ATB: Selected Thoughts on the Final Four Teams

Posted by rtmsf on March 29th, 2010

We’re down to the Four.  Here are some of the thoughts we had about the last couple of days of games while looking ahead to next weekend in Indy…

Forget the Seedings, These Teams Are Good. With a #1, #2 and two #5 seeds making the Final Four this year, the immediate reaction is that we’ve got a wide-open bracket with the potential for a true Cinderella to cut down the nets this year.  Closer examination, however, reveals that all of the four teams left standing were thought pretty highly of in the preseason.  In both the AP and Coaches Polls, Michigan State was ranked #2 behind Kansas, while Duke, West Virginia and Butler all populated the top ten as well (Butler was #11 in the AP).  So while it may have taken some time for Izzo’s Spartans to get it together (like seemingly every year), they eventually did and they’re playing well enought to be a worthy Final Four participant; the same is definitely true for Butler, penalized by the pollsters and Selection Committee for early losses in November and December, but who is playing as well as anyone left right now.  It’s difficult to lose the mindset that a team is a Cinderella or not based on its Tourney seed, but the truth is that these four teams are all playing like #1 and #2 seeds and they have the talent to back it up.

You Can't Get Rid of This Guy (DFP/J. Gonzalez)

Izzo the Stray CatTom Izzo is like the stray cat in your neighborhood that you can’t get to stay off your front stoop no matter how hard you try.  Just when you think he’s out of your hair for good, he shows up again with that Cheshire grin belying his belief that he’s the luckiest dude alive.  Six Final Fours in twelve years is one better than it was last year (five in eleven), and yet everyone acts completely shocked and amazed that he’s back in the Four with much the same group of players.  How weak are people’s memories?  This is what Izzo does — this trip will make the second time that his team  has reached the final weekend as a #5 seed — and it’s not a mere coincidence.  Everyone knew that he had the talent this season (see above re: preseason ranking), but all of the turmoil surrounding player roles and injuries led people (including us) to believe he wasn’t going to be able to find the combinations to get it done again.  Here’s a bracketing lesson for all of us next year and the years beyond that: Wherever Michigan State is seeded, just put the Spartans in the Final Four and don’t look back.  Your odds are much better doing it that way than actually trying to analyze the matchups and break down the games.  Izzo is a March master, and how anyone can doubt this guy’s abilities is beyond comprehension.

Butler is No George Mason.  To a casual fan, he sees that Butler is in the Final Four this weekend and he’s thinking George Mason all over again.  This lazy thinking is a serious mistake.  Mason was an #11 seed who benefited from catching two teams by surprise in the first two rounds, followed by veritable home games in DC against another Cindy Wichita State in the regional semis and an uber-talented but frustratingly underachieving UConn team in the regional finals.  They deserve all the credit they can muster for winning those games, without question, but things broke well for them to make the run possible.  Butler had to play and beat the top two seeds in its region to make the Final Four this year, and they did it by forcing both Syracuse and Kansas State to bend to their style of play and make numerous atypical mistakes.  Butler’s defense subjugated two of the most efficient offenses in America into their worst performances of the year, and that’s no more a coincidence than Izzo above still having games to play.  Andy Rautins, Scoop Jardine, Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen (combined 20-52 FGs) are undoubtedly still having nightmares of Butler defenders securing temporary eminent domain over their jockstraps.  The key takeaway here is that Butler will defend Michigan State just like the others, and if they can find enough offense themselves through Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and friends, they are plenty good enough to continue to advance.

Butler Can Win This Thing, Folks (IndyStar)

Bob Huggins, White Knight. One thing we noticed traveling around over the weekend was that every hoophead around the country was unilaterally rooting for West Virginia to take out John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday night.  In the sports bar we were in during that game, Syracuse, Butler, K-State and Xavier fans were teamed up pulling for the Mountaineers.  We’ve picked up similar anecdotes from around the country since then — nobody wanted Kentucky to win that game.  We believe that this sentiment derives from a general feeling that Calipari is a dirty coach who cheats to get his players, but the irony of everyone outside of the Bluegrass backing Bob Huggins wasn’t lost on us.  Since when is tHuggins Huggins the white knight here to save college basketball from agents, cheaters and bags full of money?  Surely people remember his endless problems at Cincinnati with players failing to graduate, numerous asundry brushes with the law, and failing to exert institutional control?  No?  Look, we get that people don’t like Calipari and, by proxy, Kentucky; but isn’t Huggins quite possibly worse given the history of lawlessness on his teams?

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Elite Eight Game Analysis: Sunday Afternoon

Posted by rtmsf on March 28th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional final games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Sunday afternoon’s games from the Midwest and South Regionals.

2:20 pm – #5 Michigan State vs. #6 Tennessee  (Midwest Region)

Last we heard, no Spartans were injured in the last 24 hours. Tom Izzo probably can’t believe it. It’s hard to recall a team that’s had more injuries to deal with late in the season than this Michigan State squad. Still, here they are, playing for another shot at the Final Four. To get there, they’ll have to knock off a Tennessee team that certainly chose the right time to peak. The Volunteers flexed a little defensive muscle against Ohio State in their last game, taking the route of letting Evan Turner get his while stopping the rest of the starters. It worked. Turner posted 31, but the other four starters could only muster 29, and that’s why the Buckeyes aren’t suiting up on Sunday. On a normal day, we’d say that Michigan State poses a much different problem, since (sort of like the Vols) they have a variety of weapons that can rise up and do a number on you at any time. But is that the case this time? We hate to keep bringing up the injuries to Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe, and Chris Allen, but in a game like the one they have upcoming, it matters. Tennessee loves a physical game, and Michigan State doesn’t exactly shy away from them. Michigan State — similar to their Big Ten counterparts in the Buckeyes — is a team on which six players play the HUGE majority of the minutes, though, and the big question going into the game against Northern Iowa was whether or not MSU could stand any physicality the Panthers were going to throw at them because of their MASH-unit status. To be honest, the Spartans got less than they expected, had little problem, and were thankful. The problem for MSU is that Tennessee is not Northern Iowa. The Vols have several players, all healthy, who will relish the chance to get in and bang with the MSU boys. The Spartans will try to keep this more of a half-court, keep-it-in-the 40s slog, but with so many players coming off that UT bench, will it be possible?

The Skinny:  One of the tougher games to project in this tournament. It runs contrary to everything within us to pick against Tom Izzo when he’s got a chance at the Final Four, but if those MSU injuries really are still there — and you don’t go from MASH unit (Izzo’s words) to healed-up overnight — then we have to figure that, with a similar talent level, a healthy 8-10 players on team that’s peaking will beat a mostly unhealthy 6-8 players who’ll probably be forced out of their usual style. We’ll go with Bruce Pearl’s Volunteers to make it to the program’s first Final Four in what should be a phenomenal matchup.

5:05 pm – #1 Duke vs. #3 Baylor  (South Region)

After all the buzz about how great Kansas, Kentucky, and Syracuse were this season we only have one #1 seed standing: Duke. Now that we have reached this point almost everybody is picking against the Blue Devils again and they might have good reason to feel that way. All year long we have been talked about how much better the Blue Devils are on the interior compared to prior years, but their interior players will be put to the test against Baylor’s frontline of Ekpe Udoh, Quincy Acy and Josh Lomers, the best remaining group in the NCAA Tournament. While that group won’t destroy Duke’s interior trio of Brian Zoubek and Miles and Mason Plumlee because the Bears don’t rely on their big men for offense, don’t expect the Blue Devils to continue to dominate the paint like they have for much of the last two weeks. If Coach K is going to get his first trip to the Final Four in six years, he is going to have to rely on Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith to hit shots from the perimeter against Baylor’s 2-3 zone. They will have to at least match the 40% they shot as a team from beyond the arc in their Sweet 16 win agianst Purdue. The big question mark for Duke is whether Scheyer will return to his early-season form or if he will continue his current tailspin which appears to have hit a nadir with his 6-26 shooting from the field in his last two games. On the other end of the court, Smith and Scheyer will struggle to defend Baylor’s guards — Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn — who were sensational in the Bears’ blitzing of Saint Mary’s in the Sweet 16. Smith might have a chance of neutralizing Carter, but Dunn should run Scheyer ragged unless Coach K gets him some help. The one advantage Duke has is Singler who doesn’t seem to have a peer match-up on the Bear roster. Singler will need to have a dominant game (something along the lines of 20 points and 10 rebounds) to give Duke a chance to win, but given the way he has been playing lately (like a 1st team All-American) the Blue Devils will be in it late. Then the question becomes who can convert down the stretch: Duke as the team with the pedigree and experience but a series of Tournament let downs, or Baylor as the team with the crowd behind them and a superior set of guards, but limited experience in high-level games?

The Skinny: It’s tempting to go with Blue Devils and Singler here if for no other reason than you have to believe that Coach K is bound to get a team back there at some point in the near future, but today isn’t the day. The combination of perimeter play with Carter and Dunn, interior play anchored by Udoh, and the home crowd should be enough to propel the Bears to their first Final Four since it was an eight-team tournament.

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ATB: Tennessee Vanquishes Sweet Sixteen Demons and Evan Turner

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2010

Blah Night of Games.  So given the way this Tournament has gone through the first three rounds, we should be heading into two classics on Saturday evening in the West following by the East Regional finals.  On consecutive Thursdays we had an incredible set of games followed by a rather pedestrian Friday set.  Last Saturday was another blockbuster, while Sunday was relatively tame.  Don’t let us down, K-State, Butler, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Midwest Region

NPOY Evan Turner Couldn't Get His Three to Tie Off (AP/J. Roberson)

Tennessee 76, Ohio State 73.  On Selection Sunday, every pundit talked about how great the teams were at the top of the Midwest Region, but they may have forgotten the Volunteers who were grossly underseeded. Now they are showing the Selection Committee and the rest of the nation just how good they are. In a rematch of a 2007 Sweet 16 game that ended with Greg Oden blocking a shot by Ramar Smith that could have won the game for UT, the Volunteers got their revenge in a similar fashion. This time it was Tennessee’s J.P Prince who saved the day, blocking a desperation off-balance three by NPOY Evan Turner that could have tied the game at the buzzer. While this game wasn’t quite as spectacular as the Kansas State-Butler game last night, it certainly lived up to the expectations we would have of a Sweet 16 game as neither team was able to open up more than a seven-point lead and for most of the last 35 minutes of the game it was a one-possession difference. Thanks to a strong performance by Wayne Chism who had 22 points (18 in the second half) and 11 rebounds the Volunteers were able to overcome another phenomenal performance by Turner who finished with 31 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Unfortunately for Turner, Thad Matta was unable to coax similar performances out of any of Turner’s teammates who were 3-16 from the field during the second half when Turner scored 21 of his 31 points. Perhaps it was the ridiculous minutes that Matta made his rotation play recently, but the Buckeyes just didn’t see to have the necessary spark. Without the necessary support, Turner was forced to try win the game in the final minutes when David Lighty hit consecutive baskets to give OSU a 70-68 lead. After Chism responded with four straight to give the Vols a 72-70 lead, Turner hit a three that put OSU up one and had everybody believing that maybe, just maybe, he could be enough to carry his team to Indianapolis. Those hopes were dashed when Brian Williams converted a tip-in with 32 seconds to go and Turner was unable to make a driving layup with the ensuing loose ball ending up in Tennessee’s hands. After Tennessee converted a pair of free throws, the stage was set for Turner to etch his name into Tournament lore, but after missing a good look with a little over five seconds left he chased down the ball only to have an off-balance shot blocked by Prince. Despite the disappointing finish, this year will go down as Turner’s year in the minds of everyone who watched him this season. Although Turner says he isn’t sure what he will do with regards to the NBA Draft, we suspect that he will be headed toward NBA millions very soon. Next up for the Volunteers (playing in their first Elite Eight in school history) will be Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. With the Vols on the verge of a Final Four trip less than three months after their season fell apart on New Year’s Day during the Tyler Smith fiasco, we have to ask the question that we asked almost a month ago: How is Bruce Pearl not mentioned as a legitimate National Coach of the Year candidate? Nobody has overcome more adversity than the Vol coach and yet he didn’t even finish in the top two in his own conference voting (behind Kevin Stallings and John Calipari).

MSU Just Squeezes the Life Out of Teams in March (AP)

Izzo Does It Again. #5 Michigan State 59, #9 Northern Iowa 52.  It’s starting to feel like Tom Izzo could take a group of circus animals, screw around with them for a few months and then have them all come together just in time to make a run to the Final Four.  With tonight’s win over Cinderella and Kansas-slayer Northern Iowa, Izzo’s team will return to the Elite Eight for the seventh time in his fifteen years at the schools (he’s 5-1 in this round).  It’s especially amazing considering just how banged up his Spartans are and how inconsistent they’ve been throughout this season.  But MSU did what they do, which is play inspired defense, make just enough plays on offense to put together a mini-run and squeeze the life out of the game in the final minutes to seal the victory.  Northern Iowa is just another victim on a long, long list of teams that have fallen as a result of this strategy.  As usual, the Spartans shut down the key players for UNI, with last weekend’s hero shooting a rough 2-9 from the field and contributing only nine points, Adam Koch struggling to get the ball in the right places and adding only 13 in 18 foul-plagued minutes, and Jordan Eglseder coming up with only nine himself.  The Panthers shot only 39% from the field, which is on par with what they were able to hit against Kansas last weekend, but they were unable to force as many turnovers against MSU and they were absolutely ice cold during the last quarter of the game (zero FGs in the last ten minutes of action).  Northern Iowa was undoubtedly one of the best stories of this year’s Tournament, and they have nothing to be ashamed of in losing a defensive grinder with the team that wrote the template.  Any of a number of other surviving teams in the Elite Eight could have been challenged by the Panther defense and style of play, but it was quite simply a bad matchup for them.  Even a battered and beat up Michigan State team isn’t going to allow another team to out-Izzo them, which is what would have had to happen for UNI to win this game tonight.

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Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis: Friday Night

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

7:07 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #6 Tennessee  (Midwest Region)

We know the Buckeyes have had three full days of rest since their second round game against Georgia Tech.  But Thad Matta has shortened (and by “shortened,” we mean “set on fire and forgotten about”) his bench so much late in the season and in this tournament that you have to even wonder if that’s enough time for the Buckeyes to recover.  Jon Diebler has played every minute of the Buckeyes’ first two tournament games.  William Buford has missed two minutes of action TOTAL out of the possible 210 minutes of game time in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.  David Lighty and Evan Turner have only sat for five minutes in that same time span.  The only starter who sits for any amount of time is big man Dallas Lauderdale, and he still plays at least 30 minutes a game.  Yet, the Buckeyes keep rolling.  The only thing Jon Diebler seems tired of is finding himself open behind the three point line.  He’s 11-22 in OSU’s two tournament games, and a lot of these things aren’t monitor-checkers.  They were deep.  And of course Turner has shown us his usual excellence.  There aren’t any surprises with the Buckeyes.  Tennessee, though, is a different story.  You never know whose night it’s going to be.  Scotty Hopson, Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince…any one or two of these guys can get hot, but then you have to worry about players like Brian Williams or Melvin Goins or Bobby Maze stepping up with a 15 point or 12 rebound night.  OSU’s four-forwards-and-Turner (who’s officially listed as a forward!) will be able to keep the Volunteer guards from getting too out of hand, but can they guard and rebound against the slightly taller Tennessee bigs?  As a team, rebounding is one of the few Buckeye weaknesses, and Tennessee has shown the capability to dominate the glass this year when they put their minds to it.  Both teams are among the nation’s best when it comes to guarding the three, but it’s OSU that gets a little more of their offense from the long ball.  On paper, the matchups are not favorable for OSU.  And the Tennessee kids are the kind who will relish the fact that they’re “supposed” to lose this game.  We doubt it’ll be a blowout, and remarkably both of these teams are fantastic in games decided by ten points or less.  In those games, OSU is 10-5 this season, and Tennessee is 13-2.  It’s gonna be a fun one.

The Skinny:  If both teams guard the three well, it will hurt OSU more than Tennessee.  Factor in the possibility that all those minutes could be catching up to the Buckeyes, and you have the makings of an upset.  It’s not easy taking the Volunteers in this game, because of how they can sometimes take nights off between the ears.  But Tennessee has had two chances to underestimate their opponent in this tournament, and didn’t either time.  They won’t here; they know what OSU can do.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Volunteers emerge.

7:27 pm – #3 Baylor vs. #10 St. Mary’s  (South Region)

The Gaels come into this game as one of the tournament’s Cinderellas, but this time Cinderella is actually the Tournament’s giant with Omar Samhan who has been the most dominant big man in the field so far after dominating Richmond and Villanova to the point where analysts were ripping Jay Wright for not doubling down on Samhan fo abusing Villanova’s interior players. In Wright’s defense, doubling down on Samhan would leave the St Mary’s guards open on the perimeter where they rank fourth in the country from beyond the arc. Scott Drew probably won’t be saddled with that dilemma since he has a center in 6’10 Ekpe Udoh who is every bit as good as Samhan. Even if Samhan does get the edge on Udoh here he will have to deal with 6’10 Anthony Jones, 7′ Josh Lomers and 6’7 Quincy Acy. With such a strong interior defense, the Bears block more shots than any other team in the NCAA Tournament at more than seven blocks per game so don’t expect Samhan to dominate the Bears like he did the Spiders and Wildcats. In addition to the challenge for Samhan on the offensive end, he will also be under pressure on defense going against a likely first rounder in Udoh. After hearing that you might be forgiven for thinking that this game will be decided solely on what happens on the inside, but you would be wrong. The matchup of guards featuring LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter against Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova could be the key to the game with the Bears having the edge in athleticism and the Gaels having the edge in shooting. Saint Mary’s will need their perimeter players (especially McConnell who is a ridiculous 75-145, or 51.7% from 3 this season) to hit treys against Baylor’s zone to open up space for Samhan to operate. If McConnell and Delledova can keep Dunn and Carter in front of them most of the time, the WCC might get its first team in the Elite Eight since 1999 when Gonzaga made it their before losing to eventual champion UConn (yes, that is the last time the Bulldogs made it that far).

The Skinny: Everyone will be talking about Baylor coming into this game with the homecourt advantage since the game is being played in Houston (a little over 180 miles away from Baylor’s campus in Waco), but Baylor doesn’t have a strong following like other schools in the state do. In fact, we might get a “Duke at Greensboro” situation where UNC fans (or in this case Texas and Texas A&M) root against the local team. Still the combination of Udoh, Dunn, and Carter should be enough to get it done as Samhan’s beastly NCAA Tournament run comes to an end.
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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.23.10

Posted by THager on March 24th, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at

Midwest Region (Tom Hager)

  • Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson has insisted that his players are handling the added attention well, but it is hard to keep your composure when you walk into a lecture hall and receive a standing ovation, as Ali Farokhmanesh experienced on Monday.
  • Many people know that Farokhamnesh transferred to UNI, but most people do not know that UNI, like most other schools, knew about him in high school and passed up on him.
  • According to Dan Blank, the key for Michigan State will be to push the ball (something Kansas failed to do when they let Jordan Eglseder score 14 points in 18 minutes).  However, given the injuries they have recently sustained, Blank says hastening the pace may not be so easy.
  • Ohio State has been criticized for a lack of bench production, but Blank points out that the short bench may benefit the Buckeyes.
  • The Buckeyes are underdogs in this game, but Inside Tennessee’s Patrick Gibson reported that the Vols had a solid practice session on Monday.  That should come as no surprise, as this week Doug Gottlieb listed Bruce Pearl as one of his top coaches in the country.

West Region (Andrew Murawa)

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Second Round Game Analysis: Sunday Games

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 16 of the second round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Sunday games.

12:10 pm – #1 Syracuse vs. #8 Gonzaga  (Buffalo pod)

In the CBS national game to start the day, everyone will get this very enticing game between Syracuse and Gonzaga.  Given the way this year is winding up, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Orange without their big man Arinze Onuaku found itself on the short end of the score around 2:30 pm today.  But we still have faith in Syracuse even without the talented center and we think that Jim Boeheim’s team is too good to fall short of the Final Four this early.  The primary problem that the Zags are going to have is one they didn’t have to worry as much about with Florida State, and that is in stopping the powerful SU offense.  With offensive scoring threats at all five positions, Syracuse is in a far more advantageous position than FSU was (with their limited offense) when Gonzaga caught fire on Friday — if the Zags want to get into a shootout with Syracuse, that’s not likely to end well for them. Still, with the way the Big East has had so many early round troubles, and the WCC looking great with St. Mary’s already in the Sweet Sixteen, we’re not ready to dismiss the Zags based on that alone.  The Syracuse zone is likely to be something that Mark Few’s team has not seen with such athletes all season, so even with their ability to put the ball in the hole, we hesitate to think the Zags can consistently score on it.

The Skinny: Gonzaga will push the Orange, but we still like this team to advance and make a serious push for the national title in coming weeks.

2:20 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

You might not see it on their faces, but the Buckeyes are smiling.  Northern Iowa’s removal of Kansas puts Ohio State in the driver’s seat in the Midwest region.  That said, there’s still no way Thad Matta and Evan Turner are going to let the rest of that team look past their opponents and assume an open road to Indianapolis.  Good thing, because Georgia Tech showed us that they’re not just made up of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal and a bunch of suckers.  The Yellow Jackets shot 2-10 from the three point line but balanced that by holding Big 12 player of the year James Anderson to a 3-12 shooting night, 0-6 from beyond the three-point arc, and an overall 11 points.  But the most impressive aspect of Georgia Tech’s performance on Friday night — by FAR — was the fact that they went to the free throw line 25 times — and hit 24 of them!  It wasn’t just Lawal and Favors.  Tech played nine players, and eight of them shot at least one free throw.  Evan Turner isn’t just the player of the year in his conference, though — he’s likely the national POY, so the Tech task is that much tougher.  Turner wasn’t himself in their first round game against UCSB, going 2-13 and posting only nine points (though he did contribute 10 boards and five assists).  He’s looking to break out, and knows he’ll have to be at his best.  Lawal and Favors, though, will be looking to get Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler, and Turner in foul trouble early and open poke some holes in that OSU front line.

The Skinny:  You probably don’t want to go with our Midwest picks, since yesterday we took Kansas and Ohio.  It’s not exactly going out on a limb to say that this will be a great second round game, but that stat line of Turner’s shows you that he can play such an important role on the team even when he’s not scoring.  For Tech to win, they’d have to turn in a similar performance at the free throw line, keep Turner under wraps and coax him into a supporting role again, and cool down Jon Diebler.  That’s a tough trifecta to pull off.  We don’t see it happening.  But we didn’t see Northern Iowa dismissing Kansas, either.

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Checking in on… the Ivy League

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2010

Dave Zeitlin is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

This season saw an unprecedented three teams reach the 20-win plateau in the Ivy League — a dominant Cornell team headed to the NCAA Tournament (expected); a young, but extremely talented Harvard team (disappointing); and a resurgent Princeton team (surprising). Hopefully the latter two have earned an invite to one of the myriad of lesser post-season tournaments. Here’s a look at the final standings:

  1. Cornell (13-1, 27-4): The final go-around for 10 seniors proved to be the best. Now the goal for Louis Dale, Jeff Foote, Ryan Wittman et al is to win a game or two in the tournament. A preview of their chances can be found below.
  2. Princeton (11-3, 20-8): Two tough losses to Cornell sealed their fate, but they earned runner-up honors with a couple of victories over Harvard. A bright future with their top five scorers returning.
  3. Harvard (10-4, 21-7): Beat everyone except the top two. Jeremy Lin’s loss via graduation will be felt, but in freshmen Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster, the Crimson boast a backcourt that can compete with the best nationally. Next year’s preseason choice.
  4. Yale (6-8, 12-19): An up and down Ivy season for the Elis. The lone bright spot was All-Ivy senior guard Alex Zampier. He leaves New Haven as the school’s all-time assist leader while scoring over 1000 points.
  5. Columbia (5-9, 11-17): The Lions earn the fifth spot over co 5-9ers Brown and Penn by virtue of their head-to-head sweep of both teams. Next year’s team will be built around sophomore Noruwa Agho, their only double digit scorer.
  6. Brown (5-9, 11-20): Little to separate the Bears from the Quakers other than a slightly better overall record, so they get the nod here. Stat machine Matt Mullery (team leader in points, rebounds, and assists) leaves after a fine career.
  7. Penn (5-9, 6-22): The record was something that Palestra fans (those that showed up) were not used to. Nor were early-season injuries and a mid-season coaching change. Sophomore point guard and Player of the Year candidate Zack Rosen is already a star.
  8. Dartmouth (1-13, 5-23): Not much to cheer about in Hanover. Hopefully Mark Graupe can breathe some enthusiasm into a program that has pretty much been the league doormat for a while. Most of the top players return.

Postseason Awards
Without fanfare we present you with the best of the 2009-2010 Ivy League basketball season:

All-Conference Team

  • Ryan Wittman 6-7 Sr F—Cornell
  • Matt Mullery 6-8 Sr. F–Brown
  • Jeff Foote 7-0 Sr. C–Cornell
  • Jeremy Lin 6-3 Sr. G–Harvard
  • Zack Rosen 6-1 So. G–Penn
  • Alex Zampier 6-3 Sr, G—Yale
  • Louis Dale 5-11 Sr. G—Cornell

All-Freshman Team

  • Kyle Casey 6-7 F–Harvard
  • Tucker Halpern 6-8 F–Brown
  • Andrew McCarthy 6-8 F–Brown
  • Ian Hummer 6-7 F–Princeton
  • Brandyn Curry 6-1 G–Harvard
  • Christian Webster 6-5 G—Harvard

Statistical Leaders

  • Points per game: Zack Rosen (Penn)–17.7
  • FG %: Jeff Foote (Cornell)—62.3%
  • FT %: Zack Rosen (Penn)—86.2%
  • 3-point FG %: Jon Jaques (Cornell)—48.8%
  • Rebounds per game: Jeff Foote (Cornell)—8.2
  • Assists per game: Louis Dale (Cornell)—4.8
  • Steals per game: Jeremy Lin (Harvard)—2.5
  • Blocks per game: Greg Mangano (Yale)—2.0

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Set Your Tivo: 03.03.10

Posted by THager on March 3rd, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Connecticut @ Notre Dame – 7:00 pm on ESPN (***)

This game will be absolutely crucial to the tournament stock of both teams.  If UConn gets in the tournament this year, it will be by the skin of their teeth, and if Notre Dame is actually dancing in March, they will likely be one of the last teams in.  Both of these teams are dangerous right now, as the Huskies have recently beaten Villanova and West Virginia, while the Irish are coming off victories against Pitt and Georgetown.  What is ironic about Notre Dame is that their recent run has come without superstar Luke Harangody.  If the Irish win their last two contests and win a game in the Big East tournament, how will the NCAA selection committee view his absence?  The more that ND wins without him, the less it seems they will be punished come selection time.  Tim Abromaitis, who has been Harangody’s sidekick this year, scored 53 points in the first two games Harangody was out (both games were losses), but when his point totals and shooting percentages dropped in his team’s last two games, the Irish won.  The team has only had seven bench points in their last two games, but every other starter has stepped up at times to take the weight off of Abromaitis.  In the previous matchup of these teams early in the year, Harangody scored 31 points and the bench did not score at all in a 12-point loss for the Irish.  If they can get double figure efforts from at least three starters and keep up their 1.7:1 assist to turnover ratio, they have an excellent shot of moving into one of those last spots in the field.

#5 Kansas St. @ #2 Kansas – 8:00 pm on ESPN 360 (*****)

Can KU's Mr. Big Shot Do It Again (Getty/P. Aiken)

KSU coach Frank Martin has already built up the game to be one of the biggest in school history, and nobody can blame him.  With a win tonight, Kansas State would make a huge jump in their bid for a top seed.  Unfortunately, the viewing for this game could be tricky.  It is being broadcast on the Big 12 network, which is not accessible to many fans across the country, and ESPN360 is available intermittently.  Fans can try to access and in order to view this game, because almost everybody can agree it is worth watching.  When these teams met earlier in Manhattan, Sherron Collins came up with a huge three-point play at the end of overtime to give Kansas the key victory.  The Jayhawks were unable to pull away earlier because they missed 11 free throws in the game.  Kansas actually shoots below 70% from the line on the year, and if the game goes down to the wire again, their free throw shooting could become a factor.  Kansas State has won seven consecutive games, and their wins have become increasingly more impressive, with solid victories at Texas Tech and against Missouri in their last two contests.  Now that some of KSU’s former opponents are now struggling, the Wildcats are still looking for a win against a great team, and if they can keep up their outstanding defensive efforts like they had against the Red Raiders and Tigers, they will have a great chance to win tonight.  Still, Kansas has an even better defense (the Jayhawks rank third in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive rankings), and with 58 consecutive wins at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks should likely win again in a highly entertaining matchup.

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. XI

Posted by rtmsf on February 25th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys jump the shark with a discussion about college hoops with an Olympic flavor.

MIKE WALSH: I don’t know about you guys, but the Olympics have monopolized the TV in my house since the opening ceremonies. And don’t get me wrong, I love the Olympics – the grandeur, the goosebumps, the medals – but they’ve seriously cut into my college basketball viewing these days. Take tonight, for example. I’m sitting here watching Olympic ice dancing with my wife, and I suddenly became inspired … to not watch ice dancing anymore.

Hopefully Our Olympics Won't Involve Cold War Era Fencing

I’ve got to get some hoops back in my life. With Selection Sunday just out of reach it still seems a little early to argue about who’s in and who’s out of the Big Dance (don’t tell ESPN … Doug Gottleib’s kids gotta eat). St. Joe’s is struggling to find 10 wins, Penn is struggling to find the basket, and Boston U. is struggling to pretend that anyone cares about college hoops when there’s hockey on. So what if we combine the two? What if we add a little Olympic flair to college hoops and hand out pre-March Madness medals?

I even borrowed an outfit from Johnny Weir just to get into the spirit. So wedgies be damned, we’re off to the first ever college basketball medal ceremony!

Men’s downhill: And the gold medal goes to … UNC! Get it? It’s because they won the national championship just last year and now they stink. They’re not even going to make the it to the Dance. Roy Williams has publicly questioned his team’s effort. It’s ridiculous. It’s like Canadians not being able to make ice. Oh wait … that happened too? Well, that’s unfortunate. But fear not Tar Heel Nation, it’s only a matter of time (and a few more blue chippers) until your boys are once again soaring above everyone else like Shaun White.

Curling: I’m not really sure why, but screaming like a maniac seems to be an integral part of curling. That being said, who better to win the gold than Kansas State’s own Frank Martin? If this guy was screaming, “HARD!” at the top of his lungs at me, well, I’d probably pee my pants, but you better believe I’d be sweeping that ice like a bastard too. The silver medal would be awarded to Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint, mostly because the man’s mouth goes like an outboard motor. Arizona’s Sean Miller rounds out this ear piercing podium.

Skating on thin ice:  This isn’t exactly one you want to be on the podium for. For their poor sportsmanship the students at West Virginia barely edged out the student section at Mississippi State for the gold, if only because someone actually hit an assistant coach with their flying projectiles at WVU. The Mountaineers’ fans thought maybe they should get extra rowdy for the big game against rival Pittsburgh, but guess what kids, there’s a big difference between rowdy and reckless. Maybe they’ll cover that in class next semester? As for Mississippi State, they thought they were getting hosed by the refs and the bottles started flying. News flash: bad refs are as much a part of college basketball as jump shots and lay-up lines. Those kids are as big a sore loser as Evgeni Plushenko, and they probably have the matching mullets, too.

What do you guys think? Who would you don with a Rush the Court gold medal? I’ll give you a push like a speed skating relay team, but I’ve got to get back to rooting against the Canadians.

DAVE ZEITLIN: I’ll be honest. Aside from the joy that is afternoon curling, I haven’t gotten too into the Olympics. Perhaps it’s because I can’t relate to any of the sports. I tried skiing for the first time last weekend, and other than the fact I couldn’t stop, let alone carry my skis and boots at the same time, it went really well. And if you want to understand how graceful an ice skater I am, picture a drunk moose walking on a balance beam.

But I like the topic, Michael, and I’m ready to dish out some more medals.
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Set Your Tivo: 02.13.10

Posted by THager on February 13th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Maryland @ # 7 Duke – 1 pm on CBS (*****)

The Terrapins have had extra time to prepare for what should be one of the best games of the year.  With the postponement of their game against Virginia due to snow, Maryland has not played in six days, which probably gave UM some much needed rest in the thick of conference play.  With a win in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Maryland will finally receive some respect.  Georgia Tech, who has more losses on the year and is eighth in the conference standings, is ranked #20, but the Terps (16-6 and second in the ACC) don’t even rank in the top 30 in the ESPN/ USA today poll.  This game will feature two of the most well-rounded teams in America, as both teams score over 80 points per game but neither gives up more than 65 points per contest on defense.  With top 25 rankings in both offensive and defensive efficiency, these squads both rank in Ken Pomeroy’s top 10.  No opponent has scored more than 75 points or shot over 40 % from the field in Maryland’s last seven games, while Duke has not given up 70 points on the other side since their loss to Georgetown two weeks ago.  Duke has struggled to put points on the board in their last two games, but when a team plays defense like they did against UNC (holding the Heels to 5-19 from beyond the arc) they are going to win most  games.  Maryland has not beaten Duke since 2007, and if they plan on having success at Cameron Indoor Stadium, they are going to have to guard the perimeter well enough to force Miles Plumlee and Brian Zoubek to beat them.   More often than not, Duke is going to have at least two of their three star players (Singler, Scheyer & Smith) shoot well, but if Maryland limits the offensive onslaught to just one player, they at least have a chance.

Rhode Island @ #21 Temple – 4 pm on Atlantic 10 Network (****)

Rhode Island could use a big win to solidify their tournament status, and Temple would also benefit largely from this game after showing some vulnerability in their last four games.  These teams are ranked among the top 25 in the RPI, but Temple ranks 43d in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings and Rhode Island is 68th.  Both teams are extremely unbalanced, as Temple has a suspect offense and Rhode Island has one of the worst defenses among tournament contenders (125th in defensive efficiency.)  It is doubtful that all six “good” teams from the Atlantic 10 will get in, and Temple (fourth in the conference) and Rhode Island (fifth) do not want to lose any standing with the selection committee if they lose this one.  In their last meeting, URI came back from eight points in the latter part of the second half to force overtime.  Despite 23 points from Delroy James, Rhode Island shot below 37 % for the game and lost.  Now in Philadelphia, the Rams will have to contain Lavoy Allen, who averages a double-double and was 8-12 in the last matchup.

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