Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Pittsburgh Panthers

Posted by mlemaire on March 21st, 2013

Jamie Dixon’s club is back in the NCAA Tournament after a dismal 2012 season but this year hasn’t been without its bumps and bruises. The advanced metrics love Pittsburgh and think the Panthers are one of the top 10 teams in the country, but a junk non-conference schedule and troubling conference losses caused the Panthers to slip all the way down to a No. 8 seed and their path starts with a polished and veteran Wichita State team and  could lead through No. 1 Gonzaga next.

Will This Finally Be The Year Jamie Dixon Can Silence Some Critics?

Will This Finally Be The Year Jamie Dixon Can Silence Some Critics?

Region: West
Seed: No. 8
Record: 24-7 (12-6 Big East)
Matchup: vs. Wichita State in Salt Lake City

Key Player: As Yankee great Reggie Jackson would say, Tray Woodall is the straw that stirs the drink for the Panthers. The dynamic point guard hasn’t broken out the way some expected him to this season, but he still leads the team in scoring (11.8 PPG), assists (5.2 APG) and three-point shooting (38.2% 3FG), in addition to his ball-handling and offense-running responsibilities. His ability to create for the rest of the team and handle the bulk of the possessions for the Panthers will be crucial if they want to get out of their half of the bracket and make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Woodall played well down the stretch (with the exception of a “meh” effort in the Big East Tournament loss to Syracuse) and if he can keep the momentum rolling and maintain his confidence, Pittsburgh has a legitimate shot at knocking off Gonzaga in the Third Round.

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The Retrospective Jeremy Lin Story — A Harvard Hero

Posted by EJacoby on February 13th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor to RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin is the talk of the entire sports world for his rise from the end of the bench to the leader of the New York Knicks, in a story that all fans have surely become familiar with by now. Lin is just the fourth Asian-American, and fourth player from Harvard, to ever play in the league, and he bounced around three different teams last offseason before even cracking the bottom of the New York roster. Now in the past week, he’s become the first player in history to record at least 20 points and seven assists in his first four NBA starts, all Knick victories. How did the ‘Linsanity’ phenomenon come out of nowhere? Based on his college career in the Ivy League, we’ll detail that he may not have been such a long shot after all.

Jeremy Lin Was a Harvard Star With NBA Potential That Has Finally Been Realized (AP Photo/F. Beckham)

Lin has certainly taken the road less traveled on his journey to the NBA, beginning with the fact that he didn’t receive a single athletic scholarship offer for college. At Palo Alto High School, the guard was part of a California state title team that played its games across the street from Stanford’s campus, yet he was only offered a spot to walk on for Trent Johnson’s Cardinal program. Instead, a choice to attend Harvard gave Lin an opportunity to pursue basketball with a great chance for playing time while also enjoying the benefits of an elite academic institution. Lin played just 18 minutes and averaged 4.1 points per game as a freshman, but like many mid-major players he became a major factor once he put on some weight to match his body with his feel for the game. His sophomore year saw Lin average 12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, and from there he became a recognized name (at least among mid-major watchers) on the national hoops radar.

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RTC Mock Draft: Final Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2011

1) Cleveland Cavaliers- Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke

2) Minnesota Timberwolves- Derrick Williams, PF, Arizona

3) Utah Jazz- Enes Kanter, C, Turkey

4) Cleveland Cavaliers- Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania

5) Toronto Raptors- Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky

6) Washington Wizards- Jan Vesely, PF, Czech Republic

7) Charlotte Bobcats- Bismack Biyombo, PF, Congo

8) Detroit Pistons- Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas

9) Charlotte Bobcats- Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State

10) Sacramento Kings- Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU

11) Golden State Warriors- Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State

12) Utah Jazz- Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut

13) Phoenix Suns- Marcus Morris, SF, Kansas

14) Houston Rockets- Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State

15) Indiana Pacers- Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas

16) Philadelphia Sixers- Nikola Vucevic, C, USC

17) New York Knicks- Iman Shumpert, PG, Georgia Tech

18) Washington Wizards- Alec Burks, SG, Colorado

19) Milwaukee Bucks- Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence

20) Minnesota Timberwolves- Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas

21) Portland Trail Blazers- Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State

22) Denver Nuggets- Tobias Harris, SF, Tennessee

23) Houston Rockets- Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Lithuania

24) Oklahoma City Thunder- Kyle Singler, SF, Duke

25) Boston Celtics- Reggie Jackson, PG, Boston College

26) Dallas Mavericks- Nikola Mirotic, SF, Serbia

27) New Jersey Nets- Justin Harper, PF, Richmond

28) Chicago Bulls- Charles Jenkins, SG, Hofstra

29) San Antonio Spurs- Davis Bertans, SF, Latvia

30) Chicago Bulls- Jeremy Tyler, C, Japan

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2011 RTC Mock Draft: Final Version

Posted by zhayes9 on June 21st, 2011

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

One final stab at how Thursday night will play out before we finally send off some of our favorite college players to the next level:

1 ) Cleveland Cavaliers- Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke. Any Derrick Williams-to-Cleveland rumor is searching for intrigue that’s simply non-existent. Irving was the pick the night the Cavaliers struck gold at the lottery and remains the pick today. Irving is  a safe bet to develop into a dynamic player at such a vital position on the floor.

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Kyrie Irving appears to be the near-unanimous choice at #1

2) Minnesota Timberwolves- Derrick Williams, SF/PF, Arizona. Ideally, Minnesota would be eyeing a 2-guard, but they’ll have to swing a pre-draft deal to fill that need, as no shooting guard is worth taking this high. My money’s on GM David Kahn holding on to the pick and trying to trade Michael Beasley later. Williams has all of the skills to be an eventual All-Star.

3) Utah Jazz- Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky. The Jazz are fairly set up front with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors waiting in the wings, so look for #3 to come down to either Knight or Kemba Walker. Given Knight’s shooting ability, size and character, I see the former Kentucky point as the most likely choice.

4) Cleveland Cavaliers- Enes Kanter, C, Turkey. Rumors are spreading that Cleveland is looking to trade #4 for more picks to fill multiple needs, but passing up on Kanter here could be a grave mistake. The young Turk has a great attitude, impressed at the Chicago combine and could mold into the best post player in the entire draft.

5) Toronto Raptors- Jan Vesely, PF, Czech Republic. Toronto has a major need at power forward and worked out both Vesely and Bismack Biyombo this past weekend. The Raptors have been connected with Vesley since the first draft prognostications began and we see no reason to change our minds now. Vesley is a high-level athlete with commendable versatility for his size.

6) Washington Wizards- Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State. Washington could be a candidate to move up to either #4 or #5 and take Kanter or Vesely. If they hold fort here, look for Leonard to be the selection. The former Aztec is a phenomenal rebounder and athletic freak that can instantly boost a position of dire need for the Wizards.

7) Sacramento Kings- Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut. The Kings wouldn’t mind if Leonard fell to them at #7, but if Washington grabs him, point guard is the next choice with Tyreke Evans more suited as a scoring guard. This pick will come down to Walker, Alec Burks and even Jimmer Fredette. Walker could instill some character to a shaky locker room and can contribute immediately.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Reggie Jackson

Posted by Brian Goodman on May 25th, 2011

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Reggie Jackson

School: Boston College

Height/Weight: 6’3/208 lbs.

NBA Position: Point Guard

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

Overview: Reggie Jackson came to Boston College all the way from Colorado Springs as a heralded shooting guard. Making an early impact for former head coach Al Skinner, Jackson averaged seven points per contests in 20 minutes in his freshman season, including a season-high 17 on the road against North Carolina during the Tar Heels’ run to a national title. With surprisingly long arms for someone his size (his wingspan has been measured at seven feet), Jackson pulled down more rebounds than you would typically expect from a 6’3 guard. Juggling an increase in playing time with new full-time starting point guard responsibilities, Jackson improved steadily in his sophomore season, though he struggled shooting the ball (especially from the perimeter) where he failed to crack 30% beyond the arc in both of his first two seasons. His floor general skills shone through, however, as he posted one of the ACC’s top assist-to-turnover ratios in 2009-10. He continued to improve, but few could predict his spectacular 42% performance from beyond the arc in 2010-11, which played a major role in his shooting percentage rising from 43% from 50% last season. With several seniors graduating, Jackson decided to leave school a year early rather than play out the first stage of a massive rebuilding project in Chestnut Hill in 2011-12. Without a strong supporting cast, a return to BC would have spelled a rather strenuous workload as a senior.

Jackson is an Athletic Guard With Substantial Upside

Will Translate to the NBA: Jackson’s appeal stems from his athleticism and wingspan, which makes him a very explosive player on both ends of the court. Once he adds more muscle to his frame, scouts are confident that he’ll be good to go. He’s already a very good finisher on the break and can succeed in half-court sets as well, especially in the pick-and-roll. Jackson worked hard to improve his jumper last season, which will help him get by as he adds the weight necessary to drive and absorb contact in the lane.

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RTC 2011 NBA Mock Draft: Version 1.0

Posted by zhayes9 on May 19th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an RTC contributor, columnist and bracketologist.  For the next six weeks, he’ll also be our chief draftnik, mocking up the place with his first round selections.  For additional detail, be sure to also check out our 35 draft profiles of the top collegians that we are rolling out over the next five weeks. 

As a college basketball fan, the NBA Draft has always represented a final sendoff to the previous season and for the players we’ve followed religiously over the course of their collegiate careers. Even though some stops (Derrick Rose, John Wall, Greg Oden) have been shorter than others (Tyler Hansbrough, J.J. Redick, Evan Turner), each player has provided a long list of memories while making their individual imprint on the college game. Similar to a parent sending their kids off to school for the first time, the draft in late June serves as one last chance to say goodbye.

It's 2003 All Over Again For the Cavs... Sorta

Now that the lottery order has been unveiled, it’s time to introduce our first ever 2011 NBA Mock Draft here at RTC. As someone who annually follows the happenings surrounding the draft for weeks leading up to the big night, hopefully my mock selections will provide both insight and expectation into what will transpire in around five weeks time, although with this year’s weak draft class we could see more trades than ever with teams looking to exchange picks this year for 2012 selections.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke.  In a point guard heavy league where a gifted court general is essential for any team with championship aspirations, Irving makes the most sense of any single pick in the draft. Irving has tremendous playmaking ability at the position both setting up teammates and generating his own offense.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves- Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona.  The most efficient player in college basketball who possesses phenomenal athleticism and excels in isolation, Williams is the clear cut choice if Minnesota hangs onto this pick. Although Williams is a bit of a tweener, an improved mid-range game will render Williams a matchup nightmare for opposing threes.

3. Utah Jazz- Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky.  This pick could certainly go in a different direction if the Jazz head honchos feel Devin Harris is their point guard for the foreseeable future. Even if Harris sticks around, Knight needs some grooming as a distributor before he’s ready to shine. Knight is already a capable shooter and offensive threat.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers- Enes Kanter, C, Turkey.  After selecting Irving, it only makes sense to grab the best available big man and pick Kanter. A supremely skilled 7-footer with advanced footwork and scoring ability in the post, Kanter’s ceiling is very high. Kanter hasn’t played outside of a Kentucky practice in over a year, so there’s risk in this selection.

5. Toronto Raptors- Jonas Valanciunas, PF, Lithuania.  The Raptors have never been bashful about selecting international players and there’s certainly a need for more athleticism in the low post for Toronto. If the question marks surrounding Valanciunas’ buyout can be resolved, the Raptors are nabbing a projectable low-post threat who can really rebound.

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Conference Report Card: ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 28th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

Conference Recap

The ACC had a down year though North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall-led resurgence and Florida State’s Sweet Sixteen appearance helped a little bit. Before and during the season, Duke was the runaway favorite in the conference: Kyrie Irving’s toe injury obviously was the pivotal point that brought Duke back down to earth. Equally pivotal (in the reverse direction) was Marshall’s move to starting point guard for North Carolina. With Larry Drew II at the helm, there is no way the Tar Heels could have come close to surpassing Duke for the regular season title. The down year did not really surprise most people, and despite lofty preseason expectations (read: people forgot how highly rated North Carolina was to start the season) I think the perception is that the league at least lived up to preseason expectations with a couple of notable exceptions: NC State, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. NC State had NCAA Tournament talent, but did not come anywhere close to sniffing the Big Dance; Wake was arguably the worst major conference team in the country; and Virginia Tech once again found itself very highly seeded in the NIT. On the flip side, Clemson and Florida State both exceeded expectations.

Roy Williams and Kendall Marshall led a mid-season resurgence that resulted in a trip the Elite Eight. (News Observer/Robert Willitt)

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Morning Five: 03.31.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2011

  1. Despite multiple premature reports to the contrary Matt Painter decided to stay at Purdue as he turned down Missouri‘s soft deadline (note to other programs without a real draw–don’t try to play hardball when you have no bargaining power). We still aren’t sure why everybody was so concerned that Painter would leave Purdue as we can’t think of a single advantage the Missouri job wold offer over Purdue especially given the current state of the two programs. Despite the Missouri administration’s attempts to throw out big names as potential replacements for Mike Anderson we expect that they will probably end up having to hire a coach from a mid-major program or an assistant coach looking to get his big break.
  2. Along the same lines all the athletic directors out there can stop calling Buzz Williams as the Marquette coach signed an extension. Williams had been named as a potential candidate for several jobs including Oklahoma and Arkansas, but in the end he decided to stay in the Big East despite the team’s competitive disadvantage against other team’s in the conference due to its location. Details regarding the extension are not available at this time, but we are pretty sure that Williams was well taken care of by the Marquette administration.
  3. We are going to start sounding like a broken record pretty soon, but another underclassman decided to declare for the NBA Draft yesterday without hiring an agent. This time it was Boston College guard Reggie Jackson who opted to explore his NBA prospects. Unlike some of the other recent players to semi-declare Jackson is in a rather interesting position as he could potentially play his way into the first round at which point he would face a dilemma as to whether or not to leave his name in without being a guaranteed 1st round pick despite what any NBA executive might tell him.
  4. Two Penn State basketball players–Tre Bowman and Taran Buie–were charged yesterday for their involvement in a fight last month that also involved two members of the football team. Buie didn’t contribute to this year’s team as he was suspended in December while Bowman played sparingly as a freshman last year, but will probably be expected to help pick up the enormous void left by the departure of Talor Battle.
  5. The Kansas basketball team may have had a difficult day on Sunday when they were upset by VCU, but that pales in comparison to Kassie Liebsch, one of seven former employees of the athletic department involved in a ticket scam the funneled tickets to brokers and other individuals in return for financial compensation. While two of her co-defendents pleaded out and were sentenced to probation for failing to report the crime to authorities, Liebsch was sentenced to 37 months in prison as well as having to pay back nearly $1.5 million. Four of her other co-defendents are still awaiting sentencing.
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Set Your Tivo: 03.11.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 11th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

One auto bid and a host of major conference games are on tap today, two days out from Selection Sunday. The afternoon session features plenty of bubble teams making their closing arguments to the Selection Committee. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

SEC Quarterfinals (at Atlanta, GA): Georgia vs. Alabama – 1 pm on ESPN FullCourt (***)

We’ve heard all kinds of things about this game from an elimination game to a play-in game. Whatever it may be, one team will be looking better than the other by the time it’s over. Alabama beat Georgia in the regular season finale six days ago and now they meet again in another game with major NCAA implications. RTC’s resident bracketologist had Georgia in and Alabama the first team on the “out” list as of last night while Joe Lunardi over at ESPN has the Bulldogs as the last team in the field and the Crimson Tide in the same position as RTC. This game will be played almost exclusively in the paint as neither team shoots it well from deep. Both teams rank in the top 20 in interior defense but Georgia has to avoid turnovers to win. Alabama thrives on giveaways despite their slower tempo, ranked #28 in defensive turnover percentage. Georgia committed 16 turnovers in the loss to the Tide last week and lost the game despite out-shooting Alabama from the floor. Senario Hillman leads Alabama in steals and will look to harass the Georgia guards all game long. The battle in the paint between Trey Thompkins and JaMychal Green could determine the outcome of the game if the Bulldogs don’t turn it over often.

Big Ten Quarterfinals (at Indianapolis, IN): Michigan vs. Illinois – 2:30 pm on ESPN (***)

Illinois is generally considered to be in the field of 68 but Michigan could really use a win. The Wolverines are likely in as of now but a loss here and other results around the country could make it a very close call on Sunday. The Illini won the only meeting of the regular season, a two point win in Champaign on February 16. Michigan protects the ball very well but rebounding and defense did them in against Illinois in that game. John Beilein would love to play this game in the half court where his team can probe and dissect the Illinois defense, although the Illini rank tenth in three point defense and Michigan fires up almost 23 triples per game. With two dynamic playmakers in Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr, Michigan can break a team down off the dribble of spot up for a three. This is a game they definitely can win but a better effort on the glass is needed. Michigan ranks near the bottom of D1 in offensive rebounding percentage (that will happen when you shoot so many threes) and was out-rebounded in the loss to Illinois last month.

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ACC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC. With conference tournament action set to tip from Greensboro on Thursday, get set for March Madness with RTC’s regular season wrap-up and postseason outlook.

Postseason Preview

North Carolina is hot.  It took almost all of the regular season, but the Tar Heels are finally living up to preseason hype.  UNC  should definitely be favored to win the ACC Tournament, but I wouldn’t bet on them.  I think the Heels are due for one more hiccup before the Big Dance.  They’ve flirted with disaster a couple of times and are coming off a huge win against Duke.  It’s tough to keep a young team focused, and this team starts two freshmen and two sophomores.  I also expect Duke to be playing with real purpose after the beatdown in Chapel Hill as it fights for a top seed.

As far as the bubble is concerned, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Boston College all need wins.  I don’t think any of them are safe at this point (which is the unfortunate part of Clemson clinching the bye).  Unfortunately, Clemson and Boston College will probably meet in the second round in a de facto “win and in” game.

Besides interesting bubble match-ups, look out for Duke and Maryland in the second round.  Maryland has been down this year, but the Terps never back down from a fight (especially one with Duke).  Also keep an eye on the semifinals when Boston College or Clemson will probably meet North Carolina.  The Tigers and Eagles both played North Carolina incredibly close in Chapel Hill, and both would really benefit from the resume boost.

The most exciting conference tourney prospect is a rubber match between Duke and North Carolina in the tournament finals.  These two teams are far and away the best teams in the conference, and both are in the conversation for a number one seed.  Oh yeah, and who wouldn’t want a third game of one of the best rivalries in sports.

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Checking in on… the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 1st, 2011

Matt Patton is the RTC correspondent for the ACC.

A Look Back

Hold onto your seats, Hokie fans, you’re on the right side of the bubble after a statement win against Duke this week.  Virginia Tech’s win was just what the doctor ordered, but the Hokies are far from a lock (for everyone but Dickie V).  The Hokies won despite a very poor night from star Malcolm Delaney, who did hit a huge three late but was otherwise ineffective.  Jeff Allen picked up any slack Delaney left, finishing with 18 points and 15 boards.  But the real credit goes to Virginia Tech’s defense, which held Duke to under 40% from the field.  Kyle Singler helped those numbers a lot with one of the worst 22 and 12 lines you’ll ever see.  Singler has been in a real shooting slump (he’s 8-36 from beyond the arc in his last nine games).  He got plenty of open looks against the Hokies but just couldn’t convert anything from outside 15 feet.  Singler played very well when he was taking shorter jump shots and getting into the lane and drawing contact, but the set jumper just isn’t there.  Duke fans need to hope this is part of his yearly slump because this team is much less dangerous without Singler as an outside threat.  Virginia Tech also stymied Seth Curry, who only played 15 minutes because of foul trouble, but managed to finish with no points and a crucial turnover on Duke’s last possession (where he tried to do too much).  I think Curry was just a little too emotionally wound up before the game: in case you don’t know the back story, Curry’s father, Dell Curry, was one of the best players in Virginia Tech history (the first Hokie to have his jersey retired).  Regardless of shooting slumps and emotional windings, this was a huge win for Virginia Tech, which was starting to drift towards the wrong side of the bubble.

Major indirect benefactor of the upset in Blacksburg: North Carolina.  Now if the Tar Heels can beat Duke in Chapel Hill this weekend, they share the regular season ACC title and grab the top seed in the conference tournament.  Ironically second-seed could be the desired seed depending on how the rest of the field works out because I think any sane coach would rather face Florida State (set to be the three seed currently) without Chris Singleton than Virginia Tech (lined up to be the fourth seed right now).

Team of the Week: Virginia Tech in a runaway.  Not too much more to be said, but the Hokies would probably be looking at an 11-seed if Selection Sunday was today (at least if Andy Glockner or Bracketology101 was seeding the bracket**).  That’s obviously better than not being in the field, but far from “lock” status.  To ensure a bid, I still think Virginia Tech needs to win out the regular season or win one game in the conference tournament (against a decent team).  Still that’s totally doable.  Between a couple of solid wins and a tough nonconference schedule, things should be looking up in Blacksburg.

**By the way, if you don’t follow Andy Glockner (@aglock) on Twitter, you should.  He’s one of the most responsive sports writers in the business and does a tremendous job with Bubble Watch at SI.com.  In addition to responsive, thoughtful analysis, you should expect a wealth of tweets on Team Bubble Watch (Marquette), Fulham, the Knicks and the New York Giants.  Most of you probably already knew this, but just in case anyone is new to Twitter, I thought I’d pass along the tip.  [ed note. - agreed]

Bizarro Team of the Week: Georgia Tech has lost its last eight conference games.  Next up: Wake Forest.  Looks like the ultimate place for the Demon Deacons to pick up a second conference win to me.  The frustrating thing about the Yellow Jackets is their talent to performance ratio.  Really Iman Shumpert, Glen Rice and Brian Oliver should make a much better team.  Truthfully, Mfon Udofia isn’t bad either, and Daniel Miller is developing.  The team needs a point guard and more consistency in the post.

Player of the Week: John Henson.  He’s been in double digit rebounding eight of his last nine games and double digit scoring in seven of his last nine.  Oh yeah, and he averaged six and a half blocks this week.  Most importantly, Henson hasn’t missed a free throw in three games (six for six).  The free throw stat is probably a mirage, but the rebounding and blocks are very real.  Henson is a huge defensive presence on North Carolina’s front line.  With Chris Singleton injured, I think he’s close to a lock for ACC defensive player of the year (at least he should be).  North Carolina has the second-ranked defense according to Ken Pomeroy, and Henson’s length deserves a lot of credit.

Power Rankings

1.  Duke (26-3, 12-2) barely edges out the Tar Heels this week.  The Blue Devils crushed Temple (a top 25 foe) at home this week before the loss to desperate Virginia Tech.  The game at North Carolina should be great.  I think Duke is marginally better, but the Dean Dome is going to be huge for North Carolina.  Mason Plumlee, especially has looked much better for Duke recently.  He’s quietly shooting almost 60% from the field (albeit on mainly dunks), and nearly averaging double digit rebounds.  He’ll be crucial in dealing with North Carolina’s length Saturday night.

2.  North Carolina (22-6, 12-2) can claim the top seed in the ACC Tournament with a win over Duke Saturday.  This team plays really well in spurts (cliche alert: it’s a game of runs), but there are still problems.  I think Roy Williams needs to trim his lineup down a little bit: the constant substitutions kill offensive flow for the Heels, especially early in a half.  Kendall Marshall still has a tendency to force things sometimes, but he makes the Tar Heels absolutely lethal in transition.  Look for Duke to try and force him to score.

3.  Virginia Tech (19-8, 9-5) isn’t out of the woods yet.  Don’t test the selection committee!

4.  Florida State (20-8, 10-4) is playing surprisingly well without Chris Singleton.  Yes, they got spanked at College Park this week, but really Leonard Hamilton has to be thrilled with the way his squad has adapted without its best defender and primary scoring option.  One possible wrench in the above plan for North Carolina stealing the top spot from under Duke is Florida State knocking off the Tar Heels in Tallahassee.  Without Singleton it will be difficult, but if North Carolina’s offense vaguely resembles what it trotted out against Boston College, Florida State is in the gold.

5.  Clemson (19-9, 8-6) needs a decent run in the ACC Tournament if it wants to make the Big Dance.  Though if Duke is willing to help another bubble team out Wednesday, that would help too.  Clemson’s other game is against Virginia Tech (bubble on bubble brawl), which is a must-win for both teams.  Regardless of what ends up happening, Brad Brownell has done a tremendous job with this team.  Give him a couple of years, and Clemson will be back on the right side of the bubble.  This is a team most people picked much lower in the preseason.

6.  Maryland (18-11, 7-7) is probably out of the bubble picture after its loss to North Carolina, which is really a shame.  The Terps are clearly good enough to be a tournament team, they just couldn’t win games (somewhat of an oxymoron, I know).  Maryland closes out the season with games at Miami and against Virginia.  But Terrell Stoglin has really improved.  He’s averaging over twenty points a game over his last six games (with three games of at least 25 points).  Between him and Jordan Williams (who should come back, as he’s a little slow and undersized for the next level), they’ll be really good.  Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if Maryland gets a decent draw and goes to the finals of the ACC Tournament this year (which would probably draw a bid to the Big Dance in the process, assuming the run included a win over North Carolina or Duke).

7.  Boston College (17-11, 7-7) lost to Miami this week.  That’s no way to sell an already lacking mediocre resume to the committee.  Reggie Jackson is a tremendous player; Joe Trapani makes a great right-hand man; and Corey Raji is one of the most undervalued offensive players in the ACC this year.  But for whatever reason, Boston College struggles to bring a consistent product to the floor.  One thing the Eagles really need to do during the offseason is try and get students excited about the team.  Boston College has good players, a good coach in Steve Donahue, and is probably just on the wrong side of the bubble: how can it not attract students to the games?

8.  Miami (17-12, 5-9) completed its season sweep of Boston College before losing to Florida State.  If Reggie Johnson can stay out of foul trouble, the Hurricanes are a very difficult team to beat.  They still need to make the transition from “tough out” to “favorite”, but I like Johnson, Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott a lot.

9.  Virginia (14-14, 5-9) picked up a win against Georgia Tech on the road before falling to a Boston College team desperate to improve its resume.  This week looks like another split week between a very winnable game against NC State and a tough one at Maryland.

10. NC State (15-13, 5-9) lost to North Carolina before beating Georgia Tech.  State fans still react negatively when Sidney Lowe chooses to play Javier Gonzalez over Ryan Harrow.  Credit the upperclassmen for a great game against Georgia Tech though: Tracy Smith and Scott Wood combined for 38 points on 20 field goals.  That’s efficiency.

11. Georgia Tech (11-17, 3-11) should just count down the days till the end of the season.

12. Wake Forest (8-21, 1-13) shoots free throws pretty well (second in the ACC at 73.6%).  Everything else?  Not so much.  Actually, the youth is promising, so there’s that, too.

A Look Ahead

  • Tuesday Bubble Struggle: Boston College at Virginia Tech (9:00PM, ESPNU) – The Hokies fight to stay on the right side of the bubble while Boston College faces a win-or-go-to-the-NIT (probably) game.  Should be fun to watch.  Keep an eye on Reggie Jackson and Malcolm Delaney.
  • Wednesday Upset Watch: North Carolina at Florida State (7:00PM, ESPN) – Can the Chris Singleton-less Seminoles knock off the streaking Tar Heels?  It’s possible, especially if the Tar Heels are missing shots from the outside.  The question is whether Florida State has any way to keep John Henson and Tyler Zeller off the boards.
  • Primetime Saturday: Virginia Tech at Clemson (12:00PM, ESPN2) – Another battle for the bubble showcasing Virginia Tech.  I’m not sure Clemson is cut out for the Big Dance this year, but a win here keeps them in the conversation.
  • Rivalry Rematch: Duke at North Carolina (Saturday, 8:00PM, CBS) – For the first time in the rivalry’s storied history, it’s coming to primetime.  This really should be a pick ‘em game.  Neither team can afford to get off to a slow start.  UNC needs to keep Duke cold from the perimeter, and Duke needs to not look soft inside.  My pick: Duke in a very close one on the back of Nolan Smith.
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Set Your Tivo: 03.01.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 1st, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Welcome to March, the best month of the year for all hoops fans. It’s a huge night for bubble teams across the country, with a few having a chance for that elusive marquee win that may put them over the top. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#19 Vanderbilt @ #22 Kentucky – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

Tonight, Josh Harrellson Will Be the Lone Kentucky Player Honored By the Senior Night Playing of "My Old Kentucky Home"

This is the only game in tonight’s preview that doesn’t feature a bubble team as both of these clubs are solidly in the field. They’re both projected to get 5-seeds and are actually right next to each other on the S-curve. The Commodores won the first meeting in Nashville by means of a strong shooting night on which they hit 55% from three. Kentucky held Vanderbilt to 41.2% shooting inside the arc in that game, however, and that’s something the Wildcats do very well on the whole. They rank fifth nationally in two point defense and block percentage, plus they rebound well with Terrence Jones and Josh Harrellson up front. Both teams have the ability to get silly from beyond the arc, so this game could very well come down to interior play.

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