Rushed Reactions: Florida State 73, Clemson 69

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2013

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Matt Patton is an RTC correspondent and ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Thursday night’s ACC Tournament game between Florida State and Clemson.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Epic Almost-Collapse: Florida State had a 13-point lead with two minutes to play. Two turnovers, a missed dunk, a flagrant foul and a fouled three-point shooter later, the Seminoles were lucky to have a six-point lead (Clemson missed four field goals over that stretch). The Tigers proceeded to hit two unbelievable threes to cut the lead to two with 13 seconds to play, but Michael Snaer iced the game with four straight free throws to close it out. But Florida State looked flummoxed the last two minutes. It didn’t help that a couple of close calls went the other way, but the team lost its poise. After the game, Leonard Hamilton said, “It was like we were trying to invent ways to give the game back to Clemson.” In the end, Florida State hit more free throws and won, but it shouldn’t have been that close.
  2. Terrance Shannon makes Florida State a different team: Much of this year, Florida State has been muscled around inside by ACC opponents. With a young front line — only made younger by Terrance Shannon‘s injury — it wasn’t that the Seminoles were soft. They just didn’t play smart. They often got out of position and gave up easy buckets uncharacteristic of Hamilton’s system. But Shannon provides a spark of strength and experience that really turned the tables in the second half. He’ll be critical to the Seminoles’s chances against North Carolina tomorrow. So far the Tar Heels have struggled with big, physical teams and Shannon fits the description to a T.
  3. Clemson free throws: Clemson shot a smooth 19-of-31 from the free throw line (61.3%). The team missed four free throws in the final two minutes that would have made it even closer than it was. In the past 10 years, Clemson has only finished in the top 200 of Division I in free throw shooting twice. The only time the Tigers ended up in the top half was Brad Brownell’s first season. You want a big reason for Clemson’s rep as a team that chokes? Don’t look further than 15 feet.

Star of the GameOkaro White played like a man possessed tonight. He was everywhere for Florida State. He knocked down jumpers when Clemson let him, or he used the threat of a jump shot to get into the lane. He had several strong moves in the paint. After all was said and done he finished 8-of-11 from the field, good for 24 points in 39 minutes. You may not be familiar with Hamilton’s system, but it’s not every day someone plays essentially the whole game (he played 12 guys against Clemson). Snaer was the only other player to log 39 minutes, which highlights the two most important players for this squad.

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Five Thoughts on the Big East Tournament: Thursday Evening Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2013

Brian Otskey attended the Thursday evening session of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @botskey

Russ Smith Had Himself an Evening

Russ Smith Had Himself an Evening

  1. Louisville is clearly a team that can win it all. Personally, I think Louisville is the nation’s No. 2 team right now behind Indiana. If the Cardinals keep this level of play up, however, they’ll move to the top spot in my mind. Louisville’s defensive efficiency numbers have been on a historic pace this season and it was never more evident than tonight. The Cards swarmed, trapped and turned Villanova over all night long. The Wildcats committed 25 turnovers for the game, including a stunning 18 in the first half alone. After the game, head coach Rick Pitino said his team recorded 58 deflections, a record for them. Louisville’s game plan was to guard the three-point line, keep Villanova off the free throw line and create havoc. Check, check, check. Mission accomplished. Louisville had 19 turnovers of its own but that didn’t really hurt the team because of the +6 margin. When Louisville plays defense like this, the sky is the limit, as they say.
  2. If Louisville hits threes like it did tonight, nobody is beating the Cards. The Cardinals were 10-of-24 from three point land (42%) with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith doing most of the damage. This team is already dangerous as constituted but when it adds this other dimension, it’s almost unbeatable. Louisville came into the game hitting only 31% of its threes in Big East play and ranks 246th in the country in three-point percentage. That has been a huge weak spot for Louisville all season and one of the reasons why some feel the team can’t go all the way. If this is a sign of things to come, I’m not sure anybody can beat Louisville.
  3. I actually like Notre Dame’s uniforms but that’s not the point. The idea isn’t for the Fighting Irish to make people like them (or hate them), it’s to sell jerseys and grab the attention of recruits. It’s a great marketing strategy, especially during postseason play when more people (and recruits) are watching than at any point during the regular season. While a lot of these uniforms may be ugly (Cincinnati and Louisville’s gear comes to mind), the Adidas-sponsored schools are doing what they should be doing: bringing attention to their programs. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this report after Oklahoma State’s 74-72 victory over Baylor in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

Three Key Takeaways:

Tough, Tough Loss For the Bears; What Now?

Tough, Tough Loss For the Bears; What Now?

  1. So Close: It was a worst-case scenario for Oklahoma State. Pierre Jackson was wide open, and he was about to let it fly. For the win. “I wasn’t real excited about watching him run down the court wide open,” OSU coach Travis Ford said afterward. It seemed like fate. The shot would save Baylor’s NCAA Tournament at-large hopes. Jackson had already scored 31 points, most of which came during a frantic comeback from a 20-point deficit, and he was about to prove to the world how much of a travesty it was to leave the Big 12’s leading scorer and assists man off the all-Big 12 First Team. Except he missed. Pierre Jackson’s game-winning attempt, which he took on the move after splitting a few Oklahoma State defenders, did not fall, as fate would have it. “I feel like I let them down a little bit,” Jackson said. He didn’t. His performance was nothing short of legendary late in the second half, as he made tough shot after tough shot in crunch time. But the Cowboys survived, and the loss probably relegates the Bears to the NIT. Marcus Smart said he had one thought as he watched Jackson’s shot: “Oh crap.” Baylor was in that position after Phil Forte drained two controversial free throws, thanks to a foul call on Deuce Bello that may or may not have been legitimate. If you listen to Twitter, the whistle was an abomination. Regardless, Baylor got bounced from Kansas City, and it’s hard to imagine this team grabbing a bid on Sunday.
  2. Any Chance On Selection Sunday? Travis Ford said after the game that Baylor passed the “eye test.” It’s easy for an opposing coach to say that after a victory, though. Take a look at this team’s overall resume, and there’s just not enough there. Winning at Rupp, at least this year, won’t do it alone. Beating Kansas and Oklahoma State (in Waco) won’t do it alone, either. The Bears needed this, and they didn’t get it. “Of course it’s going to be very disappointing [if we don't get in],” Jackson said. “We can’t do anything about it.” After the game, Drew made his plea to the selection committee by pointing to an example from two years ago. “I think the perfect example is VCU. People were like, ‘why did they get in?’ Well, the committee knew they were a Final Four-type team,” Drew said. “I think we can beat anybody in the country. That means we can play in the Final Four.”
  3. Too Little, Too Late: Baylor nearly completed a thrilling comeback. That’s great and all, but the Bears could not have looked any worse in the first half. They trailed by double digits right out of the gate, got beaten to every loose ball and looked like they wanted to be anywhere but at the Sprint Center. It’s commendable that they fought back, yes, but this was a microcosm of Baylor’s season. It beat Kansas on the final day of the regular season, but it’s about an overall body of work. In a basketball game, it’s about how you play for 40 minutes, and the Bears just dug themselves in too deep of a hole.

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Rushed Reactions: Maryland 75, Wake Forest 62

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Thursday evening’s Maryland-Wake Forest game from the ACC Tournament.

Three Key Takeaways:

Devin Thomas and the Wake Forest frontline made Alex Len a nonfactor. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

Devin Thomas and the Wake Forest frontline made Alex Len a nonfactor. (photo: Chuck Liddy / Raleigh News & Observer)

  1. Close for 32 minutes: At the under-eight media timeout in the second half, it was all tied up 54-54. Over the course of the next six minutes Wake Forest went 4-of-10 from the charity stripe, turned the ball over twice (and would have a third time if the possession hadn’t pointed in its direction), and missed all six of its free throw attempts. Needless to say, Maryland pulled out to a double-digit lead and the game was over. Down the stretch the Demon Deacons just didn’t look invested. They had poor body language and settled for ugly jump shots. The lethargy carried over to their defense in a nasty cycle of bad play. The negative body language is troubling. Wake Forest hasn’t had any success away from home under Jeff Bzdelik (his teams have won one conference road game and no postseason games), which plays into it. But somehow the Demon Deacons have to break out of the cycle.
  2. Pe’Shon Howard saved the day: Pe’Shon Howard has had a tough year offensively — like he’s made three of 25 attempts from beyond the arc in conference play. He hit his only deep attempt today, and it turned out to be where momentum really shifted to Maryland. Right after Travis McKie and Arnaud Adala Moto combined to go 1-of-4 from the free throw line, Howard buried a three to put Maryland up four and the Terrapins never looked back. If Howard is hitting shots, Maryland is a much better basketball team.
  3. Devin Thomas will be a great ACC player: Devin Thomas is going to be a very very good ACC player. He’s a worker for Wake Forest in the paint and has the frame that should add pounds during the offseason. In 18 minutes, Thomas finished with eight points, four rebounds, two steals and a block. He’s got a long way to go in terms of developing an arsenal of moves, but right now he plays a little like James Michael McAdoo. He doesn’t have the physical gifts that McAdoo does, but he does a lot of the little things that win games.

Star of the Game: Dez Wells kept Maryland close to start the second half, scoring seven of the Terrapins’s first nine points. He finished the game with 21 points on 10 shots with four rebounds and a steal to boot. Wells also had to guard Travis McKie much of the night, and did a good job on the perimeter.

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Rushed Reactions: Kansas State 66, Texas 49

Posted by dnspewak on March 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this report after the Kansas State-Texas game in Kansas City this evening.

Three Key Takeaways:

Kansas State Inched Closer to a Big 12 Title

Kansas State Inched Closer to a Big 12 Title

  1. Rodney McGruder, aka The Zone Buster: Against Texas’ active 2-3 zone, McGruder was unstoppable. The Wildcats weren’t flawless, and they weren’t always able to get the ball inside, but they knocked down enough three-pointers to pull away from the Longhorns. Credit McGruder for that, as he made four threes and finished with 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Much like Kansas’ Ben McLemore in the earlier quarterfinal, McGruder had to make up for a relative lack of scoring production by his teammates. Angel Rodriguez helped, scoring 13 points and finding holes in the zone to finish with five assists, but this was McGruder’s game.
  2. Kansas City, Here We Come (Back): Following the Big 12 Tournament this weekend, the Sprint Center will host an NCAA Tournament pod next weekend. There’s no doubt Kansas State wants to make a trip back to Kansas City to play in these friendly confines in the second and third rounds, but it needed a strong showing this weekend to convince the selection committee it deserves the advantage. This quarterfinal victory was a start. Two more victories should all but lock up a return to Kansas City, but nothing’s guaranteed with the committee. Still, it’s hard to envision it sending KSU anywhere but KC if it wins the Big 12 title this weekend.
  3. Myck Kabongo Needs Help: Kabongo scored two points this evening. He missed all five shots he took from the field, turned the ball over five times and could not pull Texas out of a severe scoring drought late in the second half. In perhaps his final collegiate game, that’s something Kabongo will have to live with. In his defense, though, he’s simply under too much pressure to perform, considering the youth of his teammates and complete lack of scoring options around him. This team runs through him. He has the ball in his hands at all time, and even when he’s penetrating and creating, nobody can knock a shot down. He had seven assists, but he could have had 15. That has to take a toll on the sophomore point guard. This team has played drastically better with him in the lineup, so it’s hard to blame him for any of Texas’ woes tonight.

Star of the Game: Rodney McGruder led all scorers with 24. Rodriguez was the only other Wildcat in double figures. He shot the ball well, rebounded the ball well and scored from everywhere on the floor. Easy choice here for Star of the Game.

Sights and Sounds: Kabongo’s leadership is noticeable this season. His coaches praised his attitude during the suspension this year, and it’s obviously carried over to the court. On Thursday, all he did was talk. And we mean that in the best way possible. He talked on defense, got in his teammates faces and always had his mouth moving. He’s grown up, and he’s the clear leader of this team. The Longhorns don’t have the experience or personnel for it to matter, but credit Kabongo for growing as a person over the last year or so.

Wild Card: KSU’s D.J. Johnson played big tonight– in every sense of the word. He made all four of his field goals, scored eight points in 15 minutes and threw down a thunderous putback in the second half. On a night where Thomas Gipson struggled and even badly airballed a jumper, Johnson was a nice surprise for Bruce Weber.

What’s Next: Kansas State advances to play either Baylor or Oklahoma State in the semifinals on Friday.

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Thoughts On The Pac-12 Quarterfinals, Afternoon Session

Posted by AMurawa on March 14th, 2013

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 Conference. He filed this report from Thursday afternoon’s Pac-12 Tournament session in Las Vegas.

First and foremost, let’s congratulate the Pac-12 conference on finally having a relevant conference tournament. Even in the glory days of the Pac-12 when NBA lottery picks littered rosters up and down the west coast, the tournament at the Staples Center was never a great event. First, while Los Angeles is a fine city to live in (at least according to this Angeleno), it isn’t a great destination for out-of-towners. It’s spread out and the area right around the Staples Center is not exactly the type of place that is incredibly inviting for vacationers. Then there’s the Staples Center itself – a cavernous arena much better suited to the soulless grind of the NBA than the excitement of March college hoops, made even worse when a mere fraction of the seats were occupied. Then there was a theory – which never meant much in practice – that it was a home court advantage for the Los Angeles schools.

The New Home Of The Pac-12 Tournament Has Been A Rousing Success

The New Home Of The Pac-12 Tournament Has Been A Rousing Success

Well, all of those worries are out the door with the move to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It is certainly a destination spot, it offers plenty of affordable and centrally-located hotel options, the arena itself is big enough to welcome in fans from around the conference yet small enough to be intimate and loud, and this is clearly a neutral environment. I can’t imagine that this tournament is going to be held anywhere other than Las Vegas for a long, long time.

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Tennessee Inches Closer to NCAA Bid, Win Over Alabama Could Seal Deal

Posted by David Changas on March 14th, 2013

David Changas (@dchangas) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Thursday afternoon’s SEC Tournament game between Tennessee and Mississippi State.

While the SEC has endured a significant amount of well-deserved criticism for its share of mediocre (well, bad) basketball this season (the fact that Mississippi State not only didn’t finish last in the league and was even able to win a game in the conference tournament – albeit against equally woeful South Carolina – is Exhibit A of the league’s futility), perhaps no conference presents more bubble scenarios as we roll towards Selection Sunday. Thus, while the usual Kentucky-related buzz is absent from this weekend’s festivities in Nashville except to the extent the Wildcats are on the bubble themselves,  there is a lot of intrigue about which teams will emerge and land a spot in the field of 68. As of now, it is assumed that only Florida and Missouri are locks for the field, with Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Alabama, and Tennessee seeking bids.

Tennessee Bowled Its Way One Step Closer to the NCAAs

Tennessee Bowled Its Way One Step Closer to the NCAAs

Clearly,  no team is more squarely on the bubble than the Volunteers, who dispatched of the significantly undermanned Bulldogs 69-53 behind 17 points from Jordan McRae Thursday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. The win arguably will do nothing to help the Vols’ standing in the RPI and with the committee, but a loss would have crippled Tennessee’s chances to receive a bid. Now, they must face a much tougher test on Friday, as they take on co-bubble dweller Alabama. While some view the contest as a “play-in” game of sorts, Tennessee comes in with a better resume than the Crimson Tide, which has no wins over the RPI top 50. And Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin doesn’t think the bid is in question any longer. “I said after we beat Mizzou that we’re in the NCAA Tournament, so I’ve moved past that,” Martin said, unconvincingly, after the game. Still, for Tennessee, Friday’s game is an opportunity to win another game against a quality opponent and solidify its standing with the selection committee.

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Big East Tournament Day Three (Night Edition): Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Posted by Will Tucker on March 14th, 2013

There are two remaining spots in the Big East Tournament semifinals after Syracuse outlasted Pitt and Georgetown blew out Cincinnati earlier this afternoon. Here are the best and worst case scenarios for the two remaining teams who haven’t played until tonight.

#3 Marquette

Marquette has already beaten Notre Dame once this month

Marquette has already beaten Notre Dame once this month (AP)

No. 3 seed Marquette is enjoying its second Big East Tournament double-bye in as many years. The Golden Eagles will take the court for the first time tonight after reeling off four straight wins to close the season with a share of the league title. They’ll try to shake off last year’s one-and-done against Louisville in Madison Square Garden and capture their first Big East postseason title.

Next game: Marquette will take on No. 6 seed Notre Dame in today’s quarterfinals in the 9:00 PM nightcap.

  • Best case: The Golden Eagles sneak by Notre Dame and draw Villanova in the semifinals, outracing the exhausted Wildcats before slipping by Syracuse in a moment of complacency to claim their first Big East Championship. A sweat-drenched Buzz Williams pirouettes his way off the MSG sideline and into a comfortable NCAA two-seed.
  • Worst case: Marquette sleepwalks through a lethargic loss to Notre Dame –– its second Big East one-and-done in two years –– and Buzz Williams’ team ends up with a five-seed on Selection Sunday, possibly facing a Arizona or Kansas State in the first weekend. Their contention for the 2012 Big East Championship was cut short in the quarterfinals by a lower seeded team that the Golden Eagles had beaten handily during the regular season. Coming off a double-bye, many teams struggle to match the intensity of an opponent that already has one or two games in the tournament atmosphere under their belts, especially when that opponent is out for revenge. And while this year’s team has proven its ability to string together consecutive wins against upper echelon Big East competition, they’re playing without the tournament experience and talent that graduated seniors Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom brought to the table last year. Given those circumstances, tonight’s quarterfinal match-up with Notre Dame is an ideal trap game, and it’s not hard to imagine a flat or nervous effort dooming the Golden Eagles in their first outing in MSG.

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Rushed Reactions: NC State 80, Virginia Tech 63

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2013

rushedreactions

Matt Patton (@rise_and_fire) is an RTC correspondent and an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from the NC State vs. Virginia Tech game this afternoon at the ACC Tournament. 

Three Key Takeaways:

Erick Green's career ended with a dud, as Lorenzo Brown locked him down. (Icon SMI)

Erick Green’s career ended with a dud, as Lorenzo Brown locked him down. (Icon SMI)

  1. NC State can’t D up, but Lorenzo Brown can: Brown locked down ACC Player of the Year Erick Green. He fought through every screen and didn’t give Green an inch once he crossed half-court. The aggressive defense clearly got to Green, who finished with 15 points on 19 shots (and just watching the game, it was surprising he even got to that many). The individual effort was exactly what NC State needed more of this season, though it may prove to be a double-edged sword. Brown looked exhausted down the stretch, and it’s likely Mark Gottfried will call on him again tomorrow to guard Joe Harris. Two first-team All-ACC players in as many days is a tough assignment. I expect Gottfried to spell Brown at least a little with Rodney Purvis or Scott Wood, but Purvis gives up at least two inches and Wood can’t stay in front of anyone. 
  2. Erick Green gassed: Green only had one conference performance where he finished with a below average offensive efficiency. Now he’s got two. The only other time he shot so poorly, he made up for it with an 11-of-13 performance at the charity stripe. But possibly the most impressive part of Brown’s harassing defense was that he didn’t send Green to the line at all (Tyler Lewis fouled Green for his only two free throw attempts). Green looked a step slow, which is reasonable considering the 1,128 minutes he’s put in for the Hokies this season. But don’t fall for the trap that this means that Green didn’t deserve ACC Player of the Year. There’s a good argument to be made for other players, but one bad performance doesn’t discount Green’s truly outstanding season (see: Mason Plumlee’s four points against Maryland or Shane Larkin’s seven points against Clemson).
  3. NC State has a lot to prove: A win against the league’s cellar-dweller is going to do little to quite NC State’s critics, but the team looked better — especially the way it closed the game — than it has since beating Boston College last month. The real tests for the Wolfpack lie ahead with Virginia looming tomorrow. Also before going overboard on the Wolfpack’s team defense against Virginia Tech, they only held the Hokies to 0.04 points per possession (around 2.5 points) worse than their conference average (hat tip to John Gasaway). That’s not dominant team defense. Also a win against the ACC’s worst team isn’t going to help your seed very much.

Star of the Game: Richard Howell did what he pleased against Virginia Tech, going 11-of-13 from the field for 22 points and 12 rebounds. He doesn’t have the most talent on the floor, but he’s got the perfect combination of strength, toughness and an elite motor to be dominant. The other big stat is that Howell played 38 minutes. That could have never happened in past years just because of his tendency to get in foul trouble. His improvement (and ability to scale up his rebounding with minutes) over the past four years is remarkable.

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Three Thoughts From the Atlantic 10 Tournament Afternoon Session

Posted by CNguon on March 14th, 2013

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. He’s covering the Atlantic 10 tournament in Brooklyn this week. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

In the first half of the opening round in the Atlantic 10 Tournament today, Charlotte beat Richmond 68-63 in the first game, while Butler ended Dayton’s season 73-67. Charlotte will face #1 seed Saint Louis on Friday while Butler will now prepare for #4 seed La Salle, a team that beat them earlier this season.

Three Thoughts:

  1. Chris Mooney’s Tell – When the Jacket Comes Off, the “T” Will Follow: Richmond, ahead by three, 63-60 with 4.7 seconds on the clock, had one foot into tomorrow’s quarterfinal game with Saint Louis when the wheels came off the wagon. In the space of (according to the game clock) two seconds Charlotte hit eight free throws, as the Richmond Spiders picked up a foul and three technicals and Richmond coach Chris Mooney was ejected from the game. With Pierria Henry on the line taking his second free throw, Richmond center Derrick Williams shoved Charlotte forward Willie Clayton, the motion continued through Henry’s free throw as Clayton ended up out of bounds. The baseline referee called a dead ball foul and technical on Williams, and then the fun began. An out-of-control Gregg Robbins picked up a foul and then Mooney took his jacket off on his way onto the floor. Henry netted six more free throw attempts – sinking four — as Mooney and two more seconds were removed from the court and the clock, respectively.

    An entertaining contest will unfortunately be remembered for the chaos that ensued with five seconds left in the Richmond-Charlotte contest, highlighted by the ejection of Richmond coach Chris Mooney. (AP)

    An entertaining contest will unfortunately be remembered for the chaos that ensued with 4.7 seconds left in the Richmond-Charlotte contest, highlighted by the ejection of Richmond coach Chris Mooney. (Getty)

  2. The final score, 68-63, keeps Charlotte’s very, very slim NCAA hopes alive for another 22 hours: They meet Saint Louis in the noon game tomorrow.  A much calmer Mooney met the media after the cooling off period, apologizing to the A-10 and Richmond fans twice during his postgame comments. The meltdown was uncharacteristic of Mooney whose post-Sweet Sixteen demeanor has been almost sedate. The Spiders are not in the hunt for a spot in the field of 68, but have an outside shot for an NIT invitation.
  3. Butler is 10-1 When Rotnei Clarke Scores 20 or More Points: Clarke scored 21 on 7-of-14 shooting (6-of-12 from three point land) and 1-of-2 from the line. The Bulldogs held a three point lead going into the half, compliments of a trio of three-point conversions at the five-minute mark. Dayton, which took a total of four three-point attempts for the entire game, was scoring easily on the inside. “Credit their three point defense,” responded Dayton coach Archie Miller when asked in the postgame press conference. As for Clarke — who has managed to rise to #3 on Butler’s all-time three point shooting list in his only season as a Bulldog — the shooter used multiple screens to add  three more treys to his first half total and spark a second half run that snuffed a Dayton rally and kept the scoring gap safely in Butler’s favor. According to Clarke, “Coach drew up good play, I got good looks, credit these guys, I’ve learned to try to share the ball more and keep the focus off me. We got together (after the VCU loss) and communicated better,” developments in the past week that helped Butler handle Dayton so easily in Brooklyn.
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Five Thoughts From the Big East Tournament: Thursday Afternoon Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2013

Brian Otskey attended the Thursday afternoon session of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Georgetown is suffocating. The Hoyas limited Cincinnati to just 38 shots in a 40-minute game, in some ways due to Cincinnati’s turnovers but mostly due to Georgetown’s style of play. They grind and wear opponents out, especially one that struggles to score like the Bearcats. The Hoyas aren’t the flashiest of teams but they make big plays in big moments (Nate Lubick’s three field goals came at opportune times) and always seem to have an answer on both ends of the floor. This isn’t an overly talented team but it’s one of the nation’s best-coached. Georgetown runs a disciplined offense and is ultra-physical defensively, a bad combination for a Cincinnati team that needs to play defense for the full shot clock and then can’t get points off its defense on the other end. The Bearcats couldn’t get anything going today and give most of that credit to Georgetown.

    Gto

    Georgetown Wore Down the Bearcats Today

  2. Mick Cronin understands the big picture. His team didn’t play well today and he was clearly disappointed in that, but Mick Cronin spent the majority of his postgame press conference discussing conference realignment and, essentially, his reasons for being a college basketball coach. It was a great listen and refreshing to hear a coach who understands the true meaning of college sports. Cronin blasted realignment (his school is currently left out in the cold so that’s understandable), but his larger point rang true. Everyone, whether it’s schools, conferences or the NCAA, needs to do more to promote the welfare of student-athletes. “These guys aren’t just jerseys” was a quote that stood out to me. Cronin discussed everything from how money is the sole factor in most of this to getting his players degrees and good jobs after graduation. This isn’t the first time Cronin has said what is truly on his mind. He has my respect for what he does. I only wish more coaches were as serious about all of this as he is.
  3. It was obvious coming into the week but it still needs to be noted: This tournament won’t be the same without Syracuse. No team in this league comes close to bringing to the Garden the passion of Syracuse fans. When the Garden is Orange from top to bottom and side to side, the Big East Tournament is better for it. The atmosphere was incredible for today’s Syracuse/Pittsburgh quarterfinal game and just imagine what it is going to be like tomorrow night when Syracuse meets Georgetown in the semifinals! Syracuse fans are loud and yes, sometimes too full of themselves, but this tournament simply won’t be the same without them. Read the rest of this entry »
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Mitch McGary Impressive, More Thoughts on Michigan’s Win Over Penn State

Posted by KTrahan on March 14th, 2013

Kevin Trahan writes for the Big Ten Microsite and covers Northwestern sports for InsideNU.com. Follow him on Twitter at @k_trahan for Big Ten Tournament updates.

Michigan is off to the second round of the Big Ten Tournament for a date with Wisconsin after an 83-66 win over Penn State in the first round. The Wolverines’ struggles this season with the Nittany Lions continued in the first half, as they led by just two at halftime, but they pulled away in the second half for an easy win. Five UM players scored in double figures, led by Trey Burke with 21.

Here are three thoughts from courtside:

  1. Mitch McGary is going to be special: Big men typically take longer to develop as freshmen than guards to, so it’s no surprise that Mitch McGary wasn’t the most “fab” of Michigan’s star freshmen in the early going. However, over the past month, McGary has shown vast improvements and has arguably been the Wolverines’ best young player over that time span. McGary continued that dominance in the first half on Thursday afternoon, posting 10 points and 10 rebounds in 13 minutes of action. He had just one more rebound and no points in the second half, but the game broke open quickly and he wasn’t needed. McGary’s improvement is a great sign for a Michigan frontcourt that will need someone to step up next year. He’ll be helpful in this year’s UM postseason run, but next year is when he’ll ultimately be able to become a star, rather than just a role player. He has all the tools for stardom — he’s aggressive on the boards and has a great knack for the basket on second-chance opportunities — and as he gains experience, he’ll become even more of a threat.

    Michigan head coach John Beilein reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Penn State. (AP)

    Michigan head coach John Beilein reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Penn State. (AP)

  2. A good tune-up for Michigan: It’s kind of hard to believe that just a month ago, Michigan was the #1 team in the nation. Now, the Wolverines couldn’t even get a bye on the first day of the Big Ten Tournament. John Beilein’s team has struggled through a number of tough losses this season, none tougher than last Sunday’s home loss to Illinois, when a bad roll on the rim cost them a big win and a higher seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That can really mess with your psyche. In a way, Thursday’s result at United Center was the perfect one for the Wolverines as they enter postseason play. It offered some adversity — Penn State began the game up 14-3 — but once things settled down, it helped the Wolverines build their confidence. They were effective from beyond the arc and got the ball inside, the latter of which they’ve struggled to do down the stretch. Friday’s game against Wisconsin will be a much bigger test, but Thursday’s game against Michigan couldn’t have gone much better for Beilein and company.
  3. Penn State’s future is bright: Penn State just might be the best 2-16 conference team in history. Being the best at being the worst isn’t exactly encouraging in itself, but the Nittany Lions are vastly improved since the beginning of the year, and that’s without first team All-Big Ten point guard Tim Frazier. They own recent wins against Michigan and Northwestern and also nearly took down Wisconsin and Iowa. They’re starting to get more confident, and next year could be the year they put it all together. Penn State could potentially have the best backcourt in the Big Ten in 2013-14. Frazier will be back, along with D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall, who are both much better now than they were in January. The frontcourt, which has been a weakness all season, has started to improve. Forward Ross Travis has really started to come into his own, and he posted 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Wolverines. Four of those rebounds came in the early going, when he was arguably the best player on the floor for a stretch. As the pieces start to come together and players continue to improve, look out for Pat Chambers’ squad. Things are definitely looking up, even coming off a year with just two conference wins.
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