Set Your DVR: Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on November 23rd, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The Battle 4 Atlantis and the NIT Tip-Off continue over the weekend with some very interesting match-ups. So grab some Thanksgiving left overs and settle in for some good hoops.

#5 Michigan vs. Kansas State (PNIT Finals) – 4:30 PM EST, Friday on ESPN (****)

The Wolverines are going to need better three-point shooting from Tim Hardaway Jr. against Kansas State. (Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com)

  • Both Michigan and Kansas State. are coming off tough semifinal wins in the NIT Tip-Off. Michigan was able to pull out a victory with strong second-half defense in the 1-3-1 zone and great defensive rebounding. While the Wolverines are not going to win many games going 3-17 from three-point land, it is encouraging to see them win with their defense, particularly because Kansas State brings a strong defense into any game. The Wildcats are only allowing teams to shoot 27.4% from downtown and are creating turnovers on 28% of opponents possessions. K-State also had eight players go double-figure minutes against Delaware while the Wolverines only had six players go into double-figure minutes against Pitt. The Wolverines could get tired in the second half due to K-State’s physical play if they do not get more minutes from the bench. KSU is going to have to improve its shooting significantly if they want to walk away with a big win. They’ve shot 41.5% eFG against Delaware and 44.8% eFG through five games this season. The Wildcats need to shoot over 50% eFG to have a chance at winning this one.

#23 Cincinnati vs. Iowa State (LV Invitational) – 6:30 PM EST, Friday on CBS College Sports (***)

  • While Cincinnati and Iowa State have two common opponents already, Campbell and North Carolina A&T, its tough to glean any significant information from the games because both were blowouts. The Bearcats come into the game with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 88.4, which is good for 11th in the nation. They are cleaning up on the defensive boards and shutting down two-point shooting. ISU is ranked 16th in the country in two-point shooting, hitting 56.9% of their shots inside the arc thus far. Keep a close eye on who wins the battle in the paint, as it should determine the winner of this one.

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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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Big Ten Team Previews: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by jnowak on November 6th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Wisconsin Badgers.

Where We Left Off: We last saw the Badgers finish off what seemed like just another typical season — steady as she goes. They started the season ranked in most polls around No. 15 in the country and stayed there for most of last year, climbing into the Top 10 at one point. They won a game in the Big Ten Tournament before losing to eventual champion Michigan State and won two more in the NCAA Tournament before dropping a one-point heartbreaker to Syracuse in the third round. Finishing fourth in the conference felt just about right for a Badgers squad that weathered some early-season struggles from All-American guard Jordan Taylor to end the year with a good showing in a tough conference.

With Mike Bruesewitz out for at least a month, the Badgers will have some holes to fill in the early going. (Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire)

Positives: Even with the losses of two upperclassmen (Mike Bruesewitz – albeit temporary — and Josh Gasser, but we’ll get to that in a moment), this may be the most experienced team in the Big Ten. It will be anchored by senior center/forward Jared Berggren, and he’ll get a hand from senior Ryan Evans and junior Zach Bohannan (who transferred from Air Force) and Ben Brust. Experience comes into play most on the defensive end, and defense is arguably the important aspect of the game in the Big Ten (the Badgers led the conference in scoring defense last year). Also, the more time familiar with Bo Ryan‘s system, the more easily these guys can jump right in and hope to contend in a rough-and-tumble conference this year. And with the help of the upperclassmen, freshman point guard George Marshall should have plenty of assistance in the important area of floor leadership.

Negatives: Right now, Wisconsin is more of a “have-not” than a “have.” They’ll be without the senior forward Bruesewitz, who suffered a freak leg injury in practice in early October, until sometime around the Creighton game on November 23 (which means he’ll miss the Florida game on November 14). Then, when junior guard Gasser tore his ACL in practice later last month, that took away a second certain starter for the Badgers who were already going to be fighting to be in the top tier of a loaded conference. The pair of Bruesewitz and Gasser have combined to start 115 games for the Badgers. Those are two talented, veteran players the Badgers will be hard-pressed to replace, at least in the early going.

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Big Ten M5: 10.10.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 10th, 2012

  1. Do Wisconsin fans even care about preseason rankings? Does it even matter if the Badgers get any hype before tip-off? Bo Ryan’s squads are perennially left out of key lists in the preseason and none of the Badgers are listed in the top 100 players in college hoops per CBSSports.com. A handful of players are on the list from the following Big Ten teams – Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois, Penn State and Minnesota – but none from Wisconsin. The omission is not necessarily outrageous because there is no particular standout on this year’s squad. Jordan Taylor was an All-American last season but Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren will be the veterans on this team. Evans averaged 11 PPG last season and Berggren scored about 10.5 PPG. Both of their statistics will go up with an increased role in the offense and one of them ought to be a top 15 player in the conference by the end of the season. Freshman phenom Sam Dekker may just steal the whole show by February if he can pick up Bo Ryan’s swing offense quickly.
  2. Michigan State’s Branden Dawson seems to be recovering well ahead of schedule according to the medical staff in East Lansing. Dawson’s knee brace will be coming off soon and should see an increased role during practice. Dawson tore his ACL towards the end of last season and could not help Tom Izzo during the postseason. But his recovery indicates that he should be in fairly good shape by early next year. Izzo doesn’t expect Dawson to contribute heavily on the offensive end but will need his defensive intensity during the conference season. Dawson averaged 8.4 PPG but also pulled down 4.5 RPG and defended the best wing of the opposing teams. Returning junior Keith Appling will be expected to carry the offensive load for the Spartans and his 11.4 PPG from last season should increase with the departure of Draymond Green.
  3. Speaking of defensive stoppers, the Hoosiers will heavily bank on Victor Oladipo to assume that role as they begin the season with high expectations. Alex Bozich breaks down Oladipo’s game on Inside The Hall and stresses his significance on the preseason #1 team.  Oladipo can pick his fair share of points on the offensive end as he averaged 10.3 PPG last season but he possesses the athleticism to guard the best player on the opposing teams. Even though the time at the point guard position will be split by Jordan Hulls and Yogi Ferrell, expect Oladipo to put pressure on other Big Ten guards such as Ohio State’s Aaron Craft or Michigan State’s Keith Appling. Tom Crean’s team is loaded with talent and the secret sauce to winning the championship will be to convince each of the players to assume their specific role and embrace it. If Oladipo can take a step back on the offensive end and channel his energy towards locking down the best guards, the Hoosiers might just finish the season as the top ranked team in the country.
  4. Another key player who needs to understand his role on a preseason top 10 team is Michigan’s Tim Hardaway, Jr. UMHoops asked a group of Michigan writers about what to expect from the junior wing this season. Several writers pointed towards his 28% shooting from beyond the arc has a weakness. Hardaway can’t afford to be in a shooting slump and continue to take shots because there will be other teammates who can pick up the slack on any given night. The addition of freshman Glenn Robinson III will increase the depth of John Beilein’s team, so Hardaway should just let the game come to him rather force bad shots. He also needs to step up on the defensive end because the Big Ten features very good offensive guards such as Keith Appling and Christian Watford. Last season, senior guards Zach Novak and Stu Douglass would pick up the defensive duties but Hardaway will need to fill those shoes if Michigan hopes to make a serious run at the Final Four.
  5. Illinois head coach John Groce will make his debut in the Big Ten in less than a month. IlliniHQ writes that most of the fan base so far has been very impressed with Groce on the recruiting front. Groce has been active on the recruiting trail by receiving commitments from top 60 players such as Kendrick Nunn. He also understands that recruiting in the Chicago Public League will establish relationships and improve the communication about future recruits as he settles down in Champaign. Groce also recruited another guard for the 2013 class from the Simeon academy – Jaylon Tate. He understands the need for a true point guard on next year’s squad because current sophomore Tracy Abrams will need a backup. Even though Abrams only averaged 4.3 PPG last season, he will see an increased role in Groce’s guard oriented offense this year. Illini fans eagerly await to evaluate Groce’s coaching abilities because he has shown them enough about this zeal on the recruiting front. Expect a high tempo, guard oriented offense that will consistently push the ball up the floor.
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Pac-12′s Five Most Important Non-Conference Games

Posted by KDanna on October 10th, 2012

The best thing about October isn’t watching football or the MLB playoffs; no, it’s all about analyzing college basketball non-conference schedules. Where are the potential RPI boosts? Trap games? Guarantee ones? So many possibilities for those ’12 or ’13 tilts!

But way out west, promise has quickly turned into embarrassment in November and December for the Pac-12 in recent years. Last season, the Pac went 9-38 against teams that finished the regular season in the RPI Top-100 and 3-28 against those finishing 50th or above, according to realtimerpi.com. Numbers like those are why Washington didn’t get an at-large bid even as the conference’s regular-season champion. So, it goes without saying that the first two months of the season are HUGE for a conference like the Pac-12 to regain respect around the college basketball world. With that in mind, we’re ready to begin circling some dates to keep an eye on in the conference calendar. Here are my choices for the five most important non-conference games for the Pac in 2012-13, in order of appearance:

Maui Invitational

USC Will Represent The Pac-12 At The Maui Invitational This Year (Alex Prosperi, EA Sports Maui Invitational)

1. USC vs. Illinois (November 19) - Talk about the ultimate RPI-boost game. Illinois is the Trojans’ first-round opponent of the Maui Invitational, which means a certain D-II team will be lurking in the consolation bracket. If the Trojans beat the Illini, they get to play Texas, another high-quality RPI opponent. If the Trojans lose… that’s right, Chaminade is up next (assuming Texas doesn’t Oklahoma 2010-11 it). In case you were wondering, the Silverswords are not a high-quality RPI opponent. Neither the Trojans nor the Illini are coming off storybook seasons (USC went 1-17 in an extremely down Pac-12, while Illinois absolutely imploded, finishing the season 2-12 after a 15-3 start), but a little early-season karma can do a body of work good. And, we’ll get a chance to see just how much difference USC’s new faces (like Ari Stewart, J.T. Terrell and Eric Wise) and newly healthy returnees (with senior point guard Jio Fontan exhibit A) can make.

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Big Ten Summer Check In: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on July 17th, 2012

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan clearly does not care about preseason rankings. The regular season rankings don’t seem to bother him much either. Seemingly every year, his program is said to be having a tough time to keep up with the rest of the Big Ten because of departing players or numerous other reasons. But the Badgers recharge, they understand their talent, they play good defense, and they play within a system. Wisconsin fans have gotten used to this trend for years and it has resulted in consistent success in Madison. Michigan State and Ohio State can boast about their Final Four appearances, but Wisconsin’s consistency is its hallmark trait that has resulted in Big Ten championships and its own share of postseason success.

Bo Ryan will reload once again to remain competitive in the Big Ten.

Evaluating Last Year: The Badgers had their shot against top seeded Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen when the ball was in Jordan Taylor’s hands, their best player and most experienced veteran. Wisconsin fans couldn’t have asked for more than a shot to win that would have resulted in their second Elite Eight appearance in seven years. Ryan’s crew played their hearts out, as they challenged the 2-3 zone and hit 52% (14-27) from beyond the arc before falling short in a nail-biter. The chaotic last possession should not be used to judge their regular season by any means because the Badgers finished fourth in the B1G with a 12-6 record, just one game behind the co-champions. That level of performance along with another Sweet Sixteen appearance should definitely be considered a success for a team that could not find a consistent second scoring option after Jordan Taylor last year. Junior wing Ryan Evans averaged 11 points per game but couldn’t consistently deliver during the clutch when opposing teams double-teamed Taylor. Despite those limited scoring options, Wisconsin’s 2011-12 campaign was definitely a success.

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Weekend Wrap: Buckeyes to the Final Four; Spartans, Hoosiers, Badgers Fall

Posted by jnowak on March 25th, 2012

Four teams enter, one team leaves. The Big Ten had four representatives advance to the second weekend of NCAA Tournament play, but just Ohio State — considered by many to be the toast of the league for much of the season before Michigan State emerged as Big Ten Tournament champions and the conference’s lone #1 seed — will be suiting up in New Orleans next weekend. Here are a few thoughts from the weekend’s action:

Ohio State's Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Deshaun Thomas celebrate their team's win against Syracuse on Saturday. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

  • Tom Izzo was right — The esteemed Michigan State coach, who knows a thing or two about getting through March, has recognized all along that this is not his most talented team but it had as much capability as any other because of its intangible qualities. Because of this, Izzo has also said all along that the group’s margin for error was smaller than maybe ever before. That came to fruition against a red-hot Louisville group on Thursday, as the Spartans turned in one of the worst offensive performances of the tournament. The Cardinals never allowed the Spartans to get into a rhythm and it led to an early exit. If it’s any consolation, Michigan State has been eliminated by a Final Four team in six of the last eight seasons.
  • Does Ohio State have what it takes? — The Buckeyes are Bourbon Street-bound, but can they win two more games? They wouldn’t have to play the top team in the tournament (Kentucky) presumably until the national title game, and have shown that they can keep finding ways to win. They did it without Jared Sullinger for most of the first half Saturday, and William Buford and Deshaun Thomas were both pretty quiet. If everything clicks for this group, they can certainly hang with anybody.
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Rushed Reaction: #1 Syracuse 64, #4 Wisconsin 63

Posted by nvr1983 on March 22nd, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Syracuse weathers the storm. People have said a lot of things about this Syracuse program over the past five months, but they are definitely resilient. From the Bernie Fine scandal to the Fab Melo suspension (both of them), the Orange have persevered and now find themselves on the verge of taking Jim Boeheim to just his fourth Final Four in his storied career. Tonight the Orange were able to fend off some ridiculously hot shooting from the Badgers who went 14-27 from the 3-point range including six straight three-pointers in less than four minutes midway through the second half. The Orange managed to withstand the barrage and are on the verge of heading to New Orleans.
  2. Berggren in foul trouble. When someone looks at the box score from this game in the future they will probably barely notice Jared Berggren‘s 3 fouls, but those who watched the game will know that the second foul he picked up with 12:03 left in the first half had a huge impact in the game. Berggren had just scored 10 straight Wisconsin points in 3:17 stretch that turned a 7-5 Syracuse lead into a 15-9 Wisconsin lead. From that point forward, Berggren did not play a single second in the first half. The Orange then went on a 24-8 run to give themselves a 10-point lead before a late four-point spurt by the Badgers cut the halftime deficit to six.
  3. Contrasting styles made for a great game. Early in the game nearly every media member was tracking how much of the shot clock Wisconsin was using before they took a shot. On the other end, we could barely keep up with how quickly Syracuse was getting its shots off. The contrast was also notable in the team’s shot selection. Wisconsin scored 42 of its 63 points from beyond the arc while only 15 of Syracuse’s 64 points came from three-point range. In the end, Wisconsin had exactly what it wanted–the ball in the hands of its senior All-American point guard. Wisconsin could have called a timeout to set up a play, but you can hardly fault Bo Ryan for letting Jordan Taylor work against a Syracuse defense that the Badgers had picked apart in the second half with its three-point shooting. This time though, Syracuse stepped up and forced Taylor into an ugly desperation three that the Badgers didn’t need and their last gasp came up short.

Star of the Game. C.J. Fair, Syracuse. Berggren may have had the big first half and Dion Waiters may have exploded towards the end of the first half, but it was fair who gave the Orange 15 points, seven rebounds, and four steals that probably was the decisive factor. Fair has been quiet offensively over the past six games totaling just 20 points over that period, which spanned a month, but he gave his team the lift it needed to get over a tough Wisconsin team.

Sights & Sounds. Our seat was next to the Wisconsin bench and while we didn’t get to watch Jim Boeheim’s facial expressions we got an earful of Bo Ryan yelling about every single call. As we noted earlier Ryan was particularly vocal about his thoughts that the officials were favoring the Orange, which was not evident as Syracuse was actually called for one more foul (13-12). The one time when Ryan did not have something to say was when a reporter asked him what he said immediately after the game to Jordan Taylor.

What’s Next?  The Orange will be taking on the state of Ohio in some form. They could get a Big East match-up with Cincinnati, who they split the season series with winning at Cincinnati in January, but then dropping the Big East semifinal to a surging Cincinnati team. Or they could get a game against Ohio State that Orange fans have feared with the presence of Jared Sullinger potentially highlighting the absence of Fab Melo on the inside.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Thursday

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 22nd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#1 Syracuse vs. #4 Wisconsin – East Region Semifinals (at Boston, MA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Bo Ryan Is Looking For His Second Trip to the Elite Eight at Wisconsin

Perhaps the most fascinating matchup to date in the entire NCAA Tournament will take place in tonight’s first game from Boston. Wisconsin, the most patient and deliberate team in the country, takes on a Syracuse team that has won 33 games due in large part to a lethal transition attack. While Syracuse ranks #202 in tempo, the Orange thrive on the fast break. You hear a lot about Jim Boeheim’s team struggling on the defensive glass and some of that is due to the fact that his guards already start out on the break when a shot goes up, taking them completely out of position to rebound. Without Fab Melo around to man the middle, Syracuse’s rebounding issues could be a major problem against the physical and deliberate Badgers. It’s always easier to slow a game down than to speed it up and that’s what Wisconsin is going to do. Syracuse will be forced to score in the half court against one of the strongest defenses in the entire nation. The big question will be whether Syracuse, already not one of the better half court teams, can get the ball inside and avoid settling for jump shots. At times this season the Orange have been frustrated and forced into shooting contested jumpers. Syracuse needs to utilize strong ball screening action in order to free up shooters. Wisconsin’s players will fight through screens and stick with you so using the pick-and-roll also wouldn’t be a bad idea. As for Wisconsin, the Badgers match up very well on the defensive end. The question for them will be whether they can score enough to win. Syracuse obviously has more offensive weapons but Bo Ryan has Jordan Taylor to take control of the game for his team. Taylor is the only player on Wisconsin capable of creating his own shot and that will be critical against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Wisconsin shoots a bunch of three-pointers and it will have to make quite a few in order to knock off the top-seeded Orange. Syracuse’s zone encourages opposing teams to shoot over it but Wisconsin can actually make them, a major difference from Kansas State last week. If Boeheim chooses to extend his zone out on Wisconsin’s shooters, that will free up the Melo-less middle for Jared Berggren to go to work off screen and rolls in addition to opening up driving lanes for Taylor. Expect Jim Boeheim to adjust how his defense attacks Wisconsin as the game goes along, something he certainly has experience with. This will be a clean game between two teams with great defenses and terrific ball protection. Should it come down to free throws, Wisconsin has the edge. Syracuse is the better team and has many more offensive threats but the Tournament is all about matchups. We think the Badgers will make just enough shots to pull off the upset.

The RTC Certified Pick: Wisconsin

#1 Michigan State vs. #4 Louisville – West Regional Semifinal (at Phoenix, AZ) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

One of the things we college basketball fans tend to really like about this time of year are the surprises. Not just the obvious ones like Butler running to the national title game or Villanova playing the perfect game against Georgetown, but more subtle ones like teams unveiling a new wrinkle to their offense or players making plays that you hadn’t known they were able to make. As for this game, however, don’t expect many surprises; we all more or less know how this is going to go down. We’ve seen Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino enough over the years to know what they want to do, and we’ve seen the 2012 vintages of both of these clubs to know what they are capable of. Michigan State is going to defend like crazy in the halfcourt, pound the glass on both ends of the court and try to knock Louisville around enough so that the Cards will be forced into submission late in the game. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are going to turn up the pressure defensively, try to force turnovers, rely on Gorgui Dieng to block shots in the middle and watch Peyton Siva get penetration and create offense off the bounce. It is likely going to be a low-scoring game that is still in doubt late into the second half and it will come down to which of these teams is capable of making the most plays down the stretch. While Siva’s numbers on the season are not great, he has been a different player since the Big East Tournament started, getting into the lane seemingly at will, creating opportunities for himself and for others and pitching in everywhere on the floor on his way to 13 points, 5.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game over the six-game stretch. He does a lot of damage in the pick-and-roll game, so not only will Spartan guard Keith Appling have to be on his game defensively, but whichever big man gets involved in the screen needs to do a good job of keeping Siva out of the lane. Draymond Green is clearly the big factor for Michigan State, and he too has been on fire of late, averaging 20 points, 12.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists and shooting it at a 64.3% eFG in the NCAA Tournament. Freshman Chane Benahan appears to be the most obvious individual matchup for Green, but it is going to have to be a full team effort for the Cards to slow the All-American down. Louisville will need to pressure the Spartan guards, keeping them from getting into their halfcourt offense easily and, perhaps more importantly, dedicate themselves to keeping Spartans like Green, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix off the offensive glass. However, given their relative lack of size (only Dieng is taller than 6’8”) and struggles with defensive rebounding, this could be the eventual downfall of the Cards. While they’ll certainly get their share of stops and turnovers, allowing Green and company second opportunities is a recipe for disaster.

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Rushed Reaction: #4 Wisconsin 73, #13 Montana 49

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Three-point barrage. Wisconsin turned to their bread-and-butter early and often on Thursday, taking advantage of a porous Montana perimeter defense to hit six of their first nine attempts from deep and ten of 19 for the game. Jordan Taylor led the way with three threes, but six different Badgers hit at least one from deep against a Griz defense that couldn’t find its groove. Montana started in a zone, but when that got exposed, they switched back to their more customary man defense – to no positive effect.
  2. Ryan Evans wake-up call. Evans set the tone in the first half for the Badgers, scoring 14 points, grabbing six boards, and hitting six of his eight shots, including a three. And he made it look easy, hitting baseline jumpers and converting post moves inside. While he cooled considerably in the second half, Evans’ first half performance was a definite pick-me-up for a Badger team that turned the ball over and struggled defensively in the opening minutes of the game.
  3. Jared Berggren beast mode. Berggren is best known as a pick-and-pop big man for Bo Ryan’s team, but on Thursday he showed off his interior defensive skills, blocking seven Montana shots, besting his previous career best by three. Given that Berggren only played 24 minutes, that works out to a blocked shot on roughly one out of every three Montana two-point field goal attempts.

Star of the Game. Ryan Evans, Wisconsin. Evans wound up with 18 points and eight boards and was the spark early for the Badgers. While Jordan Taylor was often responsible for finding those good looks for Evans (Taylor wound up with six assists), credit Evans for knocking down his open looks.

Quotable. Jared Berggren, Wisconsin on his shotblocking performance. “There were a lot of situations where I ended up picking up the ball handler, normally a smaller guard attacking the rim.  Probably could have done a better job taking away the lane lines.  I let him get to the rim a little too easy sometimes, but I was lucky enough to get a finger tip on a few of them to alter the shot.”

Sights & Sounds. The Wisconsin band is legendary, and they did not disappoint, but give credit to a Montana band who also had a few good lines in attempting to heckle Badgers players. A sample, to Evans: “The 80s want their hair back.” Evans had the last laugh though.

Wildcard. Late in the first half, Montana was still within five points and showed every sign of being able to stick around for awhile. But then, over the last three minutes of the first half and the first seven of the second half, the Badgers turned off the water for the Griz and turned the last twelve minutes of the game into a mere formality. When Wisconsin enters lockdown mode like that defensively and is hitting threes at a greater than 50% rate, they’re darn near unbeatable.

What’s Next?  The Badgers will face the winner of our next game in Albuquerque between Vanderbilt and Harvard in a game that, regardless of opponent, could be a textbook example of fundamental basketball. Depending on the outcome of the second game the Badgers will be facing a team with a vastly different amount of NCAA Tournament experience although each prior NCAA Tournament experience for the Vanderbilt players has been short-lived.

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SEC NCAA Tournament Primer: Thursday/Saturday Games

Posted by EMoyer on March 15th, 2012

On Thursday, Kentucky and Vanderbilt open their NCAA Tournament runs facing Western Kentucky and Harvard, respectively. Here we preview the Thursday/Saturday possibilities for the Wildcats and Commodores.

SEC NCAA Tournament Thursday/Saturday Capsules

SOUTH Region 

  • #1 Kentucky: Championship Appearances: 53; Record 107-47; Best Finish: Champion – 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998; How Qualified: At-Large, SEC; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, National Semifinal
  • #16 Western Kentucky: Championship Appearances: 22; Record 19-22; Best Finish: Third Place – 1971; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Sun Belt Conference; Last Appearance: 2009 – L, Second Round
  • #8 Iowa State: Championship Appearances: 14; Record 12-13; Best Finish: Final Four  – 1944; How Qualified: At Large, Big 12; Last Appearance: 2005 – L, Second Round
  • #9 Connecticut: Championship Appearances: 47; Record 35-43; Best Finish: Champion – 1999, 2004, 2011; How Qualified: At Large, Big East; Last Appearance: 2011 – Champion
All-Time Meetings
  • Kentucky vs Western Kentucky: Kentucky leads 3-2; Last Meeting: Nov. 15, 2001 (Western Kentucky 64, Kentucky 52)
  • Kentucky vs Iowa State: Kentucky leads 2-0; Last Meeting: Mar. 22, 1992 (Kentucky 106, Iowa State 98)
  • Kentucky vs Connecticut: Connecticut leads 3-1; Last Meeting: April 2, 2011 (Connecticut 56, Kentucky 55)
A Starting 5 of the Top Players Kentucky Could Face
  • Derrick Gordon, Western Kentucky, Fr., G: Gordon has amassed 400 points in his first year as a Hilltopper. Only two freshmen have scored more points in Western Kentucky history (Courtney Lee, 467;  Ralph Crosthwaite, 437). He is on pace to become the first Hilltopper freshman to pace the team in scoring and he will be the first in five years to lead in rebounding.
  • Chris Allen, Iowa State, Sr., G: Allen leads the team with 72 3-point field goals and he has played in the most NCAA Tournament games (14) in this year’s 68-team field. Allen played in two Final Fours for Michigan State (2009, 2010.
  • Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut, So., G: Lamb earned First-Team All-Big East honors and the NABC District I Player of the Year after leading the Huskies in scoring at 17.1 points per game.
  • Royce White, Iowa State, So., F: White is the only player in the nation to lead his team in scoring (13.1), rebounding (9.2), assists (5.1), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.9). He is on the verge of posting top-10 single seasons in assists and rebounds in Cyclone history. He is one of 12 players in the county to post a triple-double this season.
  • Andre Drummond, Connecticut, Fr., C: Drummond has tallied 10 double-doubles this season, a UConn freshman record under Coach Jim Calhoun. He won four Big East Rookie of the Week honors, and leads the team in rebounding (7.7) and blocks (2.7).
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 28th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter at @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, box fans and life.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was:

  • Spartan Success: Despite losing guys like Korie Lucious, Kalin Lucas and Delvon Roe, the Michigan State express rolled on. Perhaps no other coach in the country teaches a system and its principles quite like Tom Izzo. Surprise losses on Sunday by both Ohio State and Michigan, however, meant that MSU’s weekend destruction of Nebraska clinched them of the at least a share of the Big Ten title. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Chicago (Evanston) Hope: That wind you felt coming from Chicago might have been a collective sigh of relief from Northwestern fans after senior leader John Shurna sank two free throws with mere seconds to play to help the Wildcats escape Happy Valley with a 67-66 win. Two straight gut-wrenching losses in one week might have been more than Northwestern could have overcome as they sweat out life on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
  • Lousy in Lincoln: It’s no secret that Nebraska has struggled on offense this year. But not since 1961 has Nebraska been so putrid on offense as they were when they were embarrassed by Michigan State, 61-34, at home over the weekend. The Huskers shot under 30% for the game and the loss of leading scorer Bo Spencer to an injured ankle near halftime only hampered their scoring efforts.

The Perennial Lesson In College Basketball 101 Is To Never Count Out The Michigan State Spartans.

Power Rankings

  1. Michigan State (24-5, 13-3) – As good as Michigan State has been this season, how would the Spartans be if Delvon Roe hadn’t been forced to drop basketball due to chronic knee problems? Roe’s presence would have given them more depth and would have taken the load off of Draymond Green at certain points. But it also forced youngsters like Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne to grow up quickly. While they’ve struggled with consistency, those guys are a big part of why the Spartans are Big Ten champs.
  2. Ohio State (23-6, 11-5) – Strange times in Columbus. After riding a 39-game winning streak and destroying most visitors who dared enter Value City Arena, the Buckeyes have now lost two of their last three games at home. Jared Sullinger has seemingly disappeared in big games and crucial moments this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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