2021-22 Rush The Court Preseason All-America Teams

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on November 11th, 2021

The 2021-22 Rush The Court pre-season All-American selections feature five Big Ten bigs featured across the three teams, the nation’s leading scorer from a season ago, a pair of dynamic duos, the son of a legend, and much more. Thirty-two different players received at least one vote, and not one of those player were from Kentucky or North Carolina.

RTC Preseason Player of the Year: Drew Timme, Gonzaga

Drew Timme is the RTC Preseason Player of the Year (USA Today Images)

RTC Preseason Coach of the Year: Chris Beard, Texas

Chris Beard is the RTC Preseason Coach of the Year (USA Today Images)

First Team All-America

  • Collin Gillespie, Villanova – (14.0 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.3 RPG, 37.6% 3PT) Collin Gillespie returns for a fifth year at Villanova. His season was cut short last season after suffering a torn MCL in the team’s regular-season finale. Gillespie shot above 37 percent from beyond the arc despite struggling down the stretch, making just 12-of-44 (27%) over his final nine games. Now healthy, the experience Gillespie brings to Villanova’s backcourt puts the Wildcats in a strong position heading into the season.
  • Johnny Juzang, UCLA – (16.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 35.3% 3PT) After an up-and-down season prior to March, Johnny Juzang exploded on the national scene during the NCAA Tournament. Juzang averaged 22.8 points per game during UCLA’s run to the Final Four, including a 29-point, 12-of-18 shooting night against Gonzaga. Juzang enters the season healthy, something that he was challenged with last year. His decision to return to UCLA solidified the Bruins position near the top of the polls heading into the season.
  • Paolo Banchero, Freshman, Duke – Listed at 6’10”, 250 lbs., Paolo Banchero was a consensus five-star recruit who has NBA scouts frothing at the mouth for a chance to land him. In Duke’s exhibition win over Winston-Salem State, Banchero led Duke in scoring with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting and in rebounding with nine, in 20 minutes of action.
  • Kofi Cockburn, Illinois – (17.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG ,1.3 BPG) Kofi Cockburn returns to Illinois but will miss the first three games of the season due to an NCAA ruling. Cockburn returning to Illinois means Brad Underwood brings back the only player in the nation from a season ago who averaged at least 15 PPG, 9 RPG, and shot at least 60 percent from the field. Kofi could approach the 20 PPG mark if he can raise his free-throw percentage from 55 percent (120-of-217) closer to his freshman year mark of 68 percent (111-of-164).
  • Drew Timme, Gonzaga – (19.0 PPG, 7 RPG, 65.5% FG%) The RTC Preseason Player of the Year, Drew Timme is the only unanimous first-team selection. Timme exploded out of the gate last season beginning the year with 25 points against Kansas, 28 against Auburn, and 17 vs. West Virginia. On the season, Timme had 16 games with 20 or more points. During the NCAA Tournament, Timme averaged 20.3 PPG on 65 percent shooting.

Second Team All-America

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RTC 16: 2021-2022 Pre-Season Rankings

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 9th, 2021

The first Rush the Court rankings are out and they come with no surprise at the top. Gonzaga was a near unanimous selection as the top team in the country heading into the season. Following the ‘Zags, voters believe in a pair of Big 12 squads with Kansas and Texas taking the next two spots. Off of last season’s final Four run, UCLA occupies the #4 spot, one spot ahead of a Villanova team that heads to Pauley Pavilion on Friday night.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: Big Ten (4), ACC (3), Big 12 (3), SEC (2), AAC (1), Big East (1), Pac-12 (1), WCC (1)


  • Tuesday: Champions Classic Kansas vs. Michigan State (6 PM EST, ESPN), Kentucky vs. Duke (9:30 PM EST, ESPN)
  • Friday: Villanova at UCLA (11:30 PM EST, ESPN 2), San Diego State at BYU (9 PM EST)
  • Saturday: Texas at Gonzaga (10:30 PM EST, ESPN 2), Davidson at San Francisco (8:30 PM EST)
  • Sunday: Florida State at Florida (1 PM EST, ESPN)
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Preseason Stock Report: Buy Now

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on October 28th, 2021

The first Associated Press Top 25 poll of the season has many familiar faces ranked among the top 25. Here is a look at four teams that did not crack the top 25 to begin the year, but are teams worth buying stock in now.

BYU: In the shadows of Gonzaga sits BYU, a team that won 20 games and earned a #6 seed in last season’s NCAA Tournament. While the Cougars do not return either Brandon Averette or Matt Haarms, they do bring back a pair of All-WCC preseason players in Alex Barcello and Caleb Lohner. Mark Pope’s team also adds a fifth-year senior in Te’Jon Lucas from Milwaukee where Lucas averaged 14 or more points per game, five or more assists per game, and four or more rebounds per game in each of the past two seasons.

Mark Pope Has an Underrated Team Returning (USA Today Images)

Florida: Last season ended in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament after the Gators were upset by Oral Roberts. It was a season that also included the horrific on-court collapse of Keyontae Johnson. Mike White’s team did not receive a single vote in the preseason AP Poll and have been picked to finish seventh in the SEC by the media. It is a team that returns a trio of seniors in Tyree Appleby (11.3 PPG, 28.4 MPG), Colin Castleton (preseason All-SEC first team selection) and Anthony Duruji (6.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG in 22 MPG). In addition, the Gators add in three impact transfers including Myreon Jones from Penn State, Brandon McKissic from UMKC, and CJ Felder from Boston College. The three newcomers averaged a combined 42.2 points per game last season.

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Preseason Stock Report: Bear Market

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on October 26th, 2021

The 2020-21 season began with both Duke and Kentucky ranked in the top 10 and of course ended with both missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over 40 years. The final AP Poll of last season did not include 10 of the 25 teams that were ranked to begin the season. While polls only tell some of the on-court story, here are a few teams that I feel could have difficulties reaching their lofty preseason expectations.

Auburn: Bruce Pearl’s Auburn club enters the year at #21 in the AP Poll and as high as #9 on a pair of ballots. The Tigers are coming off a forgettable season outside of Sharife Cooper’s 12-game stretch, and they begin the season with Allen Flanigan (14.3 PPG last season) out for at least a month. With Cooper gone and Flanigan sidelined, that leaves just one of the team’s top six scorers from last year on the team and ready to start the season. Auburn does add some firepower in the form of Georgia transfer K.D. Johnson (13.5 PPG) and North Carolina transfer Walker Kessler (4.4 PPG), along with five-star freshman Jabari Smith. The question is whether Pearl put it all together? Additionally, how will a non-conference schedule that features just one true road game impact the Tigers’ readiness for road tests in a very strong SEC?

Bruce Pearl is Ready to Rumble Again (USA Today Images)

Baylor: Baylor begins the season ranked #8 in the nation. The defending champs bring back the talented Adam Flagler and Matthew Mayer along with the toughness of Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua to a squad that adds senior guard James Akinjo and freshman Kendall Brown. The list of what is no longer in Waco, though, is long. Gone are Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague and Mark Vital. That includes 61.8 percent of the scoring from last year’s team, two players from the all-conference first-team, three players from the league’s all-defensive team, a consensus first-team All-American, the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Can Scott Drew do what few champions have done recently and back up a National Championship with another year in the top 10?

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2020-21 Rush the Court All-America Teams and Yearly Awards

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on April 4th, 2021

The 2020-21 Rush the Court awards and All-American selections are here. While five freshman have been selected to the All-American teams, they do not come from the usual suspects of Duke or Kentucky. In fact, the blueblood quartet of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina are without a single player being represented on any of this year’s three All-America teams. While there might be some surprises, the RTC Player of the Year is anything but, with two-time unanimous RTC First Team All-American Luka Garza winning the award. Gonzaga’s undefeated run to the Final Four lands two on the First Team and gives Mark Few the top spot in the coaching ranks.

Player of the Year: Luka Garza, Iowa

Coach of the Year: Mark Few, Gonzaga

First Team All-America

  • Ayo Dosunmu, Junior, Illinois (Unanimous 1st-Team) – (20.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 38.6% 3PT) Ayo Dosunmu was the only player nationally to average at least 20/5/5 on the season and he did so while leading the Illini to the Big Ten Tournament championship. Dosunmu overcame a late-season injury to his face, but donned a mask and kept on producing. With the junior at the helm of the Illini attack, Illinois grabbed hold of a #1 seed for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
  • Jalen Suggs, Freshman, Gonzaga – (14.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.5 APG, 50.2 FG%) Jalen Suggs thrust on the scene right from the start, beginning his college career with 24 points and eight assists in the season opener against Kansas. Several weeks later, Suggs poured in a season-high 27 points against Iowa. A threat on offense with the ball in his hand and a threat on defense at nearly all times with his excellent anticipation and quick hands, as exhibited in last night’s incredible late-game sequences in the Final Four.
  • Cade Cunningham, Freshman, Oklahoma State (Unanimous 1st-Team) – (20.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 40% 3PT) The top ranked recruit in the country helped guide an Oklahoma State team that was unranked to begin the year into the Big 12 Championship Game and a spot ranked among the top 15 teams entering the NCAA Tournament. In a situation clouded with the unknown of an NCAA investigation, Cunningham stuck with his commitment to Oklahoma State and was able to get the Cowboys into the postseason. Cunningham was the definition of a “prime-time performer” as seen in his 40-point game on the road in Norman in a come from behind win over rival Oklahoma.
  • Drew Timme, Sophomore, Gonzaga (19 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 65% FG) Timme finished his 2019-20 season by scoring 17 points off of the bench in Gonzaga’s WCC Championship Game win against Saint Mary’s. The terrific end to last season carried over into this season. Timme more than doubled his scoring output, while finishing with the second-best field-goal percentage among the 173 players who attempted 300 or more shots. The mustached magician took center stage in the Elite Eight with a dazzling and dominating performance against the defense of USC and Evan Mobley, scoring 23 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists.
  • Luka Garza, Senior, Iowa (Unanimous 1st-Team) (24.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 55.7% FG) A unanimous RTC 1st-Team All-American last season, Luka Garza again finds himself as a unanimous 1st-Team All-American. Garza began the year scoring 102 points in his first three games and finished the year averaging 23.3 over his final 10 games, including 36 on 14-of-20 shooting in the Hawkeyes NCAA Tournament loss.

Second Team All-America

  • Jared Butler, Junior, Baylor (16.5 PPG, 4.8 APG, 40.4% 3PT, 2 STL/G) While COVID ended a tremendous Baylor season last year, Jared Butler returned and helped guide the Bears right back to their spot near the top of the rankings. The junior guard set career-best marks across the board. Butler was the only player in the Big 12 to average 15 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds per conference game since the 2017-18 season.
  • Corey Kispert, Senior, Gonzaga (18.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 45.3% 3PT) After averaging just 6.7 points per game as a freshman and 13.9 PPG as a junior, Kispert raised that to 18.9 per night in his senior year. Kispert’s shooting splits had 50/45/90 being discussed late into the season, a player who made three or more three-pointers in 17 games on the season. Kispert will leave Gonzaga having made the third-most three-pointers of any Bulldog since the start of the 2000-01 season.
  • Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Sophomore, Villanova (15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.2 APG) After finishing fifth on the team in scoring as a freshman, Robinson-Earl led the Wildcats this season. After the season-ending injury to teammate Collin Gillespie near the end of the season, Robinson-Earl responded by taking on an even bigger role in the Villanova offense. While Villanova was a popular team to pick against heading into the NCAA Tournament, Robinson-Earl averaged 20 points, 8.5 rebounds and six assists per game in Villanova’s first two tournament games.
  • Kofi Cockburn, Sophomore, Illinois (17.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 65.4% FG) Kofi Cockburn was the only player in the nation to average north of 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting at least 60 percent from the field. Cockburn’s size and strength led to 15 games with at least four offensive rebounds, which ranked fourth in the nation.
  • Evan Mobley, Freshman, USC (16.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.9 BLK/G) Evan Mobley finished the season taking home the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Mobley finished with multiple blocked shots in 27 games, the highest total in the nation. Mobley was the only player in the country to average 15 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks per game. He was the anchor to the USC defense which according to KenPom finished an adjusted defensive efficiency of 88.1, well below the team’s average of 99.5 in Andy Enfield’s first seven years with the Trojans.

Third Team All-America

  • Davion Mitchell, Junior, Baylor (14 PPG, 5.3 APG, 2 STL/G, 45% 3PT) After shooting just 31% from beyond the arc during his first two years in college, Davion Mitchell knocked down 45% of his 131 attempts this season. In addition to being a terrific shooter, Mitchell took home Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. Entering the Final Four, Mitchell has 18 games with at least two steals. In the team’s first 14 games of the season, Mitchell was averaging 11.5 points per game, whereas over the next 14 games, Mitchell was scoring 16.6 points per game.
  • Quentin Grimes, Junior, Houston (18 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 41.2% 3PT, 99 3PM) Since returning to action in early February after missing a game against Our Lady of the Lake, Houston’s Quentin Grimes has averaged 20.2 points and 4.5 three-pointers per game. When Houston lost AAC Preseason Player of the Year Caleb Mills to the transfer portal, the Cougars turned even more to Grimes. After making 94 three-pointers in his first two collegiate seasons, Grimes is sitting at 99 heading into the Final Four. With one more make, he will become just the ninth Houston Cougar to eclipse 100 makes from deep since the 1992-93 season.
  • Cameron Thomas, Freshman, LSU (23 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 88% FT) LSU’s Cameron Thomas finished the season leading the nation in freshman scoring and finishing fourth overall. In the NCAA Tournament, the he powered through top 20 defenses to score 57 points in two games. No one in the country had more 25 point outings than Thomas did with 16 instances.
  • Hunter Dickinson, Freshman, Michigan (14.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 59.8% FG) The Big Ten Freshman Year of the Year burst onto the scene quickly averaging 18 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game in his first 10 collegiate games. He quickly replaced the production left behind from Jon Teske and formed a dynamic front-court partnership with Franz Wagner.
  • Cameron Krutwig, Senior, Loyola (Chicago) (15 PPG, 7 RPG, 3 APG, 57.4% FG) A four-year starter at Loyola (Chicago), Krutwig earned Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award this season. A versatile player who scored in double-figures in all but three games, had 26 games with two or more assists, and 12 games with at least eight rebounds. In the Ramblers upset Second Round win over Illinois, Krutwig gave the Illini defense problems for 40 minutes, finishing the game with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and five asissts.

Honorable Mentions: Max Abmas (Oral Roberts), Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky, James Bouknight (Connecticut), Trayce Jackson Davis (Indiana), Herbert Jones (Alabama), Neemias Queta (Utah State), McKinley Wright (Colorado), Moses Wright (Georgia Tech)

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Eight Questions for the Final Four

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on April 2nd, 2021

Sixty-three NCAA Tournament games down, three more to go. After regional final games playing on Monday and Tuesday of this week, the Final Four teams are looking at a slightly shorter turnaround than usual heading into this weekend. Here are four questions for each game set to take place on Saturday in Indianapolis.

#1 Baylor vs. #2 Houston

1) Will Jared Butler break out of his tournament slump? Jared Butler was a first team AP All-American who averaged 17.1 points per game, shot 48.8 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament. In the tournament, Butler has yet to find his stroke, as he is shooting just 34.6 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. As a result, his scoring average has dipped to just 13 points per game in the tournament.

2) Will Baylor’s defense continue to create easy points off of forced turnovers? In the NCAA Tournament, Baylor has forced 14 or more turnovers in each game, leading to a turnover differential of +40 over four games. Offensively, Houston has only coughed the ball up more than 10 times in one of its four tournament games and maintains a season-long turnover rate that ranks in the top 20 nationally. If Baylor is able to create live ball turnovers against the Cougars, they can attack early and avoid the incredibly difficult half-court defense of Houston.

3) Who will AAC Defensive Player of the Year Dejon Jarreau be matched up against? Jarreau was locked onto Oregon State’s leading scorer Ethan Thompson for much of the Elite Eight win, holding the Beaver to 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting. Kelvin Sampson will have to decide between putting Jarreau on the struggling All-American Jared Butler or on Davion Mitchell with the hope of slowing him down.

4) Will Houston’s offensive rebounding prowess be a difference maker in this game? Houston has grabbed 62 offensive rebounds in its four tournament games, which has led to 51 second chance points. According to KenPom‘s database, Houston’s offensive rebounding rate of 39.8 percent ranks third among all teams since the start of the 2017-18 season. Baylor is coming off of a game in which it saw Arkansas grab 11 offensive rebounds. This is a match-up that will require Baylor’s guards to help clean up the glass.

#1 Gonzaga vs. #11 UCLA

1) Can UCLA find a way to slow the tempo to limit the number of Gonzaga possessions? In terms of pace, these two teams are polar opposites of one another. While Gonzaga is looking to run with every chance it gets, UCLA looks to milk the clock and attempt to find an offensive mismatch every possession. Unfortunately for UCLA, Gonzaga’s match-up with Virginia earlier in the year and the annual meetings with Saint Mary’s should have the Bulldogs more than comfortable playing at any pace.

2) Will Gonzaga’s size in the backcourt be what they exploit all game in this matchup? Gonzaga’s backcourt of Jalen Suggs, Joel Ayayi and Andrew Nembhard are all listed at 6’4″ or taller. The size, length and athleticism of this trio could lead to a difficult night for 5’11” Tyger Campbell on both ends of the floor. Campbell is the cog that keeps the Bruins’ engine running, and if he is slowed or in foul trouble, the near impossible task of beating Gonzaga gets even more challenging.

3) Will either bench play a role on the scoreboard? In UCLA’s win against Michigan, the Bruins’ defense did not tally a point, whereas in the win over Alabama it scored 18. For Gonzaga, Aaron Cook and Anton Watson get minutes but neither typically produces much offensive output. Then again, with Gonzaga’s starters averaging 72.8 points per game, the bench is not asked to score much at all.

4) Is there any chance Gonzaga gets caught looking past UCLA? Perhaps one of the few ways in which Gonzaga could be beaten is if they get caught thinking about cutting down the nets on Monday night and the perfection that would come with that. On paper, Gonzaga is the biggest favorite in a Final Four match-up for a reason. Coming out with the same intensity they showed against USC could go a long way in again building an early double-digit lead. Looking past UCLA could lead to a game that at least makes a Gonzaga play hard a bit longer than expected.

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Eight Key Questions for the Sweet Sixteen

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 25th, 2021

What started with 68 is now down to just 16.

While the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament brought the usual surprises, the Sweet Sixteen is not without familiar faces. Three #1 seeds and a pair of #2 seeds are joined by the powerful programs of Florida State and Villanova, a quartet of Pac-12 teams, a pair of mid-majors, and of course, Syracuse. Here are eight questions that could define each match-up:

Saturday’s Games

  • #8 Loyola (Chicago) vs. #12 Oregon State (2:40 PM EST, CBS), If Oregon State can limit its turnovers, do the Beavers have enough firepower to pull off an upset? After a stifling defensive performance against Illinois, Loyola (Chicago) has retaken the top spot on KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings this season. The Ramblers forced 17 turnovers against the Illini, an area of which Oregon State struggled against Oklahoma State, committing 20 turnovers. If the Beavers protect the ball, the three-point line becomes key where Oregon State has shot a robust 42 percent over its last five games.
  • #1 Baylor vs. #5 Villanova (5:15 PM EST, CBS): Will Villanova’s offense keep clicking or will the absence of Collin Gillespie be magnified against Baylor? In Villanova’s first two full games without Gillespie, the Wildcats shot just 38.3 percent from the field and 27.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the tournament, Jay Wright’s squad has found new life, however, shooting 50 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from deep. Among the players stepping up is former five-star recruit Bryan Antoine, who has scored more points in the NCAA Tournament than he had in the entire regular season.
  • #3 Arkansas vs. #15 Oral Roberts (7:25 PM EST, TBS) How much will the late December matchup between these teams factor into the March rematch? Oral Roberts led Arkansas by 12 points early in the second-half when these teams met in Fayetteville earlier this season before Arkansas took control and won by 11 points. The Razorbacks had a 32-point advantage on points in the paint and a 16-point advantage on second-chance points. While Oral Roberts did get its normal production from Kevin Obanor, Max Abmas struggled, scoring just 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
  • #2 Houston vs. #11 Syracuse (9:55 PM EST, TBS) Which team is better equipped to score against their opponent’s defense? Houston is one of the nation’s best defenses in efficiency totals and across all defensive shooting percentages. For Syracuse, the 2-3 Boeheim zone continues to work magic in another NCAA Tournament. For Houston, it’s an offense that at times can struggle to make baskets, but feasts on the offensive glass, an area that helped the Cougars survive Rutgers and could remain prevalent against Syracuse. For the Orange, it begins with Buddy Boeheim, who is averaging 26 points a game over six March contests.

Sunday’s Games

  • #1 Gonzaga vs. #5 Creighton (2:10 PM EST, CBS) Can Creighton replicate a BYU type of gameplan to keep this close longer than expected? In Gonzaga’s WCC Tournament finale, BYU shot 11-of-28 from deep and turned the ball over just eight times. Creighton ranks 20th in the nation in three-point makes per game (9.6) and on the season have forced 43 more turnovers than they have committed. They must get more from the trio of Damien Jefferson, Denzel Mahoney and Mitch Ballock, who are a combined 14-of-63 (22.2%) from beyond the arc over the Bluejays’ last four games.
  • #1 Michigan vs. #4 Florida State (5 PM EST, CBS) Will Florida State’s size across the court be too disruptive for Michigan? The height and length of Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and Franz Wagner is often too much for its opponents to handle. But for Florida State, size itself should not be a concern. The Seminoles will throw length and depth at the Wolverines for 40 minutes with nine players averaging at least 10 minutes per game and five of those listed at 6’8″ or taller.
  • #2 Alabama vs. #11 UCLA (7:15 PM EST, TBS) Which team is able to control tempo and how much will that disrupt the opponent? In terms of style of play, Alabama and UCLA are polar opposites. While Alabama is looking to push and maximize the number of possessions in a game, UCLA much prefers to slow things down, run its offense and take advantage of any mismatch. If UCLA can protect the ball and get good looks offensively, its defense will be put in a position to at least have a chance to stay in the game with a red-hot Crimson Tide team.
  • #6 USC vs. # 7 Oregon (9:45 PM EST, TBS) Will USC replicate its performance against Oregon or will the Ducks continue to fly high off of its performance against Iowa? In 14 games against teams other than USC since the beginning of February, Oregon’s Eugene Omoruyi is averaging 17.3 points per game. In Oregon’s loss against USC, Omoruyi scored just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting. USC’s length allowed the Trojans to grab 15 offensive rebounds in that game to go along with 10 made threes on 21 attempts which resulted in a 14-point USC win. Andy Enfield’s team had success also holding Will Richardson to just five points, a tougher task this time around as Richardson is netting over 15 points a game in March.
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16 Questions For First Round Saturday of the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 18th, 2021

After 16 games of wall-to-wall NCAA Tournament action on Friday, another 16 games are set to tip on Saturday. Here are questions I have for each game that will be played on First Round Saturday.

  • #1 Gonzaga vs. #16 Play-In Winner of Appalachian State/Norfolk State: What will a senior Corey Kispert look like in the NCAA Tournament? In Corey Kispert’s first two seasons at Gonzaga, he averaged 6.1 points per game in 24.8 minutes across seven NCAA Tournament games. No longer a secondary option, Kispert is poised to shatter his previous averages.
  • #1 Michigan vs. #16 Play-In Winner of Mount St. Mary’s/Texas Southern: Will Michigan have any tournament jitters without Isaiah Livers? With Isaiah Livers expected to be unavailable in the NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines not only lose their second-leading scorer, but one of the few players on the team with Tournament experience. With Livers sidelined, only senior guard Eli Brooks has any significant experience playing in the NCAA Tournament.
  • #2 Iowa vs. #15 Grand Canyon: If Grand Canyon can make threes, can its size at least frustrate Luka Garza? Grand Canyon’s two leading scorers are 7’0″ Asbjorn Midtgaard and 6’10” Alessandro Lever. The Antelopes rely on efficient post scoring from the pair to counteract the 245th ranked three-point shooting offense. Grand Canyon will have size to throw at Luka Garza, but the senior All-American will present real challenges for the Antelope bigs to stay attached in pick-and-pop situations.
  • #3 Kansas vs. #14 Eastern Washington: What will be the impact of the recent COVID battles within the KU program? From being knocked out of the Big 12 Tournament with positive tests to not having Jalen Wilson available to begin the NCAA Tournament, the last week has been tricky for Kansas. It appears the Jayhawks will get David McCormack back for the opener, a big boost with potential for a match-up against Evan Mobley in the second round.
  • #3 Texas vs. #14 Abilene Christian: Can Shaka Smart avoid NCAA Tournament struggles? Since taking VCU on its improbable Final Four run in 2011, his teams have gone 2-6 since, with four consecutive first round exits in the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns open against an Abilene Christian team which played Texas Tech tough earlier in the season, having trailed by just one-point with eight minutes to go.
  • #4 Florida State vs. #13 UNC Greensboro: After its nightmare against Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament, will the Florida State offense protect the ball? The Seminoles turned it over 24 times against Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game, including a -25 turnover margin over its final three games, and a turnover rate ranking on the season of 241st. UNC Greensboro has a pesky backcourt of Isaiah Miller and Keyshaun Langley, who, between the pair, average 3.6 steals a game.
  • #4 Virginia vs. #13 Ohio: Does Ohio have enough firepower to pull an upset? Ohio’s Jason Preston is one of only two players in the country to be averaging 15 points, six rebounds, and six assists per game this season. Alongside Preston is the pair of Ben Vander Plas and Ben Roderick, who on the year made 97 three-pointers on 38 percent shooting. As a team the Bobcats average 80.9 points per game and could present a challenge for Virginia if Ohio’s offense can continue to click here.
  • #5 Colorado vs. #12 Georgetown: Can the Hoyas keep last week’s run rolling? Georgetown entered the Big East Tournament with a record of 9-12 before rattling off four wins in four days. The recent stretch of success goes back as far as 10 games, though, with much of it coming from a Georgetown defense which held eight of those opponents to under 45 percent shooting from the floor. The Hoyas are 12-6 when they accomplish that feat, and just 1-6 when opponents manage to shoot better than that mark.
  • #5 Creighton vs. #12 UC Santa Barbara: What will Creighton’s offense look like after a pair of lackluster performances? After torching the Madison Square Garden nets against Butler, the Bluejays’ offense really struggled against both Connecticut and Georgetown. In its final two Big East Tournament games, Creighton shot just 33.1 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from deep on 48 three-point attempts.
  • #6 USC vs. #11 Play-In Winner of Drake/Wichita State: With Evan Mobley playing his best basketball, can USC make a statement to start the tournament? Evan Mobley is averaging 17.2 points and nine rebounds per game over his last five contests while continuing to protect the rim at every turn. With Drake still having uncertainty about the availability of Tank Hemphill and with Wichita State fresh off of a surprising loss to Cincinnati, the Trojans have an opportunity for a favorable path against either opponent.
  • #6 BYU vs. #11 Play-In Winner of Michigan State/UCLA: Is BYU too much of a complete team for either Michigan State or UCLA? BYU is ranked among the top 30 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and while Michigan State is just outside of the top 30 on the defensive side of the ball, it has struggled offensively. For UCLA, while its offense can be potent, the Bruins’ defense has struggled to string together stops when it matters most.
  • #7 Connecticut vs. #10 Maryland: Will this be a game won and lost on the backboard? All season long, rebounding performance has been a key indicator for both teams. In UConn wins, the Huskies outrebounded opponents by 9.8 rebounds a game, and in losses, they have averaged a 0.4 rebounding deficit to opponents. Similarly for Maryland, the Terrapins have averaged a +4.1 rebounding advantage in victories, and in losses have been outmuscled by opponents to the tune of 6.6 rebounds a game.
  • #7 Oregon vs. #10 VCU: In the NCAA Tournament will it be a singular talent or the talent of the whole that wins out? VCU’s Bones Hyland leads the Rams in scoring at 19.5 points per game, as the 6’3″ sophomore guard is an efficient scorer both in transition and in the halfcourt. For Oregon, the Ducks have five players who average 10 or more points per game, led by the talented duo of Chris Duarte and Eugene Omoruyi, who each average 16.7 points per game.
  • #8 LSU vs. #9 St. Bonaventure: Is Darius Bays the most important player to this matchup? While LSU’s trio of Cam Thomas, Ja’Vonte Smart, and Trendon Watford are consistent scorers, the team’s fourth-leading scorer, Darius Davis, is anything but consistent. In wins, Davis averages 14.9 points per game and has made 46-of-93 three-point attempts. In LSU defeats, Davis averages just 4.5 points per game and has made just 2-of-28 from beyond the arc.
  • #8 Oklahoma vs. #9 Missouri: How much will this matchup look like the matchup between these teams from last season? These former Big 12 foes played in November of last season, a game in which Oklahoma won by 11. The Sooners’ offense was led by 36 combined points from Austin Reaves and Brady Manek, who together made 6-of-14 three-point attempts.

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16 Questions for First Round Friday of the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 17th, 2021

With the first round of the NCAA Tournament now just days away, here is a question I have for each of Friday’s 16 match-ups.

  • #1 Illinois vs. #16 Drexel: Can the Illini’s Trent Frazier and Adam Miller begin the Tournament by finding their three-point shot? The Illini duo of Frazier and Miller made 36.7 percent of their three-point attempts in the season’s opening 22 games. Down the stretch over the final seven games, Frazier and Miller were a combined 16-of-55 (29.1%) from beyond the arc.
  • #1 Baylor vs. #16 Hartford: Will Baylor be back to its pre-COVID pause self or will the February layoff linger? Baylor went 5-2 after returning from its COVID pause, but that included closer than expected wins against both Iowa State and Kansas State. While Baylor has the nation’s best three-point percentage offense, they take on a Hartford team that has a top 10 three-point percentage defense.
  • #2 Houston vs. #15 Cleveland State: Can Cleveland State find enough baskets to keep the game close against a Houston squad that sometimes struggles to make shots? Cleveland State played three games all season against an opponent with a top-100 defensive efficiency and 19 games against a defense that sat outside of the top 250. The Vikings draw a top-10 defense in a Houston squad that is the only team in the country to have both a top-10 two-point and three-point percentage defense.
  • #2 Ohio State vs. #15 Oral Roberts: Can Oral Roberts keep things close long enough for Max Abmas to have a chance to steal an upset? Approximately 42 percent of the field-goal attempts taken by Oral Roberts come from three-point line. They have knocked down 38.8 percent of those attempts, a percentage that sits just outside of the top ten. ORU kept non-conference games close against Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Wichita State, and with the nation’s leading scorer in Max Abmas, they are a team Ohio State will not want to deal with late in a close game.
  • #3 West Virginia vs. #14 Morehead State: Can 35 percent be the magic number for Morehead State? Morehead State is 17-3 when it holds its opponent to under 35 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Mountaineers were 12-3 when they exceeded that percentage and just 6-6 when they failed to reach it. In West Virginia’s two losses to Oklahoma State to finish the season, the Mountaineers made just 12-of-47 (25%) from deep.
  • #3 Arkansas vs. #14 Colgate: Quite simply, how will Colgate fare outside of the Patriot League? All 15 of Colgate’s games came against Patriot League opponents, with its 12 regular-season Patriot League contests coming against just three different teams in Army, Boston University and Holy Cross.
  • #4 Purdue vs. #13 North Texas: Will Purdue and other Big Ten teams have an advantage in tournament games played at Lucas Oil Stadium? The Boilermakers are familiar with Lucas Oil Stadium, having played there last week and just an hour’s drive from West Lafayette. Could Purdue be playing in front of a crowd that makes this feel like a home game?
  • #4 Oklahoma State vs. #13 Liberty: Will the bright lights of the Big Dance bring out a different Cade Cunningham? All season long freshman sensation Cade Cunningham has proven able and willing to make the right play and get his teammates involved. As the spotlight of March grows, the Cowboys will continue to need other players to take advantage of what the freshman superstar gives them. Avery Anderson has done that lately, averaging 17.4 points per game over his last five contests.
  • #5 Tennessee vs. #12 Oregon State: Can the Beavers continue what they started at the Pac-12 Tournament? Oregon State went from down double-figures against UCLA in their Pac-12 Tournament opener to clinching an NCAA Tournament spot just three days later. One standout from their recent success has been Warith Alatishe, who averaged 14 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in the Pac-12 Tournament.
  • #5 Villanova vs. #12 Winthrop: What will be the impact of the Collin Gillespie injury here in March? Villanova dropped its final two games without the services of Gillespie, games in which the Wildcats’ offense looked stagnant for much of both games. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels combined for 46 points in the Big East Tournament loss to Georgetown, while the other three starters combined for just six points on 1-of-7 shooting.
  • #6 San Diego State vs. #11 Syracuse: Can Syracuse once again turn things on at Tournament time? The Orange have reached at minimum the Sweet 16 in each of the last two times they were seeded 10th or worse. The Syracuse defense has allowed 12 .5 more points per game on the road than they have at home.
  • #6 Texas Tech vs. #11 Utah State: Will this #6/#11 battle come down to those “stolen” opportunities? Texas Tech forces turnovers at a top-10 rate nationally, while the Aggies turn it over at a rate that ranks outside of the top 200. For Utah State, they have a chance to gain ground by dominating the glass, where they outrebound opponents by 12.7 rebounds a game in wins and just 4.1 RPG in losses.
  • #7 Florida vs. #10 Virginia Tech: Will Tre Mann continue to light up the nets? Florida’s Tre Mann is averaging 22.6 points per game over his last five games on 58 percent shooting overall and 41.7 percentfrom beyond the arc. In Mann’s first 17 games of the season, he was averaging just 14.1 points per game.
  • #7 Clemson vs. #10 Rutgers: Will free throw shooting hinder Rutgers’ ability to pick up its first NCAA Tournament win since 1983? Clemson enters this matchup shooting 76.5 percent at the charity stripe whereas Rutgers ranks 332nd at just 63.2%. While the Rutgers trio of Geo Baker, Jacob Young, and Ron Harper are competent at the line, Montez Mathis and Myles Johnson are a combined 61-of-122 there.
  • #8 North Carolina vs. #9 Wisconsin: As great as North Carolina is attacking the glass, can they really win NCAA Tournament games with all their shooting and turnovers woes? The Tar Heels are the nation’s best offensive rebounding team with a rate that is better than any team has had since the start of the 2016-17 season. The rest of the North Carolina offense leaves room for improvement, with this year’s squad having the worst effective field-goal percentage and turnover rate of any Tar Heels’ NCAA Tournament team.
  • #8 Loyola (Chicago) vs. #9 Georgia Tech: Which senior big can find success against the opponents tenacious defense? This matchup features the ACC’s Player of the Year in Moses Wright and the MVC’s Player of the Year in Cameron Krutwig. Loyola possesses the best defensive efficiency, while Georgia Tech comes in fresh off of forcing Florida State to commit 24 turnovers in the ACC title game.
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2020-21 RTC16: Week 15

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 8th, 2021

With now less than a week to go until Selection Sunday, the top eight in the RTC16 has become a bit more stable. As leagues embark on their conference tournaments, strong play to protect and possibly improve seeding will be key. With Gonzaga and Baylor having secured two of the four #1 seeds, will the Big Ten grab the others or will a team like Alabama pry a top seed away?

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: Big Ten (5), Big 12 (3), ACC (2), SEC (2), AAC (1), Big East (1), MVC (1), WCC (1),


  • Illinois: Brad Underwood’s Illini picked up a pair of Quad-1 victories by beating Michigan without Ayo Dosunmu and then following that up with a win at Ohio State. The #2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, Illinois has now positioned itself to be a strong contender for a #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
  • Loyola (Chicago): The Ramblers ran through the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with three wins all by double-figures. In the MVC Tournament, Loyola made 49% percent of its three-point attempts, an important improvement for a team that ranked seventh from beyond the arc in league play.
  • Oregon: The Ducks went 3-0 this past week to win the Pac-12 title. This included a dominant final 10 minutes Wednesday night against UCLA in which Oregon turned a nine-point deficit into an eight-point victory. Chris Duarte is the type of player who can carry this talented Oregon team into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.


  • Maryland: A week ago Maryland had won five straight games and found itself in good position on the bubble. Then the Terrapins went 0-2 this past week with losses to non-tournament teams in Northwestern and Penn State. Eric Ayala had a particularly tough week, going 6-of-20 from the field.
  • Villanova: The Wildcats were hit with injuries at the worst time of the season. First it was losing Collin Gillespie for the season with a knee injury against Creighton, and then Justin Moore to what was described as a severe ankle sprain. The impact of Gillespie was clear in the loss at Providence, a game in which Villanova produced its worst offensive efficiency output of the season.
  • Wisconsin: Wisconsin has lost three straight and five of its last six games. With the game tied late against Iowa, the Badgers failed to grab a defensive rebound on a missed free throw, were called for a foul on Jordan Bohannon shooting a three-pointer, and then found itself on the wrong end of another monitor review to a play involving Brad Davison.

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