Florida State Has Returned To Its Old Ways Defensively

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 23rd, 2013

After missing the NCAA Tournament in 2012-13, this season Florida State has the look of the Seminole squads that made four straight trips to the Big Dance in the previous four seasons. That means a return to the kind of defense that Leonard Hamilton‘s prior teams have been known for. This was confirmed in Saturday’s 60-55 win over previously unbeaten and #22 ranked Massachusetts in the Orange Bowl Classic. The Minutemen were held well under their season scoring average of 84 coming into the game and the win improved Florida State’s record to 8-3.

Leonard Hamilton

Leonard Hamilton Has Florida State Playing Great Defense Again

A look at the numbers confirms the fact that this Florida State team is performing almost identically to those during the four-year stretch (2008-09 through 2011-12) that made the NCAA Tournament. The statistics also reveal just how different the Seminoles were in 2012-13 and why that team ended the NCAA Tournament streak with a subpar 18-16 record.

This year’s FSU team is currently ranked #27 in Ken Pomeroy’s overall rankings, which is right in line with their NCAA Period average final ranking of 29.5 and much better than last season’s #121. The improvement is entirely on the defensive end of the court. Last year, Florida State’s #82 finish in Pomeroy’s offensive efficiency was actually better than their NCAA Period average of #126. But after a Pomeroy average of #6 in defensive efficiency during their NCAA Period, the Seminoles dropped all the way down to #190 last season. This year’s team has brought that back to where Hamilton is used to seeing it, currently at #7 in the nation.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Florida, Illinois, Surprising Conference Leaders, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 22nd, 2013

tuesdayscribblesBrian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. Saturday night’s epic Gonzaga vs. Butler game was everything college basketball is about and then some. The game had all the trappings: two great basketball teams, a national TV audience, a historic venue, two terrific (and classy) coaches, an electric atmosphere, 40 minutes of competitive action, and an indescribable finish to the game. This was college basketball in its purest form. Everything you could ask for in a game. The kind of game you would show someone who has never watched college basketball before. It was the game of the year to date, one that will be nearly impossible to top in the regular season (we know what the Tournament can do). This was a high-level game between two teams that have the potential to make deep runs in March and the top two “mid-major” programs of the last decade. Roosevelt Jones’ game-winner will be the lasting memory from this game but I hope people remember just how well it was played on both ends. In the final minute and a half, I don’t think either team missed a shot in those final 90 seconds and the only mistake was Alex Barlow’s turnover which, ironically, set up the memorable ending. Dick Vitale said it was one of the top five games he has seen since he started working for ESPN 34 years ago. I wouldn’t doubt it. The game was that good.

    Butler's contest against Gonzaga proved to be a top game-of-the-year candidate (AP)

    Butler’s contest against Gonzaga proved to be a top game-of-the-year candidate (AP)

  2. An important result from last week in the Big Ten was Wisconsin taking down Indiana on Tuesday night in Bloomington. That’s now 11 straight Badgers’ victories over the Hoosiers and it’s safe to say Bo Ryan owns Tom Crean. Even when Crean was at Marquette, he only won three games against Ryan’s Badgers in their annual intra-state rivalry making him 3-13 against Ryan in his career. “Tommy Basketball,” as Ryan once called him, didn’t have an answer for Wisconsin last week. The Badgers controlled the pace of the game from the opening tip and got physical with the more athletic and talented Hoosiers. Once again, Ryan overcame a talent disadvantage on the road to score a huge victory. He’s one of the best pure basketball coaches in the nation and it shows year after year no matter who is on his roster. Wisconsin let Cody Zeller do his thing in the first half but the Badgers really clamped down on him after halftime. A big key to the win was limiting Jordan Hulls. With Ben Brust glued to him most of the game, Hulls could only manage one three-point attempt. That’s outstanding defense and a great game plan against one of the best shooters in the country. Wisconsin limited everyone not named Zeller to 28.2% shooting, a remarkable accomplishment against one of the best offensive teams in the nation. It was a great win for the Badgers but, unfortunately for them, they followed it up with a road loss to Iowa on Saturday night. Nevertheless, Wisconsin is getting better. Never count out Bo Ryan. Read the rest of this entry »
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Night Line: Meet New Mexico, the Mountain West’s Most Complete Team

Posted by EJacoby on February 16th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

In a two-day span, the entire complexion of the Mountain West conference has changed. Those who don’t think that’s a big deal should consider that the MW is actually the fifth strongest league in the country according to cumulative conference RPI, ranking above both the Pac-12 (no surprise there) and the ACC. It appeared as if UNLV was the team to beat in this league, but a shocking loss to TCU on Tuesday night left the door open for the winner of Wednesday’s showdown between the other two top competitors to get a leg up in the race. New Mexico wound up victorious in this matchup, winning at Viejas Arena over No. 18 San Diego State to add a huge road win to its resume and move into sole possession of first place in the conference. The Lobos host UNLV at home this weekend in the final matchup between the Mountain West’s ‘big three’ teams, and a win in The Pit will make the title race theirs to lose. The only MW team of the three that’s not currently ranked in any top 25 poll, Steve Alford‘s squad may actually be the most complete team of the bunch.

Steve Alford's Lobos are Rising to the Top of the Mountain West Conference (AP Photo/I. Brekken)

Wednesday night was a revenge victory for the Lobos, who were thoroughly beaten by San Diego State in Albuquerque back on January 18. New Mexico returned the favor by jumping out to an early lead and extending it to double digits in the second half to a point where the home team could not mount a big enough comeback. Shockingly, the Lobos got it done this time while seeing nothing from their top playmaking guard, Tony Snell, who was held scoreless in the game after he had only scored three points in their first matchup. But that’s what separated these two teams on this night — SDSU got virtually nothing from its top guard Chase Tapley, and the Aztec offense completely stalled for long stretches. New Mexico, meanwhile, was just fine without Snell as their other stars shined and a multitude of other players added important contributions. UNM certainly proved that they were the deeper and more complete team on Wednesday night.

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Night Line: Virginia Falling Fast, Failing to Score

Posted by EJacoby on February 15th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

Remember when Virginia played Duke to a one-possession game at Cameron Indoor Stadium in mid-January, then followed that up with a 32-point road win at Georgia Tech and was ranked No. 15 in the succeeding AP Poll? That Cavaliers team looks completely different from the one that scored just 48 points in a 12-point loss on Tuesday night at Clemson to fall to 6-5 in the ACC. What once looked like a surging team with top four NCAA seed potential has turned into a squad in a bit of a free fall. UVA has not only lost starting center Assane Sene to injury, but also three of its last four games and four of their last eight overall to drop to sixth place in the ACC. Virginia needs to turn things around if they want to make the Big Dance with a chance to win in the postseason. They’ll have that opportunity with both North Carolina and Florida State coming into John Paul Jones Arena in the next two weeks.

Virginia Has Had Trouble Making Shots Recently (AP Photo/J. Bounds)

Back on January 16, the then-No. 15 Cavaliers were not only on a nice winning streak but also had developed a strong identity as a slow-paced, defensive team that was difficult to execute against. Their average game includes 60.5 possessions, one of the 20 slowest tempos in the nation. Led by fifth-year senior Mike Scott, who has developed into one of the best all-around forwards in the country, Virginia had the goods to beat opponents in a grind-it-out style that came down to whose offense could be most efficient in the half court. At 15-2, the results showed that they were making it work. However, the downside to that style of play given the tempo is always the potential to allow teams to hang in a game. And when you’re not executing well enough on your own end of the court, then the style can turn ugly in a hurry. That is exactly what has happened to Virginia.

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Night Line: Is Vanderbilt Back? Commodores Are Getting Stronger Every Game

Posted by EJacoby on January 20th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

The popularity of Alabama’s basketball team might pale in comparison to that of its National Championship football squad, but the boys on the hardwood win its games in a similar fashion: defense, defense, and more defense. So the fact that Vanderbilt showed up in Tuscaloosa on Thursday night with the more physical defensive effort was impressive, especially considering how poor the Commodores struggled on the defensive end just a few weeks ago. Kevin Stallings’ team allowed just 59 points in the road win, and Vanderbilt (14-4, 4-0 SEC) is a much tougher team now with physical force Festus Ezeli back in the lineup. This group is a changed bunch from the team that lost to Indiana State at home in December, and the Commodores must be taken seriously now as a team with the formula to make a run in March.

With Ezeli Back, Vanderbilt is a Much Tougher Team Defensively (Getty Images/G. Halverson)

Vanderbilt entered this season a preseason Top 10 team, bringing back all five starters and three NBA prospects in Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins, and Ezeli. Jenkins has held up his end of the bargain, leading the conference in scoring at 19.8 points per game. He’s arguably the best shooter in college basketball, currently leading the nation in three-point field goals (67) at a 45.3% rate (third in the SEC). Taylor has done his part, too, displaying his all-around game to the tune of 16.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game on 53.6% field goal shooting and the ability to hit from deep (45.3% on 3.5 attempts per game). But Ezeli missed six games due to an NCAA violation-related suspension, and another three recovering from knee surgery, and the Commodores struggled without him. While he doesn’t provide the statistical production of his fellow team leaders, Ezeli is their only true interior threat and most impactful defender. Take away those two aspects, and Vanderbilt barely looked like an above-average team for the first 10 games of this season.

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Set Your TiVo: 01.18.12

Posted by EJacoby on January 18th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are lots of good conference matchups tonight across the country. We will give you full breakdowns of the two best games to watch, including a big-time Big East matchup early in the evening. Check the comments section for other games to track tonight!

Cincinnati at #12 Connecticut – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

Yancy Gates and UC Are Trending Up, Up, Up (AP)

  • Cincinnati is an impressive 4-1 in true road games this season, including victories at Georgia, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown. They have played at an increasingly high level and are 9-1 since the brawl against Xavier that left several players suspended. At full strength now, the Bearcats will not be intimidated in Gampel Pavilion and will look to establish their physical defense early in the game. Mick Cronin’s team gives up just 58.8 points per game on the season and is strong with the ball, averaging a +5.5 in turnover margin. On the offensive end, Sean Kilpatrick has developed into a true scorer this season (16.2 PPG) and will look to establish an inside-out game with Yancy Gates (12.3 PPG, 8.9 RPG) to put the UConn defense in a difficult position. Establishing their brand of physical game early on will give Cincinnati a chance to win another big road game.
  • UConn has had their ups and downs this season, though the Huskies are still undefeated at home and have perhaps the most talented roster in the Big East. It’s looking like Ryan Boatright will not be available tonight as he’s being investigated by the NCAA, which could be a significant blow to the Huskies’ offense. The freshman, averaging about 10 points, three rebounds, and three assists per game, is adept at creating his own shot, but then again UConn has been dealing with suspensions and off-court issues all season and should be fine without him. Stud big man Andre Drummond continues to improve and gain confidence, averaging 15 points, 12 boards, and 2.5 blocks in his previous two games. Going inside early and often has been working for the Huskies, allowing Jeremy Lamb (17.9 PPG) to create his own shot without the defense keyed in on him all the time. Allowing just 36.8% field goal shooting in conference, UConn can match the defensive brand of basketball that Cincinnati brings to this game.
  • There are some great matchups to watch in this game, including Kilpatrick vs. Lamb on the wing as explosive scorers and Gates vs. Drummond inside as a clash of interior styles. Who wins tonight could come down to who is making the most shots, which seems obvious, but really applies here between two teams with similar physical defenses and offensive playmakers. Give Connecticut the advantage at home.
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Night Line: Duke Looks Vulnerable Heading Into ACC Play

Posted by EJacoby on January 5th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist and contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Over the past month, Duke had won five straight games and quietly risen to #3 in the AP Poll and #2 in the RPI without skipping a beat. But home victories over the likes of Western Michigan and UNC Greensboro won’t make fans forget about the Devils’ embarrassing 22-point loss at Ohio State earlier in the year, and it would take a strong road performance to erase those memories. Wednesday night showed the Blue Devils get thoroughly outplayed by unranked Temple in downtown Philadelphia, confirming the suspicion that Mike Krzyzewski’s team could be vulnerable both defensively and on the road heading into conference play. Coach K will need to refine his rotation and strengthen his team’s defensive intensity if they want to realistically compete with North Carolina for another ACC title.

Duke Had Major Trouble Defending Temple on Wednesday Night (AP/T. Mihalek)

Perhaps no team played as difficult a non-conference schedule as Duke, which would suggest that they are well prepared for their old familiar foes when conference play begins this weekend. The Blue Devils played Michigan State, Ohio State, Belmont, Michigan, Kansas, Davidson, Tennessee, and Washington as part of one of the most challenging schedules in the country. But Wednesday’s game against Temple was just their second road game (although it was played on one of Villanova’s two home courts, not Temple’s), and they were dominated in both. At Ohio State on November 29, Duke allowed the Buckeyes to shoot 60% on two-pointers and 57% on threes, amounting to a horrendous 130.8 efficiency rating for the Buckeyes. On Wednesday night, Temple shot 58% on twos and 50% on threes for a 114.7 efficiency. Considering that Missouri’s 126.5 offensive efficiency is the best in the country, it goes without saying that Duke is allowing its opponents to score way too easily in hostile environments.

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