After the Buzzer: On Aircraft Carrier Games, Kevin Ollie’s Debut, Top Five Dunks of the Weekend…

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 12th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. It’s time to put all that preseason chatter on the backburner, and start drawing first impressions, because the 2012-13 season officially got underway Friday night. Unlike the murmuring fizz of an opening that usually christens a new college hoops campaign, we were treated to several high-profile clashes over the weekend. College basketball set out to establish a definitive starting point, and this year (more than any other in recent memory), it succeeded. There are inherent risks to overanalyzing single-game sample sizes, but even after just one weekend’s action, we were able to learn quite a bit about some of the teams headlining the opening weekend. 

Your Watercooler Moment. Stick to Dry Environments (or, Why Naval Ship Games Need to Only Take Place in San Diego).

Things Started Off Well, But Quickly Deteriorated With These Games

When inclement weather forecasts pushed the Syracuse-San Diego State game from Friday to Sunday, you knew this year’s slate of naval ship games were off to a bad start. That game, which concluded Sunday evening with Syracuse pretty much dominating the hometown Aztecs (62-49) in one of the Orange’s rare non-conference games outside the state of New York, was played under gorgeous 60-degree San Diego skies. The two other scheduled match-ups – Ohio State-Marquette in South Carolina and Georgetown-Florida in Jacksonville – did not proceed as planned, as both games were called off when officials noticed condensation developing on both playing surfaces. The Florida-Georgetown game tipped off and ran into the half with minimal fuss. Up the coastline, though, the slick playing surface aboard the USS Yorktown prompted coaches and players from Ohio State and Marquette to mop the court in the hope that some good old-fashioned clean-up work could diffuse mother nature’s influence on their much-hyped shipside season-opener. As both teams quickly learned, the condensation kept coming back, and officials then made the logical move of calling the game off. Spiritually, emotionally and patriotically, the outdoor aircraft carrier games are an excellent idea. Last season’s Carrier Classic, played before gorgeous vistas and naval troops, and featuring two of the nation’s most respected programs in North Carolina and Michigan State, was a definite win. And there have been few times when a college basketball non-conference game to begin the season has drawn so much national attention. It was a special night. Logistically, though, playing basketball games outdoors in November on the East Coast is fraught with risk, and event organizers learned as much Friday. If the aircraft carrier trend is to continue, the games must be played on the West Coast, where a more favorable late fall climate will increase the chances of staging contests without conflict.

Also Worth Chatting About. Give That Man a Contract (Or, Kevin Ollie Has His Squad Playing Hard).

Kevin Ollie Cannot Escape His Former Coach’s Shadow, But With Wins Like These, He May Not Have To (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The long-term status of UConn’s head coaching job remains unresolved for the moment, but we gained some clarity on the issue Friday night. Its leading candidate, former assistant Kevin Ollie, made a resounding statement to open his one-season job trial by knocking off Big Ten contender Michigan State 66-62 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The Huskies lost the core of last season’s underachieving yet talented team, including two first round draft picks (Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond) and two transfers (Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith). Backcourt mainstays Ryan Boatwright and Shabazz Napier carried the torch Friday night against the Spartans, with Napier pouring in 25 points on 8-for-16 shooting and Boatwright adding 13. Highly-touted freshman Omar Calhoun logged 25 minutes but finished with just one point, two rebounds and two assists. The season could not have begun in a better way for Ollie, who faces the massive burden of proving athletic director Warde Manuel he’s the right man for the job, the right personality to succeed the legend that preceded him in Storrs. There were concerns as to whether UConn would lack motivation this season, given their ineligibility for the postseason, but that was hardly the case Friday night. The Huskies played inspired basketball against a top-tier Big Ten foe known for its toughness and grit. If I were to grade Ollie’s job candidacy one game into the season, nothing less than an A+ would suffice.

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Baylor Dominates Lehigh In Season Opener 99-77

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 9th, 2012

If you the chance to watch this game live (illegal stream!), there are two words to best describe Baylor’s victory.

Good. God.

Pierre Jackson (#55) and Isaiah Austin (#21) had a grand ol’ time stomping on Lehigh Friday afternoon. (Associated Press/Rod Aydelotte)

The Baylor frontcourt had their way with the Mountain Hawks. Cory Jefferson scored 26 points, pulled down 13 rebounds (five offensive) and a couple blocked shots. Every time I looked up at the game, he was on the receiving end of alley-oop after alley-oop. Pierre Jackson played like the preseason player of the year that he is with 14 points and 12 assists. Super frosh Isaiah Austin scored 22 points on 10-for-12 from the field, including two threes in just 17 minutes. Four minutes into the second half, Austin made a turnaround jumper, stepped on a Lehigh player’s foot and went to the floor. He did not try to put any weight on it when helped off the court. He did not return.

We all remember Lehigh beating Duke as a #15 seed last March. They were picked to repeat as Patriot League champions in large part due to C.J. McCollum coming back for a senior season. Today, he seemed to be the only guy playing for them, scoring 36 points, grabbing eight rebounds to go along with three steals in 38 minutes. The Bears shot 62% from the floor while the Mountain Hawks hit 37% of their attempts. Next up for Baylor is a match-up with Jackson State Sunday afternoon at the Ferrell Center.

I know it’s one game, so I’m trying to keep the superlatives to a minimum.

But man…

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Morning Five: 10.30.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2012

  1. The AP on Monday released its All-America squad and there were no surprises with this year’s group. Indiana’s Cody Zeller received all but one vote (64) for the first team (queue the Gary Parrish outrage article), while mid-major stalwarts Doug McDermott (62), Isaiah Canaan (43) and CJ McCollum (16) joined fellow Big Ten stars DeShaun Thomas (26) and Trey Burke (16) on the squad. There are six players on this year’s team because McCollum and Burke tied for the last spot — not because the AP has, like many conferences, forgotten how to count. Keep this and all preseason All-America lists in the proper context, though — of the five players chosen to last year’s preseason team, only Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger ended up on both the preseason and postseason first team. Three others — Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, UNC’s Harrison Barnes, and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor — finished as Honorable Mention postseason winners, while Kentucky’s Terrence Jones didn’t even earn that distinction. The two season-long NPOY candidates from last year — Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson — were among the others receiving votes in last year’s preseason list. Caveat emptor.
  2. Tis the season for preseason rankings, selections, lists, and all sorts of fun but ultimately meaningless analysis. Still, until the first games tip off just over 10 days from now, this is all we’ve got. Basketball ProspectusDan Hanner has produced his preseason analysis of all 345 Division I teams, and as he notes, some of the results of his model may well surprise you. For example, the model loves UCLA and all of its incoming talent but isn’t nearly as high on Louisville and all of its returning talent. It seems to think that the Big 12 conference race is going to be one for the ages with eight teams at .500 or better, but it’s not buying into the hype that NC State is ready to overtake one of its rivals to win the ACC. If you’re a numbers geek who gets off on efficiency analytics, it will be interesting to do a cross-tabbed comparison between Hanner’s preseason rankings and the Ken Pomeroy preseason rankings which are due to release sometime later this week.
  3. For non-stat geeks, there’s always the controversial RPI, which despite its myriad shortcomings, remains the “organizational tool” of choice for the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Building off of SI.com writer Luke Winn’s previous work examining several power conference schools gaming the RPI by playing (and beating) good mid-majors in the non-conference slate, TSN’s Ryan Fagan takes the next step and reviews a number of mid-major programs that have figured out the best way to prepare a team in terms of both the RPI and its corresponding mental toughness is to play those kinds of games, often on the road in places like Lawrence, Durham or Pittsburgh. He mentions that Davidson, Lehigh, Detroit, Belmont, UNC Asheville and Long Beach State (what else is new?) have all taken this tack with their non-conference scheduling this season. We’re certainly not complaining — these are some of the best games of the November and December months of the schedule.
  4. Iowa State’s transfer project keeps right on truckin’, with the weekend news that USC point guard Maurice Jones has matriculated there and will become eligible in the 2013-14 season. While Fred Hoiberg has picked up another talented piece for his backcourt — Jones did everything but serve fajitas to the fans in the Galen Center last year — there is a degree of oddness about his departure from the Trojan program. According to a September statement released by the school, Jones was declared academically ineligible at USC and would be forced to miss the season as a result. Jones disputes this characterization, stating unequivocally that he “just got suspended from the school for a year, but it wasn’t because of my grades. […] It was something that happened at the school. I can’t really say what it was, but it wasn’t my grades.” It would seem somewhat unusual for a school to suspend a player for a different reason while using academic issues as a cover story, so we’re not sure what exactly is going on with this one — what we do know is that Iowa State has picked up a talented waterbug of a player who should seamlessly move into a starting role to replace Korie Lucious (another transfer) next season.
  5. With Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky all populating the preseason top five lists, this is as good a time as any to make sure that you’re regularly reading the WDRB.com College Basketball Notebook from Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich. Based in Louisville, the duo is perfectly situated to report on many of the anecdotes, rumors and tidbits that come out of this basketball-crazed Fertile Crescent on a daily basis. In this week’s version, for example, Crawford and Bozich discuss the numerous suitors for Andrew Wiggins, Tom Crean’s threat to use his bench productively, Calipari’s naysaying about his latest batch of fabulous freshmen, and Pitino’s verbal merengue around his contract extension with the Cardinals. Trust us,  you’ll learn something new every time you stop by — make it part of you weekly reading.
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Morning Five: 07.16.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 16th, 2012

  1. It seemed like just another summer Friday to most of us around the college basketball universe, but Friday the 13th to Connecticut represented the school’s last chance at a reprieve from the NCAA regarding its postseason ban for next season. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance wrapped up its meeting last week with no change to its policies in calculating the Academic Progress Rate (APR), effectively shutting down UConn’s final hopes for a last-minute shift in its eligibility. The good news for the Husky program is that on the same day head coach Jim Calhoun, who has two years remaining on his contract, publicly stated that he would coach in Storrs for at least two more seasons. Even without the carrot of the NCAA Tournament motivating his team, Calhoun apparently believes that his squad will be pretty good next year. But of more importance to the program is whether he can rebuild through recruiting and player development so that, if 2013-14 is indeed his final season of a glorious career, the Huskies will be well positioned to remain among the elite for the next head coach.
  2. You recall last week that Class of 2013 superstar recruit Jabari Parker released his list of final 10 schools with many of the usual suspects on it. One notable wild card candidate was the appearance of local school DePaul on his list. As this article by the Chicago Tribune notes, Parker is in the unique position of potentially revitalizing a proud and historically relevant program that could springboard to a long-awaited renaissance even with only one season of the star forward on campus. Some 35 years ago, a silky smooth Chicagoan by the name of Mark Aguirre went through a similar selection process, ultimately deciding to stay home and lead the Blue Demons to the Final Four. Whether Parker follows the siren song of the national names such as Calipari, Krzyzewski and Williams or stays local remains to be seen, but the #1 player in his class projects out as a player in the mold of Paul Pierce who can make a difference immediately.
  3. Seth Davis took some time this week to profile Lehigh’s CJ McCollum, possibly the top returning mid-major guard in America next season. The clear theme of the piece is the chip on McCollum’s shoulder as a result of numerous schools, coaches, players, and others slighting him over the years. His experience at the recent LeBron James Skills Academy in front of a number of high profile scouts solidified his status as a likely first rounder in the 2013 NBA Draft, but it is his drive as someone who believes that he can play with anybody in America that has pushed his game beyond that of a normal Patriot Leaguer and into the upper echelon of college basketball talent. We cannot wait to see how he performs this coming season with (finally!) all eyes on him.
  4. Sports Media Watch recently listed the top 50 most-watched sports broadcasts of the first half of 2012, and college basketball managed to grab seven of those spots. The top game, of course, was the national title match-up between Kentucky and Kansas, grabbing the #15 overall position with 20.9 million viewers — two spots behind the BCS national title game between LSU and Alabama (#13, 24.2 million), with the NFL juggernaut claiming 13 of the other 14 above it. The two Final Four games between Ohio State-Kansas and Louisville-Kentucky came next, with a couple of Elite Eight games, a Sweet Sixteen game, and a Round of 32 game (UNC-Creighton) also ranked among the group. Just how much of a different ratings game is the NFL playing with the rest of American sports? The Pro Bowl, a meaningless hurrah that almost nobody on earth cares about, outdrew the Elite Eight extravaganza game between North Carolina and Kansas by 800,000 viewers. This fact would be hilarious if it weren’t so utterly ridiculous.
  5. We feel we’d be remiss if we didn’t provide a comment on last week’s Freeh Report outlining the depth and treachery of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University. We’ve read reams of print on this subject over the weekend from sports writers and generalists alike, and aside from the fact that we continue to sense a sea change among the populace that the concept of a student-athlete is becoming increasingly impeachable and irrelevant, the best piece out there is this one by YahooSports’ Dan Wetzel. His article carefully and convincingly points out the shameless hypocrisy of former PSU president Graham Spanier for looking the other way when a molester was terrorizing children on his campus, while shooting off at the mouth about integrity when a player had the temerity to buy a new suit with an agent’s money. As he writes: “When Spanier didn’t report Jerry Sandusky, he said it was the “humane” way to go. When Ohio State coach Jim Tressel didn’t report that some of his players got free tattoos, Spanier believed a boiling point had been reached.” It’s well worth the read.
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Morning Five: 04.10.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 10th, 2012

  1. It was not much of a surprise, but yesterday Thomas Robinson officially put his name into the 2012 NBA Draft. A year after coming off the bench due to the Morris twins starting in front of him Robinson became the second best player in college basketball and should be a top five pick in this year’s draft. Kansas fans might have been hoping to have Robinson return for his senior year, but it would be unrealistic to have him return to school when he could help support his sister with his NBA contract (his family story is well-chronicled so we will not go through it here). Of course, this will inevitably raise another offseason of question as to whether Bill Self can win another Big 12 title without a superstar.
  2. Robinson will be joined in the NBA Draft by another Big 12 big man as Baylor‘s Perry Jones III also declared for the NBA Draft. Unlike Robinson, who to be fair was a highly rated recruit, Jones has failed to live up to the exceedingly high expectations placed on him coming into college. Averaging 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game is pretty solid, but not when you were projected as a top five pick coming into the season. Looking at it from Jones’ perspective, leaving now appears to be the right decision as each year he has stayed in college has hurt his stock to the point that he is almost out of the lottery after being a probable top two pick coming out of high school and a consensus top five pick even after last year’s decent, but uninspired season. Fortunately for NBA GMs he has fallen far enough down the mock drafts that selecting Jones probably won’t cost the GM his job unless that GM does something idiotic like take Jones in the top ten.
  3. Jones’ Baylor teammates may not be in such good shape as the basketball programs (both men and women) are being investigated for impermissible phone calls and text messages that are so far out of bounds that Kelvin Sampson would blush. Some analysts might have been able to foresee some suspicious activity at Baylor given their sudden rise to prominence. In an attempt to save itself from severe NCAA punishment the coaches named have acknowledged their role and have taken self-imposed penalties and the school has done the same with scholarship and recruiting restrictions.  Given the degree of punishment other schools have received in the past we would not be surprised to see the NCAA issue even more stiff sanctions.
  4. Two other slightly smaller, but still significant names also put their names in the NBA Draft. Vanderbilt‘s John Jenkins announced yesterday that he would be entering into the NBA Draft and forgoing his senior year. Jenkins is projected to be a borderline first round pick could be an intriguing target for a NBA team as he is probably the best shooter in this year’s Draft and there are plenty of teams that will be picking at the end of the first round who could use a marksman. Jenkins is not the only junior guard who declared for the NBA Draft yesterday as Oregon State‘s Jared Cunningham did the same. Unlike Jenkins, Cunningham likely will not even get close to the first round and its guaranteed contract as he is projected to be a late second round pick or even undrafted. Still his athleticism and defense should be enough to get a look from several NBA teams and some training camp invitations.
  5. With all of the players declaring for the NBA Draft it is good to hear that at least a few players will be staying in school for at least a few more years (or at least that is what we think). The most prominent and interesting is Trey Burke, who is returning to Michigan after initial reports indicated that he was leaving. Burke’s decision means that the Wolverines could be a top ten team next season. Lehigh‘s C.J. McCollum, who gained notoriety with his performance in the team’s upset win over Duke, will also return to school. Learning from our criticism of how word spread that he might be leaving school early, McCollum, a journalism major, took matters into his own hands and wrote his own column for The Sporting News. Tony Mitchell, the one from North Texas not the one who is leaving Alabama, will also return to school after playing a shortened freshman season while his eligibility was sorted out. Out of the three, Mitchell might be the most intriguing NBA prospect and could wind up being a lottery pick if he has a strong sophomore season.
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Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2012

  1. Frank Martin was introduced as the new head coach at South Carolina yesterday. We are usually indifferent on most coaching hires because they are usually involve hiring successful coaches from lower-tier programs, unsuccessful coaches from higher-tier programs, or unproven assistant coaches. It is rare to get a successful coach from a higher-tier program, but South Carolina managed to do it. Overall, it appears to be one of the better hires that we can remember at least as of the time of the hiring although Martin will have to deal with the some very strong programs around him. Martin will also have to deal with a program and a culture where one of the team’s star players, Bruce Ellington, cannot decide which sport he wants to play.
  2. John Currie, the athletic director at Kansas State, was quick to refute the growing speculation that a rift between he and Martin was a driving force in Martin’s decision to head to South Carolina. Currie was busy yesterday not only starting a search for a new coach and denying that his relationship with Martin was the driving force behind Martin’s decision, but also reporting that the evidence behind the school’s suspension of Jamar Samuels before the team’s game against Syracuse was that somebody found the wire transfer receipt in  the garbage. As several people have pointed out this report seems a little strange and there has been plenty of speculation that it was a ploy to help drive Martin out without having to face the wrath of boosters. We are not sure we believe that either, but it certainly has been an interesting few days in Manhattan, Kansas
  3. As we noted on Twitter yesterday we have seen athletes do a lot of dumb things with social media/networking, but Jonathan Holton appears to have taken it to another level. The Rhode Island freshman was arrested yesterday morning after reportedly posting unauthorized videos of sexual encounters with two female students onto his Facebook page. Holton, who is facing two felony counts and up to three years in prison along with a $5,000 fine, was released and warned not to contact the two alleged victims. We suspect this is not the type of start that Dan Hurley wanted when he took over the job at Rhode Island.
  4. C.J. McCollum is using his phenomenal performance against Duke as a sign to take his talents to the next level and he will enter his name into the NBA Draft. The Lehigh junior guard will not hire an agent for now, which will allow him the ability to withdraw from the Draft by April 10. If you are looking for an eventual source for whether or not McCollum stays in the Draft, you might want to check out The Brown and White, the Lehigh online student paper, which McCollum, a journalism major writes for. Surprisingly, McCollum did not release the story to his paper first and instead went through the school’s athletic department. We cannot give C.J. much direct advice on the court, but in the journalism industry it is generally a good idea to break your own stories rather than giving it away to other sources. Another junior, Georgetown‘s Hollis Thompson, will be entering the Draft and plans to sign with an agent. Thompson, who put him name in last year before pulling out, is making an interesting decision because unlike McCollum, who most consider a mid- to late-first round pick, Thompson would be hoping to be a late second round selection at best.
  5. Yesterday, Connecticut formally released Alex Oriakhi from his scholarship. As we noted when the news first broke, whether or not Oriakhi will be able to play next year is dependent on how the NCAA rules on UConn’s appeal of their 2013 NCAA Tournament ban. If UConn loses its appeal, Oriakhi can play next year, but if they win the appeal, he has to sit out a year. There will be no shortage of suitors for Oriakhi, but there is at least one school that Oriakhi will not consider–Duke. We are not quite sure of why Oriakhi is so strongly opposed to becoming a Blue Devil, but it is an interesting choice because he certainly would be able to get major minutes playing for them and would also have plenty of opportunity to showcase his skills on television.
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The Other 26: And Then There Were Two

Posted by IRenko on March 23rd, 2012


I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Thirty-three TO26 teams entered the greatest weekend in sports, and just two — Xavier and Ohio — survived to make it to the second weekend.  This is the weakest showing for non-BCS teams since 2005, when only Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Utah made it to the Sweet Sixteen (where they were dispatched by Illinois and Kentucky, respectively). But that’s not to say that it wasn’t an exciting first weekend for the TO26. Indeed, Friday was a historic day, as not just one, but two #15 seeds notched wins. It was mad, it was March, and it was why we — especially those of us who relish the mid-major game as much as the high-major one — love college hoops.

Below, we take a look at how those 15 seed upsets confounded us and and how they didn’t, the likelihood that Xavier and Ohio will continue to carry the TO26 banner into deeper rounds, and reflect on the surprising and not so surprising first round losses suffered by some of the best TO26 teams.

The Survivors

Can the TO26 makes its mark on the regional final or — gasp — the Final Four?

Ohio — For the second time in three years, D.J. Cooper has taken the NCAA Tournament by storm, scoring 40 points in two wins.  More generally, the Bobcats are a young, athletic, and dangerous team with a surprisingly high talent level for a MAC squad.  Their #13 seed reflects a bit of trouble that they had in the middle of the season, but this team is playing better than that, almost as well as the ’06 George Mason and ’11 VCU teams did when they stormed the Final Four with a #11 seed.

Can John Groce D.J. Cooper, and the Ohio Bobcats Make History?

Still, under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t give them great odds against a North Carolina squad that tends to dominate inside.  But for those of you who just returned to civilization from a one-week absence, be advised that these are not normal circumstances.  Kendall Marshall’s likely absence (or limited ability, at the least) may leave UNC vulnerable to Ohio’s turnover-generating defense and without the ability to run its vaunted transition offense.  If the Bobcats can rattle the Tar Heels and UNC is unable to push the ball effectively, this could be a real contest.  And after that, who knows?  Kansas, with its effective interior game, would be a real challenge, but NC State would be eminently beatable.  It is not inconceivable that the Bobcats could become the first team with a seed higher than 11 to land in the Final Four.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 18th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#3 Georgetown vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Thompson's Team is a Real Wildcard in this Region

We originally picked Georgetown to get upset in the round of 64 by Belmont, but that was with knowledge that the Hoyas could be the biggest threat to stopping Kansas from reaching the Elite Eight if they were able to escape that opening game. Not only did Georgetown escape, but it was one of the most impressive showings of any team in the tournament thus far. The Hoyas used their length and athleticism to deny the efficient Belmont offense from ever getting started, and they were unreal at their own end offensively with a 61.2% field goal percentage for the game. This matchup will be more difficult, however, against an North Carolina State team that’s getting better every game and playing spectacular offensively. The Wolfpack have great size inside to match Georgetown, with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell as long and athletic as any Hoya. Howell had his best game of the season with 22 points on 10-12 shooting last game, but that will also change as he goes up against much stronger post defenders. Georgetown primarily plays zone defense but will also switch things up and defend man-to-man when needed. It will be a battle inside all night as the Hoyas surely won’t let Scott Wood get open looks from three. This game, though, will be decided on the other end of the floor. NC State was not particularly strong defensively throughout the year, but they completely shut down San Diego State on Friday by allowing just 37.7% field goal shooting. The Aztecs played a lot of one-on-one ball, the exact opposite of what the Hoyas will show. It’ll be up to Henry Sims to make smart decisions in the high post, something he’s done all year. Jason Clark was great last game and is a reliable playmaker in this game, while Otto Porter remains rock solid as an X-factor offensively. Both of these teams looked great last round, but Georgetown has the advantage because it should pose a much greater defensive threat to the Wolfpack while also running a motion offense that will be difficult to defend.

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#1 Michigan State vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 2:45 PM ET on CBS

Two top ten teams in defensive efficiency. Two coaches with a well-earned reputation for X-ing and O-ing with the best of them. It isn’t likely to be one of the prettiest displays of basketball you’ll ever see, but if you like fundamentals and you like basketball as chess match, this is a can’t-miss game. The Billikens advanced to this round behind great team defense and great individual offensive performances by Kwamain Mitchell (22 points including four threes) and Brian Conklin (16 points, earned largely from his ten-of-11 performance from the line). But Conklin also turned the ball over eight times, in part due to the active hands of Memphis defenders; he’ll see more of that on Sunday and will need to take better care of the ball. Defensively, the Billikens will need to come up with some sort of answer for Draymond Green, who was brilliant Friday against Long Island, registering a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. But perhaps the biggest battle of the game will be on Michigan State’s offensive glass. The Spartans have historically made a living creating offensive on second-chance opportunities, but the best Rick Majerus-coached teams have been proficient in securing defensive rebounds. If the Billikens can limit the Spartans’ offensive rebounding (a feat easier said than done), Tom Izzo will need to find other ways for his Spartans to score in the halfcourt, and there have been times this year when that MSU offense has bogged down a bit. While sophomore guard Keith Appling is usually excellent getting penetration, SLU is no liable to allow that very often, and there is no one else on the Spartan roster capable of creating his own offense off the dribble on a regular basis. Guys like Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton have been very efficient three-point shooters, but, with the exception perhaps of Green, they need someone to create open looks for them. In short, if SLU can do what no other team has been able to do all year – keep Michigan State in check on their offensive glass – then the Billikens could drag this game down into the mud and pull out a win. But, if the Spartans do what, you know, they always do, I have a hard time seeing Saint Louis pulling this one out.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State

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Rushed Reaction: #15 Lehigh 75, #2 Duke 70

Posted by mpoindexter on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The Mountain Hawks may be the Most Fun Team in the Tournament. Lehigh’s players didn’t just want to win, they wanted to do it with style, with bravado. Few players can be as artfully aggressive on the court as C.J. McCollum. Few can grin wide and shuffle their feet — almost dancing — in a tense late-game situation like Mackey McKnight did when he got a perimeter mismatch against Miles Plumlee. Few players are as constantly vocal on the court as Justin Maneri. The result is a team that may play with more attitude and panache than any other team in the title hunt.
  2. This Wasn’t Totally Unexpected. Some basketball tea leaf readers saw this coming. First among them was stats guru Nathan Walker, who was already basking in a Lehigh victory back on Selection Sunday. Others, like the fellows over at SCACCHoops, saw it being a 50/50 tossup. Add in Ryan Kelly‘s absence due to injury, and you have a Lehigh win that some people saw happening, as improbable as that seems.
  3. Duke’s Guard Defense Hurt Them. Duke is missing the lockdown defensive guard this year that Mike Krzyzewski seems to clone annually in the university’s biology labs. As a result, Lehigh’s guards ate them alive. Duke couldn’t stop McKnight from penetrating in the half court; they couldn’t stop the perimeter pick and roll; they couldn’t trap in the full-court press; this led to a number of transition dunks. The Blue Devils’ guard-trio of Austin Rivers, Seth Curry, and Andre Dawkins may be lethal shooters, but they’re a liability on the other side of the ball.

Star of the Game. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh. He didn’t just score 30 points and play all but one minute of the game — he did it and made it look easy. Every Duke defender — from Josh Hairston, to Austin Rivers, to Miles Plumlee–tried, and failed, to keep the 6’3″ Lehigh junior away from the basket. All of them failed. At times it seemed as if McCollum could do everything — jump, dribble, defend, shoot — better than everyone else on the floor.

Sights and Sounds. Lehigh’s fans, relegated to a single seating section near center court, were as entertaining as the game. The Mountain Hawk faithful have fully bought in to the “large cardboard head” phenomenon. What’s more as the game progressed, they passed out dozens of “GO LEHIGH” signs to “neutral” fans in attendance (read: UNC fans). They were easily the loudest fans so far per capita, and the most involved. When McCollum hit a free throw with one second left to make it a four-point margin, the Lehigh seating section let out the most relieved cheer one can imagine. They earned it.

Quotable. “This game is a great game. I’ve been in it for 37 years and it takes you to incredible highs. And it takes you to incredible lows. And tonight’s one of those lows.” – Mike Krzyzewski, Duke.

Wildcard. “But it was basically a home game for Duke,” you may say, but you’d be partially wrong. Sure, Duke was only 50 miles from the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium, but any Duke game outside of Cameron in the state of North Carolina is bound to have more people who’d like to see the Blue Devils lose than ones who’d like to see them win. In reality, Duke would probably find a more sympathetic crowd in Madison Square Garden than in Greensboro Coliseum.

What’s Next? Lehigh awaits the winner of tonight’s Notre Dame/Xavier game. And after watching the performance the Mountain Hawks put on tonight against Duke, no one should doubt their ability to win a game against either of those teams. Their only glaring weakness — size in the post — would make a meeting with Notre Dame a problem, but who really wants to count out this team now?

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ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting Duke vs. Lehigh

Posted by KCarpenter on March 16th, 2012

Nate Wolters of South Dakota State and De’Mon Brooks of Davidson both got their chances to make their name known on Thursday, but both failed to lead their teams to the upset. On Friday, another batch of one-man offenses get their shot at making an impression. For Lehigh, C.J. McCollum is the guy. He takes 33.7% of the Mountain Hawks shots and thankfully converts the shots at a very efficient rate. He’s not just a scorer, though he does average 21.9 PPG, and he manages to pitch in with most statistical categories, averaging 3.5 APG, 2.6 SPG, and 6.5 RPG, which is all the more impressive when you consider that McCollum is only 6’3″. He’s a stud, completely capable of carrying his team when it needs him, and his team is going to need a lot out of him when Lehigh plays Duke.

Lehigh's C.J. McCollum Is an Elite Guard

Lehigh hasn’t beaten a single team that made the tournament. The Mountain Hawks’ best wins are a pair of wins against Bucknell, the regular season champions of the Patriot League. That’s it. The best that Lehigh can do, when trying to present evidence that the Mountain Hawks can hang with the Blue Devils, is mention that they lost to Michigan State and Iowa State by only nine points apiece. Lehigh has yet to beat, or even closely lose to a tournament caliber team. There is little reason to think that Duke won’t pummel the hapless Mountain Hawks. Yet, for the sake of argument, if Lehigh were to beat Duke, let’s think about what that victory would look like.

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Checking In On… the Patriot League

Posted by KDoyle on December 9th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is the RTC correspondent for the Patriot League. You can find him on Twitter at @KLDoyle11.

 

The Week That Was

  • Grading the Patriot League: Currently, the Patriot League is the 22nd-rated conference in the country according to KenPom.com, a pretty good mark considering the fact that the average rating of the league since 2003 is 24.67.
  • Maryland-Eastern Shore vs. The PL: Maryland-Eastern Shore has seen only stints of success since the turn of the century (averaging less than eight wins a year) and the 2011-12 campaign hasn’t shown much promise for the Hawks thus far. Sitting at just 2-8, UMES may be on their way to yet another single-digit win season. However, the Hawks have found success against the Patriot League as their two wins have come against American and Navy. Their only other game against a Patriot League foe comes at Lehigh and something tells me their success ends against the Mountain Hawks.
  • Mid-Major Top 25: After losing their first two games of the season to Richmond and Maryland-Eastern Shore—the latter being a disappointing letdown — American has reeled off eight straight wins and garnered votes in the College Insider Mid-Major Top 25 poll. Seven of the Eagles’ wins came against fairly pedestrian opponents, but their victory over a solid St. Joseph’s team suggests that Jeff Jones will have his squad in the thick of the PL title race come March.
  • Team of the Week (Nov. 24 – Dec. 7): American – Overshadowed by Pat Flannery and Ralph Willard for much of his career in the conference, American’s Jeff Jones hasn’t quite received the credit many believe he deserves. This year, however, Jones is doing his best job yet, as the Eagles have gotten off to an impressive 8-2 start. Jones’s greatest attribute? His coaching in tight games. American is 3-1 in games decided by one possession so far this season. Many projected American to finish in the middle of the pack this year, but Jones has the Eagles playing like a team vying for the Patriot League crown.   
  • Player of the Week (Nov. 24 – Dec. 7): Charles Hinkle – Hinkle is doing it all for American. Over American’s last five games, the senior guard averaged a shade over 22 points to lead the Eagles to a perfect 5-0 mark. In a 66-60 win over St. Joseph’s — American’s best win of the season — Hinkle had his most dominant performance of the year as the senior guard rolled off 32 points on 5-9 shooting from three. For the season, Hinkle ranks sixth nationally in scoring (23.5 PPG).

Charles Hinkle's Blazing Start Has Helped American to Eight Straight Wins (aueagles.com)

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After the Buzzer: Lavin Returns on an Otherwise Yucky Night

Posted by rtmsf on November 10th, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Say It Ain’t So, Joe! On the second night of games of the opening week of college basketball, we’d be completely remiss if we didn’t comment on the insane evening that took over the airwaves while the Coaches vs. Cancer games were going on in the background. The number of stomach-turning things about this entire sordid Penn State affair are too many to count, but the absolutely shameful response by PSU students more concerned with protecting their beloved coach than recognizing the basic simplicity of right from wrong is beyond incomprehensible. Where have we come to as a society when the middle 80% of this great land are only moved to demonstration when our sports heroes are under duress or we’ve killed an enemy of the state? Why not take the streets in outrage over the numerous children whose innocent lives were destroyed by the selfish and criminal actions of a powerful few? That folks would care when it matters, and matter when they care. Mistakes were made at Penn State; it doesn’t mean that Joe Paterno is a horrible person, but it does mean that he has to go.

Lavin Returned Early From Medical Leave and Led His Team to a Victory (NYDN/A. Theodorakis)

Your Watercooler MomentLavin Returns, Surprises His Team.  How about some good news in an emotionally rough night? St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin, not someone we would characterize as a man content with sitting around at home, made an early return from his recent prostate cancer surgery and surprised his young team so much that they forgot to play the first half. Truthfully, despite a surfeit of talented parts, St. John’s is going to have evenings when the Red Storm will fall behind by 16 points in the opening stanza because players are still figuring out how to play with each other. But, as Lavin’s interchangeable pieces learn to synergize and feed off one another as they did for the game-changing run in the second half against Lehigh, the ceiling for his team this year appears fluid. And we referred to this angle the other night, but it bears repeating — cancer is an insidious disease, so we love the fact that Lavin was able to make his season debut during one of the Coaches vs. Cancer games. Even before his own diagnosis of prostate cancer, Lavin was a vocal supporter of the various anti-cancer charities related to college basketball. We wish him nothing but the best on his road to complete recovery (having a God’s Gift on hand doesn’t hurt!).

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