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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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 20th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

South Region

Midwest Region

  • Fans and media aren’t the only ones caught up in great performances by major talent among the mid-major ranks. It was recently revealed that in 2010, Baylor coach Scott Drew and then-Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl allegedly contacted Ohio‘s D.J. Cooper about transferring, which would constitute NCAA violations if the allegations are true. It will be interesting to see whether the subject is raised during Baylor’s media session this week.
  • Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde opines that even if North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall returns to the fold for a potential regional final, the odds are stacked heavily against the Heels.
  • The Tar Heels’ aren’t the only team from the state recovering from some health concerns. N.C. State will face Kansas Friday, and C.J. Williams and C.J. Leslie are recovering from fatigue. The severity isn’t even comparable to North Carolina’s situation, but a few days of rest will be especially helpful to the Wolfpack.
  • Basketball Prospectus’ C.J. Moore breaks down how Kansas topped Purdue on Sunday, from Elijah Johnson‘s fortitude to Bill Self‘s halftime adjustments.
  • There are already two coaching vacancies in the Big Ten, and Ohio coach John Groce could fit the bill at either Nebraska or Illinois after the season. Groce’s Big Ten connections, when combined with his team’s head-turning performance this postseason, make him appealing to the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is a tough job, but with a heavy commitment to hoops, Athletic Director Tom Osborne could find a catch.
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ATB: Sweet Sixteen Set – #1 Seeds Roll, Cinderellas Emerge, and It’s Good to be From Ohio

Posted by EJacoby on March 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. After one of the craziest nights in recent Big Dance history on Friday, perhaps we all needed a bit of a break from the chaos this weekend. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen. Most of the higher seeds advanced in the round of 32, but the Midwest Region led the way with some crazy results. Almost every season, we see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet Sixteen; this year, we have three, and it easily could have been five. Of the 16 teams remaining, four come from the Big East, four are of the Big Ten, and four represent the state of Ohio, including both of the guilty parties from the Crosstown Shootout Brawl back in December. It’s the first time ever that one single state sends four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s go over the great moments from the weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. #13 Ohio University is This Year’s Cinderella Story

D.J. Cooper Hasn't Allowed #13 Ohio to Lose (AP Photo/B. Rucker)

What would the NCAA Tournament be without a mid-major, double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen? This year it’s Ohio, the #13 seed of the Midwest Region that had a fairly favorable draw in terms of matchups but still had to defeat two power conference teams on the way. A victory over #12 seed South Florida on Sunday sent the Bobcats to the second weekend of the Big Dance, pretty amazing considering they finished third in the MAC conference this season. But Ohio is no joke, as D.J. Cooper continues to prove himself as one of the best lead guards in the entire tourney. Cooper outplayed USF’s Anthony Collins in the round of 32 and tallied 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists with several big shots late in the game to help his team advance. The other recognizable name from this squad is Nick Kellogg, the sophomore guard who is the son of CBS analyst and former collegiate star Clark Kellogg. Clark’s son is a terrific shooter at 41.8% from three and 89.2% from the foul line, giving the Bobcats a nice one-two punch from the perimeter. Interestingly enough, Ohio now draws #1 North Carolina in the Regional Semifinal in what most would expect to be a blowout, but the Tar Heels just lost their indispensible point guard to a wrist injury, which will make things interesting next weekend. Could Ohio’s perimeter attack lead to a truly incredible Cinderella story with a win over UNC? Stay tuned.

Also Worth Chatting About. Kendall Marshall Suffers Broken Wrist for #1 Seed North Carolina

The single biggest storyline from the past weekend was not anything that happened in the box score or even in between the lines on the court. But when North Carolina’s star point guard and the nation’s leader in assists, Kendall Marshall, got fouled and pushed on a layup and landed on his right wrist in the out-of-bounds baseline, the entire dynamic of this NCAA Tournament changed. Marshall suffered a fractured wrist on this play with 10:55 remaining in the second half of Carolina’s game against #8 seed Creighton. Marshall continued to play in this game for a few minutes and wasn’t immediately in so much pain that he had to leave. It’s also an injury to his non-shooting hand, so it could have been worse. In addition, the sophomore is set for surgery on Monday which will leave him in a position to play shortly thereafter if he is able to tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, it’s a huge long shot to think that Marshall will be back and effective going forward. The injury he suffered usually requires three-plus weeks of a cast and rest, and even bracing the hand and tolerating pain to play will make for a huge liability on the floor. Already a weak defender, Marshall would be even less effective on that end and he would surely be forced to his right hand on offense by opposing teams. There’s just as strong of a chance that he’d be a detriment to UNC by being on the court than he would be a benefit, depending on the true impact of the injury. As things stand, Carolina needs to start preparing for a Championship run without its point guard, leaving that position to be filled by either unused backup Stilman White (4.2 minutes per game) or by a player like P.J. Hairston or Harrison Barnes in some sort of point-forward role. One of the most irreplaceable players in the country, Marshall’s injury leaves a giant question mark surrounding the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

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Rushed Reaction: #10 Xavier 70, #15 Lehigh 58

Posted by mpoindexter on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. A sea change. With six minutes to play in the first half, Lehigh was up 31-16, with everything going their way. But by halftime, Xavier had cut the lead to only four points. The momentum stayed with the Musketeers the entirety of the second half as they quickly surpassed Lehigh, and the Mountain Hawks never could quite catch up. The difference between the Lehigh team that started the game and the Lehigh team that started the second half was night and day. Shots that rattled around and went in before now rattled around and popped out;  loose balls they got to against Duke suddenly were in the hands of Xavier’s players. This Mountain Hawks team that so many in Greensboro adopted never stopped playing hard, the breaks just stopped falling their way halfway through the game.
  2. Xavier’s redemption. First it was the brawl. Then it was two months of up-and-down, uninspired play. It’s hard to believe that this Xavier team that couldn’t get any momentum after December is finally gaining steam now, in the NCAA tournament. As the last few seconds ticked off the clock, Musketeer fans cheered as much in relief as in celebration, happy that this season which felt so derailed before now seems to be exactly where they want it to be. Xavier’s players, however, want more: many played on Sean Miller’s and Chris Mack’s Sweet 16 teams in 2009 and 2010. It would be truly remarkable for this team, counted out by many, to surpass those prior teams’ accomplishments.
  3. Everybody loves Lehigh. If you polled the state of North Carolina this weekend on who their favorite NCAA basketball team was, Lehigh would probably come in third after UNC and NC State. Both the team and their fans were embraced by the locals after their defeat of Duke. A group of Lehigh fans who made the trip to Chapel Hill over the weekend reportedly ate and drank for free during their entire visit. One media member in Greensboro who usually covers Duke basketball commented during the middle of tonight’s game, “Man, I may be neutral on the outside, but I’m cheering like hell for Lehigh to get back into this game. I want history.” They were a pleasure to cover, and incredibly fun to watch on the court–always moving, tenacious, and incredibly fast. Though they were undersized and less talented than their opponents, the Mountain Hawks were more exciting than any number of major conference teams. The college basketball world should look forward to any chance they get to watch this team in the future.

Star of the game. Kenny Frease, Xavier. Though Lehigh had players nearly as tall as Frease, they had no one as big as the Xavier center. Dwarfing his opponents, Frease shot an astounding 11-for-13 from the floor, wracking up 25 points and 12 rebounds, with four coming off the offensive glass. “Exploit Lehigh’s size” is a good strategy, but as Duke showed, it’s a difficult one to implement. Kudos to the 7’0″, 275-pound Frease for doing what the Plumlees couldn’t. He wasn’t flashy, but he was utterly unstoppable tonight.

Sights & Sounds. The word that best describes the ambiance during tonight’s game is “surreal.” On one side of the court, Lehigh fans packed their entire seating section. On the other side, Xavier fans did the same. The more than twenty section between the two warring factions were sparsely populated with seated North Carolina Tar Heels fans, all seemingly in shock at the news of Kendall Marshall’s injury. For much of the first half, press row was nearly empty due to all the media members who were trying to get any information they could about the UNC point guard. Only twice did the neutral spectators make considerable noise: first booing when a fan held up a sign reading “NC State: 1983 All Over Again,” and later joining in when Lehigh’s fans started a “Let’s go Tar Heels!” chant late in the second half, returning the favor for the support UNC fans gave their team on Friday.

Quotable. “I sit here in front of all of you disappointed, but very proud, proud of the young men that I’ve had the opportunity to coach throughout the course of this season, proud of the young men who have grown and developed through the course of their career in our program, proud of the development of underclassmen as they have become stronger and greater leaders. And I’m proud to be able to represent Lehigh University in the NCAA tournament.” – Lehigh head coach Brett Reed

What’s Next? Xavier moves onto the Sweet 16 in Atlanta, where they will meet #3 seed Baylor. At first glance, the Musketeers have the height and firepower to hang with the Bears, but Chris Mack has to worry that Baylor might be just slightly better at everything than his team. Xavier does many things well, but Baylor does all those same things very, very well. Xavier’s next challenge will be a tough one.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 18th, 2012

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

#3 Georgetown vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Thompson's Team is a Real Wildcard in this Region

We originally picked Georgetown to get upset in the round of 64 by Belmont, but that was with knowledge that the Hoyas could be the biggest threat to stopping Kansas from reaching the Elite Eight if they were able to escape that opening game. Not only did Georgetown escape, but it was one of the most impressive showings of any team in the tournament thus far. The Hoyas used their length and athleticism to deny the efficient Belmont offense from ever getting started, and they were unreal at their own end offensively with a 61.2% field goal percentage for the game. This matchup will be more difficult, however, against an North Carolina State team that’s getting better every game and playing spectacular offensively. The Wolfpack have great size inside to match Georgetown, with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell as long and athletic as any Hoya. Howell had his best game of the season with 22 points on 10-12 shooting last game, but that will also change as he goes up against much stronger post defenders. Georgetown primarily plays zone defense but will also switch things up and defend man-to-man when needed. It will be a battle inside all night as the Hoyas surely won’t let Scott Wood get open looks from three. This game, though, will be decided on the other end of the floor. NC State was not particularly strong defensively throughout the year, but they completely shut down San Diego State on Friday by allowing just 37.7% field goal shooting. The Aztecs played a lot of one-on-one ball, the exact opposite of what the Hoyas will show. It’ll be up to Henry Sims to make smart decisions in the high post, something he’s done all year. Jason Clark was great last game and is a reliable playmaker in this game, while Otto Porter remains rock solid as an X-factor offensively. Both of these teams looked great last round, but Georgetown has the advantage because it should pose a much greater defensive threat to the Wolfpack while also running a motion offense that will be difficult to defend.

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#1 Michigan State vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 2:45 PM ET on CBS

Two top ten teams in defensive efficiency. Two coaches with a well-earned reputation for X-ing and O-ing with the best of them. It isn’t likely to be one of the prettiest displays of basketball you’ll ever see, but if you like fundamentals and you like basketball as chess match, this is a can’t-miss game. The Billikens advanced to this round behind great team defense and great individual offensive performances by Kwamain Mitchell (22 points including four threes) and Brian Conklin (16 points, earned largely from his ten-of-11 performance from the line). But Conklin also turned the ball over eight times, in part due to the active hands of Memphis defenders; he’ll see more of that on Sunday and will need to take better care of the ball. Defensively, the Billikens will need to come up with some sort of answer for Draymond Green, who was brilliant Friday against Long Island, registering a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. But perhaps the biggest battle of the game will be on Michigan State’s offensive glass. The Spartans have historically made a living creating offensive on second-chance opportunities, but the best Rick Majerus-coached teams have been proficient in securing defensive rebounds. If the Billikens can limit the Spartans’ offensive rebounding (a feat easier said than done), Tom Izzo will need to find other ways for his Spartans to score in the halfcourt, and there have been times this year when that MSU offense has bogged down a bit. While sophomore guard Keith Appling is usually excellent getting penetration, SLU is no liable to allow that very often, and there is no one else on the Spartan roster capable of creating his own offense off the dribble on a regular basis. Guys like Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton have been very efficient three-point shooters, but, with the exception perhaps of Green, they need someone to create open looks for them. In short, if SLU can do what no other team has been able to do all year – keep Michigan State in check on their offensive glass – then the Billikens could drag this game down into the mud and pull out a win. But, if the Spartans do what, you know, they always do, I have a hard time seeing Saint Louis pulling this one out.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State

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Set Your TiVo: New Year’s Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 30th, 2011

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.

A quality Friday night Big East game leads us into a Saturday full of terrific matchups. There are a couple good games on Sunday, but if you’re going to watch any basketball around the New Year’s holiday, make sure you are in front of a television on Saturday.

West Virginia @ Seton Hall – 9:00 PM EST Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Kevin Jones Has His Mountaineers Surging

  • Since losing at Mississippi State four weeks ago, West Virginia has reeled off six wins in seven tries with the only loss coming in overtime to a top 10 Baylor squad. The Mountaineers have an imposing trio of Kevin Jones, Truck Bryant and Deniz Kilicli but the timely contributions of freshmen such as Jabarie Hinds, Gary Browne, and Aaron Brown have pushed West Virginia over the top in a few of these close games. Bob Huggins runs the vast majority of his offensive sets through Bryant and Jones with Kilicli chipping in as well. West Virginia is not a good outside shooting team but it should be able to take advantage of Seton Hall’s interior defense, rated #258 in two-point percentage.
  • Seton Hall ran out to a hot 11-1 start but the reality check came at the hands of Fab Melo and top-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday night. Melo blocked 10 Pirate shots in the blowout win, a game that got out of hand shortly after the opening tip for Seton Hall. Kevin Willard’s team needs to rebound in a big way tonight, the second of three difficult games to open their Big East schedule. Going up against Jones, Herb Pope has to stay on the floor and play a strong game. After a strong start to his season, Pope has averaged only 8.7 PPG over his last three outings. If he doesn’t get well into double figures, Seton Hall will have a hard time winning. Jordan Theodore needs to be a pass-first point guard in this game rather than a guy who shoots 15+ times. Getting Pope, Fuquan Edwin and three point specialist Aaron Cosby involved will be important for the senior Pirate point guard.
  • It’s likely that Pope/Jones and Bryant/Theodore cancel each other out meaning the game will be decided by the supporting casts. Kilicli could be that guy for West Virginia while Seton Hall will look to Edwin and/or Cosby to make a winning impact. Edwin had an awful game against Syracuse but he should rebound nicely in front of the home folks and a less imposing front line. These teams have played five overtime games between them and another could be in the offing here. West Virginia is probably the better team but the Hall playing at home evens this contest up. Neither team shoots the ball well from the charity stripe but it’s something that just may decide this game.

#10 Louisville @ #3 Kentucky – 12:00 PM EST Saturday on CBS (*****)

Jones and Company Invite Louisville to Rupp Saturday Afternoon

  • Kentucky has blasted every inferior team it has played this season but the Wildcats have played closer games against Kansas, North Carolina and Indiana. Louisville is the fourth good team Kentucky will see so far, and given the passion in this rivalry, another relatively close game should be expected. The Wildcats are the better team but you can throw rankings and records out in rivalries as bitter as this one. Kentucky must use its superior offensive talent to its advantage, namely Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. Louisville is highly vulnerable to the deep shot making Lamb a key player. Jones is the best player on the floor and needs to use his versatility to rack up fouls on Louisville’s interior players or step out and knock down a deep ball. Six Kentucky players average double figures and Louisville just can’t match the Wildcats offensively.
  • Where Rick Pitino’s team can match Kentucky is on the defensive end. Louisville’s game plan has to be intense full court defense, making Marquis Teague work for every dribble and every pass. Teague averages 3.2 turnovers per game and Louisville is one of the better teams in the nation at forcing turnovers. Offensively, this is not a typical Pitino team. Louisville doesn’t shoot the three-ball well but Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith and Kyle Kuric can put the ball in the basket. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they don’t do it consistently enough to be an offensive force as a team. Peyton Siva has to be the catalyst in this game. The quick Louisville point guard has good vision but must cut down on turnovers. If Kentucky is getting runouts, it’s lights out for Louisville.
  • It’ll be hard for Louisville to score points on the road against the elite Kentucky defense but the Cardinals can force turnovers and get easy buckets. Both coaches don’t mind speeding up the game but that would favor John Calipari in this particular matchup. Pitino has to design a game plan that adeptly probes the Kentucky defense and gets quality shots. Siva is the key to execute that, plus the Cardinals must crash the boards and get second chance opportunities. That’s easier said than done against Jones and Anthony Davis. Davis has the potential to neutralize Dieng and anyone else who dares enter the paint for Louisville. The Cardinals will defend but they simply lack the offensive firepower needed to win this game at Rupp. We would be surprised if Kentucky loses at home for the first time under Calipari but this will be a fun game to watch regardless.
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Voices of the Big East: Volume III

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on December 16th, 2011

Voices of the Big East is an ongoing feature intended to capture the essence of the conference through the words of those involved and those impacted. This will come in the form of quotes, Tweets, videos and anything else we feel like sticking in here. It’s perfect for you multitasking short attention-spanners. If you find something you think is a candidate for this feature send it to us and we might even give you credit!

Fake Gimel Kept it Real

RTC’s Gerald Smith (a.k.a @fakegimel) picked up a few Twitter followers and one significant TV mention as a result of his insightful and instinctive coverage of the Cincinnati – Xavier brawl.

Not So Calm Before the Storm

Bulletin board material from Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, in a radio interview with Andy Furman of Real Talk 1160 WQRT, grabbed headlines and set an unfortunate tone.

Furman: “Are you better than Tu Holloway?”

Kilpatrick: “I’ll let the fans decide…”

Furman: “I need to know. No one’s listening. Just between you and me.”

Kilpatrick: “Yes I am.”

Furman: “Would Tu Holloway start for UC?”

Kilpatrick: “Would he, with the players we have now? I would say no.”

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Big East Morning Five: 12.16.11 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on December 16th, 2011

  1. The revolving door of healthy players at Louisville continues to spin as Rick Pitino announced freshman Kevin Ware will likely play Saturday against Memphis. A talented combo guard, Ware was a Tennessee commit until Bruce Pearl left, and a Central Florida commit until questions arose about his recruitment. It will take time, but Ware seems talented enough to make the rotation, although the Cardinals would likely prefer some frontcourt depth again.
  2. It seems petty for us to dissect a fun exercise like building a 2011-12 dream team, but we recognize it is good conversation fodder, so why not examine it. Pay attention to the rules before you read it, but only three Big East players are mentioned. Jeremy Lamb was in three out four pundits’ top eight players, and Dion Waiters and Ryan Boatright were both considered the best “true” bench players. It’s disappointing to see the conference so poorly represented, but its hard to argue with the selections. It’s early but the conference doesn’t seem as strong top to bottom as it has been in the past five years. But, again, it’s still early.
  3. When Xavier forward Kenny Frease reached out to Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates to clear the air after last weekend’s brawl, we softened our stance that the punishments weren’t harsh enough. It was easy to watch the brawl and think that some players and at least Gates deserved long punishments. But Frease is forgiving, Gates apologized, and that’s just as cool as story as they fight itself. Frease proves that he is one tough hombre, and Gates shows remorse. This is exactly why there is no reason to ban this matchup, just limit the trash talk.
  4. Credit to The Mikan Drill for highlighting one of the primary reasons Villanova has struggled early this season — its inefficient zone offense. The Wildcats are just 6-4, and BU exposed their lack of a legitimate three point threat or a true drive-and-kick guard. There are a lot of athletes on this team, so the Wildcats will always be competitive this season. But they just don’t seem to have the same offensive punch they had when they made the Final Four, and that’s why they continue to break down late in games and lose leads like they had against Temple.
  5. Raise your hand if you thought the primary player to replace Marquette‘s injured center Chris Otule was point guard Vander Blue. Now keep your hand raised if you knew that, right now, Blue was the team’s third-leading rebounder, and that statistic includes Otule. The question of Buzz Williams’ point guard controversy is pretty much over. Blue and Junior Cadougan can co-exist, even on the court together, and both will play crucial roles this season.
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2011

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @(vbtnBlog)

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Rivalry Week – the Out of Conference Edition: Throughout the East, in the years before the rise of the conferences, the season was the warm-up for the season ending finales – games with the local rivals. The conferences changed that dynamic, as teams from the same media markets found themselves locked in races for conference titles that increasingly translated into NCAA postseason bids. And local rivals find their matches relocated to the earliest parts of the season. As the fall semester (or quarter) winds into final examinations, the weeks leading in have become the non-conference equivalent of “Rivals Week,” and had ESPN looked at the A-10 schedule, they would have found over one-third of conference members squaring off with their most-often faced local opponents.
  • Brawl City: Xavier and Cincinnati have played 79 times, meeting annually since 1947, in what has become known as the “Cross Town Shootout”. Though Xavier won three of the last four meetings, last season’s 66-46 Bearcat rout at Fifth Third must have gone to Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick’s head. In what will no doubt become a teaching point for future Mick Cronin teams, Kilpatrick, in the run-up to the game, opined on local radio that Xavier’s All-American candidate, senior guard Tu Holloway, was probably not good enough to start on the Cincinnati team. Bad move, Sean. The 2011 A-10 Player of the Year responded with a stellar 17-point performance that include going 5-for-10 (1-of-5 three-pointers, 4-of-5 two-pointers) from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line to go with a game-high six dimes. In the post game press conference the clearly agitated Holloway told the assembled scribes that “you do your talking after the game, not before…”. If only Holloway had followed his own advice. With less than 30 seconds to play, during what most likely would have been Cincinnati’s last possession of the game, the obviously incensed Holloway, still in the game for reasons unknown, passed by the Cincinnati bench (the 1:30 mark in the video below), and taunted the Bearcat bench with, “this is MY CITY”.

  • Additionally: As Cincinnati freshman guard Ge’Lawn Guyn, Holloway’s defensive assignment, put himself between Holloway and the bench, the two went chest-to-chest and Holloway raised his arms as if to strike Guyn. Xavier freshman forward Dezmine Wells, however, beat him to it, throwing the first punch in a bench clearing brawl that has to be the low point in this season. Xavier senior center Kenny Frease suffered a black eye (and no doubt a ripping headache the day after), the result of a sucker punch from Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates and a kick to the head delivered by Cincinnati center Cheikh Mbodj. Both Cincinnati players were suspended for six games. Cronin and the Cincinnati AD also suspended freshman forward Octavius Ellis for four games, and Guyn for one game. Xavier doled out suspensions to Wells (four games), Landen Amos (four games), junior guard Mark Lyons (two games) and Holloway (one game). Cincinnati holds a 58-41 edge in the series. The other four rivalry games may have been every bit as intense, but no centers were harmed in the playing of the games. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Crosstown Brawl Edition

Posted by rtmsf on December 12th, 2011

On Saturday afternoon, one of the ugliest incidents in recent college basketball memory occurred near the end of the 2011 Crosstown Shootout rivalry game between Cincinnati and Xavier. From the trash talk before the game to the first round of suspensions that were handed down Sunday, it has been a crazy 24-plus hours already. With much of the broader sports nation focused on the holiday season and the NFL this weekend, we thought it would be worth a brief rundown of how we got here for those who may have missed it.

The Crosstown Shootout Devolved Into Chaos Saturday (ESPN)

The Set-Up.

As our now world-famous correspondent Fake Gimel (@fakegimel) noted in his game recap, the Crosstown Shootout rivalry is naturally filled with quite a bit of emotion and in this year’s edition, those emotions bubbled over. In addition to the pre-existing animosity between the schools just from being local rivals, Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick added some bulletin board material when he suggested on a local radio station that Xavier’s All-America candidate Tu Holloway would not start for the Bearcats. Of course, such a statement is an absurd suggestion, but when you are in a rivalry sometimes something as idiotic as that fans the flames. Despite the pregame hype and the taunts of Xavier students as the Musketeers took command of the game, it was a spirited but relatively clean game aside from a halftime incident where XU’s Mark Lyons was confronted by Cincinnati’s Octavius Ellis before officials broke it up.

The Incident.

While we cannot comment on what was being said on the court between the players on both sides leading up to the altercation, reports indicate that things escalated when Holloway began to chatter at the Cincinnati bench in the waning seconds of the game. A few Bearcats responded and then things went downhill. Quickly.

Our first view is the general television view that many of you had.

While that looks bad enough, this view from the student section makes it look even worse.

Bearcats Blog does a frame-by-frame review of the incident that’s worth a look too.

The Aftermath.

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It’s Not About Winning The Press Conference

Posted by nvr1983 on December 11th, 2011

Immediately after yesterday’s horrendous brawl during the Crosstown Shootout, there were calls from throughout the college basketball world for significant suspensions to be handed out to players from Cincinnati and Xavier. The two players who received the most criticism were Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj for their vicious attack on Xavier’s Kenny Frease. Gates was caught on camera punching Frease in the face and Mbodj was seen stomping on Frease while he lay defenseless on the floor. To be fair, Xavier is not without blame as they appeared to be the team that escalated the incident from a verbal one into a physical one and it was Musketeer All-American guard Tu Holloway who gave us a memorable “body bag” comment after the brawl.

Mick Cronin Did A Great Job In The Press Conference Yesterday

However, once the press conference started (first tweeted by our own Fake Gimel), a large portion of the public and media were appeased by the thoughtful (or well-rehearsed) comments of Mick Cronin and Chris Mack. Throwing in phrases like “no excuses,” “grow up,” “full responsibility,” “zero excuse,” and “represent an institution of higher learning,” Cronin won praise from many media members including CBS’s Gary Parrish — trust us, there were more, but we aren’t digging through Twitter to find those responses — for the way he handled the press conference (full video here). Perhaps it was a sincere belief that Cronin would in fact do “the right thing,” which many believed was at least to hand out a pair of 10-game suspensions and potential dismissal from the team for Gates and Mbodj. It turns out that the punishments fall well short of that, as those two players and Octavius Ellis were each suspended for six games and Ge’Lawn Guyn was suspended for one game. All four players will also have to serve some form of community service.

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Crosstown Shootout 2011: Overwhelmed By Passion

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 10th, 2011

Gerald Smith is an RTC correspondent. He filed this column from today’s Crosstown Shootout game between Cincinnati and Xavier.

Our Alma Mater, proud and strong. Fight to the finish, never give in.

We want athletics to be our battleground: My team versus your team, my color better than yours. Local foes — the enemy you know best — often extract the most passion. The one game of the year that secures bragging rights. It’s definitely more than just a game for the players, coaches and fans. Xavier’s 76-53 victory against Cincinnati in today’s Crosstown Shootout, like most deep-seated rivalries, brought out the best and the worst of everyone involved. Yet somehow we’re all supposed to act outraged when the passion becomes overwhelming.

Dezmine Wells got overwhelmed. He saw Ge’Lawn Guyn put his hands on Tu Holloway. Wells, in his first Crosstown Shootout, snapped and shoved Guyn. The frustrated Bearcats — and their especially-animated coach Mick Cronin — snapped. Xavier snapped back. The whole arena of fans snapped. For close to a minute of real time, shades of the Malice in the Palace were exhibited in a corner of the Cintas Center with pushes, punches, haymakers, stomps, shoves and general mayhem involved. Order was finally restored short of a complete chaos, and with 9.6 seconds left, the refs called the game over. The pressure had been building all game. The Xavier home crowd was especially livid; they knew what was said about Tu Holloway by Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick. Student’s chanted “Tu’s your daddy!” when Kilpatrick and others took free throws.

At the end of the first half, the teams met at half court with just a smidge of bumping. The refs took a look at the tape and decided to warn the coaches of the players who were mouthing. The mouthing didn’t stop: Musketeer Mark Lyons and Kilpatrick mouthed at each other off-and-on through the latter half. Posing and three-goggles were busted out.

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