Checking In On… the WCC

Posted by Michael Vernetti on December 16th, 2014

Michael Vernetti is the Rush the Court’s correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Looking Back

Maybe finals were unusually hard this year, causing a build-up of aggression within WCC members. Maybe the conference is ready to establish itself alongside the Mountain West as one of the best outside the Power Five. Whatever the motivation, conference schools celebrated their first post-finals games with a handful of memorable efforts on Saturday.

Kyle Wiltjer has fit right in with a talented Gonzaga squad. (AP)

Kyle Wiltjer has fit right in with a talented Gonzaga squad. (AP)

  • Gonzaga toyed with UCLA as if the Bruins were a middling WCC opponent, leading wire-to-wire in an 87-74 romp at Pauley Pavilion.
  • Saint Mary’s broke Creighton’s 24-game home winning streak with a 71-67 overtime win in Omaha.
  • BYU went 2-0 on the road by topping Weber State 76-60 in Ogden.
  • Santa Clara notched its fourth straight win by knocking off Washington State 76-67 – its first home win against a Pac-12 school in 10 years.
  • San Diego trounced New Orleans 85-60 to remain undefeated at home.
  • Pepperdine almost made it an epic fail for the Pac-12 against the WCC, leading Arizona State 43-42 with less than 12 minutes left before ultimately succumbing, 81-74.
  • Only rebuilding Loyola Marymount went down Saturday, losing 71-69 to Northern Arizona.

It has been a mostly satisfying non-conference performance so far for the WCC, with only one team, Loyola Marymount, posting a losing record through December 13.

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O26 Weekly Awards: SMC, D.J. Balentine, Kyle Smith, Incarnate Word…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 16th, 2014

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition.

O26 Team of the Week

Saint Mary’s. It’s a full month into the season and we still didn’t know much about the Gaels before last weekend. They were transfer-laden, proficient on offense and led by Brad Waldow (21.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG) down low – that much we understood – but Randy Bennett’s club had yet to play a road contest (or even leave Moraga) through its first six games. And aside from a pair of solid wins over New Mexico State and UC Irvine, Saint Mary’s most noteworthy performance prior to Saturday was a 83-71 loss to Boise State on December 6. Was this team good? Mediocre? An at-large contender? Even if the Gaels’ 71-67 victory at Creighton over the weekend doesn’t fully answer all of those questions, it does make one thing clear: These guys are going to be competitive in the WCC.

Saint Mary's pulled off a huge road victory in Omaha. (MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD)

Saint Mary’s pulled off a huge road victory in Omaha. (MATT MILLER/THE WORLD-HERALD)

Creighton entered Saturday on a 24-game home winning streak, an impressive run that coach Greg McDermott probably would have assumed safe if you had told him Waldow would end up with just 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting. “Obviously, our game plan was to slow down Waldow, because he’s such a big part of their offense,” McDermott said afterwards. Unfortunately for the Bluejays, the Saint Mary’s backcourt more than picked up the slack, as Stanford-transplant Aaron Bright scored 22 points and Kerry Carter dropped in 19. Equally as important was sophomore forward Dane Pineau, who – having never reached double figures in his career – stepped up enormously in wake of Waldow’s off night, scoring 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting and ripping down 10 boards. The Gaels withstood an early-second half Creighton surge by responding with a 12-0 run of their own, ultimately forcing an extra period – where Bright and Pineau sealed the deal. Now at 6-1 and with a marquee road victory under its belt, Saint Mary’s looks capable of challenging BYU for second-best in the WCC and putting itself in the NCAA Tournament discussion. This weekend’s victory at the CenturyLink Center could go a long way.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.19.14 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on February 19th, 2014

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  1. So, late on Monday night I am navigating my way through the college basketball hub on ESPN.com, and I find this piece with different writers making predictions for the rest of the season that will either make them look smart or stupid. About a quarter of the way down the page is the headline “Take notice of the champs… and Oregon State“. John Gasaway’s “prediction that will make him look stupid” is centered around the Beavers upsetting UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament championship, giving the program its first trip to the Big Dance since 1990. Stupid or not, a prediction is a prediction, and Oregon State fans will take it. Also included in this predictions post is C.L. Brown’s prognostication that Arizona will not receive a one seed for that NCAA Tournament. With four of its final six on the road and its performance without Brandon Ashley not exactly inspiring, this isn’t a bad pick.
  2. Joe Lunardi released his latest edition of Bracketology on Monday, and the Wildcats remain as a #1 seed in his projections. UCLA follows as a #5 seed, and then four Pac-12 teams (Stanford, Arizona State, California, and Colorado) are represented on the #9 and #10 lines. John Templon released his NIT projections as well earlier this week, and Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, and Utah appear in that field.
  3. Shortly after we talked to you on Monday morning, both the AP and Coaches polls were released and saw Arizona drop two spots to #4 after falling at Arizona State last Friday. The only other team to appear inside the Top 25 were the Bruins after their sweep of Colorado and Utah, but both Arizona State and Cal appear in the “Also Receiving Votes” section. Click here to check out Rush the Court‘s weekly rankings, where the Cats once again appear at fourth, the Bruins take 22nd, and Arizona State comes in at #29.
  4. Stanford guard Aaron Bright will be transferring to St. Mary’s and be eligible to play immediately next season in Moraga. The senior appeared in seven games this season for the Cardinal before dislocating his right shoulder during a late November practice. In order to be able to play immediately, Bright has to find a graduate degree program that is offered by St. Mary’s and not by Stanford. According to this tweet, the Gaels have at least three of those; Kinesiology, an MA in Leadership, and an MFA in Creative Writing. Oh, and Australian Basketball Recruiting.
  5. I must warn you, the next link is a bit disturbing. Coaches at both Arizona and Arizona State are proposing the ridiculous notion that Pac-12 court rushes be prevented, possibly by as soon as next season. Sean Miller thinks the situation is a threat to the visiting team’s safety and inconveniences them when trying to get back to the locker room after the game is over. My thoughts? Who cares if you have to wait by the bench for a few extra minutes after the buzzer sounds? Have security in place like the ACC does to surround the staff and players, and let the kids have their fun on the floor.
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Morning Five: 12.26.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on December 26th, 2013

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  1. We hope all of you had an enjoyable Christmas holiday yesterday. Fortunately for college basketball programs across the country it was an uneventful day as the only news that happens for programs on holidays and it appears that players (and coaches) across the nation were on their best behavior yesterday. Today should be more of the same and in fact should be even quieter with no games scheduled today, but that will change later in the week (more on that later).
  2. The only real college basketball action happening yesterday was in Hawaii where the Diamond Head Classic finished up. The big news out of Hawaii was Iowa State adding another quality win to its NCAA Tournament resume with a four-point win over Boise State. At this point, the Cyclones have a very solid top-10 resume and probably will end up there when the next poll comes out. On the other end of the spectrum we have St. Mary’s. Coming to Hawaii the Gaels were undefeated and a borderline top-25 team. Three games and three losses later (by a combined 11 points) they have just one game to rebound before a big showdown at Gonzaga on January 2.
  3. With all of the talk about scoring and fouls one of the things that not many people have talked about is the number of players who have had big scoring nights. Matt Norlander took a look at that using a 40-point performance as the threshold and breaking it down by season, conference, and game location. The one thing that jumps out (other than the big drop-off in 40+ point games since the four-year stretch spanning 2005-2009) is how many of these games came in BCS-level conferences (ok, maybe not the Big Ten) since many people would expect these performances to come in more free-flowing, less physical mid-major games. Clearly, the BCS-level conferences tend to get more talented players, but that is not always necessarily reflected in scoring output.
  4. We missed this over the weekend as we were traveling, but we remiss we did not mention the retirement of longtime official Ed Hightower, who officiated his last game on Sunday. Although Hightower’s final game was not a high-profile game (Iowa vs Arkansas-Pine Bluff) perhaps that is fitting as Hightower is one of the more well-respected high-profile officials that we can think of. Unlike some of his colleagues who are well-known for making specific calls Hightower does not have that type of reputation (ok, there are probably a few fans who harbor some resentment over random calls). As Dan Wetzel noted last week, Tom Izzo’s admiration for Hightower speaks volumes for Hightower’s work. Actually, we suggest you take a look at the comment section on Wetzel’s article, which might be the first time we have seen the comment section full of positive comments, to get an idea of the quality of Hightower’s work.
  5. If you still have some more time with your family this holiday season, we suggest you use today and tomorrow to get your family time in. If today isn’t enough, you should have some time on Friday too with three ranked teams playing, but doing so against really weak competition. On Saturday, it is a completely different story with a solid slate featuring games between Villanova and Syracuse at 2 PM and Kentucky and Louisville at 4 PM. Outside of that there are several other interesting games to keep you occupied the rest of the day so you might want to invest compression socks because you might be on the couch for a very long time.
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Vegas Odds to Win It All: Season Opener Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2013

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It’s opening week and we’ve already gotten a taste of what’s to come through the first weekend of college basketball. As we head into the start of the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon tonight, culminating in tomorrow night’s top-five double-header at the Champions Classic, it’s time to take a look at how oddsmakers view the upcoming season. As we mentioned last week upon the release of the RTC Preseason Top 25, there appears to be a consensus top five (Kentucky, Michigan State, Louisville, Duke and Kansas), followed by a second-tier group of six more teams (Arizona, Florida, Ohio State, Syracuse, Oklahoma State and Michigan). Although the order might be a little different, that is also more or less how Las Vegas is viewing the 2013-14 national championship race. Keeping in mind that unlike those of us who can make any ridiculous prediction we can think of without an appreciable fear of repercussion, oddsmakers stake their livelihoods on this practice. Therefore, they generally have a good idea of what they’re doing.

Let’s first take a look at the odds below (NCAA basketball lines taken from a prominent international sportsbook, where the listed odds are not much different from those in Vegas), then we’ll analyze some takeaways after the jump below. (ed. note: for those unfamiliar with futures odds, +380 represents the amount of money a potential gambler would receive back if he placed a $100 wager on that team and it won.  He would, in other words, win back 3.8 times his original wager.)

2013-14 vegas odds

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ACC M5: 10.24.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on October 24th, 2013

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  1. Run the Floor: Michael Rogner brings a fresh look at the NCAA punishments for Miami by comparing the school’s case and response directly with that of Saint Mary’s. As you might expect, the violations are not comparable in the least. The punishments? I’ll let Rogner’s piece speak for itself. For a little more context that likely led to these discrepancies, we have you covered. Not a great look for the NCAA.
  2. Daily Orange: The bigger TV money apparently wasn’t everything. Syracuse has already reportedly exceeded the basketball tickets sold last year (or any year in the past two decades, for that matter). Football and other sports have also seen a boost. Part of this may be the novelty of it all, and some stars certainly aligned with the Orange being very good this year and hosting Duke. Maybe the increased excitement among fans is what has Jim Boeheim warming up to the ACC, although he still stresses holding the ACC Tournament in either New York or Washington, DC.
  3. Washington Post: Maryland freshman Damonte Dodd sounds like a piece of what looks to be an incredible Big Ten frontcourt at Maryland in a year or two. Mark Turgeon touted him as an “energy guy,” but his athleticism should turn that energy into great skill. With Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell also showing lots of promise in the post, Turgeon may have an embarrassment of riches should all three stay in College Park for a while and continue developing.
  4. ESPN: Eamonn Brennan wants everyone to get ready for the new-look Duke team this year. Unlike many coaches, Coach K adapts his teams to fit his personnel. Combine his flexibility with his recruiting and you understand why Duke has been so consistently good the last 30 years. This year’s Blue Devil team is a very different one from last year: It’s younger, more athletic, and perimeter-oriented. I’m guessing (hoping) that means a high-tempo, in-your-face defense, though we won’t know until the season starts. While you’re over at the Worldwide Leader, check out John Gasaway’s ACC team previews. (Clemson is free!)
  5. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Speaking of those ESPN previews, Gasaway picked Virginia second in the league behind Duke. It’s easy to forget how good Tony Bennett’s team was last season, although the Cavaliers were offensively limited outside of Joe Harris. This year Harris expects the team to be much more balanced, which is bad news for opponents if it is true. A healthy Mike Tobey would add another potent, hard-to-guard offensive weapon. The biggest challenge facing the Cavaliers is finding someone to run the offense without turning the ball over this season.
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Morning Five: 10.15.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2013

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  1. It’s October 15, the traditional date of Midnight Madness, and although nobody to our knowledge is honoring Lefty Driesell by meeting at the campus track and running a six-minute mile illuminated by car headlights at each turn, the feeling is still pretty much the same — college basketball is nearby. This Friday night will feature the annual ESPNU Midnight Madness coverage of a number of prominent schools holding their celebrations, and a mere 21 days later we’ll jump right into the opening games of the season. Despite all that, the unknown is still more interesting than the known to many people, which explains why recruiting chatter and hype dominate the headlines  and social media. The biggest news on this year’s Columbus Day? Class of 2015 superstar forward Ben Simmons, coveted by every major program in America including Duke and Kentucky, verbally committed to LSU. As The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg explains in his background piece, Simmons’ commitment to a school that hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2009 makes more sense with the knowledge that Simmons’ godfather/LSU assistant coach, David Patrick, played overseas basketball with his father in Australia and the families are apparently quite close. Regardless of the reasons for the commitment, LSU’s Johnny Jones is loading up on talent, especially in the frontcourt.
  2. Patrick, an Australian himself, was the primary link to a number of Aussie stars (including Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova) that he recruited to play for his former employer, Saint Mary’s College, in Moraga, California. Although he was not personally implicated in any wrongdoing during his three years as an assistant coach there, the NCAA found that the program had committed several recruiting violations and slapped the school with a four-year “failure to monitor” probation last spring. As a result, the Gaels’ head coach, Randy Bennett, received a five-game suspension along with a one-year off-campus recruiting restriction, and those penalties were upheld on appeal Monday by the Infractions Committee. During Bennet’s nearly two-week layoff, which will begin in late December and include the first Gonzaga game in Spokane, he will not be allowed to perform any basketball-related activities whatsoever. Can you imagine a Type A personality like Bennett taking a midseason vacation? The NCAA should seriously consider putting an ankle monitor on him during those days.
  3. Wiggins, Wiggins, Wiggins. Remember the hype we mentioned above? Well, after a week that featured the precocious 18-year old as a Sports Illustrated cover boy in an effort to introduce him to America as the Next. Big. Thing., everybody else is now talking and writing about Andrew Wiggins. Even LeBron James got into the act, telling Rock Chalk Blog before a preseason game in Kansas City over the weekend that his best advice for Wiggins is simply to “live in the present.” For a far more thoughtful analysis of Wiggins’ identity and game, TSN‘s Mike DeCourcy has that covered. It’s a well-deserved read to better understand the young phenom, especially given the notion that Wiggins revealed “his true identity a half-dozen times or so each afternoon with a sequence that perhaps only three people on the planet are capable of executing.” Wow. Finally, Grantland chimes in with a piece from Corban Gable called “Livin’ for Wiggins,” a fan manifesto that attempts to outline how one excitable Jayhawker prone to hyperventilation is going to make it through this season. Hey, whatever works, so long as his boss Simmons stays away from college basketball.
  4. The next huge thing doesn’t just apply to teenagers in sports; it sometimes also figures in the management and administrative components of the games we love. Anybody who has marked the meteoric rises of successful young coaches like Brad Stevens, Shaka Smart and Josh Pastner knows that. Myron Medcalf from ESPN.com writes that with these coaches’ continued success, many administrators, especially at mid-major schools, are becoming less hesitant in pulling the trigger on 30-something candidates who show that they really know and can teach the game. It actually makes a good deal of sense. As he notes, recruiting 365 days a year takes a tremendous amount of attention and energy, something that younger coaches have in spades. But truthfully, this should surprise nobody who works in the business world, a similarly cutthroat environment where strong quantitative and analytical skills combined with greater sophistication with technology give the young guys a leg up on many of their older colleagues.
  5. The AP reported on Monday that the SEC will announce later today that it plans on making Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena its “primary” site for the annual SEC Tournament. The tourney will bounce back and forth between Nashville and several other cities (Atlanta, Tampa and Saint Louis) over the next seven years, but from 2021-26 the Music City will hold exclusive ownership over the event. We’ll have more on this later today, but there’s no question that Nashville’s geographic location nearest the five northern SEC schools that take basketball the most seriously has something to do with this decision. The Big Blue Behemoth is merely three hours to the northeast, and both Tennessee schools along with Missouri and Arkansas also do a good job supporting basketball. This is a win from both a competitive and financial standpoint.
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Rushed Reactions: #6 Memphis 54, #11 Saint Mary’s 52

Posted by Will Tucker on March 21st, 2013

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Will Tucker is a RTC correspondent. Will is covering the Auburn Hills pod of the Midwest Region. You can also find him on Twitter @blrdswag.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Memphis is always a threat to get out and run. Even against the fifth-most efficient offense in the country, the Tigers found ways to capitalize on missed shots by getting out in transition and exploiting their athleticism. Outlet passes to a streaking Joe Jackson on blocks and defensive boards routinely led to points, as the shifty point guard would set up easy baskets for Tarik Black, D.J. Stephens and others. That advantage became less apparent as the Gaels’ cold shooting subsided, making fewer defensive rebounds available in the second half. But as St. Mary’s clawed back into the game, Memphis responded by turning up the defensive intensity, creating 19 points off turnovers with dunks and transition threes.

    It wasn't easy, but Joe Jackson and Memphis advanced to the third round. (Getty)

    It wasn’t easy, but Joe Jackson and Memphis advanced to the third round. (Getty)

  2. Simply put, Shaq Goodwin needs to foul less. Goodwin sat for most of the first half after accumulating two fouls in the first three minutes, in yet another installment of his well-documented issues with personals. His 3.3 fouls per game ranks top 40 in the country, despite only playing 21 points per game. Which is exactly the issue, because Josh Pastner needs the powerful 6’9″ freshman on the court if the Tigers are going to take down Michigan State’s frontcourt. The abusive tandem of Derrick Nix (6’9″, 270) and Adreian Payne (6’10″, 240) already demonstrated earlier in the day how productive they can be when they get anywhere near the offensive glass. Memphis has a plethora of athletes, but outside of Goodwin and Tarik Black, they don’t have the bulk to contain Michigan State’s big men in the style of play Tom Izzo will try to dictate on Saturday.
  3. Defensive rebounding and free throw shooting remain question marks for this club. Josh Pastner prioritized both after the Tigers shot 33% from the line and gave up an absurd number of second-chance opportunities in a loss to Xavier. The Tigers seemed to have reformed themselves since giving up 41.5% of available offensive boards to the Musketeers, but they allowed the Gaels to grab 15 offensive boards and score 17 second chance points today. They also shot 50% from the charity stripe, and made only 4-of-10 in the final three minutes, which left the door open for the Gaels to attempt a game-winning three at the buzzer that missed long.

Star of the GameJoe Jackson, who posted team-highs of 14 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds, as well as orchestrating a beautiful transition offense that never let its foot off the gas. Discounting a crucial turnover at the end of the game, Jackson generally had a good awareness of time and situation, and helped hold Steve Holt and Matthew Dellavedova to a combined 4-of-23 from the field. (Co-star: Josh Pastner, who won his first NCAA Tournament game as a head coach.)

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Michigan State 65, #14 Valparaiso 54

Posted by Will Tucker on March 21st, 2013

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Will Tucker is a RTC correspondent. Will is covering the Auburn Hills pod of the Midwest Region. You can also find him on Twitter @blrdswag.

 Denzel Valentine #45 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts in the first half against the Valparaiso Crusaders. (Getty)

Denzel Valentine of the Michigan State Spartans reacts in the first half against the Valparaiso Crusaders. (Getty)

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Michigan State can make huge runs with its defense. The Spartans sleepwalked for the first 13 minutes, which underscored the sense that they don’t have elite offensive efficiency, but they do have the ability to make dramatic runs quickly with defense and the transition shooting of Gary Harris and Keith Appling.
  2. Gary Harris has the poise and temperament of an upperclassman. He struggled shooting the ball for most of the game and suffered a 14-minute shooting drought on either side of halftime. But Harris contributed in other ways, adding a game-high four assists and team-high two steals to accompany his 10 points and four rebounds. More importantly, he showed the patience and judgment of an upperclassman, and helped energize his team after a lethargic opening performance. Plus, the MSU crowd absolutely loves him. “Freshman of the year, right there!” a fan screamed proudly after the Big Ten FOY drained his second gorgeous three in the first half.
  3. Derrick Nix is going to be hard for anyone in the bottom half of the Midwest Region to stop after the way he played today. While Memphis has incredible athleticism at every position, they’ve shown vulnerabilities on the glass against big teams like Southern Miss. St. Mary’s presents a much tougher matchup with their depth and size in the front court, so Michigan State fans might be inclined to root for the Tigers to knock off the Gaels today.

Star of the GameDerrick Nix (23 points, 15 rebounds) was a man possessed against a team with decent size that entered today ranked #34 in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. With nine offensive boards, he helped the Spartans build a +23 rebounding margin and score 14 second chance points.

Quotable. “Not every player at this tournament gets to play in their home state. Make your state proud.” — Tom Izzo before the game.

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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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The Official RTC Bracket: Midwest And West Regions

Posted by KDoyle on March 20th, 2013

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We released the Official RTC Bracket for the South and East Regions earlier today — be sure to check that out if you need a refresher on our methodology for this exercise — and we’ll save you the fluff this time and cut right to the chase with the Midwest and West Regions. (note: our Final Four selections are after the analyses)

Midwest and West Regions

Quick Hitters From the Midwest Region

  • Advancing to Atlanta: #1 Louisville
  • Round of 64 Upset: #11 St. Mary’s over #6 Memphis
  • Later Round Upset: N/A
  • Three Most Disputed Games: #5 Oklahoma State over #12 Oregon, #11 St. Mary’s over #6 Memphis, #2 Duke over #3 Michigan State

Four Questions About the Midwest Region

Louisville is the odds-on favorite to not just advance out of the Midwest Region, but win the National Championship. Which team has the best chance at dashing Louisville’s title hopes?

Does Pitino Have Another One of These In His Immediate Future? (Getty Images)

Does Pitino Have Another One of These In His Immediate Future? (Getty Images)

Andrew Murawa: After giving the Cards the nod as the overall #1 seed, the selection committee certainly didn’t do them any more favors, dropping them in, what is to me, the toughest region in the bracket. Once they get out of the Round of 64 in this region, Rick Pitino’s club could be facing nothing but dangerous clubs, from the nation’s best rebounding team in Colorado State, to one of the nation’s hottest teams in Saint Louis, to possibly Michigan State or Duke in the Elite Eight. All of those teams can beat the Cards. But the team with the best chance is certainly the Blue Devils, a squad that has already beaten them this season, albeit without Gorgui Dieng.

The #8 vs. #9 game is usually a coin-flip type of game, but it is a 100% consensus that Colorado State beats Missouri. Are the Rams that much better than Missouri?

Zach Hayes: The Rams are by no means world-beaters, but the consensus opinion probably stems from their ability to compete where Missouri excels: on the boards. Colorado State ranks in the nation’s top two in both offensive and defensive rebounding, a glass-crashing tenacity which should work to negate the rebounding prowess of both Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers. The confidence also resides in how shaky Missouri has been at the tail end of close games despite featuring an elite point guard in Phil Pressey. Most bracket prognosticators would rather go to war with a Rams team starting five seniors over Missouri’s constant unpredictability away from home, where their only scalps came against the dregs of the SEC.

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Rushed Reactions: #11 Saint Mary’s 67, #11 Middle Tennessee State 54

Posted by IRenko on March 19th, 2013

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I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Tuesday’s play-in game between Saint Mary’s and Middle Tennessee State. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Steve Holt

Steve Holt and the Gaels Move On to the Round of 64

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. Same as They Ever Were – Despite manning the mid-major beat for RTC, I’ve spent a good part of the season overlooking Saint Mary’s in favor of newer, fresher flavors of the month… like Middle Tennessee State. For much of the year, the Gaels’ schedule (three games against the number one team in the country plus a litany of wins over a litany of unaccomplished teams) provided little clarity on their quality. Only when they toppled Creighton in the Bracketbuster game did I really sit up and notice. And tonight, they made clear that I should’ve been paying attention all along. It was an impressive performance, and one that the Gaels may well repeat against Memphis in a couple days.
  2. Beating MTSU At Its Own Game — Through the first 10 minutes, it looked like MTSU would have the edge, as they imposed their bruising, physical style of play on Saint Mary’s. But the Gaels adapted, ultimately beating Middle Tennessee at its own game. They clamped down on defense and patiently exploited opportunities on offense. Saint Mary’s seemed to gain a certain confidence after the initial adjustment period. They closed the first half with an 11-2 run, taking a 29-20 lead into the break. They went on to a relatively comfortable win, never leading by fewer than three points in the second half.
  3. There Were No Easy Points for the Blue Raiders — Through the first 25 minutes of the game, MTSU had taken just two free throws and scored just two points in transition. These are deadly numbers for a team struggling to score in the rhythm of the half-court offense. The Blue Raiders  managed to bolster their transition game later in the second half, adding seven more points on the break, but they remained unable to get to the free throw line, ending the game with just seven free throw attempts. MTSU typically scores more than 22 percent of its points from the charity stripe, but tonight, they scored just 11 percent of their points from the line.

Star of the Game:  Matthew Dellavedova is the centerpiece of the Gaels’ offense in a way that few NCAA Tournament-quality point guards are. That brings a tremendous amount of pressure, particularly when facing a team with a cadre of physical, defensive-minded guards. But the Aussie veteran took it all in stride, never getting rattled even when his teammates seemed to be early in the game. His calm and composure set the tone for the Gaels, and his abilities as a ball-handler, scorer, and passer fueled their offense. Dellavedova finished with 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting (including 5-of-7 from 3-point range, breaking a 1-of-18 shooting slump), six rebounds, and four assists. And that doesn’t count all the other baskets he created with his penetration, where his pass led to the assist that led to the score.

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