Conference Tournament Daily Diaries: SundayPosted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2011
RTC is pleased to announce that we’ll be covering all of the major conference tournaments this year — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC — in addition to the strongest two high-middies, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West. Each day for the rest of this week, we’re asking our correspondents to provide us with a Daily Diary of the sights and sounds from the arena at each site. Equal parts game analysis and opinion, the hope is that this will go beyond the tiresome game recaps you can find elsewhere and give you an insightful look into Championship Week. Yesterday’s coverage: ACC, Atlantic 10, Big Ten & SEC.
ACC Tournament – by Kellen Carpenter
- Early in the game, during a media timeout, one of the North Carolina cheerleaders lost her balance and fell down on the male cheerleader who was trying to hold her up. She ended up busting either his nose or lip and proceeded to bleed all over himself, the fallen cheerleader and the court. It took some extended minutes for the glove-wearing bio-hazard team to find and clean up all the blood. It was that kind of day for the North Carolina team and fans.
- There was buzz more than an hour before tip-off and it grew steadily from there. The crowd was full of North Carolina partisans, but Duke has had the second most fans here all week. The stands were filled and the crowd cheered frequently and often. While the crowd was excitable and loud, the game lacked the rancor of the two previous Duke games. My favorite part about the crowd, however, were the proud representatives of the teams who had already fallen. Clemson sweatshirts and Virginia Tech hats abounded amongst the faction of spectators who often refused to cheer for either team.
- Nolan Smith may not have had the gaudy offensive performances of Kemba Walker or Jimmer Fredette this week, but his performance on the offensive end has been spectacular and his performance on the defensive end has won the Blue Devils games. Just as Smith disrupted Virginia Tech’s offense by neutralizing Malcolm Delaney, Smith made the Tar Heel offense grind to a halt with his aggressive defense on Kendall Marshall.
- In the past two games, Marshall was slowed down and rendered ineffective as teams have discovered the key to stopping him. Marshall is slow and needs space to make passes or drives. Aggressive, close defense on Marshall prevented him from scoring and making plays. Smith came out on Marshall as soon as he got across the half court line and challenged Marshall to try to get past him or pass with heavy pressure. It worked. Marshall had five turnovers to only five assists. He went 3 of 10 from the field. Marshall’s ability to make plays has been the driving force behind this Tar Heel team. Stopping Marshall is the key to stopping North Carolina, and unfortunately for the Heels, it’s now painfully clear how this can be accomplished.
- The Comeback Kids couldn’t find one more miracle. After the game, Roy Williams said he didn’t understand why UNC had continually fell behind early in their tournament games. I’m not sure either, but I have some guesses. Roy’s insistence on getting early touches for the big men makes UNC’s offense incredibly predictable at the beginning of games. By refusing to shoot threes early in the game, Roy has made it easy to clog the paint and focus in on UNC’s focus.
- Ryan Kelly, despite looking like a very tall version of Neville Longbottom, has actually settled into a nice impersonation of Manu Ginobili as a big man, or maybe Andrei Kirilenko when he came off the bench. In the sixth man role, Kelly played the fourth most minutes for Duke tonight and had a very impressive all-around game. In addition to nine points and three rebounds, he contributed three blocks and three steals on defense and served as a more reliable scoring threat than either of the Plumlees. This new role suits Kelly, and Coach K said he believes that Kelly has played the best basketball of his life in these past three days. In any case, it’s one more nasty surprise Duke has in store for it’s opponents in the NCAA Tournament.
- Watching Duke play it was almost inconceivable to me that a Duke team that so effortlessly ran the table in the conference tournament and only had four losses, none of them bad over the course of the season, might not be a number one seed. They are playing some of the best basketball in the nation this past week, as they have all season. I understand that many teams have a better collection of “best wins,” but Duke is a seriously dangerous team that has gotten better over the course of the season.
- The last thing that really stood out throughout the course of the tournament was how much Greensboro, as a city, seemed genuinely excited to host. The way that every single business I saw had some sign or deal for ACC fans, the fact that the ACC Hall of Champions stands right next to the Greensboro Coliseum, and just the general excitement about town paints a picture of a place that really, really cares about hosting conference tournaments. It seemed like these were most important days of the year for Greensboro, and that’s a real credit to an otherwise small and sleepy city in North Carolina.
Atlantic 10 Tournament – by Joe Dzuback
- Championship fashion. Richmond took the championship game in championship fashion, 67-54, over a scrappy Dayton squad. The stat of the game was rebounding and defense. Richmond, a team that uses a lot of Princeton Offense principles in their offense (the game was played for 59 possessions, typical for a motion/Princeton Offense team) went hard and heavy to the boards in both their semifinal game with Temple and their final with Dayton. In response to a media question about outrebounding both Temple and Dayton, Coach Mooney acknowledged that Darrius Garrett was a key to bolster the Spider defense, and that “…this tournament was probably the most consistent we’ve ever rebounded…” – if they can continue to rebound as effectively as they did today, the Spiders should have a nice NCAA run, no matter where they are assigned.
- The All-Tournament Team. With a nod to Temple’s recent dominance of the event, the reporters voted senior Lavoy Allen onto the All-Tournament Team. The others were all from the finalists:
- Lavoy Allen, forward, Temple
- Chris Johnson, forward, Dayton
- Chris Wright, forward, Dayton
- Justin Harper, forward, Richmond
- Kevin Anderson, guard, Richmond – also named the tournament MVP.
- The post-conference tournaments postseason. Post Season Fever swept through the press room late yesterday and especially today. How many bids (to the NCAA)? Can the A-10 Conference get four? With the loss Dayton’s Coach Brian Gregory acknowledged that his Flyers have little chance to break into the NCAA field. The automatic bid was their last chance. Assuming not too many regular season title-holders from non-BCS conferences are eliminated in conference tournaments, the NIT is probable. Before conference tournament week, Dayton was a #4/#5 seed at the NIT Bracket Project. Though Rhode Island and probably Duquesne were dropped late from the NIT field and will most likely end up, along with an already announced St. Bonaventure, in the CBI tournament.
- No Philadelphia Teams, no fans. Attendance, listed at 5602, was off about 34% from yesterday’s semifinals. Where were the fans? Probably back in Philadelphia, where the Owls and Hawks returned after being eliminated yesterday.
Big Ten Tournament – by John Stevens
- Of Ohio State’s three opponents, only Northwestern tried anything comparatively new to beat them. On defense, Bill Carmody switched his defenses frequently and kept OSU off-balance and occasionally hesitant in starting their sets. On offense, he had his players attack OSU with back door cuts and drives, many right at Jared Sullinger, which resulted in a few fouls and got the Wildcats to the line with a frequency that you know annoyed Thad Matta (a paucity of fouls is a consistent hallmark of Matta’s OSU squads, as we know). Penn State, who should certainly be congratulated on their run and on their NCAA bid, showed some forward thinking on two possessions against the Buckeyes — on their very first, they had David Jackson, whom Sullinger was covering, become intentionally and extremely mobile without the ball, forcing the big fella to sprint to stick close to Jackson. After a few trips across the lane and into the corners and back, a gap became evident. They didn’t get Jackson the ball, but after that single possession, Sullinger was panting. Imagine if someone did that to him a little more often. The Lions never did it again.
- It’s extremely hard to find things wrong with Sullinger’s game, but one of the few things he actually DOESN’T do well is defend the pick and roll. When he has the ball with his back to the basket, he turns left (to shield the right hand) about 75% of the time, too. You know what he does well? Score and rebound. He averaged 16.3 PPG and 14.0 RPG during this tournament, and he got to the foul line an astonishing 38 times (making 25).
- Penn State should be lauded for playing itself off the NCAA bubble and into the Tournament this weekend by winning three games, but they were bound to wear out this weekend. Ed DeChellis plays his five starters the vast majority of the minutes, exhibited by the Nittany Lions ranking 340th in the nation in bench usage (18.4%). Among NCAA teams, only Xavier (15.6%) plays its bench fewer minutes.
SEC Tournament – by Jared Quillen
I had originally planned on writing about the Kentucky/Florida game, but after smelling the egg that the selection committee laid today, I want to just touch on the game and then move on to criticism. Kentucky dominated Florida in every aspect of the game today: in shooting, from the line, from behind the arc, on the boards, on steals, turnovers, fouls, blocks and the final score. And they did it with only six points from star freshman Doron Lamb who scored 19 points against Mississippi and 15 against Alabama. Yesterday Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton went 8-15 from beyond the arc against Vanderbilt. Against Kentucky they were a combined 4-12. Florida’s Vernon Macklin had five turnovers and the team had 14 turnovers to only 11 assists. Kenny Boynton had 10 points for Florida, the only Florida player in double figures. When this game was over I was convinced that Kentucky had earned a number three seed and that Florida might have dropped to a four seed. Enter the group of old men on the NCAA selection committee who know next to nothing about basketball. I could draw teams out of a hat better than the committee seeded this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Consider for a moment two teams:
- 3-3 Against the RPI Top 25
- 4-3 Against Top 25 Teams
- RPI Rank #8
- Ken Pomeroy Rank #19
- Defeated OVC Tournament Champion
- Defeated A-10 Regular Season Champion
- 1-2 Against Team 2
- 4-3 Against the RPI Top 25
- 6-2 Against Top 25 Teams
- RPI Rank #7
- Ken Pomeroy Rank #7
- Defeated PAC 10 Tournament Champion
- Defeated Big East Regular Season Runner-Up
- Defeated Big East Tournament Championship Runner Up
- 2-1 Against Team 1
Team 1 is Florida at a two seed. Team 2 is Kentucky at a four seed. How does Florida get a 2 seed and Kentucky only a 4, and in the toughest bracket to boot? If Florida is a 2 seed, Kentucky is definitely a 3 seed.
Don’t get even get me started on the committee leaving Alabama out and including UAB and VCU. How does Alabama not make the tournament with wins over Kentucky, at Tennessee and over Georgia twice? Alabama is also 16-5 in the last 21 games with an SEC regular season record of 12-4? The NCAA selection committee can say what they want about the RPI not being the Bible, but let’s face it, Alabama missed this tournament for one reason and one reason only, an RPI of 80. That RPI is in no way indicative of how good Alabama has been over the last 21 games. I defy you to find me 79 teams that are better than Alabama.
This is the worst-picked and worst-seeded tournament I have seen for as long as I have followed college basketball, which is a long time. Utah State getting a 12 seed is just silliness. Utah State has 30 wins, is 15-1 in the WAC regular season, won the WAC tournament, is number 15 in the RPI and number 16 on Ken Pomeroy.
George Mason got an 8 seed? For what? Who have they beaten?
I could go on all day about how bad this bracket is. There are 30 teams in this tournament with at least 10 losses! 30!!! There are six teams with 14 losses or more. This is the worst tournament that I can remember. Because of the poor job the committee did selecting and seeding, there will be many many upsets. Have fun getting all of your picks wrong. I’m going to stop here because this is ridiculous. Ridiculous!