ATB: Thanks For Showing Up Florida, Louisville Keeps On Chugging Along, and a Horrific Leg Injury…

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 31st, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. The Final Four Is Set. Another week of inter-round boredom awaits after four teams advanced to college basketball’s final weekend. This Tournament hasn’t lacked for upsets, but it also hasn’t totally eviscerated the brand-name blue blood royalty that drives interest and TV viewership. The final grouping is an eclectic mix, filled with just enough Cinderella intrigue and just enough high-seed power to make next weekend’s action in Atlanta a satisfying climax to a memorable college hoops season. The Final Four is the refined product of months of regular season carnage, conference Tournament rigor and, lastly, four rounds of grueling Tournament play. But we made it here, and now, all there is to do is stick along and enjoy the final push for National Championship glory.

Your Water cooler Moment. Cardinals Validate Favorite  Status.The best team in the country took the court Sunday with a clear mandate: whatever you have been doing for the past three games, keep doing it. The Cardinals followed through pretty well, I’d say, because if you were to ask any casual sports fan to identify the differences between Louisville’s 85-63 Elite Eight rout of Duke Sunday and the three victories it used to reach the regional final, responses would be terse and mostly inconsequential. Louisville provided yet another thrilling 40-minute sample of the best and most complete basketball being played anywhere right now, and this time, it was Duke – long considered the best team in the country, especially with forward Ryan Kelly in the lineup, with whom the Blue Devils had dropped just two game prior – falling victim to Louisville’s dominating form.

The road to Atlanta couldn't have been much smoother for Louisville (Getty Images).

The road to Atlanta couldn’t have been much smoother for Louisville (Getty Images).

True to the Cardinals’ season-long identity, they won primarily with defense. They forced Duke into 11 turnovers, 36 percent shooting and just 25 percent from beyond the arc. Offensively, the good side of Russdiculous showed up, this time dropping 23 points, and Peyton Siva (16 points, 6-for-10) and Gorgui Dieng (14 points, 11 rebounds) filled in around the margins. Mason Plumlee gave Duke the inside presence it absolutely needed, but Kelly – beset by foul trouble for much of the first half – never got going on the offensive end and Seth Curry finished 3-for-9 with just 12 points, a drastic downturn after his banner 29-point night against Michigan State in the Sweet 16. The Cardinals are the best team left in this field; debating otherwise is silly at this point. There’s a reason Rick Pitino opted not to cut down the nets after winning the Big East Tournament championship. He knew his team was good enough to reach this point on a grander stage – the NCAA Tournament Championship. Sunday offered no reason to believe Louisville isn’t the overwhelming favorite to finish this season with ripped twine securely in tow.

(*I address Kevin Ware’s first half leg injury in the “Tweet of the Night” section below.)

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 85, #2 Duke 63

Posted by WCarey on March 31st, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Elite Eight NCAA Tournament game between #1 Louisville and #2 Duke in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Louisville’s mental toughness was incalculable. With 6:33 remaining in the first half, Louisville reserve guard Kevin Ware ran out to defend a three-point attempt from Duke guard Tyler Thornton and what seemed like a routine play turned into a very gruesome sight at Lucas Oil Stadium. Ware’s leg snapped as he landed and he suffered a broken leg. Ware’s teammates were deeply affected by the horrible scene on the court, as both guard Russ Smith and forward Chane Behanan were in tears. As Ware was taken off on a stretcher, Smith, Behanan, and forwards Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell were locked in an embrace near midcourt. The Cardinals led 21-20 when Ware went down and it would have been completely understandable if they had been unable to overcome the emotions that came with the injury. However, the Cardinals recovered in very impressive fashion – finishing the first half with a 35-32 lead and then exploding in the second half to outscore the Blue Devils 50-31 during the second 20 minutes of the game. Louisville coach Rick Pitino, his coaching staff, and senior point guard Peyton Siva deserve a great deal of credit for guiding the team through what was undoubtedly a very tough time.
  2. The Cardinals flat out owned the second half. At the second half’s under-16 media timeout, the game was tied at 42, but from that point forward the game was completely dominated by the Cardinals. After the 42-42 tie, Louisville outscored Duke 43-21. The Cardinals’ defensive effort in the second half was so suffocating that they held a very good offense to just a 32.1% mark from the field over the final 20 minutes of the game. Duke stars Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, and Mason Plumlee were never really able to make a huge impact and its guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon were held to a combined 4-of-21 performance from the field. Siva and Smith took over for Louisville on the offensive end of the court, seemingly getting into the lane at will. After shooting a respectable 46.4% from the field in the first half, the Cardinals were even better from the field in the second half, making 59.3% of their attempts in the second frame. Louisville completely dominated the second half and when it is able to put forth a performance like that, it is an impossible team to beat.
  3. Louisville is the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta. When the Cardinals became the overall number one-seed on Selection Sunday, they were viewed as a definite favorite to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta. Two weeks later, Louisville has advanced to Atlanta and is the only one-seed still alive in the field. The Cardinals are set to play nine-seed Wichita State on Saturday in a semi-final where they will have a definite talent advantage even though the Shockers were able to pull off upsets of West Region one-seed Gonzaga and two-seed Ohio State. In the other semifinal, four seeds Michigan and Syracuse will meet for a right to advance to the national title game. While there will be a lot of talent on display next weekend, no team has as much talent and experience as Louisville and this is why it should definitely be viewed as the clear favorite to cut down the nets when all is said and done.

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Initial Questions About Michigan vs. Syracuse

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 31st, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

Take a deep breath Big Ten basketball fans; Michigan‘s win over Florida might have avoided a full week of  coverage from the hoops media about the conference being “overrated.” The Gators were surprisingly a great match-up for the Wolverines because they were run out of the building (79-59), but the Final Four match-up against Syracuse will undoubtedly pose a tough challenge for John Beilein. Jim Boeheim already dismantled Tom Crean with his defensive game plan and Beilein may not get much sleep over the next week because the 2-3 zone can befuddle his team without an effective game plan that can be executed with his personnel. The following are three key questions about the Wolverines’ game against the Orange:

Can Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams in check in Atlanta?

Can the Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams in check in Atlanta?

  • Can the Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams from getting into the paint? Williams had his way against Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and used his length (6’6″) to consistently attack the basket to finish with 24 points. Beilein has a tough decision to make on this defensive match-up because Trey Burke gives up at least five inches and not to mention could pick up some a quick foul or two if he tries to strip the ball away from Williams. In order to match Williams’ length, Beilein may have to go with  Nik Stauskas or Tim Hardaway Jr. which could be trouble because neither of the Wolverines wings are known for their defense. Stauksas enjoyed a great game (22 points) against the Gators but may not be effective on the offensive end if he is assigned to check Williams throughout the game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #4 Michigan 79, #3 Florida 59

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the South Regional in Dallas, TX this weekend.

Three Takeaways.

  1. Michigan played phenomenally well today. They came out of the gate on fire and never really let up. Sure there were a few moments where Florida looked like they might get back in it as they cut the lead to 11 with 17:35 left on a pair fo free throws by Scottie Wilbekin, but Michigan never let them back in it. It was perhaps the most impressive performance that the Wolverines have put together this season (only their 25-point win over a good, but still inferior VCU team comes close). The star of the game was Nik Stauskas, who Florida apparently didn’t realize is one of the best shooters in college basketball. Stauskas was nearly perfect in first half with 19 points as his only missed shot was a missed free throw at the end of the half after an idiotic Michael Frazier foul with 0.4 seconds left gave Stauskas three free throws. Stauskas finished with 22 points as the team went away from him int he second half. To leave it at Stauskas would be a disservice to the rest of the Wolverine team who overcame awful shooting performances from Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr who were a combined 8-29 from the field. Mitch McGary added 11 points and 9 rebounds with most of them coming in an early run that set that tone for the game. Burke made up for his poor shooting with with 8 rebounds and 7 assists with just one turnover. After the game he said that when he is struggling from the floor he makes a concerted effort to facilitate and make sure he makes an impact on defense.

    Everybody was impressed with Michigan even if Beilein appeared unenthusiastic at this point (Credit: @nickbaumgardner)

    Everybody was impressed with Michigan even if Beilein appeared unenthusiastic at this point (Credit: @nickbaumgardner)

  2. On the other sideline it was a complete no-show by the Gators. For a team that was supposed to have experience on its side having made the past two Elite 8s the Gators seemed overwhelmed by the Wolverines. Outside of the ugly shooting from the field (41%) the Gators also failed to make the three-point shot a weapon as they only made 2 of 10 when they came into the game making 8 a game. When the other team goes 10 of 19 from beyond the arc as Michigan did you are not going to win many games. Looking back on the season this will be yet another Elite 8 appearance that ended in disappointment. It was a marvelous season for the Gators where they throttled opponents for much of the season, but in the end they lacked a dominant player to take over when the team was in trouble. It may not have been enough to overcome a hot Michigan team today, but it would have made things a lot more interesting. For Billy Donovan it will be back to the drawing board as he loses a ton of experience and will have to remake his team. The media will harp on Florida losing three straight Elite 8 games, but that undersells the difficulty in getting to that point, which is an impressive accomplishment in itself.
  3. Looking forward for the Wolverines their performance today should scare every Syracuse fan, but that doesn’t mean we should expect them to catch fire from beyond the arc again in Atlanta. Coming into the game this was a team that shot 38% from three-point range and this 53% performance probably won’t be repeated although it might if Syracuse leaves Stauskas as open as Florida did. The Michael Carter-Willliams-Trey Burke match-up should be a great one and one that will attract a lot of NBA scouts, but there should be plenty of other great match-ups that we will get into next week.

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Midwest Regional Final Game Analysis: #1 Louisville vs #2 Duke

Posted by BHayes on March 31st, 2013

 

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#1 Louisville vs. #2 Duke Midwest Regional Final (at Indianapolis, IN) – 5:05 PM ET on CBS

Dream materialized into reality on Friday night as Duke and Louisville wins created a must-see Midwest Regional final match-up. In a wacky NCAA Tournament where five of the top eight seeds have already fallen by the wayside, the Midwest region largely held to form. #1 vs. #2 in the regional final feels all to0 appropriate. Louisville will enter Sunday as the favorite, with a 13-game winning streak and Lucas Oil Stadium full of Cardinal Red in tow. They have shown few weaknesses in reaching this moment, but the Duke team standing between them and Atlanta is elite in their own right, and will undoubtedly offer the sternest test yet for the Cards. The Blue Devils were five points better than Louisville back on November 24, but will the presence of Gorgui Dieng (absent from that Battle 4 Atlantis loss) and a constantly growing Cardinal swagger be enough to script a different ending today?

Krzyzewski Has Worked His Magic Again This Year, But Can He Get Duke Back To The Final Four Again?

Even without Dieng, Louisville posted a +6 advantage on the glass in the November game between these two teams. Where his absence was felt was on the defensive end, where a bigger Duke front line was able to attack the rim at will. The Cards managed just one block (Dieng averages 2.5 a game) and Duke went to the line 27 times, where 23 makes helped the Devils overcome a poor shooting night from beyond the arc (5-20 as a team on threes). Having Dieng around now will shore up the interior defense, but Louisville must maintain emphasis on guarding the three-point line, because no team spaces the floor and shoots the three as well as Duke. Louisville may be the best defensive team in the country and grades well in almost every defensive metric, but their defense of the three point line is the weakest of those areas. The manic defensive aggression is a staple of the Cardinal defensive plan, but risks need be well calculated against a perimeter attack as lethal as Duke’s.

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South Regional Final Game Analysis: #3 Florida vs #4 Michigan

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2013

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#3 Florida vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Final (Los Angeles, CA) – 7:05PM ET on CBS

Florida-Michigan may be an undercard to the ridiculous Louisville-Duke game later today, but that doesn’t mean that it will be of much lower quality as it features two teams that were in the top 10 for most of the season and in the top 5 for long stretches. It was only late season slides that kept these teams from being on the 1 or 2 line on Selection Sunday. Despite those late season struggles both teams have recovered and have managed to play excellent basketball leading up to today.

Florida is of course the darling of advanced metrics fans as they have put up impressive efficiency numbers, but many observers have questioned whether the team has the ability to win close games as they have lost all six games they have played this year that were decided by single digits. The flip side of that is that their other 29 wins have been by double digits showing just how effective they can be. The Gators will have a tough time making this their 30th double-digit win of the season as Michigan is much better than anybody they have beaten this season and probably better than anybody they have played this year with the possible exception of Arizona (one of Florida’s six single-digit losses). To beat the Wolverines the Gators will need to find a way to contain Trey Burke who rebounded from a scoreless first half to score 23 points to go along with 10 assists. The task of containing Burke will likely fall on Scottie Wilbekin, who compared Burke to Phil Pressey yesterday. While Pressey is an excellent player and creator he lacks the explosive offensive game of Burke. In addition, Burke has been exceptional in his ability to create while taking care of the ball as he came into the weekend with a 3.11 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks 4th in the nation.

Burke Will Be The Focus Of The Gator Defense

Burke may be the star for Michigan, but Florida will have to contend with a trio of outstanding perimeter players in Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas who all can provide scoring from the outside if Burke struggles to find his shot. On the inside, Patric Young will be matched up with Mitch McGary, who has recovered from a slow start to his freshman season, which he has openly admitted was due to his poor conditioning and effort, to lead the Wolverines in scoring in the NCAA Tournament with 19.7 points per game while making a ridiculous 75.7% of his shots from the field and has added 12.3 rebounds per game for good measure. Young should have the ability to overpower McGary, but based on the comments of the Gators yesterday (essentially admitted they knew nothing about him) they may be underestimating his game. And as Jeff Withey and Kansas found out that could be a very bad idea.

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Steve Alford To UCLA: More Of The Same?

Posted by AMurawa on March 31st, 2013

Less than a week after he removed Ben Howland from his job as the UCLA head coach and after taking on a couple of strikes with his top two candidates, athletic director Dan Guerrero dug in and roped a solid line-drive single in hiring former New Mexico head coach Steve Alford. It is in no way a home run hire, but it is a workmanlike chance at bat. Maybe it turns into a forgettable event if there are strikeouts and pop-ups down the road, but if Alford and UCLA play their cards right, maybe this single is the start of a big inning.

The Hiring Of Steve Alford May Not Be The Home Run UCLA Fans Hoped For, But It Could Be The Start Of Big Things (AP)

The Hiring Of Steve Alford May Not Be The Home Run UCLA Fans Hoped For, But It Could Be The Start Of Big Things (AP)

To begin with, let’s put this idea of “UCLA should have just kept Howland” to bed. That was not an option, a change had to be made; it was a matter of finding the best possible new coach for the program, not a matter of finding a better coach than Howland. But, there are plenty of areas in which Alford compares negatively with Howland. For instance, it is true that Howland had more success in his brief pre-UCLA career (four years at Pitt, five at Northern Arizona) than Alford has had in his 18 years at his three previous stops. Despite getting to the NCAA Tournament three times at both Iowa and New Mexico, the only time Alford has made the Sweet Sixteen was in his final season at then Southwest Missouri State (now just Missouri State). Even more disturbing, that record comes despite some regular season success that four times earned him a five-seed or higher. So yeah, for a UCLA program that prizes success in March far more than success in the regular season, Guerrero just hired a guy with a shakier postseason record than Howland or his predecessor, Steve Lavin, who was fired after reaching five Sweet Sixteens in seven seasons.

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ATB: Shockers “Shock”, The 2-3 Baffles and The Big Ten’s Dwindling Final Four Hopes

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 30th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Getting To A-Town. Two Final Four berths were on the line when four teams tipped off Saturday. By the end of the night, the dream had ended for two others, half of next weekend’s pool of Final Four competitors had been decided and Sunday’s two games, the Final Four opponent-supplying complements to Saturday’s tilts, loomed large. The paths to a national championship have been laid; we know the winner must survive two highly competitive games at the Georgia Dome. Now that specific teams are being applied to set up the match-up contours of Atlanta’s Final Four gauntlet, the net-cutting ceremony feels a step closer. Now, on to Saturday’s games..

Your Watercooler moment. And then there was one. The first three rounds of Tournament play reaffirmed everything we came to know about the Big Ten over the course of its dominant 2013 season. The league offered a more formidable allotment of teams than any other, and the layout of the Sweet 16 field – with one Big Ten team planted in each region – raised the possibility, however faint, of an All Big Ten Final Four. It was always a long shot, and I’m not sure anyone viewed the idea with anything more than weak confidence, but the opposite – the possibility of the Big Ten getting shut out of Atlanta – was just as predictably outrageous at the time. The Big Ten not receiving an invitation to Atlanta’s most elusive college hoops party? No way! With a team conveniently slotted in each region, and no path looking overly hazardous (Louisville was the most obvious roadblock out of the Midwest, but the other regions looked completely reasonable), surely at least one Big Ten team would make it to Atlanta, right?

In a wacky West region, Wichita State has been consistent in knocking out top seeds Gonzaga and Ohio State and now finds itself representing The Missouri Valley Conference in the Final Four for the first time since Larry Bird-led Indiana State in 1979 (Getty Images).

In a wacky West region, Wichita State has been consistent in knocking out top seeds Gonzaga and Ohio State and now finds itself representing The Missouri Valley Conference in the Final Four for the first time since Larry Bird’s Indiana State team got there in 1979 (Getty Images).

If the Big Ten does receive an invitation to the Tournament’s Final quartet, it will be because Michigan upset the No. 1 ranked efficiency team in the country, Florida, on Sunday. That is the gloomy outlook the Big Ten now faces after Ohio State, its most likely Final Four participant – thanks to an easy draw, Big Ten Tournament championship momentum, a rapidly improving offense – fell to Wichita State Saturday night after a furious second-half rally failed to erase a 20-point second half deficit. The Shockers had already taken down No. 1 seed Gonzaga and wiped the floor with First Four upstart La Salle. They didn’t fear the Buckeyes, and their performance on the court plainly backed it up. DeShaun Thomas finished with 23 points and LaQuinton Ross added 19, building off his magnificent Sweet 16 performance against Arizona, but neither was particularly efficient in their shot selection (combined, Thomas and Ross finished 12-for-32 from the floor), and with no other Buckeye scoring more than nine points, Ohio State’s offense became too one-dimensional and stagnated at the worst possible time.

One of the biggest factors behind Ohio State’s 11-game, regular season-closing win streak was its uptick in offensive output. After months of Thomas-or-bust offense, of rolling out a remedial one-man attack, all of a sudden secondary scoring options were doing their part – from Craft to Ross to Lenzelle Smith Jr. On Saturday, against a physical Shockers defense whose bruising style ruffled the Buckeyes much in same way Ohio State had locked down its previous three Tournament opponents, the offensive improvements that had many believing the Spartans could march their way into Atlanta were nowhere to be found. Ohio State’s scoring dried up, Wichita battered the Buckeyes in the paint and by the time Ohio State tried to dig its way out of a deep second half hole, it was too late. The Big Ten is on the brink of having its best season in years end without a representative in college basketball’s hallowed Tournament stage. Four-seeded Michigan is the only potential source of salvation. 

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Rushed Reactions: #9 Wichita State 70, #2 Ohio State 66

Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is reporting from the West Regional in Los Angeles, CA this weekend.

  1. Tekele Cotton Ain’t Scared. To set the scene, a 20-point lead with 11 minutes left had turned into a three-point lead with under three minutes remaining. The Shockers had committed five turnovers on their previous six possessions and hadn’t made a field goal in nearly five minutes. Wichita State players were arguing with each other, looking over at the bench at every loose ball for some sort of help and checking the clock, which was moving far too slow for their liking, at every chance they got. A game that had once been a snoozer looked very much like one that was going to turn into a surprising Ohio State comeback. But after breaking through Buckeye pressure and getting the ball in the halfcourt, the ball found its way to Tekele Cotton with less than ten seconds on the shot clock. Primarily known as a defender and dirty work type of player, Cotton, however, stepped into the three as calm and as cool as you would want, as if the world around him weren’t going to hell. And it was pure. Nothing but net. In that moment, one player putting aside the enormity of the situation and handling his business as if he were all alone in the gym, much of that confusion and disorder disappeared. And he wasn’t done yet. On the next offensive possession, after Fred Van Vleet missed and end-of-shot-clock three on a possession where the Shockers never got the ball inside the three-point line , Cotton tracked down the offensive rebound and turned a wasted 35-second possession into a 1:10 possession that ended in a Van Vleet jumper. Suffice it to say that likely without Cotton, the Shockers may have gotten shocked themselves.

    Demetric Williams Spending Some Quality Time With The West Regional Trophy. Williams, Despite Seeing His Minutes Slashed, Hit A Big Three In The First Half

    Demetric Williams Spending Some Quality Time With The West Regional Trophy. Williams, Despite Seeing His Minutes Slashed, Hit A Big Three In The First Half

  2. Athletically Even. You look at the names of the front of the jerseys and the conferences in which these teams play and you expect, sight unseen, the Buckeyes to be the physically dominant team. That was very much not the case today: Wichita State was every bit the athletic equal of the Buckeyes, with all the height, strength, quickness and bounciness of the more familiar Buckeyes. And you got the feeling right from the start that the Shockers new that. But the Buckeyes are used to playing against their athletic equals on a regular basis, while this was all new for the Shockers. After dominating for 30-some minutes, when the Buckeyes turned up the energy, the Shockers got flustered for a bit, but their athleticism allowed them to recover and fend off a late charge.
  3. Aaron Craft Exposed. The game plan for the Shockers on Craft was pretty clear: go under ball screens, give him looks at jumpers over a chance at penetration and go at him with the ball. And their game plan paid off. Craft did his a couple of his seven three-point attempts, but he missed all five of his two-point attempts and was at times a liability offensively, allowing the Shockers to sag off and clog up the lane. And defensively, on more than a couple occasions, Armstead blew by him on the way to the hole. Even more shockingly, when the Buckeyes finally started to show some pop, it was when Craft was on the pine for a brief two minute stretch. He came back on to help harass the Shockers into turnovers late, but this certainly wasn’t a great performance from the Buckeye point.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Syracuse 55, #3 Marquette 39

Posted by rtmsf on March 30th, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the East Regional in Washington, DC, this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Boeheims, All Smiles in Washington Tonight

The Boeheims, All Smiles in Washington Tonight

  1. The Elusive Forty-Point Barrier. For the fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament game, Syracuse hit the 10-minute mark of the second half with its opponent having failed to score 40 points — Montana had 20, California had 31, Indiana had 37, and Marquette had 28 at that point. It’s very difficult to win games against quality competition when there’s a lid on the basket for most of the game, but make no mistake, these are not coincidences. The Syracuse 2/3 zone is playing as well as any defense in the NCAA Tournament right now, and for all but a short period during the first half when Davante Gardner found a seam in the zone at the foul line for a few jumpers, there simply wasn’t anything open for Marquette throughout. The Golden Eagles shot a putrid 12-of-53 from the field (22.6%), its worst shooting performance of the season, which included a bricklaying 3-of-25 (13%) from distance. Marquette hit its first and last three of the game, but sandwiched in between those two makes were a whole bunch of bad misses. The looks just weren’t there.
  2. Marquette Made a Great Run. The Golden Eagles had a poor shooting game today, but Buzz Williams’ program took another step forward in making the Elite Eight and proving again just how good of a coach he is. They very easily could have lost either of their first two games at the subregional level, but they were able to get past both Davidson and Butler before a dominant Sweet Sixteen performance against Miami (FL). Williams spent a lot of time in the postgame press conference talking about the love he has for his players and the team chemistry that they’ve build up throughout the season. It’s clear that he’s a coach that the players really believe in, and he manages to get the most from his group every year as a result. Much like another prominent program in the great state of Wisconsin, it might be time to start slotting MU into the top tier of the Big East regardless of the talent that Williams has at his disposal. The program is in fantastic hands.
  3. It’s the Zone, Stupid. Not to beat a dead horse here, but the Syracuse zone is playing as well as head coach Jim Boeheim has ever seen from his players. With the size and athleticism at the top of the zone from Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, open shots are very difficult to find. Through the four games of the NCAA Tournament, teams are hitting a collective 35.8% from two-point range and a ridiculous 15.4% from three-point range. Even if the Orange themselves are not making shots — like tonight when they hit only 38.0% from the field — they’re always going to be in good shape because of how difficult the zone is to solve. Both Michigan and Florida are well-coached and filled with shot-makers, but we’re having trouble seeing how either backcourt will be able to find openings any more than the Indiana or Marquette guards were. It says here that Louisville may be the only team still playing that has the personnel and the know-how to beat the SU defense.

Star of the Game. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse. The Syracuse point guard and East Region Most Outstanding Player had an all-around great floor game, scoring 12 points, grabbing eight rebounds, dishing out six assists and notching five steals. Most importantly, though, MCW played under control and only committed a single turnover. In his 75 minutes of action here in Washington, DC, over the weekend, the sometimes-wild Carter-Williams coughed up the ball three times. If he continues to play like that on the offensive end, Syracuse is as likely a team as any to win the 2013 national championship.

All-East Region Team: Davante Gardner, Vander Blue, James Southerland, CJ Fair, Michael Carter-Williams (MOP).

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Circle of March, Vol. XVIII

Posted by rtmsf on March 30th, 2013

After Thursday and Friday night’s games, the Circle of March is looking quite sparse. Starting with 310, there are now only eight schools with a shot at a national championship. Who will it be?

elite8

Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.28-29.13)

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2013

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The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

West Region

  • Wichita State guard Malcolm Armstead transferred from Oregon to join the Shockers without a scholarship and that gamble is paying off as Wichita State preps for a chance to go to the Final Four.
  • Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com writes that Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Wichita State should not be viewed as a “David/Goliath” match-up.
  • Would Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall be the greatest catch of this year’s coaching carousel?
  • Ohio State sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross has matured during his second season in Columbus to become a playmaker for the Buckeyes.
  • Ohio State coach Thad Matta was unhappy with the way Buckeyes guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. performed defensively in the team’s Round of 32 victory over Iowa State, but the junior stepped up his play significantly in Thursday’s victory over Arizona.
  • Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas has a well-earned reputation as a “bad shot taker and maker” and this moniker has not prevented him from becoming the Buckeyes’ most lethal weapon offensively.

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