Boom Goes The Dynamite: Second Round 03.21.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 21st, 2010

How’s your bracket?  Probably looking pretty sweet if you went to undergrad at St. Mary’s and then took a master’s at Northern Iowa.  Have they stopped partying at UNI yet?  Or campaniling?  Or whatever they do there?  And if not, who could blame them?

That was yesterday, though.  The Panthers and Gaels will be receiving their Official Cinderella starter handbooks in the mail in a couple of days, so the matter now turns to the Sunday games, and any possible candidates that could join them.  Your lineup:

  • #1 Syracuse vs #8 Gonzaga
  • #2 Ohio State vs #10 Georgia Tech
  • #4 Maryland vs #5 Michigan State
  • #2 West Virginia vs #10 Missouri
  • #4 Wisconsin vs #12 Cornell
  • #3 Pittsburgh vs #6 Xavier
  • #4 Purdue vs #5 Texas A&M
  • #1 Duke vs #8 California

Will Northern Iowa’s dismissal of Kansas inspire other underdogs to greater heights?  Or will it cause the higher seeds to sharpen their focus and be even warier of the upstarts?  Keep in mind, things always start and end a tad earlier on Second Round Sunday, and there’s that glut of four games that all start within 30 minutes of each other in the early afternoon.  But no worry, if you can’t see them all — we’ll be here all day, talking about them, updating this post every few minutes, and looking for your comments.  Hard to believe we’ll have whittled the field of 64 down to 16 by Sunday night, and the events of Saturday should drive the point home that we need to enjoy this while it’s here.  We’re here to help.  We’ll start updating the post a few minutes before the first tipoff, and we hope to see you here.

12:00: Here we go, folks!  Day 2, second round.  The day starts with ‘Cuse/’Zags and you see the rest of the lineup above.  Syracuse, Duke, Ohio State…you’ve been put on notice by Northern Iowa.  Let’s see what happens.

12:10: One thing that’s got to make you happy if you’re a Syracuse fan is that Wesley Johnson is being VERY aggressive with the basketball.  Hit his first two.

12:18: See, I don’t think Matt Boldin needs to fire from three for the Zags to put their best foot forward, today.  I think they’ll be better off if he does more creating and dishing, and we know he picks up points that way.

12:27: Goodness, right now it’s Wesley Johnson versus Elias Harris.  Johnson has Syracuse’s first ten and Harris has just made the baseline his second home.

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Evening

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Friday evening games.

7:10 pm – #8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida State  (Buffalo pod)

This is a very tough game to call, so let’s start with what we know about it.  The Zags, no stranger to cross-country travel, come into Buffalo after an 11-day layoff where St. Mary’s took Mark Few’s team behind the woodshed and beat them handily in the WCC Tournament championship.  Florida State comes in having dropped its quarterfinal game against NC State in an effort that had their fans shaking their heads in disgust.  So needless to say, both teams are looking for a fresh start here.  The Zags are always dangerous, and this year’s squad led by Matt Bouldin and Elias Harris has the offensive firepower to score with just about anyone in America.  Merely an ok three-point shooting team, they tend to rely on the drives of Harris and mid-range game of Bouldin to create offense.  However, they don’t tend to respond well to teams that crowd and push them around, but unfortunately, FSU is just such a team.  The Seminoles enjoy the nation’s top defensive efficiency, and while they have the opposite problem of finding points, they should have no problem putting the clamps down on the Zag scoring options.  The question here comes down to whether the FSU defense, anchored by 7’1 Solomon Alabi and 6’9 Chris Singleton’s combined four blocks per game, is better than the Gonzaga offense, and we think that it is.  And as up/down as the Seminoles were in the ACC, they never came close to losing to the likes of Loyola Marymount and San Francisco, as Gonzaga did this year.

The Skinny:  The Zags this year aren’t quite as good as they usually are, and they’re facing a team that will shut down their biggest strength.  FSU wins this one by eight points to get a date with Syracuse.

7:15 pm – #7 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

Here’s another one that’s got people confused.  For good reason, too.  All year long we’ve been waiting on Georgia Tech to do something with all that talent, and now they’re playing better basketball, just in time.  Oklahoma State’s showing against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament will cost them some support, but we’re going to excuse that performance.  That was a tired basketball team, playing their third game in a six day span with K-State at the end of it — and the Wildcats were coming off of a five-day rest.  Georgia Tech is going to go inside to Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal like crazy, but when the Yellow Jackets actually shoot the three, they shoot it well.  Defending the three is a glaring OSU weakness, so it will be interesting to see how often Georgia Tech eschews their big men in favor of launching it from the arc, because those shots will be there.  So…good outside shooting, great inside players…sounds pretty good for Tech, right?  The question will be whether or not they can get to that point in their offense.  Georgia Tech ranks in the bottom twenty of Division I teams in terms of turning the ball over.  Can the Jackets, then, find a way to keep James Anderson from shredding them or Keiton Page from raining threes?

The Skinny: Oklahoma State won’t have to exert too much energy guarding the three, since Tech’s propensity to turn the ball over will take care of some of that.  The Cowboys have been getting more and more help from their role players, and we feel 9-7 in the Big 12 is better than 7-9 in the ACC this year.  It’ll be a great first round game, but we like Oklahoma State in a close one.

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.16.10

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Each day this week during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

South Region Notes (Patrick Sellars)

  • The first “upset” of the tournament occurred in the South Region when SWAC champion Arkansas Pine-Bluff took down the Big South tournament champion Winthrop, 61-44. The Golden Lions earned the right to play top seeded Duke on Friday night.
  • When #9 Louisville takes on #8 California on Friday night, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino says he’ll be ready for the Bears’ “organized chaos.”  There is also an interesting quote in the article from Cardinals’ guard Edgar Sosa that says he has heard Cal referred to as “poor man’s Marquette”.
  • Utah State’s leading scorer, junior guard Tai Wesley, broke his nose in the WAC tournament final on Saturday when the Aggies got pounded by New Mexico State.  He will play in the Aggies’ upcoming game versus Texas A&M, but you have to wonder what kind of effect it will have on USU’s star. On TAMU’s side, they will have Dash Harris back in the lineup after he missed the Big 12 Tournament with a bone bruise in his right wrist. Head coach Mark Turgeon said that if his team wants any chance to win this weekend, they will need Harris healthy.
  • Fran McCaffery is not letting his Siena team think they can beat Purdue by just showing up in Spokane on Friday. He says Purdue is by far the best team Siena will face all season even without Robbie Hummel. You’d have to think a Butler Bulldogs fan would think otherwise.
  • Here is an interesting article from The Times-Picayune which highlights the #3 Baylor vs. #14 Sam Houston State game. Not only are the two teams from Texas, but they have two New Orleans natives returning to their home town for the first round. Star senior guards Tweety Carter (Baylor) and Ashton Mitchell (Sam Houston State) both played their high school ball in The Big Easy.
  • Villanova head coach Jay Wright told the Philadelphia Inquirer about his team’s lackluster play in first round games the past two seasons. Wright said “we’ve survived first-round games, but we really haven’t played well in first-round games.”

East Region Notes (Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog)

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Big East Tourney Daily Diary: Quarterfinals

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2010

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is spending the week as the RTC correspondent at the Big East Tournament.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, he will post a nightly diary with his thoughts on each day’s action. Here is his submission for the late quarterfinal games.

Georgetown 91, Syracuse 84

  • This performance from Georgetown shouldn’t surprise you. Remember, when healthy early in the season, this team was in the top ten nationally, and for good reason. Austin Freeman‘s health situation affected this team more than people realize  – Thompson said that was long as the Hoyas “keep Freeman’s levels fine he will be able to perform” – and they are just now hitting their stride again.
  • You know about Georgetown’s big three, but don’t underestimate Jason Clark. Jeff Goodman called him the “ultimate glue guy” earlier today, and while I agree with him to a point – Clark is a great defender, he can go and get you an offensive rebound, and he racks up some assists – I think by definition a glue guy isn’t a scorer. Clark can be. He hasn’t put up the numbers simply because he doesn’t get a ton of shots, but he is a nightmare to stay in front of and a lights out shooter. Jason Clark isn’t a glue guy, he is a very good basketball player.
  • The only way Syracuse doesn’t deserve a one seed is if both Duke and Ohio State win their conference tournaments. Otherwise, Syracuse is ok, although they may be headed out west.
  • JTIII on the Orange: “That team is still one of the best, if not the best team in the country in spite of today’s outcome. Do I expect them to be a dangerous team in the tournament? Absolutely?” Very true, but today may have exposed a flaw in this team –  a stopper. Not on the defensive end, but a guy that can get you a basket when things aren’t going well. Can Wes Johnson be that guy? Right now, he is a jump shooter and an athlete.

Marquette 80, Villanova 76

  • The Golden Eagles shot 65% in the second half. The were 6/6 from three in the second half and 11/18 overall. They had 17 assists and just 8 turnovers. I think it is safe to say Villanova hasn’t solved their defensive issues.
  • There may not be two more underrated players in the Big East than Corey Fisher and Darius Johnson-Odom. Both were on full display this afternoon. Fisher was impossible to keep out of the lane, finishing with 16 points and 6 assists, while DJO had 24 points, 5 assists, and hit five threes.
  • Marquette is going to make it out of the first weekend. Put that on the record. This team is so difficult to defend. Hayward and Butler are match-up nightmares for opposing bigs. Their guards can all shoot it, they can all get into the lane, and they all can kick the ball out to an open shooter. Most importantly, everyone on the team understands that they are at their best when they move the ball offensively.
  • Buzz Williams on Jay Wright: “I think he will be in the Hall of Fame long before his career is over”

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RTC 2010 All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 11th, 2010

Unanimous 1st Teamer Evan Turner

With the regular season winding down to a close, the powers-that-be here at Rush the Court met in rtmsf’s basement bunker and spent 36 hours without food or water sorting out our 1st, 2nd and 3rd All-American teams for the 2009-10 season. Just kidding, we actually did it by e-mail. Regardless, here is the much-anticipated unveiling (with a slight adjustment to the three-guard lineup for the 3rd team based on the voting). Enjoy:

1st Team

  • G – John Wall, Kentucky (16.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • G – Evan Turner, Ohio State (19.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.8 SPG)
  • G – Greivis Vasquez, Maryland (19.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.6 SPG)
  • F – Wesley Johnson, Syracuse (15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.9 BPG)
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky (15.6 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG)

There’s not much surprise with Wall, Turner or Johnson. All three garnered 1st-team selections from all four of our voters and accomplished the feat basically wire-to-wire. The two late bloomers were Cousins and Vasquez. Cousins was overshadowed in the early part of the season by his superstar teammate, but more and more attention was paid to his obscene production as the campaign wore on. His numbers spread out over 40 minutes are off the charts. Vasquez really took off late as well, dusting off the cobwebs from a slow shooting start to lead his Terrapins to a share of the ACC crown. His heroics at the end of the Duke win likely was the clincher for our voters.

2nd Team

  • G – Scottie Reynolds, Villanova (18.8 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G – James Anderson, Oklahoma State (22.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • G – Sherron Collins, Kansas (15.3 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.2 SPG)
  • F – Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia (17.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.3 APG)
  • C – Cole Aldrich, Kansas (11.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.5 BPG)

The 2nd-team features the Jayhawks inside-outside tandem of Collins and Aldrich. While many expected at least one of them to finish the season as a first-teamer, I think both players would rather grab that #1 overall seed in the Dance. This honor is not a bad consolation prize, either. Reynolds and Butler provided the backbones for two squads that excelled in the loaded Big East, while Anderson posted the strongest raw stats of any power six-conference player other than Turner. He’s expanding his game to become more of a complete weapon, and, along with Turner, is probably the most important player to his respective team of anyone in the nation.

3rd Team

  • G – Jon Scheyer, Duke (18.9 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG)
  • G – Jimmer Fredette, BYU (20.6 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
  • F – Darington Hobson, New Mexico (15.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.6 APG)
  • F – Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (23.3 PPG, 9.7 RPG)
  • C – Greg Monroe, Georgetown (16.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.5 BPG)

The Mountain West received some serious love on this team with outstanding seasons from Hobson and Fredette both rewarded. Despite missing a good portion of the stretch run, Harangody’s statistics just couldn’t be ignored. Monroe put up a solid campaign for the Hoyas and might be the best passing big man in the nation. The most efficient guard? Could very well be Scheyer. He’s led Duke to #1-seed contention.

Also receiving votes: Quincy Pondexter, Washington, Ekpe Udoh, Baylor, Robbie Hummel, Purdue, Luke Babbitt, Nevada, Damion James, Texas, Kyle Singler, Duke, Patrick Patterson, Kentucky, Gordon Hayward, Butler, Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest.

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Morning Five: 03.10.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2010

  1. We love this bracket science stuff, which is reminiscent of some of the work we did when this site was in its infancy nearly three years ago.  It’s good to see Peter Tiernan continuing to do this every year, now for CBS Sportsline.  Maybe the NCAA Selection Committee should bring him on board.  Here’s a taste: best team against seed expectation in the last decade?  Florida.  Worst?  Wake Forest.  Sounds about right.
  2. The NCAA’s Greg Shaheen came out yesterday with the news that there has been no decision made to expand the NCAA Tournament.  Sounds great, but is Mr. Shaheen playing the role of Colin Powell standing before the UN here, or is this more like Mark McGwire’s contention that he only took steroids for health reasons?  Willfully misleading or delusional — you tell us?
  3. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a select movie theater chosen by the NCAA overlords, the Final Four will be shown in living, breathing 3-D.  Because nothing says March Madness like seeing Sherron Collins barreling down the court at you at 100 miles an hour.  We have no idea if this will be incredibly awesome or incredibly lame, but we’ll make sure to send someone out there to check it out.
  4. Speaking of all three dimensions, here’s Seth Davis’ 2010 All-Glue team.  The headliner is Ohio State’s David Lighty, but we also love the Willie Veasley (Butler) and Rick Jackson (Syracuse) picks.
  5. More conference awards today.  POYACC: Greivis Vasquez, Maryland; Big East: Wes Johnson, Syracuse; SEC: John Wall, Kentucky.  COYACC: Gary Williams, Maryland; Big East: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse; SEC: Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt.  FrOY: ACC: Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech; Big East: Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati; SEC: DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky.  Some weird goings-on in the SEC there.  First, how does John Wall win POY but not FrOY?  Isn’t he a freshman, and isn’t he the best player in the league according to the voters?  Second, how does Kevin Stallings win COY — DeMarcus Cousins was so shocked he didn’t even know who Stallings was!

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Set Your Tivo: 03.06.10

Posted by THager on March 6th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#8 West Virginia @ #9 Villanova – 12:00 pm on CBS (****)

Both of these teams had the potential earlier in the year to be # 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, but now one of them may even drop to a # 3 seed.  With West Virginia ranked eighth in the country and Villanova ranked ninth, this game will probably decide who has to play a # 14 seed in the tournament (which is historically a much tougher game than a # 15 seed).  This should be a great game to watch, as WVU has the sixth best offense in the country, while Villanova ranks fifth in offensive efficiency.  Both teams, especially Villanova, struggle on defense.  One of the few defensive standouts is Devin Ebanks, whose size previously helped force Scottie Reynolds into 1-5 shooting.   Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, Reynolds scored 17 points against everybody else, and West Virginia suffered a rare home loss.  WVU shot below 26 % from beyond the arc in that game, and will have to shoot closer to their 35 % season average if they want to keep up with Villanova’s offense.  The Mountaineers have a bigger lineup, and if they can limit Villanova’s looks inside (VU shot 60 % from two-point range last game) they should come out with a win.

#1 Syracuse @ Louisville – 2:00 pm on ESPN (***)

For those fans who thought that Louisville’s last loss might put them out of the tournament, think again.  According to RTC, U of L is safely in at this point, and it may take a loss here and an early exit in the Big East tournament for the Cardinals to be put back onto the bubble.  The last ever game at Freedom Hall should be a great matchup between the top ranked Orange and the team that shocked them at the Carrier Dome a few weeks ago.  In that game, U of L was the beneficiary of 30 points from their bench in a 66-60 victory.  Although this game will be on the road for Syracuse, it might actually play into their hands, as they are the only team in the country without a road loss.  Louisville’s 80th ranked defense may have a tough time guarding Syracuse’s attack, which ranks eighth in offensive efficiency.  Wesley Johnson was just 5-20 in the last game, so look for more productivity from the fantastic ‘Cuse forward who shoots over 49 % from the floor.  Although a loss here may not put the Cardinals on the “first four out” list, they may need to record at least one win in the Big East tournament to stay safe.

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Morning Five: 03.05.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 5th, 2010

  1. Eddie Sutton made his first public comments about the charges and the future of his son Sean Sutton in an interview with Tulsa World yesterday.  Sean Sutton was arrested back on February 11th and charged with attempting to possess controlled substances, and soon after admitted an addiction to pain killers.  The elder Sutton expressed confidence in his son, saying “He’ll be all right because he’s a strong person who just made a mistake.”
  2. Santa Clara sophomore Troy Alexander is impressive.  His stats this season: 1.1 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 0.7 APG in 30 games.  Ah, but his most meaningful stat is found in the “Lives Saved” column.  He’s been raising awareness about the malaria epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and has been raising money via Facebook and Twitter to buy mosquito-repellent nets for children’s beds.  The nets are draped over the beds so the kids don’t get bitten and contract the disease while they sleep.  The cost of one net?  Ten lousy bucks.  A life saved.  If you don’t think malaria is a big deal, there are some studies out there that say malaria has actually killed one out of every two people who has ever lived.  Alexander initially wanted to raise $1,000, but has already tripled that.  He does this through the Nothing But Nets campaign, an organization jump-started by everyone’s favorite punching bag these days — Rick Reilly.  We won’t post Troy’s Facebook page, but we will link his page at NothingButNets.net.  Bravo, brother.
  3. According to the 49 responding journalists in AnnArbor.com’s final player of the year poll, Evan Turner is widening his lead over John Wall.  Interestingly, Turner was the only player named on every ballot.  Three voters didn’t have Wall ranked first, second, OR third, and 32 of them didn’t name Wesley Johnson anywhere.  Wow.
  4. The host schools — that is to say, the teams that automatically advance to the “championship rounds,” win or lose — have been announced for next season’s O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic in Kansas CityDuke, Kansas State, Gonzaga, and Marquette will be the sites for the regional round games from November 14-17, and then will move on to the Sprint Center on November 22-23 to play each other in matchups to be determined later.
  5. Are referees working too much?  It’s been a big topic for some time, and especially this year.  Conference bigwigs and coaches may think refs are overworked, but the referees seem to disagree.  ACC referees’ supervisor John Clougherty, though, feels the critics might have a point, saying of his refs, “They are independent contractors.  I can’t tell them how many times to work.”  Interesting piece by Ray Glier of the New York Times.
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Morning Five: 03.01.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on March 1st, 2010

It’s all over in Vancouver, and we admit that when there was no college hoops to be found, we caught a couple hours of it.  So we’ll sort of miss those tape-delayed images of Shaun White doing tricks, Bode Miller occasionally zooming down hills, Apolo Ohno whizzing around ovals, and Lindsey Vonn doing…well, doing just about anything. But this month, above all others, belongs to college basketball.  Welcome to March, people...

  1. Even though Philadelphia University’s Herb Magee is reeling him in for this particular title, Northern State’s Don Meyer is considered the winningest NCAA men’s basketball coach of all time because the NCAA counts ALL wins at all four-year colleges as long as the coach spent at least ten years at NCAA schools.  Meyer, who announced a week ago that he would retire at the end of this season, coached his final game on Saturday night — a loss to Southwest Minnesota State.  Meyer retires with a record of 923-324. Much respect, sir.  Godspeed and good health to you.
  2. Temple got seven threes from Juan Hernandez in leading Temple to a 65-53 win over La Salle on Sunday, but the victory didn’t just improve the Owls’ record to 24-5 and keep them in a tie with Xavier atop the Atlantic 10 (both 12-2).  Their perfect 4-0 record against the other member schools won them the Big 5 title for this year.  If you don’t think that means anything to anyone, consider the Big 5 creed: “They say there is no real prize for winning the Big 5.  They must not be from Philly.”
  3. A day ahead of his team possibly taking over the top spot in the rankings, Syracuse’s Wesley Johnson is enjoying the ride, and admits that he never could have predicted that the Orange would have ever been considered the #1 team in the land this year in a Skype interview he did with Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman on Sunday.
  4. In an article by Lexington Herald-Leader writer Jerry Tipton, Kentucky chief John Calipari claims that a couple of his players were “sleepwalking” through the whole game.  He doesn’t specifically name the somnambulists, but — careful not to take anything away from the Volunteers’ effort — he cites a combination of the quick turnaround from Thursday’s late game against South Carolina and (more alarmingly) what he feels is inexperience among some of his players in preparing themselves for important games.  Given Calipari’s recent statement about just wanting to “get on to the tournament,” it’s a legitimate question to ask:  has ennui crept into the Wildcat camp?
  5. Seriously, Steve Alford?  Yes, you are hearing correctly, Alford really does call Jonathan Tavernari that name right at the end.  This sure makes the chance of a New Mexico-BYU rematch in the finals of the Mountain West tournament an exciting prospect.  In the meantime, maybe someone can get Alford to echo his mentor by saying, “If Tavernari wants to sit down and talk with me…I’ll explain things to him!”  Come on, Coach.  You’re better than this.

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ATB: Easy as 1, 2, 3…

Posted by rtmsf on March 1st, 2010

Syracuse Poised to Move to #1.  Remember the paucity of insanity we were lamenting in this space last weekend?  No longer.  Although the calendar still officially says February, March arrived in earnest on Saturday.  In what was probably the single best weekend of the entire college hoops season (and hopefully portends a month of craziness), the top three teams in the media/coaches polls were vanquished.  By 2:15 pm Saturday afternoon, #2 Kentucky had lost in Knoxville; four hours later, #1 Kansas had dropped its second game of the year in Stillwater; and by the same time on Sunday evening, #3 Purdue had joined the others with a loss.  In an 0range-themed weekend with Tennessee and Oklahoma State doing damage, it is literally the Orange, as in #4 Syracuse, who stands to move to the top of the polls for just the second time during the regular season in its long and illustrious history (SU held the top spot for six weeks in 1989-90).  And why not?  The beatdown that Jim Boeheim’s team put on #8 Villanova on Saturday night was downright clinical in its division of labor and efficiency.  Six of Boeheim’s seven “starters’ contributed double figure points; five of them grabbed seven or more rebounds; and, four offered three or more dimes for their efforts.  If you focus on stopping Wesley Johnson, Arinze Onuaku (17/9/3 blks) burns you.  If you take away Andy Rautins, Scoop Jardine (16/7 assts) picks him up.  Rick Jackson?  Kris Joseph (16/9/3 assts).  Syracuse has an answer for every problem, and their zone, while perhaps not the best in college basketball history as Bob Knight said, is awfully good.  The Orange have met every major challenge thrown at them this year, and when you take a look at their two losses (Pittsburgh and Louisville at home) you start to think that maybe they weren’t as mentally prepared for those games as they should have been, because in every one of their “big” games this year, they’ve been virtually flawless.

A Record On-Campus Crowd Saw SU Dominate Villanova (P-S/Lauren Long)

As For the Top Three…  We’re not going to read too much into the losses that #1 Kansas and #2 Kentucky took on the road this weekend.  Even great teams lose road games once in a while, and both Tennessee and Oklahoma State are good enough teams to do some damage in March (more discussion on both games in the conference recaps below).  However, #3 Purdue isn’t getting off so easily.  We already knew that Matt Painter’s team would continue to fight and claw in their inimitable style without the services of Robbie Hummel, but the Boilers got completely pushed around today (-28 rebounds) by the bigger, stronger Michigan State Spartans and their offense was a complete disaster without the versatile forward in the lineup (30% from the field; 22% from deep).  How does the NCAA Selection Committee fairly evaluate this team?  They’re likely to win their final two games against Indiana and Penn State, which would put them at 26-4 overall and 14-4 in the Big Ten with a 3-1 record sans Hummel.  But Ohio State and Michigan State are likely to also finish at 14-4 in the Big Ten, which means that the winner of the Big Ten Tourney will have the inside track on a #1 seed, or at worst, a top #2 seed.  But what if Purdue loses in the B10 quarters or semis?  Are they a #2 seed or a #3 seed or lower?  The resume is strong, but they’re just not the same team as they were with Hummel in the lineup.  Honestly, we would wager that the Committee is secretly hoping that Purdue drops one or both of this week’s games to the bottom-feeders of the conference to make their decision to demote them more defensible.

Conference Recaps.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.27.10

Posted by THager on February 27th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#2 Kentucky @ #17 Tennessee -12:00 pm on CBS (****)

With a win today, the Wildcats will win the SEC regular season title (John Calipari apparently doesn’t care), and it will also keep them in contention for the overall #1 seed in the tournament.  It will be anything but an easy victory as the Volunteers gave the Wildcats a scare when they meet a few weeks ago in Lexington.  The Volunteers were leading midway through the second half, but scored just 10 points in the final 10 minutes, four of which came in garbage time.  This time, the game will be in Knoxville, where Tennessee is 13-1 on the year including a victory over #1 Kansas (their only loss to date).  UT’s drought against Kentucky should have come as no surprise, considering the Vols have the 88th best offense according to Ken Pomeroy.  However, they will need to improve upon their last performance (they shot below 40 % against Florida on Tuesday) if they want have any chance in this game.  Statistically Kentucky is not as imposing as people may think, as the Wildcats don’t rank in the top 10 in either offensive or defensive efficiency, but they manage to get it done in the win column–the most important statistic. Given Wayne Chism’s recent struggles and their ugly loss against the Gators, look for Kentucky to push their winning streak to nine games.

The man who could be Governor of Kentucky

#12 New Mexico @ #11 BYU – 4:00 on Versus (*****)

Versus will finally be making their debut on RTC’s Set Your Tivo feature, and they picked a great game to do so.  Brigham Young has won four straight games, and New Mexico hasn’t lost since January 9th.  New Mexico has been under-appreciated this year, as they rank lower than BYU despite more wins in the conference, a victory in a head-to-head match-up, and a higher SOS.  The RPI, which ranks UNM at #11, also has their stock dropping despite 12 straight wins.  If they are going to prove they belong in the top 10, they are going to have to beat a BYU team that is nearly impossible to beat in Provo.  They have won 21 straight games at the Marriot Center, which holds over 22,000 seats.  In the last matchup in Albuquerque, the Lobos led virtually the entire game, but were never able to push the lead to double digits.  The Cougars scored eight points in the final two minutes to push the game to the brink, but thanks to an equally raucous crowd at The Pit, New Mexico survived.  BYU’s Jimmer Fredette scored 27 points in that contest, and since that loss, he has been on a tear.  With the exception of a 43-point win against Air Force, he has scored at least 20 points in every game, and has two different games in which he scored 36 points.  New Mexico, which ranks just 78th in defensive efficiency, will have their hands full against a BYU team that ranks third in the nation in three-point field goal percentage.  Given Brigham Young’s home record and their #5 Pomeroy ranking, I think BYU will wrapping up the MWC title today with a win.

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RTC Live: Syracuse @ Providence

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

RTC Live will be coming to you from downtown Providence Tuesday night for a battle between a top-five Syracuse powerhouse and an upset-minded Providence team. Syracuse enters play tonight fresh off their monumental victory last Thursday at Georgetown but enter the Dunkin Donuts Center hoping to avoid a letdown in their sandwich game between the emotional win over the Hoyas and this coming Saturday’s hyped visit from Villanova to the Carrier Dome. The Orange are led by sensational Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson and the pinpoint long-range shooting of Andy Rautins. Productive big men are also imperative to Jim Boeheim’s success this season from the punishing Arinze Onuaku to the athleticism of Kris Joseph. Providence is hoping they can post a memorable win akin to their stunning upset over #1 Pittsburgh in 2009 at the Dunk. If the Friars win tonight, they must defend in the halfcourt and shoot well from outside, most notably Sharaud Curry and Marshon Brooks. Also, keep an eye on how sophomore Jamine Peterson handles the forwards of Syracuse down in the post. We could have a high-scoring, high-flying, up and down marathon tonight in the Big East. Hope you’ll join me courtside for Syracuse vs. Providence here on RTC Live tonight at 7 PM.

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