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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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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Ten Questions to Consider: Making Statements to Close the Regular Season

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 5th, 2021

The first weekend of March brings the final weekend of the 2020-21 regular season. Seeding, both in terms of conference and NCAA Tournament positioning, is on the line as conference foes look to make a final statement before heading into sudden death territory. With pressure mounting, here are 10 questions I have for the weekend ahead:

  1. With or without Ayo Dosunmu, can Illinois carry over its performance against Michigan to this game? (Illinois @ Ohio State, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) The Illini put together one of the most impressive performances of the season on Tuesday night with their lopsided victory at Michigan. Freshman Andre Curbelo has scored 17 points in consecutive games off of the bench and senior Trent Frazier is coming off of tying his season-high with 22 points.
  2. Can D’Mitrik Trice fare better against Iowa the second time they meet? (Wisconsin @ Iowa, Sunday, 12:37 PM EST, Fox) In Wisconsin’s loss to Iowa in mid-February, D’Mitrik Trice went 3-of-15 from the field and was held to just 11 points. Trice’s offense is needed to offset the always difficult Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp, who made 30-of-57 three-point attempts in February.
  3. Can Texas Tech lessen Baylor’s bench advantage and steal a win on the road? (Texas Tech @ Baylor, Sunday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) While Mac McClung’s 24 points matched the combined offensive production of Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler last time out, Baylor’s bench outscored the Texas Tech bench by 21 points. Limited scoring outside of McClung, combined with 20 turnovers doomed the Red Raiders.
  4. Can the Memphis defense carry the Tigers to a statement AAC victory? (Memphis @ Houston, Sunday, Noon EST, CBS) Heading into Thursday’s action, no team has a better adjusted defensive efficiency ranking than Memphis, as the Tigers have won six straight and nine of their last 10 games. Over that stretch, five Memphis opponents have been held to their lowest offensive efficiency outputs. While there are few questions about the Tigers’ defense, their offense las far behind. They will need both sides to click to beat Houston.
  5. Can UCLA’s lack of depth in the frontcourt handle USC better the second go around? (USC @ UCLA, Saturday, 4 PM EST, CBS) The Bruins were without both Cody Riley and Jalen Hill in the first match-up with the Trojans, and while Hill remains away from the team, Riley is back. A win for either team means the #2 seed in the conference tournament, while a loss likely pushes the losing team behind Colorado for the fourth seed.
  6. Will LSU defensively be able to hold up around the rim? (LSU @ Missouri, Saturday, 3 PM EST, SEC Network) Will Wade’s LSU team allows opponents to shoot 66.5 percent on field-goal attempts near the rim, which ranks among the top-20 highest percentages in the nation. For Missouri, its offensive field-goal percentage on shots around the rim ranks among the top-50 nationally.
  7. Can Colorado State avoid a slip-up in its final MWC game of the season? (Colorado State @ Nevada, Friday, 9 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) While the Rams are currently 14-3 in the MW, they travel to Nevada where the Wolf Pack are 9-2 on the season. For Colorado State, a win would keep the Rams in position to be an at-large selection a week from now.
  8. Quite simply, can Rutgers avoid disaster? (Rutgers @ Minnesota, Saturday, Noon EST, Fox) The Scarlet Knights are coming off of a horrific loss at Nebraska and now head to Minnesota to face a Gophers squad that has lost six straight games. Rutgers trailed Minnesota by four points with 2:22 to go in the first meeting, but used a 10-2 run to close the game out.
  9. Can Tennessee’s John Fulkerson find his scoring touch? (Florida @ Tennessee, Sunday, Noon EST, ESPNU) In Tennessee’s first 15 games of the season, John Fulkerson was averaging 11.2 points per game. In the eight games since February 1, Fulkerson is averaging just 5.9 points per game, having scored more than four points twice. This is clearly a problem, as Tennessee has fallen down the rankings over the same period.
  10. How close to the bubble is Ole Miss? (Vanderbilt @ Ole Miss, Saturday, 7 PM EST, SEC Network) With a win against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss would be 15-10 and 10-8 in the SEC. As of Thursday, the Rebels have a NET Ranking of #57 and, while a Quad-3 win against Vanderbilt would not enhance the Rebels’ resume, a second defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt would be crippling. In the recent loss to the Commodores, Ole Miss was 4-of-13 from deep while Vanderbilt made 11-of-23 three-point attempts.
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2020-21 RTC16: Week 6

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 4th, 2021

Gonzaaga’s Joel Ayayi had two double-doubles through his first two seasons in Spokane. After an 18-point, 10-rebound performance against San Francisco over the weekend, however, Ayayi now has four double-doubles in 10 games this season. While the likes of Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme rightfully dominate the headlines, Gonzaga’s spot at #1 in the RTC16 remains firmly gripped thanks in part to its premier depth. #2 Baylor picked up its second KenPom top-100 win on Saturday at Iowa State, and the Bears next six opponents are ranked inside of the top 65. Villanova is currently dealing with COVID issues which include head coach Jay Wright, but chaos within the RTC16 moves the Wildcats up to #3. Here’s a look at the first RTC16 of 2021.

Conference Breakdown: Big Ten (5), Big 12 (4), Big East (2), SEC (2), AAC (1), Pac-12 (1), WCC (1)

Risers

  • Texas: After missing five of its final six three-point attempts in the first-half at Kansas, the Longhorns began the second-half by drilling their first six attempts after the break. While Greg Brown was held to just five points, five of his Longhorn teammates scored in double-figures. Shaka Smart’s second win over Kansas while at Texas sent a statement to the rest of the Big 12 — after sitting at #10 in the RTC16 last week, Texas now appears ranked at #4 in all seven ballots cast this week.
  • Iowa: Since collapsing late against Minnesota, Iowa has compiled a pair of quality wins against Northwestern and at Rutgers. Jordan Bohannon scored in double-figures in each game, including tying his season-high of 24 points against Northwestern. While both the Wildcats and Scarlet Knights each averaged 1.06 points per possession against Iowa, it was an improvement from the 1.32 PPP allowed by the Hawkeyes against Minnesota.
  • Michigan: The Wolverines added a pair of victories against KenPom top-60 teams last week, and they are now 5-0 against top-100 teams, with four of those victories coming by more than 10 points. Freshman Hunter Dickinson is now averaging 16.6 points per game with a 72.6 percent field-goal percentage. After appearing among the top-10 in just a single RTC16 ballot last week, the Wolverines now appear at #5 in over half of the ballots this week.

Fallers

  • Houston: Houston’s fall this week comes after a narrow loss at Tulsa. While the Cougars rebounded with a win over SMU on Sunday, the team learned that Caleb Mills would be stepping away from the team. While Mills has been limited early in the year, he averaged more than 13 points per game last season and made north of 35 percent of his threes.
  • Kansas: The Jayhawks’ 25-point home loss to Texas tied the school’s largest margin of defeat at home (Feb. 1, 1989, vs. Missouri) going back to the 1949-50 season. David McCormack’s struggles continue as he is now shooting just 32.9 percent from the field, a steep drop from the 52.1 percent notch he shot last season.
  • West Virginia: Not only has West Virginia lost two of its last three games, including this past weekend’s matchup with Oklahoma, but the team was dealt the blow of Oscar Tshiebwe leaving the program. Jalen Bridges saw his minutes rise against Oklahoma and while the Mountaineers lost the game, Bridges scored 19 points, made 5-of-6 three-point attempts and showed that he can bring a spark to the WVU offense moving forward.

Notable Upcoming Games

  • Monday: West Virginia @ Oklahoma State, 9 PM EST
  • Tuesday: Rutgers @ Michigan State, 9 PM EST, ESPN2
  • Wednesday: Minnesota @ Michigan, 8:30 PM EST
  • Thursday: USC @ Arizona, 9 PM EST
  • Saturday: Texas @ West Virginia, TBA
  • Sunday: Minnesota @ Iowa, TBA
  • Sunday: Loyola-Chicago @ Drake, 6 PM EST

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2019-20 RTC16: Week 10

Posted by Walker Carey on January 20th, 2020

It is often stated that college basketball is where the unexpected becomes the ordinary and that was on full display last week as three members of the previous top five of the RTC16 suffered a pair of defeats. #9 Duke entered the week as winners of nine straight games, but that came to a screeching halt on Tuesday night at Clemson when the Blue Devils fell behind early and were unable to right the ship in a 79-72 loss. A tough week became even tougher on Saturday when #8 Louisville took a 15-point lead a little over 10 minutes into the game and then made enough winning plays down the stretch to leave Cameron Indoor Stadium with an impressive 79-73 victory. #12 Butler looked like it was going to survive #7 Seton Hall at home on Wednesday, as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 10-point halftime lead and seemed to be in complete control of the game. That was until Pirates star guard Myles Powell came up with some other plans. Powell scored 19 of his game-high 29 points in the second half, lifting Seton Hall to a formidable 78-70 win. There is an old adage about never letting one team beat you twice, but that seemed to be the case with Butler when it was subsequently dominated at DePaul on Saturday en route to a 79-66 loss. #16 Auburn began the week as one of the sport’s two remaining unbeaten teams, but the Tigers saw their hot start cool down significantly in a pair of uncompetitive losses at Alabama and at Florida. It will be interesting to track Duke, Butler and Auburn in the coming weeks to see if last week was just a blip on the radar or if it was the start of a troubling trend that will impact their seasons. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big 12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 17th, 2019

There’s no way around it: The Big 12 had a down year, propelling fewer than seven teams to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 (five). Despite having a smaller presence than usual, the pressure will be on the league to have a team make a deep run — and all the better if that team is not Kansas. Compared to some of the other power conferences, the Big 12 may be light at the top, but the middle of the league is sufficiently meaty. Here are some quick thoughts on each team’s draw.

Is Texas Tech Ready for Another Run to the Second Weekend (USA Today Images)

Texas Tech (#3 Midwest)

  • Quick First Round Preview: Northern Kentucky is a spicy match-up for Texas Tech’s robust defense. The Norse move the ball extremely well, assisting on a higher percentage of all their shots than all but four teams in college basketball. Fortunately for the Red Raiders, Northern Kentucky’s defense isn’t much to write home about.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: Buffalo in the Round of 32. The Bulls have repeatedly shown that they aren’t afraid of major conference powers and are loaded with experience. Texas Tech won a share of the Big 12 this season by loading up on transfers and having one freshman make a big enough leap to turn himself into a lottery pick. There are more than one ways to skin a cat, but what’s the best way?
  • Final Word: It’s reassuring that last Thursday’s neutral court loss to West Virginia didn’t have a measurable effect on the Red Raiders’ seeding. Their region has the most manageable pair of top seeds (North Carolina and Kentucky), so I’ll be very curious to see if Chris Beard can deliver Lubbock its first Final Four.

Kansas (#4 Midwest)

  • Quick First Round Preview: Northeastern is a small team that isn’t shy about firing away from deep and is a very good defensive rebounding team despite its relative lack of size. If the Huskies get hot from long range, anything can happen, but they struggled mightily in earlier losses to Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Kansas fans shouldn’t be too concerned about this game.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen. The Jayhawks have faced off against their previous coach multiple times over the last 10 years and could certainly be poised to do so again. From a match-up standpoint, however, a game with Auburn in the Round of 32 would be an interesting tilt. The Tigers, like Kansas, have experienced some head-scratching losses this season, but the their defense could cause problems for the inconsistent Jayhawks’ offense.
  • Final Word: The Jayhawks got a massive break by being placed in the Midwest Region despite finishing third in the Big 12, a testament to the staff’s savvy non-conference scheduling. This team is so tough to peg that it’s challenging to see them winning enough to earn a trip back to Kansas City, much less winning there and advancing to consecutive Final Fours.

Kansas State (#4 South)

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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big East Edition

Posted by Brad Cavallaro on March 17th, 2019

Here are some early reactions to each of the four Big East teams’ draws in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Marquette Received the Highest Big East Seed in the NCAA Tournament (USA Today Images)

#5 Marquette. Marquette is slotted in the dreaded #5/#12 match-up and will face media darling Murray State as a result. The Racers are led by a future NBA lottery pick in point guard Ja Morant, an exceptional athlete, ambidextrous finisher, and elite passer. The backcourt match-up between he and Markus Howard will be worth the price of admission, but also look out for Shaq Buchanan and his 13.0 PPG on the wing. The Golden Eagles have limped to the finish, losing five of six games, but Steve Wojciechowski‘s bevy of impressive shooters should keep them in the game.

#6 Villanova. Villanova has received high seeds since the formation of the new Big East six years ago, but this year will be a different situation for the Wildcats. Matched up against WCC automatic qualifier St. Mary’s, the Gaels have relatively strong metrics despite their #11 seed. They are an intriguing team — they lost to every decent opponent on their schedule with one exception — last week’s dominant performance against #1 Gonzaga. Villanova’s supporting cast will be key to how much longer Marchc continues for Jay Wright‘s club. Seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth are the known commodities, but the recent strong play of Jermaine Samuels and Saddiq Bey must continue for Villanova to advance very far in the NCAA Tournament.

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Point Guard Woes Plague Providence This Season

Posted by Brad Cavallaro on February 14th, 2019

Providence’s offense this season is among the worst in high-major basketball. In fact, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Rutgers, Northwestern and Stanford are the only high-major teams that are worse, per KenPom. If you are a team with postseason aspirations, you do not want to be associated with this group.

Providence Has Struggled in the Backcourt This Year (USA Today Images)

Poor shooting plays a role in the Friars’ offensive ineffectiveness, as they rank dead last in Big East play in both three-point and two-point shooting, and ninth in free throw shooting. Providence has multiple capable shooters on the roster, but all too often, their open looks do not fall. Their best shooter, AJ Reeves, is still not fully acclimated from a mid-season foot injury. The bigger concern, however, is point guard play. The trio of Makai Ashton-Langford, David Duke and Maliek White have, quite simply, not gotten the job done. They have been largely ineffective at creating offense for themselves, but more importantly, have not been able to create for others either.

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Pac-12 Five: Pre-Feast Week Observations

Posted by Adam Butler on November 16th, 2018

As we head into Feast Week, and the with the Pac-12 continuing to take its lumps, a few items to ensure you’re keeping an eye on.

Brandon Randolph Has Been a Pleasant Surprise For Arizona (USA Today Images)

  1. Arizona has impressed – I recognize that the Wildcats have only played teams in the KenPom >250 but their defense is currently the ninth-best (by raw efficiency) in the nation, a far cry from last season’s 102.8. The Wildcats have the steepest test ahead with a loaded Maui field awaiting next week.
  2. Oregon being Oregon – The Ducks seemingly have an annual tendency to struggle early and improve late, and last night they stuck to that script. See Exhibit 2017 when they swiftly dropped games to Baylor and Georgetown before going on a casual 31-4 run and wound up in the Final Four. Is this team THAT good? Probably not. But come time for Pac-12 play, expect Oregon to be the dominant squad.
  3. USC’s Kevin Porter will be a difference-maker – Yes, Nick Rackocevic has been a handful at 17 PPG, 15 RPG and 3 BPG. But considering the significance and impact of guards, not to mention the confusion a lefty creates, Porter has already demonstrated he’s going to be an absolute threat. The Trojans head to the NABC Hall of Fame Classic this weekend, so it would be a treat to see this group at full strength (reminder: Bennie Boatright is back).
  4. Could Washington find its defense in Canada? The Huskies head to Vancouver for an inaugural tournament just north across the border. But the Dawgs to date have done little to impress, getting blown out in a true road game at Auburn (I suppose excusable) but then just squeaking by a game San Diego squad visiting Seattle.
  5. Tempo – It’s notably up in the NBA and has been steadily increasing in college basketball over the past few seasons as well. Right now, however, the median tempo in college basketball is 71.5 possessions per game. Last year, that number would’ve ranked among the top 50. Keep in mind that pace usually slows down as we get into the meat of the season, but it’s an intriguing storyline to keep an eye on as a burgeoning trend.
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Rushed Reactions: #5 West Virginia 85, #12 Murray State 68

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish.

Three Key Takeaways.

Jevon Carter Will Take West Virginia as Far as He Can (USA Today Images)

  1. West Virginia is a Football Team Masquerading as a Basketball Team. If you haven’t seen the Mountaineers up close, it is difficult to know just how physical they are both on and off the basketball. Carter, in particular, barrels into the lane like a wrecking ball, daring anyone to bounce off of him. That he has incredibly nice body control and touch around the rim only makes him tougher to defend. It also makes it difficult to determine just how good — meaning, at basketball — the Mountaineers actually are. Murray State had no chance to play through West Virginia’s physicality today, and it’s an open question whether another mid-major like Marshall (setting aside the rivalry component) will either.
  2. The Mountaineers Go as Jevon Carter Goes. Carter was absolutely sublime today on both ends of the floor, and one defensive stance in particular crystallized it. Murray had been hanging around in the 8-12 point range for most of the game, and Carter had had enough. He decided to put the defensive clamps on Jonathan Stark out near the right hash mark. Bellying up to him in a perfect crouch, he tipped the ball away from the slighter guard, picked it up and headed downcourt. Seeing that he had a trailing Logan Routt coming, he dished to the big man for the resounding dunk. If there was any question about the game up to that point, it was effectively sealed on that play by Carter.
  3. Murray State Will be Back. The Racers blew through the OVC this season to the tune of an 18-2 record that included a 13-game winning streak entering the NCAA Tournament. They ran into a bad matchup here in San Diego, but three starters and most of their returning minutes are expected back in Murray next season. Matt McMahon is just the latest rising star coach in a long series of them at this proud basketball school, from Mark Gottfried (Cal State Northridge), Mick Cronin (Cincinnati) to Billy Kennedy (Texas A&M) to Steve Prohm (Iowa State). The OVC has traditionally been a one-bid league, but the Racers have earned 12 league titles over the past 30 years. They will be back.

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