NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.31.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 31st, 2012

Kansas

  • When former Kansas coach Larry Brown watched this year’s Jayhawks practice early in the season, he was not sure if this year’s squad would win 15 games. Considering this notion, Bill Self has really done an exceptional job this season.
  • During his first three seasons at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor would be hardly allowed to play through his miscues. Now, the senior guard has the freedom and responsibility to correct errors and lead the team on the right path.
  • Even though he only played a limited role last season, many pundits still saw Thomas Robinson as a first round pick. Bill Self believes Robinson made the absolute right choice in coming back to school, as Self said, “Thomas wasn’t prepared to make a living.”
  • Most of the attention usually gets paid to Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, but it cannot be overlooked that Elijah Johnson has quietly become the Jayhawks’ top weapon in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky 

  • John Calipari was a pretty big flop when he coached in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets. There will be rumors this offseason about Calipari returning to the NBA to coach the New York Knicks, but the question will emerge if Calipari deserves that opportunity.
  • John Calipari has made several stops in his coaching career, which has exposed him to a lot of different people. All those people do have something in common though and that is Calipari considers them part of his family.
  • Freshman phenom Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has had to deal with a lot in his life for being only 18 years old. The death of the forward’s father and uncle have helped shape who he is as a person and a player.
  • In Kentucky’s storied basketball history, it had never had an AP Player of the Year. This all changed Friday when freshman standout big man Anthony Davis was named AP Player of the Year.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2012

Kansas

  • Bill Self has enhanced his already strong coaching reputation by leading a Kansas team with not as much talent as Kansas teams of the past to the Final Four.
  • Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News believes the career of Tyshawn Taylor mirrors that of a Shakespeare character. DeCourcy notes that Taylor’s career has consisted of conflict, resolution, dramatic twists, and ultimate redemption.
  • Despite the fact that Danny Manning and Barry Hinson have taken head coaching jobs at Tulsa and Southern Illinois respectively, Bill Self assured the public that all of Manning and Hinson’s attention is on Kansas this weekend.
  • Kevin Young compiled a career-best 14 points when Kansas defeated Ohio State on December 10. Young, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, arrived at Kansas via some unusual circumstances.

Louisville

  • Assistant coach Richard Pitino noted that there has been a pretty prominent change in the way his father, Rick Pitino coaches. The younger Pitino believes his father has a much better relationship with his players than he used to.
  • News broke that Rick Pitino will not be a member of this year’s Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame class. Considering Pitino’s resume, this is a bit shocking.
  • Rick Pitino has been through a lot in his coaching career and his life, so it would be unfair to define the man solely based on the Karen Sypher extortion scandal.
  • Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith might be the most unlikely roommates of all-time, but the two are great friends and are keys to Louisville’s success.
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: National Semifinals

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 30th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

For even more analysis of these fantastic games, check out Zach Hayes’ ultimate breakdowns for each matchup. UK-UL can be found here and OSU-KU here.

#1 Kentucky vs. #4 Louisville – National Semifinal (at New Orleans, LA) – 6:09 PM ET on CBS

The RTC NPOY Is Two Wins From a Championship

Kentucky. Louisville. In the Final Four. Armageddon in the Commonwealth. Yep, it’s well worth the hype. The 44th meeting between these bitter in-state rivals comes to us from the ultimate setting in the national semifinals at the Superdome on Saturday night. Kentucky leads the all-time series, 29-14, and has won six of the past eight meetings dating back to 2004. The Wildcats enter this game with just two losses on the season and the heavy favorite to cut down the nets on Monday night. In order to advance to the championship game, Kentucky must continue to defend at a high level. By no means is Louisville an offensive juggernaut and that’s where the stifling UK defense must take control of the game. With shot blocker extraordinaire Anthony Davis on the back line of its defense, Kentucky and its #1 eFG% defense should be able to limit the Cardinals offensively. Do that and you would think the Wildcats have enough offensive weapons to win the game. But it’s not always that simple. While John Calipari and his team have a huge edge in talent, all the intangibles favor Louisville. When Rick Pitino said they would need to put fences on bridges in Lexington if Kentucky loses to Louisville, he wasn’t kidding. All of the pressure is on Kentucky, a team expected to win a national title. Louisville, a team that went 10-8 in a down Big East, certainly wasn’t expected to make it this far. The Cardinals have absolutely no pressure on them in this game and Pitino would love nothing more than to stick it in the face of Calipari and Kentucky fans. Pitino and his players couldn’t wait to talk about the matchup last week while Cal and his squad kept on saying this is just another game. That’s pure BS. They know the stakes and the weight on the collective shoulders of this young team could perhaps be Louisville’s best chance to win. The Cardinals boast the top defensive efficiency in the land so a grinder-type game should be expected. Three of the last four games in this rivalry have been decided by nine points or less and, despite the talent gap, we’d be surprised if this one isn’t as well given the stakes. The key for Louisville will be to push the pace and score in transition without allowing Kentucky to do the same. UK is lethal in transition but a game with fewer possessions favors the Wildcats. They excelled at a slower pace in the second half of the SEC season and we’re just not sure Louisville will be able to score enough points in a low possession half court game. That means Louisville, and Peyton Siva specifically, can’t turn the ball over. If the Cardinals wait and let Davis and UK set up in half court defense, their task becomes incredibly tough. Scoring in transition takes the Davis defensive threat away and allows the Cardinals to set up their zone press. Pitino is a master at morphing his matchup zone into man-to-man defense in the blink of an eye and changing defenses could throw Kentucky off balance. The best way to beat UK is to take away Davis inside (Gorgui Dieng can do that, provided he stays out of foul trouble) and force them to make jump shots. Kentucky doesn’t take many outside shots but Louisville’s defense could force them into contested mid-range looks that might not fall. One problem area for the Cardinals could be the defensive glass. If UK is taking lots of jumpers (a good thing for Louisville), UL must block out and prevent Davis, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from crashing the offensive glass. Louisville has struggled all year in this department but must come up with a better effort on Saturday night. Siva makes everything go for Louisville and it’ll be interesting to see if Calipari puts Kidd-Gilchrist on him at times as he has done with other point guards this season. The freshman with an unquenchable motor could frustrate Siva and force him into turnovers, fueling UK’s transition attack. While we feel the intangible aspect of this game favors Louisville in a big way and we’d love to pick the Cardinals just for that (and to be different), Kentucky’s superior talent is undeniable. Louisville will make it close but Kentucky simply has too much in the end and should advance to play for all the marbles on Monday night.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.29.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 29th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Kentucky

  • The play of sophomore forward Terrence Jones has been scrutinized all season. John Calipari notes that he realizes something that most fans do not and that is “Terrence Jones wants to please me in the worst way.”
  • John Calipari has his fair share of critics, but what Deron Snyder of The Washington Times points out is that Calipari is often criticized for winning within the rules.
  • Anthony Davis has deserved a lot of attention during his standout freshman season, but the forward has not let any of the attention make him cocky.
  • Darius Miller was replaced in Kentucky’s starting lineup by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the beginning of the season, but that demotion did not do anything to change Miller’s attitude. Kentucky’s lone senior has emerged as its unquestioned leader.

Ohio State

  • Sophomore point guard Aaron Craft has gotten a lot of attention for his defensive prowess, but he has also been the Buckeyes’ seasoned leader on the offensive end of the court.
  • Jared Sullinger has been the face of the Ohio State program for the past two seasons and the sophomore forward has undeniably fit that role well.
  • Sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr., played his way onto the All-East Region team due to a very impressive four-game stretch. If Smith can produce like he has thus far in the NCAA Tournament, he will serve as a great complement to Sullinger and forward Deshaun Thomas.
  • Thad Matta is hoping to enjoy the Final Four moment while he can, but the Buckeyes head coach knows that enjoyment will come to an end when it is time to go to work on Kansas.
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RTC Final Four Podcast

Posted by rtmsf on March 29th, 2012

It’s Final Four week in College Basketball Land and it wouldn’t be right of us to not have an entire full RTC Podcast of opinions, analysis, and generalized rambling about all kinds of nonsense. So here goes nothing. Zach Hayes re-joins us to analyze the quartet of Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville and Ohio State, as well as to break down the RTC All-America team, the National Player of the Year race and our Coach of the Year. It was fun to record; here’s hoping it’s half as interesting to listen to it.

RTC Final Four Podcast

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Final Four Numbers Game – Who Has the Historical and Statistical Edge?

Posted by EJacoby on March 28th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

All week long we have read and will continue to read about the specific breakdowns of each upcoming Final Four matchup. Check out our own Zach Hayes’ previews here and here for the on-court analysis. One of the other important factors to keep in mind on an enormous stage like the Final Four, though, is the experience and preparedness of the players and coaches from each team. Coaches will tell the media that they prepare for the National Semifinals just like it’s any other game, but we all know that the circus and spotlight surrounding the postseason finales, in any sport, can be trying on the competitors. That’s why we put so much emphasis on “big-game players,” the “clutch” factor, and coaches who can win the “big one.” Here’s a look at how each team shakes out historically on the biggest stage and whether or not that will play a factor:

Rick Pitino is the Most Experienced Coach at this Year's Final Four, Including a 1996 National Title (Getty Images)

Coaching

  • Rick Pitino is the most experienced and successful head coach in New Orleans, as Pitino is making his sixth trip to the Final Four with three different schools. He has compiled a 3-4 record in the Final Four up to this point, which includes a National Championship with Kentucky in 1996 and a return to the National Title game the following season (Kentucky 1997), that time with a loss. His 1987 Providence1993 Kentucky and a 2005 Louisville teams all lost in the National Semifinals.
  • Bill Self has caught flak for several early NCAA Tournament upsets, but he got the full job done during his one visit to the Final Four in the past, when the 2008 Kansas Jayhawks won the National Title, giving Self a 2-0 record at the Final Four.
  • Thad Matta brought his 2007 Ohio State team to the National Finals before a loss to Florida, making his record 1-1 all time at the Final Four. He’s looking to best Bill Self in each coach’s second trip to the National Semis.
  • This is John Calipari’s fourth trip to the Final Four, with three different schools, where he is a combined 1-3 in the past. Kentucky detractors need to find something to nitpick about the overwhelming favorites, and Cal’s inability to win it all is a key criticism. His 1996 Massachusetts team and last year’s Kentucky (2011) team both lost in the National Semifinals, while the 2008 Memphis team beat UCLA before falling to Kansas in the National Championship.

Programs

  • Kentucky is making its 15th appearance in the Final Four, seeking its 8th National Championship and first since 1998.
  • Kansas is making its 14th appearance to the Final Four seeking its 4th National Championship. The Jayhawks have the most recent title, coming in 2008.
  • Louisville makes its 9th all-time appearance in the Final Four in search of its 3rd National Championship. The first two came during the Denny Crum era in 1980 and 1986.
  • Ohio State is making its 11th appearance in the Final Four but is seeking just its 2nd National Title. Its only National Championship banner is from 1960 under Fred Taylor.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 28th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Kansas

  • Heading into his second Final Four in four seasons, Kansas head coach Bill Self is the lowest paid of the four coaches who will be in New Orleans this weekend. Of the group, only Self and Louisville head coach Rick Pitino have won titles.
  • While Kansas reserve forward Kevin Young’s contributions might not show up in the box score, but Bill Self and Young’s teammates acknowledge the energy Young brings to the court.
  • Barry Hinson has served as Kansas’ director of basketball operations for the past four seasons and on Wednesday afternoon, the former Missouri State head coach will be introduced as the new head coach at Southern Illinois.
  •  The unorthodox triangle and two defense helped lead KU to its second Final Four in four seasons. In basketball, defense can win championships and Bill Self is well aware of this notion.

Louisville 

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The Ultimate Breakdown: Ohio State vs. Kansas

Posted by zhayes9 on March 28th, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court. You can read his Louisville-Kentucky breakdown here.

It was clear from the first game of the season that everyone’s favorite breakout player, Kansas’ Thomas Robinson, was going to live up to the hype. At the same time, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, a first team All-American as a freshman and preseason All-American as a sophomore, was widely viewed as the premier big man in the country. It only took a quick glance at the calendar for December 10 to stand out: Ohio State at Kansas. Or more accurately: Sullinger at Robinson. Unfortunately, Sullinger’s body would spoil all our fun. The Buckeyes’ leading scorer sat out the visit to Allen Fieldhouse with painful back spasms and Ohio State limped to an 11-point loss.

Barring a freak accident in the next three-plus days, the Ohio State-Kansas sequel won’t lack one of its biggest stars. Sullinger is healthy and Robinson is ready, two exceptional talents and future lottery picks banging bodies in the post with a trip to the sport’s brightest stage on the line: Monday night at the Final Four. Of course, Ohio State-Kansas is about much more than two players. It’s about Tyshawn Taylor trying to take Aaron Craft off the dribble. It’s about Travis Releford chasing William Buford all over the floor. It’s about Bill Self and Thad Matta matching wits on the sidelines. Heck, I’m sure Jeff Withey will be matched up with Sullinger for a good portion of Saturday’s game.

Louisville-Kentucky may be the Final Four main event, but you may want to stick around for the after party.

Sullinger and Robinson will finally go toe-to-toe. Oh, and it's at the Final Four.

Backcourt- The much-maligned Tyshawn Taylor posted a redemptive senior season, staying out of Bill Self’s doghouse, limiting turnovers and shooting a robust 39 percent from three. Taylor is a tough cover due to his blazing speed, swift crossover and irrepressible confidence, a characteristic never more evident than when Taylor pulled up for a 3-on-1 three-pointer late in Kansas’ Elite Eight win over North Carolina despite the fact he hadn’t made a shot from behind the arc in the entire tournament. His running mate is the much-improved Elijah Johnson, a bit player turned double-digit scorer and clutch shot-maker. We might be talking about Robbie Hummel’s unprecedented run to the Final Four if Johnson didn’t bail out the Jayhawks during a Robinson/Taylor no-show in Kansas’ second-round escape against Purdue. Travis Releford is Bill Self’s go-to perimeter defender. He’ll receive the challenging task of chasing William Buford around screens for 40 minutes. Buford underachieved relative to inflated expectations this season, coming off an extremely efficient junior campaign, but ask Michigan State if he’s capable of exploding at any moment. Lenzelle Smith is essentially Johnson’s clone, a 6’4” glue guy who’s canned his fair share of clutch shots this tournament. The matchup to track is Aaron Craft, far and away best perimeter defender in the country, and Taylor with his athleticism and quickness. Taylor went 1-of-4 from the floor with six turnovers guarded by Craft in their December meeting. Slight Edge: Ohio State.

Frontcourt- Equally tantalizing are the frontcourt matchups: DeShaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger vs. Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson. Thomas is the leading scorer in this year’s NCAA Tournament, a versatile southpaw who shot a phenomenal 61 percent from two and has never met a shot he didn’t love. That irrational confidence is to Thad Matta’s benefit on the offensive end, but the kindest way to describe Thomas’ defensive effort is the anti-Aaron Craft. It’ll be interesting to see if Self shows some triangle-and-2 or zone so Robinson or Withey don’t have to chase Thomas around the floor. The scenario is similar to when Kansas faced Missouri’s four-guard attack, but there’s no Matt Pressey on Ohio State you can leave unguarded. The one-on-one scrap we all want to witness is Sullinger vs. Robinson. According to Synergy and Luke Winn’s tournament blog, Sullinger is much more efficient away from the block than Robinson. The Buckeye star is fully capable of utilizing the mid-range jumper he perfected last summer, while Robinson is a superior overall rebounder. Withey actually posted a higher block percentage than Anthony Davis, but isn’t much of a low-post scoring threat outside of dunks and put-backs. Slight Edge: Ohio State.

Bench- Much like Louisville and Kentucky, the bench simply isn’t a major factor for either side. Remember 2012 the next time somebody denounces a team’s Final Four chances because of their lack of depth. While Matta has always rejected using more than six or seven players, backup big men Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams simply holding the fort while Sullinger was on the bench for 13 minutes during the first half of Ohio State’s regional final win over Syracuse may have saved their season. It’s doubtful that Williams, backup point Shannon Scott or backup wing Sam Thompson will see more than a few minutes combined because of the stakes, unless of course foul trouble is a factor. Kansas doesn’t have a bench due to a combination of early entries, recruiting whiffs and graduation, an obstacle that renders the job Self did this season even more remarkable. Connor Teahan has the reputation of a solid shooter, but he’s canned only 34 percent from deep on the season. Kevin Young will spell Robinson or Withey. His 6’8” frame is actually a better matchup opposite Thomas. Slight Edge: Kansas.

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Deconstructing the Louisville-Kentucky Rivalry to the Rest of America

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2012

So we hear that there’s an interesting rivalry game going down in New Orleans on Saturday. It’s a good thing that nobody has decided to write about it or talk about it yet; that means this piece will be first on the scene.

Game of the Century in the Commonwealth (h/t Card Chronicle)

All kidding aside, Dream Game II will without question be the most-watched event in the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s history. While the Kentucky Derby may get more worldwide attention, the truth is that most Kentuckians don’t know any more about the Sport of Kings than they do about navigating the New York City subway system — the first Saturday in May is mostly viewed as a neat aside for the state to put on its happy face and throw a grandiose party. But as far as college basketball, this is a sophisticated crowd whose knowledge and passion cuts through all the cultural, class and racial fissures that exist in any modern society. And this rivalry between Louisville and Kentucky exhibits that perhaps better than any other such local tussle in the sport — let’s look at the reasons why.

  • The Good Folks of Kentucky Are Bats#!t Crazy About College Basketball. We very much mean this in a complimentary way. Take a normal August, for example.  While the rest of the nation is caught up in pennant races, backyard barbecues, and the imminent start of college football and the NFL, Wildcat and Cardinal fans are calling into local talk shows and signing on to message boards to discuss the latest word from summer pick-up games and recruiting rumors. When Rick Pitino went through his 15 seconds of fame several summers ago, the coverage of Karen Sypher and the entire debacle saturated both Lexington and Louisville news media for weeks. It’s no secret that college hoops is a 365-day per year commitment in the Commonwealth, and such near-obsession with the sport magnifies the importance of the standing of the two major programs on a regular basis.
  • UK Fans Are Not Over Pitino’s Return to the State. And they never will be. What you have to realize is that from 1989-97, Rick Pitino as the young, brash and highly successful coach of the Wildcats was as big as big gets in the Bluegrass. Not only did he resurrect the Kentucky program from the very public shame of a devastating probation, but he captured hearts and minds from Paducah to Pikeville with his intoxicating and fun style of basketball featuring three-point shooting, full-court pressure defense and a deep, active bench. When he left for the Boston Celtics in 1997 after three Final Four appearances and a national title in 1996, most UK fans were sad but thankful for how he had rebuilt their proud program. That all changed four years later after Denny Crum’s retirement when he returned to take over the head job at Louisville. Suddenly those same fans who had adored the charismatic coach in Lexington looked at his return as nothing other than a traitorous Judas Iscariot. The thinking went: “Out of all the good D-I coaching jobs in America, he had to choose Louisville?” Can you blame them?
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 27th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Kansas

  • Is calling the 2011-12 Jayhawks overachievers minimizing the season these guys had? Kansas has potential NBA talent at four of its five starting positions. It also has a four-year starting point guard (Tyshawn Taylor) and a Wooden Award finalist (Thomas Robinson).
  • Kansas senior point guard Taylor and junior forward Robinson have gotten most of the credit all season for the success of the Jayhawks. However, some of the role players, such as junior guard Elijah Johnson and junior center Jeff Withey, are currently making impressive contributions too.
  • Taylor has had a very polarizing career in a Kansas uniform. While he still catches some criticism, the senior point guard has cemented his Jayhawk legacy by helping to lead his team to the Final Four. Josh Selby who?
  • By now, most are familiar with the story of Robinson’s personal tragedies. Mike Miller of NBC Sports believes that if the casual fan needs a rooting interest this weekend, they should try T-Rob and the Jayhawks.

Louisville 

  • Kentucky, Kansas, and Ohio State will all go to New Orleans with lineups containing All-Americans and future NBA players, but this is not the case for Louisville.
  • Rick Pitino’s team battled injuries throughout most of the regular season, but when the Cardinals finally got healthy for postseason play, they have yet to lose a game.
  • Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was very complimentary of Kentucky freshman forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Monday. Pitino said the freshman standout is one of his “favorite players to watch because he plays so hard.”
  • By winning two games in New Orleans, Rick Pitino can join former Arizona head coach Lute Olson as the only coaches to ever win a national title as a four-seed. Interestingly enough, Olson won his title against Pitino in 1997 when Pitino coached his last game as the head coach at Kentucky.

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The Ultimate Breakdown: Kentucky vs. Louisville

Posted by zhayes9 on March 27th, 2012

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

The hysteria leading up to Saturday’s Louisville-Kentucky national semifinal will be unprecedented.

The mutual loathing between legends John Calipari and Rick Pitino is only matched by the contempt between the two fan bases. Such a passionate and deep-seeded rivalry playing out on the grandest of stages is tantalizing to even the most casual observer. But once the smoke clears and the ball is tipped, those juicy storylines all become secondary, fading into the background with the hype and frenzy. Suddenly all that’s relevant is Peyton Siva’s speed, Kyle Kuric’s smooth jumper, Anthony Davis’ shot-blocking and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the open floor.

For the lowdown on what to expect from the biggest basketball game in the history of the commonwealth, here’s a full-fledged Dr. Jack-style breakdown covering every aspect of Saturday’s opener:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist celebrating Kentucky's regional final win

Backcourt- It’s no accident that Peyton Siva’s remarkable late-season turnaround has coincided with Louisville’s spurt from a seventh place finish in the Big East to the Final Four in New Orleans. Russ Smith is an irrepressible, confident ball stopper just as prone to a mindless turnover as he to is scoring 10 points in the blink of an eye. Siva and Smith provide the engine to Louisville’s attack, while athletic two-guard Chris Smith and long-range marksman Kyle Kuric are Pitino’s steady cogs. Kentucky’s Achilles heel was long considered freshman point Marquis Teague, but he’s significantly cut down on his turnovers and can pack an unexpected scoring punch. Doron Lamb is a superior gunner to Kuric, shooting a fantastic 47% over his career from three. Look for Calipari to plug versatile swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on Siva to stifle the Cardinals’ offense. Kidd-Gilchrist is a standout defender and the best collegiate player in transition since Derrick Rose. Edge: Kentucky.

Frontcourt- The progression of Louisville center Gorgui Dieng from a raw, bungling, and clumsy big man to a premier post defender and competent scoring threat in just two seasons has been nothing short of incredible. The popular crutch that freshmen are sophomores by the time March rolls around is often untrue, but it applies in the case of Chane Behanan, a gifted offensive rebounder who will be asked to contain Terrence Jones. When Jones is engaged, active and filling up the stat sheet, Kentucky is unstoppable. Anthony Davis has had an OK year: number one high school recruit, starting center for top-ranked Kentucky, national freshman of the year, likely national player of the year, and future top overall pick in the NBA Draft. Only North Carolina can come close to matching Kentucky’s weaponry down low. Edge: Kentucky.

Bench- Neither team extends very deep into their bench, yet both boast a de facto starter in Russ Smith and Darius Miller. At just 38% from two and 31% from three, Smith isn’t exactly the pillar of efficiency, but for a team that didn’t finish in the top 100 in offensive efficiency and scored less than 60 points in five of their final six conference games, Pitino will gladly accept the good with the bad (per Luke Winn, Pitino likes to say Smith “makes coffee nervous”). Any coach in America would love to have Darius Miller on their team, a steady wing defender equally adept at attacking off the dribble or firing from deep. Louisville steady defender Jared Swopshire and Kentucky pick-and-pop threat Kyle Wiltjer also see limited time off the pine. Slight Edge: Louisville.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.26.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 26th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

  • Where does Bill Self belong in the hierarchy of active college coaches? ESPN.com’s Jason King believes Self belongs at the very top.
  • The triangle and two defense that Kansas utilized towards the end of the game against North Carolina on Sunday left Roy Williams and the Tar Heels very confused. This defensive tactic demonstrated that fact that Williams was decidedly outcoached by Bill Self.
  • Kansas senior guard Tyshawn Taylor has had a pretty well-known love/hate relationship with Kansas fans. Taylor does not understand how fans cannot love him because he says, “I’m a lovable guy, man.”
  • North Carolina sophomore forward Harrison Barnes likely played the final game of his collegiate career Sunday. After a disappointing performance, Barnes went mostly quiet with many questions remaining.

West Region 

  • Florida‘s late game collapse versus Louisville on Saturday was quite similar to the Gators’ collapse against Butler in last season’s Elite Eight.
  • Louisville guard Russ Smith is well known for his erratic play on the court, but his play Saturday versus Florida was very steady.
  • Peyton Siva battled foul trouble all game long in the Cardinals’ victory over Florida; however, Louisville was still able to cut down the nets and celebrate a trip to the Final Four.
  • Louisville head coach Rick Pitino believes that the Kentucky/Louisville matchup in the Final Four will be “awesome.”
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