Rushed Reaction: #4 Wisconsin 60, #5 Vanderbilt 57

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Players making plays. Down the stretch, it seemed just about all of the star players in this game made significant plays. There was Festus Ezeli with a giant swat on one end followed up by a soft lay-in on the other. There was a great play by Jeff Taylor to bring Vanderbilt back within one possession. There was the John Jenkins dish to Ezeli to put the Commodores up a point just before Jordan Taylor answered with a dagger three-pointer. And then, down the stretch, Wisconsin ran down two straight long offensive rebounds, allowing them to take over a minute off the clock. Still, after Josh Gasser missed the front-end of a one-and-one, Jenkins had a pretty good look at a three with six seconds left, but it was not to be.
  2. Starting strong, finishing strong. Ryan Evans scored ten points right out of the gate, including eight in the first four minutes of the game, then disappeared for about 20 minutes after picking up his second foul with four minutes remaining in the first half. But, with the game in the balance, Evans soared above bigger Vanderbilt players to snatch a huge rebound following that missed Jenkins three in the closing seconds, then proceeded to hit a free throw to extend the Badger lead to three, which was the final margin.
  3. Balance. In a game like this, with solid fundamental defensive teams, no one player was able to stay hot for long, which led to balanced scoring all the way around. Five different Badgers scored in double figures, led by Jordan Taylor’s 14, but with players like Jarred Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, and even freshman guard Ben Brust stepping up and making plays. Brust wound up with 11, all in the second half, including three big three-pointers.

Star of the GameFestus Ezeli, Vanderbilt. In a tight game that went down to the wire, Ezeli was the one unstoppable force in the game. Despite not starting, he wound up with 14 points and 11 rebounds and had a hand in three of the final four Commodore hoops (two baskets and one assist). While his career ends, Ezeli was the one athlete who stood out among a company of equals.

Sights & Sounds. While some portions of the Baylor and Colorado section did not fill up until halftime of this game, just about every other seat in this arena was filled early. And with two excellent bands, filling up the pregame, halftime and extended timeouts, the environment inside The Pit was every bit as electric as you would hope March basketball would be. As the game went down to a wire, all the neutral fans in the arena seemed to wind up just rooting for whoever was behind in the game, making for a loud and exciting conclusion.

Wildcard. For much of the final stretch in crunch time, Vanderbilt senior guard Brad Tinsley watched from the bench as freshman Kedren Johnson ran the point. While other lesser leaders might be hurt by such a perceived slight, Tinsley was there ready to give the youngster advice on leaving the timeouts. Call it a passing of the torch, as the quartet of Commodore seniors wraps up their careers with just one NCAA Tournament win to their names.

What’s Next? Wisconsin will face Syracuse in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night. While the Orange looked excellent in advancing to the Sweet 16, the ineligibility of sophomore center Fab Melo may leave them susceptible on the inside where the Badgers interior tandem Bruesewitz and Berggren can make an impact.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – Saturday

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 17th, 2012

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

#1 Syracuse vs. #8 Kansas State – East Region Third Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Jim Boeheim's Team Appears Vulnerable: Will They Find Steady Footing?

You can make a case that Syracuse shouldn’t even be here after the officiating disaster at the end of its first game. However, the Orange survived and now are being questioned by many fans and commentators. A word of caution: Thursday’s game against UNC-Asheville may have been what Syracuse needed to get over the jitters of playing without Fab Melo. While that’s not likely to be a popular opinion, it may be enough to move Syracuse to at least the Sweet Sixteen. The Orange are not going to have an easy time with Kansas State’s physical defense but the big question mark is if the Wildcats can score enough to keep pace. Kansas State is actually somewhat vulnerable on the defensive glass and Syracuse did a nice job of offensive rebounding against Asheville. Obviously the Wildcats have a significant edge on their end of the floor when it comes to offensive rebounding but we actually like the matchups for Syracuse. The Orange have a lot more talent, are deeper and can pressure a Kansas State team that averages 14 turnovers per game. Syracuse won’t get out on the break often but all it needs is a couple stretches of turnovers and fast break points in order to create a cushion. Experience also matters and the Orange feature two seniors in Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph while Kansas State has freshman Angel Rodriguez running its offense. Syracuse isn’t nearly as good without Melo but we think the Orange are good enough to advance past the Wildcats in this game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Syracuse.

#2 Ohio State vs. #7 Gonzaga – East Region Third Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) – 2:45 pm ET on CBS

There are a ton of fascinating matchups in this game. From Gonzaga’s front court guarding Jared Sullinger to the nation’s most efficient defensive team going up against a Gonzaga team that can certainly put up points. Aaron Craft is widely considered to be one of, if not the best perimeter defender in the nation. Thad Matta will count on his sophomore point guard to shut down Gonzaga freshman Kevin Pangos, an absolute sniper from the arc. Gonzaga shoots the ball very well as a team but Pangos is the guy who really provides the spark for this team. The Bulldogs demolished West Virginia on Thursday but facing Ohio State is going to be a totally different animal. Gonzaga does have the front court depth needed to double Sullinger and make it difficult for the big fella to score inside. The key to beating Ohio State is to make them take jumpers while frustrating Sullinger and Gonzaga can do that with its strong front line. However, foul trouble could become a major concern for the Zags if they’re not careful. A matchup on the wing between Elias Harris and Deshaun Thomas are also intriguing, as is Gonzaga’s ability to get to the foul line against a defense that is physical but doesn’t foul a lot. If the Bulldogs can’t get to the stripe that means Sullinger isn’t in foul trouble and they’re going to be forced to make shots against a really tough Buckeye defense. This is going to be a really fun game to watch between two very talented teams. In fact, it may be the best Saturday matchup on a day in which there will be many.

The RTC Certified Pick: Ohio State.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on March 16th, 2012

  1. The Pit has been good to Wisconsin. The last time the Badgers played here — where they beat Montana on Thursday to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament — they advanced to the Final Four, in 2000. The Badgers did everything expected of them in order to win — made their 3s, got production out of Jordan Taylor and defended well. Can The Pit offer up a little more good karma in their Saturday game against Vanderbilt?
  2. Everyone knows how important Jordan Taylor is to the Badgers’ success, but how about a guy off the bench? FOXSports.com‘s Jesse Temple took notice of Rob Wilson, who had a breakout game during the Big Ten Tournament and has proven to be a valuable spark for Wisconsin as a key reserve. “It’s a lot of attention, but nothing’s really changed,” Wilson said. “I faced everything the same like I have.”
  3. Want to know the latest on the Nebraska coaching search? You’ll know, and we’ll all know, as soon as they know. The people in the know in Lincoln say mum’s the word when it comes to the search for Doc Sadler‘s replacement, and they aren’t expected to make any comments about it until the search is complete. Danny Manning, Scott Spinelli and Ben Howland have all been linked to the position, but it seems we aren’t going to get much more than that at this point.
  4. Don’t forget, there are Big Ten teams in action outside of the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern is prepping to play Washington on Friday, after both teams narrowly missed the Big Dance. For the Wildcats to keep up with the high-powered Huskies, Northwestern will need maintained production from JerShon Cobb. He is averaging 18.7 PPG over Northwestern’s last three, and he’s shooting 66.7 percent in those contests.
  5. Ohio State has had its lulls this season, but a lot of how the team plays depends on the play of All-American center Jared Sullinger. FOXSports.com‘s Zac Jackson says Sullinger is playing his best basketball right now, peaking at just the right time, and that could mean trouble for whomever gets in the Buckeyes way down the stretch in the East regional of the Big Dance.
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Four Tournament Thoughts: Wisconsin vs Montana

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 15th, 2012

The 1st (or is it 2nd?  3rd?  Whatever…) round of the NCAA tournament tipped off today, and Wisconsin was the first Big Ten team to take the court to defend the conference’s honor. The Badgers were up to the task, defeating Montana 73-49.  Here’s how it went down:

Rob Wilson and the rest of the Badgers played a complete game against Montana (photo: Washington Post)

1. Jordan Taylor played like…Jordan Taylor - The Wisconsin point guard has been making  an extra effort this year to get his teammates involved, especially his mates in the frontcourt. But against Montana, Taylor was regularly open, and looked for his own shot.  He scored 17 points, but stayed impactful in every other facet of the game, tallying 8 boards and six assists along with the most important Taylor stat of all: no turnovers. That type of performance from their point guard is exactly what can carry the Badgers deep in the NCAA Tournament.

2. Ryan Evans was a solid number two - Taylor is the unquestioned star, but Wisconsin needs other scoring options to step up, and that’s exactly what Evans was able to do. The junior forward lead the team with 18 points and also had 8 rebounds. He found his way to the rim and while Montana doesn’t exactly posses the athleticism that future opponents will have it was still good to see him comfortable on the offensive end.

3. Badger big men played BIG - Jared Berrgren, normally a scorer for Wisconsin, defended the rim like Anthony Davis against the Grizzlies, rejecting 7 shots. Overall, the Badger defense made it tough on Montana, forcing them into 38% shooting for the game. Wisconsin also finished +13 on the glass, overall a good day for the men up front.

4. Vanderbilt had their hands full with Harvard, so that means… - Not sure exactly, given how volatile the NCAA Tournament can be. But it should give the Badgers a good dose of confidence, knowing that they played some good basketball, while Vandy had some shaky moments against their opponents. Perhaps more importantly, the Badgers scored 73 points, and breaking that 70 (or even 65) plateau was something that proved difficult for the team this season in Big Ten play. March is always a good time to be playing your best basketball, and getting ready for a Bo Ryan team is not easy when you’re unfamiliar with the way Wisconsin plays.

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Rushed Reaction: #4 Wisconsin 73, #13 Montana 49

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Three-point barrage. Wisconsin turned to their bread-and-butter early and often on Thursday, taking advantage of a porous Montana perimeter defense to hit six of their first nine attempts from deep and ten of 19 for the game. Jordan Taylor led the way with three threes, but six different Badgers hit at least one from deep against a Griz defense that couldn’t find its groove. Montana started in a zone, but when that got exposed, they switched back to their more customary man defense – to no positive effect.
  2. Ryan Evans wake-up call. Evans set the tone in the first half for the Badgers, scoring 14 points, grabbing six boards, and hitting six of his eight shots, including a three. And he made it look easy, hitting baseline jumpers and converting post moves inside. While he cooled considerably in the second half, Evans’ first half performance was a definite pick-me-up for a Badger team that turned the ball over and struggled defensively in the opening minutes of the game.
  3. Jared Berggren beast mode. Berggren is best known as a pick-and-pop big man for Bo Ryan’s team, but on Thursday he showed off his interior defensive skills, blocking seven Montana shots, besting his previous career best by three. Given that Berggren only played 24 minutes, that works out to a blocked shot on roughly one out of every three Montana two-point field goal attempts.

Star of the Game. Ryan Evans, Wisconsin. Evans wound up with 18 points and eight boards and was the spark early for the Badgers. While Jordan Taylor was often responsible for finding those good looks for Evans (Taylor wound up with six assists), credit Evans for knocking down his open looks.

Quotable. Jared Berggren, Wisconsin on his shotblocking performance. “There were a lot of situations where I ended up picking up the ball handler, normally a smaller guard attacking the rim.  Probably could have done a better job taking away the lane lines.  I let him get to the rim a little too easy sometimes, but I was lucky enough to get a finger tip on a few of them to alter the shot.”

Sights & Sounds. The Wisconsin band is legendary, and they did not disappoint, but give credit to a Montana band who also had a few good lines in attempting to heckle Badgers players. A sample, to Evans: “The 80s want their hair back.” Evans had the last laugh though.

Wildcard. Late in the first half, Montana was still within five points and showed every sign of being able to stick around for awhile. But then, over the last three minutes of the first half and the first seven of the second half, the Badgers turned off the water for the Griz and turned the last twelve minutes of the game into a mere formality. When Wisconsin enters lockdown mode like that defensively and is hitting threes at a greater than 50% rate, they’re darn near unbeatable.

What’s Next?  The Badgers will face the winner of our next game in Albuquerque between Vanderbilt and Harvard in a game that, regardless of opponent, could be a textbook example of fundamental basketball. Depending on the outcome of the second game the Badgers will be facing a team with a vastly different amount of NCAA Tournament experience although each prior NCAA Tournament experience for the Vanderbilt players has been short-lived.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round — Thursday Afternoon

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2012

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

#6 Murray State vs. #11 Colorado State – West Region Second Round (at Louisville, KY) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Steve Prohm Brings His One-Loss Team to the Dance (US Presswire)

Anytime you enter the NCAA Tournament with just one loss and 4-0 record over NCAA Tournament teams, you’re a big story and a threat to go deep in the tournament. That’s the situation Murray State finds itself in. The fact that they’ve got a recent history of some success in the tournament (they knocked off Vanderbilt in the first round in 2010 before losing a heartbreaker to eventual national runner up Butler) makes them an even bigger challenge. In that 2010 loss to Butler, then-freshman guard Isaiah Canaan had the ball in his hands with the clock running down and threw an errant pass that got deflected by Gordon Hayward, effectively sealing the Racers’ fate. Two years later, Canaan is this team’s leader and one of the best guards in the nation, capable not only of getting his own opportunities in a variety of ways, but also creating for his teammates. And he’ll certainly be a problem for a Colorado State team whose guards, though talented scorers offensively, struggle to stay in front of their men on defense. Another issue for the Rams is the fact that they are one of the smallest teams in the nation (there are only five teams smaller, according to Ken Pomeroy’s effective height statistic), with a frontline that doesn’t go any larger than 6’6”. Murray may not have a lot more height (their two main interior players – Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel – go just 6’7”), but the lack of size has been an issue for CSU this year. Still, the Rams can score with just about anybody, but their inability to lock down defensively will be a problem. A bigger problem could be the fact that the Racers are playing not only within an easy drive of their campus, but that the hordes of Kentucky fans who show up for the early session will most certainly convert their allegiance to the Racers, at least temporarily.

The RTC Certified Pick: Murray State

#8 Kansas State vs. #9 Southern Miss – East Region Second Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

This could be an ugly game right off the bat. Neither of these two teams shoots the ball particularly well, especially Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have an awful two point field goal percentage (43.3%) and rank second to last among NCAA Tournament teams in effective field goal percentage. Only 16th seeded Western Kentucky is worse. Despite the poor shooting numbers, Larry Eustachy’s Golden Eagles have a respectable offensive efficiency number thanks to a minimal turnover percentage and solid offensive rebounding. If Southern Miss is going to win this game, it must rebound the basketball and score on second chance opportunities. While Kansas State is regarded as a team that plays terrific defense and rebounds well, the Wildcats are vulnerable on the defensive glass. Provided Southern Miss and point guard Neil Watson can keep a good handle on the ball and get some decent looks, this team will hang around. For Kansas State, it must get Rodney McGruder going early and often. McGruder is the best offensive player on this team and has been playing at a high level of late. Kansas State should win the game if it rebounds well and plays its typical brand of physical hard-nosed basketball. The Wildcats should get plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities against a Southern Miss team that has just one player taller than 6’7.” The free throw battle could be important as well. Each team gets to the line well but also fouls a lot when playing defense. The Golden Eagles shoot it much better from the stripe and they’ll need to today in order to offset the rebounding disadvantage.

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SEC NCAA Tournament Primer: Thursday/Saturday Games

Posted by EMoyer on March 15th, 2012

On Thursday, Kentucky and Vanderbilt open their NCAA Tournament runs facing Western Kentucky and Harvard, respectively. Here we preview the Thursday/Saturday possibilities for the Wildcats and Commodores.

SEC NCAA Tournament Thursday/Saturday Capsules

SOUTH Region 

  • #1 Kentucky: Championship Appearances: 53; Record 107-47; Best Finish: Champion – 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998; How Qualified: At-Large, SEC; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, National Semifinal
  • #16 Western Kentucky: Championship Appearances: 22; Record 19-22; Best Finish: Third Place – 1971; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Sun Belt Conference; Last Appearance: 2009 – L, Second Round
  • #8 Iowa State: Championship Appearances: 14; Record 12-13; Best Finish: Final Four  – 1944; How Qualified: At Large, Big 12; Last Appearance: 2005 – L, Second Round
  • #9 Connecticut: Championship Appearances: 47; Record 35-43; Best Finish: Champion – 1999, 2004, 2011; How Qualified: At Large, Big East; Last Appearance: 2011 – Champion
All-Time Meetings
  • Kentucky vs Western Kentucky: Kentucky leads 3-2; Last Meeting: Nov. 15, 2001 (Western Kentucky 64, Kentucky 52)
  • Kentucky vs Iowa State: Kentucky leads 2-0; Last Meeting: Mar. 22, 1992 (Kentucky 106, Iowa State 98)
  • Kentucky vs Connecticut: Connecticut leads 3-1; Last Meeting: April 2, 2011 (Connecticut 56, Kentucky 55)
A Starting 5 of the Top Players Kentucky Could Face
  • Derrick Gordon, Western Kentucky, Fr., G: Gordon has amassed 400 points in his first year as a Hilltopper. Only two freshmen have scored more points in Western Kentucky history (Courtney Lee, 467;  Ralph Crosthwaite, 437). He is on pace to become the first Hilltopper freshman to pace the team in scoring and he will be the first in five years to lead in rebounding.
  • Chris Allen, Iowa State, Sr., G: Allen leads the team with 72 3-point field goals and he has played in the most NCAA Tournament games (14) in this year’s 68-team field. Allen played in two Final Fours for Michigan State (2009, 2010.
  • Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut, So., G: Lamb earned First-Team All-Big East honors and the NABC District I Player of the Year after leading the Huskies in scoring at 17.1 points per game.
  • Royce White, Iowa State, So., F: White is the only player in the nation to lead his team in scoring (13.1), rebounding (9.2), assists (5.1), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.9). He is on the verge of posting top-10 single seasons in assists and rebounds in Cyclone history. He is one of 12 players in the county to post a triple-double this season.
  • Andre Drummond, Connecticut, Fr., C: Drummond has tallied 10 double-doubles this season, a UConn freshman record under Coach Jim Calhoun. He won four Big East Rookie of the Week honors, and leads the team in rebounding (7.7) and blocks (2.7).
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Big Ten Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Conference Tournament Preview

After a thrilling regular season, it’s on to Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Despite being a three-seed, Ohio State has to be considered the favorite given how well they ended the regular season. If either Michigan State or OSU wins the Big Ten Tournament, they will get strong consideration for a one-seed. Teams like Wisconsin, Indiana and Purdue can all improve their NCAA Tournament seeds with strong showings this weekend.

Northwestern is the only clear bubble team in the conference, and as such is under the most pressure to string some wins together. If the Wilcats can beat Minnesota in the first round, they’ll face a Michigan team that they only lost to twice this season, though both losses came in overtime. Two wins in the Big Ten tournament should make them a virtual lock for their first-ever tournament birth, but it’s much easier said than done with this level of competition.

A Look Back

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Big Ten Writer Roundtable: Four Questions As the Regular Season Winds Down

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 1st, 2012

Big Ten contributors Joey Nowak (@joeynowak) and Ryan Terpstra (@terphimself) give their thoughts on four conference questions as just a few more games remain in the regular season, and the Big Ten champion has yet to be decided.

1) Will we see an outright Big Ten champion?  Or is the conference title possibly going to be shared?

Joey:  In other words, will Michigan State beat Ohio State this weekend? I think the answer is yes. It’s hard to watch the Spartans, after how badly they tanked last season, and try to avoid becoming too enamored with them this year. But time and time again they have proven that this really is a special squad that gets it and is tune with so many important factors required to win.

They are one of  just 12 teams in Division I that is undefeated at home (three in the power conferences) and there are too many intangibles working in their favor this weekend: playing at home, Senior Day honoring Draymond Green, Austin Thornton and Delvon Roe, and the motivation to win a title outright while denying Michigan and Ohio State, of all teams. Not to mention how entirely out of sorts Ohio State has seemed lately. It will be a dogfight, but I think the Spartans beat the Buckeyes and claim a completely unexpected Big Ten title all for themselves.

Can Ohio State stop Michigan State's quest for an outright Big Ten Title? (Associated Press)

Ryan:  As much as people in Ann Arbor are hoping to sneak in and grab a share of a conference title (wow, Michigan fans rooting for Ohio State?  Can it be true?), I think that Michigan State is going to get to job done because they are so potent at the Breslin Center. The only thing I would worry about for the Spartans is getting TOO hyped up, which can happen when young men are trying so hard to defeat a quality opponent. The Spartans obviously don’t lack for motivation, and the bigger question to me is what’s going on with the Buckeyes? Jared Sullinger had to bail them out against Northwestern; a team that is very tough this season, but on paper can’t handle Ohio State’s frontcourt. With Sullinger admitting that he has been thinking out the referees and how they are officiating his post game, I’m wondering if that will come back into play in what I would expect to be a very physical game in East Lansing. I think Michigan State hangs another Big Ten banner for Tom Izzo.

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Morning Five: 03.01.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2012


  1. The big news yesterday the story by Sports Illustrated on the issues at UCLA including rampant drug use and multiple anecdotes about questionable behavior by Ben Howland. While the story is not explosive as many of the articles we have read about issues at other major programs, the reports on Howland’s behavior would concern us more because it would scare away more recruits since they are, at least theoretically, adults who make their own decisions about whether or not to use drugs although some would argue that your environment plays some role in those decisions particularly at the age of these recruits. However, from what we have heard most of their recruits remain committed to the program and Howland has issued a statement saying that if it is warranted he will change his ways.
  2. The most hyped of those recruits,  Shabazz Muhammad, may have his own issues to attend to as the NCAA has reportedly warned teams that Muhammad’s eligibility may be in question due to connections between two financial advisers and his family. Muhammad’s father acknowledges knowing both of these men and that one has has paid for at least two of Muhammad’s unofficial college visits and the other sponsors Muhammad’s summer league team, but claims that their relationship began before Muhammad was a highly recruited prospect. He has also hired legal counsel to help deal with the NCAA’s investigation, but this could turn into yet another drawn out process that we have become all too familiar with over the past few years.
  3. Perhaps we were busy in the middle of the day and missed the discussion on this topic on Twitter, but it appears that there was some confusion regarding Bob Knight and his feelings toward Kentucky. We do not have access to the original draft of the article by Gregg Doyel, but according to Kentucky Sports Radio Doyel claimed that Knight listed the top five teams in the country and omitted Kentucky. However, when you look at Doyel’s current post, released at 11:33 AM before being edited at 3:50 PM, the section quoted on Kentucky Sports Radio has undergone a significant revision. Since we do not have access to the original post by Doyel that ran for over four hours before being edited, we are assuming the copy/paste skills of the people at KSR are functional. And when you listen to the podcast of the Mike and Mike interview that Doyel was referencing, Knight doesn’t list the top teams in the country and is just answering a question that is posed to him. While we respect Doyel’s ability as a writer, this seems highly questionable and possibly deceitful. While everybody who has written articles frequently online has gone back and edited a piece, it is generally accepted that those changes will be relatively minor revisions (like a typo or messing up a fact) and except in a few cases it would usually warrant an editor’s note or a correction, but in this case that isn’t given. When you actually listen to the interview, Knight does not list his top teams at no point in the conversation. He was asked about Syracuse and after being asked about them he is asked to name some favorites and in a roundabout way he says that Syracuse should be one of the favorites without naming another team. We love page views as much as the next site, but we think Doyel has some explaining to do here — did he actually listen to the clip before writing the article?
  4. With March Madness having already started even before March officially began Luke Winn takes a look at the nation’s top point guards and specifically their turnover habits. Looking at Kendall Marshall, Tyshawn Taylor, Jordan Taylor, and Marquis Teague (the four most frequently discussed point guards in the country) Winn breaks down their strengths and weaknesses in this area, which can become a major issue in March, in a level of detail that you will not find on any other free sites. We would love to see Luke’s raw data on this to see if it could be broken down further though at a certain level you are analyzing such small pieces that the results may not be meaningful, which is a level that Luke’s analysis does not appear to stray towards here.
  5. With the regular season winding down, the discussion of the National Player of the Year award becomes a little more heated. Heading into this week there was some discussion about this being a three-man race with Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, and Draymond Green. If the ESPN’s national straw poll is any indication, it is more like a two-man race between Davis and Robinson with Green a clear #3. As Mike Rothstein notes, this would indicate that the national awards will probably be split between Davis and Robinson due to extremely tight nature of the voting and the fact that the votes for different awards have different submission dates ranging from March 4 to March 19.
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Set Your TiVo: 02.24.12 – 02.26.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 24th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Somewhat unbelievably, the second-to-last regular season Saturday is upon us. Plenty of big time and bubble games are on the schedule as the stretch run really heats up.

#3 Missouri @ #4 Kansas – 4:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (*****)

  • The final Border War game promises to be another terrific display of basketball between two top five teams that really don’t care for one another. Missouri won the first meeting between these teams, but to do it again it will have to defend at a higher level. Both teams shot over 50% at Mizzou Arena three weeks ago, but Kansas has been the better defensive team all season long. Now playing at home in virtually impenetrable Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks have to like their chances in this one. Kansas has a huge rebounding and size advantage in the paint with Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey going up against Ricardo Ratliffe. While Ratliffe is a great finisher around the bucket, he was held to six points in the first meeting, limited by foul trouble in only 20 minutes of action. Kansas can neutralize Ratliffe and force Missouri to make shots. Missouri hit 10 threes in the first meeting, led by Marcus Denmon’s six. Kansas will have to tighten up a three point defense that ranks #173 nationally in order to prevent that from happening again.

    Can Denmon & The Tigers Rebound?

  • Denmon’s 29-point effort against Kansas on February 4 lifted him out of a slump and his high level of play has continued since then. Denmon and Kim English have to make shots or else Kansas will have a significant edge in this game. The Jayhawks should be dominant inside with Robinson going against Ratliffe with Withey by his side. Kansas is one of the best teams in the nation in two point percentage. Defensively, Bill Self has to be worried about the three point line. While Kansas is a very efficient defensive team, they can be beaten from the arc. Missouri is certainly a team capable of doing that as it moves the ball well and has a multitude of deep threats lining the perimeter. Frank Haith needs a good game at point guard out of Phil Pressey, otherwise Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor could take over the game quickly as they did against Baylor at the Phog. Taylor has had an outstanding senior season but is vulnerable to turnovers. Look for Missouri to target him defensively in order to prevent him from getting into a rhythm and setting up the Jayhawk offense.
  •  The big question mark here is can Missouri defend at a high level against an elite opponent on the road? The Tigers are last in the Big 12 in three point defense and their overall efficiency rating leaves a lot to be desired. Kansas is going to get its points inside but is not a particularly great outside shooting team. However, Taylor poses a big threat and must be held in check if Missouri is going to beat Kansas in a place where almost nobody wins. Until proven otherwise, we can’t pick against the Jayhawks in such an emotionally charged game as this one.

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College Basketball’s Hits and Misses

Posted by zhayes9 on February 23rd, 2012

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

Crystal balls are in full supply every November. We pour through every known statistic to find that overlooked All-American candidate. We criticize the coaches for their preseason picks and condemn the AP poll for overrating Duke. National player of the year rankings are compiled and there’s an inevitable temptation to put some serious coin on that perfect Final Four sleeper at 25/1. It all seems so easy.

Of course, there’s a reason why we don’t all own private islands in the Caribbean. Some of our predictions compare to Nostradamus’ best work while others blow up in our faces. You can’t win them all. For every successful prediction, there’s one you’d like to forget. Here’s a brief rundown of what many considered conventional wisdom before the season and whether those statements turned fall under the category of hits or misses:

Zeller has been spectacular as a freshman

HIT: Cody Zeller is Indiana’s program-changer

The expectations heaped on the broad shoulders of the youngest Zeller were enough to overwhelm even the most talented freshman. His much-publicized pledge was immediately viewed as Tom Crean’s major recruiting breakthrough and a significant step toward Indiana reclaiming old glory. Zeller has exceeded even the most optimistic projections, leading Indiana to two marquee wins over Kentucky and Ohio State and a yearlong spot in the national rankings. The Washington, Ind., native is averaging 15.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and hitting 64 percent of his shots while providing Crean a post presence to counterbalance Indiana’s outside shooters. Zeller’s instant impact has Indiana one year ahead of schedule in their treacherous post-Kelvin Sampson rebuild and, with a star-studded class entering Bloomington for 2012-13, even more national acclaim is in store should Zeller return for a sophomore season.

MISS: Xavier is a final four sleeper

Immediately after Tu Holloway opted for a final year at Xavier over the NBA Draft, the Musketeers were labeled a top-25 shoe-in and popular Final Four pick. After all, Chris Mack’s first two seasons as head coach produced an extraordinary 29-3 conference record and most key contributors were returning for a program that has experienced their fair share of March success in recent years. The story of Xavier’s season hasn’t exactly stayed on course. The Musketeers are 9-9 since that ugly brawl with Cincinnati, Holloway apparently doesn’t enjoy basketball anymore, suspensions and inconsistency have plagued Frease and the once-popular Musketeers may be NIT-bound following their loss Tuesday at UMass.

HIT: Tom Izzo has a team more to his liking

After discarding malcontents from a roster that slipped from number two in the nation to 19-15 overall last season, many prognosticators examined Sparty’s new-look roster and jumped back on the bandwagon. That faith has been rewarded in spades. Draymond Green is a Cleaves-type leader and a surefire All-American. Equally coachable and talented underclassmen Keith Appling and Brendan Dawson are stars in the making. Derrick Nix is finally in shape and Adreian Payne outplayed Jared Sullinger during the team’s statement win over Ohio State. Izzo’s squad is clearly embracing his philosophy of rugged defense, well-executed set plays and an unwavering effort on the boards, ranking second in the nation in defensive efficiency and third in rebound margin. This is a confident team climbing the polls and zeroing in on a Big Ten title and number one seed.

MISS: Andre Drummond is the missing piece to another Connecticut Final Four run

I was covering a high school football game in late August when Andre Drummond stunned the college hoops world and shunned another year of prep school to walk on with the defending national champs. I’ll never forget re-doing my preseason top five on the spot: North Carolina, Kentucky, Connecticut, Ohio State and Syracuse in order. Despite the departure of Kemba Walker, lottery picks Drummond and Jeremy Lamb paired with emerging talents Alex Oriakhi and Shabazz Napier appeared sufficient enough to warrant a spot in the top five. What we neglected to remember was that Drummond was a raw, unseasoned, 18-year old center with no low post moves. It was a considerable step up to the Big East after simply overwhelming all opposition at the high school level. His lackluster 9.9 points per game, 32 percent free throw shooting and on-court chemistry issues with Oriakhi can attest to that. Drummond is still a future lottery pick and defensive menace, but his arrival hasn’t vaulted Connecticut to nearly the heights anticipated on that late summer day he opted to join the Huskies.

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