NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.06.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 6th, 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.

Kentucky

  • Yet again, Kentucky freshman Aaron Harrison advanced the Wildcats with a late three-pointer. Harrison also hit the game-winning three in the Elite Eight against Michigan.
  • With Kentucky’s big win last night, the Wildcats will meet UConn in what is definitely an “unlikely title game.” With Kentucky as an 8-seed and UConn as a 7-seed, this is the all-time highest combined seed total in the National Championship Game.
  • They love their basketball in Lexington, and the students were sure to celebrate after their Wildcats reached their second championship game in the past three years.
  • Kentucky has gone from one of the most frustrating teams in Wildcats history to one of the most loved. Especially considering how this season went until March, winning it all would be incredible for the Wildcats. “It makes me feel good, because last year we were considered one of the worst teams that ever came through Kentucky,” [sophomore Willie] Cauley-Stein said. “Having to be here through the worst and then coming out on top as the best would be crazy.”
  • The Harrison Twins got (and deserved) a ton of credit for Kentucky’s run to the National Title Game, but coach John Calipari is looking at another freshman to step up on Monday. The leading scorer on Saturday night with 17 points, James Young could be the X-factor for the Wildcats going forward. “James Young has had 25-point games, which I’ll predict he’ll have in this Monday night’s game,” Calipari said.

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Florida’s Dream Season Ends With Final Four Loss to Connecticut

Posted by Walker Carey on April 6th, 2014

One-seed Florida entered the NCAA Tournament as one of several favorites to cut down the nets in North Texas. The Gators had not lost a game since December 2 and had completed a perfect run through the SEC regular season and conference tournament. After a South Region series of games where Billy Donovan’s squad fairly easily dispatched Albany, Pittsburgh, UCLA and Dayton, the Gators’ winning streak stood at 30. Unfortunately for Billy Donovan’s club, their winning ways ended in a 63-53 national semifinal loss to seven-seed Connecticut. The following are three thoughts on a tremendous Florida season that ended a game sooner than expected.

Florida Faltered Tonight But Should Look Back on this Season WIth Heads Held High

Florida Faltered Tonight But Should Look Back on this Season WIth Heads Held High

  1. While the loss to Connecticut will overshadow it, Florida still had an outstanding season. The 30-game winning streak turned in by the Gators before last night’s loss to Connecticut was rightfully one of the top stories of the year in college basketball. Billy Donovan’s senior-laden squad that was led so brilliantly by point guard Scottie Wilbekin flawlessly ran through the SEC with little resistance. A most impressive part of Florida winning all 21 of its games against SEC opponents is that in doing so, the Gators bested preseason number one and fellow Final Four qualifier, Kentucky, three times. This loss to Connecticut will likely be how many choose to define Florida’s season, but that is an unfair notion, because what the Gators were able to accomplish leading up to Saturday was nothing short of magnificent. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #7 Connecticut 63, #1 Florida 53

Posted by rtmsf on April 5th, 2014

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Rush the Court is covering the Final Four from Arlington, Texas, this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Calhoun

Former Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun Was All Smiles After the Game

  1. Tale of Two First Halves. The tone for this game was set in the first half, with Florida running out to a seemingly dominant 16-4 lead with 10 minutes gone. At that time, the Gators looked nothing less than dominant on both ends of the floor — bigger, stronger, and methodically having their way with the Huskies. The problem was that the lead needed to be bigger than it was, because from the 8:49 point of the first half UConn closed to take a 25-22 halftime lead and kept it up to ultimately double up one of the nation’s best defensive teams by a margin of 59-37 the rest of the game. UConn did it by making some timely shots, of course — DeAndre Daniels’ pair of early threes in particular — but where the Huskies were really able to stifle the Gators was in completely shutting down Florida’s starting backcourt of Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier (3-of-12 FG for seven points). The backcourt duo had essentially taken turns leading Florida offensively through the South Region, but without either capable of getting anything going tonight, it was left to Patric Young (19/5) and Casey Prather (15/6) to carry the load. In a game where points were at a premium, the Gators’ defense wasn’t going to be able to manufacture enough to compensate for a rough 39 percent overall and 1-of-10 from three shooting performance.
  2. On Florida’s Go-To Guy. With 49 seconds remaining, the game was all but final when Florida’s senior leader, Scottie Wilbekin, shot a horrifically off three-point airball that caused a shot clock review. There were a couple of notable moments related to that miss. First, it iced the game for the Huskies and all of the Gators’ body language afterward clearly exhibited that fact. But it also served to illustrate why Florida spent all year gambling in its reliance on a crafty, steady, solid point guard like Wilbekin to become its bona fide go-to guy. Billy Donovan’s team had a magnificent college basketball season, ending a 30-game winning streak with a 36-3 record and a loss in the Final Four — there’s no shame anywhere in those numbers. But as he noted after tonight’s game, “Given our talent level, we played way better than our potential.” And he’s right, with Wilbekin as Exhibit A to that notion. The NCAA Tournament is a cruel mistress, and many players far better than him have been eliminated much earlier than the Final Four, but it’s really difficult for a really good collegian with no professional prospects to have so many good offensive performances in a row (against high-quality competition).
  3. The Huskies Won Without a Huge Night From #shabazzketball. So if you were told before the game that Shabazz Napier would have a pedestrian 12-point, six-assist performance in the Final Four, there’s no way that you pick the Huskies to win, right? That’s what is somewhat scary about how well some of the other UConn players are performing right now, particularly DeAndre Daniels. In a low-possession game (57), a quiet night from Napier is perfectly fine so long as Kevin Ollie also gets 11 points from Niels Giffey, 13 from Ryan Boatright, and 20 from Daniels, all coming in an efficient manner. What he can’t have is guys spraying wild shots all over the place, and I for one can’t remember more than a couple of questionable takes from Ollie’s group all night. The proof is in the pudding, too — the Huskies hit 77 percent of their foul shots, 61 percent of their twos, 41 percent of their threes, and lit up the Gators’ defense for 1.11 points per possession. That kind of full-team performance is how you beat #1 seeds.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.05.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 5th, 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.

Kentucky

  • With five freshman starters, Kentucky came into this season ranked #1 despite losing in the first round of the NIT last year. Though the Wildcats were, at one point, arguably the biggest disappointment in college basketball, they have righted the ship. This weekend, the world will be able to see if Kentucky really deserved that preseason #1 ranking.
  • Kentucky coach John Calipari claims that a “tweak” before the SEC Tournament helped create the force that has been Kentucky basketball over the past month. He won’t say what it is, but insists that there was some change made. “What I told these guys after I saw what it did, I just said, ‘You know what? I screwed this up. Make me look good,'” Calipari said. “And they have. The media doesn’t have enough basketball savvy to figure it out, so …”
  • Instead of “one-and-done,” Calipari is trying to change Kentucky’s mantra to “succeed and proceed.” He doesn’t support the former because he doesn’t see his program as a one-year pitstop before the NBA. As Calipari puts it, “Every player that I’ve recruited, and they will tell you, I say the same thing: ‘Don’t plan on coming to school for one year. You make a huge mistake. But if after one year you have options, that will be up to you and your family. You plan on being in school two or three years. But if after one year you have options, that’s up to you and your family. Enjoy the experience, enjoy the college environment, because the rest of it is work, it’s not about family, it’s about business.'”
  • For most #8 seeds, a Final Four run is a Cinderella Story that will live on in that program’s history forever. For Kentucky, however, its run to the Final Four is simply “tough” rather than miraculous.
  • Texas natives, the Harrison Twins have been the key catalysts for Kentucky’s run back into their home state. Though the Twins seemed immature at times this season, Calipari believed in them in part because of their high character. “The Harrisons, good family, mom and dad raised them and did right,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “They were coached, they are skilled. They just had to be challenged in a lot of different ways that they had never been challenged.”
  • Julius Randle’s NBA draft stock slipped a bit partly because his team wasn’t successful for much of the season, but through Kentucky’s run to the Final Four, Randle is proving that he should be a slam dunk top five NBA Draft pick.

Wisconsin 

  • Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has one of the best systems in college basketball, and is known for his ability to develop players, particularly big men. “Coach Ryan has a system and he recruits people into his system that are going to take their four years to grow, physically and mentally, into that system,” [Wisconsin big man Frank]Kaminsky said. “By the time you’re ready to play you’re going to be effective in that system. It comes with a lot of frustrations and a lot of ups and downs, but he really demands the best out of every one of his players. That’s happened with me and I’ve been able to grow into this person and player that I am today.”
  • Wisconsin is often not intimidating and light-hearted, but the Badgers bring it when it’s time to play. “Sometimes, we kind of fail that eye test,” [Frank] Kaminsky said. “But it doesn’t matter when the game starts. It matters how we play. … People can say we look like this and we look like that — we look like a bunch of white guys — but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day.”
  • Wisconsin point guard Traevon Jackson has a father who dominated the Big Ten in the late 80s/early 90s. However, the younger Jackson is creating his own legacy by achieving something that his father never did: a Final Four.
  • Even though Kentucky enters today’s game as the 8-seed, is Wisconsin the underdog? With a piping-hot Kentucky team, this may be the case.
  • Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky is big and “goofy“, but the seven-footer has been the key to the Badgers’ success. He was only a role player over the past two seasons, but this year he made huge strides. “I let a lot of things faze me and get frustrated all the time,” he said. “I really wasn’t doing the best that knew I could do. I knew I had to grow up — physically and mentally. It took me a couple of years.”
  • Though Wisconsin is often characterized as unathletic and slow, it believes that it has the athleticism to hang with Kentucky. Even though the Badgers don’t exactly jump out of the gym, they’re still athletic in their own eyes. “Athleticism is defined in a lot of ways, OK?” Ryan said. “Eye-hand coordination, jumping ability, strength, being able to hit a baseball, being able to drive a race car. When you say ‘athletic,’ this group we have is athletic in this sense: they have good perception and spatial skills for being a good offensive team.”

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Final Four

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 4th, 2014

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#1 Florida vs. #7 Connecticut – National Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 6:09 PM ET on TBS

The Final Four tips off with a Florida team that has won 30 consecutive games facing the last team to beat it, Connecticut. The Huskies knocked off the Gators in Storrs way back on December 2 on a Shabazz Napier buzzer-beater. Although it was four months ago, much can be learned from that game. Contrary to popular belief, Florida’s top six rotation players suited up for it, although Scottie Wilbekin left the game with about three minutes to play due to injury. In that contest, Florida absolutely dominated the paint by holding Connecticut to 41.4 percent shooting from two-point range and winning the rebounding battle by eight. However, the Gators lost the game at the three-point line, where they allowed the Huskies to make 11-of-24 attempts. Sixteen Florida turnovers also didn’t help matters for Billy Donovan’s team.

Napier Has His Eyes Set on Another Title (Credit: UConn Athletic Communications/Stephen Slade)

Napier Has His Eyes Set on Another Title (Credit: UConn Athletic Communications/Stephen Slade)

Fast forward to April and the Gators’ front line is formidable as ever. While Connecticut’s interior play has improved and its rebounding has been terrific in the NCAA Tournament, facing Patric Young and the nation’s top-ranked defense will be a tall task for the Huskies. Connecticut is talented but young and raw up front. Amida Brimah and Phillip Nolan are just a freshman and sophomore, respectively, while DeAndre Daniels loves to drift away from the paint and is not a back-to-the-basket kind of player. For Kevin Ollie’s team to have success, Napier must continue his dominant performance and Daniels has to make jump shots. Napier and Ryan Boatright are the two constants on this team, but it is Daniels who takes it to another level when playing well. He will likely be guarded by Will Yeguete, Dorian Finney-Smith or Young, or any combination of the three. If Daniels cannot get anything going, Napier will have to score 30+ points and Connecticut will have to have another terrific night from the three-point line in order to advance to Monday night’s national championship game.

Defensively, there is no doubt that Connecticut can match Florida. The Huskies’ defense has been phenomenal all season long and doesn’t get the credit it deserves with Napier stealing the spotlight most of the time. Connecticut ranks 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency and actually has a slightly stronger interior defense than Florida when you look at opponents’ two-point percentage (one percentage point better than Florida). An important part of Ollie’s game plan will be to limit Scottie Wilbekin and prevent him from easily getting Florida into its sets and taking over the game. Easier said than done, of course.

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Final Four Previews In-Depth: Florida Gators

Posted by Bennet Hayes on April 4th, 2014

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As part of our ongoing NCAA Tournament coverage, RTC is unveiling a detailed look at each of the Final Four teams throughout the week. Kentucky, Wisconsin and UConn have already released. Today: Florida.

Back on December 2, college basketball pollsters would have told you that Florida was the worst of the four teams still standing in this NCAA Tournament. #12 UConn beat the 15th-ranked Gators that night, and both Kentucky (#3) and Wisconsin (#8) rested comfortably among the top 10 teams in the nation. Things have changed quite significantly in the months since. As a result of 30 consecutive victories since that loss in Storrs, Florida now enters the Final Four as the prohibitive favorite to cut down the nets, while their three Final Four mates have lost a combined 24 times since the Gators have. It’s been a relentless and astounding string of success for Billy Donovan’s team, but the Gators know that their winning streak will mean far less if it fails to reach 32 games. The ultimate validation is available in North Texas, and Florida appears poised and ready to snatch it.

Before The Winning Began In Earnest, Billy Donovan Had To Navigate His Team Through A Slew Of Early Season Personnel Losses

Before The Winning Began In Earnest, Billy Donovan Had To Navigate His Team Through A Slew Of Early Season Personnel Losses

Pre-NCAA Tournament Capsule. Florida, picked to finished second in the SEC in the league preseason poll, began the season with a rather discombobulated roster. Scottie Wilbekin started the year suspended, Chris Walker was ineligible, and newcomers Dorian Finney-Smith, Kasey Hill, and DeVon Walker all missed time due to injuries. There were even times when Billy Donovan didn’t have enough healthy bodies to scrimmage five-on-five in practice, which made the Gators’ 11-2 non-conference record (which included victories over Kansas, Memphis, and Florida State) a good, if not great, beginning to the season. But Florida was just getting started. With Casey Prather emerging out of nowhere as an All-American candidate and Wilbekin shedding character issues to become one of the best two-way floor generals in the country, Florida ripped off 21 straight victories to seize the SEC regular season and Tournament crowns, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Not everything was easy – five of those SEC wins came by five points or fewer – but the Gators posted the most impressive regular season in college basketball this season. They were rightfully awarded the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, and entered the Big Dance on a 26-game winning streak.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.04.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 4th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

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.

Kentucky

  • Kentucky’s presence at the final weekend of the season may seem like a routine occurrence, but coach John Calipari continues to make the Wildcats’ presence interesting. In particular, Calipari seems to get frustrated when asked about fielding a team of mostly NBA-bound freshmen. “We don’t talk about the NBA,” said Calipari. “We’re worried about winning college games and being a great college team — losing yourself in the team, doing less, which ends up being more, losing yourself in the game. So, I don’t think that kids are thinking those things.”
  • He’s never boring, and John Calipari has seemingly outdone himself again. Yesterday the most effective user of the “one-and-done” strategy stated that he thought the phenomenon should end. In an excerpt from his book, Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out, Calipari says, “I’ve made it work for the teams I coach—and for the players—as best I can. But I don’t like it one bit. Some people say I’m renting players or I’m working the system. Let me make this very clear: I want to coach players for four years. Very few of the young players are truly ready for the rigors of the NBA. All but a handful would benefit from more time playing college basketball, more class time and more time on a college campus.”
  • John Calipari is often disrespected as in-game coach because he’s so good on the recruiting trail, but Dick Vitale credits Calipari for turning a “disappointing” regular season to a Final Four berth, and possibly more.
  • Effective (and sometimes dominant) guard play is a necessity for success in college hoops, and recently, the Harrison twins have given Kentucky just that. Their talent has never in question, but Calipari believes that their struggles came down to him. “We had to define the roles better, and I did a poor job of that until late in the year, by the end of the year,” Calipari said. “I can’t believe it. I was angry when I realized what I had done. I coached all different kinds of point guards. We had to get Derrick Rose to shoot more. We had to get Tyreke [Evans] and Brandon Knight to shoot less.”
  • Coming in as a McDonald’s All-American, Kentucky sophomore forward Alex Poythress didn’t live up to expectations last year. This year, however, his move to the bench has seemingly sparked his game, as he is now averaging nine points and 11 rebounds in only 23 minutes per game. “Alex is playing out of his mind,” coach Calipari said. “Alex went from the starter to the sixth man, from way too many minutes to probably a few minutes less than he needs, less shots, and all of a sudden … he’s skyrocketing. That stuff doesn’t matter. The shots and points, that’s all ego. It’s how are you playing?”
  • Kentucky as a #8 seed may look like a conspiracy, but in reality, it just happened to be bad luck for Wichita State and Louisville. Expressing his discontent with seeding after his team beat Wichita State in the Sweet Sixteen, Calipari said that “The winner of this [game between Kentucky and Wichita State] should have gone to the Final Four, that’s what this was.”

Wisconsin 

  • The families of Wisconsin players have become a team of their own through supporting their Badgers. “Everyone just enjoys each other’s company,” said Jonathan Brust [and father of Wisconsin senior, Ben], whose mother, Barb, is cited as the ringleader of much of the group’s social activities. “We’re all enjoying the experience together.”
  • Wisconsin senior Zach Bohannon doesn’t play much, but he’s made a huge impact in the classroom during his time in Madison. Bohannon already has a bachelor’s degree and a masters degree, and is in the process of adding an MBA to the list.
  • A longtime coach in the state of Wisconsin, Badgers coach Bo Ryan was ecstatic when he received an offer to be Wisconsin’s head coach in 2001. Before he took the job, athletic director Pat Richter asked Ryan one simple question: “Are you ready?” I think we all would agree that Ryan’s resounding “yes” was the correct response.
  • Bo Ryan hasn’t found any new validation in his coaching career by reaching the Final Four, and his peers feel the same way. In the words of his coaching adversary on Saturday, John Calipari: “So I don’t think we evaluate any coach based on Final Fours or who made it, national titles. We just know who can coach, who is a good guy, who gets their teams better, who cares about those kids. We know those guys. If they made it to the Final Four, great. If they didn’t, that didn’t change my opinion of them.”
  • Over the years, Bo Ryan has developed a close connection with his players. As a result, he is enjoying his first Final Four with them and hopes that a National Title will be icing on the cake. “It would be so exciting if we were to be the last team standing,” Ryan said. “I would just stand back and look at those guys and just smile inside and outside.”
  • Kentucky coach John Calipari has seen success in Lexington through his one-and-dones, but Bo Ryan is proving that you can still reach Final Fours the old fashioned way: “Four-and-Dones.” Ryan, however, was lighthearted when asked about Coach Cal’s methods of winning. “Here’s all I’ve got to say to Cal,” Ryan said. “When somebody asks me about one-and-done, all I remember is when Mom would give me a pork chop or piece of meatloaf and I would ask for another piece and she would say, ‘No, one and done.’ “

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SEC M5: 04.04.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on April 4th, 2014

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  1. Arizona had no answer for Frank Kaminsky despite an athletic frontcourt and defensive wunderkind Aaron Gordon. Kentucky must now deal with the Badgers’ seven-footer without Willie Cauley-Stein in the lineup. Not only is Cauley-Stein the Wildcats’ best interior defender, his feet are quick enough to stay with Kaminsky when he fades out to the perimeter. “Oooh. … tough match-up for us,” John Calipari said on Thursday. “Really skilled. … He’s going to be a handful. Wish we had Willie.” Of all the great individual match-ups this weekend, how Kentucky handles the versatile Wisconsin center without Cauley-Stein available might be the most intriguing.
  2. Some of that responsibility with fall on Marcus Lee, Kentucky’s “forgotten All-American” who came out of nowhere to contribute in a big way against Michigan. As skilled and as big as Dakari Johnson is, it is Lee who has the quickness to better deal with Kaminsky. One scout told SI.com that he is the “X-factor” in Saturday night’s game against Wisconsin. Lee has a decent block rate (5.2%) in very limited time this year, and given his athletic reputation, it’s not likely that the 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks he posted against the Wolverines were a fluke. If Lee ends up playing a big role in one or more Kentucky wins this weekend it’ll be an incredible story for a guy who logged all of 39 minutes in SEC play. It would also be a great launching pad to a starting spot on next season’s team.
  3. If Kaminsky vs. the Kentucky frontcourt isn’t this weekend’s top match-up, then Scottie Wilbekin vs. Shabazz Napier must be. Napier dropped 20 points on Florida before the then-on-the-mend Wilbekin got injured in the first meeting between the teams. Prior to the SEC Player of the Year trying to lock down the NCAA Tournament’s hottest player, the Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway took a look back at Wilbekin’s “unlikely road” to the Final Four. It’s almost unbelievable to think that just under a year ago Billy Donovan asked Wilbekin to transfer. “He needed to build his credibility back with the rest of our team,” Donovan said. Kasey Hill has shown that Florida would have still been dangerous had things turned out differently, but there’s no chance the Gators would be entering the final weekend as the favorites to win it all without their rock solid senior point guard.
  4. The players slotted in picks #43 to #45 in DraftExpress’ latest mock draft have something in common: They’re all SEC juniors who are leaving early. Missouri’s Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown, and LSU’s Johnny O’Bryant are all expected to go pretty deep into the second round, which makes you wonder if staying another year would have been beneficial for each player. To be fair, telling someone to pass up the chance at bundles of money is foolish, and there very well could be family issues at play for any one of these players. But leaving early when you are not guaranteed to become a first round pick is a big risk, especially for players who stand to improve and enter a supposedly weaker 2015 draft. O’Bryant showed significant growth in the range of his jump shot this year and could keep that up if he stayed another season. Brown similarly looked more comfortable attacking the basket, and Clarkson would make himself infinitely more valuable as a big, athletic point guard with more refinement at the position. As of now, we’ll just have to wait until June and hope it works out for each player.
  5. Talk about a busy day. Missouri junior forward Zach Price, who sat out after transferring from Louisville last year, managed to get arrested not once but twice on Thursday. Right now it doesn’t appear that any of Price’s charges are felonies, so if he is convicted it won’t result in an automatic removal from the team. Still, Frank Haith may need to take extreme measures to get his team in line. The Tigers’ offseason has been about as disastrous as the end to their season. Price is now the third Tiger to be suspended after Shane Rector and Wes Clark were caught with marijuana before Missouri’s NIT opener. This isn’t the type of movement Haith needed in what will be a crucial 2014-15 season for him in Columbia.
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Debut of Turner’s “Teamcasts” Offers New Twist on Final Four Saturday

Posted by Bennet Hayes on April 3rd, 2014

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Despite the participation of familiar programs Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut and Wisconsin, Final Four Saturday will look a little different this weekend. For one, games will be televised on a network other than CBS for the first time since 1982 (TBS), but the CBS/Turner partnership didn’t stop there in its overhaul of National Semifinals programming. We took inventory of the newfangled approach when it was announced back in November, but the introduction of “Teamcasts” – two additional, school-specific telecasts to air on TNT and truTV simultaneous to TBS’ national broadcast – will become a reality on Saturday evening. If successful, the idea could lead to even more specialization in coverage down the road (merits of a journey down this path could be debated), but for now, Teamcasts should provide all viewers – both bipartisan and neutral – a healthy, optional alternative to the national coverage they are used to consuming during the Final Four.

If You Tired Of Jim Nantz And Co. Calling The Final Four Action On TBS Saturday Night, Don't Use The Mute Button Before Checking Out The "Teamcasts" On TNT And TruTV

If You Tired Of Jim Nantz And Co. Calling The Final Four Action On TBS Saturday Night, Don’t Use The Mute Button Before Checking Out The “Teamcasts” On TNT And TruTV

The TBS telecast should still pull in the majority of Final Four viewers, but it will be interesting to see just how significant a segment shift their television sets to the team-specific broadcasts elsewhere. A smattering of fans without a team in the Final Four will undoubtedly use their remotes for the occasional change-of-pace offered by the Teamcasts, but I question how many Kentucky, UConn, Florida or Wisconsin fans will even make the switch. Hearing Jim Nantz, Steve Kerr and Greg Anthony discuss your team can pleasantly solidify the magnitude of the moment your team finds itself competing in — whether you enjoy listening to that trio or not. Following along with a more familiar, school-specific crew may offer thoughtful, precise insights, but it might also make the Final Four experience feel a bit more ordinary than it would with the national crew.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.03.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 3rd, 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.

Wisconsin 

  • In a family full of athletes, it’s about time Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky has started to dominate. After his sister was named Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year in volleyball, Frank Kaminsky Sr. noted, proudly: “I knew it was just a matter of time before he caught up.”
  • Frank Kaminsky was nothing more than a role player during his first two years in Madison, but this season he has emerged as Wisconsin’s best player. To many, Kaminsky always had the skills to succeed, but needed to realize how good he was. “He became much more confident over the course of that playoff run,” Benet [Kaminsky's high school] coach Gene Heidkamp said. “That’s the big thing with Frank. He had the skill set, the size and the ability, but he was hard on himself and he wasn’t always confident. Once he started feeling good about himself after that 39-point game, he just kind of took off from there.”
  • Though Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan has been up north for the entirety of his college coaching career, his Philly roots are what has driven much of his coaching style. Ryan is “very tough-minded. And I think that whole thing in terms of street toughness, the understanding that there’s an appreciation for what you have. The willingness to never quit, never give up,” [Wisconsin associate head coach Greg] Gard said. “He came from a family that had limited resources financially, so you have an appreciation for what it takes; what hard work really is.”
  • A Sheboygan, Wisconsin, native, sophomore Sam Dekker is especially proud to be leading his hometown team to the Final Four. “Sheboygan is a big, big Wisconsin Badger-rooting city, and I was always a big Badger fan growing up,” Dekker said Monday. “So to be in this situation, have the jersey, is really special to me and is special to a lot of people back home.”
  • Frank Kaminsky may be Wisconsin’s star, but point guard Traevon Jackson has been the Badgers’ “unsung hero,” in the words of TBS analyst Steve Kerr. Kerr would go on to say that “He [Jackson] has hit a ton of big shots in his career. He was huge against Arizona. Not only offensively, but his toughness and his leadership.”
  • Kentucky may be the blueblood in Saturday’s Final Four match-up, but Wisconsin struck first, winning its first National Championship in 1941, seven years before the Wildcats won its first of eight titles.

Kentucky

  • Sometimes it’s the Harrison Twins; sometimes it’s Julius Randle; heck, last week it even was Marcus Lee. For Kentucky, it will be interesting to see who its X-factor will be on Saturday.
  • Kentucky head coach John Calipari is one of the best in the business, but for some of his freshmen, what has made him great this season isn’t what he has does but rather what he hasn’t done. Calipari has been giving his guys more and more freedom, and even let freshman Julius Randle call a play last weekend. In the words of Randle’s high school coach, Chris Mayberry, “That’s how he [Randle] plays his best basketball, is to have the freedom to do some things. He’s going to make some mistakes, but he can do so many good things.”
  • John Calipari doesn’t attribute his team’s postseason turnaround to the media scrutiny it faced, but rather to maturing as a team. Calipari noted, “But that really takes time when you’re playing seven freshmen in your top eight, and each of them scored 25 points a game in high school, that you must do less, and that would mean more for you. So it’s a process. What anybody said or wrote had no bearing on us.”
  • A probable top five pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, Kentucky freshman Julius Randle is most likely a one-and-done player. However, he’s hoping that doesn’t happen. Instead, Randle hopes to be a “One Championship and Done.”
  • Kentucky is seemingly where it belongs, but this season, it didn’t reach the Final Four in traditional Kentucky fashion. The Wildcats are hoping that this unconventional path will make them a tougher out this weekend. In the words of Calipari, “But they [the Wildcats] withstood it. They were under immense fire. They never wavered. They believed in the leadership… So that is a great story of ‘How in the world did you guys overcome that?’ Well, it made us stronger. It made us tougher.”
  • Much of Kentucky’s emergence over the last month can be attributed to its improved three-point shooting. Freshman James Young, one of UK’s top snipers at 35 percent from beyond the arc, credits point guard Andrew Harrison rather than the shooters themselves for the improvement. “It’s making it a lot more fun for us because he’s penetrating more and the defense is all collapsing. So we got a lot more wide-open shots and just us staying focused is really helping us,” said Young. “We’re shooting with a lot more confidence than we have been and we’re getting a lot of extra shots up, coming in each day shooting at least 30 minutes worth. And really just staying confident with all our shots.”

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The RTC Podcast: Final Four Preview Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 3rd, 2014

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This was a really fun RTC Podcast. In this, our Final Four Preview Edition, the guys spend the first half of the show revisiting many of our takes from the preseason and throughout the season on each of the Final Four teams: Florida, UConn, Wisconsin and Kentucky. It’s compelling stuff, both in how spot on we could be about these teams at certain points of the season, and how off we could also be at others. We then broke down the two upcoming games Saturday and revisited the #cheerfortheears meme, the reward of which will be collected on Friday night in the great city of Dallas. The full rundown is below. Join us!

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Four Teams Remain

Be sure to add the RTC Podcast to your lineup on iTunes so that you’ll get all of our ongoing coverage throughout the NCAA Tournament.

  • 0:00-8:48 – Trip Down Memory Lane: Florida
  • 8:48-17:45 – Trip Down Memory Lane: UConn
  • 17:45-24:36 – Trip Down Memory Lane: Wisconsin
  • 24:36-36:13 – Trip Down Memory Lane: Kentucky
  • 36:13-39:00 – Reflecting on the Archive Carnage
  • 39:00-44:57 – UConn vs. Florida Preview
  • 44:57-50:30 – Wisconsin vs. Kentucky Preview
  • 50:30-52:26 – #CheerForTheEars
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.02.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 2nd, 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.

Connecticut

  • DeAndre Daniels isn’t always UConn’s first option, but head coach Kevin Ollie is urging him to become a more vocal leader. “He [Daniels] didn’t say a complete sentence before he got here,” Ollie said. “You can’t shut him up now. He’s grown and he’s matured in that role. Now we’re trying to get him to get that role more on the court, where he’s more vocal and talking and being in a leadership role.”
  • UConn freshman Terrence Samuels is responsible for the latest bench celebration craze: the Three-Sweep. It’s a silly dance move, but Samuels maintains that it keeps the team’s spirits high. “It helps keep the bench pumped and motivating the team,” he said.
  • Although UConn coach Kevin Ollie is an outstanding motivator, Sean O’Leary from The UConn Blog argues that his in-game coaching is the reason the Huskies have made it so far.
  • Everyone is making them, but UConn star Kemba Walker isn’t buying the comparisons between himself and former superstar Kemba Walker. He noted,  “At the end of the day, [Walker] took that team to a national championship and I want to do the same. But I’m going to do it a different pathway. And I’m going to be myself.”
  • Though Napier denies the comparisons, he and Walker do have one thing in common: They both have incredibly supportive mothers. “Of course, she’s [Walker's mother Andrea] here to support me,” Napier’s mother Carmen Velasquez said. “She just said, ‘We’re going to Texas, baby.’ I said, ‘Yes, we are.'”
  • Could Shabazz Napier deserve National Player of the Year honors over Creighton’s Doug McDermott after leading UConn all the way to the Final Four? Some college basketball analysts seem to think he does.

Kentucky

  • If Kentucky is going to win it all, the Harrison Twins are going to play a big part of it. Though they started slow and seemed immature at times, the freshman duo have figured it out and are playing their best basketball right now. “The biggest thing we had to help them with was body language,” [coach John] Calipari said. “As that changed, they became different players. The second thing was, we had to define the roles better, and I did a poor job of that until late in the year, by the end of the year. I can’t believe it. I was angry when I realized what I had done.”
  • Kentucky freshman center Marcus Lee was the one of the heroes of the Wildcats’ Elite Eight victory over Michigan, and he was thrilled to receive a standing ovation during class upon his return to Lexington.
  • Though he wasn’t 100 percent truthful, Kentucky coach John Calipari’s idea of entering the locker room in a casket still hit home with his team as it reached the Final Four. “He [Calipari] said he couldn’t get a casket, but I think that was fun, and it really showed us that he had faith in us,” said freshman shooting guard Aaron Harrison.
  • Many had qualms with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s seeding, and Kentucky’s #8 seed might be proving to be the most egregious mistake of all.
  • Kentucky is all business heading into the most important weekend of the season. The Wildcats are excited to be there, but they are far from satisfied. “When you realize you’re going to the Final Four of course you’re going to celebrate, but, look,” standout freshman Julius Randle said, nodding his head toward Aaron Harrison and James Young firing jumpers on the Joe Craft Center practice floor, “guys are in the gym working right now. So we’re not done yet.”
  • John Calipari and Bo Ryan are polar opposites in the way they run their teams, but at the end of the day, they both get the job done.

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