The RTC Podcast: Fried Gator Humble Pie Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 18th, 2014

It’s a little hard to believe, but the regular season is slipping away from us. Some of the small conference tournaments begin in a mere two weeks, and a few teams are running out of time to make a positive impression on the NCAA Selection Committee. One team that has made quite the recent impression is Florida, which has parlayed a two-win week over SEC rivals Tennessee and Kentucky into a #2 national and RTC25 ranking. The guys discuss the ascent of the Gators, the descent of the Wildcats (both Kentucky and Arizona), and a good number of other things in this week’s RTC Podcast, hosted by Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114). We also welcomed in RTC national columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) as he pushes into week two of his #rushthetrip covering the western half of the country. He shares some stories from the road, riffs on his favorite venues, and talks about what he’s looking forward to (other than his own bed) as he finishes up things later this week.

Make sure to subscribe to the podcast/podblast on iTunes so that you’ll get all of the episodes immediately downloaded to your listening device.

  • 0:00-6:52 – Randy Eats Humble Pie on Florida
  • 6:52-11:06 – What a Home Loss Means for Kentucky
  • 11:09-16:54 – The Pac-12 Version of Struggling Wildcats
  • 16:54-18:02 – What the Win Over Arizona Means for Arizona State
  • 18:02-24:06 – WTF Sunday in the Big Ten
  • 24:06-27:00 – Other Weekend Notes
  • 27:00-40:37 – RTT: Bennet Hayes #rushthetrip
  • 40:37-45:19 – Rivalries Fit for a Documentary
  • 45:19-51:47 – Creighton Pounds Villanova… Again
  • 51:47-56:11 – This Week’s Preview
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Evaluating Devyn Marble’s Offense: This Season Versus Last

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on February 11th, 2014

On Saturday, Iowa did not waste any time in jumping out to an 11-4 lead on its way to a huge win over Michigan. Thanks to Devyn Marble’s scorching start — he nailed three shots from beyond the arc to begin the game — the senior forward ended up with 27 points and has been one of the best scorers in the country this season. Averaging 16.5 PPG is impressive on its own, but we have access to more informative statistics to understand the improvements that Marble has made in his offensive game from last year to this one. The table below shows some key differences between seasons, so let’s use the data to understand how he could turn into of the most explosive players of the postseason.

Marble Comparison

Let’s start with the easy one: Marble’s offensive rating has increased a tick from his junior season, and one of his most notable improvements is better confidence from distance. Last season, he took way too many shots from beyond the arc — 150 attempts — while only hitting an inefficient 33 percent. This season, his 38 percent shooting is a huge weapon in his arsenal, which has led to an overall increase in his effective field goal percentage as well. Putting aside those statistics, the diversity of his attempts from deep are even more impressive. Against the Wolverines, he shot 6-of-10 from three but those six shots came from all over the floor: he pulled up in transition; he came off of screens; and he was able to pull up off the dribble. His release is significantly quicker and smoother compared with last year, which shows he put in the requisite time and focus on it during the offseason. In February of his junior year, Marble hit a prolonged two-week slump because opposing defenses were able to cut off his dribble-drive ability and force him to beat them from pull-ups in the mid-range. That defensive option will not work this season based on what we have seen, which only makes him more dangerous with the ball in his hands.

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Can Ohio State Find Enough Offense to Stay Off the Bubble?

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on February 1st, 2014

Dear Ohio State fans, it is finally time to have this conversation. I didn’t want to have this talk because, well, with a decade of Big Ten dominance on his side, it seemed silly to doubt head coach Thad Matta. I just assumed he’d turn it around sooner than later because things tend to work out for him more often than not. But after the Buckeyes’ one-point overtime loss to Penn State in Columbus and losses in five of their last six games, it’s apparent that this Ohio State team is not very good right now, and they are a likely bubble team as of today. I know that statement stings; heck, a few weeks ago I even wrote this article on how the Buckeyes may have the best road to the Big Ten championship. And to be honest, I’m not sure that Matta doesn’t find a way to salvage this season. In his 10 seasons in Columbus, he has two Final Four appearances, five regular season championships, and four Big Ten Tournament championships. But at the moment, this offense, and therefore this team, seems incapable of competing with the Big Ten elites.

After their home loss to Penn State, Thad Matta and his Buckeyes may be sweating it out selection Sunday.

After their home loss to Penn State, Thad Matta and his Buckeyes may be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.

To say Ohio State’s resume is weak may be a bit too kind; the Buckeyes’ best win is against a Marquette team which is 12-9 and at .500 in the Big East. On the other side of the ledger, the Buckeyes now have bad losses against Nebraska and Penn State. Last week I pointed out that the team’s recent struggles can be traced back to its anemic offense. Before the Penn State game, their last five offensive performances were logged at 0.88, 0.96, 0.82, 0.90, and 1.02 points per possession. But lately, their defense — which has a current adjusted defensive efficiency of 0.89 points per possession and was #1 in the nation for most of the first half of the season — has not been nearly as dominant. In the same five games, Ohio State has allowed their opponents to score 1.01, 1.18, 0.99, 0.95, and 0.86 points per possession. The Buckeyes’ defense disappointed again on Wednesday night as they allowed 1.06 points per possession from Penn State — a team ranked eighth in the conference by offensive efficiency.

Buckeye fans, if you’re looking for hope, you may find it in the computer models that still think this team is among the top 25 in the country. Both KenPom and Sagarin have Ohio State ranked 21st and 17th in their national rankings, respectively. So if you’re of the belief that some of these latest losses are just the case of a slump combined with some bad luck, you aren’t completely without merit. But even if Matta’s defense rounds back into form, they’re going to need to upset a few of the better Big Ten teams to pad that resume and offset the bad losses. That’s a tall task to request from this offense.

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The RTC Podblast: Time and Score Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 31st, 2014

Welcome back to the RTC Podblast. In this week’s edition, the guys take a look back at a week filled with some strange upsets, including what might be the only time in the history of podcasts that the Northwestern fight song was used, a discussion of time and score (also known as a 13.5 second interlude), and a look ahead to a ridiculously strong Saturday of college basketball. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts.

Make sure to subscribe to the podcast/podblast on iTunes so that you’ll get all of the episodes immediately downloaded to your listening device.

  • 0:00-5:56 – Wild, Wild Midwest
  • 5:56-9:28 – Iowa Comes Up Short… Again
  • 9:28-13:02 – Kentucky Falls At LSU
  • 13:02-18:44 – Louisville Fails to Validate Randy’s Belief
  • 18:44-24:30 – Busy Weekend Preview
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The RTC Podblast: Best Conference Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 24th, 2014

It’s been an interesting week around the college basketball universe, and the RTC Podblast is back to lead you through it. Actually, that’s not true. This is a bit of a different podblast, mostly because we weren’t able to get our Rush the Takes segment recorded as early in the week as we usually do. So in this one, we review a few of the week’s better results but also spent some time talking Big 12 basketball with ESPN analyst, Fran Fraschilla. As always, he was an informative and engaging guest, and we were pleased to hear his takes regarding what some argue is the best league in college basketball this season. The full rundown is below.

Make sure to subscribe to the podcast/podblast on iTunes so that you’ll get all of them immediately downloaded to your listening device.

  • 0:00-4:11 – Michigan Launches Themselves Towards the Top of the Big Ten
  • 4:11-7:50 – Minnesota Notches Another Big Ten Upset While Wisconsin Continues Their Slide
  • 7:50-19:10 – Rush the Takes With Fran Fraschilla
  • 19:10-23:25 – #RootForTheSuit and Top 25 Weekend Preview
  • 23:25-30:09 – Non-Top 25 Weekend Preview (With a Pac-12 Digression)
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Checking The Panic Meter: Which Teams Should Really Worry About Their January Swoons?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 24th, 2014

As Brian Otskey noted earlier this week, January losing streaks have caused a number of once-top teams to tumble down, and in some cases, out of the polls. The rigors of conference play have deflowered those gaudy late December records, prompting a number of far-sooner-than-expected reality checks. Past history will tell you that some of these January slumps will be reduced to mere blips on the radar by March (e.g., the defending champion Louisville Cardinals lost three in a row in the first month of 2013), while others are indeed the beginning of a fade into college hoops oblivion. Wondering about future prospects for fading powers? Here’s a look at where the panic meter should be (10=High Panic, 1=Nothing to worry about) for five of college basketball’s most downward-trending squads.

Georgetown: Panic Meter=10

John Thompson III, Markel Starks And Georgetown Suddenly Have Their Backs Against The Wall

John Thompson III, Markel Starks And Georgetown Suddenly Have Their Backs Against The Wall

With Jabril Trawick not expected back anytime soon (broken jaw), and Josh Smith out indefinitely due to academics (don’t forget that Greg Whittington’s “indefinite” academic suspension a year ago eventually caused him to miss the Hoyas’ final 19 contests), Georgetown is clearly undermanned right now. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera has been brilliant, and Markel Starks intermittently so, but finding offensive contributions from players who aren’t 6’2” guards has proven impossible since Smith‘s suspension began. With the 10-day forecast looking especially gloomy — top-15 teams Creighton, Villanova and Michigan State are up next for JT3’s club – Georgetown’s season could be very close to finished by the time Super Bowl Sunday arrives. Even if the Hoyas can get Smith and Trawick back by early February, a challenging closing stretch awaits: Six of Georgetown’s final seven opponents are currently ranked in KenPom’s top 75. It’s probably not the way Georgetown wanted to find March peace, but Hoyas’ fans may finally avoid their annual NCAA Tournament heartbreak.

Wisconsin: Panic Meter= 1

If you play basketball in the Big Ten, you are going to lose games. The league is simply too strong top-to-bottom to cruise the entire winter without resistance. Yes, Michigan and Michigan State – losses are coming for you as well (beginning for one of the two on Saturday). In any case, Wisconsin should be just fine. Aside from some struggles from three-point range (likely temporary), the uber-efficient Badgers’ offense has continued to roll, even through their current three-game losing streak. The defense could stand to improve marginally (55th nationally in defensive efficiency), but there is just too much offensive firepower in Madison for Bucky’s train to go too far off the tracks.

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Ohio State’s Slow Big Ten Start Nothing to Worry About

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 17th, 2014

As Ohio State has surely found out, when you are considered a top-10 team and proceed to go out and lose three straight games, eyebrows will be raised. Heck, if the two-time defending NBA champions are going to be questioned for losing three in a row within an 82-game regular season, it’s hardly a shock that pundits will sound the alarm over a three-game Big Ten losing streak. Nevermind that any one of those three losses, in isolation, would be nowhere near concern-prompting, or that the Buckeyes are still owners of the second most efficient defense in all the land. If you listen to anyone outside of Columbus, Thad Matta’s team suddenly has questions to answer. The bleeding does need to stop (and soon), and even the most ardent of Buckeyes’ supporters will admit this team is far from perfectly constructed, but resist overreaction on this one. Today’s Buckeyes are the same team that ran out to that 15-0 start — Big Ten title contenders, still.

Wins Haven't Come As Easily In The Early Part Of The Big Ten Season For Aaron Craft And Ohio State

Wins Haven’t Come As Easily In The Early Part Of The Big Ten Season For Aaron Craft And Ohio State

There is no sugarcoating this fact: Ohio State is not a good offensive basketball team. Besides an impressively low steal percentage-against (helpful mainly for setting up that lethally efficient halfcourt defense), there is no true strength within its offensive statistical profile. When DeShaun Thomas and his prodigious offensive production departed for the professional ranks last offseason, most suspected the Buckeyes would struggle to score points as a result. There was hope that junior LaQuinton Ross might be ready to assume a good chunk of Thomas’ production, but while Ross is the Bucks’ leading scorer at 14.1 points per game, he has proven not to be another Thomas. Ross has shot the ball well from three-point range (41%), but a higher-than-preferred turnover rate (12.5%), paired with middling percentages on two-point field goals (44%) and from the charity stripe (68%) has left, for Thad Matta and his offensively challenged team, a lot to be desired. While the optimist would suggest Ross has some room for growth here in the back end of the season (he does have the natural tools to make it happen), the realist here will remind you that we aren’t talking about a player five games into his freshman season. To a large extent, Ross likely is what he is; namely, not DeShaun Thomas. With a dearth of offensive options elsewhere on the roster, that reality also means that the Buckeyes won’t be redefining themselves anytime soon. This isn’t, and won’t become, an elite offensive unit.

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Is The Pac-12 The Nation’s Best Conference?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 2nd, 2014

A week ago now, Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com tried to determine which was the best basketball conference in America this year. He broke down overall records, record vs. top 25 RPI, record vs. top 50 KenPom, record vs. the top 10 conferences, and more. The numbers have changed a bit since then, what with an extra week of games, but the post is still worth a look as conference play has tipped off in earnest this week. Below, we’ll reference those numbers and some of his findings as we try to determine the answer to the following question — Is the Pac-12 really in the hunt for the title of best conference in the nation?

Is The Pac-12 The Best Conference? Here's A Hint: Probably Not

Is The Pac-12 The Best Conference? Here’s A Hint: Probably Not

First, understand that this exercise is really sort of meaningless. Conferences don’t advance to the Final Four or win national championships – teams do. And depending on what criteria you’re looking for, you can make all sorts of arguments as to which league is the best. Is it more important to have a grouping of elite teams; or do you want to have a big chunk of teams that are good; or are you impressed by conferences where the bottom quarter of the league is capable of beating anybody? (Note: if you are interested in that last criterion, feel free to throw the Pac-12 with its triumvirate of Oregon State, Washington State and Washington out.) But it is a fun argument to have over a few cold beverages, or over Twitter or, really, anywhere. So, why does the Pac-12 deserve to be in this discussion?

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Key Questions to Answer in Advance of the Iowa-Iowa St. Matchup

Posted by Brendan Brody & Brian Goodman on December 13th, 2013

One of the best games of the weekend should take place in Ames, Iowa, on Friday night, as Iowa State hosts Iowa for state bragging rights. Big Ten correspondent Brendan Brody and the Big 12′s Brian Goodman decided to address some key questions heading into the contest in the hopes of providing some insights for the viewers to watch for as the game plays out.

Roy Devyn Marble will play a vital role if the Hawkeyes want to pull off a road upset against Iowa State Friday night (Joe Camporeale, USA Today Sports).

Roy Devyn Marble will play a vital role if the Hawkeyes want to pull off a road upset against Iowa State Friday night (Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports).

B12: Iowa State has risen to the Top 25 and is getting contributions from a number of players, but what is Iowa’s best bet to contain the three-headed monster of Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang, and DeAndre Kane?

B1G: The best way that Iowa can do this is to force turnovers and bad shots with their diamond press that they employ on a good number of possessions. Aaron White and Mike Gesell are the key defensive players here, with White’s length a problem for Iowa State at the head of the press. Gesell harassed Farleigh Dickinson’s best guard, Sidney Sanders, into a 5-of-17, four-turnover evening recently, so look for him to start off on Kane to try to force similar results. Another advantage the Hawkeyes have is strength in numbers. They have multiple players who they can rotate in and out to cover each of the Cyclones’ Big Three. Speaking of which, Iowa has one of the deepest teams in the country, with 10 players averaging over 15 MPG. How can the Cyclones negate this Iowa advantage?

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To Reach Its Goals, Illinois Needs More Than Rayvonte Rice

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 5th, 2013

The game was over. The picture was clear — with a 12-point lead at Georgia Tech and less than seven minutes left, the Illini were going to move to 8-0 on the season and make it five straight wins against the ACC in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. And it was all going to be because of Rayvonte Rice. He had built the big lead for Illinois from a three-point halftime deficit by scoring 15 points in the second half, including a 10-0 run of his own making. He was his usual aggressive self: driving to the basket, getting to the line, and creating fast breaks from steals. But once the Yellow Jackets adjusted their defense to take away those scoring opportunities for the redshirt junior, Rice’s teammates put on a show themselves — one of passivity and fecklessness that would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. From that point, Georgia Tech went on a 19-4 run to close out the game and notch its first Challenge win since 2006. In order for the Illini to put this collapse behind them and eventually get back to the NCAA Tournament in March, someone other than Rice will have to evolve into a consistent second option.

Rayvonte Rice went off for 24 points, but was unable to get help from his teammates to secure a win.

Rayvonte Rice went off for 24 points, but was unable to get help from his teammates to secure a win.

In the final six minutes of the game, the Illlini (at least those without Rice on the back of their jersey) went 1-of-9 from the field, including an oh-fer from deep, and committed two poorly-timed turnovers. With Rice unable to affect the game, this left the door open for players like Tracy Abrams, Joseph Bertrand and Jon Ekey to carry the load and seal the win. None of this group were aggressive in trying to find their own shot and it seemed as if the team’s game plan was to simply run out the clock. Particularly disappointing was Abrams who was instrumental in willing Illinois to a win over IPFW last Friday, scoring eight of his 15 points in crucial moments of the second half. As the player with the most big game experience (he leads the Illini in career minutes), and as someone known for his toughness and moxie, he managed only to take one shot (not including the final prayer at the buzzer) while Georgia Tech was storming back.

In previous outings, it has been either Abrams, Bertrand or Ekey who has stepped up to complement the steady hand, Rice. But none of these three players have proven they can be consistent scoring threats on any given night — all three players have had multiple single-figure scoring outings this season. Therefore, the scouting report is out on the Illini — focus on stopping #24 and let someone else beat you. In order to get to the other side of the bubble by March, John Groce is going to need to motivate one of his other talented but inconsistent players to become this year’s D.J. Richardson to Rice’s Brandon Paul.

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Four Thoughts on Indiana’s Loss to Syracuse

Posted by Max Jakubowski on December 4th, 2013

Indiana was dismantled by Syracuse Tuesday evening, 69-52. The Hoosiers were looking to avenge last season’s Sweet Sixteen loss in the NCAA Tournament, but that lengthy Syracuse 2-3 zone stumped Tom Crean’s offense again. Here are four thoughts on last night’s game and what it means for Indiana going forward.

The Rematch Looked a Lot Like the Original. (Getty)

The rematch looked a lot like the original. (Getty)

  1. Yogi Ferrell and Noah Vonleh led Indiana with 12 and 17 points, respectively, but after that there was minimal offensive production from the other Hoosiers. Senior Will Sheehey really struggled from the field, going 1-of-7 and finishing with only three points. Ferrell will get his from long-range shooting and Vonleh can finish on the blocks and on putbacks, but Sheehey has to give Tom Crean another offensive weapon for this team to be successful. Over the previous two seasons, IU hadn’t faced a problem of offensive inconsistency, with players like Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo able to create their own shots. This season, the veteran Sheehey needs to really improve as a three-point threat to keep the offense flowing (he’s shooting a career-low 21.7 percent). With Sheehey also Indiana’s best on-ball defender, it’s proving tough for him to transition from defense to offense.
  2. One way to beat a 2-3 zone is shooting from beyond the arc. Indiana didn’t follow through on that tip, shooting a dreary 28 percent in last night’s game. Last year, the Hoosiers had four players who shot over 40 percent from distance. This year, Ferrell has the highest percentage at 38 percent, and he was the only one to make a three against Syracuse (4-of-7). Sheehey can normally knock down perimeter shots and freshmen Collin Hartman and Troy Williams can shoot as well, but the key shooter is sophomore Jeremy Hollowell.  Hollowell resembles his former teammate Christian Watford; a big, athletic wing who can stretch defenses with his bombs. The problem is that Hollowell only attempted one three-point shot against Syracuse; he needs to become more than just a specialty guy when he’s on the floor 29 minutes for Tom Crean’s team. Read the rest of this entry »
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Fabulous Freshmen Usher in Next Era for Indiana

Posted by Todd Keryc (@tkeryc) on November 22nd, 2013

Todd Keryc (@tkeryc) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday night’s game between Washington and Indiana in New York.

Even the elite programs of college basketball will not contend for a national championship every year. There are ebbs and flows within every program, like when the big recruiting class gives you hope and the devastation when your superstar leaves prematurely. If everything goes well, the top programs will always contend but can only make a legitimate run at the title every few years. Last season was supposed to be that year for Indiana. They had Player of the Year candidates in Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. They had experienced seniors in Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls. They had depth, shooting, size and they spent several weeks at the top of the polls.

wash indiana 2ksports

Indiana

The Hoosiers also went cold at the wrong time, bombing out to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. Now, Oladipo is trying to figure out how to take care of the ball with the Orlando Magic. Zeller is trying to finally break into double figures for the Charlotte Bobcats. Watford and Hulls are only present in the record books, no longer on the court. No one expects Indiana to seriously contend for a national championship this season.

Yet last night against Washington at Madison Square Garden, Indiana showed it may not be too long before the Hoosiers are back near the top, and that was thanks to the presence of two promising freshmen, Noah Vonleh and Troy Williams. Vonleh is a long, skinny post player who can be devastatingly active on the glass when he chooses. Physically, he looks like a younger Chris Bosh but he plays a different game, staying closer to the basket and doing his damage on the boards. Indiana plays a similar style to last season with Yogi Ferrell pushing the tempo and attacking defenses, but unlike that group spearheaded by Zeller, they do not spend a lot of time working the ball into the post. Right now Vonleh is left to find scoring opportunities from offensive rebounds and the occasional pick-and-roll finish.

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