ACC M5: Opening Night Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 9th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: While most of the ACC is starting out their season (tonight!) with some overmatched competition (with apologies to Virginia who will take on George Mason), Maryland is opening their season with a real challenge. Though this year’s Kentucky team is totally different from the beast that dominated college basketball last year, the Wildcats are still stacked with top recruits and still led by John Calipari. Maryland plans to put up a fight however, and the sudden eligibility of sensational wing Dez Wells puts a little muscle behind that hope. Though Calipari is making his traditional noise about how he feels his team is overrated and how he is concerned about the Terrapins, there is no doubt that Maryland is the underdog in this fight.
  2. Backing the Pack: Meanwhile in Raleigh, there remains at least one question: who will be the North Carolina State‘s fifth starter?Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and Scott Wood are no-brainer starters for Mark Gottfried, but the final starting slot has not yet been named. Gottfried said that he isn’t sure who will start, while adding the caveat that he doesn’t think it matters too much. The most probable choice is that the coach will go with highly-touted freshman guard Rodney Purvis, though there is an outside chance that the spot will be earned by T.J. Warren. Of course, it could always be some wild card option, but these two are the most logical choices.
  3. ESPN: In Chapel Hill, Roy Williams is dealing with a similar issue. Freshman Marcus Paige has been named a starter along with veterans Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, and James Michael McAdoo. This leaves one open spot for North Carolina, and considering the named starters, the spot belongs to a big man. In the exhibition game, Desmond Hubert got the start, but freshman center Joel James shined when he got his turn. Williams suggests that little used sophomore Jackson Simmons and spindly freshman Brice Johnson could also get the start, but Hubert and James are the clear frontrunners for the spot with James holding an edge.
  4. Fox Sports: After a year spent playing home games in other peoples’ gyms, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets finally have a home court. Tonight the first game tips off at McCamish Pavillion, the new name for the renovated Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The building connects the Yellow Jackets to their storied past while also showcasing a dramatic environment for home games. While certainly new video and sound equipment are clear upgrades, the coolest addition to this court has got to be GT’s embrace of theater-style lighting, the effect of lighting the court while keeping the stands relatively dark, an unabashedly neat effect that evokes Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center when the Los Angeles Lakers are playing (the Clippers use a different, more traditional lighting scheme). It’s a neat idea and one that will hopefully add some extra atmosphere to the rechristened Thrillerdome.
  5. Wilmington Star News: The preseason Wooden Award Watch List has been released and six ACC players have been unsurprisingly tapped for the list. North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo, and Florida State’s Michael Snaer represent the conference on the list. Considering that this list fairly closely mirrors most folks’ All-ACC First Team, there isn’t too much to complain about, though C.J. Harris and a couple players from Miami may have a reason to grouse. As always, this list doesn’t include any of the impact freshmen who are expected to make their mark upon the conference, though they will surely be added once they show what they can do in the college game.
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ACC M5: 11.08.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 8th, 2012

  1. Inside Carolina: In the Roy Williams era, it hasn’t been too difficult for North Carolina to score. The combination of a brisk tempo and a humming offense has meant that Chapel Hill residents have gotten used to gaudy scores and the discounted biscuits that come when UNC scores over 100 during a home game. This year, however, it seems more likely that the team will derive more of its identity from defense. While John Henson and Tyler Zeller were great interior defenders, the perimeter defense of the Tar Heels was inconsistent at best last season. This year, with speedy Marcus Paige at the point and gifted defenders Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock on the wings, it seems likely that UNC could have one of the better perimeter defenses in the Roy Williams era.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Down the road in Raleigh, North Carolina State is thinking about defense as well. Despite the lofty expectations that have been placed upon the Wolfpack, one of the easily spotted weaknesses for this team is defense. In Mark Gottfried’s first year, NCSU had a middling defense, and with the departure of paint protector DeShawn Painter and the ball-hawking tandem of C.J. Williams and Alex Johnson, there is concern that the defense could get worse. Still, the Wolfpack has been focusing on defense in practice, striving to improve in areas where the team fell short. C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell were often the cornerstones of NCSU’s interior defense last season, but both struggled to stay on the court due to foul trouble. Each is working on defending without fouling while maintaining the same intensity that served the team so well last year. Increased time on the court for either will do nothing but help North Carolina State become the elite team that many pundits are expecting.
  3. Washington Post: The immediate eligibility of Dez Wells is a story with a lot of big time basketball implications for the Maryland Terrapins. On a human level it’s a big story for Wells, his family, his mentor, his teammates, and the Maryland basketball family as they all stood by him and hoped for the best when things looked bleakest for Wells. Sexual assault is a heinous offense that is psychologically damaging to its victims in a way that few other crimes are. To be wrongfully accused of committing this crime and to lose your place at school and on your basketball team is a heavy load for a young man to carry. It’s hard not to be happy for Wells who seems to have found a new and supportive home in College Park. His newfound eligibility is really just the cherry on top.
  4. The Virginian-Pilot: James Johnson is the only rookie coach in the ACC this year, and his road will be far from easy as he tries to rebuild a Virginia Tech program that seemed permanently stuck just outside the NCAA Tournament under Seth Greenberg. The departure of Greenberg made things seem even more difficult as players transferred and recruits like Montrezl Harrell de-committed. The scary thing is that it could have been much worse. Erick Green, the senior star point guard of the Hokies, considered transferring away from Blacksburg as well but Johnson’s appointment (previously an assistant under Greenberg) to the head spot tipped the scales in favor of VT. Now the Hokies are going to try to enjoy a rebirth as an up-tempo team that complements a blistering, frantic attack with the determined inside presence of a now-healthy Cadarian Raines. Little is expected of Virginia Tech this season, but it sounds like Johnson and Green hope to surprise the rest of the ACC.
  5. Washington Times: Last year, Virginia had a watershed moment with coach Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers were respected as one of the toughest defenses in the nation and Mike Scott was garnering praise as a potential All-American. When Bennett left Washington State to take on the project of rebuilding Virginia, it was clear that this wouldn’t be an easy job with a quick solution. It’s somewhat surprising then that Bennett was able to talk Washington native Joe Harris into following him to the other side of the country to play for a rebuilding team. Entering his third year, however, Harris is poised to take a starring role on a team that is expected to again make plenty of noise in the conference. Harris has NBA size and skills and, in a featured role for Cavaliers (including some time at the point with Jontel Evans out), the sharpshooting guard will hopefully see some more of  the seeds of his and Bennett’s hard work blossom.
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ACC Summer Recess: NC State Wolfpack

Posted by mpatton on August 7th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: NC State.

Where They Stand Now

Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Brown Have Big Expectations (AP Photo/E. Hyman)

The Wolfpack are still riding a wave of momentum from a Sweet Sixteen performance in Mark Gottfried‘s inaugural year. After perennially underperforming with alumnus Sidney Lowe at the helm and hearing the media blast the school for running off Herb Sendek, NC State’s administration made the switch to the former Alabama coach who matched Sendek’s best postseason performance in his first season on the job. Gottfried added structure, and his talented roster improved throughout the year showing flashes of true greatness thanks in large part to the maturation of CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown. But 2012’s postseason success makes the bar much higher in Raleigh — Jay Bilas even put the Wolfpack on top of his preseason ACC power rankings. The questions now are: How will the new pieces fit with the current roster, and can Brown and Leslie make the leap to consistently dominant players?

Who’s Leaving

Guards Alex Johnson and CJ Williams both graduated. Johnson played the role of sparkplug: He was good for at least one heat check three and a lot of hustle. He also appeared to be a vocal leader on the team, both from the court and the bench. Williams was a more significant offensive contributor, averaging 10.6 points per game on 50 percent shooting. His versatility on the wing will definitely be missed on the defensive end of the floor.

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RTC 2012-13 Top 25: Post NBA Draft Deadline

Posted by KDoyle on May 1st, 2012

It’s never too early for these, right? We all love the debates, projecting who is too high or too low, and taking a closer look at the upcoming college hoops season — six months goes by quickly, promise. In quickly looking at the Top 25, one would surmise that having five of a team’s top players forgo the remainder of their college careers in favor of the NBA Draft would absolutely kill that team’s prospects for the upcoming season, but that is simply not the case for Kentucky. Last year’s National Champions check in at #2 in the Top 25, proving that John Calipari doesn’t rebuild, he reloads. It would not behoove us to let Kentucky steal the storyline, however, as Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers are the top dog in what looks to be a banner upcoming year. In what was arguably the most exciting and high-flying game of last year’s Tournament, the Hoosiers fell to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, but have nearly all the pieces back. Just two years ago this was a 12-20 team with no postseason experience, and now they are the top team in the land — according to our group of experts, at least. What a tremendous job Tom Crean has done. The usual Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…

Whether it is through an exceptional recruiting class, or an impressive finish to the 2011-12 season coupled with a strong nucleus returning, the following five teams surged upward—and for good reason:

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ACC in the NCAAs: Scouting North Carolina State vs. Kansas

Posted by KCarpenter on March 23rd, 2012

North Carolina State, by this point, has hopefully demonstrated that it has the talent to match up with just about any team in the nation. The Wolfpack has height, speed, athleticism, and skill. Kansas, however, has all that, tournament-tested experience and perhaps the second best player in college basketball, a guy named Thomas Robinson. Like so many games that NC State has competed in this season, this is a game that may very well come down to foul trouble. To win this game, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and DeShawn Painter need to stay on the floor, which may be a challenge considering how good the Jayhawks are at drawing fouls. Yet, in Kansas, NC State faces a team that shares their weaknesses as well as their strengths.

Gottfried Was A Controversial Hire, But He Has The Wolfpack Back In The Sweet Sixteen

Lorenzo Brown, Leslie, and Howell are all excellent at drawing fouls and Kansas’s big men are fairly susceptible to foul trouble. Jeff Withey‘s physical style means that he often finds himself with more than a few fouls while the rest of the big man rotation, outside of Thomas Robinson (who still gets called for 3.5 fouls per 40 minutes), fouls like there is no tomorrow. Kevin Young gets called for 5.4 fouls per 40, while Justin Wesley‘s 8.6 fouls per 40 is about as double-take inducing as it gets. If  NC State can win the foul battle, avoiding fouls on defense while drawing contact on offense, the Wolfpack may be able to leverage an advantage in the frontcourt while picking up easy points from the free throw line. NC State’s ability to keep Georgetown‘s Henry Sims on the bench with foul trouble was a major key to last Sunday’s upset and I think a Friday night victory follows a similar game plan.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Friday

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#3 Baylor vs. #10 Xavier – South Regional Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Baylor was supposed to be here, Xavier was not. That is the beauty of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament though: play it out on the floor. One can review all the matchups, crunch the numbers, and look at past tournament history, but sometimes simply getting hot at the right time is a more important factor than anything else. The Xavier Musketeers, an up-and-down team all year following the brawl against Cincinnati back in December, are peaking at just the right time. After a 21 game stretch in the middle of the year that saw Xavier go 10-11, they rebounded by winning five of six; the melee seems like a thing of the distant past right now. What teams should now begin to take notice of: Tu Holloway is back to playing at the level of an All-American. Not to mention, Kenny Frease is looking like one of the most dominant big men in the country after dismantling the Lehigh front line last Sunday. Despite all of this, Baylor is a downright scary team to be playing this weekend, especially with the shooting prowess of Brady Heslip who is a combined 14-22 from downtown. Xavier’s three-point defense is one of the best in the nation as they allow opponents to shoot just 30% from the outside, but can they contain the hot shooting Heslip and the steady Pierre Jackson? Consequently, if Heslip and Jackson are not connecting from distance, the onus will be on Perry Jones III. The Jones-Frease matchup down low is one to keep an eye on, and if we are to take any stock in the first two games, Frease is the one playing better of the two as Jones has combined to score just nine points on 4-14 shooting against South Dakota State and Colorado. A streaky scorer throughout the year, Jones has scored in single digits nine times and double digits 19 times; the Bears will need the latter of Jones’ scoring efforts to keep Xavier honest on defense. Baylor’s only losses this year have come against Big 12 opponents, and I expect this trend to continue as the Bears hold off Holloway and the Musketeers.

The RTC Certified Pick: Baylor

#1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Semifinals (at St. Louis, MO) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

The storylines leading up to this game have been completely taken over by Kendall Marshall’s “wrist watch”, but once the ball tips off on Friday night and Marshall is presumably unable to play, then we can finally focus on the matchups in-game. Of course, Marshall’s expected absence will then be the main factor to watch in the game. How will North Carolina distribute minutes at the point guard position against the harassing perimeter defense of D.J. Cooper? Expect Roy Williams to explore several different options, including seldom-used reserves Stilman White and Justin Watts. Both White and Watts average under seven minutes per game and were never expected to be significant factors for the team, but they are the only players with experience at the lead guard spot. But since neither guy is likely to make much of an impact offensively, UNC also could experiment by placing Harrison Barnes at the position in a point-forward role. Barnes has the size to see over any defenders but has never been asked to run an offense. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, two primary wing shooters, could help Barnes bring the ball up in a point guard by-committee approach, as well.

Regardless, as long as the point guard replacements or by-committee members don’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, then Carolina should still have the advantage in this game on both ends because of its tremendous forwards. Ohio’s regular rotation only includes two bangers in the post in Reggie Keely and Jon Smith, and while Keely is a solid post defender with bulk at 265 pounds, neither of those players is taller than 6’8”. It will be an adventure trying to defend the most talented front line in the country. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo should have a field day in the paint, and the lack of a point guard means that every UNC possession should include an early paint touch. Expect big numbers from this trio. But if Ohio is somehow able to key on the UNC bigs and stop the domination in the paint, then the Bobcats can pull another upset by gaining an advantage on the perimeter. Nick Kellogg and Walter Offutt must hit a high percentage of shots from the outside and D.J. Cooper will need another breakout performance to carry this team. It just seems unlikely that Ohio has enough firepower to hang with Carolina’s athletes on the interior. With or without Marshall, roll with North Carolina in this one.

The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.22.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2012

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

Midwest Region

West Region

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ACC Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 21st, 2012

  1. Fox Sports Carolinas: Andrew Jones does a solid job breaking down Duke‘s struggles this year. The article is specifically relevant on the end of the season, as I think the “lack of spirit” only settled in after the North Carolina game at Duke. But the issues are definitely there. I’d probably order my list like this (in order of greatest to least importance): (1) lack of a leader, (2) defense, (3) reliance on one player, (4) reliance on the three, (5) point guard issues. Some things are interconnected. The depressing thing for Duke fans is things may get worse before they get better depending on who stays and who goes this year.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs took a look at the scoring decline in the ACC. Since 2001 when the league peaked–averaging 79.3 points a game–the scoring has been steadily dropping to this year’s low of 68.5. In 2001 the league’s lowest scorer (Florida State) actually averaged higher scoring than this year’s league average. Part of the recent drop can be associated with coaching turnover and conference expansion creating diluted talent and new styles (see: Boston College and Virginia, respectively). The rest is probably a part of the national trend of offenses getting more efficient while slowing down. I hope someone analyzes the roots of this phenomenon.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: Want to know one reason NC State looks a lot better as of late? Richard Howell is seeing more playing time. Howell and fellow frontmen CJ Leslie and DeShawn Painter all improved significantly, but Howell’s tendency to pick up quick fouls kept him off the court during the regular season. Howell’s presence is going to be extra-critical this weekend against Kansas, as he’s a significantly better rebounder than Painter. The Wolfpack will need his presence on the glass to help limit the Jayhawks to one shot.
  4. Testudo Times: Ben Broman over at Testudo Times took a look at Nick Faust‘s season and very promising prognosis. Faust started the year horrendously on offense–largely because he was forced to take too large a role on an offense with too few weapons–but his talent has always been evident. Multiple people have said this throughout the year (especially down the stretch when things started clicking for the freshman): next year Faust could easily find himself on an All-ACC team. Frankly, he should probably find himself on two if his defense continues to improve and he gets his offensive mojo back.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: This is a very interesting interview with Brian Gregory. Probably the most insightful comment is on one thing he learned about the ACC, which was the physical nature of the conference. For a long time the Big East and Big Ten were known as the tough leagues (they still are), but the ACC is definitely becoming a tougher conference (Duke, Florida State, Miami and Virginia are very physical teams). I also thought Gregory’s reflection on his team was interesting even after taking it with a grain of “coach speak” salt.
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 18th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#3 Georgetown vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Thompson's Team is a Real Wildcard in this Region

We originally picked Georgetown to get upset in the round of 64 by Belmont, but that was with knowledge that the Hoyas could be the biggest threat to stopping Kansas from reaching the Elite Eight if they were able to escape that opening game. Not only did Georgetown escape, but it was one of the most impressive showings of any team in the tournament thus far. The Hoyas used their length and athleticism to deny the efficient Belmont offense from ever getting started, and they were unreal at their own end offensively with a 61.2% field goal percentage for the game. This matchup will be more difficult, however, against an North Carolina State team that’s getting better every game and playing spectacular offensively. The Wolfpack have great size inside to match Georgetown, with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell as long and athletic as any Hoya. Howell had his best game of the season with 22 points on 10-12 shooting last game, but that will also change as he goes up against much stronger post defenders. Georgetown primarily plays zone defense but will also switch things up and defend man-to-man when needed. It will be a battle inside all night as the Hoyas surely won’t let Scott Wood get open looks from three. This game, though, will be decided on the other end of the floor. NC State was not particularly strong defensively throughout the year, but they completely shut down San Diego State on Friday by allowing just 37.7% field goal shooting. The Aztecs played a lot of one-on-one ball, the exact opposite of what the Hoyas will show. It’ll be up to Henry Sims to make smart decisions in the high post, something he’s done all year. Jason Clark was great last game and is a reliable playmaker in this game, while Otto Porter remains rock solid as an X-factor offensively. Both of these teams looked great last round, but Georgetown has the advantage because it should pose a much greater defensive threat to the Wolfpack while also running a motion offense that will be difficult to defend.

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#1 Michigan State vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 2:45 PM ET on CBS

Two top ten teams in defensive efficiency. Two coaches with a well-earned reputation for X-ing and O-ing with the best of them. It isn’t likely to be one of the prettiest displays of basketball you’ll ever see, but if you like fundamentals and you like basketball as chess match, this is a can’t-miss game. The Billikens advanced to this round behind great team defense and great individual offensive performances by Kwamain Mitchell (22 points including four threes) and Brian Conklin (16 points, earned largely from his ten-of-11 performance from the line). But Conklin also turned the ball over eight times, in part due to the active hands of Memphis defenders; he’ll see more of that on Sunday and will need to take better care of the ball. Defensively, the Billikens will need to come up with some sort of answer for Draymond Green, who was brilliant Friday against Long Island, registering a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. But perhaps the biggest battle of the game will be on Michigan State’s offensive glass. The Spartans have historically made a living creating offensive on second-chance opportunities, but the best Rick Majerus-coached teams have been proficient in securing defensive rebounds. If the Billikens can limit the Spartans’ offensive rebounding (a feat easier said than done), Tom Izzo will need to find other ways for his Spartans to score in the halfcourt, and there have been times this year when that MSU offense has bogged down a bit. While sophomore guard Keith Appling is usually excellent getting penetration, SLU is no liable to allow that very often, and there is no one else on the Spartan roster capable of creating his own offense off the dribble on a regular basis. Guys like Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton have been very efficient three-point shooters, but, with the exception perhaps of Green, they need someone to create open looks for them. In short, if SLU can do what no other team has been able to do all year – keep Michigan State in check on their offensive glass – then the Billikens could drag this game down into the mud and pull out a win. But, if the Spartans do what, you know, they always do, I have a hard time seeing Saint Louis pulling this one out.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State

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

Posted by EJacoby on March 17th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Afternoon

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Texas – East Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

These are two teams with similar statistical profiles but the Texas Longhorns are missing Alexis Wangmene, a big senior forward who would have added an extra body for Rick Barnes to go up against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates in the paint. With a guard-oriented team and a thin front court, the Longhorns have some difficulty against the physical Bearcats. Cincinnati doesn’t have a deep front line either but Gates is the team’s third leading scorer and a key cog in its offensive flow. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well but Cincinnati has an edge on the perimeter with multiple players who can make a three. Texas ranks sub-200 in defending the triple and that’s something that could cost it the game. Cincinnati is a streaky hit-or-miss team with four capable guards surrounding Gates on the floor. As for Texas, leading scorer J’Covan Brown is pretty much the team’s only major threat. If Cincinnati can lock up Brown defensively, it will win the game rather easily. If Brown manages to get free and score close to his average of 20.1 PPG, the Bearcats will be in for a nail biter. Although Brown is the best player on the floor in this game, the edge has to go to Cincinnati because of its more balanced talent on the perimeter (including limiting turnovers), Gates in the post and the team’s overall experience. The majority of Cincinnati’s rotation is made up of juniors and seniors while four of Texas’ top six scorers are freshmen.

The RTC Certified Pick: Cincinnati.

#6 San Diego State vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

Jamaal Franklin is a Ferocious Competitor on Both Ends for SDSU (US Presswire)

A very popular upset pick, North Carolina State comes into this game on a roll having won four of its last five games with the only loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals to North Carolina by one possession. But NC State was on the bubble just one week ago; this team has been inconsistent throughout the season. The Wolfpack lost four games in a row prior to that strong finish to the season. The key to pull this upset will be to keep pressure on a strong SDSU defense, keyed by pounding the ball inside to find points in the paint with C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and C.J. Williams. It’s doubtful that San Diego State will give Scott Wood any wide open looks from three. The Aztecs, meanwhile, may have the two best overall players in this game with Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin (17.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and savvy guard Chase Tapley (15.7 PPG, 43.3% three-pointers). Both players shoulder a lot of the scoring load but have been reliable in big games this season against strong MW competition. SDSU is a much stronger defensive team (93.5 defensive efficiency) and holds opponents to 40% shooting from the field. NC State has a 99.9 ‘D’ efficiency and allows too much easy offense. We’ll take the Aztecs, the stronger team all season long that has Sweet Sixteen experience from last season.

The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State

#8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama – Midwest Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 1:40 PM ET on TBS

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Scouting North Carolina State vs. San Diego State

Posted by KCarpenter on March 16th, 2012

Announced last on the NCAA Selection Show (conspiracy?!), North Carolina State made the tournament after a brief absence from meaningful post-season play and was rewarded with what seems to be a fairly favorable draw against San Diego State. Coached by the legendary Steve Fisher, this San Diego State team that was supposed to be in severe rebuilding mode after losing most of last year’s veteran-loaded team to graduation and/or the NBA, but something strange happened. Sure, they lost more games than last year’s  team that went 32-2 before NCAA Tournament play, but who didn’t outside of Murray State. Still, instead of falling off the face of the Earth, the Aztecs made a really strong run this year, knocking off a number of pretty good teams. UNLV, New Mexico, and Colorado State, fellow NCAA teams from the Mountain West Conference all took at least one loss to San Diego State. The Aztecs also swept their three-game series against the Pac-12, beating Arizona, California, and Southern California as well as beating a pretty good Big West team in Long Beach State. Now, these wins look okay on paper, but they come with a number of caveats: The Pac-12 was truly terrible this year, wins against Cal and Arizona look worse and worse as more time passes, and beating USC was never really all that impressive. Though the wins against fellow Mountain West teams looks pretty good, it has to be understood that the Aztecs also lost at least once to all three of these teams. So while this is a nice collection of wins, I’m not sure that it says anything definitive about San Diego State’s quality.

Despite Being The Lower Seed, Gottfriend & The Wolfpack Should Like Their Chances

What I can say is that San Diego State has largely started 6’7″ Tim Shelton at center for much of the year. While the Aztecs can bring decent size off the bench in 6’11” Garret Green and 6’8″ Deshawn Stephens (and they typically give reasonable minutes to both), San Diego is pretty small compared to NC State’s front court, which is a problem. San Diego State is a good defensive rebounding team, but the Wolfpack is one of the more formidable offensive rebounding teams in the nation, boasting a legitimate star of the offensive glass in Richard Howell. On the opposite end, the Aztecs (with the exception of Deshawn Stephens) are largely indifferent to the offensive glass, seeming to philosophically embrace a San Antonio Spurs-esque approach which encourages getting back on defense over crashing the offensive glass. All in all, this seems to add up to a distinct advantage for the Wolfpack on the glass on both ends. This difference in rebounding good be significant for teams that stylistically share a few attributes.

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