Circle of March: Final Four Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 1st, 2014

Over the weekend four more teams were eliminated as we’ve steadily traveled down the month-long path from 340 eligible Division I teams to just a final, fantastic foursome. With Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Kentucky advancing to North Texas on Saturday, the Circle of March looks barren other than that remaining quartet of logos. It’s pure coincidence that the Huskies’ “C” ended up on the glowing part of the watermarked NCAA Final Four logo, but maybe it’s some kind of omen from the ghost of Kemba Walker? We’ll find out soon enough. Enjoy prepping throughout the week.

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Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (04.01.14)

  • Dayton
  • Michigan
  • Michigan State
  • Arizona
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The RTC Podblast: Billion Dollar Predictions Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2014

We know you’ve been anxiously awaiting it, so here goes. The RTC Podblast is back, just in time for you to fill out your final bracket — the one that you’ve been secretly stashing away all week for the cool billion — with predictions about which teams are heading to the Elite Eight and beyond. Go ahead and pick your own upsets in the first three rounds — the real points are earned in the latter stages of the Tournament, and we’ve got you covered there. This season’s theme — believe in the teams you’ve always believed in, reject those that you don’t. We’ll find out how that works very soon. Enjoy the holidays, everyone! The full rundown is below.

  • 0:00-2:40 – Lessons From Regional Previews
  • 2:40-7:14 – Still Think the Bracket Is Wide Open?
  • 7:14-8:22 – UCLA: The “Should Have Seen It Coming Team”
  • 8:22-11:43 – South Region Predictions
  • 11:43-17:04 – East Region Predictions
  • 17:04-19:27 – West Region Predictions
  • 19:27-22:05 – Midwest Region Predictions
  • 22:05-26:00 – Picking a National Champion
  • 26:00-28:13 – Dark Horse Picks
  • 28:13-31:17 – What We Are Most Excited For in Round of 64/Wrap
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While It May be Time for the Final Four to Return to NBA Arenas, No Change is Imminent

Posted by Bennet Hayes on January 29th, 2014

It’s getting hard to remember the days when Final Fours weren’t confined to cavernous NFL stadiums. It’s been almost 20 years since the last non-dome Final Four (Continental Airlines Arena and East Rutherford, New Jersey, played host back in 1996), and the streak has also served to rob the two coasts of any national semifinal hosting duties. There had been recent discussion of bringing college basketball’s biggest stage back to NBA arenas, but Monday’s announcement of the finalists for the 2017-20 Final Fours revealed that shift won’t be occurring for at least another seven years, if at all. In theory, the practice of getting as many fans as possible to the event is a noble one – more eyeballs is better, after all – but the continued avoidance of the two coasts (you know, where there are like, a few kind of important cities) is a puzzling oversight by the NCAA. Even forgetting for a moment that nobody wants to visit Indianapolis in April, or that part of what makes college basketball unique is its geographic comprehensiveness, the NCAA’s shunning of east and west coast host sites puzzles on a purely financial level. The brightest spotlight – and relatedly, most money – is to be found in America’s signature cities (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, DC, etc.), most of which can’t currently accommodate the NCAA’s 60,000 minimum seat requirement for a hosting facility. No worries if the host city rotation retains a heavy dose of domes, but NCAA, it makes too much sense (and cents) not to bring the Final Four back to the biggest population centers from time to time.

74,326 Fans Descended On The Georgia Dome For Last Year's Championship Game. A Move Back To NBA Arenas For The Final Four Would Significantly Diminish That Attendance Figure, But The Benefits Could Easily Outweigh The Costs.

74,326 Fans Descended On The Georgia Dome For Last Year’s Championship Game. That Attendance Figure Would Shrink Significantly If The Final Four Moved Back To An NBA Arena, But The Benefits Of Such A Shift Could Outweigh Any Costs

Forgetting practical reasons for a moment, the NCAA’s reluctance to bring the Final Four back to NBA arenas takes away from the ubiquity of the sport’s reach. Professional sports are confined to 40 or so major American cities; college football covers a little more ground, but there are still nine states without an FBS program. In college basketball, only Alaska lacks a D-I college basketball program, and every one of the 351 programs has a “neighbor” within a few hours of them. Hoops covers America unlike any other sport; the game is almost everywhere. Equally spreading Final Four sites around the entire nation is a quixotic notion, but the sizable gap in current coverage doesn’t jive with one of the sport’s most defining elements.

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Adding Two More Final Four Telecasts is An Interesting Move

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 19th, 2013

Watch or listen to enough of your favorite team’s games, and it’s easy to get attached to a particular announcer, play-by-play man, or both. For better or worse, fans get comfortable hearing the same voice every time they turn on their radio or television to watch their teams play. Sometimes fans discuss what they like or don’t like about their team’s radio or television broadcasts. Being a fan of a team is – whether you like it or not – being a fan of the radio and television announcers that call that team’s games as well. You may not like what they have to say all the time, but those guys are people you sort of just learn to deal with – lest you begin pressing the mute button on your TV remote anytime you watch your team play, or neglecting games in favor of listening to music on long car rides.

Adding two separate telecasts, tailored specifically to each team, to the national product seems like a good idea (USA Today).

A lot of people actually enjoy their favorite team’s radio and TV broadcasters. I happen to find Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez entertaining and informative (As for the team they cover… that’s a different story). That’s the idea that CBS and Turner Sports had in mind, one would think, when they decided they would air three different telecasts for the two 2014 Final Four games. There will be a standard broadcast airing on TBS that will likely feature CBS’ top announcing crew of Steve Kerr, Greg Anthony, Jim Nantz and Tracy Wolfson. The other two broadcasts will use announcers and “camera angles” to accommodate the fan bases of the competing teams (The national championship game will still be carried solely on CBS). Who will be selected to call the TNT and TruTV telecasts is yet to be determined, according to a report from Sports Business Journal, but it should also be noted that Turner and CBS expect to air one set of advertisements at the same time across the three productions.

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The RTC Podcast: 2013-14 Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2013

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That little countdown clock in the uppper left of this site says it’s about 24 hours from the return of the college hoops. We’ve got you covered. Throughout this preseason, the RTC Podcast has been putting in some serious recording work. Led by hosting and producing stalwart Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114), we have now dropped a total of two preseason podcasts (Part I, recorded in mid-October and featuring guest Mike DeCourcy, can be found here) and seven conference-specific podblasts (listed below).

Today’s Part II of the national preseason podcast is a festive one. Anything is possible! Perhaps an All-America team that will look nothing like the postseason version. Perhaps a trip to the Final Four from a school that was last seen running Steve Alford out of town (no, not that one, keep thinking). Maybe even a new bandwagon to replace the Maize and Blue (alright, not really to replace… more like supplement). There might even be a t-shirt contest in this week’s edition. The point is that we’re all in a great mood with real, live games starting very soon, and we hope you’ll join us for a listen.

Keep in mind that from now until the second week in April, the podcast will publish once early in the week with a review of all the big weekend action, and the RTC Podblast, a much shorter 15-20 minute quick hits version, will publish late in the week reflecting on all that week’s action. As usual, the rundown is below if you’d like to skip around to the most interesting parts. Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-1:45 – Open
  • 1:45-3:40 – ACC Preview Takeaway
  • 3:40-5:00 – AAC Preview Takeaway
  • 5:00-6:25 – Big East Preview Takeaway
  • 6:25-7:28 – Big 12 Preview Takeaway
  • 7:28-8:21 – Big Ten Preview Takeaway
  • 8:21-9:15 – Pac-12 Preview Takeaway
  • 9:15-10:40 – SEC Preview Takeaway
  • 10:40-16:47 – Randy Officially Picks a New Bandwagon
  • 16:47-27:18 – Rush the Take with Chris Johnson
  • 27:18-33:14 – All-America Discussion
  • 33:14-45:16 – You, Me and the AP: Top 25 Talk
  • 45:16-50:43 – Opening Weekend Preview
  • 50:43-57:11 – Final Four Picks/Wrap
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Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #16 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2013

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Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.

#16 – Where Cinderella Shockers Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-12, and 2012-13 preseasons.

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Watching the NCAA Tournament Remains Popular: Duh

Posted by Chris Johnson on June 24th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be found @ChrisDJohnsonn. 

College basketball is an extremely entertaining sport to watch. Starting in November, when non-conference play mashes together different conferences’ best teams in far-flung locations for fun, tropical, typically thrilling elimination tournaments, and on through April at the annual national championship net-cutting ceremony, college basketball is never not awesome. For college hoops diehards, this is one of the most obvious statements of all time. Of course watching college basketball is great. Other North American sports fans will respectfully disagree, instead opting to peek in at college hoops in the early weeks of spring, right as conference tournaments heat up and teams kick into next gear for their last-gasp bubble pushes.

An excellent Final Four brought correspondingly strong TV ratings (AP Photo).

An excellent Final Four brought correspondingly strong TV ratings (AP Photo).

Whether you follow college basketball all year long, or have long since dedicated yourself to becoming a March hoops hanger-on, the fact remains that the NCAA Tournament is unflinchingly popular. No matter your level of interest in the progression of teams and coaches over months of non-conference and conference competition, when the brackets start flying off the copy machine, and C.J. McCollum is leading No. 15 Lehigh to a massive upset of near universally-loathed Duke, you’re TV remote is affixed firmly to your reclining chair arm rest or furniture of choice. When the lights turn on, you’re sitting down, losing valuable time at your day job, anxiously checking scores at every available digital outlet and watching. You’re watching the NCAA Tournament.

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So What If Turner Broadcasts the Final Four? 68 Beats 96 Any Day…

Posted by Chris Johnson on May 8th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Whenever someone brings up the possibility of a 96-team NCAA Tournament, reaction is unanimously predictable. Folks cringe, unnerved at the idea of seeing the regular season devalued at the expense of more Tournament games involving fewer quality teams. Bubble discussion would cease to be anything remotely close to riveting; when losing conference records and +100 RPI figures (and even uglier tempo-free profiles) are perfectly qualified for at-large admission, the enterprise breaks down. Opening-round byes for top seeds would feel inauthentic. Nobody wants a 96–team NCAA field. Maybe the NCAA, for strictly monetary purposes, but that’s it. The consensus is uncompromising. We bended our backs for 68, but the line of resistance is taut anywhere beyond that.

Next season's Final Four will have a different TV provider.

Next season’s Final Four will have a different TV provider.

If it weren’t for Turner Broadcasting System, the famous sports and drama-bearing cable network otherwise known as TBS or “Turner,” we might just be talking about 96 in harrowing certainty rather than lamenting the distant possibility of a hugely expanded field. That’s the way Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy sees it — that Turner, in co-bankrolling a deal with CBS in spring 2010 to keep the NCAA Tournament set at 68 teams, essentially “saved all of college basketball.”

The truth is that 68 saved everyone from 96. The truth is that 96 would have been the worst thing ever to happen to college basketball, robbing teams of incentive to excel in the regular season and fans from investing any emotion or interest in how it developed. And the truth is Turner’s cable wealth—it receives income from both subscription fees and advertising, whereas network channels receive only the latter—is the reason the NCAA was able to hold the line at a 68-team field.

In one of the few instances where television contracts actually didn’t ruin something totally awesome about college sports, Turner deserves a hearty round of applause each and every year we watch Greg Gumbel on Selection Sunday list off 68 teams and then stop dead in his tracks. No more, no less. That’s the number the NCAA, Turner and CBS has settled on and – whatever your feelings on the “play-in” games – I kind of like things the way they are. This setup works. The number creates enough competitive balance to evoke truly compelling bubble cut-line angst, while remaining inclusive enough to allow any and all measurably deserving teams to play their way in. Win a few non-conference games, play .500 ball in your power league (smaller leagues have less margin for error), don’t lose to Old Dominion and Delaware in the non-conference (ah, Virginia), and you’re ticket to bracketland is as good as punched. It really is that simple. Could you imagine how much simpler it could have been with a 96-team threshold? I know what the depths of a 96-team bracket looks like. It’s called the CBI, which is a euphemistic way of saying, 96 teams is a dark and scary place.

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The RTC Podcast: Season Closeout Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 13th, 2013

And so it goes, and so it goes. The 2012-13 college basketball season came to a resounding end on Monday night with Louisville cutting down the nets and taking home the hardware. As such, the RTC Podcast is back for a review of last weekend’s Final Four and a last look at the season that was. Our host, Shane Connolly, walks us through some of the highs and lows of the sport’s ultimate weekend before stepping back and reflecting on some of the most memorable images and notable moments of the 2012-13 season. We plan on revisiting the podcast every month or so during the offseason, so keep an ear out for those starting in May. Thanks to everyone who has continued to listen to the RTC Podcast and we hope everyone has a safe and happy summer!

  • 0:00-9:53 – Cards on Top
  • 9:53-13:48 – Beilein’s Blunders
  • 13:48-17:09 – Pitino Reaches Legendary Status
  • 17:09-19:34 – Leadership Came Through For Louisville
  • 19:34-21:39 – Refs at the Final Four – Was the Outrage Warranted?
  • 21:39-23:51 – Crowd Reactions to the Louisville Final Four Deficit
  • 23:51-28:02 – Evaluating the Crowd/Arena Experience
  • 28:02-30:24 – Final Four Memories
  • 30:24-37:09 – NCAA Tournament Wrap-Up
  • 37:09-46:59 – Enjoying 2012-13’s Parity and Other Full Season Reflections
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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 82, #4 Michigan 76

Posted by rtmsf on April 9th, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the Final Four in Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend.

Five Key Takeaways.

Kevin Ware Gives the L Wearing One of the Championship Nets

Kevin Ware Gives the L Wearing One of the Championship Nets

  1. They Did It For Ware, But They Were Going to Do It Anyway. Louisville was the best team this season, and they played like teams that are the best teams typically do. No matter what Rick Pitino says about how the NCAA Tournament field was wide open this year, the Cardinals had the appropriate toughness and ability on both ends of the floor to successfully handle any type of opponent. In both Final Four games this weekend, his team came back from double-figure deficits, and they did so by avoiding any natural tendency to panic on the big stage and having the confidence in unlikely heroes to step up when called upon. It was Luke Hancock and Chane Behanan tonight. It was Tim Henderson and Hancock on Saturday night. Russ Smith was the star of the first four games of the Dance. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng have certainly had their moments. Even Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear have stepped up when needed. The Cards ran off 17 games in a row after a wild five-overtime defeat at Notre Dame on February 9, and 20 of 21 since late January. The only real question mark with respect to this team was what might happen if the starting backcourt pair of Siva and Smith were both having bad offensive nights — like, perhaps if the pair combined for 15-of-57 (26.3 percent) in back-to-back games at the Final Four? The Cards had the answer all along — a shooter by the name of Luke Hancock (11-of-15) who would make up for what they were lacking on that end. Well played, Louisville.
  2. Welcome to the Atlanta Gun Show.  In all our many years of watching college basketball, we’re not sure we’ve ever seen a player knock down four consecutive bombs in the way that Michigan’s Spike Albrecht did followed by an opposing player answer with four consecutive bombs in the way that Luke Hancock did. Hancock’s were more rapid-fire than Albrecht’s in that they came literally over a two-minute span to get the Cards back into the game, but Albrecht’s bombing may have actually had a bit of a stagnation effect on the rest of his teammates. With Albrecht playing so well offensively, John Beilein elected to rest his NPOY starting point guard, Trey Burke, for 14 minutes of the first half, and although it’s tough to argue with a Michigan lead taken into halftime, it seemed as if the other major (and necessary) contributors — Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Nik Stauskus — were having difficulty finding their spots. The Albrecht Show was great theater in the Georgia Dome this evening, but it may have had a negative effect for Michigan in the long term by not allowing Burke to facilitate his team better.
  3. Why Didn’t Michigan Foul Sooner? With 52 seconds left in the game, Michigan was only down four points but had stepped on the baseline on a rebound to give the Cards a full shot clock again. At the time the Wolverines only had five team fouls. They allowed 15 full seconds to run off the clock before Jon Horford gave one for the team’s sixth foul. Then Michigan allowed another eight ticks to expire before fouling Luke Hancock with 29 seconds remaining to send him to the line for the bonus. When John Beilein was asked about this decision (or lack thereof) to not foul afterward, he said, “I thought we were in the 1-and-1. That was a coaching error.” The gasps of shock were heard throughout the Twitter-verse… how he couldn’t have known the number of team fouls they had seemed borderline ludicrous. It says here that Beilein knew exactly how many fouls there were — he’s too smart and too good of a coach to miss that — but for some reason his players did not follow his instructions precisely in the execution of whom and when to foul — so he’s simply covering for their mistakes. At the end of the analysis, it’s reasonable to still say that the mistake is completely his fault, and you’d be right — but we’re not buying the concept that a coach as accomplished as Beilein made such an egregious error in the closing minute of a National Championship game without more evidence to support it.
  4. A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats. We’ve said this many times before this year, but Louisville HAD to win this championship to validate its program as a national powerhouse in contrast to the monolith that resides 70 miles east in Lexington. Nobody on the Cardinals would address the topic, but it goes without saying that Louisville’s “little brother” status in the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a persistent pain in the rear of the Louisville program. Duke became great because Coach K put Dean Smith’s North Carolina program directly in his crosshairs in the mid-1980s; Kentucky’s recent success under John Calipari has put the pressure on Rick Pitino and the Louisville players to counter the Wildcats’ momentum in order to stay relevant. Everyone knows what kind of recruiting class UK is bringing in next season — at worst, the 2013-14 Wildcats are likely to be like the 2010 John Wall/DeMarcus Cousins group; at best, like the 2012 Anthony Davis/Michael Kidd-Gilchrist unit. Louisville knew all too well that this year’s team, with an experienced, tough and talented mix of multi-functional players, was going to be the Cards’ best chance in a while to stem the blue and white tide rising all around them. Rick Pitino, having coached at both schools, is no dummy — he and his team weren’t going to waste this opening.
  5. Were We Not Entertained? For our money, this was the most entertaining National Championship game since the monster 1999 battle between Connecticut and Duke. (2008 Memphis-Kansas was fun, but missed free throws by the Tigers down the stretch spoiled it). The first half alone was one of the most entertaining 20 minutes of high-level basketball that we’ve ever encountered, and although Michigan didn’t stay tight enough with the Cards to produce a monumental finish, the up-and-down high-flying nature of the game was still outstanding throughout. Consider this: The best offense in the country lost despite hitting 52 percent of its shots and making eight threes; the best defense in the country won despite giving up those numbers and only causing a relatively low 12 turnovers. It was a contrast of styles wherein Louisville had to win an offensive-minded game and Michigan had to manage to find enough stops, and both teams performed admirably in pushing back against the other team’s strengths. This was a masterful finish to a wide open and often-bizarre college basketball season.

Star of the Game. Luke Hancock, Louisville. The Final Four Most Outstanding Player had another great game tonight, scoring 22 points and handing out three assists while knocking down all five of his attempts from beyond the arc. He saved his best for last, as his two games here in Atlanta represented his two highest regulation scoring outputs of the entire season. And the timeliness of his four first-half bombs brought the Cards from an 11-point deficit to just a single point right before the intermission. Again, it’s questionable whether Louisville could have won this game without Hancock’s huge and timely performance.

Pitino Interview. After the game, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino discussed his team’s long winning streak to the title, the greatness of the game, election to the Hall of Fame, and winning two championships.

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National Championship Game Analysis

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 8th, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC Contributor and filed this preview of tonight’s game for all the marbles. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

The National Championship Game: #1 Louisville (34-5) vs. #4 Michigan (31-7) – 9:23 PM ET on CBS. Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr will have the call live from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.

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After five months and 5,744 regular season, conference tournament and NCAA tournament games, the college basketball season comes down to one game on one night in Atlanta. Top overall seed Louisville enters the game as the favorite but by no means will this be a walk in the park. The Cardinals are in search of their third national championship this evening and their first since 1986. On the other side, Michigan is looking for its second national title, having won it all once before in 1989. It is somewhat hard to believe given the strength of the two leagues over the years but this is the first national championship game between Big East and Big Ten schools since the aforementioned Wolverines held off Seton Hall in overtime to win it all at the Kingdome in Seattle 24 years ago.

Louisville has now won 15 straight games after surviving a major scare from Wichita State on Saturday night. In fact, the Cardinals have won 18 of their past 19 games since a three game losing streak in January and the one loss was in five overtimes to Notre Dame. This game features the nation’s best defense (Louisville) and the most efficient offensive team in the land (Michigan) going head to head in what should be a terrific basketball game. For the Cardinals to win, they must attack the rim and use their defense to fuel their offense. Rick Pitino’s team is no slouch offensively (#5 in efficiency), but its offense is largely predicated off its ability to create live ball turnovers and score in transition. Louisville is lethal in transition but not great in the half court unless it attacks the basket, either with its guards off the bounce or great athletes like Montrezl Harrell and Chane Behanan working the baseline and the low block. In Saturday’s national semifinal, Wichita State forced Louisville into way too many jump shots for Pitino’s liking and it almost cost the Cardinals dearly. The Shockers were rattled by a series of turnovers late in the second half and lost the game because of it. Louisville’s ball pressure is the best in the country and it starts with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Both play the passing lanes so well but Smith in particular is among the nation’s best defenders. After it scores, Louisville’s full court pressure takes full effect. The big question in this game will be whether the Cardinals (#2 in forcing turnovers) can turn over the Wolverines (#1 in ball protection) enough to fuel their offense. When Michigan played VCU in the round of 32, the Wolverines obliterated Shaka Smart’s “havoc.” There is, however, one major difference between VCU and Louisville. The Rams are not a great defensive team in the half court while Louisville plays the best half court defense of any team in America. Siva has to slow down Trey Burke, who picked up just about every imaginable award this week. Michigan showed just how good of a team it is by winning its semifinal game against Syracuse without its star sophomore point guard being a major factor. While it’s fair to say Michigan has never seen a defense like this all season long, Louisville hasn’t seen an offense with as many weapons as this one. When Michigan has the ball, the battle between the best offense and the best defense could be one of epic proportions.

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Unsung Stars Henderson, Albrecht, LeVert & Hancock Define Final Four Winners

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 7th, 2013

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Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

When people cite intangible qualities like “clutchness” and “savvy” and “composure,” the descriptions typically fall in line with the quantifiable aspects of a player’s game. Otherwise, the descriptions are casual characterizations of ultimately inexplicable qualities. False conceptions are generated, players are ridiculed – he’s no good in the clutch! He’s terrible in the locker room! – and this whole college basketball analysis thing degenerates into a free-for-all personality profiling exercise. I’m likewise reluctant to throw out loose generalizations about any player’s on-court traits, but there is one point I won’t begrudge – the best players should step up in big games. It’s difficult to define what “best” or “big” even means, quantitatively, but if you were to poll any official authority on college hoops about the definition of the terms, they’d point you directly to the two games played in the Georgia Dome last night. The Final Four is as big as it gets, and when last night’s games lay in the balance, waiting to be seized by each team’s starring individuals, something profoundly strange happened: many of those stars didn’t rise to the occasion.

The driving forces behind Louisville's second half run, Henderson and Hancock, pushed Louisville over the top Saturday night (AP Photo).

The driving forces behind Louisville’s second half run, Henderson and Hancock, pushed Louisville over the top Saturday night (AP Photo).

That’s not odd just because Michigan and Louisville have been sporting “Rise to the Occasion” Adidas warm up gear throughout Tournament play. It’s weird for other reasons, some of them more easy to understand than others. The players who couldn’t meet the demands of Saturday night’s spotlight – Trey Burke, Peyton Siva and Michael Carter-Williams, for starters – created a void of opportunity, which allowed some new faces to step up, greatly affect the outcome of the games and assume the leading roles otherwise dominated by their routinely starring teammates. It’s time to honor Saturday night’s less-heralded stars. Their seasons may not measure up to their household-name-recognizable teammates, but in many ways, the outcomes of last night’s games were the product of their routinely overlooked actions on the court.

Tim Henderson, Louisville. The only circumstance under which you could honestly describe Tim Henderson’s performance Saturday night as anything other than “remarkable” is if your name is actually Tim Henderson, and I’m not so sure even he knew he was capable of sparking the game-changing second half rally that lead Louisville past Wichita State in the national semifinal. True story: With the Cardinals trailing by 12 and the clocking slowly ticking into late second-half panic territory, Henderson buried two triples on consecutive possessions to cut the Cardinals’ deficit in half. Wichita State burned a timeout, the Louisville-half of the Georgia Dome crowd reached full throat, and everything snowballed from there. Louisville’s press started forcing turnovers. Wichita State was suddenly crumbling as the momentum shifted in the Cardinals’ favor. It was a major turning point in a second half that, had Henderson not intervened, may have ended just as it began, with the Shockers calmly deflecting Louisville’s defense and matching the Cardinals blow-for-blow and doing everything, almost everything, to knock off the No. 1 overall seed. Henderson stopped Wichita’s upset bid dead in its tracks.

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