Final Four Previews In-Depth: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 5th, 2013

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It would have been easy to lose faith in Syracuse near the end of the regular season. The Orange sputtered to a 5-7 finish over their last 12 games, which in itself was enough point-blank evidence to jump off the bandwagon. The swirling rumors of NCAA impropriety and looming specter of coach Jim Boeheim’s retirement added to the general malaise that fell over this program as it hobbled into the final Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. What’s happened since? This In-Depth Final Four preview, the last installment of our four-part series, should give you a pretty good idea. The Orange are to be feared, and this, in long form, is my explanation why.

(Revisit previous entries Wichita State, Michigan and Louisville)

Smart and controlled point guard play from MCW has pushed Syracuse into the Final Four (Getty Images).

Smart and controlled point guard play from MCW has pushed Syracuse into the Final Four (Getty Images).

Pre-Tournament Capsule. Non-conference schedules in Syracuse, New York, are unfailingly bland subjects. The Orange hardly ever leave the state of New York, and when they do – as was the case this season when they opened the season by traveling across the country to play San Diego State on top of the USS Midway aircraft carrier, as well as an SEC-Big East challenge game at Arkansas – it’s extremely rare and/or typically not of their own volition. The Orange “ventured” to Madison Square Garden three days before Christmas and took their only loss before Big East play, a four-point defeat to Temple. They buzzed through the early part of conference play looking like one of the four or five best teams in the country, with wins at Louisville and home Notre Dame sprinkled therein. Things got ugly in the portion of the hoops calendar we like to call the “dog days” – the mid-to-late February stretch of conference play where teams start running on fumes at the tail end of a long league schedule. The Orange dropped four of five to close the regular season, then got off the mat and played their way into the Big East Tournament championship game, an emotional conference sendoff that ended with fellow ACC-bound member Louisville tearing the lid off MSG in a pristine second-half effort. Syracuse may have fallen in the finals, but that ugly stretch at the end of conference play was officially a figment of the past. The Orange were ready for the Big Dance.

How They Got Here. There was nothing circuitous or fluky about Syracuse’s path to Atlanta. They drubbed Montana in a game many thought could give the Orange real problems (HA!), pulled away from Cal in a hard-fought second half, put the nation’s then-No. 1 efficiency offense (Indiana) in the 2-3 blender and dropped Big East foe Marquette in the Elite Eight. Looking back, astonishing as it may seem, that round-of-32 bout with Cal was, I’d argue, the most trying game Syracuse has played in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Final Four History. Only one of Syracuse’s Final Four appearances came before Boeheim inherited the head coaching job in 1976, and Boeheim was very much a part of that one too, only in a different capacity. When Syracuse reached the national semifinals in 1975, Boeheim had been an assistant for six seasons. Little did he know the head coaching job would open up one year later, and the rest – the four Final Four appearances, the 900 wins and counting, the national championship – became part of the legendary coaching monolith we know invariably associate with Syracuse basketball. Boeheim’s last Final Four trip with the Orange was led by one of the most dominant freshman stars in the modern hoops era and ended with a title. That would be Carmelo Anthony circa 2003.

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The RTC Podcast: Final Four Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 4th, 2013

From 68 down to four, as we tip off the penultimate games in the college basketball season on Saturday evening in Atlanta. In this week’s RTC Podcast, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), the guys take a look back at last weekend’s action, discuss all the news and notes on hirings and firings from this week, and move forward with picks and analysis on the Final Four. We’ll be back on Sunday with a short podblast to discuss what went down the night before, so keep an eye out for that.

  • 0:00-4:45 – Shockers Back to Their Shocking Ways
  • 4:45-8:28 – Louisville Looking Almost Unbeatable
  • 8:28-13:43 – Kevin Ware Enters the Pantheon of Grotesque Sports Injuries
  • 13:43-19:17 – Trey Burke Carries Michigan to the Final Four
  • 19:17-22:43 - Syracuse Goes From Good to Great
  • 22:43-26:40 – LA Coaching Carousel
  • 26:40-32:17 – Big Ten Related Coaching Changes
  • 32:17-36:52 – Rutgers Controversy
  • 36:52-40:55 – Pac-12 Ref Controversy
  • 40:55-47:28 – Final Four Picks
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Final Four Previews In-Depth: Louisville Cardinals

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 4th, 2013

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Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Final Fours are just as prone to upsets and unpredictability as any other round of the NCAA Tournament. The scouting reports on each team are more extensive, the shock factor mitigated by previous results, but the inherent variance of the games themselves breeds upsets at any level of competition. Even the best teams can be had given the perfect combination of stylistic match-up (see: Syracuse – Indiana) or hot shooting (see: Wichita State – Gonzaga). The cream of the crop is never impervious to the competitive desires of underdog opponents; thinking otherwise is ignoring three quarters of a century’s worth of college basketball history. So with that out of the way, let’s get to the truth: I’d be lying if I tried to convince you that anyone other than Louisville deserves to be treated as the odds-on favorite going into college basketball’s final weekend. The Cardinals are the best defensive team in the country, a rapidly improving offense and, following Sunday’s emotional Elite Eight victory, are playing with the well wishes of injured guard Kevin Ware as a primary motivation. Louisville has it all. Let us dig deeper and find out what makes the Cardinals such overwhelming favorites to finish the season on top of the college hoops world.

(Revisit previous entries Wichita State and Michigan)

Pre-NCAA Tournament Capsule.

A jolt of offense from Smith has Louisville on the brink of the national championship (AP Photo).

A jolt of offense from Smith has Louisville on the brink of the national championship (AP Photo).

We began the season rightfully touting Louisville as one of the nation’s best and most complete teams, and its early non-conference work did everything to affirm that premise. The only blemish before Big East play was a loss to Duke in the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship game (star center Gorgui Dieng was injured). The Cardinals turned in another solid Big East season, finishing tied for first place with a 14-4 record, with only one real period of concern baked in throughout – a three-game losing streak comprising a two-point home loss to Syracuse, a road-loss at a then-scorching Villanova team, and a two-point defeat at Georgetown. The Cardinals quickly recovered to dust off 10 wins in their next 11 games, the one loss a five-overtime thriller at Notre Dame, then ripped through the Big East Tournament to claim the No. 1 overall seed.

How They Got Here. Geographic priority was awarded to the Cardinals for their top-seed status, but the committee did them no favors in terms of ease of regional competition. Two Hall of Fame coaches were situated alongside Louisville in the Midwest, and the rest of the region – including trendy Final Four pick St. Louis, national player of the year candidate Doug McDermott, NCAA seeding travesty Oregon and Colorado State, the nation’s best rebounding team – was littered with potential early-round pitfalls. Louisville navigated its rocky road with aplomb, first handling North Carolina A & T, then destroying Colorado State, followed by a comfortable eight-point win over Oregon and, lastly, a punishing second-half spurt to pull away from Duke in a highly-anticipated Elite Eight clash. Aside from Duke hanging tough through the first 20 minutes, Louisville has yet to meet its equal in this field.

Final Four History.

Paired with Dieng, Behanan is a load to handle on the low block (US Presswire).

Paired with Dieng, Behanan is a load to handle on the low block (US Presswire).

It’s best to analyze Louisville’s Final Four history through two different lenses. Removing the Cardinals’ 1959 Final Four jaunt from the equation, UL’s trips to college basketball’s marquee event can be separated along the historical dividing lines of two legendary coaches. With Denny Crum, the Cardinals made it to six national semifinals, including two championships (1980, 1986). Nearly 20 years later, when Rick Pitino’s constant job hopping from college to the NCAA and back again gave way to a sustained tenure in Louisville, Kentucky, the Cardinals returned to the Final Four in 2005, made consecutive Elite Eight runs in 2008 and 2009, then rode the unnerving audacity and mercurial play of Russ Smith and a stout defense to another Final Four in 2012. One year later, the Cardinals are once again left standing among the last four teams playing meaningful postseason basketball.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 4th, 2013

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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.

Michigan

  • A report broke Thursday morning that Wolverines guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will declare for the NBA Draft when their season comes to an end.
  • A great profile by Rod Beard of the Detroit News on the decisive leadership of Trey Burke. Burke’s leadership on and off the court has helped lead Michigan to its first Final Four in 20 years.
  • Michigan forward Mitch McGary has lost 20 pounds since the beginning of the season and the now lighter freshman has been a key component of the team that is set to make its first Final Four appearance since 1993.
  • On Thursday, Michigan coach John Beilein refused to discuss the report that his guards Burke and Hardaway Jr. will declare for the NBA Draft.
  • Michigan freshman reserve point guard Spike Albrecht was headed to Appalachian State before the Wolverines gambled and gave him a late scholarship offer. That gamble has paid off majorly for the Wolverines, as Albrecht has developed into a very capable back-up to star guard Trey Burke.

Syracuse

  • Bud Polquin of Syracuse.com writes that it is coach Jim Boeheim‘s fourth Final Four appearance and it is probably not his last.
  • A lot has been made about rumors that this could possibly be Jim Boeheim‘s final season at Syracuse, but the veteran coach made known that “he fully intends to coach Syracuse in the ACC.” 
  • The path Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams has taken in his Orange career to the Final Four is quite similar to the path former Syracuse point guard Lazarus Sims took to the 1996 Final Four.
  • Syracuse has decided that its motto for the week is to become legendary.
  • It is possible that Syracuse forward C.J. Fair will declare for the NBA Draft following the end of the season, but the junior is just focused on playing in the Final Four right now. Read the rest of this entry »
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Final Four Profiles In-Depth: Michigan Wolverines

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 3rd, 2013

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Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The last team remaining from the best conference in the country quietly enters the Final Four with much the same youthful construction of last season’s Kentucky Wildcats. Don’t believe it? True story: Michigan starts three freshman – forwards Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and center Mitch McGary – a sophomore (Trey Burke) and a junior (Tim Hardaway Jr). It is the youngest team left in this NCAA Tournament and, like Kentucky, heavily relies on three first-year stars. This weekend, that youth, the legs that power the nation’s No.1 offense, will meet a defense unlike any it has seen all season. The Wolverines have already eliminated #5 seed VCU, #1 seed Kansas and #3 seed Florida, with each game presenting a different challenge from the previous. Syracuse offers something completely unique – a hellacious 2-3 zone defense operating at full force. So let’s peel back the curtains and explore whether Michigan can survive Saturday’s semifinal and, if so, whether a follow-up win in the national championship is in the offing.

(Also feel free to revisit Tuesday’s Final Four team du jour: Wichita State)

Pre-Tournament Capsule. From November to January, everything about Michigan suggested the bullish preseason predictions – that Michigan was a top-five team, that Trey Burke was an All-American, that John Beilein’s perimeter-oriented system would flourish with so much talent at his disposal – were rooted more in reality than typical overzealous summer conjecture. The Wolverines got out to a 16-0 start, claiming non-conference wins over Kansas State, Pittsburgh and Arkansas, and entered a January 13 game at Ohio State with the No. 2 ranking and all the signs of a true Big Ten title contender. The Wolverines fell behind early and never made it back, and after following up the OSU loss with four straight wins, lost three of their next four during a brutal four-game stretch that included games at Indiana, home against Ohio State, at Wisconsin and at Michigan State.

But for a rocky scheduling patch in early February, Michigan ran into few problems it couldn't handle in the regular season (Getty Images).

But for a rocky scheduling patch in early February, Michigan ran into few problems it couldn’t handle in the regular season (Getty Images).

The constant grind of Big Ten competition – from the raucous arenas to the physicality of the play to the demanding mental and physical toll of a 40-minute contest against a multitude of top-10 teams – left Michigan tied for fourth at the end of regular season play. The early sizzle of the Wolverines’ high-powered offense and freshman star power was fading fast, and a convincing nine-point loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament only hammered home the idea that Michigan was probably still too young and inexperienced to cause any serious damage in an NCAA Tournament setting.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 3rd, 2013

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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.

Michigan

  • Michigan freshman forward Mitch McGary, who has exploded onto the scene in the NCAA Tournament, said Tuesday that he will return to the Wolverines for his sophomore season.
  • The Wolverines are basking in their “rock star status” around Ann Arbor as they prepare for this weekend’s Final Four.
  • To replicate the challenges of the length of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, coach John Beilein is having reserve forwards Jon HorfordBlake McLimas, and Jordan Morgan challenge the Wolverines’ jump shooters during practice this week.
  • Very interesting story from Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports about how coach John Beilein is a descendant of the soldiers who inspired the film, Saving Private Ryan.
  • During last summer’s workouts, guard Tim Hardaway Jr. scared his teammates with his intensity and his relentlessness helped set the tone for the team’s successful run through the season and into the Final Four.

Syracuse

  • Jim Boeheim is well-known for his no-nonsense approach to coaching and that approach has served him well as he has the Orange back in the Final Four for the first time since 2003.
  • The Orange’s 2-3 zone has successfully stifled its opposition due to the fact that they have a height advantage at every position. Guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams are 6’4″ and 6’6″, respectively, and that gives them a height advantage over nearly every backcourt they play.
  • Jim Boeheim famously blew up at ESPN‘s Andy Katz after a loss to UConn in February, but the coach is back on speaking terms with Katz and he even appeared on Katz’s ESPNU show Tuesday.
  • Forward Baye Moussa Keita does not fill up the stat sheet for the Orange on the offensive end of the court, but he has emerged as a key cog in the team’s stingy zone defense.
  • USC made waves when it announced late Monday night that it had hired Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield to fill its coaching vacancy. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was a bit perturbed by the move, saying that his associate head coach Mike Hopkins, who interviewed for the position, was by far the best candidate for the job.
 Louisville
  • Guard Russ Smith is turning in an historic NCAA Tournament. The junior is averaging 26 points per game and is shooting an impressive 54.1% from the field.
  • Injured guard Kevin Ware was released from an Indianapolis hospital Tuesday afternoon. His first stop following his release was to the team’s practice facility to return the Midwest Regional trophy coach Rick Pitino had left with him in his hospital room.
  • The positive attitude that Kevin Ware has shown in the face of his serious injury has earned him worldwide support from a multitude of people.
  • With Ware sidelined, coach Rick Pitino is mulling the possibility of shifting small forwards Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock to the backcourt in some defensive situations for Saturday’s game against Wichita State.
  • Louisville mayor Greg Fischer declared Friday as Cardinal Red Day in Louisville to honor the school’s men’s and women’s Final Four teams.

Wichita State

  • Redshirt freshman guard Ron Baker has taken an improbable journey from a lightly-recruited prospect to a walk-on to a key player in the Shockers’ unexpected run to the Final Four.
  • Coach Gregg Marshall serves as a reminder that coaches can have a “good life” away from the attention that coaching in a high-major conference brings.
  • With the team’s run to the Final Four, the players are becoming much more comfortable with all the media attention that is being levied on the squad.
  • After transferring from Oregon, guard Malcolm Armstead had to pay his own way at Wichita State and he did this by detailing cars for an area car dealership.
  • Gregg Marshall confirmed Wednesday that UCLA had contacted his representative last week, wanting to talk to the coach about the then-vacant coaching job.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 2nd, 2013

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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.

Louisville

  • Many people around the country are very surprised that Wichita State has advanced to the Final Four, but Louisville coach Rick Pitino is not one of them. “I picked Wichita State to go to the Final Four,” Pitino said Monday during a conference call.
  • Louisville junior guard Russ Smith was named a third team All-America selection by the Associated Press.
  • When Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered his horrific compound fracture Sunday, one teammate rushed to be by his side as he laid on the court writhing in pain; that teammate was swingman Luke Hancock.
  • With the injury to guard Kevin Ware, Louisville’s backcourt depth took a bit of a hit. Walk-on Tim Henderson will be called upon to play increased minutes in Ware’s absence and Cardinals coach Rick Pitino expects him to step up in his unexpected role.
  • The injury to Ware definitely has caused and will continue to cause some adversity for Louisville, but as Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports explains, this injury is not the worst adversity head coach Rick Pitino has had to handle.

Wichita State

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Final Four Profiles In-Depth: Wichita State Shockers

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 2nd, 2013

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Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

With the possible exception of Wichita State, there are no earth shattering secrets to reveal about the four teams remaining in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. This Final Four comes packaged with a little bit of everything: the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing (Louisville); a 900-win coach with a legendary zone defense at his disposal (Syracuse); a fifth-place Big Ten team catching fire at just the right time (Michigan); and the Shockers, the barely name-recognizable MVC power whose four-win run has not been given its proper due. It is a fun mix that sets up any number of possible outcomes in Atlanta this weekend. Will Louisville continue its robotic obliteration in the national semifinal and final rounds? Will Wichita State “shock” (better to get that pun out of the way sooner than later) the college basketball world? Can Michigan’s youth handle the national spotlight? Or will Syracuse’s zone throw two more offenses into utter dysfunction?

The Biggest underdog left in the field, Wichita State faces a tough matchup Saturday against Louisville (Getty Images).

The Biggest underdog left in the field, Wichita State faces a tough match-up Saturday against Louisville (Getty Images).

All of these questions are worth thinking about, but the answers are never as clear as what’s on the surface. Louisville, at the moment, looks like the best team in the country; the Shockers look overmatched. But if you think even for a second analyzing Final Four match-ups is as simple as the above A > B comparison, think again: These games are inherently unpredictable. That’s what makes them fun – what makes this entire Tournament comprise the most entertaining three-week period in American sports.

By now you’re well-schooled on each of the remaining participants, but I’m going to try and take you deeper, to dig beneath the superficial qualities that make both match-ups objectively simple to figure out. Here, I’ll take you in different directions, raise hopefully enlightening statistical analysis and maybe, by the end, you’ll have a greater sense of how each team stands going into what should be another excellent weekend of NCAA Tournament hoops.

To start off our team preview series, which you can expect each day from now until Friday, the least known commodity on the block, Wichita State, is up to bat.

Pre-NCAA Tournament Capsule. One year removed from earning a #5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, a highly successful 27-6 win season and an MVC regular season championship, Wichita State entered 2012-13 with rightfully lowered expectations. You lose your top five scorers from a year ago, enter an overall improved league with an even more improved chief rival (Creighton), and you get the feeling a return trip to the NCAA Tournament maybe just isn’t in the cards this season. This was set up to be a textbook transition year, a season to take inventory and reload for the future. The spoils of 2011-12 – an at-large Tournament berth, regular season conference championship, that kind of stuff – were pretty much off the table. Now Gregg Marshall’s team has not only exceeded last season’s first-round Tourney knockout, but find themselves two wins away from the completely unthinkable: a first-ever national championship.

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Circle of March, Vol. XIX

Posted by rtmsf on April 1st, 2013

The Circle of March, Final Four Edition. As we said goodbye to four more schools over the weekend, we’re left with just four others who think they have the goods to cut the nets down in Atlanta next Monday night. Louisville, Wichita State, Michigan and Syracuse — look at the symmetry! Only one of you can walk away with the elusive title (and CoM all to yourselves), but it will be well-deserved no matter which school it is.

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Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.30-31.13)

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 1st, 2013

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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

  • Louisville senior associate athletic director for media relations Kenny Klein tweeted a photo of Cardinals guard Kevin Ware moving around on crutches Monday morning, less than 24 hours after suffering a gruesome broken leg in the first half of Sunday’s victory over Duke.
  • An outstanding column from Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports discussing how the courage and strength shown by Louisville guard Kevin Ware after his horrific leg injury served to inspire the Cardinals to get past Duke and reach the Final Four.
  • Has Louisville forward Gorgui Dieng improved his NBA Draft stock during the team’s NCAA Tournament run?
  • Louisville guard Russ Smith was named Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional. The dynamic junior has dominated the tournament thus far, as he is averaging 26 points per contest.
  • Duke freshman swingman Rasheed Sulaimon was quite emotional after his subpar performance in Sunday’s loss to Louisville and in the process, he left no doubt that he truly cares about success and his teammates.
  • Andrew Jones of FoxSportsCarolinas.com writes that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski got just about everything he could out of this year’s Blue Devils.

West Region

  • Wichita State is confident that it belongs in the Final Four. The ninth-seeded Shockers are in the Final Four for the first time since 1965.
  • Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall reminded his team to “play angry” at halftime of the Shockers’ Elite Eight victory over Ohio State and after notching the Elite Eight victory, they are playing angry into the Final Four.
  • Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall took Sunday to re-charge after Saturday’s thrilling Elite Eight victory over Ohio State, but he is back at work Monday preparing for Saturday’s Final Four match-up with top-seeded Louisville.
  • Here is an interesting story about a man from Long Beach, California, who put a $10 bet on Wichita State to win the national title. The Shockers had 750-1 odds to cut down the nets at the beginning of the NCAA Tournament, so he would win $7,500 off that bet if they do end up winning the title.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 85, #2 Duke 63

Posted by WCarey on March 31st, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Elite Eight NCAA Tournament game between #1 Louisville and #2 Duke in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Louisville’s mental toughness was incalculable. With 6:33 remaining in the first half, Louisville reserve guard Kevin Ware ran out to defend a three-point attempt from Duke guard Tyler Thornton and what seemed like a routine play turned into a very gruesome sight at Lucas Oil Stadium. Ware’s leg snapped as he landed and he suffered a broken leg. Ware’s teammates were deeply affected by the horrible scene on the court, as both guard Russ Smith and forward Chane Behanan were in tears. As Ware was taken off on a stretcher, Smith, Behanan, and forwards Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell were locked in an embrace near midcourt. The Cardinals led 21-20 when Ware went down and it would have been completely understandable if they had been unable to overcome the emotions that came with the injury. However, the Cardinals recovered in very impressive fashion – finishing the first half with a 35-32 lead and then exploding in the second half to outscore the Blue Devils 50-31 during the second 20 minutes of the game. Louisville coach Rick Pitino, his coaching staff, and senior point guard Peyton Siva deserve a great deal of credit for guiding the team through what was undoubtedly a very tough time.
  2. The Cardinals flat out owned the second half. At the second half’s under-16 media timeout, the game was tied at 42, but from that point forward the game was completely dominated by the Cardinals. After the 42-42 tie, Louisville outscored Duke 43-21. The Cardinals’ defensive effort in the second half was so suffocating that they held a very good offense to just a 32.1% mark from the field over the final 20 minutes of the game. Duke stars Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, and Mason Plumlee were never really able to make a huge impact and its guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon were held to a combined 4-of-21 performance from the field. Siva and Smith took over for Louisville on the offensive end of the court, seemingly getting into the lane at will. After shooting a respectable 46.4% from the field in the first half, the Cardinals were even better from the field in the second half, making 59.3% of their attempts in the second frame. Louisville completely dominated the second half and when it is able to put forth a performance like that, it is an impossible team to beat.
  3. Louisville is the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta. When the Cardinals became the overall number one-seed on Selection Sunday, they were viewed as a definite favorite to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta. Two weeks later, Louisville has advanced to Atlanta and is the only one-seed still alive in the field. The Cardinals are set to play nine-seed Wichita State on Saturday in a semi-final where they will have a definite talent advantage even though the Shockers were able to pull off upsets of West Region one-seed Gonzaga and two-seed Ohio State. In the other semifinal, four seeds Michigan and Syracuse will meet for a right to advance to the national title game. While there will be a lot of talent on display next weekend, no team has as much talent and experience as Louisville and this is why it should definitely be viewed as the clear favorite to cut down the nets when all is said and done.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Michigan 79, #3 Florida 59

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the South Regional in Dallas, TX this weekend.

Three Takeaways.

  1. Michigan played phenomenally well today. They came out of the gate on fire and never really let up. Sure there were a few moments where Florida looked like they might get back in it as they cut the lead to 11 with 17:35 left on a pair fo free throws by Scottie Wilbekin, but Michigan never let them back in it. It was perhaps the most impressive performance that the Wolverines have put together this season (only their 25-point win over a good, but still inferior VCU team comes close). The star of the game was Nik Stauskas, who Florida apparently didn’t realize is one of the best shooters in college basketball. Stauskas was nearly perfect in first half with 19 points as his only missed shot was a missed free throw at the end of the half after an idiotic Michael Frazier foul with 0.4 seconds left gave Stauskas three free throws. Stauskas finished with 22 points as the team went away from him int he second half. To leave it at Stauskas would be a disservice to the rest of the Wolverine team who overcame awful shooting performances from Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr who were a combined 8-29 from the field. Mitch McGary added 11 points and 9 rebounds with most of them coming in an early run that set that tone for the game. Burke made up for his poor shooting with with 8 rebounds and 7 assists with just one turnover. After the game he said that when he is struggling from the floor he makes a concerted effort to facilitate and make sure he makes an impact on defense.

    Everybody was impressed with Michigan even if Beilein appeared unenthusiastic at this point (Credit: @nickbaumgardner)

    Everybody was impressed with Michigan even if Beilein appeared unenthusiastic at this point (Credit: @nickbaumgardner)

  2. On the other sideline it was a complete no-show by the Gators. For a team that was supposed to have experience on its side having made the past two Elite 8s the Gators seemed overwhelmed by the Wolverines. Outside of the ugly shooting from the field (41%) the Gators also failed to make the three-point shot a weapon as they only made 2 of 10 when they came into the game making 8 a game. When the other team goes 10 of 19 from beyond the arc as Michigan did you are not going to win many games. Looking back on the season this will be yet another Elite 8 appearance that ended in disappointment. It was a marvelous season for the Gators where they throttled opponents for much of the season, but in the end they lacked a dominant player to take over when the team was in trouble. It may not have been enough to overcome a hot Michigan team today, but it would have made things a lot more interesting. For Billy Donovan it will be back to the drawing board as he loses a ton of experience and will have to remake his team. The media will harp on Florida losing three straight Elite 8 games, but that undersells the difficulty in getting to that point, which is an impressive accomplishment in itself.
  3. Looking forward for the Wolverines their performance today should scare every Syracuse fan, but that doesn’t mean we should expect them to catch fire from beyond the arc again in Atlanta. Coming into the game this was a team that shot 38% from three-point range and this 53% performance probably won’t be repeated although it might if Syracuse leaves Stauskas as open as Florida did. The Michael Carter-Willliams-Trey Burke match-up should be a great one and one that will attract a lot of NBA scouts, but there should be plenty of other great match-ups that we will get into next week.

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