RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – South Atlantic Region

Posted by rtmsf on September 21st, 2009

impactplayers

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

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

impact_map

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

  • Al-Farouq Aminu, Soph, F – Wake Forest.  After a recruiting class compiled by the late Skip Prosser that included first-round selections Jeff Teague and James Johnson, third year coach Dino Gaudio managed to lure five-star talent Al-Farouq Aminu to campus the next season. By all accounts, Aminu had a tremendous freshman season when looking at the big picture. He averaged nearly 13 points per contest, grabbed over eight rebounds a game and shot over 50% from the floor. He starred in Wake wins against BC (26/7), Clemson (21/10) and Duke (15/10). Aminu led all ACC rookies in rebounding, including 11 games as the Deacons team leader while scoring in double-figures 22 times. Due to his superior talent, Wake fans will still maintain they expect Aminu to take it to another level in 2009-10. Too often the 6’9 forward disappeared, though, scoring four points in 28 minutes in a 27-point loss to Miami or nine points in a close loss to bottom-feeder NC State or an 8 point, 2/12 FG performance in the ACC Tournament defeat at the hands of rival Maryland. These peaks and valleys are typical of even the most talented freshmen (besides maybe Kevin Durant), so Aminu shouldn’t be held accountable for Wake’s slide from the #1 team in the land to March goat. But with Teague and Johnson departed, it’s now Aminu’s team in Winston-Salem. With first-round talent and ability, the sky’s the limit for AFA in his second season leading a young Wake Forest squad back to the Dance to avenge last season.
  • Trevor Booker – Sr, F – Clemson. Trevor Booker is the best player that most people still have never heard of.  Consider this: there are three returning players in America who were more efficient than Booker last season and you would have no problem picking all three out of a photographic lineup: Luke Harangody, Patrick Patterson and Cole Aldrich.  But do you even know what Booker looks like?  You will this year, as the beefy, athletic 6’7 forward can do it all and should vault into ACC POY territory with another year under his belt.  Let’s take a closer look.  As a second-team all-ACC selection and the top vote-getter on the all-defensive team last season, he trailed only Ty Lawson among high-usage (>20mpg) league players in eFG% (58%), led the conference in FG% and rebounding (first ACC player to do so since Tim Duncan) and averaged a double-double (15/10) in last year’s tough ACC.  But most importantly to Clemson fans, Booker is only 20 wins away from becoming the winningest player in the history of the Tiger program.  In his three seasons at Clemson, his teams have averaged 24  wins against 10 losses, and the 26 ACC Ws and two NCAA Tournament appearances the Tigers have achieved in large part through his ferocious dunks and tenacious defense represent the best three-year period in the program’s history.  Booker had a slight scare last month with a low-grade stress fracture in his foot, but he’s expected to be completely healthy for the beginning of practice in October.  It’s a good thing, because when Booker hangs up his kicks for the last time as a Clemson Tiger next March, he may very well be in the argument as the most accomplished player in the history of Clemson basketball.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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South Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

North Carolina v. Radford (#1 v. #16)

This is probably the most interesting 1 v. 16 in the tournament. North Carolina will be heavily favored, and will probably win the game, but the Radford Highlanders are no slouch. They have four players that score in double digits, led by 7-foot-0 Artsiom Parakhouski, who is leading the team in scoring (16.3), rebounding (11.2). Matching Parakhouski with Tyler Hansbrough will be fun to watch. One analyst said the Tar Heels don’t even need to start Ty Lawson, but this is the NCAA Tournament, if he is ready to go, he will play.

The Tar Heels are more talented and deeper than Radford, so this wouldn’t be the game to hope for a monumental upset. Radford’s best win is against VMI in the Big South Conference Final, and they have been blown out by every team they have played in a major conference. I will still tune in, just to see Hansborough post up Parakhouski.

LSU v. Butler (#8 v. #9)

This game pits two teams that were under-seeded by the NCAA and as a result, will give the viewers a competitive, fast-paced game to watch. Both teams are in the middle of the tournament pack in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency but they both have great athletes and fun players to watch.

The key match-up will be on the wing where Butler’s Gordon Hayward and LSU’s Marcus Thornton will see a lot of each other. Both players can light it up offensively in a number of ways. Matt Howard and Chris Johnson should be a good one down low. Johnson has a significant height advantage, but Howard scores  a lot of points of hustle, and can be a crafty scorer in the post.

Illinois v. Western Kentucky (#5 v. #12)

Everyone’s trendy upset pick is looking even better with the news that the Illini senior point guard, and best defender, Chester Frazier, is a “long shot” to play according to coach Bruce Weber. But, the Hilltoppers are not the same team they were last year when they made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to UCLA; however, they are good.

Illinois has not played well away from home (4-6), and Portland is quite a trip from Champaign. The Illini have not shot well from the field, and they will need to get Mike Davis (11.6 pts/game, 53.2 FG%) involved early if they want to keep up. The Hilltoppers have four players between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-5 who average double digits and they will run away with this one if the Illini aren’t careful.

Gonzaga v. Akron (#4 v. #13)

I don’t think this game will be as close as many people think. The ‘Zags are one of the hottest teams in the country having won 18 out of their last 20 games, and dismantled Saint Mary’s 83-58 in the WCC Final.

The ‘Zags are in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and Akron just does not have the firepower or the athleticism to keep up with Gonzaga for 40 minutes. Akron has the advantage in depth though. The Zips can go ten deep, and defend well. If they can wear down Jeremy Pargo, they have a chance.

Arizona State v. Temple (#6 v. #11)

Anyone who thinks these teams are both one-man shows is sadly mistaken. There is absolutely no doubt the Sun Devils’ James Harden and the Owls’ Dionte Christmas can take over a game offensively, the there will be another battle to keep an eye on down low.

ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph (14.5/8.4/66.5%) and Temple’s Lavoy Allen (10.9/8.9/57.9%) will be banging on the low blocks, and crashing the glass will be extremely important for both teams. The role players will be the deciding factor in this game, and if ASU point guard Derek Glasser minimizes mistakes, and finds Harden often, ASU has the advantage over the surprising Owls.

Syracuse v. Stephen F. Austin (#3 v. #14)

The Orange enter the tournament playing some of their best basketball of the season, and despite their fatiguing run through the Big East Tournament are a heavy favorite over the Lumberjacks. Jonny Flynn and Andy Rautins have been absolutely on fire, and there is no one on the Lumberjacks roster to match up with them.

The Lumberjacks are an interesting case. They are in the top 20 in defensive efficiency, but are 242nd in offensive efficiency. They beat Drake in December, but they also lost by 16 to Arkansas and 14 to Texas Tech, and neither one of those teams are as good as the ‘Cuse. The Lumberjacks will rotate in a lot of guys, and they only stand a chance if Syracuse isn’t fresh and comes out slow.

Clemson v. Michigan (#7 v. #10)

Both teams and their coaches come into the game with something to prove. The Tigers have to prove they are for real this year, and that they can make noise in the tournament, and the Wolverines need to prove their system works outside of the plodding Big Ten.

The game will feature two of the more athletic combo forwards in Clemson’s Trevor Booker and Michigan’s DeShawn Sims. It will be interesting to see if the two guard one another. But, the Wolverine offense goes as Manny Harris goes, but he is inconsistent as he has nine games with single-digit point totals. If Clemson’s KC Rivers can frustrate Harris, the Wolverines will have a tough time offensively.

Oklahoma v. Morgan State (#2 v. #15)

On paper, the Sooners have a clear advantage in every facet of the game, but the Bears have beaten both DePaul and Maryland, and played close games with Mississippi and St. Mary’s. The problem is, they don’t have anyone who can guard Blake Griffin, or Willie Warren.

Oklahoma has been struggling late and if ever there was a time to strike for Todd Bozeman’s club, now is the time. But they might not have enough weapons to keep up with the Sooners, and Griffin will get to have his way on the low blocks.

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NCAA Preview: Clemson Tigers

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2009

Clemson (#7 seed, South, Kansas City pod)

vs. Michigan (#10 seed)

Thursday, March 19th, 7:10 P.M.

Vegas Line: Clemson -5

clemson-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Clemson, South Carolina

Conference: ACC, at-large bid

Coach: Oliver Purnell, 94-70 at Clemson

08-09 Record: 23-8, 9-8 ACC

Last 12 Games: 6-6

Best Win: 74-47 v. Duke, February 3rd

Worst Loss: 81-86 v. Georgia Tech, March 12th in ACC Tournament

Off. Efficiency Rating: 117.4/ 9th overall

Def. Efficiency Rating: 94.1/ 51st overall

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): Trevor Booker- 15.3 points/game, 9.7 rebounds/game, 2.0 blocks/game, 56.7 FG%; KC Rivers- 14.2 points/game, 5.9 rebounds/game, 1.7 steals/game

Unsung Hero: Jerai Grant- 4.7 points/game, 3.1 rebounds/game, 1.4 blocks/game, 67.1 FG%

Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Trevor Booker, projected 51st overall

Key Injuries: None

Depth: 30.6%/ 183rd overall

Achilles Heel: This year is a different Clemson team than the ones that have faltered down the stretch, they play better defense and have more talent. But, they don’t have a true point guard or distributor. Demontez Stitt plays the role admirably, but he is better suited creating from the wing. No one on the team who plays meaningful minutes has a assist/turnover ratio better that Stitt’s 1.5/1.

Will Make a Deep Run if… The team will be fine as long as they play defense. The Tigers should have been playing in the second round last year but let Villanova shoot a ton of three-pointers and make a run to win. They have a very long and deep front court, and a solid group of wing players that will make plays, so Clemson really just needs to make sure they step up the defensive intensity.

Will Make an Early Exit if… If the Tigers don’t guard the perimeter well, they will be in trouble. They didn’t guard it well in losses to Virginia and then Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament, but they have the players who lockdown wing players. The Big Dance is the best place for a good shooter to get hot, and Clemson needs to make sure that doesn’t happen.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2008, Lost to Villanova in the first round

Streak: 2

Best NCAA Finish: In 1980, the Tigers made it to the Elite Eight before losing to UCLA

Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): n/a

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: None.

Distance to First Round Site: 913 miles away from Kansas City, Missouri

School’s Claim to Fame: Death Valley and Howard’s Rock. Apologies to Oliver Purnell, but Clemson will always be a football school and no one who has ever been to Death Valley has ever said they haven’t enjoyed their trip. The place is incredibly loud, and the fans are incredibly drunk passionate. Howard’s Rock is the rock the players touch before they run down the hill, and would be protected like the President if a rival school tried to mess with it.

School Wishes It Could Forget: The Larry Shyatt era.

Prediction: Michigan doesn’t really belong in the NCAA tournament, so Clemson should run them over, but beating Oklahoma will be much harder. The Tigers have the talent and potential to do so, but they will need to play the way they did in the middle of the season, not the way they did down the stretch.

Preview written by… Mike Lemaire

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QnD South Region Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009

SOUTH REGION PREVIEW (by Mike Lemaire)

Favorite
North Carolina, #1 seed, (27-3, 13-3 ACC)

Should They Falter
Syracuse, #3 seed, (23-8, 11-7 Big East)

Grossly Overseeded
Illinois, #5 seed, (23-8, 11-7 Big Ten)

Grossly Underseeded
Butler, #9 seed, (25-4, 15-3 Horizon)

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower)
Western Kentucky, #12 seed, (21-8, 15-3 Sun Belt)

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower)
Clemson, #7 seed, (23-7, 9-7 ACC)

Carmelo Anthony Award
James Harden, Arizona State- 20.8 points/game, 5.5 rebounds/game, 4.2 assists/game, 50.2 FG%

Stephen Curry Award
Reggie Holmes, Morgan State- 16.9 points/game, 5.5 assists/game, 37.8 3PT%

Home Cooking
North Carolina (#1 Seed), 50.7 miles away from Greensboro
Radford (#16 Seed), 135.8 miles away from Greensboro

Can’t Miss First Round Game
LSU v. Butler- Thursday, March 19th

Don’t Miss This One Either
Illinois v. Western Kentucky- Thursday, March 19th

Lock of the Year
Illinois will not make it out of the second round. Call me a Big Ten hater, but I am not a fan of any of the teams in the Big Ten, despite the fact they put seven teams in the tournament. Even if the Illini escape Western Kentucky, which will be difficult, there is no way this team will make it out of the second round. Chester Frazier is injured, and this team lacks any sort of offensive firepower. If they fall behind early, they aren’t capable of catching up

Juiciest Potential Match-up (Purists)
North Carolina v. Gonzaga could meet in the Sweet 16. Just the thought of Jeremy Pargo matching up against Ty Lawson makes purists start to salivate. The ‘Zags have a ton of talent, and could be a trendy Final Four team, but they will have to make it through the best team in their region. Two great coaches matching wits, two uber-athletic teams, and two fantastic point guards? Count me in!

Juiciest Potential Match-up (Media)
North Carolina v. Oklahoma would only meet in the Elite Eight, but if they do, I can already see the media firestorm that would engulf the game. Not because they are the two best teams, but because ESPN would love to get a Tyler Hansbrough vs. Blake Griffin storyline going. Griffin is assuming the throne from Hansbrough, and the thought of the two best big men in college basketball squaring off might even knock A-Rod out of the headlines.

We Got Screwed
Butler, #9 seed, (25-4, 15-3 ACC).  So let me get this straight. The Bulldogs lose only four games all season by a combined total of 19 points, and they get rewarded by playing a, the strongest #8 seed in the whole tournament, and if they win that, they only have to play what amounts to a home game for North Carolina. The Bulldogs had a fantastic season, but it doesn’t look like they have a great shot to make moves.

Strongest Pod
North Carolina vs. Radford and Butler vs. LSU.  From a talent standpoint, there are probably other pods in this region that are the strongest. But from a relative standpoint, you won’t find a better 16 seed, 8 seed, or 9 seed in the entire tournament. A lot of people will pick North Carolina to win it all, but just in this bracket alone we have the SEC regular season champ, one of the best mid-majors in the country, and a vastly underrated team which features a potential lottery pick in Radford’s Artsiom Parakhouski.

Wildcard, Bitches…
NBA scouts will be watching this region closely as there are a ton of juicy pro prospects.  Here is a Top 10 list:

1. Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)…(No. 1 on NBA Draft Net’s Big Board)
2. James Harden (ASU)…(No. 3)
3. Willie Warren (Oklahoma)…(No.18)
4. Ed Davis (UNC)…(No. 28)
5. Ty Lawson (UNC)…(No. 29)
6. Tyler Hansbrough (UNC)…(No. 32)
7. Wayne Ellington (UNC)…(No. 40)
8. Trevor Booker (Clemson)…(No. 51)
9. Jonny Flynn (Syracuse)…(No. 53)
10. Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga)…(No. 59)

So-Called Experts
UNC.  Almost every expert from CBS and ESPN has picked the Tar Heels to move on to Detroit.

Vegas Odds to Win Region

2009-south-odds


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02.25.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on February 25th, 2009

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.15.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 15th, 2009

dynamite

Welcome back to another edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite. I’m back as your semi-regular host after a day off with John Stevens covering for me. Today is a kind of weird day of basketball with the best games later in the day going head-to-head against the NBA All-Star game. So hopefully everyone will be sticking with us throughout the day and the real basketball fans (the ones who actually like defense and competition) will stay with us into the night.

1:00 PM: Our early games today are Illinois at  Indiana on CBS and Clemson at Virginia on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com. We’ll be updating you with highlights of those games throughout the day, but like always if there is something going on that we are missing or we make a mistake leave us a message in the comment section.

1:10 PM: Illinois is up 10-7 early. Bruce Weber‘s club must be riding high after their amazing comeback at Northwestern in their last game. Clemson is tied 3-3 in Charlottesville with 15:54 left in the first half. I’m guessing today is Sean Singletary day at UVA today based on the parts of the pre-game that I caught. Singletary, a 3-time 1st team All-ACC player, is one of three players in ACC history (Danny Ferry and Johnny Dawkins being the others) to have 2,000 career points, 500 career assists, and 400 career rebounds.

1:25 PM: Illinois is up 15-7 as we go to a TV timeout. CBS just showed a graphic about Indiana’s tough losses this year by featuring the games they led, but lost. You know the Hooisers are having a bad year when having a lead of 2 points at some point during the game is highlighted as a tough loss. Meanwhile, UVA is up 16-7 with 11:54 as they head into a timeout as well.

1:30 PM: I just noticed the electronic board on the side of the court at Assembly Hall. I guess it’s a nice fan friendly feature and probably generates some revenue through ads, but I think it looks horrendous in this famous arena. I haven’t noticed it at Cameron Indoor, but I think they should avoid it in the historic arenas.

1:40 PM: Jeff Jordan just hit a jumper for Illinois. As we noted before, he was recently was given a scholarship at Illinois. For those of you who haven’t seen him play, we think you might have missed his only big play of the day if his performance this season is any indication of what we can expect today. He’ll probably be out there quite a bit since Indiana is awful so watch for #13 on Illinois.

1:45 PM: UVA is up 22-16 coming out of a timeout with 5:11 left in the first half. Illinois is up 27-13 with a little less than 5 minutes left in the first half. I’ll be focusing on the UVA-Clemson game for now unless the Illinois-Indiana game gets interesting.

1:55 PM: UVA is up 33-25 at half. That 3 by Terrence Oglesby with a little over a minute left in the first half was Clemson’s first of the day after the Tigers missed their first 10 straight. The Cavaliers might have a chance if the Tigers continue to have difficulty hitting from the outside. Trevor Booker has had a big first half with 10 of Clemson’s 25 points, but it wasn’t enough as none of the other Tigers are playing well today. Illinois is up 38-21 at half.

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Set Your Tivos: 02.07.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 6th, 2009

Set Your Tivos
I’m not sure why everyone complains about February. Sure the NFL season is over, but at least we don’t need to hear about steroids, holdouts, and whether or not both feet were in bounds. There isn’t a blockbuster “Game of the Year” match-up today, but there are several solid games for the hoops aficionado. So just settle into your favorite spot on the couch and dig in. In the spirit of promoting healthy habits, we suggest that you try to have some vegetables today so use some ketchup on your food today.

#20 Syracuse at #16 Villanova at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The appetizer for a great day of basketball. This isn’t necessarily a must win for either team, but a win today would probably boost their NCAA seed by at least a spot on Selection Sunday. Both teams have virtually assured themselves a NCAA bid (particularly with Syracuse’s relatively easy remaining schedule in the Big East). One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that if the Orangemen lose, there is a decent chance that they will drop out of the top 25 leaving the Big East with only 5 teams in the top 25 after having as many as 9 teams earlier this season. Anyways, back to the game. Watch the match-up at point guard featuring Jonny Flynn against Scottie Reynolds. The winner of that match-up will likely win the game barring an explosion by either Eric Devendorf or Dante Cunningham.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Cincinnati at Georgetown at Noon on The Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Georgetown is killing me this year. I saw them play in Orlando against Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic. They lost that game, but it was pretty clear to me that day that they had the talent to make it to the Sweet 16 at the very least. I never imagined that they might be in a position at this point in the season that they might not make the NCAA tournament. To be fair, at that time I was also operating under the assumption that Tennessee was good. The Hoyas were able to break their 5-game losing streak against Rutgers and will need to beat the Bearcats if they want to get some momentum heading into their game against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. If John Thompson III is able to figured out a way to keep Deonta Vaughn in check, the Hoyas should be able to ride Greg Monroe and DaJuan Summer to a victory.

Notre Dame at #12 UCLA at 1 PM on CBS: The Irish are desperate for a victory having lost 6 straight games. They will have to end their losing streak in one of the rare non-conference match-ups this month. Everybody knows Luke Harangody is going to get his (25.3 PPG and 13.2 RPG), but Notre Dame will need Kyle McAlarney to break out of his prolonged shooting slump and get a great game out of Tory Jackson, who will be matched up against the Bruins veteran PG, Darren Collison. Look for UCLA to pull away in the 2nd half behind Collison, Josh Shipp, and Jrue Holiday.

Miami (FL) at #3 Duke at 1:30 PM on Raycom, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: I’m fully expecting Duke to come back strong at home after the massacre at Littlejohn on Wednesday night, which is something that rtmsf actually predicted before the game (sort of), but nobody picked up on until after the game. (Ok, nobody has really picked up on it yet.) On the other hand, Miami was on the right side of the other blowout upset beating Wake Forest by 27. Look for Kyle Singler to rebound with a strong game after a weak “effort” against Clemson that was plagued by foul trouble. Coach K will likely use Gerald Henderson, the only Blue Devil who showed up against Clemson, on Jack McClinton in an attempt to slow down the mercurial Miami star. If Singler and Henderson can contain or at least equal Dwayne Collins and McClinton, respectively, the Blue Devils should return to their winning ways. Well at least until UNC invades Cameron on Wednesday night.

kyle-singler

#17 Texas at Nebraska at 2 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Texas will be looking to rebound after back-to-back losses on the road. Today, they return to Austin to take on the Cornhuskers. Look for A.J. Abrams and Damion James to have big games as Rick Barnes‘s squad will definitely be motivated in this one after falling 3.5 back of conference leader Oklahoma. If Abrams and James have big games that should be enough to hold off Nebraska’s balanced attack.

Michigan at #1 UConn at 6 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This is a game that the Huskies should be able to win fairly convincingly particularly with the game in Gampel Pavillion, but as this year has taught us never expect too much out of the #1 ranked team in the country. A Michigan win would obviously do wonders for their NCAA tournament chances, but it will tough particularly with John Beilein‘s recent changes in his rotations including bringing DeShawn Sims off the bench in their 71-51 win over Penn State in their last game. The new lineup, which is still led by Manny Harris, may provide some match-up problems for UConn and their big men. I expect UConn to pull this one especially with the recent play of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, but Michigan could give them problems and Beilein certainly knows all about the Huskies dating back to his days as the coach at West Virginia.

Charleston at Davidson at 6 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Most people will tune in just to watch Stephen Curry, but this could actually be a realtively close game (a rarity for the Wildcats in the weak Southern Conference). When these teams met earlier this season, the Wildcats escaped with a 4-point win on the road after Charleston had a chance to tie it with a 3 with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game. This is particularly meaningful as the Wildcats haven’t lost a Southern Conference game since January 20, 2007 (a 43-game winning streak). As an added bonus, you can see Bobby Cremins (former head coach of Georgia Tech) try to come up with a scheme to guard Curry. Cremins is one of the few coaches in the country who has had a player who was at Curry’s level or even above that as he coached Kenny Anderson (along with Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver aka “Lethal Weapon 3″) to the NCAA Final 4 in 1991.

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Credit: www.zimbio.com

Florida State at #10 Clemson at 7 PM on NESN and Fox Sports: I’m actually more interested in this game than the others for my own selfish reason since I’ll be doing another RTC Live when Clemson comes to Boston College on Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers have returned to Earth after their beatdown the hated Blue Devils just a few days ago. Oliver Purnell‘s squad had better be ready because the Seminoles are a fairly dangerous team (ask Roy Williams, who needed a Ty Lawson 3 at the buzzer to pull out a win against FSU). This is a classic letdown game so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on it especially if Toney Douglas gets hot or if either Trevor Booker or K.C. Rivers isn’t on his game after the celebrations following the Duke win.

#19 Minnesota at Ohio State at 8 PM on The Big Ten Network: Minnesota will be licking its wounds after getting crushed by Michigan State at the Breslin Center earlier this week. Unfortunately for Tubby Smith, the Gophers have to head to Columbus to take on a Buckeye team that just knocked off Purdue. If Evan Turner is hot, the Buckeyes could make a move into the top 25 with a win here knocking the Gophers out in the process.

#23 Arizona State at Oregon State at 8:30 PM on Fox Sports: James Harden and the Sun Devils will be looking to complete the Oregon sweep against Craig Robinson‘s Beavers. [Ed. Note: Isn't Robinson related to some famous guy? I thought I heard something about it on the news.] The Beavers, who were undefeated following Barack Obama‘s Inauguration, finally lost to Arizona ending Oregon State’s hopes of riding Obama-mania to an undefeated term. If the Sun Devils can contain Calvin Haynes, they should hand the Beavers a second consecutive defeat.

Do you pay your taxes?
No, Mr. President. I’m not Reggie Love.

#15 Memphis at #18 Gonzaga at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Spokane is the site of ESPN GameDay today and it features a match-up of two highly regarded programs that hit rough patches this season, but have rebounded well. Gonzaga appears to have used their victory over Tennessee in Knoxville as a catalyst for their resurgence (Patty Mills‘s injury didn’t hurt either). Memphis, on the other hand, appears to have found its rhythm again with John Calipari‘s decision to move freshman Tyreke Evans from shooting guard to point guard (the kid is lost when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands). Evans has responded with his best play of the season and the Tigers have not lost since the move. Interestingly, both teams dominance in their leagues means that this is a huge game for each in terms of NCAA seeding. A win today would probably be worth 2 seeds on Selection Sunday assuming both teams are able to run the table for the rest of the regular season. Despite the fact that both teams have pretty balanced scoring attacks (4 starters in double figures for each team), the key to this game will likely be the PG match-up of Evans versus Jeremy Pargo. If the more experienced Pargo can outplay Evans, the Bulldogs should be able to run away with this one. If he isn’t, we could be in for a hard-fought game.

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ATB: Wed. Night of Blowouts

Posted by rtmsf on February 4th, 2009

afterbuzzer1Story of the Night. Life on the road can be pretty tough in the ACC.  Top ten teams Duke and Wake Forest were both obliterated by Clemson and Miami (FL), respectively. It’s not often that two top 10 teams get destroyed on the same evening.

  • Clemson 74, Duke 47. If we wanted to be succinct, we’d just point you to today’s post suggesting the Duke Swoon was about to begin.  Still, the sheer dominance that Clemson showed over Duke tonight was shocking.  Unlike their Tobacco Road brethren in W-S, Duke doesn’t typically get run out of the gym.  Yet the Tigers did just that, and handed the Devils their worst loss in 19 seasons as a result.  Everything that Clemson did seemed to be the right manuever, and everything Duke tried seemed to be the wrong one.   It’s just one game, but the fact of the matter is that Duke is once again a flawed team (no inside game and limited offensive options), and we’re afraid they’re going to see several more of these Ls in February/March than they had in the previous months.  Clemson’s Trevor Booker had 21/8 in a ridunkulous performance, and Terrence Oglesby added 17 on five threes.
  • Miami (FL) 79, Wake Forest 52. It’s official, there’s something seriously wrong with this Deacon squad, and it’s not just that they can’t shoot threes (last in the nation in % of points from threes).  Anybody can have an off night, but Wake has now had three “off” nights in their last four games, and it’s not like the competition was Duke or Carolina (WFU is outstanding at getting up for those teams).  Our best guess is that there are players following NBA agendas, because the talent is such that this team shouldn’t be losing by 27 to anybody.  The question is whether they can get their chemistry back and look like the same team that won at BYU, at Clemson and vs. UNC.  Otherwise, this team is going nowhere fast.  Miami’s Jack McClinton blew up for 32 pts (6-10 from three) as the Canes’ 2-3 zone held Wake to 32% shooting (15% from three).  There was an RTC at the end of the game by the Miami students, made somewhat pathetic by the fact that the arena was half-empty.

One Blowout and Two Close Games.

  • Michigan St. 76, Minnesota 47. MSU came out with a vengeance tonight after losing its last two home games to the likes of Northwestern and Penn St.  Durrell Summers had 21 pts, but it was the Spartan defense that did the job, holding Minnesota’s starters to five total FGs for the game, and running out to a 42-16 halftime lead.  It was a night to forget for Minnesota, but both of these teams are in solid shape with respect to the NCAA Tourney.
  • Oklahoma 77, Texas A&M 71. OU just keeps doing what it does, although tonight with five minutes to go it appeared that A&M had their number.  With a nine-point lead, the Aggies decided it would be a good idea to start chucking random jumpers from all over the floor.  Very quickly Oklahoma came back, secured the lead again and finished off A&M to the tune of a 16-1 run.  Blake Griffin had 16/14 in the win that puts OU at 8-0 in the Big 12.
  • Missouri 69, Texas 65. This is the kind of road win that would have been unthinkable for Mike Anderson’s program just last season.  But this year, Mizzou has proven thus far that it can play with much of the Big 12, and at 19-4 (6-2) are right there in the mix should Oklahoma and/or Kansas falter down the stretch.  Missouri’s Zaire Taylor had the game-winning three-point play with five seconds remaining, but we should also note that UT’s Dexter Pittman had the best game of his career (25/7 in 23 minutes).

Other Games From Wednesday Night.

  • Indiana 68, Iowa 60. IU gets its first Big Ten win of the year (and in two months) by holding off Iowa behind Devan Dumes’ 27 pts.  Good for Tom Crean’s crew.
  • UCLA 76, USC 60. This game got ugly fast (44-21 at halftime), and UCLA coasted the rest of the way behind Alfred Aboya’s 14/12 and Josh Shipp’s 19 pts.
  • Syracuse 74, West Virginia 61. WVU is the kind of team that will cause somebody fits in the first round of the NCAAs (assuming they get there), but Syracuse had no problem tonight at home behind twin 22-pt performances from Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf.
  • Boston College 80, Virginia 70. UVa is officially the whipping boy of the ACC – believe it or not, BC is now tied in the loss column (3 Ls) for second place in the conference.
  • UNC-Wilmington 81, VCU 72. First big upset in the CAA tonight, as 2-9 UNCW defeated conference #2 VCU behind Chad Tomko’s 19/6/6 assts.
  • William & Mary 68, Northeastern 63. Ditto for this one, as 1-10 W&M beat 10-1 Northeastern.  Crazy night in the CAA.
  • LSU 80, Georgia 62. You know you have problems when LSU is going into your house and whipping you.  Marcus Thornton had 30 for the Bayou Tigers.
  • Cincinnati 93, Notre Dame 83. Is it safe to officially put a fork in the Irish, now losers of six in a row?  At 3-7 in the Big East, they have a herculean task ahead of them.  ‘Gody had 28/14, his 11th straight dub-dub, but Deonta Vaughn killed them for 34 pts on the other end.
  • Villanova 94, Providence 91. Villanova keeps winning the games it’s supposed to win, which is a must in this rugged conference.  Scottie Reynolds had 31/6 in this one where the Cats held on despite PC’s 17 threes.
  • Tennessee 74, Arkansas 72. JP Prince had several clutch shots down the stretch of this one to keep the Hawgs from getting their second SEC win – they really need to schedule more Big 12 teams.
  • Memphis 79, SMU 66. Memphis won its fiftieth CUSA game in a row behind Tyreke Evans’ 26 pts.  Is there a Death Watch on Matt Doherty at SMU – they’re now 6-14 (1-7 CUSA) with literally no sign of improvement (30-51 overall; 8-32 CUSA).
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Set Your Tivos: 02.04.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 4th, 2009

Set Your Tivos
After last night’s relatively weak slate of games, we’re back to normal tonight with a great set of games.

Game of the Day
#3 Duke at #10 Clemson at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Our second top 10 match-up of the week. Once again the road team is the higher ranked team, but I feel like this time they are also the favorites coming in to the game. All of you know about Duke by now thanks to their frequent appearances on national TV so I will keep it brief. Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson have emerged as their two most consistent players. Usually that is enough to get them by most teams even if they only get minimal support from the rest of the team. However, when that happens against quality teams the result isn’t always that good (even if they come really really close). The key for the Blue Devils in this game and for the rest of the season will be the play of Brian Zoubek (go ahead and snicker Duke haters) and Nolan Smith. Zoubek merely needs to be a mediocre 7-footer and Coach K and the rest of the Blue Devils staff will be happy. Smith, who replaced Greg Paulus in the starting lineup, has to improve his decision-making. He must have one of the worst assist-to-turnover ratios (1.03 to 1) of any starting PG on a top team in the nation. On the other side of the ball, Clemson may be the most under-appreciated team in the country. I’m not sure if it is the Tigers’ recent history of falling apart down the stretch, but I never hear anybody mentioning them as a team that could make a run in March despite the fact that they probably have the most reasonable losses of any team in the country (Wake Forest and at UNC). The key for Oliver Purnell‘s team will be to have Trevor Booker dominate on the inside. I doubt that Duke will let him play against Zoubek so he will probably have to do it against Singler, which could make for an interesting match-up. If Booker can win that match-up, Clemson will have a shot. After that they will need a strong game out of K.C. Rivers and hope to contain Duke’s outside shooters (particularly Jon Scheyer). I think Clemson will keep it close until midway through the 2nd half when Duke will go on a run and pull away to win by about a dozen.

Worth Watching
West Virginia at #20 Syracuse at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Mountaineers are a a perfect example of why it is so hard to read Big East teams. They are only 4-4 in the conference, but all 4 of those losses were to top 10 teams (UConn, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Marquette). Likewise, Syracuse comes in having lost 3 straight and 4 of 5, but 3 of those losses have been on the road (Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and Providence) and the other to one of the hottest teams (Louisville) in the country. The Orangemen should be able to break their recent skid if they can contain Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff, but a lot of that will have to do with whether or not they will have their full compliment of players available. Mookie Jones is done for the year with a hip injury, but someone will have to step up as Jim Boeheim can’t expect to get 62 points from Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf every game (and even that didn’t work in their last game).

#19 Minnesota at #14 Michigan State at 8:30 PM on The Big Ten Network: What is going on with the Spartans? Tom Izzo‘s team has lost back-to-back games at the Breslin Center to pretty weak competition (Northwestern and Penn State). Just two weeks ago everyone was talking about this team as a potential Final 4 contender with the return of Goran Suton. Unfortunately for Izzo, the Spartans will be without Raymar Morgan, who is out with “walking pneumonia”. To turn things around, the Spartans will need improved play out of Kalin Lucas, who still boasts an impressive 3.09 to 1 assist to TO ratio, but most of that is from his early season play. They will have to do it against a Gopher team that held Illinois to a ridiculous 36 points in their last game. Keep an eye on Al Nolen and Ralph Sampson III in this one for the Gophers as they will be matched up against Lucas and Suton respectively.

#6 Wake Forest at Miami (FL) at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Wake needs to develop some consistency if they want to be a national championship contender. We know that they can beat the big boys as they knocked off UNC, Clemson, and Duke in a three week stretch. The question is why they can’t maintain that level of play when they go up against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech (both losses). Dino Gaudio will need to figure this out if he wants to get this team up to the level of Duke and UNC at the end of the season. Maybe it’s just a focus thing, which hopefully shouldn’t be an issue in March. Either way, this trip to Miami should be a nice challenge for the Demon Deacons. Jeff Teague will be matched up against Jack McClinton and Al-Farouq Aminu will be up against Dwayne Collins. I think Miami may be able to hold its own in those match-ups. Unfortunately for Frank Haith, the Hurricanes run into depth problems after their top 2 while the Demon Deacons run much deeper. Perhaps Haith should look into giving more PT to his ridiculously athletic freshman DeQuan Jones.

#16 Villanova at Providence at 8 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Villanova finally got the signature win we were asking for by beating Pittsburgh last week in the last college basketball game at the Spectrum. This time they will have to do it on the road against a Friar team that was playing well before they ran into the UConn buzzsaw. Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds will need to have solid games if Jay Wright‘s crew is going to pull out a rare Big East road win against a Providence team that is actually above them in the Big East standings. Providence will need a solid effort out of its 8-deep rotation including Weyinmi Efejuku and Jonathan Kale to defend its home court tonight.

Keep an Eye On
Notre Dame at Cincinnati at 7:30 PM on ESPN360.com: Mike Brey
needs  Kyle McAlarney to snap out of his funk and start helping Luke Harangody out or the Fighting Irish might be looking at trip to the NIT this year. This is a game Notre Dame needs to win if they expect to make the NCAA tournament.

Tennessee at Arkansas at 8 PM on Raycom, Fox Sports South, and ESPN360.com: Can freshman Scotty Hopson be the one to reenergize the Vols who have struggled to play up their pre-season #8 ranking? Bruce Pearl might want to give him some more PT against the confusing Arkansas team that beat Texas and Oklahoma (the Sooners only loss), but is just 1-5 in the SEC.

Texas A&M at #2 Oklahoma at 9 PM on The Big 12 Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Watch this one for Blake Griffin, who will be your national Player of the Year barring some freak injury or sketchy voting. I guess the Aggies played Oklahoma close at College Station so this could be a decent game, but since it is in Norman I doubt it will be that close after the half unless the Sooners are already looking ahead to Texas and Kansas two weeks from now.

USC at #12 UCLA at 10:30 PM on Fox Sports: Ben Howland‘s will be going for a sweep of the California Pac-10 teams at Pauley Pavilion against their cross-town rivals. The Trojans are my pick for secretly good team that nobody is talking about, but could make a run in March. Watch this one for the battle of the freshmen: DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday. They won’t be matched up against each other, but it should be fun to see Josh Shipp guard DeRozan. As an added bonus, you might get to see Lil’ Romeo (ok, maybe not).

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 01.25.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 25th, 2009

dynamite1Today is going to be a little different than our typical Boom Goes the Dynamite posts based on the fact that rtmsf is on vacation and I will be in-and-out of the house throughout the day. It looks like there are only 3 games worth focusing on today (Louisville at Syracuse, Michigan State at Ohio State, and Pittsburgh at West Virginia) and given our situation, that is what I will be doing.

Noon: Thanks to ESPN’s greediness (putting it on Full Court) and the non-functional ESPN360 log-in system, I’ll be bringing you the Louisville-Syracuse game via GameCast. If any of you are getting the game, let us know what is going on in the comment section.

1:00 PM: It looks like we have two close games at the half. One was expected (Louisville at Syracuse), but the other was not (Minnesota at Indiana). In the first game, which Louisville leads 38-33 at intermission, the Cardinals have led the entire game (biggest lead at 30-20). Terrence Williams (11 points and 5 rebounds) and Earl Clark (9 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists) are leading the Cardinals, but Samardo Samuels has had a rough start (0 points on 0/4 FG with 2 fouls ). Eric Devendorf (10 points and 3 assists) has kept the Orangemen in the game. In the other game, Minnesota does not appear to be out of its current funk (2-game losing streak). Indiana actually had a 8-point lead in the first half before the Gophers rallied back to take a 31-30 lead at half. The Hooisers will need to keep up the hot shooting from 3 (6/9 in the first half from beyond the arc) if they want to pull of the big upset.

1:15 PM: The Orangemen have cut the lead to 2 off a Devendorf 3. TV timeout with 15:41 left. Looks like a great game that approximately ~10% of college basketball fans have access to. Congrats to ESPN and the NCAA. Way to promote college basketball.

1:45 PM: Thanks to Matt for the updates. I briefly got side-tracked by putting up a post about the ugly incident involving Aubrey Coleman stepping on Chase Budinger‘s face last night.

1:50 PM: It looks like we have a pair of great finishes and I’m stuck waiting for GameCast to refresh.

1:55 PM: ESPN News is giving a live look-in. Final minute on now. I’d recommend checking it out.

1:57 PM: Nice. ESPN.com is already calling the game even though I can clearly see that it is still going on thanks to the ESPN News look-in.

ESPN calling the game before it was done
ESPN calling the game before it was done

2:00 PM: Well Louisville won anyways. Final score was 67-57 not 63-57 (see above).

2:03 PM: Minnesota is barely hanging on (64-62 with 0:29 left). Big game from Ralph Sampson III (13 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 blocks).

2:10 PM: Minnesota hangs on to win the game 67-63. The Gophers will need to step it up if they want a NCAA bid this year.

2:30 PM: Only notable game right now is Georgetown at Seton Hall. The game is tied at 14. Georgetown will probably drop quite a bit in the new poll on Monday. They might need to win this on the road to stay in the top 25. My updates will be infrequent over the next hour or two due to a prior commitment. I’ll update this when necessary. Keep the comments coming.

5:30 PM: And I’m back. . .This is what happens when rtmsf leaves me out to dry. Here’s a quick recap of what happened while I was away: Georgetown will be out of the top 25 on Monday after losing at Seton Hall. The Hoyas  were held to their worst shooting day of the season (32.7% FG and 13.6% 3pt). I’m starting to believe more in my earlier statement that there are only 2-3 really good/great teams in the Big East and a bunch of good teams that are inconsistent. Meanwhile, there’s a good game going on in Columbus (Michigan State is leading Ohio State, 64-56 with 4:23 left). I’ll be following it on CBS.

5:35 PM: Thad Matta picks up a stupid technical with the Buckeyes down by 11 with 2:27 left. Good job maintaining your composure there Coach.

5:50 PM: Big game by  Durrell Summers (26 points) is enough to get the Spartans a nice road win.

6:00 PM: It looks like Pittsburgh is pulling away from West Virginia. The Mountaineers hung tough for the first 25 minutes before  Jamie Dixon’s team began to open up a lead. Bob Huggins has gotten big games out of Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff, but Pittsburgh superior depth is coming into play with 4 players in double figures.

6:10 PM: Pittsburgh hangs on for a 79-67 win. Nothing remotely interesting on until Georgia Tech at Clemson at 7:45 PM. If that game is worth watching, I will be posting again so check back then.

9:00 PM: Clemson is only up 37-34 on Georgia Tech at half. Oliver Purnell needs Trevor Booker (5 points on 0/3 FG in the first half) to step up if he doesn’t want to start another ACC freefall this year.

9:10 PM: Is this a different Clemson team? I know they still can’t win in Chapel Hill, but they’re actually showing some toughness tonight and have opened up a 49-37 lead with 16 minutes left in the game.

10:00 PM: Well it looks like Clemson has avoided their annual ACC collapse for at least one more game. Terrence Oglesby‘s big night from the outside (5/13 from 3) and Trevor Booker’s double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds) were enough to hold off the Yellow Jackets.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.20.09-01.22.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 20th, 2009

Set Your TivosIn light of the weak set of games this week, we’re bringing you a midweek (Tuesday-Thursday) Set Your Tivos before the weekend edition (Friday night’s games are awful so go out and do something that night).

Tuesday (01.20.09)
- Ohio State at #24 Illinois, 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Illinois has been one of the most surprising teams in the first half of the college basketball season. Bruce Weber‘s team came into the season without a single vote in either major poll and now they sit in the top 25. Although they are only 3-2 in the Big Ten this year, the Fighting Illini have shown everyone that they will contend for the conference title this year with their performance in the early season. All three of their losses this year have been against respectable competition: Clemson (by 2 points), at Michigan (avenged last week), and at Michigan State (by 6). On the other hand, Ohio State has been disappointing since the loss of David Lighty and has went 6-3 since his injury after starting 7-0 including a win over Notre Dame.

Illinois’s strength this year has been their balanced scoring attack with 4 players averaging between 11.3 and 11.8 PPG. They are led by Dmeteri McCamey (11.8 PPG and 4.9 APG) at the point and Mike Davis (11.3 PPG and 7.3 RPG) on the inside. They are a potential Sweet 16 team if Kentucky transfer Alex Legion can become more consistent and play like he did against Michigan State (15 points on 6/13 FG).

The key to this game will be Weber’s ability to limit Evan Turner, who is averaging 15.9 PPG and 7.0 RPG this season. While Thad Matta has two other players (Jon Diebler and William Buford) who average double figures along with the highly touted B.J. Mullens, Turner is the most consistent scorer that Matta has. If Weber can get Davis to slow down Turner, Illinois should be able to pull this one out.

Wednesday (01.21.09)
- #21 Villanova at #3 UConn, 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Yet another ridiculous Big East battle. Even though I am fairly certain that UConn and Pittsburgh are the best teams in the conference (unless Louisville keeps playing at this level), I have a feeling that the regular season title will be determined by which team wins its other conference games. Quite frankly (sorry Stephen A.), Villanova shouldn’t beat UConn in Storrs if the Huskies play up to their potential.

Calhoun’s talented, but enigmatic backcourt of A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson, and Kemba Walker will have to contend with Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, and Corey Stokes. The match-up is pretty close, but I’d give the edge to the Huskies here unless Reynolds goes off. On the inside, the Huskies also have the advantage, but will need to contain Dante Cunningham, who comes in averaging 17.4 PPG and 7.4 RPG. If they can prevent him from having a monster game, UConn will have a decided edge on the inside. One of Jim Calhoun‘s on-going challenges will be getting Stanley Robinson to play consistently after his unusual sabatical. If Calhoun can get consistent play out of Robinson to go along with the surprisingly consistent Hasheem Thabeet (except for the Gonzaga game) and the explosive slasher Jeff Adrien, he might just find himself in Detroit in April.

- #9 Clemson at #6 UNC, 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Will Clemson ever win a game at Chapel Hill? The Tigers’ losing streak in Chapel Hill currently stands at a NCAA record 53 games dating back to their first visit there on January 15, 1926. After Saturday’s loss to current #1 Wake Forest, Clemson will be looking to rebound and avoid their annual ACC slide. Unfortunately for Clemson, UNC is probably stronger than them at every position and has the previously mentioned home court edge.

Oliver Purnell will also need solid play out of his 9-deep rotation (all averaging over 13.2 MPG), which is led by Trevor Booker and K.C. Rivers. Booker will likely be matched up against reigning POY Tyler Hansbrough. It will be a tough match-up for Booker and even matching Hansbrough will likely mean a 54th consecutive loss for Tigers at Chapel Hill. Clemson’s best hope is to use their depth and pressure defense to rattle Ty Lawson, who has been playing well this year except for the Tar Heels two losses (9 assists and 8 TOs in those games).

Roy Williams will need to focus on keeping his stars out of foul trouble because the Tigers are one of the few teams in the country that can match UNC’s depth although not necessarily with the same quality that the Tar Heels have. Even though this is a conference match-up against a top 10 team UNC should be able to handle the Tigers relatively easily particularly if Wayne Ellington continues his hot shooting from the 2nd half of the Miami game.

Thursday (01.22.09)
- West Virginia at No. 14 Georgetown, 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: After losing consecutive games to UConn and Marquette, the Mountaineers feasted on a break in their schedule with back-to-back wins over Marshall and USF. Unfortunately for Bob Huggins, if West Virginia wants to make the NCAA tournament they will have to start stealing a few wins against the upper tier teams in the conference. On the other sideline, John Thompson III will need to focus on his team’s energy level after a hard-fought win against Syracuse and a tough loss at Duke on Saturday.

This game will likely come down to whether Huggins can find somebody inside to battle Greg Monroe and DaJuan Summers. The Mountaineers match-up well on the outside with Alex Ruoff and Darryl Bryant going up against Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, but Da’Sean Butler will have his hands full against Monroe and Summers assuming Monroe can stay out of foul trouble and the “fans behind the bench” keep quiet. I expect the Hoyas to pull away in this one midway through the second half after struggling to find their focus in the first half.

- #18 Purdue at #20 Minnesota, 7 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: This one looks like it will be a battle of teams fighting for a #2 seed in the Big Ten tournament (the Spartans look like a strong #1 in the conference). The Boilermakers have rebounded well from an 0-2 start in the Big Ten and have won 3 straight. Matt Painter‘s club relies on its own Big Three (sorry Boston fans) of E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, and JaJuan Johnson. If Hummel is back to 100%, they are one of the better trios in the Big Ten. Purdue’s problem is the big drop-off after that as their 4th leading scorer averages 8.0 PPG (respectable) on 34.1% FG (not so respectable).

Tubby Smith will be looking for his club to bounce back after a bad loss at Northwestern on Sunday. Lawrence Westbrook is the unquestioned star of this team, but we’re more curious about Ralph Sampson III (yes, that’s his son). I’m expecting this one to be a hard-fought game, but I think Purdue will be able to pull this one out against the Gophers, who I believe may be getting too much credit by the media for their win against the suddenly resurgent Louisville Cardinals earlier in the year.

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