NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Friday

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#3 Baylor vs. #10 Xavier – South Regional Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Baylor was supposed to be here, Xavier was not. That is the beauty of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament though: play it out on the floor. One can review all the matchups, crunch the numbers, and look at past tournament history, but sometimes simply getting hot at the right time is a more important factor than anything else. The Xavier Musketeers, an up-and-down team all year following the brawl against Cincinnati back in December, are peaking at just the right time. After a 21 game stretch in the middle of the year that saw Xavier go 10-11, they rebounded by winning five of six; the melee seems like a thing of the distant past right now. What teams should now begin to take notice of: Tu Holloway is back to playing at the level of an All-American. Not to mention, Kenny Frease is looking like one of the most dominant big men in the country after dismantling the Lehigh front line last Sunday. Despite all of this, Baylor is a downright scary team to be playing this weekend, especially with the shooting prowess of Brady Heslip who is a combined 14-22 from downtown. Xavier’s three-point defense is one of the best in the nation as they allow opponents to shoot just 30% from the outside, but can they contain the hot shooting Heslip and the steady Pierre Jackson? Consequently, if Heslip and Jackson are not connecting from distance, the onus will be on Perry Jones III. The Jones-Frease matchup down low is one to keep an eye on, and if we are to take any stock in the first two games, Frease is the one playing better of the two as Jones has combined to score just nine points on 4-14 shooting against South Dakota State and Colorado. A streaky scorer throughout the year, Jones has scored in single digits nine times and double digits 19 times; the Bears will need the latter of Jones’ scoring efforts to keep Xavier honest on defense. Baylor’s only losses this year have come against Big 12 opponents, and I expect this trend to continue as the Bears hold off Holloway and the Musketeers.

The RTC Certified Pick: Baylor

#1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Semifinals (at St. Louis, MO) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

The storylines leading up to this game have been completely taken over by Kendall Marshall’s “wrist watch”, but once the ball tips off on Friday night and Marshall is presumably unable to play, then we can finally focus on the matchups in-game. Of course, Marshall’s expected absence will then be the main factor to watch in the game. How will North Carolina distribute minutes at the point guard position against the harassing perimeter defense of D.J. Cooper? Expect Roy Williams to explore several different options, including seldom-used reserves Stilman White and Justin Watts. Both White and Watts average under seven minutes per game and were never expected to be significant factors for the team, but they are the only players with experience at the lead guard spot. But since neither guy is likely to make much of an impact offensively, UNC also could experiment by placing Harrison Barnes at the position in a point-forward role. Barnes has the size to see over any defenders but has never been asked to run an offense. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, two primary wing shooters, could help Barnes bring the ball up in a point guard by-committee approach, as well.

Regardless, as long as the point guard replacements or by-committee members don’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, then Carolina should still have the advantage in this game on both ends because of its tremendous forwards. Ohio’s regular rotation only includes two bangers in the post in Reggie Keely and Jon Smith, and while Keely is a solid post defender with bulk at 265 pounds, neither of those players is taller than 6’8”. It will be an adventure trying to defend the most talented front line in the country. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo should have a field day in the paint, and the lack of a point guard means that every UNC possession should include an early paint touch. Expect big numbers from this trio. But if Ohio is somehow able to key on the UNC bigs and stop the domination in the paint, then the Bobcats can pull another upset by gaining an advantage on the perimeter. Nick Kellogg and Walter Offutt must hit a high percentage of shots from the outside and D.J. Cooper will need another breakout performance to carry this team. It just seems unlikely that Ohio has enough firepower to hang with Carolina’s athletes on the interior. With or without Marshall, roll with North Carolina in this one.

The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina

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Rushed Reaction: #1 North Carolina 87, #8 Creighton 73

Posted by mpoindexter on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Kendall Marshall likely done for the year. In the midst of another fantastic performance, the sophomore who has lately been the best Tar Heel on the court came down with a scaphoid fracture to his right wrist. Though it isn’t his dominant hand, and UNC said that they don’t know Marshall’s range of motion yet, the medical literature does not offer a good prognosis. Much of the commentary will focus on how greatly this diminishes North Carolina’s odds of winning a title in 2012, but the real focus should be on Marshall, a player who seems as vocally committed to his teammates’ success as any in college basketball.
  2. John Henson is back, and healthy. After missing the last three games with a wrist injury, John Henson came back to the Tar Heels in full force. Henson was good for 13 points and 10 rebounds plus four blocks. It was Henson’s technical early in the game that sparked a gargantuan run from the Tar Heels, and his team played inspired ball for the first time since beating Duke at the end of the regular season. Henson was still tentative early on using his left hand, preferring to tip the ball to his right hand on a rebound and opting to lay in a ball he normally would have slammed home with authority. But by the second half he was back to his old self, using his left hand to emphatically swat away a Doug McDermott shot.
  3. Hats off to a great Creighton team. The Jays played hard today, but simply met a team that was bigger, more talented, more athletic. Doug McDermott tried his best, scoring 20 points, but the Tar Heels’ duo of Henson and James Michael McAdoo made life difficult for him. In the end, North Carolina’s players were too fast for the Jays to guard, and the Heels were able to get almost any shot from 10+ feet wide open. Creighton, though, was a pleasure to watch this year. If McDermott sticks around, then there’s no reason they can’t improve upon what was already a fantastic ride.

Star of the Game. Kendall Marshall, North Carolina. Marshall was quiet for most of the second half, but it was his play that initially put the Creighton Bluejays in a hole from which they couldn’t climb out. During North Carolina’s big run in the first half, the Tar Heel point guard scored nine straight points at one point, beating the Jays from inside and out. Marshall led the Heels in points (18), assists (11), and minutes played (36), going 7-of-8 from the floor. Multiple times, Creighton left him open and dared him to shoot, something that worked for teams last year. It doesn’t work any longer. The bad news is that the left-handed Marshall fractured his right wrist toward the end of tonight’s game, making his status uncertain for any games the Heels play for the rest of the NCAA Tournament.

Quotable. “It was a great win for our team, great win for our kids, and it was a team game to say the least. We got help from everybody. But it’s sort of overshadowed by what’s happened to a wonderful young man right now.” – Roy Williams

Sights & Sounds. The Greensboro Coliseum is an easy 45-minute drive from North Carolina’s campus in Chapel Hill, and the crowd for today’s game against Creighton overwhelmingly favored the Tar Heels. Combined, those made for a de facto home game for Roy Williams’ team. The Greensboro crowd, though, may have been so loud and energetic that it was more imposing for Creightonthan if they had played a regular season game in Chapel Hill. Tar Heel crowds at the Dean E. Smith Center have a reputation for being populated by the “wine and cheese” demographic — older donors who prefer to stay seated and clap politely before leaving with five minutes left on the clock. The crowd tonight was more like “beer and nacho cheese,” constantly screaming, jeering, and chanting. If the same people who came out for UNC in Greensboro follow them to St. Louis, the Tar Heels’ opponents are in for a long, loud night.

Wild Card. Who plays the point in Marshall’s absence? UNC head coach Roy Williams said after the game that the duty would go to freshman reserve Stilman White or senior do-everything Justin Watts. Both pale in comparison to Marshall offensively, though Watts is comparable, if not better, as a defender.

What’s next? The Tar Heels head to St. Louis, where they’ll meet the winner of #12 South Florida and #13 Ohio. UNC will have a size advantage regardless of who they play, and would cause huge problems for either team’s middling offense. If Kendall Marshall’s right wrist fracture keeps him from playing, as expected, UNC may be in for a low-scoring dogfight on the Mississippi.

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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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