Where 2016-17 Happens: Reason #23 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2016

As RTC heads into its 10th season — Season X, if you will — covering college basketball, it’s time to begin releasing our annual compendium of YouTube clips that we like to call Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball. These 30 snippets from last season’s action are completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Friday, November 11. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#23 – Where The Madness of March Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15 and 2015-16 preseasons.

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Jim Calhoun

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 31st, 2016

Jim Calhoun is the former head coach at UConn and a Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. His coaching career is filled with accolades: 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, seven Big East championships, four Final Four appearances and three National Championships. With the Final Four a few days away, we had an opportunity to chat with Calhoun and discuss the upcoming weekend, his thoughts on what it takes to be successful in the NCAA Tournament, and his most memorable experiences as a head coach.

Rush the Court: With regard to preparing for the NCAA Tournament, what do you think was the most common element of your most successful teams?

Jim Calhoun: The thing we try to do, the most important element, is having good players and hopefully some experienced players that have been there before. Because stepping on that big stage — whether it be Madison Square Garden or NRG in front of 79,000 people — is a big deal. But as the season wound down we made sure we cut down on practice. As we got closer to the Tournament and found out the bracket, we tried to prepare for each team. For example with a team that would throw a press on, we would work on that even though we may not be playing them first, but maybe the next game.

Jim Calhoun knows a thing or two about coaching in the Final Four (Photo: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Jim Calhoun knows a thing or two about coaching in the Final Four (Photo: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Rush the Court: During the regular season, did you find yourself preparing by mixing and matching different defenses and offensive schemes as you got closer to the Tournament?

Jim Calhoun: Yeah we did. As we got closer to tournament play, for example in the Big East with a bye where we might play one or two teams, we really scouted both teams. So in the first 20 minutes of practice, we might work against a 1-3-1; we might work against some pressure. I never wanted the kids to face something they hadn’t seen before.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Kansas 73, #9 Connecticut 61

Posted by Walker Carey on March 19th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways: 

Kansas Seniors Frank Mason and Perry Ellis Made Sure UConn's March Run Came To An End Saturday (Photo: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)

Kansas Seniors Frank Mason and Perry Ellis Made Sure UConn’s March Run Came To An End Saturday (Photo: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Kansas was excellent in the first half. The Jayhawks started tonight’s game with a considerable surge. Offensively, Bill Self’s group shot 55.6 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from beyond the arc en route to scoring 44 first half points. In building a 20-point halftime lead, Kansas also had to be fantastic on the other end of the court. The aggressive Jayhawks’ defense forced Connecticut into shooting an anemic 25.8 percent from the field in the opening stanza. Kansas is fortunate it did turn in such a dominant first half, because the Jayhawks were a bit sloppy in the second half and allowed Connecticut to hang around longer than they should have.
  2. Landen Lucas’ emergence has solidified the Kansas frontline. National pundits have been in agreement all season that this Kansas team does not have a “star.” It has many “good” players, but no star. While that may be true, Kansas guard Wayne Selden and forward Perry Ellis have both shown on many occasions that they are capable of delivering their team a marquee performance. One member of the Jayhawks who has quietly turned in several tremendous performances during the back half of the season is junior forward Landen Lucas. Lucas is never going to be a guy who is going to dominate a game offensively, but his rugged defense and knack for making things happen on the glass have been crucial in Kansas’ emergence as national title favorites. It was a quintessential Lucas effort tonight: six points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots.
  3. Kevin Ollie is no longer undefeated in the NCAA Tournament. A national title run in 2014 and a victory over Colorado in the first round had Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie’s NCAA Tournament record at 7-0. That hot start came to a screeching halt tonight. Ollie figures to have a great opportunity to get back on the winning track next March, as the Huskies return dynamic guards Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis, and Jalen Adams. The future remains bright for Connecticut. Tonight’s loss should just be seen as a small bump in the road.

Player of the Game. Perry Ellis, Kansas. The senior big man was the portrait of efficiency tonight, finishing with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. He also grabbed eight rebounds and played great interior defense all evening. When Connecticut cut the lead to nine at the 9:32 mark of the second half, it was Ellis who made a couple of key baskets to keep the Huskies from making a substantial comeback.

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Rushed Reactions: #9 Connecticut 74, #8 Colorado 67

Posted by Walker Carey on March 17th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Kevin Ollie Improves to 7-0 in the NCAA Tournament (USA Today Images)

Kevin Ollie Improves to 7-0 in the NCAA Tournament (USA Today Images)

  1. Connecticut’s great second half effort led the Huskies to victory. Sluggish and listless are two ways one could describe Connecticut’s first half effort. The Huskies found themselves down 36-27 at the break, and it appeared there was a chance Colorado might run them right out of the gym. That turned out to not be the case, though, as Kevin Ollie’s group came out in the second half firing on all cylinders. The Huskies used a 20-10 run to start the half and grabbed their first lead at the 11:39 mark — from there, they never looked back. While Connecticut certainly received some dynamite offensive performances, it cranked its defensive intensity up several notches and held the Buffaloes to just 32 second half points. The Huskies have been a bit of an enigmatic bunch this season, so it will be interesting to see if they can translate today’s second half success to its next game on Saturday.
  2. Colorado did not do itself any favors from the free throw line. The Buffaloes led by as many as 11 in the first half and held a nine-point lead at halftime. Those leads could have been greater had they turned in a better performance from the free throw line. Colorado finished just 19-of-30 from the stripe, and at one point was just 8-of-17 from there. Leaving those extra points at the line allowed Connecticut to stay in striking distance, eventually grab the lead, and finally take home the victory. Free throw shooting is important each and every March, and that was well on display this afternoon.
  3. Kevin Ollie remains undefeated in the NCAA Tournament. There were certainly some naysayers when Kevin Ollie took over for a retiring Jim Calhoun in fall 2012, but the first four seasons of returns have been quite positive. The Huskies of course won all six of their games in the 2014 NCAA Tournament on their way to the national title. After a one-year hiatus from the NCAA Tournament, Connecticut got back on the winning track Thursday in its return to March Madness. Can Kevin Ollie improve on his sterling 7-0 tournament record? We shall see on Saturday.

Player of the Game. Rodney Purvis, Connecticut. The junior guard led Connecticut’s second half explosion, finishing with a team-high 19 points and hitting two three-pointers that really gave the Huskies some much-needed breathing room. Backcourt play will be key if Connecticut wants to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, so the strong play of Purvis and fellow guard Daniel Hamilton (17 points on 6-of-12 shooting) was certainly a good sign for Huskies fans.

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Bracket Prep: South Region

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 15th, 2016

bracketprep22

On Monday and Tuesday we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: Monday (East and West); Tuesday (South and Midwest). Here, Tommy Lemoine (@hoopthink) breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

Region: South

Favorite: #1 Kansas (30-4, 15-3 Big 12). Who else? With perhaps his least talented squad in recent memory (from an NBA perspective), Bill Self led Kansas to yet another Big 12 regular season title – its 12th in a row – and the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks enter the Dance on a 14-game winning streak and its 30 wins include victories over Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia (twice), and Baylor (twice). One of only two teams with four losses, Kansas possesses such a complete resume, such a cohesive roster, and such strong advanced metrics that it’s hard not to consider the Jayhawks odds-on National Championship favorites, much less favorites in the South. Self’s group ranks #1 in KenPom – with offensive and defensive efficiency numbers near the top – and boasts one of the country’s best players in 6’8” forward Perry Ellis (16.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG). Scoring is seldom an issue with Ellis, Devonte’ Graham (44% 3FG) and Wayne Selden Jr. (13.3 PPG) in tow, and nearly every player on the roster plays consistently stingy, team-oriented man-to-man defense. Even if it faces a high-talent opponent like #4 seed California or an experienced, spread-you-out club like #2 seed Villanova, Kansas easily remains the best bet from the region to reach Houston.

Expect more smiles from Kansas in the coming weeks. (Nick Krug)

Expect more smiles from Kansas over the next few weeks. (Nick Krug)

Should They Falter: #2 Villanova (29-5, 16-2 Big East). If you’re down on the Wildcats, don’t be. Sure, they lost to Seton Hall in the Big East title game, and yes, their recent NCAA Tournament record isn’t great – Jay Wright’s team has not reached the second weekend since 2009 despite being a #2 seed or better three times. But if past performance is no sure indicator of future results, then there’s also no reason to think that Villanova – with one of college basketball’s most balanced rosters – cannot make a very deep run. The Big East regular season champions rank among the top 15 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, with five players averaging more than 9.7 PPG and a true rim protector in 6’11’ senior Daniel Ochefu (7.8% block rate). The bottom half of the South is not swelling with raw talent, so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the Wildcats and their spread attack to push deep into March.

Grossly Overseeded: #10 Temple (21-11, 14-4 American Athletic). Temple’s inclusion as a #10 seed seems to be proof that the committee simply didn’t give a darn about advanced metrics – nor quality non-conference wins, for that matter. The Owls enter the NCAA Tournament as the lowest-ranked at-large selection in KenPom (#86 overall) by a staggering 26 spots, with perhaps their best non-conference victory being a five-point neutral court win over 8-23 Minnesota. If its KenPom number holds, Temple will finish the season as the lowest-ranked at-large unit since Colorado State in 2012 (95th). Yuck.

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Take Notes: Oregon State’s Scheduling Aids Tournament Push

Posted by Mike Lemaire on March 2nd, 2016

Buried in the middle of the always fun 5,000-word weekly Bubble Watch column from ESPN was a statement that requires additional unpacking. While analyzing the resumes of Pac-12 bubble teams, Eamonn Brennan mentioned that Oregon State remains “the nation’s best testament to the power of intelligent non-conference scheduling.”

Wayne Tinkle: Coach of the Year? (Godofredo Vasquez, USA Today)

Wayne Tinkle’s Team Is Finally Reaping the Benefits of Its Gutsy Scheduling (USA Today)

Brennan can say this so confidently because 10-loss teams barely flirting with .500 in conference play usually aren’t serious NCAA Tournament contenders, yet here we are in March with all of the respected bracketologists penciling the Beavers in as one of the 68 teams in the field. A team with Oregon State’s ho-hum record ordinarily wouldn’t even warrant a conversation, but thanks to a sparkling RPI and strength of schedule, Wayne Tinkle’s team is comfortably projected into the field. College basketball fans around the country can only hope that their schools are paying attention.

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Loss of Amida Brimah Leaves UConn With Limited Options

Posted by Jared Kotler on December 24th, 2015

As Connecticut prepared to wrap up non-conference play this week, the Huskies suffered a key loss as center and defensive stalwart Amida Brimah broke his finger in practice. Brimah’s injury will require surgery and cause the junior to be sidelined for six to eight weeks. As one of the best rim protectors in college basketball, his loss will be tough to overcome. The hope for Kevin Ollie is that his team’s depth will find a way to pick up the slack heading into next week’s game at Texas followed by the start of conference play.

UConn will try to figure out how to handle the loss of center Amida Brimah. Photo Credit: Getty Images

UConn will try to figure out how to handle the loss of center Amida Brimah. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

So where does UConn go from here? Standing at 8-3 with a couple quality wins over Michigan and Ohio State but not much else to show for this season, the Huskies will need to put together a strong performance in the American if they want to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Here are two areas where Ollie must focus on improvement.

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Traveling Show: Tracking Elite Programs in True Road Games

Posted by William Ezekowitz on December 23rd, 2015

Last night Kansas traveled to southern California to take on San Diego State at Viejas Arena, providing college basketball fans with a rare sight: an elite, top-10 program playing a true non-conference road game. Teams in college basketball’s upper echelon generally like to stay close to home, and if they decide to venture away from their friendly environs, it is often for an exempted holiday tournament or Champions Classic type of event on a neutral court. This is all well and good and makes for appointment television before conference play begins, but what about a good old-fashioned road game? Those jewels are pretty hard to find these days, and, based on North Carolina’s 0-2 performance in their two true road games this season, it’s not hard to imagine why. Elite programs live off of perception, and perception does not always equal reality. So let’s take a look at the numbers and examine which teams from college basketball’s ruling class actually gets out and plays some road games?

Kansas is one of the few elite programs to consistently play true non-conference road games. (USA Today Images)

Kansas is one of the few elite programs to consistently play true non-conference road games. (USA Today Images)

For the purposes of this inquiry, the elite programs examined are Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Syracuse and Connecticut. We can quibble about who else should be on this list, but basically we wanted to choose programs that have had just one coach for the last 10 years (we’re cheating a bit in viewing Kevin Ollie as a continuation of Jim Calhoun, and using only Kentucky’s last seven seasons under John Calipari), and have the national cachet and draw to develop their schedules in any way that they desire.

So here are the numbers for true road games from those eight programs.

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Morning Five: 12.11.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 11th, 2015

morning5

  1. One of the more controversial aspects of the NCAA suspending a coach is that he is not allowed to directly communicate with his assistants or players during the suspension. That does not mean that the coach cannot speak publicly about the team and make whatever observations he wants to listeners. For example, Jim Boeheim, who is currently serving part of a nine-game suspension, is still allowed to talk on the radio (or any other medium) and his assistants and players can listen (like he did here). The only stipulation to this is that the assistants and coaches are not supposed to be doing anything different than before meaning that they are only supposed to listen if they listened before. Obviously, this is essentially impossible to enforce, which has led to some of the NCAA’s critics to point it out as another ridiculous way the NCAA works. That may be true, but there is no way around it since the NCAA can’t prevent an individual from speaking publicly and if they did there would be an even bigger uproar.
  2. Avery Johnson’s first season as a college basketball coach just got a lot tougher as Alabama announced that freshman starting point guard Dazon Ingram will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his left foot. Ingram, who helped lead the Tide to a 5-2 start, was averaging 7.7 points, a team-leading 5.9 rebounds, a team-leading 3.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. With Ingram out, Alabama is expected to use a point guard by committee. Alabama wasn’t going to contend for the SEC title, but they did have a couple of nice early wins (against Wichita State and Notre Dame).
  3. We are hesitant to say that Kentucky is struggling when they are still one of the top teams in the country, but that are not at the point that many observers expected them to be at this point in the season. This is probably more a reflection of the unrealistic expectation on them than actual underachievement, but help might be on the way in the form of Tai Wynyard. The 6’9″ freshman from New Zealand is set to enroll on December 18 and he could be able to play as early as their game against Louisville on December 26 although John Calipari is not ruling out the possibility that he could redshirt.
  4. This week’s edition of the Power Rankings, Luke Winn looks at his usual variety of data (apparently no themes yet this year), but the thing that jumped out at us was just how effective Michigan State was at off-dribble jumpers. As Luke points out, these are usually much less effective than catch-and-shoot jumpers, but through ten games this season the Spartans are making them at a remarkably high clip. However, as last season’s data shows this is extremely unusual, which would seem to indicate that they should be experience a return to a more normal range pretty soon.
  5. Former Connecticut star Tate George is being sentenced this week for his role in a $7 million Ponzi scheme. George, who is best known for hitting a last-second buzzer-beater in the 1990 Sweet 16 against Clemson (to get the Huskies to the Elite 8 where Christian Laettner hit his “other” Elite 8 buzzer-beater), has been in prison without bail since his conviction more than two years ago and will be representing himself after firing two of his lawyers. George faces up to nine years in prison if he is convicted on all counts. At the hearing, George claimed there was no crime because the investors could get all their money back if the projects become successful. Somehow we doubt that argument will work.
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Rushed Reactions: #6 Maryland 76, Connecticut 66

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 9th, 2015

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Maryland was too strong up front for Connecticut. The combination of Diamond Stone and Robert Carter ended up being too much for the Huskies to handle around the basket. Stone and Carter combined for 24 points and 20 rebounds, an impressive showing against Amida Brimah. The Huskies made a second half push from the three-point line which made the game interesting late, but Maryland’s earlier work in the paint was too much for Connecticut to overcome. The Terrapins absolutely dominated the rebounding battle (45-24) and pulled down 14 offensive rebounds, leading to 15 second chance points.

    Melo Trimble had a lot to smile about Tuesday evening. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

    Melo Trimble had a lot to smile about Tuesday evening. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

  2. Melo Trimble’s ability to get in the lane was the difference. Trimble was aggressive as usual tonight and that is best reflected in his free throw numbers. The sophomore point guard went to the free throw line 15 times, converting 14 of them. Trimble is very strong and uses his body tremendously when driving to the basket. Connecticut couldn’t keep him out of the lane, a place where he is absolutely lethal. Containing him is key to defeating Maryland and the Huskies just did not do that. Trimble makes so much happen whether it’s creating for himself or for his teammates. He has truly become one of college basketball’s best point guards in such a short time with the Maryland program.
  3. Connecticut needs an offensive presence in the paint. Although a highly talented group, Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis and Sterling Gibbs can’t do it all for the Huskies. While Amida Brimah is a tremendous presence defensively, he is not a factor on the other side of the ball. UConn forwards Hamilton and Shonn Miller are not big enough to have success in the paint against teams like Maryland with strong frontcourts. Granted, UConn will not be facing teams the caliber of Maryland throughout the season but this has to be a concern for Kevin Ollie as teams key in defensively on his talented crop of guards.

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