The RTC Big Four State Tournament: First Round

Posted by rtmsf on September 1st, 2010

A few weeks ago, the four major college basketball programs in the great state of Indiana announced that they would be starting an annual event called the Crossroads Classic, pitting each school against one of its other state rivals (Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame and Butler) in an annual basketball orgy of Hoosierness.  We here at RTC loved this idea, and immediately started thinking of other states in the union who could put on a similarly extravagant annual show of hoops.  We were about 99.7% finished with our research when Matt Snyder of Fanhouse published this piece listing the top twenty states that could hold similar in-state classics, causing us to scramble to check the integrity of our passwords (“RTC” doesn’t cut it?) and servers throughout the network.

Indiana's New Crossroads Classic Inspired Us

Seriously, though, Snyder did a great job with the idea; he just beat us to the punch with it.  So we went back to the drawing board and thought about ways to use our research in a constructive way that didn’t rip off the Fanhouse post.  What we came up with is what we’re calling the 2010 RTC Big Four State Tournament.  Here’s how it works.

  1. Similar to the Fanhouse post, we picked the top four programs in each of the 33 states (including DC) with at least that many D1 universities.
  2. We then chose the top sixteen states based on the current status and power of those four programs within each state.
  3. Next, we chose a starting lineup “dream team” of players from those programs in each state, thinking about how to best integrate them by position (three guards & two bigs; or vice versa).
  4. We also chose two subs — one guard and one big man — as well as a head coach.
  5. We limited each school to two starters and one bench player for a maximum of three per team (sorry, Duke).  We also made sure to include at least one player from each of the four chosen programs (hi, Seattle).
  6. Finally, we seeded the sixteen teams into our bracket and analyzed the matchups.  We encourage you to use the polls below to do likewise.

Which state do you think has the strongest cadre of players from among its Big Four programs?  Here’s our bracket:

We’ll analyze the left side of our bracket today, and the right side tomorrow.  Make sure to put your choices in the appropriate poll box.

#1 Indiana vs. #16 Utah

The most lopsided first round battle pits top seeded Indiana against a Utah squad filled with mid-major flavor. For Utah to avoid embarrassing themselves, they’ll need a heroic effort from elite scorer and potential first team All-American Jimmer Fredette. Much like BYU was vulnerable on the rare occasion when Fredette didn’t deliver, this Utah team void of talent from top-shelf Division I programs will need their do-everything point guard to put on his Superman cape. We suspect Fredette will keep Utah competitive for most of the first half. Tai Wesley is crafty enough to lure Matt Howard into foul trouble and, given the season Weber State just concluded, their representatives are far from slouches. In a near carbon copy of BYU’s second round contest with Kansas State, though, it would be a surprise if Fredette didn’t wear down under the intense man-to-man defense of Shelvin Mack and the common double team. Because of our conditions for picking these teams, sure, but an Indiana team loaded enough to bring a talent like JaJuan Johnson off the bench isn’t going to lose to a primarily one-man squad. The Hoosier State representatives pull away and win by 20+.

RTC Choice: Indiana 84, Utah 62.

#4 Texas vs. #13 New York


A super-sized 4/13 matchup for a couple of super-sized states.  Texas has a significant edge in talent on the strength of its three Big 12 schools, perhaps at every starting position but one.  Yet as crafty as Coach Boeheim can be with his 2-3 zone and three SU players on his team who know how to run it, Texas simply has too many shooters on the perimeter for the Empire Staters to stop Randy Culpepper, LaceDarius Dunn and Jordan Hamilton from finding open looks.  Where New York could find an advantage is on the inside with capable bangers Kris Joseph, Ryan Rossiter and Rick Jackson available to clean the glass and limit second-chance opportunities.  But the wildcard in this analysis is Baylor’s 6’11 Anthony Randolph clone, Perry Jones,  who will likely give the trio fits with his ability to face up on the wing in areas much farther away from the basket than they are accustomed to defending.  We ultimately see this contest coming down to the last five minutes, with the Texas perimeter play ultimately proving the difference. 

RTC Choice: Texas 74, New York 67.

#5 Ohio vs. #12 Virginia

5/12 is normally the most popular long-shot upset pick in recent NCAA Tournament history. We’ll follow the same formula if you don’t mind. This is an intriguing matchup in many ways — one being the backcourt edge for Virginia contrasted by the frontcourt advantage pointing to Ohio. Whether the guards or forwards impose their will for 40 minutes will decide this close-knit contest. Virginia’s backcourt tandem of reigning A-10 Player of the Year Kevin Anderson (a year in which winning that award was pretty darn meaningful) and ACC Player of the Year contender Malcolm Delaney would prove just as capable as Indiana, North Carolina, Washington or the other favorites in this tournament. As long as Mike Scott and Justin Harper play formidable defense and crash the boards, Virginia will reign supreme. In the biggest upset of the first round, it’s the Anderson-Delaney backcourt proving the difference.

RTC Choice: Virginia 72, Ohio 70.

#8 Michigan vs. #9 Illinois

Our last first-round matchup of day one features a couple of old midwestern rivals in both geography, conference affiliation and coaches, as Tom Izzo leads Michigan against Bruce Weber’s Illinois squad.  Both coaches should be familiar with their rosters, as their Spartans and the Illini each provided three players to this relatively even contest.  While we believe that MSU’s trio of Kalin Lucas, Draymond Green and Durrell Summers are better than Illinois’ Demetri McCamey, Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis, we aren’t convinced that the Michigan wings will be able to match what Illinois brings to bear with its pair of Northwestern Wildcats, Michael Thompson and John Shurna.  Oakland’s Keith Benson is an interesting x-factor for Michigan inside, but we expect that Tisdale and Davis will be able to effectively negate his presence with their bulk (it’s what they do, after all).  This will be a standard Big Ten-style of game exhibiting all kinds of physical play and no easy baskets, but we see Illinois having a tad more firepower on the perimeter to overcome the stringent Michigan defense.

RTC Choice: Illinois 61, Michigan 59. 

Note: check back tomorrow for the second half of the first round.

rtmsf (3998 Posts)

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5 responses to “The RTC Big Four State Tournament: First Round”

  1. UNC4life says:

    there needs to be a tourney with North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, & duke but I think Duke wouldnt want to do it because they might have to face a real opponent in their OOC schedule.

  2. Peter, Dallas says:

    “UNC4life” (sounds like a prison sentence for criminal stupidity): On the flip side, Duke isn’t losing to College of Charleston (next best W, Wofford) or stumbling to a mind-numbing 20-17 (5-11) season. You hang that NIT Runner-Up banner yet?

    As for your OOC mythology – over the last 5 seasons – of Duke’s 73 OOC games, 31 were vs. BCS/Top25 opponents (42%), 27 vs. Tourney-bound teams (37%). Over the same period, of UNC’s 69 OOC games, 22 vs. BCS/Top25 opps (32%), and 20 vs. Tourney-bound teams (29%). You need help with the math on that?

  3. Brian says:

    You could put Hofstra or Iona over Cornell for New York. Cornell has the buzz now because of last year but the vast majority of those players are now gone. The other two programs will probably fare better this year.

    Could take Old Dominion over VCU for Virginia.

    Illinois is probably overseeded a bit, only one real national power in that state (U of I).

    Nice job overall though. Interesting to think about teams and players in this way.

  4. rtmsf says:

    Thanks, Brian. Zach and I went back and forth on a lot of these, but we feel like we ended up in a pretty good place with it. It’s been enjoyable, though, and we’re looking fwd to see how it plays out.

  5. Jack says:

    I guess Michigan has MSU as its gold standard and UM as a secondary. Oakland’s a nice No. 3 but…. I’m not sure about Detroit as the No. 4. Would Central Michigan be a better choice (I’m really not sure, I’m just curious).

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