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:
steve novak carmelo

Carmelo’s Orange got the best of Steve’s Golden Eagles

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 85, #2 Duke 63

Posted by WCarey on March 31st, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Elite Eight NCAA Tournament game between #1 Louisville and #2 Duke in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Louisville’s mental toughness was incalculable. With 6:33 remaining in the first half, Louisville reserve guard Kevin Ware ran out to defend a three-point attempt from Duke guard Tyler Thornton and what seemed like a routine play turned into a very gruesome sight at Lucas Oil Stadium. Ware’s leg snapped as he landed and he suffered a broken leg. Ware’s teammates were deeply affected by the horrible scene on the court, as both guard Russ Smith and forward Chane Behanan were in tears. As Ware was taken off on a stretcher, Smith, Behanan, and forwards Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell were locked in an embrace near midcourt. The Cardinals led 21-20 when Ware went down and it would have been completely understandable if they had been unable to overcome the emotions that came with the injury. However, the Cardinals recovered in very impressive fashion – finishing the first half with a 35-32 lead and then exploding in the second half to outscore the Blue Devils 50-31 during the second 20 minutes of the game. Louisville coach Rick Pitino, his coaching staff, and senior point guard Peyton Siva deserve a great deal of credit for guiding the team through what was undoubtedly a very tough time.
  2. The Cardinals flat out owned the second half. At the second half’s under-16 media timeout, the game was tied at 42, but from that point forward the game was completely dominated by the Cardinals. After the 42-42 tie, Louisville outscored Duke 43-21. The Cardinals’ defensive effort in the second half was so suffocating that they held a very good offense to just a 32.1% mark from the field over the final 20 minutes of the game. Duke stars Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, and Mason Plumlee were never really able to make a huge impact and its guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon were held to a combined 4-of-21 performance from the field. Siva and Smith took over for Louisville on the offensive end of the court, seemingly getting into the lane at will. After shooting a respectable 46.4% from the field in the first half, the Cardinals were even better from the field in the second half, making 59.3% of their attempts in the second frame. Louisville completely dominated the second half and when it is able to put forth a performance like that, it is an impossible team to beat.
  3. Louisville is the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta. When the Cardinals became the overall number one-seed on Selection Sunday, they were viewed as a definite favorite to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta. Two weeks later, Louisville has advanced to Atlanta and is the only one-seed still alive in the field. The Cardinals are set to play nine-seed Wichita State on Saturday in a semi-final where they will have a definite talent advantage even though the Shockers were able to pull off upsets of West Region one-seed Gonzaga and two-seed Ohio State. In the other semifinal, four seeds Michigan and Syracuse will meet for a right to advance to the national title game. While there will be a lot of talent on display next weekend, no team has as much talent and experience as Louisville and this is why it should definitely be viewed as the clear favorite to cut down the nets when all is said and done.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2013

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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

  • Wichita State guard Malcolm Armstead transferred from Oregon to join the Shockers without a scholarship and that gamble is paying off as Wichita State preps for a chance to go to the Final Four.
  • Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com writes that Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Wichita State should not be viewed as a “David/Goliath” match-up.
  • Would Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall be the greatest catch of this year’s coaching carousel?
  • Ohio State sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross has matured during his second season in Columbus to become a playmaker for the Buckeyes.
  • Ohio State coach Thad Matta was unhappy with the way Buckeyes guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. performed defensively in the team’s Round of 32 victory over Iowa State, but the junior stepped up his play significantly in Thursday’s victory over Arizona.
  • Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas has a well-earned reputation as a “bad shot taker and maker” and this moniker has not prevented him from becoming the Buckeyes’ most lethal weapon offensively.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 77, #12 Oregon 69

Posted by WCarey on March 29th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game between #1 Louisville and #12 Oregon in Indianapolis.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Russ Smith was terrific tonight. The dynamic junior guard led the way for the Cardinals all night on the offensive end of the court. He finished the night with 31 points on an efficient 9-of-16 from the field. His ability to consistently drain free throws – he went 12-of-14 from the charity stripe on the night – was crucial to the Cardinals putting away tonight’s victory. A lot has been made about the “Russdiculous” phenomenon – a moniker Smith earned due to his unpredictability and sometimes erratic play – but Smith showed against Oregon that he is plenty capable of remaining in control and providing the Cardinals with a consistent effort for a full 40 minutes. A strong case can be made right now that Smith has been the Most Outstanding Player of the  NCAA Tournament, as he also put up strong performances against North Carolina A&T in the Round of 64 (23 points) and against Colorado State in the Round of 32 (27 points).
  2. Oregon battled hard, but Louisville proved to be just too much. Oregon could have easily packed it in when it went down by 14 at half and by 18 with 9:02, but the Ducks showed their resiliency by fighting to the very end. It was quite apparent that Louisville was the much more talented team on the court, but the fight put forth by Oregon was essentially the only reason why this game was even somewhat close. Dana Altman‘s squad should be proud of the way it played against the superior Cardinals. While Oregon was never able to really make things that interesting for Louisville, its hard-nosed play prevented the Cardinals from pulling away in the second half. Oregon could have absolutely played better, but it probably could not have played any harder.
  3. Louisville should be seen as a favorite to take home the national title. Louisville’s great talent advantage was on display once again in the win over Oregon. Despite battling foul trouble, point guard Peyton Siva once again showed why he is one of the best floor generals in the country. As previously mentioned, guard Russ Smith was outstanding all night. Louisville’s post play did a fantastic job of ensuring Oregon did not get anything easy close to the basket. Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan, and Montrezl Harrell provided the Cardinals with rugged play and a tenacity that very few teams in the country could have matched. While it is probably unfair to declare the Cardinals as the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta, Louisville definitely has the guns to make that a reality.

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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: Midwest Region

Posted by BHayes on March 25th, 2013

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Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent.

The Midwest Regional begins Friday night in Indianapolis with Louisville vs. Oregon followed by Duke vs. Michigan State. The East Region Reset and West Region Reset published earlier today, and be sure to look out for the South Region Reset later this afternoon. Also make sure to follow RTCMWRegion for news and analysis from Indy throughout the week.

New Favorite: #1 Louisville. When you are the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, win your first two games by a total of 57 points, and now have to travel just 115 miles to the regional site, you aren’t going to lose your pole position. The Cardinals are still the team to beat in Indianapolis.

Lucas Oil Stadium Is Where The Midwest Will Be Won

Lucas Oil Stadium Is Where The Midwest Will Be Won

Horse of Darkness: #12 Oregon. It’d be hard enough to make a case for a #1, #2, or #3 seed as a dark horse, and harder yet when the programs occupying those seed-lines are Louisville, Duke, and Michigan State. So while Oregon certainly fits the bill here, they also are winners by default. We knew the Ducks were underseeded and dangerous on that #12 line, and they went out and played like it last week. At this point, nobody would blink an eye if the seed next to the Ducks’ name was a #4 instead.  Louisville would be advised to view Dana Altman’s team through that lens, because Oregon is talented enough to knock off the Cardinals, even in their own backyard.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): #4 Saint Louis. Clearly, this wasn’t the good kind of surprise. Saint Louis entered this NCAA Tournament as a legitimate Final Four sleeper. They played along with the hype in the Second Round, where they clinically dispatched New Mexico State in winning by 20. At that point, a deep run still felt very possible and at least one more win a near-certainty, which made the resounding defeat they suffered at the hands of Oregon a bit of a shock. Let’s keep in mind that this was a Saint Louis team that had lost just once in regulation since November, and the 17-point margin of defeat to the Ducks was the Billikens’ largest of the season. 2012-13 was a proud, inspiring season for SLU, but few could have predicted the abruptness with which it would end.

Completely Expected (1st Weekend): #3 Michigan State. Chalk prevailed almost across the board in this region (thank god for Oregon!), so take your pick here, but I’ll go with the Spartans. Armed with a virtual home court advantage in Auburn Hills, Tom Izzo’s crew made quick work of Valparaiso before dismantling Memphis in the Third Round. These wins were completely expected not only because it’s Sparty playing March basketball in its home state, but also because both their opponents loomed as favorable match-ups for this Michigan State team. As expected, Valpo was outmanned and Memphis not tough enough. The result, equally anticipated, is another Spartans visit to the Sweet Sixteen.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Louisville 82, #8 Colorado State 56

Posted by IRenko on March 23rd, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Lexington after Saturday’s Third Round game between #1 Louisville and #8 Colorado State. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Three Key Takeaways:

A Strange Sight at Rupp Arena, Indeed

A Strange Sight at Rupp Arena, Indeed

  1. Welcome to Louisville Basketball – Colorado State normally does a very good job of taking care of the ball, but they normally play Mountain West teams, none of whom could have prepared them for Louisville’s pressure defense. The Cardinals rank second in the country in forcing turnovers, and the MWC has only one team, Wyoming, inside the top 190. The Rams were completely rattled by Louisville’s aggression, both in the full court and half court. They committed 20 turnovers, which Louisville efficiently converted into 24 points. The only reason the Rams lost by only 26 points is that they shot the ball very well, almost 50 percent from the field. But the problem was that they only took 40 shots.
  2. When Colorado State Gets Beat on the Boards, It’s Hard for Them to Win – Colorado State is the best rebounding team in the country. Their offensive rebounding strength, in particular, gave them a real opportunity against Louisville, which doesn’t protect the glass very well. But the Cardinals did a tremendous job of keeping the Rams at bay, allowing them to rebound only 24 percent of their misses — much better than Louisville’s season average and much worse than CSU’s. And the Cardinals pounded the glass at the other end as well, pulling down 36 percent of their missed shots. As a result, they outscored the Rams by 18-6 on second-chance points, the game’s most shocking statistic. It was a full team effort for the Cardinals, with the starting backcourt of Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, and Wayne Blackshear combining for half of the team’s defensive rebounds.
  3. When Louisville Hits Outside Shots, It’s Hard for Them to Lose – Early in the game, the Cardinals were getting traction with dribble penetration. As Colorado State tightened up its help defense a bit, forcing the Cardinals to take pull-up jumpers and fire from downtown. That’s typically the right defensive formula against Louisville, which makes just under a third of its threes. But today, the Cardinals shot the lights out of Rupp Arena. Russ Smith led the way, hitting 5-of-8 on threes, but the whole team got in the act, knocking down several mid-range jump shots. It’s very difficult to beat the Cardinals when they shoot like this.

Star of the Game: Russ Smith stole the show, tying his season high with 31 points on 8-of-16 field goal shooting (5-of-8 from three-point range). Russdiculous, as his coach nicknamed him, was especially assertive in the first half, when he scored 18 points as the Cardinals pulled out to a 45-31. Each of Smith’s four first-half threes ignited the crowd and seemed to deflate Colorado State, which struggled to keep up with the pace of play at both ends of the floor.

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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Louisville Cardinals

Posted by Will Tucker on March 21st, 2013

Louisville notched wins against Memphis, Missouri and Kentucky in their nonconference schedule, and their only blemish before New Year’s Day came against Duke in the Bahamas with an injured Gorgui Dieng on the bench. After dropping three straight losses in Big East play, the Cardinals won their last 10 games through the Big East Tournament, going 6-1 against the league’s top six teams since their January loss to Georgetown.

(credit Brad Penner/USA TODAY)

Rick Pitino enters the Tournament with a deep rotation (credit Brad Penner/USA TODAY)

Region: Midwest 
Seed: No. 1
Record: 29-5 (14-4 Big East)
Matchup: v. North Carolina A&T in Lexington 

Key Player: Gorgui Dieng erases mistakes on the defensive end and facilitates the offense in the half court when opponents key on Louisville’s guards. He’s one of very few Cardinals who didn’t play out of his mind in the Big East Tournament, and he’s the player Rick Pitino can least afford to have struggle in the Big Dance. His unique skillset makes him as much, if not more, indispensible than Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Dieng’s defense is almost always a known quantity, but it’s when he is forcing tightly packed defenses to respect his jump shot that Dieng makes Louisville’s set offense dynamic enough to sustain itself.

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Oklahoma States Chances in the Bracket of Death

Posted by KoryCarpenter on March 20th, 2013

Travis Ford couldn’t have felt great when the bracket was announced on Sunday. His Cowboys, a #5 seed, were paired with the most under-seeded team in the Dance, the Oregon Ducks. It was obvious that the selection committee had no respect for the Pac-12, as the Ducks finished second in the regular season Pac-12 race and were apparently on the bubble until winning the conference tournament over the weekend. The folks over at Busting The Bracket think Oregon should have been a #5 or #6 seed, as a contrast. The committee didn’t seem to care that four of Oregon’s eight losses came without one of its best players, freshman guard Dominic Artis, who leads the team with 3.4 APG. With Artis in the lineup, the Ducks beat UNLV, Arizona, and swept UCLA.

Travis Ford

Travis Ford Had A Great Season But Was Given No Breaks The First Weekend Of The Dance. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)

Nate Silver gives the Cowboys a 60.5% chance of beating the Ducks and Vegas has OSU as a three-point favorite. If Oklahoma State can survive the Round of 64, it will face a Final Four sleeper before the Sweet Sixteen, #4 seed Saint Louis. The Billikens have become a dark horse to make the Final Four during the last month or so. They swept the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament championships ahead of more nationally-popular programs such as Butler and VCU. They went 5-0 against those teams this year and beat #3 seed New Mexico by 14 at home on New Year’s Eve. The Billikens were constructed well by the late Rick Majerus and have been led by senior Kwamain Mitchell, who averages 10.4 PPG and 3.0 APG. Like Oregon, Saint Louis can discount a few losses while Mitchell was out with an injury. He sat out the beginning of the year and the Billikens still went 8-3. Since his return on December 28, they have won 19 of 22 games. Take out the losses to Santa Clara and Washington without Mitchell and you could argue they should be a #3 seed, more bad news for Oklahoma State.

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Louisville Poised to Exploit a Manageable Field With Talent and Maturity

Posted by Will Tucker on March 20th, 2013

With seven regular season games remaining on the schedule in mid-February, Rick Pitino called on his team to win them all. The Cardinals had just lost a demoralizing five-overtime road game to Notre Dame, capping a precipitous three-week fall that saw his team lose four of seven games and drop from #1 in the country all the way out of the top-10. While the Cardinals’ bout with the Irish was heralded by some as the game of the year for its suspense and intensity, Louisville fans shook their heads in resignation after their team choked away an eight-point lead in the final 45 seconds. The team hyped as the strongest national title contender in the Pitino era at Louisville couldn’t seem to generate enough offense outside of Russ Smith, couldn’t seem to generate the fast breaks it desperately needed, and couldn’t seem to close out games.

Chane Behanan was Montrezl Harrell's biggest fan last Saturday, watching from the bench (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Chane Behanan was Montrezl Harrell’s biggest fan last Saturday, watching from the bench (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

So Pitino made an improbable request, and his team obliged. They built momentum by overwhelming St. John’s, Seton Hall, and DePaul; they subdued arch-rival Cincinnati and achieved redemption against Syracuse and Notre Dame. All the while, their glaring weaknesses slowly gave way to the singular strengths befitting a preseason consensus Final Four pick. The Cardinals’ backcourt, the sum of whose parts had yet to coalesce, came into form once Kevin Ware began playing extended stints at point guard, as he forced turnovers on defense and relieved Russ Smith of the fatigue of ball-handling duties while Peyton Siva was on the bench. Luke Hancock, the embattled James Madison transfer whose rusty early play drew groans even from press row in non-conference home games, quietly developed into a consistent 37% three-point marksman as his ailing shoulder strengthened. Gorgui Dieng fashioned himself into the Big East’s leading rebounder in conference play and proved he could still hit an elbow jumper despite the brace on his left wrist. All the while, the Cards forced opposing defenses to stretch ever further, opening driving opportunities for Siva after months of being thwarted by aggressive hedging and dense zones. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big East M5: 03.20.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 20th, 2013

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  1. The NCAA Tournament officially got under way last night with North Carolina A&T and St. Mary’s notching the first two victories of the Big Dance. Meanwhile, in the middle of Pennsylvania, Kentucky lost to might Robert Morris in the NIT, likely bringing delight to fans of their intrastate rivals, Louisville. The Cardinals are the No. 1 overall seed and the presumptive favorite to win the national championship according to plenty of pundits and bracketheads on ESPN.com. C.L. Brown of the Louisville Courier-Journal made the astute observation that the 2013 team bears plenty of resemblance, at least in terms of its resume, to the team Rick Pitino coached to a No. 1 seed in 2009. Brown breaks down the match-up between the two Cardinal teams and gives this year’s squad a slight edge for consistency reasons. What’s most interesting to us is that the player who would have the most sway on who wins that match-up will also be the most influential player in Louisville’s success this March — point guard Peyton Siva. Brown gives Siva the edge over Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee but that would assume that the good Siva shows up. It will be the same “if” in this year’s NCAA Tournament. If Siva is focused, consistent, and perhaps even dynamic, the Cardinals will likely be the best team in the field; but if he struggles to lead the offense and starts turning the ball over, it may end up as another disappointing season for Pitino’s club.
  2. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Montana would stand much of a chance against Syracuse. The Grizzlies don’t have a real “good” win (unless you count an overtime loss to Davidson, which is still a loss, so you shouldn’t count it) and the Orange looked good (at least until the second half) of the Big East championship game. Jim Boeheim’s team also has a distinct size, length, and athleticism advantage. Yet, despite all of that, a deeper review of the numbers supports the fact that Montana has a good chance to pull of the upset. Those numbers are usually decent indicators of upset potential, but the Grizzlies’ chances of pulling it off really depends on whether Syracuse will come out motivated to play in San Jose. They have the cross-country trip and they are a team that, until the Big East Tournament began, looked listless and defeated. If that’s the team that shows up on Thursday in California, then the veteran team from Montana will have a puncher’s chance. But if the focused and intense Syracuse team that gutted out an overtime victory over Georgetown in the Big East semifinals returns, then the Grizzlies will have trouble dealing with the length of Syracuse’s zone defense and they will have even more trouble keeping them off the glass.
  3. It’s out in the open now — the secret weapon that Villanova will use to beat a hot North Carolina team that looks like a tough match-up for the Wildcats. Jay Wright will just rely on transfer point guard Tony Chennault, who knows everything there is to know about the Tar Heels because he spent two years in the ACC at Wake Forest. Er….well okay, so that’s not exactly a foolproof plan and Chennault didn’t have a whole lot of “inside” information to share with reporters and his teammates, but I guess he will know some of the players better anyway. Chennault at least understands that stopping the Tar Heels will involve some serious transition defense and a commitment to stepping out on the shooters, especially ones behind the three-point arc. In fact, the arc may be where this entire game is won and lost. The Tar Heels’ smaller lineup is built for attacking from the perimeter with P.J. Hairston at power forward, and the Wildcats have had a well-documented problem stopping the deep threat this season. If the Wildcats can slow down Hairston and use their size to their advantage, they will probably have a better shot to win.
  4. Taking a quick break from Tournament Talk, the sure-to-depress chatter of conference realignment has reared its ugly head again in the form of a story about how the Conference Formerly Known As The Big East could be in danger of losing its lucrative media rights deal. Basically, if Connecticut, Cincinnati, Houston, or Temple decide to leave the conference, the media rights deal with ESPN could be terminated. Those four schools are considered the Tier-1 schools by the television executives and if the Big East can’t hold on to them, the networks will have the option to renegotiate the deal with the league. Commissioner Mike Aresco continues to say all of the right things about the future of his league, but despite all of the maneuvering and jockeying among different teams, it seems like the conference constantly remains on the brink of dissolution, especially if schools like Connecticut and Cincinnati (both of whom are likely trying to find a new home as soon as possible) take off.
  5. Say what you want about the homer-ish tinge to this article about Cashmere Wright, but once you toss aside the paragraphs about why you should root for him, the overall point about Wright’s importance to the Bearcats is a good one. It’s no coincidence that the Bearcats’ sudden struggles during the regular season started right around the same time Wright suffered his shoulder injury. Wright has played much better down the stretch, which is good news for the Bearcats, because they will need him to score against a Creighton team that is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country. Cincinnati will undoubtedly play tougher, more physical defense than the Bluejays are used to, but the Bearcats don’t exactly score easily and they rely heavily on Wright and backcourt mate Sean Kilpatrick to spark the offense. So yeah, I guess Cincinnati fans should be rooting for Wright.
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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by BHayes on March 18th, 2013

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmidwestregion).

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

Midwest Region

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

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

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

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

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

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

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