Big East Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2011

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East conference. With action at Madison Square Garden set to tip Tuesday, get up to speed with RTC’s regular season recap and postseason preview.

Postseason Preview


Tourney Favorite: Notre Dame: The Irish have been rolling through conference play, winning 11 of their last 12 games. Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis are playing as well as they have all season long. The Irish are the second best team in the conference, and they have owned the best team (Pitt) the past two seasons.

And If They Lose?: Pitt Panthers: The Panthers’ biggest strength — their offensive rebounding ability — has taken a hit with Talib Zanna going to the bench with a broken thumb. But they still have Gary McGhee and Dante Taylor, and experienced leaders in their backcourt (Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, Travon Woodall).

Sleeper: West Virginia Mountaineers: Is this team really a sleeper? They are ranked in the top 25, they won this tournament last season, and they made the Final Four. That said, the ‘Eers seem to finally be hitting their stride, as Kevin Jones and Joe Mazzulla are playing their best ball of the season.

Don’t Bet Against: St. John‘s Red Storm: The Johnnies have been great at home this season. Guess where the Big East Tournament is being held?

You Should Bet Against: The UConn/Georgetown Winner: The Hoyas are still playing without Chris Wright. Since he went out, the Hoyas scored four field goals in the second half in a loss to Cincinnati, scored 51 points in a loss to Syracuse, and scored just 47 points in another loss to the Bearcats. UConn has struggled down the stretch as teams have begun to figure out how to stop Kemba. When they run into capable defensive teams (i.e. Pitt), they struggle.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 2nd, 2011

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

A Look Back

Players of the Week: Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame: Ben Hansbrough was sensational this week. In three games, he averaged 27.7 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game. He shot 25-40 (62.5%) from the field, 12-20 from three (60%), and 21-25 (84%) from the line. Efficient much? Abromaitis was just as good. Prior to this week, Abro had scored 13 points just once since January 8. He scored at least 22 points in each games this week, averaging 26.7 PPG and 5.7 RPG. He shot 27-49 (55.1%) from the floor and 17-29 (58.6%) from three. When those two are clicking like that, the Irish are going to be very tough to beat.

Team of the Week: Louisville: The Cardinals just keep rolling along. After sweeping Rutgers and Pittsburgh this week, Louisville has now won three games in a row to move into a tie with St. John’s for third place in the conference standings. Finishing in the top four would give the Cardinals one of the double-byes in the Big East Tournament. The bad news? The Cardinals lost Rakeem Buckles for the season with a torn ACL in the win over Pitt.

Power Rankings (overall and conference records, and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Pittsburgh (25-4, 13-3) (1)
Last Week: 2/24 vs. West Virginia 71-58, 2/27 @ Louisville 59-62 OT
This Week: 3/2 @ South Florida, 3/5 vs. Villanova

I’ve been saying it all season long — Pitt is susceptible to being upset when they are pressured. Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall are all terrific basketball players, but none of them are what you would consider a great ball handler. It cost them against Louisville. But they were also hurt against the Cardinals with their inability to get to the offensive glass. The biggest reason Pitt is such an offensively efficient team is their ability to score on second and third shots.

2. Notre Dame (24-5, 13-4) (2)
Last Week: 2/23 @ Providence 94-93, 2/26 vs. Seton Hall 60-48, 2/28 vs. Villanova 93-72
This Week: 3/5 @ UConn

See the above “Player of the Week” feature to read about the surprise near the top of the standings.

3. Louisville (22-7, 11-5) (5)
Last Week: 2/22 @ Rutgers 55-37, 2/27 vs. Pitt 62-59 OT
This Week: 3/2 vs. Providence, 3/5 @ West Virginia

See this week’s “Team of the Week” to see what has the Cardinals rolling into March

4. St. John’s (19-9, 11-5) (4)
Last Week: 2/23 vs. DePaul 76-51, 2/26 @ Villanova 81-68
This Week: 3/3 @ Seton Hall, 3/5 vs. South Florida

The Johnnies just keep on winning. After knocking off Villanova on Saturday, their streak has been extended to seven consecutive wins in the Big East (seven of eight overall, as there was a trip to UCLA thrown in that mix). The catalyst has been Dwight Hardy, also known as the “Baddest Man on the Planet”, who is averaging 28.3 points per game over the last eight games to throw his name into the mix for Big East player of the year.

5. Syracuse (24-6, 11-6) (6)
Last Week: 2/26 @ Georgetown 58-51
This Week: 3/5 @ DePaul

Here’s my concern with Syracuse: they blew a big lead to Georgetown, who was without Chris Wright, and had to rely on Scoop Jardine to save the day. Scoop’s a good player, but he’s not exactly what I would term “consistent.” They got nothing from Kris Joseph or Brandon Triche in the game. Rick Jackson is a glorified glue guy (and I mean that as an enormous compliment). Road wins at Villanova and Georgetown will move you up in the Power Rankings, but I’m not buying this team in the long term.

6. Connecticut (21-7, 9-7) (7)
Last Week: 2/24 vs. Marquette 67-74 OT, 2/27 @ Cincinnati 67-59
This Week: 3/2 @ West Virginia, 3/5 vs. Notre Dame

I wrote an extensive post on the Huskies and their reliance on Kemba Walker‘s offensive output yesterday. Essentially, the key for UConn on the offensive end is to get movement going around Kemba. Defenses are going to collapse on him, but help defense is much tougher when the offensive players are moving without the ball. UConn struggles when they are reduced to standing around and watching Kemba try to score.

7. Georgetown (22-7, 10-7) (3)
Last Week: 2/23 vs. Cincinnati 46-58, 2/26 vs. Syracuse 51-58
This Week: 3/5 @ Cincinnati

The Hoyas clearly still have fight in them, but without Chris Wright, this team is thoroughly mediocre. They simply don’t have enough offensive firepower. Wright is the Hoyas’ best playmaker and best creator. When he isn’t on the floor, Georgetown’s offense is no where near as dynamic or dangerous.

8. Villanova (21-8, 9-8) (8)
Last Week: 2/26 vs. St. John’s 68-81, 2/28 @ Notre Dame 72-93
This Week: 3/5 @ Pitt

Villanova is in a free fall. Honestly, I have no idea what to make of this team. They’ve lost five of seven and seven of 11. They certainly have talent on their roster, especially in the backcourt, but for the second straight season, the wheels have come off.

On the Bubble:

9. West Virginia (18-10, 9-7) (9)
Last Week: 2/24 @ Pitt 58-71, 2/27 @ Rutgers 65-54
This Week: 3/2 vs. UConn, 3/5 vs. Louisville

West Virginia probably isn’t in any danger of missing the NCAA Tournament, but if they lose to both UConn and Louisville this week, then bow out in the first round of the Big East Tournament, the committee is going to have to take a look.

10. Marquette (18-11, 9-7) (10)
Last Week: 2/24 @ UConn 74-67 OT, 2/27 vs. Providence 86-62
This Week: 3/2 vs. Cincinnati, 3/5 @ Seton Hall

Marquette’s win over the Huskies on Thursday all but sent Buzz Williams’ team to the NCAA Tournament. If they can close out against Cincy and Seton Hall, they will lock up their bid.

11. Cincinnati (22-7, 9-7) (11)
Last Week: 2/23 @ Georgetown 58-46, 2/27 vs. UConn 59-67
This Week: 3/2 @ Marquette, 3/5 vs. Georgetown

Cincinnati can probably feel a bit safer than Marquette at this point. They have fewer losses and a better RPI. But with Marquette and Georgetown on the schedule for this week, they need to play like they’re still trying to get in.

Off The Bubble:

12. Rutgers (14-15, 4-12) (12)
Last Week: 2/22 vs. Louisville 37-55, 2/27 vs. West Virginia 54-65
This Week: 3/2 @ DePaul, 3/5 @ Providence

13. Seton Hall (11-17, 5-11) (13)
Last Week: 2/26 @ Notre Dame 48-60
This Week: 3/3 vs. St. John’s, 3/5 vs. Marquette

14. Providence (14-15, 3-13) (14)
Last Week: 2/23 vs. Notre Dame 93-94, 2/27 @ Marquette 62-86
This Week: 3/2 @ Louisville, 3/5 vs. Rutgers

15. South Florida (8-21, 2-14) (15)
Last Week: 2/26 @ DePaul 86-76
This Week: 3/2 vs. Pitt, 3/5 @ St. John’s

16. DePaul (7-19, 1-13) (16)
Last Week: 2/23 @ St. John’s 51-76, 2/26 vs. South Florida 76-86
This Week: 3/2 vs. Florida, 3/5 @ Syracuse

A Look Ahead
There are some really important games down the stretch that will determine the seeding for the Big East tournament as well as seeding (and bids) for the NCAA Tournament. With five teams currently sitting with seven or eight losses in the 7-11 spots in the standings, the race will be on to see who gets those last two first-round byes.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.07.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 7th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Two of the top teams in the country are each without a key player tonight, plus one is on the road. How will the personnel losses affect these two deep teams? All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#4 Pittsburgh @ West Virginia – 7 pm on ESPN (****)

The Panthers Will Have To Learn to Live Without Gibbs For a While

The Backyard Brawl, hoops edition, tips off for the 181st time tonight in Morgantown with West Virginia owning a 95-85 series edge. However, Pittsburgh has won seven of the last ten meetings with Jamie Dixon’s program reloading every year of late. This evening the Panthers will be without a key cog in their offense, itself ranked #2 in efficiency. Ashton Gibbs, Pitt’s leading scorer and best three point shooter, is out with a knee injury and will miss up to two weeks. That means Travon Woodall will start at the point guard position and the Panthers’ outstanding depth will be put to the test.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 5th, 2011

Rob Dauster of Ballin’ Is A Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

I am so glad that I don’t have to coach in the Big East.  As of today, UConn is 1-2 in the Big East after losing games at Pitt and at Notre Dame. Georgetown is 1-2 with losses coming at Notre Dame and at St. John’s. The Irish have beaten both the Hoyas and the Huskies, but they aren’t at the top of the league right now because sandwiched in between those two was a loss at Syracuse.  What about Providence? They are now 0-3 in the conference despite having the look and the feel of a team that is much better than an 0-3 Big East team. Why? Because they opened conference play with a trip to the Carrier Dome to take on the Orange before returning home to face suddenly-awesome St. John’s and Pitt.  All of that pales in comparison to the Johnnies*, however.

*For the record, I will note here that every of-the-week award– player, team, coach, rookie, cheerleader, mascot, and fan — that this here blogger has been foolishly delegated by the powers that be at RTC headquarters to give out to the Big East this week is going to St. John’s. I grew up on the Big East. There is nothing better than Big East basketball. And the Big East doesn’t feel right unless the Johnnies are good. Here’s to hoping it stays that way.

The next seven games on St. John’s schedule are brutal. They go to Notre Dame. Then they host Syracuse and Notre Dame. Next is a trip to Louisville before Cincinnati comes to town. To finish out January, the Johnnies head down south for a jaunt to Georgetown and then Duke (Duke!) on the 30th.  And this is coming off of trips to West Virginia and Providence before they knocked off Georgetown in the Garden.  Right now, St. John’s is 3-0 in the Big East. Justin Brownlee and DJ Kennedy make up arguably the most versatile pair of forwards in the conference. Dwight Hardy‘s nickname is Buckets, and if you’ve seen him play, you know why. Paris Horne is an excellent perimeter defender while Justin Burrell, Dele Coker, and Sean Evans are all big and athletic. And, keep in mind, point guard Malik Booth has been hampered by a hamstring injury this entire time.  This team is good. How good? Ask me January 31st.

Power Rankings (overall and conference records, and last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Syracuse (15-0, 2-0) (3)

Last Week: 12/28 vs. Providence 81-74, 1/1 vs. Notre Dame 70-58

Next Week: 1/8 @ Seton Hall

James Southerland is a name you are going to want to remember. Lost in Kris Joseph‘s surge of late and Rick Jackson‘s season-long DeJuan Blair impersonation, Southerland has become a very important piece for Jim Boeheim. He’s athletic, lengthy, and stands 6’8. He’s a competent defender — although he’s not great on the perimeter just yet, he blocks shots and makes steals — but more importantly he’s a sharpshooter that can spread the floor offensively. Remember the Orange’s weakness? (Hint: perimeter shooting.)

2. Pittsburgh (14-1, 2-0) (2)

Last Week: 1/4 @ Providence 83-79

Next Week: 1/8 vs. Marquette

This is why Pitt is so good: against Providence, they turned the ball over 22 times as the Friars’ press wreaked havoc. Pitt was in bad foul trouble, even being forced into a zone defense in the second half. Brad Wanamaker fouled out with a few minutes left with Pitt losing after blowing a ten-point lead. And the Panthers still pulled one out on the road, thanks in large part to Wanamaker’s sub, Travon Woodall, making a couple of huge plays late, including hitting the go-ahead three.

3. Villanova (12-1, 1-0) (4)

Last Week: 12/30 @ Temple 78-74, 1/2 vs. Rutgers 81-65

Next Week: 1/6 @ South Florida, 1/9 vs. Cincinnati

I can’t say enough about how good Corey Stokes has been this season. He’s a “role” player according to KenPom’s usage stats, but he leads the teams in scoring and in a stat I like to call “clutch, gutsy jumpers.” He led the team in scoring both games this week, including a very good second half against Temple.

4. Notre Dame (12-2, 2-1) (6)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. Georgetown 69-55, 1/1 @ Syracuse 58-70, 1/4 vs. UConn 73-70

Next Week: None

The Irish are legit, folks. Two solid wins to start the Big East season. Experienced, heady group of players. Lots of shooting, multiple scoring threats, versatile lineup. They aren’t that deep, and they will be without Carleton Scott for a while as he deals with a hamstring injury, but, like I said, this team is legit.

5. Georgetown (12-3, 1-2) (1)

Last Week: 12/29 @ Notre Dame 55-69, 1/1 vs. DePaul 86-75, 1/3 @ St. John’s 58-61

Next Week: 1/8 vs. West Virginia

Hmm. Did I overrate the Hoyas when I called them the Big East favorite? Three games in, it looks like it. I’m not ready to back off of that yet, but the way their backcourt played in losses to Notre Dame and St. John’s concerns me. They get dropped this week, but I expect a rebound.

6. Connecticut (11-1, 1-2) (5)

Last Week: 12/31 vs. South Florida 66-61 OT, 1/4 @ Notre Dame 70-73

Next Week: 1/8 @ Texas

Yes, UConn lost to Notre Dame, but there were some positive signs. The Huskies got 46 points out of Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith, Jeremy Lamb, and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. Alex Oriakhi gave them nothing. Literally, zero points. Kemba Walker struggled, going 8-23 against a swarming defense while also missing some shots he normally makes. And UConn still lost by just three at the Joyce Center after blowing two chances to tie the game with under 30 seconds left.

7. Louisville (11-2, 0-0) (7)

Last Week: 12/31 @ Kentucky 63-78

Next Week: 1/5 vs. Seton Hall, 1/9 @ South Florida

The Cardinals had an embarrassing loss to Kentucky. That said, Kentucky is, in my opinion, underrated this season. More concerning for me is the fact that Rakeem Buckles is now out with a broken finger.

8. Cincinnati (14-0, 2-0) (8)

Last Week: 12/28 vs. DePaul 76-60, 12/31 vs. Seton Hall 70-53

Next Week: 1/6 vs. Xavier

Still reserving judgement (Xavier on Thursday will be my marker), but that win over Seton Hall resonated in these parts.

9. St. John’s (10-3, 3-0) (12)

Last Week: 12/29 @ West Virginia 81-71, 1/1 @ Providence 67-65, 1/3 vs. Georgetown 61-58

Next Week: 1/8 @ Notre Dame

See the introduction for my take on the Red Storm.

10. Marquette (10-4, 0-1) (9)

Last Week: 12/29 @ Vanderbilt 76-77, 1/1 vs. West Virginia 79-74

Next Week: 1/5 @ Rutgers, 1/8 @ Pitt, 1/10 vs. Notre Dame

I just don’t think this program will ever change. And I love it. Every game they play is exciting. Their guards are always talented and unafraid of taking a big shot. Their forwards are always versatile scorers. Honestly, I believe this is one of the top six teams in this conference. Now they just have to prove it.

11. West Virginia (8-4, 1-2) (10)

Last Week: 12/29 vs. St. John’s 71-81, 1/1 @ Marquette 74-79, 1/4 @ DePaul 67-65

Next Week: 1/8 @ Georgetown

I don’t know what’s going on with the Mountaineers. They are now 1-2 in the Big East after nearly blowing a 14-point lead in the last 10 minutes against DePaul. Right now, this is not a tournament-caliber team.

12. Providence (11-4, 0-3) (11)

Last Week: 12/28 @ Syracuse 74-81, 1/1 vs. St. John’s 65-67, 1/4 vs. Pitt 79-83

Next Week: 1/8 @ Rutgers

Providence, I believe, is a tournament caliber team. See the introduction for a look at what’s going on in the Big East headquarters’ city.

13. Seton Hall (6-6) (12)

Last Week: 12/31 @ Cincinnati 53-70

Next Week: 1/5 @ Louisville, 1/8 vs. Syracuse

I feel for the Pirate players. So much talent coming in, but one star gets shot after breaking his wrist and the other isn’t the same after literally dying for a few minutes over the summer.

14. Rutgers (9-4, 0-1) (13)

Last Week: 12/28 vs. UNC 55-78, 1/2 @ Villanova 65-81

Next Week: 1/5 vs. Marquette, 1/8 vs. Providence

Liked Gil Baruta. Then he threw a reverse hammer fist at Dominic Cheek and got tossed against Villanova. Now, not as much.

15. DePaul (6-8, 0-2) (16)

Last Week: 12/28 @ Cincinnati 60-76, 1/1 @ Georgetown 75-86, 1/4 vs. West Virginia 65-67

Next Week: None

DePaul getting the bump! Oliver Purnell has his kids playing hard. Cleveland Melvin is going to be a star in this league, as well as Brandon Young.

16. South Florida (6-9, 0-2) (15)

Last Week: 12/28 @ Seton Hall 55-64, 12/31 @ UConn 61-66 OT

Next Week: 1/6 vs. Villanova

I’m embarrassed to say I’m a UConn fan when I see them get taken to overtime by USF.

Looking Ahead

There will be some terrific Big East basketball to close out the week. Thursday, Cincinnati takes on city rival Xavier. Saturday, West Virginia heads to Georgetown, Marquette heads to Pitt, UConn travels to Texas, and St. John’s has a date at Notre Dame. Sunday, Cincy gets their second test of the week as they visit Villanova.

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Set Your Tivo: 12.10-12.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 10th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Friday’s schedule is barren but Saturday has a bunch of terrific matchups. Two ACC conference games highlight a soft Sunday to close out the weekend. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#13 UNLV @ Louisville – 12 pm Saturday on ESPNU (****)

Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are a surprising 7-0 but when you really look at their schedule you realize they haven’t played top teams. Louisville’s best win is over Butler, a team clearly not even near the level it was last year. Including Butler, Louisville’s opponents have an aggregate record of just 25-31. That changes on Saturday when 9-0 UNLV heads to the KFC Yum! Center. The Rebels have already played five games away from home so they’ll be ready for a tough environment. UNLV is a strong team on both sides of the ball but they’ve really piled up the numbers on offense. They’re in the top ten in effective field goal percentage behind Chace Stanback and his 59% shooting. Stanback is a 6’8 wing/forward type player who can cause a lot of problems for the opponent matching up with him. His game extends to the three point arc as well, hitting 41% of his treys this year. It’ll be interesting to see if Pitino puts Rakeem Buckles (10/9) or Terrence Jennings (56% FG) on Stanback. Buckles is the better rebounder so Louisville may not want him drifting away from the basket trying to defend UNLV’s leading scorer. Buckles has made significant strides in his sophomore season, a theme seen throughout Louisville’s starting lineup. Pitino’s top five scorers have increased their scoring by a total of 31 PPG, making up for a lot of what they lost from last year’s team. We recall Pitino saying he’d have a bunch of guys averaging 8-15 PPG and that’s exactly what he has so far. Louisville is a strong defensive club, rated eighth in defensive efficiency. UNLV gets a lot of points from two point range (#5 in two point %) so Louisville will have to live up to their defensive billing in order to win. The Cardinals rank in the top ten in three point defense and effective field goal percentage against so UNLV point guard Oscar Bellfield (53% from three) has to have a good game controlling the ball and getting quality shots for himself and his teammates. Louisville will look to use their pressure defense to push the pace and create turnovers. Pitino said he’s been using a 24-second shot clock in practice so expect Louisville to really get up and down the floor looking for extra possessions. The Cardinals like to shoot a lot of three’s but they aren’t very good at it (32%). Mike Marra should hoist the most, averaging nine three point attempts per game while converting just 30% of the time. With Tre’Von Willis back in the fold, Lon Kruger can go nine-deep if he so chooses. Fresh legs will be needed against Louisville and could play a role late in the second half. UNLV should look to get to the free throw line to stop the flow of the game and take advantage of a Louisville team rated just #252 in opponents’ free throw attempts per field goal attempts. The Cardinals should have an edge on the boards (42 RPG) as UNLV struggles to keep opponents off the offensive glass. This is going to be a really good game, one that may come down to the very end. Louisville will probably be favored to win at home but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Runnin’ Rebels pick up a key road victory, either.

Wisconsin @ Marquette – 2:30 pm Saturday on ESPN2 (****)

This annual rivalry is one of the most underrated in the country. Wisconsin holds a 63-53 edge but there’s an added twist this season. Marquette freshman Vander Blue originally committed to Wisconsin before signing with Buzz Williams and the Golden Eagles giving Marquette a valuable piece for the future. Each team has a star player going at it in this one, Marquette’s Jimmy Butler and Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer. They’re similar, but Leuer is taller and has a better three point game. The UW big man shoots 48% from deep and is the key man in Bo Ryan’s deliberate offensive system. With Marquette giving up 39% shooting from three on average, expect Leuer and his Badger teammates to have a big game from long range. Wisconsin’s tempo is one of the slowest in the country but they run their offense well and take terrific care of the basketball with Jordan Taylor running the show at the point guard position. Taylor has a stunning 3.92 assist to turnover ratio and teams with Leuer to provide Wisconsin with just under half of their points. Taylor is also a strong defender who will look to disrupt Marquette’s offensive flow. With Dwight Buycks questionable for this game (he did not play Tuesday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), Buzz Williams will turn to the inexperienced Junior Cadougan who missed most of last season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Wisconsin is solid just about everywhere but they’re vulnerable on the three point line. Unfortunately for Marquette, they shoot just 31% as a team from three and that’s where Darius Johnson-Odom comes in. When hot, the dynamic junior can be one of the best shooters you’ll see. He broke out against Milwaukee on November 27 (29 points, 5-7 from three) but struggled in the two games since. For the year DJO is shooting just 29% from three, down almost 20% from last season’s 47% mark. He can get it going at any time though and that’s what makes this game unpredictable. If Johnson-Odom is on, Marquette has an even better chance to pick up a home win over their rival. Tuesday night’s Marquette game saw Vander Blue break out, scoring 21 points on 9-13 shooting. However it also included the loss of Joseph Fulce, an important glue guy for Marquette. The 6’7 Fulce went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, the same knee that had been giving him problems before. How Marquette responds to the loss of one of their emotional leaders will be important in this game. Don’t expect Wisconsin to get to the foul line much at all so they’ll have to make up for that disadvantage with strong defense and efficient offensive sets. Marquette is third in the country in keeping opponents off the line while Wisconsin is near the bottom of D1 in getting there. The Badgers are a very good rebounding team and they should hold an edge there against smaller Marquette. Though inexperienced, Cadougan is a talented player who’s capable of replacing Buycks at the point if necessary. Look for Marquette to use Butler and fellow forward Jae Crowder inside the arc, trying to penetrate the stout Wisconsin defense. Rivalry games are usually close and this one figures to be no exception. There are a lot of unknowns on the Marquette side in this game but it would be a very big resume-building win if they can get it in front of the home folks at the Bradley Center.

SEC/Big East Invitational: #11 Tennessee @ #3 Pittsburgh (CONSOL Energy Center) – 3:15 pm Saturday on ESPN (*****)

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Ball Control And Offensive Boards Key Panthers’ Run In New York

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2010

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAC and NEC, and makes additional contributions based on his analysis from action around the country.

Each of the four teams in the Coaches vs. Cancer ‘final four’ in New York left with something significant. Pittsburgh exited with the championship and an even better feeling of what they are all about. Texas left disappointed as runner-up but still encouraged they could take the #4-ranked team to the final possession with a limited rotation. Illinois showed resiliency coming back from a tough OT loss in the semis to post a nice consolation victory. Maryland, with a number of new faces, competed well both nights and received an encouraging two-day performance by sophomore center Jordan Williams.

First Semifinal

eFG FT RATE OREB PCT TO RATE
Pitt 49 48 41 22
Maryland 50 25 18 12

Possessions : 73

Off. Efficiency: Pitt 108, Maryland 96

The number that jumps off the page is offensive rebounding percentage. In raw numbers, Pitt owned the offensive glass 15-6 and the Panthers were beasts on the boards. Freshman forward/center Talib Zanna led the way with 12 rebounds but even junior guard Ashton Gibbs pulled down seven, which would have put him second on Maryland behind Williams’ eight caroms.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.18.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 18th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Tonight’s SYT games come from the 2K Sports Classic in New York City and the Puerto Rico Tipoff in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.

Maryland vs. #5 Pittsburgh — 7 pm on ESPN2 (***)

Ashton Gibbs Has Been Nothing Short of Spectacular This Season

Maryland would have been here regardless but a shaky effort against College of Charleston last week has to give Terp fans some second thoughts about their team this season. It doesn’t get any easier against Pittsburgh this evening in the Big Apple. Pe’Shon Howard’s heroics bailed the Terps out against Charleston but they’re going to need solid contributions from many more players in order to compete with Pitt. After a bit of a rusty start against Rhode Island, the Panthers have obliterated their cupcake opponents on the backs of leading scorers Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker. Pittsburgh is an incredibly deep team, with the rotation sometimes dipping into the ninth or tenth man on the roster. Jamie Dixon has an outstanding rebounding team which will present major problems for Maryland. The Terrapin front court, led by Jordan Williams, is really good and can hang with Pitt on the glass. The problem lies in the backcourt where Pitt’s guards and wings are tremendous rebounders for their size. Maryland has a couple good rebounding guards but this is where the depth of the Panther lineup will really flex its muscle. Dixon can rotate fresh players in and out all night and still have enough manpower to control the boards. Pitt is the second ranked offensive rebounding team so far in the young season. The other glaring issue for Maryland is turnovers. The Terps have had problems handling the ball so far, averaging 20 turnovers per contest. By contrast, Pittsburgh controls the ball well with Gibbs and Travon Woodall off the bench and is fairly successful at getting steals. If the Panthers are prone to one thing it’s three point shooting. Unfortunately for Maryland, they are not a particularly good three point shooting team to begin with so they’ll need an above average shooting performance from their guards to take advantage of this. Even so, it’s hard to see Maryland having enough to win this one. You know Gary Williams will have his troops ready and playing hard but the depth, talent and coaching of Pittsburgh should be too much for Maryland to overcome in Madison Square Garden, Pitt’s second home.

Western Kentucky vs. Minnesota — 7:30 pm on ESPN3.com (***)

This game from the Puerto Rico Tip Off is intriguing because it features a mid-major sleeper and a major conference sleeper picked by some to win this tournament. Last Friday, Western Kentucky went into Philadelphia and absolutely demolished St. Joe’s by 28 points led by 31/9 on 11-15 FG from Sergio Kerusch off the bench. WKU has shot the lights out in their two games this year, averaging 56% from the floor. Remarkably, that’s better than their percentage from the free throw line (52%). The Hilltoppers now face some stiffer competition in Puerto Rico this weekend. Minnesota is 2-0 but didn’t exactly blow the doors off either of their opponents. The Golden Gophers haven’t shot it well from the arc or the free throw line in the early going but are making up for it in the paint. The trio of Ralph Sampson III, Trevor Mbakwe and Colton Iverson is going to be extremely difficult for the undersized Hilltoppers to handle. Ken McDonald’s team has only one contributor tall enough to match Minnesota inside and that is Cliff Dixon. He won’t be able to do it alone so barring foul trouble, expect Minnesota to dominate this game in the paint. Western Kentucky needs to make up for that on the wing as their three leading scorers, including Oklahoma transfer Juan Pattillo, are all 6’5 or 6’6 and play off the ball. On defense they may even be drawn inside to help guard Minnesota’s formidable front line. Any foul trouble for these players would only make it tougher for WKU. Minnesota needs to get Blake Hoffarber going from deep. The dead-eye senior shooter has struggled thus far, hitting only 4-13 from the three-point line. He’s made up for that by getting others involved, dishing out 13 assists in his first two games. Just like their opponent, Minnesota also struggles from the free throw line. This is a hard game to predict because if the Hilltopper wings get hot early they may be able to sustain that late into the second half. Minnesota needs to establish the paint early and get some WKU players into foul trouble. Western Kentucky may stay within reach for most of the game but Minnesota should be able to pull away and win comfortably.

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Checking in on… the Big East

Posted by rtmsf on February 6th, 2010


Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Pitt started the Big East season on fire. They won five straight out of the gates, including a three game road trip in which they took down Syracuse, UConn and Cincinnati.  But after a loss to West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl, the Panthers have dropped four of their last five games to fall to 6-4 in league play, just a half-game in front of Louisville and a game in front of South Florida, Marquette, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame.

So what happened?  How did Pitt go from the darling of the national media to a team in free fall?

Its simple. They can’t score.  Through five Big East games, the Panthers were averaging 74.0 ppg. In their last five, that number has dropped to 60.3 ppg. When the Panthers were 5-0, Ashton Gibbs was averaging 20.0 ppg, shooting 52.0% from the field, and hit 16-22 threes. In his last five games, he’s averaging just 13.4 ppg while shooting 26.4% from the field and 6-29 from deep.

Don’t put it all on Gibbs, however. He isn’t the only one struggling. Brad Wanamaker is averaging just 9.6 ppg over the last five games, including being shut out against the Mountaineers. Jermaine Dixon sprained his ankle in the St. John’s game and missed the Panther’s loss to South Florida. Dante Taylor hasn’t scored in four games, and Travon Woodall has just eight points in that span. Gary McGhee, Pitt’s 6’10, 260-lb center, couldn’t hit a layup if his life depended on it. There is no reason someone should go 3-11 from the field when they don’t take a shot outside of two feet from the rim. Nasir Robinson has scored 23 points in five games in his 26 point outburst against Louisville. Gilbert Brown is really the only guy playing well offensively right now, and even he has been painfully in consistent. He scored 20 and was 8-9 from the floor in the loss to Georgetown, but scored just 16 points on 3-13 shooting over his next two games. After dropping 25 in the loss to South Florida, Brown was shut out against West Virginia.

Its really that simple. The biggest reason that Pitt was thought to be down this season was their lack of firepower offensively. There isn’t anyone on this roster that is considered a go-to scorer. Even Ashton Gibbs, who has been one of the most improved players this season in the Big East, is more of a secondary scoring option. He’s not great at creating his own shot, especially against a set defense, and it is starting to be exposed.  But Pitt has never exactly been known as a team with tremendous offensive prowess. They aren’t going to be scoring 85 points a game and beating teams in a shootout.  Pitt’s success hinges on their ability to defend, which is something they haven’t exactly been doing great of late either. Their four losses have been some of their worst defensive performances of the season.  What is a good way to go on a losing streak?  Struggle to score the ball while playing shoddy defense.

Other News and Notes

  • I told you South Florida was going to be good, didn’t I? Believe it or not, USF is now on the bubble. They are 15-7 and 5-5 in the Big East. Their RPI is in the mid-40s. They have wins over Pitt and at Georgetown (not that it makes a difference, but that win came just three days after the Hoyas smacked Duke). While the Bulls are just 2-4 against the RPI top 50, they are 6-6 against the top 100. They have one ugly loss against Central Michigan, but that can be somewhat excused as it was their first game playing without Gus Gilchrist. Speaking of Gilchrist, the 6’10 center who was averaging 18.8 ppg and 7.4 rpg before suffering a severe high-ankle sprain is scheduled to return against either Notre Dame or Marquette. With their schedule down the stretch (they only play one game at Villanova against a team with an RPI higher than 48 and a winning record in the Big East) and Gilchrist’s pending return, if USF could get to ten Big East wins and 20 wins on the season, which may actually be shooting low, they have a very good chance at getting a bid.
  • Jeremy Hazell was pulled late in Seton Hall’s loss to Villanova on Tuesday. Hazell had scored 32 points, but also had thrown up three terrible shots in a row. Bobby Gonzalez benched him with 4:06 left and the lead only at 11. Many speculated that it was the result of poor shot selection by Hazell, but Gonzo cleared it up during the Big East conference call by saying that Hazell “didn’t run back on defense” and that he did “not join his teammates in the huddle.”
  • Did any team in the league have a stranger week than Georgetown? On Saturday, the Hoyas beat the snot out of Duke in a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated. Four days later, the Hoyas became the fourth victim in South Florida’s run. And, as you should be accustomed to by now, Chris Wright struggled in the loss and flourished in the win. He has yet to score double-digits and lose this season.
  • Want another crazy prediction? Marquette is going to make the tournament. The hardest of the hard-luck losers this season (their five Big East losses have come by a total of eight points, and their three non-conference losses were by one, four, and nine points), Marquette has won three straight Big East games to get to 5-5 in the league. They have a pretty easy schedule the rest of the way, as they don’t play any of the Big East’s big four, they get Pitt at home, and play just one of their four road games against a team in the RPI top 50 (Cincy).
  • Cincinnati, on the other hand, won’t make the tournament. And it isn’t due to a lack of talent as much as it is a lack of coaching. Or effort. Or something. Because in a game they needed Thursday night against Notre Dame, the Bearcats were embarrassed. Luke Harangody had 37 points and 14 boards as Cincy was outrebounded and out-toughed. By Notre Dame. Cincinnati is a team that is supposed to pride themselves on their toughness, their defense, and their board work. Notre Dame is a finesse team. It looks like the Bearcats may have given up on the season.
  • Villanova’s schedule gets a whole lot tougher over the next month, starting this week. On Saturday, they head to Georgetown before going to West Virginia on Monday. Don’t be surprised if the Wildcats are in third place in the conference come Tuesday. That said, going 2-0 over that stretch could all but seal a #1 seed come Selection Sunday.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dominique Jones, South Florida

Jones went for 37 points on Sunday against Pitt and 29 points Wednesday against Georgetown. He’s averaging 35.0 ppg in the Bulls’ four-game winning streak. In those four games, he is shooting 61% from the floor and has gotten to the free throw line (…wait for it) 63 times! I think the best way to describe Jones’ game is that he attacks the rim with ruthless efficiency. He’s too strong to be defended by smaller guards, and too quick to be guarded by small forwards. He goes right almost every time he puts the ball on the floor, and yet teams are still struggling to slow him down. Up next for Jones is Notre Dame, a team that ranks 255th in defensive efficiency, far and away the worst in the Big East. Could Jones go for 50?

TEAM OF THE WEEK: West Virginia

Its really South Florida, but I’m sick of writing about the Bulls, so I’m giving West Virginia the team of the week award. The Mountaineers have gone 2-0 since you last checked in with us, beating Louisville on Saturday and knocking off Pitt in the Backyard Brawl on Wednesday. WVU has now won five straight games since they lost three of five. The biggest reason for their resurgence has been the play of Truck Bryant. Bryant was banged up earlier in the season, but has started coming on of late, playing really solid basketball. He knocks down open jumpers, he can get in the lane and draw a foul, he can create shots for his teammates, and he does so without turning the ball over. Over his last five games, Bryant is averaging 11.8 ppg, 4.8 apg, and has turned the ball over just eight times.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova: 20-1, 9-0

Last Week: 2/2 vs. Seton Hall 81-71

This Week: 2/6 @ Georgetown, 2/8 @ West Virginia

2. Syracuse: 22-1, 9-1

Last Week: 1/30 @ DePaul, 2/2 vs. Providence

This Week: 2/7 @ Cincinnati, 2/10 vs. UConn

3. West Virginia: 18-3, 7-2

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Louisville 77-74, 2/3 vs. Pitt 70-51

This Week: 2/6 @ St. John’s, 2/8 vs. Villanova

4. Georgetown: 16-5, 6-4

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Duke 89-77, 2/3 vs. South Florida 64-72

This Week: 2/6 vs. Villanova, 2/9 @ Providence

5. Pitt: 16-6, 6-4

Last Week: 1/31 @ South Florida 61-70, 2/3 @ West Virginia 51-70

This Week: 2/6 vs. Seton Hall, 2/8 vs. Robert Morris

6. Louisville: 14-8, 5-4

Last Week: 1/30 vs. West Virginia 74-77, 2/1 vs. UConn 82-69

This Week: 2/6 vs. Rutgers, 2/11 @ St. John’s

7. Marquette: 14-8, 5-5

Last Week: 1/30 @ UConn 70-68, 2/3 vs. DePaul 80-69

This Week: 2/6 @ Providence

8. South Florida: 15-7, 5-5

Last Week: 1/31 vs. 61-70, 2/3 @ Georgetown 72-64

This Week: 2/7 @ Notre Dame

9. Notre Dame: 16-7, 5-5

Last Week: 1/30 @ Rutgers 73-74, 2/4 vs. Cincinnati 83-65

This Week: 2/7 vs. South Florida, 2/11 @ Seton Hall

10. Cincinnati: 14-8, 5-5

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Providence 92-88, 2/4 @ Notre Dame 65-83

This Week: 2/7 vs. Syracuse

11. Providence:12-10, 4-6

Last Week: 1/30 @ Cincinnati 88-92, 2/2 @ Syracuse 68-85

This Week: 2/6 vs. Marquette, 2/9 vs. Georgetown

12. UConn: 13-9, 3-6

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Marquette 68-70, 2/1 @ Louisville 69-82

This Week: 2/6 vs. DePaul, 2/10 @ Syracuse

13. Seton Hall: 12-8, 3-6

Last Week: 2/2 @ Villanova 71-81

This Week: 2/6 @ Pitt, 2/11 vs. Notre Dame

14. Rutgers: 11-11, 2-8

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Notre Dame 74-73, 2/3 vs. St. John’s 84-72

This Week: 2/6 @ Louisville, 2/9 vs. Caldwell College

15. St. John’s: 12-9, 2-7

Last Week: 2/2 @ Rutgers 72-84

This Week: 2/6 vs. West Virginia, 2/11 vs. Louisville

16. DePaul: 8-14, 1-9

Last Week: 1/30 vs. Syracuse 57-59, 2/3 @ Marquette 69-80

This Week: 2/6 @ UConn

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RTC Live: CBE Finals (Texas vs. Pittsburgh)

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2009

RTCLive

Last night in the CBE Classic semifinals, we saw the traditional powers Texas and Pittsburgh impose their will on inferior teams that were hanging around into the second half.  Rick Barnes’ Longhorns looked like a young, undisciplined team that should have been embarrassed with itself in the first half; and a dominating defensive juggernaut during the second stanza when the Horns eviscerated the outmatched Iowa Hawkeyes with and out-of-the-locker-room 17-0 run to put the game away.  In three games, as well as Texas has been playing offensively (all wins by 25+ pts), it’s been their tough-nosed defense that has been masterful.  Teams are shooting 29% from two and 17% from three against the deep, rangy Horns, and it will be up to Pitt coach Jamie Dixon to help his team find the seams in that defense.  Pitt, of course, returns none of its major stars from last year, but Dixon’s teams always compete, and so far this season sophomore Ashton Gibbs (17 PPG) and freshman Travon Woodall (11/4/7 APG) have been playing well.  On paper, the CBE Classic final appears to be a mismatch, but we’re interested to see if Dixon can successfully employ a strategy to slow down the talented Horns.  Join us tonight for another RTC Live from Kansas City.

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