Why Villanova Will Win…

Posted by nvr1983 on April 3rd, 2009

As part of our ongoing attempt to bring you the best college basketball coverage anywhere, we enlisted the editors from the finest team-specific blogs we could find to write posts explaining why their team will win tomorrow.

Our first submission is brought to you by Pete of LetsGoNova.com.

Make no mistake about it: Villanova is the underdog tomorrow. North Carolina is favored by 7.5 points in Vegas and by 4 points by KenPom (with a 66 percent chance of victory).

More intuitively, common sense tells us the Tarheels are the superior team. North Carolina features five likely future first-round draft picks: Ed Davis, Danny Green, Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, and Ty Lawson will all cash big NBA paychecks.

Villanova might sneak Dante Cunningham into this year’s second round, but that’s pretty much it in terms of NBA prospects as of right now. (Corey Fisher, Scottie Reynolds, and Corey Stokes are also plausible NBA candidates, but are not quite there yet.)

The Tar Heels have lost just four games this season compared to seven for Villanova. While the Wildcats squeaked by Pittsburgh last weekend in one of the all-time great NCAA tournament games, North Carolina blew out Blake Griffin and Oklahoma, with a 12-point margin of victory in a game that was not even that close.

Carolina has not really been challenged in the tournament so far, winning four blow-outs. Villanova trailed American by double digits in the second half before coming up with the win. The ‘Cats also played Pittsburgh to a virtual draw for 39 minutes and 55 seconds before Scottie Reynolds entered the pantheon of great NCAA tournament buzzer-beaters to win the game.

Reynolds hits "The Shot" (Credit: Getty Images)

Reynolds hits "The Shot" (Credit: Getty Images)

Villanova was able to blow out both UCLA and Duke, which is a good sign.

North Carolina also will enjoy a tremendous coaching edge. I don’t care how much you like Jay Wright; Roy Williams is one of the all-time greats. I don’t think there can be much debate about that.

Positives for Villanova include a rapid, intense improvement in quality of play late in the season, a versatile bunch of players who can multitask on the court, a superior half-court defense, and a likely favorable crowd in Detroit, especially if Michigan State wins the opener.

Conventional wisdom also says that the Wildcats play “tougher” than the Heels, but I am not so sure toughness matters so much when your opponent has a lineup full of NBA players. (I do think it matters some.) We shall see.

So, in the face of these long odds, how can Villanova actually win the game?

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Boom Goes the Dynamite: Regional Semifinals Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 27th, 2009

dynamiteWe’ll be doing a full BGtD today so you won’t have any interruptions in coverage tonight. Honestly, last night’s games were kind of disappointing. Pittsburgh-Xavier was entertaining, but that was the only game that I would say was memorable from a pure basketball standpoint. Now the other games did have their own interesting subplots. UConn rolled over Purdue in a game that was close at points in the 2nd half, but I never really got the sense that the Huskies were in any danger of losing. I was particularly impressed with how the Huskies played despite the media circus that is going on around them. Missouri‘s victory over Memphis was entertaining although for me it was marred a little by the atrocious free throw shooting. As we mentioned last night, I really wonder what John Calipari does, if he does anything, for his team’s free throw shooting. At this point, I’m convinced J.J. Redick would have shot 70% from the free throw line if he had gone to Memphis. Also, what happened to vaunted Memphis defense. Missouri has a good offense, but they shouldn’t be able to hit triple digits in regulation against a team that went into the game with the #1 defense according to the Pomeroy numbers. I’m sure some of you took great pleasure in watching Villanova pick apart Duke leading to another early March exit for Coach K, but the game wasn’t exactly exciting if you didn’t have a rooting interest for (or in most people’s case against) a team.

The line-up for tonight should give us a couple of interesting games:

  • 7:07 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:27  PM: #3 Syracuse vs. #2 Oklahoma
  • 9:37 PM: #3 Kansas vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:57 PM: #4 Gonzaga vs. #1 UNC

We’ll be back around 7 for the start of tonight’s action. Leave your comments/questions and we’ll respond to them as soon as we start.

6:55 PM: A couple quick pieces of news to pass along in the midst of this Billy Gillispie madness and these somewhat important games tonight. Clemson‘s star forward Trevor Booker will return for his senior year. The news out of Iowa isn’t as good after Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, and David Palmer announced that they are transfering, which means that Todd Lickliter will need to replace 2 starting guards and a reserve forward.

7:10 PM: Chase Budinger makes a great play to temper Louisville’s great start. He’s going to need to have a great game tonight. If both teams use the press tonight, we’re going to get a blowout (and I think it will end up going in Louisville’s favor).

7:12 PM: I should warn you that I’m a big Chase Budinger fan so you’ve been warned. I haven’t seen a lot of him this year (stupid west coast starts), but I think he has the makings of a very solid NBA player.

7:14 PM: That’s not a good stat for Arizona. Only 6 Wildcats have scored in the NCAA tournament.

7:19 PM: Great play by Edgar Sosa feeding it to Preston Knowles. This pressure is going to kill Arizona if they only go 6 deep.

7:28 PM: I don’t think it will matter tonight, but I hope you paid attention to that FT statistic. Louisville shoots 63.8% as a team (307th out of 334 teams). That will come back to bite them. Just ask John Calipari. Actually he probably wouldn’t admit it because his team was just as bad last night. . .

7:30 PM: I think that any Blue Devil who mentions that they made the 1994 title game should put an asterisk by it on their resume saying that they rode Grant Hill‘s coattails there. If you don’t agree with me, see what happened the next year even if Coach K missed the last 2/3 of the season.

7:31 PM: It looks dead in Memphis. What do you guys think? I’m guessing it’s only 20% full. UNC fans must have bought up most of the stadium.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Sweet Sixteen: South Region Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 26th, 2009

RTC interns Matt P. and Mike L. are our NCAA Tournament East Region correspondents.

Isn’t it amazing how perfectly paired the Sweet 16 games look in the South Region? It’s almost as if the best four teams advanced, or something like that. Currently, Ken Pomeroy has both match-ups at nearly 50-50 odds: UNC with a 55% likelihood of beating Gonzaga and Syracuse with an even slimmer 52% of moving on over Oklahoma. Here’s hoping both games come down to the last shot so all the chalk haters out there can’t complain about a boring tournament.

Team That Almost Went Home
The Gonzaga Bulldogs were 0.9 seconds, some semblance of transition defense, and an acknowledged timeout away from going to an overtime session with Western Kentucky. Luckily for them, none of that happened and a guy who averages 3.8 points per game hit the shot of his life at the buzzer helping Mark Few’s team advanced. Things don’t look to get any easier though. After WKU’s starting guards, A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez, dropped 24 and 25 points each on the Zags, they get to try to slow down a rested Ty Lawson and hot-shooting Wayne Ellington from UNC.

Team That Has Cruised So Far
After their marathon time in the Big East Tournament, Syracuse desperately needed two no-sweat wins in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, in which they only trailed once – a 24 second stretch in the first four minutes against Arizona State. Most likely, the ho-hum affairs end when they meet Oklahoma in Memphis. Guard Jonny Flynn is currently projected as a mid/late first round draft pick, but a dominant performance against Blake Griffin’s team could boost him into lottery contention.

Team With the Most to Prove
Despite having the player expected to be Player of the Year and first pick in the upcoming draft, there is still a bit of uncertainty surrounding Oklahoma. They’ve yet to win that defining game. They seemed to sputter a bit at the end of the season, but much of that is due to Blake Griffin’s injury. But what seems most uncertain is how freshman guard Willie Warren will play when facing the more experienced guards of Syracuse.

Team With Highest Expectations
For Gonzaga, Syracuse, and Oklahoma, a trip to the Sweet 16 might constitute a respectable 2008-2009 season. For a North Carolina team that came in with talk of running the table, it would mean an embarrassing failure. The week off before Friday’s game against Gonzaga has to help UNC’s chances of surviving, giving point guard Ty Lawson a chance to heal the injured toe that hobbled him for much of March. It should be interesting to watch the Josh Heytvelt/Tyler Hansbrough match-up after the Zags center owned Psycho T two years ago, admittedly while Bobby Frasor was still UNC’s main point man. Then, the Heels went as Tyler Hansbrough went. Now, they go as Ty Lawson goes. He’ll be the key to any championship hopes in Chapel Hill.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Four

Posted by nvr1983 on March 21st, 2009

dynamiteAfter a thrilling finish last night that made Demetri Goodson a household name for at least a few days, we think the tournament has officially begun. Even being fairly selective, we think there are at least 3 outstanding games today. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering tomorrow:

  • 12:10 PM: #6 Arizona State vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 2:20 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #4 Xavier
  • 2:30 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #3 Kansas
  • 2:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #12 Arizona
  • 2:50 PM: #8 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 4:50 PM: #6 Marquette vs. #3 Missouri
  • 5:00 PM: #10 USC vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 5:20 PM: #9 Siena vs. #1 Louisville

A couple thoughts on the scheduling: (1) It’s nice to see the early finish for those of us who have to work on Monday morning and (2) I think the NCAA and CBS might have finally figured out the spacing issue. Outside of the early game, I don’t think there should be any point during the other 2 sets of games where  we have all the games at halftime. I’m guessing the NCAA and/or CBS must have hired a bunch of McKinsey consultants at $500/hr to figure out how to stagger the games. Now I’m looking at it without a fancy Excel model, but this looks like a reasonable set-up, which should get the job done, but I’ve been wrong before. . .

12:08 PM: One piece of big news from the morning: Dominic James has been cleared to play today. I’m not sure what kind of experimental medical techniques they have up at Marquette, but that’s a shocking piece of news. I’d be surprised if he could even go 10 minutes today as he was expected to be out for at least 2 months when he broke his foot (don’t remember which bone) back on Febraury 25th, but we will wait and see.

12:25 PM: This game looks like it should be fairly entertaining and competitive. Interesting back story about Jonny Flynn and James Harden. I know the old school guys won’t like it, but with the growth of AAU and all these summer camps I think it should be expected that stuff like that will happen.

12:30 PM: For those of you who questioned my earlier assertion that the arenas looked dead this year, the NCAA is backing me up. I guess it should be somewhat expected with the economy although most tickets are purchased via the lottery well in advance. The 50% in Miami is appalling though. One more thing to remember about these numbers. . .they reflect the number of tickets purchased not the attendance. I’m sure there are a lot of tickets that have been purchased by ticket brokers that have not been purchased by people who actually go to the games.

12:40 PM: As talented as Harden is, I really question his tendency to disappear for long stretches. Is he unable to play hard for 40 minutes or is he “letting the game come to him”?

12:47 PM: Arizona State is getting run out of the gym right now. I wonder how much the early start hurts the West Coast teams here. I’m not sure if any of you have data on this.

12:50 PM: We just posted the next part of our Mascot Challnege. Be sure to vote for your favorite mascots and help him/her win the national title.

12:52 PM: Rihards Kuksiks is single-handedly keeping the Sun Devils in this game with 15 of their first 30 points. Syracuse goes into half with a 41-32 lead. Harden still doesn’t have a point. If I’m a NBA GM, his tendency to do this drops him a few spots on my board.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

South Region Game by Game Previews – 1st Round

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

North Carolina v. Radford (#1 v. #16)

This is probably the most interesting 1 v. 16 in the tournament. North Carolina will be heavily favored, and will probably win the game, but the Radford Highlanders are no slouch. They have four players that score in double digits, led by 7-foot-0 Artsiom Parakhouski, who is leading the team in scoring (16.3), rebounding (11.2). Matching Parakhouski with Tyler Hansbrough will be fun to watch. One analyst said the Tar Heels don’t even need to start Ty Lawson, but this is the NCAA Tournament, if he is ready to go, he will play.

The Tar Heels are more talented and deeper than Radford, so this wouldn’t be the game to hope for a monumental upset. Radford’s best win is against VMI in the Big South Conference Final, and they have been blown out by every team they have played in a major conference. I will still tune in, just to see Hansborough post up Parakhouski.

LSU v. Butler (#8 v. #9)

This game pits two teams that were under-seeded by the NCAA and as a result, will give the viewers a competitive, fast-paced game to watch. Both teams are in the middle of the tournament pack in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency but they both have great athletes and fun players to watch.

The key match-up will be on the wing where Butler’s Gordon Hayward and LSU’s Marcus Thornton will see a lot of each other. Both players can light it up offensively in a number of ways. Matt Howard and Chris Johnson should be a good one down low. Johnson has a significant height advantage, but Howard scores  a lot of points of hustle, and can be a crafty scorer in the post.

Illinois v. Western Kentucky (#5 v. #12)

Everyone’s trendy upset pick is looking even better with the news that the Illini senior point guard, and best defender, Chester Frazier, is a “long shot” to play according to coach Bruce Weber. But, the Hilltoppers are not the same team they were last year when they made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to UCLA; however, they are good.

Illinois has not played well away from home (4-6), and Portland is quite a trip from Champaign. The Illini have not shot well from the field, and they will need to get Mike Davis (11.6 pts/game, 53.2 FG%) involved early if they want to keep up. The Hilltoppers have four players between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-5 who average double digits and they will run away with this one if the Illini aren’t careful.

Gonzaga v. Akron (#4 v. #13)

I don’t think this game will be as close as many people think. The ‘Zags are one of the hottest teams in the country having won 18 out of their last 20 games, and dismantled Saint Mary’s 83-58 in the WCC Final.

The ‘Zags are in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and Akron just does not have the firepower or the athleticism to keep up with Gonzaga for 40 minutes. Akron has the advantage in depth though. The Zips can go ten deep, and defend well. If they can wear down Jeremy Pargo, they have a chance.

Arizona State v. Temple (#6 v. #11)

Anyone who thinks these teams are both one-man shows is sadly mistaken. There is absolutely no doubt the Sun Devils’ James Harden and the Owls’ Dionte Christmas can take over a game offensively, the there will be another battle to keep an eye on down low.

ASU’s Jeff Pendergraph (14.5/8.4/66.5%) and Temple’s Lavoy Allen (10.9/8.9/57.9%) will be banging on the low blocks, and crashing the glass will be extremely important for both teams. The role players will be the deciding factor in this game, and if ASU point guard Derek Glasser minimizes mistakes, and finds Harden often, ASU has the advantage over the surprising Owls.

Syracuse v. Stephen F. Austin (#3 v. #14)

The Orange enter the tournament playing some of their best basketball of the season, and despite their fatiguing run through the Big East Tournament are a heavy favorite over the Lumberjacks. Jonny Flynn and Andy Rautins have been absolutely on fire, and there is no one on the Lumberjacks roster to match up with them.

The Lumberjacks are an interesting case. They are in the top 20 in defensive efficiency, but are 242nd in offensive efficiency. They beat Drake in December, but they also lost by 16 to Arkansas and 14 to Texas Tech, and neither one of those teams are as good as the ‘Cuse. The Lumberjacks will rotate in a lot of guys, and they only stand a chance if Syracuse isn’t fresh and comes out slow.

Clemson v. Michigan (#7 v. #10)

Both teams and their coaches come into the game with something to prove. The Tigers have to prove they are for real this year, and that they can make noise in the tournament, and the Wolverines need to prove their system works outside of the plodding Big Ten.

The game will feature two of the more athletic combo forwards in Clemson’s Trevor Booker and Michigan’s DeShawn Sims. It will be interesting to see if the two guard one another. But, the Wolverine offense goes as Manny Harris goes, but he is inconsistent as he has nine games with single-digit point totals. If Clemson’s KC Rivers can frustrate Harris, the Wolverines will have a tough time offensively.

Oklahoma v. Morgan State (#2 v. #15)

On paper, the Sooners have a clear advantage in every facet of the game, but the Bears have beaten both DePaul and Maryland, and played close games with Mississippi and St. Mary’s. The problem is, they don’t have anyone who can guard Blake Griffin, or Willie Warren.

Oklahoma has been struggling late and if ever there was a time to strike for Todd Bozeman’s club, now is the time. But they might not have enough weapons to keep up with the Sooners, and Griffin will get to have his way on the low blocks.

Share this story

NCAA Preview: Syracuse Orange

Posted by nvr1983 on March 18th, 2009

Syracuse (#3 seed, South, Miami pod)

Stephen F. Austin (#14)
Mar. 20 @ 12:15pm

Vegas Line:  Syracuse -12

syracuse-ncaa-graph

Thanks to Vegas Watch for providing these graphs that measure the moving average of a team’s spread (moving avg.) over time vs. the spread for each individual game (indiv).  If a team’s moving average is higher than zero, then Vegas currently has a higher opinion of them than Pomeroy, and vice versa.

General Profile

Location: Syracuse, NY
Conference: Big East, at-large
Coach: Jim Boeheim, 797-287
08-09 Record: 26-9 (11-7 in the Big East)
Last 12 Games: 8-4
Best Win: vs. UConn, 127-117 in 6 OT on 3/12 (You may have heard about this one.)
Worst Loss: At Providence, 100-94 on 1/28
Off. Efficiency Rating: 117.7; 10th
Def. Efficiency Rating: 92.7; 42nd

Nuts ‘n Bolts

Star Player(s): Jonny Flynn, 17.5 PPG, 6.7 APG, 37.2 MPG)
Unsung Hero: Kristof Ongenaet, his stats couldn’t possibly measure his importance as SU’s intangibles guy
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Jonny Flynn, N/A. Has said he plans to stay but left the door open based on NCAA Tourney
Key Injuries: None.
Depth: 30.9% (314th nationally); percentage of total minutes played by players coming off the bench
Achilles Heel: Arinze Onuaku’s free-throw shooting – 30%
Will Make a Deep Run if…: Jonny Flynn controls the tempo, Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf’s three-pointers fall, and the zone defense confuses teams)
Will Make an Early Exit if…: they are completely burnt out from the Big East Tournament

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2006, L-1st Round
Streak: N/A
Best NCAA Finish: 2003, National Champion
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): +0.25. On average, the Orangemen win 0.25 more games per year than would be expected for a team with a similar seed based on historical data.

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: Legendary Syracuse player Dave Bing is currently running for mayor of Detroit.
Distance to First Round Site: 1,417 miles (Miami, FL)
School’s Claim to Fame: Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, who has played for or coached Syracuse since 1963
School Wishes It Could Forget: The 1987 National Championship game and Keith Smart’s shot to win it for Indiana.
Prediction: Syracuse is hitting it’s groove at the right time and I fully expect the team to make it at least to the Sweet Sixteen. An assumed match-up with Oklahoma awaits there and I’m hopeful, but realistic.

Major RTC stories: ATB: Syracuse Gets “Jacked” From 60 Feet, Paul Harris Will Eat Your Food, Six OTs in New York, Revisited, ATB: Epic Night in MSG, and Sweetest NCAA Memories #7: Two Shades of Orange(men)
Preview written by… Sean Keeley of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician

Share this story

It’s Christmas in March

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

Dave Zeitlin is an RTC contributor.

I’ve often said that the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament is like Christmas for me. So what better time to make a Christmas, err, a March Madness wish list? Here, in no particular order, is what I want as the best three weeks in sports begin:

xmas-tree-ornament-bball

  • To hug a stranger at a bar while cheering for a player I’ve never heard of at a school I don’t know anything about.
  • Anyone who roots against a big underdog for the sake of his bracket to be forced to watch exclusively LPGA tournaments through the rest of March.
  • Another George Mason to make the Final Four. I’m looking at you, Siena.
  • A 16 seed to finally win a game, and not just for the free Arby’s burger. (This promotion, though, is sort of funny, especially this quote: “Each year at this time, people crave that Cinderella story – the team that takes everyone by surprise. Our new Roastburgers offer an unexpected change from standard greasy burgers.”)
  • A brawl between Gary Williams’ sweat and John Calipari’s gel in Round 2 (speaking of greasy things)
  • A cat-fight between Fran McCaffery’s wife and Rick Pitino in Round 2 (sorry, I must have that mascot brawl on my mind).
  • A game that goes seven overtimes. Six is nothing.
  • A buzzer-beater that will make Bryce Drew say, “Now that was impressive.”
  • A moment so memorable, I’ll always remember where I was when I saw it. (Unless I’m with Jim Calhoun. Wait, why would that happen?)
  • Someone just as fun as Stephen Curry to become the new Mr. March.
  • Greg Paulus to become the new Miss March.
  • Fran Dunphy to win a game. He deserves it.
  • Bob Huggins to lose a game. He deserves it.
  • Jonny Flynn to keep doing his Energizer impression
  • To win my pool, though I’ll settle for keeping my bracket alive past the first day.
  • To watch my alma mater, Penn, try to win a game. What’s that? The Quakers aren’t in the tournament for the second straight year? And they had one of the worst seasons in recent history? Excuse me while I jump from the Palestra rafters.
  • Jay Bilas to stop hating on the little guy. How many mediocre schools from BCS conferences to do we need to see before we realize it’s the upsets that make this tourney tick?
  • Binghamton’s D.J. Rivera to get his revenge for the ultimate snub by torching the team everyone loves to hate. Speaking of which …
  • To find a new villain other than Duke. How about … let’s see … um …. Oh, hell, I’m sticking with Duke.
  • The announcers doing the Cornell game to abstain from saying things like “I thought Ivy League kids were smart” after a bad turnover. SAT jokes are a no-no, too.
  • Players to stop thanking God after wins. I’m OK if Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado repeats this gem though: “I’ve got to use my quickness to outquick the opposing opponent.”
  • Bob Knight to offer a formal apology for once saying, “All of us learn how to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things.” Hey Coach, those words you’re stringing together for your new website with fellow jerk knowledgeable hoops personality Billy Packer. I’m not entirely sure but I think it’s called writing.
  • Gus Johnson to yell even louder.
  • Any commentator who says the expression “body of work” more than twice in one sentence to stop getting lessons in awful announcing from Suzyn Waldman.
  • Gonzaga not to ruin my bracket for the millionth straight year. Please? If I win my pool, I’ll split the money with you, Heytvelt. You can use that cash for your supply of – and moving on!
  • The dude who said, “I’m the weather man” to come back into my life.
  • To hear my stepdad explain the same last-second play he created years ago while lamenting, “No one ever does this.” (It’s March. Everyone’s a coach.)
  • A team with a great story to rally behind. Cleveland State and North Dakota State seem like good choices, but I’m open to suggestions.
  • To tune out anything that has to do with the economy, the wars, the demise of newspapers, octomoms and Dane Cook … and get sucked into a world of college hoops for three straight weeks, remembering so many great shots, players and moments that I have enough material to write another column gushing about March Madness 20 years from now.
  • And, of course, to cry during One Shining Moment. I mean, what?

So that’s my wish list. May Santa, I mean Greg Gumbel, come down the chimney and bring it to me.

Share this story

QnD South Region Analysis

Posted by nvr1983 on March 16th, 2009

SOUTH REGION PREVIEW (by Mike Lemaire)

Favorite
North Carolina, #1 seed, (27-3, 13-3 ACC)

Should They Falter
Syracuse, #3 seed, (23-8, 11-7 Big East)

Grossly Overseeded
Illinois, #5 seed, (23-8, 11-7 Big Ten)

Grossly Underseeded
Butler, #9 seed, (25-4, 15-3 Horizon)

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower)
Western Kentucky, #12 seed, (21-8, 15-3 Sun Belt)

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower)
Clemson, #7 seed, (23-7, 9-7 ACC)

Carmelo Anthony Award
James Harden, Arizona State- 20.8 points/game, 5.5 rebounds/game, 4.2 assists/game, 50.2 FG%

Stephen Curry Award
Reggie Holmes, Morgan State- 16.9 points/game, 5.5 assists/game, 37.8 3PT%

Home Cooking
North Carolina (#1 Seed), 50.7 miles away from Greensboro
Radford (#16 Seed), 135.8 miles away from Greensboro

Can’t Miss First Round Game
LSU v. Butler- Thursday, March 19th

Don’t Miss This One Either
Illinois v. Western Kentucky- Thursday, March 19th

Lock of the Year
Illinois will not make it out of the second round. Call me a Big Ten hater, but I am not a fan of any of the teams in the Big Ten, despite the fact they put seven teams in the tournament. Even if the Illini escape Western Kentucky, which will be difficult, there is no way this team will make it out of the second round. Chester Frazier is injured, and this team lacks any sort of offensive firepower. If they fall behind early, they aren’t capable of catching up

Juiciest Potential Match-up (Purists)
North Carolina v. Gonzaga could meet in the Sweet 16. Just the thought of Jeremy Pargo matching up against Ty Lawson makes purists start to salivate. The ‘Zags have a ton of talent, and could be a trendy Final Four team, but they will have to make it through the best team in their region. Two great coaches matching wits, two uber-athletic teams, and two fantastic point guards? Count me in!

Juiciest Potential Match-up (Media)
North Carolina v. Oklahoma would only meet in the Elite Eight, but if they do, I can already see the media firestorm that would engulf the game. Not because they are the two best teams, but because ESPN would love to get a Tyler Hansbrough vs. Blake Griffin storyline going. Griffin is assuming the throne from Hansbrough, and the thought of the two best big men in college basketball squaring off might even knock A-Rod out of the headlines.

We Got Screwed
Butler, #9 seed, (25-4, 15-3 ACC).  So let me get this straight. The Bulldogs lose only four games all season by a combined total of 19 points, and they get rewarded by playing a, the strongest #8 seed in the whole tournament, and if they win that, they only have to play what amounts to a home game for North Carolina. The Bulldogs had a fantastic season, but it doesn’t look like they have a great shot to make moves.

Strongest Pod
North Carolina vs. Radford and Butler vs. LSU.  From a talent standpoint, there are probably other pods in this region that are the strongest. But from a relative standpoint, you won’t find a better 16 seed, 8 seed, or 9 seed in the entire tournament. A lot of people will pick North Carolina to win it all, but just in this bracket alone we have the SEC regular season champ, one of the best mid-majors in the country, and a vastly underrated team which features a potential lottery pick in Radford’s Artsiom Parakhouski.

Wildcard, Bitches…
NBA scouts will be watching this region closely as there are a ton of juicy pro prospects.  Here is a Top 10 list:

1. Blake Griffin (Oklahoma)…(No. 1 on NBA Draft Net’s Big Board)
2. James Harden (ASU)…(No. 3)
3. Willie Warren (Oklahoma)…(No.18)
4. Ed Davis (UNC)…(No. 28)
5. Ty Lawson (UNC)…(No. 29)
6. Tyler Hansbrough (UNC)…(No. 32)
7. Wayne Ellington (UNC)…(No. 40)
8. Trevor Booker (Clemson)…(No. 51)
9. Jonny Flynn (Syracuse)…(No. 53)
10. Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga)…(No. 59)

So-Called Experts
UNC.  Almost every expert from CBS and ESPN has picked the Tar Heels to move on to Detroit.

Vegas Odds to Win Region

2009-south-odds


Share this story

ATB: Epic Night in MSG

Posted by rtmsf on March 13th, 2009

afterbuzzer1

syr-uconn

Six OTsSyracuse 127, Connecticut 117 (6OT). Every once in a while there’s a game where as you’re watching it you just know something amazing is going to happen.  Maybe it’s the bounce the players have on the court or the electricity in the air of the crowd.   Maybe it’s the way a seven-foot-three giant outhustles a guy half his size for a loose ball on the floor, or the  way a shooter comes hard off a curl to drill a 28-footer like it was a floater in the lane.  It’s unclear how you know what you know, but you know that you’re witnessing something special, and you’re not alone – everyone in the joint can sense it, and the fans watching from home feel it too.  There are only a few games in our personal history that we can remember having that sensation.  The Laettner game was one – we realized it when UK started nailing threes all over the place to erase the 12-pt Duke lead in the blink of an eye.  The Arizona-Gonzaga second round game in 2003 was another.  Tonight’s Syracuse-UConn game was the latest.

Games like this, you don’t just watch.  All the senses are engaged.  You breathe them.  You taste them.  Even better, these games breathe you.  They inhale the collective emotions and anxieties of everyone in the building, and like a living organism, emit a beautiful poetry of synaptic orgasmica. The final game time was just shy of four hours (an absurd length for a hoops game), but the second half and OTs felt like about fifteen minutes.  It’s like nestling up with a loved one or stumbling across your favorite movie on TNT.  Time no longer matters.  That’s how you know.  Our Big East correspondent, Rob Dauster, was live-blogging this game from his Blackberry inside MSG tonight, and reading through his posts is like reading the wild scribblings of a man reaching hoops nirvana (and exhaustion).  There was one post that he made that absolutely crystallized this game for everyone tonight – Every single person is standing in this gym.“  Because that’s what it comes down to: the crowd, the players, the gym – all in unison, all making magic happen.  For what it’s worth, Rob, every single person at home was standing too.

Now let’s get to the game itself.  Obviously, we’ve been saying all year that Syracuse has F4 talent.  The problem has been that they haven’t been able to maximize that talent, but the Orange are now showing signs that they’re starting to figure it out.  This SU team has a swagger that we haven’t seen since the G-Mac days, but the key difference is that Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, Paul Harris, Arinze Onuaku and Andy Rautins are far more talented than McNamara’s last two teams.  We fully expect the Orange to have nothing left in the tank for WVU tomorrow night, but we’d be utterly shocked if this team laid an egg in next week’s NCAAs.  The Cuse plays hard, and we just have a sneaky suspicion this year that they’re going to make some noise in this year’s Tourney (Flynn’s Charles Smith impression notwithstanding).

As for UConn, they had three possessions in the first five OTs to win the game, and each time they dribbled the ball around and forced up some horrible shot.  Even the play that gave them the tie to send it to OT before Devendorf’s absurd three at the end of regulation was off of a broken play.  This is indicative of the same problem that has plagued this group of Huskies since they got to Storrs – they’re just not clutch.  Here we are discussing a group of juniors that spent several weeks at #1 this year, and they’ve yet to win a postseason game.  Not one!  Husky fans are going to get angry at us and declare that they were able to win some meaningless game against Gonzaga or whoever during the regular season… but they’re UConn, an elite program, and they should know better than that.  Legacies are built in March (that’s how Calhoun built his), and this group of players remains suspect until they prove once and for all that they can play championship level basketball in tournament formats.  We’re still waiting on it.

After 70 Mins of Action, Syracuse Moves On (photo credit: NYT)
After 70 Mins of Action, Syracuse Moves On (photo credit: NYT)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big East Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2009

Rob Dauster of Ballin is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East ConferenceHe will be live-blogging all the action from his executive suite at MSG this week. 

Schedule:

Tuesday, March 10th / First Round
- Game 1: #9 Cincinnati vs. #16 DePaul
- Game 2: #12 Georgetown vs. #13 St. John’s
- Game 3: #10 Notre Dame vs. #15 Rutgers
- Game 4: #11 Seton Hall vs. #14 South Florida

Wednesday, March 11th / Second Round
- Game 5: Game 1 Winner vs. #8 Providence
- Game 6: Game 2 Winner vs. #5 Marquette
- Game 7: Game 3 Winner vs. #7 West Virginia
- Game 8: Game 4 Winner vs. #6 Syracuse

Thursday, March 12th / Quarters
- Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. #1 Louisville
- Game 10: Game 6 Winner vs. #4 Villanova
- Game 11: Game 7 Winner vs. #2 Pitt
- Game 12: Game 8 Winner vs. #3 UConn

Friday, March 13th / Semis
- Game 13: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner
- Game 14: Game 11 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner

Saturday, March 14th / Finals
- Game 15: Game 13 Winner vs. Game 14 Winner

It is only fitting that the biggest conference in college basketball have the biggest tournament. For the first time, the Big East is inviting all 16 teams to MSG for a five day extravaganza. The BET is always full of exciting moments – from Ray Allen vs. Allen Iverson in 1996 to Taliek Brown’s banked in 30 footer in 2002 to Gerry McNamara’s superhuman performance in 2006. With the number of good teams and absurdly high number of talented players, this year’s edition of the BET should not disappoint.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Boom Goes the Dynamite: 02.22.09 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 22nd, 2009

dynamite1

1:00pm. Welcome back to another day of BGTD.  There are only 2o games today, but there are five of particular interest that we’ll be tracking.  Villanova @ Syracuse and Illinois @ Ohio St. at 1pm, Wisconsin at Michigan St. @ 3pm, Wake Forest @ Duke at 7:45pm, and Arizona at Arizona St. at 10pm.  Pretty strong day.  Let’s get it started in upstate NY…

1:02pm.  Before we get going, we want to touch on this story from the LA Times yesterday that UCLA has stopped recruiting local 6’11 prep star Renardo Sidney even though by mid-last week the Bruins were still considered the front-runner.  Certainly UCLA could use a big man with guard skills such as those that Sidney has, so what gives?  Color us jaded, but all we could think of when we heard that UCLA so abruptly dropped Sidney was this story written by Gregg Doyel about a Pac-10 recruit who was charging $10k per on-campus visit a few years ago.  Did Sidney finally give UCLA his price?  Was there a package deal that Ben Howland wasn’t willing to stomach?  Not surprisingly, USC (of OJ Mayo, Daniel Hackett and Reggie Bush) is now considered the leader. Let’s see what happens later today when Sidney announces his college choice at 4pm PDT.

1:13pm.  Villanova looks fantastic thus far, with seven scores in eight possessions, including three threes from Dwayne Anderson.  If you’re still reflecting on yesterda’s wild Saturday, here’s Andy Katz’s article focusing on how quickly things can change.

1:23pm. Nova is getting whatever it wants offensively, and the Syracuse crowd still looks asleep (the players aren’t much better).  Uh-oh alert – Clemson is already down double-figures at Georgia Tech – remember the Tigers lost a road game last weekend at bottom-feeder Virginia.

1:45pm. Cuse is coming back here just before the half, now down 2, behind Devendorf, Rautins and Flynn.  Clemson is also back in the game, after getting down by as much as 15 to Ga Tech.  Illinois appears like they’ll hit their total from the Illini’s last game vs. OSU in the first half (up 26-24 with 2:30 left).

2:00pm.  Nova goes into the half with a six-pt lead, 46-40.  Neither one of these teams is playing much defense – both sides are shooting 55% from the field.  The key difference is that Villanova has been able to get to the line eight more times than the home team.   Clemson fought back to tie things up at Georgia Tech, and Xavier is ripping GW 36-20 at halftime.

2:05pm. Seth Davis just got on board the RTC train with the Duke Swoon at halftime of the Syracuse-Nova game, predicting that the Devils will be the highest ranked team to lose early next month.  Not sure if Duke will lose tonight, but there are two things in Wake’s favor…  1) Duke will play man-to-man, which helps Wake penetrate to the rim; and 2) Wake has shown this year a propensity to take ranked teams seriously, home or away.  The Deacs get into trouble when they’re playing teams they don’t respect.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your Tivos: 02.11.09

Posted by nvr1983 on February 11th, 2009

Set Your Tivos

First, welcome to the “new and improved” Rush The Court. This is pretty much the same interface we were using before, but there are a few minor differences so it may take us some time to work the kinks out. Anyways, there are some note-worthy games tonight. You may have heard about a little game going down in Durham, North Carolina tonight.

Game of the Night
#3 UNC at #5 Duke at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Yeah. I know it’s not exactly the scoop you were expecting from us, but this is probably one of the 5 best match-ups so far this season so I’m not going to go with another game just to be contrarian. The big match-up in this game is on the inside featuring Tyler Hansbrough and Kyle Singler. The Blue Devils will need a big game out of Singler who has struggled lately who is only 9/38 FG in his last 3 games. The other key match-ups will be on the perimeter with Ty Lawson against Greg Paulus at the 1 and high school teammates Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson going against each other. UNC should win this game fairly easily with the way that Duke has been playing lately. If Coach K wants to knock of Hansbrough in his last game at Cameron, he will need Singler to play like he did earlier this year and Jon Scheyer to be hitting any open looks he gets.

Other Games to Watch
#22 Syracuse at #1 UConn at 7 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: On almost any other night this would be our “Game of the Night”, but there is that small rivalry we mentioned before. Jim Calhoun‘s team is starting to look like the team that some thought could threaten this year’s G.O.A.T. UNC team with the emergence of Hasheem Thabeet as a black hole on the inside. Syrcuase will need a huge game out of Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf against the UConn guards (Jerome Dyson, A.J. Price, and Kemba Walker) because Arinze Onuaku isn’t going to be shooting 70% with Thabeet lurking on the inside. I’m going with the Huskies by double-digits in this one.

#13 Xavier at Dayton at 7 PM on ESPN Classic: I’m guessing that both teams were caught looking ahead to this game as both lost their last game to inferior opponents. These two teams are probably the class of the Atlantic 10 so this might end up being a preview of the conference championship game although St. Joseph’s and Duquesne may spoil the party. If Dayton wants to pull off the upset (and have a “Rush the Court” situation), they will need to contain Derrick Brown and B.J. Raymond. Normally, I might lean towards Dayton to pull off the upset, but I think the Musketeers will be too focused after losing to Duquesne in their last game.

#2 Oklahoma at Baylor at 9 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: This is a game that Baylor needs to win if they are going to have a chance to make the tournament. It probably isn’t fair to make a game against the #2 team in the country and national POY (yes, I’m calling the race) Blake Griffin a must win, but it isn’t fair to lose 5 straight in conference and still make the NCAA tournament. If the Bears are going to pull off the upset, they should focuse on limiting Willie Warren because they aren’t going to stop Griffin and hope that Curtis Jerrells and LaceDarius Dunn both have big games.

Share this story