NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.29.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 29th, 2014

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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.

South Region

West Region

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.28.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 28th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverageMarch 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.

South Region

West Region

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Three Keys for Arizona and San Diego State in Tonight’s Game

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) & Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on March 27th, 2014

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Arizona and San Diego State will play in the nightcap at Anaheim tonight, with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. To break down this match-up, we asked Arizona expert Adam Butler of Pachoops.com to give us his three keys for Arizona in this game, while RTC correspondent Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) will offer up San Diego State’s biggest priorities. Make sure to also follow @RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Anaheim throughout the week.

Three Keys For Arizona

  1. T.J. McConnell and the turnover battle — Any discussion of offense in this preview is a disservice to the defense both of these teams play. That said, defense is also the only known commodity offered by both teams (though SDSU really leaves a lot to the offensive imagination). And so I turn our attention to T.J. McConnell. Arizona’s floor general — as you’ve heard all season long — is the quintessential pass-first point guard. That’s great. It’s perfect for Sean Miller‘s system and feeds the Arizona beast. But when he isn’t, Arizona struggles. When dimes turn to turnovers, San Diego State can turn those into easy buckets, and for a crummy offense, those are gifts. Great gifts. Like the kind of gifts you hunt for before Christmas day, great. If McConnell is playing heady and taking care of the basketball — taking shots when he has them and creating them for his friends when he can — Arizona should roll.

    T.J. McConnell Is A Catalyst For Sean Miller's Squad. (Icon SMI)

    T.J. McConnell Is A Catalyst For Sean Miller’s Squad. (Icon SMI)

  2. Continuing to rebound — The glass has been a place Arizona has dominated this season. They’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, which often salvages their less-than-elite shooting and puts greater pressure on their opponents. They offer a double-edged sword of not allowing you transition opportunities and grabbing offensive rebounds. Furthermore, they own the defensive glass  (#8 defensive rebounding rate in the nation). You’re not getting rebounds against this team. Unless you are. In which case, you have a chance to compete. San Diego State can board, ranking top 35 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates. They’re not Arizona, but I’m telling you there’s a chance. Read the rest of this entry »
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Johnny Dawkins’ Road Map Gets Stanford to the Sweet Sixteen

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on March 27th, 2014

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent, which begins Thursday night at Honda Center in Anaheim with Baylor vs. Wisconsin followed by San Diego State vs. Arizona. Make sure to also follow @RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Anaheim throughout the week.

Last March, Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir had a telephone conversation with Jeff Faraudo of The Bay Area News Group in which he basically recounted laying down an ultimatum for head coach Johnny Dawkins: Make the NCAA Tournament in 2013-14, or it is time to move on. “We want to be playing for a [conference] championship. We think we have the caliber of kids who can do that,” Muir told Faraudo. “And we want to play in the NCAA [Tournament]. The goal has always been and will not change: We want to play well into March on the grand stage of March Madness. There’s a clear expectation that we can do that next year.” For a coach who had missed the NCAA Tournament in his previous five years in the position, and with roughly the same team expected to return, it seemed like quite a challenge at the time. And from there, the challenge grew even bigger.

Despite Four Players Lost To Season-Ending Injury, Johnny Dawkins Has Stanford Still Playing (credit: Danny Moloshok)

Despite Four Players Lost To Season-Ending Injury, Johnny Dawkins Has Stanford Still Playing. (Danny Moloshok/AP)

In July, a torn ACL for senior forward Andy Brown – his fourth such injury in a span of just over four years – ended his Stanford playing career. In October, it was announced that sophomore guard Christian Sanders would miss the season with a hip injury. At roughly the same time, sophomore forward Rosco Allen was said to be out six to eight weeks with a shin injury; those six to eight weeks turned into a lost season, as Allen played just seven minutes all year. Then, the coup de grace came in early December when a dislocated right shoulder would keep senior point guard Aaron Bright out for the remainder of the season. Before conference play even rolled around, four key players, each of whom would have had a role on this Stanford basketball team, were lost for the season.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.27.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 27th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

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.

South Region

  • Despite a tough non-conference schedule, Florida is calling tonight’s game against UCLA its “toughest test yet.”
  • Florida coach Billy Donovan is a proven commodity, and with no real pressure to succeed, he is “enjoying the ride.” However, after those comments, Donovan was sure to offer the disclaimer that he hasn’t lost his drive. Donovan added, “But I think, as I’ve gotten older — we all want to win. But for me, there’s a lot I’ve learned as it relates to life and as it relates to the drama of the NCAA tournament. What are these guys going to take from this experience, and how equipped are these guys to take the next step in their life?”
  • With Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams sharing the backcourt, Norman Powell often flies under the radar. Will that mean Florida won’t be ready for the high-flying, high-intensity guard?
  • Despite futile history in the NCAA Tournament, UCLA coach Steve Alford is “all business” this year, barely allowing himself to celebrate his team’s berth in the Sweet Sixteen.
  • Stanford’s Dwight Powell considered testing the NBA waters last summer, but stayed to fulfill his promise of graduating to his late mother. Stanford now finds itself just one game from the Elite Eight, and Powell has certainly played a significant part in that run.
  • Tonight’s match-up between Stanford and Dayton will be tight, but can the Cardinal gain a huge advantage over the Flyers with all of its size?
  • Dayton has accomplished a great deal to be playing in the Sweet Sixteen, but with #10 seed Stanford on deck, the Flyers have a legitimate chance to extend their Cinderella story.
  • Dayton had the most wins  in college basketball during the 1950s and 1960s, and the Flyers look to create even more history for themselves tonight.

West Region

  • Arizona is hoping big man Kaleb Tarczewski returns to school next season, but he wouldn’t budge when asked. “Zeus,” as they call him in Tucson, commented, “If [they] think I’m ready to go, I’ll go and if not, I’ll come back. Doesn’t matter now.”
  • Without Brandon Ashley, Arizona has had to play a bit smaller. However, this has played to its advantage sometimes, particularly when it comes to getting out in transition.
  • San Diego State was waiting to see whether it would play Arizona or Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen. Upon finding out its next game would be a rematch against Arizona, Aztecs guard Winston Shephard responded, “Gonzaga’s a great team, and no disrespect to them, but we would have much rather played Arizona.”
  • San Diego State’s Aqueel Quinn took a huge risk trying to transfer and then walk-on to the team, but it has paid off through his hard work.
  • Despite dominating its competition so far, Baylor isn’t getting the respect it deserves. As Dennis Dodd puts it, the Bears are “the best kept secret left in the tournament.”
  • Baylor point guard Kenny Chery has been outstanding in his first season with the program, but could his lack of Division I experience end up hurting the Bears as the Tournament moves forward?
  • If things get tight on Friday, know that Wisconsin point guard Traevon Jackson is going to want the ball, especially at the free throw line.
  • Bo Ryan has coached Wisconsin into one of the most consistent basketball programs in the country; however, what his resume still lacks is a trip to the Final Four.

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March Chameleons: Dayton Adapts, But Can It Beat Stanford?

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 27th, 2014

Dayton’s run the stylistic gauntlet this month and lived to tell the tale, at least for a few more hours. Just look at the Flyers’ March: They beat Massachusetts in a 71-possession footrace, the type of up-and-down affair the Minutemen love; it toppled Saint Louis – on the road – and its grinding, exhausting, limit-your-threes defense; they methodically took down Richmond’s tough match-up zone, and then, in the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse’s 2-3 zone; and it outdid Ohio State, one of the best defenses in the country with one of the best individual defenders in the country. If not for Langston Galloway’s near-buzzer-beater (and push-off?) in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, they might have defeated Saint Joseph’s too. Archie Miller’s group has won games fast and slow, physical and finesse, tactical and chaotic. And now Stanford looms, a club that mixed 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone defenses on Sunday to utterly baffle Kansas and send the heavily-favored Jayhawks packing for the offseason. Trouble on the horizon for the Flyers? Perhaps. But if their recent play is any indication, it won’t be because they can’t adapt.

Dayton was flying high in Buffalo, but can they beat the Cardinal? (Photo: Jamie Germano Staff Photographer)

Dayton was flying high in Buffalo, but can they beat the Cardinal? (Photo: Jamie Germano)

That adaptability starts with both the depth and versatility of Dayton’s roster. The Flyers ranked second in the A-10 behind only George Mason this season in bench minutes, with reserves accounting for nearly 36 percent of playing time. Among those reserves is Vee Sanford, a team captain and former starter who hit the game-winner against Ohio State in the second round. He, along with Scoochie Smith – a heralded freshman out of the Bronx –point guard Khari Price, and sharpshooter Jordan Sibert, make up a backcourt quick off the dribble and adept from long range. But to suggest that the team’s ‘backcourt’ is easily distinguishable from its ‘frontcourt’ would be a mistake, and almost impossible to conclude if you watch it play. The fact is, most players are able to handle the ball and nearly everyone can run the floor. At 6’7’’, Devin Oliver is the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, tough and physical but also capable of banging home threes. Dyshawn Pierre, the forward who hit clutch free throws in both games over the weekend, fits the same mold. Even 6’9’’ Jalen Robinson can move with ease and drain outside shots. Throw in a few other reserves who provide quality minutes at multiple positions, and Miller is able to mix-and-match lineups on a night-to-night, minute-to-minute basis.

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Big Ten Teams in the Sweet Sixteen: Three Key Match-ups

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 26th, 2014

Considering Wisconsin and Michigan State both had tough match-ups in the round of 32, the Big Ten advancing three teams into the Sweet Sixteen is an accomplishment. In case you are keeping tabs, the Big Ten has done relatively well with its draw — #11 seeds Iowa and Nebraska weren’t expected to do much, and really only #6 Ohio State’s loss to Dayton was disappointing. Keeping in mind that only one ACC team is still alive (Virginia) and the Pac-12 and SEC also sent three teams to the second weekend, the Big Ten is in solid position right now. Now, each of the three teams remaining — Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin — have very tough opponents in the next round, so the wheels could come off and the league could end it season with a mediocre 6-6 record; or, each of the three has a reasonable shot to make a run at the Final Four this weekend.

Let’s take a look at these three match-ups that are key to each team winning its next game.

Adreian Payne will be key inside for the Spartans as they meet the Virginia Cavaliers in the next round. (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

Adreian Payne will be key inside for the Spartans as they meet Virginia in the next round. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

  1. Adreian Payne vs. Virginia’s big guys: The blueprint for the Cavaliers is fairly clear: Everything starts with their excellent defense, as indicated by opponents averaging just 43.1% eFG against them during ACC play. They will try to smother Gary Harris and Keith Appling from the outside, forcing the Spartans to earn a win from inside the arc. That’s where Adreian Payne needs to help out Tom Izzo. He needs to abstain from using his jumper in favor of leveraging his post moves in the paint. Shooting jumpers off the pick-and-roll will be tough because Virginia’s wings — Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris — will be quick enough to cover those, so Payne needs to play well with his back to the basket. Payne has shown signs of brilliance with his moves in the paint at times, but he’ll have to provide some breathing room for his guards by picking up the offense early; otherwise, the game could be a defensive grind that favors the Cavaliers. Read the rest of this entry »
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The RTC Podcast: Sweet Sixteen Preview Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2014

Happy Sweet Sixteen, everybody. We hope that you’ve had some time to rest up from a crazy opening weekend and are starting to digest the match-ups heading our way on Thursday and Friday nights. These eight games look to be outstanding in different ways, both storyline and basketball, and to get you ready for this the Sweet Sixteen, the RTC Podcast crew invited all four of our regional correspondents back to break down each region in a bite-sized segment of this week’s edition. We welcome back Brian Otskey (East), Bennet Hayes (South), Walker Carey (Midwest) and Drew Murawa (West) to discuss what to watch for with this week’s games. There might even be some predictions. We’ll try to do an Elite Eight preview edition that will drop on Friday night/Saturday morning, so keep an eye out for that. This edition’s full rundown is below.

  • 0:00-3:54 – Louisville-Kentucky Headlines Super Sweet Sixteen Schedule
  • 3:54-8:09 – Other Sweet Sixteen Highlights
  • 8:09-20:04 – Previewing Midwest Region with Walker Carey
  • 20:04-36:17 – Previewing South Region with Bennet Hayes
  • 36:17-48:03 – Previewing West Region with Andrew Murawa
  • 48:03-59:40 – Previewing East Region with Brian Otskey
  • 59:40-1:09:33 Revised Final Four Picks
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.26.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 26th, 2014

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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.

South Region

  • Florida’s offense did anything but impress in its first two games, but senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin kept them afloat.
  • Florida is as versatile of a team as there is left in the Tourney. With no one averaging more the 14 points per game, anyone can pick up the slack offensively, and defense is rarely a question.
  • UCLA may be one of the toughest teams to defend in the country, but the Bruins’ defense is the reason they’re still playing.
  • Air Force veteran and UCLA assistant coach David Grace did not go the traditional route, but he still will find himself on the bench in the Sweet Sixteen.
  • For Dayton, the “continuity” of its coaching staff has been paramount to its success.
  • Brothers Sean and Dayton coach Archie Miller are excited to both be in the Sweet Sixteen. However, the two find themselves in very different positions. Sean has Arizona looking like a title contender, and had this to say about his brother’s team: “With Dayton right now, it’s like icing on the cake every time he wins one. It’s really fun, and the program is just exploding right now.”
  • Stanford has a good shot to make the Elite Eight and maybe the Final Four, but coach Johnny Dawkins needs the Cardinal to keep its head down. “We have to ignore the noise,” Dawkins said. “Everyone around us is going to be happy that we’ve had some success and we’re still moving on, but we can’t focus on that. We have to focus on the task at hand.”
  • With programs like Kentucky and Kansas — which Stanford beat in the round of 32 — riding “1-and-dones,” the Cardinal has done it the old fashioned way, with five juniors and five seniors on its roster.

West Region

  • Is Arizona already getting ahead of itself? The school’s bookstore is already selling Elite Eight shirts.
  • To quote Greg Hansen, Arizona looked “national championship good” this weekend.
  • He’s been their leader all season, and Xavier Thames’ big time play is the reason San Diego State has advanced through two tough games thus far.
  • Aztecs coach Steve Fisher has had success at each of his stops as a coach, and has built San Diego State’s program from the ground up. On Thursday, he’ll have a chance to lead the Aztecs to their first Elite Eight appearance in school history.
  • Very few people knew before two months ago, but Baylor center Isaiah Austin has been blind in his right eye since middle school. He has overcome this injury, and has gone from being unsure about his basketball future to playing in the Sweet Sixteen.
  • Though you probably wouldn’t think so from general perception of the program, Baylor has actually been one of the best NCAA Tournament teams in terms of record since 2008.
  • After really thinking about it, Wisconsin sophomore Sam Dekker realized how great of an accomplishment the Sweet Sixteen is. “You kind of throw around the term ‘Sweet Sixteen’ as just a cliché term,” Dekker said. “When you really think about it, only 16 teams are actually left. That’s not a big number in comparison to the 68 and then however many hundred are in regular D-I basketball.” The Badgers hope to reach the Elite Eight as they take on Baylor on Thursday.
  • With a three-point specialist, athletic big men who can stretch the floor and a suffocating zone defense, Baylor plays like a team Wisconsin just hasn’t faced this year.

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Gonzaga: What Gives?

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 25th, 2014

Gonzaga has been playing Division I basketball for 57 years. In that time, they’ve made 17 NCAA Tournaments. Sixteen of those 17 appearances have occurred consecutively over the last 16 years. And Mark Few has been the head coach for 15 of those. Just to be clear: Mark Few has taken Gonzaga to 15 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, a streak which accounts for 15 of the program’s 17 tournament appearances in school history. After the Zags’ big Elite Eight breakout surprise in 1999, Few entered as head coach and took the Bulldogs to the Sweet Sixteen in the following two seasons, marking three straight appearances in the Tournament’s second weekend for the burgeoning program. In the 12 years since the run from 1999-2001, they’ve made it to just two more Sweet Sixteens, losing in heartbreaking fashion to eventual national runner-up UCLA in 2006, then getting blown out by eventual national champion North Carolina in 2009.

Gonzaga Basketball Is Defined By The Mark Few Era (AP)

Gonzaga Basketball Is Defined By The Mark Few Era. (AP)

Mixed in there, however, are more underachievements based on seed line than overachievements: a 2002 first round loss as a #6 seed; a 2004 round of 32 loss as a #2 seed; a 2005 round of 32 loss as a #3 seed; and most famously, last year’s round of 32 loss as a #1 seed. Only twice has Gonzaga outperformed its seed in the NCAA Tournament since 2001 — that took place in 2003 where they won one game as a #9 seed (note that the Zags also then gave #1 seed Arizona one hell of a game in the next round), and in 2011 when they won a single game as a #11 seed.

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Virginia Tech Earns Instant Credibility With Hire of Buzz Williams

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 25th, 2014

When Virginia Tech announced on Friday that it had poached head coach Buzz Williams from Marquette to replace the recently-fired James Johnson, the immediate reaction was that of general astonishment. Why on Earth would Williams leave a team he’d taken to the postseason in five out of six years on the bench to a program that had only reached the Big Dance once since 1996 and has finished last in the ACC three years running? While the reasons, thoroughly outlined here, became more apparent in the ensuing days, the real story is the amazing acquisition made by new Virginia Tech athletic director, Whit Babcock. The hiring of Williams and the way it managed to circle all of the major media outlets during the opening weekend of NCAA Tournament play, gave the Hokies basketball program something it hasn’t experienced in years: instant credibility.

Buzz Williams Virginia Tech PR campaign included a TNT appearance during the NCAA's (cbssports.com)

Buzz Williams’ Virginia Tech PR campaign included a TNT appearance during the NCAA Tournament (cbssports.com)

Williams oversaw a very successful Marquette program in the Big East, going an impressive 139-69 in his six years at the helm and taking the school to two Sweet Sixteen appearances and an Elite Eight run. No doubt his ability to navigate a difficult conference schedule (prior to realignment) and enjoy postseason success was extremely attractive to a Hokies program just trying to get noticed. Williams obviously looked around the ravaged Big East — a conference that the ACC raided to bring in Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh — and saw a chance to jump to the premier basketball conference in the land to match wits with four Hall of Fame coaches in Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, and Mike Krzyzewski. Some may have originally seen the move as a bizarre one (especially Williams’ pay cut from $3 million to $2.3 million annually) , but coupling the chance to compete in the new-look ACC with the uncertainty in the Marquette administration as well as the state of the weakened Big East, the decision began to make more sense.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.25.14 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 25th, 2014

RTC_tourneycoverage

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.

South Region

West Region

Read the rest of this entry »

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