Rushed Reactions: #2 Villanova 64, #1 Kansas 59

Posted by Will Tucker on March 26th, 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.

And With This Steal, Villanova Was Off to the Final Four (USA Today Images)

And With This Steal, Villanova Was Off to the Final Four (USA Today Images)

  1. Perry Ellis peaked too early in the week. Two days after delivering a memorable 27-point performance that had Bill Self philosophizing about his legacy, Ellis was frustrated all night by the defense of Villanova’s Kris Jenkins, Daniel Ochefu, and Mikal Bridges. He went into halftime scoreless with four turnovers, and remained quiet in the second half even after Jenkins went to the bench with four fouls around the 14-minute mark. After the game he conceded that Villanova did a good job trying to “swarm” him in the paint, but equally costly were a few missed boxouts on the defensive end that led to Villanova baskets. Ellis finished with as many turnovers as points – four – but it didn’t diminish from his accomplishments this season or his decorated career as a Jayhawk.
  2. The South Regional finally delivered a close game. Thursday night’s winners romped to victory by a combined 39 points after taking control in the second half. Tonight finally flipped the script with a neck-and-neck nailbiter that came down to free throws and late-game dramatics after Kansas and Villanova exchanges leads five times. It was a welcome reprieve from the Sweet Sixteen, and likely reassured many fans that their trip to Kentucky was money well spent.
  3. Shoot ‘em up, sleep in the streets (and don’t forget a blanket). It’s getting down to 45 degrees tonight in Louisville, and you might find a few guards from both of these squads seeking shelter under the Second Street Bridge after their teams shot a combined 10-of-40 (25 percent) from beyond the arc for the game. What made the difference was Villanova’s ability to score in different ways: The Wildcats hit 18-of-19 free throws and held a 13-to-6 advantage in points off turnovers. The three-point shooting prowess Kansas demonstrated all season had eluded them during the NCAA Tournament — a concern we noted on Thursday — and that finally came back to bite them when it mattered most.

Star of the Game. Villanova forward Kris Jenkins did a tremendous job shutting down Perry Ellis in the first half and leading the way offensively while Ryan Arcidiacono got it going. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists, and although foul trouble limited his effectiveness in the second half, his early impact and perfect free throw shooting was enough to earn the Most Outstanding Player award for the South Regional.

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Handing Out ACC Awards and Superlatives

Posted by Matt Patton on March 8th, 2016

The chips have fallen where they did, so it’s time to take a look back at the best the ACC had to offer this season.

First Team All-ACC

Malcolm Brogdon Has Helped the Cavs Turn the Corner (Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty)

Malcolm Brogdon gets the slight nod for conference player of the year honors. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia (POY)
  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina
  • Grayson Allen, Duke
  • Cat Barber, NC State
  • Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

With 15 ACC teams from which to choose, the normal difficulty of selecting a first team was mitigated by Brogdon, Johnson, Allen and Barber being virtual locks. Brogdon gets the nod for ACC Player of the Year over Johnson for his outstanding defense, but it was a close race. The senior is the best player to suit up for Tony Bennett’s team in recent memory thanks to his incredible efficiency and on-ball defense. It’s certainly possible that these four players end up on several All-American teams, although Barber will lose some votes because of NC State’s lack of success this year. The wild card is Notre Dame’s Jackson. I went back and forth here. The media and coaches chose Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, but Jackson won the eye test for me. He was a tremendous pure point guard for the Irish this year, and Mike Brey’s team would have likely ended up in the bottom third of the conference without him.

Second Team All-ACC

  • Michael Gbinije, Syracuse
  • Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
  • Anthony Gill, Virginia
  • Michael Young, Pittsburgh
  • Damion Lee, Louisville

Gbinije, Blossomgame and Gill were head and shoulders above Young and Lee. The first two took on greatly augmented roles this season, playing as deluxe Swiss Army Knives for teams that overachieved.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.22.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 22nd, 2016

In Saturday’s two headline ACC contests, one ended up a shocking blowout while the other turned out generally as expected. Most anticipated that a game between teams tied for first place would be a tightly-fought battle, but North Carolina easily handled Miami to reclaim sole possession of the top of the standings. In the other big game of the weekend, injuries and a corresponding lack of depth finally caught up with Duke, unable to hold off Louisville’s second half charge. Elsewhere around the league, it was a bad weekend for three ACC schools fighting for NCAA Tournament consideration. Syracuse lost at home to Pittsburgh, while Clemson and Florida State lost to teams with losing conference records. Here are some of the highlights from a busy weekend around the ACC.

Brice Johnson recorded another double-double and North Carolina routed Miami in Saturday's battle for first place in the ACC. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

Brice Johnson recorded another double-double and North Carolina demolished Miami in Saturday’s battle for first place in the ACC. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

  • Best Win: The battle for first place in the ACC was completely one-sided as North Carolina dominated Miami  in Chapel Hill. For anyone worried about the Tar Heels after their heart-breaking loss last week to rival Duke, those concerns were erased early in the second half when UNC quickly extended a nine-point halftime lead to as many as 38 points. Brice Johnson led a balanced Tar Heels’ attack with 16 points and 15 rebounds, while five teammates joined him with double figures. For Miami, it was the first of four straight games against ranked ACC opponents — a stretch that will undoubtedly test the Hurricanes’ legitimacy among the league leaders.

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Evaluating All-ACC Candidates Heading Into the Home Stretch

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 10th, 2016

With four weeks to go in the regular season, it’s a good time to start thinking about potential all-ACC players. Below we list 10 players whose play to this point deserve highest consideration for conference honors. With nearly four weeks of action remaining, there’s plenty of time for movement within and perhaps into or out of the group.

Note: all statistics and (ACC Rank) are for conference games only through Sunday, February 7.

1) Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber, N.C. State   JR

PPG – 24.1 (1), APG – 4.1 (6), FT% – 91.0 (1), 3FG% – 43.1 (6), MPG – 39.1 (1)

Mike Krzyzewski lavished praise on Anthony Barber after Duke's latest game with N.C. State. (

Mike Krzyzewski lavished praise on Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber after Duke’s latest game with N.C. State. (

The debate has already begun concerning Barber as an ACC Player of the Year candidate. There is a school of thought that says he must be on a team that finishes highly in the league standings – and that’s normally the case. But the ultra-quick guard is also getting support from at least one of the league’s most prominent coaches. Here’s what Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski said about Barber just last weekend after the Blue Devils’ win over N.C. State:

That kid is really good. I’m not NC State’s sports promotion here, but don’t judge just how good a guy is by the record of his team, because they’re close to winning five more games. He gives them a chance to win every game. He’s the toughest out in the league because in trying to get him, he spoon feeds some of those guys too. He’s responsible for a lot of points for that basketball team and you can figure it out mathematically with assists, but also spacing and this and [Maverick] Rowan might get open a little more because of it, big time. He’s very good.

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ACC M5: 02.10.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 10th, 2016


  1. The Comeback: Obviously the big news last week was Louisville announcing a self-imposed postseason ban. That’s dumb and unfair to Damion Lee and Trey Lewis. Rick Pitino posits that a more appropriate punishment would have been to levy fines against the program and basketball coach. Allen Kenney does a good job poking the holes here, as that money would likely come from a more vulnerable part of the athletic department budget.
  2. BC Interruption: This hasn’t been a banner year for Boston College, and Patrick Stevens does a good job contextualizing just how bad the Eagles have been to this point. But that’s not why we’re here! Rather, the Eagles took North Carolina to the brink of its third league loss at Conte Forum last night (losing by three after leading for most of the game). Eli Carter put on a show with 26 points and four assists, while Dennis Clifford (14 points, 13 rebounds) achieved some of his pre-injury potential. In more concerning news, Roy Williams’ vertigo reared its ugly head again, but he emphasized it wasn’t anything new or particularly serious.
  3. Palm Beach Post: This is a perfect example of Betteridge’s law of headlines. This is decidedly not the best Miami team ever, as the 2012-13 Hurricanes would run their current squad off the floor (they absolutely should have been a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament that year, but that’s a story for another day). That’s not meant to take anything away from this team; it’s just that this season’s team had higher expectations coming in so it benefited from climbing the polls more quickly.
  4. ESPN: Welp, look’s like Betteridge’s law isn’t perfect after all. Grayson Allen certainly should end up the next hated white Duke player, but it will require one of two things to happen. Either the sophomore needs to stay in Durham for another year or this year’s team needs to improve to the status of a national contender (not the favorite by any means, but a top-10 team). Not to worry, though, he’s already working on his resume. The best part of Dana O’Neil’s article is Justise Winslow‘s addition. I won’t spoil it.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: With Louisville’s postseason ban in effect this season, it will represent the second straight year of a weird ACC Tournament bracket. Just like last year, any team finishing 10th or better in the regular season standings will receive at least one bye. The Cardinals’ departure from the field, though, benefits everyone from the cluster of NCAA Tournament hopefuls tied with five losses, to Duke and Notre Dame, both of which are vying for the double-bye.

EXTRA: The Daily Tar Heel ran a really nice story on Dean Smith‘s legacy a year after his death.

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Louisville Shamefully Saves Itself at the Expense of Its Players

Posted by Matt Auerbach on February 6th, 2016

In an unanticipated press conference on Friday afternoon in Louisville, university president James Ramsey announced an immediate self-imposed postseason ban for the men’s basketball team. This falling on the sword moment is a transparent one, exemplifying cowardice and a complete disregard for its student-athletes. With this move, Louisville, which has been investigating allegations made by Katina Powell in her book published last fall, “Breaking Cardinal Rules,” is indirectly acknowledging that the former escort is credible in her claims. Attempting to get out in front of it and punishing the program ahead of the NCAA, Ramsey said that his decision was in the best interests of the university in hopes that this there would be no further penalty.

Pitino (credit:

Pitino Looked as Sullen as He Ever Has on Friday Afternoon (credit:

Keep those fingers crossed, Mr. Ramsey. But while you’re at it, go ahead and present your two middle ones to the kids you just robbed of the opportunity of a lifetime. Because that is essentially what you’ve done here. In an effort to save the future viability of the Louisville basketball program, you’ve sacrificed a group that had no hand in past indiscretions. Yet again, we are unfortunately reminded in these situations that the only true victims are the players who actually put the uniforms on and leave it all out on the court for our enjoyment.

Presumed to be a middle-tier ACC squad this season, these Cardinals had to this point coalesced into a unit with potential to make a Final Four run. Coming off its most impressive win to date, a six-point home defeat of #2 North Carolina, Louisville was formulating the look of a team that could again advance deeply in March — the Cards have been to the regional final or better in three of the last four seasons. Sitting in second place in the ACC at 7-2, the Cards have overachieved to the tune of an 18-4 overall record and a top 10 rating from KenPom.

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What’s Trending: A Month Away from March!

Posted by Griffin Wong on February 4th, 2016

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Griffin Wong (@griffwong90) is your weekly host.

SEC/Big 12 Challenge

The midseason SEC/Big 12 Challenge took place last weekend, giving teams from both conferences a chance to prove themselves in a high-profile event. The highlight of the weekend was surely Oklahoma’s surge to beat LSU in overtime, as senior Buddy Hield poured in 32 points and pushed still closer to legendary 50-50-90 Club (50% 3FG, 50% FG, 90% FT). While Hield’s late flourish stole the show, it may have been Texas A&M that proved the most. Behind 20 points from guard Danuel House, the Aggies, lacking a signature win, cemented themselves as one of the best teams in the nation with a 10-point win over Iowa State. Overall, the Big 12 took the bragging rights with a 7-3 victory, and the event was a resounding success.

More Tragedy Strikes

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What’s in the Cards? Looking at Louisville’s Tough Road Ahead

Posted by Shane McNichol on January 28th, 2016

Rick Pitino doesn’t do much under the radar.

After losing four big name players after last season, Montrezl Harrell, Chris Jones, Wayne Blackshear, and Terry Rozier, Louisville was expected to take a step back. Those four players were the Cardinals’ four leader scorers, accounting for more than 77% of the team’s points. Then, when news of a prostitution scandal involving former players and staffers broke, on-court success became an afterthought.

And yet, Pitino’s team has succeeded thus far. The Cardinals find themselves ranked 3rd in KenPom and 2nd in Jeff Sagarin’s rankings. The human voters have not been as kind, with Louisville yet to crack the top 15 of the AP Poll. Most bracket projections have Louisville projected as low as a 4 seed.

Can Pitino Work His Magic Again This Season?

The discrepancy is clear. The Cardinals have lost only three games to date, all on the road and at the hands of top 60 competition.  They now boast six wins over the KenPom top 100 teams. Louisville leads the nation in scoring margin, outscoring opponents by 21.6 points per game. That feat has not come against a collection of cupcakes, as Louisville has played a middle of the pack, 170th ranked schedule so far.

Then why the discrepancy? In this year of upsets and parity, Louisville awaits their moment in the sun. Back in November, Pitino theorized that his team had been disrespected by the polls because of the recent scandal. He felt voters ignored his controversial Cardinals. That may have been the case in the preseason, but at this point voters and the court of public opinion await a good reason to acknowledge Louisville. Their schedule has yet to feature a signature win. Their best two victories have come over Pittsburgh and Florida State, both of which came at home. The Cards lost to the two best teams they have played–close games on the road at Michigan State and rival Kentucky.

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Louisville’s Second Legitimate Test of the Season Awaits in Lexington

Posted by Matt Auerbach on December 26th, 2015

The elephant in the room with respect to Louisville’s 11-1 start is the uncharacteristically weak competition it faced to compile its gaudy record. None of the Cardinals’ wins have come against a team rated higher than #131, according to KenPom, and that team was Grand Canyon. To their credit, Dan Majerle’s charges own a win over San Diego State, but nevertheless, the softness of this team’s schedule has left many wondering just how good this team is as it heads into its annual tussle with archrival Kentucky.

Kentucky vs. Louisville is Must-See TV For College Basketball Fans (USA Today Images)

Kentucky vs. Louisville is Must-See TV For College Basketball Fans (USA Today Images)

Statistically speaking, the Cardinals have been terrific. Employing its typically stingy defense, Louisville ranks third overall in defensive efficiency (89.9 points per 100 possessions) and fourth in defensive effective field goal percentage (40.4%). Sparked by graduate transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, the Cards have also outperformed expectations offensively, ranking 20th in efficiency (113.4 points per 100 possessions), led by Lee’s 13th-best national offensive rating (137.3). Shooting a blistering 57.5 percent from inside the arc, the Cards have also proven to be remarkably adept when they misfire, rebounding greater than 44.3 percent of their misses, good for second nationally.

Impressive as all that sounds, it isn’t unreasonable to scoff at the numbers when considering Louisville’s level of competition, ranked as the 332nd toughest schedule to this point. The Cards’ lone loss may have been the most instructive data point, in a good way, as the Cardinals led top-ranked Michigan State for the majority of their game in East Lansing only to fall victim to the expert playmaking of Denzel Valentine down the stretch. Perhaps the most positively illuminating development was the play of Lee, who was the best player on the floor for much of the night, proving to any doubters that his game would translate to the high-major level.

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Ten Takeaways From the Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Posted by Andy Gripshover on December 3rd, 2015

Another year down, another tally in the win column for the Big Ten in what is the top challenge series that college basketball has to offer. Per the norm, the teams that have traditionally dominated this series continued to do so, but there were some surprises along the way. Here are 10 key takeaways from this season’s event.

1. The Big Ten won again. Iowa’s thrilling 78-75 overtime victory over Florida State in Iowa City clinched back-to-back Challenge victories for the conference, with five of the last seven events going to the Big Ten. With the other two ties (2012 and 2013), it remains true that the ACC hasn’t won the challenge since George W. Bush was still President back in December 2008. That’s a really long time. It’s even longer when you consider that the ACC won every challenge during his presidency as well as the final two years of Bill Clinton.

Iowa guard Peter Jok, left, celebrates with teammates after an NCAA college basketball game against Florida State, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in Iowa City, Iowa. Jok scored 24 points as Iowa won 78-75 in overtime. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Peter Jok (left), who notched 24 points in Iowa’s 78-75 victory in overtime over Florida State, was one of the shining stars of the challenge. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

2. Duke won again. The Blue Devils are a staggering 15-2 lifetime in the challenge and are undefeated at Cameron Indoor Stadium (7-0) during that time. This is even more impressive when you consider that Duke almost always draws one of the Big Ten’s best teams. You have to go back to 2011 Michigan State (19-15) to find a Duke opponent that didn’t win at least 28 games that season, and before that, 2006 Indiana (19-12) is the other one that didn’t win at least 20. Granted, this year’s Indiana squad is looking like it will slot in nicely with those couple of outliers. Read the rest of this entry »

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