ATB: Canes Meet the Pain, the End of a Rivalry and a Bracketbusters Finale…

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 25th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The Weekend’s Lede. Reining in the Last Weekend of February. The end of two prized college basketball traditions came to pass this weekend. ESPN’s annual Bracketbusters event saw its last go-round feature a slate that, frankly, didn’t meet the occasion of the event’s last rendition. Meanwhile, a decades-old Big East feud between Georgetown and Syracuse came to a close, and unlike the mediocre Bracketbusters field, the game was a fitting send-off for one of the nation’s best rivalries. Those two events headlined another excellent weekend schedule, the rest of which included (per the usual) a massive upset, some grueling league match-ups and all kinds of bubble and seeding implications sprinkled throughout.

Your Watercooler Moment. Miami Goes Down. 


The notion of Miami going undefeated in the ACC always felt like a distant, almost untenable concept. The Hurricanes are, at the risk of paint a bleak picture, a basketball non-entity. They play in front of an apathetic fan base at a “football school,” in a city with fans that are — let’s just say -– selective about going to see their teams play. Neither me, nor most of the nation’s best college hoops minds, knew exactly what to think. Miami was good, sure, but how good?

Until Saturday’s loss at Wake Forest, Miami’s first in ACC play, the answer was unambiguously glowing: Miami was good enough to run the table, despite everyone’s early-conference season doubts. The Hurricanes were storming through league competition, barely breaking a sweat while doing it and slowly but surely grasping the country’s attention as they rose up the AP Poll and surfaced as a favorite to land a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. The praise was well-earned; this team can really play. Not only do they have spiffy efficiency numbers to back up the results – which include a 27-point drubbing of Duke and wins over NC State and UNC – they also have the experience and senior leadership to complete the intangible component of a legitimate Final Four candidate. It’s never fun to be the subject of another team’s court storming, nor is it comforting to have your undefeated conference run come courtesy of one of the nation’s worst Power Six schools (Yes, Wake plays teams tough at home, but come on: these squads aren’t in the same league). But if you began the weekend pleasantly impressed and optimistic about Miami’s chances of making a deep March run this season, I don’t know why you’d lose faith now. Miami lost, and it didn’t look particularly good in recent games against Clemson and North Carolina, but does one game negate a 13-0 ACC start, a top-10 efficiency profile and a senior-laden team armed with the sideline guile of March-savvy coach? No, it doesn’t.

Also Worth Chatting About. Hoyas Soil Storybook Big East Exit.

Wins don’t get any bigger than Georgetown’s Saturday at the Carrier Dome at the Carrier Dome. (Getty)

Wins don’t get any bigger than Georgetown’s Saturday at the Carrier Dome at the Carrier Dome. (Getty)

All the elements of a ceremonial Syracuse smackdown were present. A raging pack of 35,000 + orange-clad maniacs, an eligible and re-ingratiated James Southerland, the jersey-hanging commemoration of one of the best players in program history (Carmelo Anthony). Saturday, at the Carrier Dome, this was about the Orange, about Jim Boeheim, about punishing a rival one very last time. Otto Porter and the victorious Georgetown Hoyas were having none of it. A defensive battle, as expected, stayed tight deep into the second half. Syracuse’s trademark 2-3 zone frustrated the Hoyas all afternoon, and Georgetown countered with smothering defense of their own. The deciding factor was Porter. In a game where points, assists and general offensive execution was hard to come by, Porter rose to the occasion in an impossibly tough road environment (before Saturday, Syracuse hadn’t lost at the Carrier Dome in 38 games, the nation’s longest streak). And so after a bumpy opening in conference play, and all the usual Hoyas-centric questions about season-long endurance being raised, Georgetown has rendered moot a once debatable subject: who’s playing the best basketball in the Big East these days? Georgetown is the only answer.

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Three Thoughts as Indiana State Outlasted Iona

Posted by WCarey on February 23rd, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Bracketbuster game between Iona and Indiana State. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Iona and Indiana State met in Terre Haute on Saturday to kick off the final day of the final Bracketbusters event. Both teams entered the contest struggling quite a bit. The Gaels had posted just a 1-4 record in February and in the process, had dropped into a fifth-place tie in the MAAC standings. Sitting at 15-12 overall and 9-7 in conference play, Iona does have star power in senior guard Momo Jones and junior guard Sean Armand. Despite its star power, the team has really struggled in close games – all of its last five losses have been by three or fewer points. Just two weeks ago, Indiana State was a legitimate candidate to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. However, the Sycamores have been in a tailspin ever since, dropping winnable road games to Missouri State and Bradley and losing at home to a Wichita State team that the Sycamores defeated on the road last month. With one team having to get back on the winning track, Indiana State defeated Iona 65-64 in what was a tight battle until the final buzzer. The following are three thoughts from Saturday’s action.

Indiana State

Indiana State is Slipping Off the Bubble, But Got the Win Today

  1. Despite This Season’s Struggles, Tim Cluess Certainly Has Iona Going In The Right Direction.  In his first three seasons as the leader of the Gaels, Cluess has posted a 65-33 record, which is quite impressive when you consider the program won just 12 games four seasons ago. In his inaugural campaign, Cluess led his team to 25 victories and all the way to the CIT Final. Last season, the Gaels also won 25 games, but this time earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament where the team was eliminated by BYU in a heartbreaker. New Rochelle, N.Y. is not exactly a location many recruits covet, but Cluess has been able to build on the success of his predecessor, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, and transform the program into one that will be consistently battling for the MAAC title and NCAA Tournament bids. Read the rest of this entry »
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On the Big East Race, Duke, Michigan and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 19th, 2013

tuesdayscribbles

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. As we hit the stretch run of the college basketball season, tight conference races begin to captivate the nation. There are terrific regular season title races going on in a bunch of conferences, including the Atlantic 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten but the best race is happening in the Big East. In the conference’s final season as we have come to know it, three teams are tied atop the league standings at 9-3 heading into Tuesday’s action with three more nipping at their heels. It’s only fitting that two of the Big East’s heavyweight rivals, Syracuse and Georgetown, are among the group at 9-3. Joining them is an upstart Marquette team, picked seventh in the 15-team conference. Right behind the leaders is a team some seem to have forgotten about at 9-4, the Louisville Cardinals. Notre Dame at 9-5 after an important win at Pittsburgh last night and 7-5 Connecticut round out the teams within two games in the loss column. The great thing about this race is the best games are still to come. Syracuse and Georgetown hook up twice down the stretch, including on the final day of the regular season. The Orange have the toughest schedule with the aforementioned games against the Hoyas plus a trip to Marquette and a visit to the Carrier Dome from Louisville still on tap. Marquette plays four of its final six games on the road beginning this evening but gets Syracuse and Notre Dame at home where the Golden Eagles have won 23-straight games since a loss to Vanderbilt last season. Luckily for Marquette, its four road games are against a hit-and-miss Villanova team, St. John’s and two of the teams near the bottom of the league standings. It’s never easy to win on the road but Marquette has a somewhat favorable schedule. In the end, my money would be on a 13-5 logjam between Syracuse, Georgetown and Louisville with tiebreakers determining the team that gets the top seed at Madison Square Garden next month.

    Otto Porter and Georgetown will have a say in the Big East title race (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

    Otto Porter and Georgetown will have a say in the Big East title race (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

  2. For the final time this Saturday, ESPN’s BracketBusters event will pit non-power league teams against one another, some in major need of a resume-building win as the regular season begins to wind down. Denver against Northern Iowa and Ohio at Belmont are solid matchups but the best game by far is Creighton visiting St. Mary’s on Saturday.The Bluejays have lost five of their past nine games heading into tonight’s game with Southern Illinois, one they should win, after a 17-1 start to the season. Quality non-conference wins against Wisconsin, Arizona State and California (all away from Omaha), plus a good home win over a solid Akron club, have Creighton in a pretty good spot for a bid relative to other teams in the mix. The problem for Greg McDermott’s squad is that it hasn’t done much of anything in calendar year 2013. The good news for Creighton is the NCAA Selection Committee says wins in November and December mean just as much as February and March. As long as Creighton splits its upcoming games with St. Mary’s and Wichita State, I feel that should be good enough to merit an NCAA berth no matter what happens in the Missouri Valley Tournament. As for St. Mary’s, it is even more desperate. The only semblance of a quality win on the Gaels’ resume are wins at BYU and Santa Clara, the former coming thanks to Matthew Dellavedova’s miracle buzzer beater in Provo. To have a chance at the NCAA’s I feel St. Mary’s has to beat Creighton and run the West Coast table while making the finals of the conference tournament. There just isn’t enough meat on its resume to justify a bid despite having one of the nation’s strongest offensive attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 02.17.12 – 02.19.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 17th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

While BracketBusters is always solid, the overall slate over the next few days is full of good, but not great, games. Still, tune in to these games as conference races head down the stretch and the NCAA Tournament field begins to take shape.

#13 St. Mary’s at #24 Murray State – 6:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Since losing to Tennessee State, Murray State has rebounded with two wins over Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri State. On Saturday night the Racers will get their chance to show the nation they are for real. Playing at home in front of a juiced up crowd on national television, there is no excuse for Murray State to come out anything less than fired up. The three point line is this team’s best friend on both ends of the floor and it will be important against St. Mary’s. Murray State shoots 41% from deep (#8 nationally) and defends the arc very well. Against a St. Mary’s team that ranks a putrid #305 against the triple, that’s a huge advantage for the Racers at home. Steve Prohm should do everything in his power to ensure Isaiah Canaan (47.3%) and Donte Poole(39.3%) get quality shots from the arc against the porous Gaels’ defense. Defensively, the Racers must lock down the arc as they usually do. St. Mary’s shoots a lot of threes and while they don’t make a great percentage they do get just a shade under 30% of their total points from the arc.

    Isaiah Canaan And Company Could Have A Big Day From Behind The Arc Against St. Mary's Average 3-Point Defense (Getty)

  • St. Mary’s has lost two of its last three games after starting the season 22-2. The Gaels are still a likely NCAA Tournament team, but a win here would ensure their place in the field of 68 for sure. In order to win on the road in a tough environment against a good team, St. Mary’s must use its edge on the offensive glass, make threes and get to the foul line. With strong rebounders like Rob Jones and Brad Waldow, St. Mary’s has a clear size edge over Murray State. Only Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel see significant minutes for the Racers inside, two of only three players on the roster who are at least 6’7” tall. While the Gaels have a huge edge inside, they’re going to have to overcome Murray State’s strong perimeter defense. Matthew Dellavedova and Clint Steindl are going to have to hit threes for Randy Bennett’s team to come out on top. Thirdly, St. Mary’s should look to take advantage of a Murray State defense that ranks in the bottom half of Division I in defensive free throw rate. The Gaels get to the line fairly well and make 71.9% of their free throws. It’s so important to control tempo and keep the crowd out of the game and getting to the charity stripe while controlling the boards definitely helps in achieving that goal.
  • This should be a very close game but the edge has to go to the home team. St. Mary’s is struggling a bit right now and Murray State seems to have righted the ship since suffering its first loss. One concern for the Racers is their turnovers (14 per game). If Murray State controls the ball, plays well on the perimeter and gets to the free throw line at its usual clip, this will be the Racers’ game to lose.
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ATB: A Messy Prez Day Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2011

The Lede.  What a wild, wild President’s Day weekend it was.  The second-, third-, and fourth-ranked teams all took a loss over the weekend to join #1 Kansas  from the previous Monday night, the first time that such a thing had happened in a little over seven years.  BracketBusters was in full effect across the land, and although there were some interesting games during the event, only a couple of teams actually helped themselves.  Over the three days, we saw RTCs ranging from relaxed ambivalence to firecracker intensity, another bizarre diatribe from Jim Boeheim, and a number of great games befitting the time of the season where so much is on the line.  Let’s jump in…

Note: For our BGTD coverage from Saturday, please see these three posts examining the early games, the late afternoon/evening games, and the BracketBuster games.

No, That's Not the Actual Ref Screaming Amidst the Mayhem... (AP/N. Harnik)

Your Watercooler Moment1, 2, 3, 4… The last time that the top four teams in the national polls lost in the same week of action, Barack Obama was an unknown state senator in Illinois and Saddam Hussein was hiding in a hole in somebody’s backyard.  It was November 2003, and the names Bieber, Gaga and Twitter had no meaning to anybody yet, but UConn, Duke, Michigan State and Arizona each dropped a game over Thanksgiving week that year and the result was a significant re-ordering of the poll.  The big difference this time around is that we’re two weeks from the end of the season as opposed to two weeks from the start, so the likelihood of four established teams dropping games over the same week was far more unlikely.  So what happened, exactly?

We already knew that #1 Kansas lost to K-State in rough-and-tumble fashion last Monday.  But the next three teams waited until the weekend to join the polling bloodbath. It began on Saturday with the first game of the day — Steve Lavin’s rejuvenated and tough-as-nails St. John’s program took down #4 Pittsburgh on the back of Dwight Hardy’s 19 points and his tap dance routine along the baseline to win the game.  It was the cherry on top of the sundae in a season of breakthroughs for the Red Storm program, and as you can see below, Madison Square Garden has become something more than just the place where Amare and (now) Melo play.

A little later Saturday afternoon, #2 Texas was in trouble at Nebraska late when its vaunted defense and some brain-farts on the part of the Huskers led to a ridiculous 12-1 in a span of thirty-four seconds to tie the game in the final minute, 65-all.  What appeared to be a major meltdown in Lincoln, though, turned to bedlam as Doc Sadler’s team regained its composure enough to hit their FTs down the stretch and notch possibly their biggest win in years.  UT is more than its individuals, but when Jordan Hamilton struggles as he did on Saturday (3-16 FG), the Horns have trouble putting enough points on the board against quality teams.  With the win, Nebraska has vaulted itself back onto the bubble — with a favorable schedule down the stretch, the Huskers could potentially get back into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in thirteen seasons.  Nice RTC, fellas.

On Sunday it was Ohio State’s turn to again do battle with a Big Ten road crowd and team dead set on knocking off the much-hyped Buckeyes.  Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore ensured that the home crowd got what they paid for, as the senior guard went Kemba/Jimmer on the Big Ten leaders, scoring in just about every possible way en route to a superb 38/4/5 asst afternoon on 13-18 shooting.  His 13-point stretch over the last three-plus minutes of the first half was as impressive an offensive display as we’ve seen all season, punctuated by an acrobatic circus shot layup (see below) that told the viewers that this was going to be his game.  Talk has increased about Purdue as a legitimate Final Four contender after wins over OSU and Wisconsin last week, but the Boilermakers are an excellent home team.  We’re not as sold on Matt Painter’s team outside the friendly confines of Mackey Arena.

There you have it.  Three of the top four losing over the weekend, and nobody having a clue as to how to rank the top six today.  The AP Poll had six different teams receiving #1 votes, while the ESPN/Coaches had five.  Even the RTC poll, consisting of only six voters, had four different teams ranked at the top.  The takeaway from this weekend, and really, much of the season, is that there are a bunch of really good teams but certainly no great ones.  The NCAA Tournament could look a lot more like the 1997 (Arizona), 2003 (Syracuse), or 2006 (Florida) versions given this season’s continuing and obvious level of parity.

Your Watercooler Moment, Pt. IIAnother Diatribe From Jim Boeheim.  Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim must really be frustrated with his team this season.  The smiles and self-knowing mockery that he engaged with the media last season appears to have migrated south with the rest of the snowbirds.  After tonight’s win (note we said “win”) at Villanova, Boeheim again lashed out at the media for its stupid questions and representations about his team. Mike Miller at MSNBC has the goods here (via Soft Pretzel Logic), and we’re a little bit at a loss ourselves as to why Boeheim is acting like such a prima donna lately.  With respect to the questions about “toughening” up one’s team, he can choose to not believe in such a thing but we dare say that he probably does.  Most coaches who have been doing this for as long as he has would probably believe there’s real team-building value in gutting out close wins ten times even if you end up losing a similarly-situated game in the postseason.  We weren’t at the presser in Philadelphia tonight, but it sounded like someone arguing for the sake of being argumentative.  Lighten up, Jim — the university pays you a LOT of money to answer a few minutes of questions after each game, not to berate people and make them feel stupid for doing their jobs.

This Weekend’s Quick Hits

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BGTD: Late Afternoon/Evening Games Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on February 20th, 2011

Since we did a separate BracketBusters BGTD today, we’re combining the late afternoon and evening analyses into one post here.

  • Disappointing Weekend Coverage.  ESPN is excluded from this complaint, as the WWL’s wall-to-wall coverage of college basketball makes us very happy from November through March.  But folks, it’s three weeks from Selection Sunday — why aren’t there more networks showing games; and why aren’t there more marquee matchups on a weekend so close to the end of the season?  Granted, Michigan State-Illinois looked great on paper a few months ago, but the schedule today was by and large fairly weak.  If you’re looking for Exhibit A as to why the NFL wants to take over the entire month of February as well, this is it — CBS did a split-coverage game for two hours this afternoon, while none of the other broadcast networks showed anything (why did ABC completely give on hoops?).  Throw in a bunch of ranked teams playing unranked teams today, and you have a sports weekend where college hoops should dominate conversation, except that there’s not much left to discuss than the occasional upset.
  • It’s Not Just St. John’s.  It was an entertaining game in Syracuse this afternoon, with the Orange escaping against an increasingly gritty and tough Rutgers squad led by first-year coach Mike Rice.  With the recruiting Rice is doing in northern Jersey along with the renaissance going on across the Hudson River at St. John’s, New York City area basketball may have finally turned the corner after what seems like a million  years.  SJU is clearly leading the charge with its team of experienced players, but we love the hustle, heart and discipline exhibited by Rice’s players.  They utilized an 11-2 run in crunch time in the Dome to force the Orange back onto its heels, something that simply would not have happened in previous years.  After today’s overtime loss, the Scarlet Knights are only 4-10 in Big East play, but they’ve been competitive in nearly all of those Ls and the close win over Villanova along with today’s close defeat shows us that it’s only a matter of time before Rice’s troops figure it out and cause major problems for the rest of the Big East.
  • Sparty Can’t Be Killed.  As soon as you think the Spartans are dead, they give us another reason to think they still have life.  And life they have after tonight’s ugly yet important win over Illinois on ESPN Gameday.  They did it with an old Izzo standby, strong defense, holding the Illini backcourt to 12-37 shooting from the field.  This was pretty much a must-win for Michigan State, and with four games left (two home; two away), they’ll have more opportunities to improve their resume.  Games at Minnesota and home against Purdue will be tough, but the Gophers are reeling and two other games against Iowa and at Michigan will necessarily have to be victories.  Our gut still says that MSU will do enough to get into March Madness, but this season has been one surprise after another with these guys.
  • Utah State Legitimizes Itself. Much had been written about Utah State’s lack of quality wins this season, but the Aggies really only had one bad loss coming into tonight’s game at St. Mary’s (@ Idaho).  They made sure to leave with the one thing they didn’t have, though, thanks in large part to the forceful inside play of Tai Wesley and his 22/11 night.  During the first half of this game, it appeared that St. Mary’s was going to go on a patented three-point-fueled run led by Mickey McConnell and his thirty-footers, but USU came out in the second half with a clear strategy to a) pound the ball inside; and b) cut off McConnell’s looks.  In doing both, the Aggies went on a huge 27-7 run to start the half and effectively finished the game with ease.  They also put to rest any talk of the bubble for this team, now sitting at 25-3 with three WAC games remaining.  St. Mary’s has Gonzaga and Portland coming to town next week, and the truth is that the Gaels need to win these games.  Their quality wins consist of St. John’s (looking better and better) and Gonzaga.  That’s not much to hang your hat on if you crash and burn down the stretch.
  • Forget the Other Dunk Contest.  Speaking of the SMC-USS game, and then there was this…  say hello to Brady Jardine!

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RTC Live: Montana @ Long Beach State

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2011

Game #146.  One of the better BracketBuster games of the day is in SoCal, as Big Sky leader Montana visits Big West leader Long Beach State.

Finishing up BracketBusters Saturday, we’ve got a battle between two conference-leading teams, in an odd sort of matchup that is little more than a glorified exhibition. The outcome of this game will have no impact on either team’s NCAA Tournament resume, as both the 49ers and the Grizzlies will need to win their conference tournaments in order to advance to the Big Dance. And, this inter-conference game will also have no effect on the seeding of either team in their conference tourneys. However, the absence of any tangible importance to this game will have little effect on the players on these squads, getting a rare chance for each team to appear on national television in the form of an ESPN2 broadcast. And, the matchups between the two teams are enticing. The Niners come into the game riding a five-game winning streak and have a two-game lead in the Big West, while the Grizzlies have won three straight, including an important win over Northern Colorado a week ago tonight to give Montana a half-game lead in the Big Sky. For the 49ers, all five starters average double-figure scoring, junior point guard Casper Ware is the reigning Big West Player of the Week and junior forwards Larry Anderson and T.J. Robinson have also won that honor this season. On the other end of the court, sophomore guard Will Cherry should provide a good match for Ware, while the size in the middle of the Grizzly lineup (6’11 senior center Brian Qvale and 7’0 junior forward Derek Selvig) will challenge the 6’5 Anderson and 6’8 Robinson. Qvale just recently became the all-time leader in blocked shots in Big Sky history (he has 232 career blocks and a blocked shot on 11% of all opponents two-point field goals this season), and the combination of the great size in the middle of the defense and Cherry’s excellent defense on the perimeter (he adds a steal in over 5% of all defensive possessions, good for sixth in the nation) will undoubtedly give Long Beach trouble. But LBSU’s history of playing a tough schedule (they had the third toughest non-conference slate this year according to KenPom, with games against San Diego State, Washington and North Carolina, among others), combined with their athleticism should make this a fascinating matchup. We hope you’ll join us to wrap up your college basketball Saturday with an entertaining game and some good chat.

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RTC Live: Utah State @ St. Mary’s

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2011

Game #147.  The Bracketbuster game of the day comes from tiny McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, California between the WCC and WAC leaders.

It’s being billed as the game of the day in the BracketBusters, and without question that assertion is true.  Both Utah State and St. Mary’s are currently ranked in the Top 25 polls (#23 and #25 in the RTC poll, respectively), and while both are presumptively into the NCAA Tournament as things stand right now, neither is an incontrovertible lock.  Utah State comes in at a gaudy 24-3, but the Aggies have zero top 100 wins and are trending in the lower reaches of the at-large pool as it stands today.  St. Mary’s is at 22-5, but the Gaels are coming off an incomprehensible loss at five-win San Diego Wednesday night, the worst team in the WCC.  The key point here?  Both of these perennial mid-major powers need tonight’s win to impress the NCAA Selection Committee.  The victor here tonight could arguably earn a full seed line bump given that their schedules will be relatively soft the rest of the way.  Expect a raucous crowd tonight in Moraga’s McKeon Pavilion, quickly becoming one of the toughest places to play on the west coast.

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BGTD: BracketBuster Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on February 19th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, writer of the weekly column, The Other 26, will be providing some BGTD-style analysis throughout Saturday’s BracketBuster games, mostly focusing on the evening sessions.

(ed. note: we’ll work our way backwards so the most recent update is always at the top of the post.)

8:34 PM – UNI is holding onto a slim lead against George Mason thanks in large part to the strong play of Kwadzo Ahelegbe. The senior from Minnesota already has 18 points as the Panthers are up on GMU 54-50 late in the second half. I have not seen Ahelegbe play once this year, but I love his pure stroke from beyond the arc and his quickness while attacking the basket. If Northern Iowa can hold on against GMU it would be a huge confidence booster heading into the MVC tournament.

7:58 PM – The Panthers are besting George Mason 36-32 at the half and are playing the kind of basketball they have failed to play lately in the Missouri Valley. UNI lost three straight in the MVC and are no longer contending with Missouri State and Wichita State, but seem to be peaking at the right time. George Mason, win or lose, will still be the favorite in the CAA going into the conference tournament, but a win in Iowa over the Panthers would certainly help their resume if they falter in the CAA tournament. Cam Long and Ryan Pearson are two of the CAA’s best and are a tough match up for any opponent. I’d argue that the outcome of this game means more for GMU than UNI for the sole reason that Mason is still in contention for an at-large berth.

7:15 PM – College of Charleston ended up defeating Vermont 85-70 in a game that was not as close as the score would indicate. The Cougars proved how dangerous of a threat they are due to the play of one player: Andrew Goudelock. The senior from Georgia tore apart Vermont and in doing so proved they are they class of the Southern Conference. Can Charleston do what Davidson did a few years ago? Probably not, but Goudelock is a very similar player to Stephen Curry in how he is able to take over a game.

As for the other 5:00 game, Valpo soundly defeated Missouri State 80-67. The Crusaders, along with Cleveland State who thoroughly defeated Hofstra earlier today, appear to be the clear favorites in the Horizon League.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.18-02.20

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 18th, 2011

***** – 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 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

With only two weeks left in the regular season, it’s time for teams to make their moves. This weekend provides ample opportunities for some to do so. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

VCU @ Wichita State – 7 pm Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Skeen Leads VCU In Scoring (14.6 PPG), But Is Also Top Ten In the CAA In Rebounding (7.7 RPG) And PP40 (19.0)

This could very well prove to be an elimination game. VCU has lost two straight games at home and now has to venture out of conference on the road. Wichita State has lost three games at home already this season, however, and probably has to win out and make a run in the MVC Tournament in order to have a chance at a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers don’t have a win in the RPI top 50 and those three home losses are really holding them back. VCU was blasted on the boards by Old Dominion recently (40-21) and it’s going to be hard to avoid that again in this game. If the Rams can’t create extra possessions through turnovers, it’s going to be a very long night.

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That’s Debatable: BracketBust?

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: It’s BracketBuster weekend on ESPN and its family of networks.  What seemed like a great idea when it originated a few years ago has gotten stale with so few games actually seeming to impact the brackets.  How would you suggest ESPN tweak this model to make it more interesting to college basketball fans and more meaningful for the schools involved?

Brian Otskey, RTC contributor

A quick check of the BracketBusters website reveals there are actually 114 teams participating in this event, the largest number ever. It was created solely for television purposes so I have to ask, why are only 19% of the games televised? This is called “BracketBusters,” but arguably only five or six teams participating have any chance of an at-large berth. Should we call it NIT BracketBusters? CBI BracketBusters? CollegeInsider.com BracketBusters? Come on now. This event is a joke except for a select few teams. To be completely honest, I’ve never been a fan of it. The only games I’ll watch are George Mason @ Northern Iowa, Utah State @ St. Mary’s and maybe Cleveland State @ Old Dominion. I will give ESPN some credit here because they clearly recognize the importance of the Utah State @ St. Mary’s matchup. This game could have major NCAA implications and I wouldn’t be surprised if it draws a solid rating against the Saturday Prime Time game, Illinois @ Michigan State. Another issue with BrackeBusters is it has the potential to end a team’s at-large dreams. It has been a concern in the past and will remain so going forward. I’d either: a) eliminate it all together, or b) limit it to five games between teams with legitimate NCAA aspirations. 

Danny Spewak, RTC contributor

While ESPN’s BracketBusters may give the illusion that the network cares about non-BCS conferences, it’s a cop out. In reality, the event televises only 11 games, appearing on ESPN2 or ESPNU. Those channels already feature mid-major games every Saturday. If ESPN wants to make this event truly special, then put Utah State and St. Mary’s on ESPN at 8 p.m. Saturday– not ESPN2. Don’t send the College Gameday crew to East Lansing; designate this weekend as a mid-major site and choose the top BracketBuster game to attend. Televise 30 games, not 11, and use regional coverage and ESPN3.com to switch between games when necessary like CBS does for the NCAA Tournament. In short, ESPN’s problem is that it only goes through the motions with regards to giving BracketBusters the attention it deserves. The public relations team talks a big game, but the network still sends College Gameday to the Big Ten and televises only a handful of games on secondary channels. I’ve seen Michigan State and Illinois play so many times on national television that I could recite their starting lineups in my sleep. Can’t we give the prime-time limelight to someone else for a change?

John Stevens, RTC editor/contributor

Scrap it. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about the event as it is now, but I don’t think it has the effect that it’s intended to have. And the smaller conference schools don’t want to play each other. If the most important criterion for NCAA Tournament admission is who you played and how you did against them, that underscores the much-discussed problem of how large conference schools refuse to play games in the home gyms of some of the really tough small conference (mid-major) programs. If ESPN really wants to try to impact the eventual bracket more than it already does and if it wants to continue to give mid-majors the spotlight for a day, come up with a BracketBusters-type of scheme that incentivizes power conference programs to get out on the road and let some of these smaller guys take a shot at them. I don’t know how you’d do it (large amounts of cash seem to influence people), and they may even have to move it back on the schedule a bit, but if they could come up with something, it would be much more compelling to watch a series of games in which some of the big boys have to travel to, say, Utah State or George Mason, or even St. Mary’s. Aside from the NCAA Tournament, that’d be the most watched college basketball event of the year.

Walker Carey, RTC contributor

To reinvigorate the Bracketbuster event, I believe that ESPN should move it from February to the first weekend in December. I think this move would be effective because it would expose top mid-majors early in the season and it would allow for fans to really gain a grasp for what mid-majors can make some noise as the season goes on and which ones will not. For example, if a game between Butler and George Mason was played on the first Saturday of December, it is not illogical to assume that George Mason would win. Such a game would prove to the basketball world that Butler is not the team they were a year ago and that George Mason has a solid squad that could do some damage in March.

Kevin Doyle, RTC contributor

While it would be nearly impossible to accomplish due to an overlap in team’s schedules, the BracketBuster event could become much more attractive to the casual fan if teams of a certain RPI and record were obligated to participate in a BracketBuster game. This year there are a few teams that I am sure would love to have one final opportunity to attain a signature non-conference win—Gonzaga, Butler, and Oakland immediately come to mind. In fact, Oakland’s head coach Greg Kampe is on record saying that he wished his Golden Grizzlies were playing in a BracketBuster game. For instance, if a team was in first place in their conference, had a top 150 RPI, or a certain number of wins then they would automatically take part in the BracketBusters. Again, this is a real long-shot, but it would unquestionably heighten the interest in the weekend, as well as place all Mid-Major teams on an equal playing field as it would not be determined before the season began who would play in it.

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

The BracketBuster idea is one whose time has passed at this point. So let me offer another option. Block off the same weekend, but make it an exempt tournament involving the top eight teams from the leagues they currently draw the pool from. Tonight’s VCU and Wichita State game could be a great first round matchup; tomorrow’s Utah State-St. Mary’s game another. Include four other teams such as Cleveland State, Belmont, George Mason and Oakland, and all of a sudden you have a compelling reason to watch these games this weekend. It also helps fans who are gearing up for tournament basketball next month to learn about those teams, many of which they’ll be seeing again soon. It would give the mid-major schools a major boost to their RPI by playing other really good mids for up to three consecutive days and it would potentially leave the Selection Committee with an indelible impression based on their performance in this BracketBuster tourney. It would also give the schools themselves a big incentive to get picked for this tournament — there could be a selection show and everything.

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BracketBuster Weekend Wrapup

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2010

Ryan Restivo is the RTC correspondent for the CAA and an occasional contributor. 

I don’t think this is a news flash but the BracketBusters format is broken. The teams that really could have benefitted from BracketBuster games such as Cornell and St. Mary’s chose not to participate.  Both of those schools could have used another chance to prove their strength against the at-large field in an effort to bolster their resume for March Madness.  Until the tournament expands to 96 or 100 or 347 teams, there were only two headline games in BracketBusters this year and both were a resounding dud. Northern Iowa blew out Old Dominion and Siena could not hang with ranked Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse. However, if you are a fan of mid-major college basketball, you probably got to see teams that will be showcased in this year’s NIT or other postseason events.

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the winners and losers of this past weekend’s BracketBusters.

Winner: Missouri Valley Conference. The Valley quietly went 7-3 in the event starting with a Northern Iowa crushing of Old Dominion at home on Friday night. There’s a good chance that Northern Iowa clinched an at-large berth should they fall in their conference tournament and the Valley could benefit from the lack of major conference at-large bids by bringing in two. It will likely not match the four it put in 2006 but the winner of this conference will be a dark horse for an upset come mid-March.

Loser: Siena. The Saints had the lead at halftime against Butler but could not find the basket in the second half, eventually falling by 17 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Siena lost every game against top-50 RPI opponents this year, and unless Siena wins the MAAC Tournament, the Saints are off the bubble.

Winner: Utah State. The Aggies are going to be on the fence for an at-large bid only because of their weak non-conference schedule. But their tournament resume got a little stronger Saturday with a 10-point win over visiting Wichita State. Utah State’s claim to fame this year is a 10-point home win over BYU. One statistical reason the Aggies should be in? They are the nation’s best (43%) from behind the arc and are fifth in the nation in free throw percentage at 77%. The only problem they have, other than a weak schedule, is that five of the six Aggie losses have been on the road so it will be interesting to see how they handle a road-neutral environment.

Loser: Colonial Athletic Association. The CAA went 3-9 in BracketBusters and blew two games in almost the same way over this weekend. George Mason’s Ryan Pearson drove too hard to the hole and got called for charging late with a chance to tie the game against Charleston, and GMU lost by two. Northeastern’s Matt Janning got called on a similar charge with a chance to take the lead in their game against Louisiana Tech and also lost by two. This was a weekend where if the CAA could grab a few of their five TV games it would have given the conference a great chance at getting multiple bids for the first time since in several year. However, the CAA managed to win only one of their TV games and the non-TV games weren’t any better. Every CAA team that went on the road lost, and lost by an average of 11.5 points. Unfortunately, it looks like the CAA will be a one-bid conference again this year

Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video! When not covering the CAA for Rush The Court, Ryan writes about Fantasy Baseball on Rotosavants.com, on his own website RyanRestivo.com and at SienaSaintsBlog.com.  Ryan will take your questions here.

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