NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Afternoon

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Texas – East Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

These are two teams with similar statistical profiles but the Texas Longhorns are missing Alexis Wangmene, a big senior forward who would have added an extra body for Rick Barnes to go up against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates in the paint. With a guard-oriented team and a thin front court, the Longhorns have some difficulty against the physical Bearcats. Cincinnati doesn’t have a deep front line either but Gates is the team’s third leading scorer and a key cog in its offensive flow. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well but Cincinnati has an edge on the perimeter with multiple players who can make a three. Texas ranks sub-200 in defending the triple and that’s something that could cost it the game. Cincinnati is a streaky hit-or-miss team with four capable guards surrounding Gates on the floor. As for Texas, leading scorer J’Covan Brown is pretty much the team’s only major threat. If Cincinnati can lock up Brown defensively, it will win the game rather easily. If Brown manages to get free and score close to his average of 20.1 PPG, the Bearcats will be in for a nail biter. Although Brown is the best player on the floor in this game, the edge has to go to Cincinnati because of its more balanced talent on the perimeter (including limiting turnovers), Gates in the post and the team’s overall experience. The majority of Cincinnati’s rotation is made up of juniors and seniors while four of Texas’ top six scorers are freshmen.

The RTC Certified Pick: Cincinnati.

#6 San Diego State vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

Jamaal Franklin is a Ferocious Competitor on Both Ends for SDSU (US Presswire)

A very popular upset pick, North Carolina State comes into this game on a roll having won four of its last five games with the only loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals to North Carolina by one possession. But NC State was on the bubble just one week ago; this team has been inconsistent throughout the season. The Wolfpack lost four games in a row prior to that strong finish to the season. The key to pull this upset will be to keep pressure on a strong SDSU defense, keyed by pounding the ball inside to find points in the paint with C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and C.J. Williams. It’s doubtful that San Diego State will give Scott Wood any wide open looks from three. The Aztecs, meanwhile, may have the two best overall players in this game with Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin (17.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and savvy guard Chase Tapley (15.7 PPG, 43.3% three-pointers). Both players shoulder a lot of the scoring load but have been reliable in big games this season against strong MW competition. SDSU is a much stronger defensive team (93.5 defensive efficiency) and holds opponents to 40% shooting from the field. NC State has a 99.9 ‘D’ efficiency and allows too much easy offense. We’ll take the Aztecs, the stronger team all season long that has Sweet Sixteen experience from last season.

The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State

#8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama – Midwest Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 1:40 PM ET on TBS

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round — Thursday Evening

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#1 Kentucky vs. #16 Western Kentucky – South Region Second Round (at Louisville, KY) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

The Pressure is Squarely on Calipari This Year

It is all gravy from here on out for Ray Harper and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Standing at 9-18 at one point this season, WKU turned things around in a big way as they won the Sun Belt conference tournament to earn the automatic bid to the Big Dance. Trailing Mississippi Valley State by 16 points with less than five minutes remaining in regulation, the Hilltoppers ended the game on a 22-5 run to win by one point. Make no mistake about it, Western Kentucky’s magical run will end against Kentucky, but what a run it was. WKU was at their best against Mississippi Valley when they were pressuring the ball and running in transition, but this will simply not work against the Wildcats. It is senseless to breakdown the match ups as Kentucky is staggeringly better at every position, but don’t be surprised if the ‘Toppers keep it close for a good chunk of the first half as they are playing with house money and in their home state.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

#5 Wichita State vs. #12 Virginia Commonwealth – South Region Second Round (at Portland, OR) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

One of the most intriguing games in not just the South Region, but the entire second round as a whole, Wichita State and Virginia Commonwealth proved to be two of the top mid-majors throughout the season. Wichita did it with their high-powered and efficient offense, while VCU with their pressure and relentless defense. The victor in this one will most likely be the team that excels in what they do best better than the opposition. If Joe Ragland is hitting shots from the perimeter and Garrett Stutz is his usual force down on the blocks, the Shockers will be in a good position to advance. However, much of the success Wichita has will hinge on whether they can protect the basketball and not let VCU get out in transition as the Rams force more turnovers better than any team in the country. A half court game certainly favors Wichita State, but Bradford Burgess and Darius Theus will look to push the ball every chance they have. In the end, Stutz on the inside and the slew of exceptional shooters Wichita State will throw at VCU proves to be too much for the Rams to overcome.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round — Thursday Afternoon

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#6 Murray State vs. #11 Colorado State – West Region Second Round (at Louisville, KY) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Steve Prohm Brings His One-Loss Team to the Dance (US Presswire)

Anytime you enter the NCAA Tournament with just one loss and 4-0 record over NCAA Tournament teams, you’re a big story and a threat to go deep in the tournament. That’s the situation Murray State finds itself in. The fact that they’ve got a recent history of some success in the tournament (they knocked off Vanderbilt in the first round in 2010 before losing a heartbreaker to eventual national runner up Butler) makes them an even bigger challenge. In that 2010 loss to Butler, then-freshman guard Isaiah Canaan had the ball in his hands with the clock running down and threw an errant pass that got deflected by Gordon Hayward, effectively sealing the Racers’ fate. Two years later, Canaan is this team’s leader and one of the best guards in the nation, capable not only of getting his own opportunities in a variety of ways, but also creating for his teammates. And he’ll certainly be a problem for a Colorado State team whose guards, though talented scorers offensively, struggle to stay in front of their men on defense. Another issue for the Rams is the fact that they are one of the smallest teams in the nation (there are only five teams smaller, according to Ken Pomeroy’s effective height statistic), with a frontline that doesn’t go any larger than 6’6”. Murray may not have a lot more height (their two main interior players – Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel – go just 6’7”), but the lack of size has been an issue for CSU this year. Still, the Rams can score with just about anybody, but their inability to lock down defensively will be a problem. A bigger problem could be the fact that the Racers are playing not only within an easy drive of their campus, but that the hordes of Kentucky fans who show up for the early session will most certainly convert their allegiance to the Racers, at least temporarily.

The RTC Certified Pick: Murray State

#8 Kansas State vs. #9 Southern Miss – East Region Second Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

This could be an ugly game right off the bat. Neither of these two teams shoots the ball particularly well, especially Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have an awful two point field goal percentage (43.3%) and rank second to last among NCAA Tournament teams in effective field goal percentage. Only 16th seeded Western Kentucky is worse. Despite the poor shooting numbers, Larry Eustachy’s Golden Eagles have a respectable offensive efficiency number thanks to a minimal turnover percentage and solid offensive rebounding. If Southern Miss is going to win this game, it must rebound the basketball and score on second chance opportunities. While Kansas State is regarded as a team that plays terrific defense and rebounds well, the Wildcats are vulnerable on the defensive glass. Provided Southern Miss and point guard Neil Watson can keep a good handle on the ball and get some decent looks, this team will hang around. For Kansas State, it must get Rodney McGruder going early and often. McGruder is the best offensive player on this team and has been playing at a high level of late. Kansas State should win the game if it rebounds well and plays its typical brand of physical hard-nosed basketball. The Wildcats should get plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities against a Southern Miss team that has just one player taller than 6’7.” The free throw battle could be important as well. Each team gets to the line well but also fouls a lot when playing defense. The Golden Eagles shoot it much better from the stripe and they’ll need to today in order to offset the rebounding disadvantage.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: First Four – Wednesday Night

Posted by EJacoby on March 14th, 2012

The ‘First Four’ play-in games continue on Wednesday night, hoping to repeat what was an incredible first night of games on Tuesday. We saw two of the greatest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history — in back-to-back games — on the opening night of the Big Dance! Both of tonight’s games are from the Midwest Region. Here’s what to watch for, including the primetime First Round matchup in the nightcap.

#16 Lamar vs. #16 Vermont – Midwest Region First Round ( at Dayton, OH) – 6:30 PM ET on truTV

The early game on Wednesday night pits two of the last-ranked teams on this year’s NCAA Tournament S-Curve, and the winner gets rewarded with a date against #1 seed North Carolina on Friday. There is actually an intriguing storyline in this matchup, as Lamar is coached by Pat Knight, Bob Knight’s son, who recently delivered an infamous press conference after his team lost to Stephen F. Austin on February 22. In the presser (see above), Knight lashes out at his players, throwing his seniors under the bus for their despicable performance. Crazy enough, the Cardinals got Knight’s message loud and clear and have not lost since the rant, winning six straight games by an average of 14.6 points per game. The Southland Conference champions now match up with Vermont, trying to keep the post-presser streak alive. The Catamounts, though, have won 14 of their last 15 games and play solid defense with a defensive efficiency and field-goal percentage nearing the top 50 in the country. Their job will be to stop Mike James, Lamar’s top scoring guard (17.1 PPG), who once put up 52 points in a game last season. Both teams lack size, and whomever ends up winning the battle on the boards could have the advantage in this one. Vermont’s leading scorer is a freshman who comes off the bench, Four McGlynn, at just 12 points per game. In a toss up game, we’ll go with Lamar to continue its terrific story of  post-rant resiliency.

The RTC Certified Pick: Lamar

#12 California vs. #12 South Florida - Midwest Region First Round ( at Dayton, OH) – 9:00 PM ET on truTV Read the rest of this entry »

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Breakdown: Eight Intriguing Second Round Games

Posted by zhayes9 on March 14th, 2012

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

If Tuesday night’s First Four games were any indication, the first round of the NCAA Tournament will be wild. Due to a contrast of style, individual matchups or captivating storylines, these are the eight games that have the most potential to be memorable:

The Beach is a Dangerous Squad

1. New Mexico vs. Long Beach State

After losing the last two seasons to rival UCSB in the Big West final, the 49ers’ four key seniors – led by electric point guard Casper Ware – will be extra motivated to capitalize on a long-awaited opportunity. The committee didn’t do Long Beach any favors pairing them with New Mexico, an extremely deep and talented team who tied for first in a competitive Mountain West and then ran roughshod over UNLV and San Diego State in the league tournament. The Lobos rank 13th in the nation in defensive efficiency and surround walking double-double Drew Gordon with exceptional shooters Tony Snell and Kendall Williams on the perimeter. They should prove a fascinating matchup for an experienced Long Beach squad who doesn’t fit the profile of your typical mid-major. Dan Monson’s team has athleticism across the board – including the last two Big West defensive player of the year winners in Ware and wing Larry Anderson, who is questionable with a knee injury – and shoot an effective 52 percent as a team from inside the arc.

2. Wichita State vs. VCU

The Shockers are flying a bit under-the-radar due to their surprising semifinal loss to Illinois State in the MVC tournament, a rare slip-up which shouldn’t overshadow a 27-5 season in which Wichita did not lose a single game by double figures. Gregg Marshall’s team is extremely balanced and efficient on both sides of the ball, buoyed by the outside shooting prowess of point guard Joe Ragland (50 percent from deep in 114 attempts) and lock down wing defenders Toure Murry and Ben Smith. The key to handle Shaka Smart’s patented “havoc” full-court pressing defense is to limit turnovers and force the Rams to defend Ragland and versatile seven-footer Garrett Stutz in the halfcourt. Wichita only turns it over on 18 percent of their possessions which ranks in the top 50 in the country, an intriguing contrast to a VCU pressure that leads the nation in both turnovers forced and steal percentage.

3. Creighton vs. Alabama

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NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Tuesday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 13th, 2012

No matter whether you feel the First Round of the NCAA Tournament is legitimate or not (and we know at least one person writing Amicus briefs to the Supreme Court on this very issue), it all gets under way at 6:40 PM tonight. From 68 to 16 in the next six days… let’s analyze the first two games this evening.

#16 Western Kentucky vs. #16 Mississippi Valley State — South Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 pm ET on truTV.

It's Still the Big Dance to Big Red

It is hard to believe that the NCAA Tournament officially tips off tonight — it seems like the 24 hours of college basketball marathon on ESPN was just last week — as Western Kentucky will do battle against Mississippi Valley State in the First Round. Things looked bleak for both squads midway through the year as MVSU entered conference play with a 1-11 record, while Western Kentucky stood at 5-14 just six games into league play. In fairness to the Delta Devils, however, they did play one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the nation with virtually all of their contests being so-called “guarantee games.” As for the Hilltoppers, they fired Ken McDonald halfway through the season, and have looked like an entirely different team since. Mississippi Valley is 20-1 since SWAC play began, while Western Kentucky is 10-7 since Ray Harper took over the helm in Bowling Green. Hailing from the weakest conference in America, the Delta Devils will enter the game as slight underdogs, even though they have a much more impressive overall record than their opponent. Western Kentucky is led by freshman Derrick Gordon (11.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG), but junior transfer Teeng Akol — formerly of Oklahoma State — has provided the Hilltoppers with a formidable presence in the frontcourt as of late; Akol scored a career high 23 points in the Sun Belt championship game. Meanwhile for MVSU, it has a balanced approach as five players on the squad average nine points or better. Terrence Joyner is their sharpshooter as he connects on just over two triples a game, while Paul Crosby (13.3 PPG, 7.4 RBG) mans the paint. Despite Sean Woods‘ team losing only one game since the New Year, Western Kentucky is the more talented team and is playing with a real chip on its shoulder.

The RTC Certified Pick: Western Kentucky

#14 BYU vs. #14 Iona — West Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 9:10 pm ET on truTV. Read the rest of this entry »

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