Bracket Prep: Akron, Louisville, Northwestern State, Montana, Oregon, Pacific & New Mexico State

Posted by BHayes on March 17th, 2013

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Saturday’s flurry of bid snatching wound down out West and left us with a near-complete picture of the puzzle. Just four automatic bids remain to be earned on Selection Sunday. As we have for each of the 31 automatic qualifiers to play their way into the Dance, we’ll take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets this week.

Akron

Zeke Marshall And Akron Overcame Late-Season Drama To Reach The NCAA Tournament

Zeke Marshall And Akron Overcame Late-Season Drama To Reach The NCAA Tournament

  • MAC Champion (26-6, 16-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #49/#54/#62
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +10.7
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #12-#13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. Last year’s Tournament darlings, the Ohio Bobcats, saw their shot at a return bid die on Saturday night, but don’t be surprised if their conquerors put some of that MAC mojo to use again this year. The Akron Zips turned in one of the most impressive performances of the day, comprehensively picking apart a good Ohio team en route to the MAC Tournament title. A pair of late regular season losses had recently killed the bubble talk surrounding the Zips, but let’s not forget how they entered the conversation in the first place. Keith Dambrot’s club ripped off 19 straight wins between December 15th and March 2nd in what still measures up as the longest winning streak in all of college basketball this season.
  2. Akron is as well-rounded a mid-major as you will find, but the Zips truest strength lies in a tougher-than-nails frontcourt. Demetrius Treadwell is the team’s second leading scorer at 11.4 PPG and leading rebounder at 7.9 RPG. His crafty, below-the-rim game may not be the sexiest, but it’s a great complement to the other important Zip on the interior, 7’0” Zeke Marshall. Marshall is the team’s leading scorer (13 PPG) and one of the nation’s leaders in FG percentage at 66%, but the big senior truly excels on the defensive side of the ball. He boasts the 4th best block percentage in the country (14.1%), and is, quite literally, a huge reason why Akron is one of the 20 best teams in the country in effective field goal percentage defense.
  3. The March suspension of point guard Alex Abreu (for drug charges) momentarily shook the team, but back-to-back good wins provide Keith Dambrot with some hope that his team has moved on, however much the loss of Abreu (10.3 PPG, 6.0 APG) hurts on the floor. Freshman Carmelo Betancourt has seen his minutes rise from 10 to 26 a game since the Abreu suspension, but the youngster will certainly not be asked to replicate Abreu’s production. The Zips have won with a balanced, team approach all season long, and the “next man up” attitude should come naturally for Betancourt and others. Dont overlook that even before that 19-game surge, the Zips beat Middle Tennessee State, pounded Penn State (by 25) and took OK State to overtime. Could a MAC team crash the Big Dance for the second straight season?

Louisville

A Decisive Second Half Surge Made The Cardinals Big East Tournament Champions For The Second Straight Season

A Decisive Second Half Surge Made The Cardinals Big East Tournament Champions For The Second Straight Season

  • Big East Champion (29-5, 17-4)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #3/#2/#1
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +19.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1

 Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

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The Other 26: Five Intriguing Championship Week Storylines

Posted by IRenko on March 9th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

With regular season action having wound down, we’ll dispense with our standard format this week in favor of a streamlined focus on five key Championship Week storylines, along with, as always, our updated top 10 rankings.  I joined the RTC Podblast crew on Wednesday for a full-fledged preview of TO26 conference tournament action, talking about the most exciting tournaments, the most anticipated matchups, potential bid stealers, and more. Rather than repeat myself, I’ll refer you to the sweet, dulcet sounds of my voice for more on those big picture topics, and instead offer five less obvious storylines to follow. 

Will Kendall Williams Lead the Lobos to a Number 2 Seed? (Maria Brose / Albuquerque Journal)

Will Kendall Williams Lead the Lobos to a Number 2 Seed? (Maria Brose / Albuquerque Journal)

  1. Will Cinderella Show up Early? — If you love to cheer on Cinderella squads as they try to knock off highly-seeded favorites, there’s no need to wait for the Big Dance. The conference tournaments comprise more than two dozen Little Dances, in which a Cinderella run is as likely as it is later in March. Last year, Western Kentucky managed to snare the Sun Belt’s automatic bid, despite entering the postseason tournament with a #7 seed and an 11-18 record. Can anyone manage the feat this year? Already, we have a great underdog story brewing in the WCC, where Loyola Marymount, which went 1-15 in regular season conference play, has won two tournament games to secure a semifinal berth. It will take a true miracle to overcome their next obstacle — the number one team in the country, Gonzaga — but miracles are what March is for.
  2. Can New Mexico Secure a #2 Seed? – Gonzaga appears poised to plant the TO26 banner on the top seed line, but is it possible that another TO26 team could find itself just one line down? Our latest bracketology hands the Lobos a #2 seed, though many other projections predict a #3 seed. A run through the MW Tournament — on the heels of a two-loss regular season in what is the conference’s deepest, most competitive year in memory — would, one would hope, be enough to give the Lobos their highest seed in school history (they twice notched a #3 seed, including in 2010). And it would be the first time that two TO26 squads landed two of the top eight seeds since 2004, when St. Joseph’s and Gonzaga each managed the feat.
  3. Will Akron Regroup? — A week ago, Akron was riding a 19-game winning streak, was undefeated in MAC play, and was two games clear of Ohio in the East Division standings with three games left. The Zips fell last Saturday in a surprising 81-67 loss to Buffalo, in which they were torched by Javon McCrea for 28 points. But that was a mere bump in the road compared to what happened next. On Thursday, it was announced that junior point guard Alex Abreu had been indefinitely suspended after being arrested on felony charges of marijuana trafficking, and in their first game without him last night, the Zips fell at home to Kent State, 66-61. Worse than blowing their lead atop the East Division (if Ohio wins Saturday, the teams will end the regular season tied), the Zips are now limping into the postseason with little chance of an at-large bid and needing to win three straight MAC tournament games without Abreu to make good on their once-promising March prospects. How important is Abreu to this team? He’s third in scoring, at 10.3 points per game, and shoots a team-leading 39.4 percent from three-point range. But more than that, he is the facilitator that makes Akron’s offense go, notching six assists per game, for which he ranks in the top 20 nationally. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 03.08.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 8th, 2013

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  1. What appeared to be a historic season for Akron could be on the verge of going down in flames after Alex Abreu, its starting point guard (10.3 points and 6 assists per game), was arrested on drug charges and suspended indefinitely. Abreu was arrested on third-degree felony drug trafficking charges after receiving a shipment of marijuana from undercover officers. With Abreu out the Zips will be susceptible to an upset in the MAC Tournament. Although their record suggests that they could be in the conversation for an at-large bid if they were to lose late in the MAC Tournament, the ongoing absence of Abreu would most likely put them on the outside of the bubble looking in.
  2. Akron is not the only school that will be missing a key piece for a potential March run as Colorado announced that Andre Roberson is out indefinitely after being diagnosed with mononucleosis. The loss of Roberson, the leading rebounder in the country at 11.5 per game, is a big one as he had grabbed over 30% of the team’s total rebounds heading into last night’s game. Like Akron, Colorado is already on the bubble, but thankfully for the Buffaloes they have a bit more wiggle room than the Zips as nobody on the NCAA Selection Committee would have been expecting the Buffaloes to win the Pac-12 Tournament even before Roberson’s illness.
  3. We hear coaches make  ridiculous comments about how important each game is, but we still find Rick Pitino‘s statement that Louisville’s game on Saturday against Notre Dame is the most important home game the school has played during his 12 seasons there amusing. Pitino’s rationale is that not only are the Cardinals playing for at least a share of the Big East regular title and that they will be “ saying goodbye to two really, really special young men.” We can appreciate Pitino’s desire to win the school’s second Big East title since he got there, but we don’t quite get what makes this game so much more important than the others that led to the one that put them in position to win the Big East regular season title. As for the “two really, really special young men” that he is talking about we are assuming he means Peyton Siva (senior) and Gorgui Dieng (a junior, but assumed to be leaving) who the school will be honoring before the game. Again we do not get what puts these two ahead of the other significant players who were played their last home game for the Cardinals during the past 12 seasons. Having said that we wish Pitino the best of luck in their most important home game ever. Until the next one.
  4. It seems like almost every year a handful of writers churn out columns suggesting that there is “parity” in college basketball citing anecdotal evidence. Peter Tiernan decided to take a semi-scientific look at it and based on his analysis of how often non-power conference teams make the NCAA Tournament and how they perform against seed expectation and it is not that clear that there is as much parity as some would think. Breaking the past 28 NCAA Tournaments (when it expanded to 64 teams) into distinct 7-year eras he notes that the most recent era has the fewest non-power conference teams in the NCAA Tournament although those teams do tend to perform much better than their seeding would suggest. Tiernan does point out that the latter is aided by the fact that non-power conference teams tend to have significantly lower seeds than power conference teams making it relatively easier to outperform their seed. We are not sure we buy Tiernan’s assertion that this argues against the idea of parity as it might actually suggest that non-power conference teams are not getting the respect they deserve from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee although that would probably need a matched-pair analysis of performance of teams with similar seedings from power and non-power conferences.
  5. The Super Bowl halftime show is a much bigger announcement, but we doubt that they have a more eclectic mix of musical talent than the Final Four based on the announced line-up–Dave Matthews Band, Sting, Muse, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Flo Rida, Ludacris, and others–for this year’s Final Four. We won’t pretend to be fans (or even that familiar) with all of the acts, but we have to give the NCAA credit for picking a diverse group of bands as the listed line-up seems to cover most of the music genres we think that fans at the Final Four might be interested in outside of country music, but we are pretty sure you can find that in or around Atlanta if you are really looking for it.
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The Other 26: Saturday’s Top Five Bracketbuster Games and More…

Posted by IRenko on February 22nd, 2013

other26

This weekend marks the end of the decade-long Bracketbuster era — or experiment, depending on your perspective. Sadly, if appropriately, it looks like the event will go out with more of a whimper than a bang. Not a single game features a top 25 team, resulting in little hype for this year’s slate. But for true mid-major basketball fans, no top 25 ranking, or lack thereof, is going to dissuade them from devouring the late season, inter-conference action among the country’s best, under-the-radar-until-March teams. Here’s a preview of the five Bracketbuster games we’re most looking forward to, followed by an updated Top 10, our weekly honor roll, and the most compelling non-Bracketbuster games of the coming week.

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

  1. Creighton at St. Mary’s (6 pm, ESPN) — Both teams enter what is perhaps the premier Bracketbuster matchup with a great deal to prove. Creighton’s hot 17-1 start has given way to a rough 5-5 stretch, as the depth of the MVC has taken its toll. In four of those five losses, Creighton’s once unstoppable offense slowed to a pace of less than a point per possession. An at-large Tournament bid remains a safe bet, even with a loss to St. Mary’s, but the Bluejays are no doubt looking to this game to reignite their offense and their season. St. Mary’s, on the other hand, is in desperate need of a quality win for its Tournament resume. Having been swept by Gonzaga, Saturday’s matchup is a virtual must-win for the Gaels. Both teams have highly efficient offenses that rely heavily on the three-point shot. Whichever defense can step up its game may emerge with the win.
  2. Ohio at Belmont (10 pm, ESPN) – This should be a really entertaining game between two teams who love to run and gun. But for the colors of their jerseys, it may be hard to tell the two apart, as the Bobcats and Bruins have remarkably similar statistical profiles. Both are high-possession squads that shoot more than 40 percent of their field goals from three-point range and rank in the top 20 nationally in forcing turnovers. Both have high effective field goal percentages, but rebound poorly and allow their opponents to shoot far more free throws than they do. Toss in a great point guard matchup between seniors D.J. Cooper and Kerron Johnson, and you have the ingredients for a great nightcap to the day’s action. 
  3. South Dakota State at Murray State (8 pm, ESPN2) – Neither team is as good as it was last season, but both returned their star player. And it’s their matchup at the point guard spot, with Nate Wolters squaring off against Isaiah Canaan, that makes this a must-see game. The two players are the heartbeats of their respective team’s offenses. Each uses roughly 30 percent of all possessions, ranking them in the top 50 in the country. Wolters has been on a particularly nasty tear of late, averaging more than 33 points over his last five games, though two of his 30-plus efforts in that stretch were in defeat. Canaan, meanwhile, is coming off his own 35-point outburst in a win over Morehead State.
  4. Detroit at Wichita State (4 pm, ESPN2) — Wichita State has bounced back from a recent three-game swoon with a four-game win streak that includes two close victories over Illinois State and Indiana State this past week. They’ll be the favorites against Detroit, but his game has definite upset potential. Detroit is on the upswing, winning six of their last seven, and developing a potent offensive attack with a multitude of options, from Ray McCallum’s attacking ability to Jason Calliste’s three-point shot to Nick Minnerath’s versatile inside-out game to Doug Anderson’s physical interior play. The Titans will try to push the tempo, while the Shockers will try to slow things down and pound the ball inside to their big men Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall, who may find success against Detroit’s mediocre interior defense.
  5. Denver at Northern Iowa (8 pm, ESPN3) — After a rough 4-6 start to MVC play, Northern Iowa has righted the ship and fought its way back to where we thought it would always be — at the top of the league standings, just a step behind Wichita State and Creighton. They face a Denver team that has flown a bit under the radar, recovering from a slow start to the season to win 13 of their last 14 games. A trip to Cedar Falls will be a test of just how far the Pioneers have come. Expect a low-possession, halfcourt-oriented game, with a steady barrage of three-point shots. The Panthers have a balanced attack, with five players averaging between 9 and 13 points. Denver will turn primarily to Chris Udofia, the versatile forward who is the hub of their Princeton offense.

And now on to our updated Top 10 rankings, weekly honor roll, and the (other) games we’re keeping an eye on …

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Set Your TiVo: 11.09.11

Posted by bmulvihill on November 9th, 2011

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

We are still building up to the big season tip off on Friday.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at another pair of games from the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic regional rounds.

Akron @ Mississippi State – 7:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***)

Dee Bost Looks to Continue a Hot Start Against Akron

  • Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney and Arnett Moultrie are 6’10” and 6’11”, respectively.  While Akron sports its own big man in seven-foot center Zeke Marshall, watch for Mississippi State to pound the ball down low in order to open things up on the outside for point guard Dee Bost.  Akron was mediocre at defending the two-point shot last year, allowing opponents to shoot 46.1% and was particularly atrocious at keeping teams off the offensive glass (32.7% OR).  In the Bulldogs’ opening game against Eastern Kentucky on Monday, Sidney and Moultrie went a combined 8-13 on their two point attempts and MSU shot 56% from inside the arc as a team.  A repeat performance like that will put a lot of pressure on the Zip defense.
  • For Akron, Sophomore point guard Alex Abreu will need to set the table for the rest of the team, which he did quite well last year as a freshman with an assist rate of 35.9% (3.5 APG) coming off the bench.  This year he will be the starting point guard for the Zips. Abreu will be feeding the ball to UMBC transfer Chauncey Gilliam and last season’s leading scorer, Nikola Cvetinovic (11.7 PPG), early and often.  Unfortunately for Keith Dambrot’s squad, Abreu is their only real ballhandler.  If he gets into foul trouble and is not on the court, it will be a long night for the Zips.  Watch for Bost to put offensive pressure on the sophomore point guard in an effort to draw fouls and get Abreau off the floor.
  • The key to this game will be Zeke Marshall’s ability to handle the daunting duo of Sidney and Moultrie on both ends of the floor.  Marshall finished the 2010-11 season 19th in the country in blocked shots (2.6 BPG), and although he is certainly a force at 7’0”, managing both Sidney and Moultrie is a tall task, particularly for someone who is foul prone (Marshall fouled out of six games last season).  If the Akron big man gets into foul trouble tonight, it will force the defense to collapse on Sidney and Moultrie which opens things up outside for Bost, who finished 4-8 from behind the arc against Eastern Kentucky. Mississippi State may simply have too many weapons for the Zips.

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