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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Rushed Reaction: #11 NC State 66, #3 Georgetown 63

Posted by WCarey on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways

  1. As Henry Sims and Jason Clark go, so does Georgetown. The two seniors definitely did not have their best games and it hurt the Hoyas mightily. Sims was plagued with foul trouble throughout the game and was never able to be an effective offensive or defensive presence. Sims finished the game with just four points, three rebounds, and two assists. The senior big man only attempted three field goals, turned the ball over twice, and fouled out. After a very effective nine for 12 performance from the field against Belmont on Friday, Clark struggled with his shot all afternoon hitting just three of his 11 attempts. The senior guard struggled to get open looks and, at times, forced some bad shots.
  2. You can shoot 37% from the field and 61% from the free throw line and still pull an upset. NC State did not put up the best shooting numbers and struggled from the line all afternoon. However, the Wolfpack hit seven of their 15 attempts from behind the arc and owned the offensive glass by a margin of 17 to 8. Forward Richard Howell had six offensive boards himself. The scoring for the Wolfpack was very balanced with forward CJ Leslie, forward Scott Wood, and swingman CJ Williams each tallying 14 points, while guard Lorenzo Brown added 12. NC State also did a good job of keeping its energy level high throughout the game as it never felt like the Wolfpack had dropped into a lull.
  3. Mark Gottfried has done an outstanding job in his first year at NC State. When Mark Gottfried was hired by NC State last April, many pundits openly questioned the move, but he has the Wolfpack in the Sweet 16 in just his first season. Gottfried inherited a team that many considered to be a disaster under former head coach Sidney Lowe last season. The 2010-11 Wolfpack only won 15 games all season. Today, the 2011-12 version won their 24th. While Gottfried will get much of the credit for being the head coach, credit must also be given to assistants Orlando Early, Rob Moxley, and Bobby Lutz.

Star(s) of the Game. Lorenzo Brown, CJ Leslie, CJ Williams, and Scott Wood, NC State. The four combined for 56 of NC State’s 66 points and each made at least one key basket. Brown scored 12 points to go along with seven assists and six rebounds. Leslie put up 14 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. Williams scored 14 points and played great defense on Jason Clark all afternoon. Wood scored 14 points, while hitting on four of five of his attempts from beyond the three-point-line. It was a great team win for NC State and these four led the way all afternoon.

Quotable. “It’s a group that gave its all.” – Georgetown head coach John Thompson III. A very true statement considering how successful Georgetown was this season after being picked to finish 10th in the Big East in the preseason.

Sights & Sounds. One of the more interesting things I saw was postgame when legendary Georgetown head coach John Thompson (and father of current Hoyas coach), who was doing the radio broadcast for Westwood One went out of his way to shake the hand of CJ Leslie following a postgame interview. Classy move by the Hall of Fame coach.

What’s Next. NC State moves on to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2005. The Wolfpack will face the winner of the #2 Kansas and #10 Purdue. Interestingly, the last time the Wolfpack made it this far they did it by beating a #2 seed Georgetown team while they were a #10 seed. Their fans are hoping they can advance further this time as in 2005 they lost in the Sweet 16 to Wisconsin.

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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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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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ACC Morning Five: 02.15.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 15th, 2012

  1. CBSSports.com: Big news on the conference expansion front was reported yesterday by Brett McMurphy. Despite the fact that West Virginia will be joining the Big 12 next year (for a hefty $20 million), Pittsburgh and Syracuse won’t be joining the ACC until 2013. This is still a year earlier, as the schools expect to negotiate a deal to only pay $10 million, which is the Big East’s standard exit fee. The move will come as the Big East adds a whopping six new members, so it makes sense from a logistical standpoint.
  2. Grantland: Shane Ryan makes his case for the ACC as basketball’s most exciting conference. He’s definitely right that the conference race has heated up after a few straight years where Duke and North Carolina battled only each other for supremacy. And I’ll also agree that the conference has a feel of “anything can happen” (case and point: Duke – Miami, Florida State – Boston College, Virginia – Clemson, etc). But I’ll have to hold off and see how the three contenders do with their destinies before anointing the ACC.
  3. Baltimore Sun: Kevin Cowherd thinks Mark Turgeon is doing a good job with Terrell Stoglin. I think that remains to be seen, but I agree with Turgeon’s decisions to bench his star guard when he starts getting into run-and-gun mode. On a similar topic, Maryland assistant coach Scott Spinelli checked in on the Stoglin tweeting incident, saying “everything’s fine on this end.” Again, Stoglin apologized promptly and took ownership for the tweets, which I assume the coaching staff respected. The key player here is Stoglin. If he’s unhappy, all’s not well in College Park.
  4. Charlotte Observer: When I first saw Roy Williams‘ quote that North Carolina’s depth isn’t what he “hoped it would be,” I thought he was criticizing the second string (which would go counter to Williams’ person). In reality, Williams was referring to injuries which have really cut into his ability to make hockey-esque line changes during games. An interesting thing to watch going forward is that one criticism of Williams is that he subs too often, effectively neutralizing his best players. This could be a chance to see Roy Williams’ system only go seven deep.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Mike Krzyzewski on Bernard James:

    “He’s 27 years old. There’s nobody in our league who brings more maturity to the court than he does. Physical. Mental. Emotional. He’s a tremendous shot blocker and offensive rebounder. He’s a very unselfish player. Everybody in our league would want him on their team.”

    Enough said. Also kudos to NC State’s Scott Wood for setting the ACC record for consecutive free throws made with 66.

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Scott Wood Still Hasn’t Missed A Free Throw This Season

Posted by KCarpenter on February 2nd, 2012

North Carolina State‘s Scott Wood is many things. He’s a sweet-shooting three-point sniper for an increasingly potent Wolfpack attack. He’s a gifted marriage counselor who truly understands the pain of the human condition. He’s the Atlantic Coast Conference’s current leader in offensive efficiency rating as well as true shooting percentage. It’s also been some time since he missed a free throw. Specifically, it’s been a year and a day since he last missed a free throw in a game. Last weekend he broke J.J. Redick‘s ACC record for most consecutive free throws (Redick made 54 straight), and Wood hasn’t displayed any interest in missing anytime soon. As of last night, Wood stands at 63 consecutive makes, including a few clutch shots as Boston College desperately tried to extend the game by fouling the one guy in college basketball who you just shouldn’t foul. In any case, Wood is now only 22 makes away from tying the all-time Division I record of 85 consecutive makes, set by Butler‘s Darnell Archey.  That seems challenging, if doable.

The Man Who Couldn't Miss (US Presswire)

My favorite detail of Wood’s rise to free-throw shooting genius comes from Robbi Pickeral’s profile of the shooter. No, not the part about how low tops are the key to his success (though that, in all fairness, is pretty funny). The best part comes from a simple declarative sentence, paraphrasing Wood’s appraisal of his chances at breaking the all-time college record:

Wood said he once made 214 foul shots in a row, in a gym with his uncle when he was 12.

I’m not sure quite what it is about this that makes it so funny: The highly specific and precise memory of middle-school free-throw shooting glory witnessed by his extended family or something I ate for lunch, but now, I can easily say that I hope he smashes the national record for the glory of the conference. Luck be with you, Scott Wood. May your ankles move freely and your future wife never cheat on you.

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Morning Five: 01.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2012

  1. We all love college basketball — otherwise, you’re not reading this sentence and we’re not writing it. But do you ever wonder how the game matches up against the rest of the major American sports in terms of its popularity? Luckily for us, the Harris Poll annually measures exactly that thing, publishing its results in Sports Business Daily.The methodology of this poll is not all that sophisticated — the one question asked of 2,237 adults was to name their favorite US sport — but if you buy what they’re selling, college hoops at 5% is roughly equal in popularity to the NBA (5%), but is far behind the sporting goliath known as the NFL (36%) and has some ground to make up on MLB (13%), college football (13%), and NASCAR (8%). Since Harris didn’t ask people to list, for example, their top five favorites in popularity, it’s not really a true approximation of the sport’s popularity, but it’s worth noting nevertheless.
  2. In this interview with Gene Wojciechowski about his new book, The Last Great Game: Duke vs. Kentucky and the 2.1 Seconds That Changed Basketball, here is his answer as to why the Elite Eight battle between the two titan programs was so epic: “Because it was Kentucky vs. Duke, Pitino vs. Krzyzewski, the soon-to-be-called Unforgettables vs. the virtually unbeatables of Duke. Because the game was played at an incredibly high level from start to finish. Because it went to overtime. Because you need a calculator to add all the great shots down the stretch and during OT. Because a Final Four was at stake. Because Kentucky was back from the near-dead and Duke was going for dynasty status.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up, with one additional caveat: David vs. Goliath — Kentucky wasn’t given a chance by anybody to win that game. Young folks, here’s your assignment: Read Wojciechowski’s book, then re-watch the game from start to finish. After that, if you can make an argument for a more compelling game in the last 35 years of college basketball, let us know.
  3. Player quote of the year? NC State got pummeled by North Carolina last night in Chapel Hill, the eleventh loss in a row for the Wolfpack to its hated rival a few miles up the road. After the game, NCSU junior Scott Wood (0-5 himself) expressed his frustration with continually losing to the Heels with a rather vivid analogy: “I don’t know. Has your wife ever cheated on you… (pause)… that’s probably how frustrated it would be.” We cannot speak from experience, but we’d imagine that Wood is suggesting a level of frustration suitable for medication. The Heels will pay NC State a return visit to Raleigh on February 21 — maybe by then Wood will have been re-educated by NC State brass to not actually speak his mind in public (although we appreciate the honesty, frankly).
  4. One of the chic picks for an upset this weekend is Iowa State hosting Kansas at Hilton Coliseum in Ames Saturday. With the Cyclones currently at 4-3 in the Big 12 race with wins at home already over Texas and Oklahoma State, it’s certainly a reasonable choice. If Iowa State manages to pull off the shocker, there’s no doubt that its big man, Royce White, will play a major role in the win. Myron Medcalf writes that the huge space-eater in the paint is dominating this season after a long layoff in large part because he’s learned to handle the anxiety that has at times caused him severe emotional problems in the past. It’s a very enlightening read, and for a player whose problems have inspired more ridicule than sympathy, perhaps provides some context to many of the negative stories surrounding this kid.
  5. It’s Friday which means that Luke Winn‘s power rankings are out for this week. A few of teaser jewels from this version: Kentucky may not be the best defensive team in the SEC, much less the nation; Missouri’s Ricardo Ratliffe is nothing if not consistent; Nike’s new uniforms are not only spacey but can elicit “super-sick dunks”; and, Vegas isn’t as smart as everybody thinks it is (well, at least when it comes to San Diego State’s travel woes). Enjoy.
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ACC Game On: 01.26.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on January 26th, 2012

Well, Maryland managed to defend the honor of newly-christened Gary Williams Court for about 30 minutes before succumbing to the temptations of lousy help defense. Beating the Terps doesn’t look like a great win on paper, but it’s a great win for a Duke team that still seems occasionally unsure of their own identity. Virginia Tech lost to Brigham Young thanks to poor offensive execution and despite a relatively strong game defensively. It was a game that came down to the last play, but the Hokies just couldn’t pull it out. Florida State put up a command performance in stomping Wake Forest with the wicked defense of the Seminoles holding star player Travis McKie to a pitiful 1-of-13 shooting night. Couple that with an over 50% shooting night from the field and the Florida State juggernaut looks as hot as ever.

A Cold War Goes Hot

An NC State vs. UNC Game That Means Something? It's Been a While...

  • North Carolina State at North Carolina at 7:00 PM on ESPN

In Chapel Hill, this game hasn’t meant much in the Roy Williams‘ era. The heat from a once-vicious rivalry cooled as the Wolfpack drifted further and further into irrelevance. Now, NC State fans are always hot for this game, but the recent history of this match-up has left Chapel Hill fans indifferent. But for the first time in a long while, Tar Heel fans are nervous. Quietly, Mark Gottfried has developed a powerful and versatile balanced attack. Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, C.J. Williams, and Scott Wood all have a legitimate case for being the ACC break-out players of the year (ignoring Terrell Stoglin), each making massive strides in their respective games. Meanwhile C.J. Leslie still remains an immensely talented wild card, capable of taking over a game at both ends, though his inconsistency remains an issue. They match up well with the Tar Heels, having a combination of size and speed to counter North Carolina’s usual advantages in this area. Still, North Carolina is a great team and as well as the Wolfpack matches up on the perimeter, it’s unclear if their is a frontcourt answer to the Tyler Zeller and John Henson tandem. Also, a real concern: the Wolfpack’s three-point defense has been abysmal and with Reggie Bullock getting the start alongside Harrison Barnes, an early barrage of perimeter shots could break NC State’s back early. I think this game will be close, but the Tar Heels take this one. The real intrigue for this game is how it sets the stage for what’s almost certain to be the dramatic second meeting in Raleigh.

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ACC Game On: 01.11.12

Posted by KCarpenter on January 11th, 2012

Some semblance of order prevailed Tuesday night as Florida State managed a close win against Virginia Tech and North Carolina lodged a quietly scary win against Miami. Bernard James, the old man of the ACC, posted an 18-point, 15-rebound game (nine offensive rebounds) and Ian Miller offered the sufficient guard scoring (15 points) that the Seminoles had lacked in the early going. Virginia Tech simply couldn’t score at a strong enough clip against the defensive-minded Seminoles, managing a field goal percentage of only 30.5%. This is how we expected Florida State would win games, and it’s fun to see a team pull off a victory like this while still turning the ball over 19 times in a relatively slow-paced game. Did I say fun? I meant weird, but oddly gratifying.

Old Man Bernard James Had A Monster Game In The Victory Over Virginia Tech

Meanwhile, North Carolina’s convincing victory against Miami was scarier than you might expect. The Tar Heels draw a lot of offensive firepower from their triumvirate of big, athletic, sharp-shooting wings. Last night, Harrison Barnes went 2-of-12, Reggie Bullock went 2-of-6, and P.J. Hairston went 1-of-6. It was a 17-point win for UNC and the Hurricanes shot 41.8%. The ability to accomplish a high margin win without shut-down defense, hot shooting, or scoring from three of your best offensive players is what makes North Carolina such a dangerous team. Totally crushing an opponent in every facet of the game will always be impressive, but soundly beating a team despite lots of things going wrong? Just as remarkable.

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