Unsung Stars Henderson, Albrecht, LeVert & Hancock Define Final Four Winners

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 7th, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

When people cite intangible qualities like “clutchness” and “savvy” and “composure,” the descriptions typically fall in line with the quantifiable aspects of a player’s game. Otherwise, the descriptions are casual characterizations of ultimately inexplicable qualities. False conceptions are generated, players are ridiculed – he’s no good in the clutch! He’s terrible in the locker room! – and this whole college basketball analysis thing degenerates into a free-for-all personality profiling exercise. I’m likewise reluctant to throw out loose generalizations about any player’s on-court traits, but there is one point I won’t begrudge – the best players should step up in big games. It’s difficult to define what “best” or “big” even means, quantitatively, but if you were to poll any official authority on college hoops about the definition of the terms, they’d point you directly to the two games played in the Georgia Dome last night. The Final Four is as big as it gets, and when last night’s games lay in the balance, waiting to be seized by each team’s starring individuals, something profoundly strange happened: many of those stars didn’t rise to the occasion.

The driving forces behind Louisville's second half run, Henderson and Hancock, pushed Louisville over the top Saturday night (AP Photo).

The driving forces behind Louisville’s second half run, Henderson and Hancock, pushed Louisville over the top Saturday night (AP Photo).

That’s not odd just because Michigan and Louisville have been sporting “Rise to the Occasion” Adidas warm up gear throughout Tournament play. It’s weird for other reasons, some of them more easy to understand than others. The players who couldn’t meet the demands of Saturday night’s spotlight – Trey Burke, Peyton Siva and Michael Carter-Williams, for starters – created a void of opportunity, which allowed some new faces to step up, greatly affect the outcome of the games and assume the leading roles otherwise dominated by their routinely starring teammates. It’s time to honor Saturday night’s less-heralded stars. Their seasons may not measure up to their household-name-recognizable teammates, but in many ways, the outcomes of last night’s games were the product of their routinely overlooked actions on the court.

Tim Henderson, Louisville. The only circumstance under which you could honestly describe Tim Henderson’s performance Saturday night as anything other than “remarkable” is if your name is actually Tim Henderson, and I’m not so sure even he knew he was capable of sparking the game-changing second half rally that lead Louisville past Wichita State in the national semifinal. True story: With the Cardinals trailing by 12 and the clocking slowly ticking into late second-half panic territory, Henderson buried two triples on consecutive possessions to cut the Cardinals’ deficit in half. Wichita State burned a timeout, the Louisville-half of the Georgia Dome crowd reached full throat, and everything snowballed from there. Louisville’s press started forcing turnovers. Wichita State was suddenly crumbling as the momentum shifted in the Cardinals’ favor. It was a major turning point in a second half that, had Henderson not intervened, may have ended just as it began, with the Shockers calmly deflecting Louisville’s defense and matching the Cardinals blow-for-blow and doing everything, almost everything, to knock off the No. 1 overall seed. Henderson stopped Wichita’s upset bid dead in its tracks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 4th, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

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.

Michigan

  • A report broke Thursday morning that Wolverines guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will declare for the NBA Draft when their season comes to an end.
  • A great profile by Rod Beard of the Detroit News on the decisive leadership of Trey Burke. Burke’s leadership on and off the court has helped lead Michigan to its first Final Four in 20 years.
  • Michigan forward Mitch McGary has lost 20 pounds since the beginning of the season and the now lighter freshman has been a key component of the team that is set to make its first Final Four appearance since 1993.
  • On Thursday, Michigan coach John Beilein refused to discuss the report that his guards Burke and Hardaway Jr. will declare for the NBA Draft.
  • Michigan freshman reserve point guard Spike Albrecht was headed to Appalachian State before the Wolverines gambled and gave him a late scholarship offer. That gamble has paid off majorly for the Wolverines, as Albrecht has developed into a very capable back-up to star guard Trey Burke.

Syracuse

  • Bud Polquin of Syracuse.com writes that it is coach Jim Boeheim‘s fourth Final Four appearance and it is probably not his last.
  • A lot has been made about rumors that this could possibly be Jim Boeheim‘s final season at Syracuse, but the veteran coach made known that “he fully intends to coach Syracuse in the ACC.” 
  • The path Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams has taken in his Orange career to the Final Four is quite similar to the path former Syracuse point guard Lazarus Sims took to the 1996 Final Four.
  • Syracuse has decided that its motto for the week is to become legendary.
  • It is possible that Syracuse forward C.J. Fair will declare for the NBA Draft following the end of the season, but the junior is just focused on playing in the Final Four right now. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 1st, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

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

  • Louisville senior associate athletic director for media relations Kenny Klein tweeted a photo of Cardinals guard Kevin Ware moving around on crutches Monday morning, less than 24 hours after suffering a gruesome broken leg in the first half of Sunday’s victory over Duke.
  • An outstanding column from Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports discussing how the courage and strength shown by Louisville guard Kevin Ware after his horrific leg injury served to inspire the Cardinals to get past Duke and reach the Final Four.
  • Has Louisville forward Gorgui Dieng improved his NBA Draft stock during the team’s NCAA Tournament run?
  • Louisville guard Russ Smith was named Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional. The dynamic junior has dominated the tournament thus far, as he is averaging 26 points per contest.
  • Duke freshman swingman Rasheed Sulaimon was quite emotional after his subpar performance in Sunday’s loss to Louisville and in the process, he left no doubt that he truly cares about success and his teammates.
  • Andrew Jones of FoxSportsCarolinas.com writes that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski got just about everything he could out of this year’s Blue Devils.

West Region

  • Wichita State is confident that it belongs in the Final Four. The ninth-seeded Shockers are in the Final Four for the first time since 1965.
  • Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall reminded his team to “play angry” at halftime of the Shockers’ Elite Eight victory over Ohio State and after notching the Elite Eight victory, they are playing angry into the Final Four.
  • Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall took Sunday to re-charge after Saturday’s thrilling Elite Eight victory over Ohio State, but he is back at work Monday preparing for Saturday’s Final Four match-up with top-seeded Louisville.
  • Here is an interesting story about a man from Long Beach, California, who put a $10 bet on Wichita State to win the national title. The Shockers had 750-1 odds to cut down the nets at the beginning of the NCAA Tournament, so he would win $7,500 off that bet if they do end up winning the title.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Initial Questions About Michigan vs. Syracuse

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 31st, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

Take a deep breath Big Ten basketball fans; Michigan‘s win over Florida might have avoided a full week of  coverage from the hoops media about the conference being “overrated.” The Gators were surprisingly a great match-up for the Wolverines because they were run out of the building (79-59), but the Final Four match-up against Syracuse will undoubtedly pose a tough challenge for John Beilein. Jim Boeheim already dismantled Tom Crean with his defensive game plan and Beilein may not get much sleep over the next week because the 2-3 zone can befuddle his team without an effective game plan that can be executed with his personnel. The following are three key questions about the Wolverines’ game against the Orange:

Can Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams in check in Atlanta?

Can the Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams in check in Atlanta?

  • Can the Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams from getting into the paint? Williams had his way against Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and used his length (6’6″) to consistently attack the basket to finish with 24 points. Beilein has a tough decision to make on this defensive match-up because Trey Burke gives up at least five inches and not to mention could pick up some a quick foul or two if he tries to strip the ball away from Williams. In order to match Williams’ length, Beilein may have to go with  Nik Stauskas or Tim Hardaway Jr. which could be trouble because neither of the Wolverines wings are known for their defense. Stauksas enjoyed a great game (22 points) against the Gators but may not be effective on the offensive end if he is assigned to check Williams throughout the game. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Big Ten M5: 12.10.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on December 10th, 2012

  1. Indiana sophomore guard Austin Etherington is out for the remainder of the season due to a fractured patella. Etherington went down during the Hoosiers’ 100-69 win over the weekend against Central Connecticut State when he was carried off the court in front of a packed house at Assembly Hall. The sophomore has averaged 1.9 PPG during 6.7 MPG so far this season, but the loss is unlikely to hurt Tom Crean’s team because he probably would have seen fewer minutes once Hanner-Parea and Peter Jurkin come back from their suspensions. Nonetheless, getting some playing time during his sophomore season would have helped Etherington to build for next season, but his recovery will be the main focus over the next few months.
  2. The Minnesota Gophers’ win against USC on the road Saturday night, 71-57, was Tubby Smith’s 500th career victory. He becomes the 19th active head coach in Division I basketball to reach 500 wins, joining Bo Ryan and John Beilein as one of the three B1G coaches to be included in this exclusive list. Smith cited “longevity” as the main reason behind his milestone and said that he was “fortunate” to have coached at good programs such as Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota. The Gophers have been very impressive so far this season (10-1) and it is very likely that Smith could add another 15 or more Ws this season to his career wins total.
  3. Ohio State sophomore wing Laquinton Ross is learning to be patient and efficiently use his playing time to impress head coach Thad Matta. Ross only played 11 minutes in the Buckeyes’ loss to Duke over a week ago but he scored nine points and pulled down three boards. Since then, he has seen more playing time and is proving his worth to Matta during his time on the court. Ross played 22 minutes in the Buckeyes’ rout against Long Beach State, 89-55, and scored 16 points along with nine rebounds. He will continue to come off the bench until he improves his on-ball defense and understands his assignments on the defensive end. Matta told Ross “not to take it for granted,” and the 6’8″ sophomore is utilizing any chance he gets to provide the offensive spark to the Buckeyes.
  4. The Michigan freshman class is more than Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III. Freshman guard Spike Albrecht has provided valuable minutes off the bench and his play allowed Trey Burke to get some much-needed rest against Arkansas over the weekend. Albrecht has been playing about seven minutes per game but gives Burke a breather as he handles the ball in the half court. Michigan is unbeaten and has plenty of talent on their roster, but John Beilein needs to make sure he rotates his players efficiently so that Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. stay healthy and fresh for a run in March. With Albrecht playing eight minutes against Arkansas and not turning the ball over during his time in the game, Beilein can afford to give Burke some rest and save him for crunch time.
  5. The Iowa Hawkeyes snapped their three-game losing skid to in-state rival Iowa State and head coach Fran McCaffery thinks it was their best game so far this season. The Hawkeyes won 80-71 with sophomore forward Aaron White scoring 18 points at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. McCaffery was very impressed with his team’s defensive effort as they held the Cyclones to 34% shooting during the second half. The Hawkeyes’ depth allowed him to rotate the players efficiently throughout the game which helped to maintain a very high defensive intensity. Freshman point guard Mike Gesell also impressed his head coach by turning his game around during the second half after a shooting slump during the first half. Gesell drove the lane more because his jumpers were not falling and he finished 6-6 at the free throw line for a total of 11 points in the win.
Share this story