2011-12 Season Recap: The 12 Most Iconic Moments of the Season

Posted by EJacoby on April 5th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

A season in sports often gets remembered by a handful of different memories that fans can recall when thinking back on that year. Sometimes it’s a scene from the regular season, such as the 2004-05 NBA year that included the ‘Malice at the Palace’ brawl between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. Other times it’s the final play in the championship, such as the 2001 baseball World Series walk-off base hit by the Arizona Diamondbacks. So what will it be for the 2011-12 year of college basketball? Here’s a reminder of the top moments from the season, which certainly did not lack drama. Which ones will you remember when thinking back on this season? We give you the 12 most iconic moments from 2011-12, in no particular order:

Anthony Davis Blocks Henson at the Buzzer (December 3) – Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis was perhaps the biggest story of this entire season. Taking home nearly every Player of the Year award, Davis’ domination at this level as a freshman was must-see television every time he stepped on the floor. But his rise to true stardom perhaps began when the Wildcats defeated then-#5 North Carolina early in the season at Rupp Arena on a last-second block by the lengthy forward. Davis rejected UNC star John Henson’s final shot attempt to seal the one-point win for Kentucky.

Austin Rivers Silences Carolina Crowd (February 8) – One of the two best buzzer-beaters of the season was Duke freshman Austin Rivers’ silencing of the Dean Smith Center in early February. Down by two at Chapel Hill on the final possession, the freshman knocked down a long three over Tyler Zeller to beat North Carolina and send the Tar Heel crowd into a state of utter shock.

Robinson Rejects Mizzou in Border War (February 25) – In what was the final matchup between Kansas and Missouri as rivals in the Big 12 Conference (Mizzou is off to the SEC next year), the two teams put on a classic showdown in Allen Fieldhouse. Missouri dominated the game until a late KU charge, and it was the All-America forward Thomas Robinson’s rejection of Phil Pressey with seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime. Kansas won the game in the extra session to cap off a tremendous game between two top-5 teams.

Watford For the Win! (December 10) – One of the great stories of the season was Indiana’s resurgence as a top team. The Hoosiers had a tremendous year that was highlighted by their victory over #1 Kentucky at home to improve to 9-0 in December. Trailing by two on the final possession, it was this shot by Christian Watford that beat the buzzer and provided us with one of the most memorable shots, and calls, of the season.

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ACC Morning Five: 04.04.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 4th, 2012

  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Want to know every NCAA tournament game refereed by an ACC official? Well Luke DeCock is your man. He tracked the top 14 conference officials with all of their games from the Big Dance. Les Jones and Jamie Luckie both made it to New Orleans (Roger Ayers was an alternate). The NCAA Tournament is also a tournament for officials, with the league trimming down the officials each round. For the record Karl Hess made it all the way through the Phoenix regional.
  2. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Tony Parker is a bit of a mystery. Every time it seems like Duke is out of the mix, Mike Krzyzewski will go out of his way to go see Parker and another school will take a step back. This time it’s Kansas moving backwards, as Danny Manning (Parker’s primary recruiter) is going to Tulsa. Thad Matta also missed on an opportunity to go see Parker because he was coaching in the Elite 8. Coach K may be able to overcome Parker’s knock (that Duke struggles to develop big men) by process of elimination and sheer resilience.
  3. Wilmington Star-News: It’s a photo gracing more and more articles on Wake Forest basketball. What should have been a very promising offseason took a turn for the worse as the Jeff Bzdelik era transfer count climbed to eight with Tony Chennault, Carson Desrosiers and Anthony Fields announcing their intentions to leave Winston-Salem. I don’t need to tell you that Bzdelik should be on a short leash. He’s got a promising class coming in. But if he’s in the bottom tier of the ACC again, he may not get a chance to develop those guys.
  4. ACC Sports Journal: Barry Jacobs looks at the ACC season through some numbers, highlighting everything from declining scoring margin and Kendall Marshall‘s assists amongst other topics. This was the first time in the past 15 years the ACC wasn’t significantly above the national scoring average (the conference scored 68.5 points a game compared to the nation’s 68 points). Obviously some of this decline is a part of the national trend, some is a fundamental change of style, and some reflects conference expansion and coaching turnover. How much? Who knows?
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: Wisely, CJ Leslie is seeking a report from the NBA’s “draft advisory committee.” I say wisely because Leslie isn’t projecting as a first round lock, so jumping head-first into the NBA draft might be unwise. However, many of the mock drafts predicting Leslie in the second round show him falling behind Mason Plumlee. Having watched both play quite a bit, I’m not sure how a GM could justify that.

EXTRA: Speaking of NC State, The Big Lead is very high on the Wolfpack next year. Jason McIntyre ranked Mark Gottfried’s team fifth, only two spots behind North Carolina (a ranking that required a lot of leaps considering its losses). Still the bigger surprises from the ACC lay further down the rankings, where Maryland comes in at 13 and Duke at 25. I don’t see it with Maryland. Duke should be better than 25, but there are a lot of questions facing the Blue Devils.

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Morning Five: 04.04.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 4th, 2012

  1. Syracuse will play San Diego State on the USS Midway Museum on November 9. This event is similar to the Carrier Classic from last November except that it is being run by a different corporation and will not be on an active duty carrier. We have not heard how tickets will be allocated as the security presence at the event should be significantly less than what was seen last year as this is not an active duty ship and is in fact a museum that you can visit on a regular basis. We are also not sure if President Obama, who may or may not be returning to Washington for another term depending on the outcome of a small straw poll a few days earlier, will be coming to the game.
  2. There are conflicting stories on the report that the Sun Belt Conference would be adding Georgia State to its conference. A report filed early yesterday suggested that the move was imminent, but a subsequent report including a quote from the Sun Belt Conference’s commissioner appears to indicate that the decision is still very much up in the air. Given our history of hearing conflicting reports we are going to side with the initial report as it is more likely that Sun Belt is trying to conceal its hand until everything is certain and also to potential build up some buzz about the new announcement well at least as much buzz as a Sun Belt Conference move can have.
  3. The 2012 NBA Draft will not be short on point guards as two more probable first round picks–Tony Wroten Jr. and Damian Lillard–put their names into the Draft. For Washington the loss of Wroten is compounded by the loss of Terrence Ross will leave them significantly weakened as they try to rebound from a disappointing season. For Weber State the loss of Lillard will likely take them off the national radar for the time being. To us the interesting thing with these announcements is just how much talent there will be available to the NBA with Wroten and Lillard joining Kendall Marshall and Austin Rivers (ok, maybe he is a stretch as a point guard) as almost certain first round picks who have left school early. Will the presence of four such highly coveted point guards lead other point guards, who might have otherwise considered leaving (like Marquis Teague) to stay in for at least another year?
  4. Derrick Nix‘s offseason got off to a bad start as the Michigan State rising senior was suspended indefinitely following an arrest for marijuana possession and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs. Nix probably will not miss any significant time for the Spartans, but the arrest may indicate a lack of maturity and leadership for the Spartans as Nix was their lone rising senior. Tom Izzo says that he wait until the legal process works out before making a decision on Nix’s punishment. We would be surprised if the punishment is anything more than missing a game or two.
  5. There were a lot of “way too early” 2012-13 preseason polls released yesterday, but there was one poll that was different from the others–the final ESPN/USA Today Poll. The rankings are not particularly surprising, but they do place a heavy emphasis on the NCAA Tournament. With few exceptions teams are ranked based on how they finished in the NCAA Tournament. The big moves (up and down) were the “Cinderellas” that made deep runs and the highly ranked teams that were upset on the opening weekend.
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ACC Morning Five: 04.02.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 2nd, 2012

  1. Draft Express: This is a very good breakdown of Kendall Marshall‘s game from Joseph Treutlein. The short version is pretty straight forward: Marshall is an elite passer and game manager, but he doesn’t look for his own offense and is a defensive liability. I don’t think Marshall will ever be a good defender, but Ricky Rubio definitely made him some money this year with his passable perimeter defense. Trerutlein’s points about Marshall looking for his own offense more definitely paint an optimistic picture (though I expect he’ll need to rely far more on his jumper than driving at the next level). The bottom line is Marshall is a very good point guard in a draft nearly empty of NBA-ready point guards.
  2. Washington Post: This is a cool look back at Maryland’s national championship and the expectations of that season ten years ago. In a way, it’s reminiscent of Duke’s crushing beatdown from UNLV in 1990, the way the Terrapins rebounded from a crushing loss to Duke (after they held a 22-point lead) in 2001. Only two members of that Maryland team are still in the NBA (Steve Blake and Chris Wilcox), but don’t let that make you think the team has forgotten. It sounds like one man off the roster, from Gary Williams to Juan Dixon, could recount that season from start to finish.
  3. ACC Sports Journal: Andrew Skwara doesn’t mince words as he grades six ACC seasons. So far Florida State leads the way with an A with Duke tailing with a B thanks to the Blue Devils’ embarrassing loss to Lehigh. I think the second half of the conference (alphabetically speaking) is a little more interesting to evaluate: What grade for NC State after a disappointing regular season and terrific postseason run? What about Miami? Were Wake Forest’s improvements good enough to earn a decent mark?
  4. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Good news for Coral Gables, as Kenny Kadji announced he will return to Miami for his senior season. Kadji will be critical for the Hurricanes’ success because he gives Jim Larranga a stretch four to help open up the paint for Reggie Johnson and Durand Scott. Johnson will still be the biggest piece: if he comes back and gets in shape, Miami could contend for a top three or four conference finish. If he doesn’t, the Hurricanes are looking at the middle of the pack.
  5. Yahoo!: Duke stayed America’s favorite college basketball team this year, edging out Kentucky and North Carolina. I would like to see more poll numbers, but Duke’s national brand certainly plays a huge role in a study like this (my guess is Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky are fairly close, but even other blue-bloods lack the national audience to maintain their relevance. However, with Duke taking what looks to be a step backwards next year, could the Wildcats and Tar Heels may overtake the Blue Devils.
EXTRA: Lance Pugmire sat down with James Worthy to talk about his NCAA title from 30 years ago (interestingly and unrelatedly, the ACC won championships in 2002, 1992 and 1982).
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ACC Morning Five: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 30th, 2012

  1. Wilmington Star News: Yet again we’ve got good and bad news out of Chapel Hill. Let’s start with the good: Kendall Marshall won the Bob Cousy Award for the country’s top point guard. It’s tough to argue with the pick, as Marshall’s ACC-record 351 assists helped lead the Tar Heels to the ACC regular season title before the team crumbled in his absence in the Elite Eight. Marshall continues the recent streak of North Carolina point guards to win the award, following the likes of Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: North Carolina’s roster next season will have at least five players missing from this year’s team, as Marshall, John Henson and Harrison Barnes all announced their intentions of entering the NBA Draft (factor in Tyler Zeller and Justin Watts graduating to get to five). Assuming the Tar Heels keep James Michael McAdoo, they’ll still have a solid interior presence and a wealth of perimeter players to go next to Marcus Paige, who will likely run the point with Dexter Strickland. Still, don’t underestimate the magnitude of losing four All-ACC guys (and Caulton Tudor — the writer of this article — should know, as he had all four on his first team).
  3. From The Rumble Seat: First, how old will Miami be next year if everyone comes back? Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson will be 22, while Kenny Kadji will be 24. Wow. I think the author touches on a pretty important point for Georgia Tech‘s conference success next year in wondering about the unbalanced schedule. If the Yellow Jackets get shots at the bottom tier of the conference (which should be better), they’ll be closer to the middle of the pack. However, unless someone really picks up the scoring load, it’s tough to project them outside of the bottom four.
  4. Baltimore Sun: Matt Bracken sat down with Mark Turgeon’s first Maryland recruit Seth Allen. Allen is a combo guard out of Virginia who hopes to contribute right away in Maryland’s backcourt by helping Terrell Stoglin with the scoring and Pe’Shon Howard with running point. The Terrapins could certainly use another consistent scoring threat (though I’d keep my eyes on Nick Faust to gain some confidence), so it will be interesting to watch Allen whose senior year was tough to evaluate because of nagging injuries.
  5. CBSSports.com: The first edition of Jeff Goodman’s transfer list is out with eight ACC names so far: Nate Hicks (sophomore, Georgia Tech), Glen Rice Jr. (junior, Georgia Tech), KT Harrell (sophomore, Virginia), Allan Chaney (freshman, Virginia Tech), JT Thompson (senior, Virginia Tech), Tony Chennault (sophomore, Wake Forest), Carson Desrosiers (sophomore, Wake Forest) and Anthony Fields (freshman, Wake Forest). I’m sure there will be more to come.

EXTRA: Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle does a great job in this article on Jon Scheyer coming back to the United States looking for a chance at the NBA. Scheyer got hurt during summer league after going undrafted following his senior season (the buzz was he would sign with the Miami Heat), so he went to play in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Scheyer received limited playing time, which ultimately led to his return to the US (rumors also surfaced about Scheyer being forced to complete Israel’s mandated military service, but he did not comment on that). I think Scheyer will get invited to the NBA’s summer league.

EXTRA EXTRA: Apparently, Tyler Hansbrough‘s nose is still attracting Duke elbows even in the NBA. Last weekend Mike Dunleavy elbowed Hansbrough in the face, breaking his nose and facial bone.

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Morning Five: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 30th, 2012

  1. After getting passed over by some other coaches they were pursuing Illinois introduced John Groce as their head coach yesterday. Groce, who compiled a record of 85-56 in four season at Ohio, led his team to the Sweet Sixteen this year. While he may not be the marquee name that some Illinois fans hoped for he does have some credentials that should make them more comfortable. In addition to having knocked off three power conference teams in his two tournaments (Georgetown, Michigan, and South Florida; ok, South Florida is a stretch), Groce also worked under Thad Matta (someone he will see a lot in his new job) at Butler and Xavier. So at least Groce should not be intimidated by the coaches on the opposing sideline.
  2. Illinois fans were probably concerned that losing Bruce Weber would affect their recruiting, but Jabari Parker, the school’s biggest target, says he is still interested in Illinois. The more interesting thing to us is how his high school coach is inserting himself into the picture. Although he appears to be a successful coach in his own right doing this at the same time you have the #1 recruit in the country will raise some eyebrows particularly with some of the unique package deals we have seen in the past few years.
  3. Yesterday, Danny Manning was announced as the the next head coach at Tulsa although the press conference will not be held until next week for reasons that we will get into. As we mentioned yesterday, this seems like it has the potential to be an excellent hire particularly with Manning’s reputation in that part of the country and the years he has spent as an assistant at the dominant program in the area. Of course, that’s the long-term effect. The near-term effect might not be so good. As you may remember, Manning’s current team, Kansas, is sort of occupied this weekend. With Manning (an assistant coach) and Barry Hinson (director of basketball operations) taking new jobs as head coaches in the past few days, you would think that they might be a little distracted from the task at hand. Bill Self says that should not be an issue, but if the Jayhawks come out flat there may be rumblings in Lawrence.
  4. Yesterday was an interesting day in Chapel Hill as Kendall Marshall won the Cousy Award as the top point guard in the nation. Oh, and there was that little thing about three players–Marshall, John Henson, and Harrison Barnes–declaring for the NBA Draft. As we mentioned yesterday, this group will have an interesting legacy. As individuals they could all be spectacular at times, but didn’t seem to put it together at key moments although Marshall cannot be faulted for his scaphoid fracture. All three are first round picks and potentially lottery picks (Marshall is the only one we question out of the three) so nobody will fault them for leaving early, but North Carolina fans could be in for some growing pains next season while the new group gets settled in.
  5. It is pretty rare for a high level school official to get into a controversy on Twitter, but Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis managed to do so when he sent a response on Twitter to Trey Burke. The Michigan freshman, who is considering putting his name in the NBA Draft, made a comment about all the people trying to give him advice on his life so Hollis responded by telling him to follow his heart and mind and seek out people that he trusts rather than having others come to him, which is sort of amusing because Hollis was coming to him with that advice. Anyways, it created a mini-controversy about questions of attempted recruitment, which was quickly refuted. Hopefully Hollis learned his lesson and also will learn to lenient to athletes for minor transgressions, which could come up as he is the chairman of the NCAA Division I Amateurism Cabinet and will join the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee later this year.
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Carolina Trio of Underclassmen Going Pro — UNC Looks Forward

Posted by rtmsf on March 29th, 2012

It’s been assumed for a while now, but the news became official Thursday afternoon. North Carolina’s trio of star underclassmen — John Henson, Harrison Barnes, and Kendall Marshall — will enter this year’s NBA Draft. The press release on the UNC website does not mention any of the group ‘testing the waters’ with a possibility of return, but the quotes therein are highly suggestive that we will not see any of them back in a Tar Heel uniform again.

This Trio of UNC Stars Will Move On to the NBA

Barnes has been considered a high lottery pick since high school, and despite a sophomore season where he failed to meet expectations as a preseason All-America candidate, his stock as a smooth-shooting wing has not appeared to drop much, if at all (DraftExpress has him at #7 overall; NBADraft.net at #5). Henson’s junior season may have helped him a little, as he cut down on his turnovers and showed an improved offensive game while remaining a defensive and rebounding force inside the paint (#16/#8). Marshall is perhaps the player with the most to gain by entering the draft this summer — his outputs improved from his freshman to sophomore year, but he should probably strike while the iron is hot while scouts are enamored with his superb passing and floor leadership abilities (and before they pick apart his offensive game too much) (#13/#14). All three should safely be mid- to high-first round selections in June.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.26.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 26th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: This isn’t directly linked to the ACC (if you’re looking for a more explicit, albeit indirect connection, be my guest), but I think John Feinstein hits the nail on the head regarding officiating. Officials are refereeing too many games. Period. I thought the officiating in Sunday’s Elite Eight games was no different: travels went uncalled and charges and blocks felt decided by reputation. Feinstein argues the NCAA should pay officials more and mandate fewer games. I whole-heartedly agree, though I think the hardest part is how to regulate the regular season pay of officials, especially those from smaller conferences. This is a problem, and I expect the NCAA to at least look into it over the offseason.
  2. Tobacco Road Blues: Amidst many (including myself) calling for Mike Krzyzewski to win ACC Coach of the Year, at least one Duke fan thinks the polar opposite. The argument: (1) Coach K refused to change his defensive system despite knowing his team’s weaknesses (very similar to the criticism Roy Williams took during 2009-10 for not adapting following Ty Lawson’s departure); (2) he didn’t give Michael Gbinije enough run; and (3) Krzyzewksi didn’t give Quinn Cook enough run. I’m going to have a longer response to this later, but I can see the arguments.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: With reports piling up that Austin Rivers will be leaving Duke for the NBA draft, Rick Bonnell hypothesizes that Rivers may be better off in the NBA anyway. I’m not sure I agree that Rivers’ personality caused problems in Durham. It’s clear he clashed at times with Coach K, but nothing ever really boiled over. I also agree Rivers’ game is very suited for the NBA — especially if a team gets someone to reconstruct his jumper during the offseason.
  4. Testudo Times: I think this is a pretty reasonable look at Alex Len and his future, though I think Dave Tucker is underselling Len’s shot-blocking ability and its importance going forward (he could be a John Henson type of player as he gets more acclimated and stronger). I also think it’s important to temper expectations about Len’s offensive production. Yes, bigs generally make a huge leap between their first two seasons, but Len never struck me as a dominant offensive player. He’s definitely a guy who can average 10 points per game (give or take a couple — many coming off rebounds), but he’s got to develop a reliable 15-footer before he’ll be a serious offensive threat.
  5. Yahoo! Sports: North Carolina played 32 minutes of great basketball. Somehow the Tar Heels managed to run the offense smoothly without Kendall Marshall. Sure there were signs like blown fast breaks and intercepted passes, but for the most part the Tar Heel offense ran very well, that is, until Bill Self switched to a triangle and two defensive scheme. The hybrid defensive scheme simultaneously locked down Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock, while causing Tyler Zeller and John Henson to virtually disappear. A lot of people will rip Roy Williams for his team’s inability to deal with the switch. But this team doesn’t have elite shot creators (despite what Barnes’ projected skills were). They kill you in transition and with unparalleled passing from Marshall. Without him, it’s pretty surprising Williams had his team playing as well as they did. Still it was fascinating how effective the defensive switch was (only allowing three points in the last eight and a half minutes of play).
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ATB: Fantastic Final Four – Buckeyes Squash the Orange, Carolina Misses Marshall, and an All-Kentucky Dream Game

Posted by EJacoby on March 26th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. The Final Four is set and ready for action with some of the biggest storylines in years. There were no Cinderella stories on this second weekend, as the Elite Eight was comprised of all powerhouse teams that have been the class of college basketball all season. This week will feature numerous awesome back-stories and matchups to look forward to in New Orleans, but first we’ll break down exactly what happened over the weekend that’s led us to the remaining four teams in the Big Dance. Without further ado, here’s how it went…

Your Watercooler Moment. Russ Smith Runs Wild For #4 Louisville as Unlikely Hero

Russ Smith Sparked Louisville to a Comeback and a Final Four Berth (C. Hanewickel, US Presswire)

The top players in the NCAA Tournament proved their worth over the weekend for their heavyweight teams, but the one team that lacks that superstar performer made for the best story of the weekend. Louisville was a slight underdog against #7-seed Florida in the West Regional Final and the Cardinals trailed by eight points at halftime by surrendering far too many open threes to the Gators. But Rick Pitino’s team stayed within striking distance throughout the second half before perhaps the most enigmatic, up-and-down performer in college hoops picked the perfect time to have his best game. Russ Smith, Louisville’s super-sub that provides instant energy, came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Smith often leaves coaches and fans scratching their heads with his decision-making, but his no-fear mentality was the difference in this game. Making aggressive moves to the basket and taking big shots late, Smith came up huge for his team in its biggest spot of the season. He finished with 19 points, five rebounds, two assists (and four turnovers), and hit two consecutive shots with his team down by six points to cut the Florida lead to one. From there, Louisville closed out the game and sent the Big East Tournament champions to the Final Four.

Also Worth Chatting About. Late-Game Defense Allows #2 Kansas To Defeat #1 UNC

The Jayhawks defeated #1 North Carolina in the Midwest Regional Final by 13 points, but this was one of the most entertaining and close games of the entire NCAA Tournament. The teams were deadlocked 47-47 at halftime in a high-scoring affair, but the defense took over in this game’s second half. Kansas allowed 63.6% shooting in the first half but it was a completely different story after that. The Jayhawks gave up just 22.6% to UNC in the second frame and did not let the Tar Heels score again after a Harrison Barnes free throw cut a Kansas lead to 68-67 with 3:58 to play. Bill Self implemented a surprising ‘triangle and two’ defense that completely threw off UNC offensively, especially limiting what the Heels could do in the paint. Jeff Withey was unable to repeat his 10-block performance from the Sweet Sixteen, but he and Thomas Robinson got the best of Tyler Zeller and John Henson in scoring and rebounding inside. Combine that with the fact that Tyshawn Taylor had an incredible game going up against Stilman White, and Kansas was too tough for a Kendall Marshall-less Carolina team to overcome. There was not enough offense from UNC when it needed it, but Kansas’ terrific defensive effort was a big reason for that.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Elite Eight Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 25th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#1 Kentucky vs. #3 Baylor – South Regional Final (at Atlanta, GA) – 2:20 PM ET on CBS

Despite there being four double digit seeds advancing to the third round, two of the teams many predicted to reach the South Region Final will meet on Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome: Kentucky and Baylor. Kentucky has been nothing short of impressive and, at times, downright jaw dropping to watch; their speed, athleticism, length, and sheer ability cannot be matched—or can it? The Baylor Bears will look to pull off the upset and ruin millions of brackets across the nation in the process. After watching both teams compete on Friday evening, Kentucky demonstrated why they are the top team in the land, but it would be foolish for one to believe that they are invincible and Baylor doesn’t have the horses to knock off the Wildcats. The individual matchup that seemingly everyone is focusing on is in the frontcourt between Anthony Davis and Perry Jones III; both move like an athletic two guard, but have the imposing presence of a seven footer with an endless wingspan. But, let’s not forget about Terrence Jones and Quincy Acy, both dominant players in their own right. As we have seen throughout the tournament, especially lately, officiating crews seem to have quick whistles. Against Indiana, Davis picked up two quick fouls and sat for the remainder of the first half; it was an obvious, yet brilliant move by Tom Crean to get Davis on the bench. Expect Scott Drew to employ a similar tactic; he would be foolish not to dump the ball inside on Baylor’s early possessions in an effort to get Davis and Jones to the bench. When you have forwards running like guards, and guards running like track stars, expect this game to be played at a frantic pace. As has been the case throughout the year, when a rebound is corralled by either Kentucky or Baylor, there are instantaneously four players filling the lanes down the floor, and it doesn’t take long for the ball to move from one basket to the other. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson and Kentucky’s Marquis Teague are two of the best in the game in pushing the ball in transition. While the offensive proficiency of both teams will, no doubt, be the focal point of the game, the team that strings together a series of critical defensive stops will ultimately be the team that wins. Kentucky’s three point defense has been exceptional all season—a good thing since Baylor is a strong outside shooting team—while their interior defense is the best in college basketball bar none. The Bears will give Kentucky a run for their money, but the Cats and Calipari prevail in the end and march on to New Orleans.

The RTC Certified Pick: Kentucky

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ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting North Carolina vs. Ohio

Posted by KCarpenter on March 23rd, 2012

Before Kendall Marshall‘s injury, this was a very tough match-up for the Bobcats. With Marshall’s injury, it’s still a tough match-up. There are several things going against Ohio in this match-up, but the toughest to overcome is simply size. Reggie Keely is a big body at 6’8″ and 263 pounds, but the rest of the line-up is shorter and lighter. Against the NBA-caliber size of North Carolina, this will be a problem, particularly for a team that struggles with defensive rebounding as it is. Worse, against the foul-drawing bigs of North Carolina, Ohio may quickly find itself in foul trouble. Ohio is easily the most foul-happy team left in the tournament, and Keely fouls 5.1 times per forty minutes and the rest of the front line posts similar marks. If Ohio can’t hold the interior against North Carolina, there is little to stop Tyler Zeller for going off for the game of his life.

Marshall May Not Play, But How Will Ohio Deal With UNC's Big Men?

Still, despite this distinct mismatch, Ohio comes into this game with a set of skills that could make life miserable for the Tar Heels. As a team, the Bobcats force turnovers on over a quarter of all possessions, and over the season have turned over offenses at the second best rate in the entire country. North Carolina, despite its fast pace, was one of the better ball-control teams in the country this year, and a lot of that credit goes to the masterful generalship of Marshall. Without the team’s 35 MPG point guard (or his back up), the Tar Heel’s of a distinct lack of battle-tested and sure-handed ball-handlers. Stilman White, Justin Watts, and (I suspect) Harrison Barnes are all but certain to endure hellacious ball-pressure as Ohio tries to leverage North Carolina’s inexperienced ball-handler into frequent turnovers and easy fast-break points. The success of both teams likely hinges on the ability of North Carolina to successfully break pressure, play out of traps, and otherwise initiate the Tar Heel offense before the ball hawks of Ohio make the big play.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Friday

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#3 Baylor vs. #10 Xavier – South Regional Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Baylor was supposed to be here, Xavier was not. That is the beauty of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament though: play it out on the floor. One can review all the matchups, crunch the numbers, and look at past tournament history, but sometimes simply getting hot at the right time is a more important factor than anything else. The Xavier Musketeers, an up-and-down team all year following the brawl against Cincinnati back in December, are peaking at just the right time. After a 21 game stretch in the middle of the year that saw Xavier go 10-11, they rebounded by winning five of six; the melee seems like a thing of the distant past right now. What teams should now begin to take notice of: Tu Holloway is back to playing at the level of an All-American. Not to mention, Kenny Frease is looking like one of the most dominant big men in the country after dismantling the Lehigh front line last Sunday. Despite all of this, Baylor is a downright scary team to be playing this weekend, especially with the shooting prowess of Brady Heslip who is a combined 14-22 from downtown. Xavier’s three-point defense is one of the best in the nation as they allow opponents to shoot just 30% from the outside, but can they contain the hot shooting Heslip and the steady Pierre Jackson? Consequently, if Heslip and Jackson are not connecting from distance, the onus will be on Perry Jones III. The Jones-Frease matchup down low is one to keep an eye on, and if we are to take any stock in the first two games, Frease is the one playing better of the two as Jones has combined to score just nine points on 4-14 shooting against South Dakota State and Colorado. A streaky scorer throughout the year, Jones has scored in single digits nine times and double digits 19 times; the Bears will need the latter of Jones’ scoring efforts to keep Xavier honest on defense. Baylor’s only losses this year have come against Big 12 opponents, and I expect this trend to continue as the Bears hold off Holloway and the Musketeers.

The RTC Certified Pick: Baylor

#1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Semifinals (at St. Louis, MO) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

The storylines leading up to this game have been completely taken over by Kendall Marshall’s “wrist watch”, but once the ball tips off on Friday night and Marshall is presumably unable to play, then we can finally focus on the matchups in-game. Of course, Marshall’s expected absence will then be the main factor to watch in the game. How will North Carolina distribute minutes at the point guard position against the harassing perimeter defense of D.J. Cooper? Expect Roy Williams to explore several different options, including seldom-used reserves Stilman White and Justin Watts. Both White and Watts average under seven minutes per game and were never expected to be significant factors for the team, but they are the only players with experience at the lead guard spot. But since neither guy is likely to make much of an impact offensively, UNC also could experiment by placing Harrison Barnes at the position in a point-forward role. Barnes has the size to see over any defenders but has never been asked to run an offense. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, two primary wing shooters, could help Barnes bring the ball up in a point guard by-committee approach, as well.

Regardless, as long as the point guard replacements or by-committee members don’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, then Carolina should still have the advantage in this game on both ends because of its tremendous forwards. Ohio’s regular rotation only includes two bangers in the post in Reggie Keely and Jon Smith, and while Keely is a solid post defender with bulk at 265 pounds, neither of those players is taller than 6’8”. It will be an adventure trying to defend the most talented front line in the country. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo should have a field day in the paint, and the lack of a point guard means that every UNC possession should include an early paint touch. Expect big numbers from this trio. But if Ohio is somehow able to key on the UNC bigs and stop the domination in the paint, then the Bobcats can pull another upset by gaining an advantage on the perimeter. Nick Kellogg and Walter Offutt must hit a high percentage of shots from the outside and D.J. Cooper will need another breakout performance to carry this team. It just seems unlikely that Ohio has enough firepower to hang with Carolina’s athletes on the interior. With or without Marshall, roll with North Carolina in this one.

The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina

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