RTC Top 25: Preseason Edition

Posted by KDoyle on November 9th, 2012

And so it begins. The time of year where we hear familiar voices on the television, faces on the floor, and our teams finally playing games that count in the standings. It is a beautiful time, indeed. With the games commencing in mere hours, we officially unveil RTC’s Preseason Top 25. In the future, you can expect our poll to come out every Monday morning. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick ‘n dirty analysis that takes a deeper dive into how the teams shake out #1-#25. To see how we did last year, check out our 2011-12 preseason poll—some right on the money (North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State), and others not so much (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M). The QnD after the jump…

 

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Bradley Beal

Posted by EJacoby on June 25th, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Bradley Beal

School: Florida

Height/Weight: 6’4” / 205 lbs.

NBA Position: Shooting Guard

Projected Draft Range: High Lottery

Beal has a complete offensive arsenal at his disposal (AP Photo)

Overview: Bradley Beal is the 2012 draft’s top guard prospect due to his ability to score from anywhere on the floor as well as his elite athletic tools that can make him an impact player on both ends. He averaged 14.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game during a solid freshman campaign for Florida, finishing as the top rebounding guard in the SEC. He’s a thick, athletic guard with a beautiful outside stroke which should produce far better than the 33.9% he shot from deep last season. For someone who draws comparison to a young Ray Allen, Beal’s three-point and free throw (76.9%) shooting numbers are not yet on that level, though he displays terrific mechanics and was just 18 years old playing over 34 minutes per game in the SEC. His Combine test results did not stand out from the pack, but remember that he won’t even turn 19 years old until draft night and already displays ideal strength and speed for his position with above-average explosiveness. He has NBA-plus range on the shot, really excels as a mid-range slasher, and already draws fouls at a solid rate. He hasn’t mastered how to score efficiently with all these tools and he doesn’t yet display crafty finishes around the basket, but he’s great in transition and displayed decent playmaking ability for a two-guard. It’s the full package with Beal. Defensively he has solid strength and lateral quickness and appears to show a terrific work ethic to improve. He can block shots and rack up steals with his great anticipation and athleticism – plus he was a fantastic defensive rebounder for a guard. There’s much to like about Beal but he has not yet stood out as a dominant player in workouts or in games, so he’s still going to need proper development to reach his potential.

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Olympic Basketball as an Under-23 Affair: Who Are the Top Candidates for 2016?

Posted by EJacoby on June 22nd, 2012

In the 20th anniversary year of the original 1992 ‘Dream Team,’ USA Basketball is once again sending a team of elite NBA players in search of the 2012 gold medal. But could this become the final time we see such a collection of professional stars? Rumblings over the past few weeks from all corners of college, pro, and international basketball suggest that Team USA will instead send younger players to the Olympics, perhaps through the old school method of all amateurs or rather in a new combination of college and young pros. The most likely scenario includes an all Under-23 squad, resembling the way the USA selects for its Olympic soccer teams. CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, among others, has highlighted what Team USA would look like this year if it was an Under-23 team. But any new method would not take place until the next Summer Olympics in 2016, so what would that team potentially look like? In order to qualify for the Under-23 team four years from now, only players who are 19 or younger right now could be under consideration. Today we take a look at some of the best candidates, considering both current accomplishments and potential future growth.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would qualify for the 2016 Olympics if Team USA goes with an Under 23 approach (AP Photo)

A quick 15-man list of the top 19-or-younger players goes as follows:

  1. Anthony Davis
  2. Tony Wroten
  3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
  4. Bradley Beal
  5. Andre Drummond
  6. Quincy Miller
  7. Nerlens Noel
  8. Shabazz Muhammad
  9. Cody Zeller
  10. James Michael McAdoo
  11. Kyle Anderson
  12. Jabari Parker
  13. Julius Randle
  14. Andrew Harrison
  15. Andrew Wiggins

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SEC Weekly Five: 06.15.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on June 15th, 2012

  1. On Thursday, multiple outlets reported that ACC All-Freshman forward Dorian Finney-Smith would leave Virginia Tech for Florida. Finney-Smith averaged 6.3 points and 7 rebounds for the Hokie, but left after Seth Greenberg was fired. Finney-Smith will be eligible to play for the Gators beginning in 2013-14.
  2. As Missouri winds down its countdown to joining the SEC, a story broke this week surrounding Levi Coolley’s involvement with the team. Coolley “who had previously flown on the team plane and received complimentary tickets from players was arrested by the FBI at the Tigers’ hotel in Omaha, Neb.” as the Tigers were about the Norfolk State in the NCAA Tournament. Following the arrest, Missouri launched an internal investigation and “found Coolley had no improper influence on players and did not give players gifts in exchange for the complimentary tickets.”
  3. Former Kentucky star Terrence Jones passed on turning pro a season ago citing a desire to win a national title. However, in a Monday story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Wildcats coach John Calipari  said Jones “had a second motive: to refine both his game and attitude, improving his NBA draft position in the process.” Based on how Jones capped his sophomore season, he looks to have to secured his spot in the lottery, possibly as high as seventh.
  4. As more non-conference games get finalized, Tennessee and Xavier announced the start of a home-and-home  series that will begin in Knoxville in December. For the Musketeers, this game represents their second against an SEC foe this upcoming season. They will face Vanderbilt in a return contest following last year’s overtime contest played in Nashville.
  5. With the NBA Draft less than two weeks away, there exists the real possibility that the SEC could have players selected 1-2-3 with Anthony Davis as the presumed top pick followed by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal going to Charlotte and Washington in some order. No league has even boasted the top two picks since 1999 when Elton Brand (Duke) and Steve Francis (Maryland) out of the ACC topped the draft. The ACC was also the last league to have the top three picks of any one draft. In 1986, Brad Daugherty (UNC) went No. 1 to Cleveland; Boston selected Maryland’s Len Bias followed by NC State’s Chris Washburn going to Golden State.
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Can Harrison Barnes Put His Elite Combine Scores To Use On the Court?

Posted by EJacoby on June 14th, 2012

On Monday we analyzed this year’s NBA Draft Combine physical measurements, highlighting several players who posted notable numbers. Today we have a chance to dissect the athletic testing results, in which the Chicago Combine puts all competitors through a series of agility drills and strength assessments, enabling scouts to see which players display the greatest raw athletic ability. There’s probably more to gather from the testing portion as compared to the measurement sets, but the same rule applies that it’s difficult to draw any direct conclusions about how a player will translate his raw physical attributes into a live game setting. There’s no better example of that than Harrison Barnes, who developed a reputation during his two years at North Carolina as primarily a jump shooter, someone who doesn’t attack the basket as much as he prefers to face up on defenders and shoot pull-ups. But at the Combine, Barnes was the single most impressive athlete in camp. In the testing portion involving 52 competitors, he finished with the greatest vertical jump and fastest full sprint while cracking the top 10 of the bench press. Though Barnes was an effective scorer in college, his unwillingness to attack the basket was concerning. Barnes’ raw numbers at the Combine are suggestive that he should have greater success attacking in transition and getting to the rim than he did. But can he put his athleticism to use most effectively during the flow of the game at the next level? That’s the question NBA scouts are now asking themselves.

There’s reason to believe Harrison Barnes can be a more efficient offensive player (AP Photo)

Barnes finished third in the ACC in scoring last season at 17.1 PPG on a team loaded with other offensive weapons, so it’s not like he failed to produce offensively as a Tar Heel. But digging deeper into his numbers, his overall efficiency output matched what the film showed, which is that he didn’t capitalize on his touches nearly as much as he could have. Barnes’ offensive rating (measuring a player’s point output per 100 possessions) of 108.1 did not even crack the top 20 in his conference, meaning that he didn’t produce points at a very high level given the amount of possessions that went his way. Given his great size (6’7″ without shoes), Barnes can shoot over defenders nearly any time he wants in the mid-range, but he decided to make that his go-to move in college. His true shooting percentage of 52.8% as a sophomore was very average for someone with his skill set and shooting ability. Also consider that his free throw rate (measuring FTA divided by FGA) of 37.4% didn’t crack the ACC’s top 20. If he can become more aggressive then there is clearly much room for growth in Barnes’ offensive game, the one thing that could propel him to make a leap to become a great NBA player.

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Won and Done… Kentucky Roster Undergoes Yearly Overhaul

Posted by EMoyer on April 18th, 2012

On Tuesday evening, the worst kept secret was revealed as Kentucky’s five heralded underclassmen, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague all declared for June’s NBA Draft. The five brings the total to 15 of John Calipari recruits to leave early since 2008.

It Was All Smiles For This Group in Lexington

Eight of the previous 10 went on to become first round picks and two (John Wall and Derrick Rose) went No. 1 overall. Both the mock drafts at NBADraft.net and on ESPN.com have all five Wildcats going in the first round. DraftExpress.com lists four Wildcats going in the first round with Lamb currently an early second-round choice. According to all three sites, Davis will join Wall and Rose as top overall picks. They also agree that Kidd-Gilchrist projects as a top three pick and two (ESPN.com and DraftExpress.com) put Jones in the lottery.

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Morning Five: 04.16.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 16th, 2012

  1. Even though there were a handful of players who could be considered potential early entry candidates after the April 10 soft deadline and before the April 29 hard deadline most of them were considered sure things to declare for the NBA Draft. Perhaps the most significant of those players who could have been realistically considered as being on the fence was Bradley Beal. On Friday, the Florida freshman ended any speculation as he announced that he would be declaring for the NBA Draft. Beal’s departure adds to the extra space in the once crowded Gator backcourt, but unlike some other individuals there really is no addition by subtraction as the Gator’s will miss Beal’s dynamic mix of talent. As for Beal, expect to see him gone in the first ten picks and more likely in the top five depending on what order teams are drafting in.
  2. The exodus from Storrs continued late last week as Alex Oriakhi announced that he would be transferring to Missouri from the imploding Connecticut program. Oriakhi, who will be able to play immediately next season for Missouri after Connecticut’s 2013 NCAA Tournament ban was upheld, will be part of an entirely different Tiger team than the one that you saw this season as a significant portion of the team graduated while they are bringing in a handful of talented newcomers. Oriakhi should be able to mitigate some of the problems that the Tigers had on the inside last season, but it will be up to Frank Haith to reinvent the team with its new pieces.
  3. With Trent Johnson headed to TCU, the administration at LSU did not waste much time finding his replacement as they hired Johnny Jones, the head coach at North Texas, to replace him. Although Jones was not LSU’s first choice he should appeal to many LSU fans as a former player and two Final Four appearances at the school (one as a player and another as an assistant under Dale Brown). Jones also lead North Texas to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances as a head coach. Jones does inherit a decent LSU team, but he also leaves behind a solid North Texas team including Tony Mitchell, who had stated his intent to come back to North Texas for his sophomore season, but that may change with a new coaching staff to play under next season.
  4. Florida International may not have had much success on the court recently, but they know how to move the needle with their coaching hires. After firing Isiah Thomas, the school has decided to name Richard Pitino as its next head coach. Richard, who is best known as the son of Rick and was acting as an assistant at Louisville, will be taking his first job as a head coach at the age of 29, which might seem young until you consider that his father got his start at the age of 26 at Boston University although that was a very different era. When Isiah left he claimed that the pieces were in place for the next coach to succeed so the onus on Richard now.
  5. It seems like every few months a rumor comes to life about Larry Brown taking over as the head coach at some destination whether it is in the NBA, college, or even high school. The latest rumor, and one that has been picking up a lot of steam, is that Brown might become the next head coach at Southern Methodist. On the surface it seems ludicrous having a Hall of Fame coach, one who has titles at both the NCAA and NBA levels and perhaps more importantly one who will be 72 before the season starts, take over at SMU, a school that lacks any recent basketball success. It is also a school that will be heading to the Big East in 2013. Given Brown’s age and his tendency to have relatively short stays, his coaching staff could be a big story and we have heard several prominent names mentioned as potential assistants. Still we are having a hard time getting our heads wrapped around Brown being the head coach at SMU and the likely media circus that would follow.
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Complete NBA Draft List: After NCAA Deadline, Who’s Staying and Who’s Going?

Posted by EJacoby on April 10th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

In a rule that makes absolutely no sense, today (April 10) marks the new official date that college players had to withdraw their names from the NBA Draft pool if they wanted to return back to school with eligibility and had previously declared for draft entry. It’s the NCAA’s deadline. That means that all of the guys who declared since the end of the season (Kendall Marshall, Jared Sullinger, and Meyers Leonard to name a few) had to decide by today whether to forgo their NCAA eligibilities. But the NBA’s own deadline isn’t until April 29, meaning that players can still declare for the draft, but just can’t withdraw anymore and retain college eligibility. Essentially, it just means that “testing the waters” is now done, so if a player enters the draft from here then he is gone for good. Yes, it’s confusing and makes zero sense, but that’s an issue for another day. Today, we wrap up all of the players who are officially sticking in the NBA Draft, those who decided to return to school, and those that are still undecided until April 29. Here’s the status of all the top non-senior players of college basketball:

After Some Debate, Jared Sullinger Declared for the NBA Draft (AP Photo)

DECLARED - These players have entered their names into the NBA Draft and no longer have college eligibility.

  • Harrison Barnes, North Carolina (Sophomore) – The super-hyped prospect had a strong two seasons but perhaps underachieved in the eyes of many UNC fans. He is a surefire lottery pick and could go in the top five so it’s a smart decision to leave.
  • Jared Sullinger, Ohio State (Sophomore) – Dominant as a Buckeye from day one as a freshman, Sullinger’s NBA stock has slowly dropped over the course of two seasons. It’s his time to go now, but he may be slipping out of the top 10. Everyone seems torn on him, but Sully is too talented of a player to fall out of the lottery.
  • Thomas Robinson, Kansas (Junior) – No-brainer. Robinson was a NPOY candidate, accomplished great things in three years at Kansas and will be a top-five draft pick.
  • Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (Sophomore) – Despite being a stacked draft, this year’s pool severely lacks point guards. Marshall lacks athleticism at the position but is a solid height (6’4”) and has elite passing skills and floor awareness that will translate at the NBA level. Could be a surprise top ten pick, and will probably go in the lottery.
  • Austin Rivers, Duke (Freshman) – Another player that scouts are torn on, many believe that Rivers could have used another year of seasoning at Duke. But his scoring prowess is undeniable and someone will grab his talents likely between picks 10 and 20. Read the rest of this entry »
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SEC Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on March 27th, 2012

  1. South Carolina landed its new head coach, luring Frank Martin from Kansas State to come to Columbia. A strained relationship with his AD has been cited as the reason Martin was looking for a chance. “Frank is just looking to be happy,” a source said in a Kansas City Star report. “He wants to work at a place where he has the full support of his athletic director and president. He wants to be left alone so he can do what he does best — coach.” Martin apparently felt he could no longer do that at K-State.
  2. Mississippi State received news on multiple fronts on Monday. On the player front, the Bulldogs lost a pair of players, Renardo Sidney to the NBA Draft, and DeVille Smith to transfer. A third Bulldog, Arnett Moultrie, has decided to delay his decision until Wednesday on whether he too will leave for the NBA. On the coaching front, one of the rumored candidates to take Rick Stansbury’s former job, Murray State’s Steve Prohm, agreed to a new contract that will extend him there through the 2015-16 season.
  3. On Monday afternoon, the Associated Press released its All-America team and one player earned the acclaim as a unanimous selection – and it wasn’t presumptive Player of the Year Anthony Davis of Kentucky. Of the 65 ballots, he appeared on 63 of them. Scott Reid of the Orange County Register and Scott Mansch of the Great Falls (MT) Tribune were the duo who left Davis off their ballots. As CBS Sports‘ Jeff Borzello wrote “To be honest, that’s mind-boggling. There is absolutely no case that can be made against Davis being a first-team All-American. What’s the logic, other than not simply paying attention? If you believe Robinson is the best player in the country, that’s fine. I disagree – as do most of the Player of the Year awards – but that’s not the point. There are still four other spots on the All-American team – and Davis needs to be on there in some form.”
  4. In six postseason games (two SEC Tournament and four NCAA Tournament games) in which he averaged 16.5 points per game and shot 53.1% (42.9% on threes, one Gainesville Sun writer surmised that Florida freshman Bradley Beal boosted his NBA Draft prospects. “Either way it goes, if I leave, I still played a great year of college,” Beal said before the NCAA Tournament. “I enjoyed it. If I stay, it’s only going to make me get better. Either way it goes, I’m gaining something positive out of it.”
  5. In a season recap on Indiana’s season, the possibility of the Indiana-Kentucky rivalry ending because of SEC expansion merited a couple of paragraphs of attention. From Sunday’s Indianapolis Star: “IU athletic director Fred Glass said Friday morning that the sides have had some preliminary discussion, but it will likely be June before a decision is reached.”
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Rushed Reaction: #4 Louisville 72, #7 Florida 68

Posted by rtmsf on March 24th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Russ Smith Is Just Crazy Enough to Save Louisville. Billy Donovan called Russ Smith “crazy” in the postgame press conference, but he meant it as a compliment. And we were tweeting much the same thing during the game. You just never know what you’re going to get from the talented but playground-wild guard, and there was no better example than when he led his team offensively down the stretch. It was his offense, especially a huge three to cut the Florida from six to three points, that led to the Cardinal comeback; and his wild turnover with Louisville up only one point shows just how volatile he can be.
  2. What Happened to Bradley Beal? Through the first half, Florida guard Bradley Beal was the best player on the floor. He was patient in finding his offense, hitting on 3-of-4 shots including a couple of silky-smooth threes. He made three more shots in the early part of the second half, but after the 13:45 mark he was not heard from again until Russ Smith passed him the ball and he was so shocked he traveled with it in the last minute of the game. Beal was the most talented player on the floor, and for the Gators to get to New Orleans, he was going to have to carry them. Instead, the black hole of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker (combined: 7-21 FGs) once again sunk Billy Donovan’s team.
  3. Nobody Saw This Coming. With no reliable and proven scorer, Rick Pitino has molded his team into a defensive force, and even with Florida shooting an absurd 67% in the first half (including eight three-pointers), it was Louisville’s defense that proved the difference in the last eight minutes of the game. A 65-54 Gator lead became a 72-68 loss, which meant that the Cardinal defense held UF to only three points on 1-12 shooting (and 1-4 from the line) in the most crucial part of the game. Could anyone have imagined that this Louisville team would win the Big East Tournament and make another Final Four without a true star player? It’s inconceivable, and yet, they’re heading to New Orleans.

Star of the Game. Russ Smith, Louisville. As mentioned above, Smith’s energy and offensive prowess gave Louisville just enough to make the successful comeback down the stretch. He ended the game with 19 points and five rebounds (along with four turnovers), but there’s no way that Louisville wins this game without him.

Quotable. “I call hims Russticulous, because he’s ridiculous. He averaged 33 points a game in high school, and he shot eight ridiculous shots a game. I said, ‘can we get to five?’ and then three, and then two…” — Louisville head coach Rick Pitino describing the playground in Russ Smith’s game.

Sights & Sounds. It’s an interesting tradition that both the Louisville and Kentucky bands play My Old Kentucky Home after the game, so could we be treated with both bands doing it next week in New Orleans? If Kentucky wins tomorrow, just go ahead and set the Bluegrass State on fire for the next six days, will ya?

What’s Next? Louisville moves on to its second Final Four in the Rick Pitino era, where it will await Sunday’s game to see whether it will face Kentucky or Louisville. Could we have Dream Game II?

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SEC Morning Five: 03.23.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 23rd, 2012

  1. The coaching search for the vacant Mississippi State job is moving along, even if some of the candidates are still coaching in postseason tournaments. This angered some athletic directors as was pointed out in the SEC Morning Five on Wednesday. While Murray State athletic director Allen Ward didn’t agree with tactics to recruit current Racers’ head coach Steve Prohm, Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said it is common practice for athletic departments to hire search firms to aid in the process. “They can do a lot of groundwork and make connections, especially in a situation where people are playing and you want to be respectful but you also want to put feelers out,”Stricklin said regarding search firms. “I think, sometimes, especially in basketball, that’s helpful.” Candidates being mentioned for the Bulldogs job include Prohm, John Groce (Ohio coach), Chris Collins (Duke assistant coach), Joe Dooley (Kansas assistant coach), Kenny Payne (Kentucky assistant coach) and Frank Martin (Kansas State coach).
  2. As was also pointed out in Wednesday’s SEC Morning Five, Kentucky coach John Calipari has reiterated over and over that he will not use revenge as a motivation factor in the Wildcats’ upcoming game against Indiana. However, former Kentucky guard Cameron Mills points out that while coaches might say all the right things, but “the players are not robots. They are human beings.” Mills said, “nine times out of 10, the coach is saying (publicly) the opposite of what you’re feeling and saying privately.” And he would know a thing or two about  the revenge factor. Mills was on the court (and hit a HUGE shot) in the 1998 NCAA Tournament against Duke that avenged a 1992 loss to the Blue Devils in the Elite Eight. Both Indiana and Kentucky will play hard — it’s the NCAA Tournament. But we all know that the Wildcats have the one point loss in Bloomington in the back of their minds.
  3. There were four key factors in Kentucky’s loss to Indiana that led to the Cats’ demise. Kentucky did not take good care of the basketball (17 turnovers), did not guard the three point shot (Indiana was 9-15), did not limit fouls (Anthony Davis sat on the bench in foul trouble contributing just six points in 24 minutes of play) and did not hit free throws when it mattered most (10-17 from the line). As Calipari said, “that was four months ago,” and both teams look much different in March than they did on December 10th of last year.
  4. Florida freshman Bradley Beal didn’t become a good rebounder from simply always being in the right place at the right time. Some of what motivated Beal was seeing the Gators’ frontcourt players getting outhustled earlier in the year. “I stood around and watched Pat (Young) and all those guys get beat up down there, and I didn’t even try to go after the ball,” Beal said. “I really learned my lesson from that and I believe my rebounding has helped a lot. That’s just another way of me contributing.” And Beal has since made rebounding a priority. He is currently averaging 6.7 rebounds per game, and a cool 10 rebounds per game in the tournament.
  5. Sophomore guard Scottie Wilbekin has been one of the keys in Florida’s recent success. He received playing time for his commitment on the defensive end, but it’s his progress on the other end of the court that has teammates taking notice. “He’s a great defender, but his offense is getting better and better,” said junior Kenny Boynton. Wilbekin isn’t lighting up opposing teams with double digit games, but he has hit a three pointer in each of his last four games. The Gators need all of the defense they can get, but now coach Billy Donovan can place Wilbekin in the game without feeling like he is a liability on the offensive end.
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ATB: Syracuse Survives, OSU Recovers, and Upset City in the West…

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Half of our Elite Eight teams are set, with the East and West regions completing their semifinal matchups on Thursday night. The East Region in Boston finished as expected, with chalk advancing to the Elite Eight in the form of Syracuse and Ohio State for what should be a fantastic regional final on Saturday. But the story in Phoenix was much different, as the favored #1 and #3 seeds went down in games that were dominated by the lower seeds. Only one game on the night finished in single digits but there was plenty of exciting basketball that took place. And the one game that was a close one happened to be one of the Big Dance’s best. Let’s break it down… 

Your Watercooler Moment. Jordan Taylor’s Shot Falls Short, #1 Syracuse Survives.

Wisconsin is Devastated After Coming so Close Against Syracuse (Getty Images/J. Rogash)

Our first game of the night was a classic, one that featured two very different teams that both executed at an extremely high level offensively. Four-seed Wisconsin brought its patented ball-control, super-slow tempo game plan into Boston with hopes of knocking off top-seeded Syracuse with a methodical approach, good shooting, and strong collective defense. But no defense could stop what either team was bringing to the table in this one. The Badgers executed their plan offensively, hitting an amazing 14-27 from three-point range in a wonderful display of outside shooting that would usually be enough for a victory. But the Orange were just as strong on the other end, converting 55.1% of their field goals with easy baskets in the paint from a variety of one-on-one scorers. The two teams combined for just 12 turnovers and this game came down to the very last shot, one that fell short on a long three-point attempt from Jordan Taylor on a broken offensive play. Despite the fairly low 64-63 final score, the game featured crisp execution throughout its entirety. Syracuse was just one possession better, thanks to its easy offense earned through superior athleticism and playmaking in the half court. It’s on to the Elite Eight for the Orange!

Also Worth Chatting About. The First #1-Seed to Fall are Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Everyone knows that March is Michigan State’s month. Tom Izzo has brought the Spartans to six Final Fours in his tenure, and he had never been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament before the final weekend when his team was a #1 seed. That came to an end on Thursday, when Michigan State was outplayed from the start by Rick Pitino’s #4 Louisville Cardinals. The Spartans racked up more turnovers (15) than made field goals (14) while shooting 28.6% from the field. Louisville was too athletic and strong defensively, essentially beating Michigan State at its own game. The Cardinals won the battle on the boards, in the turnover margin, and from behind the arc (they shot 9-23 compared to 5-21 for MSU). Gorgui Dieng racked up seven blocks and three steals to go along with nine rebounds in an elite defensive performance, and Peyton Siva ran the offense well with nine assists. Izzo’s March mystique could not get his players to put the ball in the basket, and our first #1 seed finally goes down.

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