Rushed Reactions: Ole Miss 64, Vanderbilt 52

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

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David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after this afternoon’s SEC Tournament semifinal between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Three Key Takeaways.

Henderson Will Get His Shot at an SEC Championship Sunday.

Henderson Will Get His Shot at an SEC Championship Sunday.

  1. Vandy Goes Cold.  Vanderbilt was in control of the game for most of the first half, as they led by eight with just under four minutes remaining in the frame. After that, the Commodores went ice cold, particularly from three-point range. They were held scoreless for the last 3:49 of the first half and didn’t score their first basket in the second until the 17:35 mark. For the game, they shot just 33.9% from the field, and went 6-of-30 from three-point range. What Kevin Stallings did with this team was somewhat remarkable, as anyone who saw the Commodores two months ago never would have believed it could have performed the way it did in this tournament. But Vanderbilt clearly was bothered by Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway on the inside, and it was unable to get good looks or knock down enough shots on the perimeter. After playing the last two nights, it stands to reason the Commodores had tired legs, and it clearly showed in their performance Saturday.
  2. Marshall, Marshall, Marshall. Marshall Henderson has been, to say the least, a source of entertainment in Nashville this weekend, and much of the buzz among fans and the media has been about the Ole Miss junior. On Saturday, he was not quite as animated as he was in Friday night’s comeback over Missouri, but he still showed flashes of the personality that drives so many in the league crazy. What can’t be discounted is how important he is to his team. He led Ole Miss in scoring for for the second consecutive game, and, as he did Friday, hit key shots at important times. His play allowed the Rebels to extend their lead, which Vanderbilt was never able to overcome. If the Rebels are able to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in coach Andy Kennedy’s tenure, it’s no coincidence that it comes in Henderson’s first year in the program. Kennedy clearly decided to allow him to display antics that most coaches would not, and it may get the Rebels into the Big Dance. Henderson has deficiencies – he takes too many shots outside the flow of the offense and isn’t a particularly good defender – but he gives Ole Miss an element it hasn’t had in the past, and he was worth the risk for Kennedy.
  3. Is Ole Miss Safe? Andy Kennedy is convinced his team is in the NCAA Tournament, and Friday’s win over RPI No. 35 certainly helped the Rebels’ cause. But Saturday’s win over the Commodores likely did nothing to push Ole Miss closer to a tournament bid. Vanderbilt is outside the RPI top 100, and this committee will be given no real weight by the Selection Committee. The Rebels needed the win more from the standpoint that a loss would have severely damaged their cause, and more importantly, it now gives them a chance to take the decision out of the committee’s hands by beating Florida tomorrow. If they lose to the Gators, it’s anyone’s guess whether they’ve done enough to earn a bid. The only two top-50 wins they have came against Missouri, and they have ugly losses against sub-top-200 teams South Carolina and Mississippi State. The Rebels own 25 wins overall, so it won’t be surprising if they do receive a bid even if they aren’t able to beat the Gators, but Kennedy’s club would be well-served to take care of business tomorrow and earn the auto-bid.

Star of the Game. Marshall Henderson. Henderson went only 3-of-11 from three-point range, but did lead his team with a game-high 23 points. Again, though, it was the timing of his scoring that keyed the Rebels’ second-half run.

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Rushed Reactions: Miami 81, NC State 71

Posted by mpatton on March 16th, 2013

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Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Miami’s win over NC State in the ACC semifinals on Saturday afternoon.

Three Key Takeaways:

Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Brown have a team to watch this month.

Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Brown have a team to watch this month.

  1. NC State is Dangerous: Don’t count NC State out after this loss. The Wolfpack were tired and beat up. They ran into a buzzsaw Miami backcourt and couldn’t overcome a slow start and bad free throw shooting. But they didn’t give up down the stretch. Richard Howell was playing with a deep bruise on his thigh, visibly hurting, but he hit the floor trying for loose balls just like always. One thing you know about NC State is that it will put points on the board (and a lot of them). Especially with Rodney Purvis acting as a defensive spark plug (coming into the season, who would’ve thought that?), there’s a lot to like about NC State’s chances in the Big Dance.
  2. Larkin and Scott Show: Durand Scott and Shane Larkin put on a clinic for Miami. They accounted for 68% of Miami’s points and also dished out a combined eight assists. When NC State tried to make a game of it, Larkin iced the game with free throws. One area Larkin has really improved this season is his decision-making. He still gets up in the air without knowing what he’ll do, and definitely makes high risk plays from time to time. But Larkin’s strength is his ability to play near the edge. Where last season his high risk plays ended in turnovers, his maturity is really showing this year by dropping his turnover percentage five points despite increased possessions.
  3. Miami’s Weapons: Here’s the scary thing with Miami. Larkin and Scott ruled the day, but Miami’s true strength is inside. Kenny Kadji had an off day–despite being a real mismatch for NC State — and Julian Gamble was relatively quiet despite being effective. It’s high time people realized Reggie Johnson isn’t going to be as efficient as in the past, but he still can be a very effective offensive player. Gamble is the most improved player in the ACC, maybe even the country. He’s incredibly light on his feet for his size and plays within himself.

Star of the Game: Durand Scott played like a man possessed. He played the best game of his career, bringing back memories of his dominant performance against Duke his freshman year (the 21-point performance in the ACC Tournament that caused many to rank Miami highly the next two years). After hitting a big three in the second to half — quieting the NC State run — Scott held his follow-through for a good five or six seconds.

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Rushed Reactions: #22 Wisconsin 68, #3 Indiana 56

Posted by WCarey on March 16th, 2013

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center following Saturday’s matchup between Indiana and Wisconsin. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Three Key Takeaways:

Wisconsin Stopped the Hoosiers Again

Wisconsin Stopped the Hoosiers Again

  1. Indiana is still deserving of a #1 seed. Even with the setback to Wisconsin, the Hoosiers still have one of the best resumes of the country. Indiana was the outright regular season champion of the toughest conference in college basketball. The Hoosiers won road games at Michigan State, Ohio State, and Michigan. It has as much, or more, talent as any team in the country. A record of 27-6 is not usually the record of a #1 seed, but college basketball this season has been anything but the usual. Indiana should still be a #1 seed and it should still absolutely be viewed as a strong contender to get to the Final Four.
  2. Wisconsin is the definition of a team. The Badgers certainly do not have any guys who can be considered “stars,” but what they do have are eight players who contribute to every game. Point guard Traevon Jackson is a true point guard who is always looking to make his teammates better. Shooting guard Ben Brust is always a threat to catch fire from deep at any time. Forwards Jarred Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz , and Ryan Evans are all seniors who bring the Badgers extremely tough and disciplined play in the post. Freshmen Sam Dekker and George Marshall along with sophomore Frank Kaminsky come off the bench and routinely make an impact for the Badgers. While there are certainly teams in the Big Ten who have a lot more individual talent than the Badgers, there might not be a team who plays together as well as the Badgers. Wisconsin’s ability to play together as a unit makes it a tough team to beat and a team that should never be taken lightly.
  3. Wisconsin certainly has Indiana’s number. With Saturday afternoon’s victory, Wisconsin has now won 12 consecutive games over Indiana. While a majority of those wins came when Indiana was down, it is still quite the amazing statistic. Indiana is viewed by many as the best team in the country, but Wisconsin has defeated the Hoosiers twice this season in fairly commanding fashion. The Badgers’ physical style of play coupled with their deliberate attack on offense frustrates almost every team they play and it could certainly be one of the reasons for their utter domination over Indiana. This is definitely a streak that should be followed as next season comes around because it will be fascinating to see if Wisconsin will be able to top Indiana yet again.

Star of the Game. Ryan Evans, Wisconsin. The senior forward was all over the place for the Badgers. He finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. Evans also supplied Wisconsin with very capable defense against Indiana’s Christian Watford who is always capable of an offensive explosion. Jared Berggren (11 points and five rebounds) and Sam Dekker (11 points off the bench) were also considered, but Evans was clearly the best player on the court for the Badgers.

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Rushed Reactions: Florida 61, Alabama 51

Posted by David Changas on March 16th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the SEC Tournament semifinal game between Florida and Alabama in Nashville.

Three Key Takeaways:

fla alabama sec tourney 13

The Gators Survived Alabama’s Upset Bid on Saturday

  1. Florida Run.  The Gators trailed by 10 early in the second half before going on a 13-0 run to completely change the momentum of the game. Florida looked lethargic at that point, and it appeared they may be heading home a day earlier than most expected. However, led by senior point guard Kenny Boynton, the Gators made their run in less than three minutes, and Alabama never got closer than three the rest of the way. Florida outscored the Crimson Tide 34-14 after trailing by 10. “Boynton stepped up to the plate.  He gave them that spark and they kept building on that,” Alabama guard Trevor Releford said after the game. The run the Gators made was similar to the one they made two weeks ago in Gainesville, where they also trailed by 10 to the Tide in the second half. And that was certainly on Alabama players’ minds. Guard Trevor Lacey admitted that he discussed it with his teammates. “We knew we needed to keep attacking them,” he said.  The Gators clearly were not deterred when they fell behind, and showed again why they won the league’s regular season title.
  2. Good Kenny Boynton.  There is no shortage of enigmatic point guards in the SEC, and Boynton may be the leader of that club. The senior often takes shots out of the offensive flow, and has hit only 32.5% of his three-point attempts on the year. As the Gators practiced this week, coach Billy Donovan advised Boynton and fellow senior Mike Rosario to let the game come to them and to take shots only within the flow of the offense. While Donovan has expressed concern with the way Rosario has responded to that admonition, Boynton appears to have taken his coach’s advice. Even though he struggled shooting the ball in Friday’s blowout win over LSU, Donovan was pleased that Boynton dished out seven assists, and didn’t force anything on the offensive end. In this game, Boynton’s play sparked the Gators’ run, as Boynton scored seven of their 15 points. On the day, he led Florida with 16 points, and Donovan has made it clear that he has no problem with Boynton continuing to shoot the ball when he gets good looks, and if he continues to do that, the Gators chances to make a deep March run in a wide-open field are pretty good.
  3. Did Alabama’s Bubble Burst?  With Kentucky falling outside the RPI top 50 after last night’s loss to Vanderbilt, Alabama owns no wins over top-50 teams.  When compared to other bubble teams, that may do in the Crimson Tide. In most years, their resume wouldn’t even merit contention for a spot. But this year, given that the committee is considering so many unimpressive resumes, there’s always a chance. Alabama coach Anthony Grant was quick to point out when asked about the Tide’s chances after the game that whether his team has done enough to make the Big Dance is not his concern. “I don’t deal in that.  [The committee has] a tough enough job,” he said. Instead, he’ll sit back and wait to see what happens, but it’s much more likely that his team will be hosting a first-round NIT game than playing in the Big Dance.

Star of the Game.  Kenny Boynton.   Gators center Patric Young was too much for Alabama to handle, but Boynton keyed their turnaround, and sent Donovan’s team to the championship game for only the second time in six years.

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Four Thoughts on the Pac-12 Tournament Semifinals

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 16th, 2013

Day three of the Pac-12 Tournament is complete, and teams have made their may through the 12 team field to tonight’s championship game. The first team through was top-seeded UCLA, who used an 18-7 run late in the second half to erase an 11-point deficit and pull out a two point win over Arizona. In the second game of the night, Oregon took advantage of a tired Utah team and led the Utes by 14 at halftime before cruising to a 64-45 win.

Here are four things that stood out on day three of the Pac-12 Tournament:

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (credit: USA Today)

UCLA Freshman Shabazz Muhammad Scored 11 Points and Grabbed Six Rebounds As The Bruins Advanced To The Pac-12 Championship (USA Today)

  1. Adams’ Last Game? – UCLA freshman Jordan Adams may have played his last game as a Bruin last night after breaking his fifth metatarsal in his right foot on the final play of the game. Adams led all scorers with 24 points before breaking the foot trying to defend Solomon Hill’s last shot. A few weeks back Adams said he did not want to discuss his future and just wanted to focus on finishing the rest of the season. With his season complete, look for an announcement in the coming days on whether the star guard will go to the NBA this summer.
  2. Pac-12 Refs - With 4:35 remaining in the game and Arizona leading 56-54, point guard Mark Lyons drove into the lane, had the ball slightly dislodged by a Bruin defender, caught the ball, and resumed his dribble. This was inexplicably called a double-dribble by the officiating crew, and then the officials compounded their mistake by T’ing up head coach Sean Miller. The calls resulted in two made free throws to knot up the score, the first time the score was not an Arizona lead since the 14:30 mark in the first half. Pac-12 refs gonna Pac-12 ref – nuff’ said.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Four Thoughts From the Atlantic 10 Tournament Evening Quarterfinals Session

Posted by CNguon on March 16th, 2013

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. He’s covering the Atlantic 10 tournament in Brooklyn this week. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Virginia Commonwealth eliminated a gutty Saint Joseph’s squad, 82-79. After holding double-digit leads for much of the second half, the Rams withstood an uncharacteristically furious press and scoring blitz from the Hawks. Meanwhile, Chaz Williams led Massachusetts to a 79-74 upset of Temple to close out the quarterfinal round. The two teams, playing within a six-point margin for the entire 40 minutes, evoked memories of the John Calipari vs. John Chaney matches of a decade ago. Without the vitriol.

Four Thoughts After Session Two:

  1. Quarterfinal results may have an impact on the NCAA field: La Salle’s loss appears by consensus to put the Explorers in the dreaded Last Four In category, a disappointment for coach John Giannini who promised to “go nuts” watching all of the bubble team games this weekend. Turns out he did not have to leave the Barclays Center to catch one of those bubble games, as Massachusetts eliminated Temple, 79-74, for the second consecutive time in the quarterfinal nightcap. The upset put the Minutemen in Jerry Palm’s play-in list with a #12 seed, slated to play opposite Villanova on Tuesday. If Palm’s scenario holds, the conference will pull an unprecedented six dance cards, as many as the Big 12 and more than the ACC, the Pac-12 and the SEC.

    Spike Lee (with phone) made his way south from Madison Square Garden to catch some A-10 action Friday evening. (Staff photo)

    Spike Lee (with phone) made his way south from Madison Square Garden to catch some A-10 action Friday evening. (Staff photo)

  2. Spike Lee loves him some Shaka Smart: The five boroughs’ second most famous film director (and most famous basketball fan) abandoned his courtside digs in Manhattan (Madison Square Garden) to catch the Virginia Commonwealth-Saint Joseph’s quarterfinal (see photo – in the green windbreaker) in Jay-Z’s digs in Brooklyn. Unable to get a courtside seat, the filmmaker had first rows just behind the scorer’s table. Maybe he will be back for the semifinals this afternoon. Maybe Jay can score him something courtside for that one. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: UNLV 75, Colorado State 65

Posted by AMurawa on March 16th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference. He filed this report after Friday night’s MW Tournament semifinal between UNLV and Colorado State.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Anthony Bennett Is Good When He Wants To Be. Bennett made a big splash in the first half with a three-minute run that included a pair of free throws, back-to-back-to-back threes, and a play where he grabbed a rebound and led a fast break that ended in a Katin Reinhardt three — a stretch that turned a 23-21 game into a 37-24 advantage. But, in the other 11 minutes he played in the first half, he attempted just two field goals and grabbed one board. And, just after those three threes, he got the ball on the baseline and backed up to the three-point line for a heat check, which can perhaps be forgiven. There was more of the same for much of the second half, as over the first 13 minutes he took no shots from the field and grabbed just one rebound in eight minutes of action. But he came alive down the stretch to help his team close the game out. Certainly part of the reason for Bennett’s slow stretches can go to Pierce Hornung’s tough defense, but for a guy who is going to be an NBA lottery pick, is getting limited by a 6’5″ (maybe) Hornung a viable excuse? More to the point, Bennett just has problems with consistent effort, something that isn’t unusual for a freshman. But for the Rebels to max out in March, they need Bennett to max out.

    Anthony Bennett's Stat Line At The End Of The Game Looks Great, But He Was Absent For Large Stretches

    Anthony Bennett’s Stat Line At The End Of The Game Looks Great, But He Was Absent For Large Stretches

  1. Colton Iverson and the Rams. The senior big man was on the very short list of players seriously considered for Mountain West Player of the Year (I said Jamaal Franklin, the MW said Kendall Williams). Iverson restated his case tonight, carrying his team with 24 points and 16 boards on 9-of-16 shooting (most of which came in the first half), and almost single-handedly got the entire UNLV frontcourt in foul trouble. But he didn’t get a whole lot of help; the rest of the Rams contributed a 39.1% eFG.
  2. Larry Eustachy – Not an Oddsmaker. On Wednesday night following the Rams quarterfinal win over Fresno State, Larry Eustachy commented that it was 99.9% sure that senior point guard Dorian Green would not play in tonight’s semifinal. Well, that 0.01% chance came through as Green started and played 18 minutes before landing awkwardly midway through the second half and never returning. And really, it didn’t look like Green should have been out there at any point anyway. He was hobbling around from the moment he came out in pregame warm-ups until the moment he left. Hopefully the little tweak that removed him from the game was just that – a little tweak – and he’ll be ready to go when the Rams open NCAA Tournament play on either Thursday or Friday.

Star of the GameAnthony Bennett. Yeah, I just got done railing about how he went for huge swaths of the game without making much of an impact on the game, but when he did turn on the juice, my goodness, was he ever something special. As his college career winds down with his last handful or so of games, we might as well appreciate just how spectacular he’s been in his time at UNLV.

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Kansas State Advances, Sets Up Epic KC Showdown With KU

Posted by dnspewak on March 16th, 2013

Danny Spewak (@dspewak) is a Big 12 Microsite writer. He’s in Kansas City covering the Big 12 Tournament this weekend.

Kansas and Kansas State tied for the Big 12 regular season championship. Technically. “We’re conference co‑champs,” coach Bruce Weber said. Fair enough. Both teams finished 14-4 in league play. Identical record means co-champs. Awards all around, everybody gets a trophy, let’s all go get some pizza after the game. Still, co-champ label or not, any person with even the slightest bit of logical reasoning can figure out who really won this league. Kansas won the regular season title. It played Kansas State at home and won. It played Kansas State on the road and won. That’s two games, both at two different sites, and two victories for the Jayhawks. If ever there were a tiebreaker to crown a true champion, that’d be it. Of course, it allowed Kansas to seize the top seed in the Big 12 Tournament, so it’s not as though those two victories were meaningless.

It's Part Three of Jayhawks and Wildcats in KC Tomorrow Night

It’s Part Three of Jayhawks and Wildcats in KC Tomorrow Night

So it’s settled. The Kansas Jayhawks are the Big 12 champions. For now, at least. That could change on Saturday afternoon, when the two teams face each other in the Big 12 Tournament title game at the Sprint Center on national television. This is an unprecedented event for Kansas City. If you’re not from the area or not familiar with the makeup of the sports culture here, allow us to break it down for you. There’s Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State, all within two hours of driving distance from Kansas City. They all bitterly compete for media coverage, and it’s a rite of passage as a fan to complain about the lack of attention from the newspapers. Kansas fans call the Kansas City Star the “MU Star”. Missouri fans call it the “KU Star.” Those two teams don’t play each other anymore, but there’s been talk among fans that the programs should set up a series at the Sprint Center on an annual basis. Good luck with that, folks.

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Rushed Reactions: Ole Miss 64, Missouri 62

Posted by David Changas on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

David Changas is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Ole Miss-Missouri game at the SEC Tournament in Nashville this evening.

Three Takeaways:

Did Andy Kennedy Lock Up His First NCAA Berth at Ole Miss?

Did Andy Kennedy Lock Up His First NCAA Berth at Ole Miss?

  1. A Collapse Befitting Missouri. Missouri has had its trouble with closing out and giving away games throughout the season, but this one took the cake. The Tigers led by 14 in the second half and by 10 with 10 minutes to play. Somehow, they wilted down the stretch, even though Ole Miss never went on a particularly impressive run. With the game tied at 59 and less than a minute to play, Phil Pressey, whose late-game failures have been well chronicled, knocked down an open three from the top of the key to give the Tigers the lead. Derrick Millinghaus then tied the game with a three of his own with 31 seconds remaining. Missouri called timeout, and against the Ole Miss press, Laurence Bowers made an inexplicable pass towards no one in particular at mid-court, and Marshall Henderson got the ball.  After a timeout, Millinghaus hit a jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining to give the Rebels the win. 
  2. Millinghaus to the Rescue.  Early in the second half, Ole Miss point guard Jarvis Summers suffered an apparent concussion and was lost for the game. Rebels head coach Andy Kennedy turned to his backup, whom he referred to after the game as a “spot” player, and Millinghaus answered the call. In addition to knocking down the game-tying and game-winning shots, he didn’t turn the ball over, and played solid defense on Pressey. Without him, the Rebels would be going home. Now, to move on, they’ll need another strong performance from Millinghaus against Vanderbilt, as it’s unlikely Summers will be able to make a quick turnaround for tomorrow’s semifinal.  The diminutive freshman from New York stepped up in his team’s most important game of the season and at a time when it needed him most.
  3. Did Ole Miss Seal the Deal?  For most of the game, it looked like the Rebels would make yet another trip to the NIT, where they’ve been five of the past six years. Now, with another quality win on their resume – and their second over Missouri – a NCAA Tournament berth may be in the offing. Kennedy is convinced that his team has done enough. “No team in a BCS league has ever won 24 games and not made the NCAA Tournament,” he said.  The Rebels will be favored to advance to the championship game, and if they do, it’s reasonable to assume that they’ll punch their ticket to the Big Dance, especially given the failures of so many other teams who came into the week sitting on the bubble.  Even without a win over Vanderbilt tomorrow, Kennedy’s team’s chances to make the Big Dance drastically improved with this quality win, and the relief Kennedy felt after the game was evident in his mood.  

Star of the Game. Derrick Millinghaus.  While Henderson scored a game-high 27 points,  Ole Miss doesn’t win this game without Millinghaus’ heroic play. Tournament play often brings out the best in players in situations such as the one Ole Miss faced with Summers’ injury, and that was the case on Friday night.

Sights and Sounds.  After Kentucky filled Bridgestone Arena in the first game of the session, a letdown was to be expected for this game. But both teams had more fans that anticipated, and both sections were loud. In a league filled with apathetic fan bases, Missouri is a welcome addition, and the Tigers’ contingent trailed only those of Kentucky and Tennessee in terms of size.  Henderson’s taunting of the Missouri section late in the game got it particularly riled up.

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Rushed Reactions: North Carolina 83, Florida State 62

Posted by mpatton on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Friday night’s game between UNC and Florida State in the ACC quarterfinals from Greensboro.

Three Key Takeaways:

Michael Snaer is done in the ACC.

Michael Snaer is done in the ACC.

  1. Seminole Interior Defense: The striking thing watching this game wasn’t that North Carolina was torching Florida State from three. That happens, and it happens to good defensive teams. What was surprising is how easily North Carolina got into and scored in the lane. When all was said and done the Tar Heels finished with 36 points in the paint and made 14 of their 22 attempts inside the arc (for the second half). Part of the problem was that Florida State started sleepwalking through the motions after getting down 20. But this team has given up a lot more layups than Leonard Hamilton-coached teams of yore. A youthful front line is probably the problem for two reasons: (1) the Florida State fives don’t know where they’re supposed to be; and (2) they let the game impact their defense. Both are reasons not to despair long-term about the Seminoles, as experience will help drastically.
  2. Snaer’s Last ACC Game: Michael Snaer owned the best stat line on the floor (8-of-12 shooting for 20 points to go with five assists, two blocks and a steal), but couldn’t plug the holes in his team’s defense. The line was a fitting way for him to go out, but the game couldn’t have been worse. Snaer is the most competitive player I’ve ever covered, but this game wasn’t competitive thanks to hot shooting and team youth. After the game, Roy Williams talked about his brief comment to Snaer in the handshake line: “I told him he was a heck of a player, I enjoyed watching him play, and I told him that maybe that doesn’t make him feel good right now but maybe he could appreciate it later because I’m a huge fan of his.” Coach K has given Snaer similar praise. Count me in as well.
  3. Paige’s Rebound: In his two games before this Marcus Paige had a combined 13 turnovers. Against Florida State, he had 10 assists and one turnover. It helped that his teammates were hitting shots when he found them, but Paige’s vision was tremendous. He played smart and within his limits — which may be the hardest part of being a point guard in Roy Williams’ system. If he plays to this level, North Carolina is an excellent team.

Star of the GamePJ Hairston (honorable mention to Snaer) dominated the game from the moment he touched the ball. His stat line by the time he left with a little over four minutes left was 7-11 from the field, 21 points and a couple of steals. But his stat line doesn’t do his performance justice. He was making everything from beyond the arc: When Florida State had a hand in his face, it didn’t matter; when it was a step-back from 22 feet, it didn’t matter. He started the game with two threes after Florida State turnovers before two back-breaking threes down the stretch in the first half took the Tar Heel lead from two to 10. His threes fed his team energy and sucked the soul out of Florida State, who looked like dead men walking by the final buzzer.

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Rushed Reactions: Louisville 69, Notre Dame 57

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Brian Otskey (@botskey) filed this report from Louisville’s win over Notre Dame in the nightcap of the Big East semifinals on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Three key takeaways:

Russ Smith and Company Handled the Lime Green Irish Friday Night

Russ Smith and Company Handled the Lime Green Irish Friday Night

  1. Louisville’s interior defense was phenomenal. The Cardinals held Notre Dame to 12-of-31 shooting inside the arc as its guards did a great job cutting off dribble penetration. Jack Cooley and Garrick Sherman were able to score some but Louisville forced the Fighting Irish into many tough, contested twos. Louisville was tops in conference play in two-point percentage against and it showed this evening. With Gorgui Dieng anchoring the back line and guards like Russ Smith and Peyton Siva cutting off penetration and creating havoc on the perimeter, it’s a lethal combination. There’s a reason Louisville’s adjusted defensive efficiency currently checks in at a superb 80.9. The Cards are ridiculously good on that end of the floor and will be a nightmare match-up for most teams who aren’t used to seeing a big time shot-blocker and relentless full court pressure.
  2. Russ Smith has quietly had himself a tournament to remember. After scoring 28 points in Thursday’s win over Villanova, Smith hung 20 on the Irish while also dropping six dimes. Smith has been an efficient shooter in New York, making 15 of his 26 field goal attempts through two days here. After the game, Rick Pitino said Smith doesn’t frustrate him all that much with his shot selection, giving his dynamic junior some latitude on the offensive end. It’s on defense where Pitino gets upset with “Russdiculous,” especially when he loses his man off the ball. Smith will have to play well tomorrow night against Syracuse because the Orange will pressure him and could force him into some bad decisions. You never know what you’re going to get out of Smith and that’s what makes him a must-see player.
  3. Although his week just ended, Pat Connaughton was fantastic. In three games at the Garden, Connaughton made 15 threes, one short of the record currently held by Syracuse’s James Southerland (this year) and Gerry McNamara (2006). After the game, head coach Mike Brey said he thought his team found something this week at MSG and that would help them going forward into the NCAA Tournament. He mentioned how it would be nice if they kept shooting the ball well, no doubt a reference to his gritty sophomore from Arlington, Massachusetts. Connaughton is a typical New England kid: smart, mature for his age, seasoned, and a great competitor. He does more than shoot, too. Connaughton averages almost five rebounds per game because he isn’t afraid of contact and uses his body well in creating position. He’ll be a huge asset next week in the tournament and over the next two years as the Irish transition to the ACC.

Star of the Game: You could go with either Peyton Siva (14 points, six assists, one turnover) or Russ Smith (20 points, six assists) so the point here is that Louisville’s backcourt is playing at the level some thought it would be all season long. If you recall, Siva carried this team to a Big East title last year in this building and parlayed that into a Final Four appearance. Louisville needs Smith to score and Siva to create in order to succeed and it is getting just that through two games in this tournament.

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Rushed Reactions: New Mexico 60, San Diego State 50

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference. He filed this report after the New Mexico-San Diego State game at the MW semifinals on Friday night.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. New Mexico Bigs. Prior to the season, the consensus was that the Lobos had great guards but would be vulnerable inside, considering Alex Kirk was coming off a season missed to injury and Cameron Bairstow had the reputation of being alarmingly unathletic. But that idea quickly went away and by the time they returned from the Virgin Islands it was pretty well established that both of those guys were solid. Tonight, they were the difference. Between the two of them they combined for 31 points, 18 boards and four blocks (all of those belonging to Kirk), dominating especially in the first 24 minutes as they built up a 21-point lead. Give credit to guards like Kendall Williams and Tony Snell for finding them in position to put in easy hoops, but the size of New Mexico’s bigs gave SDSU trouble all night long.

    Cameron Bairstow And Adam Kirk Were Major Problems For The Aztecs (Eric Draper, AP Photo)

    Cameron Bairstow And Adam Kirk Were Major Problems For The Aztecs (Eric Draper, AP Photo)

  1. Tony Snell. Speaking of Snell, he’s been one of my favorite topics all season long and tonight we got the good Snell: 5-of-8 from three, 15 points, five boards, four assists and plenty of credit for helping to force Jamaal Franklin into a 3-of-12 night. He’s averaged 10 field goal attempts over the last 11 games, while never shooting less than eight times and never more than 13; in other words, he’s been consistent.
  2. What the Hell, Aztecs? So, this is a team that went 10-8 against Mountain West competition this year. For some time we’ve written off some of their struggles as “oh, they’ve had injuries” or “well, they’re young.” But there are some other problems. While they’ve got some decent size on the wings, they don’t really have much size in the paint, something exploited by the Lobos tonight. They also are severely lacking in shooters; Chase Tapley is rock solid, Xavier Thames is decent, but beyond that there are question marks. James Rahon is supposed to be their designated shooter, but he’s been mired in a two-year slump and tonight airballed a three-footer badly, along with other ugly shots en route to a 3-of-10 performance. Franklin, for all his talents, is not a polished jump-shooter. And guys like Winston Shepard and  J.J. O’Brien think much more highly of their shooting ability than they should. This is a team that can find itself some good shots in the half-court, but they’ve struggled mightily in knocking them down. They’ll likely be pegged somewhere in the #8-#10 range in the bracket against another flawed team in the round of 64, but don’t be expecting this flawed team to be able to knock off a #1 or a #2 in the round of 32.

Star of the GameTony Snell. The bigs were primarily responsible for helping the Lobos build their nine-point haltime lead, but it was Snell with back-to-back-to-back threes at the start of the second half that put the game away. And his defensive presence was a big part of holding the Aztecs to 0.83 points per possession. Read the rest of this entry »

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