Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region here.

West Region

Favorite: Michigan State, #1, 27-7. This is the fourth time in the Tom Izzo era that Michigan State has earned a #1 seed. The previous three times (1999, 2000, and 2001), they advanced at least to the Final Four, winning the national title in 2000. Led by likely All-American senior forward Draymond Green, this is, almost without question, the best Spartan team since those teams at the turn of the century. They do have to go forward without injured freshman Branden Dawson, out for the year with a torn ACL, but senior Brandon Wood stepped into his starting spot and he shot the ball well in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. You can say that there are more talented teams in this region (Missouri and Marquette come to mind), but beating Izzo in March is always easier said than done.

Draymond Green And Michigan State Are The Team To Beat In The West Region (AP)

Should They Falter: Missouri, #2, 30-4. While the Spartans are the favorite, the Tigers are a solid 1-A. The Selection Committee had Mizzou as the #8 overall seed, but they have been excellent all season long behind the most efficient offense in the nation. The Tigers are undersized (only two players taller than 6’6” are in the rotation) and lack depth (they only play seven guys), but head coach Frank Haith gets every last drop out of the guys who do play. And with guards like Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, and Michael Dixon, they have enough talent on the perimeter to cause plenty of trouble.

Grossly Overseeded: BYU, #14 (First Four), 26-8. I don’t have a whole lot of problems with any of the seeding this year; I think the Selection Committee by and large did a pretty good job. But I’m not sure why BYU is in the tournament. Their lone quality win of the season is over Gonzaga, a team who doesn’t have much in the way of quality wins itself. I would rather have seen a team like Drexel or Oral Roberts (teams admittedly without a ton of big wins either) get the Cougars’ spot. The Dragons and Golden Eagles both had better records against top 50 RPI teams, and both excelled in their conference regular season. I will even take Iona, their First Four opponent, over the Cougs despite a complete lack of quality wins on the Gaels’ resume. The committee gave Iona credit for scheduling a tough non-conference slate, and their strength of schedule out of conference even exceeds BYU’s.

Grossly Underseeded: Missouri, #2, 30-4. I’m having trouble working up a whole lot of outrage about anything in the bracket, but Missouri should not have dropped to the #8 overall seed. To me, they were right in the conversation with Kansas for the #5 overall seed (and I might have given Missouri the edge, although the committee docked them for a relatively tame non-conference schedule). The only difference for the Tigers in terms of their placement in the bracket is that had they earned the #5 overall seed, they would have been dropped in the St. Louis regional instead of being shipped West. But the good news is that they still are in the bracket with the lowest #1 seed. It all works out.

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Bracketology S-Curve Update: 03.11.12

Posted by zhayes9 on March 11th, 2012

Zach Hayes is RTC’s official bracketologist.

  • Last Four In: NC State, Seton Hall, Texas, BYU.
  • First Four Out: Drexel, Mississippi State, Miami (FL), Washington.

click on bracket to enlarge

3/11 S-Curve

1 Seeds: Kentucky, Syracuse, Michigan State, Kansas

2 Seeds: North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio State, Duke

3 Seeds: Baylor, Marquette, Michigan, Louisville

4 Seeds: Florida State, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin

5 Seeds: Indiana, Wichita State, Murray State, Temple

6 Seeds: Florida, New Mexico, UNLV, Cincinnati

7 Seeds: Creighton, Saint Mary’s, Memphis, San Diego State

8 Seeds: Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Kansas State

9 Seeds: Purdue, Saint Louis, Connecticut, Alabama

10 Seeds: Harvard, West Virginia, Southern Miss, Virginia

11 Seeds: Colorado State, VCU, Long Beach State, Xavier

12 Seeds: California, South Florida, BYU, Texas, Seton Hall

13 Seeds: NC State, Colorado, St. Bonaventure, Ohio, Davidson

14 Seeds: Belmont, New Mexico State, South Dakota State, Montana

15 Seeds: Loyola (MD), Detroit, Lehigh, LIU-Brooklyn

16 Seeds: UNC-Asheville, Norfolk State, Lamar, Vermont, Mississippi Valley State, Western Kentucky

Automatic bids: Vermont, St. Bonaventure, Florida State, Belmont, Missouri, Louisville, Montana, UNC-Asheville, Michigan State, Long Beach State, VCU, Memphis, Detroit, Harvard, Loyola (MD), Ohio, Norfolk State, Creighton, New Mexico, LIU Brooklyn, Murray State, Colorado, Lehigh, Vanderbilt, Davidson, Lamar, Mississippi Valley State, Western Kentucky, South Dakota State, Saint Mary’s, New Mexico State.

Bids per conference: Big East (10), Big 12 (6), Big Ten (6), ACC (5), SEC (4), Mountain West (4), Atlantic 10 (4), West Coast (3), Conference USA (2), Missouri Valley (2), Pac-12 (2).

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ACC Afternoon Five: ACC Tournament Saturday Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on March 10th, 2012

  1. Miami Herald: The biggest news to break late on Friday was the suspension of Miami‘s leading scorer Durand Scott. Scott has been deemed ineligible by the NCAA due to impermissible benefits and the Hurricanes weren’t informed until around 5:30 PM yesterday.  Without Scott, Miami didn’t have the firepower to beat Florida State and succumbed to their in-state rivals. Scott is the third player to be suspended because of the on-going NCAA investigation at Miami. Reggie Johnson was suspended for a single game before being reinstated and DeQuan Jones missed the first ten games of the season before his reinstatement. While Miami has to hope that Scott will be swiftly reinstated, the timing could literally not be worse: the Hurricanes are right on the edge of the field and Selection Sunday is tomorrow.
  2. Basketball Prospectus: While yesterday’s wisdom held that Miami and North Carolina State each had to win one more game to make it to the Tournament, at least one system already had the Wolfpack and Hurricanes in. While, NC State almost assuredly played themselves into the tournament by toppling Virginia, Miami’s situation is much more interesting. It seems like most folks have Miami pretty squarely out, but the Easy Bubble Solver’s projections offer some cause for optimism in Coral Gables.
  3. ESPN: The big news in Chapel Hill was the awkward fall of North Carolina‘s John Henson. Though x-rays indicated that he didn’t break his left wrist which he was using to brace himself, clear discomfort prevented him from being a factor in the game against Maryland. While there’s no word yet on whether Henson will play today, history is skeptical. Roy Williams hasn’t been shy about his indifference to the ACC Tournament. In 2009, the stacked Tar Heels and eventual national champions lost the conference tournament while Williams held out Ty Lawson who was coming off a toe injury. If Henson really wants to play, the coaching staff will probably allow it, but this game seems to mean little to the folks in Chapel Hill.
  4. News and Observer:  In the inevitable benchmark category, Kendall Marshall‘s 12 assists against Maryland gave the North Carolina guard the single-season ACC record for assists. Now with 311 assist this season, Marshall surpassed Georgia Tech’s Craig “Noodles” Neal. Of course, Marshall still trails Iona‘s Scott Machado for the most assists on the 2012 season. Machado has 117.
  5. Durham Herald-Sun: With Ryan Kelly sitting out this weekend’s tournament with an injury, Duke had to dig a little deeper for some front court help in yesterday’s game. Josh Hairston got the call and responded by playing 17 solid minutes for the Blue Devil’s. His individual statistics aren’t going to blow anyone away, but he seems happy to help his team get the win. Hairston and Duke’s forwards will be tested against the platoons of athletic big men that Florida State sends out . It’s a stern test for Hairston, but one that will only help his team moving forward.
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The Other 26: Week 15

Posted by IRenko on March 9th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

We are at roughly the midway mark of TO26 conference championship games.  Fifteen invites to the Big Dance were handed out during a frenzy of activity from Saturday through Wednesday, while another nine will be delivered on Saturday.  Some of the teams who earned the honor are no surprise, but proving that the madness starts early in March, several conference tournaments upended expectations.  As a result, several strong TO26 teams are now contemplating trips to the NIT instead of the NCAAs.

After the updated top 15, we consider the fallout from these developments, exploring the idea of awarding auto bids based on regular season performance and making the at-large case for two regular season conference champions:  Iona and Oral Roberts.

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ATB: Wild Weekend Full of Tournament Tickets Punched And Regular Season Finales

Posted by EJacoby on March 5th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede – What makes the official start of March Madness? Saturday, March 3, which included 105 total games, three conference tournament championships, and 15 ranked teams playing their regular season finales definitely felt like the appropriate start date. Sunday saw eight more ranked teams play and one more conference tournament decided. It was a wonderful start to Championship Week that included both the usual (Murray State won the OVC) and the unexpected (Wichita State, Iona, and Middle Tennessee all lost before the title game) that makes our sport so much fun to watch. All regular season games but one Ivy contest are now completed, so the power leagues start up their own conference tournaments in the next couple of days. Over the course of the next week we will find out 27 more automatic bid winners and the 37 at-large teams to fill out the NCAA Tournament bracket. Let’s start by rehashing what took place over the weekend, and who looks good to go dancing. We start in the Big Ten…

Your Watercooler Moment. Buckeyes Victory Means a Three-Way Tie for Big Ten Supremacy 

Who said that Ohio State blew its chance at a Big Ten title last week with its loss to Wisconsin? Well, we were actually guilty of thinking the same, as Michigan State had built a two-game lead with two games to play in the conference season. But after losing at Indiana, the Spartans needed to defend their home court and defeat Ohio State in Sunday’s regular season finale if they wanted the outright Big Ten championship. The Buckeyes had other ideas, as they came back from down double-digits in the second half to eventually win on a game-winner with one second remaining. William Buford’s jumper not only evened Ohio State with Michigan State at 13-5 in the conference, but it also means that Michigan’s 13-5 record holds up as a third team atop the Big Ten. These three teams all slipped up at home late in the season, but none was more costly than this Michigan State loss with the outright title and a likely NCAA Tournament #1 seed on the line. The Big Ten Tournament will be as great to watch as ever before, with so many teams jockeying for postseason inclusion or seeding position, and three teams all as co-favorites. In the tiebreaker scenarios, Michigan State comes out victorious as the regular-season champion and #1 seed, but all three split their season series and can stake a legitimate claim as league champ.

Top Storyline – North Carolina Exacts Revenge on Duke. If it weren’t for Austin Rivers’ buzzer-beating three on February 8, then North Carolina would currently be on a 13-game winning streak in ACC play with a +13.6 average scoring margin in those games. The Tar Heels got revenge on Duke for that shot and made sure everyone remembers how great this team is as UNC throttled Duke from the outset of Saturday night’s regular season finale. The Tar Heels jumped out to an 18-5 lead in under four minutes, wound it all the way up to a 24-point advantage at halftime, and finished it off with an 88-70 blowout victory going away. Duke has struggled in Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, but nothing like this, in which the road team was superior in every facet of the game. The Tar Heels’ entire starting lineup finished with at least 12 points, Kendall Marshall dished out his usual 10 assists, and John Henson and Tyler Zeller each had 10 rebounds. Carolina is the ACC champion and peaking at the right time of year.

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MAAC Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2012

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

Tournament Preview

A year ago the MAAC tournament gave us a surprise with St. Peter’s coming on strong to win the title. This season Iona is the clear-cut choice. Interestingly, if Iona gets upset, the conference will be a two-bid league with the Gaels almost certain to be an at-large entry to the NCAA tournament. As it stands, Iona cutting down the nets virtually guarantees the conference one spot on Selection Sunday. Doesn’t mean there will be a lack of excitement and drama along the way.

Final Regular Season Standings

Team, MAAC record, overall record:

1. Iona 15-3, 24-6
2. Loyola (MD) 13-5, 21-8
3. Manhattan 12-6, 20-11
4. Fairfield 12-6, 17-3
5. Rider 10-8, 13-18
6. Siena 8-10, 13-16
7. Niagra 8-10, 13-18
8. Marist 7-11, 13-17
9. St. Peter’s 4-14, 5-25
10. Canisius 1-17, 5-24

 

MAAC Awards

Player of the Year: Scott Machado, Iona

A player that simply has a tremendous impact on the game. Machado scored 13.1  points a game while adding 5 rebounds, but his expertise lies in handing out assists. He led the nation with 10.1 assists an outing. The Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year award finalist is also dangerous in late game situations, hitting 80.5% of his free throw attempts.

Scott Macadho's Ability To Rack Up Assists Made Him An Easy Choice For MAAC Player of the Year (AP)

Rookie of the Year: Juan’ya Green, Niagara

The 6’3″ freshman guard averaged 17.5 points per outing. Green went beyond scoring, handing out 4.4 assists per game. The leading freshman scorer and third overall scorer in the MAAC, Green recorded 27 double figure games this season.

Coach of the Year: Jimmy Patsos, Loyola

The Greyhounds finished conference runner-up and recorded a 20-win season for the first time in school history. Loyola also owns victories over every other school in the conference’s “first division.” They will be a tough out in Springfield.

First Team All-MAAC:   

  • Rakim Sanders, Fairfield, Forward
  • Mike Glover, Iona, Forward
  • Erik Etherly, Loyola, Forward
  • George Beamon, Manhattan, Guard
  • O.D. Anosike, Siena, Forward
  • Scott Machado, Iona, Guard Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: Week 13

Posted by IRenko on February 25th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Ah, the sweet smell of February Madness in the air.  Who says we need to wait until March to start cracking open the brackets?  Six TO26 conferences kick things off in February:  the Big South (2/27), Horizon (2/28), A-Sun (2/29), Ohio Valley (2/29), Patriot (2/29), and West Coast (2/29).  And several other conferences will kick things off just as soon as the calendar turns, including the MVC in what’s sure to be another great iteration of Arch Madness. No automatic bids will be awarded until March 3 (though Harvard is in position to clinch the Ivy bid as early as March 2), but with a number of top 15 TO26 teams with at-large aspirations kicking off tournament play next week (Wichita State, Murray State, Creighton, St. Mary’s, Gonzaga, BYU), there are heavy implications for the nationwide Bubble.  Speaking of the top 15 …

Looking Forward:  What to Watch

In addition to the conference tournaments that kick off over the next week, here are a few regularly-scheduled games to keep your eye on:

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Checking In On… the MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2012

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

Reader’s Take

 

Opening Tip

  • Iona holds a slim lead and finishes the regular season at home with meetings against Fairfield and St. Peter’s. Regardless of how the top four play out, they are all very much in the hunt. Loyola’s final game at Manhattan on Sunday guarantees that a fair amount of scoreboard watching will be in vogue.

Player of the Week

  • Scott Machado, Iona, 6’1″, Sr. G – Averaged 14.5 points, 12 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3 steals for the week. The versatile  Machado had 16 points in a win at Rider, hitting all ten of his free throw attempts.

Co-Rookies of the Week

  • Chavaughn Lewis, Marist, 6’5″, Fr., G/F – A starter for three weeks now, Lewis has 14 double figure games to his credit. Against Maine, Lewis recorded career highs in points (24), rebounds (9) and assists (5).
  • Evan Hymes, Siena, 5’8″, Fr., G – Outstanding in a 21-point, 7-assist showing in the upset of Manhattan. Playing 40 minutes for the 14th time in 16 games, Hymes averaged 13.5 points per game for the week.

Standings

Team, MAAC record, overall record:

1. Iona 13-3, 22-6
2. Loyola (MD) 12-4, 20-7
3. Fairfield 12-4, 17-11
4. Manhattan 11-5, 19-10
5. Rider 8-8, 11-18
6. Niagra 7-9, 12-17
7. Siena 7-10, 12-16
8. Marist 6-11, 12-17
9. St. Peter’s 4-12, 5-23
10. Canisius 1-15, 5-22

Team Rundown

  1. Iona– Won on the road at Rider before coming home to defeat Nevada in the Bracketbusters. Sean Armand led five double figure scorers for the Gaels with 22 points against Rider. Armand was 7 of 13 from three-point range. Against Nevada, a 90-84 victory,  Lamont Jones paced Iona with 18 points. Five Gaels were in double figures and Scott Machado handed out 15 assists.

    Michael Glover and Iona Are The Team To Beat In The MAAC Tourney (AP)

  2. Loyola – Lost at Marist before defeating Boston University in the Bracketbuster. Shane Walker had a 16-point, 12-rebound night in the losing effort at Marist. A team with a defensive efficiency of 96 during the MAAC season, Loyola allowed Marist a huge 114 rating in their 72-54 loss. Four Greyhounds hit double figures against BU with Robert Olson’s 17 points leading the way. Olson added 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Read the rest of this entry »
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Set Your TiVo: 02.17.12 – 02.19.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 17th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

While BracketBusters is always solid, the overall slate over the next few days is full of good, but not great, games. Still, tune in to these games as conference races head down the stretch and the NCAA Tournament field begins to take shape.

#13 St. Mary’s at #24 Murray State – 6:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Since losing to Tennessee State, Murray State has rebounded with two wins over Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri State. On Saturday night the Racers will get their chance to show the nation they are for real. Playing at home in front of a juiced up crowd on national television, there is no excuse for Murray State to come out anything less than fired up. The three point line is this team’s best friend on both ends of the floor and it will be important against St. Mary’s. Murray State shoots 41% from deep (#8 nationally) and defends the arc very well. Against a St. Mary’s team that ranks a putrid #305 against the triple, that’s a huge advantage for the Racers at home. Steve Prohm should do everything in his power to ensure Isaiah Canaan (47.3%) and Donte Poole(39.3%) get quality shots from the arc against the porous Gaels’ defense. Defensively, the Racers must lock down the arc as they usually do. St. Mary’s shoots a lot of threes and while they don’t make a great percentage they do get just a shade under 30% of their total points from the arc.

    Isaiah Canaan And Company Could Have A Big Day From Behind The Arc Against St. Mary's Average 3-Point Defense (Getty)

  • St. Mary’s has lost two of its last three games after starting the season 22-2. The Gaels are still a likely NCAA Tournament team, but a win here would ensure their place in the field of 68 for sure. In order to win on the road in a tough environment against a good team, St. Mary’s must use its edge on the offensive glass, make threes and get to the foul line. With strong rebounders like Rob Jones and Brad Waldow, St. Mary’s has a clear size edge over Murray State. Only Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel see significant minutes for the Racers inside, two of only three players on the roster who are at least 6’7” tall. While the Gaels have a huge edge inside, they’re going to have to overcome Murray State’s strong perimeter defense. Matthew Dellavedova and Clint Steindl are going to have to hit threes for Randy Bennett’s team to come out on top. Thirdly, St. Mary’s should look to take advantage of a Murray State defense that ranks in the bottom half of Division I in defensive free throw rate. The Gaels get to the line fairly well and make 71.9% of their free throws. It’s so important to control tempo and keep the crowd out of the game and getting to the charity stripe while controlling the boards definitely helps in achieving that goal.
  • This should be a very close game but the edge has to go to the home team. St. Mary’s is struggling a bit right now and Murray State seems to have righted the ship since suffering its first loss. One concern for the Racers is their turnovers (14 per game). If Murray State controls the ball, plays well on the perimeter and gets to the free throw line at its usual clip, this will be the Racers’ game to lose.
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Checking In On… the MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on February 10th, 2012

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

Reader’s Take 

 

Leading Off

  • Iona avenged a tough defeat in New Rochelle by knocking off Manhattan on their home floor, 85-73. The consensus around the league is that the two teams is will meet again later on down the road. In likelihood, the pair could very well tip it off in March at Springfield with a whole lot at stake.
  • In the meantime, don’t discount Loyola, who keeps on winning and is playing some outstanding defense.

Individual Standouts

  • Player of the Week: Lamont “Momo” Jones, Iona, Jr., G  – Averaged 30.5 points and five rebounds as the Gaels swept their two conference games. Jones shot 59.5% from the field and scored a Hynes Center record 43 points against Canisius.
  • Rookie of the Week:  Chavaughn Lewis, Marist, 6’7”  Fr.  G/F – Recently inserted into the starting lineup, Lewis averaged 13 points for the two games the past week. The freshman swingman proved versatile as well by averaging 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists to compliment his scoring.

Momo Jones Had A Huge Week For Iona (Iona Athletics)

Standings

Team, MAAC record, overall record:

1. Iona 11-2, 19-5
2. Loyola (MD) 11-2, 18-5
3. Manhattan 10-4, 17-9
4. Fairfield 9-4, 14-10
5. Rider 8-6, 11-15
6. Siena 5-9, 10-14
7. Niagra 5-9, 10-16
8. Marist 4-9, 9-15
9. St. Peter’s 4-10, 5-20
10. Canisius 1-13, 4-20

 

Team Rundown

  1. Iona – Knocked off Canisius before earning a huge decision at Manhattan. Lamont Jones erupted for 43 points in the win over Canisius. Jones was 16 of 23 from the field (7 of 12 from three). Gaels enjoyed a 140 offensive efficiency rating in that contest. At Manhattan, the OE was another gaudy 123 for Iona. Four players were in double figures, led by Mike Glover’s 19 points.
  2. Loyola – Defeated Rider before winning at St. Peter’s to increase their win streak to six games. Outstanding defense has been the key during the winning streak. Rider was held to a 73 offensive efficiency. Erik Etherly scored 15 points and Shane Walker added 12 boards for Loyola. Against St. Peter’s, balance was a key as Roberton Olson led with 19 points while Etherley added 15 and Walker 14. Read the rest of this entry »
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March’s Top Cinderella Candidates

Posted by zhayes9 on January 31st, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Did you think last year’s NCAA Tournament was chaotic? That was nothing.

That’s right, the tournament that saw two out of eleven Big East teams reach the Sweet Sixteen, #10-seed Florida State face #11-seed VCU in a regional semifinal and two mid-majors provide the undercard on Final Four Saturday could pale in comparison to what we’ll witness in 2012. Never before have the perceived top teams in the nation been more flawed. Never before has the soft underbelly of every power conference been more susceptible. Never before have the upper echelon mid-major schools been as viable and competitive. It’s a distribution of wealth that would make Bernie Sanders blush.

Which Mid-Majors Have the Best Shot to Celebrate Like This?

By the time we reach New Orleans, the cream may rise to the crop. A Final Four consisting of Kentucky, Ohio State, North Carolina and Syracuse wouldn’t stun me. It’s during the first weekend where a handful of non-BCS schools could knock off inadequate power-conference at-large teams. Don’t say you weren’t prepared.

Who are the mid-majors (a designation that excludes the Atlantic 10, Conference USA or Mountain West) most likely to crash the party? Here’s a good place to start:

  1. Saint Mary’s: The Gaels performed an offensive clinic best saved for instructional videos in a difficult road environment at BYU on Saturday. After watching that display (and two prior destructions to both BYU and Gonzaga on their home floor) it comes as no surprise that St. Mary’s assists on nearly 62% of made field goals. Their offensive assault is led by face-of-the-program Matthew Dellavedova, who plays almost 92% of the teams’ minutes, ranks in the country’s top 50 in assist rate and provides another shooting threat. What gives the Gaels the sustainability to win multiple games in the Tournament is dominance inside the arc. Randy Bennett’s team shoots 55% and holds opponents to 44% despite employing just two regular rotation players taller than 6’7”.
  2. Creighton: We know all about Doug McDermott’s All-America caliber season: an unfathomable 65% from two and 50% from three to match his 23.5 points per game. Now he only needs a sexier name to reach Jimmer-like cult status. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a one-man rodeo. What’s carried the Bluejays to a 10-1 record in the Valley is a formidable supporting cast with all of the ingredients for a deep March push: an athletic big man in Greg Echenique who can hold his own against power-conference frontlines, a heady senior point guard in Antoine Young with a more than 2:1 assist to turnover ratio, stat sheet stuffer Grant Gibbs and two rangy shooters in Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: Bracketbuster Preview and Analysis

Posted by IRenko on January 31st, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. You can normally find him kicking off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

In this special mid-week edition of The Other 26, we take a look at all of the premier (read: televised) Bracketbuster matchups that were announced on Monday and offer a guide to the uninitiated on what to watch for. The annual mid-major hoops feast typically offers a host of compelling contests, and this year is no different. In roughly descending order of interest/excitement:

Main Event — St. Mary’s at Murray State (2/18, 6 PM, ESPN or ESPN2) — I was hoping we would get a double main event with St. Mary’s at Creighton and Wichita State at Murray State. Perhaps the Bracketbuster selection committee didn’t rate Wichita State that highly or was intent on giving the undefeated Racers a ranked opponent against whom they could prove their quality. So they sent top 20, 21-2 St. Mary’s to Murray, Kentucky, to set up the undisputed headliner of this year’s Bracketbuster event. Murray State will have a clear advantage from playing at home, but apart from that, this looks like a very close matchup. Offensively, both teams rely heavily on the two lines — the three-point line and the free throw line. Defensively, both teams are pretty good at not giving up many attempts from either of those lines, with the notable exception of Murray State’s tendency to foul too much. Both teams are also somewhat turnover prone, but only the Racers play the kind of defense that is likely to exploit such a weakness. Finally, the Gaels may look to get easy points off of the offensive glass, as defensive rebounding is a liability for Murray State. Which, if any, of these games within the game will determine the outcome? Only one way to find out:  tune in at 6 PM on February 18.

Can St. Mary's End Murray State's Undefeated Season?

Battle of the Supporting Casts — Long Beach State at Creighton (2/18, 10 PM, ESPN2) — Most eyeballs will be trained to watch Casper Ware and Doug McDermott, two of mid-major hoops’ most recognizable players. But I hope that fans will also tune in to get a glimpse of the extent to which these conference-leading teams depends on their supporting casts. LBSU has three other players who average in double figures — Larry Anderson (who also stuffs the stat sheet with 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, while shooting 44% from three-point range), T.J. Robinson (who adds 10.2 rebounds a game), and James Ennis. Creighton, meanwhile, has discovered that they can be just as potent, maybe even moreso, when McDermott scores less than 20 a game. Antoine Young’s dribble penetration, Greg Echinique’s inside banging, and the marksmanship of Grant Gibbs and Jahenns Manigat make the Bluejays a much more multi-dimensional team than they’re often portrayed to be. It’s worth noting, too, that each of these teams will be trying to bolster their at-large bona fides in the event that they don’t win their conference tournaments — an especially distinct possibility for Creighton, who will have to get through three games in the always tough MVC to cinch an auto bid.

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