NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.23.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 23rd, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

  • Kansas star forward Thomas Robinson’s personal tragedies have been well-documented. The junior, who just turned 21 last week, is the key player for the Jayhawks as they look to move into the Elite Eight.
  • Kansas senior guard Tyshawn Taylor has faced a lot of adversity in basketball and in life. The guard from New Jersey has developed into a leader for Bill Self’s squad and he will look to lead the Jayhawks into an Elite Eight on Friday night.
  • Going into this season, there were many differing opinions regarding NC State forward CJ Leslie. Leslie has developed into a key player and a team leader for the overachieving Wolfpack that have already pulled two upsets in the NCAA Tournament.
  • When NC State athletic director Kay Yow named Mark Gottfried head coach last April, many people were surprised by the decision. As it turns out, Yow had the right idea, as Gottfried has led the Wolfpack through some hard times this season and into the Sweet Sixteen.
  • North Carolina star forward Harrison Barnes has a history as a saxophone player. Putting the music aside, the Tar Heels’ leading scorer is a key component to the team moving on in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Ohio head coach John Groce has seen his name tied to the openings at Nebraska and Illinois, but the Bobcats’ head coach will not say if he has any interest until his team’s run in the NCAA Tournament has concluded.

West Region

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Rushed Reaction: #7 Florida 68, #3 Marquette 58

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Florida Out-Toughed Marquette. Except for a few moments where Marquette brought its patented Buzz Williams hustle and toughness to the fore, the ‘soft’ Gators mostly out-toughed the Golden Eagles on this night. They beat them on the boards by one, blocked six more shots, and didn’t back down at all when MU got in their face. We’ve been critical of Billy Donovan’s teams (other than the “oh-fours”) in the past because of too much perimeter play and a lack of fortitude, but this bunch never wavered when facing a team that makes its living of off that stuff.
  2. Marquette’s Stars Never Seemed Comfortable. It’s hard for us to give too much credit to Florida’s defense, but something was definitely bothering both Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom tonight. The two players combined for a 10-30 shooting night, and without their offensive capabilities, Marquette was never going to seriously threaten the Gators. Perhaps worse than that, though, with the two stars struggling, the rest of the starting lineup didn’t do much better. Jamil Wilson, Vander Blue, and Junior Cadougan went for 11 total points on 4-20 shots themselves. Ugh.
  3. Gators’ Lack of Size Hasn’t Hurt Them Yet. This wasn’t the matchup where the Gators’ lack of talented size caught up with them, but you have to figure that it will eventually. Sometimes with the right matchups, though, a team can get on a roll, and that’s exactly what the Gators have done. Billy Donovan talked about how the team didn’t appear to play very well down the stretch of the regular season, but he attributed much of that to the level of competitions they were playing in those games. We’re not sure what that says about this year’s NCAA Tournament field (at least the Gators’ path to the Elite Eight), but with how well Louisville is playing, they’ll have to earn it on Saturday afternoon.

Star of the Game. Bradley Beal, Florida. Beal looked like the future lottery pick that he will be tonight, as he carried the Gators through some key stretches with his drives to the goal and timely three-point shooting. He ended up with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and only missed two field goal attempts on the night. Superb outing for the freshman.

Quotable. “Beal is their swing vote… because he’s so multi-talented.” Marquette head coach Buzz Williams, on the Florida guard’s play tonight.

What’s Next? Florida will advance to play the surging #4 Louisville Cardinals with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Billy Donovan, with two national championships and three trips to the Final Four on his resume, will play his mentor, Rick Pitino, with a single national title and five trips on his resume. Wow.

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SEC NCAA Tournament Primer: West Region

Posted by EMoyer on March 22nd, 2012

On Thursday night, Florida will play in its seventh Sweet Sixteen, facing Marquette . Here we preview the game between the Gators and Golden Eagles as well as the possibilities for the Gators in the Elite Eight. The West and the East are the two regions to feature four prior champions.

SEC NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinal Capsule

WEST Region 

  • #7 Florida: Championship Appearances: 15; Record 31-12; Best Finish: Champion – 2006, 2007; How Qualified: At-Large, SEC; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, Elite Eight
  • #3 Marquette: Championship Appearances: 30; Record 38-30; Best Finish: Champion – 1977; How Qualified: At-Large, Big East; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, Sweet Sixteen
  • #1 Michigan State: Championship Appearances: 26; Record 54-24; Best Finish: Champion  – 1979, 2000; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Big Ten; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, Second Round
  • #4 Louisville: Championship Appearances: 38; Record 62-39; Best Finish: Champion – 1980, 1986; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Big East; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, Second Round
All-Time Meetings
  • Florida vs Marquette: Marquette leads 2-0; Last Meeting: Dec. 10, 1977 (Marquette 81, Florida 67)
  • Florida vs Michigan State: Tied 3-3; Last Meeting: Nov. 27, 2009 (Florida 68, Michigan State 52)
  • Florida vs Louisville: Louisville leads 7-1; Last Meeting: Dec. 11, 2004 (Louisville 74, Florida 70)

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SEC Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by EMoyer on March 21st, 2012

  1. On Tuesday night, the name of Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin emerged as a candidate for the vacant Illinois job. From Gail Fischer on “On the surface, Martin seems like an intriguing candidate. He’s from East St. Louis, Illinois, where he won two IHSA state championships and played at Purdue under Gene Keady and alongside Matt Painter where they made it to the Elite Eight in 1995. He knows the Big Ten well. Imagine Martin battling Painter year in and year out.  Illinois/Purdue would be a nice little rivalry. Martin’s entire coaching staff at Tennessee is from Illinois.”
  2. Mississippi State had made contact with Murray State head coach Steve Prohm about its head coaching vacancy. The Racers’ Athletic Director Allen Ward voiced concerns over some of the tactics used by Bulldog brass. “A search firm, on behalf of Mississippi State, reached out to Prohm last week to gauge his interest in the Mississippi State job — while the Racers were still in the middle of their season. Ward says no one from Mississippi State has contacted him for permission to speak with Prohm, although that is just a professional courtesy rather than a mandate considering Prohm still has three years left on his contract. ‘I think there’s a right way to do things,’ Ward said Tuesday. ‘Considering we were still playing — it is what it is.'”
  3. One of South Carolina’s top head coaching targets, Gregg Marshall of Wichita State, said through sources that he had yet to hear from the Gamecocks. Other candidates have emerged including Kansas State’s Frank Martin and Harvard’s Tommy Amaker. On the Martin front, he “has been confirmed as a candidate with “heavy” interest in USC,” according to a source close to the situation. Regarding Amaker, “the possibility of Amaker returning to the South was substantiated by college basketball expert Seth Davis, who tweeted: ‘I’m hearing that South Carolina has potential interest in hiring Harvard coach Tommy Amaker to fill its coaching vacancy’.”
  4. Kentucky head coach John Calipari said he’s not planning on using revenge as motivation when the Wildcats face Indiana. “I don’t ever teach anger, because the physiology of that is really close to fear,” he said. “So if you try to make your team angry, and things don’t go right, it turns to fear within their bodies. So I don’t do it. That was like a season ago. Literally four months (ago). That’s so long ago, I had to watch the tape again to remember anything.”
  5. As Florida prepares for Marquette, the Golden Eagles’ star Jae Crowder complimented the Gator offense, but pointed out where his team might find success. “They are a great offensive team,” Crowder said of Florida. “They lack a few things defensively. Of course, they bring great pressure in the frontcourt and try to get you rattled a little bit. I think if we handle that, we’ll get a lot of things we want offensively.”
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Big East Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 21st, 2012

  1. The good news for Georgetown was with their NCAA Tournament second round victory over Belmont the Hoyas snapped a two-year NCAA one-and-done streak.  The bad news?  A third round loss to #11 seed North Carolina State meant another early tournament upset exit at the hands of a double-digit seed.  Of course this type of thing falls right into the wheelhouse of doomsday embracing fans and nay saying media but, as this Bleacher Report piece by Bryan Toporek aptly points out, to call for John Thompson III’s head at this point would not only be premature, it would be foolish.  Thompson has led the Hoyas to six twenty win seasons in the last seven, including a Final Four appearance in 2007.  He has consistently brought in high level recruits and players that fit his system well and is one of three finalists for Nerlens Noel, the nation’s best high school senior and a potential game changer.  Lastly, even if one could put the previous points aside and still want Thompson III to go, who do you replace him with?  The grass is not always greener on the other side.
  2. This just in.  College kids party. That is why it comes as no surprise to find out that six Marquette players, who are not of drinking age, received citations for being in a nightclub back on January 29. The players: Todd Mayo, Vander Blue, Jamail Jones, Juan Anderson, Derrick Wilson, and Jake Thomas were not believed to be drinking.  Head coach Buzz Williams acknowledged the issue was dealt with later the same day as January 29 was a Sunday.  Reading between the lines it sounds like Williams handled it the old fashioned way with some good old intense physical fitness early on a Sunday morning.  It is not known if the February partial game suspensions of Mayo, Blue as well as Junior Cadugan and Darius Johnson-Odon during Marquette’s February 24 game at West Virginia were related to the nightclub incident. This is also not expected to impact any of the players’ status for the Golden Eagles sweet sixteen contest against Florida on Thursday.
  3. The University of Rhode Island has hired a young upstart coach in Danny Hurley away from Wagner to be its head coach and revive a struggling program that has not been heard from nationally for awhile.  College basketball fans in southern New England only have to look back a year, and a short distance up route 95 north, to when Providence hired Ed Cooley with the same goals in mind. Providence and Rhode Island have a great and long standing interstate rivalry, so it is likely that the comparisons between Hurley and Cooley will be fodder for discussion in the Ocean State for some time to come as their journeys are now aligned. Further, as this article by Kevin Farrahar of outlines, Friar fans should be happy about Hurley’s hire because it gives more cachet to the rivalry, especially if both coaches have overall success, and is good for the suffering state of college basketball in Rhode Island on the whole.  Further buzz will be created by the news that Danny’s brother Bobby, the former Duke star, apparently will join him in Kingston as an assistant rather than moving into the head role at Wagner as had been rumored.
  4. Marquette received a verbal commitment from a hometown star yesterday as Milwaukee’s Dominican High School point guard Duane Wilson, a member of the class of 2013, pledged for the Golden Eagles.  Wilson is ranked 128th nationally by and an grade of 92 (out of 100).  “The main reason that made me go to Marquette was coach Buzz Williams,” Wilson told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “That was my first scholarship offer and they stayed on me. I just really liked his attitude. He gets the best out of his players all the time and they just play hard.”  The highly recruited Wilson chose Williams and Marquette over the likes of Missouri and Memphis among others.
  5. The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) announced its All-America teams yesterday and the Big East checked in with three honorees spanning the second and third teams.  West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones (19.9 PPG, 10.9 RPG) and Syracuse senior forward Kris Joseph (13.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG) were named to the NABC’s second team. Marquette senior forward Jae Crowder (17.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG), who edged out Jones for Big East Player of the Year honors, received third team All-America honors.  The first team consisted of: Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Thomas Robinson (Kansas), and Jared Sullinger (Ohio State).
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NCAA Regional Reset: West Region

Posted by AMurawa on March 20th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent.

The West Regional begins Thursday night in Phoenix with Michigan State vs. Louisville followed by Marquette vs. Florida. Our East Regional Reset published earlier today, while our South and Midwest Regional Resets will publish Wednesday. Make sure to follow RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Phoenix throughout the weekend.

New Favorite:  Michigan State, #1, 28-7. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Nothing has changed in the past week that would make the Spartans any less the favorite in the West, and in fact, the upset of Missouri in the round of 64 only further strengthens Tom Izzo’s odds of making it four-for-four in Final Four trips as a #1 seed. While Draymond Green has been excellent all year, if anything he has stepped his game up even more in the first two rounds of the tournament, and point guard Keith Appling has shown a toughness and an ability to make plays when they’re needed. The Spartans still have a very tough slate ahead of them, but of the teams remaining here, they are the slight favorite to advance to New Orleans.

Downtown Phoenix Hosts This Year's West Regional

Horse of Darkness:  Florida, #7, 24-10. They’re the lowest remaining seed in this region, and they haven’t really beaten anybody of great importance in their first two games, but they’ve beaten those teams with conviction. Their wins over Virginia and Norfolk State have come by an average of 30 points. And while all of their players deserve credit, freshman guard Bradley Beal may be the hottest of them all, not only scoring 14 in each of his games (with three threes mixed in there), but helping out the front line by averaging 10 boards. The Gators are still the underdogs in this region, but they match up well with a Marquette team that doesn’t do a great job of defending the three-point line, and, of course, Billy Donovan has a little bit of experience this deep in the tourney.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend):  Norfolk State 86, Missouri 84. This was really the only upset of even major proportions in the first weekend, and boy, was it a doozy. While the Lehigh upset of Duke may have earned more press among casual basketball fans just because of the Blue Devils’ reputation, the Spartan victory over Missouri was even more stunning. Not only was Mizzou a strong two-seed with an argument for a one-seed, Duke was generally considered a pretty weak two-seed. And Lehigh had a strong argument that they deserved a higher seed, while Norfolk State was plenty happy to avoid a 16-seed. In short, not only is the Kyle O’Quinn-led upset of the Tigers the most surprising result in the first weekend of the West region, it is one of the more surprising results in the history of the NCAAA Tournament.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 20th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

South Region

Midwest Region

  • Fans and media aren’t the only ones caught up in great performances by major talent among the mid-major ranks. It was recently revealed that in 2010, Baylor coach Scott Drew and then-Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl allegedly contacted Ohio‘s D.J. Cooper about transferring, which would constitute NCAA violations if the allegations are true. It will be interesting to see whether the subject is raised during Baylor’s media session this week.
  • Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde opines that even if North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall returns to the fold for a potential regional final, the odds are stacked heavily against the Heels.
  • The Tar Heels’ aren’t the only team from the state recovering from some health concerns. N.C. State will face Kansas Friday, and C.J. Williams and C.J. Leslie are recovering from fatigue. The severity isn’t even comparable to North Carolina’s situation, but a few days of rest will be especially helpful to the Wolfpack.
  • Basketball Prospectus’ C.J. Moore breaks down how Kansas topped Purdue on Sunday, from Elijah Johnson‘s fortitude to Bill Self‘s halftime adjustments.
  • There are already two coaching vacancies in the Big Ten, and Ohio coach John Groce could fit the bill at either Nebraska or Illinois after the season. Groce’s Big Ten connections, when combined with his team’s head-turning performance this postseason, make him appealing to the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is a tough job, but with a heavy commitment to hoops, Athletic Director Tom Osborne could find a catch.
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ATB: Sweet Sixteen Set – #1 Seeds Roll, Cinderellas Emerge, and It’s Good to be From Ohio

Posted by EJacoby on March 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. After one of the craziest nights in recent Big Dance history on Friday, perhaps we all needed a bit of a break from the chaos this weekend. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen. Most of the higher seeds advanced in the round of 32, but the Midwest Region led the way with some crazy results. Almost every season, we see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet Sixteen; this year, we have three, and it easily could have been five. Of the 16 teams remaining, four come from the Big East, four are of the Big Ten, and four represent the state of Ohio, including both of the guilty parties from the Crosstown Shootout Brawl back in December. It’s the first time ever that one single state sends four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s go over the great moments from the weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. #13 Ohio University is This Year’s Cinderella Story

D.J. Cooper Hasn't Allowed #13 Ohio to Lose (AP Photo/B. Rucker)

What would the NCAA Tournament be without a mid-major, double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen? This year it’s Ohio, the #13 seed of the Midwest Region that had a fairly favorable draw in terms of matchups but still had to defeat two power conference teams on the way. A victory over #12 seed South Florida on Sunday sent the Bobcats to the second weekend of the Big Dance, pretty amazing considering they finished third in the MAC conference this season. But Ohio is no joke, as D.J. Cooper continues to prove himself as one of the best lead guards in the entire tourney. Cooper outplayed USF’s Anthony Collins in the round of 32 and tallied 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists with several big shots late in the game to help his team advance. The other recognizable name from this squad is Nick Kellogg, the sophomore guard who is the son of CBS analyst and former collegiate star Clark Kellogg. Clark’s son is a terrific shooter at 41.8% from three and 89.2% from the foul line, giving the Bobcats a nice one-two punch from the perimeter. Interestingly enough, Ohio now draws #1 North Carolina in the Regional Semifinal in what most would expect to be a blowout, but the Tar Heels just lost their indispensible point guard to a wrist injury, which will make things interesting next weekend. Could Ohio’s perimeter attack lead to a truly incredible Cinderella story with a win over UNC? Stay tuned.

Also Worth Chatting About. Kendall Marshall Suffers Broken Wrist for #1 Seed North Carolina

The single biggest storyline from the past weekend was not anything that happened in the box score or even in between the lines on the court. But when North Carolina’s star point guard and the nation’s leader in assists, Kendall Marshall, got fouled and pushed on a layup and landed on his right wrist in the out-of-bounds baseline, the entire dynamic of this NCAA Tournament changed. Marshall suffered a fractured wrist on this play with 10:55 remaining in the second half of Carolina’s game against #8 seed Creighton. Marshall continued to play in this game for a few minutes and wasn’t immediately in so much pain that he had to leave. It’s also an injury to his non-shooting hand, so it could have been worse. In addition, the sophomore is set for surgery on Monday which will leave him in a position to play shortly thereafter if he is able to tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, it’s a huge long shot to think that Marshall will be back and effective going forward. The injury he suffered usually requires three-plus weeks of a cast and rest, and even bracing the hand and tolerating pain to play will make for a huge liability on the floor. Already a weak defender, Marshall would be even less effective on that end and he would surely be forced to his right hand on offense by opposing teams. There’s just as strong of a chance that he’d be a detriment to UNC by being on the court than he would be a benefit, depending on the true impact of the injury. As things stand, Carolina needs to start preparing for a Championship run without its point guard, leaving that position to be filled by either unused backup Stilman White (4.2 minutes per game) or by a player like P.J. Hairston or Harrison Barnes in some sort of point-forward role. One of the most irreplaceable players in the country, Marshall’s injury leaves a giant question mark surrounding the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

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Rushed Reaction: #3 Marquette 62, #6 Murray State 53

Posted by jstevrtc on March 17th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Catch your breath. We haven’t seen any tempo stats on this game yet, but who needs ’em? This game was played at a Formula One pace despite not producing much in the way of scoring, but what fun it was. Mid-major local club with a packed partisan arena (even bigger than its home gym) going against a Big East trendy pick — and deservedly so — of a team that also boasts their conference MVP? Excellent storyline for an Elite Eight game, let alone a Round-0f-32 affair. Players sacraficing their bodies at every opportunity. Great passing. Superb hustle. Quicksilver pace. A pleasure to attend.
  2. Marquette slammed the door, hard. Murray State led by four in the middle of the second half when Buzz Williams stacked one of his time-outs with a media break. It’s obvious the salient message during those talks was to step up the defense. From that point, Marquette went into (to borrow from Wedding Crashers) crisis-lockdown-mode, especially on Isaiah Canaan. They didn’t give him room to get his long-range jumper off, and every foray into the lane was challenged by at least one Marquette defender, often more.
  3. Crowder impresses again. The senior stepped up with 17/13 in an arena whose crowd was as biased against him and his team as much as any arena probably has been this year, and most of those points and boards required every single muscle in his powerful frame. This game had speed, but it was also incredibly physical. In the end, Crowder and his teammates seemed more conditioned for such an affair.

Star of the Game. Crowder, as noted, was tremendous, completely and further legitimizing the “MVP!” chant that broke out from the Marquette section late in the going. But let’s also give some props to Murray State’s Ed Daniel, who averaged 5.3 rebounds a game this year…and pulled down 14 tonight in an absolute battlefield. He’s a junior. Bet he wins the OVC rebounding crown next year with this kind of effort on a consistent basis.

Sights & Sounds. This is why Buzz Williams should be particularly proud of his boys. The sights and sounds were dominated by Kentucky fans rooting for the in-state school against the big-conference squad. To win, and specifically to maintain mental stability in this environment, might be normal for a Big East team on the road, but was pretty much a true road game in the NCAA Tournament, not a Monday night Big East game.

What’s Next? Marquette awaits the winner of Florida (who won’t mind even more pace, and shoot threes a little better — sometimes — than Murray State) versus the non-Lehigh darlings of the tournament, Norfolk State.

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Rushed Reaction: #3 Marquette 88, #14 BYU 68

Posted by jstevrtc on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Not Just the Big Three For Marquette. In the first half, BYU had nobody who could contain Davante Gardner. The Marquette big fella scooped in 12 first-half points that all came from either attempts within five feet or free throws. We mention him specifically (he finished with 15/6) because his first-half performance was indicative of Marquette’s wise and efficient shot-selection on the day. Jae Crowder (10-20) was phenomenal, posting a 25 point/16 rebound performance enhanced further by the fact that he led his team with six offensive rebounds and pilfered five steals. Darius Johnson-Odom was his usual imposing self, as well (20/5), but Buzz Williams will laud his team’s effort from top to bottom; the Warriors had four players in double-figures (Todd Mayo added 10/6) and had six players pull down at least five rebounds.
  2. Hump Day. As in, the 10-point one BYU just couldn’t get over. BYU improved their shot selection in the second half and, for the most part, played much better defense than they did in the first. Seemed like every time they’d string a few nice possessions together, Marquette would drill an open three. This happened on four different occasions when the Cougars were able to cut the lead to ten.
  3. Your Turn, Kevin. No disrespect to WVU’s Kevin Jones, but Jae Crowder showed why he’s the Big East player of the year. The 6’6” senior was everywhere, playing the one, two, three, or four at any given time, talking like mad on defense, and being the leader they expect (and need) him to be.

Star of the Game. Crowder, without question. BYU was led by Brandon Davies (19/12), but he left a lot of points at the free throw line (5-11). Crowder was the best player on the floor right from the tipoff.

Sights & Sounds. What in the world was going on with the slippage? For years we’ve been talking about players slipping on the floor decals of tournament sponsors, but this wasn’t decal-related. Four stoppages of play to wipe the floor, multiple players slipping, sliding, falling…did they sneak a hockey rink under the Yum! Center floor while nobody was looking?

Marquette Fans Appreciate a Balanced Effort From Their Warriors

What’s Next?  Marquette gets Murray State on Saturday. Marquette showed that it’s going to be a tough out in this tournament. They shot well (30-66, 45.5%), hit from range (9-20 from three, 45%), and absolutely owned the boards against the Cougars (48-32). Of the two winners today, Marquette would our choice to move on based on their opening performances.

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