Checking in on the… ACC

February 10, 2009

Ryan ZumMallen of the LBPostSports is the RTC correspondent for the ACC, SEC and Big West Conferences.

It was a week of blowouts and letdowns for the ACC setting the stage for this week’s showdowns as the elite jockey for crucial conference standings position. Let’s get right into it.

With UConn staying undefeated and remaining atop the nation’s polls, this week is just the fourth this season in which an ACC is not ranked #1 in the country. Despite that 4 of the nation’s top 11 teams are still ACC squads and 5 of the top 25. Based on that, one could assume that the ACC is in peak form and boasts the best of the best. But is the fact that ACC teams have been ranked #1 in nine out of thirteen weeks proof of the conference’s strength or its fickleness? Three different teams have held the top spot, and all three have been knocked off the perch. So is the conference so good that there are legitimately four teams capable of playing the best basketball in America and, inevitably, they will beat each other? Or is it that these four teams are good enough to get to the top but not stay there, losing focus, and falling to teams that a top contender would wallop? After last week, it would seem to be the latter.

Duke entered last week in first place in the ACC with a single loss, while UNC, Wake Forest, and Clemson all had just two conference losses – favorable position for any team confident in its ability to win the games it needs to win, and step up in the games that separate contenders from pretenders. North Carolina, likely the conference’s true cream of the crop, held steady by beating two God-awful teams in Maryland and Virginia. The other three contenders, eh, they didn’t fair so well.

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RTC Live: Clemson at Boston College

February 10, 2009

We’re back for another edition of RTC Live where we live blog the game and offer you the fans the opportunity to submit questions for the coaches and players. We’ll post their answers early tomorrow morning. Right now we’re seated one seat closer to center court and are no longer at the very end of the media table. Apparently we have surprised the notable sports publication known as Boston Korea. Clemson has taken the court, but BC is still in the locker room. We’ll be doing the rest of RTC Live via the link below that allows for real-time interaction. We also may post a picture or two on this post if we can.

Click here for the RTC Live blog of Clemson at Boston College.

Check out some first half pics below.

The opening tip

The opening tip

First of two free throws

First of two free throws

And #2. . .

And #2. . .

Booker getting ready

Booker getting ready

Booker and Purnell were not happy at half

Booker and Oglesby were not happy at half

Neither was Oliver Purnell

Neither was Oliver Purnell

More pics to come after the game.


Vegas Odds: Season Edition Vol. 3

February 10, 2009

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC. His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

Could it really be that, as of this coming weekend, we are only five weeks from Selection Sunday? That means we’re only four weeks from putting crowns on the heads of conference tournament champions and even closer than that to anointing some regular season champs. It doesn’t seem possible, but here we are. I think this also means the Ivy League announces its tournament representative, like, what, tomorrow?!? OK, maybe not that quickly. But it’ll all be here pretty darn soon.

After much cunning, good timing, and top-flite negotiation, the boys and I have made the Vegas hotel reservations (deals abound like you wouldn’t believe) and locked in our flights (deals aren’t as great as ya might be hearing) for the annual Vegas excursion for the first two rounds. The Vegas-related e-mail chatter has increased. Ah, how I love it. And since I’m here in the RTC Midwestern Compound, all this Vegas talk provides a wonderful antidote, a perfect bridge from now to the first tip in March, over what we hope are the last strains of what’s been one hell of a winter.

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The RTC MW Compound is nice, but does not have a view like this. (credit: gpsmagazine.com)

That said, let’s take another peek inside the collective head of the Vegas oddsmakers and see what they’re thinking. Most of you probably know, but for the untrained, the way the money line works is that if you see a team with, say, +1000 beside them then that means if you bet $100 on them, you get $1000 back, plus your bet. The lower the x is in +(x), the bigger the favorite. If you should ever see a team with a negative (-1000) that means you have to bet $1000 on them to win $100. That doesn’t apply to this list, though.

The last time we checked this was early January…here’s the latest from The Greek:

vegas-odds-2009-season-edition-vol-31

Yep, it’s still Carolina. They’ve given up another $30 since the last time we checked, going from +220 to +250. But it looks like someone in Sin City has found something to like about the oft-bewildering Connecticut Huskies, since their value has been cut in half from +1000 to +500. Odd that Vegas would basically feel twice as good about UConn, seeing as how the Huskies seem to lose focus so easily at times. It can’t just be about the #1 ranking, because the last time we looked at this, UNC had just taken their first loss and actually extended their lead as favorite over the next-closest contender. Connecticut is a fine team and undoubtedly a title contender, but that’s a big move. I wonder what else it’s based on?

Mr. Calhoun cant explain it, either.  But he aint arguing.
Mr. Calhoun can’t explain it, either. But he ain’t arguing. (credit: daylife.com)

Call me crazy, but I still think Louisville is an attractive option at +1800 even though they’ve been “demoted” a couple hundred bucks since last time and they have the occasional problem staying focused, as well. The chance to win 18x your money isn’t a bad value for the current #5 team in the country, eh? I also think UCLA is playing better recently than the mere $200 bump Vegas has allotted them (+2000 to +1800). Heck, even Memphis (+2000 from +3000), a very athletic bunch playing very well of late, can’t be ignored; come on, like you wouldn’t plop down a little dough for the chance to win twenty times your cash on that team. But as far as I’m concerned, along with Rick Pitino’s Cardinals, I think the best bet on the board comes in the form of the Oklahoma Sooners (+1500), a current #2-ranked team that Vegas will give you fifteen times your money for if they take it all. Not a bad deal for a team that has who I consider the national POY (in spite of, uh, THIS) surrounded by an incredibly athletic and hungry surrounding cast. The only thing in the college basketball world bigger than the value you can get for the Sooners and Cardinals is perhaps Andy Kennedy’s head.

Another interesting matter is the continued presence of Gonzaga and an unranked Georgetown team high on the list. I was all about Gonzaga earlier this year — and why not? They have a good coach, exceptional guard play, solid inside game, what we thought was a budding star in Austin Daye…and yet they can barely stay afloat in the Top 25. Everyone thought this was going to be the year Gonzaga, as a program, took that next step into adulthood…what happened? True, the season’s far from over but all the evidence we have up to now has to make you wonder why they’re ranked 19th in the AP poll but still sit as the 9th favorite according to Vegas. And for some reason here sits Georgetown, careening downward like an Acula class submarine, GONE from the Top 25 but still perched here as Vegas’ 12th choice. These oddsmakers usually know their stuff — I wonder what they still see in the Zags and Hoyas?

One final thing I definitely have to mention…even with all of the lines up there that it seems strange that they’d even mention (Georgia at +50000? Texas Tech at +17500?), maaaaan…to just throw more dirt on Indiana like that, actually bothering to list them at +99999?!? That’s got to be classified as cruel and unusual!! Haven’t they endured enough for one year?

Coach Crean says “WTF, VEGAS?!?!?” (credit: ancestry.com)

The next time we check this will probably be in a month, as we take a final look right before the tournament starts. My hombres and I have our suite waiting and our sportsbook seats reserved, and we’ll be touching down the night of the play-in game…so hey, if you see something on the odds board you like, feel free to send us some dough, and we’ll put it in play for you, ya know? Come on…you can trust us!

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Mr. Stevens promises your money will not be used for…tips. (credit: chinadaily.com)

Set Your Tivos: 02.10.09

February 10, 2009

Set Your TivosWhile tonight lacks the marquee value of a certain intra-state rivalry that ESPN (and RTC) will be featuring tomorrow, there are a handful of solid games on the slate tonight including our third try at RTC Live, which will be broadcast from the Clemson-Boston College game. I will be sitting courtside at the game and will be taking your questions directly to the players and coaches. If you’re curious about RTC Live, leave a comment and we’ll respond or check out my previous two attempts (Take I and Take II). You’ll notice that Take II was considerably better than Take I so hopefully the trend will continue tonight. Anyways onto the games. . .

#9 Michigan State at Michigan at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Ok. So maybe we do have an intra-state rivalry tonight although the Wolverines have lowered this game’s profile with their failure to live up to their early season expectations. John Beilein and the Wolverines are coming back from a close game at UConn and I’m sure that everyone associated with the team is suffering from some sort of Hasheem Thabeet-related PTSD. Fortunately for the Wolverines, the Spartans don’t have anything resembling Thabeet. Actually nobody does. Unfortunately, they will be facing the highest ranked team in the Big Ten when Tom Izzo‘s Spartans come into Crisler Arena. The Spartans appear to have recovered from losing back-to-back home games and have blown out Indiana (get in line) and Minnesota (a little more impressive) in their past 2 games by nearly identical scores (75-47 and 76-47, respectively). The key to this game will likely be Kalin Lucas, who will need to continue to lead the team with Raymar Morgan, who is expected to miss tonight’s game. If Lucas can hold his own against Manny Harris, the Spartans should have a good shot at stealing one in Ann Arbor. A Wolverine win would be huge for their NCAA tournament chances.

#12 Marquette at #13 Villanova at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: The Golden Eagles get their chance at redemption and can earn back some national respect after Friday night’s debacle down at USF. The Wildcats will be looking to avenge their loss earlier this season at Marquette. Watch the Jerel McNealScottie Reynolds match-up, which pits the potential Big East POY in McNeal (according to Jay Bilas and others) against Reynolds who is the catalyst for Jay Wright‘s squad. The other interesting match-up will be on the inside with Dante Cunningham battling Lazar Hayward. If Villanova can win here, they might be in position for a 2 or 3 seed thanks to an easy closing schedule where they only tough game is a trip to Syracuse.

Oklahoma State at Texas at 8 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: The Longhorns really need a win after losing three straight (two at home) by a combined margin of 11 points. Rick Barnes and his team must be frustrated after having lost so many close games, but they get a reprieve tonight when they face the Cowboys who have lost 5 of 7. Expect a high-scoring game in Austin as the Cowboys come in averaging 83.2 PPG and allowing 75.3 PPG. A.J. Abrams and Damion James should have big games against the porous Cowboy defense. If the Longhorns are able to contain the Cowboys explosive offense (James Anderson, Obi Muonelo, Bryon Eaton, and Terrel Harris average between 14.3 and 16.5 PPG), they should be able to pull away for a nice bounceback win.

#11 Clemson at Boston College at 9 PM on NESN and Fox Sports: Like I said earlier I’ll be at this game so there will be a ton of coverage on it tonight, but it still merits some coverage beforehand. The key to this game will be whetehr BC can handle Clemson’s press and contain Trevor Booker. For all of Tyrese Rice‘s scoring ability, he isn’t a great point guard, which could create major problems (see Duke-Clemson last week). K.C. Rivers should be able to match Rice’s production unless Rice thinks he is playing against UNC again. On paper, Clemson should win this game realtively easily particularly with their match-up edge, but this is the same Clemson team that blew a huge 2nd half lead against FSU at home a few days after crushing Duke by 27.

Florida at Kentucky at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: A match-up of two potential SEC champs. These two traditional powers (Kentucky since the beginning of basketball and Florida since 2000) have struggled with consistency this year, but the Gators have the edge in momentum coming into this game as the Wildcats have lost 3 straight (including the last 2 at home). The amazing thing is that the SEC is so weak this year that the Gators may be in line for a #2 seed according to ESPN (Insider access required) if they can continue to win their league games. Tonight should be a challenge for the Gators though as I don’t think Nick Calathes can guard Jodie Meeks and the Gators interior players (Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons) shouldn’t be able to slow down Patrick Patterson. I’m going with the Wildcats here to snap out of their funk and get back into the SEC race.


ATB: Misery in Missouri

February 9, 2009

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Some News & Notes.

Your Gigantic Monday.

  • Pittsburgh 70, West Virginia 59. As soon as Pitt beast DeJuan Blair picked up his second foul with fifteen minutes remaining in the first half, we immediately went into “upset” mode at the RTC compound.  In the Panthers’ two previous games where Blair’s effectiveness was limited by the whistles, Pitt lost both games (@ Villanova; @ Louisville).  Granted, both of those losses were road games, so maybe the key to beating Pitt is to get Blair in foul trouble away from the Steel City.  Sam Young (20/7) and Levance Fields (13/7 assts) picked up the slack while Blair was on the pine, and WVU never had enough offensive firepower or rebounding of their own to make a serious push at the Panthers.  What to make of Bob Huggins’ Mountaineer squad?  They’ve lost four of six, and they’ve pretty much beaten everyone and lost to everyone they were supposed to in the conference this year.  The computers love them, but their best win of the year was the destruction of Ohio St. in December; other than that, what?  At Ole Miss?  At Georgetown?  They play teams tough, but to date, they haven’t won many of these games.
  • Missouri 62, Kansas 60. Mizzou rode its rabid home crowd and pressure defense to a 19-6 closeout run capped off by Zaire Taylor’s 10-footer + the roll to knock rival KU from the ranks of the Big 12 unbeatens.  This is a classic example of a game where you can’t believe that the same team you watched for the first 3/4 of the game is the one you’re seeing down the stretch.  Kansas looked poised and in control throughout, whereas Missouri was the team that consistently had trouble putting two good plays together (case in point – watch the end of the first half).  But the bottom line was that Kansas went cold at the wrong time and that, combined with the TOs Mizzou was forcing all game long, led to the devastating run at the end of the game that gave Missouri the program-inspiring win.  The kind of win that can turn a so-so season into a superb one.  DeMarre Carroll led Mizzou with 22/7, but Bill Self’s club should really be kicking themselves after letting this one get away.  The Jayhawks looked like the better team.  Nevertheless, Missouri got the huge win in tonight’s Border War (RTC – justified or not?), and Zaire Taylor “can’t hear nothin’ you’re sayin,” Holly Rowe.  Looked like fun.

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST).

  • Florida St. v. Virginia (ESPN FC) – 7pm.  FSU has gotten itself into a good spot (5-3) in the ACC race, but they can’t afford a letdown at home.
  • Providence @ S. Florida (ESPN360) – 7pm.   PC can’t allow another Marquette-style upset to happen here.
  • Michigan v. Michigan St. (ESPN) – 7pm.  This is a dangerous game for MSU and a necessary one for the Maize and Blue.  UM has won the last two in AA.
  • Marquette @ Villanova (ESPN2) – 7:30pm.  It’s Jerel McNeal vs. Dante Cunningham in the race between hottest players in the Big East.  Nova has won 25 in a row at home.
  • Texas v. Oklahoma St. (ESPN360) – 8pm.  UT cannot drop this one at home if the Horns expect to be playing in March Madness.
  • Florida @ Kentucky (ESPN2) – 9pm. This game used to be a battle for a #1 seed; now it’s a battle to stay off the bubble.
  • Clemson @ Boston College (ESPN FC) – 9pm. This is a key game for positioning in the top-middle of the ACC.  RTC Live will be there.

Checking in on the… Big 12

February 9, 2009

Patrick Marshall of Bluejay Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conferences.

Current Records and my standings (Conference Standings) (Last Week)

  1. Oklahoma (23-1)(9-0) (1)
  2. Kansas (19-4)(8-0) (2)
  3. Missouri (20-4) (7-2) (3)
  4. Nebraska (15-7) (5-4) (7)
  5. Kansas St. (16-7) (5-4)(8)
  6. Texas (15-7) (4-4) (4)
  7. Texas A&M (17-7) (3-6) (5)
  8. Baylor (15-8) (3-6) (6)
  9. Oklahoma St. (14-8) (3-5) (9)
  10. Texas Tech (12-11) (2-6)(11)
  11. Iowa St. (12-11) (1-7) (10)
  12. Colorado (8-12) (1-7) (12)

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Behind the Lines – Week 8

February 9, 2009

btl-header

Obsessed With Sports will be providing coverage to RTC throughout the season.

Monday, February 9th

West Virginia at Pittsburgh(5)

Behind The Line: Pitt is 14-0 at home so far this season and have covered in their building against ‘Cuse and Notre Dame recently.

Kansas(24) at Missouri

Behind The Line: Kansas has covered 7 of their last 8 while Missouri has covered 3 straight and is also an impressive 14-0 at home.

Tuesday, February 10th

Marquette(8) at Villanova(16)

Behind The Line: Nova has covered in 7 straight games.

Oklahoma St. at Texas(17)


Behind The Line:
Both teams have only had the fortune to cover in 1 of their last 5 contests.

Wednesday, February 11th

Syracuse(20) at Connecticut(1)

Behind The Line: Against the spread ‘Cuse is 1-4 in their last five while on the other hand Uconn is 4-1.

Xavier(9) at Dayton

Behind The Line: After covering in 7 straight games earlier this season, in their last 3 games, Xavier has failed to do so.

North Carolina(4) at Duke(3)

Behind The Line:
Duke is undefeated in Cameron indoor this year but have failed to cover in 3 of their last 4.

Thursday, February 12th

Louisville(7) at Notre Dame

Behind The Line: Louisville has only played 4 road games this entire season but are 4-0 in those contests.

UCLA(12) at Arizona St.(23)

Behind The Line:
The Bruins have covered in 4 Pac-10 games in a row.