Morning Five: 05.06.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 5th, 2010

  1. Butler will have to deal with the ghoulish specter of Expectations next year without star forward Gordon Hayward, who has decided to remain in the NBA Draft pool.  The Bulldogs should still be very good in 2010-11, but it’s unlikely to expect another run at the national title without the versatile Hayward back on campus.  Ole Miss guard Terrico White has also decided to stay in the draft, forgoing his final two years of eligibility.  This is a questionable decision, as some prognosticators think White may sneak into the bottom of the first round, while others think he’ll be lucky to be drafted.  With the withdrawal deadline looming on Saturday, there will be a number of these over the next few days (we hope) and Northern Arizona’s Cam Jones is one of the first to announce a return to school.
  2. Some coaching news from yesterday as Temple’s Fran Dunphy was rewarded for another NCAA campaign with an extension that will keep him secure through the 2018 season.  At Kentucky, John Calipari responded to the Chicago Bull rumors with an audio tweet stating that he’s only interested in an extension at UK, not a raise.  After the Tim Welsh debacle at Hofstra, the university wasted no time in hiring Mo Cassara, an assistant that Welsh had hired from Boston College, for the top spot.  A month ago he didn’t even have a job — now he’s the head coach.
  3. How about some transfer news today to round out things?  Memphis added New Orleans transfer Charles Carmouche, a scoring guard who will be eligible immediately for his final two seasons as a result of UNO’s self-demotion to Division 3.  Alabama is restricting rising senior Justin Knox’s transfer bid to UAB as a result of what they think is tampering.  Bizarre situation for the 2008-09 SEC men’s basketball scholar-athlete of the year who will have already graduated from the school this year.
  4. Oklahoma State forward Matt Pilgrim has been served with a protective order by a woman who is claiming that he raped her on April 12.  Pilgrim was an integral part of the inside game for the Pokes last season (8/7) and undoubtedly was expected to be even more prominent next year.  He posted this on his Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon: “I can’t take it no more… I always play the victim. (All) I’ve done was work hard to prove people wrong… People lie and every one that know(s) me know(s) my passion to become somebody, but Satan is working overtime on me…. But I’m (going to) let God handle this… I will still work hard to provide for me and the ones I love. Please do (not believe what’s) going on. I just want peace… Sorry to everyone that is affected by this.”  You never know what the details will show in situations like these, so let’s just hope that justice (whatever its form) is served in the end.
  5. Testing the waters is a sham now that the NCAA caved in to several prominent whiners coaches and gives prospective NBA players a mere two weeks during  many schools’ exam period to gauge their stock.  We have a piece up on this today, and Gary Parrish chimed in as well with some of his own research from the NBA side of the ledger (result: most NBA teams aren’t interested in this right now).  If the NCAA has any interest in actually helping its student-athletes make educated decisions, then they’ll admit they flubbed this one and create a more realistic window for kids to get evaluated.  Well, at least they got the important stuff, y’know, like throwing ‘bows, figured out.
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Impact Of Undecided Early Entries On The College Hoops Landscape

Posted by zhayes9 on April 30th, 2010

With the NBA Draft deadline moved up to May 8 this year, we’ll be able to formulate next year’s college basketball landscape sooner than ever before. The decision of many on the fence could dramatically alter the style, roster and makeup of everyone from Kentucky to Richmond. For many of these super-talents such as North Carolina’s Ed Davis, the decision was probably made a long time ago. But for those like fellow ACC foe Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech, their status is very much up in the air for 2010-11. He’s just one of many upcoming decisions that could change the outlook of an entire conference.

Many columns dealing with early entries dissect whether the decision was smart or short-sighted, whether the choice to enter their name was the proper call for their careers. Personally, I don’t care so much about their personal career paths, but about how their decision affects college basketball. Instead, the focus of this column will be on how each early entry to put their name in the draft changes their respective schools’ chances when winter approaches.

Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky)- Many around the Kentucky program believe Orton and Bledsoe are history, but refraining from signing with an agent leaves the door slightly ajar. If one or both return to Lexington, the Wildcats vault ahead of Tennessee as the SEC favorites. Returning to school would be even more beneficial to Orton, a player that didn’t establish himself playing behind Cousins and Patterson, but only showed glimpses of his superb athleticism, defensive prowess and developing low-post moves. Pair Orton in the post with Swiss import Enes Kanter and John Calipari is in business. Put Bledsoe with Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb or Darius Miller and the same holds true. Calipari’s loaded class certainly screams reload rather than rebuild, but the returns of Bledsoe and/or Orton would vault expectations even higher.

Gordon Hayward (Butler)- The “babyfaced assassin” (h/t Gus Johnson) might have the toughest call of any early entry this spring. A relative unknown to casual fans just one year ago, Hayward burst onto the scene with a stellar NCAA Tournament, leading the charge behind Butler’s miraculous run to the national title game. Thanks to a late growth spurt, Hayward possesses guard skills in a 6’9 frame and may even go in the latter half of the lottery should he keep his name in the field. Butler would also drop to a ranking similar to the one they enjoyed in October last year. If Hayward returns, it would be a crying shame if Butler isn’t the #2 team ranked preseason behind Duke. The only starter departing is glue guy Willie Veasley. That’s right: Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Matt Howard would all return to school for another March push.

Avery Bradley (Texas)- Sources told Fox Sports’ Jeff Goodman that Bradley was likely to stay in the Draft, and quite honestly I can see why. Teams that are looking for a backup point guard with the ability to defend and attack the basket will be flocking towards Bradley near the mid-first round. Findlay Prep point guard Cory Joseph committing to Texas last week takes some pressure off of Rick Barnes if Bradley should opt to stay in the draft. The Longhorns grossly underachieved with Bradley, Dexter Pittman and Damion James; with all three departing, expectations can’t possibly be sky high for Texas, although Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor should all take steps back this season. Texas is a top-15 team regardless of last season should Bradley, Joseph, Dogus Balbay, J’Covan Brown and Jai Lucas round out a loaded backcourt. I suspect Bradley has played his last game in burnt orange, though.

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The Effect of a Potential NBA Lockout on NCAA Basketball

Posted by nvr1983 on April 18th, 2010

Since Gordon Hayward‘s half-court heave bounced off the rim in Indianapolis just two weeks ago there has been a spate of early entries. While it is not shocking to see a number of underclassmen enter the NBA Draft before they are probably ready to leave the college ranks, the sheer number of early entries is surprising. As Chad Ford recently pointed out, all 18 of the top-rated prospects on ESPN’s “Big Board” have declared for the first time [Ed. Note: Patrick Patterson has not officially declared, but signs are pointing towards an announcement this week] and all of them still have eligibility left to come back to college (Jan Vesely and Donatas Motiejunas are international players who could have gone to college, but the fact that they opted to enter the draft is not the least bit surprising). Is this just a random occurrence (I mean some year had to have the most underclassman ever declare) or is there something more behind it? It’s true that many of these guys could come back for an extra year or two (or three in some cases), but we have a sneaking suspicion that most of them will keep their names in the draft especially since nearly two-thirds of that group has already signed with an agent or is expected to in the near future.

Cole may or may not be living here next year (Credit:

The big question for college basketball fans is what caused this mass exodus from campuses across America. College life certainly has not gotten any tougher for these athletes (and that’s for a guy who averaged 2.7 PPG so you can imagine what kind of perks an All-American gets) and while next season’s NBA salary cap is higher than it was expected to be, it is still $1.6 million less than this season’s salary cap. The real reason behind the exodus may have less to do with the college game than a rumor that has been gaining steam over the past six months — there might be a NBA lockout after the 2010-11 season. We would normally dismiss this as purely speculative message board talk, but there have been numerous major media outlets that have published articles recently about the possibility of a lockout:

At this point all of this could just be idle speculation although with the numerous prominent media voices chiming in on it the possibility of a NBA lockout has to be considered. Even though many of these players will have NBA careers that will exceed a decade we can understand their apprehension at having to wait two more years (coming back to college for one year followed by a potential NBA lockout season) before getting an NBA contract. On top of that, there is a good chance that a lockout would result in a significant restructuring of contracts in a way that would not be favorable to the players. Billy Hunter can posture all he wants about the strength and unity of the players, but the owners have much bigger bankrolls than the players do to live off of during a lockout (see Antoine Walker‘s case for a little background on the financial sensibilities of some NBA players) and they also have streams of income coming in from sources outside of basketball. We would not be surprised to see the owners force the players to accept contracts that are more like what NFL players have to deal with — guaranteed up to a certain point with bonuses up front, but the owners having the opportunity to cut the cord at the first sign of a drop-off in a player’s ability.

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Comings & Goings: Hayward, Purdue Stars Test Waters; Oregon Whiffs Again

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2010

Lots of comings on the first day of the spring signing period, but this post will focus on the goings…

Starting with the daily NBA Draft exodus, Butler fans are today experiencing life as a top-tier program, as star forward Gordon Hayward announced that he will be testing the waters to determine just how much his game translates to the next level.  6’9 forwards with three-point range and guard-like skills aren’t growing on trees these days, so there’s a strong likelihood that Hayward — a probable lottery pick — has seen his last minute as a Bulldog.  But he will not sign with an agent, and there’s a good possibility that he could return for another run at the Final Four next year in Houston.

We already knew about Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson’s pending announcement for the NBA Draft, but teammate E’Twaun Moore’s caught us a little by surprise.  Moore is not projected as a draftee on either of the two major NBA Draft projection sites, but apparently he recognizes that fact because he will not sign with an agent this year.  Losing both of these players would devastate the Final Four chances for the Boilermakers next year, but there’s a better than reasonable chance that both could return to Matt Painter’s team in 2010-11.

DePaul’s Mac Koshwal is joining the crowd and leaving school for the NBA Draft as well.  He is gone for good, as he tested the waters last year and you only get a single shot in that regard.  At 6’10 and 240 pounds, Koshwal is an intriguing prospect inside and he will get a strong look among teams needing frontcourt depth in the second round.  He averaged 16/10 on a terrible Blue Demon team in 2009-10, but apparently didn’t want to deal with a brand-new coach coming into the program for what would have been his senior campaign.

Things continue to improve at Rutgers as their star player Mike Rosario has received permission to transfer out of the program.  He must not believe that he is draft-ready or we’d probably see his name coming out along with all the rest.  Rosario is a volume shooter, averaging 17/4 while putting up a third of the shots in Fred Hill’s offense last season (#38 nationally).  The school has agreed to release him conditionally, which means that Rutgers must approve the school to which he wants to transfer.  Presumably that would mean no Big East teams or other local rivals.

After several whiffs with elite name coaches, Oregon reportedly focused on a much  more realistic target — Missouri’s Mike Anderson — offering him a salary of $3M per year to move to Eugene (double his current salary).  Our first impression was that this was a solid strategy, as Anderson is one of the most underrated coaches in America, and his system is very tough to prepare for.  But he’s already turned down offers in recent years from SEC schools and Memphis, so the only true attraction would have been the dollar-value of the contract and the new facilities available to him in Eugene.  Needless to say, he denied interest later this evening.

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Kentucky Cleans Up To Open Spring Signing Period

Posted by jstevrtc on April 14th, 2010

It’s the first day of the spring signing period, and we saw a few of the top remaining undecided high school seniors choose a cap (or jersey) and commit to a college today.  Two of them were surprises only insofar as they’re big-time recruits who decided to attend mid-major schools, but it was Kentucky that made the most noise today.  This info came mostly from the ESPN-U broadcast, so we’re showing each player’s overall rating in the ESPNU-100 Class of 2010 in parentheses:

The biggest verbal of the day was no surprise, since the buzz about it had long preceded the actual announcement.  Point guard Brandon Knight (4), a 6’5 lightning bolt who can score as well as he leads, pulled out a blue cap and committed to play for John Calipari at Kentucky.  He joins Enes Kanter (25) and Stacey Poole (51) in a Wildcat class for next year that might not yet be complete.  The bill of Knight’s UK baseball cap already had a major curve to it, confirming what everyone already knew — this decision was made a long time ago.  Later in the day, the top prospect in the class of 2011, 6’7 small forward Michael Gilchrist also verballed to Kentucky, further ensuring that there will be virtually no hangover after the honeymoon season of Wall/Cousins/Patterson/Bledsoe.

Knight follows another blue-clad wearer of #11.

In a class top-heavy with excellent point guards, two mid-majors scored fine floor-leaders this afternoon.  6’1 PG Ray McCallum (17) decided to stay home and play for his father at Detroit, and 6’5 SG Trey Zeigler (33) — sporting the greatest full windsor knot we’ve ever seen, with apologies to ESPN-U workhorse Lowell Galindo — continued the father-son trend in the state of Michigan by donning a Central Michigan cap.  Zeigler’s father Ernie is the coach for the Chippewas.  Zeigler specifically cited Butler’s run to the championship game this past season as one of the reasons he was comfortable in playing for a mid-major program.  There’s no question that the chance to play for their respective fathers was an incentive for these gentlemen to commit where they did, but it will be an interesting thing to watch over the next couple of years as to whether or not other top-flight recruits pull the trigger on staying close to home at other mid-major schools, especially if another small program can equal or even surpass Butler’s achievements from 2009-2010.

Speaking of the Bulldogs, we should note here that Gordon Hayward has decided to submit his name for consideration in this year’s NBA Draft, but he won’t be hiring an agent anytime soon.  Butler supporters — and there are definitely legions more, after this past season — will be sweating out Hayward’s decision-making process this summer; the Bulldogs will lose Willie Veasley and Avery Jukes to graduation, which is substantial.  Hayward’s departure would make a trip to Houston next April all but impossible.  If he comes back, though, that means the Hayward/Shelvin Mack/Matt Howard/Ronald Nored nucleus would all be returning, and we’re confident that coach Brad Stevens can groom players to fill the spaces left by Veasley and Jukes.  Butler has no commitments within the top 100, but we doubt Stevens is sweating.

Sullinger, a Columbus native, already has the Buckeye staff smiling. (G. Housteau)

Marquette took a step in replacing the graduated Lazar Hayward today by signing 6’6 SF/PF Jae Crowder, the junior college player of the year.  Crowder averaged almost 19 PPG and led Howard College (TX) to the juco title this year.  This one had been known for some time, but Marquette coach Buzz Williams made the official announcement today.

Despite Kentucky’s recruiting haul today, as it pertains to the class of 2010, the top rating still belongs to Ohio State.  They’re extremely excited about getting 6’8 PF Jared Sullinger (2) on campus (as well they should be), in addition to 6’8 SF Deshaun Thomas (12), 6’4 SG Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (80), and 6’4 SG Jordan Sibert (82).  North Carolina isn’t far behind, with Roy Williams bringing in the top-ranked player in the class in 6’8 SF Harrison Barnes (1), 6’6 SG Reggie Bullock (18), and 6’4 PG Kendall Marshall (22).  With Kentucky rumored to be leading for at least two other players within the top 30, and eight players in the top 100 still undecided, the matter of who has the best recruiting class could be altered as soon as this Saturday at the Jordan Brand Classic in New York City, where more players are expected to announce their college intentions.

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Selected Thoughts From Final Four Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2010

You know how this works… here are some random thoughts bouncing around our head as we come out of a pretty damn good Final Four in Indianapolis.

Welcome to Indy!

Coach K is the Current Dean of Coaches.  But let’s get one thing put to rest right away.  He’s not John Wooden.  For all you presentists out there convinced that the era we’re currently in is tougher than any other previous one, get your head out of your sphincter.  Make all the excuses you want, but Wooden beat all comers west AND east, year after year after year after year (ten times in twelve seasons).  We could go on and on about this, and if the numbers were anywhere near each other (like if K had eight titles to Wooden’s ten), we’d entertain the argument.  But they’re not, and Coach K would probably be the first to chastise you of such foolishness.  Now, with that said, Krzyzewski is a clear #2 all-time with his most recent title.  Tom Izzo came into the Final Four with everyone gushing about his six appearances in the last twelve years, but it’s K who has done it better for longer, now with eleven F4s and four national championships to his credit.  Whenever he decides to retire, and there’s a good chance it won’t be for another decade, Coach K will have far surpassed the man whom he set his eyes on as a target way back in the early 80s — UNC demigod Dean Smith.  What seemed like a herculean impossibility at that time ultimately came to pass, as Coach K is now the Dean of Tobacco Road and the Smith family tree of he and Roy Williams must combine championships at UNC to simply match those of K (something undoubtedly not lost on Williams in his lair at this very moment).  Furthermore, Krzyzewski proved with this year’s team that he doesn’t have to have better talent than everyone else to cut down the nets — his other championship teams were stacked to the brim with future pros, but it will ultimately be the 2010 national titleist that raises his legacy from one of the coach with the best talent to one of the talent with the best coach.

K: Best in the Business

Greatest Title Game Ever? Had Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot found net, we’d be on board with this.  The storyline is just too good.  Even better than Villanova taking down big, bad Georgetown in ’85 or NC State’s miracle of miracles two years earlier.  The Jimmy Chitwood/Bobby Plump comparisons would have been endless, and we’re a little more than halfway convinced that we’d have seen our first-ever title game RTC should the ball have gone through.  Unfortunately for most of America, like many life-story endings awkwardly forced into a Hollywood template, reality leaves you waiting for the next moment that never comes — the Hayward shot didn’t magically bounce up in the air and fall back through…  The truth is that the national championship game was a hard-nosed, calculating, defensive-minded drama between two teams where every single point came with a price tag.  But it wasn’t beautiful, and in order to have greatness bestowed upon a game, it usually needs to end with a make rather than a miss.  This is not always the case, but it’s difficult to buy into the GOAT argument when the last made field goal occurred with just under a minute remaining (as a comparison, the widely-accepted greatest game of all-time, 1992 Duke-Kentucky, had five lead changes in the last 35 seconds of overtime).  So where does it rank?  Still pretty high — for our money, this was the best championship game since 1999 UConn vs. Duke (yes, Memphis-Kansas was thrilling, but not for the entire game), and is definitely in the top 6-8 in the post-Wooden era, but let’s keep our wits about us here. 

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RTC Mea Culpa: K Shows His Brilliance Again as Duke Wins #4

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2010

If 70,000 people can act in unison as a single living organism, that moment was when Butler’s Gordon Hayward put his shot into the air from fifty feet last night.  The crowd, roaring its approval after Duke center Brian Zoubek intentionally missed his second free throw attempt with 3.6 seconds remaining, took a collective breath.  All eyes bored through the orange ball as it sailed in the direction of the opposite goal, and when it approached the intended target, there wasn’t a soul in the house who believed that it would actually miss its mark.

The Dream Seemed Possible (Indy Star/S. Riche)

To the consternation of screenwriters, the assembled media, neutral fans, the entire Hoosier State, underdogs everywhere, and advertisers calculating their future CBS promos – pretty much everybody except Duke fans – it did.  The ball hit the backboard, caromed onto the rim and popped off the front of it a little too hard, securing Duke’s fourth national championship in the last twenty seasons.  It wasn’t supposed to end that way, said the storybook tellers.  The tiny school from a few miles north of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was supposed to give us the timeless Hoosiers story in modern form — with Gordon Hayward taking the role of history’s Bobby Plump and the Butler Bulldogs channeling Milan High.  Instead, in a brutal reminder that real life isn’t Hollywood and history doesn’t often repeat itself, it was an old familiar face and and name who were left standing tall at the end of this night — Coach K and his Blue Devils.

As has been written numerous times in the lead-up to the Final Four and championship game, Duke may be the Evil Empire in the eyes of most college basketball fans, but this particular group of Blue Devils is eminently likable.  Looking back at some of Krzyzewski’s more vitriol-inspiring teams, the 2009-10 national champion lacks an identifiable villain embracing his role as a coldblooded assassin such as Christian Laettner; there is no impossibly accomplished athlete-cum-scholar like Shane Battier on the roster; and the only people on the team who inspire a wipe-that-smug-off-your-face response in fans are assistant coaches Steve Wojciechowski and Chris Collins.  The players themselves engender no such particular hatred.

Gotta Give Him His Due (Indy Star/S. Riche)

No, the only possible element of the 2009-10 Duke Blue Devils is the Darth Vader of Hoops himself, Mike Krzyzewski.  Fans love to hate the man who has now surpassed his mentor Bobby Knight with the most titles in the post-Wooden era, and it’s in no small part because of his sustained success over three decades of college basketball.  This site in particular has been very critical of Coach K’s recruiting strategy of the last half-decade or so, largely eschewing one-and-done type of players in favor of the three and four-year ones who develop over time from very good ball players to great ones.  We didn’t think that his plan of focusing on those next-level recruits like Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and so on without the assistance of an elite NBA talent or two could result in a national championship.  We were wrong.

And we were wrong because of Coach K’s brilliance as a sideline tactician and his ability to learn from personnel mistakes over time.  There’s been a laundry list of big men in the post-Boozer era who have come to Duke and never amounted to much more than window dressing as K highlighted his perimeter attack — Michael Thompson, Josh McRoberts, Jamal Boykin, Olek Czyz, etc. — but his decision to stick with Brian Zoubek in the post this year despite three previous seasons of largely inconsistent play turned this team’s greatest weakness into a strength.  While the bulk of the Devils offense still came from the perimeter, the interior defense and rebounding (esp. second chances) that Zoubek provided was an element that the team hadn’t seen since The Landlord was patrolling the paint in the mid-2000s.

Zoubek's Toughness Helped Duke Win the Title (Indy Star/S. Riche)

From our view, this was the difference in not only Duke’s season but also last night’s game.  According to the stat-keepers, Zoubek blocked two shots but his presence was felt on numerous others as the Bulldog players had trouble finishing layup attempts in the lane all night long.  His 7’1 reach was especially important in forcing Gordon Hayward’s potential game-winning fadeaway to hit the rim an inch long, and his six offensive rebounds resulted in seven additional points for his team.  In a game as close as this one, it’s very easy to see his importance.  In previous years, it’s unlikely that without Zoubek inside that the stable of Duke perimeter defenders would have been able to keep an offensively efficient team like Butler to a mere 34.5% shooting, one of their worst showings of the season.

It’s not likely that this particular Duke team will weather well in terms of historical significance, but because of that fact it may have represented one of Coach K’s greatest coaching achievements while cementing his place as the second-best coach of all-time.  His three other champions were loaded to the gills with NBA talent, while it’s difficult to envision anyone other than Kyle Singler on the 2010 champs getting much of a look at the next level (and let’s be honest: Singler is nowhere near as talented as any of Williams/Battier/Boozer or Hurley/Hill/Laettner on the other Duke title teams).  With the bulk of his team likely to be back in Durham next year and a couple of stud recruits joining the team, Coach K will have a good shot at moving past Kentucky’s Rupp with the second-most titles from a single coach and make a run at tying bitter rival UNC with a total of five national championships.  At age 63, you have to figure that K will have several more good chances to get there in the next decade.

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National Championship Game Analysis

Posted by jstevrtc on April 4th, 2010

RTC has attempted to break down the NCAA Tournament and Final Four games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses. Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds. Here are our thoughts on the national title game. Whomever you’re rooting for, we hope you enjoy it.

9:07 PM — #1 Duke vs #5 Butler

The six months since practices started have passed like a dream. As fans of college basketball, we travel this road every year from mid-October to early April. We always know our destination well in advance, we just don’t know who we’re going to find there. Therein lies the beauty of the NCAA Tournament. The entirety of that six months is spent trying to determine one thing: who’s playin’ on Monday night.

What a situation in which we find ourselves at the end of this particular journey. The fates have determined that the answer to the second most important question of the season is, “Butler and Duke.” There’s only one question left, the biggest one of all. All those practices, weightlifting sessions, sprints, miles, interviews, and games for each of these players on those two teams is now distilled down to one query:

What will you do on Monday night?

Hayward can guard anyone on the floor. And probably will. (AP)

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Final Four Game Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on April 2nd, 2010

RTC will break down the Final Four games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Saturday evening’s national semifinals…aka…THE FINAL FOUR!

6:07 pm – #5 Michigan State vs. #5 Butler The winner of this game will have a built-in motivational mechanism, since this game is popularly considered the “Who will lose to West Virginia or Duke on Monday?” game.  Best be careful, because as we know, there’s almost no better way to get your guys ready to play than to tell them that it’s them against the world.  That nobody respects them.  That everyone expects them to lose and lose big.  In the case of Butler, I know I wouldn’t want to face a team playing in their home city and with that motivational tool.  A lot is being made of the home crowd advantage that Butler supposed to enjoy this weekend, but I ask you: because people love the storyline of a mid-major getting to the Final Four, in what city could you play this thing where Butler wouldn’t have most of the fans in the arena rooting for them?  I’ll tell you — East Lansing, Durham, and Morgantown (or anywhere else in West Virginia).  Well, we’re not in any of those towns.  Let me just add this…walking around this downtown area, I see mostly Butler fans, which is understandable.  But it’s not like the Duke, Michigan State, and West Virginia fans stayed home.  It’s Lucas Oil Stadium, people.  It seats over 70,000 (it must, to qualify to host this thing).  The freakin’ Colts play here.  The Butler cheers might be loud, but the other squads will have their supporters, too.  As to what’s going to happen on the floor, watch the boards.  This will be a rebounding battle for the ages, because it’s the biggest disparity between the two teams.  It’s not something Butler does particularly well, and it’s Michigan State’s greatest strength.  Brad Stevens knows his boys have to swarm the glass to have a chance.  They’ve done everything else he’s asked of them in each tournament game, not to mention the rest of the season, and I wouldn’t doubt that you’ll see them turn in their biggest effort on the boards this whole year on Saturday evening. Can Butler do it but still stay out of foul trouble?

We only picked against you three times, Coach Izzo. And we're sorry. (AP/Al Goldis)

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RTC Final Four Tidbits: 04.01.10

Posted by THager on April 2nd, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at

Michigan State (Tom Hager)

  • ESPN’s Jemele Hill has never been one to shy away from controversy, but she caused quite a stir when she said that head coach Tom Izzo was the best coach in the history of the state.
  • According to guard Korie Lucious, although the Spartans are anticipating a hostile environment, they are used to big crowds cheering against them.
  • Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News says that MSU’s experience is what will set them apart, and that the only players who treat the Final Four like an ordinary game have never played at that level before.
  • USA Today points out that Michigan State’s win margin of 13 total points in their first four games is the lowest total since the field expanded to 64 teams.
  • If the Spartans win on Saturday, East Lansing police can expect some rioting, even before the national championship game.

Butler (Andrew Murawa)

  • In the basketball-mad state of Indiana, Butler has now vaulted Indiana University and other stalwarts to the head of the class, if only temporarily.
  • The Bulldog roster features 10 players from the state of Indiana, including such key contributors as Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard, Zach Hahn and Andrew Smith.
  • But while the Bulldogs may be riding high, they aren’t so famous that head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t get mistaken as a player on the team by a Lucas Oil Field security guard.
  • While, thankfully, the Butler/”Hoosiers” comparison has tired out some, it is pretty cool to note that Bobby Plump, the Milan High star upon whom the Jimmy Chitwood character in the movie was based, actually went on to star at Butler.
  • Speaking of the movies, Butler junior forward Howard has earned a reputation as quite the actor when trying to draw a charge.

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