Bracket Prep: East Region Analysis

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 17th, 2014

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

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

East Region

Favorite: #1 Virginia (28-6, 16-2 ACC) – The Cavaliers earned the final No. 1 seed and there should be no griping about that. While much is made about Virginia’s unbalanced ACC schedule, you can’t brush off both the regular season and conference tournament crowns. Tony Bennett’s team has a great blend of talent and experience with seniors Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell leading an impressive group of sophomores. This team is one of the finest in the nation on the defensive end of the floor where it has earned its reputation for slow, physical basketball, but its offense doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Virginia ranks No. 25 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and was second behind only Duke in ACC games.

Joe Harris led his Cavaliers team to the ACC title and a No. 1 seed. (USA Today).

Joe Harris led his Cavaliers team to the ACC title and a No. 1 seed. (USA Today).

Should They Falter: #2 Villanova (28-4, 16-2 Big East) – The Wildcats blew their chance to grab the top seed in this region with a quarterfinal Big East loss to Seton Hall on Thursday. That said, Villanova remains a dangerous team. Jay Wright’s group has not received a lot of press because most people may not even know the players on this team. There are no stars or surefire NBA draft picks here, but this team plays with tremendous chemistry and is efficient on both sides of the ball. Are the Wildcats too reliant on the three-point shot? Probably, but the toughest competition for Villanova likely won’t arrive until the Sweet Sixteen at the earliest, where it may have to face Iowa State.

Grossly Overseeded: #13 Delaware (25-9, 14-2 Colonial) – Admittedly, this is a reach. There are no teams in this region I felt were overseeded, but I have to pick one, Delaware is it. The Blue Hens went just 8-7 outside of conference play and are a great example of the stark contrast between the RPI and better rating systems like KenPom. Delaware is No. 70 in the RPI, which no doubt helped them to a No. 13 seed, but its efficiency profile (No. 105 in KenPom) is much more similar to that of a #14 or #15 seed. The Blue Hens are a good team and were very competitive with Villanova and Notre Dame this season, among others, but a #14 seed may have been more appropriate. Again, this is a very minor quibble with an otherwise solid seeding job in this region by the committee.

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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: ACC Teams

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 16th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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The RTC Other 26 Superlatives

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 14th, 2014

From the quiet of November to the clamor of March, several O26 performers and performances stood out from the pack in the regular season. Let’s pass out some awards to the most deserving among them.

O26 Team of the Year

Wichita State's run to perfection was historic. (Peter Aiken)

Wichita State’s run to perfection was historic. (Peter Aiken/USA TODAY Sports)

Wichita State (31-0, 18-0). When the Shockers rolled through their non-conference schedule and entered league play 13-0, people began to talk. Could this team be better than the Final Four squad from a year ago? Then, as they hammered their Missouri Valley challengers game after game, week after week, month after month, an even more profound question began to emerge: Does this team have a legitimate chance to go undefeated? National media attention descended on Wichita, the pressure mounted (or was supposed to) and every time Gregg Marshall’s group took the floor, something historic – but still unlikely – was on the line. Yet it was only when they completed the impossible, finished 31-0 and promptly dominated Arch Madness that an even weightier thought took hold. Will Wichita State go down as one of the best teams of all-time? The mere asking of the question is indication alone that these Shockers are truly special. Only team to win 30-plus games in the regular season without suffering a loss. Most ever wins entering the NCAA Tournament. First team since UNLV in 1990-1991 to enter the Dance undefeated. Regardless of whether or not they wind up in North Texas in a few weeks, those records are enduring, this team’s legacy will be enduring.

Honorable Mentions: San Diego State (27-3, 17-2), Saint Louis (26-5, 13-3), Stephen F. Austin (29-2, 18-0), VCU (24-7, 12-4), Green Bay (24-5, 14-2)
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Previewing Friday’s Quarterfinals at the ACC Tournament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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The Unofficial RTC ACC Superlatives

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 11th, 2014

While the more official hardware is beginning to be handed out, like Player and Coach of the Year and the All-ACC team’s, it’s worth looking at some more under-the-radar superlatives that players and coaches have earned through the course of the regular season on the precipice of ACC Tournament time in Greensboro.

Here are five awards that RTC found to be equally as important as some of their more official brethren:

Most Selfless Upperclassman: Joe Harris, Virginia.

His scoring dipped more than four points a game from a year ago as he watched Malcolm Brogdon become the go-to scorer and clutch player on the team, plummeting from preseason ACC Player of the Year prognostications seemingly from the first game’s opening tip. Nonetheless, Harris’ willingness to play team ball and enlarge his leadership role helped Virginia to their first outright ACC Title in 33 years and a current two-seed projection in the NCAA’s. Harris is a senior, so it’s rare for a player to back off in his final season and allow team success to trump personal statistics. Harris is still a force, but now knows he can operate in the background to help his team’s season become even more special.

Joe Harris' selflessness helped Virginia win the ACC regular season (UVAsports)

Joe Harris’ selflessness helped Virginia win the ACC regular season (UVAsports)

Best Coaching Job Outside of Charlottesville: Roy Williams, North Carolina.

Tony Bennett absolutely deserved the COY award for his unbelievable reclamation job with Virginia, but no one dealt with more adversity this year than Williams. Between the PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald saga, the academics issues brought to light by a former adviser, and the up-and-down start to the year with no set rotation and inconsistent effort, Williams had a ton on his plate in trying to get this team into postseason play. The Tar Heels won 12 conference games in a row, including a split with rival Duke, and own possibly the best non-conference wins of any team in the country. It’s arguably Williams’ best coaching job in Chapel Hill to date. Read the rest of this entry »

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College Basketball by the Tweets: Tony Romo, #cheerfortheears, Deonte Burton, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on March 11th, 2014

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Mr. Buffett may lose points for looking like a fair weather fan, counting his money in Omaha and only coming out to play when the Bluejays are on the verge of making a deep NCAA Tournament run, but any billionaire willing to be photographed with stickers on his face is cool in my book.

Joel Embiid Out For Big 12 Tournament

Like Syracuse in 2012 (Fab Melo) and Cincinnati in 2000 (Kenyon Martin), Final Four contender Kansas has lost an important big man at the worst possible time. Joel Embiid, ruled out of the Big 12 Tournament with his NCAA Tournament status unknown because of a stress fracture in his back, has offered up a handful of angles as to what it all means for Kansas. To the hot sports takes!

#cheerfortheears Reaches Its Appropriate Climax

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ACC Weekend Preview #10

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 7th, 2014

It’s the final weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of March 5, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features some important matchups that will determine seeding in next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Saturday - North Carolina (23-7, 13-4 ACC) @ Duke (23-7, 12-5 ACC) – ESPN (9:00 PM)

Marcus Paige Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina's Winning Streak. (Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Marcus Paige’s Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina’s Winning Streak.
(Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#8) Duke 80-72 (#23) North Carolina

nc-duke

While neither of these teams have played their best basketball lately, North Carolina has managed to keep winning (12 straight) while Duke took a bad loss on Wednesday at Wake Forest. In that one Duke collapsed down the stretch, much like they did in earlier ACC road losses at Clemson and North Carolina. On the other hand, the Tar Heels have made enough plays to win three straight close games against teams with losing conference records. North Carolina’s improved offense has dipped lately, having its two worst offensive efficiency games during the winning streak in the last two contests. But the Tar Heel defense has remained solid, holding four of their last five opponents under 1.00 points per possession. Duke is mired in a team wide shooting slump which continued with a miserable 6-of-27 effort from three on Wednesday night. And unlike many Blue Devil teams of the past, the defense is not elite enough to overcome such shooting woes. Duke has been unbeaten at home since losing at the end of the 2012 season to North Carolina. If they want to stay unbeaten at home this year, the Blue Devils probably need to have a comfortable lead late. If it comes down to team toughness and resiliency, the Tar Heels may have the edge.

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RTC Top 25: Week Sixteen

Posted by Walker Carey on March 3rd, 2014

With just one full week left in the regular season, things started to get very interested this past weekend. A total of 10 previously-ranked teams suffered setbacks on either Saturday or Sunday. The most noteworthy results of the week involved previously 19th-ranked Kentucky. John Calipari’s enigmatic squad, which was ranked first in the preseason edition of the RTC25, is now unranked after falling at home to Arkansas on Thursday and getting stunned at 11-18 South Carolina on Saturday. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 conference races were all decided on Saturday. #1 Florida grabbed the outright SEC crown by remaining unbeaten in conference play with a comfortable 18-point win over LSU in Gainesville. #4 Virginia clinched the ACC regular season title outright, as it moved to 16-1 in conference play with a dominating 19-point victory over #7 Syracuse. #6 Kansas wrapped up the regular season Big 12 title by besting #21 Oklahoma in Lawrence on Monday and taking advantage of losses by the conference’s second-place teams, #15 Iowa State and Texas, on Saturday. The outright regular season Pac-12 champion was determined on Sunday by virtue of #2 Arizona handily defeating Stanford in Tucson. With several major-conference crowns yet to be determined, the final week of the regular season promises to bring the intrigue that college basketball has become to be known for every season. The quick n’ dirty analysis of this week’s poll is after the jump.

rtc25 03.03.14

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis:

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

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

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

Tom Izzo… Pony… Ride It

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

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

Baylor Bears Get Baptized

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

Scottie Wilbekin Celebrates Like A Soccer Player

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ACC Weekend Preview #9

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 28th, 2014

It’s the next to last weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 26, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features a battle for first place, with the winner likely headed to the ACC Tournament in Greensboro as the top seed.

Saturday - Syracuse (26-2, 13-2 ACC) @ Virginia (24-5, 15-1 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title. (Photo: VirginiaSports.com)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title.
(VirginiaSports.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#4) Virginia 58-53 (#10) Syracuse

Syr-Va

This match-up will probably decide the ACC regular season title. Virginia could be the least publicized 15-1 major conference team ever. With Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina getting most of the national attention, the Cavaliers have methodically taken care of business and rolled through conference play. They also seem to be on the upswing, winning their last two games by over 20 points after three straight single-digit victories. Malcolm Brogdon continues to be a model of consistency. It’s almost unreal to look at his game-by-game scoring totals. Not only has he scored in double figures in every ACC game, but he has scored in the 12- to 17-point range in 14 of the 16 games. And in the other two contests, he had 11 once and — you guessed it — 18 in the other. The good news for Syracuse is that Jerami Grant is expected to play in the game. The sophomore missed the entire second half of Monday’s contest at Maryland with a lower back issue. In that game, the Orange won another nail-biter, bringing their record in close games (decided by five points or less) to a rather fortunate 6-1. For Syracuse to get Virginia in a close one, it better shoot much better than the team has lately. In the last four games, the Orange have averaged an extremely low effective field goal percentage (39.0). That doesn’t match up well with Virginia’s league-best defense.

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Challenging the Narrative: Marcus Paige Has “Unpredictable” North Carolina Rolling

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 28th, 2014

College basketball media coverage is predictable. Early in the season, teams become associated with certain narratives. As teams evolve over the course of the season, the narratives may seem less and less apt, but we do our best to hang on to them as long as possible. Some teams don’t change enough to warrant a reconsideration of the way they’re written and talked about. Others change so much, and so quickly, that by February we can’t possibly attempt to re-apply the labels we slapped on them in November and December. Let’s run through some examples.

Since falling to 1-4 in the ACC, North Carolina has rolled off 10 straight wins (Getty Images).

Since falling to 1-4 in the ACC, North Carolina has rolled off 10 straight wins. (Getty Images)

  • Iowa: “KenPom likes ‘em, but they can’t win the close games.”
  • Michigan State: ‘Boy, if this team ever gets healthy, it’s winning it all. Mark it down.”
  • Kentucky: “So much talent, but not enough leadership.”
  • Louisville: “Pitino’s guys can really play, but without Chane Behanan, that frontcourt is going to be an issue come March.”
  • And, my personal favorite, North Carolina: “I have no idea what to expect from this team on a nightly basis.”

The origin of the unpredictability the Heels have become known for this season is easy to pinpoint. Over its first nine games of the season, Carolina beat then-No. 1 Michigan State, then-No. 11 Kentucky, and then-No. 3 Louisville. It also lost at home to Belmont (ranked #73 in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency ratings at the time) and on the road against UAB (#66). This mix of great wins and baffling losses didn’t sit well with us narrative architects. How does one go about describing a team that’s so unpredictable? It was maddening. That’s how Carolina earned its reputation as the most unpredictable team in the country. Trust Carolina at your own peril, was the thought. The only thing we thought we knew about the Heels was how much we didn’t know. Which is to say, a lot.

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