What You Missed While Watching College Football…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 8th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist plus author of the weekly Ten Tuesday Scribbles and Bubble Watch columns.

With college football crowning another faux-national champion Thursday night in Pasadena, the college sports scene can officially shift its axis to basketball. While a number of college basketball diehards such as yours truly were knee-deep in mid-major box scores and enthralling non-conference tournaments since the season tipped off in mid-November, it’s perfectly understandable for our college football-fan brethren out there to have been entranced in the gridiron scene during this time. For many folks out there, college basketball truly begins when a football champion is crowned and conference play heats up, when Rece and the gang show up on our TVs every Saturday morning at 11 AM and the bubble begins to take its early shape. For those people, you sure missed plenty of exciting hoops action. To get you caught up in what has gone down thus far on the hardwood, here’s a summary for your enjoyment, divvied up into the six major conferences and all the rest:

ACC

What we’ve learned: There was much back-and-forth debate entering this season whether Duke or North Carolina represented the class of this conference. After two solid months of play, it’s fairly evident Duke has separated themselves from their bitter rival as the class of the ACC. While the Tar Heels may top Duke skill-wise up front, Carolina simply does not boast the backcourt to even contend with the Dukies’ tandem of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. The primary knock on Duke heading into this season was point guard play with Elliot Williams transferring to Memphis. As a true sharp-shooting 2-guard who creates his shots coming off screens in Redick-like fashion, could Scheyer handle the responsibility of running the Duke offense? The answer has been resounding in the affirmative: 19.7 PPG, 46% FG, 92% FT, 43% 3pt and an otherworldly 4.8 A/TO ratio that currently leads the nation. Another key to Duke’s early season success has been Coach K’s willingness to adjust his defense to fit his roster. Rather than employing the normal Duke on-ball pressure attack, Krzyzewski is utilizing more of a sagging defense that plays into the frontcourt depth Duke enjoys with six players that receive time at 6’8 or taller.

Scheyer Has His Devils Looking Great This Season

What’s still to be determined: After Duke and Carolina (and let’s not go overboard following the Heels loss to Charleston, they’re still clearly the second best team in this conference), who will emerge as the third contender behind the top two dogs? An ever-shifting proposition, the current edge probably goes to Florida State despite their utter lack of point guard play. The Seminoles are one of the tallest teams in the nation and have a few capable long-range shooters that get open looks when defenses collapse on Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton. Plus, they’re off to a head start with a December win at ACC foe Georgia Tech. Plenty of folks think Clemson could be that team behind powerful big man Trevor Booker, but they lack a second scoring option and I can’t stop thinking back to their collapse at home to an inexperienced Illinois squad. It would be unwise to count out Gary Williams, and the jury’s still out on Virginia Tech and Miami due to their soft schedules, so I’ll give the current edge to Wake Forest as that third team. The road win at Gonzaga’s on-campus arena stands out, Ish Smith has turned into a fine point guard and Al-Farouq Aminu has as much pure talent as anyone in this conference.

NCAA Locks: Duke, North Carolina.

Likely bids: Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest.

Bubble teams: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech.

Make other plans for March: Boston College, North Carolina State, Virginia.

Big East

What we’ve learned: The NCAA picture is shaping up quite similarly to last season when Louisville (regular season champion), Pittsburgh and Connecticut all received #1 seeds. There will be much back-and-forth debate about whether the top three teams this season — Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova -- holds the edge in this conference, but does it really matter? Right now you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and Purdue are the likely #1 seeds (of course plenty could change, we have two months of games left), while those top contenders in the Big East are likely all on the second seed line. Even of greater importance though is the obvious revelation that Jamie Dixon can coach basketball. You wouldn’t be alone if you counted out Pittsburgh following a near-loss to Wofford, a 47-point output at home vs. New Hampshire and a second half butt-kicking at the hands of Indiana, but those losses came without their most athletic player, Gilbert Brown, and their best defender, Jermaine Dixon. Those two have returned to action with the most improved Big East player Ashton Gibbs (who recently broke the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made) as a fearsome trio that has carried the Panthers to road wins over previously-undefeated Syracuse and fringe-top 25 Cincinnati. If Dixon is able to coax his Panthers into a NCAA Tournament team after losing such enormous production and leadership in Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields, there is little debate on his merits as National Coach of the Year.

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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by rtmsf on January 5th, 2010

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky       15-0    
  2. Tennessee      10-2
  3. Florida       11-3
  4. Vanderbilt         11-3
  5. South Carolina       8-5
  6. Georgia         7-5

WEST

  1. Mississippi State      12-3
  2. Mississippi      11-2
  3. Alabama      10-4
  4. LSU        9-5
  5. Auburn         8-6
  6. Arkansas       7-7

NEWS & NOTES

  • The big story in the SEC this week was the arrest and indefinite suspension of four Tennessee basketball players — Tyler Smith, Melvin Goins, Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams.  The group was arrested on a myriad of drug and weapon charges.  Some of the charges were felonies, and given the recent problems with UT’s football program, it is hard to imagine any scenario in which the players may step back on the court this season.  It is a big loss for the Vols, as the players had accounted for 33 points a game.  Elsewhere, South Carolina dismissed forward Mike Holmes from the team for repeated rule violations.  Holmes is the second starter lost this season for the Gamecocks as Dominique Archie was also lost for the season due to injury. 
  • Kentucky continues to be the class of the SEC in the rankings, holding onto their #3 ranking in both the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today poll.  Tennessee is #15 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #16 in the AP Top 25.  Mississippi remains the third ranked team at #14 in the AP poll and #16 in the ESPN/USA Today.  Florida is hovering just outside the top 25 and may re-emerge with another strong week or two. 
  • Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins was named SEC Player of the Week again after averaging 18.5 points and 15.0 rebounds in two Wildcat wins.  Cousins also won the Freshman of the Week award last week for his double-double performances against Drexel and Long Beach State.  This week, that honor goes to Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, who averaged 17.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3 assists in a pair of Commodore wins.  

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK

The parade of cupcakes ends later this week as SEC play officially gets underway.  What else really needs to be said?  As of right now, the SEC has seven teams with 10 wins already, and you have to consider each strong tournament teams right now.  Let’s see how these teams hold up as it goes within the conference from here on out.

  • 1/5 – #2 Texas (13-0) @ Arkansas (7-7) – 7:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/5 – #17 Georgia Tech (11-2) @ Georgia (7-5) – 7:00 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/6 – Charlotte (10-3) @ #15 Tennessee (10-2) – 7:00 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/9 – Florida (11-3) @ Vanderbilt (11-3) – 12:00 PM – ESPN2
  • 1/9 – Mississippi State (12-3) @ #16 Mississippi (11-2) – 1:30 PM – ESPN360
  • 1/9 – Alabama (10-4) @ LSU (9-5) – 5:00 PM
  • 1/10 – #1 Kansas (13-0) @ #15 Tennessee (10-2) – 4:30 PM – CBS

TEAM UPDATES (ratings are AP, ESPN/USA Today)
 
EAST

  • Kentucky (#3, #3)John Wall set a UK record for assists with 16 as UK crushed the Hartford Hawks 104-61 on Tuesday night.  DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and 12 boards and Darius Miller scored a season high 16 points to key the  ’Cats win.  On Saturday, Kentucky endured a sluggish first half and then pulled away in the second half to defeat bitter in-state rival Louisville 71-62.  Cousins led the way with 18 points and 18 rebounds.  Patrick Patterson and John Wall both had 17 points.  Kentucky, at 15-0, is off to their best start in 40 years. 
  • Tennessee (#16, #15)Wayne Chism had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Tennessee dominated inside for a 66-59 victory over Memphis on New Year’s Eve.  JP Prince and Tyler Smith had 12 and 11 to lead the Vols in the rivalry game.
  • Florida—Florida breezed to a 43-13 halftime lead against Presbyterian and then coasted for a 79-38 win.  The Gators outrebounded the Blue Hose, yes, the Blue Hose, by a 48-24 margin.  Chandler Parsons led the way with 21 points off the bench and Alex Tyus had 16 points and 13 boards while Erik Murphy had a double-double (16 pts, 11 boards) off the bench.  Chandler Parsons hit a dramatic 75-foot shot as time expired in OT to give the Gators a 62-61 win over NC State.  The three-pointer was Parson’s only FG of the game.  Vernon Macklin had 14 points and Erving Walker 13 to lead the Gators in scoring. 
  • Vanderbilt—Freshman reserve John Jenkins scored 15 points to lead Vanderbilt to an 86-48 victory over Manhattan.  Eleven players scored for the Commodores, the third straight game that Vanderbilt had at least 10 players score.  AJ Ogilvy also came off the bench to add 12 points.  John Jenkins scored a career-high 20 points to lead Vanderbilt in an 82-46 rout of Southern Mississippi.  The freshman guard was 6-of-6 from 3-point range and the Commodores shot a season-high 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from beyond the arc. Jeffery Taylor had 14 points off the bench and Ogilvy had 10 points in his return to the starting lineup as Vandy blasted Middle Tennessee 73-53.  Vanderbilt proves to be one of the SEC’s deeper teams as five players scored in double figures. 
  • South Carolina—The Gamecocks battled back from a 21-point halftime deficit, but it was not enough as they fell short to the Boston College Eagles 85-76.  Devan Downey had 29 points and Brandis Raley-Ross 13, but SC fell to 8-4 on the season.  Baylor made a clean sweep of its two games in the SEC, this time stopping the Gamecocks 85-74.  Downey had 20 points and Lakeem Jackson 19 but it was not enough to stop the Gamecocks’ second loss of the week.   
  • GeorgiaTrey Thompkins had 12 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulldogs dusted the Pepperdine Waves 64-47.  Travis Leslie and Ricky McPhee also scored in double digits for the Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs were no match for the Missouri Tigers on Saturday as they were routed 89-61.  Leslie was the only Bulldog in double digits with 18 points as the Bulldogs had only 6 assists against 23 turnovers.

WEST

  • Mississippi (#14, #16)—Ole Miss set a school record for three-pointers with 14 as they beat Jackson State 90-75.  Terrico White hit 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and scored 29 points to lead the Rebels.  Zach Graham added 14 points. 
  • Mississippi State—Jarvis Varnado scored a season-high 23 points and tied his career-best 17 rebounds as Mississippi State won its ninth straight with a 77-68 victory over San Diego on New Year’s Eve.  The Bulldogs used their superior inside game to take control of the game late in the first half and maintained its lead throughout the game.  Kodi Augustus added 17 points.  MSU also suffered a tough loss at the hand of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 55-52.  Jarvis Varnado had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs and Dee Bost added 13 off the bench. 
  • AlabamaJaMychal Green scored 19 points and had eight rebounds to lead Alabama to a 77-65 victory over Tennessee State.  Senario Hillman added 15 points and six assists for the Crimson Tide, who have won three of their past four games.  Mikhail Torrance scored 19 points to lead Alabama over Toledo 67-50 on Monday night for their third straight win. Justin Knox added 14 points and Green had 12 for the Crimson Tide who have put together a three-game winning streak for the third time this season.
  • LSU—LSU is starting to look like a team that will not be able to compete in the SEC as they got thumped by Xavier 89-65.  LSU has gotten blown out of a couple of matchups against NCAA-level teams so far this season.  Bo Spencer, Tasmin Mitchell and Storm Warren accounted for 49 of the Tigers 65 points.  The Tigers also blew a 12-point second half lead in the second half and went down to Utah, 61-59.  Warren (21 points) and Mitchell (19 points) accounted for over two-thirds of the Tiger’s points.  LSU snapped their three game losing streak with a 83-60 romp over McNeese State.  Mitchell and Spencer had 19 and 18 points, respectively, to lead the Tigers. 
  • AuburnLucas Hargrove had 20 points and 13 rebounds as Auburn overcame a sluggish start to beat Charleston Southern 77-62 on Tuesday night.  The Tigers fell behind 22-15, but turned up the pressure and forced 22 turnovers.  Frankie Sullivan added 10 points and six steals for Auburn.  Brendon Knox scored 18 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double and Auburn defeated Georgia Southern 95-75.  The Tigers shot a season-high 54.2 percent from three-point range (13 of 24), including a 4-5 effort by Sullivan who finished with 15 points.
  • Arkansas—The Razorbacks had a chance to get a good statement win but were blown out at home by Baylor, 70-47.  Jemal Farmer, Rotnei Clark and Marshawn Powell were the only Razorbacks to show up as they scored 38 of Arkansas’s 47 points.  Arkansas had a chance to redeem themselves against #24 UAB but suffered a heartbreaking 73-72 loss as UAB scored at the buzzer.  The Hogs got good games from Powell (22), Washington (18), and Clark (16) but those three accounted for 56 of Arkansas’ 72 points. 
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Checking in on… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on December 22nd, 2009

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the Southeastern Conference.

EAST

  1. Kentucky 12-0
  2. Florida 8-2
  3. Tennessee 8-2
  4. South Carolina 8-3
  5. Vanderbilt 8-3
  6. Georgia 5-4

WEST

  1. Mississippi 10-1
  2. Mississippi State 9-2
  3. LSU 8-2
  4. Alabama 7-4
  5. Arkansas 6-5
  6. Auburn 5-6

Kentucky set a new standard in college basketball as they became the first program to win 2,000 wins in an 88-44 romp over Drexel.  John Calipari is more than exceeding expectations with a 12-0 record and a #3 ranking in both polls.  UK appears to be gelling right now and are clearly setting the standard in the SEC. Unfortunately, the UK game was about the only highlight in the SEC this week as both Florida and Tennessee suffered head scratching losses.  The two Mississippi schools are starting to rise and play very well and the SEC is turning into a five or six team race.

In the polls, the Wildcats hold on to the number 3 ranking in both polls.  Tennessee falls out of the top ten to 14 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and #16 in the AP Top #25.  The Florida Gators fell to #18 in both polls after their second straight loss.  The Ole Miss Rebels did move up to #15 in the AP Top #25 but are at #21 in the ESPN/USA Today. Despite a few strong weeks, Mississippi State would appear logically to be the next SEC team to crack the polls but they are not getting much love from the voters and it may be a couple more weeks before a 5th team joins the rankings.

Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner named SEC Freshman of the Week.  He averaged 9.5 PPG on 88.9 FG% to go with 5.0 RPG and 3.0 blocks in two wins.   Georgia’s Trey Thompkins named SEC Player of the Week.  He had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in a victory over Illinois .

WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK:

Just a few stocking stuffers strewn through the week, but the real present of the week is the Mississippi/West Virginia matchup.  Here is a look at some of the key games this week:

12/22:  South Alabama (8-4) @ Florida (8-2) – 7 PM – ESPN 360

12/22:  Missouri State (10-0) @ Arkansas (6-5) – 8PM

12/22:  LSU (8-2) @ Washington State (9-2) – 10 PM

12/23:  Long Beach State (6-4) @ Kentucky (11-0) – 1 PM

12/23:  Mississippi (10-1) @ West Virginia (8-0) – 7:30PM – ESPN2

TEAM UPDATES (ratings are AP, ESPN/USA Today)

EAST

Kentucky (#3, #3) — Kentucky, behind Patrick Patterson’s 21 points, overcame an overall sluggish performance and pulled away from the Austin Peay Governors late for a 90-69 win on Saturday.  DeMarcus Cousins added 19 points and John Wall threw in 11 to lead the Wildcats.  With the 11-0 start, Calipari eclipsed Adolph Rupp’s record for best start by a first year coach.   UK was a perfect 18-18 from the free throw line in the game and that helped to thwart any Governor’s comebacks.  Two days later, UK assured there would be no drama in getting their 2,000th win as they jumped out to a 56-20 halftime lead en route to an 88-44 romp over Drexel.   Patterson and Cousins each had 18 points and Cousins grabbed 13 boards to lead UK.  An amazing stat from the week is that UK went 35-37 from the free throw line for the two games.

Florida (#18 , #18) — The Gators blew an eight point lead and were upset by the Richmond Spiders 56-53 on Saturday night.  This was the second straight loss for UF, who started the season 8-0 and reached #10 in the rankings.  It was a sloppy game as both teams shot 38% and despite having a 10 rebound advantage, the Gators were outhustled by the scrappy Spiders.

Tennessee (#16, #14) — Tennessee opened the SEC week Tuesday night with a 77-58 win over the Wyoming Cowboys.  The Vols only led by one at the half but had a very good defensive second half and pulled away for the win. Scotty Hopson continued to pace the Vols with 14 points and Wayne Chism had 13.  It does say something about the Vols overall strength when they can win by 19 despite being outrebounded and going 4-20 from beyond the 3 point line.  On Saturday, Bruce Pearl suffered his worse loss at Knoxville and the #8 Vols were routed 77-55 by the 4-4 USC Trojans.  Hopson was the only Vol that turned out to play and he had 16 points.  In comparison, the rest of the starting lineup scored just 23 points.  Tennessee could not mount any challenge to the Trojans with their 2-22 three-point shooting.

South Carolina — The Gamecocks broke open a 52-all tie with a 24-6 run to pull out a 76-58 win over the upset-minded Richmond Spiders last Wednesday.  Devan Downey led the way with 18 points and Johndre Jefferson had a nice performance off the bench (12 pts, 8 boards) to help South Carolina continue to win without Dominique Archie.  On Saturday the Gamecocks suffered a crushing lost to the Wofford Terriers, 68-61.  South Carolina had won the previous 21 meetings against Wofford, who have also beaten the Georgia Bulldogs this year.  Downey led the USC scoring with 17 and Brandis Raley-Ross had 14.  The Gamecocks rebounded from the devastating news that Archie is lost for the year by blasting the Furman Paladins 81-57 Monday night.  Sam Muldrow and Devan Downey both had 16 to lead the Gamecocks.

VanderbiltJeffrey Taylor had 20 points on white hot 10-11 shooting as Vanderbilt rebounded from a rough week last week with a 84-71 win over the Tennessee State Tigers.   A.J. Ogilvy, apparently relegated to the bench for now, added 11 points and 6 boards in just 15 minutes.   The Commodores had a great shooting night, hitting 67.9% from the field.  Then last night the Commodores used 60% shooting to blast the Mercer Bears 99-59.  This was a game where the Commodores got a lot of production off their bench with 17 points from John Jenkins and A.J. Ogilvy had 11 points in just 15 minutes.

GeorgiaTrey Thompkins hit four straight free throw attempts in the final 22.2 seconds to finish with 21 points and help Georgia beat Illinois 70-67 on Saturday night.  This was was the biggest win of the Mark Fox era as the Illini came into the game at 8-2.  Travis Leslie added 17 points as the Bulldogs improved to 5-4.

WEST

Mississippi (#15, #21) — The Ole Miss Rebels are becoming King of the Comeback as they came from behind in the third straight game to force OT vs the UTEP Miners on Wednesday, then dominated the extra period en route to a 91-81 victory.  Chris Warren had a career high 32 points and 5 3-pointers.  Terrico White added three treys and 19 points.  The Rebels won their 6th game in a row with a 108-64 romp over the Centenary Gentlemen on Saturday.  Ole Miss hardly broke a sweat in posting a 30 point halftime lead and cruised the rest of the way.   The Rebs were led by White’s 17 and the team nailed 11 treys to key the romp.

Mississippi State — Mississippi State used 63% shooting to put away the Wright State Raiders 80-69.  The Bulldogs got impressive showings from their guards rather than their forwards.   Barry Stewart hit five treys and had 21 points while Dee Bost had 11 assists to key the Bulldog win.   Jarvis Varnado, who entered the day leading the nation in blocks this season, added five more to help Mississippi State to its sixth-straight win in a 70-64 victory over Houston on Saturday.  If that is not enough, Varnado added 17 boards and 13 points.  Ravern Johnson and Dee Bost both added 15 points for the Bulldogs.

AlabamaMikhail Torrance scored 15 points and had seven assists, and JaMychal Green added 14 points to lead Alabama to a 60-45 victory over Samford.  The game only featured six free throws and a total of 15 fouls between the two teams.  In their other matchup, the Tide came out flat and were generally dominated in a 87-74 loss to #22 Kansas State.  Alabama did manage a late run that cut an 18 point deficit to seven, but ran out of gas as Kansas State pulled away again.  Torrance had 20 and Green added 17 for the Alabama cause.

LSUTasmin Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining in the game lifted LSU to a 63-60 victory over Nicholls State on Thursday night.  LSU continued it’s trend of struggling with lesser teams with the 3-9 Colonels.  Mitchell was 11-14 for the game and had 27 points and Storm Warren had a double double with 13 points and 11 boards.  Bo Spencer scored 22 points, including two important free throws in the final minute, to lead LSU to a 65-61 victory against Rice on Saturday.  Mitchell had a double double with 10 points and 12 boards as LSU improved to 8-0 at home.

Arkansas — On Wednesday, the shorthanded Razorbacks had to face Alabama State without the SEC’s leading scorer Rotnei Clarke (tendinitis) but still got a compete team effort to beat the Hornets, 76-51.  Michael Washington had 22 points and Marshawn Powell 13 to help the Hogs.  Washington scored a season-high 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Arkansas held off Stephen F. Austin 72-69 on Saturday.  Stefan Walsh added 13 points off the bench as the Hogs moved above .500 at 6-5.

Auburn — The Tigers let a great opportunity for a signature win slip through it’s fingers with a 76-72 loss at Florida State.  DeWayne Reed and Frankie Sullivan both scored 17 points and the Tigers nailed 13 treys but could not close the gap for the upset win.  On Sunday, the Tigers became a signature win for another program as they lost 107-89 to the Sam Houston State Bearkats.  Auburn became the first SEC victory for the Bearkats who threw 92 points up on Kentucky earlier this season.  Reed’s 19 led the way for the Tigers.

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Checking In On… the SEC

Posted by jstevrtc on November 24th, 2009

checkinginon

Paul Jordan of Wildcat Blue Blog is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

CURRENT SEC STANDINGS

EAST

  1. Kentucky   4-0
  2. Florida   3-0
  3. Tennessee   4-1
  4. South Carolina   3-1
  5. Vanderbilt   2-1
  6. Georgia   1-2

WEST

  1. LSU   3-0
  2. Mississippi   4-1
  3. Mississippi State   2-1
  4. Arkansas   2-1
  5. Alabama   2-1
  6. Auburn   2-3

Coming into this season, there were two main storylines to watch for the conference as a whole.  The first was if the SEC, after a down year and having only three NCAA teams last year, could rebound and regain its status as an elite conference.   The second one was if the influx of new talent in the SEC, both in the coaching and playing ranks, would help to raise the prestige level of the SEC.

The jury is out as to whether the SEC is going to be an elite conference this year.  So far, the SEC has an unimpressive 32-12 record so far.  There have been embarrassing losses, the key one being #19 Mississippi State losing to Rider by 14 points.  Add to this the fact that the SEC have not knocked off a “name team,” yet.  Just last night, #9 Tennessee lost to #6 Purdue and #24 Vanderbilt lost to Cincinnati.  The East division is clearly the class of the league with a 17-5 record and all three of the SEC’s ranked teams residing in that division.  So far, only Kentucky, Florida, and LSU have escaped the first two weeks of the season unscathed.

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ATB: Feast Week Debuts

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2009

atb

Game of the NightPurdue 73, Tennessee 72.  This game between two of the best teams in the Big Ten and SEC was a back-and-forth affair that predictably came down to the final possession.  It was that final possession, however, that exhibited why we tend to not believe in Bruce Pearl’s Vols as a true contender while giving Purdue much more credit.  After Purdue’s Kelsey Barlow bricked two FTs that would have given the Boilermakers a three-point lead with 17 seconds remaining, UT’s Bobby Maze dribbled down and found career 32% three-point shooter Wayne Chism at the top of the key… for a three?  Um, guys, all you need is a two!  Penetrate the lane and put it on the rim!  It’s not that Chism couldn’t have made the shot — he was in fact having a great game with 24/6 — but it wasn’t a high-percentage shot, and the Vol players need to know that.  It’s that kind of shoddy decisionmaking (and defense) that we’ve routinely seen out of these Vols that makes us have our doubts.  Purdue gutted out this one behind Robbie Hummel’s 20/7 and E’Twaun Moore’s 22/3/3 assts, and Matt Painter’s team will go home with the trophy from the Paradise Jam this year.

Maui Invitational.

  • Gonzaga 76, Colorado 72. The Zags’ heads were clearly still on the mainland tonight as they came out very sluggish and allowed Colorado to build a double-digit lead and shoot 53% from the floor before rallying back to take a late lead and win a first-round Maui tilt against Colorado.  Steven Gray (27/4) and Matt Bouldin (25/4/4 assts) led the way for Gonzaga, while Cory Higgins (19/6) led the charge for the Buffs.
  • Wisconsin 65, Arizona 61.  Other than UT-Purdue, this was the next best game of the day, and for a while, it appeared that Sean Miller’s young Arizona team might get a confidence-inspiring win after getting off to a horrific start (down 16-2) in this game.  In a typically ugly fashion, Wisconsin defended all over the place, but Arizona freshman Derrick Williams (25/8) kept making big plays on the interior to keep UA in the game.  Is it possible that Arizona, with all their personnel losses, is one of the best teams in the Pac-10 (answer: yes)?
  • #22 Maryland 79, Chaminade 51.  Is something wrong with Greivis Vasquez?  For the fourth straight game this season, the electrifying guard put up only single-figure points (6/5 assts).  Having not seen his games, it’s possible that he is eschewing individual scoring to set up his teammates (such as Sean Mosley, who had 19/8), but we’re intrigued at this point to see what he does against Cincinnati tomorrow.
  • Cincinnati 67, #24 Vanderbilt 58.  This is the Cincy team that everyone was talking about leading up to the season, as the tougher Bearcats dominated Vandy on the glass (45-27) and took residence in their jerseys the rest of the time, holding Vandy to a paltry 28% from the field.  In an ugly game, Yancy Gates led the way with 16/10, and hyped super-recruit Lance Stephenson contributed 8/5.

Upset of the Night (aka Pac-10 Loser of the Night)Montana 68, Oregon 55.  When oh when will the embarrassments for the Pac-10 end?  Sacramento State, Loyola Marymount, Cal State Fullerton… now add Montana to the list.  Look, we know that Montana is a favorite in the Big Sky, but this is Oregon’s McArthur Court, a place that used to be a difficult venue for opposing teams — especially those from mid-major conferences — to play.  The Grizzlies’ star, Anthony Johnson, lived at the line for 20/4/3 assts as the league picked up its twelfth loss of the early season already.  Montana shot 51% while Oregon foundered in the low 30s… at home.  Things may not get better for this league until they start playing each other in January (it doesn’t look so bad because not everyone can lose). 

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

impactcountry(2)

If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

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

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part Two)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 27th, 2009

seasonpreview

The final two-part edition of our Top 65 games delves into the exciting stretch run of the final five weeks. These highlighted games should have tremendous implications on seeding and conference standings with heated rivals doing battle in the final push towards March Madness. Here’s a preview of what’s guaranteed to be the best slate of games 2009-10 has to offer (top games of November/December, January and the first part of February/March in case you missed them):

February 16- North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (#36 overall)- Many believe Georgia Tech has assembled the talent to play with the supposedly rebuilding reigning champs. Still, UNC should be the favorite to win the ACC and Tech may be right on their heels (no pun intended). Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors make up a frontcourt composed of two possible lottery picks. Iman Shumpert (5.0 APG) returns to bolster the backcourt at the 1 or 2 position while Zach Peacock and Mo Miller provide depth for a Tech squad looking for a late-season impact win.

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February 22- West Virginia @ Connecticut (#20 overall)- Whether Stanley Robinson is assigned Da’Sean Butler on the perimeter or Devin Ebanks in the post, Stix is the key for Connecticut this season and in this specific Big East battle. Robinson averaged 14.0 PPG and 9.0 RPG in his final ten contests last year and the UConn coaching staff strongly believes their athletic forward can replicate that success the entire season. He won’t be spending the first half in a sheet metal plant this time around, either.

February 23- Tennessee @ Florida (#62 overall)- The Gators could linger around the bubble this season in a difficult SEC East. Knocking off likely high seed Tennessee at home would send a message to the committee at this late date in the season. It’s imperative Kenny Boynton have an electric shooting game against Tennessee’s shaky defense for the Gators to have a shot. They’ll also need Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons to contain the Tennessee bigs inside and out.

February 24- Purdue @ Minnesota (#32 overall)- A difficult road contest for a Purdue team looking to capture the Big Ten title. Minnesota always plays at a different level defensively at the Barn, meaning this could be a battle of wills in the 50s that sends Big Ten haters screaming in the streets. How Minnesota’s youth, whether it be sophomores Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson or their freshmen Royce White and Rodney Williams, develops into late February should reveal whether the Gophers can pull off this upset.

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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: February/March (Part One)

Posted by zhayes9 on October 25th, 2009

seasonpreview

The final two-part edition of our Top 65 games delves into the exciting stretch run of the final five weeks. These highlighted games should have tremendous implications on seeding and conference standings with heated rivals doing battle in the final push towards March Madness. Here’s a preview of what’s guaranteed to be the best slate of games 2009-10 has to offer (top games of November/December and January in case you missed it):

Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

February 1- Texas @ Oklahoma State (#33 overall)- Hard to imagine you won’t see plenty of scoring in this Big 12 clash. The point guard situation is a bit dicey in Stillwater with Byron Eaton’s departure, but Travis Ford loves to run and James Anderson can score with the best. Expect this to be one of the toughest tests for Texas in their pursuit of a regular season Big 12 title.

February 6- Texas @ Oklahoma (#25 overall)- This could very well be another test. Two freshmen will have to fill major roles for Jeff Capel’s squad with Tommy Mason-Griffin helping out Willie Warren in the backcourt and Tiny Gallon bulldozing opponents in the paint with Blake Griffin in LA. It’s entirely possible defensive stud Avery Bradley could earn the job of trying to lock down the quick Warren.

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February 6- Villanova @ Georgetown (#31 overall)- A Big East clash in February between two teams that have top-three aspirations in the conference. The point guard duel is a dandy with Chris Wright of the Hoyas matched up with Scottie Reynolds of the Wildcats. This should prove a worthy test for Villanova’s thin frontline trying to contain Greg Monroe, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims.

February 6- Michigan State @ Illinois (#37 overall)- The orange-clad students right on top of the floor will be out in full force to support their Illini in hopes of knocking off the loaded Spartans. With Chester Frazier departed, it could be the freshman guard D.J. Richardson trying to contain potential All-American Kalin Lucas. There’s some tremendous outside shooting in this one from State’s Durrell Summers to the Illini’s Demetri McCamey.

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RTC 2009-10 Top 65 Games: January

Posted by zhayes9 on October 22nd, 2009

seasonpreview

Last Monday we broke down the top games of November and December as part of our season preview here at Rush the Court. As we examine the best games of the month of January, keep in mind what games during this crucial portion of the season usually represent: separating the contenders from the pretenders. With conference play heating up, the true top-seed players emerge from the pack and leap up their conference standings, while teams that may have overachieved or floated along on a cupcake-filled slate during the first two months begin to fall apart. Here are the games of great importance to circle on your calendar for January:

Ed. Note: we are not including projected matchups from the preseason tournaments in these 65 games because those will be analyzed separately.

January 1- West Virginia at Purdue (#7 overall)- The top game in the entire month of January will be played on the first day of 2010. You won’t find a more bruising, rugged and intense contest played all year with Bob Huggins and Matt Painter’s teams battling it out in East Lafayette. West Virginia is led by the shooting ability of Da’Sean Butler, the super-athletic Devin Ebanks, the two headed point-guard combo of Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant and impact JC transfer Casey Mitchell. Purdue will be entering their third full season with the core of E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and Keaton Grant intact.

January 2- Louisville at Kentucky (#23 overall)- This game has been circled for fans of Big Blue since the details emerged of Rick Pitino’s affair and subsequent extortion mess. They’ll be on Pitino relentlessly for these transgressions because they know their ultra-talented Wildcats can back up the berating on the court. Kentucky fans will also be eager for revenge after Edgar Sosa’s stunning game-winning three a season ago crushed Kentucky in Freedom Hall. Sosa will have to handle sensational freshman John Wall this time around.

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January 9- Kansas at Tennessee (#12 overall)- If Tennessee gets into an offensive rhythm, they can hang with the Jayhawks. Look for Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism to utilize their versatility to move Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Thomas Robinson and other Kansas bigs away from the basket while allowing their wings — Scotty Hopson, J.P. Prince -- to penetrate inside and draw fouls while Kansas has to recover. This could be an electric, high-scoring affair that may be decided at the foul line.

January 9- West Virginia at Notre Dame (#24 overall)- How about four top-25 games to kick off the month of January? This Big East clash is one of West Virginia’s toughest road tests in their quest of a conference title. Notre Dame recently had a long home court winning streak and the West Virginia forwards Devin Ebanks, Wellington Smith and Deniz Kilici have to deal with the likely BE POY Luke Harangody. Whether the Irish can receive production from their guards is the key.

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players: Mid-South Region

Posted by rtmsf on October 7th, 2009

impactplayers

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

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

Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

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  • James Anderson – Jr, F – Oklahoma St. An obvious and unanimous choice for our Mid-South list, James Anderson cannot be blamed if he has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder right now.  Let’s see:  he’s the third-leading returning scorer in the Big 12  for the upcoming season; last year the guy averages 18.2 points, 5.7 boards, shoots over 48% from the field as well as over 82% from the line and 41% from beyond the three-point line… and he gets left off the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list.  Anderson has coolly acknowledged his surprise at this slight, and we think he’s well within his right to do so.  No doubt this will provide motivation for the versatile forward as he embarks upon his junior season for a Cowboys squad that needs him in the leadership role.  Gone are Byron Eaton and Terrel Harris, leaving only Anderson and Obi Muonelo in terms of returning double-digit scorers.  That’s over 27 points a game for which to compensate, so Anderson will get the touches, without question.  Last year was the first trip to the NCAA Tournament for Oklahoma State in the last four years, and despite the aforementioned losses, Cowboy fans are most assuredly expecting another bid this season.  If it’s going to happen, it will be on Anderson’s shoulders.  We know that making our Impact Players list for the Mid-South region isn’t the same as making the preseason Wooden Award Top 50.  But at least we can say… hey James… we got your back, man.
  • Patrick Patterson – Jr, F – Kentucky. Patrick Patterson didn’t need a ton of motivation to return for a junior season in Lexington. The potential NBA riches were surely enticing, but with the news of John Calipari’s hire and subsequent commitments of a recruiting class for the ages, Patterson found himself in a spot where another season at Kentucky may mean a national championship, a far cry from the tumultuous two campaigns he spent in the Bluegrass State under the tutelage of Billy Gillispie. Patterson is a physical specimen in the paint for Kentucky and coach Cal has to be absolutely salivating at the thought of pairing Patterson and diaper dandy DeMarcus Cousins there to complement John Wall, Darius Miller and Eric Bledsoe on the perimeter (just think if Jodie Meeks had stuck around). Patterson nearly finished with a double-double last season at 17.9 ppg and 9.3 rpg, including a dominant 22/15 performance at future #1 seed Louisville, a 19/16 vs. Miami and 21/18 vs. Auburn. In fact, Patterson led the SEC with 15 double-doubles in 2008-09 and was the only player in the conference to finish in the top five in scoring and rebounding. A wildly underrated part of Patterson’s game is his 77% ft to go along with an efficient 60% from the field overall. Most NBA scouts think Patterson will only get stronger and continue to improve with another season in college, a scary thought for opposing SEC coaches and forwards, and a delightful proposition for Calipari. The 6’8″ big man already possesses an NBA-ready frame, a beast on the blocks that loves to bang inside and fight for any rebound in his vicinity. If Patrick Patterson gets the ball deep, he will score. Period. And with John Wall, possibly the top point guard in the nation this season, making those entry passes, Patterson should be able to average a double-double for Kentucky, only adding to the 1,000+ points he’s already totaled as a Wildcat. Barring injury (which isn’t a certainty as PP battled a stress fracture in his ankle in 07-08), Patterson seems about as surefire as anyone in the country to earn national accolades this season. But with realistic hopes of a Final Four at Kentucky for the first time in Patterson’s career, it won’t be about personal accomplishments for the determined forward; it’ll be all about wins.

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RTC Class Schedule 2009-10: Purdue Boilermakers

Posted by zhayes9 on September 7th, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

The Final Four in Indianapolis sets up a dream scenario for Purdue coach Matt Painter. Much like Michigan State last season, who cruised through Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Detroit en route to the national title game, Purdue has the potential to set a goal of playing in front of their Indiana faithful at Lucas Oil Stadium for Final Four 2010. With a first/second round site in Milwaukee and the Midwest Regional located in St. Louis, Purdue could go the route of their Big Ten rivals a year ago by garnering a #1 seed on Selection Sunday.

Does Purdue have the tools to reach such lofty goals? Absolutely. For the second straight season, the core of the Boilermakers return to try and make the next step in March after falling in the second round in 2008 and in the Sweet 16 in 2009. You know the names by now- 6’10 forward JaJuan Johnson, whose numbers improved drastically from his rookie campaign, Chicago scoring guard E’Twaun Moore, team leader and potential Big Ten POY Robbie Hummel, defensive stalwart Chris Kramer and the emerging young point Lewis Jackson to compliment Keaton Grant. In addition, Painter lured in four talented Indiana recruits.

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In order to reach Indianapolis, the Boilermakers must trek through this challenging schedule:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 7.5. The non-conference schedule is fairly demanding for the Boilermakers. One of the best non-conference games of the year takes place on New Year’s Day between two of the most rugged teams in the nation- Purdue and West Virginia. The Mountaineers return Devin Ebanks, Da’Sean Butler and Darryl Bryant for a team that could contend for a Big East crown.  Purdue also plays in the Wooden Tradition on December 19 against an unknown opponent (it’s getting late, kids) and takes on Wake Forest at home in the ACC/Big Ten challenge a year after Duke entered West Lafayette and dominated. Painter and Co. must also travel to Tuscaloosa to take on new coach Anthony Grant and Alabama. The real tests could come in November at the Paradise Jam.

Cupcake City: Not too many cupcakes for Matt Painter this non-conference season which makes sense given his team’s talent level. Purdue faces Memphis’ favorite team, Cal State Northridge, to open the campaign with an easy first round Paradise Jam game and Central Michigan rounding out November. Ball State, Valparaiso and SIU-Edwardsville rounds out the cupcake list.

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RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 22nd, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

Just a mere five months ago, the once proud and feared Kentucky basketball program was mired in a state of chaos. The Billy Gillispie era at the university turned out about as well as the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination. Mystifying losses at storied Rupp Arena to such powers as Gardner-Webb and VMI, puzzling interviews with ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards making the blog rounds and exposing Gillispie as a clown, point guards refusing to enter games, rumors of bar scenes of an inebriated Gillispie making a mockery of his reputation and, worse of all, the Wildcats missing the NCAA Tournament in 2009 only to falter in the NIT. After Gillispie was fired, both parties sued each other and now Gillispie is releasing a book that nobody will read. It’s been a whacky offseason in Big Blue Country, and even though their new savior has some issues of his own, the Kentucky basketball program has experienced an unfathomable turnaround over the summer from the laughing stock of college basketball to a legitimate contender to win a national title.

The hiring of John Calipari and the return of forward Patrick Patterson has rejuvenated Kentucky to the point of being widely considered the favorites in an improving SEC this season. The addition of two top-five recruits- point guard John Wall and power forward DeMarcus Cousins- along with Gillispie’s recruits staying on board and a decent core returning from last season’s squad means expectations are once again sky-high in Lexington. Nobody is thinking about Billy Gillispie but rather the school’s first Final Four berth since the Jeff Sheppard era of 1998.

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Here’s the official schedule for a Kentucky team that may be the most exciting to watch this season in all of college basketball:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 7. The non-conference schedule in John Calipari’s first season features some big names and decent tests, but no overwhelmingly challenging road games are included on the slate. The only true road game is a trip to Bloomington in early December to take on a rebuilding Indiana squad that Kentucky should run out of the building. Emotions will be high for both the North Carolina and Louisville visits during the non-conference season. North Carolina has embarrassed Kentucky handily in two previous meetings and the Wildcats will be eager to exact revenge on their rival Cardinals following last season’s Edgar Sosa miracle (not to mention the coaches aren’t exactly best friends). The schedule also includes a trip to Cancun to take on Cinderella Cleveland State and the Stanford/Virginia winner, none of those teams posing close to a threat. One team that could surprise Kentucky is their opponent in the SEC/Big East Invitational in New York: the Connecticut Huskies. UConn did lose a boatload of scoring and rebounding, but Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker and Stanley Robinson could be enough to hang with Kentucky’s immense talent. At least for a while.

Cupcake City: While Gillispie was prone to the shocking early-season upset, we suspect Calipari will have his team 100% prepared offensively and defensively every single night throughout the campaign. Kentucky has eight games at home against mid-major or low-major competition this season and one visit to Louisville to take on UNC-Asheville. They should sprint through this slate and remain a decent bet to run the table in non-conference play.

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