The Other 26: Reshuffling the Top of the Deck

Posted by IRenko on January 26th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It was a wild week for the TO26’s best teams, as seven of the teams ranked in our top ten — including our top five — all suffered losses. With Gonzaga, Creighton, VCU, Butler, and UNLV all going down, who has a rightful claim on the number one ranking?  Does New Mexico slide all the way from 6th to 1st after their win over Colorado State?

Not quite.  Yes, Gonzaga lost to Butler in a game played without Rotnei Clarke, Butler’s leading scorer. But it was in a hostile road environment, and even under those conditions, Gonzaga had a victory in hand with just a few seconds left on the clock. And on Thursday, the Zags followed up the loss with a 20-point drubbing of conference rival BYU. So Mark Few’s men will continue to hold the top spot in our rankings. But all of the action elsewhere will produce a substantial reshuffling. Without further ado, on the substantially revised Top 10, our weekly Honor Roll, and a few games to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

Top Ten

RTC -- TO26 (1.26.13)

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Big Sky Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 18th, 2012

Jonathan Reed of Big Sky Basketball is the RTC Correspondent for the Big Sky Conference. You can find him on Twitter @bigskybball.

Top Storylines

  • The Injury to Will Cherry – Cherry was the runaway favorite for Big Sky Conference Player of the Year, and one of the best perimeter defensive players in the country. However, he will miss the start of the year with a broken foot. The most likely scenario is that he misses the non-conference portion of the schedule and returns for conference play. However, nobody is sure if he will be 100%, and there has even been a little talk that he could redshirt if he can’t come back fully healthy this year. With Cherry, Montana is the favorite. Without him, the conference race is wide open.
  • Change is Everywhere – There are two new teams in the Big Sky, as North Dakota and Southern Utah join the fray. This brings the total number of teams to 11, and with each team playing everyone else twice, everyone will be playing 20 conference games. There will also be an increase from six teams in the Big Sky Tournament to seven teams this season. Three new coaches enter the league. Changes are all around (and more on them later).

Kareem Jamar Will Have To Step In As Will Cherry Recovers From Injury. (AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf)

  • Life Without Damian Lillard – Lillard was the best player to come out of the conference in a long-time, as he was the sixth pick in the NBA Draft and arguably the best college point guard in America last season. Now, Weber State must move on. Either Jordan Richardson or Gelaun Wheelwright will step into the starting lineup, and they have big shoes to fill. They will need multiple people to step up and perform, and they will have the personnel to do it.
  • Weber State and Montana Reign Again – Heading into last year, these two teams were the media and coaches top two choices. Heading into this season, it will be more of the same. Simply put, they are the most talented and deepest teams in the conference, and they have continuity on the coaching staff. With the way they are recruiting, it won’t be a surprise if the two teams stay in the top two for a long while to come.

Reader’s Take

 

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Weber State (17-3)
  2. Montana (16-4)
  3. Northern Colorado (13-7)
  4. Sacramento State (12-8)
  5. North Dakota (11-9)
  6. Montana State (10-10)
  7. Eastern Washington (9-11)
  8. Portland State (8-12)
  9. Northern Arizona (5-15)
  10. Southern Utah (5-15)
  11. Idaho State (4-16)

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Morning Five: 09.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 27th, 2012

  1. Has the interminable fight between the NCAA, the state of North Dakota, and its flagship university over the usage of a nickname finally come to an end? In the latest twist from a saga over North Dakota‘s Fighting Sioux nickname that has spanned decades without resolution, all parties announced on Wednesday that they have come to an agreement that hopefully satisfies everyone involved as well as the affected stakeholders. The NCAA has since 2005  threatened schools like UND with what it deems “hostile and abusive” nicknames, and the state has in recent years gone through considerable legal wrangling and even a ballot measure put to the voters over the divisive issue. This agreement ends North Dakota’s use of the nickname (considered offensive to a local Sioux tribe), but will allow much of the imagery embedded into the school’s sports arenas to remain, at least until father time wears them off. In return, the NCAA will allow the school to host postseason events on its campus, while the university and its alumni get to work deciding on options for a new and more agreeable nickname (they will have three years to think about it ).
  2. It’s extremely rare that we’ll go from a North Dakota blurb to a Montana one, but this is a weird news cycle. Will Cherry, Montana’s best player and the leading candidate for the Big Sky POY in 2012-13, has broken his right foot and will miss as much as the next three months of action. The 6’2″ guard was named last season’s Big Sky DPOY and has shown enough versatility and athleticism to make it onto the radar of NBA scouts searching for the next Damian Lillard. The hope for the Grizzlies is that Cherry, who will not have surgery on the foot, will recover quickly and only have to miss a handful of games at the start of the season. A quick review of the Montana schedule suggests that a return date by the start of conference play on December 19 would be ideal.
  3. Josh Pastner is the kind of coach whom everyone seems to have a very strong opinion about — many folks think his only real talent is salesmanship, an ability to convince potential recruits on the virtues of Memphis basketball so that they sign to play for him. Others think that he’s someone who has perhaps appeared a little green on the sidelines at times, but is a tireless worker whose chops in coaching up young players just needs some time to mature. With news this week that Memphis has received a commitment from elite 2013 east coast prospect Kuran Iverson (The Answer’s cousin), there’s one fact nobody can dispute — the Tigers coach has proven without question that he can leave the Mississippi River watershed to fill out his talented recruiting classes. The next step, of course, is to convert all that on-court talent into postseason success (and nobody cares about Conference USA titles when you’re bringing in these hauls), and, as Mike DeCourcy notes, there is a general sense among those in the know that Pastner is about to turn the corner on building his program and improving his career 0-2 NCAA Tournament record.
  4. DeCourcy must have had his typewriter working overtime yesterday, as he also published a related article on Big East recruiting with the clear thesis that available evidence suggests that the Big East as a basketball conference might not be as ‘dead as in doornail dead’ as many seem to think. According to the Rivals recruiting rankings for the Class of 2013, 16 of the 72 players (22%) in the top 115 who have already chosen schools are headed to the Big East. It’s a fair point, but a closer look at the numbers reveals the devil in the details, which is as of right now, the Big East can boast volume and depth but not much in terms of star incoming talent — of the 24 committed players who are currently ranked in the top 50, only four of those are headed to the Big East (three to Memphis; one to Louisville). By way of a contrast, the ACC and SEC already have four commitments each in the top 30, with more surely on the way once Kentucky and North Carolina are finished.
  5. Here’s a piece of trivia for your Thursday morning: Name the handful of pairs of schools that reside in the same city and also play basketball in the same multiple-bid conference. Most people will get the Pac-12′s UCLA and USC immediately; some will remember that Big Fivers Temple, La Salle and St. Joseph’s have one more season together in the Atlantic 10; if you want to get clever you might even recall Conference USA’s Rice and Houston; but how many folks outside of the Old Dominion State will remember that VCU‘s joining of the A-10 means that a bitter crosstown rivalry with Richmond is about to get realer. Gary Parrish writes that the two schools separated by only seven miles as the crow flies might be near one another in proximity, but they’re worlds apart in style and attitude. All we can say is that the two games scheduled for conference play are going to be must-see television, mid-major style. Can’t wait.
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Four Thoughts From Albuquerque…

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2012

Looking back at Thursday’s games in the Albuquerque regional from a Friday night perspective, my thoughts turn more to Montana, Harvard, South Dakota State, and UNLV than the teams that advanced from those first round games. We will have plenty of time to enjoy Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Baylor, and Colorado on Saturday afternoon and evening, but for right now, let’s talk about the good things that these four teams, whose seasons ended on Friday, did on Thursday and throughout the year.

  1. After struggling through a non-conference schedule, everything came together for Montana in conference play, where they ripped off 15 wins in 16 games and then swept to the Big Sky’s automatic bid in relatively easy fashion. And on Thursday, for roughly 18 minutes, they gave Wisconsin a battle. They came out hot early, scored 18 points on the first 13 possession against a stingy Badger defense and had the numerous Grizzly fans who made the trip down to support their team dreaming of big things. There were forced turnovers, acrobatic finishes and lots of excitement created early for an undermanned team. However, once the Wisconsin defense locked down, the Grizzlies went cold and headed home early. Still, this is a program that has made three straight postseasons (including two NCAA bids) under head coach Wayne Tinkle and returns 66.3% of its scoring from this year, including talented backcourt combo Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar. And clearly, Tinkle’s got the community buying into the team and is well on the way to making Montana as much a basketball school as it is a football power.
  2. What can you say about this Harvard team? First NCAA Tournament appearance in more than 60 years, a sparkling 26-4 record and at least a piece of the regular season Ivy League title for two years running. Better still, this is a program that shows all the signs of being in it for the long haul. Head coach Tommy Amaker is building for the future here, not just taking advantage of a flash in the pan. And, perhaps best of all, this has been a truly entertaining team to watch. I saw them in person twice this season and came away feeling good about the Crimson on both occasions. Amaker loses big man Keith Wright and hyper-efficient guard Oliver McNally, but they return plenty of experienced players for a team that should be the favorite in the Ivy again next year. Sophomore Laurent Rivard is an absurdly entertaining and confident shot-maker who earned the respect of Vandy’s players and fans by knocking down three after ridiculous three in the face of excellent defense. Junior forward Kyle Casey may be a bit undersized, but he cleans the glass for Amaker and just seems to be around the ball to make plays on a regular basis. Junior point guard Brandyn Curry is one of the best assist men in the nation and a scrappy defensive playmaker, while freshman Wesley Saunders is an athletic ball of energy with loads of upside. Add in the fact that Amaker has made Harvard a legitimate destination for recruits and it appears that the Crimson are on the verge of being an every-year type of team.
  3. South Dakota State may have been the darling of the Albuquerque Thursday. Not only did the scrappy Jackrabbits battle a clearly athletically superior Baylor team tooth and nail for 40 minutes, but their fans, supporting a team from the state of South Dakota in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, were an asset to the entire atmosphere in The Pit. Just as Baylor’s team showed up expecting to advance to the next round on the basis of their talent alone, the Bear fans strolled in from the parking lot at a leisurely rate, not even filling up their section until SDSU had run out to an early 12 point lead. Meanwhile, Jackrabbit fans made their way into the arena as early as the possibly could (the doors weren’t opened for the second session until 30 minutes before tip-off), loaded up their section and then some, and were loud and supportive throughout the game. They had plenty to cheer for as junior guard Nate Wolters led an inspired effort against one of the biggest, most athletic squads in Division I. Even after they booted away that 12-point first-half lead in a flurry of first half turnovers and seemed destined for a blowout, the Jackrabbits, fans and team alike, responded strong in the second half and at least put a good scare into the Bears. While Wolters gets most of the press, guys like sophomore reserve wing Chad White (15 points, five threes in 30 minutes), senior forward Griffan Callahan (seven points, two steals in a full 40 minutes of action), sophomore forward Jordan Dykstra (five points, three boards), junior forward Tony Fiegen (two points, five boards, five assists) and sophomore guard Brayden Carlson (nine points, five assists) deserve at least a mention, with Callahan, Fiegen and Dykstra all deserving extra props for contending with, and generally containing, the imposing Baylor frontline. In the end, it was a 27-8 record on the year for the Jackrabbits, the best in the history of the school. And with everyone but Callahan expected to return next year, South Dakota State could again claim a spot on the national stage.
  4. Lastly, there’s UNLV, the most celebrated of the four losers on Thursday night. While Montana, Harvard and South Dakota State can all come away from their NCAA Tournament experience feeling okay about their seasons, for the Runnin’ Rebels, this is a disappointment, not solely because they were upended by a lower seed. This marks the fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament loss for the proud program and sends seniors Oscar Bellfield, Chace Stanback, and Brice Massamba off to graduation without a tournament win on their resume (fellow senior Kendall Wallace redshirted last season and was a small part of the 2008 team that beat Kent State in the first round). And, for the third consecutive year, this was a Rebel team that played its best basketball of the season in November and December and never improved as much as the other teams around them. And, perhaps most galling of all for a proud fanbase, the UNLV supporters were out-traveled and out-voiced throughout the game by Colorado fans, relative upstarts. Things need to change in Vegas next season. And the good news is, all the parts are there for the change to be made. Head coach Dave Rice will be heading into his second season as a head coach and should be able to build upon his experience this year. Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall, the first and third leading scorers on this team should return (provided Moser doesn’t do anything stupid and declare for the NBA Draft), along with plenty of other strong parts, including Division I transfers Bryce Jones and Khem Birch. Marshall will take over the leadership role for this team once and for all (a role he battled with Bellfield and Stanback over this year), and the team should be better for that. And, there is a buzz about the program that has been largely missing since the days of Jerry Tarkanian. In short, the future is bright in Las Vegas, even if the present is full of regrets over missed opportunities on Thursday.
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Four Tournament Thoughts: Wisconsin vs Montana

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 15th, 2012

The 1st (or is it 2nd?  3rd?  Whatever…) round of the NCAA tournament tipped off today, and Wisconsin was the first Big Ten team to take the court to defend the conference’s honor. The Badgers were up to the task, defeating Montana 73-49.  Here’s how it went down:

Rob Wilson and the rest of the Badgers played a complete game against Montana (photo: Washington Post)

1. Jordan Taylor played like…Jordan Taylor - The Wisconsin point guard has been making  an extra effort this year to get his teammates involved, especially his mates in the frontcourt. But against Montana, Taylor was regularly open, and looked for his own shot.  He scored 17 points, but stayed impactful in every other facet of the game, tallying 8 boards and six assists along with the most important Taylor stat of all: no turnovers. That type of performance from their point guard is exactly what can carry the Badgers deep in the NCAA Tournament.

2. Ryan Evans was a solid number two - Taylor is the unquestioned star, but Wisconsin needs other scoring options to step up, and that’s exactly what Evans was able to do. The junior forward lead the team with 18 points and also had 8 rebounds. He found his way to the rim and while Montana doesn’t exactly posses the athleticism that future opponents will have it was still good to see him comfortable on the offensive end.

3. Badger big men played BIG - Jared Berrgren, normally a scorer for Wisconsin, defended the rim like Anthony Davis against the Grizzlies, rejecting 7 shots. Overall, the Badger defense made it tough on Montana, forcing them into 38% shooting for the game. Wisconsin also finished +13 on the glass, overall a good day for the men up front.

4. Vanderbilt had their hands full with Harvard, so that means… - Not sure exactly, given how volatile the NCAA Tournament can be. But it should give the Badgers a good dose of confidence, knowing that they played some good basketball, while Vandy had some shaky moments against their opponents. Perhaps more importantly, the Badgers scored 73 points, and breaking that 70 (or even 65) plateau was something that proved difficult for the team this season in Big Ten play. March is always a good time to be playing your best basketball, and getting ready for a Bo Ryan team is not easy when you’re unfamiliar with the way Wisconsin plays.

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The View From The Couch

Posted by SMoore on March 15th, 2012

By Steve Moore (@smoore1117)

We’re coming to you live from my living room, where days have been taken off from work, and the big-screen is flickering to life.

Of course, we missed the beginning of today’s action, due to my four-month-old son’s need to eat and have his diaper changed. He just doesn’t get it.

Anyway, while the RTC crew has things covered from the various arenas, I’ll take you through the best two days in sports in the same way as 99% of America: from the couch. We apologize in advance for the baby vomit smell or if the crying drowns out Verne Lundquist.

The plan is to focus less on Xs and Os, and more on the broadcast, announcers, commercials and coaches’ hairpieces. You know, the important stuff. If this works out, we’ll be back for a look at the night session later this evening.

And yes, I know I’m not Bill Simmons. I make way more money than him, anyway.

1:28 p.m.: We’re early in the second half of Murray State-Colorado State. I’ve been watching for a while, but had my hands tied with baby bottles and burp rags.

1:30: Love starting with Lundquist and Raftery. To be honest, I don’t have a problem with nearly any of the CBS announcing crews. But I mean come on, who doesn’t love Raftery. They both do a good job making it seem like they knew ANYTHING about either of these teams before yesterday.

1:31: Am I the only one who is bothered by these generic black/natural courts the NCAA insists on installing now at every site? There was something cool about immediately knowing which site you were watching. Every time they show “The Shot”, I take pride in recognizing the Spectrum floor. I could tell you instantly that Tyus Edney’s memorable dash was in Boise, because of the garish floor they had there. This just seems so sterile. It’s … it’s so … NCAA.

The NCAA Redfines Sterile

The NCAA Redfines Sterile

The Site of Edney's Magical Run

1:40: Colorado State can shoot threes, but I feel like this is going to just slowly drift away from them. Murray State should not have been a 6 seed anyway.

1:41: We now have a third game in progress, with Louisville/Davidson going on TBS. The last hour has been like watching a single game. Now is when it gets really fun.

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Rushed Reaction: #4 Wisconsin 73, #13 Montana 49

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Three-point barrage. Wisconsin turned to their bread-and-butter early and often on Thursday, taking advantage of a porous Montana perimeter defense to hit six of their first nine attempts from deep and ten of 19 for the game. Jordan Taylor led the way with three threes, but six different Badgers hit at least one from deep against a Griz defense that couldn’t find its groove. Montana started in a zone, but when that got exposed, they switched back to their more customary man defense – to no positive effect.
  2. Ryan Evans wake-up call. Evans set the tone in the first half for the Badgers, scoring 14 points, grabbing six boards, and hitting six of his eight shots, including a three. And he made it look easy, hitting baseline jumpers and converting post moves inside. While he cooled considerably in the second half, Evans’ first half performance was a definite pick-me-up for a Badger team that turned the ball over and struggled defensively in the opening minutes of the game.
  3. Jared Berggren beast mode. Berggren is best known as a pick-and-pop big man for Bo Ryan’s team, but on Thursday he showed off his interior defensive skills, blocking seven Montana shots, besting his previous career best by three. Given that Berggren only played 24 minutes, that works out to a blocked shot on roughly one out of every three Montana two-point field goal attempts.

Star of the Game. Ryan Evans, Wisconsin. Evans wound up with 18 points and eight boards and was the spark early for the Badgers. While Jordan Taylor was often responsible for finding those good looks for Evans (Taylor wound up with six assists), credit Evans for knocking down his open looks.

Quotable. Jared Berggren, Wisconsin on his shotblocking performance. “There were a lot of situations where I ended up picking up the ball handler, normally a smaller guard attacking the rim.  Probably could have done a better job taking away the lane lines.  I let him get to the rim a little too easy sometimes, but I was lucky enough to get a finger tip on a few of them to alter the shot.”

Sights & Sounds. The Wisconsin band is legendary, and they did not disappoint, but give credit to a Montana band who also had a few good lines in attempting to heckle Badgers players. A sample, to Evans: “The 80s want their hair back.” Evans had the last laugh though.

Wildcard. Late in the first half, Montana was still within five points and showed every sign of being able to stick around for awhile. But then, over the last three minutes of the first half and the first seven of the second half, the Badgers turned off the water for the Griz and turned the last twelve minutes of the game into a mere formality. When Wisconsin enters lockdown mode like that defensively and is hitting threes at a greater than 50% rate, they’re darn near unbeatable.

What’s Next?  The Badgers will face the winner of our next game in Albuquerque between Vanderbilt and Harvard in a game that, regardless of opponent, could be a textbook example of fundamental basketball. Depending on the outcome of the second game the Badgers will be facing a team with a vastly different amount of NCAA Tournament experience although each prior NCAA Tournament experience for the Vanderbilt players has been short-lived.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.15.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 15th, 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.

Midwest

West
  • LIU Brooklyn coach Jim Ferry isn’t backing down from the mighty Michigan State Spartans. While it’s nice to see a mid-major steer away from the “happy to be here” angle, it’ll be interesting to see how long the Blackbirds can stick with Draymond Green and company.
  • In many of its losses, Michigan has shown an inability to bounce back from early deficits. A hot start would do wonders for the Wolverines’ confidence as they get ready for Ohio tomorrow night. Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round — Thursday Afternoon

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2012

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

#6 Murray State vs. #11 Colorado State – West Region Second Round (at Louisville, KY) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Steve Prohm Brings His One-Loss Team to the Dance (US Presswire)

Anytime you enter the NCAA Tournament with just one loss and 4-0 record over NCAA Tournament teams, you’re a big story and a threat to go deep in the tournament. That’s the situation Murray State finds itself in. The fact that they’ve got a recent history of some success in the tournament (they knocked off Vanderbilt in the first round in 2010 before losing a heartbreaker to eventual national runner up Butler) makes them an even bigger challenge. In that 2010 loss to Butler, then-freshman guard Isaiah Canaan had the ball in his hands with the clock running down and threw an errant pass that got deflected by Gordon Hayward, effectively sealing the Racers’ fate. Two years later, Canaan is this team’s leader and one of the best guards in the nation, capable not only of getting his own opportunities in a variety of ways, but also creating for his teammates. And he’ll certainly be a problem for a Colorado State team whose guards, though talented scorers offensively, struggle to stay in front of their men on defense. Another issue for the Rams is the fact that they are one of the smallest teams in the nation (there are only five teams smaller, according to Ken Pomeroy’s effective height statistic), with a frontline that doesn’t go any larger than 6’6”. Murray may not have a lot more height (their two main interior players – Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel – go just 6’7”), but the lack of size has been an issue for CSU this year. Still, the Rams can score with just about anybody, but their inability to lock down defensively will be a problem. A bigger problem could be the fact that the Racers are playing not only within an easy drive of their campus, but that the hordes of Kentucky fans who show up for the early session will most certainly convert their allegiance to the Racers, at least temporarily.

The RTC Certified Pick: Murray State

#8 Kansas State vs. #9 Southern Miss – East Region Second Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

This could be an ugly game right off the bat. Neither of these two teams shoots the ball particularly well, especially Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have an awful two point field goal percentage (43.3%) and rank second to last among NCAA Tournament teams in effective field goal percentage. Only 16th seeded Western Kentucky is worse. Despite the poor shooting numbers, Larry Eustachy’s Golden Eagles have a respectable offensive efficiency number thanks to a minimal turnover percentage and solid offensive rebounding. If Southern Miss is going to win this game, it must rebound the basketball and score on second chance opportunities. While Kansas State is regarded as a team that plays terrific defense and rebounds well, the Wildcats are vulnerable on the defensive glass. Provided Southern Miss and point guard Neil Watson can keep a good handle on the ball and get some decent looks, this team will hang around. For Kansas State, it must get Rodney McGruder going early and often. McGruder is the best offensive player on this team and has been playing at a high level of late. Kansas State should win the game if it rebounds well and plays its typical brand of physical hard-nosed basketball. The Wildcats should get plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities against a Southern Miss team that has just one player taller than 6’7.” The free throw battle could be important as well. Each team gets to the line well but also fouls a lot when playing defense. The Golden Eagles shoot it much better from the stripe and they’ll need to today in order to offset the rebounding disadvantage.

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Big Ten Morning Five: 03.15.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 15th, 2012

  1. If the NIT is any indication of how the Big Ten will fare in today’s NCAA Tournament games, then I think the conference will be happy.  Minnesota traveled to Philadelphia to take on LaSalle, and came away with a 70-61 win.  While Tubby Smith’s crew didn’t have the season some wanted in Gopher-land, they have been playing better over the past couple weeks, and last night they showed off those improvements.  One of the main reasons is the play of star forward Rodney Williams, who took control with 17 of his 21 points coming in the second half, including a monstrous dunk that showed off his athleticism.
  2. There is plenty to worry about when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.  Travel, preparation, an unfamiliar opponent, and… altitude???  That’s exactly what Wisconsin has to deal with, as its game in Albuquerque is about 4,500 feet higher above sea level than Madison.  The Badgers arrived Tuesday, and have been working on getting adjusted so that it doesn’t become a factor in its game against Montana.  At this point, it’s not a matter of the team not being in shape; it’s being able to catch your breath in the heat of battle when the air is a little thinner.
  3. When you start four sophomores, many would say that your team lacks experience.  But when all four of those sophomores suffered an early exit last year in the NCAA Tournament, they have enough experience to know that they don’t want to go through something like that again.  Such is the case at Ohio State, who outside of William Buford, has four sophomores who watched Kentucky’s Brandon Knight hit a jumper with five seconds left last year to knock the Buckeyes out of the Tournament.  It is a memory that guys like Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft don’t want to repeat.
  4. It’s the time of year when changes are made in both the coaching ranks and in player personnel, and Penn State is suffering some attrition as sophomore guard Matt Glover has decided to transfer.  Originally from California, the defensive stopper will move on to other opportunities for his basketball future.
  5. As Illinois moves on to find a replacement for Bruce Weber, the program still needs someone to lead it, and that someone is Jerrance Howard.  The Illini assistant is currently the interim coach until a new one is named, and it’s his job to keep things in order until athletic director Mike Thomas makes a new hire.  Whether that decision is made in a week or in a month, Howard will keep plugging along, doing his best to keep things running smoothly in Champaign.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.14.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 14th, 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

Midwest

  • The Creighton Bluejays aren’t bothered by Alabama‘s defensive prowess going into their opening round matchup. Creighton has pulled off wins against athletic teams in Long Beach State, Wichita State and San Diego State, but in an elimination setting, the margin of error becomes thinner.
  • Kansas forward Thomas Robinson responded to some early smack talk from Detroit‘s Eli Holman prior to the team’s departure for Omaha. Holman was probably doing his best to keep confidence high, but likely generated some bulletin board material in doing so. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: Bracket Analysis, East and Midwest Regions

Posted by IRenko on March 13th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

“Madness is to think of too many things in succession too fast, or of one thing too exclusively.” – Voltaire

We will undoubtedly be guilty of both this week, as we focus obsessively on college hoops… from one game to the next to the next to the next.  From the TO26 perspective, this is also the time of year when Division I’s red-headed stepchildren can become the object of the nation’s attention, if only fleetingly.  Which teams are best-positioned to stay in the limelight the longest?  Which ones are likely to head home after just the briefest of shining moments?  Today, we analyze the chances of all of the TO26 teams the East and Midwest regions, grouping them into four categories based on their chances of advancement.  Within each group, we order the teams based on their potential to make a deep run.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen (and maybe beyond).

Creighton's Potent Three-Point Attack Gives Them a Shot at a Run to the Regionals

Creighton (#8, Midwest) — Creighton’s first-round matchup against Alabama will be fun to watch.  The Bluejays will put their highly efficient offense, led by a potent three-point attack, against Alabama’s stout defense, which defends the three almost as well as anyone in the nation.  Things will be uglier at the other end; Creighton’s defense has struggled all season, its mediocrity matched only by Alabama’s offense.  The good news for the Bluejays is that they’re a bit tougher inside the arc – I noticed a tendency to collapse their defense to the ball line when it goes inside – which is by and large where Alabama operates.  At the end of the day, I like Creighton’s chances, as they have steadier guard play, a legit go-to player, solid free throw shooting, and the ability to knock down the clutch three when needed. And if they get by the Crimson Tide, I wouldn’t be stunned by an upset of UNC.  Why?  The Tarheels’ defense is particularly vulnerable to the three-point shot (which will also make them susceptible to an upset loss to Michigan should that matchup materialize in the regional semifinals).

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