Misperceptions and Missed Perceptions: Reviewing Some Preseason Predictions

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 5th, 2013

With four weeks of basketball now in the books, it’s time to take a quick glance back at some of the things we thought we knew in the preseason. Some notions have proved accurate, but early results have tested a slew of preseason hypotheses that we once felt confident in. Here are a few examples, on both sides of the ledger:

We Thought We Knew…

Andy Enfield Was the New Coach Bringing Exciting Offensive Basketball to LA

There Has Been Nothing Slow About Steve Alford's And UCLA's First Four Weeks

There Has Been Nothing Slow About Steve Alford’s And UCLA’s First Four Weeks

We weren’t the only ones who thought it was USC, with Andy Enfield now at the helm – and not UCLA, with new head man Steve Alford — which was going to be lighting up Pac-12 scoreboards in the City of Angels this winter. Back in October, Enfield told his players, “if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Well, USC isn’t playing slow – they are 33rd nationally in possessions per game –but they are playing slower than the Bruins, which are six spots ahead of them in that category. And if this first month means anything, perhaps Enfield should have also advised any of his players who enjoy scoring, winning, or both, to plan that transfer across town. USC is 5-3, with just one win against a team in KenPom’s top 230 (!!!) and an offensive efficiency that ranks them 170th nationally. UCLA, on the other hand, is 8-0 and averaging more than 90 PPG behind the 7th-most efficient offense in the country. Now, there is a necessary asterisk here: Alford inherited significantly more talent at his disposal than Enfield did. Even so, it was Enfield – not Alford — who invited the cross-town comparisons. The Dunk City architect better have something besides his mouth working by the time USC visits Pauley Pavilion on January 5; otherwise, his Trojans are firmly at risk of getting run out of Westwood, and contrary to popular belief, there would be nothing slow about it.  

The Complection of the Top of the Big 12

At this point, expecting Kansas to win the Big 12 generally equates to peeping out a Southern California window and looking for the sun in the morning. The Jayhawks may not have played their way out of the preseason expectation to win the Big 12 again this year, but they should have company at the top this time around. Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State, post play deficiencies aside, have looked every bit the part of Big 12 title contenders themselves, and many would now peg the Cowboys as Big 12 favorites (including yours truly). Kansas State and Baylor were next in line after the Pokes and Jayhawks a month ago, but the Wildcats have suffered through a miserable opening month, while Baylor has looked as shaky as a 7-1 team with two top-40 victories can look, with two of those wins coming against non-D-I competition and three of the other five earned with a final margin of victory of five points or fewer. Iowa State now looks like the team ready to take a step up in class. The Cyclones, 7-0 with a pair of top-40 victories of their own, could easily enter the Big 12 season undefeated and prepared to further shake up a suddenly unpredictable conference race.

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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 3rd, 2013

Hooray! The Mountain West has its hero. November is in the books and the conference finally has a victory worth crowing about under its collective belt. In fact, San Diego State scored a couple really meaningful wins this week at the Wooden Legacy, knocking off both Creighton and Marquette to earn the tournament title. Still, I for one have yet to put a MW team in my weekly national Top 25. I’ve considered New Mexico previously and have kept them just on the outside looking in. Boise State also remains in the back of my mind, where they’ll stay until they play anybody of note. And the Aztecs were among my final cuts this week. So what leaves SDSU still needing to prove itself? I know they’re going to defend like nuts all year long and stay in games that way, but I just don’t believe that Xavier Thames is going to be able to knock down shots at his current rate forever, and aside from him, there aren’t a whole lot of polished offensive players on this team. Still, there is no denying that the Aztecs have looked awfully good so far this year and are beginning to earn the benefit of my doubt.

Xavier Thames and A Boisterous Crowd Helped San Diego State Capture The Wooden Legacy Title (USA Today Sports)

Xavier Thames and A Boisterous Crowd Helped San Diego State Capture The Wooden Legacy Title (USA Today Sports)

Team of the Week

San Diego State – We’ll get to Thames shortly, but there have been a lot of guys stepping up for this squad who deserve attention. J.J. O’Brien has been the most regular second option for the Aztecs, averaging nearly 14 points per game before a hand injury limited his production on Sunday. Matt Shrigley has emerged from his redshirt year to display not only a nice shooting touch but a good game off the bounce. Winston Shepard has clearly worked on his body and his game in the offseason, and he’s well on his way to becoming a great college player. And true freshman Dakarai Allen is out of the gates with a strong start to his college career. Even if Thames does slow down a bit, there are some options here who could pick up the slack.

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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on November 26th, 2013

We’re a little more than two weeks into the season and the best win among all 11 Mountain West conference teams is: what? New Mexico in a double-overtime miracle over a UAB team that was under .500 last season? Utah State over UC Santa Barbara without its best player? Colorado State over Weber State? Meanwhile, among the dregs of the conference, you’ve got losses to luminaries like Pacific (twice no less), Cal State Bakersfield, Morehead State, Santa Clara, Milwaukee, Northern Illinois, James Madison, VMI and Jackson State. Not exactly painting a pretty picture, am I? While the Lobos will have plenty of chances over the next three weeks to score some pretty nice non-conference victories, the other best hopes in this conference have pretty slim pickings on their non-conference slates. Outside of this weekend in Orange County at the Wooden Legacy, San Diego State will have to win at Kansas in order to garner a really solid non-conference win; good luck with that. Boise State has a road trip to Rupp Arena in a couple weeks to face Kentucky’s freshmen, otherwise its only “up” game non-conference game prior to the Diamond Head Classic over Christmas is a home game against Saint Mary’s. And Utah State’s only non-conference game of consequence is against BYU on Saturday. In other words, you can not only completely forget about any possibility of five bids to the NCAA Tournament come March, three may be significantly stretching the matter.

Team of the Week

Anthony Drmic And Boise State Are Off To An Impressive Offensive Start, But Haven't Played Anybody

Anthony Drmic And Boise State Are Off To An Impressive Offensive Start, But Haven’t Played Anybody.

Boise State – It is slim pickings out there, so we’ll go with the Broncos for their home win over Seattle and road win over New Orleans. Told you it was grim out there.

Player of the Week

Alex Kirk, Jr, New Mexico – Another week, another New Mexico big man. This time it is Kirk for his three double-doubles in the Charleston Classic. For the week, the native New Mexican averaged 21.3 points, 12 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game, and even threw in five three-pointers for good measure. Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… the Mountain West

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 19th, 2013

Last year about this time, the Mountain West’s record as a collective was 27-3. Sure, there wasn’t a large number of top shelf wins among those 27, but they were wins. This year the teams are a combined 19-12. UNLV lost by 21 at home to UC Santa Barbara. Colorado State got drilled by 32 at Gonzaga. Nevada lost at home to Pacific. Fresno State lost by 21 at Pitt. Air Force has lost to Jackson State and VMI. And newcomer San Jose State has lost to everybody it has faced, and that certainly hasn’t been a murderer’s row. Last year, the conference as a whole rode its strong RPI numbers, built up by a collection of a mostly good teams, to a best-ever five NCAA Tournament bids. This year, it remains to be seen just how good teams the teams at the top are, while the middle of the conference seems significantly weaker than it was last year, and the bottom of the conference even worse. Too long, didn’t read? The takeaway is there isn’t a chance in a million that the Mountain West sends five teams dancing this year.

Team of the Week

Utah State – The Aggies are one of the newcomers in the conference, but they’re off to a fine start, having won all three of their games including one over USC and another over that UCSB team that beat up on MW heavyweight UNLV. Behind veteran trio Spencer Butterfield, Preston Medlin and Jarred Shaw, Utah State looks like it will have an easy transition to its new conference.

Cameron Bairstow Has Been On Fire Out Of The Gate For the Lobos (Eric Draper, AP Photo)

Bairstow Has Been On Fire Out Of The Gate For the Lobos (Eric Draper, AP Photo)

Player of the Week

Cameron Bairstow, Sr, New Mexico – There may not be a player in the country who has improved as much as Bairstow in his four years in Albuquerque. As a freshman, he was notable only for his below-the-rim, scrappy style, as he averaged fewer than 10 minutes per game and fewer than three points per outing. But thus far this season, the 6’9” Aussie has been almost unstoppable, averaging 25.5 points, eight rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game, all while shooting 78.3 percent from the field. Oh, and not to be outdone, his frontcourt mate Alex Kirk has double-doubled in both his games on the way to 20 points and 12 rebounds per game averages.

Newcomer of the Week

Paul Watson, Fr, Fresno State – The 6’6” freshman out of Phoenix doesn’t have the type of body yet to lead you to believe he would succeed playing up front in major college basketball. But out of necessity, Watson has been forced to play the role of a big man for the Bulldogs. And, so far so good, as he’s averaged five rebounds a night, has scored both around the basket and from deep, and has eaten up minutes. There’s a big future for this Dog.

Power Rankings

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NCAA Regional Reset: Midwest Region

Posted by BHayes on March 25th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent.

The Midwest Regional begins Friday night in Indianapolis with Louisville vs. Oregon followed by Duke vs. Michigan State. The East Region Reset and West Region Reset published earlier today, and be sure to look out for the South Region Reset later this afternoon. Also make sure to follow RTCMWRegion for news and analysis from Indy throughout the week.

New Favorite: #1 Louisville. When you are the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, win your first two games by a total of 57 points, and now have to travel just 115 miles to the regional site, you aren’t going to lose your pole position. The Cardinals are still the team to beat in Indianapolis.

Lucas Oil Stadium Is Where The Midwest Will Be Won

Lucas Oil Stadium Is Where The Midwest Will Be Won

Horse of Darkness: #12 Oregon. It’d be hard enough to make a case for a #1, #2, or #3 seed as a dark horse, and harder yet when the programs occupying those seed-lines are Louisville, Duke, and Michigan State. So while Oregon certainly fits the bill here, they also are winners by default. We knew the Ducks were underseeded and dangerous on that #12 line, and they went out and played like it last week. At this point, nobody would blink an eye if the seed next to the Ducks’ name was a #4 instead.  Louisville would be advised to view Dana Altman’s team through that lens, because Oregon is talented enough to knock off the Cardinals, even in their own backyard.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): #4 Saint Louis. Clearly, this wasn’t the good kind of surprise. Saint Louis entered this NCAA Tournament as a legitimate Final Four sleeper. They played along with the hype in the Second Round, where they clinically dispatched New Mexico State in winning by 20. At that point, a deep run still felt very possible and at least one more win a near-certainty, which made the resounding defeat they suffered at the hands of Oregon a bit of a shock. Let’s keep in mind that this was a Saint Louis team that had lost just once in regulation since November, and the 17-point margin of defeat to the Ducks was the Billikens’ largest of the season. 2012-13 was a proud, inspiring season for SLU, but few could have predicted the abruptness with which it would end.

Completely Expected (1st Weekend): #3 Michigan State. Chalk prevailed almost across the board in this region (thank god for Oregon!), so take your pick here, but I’ll go with the Spartans. Armed with a virtual home court advantage in Auburn Hills, Tom Izzo’s crew made quick work of Valparaiso before dismantling Memphis in the Third Round. These wins were completely expected not only because it’s Sparty playing March basketball in its home state, but also because both their opponents loomed as favorable match-ups for this Michigan State team. As expected, Valpo was outmanned and Memphis not tough enough. The result, equally anticipated, is another Spartans visit to the Sweet Sixteen.

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The NCAA Tournament in Tweets: Saturday and Sunday

Posted by Nick Fasulo on March 25th, 2013

bythetweets

Tyrone Garland, one of the best sixth men in the country, is from Southwest Philadelphia. If you didn’t already know that, then you most certainly made the connection following his postgame interview after Garland lifted La Salle past Ole Miss into the Sweet Sixteen. The basked, he called it, was his possibly patented #SouthwestPhillyFloater, which quickly became a usable hashtag and will certainly get some run leading up to the Explorers’ upcoming match-up against Wichita State. This is something I can get on board with, unlike #layupgang.

Florida Gulf Coast, A #15 Seed, Is In The Sweet 16

So far, this is the best story of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. And unless the national championship game ends in a buzzer-beater, it is unlikely it will be topped. Representing the Atlantic Sun Conference, Florida Gulf Coast is the first #15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen. To add a bit more weight to this story, it is a school that was founded in the 1990s and only been eligible to play in this grand tournament in 2009. You cannot make this stuff up, but you can get FGCU trending on Twitter through the weekend.

Heading in to the work week, it will be very interesting to track the media coverage the school gets. Will the jokes about this being an online university continue? Will we focus on the actual talent Andy Enfield has assembled? Will we just drool over his wife Amanda?

Following the win, the most competitive pissing match was to see who could come up with the most retweeted play on words. A collection of the ones I could bear to read…

Oh… and… Tunechi. He got involved too.

Marquette Draws America’s Ire

Forget Duke. Somehow the Marquette Golden Eagles have become the team America loves to hate, after squeaking past two non-power conference teams America has grown to love over the past five years. Buzz Williams’ team advanced to its third straight Sweet Sixteen over the weekend, but it took a bit of luck and last second heroics to get past both Davidson and Butler, and nobody is forgetting that.

The Golden Eagles are the epitome of “survive and advance.” Two wins, a three-point total margin of victory, and one sloppy play after another in the game’s final minutes (save Vander Blue’s smooth left handed lay-in with seconds remaining to down the Wildcats).

Aaron Craft Goes Iso, Defeats ISU

After Aaron Craft went dagger on Iowa State, all of the following tweets were published within seven seconds of each other. I counted.

https://twitter.com/raphiellej/status/315893271698239490

https://twitter.com/DaveKrupinski/status/315893308482256897

https://twitter.com/Peter_R_Casey/status/315893413436338176

https://twitter.com/eamonnbrennan/status/315893423695597568

https://twitter.com/JonRothstein/status/315893542419591168

Game: blouses.

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ATB: No. 1 Falls, Wolverines Look Fierce and Butler Goes Home…

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 24th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Third Round Ahoy! The first weekend of NCAA Tournament play is a refined product. After a second-round customarily filled with upsets and wacky outcomes, the next stage puts sheer team quality over luck and happenstance. This is where the true contenders make their bread. Part one of the third round wrapped up Saturday night, and save for a few surprising results, the best teams by and large validated their putative reputations.

Your watercooler moment. Drop The Revisionist Committee Tongue-Lashings.

The anti-Gonzaga backlash is about to ramp up considerably (Getty Images).

The anti-Gonzaga backlash is about to ramp up considerably (Getty Images).

There is nothing more casually distasteful than hindsight Tournament declarations and Monday morning quarterbacking. It happens every year. Middle Tennessee got run by Saint Mary’s, they never deserved an at-large birth! New Mexico never deserved to be a three seed! The Mountain West is terrible! All of those proclamations have been uttered in various forms, on various mediums, and all of them are patently false. Trying to argue against a certain team’s Tournament placement or inclusion after the fact is like ordering a manifestly scrumptious steak entrée at a five-star restaurant, leaving disappointed with the way it turned out and advocating the dish’s removal from the restaurant menu during the ride home. It’s not fair or to validate previous logic with future outcomes. That won’t stop anyone from copping to lazy criticisms of Gonzaga’s No. 1 seed status in the wake of Saturday’s upset loss to nine-seed Wichita State. Was Gonzaga tested in the same way as, say, Louisville or Indiana on a weekly basis in conference play? No. Did Gonzaga deserve a number one seed (or at least deserve to be in the argument), after posting a 30-2 win-loss record, a 4-2 record against the RPI Top 50, the No. 4 efficiency offense and No. 18 defense in the country? You’d be forfeiting your credibility as an objective and rational college hoops observer to disagree. The Bulldogs may have lost to a hot Wichita State team, may have blown an eight-point second half lead, may have allowed a physical Shockers group too much room on the perimeter. But they didn’t lose their claim to all of the aforementioned credentials. The selection committee’s vague criteria has offered up decades of case evidence to analyze, and by their admittedly fuzzy standards, Gonzaga deserved to be a No. 1. Their early third-round dismissal does not change that fact.

Also worth chatting about. Michigan Turns Major Third-Round Hurdle Into Cakewalk.

The Rams had no answer for McGary Saturday (AP Photo).

The Rams had no answer for McGary Saturday (AP Photo).

Recent history affects NCAA Tournament bracket intellect in real and influential ways. When paired with commendable regular season results, that team is extremely difficult to ignore – no matter the opponent. It’s part of why VCU beating Michigan Saturday looked like such a cinch “upset” pick, and completely why Michigan’s 25-point demolition of the Rams was more of an “upset” than a VCU win could have ever been. Mitch McGary played the best game of his college career to date (21 points, 14 rebounds), the Wolverines kept turnovers at a manageable level (12), and when the Rams can’t induce cough-ups they can’t get stops. The final product: Michigan has its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 1994. The Wolverines more resembled their early-season national title-contender form Saturday that at any point this season. When Burke is dishing to open shooters and slashing into the lane, when Tim Hardaway Jr. is presenting matchup problems all over the floor, Michigan is – just as many suspected in November and December – a bona fide national title threat. Throw in the possibility of a potent interior presence in McGary, and John Beilein’s team will give the winner of Sunday’s Roy Williams Bowl (Kansas-UNC) all it can handle and more. Michigan is in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in nearly two decades, and I wouldn’t be surprised if its journey blows past that minor landmark.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 82, #8 Colorado State 56

Posted by IRenko on March 23rd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Saturday’s Third Round game between #1 Louisville and #8 Colorado State. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

A Strange Sight at Rupp Arena, Indeed

A Strange Sight at Rupp Arena, Indeed

  1. Welcome to Louisville Basketball – Colorado State normally does a very good job of taking care of the ball, but they normally play Mountain West teams, none of whom could have prepared them for Louisville’s pressure defense. The Cardinals rank second in the country in forcing turnovers, and the MWC has only one team, Wyoming, inside the top 190. The Rams were completely rattled by Louisville’s aggression, both in the full court and half court. They committed 20 turnovers, which Louisville efficiently converted into 24 points. The only reason the Rams lost by only 26 points is that they shot the ball very well, almost 50 percent from the field. But the problem was that they only took 40 shots.
  2. When Colorado State Gets Beat on the Boards, It’s Hard for Them to Win – Colorado State is the best rebounding team in the country. Their offensive rebounding strength, in particular, gave them a real opportunity against Louisville, which doesn’t protect the glass very well. But the Cardinals did a tremendous job of keeping the Rams at bay, allowing them to rebound only 24 percent of their misses — much better than Louisville’s season average and much worse than CSU’s. And the Cardinals pounded the glass at the other end as well, pulling down 36 percent of their missed shots. As a result, they outscored the Rams by 18-6 on second-chance points, the game’s most shocking statistic. It was a full team effort for the Cardinals, with the starting backcourt of Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, and Wayne Blackshear combining for half of the team’s defensive rebounds.
  3. When Louisville Hits Outside Shots, It’s Hard for Them to Lose – Early in the game, the Cardinals were getting traction with dribble penetration. As Colorado State tightened up its help defense a bit, forcing the Cardinals to take pull-up jumpers and fire from downtown. That’s typically the right defensive formula against Louisville, which makes just under a third of its threes. But today, the Cardinals shot the lights out of Rupp Arena. Russ Smith led the way, hitting 5-of-8 on threes, but the whole team got in the act, knocking down several mid-range jump shots. It’s very difficult to beat the Cardinals when they shoot like this.

Star of the Game: Russ Smith stole the show, tying his season high with 31 points on 8-of-16 field goal shooting (5-of-8 from three-point range). Russdiculous, as his coach nicknamed him, was especially assertive in the first half, when he scored 18 points as the Cardinals pulled out to a 45-31. Each of Smith’s four first-half threes ignited the crowd and seemed to deflate Colorado State, which struggled to keep up with the pace of play at both ends of the floor.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 Colorado State 84, #9 Missouri 72

Posted by IRenko on March 21st, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Thursday’s Second Round game between #8 Colorado State and #9 Missouri. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. The Kid is Alright — Colorado State point guard Dorian Green had one ineffective game against UNLV after injuring his ankle in the Mountain West tournament, so heading into tonight, his ability to perform at his usual level was an open question. Yesterday, coach Larry Eustachy said that Green wasn’t a hundred percent, but that he needed to play like it, because he’s the quarterback of the team. Well, Green answered the call, and in a big way. He exploded for 25, repeatedly knifing through Missouri’s defense and hitting jumpers.

    Much like his expression, Colton Iverson and the rest of the Rams played like they wanted their season to continue. (AP)

    Much like his expression, Colton Iverson and the rest of the Rams played like they wanted their season to continue. (AP)

  2. Colorado State Owns the Glass – On the season, the Rams rank first in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and second in defensive rebounding percentage. They showed why tonight. Missouri is actually a top 10 offensive rebounding team in its own right, and yet the Rams absolutely dominated them on the boards, pulling down a whopping 91 percent of Mizzou’s misses and 43 percent of their own misses. This could be a genuine problem for the Rams’s next opponent, Louisville, which has trouble protecting the defensive glass. They get by without it, because the rest of their defense is so good, but if Colorado State can take care of the ball — yes, I know, BIG if — their rebounding ability could make it a competitive game.
  3. Mizzou Found Its Offense, But Not Its Defense – After a rough start in which they made just five of their first 18 shots, Missouri’s offense started to click, and they made 10 of their next 11. Phil Pressey, the engine of the Tigers’ offense, scored all eight of his points in the final five minutes of the first half after missing his first five shots. But Missouri still couldn’t stop Colorado State, as the Rams poured in 47 first-half points. It didn’t get any better in the second half, and perhaps worse. While the Rams’ three-point shooting tailed off, they easily compensated by attacking the lane, where Missouri frequently offered little to no resistance.

Star of the Game: I talked about Green’s big game above, so let me use this space to highlight the importance of Rams’ center Colton Iverson. Iverson scored just four points, but when he was in the game, the Rams outscored Missouri by 24 points — far and away the best +/- mark of the team. Iverson’s rebounding and presence inside was critical to CSU’s success. To emphasize the point: Iverson went to the bench with his fourth foul with eight minutes left, and three minutes later, Missouri had cut the Rams’ lead from 14 to seven. Eustachy promptly reinserted Iverson with four fouls and five minutes to play, and the Rams went on a 9-1 run.

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The Other 26: Bracket-Busting, East and Midwest Edition

Posted by IRenko on March 20th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC columnist and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

This is part two of our TO26 bracket analysis, focusing on the 17 non-power-conference teams that populate the East and Midwest regions. The teams are grouped into five rough categories, and, within each category, they are ordered by their likelihood of advancing.  For our analysis of the South and West regions, see here.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

  • St. Louis (#4 Midwest) — The Bilikens are flying a bit under the radar, but this is a team that should be a favorite for a Sweet 16 run. They have one of the best defenses in the country, a group of experienced guards who can attack and shoot (Kwamain Mitchell, Mike McCall, Jordair Jett), a surprisingly effective post presence in Dwayne Evans, and a pair of pick-‘n-pop big men (Rob Loe, Cody Ellis) who can drain the three. It should be said, though, that the Bilikens’ draw is not necessarily ideal. A first-round game against New Mexico State presents some matchup quandaries (see below), as does a potential Third Round game against Oklahoma State — both teams are prepared to bang and grind with the Bilikens down low. Ultimately, I think the St. Louis’ defense is strong enough to get them to the Sweet 16, where their steady guard play gives them a non-trivial chance of knocking off the Cards.
Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

  • Butler (#6, East) — Yes, they’re back. Neither Bucknell nor their potential Third Round opponent (Marquette or Davidson) will be an easy team to conquer, but all three of these teams will give Butler an important reprieve from its biggest vulnerability — a tendency to turn it over. Bucknell and Marquette will also play at the kind of grinding pace at which the Bulldogs excel. And they’ll focus their offense on the areas of the floor where Butler’s defense is strongest — the paint. Butler also has the shooters — Rotnei Clark, Kellen Dunham — to bombard Marquette’s compact defense and the rebounders to exploit Marquette’s weakness on the glass. If anything, Bucknell may pose a bigger matchup problem, as they tend to chase teams off the three-point line and they don’t give up much on the offensive glass. The Bison will be a tough opponent, but when you look at Butler’s pod as a whole, a Sweet 16 run looks well within reach.

One and Done

These teams have at least a 50/50 (or better) chance of picking up a win, but are unlikely to get two.

  • Colorado State (#8, Midwest) – I would actually bump the Rams up to the tail end of the “Regional Threats” group if not for the uncertain status of starting point guard Dorian Green. The team’s unquestioned floor general, Green suffered an ankle injury in the first round of the MWC tournament, and though he played in a semifinal loss to UNLV, was ineffective. With a fully healthy Green, the Rams’ have a good chance of toppling Missouri. The two teams are somewhat similar in that they try to score in the paint on offense, while keeping opponents out of the paint of it on defense. Neither team is especially potent from the three-point line, and both rely a fair amount on offensive rebounding, though the Rams’ have the advantage here, especially as they are equally adept at controlling their defensive glass. That, along with Missouri’s tendency to be a bit loose with the ball, may be the difference-maker. And don’t sleep on Colorado State’s chances against Louisville in the next round. The Cardinals’ weak points are defensive rebounding and three-point shooting. The Rams are the best offensive rebounding team in the country, and as noted above, their defense forces teams to beat them from the three-point line. They also take pretty good care of the ball, which will serve them well against Louisville’s pressure defense. But this analysis could be all for naught if Green isn’t healthy enough to be effective.
  • Creighton (#7, Midwest) Doug McDermott is perhaps the most fundamentally sound player in college basketball. His All-American status owes itself to his incredibly precise offensive footwork, positioning, movement, shot, and cuts. He has inside-outside skills that present a very tough matchup if you’re not used to guarding him. And he’s surrounded by lots of great three-point shooters. Cincinnati’s defense has generally been strong, so they might be able to contain McDermott and the Bluejays’ three-point attack. But they’ll have to be especially effective because their offense has been truly miserable. I like the Bluejays’ chances here. A Third Round matchup with Duke would be a tougher proposition, as the Blue Devils combine a defense that shuts down the three-point line with an offense that is far more high-powered than Cincinnati’s. McDermott may well get his points, especially posting up inside, but that’s not likely to be sufficient.

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The Official RTC Bracket: Midwest And West Regions

Posted by KDoyle on March 20th, 2013

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We released the Official RTC Bracket for the South and East Regions earlier today — be sure to check that out if you need a refresher on our methodology for this exercise — and we’ll save you the fluff this time and cut right to the chase with the Midwest and West Regions. (note: our Final Four selections are after the analyses)

Midwest and West Regions

Quick Hitters From the Midwest Region

  • Advancing to Atlanta: #1 Louisville
  • Round of 64 Upset: #11 St. Mary’s over #6 Memphis
  • Later Round Upset: N/A
  • Three Most Disputed Games: #5 Oklahoma State over #12 Oregon, #11 St. Mary’s over #6 Memphis, #2 Duke over #3 Michigan State

Four Questions About the Midwest Region

Louisville is the odds-on favorite to not just advance out of the Midwest Region, but win the National Championship. Which team has the best chance at dashing Louisville’s title hopes?

Does Pitino Have Another One of These In His Immediate Future? (Getty Images)

Does Pitino Have Another One of These In His Immediate Future? (Getty Images)

Andrew Murawa: After giving the Cards the nod as the overall #1 seed, the selection committee certainly didn’t do them any more favors, dropping them in, what is to me, the toughest region in the bracket. Once they get out of the Round of 64 in this region, Rick Pitino’s club could be facing nothing but dangerous clubs, from the nation’s best rebounding team in Colorado State, to one of the nation’s hottest teams in Saint Louis, to possibly Michigan State or Duke in the Elite Eight. All of those teams can beat the Cards. But the team with the best chance is certainly the Blue Devils, a squad that has already beaten them this season, albeit without Gorgui Dieng.

The #8 vs. #9 game is usually a coin-flip type of game, but it is a 100% consensus that Colorado State beats Missouri. Are the Rams that much better than Missouri?

Zach Hayes: The Rams are by no means world-beaters, but the consensus opinion probably stems from their ability to compete where Missouri excels: on the boards. Colorado State ranks in the nation’s top two in both offensive and defensive rebounding, a glass-crashing tenacity which should work to negate the rebounding prowess of both Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers. The confidence also resides in how shaky Missouri has been at the tail end of close games despite featuring an elite point guard in Phil Pressey. Most bracket prognosticators would rather go to war with a Rams team starting five seniors over Missouri’s constant unpredictability away from home, where their only scalps came against the dregs of the SEC.

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RTC Top 25: Final Edition

Posted by KDoyle on March 19th, 2013

In a season where the #1 ranked team in the country fluctuated almost weekly, Louisville is the top team in the final RTC25 this year. In fact, the Cardinals are the consensus #1 team after their very strong showing at the Big East Tournament last week. This isn’t the first time Louisville has been ranked as the top dog, though. After a 15-1 start they were ranked #1 for a brief stint in Week 9, but then three straight losses knocked them off their pedestal. Around the poll, it took them a while to climb back up the rankings, but New Mexico has finally cracked the Top 10. The Lobos were stellar all season in the competitive Mountain West, finishing with a 13-3 conference record and winning the MW Tournament. Further down in the RTC25, North Carolina sneaks in with Colorado State as the two last teams. It has been an up-and-down year for the Heels, but they are playing their best ball of the year at the right time.

More good stuff with the Quick n’ Dirty after the jump…

Week 18

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis.

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