Rushed Reactions: #7 Michigan 73, #2 Louisville 69

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2017

Rush the Court will be covering the NCAA Tournament from start to finish over the next three weeks.

Michigan’s Wild Ride Continues to the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Michigan shot lights out in the second half. Michigan had a difficult first half and ended up at 36% from the field. They came out of the locker room to start the second half hot and shot 63%. Moritz Wagner had 17 points in the half and seemed to have an answer to silence the Cardinals each time they started to make a run. When it mattered most down the stretch, Wagner and team answered each time Louisville mounted a charge.
  2. Michigan can win the Midwest. Louisville was a fantastic team all season and Michigan played a solid game to knock them out. They were out-rebounded 37-30 and only shot 36% in the first half, but roared back to erase an eight point deficit to win by 4. Derrick Walton Jr. had a decent game but was only 3-13 from the field. He played the part of the  emotional leader on the court, but will need to step it up to get Michigan past Rhode Island or Oregon next week.
  3. When you’re 7 feet tall and can’t dunk… Anas Mahmoud missed two dunks in a close game. I wouldn’t go as far to say that his failure to put the ball down – twice – lost the game, but those 4 points sure would have helped the Cardinals cause in the four point loss. Louisville didn’t show up in the second half until it was too late. They ended up 1-10 from 3 point range in the second half and Quentin Snider ended with no points shooting 0-7 from behind the arc. You can’t win when your second leading scorer, averaging 12.9 PPG, is a non-factor.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 UCLA 97, #14 Kent State 80

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2017

RTC is providing coverage from start to finish of the NCAA Tournament for the next three weeks.

Is It Possible For UCLA to Impress and Disappoint in the Same Game? (USA Today Images)

Key Takeaways.

  1. UCLA Will Go As Far as Its Offense Takes It. Note that the title to this blurb doesn’t say defense, which might be the conventional wisdom surrounding the Bruins. No, Steve Alford knows that his team’s defense isn’t going to magically become elite, capable of shutting teams down for long stretches at a time. Lonzo Ball and Aaron Holiday are his only two legitimately decent defenders, and it’s simply too late in the season to change what their teammates can do now. What this means is that if UCLA can continue to put huge numbers on the board — something it is eminently capable of doing, of course — the Bruins will have a very good chance at winning several more games. Kent State is not Kentucky, and certainly defensively-robust Cincinnati will provide a very stiff test on Sunday, but few teams in college basketball can as easily grab a defensive rebound, fire a 50-foot pass upcourt, and quickly convert on the other end. Over and over again. Their half-court game isn’t quite as polished, but it’s certainly effective as well. At the end of the day, UCLA didn’t seem to work very hard in putting together a 97-point, 62.7 percent shooting performance that corresponded to an absurd 1.39 points per possession tonight. So remember this distinction between winning through scoring and winning through defending as the Bruins move forward. They’re only going to win one way.
  2. Lonzo Ball’s Impact. So much has been written about the precocious freshman’s impact that we’re not going to repeat the same things here, but this was the first time we’d seen him play live and the thing that was most striking about him wasn’t the odd release on his shot or his supernatural court vision. It was how he could seemingly go from fast with the ball to a veritable blur with it for extremely short durations — long enough to beat a defender or create just enough space to get to the rim. Bill Walton talked about this talent during last week’s Pac-12 Tournament, and because he doesn’t look like an elite-level athlete, it seems to come out of nowhere. Looks can be deceiving. Oh, and he had a nice all-around game, with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists to support a 158.0 Offensive Rating.
  3. Kent State Challenged the Bruins. Kent State showed up in Sacramento and really only looked jittery for the first 10 minutes of the game. Once the Golden Flashes realized that they could actually score on the Bruins, they took it right at them — especially Jimmy Hall (20 points, 15 rebounds) inside. There were a few mini-runs that got Kent State back within a workable margin in the second half, but UCLA had an answer every time that happened. This relates to the first point above — if a team wants to beat UCLA, it’s going to have to be able to knock down shots No cold shooting nights. No missed layups and five-minute droughts. With this UCLA team, a five-point deficit becomes 15 very, very quickly. Kent State simply couldn’t keep up with the Bruins tonight, and nobody would blame the Golden Flashes for that. They acquitted themselves well here as the MAC champion.

Star of the Game. TJ Leaf, UCLA. Leaf put together a strong game of 23 points and six rebounds tonight in a game where there were once again several offensive stars for the Bruins. The wily freshman is one of the unsung heroes for UCLA this season, but he continues to show his value in working around the rim for easy run-stopping buckets.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Cincinnati 75, #11 Kansas State 61

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2017

Rush the Court will be covering the NCAA Tournament from start to finish over the next three weeks. 

Mick Cronin’s Team Was Very Impressive Tonight (USA Today Images)

Key Takeaways.

  1. Cincinnati is More Offensive Than You Think. Forgiving the pun here, but if you haven’t watched much of Cincinnati this season you likely don’t realize that the Bearcats — known under Mick Cronin for its generally offensive offense — broke 80 points in 15 games this season. That’s not to say that anyone will mistake his team for UCLA or North Carolina on the offensive end of the floor, but it is to say that the painful droughts that often ended up beating the Bearcats have become more sporadic this year. In tonight’s first half against Kansas State, Cincinnati delivered a 65 percent shooting clinic that effectively put offensively-challenged Wildcats in a bind — how to make up an 11-point deficit without the pace or ability to make sustained runs? The Bearcats did their typical defensive work too — especially in several key moments of the second half — but beware the team that thinks the likes of Troy Caupain (23 points) and Gary Clark (15 points) aren’t legitimate scorers.
  2. And Yet, the Defense. Cincinnati isn’t like Press Virginia in that it doesn’t turn you over to fuel blistering 12-0 runs that run teams out of the building. Rather, the Bearcats’ style is more like death by a slow, excruciating boil. Kansas State experienced this firsthand in the middle of tonight’s second half when, after cutting the lead to eight points with around 12 minutes remaining, the Bearcats made stops on the subsequent five possessions (including a couple blocks on what appeared like easy conversions) over three minutes to push the lead back out to 14 points. And while that may not sound like an insurmountable margin with nine minutes remaining, you could feel the air being sucked out of the sails on the Kansas State sideline. The Wildcats never got the lead under double figures again.
  3. Kansas State Showed Out Well. Many of the things that Kansas State does well, Cincinnati simply does better. But to make the NCAA Tournament field as the last at-large team in and win a First Four game over a trendy team like Wake Forest showed that the Wildcats, led by senior Wesley Iwundu but primarily run by underclassmen, will be back. Bruce Weber seems in perma-hot seat status, but you’d have to think that he did enough this season to keep his job for at least one more year.

Star of the Game. Troy Caupain, Cincinnati. The Bearcats’ senior guard put together a stellar First Round game tonight, scoring 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting, grabbing seven boards and adding a couple of dimes. When he is cooking, Cincinnati is tough to beat because the defensive effort will always be there to support it.

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Rushed Reactions: #11 Rhode Island 84, #6 Creighton 72

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2017

Rush the Court is covering the NCAA Tournament from start to finish over the next three weeks. 

Rhode Island Played Harder and Smarter Today (USA Today Images)

Key Takeaways.

  1. Rhode Island’s Determination. From the opening tip today, it was easy to determine which team had more energy, more desire and more fire. Much has been written this week about Rhode Island’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since the Jim Harrick/Lamar Odom days of the late 1990s, but the biggest story here is that this particular group of Rams played like they really appreciated the opportunity. And why wouldn’t they? Because of a series of injuries and some other bad luck over the past several years, Rhode Island had become one of the hardest-luck near-miss cases in college basketball, on the cusp of the Big Dance but never breaking through. Today it was apparent when Rhode Island jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead (that it never relinquished) that higher-seed Creighton was in for a rock fight. Perhaps the most visible statistic showing the Rams’ singular focus and determination today came at the foul line — a 65.7 percent free-throw shooting team hit 28 of its first 29 attempts on its way to a 90.3 percent day.
  2. Creighton’s Dream Season Went Kaput With Mo Watson’s Injury. Creighton was 18-1 and unbeaten in Big East play when point guard Mo Watson suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Xavier back in mid-January. The Bluejays went on to win that game, but they then lost nine of 16 down the stretch after their team leader and best player was hurt. Given that so much of Creighton’s offense was reliant on three-point shooting, there just wasn’t much else the Bluejays if shots weren’t dropping like today (missing five of their first 20 attempts). I overheard the Creighton radio crew discussing the season, and the word “frustrating” came up several times. You have to imagine that they are wondering, like everyone else, what could have been with Watson available.
  3. What Will Justin Patton Do? Creighton hasn’t historically been the kind of school that has elite one-and-done talent, but the NBA draftniks around the basketball world are in love with seven-foot freshman center Justin Patton. With great length, agility and loads of opportunity to grow his game into his body, there’s plenty to like. Not much of that was apparent today, however. His game started with two missed bunnies and getting rejected, and he seemed somewhat tentative and jittery with the ball all game long. He ultimately fouled out after posting a forgettable eight-point, seven-rebound (on 3-of-12 shooting) performance. It would make good sense if the talented youngster cashed in while his stock is high, but he is still definitely a few years away from contributing at a professional level.

Star of the Game. Jeff Dowtin, Rhode Island. The freshman guard came up big today to ensure that his upperclassman teammates who have experienced so much anguish in their careers would keep playing this weekend. He contributed a 14-point second half on his way to 23 points and five rebounds, including a perfect 10-of-10 mark from the foul line.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Oregon 93, #14 Iona 77

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2017

Oregon entered today’s game with the big question on everyone’s mind — how will the Ducks fare without Chris Boucher? At least through the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, that question has been answered.

Oregon Used a Fast Start to Dominate Iona and Move to the Second Round (USA Today Images)

Key Takeaways.

  1. Oregon Got Whatever Oregon Wanted. Iona and its defense rated in the mid-200s nationally wasn’t expected to cause much of a problem for an Oregon offense that has no problem scoring, and it was easy to see from the opening tip that the Ducks were going to get whatever they wanted. Oregon made an early point to get the ball inside to Jordan Bell and the junior center delivered, with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field. At the completion of the first half, the Ducks were hitting 75 percent of their two-point attempts, illustrating just how paper-thin the Gaels’ defense inside the arc was. Although the Ducks tend to feast on the inside-out game offensively, they will certainly see more pushback from their opponent in the next round.
  2. What About Boucher? With Boucher out of the lineup, has been able to settle into his natural position at the four. His first game last weekend in the full-time role resulted in a solid 33-minute, 25-point performance against Arizona. Today was another 30+ minute outing, but after a quick start, Brooks seemed more content letting his teammates contribute. He still ended the game with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting. The more concerning area, of course, involves the loss of Boucher is on the defensive end. Brooks was often matched up with the bigger and bulkier Jordan Washington (along with Jordan Bell) inside, who easily overpowered the pair for a 22/11 double-double. The loss of the rim-protection that Boucher offered is definitely something to watch going forward.
  3. Iona Has Had Better Showings. This was Tim Cluess’ fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament in seven years at the helm, but these Gaels probably represented his weakest group to go dancing. Aside from Washington inside and Sam Cassell, Jr. (16 points) on the perimeter, the Gaels were overmatched by the speed, talent and athleticism of Oregon. Other than a brief period in the mid-second half when it appeared that the Ducks became complacent, they were never really tested today. Cluess’ teams have never been great defensive squads, but with only two legitimate scoring options on the floor today, it ultimately meant the Gaels were always playing catch-up against the refined group of offensive talents that Dana Altman has at his disposal.

Star of the Game. Tyler Dorsey, Oregon. Speaking of getting whatever you want, Dorsey used his versatile offensive game to torch Iona for 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including a pair of threes and five rebounds. The sophomore’s fourth 20+ point game in a row, it’s clear that Altman believes that his time is now.

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2016-17 RTC Top 25: Week 11

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2017

In what turned out to be perhaps the nuttiest week of college basketball this season, seven of last week’s top 10 RTC25 teams lost at least once. Villanova (at Marquette), Kansas (at West Virginia), Kentucky (Kansas), UCLA (at USC), North Carolina (at Miami), Florida State (at Georgia Tech; at Syracuse) and Oregon (at Colorado) all took defeats last week. With so much chaos among the top tier of the poll, the corresponding result is that not very much actually changed — six of the top seven are still within that range. New #1 Gonzaga is the clear beneficiary, but with a number of teams behind the Bulldogs awaiting a slip-up, the top of the RTC25 might yet have several more residents by the end of the season.

This week’s Quick N’ Dirty Analysis of the RTC25 is after the jump.

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Grading the Pac-12 Non-Conference Performances, Part II

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 28th, 2016

The non-conference portion of the schedule is now over for the entire group of Pac-12 teams and, aside from UCLA running roughshod over every team it faced, it was a relatively uneventful non-conference season. Some teams scored important wins and other teams showed their weaknesses, but none of the 12 at-large resumes really stand out at this point in the season. To prove it to ourselves, let’s run through where each team stands heading into the 18-game Pac-12 schedule.

Ed. Note: the other half of the league’s report cards published yesterday.

UCLA – A+

Lonzo Ball (USA Today Images)

Lonzo Ball Has Turned UCLA into a National Title Contender (USA Today Images)

  • Good wins: Kentucky, Texas A&M, Michigan, Ohio State
  • Bad losses: None
  • Synopsis: When you breeze through the non-conference portion of your schedule with several quality wins (including a road victory at Kentucky), you probably deserve a perfect grade. UCLA has perhaps the most efficient offense in the country, multiple All-America candidates and enviable depth and size at every position. The Bruins’ defense is a non-negligible concern but head coach Steve Alford has his team firing on all cylinders and headed toward a No. 1 seed in March.

Stanford – C+

  • Good wins: Seton Hall
  • Bad losses: None
  • Synopsis: The Cardinal’s performance to this point won’t blow anyone away but they have quietly been a solid team under first-year head coach Jerod Haase. A win over Seton Hall in Florida was a nice starting point while losses to the likes of Kansas, St. Mary’s, Miami and SMU were to be expected. Plus, there is something to be said for taking care of business against lesser opponents. Stanford probably won’t force its way on to the right side of the bubble with this schedule, but Haase has at least served notice that the program is on solid footing.

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Where 2016-17 Happens: Reason #1 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2016

As RTC heads into its 10th season — Season X, if you will — covering college basketball, it’s time to begin releasing our annual compendium of YouTube clips that we like to call Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball. These 30 snippets from last season’s action are completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Friday, November 11. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#1 – Where The Shot (Modern Version) Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15 and 2015-16 preseasons.

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Where 2016-17 Happens: Reason #2 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2016

As RTC heads into its 10th season — Season X, if you will — covering college basketball, it’s time to begin releasing our annual compendium of YouTube clips that we like to call Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball. These 30 snippets from last season’s action are completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Friday, November 11. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#2 – Where This Can’t Be Real Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15 and 2015-16 preseasons.

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Where 2016-17 Happens: Reason #3 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 9th, 2016

As RTC heads into its 10th season — Season X, if you will — covering college basketball, it’s time to begin releasing our annual compendium of YouTube clips that we like to call Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball. These 30 snippets from last season’s action are completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Friday, November 11. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#3 – Where For the Win! Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15 and 2015-16 preseasons.

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