Bracket Prep: Buffalo, Stephen F. Austin & Eastern Washington

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 16th, 2015

Let’s finish off the Bracket Prep series with our reviews of each of the weekend mid-major automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket. Here’s a primer on each of the most recent bid winners. The entire series can be found here.


Buffalo is going dancing for the first time in school history. (Ken Blaze, Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Buffalo is going dancing for the first time in school history. (Ken Blaze, Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

  • MAC Champion (23-9, 12-6)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #28/#54/#59
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +8.4
  • NCAA Seed: #12

Strength: Buffalo has some serious offensive weapons and tends to set them free. The Bulls were the most uptempo offense in the MAC this season, using just 17.4 seconds per possession and attacking the basket at every turn; 76 percent of their points came from inside the arc or at the free throw line. Part of that emphasis can be attributed to the presence of Justin Moss (17.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG), the 6’7” forward who won MAC Player of the Year. His ability to both run the floor and dominate on the low-block – along with a stable of talented, attacking guards like Shannon Evans (15.3 PPG, 4.7 APG) and Lamonte Bearden (8.2 PPG) – makes Bobby Hurley’s group tough to stop on that end of the court. The MAC champs are pretty solid on the other end, too, holding opponents to under a point per possession on the season. Keep an eye on Moss, though – the junior was limited during the league tournament because of an ankle injury.

Weakness: Outside of its so-so perimeter shooting (34% 3FG), Buffalo does not have too many glaring weaknesses – at least not by the numbers. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. There was a three-game stretch during February in which the Bulls were bludgeoned on the defensive end, including a home loss to Toledo where the Rockets shot 86 percent from behind the arc and scored 1.3 points per possession. And for a team that shoots a healthy 72.2 percent from the stripe, Buffalo’s late-game free throw shooting in both MAC Tournament victories over the weekend was not very good. Whether these inconsistencies have to do with their youthful backcourt, lulls in energy, or something else, I’m not sure. But they can’t afford similar lapses this week.

Key player: Xavier Ford (9.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG). Moss is absolutely crucial and his health should be closely monitored as the week progresses, but assuming he’s good to go, another guy to keep your eye on is Ford. The 6’7” senior’s length and athleticism gives Hurley an added dimension on the offensive end – a slasher able to get to the rim (and rebound effectively) – as well as a defender who can guard the type of athletic scorers his team will probably see next week.

Outlook: Buffalo led both Kentucky and Wisconsin at halftime this season, which says a thing or two about its overall ability. As long as Moss is healthy and able to go, the Bulls are more than capable of keeping pace with West Virginia, especially considering their #12 seed line. Hurley’s bunch is talented, fiery and could end up playing on the back-half of the weekend.

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Conference Tourney Primers: Big Sky

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 12th, 2015

We’re in the midst of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the continuing action by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way.

Big Sky Tournament

Dates: March 12-14

Site: Dahlberg Arena (Missoula, MT)


What to expect: Montana clinched the top seed and earned the right to play in its own building, which is bad news for everyone else; the tournament host has won this event five years running. But the Big Sky is also more competitive than it has been in years, with Eastern Washington (co-champions), Sacramento State and Northern Arizona all finishing tied or within a game of the Grizzlies. The Eagles, which snapped Indiana’s 43-game non-conference home winning streak in November, are an especially dangerous team – lethal from behind the arc and proven on the road. Jim Hayford’s bunch was the only Big Sky unit to win in Missoula this season. In reality, the conference race became so unpredictable towards the end of the year that it’s hard to give an advantage to any one contender outside of Montana’s obvious home-court edge.

Favorite: Montana. Montana won eight of its last nine games to end the regular season and now welcomes its Big Sky comrades to Dahlberg Area, where it was 8-1 in conference play. The Grizzlies parlayed home-court advantage into a pair NCAA Tournament appearances in both 2012 and 2013, and while this year’s group might not be as good as those teams, it’s hard to argue with history – especially in a league where home teams went 66-42 in 2014-15.

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Conference Tournament Primer: Big Sky Conference

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 13th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with the last five conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the final push of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the O26 tourneys starting are the Big Sky, Big West, Sun Belt and WAC.

Dates: March 13-15
Site: At regular-season champion (Weber State)

2014 big sky bracket

What to expect: About half the league could win the Big Sky’s automatic bid this year. Every team in the conference suffered at least six losses, led by regular season champion Weber State at 14-6. In an odd twist, only seven of the league’s 11 teams participate in the conference tournament. Montana, last year’s representative in the NCAA Tournament, along with Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado pose the biggest threats. But don’t expect too much from the Big Sky’s team in the Big Dance. The First Four in Dayton and an early exit seem in order.

Favorite: Weber State. Yes, I’m still making the Wildcats the favorite despite stumbling down the stretch. They lost two of their last three games, and four of their last seven. Yikes. But with the parity in this conference — every other team had at least eight league losses — the home court advantage here makes Weber State the favorite. The Wildcats lost just one home game in league play.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.09.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 9th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Only two auto-bids go out tonight, but a couple of interesting games from the Big East are also on the slate. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Big East Second Round (at New York, NY): #18 Connecticut vs. Georgetown – 12 pm on ESPN (***)

He and His Droogs Dispatched DePaul Last Night; Tonight, Alex Descends Into MSG For a Battle With the Hoyas

The Huskies drew a pretty good bracket by Big East standards, getting bottom feeder DePaul in the first round and a depleted Georgetown team this afternoon. Connecticut ended its winless drought in this tournament, blowing out DePaul yesterday for their first Big East Tournament win since 2005. Alex Oriakhi had 13 points and 19 rebounds, making his presence known at the start of the tournament after a regular season full of inconsistency. Kemba Walker added 26/7/5 as the Huskies cruised. Things get considerably tougher today against Georgetown, but the Hoyas are a reeling squad. They’ve lost four of their past five games, including a loss to UConn, and have not looked competitive since senior point guard Chris Wright went down with a broken hand. The Hoyas haven’t scored more than 51 points in three games without Wright and will have to play a strong defensive game if they want to knock off the Huskies.

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Where 2010-11 Happens: Reason #20 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2010

Shamelessly cribbing from the clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present you with the 2010-11 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we ramp up to the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.  If you want to have some fun while killing time, we encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.  Enjoy.

#20- Where Get On My Back, Fellas Happens

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ATB: Montana Climbs the Mountain Behind AJ’s Perseverance

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

Two More Cards Punched.  More great theater tonight, as we now have fourteen auto-bids handed out, nearly half the total allotment.

  • Big SkyMontana 66, Weber State 65.  It was pure Hollywood, a rags-to-riches type of story that when you see it in the theater just know has been embellished because it’s too good to be true.  Otherwise, how else to explain the phenomenal story that is Montana’s Anthony Johnson?  From the hard-knock life growing up, to the junior college tryout that his then-girlfriend/now-wife negotiated for him, to the unexpected national championship in Yakima, to the repayment of the favor  for his wife when tables turned and he was the big shot recruited to Montana, to the cool and steady rise during his two-year career in Missoula, to the snub in this year’s conference POY race, to the 42-point explosion to bring his team back from twenty down at the half when it mattered most.  Tonight Anthony Johnson just became the new favorite player of every kid in America and his Grizzlies became the top upset special in next week’s brackets.  If we were twelve again, the U of M sweatshirt would already be ordered, and the lunchroom quarrels about who ‘claimed him’ first would already be planned.  That’s what happens when you illustrate why March is a form of certifiable insanity, the kind that makes you giddy with amazement with each passing shot.  Jumpers, floaters, runners, foul shots and bombs — Johnson showed through a 13-22 FGs (14-14 FTs) shooting exhibition, including the final 21 points of the game for his team, what is possible if you keep your head up, work hard to improve yourself, and believe in your abilities.  Montana is now moving on to the NCAA Tournament because the player they call AJ walked down that road, saw what he liked, and decided to keep moving forward.

Everyone's New Favorite Player (Deservingly) (D. Pizac)

  • NECRobert Morris 52, Quinnipiac 50.  The best two teams in the NEC faced off in Connecticut tonight on QU’s home court, yet it was the Colonials of Robert Morris who walked away with the trophy and the golden ticket to the NCAAs for the second consecutive season.  RMU head coach Mike Rice preached after the game that the only way to win one-bid leagues such as the NEC is through hard-nosed team defense like he learned as an assistant at Pittsburgh across town, and in another low-scoring affair tonight it was senior forward Dallas Green who manifested that ethos by deflecting a potential game-winning shot by Quinnipiac and then hitting two FTs to seal the game.  Last year Bob Morris received a #15 seed and played eventual national runner-up Michigan State tough for a half.  That was a poor matchup for the Colonials, but if they could get a more finesse-oriented team this year in the first round, they’d have a better shot at springing a gigantic upset.

What About Bob? (AP/T. Cain)

Conference Tourneys.  For additional information on the Big East Tournament and Big 12 Tournament from our correspondents at the scene, check out their daily diaries.

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