Fabulous Freshmen Usher in Next Era for Indiana

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

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

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

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Indiana

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

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

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Big Ten Coaches on the Not-So-Hot Seat, Part I

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 29th, 2013

It’s that time of the year when fans get their usual dose of preseason predictions. One of the usual mechanisms in this onslaught is the “Coaches on the Hot Seat” list where writers identify those coaches whose job status relies on the success of their upcoming season. Each preseason in the Big Ten, previously successful coaches routinely find themselves on this list and almost never escape it. The conference is widely considered to have the best head coaches of any league which makes wins tough to come by. This competition leads to very good coaches experiencing disappointing seasons, finding themselves on the hot seat, and then eventually being fired. Last year, it was Tubby Smith at Minnesota who found himself without a job in April.  A national championship-winning coach at Kentucky, Smith led the Golden Gophers to their first NCAA Tournament win in 16 years (and, actually, longer since the NCAA vacated the 1996-97 season after charging Minnesota with academic fraud). The year before that, it was Bruce Weber at Illinois standing in the unemployment line. A former National Coach of the Year and NCAA Tournament runner-up, Weber won 100 more games than he lost over a nine-year stint. And there are others. All this goes to show that in this league, being a talented head coach might get you in the door, but it won’t save you from the hot seat.

Relax, Coach Crean.  You many have lost two NBA lottery picks.  But you're not going anywhere.

Relax, Coach Crean. You may have lost two NBA lottery picks. But you’re not going anywhere.

This year is a little different.  Barring any unforeseen scandals, there seems to be no Big Ten coaches who are in immediate danger of losing their jobs. So here at the RTC Big Ten microsite, we have instead decided to look at the coaches around the league and examine their current situations: Why are they not in danger of having to endure a sad and uncomfortable final press conference at the end of the year? In the interest of brevity, we will not review the likes of Tom Izzo, John Beilein, Thad Matta or Bo Ryan. Their current situations can be summed up in these words: They are awesome at coaching college basketball and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  For the rest of the Big Ten’s eight coaches, things are a little more nuanced. Here’s why:

John Groce (Illinois): I listed in a previous post Groce’s accomplishments from last year. Those include a trip to the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament from a roster that had all but given up the year before. But more importantly, Groce has secured quite a bit of outstanding talent for the future of his program. A bevy of promising transfers and recruits are set to join the Illini this year and next. His program is in a position to start challenging for Big Ten titles as early as 2014-15, and if Groce can land a commitment from Top 10 recruit Cliff Alexander next month, Illini fans can start dreaming even bigger. He’s in good shape.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Cody Zeller

Posted by BHayes on June 24th, 2013

nbadraftprofiles

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Cody Zeller

School: Indiana

Height/Weight: 7’0”/230 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward/Center

Projected Draft Range: Lottery

After an up and down season, Cody Zeller's stock is on the rise again

After an up and down season, Cody Zeller’s stock is on the rise again

Overview: Cody Zeller’s draft stock took a pretty solid beating in February and March, but a head-turning performance at the combine has him rising up draft boards again. Zeller is the perfect example of a player who so many once considered overrated that he has now become underrated. IU’s big man was a presumptive top-five pick if he had entered the draft a year ago, but opted to return for another year of college. He hoped his sophomore year would see his draft stock improve and his team flourish, but despite posting season averages of 16.5 PPG and 8.1 RPG, the latter came to fruition without the former. Teammate Victor Oladipo would become the real beneficiary of the Indiana revival, as the Hoosiers’ 29-win season launched Oladipo from the second round bubble into the top five. Zeller was not so fortunate. A real candidate to be the top pick in the draft back before the season, Zeller rarely dominated (his supporters would tell you he never needed to for IU to be successful) and often looked overwhelmed when playing deep in the post. In what would prove to be his final collegiate game against Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen, Zeller’s performance was a microcosm of the growing concerns scouts have had about him, as he looked very timid down low in a 3-of-11 shooting outing against the Orange’s long, NBA-esque front line. The days after the IU tournament exit marked the nadir of Zeller’s draft stock, but the combine and interviews have helped his stock rebound immensely. He will not be the top pick in this draft, and likely won’t fall within the top five – a different reality than he expected to find here a year ago, but Cody Zeller enters the draft with good momentum and a real ability to immediately help whichever franchise selects him.

Will Translate to the NBA: Let’s take Zeller’s primary strength a step further than “NBA-ready” – he very well could enter the league and immediately be the fastest end-to-end big man in the league. That top spot can surely be debated, but the point is that most NBA post players will find keeping up with Zeller in the fullcourt to be quite a chore. Zeller’s end-to-end speed is truly elite and we have known this for awhile, but the extent of his athletic ability came to light at the combine. Nobody benefited more from the combine than Miami’s Shane Larkin and Zeller, with the former Indiana star testing out like a guard in Chicago. His vertical leap was 37.5”, and both his ¾ and lane agility times beat out most wings and a number of guards. That explosiveness wasn’t always on display in college, and Zeller will definitely need to continue to learn how to best apply it on the court, but the physical tools are clearly there. Furthermore, Zeller is a high-character guy who has shown a willingness to get better, so consider him NBA-ready from a personal maturity standpoint as well.

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Morning Five: 05.21.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 21st, 2013

morning5

  1. Kansas has made a rather rapid transition from a contender for the Big 12 title (just because they win it every year) to  an interesting potential Final Four team. The obvious big move was the addition of Andrew Wiggins last week, but yesterday’s addition of Tarik Black as he announced his transfer from Memphis to Kansas could make the Jayhawks a more formidable team in March. The biggest part of the transfer is that Black will be able to play next year for what is expected to be Wiggins’ only year in Lawrence. Although Black’s numbers last year–8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game coming off the bench–will not blow anybody away, but he was one of the most coveted available transfers because there are very few players of his size with his numbers that are looking to transfer. The big question for Black and the Jayhawks is whether Black can regain the form that he had early in his career or if he will continue the downward trend his college career has had recently.
  2. One of the interesting aspects of conference realignment is how players are able to transfer between schools that used to be considered conference rivals. One such case is that of Deuce Bello, who will be transferring from Baylor to Missouri in a move that was made significantly easier with the Tigers move to the SEC. Bello has been an Internet sensation since high school thanks to his ridiculous dunks, but his on-court production has been meager at best as averaged just 2.4 points last season as a sophomore. Several writers have speculated that the change in scenery may bring out Bello’s potential, but we are not quite sure that athleticism necessarily translates into potential.
  3. Speaking of conference realignment, it may significantly affect the earning power of many conference commissioners, but at least for now Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott appears to come out on top in terms of compensation. Thanks to a generous compensation package that included a $1,376,000 bonus for the 2011-12 year, Scott’s total compensation exceeded $3 million narrowly beating out Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney and nearly doubling SEC commissioner Mike Silve. This payout preceeds the basketball officiating scandal, which probably will not affect Scott’s salary although it oculd theoretically affect his job down the road. It will be interesting to see how conference realignment affects the salaries over the next few years.
  4. Isaiah Canaan might be headed to the NBA (hopefully), but Murray State appears to have found his replacement in Zay Jackson, who was released from jail in April and allowed to return to the team. Jackson was kicked off the team following his ridiculous hit-and-run incident in September and sentenced to 49 days in jail before being released in April. While we understand the idea of giving a player a second chance, but in Jackson’s case we have our reservations so we will be interested in hearing what Murray State has to say about the situation.
  5. It seems like NBA Draft combine numbers used to be a lot more interesting when top prospects participated, but the numbers from this year are still interesting. As the article mentions these numbers are not considered nearly as valuable among NBA teams as the comparable numbers are for NFL teams. The biggest surprises to us were Shane Larkin and Cody Zeller even though we both knew they were athletic. We just didn’t realize how athletic they were especially Zeller who was competing against everybody else without factoring in his size. If you are looking for a good way to kill some time, we suggest taking a look at the DraftExpress historical database and see how some notable recent prospects stack up.
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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XVI

Posted by jbaumgartner on April 12th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. a final game that was so good, so full of quality and runs and drama, that you literally sat in your seat and wondered if it could sustain itself for 40 minutes. The answer was yes, and anyone who wasn’t on the edge of their seat for most of Monday night doesn’t have a pulse. That game was everything we could have hoped for – after an NCAA Tournament that included both upsets and duds to go alongside some raggedy play, this was a title game deserving of the name. What a way to end the year.

I LOVED…. being vindicated in my disgust for Doug Gottlieb. Just take a few quick seconds in case you missed him making a fool of himself on national television (ahem, I mean bigger fool than usual).

I LOVED…. Russdiculousness. You have to give it to Russ Smith – he carried his Louisville team all the way to the Final Four, all the way to the title game with a torrid stretch of scoring, and once he got there he flat-out refused to become a different player. With a lead down the stretch, Russ fouled on the perimeter, dribbled into traffic, took a three-pointer with a new shot clock and 2:30 left, threw crazy passes into the stands and generally tried to give the championship trophy away. But hey, he wouldn’t be Russ if he weren’t a little nutty, and the Cardinals wouldn’t be holding that trophy if he wasn’t on their side.

Russdiculous Lived Up to His Name

I LOVED…. a shootout. It didn’t get any better than that first-half step-off from 22 feet by Spike Albrecht and Luke Hancock. Spike’s might have been more unexpected, but Hancock’s was pure guts in the face of a double-digit deficit with the season on the line. It made for some incredible runs in the first 20 minutes, and it got even better when Albrecht made a cybermove on Kate Upton.

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Morning Five: 04.10.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 10th, 2013

morning5

  1. We are entering the early entry period where news about who will be putting their name into the NBA Draft. There will be plenty of time to criticize the players who make bad decisions (usually based on bad information), but we will start off on a positive note with the one player who we knew was going pro and is probably the only player we would have criticized for coming back to college: Ben McLemore. On the selfish side, we would love to see McLemore stay another year (or three), but given the financial hardships that his family faces it would be irresponsible for him to go back to college when he could help bring his family out of poverty with just his rookie contract. As for the other announcement we were in favor of Victor Oladipo will also enter the NBA Draft and his teammate Cody Zeller may be close behind. Now the only benefit we give McLemore over Oladipo (probably) and Zeller (definitely) is that McLemore has to deal with more pressing financial issues that the other two. All three of them could use work on their game and McLemore in particular could improve his draft stock by staying in school, but
  2. We said there would be time to criticize the bad decisions players make we are already here. Today’s candidates are Russ Smith, who is leaving according to his father in a statement that everybody is taking as the truth, and Ricky Ledo, who did not play this year after being declared academically ineligible, but is still entering the NBA Draft. The Smith case is a little more complex because he played phenomenally well for five games of the NCAA Tournament and was probably the best player for Louisville during the NCAA Tournament even if Luke Hancock walked away with MOP honors. Still the bad Russ showed up on Monday night and that should have reminded NBA scouts and executives that he is too much of a gamble to spend a first round pick on. Of course, all this is based on a conversation by his father not the player so all of this could be completely incorrect and Russ might stay for his senior year. As for Ledo, he is a talented played with the frame and game to be a first round pick, but with his time away from the game and his reputation from the summer league circuit we don’t see Ledo making the first round either.
  3. We are not sure how having four players transfer from your program is anything other than a bad thing, but when you look four players who contribute as little as the four that are leaving DePaul it doesn’t seem that bad. Of the four players, Moses Morgan is by far the most productive and even his numbers are not that inspiring (5.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per game as a junior last year down from 9 points per game as a sophomore). The moves are expected to open up roster spots for incoming players on a team that finished dead last in the conference formerly known as the Big East so hopefully they can find a few players to put around Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin to make them more competitive in their new/old conference.
  4. We mentioned several players that are leaving their schools–either for the NBA (or attempting to go to the NBA) or to different schools–but at least two players (Julian Boyd and Chris Otule) appear to be sticking around for their sixth year. Boyd, who was averaging 18.5 points and 6.1 points per game for Long Island University-Brooklyn before tearing his ACL last season, was granted a sixth year for medical hardship in what seemed like a near guarantee although you can never say that with the NCAA. The case of Otule is still in limbo as Marquette is waiting to hear back from the NCAA after he missed much of the 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons with injuries. Otule’s numbers may not jump off the page as he only averaged 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, but he came up big for the team in the NCAA Tournament with two important 11-point performances that helped them advance to the Elite Eight.
  5. The Boise State athletic department can at least say their men’s and women’s basketball teams interact with each other after Kenny Buckner, who played his last game for the school in the team’s First Four loss, and Brandi Latrall Henton, a player for the women’s team, were arrested for reportedly stealing food from a store (apparently a Wal-Mart). The two were charged with misdemeanor petit theft and were released after posting bond with their arraignment scheduled for later this month. This is amusing and dumb on some levels as college students presumably still have cafeterias available to them especially athletes on scholarship and it is not like Wal-Mart carries anything outside of possibly alcohol that college students cannot get in a cafeteria. However Hinton is the first Boise State basketball player to be arrested for theft in 2013 along with four men’s players including repeat offender Buckner who is set to be arraigned on April 16 along with three other players for a January arrest where they are accused of stealing several items including DVDs. This appears to be at least the third time Buckner has been arrested for theft. On the positive side with Buckner having finished his college basketball career so the school does not have to worry about suspending him.
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2012-13 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by KDoyle on April 3rd, 2013

If this was baseball, a batting average of .333 would represent Hall of Fame type numbers. Back in November when our group of RTC pollsters and hoop experts selected their preseason All-America teams, just five names lived up to expectations that we originally had placed on them: Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas, Michigan’s Trey Burke, and Kansas’ Jeff Withey. In fact, the only player who was named to the preseason All-America First Team and finished there was McDermott. If there is one thing to take away from this exercise, it’s that projecting player performance is far from an exact science.

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

The 10 players we selected as preseason All-Americans who failed to live up to our hype were: Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum — let’s remember McCollum missed more than half the season due to injury — UNLV’s Mike Moser, Missouri’s Phil Pressey, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin, North Carolina’s James Michael McAadoo, North Texas’ Tony Mitchell, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, and Florida State’s Michael Snaer. It would be foolish to think that most of these players did not have exceptional seasons — look no further than Canaan, who averaged 21.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 4.3 APG for the Racers this year. He had a very good senior season, but it’s not his fault that a guy like Victor Oladipo came out of nowhere to prove he was one of the best players in the country. Of course, there were a few disappointments, and we can look right at Mitchell as the most obvious example. Whether fair or not, expectations were probably too high for Mitchell, who many project to be a future NBA player. Mitchell averaged 13.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG, but his team slogged to a rough 12-20 season.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the players who met or exceeded our expectations this season. After tallying up the votes from our nine experts, here are the 2012-13 RTC All-America Teams.

Note on methodology: voters took postseason performance into consideration. Players earned three points for a First Team vote, two points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote. Burke, Porter, and Oladipo were consensus First Team All-America selections.

First Team All-America

No Doubt Burke Won Over Many With His March Performances (AnnArbor.com)

No Doubt Burke Won Over Many With His March Performances (AnnArbor.com)

  • Trey Burke, SO, Michigan (consensus) (18.8 PPG, 6.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.1 A/TO). After spearheading arguably the nation’s most potent offense during the regular season, Burke was named a First Team All-American by the AP. His virtuoso performance in the South Region semifinal against Kansas where he singlehandedly brought Michigan back in the final minutes of regulation supplanted himself as not just a surefire First Teamer here at RTC, but perhaps the National Player of the Year as well. More than just his knack for hitting the big shot, Burke’s most impressive attribute may be as a distributor; boasting a 3.1 A/TO ratio is downright impressive given the responsibility John Beilein has bestowed upon him in running the offense.
  • Otto Porter Jr., SO, Georgetown (consensus) (16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 48.0% FG, 42.2% 3FG). Many often lamented Georgetown’s stagnant Princeton-style offense as the reason for its lack of production, but imagine where the Hoyas may have been this season without Porter. The sophomore emerged as one of the nation’s best players after consecutive games in Brooklyn where he led Georgetown past then #11 UCLA and nearly upset top-ranked Indiana the following night. Porter was expected to be a key cog for Georgetown this season after averaging just south of 10.0 PPG as a freshman, but his outburst was a surprise to many this year. His stark improvement with his three-point shot — a 22.6% to 42.2% increase — has made Porter a much more complete player, and bodes well for his future at the next level.
  • Victor Oladipo, JR, Indiana (consensus) (13.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 59.9% FG, 44.1% 3FG). A role player in his first two seasons at Indiana, Oladipo emerged as Indiana’s best and most valuable player as a junior, surpassing more celebrated teammate Cody Zeller in that regard. While his offensive game improved in nearly every department — how often is it that a guard shoots 60% from the field? — it was Oladipo’s defense which made him an invaluable part of Tom Crean’s team. There may not be a better on-ball wing defender in the country as Oladipo created havoc — to borrow a term from Shaka Smart — on the perimeter. In looking at just his statistics, one would think Oladipo is a 6’10 power forward given his high shooting percentage and rebounding totals; that’s what makes him such a unique and dominant player.
  • Doug McDermott, JR, Creighton (26) (23.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 54.8% FG, 49.0% 3FG, 87.5% FT). Perhaps the most prolific and talented offensive player in college basketball, it came as no surprise to find McDermott’s name on the First Team All-America list. His shooting percentages in all three departments are off the charts, and were a big reason Creighton was tops in the nation in team 3FG% and third in 2FG%; McDermott went off for 20+ points in 26 of his 36 games this season. While his defensive and athletic abilities are both question marks, there’s no denying that McDermott is a natural scorer who is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. Assuming he returns for his senior season, McDermott will most likely eclipse the 3,000-point mark as a collegian which has only been done seven times in history.
  • Kelly Olynyk, JR, Gonzaga (24) (17.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 62.9% FG). Playing behind Robert Sacre and Steven Gray for his first two seasons at Gonzaga, Olynyk averaged just 12.3 MPG as a freshman and 13.5 MPG as a sophomore. For his redshirt junior season, however, he owned the frontcourt. A legit seven-footer, Olynyk runs the floor like an athletic forward and scores in a variety of ways. His 62.9% FG was especially impressive considering he spent a fair amount of time outside of the paint in Gonzaga’s offense. He was the biggest reason that Gonzaga ascended to its first-ever #1 ranking in the polls and commensurate #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Second Team All-America

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Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls Can Add to Their Hoosier Legacies This Weekend

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 28th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g. 

It is no secret that the Hoosiers won the Big Ten title and secured a #1 seed because of their two star players, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. Oladipo proved to any casual hoops fan last weekend that he is arguably the best player in the country by drilling a three to push the Hoosiers past an inspired Temple team. Tonight, the legendary Syracuse 2-3 zone defense will focus on preventing Zeller from receiving the ball in the high post and Oladipo from getting past the initial layer of defense to split the zone. It is almost insulting to call Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls as “X-factors” against Syracuse but if they can combine for close to 25 points, the Hoosiers shouldn’t have any trouble beating the Orange.

Jordan Hulls (center) and Christian Watford (right) will play a big role for the Hoosiers this weekend. (Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)

Jordan Hulls (center) and Christian Watford (right) will play a big role for the Hoosiers this weekend. (Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)

Watford’s block of Anthony Lee’s dunk attempt last weekend was overshadowed by Oladipo’s subsequent three but it set the stage for the final possession against Temple. There aren’t many “stretch” power forwards in the game who can challenge the zone like Watford. Tom Crean may use Watford to feed the ball into the high post from the wing because he has the size and length to pass over Michael Carter-Williams, and if the zone collapses on the catch, then Watford is open to drill a three (48% 3FG). The 2-3 zone also lets opposing teams dominate the offensive glass as Syracuse ranked 13th in the Big East in opponents’ offensive rebounding (36.2%). Watford will have plenty of opportunities to crash the boards through the backdoor and pick up some easy buckets there as well. The key to beating the zone is to be patient and smart with shot selection and this is the time when Watford’s combination of tools and experience should pay off.

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NCAA Regional Reset: East Region

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 25th, 2013

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Brian Otskey (@botskey) is the NCAA Tournament’s East Region correspondent.

The East Regional begins Thursday night in Washington, DC, with Marquette vs. Miami (FL) followed by Indiana vs. Syracuse. Be sure to look out for the West, South and Midwest Regional Resets later today. Also make sure to follow RTCEastRegion for news and analysis from Washington throughout the week.

The Verizon Center Will Host This Year's East Regional

The Verizon Center Will Host This Year’s East Regional

New Favorite: #1 Indiana. Despite a challenge from Temple on Sunday, nothing changes for the Hoosiers. This team remains the prohibitive favorite to get to Atlanta out of this region but will have to get through two teams playing well in order to do that. With Syracuse defending as well as it is and Marquette and Miami staying hot, the road is not as smooth for Indiana as it looked when the brackets came out last week.

Horse of Darkness: #3 Marquette. The Golden Eagles nearly lost both of their NCAA Tournament games over the weekend but, as the old adage goes, they survived and advanced. Marquette has limitations but this team is tough as nails and plays with great confidence in pressure situations. A potential Elite Eight match-up with Indiana and former head coach Tom Crean would also serve as extra motivation to push through to Atlanta.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): #3 Marquette. It’s hard to pick a surprise in a region that saw all four top seeds advance to Washington but we’ll go with the Golden Eagles. Marquette was a trendy upset pick in the first round and was outplayed by Davidson for 39 of the 40 minutes in that game. Even after escaping Davidson in the round of 64, the Golden Eagles were on the ropes yet again Saturday against Butler. It’s not a surprise that Marquette is playing in the Sweet Sixteen; the surprising thing is the way it got there.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 58, #9 Temple 52

Posted by IRenko on March 24th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Sunday’s Third Round game between #1 Indiana and #9 Temple. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Victor Oladipo Did What NPOYs Do...

Victor Oladipo Did What NPOY Candidates Do…

  1. Victor Oladipo Won This Game – The stat sheet won’t tell you what Victor Oladipo means to Indiana, because it offers no metrics, advanced or otherwise, for heart and soul. Oladipo took this game over down the stretch at both ends of the floor. Indiana had used a number of defenders to try to slow Khalif Wyatt (more on him later), but it was Oladipo’s shut-down, ball-denial, in-your-grill defense in the closing minutes that prevented Wyatt from carrying his team across the finish line. With the game tied at 52 and under two minutes to play, Oladipo harassed Wyatt into a missed three, grabbed the rebound, and drew a Wyatt foul while pushing the ball up the floor. On the next possession, Oladipo denied Wyatt the chance to even get the ball, forcing Temple to burn a timeout and the entire shot clock before Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson missed a jumper. Oladipo then promptly ran down to the other end of the floor and drained his one and only three-pointer of the game to clinch the win for Indiana.
  2. Indiana Scored 58 Points — And Won – Indiana scores north of 1.15 points per possession, but they looked largely ineffective against Temple for two reasons. First, Temple’s tough interior defense. The best way to slow the Hoosiers is with physicality, and the Owls brought plenty today. They bodied Cody Zeller and Christian Watford in the post, swarmed Oladipo on his drives, and pushed the Hoosiers around on the glass. Zeller and Watford combined to shoot 6-of-17, Zeller committed six turnovers, and the Hoosiers rebounded less than 20 percent of their own misses. Second, the Hoosiers went cold from three-point range, missing eight of their first nine long-distance attempts. They got hot late just in time to push themselves over the top, but credit Temple for nearly stopping the nation’s most efficient offense in its tracks.
  3. A One-Man Offensive Band — This game was an almost comical display of the extent to which Temple relies on Khalif Wyatt offensively. The confident point guard has a tendency to rise to the occasion against the best of competition, and today was no exception. Relishing the role of the villain, taking on not just the quiet and unassuming Oladipo but a boisterous crowd full of Hoosier fans, Wyatt did his best to carry the Owls to the upset. Despite being the obvious focal point of Indiana’s defense, he managed to pour in 31 points — 60 percent of Temple’s total — on 12-of-24 shooting.  The rest of the Owls’ offense was dreadful, shooting 9-of-38 from the floor. Scootie Randall was the worst offender with an atrocious 0-of-12 night, and the team as a whole missed several makeable shots.

Star of the Game: So maybe the stat sheet does tell you a bit about how good Oladipo is. He led Indiana with 16 points on 7-of-12 field goal shooting and added eight rebounds and an assist.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Indiana 83, #16 James Madison 62

Posted by IRenko on March 22nd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #1 Indiana and #16 James Madison. You can follow him on Twitter at @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. In Case You Were Wondering, Indiana Can Score — The best offense in the country unleashed its full arsenal this afternoon, bombarding James Madison with drives, post feeds, threes, and pull-up jumpers. Getting to play their first non-Big Ten defense in 20 games seemed to release a pressure valve for the Hoosiers, and the scoring came pouring forth. The rub is that their defense remains a step behind their offense, and teams that are physical, slow the game down, and pound the glass pose a threat. Temple may not be able to pull off the upset, but looking down the line, a potential Sweet 16 matchup with Syracuse is a real concern for the Hoosiers.

    Yogi Ferrell celebrates after making a three point basket against the James Madison Dukes. (Getty)

    Yogi Ferrell celebrates after making a three-point basket against the James Madison Dukes. (Getty)

  2. IU’s Size Advantage Paid Off — The Dukes have big strong guards, but in part due to injuries, they are sorely lacking in size inside. They paid for it against IU, getting outscored 36-20 in the paint and 16-2 at the free throw line. The Hoosiers had lots of offensive tools that they deployed in this game, but a feed to Zeller in the post almost always resulted in a bucket or free throws. And at the other end, the Dukes, who normally make 65 percent of their shots at the rim, managed to shoot just 33 percent in the first half on layups. Struggling to gain traction inside, they turned into a pure jump-shooting team, taking only three shots at the rim in the second half. The Dukes’ leading scorer, 6’6″ power forward Rayshawn Goins, was particularly ineffective, scoring only two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
  3. Will Sheehey Was On His Game — Will Sheehey, the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year, is a key X-factor for Indiana. The Hoosiers’ offense is that much more complete when Sheehey is on his game. He’s been prone to disappearing lately, scoring just two points in three of IU’s last seven games, and seeing his scoring average dip into single digits. But today, he came off the bench to score 15 points on 7-of-15 shooting. If he can repeat this kind of performance against tougher opponents, IU could be Dancing all the way to Atlanta.

Star of the Game: Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell is the oft-forgotten man in IU’s formidable starting five, but he made a grand debut on the NCAA Tournament stage, scoring 14 of IU’s first 18 points and assisting on the other four by feeding Zeller for dunks. Ferrell’s one-man onslaught gave the Hoosiers an early, impregnable lead. He finished with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. With all four of his starting mates likely to leave IU, the former McDonald’s All-American and top 25 recruit will be Indiana’s focal point and leader in the coming years.

Quotable: Indiana coach Tom Crean on the worry that bruising Big Ten season would wear Indiana down too much:  “That goes through your head. I’d be lying to say it didn’t.”

Sights & Sounds: The NCAA allows teams a very specific number of bench seats, so Indiana was forced to put a half dozen of its players — including two scholarship athletes — in the stands behind the scorers’ table. The biggest victim of this unusual situation was the petite IU fan, decked out in a Hoosiers jersey, who got stuck sitting behind seven-foot freshman center Peter Jurkin and spent the game trying to crane her neck around him.

Wildcard: Although the Hoosiers have been the second-best three-point shooting team in the nation over the course of the season, they’ve hit just 33 percent of their attempts over the last six games, during which they’ve gone 3-3. This afternoon, they shot 9-of-22 from behind the arc.

What’s Next? Indiana will return to Dayton Arena on Sunday to face Temple, looking for the 22nd Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history.

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The Big Ten is Ready to End the Title Drought

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 21st, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him for Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g. 

It all started in early November when three Big Ten teams — Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State — were ranked in the top five of the preseason polls. Expectations were set very high but the regular season arguably beat those as four teams finished ranked in the top 10 (adding Michigan State). Over the last few days, almost everybody involved in the college hoops world has discussed the pressure on these B1G teams to get to the Final Four and for one to cut down the nets there. The following are three reasons why the league will break its 13-year national title drought this year in Atlanta.

Cody Zeller and Trey Burke may be the best players in the Tournament which should help the Big Ten end their title drought. (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Cody Zeller and Trey Burke may be the best players in the Tournament which should help the Big Ten end their title drought. (AP/D. Cummings)

  • Somebody needs to tell Charles Barkley that the Big Ten has plenty of individual talent this season: A few minutes into the Selection Show on Sunday, Barkley called the Big Ten overrated because they “don’t have a bunch of great players.”  He wasn’t way off in his comment because the conference hasn’t had many players picked highly in the NBA Draft over the last few years (and that’s under the assumption that NBA scouting is a good gauge to judge collegiate talent), but that argument deserves a separate discussion altogether. The Hall of Fame forward is wrong because among the favorites, there are several great individual players, such as Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Trey Burke and Deshaun Thomas. Those four are arguably among the top 10 players in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Even though Michigan State is still known for their being, well, Michigan State, they still have athletic wings such as Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson who are great within isolation plays as well as half-court sets.

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