Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2010

Sam Wasson, Co-Founder and Editor of 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……..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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RTC Live: Utah State @ Georgetown

Posted by rtmsf on December 3rd, 2010

Game #55.  RTC Live returns to the nation’s capital for a possible trap game for the streaking Hoyas.

While KenPom may be telling you that Washington State over Kansas State is the upset to watch out for, Utah State and Georgetown will absolutely be a game you need to keep an eye on while Kentucky invades Chapel Hill. Stew Morrill runs one of the most consistently underrated programs in the country. Generally, he avoids playing road games against power conference teams without a return game, but after living on the bubble for much of his tenure, Morrill made the decision to schedule the Hoyas. They are an experienced group with some good perimeter defenders. Tai Wesley is a better post player than Ricardo Ratliffe of Missouri, who had 22 points against the Hoyas. And Nate Bendall is back in the lineup, although he is still battling the foot injury that has plagued him this year. Throw in a potential hangover from Georgetown’s thrilling win over Mizzou, and the Aggies seemed primed for an upset.   That said, Georgetown may have the best baskcourt in the country with Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, and Jason Clark. Utah State better make sure they close out long, because those three are all hitting well above 40% from deep.

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RTC Live: Utah @ Utah State

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2010

Game #32.  RTC Live is back in the Beehive State for another huge intrastate rivalry game.

In the basketball crazy state of Utah every intrastate game is hotly contested. This match up between Utah and Utah State got even juicer when Utah State head coach Stew Morrill dropped the bombshell that they will not be meeting next season because Utah can’t fit the Aggies in their new Pac-12 schedule. This means that a rivalry 102 years old and that has seen 232 games (Utah leads the series 132-90) may not be played again for some time. The Utes head into the Spectrum lead by swing man Will Clyburn, a junior college transfer who is averaging over 20 PPG in his first season with Utah. The Aggies counter with Tai Wesley who despite battling foul trouble all season is still averaging over 16 points a game. Wesley will be challenged to score and stay on the floor by Utah’s size and length on the front line. The Aggies have won six straight in this series in Logan and will be looking to extend that to seven before the series goes into and indeterminate hibernation.

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ATB: More Pac-10 Foolishness

Posted by rtmsf on November 18th, 2010

Your Watercooler Moment.  The Pac-10 is once again finding new ways to embarrass itself.  After what was arguably the league’s worst basketball season in decades in 2009-10, it seemed as if the western teams had perhaps turned a corner with a few more NCAA-caliber teams this year including the mothership program, UCLA.  Coming into Tuesday night, the league had managed to avoid the embarrassingly ugly losses that had plagued it in the pre-conference last year.  Then, Arizona State laid a foul 76-62 egg at the Pit versus New Mexico.  Ok, that’s not terrible — even though ASU is a team that you can reasonably expect Herb Sendek to have competing for an NCAA berth, the Lobos are talented and very tough to beat at home.  But tonight’s games once again exposed just how soft the underbelly of this league may be.  First, USC got obliterated by Rider (yes, Rider) at home, 77-57.  Think about that for a minute and wonder how on earth such a successful athletic program could lose a home basketball game to Rider.  By twenty points!  Then, in a game reminiscent of last year by winner and loser only, Oregon State traveled to Seattle and lost to the Redhawks again, this time 83-80.  At least it wasn’t by 51 points this time around, but a loss to an Independent is still unacceptable for a team in a  league with the resources that the Pac-10 has available.  There will be a point in the very near future where Pac-10 coaches will need to realize that talking about NBA Draft losses in 2008 and 2009 no longer hold water, and that if they want to cease being held up as the national hoops laughingstock, then they need to recruit players who will be leaving early in 2012 and 2013.  The same old excuses for these kinds of non-conference losses are getting tiresome.  (aside: word-up to Cameron Dollar and his Seattle program — considering its lack of league affiliation and transition to D1, he’s doing a great job there).

Approval Rating Also Dropping (S-T/J. Bates)

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Kemba Walker’s 42.  The UConn point guard put his team on his back with 42/8/3 assts in a performance that makes you wonder why he hasn’t been able to put it all together yet in his career.  He blew his old career-high of 29 out of the water, and even hit four threes on the night, a total he’s only reached one other time as a Husky.  It worries us a little bit that Walker seems to be the entire offense, but he might just be good enough to win a few games on his own this year.
  • Tobias Harris.  In a game that UT probably would have lost a week ago, the Vols gutted through a very tough game against Missouri State despite losing the battle of the boards and only hitting 64% from the line.  Tobias Harris is quietly putting together an impressive start to the season, going for 16/7 on 60% shooting in UT’s first three games.  He may not get tested Wednesday night by VCU’s front line in the PNIT semis, but either UCLA (Nelson, Smith, Honeycutt) or Villanova (Yarou, Pena) will be a formidable challenge for the 6’8 rookie.
  • Tim Abromaitis.  The Notre Dame forward had a near triple-double (21/10/7 assts) tonight in a blowout win against Chicago State.  Between he and Ben Hansbrough, the Irish are capable of putting some points on the board.
  • Perfect Game.  Iowa State’s Scott Christopherson put up thirteen shots tonight and all thirteen hit the bottom of the net (11-11 FG, 2-2 FT for 29 pts).  This guy has been all over the place this season.  In his first game, he went 1-10 from the floor for five points; in the next game he was 6-11 for fifteen points; tonight he threw a perfect game.  We’re not sure what he has in mind for the next game, but we’re pretty sure it will be nothing like the previous one.
  • Ole Miss & Nick Williams.  The Indiana transfer dropped 21/6 in his second game back in action against Murray State tonight, but what was more impressive was the relative ease with which the Rebels handled the NCAA-worthy Racers.  Even though the game looked like it was shot in daguerrotype in front of about twelve fans, Ole Miss looked like a much stronger team.

and Misses.

  • Memphis.  Josh Pastner has proven he can recruit with anybody in the game.  The question now is whether he can coach at that same elite level.  As exhibited by the continuing problems and ultimate dismissal of Jelan Kendrick last weekend, coaching talent often has just as much to do with managing egos as it does drawing up plays.  When we hear a player like star freshman Will Barton (22/8/3 stls) say that he relishes “when things are falling apart or we’re losing” so that he can “take over the game,” we wonder if there are more problems on the horizon.  Memphis fell behind to Northwestern State midway through the second half before pulling away and winning 94-79 tonight.
  • The Mountain Broadcast Production Quality for the BYU-Utah State Game.  See TOTD, below.
  • Alcorn State.  Down 42 points at the half (59-17) is just unacceptable, we don’t care who you’re playing.  Purdue is good, but they’re not the Lakers.
  • Letdown, Much? Two days after a program-defining win against local rival Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State turned around and dropped its first game of the season to Chattanooga, 73-69.  Of course, avoiding letdowns like this is part of the maturation process.
  • Air Force.  The Falcons may have hit a new low with its overtime loss tonight to Colorado… College, 60-57.  As in, the Division III team, not the Buffaloes featuring two all-Big 12 players.

Dunk of the Night.  This was the Sportscenter top play of the night, so we were able to find a clip of it…  Marquette’s Darius-Johnson Odom says hello.

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RTC Live: Utah State @ BYU

Posted by rtmsf on November 17th, 2010

Game #15BYU has graciously allowed RTC Live into the hostile environs of the Marriott Center tonight.  The school has some restrictions as to how we relate and transmit information — rules which we plan to abide by — so there will be no live-blog this evening, but instead we will have our correspondent in the building periodically updating us from the game with his analysis and thoughts below.

Pregame: Utah State versus BYU has become the premier rivalry in the state of Utah and one of the best rivalries in the country. BYU has Jimmer Fredette, and he is really good at basketball. Fredette is a preseason first-team AP All-American, and he averaged over 22 points a game last season. His backcourt running mate Jackson Emery isn’t so bad either. Emery is deadly from long range and plays great defense as well, racking up a school-record 91 steals last season. Utah State will counter with Tai Wesley and a strong inside game. Wesley has a score to settle with the Cougars. He was Mr. Basketball for the state of Utah while starring at Provo High School, which is literally across the street from BYU’s Marriott Center, and his brother Mekeli also played for the Cougars. Despite all of that, Tai Wesley was overlooked by the Cougars, and because of a lapse in the series this will mark Wesley’s only chance to win a game in Provo during his career.  Last year RTC Live was in Logan for this matchup when the Aggies walked away with 72-62 victory in Logan. BYU doesn’t allow live-blogging during events on their campus so there will be no traditional RTC Live for this game, but we will post a short update during media timeouts in accordance with school policy.  If there’s something in particular you’d like to know about, please leave a comment below and we’ll pass it along. Join us for some commentary and insightful analysis this evening (as much as we can give)!

15:59.  BYU 5, USU4. Big time college basketball atmosphere here in Provo. Tai Wesley has USU’s four points but he’s also picked up two fouls. Utah State has the advantage in the paint, but without Wesley we will have to see if they can exploit it. Brockeith Pane has drawn the unenviable assignment of guarding BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. BYU looks to have the advantage on the perimeter, Fredette has four points already.

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After the Buzzer: Butler’s Unfurling & Opening Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on November 15th, 2010

In case you’re just catching up with us after a football weekend, we covered Friday night’s games — the real Opening Nightin a special ATB that evening, while RTC contributor Zach Hayes put together an Opening Night edition of his 10 Scribbles series to share some of his initial thoughts on most teams’ first games of the year.

Your Watercooler Moment.  This is something we don’t see much and it may be a long time before we see something like it again, so Butler’s banner unfurling from Saturday night was this weekend’s best moment.  Jump ahead to the 2:20 mark if you’re the impatient type (a shorter alternate version is also available).

Quick Hits…

  • Emmanuel Negedu.  Hey, if you can literally come back from the dead and contribute 8 points, 6 rebounds, a steal and a block in your first game as a New Mexico Lobo merely a year after you were resuscitated, you deserve all kinds of props.  Can’t root for this guy enough.
  • Chris Singleton. Quite possibly the best defensive player in the country, Singleton pulled off a very difficult triple double by going for 22/11/10 stls on Sunday against UNC-Greensboro.  Oh, he also added four blocks just for show.
  • Illinois Backcourt. Bruce Weber’s backcourt of Demetri McCamey, DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul off the bench was outstanding on Saturday against Southern Illinois.  The three combined for 43 points and 16 assists in that game, and in three games this season all of them are shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from deep.  With the solid play inside of the two Mikes (Davis and Tisdale), the Illini look very strong right now.
  • Kyrie Irving.  As good as advertised, with 17/4/9 assts to prove it against Princeton on Sunday.  Everything seemed completely natural and smooth with very little wasted motion.
  • Matthew Bryan-Amaning.  MBA’s been getting a lot of hype all offseason, but we weren’t completely sold due to his inconsistency over the last three years.  After a 28/13 performance against McNeese State on Saturday, we might be coming around.  As a side note, the Huskies had an inconceivable 67 rebounds in that game.
  • Matt Howard’s Foul Trouble.  Sure, we know the game was against Marian College, but the fact that Howard failed to commit a single foul in 23 minutes of action is encouraging.  Without Gordon Hayward around, Brad Stevens must have his star big man on the floor most of the time this season, so committing nearly four fouls a game again isn’t going to work.
  • DJ Cooper.  Keep an eye on Ohio University again this year — the MAC champions who took out Georgetown in last year’s first round NCAA game return MAC POY candidate Cooper, who debuted the 2010-11 season with a strong 25/5/7 assts/3 stls evening.
  • James Rahon.  SDSU’s transfer guard from Santa Clara hit three straight threes in the mid-second half to give the Aztecs breathing room to win a true road game in front of a packed arena in Long Beach.  If the Aztecs can get solid guard play to match their dominant post play, Steve Fisher could have a MWC juggernaut on his hands.
  • Jeremy Hazell.  Seton Hall might be able to put together a surprisingly good season if it can continue to get the types of games it got from Hazell today.  28 points on 8-11 FG and 8-8 from the line is extremely efficient, something that Hazell hasn’t always done well.

… and Misses

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RTC Live: Weber State @ Utah State

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2010

Game #8. It is opening night up in the Wasatch Mountains for a Beehive State rivalry between Weber State and Utah State.

You might remember Weber State from last season’s Big Sky championship game where they were Anthony Johnson’d and had to settle for an NIT berth. The Wildcats bring back Big Sky MVP Damian Lillard, a 6’2 point guard with a sweet jumper and plenty of ability to drive to the hoop. He will be matched by Utah State’s new point guard Brockeith Pane, who has been billed as one of the best defenders on the team and will get a chance to prove that right out of the gate.  Up front the Wildcats will have to find someone to defend Utah State’s do-it-all forward Tai Wesley, the only active player in the NCAA to have at least 1,200 career points, 600 career rebounds, 250 career assists and 100 career blocks.  Combine all of that with an intriguing coaching matchup (Weber’s head coach Randy Rahe was an assistant at Utah State under Stew Morrill from 1999-2004), the always fanatical Utah State home court advantage (Utah State has won 66 of their last 68 in the Spectrum) and a “guess what Wild Bill is going to be” contest and you have all the makings for a great way to start the season.

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