Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 82, #4 Michigan 76

Posted by rtmsf on April 9th, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the Final Four in Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend.

Five Key Takeaways.

Kevin Ware Gives the L Wearing One of the Championship Nets

Kevin Ware Gives the L Wearing One of the Championship Nets

  1. They Did It For Ware, But They Were Going to Do It Anyway. Louisville was the best team this season, and they played like teams that are the best teams typically do. No matter what Rick Pitino says about how the NCAA Tournament field was wide open this year, the Cardinals had the appropriate toughness and ability on both ends of the floor to successfully handle any type of opponent. In both Final Four games this weekend, his team came back from double-figure deficits, and they did so by avoiding any natural tendency to panic on the big stage and having the confidence in unlikely heroes to step up when called upon. It was Luke Hancock and Chane Behanan tonight. It was Tim Henderson and Hancock on Saturday night. Russ Smith was the star of the first four games of the Dance. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng have certainly had their moments. Even Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear have stepped up when needed. The Cards ran off 17 games in a row after a wild five-overtime defeat at Notre Dame on February 9, and 20 of 21 since late January. The only real question mark with respect to this team was what might happen if the starting backcourt pair of Siva and Smith were both having bad offensive nights — like, perhaps if the pair combined for 15-of-57 (26.3 percent) in back-to-back games at the Final Four? The Cards had the answer all along — a shooter by the name of Luke Hancock (11-of-15) who would make up for what they were lacking on that end. Well played, Louisville.
  2. Welcome to the Atlanta Gun Show.  In all our many years of watching college basketball, we’re not sure we’ve ever seen a player knock down four consecutive bombs in the way that Michigan’s Spike Albrecht did followed by an opposing player answer with four consecutive bombs in the way that Luke Hancock did. Hancock’s were more rapid-fire than Albrecht’s in that they came literally over a two-minute span to get the Cards back into the game, but Albrecht’s bombing may have actually had a bit of a stagnation effect on the rest of his teammates. With Albrecht playing so well offensively, John Beilein elected to rest his NPOY starting point guard, Trey Burke, for 14 minutes of the first half, and although it’s tough to argue with a Michigan lead taken into halftime, it seemed as if the other major (and necessary) contributors — Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Nik Stauskus — were having difficulty finding their spots. The Albrecht Show was great theater in the Georgia Dome this evening, but it may have had a negative effect for Michigan in the long term by not allowing Burke to facilitate his team better.
  3. Why Didn’t Michigan Foul Sooner? With 52 seconds left in the game, Michigan was only down four points but had stepped on the baseline on a rebound to give the Cards a full shot clock again. At the time the Wolverines only had five team fouls. They allowed 15 full seconds to run off the clock before Jon Horford gave one for the team’s sixth foul. Then Michigan allowed another eight ticks to expire before fouling Luke Hancock with 29 seconds remaining to send him to the line for the bonus. When John Beilein was asked about this decision (or lack thereof) to not foul afterward, he said, “I thought we were in the 1-and-1. That was a coaching error.” The gasps of shock were heard throughout the Twitter-verse… how he couldn’t have known the number of team fouls they had seemed borderline ludicrous. It says here that Beilein knew exactly how many fouls there were — he’s too smart and too good of a coach to miss that — but for some reason his players did not follow his instructions precisely in the execution of whom and when to foul — so he’s simply covering for their mistakes. At the end of the analysis, it’s reasonable to still say that the mistake is completely his fault, and you’d be right — but we’re not buying the concept that a coach as accomplished as Beilein made such an egregious error in the closing minute of a National Championship game without more evidence to support it.
  4. A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats. We’ve said this many times before this year, but Louisville HAD to win this championship to validate its program as a national powerhouse in contrast to the monolith that resides 70 miles east in Lexington. Nobody on the Cardinals would address the topic, but it goes without saying that Louisville’s “little brother” status in the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a persistent pain in the rear of the Louisville program. Duke became great because Coach K put Dean Smith’s North Carolina program directly in his crosshairs in the mid-1980s; Kentucky’s recent success under John Calipari has put the pressure on Rick Pitino and the Louisville players to counter the Wildcats’ momentum in order to stay relevant. Everyone knows what kind of recruiting class UK is bringing in next season — at worst, the 2013-14 Wildcats are likely to be like the 2010 John Wall/DeMarcus Cousins group; at best, like the 2012 Anthony Davis/Michael Kidd-Gilchrist unit. Louisville knew all too well that this year’s team, with an experienced, tough and talented mix of multi-functional players, was going to be the Cards’ best chance in a while to stem the blue and white tide rising all around them. Rick Pitino, having coached at both schools, is no dummy — he and his team weren’t going to waste this opening.
  5. Were We Not Entertained? For our money, this was the most entertaining National Championship game since the monster 1999 battle between Connecticut and Duke. (2008 Memphis-Kansas was fun, but missed free throws by the Tigers down the stretch spoiled it). The first half alone was one of the most entertaining 20 minutes of high-level basketball that we’ve ever encountered, and although Michigan didn’t stay tight enough with the Cards to produce a monumental finish, the up-and-down high-flying nature of the game was still outstanding throughout. Consider this: The best offense in the country lost despite hitting 52 percent of its shots and making eight threes; the best defense in the country won despite giving up those numbers and only causing a relatively low 12 turnovers. It was a contrast of styles wherein Louisville had to win an offensive-minded game and Michigan had to manage to find enough stops, and both teams performed admirably in pushing back against the other team’s strengths. This was a masterful finish to a wide open and often-bizarre college basketball season.

Star of the Game. Luke Hancock, Louisville. The Final Four Most Outstanding Player had another great game tonight, scoring 22 points and handing out three assists while knocking down all five of his attempts from beyond the arc. He saved his best for last, as his two games here in Atlanta represented his two highest regulation scoring outputs of the entire season. And the timeliness of his four first-half bombs brought the Cards from an 11-point deficit to just a single point right before the intermission. Again, it’s questionable whether Louisville could have won this game without Hancock’s huge and timely performance.

Pitino Interview. After the game, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino discussed his team’s long winning streak to the title, the greatness of the game, election to the Hall of Fame, and winning two championships.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Michigan 61, #4 Syracuse 56

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the Final Four in Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Wolverines Survive and Advance Against Syracuse

The Wolverines Survive and Advance Against Syracuse

  1. Michigan Attacked the Zone, Sorta. As well as anyone has to this point, at least. And, really, only in the first half at that. In what became something of a night of unsung stars, the Wolverines got four threes from Spike Albrecht and Caris Levert in the first stanza, helping to make up for cold halves from their typical gunners, Nik Stauskus, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway (2-of-11 in the first half). That trio didn’t get any better in the second half, finishing with a combined 4-of-18 night from beyond the arc, but the real key to beating the zone was the play of Mitch McGary in the high post. Michigan mostly looked offensively lost and tentative when McGary was out of the game, but even when he was on the court, the second half was mostly spent hanging on to a lead rather than aggressively trying to expand it. In other words, Michigan did just enough just enough times to beat the zone, and that’s still significantly more than the other teams not named Louisville have been able to do against it in the last three weeks.
  2. So… About Those Free Throws. Michigan should have won this game comfortably after taking a five-point lead and the ball into the final 1:10 of the game. Regrettably, the Wolverines missed five of its gimmes down the stretch (six, if you include one of McGary’s attempts that didn’t count) and that, combined with Michigan’s lack of timeouts (using the last one at 1:51 remaining), left a cavernous-sized opening available for the Orange. Ultimately, Syracuse had two chances in the final 30 seconds to either tie or take the lead and a questionable Brandon Triche offensive foul and an even more questionable decision by Trevor Cooney put an end to that mess in short order. Michigan certainly put an exclamation point on the notion of survive and advance.
  3. No Shows. Syracuse was unlikely to win this game without another sterling performance from its oft-schizophrenic point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, and the prophecy came true. MCW delivered a real stinker of a two-point, five-turnover, five-foul game, which was too much for CJ Fair (22 points, six rebounds) and Brandon Triche (11 points, eight assists) to compensate for themselves. On a similar note, the Michigan starting backcourt was mostly awful as well, hitting only 5-of-29 from the field and contributing a total output of 20 points tonight. But special and equitable mention needs to go to everybody’s NPOY Trey Burke, who played a solid floor game (four assists, five rebounds), but couldn’t hit the broad side of a Georgia barn (1-of-8 from the field) in the dome tonight. It’s unlikely that he’ll have two awful shooting games in a row, so that’s something to keep an eye on heading into Monday night’s game with Louisville.

Star of the Game. Mitch McGary, Michigan. No other choice here. He only had 10 points, but his 12 rebounds and six assists were absolutely vital to Michigan’s fortune tonight. Five of those rebounds were on the offensive end, no doubt contributing to the 14 second-chance points that the Wolverines were able to put down against the Syracuse zone. McGary’s six assists led to another 15 points, so if you do the math, you quickly understand that McGary had a hand in more than half of Michigan’s points tonight. And they really needed just about every one of them to hang on.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 72, #9 Wichita State 68

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the Final Four in Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Luke Hancock's Game of His Life Ensured Louisville Advanced Tonight

Luke Hancock’s Game of His Life Ensured Louisville Advanced Tonight

  1. The Game Was Ugly, But Louisville Can Do Ugly. One reason the Cards are so difficult to match up against is that they are just as comfortable playing an ugly, foul-ridden, poor-shooting train wreck of a game as they are an up-and-down virtuoso performance. This was the former. In the first half, the Cards allowed Wichita to force them to settle for long-range jumpers to the tune of 4-of-13 with only seven field goal attempts coming from two-point range. By the time Louisville had fallen behind 12 points just shy of midway through the second half, those numbers looked even worse — 18 shots from three and only 11 from within the arc. Only when Louisville started driving the ball inside to a more equitable split (the Cards finished the game with a 25/24 ratio) did openings appear for the only hot shooters on the floor, Luke Hancock and Tim Henderson. 
  2. Tim Henderson and Luke Hancock Saved the Day. Speaking of those two, there’s no question that their contributions on nights where Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng couldn’t make shots (they combined for a 1-of-10 performance) saved the Cardinals’ hides tonight. It wasn’t so much as the volume of scoring — Hancock ended up with 20 points, while Henderson had six — but it was the when that mattered most. After the Shockers’ lead ballooned to 12 points, it was Henderson who nailed consecutive threes to bring the lead back to a much more manageable six very quickly. If Wichita had pushed its lead up to 15 or more at that point, it’s questionable whether the Cards would have found enough offense to come back in this one. After Henderson’s pair of bombs, it was Hancock’s turn. He followed up with a pair of layups and a three, ensuring that the Louisville push was for real, and then not only gave the Cards its first lead in a long time with a three at the 6:30 mark, but essentially sealed the game with another one at two minutes. He also managed to get his hands on some balls for deflections and steals, but the key point is that 13 of his 20 points came in the last 12 minutes of the game. More on his Final Four-saving performance below.
  3. Wichita Was One Bad Stretch From the Unthinkable. For much of this game, the appearance on the floor was that Gregg Marshall’s group was the better team. Their ability to not fall victim to the Louisville pressure was outstanding for the majority of the contest, mishandling the ball only five times in the first 33-plus minutes of action. Once Louisville started to finally get some shots to go down, Wichita got rattled for the first time all game, turning it over four times in the next two minutes and three more times down the stretch. It’s certainly not worthwhile to delve too much into hypotheticals, but Wichita had the exact game plan and execution it needed to win this one. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng were offensive nightmares. Russ Smith was solid, but high-volume in his attack. Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan weren’t going to beat the Shockers tonight. It really took a totally couple of unexpected efforts from Hancock and Henderson to make the difference here in Atlanta, or it says here that Wichita would have been playing on Monday night.

Star of the Game. Luke Hancock, Louisville. Certainly didn’t have that one on the SOTG pool, and I’m not sure anyone else did either. As noted above, it wasn’t just his overall numbers — 20 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals, on 6-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-5 from distance — it was that so much of his offensive effort was exactly when Louisville needed a player to step up. Hancock averaged 7.4 PPG this season and only hit the 20-point mark once all season (22 against Notre Dame in 46 minutes of action).

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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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Rushed Reactions: #9 Wichita State 70, #2 Ohio State 66

Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is reporting from the West Regional in Los Angeles, CA this weekend.

  1. Tekele Cotton Ain’t Scared. To set the scene, a 20-point lead with 11 minutes left had turned into a three-point lead with under three minutes remaining. The Shockers had committed five turnovers on their previous six possessions and hadn’t made a field goal in nearly five minutes. Wichita State players were arguing with each other, looking over at the bench at every loose ball for some sort of help and checking the clock, which was moving far too slow for their liking, at every chance they got. A game that had once been a snoozer looked very much like one that was going to turn into a surprising Ohio State comeback. But after breaking through Buckeye pressure and getting the ball in the halfcourt, the ball found its way to Tekele Cotton with less than ten seconds on the shot clock. Primarily known as a defender and dirty work type of player, Cotton, however, stepped into the three as calm and as cool as you would want, as if the world around him weren’t going to hell. And it was pure. Nothing but net. In that moment, one player putting aside the enormity of the situation and handling his business as if he were all alone in the gym, much of that confusion and disorder disappeared. And he wasn’t done yet. On the next offensive possession, after Fred Van Vleet missed and end-of-shot-clock three on a possession where the Shockers never got the ball inside the three-point line , Cotton tracked down the offensive rebound and turned a wasted 35-second possession into a 1:10 possession that ended in a Van Vleet jumper. Suffice it to say that likely without Cotton, the Shockers may have gotten shocked themselves.

    Demetric Williams Spending Some Quality Time With The West Regional Trophy. Williams, Despite Seeing His Minutes Slashed, Hit A Big Three In The First Half

    Demetric Williams Spending Some Quality Time With The West Regional Trophy. Williams, Despite Seeing His Minutes Slashed, Hit A Big Three In The First Half

  2. Athletically Even. You look at the names of the front of the jerseys and the conferences in which these teams play and you expect, sight unseen, the Buckeyes to be the physically dominant team. That was very much not the case today: Wichita State was every bit the athletic equal of the Buckeyes, with all the height, strength, quickness and bounciness of the more familiar Buckeyes. And you got the feeling right from the start that the Shockers new that. But the Buckeyes are used to playing against their athletic equals on a regular basis, while this was all new for the Shockers. After dominating for 30-some minutes, when the Buckeyes turned up the energy, the Shockers got flustered for a bit, but their athleticism allowed them to recover and fend off a late charge.
  3. Aaron Craft Exposed. The game plan for the Shockers on Craft was pretty clear: go under ball screens, give him looks at jumpers over a chance at penetration and go at him with the ball. And their game plan paid off. Craft did his a couple of his seven three-point attempts, but he missed all five of his two-point attempts and was at times a liability offensively, allowing the Shockers to sag off and clog up the lane. And defensively, on more than a couple occasions, Armstead blew by him on the way to the hole. Even more shockingly, when the Buckeyes finally started to show some pop, it was when Craft was on the pine for a brief two minute stretch. He came back on to help harass the Shockers into turnovers late, but this certainly wasn’t a great performance from the Buckeye point.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Syracuse 55, #3 Marquette 39

Posted by rtmsf on March 30th, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the East Regional in Washington, DC, this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Boeheims, All Smiles in Washington Tonight

The Boeheims, All Smiles in Washington Tonight

  1. The Elusive Forty-Point Barrier. For the fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament game, Syracuse hit the 10-minute mark of the second half with its opponent having failed to score 40 points — Montana had 20, California had 31, Indiana had 37, and Marquette had 28 at that point. It’s very difficult to win games against quality competition when there’s a lid on the basket for most of the game, but make no mistake, these are not coincidences. The Syracuse 2/3 zone is playing as well as any defense in the NCAA Tournament right now, and for all but a short period during the first half when Davante Gardner found a seam in the zone at the foul line for a few jumpers, there simply wasn’t anything open for Marquette throughout. The Golden Eagles shot a putrid 12-of-53 from the field (22.6%), its worst shooting performance of the season, which included a bricklaying 3-of-25 (13%) from distance. Marquette hit its first and last three of the game, but sandwiched in between those two makes were a whole bunch of bad misses. The looks just weren’t there.
  2. Marquette Made a Great Run. The Golden Eagles had a poor shooting game today, but Buzz Williams’ program took another step forward in making the Elite Eight and proving again just how good of a coach he is. They very easily could have lost either of their first two games at the subregional level, but they were able to get past both Davidson and Butler before a dominant Sweet Sixteen performance against Miami (FL). Williams spent a lot of time in the postgame press conference talking about the love he has for his players and the team chemistry that they’ve build up throughout the season. It’s clear that he’s a coach that the players really believe in, and he manages to get the most from his group every year as a result. Much like another prominent program in the great state of Wisconsin, it might be time to start slotting MU into the top tier of the Big East regardless of the talent that Williams has at his disposal. The program is in fantastic hands.
  3. It’s the Zone, Stupid. Not to beat a dead horse here, but the Syracuse zone is playing as well as head coach Jim Boeheim has ever seen from his players. With the size and athleticism at the top of the zone from Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, open shots are very difficult to find. Through the four games of the NCAA Tournament, teams are hitting a collective 35.8% from two-point range and a ridiculous 15.4% from three-point range. Even if the Orange themselves are not making shots — like tonight when they hit only 38.0% from the field — they’re always going to be in good shape because of how difficult the zone is to solve. Both Michigan and Florida are well-coached and filled with shot-makers, but we’re having trouble seeing how either backcourt will be able to find openings any more than the Indiana or Marquette guards were. It says here that Louisville may be the only team still playing that has the personnel and the know-how to beat the SU defense.

Star of the Game. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse. The Syracuse point guard and East Region Most Outstanding Player had an all-around great floor game, scoring 12 points, grabbing eight rebounds, dishing out six assists and notching five steals. Most importantly, though, MCW played under control and only committed a single turnover. In his 75 minutes of action here in Washington, DC, over the weekend, the sometimes-wild Carter-Williams coughed up the ball three times. If he continues to play like that on the offensive end, Syracuse is as likely a team as any to win the 2013 national championship.

All-East Region Team: Davante Gardner, Vander Blue, James Southerland, CJ Fair, Michael Carter-Williams (MOP).

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Duke 71, #3 Michigan State 61

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game between #2 Duke and #3 Michigan State in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Seth Curry caught fire. The senior sharpshooter had a game to remember Friday night. He erupted for 29 points while shooting 6-of-9 from the three-point line. He had many open looks on the night, as Duke’s offense did an admirable job of getting him open. Curry has been an offensive dynamo throughout his collegiate career, but he took it to another level tonight. When you score 23 of your team’s first 41 points, you are making a huge impact on the game and that is what Curry did against Michigan State. Curry’s hot hand was never more evident than when he drained three from deep between the 19:18 and 17:12 marks of the second half. While the Duke lead was just three after that barrage from deep, it really forced the Spartans to put more pressure on Curry, which resulted in the rest of the Duke offense opening up.
  2. Duke’s defense was very impressive. Between the 12:05 and 3:32 mark of the second half, Michigan State did not make a shot from the field. Duke’s defense – anchored in the post by forwards Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly –  did an outstanding job on three of Michigan State’s top four offensive weapons. Forward Adreian Payne was limited to just a 3-of-10 performance from the field. Big man Derrick Nix matched Payne’s 3-of-10 performance. Standout freshman guard Gary Harris had a very frustrating evening, as he only managed six points on a 2-of-11 mark from the field. The Blue Devils have now played excellent defense in two straight games – they held Creighton to just 30.2% shooting in their Round of 32 victory – and if they are able to keep that going against Louisville in Sunday’s regional final, there is a strong possibility that they will be playing in Atlanta next weekend.
  3. Louisville/Duke on Sunday for the Midwest Regional title has the potential to be a classic. Louisville and Duke have already met once this season. The Blue Devils topped the Cardinals, 76-71 in the championship game of the Battle for Atlantis on November 24. The major difference between that game and Sunday’s match-up is that Louisville will have the services of forward Gorgui Dieng, who missed the first contest with a wrist injury. Louisville enters Sunday’s regional final as winners of 13 consecutive games and it has arguably played the best basketball in the country over that period. The Cardinals have a dynamic lineup that is very strong in the backcourt and the frontcourt. It has been evident that Louisville has been much more talented than its first three NCAA Tournament opponents – North Carolina A&T, Colorado State, and Oregon – but the Cardinals will be tested by a similarly talented Duke squad when the two meet for a trip to the Final Four. Considering the plethora of talent on both sides, it is very difficult to make a prediction on what may happen on Sunday afternoon, but it is fair to say that it has all the makings of a classic basketball game.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 62, #15 Florida Gulf Coast 50

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2013

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Three Key Takeaways.

  1. It is about fundamentals. Dunk City was fun while it lasted, but in the end your idea of execution has to go beyond just throwing up lobs. America fell in love with Florida Gulf Coast’s style of play, which consisted of aggression consistently being taken out against the rim. When it is working it is a beautiful thing to watch, but when it doesn’t it can get ugly very quickly. After jumping out to a 24-14 lead with 5:23 left in the first half the wheels came off the Dunk City bandwagon very quickly as Florida went on a 16-0 run to go up 30-24 and they never looked back. Although the Gators never pulled away (their largest was 12 with 7:25 left) the game never seemed in doubt as the swagger that Florida Gulf Coast exhibited for nearly 2.5 games of the NCAA Tournament disappeared and appeared tentative despite the occasional flashy dunk.
  2. Florida will have to play better if they expect to beat Michigan on Sunday. Beating a team that has been as hot as Florida Gulf Coast has been is never an easy task, but Florida did not look like a national title contender against an overmatched team with the exception of their 16-0 run late in the first half. They had multiple chances to put the game away, but let Florida Gulf Coast hang around. Mike Rosario played well, but none of the Gators played that well. It was a sloppy effort overall and should raise concerns for a team without a true leader and one that has still not won a close game.
  3. What’s next for Andy Enfield? The Florida Gulf Coast coach has become something like an Internet sensation for a variety of reasons–his wife, career at Johns Hopkins, and business career–and this has led to some speculation that he might be moving onto another job. We won’t dismiss that possibility, but we would probably point to a mid-major opening created by someone leaving for Minnesota or UCLA. No reasonable athletic director (ok, maybe we are assuming too much) would consider someone who coached a good, but not exceptional team that just happened to get hot and matched up against vulnerable teams. Despite their run in the NCAA Tournament they are not even considered heavy favorites to win the Atlantic Sun again next year. If Enfield can build on this and make a successful, sustainable program, then perhaps he can dream about a big-time job.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 77, #12 Oregon 69

Posted by WCarey on March 29th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game between #1 Louisville and #12 Oregon in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Russ Smith was terrific tonight. The dynamic junior guard led the way for the Cardinals all night on the offensive end of the court. He finished the night with 31 points on an efficient 9-of-16 from the field. His ability to consistently drain free throws – he went 12-of-14 from the charity stripe on the night – was crucial to the Cardinals putting away tonight’s victory. A lot has been made about the “Russdiculous” phenomenon – a moniker Smith earned due to his unpredictability and sometimes erratic play – but Smith showed against Oregon that he is plenty capable of remaining in control and providing the Cardinals with a consistent effort for a full 40 minutes. A strong case can be made right now that Smith has been the Most Outstanding Player of the  NCAA Tournament, as he also put up strong performances against North Carolina A&T in the Round of 64 (23 points) and against Colorado State in the Round of 32 (27 points).
  2. Oregon battled hard, but Louisville proved to be just too much. Oregon could have easily packed it in when it went down by 14 at half and by 18 with 9:02, but the Ducks showed their resiliency by fighting to the very end. It was quite apparent that Louisville was the much more talented team on the court, but the fight put forth by Oregon was essentially the only reason why this game was even somewhat close. Dana Altman‘s squad should be proud of the way it played against the superior Cardinals. While Oregon was never able to really make things that interesting for Louisville, its hard-nosed play prevented the Cardinals from pulling away in the second half. Oregon could have absolutely played better, but it probably could not have played any harder.
  3. Louisville should be seen as a favorite to take home the national title. Louisville’s great talent advantage was on display once again in the win over Oregon. Despite battling foul trouble, point guard Peyton Siva once again showed why he is one of the best floor generals in the country. As previously mentioned, guard Russ Smith was outstanding all night. Louisville’s post play did a fantastic job of ensuring Oregon did not get anything easy close to the basket. Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan, and Montrezl Harrell provided the Cardinals with rugged play and a tenacity that very few teams in the country could have matched. While it is probably unfair to declare the Cardinals as the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta, Louisville definitely has the guns to make that a reality.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Michigan 87, #1 Kansas 85

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the South Region in Dallas, Texas this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. This loss will be a tough one for Bill Self and the Jayhawks to swallow. The Jayhawks led by 14 with 6:50 remaining in the second half only to see that lead evaporate thanks to some questionable decision-making on their part and some big shots by Michigan. The story will end up being Trey Burke’s shot, but Mitch McGary deserves a lot of credit for his game-high 25 points and 14 rebounds. McGary came into his senior year of high school as one of the top recruits in the country, but slid down the rankings after some weak performances, which led many to question his impact for the Wolverines this season, but he has stepped up his play in the NCAA Tournament and seems to be getting better with every game.
  2. In a NCAA Tournament that has had several memorable moments, Trey Burke may have provided us with the defining moment of the NCAA Tournament so far. His 28-footer with 4 seconds left in regulation seemed to hang in the air forever. From floor level (literally with the raised court) the shot seemed like it would fall short, but it just made it over the front of the rim and dropped in. Whether or not this will propel Michigan into the Final Four remains to be seen, but it is a moment that will last well beyond this year’s One Shining Moment.

    Trey Burke's 28-Footer Will Be Talked About For A Long Time in Ann Arbor (Credit: AP)

    Trey Burke’s 28-Footer Will Be Talked About For A Long Time in Ann Arbor (Credit: AP)

  3. Given the financial situation of his family it seems like a forgone conclusion that Ben McLemore is headed to the NBA Draft. Honestly, most neutral observers would probably tell him it is a bad decision not to enter the NBA Draft. If this was McLemore’s last game as a Jayhawk, it was certainly a solid one, but like much of McLemore’s freshman campaign it left you wanting more. When McLemore finally ended his NCAA drought with a 3-pointer with 8:48 left in the first half he put together a stretch that reminded you he was the best player on the court and he finished with a team-high 20 points, but McLemore seems to lack that killer instinct where he puts teams away and tends to disappear in big moments. McLemore is still young so perhaps he will outgrow that weakness at some point, but it is something that NBA teams will worry about.

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Rushed Reactions: #9 Wichita State 72, #13 La Salle 58

Posted by AMurawa on March 29th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is reporting from the West Region semifinals in Los Angeles, California, this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

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  1. No Shock. While Wichita State came into its first two games as underdogs, the Shockers were the favorite on Thursday night. And they played like it. Against a La Salle team featuring a variety of options around the perimeter, the Shockers displayed not only the athleticism and quickness to stick with all of those smaller offensive options, but guys like Carl Hall and Cleanthony Early – both bigger than all but one player in the La Salle rotation – operated with impunity in the middle. Wichita dominated on the glass, grabbing 45.9% of their own misses and 77.9% of La Salle’s, while outscoring the Explorers in the paint 40-26 (a number that was 24-10 at half). The Shockers never trailed and spent the final 36 minutes of the game leading by at least eight points.
  2. But Can They Play With The Buckeyes? The Shockers have time and again shown an ability to play with their opponents in this NCAA Tournament regardless of the style of play they face. Against the rugged Pitt Panthers, the Shockers fought them tooth and nail on the glass and dominated them despite shooting just 2-of-20 from deep. Against the high-scoring Gonzaga Bulldogs, Wichita got it done with improbably hot shooting, knocking down 14 threes. And against La Salle they locked up perimeter scorers on the defensive end and pounded it inside on offense. Ohio State is certainly a different animal all together, but this Shockers team has the athleticism at all areas of the floor to compete with the big favorite.
  3. Ron Baker, Late Season Addition. The Shockers missed their redshirt freshman guard for 21 games this season due to injury, but he is back with a vengeance. He scored 16 efficient points against Gonzaga and did a ton of other work, racking up a +19 plus/minus number in that game. Tonight he was his same versatile self, knocking down a couple more threes on the way to 13 points for the night and a +22 plus/minus (second on his team only to Hall’s +24), supplying heady passing, timely shooting and some great defensive effort

Star of the GameCarl Hall, Wichita State. The newly shorn Shocker big fella controlled the paint tonight, knocking down seven of eight first half shots and grabbing six boards in helping his team build up an insurmountable 16-point halftime lead. While he wasn’t nearly as effective in the second half as the game turned into a guard-dominated affair (he wound up with 16 points, eight boards and three blocks), the damage had been done.

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