ACC Crashes the Sweet Sixteen Party in Unprecedented Way

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 23rd, 2016

The ACC has advanced a record six teams into the Sweet Sixteen of this year’s NCAA Tournament, giving the league an impressive total of 11 appearances in the second weekend over the last two years. Last year’s placement of five ACC teams in the regional semifinals was only the second time a conference had put that many teams there (Big East — 2009), but this year’s sextet marked a new record for postseason conference superiority. There has since understandably been much discussion on how to contextualize this year’s performance, and we’ll weigh in on that question while examining its meaningfulness for the conference as a whole.

The Biggest ACC Surprise is One of the Most Recognizable Names (USA Today Images)

The Biggest ACC Surprise is One of the Most Recognizable Names (USA Today Images)

The ACC has gone through two major expansions in the last dozen years, poaching schools from the Big East in each case. At least dating back to the early 1980s, those two leagues (often along with the Big Ten) have waged battle for the prestigious title of best conference in college basketball. The league’s first round of additions (Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College) in the mid-2000s were added for their prestigious football programs and lucrative television markets — the result was that the league’s status as first among basketball powers slumped. But the most recent ACC expansion north resulted in the acquisition of four good-to-great basketball programs. The arrivals of Syracuse, Louisville, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh sparked notions that the ACC could become the best basketball conference ever assembled. And so far, so good. After a shaky first year as a bulky 15-team league, the ACC has now logged two consecutive seasons of impressive postseason success. Two of the ACC’s six Sweet Sixteen participants this year are recent additions (Syracuse and Notre Dame), and a third newcomer, Louisville, would have certainly been a high seed had the Cardinals been eligible this year.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Florida 79, #4 UCLA 68

Posted by David Changas (@dchangas) on March 27th, 2014


David Changas (@dchangas) is the NCAA Tournament’s South Region correspondent. He filed this report after #1 Florida’s 79-68 win over #4 UCLA. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Scottie Wilbekin came up big when it counted most against UCLA. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Scottie Wilbekin came up big when it counted most against UCLA. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Wilbekin Comes Through. Though he struggled for much of the night, when it mattered senior all-American Scottie Wilbekin came through for Florida. Wilbekin shot only 5-of-13 on the night, but finished with several huge buckets down the stretch and showed why he was the SEC Player of the Year. Wilbekin’s ability to lead his team to wins in close games is the difference between this year’s Florida team and last year’s Elite Eight squad. And if coach Billy Donovan has his way, he’ll be a main reason this team takes the next step.
  2. Michael Frazier can Shoot. For whatever reason, UCLA let the Gators’ best shooter have open looks all evening. Frazier made five of the eight threes he attempted, but the ones that didn’t go in were wide open looks. He finished with a game-high 19 points. Earlier this season, Frazier set a Florida record with 11 threes made against South Carolina, and if the sharpshooting sophomore can continue to make shots from the perimeter, it will be tough for anyone to beat the Gators the rest of the way.
  3. Gators Dominate the Glass. Despite a relatively poor first half performance that saw Florida get only three points from Wilbekin and nothing from senior center Patric Young, the Gators led by six at the break. This was largely due to keeping UCLA off the boards, particularly on the offensive end. In fact, UCLA had only one offensive rebound in the half, and it was followed immediately by a Florida block. On the night, the Gators out-rebounded UCLA, 40-30, and gave up only eight offensive boards to the Bruins for the game. It allowed Florida to move on despite getting very little offense from Young and his frontcourt mates. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #11 Dayton 82, #10 Stanford 72

Posted by David Changas (@dchangas) on March 27th, 2014


David Changas (@dchangas) is the NCAA Tournament’s South Region correspondent. He filed this report after #11 Dayton’s 82-72 win over #10 Stanford. RTC will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

The entire Dayton program had plenty to smile about Thursday night. (John Bazemore/Getty Images)

The entire Dayton program had plenty to smile about Thursday night. (John Bazemore/Getty Images)

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Taking Care of and Sharing the Ball. Many thought Dayton would struggle to handle Stanford’s size, but the Flyers were able to control the game by taking care of the ball and by moving it on the offensive end and getting excellent looks all night. Dayton ended up with only 10 turnovers and 19 assists on 28 baskets, not to mention the fact that they never trailed after the 9:32 mark of the first half. The Flyers’ performance on the offensive end was a clinic, as they held their own on the glass against the bigger Cardinal, ultimately shooting 48% for the game. Dayton also had a balanced attack, as it had three players in double figures, and 11 players scored overall. Stanford, meanwhile, got only two points from its bench. And while Stanford’s leading scorer, Chasson Randle, ended up with a game-high 21 points, he was held to 5-of-21 shooting and was forced into a number of bad shots.
  2. Size Doesn’t Always Matter. After trailing by 10 at the half, Stanford came out in the second half with a concerted effort to get the ball to Stefan Nastic and Dwight Powell, its low-post stalwarts. It worked, as the Cardinal cut the lead to four early in the half, but Dayton was able to adjust. Every time the Cardinal cut into the Flyers’ lead, Dayton was able to get an easy basket and stop the run. Unlike Kansas, the Flyers did not allow Stanford to take them out of their offense, and they outworked the Cardinal big men for key offensive rebounds when they weren’t making shots. On the defensive end, Dayton held Stanford to only 37.9% shooting.
  3. Dayton Shows it Belongs. Dayton is the only team left in the NCAA Tournament that is not from a BCS conference. The Flyers spent most of the season on the bubble, but have taken advantage of their bid in advancing to the school’s first Elite Eight appearance since 1984. After taking care of two traditional powers in Ohio State and Syracuse, Dayton got a favorable draw with tenth-seeded Stanford, and took advantage. The Flyers clearly were not intimidated by the big stage, and showed they belong. They will now get a chance to advance to their first ever Final Four, and though they will be prohibitive underdogs in their next game, Archie Miller’s squad should not be counted out. Read the rest of this entry »
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Sweet Sixteen Preview: Highlighting One Thing to Watch For Each Team

Posted by Chris Johnson on March 27th, 2013


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

Two rounds of NCAA Tournament play have come and gone. Favorites have flopped, upsets have left bracket-wielding fans frustrated everywhere and Florida Gulf Coast is in the Sweet Sixteen. That last one still doesn’t register; how does a team that gained full Division I postseason eligibility just this season, with an entrepreneurial and supermodel-boasting wife in tow pushing them along the whole way, knock off, in sequence, National Player of the Year and projected lottery pick Otto Porter, then follow it up by utterly demoralizing Jamaal Franklin and San Diego State?

Of all the interesting storylines heading into the Sweet 16, none is more captivating than Florida Gulf Coast (Getty Images).

Of all the interesting storylines heading into the Sweet Sixteen, none is more captivating than Florida Gulf Coast (Getty Images).

Everyone will have their eyes on FGCU to see what happens next, naturally, but the next round of bracket proceedings, the Sweet Sixteen, offers more than one team, one storyline, one Brett Comer lob, to watch. Here are 16 items, one specific to each team, to keep an eye on — with the common denominator of shining a new analytical light on each match-up. If Florida Gulf Coast has already revolutionized everything we’ve come to know about today’s scoring-averse, slowdown, micro-managed game, where does that leave us – the humble writers who serve to clarify, in long form, what you see on the court – in attempting to understand the remaining rounds of this Tournament? Onward:

1. Is Louisville The Best Thing On The Block? It sure looks that way, and that’s without even seeing Louisville come up against a team capable of challenging Russ Smith and Peyton Siva on the perimeter, of pulling Gorgui Dieng away from the basket, and decoding Louisville’s No. 1 efficiency defense. Colorado State was the closest thing, and the Rams were hopelessly overmatched on both ends of the floor. The Cardinals got the good side of Russ Smith in that match-up, scoring 27 points and committing just one turnover, and when that happens and Louisville maintains its trademark stingy point-prevention, Rick Pitino’s team is tough to beat. The question is whether Oregon, criminally underseeded as a #12, can use its bruising defensive style to counter the Cardinals’ championship formula. Louisville has done nothing thus far to refute its national frontrunner status, and unless Ducks coach Dana Altman can poke holes in U of L’s defensive fortress with Damyeon Dotson and E.J. Singler on the perimeter, and Arsalan Kazemi keeps up his insane rebounding pace (he’s averaging 16.5 boards per game in Tournament play), the Cardinals will maintain that status and waltz into the Elite Eight undeterred.

2. The End Of Ohio State’s One-Dimensional Scoring Problem.

For most of the season, behind Ohio State’s plainly suffocating perimeter defense, headed by one rosy-cheeked point guard roundly regarded as the nation’s best on-ball defender, lay an offense with one glaring problem: DeShaun Thomas was doing everything. For as devastating as Thomas can be, and as versatile as his scoring arsenal has become – Thomas is just as quick to camp out on the perimeter as he is to back down an opponent in the post – the Buckeyes needed a reliable ancillary scoring option. And during Tournament play (and increasingly at the end of the regular season), they’ve gotten exactly that. In a second-round bout against Iona, Sam Thompson (20 points) and Lenzelle Smith (12) were in double figures; Craft (18) stole the show in the next match-up with Iowa State, and there was no greater symbolic statement to his newfound offensive chutzpah than when he looked off Thomas on a critical final possession, lulled Cyclones’ forward Georges Niang to sleep with a deft walk-up dribble, and iced a game-winning three while holding up his wrist on the follow through as his teammates celebrated a squeaky escape. LeBron James took notice. You should, too.

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ACC Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 21st, 2012

  1. Fox Sports Carolinas: Andrew Jones does a solid job breaking down Duke‘s struggles this year. The article is specifically relevant on the end of the season, as I think the “lack of spirit” only settled in after the North Carolina game at Duke. But the issues are definitely there. I’d probably order my list like this (in order of greatest to least importance): (1) lack of a leader, (2) defense, (3) reliance on one player, (4) reliance on the three, (5) point guard issues. Some things are interconnected. The depressing thing for Duke fans is things may get worse before they get better depending on who stays and who goes this year.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: Barry Jacobs took a look at the scoring decline in the ACC. Since 2001 when the league peaked–averaging 79.3 points a game–the scoring has been steadily dropping to this year’s low of 68.5. In 2001 the league’s lowest scorer (Florida State) actually averaged higher scoring than this year’s league average. Part of the recent drop can be associated with coaching turnover and conference expansion creating diluted talent and new styles (see: Boston College and Virginia, respectively). The rest is probably a part of the national trend of offenses getting more efficient while slowing down. I hope someone analyzes the roots of this phenomenon.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: Want to know one reason NC State looks a lot better as of late? Richard Howell is seeing more playing time. Howell and fellow frontmen CJ Leslie and DeShawn Painter all improved significantly, but Howell’s tendency to pick up quick fouls kept him off the court during the regular season. Howell’s presence is going to be extra-critical this weekend against Kansas, as he’s a significantly better rebounder than Painter. The Wolfpack will need his presence on the glass to help limit the Jayhawks to one shot.
  4. Testudo Times: Ben Broman over at Testudo Times took a look at Nick Faust‘s season and very promising prognosis. Faust started the year horrendously on offense–largely because he was forced to take too large a role on an offense with too few weapons–but his talent has always been evident. Multiple people have said this throughout the year (especially down the stretch when things started clicking for the freshman): next year Faust could easily find himself on an All-ACC team. Frankly, he should probably find himself on two if his defense continues to improve and he gets his offensive mojo back.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: This is a very interesting interview with Brian Gregory. Probably the most insightful comment is on one thing he learned about the ACC, which was the physical nature of the conference. For a long time the Big East and Big Ten were known as the tough leagues (they still are), but the ACC is definitely becoming a tougher conference (Duke, Florida State, Miami and Virginia are very physical teams). I also thought Gregory’s reflection on his team was interesting even after taking it with a grain of “coach speak” salt.
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Night Line: Reloaded San Diego State Has Picked Up Where Last Season Left Off

Posted by EJacoby on January 24th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor and correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

When you lose four starters, 73% of your scoring production, and one NBA lottery pick from the season before, it usually means that a year of rebuilding awaits your basketball program. But for San Diego State, a fresh slate of players who mainly watched and waited their turns last season have picked up where Kawhi Leonard, D.J. Gay, Billy White, and Malcolm Thomas left off. Tuesday night’s road victory over Wyoming improved No. 15 SDSU to 18-2 on the season and 3-0 in Mountain West conference play as one of the most surprising teams in the country. Veteran coach Steve Fisher and the new-look Aztecs have wildly exceeded expectations and are looking to match or surpass last season’s run to the Sweet Sixteen.

Steve Fisher is Leading This Year's Aztecs to Unexpected Success (Getty Images/K. Horner)

Junior guards Chase Tapley and James Rahon are the only current Aztecs who played significant minutes on last year’s outstanding 34-3 team that won the MWC and advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament before falling to the eventual National Champion UConn Huskies. Tapley was a starter and averaged 8.6 PPG a year ago, but this season has taken his game to a whole new level. The shooting guard leads the Mountain West in scoring (16.4 PPG) and steals (2.05 SPG) while hitting a tremendous 46.7% from behind the arc on over five attempts per game. His growth from role player to star guard, however, is not even the biggest improvement on the team. That distinction goes to sophomore Jamaal Franklin, who hardly rose off the bench last season (8.1 MPG), but who’s now developed into one of the most talented players in the conference. He didn’t start the first 10 games of this season, but Fisher has had him in the lineup in the past 10 after he flashed tremendous skills and strength at the small forward position. He’s now averaging 15.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 steals per game as a versatile threat for the Aztecs.

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Tracking The Four: Let’s Play 21 Questions

Posted by EJacoby on January 20th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC contributor & correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. TT4 will cover four selected teams of interest – Syracuse, Indiana, Murray State, and UNLV – by tracking their ups, downs, and exciting developments throughout the course of the season.

For this week’s wildcard edition of TT4, we’re going to tackle some burning questions regarding each team. All four teams have pressing issues as they try to hit their strides in conference play, and there’s one team on our list that specifically needs to find some answers, quickly, if they want to stay relevant as a contender. Find out the answers to each question, or at least our quick takes, below each question. If you want to play along, comment with any of your answers!!!

Is Mike Moser the Best Player of our Four Teams? (Getty Images/E. Miller)

1. Which game on Syracuse and Murray State’s schedules should be circled as their toughest challenge to an undefeated regular season?

Monday night’s game in Cincinnati is Syracuse’s first shot at going down, while Murray State’s game on February 15 at Southeast Missouri State will be their toughest test.

2. Can Indiana recover from this losing streak to regain their status as a top three team in the Big Ten?

They’ll be able to recover, but Indiana is not a top three Big Ten team (OSU, UM, & Michigan State are better).

3. Will UNLV be able to win big games outside of Las Vegas, like SDSU did in The Pit this week?

They’ve already played seven true road games, so yes this will help UNLV win conference road games.

4. The Hoosiers have lost three straight games while the Racers have won 19 straight, but who would win on a neutral court if they played today?

We’d love to see this in the NCAA Tournament and today we’re going with Indiana, but if Ivan Aska comes back strong for MSU, ask again in two weeks.

5. When they inevitably need a bucket in crunch time, whom will Syracuse and Jim Boeheim draw the play for?

He doesn’t specialize in taking over games, but Kris Joseph is still the most talented offensive player and toughest mismatch on the team, so he should get his number called.

6. Will UNLV’s 69.1% free throw percentage come back to haunt them at some point this season?

Although it’s the worst of these four teams, no a 69% rate should not be a huge concern for the Rebels.

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RTC Travelogue: New Orleans, Part I

Posted by jstevrtc on April 1st, 2011

RTC Senior Editor John Stevens covered the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in New Orleans for us last week. In addition to watching Butler emerge as the Southeast Region champion, he also had time to check out a little bit of the city. Occasionally on RTC we like to get out of our comfort zone and write up a travelogue of our experiences for your amusement. He’s home and (we think) fully recovered from the both the amazing basketball he saw and his time in the Big Easy, so here is Part I of John’s sumbission from New Orleans.

If you’re looking forward to the destination, one of the great feelings a person can have, for my money, is the series of moments right before a journey starts. Nothing screams of possibilities more than a plane awaiting its turn on a runway, an empty passport, or a camera memory card with no photos. But when RTC’s founder, correspondent wrangler and assignement hander-outer called me to talk about where I’d be traveling and what games I could possibly cover in the post-season, I wasn’t looking forward to the conversation.

John Makes His First Approach To the Quarter -- It Went Downhill From Here

I covered many games in many locales for RTC this season, and frankly, I was tired. I also remembered how I did the same thing last season, and how fatigued I was after the 10-hour car trip to the Big 12 Tournament last year. It was a total blast to cover. I loved every single moment of being there, and I can still taste the Oklahoma Joe’s Barbecue. I spent way too much time in the Power and Light District. ButI always spend too much money and push my poor automobile too hard (nothing like an engine rebuild around Christmastime!). By the time I got off the phone with him, though, my defenses had been proven futile. He landed quick jabs by telling me that I was signed up for the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, the First Four in Dayton, and the Cleveland sub-regional.

Then he finished me with this right cross: “And…you’re also penciled in for the regional in New Orleans.”

As if having a media pass to the nation’s greatest sporting event in four different locations wasn’t enough, I had the opportunity to go to one of the country’s coolest cities. I’d always wanted to go to New Orleans. He knew I couldn’t resist that, the dirty dog that he is. I had more fun covering the games in Indianapolis, Dayton, and Cleveland than I thought I would, and that made me anticipate New Orleans even more. My flight to the Crescent City was at 6:00 AM on Thursday, the day of the Sweet 16 games. I barely slept the night before out of excitement. To me, the night and even the minutes before such a journey like this starts are every bit as good as being on the trip itself.

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Sweet 16 Chat

Posted by nvr1983 on March 25th, 2009

If you’re looking for a chat about planning your Super Sweet 16th birthday party, you have come to the wrong place. If you want to discuss this weekend’s college basketball action at the #1 source* for college basketball news and insight, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be taking all of your questions and offering our unique brand of insights so come with all questions and bring along some friends. I’m planning on going from 1 PM to 3 PM ET so come back then.

*The NCAA might not agree with this claim.

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One last shining moment for this season. . .

Posted by nvr1983 on April 6th, 2008

After Saturday night’s blowouts, we can only hope that tonight’s title bout will give us a great game to finish off the season. I think both teams have too much talent to get blown out, but I never would have expected UNC to fall behind 40-12 before nearly making Billy Packer look like an ass (again).

I’ll offer my take and hopefully rtmsf will add his too later (see below).

Aside from a shaky performance at the free throw line against Mississippi State that made their 2nd round game much closer than it should have been, Memphis has totally dominated the opposition on its way to Monday night. I don’t think I am going too far into the realm of hyperbole when I say that their performance in the last 3 games has been as dominant as any team I can remember from the Sweet 16 to the National Semifinals. The even more amazing thing is that a lot of people were picking the Tigers to lose each of those games. The Tigers gave us all an indication of how far off we were in the first game of that stretch when they destroyed Michigan State in their Sweet 16 game as they led 50-20 at half. After easily beating Texas in Houston to advance to the Final 4, the Tigers had a little tougher time with the Bruins who hung tough for a half. Despite the close score for most of the game, I never got the sense that Memphis might lose the game. Of course, the poor FT shooting was at the back of my mind. As I noted in my post immediately after the game, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose completely dominated the game with Rose controlling the game from end-to-end and CDR controlling it inside the 3-pt line. Joey Dorsey also submitted what may be the greatest 0-point performance in a Final 4 by a non-PG (I can’t think of a great 0-pt performance by a PG, but just trying to be safe). Memphis also got a solid performance out of Shawn Taggert. One thing that has gone largely overlooked in the CDR-Rose lovefest was how good the Tigers played defense, which is something they have been doing all year. Perhaps it is because they are so captivating on offense or the fact that they rely on length and instincts rather than the Shane Battier step-in-front-for-the-charge style that the ESPN analysts seem to love so much. In any case, the Tigers’ defense is what really gets things going for them. Perhaps, if their key guys stuck around for another year or two or Rose came in a few years earlier (and they learned how to shoot FTs), we would be talking about this Memphis team along the lines of a 21st century Runnin’ Rebs team.

As for Kansas, like I said on Saturday night I’m not really sure what to say. They had one of the easiest paths to the Final 4 (based on opponents’ seed) that I can remember and the cruised all the way to San Antonio with the exception of the Davidson game where they looked tight. However, they made up for it on Saturday night against #1 overall seed UNC. Their performance in the first 15 minutes of the game was among the best I have ever seen at the college level. They were all over the court hounding UNC into countless turnovers as they jumped out to a 40-12 lead. The image of the game for me was little-used, but much-hyped freshman Cole Aldrich ripping the ball away from everybody’s national POY Tyler “Psycho T” Hansbrough. After Billy Packer declared the game was over with 7:32 left in the 1st half, Kansas fell apart and appeared to be headed towards an epic collapse when UNC brought the game to 54-50 with 11:16 left in the game. The Jayhawks survived with a late run of their own (possibly due to UNC running out of gas too). If you watched the first half of the game, you are aware of the tremendous pressure that the Kansas guards can exert. That pressure will certainly be put to a challenge against the Tigers’ talented backcourt.

A couple key things to watch tonight:
1) What tempo does Kansas want to play at? Kansas showed us on Saturday night that it can thrive on a fast pace against a very talented team. However, as you have probably read Kansas has the ability to play at both a quick (talented guards & inside guys who can run) and slow pace (guards who can penetrate & multiple inside guys with developed post games). Normally I would recommend that Bill Self flip a coin and use that to decide which way to play because Kansas can win either way, but against Memphis that is a different story. While the Tigers have talented, athletic guys at every position, they are much better when the game is up-tempo and they can use their athleticism. The Tigers lack a traditional inside game and don’t have many great outside shooters. Thus, Self should really thing about trying to slow the game down. It sounds crazy given how good Kansas looked against UNC (and it’s easier said than done), but doing so would give the Jayhawks their best shot at winning their first title since Danny Manning and Larry Brown led them to the promised land in 1988.

2) Who will guard Derrick Rose? Kansas has 2 exceptional defensive guards in Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson, who both did a great job harassing UNC in the first half. As you may have heard, Rose is a completely different beast. As good as the Jayhawk defenders are, I don’t think they can stay with Rose if it is an uptempo game. However, if Bill Self listens to me and slows the pace of the game down, Kansas can use both in addition to Brandon Rush to try to contain Rose. I am assuming Rush will draw CDR, which is a tough assignment in itself, but he will need to help off CDR if and when Rose gets by his man.

3) Will Dorsey stay out of foul trouble? Shawn Taggert is a nice player, but he isn’t really built to battle the big guys from Kansas. If Memphis is going to win the title, they will need Dorsey on the court as he is the only one with the strength to give the Tigers an edge in this match-up. Dorsey will have to win the battle (or at least limit the Jayhawks’ advantage) against Darrell Arthur, Sasha Kaun, & Co. if Memphis wants to cut down the nets in San Antonio.

Who will take home the trophy?

Opening Line: Pick ’em.
Prediction: It looks like the money in Vegas is going towards Memphis winning as the line has shifted to Memphis -2, which is a pretty big shift for a game that was originally a pick ’em less than 24 hours ago. I could see this game going either way, but in the end I think the brilliance of Rose (assuming he lays off the Gummy Bears) and solid all-around play of CDR will carry the day. Plus, as I’ve learned decision markets are usually pretty reliable indicators of what will happen so I’m going with the Tigers in a hard-fought battle.

rtmsf take:

We’re still in considerable shock at just how dominant Kansas looked vs. North Carolina Saturday night. For the first ten minutes of that game, it appeared as if KU was playing Colorado in the Phog; NOT the de facto tournament favorite led by everybody’s favorite superhero, Tyler Hansbrough. Kansas was bigger, quicker, faster, and simply wanted it more. One thing we believe was a major factor but has been left unsaid in much of the MSM was that the KU players spent the entire week hearing Roy this and Roy that and they wanted to stick it to him for leaving the program in the manner that he did (even though his departure predates all of their arrivals at KU). Of course, all of the players and certainly Bill Self will deny this forever more, but KU played that first half as if something had been stolen from them. Carolina didn’t play with the same fire and intensity, and it showed (40-12). We’ll leave it to the KU fans to provide this info, but we can’t remember the last time a Roy Williams coached team was so thoroughly and completely dominated as they were last night. If it has happened at all, we’re guessing it would have been in the 90s.

As for the other semifinal, UCLA’s tendency to endure prolonged scoring droughts ultimately proved ineffective when facing a team with the caliber of Memphis’ talent. We were surprised with just how thoroughly dominated Darren Collison was by Derrick Rose as well as UCLA’s maddening inability to get the ball to Kevin Love in the post. Part of that was the Tiger defense making it very difficult for Love to find his preferred spots, but part of it is also attributable to poor decision-making by Mbah a Moute, Collison and others. It wouldn’t ultimately have mattered, because the Bruins were an offensively flawed team and they were never going to score enough points to threaten Memphis, but it still surprised us.

So we’re now left with the two least flawed teams in the tournament. It’s been well documented that Memphis struggles with FTs, and it showed in their one semi-scare against Mississippi St. in the second round; it’s also been commonly discussed that Bill Self teams have a tendency to choke under pressure, and KU certainly had a scare against Davidson and looked shaky at times yesterday after leading by 28 points. But these are ultimately nitpicks because both of these teams are beyond excellent and filled with NBA talent all over the floor. So which of these two squads is better and will win Monday night?

The thing that really stood out to us when we were watching the Carolina massacre was just how big and athletic Kansas looked compared to UNC (a team that itself has a reputation for size and athleticism). We think that this is the one area where Memphis can be exploited. UCLA was unable to capitalize on this advantage because only Love was a capable scorer on the blocks. Kansas can get offense underneath from not only Arthur, Jackson and Kaun off the bench, but also apparently from Cole Aldrich (who looked fantastic (8/7) in his 16 minutes yesterday). We think this is the mismatch that will have Bill Self salivating for the next 20 hours or so.

Memphis will counter with the silky smooth Derrick Rose (25/9/4 assts) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (28/4), but with the perimeter defense that we expect from the KU guards (who held the UNC perimeter players to 16-47 shooting), we think that Memphis is going to have trouble finding enough offense to match the Jayhawks. Put simply, there’s absolutely no way we see that the KU defense allows 83% of Memphis’ points to come from the backcourt as UCLA did, and who among the Memphis bigs will pick up the scoring slack? Dorsey? Taggart? Dozier? If that group collectively scores over 15 pts, we’ll be shocked.

So despite what the decision markets and our compadre on this blog suggest, we’re going with the Jayhawks to cut down the nets tomorrow night. Bill Self gets his first title, and John Calipari starts to hear the ignoble distinction of being the best active coach to not win a championship.

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