NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.28.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 28th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverageMarch Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

South Region

West Region

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) & Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 28th, 2014

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Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent, and Brian Otskey (@botskey) is the NCAA Tournament’s East Region correspondent. Make sure to also follow @RTCMidwestRegion and @RTCEastRegion for news and analysis from Indianapolis and New York City throughout the weekend.

#2 Michigan vs. #11 Tennessee – Midwest Region Sweet 16 (from Indianapolis, IN) – at 7:15 PM EST on CBS

Tennessee was not supposed to be in this position. It barely found its way into the NCAA Tournament. In fact, the Volunteers had to travel to Dayton last Wednesday to take on Iowa to even advance to the round of 64. Tennessee got by the Hawkeyes in overtime and that was only the beginning of its winning ways. In Raleigh, Cuonzo Martin’s squad was able to throttle Massachusetts and take advantage of Duke’s stunning loss to Mercer by dismantling Bob Hoffman’s Bears in the round of 32 to advance to the Sweet 16. Leading the way thus far for Tennessee has been the spectacular play of forward Jarnell Stokes. The junior has been nothing short of dominant in the team’s recent run, as he is averaging 20.3 points and 15 rebounds in his last three games. The Volunteers have also received a lift from guard Josh Richardson. The junior, who averaged 10.1 points per game in the regular season, has stepped up his play in the tournament, as he is averaging 19.3 points per contest. As a team, the Volunteers’ performance on the rebounding glass has aided tremendously in taking them to the Sweet 16. Tennessee has been an excellent rebounding team all season and its rebounding prowess was never more on display than in Sunday’s victory over Mercer. The Volunteers had a sensational 41-19 rebounding advantage over the Bears in the winning effort.

Expect plenty of fireworks between these two guys Friday night. (Getty & USA TODAY Sports)

Expect plenty of fireworks between these two guys Friday night. (Getty & USA TODAY Sports)

Michigan will take the court in Indianapolis after a relatively easy first weekend in Milwaukee. The Wolverines cruised to a 17-point victory in the round of 64 over an undermanned Wofford squad before wearing down Texas in a 14-point victory. John Beilein’s team has been an outstanding perimeter shooting offense and that has carried over into the postseason. The Wolverines hit a combined 21 three-pointers in the two victories. Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas hit seven of those 21 triples an was the team’s leading scorer in each victory. Michigan’s frontcourt has been seen as a concern since sophomore big man Mitch McGary was lost to a back injury in late December, but forward Jordan Morgan showed he is a capable post presence with his performances in Milwaukee. The senior averaged 12.5 points and 10 rebounds against Wofford and Texas, while living up to his reputation as a solid interior defender. In Friday’s game, it should be expected that both teams will play to their strengths. Tennessee will try to use its size advantage to the dominate the interior and Michigan will attempt to get its perimeter shooting going early and often. Texas had a great advantage over Michigan in size too, but the Wolverines were able to wear the Longhorn bigs down through a terrific transition effort and solid offensive spacing. It would be wise to expect Michigan to do the same Friday. Tennessee will keep close throughout much of the game, but the shot-making ability of Stauskas, Caris LeVert, and Glenn Robinson III will ultimately be too much for the Volunteers to overcome. Two-seed Michigan will win the game to advance to its second straight Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.27.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 27th, 2014

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March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

South Region

  • Despite a tough non-conference schedule, Florida is calling tonight’s game against UCLA its “toughest test yet.”
  • Florida coach Billy Donovan is a proven commodity, and with no real pressure to succeed, he is “enjoying the ride.” However, after those comments, Donovan was sure to offer the disclaimer that he hasn’t lost his drive. Donovan added, “But I think, as I’ve gotten older — we all want to win. But for me, there’s a lot I’ve learned as it relates to life and as it relates to the drama of the NCAA tournament. What are these guys going to take from this experience, and how equipped are these guys to take the next step in their life?”
  • With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams sharing the backcourt, Norman Powell often flies under the radar. Will that mean Florida won’t be ready for the high-flying, high-intensity guard?
  • Despite futile history in the NCAA Tournament, UCLA coach Steve Alford is “all business” this year, barely allowing himself to celebrate his team’s berth in the Sweet Sixteen.
  • Stanford’s Dwight Powell considered testing the NBA waters last summer, but stayed to fulfill his promise of graduating to his late mother. Stanford now finds itself just one game from the Elite Eight, and Powell has certainly played a significant part in that run.
  • Tonight’s match-up between Stanford and Dayton will be tight, but can the Cardinal gain a huge advantage over the Flyers with all of its size?
  • Dayton has accomplished a great deal to be playing in the Sweet Sixteen, but with #10 seed Stanford on deck, the Flyers have a legitimate chance to extend their Cinderella story.
  • Dayton had the most wins  in college basketball during the 1950s and 1960s, and the Flyers look to create even more history for themselves tonight.

West Region

  • Arizona is hoping big man Kaleb Tarczewski returns to school next season, but he wouldn’t budge when asked. “Zeus,” as they call him in Tucson, commented, “If [they] think I’m ready to go, I’ll go and if not, I’ll come back. Doesn’t matter now.”
  • Without Brandon Ashley, Arizona has had to play a bit smaller. However, this has played to its advantage sometimes, particularly when it comes to getting out in transition.
  • San Diego State was waiting to see whether it would play Arizona or Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen. Upon finding out its next game would be a rematch against Arizona, Aztecs guard Winston Shephard responded, “Gonzaga’s a great team, and no disrespect to them, but we would have much rather played Arizona.”
  • San Diego State’s Aqueel Quinn took a huge risk trying to transfer and then walk-on to the team, but it has paid off through his hard work.
  • Despite dominating its competition so far, Baylor isn’t getting the respect it deserves. As Dennis Dodd puts it, the Bears are “the best kept secret left in the tournament.”
  • Baylor point guard Kenny Chery has been outstanding in his first season with the program, but could his lack of Division I experience end up hurting the Bears as the Tournament moves forward?
  • If things get tight on Friday, know that Wisconsin point guard Traevon Jackson is going to want the ball, especially at the free throw line.
  • Bo Ryan has coached Wisconsin into one of the most consistent basketball programs in the country; however, what his resume still lacks is a trip to the Final Four.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Connecticut 77, #2 Villanova 65

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 22nd, 2014

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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.

Shabazz Napier had a big night, and the Huskies are heading to the Sweet Sixteen. (Credit: UConn Athletic Communications/Stephen Slade)

Shabazz Napier had a big night, and the Huskies are heading to the Sweet Sixteen. (Credit: UConn Athletic Communications/Stephen Slade)

  1. Shabazz Napier was awesome. Killer crossovers, in-your-face threes, acrobatic layups – Napier took the game over in the second half like only he could. The senior guard scored 21 points in the final 20 minutes – including three straight triples midway through the period – to give Connecticut the edge in what had looked to be a barnburner. Even a late, seemingly serious ankle injury couldn’t stop the AAC Player of the Year. After sitting out a minute or two of action, Napier returned with a bang, making a crucial reverse layin and nailing several big free throws to effectively finish off the Wildcats. He ended the night with 25 points, just one more than he scored against Saint Joseph’s on Thursday, but the difference was his efficiency: Napier shot 9-of-13 from the field and 4-of-8 from distance.
  2. The Huskies’ defense shined during key stretches. Connecticut entered the night ranked 15th in the country in defensive efficiency, and that stinginess was on full display during several crucial periods against Villanova. When the Huskies trailed 20-11 at the 10-minute mark of the first half, their defense promptly shut out the Wildcats for over nine straight minutes and enabled the offense to chip away at the lead. Then, following a back-and-forth start to the second half, Connecticut asserted itself on the interior and prevented Jay Wright’s club from finding any good looks in the paint. It put a lot of pressure on Villanova’s three-point shooters, who were unable to carry the full load.
  3. Villanova probably overachieved in 2013-14, and it will be back. Many people felt the Wildcats were the most vulnerable #2 seed entering the NCAA Tournament, and they were probably correct. The fact is that this team likely won more games than it should have this season, especially considering their lack of NBA-caliber talent (according to projections) and limited experience. But the good news for Jay Wright is that – aside from James Bell – every significant contributor returns to the Main Line next year. Expect very good things out of Villanova in 2014-15.

Star of the GameShabazz Napier (25 points, five rebounds, three assists, 9-of-13 FG). Who else? The star point guard was extremely efficient and took the game over in the second half, nailing big shot after big shot and propelling Connecticut on to the Sweet Sixteen.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by Brian Otskey, Andrew Murawa, Walker Carey & Bennet Hayes on March 21st, 2014

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We may not know what the Friday evening sessions might have in store for us, but we can be confident in thinking there will be lots of excitement. Let’s continue our analysis of all of today’s games with the evening slate of eight contests.

#8 Memphis vs. #9 George Washington – East Region Second Round (at Raleigh, NC) – 6:55 PM ET on TBS

It's Put Up or Shut Up Time for Josh Pastner (Photo: Spruce Derden/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s Put Up or Shut Up Time for Josh Pastner
(Photo: Spruce Derden/USA TODAY Sports)

On paper this is a very intriguing game. The statistics, especially those compiled by Ken Pomeroy, point to an even match-up between two teams who play similar styles. A tougher Atlantic 10 schedule caught up to George Washington in the closing weeks of the season but the Colonials still enter this game with a 7-5 record in their last 12 games. Memphis, on the other hand, is just 4-4 in its last eight after getting bounced on its home floor by Connecticut in the AAC Tournament. Mike Lonergan’s team will be led by a pair of former high-major players who transferred to his program, Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood. Creek represents the most substantial three-point threat for GW and it will be interesting to see if he can get some shots to go down against a Memphis guard unit that defends the arc fairly well. There is injury news regarding the Colonials. 6’3” guard Kethan Savage is unlikely to see significant time if at all, but Lonergan would not rule him out of action when asked on Thursday. Savage (12.7 PPG) made a one-minute appearance in last week’s conference tournament loss to VCU but has not played any significant minutes since January 18. If he can go, it would provide more of an emotional lift to GW than anything else given he is nowhere near 100 percent. As for Memphis, it will have to dominate the paint area and win the rebounding battle in order to advance to the round of 32. The Tigers have a lot of talent but it is hard to trust this team against a talented A-10 club with something to prove.

The RTC Certified Pick: George Washington

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Villanova 73, #15 Milwaukee 53

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 20th, 2014

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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.

Villanova will need to be better on Saturday in order to beat Connecticut.  (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Villanova will need to be better on Saturday in order to beat Connecticut. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

  1. Villanova can’t shoot like this and expect to go anywhere. Three-point shooting is a big component of the Wildcats’ offense, and they were absolutely awful from behind the arc tonight. After starting an ice-cold 0-of-17, Villanova finished just 4-of-23 from distance. James Bell, the team’s most relied-upon shooter, went 0-of-8. It proved to be alright against Milwaukee, because the defense was stout – holding the Panthers to 28.6 percent shooting from the floor – but the Big East regular season champs will not get away with similar results against Connecticut on Saturday, especially with the Huskies’ strong interior defense.
  2. We didn’t learn much about the Wildcats. Following Villanova’s Big East tournament loss to Seton Hall last week, no one really knew what to make of the Wildcats heading into the Big Dance. Sure, they are a #2 seed and yes, they won 28 games this season, but nothing really jumps off the page about this team. Are they a Final Four contender or a flawed group susceptible to an early upset? Unfortunately, nothing about their ho-hum victory over the Panthers answered that question. They never looked dominant – their lead wasn’t blown open until the last five minutes – but they also never looked truly threatened. The jury’s still out on these guys.
  3. Can they contain Shabazz Napier in the same way they contained Jordan Aaron? Milwaukee guard Jordan Aaron is no Shabazz Napier, but he is a solid player who can create his own shot and score in bunches. Villanova shut him down tonight, limiting the senior to just six points on 1-of-15 shooting. Whatever blueprint they used against the Panthers’ best player, they might want to consider using against Napier this weekend as well.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Connecticut 89, #10 Saint Joseph’s 81 (OT)

Posted by Walker Carey on March 20th, 2014

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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.

Shabazz Napier made big plays when his team needed it most. (litchfieldcountysports.com)

Shabazz Napier made big plays when his team needed it most. (litchfieldcountysports.com)

  1. Shabazz Napier was not great, but showed why he’s a great player. The UConn star struggled to find his shot for most of the evening, finishing 7-of-22 from the field and airballing a couple of his attempts. But in the overtime period when his team needed him most, the AAC Player of the Year scored five straight points – including a difficult and-1 play that not too many guys could finish – to all but seal the victory. He ended the game with 24 points, eight boards, six assists, and hit all eight of his free throws. The Huskies go as their senior leader goes, and we’ll see just how far that takes them this month.
  2. DeAndre Daniels needs to keep showing up. Daniels was big tonight, scoring 18 points and hitting three big triples to keep the margin close when Saint Joe’s appeared to be in control of the game. The former five-star recruit has been inconsistent throughout the season/career, but he had himself a nice AAC Tournament and continued doing good things today against the Hawks. If he can become a consistent offensive weapon, the ceiling on this team is undoubtedly higher. Ryan Boatright was also sharp from behind the arc, knocking down four of his eight attempts and helping the Huskies to a team-wide 11-of-24 from distance.
  3. Saint Joseph’s ran out of gas. The Hawks have virtually no depth, ranking dead last in the country in bench minutes, so they were at an immediate disadvantage when this game went to overtime. Not only were they gassed, but Halil Kanacevic was in foul trouble, so when he picked up his fifth in the opening minute of the extra period, it spelled doom for Martelli’s club. Sure enough, UConn rolled from that point onward. All told, Saint Joseph’s received a total of nine minutes – yes, nine minutes – from its bench in 45 minutes of basketball.

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The RTC Podblasts: East and Midwest Regions

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2014

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And now, for the analysis. Welcome to the first of two posts that we will be publishing today, the contents of which will contain two regional preview RTC Podblasts each. We’ll start with a breakdown of the East Region bracket, inviting RTC national columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) in to talk things through what appears to be a wild region with us. We follow that up with analysis of the Midwest Region bracket, inviting national columnist Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) in to discuss a very difficult draw for #1 seed Wichita State. The full rundowns are below. Be sure to add the podcast to your lineup on iTunes so that you’ll get all of our ongoing coverage throughout the NCAA Tournament.

 

East Region

  • 0:00-3:31 – Virginia as a #1 Seed and Region Favorite
  • 3:34-10:25 – Which Top Seed is the Real Favorite
  • 10:25-12:25 – Providence’s Big East Run – Hitting Their Stride or Peaking Too Early?
  • 12:25-16:11 – 8/9 and 7/10 Games Preview
  • 16:11-23:10 – Potential Upsets and Darkhorses
  • 23:10-25:22 – Match-up Issues for Virginia
  • 25:22-26:40 – Dream Match Ups
  • 26:40-30:30 – Regional Games at MSG

Midwest Region

  • 0:00-4:34 – Louisville as the Real Favorite in the Midwest
  • 4:34-7:33 – UMass Prone For an Upset?
  • 7:33-13:04 – Previewing 7/10 and 8/9 Game
  • 13:04-13:53 – Conference Tournaments Impact on Midwest Region
  • 13:53-16:35 – TJ Warren and the Fightin’ NC States
  • 16:35-21:34 – Wichita State’s Realistic Expectations in this Region
  • 21:35-23:28 – Predicting an MOP in the Midwest
  • 23:28-25:49 – Most Exciting Thing About the Region
  • 25:49-28:08 – Dream Match-Ups
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Bracket Prep: East Region Analysis

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Brian Otskey (@botskey) breaks down the East Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC East Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCeastregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Brian breaking down the East Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

East Region

Favorite: #1 Virginia (28-6, 16-2 ACC) – The Cavaliers earned the final No. 1 seed and there should be no griping about that. While much is made about Virginia’s unbalanced ACC schedule, you can’t brush off both the regular season and conference tournament crowns. Tony Bennett’s team has a great blend of talent and experience with seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell leading an impressive group of sophomores. This team is one of the finest in the nation on the defensive end of the floor where it has earned its reputation for slow, physical basketball, but its offense doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Virginia ranks No. 25 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and was second behind only Duke in ACC games.

Joe Harris led his Cavaliers team to the ACC title and a No. 1 seed. (USA Today).

Joe Harris led his Cavaliers team to the ACC title and a No. 1 seed. (USA Today).

Should They Falter: #2 Villanova (28-4, 16-2 Big East) – The Wildcats blew their chance to grab the top seed in this region with a quarterfinal Big East loss to Seton Hall on Thursday. That said, Villanova remains a dangerous team. Jay Wright’s group has not received a lot of press because most people may not even know the players on this team. There are no stars or surefire NBA draft picks here, but this team plays with tremendous chemistry and is efficient on both sides of the ball. Are the Wildcats too reliant on the three-point shot? Probably, but the toughest competition for Villanova likely won’t arrive until the Sweet Sixteen at the earliest, where it may have to face Iowa State.

Grossly Overseeded: #13 Delaware (25-9, 14-2 Colonial) – Admittedly, this is a reach. There are no teams in this region I felt were overseeded, but I have to pick one, Delaware is it. The Blue Hens went just 8-7 outside of conference play and are a great example of the stark contrast between the RPI and better rating systems like KenPom. Delaware is No. 70 in the RPI, which no doubt helped them to a No. 13 seed, but its efficiency profile (No. 105 in KenPom) is much more similar to that of a #14 or #15 seed. The Blue Hens are a good team and were very competitive with Villanova and Notre Dame this season, among others, but a #14 seed may have been more appropriate. Again, this is a very minor quibble with an otherwise solid seeding job in this region by the committee.

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The RTC Podblasts: East and West Regions

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2013

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Happy Sweet Sixteen, everyone. The RTC Podcast crew is back with several of our NCAA Tournament Region correspondents this week to break down what we saw over the weekend and what to expect in the coming one. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) is our host, with Brian Otskey (@BOtskey) and Drew Murawa (@AMurawa) joining us to discuss the East and West Regions, respectively. If you missed them earlier, we also published the South and Midwest Region podblasts today. Enjoy the Sweet Sixteen!

East Region

  • 0:00-2:22 – Marquette Barely Makes Our Upset Pick Look Bad
  • 2:22-8:17 – Timeout and Flagrant Foul Rule Changes
  • 8:17-10:36 – Marquette’s Other Close Call
  • 10:36-13:20 – Miami Survives a Close Call of Their Own
  • 13:20-16:00 – What Does Indiana’s Round of 32 Scare Mean For the Hoosiers
  • 16:00-20:04 – Syracuse, Finally a Good Team Without a Close Game
  • 20:04-25:14 – Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight Predictions
  • 25:14-29:12 – Reactions to the Latest Breaking Conference Realignment News

 

West Region

  • 0:00-3:54 – Gonzaga the First #1 Seed to Fall
  • 3:54-6:12 – Wichita State Deserves Credit
  • 6:12-9:57 – La Salle’s Under the Radar Cinderella Run
  • 9:57-16:48 – Examining the Other West Region Upsets
  • 16:48-20:49 – Mountain West March Sadness
  • 20:49-22:23 – Arizona Looking to Recapture Top 10 Form
  • 22:23-25:57 – Arizona Comes Into Elite Eight Off Blowouts, Ohio State Off a Buzzer Beater
  • 25:57-30:27 – Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight Predictions
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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Syracuse Orange

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 21st, 2013

After starting the season 18-1, Syracuse looked to be poised for another run at a Big East title and a top seed in March. However, the Orange struggled down the stretch of the regular season, losing seven of their last 12 contests in Big East play. With their hot early start and a few big wins — including one at then top-ranked Louisville — the NCAA Tournament was never really in question, but their seeding looked to be in real jeopardy as the losses piled up. Jim Boeheim was able to right the ship in his last Big East Tournament, and with wins over Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, and Georgetown before a tough championship game loss to Louisville, Syracuse seems to have regained a lot of momentum heading into the Big Dance.

syracuse-arkansas

Has Syracuse Regained Its Midseason Momentum; Or Is This a Mirage?

Region: East
Seed: No. 4
Record: 26-9 (11-7 Big East)
Matchup: vs. Montana in San Jose

Key Player: Michael Carter-Williams is Syracuse’s most talented player, and C.J. Fair is certainly the most consistent player on the squad, but no individual may be more important to Syracuse’s Final Four aspirations than senior forward James Southerland. Southerland put on a clinic from long range in the Garden last week, hitting 19 of his 33 three-point attempts in Syracuse’s four games. When he is on, he’s as good a shooter as there is in the country, and his mere presence really spreads the floor for the Orange, opening things up for Carter-Williams to penetrate opposing defenses and Fair to get good looks on his dangerous mid-range jumpers.

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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Marquette Golden Eagles

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 21st, 2013

Marquette rode a dominant season at home, where the Golden Eagles finished a perfect 16-0, to a 14-4 Big East record which tied Louisville and Georgetown atop the Big East.  Buzz Williams’ team notched big wins over NCAA Tournament teams Wisconsin, Georgetown, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh twice.  Marquette had a double bye in the Big East tournament, but dropped its quarterfinal match-up against Notre Dame.

marquette over ND

Marquette Raced to Another Great Season Under Buzz Williams

Region: East
Seed: No. 3
Record: 23-8 (14-4 Big East)
Matchup: vs. Davidson in Lexington

Key Player: When he can stay on the floor, Davante Gardner is a total mismatch for most of the teams that Marquette will run into this March.  The 6’8″, 290-pound bruiser averages over 11 points in just over 21 minutes per game with remarkable efficiency. He shoots at a 58% clip from the floor, and is among the best free throw shooters in the conference at 84% from the line. When Marquette finds a mismatch down low, he can exploit it and find himself camped there all night.

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