AAC M5: 12.13.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on December 13th, 2013

AAC_morning5_header

  1. TGIF: check out the “dentist selfie” (read: “DENTIST SELFIE.”) that landed former UConn center Hasheem Thabeet on Deadspin last night. All I really want to know is how the tallest man to ever don a Huskies jersey fits in a dental chair. Are there a handful of niche specialists with offices equipped to accommodate 7’3” men? Boutique medical equipment manufacturers? Is the Big & Tall model really necessary, or will any old chair do the trick if you attach an ottoman? We’ll probably never know. All we can say for sure is that Hasheem is much more comfortable with his hygienist than I will ever be with mine.
  2. College Basketball Talk’s Rob Dauster ranks Louisville co-captain Luke Hancock as one of the 10 most disappointing players in the country through the first month of the season. Many expected the Final Four MVP to pick up where he left off in April, but he’s had a slow start to his senior season. Hancock is averaging 9.0 points and 2.2 rebounds per game while shooting career lows of 31.4 percent from the field and 22.9 percent from outside the arc. “Maybe our expectations for Hancock were too high heading into the season given that he was basically a role player prior to the Final Four,” says Dauster. “But even as a role player, Hancock isn’t doing his job.” Bear in mind that folks in Louisville were saying the same thing a year ago, when the Yum! Center collectively groaned each time Hancock bricked a three. Last season he hit 9 of 41 threes in his first eight games (21.9%) and still managed to become a 40 percent three-point shooter in 2012-13, so don’t count him out yet.
  3. Two AAC teams appear in the top 10 of Luke Winn’s power rankings this week, with UConn and Louisville holding steady at #8 and #9, respectively. Winn does, however, question whether the Huskies can sustain an offense that’s “based on uncharacteristically accurate three-point shooting.” He highlights dramatic increases in three-point field goal percentage between last season and this one for Niels Giffey (+33%), Lasan Kromah (+27%), Shabazz Napier (+21%), DeAndre Daniels (+13%), and Ryan Boatright (+11%). All five are shooting above 41 percent from beyond the arc this year, and UConn leads the nation at an insane 46.5 percent – more than 10 percentage points higher than last season. To put that in perspective, only two teams since 2003 have shot 44 percent or better over the course of a season.
  4. Memphis officials announced yesterday that coach Josh Pastner has donated $250,000 to help upgrade the university’s athletic facilities. The gift, which athletic director Tom Bowen said was the largest the school had ever received from one of its coaches, will help fund projects including an indoor practice facility for football, a softball complex, and a practice facility for men’s basketball. Pastner received a pay increase when he signed his contract extension in March, placing his salary at $2.65 million per year.
  5. UCF won its second straight game against a dismal Howard team on Wednesday to advance to 5-3. Coach Donnie Jones actually sat star guard Isaiah Sykes for the duration of the second half, in hopes of finding some energy off the Knights’ bench. It worked, as freshman Brandon Goodwin posted seven assists to only two turnovers and helped UCF overcome a two-point halftime deficit. Nonetheless, it’s hard to feel optimistic about this team given how poorly they’ve performed against a very manageable schedule. Of their five wins, one was over a Division II school and three were against teams ranked in the bottom 30 nationally by Ken Pomeroy. Throw in bad losses to Florida Atlantic team and Valparaiso, and you’re left with an ugly resume.
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Night Line: Jeff Withey’s Massive Improvement Keys Another Strong Kansas Season

Posted by EJacoby on February 14th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor to RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

KansasBill Self is making a strong push for National Coach of the Year recently, putting his Jayhawks in position for their eighth consecutive Big 12 regular season title despite arguably the least talented team he’s had during the streak. Monday night’s road victory over Kansas State, 59-53, improved KU to 21-5 and 11-2 in the Big 12 to keep pace with Missouri in the loss column of the conference standings. But this time the win wasn’t the result of a dominant Thomas Robinson night or the game strategy of Self. Instead, it was the powerful performance of center Jeff Withey that led the team to another victory. This new leading Jayhawk is playing out of his mind and has emerged as the major threat that has put KU back in the driver’s seat in the Big 12 race. As the season progresses, the 7’0” Withey is getting stronger in all facets of the game, turning Kansas into an even tougher matchup than before.

Jeff Withey is a Defensive Force With a Newly Found Offensive Game for KU (AP Photo)

Just 10 days ago, Kansas dropped a road game to Missouri to fall into a tie with the Tigers for first place in the Big 12, and it looked like the Jayhawks just might be missing something to propel them to another conference title. In that game, only Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor were able to score consistently and play at a high level offensively. Elijah Johnson had 11 points but wanted nothing to do with the ball on the final possession that could have tied the game. Withey played his usual strong defense, but failed to score and was a complete non-factor offensively. Even though Kansas nearly won that road game, the Tigers seemed to have more scoring options on that night.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.31.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 31st, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

Butler

Connecticut

  • Much has been made of Kemba Walker‘s spectacular season and Jeremy Lamb‘s breakout in the tournament, but Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Alex Oriakhi share a bond that goes back to before Walker even set foot in campus.
  • Houston has been good to UConn during Jim Calhoun‘s tenure, as the city was home to Jake Voskuhl, Emeka Okafor and Hasheem Thabeet before the three players made their respective trips up to Storrs. The Huskies are looking for Houston to give them another great memory.
  • Youth will dominate Saturday’s semifinal between Connecticut and Kentucky, with a probable six freshmen combined in the two teams’ starting lineups.
  • If UConn is the last team standing in Houston, one question sure to be asked surrounds Jim Calhoun’s future with the university. And if the end of his coaching career is nigh, who might succeed him? Former Husky player and current assistant Kevin Ollie might lead that list.
  • More hardware rolls in for Kemba Walker, who was named the recipient of the Bob Cousy Award as college basketball’s top point guard, beating out Nolan Smith, Norris Cole, Jordan Taylor and Jimmer Fredette.

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RTC Interview: Seth Davis On College Basketball, His New Show, & Fannovation

Posted by nvr1983 on January 29th, 2010

Last week, RTC spoke with Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS to talk about a variety of topics on college basketball and a new promotion for Coke Zero. This is not the first time we have spoken with Seth as we interviewed him last March for the launch of his book “When March Went Mad” about the 1979 championship game between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Before the interview officially began, Seth expressed his displeasure about not getting linked every day in the Morning Five. We would give you the transcript of that discussion, but Chinese government regulations prohibit us from doing so.

Ed. Note: This interview took place last week, but due to some transcribing issues we are just putting it up now.

Seth Davis: Man of Intrigue

RTC: I guess we will start with your alma mater. Duke is looking strong again this year, but is different than they usually look as they are not relying on the outside shooting as much as a complete game. A lot of people have been talking up Duke. Do you think this is the year they can make it back to the Final Four?

SD: I do. I think they are legit. It’s kind of funny. Here they are ranked 5th or 6th in the country, putting together a great record, and there is not a lot of buzz about Duke right now. It’s funny to say that because they are so ubiquitous on television, but I think that we have all seen them get off to these great starts the past few years before they fall in the tournament. This team does things that those teams did not primarily defend and rebound. Those things are very important assets to carry into the tournament because at some point you are going to have an “off” shooting night and I think back for example to when they lost in the 2nd round to West Virginia. I think West Virginia was like +16 on the boards. At some point the shots aren’t going to fall. This team has the ability to overcome that so I don’t know from strictly a talent standpoint if I would put them on the Texas, Kentucky, and Kansas level, but do I think of them on a short list of contenders to get to the Final Four? Absolutely. I think by the way they will have a great chance of getting a #1 seed if they win the ACC regular season and then win the [ACC] tournament. I would be surprised if they aren’t a #1 seed.


RTC: Sticking with a US News & World Report College Rankings theme. Another team that has really made a lot of news this year is Cornell with a lot of close losses to very good teams, but that doesn’t impact their RPI and NCAA seeding as much as some people would think. How good is this team? How high do you think they could be seeded and how far could they go in the NCAA tournament?
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2009-10 Conference Primers: #3 – Big East

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2009

seasonpreview

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Predicted order of finish:

  1. Villanova
  2. West Virginia
  3. UConn
  4. Cincinnati
  5. Louisville
  6. Georgetown
  7. Syracuse
  8. Seton Hall
  9. Pittsburgh
  10. Notre Dame
  11. Marquette
  12. South Florida
  13. Rutgers
  14. Providence
  15. St. John’s
  16. DePaul

Preseason Awards.

  • Player of the Year. Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
  • Newcomer of the Year. Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Breakout Player of the Year. Kemba Walker, UConn

big east logo

All-Conference First Team.

  • Kemba Walker, UConn
  • Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
  • Devin Ebanks, West Virginia
  • Greg Monroe, Georgetown
  • Luke Harangody, Notre Dame

All-Conference Second Team.

  • Jerome Dyson, UConn
  • Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati
  • Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia
  • Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
  • Lazar Hayward, Marquette

All-Conference Third Team.

  • Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova
  • Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall
  • Stanley Robinson, UConn
  • Samardo Samuels, Louisville

All-Rookie Team.

  • Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
  • Peyton Siva, Louisville
  • Maalik Wayns, Villanova
  • Dante Taylor, Pitt
  • Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova

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Where 2009-10 Happens: Reason #19 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by zhayes9 on October 17th, 2009

seasonpreview

Shamelessly cribbing from the very clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present to you the Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we gear up toward the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube.

#19- Where Old Rivalries Die Hard Happens

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Boom/Bust Cycle

Posted by rtmsf on June 25th, 2009

It’s a little less than an hour before tonight’s NBA Draft, and this should have probably been done days ago, but we wanted to use our undeniable RTC expertise when it comes to projecting college hoops talent to the pros so we can say “told ya so” when the one undervalued player we said would be a star pans out (while the other ten we said would be don’t, but let’s not quibble).  We’ll use Andy Katz’s final mock draft from this morning, and we’re only going to evaluate college players (because we’ve seen them play for at least one year).  The criteria is BOOM or BUST – either that player is undervalued or overvalued based on his selection.  That’s it.  Here we go…

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1.  Blake Griffin, Oklahoma – BOOM, although the fact that he’s going to ClipperLand means drug addiction and/or horrific injury.  Bill Simmons agrees

2.  Hasheem Thabeet, UConn – BUST, his offensive game won’t develop any further and he’s no Dikembe.

4.  Tyreke Evans, Memphis – BUST, not seeing it at this selection; opposing defenses can lay off of him out to 18 feet. 

5.  James  Harden, Arizona St. – BOOM, a Joe Johnson/Monta Ellis clone.  Kid can really play.

6.  Stephen Curry, Davidson – BUST, limitless range but really, #6?  Too many question marks to be this high.

7.  Jordan Hill, Arizona – BUST, nice player but he’s not even as good as Big Baby.

8.  Jrue Holiday, UCLA – BUST, classic example of being a better athlete than player. 

9.  Demar DeRozan, USC – BOOM, DeRozan really came on at the end of the season and appears poised to break out.

10.  Jonny Flynn, Syracuse – BUST, is Flynn really the best true point in this draft?  No way. 

11.  Terrence Williams, Louisville – BUST, seems like the kind of player who will be out of the league in 3 years (does everything well, nothing great).

12.  Gerald Henderson, Duke – BOOM, second best guard in the draft behind Harden.

13.  DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh – HEDGE, this is about the right position for an undersized beast like Blair. 

14.  Earl Clark, Louisville – BOOM, should have been higher but has a reputation for being lazy.  Will shed that and become an excellent NBAer.

15.  Austin Daye, Gonzaga – BUST, we used to love this guy, but he hasn’t shown much improvement in two years of college.  We don’t believe in him.

16.  BJ Mullens, Ohio St. – HUGE BUST, this is a joke.  Either he’ll be washing cars in two years with Patrick O’Bryant or turn into Chris Kaman, who knows?

17.  Ty Lawson, UNC – BOOM, he’s proven that he’s a winner and has improved his game substantially.  Could be TJ Ford w/o the back problems.

18.  James Johnson, Wake Forest – BOOM, has a reputation for being lazy, but he’s silky smooth at his size and will succeed in this league.

19.  Tyler Hansbrough. UNC – HEDGE, we all know what kind of player he’ll be.  Average at best.

20.  Sam Young, Pittsburgh – BOOM, an absolute steal at this pick; Young could end up being a star.

21.  Jeff Teague, Wake Forest – BOOM, would have been a lottery pick had he not packed in the second half of the year; the talent and athleticism is apparent.

24.  Eric Maynor, VCU - HEDGE, nice pickup for this position. 

25.  Jon Brockman, Washington – BUST, sorry, but Brockman just isn’t NBA material in the long run.

26.  Toney Douglas, Florida St. – HEDGE, could go either way here, but we’d expect Douglas to find a niche in the League.

27.  Darren Collison, UCLA – BUST, Collison has always struck us as someone who should have been better than he was. 

29.  Nick Calathes, Florida – BOOM, Calathes will find a way to make himself a good pro if he decides to play in good ole USA instead of Greece.

30.  DaJuan Summers, Georgetown – BUST, but it’s worth a gamble given his natural abilities.  Could become a defensive stalwart at some point if he tried.

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Buzz: Out Like Flynn

Posted by rtmsf on April 14th, 2009

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Buzz:  Shocker of Shockers.  UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet has decided to continue his newfound SoBe lifestyle by signing with an agent and joining the hordes who will enter the NBA Draft.  Sure you don’t want to retire, JC?

Buzz: Out Like Flynn.  Word from Syracuse this afternoon is that Syracuse star PG Jonny Flynn will sign with an agent, which means of course that he will no longer have the possibility of returning to Jim Boeheim’s Orange next season.  Of course, TNIAM was all over it yesterday.  Sorry Cuse fans.

Buzz: Mack Will Take Xavier Job.  Following a long-running narrative, in 3-5 years, Mack will be one of the hottest young coaches around as he alights to a name-brand school.  Great get for him. 

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04.13.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on April 13th, 2009

Wow, this place clears out as soon as the season ends, doesn’t it?  Let’s talk more early entries…

  • Tweeting Away.  Hasheem Thabeet still hasn’t made up his mind about returning for his senior year, but is there really any question?  The certain lottery pick is just trying to play people with his coy references to coming back to UConn on his Twitter account.
  • Well, that’s one way to do it. Ole Miss’ second-leading returning scorer, David Huertas, packed up his stuff and is headed back to PR to play professionally there.
  • Memphis’ Shawn Taggart – also taking a dip.
  • Someone’s staying! UNC’s Ed Davis will return to try to lead the Heels to B2B titles.  Gary Parrish believes they have a legitimate shot at it (as do we, gulp…).   Also, WVU’s Devin Ebanks is officially sticking around.
  • This is the future, gents.  NCAA Tournament online viewership was way, way up.
  • Portland St. will promote Tyler Geving to head coach to replace Ken Bone.
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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Final 4 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2009

dynamiteWe’re back for the second to last BGtD of the season and while we’re a bit saddened by that we are looking forward to a pair of great games today. If you’ve been checking our site the past week, you’ve probably seen some of the stuff we have been doing. We have had the best bloggers for the various teams (UConn, UNC, Michigan State, and Villanova) write previews explaining how/why their team will win, our statistical analysis for both the UConn-Michigan State game and the UNC-Villanova game, and our ongoing 64-team era modern NCAA tournament, which is in the Final 4 too with results coming over the next 2 days.

I’m assuming that most of you know the schedule of games today, but here it is for the rest of you.

  • #1 UConn vs. #2 Michigan State at 6:07 PM
  • #1 UNC vs. #3 Villanova at 8:47 PM

We’ll be back around 6 PM for the start of the first game. As always, leave your questions/comments and we’ll be responding to them throughout the day.

5:14 PM: Yikes. That shirt that Blake Griffin is wearing. At least we know that if an agent is giving him any money, it isn’t going towards buying tasteful clothing.

6:00 PM: It’s finally here. In a little under 10 minutes, we should have the starting lineups. I’m going with the chalk here like I said on the Dan Levy show. Hopefully we get a pair of entertaining games.

6:10 PM: Big question for today: Will Clark Kellogg make us miss Billy Packer?

6:15 PM: Phenomenal start for the Spartans. I think UConn is too tough to let this bother them.

6:25 PM: Decent level of play so far. Neither team looks that tentative so hopefully that means we will have a good game. One thing to note is that typically we have a story about how playing in a dome affects some great shooter. I haven’t read anything like that this year partly because Wayne Ellington is probably the only star who is an exceptional shooter, but he doesn’t fall into J.J. Redick or Trajan Langdon territory.

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RTC Final Four Preview

Posted by rtmsf on April 4th, 2009

We’re  here.  After five months of winnowing down 341 college basketball teams, we’ve got four teams left standing – UNC, UConn, Michigan St. and Villanoa.  None of the four are surprises (although Villanova probably didn’t expect to be here) but all four are worthy candidates for the crown of 2009 National Champion.  Let’s break down both games for you, and keep in mind that we’ll be running our usual Boom Goes the Dynamite starting about a half-hour before tip at 5:30pm EDT.  See you then…

Dave Zeitlin and John Stevens contributed to this report.

Michigan State (30-6) vs. Connecticut (31-4)

Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Saturday, 6:07 p.m.

Tale of the Tape

ROAD TO DETROIT: Michigan State got by Robert Morris, then knocked off a series of highly athletic teams in USC, Kansas, and Louisville, the last of which destroyed a lot of brackets. Connecticut enjoyed their time in Philadelphia, just throttling Chattanooga and Texas A&M, then outlasted Purdue and Missouri. Advantage: MSU.

COACHES: Two of the biggest and baddest in the business, here. Both have championships to their credit. Izzo has to get his team fired up and prepared for what is basically a home game. Not to question his mental toughness (it’s certainly iron-clad), but Calhoun and staff know that all that awaits them, even if they were to win a title, is more talk about this Nate Miles recruiting thing, and maybe the occasional rogue “journalist.” Izzo’s got it better. Advantage: MSU (but just barely)

BACKCOURT: Kalin Lucas is military-quick and has a couple of fine supporters in Chris Allen and Durrell Summers, but A.J. Price has been superb in the tournament and he’s gotten more than sufficient assistance from Kemba Walker and Craig Austrie. I never thought a team could lose Jerome Dyson and still have a backcourt advantage, but that’s how good the UConn guards are. Advantage: UConn

FRONTCOURT: MSU has one of the best backcourt duos in the game with Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton. Suton seems to get better every game, since he came back from his injury. The problem is, what awaits them is what could be the best frontcourt in the country with Hasheem Thabeet, the inestimable Jeff Adrien, and the underrated Stanley Robinson. Watch the frontcourt battle between these two teams. It’ll be glorious. This is one closer than you might think, but…Advantage: UConn

BENCH: Michigan State utilizes their bench much more than Connecticut; the Spartan bench contributes a full 10% more to MSU’s total scoring than UConn’s (35% to 25%), and they’ll come off the bench with 1-2 more players than UConn on the whole. Advantage: MSU

STYLE OF PLAY: This has been billed as UConn’s speed and fast-break attack versus Michigan State’s slower, plodding style. Be careful, there. UConn averages about 78 points/game, but MSU averages about 72. Both teams have good guards and versatile big men. You might hear that whoever controls the tempo will win this game, but both of these teams have the ability to play at any speed. The winner will be determined by nothing more profound than defense and shot selection. Advantage: Even

X-FACTOR: The freshmen. Delvon Roe and Kemba Walker are significant contributors for MSU and UConn (respectively), to say the least. How will they handle the Final Four stage? Advantage: Even

AURA: Connecticut comes in here with the most mystique, so to speak. They blew out their first two opponents and they’re one of those teams that can deliver a Joe Louis-like knockout punch in short order; seriously, you can lose focus for 45 seconds and by the time you look up, UConn’s got you down 14 and they’ve turned on the full court press. Michigan State paper-cuts you to death with physicality and efficiency on offense, like a tennis player who uses a lot of slices and drop shots, then blows a single 150-mph forehand by you. No real difference, here. Advantage: Even

KARMA: Well, as noted above, UConn has this whole Nate Miles thing I know they’d like to forget, at least for now. MSU must be living right, having made it to the F4 in virtually their backyard. Advantage: MSU

MASCOT: Spartans were trained in the art of war from the age of seven and were so good at it, they considered archery an “unmanly” means of warfare. Huskies are dogs. Cool dogs, cold-weather dogs, high-stamina dogs. But this game will be an actual war. Gotta go with Sparty. Advantage: MSU

RIVALRY: MSU-Michigan is only slightly more relevant these days than UConn-UMass. But still…Advantage: MSU

FAMOUS BASKETBALL ALUMNI: I love Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Donyell Marshall, and Cliff Robinson as much as anyone. Great basketball players and ambassadors, all. But added together, they don’t equal the plastic end of Magic Johnson’s left shoestring. Advantage: MSU

FAMOUS NON-BASKETBALL ALUMNI: You could probably include Magic in this category as well, given all he’s done outside the realm of basketball. But we won’t do that. UConn has…Meg Ryan? Moby? MSU can boast James Caan and a man by the name of, uh, James P. Hoffa. I’m not messin’ with that. Advantage: MSU

PREDICTION: It’s the feature game of the Final Four (despite being the first game). If Connecticut fans think they can crank up the pace and run MSU out of the gym, think again. Michigan State will run with you. They have the athletes. and they’re the runningest (forgive me) team in the Big Ten, for what that’s worth. This has all the makings of a classic. It involves two teams whose similarities actually outnumber their differences, despite conventional wisdom. We’ve got legendary coaches, fantastic guards, excellent frontlines, and the biggest stage our sport has. I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see some extra time played in this one. But in the end, in a great one, Connecticut just has too many options on offense. The Huskies get it done, 81-77.

———————————————————————

Villanova (30-7) vs. North Carolina (32-4)

Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Saturday, 8:47 p.m.

Tale of the Tape

ROAD TO DETROIT: Villanova, the No. 3 seed in the East Region, survived against American, throttled UCLA, humbled Duke and then stunned top-seeded Pittsburgh with THE play of the entire tournament – a coast-to-coast runner from Scottie Reynolds in the final second. North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the South, had little trouble with Radford, LSU, Gonzaga and Oklahoma on its way to the Final Four. Advantage: Nova.

COACHES: The affable, well-dressed Jay Wright is on the verge of cracking the elite echelon of college basketball head coaches. Roy Williams is already there. Advantage: UNC.

BACKCOURT: ‘Nova junior guard Scottie Reynolds had been up-and-down during this tournament before delivering one of the greatest endings in NCAA history. Ty Lawson has been virtually unstoppable since coming back from his toe injury – and Danny Green and Wayne Ellington are pretty darn good, too. Advantage: UNC.

FRONTCOURT: Forward Dante Cunningham leads Villanova in scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 ppg). But he’s obviously not at the same level as four-time All-American Tyler Hansbrough. Advantage: UNC.

BENCH: Villanova’s bench may be relatively short but Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher can hit shots and spread a defense, while Antonio Pena can bang inside. Veteran guard Bobby Frasor and 7-foot freshman Tyler Zeller may both play big roles for the Heels. Advantage: Villanova.

STYLE OF PLAY: ‘Nova has kicked it old school during its NCAA run, suffocating teams with its defense and toughness. UNC boasts maybe the best offense in the land. Advantage: The public.

X-FACTOR: Reggie Redding may not be flashy, but the smart, defensive hound has been vital to Villanova’s success and is a favorite of Coach Wright. (He threw the inbounds pass to kickstart the game-winning play against Pitt in the Elite Eight.) Everything is falling into place for Danny Green, who will finally get to play in front of his father. Advantage: Even.

AURA: If you’ve watched any of Villanova’s tournament games, you’ve seen the camera fixated on former coach Rollie Massimino, who led the Wildcats to one of the great championship-game upsets in 1985. Rollie will be there for Saturday’s game, as will probably every other player, coach, cheerleader, band member, fan, booster and groupie from that ’85 team. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, booked their ticket to the Final Four by winning its record 100th tournament game. Advantage: Nova.

KARMA: Villanova was knocked out of the 2005 tournament by UNC thanks to a phantom travel call on Allan Ray. The ‘Cats remember. The Tar Heels’ road to redemption started when Hansbrough and company did the unthinkable by passing up the NBA draft to avenge last year’s first-half debacle against Kansas in the Final Four and win a national title. Advantage: UNC.

MASCOT: A wildcat is a hunter of small mammals, birds and Ginyards. A Tar Heel is apparently derived from North Carolina’s 18th-century prominence as a tar and pitch producer, but their mascot is a ram. I’m confused. Advantage: Nova.

RIVALRY: Dick Vitale may or may not be wearing pants when he broadcasts Duke-UNC games. When Villanova and Saint Joseph’s hook up, it’s referred to as the “Holy War.” Advantage: UNC.

FAMOUS BASKETBALL ALUMNI: Was Kerry Kittles as good as Michael Jordan? How about if Kerry Kittles drank Michael Jordan’s Secret Stuff? Advantage: UNC.

FAMOUS NON-BASKETBALL ALUMNI: Don McLean dropped out of Villanova after four months before writing the immortal American Pie. Speaking of great American things, Moonlight Graham and Peter Gammons both went to North Carolina. That’s an impressive baseball combo. Advantage: UNC.

PREDICTION: North Carolina may beat Villanova nine times out of 10. But as Rick Moranis said in the classic sports movie Little Giants, you just have to win one time. (What, you don’t think Little Giants is a classic?) Villanova keeps its magical run going, 75-74.

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Why UConn Will Win…

Posted by rtmsf on April 4th, 2009

As part of our ongoing attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage anywhere, we enlisted the editors from the finest blogs we could find to write posts explaining why their team will win today.

This submission is from our friends at UConn Blog.

They won’t. Seriously. I’m one of those stick-in-the-mud fans who can’t acknowledge how good their own personal rooting interest is. Everything tells me that UConn is pretty good, and obviously you don’t get to the Final Four without having some talent.  But I can’t explain why the Huskies, who looked so sloppy at the end of the regular season and into the Big East tournament, have, played four dominant games to make it to Detroit. I do know that they must be way overdue for a Big East tournament-esque poor performance.

Nor can I explain why no one has gotten Hasheem Thabeet in foul trouble yet this tournament; nor how Stanley Robinson morphed from an introverted, inconsistent caterpillar into a 14-point, 7-rebound-averaging butterfly in UConn’s starting lineup.  I don’t understand these specific parts, probably because I’ve watched just about every game these guys have played for three (in Jeff Adrien’s case, four) years and I could tell you their every flaw. And if I, a simple layman, could see these things, you’re telling me Tom Izzo can’t?

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As for actually-helpful analysis: UConn plays defense (0.883 defensive points-per-possession) and they rebound. If the Huskies limit other teams’ chances on offense and funnel everything inside to Thabeet, it means the gameplan is working. And I like UConn’s chances against anyone if the gameplan is working.  But that gameplan assumes that Thabeet is on the floor. So far, he’s been able to stay out of foul trouble, but, as UConn fans learned with Emeka Okafor in 2004, all it takes is one bad call to lay the best plan to waste.  Plus, if Thabeet gets the call Saturday to guard Goran Suton, he’ll be playing away from the basket quite a bit, neutralizing (part of) his shot-blocking abilities.  Offensively, A.J. Price must handle much of the load this weekend. When he’s on, Price is one of the best players in America. If he hits his first long jumper, the opposition is generally in for a tough night. Price’s importance might be mitigated a bit by freshman Kemba Walker, who was the best player on the court in the regional final victory over Missouri.

In most realistic scenarios ending with Connecticut cutting down the nets, Price averaging something like 17 and 5 assists is a given. Thabeet getting a near-double-double with a bunch of blocks is a given. Beyond that, a couple other players will have to step up. In order of importance: Jeff Adrien must own the boards and make his beloved elbow jumper; Stanley Robinson has to get to the rim early and often (he is always capable of doing it, but he loses focus at times); Walker must use his quickness to create havoc in the opponent’s interior defense; Craig Austrie must knock down a couple 3s; Gavin Edwards must play like a “statistical Jeff Adrien clone,” as he was dubbed by Basketball Prospectus’ John Gasaway the other day.  The Huskies don’t need every one of those things to happen to win. But in a lineup that goes seven-deep, probably three out of those five are vital.

Still, in a four-team event where three teams will go home unhappy, there are plenty of reasons to believe that UConn won’t win the title: Seventy thousand fans will be rooting against UConn on Saturday; the Huskies don’t have the depth of Michigan State; Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansborough are really bad matchups; Scottie Reynolds and Villanova could reasonably have beaten UConn in Hartford a month ago .

There’s that nagging pessimism, again. But UConn has the talent to beat any of these teams. The Huskies have been dominant for most of the tournament thus far, and should be prepared for anything they’ll see this weekend. And, remember, Jim Calhoun is 4-0 in the Final Four all-time.

So maybe it’s a bit melodramatic to say UConn won’t win the national title. Obviously, they could. I may not be as confident as, say, North Carolina fans, but the Huskies should at least make it to Monday night if they play up to their abilities. After that, it’s all a crapshoot anyway.

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