O26 Superlatives, Part III: Big Sky, Big West, Southland, SWAC, Sun Belt & WAC…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 12th, 2014

In Part III of our three-part series (click here for Part I and Part II), we pass out 2013-14 superlatives to the best teams, performers and performances from six different O26 conferences: Big Sky, Big West, Southland, SWAC, Sun Belt and WAC. In alphabetical order: 

Big Sky

Davion Berry and Weber State finally edged Montana and won the Big Sky. (Photo by Weber State)

Davion Berry and Weber State finally edged Montana and won the Big Sky. (Photo by Weber State)

  • Team of the Year – Weber State (17-11, 14-6). After winning 55 games in the previous two seasons, this was the year – the most parity-driven in recent memory – that Weber State outlasted Montana and won the Big Sky. The Wildcats now host the conference tournament, which could mean a return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007.
  • Player of the Year – Davion Berry – Weber State. Narrowly edging out Montana’s Kareem Jamar and North Dakota’s Troy Huff for our Player of the Year, Berry averaged 19 points per contest, distributed the ball effectively, shot almost 40 percent from long range, and led his team to a title.
  • Coach of the Year – Tyler Geving – Portland State. Portland State was picked to finish ninth in the conference, an outlook that became even worse when senior Aaron Moore, averaging nearly 12 points per game, was dismissed from the team in early January. After the Vikings lost four straight close games in the middle of the Big Sky season, Geving deserves credit for leading his guys to a 5-1 finish and a fifth-place tie in the league.
  • Upset of the Year – Northern Colorado over Kansas State, 60-58. Until last Saturday, Kansas State was pretty much unbeatable at home this season: Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Iowa State, and George Washington — all these teams left Manhattan without a win. But you know who did manage to leave Manhattan with a win (aside from Baylor)? BJ Hill’s Bears. Gotta love early November.
  • Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Jaron Nash – North Dakota. Nash goes baseline, emphatically stuffs it with one hand, then salutes the home crowd. Great stuff.

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Morning Five: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 3rd, 2014

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  1. The immediate fall-out from the aftermath of Thursday night’s New Mexico State-Utah Valley game appears to be over, but we are guessing the consequences of this and other similar incidents will be dealt with in the off-season. If you haven’t seen the incident, the footage of court rush and fans fighting with players is pretty jarring. New Mexico State’s K.C. Ross-Miller was suspended for two games and Renaldo Dixon was suspended for one game by the Western Athletic Conference. Dana O’Neil is one of the few to voice her support of the fans and places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the players involved. We are not sure which way the WAC or other conference will go on this, but it will certainly be a topic that will be hotly debated.
  2. We have seen a lot of strange things in March over the years, but this year’s SWAC Tournament has to be pretty high up there. As a result of the APR rules four SWAC teams are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament, but after discussing the matter with the NCAA all ten  of the teams in the SWAC are still participating in the conference tournament. Prior to this teams that had been barred from the NCAA Tournament did not participate in their conference tournament, but the school presidents voted to include all ten teams most likely to help increase ticket sales (Alabama State President Gwendolyn Boyd is one of two to vote against it). Now the winner of the conference’s automatic bid will be the team that is eligible for the NCAA Tournament and makes it the furthest in the conference tournament. If there is a tie (such as if two ineligible teams make the finals and only the losing semifinalists are eligible) then the higher-seeded team will be given the automatic bid. If that team happens to be the conference tournament champion, nobody will notice. If not, we could have a very weird championship celebration.
  3. It probably goes without saying that March is our favorite time of year, but over the past few years the change from February to March has also left us with a feeling of sadness since February 28 is Dean Smith‘s birthday. Normally that would be a time for celebration, but with Smith’s dementia and deteriorating health it brings our annual story on Smith and his difficulties from John Feinstein. Although sports fans (and college sports fans in particular) can harbor some of the biggest grudges we cannot think of anybody speaking out against Smith on a personal level. Many prominent coaches have legacies of piling up wins on the court, but Smith’s legacy is one of the few that extends beyond it.
  4. With its win over Syracuse on Saturday, Virginia clinched the ACC regular-season championship. Except the ACC does not recognize a regular-season champion. The rationale behind that decision is complex, but Shane Ryan’s column on why the ACC does not formally recognize its regular season champion does an excellent job of explaining the history behind it. Essentially what it boils down to is the other schools in the conference standing up to North Carolina and Dean Smith, who wanted the NCAA bid awarded to the winner of the regular season. The article also includes a few amusing anecdotes about North Carolina’s fixation on hanging up banners that others don’t recognize including its ridiculous 1924 Helms banner.
  5. Whenever a lower-tier program hires a big-name coach such as what Florida Atlantic did with Mike Jarvis six years ago we often hear about how that coach is going to turn the program around. However, more often as is the case with Jarvis that typically doesn’t happen. After six seasons (five of which were losing seasons) at FAU, Jarvis announced that he will resign at the end of the season. Jarvis says that he is making the move to explore other opportunities, but sources close to the situation say that Jarvis was going to be fired and the school gave him the option to resign instead. With Jarvis turning 69 just after the season ends, we would expect this is the last head coaching stop for Jarvis. If it is, he will finish with a 422-312 record with nine NCAA appearances in 25 seasons at Boston University, George Washington, St. John’s, and FAU.
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#rushthetrip Day 11 (Continued): Unlikely WAC Leaders Enjoying the Ride

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on February 18th, 2014

RTC columnist Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is looking for the spirit of college basketball as he works his way on a two-week tour of various venues around the West. For more about his trip, including his itinerary and previous stops on his journey, check out the complete series here.

No conference has been decimated by conference expansion like the WAC. Perennially one of the better mid-major conferences for much of the last two decades – even sending a team (Utah) to the national title game in 1998 – the current iteration probably looks nothing like how you remember it. Good luck figuring out who is in this new WAC, because only two schools have been conference members for more than a full season (New Mexico State and Idaho), and many of the newbies emphatically fail to fit the geographic profile of the conference. After beginning my Saturday with a signature member of WAC’s past (Utah State), the second half of the weekend two-fer had me paying a visit to the unlikely leader of this new and (un)improved league: Utah Valley University. I think my sanity might be called into question if I had any idea of what to expect out of the trip to Orem, so suffice it to say, I headed in there ready for anything.

After An 89-88 Victory Over Idaho Saturday Night, Utah Valley Is Still Your WAC Leaders -- Try Processing That Information!

After An 89-88 Victory Over Idaho Saturday Night, Utah Valley Is Still Your WAC Leader — Try Processing That Information!

What I got was a highly entertaining basketball game. There wasn’t much defense to be found (that’s usually what happens when teams ranked 210th and 304th nationally in defensive efficiency meet), but Utah Valley and Idaho submitted a tidy offensive display, combining to score 177 points on 58 percent shooting from the floor. The Vandals’ leading scorer, 6’5” forward Stephen Madison, poured in 42 points (16-of-21 FG), but UVU forced the ball out of the crafty senior’s hands on the game’s final possession, and two misses later, the Wolverines had escaped with a one-point victory. In doing so, Utah Valley hardly conjured up memories of ’98 Utah or ’04 Nevada, but at least for a few more days, the road to the WAC title still runs through Orem.

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O26 Weekly Awards: Toledo, Jerrelle Benimon, UTEP & Chicago State…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on January 22nd, 2014

The rigors of conference play began taking its toll last week as several O26 league favorites discovered just how hard conference road games can be. Some teams dealt with these hurdles better than others, the results of which ranged anywhere from surprising upsets to crazy comebacks to clutch shots. Let’s pass out a few awards to the performers who handled themselves best during the O26 week that was.

O26 Team of the Week

In part thanks to some Juice Brown heroics, Toledo had an excellent week. (BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH)

In part thanks to some Juice Brown heroics, Toledo had an excellent week. (Jeremy Wadsworth/Blade)

Toledo. First it was the expected-but-still-disappointing loss to Kansas followed by a forgettable defeat at Western Michigan, and all of a sudden the Rockets — once unbeaten and the talk of the mid-major world — were in serious jeopardy of losing their groove. Some teams might have become deflated, lost confidence and continued to slide, but not Toledo. Head coach Tod Kowalczyk remained calm after falling to the Broncos, noting “We didn’t play well in two games all year. This is one of two… we’ll be fine.” His team has responded in similar fashion, handling Central Michigan with ease two Saturdays ago before collecting a pair huge wins this past week to remain the MAC West kings. First was a home contest against surging Buffalo, a squad on a four-game winning streak that looked poised to make it five in a row. The Bulls jumped out to a quick lead in the opening minutes that it wouldn’t hand over until midway through the second half, even then not backing down from the Rockets. A big reason for that was because Javon McCrea was his usual beastly self, finishing with 20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and enabling his team to keep pace and ultimately knot things up at 59 with a minute and a half to play. But just when the game appeared to be headed for overtime, Toledo point guard Julius “Juice” Brown made the magic happen, capping off an eight-point, 90 second stretch by receiving the second pass off a full-court inbounds play, hoisting from just inside the arc, and nailing a buzzer-beater to win the game, 67-65. It was one of the most exciting finishes you will see all season and an emphatic completion to an important win for the Rockets.

Despite the mid-week heroics, though, it was Saturday morning’s match-up at Akron that was supposed to provide the drama, with two teams pegged to win their respective divisions in the preseason and each featuring first-team all-conference talent. But as the game wore on, it became more evident that this was not going to be the hotly contested battle many thought — Toledo thoroughly and resolutely outplayed the Zips for much of the 40 minutes, pounding them on both ends of the glass and putting the game completely out of reach midway through the second half. Brown finished with his second straight 20+ point outing, while former Ohio State forward J.D. Weatherspoon — who has emerged as a vital paint presence in recent games — scored 20 points and secured a game-high 14 rebounds. The win was something of a statement for the Rockets, an assertion of dominance over a club predicted by many to win the league and return to the NCAA Tournament this season. Now 15-2, Kowalczyk’s group has regained its status as one of the more dangerous non-power conference teams in America, a position it hopes to maintain through MAC play and into the postseason. The wins over Buffalo and Akron were key steps on that path and important demonstrations of resiliency, earning Toledo our award for Team of the Week.

Honorable Mentions: George Washington (2-0: vs. VCU, @St. Bonaventure); Towson (2-0: @Drexel, @College of Charleston); UTEP (2-0: @Middle Tennessee State, @UAB).

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Municipal Auditorium: College Basketball Still Lives In Its KC Cathedral

Posted by Greg Mitchell (@gregpmitchell) on January 19th, 2014

There’s a revival underway at one of the cathedrals of college basketball. Once upon a time, John Wooden paced the sidelines in this building and Wilt Chamberlain took the floor here. But this isn’t Pauley Pavilion or Allen Fieldhouse; rather, Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City. Municipal doesn’t have the instant credibility of The Palestra or Hinkle Fieldhouse, but it’s nearly as old as those fabled venues, and steeped in just as much history.

Walt Hazzard leads UCLA past Duke in the 1964 final at Municipal Auditorium. This was the first of many titles for John Wooden and UCLA (msn.foxsports.com).

Walt Hazzard leads UCLA past Duke in the 1964 final at Municipal Auditorium. This was the first of many titles for John Wooden and UCLA (msn.foxsports.com).

Municipal has hosted more Final Fours than any other building in the country (nine) and the second-most total tournament games (only Dayton Arena, buoyed by the First Four, has hosted more). Wooden won his fist national championship on Municipal’s floor by beating Duke in 1964, his 16th season on the bench in Westwood. The win was also the finishing touch on Wooden’s first of four undefeated seasons at UCLA (30-0). Three years before that, Cincinnati walked off Municipal’s floor as national champions, surviving a 27-point effort from Ohio State’s Jerry Lucas in the final. The Buckeyes got two points from a reserve forward named Bob Knight in the 1961 championship game; as it turned out, that one field goal wouldn’t be the pinnacle of his basketball career. Kansas reached the 1957 finals at Municipal on the back of Chamberlain (that tournament’s Most Outstanding Player), but fell in triple overtime to Frank McGuire-coached North Carolina. This was the Tar Heels’ first championship and second Final Four appearance, and things have gone pretty well in Chapel Hill ever since.

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The Best in the West: Ranking the Top 20 Teams West of the Rockies

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 16th, 2014

Believe it or not, we’re about halfway through the season right now. So, it is time to revisit our Best in the West rankings. We did this about a month back, but to remind you, here’s how we roll. We take all the schools west of the Rockies (and we’re going to be a bit generous with our geography – basically we’re looking at schools from the Pac-12, Mountain West, West Coast and Big West and then some of the schools from the Big Sky and WAC) and give you the top 20 teams. But, rather than just ranking schools #1 though #20, we’re going to divide all these teams up into tiers of similar quality. Below, you’ll see our Top 20 teams in the West (their overall rank will be in parentheses), with descriptions of what we think the teams in each tier have in common, plus brief comments on some of the teams in our list.

The Best of the BestIn a league of their own.

  • Arizona (#1 overall, Pac-12 #1) – Not only are the Wildcats head and shoulders above the rest of the teams out West, the argument can be made that they’re on a tier of their own nationally as well.
Arizona Has Established Themselves As A Team Head and Shoulders Above The Rest (Kevin Sapio, USA Today)

Arizona Has Established Themselves As A Team Head and Shoulders Above The Rest. (Kevin Sapio, USA Today)

Contenders to the Throne – And all Top 25 teams.

  • San Diego State (#2 overall, Mtn West #1) – Last time we did this, we had three teams in this tier, and the Aztecs were not among them. This time, the Aztecs are the only team aside from Arizona that should be considered a sure-fire Top 25 team.

Solid NCAA Tournament Team – Just outside the Top 25, but all with plenty of upside.

  • California (#3 overall, Pac-12 #2) – These teams are all bunched together by just about any metric. While I think you can make a case for any one of them for something like the #24 or #25 spot in your national Top 25, you can make an equally valid case that all of these teams deserve to be on the outside looking in. That being said, it is likely that if you make a national top 35, every one of these squads should probably be in there. We’ll take the Golden Bears by a hair over the rest of this group on the basis of their hot streak minus a couple of key players, but really, all these teams are very tight.

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O26 Weekly Awards: Akron, Taylor Braun, Marvin Menzies & Texas Southern…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 25th, 2013

While this past week may have been devoid of many huge upsets or season-defining wins, there was certainly no shortage of great basketball games and interesting storylines across the O26 landscape. Just take Saturday, for example: There were 11 players who scored 30+ points, seven games that went to overtime, a few big boys taken down at home, an example of HAVOC on steroids, a MAC squad that improved to 11-0, an 81-possession game, a coast-to-coast buzzer beater… and a partridge in a pear tree. And remember, that was all in one day. So as Christmas is here, let’s take a moment to pass out some weekly honors to a few top performers.

O26 Team of the Week

Demetrius Treadwell and the Akron Zips had a fine week. (Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)

Demetrius Treadwell and the Akron Zips had a fine week. (Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian)

Akron. Yes, the Zips were throttled over the final 13 minutes by Iowa State in Hawai’i on Monday, and no, they are not the aforementioned undefeated MAC team—that’s headline-generating Toledo. But over a three-game span last week, stretching from The JAR in Akron to the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Keith Dambrot’s group was nothing short of excellent. At home on Monday, Akron took an early lead on Southland favorite Oral Roberts and never relinquished control, as 6’7’’ forward Demetrius ‘Tree’ Treadwell recorded his first of three-straight double-doubles and the Zips forced 20 turnovers en route to a 10-point win. It was their best home win of the young season and a sign of good play to come. That is, until Wednesday, when things got off to extremely rocky start against Horizon League foe Detroit. At one point trailing 22-8 in the first half, the Zips saw their win probability dip below 30 percent and wound up taking a nine-point deficit into the locker room. To any clear-sighted onlooker it would have appeared that an upset was beginning to take hold… until the second half began. Seemingly at the drop of a hat, Akron took complete—and I mean complete—control of the basketball game, nailing three three-pointers in less than two minutes to tie it up and then proceeding to blitz the Titans out of the gym with a 58-point second half and a 19-point victory. It was an impressive run, and Treadwell finished with a superb 22-point, 13-rebound line. But it was by no means the team’s finest moment of the week.

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The Best In The West: Ranking the Top 20 Teams West Of The Rockies

Posted by AMurawa on December 16th, 2013

Roughly a quarter of the way through the year, we’re going to unveil something a little new here, something we’ll check back in on once a month or so. We’re going to take all the schools west of the Rockies (and we’re going to be a bit generous with our geography – basically we’re looking at schools from the Pac-12, Mountain West, West Coast, and Big West and then some of the schools from the Big Sky and Western Athletic Conferences) and give you the top 20 teams. But, rather than just ranking schools 1 though 20, we’re going to divide all these teams up into tiers, in part because calling Arizona #1 and then naming another school #2 just seems wrong, because the Wildcats are just so far ahead of everyone else. Below, you’ll see our Top 20 teams in the West (their overall rank will be in parentheses), with descriptions of what we think the teams in each tier have in common, plus brief comments on the teams in our list.

Arizona Is The Undisputed Leader In The West (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Arizona Is The Undisputed Leader In The West (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

The Best of the BestIn a league of their own.

Arizona (#1 overall, Pac-12 #1) – The Wildcats are in a class by themselves out West. Even when putting together my national top 25, I wanted to put Arizona at #1, leave spots 2-5 empty, and then have a four-way tie at #6. What they’ve accomplished thus far is unassailable, especially considering how young this team is. Expect somebody (maybe multiple somebodies) in the Pac-12 to put up a serious challenge, but at this point in the season, Sean Miller’s squad is not only the best in the West, but they’re the best by a long shot.

Contenders to the Throne – And all top 25 teams.

Oregon (#2 overall, Pac-12 #2) – The Ducks are the team closest to joining the Wildcats up top, but while they’ve got an undefeated record and some quality scalps, they’re missing the quality of wins that the Wildcats have. But, as good as Dana Altman’s squad has been, they’re not even at full strength yet – Dominic Artis and Ben Carter are due back this week.

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Breaking Down Pac-12 Non-Conference Schedules: Arizona and Arizona State

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 6th, 2013

In order to prepare you for the first two months of the season, we’ve been breaking down all 12 non-conference slates over the last few weeks. To close out the series, we take a look at the Arizona schools.

Teams are listed in order of which they will be played. Last season’s RPI in parenthesis. Potential opponents (one round in advance) are italicized. All times listed are Pacific.

Arizona

Sean Miller, Arizona

Sean Miller Would Like To Cut Down The Nets Once Again After The Season, But First He And The Wildcats Will Have To Navigate A Balanced Non-Conference Slate. (AP)

Cream of the Crop: @ San Diego State (#30), UNLV (#23), @ Michigan (#21)

All three of these will be must-see television. This isn’t as good of a San Diego State team as Steve Fisher has had the last couple of years, but it will still finish in the top four of the Mountain West and compete for an NCAA bid. The Aztecs and their raucous student section, The Show, will be waiting for the top-10 Wildcats for a 7:05 PM tip-off less than a week after the season begins. The Rebels started last season 13-2 but dropped a heart-breaker, 64-61, against California in their NCAA Tournament opener. The toughest of the marquee group will be a road trip to Michigan, which the AP has ranked seventh nationally in its preseason poll. The game will be a 9:00 AM start on the west coast and will be televised nationally by CBS on December 14. The Wolverines lose two premier guards from last year’s team but will still compete with rivals Michigan State and Ohio State for the Big Ten title behind forwards Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III.

Solid Names: Cal Poly (#164), Long Beach State (#115), New Mexico State (#56), Southern U. (#180)

Long Beach State plays the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, and Arizona joins the likes of Michigan, Creighton and NC State to play the 49ers this season. LBSU loses three key players off last year’s team but still boasts enough talent to give the Wildcats a game. Three days before Sean Miller’s team hosts Long Beach State, Cal Poly will visit the McKale Center on opening night. Senior Chris Eversley is the top forward in the Big West and returns from a team that made its first postseason appearance in Division I history. Still, the Mustangs struggled on the road last season and the trend will continue at Arizona. New Mexico State will make the short road trip on the night of December 11 to face Arizona, and Southern U. rounds out the group by coming to Tucson on December 19 for a game that will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks at 6:00 PM. The Jaguars are picked by most to win the SWAC a year after winning 23 games.

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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Arizona Wildcats

Posted by BHayes on September 26th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

Sean Miller’s fifth season in Tuscon could easily turn out to be his best. Despite the graduation of key seniors Solomon Hill (a first round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft), Mark Lyons, and Kevin Parrom – in addition to the surprising departure of freshman Grant Jerrett to the professional ranks, Miller has assembled the most talented roster that Arizona has seen in quite some time. A solid Pac-12 conference and challenging non-conference schedule will challenge the Cats’, but a nice blend of returnees and newcomers should give the man at the helm ample leeway to steer this storied program deep into March.

Nick Johnson will be asked to do more -- both on and off the court -- for this young but talented Wildcat team

Nick Johnson will be asked to do more — both on and off the court — for this young but talented Wildcat team

  • Team Outlook: This will be a new-look Arizona team, as last year’s squad was built around departed seniors Lyons and Hill. Some familiar faces will be back and poised to fill leadership roles this time around, with junior Nick Johnson (11.5 PPG, 3.2 APG, 1.9 SPG) most prominent among them. The athletic two-guard shot the ball better from three-point range as a sophomore (39% after 32% as a freshman), and should also serve as the Cats’ best perimeter defender in 2013-14. Sophomores Kaleb Tarczewski (6.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 22.2 MPG) and Brandon Ashley (7.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 20.5 MPG) return to anchor the frontcourt, with each likely seeing a slight minutes increase, despite the arrival of a duo of freshman studs in the same frontcourt. Both Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were McDonald’s All-Americans last spring, and immense immediate contributions from both freshmen would surprise no one. Gordon especially shapes up as a good candidate for a jump to the NBA after a season of stardom in Tuscon, as he is currently projected as a Top-20 pick in the 2014 draft on NBADraft.net. Gordon’s production will be one of the keys to this Wildcat season, but he may not be Sean Miller’s most important player. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell (11.4 PPG, 5.5 APG, 2.8 SPG in 2011-12) will be filling Lyons’ shoes and running the show in Tucson this season. McConnell was an efficient lead guard in the Atlantic-10 and should quickly acclimate to the Pac-12, but the absence of proven ball-handlers elsewhere on the roster means his transition has to be a smooth one for Arizona to be successful. He will be a welcomed change-of-pace for teammates used to the shoot-first Lyons dominating the ball, and his steal % of 4.7 (12th best in the nation in 2012) is ample indication of a dedication to both ends. The talented youngsters around him will keep expectations low for McConnell individually, but don’t be shocked if he emerges as the leader of this club. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Other 26: Bracket-Busting, East and Midwest Edition

Posted by IRenko on March 20th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC columnist and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

This is part two of our TO26 bracket analysis, focusing on the 17 non-power-conference teams that populate the East and Midwest regions. The teams are grouped into five rough categories, and, within each category, they are ordered by their likelihood of advancing.  For our analysis of the South and West regions, see here.

Regional Threats

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

  • St. Louis (#4 Midwest) — The Bilikens are flying a bit under the radar, but this is a team that should be a favorite for a Sweet 16 run. They have one of the best defenses in the country, a group of experienced guards who can attack and shoot (Kwamain Mitchell, Mike McCall, Jordair Jett), a surprisingly effective post presence in Dwayne Evans, and a pair of pick-‘n-pop big men (Rob Loe, Cody Ellis) who can drain the three. It should be said, though, that the Bilikens’ draw is not necessarily ideal. A first-round game against New Mexico State presents some matchup quandaries (see below), as does a potential Third Round game against Oklahoma State — both teams are prepared to bang and grind with the Bilikens down low. Ultimately, I think the St. Louis’ defense is strong enough to get them to the Sweet 16, where their steady guard play gives them a non-trivial chance of knocking off the Cards.
Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

  • Butler (#6, East) — Yes, they’re back. Neither Bucknell nor their potential Third Round opponent (Marquette or Davidson) will be an easy team to conquer, but all three of these teams will give Butler an important reprieve from its biggest vulnerability — a tendency to turn it over. Bucknell and Marquette will also play at the kind of grinding pace at which the Bulldogs excel. And they’ll focus their offense on the areas of the floor where Butler’s defense is strongest — the paint. Butler also has the shooters — Rotnei Clark, Kellen Dunham — to bombard Marquette’s compact defense and the rebounders to exploit Marquette’s weakness on the glass. If anything, Bucknell may pose a bigger matchup problem, as they tend to chase teams off the three-point line and they don’t give up much on the offensive glass. The Bison will be a tough opponent, but when you look at Butler’s pod as a whole, a Sweet 16 run looks well within reach.

One and Done

These teams have at least a 50/50 (or better) chance of picking up a win, but are unlikely to get two.

  • Colorado State (#8, Midwest) — I would actually bump the Rams up to the tail end of the “Regional Threats” group if not for the uncertain status of starting point guard Dorian Green. The team’s unquestioned floor general, Green suffered an ankle injury in the first round of the MWC tournament, and though he played in a semifinal loss to UNLV, was ineffective. With a fully healthy Green, the Rams’ have a good chance of toppling Missouri. The two teams are somewhat similar in that they try to score in the paint on offense, while keeping opponents out of the paint of it on defense. Neither team is especially potent from the three-point line, and both rely a fair amount on offensive rebounding, though the Rams’ have the advantage here, especially as they are equally adept at controlling their defensive glass. That, along with Missouri’s tendency to be a bit loose with the ball, may be the difference-maker. And don’t sleep on Colorado State’s chances against Louisville in the next round. The Cardinals’ weak points are defensive rebounding and three-point shooting. The Rams are the best offensive rebounding team in the country, and as noted above, their defense forces teams to beat them from the three-point line. They also take pretty good care of the ball, which will serve them well against Louisville’s pressure defense. But this analysis could be all for naught if Green isn’t healthy enough to be effective.
  • Creighton (#7, Midwest) Doug McDermott is perhaps the most fundamentally sound player in college basketball. His All-American status owes itself to his incredibly precise offensive footwork, positioning, movement, shot, and cuts. He has inside-outside skills that present a very tough matchup if you’re not used to guarding him. And he’s surrounded by lots of great three-point shooters. Cincinnati’s defense has generally been strong, so they might be able to contain McDermott and the Bluejays’ three-point attack. But they’ll have to be especially effective because their offense has been truly miserable. I like the Bluejays’ chances here. A Third Round matchup with Duke would be a tougher proposition, as the Blue Devils combine a defense that shuts down the three-point line with an offense that is far more high-powered than Cincinnati’s. McDermott may well get his points, especially posting up inside, but that’s not likely to be sufficient.

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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by BHayes on March 18th, 2013

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) 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 (@RTCmidwestregion).

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

Midwest Region

Favorite: #1 Louisville (29-5, 17-4 Big East). It stands to reason that the top overall seed in the field is also the favorite to emerge from the Midwest Region. No team enters the NCAA Tournament hotter than Louisville, winners of 10 straight games and 13 of 14. Consider the Cards’ dominant second half of the Big East Tournament championship game a final warning for this field of 68 – there is no scarier team in this tournament.

"No Sleep Until Atlanta" For Siva, Pitino And The Rest Of The Louisville Cardinals, Your #1 Overall Seed

No Sleep Until Atlanta For Siva, Pitino And The Rest Of The Louisville Cardinals, Your #1 Overall Seed

Should They Falter: #2 Duke (27-5, 14-5 ACC). It’s been a quiet few days for the Blue Devils, as the weekend’s ACC discussion largely revolved around Miami. But there they lurk at the bottom of the Midwest Region, poised as ever for a March sprint. Let’s not forget that the Devils’ ACC Tournament loss to Maryland was the first time Duke had lost with a healthy Ryan Kelly, and the senior’s clean bill of health is a far greater blessing for the Blue Devils than a #1 seed ever could have been. Duke also owns a victory over Louisville from back in November, albeit one with an asterisk attached – Cardinal big man Gorgui Dieng missed the Battle 4 Atlantis title game. For now though, Coach K and company are happy to let Louisville absorb all the buzz as the region’s favorite, while the dangerous Blue Devils attempt to navigate a manageable road to Indianapolis.

Grossly Overseeded: #6 Memphis (30-4, 19-0 Conference USA). Bracket projections had the Tigers anywhere between a #6 and a #9 seed. Josh Pastner’s team maxed out its seed line by receiving the #6, but now comes the hard part – beating an NCAA Tournament team. Memphis did that just once in the regular season (a win over #14 seed Harvard), a rare gap in the resume for any team in the field, much less a team so highly seeded. Let’s put it this way — Middle Tennessee, the most controversial at-large selection in this field and a potential Third Round opponent of the Tigers, had two more victories over NCAA teams, and just one more loss than Memphis. That’s not to say that the Blue Raiders are a better team than Memphis (although perhaps we will get to find that out), but you get the point.   

Grossly Underseeded: #12 Oregon (26-8, 15-6 Pac-12). Likely the most underseeded team in the entire field. Sure, the Ducks slogged their way to the finish line of the regular season, but the return of Dominic Artis and an impressive three-game run to win the Pac-12 Tournament had most bracketologists predicting a spot in an #8/#9 game for Oregon. Committee chair Mike Bobinski admitted that the Ducks were actually on the #11 seed line and had to be moved down as a result of logistical issues elsewhere in the bracket, but either way, this team is better than their double-digit seed would indicate.

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