Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 75, N.C. State 67

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 15th, 2014

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ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

Three Key Takeaways in Duke’s ACC Semi-Final win.

Jabari Parker Slams Home Two of His 20 Points in Duke's Win over N.C. State. (Photo: Robert willett/newsobserver.com).

Jabari Parker Slams Home Two of His 20 Points in Duke’s Win over N.C. State.
(Photo: Robert willett/newsobserver.com).

  1. Duke’s offense is good enough to carry the Blue Devils to the Final Four – and it will have to. When Duke is clicking like it was on Saturday, they are tough for even good defenses to handle. In scoring an impressive 1.36 points per possession, the balanced Blue Devils were too much for a weary N.C. State team to overcome. Not only did Jabari Parker (20 points) and Rodney Hood (14) score well, but Duke also got 16 points from Rasheed Sulaimon and 14 more from Quinn Cook off the bench. But the Blue Devils’ defense kept the Wolfpack close in the first half, allowing a sizzling 66.7 percent shooting and only forcing four turnovers. The second half was a different story, as N.C. State only shot 35.5 percent, but a lot of that has got to be attributed to the Wolfpack having weary legs after playing their third game in three days.
  2. N.C. State ran out of gas. This is no surprise but still must be pointed out. The second half of the third tough game in a row is usually when you start to see the legs go, and that was the case today. Not only did the Wolfpack hang with Duke in the first half, but they could have easily had a nice lead at the break. At one point close to halftime, N.C. State was shooting over 70 percent from the field, only had one turnover, and the team fouls were in there favor (+4), but the score was tied. That probably was a little demoralizing to the young N.C. State team, and when Duke spurted ahead by double figures in the second half, the tired Wolfpack shooters couldn’t keep up, going 1-of-10 on second half three pointers.
  3. Two stars are better than one. T.J. Warren was sensational again, making contested shots time and again on the way to 21 points and eight rebounds for the game. But Duke’s star forward duo of Parker and Hood was enough to more than offset Warren’s effort. Hood made Warren work hard for everything, holding the ACC Player of the Year to under 50 percent shooting, 10-of-22. On the other end, N.C. State had its hands full trying to focus on the two Duke stars. That attention created openings for the Blue Devils guards which were exploited by Sulaimon on the drive, and Cook from long range (3-of-4 on threes). N.C. State got nice contributions from some surprising sources early, including eight first half points each from Anthony Barber and Lennard Freeman off the bench. But the Wolfpack needed a better shooting game from Ralston Turner (2-of-10), the team’s second leading scorer, to support their star.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 Michigan 72, #24 Ohio State 69

Posted by Walker Carey on March 15th, 2014

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Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal between Michigan and Ohio State in Indianapolis.

Aaron Craft Couldn't Quite Get it Done on Saturday Afternoon

Aaron Craft Couldn’t Quite Get it Done on Saturday Afternoon

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Michigan’s hot starts to both halves were instrumental to it earning this victory. Michigan started the game in an absolute flurry, as it scored 15 of the game’s first 17 points. Shots were falling from everywhere for the Wolverines, as they made six of their first eight attempts from behind the three-point line. Ohio State was able to gain its composure and go on a 15-4 run over the final 6:02 of the first half to make it a four-point game, but the Michigan offense was once again ready to explode when the second half started. In the first four minutes of the second half, John Beilein‘s squad aggressively ran its lead from four points to 12 points and was once again showing its outside shooting prowess. Like in the first half, Ohio State recovered from this onslaught and turned the game into a hotly-contested affair. Consequently, it can be inferred that if Michigan did not get off to such hot starts in each half, it would not have been able to grab the victory over its archrival.
  2. Ohio State’s fight was admirable. Thad Matta’s squad was down 15-2 not even four minutes into the game, but instead of sulking and letting Michigan continue its thermonuclear start, the Buckeyes found it within themselves to fight back and make it a battle to the very end. Ohio State is not known as an offensive powerhouse, but the Buckeyes used their offense to key their march back into the game. Junior forward LaQuinton Ross and junior guard Shannon Scott led the offensive attack, finishing the afternoon with 19 and 18 points, respectively. The Buckeyes were also able to shore up their defensive effort. After allowing Michigan to shoot a smoldering 64 percent in the first half, Ohio State tightened the screws and held the Wolverines to a 40.9 percent shooting clip in the second half. While Ohio State ultimately only has a loss to show for its performance Saturday afternoon, the toughness and desire it showed are things the team can build on as it moves into the NCAA Tournament. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #1 Florida 56, Tennessee 49

Posted by CD Bradley on March 15th, 2014

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C.D. Bradley will be reporting from the SEC Tournament semifinals and finals this weekend.

Three key takeaways.

The Gators Are All Smiles After 25 Wins in a Row (AP)

The Gators Are All Smiles After 25 Wins in a Row (AP)

  1. Pat Adams made a name for himself, and not in a good way. The official’s name was trending on Twitter after calling a ticky-tack fourth foul on Jeronne Maymon (Maymon was at the top of the key, and Adams on the baseline). Adams then eyeballed Maymon as he made his way to the scorer’s table and hit him with a technical foul, his fifth, with 4:39 to go in the game. Florida hit all four free throws to take a four-point lead, one which they never relinquished.
  2. Tennessee took a seven-point lead into halftime largely because they were able to get to the basket with relative ease in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, whose 49.2 percent shooting on two-point field goals this year ranks #145 nationally, made 13 of 20 inside the arc in the first half for 65 percent. That all stopped after halftime; Tennessee scored only 14 points in the second half, hitting only 4-of-13 two-point tries, and none in the last 12 minutes. Florida has now won 20 straight SEC games this year, largely thanks to a defense that ranks #8 in adjusted efficiency nationally.
  3. Florida continues its glide path toward a one seed, and maybe the overall top seed, but Tennessee has at least a bit to be worried about. They thrashed three straight teams to end the season, but none of those squads are going dancing. They beat down Virginia by 35 in December, split with Xavier, and not much else. They also lost three games to teams outside the RPI top 100. They should be in, but it’s gonna be a bit nervous in Knoxville.

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X-Factors DeShawn Delaney, Dwayne Polee Unlikely March Stars for Mountain West Powers

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 15th, 2014

With San Diego State and New Mexico earning semifinal victories Friday night, the MW title game match-up that everyone expected came to fruition, albeit with some new faces occupying starring roles along the way. SDSU’s Dwayne Polee may have been voted the MW’s Sixth Man of the Year earlier in the week, but the junior transfer from St. John’s had only scored in double figures four times in 2014 before he erupted for a game high 18 points against UNLV last night. Meanwhile, New Mexico swingman Deshawn Delaney had only scored in double figures four times all season before last night, but the bouncy junior’s season-high 14 points was a major key in New Mexico’s narrow escape against Boise. Xavier Thames and Cameron Bairstow will still be the names on the marquee in advance of today’s MW title clash, but roles change throughout the course of a season, and both Polee and Delaney are proving this week in Vegas that the two best teams in the MW may have found new weapons heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Dwayne Polee Poured In 18 Points Against UNLV And Is Elevating His Game At Just The Right Time -- Might He Be The Key To An Aztec Tournament Run?

Dwayne Polee Poured In 18 Points Against UNLV And Is Elevating His Game At Just The Right Time — Might He Be The Key To An Aztec Tournament Run?

Polee has now played 18+ minutes in each of the Aztecs’ last seven games, and especially in the midst of Winston Shepard’s continued struggles (2-of-11 FG last night), will play a key role on offense moving forward. Detractors have long argued that SDSU is one Xavier Thames off night away from an ugly NCAA Tournament demise, but Polee may be the one Aztec with an offensive game varied enough to pick up the slack for Thames. His freakish length and athleticism make him a terror in the open floor, but he knocked down three of his five three-point attempts against UNLV, and has shot 40 percent from long range from February on. Polee’s greatest strengths will always be his disruptive defensive ability and open-court prowess on offense, but even a moderately capable floor-spacing option will help an Aztec offense that overly depends on Thames already, and Polee is beginning to show signs of becoming a consistent complementary jump shooter.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Virginia 51 – Pittsburgh 48

Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways:

Justin Anderson is Virginia's spark plug. (credit: Scott Muthersbaugh / Burlington Times-News)

Justin Anderson is Virginia’s spark plug. (credit: Scott Muthersbaugh / Burlington Times-News)

  1. Virginia has officially arrived. While the Cavaliers didn’t put away Pittsburgh until the very end, they made the championship game looking for the school’s second ACC title since joining the conference, and first in nearly 40 years. This team is Tony Bennett’s baby: They are one of the only teams in the country to improve their win total in each of the last five years. His team doesn’t always run attractive offense (though it’s certainly better than the final score would indicate), but its defense is spectacular. Down the stretch it was clear that Malcolm Brogdon has taken on the go-to role. He committed a costly turnover that led to James Robinson’s layup with 10 seconds left, but look for Virginia to put the ball in his hands down the stretch. Part of the reason for that is because Joe Harris excels off the ball, but it’s also a testament to Brogdon’s growth.
  2. Retro officiating fit the teams. With two physical defenses on the court, the refs opted to swallow their whistles by only calling 20 fouls in the first 38 minutes (there were seven in the last minute for obvious reasons). There weren’t any easy rebounds to be found. And while Pittsburgh likely benefited from the style most of the game, there was a lot of contact on James Robinson’s layup that cut the Virginia lead to one with 10 seconds left. When asked about contact on a layup late, Akil Mitchell said he was “a little bit” surprised that there wasn’t a whistle. Jamie Dixon wasn’t impressed: “We just saw it on video. What can you do? What can you do? Just watched it. Everybody saw it.”
  3. Pittsburgh needs to get to the rim more. Down the stretch Jamie Dixon opted to spread the floor and attack the basket. It was very effective. Especially when Lamar Patterson isn’t hitting jumpers, Pittsburgh is best attacking inside. Patterson, Robinson and Cameron Wright are all very good finishers, and that doesn’t even take into account that teams can only help off Talib Zanna if they want him to get a putback. The Panthers still need to shoot enough jumpers to keep people honest (though I’m not sure Jamel Artis should take any threes the rest of the year).

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AAC Tournament: Friday Recap/Saturday Preview

Posted by CD Bradley on March 15th, 2014

With the semifinals of the AAC Tournament in the books, we take a look at a few of the big takeaways from Friday, as well as storylines to keep in mind on Saturday.

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey Sean Kilpatrick came tantalizingly close to hitting this shot, but it fell off the rim and UConn advanced to the AAC title game.

Sean Kilpatrick came tantalizingly close to hitting this shot, but it fell off the rim and UConn advanced to the AAC title game. (AP/M. Humphrey)

What went down on Friday

  • Russ Smith came out on fire and never really let up, dropping a career-high 42 points (on 14-22 shooting, including 5-7 from three) on Houston in another impressive Louisville victory, 94-65. While the scoring outburst was impressive, it’s on the defensive end that Rick Pitino’s team is separating itself; in its four-game winning streak, they have forced more than 20 turnovers and held their foes under 40 percent shooting three times each. The Cardinals have now won their past three games by an average of 41 points and have people talking about the potential of the Cards grabbing a #1 seed. While that remains unlikely, with the way they are playing right now, no one wants to see them in their bracket on Sunday.
  • For about 10 minutes of game time in the second half, UConn exposed Cincinnati’s Achilles heel: The Bearcats can’t shoot. They rank outside the top 200 in both two-point field goal percentage and three-point field goal percentage this season. From 14:00 to 4:00 on the game clock, the Bearcats shot 1-of-14 from the field with two turnovers, scoring two points and turning a four-point lead into an eight-point deficit. They then almost crawled out of the hole they had dug, scoring 13 points in the last 3:30 on three three-pointers, a dunk, and two free throws. Down two with 11 seconds left, they got the ball where they wanted, into the hands of star guard Sean Kilpatrick. He got to the basket and had a great look, putting up a layup that touched every part of the rim before rolling off. And so UConn was able to hold on to a valuable win, while Cincinnati goes in search of a jump shot before the big tournament starts next week.

What’s on tap for Saturday

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Pac-12 Tourney Underwhelms on the Way to a Much-Anticipated Arizona/UCLA Final

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2014

Let’s be blunt: through ten of the 11 games in the Pac-12 Tournament, this has not been a particularly thrilling tourney. Just three games have been decided by single figures; the other seven games have had final margins of an average of more than 20 points. Neither Arizona nor UCLA, the two teams that will appear in today’s championship game, have been tested at all, with the Wildcats winning their two games by an average of 26 points and the Bruins relatively sneaking by with an average margin of victory of just 23 points. But none of that matters now. In a season where Arizona and UCLA were scheduled to play just once (at Pauley Pavilion, way back on January 9), the basketball gods have seen fit to correct such an egregious oversight by the conference schedule-makers and arranged for the conference’s two elite programs to get another crack at it. As Adam Butler so eloquently put it, it is the title game we need and deserve.

Arizona and UCLA Will Meet In The Pac-12 Title Game For Just The Second Time Ever (Julie Jacobson, AP Photo)

Arizona and UCLA Will Meet In The Pac-12 Title Game For Just The Second Time Ever (Julie Jacobson, AP Photo)

We need it, because not only has it become clear that these are, in fact, the two best teams in the conference, but also because missing out on a return game of the conference’s best rivalry in the name of progress is certainly an example of progress not being made. And, we deserve it because, after the past handful of years (hitting rock bottom in 2011-12 when the regular season conference champion was shipped to the NIT), Pac-12 basketball diehards have earned a little good karma. Arizona/UCLA in a conference championship game will occur for only the second time in history (the last time was 1990 – the final conference tournament for more than 10 seasons), and it will give us a chance to relive and come to terms with last year’s controversial semifinal game.

Arizona will head into the title game on an absolute roll, playing arguably their best ball of the season at precisely the right time, as somewhere in the neighborhood of a seven-point favorite. In their two Pac-12 Tournament games so far, the ‘Cats have allowed just 0.72 points per possession. Aaron Gordon seems to be on a crusade to highlight the lunacy of his absence from the Pac-12 All-Defensive team, with five blocks and five steals punctuating his versatile and harassing defense. He’s capable of dominating a Wear twin if Sean Miller decides to go that way, or he could make things very uncomfortable for Kyle Anderson if the ‘Cats decide to check the UCLA point guard/power forward with their most versatile defender. Meanwhile, Nick Johnson (who did make the Pac-12 All-Defensive team) has already this season showed his ability to completely lock up Jordan Adams. In fact, in that first match-up, the Wildcats’ held Anderson and Adams to a combined 10-of-30 from the field along with five turnovers. Furthermore, the Wear twins were largely invisible, combining for 10 points and four boards in 40 minutes of action. These are the types of things this Arizona defense is capable of doing, namely shutting off the water for a handful of key cogs on the opposition.

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Big Ten Tournament: Friday Recap/Saturday Preview

Posted by Walker Carey on March 15th, 2014

With the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament in the books, we take a look at a few of the big takeaways from Friday, as well as storylines to keep in mind on Friday.

What went down on Friday:

The Top-Seeded Wolverines Survived an Upset Bid by Illinois Friday

The Top-Seeded Wolverines Survived an Upset Bid by Illinois Friday

  • Top-seeded Michigan survived a scare from a tenacious Illinois squad. The Wolverines saw a 13-point lead completely disappear before senior forward Jordan Morgan converted a layup with seven seconds left to give Michigan the 64-63 victory. The Wolverines were able to build their 13-point lead thanks to great assertiveness from sophomore Glenn Robinson III and the play-making ability of Big Ten Player of the Year, Nik Stauskas. The team’s fortunes, however, changed in the second half when Illinois dropped into a 2-3 zone that utterly frustrated Michigan throughout a majority of the second half.
  • Ohio State advanced to the semifinals with an epic 71-67 comeback victory over Nebraska. The Buckeyes trailed by 18 points with just over 13 minutes to play, but junior forward LaQuinton Ross and their suffocating defense took over and allowed Thad Matta’s squad to come all the way back to earn the victory. Senior guard Aaron Craft did not have the best game statistically, but he once again showed how valuable it is to have a confident, heady leader at the controls.
  • Wisconsin was very impressive in its 26-point mauling of a Minnesota team that could not find its way off the bubble. Senior guard Ben Brust turned in a career-best performance for the Badgers, finishing with a game-high 29 points. Bo Ryan’s squad also received a significant contribution from its bench, as guard Bronson Koenig and forward Nigel Hayes combined for 29 points. There have been questions all season about Wisconsin’s defense, but the Badgers were outstanding on that end of the court, limiting Minnesota to just 32.8 percent shooting for the game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten All-Tournament Team: Quarterfinal Friday

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 15th, 2014

After the second day of action, the most unpredictable league in the country got kind of predictable. The four semifinalists are the the four teams that we on the microsite picked to finish in the top four of league play this season. It sets up some tremendous match-ups for Saturday, but first, here are five standouts from Friday’s quarterfinals in Indy.

LaQuinton Ross posted another double-double as Ohio State knocked off Nebraska. (Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

LaQuinton Ross posted another double-double as Ohio State knocked off Nebraska. (Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

  • LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State: Ross makes an appearance on the honor roll for the second day in a row because he had a double-double for the second day in a row. He shot the ball better yesterday, (9-of-18 from the field), snagged 13 rebounds, and also contributed two steals. He also picked up a technical foul for shoving Walter Pitchford at the 14:58 mark in the second half while his team was down 13 points. He scored 16 of his 26 points from that point forward, almost outscoring Nebraska (21 points) all by himself.
  • Ben Brust, Wisconsin: If someone had told me that Ben Brust scored 29 points in a game, I would have had to assume that he went nuts from behind the three-point line and hit something like six or seven bombs. His scoring last night, however, was a little more diversified. He hit all nine of his free throws, went 4-of-10 from deep, and was able to get to the basket after some nifty shot fakes. Brust also chipped in a trio of steals, doing a nice job pressuring Minnesota’s guards.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 63, Clemson 62

Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

  1. Don’t trust Duke in the NCAA Tournament. This is admittedly a harsh assessment, and the Blue Devils certainly deserve to be listed among the contenders for the title. When they’re hot, they’re borderline unbeatable. And they have a deep rotation of skilled offensive players. But their defense has serious issues. Duke gave up points on nine straight possessions after going up by 13 points in the second half. They scored some too, so it didn’t look like a dominant Clemson run by any means, but what should have been the time Duke put the Tigers away became the time Clemson held on to challenge for the game. Clemson’s offense is mediocre. Those kinds of runs can’t happen, but they’re beginning to seem like standard second half occurrences with this Duke team.
  2. On the other hand, Duke rebounded really, really well. Unlike defense, many concerns people have with Duke don’t make a lot of sense. This is a very good rebounding team, especially when shots aren’t falling like on Friday night. Amile Jefferson is both a capable offensive player — benefitting from not being the focal point of opposing defenses — and a force on the glass. His and Jabari Parker‘s post games mean Duke has no trouble scoring down low. Jefferson has grown a lot over the course of this season. Remember, during the first half of this season, Josh Hairston was playing comparable minutes to Jefferson (and Marshall Plumlee wasn’t playing at all). As a side note, Quinn Cook’s development has flat-lined — for whatever reason he can’t find much consistency. Offensively, I think point guard play is Duke’s biggest concern going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Thoughts on Baylor’s Blowout Win Over Texas

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 14th, 2014

The match-up for the Big 12 Tournament final was set in Friday’s nightcap, which saw Baylor dismantle Texas 86-69 in Kansas City. The Bears continued their strong play of late after their midseason struggles, and as a result, they’ll attempt to become the first team to take the Big 12 Tournament crown by winning four straight games. Oddly enough, Baylor was the last team to attempt to pull off that feat in 2009, but the Bears fell to Missouri.

Baylor Outraced Texas on This Night

Baylor Outraced Texas on This Night

  1. Baylor continues to add strength to its resume. In early February, Baylor’s resume was falling apart. Wins over Kentucky and Colorado were neutralized by losses to Texas Tech and West Virginia, and a cloud of panic and disappointment started to settle above Waco when the Bears lost eight of their first 10 conference games. Now, though, Baylor has reeled off 10 wins in its last 11 games to silence the skeptics (of which there are certainly many). Not only is Baylor firmly off the bubble, but the team’s stock is rising rather quick. It isn’t difficult to picture enough things breaking for them to enter NCAA Tournament play as a #5 seed, provided they take care of business against Iowa State in the final. So what’s been the difference?
  2. The Bears’ offense is clicking. On Friday night, the Bears’ offense registered 1.37 points per possession, its highest mark since a 1.42 PPP showing at West Virginia on February 22. All told, Baylor’s offense has tallied at least 1.04 points per possession in each of its last 12 outings, while their defense has been steady if unspectacular. Cory Jefferson has come on especially strong and was fantastic tonight, notching a double-double with 20 points and 13 rebounds against Texas’ strong interior defense. Combine Jefferson with Isaiah Austin, one of the country’s top three-point shooters in Brady Heslip, and a highly capable supporting cast, and the result is a combination that is good enough to beat any team in the country. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #14 Creighton 86, Xavier 78

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2014

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Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.

McDermott Continued to Add to His Legend With

McDermott Continued to Add to His Legend With 32 More Points

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. You cannot stop Creighton’s offense, you can only hope to contain it. Creighton’s offense is by far the most efficient in the nation. When you can spread the floor with four or five three-point shooters, you can get an open shot nearly every time. That’s what Creighton does to nearly every team, making it nearly impossible to defend. Xavier could not contain the three-point barrage and, despite a late run, could never get to a point where it truly threatened the Bluejays. Big runs necessitate stops and it is more difficult to get them against Creighton than against any other team in America. To beat Creighton, a team must expose it defensively and dominate the rebounding. You have to generate extra possessions and also hope they just miss shots they usually make. Creighton’s defense is not elite by any means, but if you limit possessions, you can beat them. Xavier did not do that tonight.
  2. Xavier showed tremendous resolve. Almost everyone in the building thought this game was headed into blowout territory but the Musketeers trimmed the lead to as little as five points with 1:27 left to play. If the eye test does exist, Xavier passed it in this week’s Big East Tournament. Chris Mack’s team methodically took out Marquette last night and fought a hard battle against Creighton tonight. This is a team that can win a game in the NCAA Tournament and maybe two with the right match-ups. Read the rest of this entry »
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