Rushed Reactions: Ole Miss 64, Missouri 62

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

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David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Ole Miss-Missouri game at the SEC Tournament in Nashville this evening.

Three Takeaways:

Did Andy Kennedy Lock Up His First NCAA Berth at Ole Miss?

Did Andy Kennedy Lock Up His First NCAA Berth at Ole Miss?

  1. A Collapse Befitting Missouri. Missouri has had its trouble with closing out and giving away games throughout the season, but this one took the cake. The Tigers led by 14 in the second half and by 10 with 10 minutes to play. Somehow, they wilted down the stretch, even though Ole Miss never went on a particularly impressive run. With the game tied at 59 and less than a minute to play, Phil Pressey, whose late-game failures have been well chronicled, knocked down an open three from the top of the key to give the Tigers the lead. Derrick Millinghaus then tied the game with a three of his own with 31 seconds remaining. Missouri called timeout, and against the Ole Miss press, Laurence Bowers made an inexplicable pass towards no one in particular at mid-court, and Marshall Henderson got the ball.  After a timeout, Millinghaus hit a jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining to give the Rebels the win. 
  2. Millinghaus to the Rescue.  Early in the second half, Ole Miss point guard Jarvis Summers suffered an apparent concussion and was lost for the game. Rebels head coach Andy Kennedy turned to his backup, whom he referred to after the game as a “spot” player, and Millinghaus answered the call. In addition to knocking down the game-tying and game-winning shots, he didn’t turn the ball over, and played solid defense on Pressey. Without him, the Rebels would be going home. Now, to move on, they’ll need another strong performance from Millinghaus against Vanderbilt, as it’s unlikely Summers will be able to make a quick turnaround for tomorrow’s semifinal.  The diminutive freshman from New York stepped up in his team’s most important game of the season and at a time when it needed him most.
  3. Did Ole Miss Seal the Deal?  For most of the game, it looked like the Rebels would make yet another trip to the NIT, where they’ve been five of the past six years. Now, with another quality win on their resume – and their second over Missouri – a NCAA Tournament berth may be in the offing. Kennedy is convinced that his team has done enough. “No team in a BCS league has ever won 24 games and not made the NCAA Tournament,” he said.  The Rebels will be favored to advance to the championship game, and if they do, it’s reasonable to assume that they’ll punch their ticket to the Big Dance, especially given the failures of so many other teams who came into the week sitting on the bubble.  Even without a win over Vanderbilt tomorrow, Kennedy’s team’s chances to make the Big Dance drastically improved with this quality win, and the relief Kennedy felt after the game was evident in his mood.  

Star of the Game. Derrick Millinghaus.  While Henderson scored a game-high 27 points,  Ole Miss doesn’t win this game without Millinghaus’ heroic play. Tournament play often brings out the best in players in situations such as the one Ole Miss faced with Summers’ injury, and that was the case on Friday night.

Sights and Sounds.  After Kentucky filled Bridgestone Arena in the first game of the session, a letdown was to be expected for this game. But both teams had more fans that anticipated, and both sections were loud. In a league filled with apathetic fan bases, Missouri is a welcome addition, and the Tigers’ contingent trailed only those of Kentucky and Tennessee in terms of size.  Henderson’s taunting of the Missouri section late in the game got it particularly riled up.

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Rushed Reactions: North Carolina 83, Florida State 62

Posted by mpatton on March 15th, 2013

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Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Friday night’s game between UNC and Florida State in the ACC quarterfinals from Greensboro.

Three Key Takeaways:

Michael Snaer is done in the ACC.

Michael Snaer is done in the ACC.

  1. Seminole Interior Defense: The striking thing watching this game wasn’t that North Carolina was torching Florida State from three. That happens, and it happens to good defensive teams. What was surprising is how easily North Carolina got into and scored in the lane. When all was said and done the Tar Heels finished with 36 points in the paint and made 14 of their 22 attempts inside the arc (for the second half). Part of the problem was that Florida State started sleepwalking through the motions after getting down 20. But this team has given up a lot more layups than Leonard Hamilton-coached teams of yore. A youthful front line is probably the problem for two reasons: (1) the Florida State fives don’t know where they’re supposed to be; and (2) they let the game impact their defense. Both are reasons not to despair long-term about the Seminoles, as experience will help drastically.
  2. Snaer’s Last ACC Game: Michael Snaer owned the best stat line on the floor (8-of-12 shooting for 20 points to go with five assists, two blocks and a steal), but couldn’t plug the holes in his team’s defense. The line was a fitting way for him to go out, but the game couldn’t have been worse. Snaer is the most competitive player I’ve ever covered, but this game wasn’t competitive thanks to hot shooting and team youth. After the game, Roy Williams talked about his brief comment to Snaer in the handshake line: “I told him he was a heck of a player, I enjoyed watching him play, and I told him that maybe that doesn’t make him feel good right now but maybe he could appreciate it later because I’m a huge fan of his.” Coach K has given Snaer similar praise. Count me in as well.
  3. Paige’s Rebound: In his two games before this Marcus Paige had a combined 13 turnovers. Against Florida State, he had 10 assists and one turnover. It helped that his teammates were hitting shots when he found them, but Paige’s vision was tremendous. He played smart and within his limits — which may be the hardest part of being a point guard in Roy Williams’ system. If he plays to this level, North Carolina is an excellent team.

Star of the GamePJ Hairston (honorable mention to Snaer) dominated the game from the moment he touched the ball. His stat line by the time he left with a little over four minutes left was 7-11 from the field, 21 points and a couple of steals. But his stat line doesn’t do his performance justice. He was making everything from beyond the arc: When Florida State had a hand in his face, it didn’t matter; when it was a step-back from 22 feet, it didn’t matter. He started the game with two threes after Florida State turnovers before two back-breaking threes down the stretch in the first half took the Tar Heel lead from two to 10. His threes fed his team energy and sucked the soul out of Florida State, who looked like dead men walking by the final buzzer.

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Rushed Reactions: Louisville 69, Notre Dame 57

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2013

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Brian Otskey (@botskey) filed this report from Louisville’s win over Notre Dame in the nightcap of the Big East semifinals on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Three key takeaways:

Russ Smith and Company Handled the Lime Green Irish Friday Night

Russ Smith and Company Handled the Lime Green Irish Friday Night

  1. Louisville’s interior defense was phenomenal. The Cardinals held Notre Dame to 12-of-31 shooting inside the arc as its guards did a great job cutting off dribble penetration. Jack Cooley and Garrick Sherman were able to score some but Louisville forced the Fighting Irish into many tough, contested twos. Louisville was tops in conference play in two-point percentage against and it showed this evening. With Gorgui Dieng anchoring the back line and guards like Russ Smith and Peyton Siva cutting off penetration and creating havoc on the perimeter, it’s a lethal combination. There’s a reason Louisville’s adjusted defensive efficiency currently checks in at a superb 80.9. The Cards are ridiculously good on that end of the floor and will be a nightmare match-up for most teams who aren’t used to seeing a big time shot-blocker and relentless full court pressure.
  2. Russ Smith has quietly had himself a tournament to remember. After scoring 28 points in Thursday’s win over Villanova, Smith hung 20 on the Irish while also dropping six dimes. Smith has been an efficient shooter in New York, making 15 of his 26 field goal attempts through two days here. After the game, Rick Pitino said Smith doesn’t frustrate him all that much with his shot selection, giving his dynamic junior some latitude on the offensive end. It’s on defense where Pitino gets upset with “Russdiculous,” especially when he loses his man off the ball. Smith will have to play well tomorrow night against Syracuse because the Orange will pressure him and could force him into some bad decisions. You never know what you’re going to get out of Smith and that’s what makes him a must-see player.
  3. Although his week just ended, Pat Connaughton was fantastic. In three games at the Garden, Connaughton made 15 threes, one short of the record currently held by Syracuse’s James Southerland (this year) and Gerry McNamara (2006). After the game, head coach Mike Brey said he thought his team found something this week at MSG and that would help them going forward into the NCAA Tournament. He mentioned how it would be nice if they kept shooting the ball well, no doubt a reference to his gritty sophomore from Arlington, Massachusetts. Connaughton is a typical New England kid: smart, mature for his age, seasoned, and a great competitor. He does more than shoot, too. Connaughton averages almost five rebounds per game because he isn’t afraid of contact and uses his body well in creating position. He’ll be a huge asset next week in the tournament and over the next two years as the Irish transition to the ACC.

Star of the Game: You could go with either Peyton Siva (14 points, six assists, one turnover) or Russ Smith (20 points, six assists) so the point here is that Louisville’s backcourt is playing at the level some thought it would be all season long. If you recall, Siva carried this team to a Big East title last year in this building and parlayed that into a Final Four appearance. Louisville needs Smith to score and Siva to create in order to succeed and it is getting just that through two games in this tournament.

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Rushed Reactions: New Mexico 60, San Diego State 50

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference. He filed this report after the New Mexico-San Diego State game at the MW semifinals on Friday night.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. New Mexico Bigs. Prior to the season, the consensus was that the Lobos had great guards but would be vulnerable inside, considering Alex Kirk was coming off a season missed to injury and Cameron Bairstow had the reputation of being alarmingly unathletic. But that idea quickly went away and by the time they returned from the Virgin Islands it was pretty well established that both of those guys were solid. Tonight, they were the difference. Between the two of them they combined for 31 points, 18 boards and four blocks (all of those belonging to Kirk), dominating especially in the first 24 minutes as they built up a 21-point lead. Give credit to guards like Kendall Williams and Tony Snell for finding them in position to put in easy hoops, but the size of New Mexico’s bigs gave SDSU trouble all night long.

    Cameron Bairstow And Adam Kirk Were Major Problems For The Aztecs (Eric Draper, AP Photo)

    Cameron Bairstow And Adam Kirk Were Major Problems For The Aztecs (Eric Draper, AP Photo)

  1. Tony Snell. Speaking of Snell, he’s been one of my favorite topics all season long and tonight we got the good Snell: 5-of-8 from three, 15 points, five boards, four assists and plenty of credit for helping to force Jamaal Franklin into a 3-of-12 night. He’s averaged 10 field goal attempts over the last 11 games, while never shooting less than eight times and never more than 13; in other words, he’s been consistent.
  2. What the Hell, Aztecs? So, this is a team that went 10-8 against Mountain West competition this year. For some time we’ve written off some of their struggles as “oh, they’ve had injuries” or “well, they’re young.” But there are some other problems. While they’ve got some decent size on the wings, they don’t really have much size in the paint, something exploited by the Lobos tonight. They also are severely lacking in shooters; Chase Tapley is rock solid, Xavier Thames is decent, but beyond that there are question marks. James Rahon is supposed to be their designated shooter, but he’s been mired in a two-year slump and tonight airballed a three-footer badly, along with other ugly shots en route to a 3-of-10 performance. Franklin, for all his talents, is not a polished jump-shooter. And guys like Winston Shepard and  J.J. O’Brien think much more highly of their shooting ability than they should. This is a team that can find itself some good shots in the half-court, but they’ve struggled mightily in knocking them down. They’ll likely be pegged somewhere in the #8-#10 range in the bracket against another flawed team in the round of 64, but don’t be expecting this flawed team to be able to knock off a #1 or a #2 in the round of 32.

Star of the GameTony Snell. The bigs were primarily responsible for helping the Lobos build their nine-point haltime lead, but it was Snell with back-to-back-to-back threes at the start of the second half that put the game away. And his defensive presence was a big part of holding the Aztecs to 0.83 points per possession. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: Maryland 83, Duke 74

Posted by mpatton on March 15th, 2013

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Matt Patton is an RTC correspondent and an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after tonight’s Maryland-Duke game from the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Three Key Takeaways:

Ryan Kelly didn't magically fix Duke's defense.

Ryan Kelly didn’t magically fix Duke’s defense.

  1. Maryland’s offense is fine*: That disclaimer is provided if the Terrapins hit open shots. Maryland torched Duke most of the night, knocking down shot after shot. Duke deserves much of the blame for faulty rotations and miscommunications, but many of Maryland’s struggles this season have come from its inability to take advantage of the opportunities teams present to them. As a team Maryland went 40% (8-of-20) from three and a crisp 23-of-25 from the free throw line. Also Maryland had fewer turnovers than Duke (something that only happened three times in 18 conference games). That’s how to hold onto a lead — especially late in the game. The game wasn’t without mistakes, but those mistakes were far less prominent than usual.
  2. Ryan Kelly didn’t magically fix Duke’s defense: A popular narrative the past two weeks or so is that Ryan Kelly fixed Duke’s issues on defense, but that’s not true. Dez Wells showed that an athletic player with the ability to knock down shots and penetrate can still wreak havoc on Duke’s defense. It wasn’t just Duke’s inability to stay in front of Maryland that was the problem, though. Duke also rotated poorly and when help defense did come, it was often ineffective. Unfortunately because of the small sample size of Duke’s recent games with Ryan Kelly, it’s hard to tell if this game was an anomaly or a crack in the foundation. Duke’s defense is better than this showing (teams aren’t typically going to shoot 92% from the free throw line), but it’s also a cause of concern looking towards the Big Dance.
  3. Freshman poise: Freshmen for both teams played very well for their first time on the ACC Tournament stage. For Maryland, Mark Turgeon got very valuable minutes from Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell, Shaquille Cleare and Seth Allen. They didn’t score tons of points, but all contributed in other ways. Layman in particular was instrumental in guarding Ryan Kelly (who finished 3-of-11 from the floor) for most of the night. Layman also sneakily led the game in rebounding. On Duke’s side, Rasheed Sulaimon kept the Blue Devils in the gym during the first half. He was the only aggressive Duke player, finishing the half with 12 points in 15 minutes. Surprisingly, Mike Krzyzewski sat Sulaimon for the first five minutes of the second half.

Star of the Game: Dez Wells, hands down. As Dave Telep pointed out late in the game, Wells is from Raleigh and never got much interest from Duke. Whether or not that was the reason, Wells played like a man possessed, going 9-of-13 from the field and 10-of-10 from the free throw line for 30 points to go with six boards and three assists. Duke couldn’t stop him and every time Maryland needed a bucket, he stepped up big. He’s carried Maryland in both of its ACC Tournament games.

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Rushed Reactions: Syracuse 58, Georgetown 55 (OT)

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2013

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Brian Otskey (@botskey) filed this report from Syracuse’s overtime victory over rival Georgetown in Friday night’s Big East semifinal at Madison Square Garden.

Three key takeaways:

Big John and Jim Share a Moment Before the Game

Big John and Jim Share a Moment Before the Game

  1. James Southerland and Trevor Cooney opened up Syracuse’s offense. Syracuse did most of its damage in the first half of this game thanks to Southerland’s continued hot shooting and Cooney’s surprising contribution off the bench. Southerland scored all 13 of his points in the first 24 minutes of the game (more on that next), not an unexpected performance from a guy who has been on fire all week. His four triples gave him 16 for the week, tying Gerry McNamara’s record from 2006. But it was Cooney who really energized the Orange in the first half. The seldom-used sophomore out of Delaware came off the bench and poured in 10 points, all before halftime. The outside success of these two players opened up a lot inside for Syracuse, a team that doesn’t look there all too often. Baye Keita had arguably his best game of the season with a lot of his production coming via the offensive glass. With Georgetown having to respect the Orange on the perimeter, it gave Keita more space to get in position for rebounds and scores. Even though Southerland and Cooney almost didn’t score at all in the second half and overtime, their success in the first half enabled Syracuse to hang on.
  2. Jabril Trawick’s defense on Southerland allowed Georgetown to come back. Trawick, known as Georgetown’s best defender, completely locked up the hot-shooting Southerland for the final 16 minutes of regulation and the five minute overtime, holding the Syracuse senior sharpshooter to just two field goal attempts over the final 21 minutes of action. As a team, Georgetown held Syracuse to just 28% shooting in the second frame, allowing the Hoyas to slowly chip away at the lead as regulation winded down. Georgetown made some clutch shots and free throws but team defense (and Trawick specifically) was the main reason why the Hoyas were able to force overtime.
  3. It was a fitting end to a classic Big East old guard rivalry. It’s sad that this all had to come to an end. These two teams put on a show for the 20,000+ fans gathered in Madison Square Garden on this semifinal Friday night and it seemed that nobody wanted this game to end. There will be a lot written about this in the days and weeks to come but this game will be a treasured memory for everyone in attendance, one that nobody will soon forget. We were all incredibly lucky to witness one final classic between two founding members of the original Big East.

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Rushed Reactions: Vanderbilt 64, Kentucky 48

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Vanderbilt-Kentucky game at the SEC Tournament in Nashville this evening.

Three Key Takeaways:

Vandy Took It to the Wildcats Friday Night

Vandy Took It to the Wildcats Friday Night

  1. Bubble Trouble.  With all of the losses fellow bubble-dwellers have suffered, the path to the NCAA Tournament was clear for Kentucky. Most assumed the Wildcats would clinch a bid with a win over Vanderbilt, which came into the contest with an overall record of 15-16. Instead, they add another loss to a sub-top-100 team (the Commodores currently sit at No. 118 in the RPI). So instead of advancing to play either Missouri or Ole Miss, the Wildcats severely damaged their position with the Selection Committee. They must now wait and see what the committee will do, and whether their resume is enough to earn a bid to the Big Dance. Since Nerlens Noel went out with a season-ending injury, Kentucky is now 4-4, and a blowout loss to a heretofore mediocre Vanderbilt squad coupled with ugly losses at Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia, may make it easy for the committee to conclude that the Wildcats don’t deserve a selection. Kentucky looked like anything but an NCAA Tournament team Friday night, trailing Vanderbilt from the outset and falling behind by 20 early in the second half.  The Wildcats looked listless on the offensive end and allowed Vanderbilt to control the game. The Commodores looked like the only NCAA Tournament-worthy squad in this contest.
  2. A Harrow-ing Tale. To figure out what has plagued Kentucky throughout this up-and-down, frustrating campaign, one need look no further than the play it has gotten from the point guard position. In the past John Calipari’s teams have had superb point guard play, from Derrick Rose to John Wall to Brandon Knight to Marquis Teague, but this team hasn’t gotten that. That glaring weakness was especially evident Friday, as Ryan Harrow was nothing short of atrocious. He went 2-of-15 from the field and turned the ball over four times, killing any chance Kentucky had of winning this game. Harrow has shown signs of what brought him so much acclaim when he transferred from NC State, but overall, has not played up to Calipari’s standards. If Kentucky doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament, it can look no further than Harrow’s play for a reason why.
  3. Can Vanderbilt Steal a Bid? According to Commodore coach Kevin Stallings, his team is back to .500 for the first time “in about five months.” It may not have been that long, but it has been an uphill climb for his club. This was a team from which very little was expected, and Stallings said after the game that he couldn’t be more satisfied with the way his club has improved. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been as proud of a team as I am of this one,” he said.  The question for his club now becomes whether it can break through and steal a bid to the NCAA Tournament. After dismantling Kentucky, he likes how his club is playing, and what seemed like an impossibility just a few short weeks ago now is something to at least think about. The Commodores will face either Missouri or Ole Miss in tomorrow’s second semifinal. They were dismantled in Columbia in January, but would have beaten Ole Miss but for a 35-footer by Marshall Henderson that sent the game to overtime before the Rebels prevailed.  To just be in this position is quite an accomplishment, and anyone who has followed this team knows Stallings has done one of his best coaching jobs this season.

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Fans and Players Alike Reflect on the Final Big East Episode of Hoyas-Orange

Posted by Nick Fasulo on March 15th, 2013

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent. He has been at the Big East Tournament this week taking in all of the action. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Following their narrow second round victory over Pittsburgh Thursday afternoon, Jim Boeheim was asked if it was fitting that Syracuse was going to have to go through Georgetown in their last go-around of the Big East Tournament. “I don’t know,” Boeheim said. “That’s for you guys to figure out.” The expected curt response was almost like a challenge to the entire press room: You all know the answer, but who will spin that yarn the most eloquently?

syracuse fans

Syracuse Fans Ready For Their Last Big East Tournament

Since 1979, at the league’s inception of seven teams, Syracuse and Georgetown have faced each other 90 times, including 14 in the Big East Tournament. Friday night, in the most fitting location, the final face-off for the foreseeable future went down. Syracuse won 58-55 in overtime, a classic match-up that may not carry much meaning in a week, but will mean everything for eternity. But that merely touches on the story, as you could draw a parallel that the Orange ostensibly accomplished what really needed to be accomplished on their trip to New York City: Beat someone you hate, then go proverbially take down the 1980 Finnish National Hockey team.

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Rushed Reactions: Kansas 88, Iowa State 73

Posted by dnspewak on March 15th, 2013

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Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He’s in Kansas City this weekend for the Big 12 Tournament.

Iowa State Looked Dead and Buried Late In the Game

Iowa State Looked Dead and Buried Late In the Game

  1. Budding Rivalry: Kansas needed a rival when Missouri bolted to the SEC. Most figured it’d be Kansas State — and it is. A potential showdown with the Wildcats tomorrow night would make for an electric atmosphere in Kansas City. But there’s room for more than one rivalry, and if we’re in the business of anointing new conference feuds, we’ve got to think that Iowa State and Kansas will carry some bad blood into next year. For starters, there’s the sheer point differential of the two regular season games. The two teams needed overtime in both contests this season. First, in Lawrence, a miracle bank shot by Ben McLemore at the end of regulation helped the Jayhawks escape. In the rematch in Ames, an officiating controversy marred KU’s narrow win. That all led up to Round Three on Friday, and for much of the game, the intensity lived up to the hype. Kansas eventually ran away with the victory, but in the first half, you could tell this was more than just your run-of-the-mill semifinal between the top seed and five seed. Ben McLemore picked up a technical foul for jawing at Georges Niang on the bench after he knocked down a three-pointer, which then skyrocketed the tension in the arena. An irate Bill Self pranced up and down the sidelines, and minutes later, the officials then whistled his bench for a technical foul after they argued a no-call. Self seemed as fired up as ever. It seemed to spark his team after a competitive and highly entertaining first half.
  2. Defense and Rebounding: Iowa State’s inability to get a stop in the second half doomed the Cyclones. That’s not a new trend this season for Fred Hoiberg’s team. However, their poor effort on the boards was surprising. Kansas outrebounded ISU by 12, and at one point it grabbed five offensive rebounds on a single possession. Talk about demoralizing. In every way, the Jayhawks pulled away for the win by being the tougher team. It didn’t help that Iowa State’s shots weren’t falling from the perimeter, but Self had his team ready to punish the Cyclones in the second half. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #10 Ohio State 71, Nebraska 50

Posted by WCarey on March 15th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center following Friday’s matchup between Ohio State and Nebraska. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Three Key Takeaways.

osu nebraskas big ten tourney 13

  1. Ohio State is definitely peaking at the right time. Thad Matta’s squad suffered an embarrassing 22-point setback at Wisconsin on February 17 and since then, it has been a different team. The Buckeyes entered the Big Ten Tournament on a hot steak, as they had won their final five games of the regular season. During this winning streak, the Buckeyes notched their signature win of the season by going on the road and defeating Big Ten champions Indiana in convincing fashion.  That hot streak continued Friday in their quarterfinal victory over Nebraska. It is always a good thing in college basketball when you play your best at the end of the season and it sure seems like that is the case for the Buckeyes right now. If Ohio State is able to continue its strong play, it has a legitimate chance at winning the Big Ten Tournament and there is no telling what its ceiling might be in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
  2. Ohio State’s experience is quite evident. The notion that only experienced seniors can hold leadership roles is a common misconception that exists throughout collegiate athletics. Take Ohio State for instance - Reserve big man Evan Ravenel is the only senior on the Buckeyes, but the team does has several experienced contributors. Juniors Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. were all starters on the Buckeyes team that reached last season’s Final Four. Both Craft and Thomas have been playing major roles for the team since the day they stepped foot on campus. The experience and leadership of Ravenel, Craft, Thomas, and Smith Jr. has provided players like LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams with a calming presence as they continue to develop their games. Experience is definitely worth something in March and that is good news for Ohio State. Read the rest of this entry »
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Alabama Positions Itself to Make a Run at an NCAA Bid

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Friday afternoon’s game between Alabama and Tennessee at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

Some called today’s SEC Quarterfinal match-up between Tennessee and Alabama a “play-in” game for the NCAA Tournament. The reality was, though, that it was more likely a play-in for Tennessee. Most observers agreed that a win by the Volunteers would put them in the Big Dance, as they would have notched their 10th win over an RPI top-100 team. Most agreed, too, that Alabama would need to do more to make itself worthy of a spot in the field. What the Crimson Tide’s 58-48 victory, which came as the result of stifling defense that held Tennessee to 32% shooting from the field, did was put them in a position to secure a bid. Alabama, which currently sits at No. 62 in the RPI and owns only one victory over a top-50 RPI team (against No. 48 Kentucky), will now get a shot at a big one.

Alabama Held On to Come Out On Top Regardless

Alabama Held On to Come Out On Top Regardless

It takes on SEC regular season champion Florida, which sits at No. 7 in the RPI, in Saturday’s first semifinal. Given the difficulty other teams firmly on the bubble have had with taking advantage of their respective positions this week, the door is open for Anthony Grant’s team to make a run. Just today, the likes of Virginia, LaSalle, and, of course, Tennessee, all considered to be in the “Last Four In/Last Four Out” merry-go-round, lost. Earlier in the week, Boise State and MTSU, also among that group, lost. Ole Miss and Kentucky have yet to play here, but Alabama’s path to the field of 68 is clearer than it could have anticipated coming into the tournament.

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Four Thoughts From the A-10 Tournament Afternoon Quarterfinals Session

Posted by CNguon on March 15th, 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.

The afternoon session saw Saint Louis beat Charlotte by 17 in a game that was in doubt for only the first three minutes. The Billikens used their defense to smother the 49ers, limiting them to 0.77 points per possession, a good sign for their postseason prospects. The second game left La Salle on the bubble as they could not overcome Butler’s shooting and rebounding, 69-58, in a game that was much closer than the score suggests.

Four Questions From Friday’s Afternoon Session:

  1. How much gas is left in Butler’s tank? The Bulldogs were in a nip and tuck battle with the a stubborn La Salle squad, but when they pushed the lead out to double digits for the first time at the 32-minute mark, La Salle could get no closer than six (twice) in the game’s last eight minutes. Dr. John Giannini’s game plan did call for the Explorers’ four guards to take turns on Butler’s Rotnei Clarke, however, and Sam Mills, Tyreek Duren, Tyronne Garland and (especially) Ramon Galloway ran the Butler guard all over the floor. They triple-teamed Butler’s lead guard on inbounds plays in an attempt to keep the ball out of his hands. Several of the senior’s three-point attempts were short on the front rim, suggesting he was still recovering from yesterday. But in the game’s last eight minutes Clarke drove the lane through traffic for a contested layup, and hit a decisive three-point attempt four minutes later to snuff another La Salle rally. Clarke scored 14 points to lead the Bulldogs, but four teammates chipped 10 or more points to make the win a team effort. Butler will face Saint Louis in the Noon semifinal Saturday for their third game in three days. Expect Clarke to spend the evening in an ice bath.

    La Salle hounded Rotnei Clarke all game long, but a couple key buckets down the stretch by the Butler star proved to be the difference. (AP)

    La Salle hounded Rotnei Clarke all game long, but a couple key buckets down the stretch by the Butler star proved to be the difference. (AP)

  2. Where will Charlotte play next? The 49ers were eliminated by Saint Louis, 72-55, in the day’s opening game and with that defeat Charlotte closes the book on it’s sojourn in the Atlantic 10 Conference. A return to Conference USA, effective for the 2013-14 season, was announced last April, but there may still be life after Brooklyn. The NIT is a distinct possibility, especially if the NIT Selection Committee gives weight to their wins over La Salle, Butler, Xavier and Massachusetts. And if they want to feature a mobile forward, there are few better than Chris Braswell, who, with 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Billikens, recorded his second double-double of the season? Read the rest of this entry »
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