NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) & Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 28th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent, and Brian Otskey (@botskey) is the NCAA Tournament’s East Region correspondent. Make sure to also follow @RTCMidwestRegion and @RTCEastRegion for news and analysis from Indianapolis and New York City throughout the weekend.

#2 Michigan vs. #11 Tennessee – Midwest Region Sweet 16 (from Indianapolis, IN) – at 7:15 PM EST on CBS

Tennessee was not supposed to be in this position. It barely found its way into the NCAA Tournament. In fact, the Volunteers had to travel to Dayton last Wednesday to take on Iowa to even advance to the round of 64. Tennessee got by the Hawkeyes in overtime and that was only the beginning of its winning ways. In Raleigh, Cuonzo Martin’s squad was able to throttle Massachusetts and take advantage of Duke’s stunning loss to Mercer by dismantling Bob Hoffman’s Bears in the round of 32 to advance to the Sweet 16. Leading the way thus far for Tennessee has been the spectacular play of forward Jarnell Stokes. The junior has been nothing short of dominant in the team’s recent run, as he is averaging 20.3 points and 15 rebounds in his last three games. The Volunteers have also received a lift from guard Josh Richardson. The junior, who averaged 10.1 points per game in the regular season, has stepped up his play in the tournament, as he is averaging 19.3 points per contest. As a team, the Volunteers’ performance on the rebounding glass has aided tremendously in taking them to the Sweet 16. Tennessee has been an excellent rebounding team all season and its rebounding prowess was never more on display than in Sunday’s victory over Mercer. The Volunteers had a sensational 41-19 rebounding advantage over the Bears in the winning effort.

Expect plenty of fireworks between these two guys Friday night. (Getty & USA TODAY Sports)

Expect plenty of fireworks between these two guys Friday night. (Getty & USA TODAY Sports)

Michigan will take the court in Indianapolis after a relatively easy first weekend in Milwaukee. The Wolverines cruised to a 17-point victory in the round of 64 over an undermanned Wofford squad before wearing down Texas in a 14-point victory. John Beilein’s team has been an outstanding perimeter shooting offense and that has carried over into the postseason. The Wolverines hit a combined 21 three-pointers in the two victories. Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas hit seven of those 21 triples an was the team’s leading scorer in each victory. Michigan’s frontcourt has been seen as a concern since sophomore big man Mitch McGary was lost to a back injury in late December, but forward Jordan Morgan showed he is a capable post presence with his performances in Milwaukee. The senior averaged 12.5 points and 10 rebounds against Wofford and Texas, while living up to his reputation as a solid interior defender. In Friday’s game, it should be expected that both teams will play to their strengths. Tennessee will try to use its size advantage to the dominate the interior and Michigan will attempt to get its perimeter shooting going early and often. Texas had a great advantage over Michigan in size too, but the Wolverines were able to wear the Longhorn bigs down through a terrific transition effort and solid offensive spacing. It would be wise to expect Michigan to do the same Friday. Tennessee will keep close throughout much of the game, but the shot-making ability of Stauskas, Caris LeVert, and Glenn Robinson III will ultimately be too much for the Volunteers to overcome. Two-seed Michigan will win the game to advance to its second straight Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Regional Reset: East Region

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 26th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Brian Otskey (@botskey) is the NCAA Tournament’s East Region correspondent, which begins Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City with Iowa State vs. Connecticut followed by Virginia vs. Michigan State. The South Regional Reset and the West Regional Reset published yesterday, and the Midwest Regional Reset earlier today. Make sure to also follow @RTCEastRegion for news and analysis from New York throughout the weekend.

Madison Square Garden will host the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1961.

Madison Square Garden will host the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1961.

New Favorite: #1 Virginia. You can conceivably make an argument for any of the four teams to come out of this region and advance to Arlington but I picked Virginia as the favorite when the brackets came out so there is no reason I should change at this point. Could the Cavaliers lose to Michigan State? Of course they could. But they have been the better team this year and earned that #1 seed for a reason. The Wahoos got the top seed jitters out of their system in a closer-than-expected opening round encounter with Coastal Carolina and proceeded to dispatch Memphis in methodical yet impressive fashion on Sunday night. With a stifling defense and an offense better than most observers give it credit for, top-seeded Virginia remains the team to beat in this region.

Horse of Darkness: #7 Connecticut. The Huskies survived St. Joe’s and dismantled Villanova in the second half on Saturday night thanks in large part to the Shabazz Napier Show (25 points). Connecticut is back at Madison Square Garden for the first time since winning the 2KSports Classic this past November, a place where it has been highly successful over previous years in the Big East. This team may very well have the biggest fan presence of the four teams in this region given the school’s proximity to New York and history of success in the building. It is never wise to count out a team with a star player and intangibles going in its favor, despite being the lowest seeded team remaining in the region.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Virginia: The Quiet and Legitimate Title Contender

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 20th, 2014

Kansas, Syracuse, Duke, Wichita State, Arizona, Michigan State: These are some of the teams typically first mentioned when discussing this season’s NCAA championship contenders. While Virginia is laden with senior leadership, elite defense, and loved by the advanced metrics, the Cavaliers are rarely mentioned as a contender along with the others. At 22-5 and 13-1 in the ACC, however, the Cavaliers are well on their way to a top-two finish in one of the country’s best conferences. With Syracuse’s surprising loss last night versus Boston College and a tough pair of road games upcoming, Tony Bennett’s team appears to be well on its way to capturing the ACC throne for the first time since a 2007 tie, and their first sole ACC regular season title since 1981. 

UVA's Joe Harris has a lot to celebrate with Virginia's winning ways. (USA Today).

UVA’s Joe Harris has a lot to celebrate with Virginia’s winning ways. (USA Today).

So why is a projected ACC regular season champion — one that will likely carry 25+ wins into the NCAA Tournament — not getting enough buzz? For starters, the nation is enamored with superstar culture, and Virginia doesn’t have a transcendent individual who is destined for NBA greatness and seated atop all the mock drafts. While this team has several really good players who mesh very well together, they do not have a Julius Randle, Doug McDermott, or Jabari Parker — someone who generates mass publicity and draws droves of NBA front office personnel at their games.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC M5: 01.31.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 31st, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress: Great profile of Anthony Gill by Whitey Reid. Gill hasn’t had the easiest journey to Charlottesville, but he’s still a good-hearted prankster ready to dupe an unknowing reporter into believing he is a magician or once had a two-headed pet cat. Gill seems like the ultimate glue guy: a solid basketball player — he’s averaging just shy of eight points in 18 minutes a game — who’s fun to be around.
  2. Nike: Big uniform news, as Nike announced new “Hyper Elite” uniforms for seven programs, including Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse. Oh, and they’re throwbacks. I personally like all three (although North Carolina’s current jerseys are some of the best in the country). Take a look for yourself below.

    Nike's new throwback uniforms are excellent. (photo credit: Nike)

    Nike’s new throwback uniforms are excellent. (photo credit: Nike)

  3. Daily Orange: Another interesting part of the “2-3 Zone Series” focusing on Syracuse‘s relative lack of recent success in the NBA is that it’s hard to say how much the zone plays into the trend. It’s true the NBA doesn’t play much zone and probably isn’t looking to spend time teaching draft picks on the ins and outs of elite man-to-man defense. But Syracuse doesn’t have a problem getting players drafted. I think it also comes down to the type of players Syracuse recruits. They’re very good, but the Orange don’t draw nearly the number of McDonald’s All-Americans as the other blue-bloods. Jesse Dougherty does a good job in getting feedback from former players working professionally both here and abroad. Unrelatedly, Jim Boeheim is already falling in love with North Carolina cuisine.
  4. State of the U: Informative graphic showing Miami‘s scholarships over the next four years. This year’s team doesn’t have much depth, but the Hurricanes only have three scholarships left to give over the next two years (thanks in part to being down a scholarship). And amazingly, the Hurricanes have six seniors on the roster, which means there’s a big class coming to set the tone for the next few years. We’re also going to get to see what a Jim Larranaga-constructed team looks like in Coral Gables.
  5. FSU News: David Walker reflects on the paradox that is Florida State basketball. While football dwarfs basketball’s popularity in Tallahassee, the fan base has come to expect some degree of success under Leonard Hamilton. Apart from last year — when Hamilton fielded a fairly young team that didn’t quite gel — the Seminoles have been perennial postseason warriors despite institutional disadvantages when compared with some of the more basketball-focused schools in the conference.
Share this story

ACC M5: 11.25.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 25th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Sports Illustrated: Marcus Paige has stepped up in a big way, scoring 32 points to lead the Tar Heels to a big upset over Louisville Sunday. Most impressively he was 9-of-14 from three. Should that prove to not be an anomaly, North Carolina may be as good as people originally thought regardless of whether PJ Hairston or Leslie McDonald return. Paige looks like a first-team All-ACC player right now. He’s built off of a strong finish to last season and looks more confident than ever. Only time will tell whether the Tar Heels turn out to be more like the team that lost to Belmont or the one that dethroned the defending champs (which, incidentally hadn’t lost a game since last February 9).
  2. Richmond Times-Dispatch: One of Virginia‘s strengths this year is its depth in the frontcourt. Tony Bennett is taking advantage of that depth by playing around with different combinations. He likes Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins defensively, while Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill are more offensive-minded. Also interesting is that Bennett thinks with the right match-up he might try to play three of the four with Mitchell guarding the three. That’s a tough assignment for Mitchell (watch the smaller Duke wings try to stay in front of a smaller, quicker player).
  3. Hartford Courant: Counterpoint on the Boston College-Connecticut rivalry renewal from the Connecticut point of view. Jeff Jacobs makes a good point: The basketball rivalry benefits Boston College much more than Connecticut. He also points out that the rivalry, while heated and intense, has been fairly lopsided since Jim Calhoun raised the Huskies to national prominence. He also points out that Syracuse would be the ideal team to rekindle a basketball rivalry with — although the Orange certainly aren’t known for their tough non-conference home-and-homes. If I were in Connecticut’s position, I’d agree wholeheartedly with this take. If you agree to play in football (say, every other year at a minimum), we’ll play basketball. I don’t see that happening, but the more I read the quotes that got this story started, the more I don’t see a permanent restoration of the old rivalry anyway.
  4. Washington Post: Say what you want about Lefty Driesell, but the guy clearly loves his players. Maryland great Tom McMillen is being inducted to the Naismith Hall of Fame this year, and he will become the first Maryland player honored. On top of his standout basketball career, McMillen was also a Rhodes Scholar and he currently serves on the Maryland Board of Trustees. Driesell’s first assistant coach George Raveling is also being inducted (albeit mostly for his time serving as the Nike director of international basketball). I love redemption stories and I love a less salty Lefty Driesell.
  5. ESPN Insider: After the early signing period, five ACC teams finished with grades of A-minus or higher according to Paul Biancardi. Most notable of the standouts is Maryland, which Biancardi expects to be Mark Turgeon’s best class thanks to a couple of top 100 players. Overall, the conference as a whole had a terrific recruiting haul. At the top, it is borderline ridiculous (Duke and North Carolina combine for seven top-25 recruits alone). On the other end of the spectrum, Jeff Bzdelik better get his recruiting in order soon or his job may be less secure than many already believe it should be.
Share this story

Conference Report Card: SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 18th, 2011

Jared Quillen is the RTC correspondent for the SEC conference. We will be publishing a series of conference report cards over the next week for conferences that got multiple NCAA bids to recap the conference, grade the teams, and look at the future for the conference.

Conference Recap

  • It was a good year for the Southeastern Conference. After a weak showing in the NCAA Tournament last year, the SEC was the only conference with multiple teams (Kentucky and Florida) in the Elite Eight. The SEC also got five teams into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years. It was a major improvement over the sad slump that was 2009 when the SEC only qualified LSU, Tennessee, and Mississippi State at 8, 9, and 13 seeds, respectively.
  • When the season started, I predicted the conference could get five and possibly six teams in the tournament and I still contend that Alabama was snubbed.  But regardless of that, five teams is a good showing and a sign of improvement for a conference that lost a little respect as an elite conference in the past few years.
  • Florida was consistent all year, winning close games by playing calmly even when trailing late, but the biggest turning point for the conference came when Kentucky finally was able to win those same close games.  The Wildcats were sitting at 7-9 in conference play and likely facing a first-round game in the SEC when they won close games against Florida, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee finishing the regular season 10-6 and easily marching through the conference tournament.  Kentucky was the favorite at the Final Four in Houston, but poor shooting likely cost the Wildcats their eighth national championship.  And the debate about John Calipari’s ability to win it all with young teams goes on.
Brandon Knight came up big for John Calipari when he needed the star freshman guard the most.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story