NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Tuesday Night

Posted by BHayes on March 19th, 2013

The First Round/Opening Round/Play-In Games/Mild Annoyance of the NCAA Tournament begins tonight, getting under way at 6:40 PM tonight on truTV (go ahead, try to remember where that channel is again). From 68 to 16 in the next six days… let’s analyze the first two games this evening.

#16 North Carolina A&T vs. #16 Liberty — Midwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 pm ET on truTV.

John Caleb Sanders Continuing His Hot-Shooting Ways Would Be A Huge Boost For The Flames In Dayton

John Caleb Sanders Continuing His Hot-Shooting Ways Would Be A Huge Boost For The Flames In Dayton

Nothing says NCAA Tournament like a match-up between North Carolina A&T and Liberty now, does it? Like it or not, the First Four is the official tip-off for the Big Dance, and this year’s opening act pits the tournament champions from the MEAC against one of the unlikeliest Big Dance participants ever –- the 15-20 Liberty Flames. The Big South Champs aren’t the only party crashers here, however.  Having entered the MEAC tournament under .500 and as the #7 seed, A&T was nearly as long a shot to make this field. The Aggies are easily the worst offensive team in this field of 68, choosing instead (a generous explanation) to hang their hat on the defensive end, where they rank 81st nationally in defensive efficiency. Springy senior Austin Witter is the key to the stingy defense, having blocked 11.8% of opponents two-point field goal attempts, the 16th highest rate in the country. Unfortunately for he and the Aggies, Liberty does most of their offensive work from beyond the arc and at the line. With guards John Caleb SandersDavon Marshall and Tavares Speaks all averaging at least 13.0 PPG, Liberty has proven to be a capable offensive unit, especially of late. The same praise cannot be afforded their defense, however, as LIU-Brooklyn is the only team in the field with a worse defensive efficiency rating than the Flames. So yes, it will be a titanic battle between Liberty’s 303d ranked defense and NC A&T’s 317th ranked offense. Ultimately though, I think the difference-making happens when Liberty has the ball. A&T’s tough defense notwithstanding, we like the Flames to continue their hot shooting and extend a postseason life that they could have never expected to have.

The RTC Certified PickLiberty

 #11 Middle Tennessee vs. #11 Saint Mary’s — Midwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 9:10 pm ET on truTV.

If Middle Tennessee Has Anything To Say About It, Matthew Dellavedova Will Be Donning The Saint Mary's Jersey For A Final Time Tuesday Night

If Middle Tennessee Has Anything To Say About It, Matthew Dellavedova Will Be Donning The Saint Mary’s Jersey For A Final Time Tuesday Night

The nightcap on Tuesday features two of the final teams to make the NCAA Tournament field, with Middle Tennessee and Saint Mary’s facing off for the chance to meet Memphis on Thursday in Auburn Hills. The Gaels are no strangers to the big stage, as Matthew Dellavedova and company are making their third appearance in the last four years. Saint Mary’s shoots the ball both well and often from deep. The Gaels convert on 37% of their tries from distance, with those points accounting for nearly a third of their total points scored this season. Dellavedova is the leading scorer and unquestioned leader of this bunch, but Stephen Holt and Beau Levesque are both double-figure scorers capable of carrying the offensive load for a night. Middle Tennessee is not a bad offensive team in its own right (73rd nationally in offensive efficiency), but Kermit Davis has concocted a decidedly different recipe for success. Do not be surprised if you see 11 different Blue Raiders touch the floor on Tuesday night, and among that group are seven players who average at least six points a contest, with just one (Marcos Knight at 12.5 PPG) in double-figures. The Middle Tennessee depth is clearly impressive, and it has also helped the Blue Raiders on the defensive end. Middle Tennessee is 20th nationally in defensive efficiency, also ranking in the top-25 in a slew of important defensive categories. The most relevant of those metrics for its match-up with the Gaels is three-point percentage defense, where MTSU ranks 14th nationally, allowing just 29.5% shooting from behind the arc. It’s a particularly damning piece of evidence for believers in the Gaels, and the Middle Tennessee statistical profile would suggest that the Blue Raiders have more than just a fighting chance in this one. Call me a sucker for the sentimental story, but despite the aforementioned statistical evidence, I can’t pick against Saint Mary’s here. A brilliant career lives to see another day, as Dellavedova is the difference in what could be a thriller in Dayton.

The RTC Certified Pick:  Saint Mary’s

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RTC Top 25: Week 17

Posted by KDoyle on March 11th, 2013

Despite dropping a game for the second straight week — this time on Senior Night against Ohio State — Indiana maintained its spot atop the rankings. It was certainly easier to put the loss to Ohio State in the back of mind after Indiana stunned Michigan in Ann Arbor on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t so much the Hoosiers’ win that was so shocking, but the manner in which they did so, as they scored six points in the final minute to win 72-71 in a sweep of the regular season series from the Wolverines. Since the return of Ryan Kelly, Duke is looking stronger than ever after demolishing North Carolina over the weekend. The Blue Devils garnered two #1 votes with Louisville securing the final #1 ballot. As for Gonzaga, despite having 30 wins and not losing since that unbelievable game at Hinkle Fieldhouse against Butler, the top team in the AP/Coaches polls checks in here at #4.

More good stuff with the Quick n’ Dirty after the jump…

Week 17

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis.

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The Other 26: Five Intriguing Championship Week Storylines

Posted by IRenko on March 9th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

With regular season action having wound down, we’ll dispense with our standard format this week in favor of a streamlined focus on five key Championship Week storylines, along with, as always, our updated top 10 rankings.  I joined the RTC Podblast crew on Wednesday for a full-fledged preview of TO26 conference tournament action, talking about the most exciting tournaments, the most anticipated matchups, potential bid stealers, and more. Rather than repeat myself, I’ll refer you to the sweet, dulcet sounds of my voice for more on those big picture topics, and instead offer five less obvious storylines to follow. 

Will Kendall Williams Lead the Lobos to a Number 2 Seed? (Maria Brose / Albuquerque Journal)

Will Kendall Williams Lead the Lobos to a Number 2 Seed? (Maria Brose / Albuquerque Journal)

  1. Will Cinderella Show up Early? — If you love to cheer on Cinderella squads as they try to knock off highly-seeded favorites, there’s no need to wait for the Big Dance. The conference tournaments comprise more than two dozen Little Dances, in which a Cinderella run is as likely as it is later in March. Last year, Western Kentucky managed to snare the Sun Belt’s automatic bid, despite entering the postseason tournament with a #7 seed and an 11-18 record. Can anyone manage the feat this year? Already, we have a great underdog story brewing in the WCC, where Loyola Marymount, which went 1-15 in regular season conference play, has won two tournament games to secure a semifinal berth. It will take a true miracle to overcome their next obstacle — the number one team in the country, Gonzaga — but miracles are what March is for.
  2. Can New Mexico Secure a #2 Seed? – Gonzaga appears poised to plant the TO26 banner on the top seed line, but is it possible that another TO26 team could find itself just one line down? Our latest bracketology hands the Lobos a #2 seed, though many other projections predict a #3 seed. A run through the MW Tournament — on the heels of a two-loss regular season in what is the conference’s deepest, most competitive year in memory — would, one would hope, be enough to give the Lobos their highest seed in school history (they twice notched a #3 seed, including in 2010). And it would be the first time that two TO26 squads landed two of the top eight seeds since 2004, when St. Joseph’s and Gonzaga each managed the feat.
  3. Will Akron Regroup? — A week ago, Akron was riding a 19-game winning streak, was undefeated in MAC play, and was two games clear of Ohio in the East Division standings with three games left. The Zips fell last Saturday in a surprising 81-67 loss to Buffalo, in which they were torched by Javon McCrea for 28 points. But that was a mere bump in the road compared to what happened next. On Thursday, it was announced that junior point guard Alex Abreu had been indefinitely suspended after being arrested on felony charges of marijuana trafficking, and in their first game without him last night, the Zips fell at home to Kent State, 66-61. Worse than blowing their lead atop the East Division (if Ohio wins Saturday, the teams will end the regular season tied), the Zips are now limping into the postseason with little chance of an at-large bid and needing to win three straight MAC tournament games without Abreu to make good on their once-promising March prospects. How important is Abreu to this team? He’s third in scoring, at 10.3 points per game, and shoots a team-leading 39.4 percent from three-point range. But more than that, he is the facilitator that makes Akron’s offense go, notching six assists per game, for which he ranks in the top 20 nationally. Read the rest of this entry »
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Blind Resumes: March 9 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 9th, 2013

On some of the days when Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) isn’t providing us with his updated Bubble Watch or his weekly Bracketology, he’ll give us an interesting comparison or two of teams that he finds difficult to distinguish.

TEAM A

  • OVERALL RECORD: 20-10
  • RPI: 70
  • SOS: 134
  • BPI: 43
  • SAGARIN: 29
  • KENPOM: 21
  • RECORD VS RPI TOP 25: 2-2
  • RECORD VS RPI TOP 50: 4-2
  • RECORD VS RPI TOP 100: 7-3

TEAM B

  • OVERALL RECORD: 26-5
  • RPI: 34
  • SOS: 124
  • BPI: 32
  • SAGARIN: 30
  • KENPOM: 19
  • RECORD VS RPI TOP 25: 0-2
  • RECORD VS RPI TOP 50: 1-2
  • RECORD VS RPI TOP 100: 5-3

(teams revealed after the jump)

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WCC Tourney Has Different Significance For Different Gaels

Posted by CNguon on March 8th, 2013

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference. He is in Las Vegas this weekend for the WCC Tournament.

During last year’s West Coast Conference Tournament, Jordan Guisti was an onlooker. Redshirting his freshman year at Saint Mary’s, Guisti could only sit in street clothes as his teammates sweated out wins over San Francisco and Gonzaga to earn the WCC title and an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. There will be no street clothes for Guisti this year, however, as he has emerged as a vital cog in Randy Bennett’s Gael machine. Should Saint Mary’s win its way to the tournament championship game for the fifth year in a row, and should its opponent be Gonzaga for the fifth straight time, Guisti will be on the floor guarding one of the Zags’ point guards, either all-WCC three-point whiz Kevin Pangos or super-sub David Stockton, son of the legendary John Stockton. As Saint Mary’s prepared for the weekend’s showdown in the WCC semifinals on Saturday, Guisti reflected on last year’s introduction to the tournament and his different role this year.

Gael stalwarts Mitchell Young and Matthew Dellavedova, on the right above, have been together since playing youth basketball in Australia. They are pictured at a 2007 match between Australia and New Zealand featuring another Gael star, Patty Mills. Also pictured next to Young is Kate Gaze, who plays for the Saint Mary's women's team, and Jorden Page, who came to Saint Mary's with Dellavedova and Young. In the row behind them looking over Gaze's shoulder in a baseball cap is Clint Steindl, another Aussie who starred for Saint Mary's.

Gael stalwarts Mitchell Young and Matthew Dellavedova, on the right (front row), have been together since playing youth basketball in Australia. They are pictured at a 2007 match between Australia and New Zealand featuring another Gael star, Patty Mills. Also pictured next to Young is Kate Gaze, who plays for the Saint Mary’s women’s team, and Jorden Page, who came to Saint Mary’s with Dellavedova and Young. In the row behind them looking over Gaze’s shoulder in a baseball cap is Clint Steindl, another Aussie who starred for Saint Mary’s. (credit: K. Gaze)

“It was pretty crazy,” Guisti recalled of the scene in the Orleans Arena last year, which was packed for the championship game with, seemingly, 7,000 Gonzaga fans and maybe 500 rooting for the opponent. “There was just an overwhelming number of Gonzaga fans,” he said, although he gave some props to his alma mater’s smaller but no-less-enthusiastic contingent. “Saint Mary’s fans are loud, and they were near our bench so we knew they were there.” Indicating the confidence that has propelled him into the Gaels’ lineup, Guisti said he envisioned himself on the floor as he watched last year’s games from the sidelines. “I remember thinking, ‘Next year that will be me out there.’” It’s next year, and Guisti will definitely be out there.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Virginia, North Carolina, National COY, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2013

tuesdayscribbles

Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. If there is one team that personifies this rollercoaster season of unpredictability, it is probably Virginia. Last week was the Cavaliers’ season in a nutshell as they toppled Duke in Charlottesville before laying an egg at Boston College on Sunday. At 20-9 (10-6), Virginia sits squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble with two regular season games to play. In my heart of hearts, I believe this is a tournament-quality team. Virginia has impressive victories against aforementioned Duke as well as NC State, North Carolina and a huge road win at Wisconsin earlier in the season. Additionally, the Cavs sport wins over bubble buddies Tennessee and Maryland (on the road). Unfortunately for Virginia, the story doesn’t end there and turns sour rather quickly. Tony Bennett’s team has lost a stunning seven games to sub-100 RPI opponents, six of them coming on the road or at a neutral site. The loss to #315 Old Dominion is particularly puzzling. With just a 2-6 road record in conference play, an RPI in the 60s and an embarrassing non-conference strength of schedule, Virginia is not in a great spot despite its good wins. Joe Harris and the Cavs need to take care of business against Florida State and Maryland before putting together some kind of ACC Tournament run. This is one of the more bizarre NCAA resumes I’ve ever seen and one sure to create a lot of debate in the committee room.

    Joe Harris and Virginia haven't been consistent

    Joe Harris and Virginia haven’t been consistent

  2. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s comments after his team’s loss to Virginia created a stir throughout the college basketball world over the last few days. Coach K complained about his team not being able to safely get off the floor while Virginia’s students rushed the court after their team’s big win. While the video does show the Duke team unable to enter the tunnel and head to the locker room, I feel Krzyzewski is out of line. His team was protected by multiple arena security personnel who formed a human wall between the Duke team and the Virginia students. At no time were the Duke players in any danger. I understand why things this man says get noticed, after all he is the sport’s winningest coach. But why does everything Coach K says have to be taken as gospel? Let the kids have some fun and stop with the “get off my lawn!” attitude. Unless your team is in danger of being hurt, comments like these serve as a distraction and quite honestly look like sour grapes to me.
  3. After suffering the loss to Virginia, Duke rebounded in a big way by taking down Miami and exacting a measure of revenge for the blowout loss earlier this year in Coral Gables. It was a struggle though as the Blue Devils needed a career-high 36 points from Ryan Kelly (in his first game back since January 8) just to win by three on their home floor. While Kelly clearly sparked Duke offensively in this game, he makes a bigger difference on the other side of the basketball. Kelly is an outstanding defender because he’s a tall, agile forward who can get up into a player on the perimeter and force him to shoot over or pass around Kelly, often going east-west instead of north-south. Kelly’s presence on the floor did not make a huge difference in this particular game when it comes to Miami’s offensive efficiency but he did frustrate the Hurricanes from the three point line. Miami shot just 6-21 from deep and a big reason for that was Kelly and his length. As we head into postseason play, Kelly’s return will make a huge difference on the defensive side of the ball for Duke. Anything he does offensively is gravy for this team. Duke is undefeated with Kelly in the lineup and that bodes well for the Blue Devils as they look to grab a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and make a run at the program’s 16th Final Four appearance. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 03.04.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 4th, 2013

morning5

  1. With top ten teams falling everyday it seems like we are the verge of finally seeing Gonzaga rise to #1 in the rankings. As we pointed out nearly a week ago Gonzaga’s likely rise to #1 will be met by skepticism in many corners as evidenced by the fact that they might not get a #1 seed even if they enter the NCAA Tournament as the #1 team in the polls. However, that shouldn’t diminish how impressive the program’s rise from the archetypal mid-major power to one that has become such a national force that even The New York Times stopped by Spokane for the annual story about the program with a piece by Greg Bishop appropriately titled “Nothing ‘Mid’ About Gonzaga”. We tend to find the “mid-major” label argument tiresome, but the growth and continued excellence of the program has been nothing short of remarkable regardless of whatever moniker you want to afix to them.
  2. Gonzaga might be reaching their post-Casey Cavalry peak later today, but their West Coast Conference rival Saint Mary’s certainly is not after the NCAA handed down some substantial sanctions on Friday (full report PDF here). We have a longer breakdown of the story from Friday afternoon, but the primary charges against the school and its coach, Randy Bennett, are that they failed to monitor an assistant coach in his recruitment of three international prospects as well as Bennett conducting impermissible training and coaching sessions. The assistant coach who was not named in the report, but is believed to be Keith Moss, was hit with a two-year show-cause.  The school was hit with four years of probation, a reduction of scholarships from 13 to 11 in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, elimination of foreign trips until the 2017-18 season, no skill instruction during the next two seasons, and they cannot participate in multi-team events for the next two seasons. Bennett will serve a five-game suspension next year (doesn’t make any sense to us why this should wait until next season) and is prohibited from recruiting off-campus next season. We are sure that St. Mary’s fans are having difficulty finding anything positive from the situation, but this should guarantee them that Bennett will not be leaving them for a higher profile job in the very near future. Of course that is operating under the assumption that administrators care about NCAA violations, which may not be the case.
  3. If Moss is looking for hope after his show-cause he can look to Steve Forbes, who shook off the NCAA’s one-year show-cause (part of the Bruce Pearl investigation) in an unusual way–going to the NJCAA. Forbes’ route is an unusual one in that he did not sit out at all and went straight into another college coaching job. Given his recent coaching success and his success at recruiting at the Division I level we would not be surprised to see his name mentioned in another month when more than a few positions. Still if Forbes is able to make it back to the Division I level (especially as a head coach) he would be joining a very short list of coaches to have done so (Todd Bozeman is the only head coach to have done so, but we are not certain on assistants making the leap).
  4. The decision by St. John’s to suspend D’Angelo Harrison for the rest of the season is one of the more interesting ones we have seen as the Red Storm were still on the bubble when they made the announcement on Friday and we still have not heard a good explanation for why Harrison was suspended for the rest of the season. Having said that we have to give Steve Lavin some credit for making the tough call as it would have been much easier just to put up with whatever Harrison was doing (assuming he isn’t in legal trouble) and finish out the season with a potential NCAA Tournament trip on the line. On top of that there is always the risk that this move will help push Harrison out the door at St. John’s whether that is to another school or (a dumb) decision to enter the NBA Draft.
  5. The University of San Diego bribery case appears to be nearing an end (at least for those of us concerned with the basketball aspect) as the school’s all-time leading scorer, Brandon Johnson, was sentenced to six months in prison for his role in the scandal. Johnson was charged with fixing four games, but continues to deny everything except that he unsuccessfully tried to recruit another player to throw games despite the fact that the FBI has a recorded conversation where Johnson stated he wished he had thrown every game and even offered to throw a NBA Developmental League game. Johnson will begin serving the sentence on May 31 after being granted a delay in sentencing so he could finish out the rest of his season as a youth league coach in Houston. Johnson says he hopes to play professional basketball again at some point, but given the evidence against him we cannot imagine any league taking him with his background.
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The Other 26: Let the Madness Begin

Posted by IRenko on March 2nd, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

As the calendar turns to March, let us declare: Let the Madness begin. The NCAA Tournament is still three weeks away, but the fight to get there begins in earnest this coming week, as 12 mid-major conferences will kick off their tournaments. The Big South and Horizon League will have the honor of kicking things off on Tuesday night, with their first round tournament games. Ten more conferences will follow suit with the first auto-bids being awarded a week from today in the Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley.

We’ll be back next week with updates on all the action, but until then, there is still the homestretch of the regular season to attend to. So let’s move on to our updated Top 10 rankings, weekly honor roll, and (regular season) games to watch this week.

Top 10

RTC -- TO26 (3.2.13)

Honor Roll

The Honor Roll is our weekly fixture highlighting the teams, players, and performances that impressed us in the past week.

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St. Mary’s Hit With NCAA Sanctions

Posted by rtmsf on March 1st, 2013

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

The NCAA investigation into Saint Mary’s recruiting that has been hanging over the college’s head for the past year came to a head Friday with the imposition of some strong, although probably not fatal, penalties. Most importantly, the Gaels will lose two scholarships for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, head coach Randy Bennett must serve a five-game suspension next season and may not recruit off-campus during next season, the Gaels are prohibited from multi-team tournaments until 2015-16 and on-campus skill instruction is prohibited for the next two years. The college was also placed on four years’ probation. The Gaels’ scheduled appearance in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii next December is not affected as it had been scheduled before the penalties were announced.

Tough March News For Bennett Today (Photo credit: Jason O. Watson/US Presswire).

Tough March News For Bennett Today (Photo credit: Jason O. Watson/US Presswire).

The Gaels’ troubles stemmed from the activities of a former assistant coach who was not named in the NCAA report but, according to sources close to the investigation, is Keith Moss. Moss was sanctioned by the NCAA for providing impermissible benefits to a potential recruit who was also not named, along with impermissible contact with two other foreign players. Some media sources had speculated that the infractions centered on Saint Mary’s years-long relationship with Australian players and that a former assistant coach from Australia, David Patrick, was the focus of the investigation. That is not the case, as Moss’ infractions dealt solely with athletes he recruited through former relationships in France.

Bennett’s culpability stemmed from the NCAA’s infamous “failure to monitor” dictum, as the body chastised Bennett for not reining in Moss’ activities even though some of them occurred after Moss left the college’s employ in 2009. Bennett was also criticized for not properly supervising on-campus skill instruction conducted at Saint Mary’s during the summers of 2010 and 2011.

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Morning Five: 03.01.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. It seems like we will never be rid of the seemingly constant conference realignment storylines and the latest one is a pretty big one–the group formerly known as the “Catholic 7″ is looking to keep the Big East name and expected to add Xavier and Butler this coming season. The move would be a swift change from what had previously been reported and would likely mean that Notre Dame might also join the ACC this summer instead of for the 2014-15 season as previously expected. As for the Catholic 7/9 or Big East or whatever moniker they are going by these days is expected to add Creighton the following year and possibly also Dayton and St. Louis. While these changes would trigger some early exit fees the reported cost is far from the staggering sums that some conferences had sought from departing members.
  2. One of the more contentious points of debate between the advanced metric community and the old guard is that of luck. Led by Ken Pomeroy the advanced metric community has long advocated that a team’s ability to win close games is primarily dictated by luck while the old guard believes that this is a learned skill. As you might expect Pomeroy decided to take a look at the data and found that a team’s ability to win a close game is essentially a coin flip no matter what their prior record in close games is. With the old guard being what it is we are not sure that they will believe the numbers, but hopefully they will at least look at them.
  3. In an effort to make sure that they have actual classes for the courses that students are enrolled in North Carolina has begun conducting “surprise inspections” to verify that the classes actually exist. While this may seem absurd at first glance (ok, it is just absurd) this is the school’s attempt to try to not be embarrassed when an outside review team comes this spring to assess whether the school has made any improvements since its academic scandal. The fact that the school has had to resort to literally walking by classes and looking through the window to make sure that there are students being taught by an instructor is a good indication of how pathetic the school has been made to look by the academic scandal. As the article notes many of the instructors have expressed their distaste for the practice and how they are being affected by what they call an athletic department issue even if the school continues to insist it was not confined to just the athletic department.
  4. The NCAA executive committee may have given Mark Emmert a vote of confidence last week, but that doesn’t mean that its members do not think that the organization does not need some changes. Michigan State president (and NCAA executive committee chairwoman) Lou Anna K. Simon came out yesterday and said “there is an embedded culture and set of processes and approaches that need to be changed.” We remain skeptical as to whether the NCAA will make any meaningful changes without the threat of a lawsuit in front of them, but it is refreshing to see someone within the organization exhibiting at least a modicum of introspection.
  5. Proving that it doesn’t always take two years for them to conduct an inquiry the NCAA is set to release the outcome of its investigation into Saint Mary’s recruitment of foreign players later today. As investigations have gone this has been one of the lower profile ones we have seen as we have heard very little about it since it was first announced. Still there is a possibility that the NCAA could hand down some potentially damaging sanctions, which might even have an effect on this season for the Gaels. The timing of the announcement is interesting for the school as they have quietly put together a strong case for an at-large bid. Given what we have heard about the case, which is admittedly not much compared to the higher profile cases that have dominated the news, we would be surprised if this affected this year’s postseason, but with the NCAA you never know.
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The Other 26: Saturday’s Top Five Bracketbuster Games and More…

Posted by IRenko on February 22nd, 2013

other26

This weekend marks the end of the decade-long Bracketbuster era — or experiment, depending on your perspective. Sadly, if appropriately, it looks like the event will go out with more of a whimper than a bang. Not a single game features a top 25 team, resulting in little hype for this year’s slate. But for true mid-major basketball fans, no top 25 ranking, or lack thereof, is going to dissuade them from devouring the late season, inter-conference action among the country’s best, under-the-radar-until-March teams. Here’s a preview of the five Bracketbuster games we’re most looking forward to, followed by an updated Top 10, our weekly honor roll, and the most compelling non-Bracketbuster games of the coming week.

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

Can Matthew Dellavedova And His Prominent Mouthpiece Lead the Gaels to a Much-Needed Win Over Creighton? (Las Vegas Sun / Sam Morris)

  1. Creighton at St. Mary’s (6 pm, ESPN) — Both teams enter what is perhaps the premier Bracketbuster matchup with a great deal to prove. Creighton’s hot 17-1 start has given way to a rough 5-5 stretch, as the depth of the MVC has taken its toll. In four of those five losses, Creighton’s once unstoppable offense slowed to a pace of less than a point per possession. An at-large Tournament bid remains a safe bet, even with a loss to St. Mary’s, but the Bluejays are no doubt looking to this game to reignite their offense and their season. St. Mary’s, on the other hand, is in desperate need of a quality win for its Tournament resume. Having been swept by Gonzaga, Saturday’s matchup is a virtual must-win for the Gaels. Both teams have highly efficient offenses that rely heavily on the three-point shot. Whichever defense can step up its game may emerge with the win.
  2. Ohio at Belmont (10 pm, ESPN) – This should be a really entertaining game between two teams who love to run and gun. But for the colors of their jerseys, it may be hard to tell the two apart, as the Bobcats and Bruins have remarkably similar statistical profiles. Both are high-possession squads that shoot more than 40 percent of their field goals from three-point range and rank in the top 20 nationally in forcing turnovers. Both have high effective field goal percentages, but rebound poorly and allow their opponents to shoot far more free throws than they do. Toss in a great point guard matchup between seniors D.J. Cooper and Kerron Johnson, and you have the ingredients for a great nightcap to the day’s action. 
  3. South Dakota State at Murray State (8 pm, ESPN2) – Neither team is as good as it was last season, but both returned their star player. And it’s their matchup at the point guard spot, with Nate Wolters squaring off against Isaiah Canaan, that makes this a must-see game. The two players are the heartbeats of their respective team’s offenses. Each uses roughly 30 percent of all possessions, ranking them in the top 50 in the country. Wolters has been on a particularly nasty tear of late, averaging more than 33 points over his last five games, though two of his 30-plus efforts in that stretch were in defeat. Canaan, meanwhile, is coming off his own 35-point outburst in a win over Morehead State.
  4. Detroit at Wichita State (4 pm, ESPN2) — Wichita State has bounced back from a recent three-game swoon with a four-game win streak that includes two close victories over Illinois State and Indiana State this past week. They’ll be the favorites against Detroit, but his game has definite upset potential. Detroit is on the upswing, winning six of their last seven, and developing a potent offensive attack with a multitude of options, from Ray McCallum’s attacking ability to Jason Calliste’s three-point shot to Nick Minnerath’s versatile inside-out game to Doug Anderson’s physical interior play. The Titans will try to push the tempo, while the Shockers will try to slow things down and pound the ball inside to their big men Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall, who may find success against Detroit’s mediocre interior defense.
  5. Denver at Northern Iowa (8 pm, ESPN3) — After a rough 4-6 start to MVC play, Northern Iowa has righted the ship and fought its way back to where we thought it would always be — at the top of the league standings, just a step behind Wichita State and Creighton. They face a Denver team that has flown a bit under the radar, recovering from a slow start to the season to win 13 of their last 14 games. A trip to Cedar Falls will be a test of just how far the Pioneers have come. Expect a low-possession, halfcourt-oriented game, with a steady barrage of three-point shots. The Panthers have a balanced attack, with five players averaging between 9 and 13 points. Denver will turn primarily to Chris Udofia, the versatile forward who is the hub of their Princeton offense.

And now on to our updated Top 10 rankings, weekly honor roll, and the (other) games we’re keeping an eye on …

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RTC Bracketology: February 22 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on February 22nd, 2013

bracketology

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is RTC’s new resident bracketologist. According to Bracket Matrix, he ranks as one of the top several bracketologists among those who have produced brackets for more than three years, including two seasons with perfect bracket projections. He updates the field daily on his site, Bracketology Expert, and will be producing a weekly bracket update here at RTC on Fridays. RTC Bubble Watch will publish on Sunday nights and Thursday afternoons for the rest of the season.

New in This Update:

  • Illinois continues to be the toughest team in the country to figure out. The media’s mock bracket came out last week and the Illini were a #5 seed. This team was once ranked in the nation’s top 15 teams and then it was 2-7 in conference with a game against No. 1 Indiana up next. The Illini won that one at the buzzer and four more games in a row to get to 7-7 in conference. Compare Illinois to the other teams around them in the bracket — they have five wins against the RPI top 26 and no longer have an under .500 conference record to bring them down. I agree with the media mock — Illinois is now a #5 seed.
  • After Florida’s loss earlier this week against Missouri, the #1 seed line is again hard to figure out. Indiana and Miami (FL) are easy to pick given their overall resumes and Duke fits in nicely despite struggling somewhat without Ryan Kelly. The fourth #1 seed could be any number of teams. It looks like Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm have pegged Gonzaga as the final top seed, but I disagree. The Zags are going to have to rely on the eye test to get that high and in general most are decided by overall profile and not eye test. Gonzaga simply does not have the profile of a #1 seed.  Michigan State is the fourth top seed in my field based on the Spartans’ overall profile.
  • The Mountain West is a mess. It looks like four teams are going to get a bid, with UNLV and Colorado State playing fantastic basketball over the last few weeks. New Mexico has a top five RPI and San Diego State held the Lobos to 33 points in a game earlier this year.  Putting those teams into the bracket is pretty tough, because there is not a lot of separation between them.
  • Maryland was in my field after upsetting Duke, but the Terps are out again after falling to Boston College.  Temple is in after defeating La Salle. Indiana State has fallen out of serious at-large contention after a loss to Wichita State and six inexcusable losses on its resume.
  • Kentucky and Mississippi are making things interesting in the SEC. Both teams are among my last four teams in. Missouri’s win over Florida practically assures the conference of at least getting two teams in.
  • Minnesota and Cincinnati are sliding in my bracket, but I still think both teams are safe. The Gophers may not want to tempt fate, though. Tubby Smith’s team has been blown out in games against Iowa and Ohio State and is now two games under .500 in the Big Ten. Teams under .500 in conference play typically do not get in. Overall, 34 teams have gotten at-large bids over the last 43 years while being under .500 in conference play.

LAST FOUR IN: Colorado, Baylor, Saint Mary’s, Kentucky
FIRST FOUR OUT: Boise State, Alabama, Arizona State, Charlotte

NOTE: Projected conference champions (or auto bid winners) are in capital letters.

(full bracket after the jump)

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