Rushed Reactions: #2 Arizona 73, #10 Ohio State 58

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2015

rushedreactions

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.

All Smiles at Arizona as the Wildcats Outlasted the Buckeyes Today (USA Today Images)

All Smiles at Arizona as the Wildcats Outlasted the Buckeyes Today (USA Today Images)

  1. TJ McConnell Has Great Poise and Intangibles. And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That’s code language for “white point guard” in college basketball. And even if it’s completely 100 percent true, the bigger truth is that McConnell also has a spectacularly well-developed skill set. When Arizona couldn’t figure out the Ohio State zone at all in the first half, it was McConnell’s repeated breaking down of the defense that kept the Wildcats from digging themselves a substantial early hole. When the Arizona frontcourt was shooting itself into obliviion, it was his four steals that led to the majority of Arizona’s 10 first-half points off of turnovers — the only offense that was really working for the ‘Cats at the time. McConnell ended the game with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, six rebounds, six assists and five steals in an all-around performance befitting a senior leader.
  2. Battle of the Freshmen. Yeah, so about that. What was billed as a chance for star freshmen D’Angelo Russell and Stanley Johnson to do battle in a heated Round of 32 game didn’t really work out as planned. Russell never looked comfortable as he had trouble shaking the length of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and the relentlessness of TJ McConnell on his way to a rough 3-of-19 (1-of-7 from three) shooting performance. Johnson wasn’t any better in shooting the ball, throwing up a horrific 1-of-12 shooting night of his own. Both players contributed in other ways, however, which proves that they’re more than one-dimensional scorers — Russell grabbed seven boards and dropped six dimes (a few of which were drop dead gorgeous) while Johnson collected 10 rebounds and a couple of steals. Luckily for Arizona
  3. The Upside of Arizona. Nothing changed opinions about the potential upside of Arizona after seeing them win twice here in Portland this weekend. Texas Southern was an obvious mismatch, but Ohio State’s athleticism and length created an interesting Round of 32 matchup for a team that can sometimes struggle to put the ball in the basket. The Arizona frontcourt ended up shooting a terrible 9-of-37 from the field, but the backcourt of McConnell and York ensured that the Wildcats were able to pull away in the second half. One reason Miller’s bigs were able to take (and miss) so many shots is because they were also relentless on the offensive glass, grabbing 18 rebounds on that end (vs. Ohio State’s entirety of 26) and giving themselves multiple extra chances to convert. This was especially true in the second half as the Buckeyes’ frontcourt players clearly got gassed with the continuous pressure. Arizona didn’t play great today, but it still looked Final Four good. We’ll see whether Los Angeles has any trouble in store for the Wildcats.

Player of the Game: Gabe York. York’s instant offense off the Arizona bench ensured that Arizona was going to win today’s game. Arizona’s legion of forwards could not figure out the Ohio State zone until York entered the game in the first half and hit a three. He added four more bombs during a seven-minute stretch in the second half when Arizona built its lead from two to 13 points, essentially never looking back from there. He finished the game with 19 points and a career-high five threes. Arizona fans will love this assessment — McConnell was definitely the more valuable player today, but York was the bigger star.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Circle of March: Vol. XIX

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2015

And just like that, we’re down to 32 teams still standing. In about 36 hours, we’ll have only 16. Enjoy the Round of 32!

2015_CircleofMarch_V19

Eliminations (03.20.15)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Circle of March: Vol. XVIII

Posted by rtmsf on March 20th, 2015

What a tremendous day of action on Thursday. There’s no way that Friday can even contemplate mimicking it, right? We’re down to 48.

2015_CircleofMarch_V18

Eliminations (03.19.15)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reactions: #4 Utah 57, #13 Stephen F. Austin 50

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2015

rushedreactions

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.

Utah's Bench Celebrates the Big Win (USA Today Images)

Utah’s Bench Celebrates the Big Win (USA Today Images)

  1. Hanging Around, Hanging Around. Upsets in the opening round tend to occur when the favored team cannot create enough separation to psychologically convince the underdog team that their efforts are futile. Take Arizona’s domination of Texas Southern today. The lead quickly ballooned to 20 points in the first half and everybody in the building knew that there would be no realistic comeback attempt. On the other hand, a team like Baylor couldn’t quite put away Georgia State today, leaving the Panthers just enough room and time to make a 13-0 run to finish, and win, the game. Utah’s failure to put away Stephen F. Austin tonight was dangerous because it felt like the Lumberjacks were only a play or two away from wresting control away from the Utes and pulling off the big upset.
  2. When the Game Turned (or More Accurately, Didn’t Turn). To that point, Utah had allowed Stephen F. Austin to hang around for most of the second half when it seemed to start slipping away on a series of plays. With Utah up eight, Jordan Loveridge took an ill-advised three-pointer, allowing the ‘Jacks to push upcourt after the miss. Thomas Walkup (12 points, nine rebounds, five assists) then made a driving layup. On the ensuing possession, Utah turned it over and Walkup converted that into another layup, this time with an and-1 opportunity. The game was down to four points and Stephen F. Austin was starting to believe. Walkup missed the free throw, but his teammates secured the offensive rebound. When he then took a three from the left side that was on line, you just knew that it was going to drop through the net and cut the lead to one. That shot was long, but that didn’t mean the run was over. Utah missed another jumper on its next possession, and SFA answered with another jumper that missed. At this point, Utah was acting a bit panicky and it felt like all the Lumberjacks really needed was one more big play to facilitate the Utes’ collapse. Next, Utah brought the ball downcourt; Delon Wright fired up a shot that missed… and Jakob Poeltl, Utah’s star freshman big man, used his vastly superior size to block out the smaller Walkup and put back the offensive rebound. Utah was now up six.
  3. Poeltl as Difference Maker. Poeltl was also fouled on that play, and even though he missed the free throw and SFA cut it to four again, the center grabbed another offensive board on the very next possession, was fouled, and nailed those free throws to push the lead back up to six points. Although the Lumberjacks continued to push and eventually got the lead down to two on one trip, they never were able to get to a point where they could take the lead. Poeltl added another late block as well, but from the view of this observer, it was his play as Utah appeared to be collapsing that helped to keep the ship from completely sinking. The dimension that Poeltl provides as a legitimate seven-footer who is an elite offensive rebounder and rim-protector gives the Utes a defensive look that few teams in college basketball have. And he may very well have been the stopgap that saved Utah’s season from swirling down into the Willamette River here.

Player of the Game. Jakob Poeltl. Utah’s star freshman big man didn’t miss a shot from the field as he went for 18 points (7-of-7 FG), eight rebounds (three offensive) and five blocks. For a player that was on virtually nobody’s radar coming into the season, he has been a huge reason that Larry Krystkowiak’s group has returned Utah basketball to relevance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reactions: #10 Ohio State 75, #7 VCU 72

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2015

rushedreactions

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.

D'Angelo Russell is the Kind of Player Who Can Carry a Team Several Rounds (USA Today Images)

D’Angelo Russell is the Kind of Player Who Can Carry a Team Several Rounds (USA Today Images)

  1. And a Freshman Shall Lead Them. Much has been written and discussed about the underachievement of Ohio State’s last couple of senior classes — not only from a team but also from an individual standpoint. Players like Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and Lenzelle Smith (last year) have at times during their careers seemed capable of great things, but those flashes came all too infrequently to reasonably rely upon them. Even players like sophomore Marc Loving, who has at times shown such outstanding promise, has been intermittent in his production. With D’Angelo Russell taking much if not all of the offensive burden upon himself, it removes a lot of the pressure on those other players to feel like they have to be stars. That could be the right recipe for these Buckeyes as they look to make a run over the next two weeks.
  2. However, Ohio State’s Defense Must Stay Strong. The reason that the Buckeyes came into today’s game as a #10 seed this year was primarily because this is Thad Matta’s worst defensive unit since his 2009 group that lost in the opening round to Siena. Over the last five years, Ohio State has ranked among the top 16 defensive teams in America four times. And many of those very seniors already mentioned where a key part of it. True, Aaron Craft drove the success of several of those defenses, but players like Scott, Thompson and the others who remain aren’t chopped liver on that end of the floor. The point here is that the Buckeyes today held VCU to 38 percent from the field, which, when combined with the points that Russell put up, was enough to keep them close throughout. That defense will absolutely need to be humming on Saturday against Arizona, because you better believe that the Wildcats will send multiple long and lean bodies at Russell and force the other Buckeyes to make shots. A low-scoring affair is really the only shot Ohio State will have to get to the Sweet Sixteen, so the defense on the other end must come up big.
  3. VCU Loses Its Opener in Consecutive Years. And in disastrous fashion. Last year’s four-point play against Stephen F. Austin was worse, but Shaka Smart’s Rams will feel like they really let this one slip away. A pair of awful unforced turnovers on out-of-bounds plays gave Ohio State life down the stretch, and Smart’s decision to let his team play led to a reasonable but ultimately ineffective drive and look at the basket on the final play of regulation. Injuries of course were an issue with this year’s VCU squad, but there may also be a tinge of playing with the pressure of being the higher-seeded team involved here as well. It can cause really good teams to make questionable decisions in high-pressure situations.

Star of the GameD’Angelo Russell. The Ohio State freshman was everything he has been hyped to be. He handled the ball for the majority of the Buckeyes’ possessions, and he just has a feel for the game at his age that can’t really be taught. He finished the game with 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting (4-of-7 threes) and six rebounds, but it seemed like whenever Ohio State was a play or two away from getting into trouble, he would make something happen. He finished off the game with two free throws to seal it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reactions: #2 Arizona 93, #15 Texas Southern 72

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2015

rushedreactions

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. 

Arizona Cruised to an Easy Opening Round Victory Today (USA Today Images)

Arizona Cruised to an Easy Opening Round Victory Today (USA Today Images)

  1. No Upsets on the Agenda Here. For those who believe that Arizona is on par with the #1 seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats certainly played like it in their #2/#15 matchup today. Jumping all over Texas Southern from the opening tip, Sean Miller’s bunch wasn’t about to let the underdog stay in contact and build momentum as some of the other victims during the first half of Thursday’s games had experienced. A 15-2 start in the first six minutes set the tone; it slowly developed to a 54-33 halftime lead and Arizona spent the second half coasting to its ninth NCAA Tournament victory under Miller. Arizona may be a #2 seed in the West Region this year, but the Wildcats have the look and feel of a #1.
  2. Too Big. Too Fast. Too Strong. To that point, the size and athleticism that Arizona threw at Texas Southern — a team that had won at Michigan State and Kansas State this year — was very difficult for the Tigers to deal with. The Wildcats hit a blistering 20 of their 29 first half shots (69.0%) and often looked easy doing it. The Wildcats’ strength on the wings was a particular problem for Texas Southern, as Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The superhero duo combined for 15-of-20 shooting in tallying 45 points and 15 rebounds. It was clear that Mike Davis’ team had no chance to stop either one of them, and Miller’s offensive schemes took full advantage of those mismatches.
  3. A Minor Concern? Its always difficult to keep focus and intensity for the full 40 minutes in a game where the superior team is so clearly superior. But the Wildcats gave up 12-of-22 (54.5%) shooting and 39 points after the half, and for a squad that prides itself on a commitment to defense, that might be somewhat concerning for Miller. Texas Southern entered today’s game in the bottom half of Division I basketball in offensive efficiency, but either of the next opponent options will be quite a bit better than the Tigers in that regard (VCU: 59th; Ohio State: 30th). Worth keeping an eye on.

Player of the Game. Stanley Johnson, Arizona. Johnson was every bit the NBA lottery pick prospect that you would expect in a game like this. The super freshman tallied 22 points and five rebounds, including a sterling 4-of-5 effort from behind the three-point line (36.6% on the year). What’s more is that he was everywhere in the opening minutes, grabbing steals, dishing dimes, as well as offering his standard contributions of scoring, rebounding and overall defense.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Circle of March: Vol. XVII

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2015

Merry Marchmas to us. We’re down to 64 — nothing more needs to be said.

2015_CircleofMarch_V17

Eliminations (03.18.15)

  • Boise State
  • North Florida
Share this story

Circle of March: Vol. XVI

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2015

What’s that, you say? March Madness? The first half of the First Four got under way in Dayton last night and the nightcap gave us plenty of reasons to get excited about what’s to come over the next three weeks. #11 Ole Miss, which defeated #11 BYU in a thrilling back-and-forth contest, along with Hampton, which outlasted Manhattan, will advance to the Round of 64 on Thursday. Their prizes will be #11 Xavier and #1 Kentucky, respectively. There’s more to come tonight — with two more eliminations in store — as #16 Robert Morris will take on #16 North Florida, and #11 Boise State will play a road game at #11 Dayton. Enjoy!

2015_CircleofMarch_V16

Eliminations (03.17.15)

  • Manhattan
  • BYU
Share this story

Circle of March: Vol. XV

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2015

And here we are with Volume XV of the Circle of March, two weeks and a day after we started this whole shebang with 333 hopefuls. We’re now down to a tidy 68, and over the course of the next 21 days we’ll narrow that group down to the last one standing. The remaining group of bubble teams and a couple auto-qualifier candidates fell off yesterday afternoon, but from here on out, it’s win or go home. Welcome to March Madness.

2015_CircleofMarch_V15 (1)

Eliminations (03.15.15)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

2015 Bracket Nonsense: Win Bob Knight ’76 Autographed Ball, Vintage F4 T, Hickory Jersey…

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2015

RTC_NCAA15

It’s time to play RTC 2015 Bracket Nonsense, and we’re pleased to announce that we’re going to have some neat prizes in the game this year.

Last year we gave away some Louisville gear related to the 1986 Final Four that the Cardinals won in Dallas. The year before that we traveled to Atlanta with some memorabilia celebrating the 1977 and 2007 Final Fours that took place in the Peach State. Before that, we went on the Road to New Orleans with a Pistol Pete Maravich jersey as our grand prize. Even before then, we went to Houston with a Clyde the Glide Cougars jersey. You get the point. We love our nostalgia and celebration of the game through retro gear. This year, we’re on the same track. Here’s what you need to know:

We’ll have three different prize levels this year — one for each weekend — and we think that you’ll like them.

prizes

Prizes For Each Weekend of Bracket Nonsense

  • First Weekend Prize: The player who gets the most Bracket Nonsense points during the Second and Third Rounds will win a retro version of a Hickory High School #23 jersey from the movie Hoosiers (pictured above, far left).
  • Second Weekend Prize: The player who picks the most correct games during the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds (using the second weekend results only) will win a vintage 1980 Indianapolis Final Four t-shirt (pictured above, center). This celebrates the first time the Final Four was played in Indy some 35 years ago at the old Market Square Arena, when Louisville defeated UCLA for its first-ever national title.
  • Grand Prize. The player who wins RTC 2015 Bracket Nonsense with the most total points after the Championship Game will win an autographed Bob Knight 32-0 “Still Undefeated” basketball (pictured above, far right) (note that this ball was provided by Steiner Sports — take a look at the rest of their basketball memorabilia here). This ball is particularly interesting this season given that Kentucky is chasing Knight’s 1976 National Championship Indian team to become the first unbeaten team in nearly four decades of college basketball. This is a fantastic piece of memorabilia that any college basketball fan would love to have in his collection.

There you have it. Some great prizes are on the line this year, and you can win something in each of the next three weeks. Don’t forget to sign up before Noon ET on Thursday! Happy March Madness!

Printable JPG version of the NCAA Tournament bracket below (a printable PDF is located here):

RTC2015bracket

Share this story

Atlantic 10 Tournament: Semifinal Saturday Review

Posted by Joe Dzuback on March 15th, 2015

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent at the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Brooklyn this weekend. He filed this report after Saturday’s semifinal action.

No Bid Thieves Among Us

With four opponents and three NCAA-bound teams left in the field, the chances for an NIT-bound team to play on Saturday were a given. Which team that would be, however, was not decided until Rhode Island crushed George Washington in the evening quarterfinal session on Friday night. Rhody’s burgeoning bid steal attempt ended at the hands of Dayton on Saturday in a game that was not decided until there were 20 seconds left. Davidson, unsteady in its A-10 Tournament debut in the quarterfinals, was saved by a Jake Gibbs drive and bucket in a one-point win on Friday before falling to Virginia Commonwealth in the semifinals on Saturday. That means Dayton and VCU will meet today (1:00 PM ET) to determine which team will take the Atlantic 10’s automatic bid. Of the three widely-recognized NCAA-bound teams, Dayton and VCU seem to be securely on the #8/#9 seed lines. Only Davidson appears in slight danger, located on the #10 or #11 lines depending on whose bracket you consider.

Archie Miller Once Again Has Dayton Peaking in March (USA Today Images)

Archie Miller Once Again Has Dayton Peaking in March (USA Today Images)

Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley made the obligatory argument for an NCAA bid after his team’s loss. The Rams have the 10th-best defensive efficiency in Division I basketball, no losing streak longer than two games, a 20+ win season, etc. All are legitimate points, but he failed to mention Rhody’s RPI (#60), a strength of schedule ranking of #161, an 0-6 record versus top 50 teams and a 3-2 record versus teams ranked between #100 and #200. In the end, Hurley tacitly acknowledged that his Rams were a bit short: “If that’s [the NIT] where we end up landing we will be thrilled with that.” Expect the Rams along with conference-mates Richmond and George Washington to have at least one home game when the NIT field is announced on Sunday night. All three NIT-bound teams are projected as squarely on the #4 seed line or higher, making them very secure in that field. Massachusetts coach Derek Kellogg removed his team from consideration for a CIT/CBI bid, leaving St. Bonaventure, the remaining unclaimed team with a winning conference and overall record, waiting for a phone call Sunday night.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Circle of March: Vol. XIV

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2015

Championship Saturday is in the books, as 15 more teams punched their tickets to the Big Dance and many of the rest were left wondering what’s in store of them on Selection Sunday. That’s today, remember! Because we were so deep into conference tournaments on Saturday, eliminations were more sparse. Only 12 teams dropped off the Circle of March, leaving 83 hopefuls heading into the last set of championship games later today. The important thing to remember is that at this time tomorrow we’ll be left with a nice, tidy 68. Enjoy one of the neatest days of the entire year!

2015_CircleofMarch_V14

Eliminations (03.14.15)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story