Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by Walker Carey on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmwregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Walker breaking down the Midwest Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

Midwest Region

Louisville dominated UConn on Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Louisville dominated UConn on Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Favorite: #4 Louisville (29-5, 15-3 AAC). Not to take anything away from the fantastic seasons completed by #1 seed Wichita State, #2 seed Michigan and #3 seed Duke, but Louisville is one of the hottest teams in the country entering the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals were likely dropped to a #4 seed due to their weak non-conference schedule and the fact that some of their wins in AAC play were over vastly inferior competition. However, when you have the talent and winning experience that Louisville possesses, seeding does not really matter all that much. Guard Russ Smith is one the nation’s elite scorers and he has shown throughout his collegiate career that he can go off for a monster night in any game against any team. Forward Montrezl Harrell has taken a huge step forward during his sophomore season and his 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game give the Cards an outstanding post presence. Toss in the fact that Louisville’s defense only allows 61 points per game and averages 10.1 steals per game and it should be clear why Rick Pitino’s squad is the favorite to return to the Final Four to defend its national title.

Should They Falter: #1 Wichita State (34-0, 18-0 MVC). If favorite Louisville is to stumble before reaching the Final Four, the undefeated Shockers are the team that is most equipped to do the job. While Wichita State has caught a ton of unnecessary criticism for its “easy” schedule, it is impossible to discount the fact that the team completed the nearly impossible task of finishing the regular season and conference tournament with an unscathed record. Throughout all the monotonous discussion about Wichita State’s merit as a top seed, it was often forgotten that Gregg Marshall’s squad has a solid nucleus that was on the team that advanced to the Final Four last April. Guards Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton, along with forward Cleanthony Early, played big minutes for the team last season and all four have experienced even more success in greater roles this season. Not only is Wichita State talented enough to return to the Final Four, it is also talented enough to cut down the nets at Cowboys Stadium on the first Monday in April.

Grossly Overseeded: #6 Massachusetts (24-8, 10-6 A-10). Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen had a fine season, but their résumé does not suggest that they were worthy of a #6 seed. After winning 16 of its first 17 games, Massachusetts went 8-7 over its final 15. Those seven losses included setbacks to non-Tournament teams Richmond, Saint Bonaventure and George Mason. The Minutemen were a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team as a result, and that was evident by the fact that they were the #6 seed in their conference tournament. What really makes the placement here a headscratcher is that George Washington and Saint Joseph’s finished ahead of them in the conference and they were given a #8 and a #10 seed, respectively.

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ACC M5: 03.17.14 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 17th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Hampton Roads Daily Press: So the big news out of Greensboro is that the ACC is working on a deal with the A-10 to send the ACC Tournament to Brooklyn for 2017 and 2018. This is good because Greensboro always has a horrible atmosphere and it will be so much more sophisticated in New York City. Kidding. Seriously, I think it makes sense to move the ACC Tournament from year to year (keeping it in Greensboro a plurality of the time since a plurality of the teams can drive there easily). The championship game will also be moved back to primetime Saturday night. I have my concerns about Brooklyn, but I think there are enough Duke and Syracuse fans from the area to help fill the stands as the weekend progresses. That does require that one or both of those schools advances, but it’s a fair bet that both will be good under their current coaches. Long story short: the ACC should not move the tournament permanently to New York City (or anywhere else). Expect more on this from me later.
  2. Syracuse Post Standard: All hail Patrick Stevens! He killed bracketology this year as the only analyst I know who predicted all 68 teams (NC State threw everyone for a loop). The ACC got lucky getting the Wolfpack in (though having two one-seeds in the NIT would’ve been a slap in the face), and Virginia was favorably seeded on the top line. I’m very excited for Syracuse and Ohio State to cause the powers at be to lower the shot clock in hopes of increasing scoring. Though the real game to hope for is Duke – Iowa because Iowa is 1) underseeded, 2) likes to run, and 3) plays no defense. Basically, lots and lots of points.
  3. Fayetteville Observer: Good story on Stamey’s and it’s close ties to the ACC Tournament. If you haven’t been, you should probably go next time you’re in town. The barbecue is fantastic. Right down the road from the Greensboro Coliseum, the restaurant–which opened around the birth of the ACC–has become an ACC Tournament tradition for many. The iconic school flags hang (although they sold the Maryland flag to buy a Louisville one), the hushpuppies are hot, and the pork smoked good and slow.
  4. Charlottesville Daily Progress and Hampton Roads Daily Press: Good local takes on Virginia‘s ACC championship. The anecdote about Justin Anderson deferring to Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris says everything about this Virginia team. Everyone knows his role. And they don’t back down (at least not since the horrific beatdown in Knoxville). Coach K also offered good analysis in his post-game conference: “Brogdon’s a first-team, all-league player,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s steady, kind of unflappable and so strong mentally and physically. He and Harris … they’re two men. Those two and Mitchell give you three of the better players in the country all on one team.”
  5. Syracuse Post Standard: Sometimes the Selection Committee does something too good to be a coincident (or too bad, at least from Roy Williams’ perspective). But this, I can get down with. Both Tyler Ennis and his brother Dylan Ennis (who plays for Villanova) will be in the same sub-regional. That means friends and family can see both brothers without having to split like their parents last weekend for the conference tournaments. So props Ron Wellman and company. Even if it was an accident.
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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: ACC Teams

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 16th, 2014

Selection Sunday has now yielded a 2014 NCAA Tournament field, and the bracket is filled out. It’s time to analyze how the ACC teams fared in their quest to garner postseason success. Some teams seem to have an easier path than others, but it is March and nothing can be taken for granted. Some may be surprised that six ACC teams made the field, especially since Florida State was the presumed ACC team on the brink, but nonetheless the ACC tied for the second-most teams in the field behind the Big 12’s seven entrants. Here’s a look at the six ACC squads that were lucky enough to hear their names called, and what their NCAA Tournament might look like.

Virginia, #1 seed, East Region. The Cavaliers were rewarded (and justly so) for claiming the ACC regular season and tournament titles with a #1 seed in the East. They won’t have to travel far in the early stages, either, with the opening rounds in a familiar venue in Raleigh. After what should be an opening round win over Coastal Carolina, Virginia will have to tangle with either Memphis or George Washington. The Cavaliers are one of the few teams in the country that always controls the tempo, so a match-up with a running team like the Tigers won’t faze them a bit. Tony Bennett’s team has a good shot of advancing to the Final Four if it can survive a potential Sweet Sixteen match-up with a suddenly-healthy #4 seed Michigan State. Villanova as the #2 seed is not as potent as other regions’ second seeds, so the Cavaliers have a very realistic shot of ending up in Arlington.

Virginia's dominance of the ACC regular and postseason helped them grab a number one seed (usatoday)

Duke, #3 seed, Midwest Region. Duke also gets the favorable early draw of playing in Raleigh, opening with Mercer. The Blue Devils’ region arguably has the most questionable top seed in Wichita State, but a potential UMass meeting in the second game could be tricky. Duke’s NCAA hopes are always pinned on how they shoot from distance, and if they’re on they can beat anyone. If they’re off, Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood have to make plays to rescue the team. The region’s #2 seed, Michigan, already tussled with Duke earlier in the year and fell short, so that should also bolster Mike Kzryzewski’s outlook. Nevertheless, Louisville lurks in the Midwest with a head-scratching #4 seed, so Duke is not without a test at every turn in its quest to bring glory back home to Durham for the fifth time.

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Previewing Friday’s Quarterfinals at the ACC Tournament

Posted by Matt Patton & Brad Jenkins on March 14th, 2014

With Thursday essentially going chalk (other than ninth-seed Florida State topping eighth-seed Maryland), Friday is looking like a day of potentially awesome basketball.

Will Boris Bojanovsky Continue His Quest for the All-Tournament Team? (credit: SB Nation)

Will Boris Bojanovsky Continue His Quest for the All-Tournament Team? (credit: SB Nation)

#1 Virginia vs. #8 Florida State (12:00 ET)

While this looks like a game the Cavaliers should win, it may not come easy. Virginia is in the unusual position of being the hunted after earning its first top seed in the ACC Tournament in over 30 years. They beat Florida State by 12 in both meetings this year, but each of those was played back in January. The good news for Florida State is that they were able to match Virginia on the boards in both games, which few teams do. The bad news is that the Seminoles were dominated in turnover margin in each game, 16-to-6 in the first meeting and 18-to-9 in the second. To pull off the upset, Florida State cannot afford to give away so many possessions. As Seton Hall showed Thursday, it’s really tough to beat a team three times, and the Seminoles are looking for an invitation to the Big Dance.

Key playerIan Miller, Florida State. The Seminoles need Miller to play like he has the last few weeks, not like he did in the two games with the Cavaliers. Against Virginia, he totaled 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting and committed 11 turnovers. However, in his last eight games, Miller has averaged 16.6 points and made an impressive 23-of-46 three pointers.

#4 North Carolina vs. #5 Pittsburgh (2:00 ET)

This game would’ve been a lot easier to call a few days ago. Then North Carolina was riding a 12-game winning streak and Pittsburgh was hobbling its way to a fifth-place conference finish. Now? Not so fast. Pittsburgh looked like the efficient machine that wooed computers early in the season, dominating Wake Forest by 29-points. Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna looked healthy again. When the teams met during the regular season, the Tar Heels eked out the win thanks in large part to Zanna having a horrible game (2-11 from the field) while James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige had their way with the Panthers. The crowd will still heavily favor the Tar Heels (though I have no doubt NC State fans who come early will help out the Panther faithful), but this looks to be a tossup.

Key playerTalib Zanna, Pittsburgh. As mentioned above, Zanna was awful in Chapel Hill. That game he was still recovering from an ankle injury against Virginia. He needs to hold his own against the Tar Heel front line for Pittsburgh to have a chance. Over his last five games, Zanna is averaging over 15 points and nearly ten boards a game. That combined with better interior defense gives Pittsburgh a good shot at the upset.

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Channeling His Childress: TJ Warren Leads NC State into Rematch with Syracuse

Posted by Matt Patton on March 13th, 2014

The ACC Tournament finally came to life Thursday night when NC State took the floor against Miami. The Raleigh contingent was boosted by departing Maryland fans, as Wolfpack red bled into nearly every section at the Greensboro Coliseum. NC State still held on to the NCAA Tournament bubble, but desperately needed at least one marquee win to have a chance. Miami looked to play spoiler. Durham native TJ Warren had other ideas.

TJ Warren gets a chance for history and revenge Friday against Syracuse. (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

TJ Warren gets a chance for history and revenge Friday against Syracuse.
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Warren is the best scorer in the ACC. Good luck finding someone to play devil’s advocate. He scores off the dribble, in the post, spotting up, you name it. Watching the Wolfpack grind out a win over Miami tonight, it was clear how Warren held his efficiency despite taking on nearly twice as many possessions. He picks his spots really well and has a great handle. Miami threw the book at NC State to stop him. Surprisingly, Jim Larranaga opened the game in man-to-man, switching to a zone before opting for a triangle-and-two as Ralston Turner found his groove. None worked. In the first half Miami did a good job playing Warren physically and switching on everything, but between Warren’s constant off-the-ball movement and Turner’s threes, the Hurricanes eventually wore down.

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ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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O26 Superlatives, Part II: CAA, C-USA, MAC, MEAC, MVC, SoCon, Summit & WCC…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 10th, 2014

In Part II of our three-part series, we pass out 2013-14 superlatives to the best teams, performers and performances from eight different O26 conferences: CAA, Conference USA, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, SoCon, Summit and WCC. In alphabetical order:

Colonial Athletic Association

The Blue Hens outworked the rest of the CAA for much of 2013-2014. (The Post and Courier)

The Blue Hens outworked the rest of the CAA for much of 2013-2014. (The Post and Courier)

  • Team of the Year – Delaware (22-9, 14-2). Not even early- and late-season suspensions of two of Delaware’s best players could stop the Blue Hens’ run to a CAA regular season title. Monte Ross’ up-tempo club raced off to an 11-0 start in conference play, amassing a large enough lead that preseason favorite Towson was never able to catch up.
  • Player of the Year – Jerelle Benimon – Towson. You want beastly numbers? How about these: In 32 games, the 6’8’’ Benimon averaged 18.9 points, 11.7 boards, 3.7 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, recorded an NCAA-best 20 double-doubles and reached the free throw line 258 times, good for sixth in the country.
  • Coach of the Year – Monté Ross – Delaware. Ross found a way to keep things together, to keep winning after guard Devon Saddler – the team’s leading scorer – missed seven games due to suspension early in the season and Jarvis Threatt – the team’s third-leading scorer – was suspended for the entire month of February.
  • Upset of the Year – Northeastern over Georgetown, 63-56. In the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, miles from Boston or Washington D.C., Scott Eatherton and the Huskies pounded Georgetown in the paint and pulled off an unexpected upset. Alas, it was another full month before Bill Coen’s bunch wound up back in the win column.
  • Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Johnathan Burroughs-Cook – College of Charleston. Burroughs-Cook cares not that you are D-II school or that he is playing in a preseason game—he will still annihilate your attempt to draw a charge.

Conference USA

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ACC M5: 03.10.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 10th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. The ACC: So the ACC Tournament bracket is set! And it’s loaded with juicy match-ups. We’ll definitely have more on this soon but you can see the bracket below to start setting your DVR (although make sure to extend it, because there’s no way the second games in the pairings will start two hours after the first ones). Might I suggest the potential Maryland-Virginia rematch (or a desperate Florida State’s chance to avenge the Cavaliers’ beatdowns from early in conference play), North Carolina getting a bubbly Pittsburgh team, Miami getting another chance to spoil NC State (and if not another chance for the Wolfpack to avenge their controversial loss at Syracuse), or Clemson getting another shot at Duke? And that doesn’t even look forward to the semifinals.
    ACC-bracket
  2. Backing the Pack: Austin Johnson brings the goods on the history of TJ Warren‘s number at NC State. The Wolfpack have only retired one jersey (David Thompson), but #24 has been worn by a series of great NC State players (including Warren’s father, Tom Gugliotta and Julius Hodge). Warren is earning his spot in the rafters this week with simply ludicrous offensive production (83 points in two games!). It’s a shame All-American awards generally rely so heavily on team quality because Warren’s play the second half of the season has been other-worldly. He should at least walk away with the ACC Player of the Year award and a lottery pick, which isn’t bad recognition at all.
  3. The Daily Orange: It’s oral history time! This time David Wilson travels back in time for the Big East ACC-American classic six-overtime game between Syracuse and Connecticut. There are very few games that stick with me (especially games that I didn’t attend live and didn’t involve ACC teams), but this one qualifies. I was writing a paper and watching the game in the background back when WatchESPN was still ESPN360 and was just starting to take off with live events. That game forced me to pull an all-nighter to finish the paper because it just sucked me in. And never ended. But let the people involved in the classic tell the story.
  4. Wall Street Journal: Here’s an amusing article on more enterprising Duke students (and possibly random people sneaking into the Duke-North Carolina game instead of camping out. Students have tried everything from ambushing the stadium to masquerading as a band member to hiding out inside.) Duke is a weird team. For around 30 minutes on Saturday against North Carolina they looked unbeatable. And for the other quarter of the game, no lead felt safe. Go ahead and put me down for having no clue what the top four ACC seeds are going to do over the next few weeks. All feel like they can lose to just about anyone on the wrong night or blow anyone out of the building.
  5. Hampton Road Daily Press and Charlottesville Daily Progress: Maryland has played (and won) its last regular season ACC game. Time to get nostalgic! It was fitting that the Terrapins played Virginia on the way out. The schools have been playing each other for a century, and the Cavaliers closed out Cole Field House a while ago. Maryland and Rutgers may prove the ultimate litmus test for super-conferences (Notre Dame would also count if not for its continued independence in football). If college sports continues increasing television revenues despite hurting geography and natural rivalries, super-conferences make sense. If this backfires, look for more emphasis to stay with the geographic footprint.
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Otskey’s Observations: Episode XV, Player and Coach of the Year Edition

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 6th, 2014

Each week throughout the season, RTC columnist Brian Otskey (@botskey) will run down his observations from the previous week of college basketball.

As the college basketball regular season wraps up, I thought this would be a good time to run down my Coaches of the Year and Players of the Year in each of the major conferences. Here goes…

ACC

  • POY: T.J. Warren, NC State (24.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG). Warren has been a tremendous bright spot on an otherwise mediocre Wolfpack squad. Since a rough four-point game against Virginia on January 11, Warren has scored at least 20 points in every game he has played (he missed one game due to injury). At 6’8” and an athletic 215 pounds, Warren is a match-up problem for nearly every opponent. He has had eight 30+ point games (only one fewer than Doug McDermott), including Monday’s 41-point explosion in a road win at Pittsburgh. Some may disagree because NC State is not at the top of the ACC, but a season like this where Warren brought it night after night deserves special recognition.
Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job at Virginia. (virginiasports.com)

Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job at Virginia. (virginiasports.com)

  • COY: Tony Bennett, Virginia (25-5, 16-1 ACC). Bennett’s teams have always been terrific defensively and this one is no exception. Ranked third nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, Virginia has allowed only four ACC opponents to score 60 or more points this season. Even in a league with a tempo as slow as this year’s ACC, that is a remarkable statistic. Virginia was a trendy surprise pick but I am not sure anyone thought it would turn out to be this good. The Cavaliers were picked fourth in the preseason ACC poll but currently hold a three-game lead over Syracuse and North Carolina with just one game to play.

American

  • POY: Russ Smith, Louisville (18.0 PPG, 4.5 APG, 2.0 SPG). This was a really close call between Smith and Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick but I am giving Smith the slightest of edges. Both mean so much to their respective teams but Smith’s decision to return to Louisville for his senior year has proven to be a wise one. Smith is enjoying the best shooting season of his career (46.8 percent) and has matured greatly. He is playing smarter and has led this Louisville team to a 25-5 overall record. The Cardinals again have the look of a Final Four contender and Smith is the primary reason why.

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ACC M5: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 3rd, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress: First things first, Virginia showed the world it was ready for the bright lights with a doubter-silencing beatdown of Syracuse to clinch the ACC regular season title (its first since Ralph Sampson). Sure, you can still bag on the unbalanced schedule and the ugly non-conference games all you want, but this Virginia team isn’t playing games. The Cavaliers were the first team this year to beat Syracuse in convincing fashion, the fans stormed the floor, and the nets were cut down. Tony Bennett compared the noise at the game to a Taylor Swift concert. With the win, three ACC teams have a shot for the final one seed (assuming one wins out).
  2. Backing the Pack: Virginia wasn’t the only team to reach emotional extremes this week. NC State also finds itself on new ground under Mark Gottfried. For the first time since he was hired, the NCAA Tournament is effectively off the table (barring a miraculous ACC Tournament run) after getting blitzed by Miami at home. This team had really over-performed most people’s (including my own) expectations, so the loss wasn’t that surprising. Though it was icing on the cake after the brutal loss to North Carolina earlier last week. Now Gottfried has to show that he can motivate a team with new goals.
  3. Orlando Sentinel: Leonard Hamilton relies heavily on a mercurial sophomore class. Four play over 20 minutes a game, and Michael Ojo gets significant time off the bench. Unsurprisingly, the season has been somewhat of a roller coaster, dismantling a very good Virginia Commonwealth team early in the year and losing to Miami at home three weeks ago. The Seminoles hold a decent position on the bubble. They still have work to do, but a home finish against a reeling Syracuse team might be just what the bracketologist ordered.
  4. Washington Post: John Feinstein touches on a great point. Last week was the first big ACC game (from a national perspective) not involving Duke and North Carolina in a very long time. The last time Duke or North Carolina didn’t finish at least second in the regular season was 2003 when Wake Forest finished first and Maryland was second. Also a good point from Brian Gregory on the side effects of expansion: “I feel like I started out trying to construct a building,” Gregory said. “Just when I got the foundation built, I found out that someone has already built three new penthouse units on top of me.”
  5. Washington Post: Keeping things with Feinstein to close things out. It was Dean Smith‘s 83rd birthday Friday, so it’s worth reading a couple of anecdotes about him.

EXTRA: Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski went on Dan LeBatard’s radio show together and gave an amusing interview — especially the first few minutes. Suffice to say five years ago, no one and I mean no one would have expected Coach K to do an interview like this one.

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Whats Trending: Tom Izzo Dancing, Baylor Getting Baptized, Marcus Paige, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 28th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Tom Izzo… Pony… Ride It

So Tom Izzo apparently appears in a new Werner Ladders TV commercial. That’s clever and funny and all, but SB Nation‘s Brian Floyd already made the remix for us because that is how he rolls… just laying beats over video and hitting the “UPLOAD TO YOUTUBE” button.

Yes, that would be the renowned R&B hit “Pony” by Ginuwine.

Baylor Bears Get Baptized

No for real. This is not a euphemism for getting shown up on defense while your opponent throws one down in your face. A handful of Baylor Bears were actually baptized last week. Isaiah Austin captured it all.

Scottie Wilbekin Celebrates Like A Soccer Player

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The ACC’s Unknown Superstars: TJ Warren & KJ McDaniels

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 28th, 2014

T.J. Warren and K.J. McDaniels are two of the best wings in college basketball and you’d never know it. Most of their lack of attention has to do with their respective teams’ success — N.C. State (17-11, 7-8 ACC) and Clemson (17-10, 8-7 ACC) — and the fact that the Wolfpack and the Tigers are on the outside of the bubble looking in. Both players have assumed huge responsibilities and increased roles this season, a necessary component for N.C. State after losing a huge contingent of talent and for a Clemson squad lacking star power.

Will he stay or will he go? Warren's season has Wolfpack fans hoping for more T.J.(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Will he stay or will he go? Warren’s season has Wolfpack fans hoping for more T.J. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren has risen to the occasion, solidifying himself as a legitimate all-ACC candidate in leading the league in scoring at 23.8 PPG, five points per game higher than Duke’s Jabari Parker. While it was unreasonable to expect Warren to continue his otherworldly efficiency of last season when he shot 62.2 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from behind the line, he still is shooting very well from the field (52.3 percent from the field, 29.5 percent from three). He clearly is a massive piece to the Wolfpack offense and quite possibly the only thing keeping them afloat. While he is known for his scoring credentials, he is no slouch in the rebounding department either, collecting 7.0 caroms per contest for the Pack. Warren’s superb play has helped the Wolfpack outdo preseason expectations and explains why N.C. State has a great shot at a top-half conference finish.

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