ATB: Entertaining SEC/Big East Challenge Deadlocked After One Night

Posted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2011

Tonight’s Lede. Big East Earns Two Road Wins in SEC/Big East Challenge.

The Length of Kentucky Frustated St. John's to the Tune of 18 Blocks (LHL/P. Alcala)

The first of the three-night SEC/Big East Challenge is in the books, and at least at this point, the Big East appears to have the upper hand. After Georgetown and Providence earned road wins at Alabama and South Carolina that neither was expected to achieve, the conferences are tied at 2-2 going into Friday night’s quadruple-header. Kentucky and Ole Miss saved face for the SEC with two wins of its own, but the Rebels barely survived at DePaul and UK was a heavy favorite over St. John’s. With three Big East schools hosting games on Friday night, and all three positioned as significant favorites, the league will be in a great spot to take a commanding lead in the 12-game challenge heading into Saturday’s final four games. Can the SEC simply send Kentucky’s long-armed corps of flyswatters to each Big East arena instead?

Your Watercooler Moment. Hollis If Ya Hear Me!

Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson came through with a big-time play on the road at Alabama tonight when many lesser teams and players would have crumbled under the pressure. After methodically imposing its defensive will on the Crimson Tide for 38 minutes to take a nine-point lead with a little over two minutes remaining, Alabama went on a 10-0 run behind its stars JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell to take a one-point advantage into Georgetown’s final possession. As the video above shows, Jason Clark, a Thursday All-American, dribble handed off to Thompson on the right side and he drained the long three for the win, ending Alabama’s 24-game home winning streak (fourth longest in the nation). The Hoyas are playing better than anyone could have anticipated and have now defeated two top-15 teams (Memphis as well) while giving another (Kansas) all it wanted. Credit is deserving to John Thompson, III, who has fashioned another really good team after losing his stellar backcourt of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman to graduation last season.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

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Where 2011-12 Happens: Reason #8 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 29th, 2011

Another preseason preview gives us reason to roll out the 2011-12 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured the most compelling moments from the 2010-11 season, many of which will bring back the goosebumps and some of which will leave you shaking your head in frustration. For the complete list of this year’s reasons, click here. Enjoy!

#8 – Where Get On That Floor Happens

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 seasons.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.17.11 Edition.

Posted by cwilliams on October 17th, 2011

  1. BYU athletic director Tom Helmoe publicly discussed his school’s involvement with the Big 12 in the conference realignment saga in an interview before the BYU-Oregon State football game. Like pretty much every AD involved in conference realignment, Helmoe played it very safe, stating nothing but the facts. He discussed how BYU did not have an invitation but would not comment further on what BYU’s desired result might be during the conference realignment era. He did admit, however, that discussions with the Big 12 have occurred, and that BYU has been “monitoring the landscape of conference realignment for some time.”
  2. The Columbia Tribune recently posted a story debating whether or not the alleged financial benefits of Missouri joining the SEC were true. The AP recently broke the news of a study conducted by the Missouri Board of Curators determining that Missouri could earn up to $12 million more annually if it joined the SEC. Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas stated, “I don’t think that’s accurate… I’d like to see the report. I’d like to know who wrote it.”
  3. The Wichita Eagle has a story up about Kansas State and how the integration of newcomers and veterans is going. Frank Martin stated, “We’ve got a group of guys who are extremely experienced and then we’ve got a group of guys who have absolutely no experience”. One thing is for certain, the Wildcats will have a different look about them this season than they have in recent years.
  4. Also in K-State news, coach Frank Martin said that the addition of TCU to the Big 12 will greatly help Kansas State recruiting. “I’m ecstatic about it. We recruit Dallas a lot,” said Martin, who expresses his pleasure in being able to tell the parents of Dallas-area recruits that they will be able to see their sons play in an arena much closer in proximity to their homes when compared to Waco, College Station, Lubbock and Austin.
  5. The KC Star analyzed the regional differences between various parts of The Show-Me State, from it’s corn fields in the north to the urban sprawl in St. Louis to the mountains in the southwest portion and the southern feel in the bootheel.  Depending on where someone lives in the state of Missouri, it’s likely that geography and culture in that locale influences the prevailing opinion on whether Mizzou should jump ship to the SEC, Big Ten or stick with the Big 12.  It’s an interesting analysis for a state that often has trouble describing its own character as a result of its central location stuck between the Midwest, Southeast and Great Plains.
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Texas A&M to the SEC: Considering Conference Realignment Scenarios

Posted by rtmsf on September 7th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 and Mountain West conferences and a frequent contributor.

For more than a year now, college sports fans have looked on with some mixture of fascination, excitement, disgust and horror as conferences and their member institutions have played a game of chicken with all-out conference-realignment Armageddon. Last June, following Nebraska’s announcement that it was leaving for the Big Ten, the Big 12 was on the verge of extinction when a quartet of teams led by Texas strongly considered a move west to form the first superconference, the Pac-16. However, after a weekend on the edge of the wire, they backed away and recommitted to the Big 12. But now, with Texas A&M’s slow-motion defection from the Big 12 to the SEC all but finished, the Big 12 is in another fight for its survival, with athletic directors and conference commissioners around the country considering their options should the Big 12 dissolve.

The Latest Domino Falls...

The first big domino here is obviously Texas A&M. They formally announced last week that they intend to leave the Big 12 Conference by July 2012, and the school is expected to announce later today that the SEC is their landing spot. Reportedly the 12 existing SEC schools voted 10-2 Tuesday night in favor of inviting the Aggies to its league, but a formal announcement could potentially hit a snag if any of the other nine remaining Big 12 schools chooses to not waive its right to litigate against the SEC for tortious interference with its conference affiliation.

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Morning Five: 09.07.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 7th, 2011

  1. Word leaked Tuesday night that the worst-kept current secret in college athletics will finally see the light — Texas A&M has been invited to formally join the SEC beginning in the 2012-13 academic year.  The school plans to announce its acceptance of the invitation later today, but the question on everyone’s minds from California to New York is what happens next.  Will the SEC now seek to add a 14th team like Missouri or West Virginia?  Will the Big 12 quartet of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech migrate en masse to the Pac-12?  Will the Big East move to swallow up Mizzou, Kansas and Kansas State?   Does the Big Ten convince Maryland to jump ship?  Or will the ACC raid the Big East for Syracuse, Connecticut, Rutgers and Pittsburgh?  The possibilities are seemingly endless and nobody knows how all of this will eventually play out.  Our conference realignment expert, Andrew Murawa, will be posting his thoughts on the myriad possibilities later this morning.
  2. One of the more intriguing possibilities from a basketball standpoint was reported by the New York Post‘s Lenn Robbins on Tuesday.  If the Big 12 implodes, the 17-team basketball version of the Big East is considering adding Kansas, Missouri and Kansas State to create a ridiculous 20-team hoops juggernaut that would include as many as 14 NCAA quality teams in a given year (last season’s 11 plus the additional three).  The format would divide the 20 teams into four five-team divisions, with each team playing home-and-homes within its division and rotating games among the other teams on a yearly basis.  It’s been said a million times that all of this conference realignment stuff is driven by football, but if the Big East expands as proposed here or if the ACC raids the power players in the Big East, we’re going to end up with one hell of a basketball league as a byproduct of all this madness.
  3. Luke Winn loves his efficiency stats, and we can’t really blame him. The rise of KenPom-like statistics in college basketball has helped us more deeply understand how to measure and quantify the hidden parts of players’ games who we know are really good despite perhaps only marginal numbers when it comes to the traditional metrics of basketball performance (PPG, RPG, APG).  In the first of a three-part series running this week, Winn takes a look at the top ten most valuable point guards of the efficiency era, and you might be surprised with the relatively unheralded player who ends up at the top of the list.  It’ll be interesting to compare the lead guards against the other players later this week, but three of the top ten single-season performances by those players were as a part of national championship teams, lending credence to the theory that superb play at the position is almost essential to winning a title.
  4. About that NBA lockout thing.  In case you haven’t yet noticed, the NBA has now been locked out of its facilities for over two months and there are no indications of the ongoing labor problems between players and management subsiding soon.  The New York Post reported on Monday that Madison Avenue firms who are accustomed to putting nearly a billion dollars worth of  annual advertising into the marketplace during the NBA season are looking for other options, and college basketball (along with the NFL) might be one of those beneficiaries.  Although college hoops and the NBA generally attract different fans, there are some demographic similarities: for example, both groups skew younger and male than they do among professional football fans, an extremely coveted group of eyeballs among the creative class.
  5. It’s never too early for a preseason All-American team, and in that spirit The Sporting News released its fifteen-member group on Tuesday.  Your first-teamers: UNC’s Harrison Barnes, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Baylor’s Perry Jones, Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb, and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.  That’s right — one year after Barnes was prematurely selected as the first AP preseason All-American in the history of the organization, TSN is staking its reputation on the extremely talented but oh-so-young Davis.  Of course, there have been seven freshmen first-teamers in the last five years, but the hard part is picking the right one.  Duke’s Austin Rivers and UConn’s Andre Drummond, for example, might end up being just as worthy as UK’s Davis.
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Calhoun’s Return: Comparing Him to Other Senior Citizen Coaches

Posted by rtmsf on September 1st, 2011

Jim Calhoun‘s non-announcement announcement that he plans to return to the Connecticut sidelines for the 2011-12 season was no shocker to anybody.  If it wasn’t the interminable wait for a ‘final’ decision that tipped you off, it was the well-placed leaks from key recruits and their families; if you still weren’t convinced, surely the announcement that superstar center Andre Drummond had chosen to reclassify to the Class of 2011 and play for the Huskies this coming season clinched it.  Regardless of when you believed he’d be back,  Calhoun will coach his team this season at the rather ripe age of 69 years old (he turns 70 next May) and, despite some health issues in the past, he shows few signs of slowing down.  And, in fact, his team will be on the short list of contenders after North Carolina and Kentucky most likely to cut the nets down next April in New Orleans.

Why Would Calhoun Give This Up?

We know that with his third national title last season, the curmudgeonly coach passed Kansas’ Phog Allen (66) as the oldest coach to win a college basketball national title, but with a stacked team returning and a few more gray hairs on top of his head, it got us wondering who his senior citizen peers are within the other sports.  Here’s the list of oldest coaches to have won a title in each of the major team sports:

  • MLB – Jack McKeon (2003), 72 years old
  • NCAA Football – Bobby Bowden (1999), 69 years old
  • NCAA Basketball – Jim Calhoun (2011), 68 years old
  • NFL – George Halas (1963), 68 years old
  • NHL – Scotty Bowman (2002),  68 years old
  • NBA – Phil Jackson (2010), 64 years old
Calhoun’s championship last season falls right into the middle of that list, but if he were to win another one next spring a mere five weeks shy of his 70th birthday, he’d trail only the inimitable Jack McKeon as the oldest head coach to win a major title in American team sports. All due respect to McKeon and our friends in Major League Baseball, but Calhoun’s hands-on approach in teaching 18-21 year-old players is a completely different job than delegating those duties to a coaching staff to train older professionals — from our viewpoint, the daily demands on Calhoun’s energy are considerably more.
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Morning Five: 05.11.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 11th, 2011

  1. Might there be a Gus Johnson reprieve?  Yesterday we wrote about how incredibly disappointed we were that Gus had decided to take his talents to Fox Sports in coming years, effectively ending his career with CBS and seemingly eliminating any more future chances for Heartbreak City! Michael Hiestand of USA Today writes, though, that his new employer would have no problem with ‘loaning out’ Gus to CBS/Turner during future NCAA Tournaments should they want him for their wall-to-wall coverage (see: ESPN’s Jay Bilas, for example).  That last bit is the key part, right there.  As popular as Gus was among college basketball fans under the age of 40, his departure was in some ways political in nature, and we figure it would be tough for CBS to bring back someone who rejected their final offer and left for another network (jilted girlfriend theory).  Still, a glimmer of hope in what appeared to be cavernous darkness…
  2. Now that the Maryland job search is over, it’s Texas A&M’s turn.  Athletic Director Bill Byrne has quite a tough job ahead of him given the success of his two previous hires, Mark Turgeon and Billy Gillispie, but according to TSN, native Houstonian and Memphis head coach Josh Pastner is not available.  The Houston Chronicle reported on Tuesday that Marquette’s Buzz Williams was now A&M’s primary target, but his buyout and salary were probably too rich for TAMU to match.  This leaves a reported list of three intriguing names — Nebraska’s Doc Sadler, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, and Colorado’s Tad Boyle.  Of the three, Marshall would appear to be the kind of coach in the Gillispie/Turgeon vein to seem the best fit, with demonstrated success at the mid-major level and the requisite ambition to make it at the highest level.
  3. Luke Winn breaks down the somewhat embarrassing coaching searches that went on at four ACC schools so far this offseason — NC State, Miami (FL), Georgia Tech, and most recently, Maryland.  Among the four schools, roughly eight to ten candidates (depending on who you ask) turned these  programs down in favor of their current schools that, by and large, would have represented stepping stones to bigger things in the not-too-distant past.  Mark Few at Gonzaga began this trend last decade: an absurd notion that a coach could build an A-list program at a non-BCS school, short of the pressures of insane fan bases but with nearly as much exposure, recruiting penetration and success as many of the big boys.  More recently, Brad Stevens at Butler, Tommy Amaker at Harvard, Shaka Smart at VCU and Chris Mooney at Richmond have decided to stick with the devil they know rather than the one they don’t, and we can’t truly say we blame them.  This is especially true in a league like the ACC, where the twin titans of Duke and Carolina lord over the league nearly every year and it’s extremely difficult to challenge and (even temporarily) overcome them.  Gary Williams did it as well as it’s been done in the last twenty years, but we don’t blame coaches who think they’d be walking into situations where they’re mostly set up to fail.
  4. A bit of transfer news from Tuesday… Kansas State forward and overall disappointment Wally Judge has decided that he will play his final two seasons at Rutgers, ultimately betting on the future of Mike Rice’s program rather than to take a chance at Maryland with new head coach Mark Turgeon.  The 6’9, 248-lb former McDonald’s All-American averaged 6/4 in around fifteen minutes per game last year before leaving the K-State program in late January.  Meanwhile, NC State point guard Ryan Harrow has announced the schools he will visit in coming weeks, including Kentucky, Louisville, St. John’s, Georgia and Texas.  The odds-on favorite is SJU, as both of Harrow’s folks are products of Queens and consider the Johnnies their hometown school.  Whoever gets the freshman will be getting a talented floor leader, as Harrow averaged 9/3 in 23 minutes per game and started most of the Wolfpack’s contests at the end of last season.
  5. Love or hate the man as a comedian-cum-superstar center or lazy, out-of-shape impresario who wasted some of his best playing years getting involved in things other than basketball, but there can be no question that Shaquille O’Neal possesses a heart of pure gold when it comes to his generosity.  Anyone who has watched his Shaq-a-Claus bit each winter, or has heard the numerous off-record stories about his many random acts of incredible kindness to regular Joes, knows this truth.  So when we read that Shaq was resisting the placement of a life-sized statue of himself outside the new LSU practice facility that he helped pay for, consider us completely unsurprised.  It turns out that the Big Aristotle has been anonymously putting millions into LSU infrastructure for years, including to help pay for an on-campus hotel and an academic center, contributions to the point that two LSU Board of Supervisors members demanded that Shaq’s statue go up first — even ahead of the man whose name adorns the arena, Pete Maravich.  We’ve said for a long time that we’ve never seen another player at 19 years old who could do the things at his size that Shaq could do, but we were always referring to his athleticism and stature; it turns out we might have been unwittingly also referring to the big fella’s ticker, and we didn’t even know it.  Here’s what the statue will look like, if Shaq ever approves its completion.

Best Collegian We've Ever Seen At His Size

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Season in Review: The Best of RTC

Posted by rtmsf on April 13th, 2011

It’s been a great season here at RTC, our Year the Fourth covering this great sport, and before we pack up the boxes and head to our summer hideaways in the Hamptons, Aspen and Santa Barbara, respectively, we wanted to share a little bit of our “best of” for the 2010-11 season.

Some RTC Season Highlights

RTC Live

Through our network of correspondents from coast to coast, we were able to cover a grand total of 295 games at 82 different venues this year.  We saw every single NCAA Tournament team at least once, and 78 other schools just for kicks.  We witnessed the Final Four quartet of Connecticut, Butler, Kentucky and VCU a total of 56 times, and we sat courtside at every one of UConn’s unprecedented 14-0 neutral site victories this season — from Maui to New York, then Washington to Anaheim, ultimately culminating in Houston.  Perhaps most proudly, we managed to send someone to each of the fourteen NCAA Tournament sites this year, an accomplishment we hope is merely the first in a long line of such successes.

We put together a short video encompassing some of the photos we took along the way.  See you on the road next season!

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Season in Review: Top 15 Storylines From 2010-11

Posted by rtmsf on April 8th, 2011

From Jimmer to Kemba to a Blue Devil toe that wouldn’t heal and a Rocky Top saga that wouldn’t end, it’s been another wild season for college basketball fans from coast to coast.  As we bask in the afterglow of 68 teams down to UConn’s championship, let’s take a look back at the top 15 storylines (in no particular order) of the 2010-11 season.

In an Epic Season-Long Battle, Kemba Smiled Last

  1. Kemba vs. Jimmer.  The national Player of the Year race hasn’t been this exciting since Adam Morrison of Gonzaga and JJ Redick of Duke took turns outdoing each other from opposite ends of the country back in 2006.  Yet these two one-name guards, Kemba from the Boogie Down Bronx and Jimmer from a tiny town in upstate New York, electrified fans nationwide with their unique ability to take over games at Connecticut and BYU, respectively.  Kemba Walker, the cocksure Husky guard with the ball on a string and a crossover dribble to make defenders cry, carried UConn to 32 wins, a sterling 14-0 record in knockout games and the school’s third national championship in what was supposed to be a “down” year.  Fredette, the nation’s leading scorer at 28.9 PPG and owner of a deadeye jumper pure out to 30 feet,  inspired fans to call their cable companies to add The Mountain to their channel lineup.  While it was The Jimmer who swept the NPOY awards (which are based on regular season performance only), we here at RTC factored Kemba’s Big East Tournament MVP and NCAA Tournament MOP performances into our selection of the UConn superstar as our 2010-11 Player of the Year.
  2. A Tourney to Remember, a Championship to Forget.  On the opening Thursday of the NCAA Tournament, still the first “real” day of the Dance to most people, five of the first eight games of the day ended on the final possession.  In addition to close games, there were upsets aplenty in the first weekend, as Butler (knocking out #1 seed Pittsburgh), VCU, Marquette, Florida State and Richmond all broke through as double-digit seeds into the Sweet Sixteen.  The fun didn’t stop there, wither Arizona and Kentucky beating #1s Duke and Ohio State, respectively, in the Sweet Sixteen, followed by VCU shocking the world with its destruction of #1 Kansas in the Elite Eight.  The combined seed total of #3 Connecticut, #4 Kentucky, #8 Butler and #11 VCU was the highest ever in a Final Four, and although the two semifinal games were hard-fought and exciting, the 53-41 championship tilt between UConn and Butler was widely regarded as an ugly finish to what had been a tremendous tournament.  Butler’s 18% shooting for the game was the worst-ever in a championship, and the meme that the national sports media was that such a dud represented some kind of fault in the sport itself.  Last year’s Duke-Butler championship and 2008’s Memphis-Kansas games were awesome — where were those people then?
  3. Kyrie Irving’s Toe.  In early December, there was some talk that preseason #1 Duke, with All-Americans Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler returning to join wunderkind point guard Kyrie Irving, could go unbeaten this year.  All of that discussion ended on December 4 when Irving sprained his toe during what appeared to be a routine play in a win over Butler.  The young player with an explosive extra gear in the open court suffered damage to a ligament and bone that made cutting, running and jumping without pain very difficult.  Subsequently, after sitting out over three months resting and rehabilitating the unusual injury, Irving returned to the court during the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.  While at first it appeared that Irving could be the x-factor needed to put Duke into the driver’s seat in a crowded field of national title contenders, there was some question as to whether his return to the lineup threw off the delicate chemistry that Coach K and his players had engendered throughout the season.  The Devils were thoroughly dominated by Arizona and Derrick Williams in the Sweet Sixteen — Irving played well with 28 points against the Wildcats, but his backcourt mate Nolan Smith only managed eight points while committing six turnovers. Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Third Round Game Analysis – Saturday

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 19th, 2011

Saturday promises to be a great day of matchups in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament.  On paper at least, there isn’t a single one of the eight scheduled games that shouldn’t be competitive.

#4 Kentucky vs. #5 West Virginia – East Region Third Round (at Tampa, FL) – 12:15 pm ET on CBS.

At first glance, West Virginia would appear to match up fairly well with Kentucky. The Mountaineers employ two fifth-year seniors while Kentucky trots out three freshmen in their slim rotation. Bob Huggins is 7-1 all-time against John Calipari, including last year’s Elite Eight triumph over the top-seeded Wildcats. The frontline of Kentucky, featuring only one consistent rebounding presence in Josh Harrellson, would seem to match up poorly against the assembly line of Mountaineer forwards and centers that finished sixth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. The reason we think Kentucky bucks this conventional wisdom is twofold: 1) a predominantly young Kentucky team may have discarded of their lackluster performance in the first round when they secretly felt showing up would be enough to defeat Princeton, and 2) the Wildcats are much more adept against a zone defense than they were last season because of the shooting ability of Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb. A key factor in West Virginia’s win over Clemson in the first round was the changing defenses Bob Huggins showed the Tigers, including a 2-3 and a 1-3-1 zone at various instances. Kentucky is eleventh overall in the nation in three-point percentage at just under 40% as a team and we think Knight will be on the board a lot earlier than the final offensive play of the game this time around. Kentucky simply has much more offensive firepower than West Virginia, who will have to out-tough, out-physical and out-rebound the Wildcats to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. John Calipari’s teams never receive enough credit for being solid defensively. Against a WVU offense that shoots just 48% from two and 34% from three, we believe Kentucky’s efforts on both ends of the floor will be sufficient.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky.

#2 Florida vs. #7 UCLA – Southeast Region Third Round (at Tampa, FL) – 2:45 pm ET on CBS.

The Gators stomped all over UC Santa Barbara on Thursday while UCLA narrowly avoided what would have been an epic implosion, holding off Michigan State after nearly blowing all of a 23-point lead with under nine minutes to play. Aside from a couple of losses to Kentucky down the stretch, Florida has been playing great basketball coming into this tournament and it continued in their first NCAA game. To advance to the Sweet Sixteen, Florida has to stick to what they do best, scoring inside while knocking down some timely threes. The Gators have the height to match up with the turnover-prone UCLA forwards and should also enjoy an edge in the backcourt with a much better team three point percentage behind Erving Walker, as well as Kenny Boynton when he’s hot. The Bruins turned the ball over 16 times against Michigan State and a similar performance will result in plenty of fast break points and extra opportunities for the Gators. UCLA’s strength is up front, both offensively and defensively, but Florida can match the height and depth of the Bruins’ frontcourt. Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt need to have solid games for UCLA to be in the game down the stretch, otherwise Vernon Macklin and Chandler Parsons could take over on the boards and in the paint. These two teams are similarly constructed but the Gators have had more consistent guard play, especially from Walker. This is a really good matchup for Florida, in our opinion, and the Gators should advance from Tampa to the regional semifinals.

The RTC Certified Pick: Florida.

#12 Richmond vs. #13 Morehead State – Southwest Region Third Round (at Denver, CO) – 5:15 pm ET on CBS.

In yesterday’s interview session, Morehead State guard Terrance Hill referred to getting to the Sweet Sixteen as a goal for his team all season, “like Butler did last year.”  And his statement personified just how important this game is to non-BCS schools like Richmond and MSU — by winning one more game and advancing to the regional semifinals, it’s roughly equivalent in terms of status and prestige to a major program like Duke or Kentucky making the Final Four.  Given the fact that for both schools a power conference bully isn’t standing in their way to the regionals, neither wants to give an inch in pursuing the opportunity.  Still, even though Richmond isn’t a BCS school, they are a member of a high-mid league and Chris Mooney has a corps of four seniors in Kevin Anderson, Justin Harper, Dan Geriot and Kevin Smith who have been to consecutive NCAA Tournaments and have won ninety games in the last four years.  The offensive options available to Mooney are significantly better than those at the disposal of Morehead’s Donnie Tyndall, and it’s unlikely that the Spiders will be as careless with the ball as Louisville was on Thursday afternoon.  While Kenneth Faried is likely to pull down twenty rebounds against the slight Richmond front line, the Spider perimeter players are very good at locking down the opposing three-ball, holding opponents to a mere 30.5% (Morehead nailed nine, including the game winner, against Louisville).  Furthermore, MSU isn’t very good at stopping the three on their end, as Louisville was able to knock down ten, and UR, led by Anderson (42.7%), Harper (46.5%) and Darien Brothers (39.7%) makes a living as a team in bombing away.  With a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line, the smart money is on the team that isn’t as likely to have celebrated too hard — Morehead State won the biggest game in its history on Thursday; Richmond beat Vandy.  Who would you choose?

The RTC Certified Pick: Richmond.

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NCAA Second Round Game Analysis – Thursday

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2011

Now that the Play-In First Four games are finished, let’s get back to normalcy with the best weekend of the year beginning this afternoon.  Sixteen games, eight sites, four television channels, and several million brackets busted by roughly 3:30 PM eastern time.

#5 West Virginia vs. #11 Clemson – East Region Second Round (at Tampa, FL) – 12:15 pm ET on CBS

Expect a low-scoring, gritty and physical opener for Thursday’s NCAA Tournament action, and not just because the tip time is barely after noon and Clemson arrived in Tampa just before the sun came up on Wednesday. Both of these teams pride themselves in their toughness defensively and play extremely hard on every possession. Clemson specializes in limiting opposing offenses inside the arc behind senior forward Jerai Grant prowess in the paint, while West Virginia limits their competition to below 30% shooting from the three-point line. While both Brad Brownell and Bob Huggins have a history of trotting out stalwart defenses, the edge offensively has to side with the Mountaineers. Kevin Jones has been playing his best basketball of the season as of late, posting three double-doubles in his last four outings. Casey Mitchell is a 38% gunner from deep that is tremendous off screens in catch and shoot situations where he barely needs any room to fire. Deniz Kilicli and John Flowers have aided what has turned out to be the sixth best offensive rebounding team in the nation, no surprise coming from a Huggins-coached squad. Clemson is merely middle of the pack in Division I in allowing offensive rebounds, so the Mountaineer frontline may be able to churn out extra possessions for their perimeter weapons throughout this game. Limiting Grant is certainly a challenge, but the WV frontline should be up to the task. Combine tired legs with Mitchell feasting on a perimeter defense that just surrendered 12 threes to UAB and the edge in this 5/12 matchup has to side with the Mountaineers.

The RTC Certified Pick: West Virginia.

#8 Butler vs. #9 Old Dominion – Southeast Region Second Round (at Washington, D.C.) – 12:40 pm ET on truTV.

Both teams have won their past nine games en route to conference tournament championships. Defense has been the key for each club during their winning streaks with Butler giving up 58 PPG and ODU at 57.7 PPG against over their last nine games. Old Dominion is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation and that is where they have to take advantage of the Bulldogs. This game will be played almost exclusively in the half court with both teams preferring a slower pace. Butler ranks #11 in defensive rebounding percentage but the Monarchs are the best offensive rebounding team in the land. Blaine Taylor’s team must win this battle and protect the basketball in order to advance. They struggle at times with turnovers and lots of giveaways will negate their expected edge on the glass. Look for the Monarchs to work inside utilizing star big man Frank Hassell as well as Keyon Carter and Kent Bazemore. Butler allows 48.7% FG inside the arc and that could hurt them against the frontcourt-oriented Monarchs. Butler shoots almost 21 threes per game behind Shelvin Mack, Zach Hahn and even Matt Howard (44%). Add in the recent play of Shawn Vanzant and you have a team playing as well as they have all year. ODU is very poor against the three, their biggest vulnerability. Bazemore is a terrific defender and needs to come up big on that end against the Bulldog guards. Both teams are experienced and obviously did well in last year’s tournament so they won’t be intimidated by the big stage. While the focus will be on Howard vs. Hassell in the post, this game could be determined by guard play.

The RTC Certified Pick: Butler.

#4 Louisville vs. #13 Morehead State – Southwest Region Second Round (at Denver, CO) – 1:40 pm ET on TBS.

We’re quite sure that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino could only shake his head in disgust when he saw his team’s opening matchup on Thursday.  An in-state mid-major whose greatest strength — a dominant glass-eater by the name of Kenneth Faried — bears stark contrast with his Cards’ greatest weakness, interior play.  Over the years, Pitino has mastered the art of using team defensive principles to stymie players like Faried by throwing two and three bodies at him everywhere on the floor.  The Cards will need to again, because Faried’s nonstop motor and Rodman-esque knack for finding the ball is the best in the nation (he corrals 20% of offensive rebounds and 31% of defensive rebounds while he’s on the floor), something his players know all too well after facing Morehead State (and Faried) in the same round two seasons ago (Faried went for 14/11 in a 20-point loss).  He’s gotten better, and so has his team.  The good news for Pitino is that MSU is often sloppy with the ball, committing nearly fifteen turnovers a game, and the Eagles don’t defend the three very well (36.9%), which will allow ample opportunities for the Louisville shooters to get good looks from deep.  Two seasons ago a stronger Louisville team went into halftime only up two points on a weaker Morehead State team; expect a similar situation this year, as the relative strengths and weaknesses offset each other.  Ultimately, the Cards will find enough points through hustle and desire to fend off the school located two hours east, but we’ll forgive Pitino if he lambastes the committee for giving him this dangerous opponent for the second time in three years.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville.

#7 Temple vs. #10 Penn State – West Region Second Round (at Tucson, AZ) – 2:10 pm ET on TNT.

While the Owls are 25-7 and the higher seed here, this is not a team that is at full strength. They have played their last eight games without center Michael Eric, who will not return this year, and the last seven without swingman Scootie Randall, who is holding out hope that he will be able to go Thursday. The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, are at full strength, but their full strength means that their five starters are ready to play a whole lot of minutes, with only sporadic contributions from the bench, which averages less than eight total points per game. And given the pace at which Penn State plays (their games average just 60 possessions, in the bottom two percent of the nation), a pace which Temple will have little objection to, we’ll have a low-scoring, limited possession, defensive battle that will likely come down to seeing which of the two teams makes the most plays in the final few minutes. Because of that, the Lions may have the edge. Not only do they have four seniors amongst their five main players, but Talor Battle is an explosive scorer given the limited number of possessions he works with. And, among their five man rotation, only Andrew Jones is a poor free throw shooter. For Temple to counteract the experience of the Lions, they’ll need to get plenty of inside production from physical freak Lavoy Allen, while perimeter players like Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and point guard Juan Fernandez will have to take advantage of a PSU defense that likes to pack it in and force their opponents to beat them with their jump shot. Unfortunately for the Owls, even if Randall does make it back for this game, their most efficient offensive player does not figure to have his legs back, and Temple may come up a bit short.

The RTC Certified Pick: Penn State

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Bracket Prep: Southeast Region

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2011


Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.
He will analyze the Southeast Region throughout the NCAA Tournament.

Throughout Monday, we’ll be releasing our Bracket Prep analyses of each of the four NCAA Tournament regions.  The order will be as follows — please check back throughout the day for all four (all times eastern).

  • West – 9 am
  • Southeast – 11 am
  • Southwest – 1 pm
  • East – 3 pm

Region: SOUTHEAST

Favorite: #1 Pittsburgh (27-5, 15-3 Big East). The Panthers won the Big East regular season title and now have their best chance to finally advance to the Final Four under Jamie Dixon. Pitt has made just one Final Four in their history (1941).

Should They Falter: #2 Florida (26-7, 13-3 SEC). Billy Donovan’s club racked up 11 top 50 wins this season and won 10 of their last 12 games. The two seed was surprising, but not unreasonable when you look deeper into their resume.

Grossly Overseeded: #8 Butler (23-9, 13-5 Horizon). Could last year’s success have played a role in their seeding? The Bulldogs are a solid team and won the Diamond Head Classic in December but their best non-conference win was over Florida State, a team that could only manage a #10 seed in this tournament. Butler lost three times to sub-100 RPI opponents, including #289 Youngstown State. A #10 or #11 seed would have been more appropriate.

Grossly Underseeded: #9 Old Dominion (27-6, 14-4 CAA). ODU has won nine straight and 13 of their last 14 games. The Monarchs beat NCAA teams Xavier, Richmond, Clemson and St. Peter’s out of conference, split with George Mason and beat VCU twice on their way to the CAA tournament title. Blaine Taylor’s team arguably should have earned a #6 or #7 seed.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower): #12 Utah State (30-3, 15-1 WAC). The Aggies are actually ranked well ahead of their first round opponent, Kansas State, in the Pomeroy Ratings. Utah State plays at a slower tempo and can grind Kansas State to a halt. Stew Morrill’s team is also terrific on the defensive end, ranking sixth in efficiency and second in defensive rebounding percentage. If they can make K-State shoot jump shots all night, Utah State will have an excellent shot to pull the #12 over #5 upset. Should they get by the Wildcats, Utah State will face Wisconsin or Belmont. They’d be comfortable in the pace Wisconsin plays and can use their stellar defense to slow Belmont’s up-tempo pace and efficient offense.

Final Four Sleeper: #5 Kansas State (22-10, 10-6 Big 12). The Wildcats had won six in a row and eight of nine games before slipping up against Colorado for the third time this season in the Big 12 Quarterfinals. Kansas State has a talented senior in Jacob Pullen, a guy capable of willing this team all the way to Houston. This club can play with anyone when they’re hot and has the toughness to stand up to any team in this bracket, including Pittsburgh. A surprise trip to the Final Four would be sweet redemption for this team, one that was picked to advance there by many before the season started.

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