Stay Classy, Nolan Smith…

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2009

The most interesting play of the Duke-Villanova game tonight occurred with mere seconds remaining.  Duke’s Nolan Smith must have thought the second-half o/u wasn’t covered yet, because a Duke player would never do something so classless without a reason, right?

Oh, right, play hard to the buzzer.  Even when the other team is dribbling out the clock.  Got it.

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: South Region Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2009

RTC interns Matt P. and Mike L. are our NCAA Tournament East Region correspondents.

Isn’t it amazing how perfectly paired the Sweet 16 games look in the South Region? It’s almost as if the best four teams advanced, or something like that. Currently, Ken Pomeroy has both match-ups at nearly 50-50 odds: UNC with a 55% likelihood of beating Gonzaga and Syracuse with an even slimmer 52% of moving on over Oklahoma. Here’s hoping both games come down to the last shot so all the chalk haters out there can’t complain about a boring tournament.

Team That Almost Went Home
The Gonzaga Bulldogs were 0.9 seconds, some semblance of transition defense, and an acknowledged timeout away from going to an overtime session with Western Kentucky. Luckily for them, none of that happened and a guy who averages 3.8 points per game hit the shot of his life at the buzzer helping Mark Few’s team advanced. Things don’t look to get any easier though. After WKU’s starting guards, A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez, dropped 24 and 25 points each on the Zags, they get to try to slow down a rested Ty Lawson and hot-shooting Wayne Ellington from UNC.

Team That Has Cruised So Far
After their marathon time in the Big East Tournament, Syracuse desperately needed two no-sweat wins in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, in which they only trailed once – a 24 second stretch in the first four minutes against Arizona State. Most likely, the ho-hum affairs end when they meet Oklahoma in Memphis. Guard Jonny Flynn is currently projected as a mid/late first round draft pick, but a dominant performance against Blake Griffin’s team could boost him into lottery contention.

Team With the Most to Prove
Despite having the player expected to be Player of the Year and first pick in the upcoming draft, there is still a bit of uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma. They’ve yet to win that defining game. They seemed to sputter a bit at the end of the season, but much of that is due to Blake Griffin’s injury. But what seems most uncertain is how freshman guard Willie Warren will play when facing the more experienced guards of Syracuse.

Team With Highest Expectations
For Gonzaga, Syracuse, and Oklahoma, a trip to the Sweet 16 might constitute a respectable 2008-2009 season. For a North Carolina team that came in with talk of running the table, it would mean an embarrassing failure. The week off before Friday’s game against Gonzaga has to help UNC’s chances of surviving, giving point guard Ty Lawson a chance to heal the injured toe that hobbled him for much of March. It should be interesting to watch the Josh Heytvelt/Tyler Hansbrough match-up after the Zags center owned Psycho T two years ago, admittedly while Bobby Frasor was still UNC’s main point man. Then, the Heels went as Tyler Hansbrough went. Now, they go as Ty Lawson goes. He’ll be the key to any championship hopes in Chapel Hill.

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Sweet Sixteen: Midwest Region Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2009

Looking back at the Midwest Region 1st/2d Rounds…

Best Game:  undoubtedly the game of the Tourney thus far, the Ohio St.-Siena game had not one, but two, game-changing threes by the underdog Saints to keep their hopes alive. 

Shocker:  Wake Forest’s complete and utter failure to show up for its game against Cleveland St. last Friday night.  With three first-rounders on the team, there is no excuse for a team to be this mentally out of it (which they were much of the last six weeks of the season). 

Cinderella That’s Not Really One:  Arizona was one of the last teams invited to the Dance, but we all knew that their talent was better than most #12 seeds if they could just put it together.  They received a favorable draw in the first two rounds, playing an overrated #5 Utah team and a true Cinderella #13 Cleveland St., but if they really want to impress us, beat Louisville tomorrow night. 

Region MVP (so far):  Cole Aldrich, Kansas.  A player who gets a trip-dub automatically wins the MVP from us.  Aldrich terrorized Dayton for 13/20/10 blks on Sunday. 

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Rating the Sweet Sixteen Announcers

Posted by jstevrtc on March 26th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.

It looks like CBS has made its selections and placements for the Sweet 16 announcing crews.  I think this is important for a couple of reasons; first, because we got us some heavyweights going at it this weekend and these matchups deserve top-drawer announcers; and second, because when you consider some of the tournament’s great moments, the announcing calls are just as much a part of the history as the actual visual images.  It’s good to have the big boys behind the mics in case a legendary event happens.  That said, let’s take a look at, and rate, the pairings.

The New #1 Crew
The New #1 Crew (image credit:

SOUTHJim Nantz (pbp) and Clark Kellogg (color)
Games:  North Carolina v. Gonzaga and Syracuse v. Oklahoma (Friday)
Grade:  C+

This is the premiere crew, as CBS would have you believe.  I give this pairing a C+ because I think these two gentlemen are still working on their rhythm with Kellogg having taken over the seat previously occupied by Billy Packer.  Jim Nantz, despite being one of the consensus nice guys in television and a man who has more than put in his time as far as being a basketball announcer, has just never done it for me as a play-by-play man.  He’s always struck me as a big-picture, in-the-studio guy, the captain of the whole ship.  I have nothing against Kellogg or Nantz as individuals, but because they’re still feeling each other out this late in the year, I don’t think it’s the “premiere,” automatic, Final Four crew any more.  Plus, Syracuse v. Oklahoma is going to be an absolute war, and I think it’s a game that’s just tailor-made for Gus Johnson at the play-by-play mic, or Raftery doing color, or — God help us all — both.

Lundquist and Raf. (image credit:

EAST Verne Lundquist (pbp) and Bill Raftery (color)
Games:  Pittsburgh v. Xavier and Villanova v. Duke (Thursday)
Grade:  B

I’ll admit, there’s really no reason to give this pairing anything other than an ‘A’ except for my own sour grapes.  I always loved the pairing of Lundquist with Len Elmore.  Plus, if CBS reunited them, it could slide Raftery over to the seat next to Gus Johnson and blow the speakers out of your television.  Both Lundquist and Raftery still give me the impression that they’re still amazed to be getting paid for doing this for a living, and when that comes through, it always enhances my enjoyment of a game they’re calling.  Especially Raf.  Those tag-lines that we all know — “The Kiss!” or “A little lingerie, Mr. Lundquist!” or “Onions!!” — just never get old to me.  Also, if a legendary moment presents itself, you know neither of these guys is going to drop the ball.

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Sweet 16 Chat

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2009

If you’re looking for a chat about planning your Super Sweet 16th birthday party, you have come to the wrong place. If you want to discuss this weekend’s college basketball action at the #1 source* for college basketball news and insight, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be taking all of your questions and offering our unique brand of insights so come with all questions and bring along some friends. I’m planning on going from 1 PM to 3 PM ET so come back then.

*The NCAA might not agree with this claim.

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Notes from the East Region Open Practice

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2009

Because of the NCAA’s refusal to give us a media credential (or discuss the issue and our side of the case), we were forced to go to today’s open practice to get an up-close look at the teams. As an aside, if anybody has extra tickets for the games in Boston for the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8 (in case your team gets cheated by the refs), send me an e-mail at and I might be able to take them off your hands.

The guys who don't want me covering the game

The guys who don't want me covering the game

Let’s get one thing out of the way. The East Region open practice might have been the most boring 5 hours of my life (not counting lectures). There’s a reason the NCAA makes this event free (outside of the fact that they more than make up for it through the $8 programs, $5 Cokes, and $23 baseball caps). The crowd was 95% white males in their mid-30s or above along with a handful of kids chasing autographs from players who they were looking up during the practices checking to see which ones had the best stats. My favorites were the old guys sitting behind me who kept on commenting on how good Gary McGhee and Brian Zoubek were (the tallest guys on the court) and what outstanding pros they were going to be. Anyways, here are my thoughts and pictures (some pictures are from my iPhone because I forgot to charge my digital camera) from each team’s “practice”.

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Conference Report Card – Sweet 16 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

We’re back with the second annual review of how the major conferences are doing after one weekend of the NCAA Tournament.  As we all are aware, the Dance eliminates the pretenders – that means you, Wake and Washington – so that the teams with legitimate chops remain standing.  Chalk has predominantly ruled this tournament so far, but that doesn’t keep us from evaluating which conferences are performing better or worse than expectations.   We review the conferences with multiple bids below…

Simpsons Chalkboard

Big East  (7 bids, 5 remaining, 11-2 record)

The Big East was the most powerful conference all year and they are proving it in the postseason.  West Virginia was the only first round loser, and Marquette was outlasted by a tough-as-nails Missouri team in the second round.  All other Big East teams advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, setting a new record for the total number from one conference (5).  What’s more is that each of these teams are F4-caliber; there isn’t a single Cinderella in the group.  It wouldn’t surprise us if this league managed to get 75% of the F4 entrants this year, and we fully expect all five to play into the national quarterfinals.

Verdict:  A.  The Big East’s expected # of wins for the tournament is 16.2, and there’s a solid chance that the league will bust through twenty wins this season in setting another new record.

Big 12  (6 bids, 3 remaining, 9-3 record)

For the second consecutive year, the Big 12 had another great first round (6-0), culminating in their three best teams making it to the Sweet Sixteen.  The league hasn’t had an upset yet, and the three losing teams – Texas, Oklahoma St., and Texas A&M, acquitted themselves nicely in five of their six games (lone exception: TAMU vs. UConn).  Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma all have tough but winnable games if they play well, and the Big 12 should reasonably expect to see one of them playing into next weekend.  For a “down” year in the league, this is a great performance.

Verdict: A.  The Big 12 already has nine wins against an expected performance of 10.57 wins, which basically means they’re doing really well so far.

Atlantic 10  (3 bids, 1 remaining, 3-2 record)

The A10 got three teams into the Dance and made the most of its opportunity, winning two first round games (one an upset with #11 Dayton over #6 WVU), and sending Xavier to yet another Sweet Sixteen.  We don’t feel that XU has much of a chance to advance the league’s banner further against Pitt, but never count out a Sean Miller team.  Xaviercruised to the Sweets against two good teams.

Verdict: A-.  The league was expected to win 2.52 games and they’ve already won three, so anything beyond that is gravy.  How pathetic is it that the A10 is outperforming the SEC by a country mile?

Horizon (2 bids, 0 remaining, 1-2 record)

The Horizon had a chance to make some serious noise in this Tournament, but typically-solid Butler couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain when it lost to #8 LSU (who was probably underseeded).  However, Cleveland St. so far has had the upset of the Dance with its throttling of #4 Wake Forest, so we’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt here.

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: West Region Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

Ryan ZumMallen of LBPostSports is our NCAA Tournament West Region correspondent.

Welcome to the Mild, Mild West, which saw a grand total of three upsets in the opening twelve games, and whose Cinderella (if that term can even be used) is a five-seed that boasts the Big Ten Tournament championship.

The upside to having a predictable regional field is, of course, that four obviously superior teams emerge from the first weekend and are sure to provide high quality competition. Three of the four teams won their conference tournaments, and the one that didn’t is a #1 seed. This was the bracket that many experts said was the most accurately seeded, and it looks like they were right.

Hottest Team
Having won their first two games by an average of 41.0 points, this has to go to UConn. The Huskies have played inspired ball and got great performances out of their great players, which is key to establishing confidence on a Tourney run. But UConn is a #1 seed, and their road is (theoretically) the easiest. Both Purdue and Missouri looked excellent in their two wins, with sound performances followed by clutch play when it mattered most. Purdue, though, would simply not have beaten Marquette if not for JaJuan Johnson (or maybe, an inadvertent toe), so if UConn is disqualified, then Mizzou is the best-looking squad right now.

Best Player
I’d be previewing a Marquette/Maryland game right now if not for Memphis’ Roburt Sallie. The reserve guard just couldn’t miss against Northridge, pouring in a career-high 35 points when the Tigers looked dead in the water. He got Memphis rolling again in the Maryland win and finished with 13. For all of the superstar athletes on that team, it’s been Roburt Sallie’s grit and sharpshooting that has kept them alive. Can he keep it up? Can Memphis survive if he doesn’t?

Best Game
The Northridge fiasco was a doozy and nearly the shocker of the year, but Purdue’s victory over Washington was the highest quality of exciting basketball in the West Region so far. Purdue showed how they were victorious in the Big Ten tournament this year, while Isaiah Thomas, Washington’s brilliant freshman point guard, simply refused to let the Huskies die. The 76-74 Boilermaker win was sealed by back-to-back rejections from superfreak-forward JaJuan Johnson, and even Washington fans could leave knowing that both teams left it on the floor.

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NCAA Sweet Sixteen: East Region Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

The East Region: A Look Back, A Look Ahead  (By Dave Zeitlin and Steve Moore)

A look back: Here are some of the bests and worsts of the first two rounds of the East Region – as well as some other haphazard notes …

Most impressive team remaining: Villanova. The Wildcats’ dismantling of UCLA was a sight to behold.

Shakiest team remaining: Pittsburgh. I sat next to a diehard Pitt fan at a sports bar Friday. I knew it was a bad sign when he turned to me disgusted midway through the second half and said, “Just root for East Tennessee State. I know you want to.”

Don’t forget about us:  In Xavier’s opening-round win over Portland State, the Musketeers shot 54 percent from the field and committed just seven turnovers. In their second-round win, they held Wisconsin to 25 percent shooting. Xavier has now won at least one game in six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments.

Don’t forget about us either: Duke is back in the Sweet 16. Oh, how we missed you.

Best performance: Pitt’s Sam Young was electric against Oklahoma State, scoring 32 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots.

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NCAA Tournament TV Ratings – First Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

Ever wonder which teams drive the best ratings in the NCAA Tourney?  Looks like Louisville, UNC, Duke and Michigan if you buy into the first weekend stats.   (h/t The Big Lead)


In related news, CBS Interactive is reporting that their March Madness on Demand service was up 60% over last year’s demand.  This may be partially attributable to their new hi-def feature from Silverlight, but it also probably represents that people continue to take their access to major sporting and news events increasingly from the web., in partnership with CBS Sports and the NCAA, today released traffic figures for NCAA March Madness on Demand ( for the first four days of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. In total, there were 5.6 million unique visitors to the NCAA March Madness on Demand video player, a 60% increase over 2008 figures. Additionally, there have been 6.5 million total hours of video and audio consumed thus far, a 71% increase over 2008 figures.

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