Rushed Reactions: NC State 69, Connecticut 65

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC correspondent. He filed these thoughts from NC State’s victory over Connecticut in game two of the Jimmy V Classic. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

  1. NC State made the winning plays. Give Connecticut a lot of credit for its tenacity and scrappy style of play but NC State made the plays you need to make down the stretch in order to win big games. Whether it was huge offensive rebounds or Scott Wood’s pick-and-roll, the Wolfpack did what they had to do in order to come out on top. That’s a sign of a good basketball team and this is a win that should boost NC State’s confidence after a shaky start to the season.
  2. Connecticut just didn’t shoot the ball well enough to win. The Huskies made a bunch of threes early in the first half but that proved to be fool’s gold, as hot three-point shooting out of the gate usually does. Connecticut wound up shooting only 40.3% for the game while NC State finished seven percentage points higher. Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier took the most shots for the Huskies as usual but they were not efficient (14-34 combined). This overreliance on two players is going to win Connecticut some games this season but also cost them, especially against top notch competition like NC State. The Huskies can be good but they need to share the ball more.
  3. NC State’s rebounding helped it win this game. When you look at the rebounding numbers you see NC State was only +4 overall on the glass. However, a lot of the rebounds pulled down by the Wolfpack were on the offensive end and/or at key points in the game. Richard Howell in particular did a great job working for position on the offensive glass and earned his team a bunch of extra possessions. Connecticut had not been a good rebounding team coming into the game and, while it held its own, NC State took advantage of that at critical points in the game.

CJ Leslie’s Late Dunk Helped NC State Finish Off the Game (E. Hyman/RNO)

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Rushed Reactions: #11 Georgetown 64, Texas 41

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 4th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC correspondent. He filed these thoughts from Georgetown’s victory over Texas in game one of the Jimmy V Classic.

Three Takeaways:

  1. Texas is brutal offensively.  Most of this can be attributed to the Longhorns missing Myck Kabongo (eligibility) and Jaylen Bond (injury) but man, are they bad. Texas had just 33 points with less than four minutes remaining in the second half and finished the game with a total of only 41. Rick Barnes’ club shot 29.2% for the game and made just two three-pointers all night. Georgetown was a bad match-up for Texas because of its basketball IQ and strong defense but that’s no excuse. This was a pathetic effort by Texas offensively. In addition to the poor ball movement and poor shooting, Texas displayed incredible ineptitude with the ball. Twenty-two turnovers gave Georgetown plenty of extra shots, many more than it needed to win the game. This team needs Kabongo and Bond back in the worst way or else it’s going to be a long Big 12 season in Austin.
  2. Georgetown is steady seemingly every game. I saw the Hoyas take Indiana to the wire a few weeks ago in Brooklyn and while this game was as boring as that one was good, Georgetown’s style of play remains incredibly consistent. Not many teams in America can go out night after night and excel in a system that requires so much knowledge and discipline. It’s a tribute to John Thompson III’s coaching acumen and the willingness of his players to embrace the team concept. It’s not the most exciting style but no matter the opponent, Georgetown plays the same way every time out. You don’t see that too often in college basketball today.
  3. The Longhorn defense did not impress me. Texas is going to have to win games with incredible defense because of its inability to score points. Holding teams under 65 or even 60 points is not easy but that’s what Texas must do to win games this season. This team entered tonight’s game ranked third nationally in defensive efficiency but did a poor job containing Georgetown’s deliberate offensive attack. Georgetown shot 41% for the game but the Hoyas built a 13-point halftime lead (it didn’t feel that close) thanks to 48.3% shooting in the first half. Texas can’t win games without playing good defense for a full40 minutes, it’s that simple.

Barnes Faces Perhaps His Toughest Season in Austin (photot credit: F. Franklin)

Star of the Game: Otto Porter, Georgetown. Porter is a stat-sheet stuffer and did it again tonight. He was all over the floor on both ends, posting 14 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Georgetown’s best player didn’t have a great shooting night but he still managed to lead all scorers. Only a sophomore, Porter is one of the most versatile players in the country. John Thompson III knows exactly how to utilize him and Porter plays within himself — that’s a dangerous combination for Georgetown’s future opponents.

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Rushed Reactions: Notre Dame 64, #8 Kentucky 50

Posted by WCarey on November 29th, 2012

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed some quick thoughts from tonight’s showdown between Kentucky and Notre Dame

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The Atmosphere At The Purcell Pavilion Was Electric Tonight. And the electricity began way before the game even tipped off. Notre Dame distributed black t-shirts to all fans in an effort for a blackout at the Purcell Pavilion. The blackout effort was successful (even though there was some Kentucky blue scattered throughout the crowd). The Irish basketball team did its part in the blackout by unveiling brand new black jerseys. Big Blue Nation is known for its road presence, but the Notre Dame faithful were successfully able to drown out the voice of the visiting fans. The Irish are now 41-1 in their last 42 non-conference home games and the electrifying atmosphere of the Purcell Pavilion continues to play a key role in that strong mark.
  2. Notre Dame’s Defensive Effort Was Outstanding. The Irish held Kentucky to just 50 points, which is 18 points lower than its previous season-low. Kentucky shooters were frustrated early and often by the stingy Irish defense, as the Wildcats only managed to finish the game at 40.4% from the field. The Irish defense was particularly tough in the first half, holding Kentucky to just a 37.5% shooting mark. Notre Dame’s terrific defensive pressure also forced Kentucky into a number of abysmal possessions, some of which led to 12 Wildcat turnovers. Wildcat freshmen Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel were stymied all night, as they combined to convert just 5-of-17 field goal attempts. Goodwin, in particular, had a very frustrating night as he was held to just three points, which was 16 points below his season average.
  3. Notre Dame’s Captains Provide Great Leadership. In a game where Notre Dame had the definite advantage in terms of experience, the Irish veteran captains stepped up and willed the team to victory. Junior guard Eric Atkins led the way for the Irish with 16 points and four assists. Atkins’ defensive effort on Kentucky point guard Archie Goodwin was also notable, as he frustrated the talented freshman all night. Senior forward Jack Cooley put up another double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Cooley’s interior defense left Nerlens Noel frustrated and Alex Poythress in foul trouble. Senior swingman Scott Martin also put forth a steady effort for the Irish with eight points and four rebounds. If the Irish can consistently get great efforts from these three guys, they will be a tough team to beat when Big East play commences.

Star of the Game. Eric Atkins, Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s offensive effort was rather balanced tonight, but it was Atkins, who really set the tone early for the Irish. Scoring 13 of his 16 points in the first half, Atkins helped the Irish take an 11-point lead into the half, which allowed them to control the pace of the game in the second half. While Cooley, junior guard Jerian Grant, and freshman guard Cameron Biedscheid put together impressive performances, it was Atkins who emerged as the best player on the court for the winning team. Quotable.

  • “What disappointed me is that we did not compete. We did not execute. We did not play together.” Kentucky head coach John Calipari in response to what he thought went wrong for his squad tonight.
  • “We really prepared like an experienced group the past two days and we played like an experienced team tonight.” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey when asked how much of an advantage his team’s experience gave them in tonight’s game.

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Rushed Reaction: Miami 67, #12 Michigan State 59

Posted by nvr1983 on November 28th, 2012

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A few takeaways from Miami‘s impressive eight-point win over Michigan State tonight:

  1. The Hurricanes should be near the top of the ACC. This isn’t so much a reflection of the Hurricanes being a great team as it is of how weak the ACC is this season (outside of  Duke). North Carolina and North Carolina State have the pieces to be very good (particularly the Wolfpack), but we haven’t seen any indications of that so far this season. The Hurricanes are a step below the Blue Devils and likely the Wolfpack too when they get their act together, but they should be in the next tier competing against UNC, FSU, and Maryland. This win should also be a resume-booster when Selection Sunday rolls around as the Spartans will probably pick up plenty of solid wins in the Big Ten making this win even more impressive for the Hurricanes. The improvement Miami has shown from its embarrassing loss to Florida Gulf Coast can be explained in large part by the return of Durand Scott, but he didn’t do it by himself tonight as he was helped out by Trey McKinney Jones and Shane Larkin, who both had big games in scoring 33 of the team’s 67 points.
  2. Michigan State is still going through growing pains without Draymond Green, who was a huge part of the Spartans’ success last season, and it has been evident early in the year even if they were able to pull out a last-second win earlier this month against Kansas. In his postgame press conference, Tom Izzo stressed the difficulty he has had finding a rotation with the injuries the team has had so far this season. He also harped on his team’s inability to guard ball screens and after initially trying to go with the “unnamed player” line, he called out Keith Appling, who he said had his worst game as a Spartan. As always we expect this Spartan program to be around in March, but they still have quite a bit of work left before they are ready to compete against Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio State and even then they may not have enough to be a serious threat to those three.
  3. He went through some rough patches tonight as you would expect from a freshman returning from injury, but it is clear that Gary Harris will become the go-to guy for this Michigan State team if they are going to approach their typical lofty standards. Travis Trice and Keith Appling are solid players, but Harris is the one with the potential to become a star and is the only Spartan who has the ability to get to the basket when the team needs him to do so. As Izzo pointed out in the postgame press conference, Harris is not at 100% as he recovers from a shoulder injury, but when he does he should be a force in the Big Ten. Harris is one of the most highly touted players to come to Michigan State and while it is still early in the season all signs are indicating that he will live up to the hype.

Miami Students Rush the Court.

Offered without comment…

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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: Illinois 78, Butler 61

Posted by rtmsf on November 21st, 2012

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Some quick thoughts from today’s first Maui Invitational championship game between Illinois and Butler

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The Illinois Guards Played Like a Weight Has Been Lifted From Their Shoulders. The old joke goes something like this: Former Illinois head coach Bruce Weber happened upon a Champaign bank robbery a while back, but the suspects got away because he wouldn’t let the guards shoot. Hey, we didn’t make it up — we’re just repeating it. But regardless of the joke’s origin, the fact is that John Groce has unleashed the creativity and talents of his senior guards, Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson, as well as sophomore Tracy Abrams, in a way that we haven’t seen from these players previously in their careers. As a result, they’re confident and they’re producing — Paul was the MVP of the tournament, while Richardson was on all the all-tournament team. As Brad Stevens said about Paul in particular after the game — “he’s a big-time pro” — we’re finally getting to see what he can do on a regular basis. He averaged 20/4/3 APG over the three days — nobody was able to really figure him out.
  2. Butler Struggles When It’s the Rotnei Clarke Show. It probably goes without saying, but in three games here in Maui this week, the Bulldogs were at their best when Rotnei Clarke was acting as distributor while also picking his spots to shoot. When he found open teammates tonight, the shots simply weren’t falling — there were several in particular with Kellen Dunham (0-9) and Chase Stigall (0-2) where it was clear that their legs just weren’t under them after three games in three days. Clarke finished with 27 points on 10-19 shooting, but at the under-four timeout, he had accounted for exactly 50% of Butler’s points. None of the other players who had been so effective in the North Carolina game — Khyle Marshall, Andrew Smith, Dunham, Stigall — were able to do much tonight. Without their contributions, Butler won’t win many games relying solely on Clarke’s shooting prowess.
  3. Long-Term Prognosis of Both Teams. It says here that Illinois and Butler are both NCAA Tournament caliber teams, but they have obvious weaknesses that will be exploited during conference play. We’re guessing that the Illini have the higher ceiling, though. They’re not going to win the Big Ten without a legitimate big man inside (where have you gone, Meyers Leonard?), but the guard play should be enough to push John Groce’s team into the top of the middle of that league behind the likes of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. Butler is on a bit more shaky ground, though. So much of the offense needs to flow through Rotnei Clarke that the ceiling for the Bulldogs will largely depend on the ongoing development of players like Khyle Marshall, Andrew Smith and Kellen Dunham. The pieces are there for Butler to make a run at the top three in the Atlantic 10, but the margin for error seems considerably large this year.

Star of the Game. Brandon Paul, Illinois. Paul’s numbers were good — 20/3/4 assts — but it was how he set the tone from the opening tip that impressed tonight. He had an assist on a three and knocked down two jumpers of his own before the first TV timeout to help give the Illini a working lead of 13-5, and Butler never got the margin under five points the rest of the way. If he plays this way all year, he’ll be an All-American to go along with his Maui Invitational MVP trophy.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 82, Georgetown 72 (OT)

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from Indiana’s overtime victory over Georgetown on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

Three thoughts on Indiana’s thrilling overtime victory over Georgetown, the best college basketball game we’ve seen so far this season.

  1. Indiana’s defense down the stretch was terrific. The Hoosiers held Georgetown without a point for a five minute stretch late in the second half, a stretch that ultimately allowed them to win the game despite Georgetown’s comeback. Indiana led by eight with four minutes remaining in the game but the Hoyas chipped that away in the final few minutes. If it wasn’t for that scoreless stretch, Georgetown wins this game in regulation and Indiana is left questioning what went wrong. The Hoosiers have work to do defensively but coming up with extended stops like that in crunch time against a quality opponent has to give Tom Crean a lot of confidence going forward.
  2. Georgetown’s help defense allowed it to go toe to toe with Indiana. All night long, Georgetown’s front line defensive helpers made a huge difference against Cody Zeller and any Indiana guard who drove the lane. Georgetown had two or three guys blocking shots and it was hard for Indiana to operate in the lane. Despite all of that, Indiana was able to win the game which speaks volumes about its offensive ability. Jordan Hulls was able to drive and dish or score while Zeller made some nifty moves to evade the Hoya defenders. Georgetown wins with tight defense and for a while I thought they were going to knock off the #1 Hoosiers. The Hoyas defense gave them every chance to win, they just needed a little bit more on offense. 
  3. Both of these teams are going to make a lot of noise. We knew Indiana was good and it will contend for a Big Ten title but Georgetown proved tonight it could contend with the top teams in the nation. The Hoyas were every bit as good as Indiana tonight but ran out of gas in the extra session. Truth be told, it was a very good matchup for Georgetown. The Hoyas will take valuable experience from this one as they move towards Big East play in January. I did not have Georgetown ranked in the RTC Top 25 but that has to change after what I saw tonight even in a loss. John Thompson III gets a ton of credit for developing his players and keeping this program among the best in the nation year after year.
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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: Butler 82, #11 UNC 71

Posted by rtmsf on November 20th, 2012

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Some quick thoughts from today’s first Maui Invitational semifinal game between North Carolina and Butler

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Butler Lives For These Games. And it was apparent in the warmups. Whereas the Carolina guys had a very relaxed — almost too relaxed — attitude in the layup lines (Maui living!), Butler was all business. And from the opening tap, it was clear that if UNC was going to walk out of the Lahaina Civic Center today with a victory, it was going to have to cost the Tar Heels considerable blood, sweat, and tears. This was not going to be another Mississippi State laydown event. Brad Stevens knows that his program, even despite back-to-back national championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011, is still not respected in the same way that, say, even Wisconsin is. As an example, the Bulldogs were not ranked in the Top 25 this preseason. After wins over Marquette and North Carolina this week, they will be now.
  2. Remember Those 15 Threes? Yeah, We Don’t Either. At the 11:30 minute mark of the second half, the UNC guard quartet whom we lauded yesterday had put up a huge stinker. And that’s a problem, because they along with James Michael McAdoo are going to have to carry most of the Tar Heel offense. At that point, they had combined for a measly 13 points and had shot somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-20 from the field (they finished 17-46 with . And the credit goes 100% to the Butler defense, which Brad Stevens had clearly designed to bump, pressure, and challenge the Tar Heel guards. They didn’t like it. Generally, they settled for jumpers in the thinking that since they fell yesterday, so why not tonight? The difference, of course, was that Butler was defending them. By the time Carolina figured out how to speed up the game by returning the favor with full-court pressure on the Butler guards, the game was too far out of hand to matter.
  3. The Comeback. With nearly three-quarters of the game gone, UNC finally got a couple of outside shots to fall and started pressuring the Bulldogs fullcourt. From that point forward, the Heels went on a 37-15 run that included seven Butler turnovers (keep in mind that the Bulldogs committed zero second half turnovers yesterday). Down 28 to begin with, though, and playing a team that typically doesn’t rattle and makes the right play with the ball, it was highly unlikely that Butler was going to completely cave — still, UNC deserves credit for getting back into the game. As Roy Williams said afterward, he’s never had a “team quit” on him, so this will certainly be a teaching point about bringing that same toughness out of the gate.

Star of the Game. Kellen Dunham, Butler. Butler’s attack tonight was rather balanced, but it was Dunham’s five treys (on nine attempts) that really helped Butler build an insurmountable lead tonight. He also provided the assist on one of the Bulldogs’ late threes that stemmed the onrushing UNC tide, while adding five rebounds and a couple of assists in the game. Of course, we all know that the true star here was Brad Stevens’ game plan, but we’ll save that one for later depending on how tomorrow goes.

Quotable.

  • “I love giant killers.” Butler head coach Brad Stevens in reference to a question about Chaminade beating Texas and possibly playing his Bulldogs if they get past Illinois.
  • “I’ve never had a team quit… one possible exception could have been Florida State [last year].” UNC head coach Roy Williams, paging Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, possibly.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 UCLA 60, Georgia 56

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 20th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from UCLA’s victory over Georgia on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

Three thoughts from UCLA’s close call against Georgia…

  1. UCLA defended better, but it wasn’t a consistent effort. After last night’s poor defensive showing, UCLA looked much the same in the first half. Georgia came out and was able to get multiple easy baskets in the paint. That led to a five-point Bulldogs halftime lead but Ben Howland’s Bruins reversed the trend after the break. UCLA held Georgia to 30% shooting and just 26 points in the second half. Howland mixed in some zone but played predominantly man defense tonight. After the game he admitted his team couldn’t stop Georgia in the man defense, but prefers that defense as opposed to zone. UCLA’s on-ball pressure was improved and they rebounded better after halftime. It was a tale of two halves for the Bruins, but the second half eventually won out and UCLA leaves Brooklyn with a split, something Howland acknowledged was very important. He didn’t want that long plane ride home to LA to be for naught. It’s not the way they wanted it to happen but a split is what most people expected.
  2. Shabazz had 21 points, but Travis Wear was UCLA’s MVP tonight. Wear posted 10 points and eight rebounds, but it seemed like a lot more. He was everywhere around the rim on both ends of the floor and his rebounding was extremely valuable in the second half when Georgia was missing shots. With his brother David out due to injury, Wear stepped up when others like Josh Smith could only manage four boards. Going up against a strong rebounder in Georgia’s Marcus Thornton is never easy but Wear excelled tonight. Both Wear twins have been described as role players once they transferred from North Carolina but they’re both showing signs of improvement. They will be hugely important players for UCLA because Smith has shown little signs of improvement (or a will to improve) in his time in Westwood.
  3. Georgia is 1-4, but it should improve. I’m not sure what happened in the Youngstown State and Southern Miss losses but I have a hard time believing Georgia is as bad as its record indicates. The Bulldogs aren’t the 22 to 25-win team Indiana coach Tom Crean talked about last night but I don’t think they’re a terrible basketball team. Georgia has pieces to build around, especially Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Thornton. Mark Fox has a very good track record at Nevada and, while it’ll be hard to move up the SEC ladder, Georgia has the potential to do so. The Bulldogs will see their share of rough losses but don’t expect them to be a total doormat for the SEC like, say, Mississippi State.
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Rushed Reactions: Texas A&M 55, Washington State 54

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2012

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Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. He filed this report from the consolation game of the Edward Jones CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City.

Three thoughts from Texas A&M’s one-point victory in the consolation final against Washington State.

  1. Wazzou Defense Improves, But It’s Still Incomplete: Washington State’s defense held tight in a see-saw battle that saw ten ties and eight lead changes, but couldn’t hold on its final possession, as Texas A&M guard Elston Turner sank a three from the top of the key to send the Aggies back to Lubbock with a 56-54 win (more on him later). The Cougars were especially strong in the backcourt, frustrating Texas A&M into bad shots throughout the game. After getting blown away by the Jayhawk offense on Monday, Ken Bone‘s team did a much better job on short rest, but the Turner’s game-winner proves the importance of playing tight defense each trip down the floor. Washington State’s rebounding must also improve, especially on the defensive end as the Cougars allowed the Aggies to clean up 13 of their 33 misses.
  2. The Turners Hold The Keys To A&M’s Season: The aforementioned Elston Turner shook off a cold shooting night to deliver when his team needed him the most. As one of the senior leaders of an otherwise young team, Turner will have to lead by example, and that means stepping up and maintaining poise even when things aren’t breaking right. Turner had missed 11 of his first 12 shots on the night, but kept his confidence on the final possession. Ray Turner bounced back from a passive game Monday, leading the Aggies with 14 points and eight rebounds Tuesday, three of which came on the offensive glass. The Aggies are at their best when the Turners are clicking, as they did in the early part of the second half. Trailing by five at intermission, Texas A&M went on a 13-5 run, and the Turners were responsible for 11 of those 13 points.
  3. Dexter Kernich-Drew Emerges Off The Bench: If the Cougars’ defensive effort tonight proves to be an aberration, WSU can take solace in the potential of the Australian sophomore to compensate with smooth outside shooting. Kernich-Drew scored 13 of his game-high 16 points in the second half, and hit four of seven from distance, his last three coming from NBA range. The Aggies and Cougars traded buckets throughout the second half down to the very last possession, and Kernich-Drew was right in the thick of it as his contributions kept the Cougars close. Wazzou was much more balanced offensively tonight, with Kernich-Drew, Mike Ladd, Brock Motum, and D.J. Shelton each chipping in. As its defense develops, it will be up to scorers like Kernich-Drew to keep Washington State in games.
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Rushed Reactions: Georgetown 78, #7 UCLA 70

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 19th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from Georgetown’s victory over UCLA on Monday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

Three thoughts from Georgetown’s impressive win over UCLA and Shabazz Muhammad…

  1. UCLA needs a ton of work defensively. Georgetown took it right to UCLA, getting whatever it wanted around the rim. UCLA’s rotations and help defense were putrid all night long and the frustration was clearly displayed by Ben Howland. The UCLA head man was yelling “hellllllp!” countless times to his defenders but the message didn’t seem to get through. UCLA was 35th in defensive efficiency last season but an infusion of talented freshman could make it hard to match this time around. It’ll take some time for these highly talented offensive players to learn how to play defense that wins games at the college level. Howland’s club sure is talented but it has to get better on the defensive end if it hopes to make a serious move in March.
  2. Georgetown is solid year after year. The culture of winning John Thompson III has established at Georgetown is one of the underappreciated stories in college basketball. Year after year, the Hoyas produce a winning team that displays great fundamentals and a trust between teammates that results in great chemistry and sound execution. Georgetown isn’t as talented as some of its previous teams but if the Hoyas keep playing this way, they’ll contend in the Big East yet again. Talent is important, but it’s not the most important factor at Georgetown. Make no mistake, the Hoyas do have some talent (Otto Porter comes to mind) but they win with basketball smarts and gritty defense.
  3. Shabazz Muhammad. The highly-touted freshman from Las Vegas made his first collegiate appearance in Brooklyn after the NCAA deemed him eligible for competition. The UCLA wing clearly has a lot of talent and athletic ability but it could take him some time to get into a flow. Throwing him into the fire right away against a fundamentally sound Georgetown team (and star defender Greg Whittington) isn’t the best way to see what he really can do. Once Muhammad gets comfortable against lesser competition, he should be more than ready to take on the big boys on UCLA’s schedule. Muhammad will make UCLA better but it’s unrealistic to expect instant gratification with the star freshman.
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Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 66, Georgia 53

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 19th, 2012

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Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from Indiana’s victory over Georgia on Monday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

Three thoughts from Indiana’s closer-than-expected victory over Georgia in Brooklyn tonight.

  1. Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo provided Indiana with the lift it needed in the second half. After the game, Tom Crean said his team had a lot of energy sources tonight. Of those, nobody provided a bigger lift to the Hoosiers than Hulls and Oladipo. Hulls looked hesitant to shoot early in the game but got himself into a rhythm after halftime. The senior gunner from Bloomington knocked down four of six triples and sparked Indiana in transition. Oladipo, who blossomed into a major contributor for the Hoosiers last season, was a high flyer around the rim with a couple of athletic dunks and was a force defensively. Crean said his team had a tough time amping up the pace and getting out in transition, but Indiana was able to do that over the final 10-12 minutes of the game.
  2. Cody Zeller wasn’t Cody Zeller but Indiana was able to overcome it. Zeller struggled all night after being saddled with early foul trouble and wound up taking only four shots. Without the Big Handsome in the middle, it’s clear that Indiana is a different team. The Hoosiers struggled mightily in the first half in running their offense and not having their seven-footer in the middle to run things through was the primary reason why. Zeller scored only six points, the second-lowest point total of his Indiana career. Indiana needs him on the floor to run its offense at the level Crean expects, but Zeller also has to demand the ball more. That was an issue at times last season. Bank on a better night for the sophomore stud tomorrow against Georgetown.
  3. Georgia slowed the game successfully in the first half but couldn’t keep it up. While it wasn’t pretty to watch, Georgia did a great job slowing the pace and turning it into a half-court game. Unfortunately for Mark Fox and the Bulldogs, Hulls and Oladipo were able to fuel Indiana’s transition game in the second half. One key reason why the pace quickened was Georgia’s awful shot selection. Fox admitted in the post-game press conference that his guys had some “immature possessions,” but that’s putting it mildly. Georgia’s shot selection, particularly those of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, got worse as the game progressed. Fox said Caldwell-Pope was “a little wound up” and it showed. He’s clearly Georgia’s prime offensive threat, but taking 15 shots, most of them highly inefficient, is not the way to win games.

Bonus thought: Indiana fans turned Barclays Center into Assembly Hall East. IU loves Brooklyn? It sure seemed like it as droves of Hoosier fans made their way to New York for this game. Expect them to be back in even stronger numbers tomorrow evening for the championship game of the Legends Classic. A job well done by the folks in red, one of the very best fan bases in the entire country.

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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: #11 UNC 95, Mississippi State 49

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

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Some quick thoughts from today’s Maui Invitational quarterfinal game between UNC and Mississippi State…

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The UNC Guards Are Big, Deep and Talented. This is a completely different type of North Carolina team from the last couple of seasons, and frankly, given a Roy Williams’ system that looks to get into transition at every available opportunity, it may work a little better. With all the size along the Tar Heel front line last year, it sometimes felt like the Heels got bogged down in the half court, but this year’s group doesn’t seem to have that same problem. At least not today, when a Mississippi State defense gave them every opening they wanted — to the tune of 15 threes (the fourth most in school history) and 21 assists — Roy Williams found a reason to be upset with his defense in the postgame (UNC held MSU to 27% shooting), but the fortunes of his team are going to ride on PJ Hairston, Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock, and Dexter Strickland (combined for 65 points today).
  2. Carolina’s Young Size is Raw But Promising. It won’t show up on the stat sheet as very impressive, but the trio of Joel James, Brice Johnson, Desmond Hubert and JP Tokoto is a collection of raw talent whose size, springiness and hustle are going to win Carolina some games this season. The seven-foot James is somewhat reminiscent of a young Brendan Haywood, while the beauty of the others is that they aren’t expected to score in favor of hustling and protecting the rim. Williams’ teams are at their best with featured guard and wing play, so this team’s interior corps, already seeming to already understand its role in the scheme, will serve the Heels well going into the heart of the season.
  3. Mississippi State Has a Long Way to Get Back to Respectability. Rick Ray seemed rather disappointed after this game, and why wouldn’t he be? The realization that his team is roughly 40 to 50 points worse than a top 10 opponent is humbling to say the least. His group of inexperienced players were clearly shaken by the match-up at the opening tip, finding themselves down 9-0, 29-6, and 40-15 at various parts of the first half. They were never able to figure out how to find a good shot in the UNC defensive creases, and turnovers (21) were a major problem. The one bright spot was the hustle and play of Gavin Ware off the bench — he contributed eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks against a much bigger front line.

Star of the Game. PJ Hairston, North Carolina. Hairston had the shot of the game (not the week, thanks to Rotnei Clarke) when his 60-footer at the buzzer of the first half found net. But his all-around game set the pace for the Tar Heels with 18 points (on 7-11 shooting), four rebounds, and three blocks this afternoon.

Quotable. We asked Roy Williams what he thought about Maryland leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, and this was his response:

  • “Stunned, shocked… Didn’t see it coming… Strange what’s going on with college athletics… Hate to see them go, but if they don’t want to be there… [hand motion waving goodbye].”

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