Morning Five: 10.22.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 22nd, 2013

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  1. It will have a bigger effect on the college football landscape than the college basketball landscape, but we will be interested to see what kind of punishment (if any) the NCAA hands down to Miami later today. It has been over two years since Yahoo! released what was considered a bombshell report at the time detailing how convicted Ponzi scheme artist Nevin Shapiro reportedly provided Miami athletes (more football than basketball) with impermissible benefits. The most notable reported violation from the basketball side of things was $10,000 that he reportedly provided to steer DeQuan Jones to the school (Jones had to sit 10 games as a result) while the football program has self-imposed numerous penalties including bowl bans the past two seasons. Over the past two years the story has largely been eclipsed by bigger college program controversies (most notably Penn State) and numerous missteps by the NCAA’s investigators. Given the self-imposed penalties and the NCAA’s poor handling of the investigation we would be surprised if the NCAA hands down any more substantial penalties.
  2. Dunk City was already going to have a tough time living up to the exceedingly high expectations as the result of last season’s Sweet 16 run even considering they are doing so with a new head coach. Now that task will be even tougher as they will start the season without Eric McKnight, their starting center from last season, after he was suspended for the first six games of this season for violating an undisclosed team/school policy. McKnight averaged 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season while splitting time, but was expected to have a bigger role this year. This length of the suspension is particularly unfortunate for McKnight as in addition to missing the opener against Nebraska he will also miss a game at North Carolina State, which would have served as a homecoming game for him.
  3. We are always amazed when we hear about big-time recruits still waiting on word regarding their eligibility with the season approaching. Obviously there are times when there need to be investigations into amateur status (see the Shabazz Muhammad fiasco last season), but most cases revolve around academic eligibility. The latest example of this is happening at West Virginia where they are awaiting word on the NCAA’s decision on the eligibility of Elijah Macon. Macon, a 6’8″ forward who was a top-100 recruit, spent last year at a prep school, but still might only be a partial qualifier. If he is deemed to be a partial qualifier, he would not be able to practice until next semester and would not be able to play until the 2014-15 season. It should be noted that Macon is still dealing with a wrist injury and would not be able to play now anyways so the NCAA’ s ruling might not even affect the Mountaineers plans for this season.
  4. It is not often that we get to see tweaks being made to a computer rating system so we are interested to see how the latest changes in Ken Pomeroy’s ranking algorithm will affect some of the more questionable rankings we have seen in his system. According to Pomeroy, the changes will essentially give greater weight to big upsets and less weight to expected blowouts. The few examples that he offers in his post (big jumps for mid-majors that eventually made deep NCAA Tournament runs and a drop for his beloved Wisconsin team) might provide some clue. If you are interested in seeing how this affected his analysis on a larger scale (and have a lot of free time on your hands), his entire database has been updated to reflect his new formula.
  5. Speaking of having a lot of time on your hands, Syracuse.com put together a game-by-game database of every Syracuse game since 1900. We are assuming this was the task of some poor intern who had the unenviable task of cataloging 2,709 Syracuse basketball games. This is not the first massive database that we have seen, but it might be the first that is so easily searchable. The one catch with the database is that it lacks box scores, which is understandable for many of the early games, but should not be that hard to do for games in the past 40 years (perhaps the next group of interns can take care of that). Still it is worth checking out if you have some time to kill today.
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 29th, 2013

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We continue the Sweet Sixteen tonight with games from the South Region in Arlington, Texas, and the Midwest Region in Indianapolis. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon Midwest Regional Sweet Sixteen (at Indianapolis, IN) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

It's Russ' World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It’s Russ’ World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Midwest Regional descends on Indianapolis this weekend, with Louisville and Oregon kicking off the action in a matchup of red-hot teams. If not for Florida Gulf Coast’s otherworldly Tournament performance last week, we would likely be looking at the two most impressive teams of the first weekend. As the top overall seed in the Tournament, Louisville’s tour de force in Lexington may not have been unexpected, but it did drive home the notion that the Cardinals are still the team to beat – in this region, and beyond. On the flip side, Oregon’s pair of resounding victories were not expected (despite getting significant play as the most underseeded team in the field on Selection Sunday), but have quickly afforded the surging Ducks a lot of respect. They will head into a virtual road game as massive underdogs on Friday, but the last two weeks have proven that this is a talented and tough basketball team.

Do not expect Oregon to struggle with the aggressive Louisville defense as much as North Carolina A&T and Colorado State did. A quick briefing of the Oregon statistical profile may suggest otherwise – the Ducks are 264th nationally in turnover percentage – but that number is a bit misleading. For one, quick tempo teams are generally going to turn the ball over more, and Oregon plays fast (48th nationally in possessions per game). Also remember that starting PG Dominic Artis (I know, I know — how could we forget at this point?) missed more than half the Pac-12 season, and that backup PG Johnathan Loyd is just now beginning to hit his stride. These two guards will come as close to replicating the quickness and athleticism of that Louisville Siva-Smith combo as any duo the Cardinals have seen all season. Throw in athletes almost everywhere else on the floor – Emory and Dotson on the wings, Kazemi and Woods in the post – and there can be reasonable expectation that Oregon might actually be able to weather the turnover storm that has felled many Louisville foes.

If Oregon can manage that turnover battle, expect this to be a 40-minute game. Points will not come easily for the Cardinals against a well-school (and athletic) Oregon defense, and the Ducks are also a better rebounding team — at least on paper. Dana Altman’s X-factor will be the burgeoning freshman Dotson. If Dotson and others – here’s looking at you EJ Singler — can replicate the three point barrage that undid Saint Louis, Altman’s group has a legitimate change to swing the upset. Too much to ask for? Probably. This is not your typical #12 seed (how is Oregon a #12 seed again?), but they have run into a #1 seed that is playing its role all too well. I expect Oregon to prove a worthy challenger in all facets – managing turnovers, defending the dynamic Louisville backcourt, finding ways to score themselves – but ultimately they run into a team that is just a little better across the board. The Ducks will hang around, but Louisville should be safely bound for the Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

#1 Kansas vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 7:37 PM ET on TBS

The last time Michigan advanced this deep into the NCAA Tournament was all the way back in 1994 with the Fab Five coached by current San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. Ranked in the Top 10 for much of the season, John Beilein’s team certainly won’t be content just advancing to the second weekend; it is Atlanta or bust for the young Wolverines. To advance to Sunday’s South Regional Final, they will have to knock off a team with a wealth of NCAA Tournament experience in the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas advanced to the championship game last season losing to Kentucky, but are missing two key components of that squad—Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While Bill Self has led Kansas to another very successful season—a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship and 30+ wins for the fourth straight year—this edition of Kansas basketball is lacking a rock-solid point guard and dominant scorer. One could certainly make the argument that freshman Ben McLemore is that scorer, but he has largely been a no-show in Kansas’ first two games scoring just 13 points on 2-14 shooting from the field. The combination of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe at point guard has dished out 11 assists to ten turnovers. Nobody will argue their frontcourt dominance anchored by the defensive prowess of Jeff Withey, but seniors Kevin Young and Travis Releford are prototypical role players and not go-to threats. As such, when looking up and down the roster, this has been yet another good coaching job by Bill Self. If Kansas is to defeat Michigan and advance to Atlanta, Ben McLemore must play up to his Top 5 NBA Draft pick ability. Kansas’ most glaring weakness happens to be Michigan’s clear strength: point guard play. This game will be decided in the backcourt, and Trey Burke along with Tim Hardaway Jr. are simply playing much better basketball than Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. Also, let’s not forget the emergence of freshman Mitch McGary who has stepped up in a big way with Jordan Morgan’s nagging ankle injury. Morgan may return to the regular rotation tonight, but he is just 6’8” and would struggle handling Jeff Withey on the insdie. John Beilein doesn’t expect McGary to have a double-double kind of game like he had against Virginia Commonwealth, but if he is able to neutralize Withey then it is mission accomplished. Kansas would be the first one to tell you that they played just 20 good minutes of basketball in their first two games. If they get off to another slow start out of the gate like they did against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, they’ll be hard-pressed to climb their way back into the game.

The RTC Certified PickMichigan

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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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