Vegas Odds: Season Edition Vol. 3

February 10, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.07.09 Edition

February 7, 2009

dynamite1We’re back with another thrilling edition of Boom Goes the Dynamite where we try to cover every single game on TV. Since we have only two people working on BGTD, we appreciate any reader tips on what games everyone should be watching since there are so many on TV and the Internet. For a rundown of the games today, check out today’s Set Your Tivos.

11:40 AM: ESPN GameDay is live from Spokane site of the Memphis-Gonzaga game tongiht at 9 PM. The crowd is fairly small, but I’ll give the Bulldog fans a break since it started at 8 AM local time on a Saturday morning at a school with just 4,515 undergraduates. I’m still waiting for a basketball GameDay to match a college football GameDay in terms of attendance and crazy fans. Looking at the schedule, I’m going to have go with February 21st when Oklahoma plays Texas in Austin, TX as the ESPN GameDay where the fans actually show up.

Noon: Some great work by the ESPN camera crew making Philadelphia look like something other a dump. The Syracuse-Villanova game should be one of the better ones today with both teams being in the 2nd tier in the Big East after UConn, Pittsburgh, and Louisville. The jury is still out on Marquette after last night’s debacle. Like we said watch the Jonny Flynn versus Scottie Reynolds match-up. The Arinze Onuaku injury could be big particularly with Dante Cunningham on the inside.

12:40 PM: Sorry for the delay in posting, but we’re having some problems with WordPress. Anyways, Villanova is absolutely destroying Syracuse right now. A basket by Cunningham stretches the lead to 21 at 36-15. It might be a while before we have another update on this game unless the Orange make a run. If the game continues like this, Jim Boeheim‘s squad will fall out of the top 25 leaving just 5 Big East teams in the rankings.

1:00 PM: The ESPN announcers just said that Donovan McNabb played some basketball when he was at Syracuse. Either he had some ridiculous intramural basketball career that I’m not aware of or they just assume that every mobile black QB was a two-sports star. I’m guessing it is the latter.

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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).

Set Your Tivos: 02.04.09

February 4, 2009

Set Your Tivos
After last night’s relatively weak slate of games, we’re back to normal tonight with a great set of games.

Game of the Day
#3 Duke at #10 Clemson at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Our second top 10 match-up of the week. Once again the road team is the higher ranked team, but I feel like this time they are also the favorites coming in to the game. All of you know about Duke by now thanks to their frequent appearances on national TV so I will keep it brief. Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson have emerged as their two most consistent players. Usually that is enough to get them by most teams even if they only get minimal support from the rest of the team. However, when that happens against quality teams the result isn’t always that good (even if they come really really close). The key for the Blue Devils in this game and for the rest of the season will be the play of Brian Zoubek (go ahead and snicker Duke haters) and Nolan Smith. Zoubek merely needs to be a mediocre 7-footer and Coach K and the rest of the Blue Devils staff will be happy. Smith, who replaced Greg Paulus in the starting lineup, has to improve his decision-making. He must have one of the worst assist-to-turnover ratios (1.03 to 1) of any starting PG on a top team in the nation. On the other side of the ball, Clemson may be the most under-appreciated team in the country. I’m not sure if it is the Tigers’ recent history of falling apart down the stretch, but I never hear anybody mentioning them as a team that could make a run in March despite the fact that they probably have the most reasonable losses of any team in the country (Wake Forest and at UNC). The key for Oliver Purnell‘s team will be to have Trevor Booker dominate on the inside. I doubt that Duke will let him play against Zoubek so he will probably have to do it against Singler, which could make for an interesting match-up. If Booker can win that match-up, Clemson will have a shot. After that they will need a strong game out of K.C. Rivers and hope to contain Duke’s outside shooters (particularly Jon Scheyer). I think Clemson will keep it close until midway through the 2nd half when Duke will go on a run and pull away to win by about a dozen.

Worth Watching
West Virginia at #20 Syracuse at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Mountaineers are a a perfect example of why it is so hard to read Big East teams. They are only 4-4 in the conference, but all 4 of those losses were to top 10 teams (UConn, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Marquette). Likewise, Syracuse comes in having lost 3 straight and 4 of 5, but 3 of those losses have been on the road (Georgetown, Pittsburgh, and Providence) and the other to one of the hottest teams (Louisville) in the country. The Orangemen should be able to break their recent skid if they can contain Da’Sean Butler and Alex Ruoff, but a lot of that will have to do with whether or not they will have their full compliment of players available. Mookie Jones is done for the year with a hip injury, but someone will have to step up as Jim Boeheim can’t expect to get 62 points from Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf every game (and even that didn’t work in their last game).

#19 Minnesota at #14 Michigan State at 8:30 PM on The Big Ten Network: What is going on with the Spartans? Tom Izzo‘s team has lost back-to-back games at the Breslin Center to pretty weak competition (Northwestern and Penn State). Just two weeks ago everyone was talking about this team as a potential Final 4 contender with the return of Goran Suton. Unfortunately for Izzo, the Spartans will be without Raymar Morgan, who is out with “walking pneumonia”. To turn things around, the Spartans will need improved play out of Kalin Lucas, who still boasts an impressive 3.09 to 1 assist to TO ratio, but most of that is from his early season play. They will have to do it against a Gopher team that held Illinois to a ridiculous 36 points in their last game. Keep an eye on Al Nolen and Ralph Sampson III in this one for the Gophers as they will be matched up against Lucas and Suton respectively.

#6 Wake Forest at Miami (FL) at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Wake needs to develop some consistency if they want to be a national championship contender. We know that they can beat the big boys as they knocked off UNC, Clemson, and Duke in a three week stretch. The question is why they can’t maintain that level of play when they go up against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech (both losses). Dino Gaudio will need to figure this out if he wants to get this team up to the level of Duke and UNC at the end of the season. Maybe it’s just a focus thing, which hopefully shouldn’t be an issue in March. Either way, this trip to Miami should be a nice challenge for the Demon Deacons. Jeff Teague will be matched up against Jack McClinton and Al-Farouq Aminu will be up against Dwayne Collins. I think Miami may be able to hold its own in those match-ups. Unfortunately for Frank Haith, the Hurricanes run into depth problems after their top 2 while the Demon Deacons run much deeper. Perhaps Haith should look into giving more PT to his ridiculously athletic freshman DeQuan Jones.

#16 Villanova at Providence at 8 PM on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Villanova finally got the signature win we were asking for by beating Pittsburgh last week in the last college basketball game at the Spectrum. This time they will have to do it on the road against a Friar team that was playing well before they ran into the UConn buzzsaw. Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds will need to have solid games if Jay Wright‘s crew is going to pull out a rare Big East road win against a Providence team that is actually above them in the Big East standings. Providence will need a solid effort out of its 8-deep rotation including Weyinmi Efejuku and Jonathan Kale to defend its home court tonight.

Keep an Eye On
Notre Dame at Cincinnati at 7:30 PM on ESPN360.com: Mike Brey
needs  Kyle McAlarney to snap out of his funk and start helping Luke Harangody out or the Fighting Irish might be looking at trip to the NIT this year. This is a game Notre Dame needs to win if they expect to make the NCAA tournament.

Tennessee at Arkansas at 8 PM on Raycom, Fox Sports South, and ESPN360.com: Can freshman Scotty Hopson be the one to reenergize the Vols who have struggled to play up their pre-season #8 ranking? Bruce Pearl might want to give him some more PT against the confusing Arkansas team that beat Texas and Oklahoma (the Sooners only loss), but is just 1-5 in the SEC.

Texas A&M at #2 Oklahoma at 9 PM on The Big 12 Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Watch this one for Blake Griffin, who will be your national Player of the Year barring some freak injury or sketchy voting. I guess the Aggies played Oklahoma close at College Station so this could be a decent game, but since it is in Norman I doubt it will be that close after the half unless the Sooners are already looking ahead to Texas and Kansas two weeks from now.

USC at #12 UCLA at 10:30 PM on Fox Sports: Ben Howland‘s will be going for a sweep of the California Pac-10 teams at Pauley Pavilion against their cross-town rivals. The Trojans are my pick for secretly good team that nobody is talking about, but could make a run in March. Watch this one for the battle of the freshmen: DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday. They won’t be matched up against each other, but it should be fun to see Josh Shipp guard DeRozan. As an added bonus, you might get to see Lil’ Romeo (ok, maybe not).


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)

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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.

daylife.com)
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.

daylife.com)
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.

daylife.com)
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.


ATB: Code Red at Notre Dame

January 27, 2009

afterbuzzer1

News & Notes. A couple of really bad ideas tonight…

  • Please make this stop immediately.
  • One game?!?! Dude stepped on Chase Budinger’s FACE.  CUSA should be ashamed of itself for this penalty.   Well, he was sorry, guess that makes it all better.

Notre Dame is in Serious Trouble. Marquette 71, Notre Dame 64. The Irish are now sitting at four losses in a row, with the following four games on tap: @ Pitt, @ Cincy, @ UCLA, Louisville.  Ridiculous.  This is the kind of stretch that can derail an entire season.  At 12-7 (3-5) after tonight’s second straight home loss, Notre Dame is staring the NIT right in the face if they can’t come out of this tailspin soon.  Kyle McAlarney is most to blame for this downslide, as he has shot a putrid 14-45 in the last three games – without more production from him, the Irish aren’t going anywhere.  The Big East isn’t for the faint at heart, and it appears that Georgetown and ND have been the most negatively affected by its strength to date.  As for Marquette, who had the Warriors Golden Eagles at 7-0 in this conference?  They just continue to surprise, getting big nights from any one of their four stars in a given game (tonight’s stud was Jerel McNeal with 27/4).  And the Eagles may not be done yet – with their upcoming schedule, it’s not preposterous to imagine that Marquette could be 13-0 going into its last five conference games on Feb. 21 (which are very tough).  We still wonder what will happen to MU when they play someone with legitimate size (their studs average 6’3 in height), but it hasn’t hurt them yet.

Oklahoma is Getting No Love From the MediaOklahoma 89, Oklahoma St. 81. In tonight’s Bedlam game, Oklahoma continued its relatively quiet march through the Big 12 (now 6-0) with efficient precision, shooting a ridiculous 58% and withstanding twelve threes from OSU to win its twentieth game of the year.  Why isn’t this team getting more attention?  They have arguably the best player in the country in Blake Griffin (who had his 17th dub-dub tonight with 26/19), they are highly efficient on both ends of the floor and they rebound like maniacs.  Oh, and they haven’t had a close game in their last eight (since the anomalous Arkansas loss four weeks ago).  OSU put up a good fight, cutting the Sooners’ 14-pt lead to only one with seven minutes remaining, but OU responded with what else – going to their NPOY candidate time and time again for kickouts and foul opportunities.   OU should continue its winning ways for at least three more games until a trip to Baylor on February 11th.

On Tap Tuesday (all times EST).

  • Kentucky @ Ole Miss (ESPN) – 7pm. It really wouldn’t surprise us if UK went 16-0 in the SEC this year.  Really.  The league is that bad.
  • Maryland v. Boston College (ESPN2) – 7:30pm. This is an interesting matchup of potential ACC bubble teams.  Both need this one badly.
  • Texas @ Baylor (ESPN360) – 9pm. Baylor’s looking a little shaky of late (losing 3 of 6); they need to protect their home court.
  • Purdue @ Wisconsin (ESPN) – 9pm. Two teams heading in opposite directions – can UW salvage their season?
  • VCU v. Northeastern (ESPNU) – 9pm. Game of the Night that nobody can watch.  The top of the CAA is up for grabs.
  • BYU @ Utah (The Mtn) – 10pm. Act 1 of the Holy War.

Set Your Tivos: 01.27.09

January 26, 2009

Set Your TivosI don’t think there is any game tonight that really stands out as “Game of the Night”, but there are several intriguing games tonight. I know that everyone is waiting for the “Title Bout” tomorrow night (Duke at Wake Forest).

  • Boston College at Maryland at 7:30 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Normally I wouldn’t include a game featuring two unranked teams from BCS conferences, but these have been two of the more confusing teams this year. BC finally appears to recover from the hangover (4-game losing streak) following their big win over UNC. The Eagles are led by All-ACC guard Tyrese Rice, who, like his team, has shown flashes of brilliance (25 points on 7/13 FG, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds in the big UNC win) and been awful at other times (6/18 FG against Miami and 6/19 FG against Virginia Tech). Al Skinner will need a solid performance out of Rice along with Joe Trapani to pick up a big road win at struggling Maryland. As for the Terrapins, I’m not even sure what to say about a team that trailed by as much as 44 points against its rival after its star player (Greivis Vasquez) called out the opposing team and its fans. I would check out this game if only to see the look on Gary Williams‘s face at the start of the game after what happened at Cameron on Saturday.
Rough Day at the Office (BaltimoreSun.com)

Rough Day at the Office (BaltimoreSun.com)

  • #12 Texas at Baylor at 9:00 PM on The Big 12 Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Baylor is looking to bounce back after getting blown out at Oklahoma on Saturday. The good news for the Bears: The game isn’t on the road where they have just 5-30 in the Big 12 in the last 5 season. The bad news for the Bears: Texas is ranked and Baylor is just 1-18 in their last 19 games against ranked opponents. To stay in the upper half of the Big 12, Baylor will need to get solid performances out of Curtis Jerrels and LaceDarius Dunn. The Longhorns come in tonight looking at what is most likely their last tough game before a surprisingly easy stretch of six Big 12 games before they get another shot at Oklahoma in Austin. Rick Barnes will look to A.J. Abrams and Damion James (fresh of a 28-point performance in his last game) to come up big for the Longhorn, who should be a top 10 team heading into their rematch against Oklahoma if they win tonight.
  • #17 Purdue at Wisconsin at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: After starting its conference season with 3 wins, the Badgers have lost 4 in a row and are in jeopardy of falling out of contention for a NCAA bid unless they right the ship quickly. As a result of a quirk in Big Ten scheduling, Wisconsin will be attempting to do it against Purdue, the team that they started their skid against just 16 days ago. Bo Ryan will need a solid effort out of Joe Krabbenhoft and hope that the Badgers can limit the production out of E’Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, and JaJuan Johnson. On the other sideline, a win in Madison would position Matt Painter‘s crew to challenge Illinois and Michigan State for the Big Ten title.

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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Weekly Bracketology- January 25

January 25, 2009

As always, a few bracket notes:

– Shocker: The Missouri Valley and Mountain West are now 1-bid leagues. The strength of the Big 6 “BCS” conferences has never been stronger. Both of the aforementioned conferences are stuck in a period of spread out mediocrity and lack the two or three standout teams to make the field. I simply cannot put Illinois State anywhere near the bracket with three conference losses and a total lack of quality wins. The Mountain West I expect to be a 2-bid league on Selection Sunday. BYU was one of three teams left for the last spot that went to Boston College and Utah was the highest RPI team to be left out of the bracket. San Diego State is also lurking.

– If I asked you to name the team with the most wins against the RPI top 100, you’d probably guess Duke. Or Connecticut. Or Pittsburgh. Maybe North Carolina. Nope, the team with the most top-100 wins is Oklahoma at 12-1, including a 7-0 record against the top 50. The Sooners are surely deserving of their #1 ranking, along with two Big East teams- Connecticut (my projected winner) and Pittsburgh (#2 in RPI). Duke is the #1 overall seed and #1 in RPI, with North Carolina and Wake Forest barely missing the cut.

Michigan State may have been stunned by Northwestern at home this week, but they still have the computer numbers and the projected Big 10 championship, meaning the Spartans hang on to the last #2 seed. Surging Louisville at 6-0 earns the other, along with UNC and Wake.

– Following their huge win over UCLA at home, the Washington Huskies are now the projected Pac-10 winners. They’re slightly over-seeded at 4 because of that honor. Congrats, you get Tennessee in the first round!

– Wouldn’t guess that Siena has the #20 RPI, #29 SOS and 7 wins against the RPI #51-100, would you? It’s true, folks. Speaking of mid-majors, I’m not sure why anyone can have Davidson higher than a 10 seed. The 37 RPI is decent, but a 115 SOS and 1-3 vs. the RPI top 100 (West Virginia) doesn’t jump out for me. And last year is completely irrelevant.

– The last team out, USC, and the last team in, Boston College, have nearly identical resumes. Fortunately for the Eagles, they have two more wins vs. the RPI top 100 and are boosted by the completely inexplicable win in Chapel Hill. They’ll be riding that win all the way to Selection Sunday.

– UCLA drops all the way to a 6 seed? Considering they haven’t beaten a team in the field of 65, yes. I may have even been generous.

– The most significant Saturday game may have been Xavier toppling LSU in Baton Rouge. An LSU win would have given them a win against the RPI top 25. Instead, they were barely considered at all. Xavier jumps up to a 3 seed with the win. The #4 RPI and #6 SOS doesn’t hurt, either. Runner up: Oklahoma State winning at Nebraska in overtime. They’d likely be out with a loss in that one.

Notre Dame somehow managed a 68 RPI and 83 SOS in the Big East, meaning their 12-6 (3-4) record looks poor. They need to beat Marquette on Monday night to stay in the field.

Virginia Tech may have had the best week of any team in the nation, taking down #1 Wake Forest on the road, then beating Miami on the road in overtime Sunday night. That effort is enough to propel them to a #8 seed after they were completely left out of the bracket last week.

Last Four In: Boston College, Tennessee, South Carolina, Dayton
Last Four Out: BYU, Southern Cal, Mississippi State, Texas A&M
Next Four Out: Penn State, Utah, Providence, Stanford

bracketology-jan-25

Automatic bids: Binghamton, Xavier, Duke, East Tennessee State, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Weber State, VMI, Michigan State, Long Beach State, VCU, Memphis, Butler, Cornell, Siena, Buffalo, Morgan State, Northern Iowa, UNLV, Robert Morris, Austin Peay, Washington, Navy, Kentucky, Davidson, Texas A&M-Corpus Christ, Alabama State, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky, Gonzaga, Utah State.

Multiple bids per conference: Big East (9), ACC (8), Big Ten (7), Big 12 (6), Pac-10 (4), SEC (4), Atlantic 10 (2), West Coast (2).

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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: 01.24.09 & 01.25.09

January 23, 2009

Set Your Tivos

Check in with RTC on Saturday all day long as we piggyback the slowly burning wick of Boom Goes the Dynamite, your virtually live weekly journal of notes and observations about the day’s biggest games. 

Saturday
Game of the Day
#3 UConn at #19 Notre Dame at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Irish will be looking to bounce back from consecutive road losses (at Louisville and at Syracuse), but that will be a tall task (insert Hasheem Thabeet joke here) against UConn–a team that many consider the best in the Big East (not just based on ranking). Reigning Big East POY Luke Harangody will have his hands full on the inside battling Thabeet and Jeff Adrien. The match-up on the outside should be even more interesting with the Irish backcourt of Kyle McAlarney, Tory Jackson, and Ryan Ayers battling A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson, and Kemba Walker. I’m not sure if the Irish have anybody to contend with slashing ability of UConn, but the key to this game will likely be the production of Price and Walker.

Although UConn is clearly the superior team in this match-up, they will have a tough time in South Bend as the Fighting Irish come into the game with a NCAA-best 44-game home winning streak. Mike Brey desperately needs this game if he wants to establish his team in the upper half of the league. A win for UConn would solidify their place as the Big East favorites and build on their already strong resume. It will be a hard-fought game, but I think in the end Jim Calhoun‘s squad will end the streak tonight.

Others to Watch
#11 UCLA at Washington at 4 PM on FSN: After a slow start (2-3), the Huskies have rallied to win 11 of their last 12 with their only loss coming by 3 points in OT to Cal. I’m not sure what clicked up there in Seattle, but now they are looking like a Pac-10 contender. If they want to challenge for the league title, they will have to knock off UCLA, the current kings of the Pac-10. I’m sure that Ben Howland has been all over his Bruins for their awful execution down the stretch last Saturday in their loss at home to Arizona State. It does not look like the Bruins have fully recovered from that meltdown as they nearly lost in Pullman to Washington State Thursday night and only survived thanks to a career-high 20 points from Nikola Dragovic. UCLA will need more consistent play from its perimeter players (Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, and Jrue Holldiay) or hope they find an inside game if they want to make yet another Final 4 appearance. For those of you who haven’t been following the Huskies, keep an eye on their diminutive freshman point guard Isaiah Thomas (15.8 PPG and 3.2 APG). It looks like is a future star in the Pac-10. Let’s hope that he isn’t charge of personnel moves/recruiting.

#23 Baylor at #5 Oklahoma at 4 PM on ESPNU: This is a match-up of two of the top 3 teams in the Big 12 (at least according to the polls). The Bears rely on a balanced attack with 5 players averaging double figures led by Curtis Jerrells, who averages 17.1 PPG. Scott Drew will need all 5 guys to hit their averages and hope for a little luck to steal one in Norman as Oklahoma is the clear favorite in the league. They are led by national POY candidate Blake Griffin who comes in averaging a ridiculous 22.3 PPG and 13.6 RPG. If he can get consistent support from Willie Warren and Tony Crocker this Sooner team could make deep run in March because I don’t think anybody in the country can guard Griffin.

Keep an eye on
Maryland at #2 Duke at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Even though this has traditionally been a heated rivalry I normally would not keep this game here except for the fact that if Duke wins they will be your new #1 team in the country. If they do get to #1, John Stevens is pretty sure that you will hear about it.

UW-Milwaukee at #17 Butler at Noon on Time Warner Sports 32, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Butler is clearly the class of the Horizon League, but UW-Milwaukee may be the second best team in the conference so if anybody is going to knock Butler off in their conference tournament and create total chaos on Selection Sunday it may well be the Panthers.

#24 Memphis at Tennessee at 3:30 PM on CBS: It’s amazing that this match-up, which featured two powerhouses last year, has been reduced to this level. Memphis has the excuse of losing Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. The Vols certainly lost some key players, but after coming into the season ranked in the top 10, this has to be a very disappointing start for Bruce Pearl. This would be a good way to start to resurrect the Vols’ season.

Wisconsin at #24 Illinois at 4 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Bruce Weber will be looking for his Fighting Illini to continue their impressive start against a Badger team that is coming off 3 straight losses with the last 2 coming in OT.

#13 Xavier at LSU at 8 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Normally I would hype this game as a mid-major team trying to steal one against the mighty BCS, but I can’t really do that this year with Butler ranked 13th and the SEC’s conspicuous absence from the polls (Florida is ranked in one, but will be gone with that awful loss to South Carolina). Ignoring that, this would be a great win for Xavier to add to their already strong resume for Selection Sunday, but they shouldn’t be overconfident heading into Baton Rouge as the Tigers having been playing well this season and are undefeated at home. [Yes. I realize I just warned Xavier not to be overconfident heading into a road game against a SEC team.]

Sunday
Game of the Day
#12 Louisville at #8 Syracuse at Noon on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Finally we have a great game on Sunday. After several weekends with loaded Saturdays followed by a set of duds on Sunday, we get the hottest team in the Big East (Louisville) traveling to play at the team with the most to prove (Syracuse). We at RTC had been critical of Rick Pitino‘s Cardinals when they started slowly but they seem to have turned it around although it seems like the nation did not seem to take notice until they knocked off then #1 Pittsburgh. On the other sideline, Jim Boeheim‘s squad will be looking to bounce back from a difficult stretch where they lost games on the road to Georgetown and Pittsburgh with a win at home against Notre Dame sandwiched between those losses.

This game will likely come down to which team’s strength wins out. Syracuse has the edge on the outisde with Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Andy Rautins having the upper hand in their match-up Earl Clark and Edgar Sosa. Louisville will have the edge on the inside with Samardo Samuels and Terrence Williams going against Arinze Onuaku and Paul Harris. I think these two teams are pretty evenly matched with Syracuse’s advantages being perimeter play and home court while Louisville’s advantages being inside play and momentum. I’ll go with the easy 2s and momentum and take Louisville to continue their current hot streak.

Others to Watch
#7 Michigan State at Ohio State at 3:45 PM on CBS: OSU had been playing better before its trip to Illinois the other night.  Still, West Virginia is the only team to get them on their home court this season, so Michigan St. had best bring a better game than it brought Wed. night against Northwestern, or they’ll be staring at 2 Ls this week.

#4 Pittsburgh at West Virginia at 4 PM on Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: This game suddenly became even more interesting considering how dominant the Mountaineers looked tonight in DC against Georgetown.  Pitt recovered nicely with a home win against Syracuse, and they match up very well with the undersized WVU team, but so did Georgetown.  One thing you can be sure about in this one – most players will leave this one black and blue.

Virginia Tech at Miami at 5:30 PM on FSN: Anyone want to lay odds on which Virginia Tech team shows up coming off their victory over #1 Wake Forest on Wednesday?  Will it be the Hokie team that lost to Seton Hall and Georgia, or the one who led Wake from start to finish?  We’re betting it’s the SH/Georgia version.

Georgia Tech at #9 Clemson at 7:45 PM on FSN: This is a really weak set of FSN games this weekend (frankly the entire weekend is disappointing).  Still, if you’ve got nothing else going on, you can spend a couple of hours watching Paul Hewitt try to save his job and Oliver Purnell try to convince you that the Tigers are legit.


Behind the Lines – Week 6

January 22, 2009

btl-header

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

Thursday, January 21st

West Virginia at Georgetown (12)

Behind The Line: You might recall that last month and into the beginning of this month WVU was on fire. They covered 5 straight games over this span. However since getting deeper into Big East play, they have gone 2-2.

Purdue (19) at Minnesota (17)

Behind The Line: Minnesota has covered 4 of their last 5 while Purdue is 2-4 in their last 6.

Friday, January 22nd

No notable games.  Go out and get some fresh air… or, of course, wager your money somewhere else.

Saturday, January 23rd

Baylor (21) at Oklahoma (5)

Behind The Line: Oklahama has covered their last 3 against some nice competition while Baylor has dropped 3 of their last 4 against the spread. This one will give one of these two teams an early defining in-conference win.

Connecticut (4) at Notre Dame (13)

Behind The Line: ND has hit a cold streak and has dropped 4 of 5 against the spread. In their last two games UConn failed to cover large spreads @ St. John’s and Seton Hall. The 2 games prior Uconn was able to cover smaller spreads @ WVU and @ Cincinnati.

Northwestern at Michigan (24)

Behind The Line: Northwestern is a giant killer. Still, they have failed to cover in 5 of their last 7. Michigan is ranked and Northwestern is on the road. Hmm.

Sunday, January 24th

Louisville (20) at Syracuse (8)

Behind The Line: The Cardinals have covered 4 straight including a tough road game @ Nova. ‘Cuse has been inconsistent against the spread, going 4-3 in their last 7 games.

Georgetown (12) at Seton Hall

Behind The Line: Seton Hall has coved 3 of their 5 Big East games while Georgetown has only won 1 of their last 5 against the spread.