Morning Five: 02.16.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 16th, 2010

  1. Sad news from Memphis last night as it was reported that former Tigers coach Dana Kirk, died from a heart attack at 74 years old.  Kirk was essentially the architect of Memphis (State) basketball in the 1980s, as he turned a hoops backwater into a program that consistently recruited top players (mostly local), won 158 games, and made  regular trips to the NCAA Tournament.  Kirk coached the Tigers to the 1985 Final Four behind star forward Keith Lee, but he was dismissed by the school in 1986 and was later imprisoned a few months for federal tax evasion.  His legacy was further tarnished by numerous NCAA violations on his watch, which led to his F4 appearance getting vacated and the school serving a probation in the late 80s.  But make no mistake, Memphis probably wouldn’t have become the elite job it has become today without Kirk’s groundbreaking work there.  RIP.
  2. Wow, Nolan Richardson with an Isiah Thomas moment…  his target, however, wasn’t Larry Bird but rather John Wooden and Bob Knight.  Talking about some of the forgotten great black coaches in history, he said, “No matter how well they did the white power structure in college basketball mostly ignored them. If [John] McLendon had been white, he’d have been a star in the coaching world. If all the great coaches in basketball history like Knight or [John] Wooden had been black, they’d be nobodies.”
  3. In case you missed it on Saturday, Oklahoma’s Willie Warren did not travel with his team to take part in the shellacking in Stillwater (OU lost by 21).  He has the dreaded mononucleosis, which means officially that he’s out ‘indefinitely,’ but it could also mean that he’s shutting it down for the rest of the  Sooners’ miserable season.  OU has games left against Kansas, K-State, Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M in the next three weeks.
  4. We really have to get an invite to this thing one year.  Seth Davis gives his report from the annual NCAA Media Mock Bracket, which he was supposed to attend but couldn’t (weather).  He breaks down the bracket that the media came up with, pointing out the obvious and subtle errors in their version.  Honestly, we’re pretty surprised that the media bracket doesn’t do a better job with this each year — there’s very little pressure to ‘get it right,’ and these people are the ones who eat, sleep and breathe this stuff.
  5. Gary Parrish’s take on why John Calipari should at least listen in case the Nets come to him with an offer is the most compelling we’ve seen on the matter.  The next Phil Jackson will be the coach who gets to tell Lebron James when to pass the ball from time to time, and whoever that person is will ultimately become a legend because of it.
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Nothing Says Celebration Like Ripping Off Dillard’s

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2010

It’s been that kind of a year for Jeff Capel’s Oklahoma Sooners.  As soon as things start looking up, there’s an equal but opposite reaction that brings his team back to reality.  Oklahoma has experienced plentiful growing pains this year in large part due to the difficulties that Capel has had getting through to his star player Willie Warren, but also undoubtedly because of their numerous talented freshmen he has had to rely on.  Gifted though the quartet of Tommy Mason-Griffin (13/3/5 APG), Tiny Gallon (10/8), Steven Pledger (7/2) and Andrew Fitzgerald (4/2) are, with freshmen comes spectacular ups and downs, and this crew is no different.  On and off the court

Tommy Mason-Griffin and the Other Frosh Stepped Up Saturday

On Saturday afternoon at 3pm local time, OU tipped it off against its bitter rival Texas, running out to a twenty-point halftime lead behind the stellar play of the aforementioned guard Mason-Griffin and wing Cade Davis.  The Sooners cooled off in the second half, but they were still able to utilize some great free throw defense (10-27 for UT) and some timely buckets down the stretch to hang on to win, 80-71.  The freshman four stepped up in this one, combining for half of the Sooners’ points and two-thirds of their assists.  It was without question the Sooners’ biggest victory of the season, and one that Sooner faithful hope would springboard OU back into the Big 12 picture and contention for a late run at the NCAA Tournament. 

Cause for celebration, right?  The game ended at around 5:30 pm.  Give a reasonable amount of time for players to shower, dress and venture home, and you figure most everybody is gone by 7 pm.  Surely some players went out to eat with their families; still others may have had a date with a girlfriend; and perhaps some just went home and chillaxed for a while.  Not freshmen Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald, though.  They went to the mall.  But not only did they go to the mall, they were so excited by the big win and their individual performances (Fitzgerald: started and contributed 3/2/1 asst in 19 minutes; Pledger: 9/4/1 in 24 minutes off the bench) that they decided to steal some shirts from a local Dillard’s.  Allegedly, of course.  At 8:50 pm, the two players were watched by store security as they placed two shirts inside a blue plastic bag with the clear intent to conceal them. 

Pledger & Fitzgerald Making Smart Decisions

Not even four hours after the biggest win of their entire lives, these two knuckleheads thought they were entitled to some free shirts.  Instead of receiving a conga line of well-wishers and fans back in the dorms like campus deities, they’re busy getting written up by some rent-a-cop for petty larceny.  We’re sure that they’ll learn from this mistake, but at what cost to Oklahoma?  Tomorrow night’s game against Texas Tech in Norman is a must-win, and Jeff Capel now needs to make the decision on what punishment he’ll hand down to these two clowns.  If he’s harsh and suspends them, he’ll be extremely shorthanded for that game; if he lets them play, then there’s an implication that stealing things from department stores is ok.  We’re not sure which way he’ll turn, but we do have one question in all of this…  was Royce White visiting from out of town? 

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on January 21st, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings:

  1. Texas (17-1, 3-1) – I can’t fault Texas for losing on the road to Kansas State for two reasons. First, Kansas State is a great team that deserves their top ten rankings, and second because it was a road game in a conference where the home team consistently comes out on top.
  2. Kansas (17-1, 3-0) – The Jayhawks just barely squeaked out a win over Baylor behind great play from Marcus Morris and Sherron Collins. KU looks like they’re ready to make a big run and separate themselves from all the other contenders in the conference.
  3. Kansas State (16-2, 3-1) – I really thought that KSU would be overmatched against Texas, but the Wildcats won the game by dominating what was thought to be the best frontcourt in the nation.  Jamar Samuels and Rodney McGruder were the heroes for Frank Martin’s squad in their biggest home victory since 1994.
  4. Missouri (14-4, 2-1) – The Tigers blew a big lead against the Sooners in Norman on Saturday, but they should be able to rebound at home against Nebraska. Mizzou will put their 30 game home winning streak on the line against the Cornhuskers.
  5. Baylor (14-3, 2-2) – I really like how the Bears are playing at this point in the season.  Last night they played a very close game against KU on the road, which shows that this Baylor team has a lot of pride.  Ekpe Udoh is the key to this team’s success, but it should be easy for them to win most of their games against Big 12 South opponents (excluding Texas).
  6. Texas A&M (13-5, 2-2) – The Aggies are squarely on the bubble as we head into the last week of January. The win over Oklahoma was key for this team’s tournament hopes, and it is nice for TAMU fans to see production out of guard B.J. Holmes.
  7. Oklahoma State (14-4, 2-2) – The Cowboys have the toughest stretch in their schedule coming up, so it should tell us if this Oklahoma State team is good enough to play in the NCAA Tournament or if they are destined for the NIT.
  8. Oklahoma (11-7, 2-2) – The Sooners got a huge win over Mizzou at home, but they may have seen their tournament hopes slip away with the loss to Texas A&M on Tuesday night. Seven losses before we hit February is far too many for a team with so much talent.
  9. Texas Tech (13-5, 1-3) – The Red Raiders’ very weak non-conference schedule probably is hurting this team more than it is helping them. TTU needs to get back to .500 in the conference before we can start talking postseason again.
  10. Colorado (10-8,1-3) – I think we will see more wins for Colorado in Boulder, but I really don’t think CU will be able to pick up any wins on the road unless the game is in Ames or Lincoln.
  11. Iowa State (12-6, 1-2) – The Cyclones have fought hard in all of their conference games thus far. Their first three, that is.  It’s a long Big 12 season and it’s a loaded conference.
  12. Nebraska (12-6, 0-3) – NU may have seen its only potential win slip out of their hands when they blew a halftime lead against ISU.

Team of the WeekKansas State Wildcats - Really a no-brainer here, after the Wildcats knocked off the number one team. KSU got a lot of help from the Longhorns’ terrible free throw shooting, but that shouldn’t take any credit away from the outstanding play from Kansas State’s frontcourt.

Player of the WeekJamar Samuels, F Kansas State – Coming off the bench and having a 20 point/12 rebound performance against the top rated team in the nation warrants you a Player of the Week honor in my book. Without Samuels I don’t see how KSU wins that game.

This Week’s Predictions:

Colorado at Texas A&M (Saturday January 23rd, 1:30 PM ET) - Donald Sloan and company have a lot to play for in this game. They can’t let CU steal a win from them on their home court. I think Cory Higgins will keep this one close, but in the end TAMU will pull away with the victory.  Winner: Texas A&M

Kansas at Iowa State (Saturday January 23rd, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) – I really think Iowa State can win this game. Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap are a tandem that can reek havoc on any team, and Kansas is not playing their best basketball as of late. I wish I had the guts to pick ISU, but I’m taking the safe route and going with the Jayhawks.   Winner: Kansas

Oklahoma State at Kansas State (Saturday January 23rd, 4:00 PM ET) – Historically, teams are very vulnerable after coming off a huge win. However, the crowd will be loud in Manhattan and I think we’ll see a hard-fought but relatively easy win for Frank Martin and Kansas State. Winner: Kansas State

Nebraska at Missouri (Saturday January 23rd, 6:00 PM ET) – The worst team in the Big 12 is coming into Columbia, where the Tigers have not lost in 30 straight contests, and the game is sold out. Nothing is pointing to a possible win for the Huskers.  Winner: Missouri

Oklahoma at Texas Tech (Saturday January 23rd, 8:00 PM ET) – Texas Tech is coming off their first Big 12 victory, but it was just a seven point win over Iowa State at home. TTU has been the team with the least bit of “home court advantage” in this conference, so I think OU comes into Lubbock and steals a win.  Winner: Oklahoma

Missouri at Kansas (Monday January 25th, 9:00 PM ET ESPN) – KU hates Missouri, and loves every opportunity it gets to thrash the Tigers on their home court. I don’t think that MU will get destroyed, but I don’t see any way how Mizzou could get a win over the Jayhawks in Lawrence.  Winner: Kansas

Kansas State at Baylor (Tuesday January 26th, 8:00 PM ET) – Baylor is in search of their first big win in the conference, and I think they will get it Tuesday night in Waco. Ekpe Udoh and LaceDarius Dunn will be too much for KSU to handle, and the Bears will help their case for the NCAA Tournament.  Winner: Baylor

Texas Tech at Texas (Wednesday January 27th, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) – This will be Texas’ first home game since their loss to Kansas State, so there will be plenty of fans cheering on the Longhorns as they take on an in-state rival. Damion James may have his best game of the season against TTU, and show you why he should be National Player of the Year.  Winner: Texas

Texas A&M at Oklahoma State (Wednesday January 27th, 7:30 PM ET ESPN2)- Wow, this is going to be a very important game for both teams. Both are on the bubble looking for another win to help their tournament hopes. I like Oklahoma State in this one just because it is in Stillwater, but I will not be surprised at all if TAMU comes out with a victory.  Winner: Oklahoma State

Iowa State at Oklahoma (Wednesday January 27th, 9:00 PM ET) – Cade Davis and Willie Warren should each have big games, but there is no one in Oklahoma’s frontcourt that can contain Brackins or Gilstrap. I’m picking an upset here, as I think ISU will be too much for OU on the inside.  Winner: Iowa State

Nebraska at Colorado (Wednesday January 27th, 10:00 PM ET) – Colorado can match their win total from last season if they pick up a victory against lowly Nebraska, and that’s exactly what they will do. The Cornhuskers are just too far behind the rest of the conference in terms of talent level.  Winner: Colorado

Non-Conference Games:

Texas at Connecticut (Saturday January 23rd, 4:00 PM ET CBS) – UConn is overrated, even when they are out of the Top 25. I know that the game is in Connecticut, but there is no way that the Huskies will have an answer for Texas’ talent and depth.  Winner: Texas

Massachusetts at Baylor (Saturday January 23rd, 4:00 PM ET ESPNU) – UMass currently have seven wins. I really like Baylor’s chances in this one.  Winner: Baylor

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 5th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. More than the countless Big East tournament runs at the Garden, or the contention for conference regular season titles on a yearly basis, or reaching upper-echelon status in college basketball playing with no flashy All-American recruits, Jamie Dixon is proving his worth as a coach this year more than ever. Few teams lost as much talent, leadership, and production as senior point guard Levance Fields, dominating big man DeJuan Blair and outside threat Sam Young. The departure of these three mainstays plus two projected starters for 2009-10, Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown, beginning the year MIA prompted many preseason prognosticators (including myself) to deem Pittsburgh a non-contender in the rugged Big East. My mistake, Jamie. The Panthers just finished one of their most difficult Big East road stretches of the year with two statement victories at previously undefeated Syracuse and at fringe-ranked Cincinnati. Sophomore Ashton Gibbs is taking his experience from playing under Dixon at the U19 Games to good use, running the Pitt offense with superb efficiency, shooting the ball lights out from deep and breaking the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made in the process. Brown has his academics in order and used his athleticism to make a few back-breaking baskets against Cincy last night. Dixon provides stellar defense and outside shooting. It remains to be seen whether Pitt can stay at the top of the Big East with less talent than the other squads, but we do know that Dixon’s team will play smarter and tougher than any opponent. And that always gives them a fighting chance.

2. The most significant win this New Year’s week had to be Purdue running away from West Virginia to remain unblemished and surpass the Mountaineers as a projected #1 seed at this stage of the season. Purdue and coach Matt Painter have constructed their program unlike many of their other counterparts atop the rankings on a weekly basis. There’s no Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Devin Ebanks or John Wall walking through the doors of Mackey Arena to play for the Boilers for one or two years; instead, their 2009-10 highly ranked squad features a group of players that have been together for three straight seasons, such a rarity in the age of one-and-done players and the glorification of NBA riches. This specific group of players- Robbie Hummel, Chris Kramer, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Keaton Grant- have practiced and played together for three straight years now, stepping up the ladder slowly but surely in the college hoops landscape. They took the Big Ten by surprise in 2007-08 before falling in the second round to Xavier and climbed up another step by reaching the Sweet 16 a season ago. This year they hope to reach the top and cut down the nets in nearby Indianapolis with a group of kids that have been through the ups and downs of a college basketball season together more than once- a group of lightly-recruited but tough-minded individuals that will utilize defensive intensity and offensive efficiency to reach the ultimate goal Hummel, Johnson, Moore and others been striving for since arriving in West Lafayette.

3. Think about this for a second: Despite losing three four-year starters that all played 30+ MPG and notched 10+ PPG, Marquette coach Buzz Williams would probably tell you that his Golden Eagles should be staring at a 12-2 (2-0) record with wins over top-ten Villanova and West Virginia and another top-25 team in Florida State. Typical of young, inexperienced squads, Marquette has simply been unable to close games this season against stellar competition. If Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler don’t miss two front ends of 1-and-1 opportunities, Da’Sean Butler’s game-winning shot never happens and Marquette has the second most impressive road win in the country this season (just behind Pitt stunning Syracuse). Up two Saturday against Villanova, Johnson-Odom again stepped to the line up two points and 2:35 left on the clock. Both of those attempts bricked, and, couple that with a bunny missed by Butler at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles again fell just short. Rewind back to November in the Old Spice Classic where Marquette held a 30-18 lead at half against FSU and a 10-point cushion midway through the second half, but squandered the lead. I haven’t even included the NC State game where Marquette lead by 11 at the intermission. Closing out games has been a devastating problem for Buzz Williams’ squad this season, and these close losses could very well cost Marquette a spot in the field come March if they’re sitting on the bubble.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on December 29th, 2009

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.

1. The most competitive conference in the land this season should spark the most competitive Player of the Year race come March. Top-seeded Kansas boasts three potential candidates once center Cole Aldrich starts to play with a more aggressive mentality on the offensive end. Senior point guard Sherron Collins has the skill set to explode come conference play and should provide the Jayhawks with more than one clutch play the season wears on. Freshman Xavier Henry has surpassed everyone’s expectations early in Lawrence as the Jayhawks early scoring leader. Nipping at the heels of #1 Kansas is #2 Texas and their all-time rebounder Damion James. James has exploded onto the scene the last week-plus with two masterful performances against North Carolina (25/15/4 stl on 8-22 FG) and Michigan State (23/13 on 10-18 FG). You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that argues James isn’t the current frontrunner for Big 12 POY and deserves definite consideration for first team All-America honors. Kansas State has been one of the bigger surprises in college basketball through the first month and a half behind sharp-shooting guard Jacob Pullen. The junior went on a tear recently scoring 28 in a big road win at UNLV then topping himself with 30 points at Alabama. In his last three games, Pullen has nailed an incredible 16 of his last 25 threes. Lurking in the shadows is Oklahoma State’s James Anderson (21.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG) and Iowa State forward Craig Brackins (17.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG) with Baylor’s Ekpe Ugoh and Oklahoma’s Willie Warren also making large impacts on their respective squads.

2. It’s fairly clear the top two teams in a weaker Pac-10 conference will be Washington behind Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter and California behind their big three of Jerome Randle, Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher. While both teams have encountered their early season struggles, Washington knocking off an emotionally scarred Texas A&M squad at home Tuesday and California hanging in with Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse should convince most critics that those two will compete for the Pac-10 title. Prior to the season, many believed UCLA would be that third team in the Pac-10 to cause some damage and sneak into the NCAA field. But with a week that included wins over Tennessee, St. Mary’s and UNLV, it’s becoming quite evident that USC might very well be that team. Even with early season home defeats at the hands of Loyola Marymount and Nebraska and blowout losses at Texas and Georgia Tech, the Trojans are coming together behind newly-entrenched point guard Mike Gerrity and coach Kevin O’Neill. The two-time transfer Gerrity is already the Trojans leading scorer and far and away their best assist man. He won’t blow anyone away with flash and speed, but he knows how to run an offense and play the position with efficiency. A starting five of Gerrity, Nikola Vucevic, Alex Stepheson, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson all of a sudden doesn’t look too shabby, does it?

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ATB: 2,000 Nic Wises (or something like that)…

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2009

 

UK2K. Kentucky 88, Drexel 44. Kentucky jumped on Drexel early.  By jumped on, we mean 23-5 to start the game.  We mean a 56-20 lead at the half.  One of the last buckets scored in the half was a John Wall behind-the-back drive to the hole that got the crowd up and put the gavel down on this one.  The second half was an hour-long hernia examination for Drexel, complete with over 20,000 onlookers.  John Calipari had pretty much cleared his bench by the 9:00 mark, not wanting to make it any worse for Drexel coach (and friend) Bruiser Flint.  DeMarcus Cousins had yet another double-double with 18/13, most of which I think he had in the first six minutes of the game.  Patrick Patterson also had 18 for the Wildcats but the story (again) was John Wall, whose 16 points and 7 assists had the crowd — and the TV commentators — mesmerized.  The program’s 2,000th win was marked with a short ceremony after the game with Calipari acting as impromptu MC, with appearances by the son of Adolph Rupp, the wife and daughter of the late Bill Keightley (former equipment manager and beloved UK personality), and a short statement by Patrick Patterson, whom the players selected to speak on their behalf.  In all honesty, this wasn’t so much a basketball game as it was a formality and then a party for the 2,000th win. 

P-Pat Was Team UK2K Spokesman (credit: Charles Bertram)

 Ridiculous Shot of the Year. Arizona 83, Lipscomb 82 (OT). The Pac-10 narrowly averted another disastrous out-of-conference loss against an average Atlantic Sun team tonight, as Nic Wise (26/3/3 assts/4 stls) hit a three with 0.1 on the clock (where were the Butler-Xavier refs tonight?) to give Sean Miller a skin-of-his-teeth win at home tonight.  Upon further review and after seeing the sequence of events in real time, we’re not sure how the officials came to a definitive conclusion that Wise had indeed released the ball before the buzzer and accompanying red light went off.  From our angle on the couch with absolutely no pressure on our decision, it looked like he was still touching leather at that moment (State Fans Nation confirms that notion with a great screen-grab that shows the error).  Granted, it was a phenomenal shot — more of a push to the basket, actually — and as soon as we can find a video link, we’ll put it up here, but we’re thinking Lipscomb deserved the big upset tonight and may have gotten jobbed in Tucson.  Jamelle Horne was out with a foot injury tonight, but Arizona still had a very difficult time with the visting Bisons, especially Lipscomb’s big center Adnan Hodzic, who went for 34/13 against the thinner Wildcat frontline. 

 

Upset of the Night? UTEP 89, Oklahoma 74. Ok, not really, but pickings were slim tonight.  OU was only a two-point favorite in Vegas, which doesn’t even account for their quasi-home crowd in OKC.  But more importantly, this game illustrated some of the problems that the Sooners have been experiencing in the post-Blake Griffin era.  Incumbent star Willie Warren took Coach Jeff Capel’s words to heart (“I’m tired of trying to figure him out.“) and came out to score 18 first half points (26/3/4 assts but 5 TOs for the game), but his team has struggled defensively all season and they could not get stops as the Sooners fell behind 47-30 at the half.  The Miners shot 58% from the field and hit ten threes in a game that OU was never able to claw back into, and Warren’s counterpart in orange, Randy Culpepper, had 27/4 assts himself.  UTEP’s Derrick Caracter also had another nice game with 11/10 in his fourth game back in uniform.  This loss sends Oklahoma into the Xmas break with a ten-day layoff looking back on an 8-4 record with no marquee wins on its resume.  Beating Gonzaga in Spokane on NYE appears unlikely, so where will OU find enough wins in the rugged Big 12 this year to ensure another Tourney appearance?  Right or not, it will fall on Warren to keep his teammates actively involved on offense by cutting down on turnovers (his 22.4 TO rate is not good) and inspiring a commitment and willingness to play defense — the Sooners have been a top forty team in defensive efficiency the last three seasons under Capel, but this year they rank in the 200s, giving up 48% from the field and 35% from deep so far.  That must improve. 

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by jstevrtc on December 17th, 2009

checkinginon

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas (9-0)- The Jayhawks dominated Radford and La Salle at home this last week, but now the schedule gets much harder.  A Michigan team that is in need of a big win will visit Lawrence on Saturday.
  2. Texas (9-0)- The Longhorns blow out every team they play, probably because they have such an easy schedule, but also because Damion James is averaging a double-double. The matchup between the frontcourts of Texas and North Carolina may provide us with the most evenly matched game of the season, between two final four contenders.
  3. Kansas State (9-1)- Sorry Red Raiders fans, but I have to give the three-spot to the Wildcats despite TTU being the only other team in the conference outside Texas and Kansas that is undefeated. In my opinion, a road win against UNLV is better than a home win over Washington.
  4. Texas Tech (9-0)- John Roberson put the team on his back against TCU after being down five at halftime. Roberson played all 40 minutes and finished with 21 points on 7-11 from the field.
  5. Texas A&M (8-2)- Losing to New Mexico is nothing to be ashamed of; the Lobos can play with anyone in the power conferences.  The Aggies need to look at their game against Washington on December 22nd to get their name back in the national spotlight.
  6. Oklahoma State (9-1)- James Anderson is continuing his great play, and if Marshall Moses keeps averaging a double-double, Oklahoma State will be a hard team to beat in this conference.
  7. Oklahoma (7-3)- The Sooners have a good streak going, and they should have two more wins before they play on the road against Gonzaga.
  8. Baylor (8-1)- The Bears were off last week, but they’re win over Xavier looks a lot better after Xavier beat Cincinnati.
  9. Iowa State (7-3)- Beating their in-state rivals should get this team back on track.  The Cyclones have a lot of talent, they just need everyone to play well at the same time.
  10. Missouri (6-3)- Losing to Oral Roberts?  That’s a sign of a team that is in rebuilding mode.
  11. Nebraska (7-2)- A very ugly win over Oregon State, but it was a win nonetheless.
  12. Colorado (6-4)- Losing against Colorado State, a team that has been dwelling in the basement of the MWC the last few seasons, won’t get anyone in Boulder excited about basketball.

Team of the Week:  Kansas State WildcatsJacob Pullen had a huge night against UNLV (28 points, and 7-10 from behind the arc), which helped lead the Wildcats to their second big win of the week.  Denis Clemente and Pullen can lead this team to a deep run in the NCAA tournament when all other parts of the team are running smoothly.

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ATB: A Strange Sense of Distant Familiarity Fell Over UCLA…

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2009

atb

Word of the Day.  Exposure.  What we’re starting to see throughout this week of holiday hoops as good teams play other good teams is which teams are better than we all thought and which teams aren’t.  Like last night with Kentucky, some teams such as UCLA and Oklahoma are being exposed as works-in-progress with a lot of problems who are a long, long way from making any noise in March.  Others, such as Minnesota and Marquette, might be better than anyone thought they were and could be extremely underrated at this point in the season.  This is what’s great about this time of the year and all of these tournaments — it provides some clarity for how good these teams actually are — much moreso than the standard garbage game against Northeastern State U.

UCLA Gets Waxed in the 76 ClassicPortland 74, UCLA 47. Ben Howland took the worst loss of his UCLA era, as the Portland Pilots shot a blistering 57.9% from three-point land to defeat his Bruins in front of a large fanbase from nearby Westwood.  In a weird irony from the basketball weauxfgods, Steve Lavin, the last coach to get obliterated like this on the UCLA sideline, was there calling the game for ESPN.  Portland’s lead was as great as 31 (!!!) in the second half, and UCLA had trouble against a zone defense for the second time they’ve faced one this season. Pilot guards T.J. Campbell and Jared Stohl (yeah, it really does always go in) led the Pilots with 15 points each, as the former hit three treys and the latter was a perfect 5-5 from downtown — the whole team ripped UCLA for 54% while the Bruins could only muster 33% from the field themselves. Meanwhile, UCLA is searching for leadership that has yet to show itself (Michael Roll?  James Keefe?) and has another tough matchup against Butler on Friday. Portland is beginning to turn some heads and has a chance to make real noise in this tournament if they can  beat #16 Minnesota tomorrow.  As for UCLA, the best way to sum it up may be like this

Portland UCLA Basketball

  • #16 Minnesota 82, #10 Butler 73. Tubby Smith’s team looked the better squad from start to finish of this one.  Minnesota appeared much stronger, more athletic and quicker to the ball as the Gophers repeatedly got production from its deep bench (even with three players currently suspended).  The Minnesota bench contributed 46 pts (to 8 for Butler), but we were struck by how UM’s inside players such as Colton Iverson were getting to the rebounds and physically knocking Butler stars Matt Howard (who fouled out) and Gordon Hayward around.  The Gophers’ defense was in Butler’s face on everything, holding the Bulldogs to a tepid 33% from the field and (ouch) only 5-23 from deep.  While the big three of Hayward, Howard and Shelvin Mack combined for 56 pts, they were hard-earned, and the Minnesota defense was busy locking everyone else on the team up.  If Tubby gets his suspended players back in the lineup, his team could be one of the deepest in the Big Ten this year.
  • #8 West Virginia 85, Long Beach State 62.  LBSU looked completely outmatched today against WVU’s suffocating man-to-man defense and they were never really in the game.  The big story of course was that star forward Devin Ebanks dressed out but did not play, as his ‘personal issues’ seem to still be bothering him (snicker).  The Mountaineers hit twelve threes in a scintillating shooting peformance, led by Casey Mitchell, who went for 18 pts in only fifteen minutes of action.  In a nice sidenote, Jerry West’s son, walk-on Johnnie, also had a career-high eleven points to get in on the action.  Bottom line: WVU has the pieces, but Texas A&M will be a good test tomorrow.
  • Texas A&M 69, #19 Clemson 60. TAMU got into Clemson’s shorts defensively early in this game, and ultimately held the Tigers to 34% for the game and 3-18 from deep in a mild upset for the Aggies.  BJ Holmes and David Loubeau came off the bench to combine for 32 pts and 14 rebounds for Mark Turgeon, but the story of this game was their defense as only Trevor Booker (18/6) and Tanner Smith (14/5/3 assts) were able to get going.  Clemson will get well in a hurry with LBSU tomorrow, but A&M will need that defense against the top ten Mountaineers.

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Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2009

checkinginon

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas (3-0)
  2. Texas (3-0)
  3. Kansas State (4-1)
  4. Oklahoma (2-1)
  5. Missouri (2-0)
  6. Texas A&M (3-0)
  7. Iowa State (4-0)
  8. Oklahoma State (3-0)
  9. Texas Tech (5-0)
  10. Baylor (4-0)
  11. Colorado (3-1)
  12. Nebraska (2-1)

Team of the Week: Texas Tech Red Raiders - TTU got a big home win over an Oregon State team that many experts think have a chance at the postseason in a weak Pac-10. Junior guard David Tairu had 19 points in the victory.

Player of the Week: James Anderson (G), Oklahoma State - Anderson is already averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds per game. If he can somehow keep those stats going for the whole season he may be the frontrunner for Big 12 Player of the Year when it’s all said and done.

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Harrison Barnes Will Announce at 4pm ET Today

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2009

The nation’s presumptive #1 player in the Class of 2010, Harrison Barnes, will make his college choice official this afternoon at 4pm ET on ESPNU.  Nervous but hopeful coaches and fans from his top choices of Iowa State, UNC, Duke, UCLA, Oklahoma and Kansas will all be tuning in at the end of the work day to hear whether it will be their favorite school that makes a huge leap in Final Four potential and a national title chances in 2010-11.  According to Seth Davis, nobody but nobody knows what Barnes is going to do this afternoon, so let’s briefly break down each of his choices (in no particular order) to see what makes the most sense for the 6’7 superstar from Ames, Iowa.

Dave Telep Thinks Barnes is the Real Deal

  • Iowa State – Never count out the hometown school.  ISU is a stone’s throw from Ames High School, and Barnes is undoubtedly familiar with the campus, players and coaches to a degree much more than the others.  In fact, his mother works there.  Stud inside force Craig Brackins is likely to be in the NBA in 2010-11, but Barnes could potentially be seen as a savior in much the same way Michael Beasley was for the Kansas State program in 2007-08.  Similarly, his presence at ISU, even for one season, could impact the recruiting fortunes of the Cyclones for the next five years. 
  • UNC – Roy Williams never lacks for talent, but he could use an elite scoring wing next season to supplement his formidable size inside.  The 6’10 freshman John Henson is currently playing that role, so there could be a little bit of an overlap if Henson develops into a very nice player this year and sticks around in 2010-11.  Still, Roy has often had multiple Burger Boys at each position, so it wouldn’t shock us if Barnes signs with UNC today and if you’re listening to people around Barnes, MJ (who else?) is his idol.
  • Duke – Necessity, meet invention.  If Duke lands Barnes this afternoon, the Devils will immediately shoot to the top of the 2010-11 ratings.  We’ve covered this before, but assuming that Kyle Singler sticks around for his senior year, there’s no other team in America who will have the firepower that a lineup of Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Harrison Barnes, Kyle Singler and Mason (or Miles) Plumlee could bring to bear.  That’s a NASTY lineup, and Barnes is tailor-made for Duke’s system of slashing and shooting.  If Barnes is ok with leaving his home state (and we think he is), this is our projection as to where he lands.
  • UCLA – Ultimately, this choice depends on how much the winters of Ames suck compared to those in Westwood (and we’re pretty sure they do).  If Barnes had an unbelievable visit at UCLA, this is a possible choice, but we wouldn’t call it probable.  Plus, some of the same issues that UNC has about obvious playing time exist, with the young forward corps of Drew Gordon, Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee likely to return in 2010-11.
  • Oklahoma - Jeff Capel has been a surpisingly good recruiter thus far as the head coach at Oklahoma, and the mere fact that Barnes is listing OU as a finalist belies that point.  With Blake Griffin and Willie Warren, Capel will have had consecutive all-americans who both stayed in school for at least two seasons.  And with Tony Crocker entering his senior season, the minutes will be plentiful on the wing should Barnes alight to Norman.  Still, we just don’t see it happening.  Other than the hometown school, one of these five out-of-state schools isn’t like the others, so it would be a tremendous coup if Capel pulls this one off.
  • Kansas – Bill Self is clearly hoping that if he loses star freshman wing Xavier Henry after one season, he’ll have Barnes waiting in the wings to replace him in 2010.  And it makes sense.  Regardless of what happens this year, KU will definitely lose team leader Sherron Collins and probably lose Cole Aldrich inside.  The Henry brothers are also possibilities.  Just to be clear, Kansas doesn’t re-build, but it would be unreasonable to expect next season to be as rife with possibility as the current one, even with Barnes on board.  The minutes will be there if Henry leaves, but Barnes can’t possibly know that now. 

Here’s our completely speculative projection of Barnes’ list a mere 2.5 hours before he unveils his top choice. 

  1. Duke - everything makes sense for Barnes there – title contention, PT, academics.
  2. Iowa State – the hometown school is always in play.
  3. UNC - Roy is a master salesman, but how does he explain the Henson situation?
  4. Kansas - Bill Self could be telling him that Henry is likely to leave, therefore the wing is all Barnes all the time.
  5. UCLA - the weather won’t supplant the other issues (minutes, perceived style of play).
  6. Oklahoma – Capel should be happy to have just gotten onto his list.

Keep up with all the Harrison Barnes hype this afternoon at the Des Moines Register’s page devoted to him.

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Set Your Tivo: 11.14.09

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2009

tivo

I originally wanted this to be a post for the entire weekend, but after looking at the schedule for the weekend I realized that the only games worth watching were on Saturday so I had to make a slight revision and consequently this will be a Saturday only post. The way I look at it is to view Sunday as a day off to rest up (maybe get a little bit ahead on either school work or “real world” work so you can do absolutely nothing next week) for the first set of big games, which will be start on Monday. Unfortunately as you will soon see even Saturday might be a bust unless you live in about a 200-mile radius near the Indiana or Ohio border. Fortunately, your fearless editors have come through with RTC Live coverage at 2 out of 3 sites with the third site being less enlightened about new media.

Creighton at #22 Dayton at 1 PM on WHIO-TV: Yeah. That’s right. Only on local television, but like I said we will be there with RTC Live coverage. This will be the first game for both teams so both teams will be hyped up for this game even though the Flyers come in with significantly higher expectation not that the Bluejays are slouches.  After being snubbed by the NCAA Selection Committee two years ago, the Flyers now have a target on their back after knocking off West Virginia in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament. Brian Gregory‘s team is led by Chris Wright, everyone’s preseason A-10 POY (everyone also conveniently forgets that Wright wasn’t even 1st team A-10 last year), but if the Flyers are to live up to their preseason ranking they will need other players to step-up. If we were to pick out two players to fit that description would be London Warren, who picked apart West Virginia with 9 assists and only 1 turnover, and Marcus Johnson, a sophmore swingman who put up solid if unspectacular numbers (6.3 PPG and 5.2 RPG) last year, but has been pegged by Gregory as a breakout star this year. On the other sideline, Dana Altman will be hoping that P’Allen Stinnett can fill the void left by Booker Woodfox, last year’s Missouri Valley Conference POY and need center Kenny Lawson (8.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and conference-leading 1.6 BPG last year) to dominate the Flyers on the inside. If the Bluejays can get big performances out of those two and some big shots by Kaleb Korver (yes, he is Kyle’s brother and he can shoot–45% from beyond the arc last year).  However, the Bluejays’ biggest advantage might be that the Flyers could be looking ahead to their next opponent–#20 Georgia Tech and its hyped freshman Derrick Favors in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Davidson at #10 Butler at 2 PM on WHMB-40: Yeah. Local television again, but once again we have come through for you with yet another RTC Live from historic Hinkle Fieldhouse (the site of Milan’s famous 1954 win over Muncie and where they filmed Hoosiers–anybo are dy got the odds that Bill Simmons has ever travelled there since he references the movie so often?). Of course, we have a funny feeling that if Stephen Curry were still in a Wildcat uniform ESPN might have found a way to get them on one of their networks. Instead this game will give us a look at Butler, everyone’s top mid-major team and one of the highest ranked mid-majors that I can remember in recent years. Butler coach Brad Stevens managed to lead the Bulldogs to 26-6 record last year despite starting three freshmen in every game, a remarkable feat for the 2nd year coach who has more wins (56) in his first two years than any coach in D1 history other than Bill Guthridge (58). This year, Stevens will have significantly higher expectations for his Bulldogs who are led by sophomore Gordon Hayward (13.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.5 SPG) and junior Matt Howard (14.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.7 SPG). On the other side of the ball, Davidson coach Bob McKillop will have his hands full trying to manage an inexperienced and Curry-less group in a hostile environment. In addition to losing Curry and his nation-leading 28.6 PPG, the Wildcats also lost Andrew Lovedale (a solid inside presence who provided both points and rebounds) and Max Paulhus-Gosselin (an excellent defender who to the best of my knowledge is not related to Jon, Kate, or any of the 8). This year, McKillop will be relying on Will Archambault (8.3 PPG and 4.3 RPG), Bryant Barr (7.1 PPG and 2.0 RPG), and Stephen Rossiter (6.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG). Unfortunately, the Wildcats strength is on the inside where Hayward and Howard will be dominating. The Bulldogs relative weakness is on the outside where Curry could have done some major damage, but he’s hanging out with Nellie now so expect the Bulldogs to be out to send a message to the rest of the nation that they deserving of this extremely high ranking.

Mount St. Mary’s at #16 Oklahoma at 2 PM on ???: This is ridiculous. I can’t find this game on any TV listing and we won’t be there thanks to Big 12 policy against new media  so we will just assume that Jeff Capel will hire one of those courthouse artists to let the rest of us know what the action was like.  There are only really two reasons to watch this game if you happen to be in Norman, Oklahoma (since you can’t see it anywhere else–seriously Oklahoma’s site doesn’t even list a local TV station carrying the game): to see how the Sooners adapt to life without Blake Griffin and to see how Willie Warren plays as the main option for the Sooners playing against the Mountaineers’ backcourt of Jeremy Goode (15.9 PPG and 3.1 RPG), Kelly Beidler (12.1 PPG and 6.5 RPG), and Jean Cajou (13.6 PPG and 3.4 RPG). We expect the Sooners to be ok, but don’t be surprised to see them struggle a bit in the early going. They shouldn’t have a problem with the Mountaineers, but if Milan Brown‘s backcourt gets hot from beyond the arc we could have an interesting game that nobody outside of the arena will see.

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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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