Rushed Reactions: #4 Syracuse 61, #1 Indiana 50

Posted by rtmsf on March 28th, 2013

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

MCW Was a Superstar Tonight in DC

Syracuse Got to the Rim Repeatedly Tonight in DC

  1. The Syracuse Zone Just Shut Down the Nation’s Best Offense. According to KenPom, Indiana came into today with a 122.8 offensive rating, the best in the country. IU also averaged 78.6 points per game this year, a statistic that put the Hoosiers among the top handful of teams in college basketball. This evening? At the 10:00-minute mark in the second half, the Hoosiers had a total of 37 points, marking the third straight game that the Orange had held an NCAA Tournament team (Montana and Cal) in the 30s or below. The fact of the matter is that no team, not even one the quality of Indiana, can adequately prepare for the albatross-long arms of the Syracuse zone and the athleticism of their interior people. Every shot within the arc was contested — the Orange ended up with 11 blocks — and the great equalizer of the three-point shot was cut off as well — IU shot 3-of-15, including an oh-fer from Jordan Hulls.
  2. Cody Zeller Was Exposed. We noticed this during last weekend’s Temple game as well, but Zeller has trouble finishing plays inside against long and athletic forwards. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone, as it’s as elementary a concept as there is in college basketball — it’s difficult to score over long athletes. But Zeller has a tendency to make himself smaller by contorting his body so that it’s parallel with the ground, and even when he goes straight up to the rim, it hasn’t been with authority. Syracuse blocked or got a piece of six of Zeller’s misses tonight, and you had better believe that NBA scouts will be reviewing the tape of his last two games in particular to get a better sense of whether Zeller has the toughness and the explosiveness to finish at the rim in a league where everyone is a long athlete.
  3. Bad Syracuse Only Made a Brief Appearance. If Syracuse is to win three more games to give Jim Boeheim his second national title, they’ll obviously have to keep playing exceptional defense in the same way that they did tonight. The recurring issue with this team has been what might endearingly be called “losing their minds” for large stretches of games. We saw it in the final three minutes of the California game last weekend, where the Orange blew a comfortable late lead to give the Bears a chance. We’ve seen it multiple other times this season as well. Except for a very brief stretch in the early part of the second half tonight, though, the Orange avoided that particular calamity here — MCW only had a single turnover, and while Brandon Triche (six) and CJ Fair (four) had way too many of the team total of 15, there weren’t enough of them in a row to give Indiana the lift it needed to make a substantial run. The closest the game ever got in the second half was a six-point margin at 38-32, but a layup on the other end allowed the Orange to race right back out to a quick double-figure lead. Bad Syracuse probably only appeared for a couple minutes tonight, and the team will need to keep it under wraps in order to push to the Final Four and beyond.

Star of the Game. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse. Given that his family has been dealing with a tragic fire at their home in the Boston area this week, it was a reasonable question to ask whether MCW would be fully focused on the game tonight. Needless to say, he seemed more locked in than he has for most of the season, scoring 24 points, grabbing six rebounds and four steals, but most importantly, only committing a single turnover. When MCW is on his game, Syracuse is very tough to beat.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Ohio State 73, #6 Arizona 70

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013

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

Three Key Takeaways.

laquinton ross osu

It Was a Sea of Red in LA Tonight

  1. Madness. After 39 minutes, 40 seconds and change, these two teams were dead even subsequent to a wild exchange of runs. One team killed it for the first 15 minutes, the other controlled the next 20-plus. And then down the stretch it was two prizefighters standing in the middlle of the ring throwing haymakers. Arizona’s seniors Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons threw together a barrage of scoring. Ohio State responded with play-making from Aaron Craft and shotmaking from LaQuinton Ross. And both teams went at it defensively. There was a crazy late run for Arizona to tie things up, but for the second straight game with the clock running down in regulation, the Buckeyes got a huge three-point bucket, this one from the newly confident Ross in the waning seconds, to provide the difference.
  2. The Buckeyes Have Found Their Additional Scorers. Much of the year the talk was about “who can Ohio State find to be its second scorer?” DeShaun Thomas has regularly been the leading man for the Bucks, pacing the team in scoring all year long and again tonight. But down the stretch tonight, it was Ross who made play after play after play for them, and in a variety of ways. He scored 14 of the Buckeyes last 17 points and he did it both with the drive, the ability to get to the line and, shown most spectacularly on the final bucket, with deep three-point range. Once a highly regarded recruit, it has taken awhile, but Ross has blossomed in a hurry in March. Meanwhile, Thomas was largely silent late after scoring 20 points in the games’ first 31 minutes.
  3. Tale of Two Arizonas. For the first 15 minutes or so, the Wildcats looked like the best team on the court, with Lyons getting to the hole regularly and drawing a couple of fouls on Craft. The freshman bigs were contributing, Nick Johnson looked like the best player on the floor and the Arizona fans in attendance were confident. Then, over about an 11-minute stretch spanning the half, the Ohio State defense turned on the juice, the Cats got frustrated and they gave up a 22-6 run over an 11:24 period. To knock off a team as solid and experienced as the Buckeyes, you’ve really got to play well for all 40 minutes.

Star of the GameLaQuinton Ross, Ohio State. For the second straight game, Ross came up large for the Buckeyes, scoring 17 for the game. Fourteen of those came after the break and all of those came in the last eight minutes. As recently as March 10 against Illinois, he was earning just single-digit minutes, but as the Buckeyes forge ahead into the Elite Eight, Ross has become a major factor, a 6’8” match-up nightmare who can shoot over smaller, quicker defenders or blow by bigger defenders.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Marquette 71, #2 Miami (FL) 61

Posted by rtmsf on March 28th, 2013

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

Marquette Fans and Their Interesting Wardrobes Move On...

Marquette Fans and Their Interesting Wardrobes Move On…

  1. Marquette Played Like It Has Been Here Before. This is Buzz Williams’ third straight Sweet Sixteen with the Golden Eagles and it showed. Two years ago, Marquette got creamed by North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen; last year his team competed better against Florida before the Gators pulled away and won by 10 points. This time around, it was Williams’ group that came into the regional as the experienced squad — key players such as Vander Blue, Jamil Wilson, Davante Gardner and Chris Otule had already been to the Sweet Sixteen twice before, while not a single player on the Miami roster had such great experience. Preparation, of course, is key, but the mental game can almost be as important as the physical one. Marquette played with a poise and focus that belied its status as the underdog here tonight.
  2. These Golden Eagles Are One Resilient Group. Marquette made it a point to punch the Hurricanes right in the mouth from the opening tip and it worked. Their game plan was quite clearly to out-tough Miami to the ball and to find the big men inside off dribble penetration and ball reversals. The Golden Eagles only took a total of six three-point attempts all evening (making three), bolstering the point that they thought the weakness in the Miami defense was on the interior. Keeping in mind that the Golden Eagles lost two second round draft picks in Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder last season, the ability for Marquette players to get better year-over-year and keep the program not only relevant but improving is phenomenal. Most people who know the sport of college basketball recognize that Williams is one of the best coaches in the business, but with a run like this (again), it’s time for the rest of America to start to notice.
  3. You Gotta Make Shots. It’s a simple-sounding proposition, but Miami started cold, played cold, and finished cold tonight. A 20.7% first half was followed by a better 47.1% second half, but many of those makes came after the game was out of reach. The Hurricanes ended with a 34.9% shooting night, with the backcourt of Shane Larkin (4-of-8), Durand Scott (3-of-13), Trey McKinney-Jones (3-of-10) and Rion Brown (2-of-12) really finding a miserable existence throughout the game. Jim Larranaga said afterward that his team was out of sync all night and that his team didn’t “look like [them]selves” due to a number of external factors.

Star of the Game. The Marquette Big Men. Maybe Miami’s Reggie Johnson was missed after all. The trio of Chris Otule, Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson consistently found themselves in good position to receive passes near the basket and convert them. They combined to score 41 points on 15-of-25 shooting from the field, grabbed 15 rebounds and only committed three fouls. None of the three were dominant, but Miami had no answer for pushing them away from the basket and keeping them quiet, either.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Duke 66, #7 Creighton 50

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 24th, 2013

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Brian Otskey (@botskey) is in Philadelphia for tonight’s Third Round NCAA Tournament games and filed this report after Duke advanced to the Sweet Sixteen with a victory over Creighton.

Three key takeaways:

Duke Marches on to Coach K's 21st Sweet Sixteen Appearance

Duke Marches on to Coach K’s 21st Sweet Sixteen Appearance

  1. Duke’s defense was tremendous. The Blue Devils held Creighton to a paltry 30.2% shooting and limited star Doug McDermott to just 4 of 16 from the field. McDermott said that Duke switched screens all night on him but that he missed some shots he usually makes. However, it wasn’t just McDermott who was limited. Austin Chatman and Jahenns Manigat shot a combined 3-18. Mike Krzyzewski had high praise for Tyler Thornton’s defense after the game but it was a complete team effort. Creighton was no match for Duke’s outstanding length and athleticism on this night.
  2. Fouls ruined the flow of this game. 46 fouls were called in this game, meaning there was one foul call every 52 seconds on average. The zebras completely ruined the flow of this game and I’m sure that contributed somewhat to the poor shooting we saw tonight. Neither team was able to get into any kind of rhythm offensively and it was a parade to the foul line for the better part of the evening. Doug McDermott only made four field goals but still scored 21 points because he was able to get to the charity stripe 12 times. This was definitely a physical game between two teams that played terrific defense but there was no need for that many fouls to be called.
  3. Let’s hope that wasn’t the last time we see Doug McDermott in college. One of the best players of this era, McDermott just completed his junior season and now has a decision to make. His coach and father, Greg, said after the game that the two of them discussed it six weeks ago and decided to wait until the season was over to think it through and make a final decision. That time has now come but the elder McDermott said they’ll be in no rush to sit down and talk, rather that they’d let this all sink in and calm down first. Doug McDermott has to what is best for him but it would be a shame for college basketball fans to see him forego his senior season, one in which his school is moving to a power conference in the new Big East. One more year of college basketball could help McDermott’s draft stock, especially on the defensive end.

Star of the Game:  Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke. Mike Krzyzewski’s talented freshman poured in 21 points on an efficient 5-9 shooting in what was a rough game for jump shooters. Sulaimon’s efficiency helped Duke keep Creighton at arm’s length for much of the game before pulling away down the stretch. Sulaimon has to be a contributor going forward if Duke is going to get to Atlanta.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Miami 63, #7 Illinois 59

Posted by WCarey on March 24th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game between #2 Miami and #7 Illinois in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

Miami Outlasted the Surging Illini Sunday (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Miami Outlasted the Surging Illini Sunday (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  1. The way Miami won this game was important. The Hurricanes have received a great deal of national attention due to the fact that their roster had zero NCAA Tournament experience before this year’s event. Miami coasted to an easy win over Pacific in its first game, but as a two-seed, that type of win is expected. Needing a test to prove its NCAA Tournament toughness, the Hurricanes definitely received one from Illinois. The Illini took a 55-54 lead with 1:24 to play and Miami kept its collective cool and was able to come back and grab the victory. On the possession after Illinois took the lead, Miami sophomore guard Shane Larkin nailed a ridiculously difficult step back three-pointer at the 1:04 mark to give the Hurricanes a two-point lead. Miami was able to maintain that lead and earn the victory by calmly going 6-of-6 from the free throw line down the stretch and not allowing Illinois to get anything easy on the offensive end of the court.
  2. Illinois deserves a lot of credit for the way it played. The Illini did not shoot the ball very well all night – just 37.7% from the field and 25.9% from three – but it fought hard all game and pushed Miami to the brink. In his postgame remarks, Illini coach John Groce spoke of how his team has battled hard all season and that they have gotten contributions from everyone all season. That was definitely the case against Miami, as different guys stepped up in different spots to make an impact. On a night where the usually solid D.J. Richardson was just 1-of-11 from the field, senior forward Tyler Griffey stepped up for the Illini with 12 huge points on a 4-of-6 performance from deep. Sophomore forward Nnanna Egwu was a force inside all night, as he finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds while playing very rugged defense against the Miami frontline. Senior guard Brandon Paul struggled at-times with his shot, but he certainly showcased his ability to take over a game with his performance Sunday night. The Illini might not have been victorious, but their effort and the way they played was certainly admirable.
  3. A blown call definitely had an impact on the game. When Richardson missed a three-point attempt with 43 seconds to play in what was a 57-55 game at the time, it clearly looked like the ball last touched the hand of Miami forward Kenny Kadji before going out-of-bounds. The ball was incorrectly rewarded to Miami, which resulted in guard Durand Scott nailing two clutch free throws to give the Hurricanes a four-point lead. While the Illini were able to trim the lead down to two again with 22 seconds to play, they never again had the chance to tie. There were many other reasons why Miami won and Illinois lost, but this call certainly had an impact on the last 43 seconds of what was a thrilling game.

Star(s) of the Game. Rion Brown and Shane Larkin, Miami. The junior Brown was outstanding for the Hurricanes off the bench. He finished with 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and 5-of-10 shooting from deep. In a game where every shot was crucial, it seemed like every one Brown made was of great importance to the outcome of the game. Larkin turned in a normal stellar performance – 17 points and five assists – but the reason he makes this category is due to the ridiculous step back three-pointer he nailed to give his team a lead it would never relinquish with one minute to play.

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Rushed Reactions: #13 La Salle 76, #12 Ole Miss 74

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 24th, 2013

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Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the third round of the South regional in Kansas City. You can also follow Brian on Twitter at @BSGoodman.

Three Key Takeaways:

La Salle Heads to the Sweet Sixteen for the First Time in Over a Half-Century

La Salle Heads to the Sweet Sixteen for the First Time in Over a Half-Century.

  1. Who knew that a team nicknamed “the Explorers” would be pretty good at this travel thing? It’s been a week to remember for La Salle, and a busy one at that. After knocking off Boise State in Dayton, La Salle sojurned to Kansas City, where it knocked off Kansas State in front of a hostile crowd and now finds its next conquest waiting in Los Angeles. Moreover, Dr. John Giannini’s team won its last two games by a total of four points, both decided in the closing seconds. As a result, the well-traveled explorers are off to their third destination in a week, where they’ll play for a chance to make the Final Four.
  2. Poor free throw shooting, late-game decision-making doom Ole Miss. Whether you’re a perennial powerhouse, cinderella or anything in between, when your season ends it’s tough not to take a look back at the things your team could have done differently to save it. Ole Miss’ undoing was two-pronged: The Rebels shot a porous 47.6% (10-of-21) at the charity stripe, and after Tyrone Garland’s layup with 2.5 seconds left, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy opted not to call a timeout, not only denying his team an opportunity to set up a last-second play, but more importantly, maiming his squad’s chances by failing to sub his top shooting threat into the game.  To his credit, Kennedy wasn’t regretful after the game about the way he handled the closing seconds, and he might have a point; Maybe the Rebels still comes up short even if he takes some time to draw up a play for his team. However, in my opinion, Kennedy failed to put his team in the best possible position to win and wasted his team’s last opportunity to advance.
  3. Marshall Henderson’s college career ends on a sour note. How will you remember him? The polarizing gunner was in the spotlight all season long, right down to the final minute, when Henderson found himself in a scrum that resulted in a shot clock violation when a La Salle foul could have been called. On his way to the tunnel, the enigmatic guard gestured obscenely toward a group of fans. Henderson’s background, antics, and the gambit of reactions to those antics, are just a few reason why this college basketball season is so exciting, but whether you found him fascinating, annoying or just plain off-putting, there’s no argument that his roller coaster season ended below ground level.

Star Of The Game:  Tyrone Garland (17 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals)- Ramon Galloway had the hot hand all night, finishing with a game-high 24 points and hitting six of his ten threes. He easily had the best game of anyone on the floor, but the accolade is called “Star of the Game,” not “Player With The Best Game.” Garland’s running layup over Ole Miss forward Reginald Buckner with 2.5 seconds left sealed the win and a trip to Los Angeles for the Explorers. The undersized guard followed a very good First Four game with an underwhelming 1-8 performance against Kansas State, but now has a moment he and his team will never forget.

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Rushed Reactions: #15 Florida Gulf Coast 81, #7 San Diego State 71

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 24th, 2013

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Brian Otskey (@botskey) is in Philadelphia for tonight’s Third Round NCAA Tournament games and filed this report after Florida Gulf Coast’s victory over San Diego State.

Three key takeaways:

The First #15 Seed to Ever Reach the Sweet Sixteen: Florida Gulf Coast

The First #15 Seed to Ever Reach the Sweet Sixteen: Florida Gulf Coast

  1. History. For the first time in the 75-year history of the NCAA Tournament, a No. 15 seed has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Florida Gulf Coast, a little-known school from Fort Meyers, has advanced to play the Florida Gators in Arlington later this week. This team absolutely dismantled two very good teams on its way, Georgetown and San Diego State. Regardless of what happens against the Gators, this will go down as one of, if not the most improbable runs in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Florida Gulf Coast played its style and never let up. Head coach Andy Enfield said after the Georgetown game that he told his team to play “FGCU basketball.” That’s exactly what it did tonight. The Eagles pushed the pace and showed no fear in taking it right to San Diego State. Florida Gulf Coast forced 17 turnovers and turned them into 22 points, a key to any team that prefers an up-tempo style. This game quickly snowballed out of control for San Diego State and the Eagles never gave it a chance to recover or make a run at them late in the game. It was total FGCU dominance down the stretch.
  3. You can’t fault San Diego State. The Aztecs were in this game for most of it but simply ran into a buzz saw with nothing to lose over the final 10 minutes of the game. Steve Fisher’s club put up 71 points but just was overwhelmed by the Eagles.  Florida Gulf Coast went on a 17-0 run in the second half that sealed it, fueled by the energy of this crowd and their own incredible confidence. It was a dominating second half, one in which San Diego State had no chance after

Star of the Game:  Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast. Austin Rivers’ former high school teammate is making quite the name for himself. Comer electrified the Philadelphia crowd once again by pushing the pace and making some incredible passes along the way. Comer controlled the tempo of the game and recorded 14 assists to just three turnovers. How this kid slipped through the recruiting cracks is anyone’s guess. Given the way he played in these two games, Comer would have a spot on almost any major conference team.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 78, #11 Minnesota 64

Posted by WCarey on March 24th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Florida and #11 Minnesota in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

Florida Outmuscled and Outshot the Gophers Today (AP)

Florida Outmuscled and Outshot the Gophers Today (AP)

  1. Florida’s offense was very impressive. The Gators shot the ball very well all game. They finished at a 56.8% mark from the field along with a very impressive 50% mark from deep. Florida was able to build a very comfortable lead because of its torrid shooting, 65.2% from the field, in the first half. While Minnesota fought back in the second half to trim the Gators’ lead, Florida’s offense still played quite well in the second frame. Billy Donovan’s squad has had balanced scoring all season with four players (Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario, and Patric Young) averaging more than 10 points per contest. The Gators only had three guys in double figures in Sunday’s victory, but it was evident that the team focuses on sharing the ball among all five players instead of looking to one as its go-to guy. Rosario showed that he has the ability to go off from behind the three-point line, as he finished with a career-best 25 points on 6-of-9 shooting from deep.
  2. When Florida plays like it did in the first half, a national title is its ceiling. A statistic that shows just how dominant the Gators were in the first half: Rosario and Murphy combined for 32 first half points, while Minnesota, as a team, only managed to score 27 first half points. The Gators shot a scorching 65.2% from the field and connected on 7-of-14 three-point attempts during the opening frame. Florida also defended quite well during the first 20 minutes, as it held Minnesota to just 39.1% shooting, forced the Golden Gophers into many bad shots, and forced nine turnovers. The Gators have had a reputation for inconsistent play this season – especially late in the season – but if they can put forth similar performances to what they showed during the first half against Minnesota, they could cut realistically cut down the nets in Atlanta on April 8.
  3. Minnesota deserves a great deal of credit for fighting hard. When Minnesota fell behind by 21 at half, it could have definitely laid down and ended up losing by 30+. The Golden Gophers did not do that though, as instead they battled until the final buzzer. While the closest they got to Florida was seven points, they definitely had the Gators worried for awhile in the second half. Guard Andre Hollins was red hot from behind the arc in during that time, which resulted in Florida having to make adjustments to its perimeter defense. By opening the second half on a 17-5 run, Minnesota forced Florida back into attack mode as that was needed to ensure the victory. A lot has been discussed nationally about Tubby Smith‘s job status as the leader of the program. While some of the whispers are probably fair, the team’s effort definitely suggests that Smith did not lose his team this season.

Star of the Game. Mike Rosario, Florida. The senior was feeling it all night for the Gators. He finished with a career-best 25 points – on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 6-of-9 shooting from deep. Whenever Florida needed a big shot, it looked to Rosario and he answered the bell. After having a subpar performance in the team’s Round of 64 victory over Northwestern State, Rosario was the best player on the floor in the Round of 32 and his performance has the Gators prepping for another Sweet 16 appearance.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Kansas 70, #8 North Carolina 58

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 24th, 2013

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Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the third round of the South regional in Kansas City. You can also follow Brian on Twitter at @BSGoodman.

Three Key Takeaways:

Kansas and Releford Advance to the Sweet Sixteen (AP)

Kansas and Releford Advance to the Sweet Sixteen (AP)

  1. Kansas’ experienced players took North Carolina by the horns. While Ben McLemore has had his share of moments this season (more on that later), part of Bill Self’s allure is that he’s enormously successful at his high-pressure job without having to rely heavily on inexperienced but talented phenoms like McLemore, Josh Selby and Xavier Henry in big moments. Sunday’s win was another manifestation of that point, as the Jayhawks received outstanding performances from their fifth-year seniors. Jeff Withey, Kevin Young and Travis Releford – playing in his hometown – combined for 48 points and 33 rebounds. Withey’s defense set the tone for Kansas as it continued to struggle in the first half and keyed the offense in the second half with three authoritative dunks. Young played his usual lockdown interior defense and made the plays fans have expected him to make. Releford is known primarily for his defense, but KU’s results when he’s involved and successful in the offense speak for themselves, as the Jayhawks are 46-1 in his four years when he scores at least ten points. McLemore, who spent most of the second half on the bench and finished 0-9 from the floor, can still be an x-factor in this tournament, but to say his services were not needed tonight would be an understatement.
  2. It was a tale of two halves for Kansas, but not for the Heels: The Jayhawks’ shooting struggles of their first 50 tournament minutes reached a nadir, as they shot 25% from the field in the first half, the worst such mark in their storied tournament history. Kansas missed bunny after bunny and wasted nearly every fast break opportunity presented by their consistently solid defensive presence. However, while North Carolina went into the locker room with a nine-point lead, it very easily could have been 12 or 15, as the Tar Heels missed their share of easy looks themselves. North Carolina’s offensive struggles continued after intermission, but the lid lifted for Kansas. The Jayhawks opened the second half on a 19-5 run, powered by Withey’s authoritative dunks and their first, second and three made three-pointers of the tournament and never looked back. North Carolina became undisciplined in the second half, missing five straight three pointers.
  3. The Jayhawks didn’t need Ben McLemore, but they will soon. Coming into tonight, Ben McLemore, who has bailed Kansas out of many a mess this season, hasn’t had the kind of March fans expected. While he contributed strong outings in the Big 12 tournament, he had an unspectacular night Friday and played the worst game of his short career Sunday night. McLemore rushed shots and passes, prompting a wide variety of flustered reactions from Self, and wasn’t a factor in Kansas’ monstrous second half. The best defense in the country (by opponent field-goal percentage) has a date with the high-powered Michigan offense next weekend, but the matchup also begs the question not just of what Kansas will get out of McLemore, but how badly they’ll need him.

Star Of The Game: Tie - Jeff Withey (16 points, career-high 16 rebounds, five blocks) and Travis Releford (22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, eight rebounds, three steals). Kansas’ seniors were outstanding. Withey was a force on defense and was intimidating on offense, sticking several putbacks and putting North Carolina’s offense on the ropes in front of a supportive crowd. Releford, playing in his native Kansas City for the last time as a collegian, turned in a fantastic outing. The fifth-year swingman has seemingly always played well in this building, and it showed again Sunday night.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 58, #9 Temple 52

Posted by IRenko on March 24th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Sunday’s Third Round game between #1 Indiana and #9 Temple. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Victor Oladipo Did What NPOYs Do...

Victor Oladipo Did What NPOY Candidates Do…

  1. Victor Oladipo Won This Game – The stat sheet won’t tell you what Victor Oladipo means to Indiana, because it offers no metrics, advanced or otherwise, for heart and soul. Oladipo took this game over down the stretch at both ends of the floor. Indiana had used a number of defenders to try to slow Khalif Wyatt (more on him later), but it was Oladipo’s shut-down, ball-denial, in-your-grill defense in the closing minutes that prevented Wyatt from carrying his team across the finish line. With the game tied at 52 and under two minutes to play, Oladipo harassed Wyatt into a missed three, grabbed the rebound, and drew a Wyatt foul while pushing the ball up the floor. On the next possession, Oladipo denied Wyatt the chance to even get the ball, forcing Temple to burn a timeout and the entire shot clock before Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson missed a jumper. Oladipo then promptly ran down to the other end of the floor and drained his one and only three-pointer of the game to clinch the win for Indiana.
  2. Indiana Scored 58 Points — And Won – Indiana scores north of 1.15 points per possession, but they looked largely ineffective against Temple for two reasons. First, Temple’s tough interior defense. The best way to slow the Hoosiers is with physicality, and the Owls brought plenty today. They bodied Cody Zeller and Christian Watford in the post, swarmed Oladipo on his drives, and pushed the Hoosiers around on the glass. Zeller and Watford combined to shoot 6-of-17, Zeller committed six turnovers, and the Hoosiers rebounded less than 20 percent of their own misses. Second, the Hoosiers went cold from three-point range, missing eight of their first nine long-distance attempts. They got hot late just in time to push themselves over the top, but credit Temple for nearly stopping the nation’s most efficient offense in its tracks.
  3. A One-Man Offensive Band — This game was an almost comical display of the extent to which Temple relies on Khalif Wyatt offensively. The confident point guard has a tendency to rise to the occasion against the best of competition, and today was no exception. Relishing the role of the villain, taking on not just the quiet and unassuming Oladipo but a boisterous crowd full of Hoosier fans, Wyatt did his best to carry the Owls to the upset. Despite being the obvious focal point of Indiana’s defense, he managed to pour in 31 points — 60 percent of Temple’s total — on 12-of-24 shooting.  The rest of the Owls’ offense was dreadful, shooting 9-of-38 from the floor. Scootie Randall was the worst offender with an atrocious 0-of-12 night, and the team as a whole missed several makeable shots.

Star of the Game: So maybe the stat sheet does tell you a bit about how good Oladipo is. He led Indiana with 16 points on 7-of-12 field goal shooting and added eight rebounds and an assist.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Ohio State 78, #10 Iowa State 75

Posted by IRenko on March 24th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Sunday’s Third Round game between #2 Ohio State and #7 Iowa State. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Aaron Craft's Trey Sent OSU Into the Sweet Sixteen (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Aaron Craft’s Trey Sent OSU Into the Sweet Sixteen (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

  1. Craft in the Clutch — Aaron Craft’s performance over the final five minutes of this game illustrated his broader tendency to be inconsistent while, at the same time, coming up big at key moments. Craft has alternated all year between high and low scoring games, but in the final few weeks of the season, he put together several key offensive performances in the Buckeyes’ biggest games to sweep Michigan State and take down Indiana on the road. His back-to-back missed front ends hurt his team badly, allowing Iowa State to close a 13-point lead in a matter of minutes. But in the closing seconds, Craft confidently stroked the game-winning three-pointer with a defender in his face. The entire time he held the ball on that final possession, Craft looked like someone who knew he was going to score — shaking off screeners and teammates, patiently biding his dribble — and was just trying to drain enough time off the clock to make sure he won the game.
  2. Iowa State State Showed Tremendous Fight — Midway through the first half, it looked like the game might get away from the Cyclones as their offense was sputtering, but they found their three-point shot and their mix of man and zone defensive looks threw Ohio State out of its offensive rhythm. As a result, the Cyclones were able to stay within two points at the half. Then, in the second half, when it looked like Ohio State was putting the game away, up 69-56 with 6:04 to play, the Cyclones reeled off a 13-0 run in just over two minutes to completely erase the lead entirely. This is an undersized team full of transfers that plays with a chip on its shoulder and won’t back down from anyone.
  3. The Three Ball Was Not Enough — Unable to get the kind of dribble penetration against Ohio State that Notre Dame’s swiss cheese defense allowed, the Cyclones returned to their old standby — the three-point shot. They made only one of their first five attempts, but from there, they knocked down 11-of-20 from downtown. They finished the game with more threes than twos and a better field goal percentage to boot. And while it very nearly brought them to the verge of victory, it was not enough.

Star of the Game: Craft served up the late game heroics, but it was Deshaun Thomas‘ inside-out game that mostly powered Ohio State’s offense. The Cyclones not only mixed man and zone defenses, they threw several different defenders at Thomas in their man defense. But the junior forward adapted well to whomever was guarding him, scoring 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Syracuse 66, #12 California 60

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2013

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RTC is at the San Jose pod this evening. We filed this report after Saturday’s Third Round game between #4 Syracuse and #12 California.

Three Key Takeaways:

The Orange March On to DC...

The Orange March On to DC…

  1. Size and Length. In spades. We hear it all the time but when you see it up close and personal, Syracuse’s size and length really stands out in an unbelievable way. There couldn’t be more than a handful of teams around the country who can match it. The problem is that sometimes the Orange play as dumb as they possibly can to give outmatched teams like Cal a chance to come back and even win the game. Between the poor decisions (Michael Carter-Williams is always good for at least two jump-passes with no intended recipient), the missed free throws (an astonishing 15 tonight), and an astonishing ability to turn the ball over in key situations, Syracuse managed to survive regardless (it helped that they played a team with some similar attributes). It’s unlikely that a team with these issues can just will them away at this late point in the season, but wow, if they were able to put everything together, the Orange have #1 seed talent and athleticism.
  2. Good Syracuse and Bad Syracuse Showed Up Tonight. Jim Boeheim made reference to this in his postgame press conference. He thought, and there’s really no disputing him, that the Orange defense was spectacular. They completely took Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs out of their comfort zones, fully aware in the knowledge that the Golden Bears do not have any other reliable scorers. Richard Solomon had a beastly game (22/14) but they were willing to give that up to shut down the backcourt duo. At the same time, there were way too many unforced turnovers and the Orange left 15 points at the foul line (26-of-41 FTs). Then there was that last two minutes, perhaps most perfectly captured by the length-of-the-court pass to nobody. Suddenly an easy 15-point win got harrowing, as the partisan crowd roared to life. If Syracuse is going to beat a team like Indiana to make a run to the Final Four, they’re going to have to figure out how to play a full 40 minutes with concentration and focus. Otherwise, as we’ve seen several times this season, a game that should be a victory will quickly turn into a loss against another good team.
  3. Crabbe and Cobbs. The California duo who averaged a combined 33.5 points per game this season had a grand total of six points during the first 38 minutes. They finished with 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting, but much of that had to do with a bizarre final two minutes where Bad Syracuse was doing its best to let Cal back into the game. Put simply, the Bears really had no chance of winning this one without at least one of the two going off, and Boeheim remarked in his postgame comments that their top priority was shutting down Crabbe, in particular. The only shot Crabbe made in the first half was a result of a little-used player Trevor Cooney blowing his assignment; as Boeheim put it, the freshman guard “got to watch Crabbe play from the bench the rest of the game.” Again, the size and length that the Orange could throw at these two really showed in terms of the openings they were (or were not) able to find.

Star of the Game: CJ Fair, Syracuse. Fair set the offensive tone early with six quick points to help Syracuse jump out to an 11-2 lead on his way to a solid 18-point, six-rebound evening of work. Mike Montgomery said that his players were tentative early, and Fair’s inside-out work helped raise the pressure on the Bears playing in front of a partisan crowd. 

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