RTC Conference Primers: #10 – Missouri Valley

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 27th, 2010

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

You only need one video clip to sum up the Missouri Valley Conference last season: Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the dagger three-pointer against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Missouri State (24-6, 14-4)
  2. Wichita State (23-7, 13-5)
  3. Creighton (23-8, 13-5)
  4. Southern Illinois (21-9, 11-7)
  5. Northern Iowa (20-11, 10-8)
  6. Bradley (19-11, 10-8)
  7. Illinois State (16-16, 7-11)
  8. Drake (12-18, 4-14)
  9. Evansville (11-16, 4-14)
  10. Indiana State (9-21, 4-14)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)

  • G: Toure’ Murry, Wichita State (11.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 109 AST)
  • G:  Sam Maniscalco, Bradley (13.1 PPG, 107 AST)
  • G:  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, Northern Iowa (10.6 PPG, 97 AST)
  • F:  Kyle Weems, Missouri State (13.6 PPG 6.2, RPG 40.7% 3PT)
  • C:  Kenny Lawson Jr., Creighton (13.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 82% FT)

6th Man

Adam Leonard, Missouri State  (13 PPG,  39% 3PT)

Impact Newcomer

Greg Echenique, Creighton (Rutgers transfer)

Kyle Weems was nine years old when Missouri State last made the NCAA Tournament in 1999.

What You Need to Know

  • Multiple Bids: Last season, people will easily remember the Missouri Valley Conference with Ali Farokhmanesh hitting the gutsy three-pointer late in the game to lead Northern Iowa’s upset against #1 Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.  What you may not know is that for the third straight season, the MVC has only sent one representative to the Big Dance.  After several years of sending multiple teams in and hitting a peak of four teams in 2006, the past three seasons have seen the team that won both the conference regular season and conference tournament (Drake and UNI twice) as single-bid teams that went to the NCAA Tournament.  This season the schools in the conference have beefed up their schedules the best they can to hopefully return to a multiple bid league.
  • Coaching Changes: A number of linked events took place this summer regarding the coaches in the MVC. The Dean of the Valley Dana Altman left Creighton after 16 years to take the head coaching job at OregonIowa State head coach Greg McDermott was hired less than 48 hours later.  He had one stint in the MVC already as the head coach of Northern Iowa before Ben Jacobson.  Jacobson released McDermott’s son Doug from his letter of intent so that he could join his dad and play with the Bluejays.   About a month later, Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left to become an assistant once again under Altman.   Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois) and Jim Les (Bradley) are now the elder statesmen of the conference, but both of their seats are pretty warm right now as they try to take their teams back to the NCAA Tournament after each of their Sweet 16 runs seem like ages ago for those two schools.
  • Veteran Teams: Many of the MVC teams bring back a lot of veterans to lead their respective teams.  Creighton returns all-conference center Kenny Lawson and point guard Antoine Young.   Missouri State brings back a solid combination of Adam Leonard and Kyle Weems.   Wichita State has the talented JT Durley, Graham Hatch and Toure’ Murry while Bradley has Andrew Warren, Sam Maniscalco and Taylor Brown returning.   But you can’t leave out Northern Iowa with Kwadzo Ahelegbe and MVC sixth man of the year Lucas O’Rear. With such a large percentage of players retuning this season, a battle for The Valley title could be messy and any of these teams could emerge as the dust clears in March.

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Morning Five: 10.20.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on October 20th, 2010

  1. We’re still not over the Robbie Hummel/ACL news from this past Saturday morning, but in the wake of that awful (re-)injury, the gents over at Fanhouse have put together their Costliest Injuries Team — “costly” signifying the delta between what each injured player’s team became and what they would likely have achieved were it not for the injury. If a list of injuries can be called a good list, this one’s comprehensiveness qualifies it as such. The only addition we’d make (you knew we’d have to chime in with something, right?) would be Kenny Smith’s broken wrist from 1984 which sucked all the air out of North Carolina’s title hopes after they had breezed to a 17-0 start (and it’s Curtis Sumpter, not Chris). 
  2. Because as a college basketball fan you can never have enough Gary Parrish in your life, here’s his list of Preseason All-America teams along with a Player of the Year selection that should get the Franklin Street crowd even more hyped for this season.
  3. We were impressed by the frank honesty from the article FoxSports.com’s Jeff Goodman posted soon after the Hummel news broke. Obviously the injury changes that Boilermaker team, but is Purdue really ”in shambles” as the title suggests? In addition to what can indeed be seen on stat sheets, we know Hummel would have brought so much value that has nothing to do with what’s found in the box scores. But Purdue has the other two of its top three scorers returning in E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson (the latter only 0.2 PPG behind Hummel from tying him as second scorer on the team last year), both of them second team All-Americans, according to Mr. Parrish above. They also have their best distributor (and best A/TO ratio by far) returning in Lewis Jackson (3.3 APG), a rising junior who’s only enhanced that skill over the summer. The loss of Hummel is terrible, but it’s not exactly a steaming pile of rubble they’re dealing with in West Lafayette.
  4. We love the confidence of Northern Iowa chief Ben Jacobson when asked about the 2010-11 edition of his Panthers in the wake of last season’s NCAA Tournament upset of Kansas and serious personnel losses due to graduation: “We’re going to be good.” UNI said goodbye to Jordan Eglseder, Sports Illustrated cover boy Ali Farokhmanesh, and Missouri Valley POY Adam Koch, but that hasn’t dashed hopes in Cedar Falls. The first order of business in following up last year’s success, according to senior point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe? “It’s just about forgetting about it…What we’ve done lately is practice three times and work on defense. We didn’t go in and watch the Kansas game.” Lead on, Kwadzo.
  5. ESPN’s Dave Telep (how’s that look, Dave?) probably hasn’t finished unpacking his boxes in them new digs at the worldwide leader, but here he notes how the ever-increasing value of surehandedness at the 1-spot in today’s game hasn’t been lost on West Virginia, who landed two point guard prospects earlier this week in Ryan Boatright and Jabarie Hinds, the latter hailing from current Mountaineer forward Kevin Jones’ old high school near The Bronx. Boatright is ranked as the 6th-best PG and 36th player overall in the class of 2011; Hinds is the ranked 22nd among PGs but both are listed as “four-star” recruits.
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ATB: Tennessee Vanquishes Sweet Sixteen Demons and Evan Turner

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2010

Blah Night of Games.  So given the way this Tournament has gone through the first three rounds, we should be heading into two classics on Saturday evening in the West following by the East Regional finals.  On consecutive Thursdays we had an incredible set of games followed by a rather pedestrian Friday set.  Last Saturday was another blockbuster, while Sunday was relatively tame.  Don’t let us down, K-State, Butler, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Midwest Region

NPOY Evan Turner Couldn't Get His Three to Tie Off (AP/J. Roberson)

Tennessee 76, Ohio State 73.  On Selection Sunday, every pundit talked about how great the teams were at the top of the Midwest Region, but they may have forgotten the Volunteers who were grossly underseeded. Now they are showing the Selection Committee and the rest of the nation just how good they are. In a rematch of a 2007 Sweet 16 game that ended with Greg Oden blocking a shot by Ramar Smith that could have won the game for UT, the Volunteers got their revenge in a similar fashion. This time it was Tennessee’s J.P Prince who saved the day, blocking a desperation off-balance three by NPOY Evan Turner that could have tied the game at the buzzer. While this game wasn’t quite as spectacular as the Kansas State-Butler game last night, it certainly lived up to the expectations we would have of a Sweet 16 game as neither team was able to open up more than a seven-point lead and for most of the last 35 minutes of the game it was a one-possession difference. Thanks to a strong performance by Wayne Chism who had 22 points (18 in the second half) and 11 rebounds the Volunteers were able to overcome another phenomenal performance by Turner who finished with 31 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Unfortunately for Turner, Thad Matta was unable to coax similar performances out of any of Turner’s teammates who were 3-16 from the field during the second half when Turner scored 21 of his 31 points. Perhaps it was the ridiculous minutes that Matta made his rotation play recently, but the Buckeyes just didn’t see to have the necessary spark. Without the necessary support, Turner was forced to try win the game in the final minutes when David Lighty hit consecutive baskets to give OSU a 70-68 lead. After Chism responded with four straight to give the Vols a 72-70 lead, Turner hit a three that put OSU up one and had everybody believing that maybe, just maybe, he could be enough to carry his team to Indianapolis. Those hopes were dashed when Brian Williams converted a tip-in with 32 seconds to go and Turner was unable to make a driving layup with the ensuing loose ball ending up in Tennessee’s hands. After Tennessee converted a pair of free throws, the stage was set for Turner to etch his name into Tournament lore, but after missing a good look with a little over five seconds left he chased down the ball only to have an off-balance shot blocked by Prince. Despite the disappointing finish, this year will go down as Turner’s year in the minds of everyone who watched him this season. Although Turner says he isn’t sure what he will do with regards to the NBA Draft, we suspect that he will be headed toward NBA millions very soon. Next up for the Volunteers (playing in their first Elite Eight in school history) will be Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. With the Vols on the verge of a Final Four trip less than three months after their season fell apart on New Year’s Day during the Tyler Smith fiasco, we have to ask the question that we asked almost a month ago: How is Bruce Pearl not mentioned as a legitimate National Coach of the Year candidate? Nobody has overcome more adversity than the Vol coach and yet he didn’t even finish in the top two in his own conference voting (behind Kevin Stallings and John Calipari).

MSU Just Squeezes the Life Out of Teams in March (AP)

Izzo Does It Again. #5 Michigan State 59, #9 Northern Iowa 52.  It’s starting to feel like Tom Izzo could take a group of circus animals, screw around with them for a few months and then have them all come together just in time to make a run to the Final Four.  With tonight’s win over Cinderella and Kansas-slayer Northern Iowa, Izzo’s team will return to the Elite Eight for the seventh time in his fifteen years at the schools (he’s 5-1 in this round).  It’s especially amazing considering just how banged up his Spartans are and how inconsistent they’ve been throughout this season.  But MSU did what they do, which is play inspired defense, make just enough plays on offense to put together a mini-run and squeeze the life out of the game in the final minutes to seal the victory.  Northern Iowa is just another victim on a long, long list of teams that have fallen as a result of this strategy.  As usual, the Spartans shut down the key players for UNI, with last weekend’s hero shooting a rough 2-9 from the field and contributing only nine points, Adam Koch struggling to get the ball in the right places and adding only 13 in 18 foul-plagued minutes, and Jordan Eglseder coming up with only nine himself.  The Panthers shot only 39% from the field, which is on par with what they were able to hit against Kansas last weekend, but they were unable to force as many turnovers against MSU and they were absolutely ice cold during the last quarter of the game (zero FGs in the last ten minutes of action).  Northern Iowa was undoubtedly one of the best stories of this year’s Tournament, and they have nothing to be ashamed of in losing a defensive grinder with the team that wrote the template.  Any of a number of other surviving teams in the Elite Eight could have been challenged by the Panther defense and style of play, but it was quite simply a bad matchup for them.  Even a battered and beat up Michigan State team isn’t going to allow another team to out-Izzo them, which is what would have had to happen for UNI to win this game tonight.

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Sweet Sixteen Game Analysis: Friday Night

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2010

Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.

7:07 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #6 Tennessee  (Midwest Region)

We know the Buckeyes have had three full days of rest since their second round game against Georgia Tech.  But Thad Matta has shortened (and by “shortened,” we mean “set on fire and forgotten about”) his bench so much late in the season and in this tournament that you have to even wonder if that’s enough time for the Buckeyes to recover.  Jon Diebler has played every minute of the Buckeyes’ first two tournament games.  William Buford has missed two minutes of action TOTAL out of the possible 210 minutes of game time in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.  David Lighty and Evan Turner have only sat for five minutes in that same time span.  The only starter who sits for any amount of time is big man Dallas Lauderdale, and he still plays at least 30 minutes a game.  Yet, the Buckeyes keep rolling.  The only thing Jon Diebler seems tired of is finding himself open behind the three point line.  He’s 11-22 in OSU’s two tournament games, and a lot of these things aren’t monitor-checkers.  They were deep.  And of course Turner has shown us his usual excellence.  There aren’t any surprises with the Buckeyes.  Tennessee, though, is a different story.  You never know whose night it’s going to be.  Scotty Hopson, Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince…any one or two of these guys can get hot, but then you have to worry about players like Brian Williams or Melvin Goins or Bobby Maze stepping up with a 15 point or 12 rebound night.  OSU’s four-forwards-and-Turner (who’s officially listed as a forward!) will be able to keep the Volunteer guards from getting too out of hand, but can they guard and rebound against the slightly taller Tennessee bigs?  As a team, rebounding is one of the few Buckeye weaknesses, and Tennessee has shown the capability to dominate the glass this year when they put their minds to it.  Both teams are among the nation’s best when it comes to guarding the three, but it’s OSU that gets a little more of their offense from the long ball.  On paper, the matchups are not favorable for OSU.  And the Tennessee kids are the kind who will relish the fact that they’re “supposed” to lose this game.  We doubt it’ll be a blowout, and remarkably both of these teams are fantastic in games decided by ten points or less.  In those games, OSU is 10-5 this season, and Tennessee is 13-2.  It’s gonna be a fun one.

The Skinny:  If both teams guard the three well, it will hurt OSU more than Tennessee.  Factor in the possibility that all those minutes could be catching up to the Buckeyes, and you have the makings of an upset.  It’s not easy taking the Volunteers in this game, because of how they can sometimes take nights off between the ears.  But Tennessee has had two chances to underestimate their opponent in this tournament, and didn’t either time.  They won’t here; they know what OSU can do.  Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Volunteers emerge.

7:27 pm – #3 Baylor vs. #10 St. Mary’s  (South Region)

The Gaels come into this game as one of the tournament’s Cinderellas, but this time Cinderella is actually the Tournament’s giant with Omar Samhan who has been the most dominant big man in the field so far after dominating Richmond and Villanova to the point where analysts were ripping Jay Wright for not doubling down on Samhan fo abusing Villanova’s interior players. In Wright’s defense, doubling down on Samhan would leave the St Mary’s guards open on the perimeter where they rank fourth in the country from beyond the arc. Scott Drew probably won’t be saddled with that dilemma since he has a center in 6’10 Ekpe Udoh who is every bit as good as Samhan. Even if Samhan does get the edge on Udoh here he will have to deal with 6’10 Anthony Jones, 7′ Josh Lomers and 6’7 Quincy Acy. With such a strong interior defense, the Bears block more shots than any other team in the NCAA Tournament at more than seven blocks per game so don’t expect Samhan to dominate the Bears like he did the Spiders and Wildcats. In addition to the challenge for Samhan on the offensive end, he will also be under pressure on defense going against a likely first rounder in Udoh. After hearing that you might be forgiven for thinking that this game will be decided solely on what happens on the inside, but you would be wrong. The matchup of guards featuring LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter against Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova could be the key to the game with the Bears having the edge in athleticism and the Gaels having the edge in shooting. Saint Mary’s will need their perimeter players (especially McConnell who is a ridiculous 75-145, or 51.7% from 3 this season) to hit treys against Baylor’s zone to open up space for Samhan to operate. If McConnell and Delledova can keep Dunn and Carter in front of them most of the time, the WCC might get its first team in the Elite Eight since 1999 when Gonzaga made it their before losing to eventual champion UConn (yes, that is the last time the Bulldogs made it that far).

The Skinny: Everyone will be talking about Baylor coming into this game with the homecourt advantage since the game is being played in Houston (a little over 180 miles away from Baylor’s campus in Waco), but Baylor doesn’t have a strong following like other schools in the state do. In fact, we might get a “Duke at Greensboro” situation where UNC fans (or in this case Texas and Texas A&M) root against the local team. Still the combination of Udoh, Dunn, and Carter should be enough to get it done as Samhan’s beastly NCAA Tournament run comes to an end.
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Previewing the Cinderellas: Northern Iowa

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2010

Tim Getting is the sports editor for the Northern Iowan, and was kind enough to contribute this article on his school’s Cinderella story.

Preview – A Realization of Royalty

Entering their fifth tournament appearance in seven seasons, Northern Iowa expected to be less of a Cinderella and more of a Sleeping Beauty. They treated loyal Panther fans and unloyal Hawkeye fans to the program’s best regular season ever, winning a school-record 25 games and peaking at No. 18 in the AP Poll. They won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title outright then went on and took the MVC tournament championship too. The McLeod Center court in Cedar Falls was fully defended with a 14-0 record that included wins over Siena and Old Dominion. This was all achieved with practically the same team that nearly defeated Purdue in last March’s madness.

Selection Sunday dawned and the Panther players wore fake grins as Mr. Gumbel relayed the news that UNI earned a No. 9 seed and a potential second round matchup with the nation’s best team. It now seemed as if a charming awakening would have to be replaced with a slipper-fitting appointment if UNI had hopes of leaving Oklahoma City alive.

Dreaded or Divine SI Cover (SI/G. Nelson)

The slipper fit snug on the foot of Ali Farokhmanesh, and the Iranian Idol propelled the Panthers into the Sweet 16 with consecutive game-winning threes. So will the magic and trite princess metaphors last another round? That will be answered Friday as UNI takes on Michigan State in St. Louis.

Overview

Friday’s game provides a unique coaching showdown in an old pro and young gun who impart physical mentalities on their cowpoke (yes, we have progressed from a princess to a cowboy metaphor). Michigan State coach Tom Izzo holsters a 33-11 tournament record while appearing in his third-straight Sweet 16. His boys specialize in boards where they boast the country’s best rebounding margin at +8.7. Coach Jacobson leads his herd into its first-ever Sweet 16, priding his Panthers on defense as their scoring defense (55 ppg) is the nation’s second-best.

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RTC Region by Region Tidbits: 03.23.10

Posted by THager on March 24th, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Midwest Region (Tom Hager)

  • Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson has insisted that his players are handling the added attention well, but it is hard to keep your composure when you walk into a lecture hall and receive a standing ovation, as Ali Farokhmanesh experienced on Monday.
  • Many people know that Farokhamnesh transferred to UNI, but most people do not know that UNI, like most other schools, knew about him in high school and passed up on him.
  • According to Dan Blank, the key for Michigan State will be to push the ball (something Kansas failed to do when they let Jordan Eglseder score 14 points in 18 minutes).  However, given the injuries they have recently sustained, Blank says hastening the pace may not be so easy.
  • Ohio State has been criticized for a lack of bench production, but Blank points out that the short bench may benefit the Buckeyes.
  • The Buckeyes are underdogs in this game, but Inside Tennessee’s Patrick Gibson reported that the Vols had a solid practice session on Monday.  That should come as no surprise, as this week Doug Gottlieb listed Bruce Pearl as one of his top coaches in the country.

West Region (Andrew Murawa)

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Northern Iowa Knocks Out Kansas

Posted by jstevrtc on March 20th, 2010

Kansas has been sent packing by Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

This has to be the biggest second-round upset in the history of the event.  The Panthers weren’t afraid to get physical with the Jayhawks, and forced them into 15 turnovers while committing only nine themselves.  Kansas was of course the overall #1, and their departure means that Kentucky probably takes over as the favorite to win the title.  They play Wake Forest in a second round game in New Orleans later tonight.

Northern Iowa Celebrates! (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ali Farokhmanesh hit a three — his fourth on the day — with about 25 seconds left to put the Panthers up four just as they were looking their shakiest.  He then sank two free throws with 4.8 seconds left to put a lid on the Panthers’ amazing performance, giving him 16 points on the day.  Sherron Collins and Tyshawn Taylor went a combined 0-10 from three-point land, while Farokhmanesh, Jordan Eglseder, and Johnny Moran combined for 8-16 shooting from behind the arc.

The Panthers’ dismissal of the Jayhawks brings to mind the tournaments of 2000 and 2004.  In 2000, a pair of #8-seeds got the best of two top-seeded squads.  Stanford was the #1 seed in the South region and was beaten by the #8-seed North Carolina in the second round.  Arizona was the #1 seed in the West and also suffered a second round loss.  They were beaten by #8 Wisconsin, and both Wisconsin and North Carolina went on to the Final Four.  In 2004, two #1-seeds went down in the second round on the same day — Kentucky (#1 in the St. Louis region) lost to #9 UAB and Stanford (top seed in the Phoenix region) lost to #8 Alabama.

Take a look at the Midwest bracket.  The region that ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb rightly called “The Region of Death” is now wide open, with #3 Georgetown having been dispatched by Ohio University on Thursday night.  #2 Ohio State and #4 Maryland are the two top seeds left, but every supposed underdog team will play with renewed vigor, knowing there are no Jayhawks with whom to deal.  The Buckeyes will take on #10 Georgia Tech and Maryland will play #5 Michigan State on Sunday afternoon.  The winner of the Maryland/Michigan State game gets the Panthers in the Sweet 16.

We tweeted it after the UNI vs UNLV game, but it's worth repeating: Ali just bumayed.

More on this throughout the evening.  Oh, and if you’re a favorite today…you better come strong.

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First Round Game Analysis: Thursday Evening

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Thursday evening games.

7:10 pm – #8 Northern Iowa vs. #9 UNLV  (Oklahoma City pod)

The Midwest Region’s first game of the tournament features two teams battling for the privilege of going up against Kansas in the next round. What press there is about Northern Iowa, Jordan Eglseder gets most of it. UNLV will also have to watch out for senior guard Ali Farokhmanesh, a streaky three-point shooter who’s had five straight games in single figures and is due for a run. It was thought at the beginning of the year that UNLV’s Tre’Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield would do a little more sharing of the scoring burden for the Runnin Rebels this year, but it’s been Willis who’s shouldered most of the load. At 17.5 PPG, he averages a full seven points more than the Rebels’ next leading scorer, sophomore forward Chace Stanback. Both of these teams take good care of the basketball and, even though neither of them is going to give the scoreboard operator much of a workout, the game itself should be a good one between two teams of similar talent. We hope all these guys get to enjoy the trappings of the tournament… because it won’t last long, sorry to say.

The Skinny: In a game played in the mid-50s (both in tempo and era), look for UNI to make the key plays down the stretch to win this one by four.

7:15 pm – #1 Kentucky vs. #16 ETSU  (New Orleans pod)

If any #16 seed is going to be the first to topple a top seed in this bracket, here’s your best shot. East Tennessee State was in this exact position one March ago and took #1 Pittsburgh to the wire. In fact, the Buccaneers trailed by just three points with 2:47 left in a contest usually reserved for monumental blowouts. ETSU was expected to rebuild after losing four starters from the Atlantic Sun champion of 2008-09, but the Bucs pulled off two upsets in the A-Sun Tournament and toppled Mercer in a true road game, meaning ETSU and former UAB headman Murry Bartow are dancing for the second straight campaign. One player who may give the top seed Wildcats some trouble is a 6’4 wing named Tommy Hubbard that has finally harnessed his talent and is one of the most improved players in the nation. Let’s be honest here, though: Kentucky should roll over the underdog Bucs. The Big Blue has more athleticism and pure ability than any team in the field, never mind the A-Sun champion that finished the season with 14 losses. No guard can come close to contain the blazing speed of John Wall. DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson should have their way on the boards. Even a few breathtaking alley-oops could be in store for the ESPN folks to feast on. Last year Cal State Northridge gave John Calipari’s Memphis team a real scare in the first round. Expect the Kentucky head coach to learn from that game and have his squad prepared to blow the doors off ETSU from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

The Skinny: Kentucky will spend most of the game up 20+ before calling off the dogs Cats to win by fifteen or so.

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Bracket Prep: Northern Iowa, Old Dominion, Siena, St. Mary’s

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

As we move through the next few days when automatic bids will be handed out on a regular basis, we’re going to break down the teams for you so that you can start thinking about your bracket ahead of time.  The pearls of wisdom are meant to help you better understand what these teams are good at and how to make fair comparisons between them — all too often, the capsules you see have a lot of information in them, but very little of it is actually helpful.  If you have additional ideas, leave them in the comments.  For the good/bad matchups, we’re not necessarily saying that Team X will win; we’re simply pointing out that in an ideal situation, some of that team’s strengths will be more likely to manifest against those particular opponents — so save the emails.  We’re still catching up, but these should be the teams through the early part of the week.

#5. Northern Iowa Panthers (28-4, 15-3 MVC) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #7-#9

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. It’s all about methodical offense and sticky defense for the Panthers.  This team will not beat themselves with mistakes, so you’d better be disciplined in your approach if you hope to beat them.  Sixty points is the magic number — the Panthers were 16-0 this year when reaching that score.  Possession basketball is the key; a 10-point deficit in the last five minutes against UNI is nearly impossible to recover from, as they take care of the ball (only 10.5 turnovers/game) and hit free throws (75.5%).
  2. Not many mid-majors have a legitimate seven-footer but UNI’s Jordan Eglseder is one such player.  He only plays about 22 minutes per game, but he’s an effective scorer in the low post, draws a lot of fouls and is one of the best per-minute rebounders in the nation on both ends.  He’s not a game-changer in the sense that he will own the paint, but he is a tough wrinkle to prepare for in the game plan.
  3. The Panthers beat up on some bad major conference teams this year (Iowa, Iowa State, BC) in addition to knocking off some mid-major powers in Old Dominion and Siena.  The one confounding loss was to DePaul in the Virgin Islands early in the year where Mac Koshwal (12/19) dominated Eglseder (2/6) inside.  Don’t assume that as a trend, though, as Eglseder played well against ISU’s Craig Brackins (20/14) and Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson last season (13/5).

Good Matchups:  Wake Forest, Clemson

Bad Matchups: Marquette, UNLV

#6. Old Dominion (26-8, 15-3 CAA) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #9-#11

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. There’s no one player you have to stop to beat ODU, but if you can slow down 6’10 center Gerald Lee, you’ll have a better chance.  The versatile big man was seen in the CAA Tournament taking the ball upcourt against pressure on occasion, in addition to lending his usual 15/5 and 54% shooting from the field.  He has six teammates who contribute between six and nine points per game, so keying on any one of them is precarious because the Monarchs share the wealth.  They only had six occasions where a player scored 20+ points in a game this year, and five of those were Lee (Marsharee Neely was the other).
  2. ODU is another one of those mid-majors that thrives on possession basketball.  They limit your possessions by defending and rebounding among the best in the nation.  They also gang-rebound on the offensive glass, giving themselves an extra chance on nearly half of their scoring opportunities.  Those extra chances help to make up for what is a fairly lousy three-point (31.5%) and two-point shooting percentage (49.4%).
  3. ODU’s signature win was at Georgetown during Snowpacalypse I in December.  They did it by forcing GU point guard Chris Wright into a difficult game (2-8 FG; 4 pts) and collecting eighteen Hoya turnovers.  It should be noted that if you can turn over the Monarchs, as Missouri, Northern Iowa and Dayton successfully did in the nonconference slate, they struggle scoring enough points to win.

Good Matchups:  Oklahoma State, Texas

Bad Matchups: Clemson, Richmond

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Missouri Valley Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

 

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

PRESEASON vs. ACTUAL RESULTS

As you can see from the preseason predictions I made on the Missouri Valley conference back in October versus how things ended up, the MVC turned out to be difficult to predict this year as none of the teams performed as expected other than Northern Iowa and Wichita State.

I originally was not sold on the Panthers, but as the season wore on, I could see the cohesiveness and all the little things this group of players do to win games.  Even with the suspension of Jordan Eglseder in three of the final four games, they were able to rally for the most part and continue their dominance in the Valley.  Wichita State may have surprised some, but the Shockers appear to be back in the Valley picture after a few year absence from relevance.  The work Gregg Marshall has done to build this team back up from scratch has paid off.  The question now is whether it is enough to get to an NCAA Tournament postseason.

HELLO SAINT LOUIS

The Missouri Valley Conference tournament will take place this coming week at the Scottrade Center in downtown Saint Louis.  Rush the Court will be live in St. Louis this week to keep you updated on the things going on at Arch Madness.  Here is how the bracket shapes up:

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RTC Daily Bracketbusters: Saturday & Sunday

Posted by nvr1983 on February 27th, 2010

Even though ESPN likes to hype up its Bracketbuster day the fact is that the last few weeks of the season act like an elimination tournament with teams moving in and out of the NCAA Tournament while other teams move up and down on a daily basis. While each and every game could theoretically have an impact on the Bubble and NCAA seeding there are a few games that matter more than the others which we will feature over the next two weeks leading up to the conference tournaments. We will feature these in two posts per week. The first will be a post released on Sunday night for games from Monday through Thursday and the second will be a post released on Thursday/Friday night for games from Friday through Sunday.

Fifth
#21 Texas at #23 Texas A&M at 2 PM on ESPN on Saturday – These two teams are on edge of being anywhere from a #4 to a #8 seed so this is obviously a big game for both teams because when the Selection Committee is placing teams in the bracket they will look at how they did head-to-head. Texas has been disappointing this year, but they have a chance to salvage their season with a late rally. The big question is how they respond to the loss of Dogus Balbay.  Texas A&M is in essentially the same situation that the Longhorns are just with much less fanfare and volatility. The winner here has a shot at a 4 seed while the loser is going to be looking at a #7 seed at best barring a run in the Big 12 Conference Tournament, but perhaps the biggest prize for the winner will be moving up to try and avoid Kansas in the Conference Tournament for as long as possible.

Fourth
Illinois State at #22 Northern Iowa at 8:05 PM on ESPN2 on Saturday – I know after the media’s lovefest for the Panthers this year it might be shocking to hear that they might need to win this game to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but after their shocking loss at Evansville they might need this one for an at-large bid if they slip up in Arch Madness. Jordan Eglseder is scheduled to return from his suspension today and the Panthers will need him against Illinois State. The Redbirds have no illusions of an at-large bid, but this game is significant for their automatic bid chances as it would give them a shot at the #2 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and help them avoid the Panthers until the finals, which is particularly important since there are only 3 solid teams in the MVC.

Will Eglseder’s return spark the Panthers?

Third
#8 Villanova at #4 Syracuse at 9 PM on ESPN on Saturday - Yes. The biggest game ever (!) slides in as the #3 game of the weekend in our rankings. Obviously this is the marquee game of the weekend in terms of big names, but it holds a little less significance for the NCAA Tournament then some would think. A win here for Syracuse would give them clinch the Big East regular season title for the Orange, but they already have the coveted double-bye (an absolute joke) in the Big East Tournament. The bigger issue for Jim Boeheim‘s squad is their quest for a #1 seed. With Purdue basically being eliminated in the talk about the final two #1 seeds (see below), a Syracuse win would give them the inside track for one of those seeds. As for Villanova, they have an outside shot at a #1 seed, but they will need a lot of help thanks to their #50 SOS (yes, I double checked and yes I was shocked too). Their main concern should be trying to avoid slipping for a #3 or possibly even #4 seed with a difficult three-game stretch to end the season (at Syracuse, at Cincinnati, and home versus West Virginia).

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ATB: 903 for Herb Magee

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2010

#903. Philadelphia 76, Goldey-Beacom 65.  It’s not D1, but we don’t really care.  Anyone who wins 903 games deserves all the accolades he can get, and RTC is happy to oblige (especially when their fans oblige us with a well-deserved RTC).  With local coaching luminaries such as Villanova’s Jay Wright and Temple’s Fran Dunphy in attendance, the 68-year old coach Herb Magee thrilled an SRO crowd by avenging the school’s only CACC conference loss as he officially became the all-time leader in NCAA wins, passing Bob Knight’s 902.  His Rams move to 23-6 overall and 15-1 in the conference as they look to make another run in the Division II Tournament next month.  Magee won a national title at the school in 1970 and has averaged over twenty victories a year ever since, yet he says he has no plans to slow down as long as he’s healthy, inviting everyone back in “four and a half years” for the next celebration at 1,000.  After the game fans were given t-shirts with Magee’s name and the number 903 on the front — if anyone can send us one of these, we’d be exceptionally grateful.  Congratulations, Coach Magee — a class act, through and through.

Fans RTC After Magee Won his 903d Game Tonight (Phila. Inquirer)

The Wild and Wonderful Big East#13 Georgetown 70, Louisville 60.  As soon as you think you have this league figured out, it surprises you again.  Come on, who wasn’t saying at halftime of this game tonight that the Cards were surging and the Hoyas were cooked.  It’s ok, you don’t have to admit it to us, but that’s what we were thinking too.  Um, we guess the Hoyas weren’t thinking that.  Georgetown used a 24-5 run to start the second half and silence the Freedom Hall crowd behind Austin Freeman’s 29/4/4 assts, the vast majority of which came in that half.  The rest of the game was academic, as Rick Pitino’s team fell back into its old habit of Edgar Sosa (24/8 assts) and Samardo Samuels (11/6) doing most of the shooting (and scoring).  Both of these teams are now 9-6 and one game behind West Virginia for magical double-bye that the Big East Tournament offers its top four seeds.  Georgetown has two winnable home games vs. Notre Dame and Cincy sandwiching a tough road game at WVU, while Louisville has three pretty tough games remaining (UConn and Marquette away, Syracuse at home).  As for the long-term viability of these two teams, both have warts, but Georgetown’s better offensive balance and big-game ability carries a lot more weight with us — if having to choose now, Louisville looks like a first-round upset waiting to happen, while the Hoyas are a Sweet Sixteen team so long as their starters stay on the floor.

Upset of the NightEvansville 55, #24 Northern Iowa 54.  How badly must suspended UNI center Jordan Eglseder feel now?  Although the Panthers are still safely within the NCAA field even if they lose in Arch Madness next week, this loss to the hapless Evansville Purple Aces will have a serious impact on their seeding two Sundays from now.  Evansville, who has won only two games in the MVC all season but beat the top two teams (UNI and Wichita State) on their home court, held Nothern Iowa to 33% shooting and only 5-27 from three, one of their three worst performances of the season.  The few Evansville fans who were there actually RTC’d, but we haven’t yet found any photographic or video evidence of this yet.

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