ATB: Misery in Missouri

February 9, 2009

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Some News & Notes.

Your Gigantic Monday.

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

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST).

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

Checking in on the… Big 12

February 9, 2009

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

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

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

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Behind the Lines – Week 8

February 9, 2009

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

Monday, February 9th

West Virginia at Pittsburgh(5)

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

Kansas(24) at Missouri

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

Tuesday, February 10th

Marquette(8) at Villanova(16)

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

Oklahoma St. at Texas(17)


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

Wednesday, February 11th

Syracuse(20) at Connecticut(1)

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

Xavier(9) at Dayton

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

North Carolina(4) at Duke(3)

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

Thursday, February 12th

Louisville(7) at Notre Dame

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

UCLA(12) at Arizona St.(23)

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


Weekly Bracketology – 02.09.09

February 8, 2009

A few notes:

  • As you’ll notice, I included a comment about each and every team in the bracket. I’ll be doing this in each of my final four brackets (2/16, 2/23, 3/2 and 3/7) as we head towards Selection Sunday.
  • Expect a Bubble Watch post from me on Thursday updating the current bubble picture, a feature that will run very similar to ESPN’s weekly bubble watch.
  • As always, any questions/comments/complaints about this week’s bracket, feel free to comment.

Automatic Bids: Boston University, Xavier, North Carolina, East Tennessee State, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Weber State, VMI, Michigan State, Long Beach State, Northeastern, Memphis, Butler, Princeton, Siena, Buffalo, Morgan State, Northern Iowa, San Diego State, Robert Morris, Morehead State, UCLA, Holy Cross, LSU, Davidson, Sam Houston State, Alabama State, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State

Last Four In: Arizona, Miami, Nebraska, Michigan
Last Four Out: Wisconsin, BYU, UNLV, Kansas State
Next Four Out: Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Providence, Penn State
Also Considered: Georgetown, Texas A&M, Baylor, Creighton, Maryland, Saint Mary’s, Northwestern, Tulsa

020809-bracketology

1 Seeds

  • Connecticut- The #1 overall seed and #1 team in the polls, Connecticut boasts 6 wins against the top 50 and still has two contests against Pittsburgh remaining on the schedule.
  • Oklahoma– The Sooners have the most wins vs. the top 100 (15) of any team, but only 1 of those victories has come vs. the top 25. They’re the #2 overall seed.
  • North Carolina– The projected ACC champion has continued to win while Duke and Wake Forest slipped up multiple times. The showdown with Duke on Wednesday is for a #1 seed.
  • Pittsburgh– Despite two conference losses, Pitt garners the final #1 seed due to their #2 RPI, 4 wins vs. the top 25 and a much stronger non-conference resume than Louisville.

2 Seeds

  • Duke– Despite the throttling by Clemson, Duke still owns the top overall RPI and have 7 wins against the RPI top 50. They can reclaim the ACC automatic bid this week.
  • Louisville– A sexy 9-1 Big East record and 4 wins vs. the RPI top 25 keep Louisville a comfortable 2. They should watch out for pesky Notre Dame this week.
  • Michigan State– The projected Big Ten champion has stayed the same all season- Michigan State. A 7 RPI, 6 SOS and comfortable lead over Ohio State and Illinois means they should stay there.
  • Marquette– The final #2 seed goes to the fourth Big East team in the field already- Marquette. They slipped in Tampa but still 9-1 and 20 wins overall is enough to grab the honor.

Read the rest of this entry »


ATB: What We Learned

February 8, 2009

afterbuzzerWeekend Wrap.  We did a pretty good job of keeping up with most of this weekend’s key games in semi-real time in our Boom Goes the Dynamite series (Saturday and Sunday), so with this weekend’s ATB we decided to test our viewing comprehension and determine what we learned over two days of high-level hoops.

  • The Mess in the Middle of the ACC. The Noles’ comeback win at Clemson put them at 5-3 in the conference, tied with Wake, Clemson and Virginia Tech at the halfway point.  Throw in Miami (4-6), who lost a heartbreaker at Duke but proved itself as more than capable in its previous outing against Wake last week, and you’ve got five ACC teams (Maryland too) fighting for anywhere from 2-4 more bids to the NCAA Tournament.  All but Maryland already have a marquee win and everyone but the Terps also have a top 50 RPI rating.  BC, with only two road games remaining, and Miami, with only one game left against the top four of UNC, Duke, Wake, and Clemson, appear most well positioned to take advantage down the stretch.
  • Marquette is a good, not great, team. The Golden Eagles benefited from a fortuitous Big East slate of opponents that averages #85 in KenPom’s ratings to date, with their best wins coming against Villanova and WVU at home.   Regardless of South Florida’s upset win on Friday night, their fortunes were poised to change, as six of their final eight games are against the KenPom top 35, four of which are on the road.  We love how Jerel McNeal is playing, and Buzz Williams should be commended for their 20-3 (9-1) record, but we’re afraid that their marginally effective defense will catch up with them in the last few weeks of the season.
  • Short of a miracle run, Georgetown and Notre Dame are officially DOA. ND’s best win all season is a one-point win over Texas in Maui, and it’s second-best win?  Probably fellow Big East swooner Georgetown.  The Irish have dropped seven Big East games in a row in all shapes and sizes, its RPI is at 81, and they just got humiliated on national tv by UCLA (including a putrid 5/1 effort from their usually consistent dub-dub machine, Luke Harangody).  So what’s wrong?  Put simply, they don’t play defense: the Irish are currently ranked #276 in the nation.  At 3-7 in the Big East, ND has eight more games to turn this wreck around, and they probably need to win a minimum of six of those to just get back on the bubble.  Highly unlikely.  In our mind, the Georgetown collapse is even more confounding because of the pieces they have on that team with Wright, Summers and Monroe.  Still, the Hoyas have dropped six of seven after their OT loss vs. Cincy on Saturday, and sit barely above ND in the conference standings (4-7).  There are seven games remaining on their schedule, and JT3’s team must win all three against the bottom-dwellers and split the remainder to get to 9-9.  With a strongish RPI (36), Georgetown is in better shape than its Catholic friends to the west, but the Hoyas simply cannot afford another slip-up (and in fact, they need a couple of upsets down the stretch to feel safe).
  • UCLA is showing signs of making another run. Behind Alfred Aboya’s rise (15/8 over his last four games), the Bruins suddenly have the look of a team where things are starting to click for Ben Howland.  The upcoming road trip to the Arizona schools may tell the tale, but UCLA’s last four opponents were beaten down with highly efficient offense.  You can always count on UCLA to defend, so what might stand in the way of a fourth straight trip to the Final Four for UCLA?  Probably only the lack of a go-to scorer who they can count on for instant points.  Regardless, those who wrote off UCLA around midseason will likely regret that decision.
  • Memphis shouldn’t be forgotten.  It was easy to write off John Calipari’s Tigers after losing all the players they lost from last year’s national runner-up team, but much like Bill Self’s Kansas team, there were plenty of pieces on that bench to make another run.  We don’t expect this version of Memphis to make it back to the F4, but they could definitely play into the regional round.  Their dismantling of Gonzaga in Spokane Saturday night was nothing short of masterful.  Gonzaga hadn’t seen defense like that all year long (incl. Connecticut), and they’re getting just enough offense from the troika of Tyreke Evans, Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier to keep teams honest.  Watch out for this Memphis team next month.

Some News & Notes.

On Tap Monday (all times EST). Just a couple of Big Monday game border wars.

  • West Virginia @ Pittsburgh (ESPN) – 7pm.  In the last matchup, a 12-pt win by Pitt on 1/25, the Panthers hit 55% behind Sam Young’s 22 and Dejuan Blair’s 16/11.  As long as DB is on the floor, the Panthers should be ok in this one.
  • Kansas @ Missouri (ESPN) – 9pm.  KU brings its 8-0 Big 12 record to Columbia, where Mizzou if 14-0 and it’s clear that Mike Anderson has finally turned the corner with his style of play there.  While we know that Kansas isn’t anywhere near as good as last year’s team, they’re playing very well and Mizzou will have to bring its best tomorrow night to get this win.

Shameless Plug.

  • Keep an eye out for RTC Live returning on Tuesday night of this week, as Clemson visits Boston College at 9pm EST.  Rush the Court will be courtside live-blogging the game, and you will have a chance to submit questions so that we can ask coaches and players whatever you like.  Yes, you will even be able to ask Oliver Purnell to explain his reaction to this atrocity.

ATB: Wed. Night of Blowouts

February 4, 2009

afterbuzzer1Story of the Night. Life on the road can be pretty tough in the ACC.  Top ten teams Duke and Wake Forest were both obliterated by Clemson and Miami (FL), respectively. It’s not often that two top 10 teams get destroyed on the same evening.

  • Clemson 74, Duke 47. If we wanted to be succinct, we’d just point you to today’s post suggesting the Duke Swoon was about to begin.  Still, the sheer dominance that Clemson showed over Duke tonight was shocking.  Unlike their Tobacco Road brethren in W-S, Duke doesn’t typically get run out of the gym.  Yet the Tigers did just that, and handed the Devils their worst loss in 19 seasons as a result.  Everything that Clemson did seemed to be the right manuever, and everything Duke tried seemed to be the wrong one.   It’s just one game, but the fact of the matter is that Duke is once again a flawed team (no inside game and limited offensive options), and we’re afraid they’re going to see several more of these Ls in February/March than they had in the previous months.  Clemson’s Trevor Booker had 21/8 in a ridunkulous performance, and Terrence Oglesby added 17 on five threes.
  • Miami (FL) 79, Wake Forest 52. It’s official, there’s something seriously wrong with this Deacon squad, and it’s not just that they can’t shoot threes (last in the nation in % of points from threes).  Anybody can have an off night, but Wake has now had three “off” nights in their last four games, and it’s not like the competition was Duke or Carolina (WFU is outstanding at getting up for those teams).  Our best guess is that there are players following NBA agendas, because the talent is such that this team shouldn’t be losing by 27 to anybody.  The question is whether they can get their chemistry back and look like the same team that won at BYU, at Clemson and vs. UNC.  Otherwise, this team is going nowhere fast.  Miami’s Jack McClinton blew up for 32 pts (6-10 from three) as the Canes’ 2-3 zone held Wake to 32% shooting (15% from three).  There was an RTC at the end of the game by the Miami students, made somewhat pathetic by the fact that the arena was half-empty.

One Blowout and Two Close Games.

  • Michigan St. 76, Minnesota 47. MSU came out with a vengeance tonight after losing its last two home games to the likes of Northwestern and Penn St.  Durrell Summers had 21 pts, but it was the Spartan defense that did the job, holding Minnesota’s starters to five total FGs for the game, and running out to a 42-16 halftime lead.  It was a night to forget for Minnesota, but both of these teams are in solid shape with respect to the NCAA Tourney.
  • Oklahoma 77, Texas A&M 71. OU just keeps doing what it does, although tonight with five minutes to go it appeared that A&M had their number.  With a nine-point lead, the Aggies decided it would be a good idea to start chucking random jumpers from all over the floor.  Very quickly Oklahoma came back, secured the lead again and finished off A&M to the tune of a 16-1 run.  Blake Griffin had 16/14 in the win that puts OU at 8-0 in the Big 12.
  • Missouri 69, Texas 65. This is the kind of road win that would have been unthinkable for Mike Anderson’s program just last season.  But this year, Mizzou has proven thus far that it can play with much of the Big 12, and at 19-4 (6-2) are right there in the mix should Oklahoma and/or Kansas falter down the stretch.  Missouri’s Zaire Taylor had the game-winning three-point play with five seconds remaining, but we should also note that UT’s Dexter Pittman had the best game of his career (25/7 in 23 minutes).

Other Games From Wednesday Night.

  • Indiana 68, Iowa 60. IU gets its first Big Ten win of the year (and in two months) by holding off Iowa behind Devan Dumes’ 27 pts.  Good for Tom Crean’s crew.
  • UCLA 76, USC 60. This game got ugly fast (44-21 at halftime), and UCLA coasted the rest of the way behind Alfred Aboya’s 14/12 and Josh Shipp’s 19 pts.
  • Syracuse 74, West Virginia 61. WVU is the kind of team that will cause somebody fits in the first round of the NCAAs (assuming they get there), but Syracuse had no problem tonight at home behind twin 22-pt performances from Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf.
  • Boston College 80, Virginia 70. UVa is officially the whipping boy of the ACC – believe it or not, BC is now tied in the loss column (3 Ls) for second place in the conference.
  • UNC-Wilmington 81, VCU 72. First big upset in the CAA tonight, as 2-9 UNCW defeated conference #2 VCU behind Chad Tomko’s 19/6/6 assts.
  • William & Mary 68, Northeastern 63. Ditto for this one, as 1-10 W&M beat 10-1 Northeastern.  Crazy night in the CAA.
  • LSU 80, Georgia 62. You know you have problems when LSU is going into your house and whipping you.  Marcus Thornton had 30 for the Bayou Tigers.
  • Cincinnati 93, Notre Dame 83. Is it safe to officially put a fork in the Irish, now losers of six in a row?  At 3-7 in the Big East, they have a herculean task ahead of them.  ‘Gody had 28/14, his 11th straight dub-dub, but Deonta Vaughn killed them for 34 pts on the other end.
  • Villanova 94, Providence 91. Villanova keeps winning the games it’s supposed to win, which is a must in this rugged conference.  Scottie Reynolds had 31/6 in this one where the Cats held on despite PC’s 17 threes.
  • Tennessee 74, Arkansas 72. JP Prince had several clutch shots down the stretch of this one to keep the Hawgs from getting their second SEC win – they really need to schedule more Big 12 teams.
  • Memphis 79, SMU 66. Memphis won its fiftieth CUSA game in a row behind Tyreke Evans’ 26 pts.  Is there a Death Watch on Matt Doherty at SMU – they’re now 6-14 (1-7 CUSA) with literally no sign of improvement (30-51 overall; 8-32 CUSA).

Checking in on the… Big 12

February 2, 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 (21-1)(7-0) (1)
  2. Kansas (17-4)(6-0) (3)
  3. Missouri (18-4) (5-2) (4)
  4. Texas (15-5) (4-2) (2)
  5. Texas A&M (17-5) (3-4) (7)
  6. Baylor (15-6) (3-4) (5)
  7. Nebraska (13-7) (3-4) (9)
  8. Kansas St. (14-7) (3-4)(11)
  9. Oklahoma St. (13-7) (2-4) (6)
  10. Iowa St. (12-9) (1-5) (10)
  11. Texas Tech (11-10) (1-5)(8)
  12. Colorado (8-10) (1-5) (12)

Read the rest of this entry »


Conference Over- and Underachievers

January 28, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.  His column appears on Tuesdays throughout the season.

All right, now we’re talking.  We’re several games into conference play, now, and the leagues are starting to take shape.  We’ve known the fates of some teams for a long time, both the good (your Carolinas and Dukes, Oklahomas and UConns, etc), and the bad (no need to pile on, here).  The most interesting part of it all, to me, are those teams which are doing a little better than they expected and may be making tenuous hotel reservations for a very large dance in March…and others that are becoming quickly aware that they are only one or two losses away from being tossed into the dustbin of NIT-worthiness.  Even worse, many squads are realizing that they may not even have THAT to worry about, that there will be no post-season, that the only thing they have waiting on them after the basketball season is over is — horror of horrors — going to class.

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Many teams know this is all they have to look forward to in March. (photo credit: photobucket.com)

So who’s not behaving like we expected?  Who has both surprised and disappointed us, in terms of conference play?  Without further delay, I give you…our early-conference edition of Over- and Underachievers.

ACC

Overachiever:  Virginia Tech (14-5, 4-1)

As much as their win over then-#1 Wake Forest turned heads, I think people were just as surprised (at least I was) that they avoided the usual post-big-victory letdown by going to Miami (FL) four days after the Wake win and knocking off what I still think is a very capable Hurricane squad.  I know it’s early.  But right now it’s the Hokies who sit second in the conference, a game behind new national #1 Duke.  Victories like the ones they’ve enjoyed so far can sometimes set the tone for a great season, or they can make you overconfident so that you screw up the rest of your conference schedule.  We’ll see how far they can take it, but you’ve got to give them props to this point.

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Greenberg and Vassallo, Overachievers. (photocredit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Georgia Tech (9-10, 0-6)

Whew.  What happened here?  After starting 7-2, something happened just before Christmas and the Jackets just haven’t gotten up from it.  Maybe the competition just got a little better, but with all the talent on this team and a coach like Paul Hewitt there’s just no excuse for going one-for-2009.  Their only victory of this year?  A 5-point win at home against Georgia, a bottom-feeder team in a terrible SEC.  To be completely honest, I’m already tired of talking about them.  Maybe next year Derrick Favors will bring the antidote this program needs.

Big 12

Overachiever:  Missouri (17-3, 4-1)

Hands up, who had Missouri at 17-3 after 20 games?  Yeah, me neither.  The Tigers have great individual talent but have succeeded this year by being the epitome of unselfishness, which has led to efficiency.  They average 19.4 assists per game (2nd nationally), just a ridiculous number.  The only question mark…only three true away games so far.  Probably the only reason they aren’t well-entrenched in the Top 25 right now.

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Missouri’s DeMarre Carroll, a large human, happy about overachieving. (photo credit: daylife.com)

Underachiever:  Texas A&M (15-5, 1-4)

That 14-1 start was lookin’ pretty good, then conference play started.  12 assists per game just isn’t going to get it done (248th in the nation).  Donald Sloan averages the most dimes per game on this team at a mere 3.2.  We’re pretty sure Mark Turgeon is a fine coach, but right now the Aggies are giving the NCAA Tournament committee reasons to deny them entry in March.  They’d best learn to stay afloat for the rest of Big 12 play.

Big East

Overachiever:  Marquette (18-2, 7-0)

Winners of 10 straight.  RPI of 15.  7-0 in a monster conference.  The coolest thing about Marquette is that they’ll beat you any way you wish to get beaten — they can play slow, half-court basketball and cut you to pieces, and they’re also more than happy to outrun you and get it up near triple-digits.  And Monday night was telling — I bet Maurice Acker followed Kyle McAlarney to class today.  McAlarney couldn’t have gotten have rid of him even if he’d cut the brake lines on Acker’s car.  The Jerel McNeal/Wesley Matthews/Lazar Hayward three-headed monster has turned into one of the most fearsome in the game.  DO NOT forget this team when filling out your bracket in the office pool in a month and a half.

Underachiever:  Seton Hall (10-9, 1-6)

The Pirates raised some eyebrows when they started off 9-3 including wins versus Southern Cal and Virginia Tech, and then — sense a trend, here? — conference play began.  Boom, six straight losses.  I think the Georgetown game really showed us something closer to who the real Seton Hall team is, but this conference is going to end up being just too vicious overall for them.

SEC

Overachiever:  Kentucky (16-4, 5-0)

According to a number of my Wildcat connections, before this season, UK supporters were basically ready to give Billy Gillispie another “free-pass” sort of season, inasmuch as a coach can actually have that at Kentucky.  Doesn’t look like Gillispie needs it.  This team is an interesting statistical mix.  They rank 3rd in the country in FG% (50.2%) and 2nd nationally in FT% (79%).  We know about the potency of the Jodie Meeks/Patrick Patterson tandem.  Defensively, they hold opponents to 36.4% a game from the field, which is 3rd best in the nation; and they rank second in the country in blocks per game with 7.5 (and, oddly, second in the conference as well behind Mississippi State’s 8.0/game).  So…great offense, great defense…what’s the problem?  Well, how about 18.1 turnovers per game?  That’s 338th out of 341 Division One teams.  Egad.  Nobody — even Kentucky fans, I don’t think — saw Kentucky improving this fast with so many unknowns starting the year.  Clean up the turnovers and you’re a top five team.

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Class of the SEC? We’ll see… (photo credit: daylife.com)

[Ed. note:  since this was written, Kentucky was defeated by Mississippi on Tuesday night to give UK its first loss in the conference and take them to 5-1.  I think, however, that UK still qualifies for Overachiever status in the SEC so far for reasons outlined above.   –J.S.]

Underachiever:  Arkansas (12-5, 0-4)

If you look at the win-loss pattern on Arkansas’ schedule, you’d say, “Yep, conference play, again.”  I don’t think you can’t say that, here.  It’s baffling, because in an eight-day span less than a month ago, John Pelphrey’s Razorback squad knocked off both Texas and Oklahoma, not exactly a couple of pansies.  It makes absolutely no sense that beginning conference play in a WAY-down SEC (6th in conference RPI, and probably falling) would cause Arkansas any problems at all, but here they sit at 0-4 in the conference, including an inexcusable 22-point home court butt-smoking at the hands of Auburn.  Arkansas is another team that is just loaded with great athletes, and if they straighten up a little the committee will remember those two earlier big wins.  Arkansas reminds me of Avril Levigne.  I’m pretty sure there’s something attractive there…but they’re doing whatever they possibly can to screw it up and make themselves ugly.

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Avril has a message for Mr. Stevens (photo credit: radaronline.com)

This is not a complete list, by any means.  But I think it shows us how breezing through questionable non-conference opponents might not be the best recipe to impress the committee, as attractive as it is to post a nice big number in the pre-conference ‘W’ column.  Everyone knows that late losses simply mean more, that the committee likes you to finish strong.  You can’t allow yourself to be a conference underachiever.  Conference play will give you a bellyache if all you’ve been doing is loading up on cupcakes.


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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Bracketology: Never Too Early Edition V

January 19, 2009

As always, a few notes to consider as you scavenge the bracket:

  • Two of the four top seeds were clear: Wake Forest as the #1 overall and their ACC counterpart Duke. The other two were to go to conference champions, meaning North Carolina is out of the running even though you could make the case they’re the 3rd best team in the country. As strong as the Big East is this season, their projected champion deserves the nod. Pittsburgh receives the slight edge and the third #1 over Connecticut because Pitt’s one loss (@Louisville) is a tad less regretful than UConn’s (vs. Georgetown). Big 12 champion Oklahoma barely edges Big Ten champion Michigan State with one less game in the loss column for the final #1 seed. Spartan fans won’t be quite as upset once they see the bracket.
  • You may be asking: How can Georgetown with 2 Big East losses receive a #2 seed, while 4-0 Louisville gets a 3, 17-2 (overall) Syracuse gets a 3 and 5-0 Marquette gets a 4 seed? For one, the two Hoya losses were vs. Pittsburgh and at Notre Dame, two very excusable defeats (not to mention @ Duke OOC). Louisville’s bad losses out of conference (Western Kentucky, UNLV) still hurt and Marquette’s 5-0 Big East record comes without a truly impressive victory. Georgetown is also boosted by a 6 RPI and 1 SOS with 7 wins vs. the RPI top 100. While Marquette probably deserves a 3 seed along with Louisville and Syracuse, three Big East teams with the same seed causes conflicts. Sorry, Buzz, you get the bump down to a 4.
  • Kentucky does not have the resume or quality wins to garner a 6 seed by themselves, but since I have them projected to win the lowly SEC tournament, the committee should give them a boost on Selection Sunday like they have past conference champions.
  • Even with California‘s defeat at the hands of rival Stanford on Saturday, UCLA‘ s loss at home to Arizona State (and ASU’s prior loss to USC earlier in the week) means Cal keeps the automatic Pac-10 bid and remains a 3 seed. Instead UCLA falls to a 6 seed with surprisingly weak computer numbers (45 RPI, 98 SOS, 4-3 vs. top 100).
  • You might be wondering: Notre Dame an 8 seed? It’s true, folks. A 61 RPI, 102 SOS, 3-3 Big East record, a bad loss to St. John’s and a complete inability to win on the road will do that. Big game for them Saturday vs. Connecticut.

Last Four In: Dayton, Missouri, Utah, Texas A&M
Last Four Out: UNLV, Mississippi State, Illinois State, Arkansas
Next Four Out: Maryland, LSU, Southern Cal, Virginia Tech

Dayton and Illinois State have eerily similiar resumes, but it was hard to ignore ISU’s atrocious SOS (232) and Dayton’s huge win over Marquette, so the Flyers get the nod. Missouri creeps in riding that win over California in November and with a decent 39 RPI on the season. Texas A&M defeated Baylor earlier in the week to keep them in the field and Utah is boosted by outstanding computer numbers (21 RPI, 13 SOS). Mississippi State boasts a 3-0 SEC record, but hasn’t even played a team in the RPI top 50. Arkansas is the polar opposite- big wins over Texas and Oklahoma, but fall out of the field with their 0-3 SEC start. Maryland had a brutal week blowing a huge second half lead at Miami and losing in overtime to Florida State.

011909-bracketology

Multiple bids per conference: Big East (9), Big Ten (7), Big 12 (7), ACC (6), Pac 10 (5), SEC (3), West Coast (2), Atlantic 10 (2), Mountain West (2).

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Checking in on the… Big 12

January 19, 2009

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

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

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

GAME OF THE WEEK
Baylor 98, Oklahoma State 92 (OT): Baylor was down by as many as 17 points in the 1st half, but made a run and was quite the deal to get the game into overtime, but Tweety Carter came up huge for Baylor hitting two three-pointers at the start of overtime. Then he finished off the Cowboys with a third basket and a key steal to seal the game for the Bears.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Sherron Collins, Kansas: Collins was the leader that the Jayhawks expected to have as he helped lead Kansas to wins in their first two conference games this week averaging 21 points (12/12 FT) and 5.5 assists per game. His leadership will determine the wins for Kansas in the conference season and how successful they want to be.

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Dynamic Duos in Search of a Third Wheel

January 14, 2009

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

Ask any college basketball coach what a team needs to succeed in March and you’ll get a variety of answers — solid point guard play, a big inside threat, conditioning, luck, a guarantee that John Stevens will NOT bet on you — all popular answers.  A “go-to” guy is also a popular response, but I think history has shown that simply one standout player will not prove sufficient.  These days you have to have a balanced squad in addition to having at least two players you can call actual “go-to” guys.  A viable third option can have you breathing rarified air, indeed.  This season has proven incredibly interesting in that we have a lot of teams that are being seemingly led — whose very identities are made — by a couple of standout players.  In addition, if these teams that are led by Dynamic Duos see a helpful third option emerge — watch out.  There’s at least one of these teams in each of the major conferences, so let’s take a look at them.


 
ACC — Miami (FL)
 
True, the Hurricanes’ schedule is a little bland, but you can’t ignore a team with tough wins both at Kentucky and at Boston College.  Jack McClinton (16.9/2.8/3.1) and Dwayne Collins (12.1/7.8/1.3) have propelled this Miami team that has eleven guys who average at least 10 minutes a game which means that they have many options in terms of developing that third option.  Cyrus McGowan is an efficient player who provides 7.2/6.1 and he does it averaging 5 minutes less than the other significant scorers on that team, but the most likely candidate here to step up as the third option is James Dews, who averages 9.2/2.7 but upped his game in those big wins above against UK and BC by contributing 18 and 12, respectively.  You gotta give props to a guy who elevates himself in the big games.


 
Big 12 — Missouri
 
On their way to a 13-3 record so far, Missouri hasn’t exactly been sleeping on the job schedule-wise, tallying wins against USC and a surprising California side and losing a tough one to Xavier.  To that end, DeMarre Carroll (16.1/6.6) and Leo Lyons (14.6/6.2) have been a true Dynamic Duo for the Tigers because after that the production falls off to Matt Lawrence (9.6/2.3), especially in terms of rebounding (note: of course, Lyons needs to get this recent traffic thing sorted out).  Along with J.T. Tiller, Lawrence represents the most likely candidate to be the next option; Tiller averages the third most minutes on the team but Lawrence is actually more productive despite playing 4 fewer minutes per game.

I bet Demarre can beat me at curls. (photo credit: kansan.com)

Big East — Notre Dame
 
I know I don’t have to tell you about Luke Harangody; despite the special player he is I personally find more excitement watching Kyle McAlarney (16.6/2.6/3.4) because the man just has locker-room range.  Seriously, he’d shoot from his dorm room if they’d let him.  And even then you better get a guy on him.  ND might not seem like a Dynamic Duo-led team because they have two other starters — Tory Jackson and Ryan Ayers — averaging over 30 minutes a game (Jackson actually plays more than Harangody, by the numbers), but the offensive dropoff is certainly evident after McAlarney and the team is defined by those top two fellows.  Jackson is the obvious third option candidate, here; he puts together a good floor game on the whole (4.6 rpg/5.9 apg/1.5 spg).  It’s not like he doesn’t do enough, but if he became even more of a third scoring option to take even just a little of the heat off of the Harangody/McAlarney exacta, Notre Dame will become an even bigger Final Four threat come March.


 
Big Ten — Michigan State
 
People still seem to be defining the Fighting Izzos by that rectal-exam-with-an-audience that UNC gave them a while back.  This is a mistake.  Raymar Morgan (15.1/7.1) and Kalin Lucas (13.9/5.9 apg) have been the Dynamic Duo for Sparty so far, as everyone knows, but these guys have reeled off nine straight since getting tuned-up by the Tar Heels and they basically have their third option back, now, in the form of Goran Suton, already averaging 9.2/6.8 in only nine games back.  This will likely continue to rise.  It makes Michigan State a team you cannot ignore as we enter the second half of the season.  They’ve obviously put the North Carolina game behind them.  Everyone else should, too.
 
Pac-10 — Arizona State
 
We all know James Harden (23.1/5.8/4.7) and we’re getting to know Jeff Pendergraph (13.6/7.1).  After that, the offensive production and glasswork drops off a little to Richard Kuksiks (10.9/3.6), the apparent choice for presumed third option, here.  He’s up to playing even more minutes than Pendergraph on the average, and he’s shooting a pretty tasty 53% from 3-point range.  I am, however, going to anoint Derek Glasser as the best option for third-man-in; he’s only contributing 6.4 points (fifth on the team) but he’s a great distributor of the ball (5.3 apg, leads team), has shown a tendency to come up with a timely pilfer, and is darn reliable at the line (81.1%, second on team) — all important qualities during tournament time.  Even the slightest increase in his point production would make ASU even more dangerous than they already are.
 
SEC — Kentucky
 
The textbook Dynamic Duo team.  Probably not a better example in all of college basketball this season.  We’re not even going to talk about Jodie Meeks’ (24.2/3.4, 90.1% FT) legendary performance last night and Patrick Patterson (18.9/9.3) is creeping up every online NBA mock draft, a bittersweet fact for Wildcat fans.  After that, the offensive production falls all the way down to Perry Stevenson at 7.1ppg.  Heck, Patterson is actually third on the team in assists (2.6).  As far as possibilities for third-option status, with this team that’s a tough question.  They are absolutely loaded with pure, talented athletes, but UK followers have waited all year for a third player to assert himself.  Still hasn’t happened.  It has to for this team, because Meeks can’t score 54 every night and there will probably be more than one night where Meeks goes cold and Patterson is well-defended (or vice-versa).  My choice for third option for this team is DeAndre Liggins, the team’s assist leader at only 3.6 apg.  If he can cut down on freshman mistakes and provide even a small increase in his point production, Kentucky will be formidable — and that means this year, not next year.  Without a third option, Selection Sunday might get a little tense for this Kentucky team.


 
It will be especially interesting to see if Miami (FL), Missouri, and Kentucky eventually see a third player emerge for them, since they’re…well, it’s too early to use the “b-word,” but let’s just say they’re fighting for tournament entry right now.  Even if it isn’t the player I’ve predicted, if any of these squads see a third person elevate his game in hopes of providing more assistance to the Dynamic Duo already leading them, you best keep an eye out for them.  These teams are close to making the jump, even now.  Adding a good third option to their particular Dynamic Duo will improve them exponentially, and I wouldn’t want to see any of them in my sub-bracket.


ATB: T-Will’s House of Cards

January 13, 2009

afterbuzzerNews & Notes.

  • Miami (FL)’s Eddie Rios was suspended indefinitely for the second time this season for a violation of team rules.  Missouri’s Leo Lyons was also suspended indefinitely relating to his arrest for failure to pay an outstanding traffic ticket.   Pay your tickets, kiddies.
  • Billy Packer (where’s he been?) and Bob Knight plan on doing their own show on FSN during March Madness between filling out parlay cards at the Wynn Las Vegas this year.
  • LMU’s Bill Bayno resigned due to medical reasons; he will be replaced by assistant coach Max Good (currently 1-11 this season).

The First of Many Ginormous Mondays.

Louisville 87, Notre Dame 73 (OT). This was a fantastic game, and the third in a row that came down the last possession of regulation for the battle-tested Cards (who won all three).  The Big East is going to be like this all year long, and the teams that can make plays in the last two minutes will be sitting at 11-7 and staring at a top four NCAA seed, and those that don’t will be at 7-11 and needing a nice run in the Big East Tournament to get back on the bubble.  Terrence Williams and Luke Harangody were both pretty much unstoppable in a mano-a-mano passion play that rivaled anything we’ve seen in a while.  T-Will blew up the stat sheet, going for 24/16/8 assts/3 stls, while Harangody showcased a variety of spins and fadeaway jumpers in a 28/13 night.  Both teams stepped up their games defensively down the stretch, as Louisville outscored ND 3-2 in the last seven minutes.  Harangody in particular didn’t score a single point during that period and overtime.  Louisville moved to 3-0 in the conference, with #1 Pitt coming to Freedom Hall on Saturday.  It’s amazing to think that a mere two weeks ago everyone was writing the Cards off, including us.  A couple of final notes on this game – the Earl Clark slam “over everyone in the building,” according to Jay Bilas, was phenomenal (see below).  It really seemed as if his arms were something like the trees in Lord of the Rings on that dunk.

Also, the final play of regulation where ND threw the ball into the backcourt did not appear from our view to be a backcourt violation as it was called by the ref.  It was a harmless error from Louisville’s perspective, but how amazing would that ending have been if T-Will had ended the game on a wild play like that?

Oklahoma 78, Texas 63. What was most surprising about this game was just how uncompetitive Texas was throughout.  Texas couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (34%), and AJ Abrams was the chief culprit (8-27 incl. 3-15 from three).  Blake Griffin was his usual self, going for 20/10, but he was assisted by three other Sooners in double figures.  Honestly, we keep waiting for the other shoe to drop in terms of production for Oklahoma outside of Griffin/Warren, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Jeff Capel really has this team playing well.

Other Games of Mild Interest. Not much on the slate tonight, but Davidson and Steph Curry were in action.

  • Davidson 70, Appalachian St. 52. Curry Watch – 16/6 assts for Curry on 7-13 shooting in a road win.

Checking in on the…Big 12

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

Though Conference play started this past weekend, really to me, the conference season really starts here on Big Monday with one of the bigger match-ups of the season in Texas and Oklahoma and their “golden boy” Blake Griffin. But let’s take a look at the conference as a whole and see if things are where we expected coming into the season:

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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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