ATB: UConn Remains Relevant and Other Assorted Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2010

This Weekend’s Big Games.  This wasn’t an exceptional weekend of games, but there were three that, at least on paper, held significant hope.  Two of the three turned out pretty well, but the third was a disappointment.  Let’s see if you can figure out which.

Good to See Ya Back, UConn...

  • #22 Connecticut 88, #1 Texas 74.  If you haven’t beaten a ranked team all year long, then what better place to start than to take out the team on top.  True, Texas was a lame-duck #1, having lost to Kansas State earlier in the week, but let’s not quibble.  For the Huskies, this wasn’t exactly a great time for a possible NCAA Tournament top seed to show up in town; so far this year, UConn had underachieved their way to an anemic 12-6, dropped three of their last four, fallen out of the AP Top 25, and their coach — a man known for his toughness as much as his two titles — was going to miss his second straight game because his doctors told him to get away from basketball for a while.  It’s not a matter of talent on the team, that’s never been questioned.  It just hasn’t been there for UConn; they’ve shown nothing close to the confidence and will to win that they’ve possessed for so long.  Sure, Texas had lost on Monday and was probably going to lose the top spot in the polls, but they were still a potential #1 seed come March, and the K-State loss wasn’t exactly a shocker.  After a half, this looked exactly like the game everyone expected.  Connecticut was listless and turnover-prone.  Texas looked like so many fine teams coming off a loss — angry, and wanting someone to pay.  The Huskies were down 42-34 at the break and showed no signs of a likely second-half charge.  And then — they found something.  Hard to say what it could have been — did they suddenly realize how talented they were?  Did they rally around a “Let’s do it for Coach Calhoun!” mentality?  If you’re a Connecticut fan, do you even care?  Because a different Connecticut team came out of the locker room.  Suddenly, you saw UConn players getting down in defensive stances instead of standing straight up.  They seemed three times as quick and hundred times as interested as their first half doppelgangers.  Like it so often is, defense was the trigger.  Runs of 13-0 and 9-0 paced the Huskies to a second half that saw them outscore the ‘Horns by 22, shut down Dexter Pittman, and frustrate Texas into a game total of 30 fouls.  The offense flowed through Jerome Dyson, whose 32 points (on 12-32 shooting) often came courtesy of Kemba Walker’s 10 assists (not that his 19 points and six steals didn’t help) on possessions started by one of Stanley Robinson’s (17/12) 12 rebounds.  For Texas, Damion James’ 23/7 and Avery Bradley’s 15 points simply couldn’t match whatever transfused into Connecticut at halftime.  Lots of questions, now, mostly on the UConn side.  We know Texas hasn’t peaked already, but what of Connecticut?  Can they continue to summon whatever it was that visited them at halftime of this game?  If they can, the Big East just got even more interesting than it was 48 hours ago.
  • #6 Duke 60, #16 Clemson 47.  This was what you call a defensive lockdown by the Devils.  Taking a page from the way they played Gonzaga earlier this season, Duke allowed do-it-all Clemson forward Trevor Booker to go to work (22/6), but other than Demontez Stitt’s 10-point effort, the rest of the Clemson starters had a grand total of one field goal.  The openings just weren’t there, and with no three-point shooters on the court to help instigate a prolonged run, the Tigers couldn’t get enough consecutive buckets to ever threaten Duke in the second half.  Nolan Smith (22/3) continues to play impressive basketball, as he shot 8-13 yesterday and is showing an aura of confidence that well suits a player shooting lights-out this season (49% FG, 51% 3FG).  It was his nine points during an 11-2 Duke run early in the second half that broke open the game and quieted the combustible Littlejohn faithful.  If you want to know one reason of many that Duke is playing so well this year, look no further than how well the Duke backcourt holds onto the ball.  The trio of Jon Scheyer, Andre Dawkins and Smith all rank among the top 315 players in the country in turnover percentage, with each turning it over less than 15% of the time.  As an example of this, Duke had twelve TOs yesterday in a hostile road environment against a team in Clemson that ranks in the top in forcing them — the Duke backcourt only had three.  We still have concerns about the Duke players wearing down over the course of the season, as both Kyle Singler and Scheyer played the full forty minutes and Smith logged thirty-seven.  But for now, Duke has avoided the injury bug and Coach K is very good at providing his players spot rest during games when needed.  As for Clemson, it’s back to the drawing board for Oliver Purnell’s team.  The Tigers are going to have to figure out how to find more offense beyond the consistently good play of Trevor Booker and the occasional good night from Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by jstevrtc on January 20th, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

We’ve waited months now for the bulk of the ACC to give us some excitement – and this week, it delivered in a big way. Upsets, big wins, surprising losses, we had it all. Now, if only I can find a way to wrap it up into a semi-readable package.

ACC POWER RANKINGS (records as of Wednesday morning, Jan. 20):

1. Duke (15-2, 3-1)

PAST:  What do great teams do when faced with a tough loss? They bounce back with back-to-back 20-point wins. The Blue Devils let Boston College hang around for a half before rolling the Eagles, 79-59, then took care of Wake Forest in a 90-70 win. The Plumlee brothers man-handled the Wake frontcourt, with Miles Plumlee going for 19 and 14, while brother Mason scored 11 points. If there was one flaw in this one for Duke, it was letting the Deacons get back into a game they had no business in. Wake actually tied the game at 55-55 before Duke finished the game with a 35-15 run.

FUTURE: After two home games last week, Duke hits the road to face N.C. State Wednesday and Clemson on Saturday. Wednesday’s game should be pretty simple, but Saturday’s game will be a huge test for Duke. With ESPN College Gameday in town, the folks at Clemson will be revved up beyond belief for the 9 p.m. start. A fast start by Duke, however, could end the Tigers’ hopes.

2. Georgia Tech (14-4, 3-2)

PAST: Had Tech not lost at Virginia to start the week, the No. 2 spot would’ve been a gimme. But they still move up because a road win in Chapel Hill is just that impressive. A win in and of itself would’ve been impressive, but when you have the heart to post a road win in the final minute after blowing a 20-point lead, you deserve at least a week at No. 2.

FUTURE: After Tuesday’s win over Clemson, Tech heads south to face Florida State in Tallahassee on Sunday. Surprisingly, this could be my pick for upset of the week. But you’ll have to read more to find out.

3. North Carolina (12-6, 1-2)

PAST: Calm down, Chapel Hill. Yes, I know your Tar Heels have left the top 2 for the first time this year. Do I think Georgia Tech has better post-season prospects than UNC? Probably not. But for now, No. 3 is where the Heels belong. Losses to Clemson and Georgia Tech are nothing to really be ashamed of, but this slight slide is more about overall body of work. More on that later.

FUTURE: I don’t doubt that UNC will turn things around, beginning with Wednesday’s home game against Wake Forest. This is a decent matchup, but I expect UNC to take out some frustrations on the Deacons. Oddly, UNC has the weekend off before heading to N.C. State next week.

4. Clemson (15-4, 3-2)

PAST: Even with a loss to Georgia Tech Tuesday, Clemson deserves this two-spot boost from last week. The home win over Clemson was incredibly convincing, and the road win at N.C. State is nothing to brush off, especially with the anticipated letdown after the win over the Heels. Trevor Booker finally seems to be figuring out how to take over games when he’s called upon, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the ACC.

FUTURE: Saturday’s home date with Duke might be the most important game at Littlejohn in recent memory. I know it’s a top-5 team coming to town, but if Clemson wants to be taken seriously in the ACC, this is a game they have to win. And please, Tiger fans, I’m begging you: don’t rush the court if you win.

5. Wake Forest (12-4, 2-2)

PAST:  The overtime win against Maryland was nice, and the Deacons showed some heart in the loss at Duke, but I still don’t know what to think of this team. Their four losses are all to above-average or elite teams (Purdue, William & Mary, Miami, Duke), but I still find myself underwhelmed when I watch the Deacons play.

FUTURE:  Now, that could all change based on Wednesday’s performance at UNC. As I mentioned above, I’m predicting a solid UNC win here, but the Deacons could still show me something, even in a loss. Wake hosts Virginia on Saturday in game that looks much tougher than it did a few weeks ago.

6. Virginia (12-4, 3-0)

PAST: Well, hello there, Cavaliers! Welcome to the top half of our rankings, and an unheard of four-spot jump in one week. I wasn’t really taking Virginia seriously for a while, but after a road win at N.C. State and home wins over Georgia Tech and Miami (convincingly), it’s hard to ignore the Cavs now. Sylven Landesberg is emerging as one of the league’s major stars, and the Hokies are proving to be a well-coached, mature team that knows how to win close games. The two-point win over UNC-Wilmington was a little close for comfort, but I’ll let it slide.

FUTURE: So they’ve won at home, but can Virginia post a big-time road win? We’ll find out on Saturday when they head to Wake Forest. A win there, and Virginia won’t be able to sneak up on anyone anymore.

7. Virginia Tech (14-3, 1-2)

PAST: I really didn’t want to improve the Hokies’ spot this week. The win over Miami is looking less and less impressive, and a loss at Florida State didn’t help matters, but the rest of the mid-level teams were even more unimpressive this week. I was a Hokie believer a few weeks ago, but they still have to show me something – and soon.

FUTURE: The Hokies host Boston College Saturday, and better win convincingly to stay up this high.

8. Maryland (12-5, 2-1)

PAST: Maybe my preseason pick does have a little life, after all. The Terps recovered from a heartbreaking overtime loss to Wake Forest to post a convincing road win at Boston College. Now, the Eagles aren’t a great team, but a win in Chestnut Hill is nothing to laugh off.

FUTURE: After beating Longwood Tuesday night, Maryland hosts N.C. State on Saturday.

9. Miami (15-4, 1-4)

PAST: I had already planned to drop the Hurricanes to at least No. 8, but then they went and TOTALLY REDEEMED THEMSELVES by losing to Boston College on Tuesday. BOSTON COLLEGE! AT HOME! Everyone and their uncle ripped Miami’s early-season schedule and inflated record, and it was with good reason. The Hurricanes were thoroughly dominated by Virginia and Virginia Tech, then lost to the league’s worst team.

FUTURE: Miami has the weekend off after getting beaten by Boston College Tuesday night.

10. Florida State (14-4, 2-2)

PAST: The Seminoles lost at home to a desperate N.C. State team, then topped Virginia Tech by five.

FUTURE: FSU hosts Georgia Tech in a tough game on Saturday. Watch out for an upset there…

11. N.C. State (12-6, 1-3)

PAST: An impressive win at Florida State was followed up by a relatively impressive loss at home to Clemson. The Wolf Pack are still trying to find any sort of stride after more than a handful of heartbreaking losses.

FUTURE: The Pack is home to Duke on Wednesday and at Maryland on Saturday. A win in either game would be mighty impressive.

12. Boston College (11-8, 2-3)

PAST: The Eagles pulled out what looks now like a semi-impressive win at Miami. But considering Miami’s schedule, it won’t exactly boost their RPI. BC also kept it close for a half against Duke before showing their true stripes in the second half. They were then easily handled by Maryland at home on Saturday.

FUTURE: After Tuesday’s win at Miami, the Eagles head to Virginia Tech on Saturday.

BENEATH THE NUMBERS…

HOW GOOD IS UNC?  My belief? Still very, very good. But, the question has to be asked at this point. Lots of people, including this blogger, praised the Tar Heels for their tough early-season schedule, but if you look at the seven toughest games on that schedule, you can’t help but notice the 2-5 record (and three double-digit losses):

  • Ohio State (4-point win)
  • Syracuse (16-point loss)
  • Michigan State (7-point win)
  • Kentucky (2-point loss)
  • Texas (13-point loss)
  • Clemson (19-point loss)
  • Georgia Tech (2-point loss, at home)

Like I said, I still think UNC will be a force in the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament, and with a young roster I think they still have some growing to do. But that record against good teams has gotta be keeping Roy Williams up at night.

HOW BAD IS MIAMI?  The Hurricanes are proving to be what we thought they were, and are the poster children for all that is wrong with pre-conference scheduling for too many teams. If I hear one “pundit” try to use the old “20-win” threshold to determine NCAA bubble candidates, I will point to Miami, then scream.

CRYSTAL BALL TIME…

I’m not one to brag, but I’d like to point out my pick for upset of the week was Georgia Tech over North Carolina by two points in Chapel Hill. And what happened? The Jackets won by 2 POINTS!  Thank you, thank you very much. That’s 2-for-2 on upsets this year, although staying perfect there might be a stretch, as I’m really going out on a limb this week.

OVERALL SEASON RECORD: 7-3

UPSET OF THE WEEK: 2-0

LAST WEEK’S CORRECT PICKS

GEORGIA TECH at NORTH CAROLINA

  • My prediction: Georgia Tech by 2
  • Actual result: Georgia Tech by 2

MARYLAND at WAKE FOREST

  • My prediction: Wake Forest by 9
  • Actual result: Wake Forest by 2 (OT)

MIAMI at VIRGINIA TECH

  • My prediction: Virginia Tech by 10
  • Actual result: Virginia Tech by 15

WAKE FOREST at DUKE

  • My prediction: Duke by 6
  • Actual result: Duke by 20

LAST WEEK’S INCORRECT PICK

NORTH CAROLINA at CLEMSON

  • My prediction: UNC by 3
  • Actual result: Clemson by 19

THIS WEEK’S PREDICTIONS

WAKE FOREST at NORTH CAROLINA, Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

  • UNC emerges after two tough losses and takes out its frustration on the Deacons: UNC by 11

BOSTON COLLEGE at VIRGINIA TECH, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

  • Virginia Tech is too good to lose this one, and BC is too bad to win it: Tech by 4

VIRGINIA at WAKE FOREST, Saturday, 4 p.m. (RAYCOM)

  • Wake is too good to lose twice in one week, right? But I’ll go out on a limb and say the Cavs stay hot: Virginia by 2

DUKE at CLEMSON, Saturday, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

  • Clemson will be amped up for this one – maybe too amped up. Duke pulls it out late: Duke by 3

GEORGIA TECH at FLORIDA STATE, Sunday, noon (RAYCOM)

  • My upset special of the week. Tech gets flustered by its No. 2 ranking in the RTC poll, and drops a close one: Florida State by 2
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Set Your Tivo: 01.19.10

Posted by nvr1983 on January 19th, 2010

Now that we’re starting to get into the meat of the college basketball conference we are starting to get quality games on a regular basis which means that we will be having the return of our regular feature. There isn’t a “blockbuster” game tonight like Texas-Kansas State, but there are 3 games that feature potential NCAA tournament teams matching up against each other that are worth keeping an eye on while you try to catch up on the last two hours of 24.

Northwestern at #25 Ohio State at 7 PM on Big Ten Network: This is clearly a big game for both teams. As has you may have heard (from basically every site covering college basketball) Northwestern has never made the NCAA tournament, but despite the loss of Kevin Coble the Wildcats are firmly on the bubble this year. A victory over Evan Turner and the Buckeyes in Columbus would be a big boost following their upset win at home over a Purdue team that is rapidly falling apart (more on this in a bit). To knock off the Buckeyes in Columbus (where they are undefeated this season), they will need big games from John Shurna (16.8 PPG and 7.1 RPG) and Michael Thompson (14.4 PPG and 4.4 APG with a 2.7 to 1 assist to TO ratio). The key for Thad Matta‘s squad will be Evan Turner being Evan Turner (my choice for national POY) and someone else (David Lighty, Jon Diebler, or William Buford–all averaging 13.3 PPG) helping him out so the Wildcats can’t throw double teams at Turner all night. As much as the Northwestern story intrigues us, we suspect that tonight will not help their case as The Villain and the Buckeyes should be able to hold on for the win, but given what happened this weekend a Big Ten upset wouldn’t shock us.

#16 Clemson at #18 Georgia Tech at 7 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: For the Duke haters out there, this game could be viewed as a match-up of the two teams most likely to challenge the Blue Devils in the ACC this season (we’re almost ready to give up on UNC this season). Paul Hewett”s Yellow Jackets have been maddeningly inconsistent alternating between wins against Duke and UNC and losses against Georgia and Virginia. Meanwhile, Oliver Purnell‘s Tigers have started off with their customary impressive early season record with their only losses coming against Duke, Texas A&M, and Illinois with a majority of their wins coming against a bunch of cupcakes in non-conference play (ok, the Xavier win was nice) and they just blew out UNC in Littlejohn Coliseum. The key to this game will be the match-up on the inside with Trevor Booker (15.4 PPG and 8.3 RPG) going up against Gani Lawal (15.2 PPG and 9.2 RPG) and Derrick Favors (11.5 PPG and 8.6 RPG). Despite the Yellow Jackets’ inconsistency lately, we’re going to go with the homecourt and the fact that we never trust Clemson in big games here.

#15 Purdue at Illinois at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The big question here is how the Boilermakers will respond to Matt Painter calling out the entire team except for Robbie Hummel and E’Twaun Moore after their three-game losing streak. The key for Illinois will be if they can get Demetri McCamey going against Chris Kramer. They will probably rely on their running him through a bunch of screen in their motion offense (ESPN Insider required) to get Kramer off of him. On the other side of the ball, Purdue needs JaJuan Johnson to start playing like the All-Big Ten player that he is and not the guy who scored 17 points combined in their last three games (all losses). If Purdue plays the way they did early in the season, they are clearly capable of pulling off the road win. Given the experience on the Boilermakers team, we’re going to go with them bouncing back on the road against Bruce Weber and the Illini.

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What You Missed While Watching College Football…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 8th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist plus author of the weekly Ten Tuesday Scribbles and Bubble Watch columns.

With college football crowning another faux-national champion Thursday night in Pasadena, the college sports scene can officially shift its axis to basketball. While a number of college basketball diehards such as yours truly were knee-deep in mid-major box scores and enthralling non-conference tournaments since the season tipped off in mid-November, it’s perfectly understandable for our college football-fan brethren out there to have been entranced in the gridiron scene during this time. For many folks out there, college basketball truly begins when a football champion is crowned and conference play heats up, when Rece and the gang show up on our TVs every Saturday morning at 11 AM and the bubble begins to take its early shape. For those people, you sure missed plenty of exciting hoops action. To get you caught up in what has gone down thus far on the hardwood, here’s a summary for your enjoyment, divvied up into the six major conferences and all the rest:

ACC

What we’ve learned: There was much back-and-forth debate entering this season whether Duke or North Carolina represented the class of this conference. After two solid months of play, it’s fairly evident Duke has separated themselves from their bitter rival as the class of the ACC. While the Tar Heels may top Duke skill-wise up front, Carolina simply does not boast the backcourt to even contend with the Dukies’ tandem of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. The primary knock on Duke heading into this season was point guard play with Elliot Williams transferring to Memphis. As a true sharp-shooting 2-guard who creates his shots coming off screens in Redick-like fashion, could Scheyer handle the responsibility of running the Duke offense? The answer has been resounding in the affirmative: 19.7 PPG, 46% FG, 92% FT, 43% 3pt and an otherworldly 4.8 A/TO ratio that currently leads the nation. Another key to Duke’s early season success has been Coach K’s willingness to adjust his defense to fit his roster. Rather than employing the normal Duke on-ball pressure attack, Krzyzewski is utilizing more of a sagging defense that plays into the frontcourt depth Duke enjoys with six players that receive time at 6’8 or taller.

Scheyer Has His Devils Looking Great This Season

What’s still to be determined: After Duke and Carolina (and let’s not go overboard following the Heels loss to Charleston, they’re still clearly the second best team in this conference), who will emerge as the third contender behind the top two dogs? An ever-shifting proposition, the current edge probably goes to Florida State despite their utter lack of point guard play. The Seminoles are one of the tallest teams in the nation and have a few capable long-range shooters that get open looks when defenses collapse on Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton. Plus, they’re off to a head start with a December win at ACC foe Georgia Tech. Plenty of folks think Clemson could be that team behind powerful big man Trevor Booker, but they lack a second scoring option and I can’t stop thinking back to their collapse at home to an inexperienced Illinois squad. It would be unwise to count out Gary Williams, and the jury’s still out on Virginia Tech and Miami due to their soft schedules, so I’ll give the current edge to Wake Forest as that third team. The road win at Gonzaga’s on-campus arena stands out, Ish Smith has turned into a fine point guard and Al-Farouq Aminu has as much pure talent as anyone in this conference.

NCAA Locks: Duke, North Carolina.

Likely bids: Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest.

Bubble teams: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech.

Make other plans for March: Boston College, North Carolina State, Virginia.

Big East

What we’ve learned: The NCAA picture is shaping up quite similarly to last season when Louisville (regular season champion), Pittsburgh and Connecticut all received #1 seeds. There will be much back-and-forth debate about whether the top three teams this season — Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova -- holds the edge in this conference, but does it really matter? Right now you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and Purdue are the likely #1 seeds (of course plenty could change, we have two months of games left), while those top contenders in the Big East are likely all on the second seed line. Even of greater importance though is the obvious revelation that Jamie Dixon can coach basketball. You wouldn’t be alone if you counted out Pittsburgh following a near-loss to Wofford, a 47-point output at home vs. New Hampshire and a second half butt-kicking at the hands of Indiana, but those losses came without their most athletic player, Gilbert Brown, and their best defender, Jermaine Dixon. Those two have returned to action with the most improved Big East player Ashton Gibbs (who recently broke the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made) as a fearsome trio that has carried the Panthers to road wins over previously-undefeated Syracuse and fringe-top 25 Cincinnati. If Dixon is able to coax his Panthers into a NCAA Tournament team after losing such enormous production and leadership in Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields, there is little debate on his merits as National Coach of the Year.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on December 29th, 2009

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

First, let me apologize for the delay in this week’s ACC update. I got a concussion Christmas Eve and Mike Leach locked me in a closet because I wouldn’t go back to practice. Oh well, these things happen.

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Monday, Dec. 28)

1A. Duke (9-1, 0-0)

PAST:  No games last week. (And yes, I took the easy way out and did the 1A/1B thing.)

FUTURE: The Blue Devils face Long Beach State tonight and Penn on New Year’s Eve (double-yawn) before hosting Clemson in the first real anticipated league game of the year (more on that later).

1B. North Carolina (10-3, 0-0)

PAST:  Most people expected sophomore Ed Davis to lead the young Tar Heels this year, but he has possibly exceeded expectations so far, including this week, as UNC rolled over Marshall and Rutgers. He’s shooting an absurd 66% from the field, and ranks second in the ACC with 6.7 rebounds per game.

FUTURE:  UNC wraps up its pre-conference slate with two games – home against Albany on Wednesday, and a tricky road game at the College of Charleston next Monday.

3. Wake Forest (9-2, 1-0)

PAST:  Easy win over UNC-Greensboro Monday night.

FUTURE:  The Deacons better be ready for their New Year’s Eve date with Richmond. The Spiders already scalped Florida this year, and as is often the case in these regional big fish/small fish games, Richmond will be up for this game more than any other this season. It doesn’t get easier for Wake Forest on Sunday, when Xavier comes to town. A 2-0 week will be a big victory for the Deacons heading into ACC play.

4. Georgia Tech (9-2, 0-1)

PAST:  Tech rolled over Kennesaw State.

FUTURE:  The Jackets host Winston-Salem State today and then travels to Charlotte on Saturday.

5. Florida State (11-2, 1-0)

PAST:  With an easy win over Tennessee-Martin, the Seminoles stay at No. 5 – for now.

FUTURE:  Upcoming dates with Alabama A&M and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi won’t say anything about FSU. A Jan. 10 trip to Maryland will.

6. Clemson (11-2, 0-0)

PAST:  The Tigers took care of Western Carolina last Tuesday.

FUTURE:  Clemson hosts in-state rival (tongue in cheek) South Carolina State tonight before heading to Duke on Sunday.

7. Miami (12-1, 0-1)

PAST:  Miami rolled over North Carolina A&T.

FUTURE:  After they take care of Bethune Cookman Wednesday, the Hurricanes travel to Pepperdine. Winter in Malibu. Tough life.

8. Virginia Tech (10-1)

PAST:  The Hokies flat-out embarrassed the Retrievers of UMBC last week in a 71-34 victory.

FUTURE:  Tech plays Longwood Wednesday, then travels to Cancun for an interesting game against Seton Hall Saturday.

9. Maryland (8-3, 0-0)

PAST:  The Terps recorded two cupcake wins this week, but had a relatively close call in a 13-point win over Florida Atlantic. Greivis Vasquez continues to lead Maryland, and was named ACC Player of the Week, but he was without second-leading scorer Sean Mosely, who sat out with a sprained ankle.

FUTURE:  Maryland hosts William & Mary Wednesday and travels to UNC-Greensboro on Sunday.

10. N.C. State (8-3, 0-1)

PAST:  The Wolfpack dropped a heartbreaker at Arizona on Wednesday, as the Wildcats pulled off their second-straight buzzer-beating win.

FUTURE:  N.C. State hosts Winthrop tonight then plays at UNC-Greensboro on New Year’s Eve. I swear, UNC-Greensboro should just join the ACC already.

11. Boston College (8-4, 1-0)

PAST:  Someone please explain this team to me. Home losses to Harvard and Rhode Island. Road wins at Providence and Michigan. And a convincing home win over UMass this week. You figure it out.

FUTURE:  Interesting home game with South Carolina Wednesday night.

12. Virginia (6-4, 0-0)

PAST:  Virginia routed NJIT and Hampton by a combined score of 148-91. Wake me when it’s over.

FUTURE:  The Cavs host a very good UAB team Wednesday night. A win here would definitely help Virginia get out of the ranking cellar.

WEEK THAT WAS…

  • DESERT DRAMA: There was only one game worth talking about this week, and that was N.C. State’s 76-74 loss to Arizona. The Wolfpack made a furious comeback from eight points down with 37 seconds left, but played some pretty porous defense in the final seconds as Arizona’s Nic Wise pulled a Tyus Edney for a coast-to-coast game-winning layup. Javier Gonzalez was impressive for the Wolfpack, who deserve credit for a tough trip out west while the rest of the ACC was fattening up on garbage games.
  • RAMBLING RANT OF THE WEEK:  What’s the deal with UNC-Greensboro? I understand that the poor Spartans have a short trip to almost every ACC school, and can fatten their athletic wallet with games in ACC gyms. But they’ve gotta grow tired of this, right? Greensboro plays 13 non-league games this season, and six of them come against ACC foes. The Spartans have already lost to Duke, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Wake Forest by a combined score of 319-235, and still have to face N.C. State and Maryland this week. To add to their misery, the Spartans have also been thumped by Richmond (26 points), Akron (24 points) and East Carolina (21 points). I’d love to hear that recruiting pitch…

WAITING IN THE TUNNEL…

  • REAL LEAGUE GAME ALERT!:  With Clemson heading to Duke on Sunday (7:45 pm), we can FINALLY see what these teams are made of. A Clemson win would be enormous for the Tigers, but just seeing an exciting game would be a moral victory for Clemson (and a win for hoops fans still sleeping off Duke’s snoozefest with Gonzaga). How will Trevor Booker and the Clemson frontcourt deal with Brian Zoubek, Miles Plumlee and the Duke big men? It’ll be nice to have real games to watch – finally.
  • DAUNTING FOR DEACONS: Wake Forest has a tough twinbill this week with surprising Richmond and a very good and physical Xavier squad. Two wins will be huge, especially with three of their next four league games coming on the road at Miami, Duke and North Carolina. Ouch.
  • WORTH WATCHING: Three teams from the mid- to lower-half of the league face interesting nonleague tests – Virginia Tech vs. Seton Hall (Saturday); B.C. vs. South Carolina (Wednesday); Virginia vs. UAB (Wednesday).

Happy New Year!

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on December 14th, 2009

checkinginon

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

To call last week’s slate a light one in the ACC would be like saying Roy Williams is a little bit sensitive — it’s a drastic understatement (more on that in a minute). Only 11 games were played by ACC teams this week, and most were completely uninteresting. But there were two games of note…

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Sunday, Dec. 13)

1. North Carolina (8-2, 0-0)

PAST: The Tar Heels destroyed Presbyterian on Saturday, 103-64. But Roy Williams turned it into a story, anyway, even though he said to “not make it bigger than it is.” More on that later.

FUTURE: UNC travels to Austin, Texas for a showdown with the Longhorns on Saturday. UNC not only sits atop these rankings, but continues to play the most must-watch games in the ACC. It’s not even close.

2. Duke (7-1, 0-0)

PAST: Did not play this week

FUTURE: Duke warms up its week with Gardner-Webb at Cameron on Tuesday, before playing a very good Gonzaga team at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. You better not make any plans on Saturday, with UNC-Texas at 2:00 (ESPN) and Duke-Gonzaga at 4:00 (CBS).

3. Georgia Tech (6-1)

PAST: Did not play this week

FUTURE: The Jackets play a non-traditional ROAD game AT Chattanooga tonight, before hosting Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2009

checkinginon

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A few interesting games in the last week (mostly by those wearing Carolina blue), and the debut of conference play. And yes, I know the ACC lost the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but that has a lot to do with the matchups, and a weak lower tier of the ACC. More on that below. Let’s get right to the rankings:

ACC POWER RANKINGS (record as of Monday, Dec. 7)

1. North Carolina (7-2, 0-0)

PAST: The Tar Heels slide just past Duke this week (barely), despite a tough loss at Kentucky on Saturday. Deon Thompson and Will Graves led a valiant second-half rally for UNC, but a loss in Lexington is nothing to be ashamed of right now. Oh, and there was that up-and-down, 89-82 shootout win over Michigan State. So there’s that.

FUTURE: After a double-dip week like that, UNC deserves a week off, and they’ll get it. The Heels host Presbyterian on Saturday. But another test awaits at Texas on Dec. 19.

2. Duke (7-1, 0-0)

PAST: Don’t go crazy there, Dookies. I know you were No. 1 last week, and losing on the road to a Bo Ryan-coached Wisconsin team isn’t anything to worry about. Heck, just getting back safely from Madison in December is a victory. But you did let St. John’s back in the game on Saturday, and have shown a few chinks in the armor – like the inability to shoot? Duke ranks 10th in the ACC in shooting percentage, shooting just 45%.

FUTURE: Duke does not play at all this week, before facing Gardner-Webb and Gonzaga (at MSG).

3. Georgia Tech (6-1)

PAST: Wins over Siena and USC came by an average of 19.5 points, and the Jackets’ defense continues to impress. With Derrick Favors (2.1 blocks per game), Gani Lawal (10.3 rebounds/game), Tech controls the middle. The perimeter defense ain’t bad either, as teams are shooting less than 25% from beyond the arc against the Wreck.

FUTURE: No games this week for the Jackets, with two cupcakes the week after.

4. Wake Forest (5-2, 0-0)

PAST: The Deacons lost at Purdue, while last week’s No. 4, Clemson, lost at Illinois. No shame in either loss, but Wake’s big win at Gonzaga on Saturday earns the rankings bump. There are not many trips in America tougher than one to Spokane, especially when going cross-country and coming off that loss to Purdue. Wake is holding opponents to just 36% shooting, and Al-Farouq Aminu is averaging more than 10 boards per game.

FUTURE: No games this week, and – in all honesty – no real challenges until 2010.

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ATB: A Strange Sense of Distant Familiarity Fell Over UCLA…

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2009

atb

Word of the Day.  Exposure.  What we’re starting to see throughout this week of holiday hoops as good teams play other good teams is which teams are better than we all thought and which teams aren’t.  Like last night with Kentucky, some teams such as UCLA and Oklahoma are being exposed as works-in-progress with a lot of problems who are a long, long way from making any noise in March.  Others, such as Minnesota and Marquette, might be better than anyone thought they were and could be extremely underrated at this point in the season.  This is what’s great about this time of the year and all of these tournaments — it provides some clarity for how good these teams actually are — much moreso than the standard garbage game against Northeastern State U.

UCLA Gets Waxed in the 76 ClassicPortland 74, UCLA 47. Ben Howland took the worst loss of his UCLA era, as the Portland Pilots shot a blistering 57.9% from three-point land to defeat his Bruins in front of a large fanbase from nearby Westwood.  In a weird irony from the basketball weauxfgods, Steve Lavin, the last coach to get obliterated like this on the UCLA sideline, was there calling the game for ESPN.  Portland’s lead was as great as 31 (!!!) in the second half, and UCLA had trouble against a zone defense for the second time they’ve faced one this season. Pilot guards T.J. Campbell and Jared Stohl (yeah, it really does always go in) led the Pilots with 15 points each, as the former hit three treys and the latter was a perfect 5-5 from downtown — the whole team ripped UCLA for 54% while the Bruins could only muster 33% from the field themselves. Meanwhile, UCLA is searching for leadership that has yet to show itself (Michael Roll?  James Keefe?) and has another tough matchup against Butler on Friday. Portland is beginning to turn some heads and has a chance to make real noise in this tournament if they can  beat #16 Minnesota tomorrow.  As for UCLA, the best way to sum it up may be like this

Portland UCLA Basketball

  • #16 Minnesota 82, #10 Butler 73. Tubby Smith’s team looked the better squad from start to finish of this one.  Minnesota appeared much stronger, more athletic and quicker to the ball as the Gophers repeatedly got production from its deep bench (even with three players currently suspended).  The Minnesota bench contributed 46 pts (to 8 for Butler), but we were struck by how UM’s inside players such as Colton Iverson were getting to the rebounds and physically knocking Butler stars Matt Howard (who fouled out) and Gordon Hayward around.  The Gophers’ defense was in Butler’s face on everything, holding the Bulldogs to a tepid 33% from the field and (ouch) only 5-23 from deep.  While the big three of Hayward, Howard and Shelvin Mack combined for 56 pts, they were hard-earned, and the Minnesota defense was busy locking everyone else on the team up.  If Tubby gets his suspended players back in the lineup, his team could be one of the deepest in the Big Ten this year.
  • #8 West Virginia 85, Long Beach State 62.  LBSU looked completely outmatched today against WVU’s suffocating man-to-man defense and they were never really in the game.  The big story of course was that star forward Devin Ebanks dressed out but did not play, as his ‘personal issues’ seem to still be bothering him (snicker).  The Mountaineers hit twelve threes in a scintillating shooting peformance, led by Casey Mitchell, who went for 18 pts in only fifteen minutes of action.  In a nice sidenote, Jerry West’s son, walk-on Johnnie, also had a career-high eleven points to get in on the action.  Bottom line: WVU has the pieces, but Texas A&M will be a good test tomorrow.
  • Texas A&M 69, #19 Clemson 60. TAMU got into Clemson’s shorts defensively early in this game, and ultimately held the Tigers to 34% for the game and 3-18 from deep in a mild upset for the Aggies.  BJ Holmes and David Loubeau came off the bench to combine for 32 pts and 14 rebounds for Mark Turgeon, but the story of this game was their defense as only Trevor Booker (18/6) and Tanner Smith (14/5/3 assts) were able to get going.  Clemson will get well in a hurry with LBSU tomorrow, but A&M will need that defense against the top ten Mountaineers.

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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.

impactcountry(2)

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 Conference Primers: #2 – ACC

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2009

seasonpreview

Steven Moore is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. North Carolina (13-3)
  2. Duke (12-4)
  3. Clemson (10-6)
  4. Maryland (10-6)
  5. Georgia Tech (9-7)
  6. Wake Forest (8-8)
  7. Boston College (8-8)
  8. Virginia Tech (7-9)
  9. Florida State (6-10)
  10. Miami (5-11)
  11. Virginia (5-11)
  12. North Carolina State (3-13)

All-Conference Team (with 2008-09 per-game averages):

  • Greivis Vasquez (G), Sr., Maryland – 17.5 points, 5 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 33% 3-pt
  • Malcolm Delaney (G), Jr. Virginia Tech – 18.1 points, 4.5 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 35% 3-pt
  • Kyle Singler (F), Jr., Duke – 16.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 39% 3-pt
  • Trevor Booker (F), Sr., Clemson – 15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Ed Davis (F), Soph., North Carolina – 6.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.7 blocks

6th Man. Gani Lawal, F, Georgia Tech – 15.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks

Impact Newcomer. Derrick Favors, F, Georgia Tech

acc logo

What You Need to Know.

With Tyler Hansbrough off saving puppies in cell phone commercials, and Greg Paulus quarterbacking a sub-par college football team, who is left to watch in the ACC this year?  Well, as you might have expected, the prime candidates will both wear a shade of blue and still play on Tobacco Road.

But don’t sleep on those in purple, red, or even Yellow Jacket gold.

North Carolina and Duke set a new record for ACC equality this season when they equally shared the top spot in the coaches’ preseason poll. Their Feb. 10 showdown in Chapel Hill is already circled on every hoop fan’s calendar, while their season-ending tilt in Durham (March 6) already has Dick Vitale in a tizzy. The reigning National Champs lost not only Hansbrough, but also Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. And still, they are expected to win the ACC, thanks to a new shift of power to the frontcourt (more on that later). Duke also may rely heavily on its big men, which is a change of pace, since jump-shooting, floor-slapping guards usually reign supreme at Cameron Indoor.

Without those big names, you might think the ACC is lacking in star power this season. But if you want to be the smartest guy (or girl) in the room, tell your friends to watch Greivis Vasquez play. Make them sit down and watch a Maryland game. Just do it. The guy is pure energy, and always looks like he’s having the time of his life. Kyle Singler and even Trevor Booker might be the names you hear in 2010 NBA Draft projections, but Vasquez will have more to do with his team’s success than any other player in the conference.

While the Heels and Devils battle it out, the most interesting ACC subplot may lie in the race for NCAA Tournament berths. Don’t be surprised to hear Digger and Bilas discussing as many as eight or even nine possible candidates come February. While Clemson, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest seem like prime candidates for dance tickets (and even top-6 seeds) come March, Virginia Tech, Florida State and even Boston College and/or Miami could be in the conversation with a few key wins.

That’s the one great equalizer for the lower-tier teams in a conference like the ACC. Steal one or two big wins against the Dukes, North Carolinas and Clemsons (especially on the road), and you’ll be hard to ignore in that selection room.

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2009-10 RTC Preseason All-Americans

Posted by zhayes9 on November 5th, 2009

seasonpreview

After vouching for the input of all four of our RTC scribes, here’s our official preseason All-American top four teams:

First Team

  • G- Kalin Lucas (Michigan State)
  • G- Sherron Collins (Kansas)
  • F- Luke Harangody (Notre Dame)
  • F- Patrick Patterson (Kentucky)
  • C- Cole Aldrich (Kansas)

No real surprises for our first team. Kalin Lucas is the anchor of a Michigan State team with Final Four aspirations yet again (would be Tom Izzo’s sixth), while Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich form a tandem that’s reason #1 why Kansas sits atop all preseason rankings. The final two forwards — Luke Harangody and Patrick Patterson — are double-double machines inside that are both looking to send their teams back to the Dance after a year in NIT purgatory. Patterson’s team happens to be a Final Four possibility.

Second Team

  • G- John Wall (Kentucky)
  • G- Willie Warren (Oklahoma)
  • F- Evan Turner (Ohio State)
  • F- Craig Brackins (Iowa State)
  • C- Greg Monroe (Georgetown)

It takes a special player to make any preseason all-second team list before ever playing a minute at the collegiate level. All we’ve heard this offseason from Kentucky practice viewers and his coach John Calipari suggests we could find Wall replacing Collins or Lucas on the first team by season’s end. Willie Warren has a chance to lead all BCS conference players in scoring as the Oklahoma sophomore can flat out shoot the basketball. Evan Turner will play everything from the 1 to the 4 position for an Ohio State team returning nearly every key cog. The most unknown superstar in the land might be Craig Brackins, while Greg Monroe looks to turn around a sinking Georgetown ship.

Third Team

  • G- Jerome Randle (California)
  • G- Manny Harris (Michigan)
  • F- Kyle Singler (Duke)
  • F- Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest)
  • C- Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State)

Can Cal finally win a Pac-10 title? With Jerome Randle and his 46% 3pt at the helm, it’s entirely possible. Manny Harris returns as the #1 scoring option for a Michigan team looking to contend in the all-of-a-sudden feared Big Ten. The biggest surprise may be Kyle Singler, the Duke swingman voted Preseason All-American and yet finds himself on the third team here at RTC (let the accusations of anti-Duke bias begin). Al-Farouq Aminu is the man in Winston-Salem and could take off as a potential lottery pick, while Jarvis Varnado is this year’s Hasheem Thabeet down low making a super impact defensively.

Fourth Team

  • G- Greivis Vasquez (Maryland)
  • G- Devan Downey (South Carolina)
  • F- Robbie Hummel (Purdue)
  • F- Trevor Booker (Clemson)
  • C- Ed Davis (North Carolina)

The biggest decision in April may have been Greivis Vasquez electing to return to College Park and lead the Terps back to the NCAA Tournament. He’s a tremendous scorer and improving floor leader. Speaking of scoring, South Carolina’s Devan Downey can make any shot on the floor and could total 20 PPG this season. We all know what a healthy Robbie Hummel and Trevor Booker provide Purdue and Clemson, respectively, with scoring, rebounding and defense. Ed Davis look to make The Leap we all expect out of the UNC big man.

Also receiving votes: Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), James Anderson (Oklahoma State), Kemba Walker (Connecticut), Nic Wise (Arizona), Damion James (Texas), Lazar Hayward (Marquette), Devin Ebanks (West Virginia), Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech), A.J. Ogilvy (Vanderbilt), Jerome Jordan (Tulsa), Larry Sanders (VCU).

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Where 2009-10 Happens: Reason #21 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by zhayes9 on October 15th, 2009

seasonpreview

Shamelessly cribbing from the very clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present to you the Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we gear up toward the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.

#21- Where Dunking On Zoubek Happens

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