West Regional Final Game Analysis: #2 Ohio State vs #9 Wichita State

Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2013

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#2 Ohio State vs. #9 Wichita State – West Regional Regional Final (Los Angeles, CA) – 7:05PM ET on CBS

With Florida Gulf Coast’s magical run over, Wichita State is now left to carry the banner for Cinderella in the NCAA Tournament. Having already knocked off Gonzaga, the team that finished the season as the number one team in the polls, the Shockers have experience playing that role, but today they face a team in Ohio State that is as hot as any team in the country, having reeled off 11 straight victories with nine of those coming against NCAA Tournament teams. In other words, the Shockers are about to face a big step up in the level of competition. But, you know what? Wichita State belongs on the same floor as the Buckeyes. They’re not going to be over-matched athletically like so many underdogs are, if anything they have a slight height advantage and these Shockers are pretty darn hot themselves right now. They have a quintet of talented guards that as a group can attack the hoop, score from deep and play tremendous defense. And then up front they have a pair of 6’8” bulldogs, with Carl Hall more than willing to mix it up in the paint while Cleanthony Early can be a match-up problem with his inside/outside game.

Gregg Marshall Is One Win Away From Taking The Shockers To The Final Four

But, as well as Wichita State matches up with the Buckeyes, Ohio State matches up with them. While Early is a strong offensive threat and a tough rebounder, he’s not a real good match-up for Ohio State’s leading scorer DeShaun Thomas – not that very many people are. Thomas has faced far more fearsome defenders than Early, and Gregg Marshall probably knows that he’ll have to run additional defenders at Thomas to get the ball out of his hands. And if the ball is coming out of Thomas’ hands, if these last two games are any indication, that might mean it is going to wind up in LaQuinton Ross’ hands. Ross is Ohio State’s breakout star (he had 14 of the Buckeyes’ last 17 points in their Sweet 16 win over Arizona, including the game winner) and he has shown a versatile offensive game that very few teams in the nation have a great match-up for, and Wichita State is no exception. But, as good as Ross has been these last two games, two fine performances does not make a consistent offensive performer.

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East Regional Final Game Analysis: #3 Marquette Vs #4 Syracuse

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 30th, 2013

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#3 Marquette vs. #4 Syracuse — East Regional Final (at Washington, D.C.) — 4:30 pm ET on CBS.

Big East fans will be treated to one final conference game so to speak (unless the winner of this game meets Louisville for the national title) this evening in Washington. Despite being the lower seed, Syracuse enters the east regional final as the favorite, a winner in six of its last seven games. The Orange are defending at an unbelievable level and one has to look no further than Thursday’s game against Indiana to see why. The Orange held the Hoosiers to a season-low 50 points on 33.3% shooting in a dominating performance against arguably the best team in the country. Michael Carter-Williams poured in 24 points for the victors, who were never really challenge by Indiana all night. Against Big East foe Marquette, who Syracuse will play for the final time as a member of the conference, the Orange figure to be just as imposing defensively. Marquette is a team that gets a huge percentage of its points in the paint and from the free throw line.

Can Buzz Williams Get Marquette Back To The Final Four?

When these two teams met in their only regular season meeting on February 25 in Milwaukee, Marquette was able to come away with a three point win thanks to dominance in the paint. The Golden Eagles visited the free throw line 35 times to Syracuse’s 7 and shot 58% inside the three point arc. Davante Gardner led the way with 26 points in that game and will need to come up big for Marquette once again if the Golden Eagles are to advance to the Final Four for the fourth time in school history and only the second time since Al McGuire’s 1977 championship team.

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ATB: A Huge Michigan Comeback, Dunk City’s Swan Song and Duke Holds Off Sparty…

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 30th, 2013

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

Tonight’s Lede. Sweet 16 Part Deux. At the risk of sounding blunt or insensitive, there is no shame in calling Thursday night’s Sweet 16 match-ups exactly what they were: dry, boring, dull, a monotonous combination of the three. The most surprising outcomes of the night – Syracuse’s win over Indiana; Marquette’s blowout of Miami – disrupted the Miami-Indiana Elite 8 match-up forecasted on most bracket sheets, but the nature of said disruption was never in doubt. The Golden Eagles and Orange were in control from the start; folks spent much of both games lamenting the reasons behind the top seed carnage and ruing their teams’ demises on Twitter and saying the sorts of irrational things irritant fans are wont to say at times of sudden grief. Wichita State and La Salle was just as one-sided – the Shockers’ battered John Giannini’s team on the glass and corralled its guard-oriented attack into an aimless game of roadrunning hot-potato. The only game of any real entertainment value was Ohio State-Arizona, with LaQuinton Ross providing the buzzer-beating highlight of the night. We entered Friday night’s prospectively titillating slate with hopes of widespread competitiveness and high-strung tension, and with Florida Gulf Coast pitted against Florida in the most unlikely of in-state bragging rights games, Michigan State and Duke meeting in a Hall of Fame coaching legacy grudge match, the forecast showed promise. So, did Friday night redeem the Sweet 16 after Thursday night’s plainly mediocre lineup?

Your watercooler moment. The Best Game Of The Season? 

Storming back in the final moments to tie Kansas, then win in overtime, Michigan's resolve and determination down the stretch was something to behold (Getty Images).

Storming back in the final moments to tie Kansas, then win in overtime, Michigan’s resolve and determination down the stretch was something to behold (Getty Images).

Late in the second half, as Kansas spread its scoring output among all five starters in almost equal measure, it began to look as if  the Jayhawks’ veteran lineup was going to hold off Michigan’s young charges for a trip to the Elite 8. That prediction looked safer than ever with just under four minutes remaining and Kansas leading by 11. The rest seemed academic – all Kansas needed to do was play sound and turnover-free basketball over the final minutes, shepherd home a comfortable victory, carry out a quick locker room celebration and rest up for a Final Four entry game Sunday. Nice season Michigan, you had your fun, now go home and enjoy the rest of this Tournament from a nice, comfortable, TV-appointed couch. Hand shakes and bro hugs. All that good stuff. Or so Kansas thought: Trey Burke did not subscribe to that logic, nor did the rest of his teammates, as the Wolverines erased KU’s lead on a 22-8 run powered and concluded by Burke’s overtime-inducing, ice-cold, 30-foot jumper with five seconds remaining. The blown lead was just as much a product of Kansas’ own mistakes as it was Burke’s sheer brilliance, but the unquantifiably crucial momentum advantage had fallen towards the Wolverines, and the overtime period played out much the way you’d expect. A questionable last-possession drive-and-dish from Elijah Johnson sealed Michigan’s win, along with its first appearance in a regional final since the Fab Five heyday. If One Shining Moments can be had in advance of the National Championship game, Burke’s came in the second half and overtime Friday night (he went scoreless in the first half). His game-tying three was the most visible highlight of a 23-point, 10-assist performance that will forever be remembered in Wolverines lore as the most willful single-half effort of  Michigan’s 21st century hoops resurgence. Burke is the best player left in this field, and he couldn’t have made a stronger statement to validate that title than what he did Friday night.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Duke 71, #3 Michigan State 61

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game between #2 Duke and #3 Michigan State in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Seth Curry caught fire. The senior sharpshooter had a game to remember Friday night. He erupted for 29 points while shooting 6-of-9 from the three-point line. He had many open looks on the night, as Duke’s offense did an admirable job of getting him open. Curry has been an offensive dynamo throughout his collegiate career, but he took it to another level tonight. When you score 23 of your team’s first 41 points, you are making a huge impact on the game and that is what Curry did against Michigan State. Curry’s hot hand was never more evident than when he drained three from deep between the 19:18 and 17:12 marks of the second half. While the Duke lead was just three after that barrage from deep, it really forced the Spartans to put more pressure on Curry, which resulted in the rest of the Duke offense opening up.
  2. Duke’s defense was very impressive. Between the 12:05 and 3:32 mark of the second half, Michigan State did not make a shot from the field. Duke’s defense – anchored in the post by forwards Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly –  did an outstanding job on three of Michigan State’s top four offensive weapons. Forward Adreian Payne was limited to just a 3-of-10 performance from the field. Big man Derrick Nix matched Payne’s 3-of-10 performance. Standout freshman guard Gary Harris had a very frustrating evening, as he only managed six points on a 2-of-11 mark from the field. The Blue Devils have now played excellent defense in two straight games – they held Creighton to just 30.2% shooting in their Round of 32 victory – and if they are able to keep that going against Louisville in Sunday’s regional final, there is a strong possibility that they will be playing in Atlanta next weekend.
  3. Louisville/Duke on Sunday for the Midwest Regional title has the potential to be a classic. Louisville and Duke have already met once this season. The Blue Devils topped the Cardinals, 76-71 in the championship game of the Battle for Atlantis on November 24. The major difference between that game and Sunday’s match-up is that Louisville will have the services of forward Gorgui Dieng, who missed the first contest with a wrist injury. Louisville enters Sunday’s regional final as winners of 13 consecutive games and it has arguably played the best basketball in the country over that period. The Cardinals have a dynamic lineup that is very strong in the backcourt and the frontcourt. It has been evident that Louisville has been much more talented than its first three NCAA Tournament opponents – North Carolina A&T, Colorado State, and Oregon – but the Cardinals will be tested by a similarly talented Duke squad when the two meet for a trip to the Final Four. Considering the plethora of talent on both sides, it is very difficult to make a prediction on what may happen on Sunday afternoon, but it is fair to say that it has all the makings of a classic basketball game.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 62, #15 Florida Gulf Coast 50

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2013

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Three Key Takeaways.

  1. It is about fundamentals. Dunk City was fun while it lasted, but in the end your idea of execution has to go beyond just throwing up lobs. America fell in love with Florida Gulf Coast’s style of play, which consisted of aggression consistently being taken out against the rim. When it is working it is a beautiful thing to watch, but when it doesn’t it can get ugly very quickly. After jumping out to a 24-14 lead with 5:23 left in the first half the wheels came off the Dunk City bandwagon very quickly as Florida went on a 16-0 run to go up 30-24 and they never looked back. Although the Gators never pulled away (their largest was 12 with 7:25 left) the game never seemed in doubt as the swagger that Florida Gulf Coast exhibited for nearly 2.5 games of the NCAA Tournament disappeared and appeared tentative despite the occasional flashy dunk.
  2. Florida will have to play better if they expect to beat Michigan on Sunday. Beating a team that has been as hot as Florida Gulf Coast has been is never an easy task, but Florida did not look like a national title contender against an overmatched team with the exception of their 16-0 run late in the first half. They had multiple chances to put the game away, but let Florida Gulf Coast hang around. Mike Rosario played well, but none of the Gators played that well. It was a sloppy effort overall and should raise concerns for a team without a true leader and one that has still not won a close game.
  3. What’s next for Andy Enfield? The Florida Gulf Coast coach has become something like an Internet sensation for a variety of reasons–his wife, career at Johns Hopkins, and business career–and this has led to some speculation that he might be moving onto another job. We won’t dismiss that possibility, but we would probably point to a mid-major opening created by someone leaving for Minnesota or UCLA. No reasonable athletic director (ok, maybe we are assuming too much) would consider someone who coached a good, but not exceptional team that just happened to get hot and matched up against vulnerable teams. Despite their run in the NCAA Tournament they are not even considered heavy favorites to win the Atlantic Sun again next year. If Enfield can build on this and make a successful, sustainable program, then perhaps he can dream about a big-time job.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 77, #12 Oregon 69

Posted by WCarey on March 29th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game between #1 Louisville and #12 Oregon in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Russ Smith was terrific tonight. The dynamic junior guard led the way for the Cardinals all night on the offensive end of the court. He finished the night with 31 points on an efficient 9-of-16 from the field. His ability to consistently drain free throws – he went 12-of-14 from the charity stripe on the night – was crucial to the Cardinals putting away tonight’s victory. A lot has been made about the “Russdiculous” phenomenon – a moniker Smith earned due to his unpredictability and sometimes erratic play – but Smith showed against Oregon that he is plenty capable of remaining in control and providing the Cardinals with a consistent effort for a full 40 minutes. A strong case can be made right now that Smith has been the Most Outstanding Player of the  NCAA Tournament, as he also put up strong performances against North Carolina A&T in the Round of 64 (23 points) and against Colorado State in the Round of 32 (27 points).
  2. Oregon battled hard, but Louisville proved to be just too much. Oregon could have easily packed it in when it went down by 14 at half and by 18 with 9:02, but the Ducks showed their resiliency by fighting to the very end. It was quite apparent that Louisville was the much more talented team on the court, but the fight put forth by Oregon was essentially the only reason why this game was even somewhat close. Dana Altman‘s squad should be proud of the way it played against the superior Cardinals. While Oregon was never able to really make things that interesting for Louisville, its hard-nosed play prevented the Cardinals from pulling away in the second half. Oregon could have absolutely played better, but it probably could not have played any harder.
  3. Louisville should be seen as a favorite to take home the national title. Louisville’s great talent advantage was on display once again in the win over Oregon. Despite battling foul trouble, point guard Peyton Siva once again showed why he is one of the best floor generals in the country. As previously mentioned, guard Russ Smith was outstanding all night. Louisville’s post play did a fantastic job of ensuring Oregon did not get anything easy close to the basket. Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan, and Montrezl Harrell provided the Cardinals with rugged play and a tenacity that very few teams in the country could have matched. While it is probably unfair to declare the Cardinals as the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta, Louisville definitely has the guns to make that a reality.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Michigan 87, #1 Kansas 85

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the South Region in Dallas, Texas this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. This loss will be a tough one for Bill Self and the Jayhawks to swallow. The Jayhawks led by 14 with 6:50 remaining in the second half only to see that lead evaporate thanks to some questionable decision-making on their part and some big shots by Michigan. The story will end up being Trey Burke’s shot, but Mitch McGary deserves a lot of credit for his game-high 25 points and 14 rebounds. McGary came into his senior year of high school as one of the top recruits in the country, but slid down the rankings after some weak performances, which led many to question his impact for the Wolverines this season, but he has stepped up his play in the NCAA Tournament and seems to be getting better with every game.
  2. In a NCAA Tournament that has had several memorable moments, Trey Burke may have provided us with the defining moment of the NCAA Tournament so far. His 28-footer with 4 seconds left in regulation seemed to hang in the air forever. From floor level (literally with the raised court) the shot seemed like it would fall short, but it just made it over the front of the rim and dropped in. Whether or not this will propel Michigan into the Final Four remains to be seen, but it is a moment that will last well beyond this year’s One Shining Moment.

    Trey Burke's 28-Footer Will Be Talked About For A Long Time in Ann Arbor (Credit: AP)

    Trey Burke’s 28-Footer Will Be Talked About For A Long Time in Ann Arbor (Credit: AP)

  3. Given the financial situation of his family it seems like a forgone conclusion that Ben McLemore is headed to the NBA Draft. Honestly, most neutral observers would probably tell him it is a bad decision not to enter the NBA Draft. If this was McLemore’s last game as a Jayhawk, it was certainly a solid one, but like much of McLemore’s freshman campaign it left you wanting more. When McLemore finally ended his NCAA drought with a 3-pointer with 8:48 left in the first half he put together a stretch that reminded you he was the best player on the court and he finished with a team-high 20 points, but McLemore seems to lack that killer instinct where he puts teams away and tends to disappear in big moments. McLemore is still young so perhaps he will outgrow that weakness at some point, but it is something that NBA teams will worry about.

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Florida’s Reliance on Outside Shooting Could be a Problem

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 29th, 2013

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

Advanced metrics gurus are a special breed. They log into KenPom daily, memorize obscure stats, create new algorithms to break down play-by-play data, and probably a whole host of other geeky stat guy nuances that we don’t even know about, but above all they utilize and fully believe in advanced metrics. And if you put faith in tempo free efficiency models to justify and explain what you see on the court, chances are you’re slightly higher than the rest of the basketball world on the Florida Gators.

The effectiveness of Mike Rosario and his backcourt partners could be the key to how far Florida advances. (Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY Sports)

The effectiveness of Mike Rosario and his backcourt partners could be the key to how far Florida advances. (Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY Sports)

There are a lot of reasons to like Florida. According to KenPom, UF is the number one ranked team with the third ranked adjusted defensive efficiency unit and the fourth ranked adjusted offensive efficiency unit. Florida holds opponents to just a 42.8% effective field goal rate. We could go on, but you already know there are even more reasons to dislike the Gators’ chances of advancing. They haven’t won a game decided by single digits all year, they’ve blown several close leads, and they lack a go-to player to finish in the clutch. But when examining Florida’s play, there’s an area we can all agree on; the Gators take a lot of threes. You also don’t need advanced metrics to tell you that Billy Donovan’s squad makes a high percentage of those shots as well, making the Gators a curious case study once again for blending the observed reality with an analysis of advanced metrics.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 29th, 2013

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We continue the Sweet Sixteen tonight with games from the South Region in Arlington, Texas, and the Midwest Region in Indianapolis. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon Midwest Regional Sweet Sixteen (at Indianapolis, IN) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

It's Russ' World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It’s Russ’ World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Midwest Regional descends on Indianapolis this weekend, with Louisville and Oregon kicking off the action in a matchup of red-hot teams. If not for Florida Gulf Coast’s otherworldly Tournament performance last week, we would likely be looking at the two most impressive teams of the first weekend. As the top overall seed in the Tournament, Louisville’s tour de force in Lexington may not have been unexpected, but it did drive home the notion that the Cardinals are still the team to beat – in this region, and beyond. On the flip side, Oregon’s pair of resounding victories were not expected (despite getting significant play as the most underseeded team in the field on Selection Sunday), but have quickly afforded the surging Ducks a lot of respect. They will head into a virtual road game as massive underdogs on Friday, but the last two weeks have proven that this is a talented and tough basketball team.

Do not expect Oregon to struggle with the aggressive Louisville defense as much as North Carolina A&T and Colorado State did. A quick briefing of the Oregon statistical profile may suggest otherwise – the Ducks are 264th nationally in turnover percentage – but that number is a bit misleading. For one, quick tempo teams are generally going to turn the ball over more, and Oregon plays fast (48th nationally in possessions per game). Also remember that starting PG Dominic Artis (I know, I know — how could we forget at this point?) missed more than half the Pac-12 season, and that backup PG Johnathan Loyd is just now beginning to hit his stride. These two guards will come as close to replicating the quickness and athleticism of that Louisville Siva-Smith combo as any duo the Cardinals have seen all season. Throw in athletes almost everywhere else on the floor – Emory and Dotson on the wings, Kazemi and Woods in the post – and there can be reasonable expectation that Oregon might actually be able to weather the turnover storm that has felled many Louisville foes.

If Oregon can manage that turnover battle, expect this to be a 40-minute game. Points will not come easily for the Cardinals against a well-school (and athletic) Oregon defense, and the Ducks are also a better rebounding team — at least on paper. Dana Altman’s X-factor will be the burgeoning freshman Dotson. If Dotson and others – here’s looking at you EJ Singler — can replicate the three point barrage that undid Saint Louis, Altman’s group has a legitimate change to swing the upset. Too much to ask for? Probably. This is not your typical #12 seed (how is Oregon a #12 seed again?), but they have run into a #1 seed that is playing its role all too well. I expect Oregon to prove a worthy challenger in all facets – managing turnovers, defending the dynamic Louisville backcourt, finding ways to score themselves – but ultimately they run into a team that is just a little better across the board. The Ducks will hang around, but Louisville should be safely bound for the Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

#1 Kansas vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 7:37 PM ET on TBS

The last time Michigan advanced this deep into the NCAA Tournament was all the way back in 1994 with the Fab Five coached by current San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. Ranked in the Top 10 for much of the season, John Beilein’s team certainly won’t be content just advancing to the second weekend; it is Atlanta or bust for the young Wolverines. To advance to Sunday’s South Regional Final, they will have to knock off a team with a wealth of NCAA Tournament experience in the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas advanced to the championship game last season losing to Kentucky, but are missing two key components of that squad—Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While Bill Self has led Kansas to another very successful season—a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship and 30+ wins for the fourth straight year—this edition of Kansas basketball is lacking a rock-solid point guard and dominant scorer. One could certainly make the argument that freshman Ben McLemore is that scorer, but he has largely been a no-show in Kansas’ first two games scoring just 13 points on 2-14 shooting from the field. The combination of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe at point guard has dished out 11 assists to ten turnovers. Nobody will argue their frontcourt dominance anchored by the defensive prowess of Jeff Withey, but seniors Kevin Young and Travis Releford are prototypical role players and not go-to threats. As such, when looking up and down the roster, this has been yet another good coaching job by Bill Self. If Kansas is to defeat Michigan and advance to Atlanta, Ben McLemore must play up to his Top 5 NBA Draft pick ability. Kansas’ most glaring weakness happens to be Michigan’s clear strength: point guard play. This game will be decided in the backcourt, and Trey Burke along with Tim Hardaway Jr. are simply playing much better basketball than Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. Also, let’s not forget the emergence of freshman Mitch McGary who has stepped up in a big way with Jordan Morgan’s nagging ankle injury. Morgan may return to the regular rotation tonight, but he is just 6’8” and would struggle handling Jeff Withey on the insdie. John Beilein doesn’t expect McGary to have a double-double kind of game like he had against Virginia Commonwealth, but if he is able to neutralize Withey then it is mission accomplished. Kansas would be the first one to tell you that they played just 20 good minutes of basketball in their first two games. If they get off to another slow start out of the gate like they did against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, they’ll be hard-pressed to climb their way back into the game.

The RTC Certified PickMichigan

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Pac-12 M5: 03.29.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 29th, 2013

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  1. Another day another UCLA coaching search update. With Shaka Smart officially out of the picture, talk about Butler’s Brad Stevens is starting to heat up. First, ESPN broke the completely obvious news that he is UCLA’s top target, while also briefly reporting that Stevens and UCLA were in contract negotiations. Later, FoxSports reported that Stevens was actually in Westwood in the middle of negotiations with UCLA. This report has not been confirmed anywhere, though. However, as should be expected of the calm and quiet Stevens, he’s not commenting on the job at all, other than to say he is still the coach at Butler. And all Butler president James Danko can offer is that he hopes his head coach stats. Elsewhere, N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried tweeted out that he is “committed” to staying in his current job, which really means nothing, as offering that statement does little but make him have to answer some tough questions if he were to wind up taking the UCLA job. Although you can probably read the tea leaves to find that Gottfried hasn’t received a whole lot of encouragement from those in charge of the UCLA search.
  2. One other thing on the UCLA coaching search: for some reason, writers tangentially associated with the Colorado program keep trying to float Tad Boyle as a candidate for the Bruin job. And for no apparent reason. Certainly he’s a fine coach and the job he has done taking the Buffaloes to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (and, let’s face it, it should be three straight – CU got screwed in 2011) while building up a passionate new fanbase is commendable. But the UCLA job search would probably have to go pretty poorly, with name after name passing on the job, before Boyle gets hired. Again, no offense to Boyle who I think the world of as a coach and expect to have a bright future, but at this point, as a “deranged buffalo” points out, he just hasn’t done enough quite yet to merit the attention of athletic directors at the six elite “blueblood” college basketball programs.
  3. Oh, and in case you forgot, the USC coaching job is also open, though there is nowhere near the speculation about it as there is across town. With some of the top candidates already out of the picture, names like Tommy Amaker, Tubby Smith, Tim Floyd, Mike Hopkins and, get this, Ben Howland, are at the top of the list.
  4. Speaking of coaching searches, Oregon head coach Dana Altman has been a party in a couple entertaining searches. First, there was the extended and wildly optimistic Oregon search that wound up landing Altman, only after like 600 (note: that number is only an estimate) other coaches turned down Nike U. But Pac-12 fans may have forgotten the 2007 debacle where Altman accepted Arkansas’ offer for their head coaching position, only to renege a day later after a change of heart. I only bring this up now because, (1) well, I needed an additional point for my morning five, but also because (2) it goes to show just how drawn out and dramatic these coaching searches can be and (3) it is a testament to how lucky Oregon is to have Altman, one of the best coaches in the nation.
  5. And, as we wrap up another week, we also wrap up the career of some great Pac-12 players, as Arizona’s demise in the Sweet 16 last night ends the college careers of Mark Lyons, Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill. Hill, for one, did not go down without a fight, as Bruce Pascoe writes. He scored nine-straight in the middle of the half to rescue the Wildcats from a rough patch spanning the half and to keep his team within shouting distance of Ohio State. While his career at UA is done, he does go down in the record books, tied with Kyle Fogg for most games played in Wildcat history.
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Big 12 M5: 03.29.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 29th, 2013

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  1. Texas Tech once hired Bob Knight. So why not Tubby Smith? Sources indicate the Red Raiders have met with Smith, a one-time national champion at Kentucky and the recently-fired head coach at Minnesota. The Red Raiders, who also netted Billy Gillispie two years ago after his promising coaching career fizzled at Kentucky, seem to have a knack for associating themselves with big names in the coaching business. Smith is clearly the best candidate on the list for Texas Tech at this point. It still remains to be seen what sort of consideration interim coach Chris Walker will get, but Smith is a respected name, regardless of how his tenures at Kentucky and Minnesota ended. And they never even ended that badly, comparatively speaking.
  2. Smith might even be the perfect fit at Tech, according to one writer. He’s right about one thing– inking Smith to a deal would certainly create a “splash” in Lubbock, something this school could need. His six-year run with the Golden Gophers was not stellar, and he never finished above .500 in Big Ten play. He did make three NCAA Tournaments and slammed UCLA in the second round this year, but his team collapsed after a terrific start this year. Failing to reach the second weekend would have seemed unacceptable in December, but that’s how far the team fell within the span of a few months. Playing in a brutal Big Ten didn’t help, but point is, Smith wasn’t great at Minnesota. But he could be great in another situation, considering his success at Kentucky. Yes, yes, he won a title with Rick Pitino’s players and, sure, maybe it’s easier to win at a Kentucky, but you’re not going to find many available head coaches with Smith’s pedigree.
  3. Amath M’Baye‘s decision this week to declare for the NBA Draft was a bit shocking, especially for Lon Kruger and his Oklahoma teammates. But perhaps it’s not such a bad decision after all. M’Baye has a life to live, and he has a family to help overseas and a professional career to pursue. As the article points out, he’d be almost 25 by the end of next season. He will graduate in fewer than two months. If he feels as though waiting a year to turn pro would slow his progress, then maybe it’s the best thing for him to move on. It’ll hurt, but it won’t cripple Oklahoma’s roster, and it will keep M’Baye moving forward in his own life. Win-win all around.
  4. This story made waves in August, but it’s still a fun one: Kansas’ Justin Wesley will play Wilt Chamberlain in an upcoming film called “Jayhawkers.” How’s that for having big shoes to fill? Funny thing is, Wesley had never acted before starting this project. The film’s creator just needed somebody to fill the giant role and asked Bill Self for advice. They almost settled on Thomas Robinson, but Wesley’s body type was a little more conducive to the role. So Wesley it was, and the rest is history. Get your popcorn ready.
  5. Marcus Foster turned down an in-state offer from SMU (plus Oklahoma and other nearby schools) to play at Kansas State next year. That has to hurt more after Foster earned Player of the Year honors in Texas’ Class 3A division. Even with Martavious Irving and Rodney McGruder graduating, he’ll still have to fight with Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez, Shane Southwell and others for playing time as a freshman. But he’s good enough to do it. He can play a lot of different positions, and he also plays bigger and tougher than his 6’2” frame would suggest. The guy averaged 27 points per game in high school, too, hence the Player of the Year award. Bruce Weber will find a spot for him, and it’ll probably happen the second he steps in Manhattan.
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Previewing Michigan State vs. Duke: Who Will Chase Ryan Kelly Around?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 29th, 2013

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

Duke was scorching hot during the non-conference season which vaulted them to the #1 ranking in the polls but one of their tougher games was against Ohio State at Cameron Indoor during the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Why is that game important when assessing Michigan State‘s game against Duke? Because despite their offensive woes back in November, the Buckeyes were able to control the tempo for most of the game because they held the Duke backcourt – Seth Curry and Quinn Cook – to a combined 4-16 shooting from the field which stymied the Blue Devils’ offense for most of the game. The Spartans play good perimeter defense by holding their opponents to just 29% shooting from beyond the arc so it is likely that they won’t have too much trouble with Curry or Cook, but Ryan Kelly could cause some havoc which will be the key to the Sweet 16 match-up between these teams. Kelly can shoot from anywhere in a half-court set (55% eFG) and will challenge the State defenders to play good defense consistently against the pick-and-roll. The following are two thoughts around the Spartans’ chances of being effective against Ryan Kelly.

Branden Dawson will be busy on the defensive end against Duke. (Al Goldis/AP)

Branden Dawson will be busy on the defensive end against Duke. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Branden Dawson’s services are needed on Friday night on the defense. Dawson is best equipped player to take on the assignment of chasing Kelly around the screens and covering him on the pick-and-roll plays. Even though Dawson gives a few inches in height to Kelly (6’11″ to 6’6″), the sophomore wing has the weight to prevent Kelly from dribbling past him into the paint. Dawson is also quick enough to run around the screens to defend Kelly’s perimeter shot and exhaustion won’t be an issue for him because he isn’t one of the primary scoring options for Tom Izzo. Unlike Dawson, if Adreian Payne is asked to run around Kelly, he will be tired and State needs him to produce on the offensive end. Historically, Izzo’s successful teams have always had a designated defensive stopper, for example Travis Walton from 2009. Dawson has the athleticism and the commitment to defense which could make him that stopper that State needs to make a Final Four. In case he gets into foul trouble, freshman guard Denzel Valentine can step in to give him a breather.  Read the rest of this entry »
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