March Madness Serves as an NBA Showcase for Big East Stars

Posted by mlemaire on March 20th, 2013

It’s hard not to feel like performances in the NCAA Tournament tend to artificially inflate players’ draft stock. It’s true that the increased weight of the games and pressure on players can help bring out the best in some prospects, but sometimes it seems like scribes and scouts tend to erroneously overdo it and conflate NCAA Tournament success with NBA success. That said, there will be plenty of NBA eyeballs on the NCAA Tournament this year, and there are a number of Big East prospects with NBA potential hoping to use the Big Dance to boost their stocks. Picking guys like Otto Porter and Michael Carter-Williams is too easy, as they have relatively assured NBA futures. We are more concerned here with the Big East players who truly have something to gain from their performances this March.

A big NCAA Tournament could have Gorgui Dieng shooting up NBA Draft boards.

A big NCAA Tournament could have Gorgui Dieng shooting up NBA Draft boards.

Gorgui Dieng (Louisville): Dieng is already a surefire pro prospect thanks to his NBA-ready defensive abilities, but those who think the junior is a defense-only big man haven’t been watching the Senegal native play this season. Dieng’s progression on offense was slowed somewhat this season by a hand injury, but he is an improved passer, a reasonable free throw shooter, and shows impressive touch from inside 15 feet. Dieng will potentially get an early chance to prove his ability against an old foe if the Cardinals advance to play Missouri and Alex Oriakhi, and there are potential match-ups looming with Mason Plumlee or Adreian Payne down the road. If Dieng helps lead Louisville to the Final Four and plays well in those marquee games, he could slip into the back end of the lottery.

Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati): Kilpatrick is another player who could leave early for the NBA Draft if he thinks he has nothing left to accomplish with the Bearcats, but he may be on the outside looking in as the NCAA Tournament gets under way. There is no doubting his scoring and shooting ability, but his size and length give scouts pause so he will need to work on his ball-handling if he wants to make it at the next level. Kilpatrick has the type of gutsy attitude and moxie that are perfect for the NCAA Tournament, and he has a chance to go toe-to-toe with another NBA prospect in the first round when the Bearcats play Creighton and Doug McDermott. If Kilpatrick can lead the Bearcats past the Bluejays and then play well when matched against another NBA hopeful guard in Duke’s Seth Curry, he may impress enough scouts to earn some looks in the second round for his scoring ability and mature game. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 18th, 2013

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

West Region

Favorite: #2 Ohio State (26-7, 16-5 Big Ten). Not to take anything away from Gonzaga, a team and a program that should be very pleased with itself for the excellent season it has had, but the Buckeyes get the nod by an eyelash. While the Zags have been coasting through WCC play for the past couple months, Thad Matta’s club has dealt with the gauntlet of the Big Ten and emerged with an eight-game winning streak, boasting wins over teams like Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State (twice). Aaron Craft, a veteran guard with plenty of great basketball in his past, is probably playing the best ball of his distinguished career. And guys like LaQuinton Ross, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith are tossing in just enough offense to aid big-time scorer Deshaun Thomas. Throw in the nation’s sixth-best team in defensive efficiency and let’s make the battle-tested Buckeyes a slight favorite to repeat as a Final Four team.

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes Have Been Through The Big Ten Gauntlet, Making Them The Slight West Regional Favorite

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes Have Been Through The Big Ten Gauntlet, Making Them The Slight West Regional Favorite

Should They Falter: #1 Gonzaga (31-2, 18-0 WCC). It would be easy to play the contrarian here and offer up plenty of backlash to the Bulldogs’ first-ever #1 seed and name New Mexico – a pretty darn good team in their own right – as the next best team in this region. But make no mistake, Gonzaga can ball. With Kelly Olynyk, a first-team All-American favorite, the Zags have the third-most efficient offense in the nation and Mark Few’s best offensive team in his time in Spokane. And while there are some concerns about the Zags’ ability to match up defensively with big and athletic guards, this is a team that is also Few’s most efficient defensive team ever – by far. While there are plenty of potential stumbling blocks (regardless of who they face in the Round of 32, that looks like a serious rumble, for instance), the Zags definitely have the ability to reach an Elite Eight. Or better. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: #10 Ohio State 50, #22 Wisconsin 43

Posted by WCarey on March 17th, 2013

rushedreactions

Walker Carey is an RTC Correspondent. He filed this report after Sunday’s Big Ten Tournament title game between Ohio State and Wisconsin. You can follow him on Twitter at @walkerRcarey.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Buckeyes Are Big Ten Champions Again

The Buckeyes Are Big Ten Champions Again

  1. If you like offense, this was not your game. When only one team gets to the 50-point marker, you know the game is lacking in offense and that was certainly the case Sunday when the Buckeyes and Badgers battled for the Big Ten Tournament title. The two strongest defensive teams in the conference lived up to their reputations by defending hard and making things very difficult for the opposing offenses. What was pretty amazing about this game is that Wisconsin went the final 7:01 without recording a field goal and it still managed to finish with a higher shooting percentage (39.1%) than Ohio State (38.5%). Ben Brust, Wisconsin’s leading scorer, was held to just six points on only six shot attempts. Timely three-point shooting helped the Badgers get past Indiana on Saturday, but they were not able to get the same performance Sunday as they were held to a 3-of-18 performance from deep.
  2. Aaron Craft is a pleasure to watch. The Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player only finished the game with nine points, but he truly provided the Buckeyes with the gritty play and leadership necessary to bring home the title. It is quite apparent how smart Craft truly is, as the junior point guard plays his position with great intelligence. It often seems like he is a step ahead of everyone on the opposing team. While Craft is a key player for the Buckeyes on the offensive end of the court, his presence is even more valuable on the defensive end where he is usually called upon to lock down on the other team’s most explosive player. He did a fantastic job on Brust Sunday afternoon and one would imagine that he will have more solid defensive performances when the NCAA Tournament commences later this week.
  3. Ohio State’s hot streak should have its fans feeling really good as it enters the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes finished their regular season by reeling off five consecutive victories and by winning three games in three days in Chicago, they have now won eight consecutive games. Hot teams are known to be dangerous when the NCAA Tournament begins and the Buckeyes definitely qualify as a hot team. After months of fairly inconsistent play, the Buckeyes have really tightened up their game and now seem like a team that advance very far in the NCAA Tournament. Thad Matta has done an excellent job in getting his squad to right the ship and become a legitimate contender for a national title.

Star of the Game. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State. In a game where offense was definitely at a premium, the Buckeyes got a solid scoring performance from their star junior forward. Thomas finished the game with 17 points and his late free-throw shooting allowed the Buckeyes to remain ahead of Wisconsin. Thomas catches some criticism for shooting a lot, but there is no denying that he is an outstanding scoring forward.

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Bracket Prep: Saint Louis, Miami, Mississippi & Ohio State

Posted by BHayes on March 17th, 2013

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The last four auto-bids were handed out on this most special of college basketball Sundays, and as we have for each of the 31 automatic qualifiers to play their way into the Dance, we take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets.

Saint Louis

Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett And The Rest Of The Billikens Are Headed Back To The Big Dance

Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett And The Rest Of The Billikens Are Headed Back To The Big Dance

  • Atlantic-10 Champion (27-6, 16-3)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #22/#17/#15
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +12.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #3-#5

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. In a crazy year of Atlantic-10 basketball, one complete with new faces, wild finishes and a constantly changing standings page, no team stayed the course better than the Saint Louis Billikens. They overcame the tragedy of losing Rick Majerus in November while fighting through their own early-season on-court struggles, eventually righting the ship in a major way. They enter the NCAA Tournament with a sweep of the A-10 titles, and winners of 24 of their last 27 games. A top four seed is not only possible but expected – relatively uncharted territory for the Atlantic-10.
  2. While the notion may be a bit clichéd at this point, it’s impossible to look at this Saint Louis team and not think of Majerus. His fingerprints are all over these Billikens. It’s evident in the stingy defense (8th in the country in defensive efficiency), apparent in the patient, mistake-free offense (36th nationally in turnover %), and undoubtedly a factor in the gritty, tough identity that his former team has taken on. Former Majerus assistant  Jim Crews deserves a lot of credit (and some serious COY consideration) for keeping the ship upright and moving in the right direction, but at their core, this is still a Rick Majerus team.
  3. The Majerus effect, slow tempo, and balanced offense have obscured the individual Billikens from the national spotlight, but there is some talent on this roster. Kwamain Mitchell (10.0 PPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG) is perhaps the most finest of that talent, and it was his return in late December that gave the Billikens a needed boost. Juniors Dwayne Evans (13.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and Mike McCall (10.0 PPG, 42% 3PT) have stepped forward this season as well. On this balanced, unselfish team, there is no member of the eight-man rotation that does not know their role and play it effectively. A year ago they showed well at the Big Dance, beating Memphis before giving #1 seeded Michigan State all they could handle in the third round. That Tournament experience will surely serve them well this time around, as they continue to dedicate this season to Majerus. That alone won’t carry them through this loaded field, but when you give a talented and focused team a real purpose, the sky can often become the limit. The Billikens may not be legitimate national title contenders, but anything short of that? Well within reach.

Miami

There's Been Plenty Of Reasons To Celebrate For Julian Gamble And The Canes This Season -- How About Adding An ACC Tournament Title To That List?

There’s Been Plenty Of Reasons To Celebrate For Julian Gamble And The Canes This Season — How About Adding An ACC Tournament Title To That List?

  • ACC Champion (27-6, 18-3)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #4/#14/#14
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +12.3
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1-#2

 Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

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Rushed Reactions: Ohio State 61, Michigan State 58

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 16th, 2013

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Another patented physical Big Ten tussle in the league’s second Tournament semifinal fell in Ohio State’s favor after a predictably even-matched run of play broke open late in the second half. Aaron Craft led the Buckeyes with 20 points and nine assists. Michigan State forward Derrick Nix finished with 17 points and nine rebounds.

Chris Johnson is a Big Ten correspondent and RTC columnist. He filed this report after Saturday’s Big Ten semifinal matchup between Ohio State and Michigan State. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Three Key Takeaways:

Sunday's title matchup should feature another hard-fought game between two defense-oriented Big Ten stalwarts (AP Photo).

Sunday’s title matchup should feature another hard-fought game between two defense-oriented Big Ten stalwarts (AP Photo).

  1. DeShaun Thomas Still Needs Help.  We’ve said this all season long, and with only intermittent evidence to the contrary, the same problem still holds true as Ohio State prepares for a deep NCAA Tournament run. The Buckeyes can guard; no one’s doubting the Buckeyes’ defensive prowess — this is the same group that, less than two weeks ago, short-circuited the nation’s most explosive offense (Indiana) in one of the most brazen, gutsiest, perception-changing road wins of the season. Finding ways to score points outside of DeShaun Thomas iso sets and late shot-clock jumpers, and doing so in a consistent context, is where OSU will run into real problems in an NCAA Tournament setting. When Ohio State comes across a strong defense, and its offense stalls out, working around a potential Thomas blockade — and rest assured, whatever higher seed Ohio State crosses paths with in the early rounds will make sure to lock down Thomas — could be the difference between advancing and a disappointing early exit. If Aaron Craft can be the offensive safety valve the Buckeyes need, then great. I’m just not convinced, even after today’s offensive brilliance, that he can for four or five straight do-or-die Tournament games over the next couple weeks. His career offensive work to date says otherwise.
  2. Ohio State and Michigan State are Sweet Sixteen Locks. Book it. There are a handful of traits that distinguish a seasoned NCAA Tournament team. Strong guard play is a big help. Coordinated team-oriented defense is as effective and portable as any group characteristic. Ohio State and Michigan State have both in spades, but that’s not all that makes the Buckeyes and Spartans two of the more dangerous low-seeds in this year’s field. What about coaching? Tom Izzo and Thad Matta tighten the screws March like few other sideline bosses around the country. Leadership? Aaron Craft marshals his charges, on both ends of the floor, better than most floor leaders on any team in the country; Keith Appling and Derrick Nix are an extension of Izzo’s composed toughness. Not only do these teams have all the obvious physical and tactical marks of championship contenders, the intangible credentials are plainly evident. For all the momentum and crowd advantages afforded to home teams in the Big Ten this season, make no mistake: MSU and OSU’s prowess is just as devastating on neutral courts. All of which makes the above claim not only credible but extremely hard to impugn. With the acknowledged anonymity of seeding and matchups, on their own merits OSU and MSU are teams you won’t regret reserving more than a couple spots for in your office pool bracket.
  3. I can’t Wait For Sunday. The first semifinal of the day continued Wisconsin’s remarkable 12-game winning streak against Indiana, and if you caught a glimpse of the Badgers’ clinical dismantling of the Hoosiers’ top-ranked effeiciency offense, you saw a Wisconsin team playing its best basketball of the season at the perfect time. Wisconsin is, inarguably, peaking in March — which is pretty much what every team would like to be able to say with at least some measure of honesty at this point of this season. And for as unassailable as Mike Brueswitz and Ben Brust and Ryan Evans look right now, Ohio State enters Sunday’s final only barely trailing Wisconsin’s imposing form. Craft will counter Badgers point guard Traevon Jackson at the point of attack. Evans will batter Thomas on the block, on offense and defense, in equal doses. Bo Ryan will crouch on the sideline, deadpanning, almost incredulously, as his team’s esteemed yet aesthetically-opposed system clogs Ohio State’s offense and installs a slow, shotclock-milking, industrious style of play. To their credit, the Buckeyes are just as capable of bringing home the conference tournament crown. For one, Ohio State’s defensive strength and apparent perimeter scoring complement, Aaron Craft, will test Wisconsin in ways Michigan and Indiana could not. The Buckeyes are slowly, if only minimally, attempting to reduce their reliance on Thomas. But maybe the biggest reason this game shapes up to be one of the most entertaining in a conference that’s produced tantalizing contests all season is the Buckeyes’ defense. Few teams are locking down opponents like Ohio State right now, and with a league tournament title in the balance, that defensive strength will clash with Wisconsin’s foolproof D to conjure up a delectable Big Ten showdown.

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Rushed Reactions: #10 Ohio State 71, Nebraska 50

Posted by WCarey on March 15th, 2013

rushedreactions

Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center following Friday’s matchup between Ohio State and Nebraska. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.

Three Key Takeaways.

osu nebraskas big ten tourney 13

  1. Ohio State is definitely peaking at the right time. Thad Matta’s squad suffered an embarrassing 22-point setback at Wisconsin on February 17 and since then, it has been a different team. The Buckeyes entered the Big Ten Tournament on a hot steak, as they had won their final five games of the regular season. During this winning streak, the Buckeyes notched their signature win of the season by going on the road and defeating Big Ten champions Indiana in convincing fashion.  That hot streak continued Friday in their quarterfinal victory over Nebraska. It is always a good thing in college basketball when you play your best at the end of the season and it sure seems like that is the case for the Buckeyes right now. If Ohio State is able to continue its strong play, it has a legitimate chance at winning the Big Ten Tournament and there is no telling what its ceiling might be in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
  2. Ohio State’s experience is quite evident. The notion that only experienced seniors can hold leadership roles is a common misconception that exists throughout collegiate athletics. Take Ohio State for instance – Reserve big man Evan Ravenel is the only senior on the Buckeyes, but the team does has several experienced contributors. Juniors Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. were all starters on the Buckeyes team that reached last season’s Final Four. Both Craft and Thomas have been playing major roles for the team since the day they stepped foot on campus. The experience and leadership of Ravenel, Craft, Thomas, and Smith Jr. has provided players like LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams with a calming presence as they continue to develop their games. Experience is definitely worth something in March and that is good news for Ohio State. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 03.13.12 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on March 13th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Ohio State has had its struggles this season, particularly in finding a consistent offensive threat outside of Deshaun Thomas. However, the Buckeyes have gone on a hot streak as of late — ironically, they’ve done it in a stretch when Thomas has struggled — and surged to grab the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. Late-season surges such as this are nothing new under coach Thad Matta. As the Columbus Dispatch points out, Matta’s teams have won 15 consecutive games in the final week of the regular season, a streak that dates back to 2005. This year — as we’ve seen before — OSU is peaking at the right time, right before the “win and advance” portion of the season.
  2. Finishing No. 8 in the country and getting a No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament is quite the accomplishment, especially for a team that lost its leader and best player from last season. However, it’s not enough for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. MSU was on top of the conference a few weeks ago, but it lost two close games to Michigan and Indiana down the stretch, which ultimately kept the Spartans from winning the Big Ten regular season title. Not getting that championship is an extra incentive for Izzo and his team this weekend, as they try to claim a Big Ten Tournament championship. Not only that, but a run in Chicago would necessarily include some pretty impressive wins, which would give MSU great confidence heading into the NCAA Tournament.
  3. One of the reasons John Groce got the job at Illinois this season is because of the success he enjoyed at Ohio, particularly in the postseason. His Bobcats won the MAC last season and upset Michigan in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Now, he’s heading into his first postseason as a Big Ten coach, but the competition is much tougher here than it was in the MAC Tournament. Still, Groce is excited for his first opportunity to coach in the Big Ten Tournament, and he’s equally excited for his team, which will get the chance to regain some momentum after a bit of a slide to end the regular season.
  4. Sunday’s Michigan-Indiana game was one for the ages, coming down to the final seconds with a tough roll ending up as the difference between a win and a loss for the Wolverines. However, that game just about defined the season for John Beilein’s team, which has shown its incredible potential at times but has also struggled with consistency. The Wolverines have the talent to be the best team in the country, but Bill Simonson of MLive questions whether they have the toughness to make a serious run in the NCAA Tournament. Can UM shake its most recent loss to IU? The talent is there, but it might be tough to get over it.
  5. Iowa has played its last four games without freshman point guard Mike Gesell, but with do-or-die time looming in the Big Ten Tournament, Gesell expects to play on Thursday when the Hawkeyes suit up against Northwestern. Gesell has a stress reaction in his foot, but since it isn’t fractured, he’s been cleared to play despite the pain that limits his abilities. He said he should be able to go. Head coach Fran McCaffery said he will support whatever decision Gesell comes to, noting that the Hawkeyes could certainly use him this week if he’s able to play.
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Handing Out the 2013 Big Ten Hardware

Posted by jnowak on March 12th, 2013

The best season of Big Ten basketball in recent memory blessed us with plenty of talented players, performances and games. So, without any further ado, our choices for this year’s Big Ten awards:

Player of the Year: Trey Burke, Michigan — Burke probably locked this up when he picked Keith Appling’s pocket in the closing seconds of Michigan’s narrow win against the rival Spartans in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago. It just goes to show you can never let your guard down against Burke, who nearly left for the NBA after his breakout season a year ago. He led the Big Ten in scoring during conference games, while leading the conference in assists (6.8 per game) by a long shot. He can put this team on his back and carry it deep into March.

What awards did Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo earn this year? (AnnArbor.com)

What awards did Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo earn this year? (AnnArbor.com)

All-Big Ten First Team

  • Trey Burke, Michigan — Directed the conference’s second-best offense, and narrowly missed the Big Ten scoring title. Sharp on defense, brilliant in the lane. An NBA point guard.
  • Victor Oladipo, Indiana — All aspects of the game considered, the most fun player in the Big Ten this season. Can rebound, drive, defend and lead his team to a title.
  • Cody Zeller, Indiana — Billed as the Big Ten’s top player entering the year, it’s incredible to think that this honor and 16.8 PPG and 8.1 RPG would be any kind of disappointment.
  • Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State — The conference’s leading scorer (19.7 PPG) and the player most valuable to his respective team in the conference.
  • Adreian Payne, Michigan State — His visible growth during conference play slides him into this up-for-grabs fifth spot on the first team.

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Night Line: Buckeyes Find Signature Win In Bloomington

Posted by BHayes on March 6th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

They don’t come much better than this. In fact, they might not come any better than this. Ohio State walked out of Assembly Hall with a convincing 67-58 victory over Indiana on Tuesday night, securing a resume-defining win that could easily be considered the scalp of the year in college basketball this season. Only Wisconsin can join the Buckeyes in saying they walked out of Bloomington victorious in 2012-13, but the Badgers didn’t have to do it on Senior Night, nor with the rights to a Big Ten title on the line. Neither factor seemed to matter much to the Buckeyes, who put together a near-flawless final 10 minutes to earn the win. The loss for the Hoosiers may raise questions about their presumptive status as the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, but it also may serve as a perception-changer for the Bucks. Crazy as it sounds, one massive win may be all it takes to erase from the memory banks a season’s worth of misses versus the Big Ten’s upper echelon. Ohio State suddenly feels like a March contender.

Aaron Craft And Ohio State Did Their Best To Spoil Senior Night At Indiana

Aaron Craft And Ohio State Did Their Best To Spoil Senior Night At Indiana

It’s been business as usual in Columbus in many ways this season — another 20-win campaign, 12 more Big Ten victories (after tonight), a high seed awaiting on Selection Sunday. But these Buckeyes have flown a course far further off the national radar than Thad Matta teams of years past. Tonight’s startling victory may change that trajectory, but a glance at the Buckeyes’ profile also begs the question of why it took us so long to notice. Sure, the Bucks whiffed in a lot of big spots this season. But when you take inventory of their schedule (a whopping nine games against teams in KenPom’s current top 11), it’s pretty evident that a lot of good teams might have suffered the same fate given the circumstances. A handful of those games were there for their taking, with contests at Duke, Michigan and Michigan State all fitting that bill, so it isn’t as if they did much to embarrass themselves in those defeats. Tonight’s win doesn’t erase all doubts about the Bucks, but it puts previous missteps in a far more forgivable light.

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Set Your DVR: Week of 03.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on March 5th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

For some teams, the Championship Fortnight (as Kyle Whelliston would call it) begins this week. For most others, this is the final week of the regular season. Many teams sit squarely on the bubble and need to impress in their final two contests to show they deserve to be in the Tourney. We’ve waited all year for March. It’s finally here and all indications tell us it’s going to be a wild month. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Illinois at Iowa – 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on BTN (***)

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It looks like John Groce and Illinois are in but a couple more losses might change the equation

  • This is a hugely important game for both teams. At 7-9 in the Big Ten, Iowa is need of two wins to make its case for an at large tournament bid. They close the regular season at home against Illinois and Nebraska. If they can pick up the two victories and get to .500 in conference, Fran McCaffery and company make a decent case to get in. For Illinois, it looks like they will get in however they can ill afford to drop their next two games. In addition to this game at Iowa, they must travel too Ohio State. A loss against the Hawkeyes puts a ton of pressure on John Groce’s team heading into the last game of the season, so this one is critical. Look to see if Iowa’s size bothers the Illini. Illinois is a much better two-point shooting team than they are at three-point shooting team. However, getting points inside against Iowa’s length could be tough to come by. Regardless, Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams, and D.J. Richardson must be aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and trying to get to the line. If Illinois is settling for jumpers on the outside, they will lose. Iowa needs to win this game with defense. Their offense just isn’t strong enough to win it for them. Protecting the ball and playing good defense without fouling are their top priorities. If they are turning the ball over and fouling, Illinois will win. The team that wins the free throw battle should come out on top in this match-up.

#13 Ohio State at #1 Indiana – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • In the first match-up this season between these two squads, Ohio State had no answer for Cody Zeller and Victor Olidipo. They combined to go 16-of-21 from the field and 17-of-21 from the line, grabbed 16 rebounds, and scored 50 of the 81 points. Throw in Christian Watford’s 20 points and IU’s front line obliterated OSU. If the Buckeyes want any chance to win this game in Bloomington, they must get way better defense from Evan Ravenel, Amir Williams, DeShaun Thomas, and LaQuinton Ross. Offensively, they can’t run with Indiana, however OSU’s half-court offense is suspect at best. So while their defense must create turnovers and get out on the break, they must be careful not to turn this game into a track meet. OSU’s ability to win this game sits squarely on the shoulders of their frontline. They need better defense and more scoring. If they can get that, they have a chance to win. Otherwise, this could be a blowout. Read the rest of this entry »
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Buckeyes Boost Postseason Resume With a Win Over the Spartans

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on February 25th, 2013

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

In addition to bubble talk over the next few weeks, bracketologists will consider teams’ resumes based on their quality wins even if they are a lock for an at-large bid. The most recent bracket prediction by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Ohio State slated as a #5 seed in the East Region, but after Sunday’s 68-60 win over Michigan State, the Buckeyes can begin to make a case for an even higher seed. Other than their win in January over Michigan, OSU does not have many quality wins on their resume. They couldn’t keep up with Kansas at home and they were close but came up short against Michigan State on the road a few weeks ago. On the flip side, they don’t have any “bad” losses either, so they are just stuck in the middle of the road where they might have to settle for a mid-range seed unless they can rack up some wins over highly-ranked opponents soon. Aaron Craft willed his team to a huge win yesterday and it means more than just a boost to their resume because they did it on a day when Deshaun Thomas was not offensively effective.

Aaron Craft (left) made sure the Buckeyes sealed a win over the top-ranked Spartans on Sunday.

Aaron Craft (left) made sure the Buckeyes sealed a win over the top-ranked Spartans on Sunday.

Thad Matta‘s squad beat Tom Izzo‘s team in their own game — they won “ugly” by playing stingy defense and basically out-muscling their opponent during the second half. Thomas finished the game with 14 points but shot just 4-of-16 from the field. He was held scoreless for 15 minutes during the first half as the Spartans’ Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne hounded him with their length and intensity. To make matters worse, the Spartans outrebounded the Buckeyes by six, which didn’t help OSU in the paint either. But after 25 minutes of just hanging around the game, Matta urged his team to step up on defense and Craft executed on the court.

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Big Ten M5: 02.20.13 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 20th, 2013

morning5_bigten

  1. Once again, Indiana‘s Victor Oladipo was front and center for the Hoosiers on Tuesday night, solidifying himself on the national stage among the front-runners for Big Ten and National Player of the Year, as well. He’s widely considered one of the most improved players in all of college basketball, and CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman has the story of Oladipo’s transformation. Ever since he was a teenager, Oladipo has had to prove doubters wrong, working to improve his dribbling and his shooting to round out a game that is large on speed and athleticism. He’s become one of the best all-around players in the Big Ten, and a huge reason the Hoosiers have had such success this year.
  2. There hasn’t been a more up-and-down team in the Big Ten this year than Illinois, which has always been dangerous and lately has been downright lethal. The Illini surprised just about everybody when they started off the season so well, then they fell off once Big Ten play started. They rebounded exceptionally well after that, and Brandon Paul says a lot of that credit goes to the coaches, who “never gave up on [them]” this season. In the past, when things got bad at Illinois, they stayed that way — one bad loss would lead to another and so on. But this suggests a different culture in Champaign and it certainly seems to be for the better.
  3. Just because Wisconsin walk-on seniors Dan Fahey and J.D. Wise don’t find their names in the box score often doesn’t mean that they haven’t contributed to the Badgers’ exceptional run this season. The two rarely make it off the end of the bench, but some of the Badger regulars credit the two of them for helping keep Wisconsin in check during practice and in preparation for the grueling Big Ten schedule. As Wisconsin prepares to take on Northwestern and its Princeton offense tonight, the work of those walk-ons will be put to the test.
  4. If there’s a team you want to go up against with your NCAA Tournament chances on the line, you can’t do much better in this conference than facing Nebraska. That’s the case for Iowa, which still holds a slim hope at making the Big Dance. To do so, they absolutely have to sweep its remaining two meetings against the Cornhuskers. The Hawkeyes are on the outside looking in as far as the NCAA Tournament bubble is concerned right now, but they still have a chance. “You don’t want to pretend like it’s not out there,” Fran McCaffery said. “They turn on the TV and that’s all everybody is talking about.”
  5. Sometimes, when it rains, it pours. That seems to be the case for Ohio State, which can’t seem to do much right lately. The Buckeyes are slipping in the Big Ten standings, can’t find much scoring outside of Deshaun Thomas and don’t have much of an identity at this point late in the season. So Zac Jackson says they may just need a spark. Sometimes, though, all it takes is for one good thing to lead to another. There’s never been any doubt about the capability of this Ohio State group — it’s just a matter of them putting all the pieces together. Can just one thing jump-start them?
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