Rushed Reactions: #2 Gonzaga 86, #15 North Dakota State 76

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 21st, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Dexter Werner: Unlikely March Hero (USA Today Images)

Dexter Werner: Unlikely March Hero (USA Today Images)

  1. Physical Mismatch. Gonzaga has three guys taller than 6’10”; North Dakota State has three guys taller than 6’6”. By halftime, those three Bison had accumulated seven fouls and it could have been worse. The Bison are a quality team with fun guards that had a great season, but they never should have had a chance tonight even as Dexter Werner was putting in improbable second half buckets to get the Bison back within six down the stretch. Whenever the Bulldogs wanted to turn it on, they could just pound the ball inside and either draw fouls or get easy buckets. And hey, you wanna double any of those big guys? Good luck, as they’re all adept passers out of the post to find spot-up shooters. Gonzaga will run into teams that can bang with them down low, but tonight was not one of those times.
  2. Defense Is A Concern. The biggest concern that has been expressed about the Zags’ chances this March is on the defensive end. Tonight, North Dakota State, a team ranked 194th in offensive efficiency nationally, scored 1.35 points per possession in the second half against the Bulldogs. Now, there were some extraordinary circumstances here and Gonzaga wasn’t exactly giving a terrific effort. But that in and of itself is a concern. This is a game that Gonzaga should have won easily without breaking a sweat, but instead they gave their fans more heartburn than anybody ever expected.
  3. Veteran Leadership. With the physical mismatch readily apparent right out of the gate, attendees were expecting a chance to get to their cars early tonight. In fact, it looked like the Zags thought they had somewhere else they would rather be too. But whenever the Bison made it too close for comfort, there was either Kyle Wiltjer or Kevin Pangos there to turn the tide. When the Bison cut the Zags’ lead to six points with 11 minutes left, Wiltjer drilled a jumper to spearhead a quick 6-0 run. Then the Bulldogs relaxed again, Werner went to work, and you looked up at the six-minute mark and it’s a six-point game again. Pangos then stepped into a three. An overexuberant Werner runs into Pangos. The three falls, Pangos completes the four-point play, and the outcome is never seriously in doubt again. Wiltjer and Pangos combined for 41 points on a highly-efficient 22 field goal attempts.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 San Diego State 76, #9 St. John’s 64

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 20th, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

All Smiles for San Diego State Tonight -- We Can't Score? (USA Today Images)

All Smiles for San Diego State Tonight — We Can’t Score? (USA Today Images)

  1. San Diego State was just too deep and tough. This was not the best of matchups for a shorthanded St. John’s team. With San Diego State’s depth and the tough defense that the Aztecs play, the Red Storm would have faced a tough challenge even before they lost center Chris Obekpa to suspension. The Johnnies battled hard, and to their credit, they made an effort to push the ball in transition (16 fast break points) rather than face the molasses-thick half-court defense of the Aztecs. Tired legs probably caught up with them in the second half as St. John’s only shot 1-of-6 on their second half threes. We saw this coming when the halftime box score showed that four of Steve Lavin’s group had played the entire half while eight San Diego State players had logged at least nine minutes.
  2. Rebounding was a huge concern for St. John’s but San Diego State didn’t dominate the glass. The Red Storm were a terrible rebounding team (-6.6 RPG) in Big East play this season even with Obekpa in the lineup. But for the first 20 minutes, the undersized Johnnies battled San Diego State evenly on the glass. After intermission, though, the deeper frontline of the Aztecs eventually won the day, leading them to a +13 advantage in second chance points for the contest.
  3. The Aztecs were actually good offensively. San Diego State came in with the nation’s 172nd-best offense but came out hot tonight, scoring an efficient 1.21 points per possession in a surprisingly potent 40-point first half. St. John’s is no Virginia defensively, especially without Opekpa in the paint, but the Red Storm had no answer when the Aztecs attacked. The real surprise was that San Diego State was so hot from distance, making 9-of-22 threes in tonight’s game.

Star of the Game.  Dwayne Polee II, San Diego State. The balanced Aztecs had many candidates for this award, but we will select Polee II for getting his team off to a fast start. The senior who had missed 15 games earlier this year for health reasons hit 4-of-6 threes on his way to 12 first half points, getting the Aztecs off and running.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Oklahoma 69, #14 Albany 60

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 20th, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

It wasn't a blowout, but Oklahoma did enough to win. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

It wasn’t a blowout, but Oklahoma did enough to win. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

  1. Albany had its chances but couldn’t capitalize. Although the #3 seed Oklahoma never trailed, this game was far from lopsided. Albany limited Oklahoma’s transition opportunities (for the most part), and the Sooners shot just 7-of-24 from behind the arc against the Great Danes’ zone. At various points throughout the contest, Will Brown’s team pulled within striking distance, just two or three possessions away from tying things up. But it was never able to capitalize. A missed shot here, an ill-advised miscue there – the America East champs cut the deficit to six points five different times in second half, but never got over the hump. “I wish we would have shot the ball a little bit better,” Brown said, knowing full-well his group left opportunities on the court.
  2. TaShawn Thomas needs to keep playing big. Despite those missed perimeter jumpers, Oklahoma stayed comfortably ahead thanks in part to the stellar play of forward TaShawn Thomas. The Houston transfer led all scorers with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, dominating Albany’s undersized big men at various points in the game and forcing Brown to commit extra attention on the block – which in turn freed up opportunities for teammates. The Sooners are now 7-0 when the senior scores at least 15 points, and his presence down low will become even more crucial as Oklahoma advances in this tournament. Especially with Providence and its massive front line possibly looming on Sunday.
  3. Lon Kruger exorcises his recent NCAA Tournament demons. The veteran head coach entered tonight 0-4 in his last four NCAA Tournament appearances, including the last two with Oklahoma. So while he didn’t make a big deal of it in the postgame presser, you can bet that Kruger – bounced by non-power conference schools in both 2013 and 2014 – was relieved after tonight’s victory. Sooners faithful might not put the pressure on like Duke or North Carolina fans do, but it’s always nice to put questions about your postseason coaching chops to rest.

Star Player: TaShawn Thomas (18 points, five rebounds). Again, Thomas came up big on a night when the perimeter shooters weren’t exactly scorching the nets. He needs to continue dominating – or at least reliably producing – for Oklahoma to go deep into this NCAA Tournament. The seventh-tallest team in America, Providence, might be up next.

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Rushed Reaction: #1 Wisconsin 86, #16 Coastal Carolina 72

Posted by Eric Clark on March 20th, 2015

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Frank Kaminsky Dominated as Wisconsin Rolled Through Coastal Carolina. (USA Today Images)

Frank Kaminsky Dominated as Wisconsin Rolled Through Coastal Carolina. (USA Today Images)

  1. Coastal Carolina was not your typical #16 seed. The Chanticleers put up a decent fight in the first half on the offensive end, shooting 52 percent from the field while making 5-of-6 three-pointers, but they still trailed Wisconsin by 15 at the break. Coastal Carolina made plenty of athletic plays, with Shivaughn Wiggins and Josh Cameron combining for 21 of their 32 first half points. Seth Davis even said Coastal Carolina would have been a #15 seed in the 64-team format, making them a better-than-normal #16 seed. The Chanticleers went 24-9 this season, winning their conference tournament and dropping in at #141 in KenPom – four spots higher than fellow mid-major and #15 seed North Dakota State. Their decent play isn’t surprising, but neither is Wisconsin’s throttling of them either. All credit is due to the Badgers, who seem to have five legitimate play-makers on the court at the same time.
  2. Wisconsin’s entire roster is made up of shooters. Every Badger in the starting lineup nailed a three-pointer in the first half, and Wisconsin totaled 11 treys over the course of the win. Along with those shooters, almost every player is a threat to drive as well, forcing Coastal Carolina to respect each player on the ball, off the ball, in the post, on the perimeter, on the bench and on the bus. Wisconsin made it look easy in passing the ball around the perimeter and being maddeningly patient with its shot selection. And when Wisconsin doesn’t turn the ball over, they’re incredibly hard to beat. Add in the Badgers’ 36 total rebounds to the Chanticleers’ 25 and you’ve got a recipe for a classic Wisconsin beatdown. Coastal Carolina wasn’t the first and won’t be the last team to get pummeled by the Badgers’ fantastic shot selection and efficient rebounding.
  3. Coastal Carolina’s ability to get shots should concern Bo Ryan. If you were in CenturyLink Arena a couple hours before Wisconsin’s win, you were treated to a much sloppier shootout between Oregon and Oklahoma State. The Ducks emerged victorious, and despite turning the ball over 12 times, Joe Young and Elgin Cook regularly found open looks from both long range and in the paint. If Coastal Carolina can find good looks, rest assured that Oregon can too. And the Ducks won’t have only two scorers on the floor at once like Coastal Carolina – they’re a fully functioning scoring machine, albeit with a turnover problem, but they’re definitely apt to put up a ton of points.

Star of the game. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. Frank the Tank went 10-of-14 from the field, doing his usual thing by scoring both inside and outside. The National Player of the Year candidate went for 27 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in leading his team to another NCAA Tournament victory.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Duke 85, #16 Robert Morris 56

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 20th, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Jahlil Okafor and Duke were too big for Robert Morris to handle in the paint. (AP Photo)

Jahlil Okafor and Duke were too big for Robert Morris to handle in the paint. (AP Photo)

  1. Duke says “not this year.” After well-documented Second Round clunkers in two of the last three years, Duke came out blazing tonight — hitting nine of its first 10 shots on the way to a 17-point halftime lead. The Colonials made a run midway through the second half to cut the Duke lead to 10, but after a Mike Krzyzewski timeout, the Blue Devils responded with a run of its own to put the game away. When Duke’s balanced offense is clicking, it’s very hard to stop. Tonight they made threes and dominated inside with a +12 rebounding edge. The only negatives were a 50 percent performance at the foul line, and the tendency to get casual with the ball, as Duke committed 11 mostly unforced turnovers.
  2. Robert Morris looked like a #16 seed tonight. The Colonials were impressive in their First Four win over North Florida on Wednesday but looked physically overmatched against Duke tonight. While few teams can match up with freshman All-American Jahlil Okafor, the Colonials’ overall lack of size anywhere in the lineup gave them virtually no chance. Even Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee were too much for Robert Morris to handle in the post. For the game, Duke outscored its opponent in the paint by a huge margin (+24) and the undersized Colonials only got to the free throw line four times.
  3. Duke’s freshmen performed well in their NCAA Tournament debut. Part of the worry for Duke fans coming into today’s game was that those two Blue Devils squads that suffered recent early NCAA exits were so reliant on freshman stars. With this year’s team suiting up a trio of great rookies, the question of experience in an NCAA Tournament setting was on everyone’s minds. It didn’t seem to matter. Okafor had his way inside, going 9-of-11 from the floor and suffering some sharp scolding from Krzyzewski after missed a reverse dunk in transition. Tyus Jones ran the team well, finishing with 10 points, seven assists and committing only one turnover. Justise Winslow came alive in the second half and was the player who facilitated Duke fighting off Robert Morris’ second half surge. After the lead was cut to 10, Winslow hit a three, grabbed a rebound and took it coast to coast for a layup, and then grabbed another board that he turned into an assist on a Tyus Jones three. Ballgame.

Star of the Game. Quinn Cook, Duke. Duke’s senior leader made sure that his team got off to a great start with his early play tonight. He hit four first-half threes on the way to 16 points and finished the game with a team-high 22. Cook also dished out five assists and had three steals in a very good all-around performance.

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Rushed Reaction: #7 Iowa 83, #10 Davidson 52

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 20th, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Aaron White (USA Today Images)

Aaron White Led Iowa in a Big Way Friday Night (USA Today Images)

  1. Runs. With 8:47 left in the first half, Davidson head coach Bob McKillop subbed senior Tyler Kalinoski back into the game, already with two fouls. Twenty-seven seconds later, with Iowa’s senior Aaron White attacking the hoop for a layup, Kalinoski picked up his third foul. Over the next four-plus minutes, Iowa went on a 16-4 run and built its lead to 15 points. Davidson closed the half strong and opened the second half well to narrow things back to within six. With another big 18-3 run, Iowa put away the Wildcats for good and earned the Hawkeyes their first NCAA Tournament win since 2001. The final stats for the second half show a scorching 39-14 run to close out the game.
  2. Size and Efficiency. Davidson’s tallest player who earns significant minutes is freshman Peyton Aldridge at 6’7”. They’ve been beaten up on the glass regularly this season as a result, and they don’t even try to hit the offensive glass so that they can get back and set up their defense. Iowa’s frontcourt was one of many big differences tonight. They grabbed 41.2 percent of their offensive rebounding opportunities, scored 13 on second-chance points and outscored the Wildcats by 10 points in the paint. As McKillop put it after the game: “Their length and efficiency really affected us.” As for efficiency, is 1.297 points per possession any good? That’s not a trick question — the answer is yes, it is very good. Davidson simply couldn’t find a way to get a stop, and as a result, the Wildcats couldn’t get their transition offense going. “It certainly wasn’t our objective to have a slow-it-down, grind-it-out kind of game,” said McKillop, “but in order for us to get points on the fast break, we had to get stops.” And as McKillop acknowledged, they couldn’t do it.
  3. Live By The Three… Davidson was ninth in the nation in taking the highest percentage of three-point shots as a ratio of their field goal attempts, and they’d made 39.3 percent of their threes on the year. Tonight, it just wasn’t happening. They hit just 6-of-28 attempts from deep on the night (21%) and, as a result, the Wildcats were never seriously in contention.

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Rushed Reaction: #8 Oregon 79, #9 Oklahoma State 73

Posted by Eric Clark on March 20th, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Joe Young Was a Load For Oklahoma State to Handle Today (USA Today Images)

Joe Young Was a Load For Oklahoma State to Handle Today (USA Today Images)

  1. The game was a beautiful, ugly mess. Oregon and Oklahoma State each had 12 turnovers and played little to no defense – but it led to an exciting game with plenty of runs and a quick tempo. Combined, the Ducks and Cowboys shot 48 three-pointers and connected on 17 of them. The extra pass was rarely made by either team on any occasion, as the two teams combined to register for 22 assists. Throw in the color-on-color jersey matchup with Oregon in highlighter yellow and Oklahoma State in highlighter orange, and the game was a glorious blur. If dunks were tallied on the postgame box score, we’d give you the exact number – but trust me when I say there were approximately 1,000. Oregon gets the unenviable task of (probably) taking on Wisconsin in the next round. The Badgers, they of preposterous efficiency, had to be salivating at the sight of this #8/#9 contest. Oregon is explosive in both a good and disastrous way (check out its most recent Pac-12 performance against Arizona), and that plays precisely into Wisconsin’s hands.
  2. Joe Young has no fear. Young began the first half by primarily sticking to pull-up jumpers and three-pointers, whether it was on the fast break or in a half-court set. He came out of his shell in the second half, particularly when he blew by Oklahoma State’s Anthony Hickey and threw down an emphatic left-handed dunk. Young showcased his versatility as a scorer (27 points), beating the Cowboys every which way and confirming his status as the Pac-12 Player of the Year. He played every single minute on Friday night and seemingly never ran out of gas. His four turnovers are simply a byproduct of his aggressiveness, and that’s something the Ducks are going to have to live with for the remainder of his career. But Young is Oregon’s sparkplug, catalyst and leader. He kept himself fresh on offense, picking up no fouls and only getting one steal, but he’s not out there to dominate defensively. He does his best work with the ball in his hands.
  3. Le’Bryan Nash ended his career on a sour note. Nash is undoubtedly a professional talent, but his final game as a Cowboy will certainly leave an ugly mark on his collegiate career. While he was solid on the boards, he matched his rebound total in turnovers with seven. His 18 points were a team-high but those turnovers were incredibly costly – not to mention surprising. A big, strong player like Nash probably shouldn’t have the ball taken away so easily in the post as he did tonight. He voiced his disappointment at the postgame press conference, and it’s hard to see such a good player go out that way. March Madness is odd – it gives us insanely dramatic storylines, makes heroes out of unknowns, and ends careers abruptly. Luckily for Nash, his basketball career isn’t over. Hopefully his last NCAA Tournament performance will only further his motivation to become a solid professional player somewhere.

Star of the game. Joe Young, Oregon. The Pac-12’s best gunner and electric floor general was phenomenal, putting up 27 points, canning 8-of-8 free throws and dishing our four assists in the process. He showed he could do it all, from acrobatic layups to long jumpers and even a couple of contested dunks. Even though he had plenty of support from Dillon Brooks (17 points) and Elgin Cook (18 points), it was Young who was the Cowboys’ primary concern and ultimately, their downfall, here on Friday.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Maryland 65, #13 Valparaiso 62

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 20th, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways:

Melo Trimble and the Terrapins won another close game.  (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Melo Trimble and the Terrapins won another close game. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

  1. Melo Trimble and Dez Wells won the game. Just as they did throughout the regular season, Maryland’s freshman/senior duo carried the bulk of the offensive load and made winning plays late in a close game. When Valparaiso had a chance to take the lead at the six-minute mark, Trimble stole the ball and made a nifty pass to a wide open Damonte Dodd under the basket. After the Crusaders pulled within one at the two-minute mark, Wells came up with a big offensive rebound and putback – plus the foul – to extend Maryland’s lead to four. Together, those two accounted for 26 of the team’s 65 points and six of its nine total assists. Mark Turgeon’s group is now 12-1 in games decided by six points or fewer, in large part because of its talented backcourt.
  2. But Trimble’s not the only freshman who stepped up. Trimble is one of America’s premier freshmen and he was awesome today. But another first year player – 6’6” forward Jared Nickens (5.8 PPG) – also came up big, knocking several key shots when Maryland’s offense was otherwise sputtering. The New Jersey product scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half, including four three-pointers that gave the Terrapins their seven-point lead at the break – an advantage they never conceded.  Although Trimble, Wells and Maryland’s team defense will continue to lead the way, ancillary pieces like Nickens could ultimately be the difference between reaching the second weekend or going home on Sunday.
  3. Another ugly final possession. How many times do we see it? A team has a chance to tie or win the game – shot-clock turned off – but its indecision and willingness to settle prevents it from finding a good look. For the Crusaders, it was obvious they were trying to free sophomore Alec Peters (18 points) for an open shot – just as they should have – but when Maryland bottled him up, point guard Keith Carter froze and didn’t know where to turn. Turgeon and his defense deserves a lot of credit for keeping Peters under wraps, but man, some of these final possessions are difficult to watch.

Star Player: Melo Trimble (14 points, 10 rebounds). The sensational freshman recorded his second-career double-double and made several moves – on defense, off the dribble, distributing the rock – that left people shaking their heads in disbelief. Trimble is a future pro and among the better players in college basketball.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Louisville 57, #13 UC Irvine 55

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 20th, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Wayne Blackshear's Defense May Have Saved the Cards Today (USA Today Images)

Wayne Blackshear’s Defense May Have Saved the Cards Today (USA Today Images)

  1. Experience. UC Irvine was playing in its first-ever NCAA Tournament. Louisville? Even a less-than-classic Louisville team yawns at the idea of March pressure. Let’s just look at the end of the game really quick. Tied at 55 with 43 seconds left. Following a timeout, the Anteaters come out and run a quick pick-and-roll with Luke Nelson and Mamadou Ndiaye, get nothing out of it, then reset and wind up with a Nelson (28 percent on way too many threes this season) launching a 30-footer that was off. Then, as the rebound heads into the corner, senior Will Davis gets a little over-eager and runs into freshman Quentin Snider, committing a loose-ball foul 94 feet from the hoop in a tie game with nine seconds left. Snider, cool as a cucumber, drills the front-end of a one-and-one and backs it up with a second. Then on the final possession, Louisville, with two fouls to burn, uses the first, and then with Alex Young expecting the Cards to give another one, gets his pocket picked when the Cards instead go for the steal, unconcerned if they picked up a foul in the process. Rick Pitino has been to seven Final Fours and has won two national titles. Russell Turner has not. As Turner put it in the postgame, UC Irvine was a play away from winning this game. They didn’t make that play. Louisville did. Experience matters.
  2. Louisville Limitations. This is not a vintage Louisville basketball team. They Cardinals have had personnel problems and they’re clearly in between builds. Montrezl Harrell (eight points, four boards) is a fantastic talent, but he’s not the most polished offensive player and there isn’t a true point guard on this squad capable of setting him up on a regular basis. For that matter, there are really only a couple of people on this team – sophomore Terry Rozier and freshman Quentin Snider – even remotely capable of going and getting their own buckets. And, for once, this is a team that is looking up – literally – at the opposition. They got away with the win today and you can rely on the fact that the Cards will give Northern Iowa all sorts of problems. But for Louisville to continue to advance, they’re going to have to win ugly.
  3. The Mamadou Factor. He’s 7’6”. That’s the story right? Nah, that’s only part of it. The normal 7’6” player is a low-minute, low energy, unskilled statue of a man. Mamadou Ndiaye, while still very much a work in progress, defies that stereotype. He played 30 minutes today! He’s very clearly a hard-working player, committed to improving his game. In high school, he was little more than a shotblocker to avoid. Now, he’s added enough strength that he can go and get whatever post position he wants. He’s got a drop step that is a really, really long drop step. He gets up and down the floor. He’s gets down in a defensive stance and slap the floor on defense. It is hard not to love a kid like that.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Virginia 79, #15 Belmont 67

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 20th, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Rick Byrd and Belmont competed well but still couldn't get that elusive first NCAA win. (Gerald Herbert/AP Photo)

Rick Byrd and Belmont competed well but still couldn’t get that elusive first NCAA win.
(Gerald Herbert/AP Photo)

  1. It was another slow NCAA start for Virginia. Last year, #16 Coastal Carolina led Virginia most of the first half in the Cavaliers’ NCAA Tournament opener and today started out the same way. Belmont jumped out to an early six-point lead, making eight of its first 12 shots against the vaunted Virginia defense. Virginia came back behind Malcolm Brogdon and appeared to have the game under control, but Belmont didn’t quit and made things very interesting down the stretch. For the second straight outing, the Cavaliers’ highly regarded defense has shown some notable flaws. North Carolina shot about 55 percent from the field against it in the ACC Tournament last week, and Belmont’s attacking spread offense caused more problems than expected today. Not only did the Bruins shake free to make 8-of-25 threes, but they also managed to make a remarkable 59.4 percent of their two-point tries and outscored the bigger Cavaliers in the paint (+4).
  2. Belmont has learned how to be competitive in the NCAA Tourney but not yet how to win in it. The Bruins fell short again for the seventh time in seven trips to the Big Dance, all of them as a double-digit seed. In its first two trips, Belmont suffered blowout losses, but Rick Byrd’s program has shown that it is no longer intimidated by the situation. Before today, the margins of defeat in Belmont’s four previous appearances were all under 20 points, with the most memorable of those being a one-point loss to #2 Duke in 2008. This performance fits in nicely as Belmont’s next-best NCAA effort. While this year’s OVC championship was something of a surprise, next year’s Bruins squad should be better with a solid nucleus returning and the goal of returning to the NCAAs and finally breaking through with a win.
  3. Justin Anderson is starting to shake off the rust. In his return last week, Anderson didn’t score in two ACC Tournament games while playing limited minutes. He came off the bench again today, but he was much more productive. Anderson played 26 minutes and scored 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor that included a solid 6-of-7 from the foul line. More important than that, he seemed very comfortable in his movements on both ends. It’s critical that Anderson progresses back to where he was in January when the Cavaliers’ offense was really clicking and looked Final Four worthy.

Star of the Game.  Craig Bradshaw, Belmont. The junior guard did a number on the famous Virginia pack-line defense, even banking in a three that looked intentional (at least he sold it well). Bradshaw finished with 25 points and also led all rebounders with nine boards. He was equally effective from both sides of the arc, making 5-of-9 from deep and hitting 5-of-10 on two-point shots.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Wichita State 81, #10 Indiana 76

Posted by Eric Clark on March 20th, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Everything Was Left on the Floor in This One (USA Today Images)

Everything Was Left on the Floor in This One (USA Today Images)

  1. Wichita State survived an awful shooting night from Ron Baker. Baker was an awful 3-of-13 from the field today, but he still managed to get 15 points while going 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Fred VanVleet poured in 27 and was Wichita State’s catalyst the entire day. Wichita State was able to get production from some key role players in the second half, as Darius Carter, Zach Brown and Tekele Cotton combined for 24 second-half points. The Shockers probably won’t survive their Sunday matchup with the Jayhawks if Baker has an equally dreadful shooting night on Sunday, though, so they should feel somewhat fortunate to have escaped the second round with a win.
  2. Fouls killed the Hoosiers early and often. Indiana’s big men were in foul trouble for a majority of the game on Friday, and it cost them dearly. Emmitt Holt and Collin Hartman finished with four fouls apiece, and Hanner Mosquera-Perea played despite being somewhat limited by his injured right knee. Mosquera-Perea finished with three fouls himself, and Indiana could never find a rhythm with its corps of forwards. It wasn’t just the big men, though, as Indiana tallied 26 total fouls in comparison to Wichita State’s 17.  Wichita State was brilliant from the free throw line, cashing in on 29-of-34 attempts today, effectively winning them the game.
  3. Fred VanVleet is the truth. VanVleet carried the Shockers to the tune of 27 points and four assists in a game where none of his teammates could find a way to create their own shot. With Baker struggling, VanVleet went to battle with Yogi Ferrell and ultimately came out on top. He also helped shut down Ferrell on defense, as the junior was held to nine points in the second half after a 15-point first stanza. VanVleet was key in creating space in the lane for the Shockers, as they finished with 44 total points in the paint.

Player of the Game. Fred VanVleet. He consistently found ways to get to the rim despite having minimal help from co-star Ron Baker. VanVleet played all but three minutes on Friday, going 9-of-10 from the free throw line and only turning the ball over once.

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Rushed Reactions: #5 West Virginia 68, #12 Buffalo 62

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 20th, 2015

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Devin Williams led West Virginia to victory today. (Tony Dejak/AP)

Devin Williams led West Virginia to victory today. (Tony Dejak/AP)

  1. That was sloppy. The game was close and there was plenty of drama, but let’s not mince words here – this thing was ugly. The teams combined for 29 turnovers, shot well under 70 percent from the free throw line and squandered offensive opportunity after offensive opportunity throughout the afternoon. West Virginia had numerous chances in the second half to put Buffalo away, yet repeatedly took out of control shots or fumbled the ball away. Buffalo missed gimme layups and had trouble keeping the Mountaineers off the glass, especially late. And the fouls… all told, 49 fouls were called, interrupting both squads’ offensive rhythm and leaving everyone in Nationwide Arena mildly perturbed – coaches, fans and players alike.
  2. West Virginia’s pressure left Buffalo with an uphill climb. “It’s hard to simulate what they do,” Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley said afterwards, referring to West Virginia’s relentless pressure. And it showed, especially early on. The Mountaineers – which lead the country in defensive turnover rate – held Buffalo scoreless for the first three-plus minutes and forced innumerable errant passes, leaving the Bulls with an early 24-11 deficit that was probably the difference. If Bobby Hurley’s club had figured out the press earlier, its late surge may have been enough to in the game. Alas, it did not.
  3. The Mountaineers will rattle you. Trying to break West Virginia’s press and keep them off the glass each time down the court is an exhausting proposition, even if you manage keep pace. Bob Huggins plays upwards of 11 guys each game, sending body after body – even if the fouls add up – in an effort to keep opposing teams agitated. As VCU showed during its 2011 Final Four run, that kind of aggressive, jarring style can work in a tournament setting. Whichever team emerges from Maryland vs. Valparaiso will have its struggles against the Mountaineers on Sunday – whether or not it can mentally (and physically) regroup will dictate who moves on.

Star of the Game: Devin Williams (17 points, nine rebounds). The 6’9” sophomore was too much for Buffalo to handle on the interior today, converting around the rim and securing several clutch, late-game offensive rebounds. Perhaps most importantly, Williams shot 7-of-9 from the free throw line in a game otherwise defined by missed chances.

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