Checking in on… the Big 12

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

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

  1. Kansas (13-0, 27-1) – After taking care of Texas A&M in College Station and Oklahoma on consecutive Big Mondays, there is only one game left that I could see the Jayhawks losing (at Mizzou). However, after Kansas dominated the Tigers at home earlier in the year, it looks like KU is in great shape to finish the Big 12 season undefeated.
  2. Kansas State (9-3, 22-4) – This year’s surprise team won two games against some of the conferences’ worst teams. The Wildcats are in the best position to finish second in the conference as of today, but their next three games (at Texas Tech, vs. Mizzou, at Kansas) are definitely not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
  3. Texas A&M (8-4, 19-7) – The Aggies and Wildcats are in similar positions. TAMU has the tiebreaker over Missouri, so if they take care of business down the stretch they will grab the three seed in the conference tournament. However, their last four games are all losable (at Baylor, vs. Texas, vs. Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma). Bryan Davis is coming on strong for this team as of late, and he will have to continue his dominant inside play if A&M wants to hold on to a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament.
  4. Baylor (7-5, 20-6) – I can’t fault the Bears for losing in Stillwater, especially when the best player in the conference is on the opposing team. In my opinion, Baylor has the best chance of any Big 12 team outside the state of Kansas to make the Elite Eight. Watch out for Quincy Acy, he is going to be key for Baylor in this home stretch.
  5. Missouri (8-4, 20-7) – The Tigers got a huge win over Texas at home on Wednesday that probably propelled them into the NCAA Tournament. Of the teams fighting for a first round bye in the Big 12 tournament I think Mizzou is least likely to get the spot because of its two games against Kansas State and Kansas, plus Baylor and Texas A&M have tiebreakers over them. Still, Mike Anderson and this MU team have been proven many critics wrong all season, so there is really no science to accurately predicting how the Tigers will finish.
  6. Texas (7-5, 21-6) – Luckily for the Longhorns they somewhat control their own destiny. If they beat Texas A&M in Lubbock and Baylor in Waco they will most likely finish in the top four of the conference. The problem is that UT has been a pretty bad road team in Big 12 play (3-4 to be exact), so any Longhorns fans that blindly assume they’ll win those two games are most likely hallucinating.
  7. Oklahoma State (7-5, 19-7) – The best news for the Cowboys in the last two weeks has to be the fact that Obi Muonelo has been stepping up his game. In games when Muonelo is in double figures scoring, OSU is 14-3. So it is pretty obvious that he is key to the Cowboys’ success. Outside of Muonelo, James Anderson continues to awe college basketball fans around the nation. He is certainly making a case for why he should be a First Team All-American.
  8. Texas Tech (4-8, 16-10) – The Red Raiders are officially dead after dropping two games last week. To their credit, no one thought they would even be in the discussion come February. Good news for Tech fans is that Pat Knight has this program going in the right direction, and he is recruiting some pretty good players for future seasons.
  9. Colorado (3-9, 12-14) – The Buffaloes picked up a nice win over OU in Boulder on Wednesday, and they have the opportunity to maybe get two more wins before the season is over (vs. Iowa State, at Nebraska). I’d say this year has been somewhat of a success for CU, the Buffs acquired another prolific scorer in Alec Burks and they have been a lot more competitive in conference play.
  10. Oklahoma (4-9, 13-14) – The 09-10 Oklahoma Sooners are the definition of letdown. They were returning one of the best freshman from the 08-09 season, and had a stellar recruiting class around him yet they couldn’t get it done. Tiny Gallon has returned, but with Willie Warren out due to mono it’s hard to see OU pulling off an unprecedented run in the Big 12 Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament.
  11. Iowa State (2-10, 13-14) – The Cyclones have lost some heartbreakers this season, but overall it has also been a big letdown. Many people thought this would be the year ISU returned to its glory days and got back into the NCAA Tournament on the back of Craig Brackins. However, Brackins has seemed to have regressed from last season, and while JUCO transfer Marquis Gilstrap has made a huge impact it hasn’t been enough to get ISU even on the bubble.
  12. Nebraska (1-11, 13-14) – One of the more underrated players in the conference is Ryan Anderson of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers’ leading scorer is a great three-point shooter, and does a pretty good job rebounding the basketball for his height (6’4). Outside of Anderson, NU has few bright spots.

Player of the WeekJames Anderson (G), Oklahoma State – Anderson had his third thirty-point game this week in a huge win over Baylor at home. In that game he also pulled down 12 boards and was 80 percent from the free throw line. Since his “bad” game against Texas Tech the Cowboys are 3-0 and Anderson is averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds per game.

Team of the Week – Oklahoma State Cowboys – Travis Ford and his Cowboys need only two more regular season wins to feel good about their chances for an NCAA at-large berth. This last week moved OSU from a team on the wrong side of the bubble to feeling comfortable especially after the huge upset over Baylor at home on Saturday.

This Week’s Predictions

Kansas State at Texas Tech (Tuesday February 23,  8:00 PM ET) – I usually wouldn’t see Kansas State losing this matchup, but they have been cutting it close against lesser opponents recently. If the Wildcats let up at all in this contest they will be on the wrong end of the scoreboard. On top of that, Mike Singletary is one of the better players in the conference and he usually plays very well in Lubbock. It isn’t a Big 12 Weekly Update if I don’t mention Jacob Pullen, but I think he will have a tough time against the Red Raiders who still haven’t given up hope on making the Tournament. By no means will a win get TTU instant consideration for a bid, but Pat Knight will have his players going hard like it’s a tournament play-in game. So I’m picking a huge upset here, and saying that the Red Raiders take down one of the hottest teams in the nation on Tuesday.

Winner: Texas Tech

Nebraska at Iowa State (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) – Both teams are on long losing streaks and they really want a win. You never know what can happen with a talented team like Iowa State if they can put together a run before the conference tournament starts. Nebraska is an abysmal road team, and I don’t see them putting up too much of a fight, even against Iowa State.

Winner: Iowa State

Colorado at Missouri (Wednesday February 23, 7:30 PM ET) – The only team the Tigers have really dominated in conference play is Colorado. Mike Anderson has never lost to the Buffaloes in his tenure at Mizzou, and I don’t see it happening for the first time in Columbia with his team playing their second to last home game of the season. Keith Ramsey had a big game in the first matchup between these two teams so look for him to be a key part of Missouri’s attack.

Winner: Missouri

Texas A&M at Baylor (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPNU) – Here is a tremendous matchup that has huge implications for first-round byes in the conference tournament. Neither team can afford a loss, especially Baylor, because teams like Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma State are nipping at their heels attempting to overtake them in the conference standings. It provides a great inside matchup between Bryan Davis and Ekpe Udoh, and also a great guard matchup between Donald Sloan and B.J. Holmes of A&M vs. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter of Baylor. These teams are about as even as any in the conference, so I will go with the home team in this game and say the Bears win an overtime thriller.

Winner: Baylor

Oklahoma State at Texas (Wednesday February 23, 9:00 PM ET ESPN2) – If any of you remember the Big Monday game between these two teams a few weeks back, you must recall James Anderson’s stellar first half performance. Then OSU faded in the second half and Texas took care of business in Stillwater. UT has a lot to play for because they still think they can win out, including the Big 12 Tournament, and maybe get a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would be a tremendous accomplishment at this point in the season. Damion James is the key to UT’s success, as he had an ok performance against Mizzou and the Longhorns lost that game on the road. If UT wants a big win they need James and Dexter Pittman to play like they were at the beginning of the season. I don’t like how Texas has been playing lately, but you still have to go with the Horns in Austin.

Winner: Texas

Iowa State at Colorado (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) – It’s a possible CBI Final preview in Boulder on Saturday. I like the Buffs in this game because they are the better team, and believe it or not they are not easy to beat at home.

Winner: Colorado

Baylor at Oklahoma (Saturday February 27, 1:30 PM ET) – The Bears should watch out here because it is the definition of a trap game. Norman will be loud as always, and the possibility of having Willie Warren back (although there is no way he would be close to 100 percent) is scary for BU fans. Tommy Mason-Griffin of OU is one to look for in this contest, as he has been the most efficient player for the Sooners all season and can be deadly from behind the arc. All that said, I don’t see any scenario in which Scott Drew lets his team lose focus and let this one slip away.

Winner: Baylor

Texas at Texas A&M (Saturday February 27, 2:00 PM ET ESPN) – The Longhorns seem to always struggle in College Station, then again so does most of the conference. I think Texas has the advantage of many mismatches in this game, for example UT’s experienced frontcourt against TAMU’s relatively inexperienced one. It’s hard for me to pick against the Aggies at home though, especially when the game is going to be sold out against an intrastate rival.

Winner: Texas A&M

Texas Tech at Nebraska (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET) – The Red Raiders should be hot coming off the Kansas State game and will blow out the Cornhuskers in Lincoln. NU is just overmatched athletically against every team in the Big 12, so its hard to think they will win any more games this season.

Winner: Texas Tech

Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday February 27, 4:00 PM ET CBS) – The best player in the conference will be going up against the best team in the conference on Saturday in Stillwater. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are looking to stay undefeated, but James Anderson and Obi Muonelo should provide a tough roadblock for the Jayhawks to break through. I love Travis Ford and what he has done with the Cowboys’ program, and there is no doubt that Stillwater will probably be one of the louder places in the country this weekend, but I’ve learned my lesson picking against KU before. This team is too good, and they always find a way to win the big game.

Winner: Kansas

Missouri at Kansas State (Saturday February 27, 8:00 PM ET ESPNU) – Everyone in Manhattan has been waiting to get revenge on Missouri since the Tigers upset K-State in Columbia back in late December. Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels will be the key players for K-State if they are going to destroy MU like they’re capable of doing. I think Mizzou comes in and plays tough for the first 30 minutes, but then they will hit a second half scoring drought and the Wildcats will pull away with a big conference win over a rival.

Winner: Kansas State

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Morning Five: 02.22.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 22nd, 2010

  1. Appropriately, we begin with D2 Philadelphia University’s head coach Herb Magee winning his 902nd game on Saturday, which ties Bobby Knight for first place on the all-time NCAA victories list for a men’s basketball coach.  Magee, to whom the guys from our Backdoor Cuts feature devoted their column last week, has been at Philadelphia for 50 years — as a player from 1959-63, an assistant coach from 1963-67, and head coach since then — but his record-tying win wasn’t secured until the game’s very last second, when Philadelphia U.’s Jim Connolly hit a three-pointer to win it over Post University, 70-67.  Magee will go for win #903 at home against Goldey-Beacom College on Tuesday.
  2. Great stuff here from The Big Lead.  If you’re a college basketball player, it’s always important to listen to your coach, right?  Especially in a very important late-February game between a conference’s two best teams.  That can be tough, depending on what distractors are in the area.  In Saturday’s intense Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt game, while John Calipari was drawing up a play during a time out, the Wildcats’ DeMarcus Cousins was busted eyeballing an undeniably strong distractor in the form of a certain ESPN sideline reporter, not that we’re castin’ any stones…
  3. New York Times college sports reporter (and excellent tweeter) Pete Thamel had the privilege of spending his Saturday in Tempe, Arizona, the site of the secret little talks going on between USC and the NCAA’s infractions committee.  He logs an excellent summary here, with the reactions of two USC coaches (one current, one former) catching our eye:  1) we were moved to downright guffaws by the moral ascendancy Tim Floyd appears to be claming, as he opined that appearing before the committee was “the right thing to do,” and 2) we loved Lane Kiffin’s admission after the three-day hearings, proclaiming “I’ve never moved less in a 72-hour period,” which was only slightly shorter than his tenure in Knoxville.
  4. We also give Mr. Thamel an assist on this one, which we started checking out because of a tweet of his (seriously, he’s really good)…but it just keeps getting worse for Binghamton.  They’re now down to two coaches, now that assistant Marc Hsu has been placed on leave following a report by the school alleging that Hsu gave money to a player and did coursework for several members of the team.  Hsu hasn’t been on the bench for the last three games, and this suspension is indefinite.
  5. Oklahoma’s Willie Warren missed Saturday’s loss to Kansas State due to mononucleosis, a diagnosis that also caused him to sit out the Sooners’ loss to Oklahoma State two games ago.  Warren played in the loss at Colorado this past Wednesday, which struck us as odd, given the debilitating nature of mono and the fact that the older you are when you get it, the worse you usually feel.  If you’ve never had it, it causes flu-like symptoms but it absolutely drains you of energy.  What’s worse, in some cases it can cause enlargement of the spleen, an organ you don’t want to bust open, which is why kids and adolescents with mono are told to stay away from contact sports/ballet/wrestling with siblings/etc until further notice — usually at least a month.  You can also still spread it (through saliva) anywhere from six to 18 months after having it, and even though most people recover to full strength, the only treatments are the tinctures of time and rest.  The Sooners aren’t going dancing this year, and Warren’s health comes first, so we couldn’t blame the OU program if official word soon came down that Warren was going to miss the rest of the year.  Mononucleosis is no picnic, despite the fact that it gets glossed over quite frequently, so we hope Warren is back to his old self soon.
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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


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


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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