NCAA Basketball 2010: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on April 2nd, 2010

With all the talk about the coming 96-team tournament, many in the sports media have forgotten that there is already another ridiculous major college sport championship in place: the BCS. We took you through this process in a post last year, but it’s worth going over again as the blogosphere is ablaze with opinions on changing our beloved NCAA Tournament.

Here are the basic ground rules:

  1. We are following the BCS Football guidelines as closely as possible. Obviously there are some differences. A college basketball team is expected to win more than 9 games (we kept a cut-off at a 75% winning percentage). We replaced the Notre Dame rule with the Duke rule since they both have sketchy TV contracts (Notre Dame with NBC and Duke with ESPN).
  2. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. The computer polls include data from the NCAA Tournament, but as you will see it didn’t affect the results that significantly.
  3. We used the traditional BCS calculations for determining each team’s score weighing the two human polls and the combined computer poll average as 1/3 of a team’s total score each.

Here are the results:

We will let you digest that for a minute and will provide more information/analysis and the BCS Bowls after the jump.

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Comings & Goings: Landesberg & D. Jones Leaving; Hewitt to St. John’s?

Posted by rtmsf on March 24th, 2010

Sylven Landesberg of Virginia has decided to leave the school and turn pro this year.  He was already suspended for academic problems, and there was little expectation that he would be able to come back next year anyway.  The problem is that he’s by no means a first round lock, and may not even be a second rounder either.  According to this report, though, he may opt to play in Europe or Israel, though.

South Florida’s Dominique Jones is exploring the option of entering the NBA Draft, but he’s leaving open the possibility of a return to school.  He will have until May 8 to decide this year.  He averaged 21 PPG this year and had a mid-season series of explosive games that really caught people’s attention.  He’s currently projected in the late 1st/early 2d round window.

Kansas’ Xavier Henry hasn’t yet made a formal decison, but his coach Bill Self stated today that his star wing is ready from a skills standpoint to move on the NBA.  KU is already losing Sherron Collins to graduation and Cole Aldrich is expected to make his decision in the next week, but we’re sure that Self will reload quickly and have the Jayhawks back in the title hunt very soon.

In a maneuver that doesn’t make a lot of sense to us unless Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt is looking for a way out of Atlanta, he will talk with St. John’s on Wednesday about the possibility of becoming the next head honcho of the Red Storm.  He is a New York guy, but this would be in no way a lateral move, as Georgia Tech has been light years ahead of the Queens-based program for the better part of two decades.

Money must really talk, otherwise how else to explain leaving a successful CAA program for a moribund A10 one? Fordham has offered its vacant head coaching position to Hofstra’s Tom Pecora, and Pecora is expected to visit the school on Wednesday and could formally be named the coach at that time.   You’ll recall that Fordham recently upped its basketball budget in an effort to lure a bigger-name coach to its Bronx campus.

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Big 12 Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

Patrick Sellars is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 Conference.  The Big 12 Tournament begins on Wednesday at Noon CT.

Final Standings

  1. Kansas (15-1, 29-2) - Obviously the Jayhawks are above and beyond the best team in the Big 12, and regardless of what they do in the Big 12 Tournament, KU will be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, this season has been a wildly successful one for the Jayhawks, but Bill Self and his team will not be satisfied unless they’re hoisting the trophy in Indianapolis.
  2. Kansas State (11-5, 24-6) - After losing two straight games, one to Kansas in Lawrence and another to lowly Iowa State at home, its safe to say that KSU backed its way into the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas State was one of the many surprise teams in the conference this year, and they’ll hope to continue surprising people all the way into April.
  3. Baylor (11-5, 24-6) – This is probably the best team in college basketball that few people are really talking about. Ranked #20 in the nation, Baylor has the resume to be a three seed in the NCAA tournament. After where I picked this team in my preseason poll, I think Scott Drew is a safe pick for my coach of the year in the Big 12.
  4. Texas A&M (11-5, 22-8) - After the loss of Derrick Roland I thought the Aggies were done. But behind great leadership from Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis, TAMU had a legitimate shot at finishing in second place. Even though they didn’t achieve that feat, Mark Turgeon’s team looks pretty good heading into the conference tournament as the winners of three straight. I think if anyone is going to beat Kansas again it could be the Aggies from A&M.
  5. Missouri (10-6, 22-9) - The Tigers are still adjusting to life without Justin Safford (1-2 without him, the one win coming off of a last second buzzer-beater in OT against Iowa State). Mizzou has the best shot to improve their tournament seed if they can beat A&M in the quarterfinals. A third shot at Kansas is what everyone in Columbia is wishing for, but I’m not sure another 20-point loss to Kansas is what MU needs before the NCAA Tournament.
  6. Texas (9-7, 23-8) – If there is any sportswriter in the world that picked Texas to finish sixth in the Big 12 please come forward and let me bask in your wisdom. I think its safe to say UT is the surprise team of the season in this conference, even more so than Oklahoma. The Longhorns have one of the most talented teams in the nation and they will probably end up being a #7 seed in the NCAA tournament. No one in Austin is satisfied. However, if the Longhorns go on a run we could still have the Big 12 final that everyone expected, Kansas vs. Texas.
  7. Oklahoma State (9-7, 21-9) – If the Cowboys want to make some more noise on the national level now is the time to do it. James Anderson will keep you in just about every game, but the other players around him need to step it up. I think this team could be the surprise of the Big 12 Tournament this season, remember they beat Kansas State in Manhattan back in late January and the Wildcats would be their second round matchup if OSU gets past Oklahoma.
  8. Colorado (6-10, 15-15) – Find me one person in Boulder that isn’t happy with an eighth place finish in the Big 12 and I’ll be overly surprised. CU has finally gotten themselves out of the cellar, and this could be enough reason for Cory Higgins to skip the draft and make a run at the NCAA Tournament next season.
  9. Texas Tech (4-12, 16-14) – What started out as a promising year for the Red Raiders has ended quite terribly. Right now TTU is riding a seven-game losing streak and even if they were to beat Colorado in the first round of the conference tournament, it is highly unlikely they could beat KU to make some kind of improbable run.
  10. Oklahoma (4-12, 13-17) - OU fans would love to see an upset of their in-state rival in the first round game, but I also think many Sooners fans feel the same way about this season that the Coates family felt about Old Yeller. Sure, you’d love to see the season go on, but it might be time to put this team out of their misery and head to the offseason.
  11. Iowa State (4-12, 15-16) – I think ISU pulled off the biggest upset of the year in the last game of the regular season. The Cyclones are playing their best basketball at the right time, and Texas can’t take this first round game lightly or they could find themselves on a bus back to Austin as early as Wednesday night.
  12. Nebraska (2-14, 14-17) – The Cornhuskers and Mizzou will meet for the third time this season, and the good news for NU is that usually its hard to beat the same team three times in the same season. However, I don’t see the Huskers pulling off an upset of that caliber, and it looks like NU fans can finally focus on the women’s team, which is undefeated.

Season Awards

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Boom Goes The Dynamite: 02.27.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on February 27th, 2010

Now it’s getting serious.  College basketball teams across the country now fall into one of four camps: bored, because they know their NCAA bid is secure; resigned, because they’ve known for a long time that they’re out; relieved, because they think they’ve played their way in; and downright antsy, because they’ve still got work to do.  That last group are the most interesting ones at this time of year, and there are plenty of them out there.  We’ll be keeping an eye on all of those games and, of course, commenting on any game we can find on the tube in today’s three-man weave version of BGTD.  We hope to hear from you while we’re at it.  Here are the games on which we’ll definitely be keeping tabs, though we’ll probably find more throughout the day:

  • 12 PM – Notre Dame @ #13 Georgetown on CBS (regional) – RTC Live
  • 12 PM – #2 Kentucky @ #17 Tennessee on CBS (regional)
  • 12 PM – Michigan @ #9 Ohio State on ESPN
  • 12 PM – Northeastern @ George Mason on ESPN2
  • 2 PM – North Carolina @ Wake Forest on CBS
  • 2 PM – #21 Texas @ #23 Texas A&M on ESPN
  • 2 PM – Mississippi @ Arkansas on ESPN2
  • 4 PM – #1 Kansas @ Oklahoma State on CBS
  • 4 PM – Florida @ Georgia on SEC Network
  • 6 PM – Mississippi State @ South Carolina on ESPN
  • 8 PM – Illinois State @ #22 Northern Iowa on ESPN2
  • 8 PM – Missouri @ #6 Kansas State on ESPN-U
  • 8 PM – Southern Miss @ Memphis on CBS College Sports
  • 9 PM – #8 Villanova @ #4 Syracuse on ESPN

We will start with our coverage at 11 AM. Feel free to drop by throughout the day and ask questions/comment on anything that is happening in the world of college basketball.

11:05: Well it certainly is very orange in Syracuse. And Bob Knight with the first shot of the day mocking fans who would pay $750 to watch this game. Nice. Evan Turner just signed a “Evan Turner” home-made trophy being held by some kid wearing a home-made “Villain” t-shirt.

11:06: Knight just admitted he is rooting for Steve Alford and New Mexico tonight. Not a surprise, but still amusing. I’m sure the BYU players will have something to say to the media after the game.

11:10: We would love to interview the fan who sits in that seat or the row of seats that Erin Andrews just featured. The almost looks like Final Four type seating or what we saw earlier this year for the game at the new Cowboys stadium.

11:17: Hubert Davis calling out the Mountain West and BYU. Can we get Shawn Bradley on the phone to mock UNC? Jay Bilas comes to BYU’s defense by comparing them to and crushing Virginia Tech. He’s not going to be a popular guy the next time he visits Blacksburg. Digger makes the best point of the entire discussion by saying that the reason we are talking up the mid-majors is because the PAC-10 is awful this year.

11:20: “This is the weakest at-large field ever. The weakest at-large field ever.” – Jay Bilas. He should be fun on Selection Sunday.

11:21: Does Digger have a yellow highlighter today? Is this the first time he has went with the traditional yellow for his highlighter?

11:35: Nice feature about Hank Gathers. I still remember hearing about it the day it happened on SportsCenter the night it happened. Still jarring to see the video. Nice shout-out to RTC fan Jeff Fryer. It’s too bad they ran into the buzzsaw that was the 1990 UNLV team. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that “30 for 30″ documentary.

11:45: I love seeing the replay of the Scottie Reynolds shot. Not because I root for Villanova, but because it is the craziest basketball moment I have ever seen in person. Just the ecstasy of the Villanova fans that followed their utter despair after they had almost blown the game moments before.

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ATB: UConn Almost All the Way Back…

Posted by rtmsf on February 23rd, 2010

Was It the Refs? Connecticut 73, #7 West Virginia 62.  Jim Calhoun has definitely inspired his listless team in the last two weeks, and it could be no more apparent than tonight when the curmudgeonly old coach picked up a tech less than a minute into the game after his team found itself down 5-o early.  WVU’s Da’Sean Butler missed the two ensuing FTs, and the ‘street fight’ as Calhoun called it, was on.  The game featured a total of 45 fouls and 65 foul shots, leading Bob Huggins to state that “you can’t win” when the home team shoots two-thirds of the foul shots in a given game.  For his efforts, Huggins was thrown out of the game in the last minute for complaining about fouls.  Butler had his own opinion on the foul situation, but after throwing up a lousy 2-10 shooting night, he may be better served focusing on how the long arms of the UConn defense repeatedly frustrated him into tough shots.  On the UConn side, the story tonight was the continued emergence of Kemba Walker as a Devan Downey-style slasher who can get to the foul line for 10+ points per game.  In the Huskies’ last three wins, Walker has paraded to the foul line a total of 36 times (making 31) and is averaging 22/6 over that period.  When he’s playing at his best, UConn becomes a much more offensively diverse team, with Jerome Dyson bombing away from outside and Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards cleaning up the mess inside.  UConn has now defeated three top ten teams this season, but they still have work to do to ensure an NCAA Tournament bid.  You figure that they can get the Louisville game coming up next Sunday at home, but it’s the final two on the road — at Notre Dame and at South Florida — that have us worried.  This team is prone to letdowns, and those are two ripe situations for one.

It's Kemba Time (credit: John Woike)

Is Kansas a Great Team? #1 Kansas 81, Oklahoma 68.  KU wrapped up its sixth consecutive Big 12 regular season title with another dominant performance, overwhelming the Sooners with a 9-0 start and never looking back in a second half that hovered around the 20-point margin throughout.  Xavier Henry looked like the stud he  is surely becoming, with a 23/5 evening on 9-13 shooting from the field.  Sherron Collins (now the winningest player in KU history, along with Brady Morningstar) added 17/6 assts and Cole Aldrich 7/12 in their typically consistent way, but the reason we’re even asking the above question has mostly to do with the re-emergence of Henry on the offensive end.  After suffering through a bit of a January slump, the super-frosh has come on strong in his last five games, averaging 18/5 on 53% shooting and 10-21 from deep.  It’s no coincidence that the Jayhawks have not been seriously tested in four of those five games (A&M was the exception), and they’re the odds-on favorite to win the national title in Indianapolis six weeks from tonight.   KU is now three games from running the table in the Big 12 for the second time in its history (Roy’s ‘Hawks did it in 2002), and if they can do that, they’ll join a select but ignominious company of teams in the last decade to enter the postseason with only one loss (2008 Memphis,  2005 Illinois, 2004 St. Joseph’s, 2004 Stanford).  This KU team, however, is better than every one of those one-loss teams, and might just be the best team they’ve fielded in Lawrence since the 1997 Pierce/Vaughn/LaFrentz juggernaut.

Other Games of National Interest.  Zilcho.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.15.10

Posted by THager on February 15th, 2010

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

Connecticut @ #5 Villanova –  7:00 pm on ESPN (***)

As shown by Louisville’s road upset of Syracuse, anything is still possible in the Big East.  A UConn win over Villanova would be equally improbable, but the Huskies still have the talent to at least make this game competitive.  Just five days ago, they had a chance to beat Syracuse in the last minute, and had a 19-point lead earlier in the year at Georgetown before surrendering 47 points in the second half.  The Huskies have had a problem closing out games, and they are 0-5 in games decided by five points or less.  Before U of L’s upset on Sunday, the Cardinals were just 1-6 on the road, but the Huskies have yet to win a single game away from the XL Center.  Connecticut’s main problem on the road has been there offense, as they have failed to score 70 points in any of their six road games.  Their home offense has not been much better, as they are coming off an 18-52 shooting performance against Cincinnati in which two of their starters went scoreless for the entire game.  Villanova, on the other hand, is the nation’s second best team in points per game and ranks third in offensive efficiency.  Their defense, however, ranks just 49th in defensive efficiency, and they gave up 103 points to Georgetown on February 6.  We speculated that Syracuse had a potential trap game with Louisville, and Villanova could be in the same situation here, since they have a schizophrenic Pitt team waiting next.  Still, given the fact that Connecticut is just three games over .500 and 12th in the Big East, Villanova’s chances look pretty good.

#1 Kansas @ Texas A&M — 9:00 pm on ESPN (****)

Don’t look now, but the Aggies are slowly creeping up the Big 12 standings.  With four straight wins, they are now tied with Kansas State for second place in the conference at 7-3.  One of the main reasons for their success is a defense that has only given up 70 PPG over their winning streak.  They are also consistent, as only two teams have scored more than 76 points on them the entire season.  As well as the Aggies have played on the defensive side, the Jayhawks are even better, with a defense that gives up only 62.8 PPG and ranks third in defensive efficiency.  In just about every category on offense or defense, Kansas ranks better than the Aggies, but Texas A&M certainly has a chance to pull the upset with the home crowd behind them.  Although their 13-0 record at Reed Arena may be inflated due to a weak out-of-conference schedule, it will certainly be an intense environment for the Jayhawks.  One thing that separates Kansas above most other teams in the country is their balance; their four double digit scorers consist of two guards, a forward, and a center.  To get a feel for how versatile these guys are, consider this: they are the only team in the country that ranks in the top five in both rebounds and assists per game.  Kansas has had very close games on the road recently, with two of their last three contests going into overtime (they won both games).   Against Colorado and Kansas State, Xavier Henry was held to a combined nine points, so if the Aggies can limit his productivity, they have a shot to beat the #1 team in the country.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles… (With a Wednesday Twist)

Posted by zhayes9 on February 3rd, 2010

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

This week’s Scribbles column will look ahead to a couple months down the road in Indianapolis, where 65 deserving teams will be whittled down to just four, and to that blissful Monday night in April when one lucky group will be dancing at mid-court to the tune of One Shining Moment. In my estimation, there are ten squads with a promising-to-slight chance of hoisting a 2010 National Champions banner during their home opener next season. I’m here to tell you those ten teams, why they have hopes of winning a national title, what’s holding them back, and the most realistic scenario as I see it come late March or beginning of April. These teams are ranked in reverse order from 10-1 with the #1 school holding the best cards in their deck.

10. Duke

Why they can win it all: Their floor leader and senior stalwart Jon Scheyer is the steadiest distributor in all of college basketball, evident from his incredibly stellar 3.28 A/T ratio and a 5.6 APG mark that ranks third in the ACC and 23d in the nation. Scheyer is also a deadly shooter coming off screens when he has time to square his body to the basket, nailing a career-high 39% from deep to go along with 44% from the floor overall. Duke is also a tremendous free-throw shooting team as a whole and Coach K has the ability to play a group of Scheyer-Kyle Singler-Nolan Smith-Mason Plumlee-Lance Thomas that doesn’t feature one player under 70% from the charity stripe. Duke also features a ton more size in the paint than during previous flameouts in the NCAA Tournament. When Singler plays small forward, Coach K can rotate Miles and Mason Plumlee, the glue guy Thomas, rebounding force Brian Zoubek and even Ryan Kelly at two positions with no player under 6’8. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more efficient backcourt in the nation than Scheyer and Smith. And it’s widely known that exceptional guard play is the ultimate key to winning in March.

What Makes Duke 2010 Different than Duke 2006-09?

Why they won’t win it all: Depth could certainly be an issue for the Blue Devils’ chances of raising their first banner since 2001. Andre Dawkins has fallen almost entirely out of the rotation and Coach K has started to limit Mason Plumlee’s minutes during important games. Also, Brian Zoubek’s tendency to immediately step into foul trouble limits his availability. It wouldn’t shock me to see Duke play Scheyer, Smith and Singler 40 minutes per game during their time in the NCAA Tournament. That could cause those key players, who rely primarily on their jump shot, to lose their legs and start throwing up bricks. Kyle Singler isn’t quite the superstar he was last season, either. Singler’s numbers are down across the board — scoring, rebounding, FG%, 3pt% — and he’s been dealing with a nagging wrist injury that may not improve in the weeks and months ahead. Duke also lacks the athleticism of teams like Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and Texas. They could struggle with quicker guards like John Wall and athletic rebounders of the Damion James mold.

Likely scenario: I see Duke reaching the Sweet 16 as a #2 seed where they fall to a more athletic, quick group of guards that can explode to the rim and draw fouls. Duke may have height, but most of that height just isn’t a threat offensively by any stretch of the imagination. Eventually getting into a jump shooting contest could be the Blue Devils’ downfall if two of Smith, Scheyer and Singler go cold.

9. West Virginia

Why they can win it all: Da’Sean Butler is one of the best players in the nation when the chips are on the table. If the Mountaineers need a big shot to keep their season alive, Butler will demand the basketball and more than likely deliver. He’s downed Marquette and Louisville on game-deciding jumpers and led the second half charge against Ohio State. West Virginia is also supremely athletic and Bob Huggins’ teams always crash the boards with a tremendous ferocity. No contender can match the height across the board that West Virginia touts other than Kentucky. Huggins has experimented with lineups in which all of his players are 6’6 or taller, including 6’9 Devin Ebanks acting as a point-forward and 6’7 Da’Sean Butler capable of posting up smaller two-guards. Sophomore Kevin Jones is an incredible talent and a rebounding machine (7.7 RPG) that hits 55% of his shots from the floor and 44% from deep. West Virginia has the luxury of any of their forwards being able to step out and drain a mid-range jumper, from Ebanks to Jones to Wellington Smith to John Flowers every once in a full moon.

Ebanks is the X-factor for West Virginia

Why they won’t win it all: Let’s face it: Bob Huggins doesn’t have exactly the best track record when it comes to NCAA Tournament success. Huggins hasn’t reached the Elite 8 since 1995-96 with Cincinnati and only one Sweet 16 in the last ten years. In 2000 and 2002, his Bearcats lost just four games all season and yet didn’t reach the second weekend of March both times. Most also question whether the Mountaineers can hit outside shots on a consistent basis. They’ve struggled mightily in the first half of Big East games and can’t afford to fall behind against elite competition in March like they did against Dayton last season. Point guard play is a prudent question for West Virginia, as well. Joe Mazzulla is a quality perimeter defender and a capable distributor, but he’ll never be the offensive threat he was two seasons ago due to that shoulder injury. Darryl Bryant can certainly catch a hot streak shooting-wise, but in all honestly he’s more suited as an undersized two-guard. Bryant is averaging just 3.6 APG in 25+ MPG of action.

Likely scenario: I’m still fairly high on this team. I love Butler at the end of games and Ebanks can do anything for Huggins — from score to rebound to run the point — and Kevin Jones is one of the most underappreciated players in the Big East. In the end, I see a clankfest from outside ultimately costing West Virginia their season. And for all their rebounding history, the Mountaineers are in the mid-60s in the nation. The Elite Eight seems like a proper place for their season to conclude.

8. Texas

Why they can win it all: No team boasts better perimeter defenders than Texas. Anyone that watched Dogus Balbay completely shut down James Anderson in the second half Monday night knows he’s the best perimeter defender in the nation, even stronger than Purdue’s Chris Kramer. Avery Bradley came in with the reputation as an elite defender and he’s certainly lived up to that billing. Even J’Covan Brown off the bench is a capable defensive player and Justin Mason is a plus defender. When Dexter Pittman stays out of foul trouble, Texas boasts a legitimate shot-blocking presence that can negate quick guards on the rare occasion they slip past Balbay or Bradley. Texas is also the deepest team in the nation and Rick Barnes has the capability of playing 10 or 11 men on any night if he feels the need. The preserved minutes could pay dividends in the form of fresh players come March. Damion James should also be on a mission come March as a senior. He’s never reached a Final Four during his Longhorns career and came back for a fourth year in Austin to accomplish that very feat.

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NCAA Closes Recruiting Loophole — Sort Of

Posted by jstevrtc on January 14th, 2010

According to this report from CBS Sports, earlier today the NCAA passed legislation regarding a subject they’ve been talking about tackling for years, specifically that of basketball programs hiring “anyone associated with a basketball recruit for a two-year period before or after the player enrolls at the school.”  Gone, therefore, are the days when a coach could entice a prized recruit to play at his program by also offering up a job as an assistant coach or administrative assistant (fill in whatever title you wish) to the recruit’s high school or AAU coach, or to a family member.

Don’t be fooled — this tactic is as much in practice today as it was in the past.  A piece by the inestimable Andy Katz published at ESPN.com back in September brought up the matter of Louisville’s Rick Pitino hiring an assistant coach from star recruit Marquis Teague’s high school team as an assistant at the U of L program, and that many people are questioning the timing.  At the beginning of the article he cites several examples of programs hiring associates/family members to help land recruits: during Bob Huggins’ one year at Kansas State, the program hired UNC-Charlotte assistant Dalonte Hill (Michael Beasley’s AAU coach); Beasley decided to get out of his initial commitment to Charlotte and head to K-State soon after.  Danny Manning’s father was on Kansas’ staff during the Danny and the Miracles title year, and Mario Chalmers’ father was a staff member on their championship team from two years ago.  John Calipari hired Milt Wagner to his staff right around the time that his son, prized prepster DaJuan Wagner, had signed with Memphis.  It’s true, in each of these situations, there were reasons to hire the associate/family member other than their relation to the star player, and many of them were in their positions before and after the player came or left.  The point is, though, that shady or not, this stuff happens.  We know why it happens.  And the NCAA has now attempted to do something about it.

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ATB: Can We Stop Discussing Big 12 Home Teams Now?

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2010

Big 12 Home Teams No Longer Unbeatable.  We saw the stat floating around on one of the ESPN360 feeds for the first time over the weekend, and by the early part of this week it was ubiquitous.  Undoubtedly last week somebody in the Big 12′s stats department realized that the league’s home teams had only lost a single game all season (Northern Iowa’s victory at Iowa State in early December) and began marketing it as unassailable proof of the conference’s superiority.  It’s a manufactured statistic, but anytime people start repeating such a meme it takes on a life of its own.  By last night, after Kansas State and Colorado’s home wins to move the league to 114-1 on the year in their own buildings, you might have thought from listening to the announcers on the night’s games that we were in the midst of an epic realignment of the balance of power of the sport.  Sigh…  such is the 24-hour national news cycle.  At any rate, tonight’s three games featured three really good Big 12 teams going on the road to a conference rival, and collectively those three teams — #1 Texas, #3 Kansas,  Missouri — made mincemeat of that stat.  Let’s not speak of it again.

  • #1 Texas 90, Iowa State 83.  Texas’ freshman crew continues to impress, as they combined for 46/11/7 assts in UT’s 16th consecutive win to start the season.  This game was close for about a half, but UT came out and wrested control of the game in the second half behind Avery Bradley’s scoring (16 of his 24 in the 2d) and if this kid is going to keep playing like his last two games (22-28 from the floor, 7-7 from three), then Kansas’ Xavier Henry is going to have some serious competition for Big 12 FrOY this season.  Up next to stay unbeaten: rival Texas A&M at home.
  • #3 Kansas 84, Nebraska 72.  Kansas found itself down double-figures very early on the road in this one, but the Jayhawks were able to stay composed and use their superior depth and experience to pull away from pesky Nebraska late behind turnovers and strong interior play.  Cole Aldrich didn’t have a huge game (6/9/3 blks), but he didn’t need to, because Marcus Morris came off the bench to provide 19/7, including several timely plays during they key stretch where KU pulled away.  Kansas doesn’t utilize the three-point shot to a great degree, but the Jayhawks hit thirteen tonight, including 4-5 from Sherron Collins (22/5 assts).
  • Missouri 94, Texas Tech 89 (OT).  Mizzou used its fullcourt press to force 18 Red Raider turnovers and get a great game from Marcus Denmon off the bench (20/6) to win a key road game in Lubbock tonight.  The Tigers very nearly blew it, though, letting an 11-pt lead slip away in the final four minutes of regulation and allowing the game to be sent to overtime on two FTs by Tech’s John Roberson.  Then in the overtime period, it was Texas Tech’s Nick Okorie who had two FTs to give his team the lead, only to miss both of them with 20.4 seconds remaining and allowing Mizzou to hang on.

Clemson, You Simply Cannot RTC in This Situation!! #19 Clemson 83, #13 North Carolina 64.  Surprisingly, this was over very early.  Clemson came out and jumped on UNC with two large Trevor Booker-sized feet, and for the rest of the game the Tar Heels were one big turnover machine (25 total).  Closest UNC came in the second half was 12.  Booker’s 24/9/4 assts led Clemson to only their fifth win in sixteen tries against the Tar Heels, and their first since 2004.  Message to Clemson fans: we at RTC agree that this was an important win and dealing with UNC has caused you some recent frustration.  But you were FAVORED in this game, and UNC was only six spots ahead of you in the rankings.  We hope you enjoy the win, because you deserved it.  But this version of Gathering at the Paw (which we thought was a football tradition only) does not meet our criteria as a valid RTC.  You simply cannot RTC when you’re the favored team!

Jamie Dixon, COY#20 Pittsburgh 67, #15 Connecticut 57.  On Tuesday night we saw Evan Turner inject himself right back into the Player of the Year race with his late-game tour-de-force in stealing that win at Purdue.  Wednesday night gave us all a good look at a man who is likely the favorite for Coach of the Year (we just got some mean looks from people in Lexington) at this point — a certain Jamie Dixon of the University of Pittsburgh.  Going to Hartford and playing Connecticut is a tough task for anyone, but getting UConn coming off a loss makes that trip even more treacherous.  The Panthers didn’t care.  They started the game by streaking to an early ten-point lead, immediately putting UConn on the defensive.  The Panthers then led by 32-39 at the half and, even though they shot a tepid 39% from the field (23-59, and 4-12 from three-point range), held off the Huskies for the first part of the second half, causing the Hartford crowd to grow restless.  Just like you knew they would, Connecticut then made their run, a 10-0 stretch that gave UConn a one point lead at 47-46.  It was back-and-forth until the 5:00 mark, at which point Pitt took a lead (52-51) that they would not relinquish for the remainder.  The stats show that Pittsburgh was able to hold off UConn by outrebounding them 26-13 in the second half and by hitting 17-20 at the free throw line.  We say, however, that it was the intrinsic toughness of this Panthers squad that earned them this victory.  To outwork UConn on the glass (both offensive and defensive) in their own building, to drive the lane and take contact with abandon in the way they did…that takes guts.  And that’s a product of what Dixon has instilled in this team.  If you’ve heard his players do interviews over the last couple of weeks, you’ve noticed that these Pittsburgh kids love talking about how great the chemistry is on their team and how much they’ve bought into Dixon’s mindset and vision for their squad.  Everyone knows you have to have quality players (the “Jimmies and Joes”) to be competetive at all, especially in a cut-throat conference like the Big East.  But team chemistry is the ultimate catalyst for success.  Coaches can go whole seasons without having their players “buy into” what they’re trying to teach.  Dixon has achieved this with a team that lost 60% of its scoring from last year and had been forgotten about by just about everyone up until they started their current seven-game win streak, the last three coming on the road in-conference against Syracuse, Cincinnati, and Connecticut.  The Huskies now find themselves going out of conference to Michigan this Sunday, needing a win to stay ranked…and relevant.

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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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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 12.19.09

Posted by jstevrtc on December 19th, 2009

Welcome back!  Another weekend means another edition of everyone’s favorite college basketball live blog.  Assuming they all actually happen (there was, like, a huge snowstorm, you see), there are actually some pretty darn good games happening today (Michigan at Kansas, anyone?  Maybe a little Xavier at Butler?), and since we know you’ll be watching, and we know we’ll be watching…why not watch with us?  We’ll be commenting all day, but we want to know what your thoughts are on the games as they’re being played.  So keep checking this space and hitting that refresh button, and let’s have your comments as well.  It’ll start at noon and go all day long, so I suggest you grab some hot chocolate (or your beverage of choice), turn on your favorite game, and join us.  Keep checking back every few minutes!

12:03 pm: So here we go.  Starting off with Michigan at Kansas on ESPN as our principle (and as of right now, only noteworthy) game.  This is a good but perplexing Michigan team.  Their four losses are Marquette, Alabama, Boston College, and at Utah.  Michigan was a tournament team last year and returned those two stars in Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, which would make me think they should have at least won a couple of those.  BC is tough, but Michigan has to defend the home floor against a team like that if they want to be taken seriously.  Quite a tall order they’ve got today.  As I type this, Michigan’s last three shots have been threes, none of which went down.  Meanwhile, Kansas has been getting the ball inside every trip down.

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