The RTC Podcast: NCAA First Weekend Review Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2014

It was a whirlwind of a four-day weekend, but the guys survived along with 16 schools still vying for a national championship, and found some time on Monday evening to review the weekend’s events. From Iowa State and North Carolina trading punches in an instant classic to Wichita State and Kentucky doing same, and everything else in between, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) walks us through all of the best action from over the weekend. Keep in mind that on Wednesday we will release our Sweet Sixteen preview pod featuring our correspondents who will be reporting from each of the four sites this weekend. The full rundown is below.

Be sure to add the podcast to your lineup on iTunes so that you’ll get all of our ongoing coverage throughout the NCAA Tournament.

  • 0:00-8:39 – Iowa State Comes Up With Crazy Win Over North Carolina
  • 8:39-13:07 – Baylor Brings Doug McDermott’s Career to a Premature End
  • 13:07-13:50 – Less Than Exciting Orlando Games
  • 13:50-21:34 – Kentucky Hands Wichita Its First Loss
  • 21:34-28:50 – Wiggins and Kansas Go Out With a Whimper
  • 28:50-31:26 – Dayton Downs Syracuse
  • 31:26-34:40 – UConn Beats Former Conference Foe Villanova And What It Means for Both Conferences
  • 34:40-36:14 – Top Teams Cruise
  • 36:14-39:15 – Tennessee “Cinderella” Run as a Double Digit Seed
  • 39:15-45:48 – Best Moments of the First Weekend
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Circle of March: Sweet Sixteen Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 24th, 2014

From 340 eligible D-I teams to the wide swaths of empty space we now have on the Circle of March, 16 hopefuls remain standing. And this group might be more notable for the teams that are already gone than those remaining — Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Villanova, Kansas, Ohio State — all looking ahead to next year. Of the 16 teams remaining, 14 are from basketball power conferences, while two — San Diego State and Dayton — come from the high-mid hoops leagues, the Mountain West and Atlantic 10, respectively. There are three double-digit seeds remaining — Stanford, Dayton and Tennesssee — although KenPom gives the Volunteers the fifth-best odds to cut down the nets in Arlington two weeks from today. And despite a fair number of upsets over the weekend, 10 of the 16 slots in this week’s bracket held to seed, with the East and West regions (three each) going most chalky. Enjoy the break for a few days. Games will be back soon enough.

circlemarch_3_24

Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.24.14)

  • Stephen F. Austin
  • Kansas
  • Creighton
  • North Carolina
  • Gonzaga
  • Memphis
  • Wichita State
  • Mercer
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Rushed Reactions: #6 Baylor 85, #3 Creighton 55

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

A Shared Moment Between Father and Son (SI.com)

A Shared Moment Between Father and Son (SI.com)

  1. Defensive Size and Length. It was painfully apparent from the early minutes of tonight’s game that Baylor had adequately game-planned for the Creighton offense (coming in as the nation’s most efficient unit). They were not going to allow any of the trio of National Player of the Year Doug McDermott, Ethan Wragge or Jahenns Manigat to get open looks from beyond the arc. They were instead willing to give up anything inside — providing single coverage with seven-footer Isaiah Austin — or shade away from Grant Gibbs or Austin Chatman. It worked like a charm. The NPOY only got up four shots in the entire first half, making one, and his teammate Wragge only shot twice (making neither). Manigat was in the same boat — two shots, zero makes — and as a result of this strategy predicated on Baylor’s ridiculous size and length all over the court, the Creighton offense was shut down with a miserable 20-point half (scoring only half of Baylor’s output). McDermott, Wragge and Manigat shot a combined 2-of-8 from the field in the first half, and 0-of-6 from three. Think about that for a minute. That’s just a complete lockdown. The second half was just a formality.
  2. It Was Raining Threes… But it wasn’t Creighton doing the trick tonight. Let’s get this out of the way first. Baylor is not a great three-point shooting team. While it’s true that they shot a nice 38.0 percent on the season, the majority of that work was put in by a single player, sharp-shooter Brady Heslip (104 threes on 45.6 percent shooting). Other high-volume guys like Kenny Chery and Gary Franklin were at 31 percent, and a handful of players like Royce O’Neale and Cory Jefferson hit a nice percentage but just don’t take many of them. Tonight it didn’t matter. The Bears drilled their first five attempts of the night, and turned in a super 7-of-9 performance that included 2-of-2 from O’Neale and Heslip and 3-of-3 from the inconsistent shooter, Chery. They hit a couple more in the second half to finish 11-of-18 on the night, but the treys that rained down on one end (and didn’t on the other) is what allowed Baylor to blow the game up in the first half and coast from there.
  3. Farewell to McBuckets. Only one team can walk away from a college basketball season in great spirits, but when the presumptive National Player of the Year goes out on such a foul and sour note, it’s a real shame. Taking nothing away from Baylor at all — the Bears were clearly the better team here — but it would have been great to see McDermott leave the game of college basketball on a higher note in a Sweet Sixteen or beyond. He never made it to the second weekend in his four-year career, but man, did he give us a bunch of great moments along the way. Over 3,000 points later, a guy who wasn’t considered good enough to play at the high-major level leaves as one of the all-time greats. Thank you, Doug, and godspeed.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Iowa State 85, #6 North Carolina 83

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Iowa State Just Took It From North Carolina. The Tar Heels did almost everything that it needed to do to win today. But Iowa State just wouldn’t let them. The last run, which went 21-9 in favor of the Cyclones over the last five minutes of action, was a clinic in offensive execution. On Iowa State’s last 11 possessions, they scored on nine of them, including four threes that wouldn’t allow the Tar Heels to pull away. For those of you wondering, that’s a 1.91 points per possession pace, which is simply outstanding for a team that appeared to have lost its legs in the middle of the second half. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that it’s not like UNC fell apart during that stretch. They scored on roughly half of their possessions during the same period, and EVEN hit a back-breaker of a three by Leslie McDonald with a minute-and-a-half left as well as two free throws from James Michael McAdoo (of all people) with 15 ticks to go. North Carolina made plays to win; it’s just that Iowa State made more of them.
  2. DeAndre Kane Pulled a Dwyane Wade Today. Without beefy forward Georges Niang in the lineup to relieve some of the offensive pressure, DeAndre Kane decided to pull out his cape and turn into a Dwyane Wade clone, replete with a ridiculous one-handed dunk down the lane as well as an extremely athletic driving layup to win the game. It was quite reminiscent of a younger Wade tearing up defense at Marquette a decade ago, and the stat line — 24 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, on 9-of-18 shooting – supports that comparison. It’s an overused cliche, but it seems to fit here — Kane was not going to leave this building without a victory today.
  3. The Final Play. After Kane’s driving layup for the win, I kept my eyes on the clock and noticed that it was stuck at 1.6 seconds even after North Carolina had inbounded the ball and started dribbling upcourt. It only started running once the Tar Heel player had gotten near midcourt, and then it ran out completely. It didn’t surprise me at all that the final call was that the game was over, because it felt like at least two seconds were spent dribbling. It was a really unfortunate way to end the game, but UNC perhaps should have thought to use one of those two remaining timeouts after the ball went through the net. For those couple of minutes, the North Carolina fans behind me were as quiet as a church mouse — everyone just watching the officials and trying to read the body language. Just a fantastic game all the way around, and Iowa State a deserving victor.

Star of the Game: DeAndre Kane, Iowa State. He was the player who kept Iowa State alive when North Carolina was surging, and of course his all-around floor game resulted in a trip to the Sweet Sixteen, the school’s first in over a decade.

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Circle of March: Vol. XX

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2014

Three days of the NCAA Tournament are in the books and we’re already down to 24 teams remaining with eight more coming off the Circle of March today. Let’s get to it…

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Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.22.14)

  • Pittsburgh
  • Saint Louis
  • Texas
  • North Dakota State
  • Syracuse
  • Villanova
  • Oregon 
  • Harvard
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Rushed Reactions: #4 Louisville 66, #5 Saint Louis 51

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Luke Hancock Seems to Always Save the Day

Luke Hancock Seems to Always Save the Day

  1. Ugly Wins Are Still Wins. Wins are wins, and NCAA Tournament wins are NCAA Tournament wins, but for the second consecutive game, Louisville got into a rockfight with a team that wanted to play uglyball. And uglyball they played, which is yet another reason why these Cardinals are so dangerous in the NCAA Tournament. Rick Pitino’s team would prefer to get up and down the floor and score in transition, but when called upon, they can also get into these defensive slugfests and still come through victorious. How does 12-of-33 shooting from a starting backcourt sound? How about 16-of-24 from the line? What about 19 turnovers? It wasn’t a pretty weekend for Rick Pitino’s team here in Orlando, but they’ve survived and advanced, and that’s all that matters.
  2. At Some Point Luke Hancock Won’t Come Through, Right? On Thursday night it was Hancock’s steal, bucket and back-to-back treys that finally gave his team the breathing room it needed to put away a scrappy Albany team. Today it was his back-to-back threes to break Saint Louis’ momentum coming out of the half that allowed the Cards to regain their footing with a workable margin (8-10 points in this game was like 15-18 points in most). His 21 points on 6-0f-15 shooting wasn’t highly efficient, but it more than picked up for this teammates Russ Smith and Chris Jones, who combined for 6-of-18 shooting and spent much of the game mired in a funk. But as already mentioned, Hancock’s greatest value over the weekend was more the timeliness of his shooting and play-making than his overall numbers.
  3. Saint Louis Got the Game It Wanted. It just couldn’t take complete advantage. An 0h-fer from the three-point line (0-of-16) did not help, especially considering that the Billikens came in shooting a solid 36.6 percent from distance and gathering 31.1 percent of its total points from there. But defensively Saint Louis did what it wanted, and it showed in the Louisville players’ frustration for much of the game. The problem was on the offensive end — stop us if you’re heard this before. Saint Louis experienced too many long scoring droughts for the Billikens to make a sustained run — seven minutes in the first half; five minutes in the second — and Louisville, despite its awful foul shooting rate — wasn’t about to fall into the late-game trap that NC State blindly wandered into two days ago.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Florida 61, #9 Pittsburgh 45

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Scottie Wilbekin Was Today's Star for the Gators

Scottie Wilbekin Was Today’s Star for the Gators

  1. A Defensive Clinic. Thirty minutes into today’s game, the score was 38-27 and Pitt had put up a grand total of three points in the second half. The margin may have only been 11 at the time, but considering how sparse the open looks were for the Panthers, most everyone in the building strongly felt that the game was already over. And it was. Even though Pitt finally found a few openings to knock down 18 more points before the game was finished, the Panthers never really threatened and Florida more or less rode some timely buckets by Scottie Wilbekin to the convincing win. Other than Arizona and maybe Louisville, there isn’t a better half-court defense left in this NCAA Tournament, which makes the Gators an extremely tough out.
  2. A Team of No Stars. Wilbekin made some excellent offensive plays tonight, and the Gators are outstanding at running their offense and finding proper spacing in it, but I still have moderate concerns about their lack of a true offensive star in this lineup. Maybe it ultimately won’t matter — greater than the sum of their parts, and all that — but it doesn’t feel like grinding away games in the 60s is going to lead to a championship. Somewhere along the way the Florida offense is going to have to prove it can score to keep up with a hot group of playmakers, and they’ll have to prove that they’re up to the task.
  3. Pitt Had a Nice Overachieving Season. Coming into this year, probably not many expected that Jamie Dixon’s squad would end up in the round of 32, but there they were. There was a lot of griping about their lack of quality wins this season and the rest of it, but 26 wins and a fifth-place finish in the new-look ACC with a nice conference tourney victory over North Carolina is nothing to sneeze at. This is especially so given the limited offensive options that Dixon had at his disposal this year — Lamar Patterson was a revelation as a senior, but there were no other reliable scorers on this roster. With Patterson and second-leading scorer Talib Zanna graduating, it’ll be interesting to see which of a host of young players including James Robinson, Michael Young and Josh Newkirk can develop for his program.

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Circle of March: Vol. XIX

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2014

Down to 32, let’s keep it rolling.

circlemarch_3_21

 

Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.21.14)

  • Duke
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Weber State
  • Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Massachusetts
  • Eastern Kentucky
  • Cal Poly
  • Oklahoma State
  • George Washington
  • Providence
  • VCU
  • Coastal Carolina
  • North Carolina Central
  • Tulsa
  • Kansas State
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Circle of March: Vol. XVIII

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2014

It was one of the most insane Thursdays of the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament that we can remember, with four of yesterday’s 16 games ultimately going to overtime to decide which teams would survive and advance. The whirlwind continues in earnest today, but for now, we say goodbye to those teams and wish them well in preparing for next season. The Circle of March is now down to 48 teams alive for the 2014 National Championship.

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Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.20.14)

  • Ohio State
  • American 
  • Colorado
  • Cincinnati
  • Western Michigan
  • BYU
  • Albany
  • Delaware
  • St. Joseph’s
  • Wofford
  • NC State
  • Oklahoma
  • Arizona State
  • Milwaukee
  • Manhattan
  • New Mexico State
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Rushed Reactions: #4 Louisville 71, #13 Manhattan 64

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Luke Hancock Showed His Poise in Saving Louisville Tonight (Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)

Luke Hancock Showed His Poise in Saving Louisville Tonight (Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Luke Hancock, For the Win. Experience might be somewhat overrated, but winning experience probably isn’t. Having been in tight spots before and come through them successfully gives players the resolve to repeat those achievements, and that’s what we saw from Luke Hancock tonight. With Louisville having trouble scoring and Manhattan firmly believing that it could actually beat the defending champs, Hancock used his ice-cool moxie to pick off a crosscourt pass that led to a foul and two free throws followed by a couple of huge momentum-swing threes. Those eight points from the 1:53 mark on finally gave the Cardinals enough breathing room to survive and advance, but what was remarkable about it was just how unremarkable it was. Hancock has proven to be an assassin, and he’s done nothing to change that reputation.
  2. Eye of the Cardinal. Many people are picking Louisville to make another deep run in this year’s NCAA Tournament from the #4 seed, but it’s clear that this team has some deficiencies that last year’s group did not have. What I was hoping to see, though, was some of their patented aggressiveness — the we-shall-bend-you will that the 2013 Cardinals carried in spades — and I only really saw it in the final few minutes of the game. Much of this no doubt had to do with an off shooting night and the difficulties that Manhattan’s pressure caused the Cardinals, but given that this year’s team has much less margin for error, they’d probably be best served bringing a complete effort from the opening tip next time around.
  3. All Credit to Steve Masiello. The Manhattan head coach probably earned himself a lot of money tonight — either from his own school or a possible suitor. His players competed with fantastic intensity throughout the game, and they never relented until the final buzzer. Much will be made about how Manhattan nearly out-Louisvilled Louisville, but the fact of the matter is that Masiello was quite the apt pupil working for Pitino all those many years (from ballboy to assistant coach and everything in-between). The way he stalked around the sidelines, cajoled and encouraged his players, even the way he speaks about the game of basketball — some might say that they were looking at another young Pitino.

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Rushed Reactions: #5 Saint Louis 83, #12 NC State 80 (OT)

Posted by rtmsf on March 20th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Billiken, Along With the Rest of Us, Had No Idea What Was Coming

The Billiken, Along With the Rest of Us, Had No Idea What Was Coming

  1. The Hack-a-Pack Strategy Worked. We were prepared to write about how defensive-profile teams that don’t have great offenses simply don’t do very well in the NCAA Tournament (still true, by the way), but Saint Louis’ hack-a-Pack strategy took the wind out of those sails. With roughly three minutes to go and the Billikens mired in a game-long offensive funk, Jim Crews instructed his players to start fouling NC State on every offensive possession. It was a reasonable enough strategy to lengthen the game, and especially so given that the Wolfpack came into tonight shooting a chilly 66.3 percent from the line on the year. Still, few thought it would actually work. Prior to that point, NC State had owned the game throughout, playing with confidence and appearing by all indications to be the superior squad. Over the next 17 possessions, however, the Wolfpack went 9-of-20 from the foul line and turned the ball two times. This combination of closeout incompetence was just enough to allow Saint Louis to make a methodical run to tie the game with 20 seconds remaining and send the game into overtime. But it should have never gotten to that point.
  2. Decisions, Decisions. NC State didn’t lose this one simply because of missed foul shots. There were questionable coaching decisions and player decisions alike. The two most notable were killers. With 10 seconds remaining, Mark Gottfried called timeout to set up a play for his team, tied and possessing the ball. Given that the Wolfpack have one of the three best offensive players in America on their team, a fair assumption would have been that the ball would go to TJ Warren. Saint Louis did a great job denying him the pass, but point guard Tyler Lewis bailed out on the play far too soon, electing to dribble penetrate with seven seconds to go and throwing up a reasonable look that rimmed out on him. It wasn’t a horrible shot by any means, but you have to wait a tick or two more to get your professional-lever scorer the ball in that spot. The second odd decision came in overtime as NC State had cut the lead to a single point with 30 seconds remaining. The objective, of course, was to foul the Billikens immediately. The foul ultimately came from, who else, TJ Warren. It was his fifth. Why was he in the game at that point? The correct decision would have been to remove him on defense and reinsert him on offense. Again, when you have an elite scorer on your squad, you have to find ways to use him correctly. Not all players are built equally. Astonishing.
  3. Saint Louis’ Ceiling. This was an amazing comeback, to say the least, and it worked exactly as Crews and his staff hoped it would. But how the Billikens found themselves down double-figures to a team that sneaked into the Dance by the skin of its teeth should be somewhat alarming. This team has not played well in a month, and it was never confused with an offensive juggernaut anyway. But if Saint Louis hopes to get to its first Sweet Sixteen since the 1950s, it will have to find a better way to produce points than depending on a gimmicky fouling strategy down the stretch of games. Both Louisville and Manhattan are stronger defensive units than NC State, yet the Wolfpack where able to easily hold Saint Louis in check for much of this game.

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The RTC Podblast: NCAA Thursday Afternoon Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 20th, 2014

Here are some quick reflections on the first half of the first day of the NCAA Tournament. Two upsets, several blowouts and a spotty performance from #1 Florida… we’ll be doing these twice on Thursday/Friday and as time allows on Saturday/Sunday this weekend. Check back frequently!

  • 0:00-2:38 – Dayton Defeats Ohio State, Moves on to Face Syracuse
  • 2:38-5:47 – Randy Recaps Pittsburgh’s and Florida’s Wins
  • 5:47-7:15 – Harvard Pulls Upset for 2nd Year in a Row
  • 7:15-10:37 – Blowout Round Up/Takeaways from 1st half of day 1
  • 10:37- Looking at the Night Games
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