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?


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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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Elite 8 Day Two

Posted by rtmsf on March 29th, 2009

dynamiteAfter last night’s fantastic games (especially the VillanovaPittsburgh game last night–probably the best game I have ever been to), we are hoping that today’s match-ups can equal what we saw last night. One of the more interesting things from the coverage last night (other than the fact that CBS cut to their regularly scheduled programming soon after the game was over according to reports that I have heard) is how little publicity ESPN and other media entities are giving the Scottie Reynolds mad dash to win the game. I’d be interested to hear your perspective on this since I was at the game and out for a couple hours after the game ended.

Anyways, here’s your schedule for today:

  • 2:20 PM: #2 Michigan State vs. #1 Louisville
  • 5:05 PM: #2 Oklahoma vs. #1 UNC

Even though the late game is getting a lot of the hype for the Blake Griffin vs. Tyler Hansbrough massacre match-up, I think the early game might be a better game. I think people are giving Louisville too much credit for destroying a very mediocre Arizona team and Kalin Lucas will do a much better job navigating the Cardinals pressure than any point guard they have faced this year.

Let me know what your thought in the comment section and I’ll be back a little after 2 PM to get things started.

2:15 PM: What happened to the guy posing with Magic Johnson? It looks like he got into a bar fight, but he looks like he’s pushing 70.

2:20 PM: Interesting fact regarding the coaching match-up today: Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo have never coached against each other.

2:22 PM: How crazy would Gus Johnson have been if he was calling the game in Boston last night? I’m pretty sure he would still be yelling today.

2:25 PM: Slow start for both teams (2 points combined in the first 3:30). I’m guessing this is just a bit of nerves. Hopefully the level of play will pick up.

2:30 PM: “Everywhere he (Pitino) goes success follows” – Gus Johnson. The residents of Boston would beg to differ.

2:43 PM: The teams still seem to be feeling each other out and the game seems to lack a real flow to it. Midway through the first half the teams are on pace to scored 92 points combined (a game after Louisville scored 103 points by themselves). How long the Spartans can maintain this pace before they need to go to their relatively inexperienced reserves?

2:50 PM: One thing to keep your eye on if the game is close late: free throw shooting. I harped on it last night after the Pitt-Nova game, but the Cardinals shoot an atrocious 64.4% as a team while the Spartans shoot 69.6% as a team. In fact, that may actually understate the difference in free throw shooting between the two teams. Louisville only has one starter who shoots over 67% from the line (Edgar Sosa at 74.2%) while Michigan State has 2 starters  who shoot 80% or better from the line (Kalin Lucas and Goran Suton) in addition to a key reserve (Chris Allen).

3:00 PM: I just stumbled across this article from 2 days ago where Rick Pitino says that the responsibility of watching over a basketball program rests on the coach’s shoulders. He says they aren’t directed at anybody in particular, but if Louisville makes it to Detroit Jim Calhoun might want to speak to Pitino outside. . .

3:08 PM: Great feed there by Edgar Sosa. This game is really starting to pick up. Could we have a repeat of yesterday? I think this could be another great game, but I have my doubts about UNC-Oklahoma. I have a feeling that the Tar Heels could run away with that game.

3:11 PM: Michigan State goes into half leading by 3. Izzo has to be thrilled that his team adjusted to the Cardinals’ pressure so quickly now he just has to hope their legs hold up.

3:15 PM: Scott, I think Pitino will make a few adjustments and the Cardinals will probably come out of halftime with the pressure cranked up to 11. If Michigan State can weather that storm and keep it within 5 points midway through the 2nd half they should be fine. The one interesting thing about the lack of respect Louisville has gotten this year is that I don’t think they will feel the pressure that the typical #1 overall seed would in this situation. I mean obviously there is some pressure trailing at halftime of an Elite 8 game, but I don’t think they will have the typical pressure of expectations that a #1 overall seed would have.

3:30 PM: BS, I’m sure you’ll get your wish (at least the dunking on part, but probably not the broken collarbone stuff). As for questioning the hatred of Hansbrough, it’s definitely out there. I think the reason Eric Devendorf was at another level is that he’s a lot more demonstrative and there was the accusation and suspension for striking a female student even if the charges were later dropped. I’m sure if you go to Durham, NC you will find quite a bit of hatred of Hansbrough. To be honest though, when I spoke with Hansbrough earlier this year he seemed to be a nice enough guy even if he seemed a little too intense almost an hour after the game.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: Elite 8 Day One

Posted by nvr1983 on March 28th, 2009

dynamiteWe’re back for the Elite 8 today. As we mentioned yesterday, the tournament up to this point hasn’t been as exciting as we are used to, but perhaps all this chalk means that we will get a phenomenal last three rounds. The match-ups today look like they will produce some solid action (particularly in Boston) so we’re definitely looking forward to that.

  • 4:40 PM: #3 Missouri vs. #1 UConn
  • 7:05 PM: #3 Villanova vs. #1 Pittsburgh

In the first game, it will be interesting to see how Missouri’s frenetic style holds up against UConn and what impact Hasheem Thabeet will have in that style of game. One guy to look out for on UConn is Kemba Walker who might thrive in an up-tempo game. In the nightcap, we have two of the Big East’s top teams going against each other in a rematch of a game that Villanova won behind Reggie Redding‘s 18 points and 7 rebounds. DeJuan Blair only had 9 points and 8 rebounds in 23 foul-riddled minutes. An interesting subplot to this game is that some are heralding it as a look at the future of Big East coaching with Jamie Dixon pitted against Jay Wright.

3:55 PM: I love college basketball, but is it a good idea to encourage people in Detroit to spend their last dollar to get tickets? Isn’t that what caused this financial crisis (outside of the idiots on Wall Street playing around with CDOs and credit default swaps)?

4:15 PM: I’m guessing this is the part of the NCAA tournament where CBS uses human interest stories as filler.

4:38 PM: Here we go…  let’s hope for a group of E8 games like in 2005 (where three of the four went to OT)…

4:43 PM: The problem I see with Mizzou pulling the major upset in this game is that UConn is very comfortable playing this style.  A matchup against Pitt would have been a more interesting contrast for Mizzou to take advantage of.

4:46 PM: Horrid start for Mizzou and fantastic start (obviously) for UConn.  The Huskies are already 6-7 from the field with several wide-open shots available.  The thing about Missouri is that theie pressure can get them back into games, but it’s going to be tough to turn over AJ Price and Kemba Walker.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Four

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2009

dynamiteAfter a thrilling finish last night that made Demetri Goodson a household name for at least a few days, we think the tournament has officially begun. Even being fairly selective, we think there are at least 3 outstanding games today. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering tomorrow:

  • 12:10 PM: #6 Arizona State vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 2:20 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #4 Xavier
  • 2:30 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #3 Kansas
  • 2:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #12 Arizona
  • 2:50 PM: #8 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 4:50 PM: #6 Marquette vs. #3 Missouri
  • 5:00 PM: #10 USC vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 5:20 PM: #9 Siena vs. #1 Louisville

A couple thoughts on the scheduling: (1) It’s nice to see the early finish for those of us who have to work on Monday morning and (2) I think the NCAA and CBS might have finally figured out the spacing issue. Outside of the early game, I don’t think there should be any point during the other 2 sets of games where  we have all the games at halftime. I’m guessing the NCAA and/or CBS must have hired a bunch of McKinsey consultants at $500/hr to figure out how to stagger the games. Now I’m looking at it without a fancy Excel model, but this looks like a reasonable set-up, which should get the job done, but I’ve been wrong before. . .

12:08 PM: One piece of big news from the morning: Dominic James has been cleared to play today. I’m not sure what kind of experimental medical techniques they have up at Marquette, but that’s a shocking piece of news. I’d be surprised if he could even go 10 minutes today as he was expected to be out for at least 2 months when he broke his foot (don’t remember which bone) back on Febraury 25th, but we will wait and see.

12:25 PM: This game looks like it should be fairly entertaining and competitive. Interesting back story about Jonny Flynn and James Harden. I know the old school guys won’t like it, but with the growth of AAU and all these summer camps I think it should be expected that stuff like that will happen.

12:30 PM: For those of you who questioned my earlier assertion that the arenas looked dead this year, the NCAA is backing me up. I guess it should be somewhat expected with the economy although most tickets are purchased via the lottery well in advance. The 50% in Miami is appalling though. One more thing to remember about these numbers. . .they reflect the number of tickets purchased not the attendance. I’m sure there are a lot of tickets that have been purchased by ticket brokers that have not been purchased by people who actually go to the games.

12:40 PM: As talented as Harden is, I really question his tendency to disappear for long stretches. Is he unable to play hard for 40 minutes or is he “letting the game come to him”?

12:47 PM: Arizona State is getting run out of the gym right now. I wonder how much the early start hurts the West Coast teams here. I’m not sure if any of you have data on this.

12:50 PM: We just posted the next part of our Mascot Challnege. Be sure to vote for your favorite mascots and help him/her win the national title.

12:52 PM: Rihards Kuksiks is single-handedly keeping the Sun Devils in this game with 15 of their first 30 points. Syracuse goes into half with a 41-32 lead. Harden still doesn’t have a point. If I’m a NBA GM, his tendency to do this drops him a few spots on my board.

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NCAA Preview: Connecticut Huskies

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

UConn (# 1, West, Philadelphia pod)
Vs. Chattanooga (#16)
Thurs., 3/19 at 3 PM
Vegas Line: UConn, -20.5


Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile
Location: Storrs, CT
Conference: Big East, at-large
Coach: Jim Calhoun, 553-204 at UConn; 801-341 overall
08-09 Record: 27-4, 15-3
Last 12 Games: 9-3
Best Win: 68-51, at Louisville, Feb. 2
Worst Loss: 74-63, vs. Georgetown, Dec. 29
Off. Efficiency Rating: 114; 20th
Def. Efficiency Rating: 85.6; 3rd

Nuts ‘n Bolts
Star Player(s): PG A.J. Price, 14 ppg, 4.7 apg, 40.8% 3-point shooting; C Hasheem Thabeet 13.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 4.6 bpg; PF Jeff Adrien 13.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg
Unsung Hero: PG Kemba Walker (8.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.7 apg off the bench)
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Hasheem Thabeet, projected No. 2 pick; A.J. Price, No. 32, Jeff Adrien, No. 39
Key Injuries: SG Jerome Dyson, torn meniscus, out for season
Depth: 25.9% (287th nationally); percentage of minutes played by reserves
Achilles Heel: Depth. UConn is essentially a six-man team without Dyson, getting only cameos of late from PF Gavin Edwards and SG Scottie Haralson. And Calhoun has said recently that Price simply cannot be a 35-minute player because of his ACL injury last year. Four players (Dyson, JUCO transfer C Charles Okwandu and would-be freshmen SF Ater Majok and SG Nate Miles) who would have contributed in the tournament are (in order) injured, academically ineligible, ineligible due to transcript issues and playing in junior college for violating a restraining order.
Will Make a Deep Run if…: Price carries the offense on his back and streaky SF Stanley Robinson finds a way to play like a superstar in one or two games.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: Thabeet gets in foul trouble and the guards can’t buy a bucket.

NCAA History
Last Year Invited: 2008, lost to San Diego in the first round, 70-69 in OT
Streak: 2nd year
Best NCAA Finish: 1999, 2004 national champions
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.47. On average, the Huskies win 0.47 more games than would be expected based on their seed compared to historical averages.

Six Degrees to Detroit: UConn fans want payback against the Motor City for the Huskies’ 2001 NIT second round loss to Detroit Mercy in Storrs. That was the last time UConn took part in the second-tier tournament. I’m sure UConn fans were torn up about it and have thirsted for revenge ever since, although I was 13 and living in another state and a St. John’s fan at the time.
Distance to First Round Site: 239 miles, which is about five hours if you’re on the NJ Turnpike
School’s Claim to Fame: UConn became the first Division I school to win national titles in both men’s and women’s basketball in the same year in 2004. Since Connecticut sports fans have no pro team to root for (though they still pine for the miserable Hartford Whalers), the UConn men and women are pretty much it. Off the court, Meg Ryan and Moby are apparently listed as alumni on Wikipedia. I do not wish to claim Moby as one of our own.
School Wishes It Could Forget: You would think that prior to the ’99 championship, UConn students had no reason to riot. You’d be wrong. Back in 1998, more than 100 students were arrested after flipping and burning a car, throwing rocks and bottles at police and being pepper sprayed by said police, as a part of the annual Spring Weekend (the weekend prior to the last week of spring classes). Unfortunately for car-burning enthusiasts, the traditional weekend party has become slightly more civil since then.
Prediction: With Dyson, it was Detroit or bust. Without Dyson – and with that ‘haven’t-won-a-postseason-game-since-2006’ cloud hanging over their heads – I think most UConn fans would be mildly content with the Sweet 16, and satisfied with a trip to the regional final. UConn has Final Four talent, but no one’s quite sure if they have the makeup to win four, five or six straight in March.

Major RTC stories: RTC Live: Notre Dame at #2 UConn – Saturday 2 PM ET, RTC Aftermath: #2 UConn 72, Notre Dame 65, Jerome Dyson: Done for the Season, and Game Night: Pittsburgh at UConn.

Preview written by Kevin Meacham of TheUConnBlog.com

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NCAA Basketball 2009: The BCS Version

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009


With the release of the brackets on Sunday evening there has been quite a bit of controversy (Arizona over St. Mary’s being the predominant gripe) and there have been some interesting moments with Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps ganging up on Dick Vitale and almost bringing him to tears. However, it was nothing compared to the furor that we saw when the BCS released its final poll that determined the BCS bowl games and more importantly the national championship. We thought it would be a fun exercise to try to make a mock BCS basketball system. I used the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls as the human polls and ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI, KenPom.com, and Sagarin’s ratings as the computer polls. There are a couple polls I excluded for other reasons: Kenneth Massey’s (wasn’t updated yet) and Jerry Palm’s (not free). I did not throw out the high and low computer polls for two reasons: (1) we only had 3 available and (2) they were fairly similar with a few exceptions (Gonzaga in the RPI, but they weren’t going to be a factor anyways because of Memphis). ESPN.com’s InsiderRPI didn’t include the games from Sunday, but after looking at the final results they would not have had any impact on the rankings  based on the teams involved. Here are the results:


If you want to try and follow along, here are the BCS criteria.

Now onto the match-ups. . .

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: 03.15.09

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2009

dynamiteIt’s officially here. . .Selection Sunday is upon us. Time for a bunch of whining and complaining by grown men about how their team that went 20-12 deserved to get in or for Billy Packer to rip some mid-major for getting in at 26-7 over an ACC team that went 17-15. Thankfully, the slate today is a little lighter to let us get some work done on our NCAA tournament preview. We’ll be covering all 4 games today and we will be doing a separate live blog (RTC Live style, but we won’t be inside the Selection Committee room although give it time). Here are the games today in chronological order and a brief synopsis of what is at stake in each game:

  • 1 PM: #22 FSU vs. #8 Duke on ESPN, Raycom, and ESPN360.com: This is only for seeding purposes. FSU is probably a solid #5 after knocking off UNC yesterday. A win here might be able to move them up to the last #4 seed. Duke is pretty much locked into a #2 seed. There is no way they are getting a #1 seed and they won’t fall to a #3 seed because the two teams above them and three teams below them in the rankings all had worse weeks.
  • 1 PM: Tennessee vs. Mississippi State on CBS: This is the biggest game of the day because of its implications on the bubble. I’m guessing 95% of the people who have any rooting interest in this game will be pulling for Tennessee. The Vols are solidly in the field at a #7 seed in most predictions and I can’t see them jumping much higher, which would essentially mean they should be ranked, if they beat a good, but not great MSU team. The Bulldogs on the other hand can wreck a bunch of teams NCAA dreams by winning the SEC title.
  • 1 PM: Texas-San Antonio vs. Stephen F. Austin on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: The winner of this game will end up with a 14 or 15 seed. SFA might be an interesting first round opponent since they actually had a decent RPI for a Southland team (#79) and boast a win over #94 North Dakota State. Honestly though, unless you’re a fan/grad of one of the schools, you’re not going to be watching this over the other two games.
  • 3:30 PM: Ohio State vs. #24 Purdue on CBS: Another game that is about seeding. I think Purdue has moved up about as far as it can after destroying Illinois in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Ohio State has a chance to move up to a 7 if they can win this after knocking off Michigan State yesterday.

12:20 PM: Ok. Some quick questions for you that ESPN.com posed this morning:

  1. Which teams are the #1 seeds?
  2. Is UConn better off as a #2 seed?
  3. Which conference will send the most teams to the NCAA tournament?
  4. Will the SEC really only put two of its teams into the NCAA field?
  5. Will Arizona’s 24-year bid streak finally end?
  6. Which teams will be seeded higher than you think?
  7. Which teams will be seeded lower than you think?
  8. Which mid-major teams will the big boys hope to avoid in the first round?

Let me know what you think and I’ll give you my thoughts in a little bit.

12:45 PM: Why does CBS drag these Selection Committee people onto the show? I know they’re trying to hype up the Selection Special at 6 PM, but they add absolutely nothing. They just give generic, PR firm answers. I almost prefer the bickering that ESPN has arguing whether or not a team deserves to be in.

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Big East: Blair = Thabeet?

Posted by nvr1983 on March 10th, 2009

Here at RTC headquarters, we are big fans of fundamentals and appreciate things that the casual fans doesn’t care about (like defense). Having said that, we were shocked when we received an e-mail from the Big East informing us of their men’s basketball awards. Before I go on my rant, let me start by saying that I agree with Greg Monroe of Georgetown winning “Rookie of the Year” and Jay Wright of Villanova winning “Coach of the Year”. Fans of other Big East teams might criticize Monroe for not leading his team to a better performance this year (possibly the biggest disappointment in the nation), but I don’t think you can blame a freshman/rookie for that. I would think the blame for Georgetown’s disappointing season should be placed elsewhere (like John Thompson III). As for Wright winning the “Coach of the Year” award I don’t think you can argue with that one too much. Sure they “only” finished 4th in the conference, but his team had much lower expectations this season than any of the teams that finished ahead of them. Coming into the year, the Wildcats were a borderline top 25 team (23rd in the AP and 25th in the ESPN/USA Today) with 6 teams ahead of them (including two teams–Georgetown and Notre Dame–that probably won’t even make the NCAA tournament). Wright guided a team with 2 “stars” (Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds) to a #3/4 seed in the NCAA tournament and made them a darkhorse pick to sneak into the Final 4. And yes, I know they were helped by an unbalanced Big East schedule.

Big East Coaches Have Lost Their Minds - Blair is the Choice

Big East Coaches Have Lost Their Minds - Blair is the Choice

Ok, now that we have the simple stuff out of the way I can move onto my rant. . .

When the coaches were asked to vote for Big East “Player of the Year” (they were not allowed to vote for their own players), they ended up splitting the award between DeJuan Blair and Hasheem Thabeet. I’m willing to admit that they are both great players and have a legitimate shot at being 1st team All-Americans when the 47 different organizations reveal their lists in the next 3 weeks. Over the course of the season, they had fairly similar numbers too. Having said that, did the coaches not watch what happened when these two matched up? Here’s a quick summary of their numbers in those games:

Blair = 15 PPG (on 54% FG), 15.5 RPG, 1 APG (1.5 TO/G), 2 Blocks/G, and 2-0
Thabeet = 9.5 PPG (on 44% FG), 5.5 RPG, 0 APG (3 TO/G), 3.5 Blocks/G, and 0-2

While it can be argued that Blair’s numbers are somewhat inflated by his 22 point/23 rebound tour de force at UConn on February 16th and that Pittsburgh‘s win over UConn on Saturday was more the result of Sam Young playing like a man among boys than Blair having an exceptional game, I don’t think anybody who watched either game can argue that Blair dominated Thabeet. Furthermore, you need to ask yourself who means more to their team. Despite all of Jim Calhoun‘s attempts to compare Thabeet to Bill Russell (the ultimate winner in team sports), the Huskies are still a very good team when Thabeet gets in foul trouble as they were able to beat a #4 seed (Gonzaga) in what was essentially a road game with Thabeet fouling out as well as picking up some big wins when he was in foul trouble (Notre Dame, Providence, Michigan, and Villanova). Compare that with what happened to Pitt when Blair got in foul trouble: a couple of wins (FSU, Rutgers, and West Virginia), but also all 3 of their losses this year Providence, Louisville, and Villanova).

As for my closing argument, I’ll let Mr. Blair’s actions do the talking. . .

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Big East Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2009

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East ConferenceHe will be live-blogging all the action from his executive suite at MSG this week. 


Tuesday, March 10th / First Round
– Game 1: #9 Cincinnati vs. #16 DePaul
– Game 2: #12 Georgetown vs. #13 St. John’s
– Game 3: #10 Notre Dame vs. #15 Rutgers
– Game 4: #11 Seton Hall vs. #14 South Florida

Wednesday, March 11th / Second Round
– Game 5: Game 1 Winner vs. #8 Providence
– Game 6: Game 2 Winner vs. #5 Marquette
– Game 7: Game 3 Winner vs. #7 West Virginia
– Game 8: Game 4 Winner vs. #6 Syracuse

Thursday, March 12th / Quarters
– Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. #1 Louisville
– Game 10: Game 6 Winner vs. #4 Villanova
– Game 11: Game 7 Winner vs. #2 Pitt
– Game 12: Game 8 Winner vs. #3 UConn

Friday, March 13th / Semis
– Game 13: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner
– Game 14: Game 11 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner

Saturday, March 14th / Finals
– Game 15: Game 13 Winner vs. Game 14 Winner

It is only fitting that the biggest conference in college basketball have the biggest tournament. For the first time, the Big East is inviting all 16 teams to MSG for a five day extravaganza. The BET is always full of exciting moments – from Ray Allen vs. Allen Iverson in 1996 to Taliek Brown’s banked in 30 footer in 2002 to Gerry McNamara’s superhuman performance in 2006. With the number of good teams and absurdly high number of talented players, this year’s edition of the BET should not disappoint.

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