Where 2014-15 Happens: Reason #6 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2014

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2014-15 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on November 14. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. For all of this year’s released posts, click here

#6 – Where A Valiant Pursuit of Perfection Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-13 and 2013-14 preseasons.

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Where 2014-15 Happens: Reason #25 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2014

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2014-15 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on November 14. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. For all of this year’s released posts, click here

#25 – Where 31-0 Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-13 and 2013-14 preseasons.

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Wichita State in Great Position to Finish the Regular Season Unbeaten

Posted by Adam Stillman on February 6th, 2014

The biggest hurdle has been cleared. An undefeated regular season for fourth-ranked Wichita State (24-0, 11-0 MVC) now looks like a strong possibility after the Shockers traveled Wednesday night to Terre Haute and left with a hard-fought 65-58 victory against Indiana State. The Shockers entered the game with a 38.5 percent chance of going unbeaten, according to Ken Pomeroy’s projections. Now, after completing the season sweep of the only other legitimate challenger in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Shockers’ chances at perfection jumped all the way up to 55.6 percent. A win at Northern Iowa on Saturday would boost that number to about 68 percent. (Ed. note: Pomeroy noted on Twitter last night that continuing the run to 34-0 through Arch Madness would roughly approximate to a 34 percent chance as of today.)

Wichita State is on track to finish the season undefeated. (Photo courtesy of si.com)

Wichita State is on track to finish the season undefeated. (Photo courtesy of si.com)

The Shockers now have a reasonable chance to become the first team in 23 seasons to head into the NCAA Tournament without a loss on the resume. Defending national champion UNLV finished the regular season at 30-0 before falling to Duke in the 1991 Final Four. The 2004 Saint Joseph’s squad, led by Jameer Nelson, finished regular season play at 27-0 before falling in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. And recall Murray State started out 23-0 just two years ago before falling at home to Tennessee State in mid-February. So if we’re talking regular season here, the Shockers are chasing a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in a decade. And what an accomplishment it would be.

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Morning Five: 08.21.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 21st, 2013

morning5

  1. It’s never too early — repeating, never too early — to begin talk of undefeated seasons. After all, all 350 Division 1 basketball schools are unbeaten in August, and September, and even October. A fair number will make it through November unscathed, but by the time we hit the new year, roughly a dozen or fewer will be standing. To make it to February without a blemish is rare indeed, while standing with a zero in the L column at the start of March is just short of impossible. Still, it makes for fun speculation no matter the time of year, and with the release of Kentucky‘s 2013-14 schedule on Tuesday, the chatter has already become rampant on the likelihood of John Calipari’s team running the table. The marketing guru himself uses the opportunity to “chase perfection” in his pitch to elite recruits, and he’s certainly got enough raw talent on board next year to at least entertain the question. Of course, dozens of more experienced and talented teams than next year’s Wildcats have proven unable to win every game on the schedule, so you’ll forgive us if we, along with a few other veteran watchers of the sport such as TSN’s Mike DeCourcy, collectively roll our eyes at the very notion (DeCourcy gives five reasons why UK won’t do it). Not only will UK not go unbeaten next season, it says here that they’d best be served by losing a couple before heading into March Madness — the last team to lose fewer than two games en route to a national title were those same legendary 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.
  2. Sticking around the Bluegrass State, the UK Athletics Hall of Fame announced its 2013 incoming class on Tuesday, and one of the names on the list makes you wonder whether enough time and water under the bridge has passed for Kentucky fans to again embrace one of their five national championship coaches, Tubby Smith. When Smith alighted north for Minnesota in 2007, the attitude among the majority of Wildcat faithful was one of good riddance. Smith’s recruiting struggles had manifested in a series of disappointing seasons in the mid-2000s, and while the head coach was almost universally liked and respected as a person, he had unquestionably worn out his welcome in Lexington. A harrowing subsequent two years with Billy Gillispie led to the John Calipari era and all the riches that followed, but six years of (mostly) success isn’t really all that long to heal old wounds. It will be interesting to hear the partisan crowd’s response to the announcements at the school’s football game versus Florida during induction weekend on September 28 — will they cheer Smith for his accomplishments (one national title and a boatload of SEC championships); will they boo him for his lack of recruiting and postseason failures (several first weekend NCAA defeats); or will they politely applaud him, in much the same way that a crowd respectfully recognizes an academic speaker at a conference? We shall see.
  3. A somewhat weird story came out of Austin yesterday, in that returning Texas forward and leading scorer Ioannis Papapetrou has decided to leave school to sign a contract with a European professional team. The deal is reported for approximately $2 million over a five-year period, which, no disrespect to UT-Austin, is still quite a bit more in monetary value than the great state university can provide. Where this puts Rick Barnes’ team for next season, and by extension, his program, is in quite a quandary. Despite a strong number of elite recruits who have passed through Texas in the past five years, the program only has two NCAA wins to show for it. Furthermore, last year’s CBI squad that finished with an overall losing record of 16-18 has been completely gutted. Three other players transferred and/or left for pro contracts, and with an annual contract for Barnes ranking among the titans in the sport, you have to wonder how long the leash is that he will have this season with such a young, inexperienced squad.
  4. It seems like every summer some key player gets injured during a team’s international trip and this year is no exception as TCU rising star Devonta Abron tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the entire upcoming season. Abron averaged 7.4 PPG and 5.9 RPG for Trent Johnson’s moribund team last season, but the future appeared bright for the rising junior who had developed into a nicely efficient player around the rim. The Big 12 is tough enough for a program like the Horned Frogs; they certainly could have used some better news as they move into their second full season as a member of a major conference basketball league.
  5. Speaking of international summer trips, let’s finish this one with an odd what-comes-around-goes-around story involving the Iowa Hawkeyes and a long lost but very divisive footnote to its hardwood past. While on a five-game tour of France, former Hawkeye Pierre Pierce (where else would he be with a name like Pierre?) showed up as an opponent on a French professional team, and somewhat unbelievably, hit the game-winning shot against his old school in overtime. If you’re new to the story, Pierce got into quite a bit of trouble involving allegations of sexual misconduct while at Iowa from 2002-05 (ultimately getting tossed from the team and serving nearly a year in prison), and the impassioned defense of his star player by then-head coach Steve Alford still upsets more than a few people around the sport. Alford in fact had to answer questions about it again upon taking the UCLA job this past spring. Still, the serendipity of Pierce getting his own shining moment against his old school a decade later from pure unadulterated happenstance is simply astonishing. Whether Hawkeye Nation appreciated the pure comedy of it, we’ll have to let you be the judge of that one.
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2011-12 Season Recap: Top 12 Storylines of the Year

Posted by EJacoby on April 6th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

Yesterday we captured the most iconic moments of the college basketball season, and today we highlight the most fascinating storylines from the year. What’s the difference? Yesterday’s list comprised of the “WOW” memories, the single moments in time that could be captured in recognizable photos and videos. Today’s list is a more encompassing review of full season narratives, which usually don’t culminate into a single visual. These are the defining stories that will be chronicled in history books to describe the season’s summary. Here are our 12 biggest storylines from 2011-12, in no particular order:

‘One-And-Dones’ Get it Done.

Kentucky's Collection of Youngsters Combined for the National Championship (AP Photo)

We’ll always remember 2011-12 for the Kentucky Wildcats’ start-to-finish domination that began with a #2 preseason ranking and ended with a National Championship as the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Big Blue Nation will remember it as UK’s eighth national title, while the national story focuses more on how coach John Calipari secured the championship with a starting lineup of all freshmen and sophomores. The team’s two best players were freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, both of whom are surely headed for the NBA Draft after just one season. Plenty of detractors didn’t think that a team full of ‘one-and-dones’ could mature quickly enough into a championship team, but the Wildcats proved them all wrong. Kentucky was the best team from start to finish, thanks mainly to the play of a bunch of 18- and 19-year-old star players.

Injuries and Suspensions Cost Top Contenders. Kentucky may have been the best team throughout the season, but there were several other elite squads that could have given the Wildcats a run for their money had it not been for costly absences. In fact, all of the other #1 seeds suffered crucial injuries at the very end of the season that may have cost them a chance to win it all. Michigan State lost its best athlete in freshman forward Branden Dawson to a torn ACL injury in the regular season finale, and the Spartans missed his ability during a Sweet Sixteen loss. Syracuse suspended its seven-foot center and best defensive player, Fab Melo, right before the Big Dance and clearly missed the big man during a loss in the Elite Eight. And perhaps the most devastating, North Carolina lost its Cousy Award-winning point guard, Kendall Marshall, to a fractured wrist at the end of its round of 32 victory. The Tar Heels could not recover without their lead guard and lost in the Elite Eight. As a result, Kentucky did not have to face a single other #1 seed en route to its National Championship.

Connecticut’s Title Defense Turns Tumultuous. Selected as the preseason Big East Conference favorites, Connecticut was expected to have another strong season as defending National Champions thanks to all but one starter sticking around combined with a very strong recruiting class. But the presence and leadership of departed star Kemba Walker proved to be invaluable. No Huskies player stepped up this season to lead by example, and a super-talented team struggled through an 8-10 record in conference play and a loss in its first game of the NCAA Tournament. UConn suffered multiple suspensions, the loss of its coach Jim Calhoun for several games due to health concerns, and an overall underachieving season whose results were the complete opposite of the year before.

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Tracking The Four: Cuse Get Juiced and Leaves One Unbeaten Team Standing

Posted by EJacoby on January 24th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor & correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

Welcome back to TT4, where the lowest ranked team of the four in this week’s RTC Top 25 also happens to be the only undefeated squad left in the country. Will Murray State lose a game before the Big Dance? They continue to win in impressive fashion and are now getting a key cog back in the lineup for the stretch run. Meanwhile, our two major-conference teams are coming off poor weeks and UNLV keeps quietly handling their business. All four TT4 teams remained ranked in the Top 20 and have important games this week. Let’s look at what’s new:

Murray State Racers

Isaiah Canaan and Murray State Continue Pushing Towards Perfection (AP Photo/S. Dennee)

  • Trending UP Because… – They are the only undefeated team left in the country! After being down at halftime, the Racers climbed back to defeat Morehead State on Wednesday, 66-60, in a huge road win that was their toughest remaining test. Please raise your hand and leave a comment below if you had Murray State as the last team to lose this season. Not only is MSU unbeaten but they are getting their third-leading scorer Ivan Aska back any day now, as the senior forward has been cleared to play by doctors. All things are looking up for the Racers (20-0, 8-0 OVC), and all of their remaining games have suddenly become must-watch, or at least must-follow action as they try to make history.
  • This Week’s Key CogIsaiah Canaan. The star guard was named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week after going for 20 points in the win at Morehead State and 21 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals in a road win over SIU Edwardsville on Saturday night.
  • Play of the Week – The Racers were down by one against Morehead State until Canaan hit this deep three-pointer with 3:58 left to give Murray State a lead they would not relinquish.
  • Talking Point – The head coach of SIU-E, Lennox Forrester, was thoroughly impressed by the Racers on Saturday, and thinks they may have a special season ahead: “They carry a swagger about them. They’re at least a Sweet Sixteen team and maybe Elite Eight. They could be a so-called Butler.”
  • Coaching Tree of Life - The last time Murray State was ranked before this season (1998), Mark Gottfried was the head coach. The last Racers’ rookie head coach to win 20 games was Mick Cronin in 2003-04, and the in-jeopardy MSU single-season wins record of 31 came under Billy Kennedy’s watch in 2009-10. Gottfried, Cronin, and Kennedy are all major coaches at NC State, Cincinnati, and Texas A&M, respectively, today; perhaps coach Steve Prohm is next in line for a big-time job. Then again, Prohm could also be deserving of a major raise and extension there in Murray.
  • Stats Central – They’ve earned praise for proficient three-point shooting, but an underrated aspect of Murray State’s offensive game is their attacking prowess. The Racers have a season-long free throw rate (which measures FTA/FGA) of 45.1%, which ranks 19th nationally. But they’re even more outstanding in conference play, with a rate of 52.8% that ranks third in the country amongst all teams in their conference games.
  • What’s Next? – The Racers have just one game on tap for this week, at home against Eastern Illinois on Saturday (8:00 PM ET). EIU is 2-4 in OVC conference play and coming off three straight losses.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels

  • Trending EVEN Because… – They took care of business this week by thrashing TCU at home before then opening up a big second-half lead and defeating New Mexico at home as well on Saturday. The Runnin’ Rebels continue to look the part of a consistent, elite team and they’ve even slid into the Top 10 of this week’s RTC Top 25. UNLV (18-3, 2-1 MWC) has only lost on the road to three teams that are either ranked (SDSU) or receiving votes (Wisconsin, Wichita State) this week. They are ranked sixth in the RPI and should get a very strong look at a top three NCAA Tournament seed if they continue to play this well.
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Tracking The Four: Let’s Play 21 Questions

Posted by EJacoby on January 20th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor & correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

For this week’s wildcard edition of TT4, we’re going to tackle some burning questions regarding each team. All four teams have pressing issues as they try to hit their strides in conference play, and there’s one team on our list that specifically needs to find some answers, quickly, if they want to stay relevant as a contender. Find out the answers to each question, or at least our quick takes, below each question. If you want to play along, comment with any of your answers!!!

Is Mike Moser the Best Player of our Four Teams? (Getty Images/E. Miller)

1. Which game on Syracuse and Murray State’s schedules should be circled as their toughest challenge to an undefeated regular season?

Monday night’s game in Cincinnati is Syracuse’s first shot at going down, while Murray State’s game on February 15 at Southeast Missouri State will be their toughest test.

2. Can Indiana recover from this losing streak to regain their status as a top three team in the Big Ten?

They’ll be able to recover, but Indiana is not a top three Big Ten team (OSU, UM, & Michigan State are better).

3. Will UNLV be able to win big games outside of Las Vegas, like SDSU did in The Pit this week?

They’ve already played seven true road games, so yes this will help UNLV win conference road games.

4. The Hoosiers have lost three straight games while the Racers have won 19 straight, but who would win on a neutral court if they played today?

We’d love to see this in the NCAA Tournament and today we’re going with Indiana, but if Ivan Aska comes back strong for MSU, ask again in two weeks.

5. When they inevitably need a bucket in crunch time, whom will Syracuse and Jim Boeheim draw the play for?

He doesn’t specialize in taking over games, but Kris Joseph is still the most talented offensive player and toughest mismatch on the team, so he should get his number called.

6. Will UNLV’s 69.1% free throw percentage come back to haunt them at some point this season?

Although it’s the worst of these four teams, no a 69% rate should not be a huge concern for the Rebels.

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Tracking The Four: Conference Play Begins

Posted by EJacoby on January 10th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

Welcome to Tracking The Four! This new series reads just like it sounds, as we will be following four buzz-worthy teams across the country. Those lucky teams are Syracuse (current #1 team and a title favorite), Indiana (a feel-good contender), Murray State (undefeated dreams), and UNLV (the best of the West). With TT4, we hope to provide readers with interesting insights about each of the featured teams that helps capture the atmosphere of the programs throughout the rest of the season. Look for a full TT4 piece every Tuesday, as well as a shorter update later in the week. Each post will be loaded with highlights, lowlights, and tidbits about each team, as well as recaps from their recent play and a look ahead at their upcoming games. Conference play is well underway and there’s plenty of news to get to this week:

Kris Joseph & Syracuse are All Smiles Right Now (Getty Images/A. Lyons)

Syracuse Orange

  • Trending UP Because… – They’re looking like national title favorites. The undefeated Orange (17-0, 4-0 Big East) remain number one in every national poll, including the RTC Top 25, with its consistently dominant play. They’ve beaten their four conference opponents by an average of 16.5 points, which includes two road games and two home games against ranked teams (Seton Hall & Marquette). Seton Hall has proven to be a solid and cohesive offensive team, yet the Pirates were blown out of the gym by Syracuse in a 75-49 thrashing. The Orange are the deepest team in the country with 10 meaningful contributors, and their patented 2-3 zone is as strong as ever. Jim Boeheim‘s team is now making bigger headlines on the court than off it (the Bernie Fine sexual harassment allegation was a big story), a refreshing trend for the sake of all its fans.
  • This Week’s Key Cog – Brandon Triche. The junior guard led the team in scoring last week, going for 16 points at Providence on Wednesday and another 16 at home against Marquette on Saturday. He hit four three-pointers in each game with an impressive line of 16/7/4 assts and two steals in the victory over Marquette.
  • Play of the Week – Point guard Scoop Jardine finds his go-to guy Kris Joseph in transition for a thunderous dunk from several feet away from the basket against Providence.
  • Talking Point – Guard Dion Waiters, who comes off the bench, had this to say after the win over Providence: “I’ve never been on a team with subs like this. It’s crazy. We continue to get better and make each other better in practice every day. We’ve got some of the best guards in the country.’’
  • Stats Central – Syracuse leads the nation with 37.5 points per game from its bench, further proving that they’re the deepest team in America. Also, their zone defense has been truly elite this season, as the Orange lead the country in steals (10.9 per game), are third in blocks (7.4 per game), and fifth in forcing turnovers (18.7 per game).
  • What’s Next? – The Orange play at Villanova on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia (7:00 PM ET, ESPN2) against a struggling Wildcats team, but it’s still a rivalry game in which the Villanova crowd should be fired up and looking for the upset. Then, Cuse gets its second matchup with Providence, this time at home on Saturday (6:00 PM ET) as heavy favorites.
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Night Line: Louisville Finally Gets Exposed, Takes First Loss to Georgetown

Posted by EJacoby on December 29th, 2011

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

On Wednesday night, a couple of previously undefeated teams took their first losses of the season as conference play began. For Indiana, it was a reminder of how tough conference play is on the road, and a loss was expected by the Hoosiers as an underdog at Michigan State. But for Louisville, at home in the KFC Yum! Center, its loss was a confirmation of this team’s weaknesses that may prevent the Cardinals from becoming an elite team this season. Rick Pitino’s squad ran into their first disciplined opponent that held strong for 40 minutes, and it resulted in a solid Georgetown win. Louisville, who had escaped from several near-losses earlier in the season, was finally exposed on the offensive end by a team that could take advantage of its weaknesses there. The Cards shot just 42% for the game and must improve their shooting if they want to seriously challenge for a Big East title.

Peyton Siva and Louisville Struggled Shooting the Ball Against Georgetown (AP/T. Easley)

Louisville walked away unscathed in its non-conference games, but a closer look at the team’s play through 12 games led many analysts to consider them overrated. Though 12-0 on the season heading into this week and ranked #4 in the AP poll, our RTC voters were not buying into the Cardinals as a true top-5 team, ranking them 10th in the latest RTC Top 25. Wednesday’s home loss confirmed our pollsters’ beliefs, and the Cardinals are next headed to Rupp Arena on Saturday for a meeting with No. 3 Kentucky. By the time next week’s AP poll comes out, Rick Pitino’s team might be lucky to stay in the top 10.

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The Cases For & Against a Duke Unbeaten Season

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2010

If you haven’t heard, this year’s Duke team is pretty darn good.  The defending national champions are loaded with talent on every area of the court and they’ve looked mighty impressive in the pre-conference slate against an impressive cast of characters — #5 Kansas State, #6 Michigan State, Marquette and defending runner-up, Butler.  As great teams are expected to do, they’ve  handled the contenders and destroyed the pretenders on their way to an 8-0 record. According to Ken Pomeroy’s latest figures, the Blue Devils have the most efficient offense in the nation and the fifth-most efficient defense — their efficiency margin of 36.8 points per 100 possessions is the best around, and they’ve been doing it against a schedule that rates in the top 25 through the first month of the season.  On most nights, the talented combination of playmakers featuring the versatile trio of Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler will be enough to secure another win for Coach K’s team; on the rare night when the offense sputters, the Blue Devil defense will keep the game close until the last few possessions, and Duke will have arguably the best point guard in the game handling the rock in crunch time. What’s not to like?

One of the Few Things Coach K Hasn't Done is Go Unbeaten

With the usually-reliable ACC looking like a mangled mess of mediocrity outside of Durham this year, some of the early-season buzz has already noted that Duke has gotten through the toughest part of its 2010-11 regular season schedule.  Liberally allowing for many of those good-not-great teams (i.e., Virginia Tech, UNC, Maryland, BC, etc.) to put it together and make the NCAA Tournament this year, Duke will have at most between 6-10 remaining games against quality competition the rest of the way, making for an interesting barstool debate over whether the Devils can run the table this season.  The argument goes as such:

  1. The remaining nonconference schedule is manageable.  Even considering the ACC as down (see #2), there are seven more non-conference games on the slate.  The next four — Bradley, St. Louis, Elon, UNC-Greensboro — are home or quasi-home games that Duke should have no trouble with.  Two others — UAB and Temple — are also home games that they typically win, although they’ll need to perform well against the Owls.  The last — a roadie to play St. John’s in another familiar environment, Madison Square Garden — is interesting on its face but will ultimately depend on how much Steve Lavin’s team progresses over the next two months.
  2. The ACC is down, way down.  In a typical year the best team in the ACC can expect to be put through the ringer with trips to Maryland, UNC, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State, etc., pending.  Duke has all of those road games on the schedule, but already half of those teams have lost home games this year, and all of them will eventually.  The essential point is that if you’re not good enough to generally protect your home court against the likes of Stetson, Virginia or even Florida, you’re not likely to do so against Duke, an outfit that prides itself on road conference wins.
  3. Duke is not a team that is prone to many letdowns.  There are some schools that for whatever reason do not seem to take the regular season as seriously as they do the postseason.  Michigan State comes to mind immediately, but there are others.  Coach K has never been one of those coaches — in fact, a common critique through the mid-late 2000s was that he wore his teams down by overworking them during the regular season so that they had nothing left in the tank for the NCAAs.  Still, the Devils more than any other team and regardless of personnel tend to come strong all year long.  It’s difficult to catch them snoozing, one of the key recipes for a team to pull a major upset. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Big Ten Wins Second Challenge in a Row

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2010

The LedeBig Ten Goes Back-to-Back.  Maybe the plan is for the Big Ten to win eight more ACC/Big Ten Challenges in a row so as to tie up the all-time record (now 10-2 ACC), but thanks to a strong Tuesday performance where the league went 4-1 against the ACC, the Big Ten did just enough tonight (2-3) to once again crow about basketball dominance for the next 363 days.  Well, sorta.  As much as we enjoy the concept behind these conference challenges (and this one is clearly the best one), they don’t truly mean much in terms of assessing the relative strength of the conferences.  As we mentioned last night, the Big Ten is much stronger than the ACC in its top half, and that’s the half that truly matters when discussing this game we call college basketball.  We’re not sure if anyone outside of Iowa City or Winston-Salem cares much if Wake Forest is marginally better than Iowa, but most of the nation cares whether Duke is better than Michigan State  (they are) or Virginia Tech is better than Purdue (they’re not).  If we were ranking the top ten teams by combining both leagues, it would go something like this:  1) Duke; 2) Ohio State; 3) Michigan State; 4) Illinois; 5) Minnesota; 6) Purdue; 7) Wisconsin; 8) Virginia Tech; 9) Northwestern; 10) Maryland/FSU (?).  At the level where the checks are signed, the Big Ten is by far the better league and we’ll stand by that assertion throughout the season.

Irving's Skills Belie His Youth (credit: Herald-Sun)

Your Watercooler Moment Just How Good Is Kyrie Irving? A common refrain during and after tonight’s Duke victory over Michigan State, 84-79, was that Blue Devil point guard Kyrie Irving was not only the best player on the floor — with 31 pts, 6 rebs, 4 assts, 2 stls and 2 blks — but he might just be the freshman who should have been chosen as preseason first-team All-American and NPOY candidate (instead of the popular pick eight miles down the road, Harrison Barnes).  It’s hard to argue with that assessment right now.  In two games matched up against elite senior All-America point guards (Kansas State’s Jacob Pullen and Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas), Irving has out-everythinged his more experienced peers.  During parts of the game tonight, he simply made his defenders look like they were standing in quicksand as he hesitated and stepped-through the lane for numerous clever finishes.  When the MSU defense laid off of him, he calmly sank a couple of threes.  When they double-teamed him, he consistently made the right pass to the open man.  And this isn’t just one game, either.  On the season, he’s averaging 17/4/6 assts , carries a 2.5:1 assist/turnover ratio and he’s in the spectacular 50/40/80+ zone as a matter of shooting percentages (52%/44%/88%).  Oh, and he appears to be the best player on the #1 team in America — there’s that too.  It’s early, and there’s a point guard named Kemba and a couple of other freshmen named Terrence and Jared who we think are playing just as well or better as the Dookie getting all the love tonight, but without question Irving makes Duke a fantastically dangerous team in ways that they never were with Jon Scheyer running things last year.  If the Devils can figure out the big man situation and defend a little better (allowing 49%/53% against MSU is a little disconcerting), they have a chance to become an epic team (but not good enough to run the table, see below).

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10.15.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2008

 There’s a lot of news out there today…  which only means one thing…

  • Goodman continues on his crusade to expose the underbelly of the game with today’s lead – the father of UK’s new hotshot recruit, Daniel Orton, was paid three times over the summer to give talks at Billy Gillispie’s camp.  This is completely legal, by the way.  Discuss. 
  • Too many preseason/holiday tourneys?  ESPN announced today that the Diamond Head Classic will begin in 2009 at the University of Hawaii.  It will finish up on Christmas Day, which will provide a nice collegiate alternative to the annual Shaq-Kobe matchup in the NBA.
  • Please read this, “conference fans.”  It’s even truer in basketball.
  • Is it sad or compelling that this endorsement could tip North Carolina to Obama in three weeks? 
  • Ok, great.  Players are graduating more than they used to.  But is that because they’re committed to the degree program or schools are making it easier to get that degree?
  • A quick Class of 2009 recruiting update from NW Wins, as well as a nice overview of the likelihood of Carolina running the table in the regular season this year.
  • WAC coaches pick Nevada to win their conference, while Big South coaches/media picked Winthrop to win it again. 
  • NBCSports picks AJ Price, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Tyler Hansbrough and Luke Harongody as its all-americans.  We’re just not feeling Price, sorry UConn fans.
  • Parrish thinks that this year’s Florida squad will be quite a bit better than last year’s, and we can’t say that we really disagree with that.
  • Andy Katz assures us that KU’s 2008 national title is safe in light of the re-opening case of Darrell Arthur’s HS transcripts.  You know, because we were worried, or something.
  • He also gives his preseason view of 37 teams that he thinks can make a run next March.
  • Hey, we’ve always been Stacy Dales fans, BC!  Even when she was married to someone named Schulman.  Looks like we may not be able to root out Psycho T for her attention, though. 

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