ATB: Sweet Sixteen Set – #1 Seeds Roll, Cinderellas Emerge, and It’s Good to be From Ohio

Posted by EJacoby on March 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. After one of the craziest nights in recent Big Dance history on Friday, perhaps we all needed a bit of a break from the chaos this weekend. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen. Most of the higher seeds advanced in the round of 32, but the Midwest Region led the way with some crazy results. Almost every season, we see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet Sixteen; this year, we have three, and it easily could have been five. Of the 16 teams remaining, four come from the Big East, four are of the Big Ten, and four represent the state of Ohio, including both of the guilty parties from the Crosstown Shootout Brawl back in December. It’s the first time ever that one single state sends four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s go over the great moments from the weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. #13 Ohio University is This Year’s Cinderella Story

D.J. Cooper Hasn't Allowed #13 Ohio to Lose (AP Photo/B. Rucker)

What would the NCAA Tournament be without a mid-major, double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen? This year it’s Ohio, the #13 seed of the Midwest Region that had a fairly favorable draw in terms of matchups but still had to defeat two power conference teams on the way. A victory over #12 seed South Florida on Sunday sent the Bobcats to the second weekend of the Big Dance, pretty amazing considering they finished third in the MAC conference this season. But Ohio is no joke, as D.J. Cooper continues to prove himself as one of the best lead guards in the entire tourney. Cooper outplayed USF’s Anthony Collins in the round of 32 and tallied 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists with several big shots late in the game to help his team advance. The other recognizable name from this squad is Nick Kellogg, the sophomore guard who is the son of CBS analyst and former collegiate star Clark Kellogg. Clark’s son is a terrific shooter at 41.8% from three and 89.2% from the foul line, giving the Bobcats a nice one-two punch from the perimeter. Interestingly enough, Ohio now draws #1 North Carolina in the Regional Semifinal in what most would expect to be a blowout, but the Tar Heels just lost their indispensible point guard to a wrist injury, which will make things interesting next weekend. Could Ohio’s perimeter attack lead to a truly incredible Cinderella story with a win over UNC? Stay tuned.

Also Worth Chatting About. Kendall Marshall Suffers Broken Wrist for #1 Seed North Carolina

The single biggest storyline from the past weekend was not anything that happened in the box score or even in between the lines on the court. But when North Carolina’s star point guard and the nation’s leader in assists, Kendall Marshall, got fouled and pushed on a layup and landed on his right wrist in the out-of-bounds baseline, the entire dynamic of this NCAA Tournament changed. Marshall suffered a fractured wrist on this play with 10:55 remaining in the second half of Carolina’s game against #8 seed Creighton. Marshall continued to play in this game for a few minutes and wasn’t immediately in so much pain that he had to leave. It’s also an injury to his non-shooting hand, so it could have been worse. In addition, the sophomore is set for surgery on Monday which will leave him in a position to play shortly thereafter if he is able to tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, it’s a huge long shot to think that Marshall will be back and effective going forward. The injury he suffered usually requires three-plus weeks of a cast and rest, and even bracing the hand and tolerating pain to play will make for a huge liability on the floor. Already a weak defender, Marshall would be even less effective on that end and he would surely be forced to his right hand on offense by opposing teams. There’s just as strong of a chance that he’d be a detriment to UNC by being on the court than he would be a benefit, depending on the true impact of the injury. As things stand, Carolina needs to start preparing for a Championship run without its point guard, leaving that position to be filled by either unused backup Stilman White (4.2 minutes per game) or by a player like P.J. Hairston or Harrison Barnes in some sort of point-forward role. One of the most irreplaceable players in the country, Marshall’s injury leaves a giant question mark surrounding the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

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Rushed Reaction: #7 Florida 84, #15 Norfolk State 50

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Three-point shooting was the killing blow. The biggest difference between Friday and today was the three-point shooting by Florida. Against Virginia the Gators were completely cold behind the arc, only hitting one three before halftime. Against Norfolk State, the Gators hit seven before the half that effectively led to their 28-point lead. For the game the Gators shot 10-of-28 from three, a far cry from the four they made on Friday. Florida set a school record with made three-pointers this season and they will need those to go down as they progress through the tourney.
  2. Ball movement. Florida has done a great job in Omaha with its ball movement. Despite Norfolk State playing zone for a large part of the game, Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and the rest of the Gators were moving around and looking for the open man when the Spartans would shut off drives to the basket.  They were obviously quicker than Norfolk State, but they will have to keep up their intensity for the whole game. After getting out to a large lead on the Spartans, their intensity fell off quite a bit in the second half. But the Gators only turned the ball over eight times for the game. Constant ball movement is a big part of the Billy Donovan offense.
  3. Balance will win games. Florida doesn’t have a dominant player like Thomas Robinson or Anthony Davis, but their team is really balanced. Walker (15), Boynton (20), Bradley Beal (14), Mike Rosario (10), and Erik Murphy (10) all scored in double figures for the Gators. Patric Young didn’t even score his first field goal until early in the second half, as he finished with only six points.  It will take a combination of players having a good game for Florida to continue to advance.

Star of the Game. Kenny Boynton, Florida. Although the Gators were balanced, it was Boynton who got things going for Florida with his 20 points and seven rebounds.  His physical play got Norfolk State out of sync and they could not recover. 

Quotable. “I’m extremely proud of my team, we did things that have never happened before at our university.” – Anthony Evans, Norfolk State head coach

Sights & Sounds. The Norfolk State band again was in full force, this time on the total opposite end of court than Friday. However, they were still very powerful and the fans in the stands enjoyed their enthusiasm.  Even the Purdue band that was right next to me waiting for the next game, all they could say was “wow.”

Wildcard. A #15 seed has never advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Still, Norfolk State won the hearts of fans in Omaha during this trip as there were pockets of fans wearing their green St. Patrick’s Day shirts to show their support for the Spartans.  The Gators have now advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time in school history, six of which have occurred under head coach Billy Donovan.

What’s Next? The Gators now head to Phoenix to take on Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen, where the Golden Eagles will try to slow down this quick Florida offense. The Florida guards look like they might be a little quicker than those from Marquette, but the Golden Eagles have a bit more inside. It should be a great game Thursday night.

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Four Thoughts from Omaha…

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 18th, 2012

In 2008, Omaha hosted NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games.  To be honest, none of those games that year were very significant.  All the teams that were supposed to win did, and they did so in large margins.  The great thing about the games this week four years later, it was the total opposite.  Each game played a significant part of the day — although some more than others.  Here are some thoughts from all four of Friday’s’ games.

  1. Norfolk State wins the folks of Omaha. Norfolk State got its first taste of the NCAA Tournament on Friday against Missouri.  What they didn’t know was that they were supposed to lay down for the Tigers to let Missouri get to the next round. You could tell right away just by the spirit squad and pep band came into the arena.  One thing about schools from the MEAC and the SWAC is that they have awesome bands. The advantage I had was that I was pretty much right next to them the whole game.  They were a vocal bunch as well.  That energy was also seen then from the players on the court. Kyle O’Quinn nailed a three-pointer midway through the first half from the top of the key. On his way back on defense he had this huge smile on his face. He knew that there was something special happening. The thing about Omaha is that the people there love big events.  The College World Series in baseball has been a mainstay for over 50 years and will be here for at least another 20. Big name concerts come to town and they fill the CenturyLink. The United States Swimming trials four years ago made such an impression that they will be back in Omaha again this summer, which is unprecedented. The Omaha community has also embraced the NCAA Tournament by selling out all sessions in the two most recent years it has come to town. Omaha fans took Norfolk State under their wing and helped create some history by facilitating something that had happened only four times in 109 tries before heading into the day. After Friday that win number went to six. Norfolk State had to wonder where they would stay since their hotel was booked for the rest of the weekend, but I guess that was a good problem to have.  What I am interested to see on Sunday is whether the Omaha crowd again embraces the Spartans in their game against Florida. If they do, it could be a very interesting environment.

    Kyle O'Quinn Became America's Favorite Player Overnight (AP/L. Hey)

  2. Kansas stomps its foe. After seeing Missouri lose earlier in the day and Duke losing to Lehigh soon after that, there was a buzz in the arena on whether the #2 seeds in the tournament were jinxed on Friday.  In the first 10 minutes of the Jayhawks’ game against Detroit, it looked like it could be another upset brewing.  But then after a timeout by head coach Bill Self with just under nine minutes left, Kansas got things going and went on a 34-7 scoring run over the next 16 minutes.  After that it was game over for the Titans, who really struggled to make any baskets much less getting any good looks in that stretch. While Duke and North Carolina get to play in their back yard most years, Kansas is beginning to like Omaha with its two trips here over the past four years. Other than Kansas City, Omaha is pretty close to being in their own backyard. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reaction: #3 Marquette 62, #6 Murray State 53

Posted by jstevrtc on March 17th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Catch your breath. We haven’t seen any tempo stats on this game yet, but who needs ‘em? This game was played at a Formula One pace despite not producing much in the way of scoring, but what fun it was. Mid-major local club with a packed partisan arena (even bigger than its home gym) going against a Big East trendy pick — and deservedly so — of a team that also boasts their conference MVP? Excellent storyline for an Elite Eight game, let alone a Round-0f-32 affair. Players sacraficing their bodies at every opportunity. Great passing. Superb hustle. Quicksilver pace. A pleasure to attend.
  2. Marquette slammed the door, hard. Murray State led by four in the middle of the second half when Buzz Williams stacked one of his time-outs with a media break. It’s obvious the salient message during those talks was to step up the defense. From that point, Marquette went into (to borrow from Wedding Crashers) crisis-lockdown-mode, especially on Isaiah Canaan. They didn’t give him room to get his long-range jumper off, and every foray into the lane was challenged by at least one Marquette defender, often more.
  3. Crowder impresses again. The senior stepped up with 17/13 in an arena whose crowd was as biased against him and his team as much as any arena probably has been this year, and most of those points and boards required every single muscle in his powerful frame. This game had speed, but it was also incredibly physical. In the end, Crowder and his teammates seemed more conditioned for such an affair.

Star of the Game. Crowder, as noted, was tremendous, completely and further legitimizing the “MVP!” chant that broke out from the Marquette section late in the going. But let’s also give some props to Murray State’s Ed Daniel, who averaged 5.3 rebounds a game this year…and pulled down 14 tonight in an absolute battlefield. He’s a junior. Bet he wins the OVC rebounding crown next year with this kind of effort on a consistent basis.

Sights & Sounds. This is why Buzz Williams should be particularly proud of his boys. The sights and sounds were dominated by Kentucky fans rooting for the in-state school against the big-conference squad. To win, and specifically to maintain mental stability in this environment, might be normal for a Big East team on the road, but was pretty much a true road game in the NCAA Tournament, not a Monday night Big East game.

What’s Next? Marquette awaits the winner of Florida (who won’t mind even more pace, and shoot threes a little better — sometimes — than Murray State) versus the non-Lehigh darlings of the tournament, Norfolk State.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.17.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 17th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

West Region

  • It didn’t take long for a darling to emerge in this season’s tournament. It’s been a whirlwind day for Norfolk State forward Kyle O’Quinn since the Spartans knocked off Missouri. In about an hour after Friday’s epic upset went final, O’Quinn’s Twitter account more than doubled in followers.
  • In Florida‘s opening win over Virginia, it wasn’t one of the Gators touted guards who made the biggest impact, nor was it heralded big man Patric Young. Casey Prathercame to play Friday, coming off the bench to score 14 points on a perfect 6-6 day from the field.
  • Marquette will look to take down Murray State with a fast but physical style. The New York TimesRay Glier gives interesting insight into the Golden Eagles’ calling card.
  • Card Chronicle breaks downLouisville‘s game with New Mexico. Rick Pitino‘s team is 4-1 when facing a 5-seed, which appears to bode well for the Cardinals’ chances to crack the Sweet 16 today.
  • The last team standing from Missouri isn’t the Tigers, but the Saint Louis University Billikens. Rick Majerus‘ experience, tough defense and high basketball IQ have been the stand-by’s this season.

South Region

East Region

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ATB: Absolute MADNESS – Chaos Ensues As Round of 64 Concludes…

Posted by EJacoby on March 17th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede – Thursday was a fairly slow first day of NCAA Tournament action, producing just two total upsets and leaving much to be desired in terms of thrilling finishes. Friday was a completely different story – two #15 seeds won on the same day for the first time ever, with the results coming just a couple of hours apart. We also saw a #13, #12, #11, and two #10 seeds come out victorious in one of the craziest days in Big Dance history. Half of the games on the schedule resulted in upsets, including seven of the final nine contests on this freaky Friday night. Without further ado, we provide everything you need to know in this installment of After The Buzzer…

Your Watercooler Moment. #15 Norfolk State Stuns #2 Missouri.

It was supposed to be the late afternoon game to fill the only quiet block of the evening. #15-seed Norfolk State against #2 Missouri, the exciting up-tempo team that produced the most efficient offense in the country this season with its four-guard attack. Mizzou was a very popular Final Four pick, considered the team with the greatest upside in the West Region. But then things got interesting; pesky Norfolk State was hanging around and had the game tied at halftime. Every time you looked up at the scoreboard in the second half, Norfolk was ahead or behind by a couple of points and that’s when it was time to tell all your friends that we might have a serious bracket-buster taking place. Sure enough, it happened. The Spartans of the MEAC conference became the first #15-seed to win an NCAA Tournament game in 11 years since a fellow MEAC school did it in the form of Hampton University over Iowa State in 2001. This year, it was dominant big man Kyle O’Quinn who paced the way with a monster double-double for a team that shot 54.2% from the field and went 10-19 from three. Missouri played fine offensively, shooting 52.7% itself, but the Tigers allowed the tournament’s least-efficient offense to hit shots from everywhere on the floor as well as out-hustle them to loose balls and open rebounds. Little did we know, the madness was only beginning on this night.

Also Worth Chatting About. Hours Later, #15 Lehigh Makes History

Most brackets were busted from Missouri’s loss alone, but those who happened to have the Tigers falling early in their pools surely didn’t survive the rest of the night, either. The 7:00 PM ET block of games blew the roof off of this tournament, beginning with the little guys from the Patriot League. #15 Lehigh had a terrific year led by mid-major star guard C.J. McCollum, but nobody thought this team had a chance against Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils, the most successful NCAA Tournament team of the past 20 years. #2-seed Duke, though, was vulnerable because of an injury to starting forward Ryan Kelly and an overall trend of weak recent play thanks to a porous defense. The Mountain Hawks took advantage early and often, leading this game early in the first half and continuing to put the pressure on Duke’s ‘D’. McCollum was the star of the show, Duke wasn’t hitting from the perimeter, and Lehigh really had a chance to win this game. Late in the second half it was anyone’s game, but McCollum made big play after big play while no Duke guard could counter. Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, and Andre Dawkins combined to shoot 4-19 from three. Gabe Knutson matched Mason Plumlee inside going for 17 points on 5-5 shooting. And when the buzzer sounded, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks were winners in a thorough victory that made history. For the first time ever, two #15 seeds won in the same year of the NCAA Tournament. And it all happened on the same evening, just two-and-a-half hours apart.

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Rushed Reaction: #15 Norfolk St 86, #2 Missouri 84

Posted by Patrick Marshall on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. A fight and not a show. Missouri might have come into the game as the favorite today, but Norfolk State was not going to stand by lightly, putting up a fight and taking it to the Tigers early.  Missouri players looked frustrated throughout the game in trying to stop the Spartans, but the shots kept going in. Kim English was held to only two points on 1-7 shooting and 0-5 from three, 12 off of his season average.  At one point in the game, you could see Missouri guard Michael Dixon showing his frustration at the free throw line telling his team to, “c’mon guys.”
  2. Three point shooting vital. The Spartans and Tigers both had better shooting from the three-point line than the previous game with Florida and Virginia.  The two teams combined to shoot 23-of-58 from behind the arc.  Marcus Denmon and Dixon from Missouri were the big keys in the Tigers going 8-16.  But it was Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin that combined for 8-of-12 for Norfolk State that kept them in the game throughout.
  3. Three headed monster. Norfolk State had balanced scoring  with four players in double figures. MEAC offensive and defensive Player of the Year Kyle O’Quinn led the way with 26 points and 14 rebounds while Williams and McEachin each had 20 points.  Each player stepped up at different times during the game. The Spartans had 16 second chance points.   They will need this heading into their next round against Florida.

Star of the Game. Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State. O’Quinn knew things could be in the cards for the Spartans early in the first half when he hit a three-pointer from the top of the key.  After that play he smiled, running down the court and gave quite a fist pump to let the crowd know he was having fun.

Quotable–“I never thought it would be an upset alert until that buzzer went off.” Norfolk State Center, Kyle O’Quinn.

Wildcard. If you know anything about Omaha, they embrace big events that come to the city. The NCAA Tournament is one of those big events.  As the game went on, Omaha residents that bought tickets to this event embraced Norfolk State and started adding to the overall environment. Then if you add in the Kansas fans who had all-session tickets getting ready for the Jayhawks to take the court later in the evening, it created for an electric afternoon.

Wildcard x2. With Norfolk State getting the win, the #15 seeds are now 5-105 in NCAA Tournament history.  Out of those five wins, three of those came from the MEAC conference.

What’s Next? Norfolk State will now face Florida for the chance to go to the Sweet Sixteen in Phoenix on Sunday.  Can the Spartans bring the magic back to the CenturyLink for one more game?

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Water Cooler Talk: How Will the Big 12 Fare in the NCAAs?

Posted by dnspewak on March 15th, 2012

With the Madness kicking off Thursday, every workplace and classroom in America will buzz with NCAA Tournament talk, regardless of whether your co-workers or classmates have watched even a single game of college basketball this season. RTC Big 12 writers Clark Williams and Danny Spewak have watched a lot of basketball — too much, in fact — and they’ve got a take on how this edition of March Madness should go down in the Big 12.

Danny: Can’t wait to get started here. Let’s get right into it — Clark, who’s the ripest for an upset of the top three in the Big 12? Missouri, Kansas or Baylor?

Both Of Us Think Scott Drew's Baylor Squad Is the Most Vulnerable of the Big Three

Clark: When you think of the First Round of the tournament, you immediately think of upsets. They are what make the Tournament immediately great (assuming it was not your team that was just upset). Baylor, Missouri, and Kansas are all seeded highly enough to where a loss Thursday or Friday would be considered a colossal upset. Of the three, though, I’d say Baylor is most at risk for an early exit. While Missouri is going to play against a fired-up Norfolk State, and Kansas against former McDonald’s All-American Ray McCallum,  I think both teams will get past those teams unscathed. Baylor, however, has to play a sharpshooting squad from South Dakota State, and if Bad Baylor shows up, they could be heading home to Waco much earlier than anticipated.

Danny: Yeah, Baylor is probably most vulnerable because it has played a little inconsistently at times during Big 12 play. It’s not as though the Bears have a ton of bad losses, though, and Perry Jones played like a man in the Big 12 Tournament. I don’t think Missouri’s got much to worry about with Norfolk State, and I only think Kansas has to worry because it is playing such a solid opponent. I’m not worried about Kansas necessarily, just that it’s facing a team with high-major talent Friday. This Detroit team was tabbed by many to win the Horizon League, and we’ve all heard the story of coach’s son Ray McCallum and the future pro Eli Holman at center. The Jayhawks will probably win by 20, but you never know if the bad memories of Bucknell/Bradley/Northern Iowa/VCU will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if the game gets close.

Clark: OK, Danny, how about Texas? Your thoughts on the Longhorns?

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.13.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

South

  • One thing the Big 12 is missing in the NCAA Tournament is a #1 seed. Coming into the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas and Missouri had their chances, but the Jayhawks dropped their semifinal to Baylor and despite winning the regular season crown, the selection committee frowned on the Tigers’ non-conference schedule in dropping them to a #2 seed.
  • Kentucky head coach John Calipari was irked by the omission of Drexel from the field of 68. While the Dragons certainly had an argument for inclusion, we’ll also point out that Calipari’s comments also serve as a defense of his former assistant, Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint.
  • Indiana sophomore swingman Victor Oladipo has done a little bit of everything for the resurgent Hoosiers. He’s a key cog in the Hoosier offense, averaging 10.9 points per game and helps out on the glass with 5.5 rebouns per contest.
  • Notre Dame turned what was supposed to be a rebuilding year into an NCAA Tournament bid. The silver lining to losing Tim Abromaitis early in the season is that it gave the Irish plenty of time to adapt.
  • Wichita State has exceeded all expectations this season. Would you be surprised to see the Shockers advance further than either of their high-major in-state brethren, Kansas or Kansas State?
  • Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg and Connecticut assistant Kevin Ollie were once teammates with the Chicago Bulls. Now, their teams will meet in the Second Round.
  • Notre Dame’s strong defense could pose a problem for XavierThe Irish have made life miserable for a number of opponents this season (just ask Syracuse), and without a star player on offense, they’ll have to rely on their disciplined defense.

West

  • Louisville head coach Rick Pitino looks to avoid an exit at the hands of a mid-major team for the second straight season when his Cardinals take on Davidson. The Wildcats enjoy an uptempo pace, which could play right into Louisville’s hands, but it could be curtains if the Cards’ offense continues to sputter.
  • A close bond ties Long Beach State seniors Larry Anderson, T.J. Robinson and Casper Ware together, as do their struggles with ailing relatives. The 49ers are a popular Cinderella pick due to their experience and a non-conference schedule that saw them travel to some of the game’s most intense venues.
  • After sweating out Selection Sunday, Colorado State breathed a sigh of relief but now must get to work as it prepares to face Murray State in Louisville. Donte Poole, once a CSU signee, is one of the Racers’ top contributors this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region here.

West Region

Favorite: Michigan State, #1, 27-7. This is the fourth time in the Tom Izzo era that Michigan State has earned a #1 seed. The previous three times (1999, 2000, and 2001), they advanced at least to the Final Four, winning the national title in 2000. Led by likely All-American senior forward Draymond Green, this is, almost without question, the best Spartan team since those teams at the turn of the century. They do have to go forward without injured freshman Branden Dawson, out for the year with a torn ACL, but senior Brandon Wood stepped into his starting spot and he shot the ball well in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. You can say that there are more talented teams in this region (Missouri and Marquette come to mind), but beating Izzo in March is always easier said than done.

Draymond Green And Michigan State Are The Team To Beat In The West Region (AP)

Should They Falter: Missouri, #2, 30-4. While the Spartans are the favorite, the Tigers are a solid 1-A. The Selection Committee had Mizzou as the #8 overall seed, but they have been excellent all season long behind the most efficient offense in the nation. The Tigers are undersized (only two players taller than 6’6” are in the rotation) and lack depth (they only play seven guys), but head coach Frank Haith gets every last drop out of the guys who do play. And with guards like Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, and Michael Dixon, they have enough talent on the perimeter to cause plenty of trouble.

Grossly Overseeded: BYU, #14 (First Four), 26-8. I don’t have a whole lot of problems with any of the seeding this year; I think the Selection Committee by and large did a pretty good job. But I’m not sure why BYU is in the tournament. Their lone quality win of the season is over Gonzaga, a team who doesn’t have much in the way of quality wins itself. I would rather have seen a team like Drexel or Oral Roberts (teams admittedly without a ton of big wins either) get the Cougars’ spot. The Dragons and Golden Eagles both had better records against top 50 RPI teams, and both excelled in their conference regular season. I will even take Iona, their First Four opponent, over the Cougs despite a complete lack of quality wins on the Gaels’ resume. The committee gave Iona credit for scheduling a tough non-conference slate, and their strength of schedule out of conference even exceeds BYU’s.

Grossly Underseeded: Missouri, #2, 30-4. I’m having trouble working up a whole lot of outrage about anything in the bracket, but Missouri should not have dropped to the #8 overall seed. To me, they were right in the conversation with Kansas for the #5 overall seed (and I might have given Missouri the edge, although the committee docked them for a relatively tame non-conference schedule). The only difference for the Tigers in terms of their placement in the bracket is that had they earned the #5 overall seed, they would have been dropped in the St. Louis regional instead of being shipped West. But the good news is that they still are in the bracket with the lowest #1 seed. It all works out.

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Bracket Prep: Missouri, Colorado, Memphis, Vermont, Norfork State & Lamar

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2012

As we move through Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket. In this post, we have your America East, Conference USA, MEAC, Southland, Big 12 and Pac-12 conference champions. Here’s what you need to know about these recent bid winners.

Missouri

  • Big 12 Conference Champion (30-4, 17-4)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #11/#8/#7
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +16.0
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #1-#2

The Big 12 Champions Will Be a Very Tough Out

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. It goes without saying that a 30-win season where Missouri won the Big 12 Tournament is already one of the best years in program history. Whether the Tigers end up as a #1 or #2 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament, the elephant in the room is that despite 24 NCAA appearances and five trips to the Elite Eight (as recently as 2009), Mizzou has never experienced the grandest stage of a Final Four. Whether this is the year that the program finally breaks through depends on a number of factors, but there’s no question that Frank Haith‘s group has tremendous ability, experience and team chemistry. It will take an exceptional opponent to knock this team out of the Dance.
  2. Missouri’s biggest strength is that it owns the most efficient offense in college basketball, scoring over three more points per 100 possessions than the second best team (Kentucky). In playing a solid non-conference and Big 12 schedule, the only team that proved capable of slowing down the Mizzou attack was Kansas State, who beat the Tigers twice by beating them up on every cut, drive and rebound attempt. The Wildcats held the seasoned group of Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, and Michael Dixon to 11-36 from the field in the first game, and 19-47 in the second game for a total shooting display of 36.1% (they group shoots 47.4% on the season). If Missouri is to be upset in the NCAAs, it will be by a team who plays a similarly bruising, defensive style — trying to run with this oft-spectacular offensive squad will not work.
  3. The Tigers’ weakness is its pedestrian defense (ranked #77 in efficiency), but their offense is so explosive that it rarely faces a situation where it has to make a stop to win the game. You might think that its lack of interior size other than Ricardo Ratliffe is another issue, but that’s not been much of a problem for them this season. Ratliffe only fouled out once all year (against Baylor’s huge front line Saturday, incidentally), and with the exception of those two K-State games, the Tigers’ experience and savvy usually allows them to dictate the style and pace of the game. In order to knock this team out, it’s going to take a tremendous defensive effort that can keep up with all of these talented guards. There are only a handful of teams in the country capable of doing that. As a result, this might finally be the year where Missouri faithful experience the wonders of the Final Four.

Colorado

  • Pac-12 Conference Champion (23-11, 15-7)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #70/#81/#83
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #13-#14

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Big 12 Morning Five: 11.25.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 25th, 2011

  1. Less than 48 hours after Kansas and Duke played the game of the season to this point in college basketball, the folks at Rock Chalk Talk have provided a statistical breakdown of the game. Once you sort through all the numbers, one stat in particular jumps out: turnovers. When you consider that Tyshawn Taylor turned the ball over 11 times himself, it becomes even more remarkable that the Jayhawks took the Blue Devils to the wire. If Taylor fixes his issues, Kansas will have no problem competing for an eighth-straight Big 12 title.
  2. For all the talk about the death of rivalries like Kansas/Missouri and Texas/Texas A&M, it is easy to forget that West Virginia, the Big 12′s newest member, will actually end rivalries of its own by moving from the Big East. With WVU set to take on Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl, the Mountaineers face the same issues as the aforementioned teams. The two schools have been playing for more than a century, but the football game between them appears in jeopardy. The same scenario may play out in basketball, where the rivalry is just as heated. Just as we have clamored for Kansas  and Missouri to work out their problems and continue the Border War, consider this a plea for West Virginia to do the same. Rivalries are just good for college sports in general.
  3. In other news involving a future member of the Big 12… TCU‘s Craig Williams has just one more shot to get it right. The Virgin Islands Daily News sat down with the senior, a native of the territory, to discuss his time with the Horned Frogs. After transferring from Temple, Williams will now attempt to help coach Jim Christian turn the program around before it moves from the Mountain West to the Big 12. He may never appear in this conference, but he has a chance to start something special at TCU. The Horned Frogs, by the way, are 3-2 right now, having lost by double-digits to Norfolk State and Mississippi in the Paradise Jam.
  4. With both national polls set to release on Monday, it will be interesting to keep an eye on where Missouri finds itself. The Tigers were considered a fringe top-25 team before the season, but after beating Notre Dame and California by a combined 58 points in the CBE Classic, they could be looking at a top-10 ranking. The scary thing is that Missouri will not have to face a tough opponent until December 6  when it faces Villanova, so it should continue its winning ways until then at the very least. How high could these Tigers rise?
  5. And as Missouri jumps in the rankings, so does the popularity of coach Frank Haith. Considered a poor hire by almost everybody back in the spring, Haith did not make any new friends this summer when Nevin Shapiro accused him of acknowledging an illegal payment to a recruit at Miami. After the CBE Classic, however, Haith has probably made friends in every city in Missouri. He’s a rock star now. Funny how winning fixes a lot of things.
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