ATB: Wake Us When You’re Ready For Prime Time

January 22, 2009

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RTC corresponent Ryan ZumMallen contributed to tonight’s ATB.

#1 Falls – Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate. Virginia Tech 78, Wake Forest 71. It seemingly never fails – whenever Wake starts to get the nation’s attention, the Deacs cave like Roger McNamee in front of a Congressional hearing.  We watched most of this game, and two things were apparent from the get-go: 1) the Deacs were not sharp on either end of the court (evident by Va Tech running out to a quick 30-14 lead); and 2) it is clear to us that Wake relies too much on pure athleticism and skill rather than actual execution and know-how.  This was especially true in the last few minutes of the game when Wake continuously took forced shots and made inexplicable fouls instead of managing the clock effectively, even though the game was still in the balance.  From the 1:42 mark, Wake threw up five desperate-looking three-pointers (making none), even though the lead was never greater than six points until there was 0:14 remaining.  Additionally, the Deacs fouled Virginia Tech eight times during the same period, and even though the Hokies were missing their FTs (7-14 down the stretch), the smarter move would have been to simply play defense (remember, Wake was #2 in defensive efficiency coming into this game) and continue running the offense to get layups and dunks.  Didn’t happen.  We’re not buying the Wake was mentally fatigued argument; the Deacs need to learn some discipline to maximize their potential this year.  As for Virginia Tech, at one point in the second half they were shooting 70% for the half and 56% for the game, which shows just how effectively they were picking apart that Wake defense.   Malcolm Delaney, AD Vassallo and Jeff Allen combined for 53/21, as the Hokie won their fifth of six against Wake in the last few years.  We’re not ready to anoint the Hokies as an NCAA team just yet, but at 3-1 in the ACC and only one loss in their last nine games (@ Duke), they’re a team to keep an eye on.

Next Best Upset of the Night. Northwestern 70, Michigan St. 63. A Tom Izzo team faithfully followed tradition and lost to a team they should have beaten, allowing Northwestern forward Kevin Coble to hang 31 on the Michigan State defense in a 70-63 Wildcat victory.  MSU’s 28-game home winning streak was snapped, and the Spartans drop to 5-1 in Big Ten play while the mighty Wildcats improve to 2-4.  Wildcats Coble, Craig Moore and Michael Thompson combined to score just one point less than Michigan State.  Izzo had this to say about losing at home despite outrebounding his opponent 39-19: “That’s what happens when you don’t make shots.” Ha! Or when you commit 18 turnovers and only force seven yourselves.

More Tremendousness on a Wednesday Night.

  • Connecticut 89, Villanova 83. UConn point guard AJ Price nearly doubled his scoring average in the first half tonight, as the #3 Huskies held off a scrappy Villanova team to win, 89-83.  Price had 20 by halftime and abused ‘Nova for a career-high 29, outdueling the Wildcats’ leading scorer Scottie Reynolds – held scoreless for the game’s first fifteen minutes, and finishing with 14.  How good is the Big East right now?  A 14-4 Villanova team currently sits in tenth place with a 2-3 conference record.  If Haseem Thabeet can properly execute a dropstep at some point this season, the Huskies are right up there with Pitt as conference favorites.
  • UNC 94, Clemson 70. Avoiding upsets likes those that befell the likes of powerhouses Wake Forest, Michigan State and (of course) Bryant last night, the #6 Tar Heels continued their complete dominance over #9 Clemson with a 94-70 victory. Wayne Ellington poured in 25 on 9-15 shooting to lead the way.  The victory improved North Carolina’s home record against Clemson to… wait for it… 54-0.  For those of you who think you’ve figured out how to stop Tyler Hansbrough, I hope your idea had nothing to do with elbowing him in the teeth because THAT DOESN’T WORK. The human-like-robot-warrior just shoved in a mouthpiece and kept on trucking his way to 20 and 10.

Almost As Good As Cleveland St. Marshall 53, SMU 50. Just watch.

Better than Cleveland St. and Marshall. South Carolina 70, Florida 69. This would have never happened under Dave Odom.

51-Pick Up. NJIT 61, Bryant 51. Definitely RTC-worthy.  Check our post on this here.

Other Scores of Narrower Interest.

  • Iowa 73, Wisconsin 69 (OT). UW’s Jordan Taylor drilled a 30-foot three at the buzzer to send this game to overtime, but Iowa held on behind David Palmer’s 21/7.  Interesting stat – all five Hawkeyes hit at least one three in this one.
  • Kentucky 73, Auburn 64. Jodie Meeks watch: 31 pts (5-8 threes), 0 assists, 5 turnovers.  UK should be ranked next week.
  • Missouri 97, Oklahoma St. 95.  This was a big win for Missouri on the road tonight.  They nearly blew a 15-pt lead with four minutes remaining, as OSU missed seven chances to tie or take the lead in the last two minutes.  Mizzou has a favorable Big 12 schedule and already sit at 3-1 – this looks like an NCAA team to us.
  • Oklahoma 72, Nebraska 61. This game was much closer than the score indicates.  Blake Griffin had 27/18 as he faced constant double- and triple-teams.  Only when Nebraska had a very late scoring drought did the Sooners take over and put them away.
  • Baylor 83, Kansas St. 65. Wow, how quickly did KSU go from must-watch tv to irrelevance?  Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn came off the bench for 33 pts on 9-12 from three-point land.  Baylor at Oklahoma should be a great one this weekend.
  • UNLV 76, BYU 70. Wow, it was understandable when BYU lost to Wake at home, but we didn’t see them losing a 13-pt halftime lead at home to conference foe UNLV three weeks later.  UNLV’s Wink Adams led the way with 22 pts for the Rebels.
  • Arizona St. 53, Arizona 47. Remember when the Wildcats would run and gun?  Things have changed in the desert.  What’s interesting about this one is that Jamelle Horne was indeed spotted on the floor in the final minute of a close game.  Yes, Russ Pennell must enjoy playing with fire.
  • Northeastern 58, George Mason 57. Northeastern got a necessary home win to tie up GMU at the top of the CAA standings (along with VCU) when Manny Adako’s layup gave them the lead for good with 25 seconds remaining.
  • Louisville 78, Rutgers 59. No RAC troubles for the Cards tonight, as T-Will dunked everything in sight on his way to 23/11/4 stls.  The Cards shot 60% as a team and are looking more and more like the team everyone thought they’d be when the season started.
  • Xavier 84, St. Bonaventure 64. XU dominated St. Bonnie from start to finish in a balanced effort (11 players scored for Xavier).
  • Davidson 83, Furman 43. Steph Curry watch:  30/5/5 stls on 12-18 (6-10 threes).  Is anyone surprised?
  • Miami (FL) 75, Florida St. 69. This was a must-win for Miami to keep itself in the race for 4th place in the ACC this year.
  • LSU 81, Mississippi St. 57. LSU is absolutely manhandling teams at home.  Too bad they have six road games remaining in the SEC.
  • Northern Iowa 66, Bradley 61. UNI continues to impress in another home win against a competitor for the MVC crown, Bradley.

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Checking in on the… Big East

January 14, 2009

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Give me an honest answer. What do you think is a more impressive accomplishment? Winning the Big East regular season title, winning the Big East Tournament, or reaching the Final Four?

Me? I’m going with the Big East regular season title. Every single time you step on the court in this league, it is a dogfight. It’s ridiculous what these teams go through. Take a look at the next six days for Syracuse: they head to DC on Wednesday to take on Georgetown, return back to Syracuse to face Notre Dame on Saturday, then travel to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers for Big Monday. Three games against top 15 teams in the span of six days culminating in a date with the #1 team in the country. And that isn’t an uncommon occurrence this year. Every team does it at least once (Running the Gauntlet, we’ve gone over this kiddies). The only conference that can match a run like that is the ACC, and that would have to mean one of Wake Forest, Clemson, Duke, or UNC plays the all of the other three. Tennessee playing Kentucky, Florida, and Arkansas in the span of a week just isn’t quite the same thing.

What I love about this year’s version of the Big East is the unpredictability. I could legitimately see four different teams winning the regular season title and three others that, if they get hot, could reel off six or seven straight wins and end up on top. Before league play started, it was UConn. Then they lost to Georgetown on opening night, and the Hoyas became the team to beat. Then Pitt rolled through DC to become the new and current favorite. Who is next? Pitt plays Louisville and Syracuse this week. If one of those two knocks off the Panthers, are they the favorite of the week?

The more I think about it, winning the Big East tourney title may be a tougher feat than reaching a Final Four as well. For the first time, all 16 teams will be headed to Madison Square Garden to participate in the conference tournament, which just so happens to be the number of teams that play in each regional in the NCAA’s.

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2008-09 Quarterly Report – Midseason

January 13, 2009
The regular season is flying by.  Believe it or not, we’re only nine weeks away from having an official NCAA Tournament Bracket to review and obsess over.  We also happen to be nine weeks removed from opening night, so yesterday marked the official midpoint – 63 days on each side – of the regular season.  Which means, of course, for all you folks who have been busy with the holidays, busy with the bowl games, busy with the NFL Playoffs…  let’s get you caught up.

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From now until the first tip in Dayton March 17th on the Road to the F4 in Detroit (ugh), roughly 150 or so teams are realistically jostling for position to be selected as one of the Chosen 65.   As we nestle into the familiarity of conference play (only the Ivies have yet to begin) and America once again wakes up to our game, weaknesses will be exposed, experienced teams will try to avoid complacency and young teams will start to figure it all out.  Come Selection Sunday, many of these prospective bracketeers will have fallen by the wayside, but there will be 50 or so at-large teams holding NCAA-caliber resumes, even though only 34 will be taken.   Before we jump in with both feet into the fun that the next two months will bring, let’s take a look back at the first two months to see what we’ve learned.

Carolina is Not Unbeatable, but Are the Heels Still the Favorite? A mere month ago we wrote that North Carolina was playing like  a team with plans to lose no more than a couple of games (if that many) all season.  Then the last eight days happened.  First, UNC lost at home to an underwhelming BC team, followed by a road loss at Wake Forest last night to start 0-2 in the ACC.  So what’s going on – how can this juggernaut of a team with nearly everyone returning look so… mortal?  It’s easy, really.  So far, UNC’s defense hasn’t been up to snuff.  It’s more efficient as a whole than last year’s version, but their statistical profile is elevated on the defensive end by forcing turnovers which in turn fuels their lethal fast break.   In a halfcourt set, as Wake and BC repeatedly and effectively showed, UNC can be penetrated and exposed.  The key to playing with the Heels is limiting those TOs that Ty Lawson turns into the quick strikes that overwhelm teams.  Is it a fatal flaw?  It could be (how’s that for a hedge?).  Teams that can’t consistently make stops don’t win championships, but we really don’t see why UNC’s defense shouldn’t be able to make the commitment to improve over the next two months.  The 2005 title team only became legit once Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May got serious about stopping people in addition to outscoring them.  Can the 2009 Heels – specifically, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Deon Thompson – do the same?  Stay tuned.

These Guys Have to Commit to Better Halfcourt Defense
These Guys Have to Commit to Better Halfcourt Defense
The Big East Should Have Its Own Region. Seriously, let’s just rename the E. Rutherford Region this year and invite every Big East team.  Or at least the top 12.  Of course, if we did that, it would prohibit the possibility of the conference placing four teams in the Final Four this year – a plausible scenario.  Tell us that you couldn’t envision a situation where four of the following teams – Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse – would reach Detroit in April.  Throw in Villanova, Marquette and West Virginia and you might just have nine of the Sweet Sixteen.  The top half of this conference is really that good.  So who is the best of the best?  It depends on when you ask the question.  Two weeks ago it was UConn.  A week ago Georgetown.  Now it’s Pittsburgh.  Next week…  probably Syracuse.  The point is nobody knows.  UConn has the most raw talent, but they’ve exhibited problems putting it together consistently.  Georgetown, haven’t you heard, has rebounding issues.   Pittsburgh isn’t reliable from behind the arc.  Syracuse has a tendency to lose to teams like Cleveland St. on miracle shots.  Louisville spends much of its time looking for its ass with both hands.  Notre Dame has a maddening tendency to play defense with its hands.  Marquette and Villanova are too guard heavy.  West Virginia has Bob Huggins.  And on and on.   All we can say for certain is that the quality of play in the seemingly-nightly matchups between Top 25 teams is top-shelf, and it makes up for all those other nights where we’re stuck watching Auburn-Ole Miss.
The Big Ten Doesn’t Suck This Year. Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying that our friendly midwestern conference is on par with the Big East, or even the ACC, but it’s a lot stronger in the middle of the pack than it has been in recent years.  Not much was expected out of Minnesota (15-1), Illinois (14-2) or Michigan (13-3) this year, but each of them are playing excellent ball and have marquee wins over the likes of Louisville, Missouri, Duke and UCLA in their pockets.  Combine their success with the standard good seasons expected from Michigan St. (13-2), Purdue (12-4), Ohio St. (11-3) and Wisconsin (12-4), and you have a competitive six-bid conference. Even traditional cellar dweller Penn St. (13-4) has shown signs of life this year.  Heck, they even made the ACC/Big Ten Challenge competitive (losing 6-5) this year!
Our Midwestern Friends Have Been Practicing
Our Midwestern Friends Have Been Practicing

They’re Putting It Together. Now that Tom Izzo once again has a full complement of players with Goran Suton back in the fold, Michigan St. has looked much better since their abysmal performance in the ACC/B10 Challenge against UNC.  They’ve run off nine in a row with wins at Texas, at Minnesota and Ohio St. – everyone wrote this team off after that UNC game, but they’ll be heard from in March.  UCLA is also quietly going about its business, also reeling off nine in a row (including a 3-0 start in road games in the Pac-10) since their loss to Texas in mid-December.  Ben Howland is getting production from eleven players, and if anyone really thought the Bruins were going to have a ‘rebuilding’ season, they need to have their head checked.  This team will win close to 30 games again.   It’s amazing how a series of close games that go your way can make or break a team’s confidence.  After Louisville had dropped tight ones to Minnesota and UNLV in late December, everyone was ready to write off the Cards.  Now that they’ve won three of their lost four on the last possession, they sit at 3-0 in the Big East (with two road wins) and appear to be in relatively good shape compared to some of the other Big East contenders (UConn, ND, and Georgetown in particular).  We’ll see just how good they can be when #1 Pittsburgh visits on Saturday.

Pleasant Surprises. Obviously, Wake Forest is a pretty big surprise – we expected them to be pretty good, but nobody saw a top five team coming from Dino Gaudio this year.  What about Syracuse? – at 16-1 and the lone loss to Cleveland St. from 75 feet, Jim Boeheim’s crew has as much talent as just about anybody in the country.  Clemson is pulling its annual ridiculous start, but there are signs that this Tiger team is legit – they have a balanced attack, they’re strong at both ends of the court, and they have good road wins at Illinois, South Carolina and Miami (FL) so far.  Butler is a HUGE surprise, although we shouldn’t ever be surprised with that program.  The Bulldogs sit at 14-1 and two of their top three players are freshmen, yet they once again appear to be the class of the Horizon and a top mid-major.  Tubby Smith has Minnesota playing great ball, and the Gophers are on a fast track to the NCAA Tournament at least a year ahead of schedule.  Coaching matters – Mike Montgomery also has California playing hard for the first time in a decade.  The Bears look like a top three team in the Pac-10 at this point.

Syracuse Has the Look of a Team Built for March
Syracuse Has the Look of a Team Built for March

Disappointments. Since the Q1 update, Gonzaga has done nothing but crap itself, losing games to Arizona, UConn, Portland St., and Utah.  They did get a key OT win at Tennessee last week, and their defense is still stronger than in recent years, but for some reason or another, the Zags are having trouble putting it all together.  USC is destined to become this year’s NC State (a preseason ranked team that won’t make the NCAA Tourney).  The SECTennessee, Florida and Kentucky – have all been various shades of disappointing.  Between the cream of the SEC East, there’s what, three quality wins?  On the other side of that conference, only Arkansas has even been mildly interesting, with big home wins over Oklahoma and Texas.  At the mid-major level, Southern Illinois (6-8 ) and Wright St. (9-8 ) have a long way to go before they’ll turn their seasons around.

RTC Midseason All-Americans. We’ll take some heat for not putting defending NPOY Tyler Hansbrough on our first team, but his numbers, particularly his rebounding average, are off from last season.  Granted, he’s still probably recovering from a stress reaction injury, so he’ll have time to recover his (rightful?) place on the 1st team, but for now, we like Griffin (obvious choice) and Harangody in our frontcourt.  Curry and Harden are also easy choices in the backcourt, but we’re making a leap of faith choosing Teague – his last two games against BYU and UNC were very impressive performances (he averaged 32/5/4 assts on 59%) and we’re riding on the Wake bandwagon right now.

  • Jeff Teague, G – Wake Forest (21/4/4 assts on 54%/54% 3fg shooting)
  • Stephen Curry, G – Davidson (29/4/7 assts/3 stls on 45%/37% 3fg shooting)
  • James Harden, G – Arizona St. (23/6/5 assts on 56%/42% 3fg shooting)
  • Blake Griffin, F – Oklahoma (23/14/3 assts on 65% shooting)
  • Luke Harangody, F – Notre Dame (25/13 on 51% shooting)

Knocking on the Door (2d Team).

  • Tyler Hansbrough, F – North Carolina (22/8 on 54% shooting)
  • Patrick Patterson, F – Kentucky (19/9/3 assts on 71% shooting)
  • Dejuan Blair, F – Pittsburgh (15/13 on 61% shooting)
  • Manny Harris, G – Michigan (19/8/5 assts on 44%/31% 3fg shooting)
  • Ty Lawson, G – North Carolina (15/3/6 assts on 53%/42% 3fg shooting)

All-Freshman Team. Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest), Jrue Holiday (UCLA) and Gordon Hayward (Butler) were tough to leave off this list.

  • Greg Monroe, C – Georgetown (14/6/3 assts on 57% shooting)
  • Sylven Landesberg, G – Virginia (19/6/3 assts on 49%/30% 3fg shooting)
  • Tyreke Evans, G – Memphis (16/6/4 assts/3 stls on 45% shooting)
  • Seth Curry, G – Liberty (20/4 on 45%/40% 3fg shooting)
  • Paul George, F – Fresno St. (16/7 on 54%/46% 3fg shooting)

RTC Greatest Hits (Q2).

Big Games (Q3). Here are the top 10 games of the next month.

  • Syracuse @ Georgetown – 01.14.09
  • Pittsburgh @ Louisville – 01.17.09
  • Georgetown @ Duke – 01.17.09
  • Wake Forest @ Clemson – 01.17.09
  • Texas @ Baylor – 01.27.09
  • Duke @ Wake Forest – 01.28.09
  • California @ UCLA – 01.29.09
  • Connecticut @ Louisville – 02.02.09
  • Duke @ Clemson – 02.04.09
  • Michigan St. @ Minnesota – 02.04.09
  • Notre Dame @ UCLA – 02.07.09

Extremes. This won’t last much longer, as we fully expect all three of the unbeatens to have a loss by this time next week, if not sooner.  That’s what conference play does to you.  NC Central will get a win against a D2 squad soon, but poor little NJIT has no relief in sight.  They’re sitting on 49 in a row and, according to KenPom’s projections, 60+ in a row is within reach.   Memo to NJIT coach Jim Engles – take a page from the NC Central playbook and schedule some JV High School D2 teams.

Unbeaten (next possible loss)

  • Pittsburgh (Big East): 15-0 (@ Louisville 1/17)
  • Wake Forest (ACC):  14-0 (@ BC 1/14)
  • Clemson (ACC): 16-0 (v. Wake Forest 1/17)

Winless (next possible win)

  • NJIT (Ind): 0-16 (Bryant 1/21)
  • North Carolina Central (Ind): 0-18 (D2 Central St 1/16)

Bracketology: Never Too Early Edition IV

January 11, 2009

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist.   He’ll be regularly out-scooping, out-thinking and out-shining Lunardi over the next three months.

Conference play is beginning to heat up (what a game between Wake Forest and North Carolina on Sunday night) and that means the bracket is starting to become a bit less muddled. This week saw 10 teams trade places in the bracket and a major shift amongst the top four seeds. I used RPI, SOS, record, conference record and wins vs. RPI top 1-50 while evaluating the true bubble teams by their individual resumes. Please leave any thoughts/gripes in the comments.

Quick notes:

  • By now you know the routine: I factor in conference tournaments for the automatic bids. Meaning that while Tennessee probably doesn’t deserve their 5-seed, I have them projected to win their conference tournament. That results in three extra wins prior to Selection Sunday and a seed boost. This used to apply for Oklahoma (1), California (3) and Michigan State (3), but now you can make the argument those are proper seeds regardless of the conference championship. Memphis (6), Gonzaga (7) and San Diego State (9) do receive the slight boost.
  • The top seeds are much more clear this week with the #1’s going to Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Duke and Oklahoma. North Carolina drops to 0-2 in the ACC and a 2 seed, joining undefeated Clemson and one-loss Connecticut and Syracuse. Not too much debate there. Projected Big 10 champion Michigan State garners a 3-seed, while the Cal Bears huge 3OT victory in Seattle mean they move ahead of UCLA as the projected Pac-10 champion. The other 3-seeds are Georgetown and those Bruins.
  • Arkansas had a golden opportunity to claim the projected SEC champion berth, but fell at home in a stunner to Mississippi State. Tennessee at 1-0 remains in that position with their squeaker over Georgia.
  • Dayton barely sneaks into the field as my Last Team In, carrying two wins over the RPI Top 50 (most notably Marquette), while Kentucky’s best win is a squeaker over 8-seed West Virginia. Oklahoma State’s 21 SOS, 2 wins over the RPI Top 50, 12-3 record and conference victory over Texas A&M on Saturday carry them barely into the bracket. Maryland (bad loss to Morgan State but have those quality wins over both Michigan schools) and Florida State (riding that win over Cal, also beat Florida) also sneak in.
  • Illinois State’s bad loss at Indiana State, along with a 251 SOS, mean they’re removed from the field. Boston College had a terrible week after their monumental upset in Chapel Hill, losing to Harvard and Miami at home, dropping the Eagles out. Missouri losing at Nebraska was a crucial defeat.

Last Four In: Dayton, Oklahoma State, Maryland, Florida State
Last Four Out: Kentucky, Illinois State, Boston College, Missouri
Next Four Out: Creighton, Stanford, Arizona, South Carolina

bracketology-011109

Multiple bids per conference: Big East (9), Atlantic Coast (7), Big 10 (7), Big 12 (6), Pacific 10 (4), SEC (3), Mountain West (3), West Coast (2), Atlantic 10 (2).

Automatic bids: Binghamton, Xavier, Wake Forest, East Tennessee State, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Weber State, VMI, Michigan State, Long Beach State, George Mason, Memphis, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Miami (OH), Morgan State, Northern Iowa, San Diego State, Robert Morris, Morehead State, California, Navy, Tennessee, Davidson, Stephen F. Austin, Alabama State, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State.

New additions: Binghamton, East Tennessee State, Long Beach State, Miami (OH), Morgan State, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma State, Robert Morris, San Diego State, Weber State.

Dropped out: Belmont, Boston College, Illinois State, Missouri, LSU, Oakland, Portland State, Stanford, Quinnipiac, Vermont.

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“Boom Goes the Dynamite!”: 01.10.09 Late Edition

January 10, 2009

As we mentioned in our BGTD Early Edition today, we’re still tinkering around with a workable format for this feature.  So with the West Coast Office taking over as you easterners hunker down for the night, we’re going to try it a little differently this evening.  Let us know in the comments if you have any feedback, constructive, destructive or otherwise.

Sidenote:  is there a better value than the Fox College Sports package on your cable or dish system?  Seriously, for $5/month, you get access to dozens more college games, and at least on ours, the Big 10 Network and the CBS College Sports Network.  Great deal, and this comes from we who typically despise our cable company.

Comments Heading into the Darkness.

  • The only significant upset so far today has been spastic UMass (5-8 ) spanking Dayton (14-1) in Springfield, 75-62.
  • Staying in the A10, that St. Joe’s – Rhodie triple-OT thriller (92-86 St. Joe’s) at the Palestra must have been something.

3pm/4pm/5pm Games.

  • There was a mild upset in Lincoln as Nebraska ran out to a big first half lead and held off Mizzou down the stretch.  From what we saw, Missouri didn’t look all that interested.
  • Life on the road in the Big 10 is not going to be pleasant for the Hoosiers this year.  The Illini were only up 45-20 at the half.

6pm/7pm/8pm Games.

  • We caught a good bit of the UConn-Cincy game and continue to wonder when (if?) the Huskies will reach their lofty potential.  They seemed to do just enough to make sure that they won the game – nothing more, nothing less.  As an example, nine-footer Hasheem Thabeet had three rebounds in 29 minutes.
  • UCF might just have the ugliest home court in America.  Memphis probably isn’t going 18-0 in CUSA this year.
  • It’s amazing how much harder Cal is playing on the defensive end this year vs. last year.  The Bears pulled off the mild upset in Washington and now stand at 4-0 in the Pac-10.  The two starting backcourts combined for 120 pts in this triple-OT game.
  • We caught a bit of the Florida-Ole Miss game and the Gators looked tough (for a half).  Still don’t think the SEC has much to show this year.
  • Also caught some of the Miami-BC game, and well, let’s just say that we have no idea how BC managed to beat Carolina last weekend.
  • Ugh.  Also noticed Illinois St. lost its second in a row (after a 14-0) start to Indiana St. tonight, a 4-12 team.

9pm and Later Games.

  • Um, Arkansas can beat top 10 teams at home, but not Mississippi St.  Nice.
  • Stanford blew a lead at Wazzu, but neither of these teams look very impressive.  NIT for both.

What We Learned Today. Not a lot, actually, other than to not assume Arkansas will roll through its home schedule.  Today’s slate of games was rather uninspiring, and it doesn’t get terribly better tomorrow until 8pm, when Wake-Carolina tips off.  We love the way the Deacs have been playing lately, and they are at home, so that one could be very interesting.  ESPN should have started Gameday this weekend and made that game the focal point instead of the worthless Miami (FL) at UNC game next weekend.


Checking in on the… Big East

January 7, 2009

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

We are just a week into Big East play, and it is already obvious how much fun this conference is going to be. UConn was supposed to be the best team in the country outside of UNC, but the Huskies lost their Big East opener to Georgetown. At home. And loss isn’t quite the right word. Embarrassed is better. Once everyone was firmly entrenched on the Hoyas jock, they went out and lost back-to-back games to Pitt and Notre Dame. Pitt is the new #1 team in the country, but the Irish were coming off a loss to … St. John’s?

No one is going to make it through this league unscathed. I’d be surprised if anyone finished the season with less than five Ls in league play. If you are one of the nine ranked teams (yes, nine Big East teams are currently ranked), then there are three things you will need to do if your plan on reaching the NCAA tourney:

1) Win your home games. With so many quality teams in the league, defending your home court will guarantee you at least a .500 record in the league. Regardless of your opponent, the top nine teams will almost universally be the favorite when playing at home which leads me to my second point.

2) Beat the teams you are supposed to beat. The top nine (and maybe ten if you include Cincy) are going to beat up on each other all season. I doubt the committee is going to want more than a quarter (8 of 31) of the at-large bids to go to one conference. So if all nine (or ten) want in, they need to take care of business against the South Floridas and DePauls and Rutgers.

3) Pray! Like I said, I doubt that the NCAA wants to have one conference send so many teams to the tourney. If nine Big East teams are going to make it, they will need to catch some breaks during the season. The top four in the ACC need to run through the league (UNC didn’t help on Sunday losing to BC – did anyone else notice that win sent BC from unranked to #17?). The top three in the Big XII need to roll. Likewise for the Pac Ten, Big Ten, and SEC (well, only Tennessee in the SEC). Teams like Davidson, Gonzaga/St. Mary’s, Butler, Xavier, and Memphis need to win their conference tournaments. Essentially, they need to hope that there are as few teams on the bubble as possible.

When it comes down to it, every Big East team is going to have an opportunity to knock off numerous top ten and top twenty teams during the conference play. If any of them finish league play below .500 and without a marquee win in conference, then frankly, they probably are not good enough to deserve a bid.

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Vegas Odds: Season Edition Vol. 2

January 6, 2009

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC.  His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.

The college basketball world is still dumping the cooler on Boston College after the Eagles’ improbable victory over North Carolina on Sunday night.  So, things have changed, right?  It looks like the Tar Heels have come back to the pack, yes?  The season is a true competition again.  Anyone can win.  It’s a level playing field. 
 
Sure it is.
 
Charlotte Observer

You'd Think Losing to BC Would Tighten the Vegas Odds (photo credit: AP/Gerry Broome)

But wait…that win by B.C. meant a lot; it got the Eagles their first Top 25 ranking in about two years.  It means that even if UNC wins out, they still can’t be considered for membership into the Greatest Teams Of All Time pantheon.  They started their ACC campaign with a big fat ‘L.’  It showed every college basketball team in the nation that the Heels are indeed mortal, that the almost holy image they’d accrued was not valid.  Everyone everywhere is talking about how much this Boston College victory was worth. 
 
You know what it was worth in Las Vegas45 bucks. 
 
In terms of winning the national championship, that is.  If you’re “daring” enough to put your money on North Carolina now that they’ve suffered a loss, compared with those who put their money down before Sunday, you’d win exactly $45 more. 
I’m not taking anything away from Boston College’s achievement.  The Dean Dome — especially this year — has been considered a virtual venus fly-trap for any team presumptuous enough to actually show up for a game against UNC; Boston College knew that and still went in and got the job done.  It’s true, they really did knock this imposing edition of the Tar Heels right out of the running for admission among the greatest college basketball teams of all time (a fact I’m sure UNC fans are tired of hearing about by now), a spectre that had indeed been following them around since Hansbrough, et al, told the NBA draft to stick it last year.  B.C. deserves major props, make no mistake.
 
But I’m looking at this through Vegas’ eyes.  And from their viewpoint, this still isn’t even a race. 
 
If we observe the latest odds (refer to the first edition of the odds watch if you forgot how the money line works; in short, the +(x) means you get back $(x + $100) on a $100 bet), we’ll see that even after this home loss, UNC is still at +220, a change of only $45 from the previous +175.  The next contender?  Connecticut at +1000, and Big East brother Pittsburgh at +1200.  But look at the margins between UNC and the closest competitor before AND after the loss.  Before the B.C. game, they were $625 ahead of the next team on the list.  Now?  After this supposedly devastating loss?  $780 ahead of UConn.  In other words, compared to before the Boston College game, they’re even farther ahead of the closest team(s) in their rearview mirror. 
vegas-odds-vol-2 
I began thinking about how this could possibly be the case, but it didn’t take much reflection to figure it out.  As noted above, UNC has been given a steady diet of “one-of-the-best-of-all-time” talk for about six months now.  I don’t know how the coaching staff has handled this — maybe they embraced it and wanted their players to be cocky, or maybe they tried to keep their players more focused on immediate (i.e. game-to-game) goals, who knows.  Either way, the players have still been aware of it, no question.  But now it’s gone.  They’re not playing for immortality.  They’re not playing for as big a piece of history as before, but playing for an ACC title, a Final Four, and a national championship is still playing for history.  The 2008-09 Tar Heels are parallel to a pitcher who threw four perfect innings with a big lead but just had their perfect game/no-hitter broken up with two out in the fifth.  You threw a good first half, but now just worry about getting the win.  If you can keep from doing something stupid, you’ll probably get it.  If I were a UNC basketball player, I’d be pissed that my team won’t go undefeated and that I probably won’t be on one of those “all-time” teams.  But now I can concentrate on the real task at hand, and that’s winning a national title.  All that other stuff’s gone.  And before the comments pile up accusing me of being too pro-Heel, I’m not.  I don’t come from there and I have nothing to do with that program.  But I don’t see any other way to look at it.  Sometimes a loss like this can bring some clarity.  And I think the folks making the odds in Vegas agree.
 
I’ve got to point out some other values on the new list, though.  I still think winning $1200 on a $100 bet is a pretty good deal for the current #1 team in the nation, Pittsburgh.  Hell, Vegas will still basically triple your money if you bet on the Tar Heels and they win it.  I’m pretty damn surprised that Duke (+1600) hasn’t pulled ahead of Tennessee, Gonzaga, and the freaking FIELD (+1400, +1500, and +1500, respectively).  Wake Forest is still extremely attractive at +3300 (previously +5000), and about the farthest I’d go down on this list is Syracuse (+4000, previously +3000), but as I’ve said, I have a Syracuse affliction this year.  I can’t put my finger on it, but every time I watch them, I get the feeling that they’re about three seconds away from reeling off about 20 straight wins.  I’ll understand if others don’t get that, because I can’t explain it myself.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if they got bounced in the first round.  I’m still trying to figure that team out.
 
But the lesson here is at the top, my friends.  Boston College (+6000)  is to be applauded for going into such a vaunted place and defeating a team that was being groomed for legend.  They deserve their shiny new ranking.  And sure, they reminded us that anything can certainly happen in a single-elimination scenario.  But through the eyes of the Vegas oddsmakers, there isn’t a whole lot of reason to get excited.  This is still like Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont.  They’re not just better than the competition — even despite a loss, they’re widening the lead.

Behind the Lines – Week 4

January 6, 2009

btl-header

 

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

Tuesday, January 6

Connecticut(5) at West Virginia(22)

Behind the Line: WVU is on fire and have covered their last 3 games while Uconn has failed to cover their last 2.

Ohio St. at Michigan St(12)

Behind the Line: The Buckeyes have dropped their last 3 against the spread while the Spartans have done the exact opposite.

Wednesday, January 7

Davidson at Duke(2) 

Behind the Line: Similar to the first game, Davidson is not so hot while Duke is scorching. Davidson has dropped 4 straight against the spread and Duke has covered their last 3.

Gonzaga at Tennessee(25)

Behind the Line: Two teams that are not playing their best ball. The Zags have lost 3 straight and the Vols are coming off a loss at Kansas. Tennessee is undefeated at home while Gonzaga is just 1-2 on the road. Both of these teams score a lot of points. Combined, 6 out of their last 9 games have gone to the over.

Thursday, January 8

Wright St. at Butler(20)

Behind the Line: Wright State is 7-7 this season and are 1-5 on the road. However, they have covered their last 4 games against the spread albeit against lesser competition. Butler has covered 4 of their last 5 games. There is a possibility that the line could be friendly due to these occurrences.


ATB: New Years Weekend Wrap

January 5, 2009

afterbuzzer

Since the ATB writers have been in a self-induced coma as a result of last week’s NYE festivities (hey, it’s hard living in your mom’s basement), rather than rehashing a bunch of stale games from Wed-Sun, we thought it’d make more sense to just hit some highlights and trends of things we’re watching as the haze continues to wear off from our vision and the strange burning sensations subside.

Some News & Notes.

  • Is Tubby Smith on the short list of coaches looking at Arizona?  Maybe the Tubbster realized that, yes, those icicles on your c#&k really do stay there for six months of the year, and as such, Tucson is looking pretty tasty.
  • Former Hoosier and UAB carpetbagger Armon Bassett ended up transferring to Ohio U.  He will be eligible after next fall’s quarter.
  • Kyle Whelliston is awesome.  Seriously.  The Mid-Majority founder and resident subversive in the college hoops world discovered a clear trend showing that the BCS teams are playing each other more often during the out-of-conference slate, and the mid-majors less.  He thinks this is good for the mids, but we’re not so sure.  The mids really need those opportunities to shine that beating S. Florida and Oregon St. UCLA and Duke provide.
  • The Dagger had a great year-in-review wrapup article over at Yahoo Sports, as well as a look at what college hoops might look like if the BCS was running things over here.

The Big East is insane this year. In just the last three weeks, we’ve seen UConn look like the most likely hurdle for North Carolina through its clutch win in Seattle vs. Gonzaga.  Then we jumped on the Georgetown bandwagon after the Hoyas proceeded to go up to Storrs and thump those Huskies behind a balanced offensive attack and its standard sticky defense.  Only for our mis/pre-conceptions to be challenged again when Pittsburgh chose to use this weekend’s matchup in DC at Georgetown to manhandle (manhandle?  try superman-handle…  the Panthers had more o-rebs – 18 – than the Hoyas had total – 17) the same team that looked so fantastic against UConn five days prior.  We really don’t know what to make of this league with these performances.  Given the way things have gone so far, Pitt should now be in position to get its bell rung by UConn in Western Pa.  We just don’t know.  One thing we think we can say without too much hedging is that UConn, Georgetown, Pitt, and possibly Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville (if those three ever get it completely going), are the best top six to a conference we’ve ever seen.  It’s likely that all six of those teams would win the SEC and compete with UCLA for the Pac-10 crown.  In 1995, the ACC had a really strong top four, but nothing like this group.  As for Georgetown,  we noted after the UConn game that their lack of strong bench production could end up biting them in the arse down the stretch, and it was absolutely exhibited here (2 pts).  This will ultimately be the Hoyas’ downfall, as their 29-game homecourt winning streak was snapped when Pitt went on a 17-4 run to blow open a 40-40 tie game.  As much as we love Greg Monroe, he was schooled by the savvier Dejuan Blair, who dropped 20/17 on the bigger player.

Monday update:  Notre Dame 73, Georgetown 67. Notre Dame defeated Georgetown at home tonight, keeping their 44-game homecourt (and 19-game conference) winning streak alive.  This occurred a mere two days after the Irish laid a leprechaun egg against St. John’s in NYC.  Just like that, Georgetown is now 1-2 in the conference, when one week ago tonight they looked like the team to beat.  Wow.

Is the SEC surging? It’s probably too little, too late, for the SEC to save its sinking sunk RPI in time to matter much come Selection Sunday, but the last few days of games showed that the league may have some fight left in it, following up on Arkansas’ upset of Oklahoma and pulling off a few key wins in games that its teams would have lost in November or early December.  Consider the following scores:

  • South Carolina 85, Baylor 84. SC is one of the definite surprise teams of this season, proving once again that Dave Odom has been the luckiest man alive to have bilked multiple schools of millions of dollars by passing himself off as a legitimate head coach.  Getting a win over a ranked team in a true road game is something the SEC hadn’t done all year.  Until Friday night.  Shooting 54% and putting all five starters in double-figures helps.
  • Florida 68, NC State 66. We probably shouldn’t be giving too much love to a team that allowed its marginal ACC opponent to shoot 59% on its home floor, but hey, an intersectional win is a win!  Nick Calathes saved the day with 24 of his 34, including the go-ahead jumper with 11 seconds left, coming in the second half.
  • Alabama 88, Georgia Tech 77. Bama will be as good as Ronald Steele is and he was excellent on this night (23/10), echoing memories of his healthy first two years in Tuscaloosa.  Ga Tech appears to once again be going nowhere fast.
  • Mississippi St. 82, Houston 65. MSU simply took control of this game, holding an 8-2 Houston team to 28% shooting in the process.
  • Vanderbilt 78, Massachusetts 48. Wow, a complete obliteration of UMass in Amherst by a team that had really shown next-to-nothing so far this year.  Derek Kellogg has lost that team.
  • Louisville 74, Kentucky 71. Yeah, it’s an L for the SEC, but Kentucky has been playing better ball lately and took Louisville to the brink before Pitino whipping boy Edgar Sosa dropped a 25-foot three to win the game with 2.6 seconds remaining.  There may not be a better inside/outside duo than UK’s Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson (50/18 in this game).

Most Impressive Win of the Weekend. Wake Forest 94, BYU 87. It was televised to all of six people in America on The Mountain network, but Wake going into the viper’s pit known as the Marriott Center in Provo where the Cougars had won their last 53 games against all comers was very impressive.  This was especially so given that Wake was teetering in the mid-second half before their assassin Jeff Teague (30/4/4) and muscle man James Johnson (22/15) took over the game, as the tired BYU players starting coming up short on their shots.  What’s the difference between this Wake team and some others (most notably, the Chris Paul teams) in the recent past?  This Deacon squad plays defense.  Whether it’s by design or simply the absurd athleticism that three potential lottery picks in the starting lineup (Teague/Johnson/Aminu) provide, their length and size bothers teams, and as a result, the Deacs are currently the fifth most efficient defensive team in America.   The UNC-Wake game next Sunday in Winston-Salem looms large to see just how good this Deacon team can be.

What Has Happened to the Zags? Utah 66, Gonzaga 65. It’s almost as if that loss to UConn two weeks ago took all the wind out of the sails of the Zags.  Since that game, they’ve lost at home to Portland St. and now away at Utah in a game they had multiple chances to win.  Next they’re at Tennessee on Wednesday before WCC play starts.  Meanwhile, conference foe St. Mary’s is cruising along at 14-1, although against admittedly lesser competition.  As for the Zags, there is top ten talent on this team, and they need to stop feeling sorry for themselves because they lost a heartbreaking game.  Jeremy Pargo in particular needs to get his team’s attention and back on the right track, and Austin Daye needs to improve his shot selection (a 6’11 guy shouldn’t be shooting 44% from the field); otherwise, America’s favorite “underdog” from the Pacific Northwest will once again disappoint in March.

USC is the Most Confounding Team in America. USC 83, Oregon 62 & Oregon St. 62, USC 58 (OT).  USC once again has several future NBA Draft picks on its roster, but as has been a trend in recent years for the Trojans, they are just as likely to shock you with an efficient evisceration of an opponent as they are to simply not show up for the engagement at all.  Case in point was the Oregon two-fer last weekend.  On Friday night, the Trojans went into Oregon’s Macarthur Court (one of the tougher venues in the Pac-10, even in a year when Oregon is clearly down) and completely humiliated the Ducks with a +21-pt second half (probably its best half of the year).  Then, riding that wave of success, USC visited Oregon St. on Sunday – remember, the Beavers went 0-18 in the Pac-10 last season – and managed to hand OSU its first conference victory in 683 days.   If anyone can explain this team, let us know.

Some Other Scores That Caught Our Eye.

  • UNLV 56, Louisville 55. Of course, this was prior to the victory over their nemesis on Sunday, but the Louisville bugaboo of poor shooting (29.6%), weak guard play and a seeming lack of focus allowed UNLV (w/o Wink Adams) to come east and steal a victory.  After this game, Edgar Sosa reportedly was asked to transfer by Coach Pitino – he responded with his best game in two years against Kentucky (18 pts).
  • Marquette 79, Villanova 72. Someone send us an email when you can figure out just how good either of these teams actually are.  Both are two-loss guard-oriented teams that have similar RPI profiles (#29 and #30), capable of a major upset at any time, but not quite strong enough to reach the top tier of the Big East.
  • Arizona St. 90, Stanford 60. Has a BCS team ever defeated another BCS team by 45 points at home, only to lose by 30 points in the next week to another BCS team at home?  That’s a 75-pt difference for you mathemagicians out there.  Stanford followed up this blasting with another home win against Arizona on Sunday, so maybe the Cardinal just had a bad game against Herb Sendek’s team.
  • Xavier 84, Virginia 70. XU really needed to win this road game against an ACC team (even a likely bottom-dweller) to convince folks that their rough two game stretch against Duke and Butler last month is behind them.
  • Illinois St. 86, Creighton 64. ISU stamped itself as the team to beat in the MVC with this big home win on Saturday.  Now 14-0, the Redbirds used a huge second half to blow the game open led by Osiris Eldridge’s 20/9.
  • Michigan 74, Illinois 64. This was a big win for John Beilein’s UM squad, because the Illini have been playing extremely well of late.  Amazingly, after only two games, only Wisconsin and Michigan St. are unbeaten (2-0) in the Big Ten race.
  • Duke 69, Virginia Tech 44. A 13-point second half will not get it done in Cameron.  Although Duke is #2 now, we still don’t believe in them in the long term.  Only five points came off of their bench in this game.
  • California 81, Arizona St. 71. If this keeps up, Mike Montgomery will have to be in the conversation for NCOY.  Two days after demolishing Stanford, Arizona St. got outhustled and outplayed in the second half (Cal shot 68% behind Jerome Randle’s 26/10 assts).  This was two nights after putting away Arizona, 69-55.  Monty has this program competing way ahead of schedule.

On Tap Tuesday. check our now-daily Set Your Tivos feature for the games to watch tomorrow.


Week 5 Blogpoll

January 1, 2009

Here’s this week’s blogpoll.  Keep in mind that the votes were tallied including games through Monday night only…

blogpoll-123108

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Checking in on the… Big East

December 31, 2008

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Big East play has officially begun! For each and every team in this conference, you can essentially throw out their non-conference games because they are guaranteed at least seven games against top 25 teams (or eight, can someone please explain to me how West Virginia is not one of the top 25 teams in the country?). Get hot at the right time, reel off five or six straight wins during the right part of your schedule, and you can thrust yourself directly onto the bubble.

Granted, that is MUCH more easily said than done. As you will see, every team in this conference has a run where they will play four or five top 25 teams in the span of two weeks. Because it was a slow week (thanks Santa, but you did get me Fifa ’09 so you’re not all bad) and more than a few teams didn’t play, I am going to be giving you what I like to call “Running the Gauntlet” (patent pending), which is the string of three or four or five (or sometimes even nine) games which you will only see in happening in the Big East.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Darryl “Truck” Bryant, West Virginia

Statistically speaking, Truck had far from the best week in the conference, even on his own team. In the Mountaineers’ only game (a blowout of Ohio State) Truck finished with 11 points and 2 dimes. But it is more than his performance, it is the importance of his play to this West Virginia team. It looks like there is a real possibility that Joe Mazzulla will be out for the season, meaning that Truck is basically the only PG Bob Huggins has on his roster right now. West Virginia does not need Truck to carry this team. In fact, they are probably better when he is blending in more than standing out, so to speak. What they need from him is tough defense, ball control, and the ability to make a big shot or big play when WVU needs it. He did that perfectly against Ohio State. The Mountaineers did not play all that well against the Buckeyes, but in the second half when they were pulling away, Truck was in the middle of everything. He had a couple tough finishes on drives to the basket, he scored a few times on a fast break, and on a team that struggles to move the ball at times, he orchestrated a beautifully run offense (especially in the second half) against a pretty good OSU zone. You want a good comparison for this kid? Think Levance Fields as a freshman.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Georgetown

The Hoyas played just one game this week. It just so happened that game was a win over UConn, the #2 team in the country. The Hoyas thoroughly dominated the Huskies throughout. If there was a word that defined the Hoyas performance, it was execution. JT3 had the perfect game plan against UConn. His Hoyas controlled the pace of the game by running through their offensive sets, then exploiting any UConn break down defensively. And when they attacked, they scored just about every time, especially down the stretch. UConn just couldn’t get any stops. If it wasn’t a back door cut, it was an open jump shot or a drive to the rim, which resulted in either a lay-up or a trip to the foul line (the Hoyas hit their last 18 free throws in the second half). Last week I told you I was finally coming to terms with the fact that Greg Monroe was not going to be a star just yet. Well, against UConn, Monroe proved why he had so much hype coming out of high school. He knocked down two threes, but was able to put the ball on the floor and go by Hasheem Thabeet when the big fella came out to guard him. He made three gorgeous back door passes, two of which came off the dribble. He blocked shots, and even ripped AJ Price at half court, which led to an and-1 lay-up. The most impressive part about Monroe right now is that he does all of this within the Georgetown system. The Hoyas still have some depth problems (the only starter that didn’t play 35 minutes against the Huskies was Monroe, and he was in foul trouble during the second half), but if guys like Jason Clark, Omar Wattad (side note: I think the best sign I have seen this year came at the Georgetown-Memphis game when some fan held up “Let’s Get Wattaded”), Julian Vaughn, and Henry Sims can provide anywhere between 8-15 minutes a game each, the Hoyas should be ok because of the pace they play at.

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ATB: Reintroducing Hoya Paranoia

December 29, 2008

afterbuzzerGame of the Night. Georgetown 74, Connecticut 63. The Big East is going to be two tons of fun this season, with game after good game coming at us over the course of the next two-plus months.  It all began tonight, and the result confirmed two of our inclinations that we had about both of these teams but hadn’t been able to prove just yet.  First, UConn is only a national title contender when Hasheem Thabeet as an offensive force shows up to play – otherwise, they’re just another nice top twenty team.  In the Huskies’ four games against ranked opponents, Thabeet has been held under double-figures in points and rebounds three times (exception: 19 pts/14 rebs against Miami (FL)).  He put up a pathetic four points on four shots tonight.  Credit to the Georgetown defense for minimizing Thabeet’s touches in the paint, but UConn simply must get their senior big man the ball more often to maximize their potential this year.  Second, Georgetown’s starting five is as good as anyone in the country, and if they can stay healthy (a big “if” given the wear and tear they’ll take during the Big East regular season), then the Hoyas will once again be knocking on the door of the Final Four.  All five starters can score the ball, shoot a high percentage from the field AND the line, rebound and play hard-nosed defense.  The x-factor is freshman center Greg Monroe, who showed signs tonight of becoming a dominant low-post presence in addition to a guy who can draw the defense out to the three-point line (2-2) for JT3’s team.  If he develops into a consistent threat by February, then the Big East may once again be hearing Hoya Paranoia.  The problem will be if Georgetown starts to wear down later in the season, as only guards Jason Clark and Omar Wattad have been given significant time to spell the starters.  As for this particular game, Georgetown was simply the tougher, smarter, more confident team in the first five minutes as they ran out to an 18-3 lead, and those five minutes were the difference in the game.  UConn several times got the margin within one possession, but each time Georgetown would answer with a big three or dunk.  It’ll be very interesting to see how the Hoyas show their maturity this weekend against Pittsburgh at home.

Wayne Chism Injured. Tennessee 89, Louisiana-Lafayette 62.  Normally we wouldn’t give this sort of game a special mention, but on a relatively light night, a potentially serious injury involving one of the best players on the SEC’s only really good team is worth highlighting.  Tennessee forward Wayne Chism landed hard on his back after blocking a shot in a game where he had already tallied 18/15.  He was taken off the court in a neck brace and stretcher (see below), but according to Andy Katz, Bruce Pearl texted him later to say that Chism will be ok.  That’s certainly good news for Vol fans, who will be facing tough games with Kansas, Gonzaga and Kentucky in the next two-plus weeks.

Saul Young/GoVolsXtra.com

Photo Credit: Saul Young/GoVolsXtra.com

Big Five Matchup. Villanova 62, Temple 45. Nobody seems to think that Nova is very good, but they continue to dominate the rest of their Philadelphia city rivals, winning 18 of their last 19 matchups among their Big Five counterparts.  Temple has fallen apart since its Dionte Christmas explosion a few weeks ago vs. Tennessee, now losing three in a row to Kansas, Long Beach St., and now Villanova.  There would be no Xmas theatrics tonight, as Nova held him to 4-19 shooting and 13 points.  VU was down by eight in the early second half until Temple went the next 11.5 minutes without a field goal, with Corey Fisher blowing up from three (4-4) to put the Wildcats on his back to take the lead and put Temple in the rearview mirror.  So how good is this Villanova team?   We’ll find out soon enough, with a road trip to Marquette and Louisville visiting Philly in the next two weeks.

Other Games of Mild Interest.

  • Baylor 79, Portland St. 66. No repeat tonight for Portland St. after shocking Gonzaga last week, mostly because Zag giant-killer Jeremiah Dominquez was completely shut down (1-9 for 2 pts) after dropping 25 in last week’s upset.  Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn came off the bench for 22/6.
  • Arizona 71, Weber St. 65. Nic Wise scored 23 pts as the Cats played without Jordan Hill, who was nursing a leg injury.
  • Memphis 60, Cincinnati 45. Tyreke Evans had 14/10/8 assts (and 7 tos) in a game where Cincy couldn’t very well throw it in the ocean (26%) when they weren’t throwing it to Memphis (20 tos).
  • Davidson 79, Charleston 75. A late 10-0 run by Charleston drew the Cougars within two of Davidson in this SoCon matchup, but Stephen Curry hit one of two FTs and Andrew Goudeleck’s three caromed off to preserve Davidson’s 38th consecutive victory within the conference.  Curry had 29/9/7 assts on 11-25 shooting.
  • Buffalo 62, Colorado 60. Buffalo might be a team to watch in the MAC after giving UConn all it wanted a while back and now beating a Big 12 team at a neutral site (Hawaii).

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST). The most intriguing matchup is in the Big 10, where we’ll get to see how legit Illinois is, but we’re also interested in how Clemson, Oklahoma and BYU handle relatively tough road tests.  Butler-UAB and Dayton-GMU are also good mid-major games.

  • Florida v. Stetson (ESPN FC & 360) – 1pm
  • Houston v. UMass – 2pm
  • Syracuse v. Seton Hall (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
  • Butler v. UAB – 7pm
  • Dayton v. George Mason – 7pm
  • Illinois v. Purdue (ESPN2) – 7pm
  • Clemson @ South Carolina (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
  • Kansas St. v. Wagner (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • Southern Miss v. Ole Miss – 8pm
  • Oklahoma @ Arkansas (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
  • BYU @ Tulsa – 8pm
  • New Mexico St. v. New Mexico (ESPN FC & 360) – 9pm
  • Mississippi St. v. San Diego (ESPN FC & 360) – 9pm

Stat Nerds of the World, Unite.

December 29, 2008

If you know anything about us here at RTC, you know that we love numbers.  We love breaking down game stats and looking for secrets in the offensive and defensive efficiency ratings that will help us better understand why Team X is playing so poorly or why Team Y is much better than their ranking.  We also love statistical oddities – little factoids of generally meaningless but still interesting data that we can bring up at RTC office parties and cocktail functions so that we’ll seem edumacated and wicked smart about the ins and outs of college basketball.  Or at least so that we can impress Dickie V when we next run into him at a spring training Rays game.  Yeah, that.

stat-nerds

So here are a few of the statistical items that we find interesting as we approach conference season – perhaps you will also.  (all stats furnished by basketballstate.com)

  • These guys had better avoid foul trouble. UAB’s Robert Vaden, Texas’ AJ Abrams and Virginia Tech’s AD Vassallo each average over 36 minutes per game for their teams.
  • Get these men the ball! Among players scoring 15+ ppg, St. Joseph’s Ahmad Nivins (74.2%), Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson (71.5%), Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin (67.9%) and Michigan St.’s Raymar Morgan (65.3%) are burning up the nets.
  • Double-Double Trouble. Of the 19 players averaging double-figure rebounds, all of them also average double-figure points.  But only two of them are 20/10 guys – Blake Griffin (23/14) and Notre Dame’s Luke Harongody (23/12).  Patrick Patterson is just a whisker shy of 20/10 (19.6/9.5).
  • Betcha Didn’t Know That…
    • Stephen Curry leads the nation in scoring (30.0), but Tyler Hansbrough puts up the most points per 40 minutes (34.4)
    • North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside, he of the 60-pt explosion two weeks ago, is #2 in the nation in assists (7.6 per game).  Or that Davidson’s Mr. Curry is 12th nationally in dime-dropping.
    • Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks is averaging 24.2 ppg so far this season.  The last Wildcat to average that many points per game was Dan Issel in 1969-70 (33.9).
    • VMI’s brother tandem Travis and Chavis Holmes are 1-2 nationally in pilfering the ball (4.0 and 3.7 spg).
  • Tempo Free Stats.
    • UNC is the most efficient offensive team in the nation (1.19 points per possession), but did you know that Purdue is the most efficient defensive team around (0.79 ppp)?
    • The tops of the ACC and Big East have extremely efficient teams on both ends of the court – UNC, Wake Forest, Duke, UConn, Pittsburgh and Georgetown all have large differentials (approaching or above 0.3 ppp) resulting in an extra point every three or four possessions down the court.
    • The slowest paced “good” team is Wisconsin, with 61.4 possessions per game.  UNC, unsurprisingly, is averaging 79.3 possessions per contest.
    • Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and West Virginia own the boards, each team getting at or nearly 60% of the available caroms.  It’s difficult to find a “good” team that can’t rebound the ball, but Creighton is the best candidate for this award, only getting its Blue Jay hands on 48.2% of rebounds.
    • Notre Dame only turns the ball over one of every eight possessions (13%), but Kentucky gives it away nearly a quarter of the time (24%) and has still managed to go 10-3 thus far.  Incidentally, the Irish also rarely foul opponents (#1 in the nation with only 11.8 per game).  Tennessee, with all of its reaching and grabbing pressure defense, garners 21.3 fouls per game.
    • Georgetown, Connecticut, Xavier and Oklahoma live at the foul line, each getting a quarter or more of its points from the charity stripe.  Illinois, on the other hand, only gets about 14% of its points from the line.
    • The best offensively efficient performance by one team in a legit game this season so far was UNC  vs. Notre Dame, where the Heels averaged an astonishing 1.53 ppp in that demolition.

Got any others?  Feel free to pass them along in the comments!


Bracketology- Never Too Early Edition II

December 28, 2008

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist.   He’ll be regularly out-scooping, out-thinking and out-shining Lunardi over the next three months.

Rather than wallow in my own pity after my Patriots were knocked out of the playoffs, it’s my duty here at RTC to provide our readers with another Monday morning bracketology. While the week was somewhat quiet due to the holiday, there were some significant upsets (Portland State!) and big wins (Texas winning in Madison) to shake up the bracket from last week’s edition. Once again, I took a still-developing RPI with a grain of salt and factored in non-conference SOS, but mostly I’m just digging through each team’s schedule to find quality wins/bad losses and comparing them to the other teams in the field for seeding.

As always, I mixed in a few upsets in the bracket for fun.

Some quick notes about the bracket:

  • You might be thinking that Tennessee, Michigan State and UCLA are overseeded. While that may be true, I had to factor in each of those teams winning their respective conference tournaments before Selection Sunday, meaning they’d garner three significant wins and take the conference title.
  • The four 1-seeds remained the same from last week: North Carolina, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma (I added the individual regions to the bracket and seeded these four teams closest to home).
  • Texas received the final 2 seed with their road win over Wisconsin, slightly edging out Notre Dame.
  • Baylor edged Syracuse for the final 4 seed. Baylor has a nice win over Arizona State and hung with Wake Forest while Syracuse’s three big wins- Florida, Kansas, Memphis– are all overrated.
  • Biggest jump goes to Butler (10 to 7) while the biggest drop goes to Xavier (3 to 6). Butler won at Xavier on Monday.
  • Kansas also took a three seed drop from 8 to 11 after their second half collapse at Arizona. Much like Illinois over Missouri, that was a very important game for a Kansas team looking for a signature win.
  • Maryland continues to be boosted by their two wins over Michigan and Michigan State
  • Portland State moves from a 15 seed to 14 seed with their shocking win over Gonzaga, with the Zags dropping to the last 3 seed on the table

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Conference Winners: Vermont, Xavier, North Carolina, Belmont, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Portland State, VMI, Michigan State, Cal State Fullerton, VCU, Memphis, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Miami (OH), Hampton, Creighton, BYU, Quinnipiac, Austin Peay, UCLA, Navy, Tennessee, Davidson, Lamar, Alabama State, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State

Last Four In: California, Boston College, Kansas, Dayton

Last Four Out: Kentucky, Miami (FL), Cincinnati, Louisville

Departures: Murray State, Stetson

Arrivals: Austin Peay, Belmont

Bids per conference: Big East (8), ACC (7), Big 10 (7), Big 12 (6), Pac 10 (5), SEC (3), MVC (2), WCC (2), Atlantic 10 (2), MWC (2).

Not much change from last week in terms of the teams in the field. Next Sunday it could shake up a bit with all of these key bubble games:

Key Bubble Games for 12/29-1/5:

  • Cincinnati at Memphis, 12/29- This would be a stellar win for Cincinnati, who are currently in the last four out.
  • Seton Hall at Syracuse, 12/30- The Hall probably need wins over Syracuse and West Virginia to climb back into the picture.
  • George Mason at Dayton, 12/30- Big game for Dayton in the bubble picture. If Mason should win this game, I may replace Vermont with the Patriots.
  • Oklahoma at Arkansas, 12/30- Arkansas has a shiny record and zero good wins. This would qualify.
  • Northwestern at Penn State, 12/31- Reaching here a bit, but you never know this early.
  • UNLV at Louisville, 12/31- Louisville needs this game at home for a win over an NCAA team.
  • USC at Oregon, 1/2- If USC wants to start creeping back, winning at Oregon is a good start.
  • South Carolina at Baylor, 1/2- See Arkansas for South Carolina.
  • Arizona at California, 1/2- Huge bubble game for both teams.
  • Missouri at Georgia, 1/3- The Tigers cannot afford to slip up here.
  • Tennessee at Kansas, 1/3- Believe it or not, KU is on the bubble. A win over 2-seed Tennessee would go a long way towards securing a bid down the road.
  • NC State at Florida, 1/3- See Kansas for Florida. They’re lacking quality wins.
  • Charlotte at Maryland, 1/3- If Maryland slips up here, they could be out of the field.
  • West Virginia at Seton Hall, 1/3- Seton Hall needs this one at home.
  • Washington at Washington State, 1/3- Washington State dropped from consideration for this bracket. This is the first step in working their way back.
  • Creighton at Illinois State, 1/3- HUGE game in the Missouri Valley.
  • Cincinnati at Marquette, 1/4- Cincinnati with another chance for a big win here.
  • Kentucky at Louisville, 1/4- Biggest bubble game on the slate this week.
  • Virginia Tech at Duke, 1/4- Virginia Tech can creep back into consideration if they can spring a huge upset at Cameron.
  • Arizona State at California, 1/4- California is barely in. A win over Arizona State gives them more comfort.
  • Arizona at Stanford, 1/4Another big bubble game for Arizona.

Week 4 Blogpoll

December 26, 2008

Here we go with Week 4’s Blogpoll…

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