NCAA Regional Diary From San Antonio

Posted by rtmsf on March 29th, 2011

After another weekend of scintillating and shocking NCAA Tournament results, it’s time to check back in with our various correspondents who were in Anaheim, San Antonio, New Orleans and Newark reporting on the games this weekend.

Location: San Antonio, TX
Round: Regional Final
Teams: VCU, Kansas
Date: 27 March 2011

To read all the diaries throughout the NCAA Tournament, click here.

The San Antonio Riverwalk is Always a Hit.

  • This is the second time in this Tournament that I’ve personally witnessed this happen (Gonzaga vs. St. John’s being the other).  Kansas’ strategy from the opening tip was to get the ball inside early and often to their big men, Marcus and Markieff Morris.  It worked in the beginning as the twins got KU off to a 6-2 start, but VCU started to figure out the entry passes, and before long the Kansas guards were trying to throw the ball into a quadruple-team underneath.  The perimeter players weren’t looking to score at all, and I sometimes wonder if a focused strategy to take advantage of a strength (as here) actually backfires in the sense that the perimeter players don’t have an opportunity to play offensively.  In the Richmond game, as a contrasting example, the KU perimeter players got going early and UR as a result was out of the game by the second television timeout.
  • I love Shaka Smart for many reasons, not least of which is his bulldog mentality of taking on all comers, but watching him get down into a defensive crouch on the sidelines as his players guard the ball on that side of the floor is phenomenal.  He moves his feet very well for his advanced age of all of 33 years old.  With Brad Stevens Lambeau Leap into the team circle after beating #1 Pitt last week, and Smart acting as a sixth defender for the Rams, youth in the coaching ranks is most definitely served.
Shaka Can!
  • Whew, Markieff Morris (eight turnovers) and Tyrel Reed (1-9 FGs) would like to have this game back.  Through the first twelve minutes of action, Markieff had already turned the ball over six times to VCU, including a ridiculous Ewing-step-through travel that he damn well knows better than to do in the college game.  Reed suffered a miserable game, and he never looked less comfortable than when Kansas was in desperate need of someone — anyone — to hit some threes down the stretch, but he was badly off on all of them.  It was pretty clear to me from my vantage point that both of these guys were feeling the pressure of expectations, and they were generally crushed by it.
  • I liked Self’s decision to try to get Josh Selby into the game early to combat the scoring woes of his team on the perimeter.  Other than Selby, none of the KU guards are elite talents capable of scoring on demand.  It didn’t work out today, as Selby went 1-5 for two points and clearly wasn’t feeling it, but it was still worth the gamble.  He couldn’t have done much worse than the pair of Reed and Brady Morningstar (2-16 FGs).
  • Speaking of Selby, has any freshman in America been a bigger disappointment this season?  Hailed as the possible missing piece to a dominant KU team, he looked good in December before tailing off completely the rest of the way to become nearly a late-season afterthought.  It’s not very often that high school players good enough to rate #1 in the nation by at least one scouting service will suffer such a weird diminishment of his playing time and influence.  Yet, had he been akin to a John Wall or even a Brandon Knight, Kansas might still be playing.  The perimeter absolutely killed the Jayhawks today.

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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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2010 NBA Draft Winners and Losers

Posted by zhayes9 on June 25th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

Now that the Draft is complete, time to look back at Thursday night’s winners and losers, from coaches to NBA teams to players to conferences and everything in between:

Paul George saw his stock skyrocket all the way to #10 and the Pacers, Al Bello/Getty Images

Winners:

Big 12 – One of the premier college basketball conferences has gained quite a surge of momentum in the last few weeks. Big 12 commish Dan Beebe convinced Texas it was in their best interests to keep the league in tact even after the defections of Colorado and Nebraska, two of the more downtrodden BCS-conference hoops programs in the country. After chopping off those two anchors, a ten-team, 18-game round robin format has been agreed to starting in 2012. The Big 12 momentum only continued at the draft on Thursday where an astonishing seven of the top 24 selections reside from the conference (and Kentucky isn’t even a member). Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh, Kansas’ Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, Texas’ Avery Bradley and Damion James, Oklahoma State’s James Anderson and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins, not to mention Cyclone transfer Wes Johnson, were all nabbed in the first 24 picks. The Big 12 barely trailed the ACC in terms of overall conference strength last season and the results of the first round only confirmed those numbers.

John Calipari - As Fox Sports Jeff Goodman astutely pointed out, expect plenty of John Calipari mug shots in near future drafts unless he bolts for a dream NBA job. Five of his Kentucky Wildcats from one recruiting class were taken in the first round on Thursday, from John Wall at #1 overall to Daniel Orton at #29. Next year could see two more Kentucky players announced early in the draft in center Enes Kanter and point guard Brandon Knight with forward Terrence Jones another potential first rounder. In 2011-12 when Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist and another top ten recruit TBD join Big Blue Nation, it’ll be the same Calipari hugging his revolving door of players on a June night in NYC. Don’t think this is just Calipari doing this for his departing players or that recruits are not noticing. He’s fully aware of what his face constantly showing up on ESPN’ s cameras means: furthering his reputation of sending talented players to the riches of the NBA. And quickly.

Paul George - It’s been a quick ascension for George, a workout wonder who saw his draft stock shoot up in the last few weeks until he landed to Indiana at #10. It’s doubtful even George saw this coming after being lightly recruited out of Palmdale, Calif, and settling on Fresno State for his college choice. George saw both his FG% and 3pt% plummet from his freshman to sophomore seasons and he only upped his PPG by 2.5 and RPG by 1.0 along with very low assist totals. He also played for a 15-18 WAC team against far more inferior competition than, say, Kansas’ Xavier Henry, who went one pick later to Memphis. Henry averaged 13.5 PPG, shot 46% from two and 42% from three on a team filled with players who needed touches.

Greivis Vasquez’ reaction - I don’t think anyone who watched Greivis Vasquez play four years at Maryland was surprised when they saw the emotional Venezuelan surrounded by family and friends in the crowd at Radio City Music Hall waiting for his name to be chosen. Vasquez has been projected as an early-to-mid second round pick- a scorer, leader and improved floor general that simply lacks the lateral quickness to defend NBA guards. Yet rumblings surfaced that Memphis loved Vasquez at #28. Sure enough, when he was pegged at that exact spot, the only outward, raw emotion we saw Thursday night emerged as Vasquez pumped his fist, hugged his family and practically sprinted to shake David Stern’s hand on the draft stage. Congratulations to Greivis.

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Official RTC 2010 NBA Mock Draft

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

I love the NBA Draft.

The Stage Rarely Changes, but the Players Do

There’s something gratifying and enjoyable about seeing the college players that we discuss, watch and evaluate move on from the collegiate game and find a home at the next level. There are no cliffhangers when it comes to the NBA Draft. Barring late summer dealings or undrafted snubs, Thursday will be the day we’ll find out where each of our favorite elite college players are going to play pro ball next winter, almost like watching your kids go off to school for the first time. It’s a grand conclusion to a celebrated (albeit, in plenty of cases, very short) college career and a transition to the riches of the NBA.

We’re all prognosticators and experts on Draft night. Opinions are thrown around as David Stern announces each choice. Emotions are prevalent when your favorite NBA squad picks, those moments and heartbeats before the selection that could change the course of a franchise forever. Or it could be Renaldo Balkman. Either way, Draft night for us hoops nerds is one of intrigue and interest.

Here’s my best shot at forecasting how the first round will play out. As someone that has watched these players intensely at the college level, someone that pays attention to the strengths/weaknesses of each NBA club and has been soaking in all of the Draft info since the Final Four ended in April, I’m honored to bring you the official Rush the Court 2010 NBA Mock Draft (RTC draft profile linked to each name):

1) Washington Wizards – John Wall, PG, Kentucky

The Consensus #1 Pick (WaPo/J. Newton)

This was a lock the moment the Wizards won the Lottery in mid-May, a stroke of unexpected luck for a city on the sports rise and the perfect face of the franchise-type player to lead this team out of the cellar. Wall could pair with a focused Gilbert Arenas in a potent backcourt and the Wiz may even shell out some money to bring in an intriguing free agent wing. He may be a top-five point guard in the NBA in only three years time if the jump shot improves. He’s that skilled and talented.

2) Philadelphia 76ers – Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State

I’m hearing the Sixers front office is enamored with Turner while newly minted coach Doug Collins would prefer big man Derrick Favors. In the end, I see Turner as the surer prospect emerging as the pick, and even the Sixers website prepared for that very possibility last Friday. Philly won’t trade the pick unless some team agrees to take on Elton Brand’s contract, an unlikely scenario. Turner could be the next Brandon Roy, a prospect just too mouth-watering to pass up on.

3) New Jersey Nets – Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse

Nets fans were positively crushed on Lottery night when they lost a chance to nab Wall. An underwhelming workout for Derrick Favors, one in which he was thoroughly outplayed by DeMarcus Cousins, gave the Nets brass pause after it was assumed for months Favors would be the selection at #3. The Nets have needs at both forward spots, so it would make sense for them to peg Johnson here and go after one of the big free agent power forwards with new owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s checkbook- Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer or Chris Bosh.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves – Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech

This is a tricky situation for the Wolves. With Al Jefferson and Kevin Love already in the fold, the last thing Minnesota needs is another power forward. They covet both Turner and Johnson, so it’s extremely likely they try to persuade either Philly or New Jersey to let them move up a few spots in exchange for their pick at #16. It’s rumored the Minnesota brass isn’t too high on Favors, but Cousins has publicly expressed displeasure with playing in the Twin Cities.

5) Sacramento Kings – DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky

Cousins has sent hinted messages that he wouldn’t be too thrilled if Sacramento (or Minnesota or Golden State) calls his name and he’d much prefer to end up in Detroit. The Pistons could very well move up a few spots to grab Cousins, but the workout Cousins just finished in SacTo apparently convinced ownership that his game outweighed any character concerns. I would take Cousins over Monroe (and maybe even Favors) in a heartbeat, and it’s my feeling that the Kings agree even with the recent Sam Dalembert acquisition.

6) Golden State Warriors – Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Solomon Alabi

Posted by rtmsf on June 19th, 2010

Player Name: Solomon Alabi

School: Florida State

Height/Weight: 7’1, 251

NBA Position: Center

Projected Draft Range: Mid-to-late first round

Overview: Solomon Alabi is was born in Nigeria, and grew up playing soccer. However, when it became apparent that he wasn’t going to stop growing, he was told he could earn a scholarship to play basketball in the United States so he took up basketball when he was 15. He came to the U.S. in 2005, attended the Monteverde Academy in the Orlando area (the same school that former UCLA star Luc Richard Mbah a Moute attended) and eventually wound up at Florida State. His freshman season was cut short when he needed to have surgery on a stress fracture in his right tibia, but in the last two seasons in Tallahassee, he has been a model of hard work and improvement. In nearly every area, Alabi’s numbers have improved over his career at Florida State, where he averaged a career best 11.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 2.3 BPG last season. He also improved his free throw shooting (which was an early weakness) to the point where he shot nearly 80% from the line last season.

Alabi is Very Raw But Has Great Potential

Will Translate to the NBA: It’s true that you can’t teach height, and of that, Alabi has plenty. Add to a legit 7’1 frame a monstrous 7’5 wingspan and decent leaping ability and Alabi is an intimidating presence in the lane. And, aside from improving his offense numbers on a yearly basis at Florida State, he also put on weight and strength every year. Given his height, he is a good shot blocker, able to block shots while defending one-on-one in the post or coming over on help defense. Offensively, Alabi is a work in progress, but with his improving free throw percentage as evidence, he is capable of knocking down a mid-range jumper on occasion when in rhythm. Aside from all that stuff, Alabi is also generally described as a gregarious personality, a great teammate and a hard worker.

Needs Work: A lot. If Alabi is drafted in the first round, it will be mostly on potential. While he constantly improves (he has only been playing the game for seven years), he still looks a bit wooden out there, lacking fluidity in his post moves. Though his turnaround jumper has improved, it still needs work and a jump-hook and some post moves would be necessary for him to become even a mediocre offensive talent in the League. Even more alarming is that despite his massive frame and decent athleticism, he is a dramatically poor rebounder for his size, something that will need to change before he’ll have a chance at serious NBA minutes. Defensively, Alabi can be exposed by perimeter-oriented big men who can pull him away from the hoop and then exploit his lack of lateral quickness by driving on him.

Comparison Players: Guys like DeSagana Diop, Hasheem Thabeet and Samuel Dalembert are reasonable comparisons, players with a lot of height who can patrol the middle and block shots, grab some rebounds and aren’t much of an offensive threat otherwise — that’s the expectation for Alabi. And, given Thabeet was a #2 pick last season, getting Alabi in the back end of the first round shows either that Alabi is a great value or that Thabeet was an extreme reach.

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Morning Five: 04.26.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 25th, 2010

  1. As of Midnight ET last night, the NBA Draft early entry deadline had passed.  Most of the big names had already thrown their hats into the ring, but there were a few last-minute additions over the weekend.  Most notably, Florida State’s Solomon Alabi entered his name on Friday, representing the last likely first rounder who had remained on the fence.  Temple center Lavoy Allen has decided to test the waters, choosing to not sign with an agent while gauging what he needs to work on next year.  These two and all 758 of the others will now have fourteen days (until May 8) to make a final determination as to whether they’re staying or leaving, which is great for us but a little tight during exam time for them to get reliable information.
  2. Oregon fans are coming to terms with the arrival of Dana Altman in Eugene and his high-intensity, pressing style of play.  As we said on Saturday, we believe this is a good hire for the next seven years for the Nike Duck program, even if not everyone was initially thrilled with this decision.  Altman may get an early shot to build good will with a win over visiting #1 Duke at the Rose Garden in the pre-conference schedule, it turns out.
  3. And this is yet another example of why we shouldn’t allow people who don’t understand the game of basketball (and college basketball in particular) anywhere near our game (see: Malcolm Gladwell).  We love March Madness because it’s like American Idol?  Just.  Stop.
  4. We hope to have something more substantial up about all the potential conference realignment spurred by the Big Ten’s rapacity soon, but for now many others have plenty to say on the matter.  One commentator points out that the league has been the butt of jokes in recent years, but nobody is laughing at it now, while another points out that four sixteen-teams conferences from sea to shining sea could result in a football Final Four for the ages.  Speaking of the gridiron, one thing is crystal clear to everyone — whatever happens, basketball tradition and rivalries will be an afterthought, a real shame given how hoops powers with little to no football tradition are being forced into decisions based on a sport that matters less to them.  Meanwhile, to really cap off your Monday morning, how about discussing a future doomsday scenario where those four super-conferences break off and hold their own version of March Madness someday.  Honestly, we’re not even sure we could continue RTC if that were to happen.
  5. Michigan State is breaking out new unis starting next year.  The “State” we’ve all become accustomed to on the front has now been replaced with “Spartans.”  What do you think?

We Always Thought That "State" Thing Was Presumptuous Anyway

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Singler’s Return = Duke #1

Posted by rtmsf on April 19th, 2010

The SCOOP doctor, Jeff Goodman, is reporting that Duke all-american forward Kyle Singler is returning to Durham for his senior year.  A formal announcement from Singler is expected in the next 24 hours, but suffice it to say that good fortune is shining on Mike Krzyzewski and his Blue Devil program in a big way lately.  According to the mock drafts, Singler was projected as a late first-rounder but he has decided that a shot at another national title at Duke is worth more than the guaranteed dollars that he would have received as a new draftee.  He and fellow ACC big man Solomon Alabi were the only two underclassmen in this mock draft projected as first rounders who had not yet declared — will Singler be the only legitimate first round returnee in the college game next season?

Singler Will Be the Top Returnee in America Next Year

Regardless of what Alabi decides, Duke is in tremendous position to defend its title next year.  The Devils lose three regular seniors from its national championship team — Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek — but their replacements are just as talented if not more so in the forms of Kyrie Irving/Seth Curry and the Miles/Mason Plumlee brothers.  The irreplaceable wildcard was always going to be the versatile Singler, but with his return to the Duke lineup Coach K’s team will undoubtedly enter 2010-11 as the #1 team in America with a very good chance at repeating next April.  The team will upgrade its athleticism at the guard positions and among the bigs, and so long as Coach K can find ways to feed and channel the intensity of the Plumlees in the same way as it worked with Zoubek this spring, Duke will be once again be on the grand stage for all of America to hate.  Maybe if we’re really lucky Singler will all of a sudden start attracting random teenage fangirls, begin referring to himself in the third person and use opportune moments during NCAA Tournament games to step on other players’ chests.  If we’re lucky.

Seriously, though, it’s funny how college basketball works sometimes.  Two years ago we had major cognitive dissonance believing that Singler had been considered the equal of UCLA’s Kevin Love when the two were doing battle back in the Oregon high school prep ranks throughout the mid-2000s.  Yet here we sit in 2010 and it is Singler, not Love, who has the chance to make college basketball history with repeat national titles.  We’re certainly not implying that makes him better than Love either then or now, but it’s well beyond what we thought we were getting when the blonde forward came out of Medford three years ago.  And it just goes to show that sometimes it’s better in college basketball to have a stable of pretty-darn-good players who stick around three or four years rather than sicknasty players who you can only keep on campus for one.

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Evening

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Friday evening games.

7:10 pm – #8 Gonzaga vs. #9 Florida State  (Buffalo pod)

This is a very tough game to call, so let’s start with what we know about it.  The Zags, no stranger to cross-country travel, come into Buffalo after an 11-day layoff where St. Mary’s took Mark Few’s team behind the woodshed and beat them handily in the WCC Tournament championship.  Florida State comes in having dropped its quarterfinal game against NC State in an effort that had their fans shaking their heads in disgust.  So needless to say, both teams are looking for a fresh start here.  The Zags are always dangerous, and this year’s squad led by Matt Bouldin and Elias Harris has the offensive firepower to score with just about anyone in America.  Merely an ok three-point shooting team, they tend to rely on the drives of Harris and mid-range game of Bouldin to create offense.  However, they don’t tend to respond well to teams that crowd and push them around, but unfortunately, FSU is just such a team.  The Seminoles enjoy the nation’s top defensive efficiency, and while they have the opposite problem of finding points, they should have no problem putting the clamps down on the Zag scoring options.  The question here comes down to whether the FSU defense, anchored by 7’1 Solomon Alabi and 6’9 Chris Singleton’s combined four blocks per game, is better than the Gonzaga offense, and we think that it is.  And as up/down as the Seminoles were in the ACC, they never came close to losing to the likes of Loyola Marymount and San Francisco, as Gonzaga did this year.

The Skinny:  The Zags this year aren’t quite as good as they usually are, and they’re facing a team that will shut down their biggest strength.  FSU wins this one by eight points to get a date with Syracuse.

7:15 pm – #7 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Georgia Tech  (Milwaukee pod)

Here’s another one that’s got people confused.  For good reason, too.  All year long we’ve been waiting on Georgia Tech to do something with all that talent, and now they’re playing better basketball, just in time.  Oklahoma State’s showing against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament will cost them some support, but we’re going to excuse that performance.  That was a tired basketball team, playing their third game in a six day span with K-State at the end of it — and the Wildcats were coming off of a five-day rest.  Georgia Tech is going to go inside to Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal like crazy, but when the Yellow Jackets actually shoot the three, they shoot it well.  Defending the three is a glaring OSU weakness, so it will be interesting to see how often Georgia Tech eschews their big men in favor of launching it from the arc, because those shots will be there.  So…good outside shooting, great inside players…sounds pretty good for Tech, right?  The question will be whether or not they can get to that point in their offense.  Georgia Tech ranks in the bottom twenty of Division I teams in terms of turning the ball over.  Can the Jackets, then, find a way to keep James Anderson from shredding them or Keiton Page from raining threes?

The Skinny: Oklahoma State won’t have to exert too much energy guarding the three, since Tech’s propensity to turn the ball over will take care of some of that.  The Cowboys have been getting more and more help from their role players, and we feel 9-7 in the Big 12 is better than 7-9 in the ACC this year.  It’ll be a great first round game, but we like Oklahoma State in a close one.

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RTC Bracket Prep: West Region

Posted by rtmsf on March 15th, 2010

This is the third of our four quick-and-dirty region breakdowns. This will serve to help the quick triggers who like to fill out their brackets first thing on Monday morning. For the rest of you, we’ll be providing more detailed game-by-game analysis throughout the rest of the week.

Energy Solutions Arena Hosts the West Regional

Region: West

Favorite: Syracuse, #1 seed, 29-4.  Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange is the favorite in this region by a good margin.  His team has lost their last two games and there are whispers that center Arinze Onuaku may not be available for the first two rounds, but SU is talented enough to survive the first weekend without him (as a comparison, UNC didn’t have Ty Lawson at full strength for the first weekend last year).  K-State is realistically the only team in this region capable of standing toe-to-toe with Syracuse in terms of relative talent, but they play too loosey-goosey to actually beat the Orange.

Should They Falter: Kansas State, #2 seed, 26-7.  Should Syracuse get upset, K-State is in position to take advantage.  With a dynamite backcourt of Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen capable of going off in bunches, the Wildcats could make a run to their first Final Four since the mid-60s.  The quality of talent in this region just isn’t very deep, so outside of Syracuse or K-State, who else could realistically win the requisite four games?

Grossly Overseeded: Vanderbilt, #4 seed, 24-8.  A team that lost to Western Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi State, none of whom are Tourney teams, should not have gotten a protected seed with only a couple of marquee wins this year.

Grossly Underseeded:UTEP, #12 seed, 26-6.  The Miners really didn’t start rolling until they integrated Derrick Caracter into the lineup, but they’ve been fantastic since then.  At worst, this team should have been in the #8-#10 range.  Instead, they’ll get an opportunity to prove themselves against the annual public darling #5 Butler, where Vegas has UTEP as only a 2.5-point underdog.

Sweet Sixteen Sleeper (#12 seed or lower): UTEP.  For the same reasons as above, once UTEP beats Butler, they will also be able to get past #4 Vanderbilt who is probably overseeded, or #13 Murray State, a team they’re simply better than.

Final Four Sleeper (#4 seed or lower): BYU, #7 seed, 29-5.  This is an easy one.  Everyone knows that BYU is murder to play at home, and if the Cougars can get past their first two opponents (Florida and K-State), then they will have as partisan a home crowd as possible in Salt Lake City to play two eastern teams,  either Pitt or Xavier and Syracuse.  The problem for BYU will be getting there.  They’ve had NCAA first round problems for the better part of two decades, and even though they’re much better than their initial opponent Florida, they’ll need to play really well to beat Kansas State.

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From the Student Section: Florida State Seminoles

Posted by rtmsf on February 17th, 2010

Contributing writer Kevin Chupka will periodically interview a rabid student fan about all things basketball on the court and in the stands… a view from the student section.

Cullen & Friends Ready to Push FSU Back to the NCAAs

Florida State is probably known more for its work on the gridiron than on the basketball court, but that doesn’t stop a group of basketball loving students from packing “The ‘Nole Zone” for every home game at the Donald L Tucker Center.  Matthew Cullen, a senior at FSU, is the president of this rabid fan section. “The Nole Zone is home to the rowdiest, most passionate Florida State basketball fans,” he says.  “The Nole Zone certainly does their collective homework,” Matthew adds, “we’re always quick to let an opponent know what we think about how their season is going.”

The Seminoles have rebounded nicely this season from their stint as the dreaded 12/5 upset victim in last year’s NCAA tournament (their first such appearance in a decade), bowing out to Wisconsin on a last minute shot in overtime.  This year Cullen admits that “losses at rival Florida and in the home ACC opener to NC State were disappointing,” but they have shown flashes of greatness in knocking off rival Georgia Tech in both meetings and handing Virginia Tech one of their three conference losses this year.  So what does the rest of the season hold? “Runs in both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments are certainly not out of the question for this year’s squad,” Matthew thinks.  But it might be easier said than done. Many analysts have just about the entire middle of the ACC on the bubble meaning FSU must jockey for position with the likes of Maryland, Clemson and Virginia; the last two of whom they are scheduled to play in the final weeks of the regular season. 

So who will FSU be counting on in the home stretch? “It’s really been a well-rounded team effort,” he says, “but it’s a trio of sophomores that stand out. 7’1 center Solomon Alabi leads the team in scoring, blocks and free throw percentage, where he’s better than 82 percent. Forward Chris Singleton has really developed his game. He’s second in scoring and blocks, and brings a defensive edge with his team-leading 48 steals. I’d also throw in Devidas Dulkys, the sophomore out of Lithuania. He’s an excellent three-point shooter, as well as a great defender who is second on the team in steals.”  And Matthew says the team as a whole has some work to do, namely on turnovers, “We turn the ball over too much… and often become hesitant and tentative in our play. Limiting turnovers and careful execution of the offense will be essential keys to returning to the Dance.” 

Still, hopefully improvements in the final weeks of action along with sustaining what Cullen calls “our suffocating style of play” on defense, the ‘Noles very well might be dancing and looking to turn around the upset tables come late March.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.04.10

Posted by THager on February 4th, 2010

***** – 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 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

#19 Georgia Tech @ #9 Duke – 7 pm on ESPN2 (****)

Scheyer Meets a Wall of Ga Tech Defenders

Georgia Tech is fifth in the conference race at 4-3, yet the only ranked ACC team besides the Yellow Jackets is Duke.  GT has played average since the start of ACC play, but is 4-1 in their last five games to climb back into the thick of the ACC standings.  The Blue Devils, on the other hand, are coming off a bad road loss to Georgetown, their third road loss in a row.  Although Duke is known for their three-point shooting and second-most efficient offense, they give up even fewer points than the Yellow Jackets per game.  The main problem with Duke is how inconsistent they are.   They held Gonzaga, Clemson, and Florida State to 41, 47, and 56 points earlier in the year, but gave up an average of 88.5 points to N.C. State and Georgetown.  In their earlier matchup against Georgia Tech, Duke held GT to just 71 points, but 6-28 shooting from beyond the arc led to a loss.  The Blue Devils only shot 9-29 from three on Saturday, so they are going to have to shoot closer to 40 % if they want to win the game.  The Blue Devils have not lost back-to-back games all year, and given their 13-0 record at Cameron Indoor Stadium, look for Duke to remain atop the ACC tonight.

Maryland @ Florida State – 9 pm on ESPN360 (***)

Before Maryland’s last game against Clemson, we claimed that Maryland was not a lock for the tournament with an RPI of #50.  They lost to Clemson by nine in that game, but their ranking in the RPI only dropped to #51.  Virtually in the same scenario, the Terrapins will now face another solid ACC team on the road.  In Florida State’s last four ACC games, they have recorded three victories, but they are still looking for that signature win over a top conference team.  With a win against the second place Terps, the Seminoles may finally get that big victory to improve their tournament resume.  With just five losses and an RPI of #29, the Seminoles are likely in as of now.  Florida State’s solid defense will be keep them close against Maryland’s high scoring offense.  Clemson, with the third best defense in the country, held the Terps to just 53 points in that game, and the Seminoles have the best defensive efficiency in the nation.  Clemson held forward Landon Milbourne to just three points on Sunday, so he will have to play better to give UM a chance tonight.  Florida State’s leading scorer in Solomon Alabi only averages 12.9 points per game, so this game should be close no matter how well FSU plays defense.

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What You Missed While Watching College Football…

Posted by zhayes9 on January 8th, 2010

Zach Hayes is RTC’s resident bracketologist plus author of the weekly Ten Tuesday Scribbles and Bubble Watch columns.

With college football crowning another faux-national champion Thursday night in Pasadena, the college sports scene can officially shift its axis to basketball. While a number of college basketball diehards such as yours truly were knee-deep in mid-major box scores and enthralling non-conference tournaments since the season tipped off in mid-November, it’s perfectly understandable for our college football-fan brethren out there to have been entranced in the gridiron scene during this time. For many folks out there, college basketball truly begins when a football champion is crowned and conference play heats up, when Rece and the gang show up on our TVs every Saturday morning at 11 AM and the bubble begins to take its early shape. For those people, you sure missed plenty of exciting hoops action. To get you caught up in what has gone down thus far on the hardwood, here’s a summary for your enjoyment, divvied up into the six major conferences and all the rest:

ACC

What we’ve learned: There was much back-and-forth debate entering this season whether Duke or North Carolina represented the class of this conference. After two solid months of play, it’s fairly evident Duke has separated themselves from their bitter rival as the class of the ACC. While the Tar Heels may top Duke skill-wise up front, Carolina simply does not boast the backcourt to even contend with the Dukies’ tandem of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. The primary knock on Duke heading into this season was point guard play with Elliot Williams transferring to Memphis. As a true sharp-shooting 2-guard who creates his shots coming off screens in Redick-like fashion, could Scheyer handle the responsibility of running the Duke offense? The answer has been resounding in the affirmative: 19.7 PPG, 46% FG, 92% FT, 43% 3pt and an otherworldly 4.8 A/TO ratio that currently leads the nation. Another key to Duke’s early season success has been Coach K’s willingness to adjust his defense to fit his roster. Rather than employing the normal Duke on-ball pressure attack, Krzyzewski is utilizing more of a sagging defense that plays into the frontcourt depth Duke enjoys with six players that receive time at 6’8 or taller.

Scheyer Has His Devils Looking Great This Season

What’s still to be determined: After Duke and Carolina (and let’s not go overboard following the Heels loss to Charleston, they’re still clearly the second best team in this conference), who will emerge as the third contender behind the top two dogs? An ever-shifting proposition, the current edge probably goes to Florida State despite their utter lack of point guard play. The Seminoles are one of the tallest teams in the nation and have a few capable long-range shooters that get open looks when defenses collapse on Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton. Plus, they’re off to a head start with a December win at ACC foe Georgia Tech. Plenty of folks think Clemson could be that team behind powerful big man Trevor Booker, but they lack a second scoring option and I can’t stop thinking back to their collapse at home to an inexperienced Illinois squad. It would be unwise to count out Gary Williams, and the jury’s still out on Virginia Tech and Miami due to their soft schedules, so I’ll give the current edge to Wake Forest as that third team. The road win at Gonzaga’s on-campus arena stands out, Ish Smith has turned into a fine point guard and Al-Farouq Aminu has as much pure talent as anyone in this conference.

NCAA Locks: Duke, North Carolina.

Likely bids: Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest.

Bubble teams: Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL), Virginia Tech.

Make other plans for March: Boston College, North Carolina State, Virginia.

Big East

What we’ve learned: The NCAA picture is shaping up quite similarly to last season when Louisville (regular season champion), Pittsburgh and Connecticut all received #1 seeds. There will be much back-and-forth debate about whether the top three teams this season — Syracuse, West Virginia and Villanova -- holds the edge in this conference, but does it really matter? Right now you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think Kansas, Texas, Kentucky and Purdue are the likely #1 seeds (of course plenty could change, we have two months of games left), while those top contenders in the Big East are likely all on the second seed line. Even of greater importance though is the obvious revelation that Jamie Dixon can coach basketball. You wouldn’t be alone if you counted out Pittsburgh following a near-loss to Wofford, a 47-point output at home vs. New Hampshire and a second half butt-kicking at the hands of Indiana, but those losses came without their most athletic player, Gilbert Brown, and their best defender, Jermaine Dixon. Those two have returned to action with the most improved Big East player Ashton Gibbs (who recently broke the all-time Pitt record for consecutive free throws made) as a fearsome trio that has carried the Panthers to road wins over previously-undefeated Syracuse and fringe-top 25 Cincinnati. If Dixon is able to coax his Panthers into a NCAA Tournament team after losing such enormous production and leadership in Sam Young, DeJuan Blair and Levance Fields, there is little debate on his merits as National Coach of the Year.

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