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.


Set Your Tivos: 02.07.09

February 6, 2009

Set Your Tivos
I’m not sure why everyone complains about February. Sure the NFL season is over, but at least we don’t need to hear about steroids, holdouts, and whether or not both feet were in bounds. There isn’t a blockbuster “Game of the Year” match-up today, but there are several solid games for the hoops aficionado. So just settle into your favorite spot on the couch and dig in. In the spirit of promoting healthy habits, we suggest that you try to have some vegetables today so use some ketchup on your food today.

#20 Syracuse at #16 Villanova at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The appetizer for a great day of basketball. This isn’t necessarily a must win for either team, but a win today would probably boost their NCAA seed by at least a spot on Selection Sunday. Both teams have virtually assured themselves a NCAA bid (particularly with Syracuse’s relatively easy remaining schedule in the Big East). One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that if the Orangemen lose, there is a decent chance that they will drop out of the top 25 leaving the Big East with only 5 teams in the top 25 after having as many as 9 teams earlier this season. Anyways, back to the game. Watch the match-up at point guard featuring Jonny Flynn against Scottie Reynolds. The winner of that match-up will likely win the game barring an explosion by either Eric Devendorf or Dante Cunningham.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Cincinnati at Georgetown at Noon on The Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Georgetown is killing me this year. I saw them play in Orlando against Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic. They lost that game, but it was pretty clear to me that day that they had the talent to make it to the Sweet 16 at the very least. I never imagined that they might be in a position at this point in the season that they might not make the NCAA tournament. To be fair, at that time I was also operating under the assumption that Tennessee was good. The Hoyas were able to break their 5-game losing streak against Rutgers and will need to beat the Bearcats if they want to get some momentum heading into their game against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. If John Thompson III is able to figured out a way to keep Deonta Vaughn in check, the Hoyas should be able to ride Greg Monroe and DaJuan Summer to a victory.

Notre Dame at #12 UCLA at 1 PM on CBS: The Irish are desperate for a victory having lost 6 straight games. They will have to end their losing streak in one of the rare non-conference match-ups this month. Everybody knows Luke Harangody is going to get his (25.3 PPG and 13.2 RPG), but Notre Dame will need Kyle McAlarney to break out of his prolonged shooting slump and get a great game out of Tory Jackson, who will be matched up against the Bruins veteran PG, Darren Collison. Look for UCLA to pull away in the 2nd half behind Collison, Josh Shipp, and Jrue Holiday.

Miami (FL) at #3 Duke at 1:30 PM on Raycom, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: I’m fully expecting Duke to come back strong at home after the massacre at Littlejohn on Wednesday night, which is something that rtmsf actually predicted before the game (sort of), but nobody picked up on until after the game. (Ok, nobody has really picked up on it yet.) On the other hand, Miami was on the right side of the other blowout upset beating Wake Forest by 27. Look for Kyle Singler to rebound with a strong game after a weak “effort” against Clemson that was plagued by foul trouble. Coach K will likely use Gerald Henderson, the only Blue Devil who showed up against Clemson, on Jack McClinton in an attempt to slow down the mercurial Miami star. If Singler and Henderson can contain or at least equal Dwayne Collins and McClinton, respectively, the Blue Devils should return to their winning ways. Well at least until UNC invades Cameron on Wednesday night.

kyle-singler

#17 Texas at Nebraska at 2 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Texas will be looking to rebound after back-to-back losses on the road. Today, they return to Austin to take on the Cornhuskers. Look for A.J. Abrams and Damion James to have big games as Rick Barnes‘s squad will definitely be motivated in this one after falling 3.5 back of conference leader Oklahoma. If Abrams and James have big games that should be enough to hold off Nebraska’s balanced attack.

Michigan at #1 UConn at 6 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This is a game that the Huskies should be able to win fairly convincingly particularly with the game in Gampel Pavillion, but as this year has taught us never expect too much out of the #1 ranked team in the country. A Michigan win would obviously do wonders for their NCAA tournament chances, but it will tough particularly with John Beilein‘s recent changes in his rotations including bringing DeShawn Sims off the bench in their 71-51 win over Penn State in their last game. The new lineup, which is still led by Manny Harris, may provide some match-up problems for UConn and their big men. I expect UConn to pull this one especially with the recent play of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, but Michigan could give them problems and Beilein certainly knows all about the Huskies dating back to his days as the coach at West Virginia.

Charleston at Davidson at 6 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Most people will tune in just to watch Stephen Curry, but this could actually be a realtively close game (a rarity for the Wildcats in the weak Southern Conference). When these teams met earlier this season, the Wildcats escaped with a 4-point win on the road after Charleston had a chance to tie it with a 3 with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game. This is particularly meaningful as the Wildcats haven’t lost a Southern Conference game since January 20, 2007 (a 43-game winning streak). As an added bonus, you can see Bobby Cremins (former head coach of Georgia Tech) try to come up with a scheme to guard Curry. Cremins is one of the few coaches in the country who has had a player who was at Curry’s level or even above that as he coached Kenny Anderson (along with Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver aka “Lethal Weapon 3”) to the NCAA Final 4 in 1991.

Florida State at #10 Clemson at 7 PM on NESN and Fox Sports: I’m actually more interested in this game than the others for my own selfish reason since I’ll be doing another RTC Live when Clemson comes to Boston College on Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers have returned to Earth after their beatdown the hated Blue Devils just a few days ago. Oliver Purnell‘s squad had better be ready because the Seminoles are a fairly dangerous team (ask Roy Williams, who needed a Ty Lawson 3 at the buzzer to pull out a win against FSU). This is a classic letdown game so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on it especially if Toney Douglas gets hot or if either Trevor Booker or K.C. Rivers isn’t on his game after the celebrations following the Duke win.

#19 Minnesota at Ohio State at 8 PM on The Big Ten Network: Minnesota will be licking its wounds after getting crushed by Michigan State at the Breslin Center earlier this week. Unfortunately for Tubby Smith, the Gophers have to head to Columbus to take on a Buckeye team that just knocked off Purdue. If Evan Turner is hot, the Buckeyes could make a move into the top 25 with a win here knocking the Gophers out in the process.

#23 Arizona State at Oregon State at 8:30 PM on Fox Sports: James Harden and the Sun Devils will be looking to complete the Oregon sweep against Craig Robinson‘s Beavers. [Ed. Note: Isn’t Robinson related to some famous guy? I thought I heard something about it on the news.] The Beavers, who were undefeated following Barack Obama‘s Inauguration, finally lost to Arizona ending Oregon State’s hopes of riding Obama-mania to an undefeated term. If the Sun Devils can contain Calvin Haynes, they should hand the Beavers a second consecutive defeat.

Do you pay your taxes?
No, Mr. President. I’m not Reggie Love.

#15 Memphis at #18 Gonzaga at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Spokane is the site of ESPN GameDay today and it features a match-up of two highly regarded programs that hit rough patches this season, but have rebounded well. Gonzaga appears to have used their victory over Tennessee in Knoxville as a catalyst for their resurgence (Patty Mills‘s injury didn’t hurt either). Memphis, on the other hand, appears to have found its rhythm again with John Calipari‘s decision to move freshman Tyreke Evans from shooting guard to point guard (the kid is lost when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands). Evans has responded with his best play of the season and the Tigers have not lost since the move. Interestingly, both teams dominance in their leagues means that this is a huge game for each in terms of NCAA seeding. A win today would probably be worth 2 seeds on Selection Sunday assuming both teams are able to run the table for the rest of the regular season. Despite the fact that both teams have pretty balanced scoring attacks (4 starters in double figures for each team), the key to this game will likely be the PG match-up of Evans versus Jeremy Pargo. If the more experienced Pargo can outplay Evans, the Bulldogs should be able to run away with this one. If he isn’t, we could be in for a hard-fought game.


ATB: No Bad Questions, Just Bad Reporters…

January 27, 2009

afterbuzzer1Is It an Upset if Nobody Was There to See It? Ole Miss 85, Kentucky 80. We’ll get to the game in a minute, but did anyone else notice just how empty the premium seats were in the Tad Smith Coliseum tonight?  What gives – an ESPN game against Kentucky, long the standard-bearer of the SEC, and the place is mostly empty at tipoff?  Were all the cows already tipped over in Oxford tonight (sorry, obligatory Mississippi joke)?   Well, all those at-home Mississippians missed a big chance to celebrate in what’s been a trying season at Ole Miss, as the Rebels thoroughly outhustled and outplayed Kentucky in tonight’s win.  Their defense absolutely gobbled up Jodie Meeks every time he touched the ball, holding him to 4-15 from the floor, and generally shutting down everyone else but Patrick Patterson (24/7).  Ole Miss, on the other hand, put three players in the 20+ column (Malcolm White, Terrico White, David Huertas), and it was difficult to believe that we were watching the same team that LSU had obliterated by 32 in Oxford a mere ten days ago.  We have to give credit to Andy Kennedy for this one – it was clear his players believed they could win this game from start to finish despite all the injuries and mayhem, and they did.  By FAR the best part of this game, though, was Billy Gillispie’s response to the dreadful sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards’ questions during the halftime interview.  Remember kids, there are no bad questions, just bad reporters…

Road Team Power.

  • Texas 78, Baylor 72. Baylor just cannot beat Rick Barnes and Texas.  It’s now at 23 in a row, dating back to the Tom Penders era in Austin.  AJ Abrams had 19 pts and Damion James 16/12 for the Horns, who were able to keep the home-team Bears chilly (38%) for most of the night.  The bottom half of the Big 12 is really bad this year, so the Bears should still be safe, but if they ever want to be taken seriously in a national way (much less in the Big 12), they’re going to have to eventually beat Texas or Oklahoma (29 Ls in a row vs. the Sooners).
  • Purdue 64, Wisconsin 63. This just doesn’t happen.  Bo Ryan teams never lose consecutive home games, much less five games in a row.  And yet, the Badgers now sit at 3-5 in the Big Ten race thanks to getting swept by Purdue tonight.  Robbie Hummell hit a key three with just over a minute left to give the Boilermakers the lead for good, and once again Wisconsin was left to do some soul-searching.  The problem for the Badgers is that their usually-reliable defense is far from it right now – Purdue connected on nearly 60% of its shots tonight, in its last four losses teams have hit at least 47%, and teams are shooting a full 5% higher against the Badgers this year than last.

ACC Tuesday Night.

  • NC State 84, Miami (FL) 81 (OT). The Hurricanes are really confounding this season.  Looking at their personnel on the floor, you can easily see a team that will finish in the top five of the ACC and make the NCAA Tournament.  Instead, when you look at their resume, you quickly realize that the only likely tourney team they’ve beaten was Kentucky nearly two months ago.  Games like tonight surely don’t help – they shot 49% and outrebounded the Wolfpack by 11, yet still lost the game when NCSU freshman Julius Mays drilled a by-the-way three with 2.6 seconds remaining in OT to win it (see below video).  Miami had better get it going soon because games vs. Wake, UNC and at Duke are looming.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

  • Boston College 76, Maryland 67. When is Gary Williams going to hang it up in College Park?  Three days after taking it up the arse at Duke for their worst loss ever in that once-illustrious series, the Terps came back home to blow a sixteen-pt first half lead in yet another head-scratcher.  With only one NCAA Tourney win in the last four seasons (soon to be five), when will the Terp faithful put an end to what is clearly a coach who is simply riding out the string.  As for BC, the Eagles won their third league game in a row to go to 4-3 in the conference, and what’s even more surprising is that their motor, Tyrese Rice, didn’t even play all that well (10/6 assts).  It appears that BC is going to be good enough to compete with Virginia Tech, Miami and Florida St. for the bubble spots in the ACC this year – their schedule is favorable to be at .500 or better the rest of the way.

Some Other Scores.

  • Eastern Kentucky 73, Austin Peay 70 (OT). EKU got the home upset to bring Austin Peay back to the pack a little in the OVC race.
  • Utah 94, BYU 88 (OT). BYU shot half as many FTs but missed just as many at Utah (9), and that was the key difference in the OT.  Utah’s Luke Nevill blew up for 32/10.
  • Northeastern 68, VCU 63. NE got a huge road win to take over sole possession of first place in the CAA despite Eric Maynor’s 30 pts and a furious comeback that fell short for VCU.

Checking in on the… Big 12

January 26, 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 (19-1)(5-0) (1)
  2. Texas (14-4) (3-1) (2)
  3. Kansas (15-4)(4-0) (4)
  4. Missouri (17-3) (4-1) (6) 
  5. Baylor (15-4) (3-2) (3)
  6. Oklahoma St. (13-5) (2-2) (8)
  7. Texas A&M (15-5) (1-4) (5)
  8. Texas Tech (11-8) (1-3)(11)
  9. Nebraska (12-6) (2-3) (7)
  10. Iowa St. (12-7) (1-3) (9)
  11. Kansas St. (12-7) (1-4)(10)
  12. Colorado (8-10) (0-4) (12)

As expected, the top of the Big 12 was going to be dominant in conference play this season with a Missouri team really starting to look good.  Baylor and Texas A&M have struggled as of late and they need to get things turned around quickly. 

GAME OF THE WEEK

Oklahoma 72, Nebraska 61—This game had all the drama and the wakeup call needed for Oklahoma.  Nebraska came out with a stifling defense to start the game and double and triple-teamed Blake Griffin and basically took him out of the game.  The Huskers were up 6 at halftime and in the 2nd half, they were not able to play Griffin as well as they did in the first half.  Griffin went 7-8 in the 2nd half from the field and Nebraska was not able to score for  about 5 minutes down the stretch.  By the time they were able to start scoring again, it was too late. 

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Blake Griffin, Oklahoma—Though I considered DeMarre Carroll (Missouri), Sherron Collins (Kansas) and Craig Brackens (Iowa St.), I have to go with Griffin as he continues to dominate the games he is in and averaged 23 points and almost 18 rebounds a game this week.    He didn’t even play that much the 2nd half against Baylor.  He is well on his way to Player of the Year.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 01.24.09

January 24, 2009

dynamite1After my trip to Chapel Hill last weekend where rtmsf handled all of the duties for Boom Goes the Dynamite while I mingled with ESPN personalities and college basketball stars, I will be in charge of today’s edition while rtmsf does relationship stuff with his significant other. Pretty weak if you ask me. . .

11:00 AM: Although we are a men’s college basketball site, we feel that it’s appropriate to mention the passing of Kay Yow, the former NC State coach, to breast cancer (or more precisely complications related to breast cancer). We can’t really do justice to her impact on the women’s game so it’s probably better just to refer you to a chronology of her life.

11:10 AM: The Notre Dame GameDay crowd looks a lot larger than what I saw last weekend at UNC. I am not sure if it is just a bunch of camera tricks by the GameDay crew, but they definitely have more signs. It may be that UConn is much, much better than Miami was last week or that the UNC crowd may be a bit jaded, but the Chapel Hill crowd was not as into the GameDay experience as I expected them to be.

11:45 AM: Digger Phelps has been doing a good job of working the crowd, which he also did last week at Chapel Hill (even off camera), taking the homer pick of Luke Harangody as his choice of tough player after the other analysts picked Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, and Stephen Curry to boos. As expected the crowd went wild with Digger’s pick. A little later in the show, the crowd gave the stereotypical college crowd response to a Duke segment by chanting “overrated”. Not surprisingly, the analysts all defend Duke. Appropriately enough, Bobby Knight calls out the Notre Dame students by questioning their education. It looks like he is getting more comfortable with his role on ESPN.

11:50 AM: Another awful half-court shot. Where does ESPN find these guys? He deserved to be embarrassed like that on national TV for popping his collar. Someone should tell him that hasn’t been cool since. . .actually it has never been cool. Congrats on the airball.

Noon: Wow. All of the GameDay guys except Knight picked LSU to beat #13 Xavier. I guess it’s in Baton Rouge, but Xavier is definitely the better team. Least surprising pick of the day: Digger picks Notre Dame. Knight abstains from picking a team.

12:15 PM: Duke is off to a good start against Maryland after Jon Scheyer opens the game with two 3s. What’s going on with Brian Zoubek? He actually looks like a legitimate center today. I have seen him play several times this year and he certainly has improved from last year, but he has never played like this. If he can do this even for spurts this year, Duke might have a legitimate chance to win the title this year instead of their usual great regular season and flop in March.

12:20 PM: Villanova is tied at 10 with USF 6 minutes into the game. Dante Cunningham has 8 of Villanova’s 10 points. I don’t have much else to say about this game since I don’t have ESPN360 available since I am out of town. If anybody has this game on TV, let me know if anything interesting happens.

1:00 PM: Duke goes into halftime with a 25-point lead despite having one of the ugliest possessions I have ever seen to end the half. Do you remember when the Duke-Maryland games used to be the best games of the season? I still remember trying to figure out where I could go to watch the game on TV my freshman year of college. (My school didn’t believe in providing cable to dorm rooms.) Meanwhile in Tampa, Villanova is struggling against USF (tied at 32 at halftime).

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Set Your Tivos: 01.12.09 & 01.13.09

January 12, 2009

Set Your TivosBecause of the weak schedule the next two days, I’m doing a 2-for-1 edition of Set Your Tivos covering both Monday and Tuesday night for you today.

Monday
#13 Notre Dame at #20 Louisville at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: After a tough victory at Villanova on Saturday (best game of the day), Rick Pitino will be looking to have his Cardinals build on the momentum as the reigning Big East POY Luke Harangody comes to town. The Cardinals will have their hands full with the experience of the Fighting Irish to go along with the inside play of Harangody (24.5 PPG and 12.7 RPG) and the outside shooting of Kyle McAlarney (16.5 PPG on 46.3% from 3). While Harangody gets all the hype (for good reason), Mike Brey‘s chances of taking Notre Dame deep into March will likely ride on the shooting of McAlarney, who may be the best pure shooter in the nation (Stephen Curry fanatics: feel free to flame away in the comment section). However, the Irish’s chances tonight will depend on the play of PG Tory Jackson (11.8 PPG, 5.9 APG, and 4.5 RPG). If Jackson can outplay the enigmatic Edgar Sosa, Notre Dame has a good chance at pulling out a win tonight. If Sosa is having an off night, Louisville will need strong performances from their interior guys (Earl Clark, Samardo Samuels, and Terrence Williams) against Harangody and hope that McAlarney doesn’t go off. We keep waiting for Louisville to play to their “potential”. Will this be the night?

#11 Texas at #5 Oklahoma at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: A match-up of teams that couldn’t beat Arkansas. Blake Griffin will probably end up with another ridiculous 20/20 and Texas doesn’t have anybody who can match-up with (nobody in college does) so the Longhorns will need to focus on limiting Willie Warren (the diaper dandy who has been surprisingly consistent this season). If Rick Barnes wants to get the victory, he will need strong games out of A.J. Abrams and Damion James. [Side note: What is going on with Connor Atchley? His numbers are down across the board.] I’d like to give Texas a chance here with Abrams bouncing back from his awful effort against Arkansas, but I’m going to have to with the Sooners since Griffin is a double-double machine and my gut feeling that Warren will go off.

Tuesday
Memphis at Tulsa at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Tulsa remains a bit of a mystery with an 11-5 record, but their best player (and one of the best in Conference USA) Jerome Jordan has played very poorly in several of their losses. I’m not really expecting Tulsa to beat the Tigers here, but it will be interesting to see if anybody in Conference USA can challenge Memphis, who is down this year as Tyreke Evans hasn’t played to the level that many expected him to after all the hype that he has received.

Kentucky at Tennessee at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: It looks like these two disappointing teams will be battling for the SEC East title this year. Regardless of the relatively slow starts for both teams, this should be an interesting one from a rivalry perspective and whethere Kentucky’s dynamic duo of Jodie Meeks (24.2 PPG) and Patrick Patterson (18.9 PPG on a ridiculous 70.9% FG and 9.3 RPG) can do enough to match Tennessee’s superior depth (headed by Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism). I’d normally call this one a toss-up, but the home court should give the Vols the edge.


Checking in on the… Big 12

December 31, 2008

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

Current Records and my standings (Last Week)

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

A very bad week for the Big 12.  With about a week left in non-conference play, the cream of the crop is starting to shake out.   Kansas St. and Oklahoma St. did not play this week.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Texas (1-0 this week)—Texas rebounded after the loss to Michigan St. to take it out on another Big 10 team in the Wisconsin Badgers to get a nice road win.   The news in Texas is that former Florida guard Jai Lucas has chosen to transfer to Texas and will join the Longhorns.  It is still to be determined whether he needs to sit out a full year and become eligible for the 2nd half of next season or if he will be able to play right away.  I can’t see how he could be eligible for the beginning of next season, but stranger things have happened.

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ATB: Lumps of Coal for Xavier and Gonzaga

December 24, 2008

afterbuzzer1Bad Santas. Portland St. 77, Gonzaga 70. Santa Claus made an early visit to the environs of Cincinnati, OH, and Spokane, WA, tonight, but instead of leaving toys and treats for the tots of Xavier and Gonzaga Universities, respectively, he left a couple of lumps of coal and another undisclosed brownish substance in their stockings.  AP #7 Gonzaga and AP # 14 Xavier, both coming off of devastating Saturday losses (in different ways), were unable to shake off their hangovers from losses to UConn and Duke and instead dropped home games tonight that sent shocks throughout mid-major America.   The more surprising upset of the two took place out west, where Gonzaga was thoroughly outplayed by the scrappier, guttier Portland St. Vikings.  PSU was led by 5’6 Jeremiah Dominguez, who hit seven threes for a sick line of 25/6/5 assts.  Yes, a guy shorter than you outrebounded all but Gonzaga’s 6’11 Austin Daye (9 boards) and 6’10 Josh Heytvelt (8) in this game.  Portland St., who has losses to Hampton and Cal Poly on its resume, never wavered in the face of the superior athleticism and size of Gonzaga.  GU, should have come out ready to eat glass in this one, but instead they allowed their heartbreaking loss to UConn over the weekend to mentally affect their play tonight.  Would that have happened to UNC?  Pitt?  Duke?  UCLA?  Gonzaga needs to get tougher mentally.  Butler 74, Xavier 65. Wasn’t Butler supposed to be rebuilding this year?  Amazingly, eight of Brad Stevens’ top nine Bulldogs are freshmen and sophomores, whereas XU starts two juniors and one senior.  So how is it that Butler was able to come into the Cintas Center and earn a victory in a location where Xavier had won its last fifteen games?  Standard Butler-issue hardnosed defense and poise.  Butler was able to keep Xavier under control from three (7-24) while also winning the battle of ball control (-7 turnovers) in a tough game that Xavier will regret losing come March.  Matt Howard (19/14) and Gordon Hayward (19/10) both provided double-doubles, but the key stat of the game may have been Xavier’s 12-22 from the line.  The 198th best FT-shooting team in America didn’t help their cause tonight, several times failing to convert both FT opportunities down the stretch.  If Gonzaga and Xavier want to be taken seriously as “high mids” vying for the Final Four, they cannot afford to lose home games like these.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

December 23, 2008

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

Current Records and my standings (Last Week):

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

Most teams only played one game this week.  The holidays are a little slow for the Big 12 teams.  However what is starting to show is that this conference is wide open and it will be a  battle once conference play starts.  Oklahoma looks a little above the rest, but not much.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Texas A&M (3-0 this week)—Texas A&M is starting to make me a believer, winning 3 more games this week to move to 10-1.  With some solid wins now over Arizona, Alabama, and an undefeated LSU team, this team is building itself quite a resume.    Things are definitely going their way as they almost got themselves in a position to lose the LSU game, but a controversial call late in the game led to an LSU technical and A&M sealed the win.  They should get a win over Sam Houston St. this week.

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ATB: Weekend Review

December 22, 2008

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What a Saturday! We hope you had as much on Saturday as we did, sitting around in our sweats in front of a family member’s HD flatscreen while the wind pushed thermometers to nearly zero outside.  If there was ever a day for lazing around and watching nothing but college hoops, this was it.  And the games did not let us down.  From Minnesota to Gonzaga/Arizona St. to Xavier to Steph Curry, there were upsets, great finishes, shocking blowouts and a struggling all-american for good measure.

Game of the Year (to date). Connecticut 88, Gonzaga 83 (OT). For our money, the Connecticut-Gonzaga game in Seattle was the game of the year thus far.  Each team brought NBA-level talent and NCAA Tournament intensity to this one, and it took an extra period to finish it off.  We really felt as if we were watching a March game in December.  Both teams ran out to leads where they appeared the far superior team, and both teams made huge plays to get back into the game, capped off by a simply astounding three to send the game into OT by AJ Price (where he was floating left and had a man right in his face upon the release).  For large portions of this game, Gonzaga looked like a F4 team, with Austin Daye’s captivating talent (13/5) all over the court, Josh Heytvelt’s steady interior play (15/3) and Jeremy Pargo’s timely forays (16/4 assts) into the paint (not to mention Steven Gray’s 23/7/4 assts off the bench).   The Zag D held UConn to 43% shooting, while hitting half of its own shots, and yet, UConn showed a resolve and toughness that we haven’t seen out of a Calhoun team since Emeka Okafor left campus.  The Huskies really had no business pulling this game off, especially since big man Hasheem Thabeet spent the last fifth of the game on the bench in foul trouble, but team leader AJ Price (24/10 assts) kept finding penetration into the lane for easy looks and trips for his teammates to the foul line.  This was a take-notice game – we’ve been down on UConn until now because we still weren’t sure they had the chemistry and resolve to win six tough games in March.  Now we’ve taken notice.  UConn will go as far as Price takes them, and that could be all the way.  It wouldn’t surprise us at all to see a rematch of this game in Detroit in April.

Upset of the Weekend. Minnesota 70, Louisville 64. Ok, Louisville is officially the most disappointing team in America right now.  We sensed something was wrong with them the last couple of times we watched them play (and that’s not even including the WKU loss), but the Minnesota game proved to us that this is a team without a soul right now.  The Cards have enough pure talent to compete with any team in college basketball, but they don’t seem to want to give the effort that it takes to do so.  And the Edgar Sosa situation has every hallmark of another exceptional talent crawling into a hole and dying under Pitino’s tutelage (we’re channelling Rodrick Rhodes here) – it’s amazing just how ineffective he has become.  As for Minnesota, they’re now 11-0 and this was the signature win the Gophers needed to announce that Tubby Smith is once again building a competitive program.  The Gophers played hard, held Louisville to 38% shooting, and made all the right plays down the stretch to secure the win (when UL crept back within four pts).  Tubby has now won his last four games against his mentor, and suddenly the Big 10 is looking a lot stronger than it did a month ago.

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Set Your Tivos: Super Saturday Edition

December 20, 2008

Super Saturday is a term usually reserved for the final Saturday of the US Open where the two men’s semifinals and the women’s final are played, but this Saturday of college basketball trumps any day at Flushing Meadows (unless we could somehow get a Kournikova-Ivanovic final). Normally I would cover all the interesting games on the docket, but today is so good that I’m only going to cover the ones featuring ranked teams matched up against each other.

No naps this Saturday afternoon

No naps this Saturday afternoon

The Undercard: On any other Saturday, these games would be the headliners, but today they are merely an appetizer to get you ready for the even bigger match-ups to follow.
#22 Michigan State at #5 Texas at 2 PM on CBS: Tom Izzo’s Spartans come into Saturday badly in need of a victory against a quality foe. Although Michigan State comes in with a respectable record of 7-2, they have been underwhelming and certainly nowhere near the level they were predicted to be coming into the season (AP #5 back on November 24th). On the other side, the Longhorns have been surprisingly strong with their only loss coming against Notre Dame (81-80) in what was the best game of the Maui Invitational. Texas has responded well to the setback with wins over 2 ranked teams in December (UCLA and Villanova). The last time Michigan State played a team of this caliber was in their much-anticipated match-up against UNC (clearly Texas isn’t quite at that level), they were blown off the court in a virtual home game. Tom Izzo will need a big game from Raymar Morgan and hope that his defense can contain A.J. Abrams and Damion James if he hopes to steal one in Austin.

#20 Davidson vs. #18 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS: Both teams are all but assured of NCAA tournament bids. However, neither team has a signature win yet. Davidson certainly has the marquee value with national POY contender Stephen Curry, but they lost their only game against a ranked team (82-78 at #14 Oklahoma on November 18th). While the Wildcats can hardly be faulted for losing a road game against Blake Griffin and the Sooners, it still leaves them without a win they would need to merit a potential 5 seed or better. If they are unable to win today in Indianapolis, their only other chance to beat a top 25 team will be on January 7th against Duke at Cameron (ESPN might be hyping that game a little bit in the time leading up to the BCS title game). The Boilermakers are in a similar situation albeit without a star anywhere close to the level of Curry. The Boilermakers lost their only games against ranked teams back-to-back (87-82 in OT against Oklahoma on November 28th and 76-60 at home against Duke on December 2nd) and after tomorrow they don’t have a game against a currently ranked team until February 3rd against Ohio State. This game will likely come down to how well the Boilermakers can contain Curry (31.9 PPG and 6.8 APG) and limit his sidekick on the inside Andrew Lovedale (13.9 PPG and 10.7 RPG). The Boilermakers will counter with a much more balanced attack (4 players averaging between 9.9 and 15.6 PPG).

National POY?

National POY?

#11 Syracuse at #21 Memphis at 6 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Orangemen (other than Jim Boeheim) responded well to their crushing loss at the buzzer on Monday night. However, they will be without Eric Devendorf for at least 2 games so Jonny Flynn will have to hope that Paul Harris and/or Arinze Onuaku can pick up the slack as John Calipari will almost certainly be focusing on Flynn on the perimeter. The Tigers could use a quality win here as they have lose both of the games they have played against quality opponents (Xavier and Georgetown). Tyreke Evans and Shawn Taggert will need to play well, but this is a game that the Tigers should win.

The Title Bouts: These games are as good as you will find any time this season (in-conference or out-of-conference) until we get to March.
#7 Xavier vs. #6 Duke at 2 PM on CBS: Although this game is a “neutral” site game and quite far away from North Carolina, East Rutherford, New Jersey has become a de facto home for Coach K and the Blue Devils over the past 20 years. Despite that edge, I don’t think Coach K will be starting his bench (including everybody’s favorite whipping boy Greg Paulus) like he did in the Blue Devils last game against UNC-Asheville. Sean Miller didn’t have quite the same luxury in Xavier’s last game as they had to fight hard to beat crosstown rival Cincinnati 76-66 a week ago. Both teams rely on a balanced scoring attack, but the outcome of the game will likely be decided by Duke’s ability to hit the 3. The Blue Devils don’t shoot a particularly high percentage from 3 (32% for the season), but they are such high-volume shooters (20.6 attempts per game compared to 15.3 attempts per game for the Musketeers) that it becomes a major factor in all of their games. Their only loss this year was their rematch against Michigan in Ann Arbor where they opened the game hitting 3 of their first 27 attempts for 3 point range before hitting 4 in a row late to close the gap. The key match-up in this game should be Kyle Singler versus Derrick Brown, which should be interesting to watch if Singler tries to pull Brown away from the basket with his outside shooting. This should be a close game, but look for Duke to win this one as they have had a tendency to pull out big games before conference play starts.

#2 UConn vs. #7 Gonzaga at 4 PM on CBS: This game could have very easily been a 2-4 match-up if Gonzaga hadn’t slipped up last week against Arizona in Tucson. One of the interesting subplots, which I’m sure that CBS will cover repeatedly, is that it was match-up that introduced the nation to Gonzaga basketball less than 10 years ago and propelled UConn to its first Final 4 trip. While I remember the game for its significance for Gonzaga’s program, I had completely forgotten that it gave UConn its first Final 4 trip ever (won the title that year in a nail-bitter over Trajan Langdon’s Blue Devils). This Gonzaga team is significantly different than the one you might see on ESPN Classic. They are no longer just the team that relies on exceptional skill and execution. Now they have the athletes to compete with anybody in the nation. However, UConn has been playing better than anyone in the nation not wearing baby blue so Gonzaga will have its hands full trying to keep up with the Huskies, who have a balanced scoring attack led by Jerome Dyson, Hasheem Thabeet, and Jeff Adrien. Dyson leads the Huskies in scoring at 15.4 PPG and provides Jim Calhoun with a versatile one-on-one scorer. Thabeet, his counterpart on the inside, has finally started to show some of the promise that has had NBA scouts salivating over him in the past as he has started to score on a consistent basis to compliment his always strong defensive presence. The one area that the Huskies need to improve upon if they want to compete for the national title (read: challenge UNC) is for A.J. Price to step up as an elite college PG. His 35% FG and 36% FT isn’t going to cut it in March and may even be a liability in Big East play, which may be more competitive than the NCAA tournament itself on a nightly basis. The Bulldogs have also been playing exceptionally well this year with the exception of their loss last week to Arizona last week. They also come in with a balanced attack, but they are led by PG Jeremy Pargo whose scoring is slightly down (12.1 PPG to 8.9 PPG) from the past 2 season as he has focused more on running the team (3.4 assist:turnover ratio compared to 1.8 last year). To beat the Huskies, Mark Few will need everybody–Pargo, Austin Daye, Josh Heytvelt, and Matt Bouldin–to be near the top of their games. In the end, the Huskies depth and superior interior defense will probably be too much for Gonzaga to overcome.

Tyler who?

Tyler who?


ATB: Jimmy V Classic

December 10, 2008

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Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up. We’re old enough to have watched the Jimmy V speech live in 1993, and it remains one of our two or three favorite speeches we’ve ever heard.  As someone whose own family has been impacted by the scourge that is cancer, we’re very supportive of this annual Classic and the Jimmy V Foundation, which has raised over $80M to fight cancer in the fifteen years since its inception.  We have no doubt that these dollars are helping, as many forms of cancer are becoming much more manageable and treatable; but there is still much left to do, and we can only hope that someday in the next generation we’ll all be watching the Jimmy V speech together and wonder in muted awe how such a disease could have taken so many lives.  So oblige us… give the speech one more viewing this year, and think about ways you can help, whether it’s time, money, karma or prayer.

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Checking in on the… Big 12

December 8, 2008

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

Current Records and my standings (Last Week):

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

A light week for the Big 12 as most teams only played once and it was their game in the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood Series where the Big 12 dominated.

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ATB: Blake Griffin Wasn’t Using Those Anyway*

December 5, 2008

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*

Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Challenge. We’d hoped to have gotten a preview up on these games this afternoon, but we were epically busy today, so it didn’t happen.  Nevertheless, we probably would have chosen UCLA, USC and Oklahoma St.  But we have to say that the two marquee games tonight were considerably more interesting than the premier games of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge the last two nights (Duke v. Purdue and UNC v. Michigan St.).  We had the good fortune to watch both of these game in their entirety.

  • Oklahoma 73, USC 72. As soon as you’re prepared to completely right off Tim Floyd and his Trojans, they have a game like this where it makes you reconsider every lackadaisical stereotype that you held about his team.  Of course, the stereotype for punkish behavior – yep, still got that one.  We’re sure you’ve already seen it, but in case you haven’t, USC freshman goon forward Leonard Washington introduced himself to all-world Blake Griffin with a rogue elbow to the family jewels as they ran upcourt in the second half (see below).  He was ejected for the manuever, but Griffin was forced to leave the game for a while, whereupon USC immediately started cutting into the 6-8 pt lead.  The game remained tight until the very end, when OU made just enough FTs to hang on.  USC competed well in the hostile environment, though, shooting 50% from the field and 8-11 from three; Dwight Lewis had 25 and Taj Gibson chipped in a double-double (12/10).  Most importantly, even though Griffin still had 25 pts, OU kept him off the boards to the tune of 6 total (13 below his average) and  only 1 offensive, so limiting those second-chances helped keep the Trojans in the game.
  • Texas 68, UCLA 64. When these two teams get together, you can count on physical defense, high-flying athletes, and (usually) a bricklayer’s convention.  That was pretty much the case tonight, as the two teams combined for 50-122 (40.9%) from the field and 16-29 (55.2%) from the line.  Still, the duel between all-american guards Darren Collison and AJ Abrams was well worth the price of admission.  Early in the game it appeared that Collison was going to shoot 70% for the remainder of the season, as everything he threw up was hitting the bottom of the net.  But it was Abrans who had the last laugh again this year, as his huge three with just under three minutes remaining gave Texas a more comfortable six-point lead and forced UCLA to begin rushing possessions.  Damion James added 13/13 for Texas, but UCLA is going to have to get more help for its upperclassmen from their uber-hyped freshmen (1-12) tonight.  Their rookie quintet will ultimately determine the success of their season.
  • Washington 83, Oklahoma St. 65. UW is difficult to figure this year.  They’ve looked downright awful at times, and like a tournament team others.  Tonight was the latter, as Jon Brockman dropped 16/11 in the home win.  What has happened to OSU’s James Anderson?  Big things were expected for this sophomore guard, but in his last four games he’s put up only 11ppg on 14-44 shooting.

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ATB: Stephen Curry “Held” Scoreless

November 26, 2008

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Indiana & Kelvin Sanctions (cont.). The big news of the day was of course that Indiana managed to avoid postseason sanctions even though they’ll formally be on probation for the next three seasons.  Kelvin Sampson, to his credit, took responsibility for the complete lack of oversight at Indiana ‘while on his watch,’ but at least once Tom Crean gets this program moving in the right direction again, the Hoosiers won’t also be burdened by the crimson scarlet letter of postseason sanctions.  Recruits can still be sold on the basis of playing in the postseason at Indiana (although admittedly, that seems farfetched at this point, even within three years).  Sampson is now working for the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant, but he’s now effectively barred from coaching in the NCAA for the next five years as part of a ‘show cause’ restriction (a school would have to show cause for the NCAA to allow it to hire him).  Frankly, this seems to us like a penalty that was ‘easy’ for the NCAA to prove, but one that doesn’t necessarily fit when we know of so many other obvious recruiting violations that are simply untidy for prosecution and therefore ignored.

Games of the Night. We had two great games today, for the first time all season.

  • Notre Dame 81, Texas 80. This game was nearly everything we expected, and a little more (featured by Justin Mason, below).  Notre Dame was led by Luke Harangody’s 29/13 and a 40-footer at the shot clock expiration to what seemed like a solid win with a minute to go, up 79-71.  Then the bricks started – Tory Jackson missed two from the line; Zach Hillesland missed two from the line; then Harongody missed both with five seconds left, leaving the door open for Texas to win the game with a two (ND was only up 81-80 at that time).  Luckily for Notre Dame, AJ Abrams’ 60-footer at the buzzer was just a bit short (but right online).  Good performances abound – ND’s Kyle McAlarney had 19/5 including five threes, and Texas’ was led by AJ Abrams’ 23/5 and Damion James 11/12.  Both of these teams are top ten worthy, in our opinion, and we expect Notre Dame to give Carolina all they want tomorrow evening.
  • Syracuse 89, Kansas 81 (OT). This was a phenomenal game with enough eye-popping plays to cause Beetlejuice to take notice.  Kansas appeared as if they were going to blow the game open in the mid-second half until Jim Boeheim changed his trapping defense up and seemingly stole the ball a dozen straight times for dunks and layups.  This 13-2 run led to a tight game down the stretch which was capped by Jonny Flynn’s (25/5 assts) dagger three with 6.4 seconds remaining (see below) to effectively send the game to overtime.  Cuse continued its hot shooting in the OT – Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf combined for six threes in the game – and KU appeared to lose its confidence in the extra period.  KU’s Cole Aldrich (15/14) and SU’s Arinze Onuaku (19/12) both showed a strong skill set in the post as each tried to one-up the other during the game.  Both of these teams are going to be very good this season.

What’s Wrong with Steph Curry? Davidson 78, Loyola (MD) 48. Nothing, that’s what.  As in Steph Curry put up a donut tonight in the points column (get a good look below because we doubt you’ll ever see it again).  The word is that Loyola head man Jimmy Patsos strategized to take Curry completely out of the game by double-teaming him on every offensive possession, anywhere he went on the court.  Curry, happy to let his teammates play every possession 4-on-3, stood in the corner and watched as they got open look after open look (14 threes went down).  Remember, Jimmy Patsos is the coach who decided to leave the bench last week during a game to sit in the stands.  We’re starting to seriously worry that he could be losing his mind.  We’re not sure if a player averaging over 35ppg has ever had a scoreless game, but jeez, Steph, what happened on the three shots you missed?

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