Bracketology S-Curve Update: 03.05.12

Posted by zhayes9 on March 5th, 2012

Zach Hayes is RTC’s official bracketologist.

  • Last Four In: Northwestern, Xavier, Texas, South Florida.
  • First Four Out: Seton Hall, VCU, Tennessee, Oregon.
  • Next Four Out: Dayton, NC State, Arizona, St. Joseph’s.              

click on bracket to enlarge

S-Curve

  • 1 Seeds: Kentucky, Syracuse, Kansas, North Carolina
  • 2 Seeds: Duke, Michigan State, Missouri, Ohio State
  • 3 Seeds: Marquette, Michigan, Baylor, Georgetown
  • 4 Seeds: Indiana, Wisconsin, Florida State, Temple
  • 5 Seeds: Wichita State, Murray State, UNLV, Louisville
  • 6 Seeds: Vanderbilt, Florida, Notre Dame, Creighton
  • 7 Seeds: Iowa State, Gonzaga, San Diego State, New Mexico
  • 8 Seeds: Kansas State, Purdue, Memphis, Saint Mary’s
  • 9 Seeds: Cincinnati, Saint Louis, Alabama, Southern Miss
  • 10 Seeds: Virginia, Harvard, Connecticut, West Virginia
  • 11 Seeds: Colorado State, Mississippi State, California, BYU
  • 12 Seeds: Miami, Washington, South Florida, Texas, Long Beach State
  • 13 Seeds: Xavier, Northwestern, Drexel, Nevada, Oral Roberts
  • 14 Seeds: Davidson, Belmont, Akron, Montana
  • 15 Seeds: Denver, Valparaiso, Loyola (MD), Bucknell
  • 16 Seeds: UT-Arlington, UNC-Asheville, LIU-Brooklyn, Stony Brook, Mississippi Valley, Savannah State

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Bracketology S-Curve Update: 03.02.12

Posted by zhayes9 on March 2nd, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

  • Last Four In: Xavier, Miami, BYU, South Florida
  • First Four Out: Northwestern, VCU, Oregon, Arizona
  • Next Four Out: St. Joseph’s, Dayton, NC State, UCF

(italics indicates auto bid)

1 Seeds: Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke, Kansas

2 Seeds: Michigan State, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio State

3 Seeds: Baylor, Michigan, Georgetown, Marquette

4 Seeds: Indiana, Wisconsin, Wichita State, Florida State

5 Seeds: Vanderbilt, Louisville, Temple, Murray State

6 Seeds: Florida, UNLV, Notre Dame, San Diego State

7 Seeds: New Mexico, Creighton, Gonzaga, Purdue

8 Seeds: Iowa State, Saint Mary’s, Kansas State, Cincinnati

9 Seeds: Alabama, Memphis, Southern Miss, Saint Louis

10 Seeds: Virginia, California, Harvard, Seton Hall

11 Seeds: Long Beach State, West Virginia, Connecticut, Washington

12 Seeds: Mississippi State, Texas, Colorado State, South Florida, BYU

13 Seeds: Miami, Xavier, Oral Roberts, Iona, Drexel

14 Seeds: Middle Tennessee, Nevada, Akron, Davidson

15 Seeds: Belmont, Valparaiso, Montana, UT-Arlington

16 Seeds: Bucknell, LIU-Brooklyn, UNC-Asheville, Stony Brook, Mississippi Valley, Savannah State

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10 Great Players You Won’t Be Seeing This March

Posted by zhayes9 on March 2nd, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

As the calendar flips towards March, the nation will focus its attention to players on title contenders—Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, Syracuse’s Dion Waiters, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Duke’s Austin Rivers, to name a few. Others will become infatuated with captivating players on endearing Cinderella teams– Oral Roberts’ Dominique Morrison, Iona’s Scott Machado, Long Beach State’s Casper Ware or Belmont’s Kerron Johnson. There will be ample opportunity to delve into the storylines of those vying to become household names once the brackets are unveiled. This space is reserved for those whose season will most likely end without any taste of postseason glory. Accolades are warranted for these ten players who, through no fault of their own and barring a miracle conference tournament run, are about to conclude praiseworthy seasons away from the national spotlight:

Providence's Council is an underappreciated player nationally

Vincent Council, Providence- Many theorized that Council’s robust assist totals during his first two seasons at Providence were more of a product of the Friars top ten adjusted tempo than any extraordinary  court vision or gifted passing ability. Council’s resounding response to such fallacies: 7.4 assists per game and the third highest assist rate of any major-conference point guard despite a new coach and a much slower pace. Sure, Council plays almost every minute for a Friar squad lacking depth, but he’s still engineering a top-50 efficient offense without anyone resembling an all-conference candidate as support. The junior and Brooklyn native has posted eight games of double-digit assists and averages over 16 PPG to boot. It’ll be intriguing to see how Council and Scout.com’s top-ranked class of 2012 point guard Kris Dunn share duties at the position next season.

Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure- Nicholson has turned in one of the greatest careers in the history of the Atlantic 10, scoring nearly 2,000 point, grabbing nearly 800 rebounds, flirting with the all-time school record for field goal percentage and “bringing the program back from the underground” according to coach Mark Schmidt. Going out with a bang seems to be a priority for the best Bonnie since Bob Lanier; Nicholson has scored 29.8 PPG on 66 percent shooting over his last four games, all victories. With his array of advanced post moves, range out to the three-point line and an unquenchable motor, Nicholson is nearly impossible to contain. His play has buoyed St. Bonaventure to a respectable 17-10 and an NIT/CBI invite is likely in the cards, so make it a priority to catch Nicholson in action before he’s the next NBA Draft second round success story.

Jared Cunningham, Oregon State- He’s an Oakland native and Beavers guard with a voracious tenacity equally adept at whipping out a mean crossover or picking your pocket at midcourt. That same scouting report oft-repeated regarding former OSU star Gary Payton can easily be applied to Cunningham, not only the Pac-12’s leading scorer but one of the top perimeter defenders in the nation. The Beavers star is a risk-taker on both ends, susceptible to the occasional turnover but just as capable of pulling off a highlight reel steal and dunk on the next possession. Cunningham utilizes his phenomenal instincts to jump passing lanes and create havoc out of Oregon State’s 1-3-1 zone defense.

Tim Frazier, Penn State- Frazier has almost single handedly kept Penn State competitive in the brutal Big Ten despite losing four senior starters from an NCAA Tournament team. Playing with a lightly-recruited, largely unanimous supporting cast, Frazier leads the conference by a healthy margin with 6.3 assists per game and ranks second in the nation in assist rate. He’s also scored at a healthy clip, averaging 18.8 per game and pouring in 20+ point performances 16 different times. The junior guard from Houston brings that rare combination of exceptional point guard skills, ability to fill up the scoring column and tenacity on the defensive end (2.2 SPG). Of greater importance to a program featuring only one senior and bereft of elite talent, Frazier has proven a model leader for new head coach Patrick Chambers from the first day of practice.

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Top 25 Snapshot: 02.29.12

Posted by zhayes9 on February 29th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

As the calendar flips from February to March and the college basketball world rejoices at the prospect of another rapidly approaching NCAA Tournament, it’s time to take stock as to where the top teams around the country stand. When the long-awaited tournament does commence, the path to glory evolves into a narrative predicated on matchups rather than rankings, so allow this to serve as more of a final snapshot as the regular season winds to a conclusion. Who is peaking at the right time? Whose style of play translates best into the grind of March? What perceived flaws could derail a run deep into March? Let’s begin with the team most currently resembling a seemingly unflappable juggernaut:

The Spartans crack the top 5 in the latest rankings

1. Kentucky (28-1, 14-0)

Locating a potentially fatal weakness in a team one buzzer-beater away from an undefeated record isn’t an easy task. Freshman point guard Marquis Teague, much like his predecessors at the position under John Calipari, has improved substantially throughout the season, posting 52 assists compared to 21 turnovers in his last nine SEC games. Their athleticism will render even the best man-to-man defense ineffective and the combination of Doron Lamb and Darius Miller can make shots over any zone look. Kentucky also boasts arguably the best perimeter defender in the country in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – whom Calipari utilized to suffocate Dee Bost in the second half of their comeback win in Starkville – and the best post defender in National POY frontrunner Anthony Davis (4.8 blocks per game and countless other alterations and denials). If there’s one nitpick it’s the fact Kentucky rates #84 in the country in three-point defense and rarely forces turnovers defensively; if Teague reverts to his sloppy ways, Lamb/Miller have an off-shooting night against a zone and a team is able to make jump shots over their length, Kentucky could slip in a one-and-done scenario.

2. Syracuse (29-1, 16-1)

The Orange still only have one blemish on their resume – a blowout loss at Notre Dame without indispensable center Fab Melo – but they haven’t exactly been blowing away the opposition the last few weeks, edging West Virginia, Georgetown, Louisville and Connecticut by three points or less and barely getting by both USF and Rutgers with late runs. There’s room for improvement, especially on the offensive boards where opponents are snagging 38.3 percent of available misses, one of the drawbacks of playing every possession in a zone defense where no specific man is assigned to keep off the glass. They compensate for plenty of those second-chance points with the best zone defense Jim Boeheim has employed in recent memory and a capacity to convert a Dion Waiters steal (tenth in steal percentage) or a Melo swat (fifth in block percentage) into a transition opportunity where the Orange excel. Their enviable depth also allows Boeheim to shuffle in and out as many as ten different players depending on opposing personnel, foul trouble, the flow of the game and Scoop Jardine’s focus level.

3. Kansas (25-5, 15-2)

Thomas Robinson deservedly receives most of the accolades, but Tyshawn Taylor’s been the best at his position in the Big 12 since conference play began. He’s a matchup nightmare for opposing point guards because of his size, strong frame, quick first step and blazing end-to-end speed. Taylor is also efficient shooting the basketball from both inside (51 percent) and outside (44 percent) the arc while correcting his career-long battle with turnovers, committing just six or more in a game just twice during Big 12 play. With Elijah Johnson taking on more of a distributing role, Travis Releford as a glue guy defender and zero guard depth on the roster, the much-maligned Taylor has had to shoulder a heavy load and is a gigantic reason why Kansas continued their incredible streak of eight consecutive conference titles. Robinson and Taylor will pack a punch, but their prospects in March may come down to whether Jeff Withey can provide a third scoring option and Connor Teahan hits outside shots off the bench. Withey injured his ankle and played just nine minutes against Missouri, a loss that won’t be absorbed so easily in the NCAA Tournament against a bigger frontline.

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Bubble Watch: 02.27.12

Posted by zhayes9 on February 27th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Locks: Temple, Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Syracuse, Marquette, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Wichita State, Creighton, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Murray State, Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga.

Note: all RPI/SOS numbers compiled Sunday.

Dee Bost and Mississippi State is falling perilously close to the bubble

Atlantic 10

Saint Louis (22-6, 10-4)- The worst thing a bubble team can do this time of year is sustain a “bad” loss. Bad doesn’t even begin to describe Saturday’s setback at sub-#250 RPI Rhode Island. The overall record, #36 RPI, high KenPom/Sagarin rating and wins over fellow bubble teams Xavier, St. Joe’s and Dayton are positives, but the URI loss is undoubtedly a black mark on the resume. The winner of their rematch with Xavier on Tuesday will feel much more secure about their chances.

Xavier (18-10, 9-5)- The Musketeers haven’t exactly impressed lately, barely dodging Dayton and Richmond at home in between a seven-point defeat at UMass. Their resume is boosted by a difficult non-conference schedule which includes wins at Vanderbilt and home vs. Purdue. Xavier sits firmly on the cut line with an RPI of 53, SOS of 50 and a 5-6 road record. If they fall short at SLU, they’ll need to beat Charlotte at home and at least one game in the A-10 Tournament.

Saint Joseph’s (19-11, 9-6)- The Hawks jumped back into the bubble hunt with their win over ranked and red-hot Temple on Saturday and their computer numbers (51 RPI, 44 SOS, 41 non-conference SOS) suggests they could be around awhile. The win over Creighton is also helpful, but St. Joe’s lost five times to sub-#80 RPI teams, including Richmond, Charlotte and American. They’ll need to avoid a potential pitfall at St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and forge deep into the A-10 Tournament. St. Joe’s beat Dayton and lost to Xavier.

Dayton (18-10, 8-6)- Dayton’s mid-season four game losing skid keeps them on the outside looking in for now and the Flyers also have the worst RPI (61) of the A-10 bubble teams. Dayton’s lost four games to sub-100 RPI competition including #232 Miami (OH) and #251 Rhode Island. The 3-6 road record also stings. Keeping them afloat are wins at Temple and at home against Alabama, Saint Louis and Xavier. Winning their final two at Richmond and vs. George Washington are musts.

ACC

Virginia (21-7, 8-6)- The Cavs have three chances to lock up a bid to end the season: North Carolina, Florida State and at Maryland. They fell painfully short in the first opportunity, losing to the Heels by three in Charlottesville. Only one RPI top-50 win over Michigan from back in November and a #223 non-conference SOS will hurt their seed, Virginia should get in at 9-7 in the ACC in this bubble climate. Virginia also won at Oregon and beat Miami at home. A win over FSU locks up a bid.

Miami (16-10, 7-6)- Despite Reggie Johnson’s suspension, the Canes soundly handled Florida State, a win tremendously important to their at-large chances. Prior to Sunday, their second-best win after Duke was #81 RPI Massachusetts. Miami has a stellar #48 RPI and #32 SOS, but they’re far from comfortably in with a 4-7 road record and a 4-10 record vs. the RPI top-100. Their Wednesday trip to Raleigh is huge. They can’t afford another road setback after losing at Maryland last week.

NC State (18-11, 7-7)- Mark Gottfried’s bunch had three chances for resume-building wins at Duke and home vs. UNC and Florida State. They lost all three and compounded the problem by falling at #144 RPI Clemson this past Saturday. NC State is 0-8 vs. the RPI top-50 and now stands at 7-7 in the ACC with a #67 RPI. A loss in either of their final two games vs. Miami and at Virginia Tech would all but eliminate them from bubble contention. They’ll need to claw their way to 9-7 and defeat one of the ACC’s big three in the conference tournament to have a chance.

Big 12

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Weekly Bracketology: 02.27.12

Posted by zhayes9 on February 27th, 2012

Zach Hayes is RTC’s official bracketologist.

  • Last Four In: St. Joseph’s, Northwestern, Miami, BYU.
  • First Four Out: South Florida, Colorado State, Dayton, Oregon.
  • Next Four Out: Arizona, VCU, Illinois, UCF.

Click on bracket to enlarge and check out my latest bubble watch update here.

S-Curve

  • 1 Seeds: Syracuse, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke
  • 2 Seeds: Michigan State, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio State
  • 3 Seeds: Marquette, Baylor, Michigan, Georgetown
  • 4 Seeds: Wisconsin, Louisville, Indiana, Wichita State
  • 5 Seeds: Florida, Florida State, UNLV, Notre Dame
  • 6 Seeds: Temple, Vanderbilt, Murray State, Creighton
  • 7 Seeds: San Diego State, New Mexico, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
  • 8 Seeds: Purdue, Iowa State, Kansas State, Virginia
  • 9 Seeds: Memphis, Alabama, Southern Miss, Cincinnati
  • 10 Seeds: California, Saint Louis, Connecticut, West Virginia
  • 11 Seeds: Long Beach State, Mississippi State, Washington, Harvard
  • 12 Seeds: Seton Hall, Xavier, Texas, BYU, Miami
  • 13 Seeds: Northwestern, St. Joseph’s, Oral Roberts, Iona, Drexel
  • 14 Seeds: Middle Tennessee, Nevada, Akron, Davidson
  • 15 Seeds: Belmont, Valparaiso, Weber State, UT-Arlington
  • 16 Seeds: LIU Brooklyn, Bucknell, UNC-Asheville, Stony Brook, Mississippi Valley State, Savannah State
*italics indicates automatic bid*

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Bracketology S-Curve Update: 02.24.12

Posted by zhayes9 on February 24th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

  • Last Four In: NC State, Northwestern, Texas, Washington
  • First Four Out: South Florida, Oregon, Arizona, Dayton
  • Next Four Out: Miami, LSU, UCF, Massachusetts

(bold indicates auto bid, italics indicates a bubble team)

1 Seeds: Syracuse, Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State

2 Seeds: Missouri, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio State

3 Seeds: Michigan, Marquette, Baylor, Georgetown

4 Seeds: Florida State, Louisville, Florida, Indiana

5 Seeds: Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Temple, Wichita State

6 Seeds: UNLV, Murray State, Vanderbilt, New Mexico

7 Seeds: Creighton, Kansas State, Gonzaga, San Diego State

8 Seeds: Saint Mary’s, Virginia, California, Iowa State

9 Seeds: Saint Louis, Memphis, Cincinnati, Harvard

10 Seeds: Connecticut, Mississippi State, West Virginia, Purdue

11 Seeds: Alabama, Southern Miss, Long Beach State, Seton Hall

12 Seeds: BYU, Xavier, Colorado State, Washington, Texas

13 Seeds: Northwestern, NC State, Middle Tennessee, Oral Roberts, Akron

14 Seeds: Iona, Drexel, Nevada, Davidson

15 Seeds: Belmont, Weber State, Valparaiso, Bucknell

16 Seeds: LIU Brooklyn, UT-Arlington, UNC-Asheville, Stony Brook, Mississippi Valley State, Savannah State

  • Cincinnati is one of the more difficult teams to seed in recent memory. It really boils down to how much you believe the committee is going to weigh RPI/SOS relative to RPI top-50 wins. I tried to find a happy medium at a #9 seed. The Bearcats computer numbers are appalling (74 RPI, 114 SOS, 319 non-conference SOS) but no teams behind them in today’s S-Curve boast the same abundance of quality wins: at Georgetown, Louisville, at Connecticut, Notre Dame, Seton Hall with a 6-4 true road record and a 10-5 mark in the Big East. That’s an impressive portfolio for a supposed bubble team without even glimpsing at the RPI. One has to believe Cincinnati is in at 11-7.
  • Missouri dropping from the third number one seed to the first number two seed after one loss may seem a bit harsh, but it’s more about what Duke and Michigan State have done than what Missouri hasn’t done. Duke and Michigan State played much more rugged non-conference schedules and currently lead their respective leagues. For example, Duke beat Michigan State, Kansas, Michigan, Washington, NC State, Belmont and Davidson along the way, not to mention true road ACC wins at North Carolina and Florida State. Duke may be the most flawed top seed in recent memory, but that shouldn’t alter any objective analysis of their resume to date. Missouri is hampered a bit by a #269 non-conference SOS and fewer quality wins throughout the season than either the Devils or Spartans. That can change with a win at Kansas on Saturday.
  • All Oregon and Arizona can do is keep winning and let the dominoes fall as they may. Until a potential Pac-12 tournament meeting with either Cal or Washington, there’s no opportunity for even anything resembling a quality win remaining on the schedule. The Ducks visit rival Oregon State before finishing at home with Colorado and Utah while Arizona topped USC last night and end their schedule with UCLA and Arizona State. Playing in the Pac-12 this season limits chances to pick up scalps, especially after squandering nearly all of their marquee non-league games in November and December. Washington’s sweep of Arizona looms mighty large at the moment.
  • The opposite is true with South Florida. The Bulls back-loaded schedule brings Cincinnati to Tampa this Sunday. Depending on how other bubble teams fare, USF may move into Monday’s field with a victory. A trip to Louisville and a home date with West Virginia prior to the Big East Tournament present even more opportunities. If Stan Heath’s team can win two games, it would be awfully hard for the committee to leave a 12-6 Big East team out of the field despite non-league losses to Auburn, Penn State and Old Dominion. USF boasts a 48 RPI, 28 SOS and 49 non-conference SOS.

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College Basketball’s Hits and Misses

Posted by zhayes9 on February 23rd, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Crystal balls are in full supply every November. We pour through every known statistic to find that overlooked All-American candidate. We criticize the coaches for their preseason picks and condemn the AP poll for overrating Duke. National player of the year rankings are compiled and there’s an inevitable temptation to put some serious coin on that perfect Final Four sleeper at 25/1. It all seems so easy.

Of course, there’s a reason why we don’t all own private islands in the Caribbean. Some of our predictions compare to Nostradamus’ best work while others blow up in our faces. You can’t win them all. For every successful prediction, there’s one you’d like to forget. Here’s a brief rundown of what many considered conventional wisdom before the season and whether those statements turned fall under the category of hits or misses:

Zeller has been spectacular as a freshman

HIT: Cody Zeller is Indiana’s program-changer

The expectations heaped on the broad shoulders of the youngest Zeller were enough to overwhelm even the most talented freshman. His much-publicized pledge was immediately viewed as Tom Crean’s major recruiting breakthrough and a significant step toward Indiana reclaiming old glory. Zeller has exceeded even the most optimistic projections, leading Indiana to two marquee wins over Kentucky and Ohio State and a yearlong spot in the national rankings. The Washington, Ind., native is averaging 15.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and hitting 64 percent of his shots while providing Crean a post presence to counterbalance Indiana’s outside shooters. Zeller’s instant impact has Indiana one year ahead of schedule in their treacherous post-Kelvin Sampson rebuild and, with a star-studded class entering Bloomington for 2012-13, even more national acclaim is in store should Zeller return for a sophomore season.

MISS: Xavier is a final four sleeper

Immediately after Tu Holloway opted for a final year at Xavier over the NBA Draft, the Musketeers were labeled a top-25 shoe-in and popular Final Four pick. After all, Chris Mack’s first two seasons as head coach produced an extraordinary 29-3 conference record and most key contributors were returning for a program that has experienced their fair share of March success in recent years. The story of Xavier’s season hasn’t exactly stayed on course. The Musketeers are 9-9 since that ugly brawl with Cincinnati, Holloway apparently doesn’t enjoy basketball anymore, suspensions and inconsistency have plagued Frease and the once-popular Musketeers may be NIT-bound following their loss Tuesday at UMass.

HIT: Tom Izzo has a team more to his liking

After discarding malcontents from a roster that slipped from number two in the nation to 19-15 overall last season, many prognosticators examined Sparty’s new-look roster and jumped back on the bandwagon. That faith has been rewarded in spades. Draymond Green is a Cleaves-type leader and a surefire All-American. Equally coachable and talented underclassmen Keith Appling and Brendan Dawson are stars in the making. Derrick Nix is finally in shape and Adreian Payne outplayed Jared Sullinger during the team’s statement win over Ohio State. Izzo’s squad is clearly embracing his philosophy of rugged defense, well-executed set plays and an unwavering effort on the boards, ranking second in the nation in defensive efficiency and third in rebound margin. This is a confident team climbing the polls and zeroing in on a Big Ten title and number one seed.

MISS: Andre Drummond is the missing piece to another Connecticut Final Four run

I was covering a high school football game in late August when Andre Drummond stunned the college hoops world and shunned another year of prep school to walk on with the defending national champs. I’ll never forget re-doing my preseason top five on the spot: North Carolina, Kentucky, Connecticut, Ohio State and Syracuse in order. Despite the departure of Kemba Walker, lottery picks Drummond and Jeremy Lamb paired with emerging talents Alex Oriakhi and Shabazz Napier appeared sufficient enough to warrant a spot in the top five. What we neglected to remember was that Drummond was a raw, unseasoned, 18-year old center with no low post moves. It was a considerable step up to the Big East after simply overwhelming all opposition at the high school level. His lackluster 9.9 points per game, 32 percent free throw shooting and on-court chemistry issues with Oriakhi can attest to that. Drummond is still a future lottery pick and defensive menace, but his arrival hasn’t vaulted Connecticut to nearly the heights anticipated on that late summer day he opted to join the Huskies.

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Bubble Watch: 02.20.12

Posted by zhayes9 on February 20th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Locks: Temple, North Carolina, Florida State, Duke, Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, Syracuse, Marquette, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Louisville, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Wichita State, Creighton, New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State, Murray State, Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga.

Tu Holloway stepped up Saturday against Dayton to keep Xavier in the field

Atlantic 10

Saint Louis (22-5, 10-3)- The Billikens tournament hopes could ride on how much the committee factors in their attractive computer numbers (21 RPI, 11 KenPom, 17 Sagarin) and discards a void in the quality win department. Their only decent wins came over bubble teams Xavier (road) and Washington (home) while missed opportunities at New Mexico and home vs. Temple loom large. A 10-3 conference record, stellar RPI and another win over Xavier when the Musketeers return to SLU on February 28 should be sufficient for a bid.

Xavier (17-9, 8-4)- The unpredictable Musketeers stayed on the right side of the bubble by dispatching Dayton in overtime on Saturday and their only opportunity for a resume-building win is the aforementioned meeting with Saint Louis. Avoiding a defeat at Massachusetts on Tuesday is paramount given Xavier’s already questionable losses against Hawaii, La Salle and Oral Roberts when their team was depleted by suspensions. Xavier does have impressive wins at Vanderbilt and home vs. Purdue, but both of those came before December 3. Their #54 RPI and #54 SOS screams bubble team.

ACC

Virginia (20-6, 7-5)- The Cavaliers have long been considered NCAA worthy but their overall portfolio is actually quite lacking. Their only two RPI top-50 wins came over Michigan back in November and a one-point home win over Miami, while regrettable losses to TCU, Clemson and home vs. Virginia Tech loom. The #231 non-conference strength of schedule is another anchor. The remaining schedule isn’t forgiving – revenge game at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, at Maryland– but on the flip side there are two RPI top-20 scalps coming to Charlottesville. Win just one and Tony Bennett can breathe easier.

NC State (18-9, 7-5)- The Wolfpack just concluded a devastating week, blowing a huge second half lead at Duke and 48 hours later getting blown out of the water at home against Florida State. With only one RPI top-50 win after Texas fell out following their own crushing loss, State is barely our last team in. The only chance for resuscitation is by beating North Carolina at home on Tuesday and finishing off a sweep of Miami on February 29. They also face a tricky road game at Clemson sandwiched in between. The computer numbers (57 RPI, 38 SOS, 29 non-conference SOS) are respectable.

Miami (16-9, 7-5)- At the moment, the Canes are pinning their tournament hopes on that crucial road win against Duke on Super Bowl Sunday because they have absolutely nothing else. Their next best wins by RPI is UMass at home, largely because all their important non-conference games – at West Virginia, at Purdue, Memphis– were played without star center Reggie Johnson. The Canes were also swept by North Carolina, lost at Virginia and Florida State and fell to NC State at home. The Seminoles return date on February 26 is a must win or the resume will be too empty to deserve serious consideration.

Big 12

Iowa State (19-8, 7-5)- The most difficult portion of the Cyclones schedule is yet to come with games at Kansas State, at Missouri and home vs. Baylor to wrap up the regular season. Winning either road game would solidify their bid, but even downing Baylor in Ames would give them home wins over Kansas, Baylor and Kansas State, likely enough to punch a ticket in this bubble climate. Iowa State has average numbers (42 RPI, 35 KenPom, 36 Sagarin) and bad losses at Drake, home vs. Northern Iowa and at Oklahoma State. They beat fellow bubble team Texas 77-71 at home in their only meeting.

Kansas State (18-8, 7-7)- The #59 RPI, #250 non-conference SOS and sweep at the hands of Oklahoma are setbacks, but their overall profile appears solid after Saturday’s enormous win at Baylor coupled with wins vs. Missouri, Texas and in the  non-conference vs. Long Beach State and Alabama. Both KenPom and Sagarin like the Wildcats more than the flawed RPI, ranking Kansas Stateat #25 in the country. Tuesday’s trip to Missouri is basically house money with three winnable games vs. Iowa State, at Texas A&M and vs.Oklahoma State remaining on the Big 12 slate. Take care of business in those three and Frank Martin’s squad is in the field.

Texas (17-10, 7-7)- Tonight’s clash with Baylor in Austin is just as enormous to their tournament chances as Saturday’s bad loss at Oklahoma State. The young Horns don’t stand a chance at Kansas; with Texas Tech and Oklahoma their only other remaining games before the Big 12 Tournament, this is their golden opportunity to stay viable for the selection committee. The losses to Kansas and Missouri by a combined five points loom large. Their best wins to date are all at home vs.Temple, Iowa State and Kansas State. Texas has yet to beat a team in the RPI top 100 on the road.

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Weekly Bracketology: 02.13.11

Posted by zhayes9 on February 13th, 2012

Zach Hayes is RTC’s official bracketologist.

*click on the bracket for a full-screen view

  • Last Four In: Arizona, Northwestern, Minnesota, NC State
  • First Four Out: Texas, Miami, Colorado State, Colorado
  • Next Four Out: Washington, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oregon
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Rivalry Week Lessons Learned

Posted by zhayes9 on February 13th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Now that football season is finally in the rear view mirror, college basketball has stepped into its rightful place on the national radar. The previous week has brought us a slew of thrilling rivalries, intra-conference showdowns and last-second finishes in the endless pursuit to decipher which teams have the capabilities to make a deep March run. The rigors of conference play, especially in hostile environments facing a despised foe, exposes flaws hidden early in the season by facing inferior opposition. In the last week alone, my perception of a number of top teams has altered drastically. Here are the lessons gleaned from a week of non-stop college basketball viewing:

John Calipari might have his best team in Lexington

A zone defense could be Kentucky’s kryptonite: Containing the Wildcats’ absurd quickness off the dribble, Teague-to-Davis pick-and-roll dunks and overall athleticism is nearly impossible playing straight man defense. Vanderbilt attempted to stay in front of Kentucky’s guards with the pillowy soft man-to-man defense of Brad Tinsley and John Jenkins early in the first half Saturday and failed miserably. Faced with a double-digit deficit, a zone defense combined with hot shooting turned the tide. A zone not only limits ball screening and penetration, but it goads Kentucky into firing up threes, where only Doron Lamb is an elite marksman from deep. Luckily for Calipari and the Cats, neither Mississippi State nor Florida – their two toughest road tests on the docket the remainder of the season – utilizes a zone the majority of the time. A matchup with Syracuse on April 2 would be fascinating.

Ohio State’s perimeter play is a definite concern: Saturday’s unsightly home loss to Michigan State – coupled with Kentucky’s near-invincibility since Christian Watford’s game-winner in December – was the first time I legitimately re-considered my prevailing thought that the Buckeyes would play for a national title April 2 in New Orleans. The Spartans are a top-ten outfit and special on the defensive end, but I’m unconvinced that Ohio State’s guards can provide enough in the scoring column to help the overworked Jared Sullinger in the post. Defenses can go under screens and sag off Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith plays due to his defensive prowess and William Buford’s declining offensive rating and effective FG% back up his inconsistent shooting outputs. If Sullinger runs into another physical frontcourt presence similar to Sparty’s Adreian Payne – or UK’s Josh Harrellson dating back to last year’s Sweet 16 – the Bucks may fall short of their perennially lofty goals.

Tyler Zeller is the best player in the ACC: In the battle of the two best overall players in the conference, Carolina’s Zeller (25 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) outplayed Virginia’s Mike Scott (18 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 steals) to take the lead in ACC POY discussions. Zeller’s value to the Heels isn’t limited to the box score; the 7-foot center routinely tops UNC coaching staff’s defensive rankings and is one of the top charge-takers in the nation. His ability to run rim-to-rim and spark Carolina’s patented fast break leads to an abundance of easy baskets and that left shoulder jump hook is often unstoppable. His marvelous first half performance against Duke on Wednesday is easily lost in the shuffle due to end-of-game heroics, but he single-handedly kept Carolina within striking distance with his play on both ends. Scott means more to the Cavs, but Zeller is the best player in the league.

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March’s Top Cinderella Candidates

Posted by zhayes9 on January 31st, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Did you think last year’s NCAA Tournament was chaotic? That was nothing.

That’s right, the tournament that saw two out of eleven Big East teams reach the Sweet Sixteen, #10-seed Florida State face #11-seed VCU in a regional semifinal and two mid-majors provide the undercard on Final Four Saturday could pale in comparison to what we’ll witness in 2012. Never before have the perceived top teams in the nation been more flawed. Never before has the soft underbelly of every power conference been more susceptible. Never before have the upper echelon mid-major schools been as viable and competitive. It’s a distribution of wealth that would make Bernie Sanders blush.

Which Mid-Majors Have the Best Shot to Celebrate Like This?

By the time we reach New Orleans, the cream may rise to the crop. A Final Four consisting of Kentucky, Ohio State, North Carolina and Syracuse wouldn’t stun me. It’s during the first weekend where a handful of non-BCS schools could knock off inadequate power-conference at-large teams. Don’t say you weren’t prepared.

Who are the mid-majors (a designation that excludes the Atlantic 10, Conference USA or Mountain West) most likely to crash the party? Here’s a good place to start:

  1. Saint Mary’s: The Gaels performed an offensive clinic best saved for instructional videos in a difficult road environment at BYU on Saturday. After watching that display (and two prior destructions to both BYU and Gonzaga on their home floor) it comes as no surprise that St. Mary’s assists on nearly 62% of made field goals. Their offensive assault is led by face-of-the-program Matthew Dellavedova, who plays almost 92% of the teams’ minutes, ranks in the country’s top 50 in assist rate and provides another shooting threat. What gives the Gaels the sustainability to win multiple games in the Tournament is dominance inside the arc. Randy Bennett’s team shoots 55% and holds opponents to 44% despite employing just two regular rotation players taller than 6’7”.
  2. Creighton: We know all about Doug McDermott’s All-America caliber season: an unfathomable 65% from two and 50% from three to match his 23.5 points per game. Now he only needs a sexier name to reach Jimmer-like cult status. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a one-man rodeo. What’s carried the Bluejays to a 10-1 record in the Valley is a formidable supporting cast with all of the ingredients for a deep March push: an athletic big man in Greg Echenique who can hold his own against power-conference frontlines, a heady senior point guard in Antoine Young with a more than 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, stat sheet stuffer Grant Gibbs and two rangy shooters in Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge. Read the rest of this entry »
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