Freeze Frame: Alabama’s Shift to Man to Man Defense

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 18th, 2014

Alabama nearly came up with a huge victory for itself and the SEC when it lost by one at Wichita State on Tuesday night. Anthony Grant’s team felt secure with an 11-point lead and 5:50 remaining, but the Tide’s Achilles Heel — fundamental defense — came back to haunt them once again. Grant’s defense has struggled all season, and after nearly 35 minutes of solid pressure on the road (forcing the Shockers into 40.8 percent shooting), it failed them once again.

Alabama's defensive profile is less than stellar (statistics via KenPom).

Alabama’s defensive profile is less than stellar (statistics via KenPom).

In this edition of Freeze Frame, we will look at the final 15 minutes of Alabama’s defense against the Shockers. The Tide to that point had found a lot of success with a 2-3 match-up zone that frustrated Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker, and their Wichita State teammates into a bunch of contested outside shots. But with the momentum clearly in the hands of Alabama, Grant made a huge mistake in shifting back to his man-to-man defense. Van Vleet was then able to penetrate the lane to find open teammates, rendering the pick-and-roll option more effective, and ultimately erasing a late double-figure lead.

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Dan Monson’s ‘Buy Game’ Compensation Raises Eyebrows, But Isn’t Unique

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 12th, 2014

Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson has assembled one of the 10 most difficult non-conference schedules in college basketball for each of the past six seasons, a tactic he’s on record as claiming helps with recruiting and toughens his players, among other benefits. The fact that The Beach also receives sizable paychecks from many of those contests – road trips to schools like North Carolina, Arizona and Ohio State – is also an understood reality, if less frequently discussed. What has not been known until this week, however, is that Monson himself reaps personal financial benefits as a result. San Diego Union Tribune’s Mark Zeigler reported on Tuesday that the eighth-year head coach in fact keeps a significant portion of the school’s payout for these ‘guarantee’ or ‘buy games’, having “been eligible to receive nearly $1 million of the $1.46 million paid to Long Beach State from 16 buy games he scheduled” since 2011-12. The notion that Monson directly profits from scheduling what often amounts to certain losses calls into question his motive for such tough scheduling – is putting his players through the gauntlet ultimately just for the money? – and sheds new light on a crafty method of compensation. But is it really unique; and, more importantly, is there a problem with it? Evidence suggests the answer to both is probably ‘no,’ even if feels a little deceitful.

Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson receives a large chunk of 'buy' game revenue. (Lenny Ignelzi, AP / AP)

Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson receives a large chunk of ‘buy’ game revenue. (Lenny Ignelzi, AP / AP)

Perhaps the only thing unique about Monson’s deal (at least to our knowledge) is the sheer dollar amount he earns from scheduling these ‘buy’ games. Using last season as an example, the report claims LBSU yielded a total of $365,000 on trips to Arizona, Washington, North Carolina State and Missouri, of which Monson was eligible for $265,000. While that’s an eye-popping figure, to be sure, the practice of sending large sums of ‘buy’ game money directly to a coach’s bank account is not exactly new. According to a USA Today article from 2007, then-Winthrop head coach Gregg Marshall made $85,869 from guarantee contests, in addition to his $118,588 base salary and other bonuses. “We don’t have available to us the big market contracts from apparel and shoe people that you can use to siphon money off to coaches,” Winthrop athletic director Tom Hickman said at the time. Likewise, NJIT head man Jim Engles – whose program received $92,000 for playing (and beating) Michigan in Ann Arbor last weekend – also takes home guarantee revenue, his contract stipulating that the school keeps the first $50,000, at which point the “coach shall be entitled to additional income received in game guarantees from Men’s Basketball thereafter, but not to exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).” While these are just a few examples (and wide-ranging ones, at that), it’s clear that this method is regularly used as a self-sustaining source of remuneration – the school profits from guarantee games that the coach schedules, and is then able to directly use those profits to pay for part of the coach’s salary. It’s a win-win.

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Four Thoughts On Memphis’ Season-Opening Debacle

Posted by mlemaire on November 19th, 2014

Another day, another nationally televised disaster for one of the presumed best teams in the AAC. Less than 24 hours after Gonzaga blitzed SMU in Spokane, Wichita State mugged Memphis in a game where the Tigers only looked good once Shockers’ head coach Gregg Marshall emptied his bench in the 71-56 win. Although neither SMU nor Memphis should be particularly proud of the way they played, at least SMU can say it ran into a buzzsaw in a hostile environment at The Kennel. Memphis, on the other hand, lost to a team that didn’t even play particularly well and they did it in relatively embarrassing fashion. The Shockers are a good defensive team, but the Tigers only cracked 40 percent from the field once Wichita State had entered its scrubs. The Tigers also turned the ball over 24 times, many in embarrassing fashion, and they only managed four assists for the game. I wish I didn’t have to think about Memphis’ performance again, but since I sat through the snoozefest, I will toss out some observations anyway.

Josh Pastner Should Be Ready For Criticism After Yesterday's Disaster. (Photo/Memphis Commerical-Appeal)

Josh Pastner Should Be Ready For Criticism After Yesterday’s Disaster. (Photo/Memphis Commerical-Appeal)

  1. Wherefore Art Thou Kedren Johnson? It would be one thing if Johnson had just missed a bunch of shots and turned the ball over because he was being aggressive, but the transfer junior, who was supposed to be the anchor of Memphis’ young backcourt, played just 12 minutes, missed his only field goal attempt, and turned the ball over five times without recording an assist. That’s not a tough-luck performance; that’s just a really, really bad performance. I am no fitness expert, but Johnson looked wider than I remember him and appeared very slow off the dribble. Josh Pastner couldn’t justify keeping him on the floor because he couldn’t stay in front of anyone defensively. Opposing point guard Fred Van Vleet is one of the best in the country at his position and he is an absolutely pest thanks to his quick hands, but Johnson is an experienced player with a proven track record of success in the SEC. The fact that he looked so bad doesn’t bode well for the Tigers, even if it is still really early. Read the rest of this entry »
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Preseason Questions: When Will Wichita State’s Regular Season Streak End?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 14th, 2014

On March 2, 2013, Wichita State and Creighton played a game initially notable for the fact that it would be the Jays’ final regular season game in the Missouri Valley Conference. Somewhere in the midst of Creighton rolling to a 12-point victory in Omaha, the contest became less about the Valley swan song and more about Doug McDermott, who poured in 41 points on 15-of-18 field goal shooting. At the time, it appeared to be a day to quickly forget for Gregg Marshall’s Shockers, and forget they did: Wichita State was playing in the Final Four just five weeks later. Fast-forward from that point more than 20 months, though, and that regular season finale has developed a new reason for recall – it’s the last regular season game Wichita State has lost. The Shockers will be sporting a 31-game regular season winning streak when they take to the Roundhouse floor tonight, where New Mexico State will be the latest opponent to have a crack at snapping the streak. Gregg Marshall’s team will face challenges this season that never afflicted last year’s team, but it returns a nucleus capable of maintaining an established lofty standard. So we ask: How good can these Shockers be, and exactly when will the regular season streak end?

How Long Can Ron Baker And Company Keep Winning?

How Long Can Ron Baker And The Shockers Keep Winning?

Wichita State will miss Cleanthony Early. List as many reasons as you want for the magical run of a season ago – Gregg Marshall’s coaching; utterly committed team defense; grinding offensive execution – but the Shockers also had the luxury of Early, a player with the athletic tools to dominate any game if needed. In 2013, Early’s 39-point explosion against Southern Illinois saved the Shockers from a near-upset at home. Last year at Indiana State, he scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half to stave off the Shockers’ primary Valley challenger. And in that lone, season-ending loss of 2014, it was Early who matched Kentucky’s NBA talent shot-for-shot down the stretch, keeping the Shockers afloat. The current New York Knicks forward may not have been the most consistent Shocker during his two years in Wichita, but his athleticism and scoring ability made him a dynamic dimension that few college basketball teams – power conference or not – could lay claim to. Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton will deservedly reel in plenty of acclaim this season, but for the myriad talents of that trio, none possess the game-breaking abilities of Early. This team will need to find its way without a take-over scorer.

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2014-15 RTC Preseason O26 All-America Teams

Posted by Tommy Lemoine and Adam Stillman on November 12th, 2014

Considering the sheer number of teams competing in O26 conferences, reaching a consensus on the top 15 players – much less the top five – is an incredibly difficult task. Alas, here are our Preseason O26 All-Americans, along with the Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Newcomer of the Year for the upcoming season. Where did we go wrong?

Player of the Year

Fred VanVleet is our O26 Preseason Player of the Year. (Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports)

Fred VanVleet is our O26 Preseason Player of the Year. (Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports)

Fred VanVleet – G – Wichita State. Evaluating players based on their “leadership” and “composure” and ability to “play within themselves” can be a slippery slope, prone to subjectivity and flaws in perception. But when the numbers seem to back those claims up – a sparkling offensive rating, an eye-popping assist-to-turnover ratio – the intangible qualities quickly seem much more tangible. Which brings us to VanVleet. The 5’11’’ junior possesses nearly all the skills and qualities you could want in a point guard: He is a floor general, who posted the best assist rate in the Missouri Valley last season and fourth-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the entire country; he is an efficient scorer who shot 41 percent from behind the arc and 83 percent from the stripe; he is a good defender who recorded four-plus steals on six different occasions. And by all accounts he is a true leader on and off the court, the steady hand guiding the steadiest bunch in mid-major hoops. Considering all those attributes, VanVleet is our Preseason O26 Player of the Year.

First Team

  • Fred VanVleet – G – Wichita State. See our Player of the Year writeup above. VanVleet is one of the best point guards in the entire country, regardless of league.
  • Ron Baker – G – Wichita State. If VanVleet is the best non-power conference guard in the country, then Baker, his backcourt running mate, is not far behind. The 6’3’’ junior punctuated an impressive 2013-14 campaign (13.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.1 APG) by scoring 20 points on 4-for-6 three- point shooting against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament last March and squashing any doubt about whether he could compete at the highest level. Baker now enters this season as the offensive cornerstone for a top 15 team, whose versatility and perimeter shooting is only expected to shine brighter for the Shockers.

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Digging Deeper Into ESPN’s Future Power Rankings

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on September 16th, 2014

The 2014-15 college basketball season may be creeping ever closer, but the folks over at ESPN are already thinking well beyond Indianapolis and the 2015 Final Four. Last week, ESPN’s group of college basketball insiders released their take on what Top 25 polls could look like over the next three seasons in a column entitled “Future Power Rankings.” The panel evaluated and rated programs on a 1-10 scale in five different categories — Coaching, Current Talent, Recruiting, Program Power, and Stability — then pooled the results to extract a singular score (out of 100) for each program. Coaching, Current Talent and Recruiting each counted for 25% of that final tally, while Program Power made up another 15%. Stability counted for just 10%.

Rankings and lists may seem particularly interesting on the slog through these college basketball-less months, but the exercise in responding is the same now as it will be in January, February and March: We will always have our gripes. Highlighted below are a few of the more controversial decisions — some method-based, others result-oriented — that ESPN’s committee of experts produced.

Coach K Should Have Plenty Of Reasons To Keep Smiling; His Program Graded Out On Top In ESPN's Future Power Rankings

Coach K Should Have Plenty Of Reason To Keep Smiling, As His Program Graded Out On Top In ESPN’s Future Power Rankings

  • Redundancy Within Formula: In many ways, this list would have wound up more accurate, honest and interesting if the esteemed panel hadn’t been forced to break down each program into five components. The gimmicky, algorithmic path that they followed may offer more individual points of discussion (Is John Thompson III really that bad a coach? Is the power of Xavier’s program ACTUALLY significantly stronger than Villanova?) , but there’s significant overlap across many of the categories. The delineation between coaching and recruiting is often a difficult one — as Mike Francesa and John Calipari recently discussed — and stability also strongly correlates with a successful, entrenched head coach. In fact, save for Kentucky, every team in the top 10 of the rankings had a stability score that measured within four points of their coaching score (UK received a 98 for coaching and an 88 for stability). Looking elsewhere, recruiting and program power are another pair of categories with predictable overlap, as growth in either category inevitably fuels the other.

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The Five Stories We Will Remember From the 2013-14 Season

Posted by Bennet Hayes on April 10th, 2014

It just so happened that two of the biggest stories from the first night of this college basketball season happened to be the two most prominent narratives on the season’s final evening. Back on November 8, Shabazz Napier’s 18-point, seven-rebound, seven-assist effort propelled UConn to a one-point victory over Maryland, while some 700 miles away, the most decorated and anticipated freshman class in college hoops history debuted at Rupp Arena, blasting UNC-Asheville, 89-57. Almost exactly five months to that night, Napier was again dazzling and the microscope remained firmly fixed on those gifted Kentucky freshmen, except this time they shared the same court at AT&T Stadium – the season’s final stage. Both national title combatants will survive as integral pieces in the memory of this 2013-14 season, but in between opening night and Championship Monday, countless other teams, players, and storylines seized our attention. Below are the five stories (beyond the Wildcats and Huskies) that I will remember most from a college basketball season that was never, ever boring.

The Shockers Were Unable To Author An NCAA Tournament Fit For Their Dream Season, But Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker And Co. Were Still The Story Of This College Basketball Season

The Shockers Were Unable To Author An NCAA Tournament Ending Fit For Their Dream Season, But Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker And Co. Were Still The Story Of 2013-14

5. Pac-12 Revival. We missed you, Pac-12. It’d been a minute since the league summoned up a national title contender, much less a deep and balanced assemblage of teams to chase that front-runner, but the Pac-12 was able to do just that in 2013-14. Even with Brandon Ashley’s mid-January season-ending ACL tear muddying Arizona’s March forecast, the Wildcats put together a regular season worthy of a #1 seed, and entered the NCAA Tournament on the short list of favorites before falling a point short of the Final Four in an Elite Eight loss to Wisconsin. Five other teams from the conference made the field of 68, with both Stanford and a revived UCLA squad (that Steve Alford hiring doesn’t look so bad now) making the Sweet Sixteen. College hoops is officially back on the West Coast.

4. Marcus Smart. He began the season as a presumptive top-five pick and popular leader of a top-10 team, but found his national image devolve into that of a controversial hothead with a soft spot for flopping. On his way out, Smart claimed he still believes he made the right decision in returning to Stillwater for his sophomore season, but Oklahoma State’s disastrous campaign (despite a late-season surge to make the NCAA Tournament and save a tiny bit of face) and his plummeting draft stock should raise suspicions that, perhaps for old time’s sake, Smart staged this final act as a Poke in some place far from reality. It would only make sense, because in 2014, Marcus Smart was nothing if not drama.

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2013-14 RTC National Coach of the Year: Gregg Marshall

Posted by Walker Carey on April 2nd, 2014

Rush the Court is releasing its season superlatives throughout this week. Our RTC All-America teams were released on Tuesday, while our National Coach of the Year is here today, and our National Player of the Year will be announced on Thursday.
The 2013-14 RTC National Coach of the Year Gregg Marshall has been a winner ever since his career commenced. The first stop in his journey was at Winthrop, where he quickly took an unknown program to unprecedented heights. In his nine seasons in Rock Hill, South Carolina, Marshall took the Eagles to their first seven NCAA Tournaments in program history. In 2007, Marshall’s squad finished the season in the AP Top 25 and advanced to the round of 32 with an upset victory over Notre Dame. Following that run, Marshall left Winthrop to take over at Missouri Valley Conference stalwart, Wichita State. In just his third season, the Shockers were NIT champions. One season later, they were back in the NCAA Tournament, and they haven’t looked back since. The nation finally took notice of Marshall’s magical touch during last year’s NCAA Tournament. As a #9 seed, Wichita State got past both #1 seed Gonzaga and #2 seed Ohio State on its way to an improbable Final Four berth. In the national semifinals, his Shockers put quite the scare into eventual national champion Louisville before succumbing late.

coachofyear

With many players from that team back in the fold this season, Wichita State did something no team had done since the 1990-91 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. It entered the NCAA Tournament with an unbeaten 34-0 record. Like Marshall’s previous teams, these Shockers did not feature any McDonald’s All-Americans or other marquee recruits, but rather talented players such as Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton, and Cleanthony Early who completely bought into Marshall’s system emphasizing team basketball. One of the most astonishing facts about Wichita State is that from January 11 through the MVC Tournament, the team won each of its games by at least seven points. The Missouri Valley, as a whole, did not provide Wichita State with enough competition on a nightly basis, but that should not matter. The Shockers went unbeaten and if accomplishing such a feat was so easy, why haven’t other great teams from non-power leagues routinely done it? Because it is nearly impossible.

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AAC M5: 03.27.14 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on March 27th, 2014

AAC_morning5_header

  1. Connecticut should feel right at home in Madison Square Garden tomorrow night. Having played in the Big East for three decades, the Husky program has all kinds of history in the building. Under Jim Calhoun, Connecticut cut down the nets in the Garden a total of seven times after winning the Big East Championship. Calhoun’s squad also won an NIT title in the building in 1988. Perhaps most improbably, MSG was the start of its incredible NCAA Championship run in 2011. Throw in the 2009 six-overtime game, and you get the point. But even more recently than that, UConn secured two victories at the Garden in November versus Boston College and Indiana. With all of this history and recent familiarity, the advantage for UConn will extend well beyond having the most fans in the stands tomorrow night.
  2. While the Huskies may have the fan advantage at the East Regional at Madison Square Garden, attendees will have to pay a pretty penny to see the first NCAA tournament game in the Garden in 53 years. Nosebleed section tickets were going for around $435, while front row seats reached a total of between $3,000-$5,000. One site offered eight club sideline tickets in Section 6 for $12,500. That’s per ticket, not total. The average price for a ticket for tomorrow night’s double-header, according to Tiqiq.com, is $1,753. A ticket to Suite 11 on www.greatseats.com had an asking price of $61,600. “The Final Four is less expensive right now,” Jay Mullarkey, vice president at TicketNetwork, said. “This is really big.”
  3. Last year at this time Louisville’s Kevin Ware was preparing for what turned out to be one of his best games in the Sweet Sixteen in Indianapolis. We all know the story of the devastating injury that came next for him in the regional final two days later. One year removed from that emotionally draining day, the Cardinals are returning to Indianapolis for the Sweet Sixteen but Ware is nowhere to be found. According to his mother, Ware has trouble watching his teammates play as he sits out the rest of the season with a medical redshirt. But since the coaching staff and Ware himself have made few comments on the matter, it’s led to speculation that there’s more to the story and some fans question whether he, like his best pal Chane Behanan, has worn a Louisville uniform for the last time.
  4. Louisville may be the team better equipped to win a national title, but Tim Sullivan said Kentucky’s size will make a victory on Friday night a tall task for the Cardinals. In the first meeting, Kentucky hauled in eight more rebounds, scored 11 more second chance points, and drew 25 fouls on the Cardinals. And if anything, the Cardinals have gotten smaller since that game with the departure of Chane Behanan occurring after that game. Of the 16 teams remaining, UK ranks first in rebounding percentage and drawing fouls. The Wildcats left an impression on Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. “These guys are like a total eclipse when you go in there,” he said. If it’s worth anything, at least Louisville won’t be surprised by anything they see.
  5. The key for a Louisville victory rests with Montrezl Harrell, who would be playing for Virginia Tech (or not playing, as it were) if it weren’t for the firing of former coach Seth Greenburg. His development in the wake of Chane Behanan’s departure has morphed the Cardinals from a nice team with limited potential into the second betting favorite to win the national championship. Harrell (along with many of the Louisville players) struggled in the team’s first two NCAA tournament games, but Louisville fans hope he will reawaken in a big way to hold serve against the massive Kentucky front line.
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Appreciating Near-Perfection in an Instant Classic Between Kentucky and Wichita State

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 24th, 2014

There were a number of storylines entering Sunday’s Kentucky vs. Wichita State game about 1-and-dones, so-called “mid-majors,” David vs. Goliath, and of course, quests for undefeated seasons. Neither the Wildcats nor the Shockers would ultimately reach the 40-0 prize this season, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they would not come exceptionally close to perfection.

Kentucky and Wichita State came together in an instant classic (AP/Jeff Roberson).

Kentucky and Wichita State came together in an instant classic (AP/Jeff Roberson).

It’s no secret that Kentucky struggled this season, deteriorating into a poor defensive squad that often appeared lost on offense. When the Wildcats suffered back-to-back losses to Arkansas and South Carolina near the end of the regular season, it seemed as if the team was spiraling out of control. Among most everybody who follows the program, it appeared highly unlikely that John Calipari’s team had the guts and drive to participate in the best game of the season, and one of the best postseason games in years. But there they were yesterday, standing tall, after winning a 78-76 thriller over Wichita State.

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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by Walker Carey on March 17th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmwregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Walker breaking down the Midwest Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

Midwest Region

Louisville dominated UConn on Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Louisville dominated UConn on Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Favorite: #4 Louisville (29-5, 15-3 AAC). Not to take anything away from the fantastic seasons completed by #1 seed Wichita State, #2 seed Michigan and #3 seed Duke, but Louisville is one of the hottest teams in the country entering the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals were likely dropped to a #4 seed due to their weak non-conference schedule and the fact that some of their wins in AAC play were over vastly inferior competition. However, when you have the talent and winning experience that Louisville possesses, seeding does not really matter all that much. Guard Russ Smith is one the nation’s elite scorers and he has shown throughout his collegiate career that he can go off for a monster night in any game against any team. Forward Montrezl Harrell has taken a huge step forward during his sophomore season and his 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game give the Cards an outstanding post presence. Toss in the fact that Louisville’s defense only allows 61 points per game and averages 10.1 steals per game and it should be clear why Rick Pitino’s squad is the favorite to return to the Final Four to defend its national title.

Should They Falter: #1 Wichita State (34-0, 18-0 MVC). If favorite Louisville is to stumble before reaching the Final Four, the undefeated Shockers are the team that is most equipped to do the job. While Wichita State has caught a ton of unnecessary criticism for its “easy” schedule, it is impossible to discount the fact that the team completed the nearly impossible task of finishing the regular season and conference tournament with an unscathed record. Throughout all the monotonous discussion about Wichita State’s merit as a top seed, it was often forgotten that Gregg Marshall’s squad has a solid nucleus that was on the team that advanced to the Final Four last April. Guards Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton, along with forward Cleanthony Early, played big minutes for the team last season and all four have experienced even more success in greater roles this season. Not only is Wichita State talented enough to return to the Final Four, it is also talented enough to cut down the nets at Cowboys Stadium on the first Monday in April.

Grossly Overseeded: #6 Massachusetts (24-8, 10-6 A-10). Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen had a fine season, but their résumé does not suggest that they were worthy of a #6 seed. After winning 16 of its first 17 games, Massachusetts went 8-7 over its final 15. Those seven losses included setbacks to non-Tournament teams Richmond, Saint Bonaventure and George Mason. The Minutemen were a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team as a result, and that was evident by the fact that they were the #6 seed in their conference tournament. What really makes the placement here a headscratcher is that George Washington and Saint Joseph’s finished ahead of them in the conference and they were given a #8 and a #10 seed, respectively.

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The RTC Other 26 Superlatives

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 14th, 2014

From the quiet of November to the clamor of March, several O26 performers and performances stood out from the pack in the regular season. Let’s pass out some awards to the most deserving among them.

O26 Team of the Year

Wichita State's run to perfection was historic. (Peter Aiken)

Wichita State’s run to perfection was historic. (Peter Aiken/USA TODAY Sports)

Wichita State (31-0, 18-0). When the Shockers rolled through their non-conference schedule and entered league play 13-0, people began to talk. Could this team be better than the Final Four squad from a year ago? Then, as they hammered their Missouri Valley challengers game after game, week after week, month after month, an even more profound question began to emerge: Does this team have a legitimate chance to go undefeated? National media attention descended on Wichita, the pressure mounted (or was supposed to) and every time Gregg Marshall’s group took the floor, something historic – but still unlikely – was on the line. Yet it was only when they completed the impossible, finished 31-0 and promptly dominated Arch Madness that an even weightier thought took hold. Will Wichita State go down as one of the best teams of all-time? The mere asking of the question is indication alone that these Shockers are truly special. Only team to win 30-plus games in the regular season without suffering a loss. Most ever wins entering the NCAA Tournament. First team since UNLV in 1990-1991 to enter the Dance undefeated. Regardless of whether or not they wind up in North Texas in a few weeks, those records are enduring, this team’s legacy will be enduring.

Honorable Mentions: San Diego State (27-3, 17-2), Saint Louis (26-5, 13-3), Stephen F. Austin (29-2, 18-0), VCU (24-7, 12-4), Green Bay (24-5, 14-2)
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