Rushed Reactions: New Mexico 63, UNLV 56

Posted by AMurawa on March 16th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Mountain West Championship game between New Mexico and UNLV in Las Vegas.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. America: Meet Tony Snell. Those of us that have been watching the Mountain West religiously for the past three years are quite familiar with the unique combination of talent that Snell possesses: a 6’7” wing with even better length, terrific defensive ability, the ability to run off screens at an elite level, and can knock down open looks at a great rate — not to mention the jump-out-of-the-gym hops and a decent handle as well. This afternoon, he put all of that on display for a national audience. The question about him has always been whether he is too nice to be a great competitor, but that was not in doubt today: 21 points, 8-of-11 shooting, five threes and a great blow-by in the closing moments as well.
  2. Live By The Three, Die By The Three. The Rebels shot the ball 59 times on Saturday afternoon; 31 of those (a full 52.5%) came from deep. In the second half it was even worse with 17 of their 29 attempts (58.6%) coming from beyond the arc and another healthy chunk perimeter jumpers just inside it. For awhile, that worked out, as Bryce Dejean-Jones had a couple stretches where he caught fire and the Rebels were right in the game. But when that faucet got turned off, the Rebels faded. There are definitely good shooters on this team, with Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt the best among them, but both of those guys have a tendency to take too many shots and, more disturbingly, to take bad shots. Then there’s Anthony Bennett, a physical specimen with a fantastic inside/out game who too often forgets about the inside half of that equation. For the Rebs to make noise in the NCAA Tournament, they need to find better balance offensively.
  3. New Mexico’s NCAA Tournament Viability. I’ve been among the doubters of the Lobos of late, in part because I haven’t entirely trusted their ability to get consistent offensive production from their guards. Today, to understate things, that was not a concern. We’ve talked about Snell, but Kendall Williams was tremendous as well, handing out seven assists, running the team well, and scoring 12 points. Then there’s Hugh Greenwood who had three early three-pointers and then never scored again. But, Greenwood did so many other things well, grabbing seven boards, handing out five assists and limiting Anthony Marshall’s production. Despite the 29 wins to this point, it has been something of an up-and-down year offensively to this point, but heading into the NCAA Tournament, this team is playing its best ball.

Star of the GameTony Snell. Five minutes into the game, you would have figured Anthony Bennett was going to be the guy. He had his team’s first 11 points in often spectacular ways, but his star faded quickly. Snell, however, played his best after the break, logging all 20 minutes, making five of seven shots (including three threes) and coming up with the big offensive play whenever his team needed a bucket.

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Pac-12 Bracketology: March 16 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 16th, 2013

After four months of basketball, fields for the NCAA, NIT, and CBI will be released tomorrow. In this piece, we’ll put together where each Pac-12 team fits into the picture as of late afternoon Saturday.

Category Team Projected Seed Projected Opponent P12 S Curve Rank
Definitely Dancin’ Arizona 5 Iowa State/Virginia 17
UCLA* 6 Bucknell* 24
Oregon 9 NC State 34
 
Bubble In Colorado 10 Colorado State 38
California 10 Creighton* 39
Bubble Out Arizona State 2 (NIT) New Mexico State
NIT Locks Stanford 3 (NIT) Richmond
NIT Bubble Out Washington N/A Weber State (CBI)

*Conference Champ

Definitely Dancing: Arizona is the highest ranked Pac-12 team, and will remain the highest no matter the result of the UCLA/Oregon game tonight. The Wildcats have to like their current standing on the seed line, as it gives them a chance at an opening game with a team that will have played two days earlier. I project either Iowa State or Virginia to be that team, and if I were a Wildcats fan, I’d be pulling hard for Virginia rather than the Cyclones. Next up is six seed UCLA, and if they beat Oregon tonight to take home both the regular season and conference titles, I see them climbing up to a low five-seed. But right now they would match up with Bucknell, the Patriot League champions that finished the season at 28-5. The Bison are much more dangerous than your usual mid-major conference champion, ranking only behind Gonzaga, New Mexico, Saint Louis, Memphis, and Creighton as the mid-major conference champs. Our final lock goes to Oregon, a team that slipped to the bubble last week before winning its first two Pac-12 Tournament games and advancing to the tournament championship game. The Ducks will of course want to win tonight, but knowing their only escape from the #8/#9 game will be with a loss to the Bruins, a defeat wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. If they were to remain where they currently are at 3:00 PM PT tomorrow, I have Dana Altman and company meeting NC State in the Second Round.

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Kansas Wins Because It Guards, Plain and Simple

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 microsite writer. He filed this from the Big 12 Championship game in Kansas City.

Clank, clank, clank. In an arena jam-packed to the rafters and charged with as much emotion as any game in college basketball this season, the most prominent sound during the first half of the Big 12 Tournament title game at the Sprint Center was the sound of those clanks that Kansas State heaved repeatedly at the basket. After taking an 11-8 lead against Kansas with 11:55 to play in the half, the Wildcats did not make another field goal during the next 17 possessions. They were 0-of-11 from the field during that stretch. Five turnovers. Heroically, they trailed by just eight points at the break, but they were already buried. Once the Jayhawks found their groove offensively in the second half, Kansas State never kept pace and eventually fell, 70-54.

Kansas Added More Hardwood To Its Collection

Kansas Added More Hardwood To Its Collection

You don’t want to see the final statistics for Bruce Weber’s team. “The best thing we did was shoot free throws,” Angel Rodriguez said, “and we shot 50 percent. That says a lot.” Rodney McGruder had a simple diagnosis for the anemic offense. “It wasn’t really their defense,” McGruder said. “We missed easy baskets at the rim.” The second part of that statement is correct. Kansas State missed more open shots than an overweight, middle-aged man trying to play a game of H-O-R-S-E, especially during the drought in the first half. But McGruder is wrong about the first part — there’s another reason his team couldn’t score, and it wasn’t self-inflicted. “Our first shot defense was about as good as it’s been all year long,” coach Bill Self said. As always, it was a collective effort for Kansas. Jeff Withey, the Big 12’s leading shot blocker, finished with only one block, but he teamed with Kevin Young and Perry Ellis to bother the Wildcats’ on the interior with their length.

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Rushed Reactions: Ohio State 61, Michigan State 58

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 16th, 2013

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Another patented physical Big Ten tussle in the league’s second Tournament semifinal fell in Ohio State’s favor after a predictably even-matched run of play broke open late in the second half. Aaron Craft led the Buckeyes with 20 points and nine assists. Michigan State forward Derrick Nix finished with 17 points and nine rebounds.

Chris Johnson is a Big Ten correspondent and RTC columnist. He filed this report after Saturday’s Big Ten semifinal matchup between Ohio State and Michigan State. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Three Key Takeaways:

Sunday's title matchup should feature another hard-fought game between two defense-oriented Big Ten stalwarts (AP Photo).

Sunday’s title matchup should feature another hard-fought game between two defense-oriented Big Ten stalwarts (AP Photo).

  1. DeShaun Thomas Still Needs Help.  We’ve said this all season long, and with only intermittent evidence to the contrary, the same problem still holds true as Ohio State prepares for a deep NCAA Tournament run. The Buckeyes can guard; no one’s doubting the Buckeyes’ defensive prowess — this is the same group that, less than two weeks ago, short-circuited the nation’s most explosive offense (Indiana) in one of the most brazen, gutsiest, perception-changing road wins of the season. Finding ways to score points outside of DeShaun Thomas iso sets and late shot-clock jumpers, and doing so in a consistent context, is where OSU will run into real problems in an NCAA Tournament setting. When Ohio State comes across a strong defense, and its offense stalls out, working around a potential Thomas blockade — and rest assured, whatever higher seed Ohio State crosses paths with in the early rounds will make sure to lock down Thomas — could be the difference between advancing and a disappointing early exit. If Aaron Craft can be the offensive safety valve the Buckeyes need, then great. I’m just not convinced, even after today’s offensive brilliance, that he can for four or five straight do-or-die Tournament games over the next couple weeks. His career offensive work to date says otherwise.
  2. Ohio State and Michigan State are Sweet Sixteen Locks. Book it. There are a handful of traits that distinguish a seasoned NCAA Tournament team. Strong guard play is a big help. Coordinated team-oriented defense is as effective and portable as any group characteristic. Ohio State and Michigan State have both in spades, but that’s not all that makes the Buckeyes and Spartans two of the more dangerous low-seeds in this year’s field. What about coaching? Tom Izzo and Thad Matta tighten the screws March like few other sideline bosses around the country. Leadership? Aaron Craft marshals his charges, on both ends of the floor, better than most floor leaders on any team in the country; Keith Appling and Derrick Nix are an extension of Izzo’s composed toughness. Not only do these teams have all the obvious physical and tactical marks of championship contenders, the intangible credentials are plainly evident. For all the momentum and crowd advantages afforded to home teams in the Big Ten this season, make no mistake: MSU and OSU’s prowess is just as devastating on neutral courts. All of which makes the above claim not only credible but extremely hard to impugn. With the acknowledged anonymity of seeding and matchups, on their own merits OSU and MSU are teams you won’t regret reserving more than a couple spots for in your office pool bracket.
  3. I can’t Wait For Sunday. The first semifinal of the day continued Wisconsin’s remarkable 12-game winning streak against Indiana, and if you caught a glimpse of the Badgers’ clinical dismantling of the Hoosiers’ top-ranked effeiciency offense, you saw a Wisconsin team playing its best basketball of the season at the perfect time. Wisconsin is, inarguably, peaking in March — which is pretty much what every team would like to be able to say with at least some measure of honesty at this point of this season. And for as unassailable as Mike Brueswitz and Ben Brust and Ryan Evans look right now, Ohio State enters Sunday’s final only barely trailing Wisconsin’s imposing form. Craft will counter Badgers point guard Traevon Jackson at the point of attack. Evans will batter Thomas on the block, on offense and defense, in equal doses. Bo Ryan will crouch on the sideline, deadpanning, almost incredulously, as his team’s esteemed yet aesthetically-opposed system clogs Ohio State’s offense and installs a slow, shotclock-milking, industrious style of play. To their credit, the Buckeyes are just as capable of bringing home the conference tournament crown. For one, Ohio State’s defensive strength and apparent perimeter scoring complement, Aaron Craft, will test Wisconsin in ways Michigan and Indiana could not. The Buckeyes are slowly, if only minimally, attempting to reduce their reliance on Thomas. But maybe the biggest reason this game shapes up to be one of the most entertaining in a conference that’s produced tantalizing contests all season is the Buckeyes’ defense. Few teams are locking down opponents like Ohio State right now, and with a league tournament title in the balance, that defensive strength will clash with Wisconsin’s foolproof D to conjure up a delectable Big Ten showdown.

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With Kentucky Loss, SEC Fan Apathy For Basketball Exposed Again

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report while covering the SEC Tournament in Nashville this weekend.

You’ve heard the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” When it comes to Kentucky fans and the SEC Tournament, it goes more like this: “Wherever you hold it, they will come.” Everyone knows that the Wildcats have struggled all season with almost an entirely new team, and chances are, they will miss out on the NCAA Tournament. But if you happened to be in downtown Nashville Friday evening, you would think John Calipari’s team was a prime contender for the national championship. For Friday’s blowout loss to Vanderbilt, whose campus is two miles from Bridgestone Arena, the SEC Tournament drew its largest crowd of the weekend, and of the 18,000+ in attendance, at least 15,000 were part of the “Blue Mist,” the affectionate name given to Wildcat fans who take over whatever city the annual extravaganza is being held in. The Commodores would have felt more at home if the game had been in Rupp Arena, not that it was evident from their play.

uk fans nashville

Kentucky’s surprising ouster from this tournament was not only bad for the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, which was looking forward to a St. Patrick’s Day weekend with thousands of Wildcat fans in town, but it once again brought to light an embarrassing issue for the SEC.  Bridgestone Arena had plenty of empty seats for Saturday’s semifinals, and Sunday’s championship likely will be no different.  Mike Slive has made more money for this league since he took over as commissioner in 2002 than you can count. He’s overseen expansion into Texas and Missouri, massive television contracts, and rumor has it that he’s on the verge of announcing the formation of the SEC Network, expected to launch in August 2014.  But make no mistake: That money has been made because of football. It is the cash cow of college sports in every league, but there’s no question that the pigskin is more important to the SEC than any other. And there’s no clearer of example of that than the conference’s dominance of the BCS, which it was won seven consecutive times.

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Rushed Reactions: North Carolina 79, Maryland 76

Posted by mpatton on March 16th, 2013

rushedreactions

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after the ACC Tournament semifinal between North Carolina and Maryland on Saturday afternoon.

Three Key Takeaways:

Turgeon sounded as positive as ever, despite his team's loss.

Turgeon sounded as positive as ever, despite his team’s loss.

  1. Maryland Looked NCAA Good: This hasn’t been the case most of the year, but Maryland looked like an NCAA tournament team this weekend. The past couple of weeks, the Terrapins have looked much better. They’ve improved as much as any group in this league other than possibly Boston College. After the game, Mark Turgeon heaped the praise on Nick Faust, but credit also goes to the more active Alex Len and Dez Wells. Turgeon’s team — known to be very turnover prone — only finished with 10 turnovers against a very active defensive team (Faust, Pe’Shon Howard and Seth Allen combined for three between them). This team may not make the Big Dance, but there’s a lot to be positive about in College Park going forward.
  2. North Carolina Rebounding Struggles: The biggest concern people should have coming out of the game about the Tar Heels is one that will certainly rear its head against Miami. North Carolina couldn’t keep Maryland off the offensive glass. Despite only a 13-9 advantage on the offensive glass, the Terrapins owned a remarkable 24-4 advantage in second-chance points. Charles Mitchell had three offensive rebounds in 12 minutes. Jake Layman added two in 14 minutes. Len added three more. That could kill North Carolina against a team as big as Miami.
  3. Layman’s Reduced Role: After playing most of the game against Duke and acting as the Ryan Kelly stopper, Jake Layman saw his role dramatically reduced (even after starting) against North Carolina. Mark Turgeon turned to Logan Aronhalt instead, looking for another shooter and not needing Layman’s size. However the shift showcased Maryland’s youthful depth. Not only can the Terrapins execute hockey-style front line changes with Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell, they have the ability to adapt their backcourt as well.

Star of the Game: Reggie Bullock deserves a ton of credit. He shut down Dez Wells for much of the game with terrific defense, and ended up tied as North Carolina’s leading scorer with 15 points on 10 shots, four assists and no turnovers. Bullock is the best player North Carolina has on both ends of the floor. He’s a ballhawk on defense and the most consistent shooter on the roster. The only thing missing from Bullock’s game is the attitude that he needs to shoot more and take over games. 

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Jordan Adams’ Injury: What Does It Mean For UCLA?

Posted by AMurawa on March 16th, 2013

As you probably know by now, on the final play of UCLA’s semifinal win over Arizona Friday night, Jordan Adams landed funky on a foot that he had already broken in high school and he broke it again. Aside from being just a terrible story for a player having a great first year, it will have a major impact on the Bruins going forward. Below, we’ll break down areas in which the injury will have an effect on UCLA’s chances in the NCAA Tournament.

Offense. First and foremost, as Adams clearly showed on Friday night with his 24-point offensive outburst, on a team whose main strength is putting points on the scoreboard, he is one of only two elite scorers on the team. While everybody knows Shabazz Muhammad, Adams is nearly his more famous classmate’s equal on the offensive end, and he scores at a more efficient clip. All year long, Adams has been a capable scorer both from long range or off the bounce and with him now out of the lineup, Ben Howland will need to lean more heavily on Muhammad, who already draws the bulk of the attention from opposing defenses. He’ll also need to find a way to get more scoring opportunities out of Kyle Anderson and the Wear twins. And sophomore guard Norman Powell, who had been the sole backcourt player coming off the bench, will likely find more opportunities as he is about to see a big boost in minutes.

Jordan Adams, UCLA

Without Jordan Adams, UCLA’s Chances In The NCAA Tournament Are Greatly Diminished (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

Defense. The Bruins are widely regarded as an inept defensive team. But looking at the KenPom numbers, you might be surprised to see that this team, while by no means an elite defensive team, is at least in the top 60. And Adams, while a guy most well-known for his ability to put the ball in the bucket, has been a big part of that. He brings an energy defensively that Slo-Mo is unable to bring and that Muhammad has, to this point, been unwilling to bring. The most recent example of his defensive contribution came in the quarterfinal game on Thursday against Arizona State, when Howland tasked him with concentrating most of his energy on slowing Carrick Felix, a double-double machine. But against Adams’ energy, Felix managed just seven points and four boards, while Adams came away with four steals en route to a five-point UCLA win.

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Rushed Reactions: Ole Miss 64, Vanderbilt 52

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

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David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after this afternoon’s SEC Tournament semifinal between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Three Key Takeaways.

Henderson Will Get His Shot at an SEC Championship Sunday.

Henderson Will Get His Shot at an SEC Championship Sunday.

  1. Vandy Goes Cold.  Vanderbilt was in control of the game for most of the first half, as they led by eight with just under four minutes remaining in the frame. After that, the Commodores went ice cold, particularly from three-point range. They were held scoreless for the last 3:49 of the first half and didn’t score their first basket in the second until the 17:35 mark. For the game, they shot just 33.9% from the field, and went 6-of-30 from three-point range. What Kevin Stallings did with this team was somewhat remarkable, as anyone who saw the Commodores two months ago never would have believed it could have performed the way it did in this tournament. But Vanderbilt clearly was bothered by Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway on the inside, and it was unable to get good looks or knock down enough shots on the perimeter. After playing the last two nights, it stands to reason the Commodores had tired legs, and it clearly showed in their performance Saturday.
  2. Marshall, Marshall, Marshall. Marshall Henderson has been, to say the least, a source of entertainment in Nashville this weekend, and much of the buzz among fans and the media has been about the Ole Miss junior. On Saturday, he was not quite as animated as he was in Friday night’s comeback over Missouri, but he still showed flashes of the personality that drives so many in the league crazy. What can’t be discounted is how important he is to his team. He led Ole Miss in scoring for for the second consecutive game, and, as he did Friday, hit key shots at important times. His play allowed the Rebels to extend their lead, which Vanderbilt was never able to overcome. If the Rebels are able to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in coach Andy Kennedy’s tenure, it’s no coincidence that it comes in Henderson’s first year in the program. Kennedy clearly decided to allow him to display antics that most coaches would not, and it may get the Rebels into the Big Dance. Henderson has deficiencies – he takes too many shots outside the flow of the offense and isn’t a particularly good defender – but he gives Ole Miss an element it hasn’t had in the past, and he was worth the risk for Kennedy.
  3. Is Ole Miss Safe? Andy Kennedy is convinced his team is in the NCAA Tournament, and Friday’s win over RPI No. 35 certainly helped the Rebels’ cause. But Saturday’s win over the Commodores likely did nothing to push Ole Miss closer to a tournament bid. Vanderbilt is outside the RPI top 100, and this committee will be given no real weight by the Selection Committee. The Rebels needed the win more from the standpoint that a loss would have severely damaged their cause, and more importantly, it now gives them a chance to take the decision out of the committee’s hands by beating Florida tomorrow. If they lose to the Gators, it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ve done enough to earn a bid. The only two top-50 wins they have came against Missouri, and they have ugly losses against sub-top-200 teams South Carolina and Mississippi State. The Rebels own 25 wins overall, so it won’t be surprising if they do receive a bid even if they aren’t able to beat the Gators, but Kennedy’s club would be well-served to take care of business tomorrow and earn the auto-bid.

Star of the Game. Marshall Henderson. Henderson went only 3-of-11 from three-point range, but did lead his team with a game-high 23 points. Again, though, it was the timing of his scoring that keyed the Rebels’ second-half run.

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Rushed Reactions: Miami 81, NC State 71

Posted by mpatton on March 16th, 2013

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Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Miami’s win over NC State in the ACC semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

Three Key Takeaways:

Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Brown have a team to watch this month.

Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Brown have a team to watch this month.

  1. NC State is Dangerous: Don’t count NC State out after this loss. The Wolfpack were tired and beat up. They ran into a buzzsaw Miami backcourt and couldn’t overcome a slow start and bad free throw shooting. But they didn’t give up down the stretch. Richard Howell was playing with a deep bruise on his thigh, visibly hurting, but he hit the floor trying for loose balls just like always. One thing you know about NC State is that it will put points on the board (and a lot of them). Especially with Rodney Purvis acting as a defensive spark plug (coming into the season, who would’ve thought that?), there’s a lot to like about NC State’s chances in the Big Dance.
  2. Larkin and Scott Show: Durand Scott and Shane Larkin put on a clinic for Miami. They accounted for 68% of Miami’s points and also dished out a combined eight assists. When NC State tried to make a game of it, Larkin iced the game with free throws. One area Larkin has really improved this season is his decision-making. He still gets up in the air without knowing what he’ll do, and definitely makes high risk plays from time to time. But Larkin’s strength is his ability to play near the edge. Where last season his high risk plays ended in turnovers, his maturity is really showing this year by dropping his turnover percentage five points despite increased possessions.
  3. Miami’s Weapons: Here’s the scary thing with Miami. Larkin and Scott ruled the day, but Miami’s true strength is inside. Kenny Kadji had an off day–despite being a real mismatch for NC State — and Julian Gamble was relatively quiet despite being effective. It’s high time people realized Reggie Johnson isn’t going to be as efficient as in the past, but he still can be a very effective offensive player. Gamble is the most improved player in the ACC, maybe even the country. He’s incredibly light on his feet for his size and plays within himself.

Star of the Game: Durand Scott played like a man possessed. He played the best game of his career, bringing back memories of his dominant performance against Duke his freshman year (the 21-point performance in the ACC Tournament that caused many to rank Miami highly the next two years). After hitting a big three in the second to half — quieting the NC State run — Scott held his follow-through for a good five or six seconds.

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Rushed Reactions: #22 Wisconsin 68, #3 Indiana 56

Posted by WCarey on March 16th, 2013

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

Three Key Takeaways:

Wisconsin Stopped the Hoosiers Again

Wisconsin Stopped the Hoosiers Again

  1. Indiana is still deserving of a #1 seed. Even with the setback to Wisconsin, the Hoosiers still have one of the best resumes of the country. Indiana was the outright regular season champion of the toughest conference in college basketball. The Hoosiers won road games at Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan. It has as much, or more, talent as any team in the country. A record of 27-6 is not usually the record of a #1 seed, but college basketball this season has been anything but the usual. Indiana should still be a #1 seed and it should still absolutely be viewed as a strong contender to get to the Final Four.
  2. Wisconsin is the definition of a team. The Badgers certainly do not have any guys who can be considered “stars,” but what they do have are eight players who contribute to every game. Point guard Traevon Jackson is a true point guard who is always looking to make his teammates better. Shooting guard Ben Brust is always a threat to catch fire from deep at any time. Forwards Jarred Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz , and Ryan Evans are all seniors who bring the Badgers extremely tough and disciplined play in the post. Freshmen Sam Dekker and George Marshall along with sophomore Frank Kaminsky come off the bench and routinely make an impact for the Badgers. While there are certainly teams in the Big Ten who have a lot more individual talent than the Badgers, there might not be a team who plays together as well as the Badgers. Wisconsin’s ability to play together as a unit makes it a tough team to beat and a team that should never be taken lightly.
  3. Wisconsin certainly has Indiana’s number. With Saturday afternoon’s victory, Wisconsin has now won 12 consecutive games over Indiana. While a majority of those wins came when Indiana was down, it is still quite the amazing statistic. Indiana is viewed by many as the best team in the country, but Wisconsin has defeated the Hoosiers twice this season in fairly commanding fashion. The Badgers’ physical style of play coupled with their deliberate attack on offense frustrates almost every team they play and it could certainly be one of the reasons for their utter domination over Indiana. This is definitely a streak that should be followed as next season comes around because it will be fascinating to see if Wisconsin will be able to top Indiana yet again.

Star of the Game. Ryan Evans, Wisconsin. The senior forward was all over the place for the Badgers. He finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. Evans also supplied Wisconsin with very capable defense against Indiana’s Christian Watford who is always capable of an offensive explosion. Jared Berggren (11 points and five rebounds) and Sam Dekker (11 points off the bench) were also considered, but Evans was clearly the best player on the court for the Badgers.

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Michigan Can Still Make a Deep March Run Because of Trey Burke

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 16th, 2013

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

In four out of the seven Wolverines’ losses this season, Trey Burke has taken more than 20 shot attempts from the field, which limited his ability to involve his teammates. Wisconsin and Indiana in particular did a great job of keeping Burke away from the paint, forcing him to take tough shots from beyond the arc. Even though this recipe could be used by other teams in the NCAA Tournament during the next couple of weeks, it may not be successful because there are only a few guys in the nation that can keep Burke in front of them. Not only do the Hoosiers have Victor Oladipo – arguably the best on-ball defender in the country (along with Aaron Craft) – but they also have athletic big guys such as Cody Zeller and Christian Watford who defend the pick-and-roll very well. The Badgers on the other hand have Ben Brust who has been an underrated defender this season and he did an excellent job of pushing Burke into tough positions on the floor. Once you step out of the Big Ten, there are very few guards in the country who can contain Burke; which is the main reason why the Wolverines can still make it well past the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament.

There aren't many guards in the nation who can lock up Trey Burke. (annarbor.com)

There aren’t many guards in the nation who can lock down Trey Burke. (annarbor.com)

The potential top seeds outside of the Big Ten include Duke, Louisville, Georgetown, Kansas and Gonzaga. Assuming that Michigan won’t be in the same region as Indiana, it is likely that the Wolverines will square off against one of those teams during the second weekend. The Blue Devils’ backcourt of Seth Curry and Quinn Cook are not known for their defense and asking freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon to guard the best player in the country is simply asking too much. Although the Hoyas play great team defense, none of their guards can defend Burke one-on-one at the top of the key. Brandon Paul torched Gonzaga’s backcourt for 35 points on the road which shows that a talented player like Burke could have his way against them. The Jayhawks on the other hand are a tough defensive team and Travis Releford will probably take the defensive assignment of the sophomore guard. Releford can use his size to push Burke out of the lane but it can be argued that he is not quick enough to hang with Burke on his crossovers. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals will throw a funky zone at them and force the Wolverines to beat them from beyond the arc, but John Beilein has the sharpshooters – Tim Hardaway Jr. (38% 3FG) and Nik Stauskas (45% 3FG) – who could catch on fire on any given night.

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Rushed Reactions: Florida 61, Alabama 51

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the SEC Tournament semifinal game between Florida and Alabama in Nashville.

Three Key Takeaways:

fla alabama sec tourney 13

The Gators Survived Alabama’s Upset Bid on Saturday

  1. Florida Run.  The Gators trailed by 10 early in the second half before going on a 13-0 run to completely change the momentum of the game. Florida looked lethargic at that point, and it appeared they may be heading home a day earlier than most expected. However, led by senior point guard Kenny Boynton, the Gators made their run in less than three minutes, and Alabama never got closer than three the rest of the way. Florida outscored the Crimson Tide 34-14 after trailing by 10. “Boynton stepped up to the plate.  He gave them that spark and they kept building on that,” Alabama guard Trevor Releford said after the game. The run the Gators made was similar to the one they made two weeks ago in Gainesville, where they also trailed by 10 to the Tide in the second half. And that was certainly on Alabama players’ minds. Guard Trevor Lacey admitted that he discussed it with his teammates. “We knew we needed to keep attacking them,” he said.  The Gators clearly were not deterred when they fell behind, and showed again why they won the league’s regular season title.
  2. Good Kenny Boynton.  There is no shortage of enigmatic point guards in the SEC, and Boynton may be the leader of that club. The senior often takes shots out of the offensive flow, and has hit only 32.5% of his three-point attempts on the year. As the Gators practiced this week, coach Billy Donovan advised Boynton and fellow senior Mike Rosario to let the game come to them and to take shots only within the flow of the offense. While Donovan has expressed concern with the way Rosario has responded to that admonition, Boynton appears to have taken his coach’s advice. Even though he struggled shooting the ball in Friday’s blowout win over LSU, Donovan was pleased that Boynton dished out seven assists, and didn’t force anything on the offensive end. In this game, Boynton’s play sparked the Gators’ run, as Boynton scored seven of their 15 points. On the day, he led Florida with 16 points, and Donovan has made it clear that he has no problem with Boynton continuing to shoot the ball when he gets good looks, and if he continues to do that, the Gators chances to make a deep March run in a wide-open field are pretty good.
  3. Did Alabama’s Bubble Burst?  With Kentucky falling outside the RPI top 50 after last night’s loss to Vanderbilt, Alabama owns no wins over top-50 teams.  When compared to other bubble teams, that may do in the Crimson Tide. In most years, their resume wouldn’t even merit contention for a spot. But this year, given that the committee is considering so many unimpressive resumes, there’s always a chance. Alabama coach Anthony Grant was quick to point out when asked about the Tide’s chances after the game that whether his team has done enough to make the Big Dance is not his concern. “I don’t deal in that.  [The committee has] a tough enough job,” he said. Instead, he’ll sit back and wait to see what happens, but it’s much more likely that his team will be hosting a first-round NIT game than playing in the Big Dance.

Star of the Game.  Kenny Boynton.   Gators center Patric Young was too much for Alabama to handle, but Boynton keyed their turnaround, and sent Donovan’s team to the championship game for only the second time in six years.

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