Marquette’s Buzz Williams Runs Silent and Deep

Posted by CNguon on February 23rd, 2013

Joseph Dzuback is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after spending an evening keeping a close eye on Marquette head coach Buzz Williams.

Why does Marquette, a school about to earn consecutive NCAA bid #8, still struggle to secure a spot in the national limelight? Part of the answer is no doubt rooted in their coach. Buzz Williams, 5’11” with that North Texas drawl, is hardly a presence at Media Day confabs. Unlike Marquette’s legendary Al McGuire, whose height and New York City accent (and ever so slightly too-loud voice) could turn heads and draw ears. Tom Crean, Marquette’s 15th head coach, came with all of the pedigree expected to head a National Championship, two-time Final Four program with 21 bids and previously headed by legends like McGuire, Hank Raymond and Rick Majerus. When he departed Marquette to rebuild a struggling Indiana program, Crean left Williams (head coach #16) with a cupboard full of prep school ballers. Harvested from some of the best recruiting seed beds on the East Coast and Midwest, these players earned Marquette (and Crean) notoriety in basketball circles even before taking their first shot in the Bradley Center. Williams spent his first two off seasons recruiting a raft of unknown players from junior colleges throughout Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Buzz Williams might not be a media darling, but the man sure can coach (AP)

Buzz Williams might not be a media darling, but the man sure can coach. (AP)

Williams sustained the momentum established by Crean with junior college players like Dwight Buycks, Darius Johnson-Odom, Joe Fulce, Jimmy Butler and Jai Crowder, who rounded out the nucleus that included Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, Dominic James and Lazar Hayward bequeathed to him by Crean. The mix-n-match crew garnered Williams 47 wins and a pair of NCAA bids in his first two seasons. And in the course of his first three off-seasons Williams has found what Crean could not — not one but two low post players good enough to move the tweeners out of the rotation. Davante Gardner and Chris Otule have helped Marquette earn another 49 (and counting) wins in seasons #3 and #4. This season the win count is 16 and climbing. The Golden Eagles’ 10 conference wins put them in a three-way tie for first place in Big East conference play, but co-leaders Georgetown and Syracuse have drawn greater national recognition for their seasons.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Four

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2009

dynamiteAfter a thrilling finish last night that made Demetri Goodson a household name for at least a few days, we think the tournament has officially begun. Even being fairly selective, we think there are at least 3 outstanding games today. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering tomorrow:

  • 12:10 PM: #6 Arizona State vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 2:20 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #4 Xavier
  • 2:30 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #3 Kansas
  • 2:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #12 Arizona
  • 2:50 PM: #8 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 4:50 PM: #6 Marquette vs. #3 Missouri
  • 5:00 PM: #10 USC vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 5:20 PM: #9 Siena vs. #1 Louisville

A couple thoughts on the scheduling: (1) It’s nice to see the early finish for those of us who have to work on Monday morning and (2) I think the NCAA and CBS might have finally figured out the spacing issue. Outside of the early game, I don’t think there should be any point during the other 2 sets of games where  we have all the games at halftime. I’m guessing the NCAA and/or CBS must have hired a bunch of McKinsey consultants at $500/hr to figure out how to stagger the games. Now I’m looking at it without a fancy Excel model, but this looks like a reasonable set-up, which should get the job done, but I’ve been wrong before. . .

12:08 PM: One piece of big news from the morning: Dominic James has been cleared to play today. I’m not sure what kind of experimental medical techniques they have up at Marquette, but that’s a shocking piece of news. I’d be surprised if he could even go 10 minutes today as he was expected to be out for at least 2 months when he broke his foot (don’t remember which bone) back on Febraury 25th, but we will wait and see.

12:25 PM: This game looks like it should be fairly entertaining and competitive. Interesting back story about Jonny Flynn and James Harden. I know the old school guys won’t like it, but with the growth of AAU and all these summer camps I think it should be expected that stuff like that will happen.

12:30 PM: For those of you who questioned my earlier assertion that the arenas looked dead this year, the NCAA is backing me up. I guess it should be somewhat expected with the economy although most tickets are purchased via the lottery well in advance. The 50% in Miami is appalling though. One more thing to remember about these numbers. . .they reflect the number of tickets purchased not the attendance. I’m sure there are a lot of tickets that have been purchased by ticket brokers that have not been purchased by people who actually go to the games.

12:40 PM: As talented as Harden is, I really question his tendency to disappear for long stretches. Is he unable to play hard for 40 minutes or is he “letting the game come to him”?

12:47 PM: Arizona State is getting run out of the gym right now. I wonder how much the early start hurts the West Coast teams here. I’m not sure if any of you have data on this.

12:50 PM: We just posted the next part of our Mascot Challnege. Be sure to vote for your favorite mascots and help him/her win the national title.

12:52 PM: Rihards Kuksiks is single-handedly keeping the Sun Devils in this game with 15 of their first 30 points. Syracuse goes into half with a 41-32 lead. Harden still doesn’t have a point. If I’m a NBA GM, his tendency to do this drops him a few spots on my board.

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West Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round (Pt. 2)

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2009

West Region – by Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports

#6 Marquette vs. #11 Utah State
Playing in the Big East must suck sometimes.  The Eagles are currently losers of five of their last six, but lost those five to Louisville, UConn, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Nova.  The one chance they got against an inferior team during that stretch, they crushed St. John’s by 29.  Give Utah State a chance if you’re brave, but Eagle guards Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews will probably prove too much to handle.

#3 Missouri vs. #14 Cornell
The NCAA Tournament is familiar territory to Cornell, entering the Dance as a 14-seed last season.  Missouri, on the other hand, hasn’t been to the Tourney is six years.  So, obviously, Cornell has the upper hand.  Ha!  No, but seriously though, Missouri is as dangerous a team as any in the field, winners of 11 of their last 13 and Big XII Tournament Champs.  Cornell made it here by holding four of their last five opponents to under 60 points, but that won’t happen against the Tigers.

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NCAA Preview: Marquette Golden Eagles

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2009

MARQUETTE (#6, West, Boise pod)

vs. Utah State (#11)
March 20th, 12:30 P.M.

Vegas Line: Marquette -4.5

marquette-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Conference:
Big East, at-large bid
Coach:
Buzz Williams, 24-9 at Marquette
08-09 Record:
24-9, 13-7 Big East
Last 12 Games:
5-7
Best Win:
79-72 v. Villanova, February 10th
Worst Loss:
56-57 v. South Florida, February 6th
Off. Efficiency Rating:
117.7/ 9th overall
Def. Efficiency Rating:
94.2/ 56th overall

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s):  Jerel McNeal- 19.7 points/game, 4.6 rebounds/game, 4.0 assists/game, 2.1 steals/game ;Wesley Matthews- 18.4 points/game, 5.6 rebounds/game, 2.6 assists/game, 48.8 FG%
Unsung Hero:  Lazar Hayward-
16.1 points/game, 8.6 rebounds/game, 35.5 3PT%
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s):  Jerel McNeal-
projected 52nd overall
Key Injuries:  Dominic James-
season-ending broken left foot
Depth:
24.6%/ 311th overall
Achilles Heel:
It is not just a lack of depth that has been exacerbated with the loss of Dominic James, the Golden Eagles were essentially a four-horse team and almost all of their meaningful production came from McNeal, Matthews, James, and Hayward. Without James, Maurice Acker takes over, but he isn’t the same type of threat. This is still an extremely talented team, but you could tell down the stretch how they hang with teams for awhile, and then fade.
Will Make a Deep Run if…:
If the Golden Eagles shoot the lights out, they could make a deep run. The team loves to shoot and McNeal, Matthews, and Hayward have no qualms about chucking it up. If they shoot the ball well, they will beat a lot of teams because they play great defense and don’t turn the ball over a tremendous amount. They need their Big Three to play well in every game, if they don’t it will be a short first tournament for Buzz Williams.
Will Make an Early Exit if…:
If McNeal or Matthews or Hayward has an off-night, Marquette just doesn’t have the players to make up for that type of scoring loss…period.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2008, lost to Stanford in the Round of 32
Streak
: Three straight years
Best NCAA Finish:
They won the National Championship in 1977
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present):
-0.20 wins per appearance

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: None
Distance to First Round Site:
1736.47 miles away from Boise, Idaho
School’s Claim to Fame:
Al McGuire was the coach of the Marquette Golden Eagles from 1964-1977, won their only National Championship, and is still celebrated like a king at that school. Known for his colorful personality, he is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and he could probably be elected Mayor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin had he not died in 2001.
School Wishes It Could Forget:
In 2007, the school played Michigan State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament and the whole school turned out to see the game, even though it was during spring break. The Golden Eagles then proceeded to get shut out for the first nine minutes of the game and make it a very long spring break for Marquette fans and students.
Prediction:
The Golden Eagles are still a good team without Dominic James, and they have more than enough talent to beat Utah State. But if Missouri makes it through to the second round, their full court press will wreck havoc on the Golden Eagles, especially Acker. They don’t have the depth to play with the Tigers for 40 minutes.

Major RTC stories:  ATB: Marquette’s Dominic James Out for the Season

Preview written by… Mike Lemaire

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Big East Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2009

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East ConferenceHe will be live-blogging all the action from his executive suite at MSG this week. 

Schedule:

Tuesday, March 10th / First Round
– Game 1: #9 Cincinnati vs. #16 DePaul
– Game 2: #12 Georgetown vs. #13 St. John’s
– Game 3: #10 Notre Dame vs. #15 Rutgers
– Game 4: #11 Seton Hall vs. #14 South Florida

Wednesday, March 11th / Second Round
– Game 5: Game 1 Winner vs. #8 Providence
– Game 6: Game 2 Winner vs. #5 Marquette
– Game 7: Game 3 Winner vs. #7 West Virginia
– Game 8: Game 4 Winner vs. #6 Syracuse

Thursday, March 12th / Quarters
– Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. #1 Louisville
– Game 10: Game 6 Winner vs. #4 Villanova
– Game 11: Game 7 Winner vs. #2 Pitt
– Game 12: Game 8 Winner vs. #3 UConn

Friday, March 13th / Semis
– Game 13: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner
– Game 14: Game 11 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner

Saturday, March 14th / Finals
– Game 15: Game 13 Winner vs. Game 14 Winner

It is only fitting that the biggest conference in college basketball have the biggest tournament. For the first time, the Big East is inviting all 16 teams to MSG for a five day extravaganza. The BET is always full of exciting moments – from Ray Allen vs. Allen Iverson in 1996 to Taliek Brown’s banked in 30 footer in 2002 to Gerry McNamara’s superhuman performance in 2006. With the number of good teams and absurdly high number of talented players, this year’s edition of the BET should not disappoint.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.01.09 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2009

dynamiteWell it’s finally here. The month of March is upon us. Here at RTC, we’ll be coming up with a ridiculous number of posts (I’m not sure how we will be able to do it with our other “lives”) so be sure to check back throughout the month as we will have posts for conference recaps, our unique bubble watch, frequent bracket updates by our resident bracketologist Zach, our favorite NCAA tournament memories, and the most comprehensive NCAA tournament preview anywhere. Ever.

11:00 AM: Just to set the table for today (and before I run out to grab some lunch before the games start), we’ll be following all three of the major games today, which will all be on CBS. At noon, Dominic James-less #10 Marquette will travel to #6 Louisville. Then at 2 PM, #8 Missouri will travel to Lawrence to take on the defending national champs, #15 Kansas. (CBS will also be airing the Tennessee-Florida game at 2. We will be very unhappy if we end up with that game instead.) The last time these teams met, Missouri shocked the Jayhawks with a Zaire Taylor 10-footer to hand Kansas its only loss in their last 13 games. A win here for Kansas would essentially seal the Big 12 regular season title for Kansas since they own the tie-breaker over Oklahoma (thanks to Blake Griffin‘s absence). Finally at 4 PM, #9 Michigan State will go to #20 Illinois. Like the preceding game, a win here would essentially clinch the Big 10 regular season title for the Spartans. In addition, we will be following the aforementioned UT-UF game (hopefully online instead of on our TVs) as well as a handful of bubble match-ups (Providence at Rutgers, Cincinnati at Syracuse, Michigan at Wisconsin, and West Virginia at South Florida).

11:50 AM: If any of you are wondering if I might decide to ditch this and go outside to enjoy the beautiful March weather, here’s your answer. On a side note, I just saw myself on ESPN for the second time this season (thanks to the miracle of HD).

11:55 AM: Wow. I just saw the Blake Griffin play from yesterday where we went over the scorer’s table. Pretty impressive after his concussion against Texas.

Noon: CBS just announced they will be have an interview with Jamie Dixon at halftime. So the Pittsburgh fans might want to tune in for that if a top 10 match-up in their own conference wasn’t enough.

12:05 PM: Rick Pitino is wearing his Colonel Sanders suit for the white out. As the CBS guys mentioned, last year he had to switch at halftime. Let’s see if it is more effective this year.

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ATB: Marquette’s Dominic James Out For the Season

Posted by rtmsf on February 26th, 2009

afterbuzzer1

RTC Intern Mike Lemaire contributed to tonight’s ATB.

Marquette Loses Their Heart & SoulConnecticut 93, Marquette 82.  Marquette announced at halftime that their senior leader and heart/soul of the team,  PG Dominic James, had broken the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and will not play again this season.  He hurt it on a seemingly innocuous play just four minutes into the first half, but the x-rays don’t lie, and this is a potentially devastating blow to the Golden Eagles as we approach the postseason.  James had re-invented his game this year, becoming less of a scorer and more of a set-up man (#31 nationally in assists and #22 in steals) with the ascent in production from Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews.  Marquette will need to regroup quickly with games at Louisville, at Pitt and vs. Syracuse in the next ten days.  As for this game, AJ Price was the other story – he was simply phenomenal, with 36/6/6 assts, including one ridiculous ankle-breaking move (see below) that crystallized the kind of night he was having.  Hasheem Thabeet added 14/15/5 blks and Stanley Robinson contributed 19/10.  When UConn is playing like this, they are the best team in the nation – the problem is that we don’t always see this level of effort from the Huskies.  McNeal and Matthews combined for 46/9/9 assts to pick up some of the slack from James’ injury, but Maurice Acker (and his 2.2 ppg) will be asked to carry the load that James is leaving behind.  No easy task.

Operation ScheyerFace Didn’t WorkDuke 78, Maryland 67. You have to hand it to Maryland – when Grievis Vasquez picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the second half, you had to wonder where Maryland’s offense would come from. But they showed a lot of heart by matching Duke basket for basket in the second half. In the end there was just too much Gerald Henderson for the Terps to handle. Freshman Sean Mosley did a good job on Henderson man-to-man, but the Blue Devils did a great job of setting screens and getting Henderson free for open looks. Vasquez’s absence finally caught up to the Terps in the final four minutes of the game as the team (with the exception of Landon Milbourne) struggled to get good looks as the Blue Devils clamped down on defense. Maryland was a completely different team from the guys we saw blow big leads in the first half of the season, but Duke showed a lot of grit by stuffing the Maryland momentum coming off their huge upset of UNC.  As for Maryland, they have two winnable road games (@ NCSU; @ UVa) and Wake at home – they can still get to 9-7 in the ACC with a strong finish, but their margin of error is thin the rest of the way.  Speaking of screens, check out this pick on Nolan Smith that had the sophomore hearing bells the rest of the game.

Some Other Games of Interest.

  • Northwestern 75, Indiana 53.  Northwestern ended 41 years of futility in Bloomington with this win tonight.  Tom Crean said his undermanned Hoosiers are running out of steam at this point in the season.
  • Texas 87, Texas Tech 81.  UT got 24 from AJ Abrams and 20/11 from Damion James, but Texas Tech hung around until the final minute in this one behind ten three-pointers.
  • Utah 70, UNLV 60.  Utah continued to pace the Mountain West with another home win to go 11-2 in the conference behind Luke Nevill’s 19/13.
  • Notre Dame 70, Rutgers 65.  ND survived a closer-than-it-shoulda-been game despite Luke Harangody’s 20/15.  The Irish’s Saturday game at UConn will be huge for this team.
  • Davidson 70, UNC-Greensboro 49.  Stephen Curry dropped 20/10/5 assts as the Wildcats rebounded from their loss to Butler with a convincing SoCon win.
  • Rhode Island 93, Dayton 91 (OT).  Dayton dropped its second consecutive game due to Marquis Jones’ driving flip layup at the buzzer which pushes UD one game behind Xavier and Temple in the A10 standings.
  • Virginia Tech 80, Clemson 77.  Huge bubble road win for Va Tech behind Malcolm Delaney’s 26/4/6 assts and AD Vassallo’s 21/5.  Clemson got double-doubles from Trevor Booker and KC Rivers, but Va Tech made the plays down the stretch in a game that went back and forth all night.
  • South Carolina 77, Kentucky 59.  UK now probably needs to win its last three games to force the Committee to leave them out.  SC, on the other hand, probably only needs one more win to become a lock.  Sam Muldrow had seven of SC’s school-record sixteen blocks tonight.
  • Villanova 74, Depaul 72. Depaul got closest to its first Big East win of the year than any other previous loss, but it still wasn’t to be as the Blue Demons moved to 0-15.  Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham each had 18 pts for Villanova.
  • Michigan St. 62, Iowa 54.  MSU never really put Iowa away, but Iowa never really threatened either.  Tom Izzo didn’t think his Spartans played all that well, but they’re now 1.5 games ahead of Purdue in the Big Ten race anyway.
  • Missouri 94, Kansas St. 74.  Mizzou moved to 17-0 at home behind DeMarre Carroll’s 21/14.  The streaking Tigers go to Kansas this weekend and will host Oklahoma in Columbia next Monday.
  • Tennessee 81, Mississippi St. 76.  In this bubblicious game, UT held off the Bulldogs behind Scotty Hopson’s 21 pts.  MSU’s bubble is close to bursting, having now lost four of their last five games.
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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.21.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 21st, 2009

dynamite1

It’s BracketBuster Saturday, and we’re back with another compelling edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite.  We don’t know how it is where you live today, but it’s rainy and chilly here at the RTC Western Compound, which means it’s a great day for huddling up on the couch, firing up the three tvs, ordering up some pie and watching hoops all day.   There are some pretty strong games on the slate today, starting with Butler v. Davidson early and finishing with BYU v. UNLV late.  Settle in and feel free to make your own observations in the comments section.

12:08pm. Oh no, Steph Curry’s mom is NOT at the Davidson game today!!!!  Who will the cameras show in the crowd?!?!!?  Oh yeah, Dell’s there.  Ok.  Whew.

12:10pm. Wonder how ESPN decides who gets to host these games?  Seems like a pretty big decision considering Butler and Davidson are so tough at home, and the loser could drop a seed line or two based on this game.  Curry doesn’t like quite as quick as normal so far – the ankle is probably a little tender.

12:17pm. Our new uber-intern sent over some interesting news today – looks like Patrick Patterson might go for Kentucky today against Tennesee (coming up at 1pm), and surprise of all surprises, the NCAA is investigating USC with respect to recruiting Daniel Hackett.   His dad is the strength and conditioning coach at USC (which is legal, btw).

12:30pm. There are a couple of other BB games that started at 11am, and the most interesting one is Northeastern at Wright St., which is on ESPN2.  NE is leading by six right now, while CAA sibling ODU is crushing Liberty and Seth Curry.

12:46pm. How many games this year have we watched Davidson only to hear some announcer talking about Steph Curry having an “off” game.  It would be nice if he’d just come out and blow up one of these nationally-televised games.   As it now stands, he’s 1-10 and 0-6 from three.

12:50pm. Interesting stat from Brad Nessler there – that if Curry continued his 30 ppg pace for another season-plus at Davidson, he could conceivably catch Pete Maravich’s all-time scoring total record.  Of course, Pistol Pete did it in three years, but that would be a phenomenal record to approach.  We’ll see if we can figure the math and get back on that.

12:52pm. Early afternoon bubble watch.  Miami is smoking BC in S. Florida at halftime (up 12) and ND is also up 12 at halftime on Providence.  These are both pretty much must-wins, although Notre Dame needs it a little more than Miami.

12:57pm. Somehow three of the top four CAA teams drew road games in the BracketBusters event.  So far, the CAA looks good.  VCU only lost by one at Nevada last night, and Northeastern is finishing off Wright St.  ODU already won, and it’ll be very interesting to see what George Mason can do at Creighton later this evening.

1:02pm. Wow, Doug Gottlieb just eviscerated Jay Williams as to why Georgetown was going to make the tournament.  He must have thought he was back on that motorcycle there.  No inside presence?  Except the best freshman big in the country, Greg Monroe.  We get his point about frontcourt depth, but we’re with Gottlieb here – we think Georgetown makes a run to get to 9-9 in the Big East.

1:06pm. We’ve got some 1pm games starting here, incl. Bruce Pearl’s orange blazer at Kentucky (speaking of bubbles), Buffalo at Vermont on the deuce, and the second half of ND-Providence on ESPN FC.  Oh, and did we mention Gus Johnson is in Lexington today.  Oh yes.

1:11pm. Thanks CBS for showing me a graphic telling me that UK is on a 5-0 run in the last 3:20…  or, to start the game.  Brilliant.

1:18pm. Ok, here’s the deal on Curry catching Maravich.  Curry had 2414 coming into today.  Maravich ended with 3667 pts.  If we assume eight more games this year (three regular season; three SoCon Tourney; two NCAA Tourney), and 35 games next year, that’s 42 games.  He’d have to average 29.84 over that stretch to pass him.  Since he’s averaging 29.0 already this season, this is eminently possible should he stick around another season.  That would be fairly cool to track next season – let’s hope he returns.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.30.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 30th, 2009

Set Your Tivos
There isn’t any game that really stands out as being head and shoulders above the rest so I won’t have a game of the day per se, but there are quite a few good games worth watching.

#22 Notre Dame at # 3 Pittsburgh at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This should be an interesting game with Pittsburgh coming off a 10-point loss at Villanova and Notre Dame coming in having lost 4 in a row including back-to-back losses at home after coming in with a nation-leading 45-game home winning streak. The big match-up here is obviously Luke Harangody versus DaJuan Blair on the inside. I’m thinking Pitt should win this game relatively easily in the second half. If Mike Brey wants to have a chance to steal one on the road and get back into the Big East race, he will need Kyle McAlarney to regain his touch from the outside.

Michigan at #17 Purdue at 1 PM on CBS: It is amazing that just 2 months ago, the Wolverines were the talk of college basketball having knocked off UCLA and Duke. Now, they are 4-5 in the Big Ten and look like they might not make the NCAA Tournament. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims will need to have a big game if they want to steal one against Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore, and the Boilermakers who come in having won 5 straight in the Big Ten after dropping their first two games in conference.

#23 Georgetown at #8 Marquette at 2 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: I’m not sure what to say about Georgetown. They are undoubtably one of the most talented teams in the country, but they have played themselves out of the top 25 in the past 2 weeks. On the other sideline, after their big win on Monday night at Notre Dame, the Golden Eagles will have a chance to move into the top 5 with a win over a Hoya team that is falling apart right now. The Hoyas have lost 4 (?) straight games and DaJuan Summers, their leading scorer, was injured in their last loss. John Thompson III will need a big game out of Greg MonroeAustin Freeman, and Summers (presumably healthy)  to snap the Hoyas out of their skid. However, if Buzz Williams can get a solid game out of Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews the Golden Eagles should be able to pull off the win.

Stanford at # 16 UCLA at 3:30 PM on ABC, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: I don’t think this one is of particular interest especially with the way Stanford has played so far in the Pac-10, but I think it should be worth watching for our East Coast readers who don’t stay up past midnight to watch some of the mediocre teams out West play.

Providence at #2 Connecticut at 4 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Assuming UConn wins this, they will be your new #1 team on Monday. Keep an eye on this one because Providence has been playing well lately including a victory over a depleted Syracuse team on Wednesday night.

Washington at #14 Arizona State at 5:30 PM on FSN: Ok. I took my requisite West Coast shot earlier when discussing the Stanford-UCLA game, but this one is acutally worth watching. I’m still unsure why Washington wasn’t in this week’s top 25 after knocking off USC and UCLA last week, but maybe the voters knew something as the Huskies followed up those 2 big wins with a loss on the road at Arizona. The Sun Devils will be looking to bounce from a shocking loss at home against Washington State on Thursday night. I’ll be watching the match-up of the star guards in this one: Isaiah Thomas for Washington and James Harden for Arizona State

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Conference Over- and Underachievers

Posted by jstevrtc on January 28th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.  His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

All right, now we’re talking.  We’re several games into conference play, now, and the leagues are starting to take shape.  We’ve known the fates of some teams for a long time, both the good (your Carolinas and Dukes, Oklahomas and UConns, etc), and the bad (no need to pile on, here).  The most interesting part of it all, to me, are those teams which are doing a little better than they expected and may be making tenuous hotel reservations for a very large dance in March…and others that are becoming quickly aware that they are only one or two losses away from being tossed into the dustbin of NIT-worthiness.  Even worse, many squads are realizing that they may not even have THAT to worry about, that there will be no post-season, that the only thing they have waiting on them after the basketball season is over is — horror of horrors — going to class.

photobucket.com)
Many teams know this is all they have to look forward to in March. (photo credit: photobucket.com)

So who’s not behaving like we expected?  Who has both surprised and disappointed us, in terms of conference play?  Without further delay, I give you…our early-conference edition of Over- and Underachievers.

ACC

Overachiever:  Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1)

As much as their win over then-#1 Wake Forest turned heads, I think people were just as surprised (at least I was) that they avoided the usual post-big-victory letdown by going to Miami (FL) four days after the Wake win and knocking off what I still think is a very capable Hurricane squad.  I know it’s early.  But right now it’s the Hokies who sit second in the conference, a game behind new national #1 Duke.  Victories like the ones they’ve enjoyed so far can sometimes set the tone for a great season, or they can make you overconfident so that you screw up the rest of your conference schedule.  We’ll see how far they can take it, but you’ve got to give them props to this point.

daylife.com)
Greenberg and Vassallo, Overachievers. (photocredit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Georgia Tech (9-10, 0-6)

Whew.  What happened here?  After starting 7-2, something happened just before Christmas and the Jackets just haven’t gotten up from it.  Maybe the competition just got a little better, but with all the talent on this team and a coach like Paul Hewitt there’s just no excuse for going one-for-2009.  Their only victory of this year?  A 5-point win at home against Georgia, a bottom-feeder team in a terrible SEC.  To be completely honest, I’m already tired of talking about them.  Maybe next year Derrick Favors will bring the antidote this program needs.

Big 12

Overachiever:  Missouri (17-3, 4-1)

Hands up, who had Missouri at 17-3 after 20 games?  Yeah, me neither.  The Tigers have great individual talent but have succeeded this year by being the epitome of unselfishness, which has led to efficiency.  They average 19.4 assists per game (2nd nationally), just a ridiculous number.  The only question mark…only three true away games so far.  Probably the only reason they aren’t well-entrenched in the Top 25 right now.

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Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll, a large human, happy about overachieving. (photo credit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Texas A&M (15-5, 1-4)

That 14-1 start was lookin’ pretty good, then conference play started.  12 assists per game just isn’t going to get it done (248th in the nation).  Donald Sloan averages the most dimes per game on this team at a mere 3.2.  We’re pretty sure Mark Turgeon is a fine coach, but right now the Aggies are giving the NCAA Tournament committee reasons to deny them entry in March.  They’d best learn to stay afloat for the rest of Big 12 play.

Big East

Overachiever:  Marquette (18-2, 7-0)

Winners of 10 straight.  RPI of 15.  7-0 in a monster conference.  The coolest thing about Marquette is that they’ll beat you any way you wish to get beaten — they can play slow, half-court basketball and cut you to pieces, and they’re also more than happy to outrun you and get it up near triple-digits.  And Monday night was telling — I bet Maurice Acker followed Kyle McAlarney to class today.  McAlarney couldn’t have gotten have rid of him even if he’d cut the brake lines on Acker’s car.  The Jerel McNeal/Wesley Matthews/Lazar Hayward three-headed monster has turned into one of the most fearsome in the game.  DO NOT forget this team when filling out your bracket in the office pool in a month and a half.

Underachiever:  Seton Hall (10-9, 1-6)

The Pirates raised some eyebrows when they started off 9-3 including wins versus Southern Cal and Virginia Tech, and then — sense a trend, here? — conference play began.  Boom, six straight losses.  I think the Georgetown game really showed us something closer to who the real Seton Hall team is, but this conference is going to end up being just too vicious overall for them.

SEC

Overachiever:  Kentucky (16-4, 5-0)

According to a number of my Wildcat connections, before this season, UK supporters were basically ready to give Billy Gillispie another “free-pass” sort of season, inasmuch as a coach can actually have that at Kentucky.  Doesn’t look like Gillispie needs it.  This team is an interesting statistical mix.  They rank 3rd in the country in FG% (50.2%) and 2nd nationally in FT% (79%).  We know about the potency of the Jodie Meeks/Patrick Patterson tandem.  Defensively, they hold opponents to 36.4% a game from the field, which is 3rd best in the nation; and they rank second in the country in blocks per game with 7.5 (and, oddly, second in the conference as well behind Mississippi State’s 8.0/game).  So…great offense, great defense…what’s the problem?  Well, how about 18.1 turnovers per game?  That’s 338th out of 341 Division One teams.  Egad.  Nobody — even Kentucky fans, I don’t think — saw Kentucky improving this fast with so many unknowns starting the year.  Clean up the turnovers and you’re a top five team.

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Class of the SEC? We’ll see… (photo credit: daylife.com)

[Ed. note:  since this was written, Kentucky was defeated by Mississippi on Tuesday night to give UK its first loss in the conference and take them to 5-1.  I think, however, that UK still qualifies for Overachiever status in the SEC so far for reasons outlined above.   --J.S.]

Underachiever:  Arkansas (12-5, 0-4)

If you look at the win-loss pattern on Arkansas’ schedule, you’d say, “Yep, conference play, again.”  I don’t think you can’t say that, here.  It’s baffling, because in an eight-day span less than a month ago, John Pelphrey’s Razorback squad knocked off both Texas and Oklahoma, not exactly a couple of pansies.  It makes absolutely no sense that beginning conference play in a WAY-down SEC (6th in conference RPI, and probably falling) would cause Arkansas any problems at all, but here they sit at 0-4 in the conference, including an inexcusable 22-point home court butt-smoking at the hands of Auburn.  Arkansas is another team that is just loaded with great athletes, and if they straighten up a little the committee will remember those two earlier big wins.  Arkansas reminds me of Avril Levigne.  I’m pretty sure there’s something attractive there…but they’re doing whatever they possibly can to screw it up and make themselves ugly.

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Avril has a message for Mr. Stevens (photo credit: radaronline.com)

This is not a complete list, by any means.  But I think it shows us how breezing through questionable non-conference opponents might not be the best recipe to impress the committee, as attractive as it is to post a nice big number in the pre-conference ‘W’ column.  Everyone knows that late losses simply mean more, that the committee likes you to finish strong.  You can’t allow yourself to be a conference underachiever.  Conference play will give you a bellyache if all you’ve been doing is loading up on cupcakes.

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Set Your Tivos: 01.26.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 26th, 2009

Set Your TivosA really weak set of games tonight and only one really worth watching. To be honest, this is a surprisingly weak week of games. I would say there are only a handful of games that I would consider worth watching this week, but I’ll get to that in another post.

Game of the Night (The only one worth watching)
#10 Marquette at #19 Notre Dame at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This game might answer some of the questions I posed this weekend about the Big East. I think the conference is not as good as everyone says they are. I think there are only 3 great teams (Pittsburgh, UConn, and the reborn Louisville Cardinals) and a whole bunch of borderline teams. I am actually starting to think the ACC would match-up pretty well against the Big East if you account for the Big East having approximately 1/4th of D-1 in the conference.

While Marquette has an impressive record (17-2), they have not faced a good team all year (Villanova is questionable and that game was at home). A win at Notre Dame would certainly erase some of the doubts that many in the media have. Do I count as the media? Even though Notre Dame’s aura of invincibility in South Bend went up in smoke on Saturday against UConn, winning there will still be quite challenging. Buzz Williams, who has done a good job replacing Tom Crean, will need big games out of Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal, Lazar Hayward, and Dominic James if he wants to steal one in South Bend and have his Golden Eagles stake a legitimate claim as a Big East title contender.

That said, how likely is it that the Irish, who had a three-year, 45-game home winning streak snapped on Saturday night by UConn, would lose two in a row at home?  Not very.  Mike Brey’s team went stone cold in that game, shooting a miserable 33%, highlighted by Kyle McAlarney’s 12 bricks in a row (after starting 3-3) and a combined 2-15 from Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers.   Luke Harangody was the only scorer that showed for ND in that game (particularly in the second half when UConn’s defense was spectacular), so I expect that we’ll see a much-better Irish team tonight.  They sorta have to win this game – they’ve already lost their last three and a trip to Pittsburgh looms next.  A five-loss losing streak could crush this team’s confidence. 

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Set Your Tivos: 01.10.09 & 01.11.09

Posted by nvr1983 on January 8th, 2009

Set Your TivosSet Your Tivos is back with a loaded schedule. It looks like the NCAA is kicking the season into full swing this weekend with that pesky little college football sport and its antediluvian method of determining a champion out of the way, we can all focus on what’s really important.

Saturday
Noon
- NC State at #11 Clemson on Raycom Sports and ESPN Full Court: The Wolfpack will be looking to hand the Tigers their first defeat. Just based on history, I don’t have a lot of faith in Clemson and it looks like the pollsters don’t either. I don’t think this is a particularly interesting game based on the teams playing (especially when you look at the other games you can watch in this time spot), but keep an eye on this one particularly around the end when you could see a team fall from the ranks of the unbeatens.

- #21 Louisville at #17 Villanova on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Will Edgar Sosa’s resurgence lead more disgruntled college coaches to adopt the Rick Pitino method of motivation? Pitino will need Sosa, Earl Clark, and Samardo Samuels at the top of their game if he wants to go into Philadelphia and get Louisville its first quality win of the year. Jay Wright will counter with Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds as the Wildcats hope to return to form after 2 rough games on the road. We’ll be interested to see if Louisville can ride the momentum off their big win over Kentucky to finally play up to the form that we expected them to earlier in the season.

We're big fans of Original Recipe
We’re big fans of Original Recipe

- #22 West Virginia at #15 Marquette on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Honestly, I don’t know if any Big East team is going to be able to make it out of the conference with less than 4 losses. The scary thing is that both of these top 25 teams will struggle to go 8-8 in the conference this year. After a tough loss to Connecticut, the Mountaineers travel north to face the Golden Eagles. Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler will need to outplay Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal, and Lazar Hayward if they hope to get a road win, which will be a rarity this year in the Big East.

1 PM
Kansas at #12 Michigan State on CBS: Tom Izzo has his Spartans playing well after some early struggles. Does anybody want to work out a comparative score about how bad Harvard would beat Michigan State? Bill Self will rely on the inside-outside combo of Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins if he hopes to steal one in East Lansing. The key to this game will be how Collins does against Kalin Lucas. If Collins can outplay Lucas, don’t be surprised if the Jayhawks extend their impressive recent run including a win over Tennessee.

2 PM
- #2 Duke at Florida State on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This could be  potential letdown game for the Blue Devils after their win over Stephen Curry and Davidson on Thursday. [Yes. Curry played well. Much better than he had in previous BCS games, but I don't buy the starting PG, 18-20 PPG as a rookie, and NBA superstar stuff that ESPN was trying to stuff down my throat. I'll post more on this in the near future.] I’m sure that Coach K will remind his team that the Seminoles have knocked off heavily favored Duke teams several times in the past few years (I attended the most shocking of these upsets). I would normally say that Duke should win this type of game without any problem, but with the recent history of this “rivalry” I wouldn’t be too short of anything. As usual with Duke, watch the officials closely.

7 PM
Miami (FL) at #24 Boston College on ESPNU: As we earlier wrote this week, we have no idea what to make of the Eagles. Beat UNC then lose to Harvard the next game. The Hurricanes have been winning all the games they are expected to, but they need to start winning some of the tougher games on their schedule if they want to live up to their preseason top 25 ranking or even make the NCAA tournament. This game will likely come down to a showdown between Jack McClinton and Tyrese Rice. Well that and whether BC decides to show up for this game.

Sunday
Noon

St. John’s at #1 Pittsburgh on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: The Red Storm are coming off a shocking victory over Notre Dame. I don’t really think they should pose much of a challenge to the #1 team in the country, but momentum has a funny way of affecting games like these that shouldn’t be competitive. The Red Storm lost Anthony Mason Jr (son of that Anthony Mason) three games into the season, but have a balanced attack with 4 players averaging between 10.1 and 13.0 PPG. As you’re aware (since you visit this site), the Panthers aren’t quite as balanced, but Sam Young and DeJuan Blair may be one of the best 1-2 combo in nation. Look for this one to be closer than you would expect.

Junior could use some help from daddy this weekend.
The Red Storm could use some help from Junior and daddy this weekend.

1:30 PM
Wisconsin at #14 Purdue on CBS: After years of bashing the Big 10, it looks like the conference is slowly making a comeback. The problem they have now is that they have a lot of solid teams, but no great teams (with the possible exception of Michigan State). After a big win over Michigan at Crisler last weekend, the Badgers go into Indiana looking to pull off another upset. I’m guessing most people will probably be watching the NFL playoffs around this time, but keep this one on “Recall”, “Last”, or whatever function your remote has so you can flip back and forth between the games.

8 PM
#3 UNC at #4 Wake Forest on FSN: Without question, the biggest game of the weekend features the experienced Tar Heels going into Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum to face the extremely young  Demon Deacons. I don’t think there is much to say about the Tar Heels, but here’s a brief summary: Tyler Hansbrough hustles and pulls in the ladies; Ty Lawson is fast, inconsistent, and shouldn’t be let near a car; and Roy Williams wears goofy ties and has a tendency to make comments he wishes he could take back. Oh yeah, they also ball with the President Elect. The Demon Deacons are still kind of an unknown to most of America, but with their win at BYU (ending the Cougars NCAA-leading home winning streak at 53) may be our first glimpse at how good this team could be in the very near future. Al-Farouq Aminu may get the headlines nationally, but be sure to watch for Jeff Teague, James Johnson, and Chas McFarland who are all at least as important to Wake as Aminu is. A win here could be big for Wake in getting a high seed in the NCAA tournament. I’d like to take Wake here, but I think the BC game may have woken up the Tar Heels who may have been buying into the hype that was being thrown their way (definitely not from us).

10:30 PM
- #7 UCLA at USC on FSN: The Bruins have quietly rebounded from a couple of close, early-season losses to roll off 8 straight wins (against admittedly weak competition). The Trojans have been inconsistent with some solid wins followed by some horrible losses (Oregon State). This will be one of our East Coast offices first good looks at the Pac-10, which only has two top 25 teams currently. There are a couple of intriguing aspects in this game. How has Darren Collison  adjusting to not having Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook? How is Demar DeRozan adjusting to college hoops and is he legit? Do teenage girls still love Lil’ Romeo? If any of these mysteries interest you or you want to see one of the better crosstown rivalries in recent years, we recommend you tune in at the end of a long weekend. If none of that interests you, tune in to see what Jordan Farmar was complaining about.

0.5 PPG

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