Rushed Reactions: #15 Middle Tennessee State 90, #2 Michigan State 81

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 18th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways:

Middle Tennessee State's Jaqawn Richmond gets the celebration going for his Blue Raiders. (Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

Middle Tennessee State’s Jaqawn Richmond gets the celebration going for his Blue Raiders. (Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)

  1. The Blue Raiders’ Hot First-Half Shooting: Middle Tennessee State came into today hitting 38 percent of their three-point attempts while making a little more than seven threes per contest. They must have decided those numbers weren’t adequate for The Big Dance. Four different Blue Raiders combined to hit 8-for-12 from outside which helped them to a six-point halftime lead from which they were able to carry momentum for the rest of the game.
  2. The Spartans Didn’t Lay Down: Propelled by Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello combining for 29 second-half points, the Spartans were never completely out of it until the bitter end. Together, they accounted for 10 of Michigan State’s 16 makes in the second half. As close as Michigan State was to taking this game a few times, they never led.
  3. MTSU Never Let Up: MTSU made 56 percent of their field goals in the first half so you figured they had to do that again to give themselves a chance to close the game out. The Blue Raiders went ahead and made 57 percent of their shots in the final 20 minutes. They needed most of it to hold off a tried-and-tested blue-blood program with a Hall of Fame coach.

Star of the Game: Let’s give it to Middle Tennessee State’s starting lineup. Darnell Harris, Perrin Buford, Jaquan Raymond, Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw accounted for 81 of MTSU’s 90 points, countering every punch Michigan State that offered up. Plus, the whole rarity of a #15 seed beating a #2 seed who legitimately could have been a #1 seed — that team will now board a plane to East Lansing empty-handed. March is cold like that.

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The Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Placing the Games into Tiers

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 30th, 2015

Fans of the Big Ten were bombarded with wall-to-wall Feast Week basketball over the past 10 days, and now it’s time to tip off the 17th annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Many of this year’s predetermined matchups are interesting and watchable, but there are always a few potential clunkers. Here is your Big Ten viewer’s guide to the best of the best and the worst of the worst in the 14 games occurring over the next three evenings.

  • Can’t Miss: (Maryland-North Carolina; Louisville-Michigan State). If I can’t sell you on two top 10 teams that regularly played each other as conference rivals for the better part of a half-century and on a Tom Izzo vs. Rick Pitino coaching clash in as a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight game, then what am I doing writing about basketball? These two are staggered, tipping off on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, respectively.
  • Serious Potential: (Indiana-Duke; Purdue-Pittsburgh; Michigan-NC State). Indiana could mess around and score 120 points or they could implode into a turnover hellhole of their own creation. Either way, it will be compelling television. Pittsburgh and Purdue have blue collar reputations, but they also both have zero losses and top 20 offenses through the first two weeks of the season. Michigan and NC State have both underachieved thus far, but the Wolverines and Wolfpack have enough talent and athletes on the floor to make this game entertaining.
Zak Irvin will be vital if Michigan wants a road win in Raleigh against the Wolfpack. (Getty)

Zak Irvin will be vital if Michigan wants a road win in Raleigh against the Wolfpack. (Getty)

  • Solid if not Spectacular: (Wisconsin-Syracuse; Notre Dame-Illinois; Miami-Nebraska; Florida State-Iowa). All of these games could be competitive, as at least five of these teams should end up in the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin trying to figure out its offense against the Syracuse 2-3 zone and Illinois playing its first game back in Assembly Hall are headlines, but also keep an eye on whether Nebraska can break through against a ranked team with loads of experience. The Cornhuskers hung with Villanova for a while and kept it close with Cincinnati in their only two losses. The Florida State-Iowa game should feature a ton of size, and appears to be one of the most balanced games on paper.

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Starting Five: Five Big Ten Teams Feeling Good About Feast Week

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 30th, 2015

The non-conference portion of the schedule hasn’t been great to the Big Ten so far this season, but Feast Week gave some of the league’s teams positive feelings about the future. Here are five schools that can feel good about themselves after the week that was.

John Groce got his lineup back in full, and his squad looked much better. (USAT Images)

John Groce got his full lineup back and his squad looked much better as a result. (USAT Images)

  1. Illinois: The Illini have a lot of extra dead weight to shed from their 3-4 start to the season, but anyone who watched their win against UAB and the first 30 minutes against Iowa State saw that this is a different and better team with a full complement of players. Kendrick Nunn looked rusty but he averaged 18.5 PPG in the two games — a healthy Nunn, Leron Black and Jaylon Tate showed the potential that exists here. The knee injury to Mike Thorne, Jr., however, is a real downer.
  2. Maryland: After struggling with teams that they shouldn’t have struggled with, the Terps finally put it all together against Rhode Island on Wednesday night in the championship game of the Cancun Classic. It appears as though Maryland’s on-court chemistry and offensive movement are improving with the realization that they any member of the starting unit can carry them for stretches — Rasheed Suliamon and Robert Carter Jr., for example, had moments where they looked like the best players on the floor. Read the rest of this entry »
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Evaluating the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon: 29 Takeaways From 29 Hours of Action

Posted by Andy Gripshover on November 18th, 2015

My name is Andy Gripshover (@apgripsh) and I watched the entire ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. All 29 hours of it, from start to finish. Here are 29 takeaways from the proceedings.

Denzel Valentine Was the Star of Stars to Finish Off the Marathon (USAT Sports)

Denzel Valentine Was the Star of Stars to Finish Off the Marathon (USAT Sports)

  1. I actually like the Oregon court. I really do. It’s unique; it’s fitting for the area; and everyone wastes too much time hating on the brightness in the middle when it’s actually a perfect contrast to the shade of brown used inside a three-point arc that doesn’t get NEARLY enough love. But that court plus the Ducks’ all-neon yellows PLUS Baylor’s forest greens with the neon green lettering? Yeah, that was a little much. Or perhaps a secretly evil way of starting off the Marathon.
  2. As for the game itself, Baylor was flat most of the way, trailing by double figures for the first 10 minutes of the second half before making a push late. Oregon put four starters in double figures plus Dwayne Benjamin doing his thing off the bench, and Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook thoroughly outplayed Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince.
  3. Now the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State is a court that I think we can ALL agree is beautiful. Very light and easy on the eyes, and those palm trees….
  4. The offenses in that game between the Beach and BYU were anything but beautiful, though. The Cougars were 26-of-62 from the field, including 5-of-21 from three and an utterly ghastly 8-of-21 from the free throw line. Was that bad? Because Long Beach was worse: 22-of-71 (!!!) from the floor, including 7-of-24 from three. The 49ers had a 22-2 run midway through the first half and held on for dear life in the second to knock off an NCAA Tournament team before heading to Charleston this weekend.
  5. As for the Cougars, Kyle Collinsworth looked at less than 100 percent in going 4-of-9 from the field…. and also 4-of-9 from the foul line. Chase Fischer took five threes and made none of them. It was a nightmarish offensive performance for BYU, and yet, the Cougars almost stole a win at the end anyway.
  6. There’s a certain feeling you get when you see the Stan Sheriff Center court at Hawaii for the first time and realize you’ve made it that far in the Marathon.
  7. Nevada made its first 17 free throws before missing and losing on a Roderick Bobbitt layup with 1.4 to go on the island despite an inspired 34 (!) for Marqueze Coleman. Quality Hawaii game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Where 2015-16 Happens: Reason #8 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2015

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2015-16 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Friday, November 13. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#8 – Where You Got Izzo’d Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-14 and 2014-15 preseasons.

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Where 2015-16 Happens: Reason #25 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2015

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2015-16 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Friday, November 13. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#25 – Where Special Valentine’s Day Delivery Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-14 and 2014-15 preseasons.

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Circle of March: Vol. XXVI

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2015

And then there were two. With Saturday’s eliminations of Kentucky and Michigan State, the Circle of March is down to its final permutation before we crown this season’s National Champion.

2015_CircleofMarch_V26

Eliminations (04.04.15)

  • Michigan State
  • Kentucky
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.05.15 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 5th, 2015

RTC_NCAA15

March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

Duke

Coach K and Duke Will Compete For Their Fifth Title Monday Night (USA Today Images)

Coach K and Duke Will Compete For Their Fifth Title Monday Night (USA Today Images)

  • Duke has been criticized this season for not being as defensively sharp as some of the past Blue Devils teams. After last night’s dominant Final Four victory over Michigan State, however, the doubters are starting to come around. “A lot of people said we couldn’t play defense,” Duke guard Matt Jones said. “For the most part in the NCAA Tournament, we’ve been a very good defensive team. Now we just have to do it one more time on Monday.”
  • Taunting or not, there’s no doubt that Grayson Allen‘s monster dunk sent a message to Michigan State.
  • On Monday night, Duke will play for a National Championship in the same place where it won its last one: Indianapolis.
  • Jahlil Okafor‘s father believes that his son should have been named National Player of the Year over Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. Okafor will have the chance to prove it on Monday, as the Blue Devils will go up against Kaminsky’s team.
  • Justise Winslow is a name you might want to remember for the future… Take it from Charles Barkley. During the pregame show last night, Barkley referred to Winslow as “Winstons Justice.” Ouch.

Wisconsin

  • Sam Dekker wasn’t as dominant as he had been in the past two games, but he was just as clutch. Tied 60-60, Dekker hit a step-back three to give Wisconsin the lead, then drew a charge on Kentucky’s very next possession.
  • Perhaps Frank Kaminsky‘s 2011 Tweet of “I hate Kentucky” foreshadowed last night’s victory over the previously undefeated Wildcats.
  • Wisconsin did it. Against all odds, the Badgers gave Kentucky its first loss of the season in a matchup they’ve wanted since last March. “This is something we’ve been talking about since day one this season,” Sam Dekker said. “Look where we are now.”
  • Somehow, Trey Lyle’s slap on Josh Gasser wasn’t called a flagrant one foul, but it didn’t matter for Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin lost to Duke earlier this season but the Badgers are far from scared. “They were a tough team,” [point guard Bronson] Koenig said. “They have a great backcourt and they’ve got Jahlil [Okafor]. So it’s going to be a tough game.”

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.01.15 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 1st, 2015

RTC_NCAA15

March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

Michigan State

Tom Izzo Is Loving This Team (USA Today Images)

Tom Izzo Is Loving This Team (USA Today Images)

  • Of all people, Duke’s Coach K is perhaps least surprised to be facing Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in the Final Four. “Nothing surprises me that he and his program would do,” Krzyzewski said. “They don’t have a team; they have a program. As he develops each team, I don’t know what the time frame of it is until that group understands what the program is about, whether it be offense, defense or just character-wise, but they’re going to keep improving because it’s a program. It’s a program of excellence.”
  • For Michigan State, the emergence of freshman LouRawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn Jr. has been paramount to the Spartans’ turnaround this season. He hasn’t scored much so far in the NCAA Tournament, but that’s not what makes him so valuable. “He does so much for our team that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet,” said senior guard Travis Trice. “He helps break the press, he gets other guys involved. Tum’s also that energy guy. There are times [before or after practice] where guys are kind of tired and Tum’s there with all the energy and boosts everybody up. Tum does a lot of things for us that people really don’t see.”
  • Michigan State may not have as much individual talent as it usually does, but this bunch has played very well as a team. “This is some of the things that has separated this year’s team: from top to bottom there is a – I don’t know if you can use the word, but there is a true love for one another,” Izzo said, “and that is a powerful, powerful thing, so I’m appreciative of those upperclassmen.”
  • Check out Tom Izzo‘s postgame speech to his team after the Spartans punched their ticket on Sunday to the Final Four.
  • With a BCS Bowl victory and another Final Four appearance, it’s a good time to be a Michigan State fan.

Duke

  • No matter the year, the moment, or the personnel on his team, Coach K is consistently great. “There’s not just one way,” [assistant coach Nate] James said. “Some coaches are stuck in their ways, like ‘I want to do it this way, the way I’ve always done it.’ No. If you do it that way, it may hurt this group. He adjusts.”
  • Even though Duke is a mainstay at the top of college basketball, Krzyzewski insists that this team has worked its way to a “magical season,” just like everyone else. “It’s not a birthright; it’s earned each year,” he said.
  • From losing Rasheed Sulaimon to hitting some midseason lulls back in January, this Duke team has learned to be resilient.
  • Is Coach K the greatest college basketball head coach of all time? Chris Chase seems to think so.
  • Duke may be in the Final Four, but Jahlil Okafor hasn’t exactly dominated in March. Is the freshman standout somewhat overrated?

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.31.15 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 31st, 2015

RTC_NCAA15

March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

Kentucky

38-0 and Still Standing. (USA Today Images)

38-0 and Still Standing. (USA Today Images)

  • Duke handled Michigan State in November’s Champions Classic, but a “true” champions classic would see the Blue Devils face undefeated Kentucky for the National Championship game on Monday night. Luckily for college basketball fans, that potential matchup is just one spectacular round away.
  • Big Blue Nation is notorious for traveling to games, but John Calipari isn’t so sure that the Wildcats will have a boost from the crowd in Indianapolis. “My hope is our [fans] have figured out how to get the tickets more than the other people, but you just don’t know,” he said.
  • Despite having a historic level of amateur talent, Kentucky has benefited from keeping that talent grounded off the court. Sports psychologist Bob Rotella visits Lexington every so often to keep the Wildcats loose and motivated. “The challenge, ultimately, is to get really talented people to go after it that intensely, with that much energy,” he said.
  • Kentucky walk-ons Sam Malone and Brian Long may not be heading to the NBA, but after this season, they’ll have played with possibly 21 future and current NBA players.
  • When it comes to getting his players to the professional ranks, John Calipari goes above and beyond the call of duty. Not only does he showcase each of his 10 (nine after junior Alex Poythress’ midseason injury) rotation players, but he even set up a pseudo Pro Day for his players before the season.

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Circle of March: Vol. XXV

Posted by rtmsf on March 30th, 2015

And then there were four, as in Final Four. What a weekend of basketball. We were gifted with several fantastic games that resulted in one of the best fields that we’ve seen on the sport’s biggest stage in quite some time. The Circle of March may be looking a little stark, but Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and Wisconsin will more than compensate with their oversized games. Is it Saturday evening yet?

2015_CircleofMarch_25

Eliminations (03.29.15)

  • Gonzaga
  • Louisville
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Non-Conference Scheduling: How Does the ACC Stack Up?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 2nd, 2015

While watching a Virginia Tech football game this year — or at least as much of it as I could stomach — I was reminded of head coach Frank Beamer’s reputation as a special teams guru. As the Hokies’ head coach back in the 1990s, Beamer’s approach to emphasizing special teams play was quite effective — he coached the kicking units himself and used his best athletes to cover, return and block kicks. After a few years of using this innovation, the media caught on and his teams’ reputation as great on special teams was established. About five to seven years ago, however, and despite announcers’ best efforts to remind us, it became apparent that Virginia Tech no longer had that same advantage. Crossing over to basketball this winter, any time Michigan State plays a November or December game, an announcer will inevitably say something like, “Tom Izzo ALWAYS plays a brutal non-conference schedule.” But is it actually true? As the Beamer example shows, once a public narrative is established, it’s very difficult to break.

Recently we looked at the ACC’s non-conference schedules and declared North Carolina the clear winner of the ACC’s competition for the toughest slate this season. Today we will examine how the Tar Heels and the other traditional ACC powers stack up in non-conference scheduling when compared with several of the other national programs. For this analysis we chose the 15 winningest college basketball programs of the last 10 years from the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and Big East. The underlying assumption is that top programs from each of these conferences should be fairly comparable in terms of scheduling opportunities to play whichever teams they want, including various made-for-TV contests and routine invitations to the major early-season tournaments. Teams like Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference were removed from the data set because their non-conference scheduling agendas are far different than those of the power conference schools. The full table, including five ACC schools — Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh — is below.

NonConf 10YrsWe ranked schools based on the average ranking between two metrics — KenPom strength of schedule (SOS) and Top 25 opponents. For overall SOS, we averaged the last 10 years using Pomeroy’s end-of-season non-conference schedule strength rating (which does not include postseason or non-Division I opponents). We also counted the number of Top 25 opponents (using KenPom’s final season ratings) each school played in the 10-year span, showing it as a per-year average. As you can see above, both Duke and North Carolina perform very well in both metrics, while recent ACC additions Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh struggle. Among non-ACC schools, Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas are clearly the other national programs willing to play the best non-conference opponents on an annual basis, and surprisingly, Michigan State ranks more in the middle of the pack despite what we are led to believe from most media members. How do things look when we feature the same ratings categories over the last five years instead?

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