Set Your TiVo: 12.16.11 to 12.18.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 16th, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

With Dead Week mercifully over, we finally have some good games to enjoy this Saturday despite Sunday being a very slow day in the hoops world.

#6 Baylor @ BYU – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on BYU TV (****)

Perry Jones Leads Baylor into Provo Saturday (AP)

  • The Bears have had difficulty on the road in past seasons but they already passed one important test, demolishing Northwestern in Chicago a couple weeks ago. This game, however, will be an even better measure to see where the highly-rated Bears are really at. The Marriott Center is a notoriously difficult place to play but Baylor has a clear talent edge in this game. BU welcomes Gary Franklin, now eligible after the first semester, to an already highly skilled roster. Franklin didn’t play all that well at California last season but he was a four star recruit out of high school. He should help the Bears out at the point guard position, a place where turnovers are still an issue. Baylor averages 16 turnovers a game and that will be dangerous playing on the road against a team like BYU that likes to push the pace. 5.8 of those 16 turnovers come from the point guard position so Scott Drew is hoping that Franklin can help handle the ball. How Franklin will fit in alongside Pierre Jackson and A.J. Walton remains a question mark.
  • BYU’s top six scorers are all 6’5” or taller, an important factor against the length and athleticism of Baylor’s front line. Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and Charles Abouo do the bulk of the damage for Dave Rose, as those three are his top scorers and rebounders. Hartsock in particular has been outstanding, scoring in double figures in every game thus far. All three will have to play well in order for BYU to pull the upset because Baylor’s front court is strong, deep and talented. With Quincy Acy blocking 3.3 shots a game, BYU’s big men should find it more difficult to score inside on Saturday. The Cougars have to get their outside game going as well. Baylor’s defense is very average against the three and BYU has three big deep threats, Abouo, Stephen Rogers and Brock Zylstra. Going up against the top-ranked interior defense in the nation, BYU needs its outside shots to fall in order to win. However, the Cougars can’t afford to settle for threes if they aren’t falling. They must get something going in the paint, even against such a strong defense, in order to balance out their offense.
  • This is an important game for both clubs. Baylor has played only two teams of note so far while BYU’s best win is over a mediocre Oregon team. Baylor shoots well (49.1% FG) but the biggest difference this season has been its defense. The Bears allow only 33.3% shooting inside the arc and their defensive efficiency has been terrific. Both teams get most of their offense from their respective front courts but Baylor may have the ultimate edge with Cory Jefferson off the bench. He adds some scoring punch and, more importantly, rebounding and depth for the Bears. For the Cougars to win, they’ll have to force turnovers to get points in transition because it’ll be awfully tough to score inside in the half court. In addition to making its threes, BYU must rebound well and get to the line while putting the Baylor big men in foul trouble. However, BYU ranks #295 in free throw rate and Baylor doesn’t foul too often. Although BYU rarely loses at home, this is a game Baylor can win. There are some who still doubt the Bears but a win here would put them on their way towards legitimate national recognition.

Texas A&M vs. #10 Florida (at Sunrise, FL) – 2:30 PM EST Saturday on FSN (***)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

BYU’s Brandon Davies Keeps His Profile Low, Productivity High

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

Kraig Williams is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between BYU and Weber State in Provo.

You don’t have to be a huge college basketball fan to know the story of Brandon Davies last season. As the calendar turned from February to March, BYU was America’s darling. The team was ranked #3 in the nation and had vanquished conference foe and #4 San Diego State on the road in its last outing.

Davies Is Back on the Team and Keeping a Low Profile (Salt Lake Tribune)

The national spotlight that had shown so brightly on BYU quickly turned into an interrogation lamp with the news that Davies had been kicked off the team and out of school for an honor code violation. The violation was widely reported as him having premarital sex with an undetermined female. [ed. note: the actual facts surrounding the honor code violation remain unknown to us at this time, and we make no further claim as to the identification this female or any other sexual partner.] Something that would be so commonplace at many colleges and universities around the country ended Davies season in March and consequently sparked a firestorm of national debate regarding BYU’s honor code. Without him in the post,  the Cougars still went on to have a dream season before being knocked out in the Sweet Sixteen by Florida.

Whether you believe Davies deserved the punishment or not, he accepted it without complaint.  After the season ended, Davies quietly went about getting himself reinstated to the university and did just that and on August 26 when he was readmitted for the fall semester. When BYU had its first exhibition game against Midwestern State in late October, Davies was noticeably cheered louder than the rest of the starting lineup. The BYU faithful had forgiven and forgotten, his sins had been redeemed, and basketball could again become the focus.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Life After Jimmer: How Has BYU Moved On This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

Kraig Williams is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Oregon vs. BYU game on Saturday.

Both figuratively and literally, the shadow of Jimmer Fredette looms large over the BYU program.  Last year’s National Player of the Year has not missed a Cougar game yet this season. Fredette has taken up a permanent spot behind the BYU bench while waiting for his professional career to begin later this month with the Sacramento Kings. From the best seat in the house, Jimmer watched the new-look Cougars easily handle Oregon at Energy Solutions Arena on Saturday, 79-65.

The Looming Presence of Jimmer Hangs Over the BYU Program

It would be natural to assume that the Cougars would struggle to replace the offense of a guy who led the nation in 2010-11 with nearly 29 points a contest. Early into the new season, though, you wouldn’t even know the difference looking at the numbers. When looking at the tempo-free statistics, the BYU offense has hummed right along. The Fredette-led Cougars were the nation’s 16th most efficient offense last year, averaging 1.102 points per possession. In early results this year, BYU has slipped all the way down to 1.101 points per possession. That .001 loss moves them to 29th in the nation this year. Dave Rose’s team plays a little bit slower than last year’s run-and-gun model (down to 70 possessions from 72 last year), and consequently it doesn’t average quite as many points. However, that is more likely just the result of games against Utah State and Wisconsin early in the season, two of the slowest-paced schools in the country.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 11.10.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 10th, 2011

  1. After the ongoing fiasco at Penn State we have become a little numb to old-fashion college sports scandals, but Central Florida appears to be embroiled in a pretty big one. Yesterday, the NCAA delivered its 16-page notice of allegations to the school, which led athletic director Keith Tribble to resign and men’s basketball coach Donnie Jones to be suspended for three conference games. According to reports, the NCAA is alleging that a recruiter for a sports agency paid for tuition and travel expenses for players and recruits. The recruiter and his associate reportedly brought in six basketball players and five football players to the program with Jones and other high-level people in the UCF program being aware of the illegal actions and doing nothing about it. On the bright side for Jones, he was the only one who was not cited for an ethics violation (lying to the NCAA). As Mike Bianchi writes, “At least it’s not Penn State.”
  2. When BYU suspended center Brandon Davies for violating its “Honor Code” last season plenty of people chimed in with their thoughts on the matter, but one person we had not heard from was Davies himself. That is until yesterday. For his part, Davies claims to feel that he was “definitely treated more than fair”. While some will argue with this saying that Davies does not really have any choice but to say that we would argue like we did last March that Davies entered into the contract knowing what the expectations were and that he broke that contract so he should have expected repercussions.
  3. Speaking of contracts that may carry repercussions, yesterday was the first day that recruits could sign their National Letter of Intent. Despite our warning, many top recruits signed these documents that are only binding on their end, but not binding for the university or the coach. Things went about as expected with Arizona being the big winner. One surprise was that Gary Harris, one of the top shooting guards in the class, committed to Michigan State spurning his home state schools (Indiana and Purdue).
  4. In September, we introduced you to Damiene Cain, the highly touted recruit who turned down a Division I basketball scholarship to focus on academics. It turns out that we may have been wrong as now Cain might end up playing for Colorado and that medical issues may have been the actual reason that he left the team in the first place. Normally, we would expect a coach to hesitate to take a player back if he had left the team previously unless he really did leave for medical reasons, but Tad Boyle could really use some help inside and Cain would certainly add some depth on a thin Colorado team. We don’t expect Boyle to make a decision for a few weeks so don’t be surprised if Cain isn’t in a Colorado uniform until after conference play begins.
  5. What happens when you are really bad at your job? You probably get fired and hope to collect your pension assuming that some idiotic portfolio manager has not made some bad investments. In the world of corporate America and big-time college sports that is not always the case. Take Jeff Capel, the former coach at Oklahoma, who was fired this year after back-to-back losing seasons (in the post-Blake Griffin era where it is a lot harder to win without a player who is twice as good as everybody else on the court). Documents released yesterday revealed that in addition to collecting four extra months of salary after being fired in March, Capel also received two additional payments in excess of $1.75 million. The four extra months of salary and an additional $1.25 million (his base salary over the five years remaining on his contract) were part of his original contract, but we are not sure where the extra $504,000 came from and apparently the school is unwilling to release any additional information about his buyout. Nice work if you can get it.
Share this story

Morning Five: 05.17.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 17th, 2011

  1. Late last night news broke that Arizona point guard Lamont “Momo” Jones had decided to transfer and was likely headed back to the New York City area. Although Jones has not issued a statement about his transfer, Arizona coach Sean Miller has confirmed the reports that was indeed transferring. There has been plenty of speculation about why he was transferring, but much of it has centered around either his desire to go home to be near a sick family relative (reportedly his grandmother) or the logjam in a Arizona backcourt that will be loaded even without Jones, who averaged 9.7 PPG and 2.4 APG as a sophomore. We will have more on this story throughout the day as it develops.
  2. Later today Valparaiso is expected to name Bryce Drew as the successor to his father Homer Drew as the next coach of the program that he helped make famous. This is not the first time that Homer has stepped aside to let his son take over the program. In 2002, Homer stepped aside to let Scott Drew take over as coach at VU, but he stayed there just one year before leaving to take over at Baylor following the Dave Bliss era. Homer stepped back into his previous position where he has remained despite failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the past seven seasons. Bryce has served as an assistant at the school since 2005, but is best known for his miraculous shot against Mississippi in the 1st round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament and leading them to the school to its only Sweet 16 appearance.
  3. Last summer UNLV had to deal with domestic violence charges against its top returning scorer (Tre’Von Willis) and it appears that this summer it will have to deal with DUI charges against its top returning scorer (Chace Stanback). Stanback was arrested early on Friday near the Thomas & Mack Center on suspicion of driving under the influence. He is out of custody and is expected to appear in court on August 11. It will be interesting to see how new coach Dave Rice deals with the arrest both before and after the court appearance. Rice comes from a strict program at BYU (remember Brandon Davies), but he was also on the Jerry Tarkanian teams of the early 90s that had a more laissez-faire approach to punishment.
  4. One of the bigger stories in the college basketball world yesterday was Dana O’Neill’s story about former Villanova guard Will Sheridan publicly announcing that he was a homosexual. While we understand that this will be a big story and undoubtedly generate a lot of page views for ESPN, we are looking forward to the day when this isn’t even a story. The column itself is pretty interesting and takes an in-depth look at Sheridan’s life after Villanova, but the most interesting thing to us is that his teammates knew about it and didn’t seem to care. In our mind, that seems to be the biggest obstacle for a player “coming out” while they are still active. The fear of being ostracized seems to be within the realm of possibility and we have to applaud the Villanova players who were aware of it for how they handled “the news” and never let it get out or seem to bother them as we have seen with the recent Kobe Bryant controversy that there are still many ingrained attitudes about homosexuality that may be difficult to break in the world of sports.
  5. President Obama welcomed the national champion UConn Huskies to the White House. Unlike some recent championship ceremonies this one was without controversy although Kemba Walker apparently had a tough time getting there as he missed one flight and had another flight delayed before eventually finding his way to Washington, DC. The ceremony itself was fairly mundane except for a few jokes that Obama made about how UConn reminded him of his busted bracket (he picked Kansas to win) and his difficulty with the name of Adolph Rupp.
Share this story

Morning Five: 04.25.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2011

  1. At Midnight ET last night, the NBA’s draft entry deadline passed.  Although we won’t know for certain all the players who announced their intentions to test the waters until the league releases its certified list later this week, there were a few others over the weekend who announced they’re going to give it a shot.  Texas stars Jordan Hamilton and Cory Josephannounced that they would join teammate Tristan Thompson in the draft pool, with the latter two electing to not sign with an agent.  Thompson (along with Hamilton) is projected as a top 20 pick and is expected to stay in the draft, while Joseph is in a more precarious spot.  If he doesn’t appear to become a first-rounder, we’d expect to see him back in Austin next season to team with Myck Kabongo to form one of the best backcourts in all of college basketball.  Another late addition to the draft pool was Georgetown small forward Hollis Thompson, a bit of a surprise to most observers but one which nearly everyone expects will be a temporary situation — he has not signed with an agent and is not projected as a  first or second round pick on any major draft board at this time.
  2. Miami (FL) confirmed on Friday evening that Jim Larranagawould be their new head coach, taking over for Frank Haith.  While some have derided the age of Larranaga as a major barrier to the rebuilding project in Coral Gables, Mike DeCourcy doesn’t believe that will matter much.  He cites Jim Calhoun, Coach K, and Roy Williams as the last three national championship coaches, all of whom are in Larranaga’s age bracket, but we think he fails to adequately recognize that it will take the 61-year old coach at least a year or two to get his feet wet recruiting in South Florida.  While it’s true that he’ll inherit a solid Hurricane team with most of its top players back, the group finished ninth last season in a historically bad ACC, and we’re of the opinion that younger go-getters such as Steve Donahue (BC), Brad Brownell (Clemson) and Brian Gregory (Georgia Tech) are better positioned to move up the conference ladder in coming years.
  3. We know that you were waiting with baited breath on the ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court on how the NCAA handles its public ticket sales for the Final Four, and the decision came down Friday.  You will be thrilled to learn that the court found in a unanimous ruling that the NCAA’s lottery method of selecting the chosen few to dole out $150 for ducats to the sport’s marquee event is not illegal.  A similar case currently sits at the federal level in the 7th Circuit US Court of Appeals, but no ruling has been made in that one yet.
  4. UConn sophomore Jamal Coombs-McDanielwas arrested along with two other individuals for possession of 5.6 grams of marijuana in a dorm room on Thursday night.  That night was the kickoff to an annual UConn rite known as Spring Weekend, a campus-wide party prior to final exams in coming weeks, and JCD apparently was doing his part to liven the place up.  He faces both a possession and a drug paraphernalia charge for his role in the crimes, and we’d expect to see him doing some hardcore community service in and around Storrs in the near future.
  5. Speaking of players behaving badly, BYU’s Brandon Davies, he of the school honor code violation involving premarital canoodling, is expected to “meet conditions so he’ll be eligible” to return to school for the fall semester.  This is great news for a BYU program facing the losses of NPOY Jimmer Fredette and secondary stars Jackson Emery, Kyle Collinsworth (Mormon mission), and two other players as it moves to the WCC in basketball next year.  Still, Davies’ foul-up (the getting caught part, not the canoodling part, in our estimation) may have cost BYU a trip to its first-ever Final Four, so we’ll be interested to see just how forgiving the Cougar faithful will be when he suits up again.
Share this story

Mountain West Report Card

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 5th, 2011

 

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 conferences. 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 banner year for the Mountain West despite the turbulence of the offseason that will see two of the standard-bearers of the conference (Utah and BYU) leave for arguably greener pastures this summer with TCU following them out the door the following summer. The two teams leading the conference this season, BYU and San Diego State, posted a combined 66-8 record this year and were constants in the national top ten making the Sweet 16 before bowing out in tight contests. In addition to having two of the country’s top teams the conference also had arguably the nation’s top player in BYU’s Jimmer Fredette, who led the country in scoring, regularly producing eye-popping, shake-your-head-in-disbelief moments and becoming a household name in Utah and beyond. UNLV joined the conference leaders in the NCAA Tournament, but tripped up in ugly fashion before losing head coach Lon Kruger to Oklahoma over the weekend. Colorado State and New Mexico had their hopes pinned on NCAA Tournament bids, but came up a little short. Nevertheless, this was undoubtedly the biggest collection of talent in the history of this conference and likely the high water mark. While there is not a whole lot of love lost between either followers of the conference or executives in the MWC and BYU, there is little doubt that the loss of both of the Utah schools from its ranks will leave a major hole.

It was clearly the year of the Jimmer in the Mountain West

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.24.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 24th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

East

  • Often overlooked due to the star power that Ohio State has accumulated during his career, David Lighty has been the heart and soul of this season’s Buckeyes. The fifth-year senior will leave Columbus with three Big Ten championships, an NIT championship, and four trips to the NCAA Tournament.
  • Kentucky head coach John Calipari believes that other programs “Want to be us. Not beat us.” While that statement may seem a bit arrogant, it does make sense when thinking about the pageantry and tradition that goes along with the Wildcat basketball program.
  • While he does provide Marquette with some scoring, swingman Jimmy Butler prides himself on being a defensive stopper for the Golden Eagles. His coach, Buzz Williams, calls Butler, “the smartest player I’ve ever coached.” High, high praise.
  • North Carolina junior center Tyler Zeller has finally been healthy all season after missing significant time during his first two seasons. A healthy Zeller has been beneficial to the Tar Heels, as he has contributed 15.2 points per game along with 7.1 rebounds. Without Zeller’s presence in the post, UNC would probably not be a Sweet 16-caliber team.
  • Despite already having a tremendous season, Kentucky freshman guard Brandon Knight believes he is just finally living up to the high expectations that come with playing point guard for John Calipari. Interesting enough is that those expectations are not from Calipari, but from Knight himself.

Southeast

  • Growing up in the shadow of Gene Keady and Bob Knight has not turned Butler head coach Brad Stevens into the same type of loose cannon as the two legendary coaches. Instead, Stevens is known for his calm, steady, and studious approach that he takes to coaching the game of basketball.
  • Wisconsin point guard Jordan Taylor has been an elite performer all season for the Badgers. This is not surprising when considering that the junior craves for pressure situations where he can showcase his bravado.
  • Florida senior forward Chandler Parsons has gone through quite the maturation process, which has allowed him to fulfill his vast potential. Despite his success, Parsons continues to raise expectations for his team and himself.
  • There is not a team in the nation that is held to the strict honor code that Brigham Young is held to. Despite the loss of big man Brandon Davies due to a violation of this code, the rest of the Cougars have learned to live by its precepts and focus primarily on winning basketball games.
  • After resting his ankle earlier in the week, Florida sophomore guard Kenny Boynton believes he is “100 percent” for Thursday’s game with Brigham Young. Boynton will be an important player for the Gators in slowing down the BYU guard attack.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis – Thursday

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 24th, 2011

After three days of quiet, it’s time to get serious about figuring out this national championship thing.  Sixteen to twelve… let’s check out tonight’s games.

#2 San Diego State vs. #3 Connecticut – West Regional Semifinal (at Anaheim, CA) – 7:15 pm ET on CBS.

Does Fisher Have Another Final Four Run in Him?

One of these teams has won two national championships. The other just got done winning their first two NCAA Tournament games ever. While the Aztecs have had a great breakout season and now stand at 34-2 on the season, UConn has won 44 Tournament games in the Jim Calhoun era alone. Luckily for SDSU, past performances in the Big Dance need have no impact on this year’s games. If you throw out the bloodlines for the two programs, you’ll find that we have the makings for what should be an excellent game. We’ve got star power on both ends of the court, with UConn’s point guard Kemba Walker a candidate for the National Player of the Year and SDSU’s Kawhi Leonard an All-American candidate. We’ve got big name coaches with national championships and Final Four experience, as Calhoun will be matched up with Steve Fisher, who won one title at Michigan in ’89, then got back to the title game in both ’92 and ’93. We’ve got an impressive freshman class including Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith, and Jeremy Lamb on the UConn side matched up with three starting seniors on the Aztec squad. In short, we’ve got all the trappings of a serious battle. For the Aztecs, the big goal is going to be slowing Kemba Walker. While SDSU has had plenty of experience at trying to slow another high-scoring point guard (one Jimmer Fredette – you may have heard of him), Walker is a different challenge for SDSU, as he is a quicker, shiftier guard than Fredette, and a guy who you’d rather have shooting the three than challenging his defenders off the dribble. As a result, it is likely that D.J. Gay and/or Chase Tapley will get the majority of minutes tasked with defending Walker, while frontcourt players like Leonard, Billy White and Malcolm Thomas will be left to keep one eye on Walker while trying to body-up the Huskies’ athletic offensive rebounders up front. The SDSU frontcourt will also have to provide the majority of the scoring, and given that they haven’t seen a team as big, long and bouncy as the Huskies, they’ll need to prove that their opponents’ size does not bother them. The Aztecs figure to have plenty of support from their fans, who only need to drive about an hour north to attend the game, but they’ll need to prove that their shaky performance down the stretch in Saturday’s game against Temple was an aberration rather than the norm. Until they can close out a game in the NCAA Tournament with confidence, we’re not sure they’re trustworthy against a big-time foe.

The RTC Certified Pick: Connecticut

#2 Florida vs. #3 BYU – Southeast Region Semifinals (at New Orleans, LA) – 7:27 pm ET on TBS.

Looking at this game on paper, it’s pretty hard to find any discernible differences between these two teams. The main determinant of this game will likely be tempo. BYU would love nothing more than to get the Gators caught up in a fast-paced game, forcing them to recklessly throw up ill-advised three pointers leading to long rebounds and many Cougar runouts. Dave Rose’s team excels in transition with Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery leading the charge. While Emery is certainly a terrific point guard, his biggest impact on this game could come defensively. He’ll guard Florida’s Erving Walker in all likelihood and that could be a major problem for the 5’8 Walker. Emery’s length and quickness has the potential to disrupt the Florida floor general, plus the BYU senior ranks #15 individually in steal percentage. If Walker can’t get the offense flowing, Florida may result to lots of isolations and quick shots, certainly not ideal for a team that does its best work at a slower pace in the half court. The Gators have a big advantage inside and have to use it to win. Billy Donovan needs to keep Kenny Boynton, expected to play after spraining his ankle against UCLA, in check and make sure his guards work the ball inside to Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus. This could very well be the game where the loss of Brandon Davies dooms BYU for good. The Cougars rank a paltry #222 in offensive rebounding percentage so Florida should hold a significant edge on the glass. BYU has been out-rebounded in four of their seven games without Davies and we expect that trend to continue tonight. Defensively, Florida has to keep Fredette off the free throw line and force him to make outside shots. It’s alright for the Gators if Jimmer drains more than a few bombs but he’s most dangerous when he can get into the lane and to the stripe, or create for others when defenders are drawn to him inside. Florida ranks #15 in defensive free throw rate and will have to keep that up against Fredette specifically. We have to wonder if Donovan will assign Parsons the task of defending Fredette. Parsons is a big man (6’9) but he’s fairly quick for his size and can bother Jimmer with his superior length. Quickness will be the issue because Fredette possess a terrific first step to blow by opponents. The Cougars will have an edge at the line if this is a close game since Florida struggles as a team (67%). It should be a terrific matchup but a slight edge has to go to the Gators in New Orleans this evening.

The RTC Certified Pick: Florida.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Regional Reset: Southeast Region

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 22nd, 2011

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

We’re down to sixteen teams, so it’s time to visit with each of our regional experts and analyze what happened in each of the four regions and what should be expected this coming weekend. Every one of these predictions is guaranteed to be absolutely and totally correct.

Region: Southeast

New Orleans Has Hosted Many Epic NCAA Games

New Favorite: #2 Florida (28-7, 13-3 SEC). After Pittsburgh’s loss to Butler, the Gators move to the front of the Southeast pecking order. They’re playing very well but did struggle at times against UCLA. To tell you the truth, I feel any of the four teams left in this region can make it to Houston but I’ll give Florida a slight edge.

Horse of Darkness: #8 Butler (25-9, 13-5 Horizon). They shouldn’t be creeping up on anyone this year but the lowest seed in this region is still a nine-loss team out of a mid-major league and must be considered the dark horse. Butler is playing its best basketball of the season and has a chance to beat Wisconsin and then Florida/BYU to reach the Final Four for the second straight season. I wouldn’t put it past them.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): #8 Butler (25-9, 13-5 Horizon). As I said, they shouldn’t be creeping up on anyone but the way they got to New Orleans was surprising. The Bulldogs had to knock off two incredibly physical and well-coached clubs to get to the Sweet Sixteen, winning by a combined three points. The good news for Butler? They were just as physical and well-coached as Old Dominion and Pittsburgh, plus the same applies to matchups with Wisconsin and whoever they would get should they make the regional final.

Completely Expected (1st Weekend): #2 Florida (28-7, 13-3 SEC). In a region where the #1 seed was knocked off early, the #3 was expected (by quite a few people, including yours truly) to lose to Gonzaga and the #4 was the trendy first round upset victim, the #2 Gators held serve and won two games. Florida had no trouble with UC Santa Barbara, trouncing the Gauchos in the first round. A tougher than expected game against UCLA was next but Florida survived and advanced to New Orleans where many folks figured they’d be when the brackets came out last week.

I’m Exceptionally Smart and Prescient: My “Lock of the Year” in the Southeast Bracket Prep last week said Pittsburgh wouldn’t make the Final Four despite what some perceived as an easy draw for the Panthers. Viola! Jamie Dixon and company made an early exit after the bizarre finish to their game against Butler. Dixon’s teams are too physical to win in March (called for lots of fouls), plus they don’t score with enough consistency to be a Final Four threat. We’ve seen this movie before and the sequels keep coming year after year. I even warned the readers their second game wouldn’t be easy, saying the Panthers “may be shocked by Butler or Old Dominion.”

Except When I Make Stupid Predictions: I filled out multiple brackets but I failed to follow my own gut and picked Pitt to make it to Houston in my “main” bracket. I’m also kicking myself for doubting Bo Ryan and Wisconsin. I foolishly went with Belmont, thinking the Bruins’ quick pace would disrupt the Badgers. Silly me, slow and steady usually wins the race. That team is tough as nails and proved they could fight through adversity and win. Jordan Taylor struggled mightily against Kansas State before redeeming himself with two big free throws and a block towards the end of that game.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Other 26: Bracket Analysis Part II

Posted by KDoyle on March 17th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC Contributor.

Call it what you want with this seemingly erroneous preamble of the NCAA Tournament known as the “First Four,” but the opening game of this year’s edition of the Dance could not have been much more entertaining. We have already had a clutch shot in the final seconds and an overtime game under our belts. Many people will not even remember that UNC-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock even partook in the Tournament, but for a few hours last evening the stage was all theirs. Even if it is merely a play-in game—errr, first round game—this is the NCAA Tournament and keen basketball observers were no doubt glued to their screens and smartphones last night tracking the game.

Just as a refresher in case you missed yesterday’s look into the Other 26 teams in the East and West Regions, I elected to break down the 16 teams by inserting each into one of the four categories: 1) Have a legitimate shot at actually advancing far into the Tournament; 2) Can win a game, but not much more; 3) If their shots are falling and their opponents are not, they have an outside shot; and, 4) We are just happy to be here.

Ability to advance to the second weekend

(8, Southwest) UNLV—After the conclusion of the 2010 Tournament, there is no doubt that a bitter taste was left in UNLV’s mouth. The Runnin’ Rebels lost to Northern Iowa in the final minute and then two nights later, in one of the gutsiest shots in Tournament history, Ali Farokhmanesh drilled a three from the wing to seal the victory over Kansas. UNLV had to painfully watch the remainder of the Tournament and endure the arduous offseason pondering the question: “Why couldn’t that have been us?” Now, UNLV is in a similar situation, as they are in the 8 vs. 9 game again. They are an experienced bunch with Tournament experience under their belts; if they are fortunate enough to get by Illinois, they will ironically play none other than Kansas.

(12, Southwest) Richmond—The Spiders were upset by St. Mary’s last year, and this year they are the ones who will have to be playing spoiler. Richmond has arguably the most dynamic player in the field with 6’10 senior forward Justin Harper. To make a comparison, Harper is the Atlantic 10’s version of Dirk Nowitzki. Although he spends most of his time inside the arc, his ability to step outside and hit a three poses endless match-up problems for opponents. Harper is complemented nicely by his running mate Kevin Anderson. Richmond matches up well against Vanderbilt, but containing John Jenkins—maybe the best shooter in the Tournament—will be a challenge. Expect a variety of match-up and 2-3 zones from Chris Mooney.

 

Harper is a Tough Matchup for Vandy

(3, Southeast) BYU—It is painfully obvious that the loss of Brandon Davies has detrimentally affected BYU’s play considerably; in the first game after his absence the Cougars were thrashed by New Mexico 82-64 on their home floor. While there is little doubt that Jimmer Fredette is the face of the program and their top player, the country is now officially seeing that there is much more going on in Provo, Utah, that can be attributed to BYU’s success  other than simply Fredette. While a deep run no doubt becomes more difficult without the services of Davies, the backcourt of Fredette and Jackson Emery has the ability to carry the Cougars to the second weekend.

(9, Southeast) Old Dominion—ODU presents all of the intangibles to be successful in the Tournament. They have an intelligent and proven coach in Blaine Taylor, a senior-laden team with NCAA experience, and the confidence that they belong here and can win—especially after knocking off Notre Dame as an 11 seed last year. It is more than merely intangibles for ODU though. The Monarchs are quite possibly the best rebounding team in the field, incredibly tough on the defensive end—according to Frank Hassell: “We go 50% man and 50% zone”—and run a deliberate offense that minimizes their opposition’s possessions. Blaine Taylor has created a formula for his team to have success in the NCAA Tournament.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

BGTD: Saturday Night Tourney Sessions

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2011

Throughout conference tournament weekend, we’re going to pop in with some BGTD-style analysis at least twice a day.  If you are interested in the action earlier today check out our afternoon post.

  • 5 for 5. The UConn Huskies capped off a historic run winning their fifth game in five nights with the last four coming against ranked teams in scintillating fashion knocking off a game Louisville team. Led by another solid performance by Kemba Walker who was nothing short of sensational the past week in Madison Square Garden the Huskies likely played themselves into a #3 seed and a favorable regional placement. While Jim Calhoun may be dealing with some significant professional struggles he has a team that is capable of making a run deep into the NCAA Tournament behind a solid, but inexperienced group of role players and a superstar in Walker. On the other side the Cardinals are probably looking at a #3 or #4 seed as well and Rick Pitino should be looking forward to making a push towards Houston.
  • The Aztecs stand up to Jimmer. The closing moments of the Mountain West Conference final will be remembered for Kawhi Leonard jawing at Jimmer Fredette, but in reality the Aztecs had been making a statement to the Cougars for the previous 40 minutes. In avenging their two losses to BYU (the only two blemishes on their resume this season) San Diego State showed signs of a being a team that could make a run to the Final Four. While Fredette still got his 30, the Aztecs dominated the Brandon Davies-less Cougars on the inside outscoring them 38-14 thanks to big games out of Billy White and Leonard. The Aztecs and Cougars are likely headed toward the 2 and 3 lines respectively, but the two teams appear to be headed in opposite directions as the Aztecs have few glaring holes and Cougars still have a big one in the middle.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story