Ohio State’s Slow Big Ten Start Nothing to Worry About

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 17th, 2014

As Ohio State has surely found out, when you are considered a top-10 team and proceed to go out and lose three straight games, eyebrows will be raised. Heck, if the two-time defending NBA champions are going to be questioned for losing three in a row within an 82-game regular season, it’s hardly a shock that pundits will sound the alarm over a three-game Big Ten losing streak. Nevermind that any one of those three losses, in isolation, would be nowhere near concern-prompting, or that the Buckeyes are still owners of the second most efficient defense in all the land. If you listen to anyone outside of Columbus, Thad Matta’s team suddenly has questions to answer. The bleeding does need to stop (and soon), and even the most ardent of Buckeyes’ supporters will admit this team is far from perfectly constructed, but resist overreaction on this one. Today’s Buckeyes are the same team that ran out to that 15-0 start — Big Ten title contenders, still.

Wins Haven't Come As Easily In The Early Part Of The Big Ten Season For Aaron Craft And Ohio State

Wins Haven’t Come As Easily In The Early Part Of The Big Ten Season For Aaron Craft And Ohio State

There is no sugarcoating this fact: Ohio State is not a good offensive basketball team. Besides an impressively low steal percentage-against (helpful mainly for setting up that lethally efficient halfcourt defense), there is no true strength within its offensive statistical profile. When DeShaun Thomas and his prodigious offensive production departed for the professional ranks last offseason, most suspected the Buckeyes would struggle to score points as a result. There was hope that junior LaQuinton Ross might be ready to assume a good chunk of Thomas’ production, but while Ross is the Bucks’ leading scorer at 14.1 points per game, he has proven not to be another Thomas. Ross has shot the ball well from three-point range (41%), but a higher-than-preferred turnover rate (12.5%), paired with middling percentages on two-point field goals (44%) and from the charity stripe (68%) has left, for Thad Matta and his offensively challenged team, a lot to be desired. While the optimist would suggest Ross has some room for growth here in the back end of the season (he does have the natural tools to make it happen), the realist here will remind you that we aren’t talking about a player five games into his freshman season. To a large extent, Ross likely is what he is; namely, not DeShaun Thomas. With a dearth of offensive options elsewhere on the roster, that reality also means that the Buckeyes won’t be redefining themselves anytime soon. This isn’t, and won’t become, an elite offensive unit.

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Big Ten M5: 10.28.13 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 28th, 2013

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  1. Tom Crean doesn’t have Cody Zeller to carry the offensive burden in the paint this season. He doesn’t have Victor Oladipo’s quickness anymore either. Without Zeller and Oladipo, the spotlight will now turn to Yogi Ferrell, who will be the primary scoring option for the Hoosiers. Ferrell averaged 7.6 PPG and shot just 31% from beyond the arc last season, but in IU’s exhibition game against Southern Indiana over the weekend, he showed off his improved shooting by knocking down 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. After the game, he said, “It shows what I’ve done in the offseason shooting with Jeremy (Hollowell), Stan (Robinson), Evan (Gordon) and even Noah (Vonleh). We’re always shooting after practice. I will continue to do that.”
  2. John Groce already made headlines over the summer by locking in two top 40 recruits for the 2014-15 season: Quentin Snyder and Leron Black. But he still has one big recruiting target left for next season, the #3 ranked player in the country, Cliff Alexander. Alexander visited Champaign over the weekend and is scheduled to announce his decision over the next few weeks. If he goes to Illinois, Groce will have a top-five recruiting class and the Illini should be poised for several years of postseason success. Even if Alexander chooses another program, though, the Illini are poised to compete for a Big Ten title as soon as next season. This season, however, could be tough unless Tracy Abrams makes the leap into a 15 PPG scorer and limits his turnovers.
  3. One of the main rule changes in college hoops this year is the prohibition on hand-checking, which allows offensive players more freedom to move around the court. John Beilein is satisfied with the rule change and thinks it will foster more “freedom of movement” in the game. He added, “It’s exactly what we’ve taught for years.” Beilein, however, is less clear about a rule change regarding drawing offensive fouls. He said the new charge/block interpretation “will be difficult for both sides to interpret” — both sides being the players and the officials. The hand-checking modification will certainly help a Wolverines’ offense that is built on consistent motion and averaged a robust 1.12 points per possession during conference play last year.
  4. Senior guard Aaron Craft is expected to step up his offensive production this season after averaging a pedestrian 10 PPG last year. It is unclear if Craft can eventually play in the NBA because he hasn’t consistently produced on the offensive end. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ all-star point guard Kyrie Irving believes that Craft will definitely play in the NBA next year. “Oh yeah. I believe so,” Irving said when asked if Craft could cut it in the NBA. He also added, “He’s a leader, he’s a tough defender, he’s been working on his offensive game.” Regardless of the future, Craft will be ready to lead the Buckeyes toward a Big Ten title and potentially a Final Four appearance if his teammates can figure out a way to replace Deshaun Thomas’ offensive production from last year.
  5. Chris Collins has his work cut out for him in Evanston, as he will attempt to turn around a Northwestern basketball program that has never been to the NCAA Tournament. He is trying to change the Wildcats’ image on the recruiting trail, especially in the fertile local grounds of Chicago. He spoke at the Chicago hoops luncheon on Friday, along with DePaul’s head coach Oliver Purnell. Collins said, “Everyone played here in high school. Everybody loves our city. Everybody has great relationships in this city. I think we all have a great affinity for players in this area also because that’s where we came from and it makes it fun.” It’ll be a while before he starts to consistently recruit four-star players, but he certainly has the energy and the pedigree (from Duke) to become a change agent in Evanston.
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Season In Review: Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted by jnowak on April 16th, 2013

For a while there, it was hard to know what to think about Ohio State. The Buckeyes had a pretty nice non-conference schedule that included a game against Marquette on a neutral floor (aircraft carrier), but it was canceled because of the condensation issue. They played at Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and lost. They hosted Kansas, and lost. And then, suddenly, Big Ten play was here. The Buckeyes had no trouble beating up on the little guys, but then went to Illinois and lost. They went to Michigan State, and lost. Sensing a pattern? The Buckeyes looked good, but they never really looked great.

Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft were the straws that stirred the drink at Ohio State this year.

Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft were the straws that stirred the drink at Ohio State this year.

Until March. Then OSU looked like world-beaters. Ohio State went from a good team in a great conference to a great team in a great conference (one they were responsible for helping make great) when they rattled off 11 straight wins from February 20 to March 24. Along the way, they played their way back into the Big Ten title picture, a conference tournament championship, and an Elite Eight berth. For a while, they were the hottest team in the country. Let’s break it down:

  • The Good: Let’s start with the obvious. Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas were as good a 1-2 punch and complementary duo in the conference, if not the country, as anybody. Thomas is a pure, versatile scorer whose game will translate well to the NBA when he makes the leap. And Craft, with all due respect, is the perfect kind of player you’d want to lead your college team but who won’t likely have much of a (if any) future in pro ball. He’s a terrific student-athlete, someone Ohio State fans and alumni can be proud of, and he’s a bulldog on the court. He ran the Buckeyes’ offense very well, provided leadership, brought some of the best on-ball defense in the country, and showed by the final months of the season that he can fill it up too. When Craft was at his best, the Buckeyes looked unbeatable. That included two huge games against Michigan State, both at the end of the regular season and in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, as well as in the Big Dance. Ohio State was nearly dead in the water after losing three of four games early in February, but they turned it around to become the hottest team out of the best conference in the land. Read the rest of this entry »
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2012-13 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by KDoyle on April 3rd, 2013

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

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

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

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

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

First Team All-America

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

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

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

Second Team All-America

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Rushed Reactions: #9 Wichita State 70, #2 Ohio State 66

Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is reporting from the West Regional in Los Angeles, CA this weekend.

  1. Tekele Cotton Ain’t Scared. To set the scene, a 20-point lead with 11 minutes left had turned into a three-point lead with under three minutes remaining. The Shockers had committed five turnovers on their previous six possessions and hadn’t made a field goal in nearly five minutes. Wichita State players were arguing with each other, looking over at the bench at every loose ball for some sort of help and checking the clock, which was moving far too slow for their liking, at every chance they got. A game that had once been a snoozer looked very much like one that was going to turn into a surprising Ohio State comeback. But after breaking through Buckeye pressure and getting the ball in the halfcourt, the ball found its way to Tekele Cotton with less than ten seconds on the shot clock. Primarily known as a defender and dirty work type of player, Cotton, however, stepped into the three as calm and as cool as you would want, as if the world around him weren’t going to hell. And it was pure. Nothing but net. In that moment, one player putting aside the enormity of the situation and handling his business as if he were all alone in the gym, much of that confusion and disorder disappeared. And he wasn’t done yet. On the next offensive possession, after Fred Van Vleet missed and end-of-shot-clock three on a possession where the Shockers never got the ball inside the three-point line , Cotton tracked down the offensive rebound and turned a wasted 35-second possession into a 1:10 possession that ended in a Van Vleet jumper. Suffice it to say that likely without Cotton, the Shockers may have gotten shocked themselves.

    Demetric Williams Spending Some Quality Time With The West Regional Trophy. Williams, Despite Seeing His Minutes Slashed, Hit A Big Three In The First Half

    Demetric Williams Spending Some Quality Time With The West Regional Trophy. Williams, Despite Seeing His Minutes Slashed, Hit A Big Three In The First Half

  2. Athletically Even. You look at the names of the front of the jerseys and the conferences in which these teams play and you expect, sight unseen, the Buckeyes to be the physically dominant team. That was very much not the case today: Wichita State was every bit the athletic equal of the Buckeyes, with all the height, strength, quickness and bounciness of the more familiar Buckeyes. And you got the feeling right from the start that the Shockers new that. But the Buckeyes are used to playing against their athletic equals on a regular basis, while this was all new for the Shockers. After dominating for 30-some minutes, when the Buckeyes turned up the energy, the Shockers got flustered for a bit, but their athleticism allowed them to recover and fend off a late charge.
  3. Aaron Craft Exposed. The game plan for the Shockers on Craft was pretty clear: go under ball screens, give him looks at jumpers over a chance at penetration and go at him with the ball. And their game plan paid off. Craft did his a couple of his seven three-point attempts, but he missed all five of his two-point attempts and was at times a liability offensively, allowing the Shockers to sag off and clog up the lane. And defensively, on more than a couple occasions, Armstead blew by him on the way to the hole. Even more shockingly, when the Buckeyes finally started to show some pop, it was when Craft was on the pine for a brief two minute stretch. He came back on to help harass the Shockers into turnovers late, but this certainly wasn’t a great performance from the Buckeye point.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2013

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The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

West Region

  • Wichita State guard Malcolm Armstead transferred from Oregon to join the Shockers without a scholarship and that gamble is paying off as Wichita State preps for a chance to go to the Final Four.
  • Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com writes that Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Wichita State should not be viewed as a “David/Goliath” match-up.
  • Would Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall be the greatest catch of this year’s coaching carousel?
  • Ohio State sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross has matured during his second season in Columbus to become a playmaker for the Buckeyes.
  • Ohio State coach Thad Matta was unhappy with the way Buckeyes guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. performed defensively in the team’s Round of 32 victory over Iowa State, but the junior stepped up his play significantly in Thursday’s victory over Arizona.
  • Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas has a well-earned reputation as a “bad shot taker and maker” and this moniker has not prevented him from becoming the Buckeyes’ most lethal weapon offensively.

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West Regional Final Game Analysis: #2 Ohio State vs #9 Wichita State

Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2013

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#2 Ohio State vs. #9 Wichita State – West Regional Regional Final (Los Angeles, CA) – 7:05PM ET on CBS

With Florida Gulf Coast’s magical run over, Wichita State is now left to carry the banner for Cinderella in the NCAA Tournament. Having already knocked off Gonzaga, the team that finished the season as the number one team in the polls, the Shockers have experience playing that role, but today they face a team in Ohio State that is as hot as any team in the country, having reeled off 11 straight victories with nine of those coming against NCAA Tournament teams. In other words, the Shockers are about to face a big step up in the level of competition. But, you know what? Wichita State belongs on the same floor as the Buckeyes. They’re not going to be over-matched athletically like so many underdogs are, if anything they have a slight height advantage and these Shockers are pretty darn hot themselves right now. They have a quintet of talented guards that as a group can attack the hoop, score from deep and play tremendous defense. And then up front they have a pair of 6’8” bulldogs, with Carl Hall more than willing to mix it up in the paint while Cleanthony Early can be a match-up problem with his inside/outside game.

Gregg Marshall Is One Win Away From Taking The Shockers To The Final Four

But, as well as Wichita State matches up with the Buckeyes, Ohio State matches up with them. While Early is a strong offensive threat and a tough rebounder, he’s not a real good match-up for Ohio State’s leading scorer DeShaun Thomas – not that very many people are. Thomas has faced far more fearsome defenders than Early, and Gregg Marshall probably knows that he’ll have to run additional defenders at Thomas to get the ball out of his hands. And if the ball is coming out of Thomas’ hands, if these last two games are any indication, that might mean it is going to wind up in LaQuinton Ross’ hands. Ross is Ohio State’s breakout star (he had 14 of the Buckeyes’ last 17 points in their Sweet 16 win over Arizona, including the game winner) and he has shown a versatile offensive game that very few teams in the nation have a great match-up for, and Wichita State is no exception. But, as good as Ross has been these last two games, two fine performances does not make a consistent offensive performer.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Ohio State 73, #6 Arizona 70

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is reporting from the West Region semifinals in Los Angeles, California, this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

laquinton ross osu

It Was a Sea of Red in LA Tonight

  1. Madness. After 39 minutes, 40 seconds and change, these two teams were dead even subsequent to a wild exchange of runs. One team killed it for the first 15 minutes, the other controlled the next 20-plus. And then down the stretch it was two prizefighters standing in the middlle of the ring throwing haymakers. Arizona’s seniors Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons threw together a barrage of scoring. Ohio State responded with play-making from Aaron Craft and shotmaking from LaQuinton Ross. And both teams went at it defensively. There was a crazy late run for Arizona to tie things up, but for the second straight game with the clock running down in regulation, the Buckeyes got a huge three-point bucket, this one from the newly confident Ross in the waning seconds, to provide the difference.
  2. The Buckeyes Have Found Their Additional Scorers. Much of the year the talk was about “who can Ohio State find to be its second scorer?” DeShaun Thomas has regularly been the leading man for the Bucks, pacing the team in scoring all year long and again tonight. But down the stretch tonight, it was Ross who made play after play after play for them, and in a variety of ways. He scored 14 of the Buckeyes last 17 points and he did it both with the drive, the ability to get to the line and, shown most spectacularly on the final bucket, with deep three-point range. Once a highly regarded recruit, it has taken awhile, but Ross has blossomed in a hurry in March. Meanwhile, Thomas was largely silent late after scoring 20 points in the games’ first 31 minutes.
  3. Tale of Two Arizonas. For the first 15 minutes or so, the Wildcats looked like the best team on the court, with Lyons getting to the hole regularly and drawing a couple of fouls on Craft. The freshman bigs were contributing, Nick Johnson looked like the best player on the floor and the Arizona fans in attendance were confident. Then, over about an 11-minute stretch spanning the half, the Ohio State defense turned on the juice, the Cats got frustrated and they gave up a 22-6 run over an 11:24 period. To knock off a team as solid and experienced as the Buckeyes, you’ve really got to play well for all 40 minutes.

Star of the GameLaQuinton Ross, Ohio State. For the second straight game, Ross came up large for the Buckeyes, scoring 17 for the game. Fourteen of those came after the break and all of those came in the last eight minutes. As recently as March 10 against Illinois, he was earning just single-digit minutes, but as the Buckeyes forge ahead into the Elite Eight, Ross has become a major factor, a 6’8” match-up nightmare who can shoot over smaller, quicker defenders or blow by bigger defenders.

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How Far Can Arizona Go?

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013

Three weeks ago, coming off an 0-2 road trip to Los Angeles, Arizona was just about ready to be left for dead. It’s not that a pair of conference road losses – one to a team in the middle of a 6-2 streak, the other to the eventual conference champion – were egregious, it’s that they were playing uninspired ball and none of the pieces were showing great cohesion. Mark Lyons was 6-of-24 that weekend with three assists while getting outplayed by Jio Fontan and Larry Drew II; Nick Johnson was in the midst of his regularly scheduled mid-season downturn; and Sean Miller could seemingly never get more than one of his freshman bigs – Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett – to play well at any given time.

Sean Miller, Arizona

Sean Miller Has His Wildcats In The Sweet Sixteen, But How Much Further Can They Go?

Flash forward to the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Against a pair of physically overmatched opponents, Lyons was among the best players in the nation, going for 25 points per game in a highly efficient manner. Johnson is now in the midst of a string of unbelievably good defensive performances (dating back to the season finale against Arizona State) and looks to have regained his confidence in his jumper. The freshman bigs have suddenly shown strides to the point where it looks like at least two out of the three can be counted on in any given game. In other words, Miller’s got this team coalescing at precisely the right time. But still, like we said, those two tournament wins were against seriously overmatched teams. Just how far can this Wildcats team go now that the strength of the opponents are about to undergo a serious uptick?

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It’s Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 26th, 2013

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

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. the swag of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Absurd (and questionably timed) alley-oops, the wing walk, tongues wagging, unknown jigs while running downcourt – it’s hard not to like the amount of fun that these kids have on the court, and they have the talent to back it up.

Florida Gulf Coast: the Story of the NCAA Tournament This Year

I LOVED…. Duke’s defense on Creighton. The Blue Devils didn’t play well in this one, but man did they defend. I thought Creighton got the exact pace they wanted and the ideal defensive effort to slow down Duke’s perimeter play, and it still didn’t matter. Duke just continued to bang with a relentless Doug McDermott and got the stops that allowed them to finally pull away when a few threes began to drop. That’s the kind of game you have to grind out in March, and they did it comfortably.

I LOVED…. that I don’t have to watch Marshall Henderson for another weekend (and believe me, I was worried there for a while). In case you were wondering, Henderson’s stats in the tourney were about as prolific as the regular season – 14-of-42 from the field (33%), and 7-of-27 on three-pointers (26%). I’d love to see the Ole Miss coach explain to his players why they would build their team next year around a guard that shoots too much, and not particularly well.

I LOVED…. the statement game. For me this was an easy one to pick – Michigan seemed to be fading a bit, but they put on an absolute clinic against a very talented VCU team and showed just how versatile they can be when freshman Mitch McGary can stay on the floor for an extended period of time. It opens up everything else for the Wolverines, and with Trey Burke dancing around the lane and Tim Hardaway, Jr., able to spot up, this looked like a squad ready to make a legit run.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Ohio State 78, #10 Iowa State 75

Posted by IRenko on March 24th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Sunday’s Third Round game between #2 Ohio State and #7 Iowa State. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

Aaron Craft's Trey Sent OSU Into the Sweet Sixteen (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Aaron Craft’s Trey Sent OSU Into the Sweet Sixteen (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

  1. Craft in the Clutch — Aaron Craft’s performance over the final five minutes of this game illustrated his broader tendency to be inconsistent while, at the same time, coming up big at key moments. Craft has alternated all year between high and low scoring games, but in the final few weeks of the season, he put together several key offensive performances in the Buckeyes’ biggest games to sweep Michigan State and take down Indiana on the road. His back-to-back missed front ends hurt his team badly, allowing Iowa State to close a 13-point lead in a matter of minutes. But in the closing seconds, Craft confidently stroked the game-winning three-pointer with a defender in his face. The entire time he held the ball on that final possession, Craft looked like someone who knew he was going to score — shaking off screeners and teammates, patiently biding his dribble — and was just trying to drain enough time off the clock to make sure he won the game.
  2. Iowa State State Showed Tremendous Fight — Midway through the first half, it looked like the game might get away from the Cyclones as their offense was sputtering, but they found their three-point shot and their mix of man and zone defensive looks threw Ohio State out of its offensive rhythm. As a result, the Cyclones were able to stay within two points at the half. Then, in the second half, when it looked like Ohio State was putting the game away, up 69-56 with 6:04 to play, the Cyclones reeled off a 13-0 run in just over two minutes to completely erase the lead entirely. This is an undersized team full of transfers that plays with a chip on its shoulder and won’t back down from anyone.
  3. The Three Ball Was Not Enough — Unable to get the kind of dribble penetration against Ohio State that Notre Dame’s swiss cheese defense allowed, the Cyclones returned to their old standby — the three-point shot. They made only one of their first five attempts, but from there, they knocked down 11-of-20 from downtown. They finished the game with more threes than twos and a better field goal percentage to boot. And while it very nearly brought them to the verge of victory, it was not enough.

Star of the Game: Craft served up the late game heroics, but it was Deshaun Thomas‘ inside-out game that mostly powered Ohio State’s offense. The Cyclones not only mixed man and zone defenses, they threw several different defenders at Thomas in their man defense. But the junior forward adapted well to whomever was guarding him, scoring 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

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The Big Ten is Ready to End the Title Drought

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 21st, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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