NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.25.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 25th, 2015


March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

Midwest Region

This guy is not intimidated by John Calipari and the Wildcats. (Getty)

This guy is not intimidated by John Calipari and the Wildcats. (Getty)

  • Though he’s struggled thus far in the NCAA Tournament, John Calipari’s message to Devin Booker is simple. “We told him after the game, ‘Hey, you’ve got to keep shooting,’ because there’s going to be a game we need him to make shots or we can’t win,” Calipari said. “You can miss all these. It doesn’t matter. The next one’s coming up and we may need you to make some shots.”
  • Bob Huggins has had John Calipari’s number historically, but Kentucky certainly has the advantage by the numbers this time. Here’s what Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue has to say about Thursday’s battle.
  • West Virginia is fast and physical, but Huggins is concerned about Kentucky’s defense, particularly inside the three-point line. “Probably the closest one was Kentucky in 2010. We led by one [actually two, 28-26] at halftime and did not have a two-point field goal (eight three-pointers and four foul shots). I think every time we took it inside the three [point line] we got our shots blocked. I can’t remember anybody who would be as close to this team other than that team,” he said.
  • The odds are against him, but Bob Huggins has a chance to improve on his 8-2 record against his buddy John Calipari on Thursday.
  • The public seems to be praising Wichita State after its upset over Kansas, but don’t sleep on Notre Dame just yet.
  • Pat Connaughton has been huge for Notre Dame on the court, but his leadership away from it is what sets him apart.
  • Alabama is reportedly looking to make a run at Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. Here‘s why Matt Bonesteel thinks Marshall should stick around in Wichita.
  • Wichita State is the lowest-seeded team left in the Midwest Region, but the Shockers have several qualities that previous Final Four teams have possessed.

West Region

Two old friends go at it in the Sweet 16. Will Chris Mack the Pupil get the upper hand? Or will Sean Miller the teacher still show who's boss? (Getty)

Two old friends go at it in the Sweet Sixteen. Will Chris Mack the Pupil get the upper hand? Or will Sean Miller the Teacher still show him who’s boss? (Getty)

  • It’s no accident that Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin teams rarely foul. Averaging around 12 fouls per game, the Badgers rank among the lowest in the country in that metric. Much of this is due to the emphasis put on it by the head coach. “There are a few pillars of the program or things that have been consistent through the years and helped us be successful,” associate head coach Greg Gard says. “And that’s one of them. They understand if they want to get on the floor and play, they’re going to have to be able to play without fouling.”
  • Despite having a reputation as a very well-respected academic institution, Wisconsin hasn’t exactly wowed people with its recent graduation rates.
  • Though he was reportedly doubtful to play earlier this week, Kennedy Meeks worked out briefly on Tuesday and he is still a possibility to play on Thursday night.
  • For Marcus Paige, North Carolina’s Sweet Sixteen game on Thursday will be a bit of a family affair. His sister, Morgan, played at Wisconsin, and now plays professionally in Europe.
  • Xavier big man Jalen Reynolds is being investigated by the school for a recent incident outside of a Xavier dorm. However, Reynolds is still scheduled to play for the time being.
  • Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen battle will be special for Xavier coach Chris Mack. Mack served as Arizona coach Sean Miller’s top assistant for five years before he left Xavier for the desert. “The fact is that it’s hard to play against someone who gave me such an opportunity. We spent so much time in the trenches and he trusted me so much as an assistant coach. I enjoyed my time with him,” Mack said.
  • Both Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson and others surrounding the program seem open about Johnson only being in Tucson for one year, but that isn’t stopping both parties from making the best of the situation.
  • For Sean Miller, coaching against his former team, Xavier, will be tough. “It’s kind of one of those things that when you’re watching the selection show, you’re kind of watching and cheering for them [Xavier coach Chris Mack and former Xavier coach Thad Matta] to go off your board,” [Arizona Director of Basketball Operations Ryan] Reynolds said. Reynolds came with Miller from Xavier to Arizona six years ago.

East Region

No one has been a bigger part of NC State's recent success than point guard Cat Barber. (Jerome Carpenter/WRALSportsFan)

No one has been a bigger part of NC State’s recent success than point guard Cat Barber. (Jerome Carpenter/WRALSportsFan)

  • NC State has made a great run, but the Wolfpack hope to end their recent Sweet Sixteen futility. The program hasn’t made an Elite Eight since Jim Valvano’s 1986 team.
  • It’s been a team effort, but no one has been a bigger part of NC State’s recent success than point guard Cat Barber. “When Cat Barber took his game to another level here about a month, month and a half ago, it changed everything for our team,” NC State coach Mark Gottfried said.
  • It has been a difficult season for Louisville, but the Cardinals have made adjustments over the past couple months and now find themselves in great position to make a Final Four run. “I think we’ve realized certain things defensively where and how we get beat,” [coach Rick] Pitino said Tuesday, “and I think we’re much smarter in the past month than we’ve been. I think that’s why we’re a better basketball team.”
  • Here‘s what Louisville coach Rick Pitino has to say about his team’s game with NC State on Friday.
  • Oklahoma is known for its offense, but the Sooners’ improved defense is one of the main reasons for their success this season. “Last year’s group, we just didn’t feel like we were made to get stops at critical times in ball games,” [coach Lon] Kruger said. “We talked about that. We could score, and obviously at critical times in this [Dayton] game our guys come together and make several stops back to back. So the makeup of this team, they’re older, they’re more understanding of what has to happen to win tough games. And I thought that showed.”
  • Clearly defining roles has been paramount to Oklahoma‘s success this season. The Sooners are one of two teams in the NCAA Tournament field to have started the same five (Cousins, Woodard, Hield, Spangler, Thomas) in all of its games this season.
  • After spending his first two seasons at Cleveland, Michigan State junior Bryn Forbes has come into his own since returning home. Everything from playing winning basketball to spending more time with his son and his ill sister have been benefits for Forbes.
  • According to FiveThirtyEight.comTom Izzo is far and away the greatest NCAA Tournament coach of modern times.

South Region

Coach K and Duke looks like the favorite heading into conference play. (AP)

Coach K is telling his guys to enjoy the moment. (AP)

  • Just a freshman, Duke wing Justise Winslow has been the do-it-all glue guy who has helped make the Blue Devils perhaps the second-best team in the land.
  • Coach K has tried to stay away from thinking about Duke’s futility in the NCAA Tournament over a couple of the last few years. “They shouldn’t be expected, they should be enjoyed. They should be followed,” Krzyzewski said. “People get caught up in what happened before if it was negative and what should happen because we’re Duke instead of just enjoying it. And that’s what I’ve tried to do with our team. Let’s just enjoy them.”
  • Utah may be a #5 seed, but analytic data seems to suggest that the Utes have a better chance of winning the National Championship than their seed may suggest. While far from a favorite, Ken Pomeroy ranks Utah sixth most likely to win it all, while FiveThirtyEight lists the Utes ninth.
  • After flirting with the NBA, Utah point guard Delon Wright is glad he came back for his senior season. “You know, if I would have left, I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity to come back and play in the NCAA Tournament,” said Wright. “It makes me happy with my decision.”
  • Gonzaga beat UCLA handily in Pauley Pavilion in December, but the Bruins will get a rematch on Friday and think they’ll put up a much better fight. “We weren’t that good,” freshman forward Kevon Looney said. “The offense was pretty bad. The defense – we played none.”
  • UCLA is looking for ways to stifle Gonzaga’s offense, but no matter how you spin it, the Zags are going to be a tough team to stop.
  • Gonzaga head coach Mark Few is usually poised and tranquil on the sidelines, but his antics in the locker room have kept the Bulldogs cheerful. Few wasn’t totally pleased that big man Kyle Wiltjer posted a video of him doing a handstand on Twitter, but he was willing to spill the beans about his tactics. “The theme of this team is to celebrate wins,” Few said. “There are so many expectations that they are supposed to do this that it was becoming like a job.”
  • Gonzaga may be a fine academic institution, but students are letting the Bulldogs’ basketball success influence their studies. “We’re all thinking about basketball right now, let’s say what we need to say then let’s get to work,” said [professor Christopher] Stevens.
Griffin Wong (51 Posts)

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