Rushed Reactions: #5 Saint Louis 83, #12 NC State 80 (OT)

Posted by rtmsf on March 20th, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Billiken, Along With the Rest of Us, Had No Idea What Was Coming

The Billiken, Along With the Rest of Us, Had No Idea What Was Coming

  1. The Hack-a-Pack Strategy Worked. We were prepared to write about how defensive-profile teams that don’t have great offenses simply don’t do very well in the NCAA Tournament (still true, by the way), but Saint Louis’ hack-a-Pack strategy took the wind out of those sails. With roughly three minutes to go and the Billikens mired in a game-long offensive funk, Jim Crews instructed his players to start fouling NC State on every offensive possession. It was a reasonable enough strategy to lengthen the game, and especially so given that the Wolfpack came into tonight shooting a chilly 66.3 percent from the line on the year. Still, few thought it would actually work. Prior to that point, NC State had owned the game throughout, playing with confidence and appearing by all indications to be the superior squad. Over the next 17 possessions, however, the Wolfpack went 9-of-20 from the foul line and turned the ball two times. This combination of closeout incompetence was just enough to allow Saint Louis to make a methodical run to tie the game with 20 seconds remaining and send the game into overtime. But it should have never gotten to that point.
  2. Decisions, Decisions. NC State didn’t lose this one simply because of missed foul shots. There were questionable coaching decisions and player decisions alike. The two most notable were killers. With 10 seconds remaining, Mark Gottfried called timeout to set up a play for his team, tied and possessing the ball. Given that the Wolfpack have one of the three best offensive players in America on their team, a fair assumption would have been that the ball would go to TJ Warren. Saint Louis did a great job denying him the pass, but point guard Tyler Lewis bailed out on the play far too soon, electing to dribble penetrate with seven seconds to go and throwing up a reasonable look that rimmed out on him. It wasn’t a horrible shot by any means, but you have to wait a tick or two more to get your professional-lever scorer the ball in that spot. The second odd decision came in overtime as NC State had cut the lead to a single point with 30 seconds remaining. The objective, of course, was to foul the Billikens immediately. The foul ultimately came from, who else, TJ Warren. It was his fifth. Why was he in the game at that point? The correct decision would have been to remove him on defense and reinsert him on offense. Again, when you have an elite scorer on your squad, you have to find ways to use him correctly. Not all players are built equally. Astonishing.
  3. Saint Louis’ Ceiling. This was an amazing comeback, to say the least, and it worked exactly as Crews and his staff hoped it would. But how the Billikens found themselves down double-figures to a team that sneaked into the Dance by the skin of its teeth should be somewhat alarming. This team has not played well in a month, and it was never confused with an offensive juggernaut anyway. But if Saint Louis hopes to get to its first Sweet Sixteen since the 1950s, it will have to find a better way to produce points than depending on a gimmicky fouling strategy down the stretch of games. Both Louisville and Manhattan are stronger defensive units than NC State, yet the Wolfpack where able to easily hold Saint Louis in check for much of this game.

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Assessing the Atlantic 10’s NCAA Tournament Chances

Posted by Joe Dzuback on March 16th, 2014

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

The chances for six bids, a record high for the Atlantic 10, are strong. The source for the seeds is the Bracket Matrix (a consensus of approximately 100 bloggers/bracketologists).

St. Joe's Made Quite the Run This Weekend (credit: Mid-Majority)

St. Joe’s Made Quite the Run This Weekend (credit: Mid-Majority)

Virginia Commonwealth (#6 seed)  — For the Rams, who have had problems generating offense from the half-court all season, turnovers leading to fast breaks and transition threes are especially important. Virginia Commonwealth’s HAVOC approach to defense is designed to generate turnovers through aggressive pressure and quick traps. HAVOC defense values turnovers and the scoring opportunities they create over shot defense. The key to negating the Rams’ strategy is to grow old and patient. Lineups that feature upperclassmen, especially in the ball-handling positions, can break the press on most possessions and make the Rams pay with easy baskets. A turnover or two should not rattle the backcourt and cause hasty, turnover-inducing decisions like the ones that plagued George Washington in the Atlantic 10 semifinals on Saturday. thrives in a hurry-up offense and defense that values turnovers over shot defense. Break the Rams’ press and avoid the half-court traps, unlike George Washington’s guard Joe McDonald Saturday, and the opponent should have a clean look at the basket. He and freshman point guard Miguel Cartagena threw two passes away with under four minutes to play and the Colonials down nine. “You can see it in their eyes… in their body language… when they are rattled,” a scout observed. Smart’s squad is the A-10’s best bet for a deep run this NCAA Tournament. While they have their flaws, they also have an experienced coach who will get them ready to play.

Saint Louis (#6 seed) – VCU may get most of the “defense” ink, but St. Louis has compiled the most impressive defensive resume in the conference… up until two weeks ago, holding opponents to 0.93 points per possession, good for #8 in Division I, according to Ken Pomeroy. The defense is vintage Rick Majerus — stifling shot defense (especially out to the three-point line) that values defensive rebounds, limited fouls and a hand in the face over turnovers. Their late February/early March slump could be anticipated because the Bills’ had a string of small point margins through much of their 12-0 start to conference play. Their 1-3 close has hurt their projected seeding and possibly their confidence. While Austin McBroom and Mike McCall are decent from beyond the arc, they are specialists. Opposing defenses know if McBroom or McCall (or forward Rob Loe) has the ball, the shot will come from the outside and anyone else will drive the lane or pass into the low post. Jordair Jett, the A-10 Player of the Year, has proven to be able to create his own shot, but everyone else needs a setup or set play to score. The Bills will have to find a third/fourth option on offense to take a deep run.

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O26 Resume Review

Posted by Adam Stillman on January 8th, 2014

Now is when all the fun starts. No more guarantee games. Conference play is underway. We can start breaking down resumes in earnest and begin to get a clearer picture of where teams stand nationally. It’s hard to believe that the NCAA Tournament is just over two months away, but let’s take stock of where some of the O26 bubble teams stand and how their resumes stack up right now.

Note: O26 teams that are projected to be safely in the field aren’t included in this resume review. That includes Wichita State, San Diego State, Massachusetts and Gonzaga.

Boise State (11-3)

  • Good wins: Utah
  • Bad losses: None
Boise State Missed an Opportunity at Kentucky

Boise State Missed an Opportunity at Kentucky

Thoughts: Boise State has missed out on its biggest opportunities to secure marquee wins. The Broncos came up just short against Iowa State on Christmas, falling by four at the Diamond Head Classic. A 15-point drubbing at the hands of Kentucky didn’t help either. That home loss to Saint Mary’s is looking worse now with the Gaels struggling. There will be plenty of chances for Boise State in the Mountain West, though, even if the league is somewhat down from last season. There’s no better way than to tip off league play with a date at San Diego State tonight.

  • Projected seed for now: Out

Dayton (12-3)

  • Good wins: Gonzaga, at Ole Miss? California?
  • Bad losses: Illinois State, USC

Thoughts: Dayton is somewhat of an enigma. The Flyers have a really nice win against Gonzaga at the Maui Invitational and fell just a point shy against Baylor in the semifinals of that same tournament. A true road win at Ole Miss isn’t too shabby either. But then you also have to consider an away loss to Illinois State and a home loss to Southern California. The Flyers can open Atlantic 10 play off on the right foot when they host Saint Louis January 11.

  • Projected seed for now: #12

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Wisconsin Faces Another Test Against St. Louis

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 26th, 2013

With two quality victories in the bank already against St. John’s and Florida, Wisconsin will look to put another significant win on their resume Tuesday night in Cancun against a 5-0 St. Louis team. While the Billikens are not ranked in the Top 25 yet, they are the defending Atlantic 10 Tournament champions and a team with good experience at a number of key positions. This game could have been projected as a rock fight of the 45-43 variety in years past, but what makes this one particularly interesting is that Wisconsin is averaging 80.2 PPG despite not really playing terribly fast (67.3 possessions per game, 258th nationally). The Badgers are making things happen by simply shooting the lights out in the early going, notching a 45.2 percent output from three, and a 57.9% eFG. St. Louis is stingy in giving up the three-ball, however, and this highlights what will be one of the more intriguing Feast Week match-ups in the B1G.

Frank Kaminsky looks to stay hot against a quality St. Louis team.  (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky looks to stay hot against a quality St. Louis team. (Getty)

Wisconsin has been lights-out shooting the ball this season, but St. Louis has just as impressive numbers defensively. The Billikens are holding opponents to a minuscule 20.3 percent from behind the arc, and they also check in with a 41.8% defensive eFG. Both statistics rank in the top 20 nationally. For the most part, they play a hard-nosed man-to-man with athletic guards that will challenge the shooters and not give allow many open looks. Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett fly around the perimeter making things difficult, and then collectively, the Billikens don’t give out too many second chances after a miss. SLU ranks 44th in the country (26.7%) in letting teams retrieve their misses. To summarize, St. Louis is good at forcing teams into tough threes, then grabbing the defensive rebounds off those misses that often lead to great looks from kickouts. Wisconsin only gets 28.6 percent of their offensive rebounds as it is, so chances are they won’t get many second chance opportunities Tuesday night.

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Where 2013-14 Happens: Reason #26 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 23rd, 2013

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Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2013-14 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. For the next three weeks, you’ll get two hits of excitement each weekday. We’ve captured what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. To see the entire released series so far, click here.

#26 – Where A Memory Carries On Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-12, and 2012-13 preseasons.

 

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New Memberships in the A-10 and Mountain West: Can These Leagues Sustain Success?

Posted by BHayes on October 10th, 2013

Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) is an RTC national columnist.

The tumult of conference realignment has hit few conferences harder than it has the Mountain West and Atlantic 10, but as we prepare to set sail on the 2013-14 season, both leagues again loom as the best college basketball has to offer outside the now “power seven” conferences. We touched on each league a little bit in yesterday’s Morning Five, but storylines abound in two leagues that have generated plenty of national buzz in recent years. Both are expected to maintain holds in the upper echelon of the mid-major hierarchy, but offseason membership changes have left things less certain than usual, especially in the A-10. The constant churn of programs jumping from conference to conference has left leagues in varying states of disarray, and 2013-14 finds both the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 at a crossroads. The challenges are different in each situation, but with the relatively uncertain future of today’s college basketball’s climate, another strong season in comparison with the high-majors would go a long ways towards stabilizing each of these traditionally strong conferences.

Kendall Williams And New Mexico Are Just One Of Many Teams With High Hopes In The Mountain West

Kendall Williams And New Mexico Are Just One Of Many Teams With High Hopes In The Mountain West

This season’s iteration of the Mountain West is bigger, but is it better? The preseason poll released Tuesday offered confirmation of the general consensus surrounding newcomers Utah State and San Jose State: Stew Morrill and the Aggies should be a factor in the top half of the conference, while the Spartans, despite their eye-catching new floor, are likely to be MW doormats. But even if Utah State matches or exceeds expectations in their conference debut, the conference as a whole will struggle to replicate the success of 2012-13 – those good old days when the MW was number one in conference RPI (no typo). The trio at the top of this year’s preseason poll all have a chance at replicating, or even improving upon, their successful campaigns of a year ago.

The return of preseason MW POY Kendall Williams and first teamer Alex Kirk has left New Mexico as the conference’s presumptive favorite: the Lobos earned all but one of 24 first place votes. A talented but overhauled UNLV squad scooped up that final first place vote, while Boise State’s return of nearly every key contributor earned the Broncos enough acclaim to tie for second with the Rebels in the poll. The Morning Five highlighted another talented San Diego State roster that sits behind those three teams in the eyes of the media, and let’s face it — it’s probably time we start giving Steve Fisher the benefit of the doubt – the Aztecs are an annual factor out west. But behind the Aztecs and Aggies (Utah State was picked to finish fifth) lies much of the intrigue in this year’s MW. A season ago, the four non-Tournament teams (Air Force, Wyoming, Fresno State and Nevada) were all extremely competitive, especially on their home floors. Their strength was a big reason for that heady conference RPI. This year’s bottom half again appears feisty, with a couple of teams – Nevada (#9) and Fresno State (#8) appearing especially undervalued in the preseason evaluations. Nobody – inside our outside the league — is expecting the MW to finish atop the conference RPI again this season. But another solid campaign, on the heels of that banner season of a year ago, would be awfully sound validation of a league unprepared to leave the national consciousness anytime soon.

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Morning Five: 05.17.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 17th, 2013

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  1. It appears that Eddie Jordan never did directly claim to be a Rutgers graduate although his methods of saying so may be interpreted as being deceptive. Yesterday, CBS released the biography that Jordan had provided the school as part of his application. It does “absolve” Jordan of a majority of the blame and does point out that even if Jordan is not a college graduate he understands semantics well enough to utilize the phrase “alma mater” to his advantage when applying for a job there. The bigger question is why Rutgers a school with access to its own records did not bother checking into the statement a little more closely.
  2. One of the most painful aspects of conference realignment (outside of having to reorganize our microsites) was the loss of traditional rivalries due to heavier conference schedules. One of the bigger non-conference rivalries that appeared to be on the chopping block was Memphis and Tennessee. Now it appears that fans of those two schools may be getting an early Christmas present as the schools appear to be on the verge of continuing their series. There are still several issues to work out before the deal is finalized, but moves like this help restore our faith in the idea that schools are about more than just making money.
  3. One of the many issues that people have been advocating for reform at the NCAA level is the idea of multi-year scholarships rather than the one-year renewable scholarships that can be pulled by schools without any penalty to the school. The latest such example of the downside of this appears to be former St. Louis freshman Jared Drew who after redshirting his freshman season was told by the coaching staff that his scholarship would not be renewed as he did not fit with the direction they were going in. We have no idea if there were other issues going on in the background (academic or disciplinary) that may have led the school to make that decision, but with nothing stated or public it appears that the new coaching staff simply felt that they could get better players. Perhaps some news will come out explaining another reason for why Drew was let go, but at this time it makes St. Louis look bad and probably will not help them on the recruiting trail.
  4. Even though gambling is still illegal in much of the country so this only applies to a very small part of the country and for the rest of the country it can just be viewed as an interesting academic exercise in statistics Andy Glockner took a look at some of the post-Andrew Wiggins decision championship odds and found some intriguing values. The odds on the teams listed all appear to be pretty good values, but the one that sticks out the most to us would definitely be Louisville. For a defending champion to be returning that many key pieces and have one of the best college basketball coaches ever and still have 12-1 odds to win the title seems off even if their in-state rival has what many media members are hyping up as the greatest recruiting class ever.
  5. Dick Vitale may be a controversial figure for some, but there are two things about him that nobody can argue about–his love of college basketball and his passion for raising money for cancer awareness. With his 8th Annual Dick Vitale Gala he is expected to cross the $10 million mark in funds raised for cancer research. As you would expect the guest list for the event is pretty impressive and is projected to break last year’s record of $1.8 million raised. We wish Dick the best in his work in raising money for research, but more importantly we wish anybody affected by this devastating condition(s) the best in what they are going through.
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Morning Five: 04.15.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 15th, 2013

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  1. The Mike Rice fiasco at Rutgers will take a long time to play out, but the school appears to be taking the first step of moving into a new era with the expected hiring of Eddie Jordan as its new coach some time this week. Jordan, who was an honorable mention All-American at Rutgers and led the school to the 1976 Final Four, is probably best known for being the head coach of the Washington Wizards from 2003 to 2008 getting the team to the playoffs four straight years. Jordan is currently serving as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, which means he should be free to take on the duties of being the head coach at Rutgers in the not too distant future. His biggest task will be repairing the basketball program’s image after video of Rice’s abuse surfaced. If he is able to gain the confidence of recruits again this could be a huge hire as the New Jersey area produces more than enough talent to make Rutgers a nationally competitive team under the right circumstances.
  2. It took longer than it probably should have, but on Friday Jim Crews had interim label removed from his job title at St. Louis as he officially was introduced as the head coach. Crews inherited a talented St. Louis team that was placed in a precarious position after Rick Majerus stepped down as coach before dying of issues related to worsening heart failure. What Crews did in getting his players to focus and buy into him as a coach was nothing short of remarkable. After winning the Atlantic 10 regular season and Tournament titles the Bilikens advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to a underseeded Oregon team. Although the loss of Majerus is undeniably huge, the St. Louis program should be in good hands with Crews, who won the Sporting News National Coach of the Year award this season and already has 25 years of head coaching experience  at the Division I level.
  3. We have seen quite a few sons of coaches transfer schools from their father’s are fired, but Steve Alford’s move to UCLA has brought about two recruiting moves. First was the quasi-transfer of his son, a high school recruit who had signed with New Mexico to UCLA. Now Cullen Neal, the son of Craig Neal who was hired to take over at New Mexico after Alford left, has gotten out of his signed letter of intent at St. Mary’s and will play for his father. Although some might argue that letting players out of signed letters of intent is a questionable strategy given the power schools have over athletes in most situations the recent rulings by the NCAA would appear to indicate that the players would be given waivers to transfer immediately. We are not sure how much of an impact either Alford or Neal (the sons) will have at their new schools, but it will be an interesting to see how well they play for their fathers.
  4. With the way the NCAA Tournament ended–all three Final Four games featuring controversial calls–Deadspin’s article on college referees and the way they deal with blown calls is well-timed. As is often stated nobody knows the name of an official unless they get something wrong (or they make a spectacle of themselves on television…and get something wrong). We have usually stood by officials when they make mistakes because we think in most cases there is no bias involved and the fact remains that if we had one hundred thousand people analyzing every single decision we made for two hours we would probably get a lot of criticism too. Having said that one of the interesting secondary topics discussed in the article is the travel and volume of games some officials do each season as they function as independent contractors and can be paid quite well for their work. Fatigue from travel and officiating games is certainly something that the NCAA and conferences can do by simply hiring officials and paying them set amounts based on the number of games they are contracted to do with provisions prohibiting freelancing that can compromise their ability to officiate games that they are paid to work.
  5. Now that Rick Pitino is on his way to the Hall of Fame and has won national titles with two different schools some people in Kentucky are asking the (not-so) obvious question: If this were the Baseball Hall of Fame and you had to choose a “cap” to go in under, would Pitino go in under Kentucky or Louisville? The case for both schools is certainly compelling, but given his impact on Kentucky we would go with a Wildcat cap at least as of now. However as Mark Story notes the more likely choice would be Louisville given Pitino’s current allegiances and the fact that Kentucky fans would probably still hate him even if he were to enter the Hall of Fame after having left Louisville.
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Rushed Reactions: #12 Oregon 74, #4 Saint Louis 57

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2013

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RTC is at the San Jose pod this evening. We filed this report  after Saturday’s Third Round game between #4 St. Louis and #12 Oregon.

Three Key Takeaways:

Dotson is Turning Into a Star (OregonLive)

Dotson is Turning Into a Star (OregonLive)

  1. About that Saint Louis Defense. SLU’s calling card this season has been its elite defensive efficiency, with a high-pressure half-court defense that ranks in the top 10 nationally and had routinely eviscerated teams, holding 11 of its last 12 opponents under 62 total points (Xavier, the only exception, scored 77 in an overtime win). Oregon was having none of that. After a first few shaky possessions where the Saint Louis defense got its hands on some passes to cause some deflections, the Ducks adjusted well and went on a tear led by Damyean Dotson and Carlos Emory where they got repeated open looks and knocked them down. A hot first half became a 53% shooting night and a ridiculous 8-11 from three. It was the third-worst defensive performance of the year for the Billikens and it likely would have been worse had the game not gotten so far out of hand.
  2. Damyean Dotson Has Star Power. If not now, right here in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but next year for sure as a breakout star in the Pac-12 and nationally. He’s already got all the tools, but with a good portion of next year’s squad graduating, it will be incumbent upon he and Dominic Artis to lead Dana Altman’s Ducks into the future. His size at 6’5″ was a nightmare match-up for the much smaller Billikens guards as he was able to easily shoot over the top (5-of-6 from three) and find soft spots in the creases of the defense. He and Carlos Emory set the tone from the opening minutes offensively, firing Oregon to a 60% shooting first half and a 16-point lead that appeared insurmountable.
  3. Worst Seeding Ever? We’re not much for ridiculous superlatives and hyperbole around here, but we are having trouble thinking of another situation where a team that had as good of a season as Oregon was so inadequately seeded. The committee says that it takes in-season injuries into account, and yet it didn’t appear to notice how well Oregon played with Dominic Artis in the lineup. He’s back now, if they haven’t noticed (even if today was not a great game for him). Certainly an argument could be made of a Hawthorne Effect of sorts, that the Ducks played so well and with a laser focus because of the NCAA-induced chip on their shoulders. That’s a reasonable take. But after two games of watching these guys show no quarter in picking apart a strong #5 seed and #4 seed, it’s difficult to understand how the NCAA got this one so wrong.

Star of the Game: Damyean Dotson, Oregon. No other realistic choice today. The freshman went off for 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting that included five treys and only one miss from beyond the arc. He was completely dialed in today, and the SLU defense had no realistic way to prevent his open looks. As noted above, the kid has star power and can become the cornerstone of these Ducks for years to come.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 VCU 88, #12 Akron 42

Posted by Will Tucker on March 21st, 2013

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Will Tucker is a RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #6 VCU and #12 Akron from Auburn Hills. You can also find him on Twitter @blrdswag.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. As if there was any doubt, VCU proved it’s back in Tournament form. After losing a tough Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament championship to Saint Louis, the Rams showed no semblance of a hangover. They mercilessly inflicted their havoc system on Akron for 40 minutes, generating 34 points off of 22 Akron turnovers, 20 of which came on fast breaks. A Zips player told reporters after the game, “We used so much energy trying to get the ball up the court that we couldn’t guard them.” After shooting below 34% and hitting 3-of-18 three-point attempts against SLU, the Rams found their range in their NCAA opener, draining 8-of-16 from beyond the arc and shooting 54% overall.

    Shaka Smart and his fiest VCU squad jumped all over Akron Thursday night. (Getty)

    Shaka Smart and his fiest VCU squad jumped all over Akron Thursday night. (Getty)

  2. Lack of size didn’t hamper the Rams against the bigger Zips and 7’ senior Zeke Marshall. There were concerns that VCU’s undersized frontcourt would be a significant liability in the Tournament, but in their first game the Rams used a collaborative effort to defend and rebound inside. 6’9″, 235-pound Juvonte Reddic, the team’s biggest starter, scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting and grabbed five boards. His teammates did the rest, as five of them grabbed three or more rebounds, helping to build advantages of 36 to 29 in rebounding and 40 to 28 in points in the paint.
  3. The game was essentially over after VCU doubled up on Akron 50-25 at halftime, but Shaka Smart didn’t let up. The Rams again doubled Akron’s scoring in the second half, led by 48 with 6 minutes left, and their 46-point margin of victory was apparently the largest ever in a 6/12 seeding matchup. This was particularly uncomfortable because Smart and Akron coach Keith Dambrot are close friends, but the Zips coach said it wasn’t a disrespectful gesture. “He’s got a job to do. His job is to prepare his team to win the next game, and I don’t take any offense to it,” Dambrot said. For his part, Shaka insisted the Zips were victims of circumstance and a poor matchup, and that he called off his trap with nine minutes left and his press with seven remaining. “There was a lot of time on the clock. We’re not just going to fall back in a zone, that’s not what we do,” Smart said.

Star of the GameTroy Daniels edged Reddic for this one after scoring 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, hit 6-of-11 threes, and grabbed five rebounds in 21 minutes. Most importantly, the 6’4″ senior guard atoned for a scoreless performance in 17 minutes against SLU.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 St. Louis 64, #13 New Mexico State 44

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2013

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RTC is reporting on the NCAA Second Round games at the San Jose pod today.

Saint Louis Shut Down the Aggies This Afternoon (Thearon Henderson)

Saint Louis Shut Down the Aggies This Afternoon (Thearon Henderson)

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Saint Louis Was Never Threatened. The Billikens hardly had to sweat against New Mexico State today, as the Aggies really couldn’t put two plays together and never once threatened to make the game interesting. There was a brief period during the second half when NMSU went to a full-court press and caused the Saint Louis backcourt a bit of consternation with consecutive turnovers and some shaky play when they made it past half-court, but that was short-lived. Put simply, it was a methodical defensive clinic, the kind of which you might expect a #4 seed to put on a #13 seed in this round. The stats tell the story: NMSU shot 28% for the game, had a grand total of zero fast break points, and had no answer for Dwayne Evans (his 16 points at the half equaled the Aggies).
  2. Smothering Doesn’t Describe It Well Enough. Everyone knows that the SLU defense is legit — after all, it is ranked seventh in the nation according to KenPom, and its 57.7 PPG allowed is in the top 15. But until you see how they simply do not allow good looks at the basket, it’s hard to believe. Every pass, catch, dribble, and of course shot is challenged. I counted only two solid scoring opportunities for the Aggies in the first nine minutes of the game — situations where New Mexico State had clearly solved the defense for a good look. As noted above, the only time they ever made a “run” was in the second half off of their press — when left to depend on their offense figuring out the defense in the half-court, the Aggies were hapless.
  3. Sim Bhullar is an Interesting Case Study. First of all, this guy is enormous. There were times as he stood in the paint today where it appeared he was the early puberty kid among a bunch of 10-year olds. The difference between his size — 7’5″, 360 pounds — and everyone else was that stark. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him whenever he was in the game, and on his first two catches in the paint, he couldn’t hang on to the ball. But he calmed down as the game went on, and the big burly freshman actually made a couple nice offensive moves and ended up with four points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. He needs to lose 50 pounds to have better conditioning, but he’s got a promising future in college basketball.

Star of the Game: Dwayne Evans, St. Louis. Evans carried the Billikens in the first half, scoring 16 of his game-high 24 and equaling the entire team output of the Aggies at that point, but it was his play early that calmed his team and allowed their smothering half-court defense to get it going. The junior forward is playing great, going for 16 or more points in all of the Billikens’ last nine games.

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The Other 26: Bracket-Busting, East and Midwest Edition

Posted by IRenko on March 20th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC columnist and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

This is part two of our TO26 bracket analysis, focusing on the 17 non-power-conference teams that populate the East and Midwest regions. The teams are grouped into five rough categories, and, within each category, they are ordered by their likelihood of advancing.  For our analysis of the South and West regions, see here.

Regional Threats

These are the teams that have a credible chance of dancing all the way to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

  • St. Louis (#4 Midwest) — The Bilikens are flying a bit under the radar, but this is a team that should be a favorite for a Sweet 16 run. They have one of the best defenses in the country, a group of experienced guards who can attack and shoot (Kwamain Mitchell, Mike McCall, Jordair Jett), a surprisingly effective post presence in Dwayne Evans, and a pair of pick-‘n-pop big men (Rob Loe, Cody Ellis) who can drain the three. It should be said, though, that the Bilikens’ draw is not necessarily ideal. A first-round game against New Mexico State presents some matchup quandaries (see below), as does a potential Third Round game against Oklahoma State — both teams are prepared to bang and grind with the Bilikens down low. Ultimately, I think the St. Louis’ defense is strong enough to get them to the Sweet 16, where their steady guard play gives them a non-trivial chance of knocking off the Cards.
Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

Can Rotnei Clarke Lead Butler Back to the Final Four?

  • Butler (#6, East) — Yes, they’re back. Neither Bucknell nor their potential Third Round opponent (Marquette or Davidson) will be an easy team to conquer, but all three of these teams will give Butler an important reprieve from its biggest vulnerability — a tendency to turn it over. Bucknell and Marquette will also play at the kind of grinding pace at which the Bulldogs excel. And they’ll focus their offense on the areas of the floor where Butler’s defense is strongest — the paint. Butler also has the shooters — Rotnei Clark, Kellen Dunham — to bombard Marquette’s compact defense and the rebounders to exploit Marquette’s weakness on the glass. If anything, Bucknell may pose a bigger matchup problem, as they tend to chase teams off the three-point line and they don’t give up much on the offensive glass. The Bison will be a tough opponent, but when you look at Butler’s pod as a whole, a Sweet 16 run looks well within reach.

One and Done

These teams have at least a 50/50 (or better) chance of picking up a win, but are unlikely to get two.

  • Colorado State (#8, Midwest) – I would actually bump the Rams up to the tail end of the “Regional Threats” group if not for the uncertain status of starting point guard Dorian Green. The team’s unquestioned floor general, Green suffered an ankle injury in the first round of the MWC tournament, and though he played in a semifinal loss to UNLV, was ineffective. With a fully healthy Green, the Rams’ have a good chance of toppling Missouri. The two teams are somewhat similar in that they try to score in the paint on offense, while keeping opponents out of the paint of it on defense. Neither team is especially potent from the three-point line, and both rely a fair amount on offensive rebounding, though the Rams’ have the advantage here, especially as they are equally adept at controlling their defensive glass. That, along with Missouri’s tendency to be a bit loose with the ball, may be the difference-maker. And don’t sleep on Colorado State’s chances against Louisville in the next round. The Cardinals’ weak points are defensive rebounding and three-point shooting. The Rams are the best offensive rebounding team in the country, and as noted above, their defense forces teams to beat them from the three-point line. They also take pretty good care of the ball, which will serve them well against Louisville’s pressure defense. But this analysis could be all for naught if Green isn’t healthy enough to be effective.
  • Creighton (#7, Midwest) Doug McDermott is perhaps the most fundamentally sound player in college basketball. His All-American status owes itself to his incredibly precise offensive footwork, positioning, movement, shot, and cuts. He has inside-outside skills that present a very tough matchup if you’re not used to guarding him. And he’s surrounded by lots of great three-point shooters. Cincinnati’s defense has generally been strong, so they might be able to contain McDermott and the Bluejays’ three-point attack. But they’ll have to be especially effective because their offense has been truly miserable. I like the Bluejays’ chances here. A Third Round matchup with Duke would be a tougher proposition, as the Blue Devils combine a defense that shuts down the three-point line with an offense that is far more high-powered than Cincinnati’s. McDermott may well get his points, especially posting up inside, but that’s not likely to be sufficient.

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