America’s Top Five Party Schools: College Hoops Edition

Posted by BHayes on August 13th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. Be sure to tweet your disagreements with this column @HoopsTraveler.

You may have already caught it, but last week the Princeton Review released its annual list of the top 10 party schools in the country. This coronation of the most “festive” campuses across the country got us to thinking a little bit, and we wondered which schools best combine college basketball and partying. Unfortunately, it is only in a fantasy alternate reality that I have had the privilege of visiting the campuses of all 351 Division I basketball programs (now we all know how sad my dreams are), but with over 100 of them under my belt, including eight of the Princeton Review’s top 10 (Lehigh, really?), I feel at least somewhat qualified to create a list of the schools that best combine college basketball with extracurricular festivities. I’m only working off what I know here (i.e., the places I’ve personally been), and apologies if I went to the wrong frat party during my one night in town – we all swing and miss sometimes. So with those caveats in place, here are college basketball’s five best party schools – plus a few honorable mentions below those.

A Good Time Was Had By All

A Good Time Was Had By All

5. Missouri – Columbia, Missouri is one of the more underrated college towns in America. Not only the midpoint between Kansas City and St. Louis, the home to the Mizzou campus also lays claim to a lively downtown and massive student body as well as a pretty decent athletic program. The newest members of the SEC have made plenty of recent noise under Mike Anderson and now Frank Haith, and passers-through will not be disappointed by the post-game activities on and off East Broadway. Oh, and Shakespeare’s Pizza is an absolute must for food and libations before heading over to the game at Mizzou Arena.

4. Minnesota – Few college basketball arenas can match the eccentric personality of The Barn in Minneapolis, and it’s those little quirks that make Williams Arena the perfect spot to cozy up on a cold Minnesota night. The good but rarely great Gophers have been a bit of a tease over the last few years, but the program has a solid history, and win or lose, the streets outside the doors to the Barn have plenty of immediate options for eating and drinking. Finding a seat at Campus Pizza before or after a game will be a challenge, but well worth the effort if you can make it happen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Which Big Ten Player Will Not Make the 2013 AP All-America Team?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 31st, 2012

The preseason AP All-America team consists of three players from the Big Ten - Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas and Michigan’s Trey Burke. Debates have already begun across every B1G fan forum regarding which players might be overrated or who might not meet their relatively high expectations. Only one player from last season’s preseason list finished the season as an All-American – and it was the Big Ten’s very own Jared Sullinger. Let’s examine which of this year’s elite Big Ten players are most likely to drop off from these lofty expectations that have already been attached to them.

Will Trey Burke and Cody Zeller finish the season on the All-American team? (AP Photo/D. Cummings)

Cody Zeller

Zeller is the best big man in the country. He is also the best player on the #1 team in the nation, so there’s not much to argue about Zeller’s selection to the preseason team. His numbers will be there (15.6 PPG and 6.6 RPG) unless Indiana completely abandons him during certain stretches of the game. But if the Hoosiers commit to running the offense through the post, Zeller will stuff the stat sheet all season long. During conference play, there are very few forwards who can match up with Zeller’s offensive arsenal. Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe has the offensive skills but has yet to show that is committed on the defensive end. Michigan State’s big men – Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne — will play good defense because Tom Izzo demands it, but neither of them have the athleticism to defend Zeller’s post moves. Does Indiana need to win the Big Ten and make the Final Four for Zeller to remain in the national spotlight? Not necessarily. As long as they remain near the top of the league and among the top 10-15 teams nationally, he will get credit for leading IU as a contender. Overall, there is no reason to believe that Zeller might not finish as a first-team All-America selection and he may even finish the season as the National Player of the Year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten Summer Check In: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on July 17th, 2012

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan clearly does not care about preseason rankings. The regular season rankings don’t seem to bother him much either. Seemingly every year, his program is said to be having a tough time to keep up with the rest of the Big Ten because of departing players or numerous other reasons. But the Badgers recharge, they understand their talent, they play good defense, and they play within a system. Wisconsin fans have gotten used to this trend for years and it has resulted in consistent success in Madison. Michigan State and Ohio State can boast about their Final Four appearances, but Wisconsin’s consistency is its hallmark trait that has resulted in Big Ten championships and its own share of postseason success.

Bo Ryan will reload once again to remain competitive in the Big Ten.

Evaluating Last Year: The Badgers had their shot against top seeded Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen when the ball was in Jordan Taylor’s hands, their best player and most experienced veteran. Wisconsin fans couldn’t have asked for more than a shot to win that would have resulted in their second Elite Eight appearance in seven years. Ryan’s crew played their hearts out, as they challenged the 2-3 zone and hit 52% (14-27) from beyond the arc before falling short in a nail-biter. The chaotic last possession should not be used to judge their regular season by any means because the Badgers finished fourth in the B1G with a 12-6 record, just one game behind the co-champions. That level of performance along with another Sweet Sixteen appearance should definitely be considered a success for a team that could not find a consistent second scoring option after Jordan Taylor last year. Junior wing Ryan Evans averaged 11 points per game but couldn’t consistently deliver during the clutch when opposing teams double-teamed Taylor. Despite those limited scoring options, Wisconsin’s 2011-12 campaign was definitely a success.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Bidding Them Farewell: Paying Homage to the Undrafted College Seniors

Posted by EJacoby on July 2nd, 2012

The NBA Draft is only two rounds long, so it’s quite difficult to crack the top 60 eligible draftees into the league in a given year. It’s even more challenging for graduating seniors, who not only compete with younger collegians but also foreign prospects from around the world who possess greater ‘upside’ in the minds of NBA evaluators. Constantly in search of the next hidden gem, general managers tend to overlook the players they’ve watched over the past four seasons in college. Only four seniors were picked in the first round during last Thursday’s draft, and while another 17 made it into the second there was still a large pool of graduates who didn’t hear their names called. There were far more than 21 impactful seniors in college basketball last season, and we’re here to honor the careers of those who didn’t get selected. We won’t forget the contributions of these following players, and with hard work and a little luck they should have a strong chance of cracking an NBA roster in the future.

Kevin Jones had a brilliant college career but wasn’t recognized on draft night (Getty Images)

  • Kevin Jones, West Virginia – A career that included a trip to the Final Four as a sophomore and leading the Big East in scoring and rebounding as a senior wasn’t enough to merit consideration by the NBA. Jones averaged 19.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks last season on 50.9% shooting from the field and 78.0% shooting from the line while also making a three-pointer per game. He also led the conference in Offensive Rating, this all coming on a squad with little offensive help elsewhere.
  • William Buford, Ohio State – Buford was a McDonald’s All-American guard with prototypical 6’6″ size who averaged double figures every season at Ohio State, making two Sweet Sixteens and a Final Four. He shoots it well and has shown a strong tendency to fit into an offensive scheme with other talented scorers, but his inability to take over games perhaps made him overlooked by scouts.
  • Scott Machado, Iona – Machado led the country in assists last season (9.9 per game) while also reaching career highs in points, rebounds, steals, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage as the leader of an at-large NCAA Tournament team. Even in a weak point guard draft, no team pulled the trigger on Machado, but he’ll have a great chance to dazzle in Summer League as one of the more polished floor leaders. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big Ten Season Wrap-Up: Wisconsin

Posted by jnowak on April 9th, 2012

Well, it doesn’t get much more Wisconsin than that. In pretty typical Bo Ryan fashion, the Badgers were underestimated at the beginning of the season, handled their business in the nonconference, emerged as a player in the Big Ten race, and gave people some trouble in the NCAA Tournament before making any real, substantial noise. It’s become Wisconsin’s M.O. over the years and 2011-12 was really no different. Depending on who you ask, it’s a success or a failure. Let’s take a look back:

Here we are again: Close, but no cigar for Jordan Taylor and Wisconsin. (Getty Images/J. Rogash)

  • In a nutshell: Without a really dreadful stretch at the beginning of Big Ten play that left some wondering if Wisconsin would even make the NCAA Tournament — really? — the Badgers would have been right in the thick of the race for a Big Ten championship. Even with that three-game losing streak (and two of losses coming at home), the Badgers still managed to finish just a game back of the three-way tie for first place. That’s pretty darn good, all things considered. Jordan Taylor put this club on his shoulders and carried them within one point of a possible Elite Eight berth and an upset of top-seeded Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Overachievement: Is it unfair to narrow this down to a single game? Senior Rob Wilson, who had only two career starts under his belt by the time the Badgers met up with Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, made seven 3-pointers and dropped a career-high 30 points to lead Wisconsin past the Hoosiers in Indianapolis. Not even his mother could have seen that one coming. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big Ten Morning Five: 03.28.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 28th, 2012

  1. One coaching vacancy in the Big Ten has been filled as Nebraska welcomed Tim Miles as the newest leader of their basketball program. Miles comes with a solid resume from Colorado State, but some former players have expressed disappointment that the school wasn’t able to get a coach who moved a needle a little more. Miles was able to guide Colorado State to the NCAA Tournament this year, which is something the Huskers were unable to do, but his lack of experience at the helm of a big-time program has given some fans pause knowing that competing in the Big Ten is different than the Mountain West.
  2. Meanwhile, it appears that Illinois will soon have their man, as a deal appears imminent with Ohio head coach and former Ohio State assistant John Groce.  However, since Illinois publicly courted other candidates, including VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens, and came up empty; many who have been following the hiring process are wondering whether becoming the head man of the Illini is still a premiere position. Some have used the term “national embarrassment”, and while I think that is harsh, it is true that Illinois has been publicly rebuffed by a number of candidates.
  3. Michigan State has a storied basketball program, and that has led to the Spartans honoring nine former players by retiring their jersey numbers. Tom Izzo thinks that there should be a tenth jersey hanging from the rafters, and he wants that jersey to belong to Draymond Green. Green was honored as an AP All-Amerian first team member this week, and his leadership off the court and skills on the court certainly would qualify him to join Spartan lore. Izzo has noted that the leadership and chemistry from this team is not lost on the younger players, and State will be looking for a couple of leaders to fill the void left by Green come next season.
  4. With the Final Four back in New Orleans, ESPN.com decided to reminisce about some classic moments when college basketball’s premiere event was held in the Big Easy. Two Big Ten moments made the list, one being Keith Smart’s epic shot against Syracuse in 1987 and the other being Chris Webber‘s infamous timeout against North Carolina in 1993. The best and the worst of the NCAA tournament, both taking place at the same site, six years apart.
  5. Though their NCAA Tournament exit was heartbreaking, Wisconsin gave Syracuse a run for their money, and while senior point guard Jordan Taylor will certainly be missed, the Badgers will bring back four starters from a team that won 26 games this year.  It is never easy to replace a leader at the point guard position, but Wisconsin will return 71% of its scoring and 84% of its rebounding next season. The future looks good in Madison for the Badgers to again be a factor in the Big Ten.
Share this story

Weekend Wrap: Buckeyes to the Final Four; Spartans, Hoosiers, Badgers Fall

Posted by jnowak on March 25th, 2012

Four teams enter, one team leaves. The Big Ten had four representatives advance to the second weekend of NCAA Tournament play, but just Ohio State — considered by many to be the toast of the league for much of the season before Michigan State emerged as Big Ten Tournament champions and the conference’s lone #1 seed — will be suiting up in New Orleans next weekend. Here are a few thoughts from the weekend’s action:

Ohio State's Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Deshaun Thomas celebrate their team's win against Syracuse on Saturday. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

  • Tom Izzo was right — The esteemed Michigan State coach, who knows a thing or two about getting through March, has recognized all along that this is not his most talented team but it had as much capability as any other because of its intangible qualities. Because of this, Izzo has also said all along that the group’s margin for error was smaller than maybe ever before. That came to fruition against a red-hot Louisville group on Thursday, as the Spartans turned in one of the worst offensive performances of the tournament. The Cardinals never allowed the Spartans to get into a rhythm and it led to an early exit. If it’s any consolation, Michigan State has been eliminated by a Final Four team in six of the last eight seasons.
  • Does Ohio State have what it takes? — The Buckeyes are Bourbon Street-bound, but can they win two more games? They wouldn’t have to play the top team in the tournament (Kentucky) presumably until the national title game, and have shown that they can keep finding ways to win. They did it without Jared Sullinger for most of the first half Saturday, and William Buford and Deshaun Thomas were both pretty quiet. If everything clicks for this group, they can certainly hang with anybody.
Share this story

Big Ten Morning Five: 03.23.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 23rd, 2012

  1. Bad news for Big Ten fans last night, as Michigan State fell to Louisville, 57-44.  Not only were the Spartans the best chance for the conference to claim a national championship, they also became the first #1 seed to fall.  Michigan State looked sloppy and out of sync all game long, thanks to the swarming pressure defense of the Cardinals, and also the shot-blocking presence of Gorgui Dieng, who swatted 7 shots.  Many other stats were disappointing for Spartan fans to look at, including the final score, 44, which is the lowest total point output by a 1-seed in the college basketball shot clock era.
  2. One Spartan who had a game to forget was sophomore point guard Keith Appling.  Appling scored just one basket, and had four turnovers, struggling withe the Louisville pressure.  Following the game, Appling was dejected in the locker room, with the realization of how quickly fortunes can change in the NCAA tournament washing over him.  He’ll be expected to lead the transition out of the Draymond Green era next season, so hopefully Appling doesn’t keep his head down for long.
  3. Wisconsin came oh-so-close to upsetting Syracuse, but the Badgers fell just short, as Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser could not covert last-second attempts.  Wisconsin was able to slow the pace down, as evidence by the 64-63 score, but the Badgers also ruled the three-point line, knocking down 14 of 27 for a stunning 52% from beyond the arc.  It wasn’t enough though, as Dion Waiters scored 13 points, and also had some key baskets down the stretch that helped the Orange hold on.
  4. The Big Ten only had one successful team on the evening, and that was Ohio State, who’s win over Cincinnati put the Big ten at 1-2 on the night (against the Big East no less), but more importantly sent the Buckeyes to the Elite Eight, a place they haven’t been since the school went to the Final Four in 2007.  Things looked dicey as Ohio State coughed up a 10-point halftime lead five minutes into the second half.  But Thad Motta’s crew collected themselves, and behind 26 points from Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State guaranteed the conference will have Elite Eight representation.
  5. As brackets continue to bust this weekend, Nebraska basketball fans are keeping tabs on a quiet coaching search taking place in Lincoln.  No big names are linked to the Husker jobs, but that doesn’t mean the search lacks for interesting candidates.  Colorado State head coach Tim Miles is a name that not many have talked about, but after taking his Rams to the NCAA tournament and helping turn around that program, he seems like a good fit for a struggling Nebraska.
Share this story

ATB: Syracuse Survives, OSU Recovers, and Upset City in the West…

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Half of our Elite Eight teams are set, with the East and West regions completing their semifinal matchups on Thursday night. The East Region in Boston finished as expected, with chalk advancing to the Elite Eight in the form of Syracuse and Ohio State for what should be a fantastic regional final on Saturday. But the story in Phoenix was much different, as the favored #1 and #3 seeds went down in games that were dominated by the lower seeds. Only one game on the night finished in single digits but there was plenty of exciting basketball that took place. And the one game that was a close one happened to be one of the Big Dance’s best. Let’s break it down… 

Your Watercooler Moment. Jordan Taylor’s Shot Falls Short, #1 Syracuse Survives.

Wisconsin is Devastated After Coming so Close Against Syracuse (Getty Images/J. Rogash)

Our first game of the night was a classic, one that featured two very different teams that both executed at an extremely high level offensively. Four-seed Wisconsin brought its patented ball-control, super-slow tempo game plan into Boston with hopes of knocking off top-seeded Syracuse with a methodical approach, good shooting, and strong collective defense. But no defense could stop what either team was bringing to the table in this one. The Badgers executed their plan offensively, hitting an amazing 14-27 from three-point range in a wonderful display of outside shooting that would usually be enough for a victory. But the Orange were just as strong on the other end, converting 55.1% of their field goals with easy baskets in the paint from a variety of one-on-one scorers. The two teams combined for just 12 turnovers and this game came down to the very last shot, one that fell short on a long three-point attempt from Jordan Taylor on a broken offensive play. Despite the fairly low 64-63 final score, the game featured crisp execution throughout its entirety. Syracuse was just one possession better, thanks to its easy offense earned through superior athleticism and playmaking in the half court. It’s on to the Elite Eight for the Orange!

Also Worth Chatting About. The First #1-Seed to Fall are Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Everyone knows that March is Michigan State’s month. Tom Izzo has brought the Spartans to six Final Fours in his tenure, and he had never been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament before the final weekend when his team was a #1 seed. That came to an end on Thursday, when Michigan State was outplayed from the start by Rick Pitino’s #4 Louisville Cardinals. The Spartans racked up more turnovers (15) than made field goals (14) while shooting 28.6% from the field. Louisville was too athletic and strong defensively, essentially beating Michigan State at its own game. The Cardinals won the battle on the boards, in the turnover margin, and from behind the arc (they shot 9-23 compared to 5-21 for MSU). Gorgui Dieng racked up seven blocks and three steals to go along with nine rebounds in an elite defensive performance, and Peyton Siva ran the offense well with nine assists. Izzo’s March mystique could not get his players to put the ball in the basket, and our first #1 seed finally goes down.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reaction: #1 Syracuse 64, #4 Wisconsin 63

Posted by nvr1983 on March 22nd, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Syracuse weathers the storm. People have said a lot of things about this Syracuse program over the past five months, but they are definitely resilient. From the Bernie Fine scandal to the Fab Melo suspension (both of them), the Orange have persevered and now find themselves on the verge of taking Jim Boeheim to just his fourth Final Four in his storied career. Tonight the Orange were able to fend off some ridiculously hot shooting from the Badgers who went 14-27 from the 3-point range including six straight three-pointers in less than four minutes midway through the second half. The Orange managed to withstand the barrage and are on the verge of heading to New Orleans.
  2. Berggren in foul trouble. When someone looks at the box score from this game in the future they will probably barely notice Jared Berggren‘s 3 fouls, but those who watched the game will know that the second foul he picked up with 12:03 left in the first half had a huge impact in the game. Berggren had just scored 10 straight Wisconsin points in 3:17 stretch that turned a 7-5 Syracuse lead into a 15-9 Wisconsin lead. From that point forward, Berggren did not play a single second in the first half. The Orange then went on a 24-8 run to give themselves a 10-point lead before a late four-point spurt by the Badgers cut the halftime deficit to six.
  3. Contrasting styles made for a great game. Early in the game nearly every media member was tracking how much of the shot clock Wisconsin was using before they took a shot. On the other end, we could barely keep up with how quickly Syracuse was getting its shots off. The contrast was also notable in the team’s shot selection. Wisconsin scored 42 of its 63 points from beyond the arc while only 15 of Syracuse’s 64 points came from three-point range. In the end, Wisconsin had exactly what it wanted–the ball in the hands of its senior All-American point guard. Wisconsin could have called a timeout to set up a play, but you can hardly fault Bo Ryan for letting Jordan Taylor work against a Syracuse defense that the Badgers had picked apart in the second half with its three-point shooting. This time though, Syracuse stepped up and forced Taylor into an ugly desperation three that the Badgers didn’t need and their last gasp came up short.

Star of the Game. C.J. Fair, Syracuse. Berggren may have had the big first half and Dion Waiters may have exploded towards the end of the first half, but it was fair who gave the Orange 15 points, seven rebounds, and four steals that probably was the decisive factor. Fair has been quiet offensively over the past six games totaling just 20 points over that period, which spanned a month, but he gave his team the lift it needed to get over a tough Wisconsin team.

Sights & Sounds. Our seat was next to the Wisconsin bench and while we didn’t get to watch Jim Boeheim’s facial expressions we got an earful of Bo Ryan yelling about every single call. As we noted earlier Ryan was particularly vocal about his thoughts that the officials were favoring the Orange, which was not evident as Syracuse was actually called for one more foul (13-12). The one time when Ryan did not have something to say was when a reporter asked him what he said immediately after the game to Jordan Taylor.

What’s Next?  The Orange will be taking on the state of Ohio in some form. They could get a Big East match-up with Cincinnati, who they split the season series with winning at Cincinnati in January, but then dropping the Big East semifinal to a surging Cincinnati team. Or they could get a game against Ohio State that Orange fans have feared with the presence of Jared Sullinger potentially highlighting the absence of Fab Melo on the inside.

Share this story

Will Wisconsin and Ohio State Be Elite?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 22nd, 2012

The first weekend of March Madness is similar to a long distance run. Runners usually go at a slower pace to keep logging longer distances and stay on their feet for a longer time. That’s how college hoops fans approach the first few days of games of the NCAA Tournament. The second weekend is a little bit slower but more analogous to a “tempo” run. The games are still moving at a faster pace but not necessarily at the pace of a sprint, so the fans can focus on the specific mechanics of the game and key matchups. Four B1G teams will showcase their talents over the next couple days during the Sweet Sixteen. More than likely, a couple of teams will advance into the Elite Eight but every one of them – Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Indiana — has a shot to keep moving towards the Final Four. Let’s examine if Wisconsin and Ohio State have what it takes to be elite based on their matchups in the round of 16.

Jordan Taylor needs to keep Scoop Jardine in check.

Wisconsin vs. Syracuse

  • Key Matchup: Wisconsin’s defense vs. Syracuse’s transition game. Everybody is aware of Boeheim’s lethal 2-3 zone and what it takes to break it consistently during a 40-minute game. But ‘Cuse is practically impossible to stop if they can get their transition game going on offense. Without Fab Melo, they don’t have the low post presence to challenge teams effectively in a half court set, so they need some easy buckets in transition to maintain offensive momentum. Scoop Jardine is an experienced point guard but he can get frustrated at times if he is limited to half court sets only.  Jardine’s turnover rate is 25%, which is not necessarily high but indicates a lack of composure during certain stretches of the game if he is forced to shoot jumpers. Wisconsin has the guards to match up with Boeheim’s versatile backcourt – Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters. Nobody on SU shoots over 37% from the long-range, though, so if Bo Ryan’s crew forces them to settle for jumpers, they could be in trouble.  Jardine doesn’t necessarily have the quickness to get around Jordan Taylor or Josh Gasser. Keep in mind the excellent job that Ryan’s guards did against John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor of Vanderbilt last weekend. Kris Joseph, a 6’7″ senior, can cause some matchup problems for Wisconsin but he relies heavily on the long-range shot as well – Joseph attempted 144 shots from beyond the arc and hit only 34.7% of them this year.  Limit Syracuse from pushing the ball up the court and Bo Ryan’s crew might be onto something tonight. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Thursday

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 22nd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#1 Syracuse vs. #4 Wisconsin – East Region Semifinals (at Boston, MA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Bo Ryan Is Looking For His Second Trip to the Elite Eight at Wisconsin

Perhaps the most fascinating matchup to date in the entire NCAA Tournament will take place in tonight’s first game from Boston. Wisconsin, the most patient and deliberate team in the country, takes on a Syracuse team that has won 33 games due in large part to a lethal transition attack. While Syracuse ranks #202 in tempo, the Orange thrive on the fast break. You hear a lot about Jim Boeheim’s team struggling on the defensive glass and some of that is due to the fact that his guards already start out on the break when a shot goes up, taking them completely out of position to rebound. Without Fab Melo around to man the middle, Syracuse’s rebounding issues could be a major problem against the physical and deliberate Badgers. It’s always easier to slow a game down than to speed it up and that’s what Wisconsin is going to do. Syracuse will be forced to score in the half court against one of the strongest defenses in the entire nation. The big question will be whether Syracuse, already not one of the better half court teams, can get the ball inside and avoid settling for jump shots. At times this season the Orange have been frustrated and forced into shooting contested jumpers. Syracuse needs to utilize strong ball screening action in order to free up shooters. Wisconsin’s players will fight through screens and stick with you so using the pick-and-roll also wouldn’t be a bad idea. As for Wisconsin, the Badgers match up very well on the defensive end. The question for them will be whether they can score enough to win. Syracuse obviously has more offensive weapons but Bo Ryan has Jordan Taylor to take control of the game for his team. Taylor is the only player on Wisconsin capable of creating his own shot and that will be critical against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Wisconsin shoots a bunch of three-pointers and it will have to make quite a few in order to knock off the top-seeded Orange. Syracuse’s zone encourages opposing teams to shoot over it but Wisconsin can actually make them, a major difference from Kansas State last week. If Boeheim chooses to extend his zone out on Wisconsin’s shooters, that will free up the Melo-less middle for Jared Berggren to go to work off screen and rolls in addition to opening up driving lanes for Taylor. Expect Jim Boeheim to adjust how his defense attacks Wisconsin as the game goes along, something he certainly has experience with. This will be a clean game between two teams with great defenses and terrific ball protection. Should it come down to free throws, Wisconsin has the edge. Syracuse is the better team and has many more offensive threats but the Tournament is all about matchups. We think the Badgers will make just enough shots to pull off the upset.

The RTC Certified Pick: Wisconsin

#1 Michigan State vs. #4 Louisville – West Regional Semifinal (at Phoenix, AZ) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

One of the things we college basketball fans tend to really like about this time of year are the surprises. Not just the obvious ones like Butler running to the national title game or Villanova playing the perfect game against Georgetown, but more subtle ones like teams unveiling a new wrinkle to their offense or players making plays that you hadn’t known they were able to make. As for this game, however, don’t expect many surprises; we all more or less know how this is going to go down. We’ve seen Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino enough over the years to know what they want to do, and we’ve seen the 2012 vintages of both of these clubs to know what they are capable of. Michigan State is going to defend like crazy in the halfcourt, pound the glass on both ends of the court and try to knock Louisville around enough so that the Cards will be forced into submission late in the game. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are going to turn up the pressure defensively, try to force turnovers, rely on Gorgui Dieng to block shots in the middle and watch Peyton Siva get penetration and create offense off the bounce. It is likely going to be a low-scoring game that is still in doubt late into the second half and it will come down to which of these teams is capable of making the most plays down the stretch. While Siva’s numbers on the season are not great, he has been a different player since the Big East Tournament started, getting into the lane seemingly at will, creating opportunities for himself and for others and pitching in everywhere on the floor on his way to 13 points, 5.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game over the six-game stretch. He does a lot of damage in the pick-and-roll game, so not only will Spartan guard Keith Appling have to be on his game defensively, but whichever big man gets involved in the screen needs to do a good job of keeping Siva out of the lane. Draymond Green is clearly the big factor for Michigan State, and he too has been on fire of late, averaging 20 points, 12.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists and shooting it at a 64.3% eFG in the NCAA Tournament. Freshman Chane Benahan appears to be the most obvious individual matchup for Green, but it is going to have to be a full team effort for the Cards to slow the All-American down. Louisville will need to pressure the Spartan guards, keeping them from getting into their halfcourt offense easily and, perhaps more importantly, dedicate themselves to keeping Spartans like Green, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix off the offensive glass. However, given their relative lack of size (only Dieng is taller than 6’8”) and struggles with defensive rebounding, this could be the eventual downfall of the Cards. While they’ll certainly get their share of stops and turnovers, allowing Green and company second opportunities is a recipe for disaster.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story