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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ESPN Full Court Schedule – 480 Games of Delicious Goodness

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2010

Once again this year we’ve been inundated with requests for our annual release and analysis of ESPN’s Full Court Schedule, which for some reason the WWL makes very difficult to find and use every year.  You’d think that if they want us to pay $104 for this product, they’d make it considerably easier to know exactly what we were buying.  Alas.  Keep in mind that according to ESPN every one of these games is simulcast for free on ESPN3.com (previously ESPN360), so the decision point on whether to spend the hundy probably comes down to whether you enjoy watching games on a 15″ or a 50″ screen.  We didn’t want the length of this post to be a mile long, so we’ve thumbnailed the entire schedule (which we re-organized in a useful way) below.

Note: You’ll have to click the table in the new page to expand it to full size.

Click for Full Schedule

A fully sortable Google Doc that we created containing the same information is also located here.  You can sort the table by your favorite school or conference if you like, a feature that ESPN with its boring .pdf format simply doesn’t provide.

If that’s too much to look at, here are the twenty games that we find the most compelling on the package this year.  There are some legitimately good games on this list, including several matchups where talented mid-majors having something to prove visit a ranked team’s gym (i.e., Morehead State @ Florida; ORU and ODU @ MissouriOhio @ Kansas).  Additionally, some of the conference matchups later in the year could turn out to be important games for the overall standings and in terms of NCAA Selection Committee seeding (i.e., Kentucky @ Georgia; Maryland @ Virginia Tech; UNC @ NC State).

Here are the schools with the most appearances on Full Court this year.  If you enjoy bad Big 12 basketball (Iowa State and Oklahoma), then you’re in luck, but the  package’s comprehensive coverage of the SEC’s Georgia (with probable first-rounders Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie) and Mississippi State (with Renardo Sidney) should be interesting.  Seton Hall is on FC fourteen times, and given the amount of talent the Pirates are bringing back with the level-headed Kevin Willard entering the fray, it might be worth catching several more of their games.  And if you’re not getting enough of Jacob Pullen through the usual channels, the Full Court package will give you eleven more opportunities to fear the beard this season.

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RTC 2010-11 Impact Players – Northwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on November 4th, 2010

Welcome to our RTC Impact Players series.  The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season.  Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package.  As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy.  What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays.  Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.

You can find all previous RTC 2010-11 Impact Players posts here.

Northwest Region (UT, WY, MT, ID, AK, WA, OR, NorCal)

  • Isaiah Thomas – Jr, G – Washington. For the Pac-10 favorite Huskies, it is the smallest guy on the floor who will have the biggest impact. In each of Isaiah Thomas’ two previous collegiate seasons in Seattle, he has been at best a secondary option. Two years ago it was Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon who were the senior leaders (even though Thomas still led the team in scoring) and last year it was Quincy Pondexter. Nowadays, the 5’8 junior point guard is clearly the face of the program, a lightning-quick, high-flying, pint-sized lefty with a penchant for scoring, even over larger defenders. Thomas is a versatile offensive player, at his best with the ball in his hands and going to his left, but capable of being a scoring threat in all manner of situations.  He is not yet a great three-point shooter, but upped his average to a solid 33% as a sophomore and seems poised to push that number up a couple points again this season, a tool which could be deadly given his explosive first step and ability to finish with any number of acrobatic shots in and around the lane. Thomas also excels at drawing fouls and getting to the line, where he also upped his efficiency as a sophomore to 73%, a number upon which he should improve yet again. One offensive area where Thomas is still finding himself is in terms of getting the rest of his team involved. For instance, there was a stretch of three games at the start of the Pac-10 season last year where he handed out just one total assist. He picked things up in this area down the stretch and averaged two more assists per game in the last 14 games of the season than he did in the first 22, and not coincidentally, the Huskies were a better team over that span, posting an 11-3 record. With senior Venoy Overton and sophomore Abdul Gaddy also capable of running the point for the Huskies, Thomas does have the ability to play off the ball for head coach Lorenzo Romar, but Washington is just more dangerous when Thomas has the ball in his hands, and if he can continue to improve his playmaking skills while still maintaining his explosive scoring ability, everybody on the team will be better for it. Defensively, Thomas is excellent in the open court and away from the basket with his quick hands and feet, but, as is the case with anyone his size, he has been a defensive liability at times in the halfcourt game, a weakness somewhat mitigated by the Huskies’ use of aggressive pressure from Thomas and Overton to keep opponents from getting comfortable in a half-court set. And really, wherever Thomas is on the floor, his talent and ability make it difficult for any opponent to get too comfortable.

Thomas May be Small in Stature, But Not Talent

  • Jeremy Green – Jr, G – Stanford. Last season the Stanford Cardinal were, by and large, a two-man gang. Green and Landry Fields were the only two players to score in double figures and between the two they accounted for almost 39 of Stanford’s average of 69 points per night. With Fields now plying his trade at the next level, the onus for the Stanford offense falls squarely on Green. Green came into last season with the reputation as a designated shooter, after knocking down over 45% of his threes as a freshman on his way to 6.4 points per game, and although he showed an increased proficiency off the bounce as a sophomore, it is still his shooting that opponents need to fear. With his minutes doubled last season, his production more than doubled as his scoring average jumped to 16.6 PPG nightly. In the process, he set a new school record for threes in a season with his 93 makes, and more than half of all his attempts, and makes, were from behind the arc. Green will be called on again to be a big scorer for Johnny Dawkins’ club, and he’ll need to show that he is capable of wearing a target on his back on a nightly basis and still succeeding. Despite Green’s increase in scoring as a sophomore, he did see his three-point percentage dip seven points to 38% last season, and minus Fields’ ability to create opportunities for teammates, Green could find matching last season’s efficiency more difficult. However, expect the Cardinal to run plenty of plays for him, running him off screens both with the ball and away from the ball, allowing him to find shots in both catch-and-shoot situations or even off the dribble. While Green is not an explosive athlete and isn’t often a threat to take the ball all the way to the rim, he is effective at using his dribble to find a spot from which to hit his jumper, although it would be nice to see him attack defenders more with an eye towards getting to the line; he only attempted 92 free throws last season, a shame for an 80-plus-percent shooter. Also, with the ball in his hands, Green doesn’t present much of the threat to the rest of the defenders on the court, as Green is ineffective at finding his teammates for open looks, notching just 25 assists all of last season. Green is a pretty good rebounder for a guard, grabbing 3.8 rebounds per game last season, while defensively, he is merely competent. With his running mate from last season now departed, Green is clearly the go-to guy on the Stanford offense, and he’ll need to show that he is capable of handling those duties, but the next step for the proven shooter is to find ways to get his teammates involved more often, and find ways to get himself to the charity stripe on a more regular basis.

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Where 2010-11 Happens: Reason #14 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2010

Shamelessly cribbing from the clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present you with the 2010-11 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we ramp up to the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.  If you want to have some fun while killing time, we encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enjoy.

#14- Where Outstanding Creativity Happens

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In Their Words: Life at the Mid-Major Level (part three)

Posted by rtmsf on October 5th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

To read the entire In Their Words series, click here.

Part Three: SCHEDULING

Over the summer, we’ve spent time hearing about some of the next big-name recruits on their way to college basketball: Jared Sullinger and Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Michael Gilchrist. We’ve heard the big-time schools announce their high profile games on their upcoming schedules: Kentucky going to the Maui Invitational and visiting North Carolina, Michigan State hosting Texas and going to Duke. But for the vast majority of Division I programs, they’ve been flying under the radar. There are at present 73 teams that participate in basketball in the six BCS conferences, but there are 347 total programs in Division I. Of those other 274 programs, there are certainly quite a few big-name programs: last year’s national runner-up Butler comes to mind immediately, as does Gonzaga, Memphis and a handful of other schools in conferences like the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. But, we were also interested in how the other half (or really, how the other three-quarters) lives, so we spent some time talking to coaches, athletic directors and other people around the country affiliated with some of those other schools — those non-BCS schools, those “mid-majors” — and we asked them about how they recruit, how they create a schedule, how they market their programs, and quite a few other things. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll let them tell you their story, in their own words.

To begin, let me introduce and thank this week’s cast of characters:

  • Tommy Dempsey, Head Coach, Rider – Dempsey enters his fifth season as the head man at Rider, following two seasons as an assistant. He has compiled an 83-75 record over that time and coached NBA lottery pick Jason Thompson during his time there.
  • Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State – Bartow is entering his eighth season as the Buccaneers head coach, after having previously succeeded his father Gene Bartow as the head coach at UAB. Bartow has posted a 118-72 record in his years at ETSU and has racked up 241 total wins and four NCAA appearances in his 13 seasons as a head coach.
  • Larry Williams, Athletic Director, Portland: Williams has been the AD at Portland for six years now following a five year stint as the head of licensing and product marketing at his alma mater Notre Dame. Williams was a two-time All-American offensive lineman with the Irish before starting 44 games in the NFL.
  • Eric Brown, Assistant Coach, Long Beach State – Brown enters his fifth year as an assistant on head coach Dan Monson’s staff, after previously having spent time on coaching staffs at Cal-State Northridge, USC and Iowa State.
  • Chris Caputo, Assistant Coach, George Mason – Caputo is entering his sixth season as an assistant coach for the Patriots after spending the previous three seasons as an administrative assistant and video coordinator under head coach Jim Larranaga.
  • Eric Reveno, Head Coach, Portland – Reveno heads into his fifth season at Portland having turned around a program from a team that was 18-45 in his first two seasons to a team on the rise with a 40-24 record over the last two seasons. Reveno spent his previous nine seasons as an assistant at Stanford, his alma mater where he was a Pac-10 Conference All-Academic Team selection as a senior.

Last time out, the topic was recruiting. This time around, we’ll take a look at how mid-major programs feel about putting together their non-conference schedules and the different strategies that are used in order to line up games. It’s a part of the sport that doesn’t get talked about a whole lot, but it can have a big impact on how the program is perceived, and in turn, can impact a program’s ability to recruit successfully. One theme emerges as pretty unanimous: this is not a part of the job that is a lot of fun.

Tommy Dempsey, Head Coach, Rider: It’s brutal.

Murry Bartow, Head Coach, East Tennessee State: It is tough. Recruiting is number one certainly, but scheduling is not an easy thing.

Larry Williams, Athletic Director, Portland: It really is, next to recruiting, the hardest thing we do in trying to run a basketball program.

It's Not Easy to Get Teams to Visit Places Like the Chiles Center (Portland)

While just about everyone at the mid-major level agrees that the scheduling process ranges from unpleasant to demoralizing, each program is able to develop their own strategies for filling in a schedule.

Eric Brown, Assistant Coach, Long Beach State: Different programs have different philosophies. You have home-and-home series where a school will come to your place one year and you agree to go to their school the following year. There are guarantee games where the larger school will pay you to go play them or you can pay a smaller school to come play you. And there are tournaments. There are different ways to do it.

To begin with, a school has to decide what it wants from its non-conference slate, and what it can reasonably get. Non-conference schedules are generally filled in with a combination of home-and-home agreements (where each school in the game will agree to play one game against the opposing team on their own home floor and the opponent’s home floor), guarantee games (where one team, usually a bigger school, will pay another team to come to their arena for a game), early season tournaments and other neutral-site events. At Long Beach State, they have shown over the past couple of years that they aren’t afraid to take on a scary-looking schedule. Last season they played the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, with games at Notre Dame, Texas, Kentucky and Duke and neutral site contests against Clemson, West Virginia and UCLA. It doesn’t get any easier for the 49ers this season, with road trips to Washington, Utah State, North Carolina and Arizona State combined with neutral site games against St. Mary’s and Clemson (with two others to be determined by the results of an early-season tournament), and a home game against San Diego State.

Brown: We try to play some home-and-home series with teams in our region and then Coach (Dan) Monson’s philosophy is, given that the way our conference is set up and that every year only one team from our conference is going to the NCAA Tournament, his philosophy is to go play bigger schools so that when we get into our conference or into the NCAA Tournament, we’re not shell-shocked. We’ll play three guarantee games against three bigger schools, three BCS conference schools, where they’ll pay us to go play them. We also like to get into a tournament because they can guarantee three games where they only count as one game against your schedule. Like for instance last year, we were at the 76 Classic in Anaheim and this year we’re going to the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.

Chris Caputo, Assistant Coach, George Mason: As far as Coach (Jim) Larranaga’s philosophy, he looks for balance in the schedule. You’ve got to play a certain amount of home games, a certain amount of road games and some sort of preseason event that is on a neutral site. I think that’s the key thing for us.

Balance in the schedule is the ideal for most mid-majors, mixing a handful of tough games with games against teams that they should beat, and finding a relatively equal number of road games for every home game on the schedule. But it is hard to achieve balance in a schedule when it is very difficult to get high-major and BCS-conference schools to come to your place, especially when you’ve had some previous years of success.

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The RTC Big Four State Tournament: First Round

Posted by rtmsf on September 1st, 2010

A few weeks ago, the four major college basketball programs in the great state of Indiana announced that they would be starting an annual event called the Crossroads Classic, pitting each school against one of its other state rivals (Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame and Butler) in an annual basketball orgy of Hoosierness.  We here at RTC loved this idea, and immediately started thinking of other states in the union who could put on a similarly extravagant annual show of hoops.  We were about 99.7% finished with our research when Matt Snyder of Fanhouse published this piece listing the top twenty states that could hold similar in-state classics, causing us to scramble to check the integrity of our passwords (“RTC” doesn’t cut it?) and servers throughout the network.

Indiana's New Crossroads Classic Inspired Us

Seriously, though, Snyder did a great job with the idea; he just beat us to the punch with it.  So we went back to the drawing board and thought about ways to use our research in a constructive way that didn’t rip off the Fanhouse post.  What we came up with is what we’re calling the 2010 RTC Big Four State Tournament.  Here’s how it works.

  1. Similar to the Fanhouse post, we picked the top four programs in each of the 33 states (including DC) with at least that many D1 universities.
  2. We then chose the top sixteen states based on the current status and power of those four programs within each state.
  3. Next, we chose a starting lineup “dream team” of players from those programs in each state, thinking about how to best integrate them by position (three guards & two bigs; or vice versa).
  4. We also chose two subs — one guard and one big man — as well as a head coach.
  5. We limited each school to two starters and one bench player for a maximum of three per team (sorry, Duke).  We also made sure to include at least one player from each of the four chosen programs (hi, Seattle).
  6. Finally, we seeded the sixteen teams into our bracket and analyzed the matchups.  We encourage you to use the polls below to do likewise.

Which state do you think has the strongest cadre of players from among its Big Four programs?  Here’s our bracket:

We’ll analyze the left side of our bracket today, and the right side tomorrow.  Make sure to put your choices in the appropriate poll box.

#1 Indiana vs. #16 Utah

The most lopsided first round battle pits top seeded Indiana against a Utah squad filled with mid-major flavor. For Utah to avoid embarrassing themselves, they’ll need a heroic effort from elite scorer and potential first team All-American Jimmer Fredette. Much like BYU was vulnerable on the rare occasion when Fredette didn’t deliver, this Utah team void of talent from top-shelf Division I programs will need their do-everything point guard to put on his Superman cape. We suspect Fredette will keep Utah competitive for most of the first half. Tai Wesley is crafty enough to lure Matt Howard into foul trouble and, given the season Weber State just concluded, their representatives are far from slouches. In a near carbon copy of BYU’s second round contest with Kansas State, though, it would be a surprise if Fredette didn’t wear down under the intense man-to-man defense of Shelvin Mack and the common double team. Because of our conditions for picking these teams, sure, but an Indiana team loaded enough to bring a talent like JaJuan Johnson off the bench isn’t going to lose to a primarily one-man squad. The Hoosier State representatives pull away and win by 20+.

RTC Choice: Indiana 84, Utah 62.

#4 Texas vs. #13 New York

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BYU Leaves For the WCC in Hoops: Two Perspectives

Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2010

We asked two of our best contributors to take a look at today’s news that BYU has decided to go independent in football while joining the WCC in all other sports.  As he’s done all summer, our Mountain West correspondent Andrew Murawa breaks down all the moving pieces here in a simple, understandable way.  Additionally, our WCC correspondent, Michael Vernetti, stops by with a profile of the architect of the biggest coup of realignment summer, WCC Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich.

What Does It Mean? by Andrew Murawa

The wait for the next step in conference realignment is over, as BYU announced today its intention to forge ahead as an independent in football while joining up with the West Coast Conference in most other sports, beginning in 2011-12. In the process, the last hopes for the Western Athletic Conference to remain a viable entity have vanished, and the Mountain West Conference has turned its gaze from perhaps earning an automatic bid to the BCS for its conference champion to simple survival.

Jimmer Fredette Won't Get a Chance to Play in the WCC, but We Savor Future BYU-Gonzaga Matchups

A look at the news from the perspective of all the major entities in this move, BYU, the WAC, the MWC and the WCC:

  1. BYU – it appears all along that BYU was set on going independent in football, and just needed to find a soft landing spot for its other sports. In football, they’re working with ESPN on a deal for their television rights and they’ll make a viable schedule out of the remnants of the WAC (Utah State and Hawai’i are already on the schedule for 2011) and whoever else ESPN can convince to play them.  Regardless, they’re certainly not getting a Notre Dame-style sweetheart deal from the BCS and they’ll likely have trouble filling out a schedule decent enough to regularly put them in BCS contention. As for the move to the WCC, this is an excellent destination for a good basketball program, putting the Cougars into a spot where they should be able to compete with Gonzaga for conference supremacy immediately. Given St. Mary’s steady rise, Portland’s continued improvement, Loyola Marymount’s potential and the success of schools like Pepperdine, San Diego and Santa Clara in the past, the Cougars will definitely find some worthwhile competition there. And given that every other school in the league is a religious institution, BYU at least has something in common with its new conference mates (never mind the fact that BYU has a student body of 33,000, while the biggest school in the WCC has an enrollment of less than 9,000). But, the big key for BYU is getting away from what they found to be a limiting television package in the MWC. Now, they’ll be able to make use of their state-of-the-art media center and use it as a nice carrot to make sure that they are able to reach an agreement with ESPN. And, given that the WCC already has a television deal in place with ESPN for basketball and will reportedly retain broadcast rights for games not aired by the WWL, this is likely a big upgrade in terms of the television package for BYU.
  2. WAC – goodbye. If BYU had agreed to join the WAC in its non-football sports, at least there would have been some reason for the continued existence of the conference, but now standing at six teams with schools like Hawai’i and Utah State already considering other options, this venerable conference is on its deathbed as it approaches its 50th birthday. Right now, about the only reason for the remaining schools to stick together is in the hopes of getting the $10 million in buyout money from Fresno State and Nevada, money over which there will clearly be an epic legal battle. WAC commissioner Karl Benson insists that Fresno State and Nevada will have to remain in the conference through 2011-12, but the schools so far beg to differ. With six remaining members, the conference still holds a claim on an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for a couple of years, but the defection of one more school (whether it be Utah State to the MWC or Hawai’i to independence) would be the final nail in the coffin.
  3. MWC – saved from extinction a few weeks back by Fresno State and Nevada’s agreement to join the conference, the MWC is certainly hurt by the loss of BYU but it was going to happen sooner or later anyway. The hope of an automatic bid for its conference football champion to the BCS is now a distant memory and the conference is left with its meager television deal with Versus, CBS College Sports and its own network, The Mtn., now minus the Salt Lake City market  (the regional hub of the conference). In order for the conference to remain a viable entity for the future, it will need to fix its issues with its television contracts, but in the short term, it is still a strong league. However, given that the television contract is locked in until 2015-16, the conference may find itself having to fight off other suitors for some of its strongest members. TCU has already been mentioned as a possible target for the Big 12, and there has even been talk of a merger or some kind of alliance between the Mountain West and Conference USA (talk fueled by meetings between the two conferences in the days after the MWC added Fresno State and Nevada). Finally, there is the possibility that the MWC would be interested in adding more teams. They could certainly finish off the WAC by stealing Utah State (a move that would probably thrill Fresno State and Nevada because it would immediately end the $5 million buyout talk) and maybe even New Mexico State. There have been hopeful rumors of adding some of the western CUSA teams (Houston, Tulsa and UTEP, for example), but the MWC’s television deal probably precludes that, so it will be interesting to see what the next move is for a conference that was very recently thought to be a significant up-and-comer.
  4. WCC – first, you have to wonder what Gonzaga thinks of this. They’ve been the alpha dog in the conference for years as the school casting shadows on the rest of the league, and now, they’re potentially just another tiny school bouncing about in behemoth BYU’s wake. Certainly Gonzaga basketball isn’t going anywhere, but they’re no longer the program that can be immediately penciled in as the favorite in the conference every single year. Looking at it from the Zags’ perspective, the addition of BYU adds a couple more high-quality games during the conference season to bolster its strength of schedule and maintain a high RPI -– perhaps they don’t have to go so nuts with their non-conference schedule anymore. As for the conference as a whole, BYU’s presence in basketball is nothing  but good -– more high-profile games, stronger schedules and a big new market.  The league – now at nine teams with the addition of BYU – will go to a 16-game full home-and-home round robin schedule (although they’ll need to figure out the logistics of that, since there is no longer an easy way to schedule travel partners with an odd number of teams) and they’ll need to rearrange their conference tournament (tournament semifinals have been on Sunday and BYU will not play on Sundays). And there is even the potential for further expansion. Pacific had been considered for possible conference membership in 2008, and the Tigers would be a good fit along with the existing Bay Area schools (St. Mary’s, San Francisco, Santa Clara), but Denver and Seattle have also been mentioned as possible new invitees, given that those schools would add new large markets to the conference.  Denver, in particular, would be a natural travel partner for BYU. All things considered, this is an exciting day for fans of schools all around the WCC, even if the size and particular religious affiliation of BYU may give brief pause.

What’s next?

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