Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Posts Tagged ‘UNLV Running Rebels’

Top Ten Games Of The Week (11/10-11/16)

Posted by Zach on November 9, 2008

The college basketball season is finally upon us. After the March Madness recap, the recruiting rampage, clinics and camps, transfers, injuries, Midnight Madness and weeks worth of practice, real, unedited college basketball will be shown on my television for the first time since Mario Chalmers led Kansas to the national title last April. It makes no difference to me that the score will likely be Duke 104, Presbyterian 55. It’s college basketball, it’s live, and even the sight of the Cameron Crazies are enough to get me excited.

Most of these games in my first edition of the Top Ten Games of the Week are assumptions. That is, we’d need Michigan and Northeastern to beat Division II or awful Division I teams to reach that matchup. Unless we have another Gardner Webb on our hands (and most of these teams are even worse), I’d say most of these are fair bets to occur. So without further ado, here’s the Top Ten in order:

1. San Diego @ UNLV (Saturday, MTN)– The best game of the first week features two mid-majors looking to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. First team all-WCC forward Gyno Pomare and senior guard Brandon Johnson lead the way for the Toreros in this difficult early road game in Las Vegas. UNLV is the preseason Mountain West favorite after returning three starters from a 27-win team. Wink Adams is the floor general and best player on the Rebels, while this game will give us the first look at Memphis transfer Tre’Von Willis. Prediction: San Diego 70, UNLV 74

2. New Mexico @ Creighton (Sunday)– Our second best game displays another Mountain West contenders- the New Mexico Lobos and head coach Steve Alford. Many feel they can contend for the top spot in the conference with Tony Danridge at the helm of the offense. Look out for combo guard Chad Toppert as a capable compliment to the scoring leader Danridge. Creighton is the near-unanimous preseason favorite in the Missouri Valley, and will look for super sophomore P’Allen Stinnett to carry the Jays to a big road victory. Prediction: New Mexico 69, Creighton 76

3. Clemson vs. Temple (Sunday, Sport South)– This matchup assumes both teams get through two easy rounds at the Charleston Classic over the weekend. Clemson is looking like a bubble team in the middle of the ACC pack, while Temple could be a true contender in the Atlantic 10 with Xavier and Massachusetts. This would be a huge resume building win for Dionte Christmas and Temple notching a victory over an ACC school like Clemson, who will attempt to hold off the Owls with the help of K.C. Rivers and Trevor Booker. Prediction: Clemson 67, Temple 65

4. Massachusetts @ Southern Illinois (Wednesday)– If both of these teams take care of business against cupcakes in the first round of the Carbondale regional in Coaches vs. Cancer, Southern Illinois will get a tough home test in a battle for a game with Duke in Madison Square Garden. If that’s not a motivating factor, then I don’t know what is. The dynamic guard duo of Ricky Harris and Chris Lowe lead the charge for UMass against Bryan Mullins and the Salukis in a contest of offensive firepower vs. defensive dominance. Prediction: Massachusetts 70, Southern Illinois 68

5. Bradley @ Florida (Sunday, ESPNU)– This one could be closer than casual viewers expect. Andrew Warren, Theron Wilson and a well-balanced high-scoring Braves attack could give Florida and their young roster a scare in Gainesville for a healthy part of this game. But I expect Nick Calathes, Erving Walker and Co. to pull away near the end in this warmup for the CBE Classic in Kansas City. Prediction: Bradley 79, Florida 90

6. Northeastern @ Michigan (Wednesday, ESPNU)
– Watch out for this one, folks. Other than sensational guard Manny Harris, the Wolverines don’t have the talent to avoid a possible upset, even in Ann Arbor. Northeastern and Matt Janning have their eyes set on a Colonial title this season and a long-awaited trip to the NCAA Tournament, while the Michigan program is still attempting to right the ship under new coach John Beilein. This winner of this game will face UCLA in New York. Prediction: Northeastern 60, Michigan 61

7. George Mason @ Vermont (Saturday)– This is an early season battle of two programs that have certainly produced magic in the NCAA Tournament and are in prime position to return this season. The backcourt combination of senior Dre Smith, who sank 10 threes in a game last year, and double digit scorer John Vaughan might be enough to knock off America East contender Vermont. They’re led by Michigan State transfer Maurice Joseph, double-double man Marqus Blakely and outstanding guard Mike Trimboli. Prediction: George Mason 76, Vermont 79

8. Houston @ Duke (Tuesday, ESPNU)
– I don’t expect this one to be particularly close with a trip to New York on the line in Durham. I’m still intrigued to see some of Houston’s new players, notably freshman Desmond Wade and a slew of talented JC transfers along with guard Kelvin Lewis, and how they hold up in Cameron against Kyle Singler, Gerald Henderson, Greg Paulus and the rest. If Houston does stay close, Memphis might have a difficult conference foe on their hands. Prediction: Houston 68, Duke 88

9. Illinois State @ Wright State (Saturday)– Not many searching for good games this week will avoid overlooking this battle, but these are two schools that could win their conferences- the Missouri Valley and Horizon League, respectively. 15.8 PPG scorer Osiris Eldridge is a contender for MVC Player of the Year while Todd Brown and Vaughn Duggins look to defend their home court in this battle of mid majors. Prediction: Illinois State 59, Wright State 60

10. American @ Oklahoma (Friday, ESPN Full Court)– Oklahoma should win this easily, but you’ll surely see American as an upset contender next March. They’ve got one of the best unknown players in the nation in Garrison Carr. Derrick Mercer is another outstanding guard for the Patriot League favorites. This is also our first look at Willie Warren for the Sooners. Prediction: American 71, Oklahoma 90

Also keep an eye on:
– Miami (OH) @ UCLA (Thursday, ESPNU)
– Bucknell @ Maryland (Friday)
– Butler @ Drake (Saturday)
– Pennsylvania @ North Carolina (Saturday, FSN South)
– Northeastern @ Providence (Saturday)
– Rhode Island @ Duke (Sunday, ESPNU)
– Winthrop @ South Carolina (Sunday)
– Milwaukee @ Iowa State (Sunday)

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Gameday, Sleepers and Other News

Posted by Zach on August 28, 2008

Not much news in or around college basketball during late August. I could update you on the Derrick Caracter situation, but he’s not worth anyone’s time. The recruiting rampage has died down with the elite camps concluding and coaches returning for the start of school. While some injury or late transfer may take place in the next few days, don’t expect much big news as the summer ends and fall begins. Don’t fear though, college basketball is closer than you may think. To conjure up excitement, here’s a look at the recently released College Gameday sites for the 2008-09 season:

Jan. 17- Chapel Hill, N.C. (Miami at North Carolina)
Jan. 24- South Bend, Ind. (Connecticut at Notre Dame)
Jan. 31- Knoxville, Tenn. (Florida at Tennessee)
Feb. 7- Spokane, Wash. (Memphis at Gonzaga)
Feb. 14- Madison, Wis. (Ohio State at Wisconsin)
Feb. 21- Austin, Texas (Oklahoma at Texas)
Feb. 28- Berkeley, Calif. (UCLA at California)
Mar. 7- Morgantown, W.V. (Louisville at West Virginia)

Fairly pedestrian, right? The two best games are Connecticut-Notre Dame, which should have major Big East title implications, and Oklahoma-Texas, which should do the same for the Big 12 later in the season. California must feel fortunate considering they’re in full-fledged rebuilding and the UCLA pairing will probably result in a blowout. Memphis-Gonzaga could be interesting, but the Zags never lose at home. That March 7 game could prove to be the reason Louisville loses out on a Big East title in the last weekend of the season. Keep that date circled. Not an easy place to play.

Anyway, on to the main point of this post: my top five sleeper/surprise teams of this upcoming season:

UNLV
– Lon Kruger is one of the smartest coaches in the business, taking his team on a two week summer trek around Australia to prepare for the season against top-notch Australian teams. The Rebels are perennially a contender in the Mountain West and reached the Sweet 16 just two years ago in Saint Louis; this year, they’re the clear favorite to win the regular season crown in the MWC. Still, because of the MWC TV package with CSTV and the lack of national exposure, most don’t give the credit to UNLV and Kruger that is deserved.

The Rebels are led by super-talented guard Wink Adams, a true playmaker in every sense of the word that scored 25 against Kansas in their second round matchup last March. He’ll need to improve drastically on his 14 total points scored against rival BYU in two games for the Rebels to win the conference. UNLV will be boosted by Memphis transfer guard Tre’Von Willis and strong, elite forwards Joe Darger and Rene Rougeau. They’ll be in the Top 25 at some point this year.

Kentucky
– Billy Gillespie showed his coaching mettle last season by overcoming strong pressure and adversity following a disastrous non-conference performance by finishing valiantly in the SEC and in their close loss to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Two freshmen battling for the point guard spot on an SEC contender is never a good thing due to the inexperience, but DeAndre Liggins and Kevin Galloway are prime talents and are fully cleared by the NCAA. Someone will emerge.

The stud is recently healed Patrick Patterson, a forceful and menacing forward who uses his physicality to put up double-doubles on any given night. He’s my pick for preseason SEC player of the year. Jodie Meeks is also healthy and Perry Stevenson is a quality role player for any team. Kentucky could be boom or bust this season due to the amount of freshmen they’re relying on; my inclination says boom, but it could easily go the other way.

Baylor
– The Bears are becoming a sexy sleeper pick for this season, and the direction of the program is clearly heading in the right track after indirectly and unofficially landing one of the top players in the 2009 class, John Wall (wink wink). The Bears will surely improve on a school record nine conference wins from a season ago and have NCAA Tournament expectations. Their guard play is terrific, even with their loss of team leader Aaron Bruce. Curtis Jerrells averaged over 15 PPG last season and may turn out to be a contender for Big 12 POY this season if his outside shooting improves.

The team returns eight of their top nine scorers from a year ago, including emerging sophomore guard LaceDarius Dunn. The Monroe, LA native averaged 13.6 PPG and shot 42% from three in his freshman campaign. Scott Drew also added Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh to the program, who started 31 games for Michigan the last couple years. Drew has this program on the rise. They could finish third in the Big 12 this year.

Southern Cal
– Most would consider the Trojans exempt from any sleeper list, but the national media may sleep on a team that lost both top-five pick O.J. Mayo and draft defect Davon Jefferson. For the folks in Southern California, here’s two words that should heal any post-Mayo wounds: DeMar DeRozan. Believe me, this kid is going to be something special. Another one-and-done recruit for Tim Floyd, DeRozan has athleticism unmatched in his freshman class, a complete package in terms of scoring and rebounding, and the ability to penetrate and finish in any situation.

Joining DeRozan will be UNC transfer Alex Stepheson, a true post presence who will take more and more pressure off of Taj Gibson to recover following a disappointing 2007-08 season and Leonard Washington to contribute immediately. Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis are also extremely valuable role players for Tim Floyd. The Pac-10 isn’t as loaded as in past campaigns, so look for USC to finish third behind UCLA and Arizona State.

Providence
– Most folks scoff when I mention the possibility of the Big East actually getting ten teams into the NCAA Tournament this season. The likelihood of one of the contenders fading and/or the conference beating up on each other too much for this to occur is very high, but even the consideration shows the bulk of top-heavy talent in this conference. That tenth team I’m throwing out there is Providence, led by former Drake coach Keno Davis.

The Friars have two main questions that need to be addressed: 1) is Sharaud Curry healthy enough to lead this team, and 2) who will handle point guard duties in a conference where, frankly, you need a competent point guard. The Friars have some interesting pieces, most notably guard Weyinmi Efejuku, a double-digit per game scorer, and former Manhattan transfer Jeff Xavier, another player who can handle much of the scoring load for Providence. They’ll be tested immediately with the Anaheim Classic and were fortunate in getting a favorable Big East slate with Cincinnati and Rutgers twice.

Some other quick news and notes:

– Marquette sophomore forward Trevor Mbakwe gave every indication he was going to return to the program even with the departure of Tom Crean this off-season, but he has changed his mind and has left Marquette for other ventures. We’ll see which small school scoops him up. He’s a project but a worthwhile one.

– Memphis is heading towards another package deal, a growing and disturbing trend in college basketball. They lured in the brother of one of the top players in the 2009 class, Xavier Henry’s brother C.J, to enroll full-time at their school. Slick move by John Calipari to help in the recruiting of Xavier, so they’ve seemingly moved ahead in the race.

– Villanova landed another top recruit in Mouph Yarou, a 6’9 African big man from a military academy in Virginia, ranked #28 overall in the county by Scout.

– Freshman guard Mark McLaughlin will not play for Nevada this season, a top-100 recruit in the nation. This is a big loss for the Wolfpack as he was expected to team up with Luke Babbitt and contribute mightily this season.

For excellent mid-major season previews, just go to ESPN.com for their ShootAround segment. For the big conferences, we’ve previewed all six on this site, so snoop around.

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