Morning Five: 04.11.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 11th, 2014

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  1. California has targeted Xavier coach Chris Mack to replace Mike Montgomery. Mack has some experience replacing a successful coach as he took over for Sean Miller when Miller left Xavier to take over at Arizona. Mack has led the Musketeers to four NCAA Tournament appearances in his five years as a coach as well as two Sweet Sixteen appearances. He would appear to be an ideal candidate for the job except that Montgomery has been pushing for Travis DeCuire, an assistant at Cal, to get the job.
  2. Tennessee junior Jarnell Stokes is expected to announce that he will be entering the NBA Draft. Stokes, who averaged 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds this season, has scheduled a press conference for this afternoon to make the announcement. Despite Stokes’ output he is considered to be a late second round pick, which would make us question his decision to enter the NBA Draft. It is possible (ok, probable) that he wouldn’t improve his stock by returning since the main concerns about his game are his size, but he should be prepared to spend some time in the D League or overseas next season.
  3. Michigan sophomore Nik Stauskas and Kentucky freshman Julius Randle are both denying reports that they will enter this year’s NBA Draft. From our perspective we would expect both to do so as they are both definite first round picks. Stauskas is expected to be a mid-first round pick while Randle might even end up in the top five. Many expected that Randle would enter this year’s NBA Draft even before he played a college game while Staukas was much less certain, but with his rapid improvement this year it would seem reasonable that he would leave early too.
  4. While Staukas’ immediate plans are unclear another Michigan player–Jon Horford–is leaving the program as he announced that he will be transferring for his final season of eligibility. Horford, who is best known for being the son of former NBA player Tito and brother of current NBA player Al, is expected to graduate in May so he will qualify for the graduate transfer waiver meaning that he will be eligible to play immediately. Although it is not particularly surprising to see someone transfer this late in his career particularly one who averaged 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game last season it is strange to see someone who was a co-captain last season transfer.
  5. So the Kelvin Sampson era at Houston is off to a bit of a rough start. A year after losing their top scorer (Joseph Young) to transfer when his father was reassigned (not under Sampson’s watch), this year’s top two scorers–TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House–have announced their intent to transfer, but were reportedly denied. Thomas averaged 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while House averaged 13.6 points per game last season. We are not completely clear on what they mean by denied (to certain schools? all schools?), but one catch here is that the school did allow Jaaron Simmons, a much less productive player, to transfer. We can understand the program’s frustration with all of the transfers, but that probably says more about the program than the players and as always the school never ends up looking good in these situations.
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Rushed Reactions: #2 Michigan 73, #11 Tennessee 71

Posted by Walker Carey on March 28th, 2014

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Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent. He filed this report after #2 Michigan’s 73-71 win over #11 Tennessee. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.

Three Key Takeaways.

Stauskas Carried His Team for Another Round (Gregory Shamus, Getty)

Stauskas Carried His Team for Another Round (Gregory Shamus, Getty)

  1. Michigan’s first half explosion was the reason it was able to win. The Wolverines have been an extremely high octane offensive unit all season and that continued against Tennessee. Michigan scored 45 points in the first half. It shot 61.5% overall and 77.8% from three in the opening 20 minutes. John Beilein’s squad was moving the ball around so easily and efficiently that it was easy to see why its shooting numbers were so good, as they were getting such open looks. In a game that came down to the wire, Michigan being able to use its phenomenal offense to grab an 11-point halftime lead was a ridiculously huge factor in it ultimately being able to leave with the victory.
  2. Tennessee stormed back with great tenacity. The Volunteers fell behind by 15 with 10:56 to play before storming back to trim Michigan’s lead to just one with 10.8 seconds to play. Tennessee was led on the comeback trail by senior guard Jordan McRae, who recorded 16 of his 24 points in the second half. McRae’s ability to both hit shots and get to the rim had the Michigan defense in disarray for a good portion of the final 20 minutes of the game. After pretty much allowing Michigan to do anything offensively over the first 30 minutes of the game, Tennessee made adjustments to lock down defensively and force several key turnovers late in the game. Cuonzo Martin’s squad is probably hurting now because its season is over, but those players have nothing to hang their heads about. Michigan was given everything it could handle and then some. That was a gutty and resilient second half from the Volunteers.
  3. John Beilein deserves more attention for his coaching job this season. Michigan went to the National Championship game last year due in large part to the contributions from guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. and the emerging force of Mitch McGary. After the season, both Burke and Hardaway Jr. wisely declared for the NBA Draft and Michigan was left with a lot of inexperience in its backcourt. The Wolverines’ winning experience took another hit in late December when McGary was lost with a back injury. Somehow, Michigan is still advancing to its second straight Elite Eight and a majority of that credit should go to coach John Beilein. Under Beilein’s guidance, Michigan has become an extremely cohesive unit that has time and time again, found a way to win this season.

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Some Key Questions Heading into Minnesota vs. Michigan

Posted by Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso on March 1st, 2014

Minnesota traveling to Ann Arbor for a rematch with Michigan highlights the slate of the games this weekend in the Big Ten. There is a great deal on the line for both teams, as the Gophers look to pick up what would be an enormous resume boost that would come from beating the league’s first place team in their building. Michigan would inch that much closer toward picking up at least a share of the Big Ten regular season crown with a victory. RTC’s Big Ten correspondents Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso  look at some of what to watch for if you’re tuning in (BTN 6:oo EST).

Jordan Morgan must keep Elliott Eliason off the glass Saturday when Michigan plays Minnesota. (Adam Hunger, Getty Images).

Jordan Morgan must keep Elliott Eliason off the glass Saturday when Michigan plays Minnesota. (Adam Hunger, Getty Images).

Brendan Brody: Michigan showed how dangerous they can be when they hit threes and play at a quicker tempo in their last win over Iowa. Does Michigan try and run with them, or do they try and play at a slower pace?

Alex Moscoso: I’ve coached exactly zero minutes of organized basketball, but it would seem to me that deviating from what you do best is a recipe for disaster. And what Michigan does best is offense. Granted, Minnesota has also shown it’s at its best when they are getting up and down the court-relying on the sharpshooting of Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu’s ability to get to the rim. However, if I was John Beilein, I would be ecstatic if Minnesota wanted to get in a track meet with his squad on Saturday. Michigan scores more efficiently (1.21 to 1.14 points per possession), shoots the ball better (55.2% to 51.4% eFG), and virtually runs the same pace as the Gophers (63 to 64.7 adjusted tempo). The question may be, are the Gophers going to be able to run with Michigan. I mentioned Hollins earlier, and he clearly hasn’t been the same since hurting his ankle against Wisconsin. How can Minnesota still win this game if Hollins isn’t effective offensively?

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Key Questions Heading into Michigan vs. Michigan State Today

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on January 25th, 2014

Well, this is it. The final two undefeated teams in conference play will go head-to-head tonight in East Lansing. The Spartans will have the advantage of playing in the raucous Breslin Center, but they’ll be shorthanded since both Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson are expected to miss the game. Michigan, on the other hand, doesn’t have Mitch McGary to man the post, but Nik Stauskus has been red hot offensively and the team appear to have moved on from its early season troubles. Two of our Big Ten microsite writers, Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso, tackle the big questions headed into the game.

All eyes are on the Big Ten this weekend, as Michigan and Michigan State face off for first place in the league.

All eyes are on the Big Ten this weekend, as Michigan and Michigan State face off for first place in the league.

Michigan State is a top 10 defensive unit but their two best defensive players (Dawson and Payne) are likely to be out for the game. Michigan, on the other hand, is an elite offensive team. Will the Spartans be able to slow down the Wolverines given their injuries?

BB: The Michigan offense has been really impressive lately, and Michigan State might have had problems slowing them down even with Dawson and Payne in uniform tonight. Without those two seeing action, I just don’t know how they can hinder the Wolverines from scoring essentially whenever they want. Stauskas has been the best player in the conference over the last several weeks, but this team has much more weaponry than their sophomore assassin to call upon. Caris LeVert and/or Glenn Robinson III should have a huge advantage as the Spartans are going to have to use either a small guard like Travis Trice or with some combination of Kenny Kaminski/Russell Byrd to defend them. Big men like Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford aren’t strong offensively, but everyone else that gets significant playing time can score the ball from a multitude of different spots on the floor. Unless they go into some horrific shooting funk where they can’t make anything, Michigan will not be slowed down offensively tonight.

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Big Ten M5: 01.07.14 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 7th, 2014

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  1. For the second year in a row and the first time this season, Illinois has cracked the AP Top 25. John Groce was lauded for turning around the Illini last season, but what he has been able to do this year with this roster is more impressive. This is a deeply flawed team. They do not shoot the ball well from deep, have no semblance of an inside scoring threat, and do not get to the free throw line very often. They do, however, play excellent defense and get offensive rebounds, which, along with Groce’s philosophy of Toughness and Togetherness (T-N-T), have kept the Illini competitive against more talented teams. A huge test awaits them on Wednesday when they head up to Madison to play undefeated Wisconsin.
  2. In the preseason, everyone named Gary Harris as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year. But the sophomore star has been hampered by injuries and has not made the impact most of us thought he would by this point of the season. Despite these setbacks, Harris has managed to lead the Spartans in scoring and appears poised to live up to the expectations we all placed on him. This past weekend, the Indiana native returned to his home state to play the Hoosiers and scored 26 points. After the game, Harris made it clear he’s ready to take off, saying about his performance: “I was more aggressive with my shot. I was ready to shoot more.”
  3. For college basketball diehards like us, we know how impressive the job Thad Matta has done at Ohio State has been. But for most of the sports-watching general public, Ohio State will always be associated with football dominance. Matta knows this and is OK with it. In ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil’s interview with him, the Buckeyes’ head coach made it known that he is concentrated on his players and becoming the best basketball program Ohio State can be. That’s not always true for an occupation as eg0-driven as coaching high level sports, as some coaches would prefer to be the main attraction at their respective school. But Matta seems to know his place in the grand scheme of things in Columbus and that suits him just fine.
  4. Michigan‘s season has not gone as it had hoped. In addition to having four losses already, they also lost Mitch McGary to back surgery for an indefinite amount of time. While no one on the roster can replicate what McGary does when he’s 100 percent, Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan have managed to fill the role admirably with their two very different styles. Horford has a more advanced offensive game, while Morgan commands the defense. What both players provide that McGary may not have had, is the leadership that comes with experience. Both upperclassmen have been with the program not just during its very successful season in 2012-13, but with some of the missed opportunities from seasons past. Their tenure gives them the perspective needed to lead this team through adversity.
  5. On Monday, Fran McCaffery once again apologized for his Sunday outburst when his Hawkeyes were playing Wisconsin. It’s not the first such explosion for the Iowa head coach, as he has had a previous episode of slamming chairs. Apparently, this latest incident was a step too far for McCaffery’s boss, athletic director Gary Barta, who made a strong statement where he said that his coach “crossed the line of acceptable behavior” with his conduct. It’s unclear whether McCaffery’s ejection had any real effect on Sunday’s game (besides the five immediate free throws) or the season going forward, but not angering your boss should be reason enough for him to change his behavior and keep his cool on the sidelines going forward.
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Three Thoughts on Michigan’s Road Win at Minnesota

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on January 3rd, 2014

About one year ago, an undefeated Michigan squad went to Minneapolis to face a Gophers team that was also ranked in the top-15 of the national polls. Both teams were highly touted before the match-up, and ultimately Trey Burke’s team muscled its way to an 83-75 win. One year later, the game was equally important, but for different reasons. John Beilein’s team needed to prove that it could survive a tough Big Ten road trip without Mitch McGary available, and Richard Pitino’s Gophers needed to prove that its 11-2 non-conference record was not just a result of a soft schedule. Even though the game last night was not nationally important, it was instrumental for each team to tip off the conference season with a strong start. Each team played like it mattered, so the following are three thoughts from a sneaky good game which resulted in a 63-60 Michigan victory.

John Beilein's Wolverines pulled out a tough win no the road against Minnesota.

John Beilein’s Wolverines pulled out a tough win no the road against Minnesota.

  1. McGary’s absence was felt on the defensive glass. The Michigan front line of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford was outrebounded by 10 on the offensive glass. The Gophers were all over the boards on the weak side because Horford consistently lost his man off the pick-and-roll, leading to several easy layups by Elliott Eliason. Horford and Morgan regularly pounced on the penetrating guards, leaving their men completely open either for rebounds or easy dropoff passes. Andre Hollins and Deandre Mathieu racked up seven assists, most of them to the big men in the paint in those situations. With McGary on the shelf, it’ll take some time for Horford to get used to these defensive sets and become more comfortable with how to communicate during the pick-and-roll. Read the rest of this entry »
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Michigan Provides an Early Test for Iowa State

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 17th, 2013

Michigan and Iowa State are both off to white-hot starts this season. While neither have played competitive teams (their four combined opponents average out to a lowly KenPom rating of #320), the Wolverines and Cyclones have looked terrific in the early going, despite each team being without their best frontcourt player. Neither Melvin Ejim nor Mitch McGary have played a single minute this season, and while that would make a dent in most teams’ rotations, Fred Hoiberg and John Beilein’s teams haven’t skipped a beat. Among the squads’ four combined games so far, the slimmest margin of victory has been 27 points. That figures to change today, however, when the Wolverines and Cyclones square off at Hilton Coliseum early Sunday evening (5:00 PM ET). While McGary and Ejim’s statuses are up in the air, we should be in for a terrific game whether or not they suit up.

Michigan's Caris LeVert has come up big for Michigan so far this season.

Michigan’s Caris LeVert has come up big so far this season.

McGary may be a preseason All-American and Ejim a preseason all-conference pick, but both teams’ offenses will still be on display in Ames even if their stars spend Sunday afternoon on the sidelines. When either Iowa State or Michigan come up in conversations, the first thing that comes to mind is the dizzying level of havoc both teams can wreak from outside. Sophomore Nik Stauskas has connected on six of his first nine three-point attempts for the Wolverines, and that isn’t even good enough to make him the best shooter on his team this year. That honor goes to fellow sophomore Caris Levert, who has spread defenses by hitting seven of his first 10 attempts beyond the arc, allowing fans to breathe easy about Michigan’s backcourt following the departures of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway. It may be early, but both Stauskas and Levert are shooting better on threes than on two-point shots, which is absolutely wild to think about (and at the same time, highly unsustainable). Throw in Glenn Robinson III and freshman Derrick Walton, who are both capable of shooting better than they have in the young season, and you have a group that can absolutely destroy teams with its firepower.

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Big Ten M5: 11.14.13 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on November 14th, 2013

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  1. National Letters of Intent were beginning to be signed yesterday with several Big Ten programs reeling in top talent. One of the best classes in the conference belongs to Northwestern as head coach Chris Collins signed four solid recruits. Collins’ first class is highlighted by forward Victor Law, rated No. 86 by Rivals, who Collins was more than happy to build a class around. The class is rounded out with three other 3-star players, including guard Bryant McIntosh, who turned down offers to play for Memphis, Purdue, Iowa and Clemson, among others. The group provides Collins with a strong first recruiting class and shows promise for the Wildcats’ future. As the head coach attempts to get the program to its first NCAA tournament berth, this recruiting class could prove to be the turning point as he likely picked up two starters from day one.
  2. Michigan certainly can’t wait to get Mitch McGary back from injury, but for now, it helps to have a player like Jon Horford who can step into the starting line-up. The redshirt junior has experience in the system and understands his role, which was on display in Michigan’s latest game where he scored nine points along with grabbing 15 rebounds against South Carolina State. The Wolverines would certainly prefer to have Horford in a backup role to McGary, but his increased playing time now could be crucial later in the season should he ever be called upon for large minutes. Horford isn’t as versatile offensively, but on a team that has plenty of scorers and shooters on the outside, his ability to grab rebounds and get some points down low complement the rest of the team well.
  3. It wasn’t the normal home opener for Wisconsin on Tuesday against No. 11 Florida. With an impressive performance, though, the Badgers showed they will be able to compete with the best this season. This early season slate certainly is one of the most challenging Bo Ryan has ever had for his team. It has given a good chance to see what the Badgers have after the loss of its three big men from last season’s squad and the early answer is plenty. The team has gotten out in transition more as Billy Donovan noted in the article, willing to use their guards compared to just slashing, cutting and battling down low in a half court set. If Wisconsin can get some more points along with their always stingy defense, don’t be surprised if once again we are talking about this squad playing some important games in the Big Ten race come February and March.
  4. Ohio State has started the season 2-0, but a few problems have already come up for the Buckeyes. Most notably in their 79-69 win over Ohio was rebounding, which was 34-33 in favor of Ohio State. Thad Matta has really pressed defense with this group realizing its offense could need some work, so it has to be troubling that the rotations on the defensive end are causing issues with rebounding. With players rotating away from the basket the Buckeyes were left vulnerable on the glass as no player had more than four defensive rebounds. This is a problem that needs to be fixed quickly with the game against No. 17 Marquette Saturday, which had 21 offensive rebounds alone in its last win.
  5. Purdue‘s Ronnie Johnson had a wake-up call earlier this year when freshman Bryson Scott started over him in the Boilermakers’ first exhibition game. Since then, Johnson has used the team competition to push himself. It’s showed early on as he hit the game-winning free throws in Purdue’s first game and scored 11 points with four assists to only one turnover in the win last night against Central Connecticut State. Johnson is a player some expect to have a breakout season for the Boilermakers, so anything to help push him more is certainly a good thing. It also helps Purdue overall to have back-ups who force the starters to play well to keep their spot, but don’t expect to see Johnson losing it any time soon either.
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Big Ten M5: 11.13.13 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 13th, 2013

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  1. Indiana‘s Tom Crean may have been on to something when he questioned the consistency of his extremely young team shortly before the team barely escaped LIU-Brooklyn, 73-72, on Tuesday night. Crean believes that the Hoosiers are far from a finished product, but that he likes how the early-season schedule sets up as they play seven games in 19 days early on. Indiana is extremely long and athletic, but some of the younger players seem as though they will be prone to slumps and growing pains early on as they figure out their respective roles. Expect moments of brilliance combined with head-scratchers like Tuesday night from this extremely young squad.
  2. On a team filled with potential All-Americans and others who have been starters and been in the spotlight for a couple of years, Travis Trice often goes overlooked. That’s why news of the mysterious illness he was dealing with in the summer of 2012 never really made it into the national consciousness. It’s pretty amazing how he’s come back from not only that, but suffering two concussions and a broken nose last season as well. With Trice fully healthy again, Michigan State will be in great hands at the point guard spot with either Trice or Keith Appling on the court.
  3. Michigan has a decent sized leadership void to fill with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. moving on to the NBA. They decided on Tuesday to try and fill their player leadership roles for 2013-14 with three players being named tri-captains: Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, and Glenn Robinson III. On a team loaded with freshmen and sophomores, it makes sense that Horford and Morgan were given this honor since they’re the only upperclassmen they have. Robinson seems to be a little bit more of a reserved type who doesn’t get overly excited on the floor, so it remains to be seen whether he can handle this responsibility and both lead verbally and by example.
  4. A.J.Hammons was arguably the most talked about Purdue player in the buildup to the season tipping off. News of his suspension for the Boilermakers’ home opener was kind of glossed over, as it was assumed Purdue would handle Northern Kentucky with or without the burly center. Hammons felt like he let the team down as they struggled to pull out a win last Friday, however, and vows to come back and get on the same page with his teammates. Hammons being out was felt mainly on the glass, as Northern Kentucky matched Purdue’s 35 rebounds and generally played more physical. The suspension could really lead to Hammons coming back better than ever if he’s properly motivated from the benching.
  5. The preseason watch list for the John Wooden Award was released on Tuesday, and it included ten players from the B1G. This year was the first time that freshmen and transfers could appear on the preseason list, and Indiana’s highly-publicized Noah Vonleh made the cut. Other players from the league included players from Michigan State (Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne), Ohio State (Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross), Michigan (Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III), Minnesota (Andre Hollins), Wisconsin (Sam Dekker), and Vonleh. One notable omission is Penn State’s senior guard Tim Frazier. Players can still get added to the watch list during the season, and Frazier made a claim to be one of these mid-season additions with his 25-point, 10-rebound effort in Penn State’s opening game victory against Wagner.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 3rd, 2013

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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.

Michigan

  • Michigan freshman forward Mitch McGary, who has exploded onto the scene in the NCAA Tournament, said Tuesday that he will return to the Wolverines for his sophomore season.
  • The Wolverines are basking in their “rock star status” around Ann Arbor as they prepare for this weekend’s Final Four.
  • To replicate the challenges of the length of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, coach John Beilein is having reserve forwards Jon HorfordBlake McLimas, and Jordan Morgan challenge the Wolverines’ jump shooters during practice this week.
  • Very interesting story from Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports about how coach John Beilein is a descendant of the soldiers who inspired the film, Saving Private Ryan.
  • During last summer’s workouts, guard Tim Hardaway Jr. scared his teammates with his intensity and his relentlessness helped set the tone for the team’s successful run through the season and into the Final Four.

Syracuse

  • Jim Boeheim is well-known for his no-nonsense approach to coaching and that approach has served him well as he has the Orange back in the Final Four for the first time since 2003.
  • The Orange’s 2-3 zone has successfully stifled its opposition due to the fact that they have a height advantage at every position. Guards Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams are 6’4″ and 6’6″, respectively, and that gives them a height advantage over nearly every backcourt they play.
  • Jim Boeheim famously blew up at ESPN‘s Andy Katz after a loss to UConn in February, but the coach is back on speaking terms with Katz and he even appeared on Katz’s ESPNU show Tuesday.
  • Forward Baye Moussa Keita does not fill up the stat sheet for the Orange on the offensive end of the court, but he has emerged as a key cog in the team’s stingy zone defense.
  • USC made waves when it announced late Monday night that it had hired Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield to fill its coaching vacancy. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was a bit perturbed by the move, saying that his associate head coach Mike Hopkins, who interviewed for the position, was by far the best candidate for the job.
 Louisville
  • Guard Russ Smith is turning in an historic NCAA Tournament. The junior is averaging 26 points per game and is shooting an impressive 54.1% from the field.
  • Injured guard Kevin Ware was released from an Indianapolis hospital Tuesday afternoon. His first stop following his release was to the team’s practice facility to return the Midwest Regional trophy coach Rick Pitino had left with him in his hospital room.
  • The positive attitude that Kevin Ware has shown in the face of his serious injury has earned him worldwide support from a multitude of people.
  • With Ware sidelined, coach Rick Pitino is mulling the possibility of shifting small forwards Wayne Blackshear and Luke Hancock to the backcourt in some defensive situations for Saturday’s game against Wichita State.
  • Louisville mayor Greg Fischer declared Friday as Cardinal Red Day in Louisville to honor the school’s men’s and women’s Final Four teams.

Wichita State

  • Redshirt freshman guard Ron Baker has taken an improbable journey from a lightly-recruited prospect to a walk-on to a key player in the Shockers’ unexpected run to the Final Four.
  • Coach Gregg Marshall serves as a reminder that coaches can have a “good life” away from the attention that coaching in a high-major conference brings.
  • With the team’s run to the Final Four, the players are becoming much more comfortable with all the media attention that is being levied on the squad.
  • After transferring from Oregon, guard Malcolm Armstead had to pay his own way at Wichita State and he did this by detailing cars for an area car dealership.
  • Gregg Marshall confirmed Wednesday that UCLA had contacted his representative last week, wanting to talk to the coach about the then-vacant coaching job.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 2nd, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

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.

Louisville

  • Many people around the country are very surprised that Wichita State has advanced to the Final Four, but Louisville coach Rick Pitino is not one of them. “I picked Wichita State to go to the Final Four,” Pitino said Monday during a conference call.
  • Louisville junior guard Russ Smith was named a third team All-America selection by the Associated Press.
  • When Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered his horrific compound fracture Sunday, one teammate rushed to be by his side as he laid on the court writhing in pain; that teammate was swingman Luke Hancock.
  • With the injury to guard Kevin Ware, Louisville’s backcourt depth took a bit of a hit. Walk-on Tim Henderson will be called upon to play increased minutes in Ware’s absence and Cardinals coach Rick Pitino expects him to step up in his unexpected role.
  • The injury to Ware definitely has caused and will continue to cause some adversity for Louisville, but as Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports explains, this injury is not the worst adversity head coach Rick Pitino has had to handle.

Wichita State

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Five Thoughts From the Big Ten Tournament: Thursday Afternoon Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 14th, 2013

Walker Carey attended the afternoon session (Minnesota vs. Illinois and Penn State vs. Michigan) of the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center on Thursday afternoon and filed this report. Follow him on Twitter @walkerRcarey

Illinois head coach John Groce talks to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Minnesota (AP)

Illinois head coach John Groce talks to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Big Ten tournament against Minnesota. (AP)

  1. Both Illinois and Minnesota are probably far too inconsistent to make any noise in the NCAA Tournament. The Fighting Illini and the Golden Gophers have struggled with consistency issues all season and all Thursday’s game proved was that neither team has alleviated those issues. If you recall, both teams started the season red hot — the Illini were once 12-0 and the Gophers were once 15-1 — but after Big Ten play commenced, both squads began to struggle. Both teams finished their conference slates with an 8-10 record. While such a record would usually not raise many eyebrows, Illinois and Minnesota have grabbed a lot of national attention due to some impressive victories and some head-scratching defeats. The Illini scored great victories over Ohio State and Indiana, but they also were defeated at home by a Northwestern team that finished 11th in the conference. Minnesota notched wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Indiana, but Tubby Smith’s squad also suffered setbacks to Northwestern and Nebraska. It is fair to assume that both teams are solidly in the field of 68, but when you have to question what version of both teams will show up, it is also fair to assume that both teams will not be in the tournament for long.
  2. Illinois is going to miss Brandon Paul next season. While the senior guard has had an up-and-down career in Champaign, he once again showed Thursday that he is plenty capable of taking over a game and leading his team to victory. Paul scored 25 of the team’s 51 points and drained an 18-footer to beat the buzzer and give the Illini the 51-49 victory. Paul, whose legacy might be tarnished a bit due to his place on some subpar Illini teams, should be remembered for his ability to take over games like he did Thursday. Paul’s performance against Minnesota was quite memorable, but it was not the most memorable of the season. In Illinois’ December 8 win over currently top-ranked Gonzaga, Paul exploded for 35 points, shooting 10-of-16 from the field and 5-of-9 from deep. Paul’s talent and play-making ability is something that had been missing from the Illinois program since the days of Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Deron Williams, and because of that, the Illini are really going to miss him after their season ultimately concludes.  Read the rest of this entry »
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