Rushed Reactions: #1 Florida 67, #16 Albany 55

Posted by rtmsf on March 20th, 2014

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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.

Billy Donovan Led His Team to Another First Round Victory Today (AP)

Billy Donovan Led His Team to Another First Round Victory Today (AP)

  1. Florida’s Defense Failed to Impress. If what we saw in the first half of this game is the defense that Florida expects will win it a national championship this season, they probably want to rethink that notion. Albany came out as the more poised offensive team, shredding the Gators’ defense for much of the half by shooting nearly 60 percent. A late cold spell finally pushed the Great Danes below 50 percent, and the defense really picked up in the second half when Kasey Hill entered the game (see below), but for a group that prides itself on great team defense rather than an individually great rim-protector, you have to wonder how physically-similar teams (ahem, like Pittsburgh) will be able to navigate the pressure. Without a single great offensive talent on this team, defense has necessarily been the Gators’ calling card, but another performance like today for an entire half will probably sink Florida.
  2. Why Isn’t Patric Young Dominant? This question has probably been asked several thousand times during Young’s four-year career in Gainesville, but it really doesn’t hit you in the face until you see this guy up close. There’s really no excuse for Young to not be a consistent 15/8 guy, given his size and athleticism, but he remains the same 11/6 player that he’s been for the last three seasons at Florida. Tonight: a solid 10/10 line, but it doesn’t make sense why he isn’t featured in the offense more given his gifts. And especially so against much smaller teams like Albany. He’s played well in his last three games, so maybe we’re starting to finally see him emerge.
  3. Kasey Hill Needs More Run. Billy Donovan has taken a careful, wait-and-see approach with his two precocious freshmen this season, preferring the experience and consistency of his seniors like Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young over the likes of Kasey Hill and Chris Walker. With a record of 33-2 and the overall #1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, who can argue with his decision? Still, Florida became a different team when Hill came into the game in the second half, as a team that had a tendency to get bogged down got out on to the fast break for easy points. Hill fueled things with his defense, ripping off two steals and finishing a couple plays himself, but even in the half-court, he was the only Gator with the quickness to dart right into the lane for finishes near the rim or kickouts for jumpers. Hill’s development on both ends of the floor provides an element to the Gators’ attack that they simply didn’t have last year, and it makes them all the more dangerous as a result.

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Rushed Reactions: #9 Pittsburgh 77, #8 Colorado 48

Posted by rtmsf on March 20th, 2014

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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.

Jamie Dixon's Team Was Beyond Impressive on Thursday Afternoon (US Presswire)

Jamie Dixon’s Team Was Beyond Impressive on Thursday Afternoon (US Presswire)

  1. Curb-Stomping to the Round of 32. What appeared to be a competitive game on paper never materialized into one on the floor, as Pittsburgh jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead and never looked back. All credit to Pitt’s active, long and aggressive defense, but Colorado looked downright somnambulent for the first half of this game. Of course, the same could be said about their entire season away from the Coors Events Center after losing star Spencer Dinwiddie to injury, so maybe what we saw today was just an extension of that. A 30-7 lead turned into a 46-18 halftime margin and the game hovered near 30 points for the entirety of the second half. Colorado ended up shooting the ball at a cool 35.7 percent for the game, but because of the 14-turnover margin that Pitt forced, it felt much, much worse.
  2. Colorado’s Season Really Ended With Dinwiddie’s Injury. Of course it’s impossible to predict would-have-beens in an activity as unpredictable as college basketball, but the versatility and talent that the 6’6″ Dinwiddie brought to the Buffaloes just couldn’t be replaced after he was lost. A team that was good enough to defeat NCAA entrants Harvard, Kansas and Oregon only managed two more middling wins against NCAA teams the rest of the season (Arizona State and Stanford). The biggest problem for the Buffs without Dinwiddie was with their offense, and today’s game certainly exhibited many of those issues. Josh Scott (14 points) and Xavier Johnson (11 points) eventually hit their averages, but the rest of the team was a terribly inefficient 6-of-27 from the floor. Much of that is attributable to Pitt’s defense, of course, but it’s also nothing new for the Buffaloes.
  3. Pitt Could Give Florida Some Problems. Pitt has been a team that many pundits had trouble believing in all season because of their lack of quality wins, but over the course of the past couple of weeks, they’ve started to earn some believers. A solid ACC Tournament performance that included a win over North Carolina and a close loss to #1 seed Virginia, in addition to today’s emasculation of Colorado, should give Billy Donovan some pause as he projects his next opponent in Orlando on Saturday. The Panthers’ defense has not been as consistent as Jamie Dixon would have liked this season, but Pitt’s last four opponent have all been held under the magical 1.0 points per possession, a significant improvement. If you figure that Florida will be able to lock up the likes of Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna on Saturday, it’s not unreasonable to expect that the Panthers could do the same, ultimately resulting in a low-scoring slugfest that would give Pitt a fighter’s chance to win. It’s worth considering.

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Circle of March: Vol. XVII

Posted by rtmsf on March 20th, 2014

It’s time to get down to business. Sixty-four teams, headed to 48 by the end of today’s action. Thirty-two, 24, then 16 by Sunday night. Two more schools fell off today’s Circle of March after losses in the First Four last night — we congratulate and thank #16 Texas Southern and #11 Iowa for their participation this year. But enough about that, let’s knock another 16 off the CoM. Happy holidays, everyone!

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Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.19.14)

  • Texas Southern
  • Iowa
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The RTC Podblast: Billion Dollar Predictions Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2014

We know you’ve been anxiously awaiting it, so here goes. The RTC Podblast is back, just in time for you to fill out your final bracket — the one that you’ve been secretly stashing away all week for the cool billion — with predictions about which teams are heading to the Elite Eight and beyond. Go ahead and pick your own upsets in the first three rounds — the real points are earned in the latter stages of the Tournament, and we’ve got you covered there. This season’s theme — believe in the teams you’ve always believed in, reject those that you don’t. We’ll find out how that works very soon. Enjoy the holidays, everyone! The full rundown is below.

  • 0:00-2:40 – Lessons From Regional Previews
  • 2:40-7:14 – Still Think the Bracket Is Wide Open?
  • 7:14-8:22 – UCLA: The “Should Have Seen It Coming Team”
  • 8:22-11:43 – South Region Predictions
  • 11:43-17:04 – East Region Predictions
  • 17:04-19:27 – West Region Predictions
  • 19:27-22:05 – Midwest Region Predictions
  • 22:05-26:00 – Picking a National Champion
  • 26:00-28:13 – Dark Horse Picks
  • 28:13-31:17 – What We Are Most Excited For in Round of 64/Wrap
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Circle of March: Vol. XVI

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2014

The NCAA Tournament has officially started, believe it or not, and that means that two schools fell off the Circle of March last night. With defeats to #16 Albany and #12 NC State, respectively, #16 Mount St. Mary’s and #12 Xavier have now joined the 274 other poor souls that are no longer in contention for the National Championship. A couple more will drop off tonight — among Tennessee, Iowa, Cal Poly, or Texas Southern – before the bloodbath starts all over again Thursday afternoon.

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Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.18.14)

  • Mount St. Mary’s
  • Xavier
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Rushed Reactions: #12 NC State 74, #12 Xavier 59

Posted by Steve Smith on March 18th, 2014

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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 in NC State’s First Four win.

TJ Warren Started Slowly But Came On Strong When It Mattered Most (credit: RNO)

TJ Warren Started Slowly But Came On Strong When It Mattered Most (credit: RNO)

  1. A balanced attack without T.J. Warren stealing the show. NC State was in control for seemingly the entire game, even when Xavier went on a several runs that threatened to challenge them. Once again, Ralston Turner, who finished the night with 17 points, stepped up when TJ Warren struggled early. And Tyler Lewis did his part to fill in for an ailing Anthony Barber, who played only eight first half minutes due to a fever and stomach illness. Lewis contributed seven points and eight assists, the final of which capped off the evening with a lob to Jordan Vandenburg for a dunk.
  2. NC State is not the same team without T.J. Warren on the floor. Even though several others stepped up for Mark Gottfried tonight, the team really struggled when Warren went out early in the first half with two fouls. After his return, NC State went on a quick 10-2 run to widen the lead to 22-14. When he was out again in the second half, Xavier went on another run, but upon his return he quickly scored on a fadeaway runner and on an emphatic one-handed dunk within the first minute. NC State’s fortunes for the rest of this NCAA Tournament will completely depend on how far Warren carries it — he’s that good.
  3. Xavier shot 14 percent from three-point range. Xavier came into this game shooting 35 percent from distance on the year as a team, but they missed several key open looks down the stretch that could have kept them afloat. With Warren doing his thing on the other end, the Musketeers needed to keep pace and all of the bricked threes simply wouldn’t allow for it. A reasonable nine-point margin quickly shot up to an unmanageable 17-point difference as a result of all those missed threes down the stretch.

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Rushed Reactions: #16 Albany 71, #16 Mount St. Mary’s 64

Posted by Steve Smith on March 18th, 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.

Albany is All Smiles as the Danes Advance to the Round of 64 (AP/Skip Peterson)

Albany is All Smiles as the Danes Advance to the Round of 64 (AP/Skip Peterson)

  1. Back to back 21-2 runs don’t happen that often… Albany opened the game by going on a 21-2 tear, and it appeared as if they were about to put the game completely out of reach early. Mount St. Mary’s roared back with an equally impressive 21-2 run of their own to even things up, and the rest of the evening settled into a close back-and-forth contest the rest of the way.
  2. The difference in the game: tempo. Albany’s bench is shallow and only played 16 total minutes beyond the starters. Mount St. Mary’s likes to play a fast-paced game, but they were atrocious from the field in the first 10 minutes. They did a great job forcing Albany to pick up the tempo by pressing in the second half, and when they did, Albany made too many mistakes. Mount St. Mary’s seemed to go away from what got them there in the last 10 minutes, purposely slowing things down, which allowed Albany not only to stay fresh, but to take the advantage down the stretch.
  3. First round jitters. Both teams looked very sloppy at times, and this allowed for some streaky runs from both in the first half. Mount St. Mary’s started the game 0-of-11 from the field, including an ice-cold 0-of-6 from beyond the arc. Albany had 14 turnovers, but Mount St. Mary’s failed to capitalize on enough of those opportunities. Ultimately the poor three-point shooting in the first half by Mount St. Mary’s led to their demise. One bright light was Will Miller, who was 7-of-12 from three-point range and seemed to knock down shot after critical shot to change momentum when they needed it most.

Star of the GameD.J. Evans, Albany – Evans set the stage in the opening minutes with several key baskets and assists, and he always seemed to be there when Albany needed him the most. He had nine rebounds to go along with his team-leading 22 points, despite being just 5’9”. His ball-handling was instrumental to the Danes’ victory, as Mount St. Mary’s caused most of their turnovers when he was off the floor. He also had a critical rebound off a Mount St. Mary’s miss with 12 seconds remaining, and hit both free throws to ice the game.

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The RTC Podblasts: South and West Regions

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2014

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And now, for the analysis. This is the second of two posts that we will be publishing today, the contents of which will contain two regional preview RTC Podblasts each — make sure to check out the East and Midwest podblasts that were released this morning. We continue the series this afternoon with a breakdown of the South Region bracket, inviting RTC national columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) in to talk through whether the Gators are really the best team in America. We follow that up with analysis of the West Region bracket, bringing national columnist/Pac-12 guru Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) in to discuss a west-coast flavored region that appears to be Arizona and the Rest. The full rundowns are 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.

South Region

  • 0:00-7:17 – Florida the Favorite
  • 7:17-17:38 – UCLA, Kansas and Syracuse Try to Knock Off #1 Overall Seed
  • 17:38-20:36 – VCU, Stephen 5. Austin and The Trendy #5/#12 Upset
  • 20:36-25:18 – #7/#10 and #8/#9 Games
  • 25:18-26:50 – Seeding Injustices in the South
  • 26:50-27:58 – Great Potential Match-ups
  • 27:58-30:52 – Bennet’s Pick for the South

West Region

  • 0:00-6:03 – Arizona Hands Down Favorite
  • 6:03-10:41 – Top Challengers For Arizona
  • 10:41-13:28 – Match-ups For McBuckets
  • 13:28-14:57 – Potential Upsets For the 4/5 Seeds
  • 14:57-15:57 – Mis-seeded Teams
  • 15:57-19:21 – #8/#9 and #7/#10 Games
  • 19:21-21:22 – Dark Horse Sweet Sixteen Teams
  • 21:22-23:23 – Predicting MOP
  • 23:23-24:45 – Dream Match-ups
  • 24:45-26:35 – Madness and Offense Could Reign Supreme in the West
  • 26:35-28:59 – West Coast Teams in the West Region
  • 28:59-30:31 – Non-Arizona Picks
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The RTC Podblasts: East and Midwest Regions

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2014

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And now, for the analysis. Welcome to the first of two posts that we will be publishing today, the contents of which will contain two regional preview RTC Podblasts each. We’ll start with a breakdown of the East Region bracket, inviting RTC national columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) in to talk things through what appears to be a wild region with us. We follow that up with analysis of the Midwest Region bracket, inviting national columnist Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) in to discuss a very difficult draw for #1 seed Wichita State. The full rundowns are 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.

 

East Region

  • 0:00-3:31 – Virginia as a #1 Seed and Region Favorite
  • 3:34-10:25 – Which Top Seed is the Real Favorite
  • 10:25-12:25 – Providence’s Big East Run – Hitting Their Stride or Peaking Too Early?
  • 12:25-16:11 – 8/9 and 7/10 Games Preview
  • 16:11-23:10 – Potential Upsets and Darkhorses
  • 23:10-25:22 – Match-up Issues for Virginia
  • 25:22-26:40 – Dream Match Ups
  • 26:40-30:30 – Regional Games at MSG

Midwest Region

  • 0:00-4:34 – Louisville as the Real Favorite in the Midwest
  • 4:34-7:33 – UMass Prone For an Upset?
  • 7:33-13:04 – Previewing 7/10 and 8/9 Game
  • 13:04-13:53 – Conference Tournaments Impact on Midwest Region
  • 13:53-16:35 – TJ Warren and the Fightin’ NC States
  • 16:35-21:34 – Wichita State’s Realistic Expectations in this Region
  • 21:35-23:28 – Predicting an MOP in the Midwest
  • 23:28-25:49 – Most Exciting Thing About the Region
  • 25:49-28:08 – Dream Match-Ups
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Circle of March: Field of 68 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2014

And just like that, it’s settled. Other than Louisiana-Lafayette‘s thrilling overtime victory over Georgia State in the Sun Belt championship game Sunday afternoon, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee made its executive decision on the 36 at-large teams that will remain on this year’s Circle of March. Just two short weeks ago, we started with 340 eligible teams; now, we’re down to a mere 68, and it will be among that group from which we’ll crown this season’s national champion in a mere 21 more days. Can we get to Thursday afternoon already?

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Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.16.14)

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Clemson
  • Florida State
  • Georgia State
  • Green Bay
  • Indiana State
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • SMU
  • Southern Miss
  • St. John’s
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Bracket Prep: Selection Sunday Tools, Instareactions and More…

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2014

In case you had other plans on Sunday evening, you may have already had a chance to review all the materials floating around out there upon the release of yesterday’s 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket. We’ll have a lot of detailed analysis coming out a bit later today, but, to whet your appetite… here’s everything you need to know up to this point.

RTC2014bracketBracket Tools

Microsite Instareactions

Bracket Prep: Automatic Bids

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The RTC Podblast: Selection Sunday Reactions Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2014

There wasn’t a whole lot of controversy this year, but several decisions by the NCAA Selection Committee certainly raised some eyebrows. In an effort to briefly hit on a few of those points in the hours immediately following the bracket’s release this evening, the RTC Podblast crew, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) walked through a few quick n’ dirty reactions. The guys will return with detailed analyses of each of the four regions on Tuesday, followed by a number of quick-hit podblasts throughout the rest of the week. Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. The full rundown is below.

  • 0:00-4:55 – Initial Bracket Reactions/The Questionable Louisville Seeding
  • 4:55- 6:02 – Other Bracket Surprises
  • 6:02-6:53 – Teams With the Easiest Roads
  • 6:53-8:33 – Regions Stacked With Talent
  • 8:33-11:34 – Takeaways From Conference Tournaments Heading Into the Big Dance
  • 11:34-12:25 – Virginia Gets Final #1 Seed
  • 12:25-13:41 – Lower Seeds That Can Make a Run
  • 13:41-15:30 – Upset Possibilities
  • 15:30- Previewing The Week in RTC’s Coverage of March Madness (Bracket Nonsense, etc.)
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