NCAA Tournament Tidbits 03.18.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 18th, 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.

West Region

South Region

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 18th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#3 Georgetown vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Thompson's Team is a Real Wildcard in this Region

We originally picked Georgetown to get upset in the round of 64 by Belmont, but that was with knowledge that the Hoyas could be the biggest threat to stopping Kansas from reaching the Elite Eight if they were able to escape that opening game. Not only did Georgetown escape, but it was one of the most impressive showings of any team in the tournament thus far. The Hoyas used their length and athleticism to deny the efficient Belmont offense from ever getting started, and they were unreal at their own end offensively with a 61.2% field goal percentage for the game. This matchup will be more difficult, however, against an North Carolina State team that’s getting better every game and playing spectacular offensively. The Wolfpack have great size inside to match Georgetown, with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell as long and athletic as any Hoya. Howell had his best game of the season with 22 points on 10-12 shooting last game, but that will also change as he goes up against much stronger post defenders. Georgetown primarily plays zone defense but will also switch things up and defend man-to-man when needed. It will be a battle inside all night as the Hoyas surely won’t let Scott Wood get open looks from three. This game, though, will be decided on the other end of the floor. NC State was not particularly strong defensively throughout the year, but they completely shut down San Diego State on Friday by allowing just 37.7% field goal shooting. The Aztecs played a lot of one-on-one ball, the exact opposite of what the Hoyas will show. It’ll be up to Henry Sims to make smart decisions in the high post, something he’s done all year. Jason Clark was great last game and is a reliable playmaker in this game, while Otto Porter remains rock solid as an X-factor offensively. Both of these teams looked great last round, but Georgetown has the advantage because it should pose a much greater defensive threat to the Wolfpack while also running a motion offense that will be difficult to defend.

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#1 Michigan State vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 2:45 PM ET on CBS

Two top ten teams in defensive efficiency. Two coaches with a well-earned reputation for X-ing and O-ing with the best of them. It isn’t likely to be one of the prettiest displays of basketball you’ll ever see, but if you like fundamentals and you like basketball as chess match, this is a can’t-miss game. The Billikens advanced to this round behind great team defense and great individual offensive performances by Kwamain Mitchell (22 points including four threes) and Brian Conklin (16 points, earned largely from his ten-of-11 performance from the line). But Conklin also turned the ball over eight times, in part due to the active hands of Memphis defenders; he’ll see more of that on Sunday and will need to take better care of the ball. Defensively, the Billikens will need to come up with some sort of answer for Draymond Green, who was brilliant Friday against Long Island, registering a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. But perhaps the biggest battle of the game will be on Michigan State’s offensive glass. The Spartans have historically made a living creating offensive on second-chance opportunities, but the best Rick Majerus-coached teams have been proficient in securing defensive rebounds. If the Billikens can limit the Spartans’ offensive rebounding (a feat easier said than done), Tom Izzo will need to find other ways for his Spartans to score in the halfcourt, and there have been times this year when that MSU offense has bogged down a bit. While sophomore guard Keith Appling is usually excellent getting penetration, SLU is no liable to allow that very often, and there is no one else on the Spartan roster capable of creating his own offense off the dribble on a regular basis. Guys like Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton have been very efficient three-point shooters, but, with the exception perhaps of Green, they need someone to create open looks for them. In short, if SLU can do what no other team has been able to do all year – keep Michigan State in check on their offensive glass – then the Billikens could drag this game down into the mud and pull out a win. But, if the Spartans do what, you know, they always do, I have a hard time seeing Saint Louis pulling this one out.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State

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Four Thoughts From Greensboro…

Posted by mpoindexter on March 18th, 2012

Looking back at Friday’s action in Greensboro, what was most illuminating was sitting only a few feet behind the bench used by Alabama, North Carolina, Duke, and Xavier. Television broadcasts have given us an intimate view of almost every aspect of the game, but they still haven’t provided an insider’s experience of what goes on in the huddle (and due to the likelihood of FCC fines, they probably won’t). Here are four observations of Greensboro’s benches up close.
  1. Despite losing in the last seconds to Creighton, everything is looking up for Anthony Grant at Alabama. Significantly, Grant was able to take one of the youngest teams in America from of a basketball-apathetic state to the NCAA Tournament. Even down the stretch, leading up to Alabama’s last-second shot, Grant was soft-voiced and encouraging with his team. During timeouts, Grant would briefly consult with his assistants before relaying the plan to a group of players who sat quietly hung on his every word. Of all the coaches I saw up close on Friday, Grant was by far the closest thing to a teacher. Currently, it doesn’t appear that Grant has anyone on his roster that is likely to bolt for the NBA ahead of schedule. Expect the Crimson Tide to compete near the top of the SEC very soon.
  2. In local media, North Carolina’s John Henson is often portrayed as a goofy, baby-faced manchild. In North Carolina’s blowout win against Vermont, though, Henson showed himself to be a cerebral and intuitive future coach. Sidelined with a wrist injury for the third straight game, Henson was constantly stepping off the bench to give freshman big men James Michael McAdoo and Desmond Hubert instructions when they were on the court. It would be easy for Henson to get down, missing out on some of the most important games he’s ever played, but he’s finding a way to contribute to the Tar Heels even without playing.
  3. Each March, for as long as the NCAA tournament is played, we will see Lehigh beat Duke over and over again. What is likely to go unmentioned, though, is how remarkable it is that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski got his team to the position of a #2 seed. While the Blue Devils are undeniably talented, they are far from being anything close to a balanced team. Despite lacking a true point guard or small forward, Duke was able to beat teams like Michigan State, Kansas, and North Carolina. In the huddle, Krzyzewski was just as he is billed to be: in the first half, trying to wake his sluggish team up, profane and angry; in the second half, morphing into stirring motivational speeches that made me even believe I could accomplish anything. Sure, Mike Krzyzewski’s biggest advantage at Duke is that he can bring in superior talent every year. Never, however, will Krzyzewski get anything less than the optimal performance out of that talent.
  4. With six minutes to play in their win against Notre Dame, Xavier forward Andre Walker caught a blow to the face that laid him flat on the court. Walker eventually made his way to the end of the bench, where he received constant attention from the Xavier medical staff. At times, Walker was doubled over in pain, barely able to lift a cup of water to his lips. By the game’s end, Walker sat, head in hands, with a towel draped over his head as his shoulders shook slightly. Walker is expected to play against Lehigh, but his scary injury is a prime example of just how physical college basketball really is. Viewed up close, as opposed to on television, big time college basketball is almost violent: players are scratched, gouged, elbowed, and slapped on every single play. As fast and powerful as today’s players are, it’s a miracle that more players don’t suffer severe injuries.
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Rushed Reaction: #1 North Carolina 77, #16 Vermont 58

Posted by mpoindexter on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways

  1. The Tar Heels Need Henson. While James Michael McAdoo has shown flashes of inspired play, North Carolina is a significantly better team with John Henson on the floor. McAdoo and fellow freshman Desmond Hubert are much less physically imposing when defending opposing big men. What’s more, UNC’s usually stunning rebounding takes a hit without Henson. They can get by a 16-seed without him, but Roy Williams needs John Henson on Sunday.
  2. Slow Start for UNC. Harrison Barnes wasn’t shooting well. McAdoo was missing point-blank layups. Kendall Marshall made a couple of sloppy passes. It looked like UNC came out trying to get by the Vermont Catamounts with minimal effort, and the score for the first ten minutes–small 2 to 3 point leads–reflected that effort. Tepid starts have been somewhat of a problem for this UNC team, but it’s an especially dangerous way to play in March. If an opponent comes out firing, UNC could find themselves playing catch-up in a sudden death tournament.
  3. No Shame for the Catamounts. Despite the score, Vermont actually looked better than an outsized #16 should look against North Carolina. They played smart, sound basketball, and only unraveled due to North Carolina’s superior size and talent. The game wasn’t close, but it was a promising sign for a young team that should have expectations of dancing again in 2013.

Star of the Game. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina. When his teammates started sluggishly, Tyler Zeller put the Tar Heels on his back, leading all players with 13 points and nine rebounds in the first half. In the second half, when Vermont trying to cut the deficit to single digits, Zeller made two outstanding blocks near the rim, bringing new energy to a quiet North Carolina crowd.

Sights and Sounds. James Michael McAdoo shot 1-for-6 in the first half, looking lost at times. That’s why the standing ovation sounded so sweet for his second half performance: 5-of-8 from the floor, getting him to a new career high of 17 points. As he came back to the UNC bench with a little more than three minutes left in the game, each UNC teammate wore broad smiles, congratulating him on a game well played.

What’s Next? The Heels meet Creighton on Sunday, which means a matchup between former high school teammates Doug McDermott and Harrison Barnes. The big question is: does John Henson play? Today was the first time in the past week Henson wasn’t wearing a wrist brace on the bench. If Roy Williams has him in the rotation against the Jays, the Heels should be safe. If not, anything could happen given Creighton’s talented front line.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Afternoon

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Texas – East Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

These are two teams with similar statistical profiles but the Texas Longhorns are missing Alexis Wangmene, a big senior forward who would have added an extra body for Rick Barnes to go up against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates in the paint. With a guard-oriented team and a thin front court, the Longhorns have some difficulty against the physical Bearcats. Cincinnati doesn’t have a deep front line either but Gates is the team’s third leading scorer and a key cog in its offensive flow. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well but Cincinnati has an edge on the perimeter with multiple players who can make a three. Texas ranks sub-200 in defending the triple and that’s something that could cost it the game. Cincinnati is a streaky hit-or-miss team with four capable guards surrounding Gates on the floor. As for Texas, leading scorer J’Covan Brown is pretty much the team’s only major threat. If Cincinnati can lock up Brown defensively, it will win the game rather easily. If Brown manages to get free and score close to his average of 20.1 PPG, the Bearcats will be in for a nail biter. Although Brown is the best player on the floor in this game, the edge has to go to Cincinnati because of its more balanced talent on the perimeter (including limiting turnovers), Gates in the post and the team’s overall experience. The majority of Cincinnati’s rotation is made up of juniors and seniors while four of Texas’ top six scorers are freshmen.

The RTC Certified Pick: Cincinnati.

#6 San Diego State vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

Jamaal Franklin is a Ferocious Competitor on Both Ends for SDSU (US Presswire)

A very popular upset pick, North Carolina State comes into this game on a roll having won four of its last five games with the only loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals to North Carolina by one possession. But NC State was on the bubble just one week ago; this team has been inconsistent throughout the season. The Wolfpack lost four games in a row prior to that strong finish to the season. The key to pull this upset will be to keep pressure on a strong SDSU defense, keyed by pounding the ball inside to find points in the paint with C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and C.J. Williams. It’s doubtful that San Diego State will give Scott Wood any wide open looks from three. The Aztecs, meanwhile, may have the two best overall players in this game with Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin (17.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and savvy guard Chase Tapley (15.7 PPG, 43.3% three-pointers). Both players shoulder a lot of the scoring load but have been reliable in big games this season against strong MW competition. SDSU is a much stronger defensive team (93.5 defensive efficiency) and holds opponents to 40% shooting from the field. NC State has a 99.9 ‘D’ efficiency and allows too much easy offense. We’ll take the Aztecs, the stronger team all season long that has Sweet Sixteen experience from last season.

The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State

#8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama – Midwest Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 1:40 PM ET on TBS

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SEC NCAA Tournament Primer: Friday/Sunday Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 16th, 2012

On Friday, Florida and Alabama open their NCAA Tournament runs facing Virginia and Creighton, respectively. Here we preview the Friday/Sunday possibilities for the Gators and Crimson Tide.

SEC NCAA Tournament Friday/Sunday Capsules

WEST Region 

  • #7 Florida: Tournament appearances: 16; Record 32-14; Best Finish: National Champion – 2006, 2007; Final Four appearances: 4; How Qualified: At-Large, SEC; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, Regional Final
  • #10 Virginia: Tournament appearances: 16; Record 22-16; Best Finish: Final Four – 1981, 1984; Final Four appearances: 2; How Qualified: At-Large, ACC; Last Appearance: 2007 – L, Second Round
  • #2 Missouri: Tournament appearances: 24; Record 22-23; Best Finish: Elite Eight – 2009, 2002, 1994* (vacated by NCAA), 1976, 1944; Final Four appearances: 0; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Big 12; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, First Round
  • #15 Norfolk State: Tournament appearances: 0; Record 0-0; Best Finish: N/A; Final Four appearances: 0; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference; Last Appearance: N/A
All-Time Meetings
  • Florida vs Virginia: Virginia leads 1-0; Last Meeting: March 30, 1992 (Virginia 62, Florida 56)
  • Florida vs Missouri: Never met
  • Florida vs Norfolk State: Never met

The Gators Have A Tough Road To Get To The Sweet Sixteen

A Starting 5 of the Top Players Florida Could Face
  • Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State, Sr. C: O’Quinn is the anchor for a Norfolk State team excited for its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. If the Spartans could somehow make it past Missouri, Florida’s Patric Young would battle O’Quinn in the post. The beast of the MEAC averaged 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
  • Mike Scott, Virginia, Sr., F: The Gators will have their hands full with one of the ACC’s top talents. Scott finished the year averaging 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game earning him first team All-ACC honors. The forward has been on a tear of late, finishing with a double-double in his last three outings. He scored 28 against Florida State, 35 against Maryland and wrapped up with 23 points in his final game against North Carolina State.
  • Kim English, Missouri, Sr. F/G: English lit it up from three-point land this season, shooting 47.3 percent from downtown. English’s overall shooting percentages improved from 36.6 percent a year ago to a cool 53 percent this season. The improvements he’s made in his offensive game have the Tigers thinking about their first ever Final Four.
  • Marcus Denmon, Missouri, Sr. G: Denmon has shown he can do a little bit of everything. The 6’3″ guard averages 17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game to lead a balanced Tigers attack in scoring. Denmon has been consistent, shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc on the season.
  • Phil Pressey, Missouri, So. G: Pressey is just a sophomore, but he is the court general for the poised Missouri Tigers. Pressey is averaging 10 points, 6.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds and over 2 steals per game. He doesn’t always score in bunches, but finds ways to get his teammates involved in the game as evidenced by his double-digit assists in seven games this season.
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ACC Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on March 16th, 2012

  1. Wilmington Star-News: For today’s games, North Carolina‘s John Henson is still a game time decision while Duke‘s Ryan Kelly will only be available for “specialty situations,” which I’m guessing means select end game scenarios that call for three-point shooters or foul trouble to both Plumlees. With both players out, the ACC’s two leaders lost in the conference tournament. Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams seem to feel confident enough to deal with these games with the players available, but both acknowledge that holding out the forwards is a risk.
  2. Raleigh News and Observer: When North Carolina State finally heard its name called on Selection Sunday, it triggered an automatic extension in Coach Mark Gottfried‘s contract. In his first year at NC State, Gottfried turned around a struggling problem and led them to a tournament berth for the first time in a long time using basically the same players that were available last year. If Florida State, Virginia, and Duke hadn’t all had such extraordinary seasons, Gottfried probably would have been a mortal lock for ACC Coach of the Year. As it stands, however, he stands poised for a long-term stint in Raleigh, leading the Wolfpack back to glory. This article is also interesting for its financial specifics: Gottfried has round-based incentives that total up to nearly a million dollars if his team win a national championship.
  3. The News-Press: This Florida State team has as much NCAA experience as many of the teams in the tournament after a Sweet Sixteen run last year that was cut short by a Cinderella named VCU. The Seminoles are stacked with veterans who feel good about how their past tournament success has prepared them to handle the distractions and novelties of the tournament. The most interesting comment, for me, however, comes from Deividas Dulkys who expresses ambivalence as the team assumes a new identity in the tournament: the favorite. Dulkys doesn’t quite say it, but there is a clear implication that the senior perhaps was less nervous about playing the underdog with nothing to lose and no target on the team’s back.
  4. Naples News: The game between Florida and Virginia is a study in different team focuses. While the Gators are an offensive juggernaut, the Cavaliers are a defensive stalwart and when these two teams play today, something has got to give. While, I feel that the author does a good job of eliciting thoughtful quotes from the players and coach on this match-up, I have to object to a bit of the analysis. In terms of schematics, it makes sense to say that Virginia’s pack-line defense is vulnerable to a three-point assault, but the truth is that the Cavaliers have been excellent at guarding the three over the course of the season. Opponents average just 29.5% from beyond the arc against the Wahoos, the 13th best mark in the nation out of 345 Division I schools. While it seems like Virginia should be vulnerable to perimeter shooting because of the pack-line defensive scheme, the truth is that numbers just don’t show this.
  5. Fox Sports Carolinas: Since the promotion of Reggie Bullock to the starting line-up, the North Carolina bench hasn’t offered many positive contributions to the Tar Heels’ campaign. James Michael McAdoo has been good, but not great, and while P.J. Hairston started the year with a bang, he faltered during conference play, entering a deep shooting slump. Then, suddenly, this past weekend, the Hairston of the non-conference schedule re-emerged, hitting big shots in the tournament and playing with a general confidence that has to be encouraging to his teammates. Hairston is a Greensboro native and it seems like he is eager to make a name for himself playing in the tournament in his home town. If the guard’s play matches his confidence and Hairston knocks down threes consistently for the Tar Heels, one of North Carolina’s primary weaknesses may have just disappeared.
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ACC Morning Five: 03.14.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2012

  1. The Diamondback: The Maryland student newspaper doesn’t say it, but Terrell Stoglin‘s NBA draft decision comes down to whether or not he gets along with Mark Turgeon. if he does there aren’t many reasons for Stoglin to enter the draft this year, as he’s undersized and yet to show NBA-level passing or defense. However, if he’s unwilling to remain in Maryland’s program, the NBA Draft is probably the way to go (at best, I think he’s a second round pick). Stoglin is a player who would need to prove his worth in the summer league before earning a contract.
  2. Testudo Times: This is a fascinating interview with  Turgeon. He talks about the ACC’s NCAA Tournament chances (even ranking the ACC talent, starting with North Carolina, Florida State, NC State and then Duke); he talks about Stoglin possibly turning pro; he even talks about life as a mid-major and his bracket. These are the kind of interviews I wish every coach would give. Sure, he carries some biases but he also carries a lot of insight. That’s better than the normal coachspeak we hear day in and day out.
  3. Charlotte Observer: Despite claims that John Henson’s wrist injury won’t hurt North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament, I think Henson is especially valuable in one-and-done settings where there’s less time for opponents to prepare. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I would expect Henson’s non-conference effect to be much higher than his conference effect, where teams have more tape and general preparation time for the shot-blocking machine. Kendall Marshall may be the Tar Heels’ most valuable offensive player, but Henson allows guards to overplay the perimeter, knowing the lanky junior is available inside to swat field goal attempts.
  4. CSNWashington: I don’t think Chris Knoche gives Tyler Zeller enough credit for his conference performance, but I do think he captures Mike Scott‘s importance very well. I’ll be surprised if Scott isn’t the first senior whose name is called during the NBA Draft. I’m not a draft expert, but Scott’s polished mid-range game is worth a late first-round pick alone.
  5. Orlando Sentinel: [Author’s note: How can Florida State/Tallahassee be responsible for T Pain and Creed?] Apparently Roy Jones, Jr., released a rap video complimenting Florida State‘s recent basketball relevance. Seriously, with lyrics like “Step onto the court, hit you with a three, crossover eyes on me. … Jump shot in your face, call me Dulkys,” how could you go wrong?

EXTRA: Forbes has an explanation for the declining attendance in college basketball. Patrick Rishe’s argument rests on two main points: a lack of talent, and a lack of fan connection. I agree — somewhat — with both of his points, although I’d add the increasing popularity of the NBA into the first point, and emphasize high definition and game availability over both points. Even with shortened careers, we live in an age of social media where athletes can interact directly with fans for the first time; the one-and-done rule also increased the amount of talent on the floor for local colleges. The fan connection point is legitimate and true for smaller schools and bigger schools alike.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 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.

East Region

  • Is top-seeded Syracuse primed for a “flop?” Dan Wolken of The National believes so, although most other national analysts seem to still believe in the Orange’s prospects.
  • Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State Seminoles “just flicked its cigarette ashes on the carpet of Tobacco Road,” according to the Orlando Sentinel‘s Mike Bianchi, who tries to put FSU’s ACC championship in perspective.
  • Vanderbilt won its first SEC championship in 61 years on Sunday, beating Kentucky in a game that ended with head coach Kevin Stallings sitting on the sideline in tears. The Commodores are getting some talk as a Final Four dark horse, and it’s all because of the vision that Stallings had for his program.
  • Despite being the #7 seed, Gonzaga is viewing its trip to Pittsburgh to play regional favorite West Virginia, to be a “road game,” and with good reason — the Morgantown campus is roughly 90 minutes from the Steel City.
  • When players such as Kyle Casey and Keith Wright were recruited to Harvard, they bought into what head coach Tommy Amaker was selling about building a successful program in Cambridge. Now, with the Crimson heading to its first NCAA Tournament since 1946, all that belief and hard work has paid off.
  • Three months ago, Xavier and Cincinnati squared off in the darkest moment of the entire season. Today, both teams are flying high after receiving at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Midwest Region

  • North Carolina expects to have center John Henson healthy for the opening round later this week. Henson missed the ACC Tournament final, a Tar Heel loss to Florida State, with a sprained left wrist.
  • A three-game losing streak by Creighton in early February caused its seed to fall, and the Bluejays could be vulnerable to an early exit when it faces defensive-minded Alabama.
  • The Temple Owls will play the waiting game, as its opponent won’t be decided until Wednesday when South Florida faces California in the first round.
  • South Florida has faced an uphill battle to make the tournament every season since joining the Big East in 2005, but the Bulls are back in the Big Dance for the first time in 20 years.
  • After taking care of business throughout the regular season, Michigan could rest easy knowing it wouldn’t be on the bubble this time around.
  • Two years after Mickey McConnell and Omar Samhan made Saint Mary’s the darlings of the 2010 Big Dance, the Gaels return to the Tournament where a Friday date with Purdue awaits.
  • Kansas head coach Bill Self is all business as his Jayhawks prepare to face Detroit. In an unusual twist, the 15-seed Titans have a 1-0 advantage over the storied Kansas program in active McDonald’s All-Americans (Ray McCallum, Jr.).
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ACC Tournament: Semifinals Preview

Posted by mpatton on March 10th, 2012

This is the juciest semifinals the ACC Tournament had to offer: rematch of NC StateNorth Carolina (where it’s likely John Henson will be limited at best) that will seal NC State’s NCAA bid, pride and return to relevance with a win and the DukeFlorida State rubber match (where Ryan Kelly is hurt) featuring the Seminoles playing better basketball.

NC State Gets One More Shot At Its Rival.

I give both underdogs very good odds at winning. NC State could go either way: the team was amped after beating Virginia so this could be a bit of an emotional letdown game, but in a rivalry game I expect the Wolfpack to be in top form. CJ Leslie is playing as well as anyone right now and the Wolfpack have the athleticism to run with the Tar Heels (especially when some of the alternative lineups are on the floor). I expect Kendall Marshall and Henson to get plenty of rest so that’s a lot of those alternative minutes.

Florida State should have a little bit of an edge against Duke sans Kelly. The one thing that will keep Duke in it is Florida State’s recent inability to close games. If the Plumlees get into foul trouble like they did in Tallahassee, we’ll be seeing a whole lot of Josh Hairston. And while the Seminoles have struggled against teams playing small ball, Hairston isn’t exactly a stretch-four like Kelly.

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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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ACC Tournament: Three Thoughts From North Carolina – Maryland

Posted by mpatton on March 9th, 2012

Maryland ended up losing by 16 thanks to five garbage time points. But the story of the game was John Henson‘s injury, which forced Roy Williams to use alternative line-ups for much of the game.

  • There may be a more serious chasm between Mark Turgeon and Terrell Stoglin than I originally thought. Stoglin kept Maryland in the game. He got trigger happy at times, but his shots fell far more than any other Terrapin starters. At one point in the second half according to Adam Smith (I was behind the North Carolina bench), “Turgeon, stomping: ‘I can’t coach him!’ after Stoglin wasn’t listening.” Obviously, you don’t want to read too much into Turgeon’s frustration in a game that was spiraling out of control quickly. But those two need to be on the same page.

    Terrell Stoglin And Mark Turgeon Need To Resolve Their Differences.

  • North Carolina has an embarrassment of riches up front. Even after Henson’s wrist injury, the Tar Heels got 14 points and eight rebounds from James Michael McAdoo in just under 30 minutes of playing time. McAdoo got criticized after preseason expectations were much more than he delivered. But his game looked a lot more polished against Maryland. Offensively he brings a lot of things that Henson doesn’t (after the game Kendall Marshall mentioned his ability to face up and slash to the basket). He’s also an incredible worker. Even potentially losing first team All-ACC forwards Henson and Tyler Zeller, North Carolin should still own one of the best front lines next year thanks to McAdoo.
  • Maryland’s front line needs some work. Alex Len blocked a couple of shots early, but he and James Padgett combined to go 0-7 from the field (and 0-2 from the charity stripe) and only hauled in four rebounds in 34 combined minutes of play. That’s not going to cut it. Ashton Pankey and Mychal Parker put up a strong effort off the bench, combining for 15 points and 12 boards.

Miscellaneous notes:

Henson’s wrist was x-rayed and the results reportedly came back negative. He didn’t play because he was having trouble grabbing the ball. Sounds like there will be a MRI and he’ll be reevaluated tonight and tomorrow.

It’s also worth noting that Kendall Marshall continued his improved offensive play, knocking down 3-4 threes. It can’t be said enough how much harder that makes the Tar Heels to guard.

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