Rushed Reactions: #1 Villanova 93, #16 Lafayette 52

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 19th, 2015

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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.

Villanova dominated Lafayette from start to finish. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Villanova dominated Lafayette from start to finish. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Villanova was not messing around. Villanova was all business right from the outset, taking a quick 11-2 lead and never letting off the pedal throughout the game. Its ball movement was sharp, energy was high, and shots were falling. Despite a massive early lead, Jay Wright wasted no time calling a quick timeout late in the first half after Lafayette ‘cut’ the lead down to 16. The Wildcats responded, closing the period on a 9-4 spurt and bursting out of the locker room with a another 17-4 run. All told, six different players scored in double figures and the Big East champs won by 41.
  2. Does this team have a ceiling? Entering the week, many pundits pegged Villanova as the most vulnerable #1 seed, a team somehow not as sturdy as its 32-2 record suggested. The question is why? The Wildcats have now beaten three of their last five opponents by more than 30 points and rank among the NCAA Tournament’s very best teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They are athletic, experienced and deep – again, six different guys scored at least 10 points – and simply do not let up against inferior opponents, something many other high seeds perhaps can’t say. At some point, we have to view Villanova as a legitimate National Championship contender. These guys might not have a ceiling.
  3. Everyone thinks they can win, everyone thinks they can lose. Think Lafayette entered tonight’s game expecting to lose? Think again. Leopards’ senior Seth Hinrichs (13 points) was holding back tears in the postgame press conference, visibly shaken by the overwhelmingly lopsided outcome. Conversely, Jay Wright kept reiterating how worried and focused his team was entering the night, repeatedly citing last season’s home victory over Lafayette during which Villanova briefly trailed in the second half. The NCAA Tournament is a fickle event, and every team knows it. Or at least they should.

Star of the Game: Daniel Ochefu (14 points, nine rebounds, three blocks). Truthfully, this game didn’t have one ‘star’ – no individual Villanova player scored over 16 points – but Ochefu was pretty darn excellent. The 6’11” big man shot 5-of-5 from the field and did a great job in the paint defensively. His presence as the Wildcats’ top rim-protector will become far more crucial in the upcoming rounds, especially if they run into LSU and its sizable frontcourt on Saturday.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Utah 57, #13 Stephen F. Austin 50

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2015

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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.

Utah's Bench Celebrates the Big Win (USA Today Images)

Utah’s Bench Celebrates the Big Win (USA Today Images)

  1. Hanging Around, Hanging Around. Upsets in the opening round tend to occur when the favored team cannot create enough separation to psychologically convince the underdog team that their efforts are futile. Take Arizona’s domination of Texas Southern today. The lead quickly ballooned to 20 points in the first half and everybody in the building knew that there would be no realistic comeback attempt. On the other hand, a team like Baylor couldn’t quite put away Georgia State today, leaving the Panthers just enough room and time to make a 13-0 run to finish, and win, the game. Utah’s failure to put away Stephen F. Austin tonight was dangerous because it felt like the Lumberjacks were only a play or two away from wresting control away from the Utes and pulling off the big upset.
  2. When the Game Turned (or More Accurately, Didn’t Turn). To that point, Utah had allowed Stephen F. Austin to hang around for most of the second half when it seemed to start slipping away on a series of plays. With Utah up eight, Jordan Loveridge took an ill-advised three-pointer, allowing the ‘Jacks to push upcourt after the miss. Thomas Walkup (12 points, nine rebounds, five assists) then made a driving layup. On the ensuing possession, Utah turned it over and Walkup converted that into another layup, this time with an and-1 opportunity. The game was down to four points and Stephen F. Austin was starting to believe. Walkup missed the free throw, but his teammates secured the offensive rebound. When he then took a three from the left side that was on line, you just knew that it was going to drop through the net and cut the lead to one. That shot was long, but that didn’t mean the run was over. Utah missed another jumper on its next possession, and SFA answered with another jumper that missed. At this point, Utah was acting a bit panicky and it felt like all the Lumberjacks really needed was one more big play to facilitate the Utes’ collapse. Next, Utah brought the ball downcourt; Delon Wright fired up a shot that missed… and Jakob Poeltl, Utah’s star freshman big man, used his vastly superior size to block out the smaller Walkup and put back the offensive rebound. Utah was now up six.
  3. Poeltl as Difference Maker. Poeltl was also fouled on that play, and even though he missed the free throw and SFA cut it to four again, the center grabbed another offensive board on the very next possession, was fouled, and nailed those free throws to push the lead back up to six points. Although the Lumberjacks continued to push and eventually got the lead down to two on one trip, they never were able to get to a point where they could take the lead. Poeltl added another late block as well, but from the view of this observer, it was his play as Utah appeared to be collapsing that helped to keep the ship from completely sinking. The dimension that Poeltl provides as a legitimate seven-footer who is an elite offensive rebounder and rim-protector gives the Utes a defensive look that few teams in college basketball have. And he may very well have been the stopgap that saved Utah’s season from swirling down into the Willamette River here.

Player of the Game. Jakob Poeltl. Utah’s star freshman big man didn’t miss a shot from the field as he went for 18 points (7-of-7 FG), eight rebounds (three offensive) and five blocks. For a player that was on virtually nobody’s radar coming into the season, he has been a huge reason that Larry Krystkowiak’s group has returned Utah basketball to relevance.

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Rushed Reactions: #10 Ohio State 75, #7 VCU 72

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2015

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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.

D'Angelo Russell is the Kind of Player Who Can Carry a Team Several Rounds (USA Today Images)

D’Angelo Russell is the Kind of Player Who Can Carry a Team Several Rounds (USA Today Images)

  1. And a Freshman Shall Lead Them. Much has been written and discussed about the underachievement of Ohio State’s last couple of senior classes — not only from a team but also from an individual standpoint. Players like Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and Lenzelle Smith (last year) have at times during their careers seemed capable of great things, but those flashes came all too infrequently to reasonably rely upon them. Even players like sophomore Marc Loving, who has at times shown such outstanding promise, has been intermittent in his production. With D’Angelo Russell taking much if not all of the offensive burden upon himself, it removes a lot of the pressure on those other players to feel like they have to be stars. That could be the right recipe for these Buckeyes as they look to make a run over the next two weeks.
  2. However, Ohio State’s Defense Must Stay Strong. The reason that the Buckeyes came into today’s game as a #10 seed this year was primarily because this is Thad Matta’s worst defensive unit since his 2009 group that lost in the opening round to Siena. Over the last five years, Ohio State has ranked among the top 16 defensive teams in America four times. And many of those very seniors already mentioned where a key part of it. True, Aaron Craft drove the success of several of those defenses, but players like Scott, Thompson and the others who remain aren’t chopped liver on that end of the floor. The point here is that the Buckeyes today held VCU to 38 percent from the field, which, when combined with the points that Russell put up, was enough to keep them close throughout. That defense will absolutely need to be humming on Saturday against Arizona, because you better believe that the Wildcats will send multiple long and lean bodies at Russell and force the other Buckeyes to make shots. A low-scoring affair is really the only shot Ohio State will have to get to the Sweet Sixteen, so the defense on the other end must come up big.
  3. VCU Loses Its Opener in Consecutive Years. And in disastrous fashion. Last year’s four-point play against Stephen F. Austin was worse, but Shaka Smart’s Rams will feel like they really let this one slip away. A pair of awful unforced turnovers on out-of-bounds plays gave Ohio State life down the stretch, and Smart’s decision to let his team play led to a reasonable but ultimately ineffective drive and look at the basket on the final play of regulation. Injuries of course were an issue with this year’s VCU squad, but there may also be a tinge of playing with the pressure of being the higher-seeded team involved here as well. It can cause really good teams to make questionable decisions in high-pressure situations.

Star of the GameD’Angelo Russell. The Ohio State freshman was everything he has been hyped to be. He handled the ball for the majority of the Buckeyes’ possessions, and he just has a feel for the game at his age that can’t really be taught. He finished the game with 28 points on 10-of-20 shooting (4-of-7 threes) and six rebounds, but it seemed like whenever Ohio State was a play or two away from getting into trouble, he would make something happen. He finished off the game with two free throws to seal it.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Butler 56, #11 Texas 48

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 19th, 2015

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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.

Kellen Dunham and the Bulldogs came up big when it mattered most. (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Kellen Dunham and the Bulldogs came up big when it mattered most. (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Once again, Butler overcame adversity.  After former head coach Brandon Miller left the team just before the season started, Butler responded by going 8-1 out of the gate, including wins over Georgetown and North Carolina. After Andrew Chrabascz went down for four games in mid-February, Butler responded by going 3-1 and maintaining its strong NCAA Tournament profile. And today, after the Bulldogs blew their early lead – and second-leading scorer Roosevelt Jones went down with a leg injury – the team fought back, regained the lead and held off Texas. This group takes hit after hit and continues to respond, time and time again.
  2. Chris Holtmann knows what he’s doing. The interim-turned-permanent head coach seemed hell-bent on maximizing Butler’s final few possessions, calling a series of timeouts around the final media break that seemed to pay off; Kellen Dunham and Kameron Woods knocked down a couple huge shots and put the Bulldogs up for good. Holtmann’s defensive game plan – backing off Texas’ shooters and committing extra help in the post – was similarly excellent. Forget about the fact that he wasn’t even supposed have this job – the 43-year old knows know what he’s doing on the sidelines.
  3. Maybe Texas was what its record reflected. “It is what it is. We are who we are,” Texas head coach Rick Barnes said after the game. That pretty much sums it up for the Longhorns, which lost yet another close game and again failed to live up to expectations (they were Vegas favorites today). Barnes’ club struggled to hit jump shots and was never really able to maximize its massive frontcourt advantage, especially on the offensive end. At some point, you just have to accept that if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat… well, you get the picture. At 20-14, Texas was not necessarily “better than its record shows.” It might have just been a middling team all along.

Star of the Game: Kellen Dunham (20 points, 8-of-11 FT). The sharp-shooting junior carried the Bulldogs when Jones went out and then carried them again when it mattered most, earning numerous trips to the free throw line – including a three-point foul midway through the second half – and hitting the dagger triple to give Butler its decisive final advantage.

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Rushed Reactions: #14 Georgia State 57, #3 Baylor 56

Posted by Matt Patton on March 19th, 2015

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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.

  1. Baylor’s length was too much for RJ Hunter. Until it wasn’t. The Bears played their trademark 1-3-1 zone and it really bothered Hunter on the wing. He finished the first half with just two points, having taken way too many shots from 30 feet. Hunter and Ryan Harrow were Georgia State’s best players this year and the Panthers really needed him to have a good game with Harrow on the shelf. Then with under three minutes left and the team down 12 points, Hunter magically found his mojo. He scored 12 of the team’s last 13 points and Baylor didn’t score once over the same stretch.
  2. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. The Panthers looked really good when they attacked Baylor in transition and off the dribble. They did a really good job of using aggressive defense to take momentum at both the beginning and the very end of the second half. Baylor finished with 21 turnovers on the afternoon. At least four or five of those were right under Georgia State’s basket. Many were stupid, errant passes, but some were forced by a very effective Panthers’ press. And some just looked like a team that started feeling the heat of a team coming on strong in the last two minutes. People will blame Kenny Chery for the missed free throw at the end of the game, but Baylor went 11-of-13 from the charity stripe for the game. Afterward, Ron Hunter talked about how good Georgia State’s press has been down the stretch this season.
  3. Taurean Prince was the player of 35 minutes of the game. He looked unstoppable. He finished with 18 points and 15 boards on only nine shots (including a desperation heave at the buzzer). Georgia State just didn’t have an answer for him but he didn’t get the ball enough the last five minutes of the game. Part of that was Baylor didn’t have many clean possessions down the stretch, but part of it was a lack of strategy to do so as well.

Star of the Game: RJ Hunter was perfect in the last three minutes. Down 12 with 2:40 left and Hunter going to the line, Georgia State looked beyond dead. To that point he had logged only one field goal (a layup in the first half) and looked totally outmatched against Baylor’s size and length. Then he drew a foul (a late whistle from Jamie Luckie) and got his swagger back. When Hunter got a steal and layup with 1:22 left, it suddenly felt like a game. Ryann Green also deserves a lot credit for keeping Georgia State within reach for the first three quarters of the game. While Hunter was ice cold, Green went 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. In the end, though, it was Hunter who put the team on his back and led his team straight into One Shining Moment.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Thursday Evening

Posted by RTC Staff on March 19th, 2015

RTC_NCAA15

And here we are. For those of us who grew up from around 1985 to 2001, the mathebracketal beauty of a 64-team field is what the NCAA Tournament is all about. Today and tomorrow are a mixture of so many highs and lows that it’s impossible to keep track of it all. We won’t be able to do that, but we can at least get you ready. Here’s a preview on each of today’s evening games. Enjoy the Madness.

#1 Villanova vs. #16 Lafayette — East Region Second Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) — 6:50 PM ET on TBS.

Villanova should take care of Lafayette, its Philadelphia area counterpart. (Mark Jordan / City of Basketball Love)

Villanova should take care of Lafayette, its Philadelphia area counterpart. (Mark Jordan/City of Basketball Love)

After leading Lafayette back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000, Fran O’Hanlon now gets the pleasure of facing his alma mater in the Round of 64. Problem is, there won’t be anything pleasurable about it. Villanova enters the Dance hotter than arguably any team outside of Kentucky, ripping off 15-straight wins to end season and drubbing opponents by nearly 17-points per game in that span. The Big East champs boast the fourth-most offense efficient in college basketball, while their defense has allowed over one point per possession just five times since January 19. The Leopards might actually wind up exceeding that mark – their offense is really good, and no other team in the tournament shoots as well from long distance (41.4% 3PT) – but their Patriot League-worst defense simply won’t be able to stop the Wildcats on the other end. Darrun Hilliard (37.8% 3PT), Josh Hart (46.8% 3PT) and the rest of Villanova’s motion attack should have a field-day from behind the arc against O’Hanlon’s zone, and Lafayette doesn’t really have the athletes to stop their dribble-penetration. Leopards’ forward Seth Hinrichs (13.1, 5.8) is a legitimate stretch-four and could have his moments on the offensive end, but barring some strange Pennsylvania voodoo, expect Jay Wright’s bunch to light up the scoreboard and win going away.

The RTC Certified Pick: Villanova

#8 Cincinnati vs. #9 Purdue – Midwest Region Second Round (at Louisville, KY) – 7:10 PM ET on CBS.

Just like in the Butler/Texas match-up, the lower seed is the favorite in this one. Purdue, making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012, is a two-point favorite in this match-up of contrasting styles. The Boilermakers are led into action by junior center A.J. Hammons and Big Ten defensive player of the year, junior Raphael Davis. Purdue’s biggest advantage on any given night is its size. Matt Painter has two seven-footers at his disposal in Hammons and freshman big man Isaac Haas. While Purdue averages a respectable 70 points per game, Cincinnati struggles in that category as it puts up just 62.4 a game. The Bearcats do get strong production from junior forward Octavius Ellis, who leads the team in both scoring at 10 points per game and rebounding at 7.3 boards per game. Expect this game to be a low-scoring grinder that will likely be close until the final buzzer. That being said, Cincinnati’s offensive issues will be too much to overcome and Purdue will move onto the Round of 32.

The RTC Certified Pick: Purdue

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Arizona 93, #15 Texas Southern 72

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2015

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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. 

Arizona Cruised to an Easy Opening Round Victory Today (USA Today Images)

Arizona Cruised to an Easy Opening Round Victory Today (USA Today Images)

  1. No Upsets on the Agenda Here. For those who believe that Arizona is on par with the #1 seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats certainly played like it in their #2/#15 matchup today. Jumping all over Texas Southern from the opening tip, Sean Miller’s bunch wasn’t about to let the underdog stay in contact and build momentum as some of the other victims during the first half of Thursday’s games had experienced. A 15-2 start in the first six minutes set the tone; it slowly developed to a 54-33 halftime lead and Arizona spent the second half coasting to its ninth NCAA Tournament victory under Miller. Arizona may be a #2 seed in the West Region this year, but the Wildcats have the look and feel of a #1.
  2. Too Big. Too Fast. Too Strong. To that point, the size and athleticism that Arizona threw at Texas Southern — a team that had won at Michigan State and Kansas State this year — was very difficult for the Tigers to deal with. The Wildcats hit a blistering 20 of their 29 first half shots (69.0%) and often looked easy doing it. The Wildcats’ strength on the wings was a particular problem for Texas Southern, as Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. The superhero duo combined for 15-of-20 shooting in tallying 45 points and 15 rebounds. It was clear that Mike Davis’ team had no chance to stop either one of them, and Miller’s offensive schemes took full advantage of those mismatches.
  3. A Minor Concern? Its always difficult to keep focus and intensity for the full 40 minutes in a game where the superior team is so clearly superior. But the Wildcats gave up 12-of-22 (54.5%) shooting and 39 points after the half, and for a squad that prides itself on a commitment to defense, that might be somewhat concerning for Miller. Texas Southern entered today’s game in the bottom half of Division I basketball in offensive efficiency, but either of the next opponent options will be quite a bit better than the Tigers in that regard (VCU: 59th; Ohio State: 30th). Worth keeping an eye on.

Player of the Game. Stanley Johnson, Arizona. Johnson was every bit the NBA lottery pick prospect that you would expect in a game like this. The super freshman tallied 22 points and five rebounds, including a sterling 4-of-5 effort from behind the three-point line (36.6% on the year). What’s more is that he was everywhere in the opening minutes, grabbing steals, dishing dimes, as well as offering his standard contributions of scoring, rebounding and overall defense.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Notre Dame 69, #14 Northeastern 65

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 19th, 2015

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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.

Notre Dame beat Northeastern in a thrilling opener. (Evan Pike-USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame beat Northeastern in a thrilling opener. (Evan Pike-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Turnovers made the difference. Notre Dame was a tad inconsistent offensively today but managed to gut out a victory nonetheless. The most obvious factor? The Irish – despite ranking 274th nationally in defensive turnover percentage – forced 16 Northeastern miscues, including several big steals late in the game. Each time the Huskies would surge, a turnover would temper their momentum and keep Notre Dame ahead. And when Bill Coen’s group climbed back to within one possession with a final shot to win, Jerian Grant ripped the ball from Northeastern forward Quincy Ford to seal the four-point triumph.
  2. Notre Dame needs some rebounding. Look, Notre Dame is never going to dominate teams on the glass – it ranked near the bottom of the ACC in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage this season – but the Irish still need to be better on the boards than they were today. Northeastern’s comeback was keyed by big offensive rebounds (13 on the game), and the Huskies rarely gave Notre Dame second-chance opportunities. As the Irish advance through the NCAA Tournament – potentially facing imposing frontcourts like Texas and Kentucky along the way – they need to get some production on the glass, especially when opponents take away the three-point line like Northeastern did today.
  3. What a way to start. “We gave a show in the first game of the tournament… just like CBS wanted,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said afterwards. And what a show it was. Northeastern piqued everyone’s interest early, faded midway through the second half, then fought back to pull within one possession in the game’s closing moments. The NCAA Tournament wasted no time in giving us the one thing it never virtually never fails to provide: drama.

Star of the Game: Zach Auguste (25 points, six rebounds). After being hit with two early fouls, Auguste shredded Northeastern underneath for the better part of 30 minutes. The Huskies were unable to stay in front of the Irish’s penetrating guards and the big man – always in great position – was the beneficiary, scoring 17 of his 25 points in the second half and icing the game with two free throws at the end. His presence will be crucial as Mike Brey’s club runs into bigger and more athletic opponents moving forward.

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Circle of March: Vol. XVII

Posted by rtmsf on March 19th, 2015

Merry Marchmas to us. We’re down to 64 — nothing more needs to be said.

2015_CircleofMarch_V17

Eliminations (03.18.15)

  • Boise State
  • North Florida
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A Column of Enchantment: I am Miserable So You Will Be Too

Posted by Joseph Nardone on March 19th, 2015

A Column of Enchantment has been a fun and weird thing since it debuted a few months ago on Rush the Court. When Randy and I discussed the idea of it — a barely about college basketball college basketball column — he got what I was trying to pitch. The basic premise of it was that there were no real actual premise or structure to it. That being said, I have often relied upon the touching of three major topics after I meet you with the opening paragraph. In that particular structure we have compared Kentucky to Lobsters battling Unicorns, talked about Christian Slater being awesome and often talked about my man-crush on Fred Hoiberg. Other times I don’t even actually cover college basketball. I’ll talk about Dancing With The Stars and mask the absurdity of doing so by adding a few college hoops figures to the cast. Then there’s the time I wrote a fictional Steve Lavin story and, well, people seemed to enjoy it. Basically, the easiest way to describe this column: utter poop-show of sometimes awesomeness.

Much like this North Florida band member Wednesday evening, this week's Column of Enchantment is going through sort of a crisis. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Much like this North Florida band member Wednesday evening, this week’s Column of Enchantment is going through sort of a crisis. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

All in all, A Column of Enchantment has been about fun, bad jokes, even worse analogies, often not talking about college basketball and mostly the idea that it is okay to not be a college basketball writer who takes himself too seriously. There are enough of those types of college basketbloggers in the world — not to mention those who are void of personality or seem to have no earthly idea what they are talking about. There are good ones too. That is certainly worth mentioning. In my less than humble opinion I think that the college basketball media world is packed with the best group of any of the groups of sports writing out there. Regardless, I just wanted A Column of Enchantment to help break up your day as well as mine, bring a smile to the dozen of you guys who read (and enjoy) this and even poke fun at myself.

Yet here I am. A miserable fellow. Things have been tough on your good ole pal Joe lately. That’s not something you care to hear about, I know — and honestly, I really don’t give a fudge. Other sports writers scribble their thoughts for money, fame, validation or other tangible reasons. I put mine on the laptop because I like feeling creative and it has always been a way to relieve stress. Even if it means I don’t add anything extra to the discourse that is the sport. That’s probably not fair — and is a certainly a horrible way to go writing about sports — but that’s my style. If you are like some of the people who have somehow found my email address (when I didn’t have it publicly listed) and decided to email me to tell me you like my stuff but think I am a bit too kooky, you can go to the other site where I write on the topic of college hoops more seriously. But for now you’re here at RTC, reading A Column of Enchantment, so you are going to listen me whine a bit. Stop reading now if you don’t want to deal with it. With that being said, though, I’ll still try to manage to hurl in some bad jokes for you too because I’m most certainly a man of the people.

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March Madness is here. Like, for real here. It is my favorite time of the year and probably yours too. I mean, there’s nothing like a little unpaid labor making millions upon millions of dollars for universities who do everything in their power to keep those without it from having some. Those unpaid laborers are also playing some single-game elimination hoops for our entertainment. Since we have long ago been able to compartmentalize those facts, which has allowed us to enjoy said Tournament without guilt, we should all be incredibly happy. Expect, um, I am not.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.18.15 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 18th, 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.

Midwest Region

Karl-Anthony Towns has emerged as Kentucky's go-to guy on offense (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Karl-Anthony Towns Was Named an All-American. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

  • Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns was named a freshman All-American by the USBWA. Despite playing just over 20 minutes per game for the undefeated Wildcats, Towns averaged 9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Crazy numbers on a per-40 basis.
  • Cincinnati has been a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament but is it a basketball school or a football school? You decide.
  • This may be Buffalo‘s first time in the NCAA Tourney, but don’t tell their fans that. The Bulls’ faithful have responded to their team’s success – Buffalo will “definitely sell out” its allotment, according to associate athletic director Todd Garzarelli.
  • In Valparaiso, the Drews are “more than just basketball royalty, they are the first family.” Having already won three regular season Horizon League championships, coach Bryce Drew loves being a part of the program that has family – including himself – has given so much to over the years.
  • With Seinfeld creator Larry David and Google co-founder Sergey Brin on its roster, Maryland took home a title in a March Madness bracket determined by each school’s alumni.
  • Butler loves to recruit players who can shoot, so how has junior Roosevelt Jones only attempted three jump shots over the past three years? Jones may not be able to shoot, but he’s found a way to make his “floater” game work.
  • Now that Texas is in the Big Dance, it sees its adversity this season as a positive. “That’s one of the advantages we have,” [sophomore Kendal] Yancy said. “We’ve seen everything that can possibly come to us.”
  • According to stat guru Ken Pomeroy, Notre Dame has the second-best offense in the country. That’s great, but will its defense leave the Irish susceptible to an early round exit this March?
  • New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies is confident about his team, but he’s being realistic about facing a blue-blood program in Kansas. “They’re a big-time team, obviously a big-time program,” Menzies said of Kansas. “Great coaching, great coaching staff; it’s an honor to be able to play in this environment.”
  • The Jayhawks may not have landed a #1 seed this year, but they did come in as the second most valuable college basketball program, according to Forbes. Kansas basketball is worth $35.4 Million, ranking behind only Louisville.

West Region

  • After being out for the past two months with a broken foot, Wisconsin point guard Traevon Jackson is finally practicing. It’s unclear whether Jackson will regain his starting spot from sophomore Bronson Koenig – who has played very well in Jackson’s absence – but regardless, adding quality depth never hurts.
  • Oklahoma State may have gotten a little complacent this season, according to its star Le’Bryan Nash, and the key to success in the coming weeks will be regaining that chip on their shoulder. “I mean, sometimes when people are always picked low, they get excited for their success and don’t know how to handle success. Sometimes, we didn’t know how to handle it,” Nash said.
  • Wofford has never won a game in NCAA Tournament, but having been there four out of the last six years, the Terriers just might be due. According to coach Mike Young, “We’ve got a team that’s done it. That’s been there. That’s not going to be in awe of the moment. They will know what they’ve got to do to put themselves in position to win. We’ll be in a much better frame of mind this time around, I feel certain.”
  • Though North Carolina will go as Marcus Paige goes, the emergence of freshmen Joel Berry and Justin Jackson will be critical to the Tar Heels’ success.
  • For Harvard’s freshman guard Zach Yoshor, balancing basketball and his devout Jewish faith has been tough. Though he observes the Jewish Sabbath, he bends the rules when he has to travel for basketball. “It was a really rough decision. I just decided it was something I wanted to do,” Yoshor explained by telephone on Monday. “I knew if I wanted to play, I’d have to travel on Shabbat.”
  • Down 17 at the half, Ole Miss pulled off a stunning comeback in the First Four on Tuesday night. Behind transfers Stefan Moody and MJ Rhett, the Rebels will, somehow, live to fight another day.
  • As Xavier looks to make a run in the Tourney, its seniors are especially driven. “Like Dee [Davis] was telling me the other day, we only have one more loss in us. It’s one loss and you’re done,” [Matt] Stainbrook said. “So we’re trying to win as many games as we can.”
  • While John Heard and Austin Mills found their way to the Baylor basketball program in different ways, the two walk-ons were fortunate to be rewarded with scholarships for this semester.
  • Ohio State coach Thad Matta may be the all time winningest coach in Buckeyes history, but this season has been a rough one. However, Matta and his team will have a chance to turn it around when they face VCU on Thursday.
  • Arizona hasn’t lost since February 7, and much of the Wildcats’ success has been because of junior forward Brandon Ashley. During the Pac-12 Tournament, Ashley averaged nearly 20 points and six rebounds per game. And as we head into the home stretch of the season, Ashley’s contributions will be necessary for the Wildcats’ success.

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Circle of March: Vol. XVI

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2015

What’s that, you say? March Madness? The first half of the First Four got under way in Dayton last night and the nightcap gave us plenty of reasons to get excited about what’s to come over the next three weeks. #11 Ole Miss, which defeated #11 BYU in a thrilling back-and-forth contest, along with Hampton, which outlasted Manhattan, will advance to the Round of 64 on Thursday. Their prizes will be #11 Xavier and #1 Kentucky, respectively. There’s more to come tonight — with two more eliminations in store — as #16 Robert Morris will take on #16 North Florida, and #11 Boise State will play a road game at #11 Dayton. Enjoy!

2015_CircleofMarch_V16

Eliminations (03.17.15)

  • Manhattan
  • BYU
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