Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 58, #9 Temple 52

Posted by IRenko on March 24th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Sunday’s Third Round game between #1 Indiana and #9 Temple. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Victor Oladipo Did What NPOYs Do...

Victor Oladipo Did What NPOY Candidates Do…

  1. Victor Oladipo Won This Game – The stat sheet won’t tell you what Victor Oladipo means to Indiana, because it offers no metrics, advanced or otherwise, for heart and soul. Oladipo took this game over down the stretch at both ends of the floor. Indiana had used a number of defenders to try to slow Khalif Wyatt (more on him later), but it was Oladipo’s shut-down, ball-denial, in-your-grill defense in the closing minutes that prevented Wyatt from carrying his team across the finish line. With the game tied at 52 and under two minutes to play, Oladipo harassed Wyatt into a missed three, grabbed the rebound, and drew a Wyatt foul while pushing the ball up the floor. On the next possession, Oladipo denied Wyatt the chance to even get the ball, forcing Temple to burn a timeout and the entire shot clock before Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson missed a jumper. Oladipo then promptly ran down to the other end of the floor and drained his one and only three-pointer of the game to clinch the win for Indiana.
  2. Indiana Scored 58 Points — And Won – Indiana scores north of 1.15 points per possession, but they looked largely ineffective against Temple for two reasons. First, Temple’s tough interior defense. The best way to slow the Hoosiers is with physicality, and the Owls brought plenty today. They bodied Cody Zeller and Christian Watford in the post, swarmed Oladipo on his drives, and pushed the Hoosiers around on the glass. Zeller and Watford combined to shoot 6-of-17, Zeller committed six turnovers, and the Hoosiers rebounded less than 20 percent of their own misses. Second, the Hoosiers went cold from three-point range, missing eight of their first nine long-distance attempts. They got hot late just in time to push themselves over the top, but credit Temple for nearly stopping the nation’s most efficient offense in its tracks.
  3. A One-Man Offensive Band — This game was an almost comical display of the extent to which Temple relies on Khalif Wyatt offensively. The confident point guard has a tendency to rise to the occasion against the best of competition, and today was no exception. Relishing the role of the villain, taking on not just the quiet and unassuming Oladipo but a boisterous crowd full of Hoosier fans, Wyatt did his best to carry the Owls to the upset. Despite being the obvious focal point of Indiana’s defense, he managed to pour in 31 points — 60 percent of Temple’s total — on 12-of-24 shooting.  The rest of the Owls’ offense was dreadful, shooting 9-of-38 from the floor. Scootie Randall was the worst offender with an atrocious 0-of-12 night, and the team as a whole missed several makeable shots.

Star of the Game: So maybe the stat sheet does tell you a bit about how good Oladipo is. He led Indiana with 16 points on 7-of-12 field goal shooting and added eight rebounds and an assist.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Ohio State 78, #10 Iowa State 75

Posted by IRenko on March 24th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Sunday’s Third Round game between #2 Ohio State and #7 Iowa State. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Aaron Craft's Trey Sent OSU Into the Sweet Sixteen (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Aaron Craft’s Trey Sent OSU Into the Sweet Sixteen (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

  1. Craft in the Clutch — Aaron Craft’s performance over the final five minutes of this game illustrated his broader tendency to be inconsistent while, at the same time, coming up big at key moments. Craft has alternated all year between high and low scoring games, but in the final few weeks of the season, he put together several key offensive performances in the Buckeyes’ biggest games to sweep Michigan State and take down Indiana on the road. His back-to-back missed front ends hurt his team badly, allowing Iowa State to close a 13-point lead in a matter of minutes. But in the closing seconds, Craft confidently stroked the game-winning three-pointer with a defender in his face. The entire time he held the ball on that final possession, Craft looked like someone who knew he was going to score — shaking off screeners and teammates, patiently biding his dribble — and was just trying to drain enough time off the clock to make sure he won the game.
  2. Iowa State State Showed Tremendous Fight — Midway through the first half, it looked like the game might get away from the Cyclones as their offense was sputtering, but they found their three-point shot and their mix of man and zone defensive looks threw Ohio State out of its offensive rhythm. As a result, the Cyclones were able to stay within two points at the half. Then, in the second half, when it looked like Ohio State was putting the game away, up 69-56 with 6:04 to play, the Cyclones reeled off a 13-0 run in just over two minutes to completely erase the lead entirely. This is an undersized team full of transfers that plays with a chip on its shoulder and won’t back down from anyone.
  3. The Three Ball Was Not Enough — Unable to get the kind of dribble penetration against Ohio State that Notre Dame’s swiss cheese defense allowed, the Cyclones returned to their old standby — the three-point shot. They made only one of their first five attempts, but from there, they knocked down 11-of-20 from downtown. They finished the game with more threes than twos and a better field goal percentage to boot. And while it very nearly brought them to the verge of victory, it was not enough.

Star of the Game: Craft served up the late game heroics, but it was Deshaun Thomas‘ inside-out game that mostly powered Ohio State’s offense. The Cyclones not only mixed man and zone defenses, they threw several different defenders at Thomas in their man defense. But the junior forward adapted well to whomever was guarding him, scoring 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Marquette 74, #6 Butler 72

Posted by IRenko on March 23rd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Saturday’s Third Round game between #3 Marquette and #6 Butler. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Buzz Williams Got It Done For the Second Time in the NCAAs (AP)

Buzz Williams Got It Done For the Second Time in the NCAAs (AP)

  1. Survive and Advance — In a pod full of mid-majors with Cinderella history, it was the Big East power who emerged at the end of the day, but not before being pushed to its limits. This was more of a see-saw affair than Marquette’s great escape against Davidson, and they seemed to take control of the game mid-way through the second half. But Butler was resilient, and the Golden Eagles almost threw away the win, just as Davidson did on Thursday, with an errant inbounds pass with three seconds left and a two-point lead. No doubt, memories of Marquette’s fateful loss to Butler on a buzzer beater in Maui creeped into the minds of Marquette fans. But a well-executed defensive scheme on the final possession resulted in an ugly three-point attempt from Andrew Smith that was well off the mark. After the game, Buzz Williams refused to explain his defensive setup, explaining that given all the close games Marquette has played — and is likely to play again — he wasn’t about to reveal state secrets.
  2. Butler Couldn’t Escape the Turnover Trap — The biggest advantage of Butler’s tournament draw is that none of the three teams in its pod is very good at forcing turnovers. A major reason that Butler went 0-4 vs St. Louis and VCU this year was its poor ball control. Through three halves of basketball this week, Butler committed just 10 turnovers, and in the first half tonight, Marquette had zero fast break points — a big reason the Bulldogs entered intermission with an 8-point lead. But Marquette stepped up the pressure in the second half tonight, and Butler started to crack. They coughed up the ball 10 times after halftime, allowing Marquette to score eight fast-break points and 15 total off turnovers.
  3. Rotnei Clarke Faded Down the Stretch — Clarke had a tremendous first half, showing off not just his dead-eye three-point shot, but also his underrated ability to score inside the arc, with an array of pull-up jumpers, runners, and drives to the rim. But the cooling of his hot hand in the second half deprived Butler of a reliable scoring option. After starting off 7-of-10, Clarke made just one of his last seven shots. With Roosevelt Jones struggling to a 3-of-11 performance, Butler was left with few scoring options. They labored to score, and while they managed to keep scraping points together, in part due to Andrew Smith’s yeoman effort underneath, they couldn’t scratch out enough.

Star of the Game: Vander Blue had a tough act to follow, after his late-game heroics gave the Golden Eagles a last-second win over Davidson in the Second Round. But he more than came through, putting the team on his back and carrying them to a win with an outstanding performance at both ends of the floor. Blue finished with 29 points on just 15 shots and grabbed four steals. Two of those swipes came on crucial back-to-back possessions late in the game, both of which Blue converted into easy fast break points, turning a 2-point deficit into a 2-point lead in 60 seconds. Blue had so worked himself to exhaustion that after those two plays that his coach had to give him a short rest. But he had enough energy after coming back to hit the biggest shot of the game — a corner three-pointer with 1:26 to play that tied the game at 69.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 82, #8 Colorado State 56

Posted by IRenko on March 23rd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Saturday’s Third Round game between #1 Louisville and #8 Colorado State. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

A Strange Sight at Rupp Arena, Indeed

A Strange Sight at Rupp Arena, Indeed

  1. Welcome to Louisville Basketball – Colorado State normally does a very good job of taking care of the ball, but they normally play Mountain West teams, none of whom could have prepared them for Louisville’s pressure defense. The Cardinals rank second in the country in forcing turnovers, and the MWC has only one team, Wyoming, inside the top 190. The Rams were completely rattled by Louisville’s aggression, both in the full court and half court. They committed 20 turnovers, which Louisville efficiently converted into 24 points. The only reason the Rams lost by only 26 points is that they shot the ball very well, almost 50 percent from the field. But the problem was that they only took 40 shots.
  2. When Colorado State Gets Beat on the Boards, It’s Hard for Them to Win – Colorado State is the best rebounding team in the country. Their offensive rebounding strength, in particular, gave them a real opportunity against Louisville, which doesn’t protect the glass very well. But the Cardinals did a tremendous job of keeping the Rams at bay, allowing them to rebound only 24 percent of their misses — much better than Louisville’s season average and much worse than CSU’s. And the Cardinals pounded the glass at the other end as well, pulling down 36 percent of their missed shots. As a result, they outscored the Rams by 18-6 on second-chance points, the game’s most shocking statistic. It was a full team effort for the Cardinals, with the starting backcourt of Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, and Wayne Blackshear combining for half of the team’s defensive rebounds.
  3. When Louisville Hits Outside Shots, It’s Hard for Them to Lose – Early in the game, the Cardinals were getting traction with dribble penetration. As Colorado State tightened up its help defense a bit, forcing the Cardinals to take pull-up jumpers and fire from downtown. That’s typically the right defensive formula against Louisville, which makes just under a third of its threes. But today, the Cardinals shot the lights out of Rupp Arena. Russ Smith led the way, hitting 5-of-8 on threes, but the whole team got in the act, knocking down several mid-range jump shots. It’s very difficult to beat the Cardinals when they shoot like this.

Star of the Game: Russ Smith stole the show, tying his season high with 31 points on 8-of-16 field goal shooting (5-of-8 from three-point range). Russdiculous, as his coach nicknamed him, was especially assertive in the first half, when he scored 18 points as the Cardinals pulled out to a 45-31. Each of Smith’s four first-half threes ignited the crowd and seemed to deflate Colorado State, which struggled to keep up with the pace of play at both ends of the floor.

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Rushed Reactions: #10 Iowa State 76, #7 Notre Dame 58

Posted by IRenko on March 22nd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after the Second Round NCAA Tournament game between Notre Dame and Iowa State. You can follow him on Twitter at @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Brey's Team Self-Destructed Tonight

Brey’s Team Self-Destructed Tonight

  1. Notre Dame Self-Destructed on Offense in the First Half … — The most turnovers Notre Dame had committed this year was 18 — and that was in a game against Louisville that lasted for 65 minutes. Apart from that, they hadn’t committed more than 16 turnovers in any contest, yet by halftime tonight, they had coughed up the ball 14 times. At one point, they committed five straight turnovers in a span of 2:05. As a result, the Irish took 13 fewer shots than Iowa State and despite shooting better, percentage-wise, they entered halftime trailing 35-23.
  2. … And On Defense In the Second – The Irish played an ineffective zone in the second half that offered almost no resistance to Iowa State’s repeated efforts to attack the paint. Over and over, the Cyclones drove-and-dished to cutters who readily finished at the rim or in the lane, or else drew a foul. Despite their height advantage over ISU’s relatively undersized frontline, Jack Cooley and Tom Knight seemed to fold like a cheap table whenever a Cyclone brought the ball inside. The Cyclones shot 60 percent from the field after halftime, and that number would have been higher had they not missed five of their last six shots, after the game was effectively over. I knew that Notre Dame’s interior defense was a vulnerability, but this performance managed to sink beneath my low expectations.
  3. The Cyclones’ Three-Point Shooting Was the Icing on the Cake – The Cyclones love to shoot the three, often on the break or early in the shot clock. They resisted the temptation to overdo it tonight, in favor of exploiting the Irish’s weakness in the paint. But they still managed to unleash 21 long-distance bombs and converted nine of them. A few of these came in the final 10 minutes in the game and helped to thoroughly demoralize the Irish who had already been picked apart inside.

Star of the Game: Perhaps Georges Niang was just a beneficiary of Notre Dame’s ineptitude and his teammates’ good work in getting him the ball inside, but credit the 6’7″ forward for taking advantage of his opportunities. While facing a height disadvantage against Cooley and Knight, Niang repeatedly converted around the rim and finished the game with 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting, tying a career high. Niang also showed some quality skill in the low post, at least twice backing down the Irish’s taller big men and converting a nice-looking hook shot.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Ohio State 95, #15 Iona 70

Posted by IRenko on March 22nd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #2 Ohio State and #15 Iona. You can follow him on Twitter at @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Ohio State Won at Iona’s Pace  — Ohio State ordinarily plays at a fairly slow pace, while the Gaels like to race up and down the court, using their quickness to hide their lack of size inside. Iona managed to get the kind of uptempo game with which they’re typically comfortable, as each team had a whopping 78 possessions and combined for 136 field goal attempts and 46 free throw attempts. But Ohio State seemed to benefit from the breakneck pace more. They consistently broke Iona’s pressure, and seemed inspired by the Gaels’ quick pace to rev up their own. Relying on steady ball control and their athleticism advantage, the Buckeyes outscored the Gaels 34-11 on fast break points and 29-9 on points off turnovers.

    Sam Thompson showed off his athletic gifts against Iona. (Getty)

    Sam Thompson showed off his athletic gifts against Iona. (Getty)

  2. Sam Thompson Can Put on a Show — One consequence of the Buckeyes’ getting to play an up-tempo game is that bouncy wing Sam Thompson had a chance to show off his incredible athletic gifts. Thompson delighted the pro-OSU crowd with a series of high-flying dunks, none more spectacular than an incredible one-handed, full extension, alley oop that he threw down with 1:23 to play in the first half. Not only was it a highlight reel feature, but it snapped a 7-0 Iona run that cut OSU’s lead to four, and sparked the Buckeyes’ own 15-0 run.
  3. Momo Jones Says a Quiet Goodbye – Iona’s talented point guard played his first two season at Arizona before transferring to Iona to be closer to his family, and his grandmother in particular. It seemed to take him some time to adjust, but he managed a stellar second act, playing an instrumental role in the Gaels’ Tournament trip last year and leading them back this year. But he went out with a bit of a whimper. The scoring just nine points on 3-of-14 shooting (1-of-8 from three-point range).

Star of the Game: While many feel that Deshaun Thomas’ season has been somewhat disappointing, he’s scored in double-figures in every game, and saw no need to interrupt that streak tonight. Thomas poured in 24 points on an efficient 8-of-12 from the field. He showed his complete offensive game, hitting jumpers (a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range) and taking advantage of Iona’s size disadvantage down low to score in the paint. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 83, #16 James Madison 62

Posted by IRenko on March 22nd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #1 Indiana and #16 James Madison. You can follow him on Twitter at @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. In Case You Were Wondering, Indiana Can Score — The best offense in the country unleashed its full arsenal this afternoon, bombarding James Madison with drives, post feeds, threes, and pull-up jumpers. Getting to play their first non-Big Ten defense in 20 games seemed to release a pressure valve for the Hoosiers, and the scoring came pouring forth. The rub is that their defense remains a step behind their offense, and teams that are physical, slow the game down, and pound the glass pose a threat. Temple may not be able to pull off the upset, but looking down the line, a potential Sweet 16 matchup with Syracuse is a real concern for the Hoosiers.

    Yogi Ferrell celebrates after making a three point basket against the James Madison Dukes. (Getty)

    Yogi Ferrell celebrates after making a three-point basket against the James Madison Dukes. (Getty)

  2. IU’s Size Advantage Paid Off — The Dukes have big strong guards, but in part due to injuries, they are sorely lacking in size inside. They paid for it against IU, getting outscored 36-20 in the paint and 16-2 at the free throw line. The Hoosiers had lots of offensive tools that they deployed in this game, but a feed to Zeller in the post almost always resulted in a bucket or free throws. And at the other end, the Dukes, who normally make 65 percent of their shots at the rim, managed to shoot just 33 percent in the first half on layups. Struggling to gain traction inside, they turned into a pure jump-shooting team, taking only three shots at the rim in the second half. The Dukes’ leading scorer, 6’6″ power forward Rayshawn Goins, was particularly ineffective, scoring only two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
  3. Will Sheehey Was On His Game — Will Sheehey, the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year, is a key X-factor for Indiana. The Hoosiers’ offense is that much more complete when Sheehey is on his game. He’s been prone to disappearing lately, scoring just two points in three of IU’s last seven games, and seeing his scoring average dip into single digits. But today, he came off the bench to score 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting. If he can repeat this kind of performance against tougher opponents, IU could be Dancing all the way to Atlanta.

Star of the Game: Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell is the oft-forgotten man in IU’s formidable starting five, but he made a grand debut on the NCAA Tournament stage, scoring 14 of IU’s first 18 points and assisting on the other four by feeding Zeller for dunks. Ferrell’s one-man onslaught gave the Hoosiers an early, impregnable lead. He finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. With all four of his starting mates likely to leave IU, the former McDonald’s All-American and top 25 recruit will be Indiana’s focal point and leader in the coming years.

Quotable: Indiana coach Tom Crean on the worry that bruising Big Ten season would wear Indiana down too much:  “That goes through your head. I’d be lying to say it didn’t.”

Sights & Sounds: The NCAA allows teams a very specific number of bench seats, so Indiana was forced to put a half dozen of its players — including two scholarship athletes — in the stands behind the scorers’ table. The biggest victim of this unusual situation was the petite IU fan, decked out in a Hoosiers jersey, who got stuck sitting behind seven-foot freshman center Peter Jurkin and spent the game trying to crane her neck around him.

Wildcard: Although the Hoosiers have been the second-best three-point shooting team in the nation over the course of the season, they’ve hit just 33 percent of their attempts over the last six games, during which they’ve gone 3-3. This afternoon, they shot 9-of-22 from behind the arc.

What’s Next? Indiana will return to Dayton Arena on Sunday to face Temple, looking for the 22nd Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history.

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Rushed Reactions: #9 Temple 76, #8 North Carolina State 72

Posted by IRenko on March 22nd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Friday’s Second Round game between #8 North Carolina State and #9 Temple. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

NC State Finishes Off a Disappointing Season

NC State Finishes Off a Disappointing Season

  1. A Microcosm of N.C. State’s Season – There was some reasonable talk that an 8 seed was a bit low for N.C. State, but this game proved to be a microcosm of N.C. State’s inconsistent and, ultimately, underachieving season. The Wolfpack came out flat, with the offense looked tentative and sluggish, and the defense indifferent, en route to a 38-22 halftime deficit. They coughed up the ball 10 times in the first half against a Temple defense that ranks outside the top 300 in the nation in causing turnovers. And despite their size and athleticism advantage, their frontcourt trio of C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and T.J. Warren began the game settling for missed jumpers. They woke up in the second half, outscoring Temple 50-38, but it proved to be too little, too late.
  2. Temple Slowed the Wolfpack’s Transition Game Just Enough – Before the game, N.C. State’s players talked about the importance of getting out in transition. In the first half, Temple largely shut down this part of the Wolfpack’s offense, holding them to just five fast break points. It helps that the Owls take very good care of the ball (just five turnovers the entire game), minimizing transition opportunities. The Wolfpack pressed the issue in the second half, scoring 19 points on the break, allowing them to make this a competitive game. But the hole they dug themselves over the first 20 minutes with a stagnant offense was too deep to escape.
  3. The Charity Stripe Saved Temple From Collapse — With the Owls’ halfcourt offense out of rhythm in the second half, and their once formidable 17-point lead dwindling, they needed to scratch out any points that they could. After shooting just two free throws in the first half, the Owls managed 31 trips to the charity stripe in in the second half. They didn’t make it easy on themselves, shooting just 63.6 percent from the line, but they scraped together enough freebies to hold off N.C. State’s charge. Indeed, 20 out of the Owls’ 38 second-half points came from the free throw line.

Star of the Game: For much of the year, Temple has relied heavily — at times, too heavily — on point guard Khalif Wyatt, who takes almost 30 percent of the team’s shots. But graduate transfer Jake O’Brien‘s role as a complementary offensive piece increased over the season. He’s been getting more minutes, scoring more points, and given Temple a big man who can stretch the defense with his shooting. Today, he showed how valuable he is by scoring 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting (4-of-6 from three-point range). Though Wyatt finished with a team-high 31 points, that total came on 22 shots and was inflated by some late free throws. O’Brien’s efficient scoring is what fueled Temple’s first-half offensive surge.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 Colorado State 84, #9 Missouri 72

Posted by IRenko on March 21st, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Thursday’s Second Round game between #8 Colorado State and #9 Missouri. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. The Kid is Alright — Colorado State point guard Dorian Green had one ineffective game against UNLV after injuring his ankle in the Mountain West tournament, so heading into tonight, his ability to perform at his usual level was an open question. Yesterday, coach Larry Eustachy said that Green wasn’t a hundred percent, but that he needed to play like it, because he’s the quarterback of the team. Well, Green answered the call, and in a big way. He exploded for 25, repeatedly knifing through Missouri’s defense and hitting jumpers.

    Much like his expression, Colton Iverson and the rest of the Rams played like they wanted their season to continue. (AP)

    Much like his expression, Colton Iverson and the rest of the Rams played like they wanted their season to continue. (AP)

  2. Colorado State Owns the Glass – On the season, the Rams rank first in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and second in defensive rebounding percentage. They showed why tonight. Missouri is actually a top 10 offensive rebounding team in its own right, and yet the Rams absolutely dominated them on the boards, pulling down a whopping 91 percent of Mizzou’s misses and 43 percent of their own misses. This could be a genuine problem for the Rams’s next opponent, Louisville, which has trouble protecting the defensive glass. They get by without it, because the rest of their defense is so good, but if Colorado State can take care of the ball — yes, I know, BIG if — their rebounding ability could make it a competitive game.
  3. Mizzou Found Its Offense, But Not Its Defense – After a rough start in which they made just five of their first 18 shots, Missouri’s offense started to click, and they made 10 of their next 11. Phil Pressey, the engine of the Tigers’ offense, scored all eight of his points in the final five minutes of the first half after missing his first five shots. But Missouri still couldn’t stop Colorado State, as the Rams poured in 47 first-half points. It didn’t get any better in the second half, and perhaps worse. While the Rams’ three-point shooting tailed off, they easily compensated by attacking the lane, where Missouri frequently offered little to no resistance.

Star of the Game: I talked about Green’s big game above, so let me use this space to highlight the importance of Rams’ center Colton Iverson. Iverson scored just four points, but when he was in the game, the Rams outscored Missouri by 24 points — far and away the best +/- mark of the team. Iverson’s rebounding and presence inside was critical to CSU’s success. To emphasize the point: Iverson went to the bench with his fourth foul with eight minutes left, and three minutes later, Missouri had cut the Rams’ lead from 14 to seven. Eustachy promptly reinserted Iverson with four fouls and five minutes to play, and the Rams went on a 9-1 run.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 79, #16 North Carolina A&T 48

Posted by IRenko on March 21st, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Thursday’s Second Round game between Louisville and North Carolina A&T. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Peyton Siva  and Company Rolled On...

Peyton Siva and Company Rolled On…

  1. Louisville Went for the Knockout Punch Early — The Cardinals didn’t waste any time tonight, unleashing their full-court press early and often. By the 10-minute mark of the first half, they’d forced eight turnovers and led 25-7. That was all the margin that Louisville would need, as NC A&T never got any closer than 14 points the rest of the way. All told, Louisville’s press forced 27 turnovers, which the Cardinals converted into 34 points. The competition will get stiffer, but this kind of defense is what has made Louisville the team to beat.
  2. NC A&T’s Fighting Spirit — The odds that North Carolina A&T faced tonight were as long as any that March has to offer. Just 48 hours removed from their last game, with only a day to prepare for Louisville’s vaunted pressure defense, and in front of a rabidly pro-Louisville crowd, the Aggies showed tremendous heart just by competing for 40 minutes. After falling behind 25-7, they actually outscored Louisville over the next 15 minutes of the game, until the Cardinals reeled off a 14-0 run to effectively end the game. Kudos, too, to the NC A&T fans who made the trip to Louisville. Their enthusiastic support never wavered. We spend a lot of time in March celebrating the underdogs who win, but it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the ones who lose with dignity and determination.
  3. The ‘Ville Practiced Its Rebounding – You don’t want to overstate the point, given the quality of the competition, but Louisville had a strong performance in one area that has been a weakness for them this year — defensive rebounding. They pulled down almost 80 percent of the Aggies’ misses. Louisville tends to win despite this flaw, and it’s almost an accepted fact of their pressure/zone defense, but they need to be very wary about yielding too much in their next game. Each of their potential Third Round opponents (Colorado State, Missouri) is ranked in the top 10 in the nation in offensive rebounding and will be looking to pound the glass.

Star of the GameI don’t think Russ Smith gets the attention and praise he deserves as the best player on the best team in the country (yes, he is the best player on the team). He was left off the USBWA’s and The Sporting News’ first and second All-American teams. A dominant performance may not not turn any heads, but it confirmed what many of us already knew about Smith’s ability. He led the attack tonight at both ends of the court, scoring 23 points on 10-of-16 field goal shooting and recording eight steals.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Marquette 59, #14 Davidson 58

Posted by IRenko on March 21st, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Thursday’s Second Round game between Marquette and Davidson. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Marquette Saved Its Best for Last, and Davidson Saved Its Worst – After trailing for almost the entire second half and staring at a seven-point deficit with under two minutes to play, Marquette found the wherewithal to stage a March-worthy comeback. Through 38 minutes and 57 seconds, Marquette had shot 1-of-11 from three-point range, but they managed to drain three straight contested threes in the final 63 seconds, the last of which pulled them to within a point with 11 seconds left. And that’s when Davidson threw away the game. They’d committed just one turnover in the second half, in the face of heavy perimeter pressure. But De’mon Brooks chose the worst possible moment to throw a wild pass into the frontcourt that Nick Cochran could not track down. With the ball back and five seconds left, Marquette’s Vander Blue drove to the basket, and Davidson’s defense, which had contained dribble penetration all game, retreated, allowing him to convert a relatively easy layup to win the game with a second left.

    Vander Blue's game-winning layup put Marquette to the third round and sent a devastated Davidson squad home. (AP)

    Vander Blue’s game-winning layup put Marquette to the third round and sent a devastated Davidson squad home. (AP)

  2. This Was As Tough a Loss as They Come – For 39 minutes, Davidson withstood Marquette’s bruising physicality, even seeming to out-tough them at times. Their defense clamped down on Marquette’s guards, clogging the paint, shutting down their dribble penetration, and contesting shots all game. They held Marquette to just 34 percent field goal shooting (and 27 percent from three-point range). And when their hot three-point hand cooled off, they mustered enough offense against Marquette’s tough interior defense to be in a position to win. It was the kind of gutsy mid-major performance that makes March special, and it made the Wildcats’ collapse in the final minute all the more painful.
  3. Marquette’s Aggression on the Boards Paid Off — Offensive rebounding is an important part of Marquette’s offensive attack, and at halftime, they had rebounded 10 of their 22 misses. But they converted these boards into just three second-chance points. That was  due, at least in part, to Davidson’s tough gang defense under the rim. But the Golden Eagles kept at it, and in the second half, they scored six key second-chance points late in the game.

Star of the Game: Vander Blue, Marquette’s leading scorer, had a mediocre offensive game overall, but he came through when it counted most. His three-pointer with 11 seconds to play pulled the Golden Eagles to within a point, and his drive and finish on the final play of the game gave us our first great Tournament moment.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Butler 68, #11 Bucknell 56

Posted by IRenko on March 21st, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Thursday’s Second Round game between Butler and Bucknell. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Mike Muscala Could Not Get It Going — All eyes were on Bucknell’s Mike Muscala this afternoon, and the big man shrunk under the spotlight. He got off to a poor start, scoring just two points in the first half on 1-of-9 FG shooting. He started to find the net a bit in the second half, as the Bison climbed back from a double-digit deficit to make it a competitive game. But he never developed a good rhythm, and at the end of the day, Bucknell needed more than his nine points on 4-of-17 shooting. Butler’s defense gets some credit, but Muscala missed a lot of shots that he typically makes.

    Brad Stevens' crew flustered the Bucknell offense all game long. (AP)

    Brad Stevens’ crew flustered the Bucknell offense all game long. (AP)

  2. Not That Easy on the Eyes — Apart from an exciting stretch in the middle of the second half, this game was plagued by ineffective offense. Butler hardly put on an offensive clinic, but Bucknell was the biggest offender. After shooting a miserable 25.9 percent from the field in the first half, they couldn’t find a consistent rhythm in second. Apart from a pair of lightning quick runs that actually gave them a six-point lead, the offense continued to struggle. And it wasn’t just Muscala who struggled. The Bison’s second and third leading scorers, guards Cameron Ayers (12.5 ppg) and Bryson Johnson (11.1 ppg), continued the disappearing act that they unveiled in the Patriot League tournament, combining for 0 points on 0-of-4 FG shooting in the first half.
  3. Butler Overcame Its Cold Shooting — Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham combined to make more than 150 threes this year, but against Bucknell, the two were stone cold. They shot a combined 2-of-9 from three-point range and missed several two-point jumpers, combining to go 5-of-18 from the field. The two guards made up for their poor shooting, though, by taking care of the ball. Turnovers have plagued the Bulldogs’ guards all season, but Clarke and Dunham committed none today.

Star of the Game: With Butler’s shooters in a game-long cold spell, it fell to Roosevelt Jones to ignite the offense with his unorthodox game. Perhaps it was fitting that Jones, who resembles a fullback in appearance and style of play, was the star of a contest that had a 21-14 football-like score at halftime. Jones’ ugly shotput runners in the lane and ragged drives to the basket epitomized the ugly nature of Butler’s win. He finished with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and added five boards and four assists. The turnover-prone guard also had just one miscue.

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