SEC M5: 04.04.14 Edition

Posted by Greg Mitchell on April 4th, 2014

SEC_morning5

  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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The RTC Podcast: From 68 to Four Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 1st, 2014

We’re down to four teams left standing en route to the 2014 Final Four. But before we start breaking down those games and everything else associated with what should be a fantastic weekend in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the guys take the time to review the four games that comprised a gripping Elite Eight. On this week’s RTC Podcast, we break down Wisconsin, Florida, Connecticut and Kentucky’s wins, focusing on the things they’re doing well and some of the key storylines surrounding each game that sent them to the ultimate dance party.

The full rundown is 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.

  • 0:00-12:37 – Wisconsin Earns Bo Ryan His First Final Four
  • 12:37-18:18 – Florida’s Seniors Finally Get Their Final Four Trip
  • 18:18-23:32 – UConn Rides Shabazz and Home Crowd Past Michigan State
  • 23:32-30:18 – Kentucky More Than Just Flipping the Switch
  • 30:18-34:03 – Best Games of the Weekend
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.01.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 1st, 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.

Florida

  • Though it plays in the Sunshine State, Florida is far from a “glamour basketball school.” The Gators are tough, and much of that toughness has come thanks to a Strongman competition put on by the strength and conditioning program.
  • In a season where Florida has broken numerous school records, a National Championship seems like the only proper way to finish things off.
  • The stakes will be high this weekend, but this isn’t Florida coach Billy Donovan’s first rodeo.” Donovan has coached in four Final Fours.
  • Florida struggled with injuries to begin the season, but heading into the most important weekend in college basketball, the Gators are just about as healthy as can be.
  • Florida’s last loss came against UConn, but with the stakes higher and Scottie Wilbekin most likely on the floor this time, the Gators have a chance to “write a better ending.”
  • Yesterday, Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather were named AP All-Americans, on the third team and honorable mention rolls, respectively.

Wisconsin

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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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What’s Trending: #BBN (again), Tucson “Riots,” Mid-Majority and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on March 31st, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Lots, LOTS of incredible moments from the last four days of the NCAA Tournament. Maybe the best collection of regional semifinal and final games in years, and below may be the greatest snapshot of the bunch.

andrew harrison michigan elite 8

Following the Cardiac Cats’ improbable win over Michigan (following equally improbable wins against Wichita State and Louisville… seriously, what a run from these young Wildcats), Coach Cal spoke to the team. He also gave Marcus Lee a hug. Coach Cal loves Marcus Lee.

“Riots” in Tucson

I’ll never understand why fans riot in defeat. This one, after Arizona missed two shots to win with seconds remaining, makes the scene in Tucson from Saturday night even more baffling. Also, this #riotselfie captures the current sad state of our country right now.

Gators Eat Bruins

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.31.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 31st, 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

West Region

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Morning Five: 03.31.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2014

morning5

  1. The Final Four field is set and now all we have to do is wait five days for the national semifinals. The first semifinal will feature Florida against Connecticut, which is a rematch of the game in Storrs on December 2 that the Huskies won on a last-second Shabazz Napier jumper. This time Florida will be completely healthy and it will be at a neutral site, but it will be interesting to see if the Gators can beat the last team to beat them this season. The other semifinal features Wisconsin and Kentucky. Despite the fact that Wisconsin is a #2 seed and Kentucky is a #8 seed the Wildcats opened as two-points favorites in this one.
  2. Four teams were sent home earlier than they would have liked over the weekend and three of the fan bases acted in an appropriate manner. Arizona was the exceptions where students rioted leading to stand-offs with police and subsequently arrests. Fortunately no injuries were reported, but it was a bad way for the Wildcats to go out particularly when the coaches and players conducted themselves so well after a frustrating loss. While we understand the idiot of protests and riots in terms of political and civil issues, we don’t understand doing it in front of people (Arizona staff and Tucscon natives) who presumably agree with you.
  3. Now that the season is over for all, but four teams we are starting to transition into the part of the college basketball season where NBA Draft decisions are being made. Two of the biggest ones will come from Aaron Gordon and Andrew Wiggins both of whom are almost certainly expected to turn pro. They are expected to officially announce as early as today. On the other hand, Juwan Staten tweeted out on Saturday night that he would be returning for his senior year at West Virginia. Unlike the other two Staten is most likely a borderline draft pick so it makes sense for him to return. The other two are probably top-five picks so it makes sense for them to go after the guaranteed contract.
  4. Some players are headed to the NBA while others are just leaving school. The biggest news was out of Louisville where news broke that Kevin Ware was transferring. It was just a year ago that Ware became a symbol of the Cardinals on their march to the championship following his compound fracture in the Elite 8. Neither Ware nor his family have given any indication of where he will be transferring, but some sources suggest that he could be headed to Auburn to play for Bruce Pearl since Ware committed to play for Pearl at Tennessee before the barbecue/cookout  fiasco. The other major transfer announcement was Tyler Lewis who will be leaving North Carolina State. Whereas Ware had issues coming back from injury, Lewis had no such issue and was starting making his transfer even more confusing. Like Ware, Lewis has not listed any potential destinations.
  5. Finally, we get to the coaches who are part of the ever-revolving coaching carousel. The biggest news of the weekend was based on the lack of movement as Tommy Amaker turned down Boston College to stay at Harvard and Dave Rice turned down South Florida to stay at UNLV with Rice possibly getting two more years added onto his contract. In terms of potential news, Mike Montgomery is expected to announce later today whether he will remain the coach at California or retire.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 30th, 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

West Region

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