RTC Class Schedule 2009-10: Butler Bulldogs

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2009

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This is my last installation of the RTC Class Schedule series. Here are the first nine:

The nightmare for mid-major haters out there has been realized: Butler will be a top ten- yes, top ten- team for the next two full seasons. Their starting backcourt of Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored are both sophomores. One of the best frontcourts in the nation- post presence Matt Howard and inside-outside stud Gordon Hayward- is a junior and sophomore, respectively, with neither likely to enter the NBA Draft before four years at Butler. They lose two seniors who receive regular minutes after this season with swingman Willie Veasley (8.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and forward Avery Jukes (3.2 PPG) departing, but neither should pose a crippling loss. Sharpshooter Zach Hahn (41% 3pt) is just a junior and backup guard Shawn Vanzant is a junior, as well. Coach Brad Stevens has lured the #32 center in the nation Andrew Smith into the fray for this year and the #22 small forward in the country Khyle Marshall for 2010. The Bulldogs are loaded for the foreseeable future and should run roughshod over the respectable Horizon League, possibly beginning a historical conference run for the next two campaigns beginning with a visit from rival Valparaiso on December 5.

Butler has a realistic shot at a top-three seed in the NCAA tournament and backed up their high standing with a challenging non-conference slate coupled with a Horizon League schedule that has Hinkle Fieldhouse inhibitors wondering if undefeated is possible within the conference. Let’s dig deeper into the path Butler must take in hopes of being the first mid-major to reach the Final Four since George Mason in 2006.

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Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 8.5. The Bulldogs will be challenged in mid-November when they make a trip to fringe-NCAA contender Northwestern in Evanston. The Wildcats return star forward Kevin Coble and his perimeter shooting along with senior point guard Michael Thompson. They have hopes of making the field of 65 for the first time in school history. Butler enters the most difficult preseason tournament this season in Anaheim with a tremendous first round game against Big Ten contender Minnesota (returns nearly everyone including freshman Royce White entering) and a possible second round contest against UCLA. Potential top-ten team West Virginia looms in a possible championship game along with Texas A&M and Clemson. Butler also welcomes a bolstered Ohio State team to Hinkle followed by a visit a week later from Xavier and new coach Chris Mack. Butler also faces Georgetown- featuring Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Greg Monroe- to headline the Jimmy V Classic in NYC and travels to rebuilding UAB. Even with the high standards at Butler, that’s a hell of a non-conference schedule for a mid-major.

Cupcake City: The frosting isn’t too heavy for Butler. Stevens does have a return game from Davidson, who obviously won’t be nearly as lethal without Stephen Curry. Evansville has some decent pieces- and Butler must travel there- but the Aces shouldn’t challenge Butler too long. A short trip to Ball State also looms as less-than-imposing. That said, those 300+ RPI teams that most teams stack at least a few times on their non-conference slate is lacking from Butler’s schedule. Once again, give Brad Stevens tremendous credit.

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RTC Class Schedule 2009-10: Villanova Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on October 1st, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

There’s not a single program in the entire 16-team Big East in as strong a shape as the Villanova Wildcats.

Even in a league loaded with top-ranked mainstays like Louisville, Connecticut, Georgetown and Pittsburgh, it’s Villanova in the best position to dominate the pre-eminent college hoops conference in the land for the foreseeable future. Their coach, Jay Wright, is the ideal face of a dominant program, a terrific leader and communicator who has done a phenomenal job recruiting since arriving at Villanova, from assembling the guard-oriented Foye-Ray-Lowry-Nardi foursome to the 2009-10 class of top-50 quartet Mouphtaou Yarou, Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood. They play in the strong media market Philadelphia and at the NBA-fitting Wachovia Center. Last season, the Wildcats won 30 games and reached their first Final Four since 1985.

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Wright has built such a program that another Final Four remains a viable expectation for Villanova fans heading into 2009-10. Along with the star-studded recruiting class, Wright returns potential All-American guard Scottie Reynolds to team up with junior Corey Fisher for a tremendous backcourt, a strength that’s par the usual since Wright took the helm in Philly. Duke transfer Taylor King and sharpshooter Corey Stokes can certainly stretch the floor and hit big outside shots this season. Losing senior leader and double-double forward Dante Cunningham, along with glue guy Dwayne Anderson, stings, but Reggie Redding and Antonio Pena are experienced cogs. Most importantly, the #2 recruiting class in the nation (behind Kentucky) should provide a huge boost immediately for a squad that will likely be named the Preseason Big East favorites.

How does the schedule look for the Wildcats? Let’s take a peek:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 5. Incredibly, Villanova only has five true home games in the non-conference slate. Two of their road games are in the city of Philadelphia with back-to-back short trips to St. Joseph’s and Temple scheduled. Their other three Philly foes- La Salle, Drexel and Penn- will face the Wildcats at their on-campus arena. There’s some potential for difficult games on Jay Wright’s schedule, but no truly elite opponents in November and December. Villanova will travel to DC to take on ACC contender Maryland at the Verizon Center in what should be their most challenging test. A trip to Puerto Rico in November could pit the Wildcats against either Dayton or Georgia Tech in the second round and either Mississippi or Kansas State in the final. The second round could be trickier than the final as Dayton and Georgia Tech are borderline top-25 teams with talented frontline players Chris Wright (Dayton) and Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech) that should be hard to handle for an inexperienced frontline.

Cupcake City: While no single challenger blows you away, the only true “cupcake” on the non-conference schedule is the first contest of the year against Farleigh Dickinson. The other home games shouldn’t prove too much of a test- Penn, La Salle, Drexel, Delaware and a neutral site game vs. Fordham. The Wildcats also face George Mason in the first round in Puerto Rico. None of those CAA/Atlantic 10-type teams will prove huge tests for Wright’s squad, but credit the Villanova coach for going light on the lightweights.

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RTC Class Schedule 2009-10: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by zhayes9 on September 22nd, 2009

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Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams has been down this road before.

After hoisting his first national title on that early April night in St. Louis, Williams had to endure an eerily similar task as to what faces him this upcoming season, his seventh in Chapel Hill. The 2004-05 champions lost center Sean May, swingman Marvin Williams, point guard Raymond Felton and shooting guard Rashad McCants to the riches of the NBA, yet Williams managed, in large part to a recruiting class led by Tyler Hansbrough with returnees David Noel and Reyshawn Terry, to finish 21-6 (12-4) and in the top 15 in both polls. The situation this season parallels the tremendous overload facing Williams after his first banner. Losing Hansbrough, ACC POY Ty Lawson and sharpshooters Wayne Ellington and Danny Green, a group that made up the large portion of the Heels scoring rampage a season ago, will be difficult to overcome. Luckily for Williams, he returns some decent pieces to complement a loaded recruiting class. Not to mention he’s the best coach in the nation.

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North Carolina returns some high upside players that could truly emerge after playing behind the mentioned superstars of the previous few campaigns. There’s senior and experienced leadership still in the fray- notably forward Deon Thompson and defensive stopper Marcus Ginyard- that should help out all of the incoming young talent on the Heels roster. Knowing he’d lose such integral pieces, Williams loaded his 2009 class with top-50 talent such as skilled forward John Henson, guards Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald and big men David Wear and Travis Wear. Many believe sophomore Ed Davis is a surefire lottery pick and Tyler Zeller may emerge with a healthy full season. Last year’s backup to Lawson, Larry Drew II, is also back and will be the engine that controls the Heels attack.

Just because Williams has a predominantly young squad, he didn’t shy away from challenging his team early and often on this year’s schedule to go along with the rigors of the ACC. Let’s examine:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 10. One way to sum up the Heels schedule this season: I’ll be stunned if North Carolina isn’t at the top of the strength of schedule list when we’re starting to look at those types of numbers in February and March. Forget playing NCAA tournament teams Duke and Georgia Tech twice in conference play (along with contenders Wake Forest, Boston College, Clemson and Wake Forest on the road), the Heels scheduled three preseason top-ten teams on the slate for this non-conference season. It wasn’t exactly planned like this; who could have planned Damion James would stick around for another year or John Calipari would completely overhaul Kentucky in such a short period of time? Still, give Williams credit for setting up these huge games against prestigious programs. North Carolina will take on possible Big Ten contender Ohio State in the semifinal of the 2K Sports Classic and likely top-15 California should they emerge victorious. Also planned is a visit to Rupp Arena to battle Kentucky in one of the top non-conference games on the season and a trip to Arlington to face Texas in Jerry Jones’ new monstrosity. Both Kentucky and Texas are projected top ten teams. Not enough for you, Roy? Michigan State will visit Chapel Hill in a national title game rematch as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, another squad that could finish their season in Indianapolis.

Cupcake City: The Heels do receive a few easy warm-ups before traveling to New York in Florida International (Isiah Thomas’ college coaching debut, marred by minor controversy) and North Carolina Central. Carolina also faces Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian, Marshall, Valparaiso and Albany at home while taking a trip to Charleston to face Bobby Cremins’ Cougars in a rare instance of a ACC school visiting a SoCon opponent. Not exactly cupcakes, but Nevada and Rutgers also make appearances at the Dean Dome this season.

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RTC Class Schedule 2009-10: Purdue Boilermakers

Posted by zhayes9 on September 7th, 2009

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Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

The Final Four in Indianapolis sets up a dream scenario for Purdue coach Matt Painter. Much like Michigan State last season, who cruised through Minneapolis, Indianapolis and Detroit en route to the national title game, Purdue has the potential to set a goal of playing in front of their Indiana faithful at Lucas Oil Stadium for Final Four 2010. With a first/second round site in Milwaukee and the Midwest Regional located in St. Louis, Purdue could go the route of their Big Ten rivals a year ago by garnering a #1 seed on Selection Sunday.

Does Purdue have the tools to reach such lofty goals? Absolutely. For the second straight season, the core of the Boilermakers return to try and make the next step in March after falling in the second round in 2008 and in the Sweet 16 in 2009. You know the names by now- 6’10 forward JaJuan Johnson, whose numbers improved drastically from his rookie campaign, Chicago scoring guard E’Twaun Moore, team leader and potential Big Ten POY Robbie Hummel, defensive stalwart Chris Kramer and the emerging young point Lewis Jackson to compliment Keaton Grant. In addition, Painter lured in four talented Indiana recruits.

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In order to reach Indianapolis, the Boilermakers must trek through this challenging schedule:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 7.5. The non-conference schedule is fairly demanding for the Boilermakers. One of the best non-conference games of the year takes place on New Year’s Day between two of the most rugged teams in the nation- Purdue and West Virginia. The Mountaineers return Devin Ebanks, Da’Sean Butler and Darryl Bryant for a team that could contend for a Big East crown.  Purdue also plays in the Wooden Tradition on December 19 against an unknown opponent (it’s getting late, kids) and takes on Wake Forest at home in the ACC/Big Ten challenge a year after Duke entered West Lafayette and dominated. Painter and Co. must also travel to Tuscaloosa to take on new coach Anthony Grant and Alabama. The real tests could come in November at the Paradise Jam.

Cupcake City: Not too many cupcakes for Matt Painter this non-conference season which makes sense given his team’s talent level. Purdue faces Memphis’ favorite team, Cal State Northridge, to open the campaign with an easy first round Paradise Jam game and Central Michigan rounding out November. Ball State, Valparaiso and SIU-Edwardsville rounds out the cupcake list.

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RTC Class Schedule 2009-10: Texas Longhorns

Posted by zhayes9 on September 2nd, 2009

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Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

The primary debate throughout college basketball this offseason is not who should claim the top spot in the polls in early November. It’s fairly evident Kansas is the near-unanimous choice and the most talented team in the land on paper. Instead, the serious discussion will surround which team should hold the rights to the #2 spot in the country after the Jayhawks. Some will say Kentucky and their immense talent, or Villanova and their elite backcourt. Some will argue Duke or North Carolina or Michigan State deserve the nod. My money is on Kansas’ main Big 12 foe: the Texas Longhorns.

Losing the all-time Big 12 leader in three point field goals, a 16.6 points per game scorer and a guard who played over 35 minutes per contest the last three seasons will be an adjustment for coach Rick Barnes. Consistency wasn’t always A.J. Abrams’ forte, but the constant threat he posed from outside would stretch defenses and help teammates find easier lanes to the basket. Even with Abrams gone, the backcourt looks strong led by holdover Dogus Balbay, a tremendous passer, and Florida transfer Jai Lucas, an elite guard that played thirty minutes per game for Billy Donovan just two seasons ago and shot 44% from deep. The #1 recruit in the entire nation according to ESPN, Avery Bradley, also joins the backcourt as an attacking wing that can hit mid-range jumpers and defend like a senior. Talented guard J’Covan Brown also joins the fray after missing last season due to academics.

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The frontcourt also looks strong, bolstered by the return of Damion James for another campaign in Austin after testing the NBA Draft waters. James nearly averaged a double-double as a junior and could very well accomplish said feat in 2009-10. Another top-ten recruit, small forward Jordan Hamilton, has the potential to be a huge scoring force for Texas. Hamilton is an exceptional shooter with a long wingspan that can finish at the rim with equal prowess. Dexter Pittman and Gary Johnson, two monsters inside, both return as double-digit scorers a year ago. Justin Mason and Varez Ward are the glue guys on the perimeter defending and contributing when needed. This team is loaded and could challenge Kansas for the top spot in the country at some point.

How does the schedule play out for my #2 team in the nation? Let’s examine:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 8.5. The Longhorns non-conference slate features two top-ten teams in a span of four days right before Christmas. On December 19, Texas will face defending champion North Carolina in Arlington at Jerry Jones’ new monstrosity and take on Michigan State at home in Austin on December 22. Rick Barnes is never one to dodge challenging non-conference schedules and this year is no different. Still, the Longhorns don’t leave the state of Texas for an entire month (November 28 vs. Rice in Houston to December 29 vs. Gardner-Webb at home). Their neutral floor games in Kansas City are against Big Ten bottom-feeder Iowa and a rebuilding Pittsburgh team who will be without Gilbert Brown for the fall semester (assuming they beat Wichita State). They’ll also take on a talented Connecticut team in late January. Barnes put together this schedule in brilliant fashion. He’ll pick up neutral floor wins against moderately big names and brings two highly ranked schools to his home state, surely boosting his RPI and SOS with the chance to pick up quality wins in hopes of grabbing a #1 seed in March.

Cupcake City: Barnes did schedule his fair share of cupcakes, but nothing excessive to the point of being embarrassing. I count seven games against “cupcakes” (including Long Beach State, the Big West preseason favorites) in Austin with two to begin the campaign as part of the CBE Classic and the others sandwiched around the North Carolina and Michigan State games, which makes perfect sense. I never understood why coaches schedule weaker opponents 8-9 games in a row during the season. Sprinkling in serious challengers in the middle portion, as Barnes did, is the best strategy to keep his Longhorns motivated and focused.

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RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Duke Blue Devils

Posted by zhayes9 on August 27th, 2009

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Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

The ACC has been North Carolina’s league for three straight seasons now. With four prolific stars departing from Roy Williams roster, this could be the year Duke re-claims supremacy in the most fabled conference in college basketball. The loss of athletic swingman Gerald Henderson early to the riches of the NBA hurts, but the late inclusion of a young point guard to compliment two potential blue-chip power forwards and the dynamic duo of Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler means Duke has the goods to capture their first ACC regular season title since J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams manned the Cameron Indoor Stadium floor.

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Let’s face it: this program hasn’t quite featured the mystique and aura that normally comes with Duke basketball since the heartbreaking loss to UConn in the 2004 Final Four. Duke’s pinnacle has been the Sweet 16 since that crushing blow and critics are lining up over whether coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s Olympic conquests are hurting the program. Still, a top-two ACC finish and an Elite Eight seem like reasonable goals for this Duke team that only lost Henderson, transfer Elliot Williams, quarterback Greg Paulus and glue guy David McClure. Three top-50 recruits and four of the Blue Devils’ top five scorers return for a squad looking to knock an inexperienced North Carolina team off the mantle.

How does everyone’s favorite hoops team stack up schedule-wise? Let’s examine:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 8. Duke normally doesn’t back down from challenging their team in non-conference play, so their participation in the NIT Season Tip-Off and neutral/road games against Georgetown, Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Iowa State and St. John’s doesn’t surprise me. The Blue Devils normally excel in November and their only formidable foe in the NIT tournament this year is Connecticut. They’d match up in the finals if Duke can slide past Coastal Carolina, Charlotte and most likely an Arizona State team that lost both James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph. A November 27 final against UConn at MSG would certainly not lack for entertainment. The ACC-Big Ten challenge pits Duke a difficult road game at the Kohl Center, a venue where Wisconsin rarely loses. Neutral floor games against Gonzaga in NYC and Iowa State in Chicago are included, along with a January 30 visit to Georgetown to face a Hoya team that could be a well-oiled machine at that point. Conference USA favorite Tulsa also makes a trip to Cameron in late February, which has the potential to be dangerous for Duke. The non-conference slate certainly presents challenges, and credit Coach K for agreeing to send Duke to places other than Durham for tests that will certainly benefit the Blue Devils come ACC play.

Cupcake City: Only six true cupcakes on the slate for Duke this season as UNC Greensboro, Coastal Carolina (part of the NIT), Radford, Gardner-Webb, Long Beach State and Penn travel to Durham (although I should count Charlotte the way they played last season). A program with Duke’s stature doesn’t have to schedule Gonzaga in NYC or travel to Chicago to play Iowa State, but they do anyway. Unlike Washington, Duke will be battle-tested for conference play and their computer numbers will give the Blue Devils a boost when it comes to seeding debates. Duke is usually in the top-ten in RPI every single season and there’s a reason why.

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RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Washington Huskies

Posted by zhayes9 on August 25th, 2009

seasonpreview 09-10

Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

Just one summer ago, Lorenzo Romar was firmly entrenched on the hot seat. In the past two seasons, the once proud Washington program compiled a lackluster 34-27 (15-21) record, the 2006-07 campaign ending without postseason play and the 2007-08 season concluding with a first round CBI loss to Valparaiso. The Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson era in the middle of the decade- complete with two Sweet 16’s, a #1 seed, a conference tournament title and one of my personal favorite NCAA Tournament games ever- seemed like ages ago for the purple-clad Washington faithful that were pining for their first Pac-10 championship since 1985.

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Enter stud freshman Isaiah Thomas. Add in a large dose of senior double-double machine Jon Brockman. Sprinkle in an overachieving supporting cast and a raucous Bank of America Arena and you have the ingredients for that long-anticipated Pac-10 title. Sure, the Huskies fell in a heartbreaker to Purdue in the second round of the tournament, but the Washington basketball program was back in a big way. The Lute Olson departure and subsequent mess at Arizona also prompted five-star point guard Abdul Gaddy to de-commit from the Wildcats and join Washington for the upcoming season.

Will the Huskies repeat as Pac-10 regular season champions? Let’s dissect the route that Romar and his team must take to accomplish such a feat:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 2.5. With a lacking Pac-10 and a non-conference schedule that appears extremely easy at first look, Washington’s computer numbers could suffer in February and March when seeds are being discussed. The quality wins may not just be there, and Romar has nobody to blame but himself for the lack of challenging non-conference contests. After a meeting with Central Washington, the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic will bring Wright State, Belmont and Portland State to Seattle. Other home games include such powerhouses as San Francisco, San Jose State, Portland, Cal State Northridge and Montana. The Huskies will have to travel to Lubbock to take on a Texas Tech team still finding its bearings and Texas A&M visits Seattle just prior to conference play. Even a trek to Anaheim to take on Georgetown should find the Huskies favored.

Cupcake City: Washington’s frosting-filled schedule means the matchup with Georgetown is crucial. Lose to the Hoyas and Romar won’t have one single significant non-conference victory to tout unless one of those two Big 12 teams surprise (A&M is the most likely). It’s never too early to be projecting where teams may stack up in relation to seeds and brackets. Even if Washington wins another conference title, the Pac-10’s RPI will not stand out and the Huskies non-conference RPI could be in the 200’s. Don’t think the committee won’t pay attention to that number.

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RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Kentucky Wildcats

Posted by zhayes9 on August 22nd, 2009

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Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

Just a mere five months ago, the once proud and feared Kentucky basketball program was mired in a state of chaos. The Billy Gillispie era at the university turned out about as well as the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination. Mystifying losses at storied Rupp Arena to such powers as Gardner-Webb and VMI, puzzling interviews with ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards making the blog rounds and exposing Gillispie as a clown, point guards refusing to enter games, rumors of bar scenes of an inebriated Gillispie making a mockery of his reputation and, worse of all, the Wildcats missing the NCAA Tournament in 2009 only to falter in the NIT. After Gillispie was fired, both parties sued each other and now Gillispie is releasing a book that nobody will read. It’s been a whacky offseason in Big Blue Country, and even though their new savior has some issues of his own, the Kentucky basketball program has experienced an unfathomable turnaround over the summer from the laughing stock of college basketball to a legitimate contender to win a national title.

The hiring of John Calipari and the return of forward Patrick Patterson has rejuvenated Kentucky to the point of being widely considered the favorites in an improving SEC this season. The addition of two top-five recruits- point guard John Wall and power forward DeMarcus Cousins- along with Gillispie’s recruits staying on board and a decent core returning from last season’s squad means expectations are once again sky-high in Lexington. Nobody is thinking about Billy Gillispie but rather the school’s first Final Four berth since the Jeff Sheppard era of 1998.

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Here’s the official schedule for a Kentucky team that may be the most exciting to watch this season in all of college basketball:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 7. The non-conference schedule in John Calipari’s first season features some big names and decent tests, but no overwhelmingly challenging road games are included on the slate. The only true road game is a trip to Bloomington in early December to take on a rebuilding Indiana squad that Kentucky should run out of the building. Emotions will be high for both the North Carolina and Louisville visits during the non-conference season. North Carolina has embarrassed Kentucky handily in two previous meetings and the Wildcats will be eager to exact revenge on their rival Cardinals following last season’s Edgar Sosa miracle (not to mention the coaches aren’t exactly best friends). The schedule also includes a trip to Cancun to take on Cinderella Cleveland State and the Stanford/Virginia winner, none of those teams posing close to a threat. One team that could surprise Kentucky is their opponent in the SEC/Big East Invitational in New York: the Connecticut Huskies. UConn did lose a boatload of scoring and rebounding, but Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker and Stanley Robinson could be enough to hang with Kentucky’s immense talent. At least for a while.

Cupcake City: While Gillispie was prone to the shocking early-season upset, we suspect Calipari will have his team 100% prepared offensively and defensively every single night throughout the campaign. Kentucky has eight games at home against mid-major or low-major competition this season and one visit to Louisville to take on UNC-Asheville. They should sprint through this slate and remain a decent bet to run the table in non-conference play.

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RTC 09-10 Class Schedule: Michigan State Spartans

Posted by zhayes9 on August 20th, 2009

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Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

As we continue our ongoing feature RTC’s Class Schedule for the upcoming 2009-10 season, let’s delve into the slate for the national runner-up of a season ago out of the Big 10: Michigan State. The Spartans entered last season with expectations to win their first regular season conference title since 2000-01 and accomplished said feat with a 15-3 Big 10 record, overcoming two stunning losses at home to Penn State and Northwestern along the way. The Spartans entered the tournament with high hopes as a #2 seed and, after dodging two bullets from USC and Kansas, smoked #1 seed Louisville and edged past Connecticut in the national semifinals before running into the buzzsaw known as North Carolina. With 2008-09’s successful season in the past, Tom Izzo is moving on with his point guard (Kalin Lucas), sharpshooter (Durrell Summers), enigma (Raymar Morgan), sophomore stud (Delvon Roe) and emerging big man (Draymond Green) all in the fray. Michigan State fans will accept nothing less than Tom Izzo’s sixth Final Four appearance this season in East Lansing.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the game-by-game journey Michigan State will have to endure if they wish to meet such lofty expectations. The official schedule can be found here:

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Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 9.5. Tom Izzo never backs down from a challenge. Last season, Izzo traveled to the loaded Old Spice Classic, a trip halted by a stunning defeat at the hands of Maryland. He also faced Texas in Houston and North Carolina at Ford Field for the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Both the latter contests will also be featured in the 2009-10 edition of Michigan State’s non-conference slate, but this time as true road games rather than semi-neutral floors. That’s right, on December 1 the Spartans will play UNC in Chapel Hill and, on December 22, Texas in Austin. Rarely do you see a team with the status of Michigan State play such challenging road contests in non-conference play. Victories in either venue will provide Izzo with a significant quality win to tout during arguments for top seeds in March. Izzo also signed up his Spartans for the Legends Classic in November in Atlantic City where he’ll face Florida and either Rutgers or Massachusetts in the final (you’d think it would be Florida-Michigan State in the final, but I digress). Another program with a perennially loaded non-conference slate is Gonzaga. Mark Few’s team will travel to East Lansing for one of the top November contests, even with Austin Daye, Jeremy Pargo and Josh Heytvelt departed.

Cupcake City: In between the two road games in North Carolina and Texas, Michigan State packed in some much-deserved cupcakes. The challengers will be Wofford, The Citadel (that game being played in Charleston, oddly enough), Oakland and IPFW. While The Citadel had a surprising 20-win campaign last year, the only team that may be able to stay on the floor with Michigan State is Oakland, a 23-13 squad from a year ago that nearly toppled North Dakota State in the Summit final. Michigan State will also face Florida Gulf Coast and Texas-Arlington at home.

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RTC’s 09-10 Class Schedule: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by zhayes9 on August 19th, 2009

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Ed. Note: for all of the posts in the RTC 09-10 Class Schedule series, click here.

I’m extremely proud to introduce a new feature here at Rush the Court, one you’ll be seeing every few days or so up until the much-anticipated opening tip in November, called RTC’s 09-10 Class Schedule. The premise is simple: dissect and analyze the schedules of the most notable teams in the nation this season, from the easiest to the hardest stretch, the most intense rivalry to the early season tune-ups, upset watch to RTC potential. If your team is lingering around the expected preseason top-25, their schedule will be scrutinized in the next couple of months. There’s no rhyme or reason to the madness (we won’t be going conference-by-conference or ranking each team), just a prominent school every few days as the releases begin to trickle out from the respective schools.

We figured it would be appropriate to begin the feature with the team expected to represent the class of college basketball in the 2009-10 campaign: Kansas. Here’s the official team schedule:

Non-Conference Schedule Rank (ranked 1 thru 10, 10 being the most difficult): 8. Bill Self realizes he must challenge his Jayhawks if they wish to reach the promised land in April this season, and while the Big 12 certainly provides distinct challenges, Self has loaded the non-conference slate with three games against potential top-15 competition and two more storied programs on the fringe of being ranked. Kansas will take on Michigan and California at home in back-to-back contests in December, two teams returning plenty of talent from a season ago and featuring playmakers like Manny Harris and Jerome Randle. Self also scheduled a home-and-home with Tennessee (last season’s barn burner) and the Jayhawks will make their return trip on January 10 in one of the more anticipated non-conference games this season. Other than Tennessee and a trip to Philly to take on Temple, Kansas’ only true road game during non-conference play is a meeting with UCLA as part of the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series. They also travel a short ways to St. Louis for a matchup with Memphis. While Kansas playing such big name schools sounds sexy, neither should pose an enormous conundrum for a loaded KU squad. Overall, give Self credit for challenging his team rather than padding the record. The RPI will notice when they’re battling for a #1 seed in February and March.

Cupcake City: The Jayhawks may have scheduled their fair share of below-average competition, but Self did a fairly decent job of bringing teams to Lawrence with a recent history of success. Even the typical November and December schools are somewhat formidable in the big picture (they may not be against KU, of course): Radford, Belmont and Cornell have recent tournament experience, Oakland is the favorite in the Summit and La Salle is one of the sleepers in the Atlantic 10. The portion of the schedule covered with frosting, though, has to be November 19- December 2 with Central Arkansas, Tennessee Tech and Alcorn State coming to Lawrence. I’m not going out on a limb when I say some lopsided scores could be in order.

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