showed, as the Huskies hit 53% for the game and 94% from the line.  I’m not predicting great things for this team as a #12 or #13 seed next week, but if they catch a break and play a relatively unathletic team that isn’t a gifted scoring team as well, they’ll have a chance to pull the upset.
  • In the postgame presser with Mike Montgomery, I referred to Seth Davis’ comment that Cal is one of the more interesting bubble teams in some time, having won the regular season Pac-10 title with ease yet not having a single top-50 win all season long.  Monty visibly bristled at the suggestion that Cal is even being talked about on the bubble.  The word he used was that he would be “astounded” if Cal doesn’t make the NCAAs, and that people (Seth?  me?) need to “do their homework” with respect to evaluating their losses with key players out of the lineup earlier in the year.  He clearly thinks (as many Pac-10 folks do) that if you win the conference regular season title, that should be enough.
  • The All-Tourney team actually had three Bears on it versus two for Washington.  Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin made it, while Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas (the MVP) were the two for UW.  Michael Roll from UCLA was the other player voted on.  Maybe it’s like this everywhere, but they took our sheets with two minutes remaining… what if Cal’s Randle produced a 15-point explosion in overtime?  Seems like a bad way to handle that in a close game.
  • So that’ll close out our trip to the Pac-10 Tournament.  The championship tilt was the best game of the tournament (well, the play-in game was good too, but it was the play-in game so I don’t count it), and it probably ended up as a best-case for the league in that two teams will go dancing.  The hope here is that the league improves the next couple of years so that the fans start coming back to this event and the quality of play will also end up better.
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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences.

Standings

  1. California    (12-5, 20-9)
  2. Arizona State     (10-6, 20-9)
  3. Washington     (9-7, 19-9)
  4. USC     (8-8, 16-12)
  5. Arizona      (8-8, 14-14)
  6. UCLA     (8-8, 13-15)
  7. Oregon State    (7-9, 13-15)
  8. Stanford    (7-10, 13-16)
  9. Washington State    (6-10, 16-12)
  10. Oregon     (6-10, 14-14)

It may not have been the type of season that Cal head coach Mike Montgomery envisioned at the start of the year when his Golden Bears and their five returning starters were ranked in the top 15, but as the calendar page gets flipped to the only month that really matters in college basketball, his team has just finished clinching at least a part of the Pac-10 regular season title and the top seed in next week’s Pac-10 Tournament. What could be very interesting for the Bears, however, is a scenario that Montgomery has no interest in seeing happen: the Bears failing to win the Pac-10 Tournament and its automatic bid, leaving Cal — a team with an RPI in the 20s but no wins against top-50 RPI teams -– squarely on the bubble for NCAA at-large consideration.

Team Rundowns

  • California – The Bears wrapped up their portion of the Pac-10 title by sweeping the Arizona schools behind strong play from their seniors. Over the course of the weekend, the five Bear seniors (Jamal Boykin, Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Nikola Knezevic) combined for 129 of the 157 Cal points. Boykin led the way and took home Pac-10 player-of-the-week honors behind averages of 17 points and 8.5 rebounds. Cal still needs either a win at Stanford or a loss by Arizona State in one of their games against the Southern California schools to wrap up sole possession of the regular season crown.
  • Arizona State – The Sun Devils hung around for a half at Haas Pavilion on Saturday, but ice-cold second half shooting (just 7-26 from the field) and a complete inability to hit from range throughout the game (only 3-22 from behind the arc) doomed ASU. Only senior Jerren Shipp was able to get off against the Bears, hitting six of his nine shots (including two threes) for 14 points. Senior center Eric Boateng tied a Pac-10 record by hitting all 11 of his field goal attempts (on his way to 24 points) in their win over Stanford on Thursday. The Devils still have the inside track on the number two seed in the Pac-10 tournament, with a one-game lead over Washington.
  • Washington – The Huskies completed a season-sweep over intrastate rival Washington State on Saturday by getting out to a big first half lead (they led 35-21 at the half) and then fighting off a charging Cougar squad for a seven-point win. Sophomore point guard Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 22 points and junior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning continued his recent tear by adding 17 points and 12 rebounds. Bryan-Amaning has now averaged 13/7 over the past six weeks. Washington will head to the Oregon schools to wrap up their regular season, needing to win both games and get some help out of the Southern California schools in order to take over second place.
  • USC – Coming into the week, the Trojans still had an outside shot at winning the regular season Pac-10 title. Those hopes died Thursday night when they scored 12 points in the second half (6/25 FGs, 0/13 3s in the second half) against Oregon. The Trojans followed that up with a similar performance against Oregon State on Saturday, shooting just 25% from the field in the second half (and 29% for the game). Coach Kevin O’Neill will lose senior starters Mike Gerrity, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson off a team that has leaned heavily on its starting five, assuring that things will look different around the Galen Center next season.
  • Arizona – The Wildcats split their trip to the Bay Area this weekend, stealing a game from Stanford on Saturday on a 15-foot bank at the buzzer by freshman guard Lamont “Momo” Jones. Jones had a career high 16 points for the ‘Cats and fellow freshman Derrick Williams added 24 points to push Sean Miller’s club into a three-way tie in the middle of the conference. While senior point guard Nic Wise will be wrapping up his college career this weekend, the Wildcats boast a young team (five freshmen get playing time) that will likely be considered one of the early favorites in the Pac-10 next season.

  • UCLA – Senior day summed up the UCLA season pretty well. Before the game started, senior forward Nikola Dragovic, a couple of days after having his shoulder pop out against Oregon State, tripped over a basketball during warm-ups and sprained his ankle. And then, after battling back from a 10-point halftime deficit to tie the game late, sophomore point guard Jerime Anderson had two bad turnovers in the last minute and the Bruins sank back to .500 in the conference. Senior Michael Roll did go out in style, knocking down six three-pointers on his way to 25 points in his last regular season appearance in Pauley Pavilion.
  • Oregon State – The Beavers shot just 4-31 from 3-pt range this week, hit only 37% from the field, turned the ball over 30 times, and still got a split in Southern California when they forced 20 USC turnovers and held the Trojans to 29% shooting on Saturday. Senior guard Seth Tarver led the Beavs with 15 points in a game that was ugly enough to deserve special mention in a season of ugliness in the Pac-10. Oregon State still has a chance to finish the Pac-10 season at .500 with wins over the Arizona schools in the final weekend of the season.
  • Stanford – Despite senior Landry Fields’ strong last weekend in Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal dropped both games this week and are destined for a lower-division Pac-10 finish. Fields averaged 21.5 points and seven rebounds this week, but against the Sun Devils on Thursday he received very little help. Sophomore guards Jeremy Green and Jarrett Mann combined to score just six points on 2-15 shooting (and, to be fair to Mann, he only accounted for one of those field goal attempts – a miss). They both bounced back against Arizona on Saturday, going for 19 and 13 respectively, but the Cardinal lost a heart-breaker on a shot at the buzzer.
  • Washington State – The Cougars stumbled out of the gate on Saturday and by halftime were down 14 on Senior Night in Beasley Coliseum. But sophomore forward DeAngelo Casto led the Cougars on a second half run to get back in the game and even take their first lead of the game in the middle of the second half. However, the Cougars were unable to contain the Huskies’ Thomas late and the Cougs faded down the stretch. Casto wound up with 19/6, but the Cougs’ leading scorer, sophomore Klay Thompson, struggled all day, missing 12 of his 14 field goal attempts and turning the ball over five times. The Cougars will close the season with a road trip to Oregon.
  • Oregon – The Ducks went on the road to Southern California and swept UCLA and USC, breaking a five-game losing streak in a big way, and now have put themselves in position to climb out of the cellar with a strong closing weekend of the season, as the Ducks host the Washington schools while saying goodbye to senior Tajuan Porter as well as MacArthur Court. Porter averaged 22.5 ppg in the LA sweep and threw in seven threes in the win over the Bruins, leaving him just eight threes behind former Arizona star Salim Stoudamire for the all-time Pac-10 mark.
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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 conferences.

Standings

  1. California    10-5       18-9
  2. Arizona State     9-5          19-8
  3. USC     8-6          16-10
  4. Washington     8-7          18-9
  5. Arizona      7-7          13-13
  6. UCLA      7-7          12-14
  7. Stanford      7-8          13-14
  8. Oregon State      6-8          12-14
  9. Washington State     6-9          16-11
  10. Oregon       4-10       12-14

We haven’t had a Pac-10 update ‘round these parts since the conference season began, but it is no secret that the one-word summation of the Pac-10 season to this point is “ugly.”  The only team with anything at all to say about potentially receiving an at-large bid is California, and it is increasingly likely that if Cal fails to win the Pac-10 tournament, they’ll be looking at an NIT bid. For the first time in as far back as I care to research, the only Pac-10 team that will be heading to the NCAA tournament is the team that wins the automatic bid as the Pac-10 tournament champion.

A quick rundown of the teams:

California – The Bears currently top the conference, and of all Pac-10 teams have the best chance at an at-large bid given their RPI in the low 20s and the fourth toughest schedule in the country, but every time it looks like this team is going to  reel off a string of victories, they drop a game like they did Thursday when eighth place Oregon State handled them easily in Corvalis, 80-64. The numbers look good for the senior quartet of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin (60.2 ppg between the four, with all averaging double-figures on the season), but each has been inconsistent this season, such as when Randle went just 2-9 from the field, 0-5 from behind the arc and had four turnovers in the OSU game.

Arizona StateHerb Sendek’s squad sits just a half-game back of the Bears in the conference standings, a bit of business that will get sorted out on Saturday when they head to Haas Pavilion, but although they have a top-50 win (something Cal cannot boast) over San Diego State, there just isn’t enough there on the ASU resume to really warrant serious at-large consideration. The Sun Devils have gotten as far as they have on the strength of their guard play; senior point Derek Glasser leads the conference in assists, and he and junior point Jamelle McMillan are one-two in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.

USC – The Trojans are a team that would be a very tough out in the Pac-10 tournament – that is if the Trojans were going to play in the Pac-10 tournament. In an attempt to throw the NCAA hounds off the trail a bit and to make some sort of restitution for the O.J. Mayo, Reggie Bush and how many other incidents, the USC athletic department decided to self-punish the basketball program, stripping them of their chance to play in the postseason this year. Head coach Kevin O’Neill has done a pretty strong job of keeping his kids together and when the Trojans have come out focused they have been very strong this year (they’ve split with Cal, taken their one matchup with ASU, and swept Washington and UCLA), but playing out the string has got to be hard for these kids and as a result, they’ve lost games to Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State, that they might not have lost had a possible NCAA tourney bid been waiting at the end.

Washington – In a season of conference-wide disappointment, the Huskies have got to take home the title of most disappointing Pac-10 team. At the start of the year, Washington was considered something of a co-favorite to win the conference, and seemed to be a team that could make some noise in March. But between then and now, the Huskies have struggled to gain any consistency. They did pull together a four-game win streak in late January/early February, then laid an egg in their big matchup at Cal. Senior forward Quincy Pondexter has likely been the player-of-the-year in the conference (20.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg), but highly-anticipated freshman guard Abdul Gaddy has yet to catch on, and the team has struggled mightily on the road, notching just a 1-6 record so far.

Arizona – At some point in April, right after Sean Miller had accepted the Arizona job, his roster consisted of little more than senior point Nic Wise, junior wing Jamelle Horne, a couple other returning pieces and a boatload of question marks. Miller took advantage of the meltdown at USC and grabbed some of their fleeing castoffs and wound up patching together a pretty strong recruiting class, and actually had this Wildcat team tied for the conference lead not too long ago. Freshman forward Derrick Williams has been the best of the new Cats (15.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and while there are growing pains in the future, especially with Wise getting fitted for cap and gown, folks around Tucson are pretty confident that Miller will be able to get this program back to the heights they are used to.

UCLA – The incongruous facts that the Bruins are 7-7 in conference and two games under .500 on the season and that Ben Howland has done a pretty strong job getting his team that far is a good indication of how bad this Bruin team is. As sophomore Jerime Anderson’s inability to handle the point guard position became apparent, Howland slid another sophomore, Malcolm Lee, over from the two to play out of position. While Lee is still not particularly well suited to the one, he is a definite improvement there. Likewise, as this group as a whole showed that they were incapable of playing the type of man defense that Howland demands, he switched over to run some zone. Still not a great defensive team, but an improvement. Those types of things sum up this season for UCLA. While you still can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, Howland has at least managed to scrape this Bruin squad together to the point where they aren’t consistently getting embarrassed.

Stanford – Senior swingman Landry Fields and sophomore guard Jeremy Green have turned into quite a duo up on the farm. They are the highest scoring duo in the Pac-10 (nearly 40 points a game), and Fields is a serious conference Player of the Year candidate. Sophomore Jarrett Mann has also turned into a nice point guard, and between he and Green, head coach Johnny Dawkins doesn’t have a whole lot of question marks in the backcourt for next season. The problem for the Cardinal has been the interior game. They are one of the worst rebounding teams (and that despite Fields’ second-best in the Pac-10 8.7 rpg) and are the worst shotblocking team in the Pac-10, with only 45 blocks on the season. Dawkins does have some help coming, however, with four forwards already signed in next year’s recruiting class.

Oregon State – In Craig Robinson’s first season, the Beavers took a major step forward. Certainly another seven-win improvement this season would have been more than anyone could have hoped for, but given the return of much of their roster and the decrease in the overall talent level in the Pac-10, expectations had to be higher than a mere repeat of last season for the Beavers. And yet, that’s where they’re at now. At this point in 2008-09, the Beavers were 12-13 and 6-8 in the conference. The only difference this year is one additional non-conference loss. Junior guard Calvin Haynes is the OSU leading scorer with 13.2 ppg this year; last year he averaged 13.0. Senior center Roeland Schaftenaar’s point totals have dropped slightly, while senior swingman Seth Tarver’s are up slightly. In all, it is looking like a huge uptick from Robinson season one to season two followed by a season worth of reruns.

Washington State – Not a lot of fun being a Washington-state sports fan these days. The Sonics are something called a Thunder these days and they play in tornado country somewhere, the Seahawks are at the bottom of the barrel, college football is just about non-existent and their college basketball programs, which were at one point a combined 20-3 this season, have now combined to go 14-17 since then. For the Cougs, sophomore wing Klay Thompson’s production has taken a bit of a dive in conference play (he just scored 10 combined points in a homestand against the Southern California schools), although he is still averaging almost 21 ppg this season. But with freshman point Reggie Moore and sophomore bruiser DeAngelo Casto to pair up with Thompson, head coach Ken Bone has a young nucleus around which to build.

Oregon – There are two more Pac-10 conference games that will be played at McArthur Court. While some of Oregon’s early-season non-conference games will be played there next season, the Ducks homestand against the Washington schools the final week of the Pac-10 season will close the books on the meaningful games played in that phenomenal building. Some sparkling, brand new beauty of an abomination will “replace” it, but the best atmosphere in the Pac-10 is going away. That’s what I’ll remember from this Duck season. Beyond that, head coach Ernie Kent totters toward a termination, the roster is full of guys with talent who aren’t able to string it together for more than a weekend or two, and Tajuan Porter just missed another wild three. But none of it matters. They’re closing Mac Court.

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RTC Live: UCLA @ California

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2010

Tonight’s game between Cal and UCLA in Haas Pavilion has the air of a changing of the guard in the heirarchy of the Pac-10, as it is Mike Montgomery’s Bears who are looking toward March with a hopeful eye while the regal Bruins from SoCal are merely struggling to keep their heads above water.  Coming into this one at 6-8 (1-1), much has already been written about UCLA’s foibles this year, but Ben Howland knows that there are no “down” years in Westwood and if you expect to keep the bluebloods off your back, his team will have to start winning games very soon.  Cal will be without their glue guy off the bench, Jorge Gutierrez, who tweaked his knee over the weekend, but UCLA has also benched (at least for the tip) its starting point guard, Jerime Anderson, who comes in averaging 6/4 per game.  After some early-season struggles (particularly with Theo Robertson out of the lineup), Cal has looked much better in recent weeks, playing #1 Kansas tough in Lawrence, and dominating Stanford in their Pac-10 opener.  According to KenPom.com, the Bears have the third-most efficient offense in the country, which is somewhat surprising given how poor that offense looked in the 2kSports CvC games in New York in November.  As for UCLA, they are going to have to start a winning streak soon if they endeavor to save their season, as the clock is running out on the Bruins.  Join us tonight for what should be a raucous environment in Berkeley on RTC Live!

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Checking in on… the Pac-10

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2009

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 Conference.

Boy, that was a rough non-conference season, huh? Everybody and their mom jumped on the Pac-10 for underachieving, and there is certainly some merit to that. The teams that were expected to compete for Top 10 spots sometimes looked like they shouldn’t be ranked at all. As a whole, the conference won very few quality games and for the most part waltzed through laughably easy opponents. Then, of course, there were the downright embarrassing losses that began to pile up one after another.

But don’t think for a second that there aren’t dangerous teams in the Pac-10 Conference. We expected California and Washington to be good, but the past few weeks have seen the impressive rise of Arizona State and USC, who now look like at-large bid candidates. And for as dreadful as we all made UCLA out to be, their losses came against good teams and the Bruins are still hovering around .500. In fact, they’re the only sub-.500 team in the Pac-10, so how bad could the conference really be?

Things will get sorted out as conference play begins tonight, and as the weeks go on the cream will likely rise to the top. Let’s catch up on how everyone has been doing, and analyze their chances at winning the league as we get started with play within the ‘family.’

Player of the Week: Quincy Pondexter, Washington – The 6’6 forward scored 47 points in two wins this week to get the #16 Huskies on track heading into Pac-10 play, and is looking like one of the clear frontrunners for conference Player of the Year. Without a third scoring option to complement he and Isaiah Thomas, Washington will need everything Pondexter’s got if they’re going to win the conference.

Power Rankings

#16 Washington (9-2): You have to wonder about the Huskies heading into their conference opener tonight. They’ve played just two games away from home, their two biggest wins are against Wright State and Texas A&M and they still haven’t found a suitable offensive weapon save Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas. They’re talented enough to win the league, sure, but without really challenging themselves in the non-conference it’s tough to know exactly what Washington is all about.

Arizona State (10-3): Similarly, the Sun Devils have played away from home just three times and dropped two of those games. Those losses to Duke and BYU came against good squads, but otherwise their schedule has been soft as cotton candy. They’re riding a three-game winning streak that began with a big win over hot San Diego State, but that is literally Arizona State’s only win of substance. WARNING: leading scorer Derek Glasser has gone cold in the past month after a very hot start.

California (8-4): The Golden Bears have rallied after a surprisingly rough start to win four out of their last five games; the one loss coming in a valiant effort against #1 Kansas and the four wins each coming by 19 points or more. With the return of 6’6 forward Theo Robertson – Cal was 3-3 during his absense – there’s another wing threat to keep defenders honest and give stars Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle a chance to do what they do. Heading into the conference schedule tonight, Cal still has a great chance at winning the Pac-10.

Washington State (10-2): It looked like the Cougars were a fluke thanks to an easy schedule, but they just kept on winning so you’ve got to give them credit for winning the games they should. Still – and this is a definite theme for the Pac-10 so far – they literally have no quality wins unless you count last Tuesday’s overtime victory over a struggling LSU (I don’t).

USC (8-4): Without a doubt, the Trojans are the most dangerous team in the entire conference right now. It looked like USC was off to a terrible season with a 2-4 start, but they’re now riding a six-game winning streak that includes three quality, double-digit wins over Tennessee, St. Mary’s and UNLV. Senior guard Mike Gerrity has become the team’s leading scorer in just four games and lit a fire under the Trojans, who now boast a potent scoring attack to balance one of the conference’s stingiest defenses.

Stanford (6-6): The Cardinal have faltered a little bit, dropping three of their last four games to Oklahoma State, Northwestern and Texas Tech. Shoot, at least they played somebody! You’ve gotta give Stanford credit for a tougher schedule than most. Senior forward Landry Fields leads the conference in scoring and has put up 20 points in each of the last eight games. Watch for Stanford to shock some Pac-10 opponents this season.

Oregon (8-4): The Ducks open their conference season tonight in what is actually one of the most compelling matchups in the Pac-10 against Washington State. Neither team boasts a difficult non-conference schedule and we’ll get to see whether either of them is for real when they face off. Oregon rides a four-game winning streak that featured nary a quality win, so facing the 10-2 Cougars will be a good barometer for the progress of both teams. Leading scorer Tajuan Porter has battled an ankle injury but may finally be getting back into a rhythm after a recent five 3-pointer effort.

Oregon State (6-5): In all truthfulness, this should be a 9-2 Beaver team. I know what you’re thinking, their offense is such a jumbled mess that they might as well just punt on most possessions. But their defense is stellar, even against excellent opposition, and if they get freshman guard Roberto Nelson back (currently ineligible) then Oregon State will be dangerous down the stretch. Still, there was that home loss to Sacramento State; shudder…

Arizona (6-6): You just don’t know what to do with Arizona. Heading into the conference opener against streaking USC tonight, the Wildcats have suffered several losses to good teams – which is more than most of the Pac-10 can say – but still don’t have a defining win and just gave up a 49-point effort to BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. On the other hand, point guard Nic Wise is playing like a conference MVP contender and he makes ‘Zona dangerous on any given night. Then again, a one-point home win over Lipscomb (in overtime!) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

UCLA (5-7): The head-scratching continues in Westwood as Bruin faithful try to digest exactly what is going on. Yes, UCLA’s losses have all come against quality teams, but the Bruins hardly put up a fight in any of them. They get a tough opener tonight hosting Arizona State. Let’s see if Malcolm Lee and his merry band of underachievers can put up a better fight in the conference season.

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ATB: Wesley Johnson Makes Syracuse Better Than Last Year

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2009

atb

Coaches vs. Cancer.

Addition by Subtraction? Syracuse 87, North Carolina 71.  We all knew that Roy Williams’ Carolina team was likely to take a bit of a step back this season after losing four players (Hansbrough, Ellington, Lawson, Green) to the NBA Draft, and we expected the same from Syracuse after losing the core (Flynn, Harris, Devendorf) of its Sweet Sixteen squad.  But is it possible that Syracuse, with the addition of multi-dimensional forward Wesley Johnson and the natural progression of players such as Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku, Rick Jackson and Scoop Jardine, are actually better than they were in 2008-09?  Forget the loss to Le Moyne in the preseason — when the games have actually counted, they’ve mauled every opponent they’ve faced by an average of 27.5 pts.  Albany and Robert Morris, sure — but highly-ranked California by 22 and North Carolina by 16?  Not so much.  As Roy Williams put it after the game, Syracuse “beat the dickens out of us,” and he wasn’t exaggerating.  The Orange broke out of a 39-37 deficit at halftime with a ridiculous 22-1 run that had Carolina looking as befuddled as they’ve been in what seems like a long time (don’t let anyone tell you that it’s actually been that long, though – the 2008 Final Four game against Kansas looked similar for long stretches).  The key to that stretch of play was that North Carolina all of a sudden looked much like the young, inexperienced team that they are.  Williams made sure to stress that youth isn’t an excuse, but during the blitzkrieg by SU it was clear that many of the Heels were uncertain how to stem the tide, incapable at this point in their development of settling their nerves with several bad decisions on both ends of the court.  At the end of the night, it was obvious that the better team (with the best player, Johnson) won the game.  We have to be careful to crown anyone with anything this early in the season, but there’s no doubt that Syracuse is much further along than UNC, and we found ourselves wondering (along with Ray Floriani) if this year’s version of the Orange might actually be better off with the talented trio of Flynn, Harris and Devendorf out of the picture.  Sometimes those players, particularly Harris and Devendorf, could cause more problems than they solved for Jim Boeheim.  Is it possible that the group he has now — last year’s backups  + Johnson (transfer) and Jardine (redshirt) — have better team chemistry and trust for each other, resulting in wonderfully efficient execution on both ends?  Boeheim would never admit to it, but there could be something to this.

wesley johnson syracuse

Can We Send Cal Home 0-3? Ohio State 76, California 70. Memo to Pac-10 teams.  Don’t bother sending your schools back east unless they plan on actually showing up for the games.  For the second consecutive night, Mike Montgomery’s California team got completely outclassed by a bigger, more athletic foe that simply imposed its will on the Bears in the first half, rendering the second stanza as (mostly) garbage time.  Ohio State was much better tonight than they were last night, hitting five threes in the first half over the much shorter Bears, and generally controlling the game from start to finish.  Dallas Lauderdale in particular tortured the Cal interior players, getting credited for seven blocks and generally intimidating any Cal player of consequence who entered his lane.  Evan Turner was masterful as usual, notching another near-triple double of 26/14/6 assts on 9-14 FG.  More importantly for Thad Matta, Turner cut down his turnover total to a more reasonable (yet high) four, quite a few less than his ten last evening against UNC.  Jerome Randle was once again the only bright spot for Cal, as he dropped 26/3 assts in what was clearly a frustrating couple of games for the competitive guard.  The loss of Theo Robertson for these last two games with a stress reaction was undoubtedly a tough blow, but we’re not convinced that Cal would have beaten either Syracuse or Ohio State even with Jason Kidd back on campus.  Their problems with the interior players are just too damning, and there doesn’t appear to be any easy solution.  So what have we learned from this?  First, if Cal is indeed the best team in the Pac-10, then there won’t be a single Pac-10 team beyond the second round in March (again), and secondly, if there’s a better player than Ohio State’s Evan Turner (22/15/6 assts), he’d better start putting up some ridiculous games soon or the NPOY race will be over before it gets started.

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After the Buzzer: Blowout Wednesday in the CvC

Posted by zhayes9 on November 12th, 2009

atb

Three more Coaches vs. Cancer games tonight, and exactly zero of them were good games.  Here’s how bad it was.  The three favorites — UNC, Syracuse and California — were collectively favored by 80 points in Vegas, and all three easily covered the spread.  Still, that doesn’t mean that the games weren’t interesting.  RTC Live was at Cal for the second time in three nights, and we were rewarded with some of the excellent long-range shooting that the Bears have become noted for.  Let’s take a look at each game.

Rautins Gets His Revenge. Syracuse 100, Robert Morris 60. A sterling performance and total effort for the Orange tonight against a Colonials team that returned three starters from the NEC champions of a year ago. Andy Rautins, two nights after missing all six of his shot attempts and rolling his left ankle, drained seven treys on ten attempts against Robert Morris in the triple-digit Syracuse scoring output, just two three-balls shy of Gerry McNamara’s school record. Overall, Syracuse shot 13/26 from downtown after a 2/17 performance against Albany, including two from Mookie Jones, James Southerland and, most importantly, Wesley Johnson. Big man Arinze Onuaku had a field day in the paint against the outmanned Colonials (7-8 FG) and Rick Jackson (4-5 FG, 10 pts, 5 reb) continues to improve. As far as the ever-changing point guard competition, both Scoop Jardine (6 pts, 9 asst, 2 stl, 3 TO) and freshman Brandon Triche (4-5 FG, 4-4 FT, 12 pts, 7 asst, 1 TO) contributed stellar efforts. Coach Jim Boeheim even elected to play both points on the floor at the same time when Rautins took a breather, a trend you could very well see extend further into the season. Overall, Syracuse fans have to be pleased with impressive back-to-back efforts to begin the year after the stunning Le Moyne loss during the exhibition season. They’ll battle California in the semifinals of what should be a memorable 2K Sports Classic in NYC next weekend.

Heels Win a Glorified Scrimmage. North Carolina 89, NC Central 42. The only question unanswered during the waning minutes of NC Central’s death march into Chapel Hill Wednesday night was whether Carolina could cover their 45.5-point spread. Although the 18 turnovers (including four from starting PG Larry Drew II) against this competition is still eye-opening, the Heels pretty much put an exclamation point on this one. The highlights: Tyler Zeller (who looks like Roy Williams’ most complete player in the early going) went 6-6 from the floor and added five boards, freshman backup point guard Dexter Strickland drained three treys, while elder statesmen Marcus Ginyard (17 pts, 3 reb, 3 asst, 3 stl, 7-10 FG) and Deon Thompson (13 pts, 6 reb, 5-9 FG) both chipped in on the cakewalk. Carolina invites Valparaiso to the Dean Dome before battling Ohio State in the 2K Sports Classic semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

Cal Shakes off Detroit in Second Half. California 95, Detroit 61.  Cal’s big three of Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson outscored Detroit by themselves (62 pts on 17-32 FG, 7-14 3FG and 21-22 FT), using a strong second-half surge to put away the pesky Titans from Detroit tonight.  It was clear after Monday night’s game that Randle was not pleased with his play, and tonight he started off quickly with 16 first half points to lead Cal until his teammates (most notably Christopher and Robertson) heated up.  Cal’s defensive energy was significantly better than Monday night, holding Detroit to 35.7% shooting for the game, although often the Titans forced up bad shots making it easy for the Bear defense.  And despite actually being smaller that the Titans inside the paint for much of the game, Cal dominated the boards (41-25).  Our observation is that Detroit had some talent on the floor, especially the raw but capable Eli Holman (the IU transfer who threw a potted plant at or near Tom Crean 2 years ago), but it’s clear that the players haven’t quite figured out how to play together yet.  As for Cal, it’ll be very interesting to see how they handle the trip to New York and the long Syracuse zone defense.  You’d initially think that a great three-point shooting team would have an advantage against a zone, but it’s doubtful the Bears have seen such an athletic zone before.

On Tap Thursday (all times ET). Two games tomorrow night — one is in the CvC and the other is something called the Glenn Wilkes Classic.

  • James Madison @ Ohio State (BTN) - 7pm.  This is worth watching just to see what Evan Turner can do again.
  • Georgia State @ NC State 7pm.  And the Sidney Lowe Watch begins.
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Set Your Tivo: 11.09.09 – 11.13.09

Posted by nvr1983 on November 9th, 2009

tivo

It is time to rejoice college basketball fans. After seven long months college basketball is back (officially). Since the last game of importance (UNC dismantling Michigan State), we’ve put up with the drama of Billy Gillispie getting fired and John Calipari getting hired (technically before the title game) along with John Wall, Lance Stephenson, and Renardo Sidney taking a ridiculously long time to decide where they would go to college (maybe just for one year) then waited to see if they would be eligible to play, which will probably be an ongoing drama throughout the season, and put up with a lot of really bad behavior by players and coaches. Now it is time for the games to begin. To be honest, the opening week is a little light on great games, but the pace should pick up next week as the early season tournaments get underway and we know that college basketball fans are craving a fix of real games so this week should still be exciting.

Monday (11.09.09)
FIU at #4 UNC at 7 PM on ESPNU: I’ll admit it. This game is more interesting for the sideshow that will be Isiah Thomas more than it will be compelling basketball unless Isiah decides to lace them up one more time. As for the actual basketball, I’ll be “watching” (quotation marks since this game is on ESPNU which nobody has) UNC to see how they have reloaded with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough (last seen filming awful commercials), Ty Lawson (last seen talking about how he wished he had left Chapel Hill after his freshman year), and Wayne Ellington (last seen on the bench in Minnesota). My guess is that we will be seeing a lot out of the frontcourt with John Henson, Deon Thompson, and Ed Davis. Watch for the emergence of Ed Davis as Roy Williams will no longer have the option of hiding this budding superstar in what some believed was an attempt to keep his draft stock down and keep him in Chapel Hill for at least one more year (see Roy blowing off my question at the press conference after the Miami-UNC game last year). http://tarheelblue.cstv.com/inside/roywilliams/index-index.html?&url=http://mfile.akamai.com/8108/wmv/cstvcbs.download.akamai.com/8108/open/unc/08-09/video/m-baskbl/01jan/011709_unc_m-baskbl_pcpostmiami.wmv
Albany at #25 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPNU: A week ago I wouldn’t have even thought this would be a contest, but that was before the world learned about Le Moyne. While Albany is a nice middle-of-the-pack America East team they shouldn’t be much of challenge for the Orange, but that depends on how shellshocked they are after the Le Moyne debacle. Watch for Jim Boeheim to try to pound the Great Danes on the inside. Virgina transfer Will Harris will have his hands full on the inside with Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku.
Murray State at #12 California on ESPN U:

Monday (11.09.09)

FIU at #4 UNC at 7 PM on ESPNU: Ok, I’ll admit it. This game is more interesting for the sideshow that is Isiah Thomas more than it will be compelling basketball unless Isiah decides to lace them up one more time. As for the actual basketball, I’ll be “watching” (quotation marks since this game is on ESPNU which nobody has) UNC to see how they have reloaded with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough (last seen filming awful commercials), Ty Lawson (last seen talking about how he should have left Chapel Hill after his freshman year), and Wayne Ellington (last seen on the bench in Minnesota). My guess is that we will be seeing a lot out of the frontcourt with John Henson, Tyler ZellerDeon Thompson, and Ed Davis. Watch for the emergence of Ed Davis as Roy Williams will no longer have the option of hiding this budding superstar in what some believed was an attempt to keep his draft stock down and keep him in Chapel Hill for at least one more year (see Roy blowing off my question about Ed at the press conference after the Miami-UNC game last year–it’s the last question on the video as he is folding up his papers both while I am asking the question and as he is dodging the question).

Albany at #25 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPNU: A week ago I wouldn’t have even thought this would be a contest, but that was before the world learned about Le Moyne. While Albany is a nice middle-of-the-pack America East team they shouldn’t be much of challenge for the Orange, but that depends on how shell-shocked they are after the Le Moyne debacle. Watch for Jim Boeheim to try to pound the Great Danes on the inside. Virgina transfer Will Harris will have his hands full on the inside with Wesley Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku.

Murray State at #12 California at 11 PM on ESPN U: This might be the most interesting game of the night even if it might be the least interesting to the casual fan, but we will be courtside covering the game for this year’s opening RTC Live (and we’ll be back two nights later when Detroit comes to Berkeley). I’m not expecting the Racers to pull off the upset although I think this game could be closer than a lot of people expect as Billy Kennedy brings a team that has the potential to win the Ohio Valley Conference into Berkeley. Kennedy will rely on his talented trio of Danero Thomas, Ivan Aska, and Isacc Miles against Mike Montgomery‘s talented group of perimeter players led by Jerome RandlePatrick Christopher, and Theo Robertson. Montgomery’s trio (with some help from Duke transfer Jamal Boykin) should be enough to hold off the Racers, but if they come in believing the considerable hype we might just have our first upset of the regular season.

Friday (11.13.09)

Hofstra at #1 Kansas on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: I’m not really expecting this to be a competitive game, but it is worth watching to see the consensus preseason #1 open up. Expect to see Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich play about 20-25 minutes in what should be a glorified exhibition. Hofstra has a pretty big name for a mid-major, but coach Tom Pecora will have the unenviable task of having to replace Antoine Agudio, the school’s all-time leading scorer, and he also lacks an interior presence to battle Aldrich on the inside–expect to see Aldrich dominate Greg Washington and Miklos Szabo on the inside. One match-up that might turn out to be interesting is at point guard with Collins going against Charles Jenkins (the only returning player in D1 to average more than 19 PPG, 4 RPG, and 4 APG last season). Outside of that check out the game to see Xavier Henry, who will have to work for his minutes this season on a deep and talented Jayhawk team.

Morehead State at #5 Kentucky on ESPNU: We would like to talk about how we think that one of the contenders for the Ohio Valley Conference title could take down Kentucky’s vaunted group of freshmen in their opening game, but it’s more likely that this could be a preview of a NCAA tournament game — a 1st round NCAA tournament game. Donnie Tyndall‘s team will have its hands full going into Rupp Arena with 23,500 rabid Kentucky fans ready to witness the rebirth of their program. One match-up that might be interesting will be Patrick Patterson (yes, Kentucky does have players outside of its freshmen) against Kenneth Faried, the odds-on favorite to win OVC POY. For the NBA scouts who might be reading this, you’ll have to wait to see John Wall who is sitting out as part of his suspension, but there will still be NBA talent on the court with Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins on the inside for the Wildcats.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Northwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2009

impactplayers

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

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

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

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

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