New Years Eve Date with Indiana Offers Iowa Basketball a Grand Stage for its Return

Posted by KTrahan on December 28th, 2012

The loudest I’ve ever heard a crowd at a sporting event was at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It was Big Ten-leading Iowa vs. #20 Michigan on February 20, 2006, and I was a seventh-grader who put tickets to an Iowa basketball game at the top of my Christmas list. Those days in Carver-Hawkeye were special; they were the beginning of my love of college basketball. The Hawkeyes walloped Michigan 94-66 on that particular day en route to a Big Ten Championship season. I sat there taking in the atmosphere, preaching to my dad — a Syracuse fan — that nowhere in the country could top the Carver-Hawkeye experience.

Nearly seven years later, a lot has changed for Iowa basketball. The Hawkeyes’ decline has been well-documented, marked by the Steve Alford soap opera and the failed Todd Lickliter era. By the end of the Lickliter era, local high school games rivaled the atmosphere at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Now, the healing has begun in Iowa City, as Fran McCaffery enters year three of his rebuilding project. Iowa has gone from cellar dweller to a program on the rise, and as Big Ten play approaches, Iowa is back in the NCAA Tournament conversation for the first time since, well, that season in 2006.

Fran McCaffery has C rocking again (Cliff Jette photography)

Fran McCaffery has Carver-Hawkeye Arena rocking again (Cliff Jette photography)

Iowa has been eating up the “on the rise” slogan — in fact, it’s the team’s official slogan this year — and the fans seem to be buying in. The Hawkeyes have been on the rise for awhile, and considering the steady progress that McCaffery has made, the fans have been patient with what they knew would be a painstaking rebuilding process. But nobody has mistaken the rise of the program with being “back.” That’s the next step for this program, and could come in the waning hours of 2012, as the Hawkeyes host #5 Indiana Monday in the first game of the Big Ten season.

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Morning Five: 06.07.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 7th, 2012

  1. Coaches who are fired from their plum head coaching positions have to end up somewhere, and two former power conference guys who were not quite able to get it done at that level have resurfaced this week at a pair of unusual destinations. First, former rising star Todd Lickliter, the NABC Coach of the Year at Butler in 2007 but a miserable failure subsequently at Iowa with an overall record of 38-57, was formally hired on Wednesday as the new head coach at NAIA school Marian University, located in the same part of Indianapolis as the program he helped put on the college basketball map a decade ago. Lickliter spent last season as an assistant at Miami (OH), but will look to re-legitimize himself in the NAIA before no doubt angling for future D-I head coaching positions.
  2. The other unusual coaching hire this week was former Colorado and Northern Illinois head coach Ricardo Patton taking a high school gig as the top man at Central High School in Memphis, Tennessee. Patton spent last season as an assistant at Maryland-Eastern Shore, but he has ties to the Memphis area and was interestingly enough a candidate for the Memphis (University of) head coaching position there 15 years ago. The Memphis area churns out top-notch recruits annually so the cynical side of us wonders if Patton is looking for some kind of package deal in the next few years with some future star player he latches on to at Central HS.
  3. An article posited in a recent volume of The Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that conference realignment – at least from the years of 2004-11 – could actually have a significant and measurable impact on the academic standing of the school in addition to the undisputed benefits to the athletic side of things. Really? The authors state that subsequent to realignment colleges became generally more selective, their admissions yield rates were higher, and their incoming college admissions scores were greater. All of those things, if controlled for in the study, make sense, but are we really supposed to believe that Missouri’s move to the SEC or Houston’s to the Big East will make those institutions better academic schools? We’ll wait on the follow-up studies before buying into this one.
  4. Did the ACC recently shoot itself in the foot – either willfully or wantonly – when it decided to include its third-tier media rights in its latest television package with ESPN for an estimated $238 million per year? Forbes’ Chris Smith argues that the league made a grievous error in failing to exclude those properties because it essentially amounts to the conference leaving money on the table and exposes it to future poaching by other leagues (ahem, Big 12) with richer deals. As he puts it, “the ACC is giving away more and getting back less.” Of course, Smith’s analysis fails to take into account the obvious academic benefits, such as BC’s 37% increase in applications after joining the ACC, right?
  5. Wisconsin’s Jared Uthoff made a lot of headlines in April for his personal battle with Bo Ryan and Wisconsin over his transfer papers. Well, the redshirt freshman decided that the battle was for naught as he will move on to Iowa as his next destination and will have to sit out a year regardless of any restrictions imposed upon him by that school in Madison. No disrespect to Ryan and the Badgers intended, but Uthoff’s transfer is something that we encourage among more than everyone involved in college basketball. Let’s hope that he finds the success he hopes for at his next destination.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.04.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 4th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

Butler

  • Many felt that it would be impossible for a mid-major to ever win a national title; nevertheless, Brad Stevens and Butler are about to turn what once was a myth into a reality. If the Bulldogs are able to cut down the nets tonight, the question emerges whether Butler can still be considered is a mid-major.
  • Athletic Director Barry Collier has made it known that keeping head coach Brad Stevens is a major priority. We think that it is unlikely that Stevens goes anywhere, as his personality does not correlate with that of a mercenary head coach looking to go anywhere to make his next buck.
  • Before Butler was able to advance to two consecutive national championship games, a 2007 three-way phone call between Zach Hahn, Matt Howard, and Shawn Vanzant changed the fortunes of the Bulldog program. The phone call revolved around the future of the program’s leadership when then-head coach Todd Lickliter left the school for Iowa. The three decided to give the unproven Brad Stevens a chance, and it has undoubtedly paid off.
  • Matt Howard has been a great player for Butler throughout his career, but with his various quirks and his general personality, he oozees greatness in an indefinable way.
  • The matchup between Shelvin Mack and Kemba Walker will likely decide the national championship. Walker is a fantastic playmaker and an an unbelievable scorer, but we acknowledge that Mack and the Bulldogs will be a tough out for Kemba and the Huskies.
  • While last season against Duke felt more like a David/Goliath matchup for the Butler Bulldogs, this season they enter their national title tilt with UConn not feeling as if they are underdogs. The huge role experience plays in easing the nerves of lower seeded teams makes the argument rational, even if it doesn’t sound like it at first glance.
  • After losing to Butler, giant killer VCU reflects positively on its season. The word “improbable” hardly scratches the surface when describing the Rams’ run, and a Final Four berth is something the team will always get to cherish.
  • Despite falling to the Bulldogs, VCU’s fans remain proud of what their team accomplished. Shaka Smart could have taken the approach of “playing with house money” after Selection Sunday and nobody would have blamed him, but he and his team quickly altered the perception of the Rams.

Connecticut

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The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Brad Stevens

Posted by jstevrtc on September 10th, 2010

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we hope to publish weekly on Friday mornings throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

It used to be that the first thing that people thought when they saw Butler head coach Brad Stevens was something along the lines of, “He’s a head coach? How old is he?” That changed on April 5th. By saying things changed for him after the title-game loss to Duke, we’re not saying that Stevens looks any older. We’re saying that now people will think of him primarily as one of the best coaches in our game instead of just a young-looking basketball coach, though Stevens would be the first to deflect such praise. When you talk with Brad Stevens (whose three teams have produced three perfect academic ratings, by the way), you are immediately aware of what seems to be an innate professionalism, and the fact that this man is much more comfortable talking about his team than himself, making sure that any incoming credit goes to everyone, not just him. Most of all, though, you recognize his absolutely inflexible belief in the abstract concept known as The Butler Way, that it’s, in fact, the best way for him to grow as a coach and for his players to function as the best team possible. RTC’s John Stevens (no relation) spoke with Coach Stevens earlier this week.

Rush The Court: Coach, as the current guardian of it, in your own words, what is “The Butler Way?”

Brad Stevens: You know, I don’t think it has anything to do with basketball, technically, first of all. I think it’s just about embracing a culture of (hopefully) unselfishness and accountability, and that doing the right things will lead to the results you ultimately want from a statistical and measurable standpoint. The definition we have online is probably the best it gets. Right when you go to ButlerSports.com, it pops up. But that’s the bottom line. If you’re going to define it, that’s as good as it gets. I think it’s a really hard thing to define, and it’s more about feeling and seeing that you’re moving in a positive direction.

After Only Three Seasons as Head Coach at Butler, In Our Opinion Stevens Is Already Part of the Coaching Elite.

RTC: Last year was in so many ways a dream season, and even though you didn’t quite achieve the ultimate goal for which you set out, it was obviously a phenomenal run. Was there any particular aspect of your squad’s play that showed up as the year progressed that even you hadn’t expected, something that pleasantly surprised even you, as coach?

BS: No particular individual did, and not really from a team standpoint, either, from how we were playing. I think from a results standpoint the thing that stood out to me, the thing I thought was the best accomplishment of the year was going undefeated in the league. I’ve never been a part of that and never dreamed that I would be, and I know how hard it is to do. You know, like everybody else, I’m listening to talk shows and everybody’s talking about Boise State’s schedule and everything else, and I’ve been in those shoes from the standpoint of…boy, the pressure that they play with in their league AND the fact that, everybody they’re playing against, that’s their super bowl. You can’t quantify that. That should add points to their strength of schedule. So I think that that’s something I’ll look back at fondly from last year. Obviously you’re excited about the run to the final game. But is it better to beat five really good teams that don’t know much about you, or is it better to beat every team on your league schedule twice, teams that know you inside and out? For me, it was the latter.

RTC: The Horizon League seems to be adding better recruits each season, players who are then developed over several years by their coaches; it seems the quality of that particular conference has improved each year over the past few…

BS: I think that’s the case. I agree with you that it’s getting better, but at the same time I think it’s been really good all along. When we do what we’ve done in the tournament, and when other teams win games here or there I think that always helps the perception [of the conference].

RTC: How long did it take you to get over the championship game, the Duke game?

BS: I’ll never get over it! I don’t know if I’ll ever get over that, I wish I could. I think obviously that you always move on, but it’s a hard pill to swallow.

Stevens' Bulldogs Held Their First Five NCAA Tourney Opponents (Including Syracuse, Kansas State, and Michigan State) to Under 60 Points. Duke Scored 61.

RTC: I remember that the Sports Science guys broke it down and found that, looking at where it hit the backboard, the last shot by Gordon Hayward would have gone in but for a mere 2.5 inches. I assumed you’d still be seeing that shot in your sleep.

BS: (Laughs) There’s no doubt, I see it in my sleep. But, that’s part of it. We were so fortunate to be there in a lot of ways.

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Morning Five: 07.02.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 1st, 2010

We’re back with another a Friday edition of The Morning 5. The end of the (work) week means that we are one week closer to Midnight Madness. We hope you all enjoy your Fourth of July celebrations and be safe with whatever you are doing.

  1. As an example of what not to do on your holiday weekend (or any time for that matter) we turn to Atlanta, where Georgia athletic director Damon Evans was arrested for a DUI late Wednesday night. We’re expecting quite a bit of talk about this over the next week, but one Atlanta columnist is already taking him to task for the incident (rather lightly we might add) and we don’t expect that to be the last column on the issue. To compound matters (at least in terms of PR) Evans had previously participated in a video advising fans to not drink and drive.
  2. Former UConn star Donyell Marshall was named as an assistant coach at George Washington. The move will reunite Marshall with head coach Karl Hobbs, who was an assistant on the UConn teams of the early ’90s when Marshall starred in Storrs, including his 1993-94 campaign when he was named 1st Team All-American and Big East Player of the Year (and, ironically, knocked George Washington out of the NCAA Tournament in the 2nd round).
  3. Dana O’Neil checks in with Fran McCaffery who, as the mid-major coach du jour, left Siena a few months ago to take over at Iowa for Todd Lickliter, who was mid-major coach du jour at Butler before coming to Iowa…and was fired three seasons later.
  4. Jay Bilas, attorney-at-law (he actually is one) points out the “slippery slope” of the current NCAA charges against USC, UConn, and Memphis in relation to the UCLA dynasty and the recently departed John Wooden (ESPN Insider required; sorry, but it is an interesting article). Many people might take issue with the timing of this article so soon after Wooden’s death, but those people are missing the point of the article. It isn’t so much an attack on Wooden and his teams, but instead targets the NCAA and its antiquated by-laws. We have some issues with certain points of his argument, but we would love to hear your thoughts on the column (if you have ESPN Insider access).
  5. Speaking of legendary coaches, Don Meyer of Northern State (D2) was selected to be the recipient of the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. Meyer ranks second all-time in wins by a men’s college basketball coach at any level with 923 wins trailing just Harry Statham of McKendree University (NAIA) who has a healthy lead with 1,022 wins. We have a feeling a certain coach out of Durham might be approaching those numbers in the next few years.
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The Argument for the 96 Team Tournament? 31 Fewer Hot Seats

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2010

Since the whispers started about the NCAA expanding March Madness to 96 teams opinion on the issue has been divided into camps: the traditionalists (bloggers) and the radicals (coaches). Wait a minute. What?!? Yes. That’s right. Bloggers want to stay old school and coaches want to throw a wrench into the established system. . .

While coaches like to pontificate about expanding tournament to let more “deserving” teams in and give more players a chance to play in March Madness it is pretty clear to most neutral observers that the real motive is quite clear–keeping their jobs. With the recent spate of firings the coaches will continue to lobby hard for expansion. Since the season ended just a few days ago the list of coaching unemployed has grown to 6 coaches (and growing. . .):

  • Ernie Kent, Oregon (235-173 overall, 16-16 this season)
  • Jeff Lebo, Auburn (96-93, 15-17)
  • Todd Lickliter, Iowa (38-58, 10-22)
  • Bobby Lutz, Charlotte (218-158, 19-12)
  • Bob Nash, Hawaii (34-56, 10-20)
  • Kirk Speraw, UCF (279-233, 15-17)

Although a NCAA Tournament bid would not have guaranteed that these coaches kept their jobs, it would have most likely kept the boosters off their backs for some more time. And that’s all that a coach wants, right? Another year or two to collect a paycheck doing a substandard job and hoping to reach the longevity bonuses before they decide to get the booster funded golden parachute. Basically think of a college basketball version of investment bankers wanting to tweak the scoring metrics (adjust earnings in that case) to make themselves look better. Everyone knows how that turned out for the financial markets and the entire country.

Credit: Joel Pett (Lexington Herald-Leader)

You may see some familiar faces in the unemployment line

Now you’re probably asking yourself why the big-name coaches would care and that is a perfectly reasonable question with a perfectly reasonable answer. While the Mike Krzyzewskis and Jim Boeheims of the college basketball world will never have to worry about getting fired they have are plenty of their friends who are not quite as successful and that is not even talking about the dying branches on their coaching tree. Let’s take a look at some of their most famous branches:

  • Krzyzewski: Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker, Quin Snyder, Tim O’Toole, Bob Bender, Chuck Swenson, Mike Dement, and David Henderson
  • Boeheim: Rick Pitino, Tim Welsh, Louis Orr, Wayne Morgan, and Ralph Willard

Outside of Brey and Pitino that is a pretty mediocre group of coaches. Some of the others have had a modicum of success too, but overall that group has used more than its fair share of U-Haul trucks. And if the coaches don’t get their way they might be following in the footsteps of the late ODB.

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Morning Five: 12.11.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2009

morning5

  1. Want some John Wall hype beyond what you got here on Wed. night?  Try this, or this, or this, or this.  Is that enough gushing for you?  Put simply, Wall is the most talented player in America.  But if you’re here, you already knew that.
  2. Well, Mike DeCourcy got half of it right (Graeter’s ice cream: right; the Cincinnati chili: wrong).
  3. Fanhouse checks in with Isiah Thomas at FIU after the initial blast of media attention withered away.  In case you missed it, FIU is now 3-8 with wins over Florida Memorial, NC Central and Florida A&M.  The last one was at least an away game.  It’s clear that FIU has a long, long way to go toward competitiveness, but it also appears that they are improving under Thomas.
  4. Here’s Luke Winn’s weekly power rankings.  Always a good read with numerous I did not know thats.
  5. Good news: Iowa’s Todd Lickliter is expected to be back coaching next week with no long-term negative effects from his surgery for a torn carotid artery over the weekend.
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Iowa’s Todd Lickliter Has Carotid Tear Repaired

Posted by jstevrtc on December 9th, 2009

Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter underwent placement of a stent to one of his carotid arteries on Saturday at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, according to reports from ESPN and from The Hawk Eye.  Lickliter had evidently complained of severe headaches while coaching his Hawkeyes in the CBE Classic in late November, and upon evaluation and testing on Friday, a tear in one of his carotid arteries was found.  This led to the decision to access the carotid and place a stent, a small semi-rigid mesh-like tube, into the artery to keep it open and intact.  He was released on Tuesday and was told to chill for a week before resuming his coaching duties (probably not in those terms).  As if that matters, considering the rest of the above paragraph.

Most folks have heard of “stents” when talking of heart disease, like when a doctor puts a stent in one of the arteries that suppies blood to the heart, so that the blood will keep flowing through it and you won’t have a heart attack.  Yeah, I’m talking to you, there — the guy dipping potato chips in lard.  Same concept here.  The carotid arteries (you have one on each side of your neck, and you probably knew that) help supply blood to a little organ we here at RTC like to call, “the brain,” which we learned in 8th-grade health class as having a great deal of  import.  Putting a stent in one of them makes sure that blood keeps flowing through that vessel like John Wall through your 2-3 zone, so that you don’t have a “brain attack.”  Also known as… a stroke.

From the information available in the various reports about this (including the two above), and after talking with the guys over at Rush The Court’s Vascular Surgery wing — fun group, by the way! — it doesn’t sound like this was a matter of actual flow through the carotid that got repaired, but rather an issue of a tearing of the artery wall itself.  If this is the case, what happens is — because your artery walls have many layers in them, like reinforced garden hose — one of the layers begins to weaken and bulge, which can not only disrupt blood flow to the brain (badness!), but can also result in further tearing (extreme freakin’ badness).  If it was a matter of true lack of flow through a clogged carotid artery, most likely Lickliter would have had something called a carotid endarterectomy.  This involves not only a year of medical school just to learn how to say that word, but also involves cutting open the neck from the outside, cutting the artery from the outside, and pulling out, as I believe Bill Walton once said, “a big tub of goo” from the artery so blood can flow all smooth-like. 

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ATB: Don’t You EVER Give Up…

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2009

atb

Jimmy V Classic.  As someone whose family and loved ones have been seriously impacted by cancer, this is always one of our favorite events of the season.  We vividly remember the night at the ESPYs in March 1993 when Jim Valvano gave his inspirational speech, and even sixteen years later, it continues to stand the test of time.  “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” became a mantra for people of our generation, and the positive effects that the Jimmy V Foundation has produced over the years gives Valvano a lasting legacy that many of his fellow coaches, many of whom were more successful at coaching basketball, will never know.  As long as this site exists, we’ll do this every year, and we’ll do it for the Green Bay Packers, Coach!

And now, on to the games…  RTC Live was in the building.

  • #13 Georgetown 72, #20 Butler 65.  Georgetown got 25 points and 14 rebounds from Greg Monroe as the Hoyas dominated Butler on the inside, outrebounding the Bulldogs 43-30. Perhaps Monroe’s biggest impact came on the defensive end, as he helped force Matt Howard into one of the worst games  of his career as he finished 1-9 from the floor while looking intimidated in the post before fouling out. Georgetown jumped out to a 52-35 second-half lead, which Butler couldn’t bounce back from. Austin Freeman was 4-5 from deep in adding 18 points for the Hoyas, who picked up a must-needed statement win. Butler, who got 24 and 8 boards from Gordon Hayward, is not the top 10 team that many predicted they would be during the preseason right now, but this is still an impressive win nonetheless. For Butler to be in position to earn an at-large bid should it come to that, they are now probably going to have to beat both Ohio State and Xavier in coming weeks.
  • Indiana 74, Pittsburgh 64.  Indiana picked up their first relevant win over a BCS team (beating Iowa last year doesn’t count) in the Tom Crean era as they thoroughly outplayed Pitt in MSG tonight. Indiana go 20 from Verdell Jones and 18 from Christian Watford as they finally broke through for a good win after losing three heartbreakers this season. The Hoosiers are going to be a dangerous team, as they do have some talented youngsters (we didn’t even get a good feel for Maurice Creek tonight), but IU may still be a year away from really being able to compete and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Pitt, on the other hand, didn’t look like Pitt. They struggled defensively, they were beat up inside, and they settled for tough, deep jumpers. If Ashton Gibbs hadn’t been hitting from three (he had 25 on 8-25 shooting, 5-15 from three), this one could have been ugly (although, uglier than being down 17 to Indiana in this stage of their rebuild is tough to do).

Not an Upset of the Night Illinois 79, #24 Vanderbilt 68. Yes, Vandy was the ranked team, but Illinois was ranked as recently as last week and these teams are roughly even in our eyes.  A very nice intersectional matchup nonetheless.  The Illini shot a lights-out 59% from the field and ran out to a 9-0 early lead that put Vandy behind the eight-ball from the beginning.  Illinois guard Demetri McCamey lit up the Commodore defense for 8-10 from the field and 23/5 assts, while DJ Richardson added 16/3/3 assts in the win.  The Illinois defense has been somewhat maligned thus far this season, but they did a good job tonight of limiting AJ Ogilvy’s (8/3) touches and forced Jermaine Beal into a 4-14 shooting night.

Some Mid-Major Revenge (Some Not).  There were a few good opportunities for mid-majors to take down BCS teams tonight, and the little guys got a split this evening among the four games up for grabs.

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RTC Conference Primers: #1 – Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

seasonpreview

Josh & Mike from Big Ten Geeks contributed this preview for the Big Ten Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Purdue (14-4)
  2. MSU (14-4)
  3. Minnesota (12-6)
  4. Michigan (12-6)
  5. Ohio St. (11-7)
  6. Illinois (9-9)
  7. Wisconsin (8-10)
  8. Northwestern (6-12)
  9. Penn St. (5-13)
  10. Indiana (5-13)
  11. Iowa (3-15)

All-Conference Team:

  • Kalin Lucas (G), Michigan State (110.2 ORtg, 28.6 Shot Percentage)
  • William Buford (G), Ohio State (108.1 ORtg, 27.6 Shot Percentage)
  • Evan Turner (F), Ohio State (108.3 ORtg, 25.3 Shot Percentage)
  • DeShawn Sims (F), Michigan (108.6 ORtg, 30.3 Shot Percentage)
  • JaJuan Johnson (C), Purdue (112.3 ORtg, 8.1 Block Percentage)

6th Man. Robbie Hummel (F), Purdue.

Impact Newcomer. D.J. Richardson (G), Illinois.

big 10 logo What You Need to Know.

  • The Big 10 is Very Good This Year. No, really, we mean it. Last year we predicted mediocrity, and I think we were mostly right. Although Michigan State had a great run in the tournament, it was not a Final Four team “on paper.” Indeed, the efficiency margins of the teams were bunched closely together, without any real spectacular performers. Sure, lots of teams made the Dance, but not a lot of them garnered high seeds. But we think that will be different this season, mostly because the Big Ten didn’t lose anyone. Sure, B.J. Mullens is gone, as are standouts Marcus Landry, Craig Moore and Jamelle Cornley. But the conference’s best players all returned, including the entire all-conference 1st Team. Throw in some strong recruiting classes, and you’ve got what appears to be the conference’s best year in possibly a decade. Although there’s not a lot of star quality to this conference–there might be less than 10 NBA players among the 11 teams–there is the experience that can take you far in March.
  • Michigan State and Purdue are the expected frontrunners, but they have company this year. Both the Spartans and Boilermakers return most of the minutes from good teams, so there’s no reason why one of them can’t win the conference crown. But watch out for Ohio State and (especially) Minnesota. They returned more minutes than anyone, and they also both have a couple other things going for them. For Ohio State, you might be talking about the most talented starting five in the conference, and one of the best in the country. With the Gophers, you have an incredibly deep roster. So deep that athletic freak and top 50 recruit Rodney Williams will fight for playing time. When these teams are grabbing high seeds on Selection Sunday, don’t forget where you heard it first.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

dynamiteWe’ll be doing a full BGtD today so you won’t have any interruptions in coverage tonight. Honestly, last night’s games were kind of disappointing. Pittsburgh-Xavier was entertaining, but that was the only game that I would say was memorable from a pure basketball standpoint. Now the other games did have their own interesting subplots. UConn rolled over Purdue in a game that was close at points in the 2nd half, but I never really got the sense that the Huskies were in any danger of losing. I was particularly impressed with how the Huskies played despite the media circus that is going on around them. Missouri‘s victory over Memphis was entertaining although for me it was marred a little by the atrocious free throw shooting. As we mentioned last night, I really wonder what John Calipari does, if he does anything, for his team’s free throw shooting. At this point, I’m convinced J.J. Redick would have shot 70% from the free throw line if he had gone to Memphis. Also, what happened to vaunted Memphis defense. Missouri has a good offense, but they shouldn’t be able to hit triple digits in regulation against a team that went into the game with the #1 defense according to the Pomeroy numbers. I’m sure some of you took great pleasure in watching Villanova pick apart Duke leading to another early March exit for Coach K, but the game wasn’t exactly exciting if you didn’t have a rooting interest for (or in most people’s case against) a team.

The line-up for tonight should give us a couple of interesting games:

  • 7:07 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:27  PM: #3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 9:37 PM: #3 Kansas vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:57 PM: #4 Gonzaga vs. #1 UNC

We’ll be back around 7 for the start of tonight’s action. Leave your comments/questions and we’ll respond to them as soon as we start.

6:55 PM: A couple quick pieces of news to pass along in the midst of this Billy Gillispie madness and these somewhat important games tonight. Clemson‘s star forward Trevor Booker will return for his senior year. The news out of Iowa isn’t as good after Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, and David Palmer announced that they are transfering, which means that Todd Lickliter will need to replace 2 starting guards and a reserve forward.

7:10 PM: Chase Budinger makes a great play to temper Louisville’s great start. He’s going to need to have a great game tonight. If both teams use the press tonight, we’re going to get a blowout (and I think it will end up going in Louisville’s favor).

7:12 PM: I should warn you that I’m a big Chase Budinger fan so you’ve been warned. I haven’t seen a lot of him this year (stupid west coast starts), but I think he has the makings of a very solid NBA player.

7:14 PM: That’s not a good stat for Arizona. Only 6 Wildcats have scored in the NCAA tournament.

7:19 PM: Great play by Edgar Sosa feeding it to Preston Knowles. This pressure is going to kill Arizona if they only go 6 deep.

7:28 PM: I don’t think it will matter tonight, but I hope you paid attention to that FT statistic. Louisville shoots 63.8% as a team (307th out of 334 teams). That will come back to bite them. Just ask John Calipari. Actually he probably wouldn’t admit it because his team was just as bad last night. . .

7:30 PM: I think that any Blue Devil who mentions that they made the 1994 title game should put an asterisk by it on their resume saying that they rode Grant Hill‘s coattails there. If you don’t agree with me, see what happened the next year even if Coach K missed the last 2/3 of the season.

7:31 PM: It looks dead in Memphis. What do you guys think? I’m guessing it’s only 20% full. UNC fans must have bought up most of the stadium.

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Big 10 Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 11th, 2009

Josh & Mike from Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.

The Season That Was
Politicians often talk about “Two Americas” – there’s the super-rich, lighting Cuban cigars with $100 bills, and then there’s the rest of us. Well, this year, there were “Three Big Tens.” First, there was Michigan State, who won the conference title in a walk by four games. That’s the largest margin in a very long time (over 10 years). And just like this little credit crisis hasn’t forced Warren Buffett to fly coach [Ed. Note: Having read about Warren, he might fly coach anyways.], Raymar Morgan‘s long bout with pneumonia didn’t slow down the Spartans one bit. We predicted Michigan State to win, we just didn’t know it would be this easy.

Then there’s the middle, which was filled with parity. Second place through ninth place was separated by 3 games. Call it the Big Ten’s middle class. Purdue didn’t develop into the team everyone thought they would. Sure, Robbie Hummel‘s extended absence hurt, but it was really the big steps back taken by E’Twuan Moore and Keaton Grant that made the biggest difference. Illinois actually overachieved this season, after last year’s debacle. The truth is that the Illini weren’t that bad last year, but suffered a lot of close losses. A big turnaround was to be expected. But to go from 16 wins to 23 (and counting) without adding a single player of significance was beyond optimistic. That’s exactly what Bruce Weber‘s team did though. Wisconsin will see their streak of 30-win seasons come to an end this year, and despite what you might read or hear about this team, it was the defense that let them down. In fact, the Badgers sported the league’s best offense on a per possession basis. But without twin towers Brian Butch and Greg Steimsma, opponents shot much better from inside the arc.

Penn State continued its happy-go-lucky ways, going 10-8 in conference play despite being outscored (handily) by its opponents. But good for the Nittany Lions, it’s wins that punch Dance tickets, not scoring margins. Ohio State might have had the most talent in the league, but finished right in the middle of the pack. We said that before the season started that Ohio State would be hard-pressed to improve on last year’s performance. We were right – Thad Matta is finding out that landing All American Recruits isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Speaking of attrition, Northwestern had virtually none, and that went a long, long way into fueling their best post-war season. The Wildcats will come up short for landing an NCAA Tourney bid unless they win the conference tournament, but that shouldn’t diminish the job Bill Carmody‘s done. Another turnaround was present in Ann Arbor, where John Beilein has Michigan on the brink of their first NCAA Tournament appearance in over 10 years. The Wolverines have looked like giant killers that took down Duke, UCLA, and nearly UConn; but this is also the same team that was outscored by opponents in conference play. They need to find that early-season magic for the stretch run. Minnesota has been somewhat of an oddball team as well this year in that this is the worst field goal shooting team in the conference, but they’re also tied for the best free throw shooting team in the conference. Clearly they have the talent to score more, but it just hasn’t happened.

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