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

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 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.

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.

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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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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