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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ACC Afternoon Five: 03.07.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 7th, 2012

Technical difficulties kept us from getting this up this morning. So here goes… an Afternoon Five.

  1. Tallahassee Democrat: Deividas Dulkys got a pretty special family night surprise when his family from Lithuania surprised him the day before the game by showing up at his girlfriend’s apartment. Dulkys had quite the showing at the game including aunts from Chicago and his host family from Nevada, but no one told him that his parents and sisters were going to make the trip across the globe to see him play at Florida State for the first time. Stepping back a little, the Seminoles are also looking at their best chance to win the ACC Championship in program history.
  2. Wilmington Star News: Speaking of special senior nights, Ty Walker‘s was supposed to be one of redemption. After three years of falling short of expectations and an indefinite suspension that kept him out for the first semester, his senior night was supposed to represent the new leaf he turned over this year. On the basketball court he was more active than ever, blocking shots with reckless abandon and fitting in surprisingly well for his first few games back. “I know people aren’t always going to be satisfied […] but at least I gave them something,” Walker noted. His mom even surprised him by flying across the country for his senior night last week. This article from Brett Friedlander gets at Walker’s side of the story.
  3. Culpepper Star-Exponent: On the heels of the New York Times look at one of college basketball’s vaguest advantages, Whitelaw Reid finds a specific case. Now without seeing more data, I’m a little skeptical. The variable is what brand of basketball teams use. The home teams choose the ball. Virginia uses Nike basketballs; Sammy Zeglinski likes Wilson. The evidence (besides Zeglinski saying it has a “spongy feel”) is that two of the senior’s best games came against Maryland, a team that uses Wilson balls. As Reid points out, the NCAA Tournament also uses Wilson balls, so we should get at least one more data point to evaluate Zeglinski’s claim.
  4. Raleigh New & Observer: It’s a speculation time of year: March Madness, the NFL Draft and that sports purgatory before the NBA Playoffs and baseball season’s starts. It’s also about time to start talking about who is leaving college for the NBA. As Caulton Tudor points out, 13 of 15 All-ACC selections were underclassmen. I don’t really agree with Tudor’s rankings. Maybe I’m naive, but I think Terrell Stoglin will stick it out at least one more year in College Park. He’s far from a sure bet, and needs to show a wider range of skills to attract first round eyes. The same would apply for Glen Rice, Jr., but his indefinite suspension will definitely be a factor. I think the sure-fire departures are Harrison Barnes, John Henson and CJ Leslie. Who knows with Austin Rivers? If he gets a lottery promise, I expect him to leave (which seems likely considering the dearth of good guards this year). Still, this is something that will become very important in a few weeks.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Congratulations Brian Gregory, Mark Turgeon, Jim Larranaga and Mark Gottfried. You finished your rookie year in the ACC. For many coaches, the second year is the toughest, but Turgeon and Gregory were trying to build up programs left in disarray after Gary Williams and Paul Hewitt’s respective departures. Larranaga has plenty of talent, but he only should lose DeQuan Jones and Malcolm Grant from an already talented team; Gottfried’s team will return plenty of firepower and boasts the top recruiting class in the conference. Factor in an extra year of experience against the league titans, and we should expect more success from the conference as a whole next year.
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ACC Game On: 03.04.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on March 4th, 2012

It’s the last day of the regular season, but today will inevitably pass in yesterday’s shadow. While Miami managed to push away Boston College to make its bid for the last bye in the conference tournament, Georgia Tech pulled itself out of the conference cellar with a home court win against Wake Forest. At the top of the conference, however, North Carolina made the biggest play, defeating Duke at Cameron Indoor by 18 points and winning the regular season title outright. All five Tar Heel starters scored double digits with Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall all putting up double-doubles. Despite a second half swoon, North Carolina displayed a resiliency that the team hadn’t yet demonstrated against elite competition. Yesterday did a lot to erase those doubts and set up a post-season run.

North Carolina Vaulted Over Duke For The Regular Season Title (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Redemption vs. Legitimacy.

  • Clemson at #19 Florida State at Noon on ESPN2

Florida State has already wrapped up the third seed in the conference tournament, but this game offers a chance at redemption for the Seminoles who endured the early season indignity of a loss to Clemson. For the Tigers, there is a lot more at sake. Somehow, the Tigers have played their way into borderline post-season relevance. If the Tigers can win against Florida State and beat some good teams in the ACC tournament, Clemson has an outside shot at making the NCAA Tournament, an outcome that seemed unlikely a month ago. The Tigers have played well done the stretch, but a bid still seems unlikely. Still, as Jeff Foxworthy once mused, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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The Best Scoring Wings in the ACC

Posted by KCarpenter on March 2nd, 2012

When we talk about the All-ACC First Team, conventional wisdom holds that a few things are certain. Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott are iron-clad locks. To a lesser extent, John Henson seems fairly likely to make the team as well. That leaves two guard spots. On some level, it seems insane that Kendall Marshall‘s probable third place finish in the conference books for the single-season assist record, but his lack of dominant scoring, defense, and a general unwillingness to place so many Tar Heels on the first team probably hurts Marshall’s chances. The worst thing about this is that the negatives against Marshall probably hurt most of the other point guards in the league as well. As good as Lorenzo Brown has been, if Marshall isn’t going to make the first team, Brown’s chances aren’t looking so great either. For now, let’s set aside true point guards.

How Many of This UNC Trio Will End up as ACC First Teamers? (News-Record)

So, for better or worse, the two guard spots on this team are probably going to go to a pair of dominant wing scorers. Among the candidates, listed in order by points per game, we have Terrell Stoglin, Harrison Barnes, C.J. Harris, Travis McKie, Erick Green, Austin Rivers, Michael Snaer, and Seth Curry. So how do we pick two? These are individual awards, so I don’t feel particularly obligated to award team success, though I know that typically the voters for these honors use that criterion rather heavily. For now though, let’s pretend that Stoglin, Harris, McKie, and Green all have an equal shot.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.02.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 2nd, 2012

  1. Washington Post: This isn’t related to Mark Gianatto’s article, but last night was not a good night for commonwealth basketball. The Virginia Cavaliers started the evening, opening up a solid lead in the second half over Florida State. A win over the Seminoles behind a man’s man performance out of Mike Scott would have worked wonders for a weak NCAA tournament resume and answer Tyler Zeller’s performance against Maryland in the ACC Player of the Year race. Long story short, Virginia blew the lead by allowing a 16-2 Florida State run to close the game before losing on a three from Ian Miller with 0.8 seconds left. Fast forward to Clemson, where by some anti-miracle neither team managed to score in the last 2:45. Watching their teams lose important games while announcers plugged the Duke – North Carolina game hurts. This screenshot of Seth Greenberg from @DarrylSlater  really sums things up.

    Seth Greenberg's Face Speaks for Virginia and Virginia Tech Fans Alike.

    Moving back to the article, Gianatto looks at the silver lining from Victor Davila’s enigmatic injury: more playing time for Cadarian Raines. Raines spent most of the last couple of years sidelined with foot injuries, but he’s stepped up big for Greenberg in Davila’s absence.

  2. Oxford Public Ledger: In the March Madness spirit, here’s a Selection Sunday-style All-ACC team. Tyler Zeller, Mike Scott and John Henson own the three “automatic bids” thanks to terrific conference play. That leaves Michael Snaer, Austin Rivers and  Kendall Marshall duking it out with CJ Leslie, Terrell Stoglin, Kenny Kadji and Harrison Barnes for the other first team spots (in case you can’t tell, I favor two of the first three). That still leaves five spots on the second and third teams available, which will be earned by “bubble” players like Erick Green, Travis McKie, CJ Harris and Seth Curry to fill out the teams (for the record, I like two of those guys to make the second team).
  3. Durham Herald-Sun: He may not be an All-ACC candidate, but Justin Watts doesn’t have any regrets about his time spent in Chapel Hill. Watts sounds like a laid-back guy who is happy to make his team better without any time under the spotlight. Veteran players like Watts are crucial to a team. Bill Simmons in an article earlier this year called Watts’ role “the chemist: “He’s the last guy every starter greets during the introductions, and he’s the guy who waits at midcourt before the opening tap for one last round of “good luck” hugs and hand slaps.”
  4. SCACCHoops.com: If you’ve ever been curious how “Game Sim” works, John Pence wrote a mini-biography of one of the most underrated tools available (especially during the offseason: I can’t count the hours I spent matching up different teams of recent greatness and trying to make sense of the resultant box score). In addition to being a fun time-waster, Game Sim has picked an impressive 80% of ACC games this season; additionally, as more and more data is compiled, it’s getting more and more accurate against the spread. So next time you have a few minutes and want to find out how this year’s Duke team would fare against the Blue Devils’ national championship team from 2010, just hit up Game Sim.
  5. Baltimore Sun: More bad financial news out of College Park. The commission appointed to address Maryland‘s athletic department’s budgetary issues called for the university to cut six more sports (men’s tennis, men’s track and field, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, women’s water polo and women’s acrobatics and tumbling). Kevin Anderson has some tough decisions to make. If the football team looked stronger, one might be able to make the argument that revenues should increase and temporary budget cuts would be enough. But reality sometimes hurts. Maybe in a few years things will be different.

EXTRA: Gene Wojciechowski points out that the ACC may actually be in the driver’s seat in conference realignment. Specifically, the Big Ten will not want the ACC to surround Penn State (which would happen if the conference added Rutgers and Connecticut). I’m not sure if I buy the ACC having that much influence (Jim Delaney, Mike Slive and Larry Scott seem to be running the show), but Wojciechowski definitely makes a strong case.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XII

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 28th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED….Kansas and Missouri making a play for Game of the Year. I still think you can’t top the North Carolina/Duke game, but for momentum swings and quality, Saturday’s game in Lawrence was right up there. I don’t know if I’m more impressed with how well Missouri played in a ridiculously hostile environment, or that Kansas found a way to win after getting down big. Either way, I think I like both teams’ Final Four prospects better after that one.

I LOVED….Pat Knight’s rant. No, it probably wasn’t the best choice of words or the most thought-out statement. But you have to love when coaches just say what’s on their mind and don’t give the usual coach-speak BS. Fans love getting an unfiltered view, and Pat did his dad proud with that sound-off.

I LOVED….trying to figure out what UConn can even do to make the NCAA Tournament. They’re 17-11 and 7-9 in the Big East, with games against Providence and Pittsburgh left. They’ve beaten Florida State, Harvard, St. John’s and Notre Dame as far as OK wins go. Outside of winning the Big East Tourney, obviously (which started last season’s title run), I’d say Jim Calhoun’s underachieving group has to win out and win two games in MSG – maybe three. Any guesses?

I LOVED….wondering if Georgetown has found its happy place. I seriously haven’t thought about the Hoyas for more than five seconds all year, and it usually consists of – “Is it February yet? OK, they’re finished.” But here they are with just six losses and in the Top 10 as we get set to enter into March. Perhaps GU has lowered our late-season expectations so much that they’ve finally stopped pressing?

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ACC Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 27th, 2012

  1. Streaking The Lawn: Virginia lost a brutal game to North Carolina on Saturday. Mike Scott played poorly, going 3-of-13 from the field, but he never got into the flow of the game because of foul trouble. What didn’t impress Brian Schwartz (or most Cavalier fans) was the acting from John Henson on two of the calls against Scott. I fall somewhere in between Schwartz and Roy Williams’ opinion: I think Scott got hosed by the officials, but that’s not what cost them the game. You could just as easily argue that not having Assane Sene because of injury cost them the game. The deciding factor was Virginia missing shots down the stretch. Calls would’ve helped, but it’s all for naught if you don’t knock down those shots.
  2. Baltimore Sun: James Padgett is too nice. He’s developing into one of Maryland’s better players, but he just isn’t aggressive enough to become the Terrapins’ second option this season. There’s also the question of why his defensive rebounding lags so far behind his offensive rebounding. The obvious reason is that Alex Len and Ashton Pankey clean up the glass for the Terps, but with Len often going for blocks you’d assume Padgett would have plenty of defensive rebounding opportunities.
  3. Charleston Post and Courier: Milton Jennings woke up after Brad Brownell suspended him for a couple of games in early February. The former McDonald’s All-American is proving to be a (somewhat inconsistent) creator, averaging just under 12 points a game in the Tigers’ last five contests. But Brownell wanted to be clear that the Tigers’ recent success wouldn’t affect Jennings’ off the court struggles: “He knows he’s walking on thin ice with me.” At least for now the suspension seems to be effective. Obviously, we can’t see Jennings life outside of games, but his improved production is certainly a good sign.
  4. Fayetteville Observer: NC State‘s bubble burst after falling to Clemson over the weekend. The Wolfpack are heading back to the NIT barring a very strong run to the ACC Tournament finals (beating Duke or North Carolina on the way). The team showed spurts of promise, playing with the best teams in the conference, but even a 20-point second half lead against Duke resulted in the loss column. More than anything, Mark Gottfried’s talented recruiting class should give his team critical depth for competing against top schools in conference play.
  5. ACC Sports Journal: I found this breakdown of the DukeFlorida State game very interesting, mainly because it points to why Duke was so effective shooting threes, even against elite defenses like Florida State. The Seminoles smothered Duke inside, but the Blue Devils knocked down perimeter jumpers to answer every Florida State run. Denny Kuiper points to help defense leaving Duke shooters wide open, which certainly created plenty of open looks for Andre Dawkins against Florida State. But Austin Rivers and (to a lesser extent) Seth Curry have both shown the ability to score at the rim this year. Not helping to stop Rivers seems like a recipe for disaster, though I can almost guarantee you that would be the strategy that Mike Krzyzewski would employ if he had to craft a game plan to guard his uber-freshman.
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