NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2013


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.

Midwest Region

West Region

  • Wichita State guard Malcolm Armstead transferred from Oregon to join the Shockers without a scholarship and that gamble is paying off as Wichita State preps for a chance to go to the Final Four.
  • Myron Medcalf of writes that Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Wichita State should not be viewed as a “David/Goliath” match-up.
  • Would Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall be the greatest catch of this year’s coaching carousel?
  • Ohio State sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross has matured during his second season in Columbus to become a playmaker for the Buckeyes.
  • Ohio State coach Thad Matta was unhappy with the way Buckeyes guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. performed defensively in the team’s Round of 32 victory over Iowa State, but the junior stepped up his play significantly in Thursday’s victory over Arizona.
  • Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas has a well-earned reputation as a “bad shot taker and maker” and this moniker has not prevented him from becoming the Buckeyes’ most lethal weapon offensively.

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West Regional Final Game Analysis: #2 Ohio State vs #9 Wichita State

Posted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2013


#2 Ohio State vs. #9 Wichita State – West Regional Regional Final (Los Angeles, CA) – 7:05PM ET on CBS

With Florida Gulf Coast’s magical run over, Wichita State is now left to carry the banner for Cinderella in the NCAA Tournament. Having already knocked off Gonzaga, the team that finished the season as the number one team in the polls, the Shockers have experience playing that role, but today they face a team in Ohio State that is as hot as any team in the country, having reeled off 11 straight victories with nine of those coming against NCAA Tournament teams. In other words, the Shockers are about to face a big step up in the level of competition. But, you know what? Wichita State belongs on the same floor as the Buckeyes. They’re not going to be over-matched athletically like so many underdogs are, if anything they have a slight height advantage and these Shockers are pretty darn hot themselves right now. They have a quintet of talented guards that as a group can attack the hoop, score from deep and play tremendous defense. And then up front they have a pair of 6’8” bulldogs, with Carl Hall more than willing to mix it up in the paint while Cleanthony Early can be a match-up problem with his inside/outside game.

Gregg Marshall Is One Win Away From Taking The Shockers To The Final Four

But, as well as Wichita State matches up with the Buckeyes, Ohio State matches up with them. While Early is a strong offensive threat and a tough rebounder, he’s not a real good match-up for Ohio State’s leading scorer DeShaun Thomas – not that very many people are. Thomas has faced far more fearsome defenders than Early, and Gregg Marshall probably knows that he’ll have to run additional defenders at Thomas to get the ball out of his hands. And if the ball is coming out of Thomas’ hands, if these last two games are any indication, that might mean it is going to wind up in LaQuinton Ross’ hands. Ross is Ohio State’s breakout star (he had 14 of the Buckeyes’ last 17 points in their Sweet 16 win over Arizona, including the game winner) and he has shown a versatile offensive game that very few teams in the nation have a great match-up for, and Wichita State is no exception. But, as good as Ross has been these last two games, two fine performances does not make a consistent offensive performer.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Ohio State 73, #6 Arizona 70

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013


Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is reporting from the West Region semifinals in Los Angeles, California, this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

laquinton ross osu

It Was a Sea of Red in LA Tonight

  1. Madness. After 39 minutes, 40 seconds and change, these two teams were dead even subsequent to a wild exchange of runs. One team killed it for the first 15 minutes, the other controlled the next 20-plus. And then down the stretch it was two prizefighters standing in the middlle of the ring throwing haymakers. Arizona’s seniors Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons threw together a barrage of scoring. Ohio State responded with play-making from Aaron Craft and shotmaking from LaQuinton Ross. And both teams went at it defensively. There was a crazy late run for Arizona to tie things up, but for the second straight game with the clock running down in regulation, the Buckeyes got a huge three-point bucket, this one from the newly confident Ross in the waning seconds, to provide the difference.
  2. The Buckeyes Have Found Their Additional Scorers. Much of the year the talk was about “who can Ohio State find to be its second scorer?” DeShaun Thomas has regularly been the leading man for the Bucks, pacing the team in scoring all year long and again tonight. But down the stretch tonight, it was Ross who made play after play after play for them, and in a variety of ways. He scored 14 of the Buckeyes last 17 points and he did it both with the drive, the ability to get to the line and, shown most spectacularly on the final bucket, with deep three-point range. Once a highly regarded recruit, it has taken awhile, but Ross has blossomed in a hurry in March. Meanwhile, Thomas was largely silent late after scoring 20 points in the games’ first 31 minutes.
  3. Tale of Two Arizonas. For the first 15 minutes or so, the Wildcats looked like the best team on the court, with Lyons getting to the hole regularly and drawing a couple of fouls on Craft. The freshman bigs were contributing, Nick Johnson looked like the best player on the floor and the Arizona fans in attendance were confident. Then, over about an 11-minute stretch spanning the half, the Ohio State defense turned on the juice, the Cats got frustrated and they gave up a 22-6 run over an 11:24 period. To knock off a team as solid and experienced as the Buckeyes, you’ve really got to play well for all 40 minutes.

Star of the GameLaQuinton Ross, Ohio State. For the second straight game, Ross came up large for the Buckeyes, scoring 17 for the game. Fourteen of those came after the break and all of those came in the last eight minutes. As recently as March 10 against Illinois, he was earning just single-digit minutes, but as the Buckeyes forge ahead into the Elite Eight, Ross has become a major factor, a 6’8” match-up nightmare who can shoot over smaller, quicker defenders or blow by bigger defenders.

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How Far Can Arizona Go?

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013

Three weeks ago, coming off an 0-2 road trip to Los Angeles, Arizona was just about ready to be left for dead. It’s not that a pair of conference road losses – one to a team in the middle of a 6-2 streak, the other to the eventual conference champion – were egregious, it’s that they were playing uninspired ball and none of the pieces were showing great cohesion. Mark Lyons was 6-of-24 that weekend with three assists while getting outplayed by Jio Fontan and Larry Drew II; Nick Johnson was in the midst of his regularly scheduled mid-season downturn; and Sean Miller could seemingly never get more than one of his freshman bigs – Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett – to play well at any given time.

Sean Miller, Arizona

Sean Miller Has His Wildcats In The Sweet Sixteen, But How Much Further Can They Go?

Flash forward to the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Against a pair of physically overmatched opponents, Lyons was among the best players in the nation, going for 25 points per game in a highly efficient manner. Johnson is now in the midst of a string of unbelievably good defensive performances (dating back to the season finale against Arizona State) and looks to have regained his confidence in his jumper. The freshman bigs have suddenly shown strides to the point where it looks like at least two out of the three can be counted on in any given game. In other words, Miller’s got this team coalescing at precisely the right time. But still, like we said, those two tournament wins were against seriously overmatched teams. Just how far can this Wildcats team go now that the strength of the opponents are about to undergo a serious uptick?

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Set Your DVR: Week of 03.04.13

Posted by bmulvihill on March 5th, 2013


Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

For some teams, the Championship Fortnight (as Kyle Whelliston would call it) begins this week. For most others, this is the final week of the regular season. Many teams sit squarely on the bubble and need to impress in their final two contests to show they deserve to be in the Tourney. We’ve waited all year for March. It’s finally here and all indications tell us it’s going to be a wild month. Let’s get to the breakdowns!

Illinois at Iowa – 7:00 PM EST, Tuesday on BTN (***)

illinois john groce

It looks like John Groce and Illinois are in but a couple more losses might change the equation

  • This is a hugely important game for both teams. At 7-9 in the Big Ten, Iowa is need of two wins to make its case for an at large tournament bid. They close the regular season at home against Illinois and Nebraska. If they can pick up the two victories and get to .500 in conference, Fran McCaffery and company make a decent case to get in. For Illinois, it looks like they will get in however they can ill afford to drop their next two games. In addition to this game at Iowa, they must travel too Ohio State. A loss against the Hawkeyes puts a ton of pressure on John Groce’s team heading into the last game of the season, so this one is critical. Look to see if Iowa’s size bothers the Illini. Illinois is a much better two-point shooting team than they are at three-point shooting team. However, getting points inside against Iowa’s length could be tough to come by. Regardless, Brandon Paul, Tracy Abrams, and D.J. Richardson must be aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and trying to get to the line. If Illinois is settling for jumpers on the outside, they will lose. Iowa needs to win this game with defense. Their offense just isn’t strong enough to win it for them. Protecting the ball and playing good defense without fouling are their top priorities. If they are turning the ball over and fouling, Illinois will win. The team that wins the free throw battle should come out on top in this match-up.

#13 Ohio State at #1 Indiana – 9:00 PM EST, Tuesday on ESPN (****)

  • In the first match-up this season between these two squads, Ohio State had no answer for Cody Zeller and Victor Olidipo. They combined to go 16-of-21 from the field and 17-of-21 from the line, grabbed 16 rebounds, and scored 50 of the 81 points. Throw in Christian Watford’s 20 points and IU’s front line obliterated OSU. If the Buckeyes want any chance to win this game in Bloomington, they must get way better defense from Evan Ravenel, Amir Williams, DeShaun Thomas, and LaQuinton Ross. Offensively, they can’t run with Indiana, however OSU’s half-court offense is suspect at best. So while their defense must create turnovers and get out on the break, they must be careful not to turn this game into a track meet. OSU’s ability to win this game sits squarely on the shoulders of their frontline. They need better defense and more scoring. If they can get that, they have a chance to win. Otherwise, this could be a blowout. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: 02.01.13 Edition

Posted by KTrahan on February 1st, 2013


  1. Before the season, Keith Appling wasn’t even a Michigan State captain. Tom Izzo was looking at the veteran point guard to become a leader on an off the court for the Spartans, who had lost last year’s emotional leader Draymond Green. Appling has now earned captain status and Izzo has noticed a big change from his junior point guard. Izzo said Appling is doing a better job of communicating on the floor and showing his confidence after sitting down with former MSU point guard Mateen Cleaves. Appling learned to fight through adversity after a rough past, and now he’s doing it on the court, becoming the leader Izzo had hoped for at the beginning of the season.
  2. Ohio State has had trouble finding players outside of Deshaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and Aaron Craft to step up this season. The Buckeyes certainly have talent, but its supporting players — Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross, to name a few — haven’t been consistent. That has resulted in inconsistent playing time among that bunch. OSU has been searching for an alternative offensive option to Thompson and it appears it may have found its answer in Ross. Ross has seen the court much more recently, and part of that is due to his improved listening to coach Thad Matta. He’s taking in more direction from the coaching staff, and subsequently seeing more of the floor.
  3. There aren’t many legitimate criticisms of No. 1 Michigan right now, considering how the Wolverines have been playing. However, people are always trying to find something wrong with top teams, so the common criticism of UM in recent weeks is that its roster isn’t deep enough. After all, the Wolverines rank 326th in the country in bench minutes, according to Ken Pomeroy. But part of the reason the Wolverines don’t go to their bench much is that the starters have played so well. Now though, in the wake of Jordan Morgan’s injury, Michigan is proving that it has enough depth. Jon Horford started the Wolverines’ game against Northwestern earlier this week and gave his team solid minutes, while freshman Mitch McGary also played well. Michigan may not have a star big man, but its frontcourt has proven it can play well this year, even without Morgan manning the paint.
  4. The press has been Minnesota’s best friend and its worst enemy this season. After struggling with its execution earlier in non-conference play, the Gophers’ press worked very well against Nebraska, returning to the form we saw during the non-conference season. Minnesota struggled to press against teams that like to slow things down like Northwestern and Wisconsin, but the Gophers were able to be successful against Nebraska, which employs the same tempo strategy. The bigger issue against the Wildcats and Badgers was their failure to execute in other areas of the game, such as free throw shooting. That prevented the Gophers from ever going all out with the press in those contests.
  5. It’s tough to find a bright spot out of a 97-60 loss, especially a home loss to your rival when coming off a solid win. However, Purdue’s A.J. Hammons was a bright spot for the Boilermakers in their drubbing at the hands of Indiana earlier this week. Hammons was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, but like most freshman big men, he has been inconsistent in his first college season. However, he was exceptional against Indiana, scoring 30 points and blocking five shots in 28 minutes, showing the potential we’re likely to see from him down the road. While he didn’t get much help against the Hoosiers, his consistency will be key to how Purdue finishes its season.
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Previewing Wisconsin-Ohio State: All Eyes on Deshaun Thomas

Posted by jnowak on January 29th, 2013

Here are a few coinciding items pertinent to Tuesday night’s Wisconsin-Ohio State game:

  1. Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the Big Ten.
  2. Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas is one of the best, if not the best, scorer in the Big Ten.
  3. Beyond Thomas, Ohio State doesn’t have much consistent scoring to rely upon.
This man is the focal point for Ohio State every game. Wisconsin should have that in its scouting report Tuesday.

This man is the focal point for Ohio State every game. Wisconsin should have that in its scouting report Tuesday.

That, in a nutshell, is what to keep an eye on Tuesday when the two teams meet in Columbus. Wisconsin has been an enigma this season, struggling through most of its non-conference schedule before apparently getting its act together at the beginning of Big Ten play. But they’ve suffered some puzzling losses while also managing to win back-to-back games without eclipsing 50 points for the first time in 16 years. Ohio State, meanwhile, has won most of the games it’s been expected to, but faltered in most of the marquee match-ups. In a talent-laden conference like this one, that’s not going to get them very far this year. But on a smaller scale, let’s take a slightly closer look at Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas conundrum and how it impacts both these teams.

There are essentially two ways you can play Ohio State. You can let Thomas get somewhere around his scoring average — he scores a Big Ten-best 20.0 PPG — while limiting the rest of the Buckeyes. Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson are all possible second scoring options (with all due respect to Aaron Craft, who is a terrific point guard, but that is not his role), though none have performed with any consistency. Only one of them averages in double-figures (Smith, just barely, with 10.2 PPG) and, consequently, the Buckeyes are one of just two conference teams without two players in the Big Ten’s top 30 in scoring (Purdue is the other). Yes, Penn State, winless in Big Ten play, has two players in the league’s top seven. And Nebraska, nearly as bad as the Nittany Lions, has three in the top 20. But I digress.

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What Did We Learn From Ohio State’s Weekend Loss To Kansas?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 26th, 2012

Except for a tough road game against Duke, the Ohio State Buckeyes had not been tested during their non-conference schedule until their date with Kansas last Saturday afternoon in Columbus. Losing to the top ranked team in the country in their building did not set off any alarms about Thad Matta’s squad, but the 74-66 loss to the Jayhawks has raised a few questions about the players’ overall toughness against good competition. Filling the void left behind by the departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford was the primary concern coming into the season for these Buckeyes. It is very clear that Matta has a deep and athletic roster but regardless of their talent, they will need to be mentally tougher if they want to compete for a Big Ten title and beyond. It is understood that the younger players will take some time to gel with each other and get used to extended playing time, but after 11 games this season, two aspects of their game clearly needs to improve – patience and fortitude. Let’s examine why they appeared to be soft on both ends of the floor against Kansas.

Deshaun Thomas needs to be more patient against tougher defensive teams like Kansas.

Deshaun Thomas needs to be more patient against tougher defensive teams like Kansas.

  • Poor Shot Selection: Deshaun Thomas has a quick release on his jumper and is one of the main reasons why he is the primary scoring option for Thad Matta. But he relies on the jumper too much during crunch time and smart defensive teams can lock up his mid-range game which tends to frustrate him. This was a glaring issue during the second half against KU when Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson crowded him immediately once he caught the ball in the high post or in the corner around the perimeter. Any time he came off a ball screen, he found a defender right next to him because the Jayhawks wanted him to put the ball on the floor. But rather than making the necessary adjustments and using his quickness to cut to the hoop, Thomas shied away from contact and instead forced up multiple bad shots. As the Buckeyes looked to make a run while down eight points around the four-minute mark, Thomas took an ill-advised 24-footer just a few seconds into the shot clock, thereby setting a horrible example to the rest of his team that had already been too content settling for jumpers throughout the second half. Thomas even admitted as much after the game when he said, “I don’t think they did anything special, they just played hard.” To make matters worse, Aaron Craft, the other experienced Buckeye, took way too many three-point attempts. Craft has never been a great shooter (career: 33% 3FG) but he has been trying to improve his shot selection this season. If he isn’t able to hit consecutive shots from long-range (2-of-6 from beyond the arc), then he should attempt to either drive the ball or defer to his teammates for scoring. Sophomore guard Shannon Scott was on a roll in the first half (15 points), but he did not look for his shot when Thomas and Craft were struggling. Both of the veterans need to be smarter and more patient with their shot selection and make the necessary adjustments when it is clear that opposing defenders are forcing them into taking poor shots. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten M5: Opening Day Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 9th, 2012

  1. The preseason top 50 players for the Wooden Award has been announced and nine Big Ten players were included on the list. The full list can be found here but clearly the B1G dominates the list which should come as no surprise because there are five teams ranked in the Top 25 from the league. Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State have two players each on the team, while Michigan State’s Keith Appling, Illinois’ Brandon Paul and Penn State’s Tim Frazier round the up the rest of the nine. Paul and Frazier might not lead their teams to the NCAA Tournament but both of them are expected to stuff the stat sheets and should average at least 15 PPG this season.
  2. Speaking of Indiana, Tom Crean is hoping that the suspensions of Hanner Perea and Peter Jurkin will be reduced after the NCAA hears their appeals. Both freshmen were suspended for nine games for accepting benefits from a booster. After losing Derek Elston for a few weeks due to an injury, Crean needs their help in the frontcourt to protect and complement Cody Zeller. The Hoosiers won’t struggle too badly without them but a long suspension will derail their plans to improve by conference season with a full rotation of players. Indiana’s game against North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, for example, will be tough but they have enough talent to overcome the Tar Heels without these two freshmen.
  3. The college hoops season tips off today with Michigan State battling Connecticut at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. This is a big game for Tom Izzo not just professionally but also at a personal level. One of Izzo’s relatives, Michael Izzo, works at the commissary office and will meet the head coach along with his family. Izzo is also happy that the troops overseas will get to see an exciting match-up between two historic programs in college hoops. As for the game itself, Michigan State’s Gary Harris will showcase his talents for the first time on the national stage and the Spartans will look to lock down the Connecticut backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright if they want to pull of an opening win today.
  4. Ohio State is considered a top 10 team in the country mainly due to the talents of Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. Not only do the Buckeyes have two potential All-Americans on their roster but they also have great depth at the wing position. Thad Matta will wait until tonight’s tipoff to decide who starts at the small forward position for the season opener against Marquette. Sam Thompson and Laquinton Ross are the finalists for that spot and both are great choices due to their gifted athleticism. Ross was highly ranked out of high school and is supposed to have great offensive skills while Thompson is a very tough defender. Lenzelle Smith Jr. will play at the scoring guard position alongside Aaron Craft in the backcourt.
  5. Minnesota’s Tubby Smith has to be glad that the season is finally here after all of the off-court troubles he’s had to deal with over the last couple of months. But on the flip side, he will also be under intense scrutiny to perfrom and the fans will expect him to show some results on the court. He is owed $2 million this season and needs to prove that he is worth such a big paycheck. Trevor Mbakwe is definitely confident that the Gophers will prove their worth on the court and he has a great supporting cast as well. Rodney Williams can get to the basket in several different ways and Andre Hollins will be great on the perimeter. Smith needs to win consistently over the next two months to divert all of the negative attention back to winning actual basketball games and prove that he has control of the program.
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Big Ten Team Previews: Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 30th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Where We Left Off: Last season, Ohio State got off to an impressive start, beating No. 8 Florida in the second game of the season and blowing out No. 4 Duke by 22 points in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. However, a Jared Sullinger injury brought the Buckeyes back to earth in Lawrence, Kansas, and they dealt with some periodic inconsistency in the Big Ten. However, OSU still made a run in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Cincinnati and Syracuse en route to a Final Four loss against that same Kansas team. The Buckeyes lost Sullinger and William Buford, but return a number of returning solid players, putting them in position for yet another deep NCAA Tournament run.

Thad Matta Has Gotten to the Point of Annual Final Four Expectations in Columbus

Positives: The biggest positive on Ohio State is how much talent the Buckeyes return. You know you’re a good team when you can bury top recruits on the bench and still have one of the best teams in the country. Junior forward DeShaun Thomas is a favorite to become this season’s breakout player of the year and OSU also returns top junior point guard and defensive dynamo Aaron Craft. The Buckeyes also have a lot of talent in junior guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr., who was somewhat inconsistent last year, but showed his potential at times. Add in sophomore forward Sam Thompson and sophomore center Amir Williams, and this could still be the most talented lineup in the Big Ten. If OSU can put things together by the end of the season, this will be a very dangerous team in March again.

Negatives: What this Ohio State team has in talent, it lacks in experience. Craft is experienced at his position by now, and while Thomas brings a lot of hype, he wasn’t a superstar last year. Then there are Smith and Thompson, who were at best inconsistent last season, and center Amir Williams, who is also talented but barely played last year. The story is the same on the bench, with players like LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott, both highly-touted recruits who have yet to prove themselves on a college floor. This team is full of talent but short on experience, and in college basketball, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

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