RTC Live: Utah State @ St. Mary’s

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2011

Game #147.  The Bracketbuster game of the day comes from tiny McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, California between the WCC and WAC leaders.

It’s being billed as the game of the day in the BracketBusters, and without question that assertion is true.  Both Utah State and St. Mary’s are currently ranked in the Top 25 polls (#23 and #25 in the RTC poll, respectively), and while both are presumptively into the NCAA Tournament as things stand right now, neither is an incontrovertible lock.  Utah State comes in at a gaudy 24-3, but the Aggies have zero top 100 wins and are trending in the lower reaches of the at-large pool as it stands today.  St. Mary’s is at 22-5, but the Gaels are coming off an incomprehensible loss at five-win San Diego Wednesday night, the worst team in the WCC.  The key point here?  Both of these perennial mid-major powers need tonight’s win to impress the NCAA Selection Committee.  The victor here tonight could arguably earn a full seed line bump given that their schedules will be relatively soft the rest of the way.  Expect a raucous crowd tonight in Moraga’s McKeon Pavilion, quickly becoming one of the toughest places to play on the west coast.

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ATB: Some Kind of Kemba-ssance…

Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2011

The Lede.  Wednesday nights are always chock full of action from coast to coast, and there was no shortage of storylines across the hoops landscape this evening.  From Kemba blowing up to Tai’s rim-rattler to Jenkins’ late explosion to celebrating the first conference champions, it’s all here tonight.  Let’s jump right in…

Kemba Felt Great Tonight, As Did UConn Fans (H-C/J. Wolke)

Your Watercooler MomentThe Kemba-ssance.  Tonight you witnessed the reason why UConn should be a darkhorse pick to go to the Final Four.  This was the Kemba Walker who slashed, dashed, shot and fought his way to the Maui Invitational title three months ago.  This was the player who literally picked his team up, placed it squarely on his back, and carried it to bucket after bucket down the stretch using any means possible.  Such as… finding himself stuck in a spot 18 feet from the basket and nobody to pass to nor a decent look to shoot.  Instead, using the self-assist method, he simply rifled a pass to himself off the backboard, caught it, and laid it in the hole.  We’ve all tried this play in pickup ball, but you rarely see it in games outside of the And-1 Mixtape Tour because it’s simply too risky.  Nevertheless, Walker successfully executed the play, and several others with a high degree of difficulty, which reminds us all that when this player finds a groove, there’s nobody tougher in the country to contain off the bounce.  His 31/7/10 asst night on 13-23 shooting was his best all-around performance since before Christmas, and it makes us wonder if he’s found the lifeblood that made him so spectacular in November and December.  Even if Kemba plays well, the Huskies still need the others to step up consistently — players such as Alex Oriakhi (10/8) or the suddenly effective Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (23/6); but he sure can erase a whole bunch of mistakes, can’t he?  A quick note on Georgetown: the Hoyas’ eight-game winning streak came to an end tonight, but it wasn’t going to go on forever.  They’re still in good position to finish strong and get a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament.

That Backboard ThingTai Wesley Shatters Glass at Halftime.  It’s a shame that it wasn’t during the game, but USU’s Tai Wesley broke the backboard during halftime warmups this evening in a worthless game against NAIA team Montana-Western.  Luckily nobody was hurt, but arena officials managed to break a second one while trying to replace the first, resulting in a 45-minute delay of the game.  With breakaway rims and triple-reinforced stanchions, you hardly see these sorts of things at the D1 level anymore; still, we kinda wish it had happened during the game!

Tai Wesley, USU Halftime Legend (AP/J. Urquhart)

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Illinois, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Memphis & Duquesne.  All four of these teams either on or near the bubble with 24 days left until Selection Sunday helped themselves this evening.  The Illini are clearly the safest of the three (#7 seed in our latest RTC bracketology), but Bruce Weber’s team came into tonight having lost six of nine and really couldn’t stand another loss to a mediocre team like Michigan.  Tennessee is relatively safe (#8 seed), but the Vols needed a win in a big way after three Ls in a row.  You never know what to expect with this UT team, so even a simple home win over South Carolina shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Cincinnati and Memphis, on the other hand, are legitimately on the cut line (#12 seeds) and although the Tigers have never appeared to be an NCAA quality team this season, they’ve done just well enough to remain in the discussion.  Beating second-place UAB tonight to take over the top spot in Conference USA both amazes us and scares us at the same time.  Conversely, Cincy has at times appeared to be a decent candidate for an NCAA bid, but having lost three of four coming into tonight, the Bearcats really needed a nice win over a ranked team for its resume.  Mick Cronin’s team got that win over old rival Louisville tonight.  Duquesne is on the outside looking in in our latest bracket, but with a solid win tonight at UMass the Dukes got off a two-game schneid and are now 9-2 in the Atlantic 10 with a chance to make a strong finish.
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ATB: Not So Super Weekend in College Hoops World

Posted by rtmsf on February 7th, 2011

The Lede.  It might have been a Super Weekend elsewhere in the American sports universe, but this weekend’s college hoops slate left a lot to be desired.  There were few good matchups on paper, and even fewer in practice.  It’s hard to get through approximately 165 games, though, and not have something worthwhile to talk about, so we’ll of course ferret out the best of the weekend here.

Derrick Williams & Arizona Are On the Rise (Az Daily Star/D. Sanders)

Your Watercooler MomentGame of the Year? Arizona Beats Cal in a Regular Season Classic.  RTC Live was lucky enough to be there for the 107-105 thriller, and we’re not sure we’ve seen a more back-and-forth, exciting game in a random regular season setting.  Certainly not in person.  The comparison that immediately comes to mind was the 2007 Texas-Oklahoma State game, another game where nobody outside of certain local viewing areas actually saw the action.   With around ten minutes to go, in what had to that point been a fun high-scoring game that visiting Arizona appeared to be in control of, the Wildcats’ Solomon Hill elbowed Jorge Gutierrez on the break, drawing an intentional foul and handing the momentum back to Cal.  From that point on, with the score 59-54, both teams punched and counter-punched each other in a classic final twenty-five minutes of action with more twists and turns than Highway 1 up the Big Sur coast.  The game ultimately changed hands seventeen times and was tied fourteen other times, including after regulation and a first and second overtime.  So many players stepped up for both sides, including Pac-10 FrOY candidate Allen Crabbe (27/7), POY candidate Derrick Williams (12/18), but the star of stars on this night was UA’s sophomore guard Lamont “MoMo” Jones.  The brash New Yorker hit a tough runner (and-1) from behind the basket to send the game into the first overtime, then drained a 22-footer with six seconds to go in the second overtime to tie the game, then made the go-ahead layup with a minute left in the third overtime.  “Just a day in the life of MoMo Jones,” he said afterward, but with Arizona now at 9-2 in the Pac-10 and a game ahead of UCLA in the loss column and two games ahead of league favorite Washington, people around the country should do themselves the favor to learn that Sean Miller’s desert rats are more than simply a dominant post player on the blocks in Williams.  This Wildcat team is a year or more ahead of schedule, but should anyone who has tracked Miller’s career to this point be surprised?

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

[ed. note: our BGTD coverage of Saturday’s games is located here, in three parts.  Early Games; Late Afternoon Games; Evening Games.]

  • Buckeyes Roll On.  After Ohio State’s Sunday win over Minnesota in Minny, the Buckeyes are 24-0 with its next game scheduled on Saturday, February 12, in Madison.  The last time any team has gone this late in the year with an unbeaten record was Memphis in 2007-08, a team that didn’t lose until February 23 that year.  The last time a power conference team went undefeated this late was the 2005 Illinois Fighting Illini, who ran out to a 29-0 record before losing in the final regular season game against none other than Ohio State.  That Illini team also went to the national title game before losing a close one to North Carolina.  Certainly with a diversified offense that includes Jared Sullinger as its centerpiece (18/13 against the Gophers), OSU has designs on a similar or even better track than their conference brethren from a half-decade ago.
  • A Wildcat Sort of Saturday.  We mentioned the Arizona Wildcats above, but a couple of other sets of Cats had pretty a pretty good weekend as well.  The Northwestern Wildcats kept what little NCAA pulse they have alive with a nice win over Illinois in Evanston, and the Kansas State Wildcats did likewise with a one-point road win over Iowa State.  Jacob Pullen used the bounce to get to the rim for the game-winning layup with three seconds remaining.  Neither of these wins are blockbusters, but they’re the type that you simply must have if you have designs on making a final push.  The Big 10 Wildcats next five games are against unranked teams, while the Big 12 Wildcats face similar in three of the next four — does either team have the guts to save its once-promising season?  Other Wildcat teams — Davidson, New Hampshire, Villanova and Weber State — also won on Saturday.  Apologies to Kentucky and Bethune-Cookman, though, the sole losing felines.
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That’s Debatable: Home Stretch

Posted by rtmsf on February 4th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: We’re heading into the home stretch of the season, merely five weeks and change from Selection Sunday.  We have a pretty good idea about the contenders and pretenders this season, but give us one team that you look to make a strong push to finish off the season and one team that you expect to tail off the rest of the way.

Andrew Murawa, RTC contributor

For the better part of the last month or two in my MWC Check-ins, I’ve been promising good things to come for New Mexico. With underrated veteran leadership at the point in Dairese Gary surrounded by a group of talented athletes, it was just a matter of waiting for the parts here to gel into a cohesive unit. With Drew Gordon now comfortable in his new digs (he’s scored in double figures in seven straight games and averaged almost 13 rebounds over that span), Philip McDonald and Kendall Williams providing talent on the wing and a pared-down rotation of talented role players, the Lobos are on the move. They dug an awful big hole early in conference play, but they could be a scary team to line up against come the MWC Tournament. As for a team ready to tail off, I’ve never been in love with this year’s Arizona squad. Yes, Derrick Williams is as good as anybody in America, but if opposing defenses can control him and make his teammates win ballgames, the Wildcats could fade fast.

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

I would have picked Washington to finish strong (they still might) but their embarrassing loss at Oregon State on Thursday scared me away. Instead, I’m going with North Carolina, the team I originally picked to be the surprise team of the second half. The Tar Heels blasted Boston College on Tuesday and have won nine of their last ten games. North Carolina is ranked sixth in defensive efficiency and looks like a safe bet to get to 12-4 in the ACC as a result. With Harrison Barnes looking like the player we all thought he would be and Kendall Marshall now starting, Roy Williams has to be optimistic heading down the home stretch. As for my team that will fade, I’m looking at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers lost their point guard, Al Nolen, to injury and he was the key to their team’s success. Without him, Minnesota will have difficulty scoring. They don’t play great defense and will struggle in their three remaining road games, currently owners of a 2-5 road record. Their schedule isn’t all that difficult but the slide has already started, having lost two in a row. I expect the Gophers to fall towards the NCAA bubble.

Matt Patton, RTC contributor

I think Notre Dame is destined to tail off pretty soon.  The Fighting Irish been playing well over their heads this season, and I’m not very confident in their ability to win in hostile environments.  Give tons of credit to coach Mike Brey, who totally reworked this team after Luke Harangody left last year, and Ben Hansbrough, who started living up to the family name.  Don’t get me wrong, Notre Dame is still a very good team, but it’s not a top ten team.  Contrarily I think Wisconsin is very underrated right now (ironically the Badgers lost to Notre Dame on a neutral site early in the season).  They are undefeated at home with two certified stars in Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor.  This team doesn’t make mistakes, and it’s nearly impossible to come from behind against them between their deliberate (read: slow) pace, ability to avoid turnovers and incredible free throw shooting (81.8%, really?). 

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Morning Five: 01.26.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 26th, 2011

  1. This idea has been batted around for some time now, but it looks like it’s going to come to fruition.  North Carolina and Michigan State are finalizing a deal to play each other next Veteran’s Day (November 11) on an aircraft carrier in San Diego Harbor.  At first, we wondered why an eastern team and a midwestern team would travel so far to play when they have perfectly good aircraft carriers in their half of the country (Norfolk, Virginia, for example).  And then we realized that the game will occur in November, and well, the game will be outside.  San Diego’s rather predictable weather makes for a safer bet, and a deal should be announced soon for what will make for a rather interesting gimmick game.  Let’s just hope that they properly adjust for the wind coming in off the water.
  2. In advance of tonight’s blockbuster game in Provo, Luke Winn breaks down Jimmer Fredette’s four worst performances of the season for some clues that San Diego State may use to try to contain him.  It was interesting to hear South Florida’s Stan Heath discussing how his team defended both UConn’s Kemba Walker and Fredette, ultimately concluding that Fredette was the tougher cover because “his shooting range is a little more extended [and] while Kemba is quicker and more explosive, Fredette’s changes-of-speed, plus his hops and step-back moves, make him better. And when he elevates to shoot, he really gets up in the air.”  Great stuff.
  3. This commentary by the Austin American-Statesman’s Kirk Bohls discusses the gargantuan difference in team chemistry between last year’s Texas team and this year’s edition.  It’s clear that even the locals around Austin are sensing a little something special about the group that Rick Barnes has at his disposal this time around.  For our money, we’d agree; nobody in the country has more upside than this team.  And if Jordan Hamilton can get his Glen Rice on in March, don’t be shocked to see UT playing in Houston in April.
  4. Conference realignment ain’t over.  The Mountain West Conference is meeting in Las Vegas this week and is prepared to offer current WAC school Utah State membership to replace the losses of Salt Lake City-area schools Utah (Pac-12) and BYU (independent + WCC).  Last year USU turned down the MWC when it appeared that BYU was planning on leaving the conference for the WAC, causing the league to enact an end-around and effectively blow up the WAC by poaching several of its schools.
  5. With Ohio State’s win over Purdue last night and SDSU on the chopping block tonight at BYU, the talk of unbeaten regular seasons is ramping up.  We’re still a long way from serious consideration of that achievement by one of the final two unbeatens, but Mike DeCourcy harkened back to the 27-0 2003-04 St. Joseph’s team in discussing how the pressure builds with each passing game.  It certainly makes things more interesting for us journo-bloggers out there, eh?
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RTC Top 25: Week 10

Posted by KDoyle on January 17th, 2011

A wild week shook up the rankings last week… so here it is…

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The Other 26: Week 8

Posted by KDoyle on January 7th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

With the non-conference portion of many schedules coming to an end, it is time for schools that comprise some of the smaller Other 26 conferences to retreat to their small gyms and compete against teams on their own level. In a sense, for many of these smaller conference teams, the non-conference schedule is a mere preamble for league play. The leagues I am referring to—NEC, America East, MEAC, Patriot, etc.—are all destined for just one bid to the NCAA Tournament. In most years, there are usually about a dozen conferences that receive multiple bids, thus leaving 20 conferences with just the auto.

Being a keen fan, follower, and observer of Patriot League basketball, I have come to the unfortunate realization that this league—like many others—is destined for one bid to the Dance every year. What irks me more than anything, however, is when I hear the phrase: “Three games in March.” This expression may vary depending upon the league, but it is the one that is used when describing the Patriot League tournament. Because the PL is comprised of eight teams, in order to win the championship and attain the automatic bid a team must win those “three games in March.”

I do not necessarily disagree with this expression—it is the reality of the Patriot League and many other leagues alike—but it is very bothersome when this becomes a mentality for the fanbases of the teams. It becomes acceptable to lose a non-conference game or a regular season game within the league because these games “don’t matter.” Of course, this is not a universal belief, but it is something I have observed within Patriot League fan circles. I will always recall Herman Edwards’ press conference as the head coach of the New York Jets when he repeatedly said in a stern voice: “You play, to win, the GAME!” It is Herm’s mentality, not the “three games in March” business, that I am a fan of.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

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The Other 26: Week 7

Posted by KDoyle on January 4th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the college basketball season is nearly half over. It is not all bad though, with conference play beginning we are just another step closer to Championship Week, Selection Sunday, and, of course, the NCAA Tournament. During this time of the year, the Other 26 and BCS largely go their separate ways, only to be reunited just two months later on the biggest stage of them all. As it is every year, the non-conference is nothing more than a tease of what is to come later. What are five major things that we learned during the first half of the year?

  • The top three teams in the Mountain West (SDSU, UNLV, BYU) will all be a force in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Gonzaga and Butler are not as dominant as they have been in past years, but both seem poised to perform well in their conference play as they drastically improved in the latter half of the non-conference schedule.
  • Temple and Richmond can go toe-to-toe with the big boys. In one week, the Owls defeated Maryland and then Georgetown, and then just weeks later they were points away from beating Villanova. As for the Spiders, they have beaten four of five BCS teams they played against.
  • Don’t sleep on Conference USA. Although the league probably will receive only two bids—maybe three—Central Florida, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB and UTEP are pretty darn good.
  • The Mountain West and Atlantic 10 will combine to have more teams in the NCAA Tournament than the ACC and SEC. Okay that is a bit of a reach, but don’t be surprised if this is close to happening. Right now, the only lock in the ACC is Duke, obviously. As for the SEC, it is only Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The MWC will almost certainly have SDSU, BYU, and UNLV, and the Atlantic 10 is a bit of a crapshoot at the top. Over the last three years, however, the A10 has sent three years to the Dance in each year—food for thought.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2010

Sam Wasson, Co-Founder and Editor of bleedCrimson.net covering New Mexico State athletics, and Kevin McCarthy, Founder of Parsing The WAC, are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

[ed note: this WAC Check-In does not include Wednesday’s games]

A Look Back

The WAC went 12-5 against their schedule over the past week picking up wins over Pacific and Oregon along the way.  New Mexico State‘s win over Pacific and Idaho‘s win over Oregon represent two of the better RPI-based wins this season by the WAC and the league moved up one spot in the RPI rankings from 19th to 18th.

Player of the Week.  Louisiana Tech’s Olu Ashaolu was named the Player of the Week for the week of Dec. 13-19.  Ashaolu, a junior forward, recorded back-to-back double-doubles for the third time this season in a pair of Bulldog wins. He scored 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds in an 80-57 win at Houston Baptist. He then recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds in a 62-61 win at UT-Arlington.  Ashaolu averaged 16.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 assists per game for the two-game stretch and shot 68.4 percent (13-of-19) from the field and 75.0 percent (6-of-8) from the free throw line.

Power Rankings

1. Utah State (9-2)

Up Next: 12/22 vs. Western Michigan, 12/23 vs. Troy

Utah State had no trouble with Utah Valley or Idaho State and improved to 9-2 on the season.  The UtAgs got 19 points from Brockeith Pane in the victory over Utah Valley and 17 points from Brian Green in the victory over Idaho State in the opener of the World Vision Invitational in Logan, UT.  Head coach Stew Morrill cannot be pleased that his Aggies allowed the Bengals to shoot 58.8 percent in the second half, however, shooting 61.1 percent yourselves eases the pain a little.  USU will face Western Michigan and Troy to wrap up the Invitational.  The Broncos from WMU and the Trojans from Troy did battle in a 102-99 overtime shootout.  With Utah State’s defensive struggles against Idaho State in the second half, one has to wonder if either WMU or Troy can do the unthinkable and knock off USU in their own building.

2. Hawai’i (7-2)

Up Next: 12/22 vs. Florida State, 12/23-12/24 vs. TB

Victories versus Hawaii Pacific and Chicago State (on Maui) have righted the team after consecutive losses to Cal Poly and then BYU. Now it’s the Diamond Head Classic, starting out with Florida State and Baylor, Butler, Utah and San Diego rounding out the field. Hawaii is undefeated at home so far this season.  Four Warriors are scoring in double figures: Zane Johnson at 12.6 PPG, Joston Thomas at 12.1 PPG, Hiram Thompson at 12.0 PPG and Bo Barnes at 10.1 PPG.  Thompson was injured last game — his status is unknown — further depleting the depth at guard after the departures of Anthony Salter and Jordan Coleman.  Forward Bill Amis (15.8 PPG) remains on the sidelines but various reports indicate he will see some action very soon.

3. Louisiana Tech (8-4)

Up Next: 12/29 vs. Boise State

The Bulldogs split a pair last week notching a one-point victory over UT-Arlington before losing to Iowa in Iowa City 77-58.  The Bulldogs were within one at halftime against the Hawkeyes but a late second half surge by the home team made the final margin a little wider than the contest had actually been.  After shooting a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line in the first half, La Tech was awarded just four foul shots in the second half and hit just one.  Olu Ashaolu continued his strong play with 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.  The Bulldogs’ next game will be their home conference opener against Boise State.

4. San Jose State (7-3)

Up Next: 12/22 vs. University of Puget Sound, 12/29 at Fresno State

After falling at the end to crosstown rival Santa Clara, SJSU hosted and beat Eastern Washington (for the second time this season) and then put a pasting on Seattle up in the Emerald City. Puget Sounds comes to town Wednesday for what should be an easy one for the Spartans. One interesting factoid: the Spartans are 4-2 on the road in 2010.  San Jose State is still surprisingly still below 40% in team shooting (.394). Senior Justin Graham is all the way back physically, shooting 49% overall and 57% on threes while also topping the team in assists.

5. Boise State (7-4)

Up Next: 23/33 at Portland, 12/29 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Broncos put up a fight at Utah but came up disappointingly short, a two point loss at the Huntsman Center.  The disappointing part for the Broncos is that not only was it their fourth consecutive loss but they held an eight point lead at the break despite 51.7 percent shooting by the Utes in the first 20 minutes (the Broncos countered with 51.3 percent shooting in the half) and and nine point lead with just under five minutes left to play.  Utah still wielded a hot hand in the second half shooting 53.6 percent while making 6-of-11 threes and 10-of-12 free throws.  The Broncos led by one with 22 seconds left after a layup by La’Shard Anderson but a three from Utah’s Will Clyburn with 11 seconds left was followed by a three point miss by the Broncos’ Westly Perryman sealing the loss.  The Broncos took out their frustration on UT-Pan American winning 91-62 but the second half defensive struggles for the Broncos continued as UTPA shot 63.6 percent in the second stanza.  The Broncos travel to Portland and then open up conference play versus Louisiana Tech.

6. Idaho (6-5)

Up Next: 12/29 vs. New Mexico State

The Vandals nearly extracted revenge against Montana for an early season embarrassment but came up just short falling 64-63.  The teams were tied at halftime but the lead went back and forth in the second half with Idaho holding a pair of four and five point leads while Montana tried to pull away late going up by five with 1:14 left to play.  Idaho would put on a furious rally and took the lead 63-62 on a jumper from Shawn Henderson but Montana’s Derek Slevig would break the Vandals’ hearts with a jumper with six seconds left to send Idaho to a 64-63 loss.  Idaho bounced back by notching the second WAC victory over Oregon this season winning 69-65 (SJSU authored the other Duck killing).  The Vandals led by five at the break and trailed just once in the second half, by one point.  Idaho got the ultimate in balanced scoring as seven players finished with at least eight points.  The Vandals are off until next week when they host NM State in the conference opener.

7. New Mexico State (6-7)

Up Next: 12/23 vs. St. Mary’s, 12/29 at Idaho

The Aggies currently own the league’s longest winning streak (four) which comes immediately after owning the league’s longest losing streak (seven).  The Aggies easily handled a couple of lower level schools (Oklahoma Panhandle State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff) but got their best win of the season to-date with a 69-64 victory over Pacific.  The Aggies trailed by five at the break but rallied to take the lead with 15:17 remaining and did not trail the rest of the way.  Senior guard Gordo Castillo finished with 17 points to lead all scorers.  The Aggies added to the win streak by holding off a pesky Louisiana squad 82-76.  NM State led by as many as 10 in the first half but went into the break with just a one-point lead.  They led by as many as 11 in the second half but needed a late bucket and defensive stop to seal the win.  Up next the Aggies host St. Mary’s on Thursday.  The Aggies will need their most complete effort of the season if they are to come away with the win over the Gaels.  The Aggies lost 100-68 in the season opener last year while playing without Wendell McKines and Troy Gillenwater which they will be doing again this time around.  Hamidu Rahman will also miss the game but the Aggies did receive a bit of good news as McKines is said to be participating in his first walkthrough practice since breaking his foot.

7. Fresno State (4-6)

Up Next: 12/29 vs. San Jose State

“Home Sweet Home” is the Bulldog mantra of late what with three consecutive Save Mart Center wins over San Diego, Pepperdine and North Dakota State respectively prior to a 65-55 home loss to Pacific.  The Bulldogs are off until they start WAC play at home next week: San Jose State then a trip to Nevada. Greg Smith‘s 20 points led to the victory over USD, 15 steals paced Fresno State to the victory over the Waves and a pair of unexpected double-doubles supplied by Nedeljko Golubovic and Bracken Funk sent the Bison (shouldn’t it be the Woodchippers?) back to Fargo. Fresno State is 3-2 at home but just 1-4 away. Smith still leads the Bulldogs in scoring (10.5 PPG) and rebounding (6.8 RPG) but a double-double average is the expectation of him this season. Better outside-shooting from his teammates (currently a collective 25% three-point percentage) will provide more room for Smith to operate but stronger internal motivation is needed from the sophomore.

9. Nevada (3-8)

Up Next: 12/22 at Washington, 12/27 at Portland

The Wolf Pack head to the road to complete non-conference play as they’ll face Washington and Portland.  The Pack narrowly lost to Arizona State (78-75) as Olek Czyz made his Wolf Pack debut with 10 points and seven boards and a monster putback dunk in the second half.  Nevada followed the loss with a 79-73 victory over Portland State.  Malik Story finished with 20 points and six boards as the Pack fought back from a three point deficit late in the second half to pull away with the win.

A Look Ahead

Conference play begins next week but a few teams still have non-conference games to finish up.  The sternest test will come on the island of O’ahu as Hawai’i hosts the Diamond Head Classic with Butler, Baylor and Florida State among the participants.  New Mexico State hosts St. Mary’s, Nevada travels to Washington and Portland while Boise State also makes the journey to Portland.

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Behind the Numbers: The Coming Decline

Posted by KCarpenter on December 15th, 2010

So, let’s play a game. I tell you that I’m going to flip a coin (let’s say a 2009 U.S. quarter) exactly thirty times. Your job is to guess how many times that the coin is going to come up “heads.” Very cleverly, you notice that that typically a coin comes up heads about 50% of the time, so you should guess that, in this game, you will get heads about fifteen times. Okay, so I flip the coin the first five times and, surprise of surprises, I end up getting heads four out of five times. Does this mean you were wrong? Does this mean that the coin will continue to turn up heads at a 80% clip? Of course not. It’s just that variance is “magnified“ in small sample sizes. If we flip the coin the full thirty times, it’s almost certainly going to turn up heads less than 80% of the time.

Obviously, we are here not here to talk about flipping coins, but rather college basketball. So, what’s the relevance? The relevance is that right now, we are about a third of the way through the college basketball season and people are pointing to extraordinary statistics and acting as if they are going to hold up through March and April. The coin won’t turn up heads 80% over a big enough sample size, and Pittsburgh won’t continue to grab 47.9% of offensive rebounds against its opponents. Some of the extraordinary stats in college basketball are simply due to small sample size. Some teams tasting truly rarefied air in December are destined to fall back to Earth come March. Who’s due for a decline?

Glad you asked. What I’ve done is checked up on who was the leader on the offensive and defensive ends of the court in regards to each of Dean Oliver’s Four Factors at the end of the 2009-10 season. Then, I checked Ken Pomeroy’s rankings to see which teams were currently performing better than the very best team from last year. The logic is simple (and admittedly a little simplistic): It’s unlikely that many teams this season are going to perform too much better than what the best team in a given category did the year before. Unsurprisingly, at this point early in the season, there are quite a few teams performing better than any team performed last year. Let’s break it down category by category and figure out which teams are cruising for a bruising. Or a decline in efficiency. One or the other.

Effective Field Goal Percentage

None of these teams are shooting that much better than 2009-10 Denver (57.9%), but still, betting on Kansas or Georgetown’s shooting to cool off isn’t a bad bet. It’s a little early to predict Duke’s shooting to decline, but if Kyrie Irving’s absence isn’t explanatory enough for you, here’s another reason.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 13th, 2010

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..a good comeback story, in this case Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott. Here’s a guy who didn’t play much his first three years and had an issue of some sort last season that caused him to leave the team for a bit. Well he got his chance this year, and the bouncy 6’8 forward has showed big-time versatility while putting up solid numbers in Irish wins against Georgia, Cal and then Saturday against Gonzaga (a career-high 23 points). It’s nice to see someone with obvious talent taking his final chance, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on an NBA roster somewhere next season.

Carleton Scott Deserves a Strong Senior Year

I LOVED…..teams who know how to schedule tough. I’m looking at you, Tom Izzo, and you, too, Bruce Pearl. Game after game you send your guys into hostile environments. This week it was Syracuse in New York for the Spartans, and Pitt in Pittsburgh for the Vols. Yes, MSU has struggled thus far, but these tough games are exactly why that team always wins the close ones in March and makes it to the later rounds. Repeat after me: SOFT SCHEDULERS OF THE WORLD UNITE AND CONFORM, you have nothing to lose but your inflated records, media detractors and early tournament exits.

I LOVED…..the creation of the Champions Classic. Much like ESPN’s little 24-hour marathon to start the year, matching up four elite programs gets fans amped up earlier in the season. No complaints here.

I LOVED…..Illinois using the women’s basketball. Loved might not be a strong enough word. It was hilarious, golden, priceless, whatever adjective you want. If you’re like me, your reaction was something to the tune of: no way…..how…..for seven minutes???…..drop on the floor in laughter. In this day and age of increased replays and greater official oversight in sports, it’s nice to know the zebras can still give us an unthinkable gem like that one. And if you’re  Oakland coach Greg Kampe, you’ve gotta wonder what it says about your team that you were significantly more effective with the women’s ball.

I LOVED…..the disparity between some of the nation’s top freshmen. You have the Jared Sullingers who come out and produce from the first game (props for the 40-spot against IUPUI), but then you have the country’s #1 recruit, Harrison Barnes, struggling to have a big impact. It just shows again that at least one year in college can be an extremely valuable tool for this young talent.

Five Things I Hated This Week

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ATB: Syracuse Keeps Winning… MSU Keeps Losing…

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2010

The Lede.  It was another great year at the Jimmy V Classic, and RTC Live was privileged to have been there.  On nights like these, when the Garden is sold out, rockin’ n’ rollin’, a little tipsy and ready to party, it is truly one of the great venues in the entire sport.  Unfortunately, there have been far too many of the half-full, sleepwalking variety in recent years there, including the final rounds of the CvC and PNIT last month.  New York has always been a town that comes out to see the stars, and we don’t expect that’ll ever change; but, there are bona fide collegiate stars on teams other than Syracuse and Connecticut, so it’d be nice if those games were supported there at least half as well.

Syracuse Was Clearly Better Than MSU Tonight (P-S/R. Nett)

Your Watercooler MomentLet’s Stop Making Excuses.  There comes a time where all the statistical number-crunching and subjective analysis of matchups do not amount to anything once two teams actually take the court and play the game (another reason why we’re happy that computers don’t determine our championship round).  So it was with tonight’s Syracuse-Michigan State contest in the nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic.  For most of the season we’ve heard that Syracuse is overrated, a product of one mediocre performance after another en route to a deceiving 8-0 record.  We’ve also heard that Michigan State is a top five team despite losing to UConn and Duke over the past several weeks, a product of playing well in those “good” losses and the unquestioned pedigree of Mr. Final Four, Tom Izzo.  Shouldn’t we take a step back at this point and question those assessments?  Here’s what we saw:

  • Against by far the toughest opponent Syracuse has faced this season, it was the Orange, not MSU, who set the tone early with its aggressiveness and unobstructed forays to the rim for crowd-energizing dunks.
  • Despite having a lineup of predominantly juniors and seniors, Michigan State looked dazed, confused, befuddled and even at times bamboozled by the Syracuse 2-3 zone.  We know that they’ve seen such a thing before, yet it appeared as if they hadn’t.  They took too many threes (44% of their shots), hit too few (29%) of those attempts, and clearly failed to remember that a zone provides offensive board opportunities (only six all night).
  • The pregame news that Kalin Lucas is still not at 100% recovering from his Achilles injury last spring fits with what we saw tonight.  Eight points on 3-9 shooting with only two assists but six turnovers isn’t the Lucas who was Big Ten POY.  As he did last year, Korie Lucious was serviceable in picking up the slack, but for the Spartans to become a top seeded team in March, Lucas has to make it happen.
  • Senior Rick Jackson showed a tenacity on the glass (16 rebounds) that he’ll need to have as Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine grow into leadership roles.
  • Fab Melo was well on his way to Yinka Dare-esque assist totals before dropping two shocking dimes tonight.  He’d had one previous assist in his entire 108 minutes of action so far this season.  Well, it’s good to see that he can do something else other than foul people (0 pts, 0 rebs, 4 fouls).
  • Sometimes it’s just your night, as in when you throw an off-balance and probably ill-advised alley-oop, only to have the alley count for a bucket…

Certainly Syracuse will win a whole bunch of supporters after this game, and many people will hop off the Spartan bandwagon.  But it’s a long season, we all know that.  Right now the Orange are the better team and they’re playing better basketball.  But by March this could be a totally different story.  Syracuse didn’t need to hit threes tonight because they were defending so well and getting easy buckets inside, but they won’t have the same luxury of “surprise” with the 2-3 zone in the Big East that they had here.  Who will be able to knock down those shots when they need them?  The jury is still out on that question.  Similarly, Michigan State has yet to prove that they’re really a better team than the #5 seed that crashed Indianapolis last March.  They certainly appear to have the pieces in place, but all too often the Spartan offense seems to abandon the defense and they dig holes that they can’t quite climb out of.  Obviously, you can’t win a national championship without consistent scoring threats — who will that be for Tom Izzo if Kalin Lucas cannot get all the way back this year?  All we can definitively say is that Syracuse has earned their top ten ranking, while Michigan State has not.  It’s time to stop making excuses for both teams and rank them accordingly now.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

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