The Best Of 2013 In College Basketball

Posted by Bennet Hayes on December 31st, 2013

With 2013 winding to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was in college basketball. There were too many memorable moments to recount ‘em all, but here’s our honor roll for the last calendar year — a list laced with games, plays, and performances that will long struggle to escape our memory banks.

Best Game: Michigan vs. Kansas, NCAA Tournament, Sweet Sixteen

Trey Burke's Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013's Prevailing Memories

Trey Burke’s Last-Gasp Sweet-16 Heroics Will Surely Be One Of 2013’s Prevailing Memories

Gonzaga-Butler may have given us the best final seconds of regulation (see below), and Louisville-Notre Dame definitely donated the most riveting 25 minutes of action after regulation, but when talking games of the year, Michigan vs. Kansas was simply unmatched when it came to elevated stakes and elite talent. We won’t soon forget Trey Burke’s comeback-capping, game-tying three to force overtime, but it would be a shame if that’s all that lived on from this classic. Sweet Sixteen match-ups between national title contenders don’t come around every March; would you have bet against Kansas to get to Championship Monday if Burke’s three hadn’t found the bottom of the net on that Friday night?

Honorable Mention: Gonzaga at Butler, Louisville at Notre Dame.

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Introducing the RTC Big East Preseason Power Rankings

Posted by Dan Lyons (@Dan_Lyons76) on November 8th, 2013

College basketball is back! Seven Big East teams open their seasons tonight, including a few big match-ups like St. John’s vs. Wisconsin and Georgetown vs. Oregon. There is no better time to unveil the Big East microsite’s preseason rankings, with comments and analysis from our group of Big East writers:

Marquette Needs to Go Inside Against Davidson

Marquette tops Rush the Court’s preseason Big East rankings.

10. DePaul

  • Dan Lyons – With Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young heading into their senior years, this might be DePaul’s best chance to get out of the Big East basement, but I’m definitely taking a wait and see approach with the Blue Demons.
  • George Hershey – It’s DePaul… They have some talent in Melvin and Young, but they don’t play defense.
  • Todd Keryc – It doesn’t matter what league they play in or who else is in it, the poor Blue Demons are destined for the cellar almost every year.
 9. Butler
  • DL – With the injury to Roosevelt Jones, Butler is without a returning double-figure scorer this season. I’m not one to bet against the Bulldogs, with or without Brad Stevens, but this inaugural Big East campaign isn’t shaping up too well for this Cinderella.
  • GH – They lose many pieces from last year’s team. Roosevelt Jones’ injury really hurts, but they are Butler and they always surprise everyone. Expect Kellen Dunham to have a big year.
  • TK – Bad timing for the Bulldogs. They ride two straight national title appearances into two straight conference upgrades, only to see their boy wonder coach Brad Stevens leave for the NBA.

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Big East M5: 11.06.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 6th, 2013

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  1. Georgetown is projected to finish around the top of the Big East this season, even after losing its top player from 2012-13 in forward Otto Porter, drafted third overall by the Washington Wizards. Porter is the most recent in a long line of talented forwards who have been the key player in John Thompson’s Princeton offense, following stars like Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe. This year, it is unclear if Georgetown has that type of player at the forward spot. Greg Whittington, the most obvious candidate, tore his ACL over the summer. Nate Lubick will probably get playing time but lacks some of the raw talent and skills that the others have had. Transfer Josh Smith has all the talent a coach could want, but has major question marks after a less-than-stellar two years at UCLA. Instead, this year’s Hoyas may be more focused on guard play with Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a departure from what we usually expect from Thompson’s best teams.
  2. St. John’s has announced that sophomores Felix Balamou and David Lipscomb will take redshirts this season. Balamou was a contributor last year, averaging two points in nine minutes of action per game,and appearing in all but five of the Red Storm’s contests. Lipscomb, a walk-on, appeared in seven games last season but has yet to score in college. The move should allow both guards to develop without burning a year of eligibility during a time when St. John’s already has a crowded backcourt. Players like D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene IV, Rysheed Jordan and Jamal Branch will probably see most of the meaningful minutes in this year’s backcourt, so this is a wise move for these two players’ futures.
  3. It’s hard if not virtually impossible to lose during Midnight Madness, but this year’s event has already proven problematic for Xavier. Guard Dee Davis suffered a concussion during the event and has sat out for more than a week of activities as a result; reports are now that he may not be available for the season opener against Gardner-Webb. Davis is second of all the returning Xavier players in both minutes and points per game, so the Musketeers probably want their guard back as soon as possible. Head coach Chris Mack is taking all necessary precautions: “Until he’s symptom-free we’ll do what’s wise for Dee, and that’s to sit him.”
  4. The injury bug has reared its ugly head in Providence as well. Friars’ guard Kris Dunn suffered a shoulder injury in an exhibition with Rhode Island College and may miss the season opener against Boston College. Dunn’s injury is especially worrisome because it is the same shoulder on which he had labrum surgery before last season, costing him the first nine games of 2012-13. Dunn’s perimeter mate Bryce Cotton is also entering the season hampered by a sore knee, but he is not expected to miss any time. The tandem should be one of the better backcourts in the Big East, and keeping them on the court is key if the Friars want to make a run at the NCAA Tournament this season.
  5. Josh Smith could be the player that swings this season in favor of Georgetown. The UCLA transfer has been with the program roughly a year, and it has allowed him time to grasp the role of playing power forward in John Thompson’s offense. One of the players who he is battling for playing time, Nate Lubick, doesn’t seem too thrilled with going up against the powerful Smith every day in practice: “Ugh. It’s miserable. He backs it down and dunks it on me every time. He’s good. It’s something that’s very hard for another team to prepare.” In Rob Dauster’s article on CollegeBasketballTalk, other teammates commended Smith’s underrated passing ability, which is key for big men in the Georgetown offense. If Smith’s ability in practice translates to the faster pace of real games and his conditioning continues to improve, Smith may be the missing piece for a talented Hoyas team looking to get over the NCAA Tournament hump.
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20 Questions: Why is Georgetown So Incapable of March Success?

Posted by Bennet Hayes on October 23rd, 2013

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Throughout the preseason, RTC national columnists will answer the 20 most compelling questions heading into the 2013-14 season. Previous columns in this year’s series are located here.

The moment came long before the seismic final flourish. Chase Fieler may have slammed the door shut on Georgetown’s March dreams when he pumped through that Brett Comer lob, but the sniff of NCAA Tournament doom – a sensation that is fast becoming a Georgetown supporter’s sixth sense – surely set in far sooner. These days it doesn’t take much to elicit that sense of fear in Georgetown circles come March, as double-digit seeds have sent the Hoyas home before the Sweet Sixteen in each of their last five NCAA Tournaments. The futility has been so profound that Hoya fans can likely find a bit of retroactive appreciation for the most underachieving Georgetown team of the last decade: a 2009 squad littered with talent (Greg Monroe, DaJuan Summers, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman, among others) that bottomed out in the first round of a tournament that lacks the power to break hearts – the NIT. With the halcyon days of a 2007 Final Four run now firmly in the rear view mirror and a confused hysteria building with every March failure, “Hoya Paranoia” has taken on an entirely different meaning. So naturally, we ask the question: Why is Georgetown so incapable of March success?

To Say March Success Has Eluded John Thompson III And Georgetown Lately Would Be An Understatement

To Say March Success Has Eluded John Thompson III And Georgetown Lately Would Be An Understatement (AP images)

At this point, even the most forgiving of Georgetown supporters would have to admit that some part of the Hoyas’ problem comes from within. Five straight March disappointments is plenty large enough a sample size to sound the alarms. John Thompson III’s system, highlighted by a slow-tempo offense that rarely deviates from Princeton sets, is also unique enough stylistically to raise concerns that the program may be resting on a fundamentally damaged foundation. Nobody should be willing to take that theory all the way, as slow-tempo teams have found plenty of March success over the years (75 percent of the 2013 Final Four ranked in the bottom 40 percent in possessions per game), but limiting possessions is an easy way to give a team with decidedly inferior talent a chance to win. It’s the same reason why underdogs will find winning one game easier than taking down a seven-game series, and just last season we saw Georgetown keep plenty of bad teams hanging around into the final minutes. Duquesne, Liberty, and Towson all ended the season outside the top 170 teams in the country (according to KenPom), but each lost by single figures to a Hoya team that would finish 301st in the country in possessions per game. That slow tempo is par for the course for Thompson-coached Hoya outfits; after finishing 70th nationally in possessions per game in Craig Esherick’s final year in 2004, the Hoyas have not ranked higher than 188th since. Let’s be real: This preference for a snail’s pace is not a sufficient answer to the question as a stand-alone, but the Hoyas rarely blow teams out (relative to other highly-seeded teams) and struggle to come back when they fall behind early – see 2010 (Ohio), 2011 (VCU), 2013 (FGCU) for some recent examples.

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Big East M5: 10.21.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 21st, 2013

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  1. New York Times writer Zach Schonbrun experienced a sense of relief among the various schools at last week’s Big East Media Day in Manhattan. After many seasons played under the shroud of conference realignment, culminating with the awkwardness of last season’s farewell tour for Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, the Big East is now a settled, basketball-driven league focused on private schools in metropolitan markets. While the conference’s new members — Butler, Creighton, and Xavier — are all located in the Midwest, they fit into the league quite well culturally. St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin actually thinks the new schools fit in better than some of the public universities that have moved on to the American Athletic Conference, and the schools who left for the ACC for largely football-based reasons: “It’s not like a ‘Sesame Street’ deal — which one doesn’t belong… You’ve got a tree, a bush, some seaweed and then a truck. It just didn’t fit. I think now we have a league that’s more similar.”
  2. Georgetown lost an excellent player to the NBA Draft in standout forward Otto Porter, but guard Markel Starks thinks that the Hoyas are more than just one player and that his team will look to prove that this season: “We play as a unit… We play as a group. Obviously, we just lost a great player. Even still, with or without him, we play as a unit. … I think we can still be a very dangerous team.” Starks, now a senior, will probably bear much of the weight of Porter’s absence in the scoring column, after averaging 12.8 points per game last season. He will be joined in the backcourt by D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who proved capable of exploding for big point totals last season. Smith-Rivera scored at least 14 points in three of his last four regular season games last season, and dropped 33 in 34 minutes against DePaul on February 20.
  3. One of the major changes fans will notice in the conference this year is a lack of legendary coaches on the sidelines, although the Big East will not be hurting for talent in that spot. Gone are Hall of Famers like Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino, but rising stars like Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Georgetown’s John Thompson III are poised to lead the conference into this new era. Thompson agrees that the coaching talent in the league is very high: “If you look around the room, the quality of coaching is outstanding. Yes, we lost some Hall of Fame coaches, but I don’t think too many teams want to go up against the guys in this room. Every game is going to be a battle. That was true last year; that’s going to be true this year.” Williams also believes in the overall quality of the league, and thinks it stands up with the best conferences in college basketball: “Every coach is going to say they play in the best league, but if you objectively study the numbers, I think what this league has done the last five years speaks for itself. I think this year that will hold firm, too.”
  4. Even without the likes of Syracuse, Louisville, and UConn, many are excited about the prospects of the Big East, especially those at the league’s three new schools: Butler, Creighton, and Xavier. Between the television contract with Fox Sports 1 and the ability to play at Madison Square Garden, the Big East provides a great increase in exposure for the former Horizon League, Missouri Valley Conference, and Atlantic 10 teams. Rumble in the Garden‘s Chris Ronca caught up with Xavier’s Chris Mack and Creighton’s Greg McDermott, who were both very excited about these new possibilities. Mack says his players are excited about playing at MSG:  “Playing for your conference championship in the Mecca is an amazing opportunity for Xavier fans and players.” McDermott talked about the league’s TV contract and it’s impact on the Creighton program: “[Creighton's] fans have longed for this for awhile.” McDermott went on to say that “with Fox [Sports] 1, it’s very exciting for the program… there’ll be a lot of new ideas with how [Creighton's] product is shown nationally.”
  5. Sports Illustrated‘s [and RTC's] Chris Johnson’s “Stock Watch” series sets its gaze on the Big East, and he’s quite bullish on Villanova, while throwing a bit of shade on Butler. Johnson cites Villanova’s surge in the middle of last season, where the Wildcats knocked off top five Louisville and Syracuse outfits in a a five-day stretch, as evidence that Jay Wright’s club is very dangerous. He likes the combination of Ryan Arcidiacono, JayVaughn Pinkston, and Daniel Ochefu, and believes that if the team continues to get to the free throw line and play stingy defense, it can push for the top of the league standings. As for Butler, Johnson believes that the loss of Brad Stevens in conjunction with an increase in the difficulty of conference play will hurt the Bulldogs, as will the departures of Rotnei Clark and Andrew Smith as well as the injury to Roosevelt Jones.
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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Otto Porter

Posted by BHayes on June 27th, 2013

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The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.

Player Name: Otto Porter

School: Georgetown

Height/Weight: 6’9” / 200 lbs.

NBA Position: Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: Top Five

John Thompson's loss will be one lucky NBA franchise's gain

John Thompson’s loss will be one lucky NBA franchise’s gain

Overview: Most of the hardware awarded to the top college basketball player in the country goes to the “player of the year”, unlike in the NBA, where the top individual prize goes to the “most valuable player”. If such an award existed at the college level for this past season, it would be hard to think of a better candidate for it than Otto Porter. The Missouri native did a little bit of everything for a relatively undermanned Georgetown team leading the Hoyas to a Big East regular season title and a #2 seed in the Tournament. He averaged 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game on the season, but tended to outperform even those lofty numbers in the biggest games. There was no better example of Porter’s knack for the moment than his effort at the Carrier Dome where his 33 points vaulted the Hoyas past Syracuse in a game where points were at a true premium (a 57-46 final). His heroics would continue just four days later, when a late Porter running layup allowed Georgetown to sneak out of Gampel Pavilion with a one-point overtime victory. Of course, the Georgetown season will now largely be remembered for the emphatic upset to Florida Gulf Coast in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but Porter’s breakthrough campaign should not be lost in the Lob City fanfare. Rest assured it was not lost on scouts, as Porter is a coveted asset here at the 2013 NBA Draft. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big East M5: 04.03.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 3rd, 2013

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  1. In a swift and cataclysmic turn of events, Mike Rice went from temperamental curmudgeon to persona non grata over the course of yesterday afternoon, after ESPN released compromising video of the Rutgers practices that had earned Rice a suspension earlier this season. The video confirmed initial local reports that Rice had hurled basketballs at players in his first two seasons. More disturbingly, it also depicted Rice routinely putting his hands on athletes and hurling abusive, bigoted slurs in a way that appeared to create a thoroughly humiliating environment for Rutgers players. Athletic Director Tim Pernetti came to his coach’s defense after the video’s release, performing rhetorical somersaults in media interviews and remaining noncommittal on any future disciplinary actions against Rice. But based on the public outcry condemning Rice yesterday, casting his lot with Rice might have sealed Permetti’s fate as well rather than eased criticism of the third-year coach.
  2. In terms of potential incoming Big East transfers, UConn may be on the short list of destinations for NC State freshman combo guard Rodney Purvis. With Shabazz Napier and possibly Ryan Boatright out of the picture in 2014-15, Purvis could provide an explosive replacement by the time he’s eligible, and for that reason Dom Amore at the Hartford Courant says he “could be an ideal fit.” Amore also cautions that UConn’s staff, still smarting from NCAA sanctions, would closely scrutinize the academic issues that rendered Purvis ineligible at NC State for a time.
  3. Eric Crawford of WDRB (Louisville, KY) argues Russ Smith deserved to place better than the third team in the AP’s All-America recognitions. He says the notion of electing All-Americans before the NCAA Tournament begins is incongruous with a “sport that weights everything by its 68-team final exam.” Crawford points out that Smith averaged 26 points per game as he led his team to the Final Four, while first-teamers Otto Porter and Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk were bounced in the first weekend. The Louisville guard is also on pace to score the most points in an NCAA Tournament since Glen Rice notched 184 in 1989, and already tied the event’s single-game steals record (eight) on the other end of the floor. More than anything, Smith’s example offers an indictment of opinion polls that don’t reward postseason performance.
  4. UConn’s athletic department confirmed in a press release yesterday that the Huskies would kick off the 2013-14 season against Maryland in the Barclays Center on November 8. Kevin Ollie emphasized that his team’s three New York City natives were particularly excited, as are UConn fans and alumni both in the city and within Metro North’s service footprint. Between opening in Barclays and participating in the Y2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden two weeks later, UConn will enjoy tremendous exposure in the Big Apple, which should help offset the demise of the Big East Tournament in the short term. The ability to sell these kinds of marquee non-conference homecoming games will be a huge asset on the recruiting trail as well. Ollie also let slip a comment about “expecting” his top six scorers to return, which perhaps indicates Ollie believes First-Team All-Big East guard Shabazz Napier will forgo the NBA draft.
  5. Departing Seton Hall guard Aaron Cosby has narrowed his transfer prospects down to Missouri and Illinois, and will reportedly settle on a home for his final two years of eligibility this month. The 6’2″ Kentucky native, who averaged 12.6 PPG and shot 40% from beyond the arc, had chosen Kevin Willard’s program over an offer from Indiana. But Seton Hall’s struggles seemed to play a role in Cosby’s decision to transfer, as he cites a desire to play for “Top 25 NCAA Tourney caliber teams” like the Tigers and Illini. And that’s the real red flag for Willard, as out of state kids like Cosby and Aquille Carr have been integral to his rebuilding efforts.
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Big East M5: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 2nd, 2013

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  1. Georgetown fans received some measure of consolation after a disappointing Second Round upset when the AP named Otto Porter a first-team All-American yesterday. Tying Trey Burke for the most first-team votes received, Porter became the first Hoya to claim the honor since Allen Iverson did so in 1996, and was the sixth first-team All-American in program history. (Patrick Ewing earned the distinction in three difference seasons, so Porter’s appearance is actually the eighthin Georgetown history.) Joining the Big East’s Player of the Year with AP team honors was Louisville’s Russ Smith (third team), while teammates Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley captured honorable mentions.
  2. Shortly before going into surgery to repair the compound leg fracture he’d suffered against Duke on Sunday, Louisville guard Kevin Ware borrowed a nurse’s cell phone to contact his mother, knowing “she’d be freaking out.” Six hundred miles away in suburban Atlanta, Lisa Junior was just as much in the dark regarding her son’s status as anyone watching the CBS broadcast: “He didn’t even say hello. He just said, ‘Mom, I need you to calm down.’ He knew I’d be a mess. Once I heard his voice, I was better.” Ware was walking with the aid of crutches yesterday after surgeons successfully stabilized his broken tibia with a metal rod and closed the ghastly wound where it had broken skin. He will reportedly travel to Atlanta with the Cardinals this week and sit on the bench for the Final Four match-up with Wichita State.
  3. USF has inked a home-and-home deal with Detroit, to begin in Tampa in 2013-14. Detroit’s visit to the Sun Dome will feature three returning rising senior starters, including star Ray McCallum Jr. (18.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.5 APG this season). But the return trip to Detroit in 2014-15 will be a homecoming for native sons head coach Stan Heath and incoming guard Byron Ziegler, while freshman JaVontae Hawkins will be playing an hour down the road from his hometown of Flint. It will also probably be a rebuilding year for the Titans, giving Heath a golden opportunity to recruit the area and sell the idea of a non-conference series close to home to Detroit prospects.
  4. Tulsa is slated to announce in a late-morning press conference that it will join the New Old Zombie Big East in all sports. The impending additions of Tulsa and ECU reflect an emphasis on football stature in Mike Aresco’s new lineup, but Rob Dauster points out that Golden Hurricane basketball isn’t a complete disaster, and says “[coach Danny] Manning has the team going in the right direction, despite a depleted roster from transfers.” After winning 17 games in 2011-12, Manning held serve at around .500 in his first year as head coach, going 17-16 before losing to Wright State in the CBI.
  5. Just to salt the wounds from last weekend’s loss, Carmelo Anthony subjected Marquette fans to further indignity yesterday when he shamed Golden Eagles alum and fellow Knick Steve Novak on Instagram yesterday. Novak was apparently on the losing end of a bet on the Elite Eight game between their alma maters, and well, he made good on his wager in this shot:
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Carmelo’s Orange got the best of Steve’s Golden Eagles

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Big East M5: 03.27.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 27th, 2013

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  1. If nothing else, fans of the current Big East are going to have plenty of channels to catch their favorite schools on when the schools all go their separate ways. The ACC is taking over Big Monday and should have an increased presence on ESPN, the Big East (Catholic edition) will be on FOX, and the soon-to-be-the-conference-formerly-known-as-the-Big-East just inked a deal with CBS, which will get first dibs on the conference’s games through 2019-20. Oh, and West Virginia seemed to be on ESPN like every week this year… so good for the ‘Eers.
  2. Louisville was the number one overall seed in 2009, much like it is this year. That team hoisted both the Big East regular season and tournament trophies, and made a run to the Elite Eight before falling to Michigan State. That team featured excellent former Cardinals like Terrence Williams, Andre McGee, and Earl Clark, and apparently those guys won’t stop talking about that season. Peyton Siva would like to reclaim bragging rights over the 2009 squad with the one trophy they weren’t able to claim — a national title. “I don’t know a lot (about 2009), I just know T-Will and Dre were on it and they always brag about being the No. 1 overall seed… Our whole goal for the year — they had Andre’s picture on the wall from that ’09 team — is to take him off the wall.”
  3. Otto Porter is a finalist for the Naismith Award this season, and for good reason. A very good argument can be made that there was no player more important to his team this season, and it showed in Georgetown‘s best games — Porter scored 33 points in front of over 35,000 raucous Syracuse fans to stun the Orange at the Carrier Dome — as well as their worst — Porter could only muster 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting in Georgetown’s shocking loss to Florida Gulf Coast last weekend. While Porter is up against stiff competition for the Naismith Award, he already has accolade in his back pocket as Basketball Times has named the forward its National Player of the year.
  4. Expansion fever — catch the excitement! Today in schools moving conferences, the old Big East continues it’s mission to restore the halcyon days of mid-2000s Conference USA. Brett McMurphy reports that Tulsa will become the 12th member of the conference, calling the addition “imminent.” According to McMurphy, the Golden Hurricanes will join up in 2014 with Tulane and East Carolina, who will be elevated to full-member status to balance the conference numbers and fill the critical role of having basketball-playing Pirates in the league.
  5. The Journal-Sentinel sat down with former Marquette great Brian Wardle, currently the head coach at Wisconsin-Green Bay, to discuss the state of Warriors basketball. Wardle was obviously thrilled with the success that the program has had under Buzz Williams, and before him, Tom Crean, stating that MU has entered the ranks of the elite in college ball. “The level that Marquette basketball is at now is an elite level that it has not been in for a long time… they’ve gone to three Sweet Sixteens in a row, a Final Four, everything takes time to build. Nothing happens overnight. You’ve got to go through some failures to succeed. You’re seeing Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen every year with the Michigan States, the Dukes, with Kansas.”  There is no denying the success that Marquette has had recently, though dropping the ‘e’ word seems a bit strong.  Until Marquette makes a few more Final Fours or captures a national title, they’re a rung or two below the nation’s elite schools, at least to me. However, they’re not far behind, and with the consistent success that Buzz Williams has had with the program, it may only be a matter of time until they break through.
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NCAA Regional Reset: South Region

Posted by KDoyle on March 25th, 2013

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Kevin Doyle (@KLDoyle11) is the NCAA Tournament’s South Region correspondent. 

The South Regional begins Friday night in Arlington, Texas, with Kansas vs. Michigan followed by Florida vs. Florida Gulf Coast. The East Region ResetWest Region Reset and Midwest Region Reset published earlier today. Also make sure to follow RTCSouthRegion for news and analysis from Texas throughout the week.

Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Hosts the South Regional

Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Hosts the South Regional

New Favorite: #3 Florida. It hasn’t been an arduous road to the Sweet Sixteen as Florida dismantled #14 Northwestern State and #11 Minnesota to advance to Arlington. Although the Golden Gophers cut a 21-point halftime deficit down to eight midway through the second half, they never truly challenged Florida and the Gators coasted to an easy win. Did we learn anything that we already didn’t know about Florida in the process? Probably not. Billy Donovan’s team is as good as anyone at blowing out inferior competition, but it was impressive to see their resolve demonstrated against Minnesota. The common belief is that the Gators crumble down the stretch in close games — amazingly, they have not won a game by single digits this year — but there was no need for late-game drama this weekend. To reach the Elite Eight, Florida will have to next beat #15 Florida Gulf Coast. Not exactly murderer’s row to get to the South Region final by having to play against all double-digit seeds, but FGCU has already proven that it is far from a traditional #15 seed. After posting big wins over Georgetown and San Diego State, the Eagles have shown they can more than hang with any team in the NCAA Tournament. With that said, I projected Florida to win the region when the bracket was initially released and they’ve only confirmed that belief after the first weekend.

Horse of Darkness: #4 Michigan. So much for Shaka Smart’s vaunted havoc defense. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. had little problem dealing with Virginia Commonwealth’s pressing defense en route to a convincing 25-point victory. The Rams’ 71 point swing— a 46-point win against Akron and 25-point loss to Michigan — is by far the greatest two-game switcheroo in NCAA Tournament history, as the Wolverines demonstrated that all a team needs to foil Smart’s plan is a backcourt consisting of two NBA-level players. Michigan is grossly underseeded and is probably closer to a #2 seed than #4. This is a team that was ranked in the Top 10 for virtually the entire season, but limped into the NCAA Tournament after going 6-6 in its final 12 Big Ten games. It has been evident that Michigan’s style of play has kicked up a notch against non-Big Ten teams; South Dakota State and VCU’s urge to speed up the pace of the action seemed to play right into Michigan’s hands. With Trey Burke running the show, John Beilein has the best point guard in the South Region going up against a Kansas team that clearly lacks a steady one of its own. Kansas played one good half in the first two rounds — albeit an extremely good second half against North Carolina — but is ripe for the taking.

Burke Played Like a NPOY Candidate Last Game (AnnArbor.com)

Burke Played Like a NPOY Candidate Last Game (AnnArbor.com)

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): #15 Florida Gulf Coast 78, #2 Georgetown 68. What, like you thought there could possibly be a surprise that trumps what Florida Gulf Coast did in Philadelphia on Friday and Sunday? Not only did the Eagles make history as the first #15 seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, they did so with flying colors — quite literally — in beating Georgetown and San Diego State by 10 points each. FGCU’s win over Georgetown was certainly a major surprise, as a 24-10 team that finished in second place in the Atlantic Sun and had been swept by Lipscomb soundly beat a 25-6 Big East team with a slew of wins over top teams. Yet after its resounding win over the Hoyas, was anyone that surprised with its victory over a San Diego State team that proved to be mostly average in a Mountain West Conference that went 2-5 in this year’s Dance? Neither win was a fluke for Andy Enfield’s squad; the Eagles flat out beat these two teams that spent much of the season ranked in the Top 25. From Andy Enfield’s story — a former NBA assistant with Rick Pitino, owning his own company called “Tract Manager,” and marrying a supermodel — to the fact that FGCU has been a Division I program for less than a decade, the endless stream of alley-oops and ridiculous dunks thrown down by high-flying no-name players, the swagger and jovial attitude of Sherwood Brown, and the heartwarming story of Brett Comer, among many other things… words simply cannot do justice to what Florida Gulf Coast accomplished over the weekend.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by KDoyle on March 22nd, 2013

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#2 Georgetown vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast – South Region Second Round (at Philadelphia) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS

Florida Gulf Coast is one of the better stories in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Only in their sixth year as a Division 1 program, the Eagles are riding their first winning season in history thanks to the hiring of former Florida State assistant Andy Enfield. In Enfield’s first year, they finished 15-17, but were a game away from the NCAA Tournament as they lost to Belmont in the Atlantic Sun finals. This year, Florida Gulf Coast has been the team to beat, and it began with an early season win over Miami (FL). FGCU’s style of play greatly differs from today’s opponent, the Georgetown Hoyas. The Hoyas are predicated on a stingy zone defense that rarely allows for clean looks at the basket, and they play at a snail’s pace. Led by Otto Porter, Georgetown has a legitimate star that can carry them deep into the NCAA Tournament. FGCU very much likes to get up and down the floor with Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson leading the attack. If FGCU is able to get out in the open floor and score in transition, they’ll keep it close for much of the game. Problem is that not many teams control the pace of a game quite like Georgetown—that’s what makes them such a difficult opponent as they force the opposition to play their style of game. Historically, Georgetown has struggled in the NCAA Tournament under John Thompson III as they’ve failed to reach the second weekend in four of six appearances under him, but many believe this is a different Hoya team. FGCU is playing with house money and expect them to make a game of this, but in front of a heavy Georgetown crowd in Philadelphia the Hoyas are simply too much in the end.

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

Andy Enfield has his FGCU squad playing great basketball. (AP)

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#2 Ohio State vs. #15 Iona – West Regional Second Round (at Dayton, OH) – 7:15 p.m. ET on CBS
One of the nation’s most balanced teams, the knock on the Buckeyes for the longest time this season was that they didn’t have a secondary scorer to help out junior DeShaun Thomas. We’ll get to that in a second, but let’s just say that Iona never had such a problem. Senior guard Lamont “Momo” Jones has always been the main offensive weapon on this team, never afraid to look for his own shot, but the Gaels have always trusted guard Sean Armand and forward David Laury to chip in heavily in the scoring column. And as a result, the Gaels have one of the most efficient offenses in the mid-major ranks. The problem for Tim Cluess’ team is the complete inability to stop teams on defense; only nine times all season have they held an opponent below one point per possession in a game. Given that Ohio State is one of the best defensive teams in the nation (sixth in defensive efficiency per KenPom.com), you can expect the Buckeyes to at least slow Iona’s prolific offense. And given that Thad Matta has been getting significantly improved offensive play out of guys like Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson, you can expect the Bucks to take advantage of that buttery soft Gael defense. While Momo Jones, et al. have the ability to make some exciting plays when they’ve got the ball, their inattention to details defensively will allow the Buckeyes to have more than their share of exciting offensive plays as well.

The RTC Certified Pick: Ohio State Read the rest of this entry »

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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Georgetown Hoyas

Posted by mlemaire on March 22nd, 2013

The Hoyas surpassed everyone’s expectations this season and won a share of the Big East regular season title and the No. 1 overall seed in the Big East Tournament where they lost in the semifinals to Syracuse. The Hoyas were in contention for a No. 1 seed before losing to Villanova down the stretch and not reaching the title game in the conference tournament. Instead the selection committee rewarded their excellence with a No. 2 seed in a winnable region and a first-round date with the Eagles and their rabid fan base.

It doesn't take a basketball expert to understand Otto Porter's importance to Georgetown (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

It doesn’t take a basketball expert to understand Otto Porter’s importance to Georgetown (M. Sullivan/Reuters)

Region: South
Seed: No. 2
Record: 25-6 (14-4 Big East)
Matchup: v. Florida Gulf Coast University in Philadelphia

Key Player: Let’s face it, to call anyone other than Otto Porter the key player for the Hoyas would be forcing it as the athletic sophomore is the at the center of the team’s success this season. Porter is a first-team All-American, the team’s leading scorer (16.3 PPG) and rebounder (7.4 RPG) and three-point shooter (42.7 3PT%) who just so happens to be capable of defending multiple positions well to boot. He might be the most important player in the entire tournament if you consider what type of team Georgetown would be without him. As long as he plays as well as he did during conference play, the Hoyas should make a run, and if he rises to the occasion and turns it up another notch, well the rest of the South Region and the bracket better look out. Read the rest of this entry »

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