NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.16.2011

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 16th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

West

  • Word came last night that Kyrie Irving will be available for Duke, but how big a difference can he make for a team already at a one-seed?
  • According to a study conducted by BracketScience.com, Michigan head coach John Beilein is the second-best coach at outperforming his seed.
  • Missouri is ninth in the nation in scoring, but it’s mostly due to Mike Anderson‘s uptempo style rather than smooth shooting.
  • A survivor mentality is crucial for Memphis, who fell under the radar during a roller coaster season.
  • Bucknell senior GW Boon, a Kansas fan when the Bison shocked the Jayhawks in 2005, changed allegiances when the coaching staff came knocking shortly after.
  • It’s taken a few years, but Mick Cronin finally has Cincinnati on the upswing.

Southwest

  • An apt nickname for the UNLV-Illinois matchup game might be “The Lon Kruger Bowl.”
  • Old Dominion is one of this season’s Cinderella candidates, behind big man Frank Hassell.
  • A veteran lineup is expected to get plenty of mileage for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
  • It’s already been an up-and-down week for Purdue, and they haven’t even played a tournament game yet. After JaJuan Johnson was named an All-American, Kelsey Barlow was suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team.”
  • Off the court, Utah State is one of just seven schools in the NCAA Tournament with perfect graduation rates.
  • Richmond coach Chris Mooney has been poring over Vanderbilt film and has a good idea of what the Commodores will try to do Thursday.

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… and Four Teams Down

Posted by rtmsf on November 3rd, 2010

David Ely is an RTC contributor.

Every year teams come out of nowhere and burst into the top 25, while sports writers run to their keyboards to type the requisite “Where Did Team X Come From” story. I mean how many people saw Cornell coming last year? Who said last October that Butler would go on to lose the national championship game by just a couple of inches?  Conversely, there are teams that look great on paper in the preseason but fail to live up to the hype once the season starts. Think North Carolina last season. Why did the Tar Heels begin the year in the top 10 again?  Allow us to sort through the mess and pull out this year’s Cornells and North Carolinas for you. Missouri fans, get ready to be excited. West Virginia fans, start thinking of things to say in your hate mail.

On Monday we took a look at four teams that will be up this season.  Today we’ll examine four teams that will be down as compared to where they were last year.

#1) West Virginia

There's a Lot of Pressure on Kevin Jones to Produce This Year

No Devin Ebanks. No Da’Sean Butler. All kinds of problems for the Mountaineers, who are the only team from last year’s Final Four to begin the season outside of the AP top 25. Bob Huggins’ squad lost a lot of what made last year’s team so tough to handle with the depatures of Ebanks and Butler. The 2009-10 Mountaineers got by on their ability to suffocate opponents with their brutally physical play combined with Butler’s brilliance on the offensive end. Now much of the responsibility falls to forward Kevin Jones, who averaged 13.5 points per game as West Virginia’s third option. Can Jones step up his game this year when defenses single him out as the guy they have to stop? If Jones struggles, then the Mountaineers will have a hard time duplicating even some of the success they enjoyed last year.

Reports coming from preseason practices aren’t too encouraging. Huggins recently told the Charleston Gazette that freshmen Kevin Noreen and Noah Cottrill “look lost” at practice. And that was after Cottrill sparked rumors when he was introduced but didn’t participate in West Virginia’s Midnight Madness. There also was the case of Casey Mitchell, who was suspended for a violation of team rules but is now back with the team. These aren’t the kinds of stories that equate to success in the regular season. This year might be one to forget in Morgantown.

#2) Cornell

Such is the Life of a Mid-Major -- Seasons Like Last Year Come Around Once in Generation

The Big Red was the last year’s feel good story, upsetting Temple and Wisconsin en route to an unprecedented run to the Sweet 16. And what was the reward for America’s favorite brainiacs turned basketball stars? A return to obscurity.

Cornell lost its X&Os wizard in Steve Donahue when he opted for the greener pastures of the ACC, taking the head coaching gig at Boston College. The Big Red lost all-time leading scorer and 2010 Ivy League Player of the Year (Ryan Wittman), the sparkplug and catalyst of its NCAA Tournament run (Louis Dale) and six other seniors from last year’s squad.  That would be a lot of attrition for even a team like Duke to endure, and there’s no doubt Cornell and new coach Bill Courtney are headed for a big step backward this season.

The Big Red was predicted to finish third in the Ivy League, which would require a number of players to step up fill the voids left by the likes of Wittman and Dale. Cornell needs big seasons from proven players like point guard Chris Wroblewski and forwards Adam Wire and Mark Coury. Then the Big Red will need some of its unknown pieces (one if its four freshman or maybe junior transfer Anthony Gatlin) to emerge if Courtney & Co. hope to compete for a fourth straight league title.

#3) Purdue

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ATB: Stay Classy, Kelsey Barlow

Posted by rtmsf on February 5th, 2010

Thursday Night Doldrums.  There weren’t a lot of great games on paper tonight, and it turned out to be the case in reality as most of the marquee games were average at best.  We’ll break down the biggest two games, and just highlight the others.

Purdue Didn’t Choke, But Kelsey Barlow Did#7 Purdue 78, Indiana 75.  The one exception tonight was this game in Bloomington between the surging Boilermakers and the home Hoosiers.  These two teams went back and forth for thirty-eight minutes before a 5-0 run keyed by Robbie Hummel (21/7) and E’Twaun Moore (14/5/3 assts) put Matt Painter’s team in position to win at IU for the first time since the 90s.  Indiana had a shot to tie the game at the buzzer, but Verdell Jones III’s  (22/6/4 assts) shot from around 40 feet missed the mark, and Purdue won its fifth straight game prior to the big showdown with Michigan State next Tuesday.  JaJuan Johnson had a big night with 21/7, and as we’ve discussed in this space before, when the big man is putting in the work, Purdue is a much better team.  He’s gone for 18/8 a night during the Boilers’ five-game winning streak; in the previous three-game losing streak, he put up an average of 6/5.  Obviously Matt Painter and his guards want to keep Johnson happy.  As for Indiana, their second-consecutive loss on the final possession stings, but it’s further evidence that Tom Crean’s team isn’t all that far from competing in the Big Ten.  We’d suppose that one year from now IU will be winning these close games.  Final note: starter Kelsey Barlow will undoubtedly be suspended as soon as Matt Painter sees the below image (taken in the final moments of the game).  Brilliant move, that one.

When Will Kelsey Barlow's Suspension Begin?

Dud in Durham#9 Duke 86, #19 Georgia Tech 67. This was fairly close until three minutes left in the first half, at which point the Blue Devils turned up the defense a couple of clicks and began to separate themselves from the Yellow Jackets.  The one thing Tech couldn’t afford was to let Duke hit a three at the end of the half and make it a double-digit lead, so when Jon Scheyer found Kyle Singler in the corner for a trey as the buzzer sounded, you didn’t need a Magic 8-ball to predict the Jackets’ second half.  Georgia Tech got in early foul trouble and never came close to finding a rhythm against the Devils, who looked comfy at home as usual.  You would never have known that it was the Yellow Jackets who came in with the nation’s fourth-best defense (holding opponents to 37% shooting per game).  Duke shot holes through that with tremendous ease, and got big games they needed from Singler (30/5 on 9-17 shooting) and Scheyer (21/7 assts), not to mention a helpful 11 boards from Lance Thomas in a performance that was frankly better than their current #9 ranking.

The Rest of the ACC.

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