The Gummy Bear Defense

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2008

Hey, if you can’t stop Memphis uber-frosh Derrick Rose using traditional definitions of defense, denial and hard work, why not just make sure he gets an upset tummy off of a diet of gummy bears, starburst and sour straws. Sometimes we forget how old some of these guys are…

From the AP report:

He walked into a scheduled group interview with his fellow starters and coach John Calipari, then went over to Calipari and whispered something to him. They went into the hall together, then Calipari returned alone. “He said his stomach was bothering him,” Calipari said. “I told him to go back and see the trainer.” The Tigers were scheduled to practice at the Alamodome at 2 p.m., but Calipari opted to work out elsewhere. A team spokesman said Rose’s status would be updated later Sunday. Teammates weren’t too worried. “He eats Gummy Bears and Starburst for breakfast, and Twizzlers and Honey Buns for dinner. That’s why his stomach hurts,” fellow guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. “We tell Derrick the whole year, ‘Stop eating so many Gummy Bears and Sour Straws.’ But he can’t. … Nobody eats Gummy Bears more than him.”

Rose\'s Kryptonite?

Rose’s Kryptonite

Is it possible a new shipment of candied assortments will show up at Rose’s hotel room (Riverwalk Marriott Room #1973) around 5pm CDT tomorrow? KU fans, hit your candy stores now – you may have inadvertently stumbled upon 38-1 Memphis’ kryptonite.

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Thoughts on Kansas-UNC

Posted by nvr1983 on April 5th, 2008

Wow. If the Memphis-UCLA game gave us a dominating performance, this game gave us a roller-coaster ride. I called one of my friends who is a UNC fan when Kansas was up by 22. He didn’t answer (not a surprise) so I left a message that consisted mostly of me laughing. I kept on expecting a return call from him in the 2nd half, but mercifully that call will never happen.

1) I don’t think I have ever seen a quality team get blown out as decisively as UNC did at the beginning of the game. Kansas was all over the court and UNC looked like their feet were in cement. The only thing I can think of that comes close to this was the 2001 Duke-Maryland Final 4 game that Packer and Nantz refered to the entire game. Although Packer blew it when he said “This game is over” with 7:32 left in the 1st half, he was quick to criticize the Jayhawks for letting the Tar Heels back in the game late in 1st half.

2) The next 15 minutes were a completely different story. Kansas wore down after their torrid start. UNC didn’t even play exceptionally well to make the game close again. Kansas just kept on making dumb plays and coming up short on 3s while UNC played solidly hitting a few 3s to get themselves back in the game. UNC cut it to 54-50 with 11:16 left. At that point, I fully expected UNC to win this game.

3) Amazingly the guy who may have saved the season for the Jayhawks was Sasha Kaun, who made several nice plays just before the 6 minute mark to give Kansas some much needed breathing room (because they were choking if you didn’t notice).

4) In the end, Kansas used a late spurt to win rather easily (in relative terms). Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington both had decent if unspectacular games. The key for UNC was that Ty Lawson was awful going 2 for 8 (1 was a meaningless jumper with 20 secs left) from the floor and allowing Kansas to force a ton of UNC turnovers. I know it was the whole UNC team that was turning it over early, but Lawson should have made sure that Kansas didn’t steal the ball every freaking time in that first half stretch. I’m not really sure what to make of this Kansas team. Which team will show up on Monday night?

5) Tip of the hat to the Kansas fans for what I thought was a “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk” towards the end of the game.

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Thoughts on Memphis-UCLA

Posted by nvr1983 on April 5th, 2008

We’ll provide you with a more in-depth analysis later, but we figured we would offer some of our early thoughts.

1) Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts totally dominated this game. UCLA didn’t have an answer for either one of them. It looked like Rose wasn’t attacking as much when UCLA put Russell Westbrook on him, but for some reason Ben Howland decided to keep Darren Collison on Rose for most of the game until Collison fouled out with 2:53 left. As much as we hate to say it, Billy Packer was right when he kept on saying that Westbrook should guard Rose and Josh Shipp should guard CDR, who probably would have abused Shipp, but at least one of Memphis’s studs would have been contained a little better. Rose is definitely ready to go to the NBA and CDR should be a nice addition to a team if a coach can find a way to incorporate his unique game into the offense. Both guys also did a great job knocking down FTs at the end making the last minute a mere formality rather than a tension-filled FT contest that many people were expecting if Memphis was in a close game. CDR also provided the game’s defining play with his baseline dunk on Kevin Love. It reminded us of Kobe’s “Who’s the MVP?!?” dunk on Nash a couple years ago.

CDR asserting his dominance

Look familiar?

2) Memphis got to play at the pace they wanted. It was evident early on that the game was going to be fast-paced. UCLA was able to hang close for the first half, but eventually the pace wore them down. This was particularly evident with Kevin Love who barely touched the ball in the 2nd half and looked sluggish moving up and down the court. In the end, Memphis’s ability to run and its deep-bench full of guys who can all run (except Pierre Niles) proved to be the deciding factor as they opened up a big gap late in the 2nd half and cruised from there.

3) Despite early foul trouble, Joey Dorsey and Shawn Taggert did a great job battling Kevin Love all game. Love won the battle in the first half, but the rotation of big bodies and the fast pace of the game wore out Love. We hope that Love stays in school at least one more year because he still needs some more work before he goes to the NBA. Tonight should have shown him as much. While the Memphis inside guys aren’t NBA-quality players, they have NBA-level athleticism and strength. Love has the requisite strength, but he isn’t athletic enough to go to the league right now. He will never be a Dwight Howard, but some more running over the summer will help cover up some of his athletic deficiencies. He has been able to get away with it all year because they pace has been slow and he has been the strongest guy on the inside, but today was a preview of what the NBA will hold and hopefully Love will consider that before declaring for the draft.

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Final 4 Preview: UCLA-Memphis & UNC-Kansas

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2008

UCLA vs. Memphis (6:07 PM): Coming into the tournament UCLA was picked by most analysts to win the championship, but after close games in the 2nd round and Sweet 16 several pundits (including your favorite college basketball blogger) wrote them off. The Bruins responded with what may have been their best performance of the year, a 76-57 beatdown of #3 seed Xavier. While super-frosh Kevin Love has given them consistent performances throughout the tournament (hence the West Regional MOP designation), the rest of the team has been up-and-down. The one thing that has carried this team has been that they play great D the entire 40 minutes. However, if the Bruins want to cut down the nets on Monday in San Antonio Ben Howland’s crew will need solid performances out of Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp, who has played poorly in 6 of his last 7 games.

On the other side, Memphis was getting ripped apart by every analyst the entire season for their poor free throw shooting heading into the Sweet 16. It’s true that nobody will confuse the Tigers for a bunch of J.J. Redicks at the free throw line, but it doesn’t really matter when you’re up 50-20 at half (on Michigan State). The Tigers followed up that massacre with a demolition of #2 seed Texas, who was playing a virtual home game in Houston. In that game, Derrick Rose established himself as the premier point guard in college as he totally dominated 1st team All-American D.J. Augustin. Despite all the athleticism this team has, Rose is really the catalyst for everything and that’s certainly saying something on a team that features C-USA POY and 1st team All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts. However, the key for Memphis may be Joey Dorsey who has a penchant for picking up quick fouls (note: Final 4 games tend to be officiated closely; see last year’s semi where Oden and Hibbert barely played in the first half). If Dorsey can avoid foul trouble, he will be a force inside. If he gets in foul trouble, the Tigers will have to rely on Iowa State transfer Shawn Taggert. (Fortunately for Dorsey, there is nobody left in the tournament who can dominate Dorsey on the inside if he decides to run his mouth like he did last year before playing Greg Oden.)

This is the part where I normally would feature the key matchup, but in this case there are just so many interesting matchups: Derrick Rose vs. Darren Collison; Chris Douglas-Roberts vs. Russell Westbrook/Josh Shipp; and Joey Dorsey vs. Kevin Love.

- Rose vs. Collison: Collison is an outstanding college PG, but he’s out of his league here. We all saw what Rose did to Augustin and Texas. He’s just at a different level than any of the PGs in college. While he can get a little out of control at times, his physical skills (size, speed, and strength) would put him near the top of NBA PGs in those categories, which means he’s a nightmare match-up for almost any PG. In addition to this, Rose has shown that he can hit the outside shot and create havoc defensively because of his physical skills. Rose will have to watch out for Collison’s outside shot because he shoots a high percentage even if he doesn’t pull the trigger that often. If Rose is making his jump shot, he’s basically unguardable and could dominate this game. If he does, Ben Howland may have to switch things up and put Westbrook on him. I don’t think it will matter. Advantage: Rose.

- Douglas-Roberts vs. Westbrook/Shipp: This will be an interesting match-up as it features several really athletic players. Douglas-Roberts usuallly has a big edge in almost any match-up, but I think that the UCLA guards have the length and athleticism to bother him. I think Shipp will spend most of the night against CDR, but UCLA might use Westbrook on him occassionally. Westbrook is one of the most athletic players in the country, but CDR’s 4″ height advantage and long arms might be too much for Westbrook to overcome. The key to this match-up is whether Shipp can score. If he does, this match-up might shift more towards a neutral decision, but he hasn’t done it lately and that’s what we’re going with. Advantage: Douglas-Roberts.

- Dorsey vs. Love: This will be a battle of contrasting styles as Dorsey is more of a bruiser in the paint while Love has an excellent all-around game. There is no question as to who will “win” this match-up in terms of the box score and individual match-up. The big question is whether Love will get Dorsey in foul trouble early taking him out of the paint to open up the basket to UCLA’s perimeter players’ drives. Advantage: Love.

The real key to this game is the pace. If Memphis can turn this into a running game in the 70s or 80s, they should win. If UCLA can keep it in the 50s, it will probably come down to free throws and. . .well you’ve heard it a million times in the past month.

Opening Line: Memphis -1.
Prediction: As we said, this game will likely decided by the pace of the game. Everyone likes to talk about the Bruins’ defense, but the key may be the Tigers’ defense. While they are more known for their athleticism and dribble-drive motion offense, the Tigers can play phenomenal defense. If you need evidence, ask Tom Izzo about the first half of their Sweet 16 game when the Spartans looked terrified to bring the ball up the court. The Tigers use their athleticism to put a lot of pressure on the dribbler and fill passing lanes. Collison and Westbrook will be pressured all night, but should provide more resistance than Michigan State or Texas provided. It will be interesting to see how UCLA utilizes Love and his ability to throw the outlet pass to try and avoid this pressure. In the end, I just think Memphis is playing on a different level than the Bruins right now. This all depends on whether the Tigers can carry over their momentum from Houston to San Antonio. I’m going with Memphis pulling away midway through the 2nd half to win by 5 as they hit enough free throws at the end to advance to the championship game to face the winner of. . .

Kansas vs. North Carolina (8:47 PM): The juicy and delicious backstory to this game is ol’ dadgummit Roy coaching UNC for the first time against his former employer Kansas. Although Roy didn’t recruit or coach any of the current players on the KU roster, there are still numerous friends and acquaintances associated with the program who remain stung by Huckleberry Hound’s quick 180 from not giving a sheit about Carolina to taking the job one week later. Naturally, we tend to side with the KU boosters when they rail on Roy because it’s true – he can’t have it both ways. Like Pitino when he took the job at Louisville, you dance with the devil you came with, and both of these gentlemen made professional decisions that they undoubtedly knew would lead to their sanctified statuses at KU and UK being called into question.

So what does this mean for tomorrow’s game between a bunch of players who were all in high school when Roy Williams alighted for Tarheel blue? Not much. We expect that the Kansas players know how much this game means to its fans, and they might come out a little stronger than they otherwise would have, but in terms of the effects on the game over forty minutes, we don’t see it mattering all that much. As always, it comes down to the matchups.

In looking at the numbers and the talent on the floor at positions 1-5, it’s difficult not to like Kansas. Their offensive and defensive efficiency are both in the top five in the nation. Their scoring balance creates a conundrum (whom to stop?) for a defensively-challenged UNC team, as four starters average between 12.7 and 13.1 ppg. And their experience (2 srs, 2 jrs, 1 soph in the starting five) also trumps the younger Heels (2 jrs, 3 sophs).

The player by player matchups tell a slightly different story, though. On the perimeter, we love the way that Kansas guard Mario Chalmers and forward Brandon Rush have been playing, but nobody in college basketball has the quickness and wherewithal to stay with UNC’s Ty Lawson when he ignites the engine on fast breaks. The x-factor we see in the backcourt is Carolina’s Wayne Ellington. He has a tendency to run hot/cold, but when he’s hitting his outside jumper the Heels are damn near unbeatable. In their only two losses of the year Ellington went 9-30, and KU’s guards must make sure to rotate out on him to eliminate his open looks.

In the post, nothing more needs to be said about Tyler Hansbrough. The way he’s playing right now we’re going to just pencil him in for 25/12 and wonder how Kansas plans to counteract him. The trio of Darrell Arthur, Darnell Robinson and Sasha Kaun collective are talented enough to challenge Hansbrough, but once again, the x-factor will be whether UNC forward Deon Thompson can hit his open looks that will come as a result of triple teams on Hansbrough. Whether x-factors Thompson and Ellington will knock these shots down will go a long way to determining who will ultimately win this game.

Opening Line: UNC -3
Prediction: In our view, this game will be a test of just how good Kansas’ defense actually is. Assuming they let Hansbrough get his numbers, will KU then be able to put the clamps down on everyone else, especially the two x-factors mentioned above – Ellington and Thompson? Should Kansas limit those players to poor shooting nights while also corralling Lawson’s fast break opportunities, then the Jayhawks will have a very good chance and probably should win the game. But this is a weighty task, and we have a feeling that there are too many things that need to happen for Kansas to win this game. Therefore, our prediction is that either Ellington or Thompson will have a good game, Lawson will break free enough times to get some easy points, and the Heels will run away with the game early in the second half, winning by 10+ points. Part of the reason for our assessment here is that we simply think UNC is purring too well right now to be denied, but what most worries us about Kansas is what they exhibited last week against Davidson, the same thing we’ve seen throughout the Bill Self era. KU played tighter than a Promise Keeper’s new wife on their wedding night, and it’s that tendency that is pushing us to lean toward the Heels.

FYI – Vegas Watch has its breakdown of the odds for the F4 games here. Pretty interesting reading, and we’re not a “sharp.”

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Bad break for Rodrick Stewart

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2008

It looks like Andre Allen won’t be the only senior reserve to miss the Final 4. At the end of the Jayhawks practice session today, several players were attempting dunks. Unfortunately, for KU senior Rodrick Stewart one of his dunk attempts went awry and he fractured his patella.

Sad way to go out. . .

Although the article doesn’t specify if it was just a routine dunk at the end of practice, I really hope he wasn’t trying to show off for the fans attending the practice. Having witnessed the tank job that was the Boston Celtics 2006-2007 season, I can’t help but think back to Tony Allen’s knee injury, which occured well after the whistle had blown.

At that point in the season, the Celtics weren’t going anywhere, but Allen was developing into a solid NBA player. He appears to be recovering from the injury and has contributed at times this year for the Celtics, but his numbers are well off his production before the injury (note: may have something to do with less playing time because the Celtics are slightly better this year). We hope Stewart a speedy and full recovery as the Final 4 would likely have been his last meaningful basketball games (2.8 PPG in 11.6 MPG this year as a senior).

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Kevin Love Has Strong Arms

Posted by rtmsf on April 1st, 2008

We saw this last weekend during the games and have been dutifully searching for video of it ever since. Thanks to Mighty MJD for posting it on Youtube, because this is a must-see for all hoops fans…

Can the presumptive POY Tyler Hansbrough do this?

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Final Four Primer

Posted by rtmsf on April 1st, 2008

Here’s a quick look at some odds and ends from each of the 2008 Final Four teams, while we’re busily getting ready for our preview later this week:

North Carolina (#1 seed East)

how they got here: blitzkrieged the East region pretenders (MSM, Arkansas, Wazzu, Louisville) by an average of 25.3 ppg

why they’ll win it all:  no other team has as much balanced offensive firepower as Lawson & Hansbrough

why they won’t:  ol’ Roy can’t win the Big One with his own players 

strengths:  offensive rebounding (#1 nationally) and FT shooting (76%) avoids long scoring droughts

kryptonite:  athletic defensive-minded teams such as Clemson & Virginia Tech gave them trouble – all three other #1 seeds fit the bill here

key stat:  Carolina is 22-0 away from Chapel Hill this season

Kansas (#1 seed Midwest)

how they got here:   without playing an elite team yet (seeds #16, #8, #12, #10)

why they’ll win it all:  no team has a better combination of explosive offense with shutdown defense than KU

why they won’t:  need we say it?  Bill Self teams play tight as a drum under pressure

strengths:  great shooting team (#6 nationally from two; #8 nationally from three) 

kryptonite:  teams that can turn them over can beat Kansas (Oklahoma St. and Kansas St. did just that); lucky for them, none of the remaining four teams are tremendous at causing TOs

key stat:  KU almost shoots as well from three (40.1%) as its opponents shoot from two (40.9%)

Memphis (#1 seed South)

how they got here:   handily, with three blowouts and one shoulda-been (vs. Miss. St.) but wasn’t because of poor foul shooting

why they’ll win it all:  they have an NBA-quality PG named Derrick Rose who gets off on taking over big games (witness his 19.4 ppg average against BCS teams this year)

why they won’t:  the Tigers aren’t as tested as the other three teams still standing; they’ve played three close games all season (2-1)

strengths:  athletic and long jumping jacks who lock up shooters (#8 nationally in FG% defense from two and #7 from three)

kryptonite:  that old Calipari bugaboo – 60.7% from the line is fine in blowouts, but not in close games

key stat:  one loss by four points – 39-1 would make this an all-time great team

UCLA (#1 seed West)

how they got here:   by allowing only 53.3 ppg in four Tourney games

why they’ll win it all:  experience – all but Love have seen the F4 at least once before (and thankfully, Florida isn’t around this time)

why they won’t:  prolonged scoring droughts are fine against Pac-10 foes, but won’t fly against offensive juggernauts such as the other three #1 seeds

strengths:  everything on the defensive end – steals (#11 nationally), blocks (#13), efficiency (#2)

kryptonite:  a poor shooting night (<40%) against an athletic team dooms the Bruins, no matter how good their defense is

key stat:  12 – Howland wants to get his gold C while the Wizard of Westwood is still alive

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“I Could Give a Sh!t About North Carolina”

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2008

I know the topic has been written about ad nauseum before, but I haven’t seen anything substantial written in the major news sources about it after the Elite 8 so I’m going to pretend that I’m breaking this story. . .

As most of you know after the 2003 season, Matt Doherty of 8-20 in 2001-2002 fame “resigned” from his position as head coach at UNC. Because Doherty resigned before the Final 4, much of the talk in the week leading up to the Final 4 that year (along with a freshman phenom Carmelo Anthony) was about who would take over the prized position as coach of the Tar Heels. After Dean Smith retired, he was succeeded for a brief period by Bill Guthridge, but that was only viewed as a temporary fix as, well let’s just say that Guthridge had a lot of “experience” by the time he became a head coach. UNC hired Doherty who was fresh off a great run at Notre Dame where he won a Big East Coach of the Year award. After a strong start, Doherty’s team fell apart the next year before entering the 2002-2003 season with a talented group of freshman that you may remember (Sean May, Rashad McCants, and Raymond Felton). They got off to a hot start that year winning the Preseason NIT with wins over then #2 Kansas (and Roy Williams) and a very talented Stanford squad. However, they fell apart when Sean May was injured soon after. Doherty’s resignation sparked widespread rumors with potential coaches ranging from the absurd (Dean Smith returning) to the more realistic choices (Williams and Larry Brown). Even Dick Vitale chimed in with his thoughts on the candidates.

All of this led up to the championship game, where after a week of questions about their coach leaving, Kansas fell to Syracuse 81-78 when Hakim Warrick came out of nowhere to swat away Michael Lee’s attempt to tie the game. In the post-game aftermath, Roy Williams was interviewed by Bonnie Bernstein. What followed was one of the great moments in sports TV history. Watch and enjoy:

It turns out that in some ways this “interview” became more famous or infamous (depending on your point of view) than the game itself. Some media members were quick to defend Bernstein. As for Williams, who late on April 7th denied even thinking about the UNC job for a second, he ended up leaving Kansas and his recruits and signed with UNC on April 14th. We won’t get into all the details of the process because it ended up being really convoluted, but Joe Posnanski covered it fairly well in his interview with Roy Williams soon after Williams decided to go to UNC.

The domino effect of this saga is pretty interesting in its own right:
– UNC hires Roy Williams from Kansas.
– Kansas hires Bill Self from Illinois.
– Illinois hires Bruce Weber from Southern Illinois.
– In 2005, UNC (Williams) defeats Illinois (Weber) in the national championship game.
– On Saturday night, Kansas (Self) gets a shot at revenge against Williams.

I can’t wait to see what the Kansas fans have in store for Old Roy on Saturday night. . .

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Bilas and Digger Not Bleeping Idiots After All

Posted by rtmsf on March 30th, 2008

Two Sundays ago we were first in line to dismiss, excoriate and otherwise belittle Digger Phelps and Jay Bilas when, during ESPN’s selection show, both of them went out on an extremely short limb by picking all #1 seeds to make the Final Four. See the evidence here (first two brackets unveiled).

We felt a little bit like we jumped the gun on Digger/Bilas when we noted that our own bracket ended up with three #1 seeds and a #2 seed, but we still felt that the likelihood of four #1 seeds making the 4 was almost nil, considering that it has never happened before.

We are now prepared to eat crow.

Crow

Moving on… is this the best Final Four ever, at least in terms of the quality of teams? Clearly we’ve never had four #1 seeds before, so that’s a great starting point, but how about the fact that the four teams have combined for a ridiculous record of 143-9 (.941) this season? Of those nine losses, only three of the Ls came to teams that were not in the NCAA Tournament this year (Washington, Oklahoma St., Maryland). We need to do some further research on this, but we have to believe this is the first time ever that the top four preseason teams in the AP and Coaches’ polls made the F4. All we can say is that whoever wins this year’s F4 will have definitely earned it.

Now on to the games today…

We have to give major love to John Calipari for somehow convincing his 37-1 team that they were an underdog at the South Regional. The way they were corralling loose balls and attempting to de-Shaqproof rims (mostly Joey Dorsey), it was clear that this team felt slighted. As Vegaswatch pointed out before the Sweet 16, Memphis became publicly undervalued in the last couple weeks of the season, which manifested itself in the Tigers getting unfavorable odds despite the fact that they spent much of the season at #1 in the country. We’re not sure how much life Calipari will get out of playing this card considering the two immolations of Michigan St. and Texas this weekend, but if Derrick Rose and others keep playing like this, it may not matter. Still, UCLA represents an old nemesis of John Calipari (UCLA won 50-45 in the E8 in 2006) and Memphis as a program (UCLA won the title 87-66 in 1973 over what was then called Memphis St.).

As for Kansas-Davidson, we were anxiously awaiting the Kansas collapse along with everyone else (you could have gotten 1:10 odds against Stephen Curry missing that transition 3 with 1:15 remaining), but it looked to us that Davidson finally reached a tipping point where NBA-level talent finally trumped a hardy group of very skilled players who have reached their full potential. Still, with that said, Davidson ended up willing itself into a last-second attempt to win the game. Far be it from us to question the strategy of a #10 seed that damn near made the F4, but we would have loved to have seen Davidson run a penetrate-and-kick/reversal play to get Curry the final shot rather than letting him try to create something himself (not his strength). What a tremendous run for this Davidson team, though – they represented the essence of the Tourney Cinderella better than anyone since the George Mason run a couple of years ago.

 

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Chalk City

Posted by nvr1983 on March 30th, 2008

It looks like Clark Kellogg will have bragging rights over the CBS Sports studio for the next week as for the first time in the 64+ team era the Final 4 will be composed of all #1s. In the end all four of these #1 seeds definitely seemed to be the best teams in their region.

All Chalk

East: UNC absolutely dominated every game they played. Louisville made it close for a little bit in the 2nd half, but Rick Pitino had no answer for Tyler Hansbrough, who apparently developed a great outside game sometime this year as he started to hit fall-away jumpers against good defense to put the Cardinals away.

West: So we got this game wrong. Out of all the #1 seeds, UCLA appeared to be the most vulnerable during their march to San Antonio. The Bruins looked very beatable between their drubbing of Mississippi Valley State in the 1st round and their beatdown of Xavier in the Elite 8. The one constant for the Bruins during the entire tournament has been Kevin Love, who has made himself several million dollars during this tournament if he decides to leave after this season. While everybody else on the team had at least one horrible game, Love showed up every night and is the reason that UCLA is in the Final 4. This didn’t hurt either.

South: After a shaky game in the 2nd round, Memphis looked like the #1 team in the country. After cruising in during the 2nd half of their win against Michigan State, Memphis dominated Texas in Houston. It seems like almost every analyst had Texas advancing out of this region. I certainly did although I was smart/fickle enough to change my mind and prediction before the Elite 8. Everybody picked on their inability to shoot free throws, but like Shaq they make them when it matters. In the Elite 8, Derrick Rose controlled the game winning the head-to-head match-up against D.J. Augustin ensuring he will be a top 2 pick in the draft if and when he declares (Beasley will be #1 unless a team really needs a PG). They will be a tough match-up for pre-tournament favorite UCLA.

Midwest: After rolling through the first 3 rounds, Kansas finally ran into a challenge in the Elite 8. Davidson put up a great fight, but in the end Kansas just had too much as they dominated the Wildcats on the inside the entire game. Stephen Curry and Brian Barr had great games for the Wildcats, who did a phenomenal job of getting back on defense to prevent Kansas from running the way they like. The Jayhawks took the lead for good on a 3 by Sherron Collins with 6:35 left. Davidson had a chance to win on the last possession, but Stephen Curry made a rare mistake for him in this tournament by taking too much time leaving Jason Richards to attempt a desperation 3 at the buzzer. Tip of the hat to Davidson and Curry who had a great game and tournament. It seemed to me that Curry ran out of gas at the end as he had a great first half, but did not have his usual second half explosion or one of his best shooting days today (4/15 from 3). Congrats to Bill Self for finally getting to the Final 4.

We’ll be back later with a preview of the Final 4 along with some shots at Roy Williams going against his old school Kansas in the late game on Saturday. Check back throughout the week as we’ll be making more posts.

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Elite 8 Preview: Kansas-Davidson & Memphis-Texas

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2008

- #1 Memphis vs. #2 Texas (2:20 PM): The most-maligned #1 seed in recent memory, Memphis looked like they were playing with a chip on their shoulder in the 1st half against Michigan State as they absolutely crushed the Spartans jumping out to a 50-20 lead (that’s not a typo). If they play like that, it doesn’t matter if they continue to shoot free throws like Ben Wallace.

As the Spartans found out, Memphis has the most athletic team in the country. When they are on, they are virtually unbeatable. The problem is that if they aren’t then it comes down to the little things (like the aforementioned free throws). However, they were clicking on Friday night and they were absolutely scary. Honestly, it looked like a good NBA team was playing against a mediocre college team. The Tigers like to get out and run, which they do very well with potential top-2 pick Derrick Rose at point and C-USA POY Chris Douglas-Roberts leading the way. Defensively, they will need to focus on slowing down D.J. Augustin, who is by far the best PG they have faced. I am assuming they will put Antonio Anderson, who held Drew Neitzel scoreless (only 6 garbage time points), on Augustin but it will be a difficult match-up. He will need a lot of help from his teammates as Augustin is difficult to contain with just one man.

For the Longhorns to advance to San Antonio, they will need a big game from Augustin while utilizing Connor Atchley to take Joey Dorsey and company away from the basket. If Dorsey doesn’t come out the defend Atchley he could have a big game. If the Longhorns play their game and Memphis doesn’t play like they did in the 1st half on Friday, they should be in it at the closing moments. At that point, they will have to hope it comes down to free throws and Memphis reverts to its old form.

Opening Line: Memphis -3.5.
Prediction: In my bracket, I had these two teams meeting here and I picked Texas to advance primarily because of the home court advantage. I think Memphis is the better team, but playing what essentially amounts to a home game made it a toss-up. Most sportswriters/bloggers would use the argument that they picked a team at the beginning so they won’t change their pick even if the evidence shows otherwise, but here at RTC we like to use all the data available when making our predictions. The data we’re looking at shows that Memphis gave a good Michigan State team an @$$-whopping. Based on that and the fact that the court configuration makes it seem like the Texas fans are actually in Austin while the game is in Houston, we’re going with Memphis, but it will be close.

#1 Kansas vs. #10 Davidson (5:05 PM): Davidson has had a great run in the tournament so far, which has surprised many observers, but comes as no surprise to some of their fans after the Wildcats ran through the Southern Conference this season. The question is whether they can continue this run against Kansas, which may be the most complete team in the tournament.

While the Wildcats were able to play great defense against Wisconsin in the 2nd half, I’m not sure how they will be able to handle Kansas’s athletes. The Jayhawks go 7 deep (all on Chard Ford’s top 100 prospect list), which should create match-up problems all over the court for Davidson. The Jayhawks don’t necessarily have a star player who they rely on, but they are led by Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush. However, they are so deep that any of the 7 could take over the game for stretches. If the game does come down to crunch-time, the ball will most likely go to Mario Chalmers. The Jayhawks will most likely try to get the ball inside to utilize their physical advantage, but they also have Rush and Chalmers, who both had shot over 40% from 3 for the season.

On the other side of the ball, Davidson has quickly become the media darlings. A small school with an excellent academic reputation and a baby-faced assassin (Curry), everybody in the nation knows about them by now. While their victory over Georgetown was considered by some to be a colossal choke-job by the Hoyas, their victory over Wisconsin was about domination in the 2nd half. I think the key to the game will be how Jason Richards handles the the pressure that Kansas throws at him. Rush will likely draw the assignment of guarding Curry (assuming Bill Self puts Chalmers on Richards), but if Davidson is running him off screens like they did on Friday night to free him up against Michael Flowers then all of the Jayhawk guards will get their shot at him.

Opening Line: Kansas -9.
Prediction: The ride ends here for Davidson. They’ve had a great run knocking off 3 excellent teams, but I just don’t see them getting by Kansas who are very, very good when they play with intensity. I don’t think the Jayhawks will have much problem being hyped up for this game. That spells trouble for Davidson. I think Curry will get his 25-30, but it will come off a lot of shots. I see this game being close for most of the first half before the Jayhawks pull away early in the 2nd half and cruise in from there to win by about 10 points. Davidson just doesn’t have the athletes to match up with Kansas. You could have said the same thing in the Georgetown game (Wisconsin isn’t as athletic as either Georgetown or Kansas), but the Jayhawks won’t give up the ball 20 times like the Hoyas did.

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Elite 8 Preview: UCLA-Xavier & UNC-Louisville

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2008

- #1 UCLA vs. #3 Xavier (6:40 PM): Both teams are coming off hard-fought victories in the Sweet 16. Xavier obviously was challenged by West Virginia, who took them into OT and may very well have won if Joe Alexander had been able to hit a FT at the end of regulation (81% FT) or not foul out early in OT. The Bruins were challenged by Western Kentucky, who came back from 21 down at half as Tyrone Brazelton scored 31 pts abusing Darren Collison (before Collison fouled out with 5:39 to play). The Bruins held strong at the end and won with big efforts from Kevin Love (29 and 14–no surprise) and James Keefe (18 and 12–huge surprise).

The Bruins can count on a big game from Love who finds a way to get his numbers because he knows where he needs to be. What the Bruins can’t count on is Keefe coming anywhere near those numbers. They need Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp to really step up their games this round. If they can get this inside/outside balance, they should control this game, but they haven’t looked that good since their opening round game against Mississippi Valley State. However, I’m not sure if that was more UCLA or their opponent. In either case, the Bruins haven’t looked like the team that most analysts predicted would cut down the nets in San Antonio.

As noted earlier, Xavier escaped with a win in their Sweet 16 game with Joe Alexander’s mistakes and some clutch 3 point shooting from B.J. Raymond. Even though Josh Duncan dominated the scoring last round, the Muskeeters are usually pretty good at spreading the ball around leading to their extremely balanced scoring averages. It will be interesting to see how they try to match up against Love, Collison, and Westbrook as that may be the key to the game.

Opening Line: UCLA -6.
Prediction: As Kevin Love said after their last game, the Bruins play has been “unacceptable”. I think that on paper (and when they are on) UCLA has all the makings of a championship team with a nice mix of experience, talent, and an inside/outside game. If they’re firing on all cylinders, the Bruins could blow this game wide open like they did in the early part of their Sweet 16 game. Unfortunately for Ben Howland, they have not been able to do that consistently. I think UCLA has have played with fire one too many times and tonight it will catch up with them. I’m going with Xavier in a hard-fought game earning a trip to the Final 4.

#1 UNC vs. #3 Louisville (9:05 PM): This is probably the best match-up of the weekend on paper. Both teams are absolutely loaded and appear to be playing at their peak. The Tar Heels have been the most dominant team in the tournament so far while the Cardinals have matched them in dominance the past 2 rounds. Both teams absolutely crushed their very capable opponents (Washington State and Tennessee, respectively) on Thursday night.

The Tar Heels’ calling card this season has been their phenomenal offense, but in the last round they showed Tony Bennett’s Cougars that they know how to play a little D too. Offensively, Tyler Hansbrough has been solid if not spectacular although he hasn’t needed to be so far in the tournament. One of the major drivers of the Tar Heels dominance in the tournament has been Ty Lawson who appears to be back near 100%. When he gets in the open court, I’m not sure if anybody can keep up with Lawson. Although those two get all the hype, I think the key to the game for UNC will be if Wayne Ellington can hit from outside. He’s the only great outside shooter that Roy Williams has and his ability to hit from 3 will be very important against Rick Pitino’s 2-3 zone. If he is hitting, Pitino will have a decision to make: let him bomb away or go man-to-man and risk having Psycho T go off.

Louisville is peaking at the perfect time. They made a very good Tennessee team look very bad on Thursday night although the Vols PG issues certainly contributed. They don’t have quite the star power that UNC has, but Pitino’s boys (David Padgett & company) are no slouches. Padgett has a lot of help offensively as the Cardinals have another half dozen guys who can get in double figures on the right night. The key for the Cardinals will be how their defense controls UNC. It will be interesting to see how their press is able to handle Lawson and how their zone matches up against Ellington’s outside shooting.

Opening Line: UNC -5.5.
Prediction: I’m going with the Tar Heels tonight. They’ve been the best team in the country in the first 3 rounds and they weren’t even clicking offensively against Washington State. Louisville has a great team and that line is ridiculously high, but I don’t think Hansbrough will let the Tar Heels lose. He’s had a very good college career so far, but he hasn’t been able to get his team over the hump. This will be a tight game, but I think that Hansbrough will come up big down the stretch giving the Heels the slight edge. The Tar Heels were on the verge of going to the Final 4 before collapsing against Georgetown and I can’t see them letting it happen again. As an added bonus, this sets up a potential national semifinal of Roy Williams versus Kansas. . .(more on that set of Elite 8 games later)

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