Set Your Tivo: 01.20.10

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2010

We’re trying a new star system out here at the Set Your Tivo desk beginning today.  Let us know in the comments if you think we should change our ratings system.

SYT Star System

***** – 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 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Xavier @ Temple – 7 pm on FSOhio and CSN  (*****)

It is a shame more people won’t be able to watch this Atlantic Ten battle that will most likely decide the regular season conference champion.  Xavier is the only 4-0 team in the A10 right now, but Temple is the conference’s representative in the top 25 rankings.  Both teams are coming off four straight wins, including Xavier’s recent victory over a strong Dayton team.  Needless to say, these teams are talented and should provide an entertaining game.  Scouts will also be in attendance to see how potential first round pick Jordan Crawford can match up against Temple’s methodical style of play.  The Owls only score 64.6 points per game, but at 56.0 points given up on defense, most of their games are close.  Considering Xavier’s lack of success in big games this year (Butler, Wake Forest, Baylor, Kansas State) and Temple’s ability to perform well at home, look for the Owls to give Xavier a run for their money, but something tells me the Musketeers are ready to emerge as the best team in this talented conference.

Georgetown @Pittsburgh – 7 pm on ESPNU  (****)

Those without ESPNU will unfortunately miss out on the night’s only matchup between two top 25 teams.  Both Pittsburgh and Georgetown have been pleasant surprises this year, as Georgetown responded from last year’s NIT season and Pitt has been able to cope with the loss of several key players.  The Panthers have all the momentum heading into this game, as they have won eight straight while the Hoyas are coming off of a loss to Villanova.  Over 82 percent of ESPN voters claim Pitt will win this game at the Petersen Events Center, where they are 10-0 this year, but Georgetown will not be an easy team to take down.  The Hoyas are much more balanced with four players scoring in double figures, including center Greg Monroe, who is averaging a double-double so far this season.  If Georgetown’s road woes (just 3-2 on the year with losses in their last two road games) and Pitt’s ability to excel at home continue, look for Pitt to ride Ashton Gibbs and company to stay even with Villanova atop the Big East.  However, Georgetown’s defense has been strong all season, and if they can find a way to lock down Gibbs or Brad Wanamaker, this game will be a close call.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 12th, 2010

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

1. Other than Kansas students, graduates, former players and all former or current residents of Lawrence, was there anyone in this fine country of ours rooting for the #1 Jayhawks to beat a depleted Tennessee team, a group of kids and a stunned head coach that just dealt with the suspension and/or dismissal of four of its regular rotation players? All of the events that occurred in that two-hour window in Knoxville Sunday was a release of pent-up frustration and anxiety from a tumultuous week in which Tennessee was considered a prime threat to upend favorite Kentucky in the SEC one day and counted out as a SEC contender that must scratch and claw the final two months for an NCAA berth the next. Renaldo Woolridge banking in a three, the Vols maintaining their lead with Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince on the bench with four fouls, the coach’s son Steven taking a critical charge, a miracle Skyler McBee (one of three walk-ons playing substantial minutes) leaning trey that iced the game, and coach Bruce Pearl aiding the Volunteer mascot in waving the orange Tennessee flag while the sounds of Rocky Top reverberated throughout Thompson-Boling Arena summed up what college basketball should be about. Bill Self pointed this out after the game, but there are some moments during a season when a team officially becomes a team instead of a group of individuals. Even though Pearl would gladly reset the timer to New Year’s Eve and prevent four scholarship players from getting in that car, sometimes it takes a catastrophic occurrence that truly tests the mettle of a unit for them to band together and accomplish lofty goals. I think it’s fair to say Tennessee became a team Sunday night.

2. As long as Mike Anderson is employing his Forty Minutes of Hell hellacious press on demoralized opponents, especially on a home floor where his team has won 30 consecutive games, Missouri should never be totally counted out of the Big 12 race. Losing DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence from an Elite 8 squad isn’t easy to overcome, and certainly the ceiling for the Tigers isn’t nearly as high, but the ultra-talented and quick Mizzou backcourt should have enough firepower to carry them to an NCAA berth. Missouri carried an impressive 12-3 record into their Big 12 opener with #10 Kansas State Saturday, yet their overall resume wasn’t incredibly awe-inspiring with their best wins over Old Dominion, Illinois, Georgia and Oregon and opportunities lost in defeats at the hands of Richmond, Vanderbilt and Oral Roberts. The win Saturday was clearly a statement that Missouri will be a contending force in the Big 12 for that #3 spot behind Texas and Kansas. Anderson looks to have a workable combination with experienced seniors J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor (evident by Taylor’s tie-breaking 3 with under a minute to play) making plays in late-game situations, a promising sophomore backcourt duo of Kim English and Marcus Denmon carrying most of the scoring load, and a defensive unit that ranks seventh overall in D efficiency, first in turnovers forced and gives Missouri a fighting chance on any night.

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Wisconsin’s Leuer Breaks Wrist, Out Indefinitely

Posted by jstevrtc on January 11th, 2010

The hallmark of Wisconsin basketball is efficiency, and they just lost their most efficient player.

It’s an instinctive thing to put your arms and hands out in front of you during a fall, because you want to use them as shock absorbers and cushion the blow.  Sometimes, the price for saving your head, neck, or chest is a broken bone in one of the upper extremeties if the fall is fast or awkward (or both).  Wisconsin junior forward Jon Leuer knows a little about this concept, learning about it on Saturday during the first half of the Badgers’ win over Purdue.  Attempting to reduce the impact from a fall, Leuer broke his left wrist, and there is no mention anywhere of when he might be able to return.

Leuer is the leading rebounder and shot-blocker for the Badgers, snagging 6.0 RPG and adding 1.1 BPG.  He has almost doubled his scoring output from last season, going from 8.8 PPG to this year’s 15.4 PPG, which is second on the team (Trevon Hughes averages only 0.4 PPG more).  His absence, though, will be felt in a slightly more subtle way.  If you’ve seen Wisconsin play, you know that they are the Ivan Lendl of college basketball.  Not a single movement is wasted, and they’re more than content to sit back and take their time, slug it out with you, wear you down with their physical and mental toughness, induce you into mistakes, then beat you with a mixture of power and intelligence.  Efficiency is the Bo Ryan mantra.

The problem for Wisconsin is that Leuer leads his team in just about all of the efficiency statistics.  Out of 345 Division I teams, Wisconsin ranks 337th in possessions per 40 minutes (62.5).  This is by design, but you can see how important it is that they score when they get the chance.  Wisconsin is good at this, ranking 15th nationally in points per possession (1.12).  Leuer averages 15.4 PPG but only plays 27.9 minutes in a game, on the average.  Extrapolating it out, Leuer averages 22.1 points for every 40 minutes he plays, a full two points higher than Hughes, who is second.  His overall efficiency rating and efficiency per possession numbers are also tops on the Badgers.

Wisconsin only turns the ball over an average of 9.2 times a game, second in the nation.  A team that prides itself on control and economy of this magnitude can only suffer when they lose the one player that basically embodies the style of the team.  While Leuer is on the shelf, Coach Ryan will have to try to find ways to squeeze even more points out of every precious possession but still take extra care of the basketball.  Most of all, he (and about every UW supporter) will be hoping that Leuer’s bones knit quickly.  Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow, but there’s been no mention of a timetable or even which bones were broken, so it’s tough to say how bad this is right now.  The only good thing is that…well, Wisconsin is the Dairy State, so there’s no shortage of calcium for those bones.

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From the Student Section: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by rtmsf on December 19th, 2009

Contributing writer Kevin Chupka will periodically interview a rabid student fan about all things basketball on the court and in the stands… a view from the student section.

College basketball has its casual fans just like any other sport.  There is one group however that elevates it above all else by taking “fandom” to new heights.  A group tasked with truly being that sixth man on the court.  Sure the alumni can open up wallets full of cash from the real world and they can drink their fancy imported beer but the lifeblood of any great team inside the many arenas of division one college basketball are the students.  There are always exceptions (yours truly and Dick Vitale to name but two) but by and large students are the ones who live and breathe based on their team’s fortunes.  And so I sought to find some of those rabid fans.  The ones that paint their bare chests bright red or blue or orange.  The ones that lead the student section in chants that lift up their team and dash the dreams of the other.  In the weeks that follow we’ll get the dirt from inside the foxhole as we pick the brains of those who know their team best.

People like Michael Bleach, the beat writer for The Badger Herald, the paper of record at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The senior journalism major has his finger on the pulse of the basketball Badgers; and while he and many in town were still streaming into Camp Randall Stadium to cheer on the gridiron Badgers, Michael was also looking closely at a basketball team that the mainstream media saw clawing for notoriety in a strong Big Ten conference.

In a column previewing the season Michael wrote: “the national media (AP Top 25) has determined the Badgers will finish behind Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois and Minnesota. Michigan State and Purdue I will give you. As for the rest of the teams on that list, however, they haven’t invented a word strong enough for me to express my disbelief. I am colossally baffled.”  Baffled he told me because “The team has no holes in the starting five — with everyone on the floor able to shoot from beyond the arc — and it is a Bo Ryan team, so you know they will play strong defense. They have two strong subs coming off the bench in Jordan Taylor (sixth man of the year candidate) and Ryan Evans (typical athletic, defense, hustling guy).”

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2009


Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten conference.

Three things from the past weekWisconsin loses to Wisconsin-Green Bay. The second thing is Ohio State loses without Evan Turner. The third thing is freshman Maurice Creek from Indiana and Drew Crawford from Northwestern are filling it up with more 30 points in their last games. Now three Big Ten teams are in the top 25: #4 Purdue, #12 Michigan State, and #18 Ohio State.


  1. Purdue 9-0
  2. Northwestern 7-1
  3. Illinois 8-2
  4. Michigan State 8-2
  5. Ohio State 7-2
  6. Wisconsin 7-2
  7. Minnesota 7-3
  8. Penn State 6-4
  9. Michigan 5-4
  10. Indiana 4-5
  11. Iowa 3-7

Top Storylines

  • Can Purdue win on the road against top teams? Purdue had to use the whole game to polish off Alabama down in Tuscaloosa. Granted that Alabama team is now 6-3 and beat Michigan earlier in the year, but still, Alabama is no Wisconsin in Madison. That will be Purdue’s first difficult road test, and a good one at that, as Wisconsin is practically unbeatable in the Kohl Center under Bo Ryan.
  • Was Butler a fluke or is Ohio State on the verge of dropping out of the top 25?  Butler is definitely on the way back up, but I am questioning whether OSU has enough in its tank to make up the difference. William Buford, who is averaging 12/4 on the year, stepped up for 20/7 for the Buckeyes. David Lighty, who is 12/5 on the year, went for 16/7 against the bulldogs. OSU is averaging 85.4 points per game this season, and scored just 66 against Butler. That’s about the gap of one Evan Turner.
  • Is Illinois as good as their record suggests? It’s hard to say, but after their big Clemson upset, they haven’t played anybody too great. Yes, you could argue that Vandy is tough, but you definitely can’t make the case for Western Michigan. If you play Illinois, just don’t do so at their place. They are 8-0 at Assembly Hall in Champaign. A big test will be against Northwestern on December 30th at home.

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Checking in on… the Big Ten

Posted by jstevrtc on December 8th, 2009


Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. 


  1. Purdue  7-0
  2. Ohio State  7-1
  3. Northwestern  6-1
  4. Wisconsin  6-1
  5. Illinois  6-2
  6. Michigan State  6-2
  7. Minnesota  5-3
  8. Penn State  5-3
  9. Michigan  4-3
  10. Indiana  3-4
  11. Iowa  3-5

Four things from the past week:  Big Ten beats the ACC (6-5) in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge for the first time in 11 years.  The second thing is Wisconsin knocking off #5 Duke.  The third thing is Illinois coming from 23 down to beat #19 Clemson.  Last but not least, Evan Turner goes down with a fractured back and will be out for a minimum of eight weeks.  That cost OSU not only a strong leader but over 20 PPG to their stat sheet.  Now four Big Ten teams are in the Top 25:  Purdue #5, Michigan State #12, Ohio State #13, Wisconsin #20.

Top Storylines:

  • Who will lead OSU?  Turner is down for the count with a fractured back, which is really unfortunate, as he was on pace to set a new record for triple-doubles in a season, and continued to put up ridiculous numbers.  With Turner sidelined, who will step up?  Their blowout of Eastern Michigan definitely didn’t test OSU, but their other players should have plenty of opportunity soon to demonstrate leadership.
  • Should we stick a fork in Michigan?  Michigan is near the bottom of the Big 10, losing to average teams.  Will they come back strong, or is this the beginning of a downward spiral that might last all year?
  • Is Minnesota, dare I say, average?  It looks to be that way after losing to Miami to complete their third loss in a row to somewhat average teams.  They blew out Brown, but then again, what decent team doesn’t?  Minnesota also hasn’t demonstrated that they can win on the road, so that will be a challenge all year.

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ATB: Big Ten Victorious on Comeback Wednesday

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2009


Wisconsin: First RTC of the Season? If anyone knows of another one, let us know.  But this is the first one we’ve seen this year.  But c’mon Musberger, get it right!  RUSH.  THE.  COURT.  (Ed. note – apparently UNLV fans RTC’d on Saturday after defeating Louisville, which is about as unjustified of an RTC as we’ve ever heard of… goodness gracious, folks, it’s Vegas.  And beating an overrated Louisville team excites you?)

Story of the NightBig Ten Finally Gets Monkey Off Its Back.  It didn’t turn out the way we thought it would tonight, but it did end up as a 6-5 victory for the Big Ten schools over their ACC counterparts.  Two unexpected events conspired to make this possible — Illinois’ inspirational comeback win at Clemson after being down by as many as 23 points in the second half, and Wisconsin’s home victory over Duke in the type of game the Blue Devils always seem to win (because, well, they do — Duke was 10-0 in the ACC/B10 Challenge prior to tonight).  These two surprises combined with Ohio State’s expected win over Florida State at the end of the evening resulted in three straight victories at the end of the Challenge to put the midwesterners on top for the first time EVER.  So what does that mean?  Does it prove once and for all that the Big Ten is better than the ACC this year?  Well, not at all.  In fact, if anything, this year’s Challenge has shown us that the middle of the ACC might be a tad bit stronger than we thought it was (Wake, Miami, BC, Clemson).  Now… about our predictions for tonight.  Regression to the mean is the lesson here.  After a perfect 6-0 start over the first two evenings of play, it all crashed and burned with a 1-4 record tonight.  But yeah, at least we called it, baby!  That’s all that matters!  6-5 Big Ten over the ACC, just like we said!*

*note – our Caribbean friends disagree with this assessment.

Game of the Night #1. Wisconsin 73, #5 Duke 69. Duke took its first ever loss in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge tonight for two reasons as we saw them.  First, their big men other than Kyle Singler (28/6/3 assts) were virtually nonexistent.  Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers combined for just six points and fourteen rebounds.  Compare that with 16/27 against UConn last week, and you’ll see that almost all of the scoring burden fell onto the Duke backcourt + Singler.  Second, Wisconsin’s Trevon Hughes was spectacular tonight.  The senior guard shredded the Duke defense for a career-high 26 pts, using an assortment of drives to the basket to go along with a solid outside stroke (4-7 threes).  After taking an 11-pt lead with five minutes to go, though, Duke guard Andre Dawkins nearly brought the Devils back all by himself, hitting three straight triples to cut the lead down to 2 with two minutes left.  It appeared that this was going to be one of those epic Duke comeback wins, but UW ran clock down the stretch (surprise) and when Singler missed a wild layup attempt off the bottom of the backboard with under thirty seconds left, it was clear the Badgers were going to take the win tonight.  One odd situation occurred in the very last few plays, when color commentator Bob Knight seemed to lose his mind for a moment as he stated that Wisconsin was “for sure” at worst going to overtime after only going up two with 4.9 seconds left (he clearly thought they were up three), and then contemplated whether Trevon Hughes should intentionally miss his second FT (again, thinking up three).  What’s that phrase coaches like to use?  Time and score? Can you imagine if one of Knight’s players had made a similar mistake at such a key juncture?  Maybe now we know why Texas Tech wasn’t nearly as good as Knight’s Indiana teams — he wasn’t paying attention!

Game of the Night #2Illinois 76, #19 Clemson 74. What can you say about Bruce Weber’s young backcourt of Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson tonight other than we’re extremely impressed.  There is absolutely no way that Clemson should have lost this game.  The Tigers ran out to a 20-pt halftime lead, pushed it up to 23 early in the second half, and had Littlejohn rocking.  But Weber’s kids dug deep, showed the kind of composure that belies their age, and dropped a combined five threes in the next ten minutes of a 35-10 run that got the Illini back into the game and ultimately allowed them an opportunity to steal this one away from Clemson and the ACC.  The Clemson players suggested that they relaxed after getting such a big lead, and from our viewpoint, there’s probably something to that.  It certainly appeared that Illinois was the team with the drive and moxie throughout most of the second half, and when it came down to Demontez Stitt’s driving layup attempt at the buzzer, we just had a feeling that it wasn’t going down.  It didn’t, and Illinois has a rallying cry for the rest of this season no matter how badly they’re playing.  Mike Davis had 22/9 for the Illini, but as mentioned above, it was the youthful backcourt of Paul and Richardson (34/8/5 assts) that made tonight happen.

Game of the Night #3.  #21 UNLV 74, Arizona 72 (2OT).  The Runnin’ Rebels justified their shiny new Top 25 ranking by taking to the road for the first time this season, heading down to Arizona, and knocking off the Wildcats in double-overtime.  Despite poor overall shooting from both teams (UNLV 39.7%, UA 36.5%; both teams less than 20% from three!) this one was neck-and-neck from the tip, as neither team ever led by more than six points the whole way.  Arizona got up three in the second OT but UNLV’s Derrick Jasper (12/7/5/3 stls) hit one from deep to tie it at 70, and the Wildcats never led after that.  Tre’Von Willis continued to carve his name out on the national scene with 25/4 for the Rebs, and Arizona got a huge game from freshman forward Derrick Williams with 28/5 on 10-15 shooting.  This kind of win in such a difficult and hostile setting can only help Lon Kruger’s club, which has a few easy ones coming up except for a home game against Kansas State thrown in there on 12/12.  If they can get by those Wildcats, there’s a very good chance UNLV will be 12-0 going into a pair of tough road games in early January at BYU and at (currently undefeated) New Mexico. 

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Checking In On… the Big Ten

Posted by rtmsf on December 1st, 2009


Jason Prziborowski is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

This past week was like March Madness in November for the Big Ten. The Big Ten is glad it isn’t though, as all but a few would be left standing with upset after upset bringing down the big and mighty. Those who fell this week include: Michigan State, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan. The Big Ten started last week with 6 teams in the AP’s top 25, and only 3 remain in Purdue (#6), Michigan State (#9), and Ohio State (#15). The only unbeaten team in the Big Ten is now Purdue.


  1. Purdue 5-0
  2. Michigan State 5-1
  3. Ohio State 5-1
  4. Northwestern 5-1
  5. Wisconsin 4-1
  6. Penn State 5-2
  7. Illinois 4-2
  8. Minnesota 4-2
  9. Michigan 3-2
  10. Indiana 3-3
  11. Iowa 2-4

Top Storylines

  • Evan Turner, oops he did it again. That’s right folks, Evan Turner from Ohio State pulled off another triple double this week, becoming just 1 of 34 NCAA athletes to pull off multiple triple-double games in a single season.
  • Michigan State falls to Florida, ending their unbeaten streak. Turns out that Florida is legit again this season, moving up to #17 in the AP. Michigan State was sloppy and Florida made them pay, even though the game was a nailbiter.
  • Remember the name: John Shurna. The sophomore forward poured it on in the Chicago Invitational to take down Notre Dame and Iowa State, earning MVP honors over the likes of Craig Brackins and Luke Harangody, both household names.
  • Last but definitely not least, the first signs that Minnesota’s off the court troubles finally affected their on the court performance this week when they lost to Texas A&M after sitting Lawrence Westbrook and Al Nolen for disciplinary reasons. Westbrook and Nolen combine for over 19 points per game, and they lost by 1 point. That time sitting on the bench was definitely worth more than a point.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.


If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Upper Midwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2009


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

It’s time for the seventh installment of our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series, the group of very cold, very northern states that we’re calling the Upper Midwest.   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?

Upper Midwest Region (MI, WI, MN, SD, ND)


  • Manny Harris – G, Jr – Michigan. The mastermind behind the turnaround of Michigan’s basketball program may be John Beilein and his 1-3-1 zone defense, but the catalyst has to be Beilein’s explosive 6’5 scoring guard/forward, Manny Harris. The lone bright spot in a 10-22 campaign in 2007-08 was the freshman Harris and his 16.1 PPG, strong enough to garner All-Big Ten Second team honors. Much like Beilein’s other reclamation projects, the Wolverines, and Harris, improved drastically in their second season under the former West Virginia head man. While his scoring average didn’t even jump a full point, it was Harris’ all-around production and on-court leadership that propelled Michigan to a 13-3 start, respectable Big Ten record and second-round NCAA tournament appearance, their first in 11 seasons. 6.8 RPG for a 6’5 guard is an accomplishment that cannot be overstated, a mark that tied forward DeShawn Sims for the team lead. Harris led Michigan in assists by a wide margin at 4.4 APG, upped his FG% from 38% to 42% and played nearly 33 MPG to lead the Wolverines. Harris has also become a much more efficient playmaker for Beilein, increasing his assist and scoring rates (even while attempting and making over 20% of Michigan’s shots) while his turnovers have dipped. One area where Harris must improve is outside shooting, which jumped from 32% to 33% behind the arc a year ago. With Harris’ tremendous penetration ability and explosiveness to the rim, making opposing defenses respect his outside shot will only enhance an already lethal game. The All-Big Ten first teamer is the straw that stirs the Michigan drink, having started 67 games in a row for Beilein. Should he improve his defense, Harris’ draft stock will shoot up in a season that could be full of accolades, and, for the first time since the Steve Fisher era of the 90s, a legitimate chance to lead Michigan deep into March.
  • Lazar Hayward – F, Sr – Marquette. Lazar Hayward’s role on this year’s Marquette squad should not be understated. Three guards and team leaders through the Tom Crean and Buzz Williams eras – Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews – saw their illustrious college careers end in the second round last March, leaving the program in the hands of Williams’ outstanding recruiting efforts off the court and Hayward’s all-around play on the court. The 6’6 multi-dimensional forward is now the face of a proud basketball school that may take a step back this season with the losses of those three guards that starred for four full seasons in Milwaukee. But it’s unlikely that Hayward will take a step back. Often overshadowed and underappreciated, Lazar averaged 16.3 PPG and 8.6 RPG as a junior last season while shooting 36% from three and 82% from the line, offering another outside threat to go along with McNeal and Matthews. In fact, Hayward finished in the top ten in a historic Big East in scoring, rebounding and free throw percentage last year. He even refined his game on an international stage over the summer, averaging 9.3 PPG and 5.6 RPG on the bronze medal-winning USA team at the World University Games. Hayward is now the face of the Marquette program for his senior season. While the Golden Eagles could struggle, Hayward must step into the departed guards’ shoes as team leader for the junior college and freshman influx headed to the Bradley Center in 2009-10, not only to facilitate success this season, but also for the future.

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