Rushed Reactions: #4 Louisville 75, #8 North Carolina State 65

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 27th, 2015


Three Key Takeaways.

Louisville game up big with the big plays down the stretch. (Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)

Louisville came up big with big plays down the stretch to beat the Wolfpack. (Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. In game defined by runs, Louisville went on final spurt. North Carolina State took an early 10-6 lead, which was followed by a 10-2 Louisville run. Shortly thereafter, the Wolfpack went on a 14-5 spurt, at which point the Cardinals responded with 14 of the next 16 points and…you get the point. After back-and-forth momentum swings and scoring bursts throughout the first 30-plus minutes of game time, Louisville’s late 12-3 run made the difference. Over the course of four minutes – shortly after the under-8 media timeout – Anton Gill, Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier broke North Carolina State’s zone and generated enough stops to grab the final advantage.
  2. Louisville dominated the paint. If North Carolina State’s 9-of-20 three-point shooting kept the game close, then Louisville’s 24-of-42 mark from inside the arc (57% 2FG) decided it. For most of the night, the Wolfpack had no answer for Montrezl Harrell on the block (24 points) and could not stop the Cardinals’ guards from penetrating; Rozier, Quentin Snider and Wayne Blackshear scored 35 of Louisville’s 75 points near the basket or at the free throw line. Even Mark Gottfried’s decision to play zone late in the contest could not stop Pitino’s unit from finding looks inside. Louisville’s defense also did a good job down low; North Carolina State shot just 35 percent from two-point land.
  3. Out of nowhere, Anton Gill became a hero. Entering tonight, Louisville’s Anton Gill was averaging just over two points per game and had not graced the scoring column since February 28. And it didn’t look like he was going to score against North Carolina State, either, until the sophomore guard – which the Wolfpack once tried to recruit – reeled off seven quick points late in the contest to put the Cardinals up for good. Afterwards, Gottfried basically said that Gill’s unexpected offensive outburst decided the outcome: “He made a couple tough shots there, and I thought that little cushion was the difference in the game.”

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Kentucky 78, #5 West Virginia 39

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2015


Three Key Takeaways.

Kentucky Flexed Its Muscles Tonight (USA Today Images)

Kentucky Flexed Its Muscles Tonight (USA Today Images)

  1. Don’t poke the bear. To be honest it wouldn’t have mattered. And maybe it didn’t matter. Kentucky was going to win this game anyway and perhaps the Wildcats playing about as well as they can (except for Karl-Anthony Towns) was just a coincidence, but we got to see what the Wildcats can do when they are firing on all cylinders. It is both beautiful and scary. If the Wildcats play like this, there isn’t a team in the country that is going to give them a legitimate challenge the rest of the way. That’s not meant to be disrespectful to any of the remaining teams; it is just the truth. For much of the season, Kentucky’s offense lagged well behind its defense, but now that it has caught up teams are basically left to hope the Wildcats have an off night. Tonight was not one of those nights.
  2. This was complete meltdown by West Virginia. Kentucky played great, but West Virginia embarrassed itself with its performance tonight. Outside of a few mini-runs that the Mountaineers put together thanks to some sloppiness from Kentucky (like Marcus Lee trying to break the press), Bob Huggins’ team couldn’t put anything else together. It was a rough end to an outstanding career in Morgantown for Juwan Staten, who deserved a better ending than this. West Virginia rarely has elite level talent coming to Morgantown, but we have learned over the years that Bob Huggins doesn’t need that to succeed. This may have been the lowest low of a storied career for the longtime head coach.
  3. Competition or coronation? It might seem premature to already hand the national title over to Kentucky, but it has been a long time since we have seen a team this dominant. Actually, the last team was 1991 UNLV… and we all know how that worked out. The fact is that there is no 1991 Duke waiting around the corner this year (people forget that one year later that lovable underdog became one of the great teams of all-time). Barring a collapse by Kentucky, which is much less likely given their ridiculous depth, we cannot see anybody beating them. So you might as well crown them now.

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Circle of March: Vol. XXI

Posted by rtmsf on March 23rd, 2015

How Sweet it is! From 333 eligibles 21 short days ago to a mere 16 remaining. It was a fun weekend with numerous ups and downs, but the diversity of strength and talent in this year’s Sweet Sixteen looks fantastic. Can’t wait until Thursday night!


Eliminations (03.22.15)

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March Chameleons: Dayton Adapts, But Can It Beat Stanford?

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 27th, 2014

Dayton’s run the stylistic gauntlet this month and lived to tell the tale, at least for a few more hours. Just look at the Flyers’ March: They beat Massachusetts in a 71-possession footrace, the type of up-and-down affair the Minutemen love; it toppled Saint Louis – on the road – and its grinding, exhausting, limit-your-threes defense; they methodically took down Richmond’s tough match-up zone, and then, in the NCAA Tournament, Syracuse’s 2-3 zone; and it outdid Ohio State, one of the best defenses in the country with one of the best individual defenders in the country. If not for Langston Galloway’s near-buzzer-beater (and push-off?) in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, they might have defeated Saint Joseph’s too. Archie Miller’s group has won games fast and slow, physical and finesse, tactical and chaotic. And now Stanford looms, a club that mixed 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone defenses on Sunday to utterly baffle Kansas and send the heavily-favored Jayhawks packing for the offseason. Trouble on the horizon for the Flyers? Perhaps. But if their recent play is any indication, it won’t be because they can’t adapt.

Dayton was flying high in Buffalo, but can they beat the Cardinal? (Photo: Jamie Germano Staff Photographer)

Dayton was flying high in Buffalo, but can they beat the Cardinal? (Photo: Jamie Germano)

That adaptability starts with both the depth and versatility of Dayton’s roster. The Flyers ranked second in the A-10 behind only George Mason this season in bench minutes, with reserves accounting for nearly 36 percent of playing time. Among those reserves is Vee Sanford, a team captain and former starter who hit the game-winner against Ohio State in the second round. He, along with Scoochie Smith – a heralded freshman out of the Bronx –point guard Khari Price, and sharpshooter Jordan Sibert, make up a backcourt quick off the dribble and adept from long range. But to suggest that the team’s ‘backcourt’ is easily distinguishable from its ‘frontcourt’ would be a mistake, and almost impossible to conclude if you watch it play. The fact is, most players are able to handle the ball and nearly everyone can run the floor. At 6’7’’, Devin Oliver is the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, tough and physical but also capable of banging home threes. Dyshawn Pierre, the forward who hit clutch free throws in both games over the weekend, fits the same mold. Even 6’9’’ Jalen Robinson can move with ease and drain outside shots. Throw in a few other reserves who provide quality minutes at multiple positions, and Miller is able to mix-and-match lineups on a night-to-night, minute-to-minute basis.

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Big Ten Teams in the Sweet Sixteen: Three Key Match-ups

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 26th, 2014

Considering Wisconsin and Michigan State both had tough match-ups in the round of 32, the Big Ten advancing three teams into the Sweet Sixteen is an accomplishment. In case you are keeping tabs, the Big Ten has done relatively well with its draw — #11 seeds Iowa and Nebraska weren’t expected to do much, and really only #6 Ohio State’s loss to Dayton was disappointing. Keeping in mind that only one ACC team is still alive (Virginia) and the Pac-12 and SEC also sent three teams to the second weekend, the Big Ten is in solid position right now. Now, each of the three teams remaining — Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin — have very tough opponents in the next round, so the wheels could come off and the league could end it season with a mediocre 6-6 record; or, each of the three has a reasonable shot to make a run at the Final Four this weekend.

Let’s take a look at these three match-ups that are key to each team winning its next game.

Adreian Payne will be key inside for the Spartans as they meet the Virginia Cavaliers in the next round. (AP Photo/Al Goldis).

Adreian Payne will be key inside for the Spartans as they meet Virginia in the next round. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

  1. Adreian Payne vs. Virginia’s big guys: The blueprint for the Cavaliers is fairly clear: Everything starts with their excellent defense, as indicated by opponents averaging just 43.1% eFG against them during ACC play. They will try to smother Gary Harris and Keith Appling from the outside, forcing the Spartans to earn a win from inside the arc. That’s where Adreian Payne needs to help out Tom Izzo. He needs to abstain from using his jumper in favor of leveraging his post moves in the paint. Shooting jumpers off the pick-and-roll will be tough because Virginia’s wings — Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris — will be quick enough to cover those, so Payne needs to play well with his back to the basket. Payne has shown signs of brilliance with his moves in the paint at times, but he’ll have to provide some breathing room for his guards by picking up the offense early; otherwise, the game could be a defensive grind that favors the Cavaliers. Read the rest of this entry »
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The RTC Podcast: Sweet Sixteen Preview Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 26th, 2014

Happy Sweet Sixteen, everybody. We hope that you’ve had some time to rest up from a crazy opening weekend and are starting to digest the match-ups heading our way on Thursday and Friday nights. These eight games look to be outstanding in different ways, both storyline and basketball, and to get you ready for this the Sweet Sixteen, the RTC Podcast crew invited all four of our regional correspondents back to break down each region in a bite-sized segment of this week’s edition. We welcome back Brian Otskey (East), Bennet Hayes (South), Walker Carey (Midwest) and Drew Murawa (West) to discuss what to watch for with this week’s games. There might even be some predictions. We’ll try to do an Elite Eight preview edition that will drop on Friday night/Saturday morning, so keep an eye out for that. This edition’s full rundown is below.

  • 0:00-3:54 – Louisville-Kentucky Headlines Super Sweet Sixteen Schedule
  • 3:54-8:09 – Other Sweet Sixteen Highlights
  • 8:09-20:04 – Previewing Midwest Region with Walker Carey
  • 20:04-36:17 – Previewing South Region with Bennet Hayes
  • 36:17-48:03 – Previewing West Region with Andrew Murawa
  • 48:03-59:40 – Previewing East Region with Brian Otskey
  • 59:40-1:09:33 Revised Final Four Picks
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The Pac-12 Season: It’s Been A Wild Ride So Far

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on March 25th, 2014

Well, at long last, after an up-and-down season, we can probably pretty safely say: The Pac is Back! Fully buying into the fact that NCAA Tournament performance alone does not equate to the quality of a conference, it is still fun to have three teams dancing in the second week of the tourney. The last time our fair conference had as many teams in the Sweet Sixteen was back in 2008, when it was still just the Pac-10 and also the last time a conference team made the Final Four (UCLA). Between 2009 and 2012, a total of just three teams made the Sweet Sixteen over that four-year span. Things finally ticked up last year with Oregon and Arizona representing us well, and now, we’re back to the promised land. So, how did we get here? Let’s take a quick look back and see.

Pac-12First, I want to admit that I’ve jumped on and off this bandwagon several times this season. Back in the preseason I made the call of seven Pac-12 teams getting invited to the NCAA Tournament and Stanford advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. The former prediction just missed, but the latter actually came true. Still, no use in me taking credit (or blame, for that matter) for either, because god knows I’ve tried to walk both of those back time and again. In early February, I was sitting through a UCLA blowout of Colorado in Pauley Pavilion and began a post (that I never got around to finishing) writing off the concept of seven Pac-12 NCAA Tournament teams entirely, and making the argument that the conference was closer to winding up with just three teams in the field. So there’s that.

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NCAA Regional Reset: West Region

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on March 25th, 2014


Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent, which begins Thursday night at Honda Center in Anaheim with Baylor vs. Wisconsin followed by San Diego State vs. Arizona. The South Regional Reset published earlier today and the East and Midwest Resets will release tomorrow. Make sure to also follow @RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Anaheim throughout the week.

New Favorite: Arizona, #1, 32-4. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The Wildcats looked a little shaky in what turned into just a nine-point win in their round of 64 game against Weber State, but they really did little this weekend to change the popular notion that the Wildcats are not only the strong favorite in this region, but a legitimate contender for the national championship.

Arizona Did Little In The First Weekend To Make Us Second Guess Their Status As National Championship Contenders (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

Arizona Did Little In The First Weekend To Make Us Second Guess Their Status As National Championship Contenders. (Christian Petersen, Getty Images)

Horse of Darkness:  Wisconsin, #2, 28-7. The Badgers took a 12-point deficit into the half against Oregon in the round of 32, getting lit up to the tune of somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.48 points per possession by a great offensive team for 20 minutes. But coming out of the locker room, they made a commitment to getting the ball inside on offense and getting back and challenging jump shooters on the defensive end. The adjustment turned into less than a point per possession in the second half for the Ducks, while the high-scoring Badgers were the one that turned in 1.5 points per possession. The Badgers have proven their ability to score in bunches this season, but if they can play defense like they did in the second half against Oregon, they’re going to be a real tough out.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): Creighton Getting Demolished. The simple fact that Baylor advanced over Creighton isn’t all that shocking. But the manner in which it happened was stunning. Creighton shoots five-of-24 from three against the Baylor zone? A sketchy Baylor defense hold the nation’s best offensive team below a point per possession? Doug McDermott’s college career ends with just a 15-point performance? Stunning.

Completely Expected (1st Weekend): Mostly Chalk. Three of the top four seeds advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, and the one upset based on seed-line probably isn’t that much of an upset at all, as Baylor crushed Creighton to earn its 12th win in the last 14 games.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Thursday Night

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 28th, 2013


Tonight we tip off the Sweet Sixteen with games from the East Region in Washington, DC, and the West Region in Los Angeles, CA. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#2 Miami vs. #3 Marquette — East Regional Semifinal (at Washington, D.C.) — 7:15 PM ET on CBS.

Let's Hope Buzz Keeps This in the Closet If He Makes the Elite Eight

Let’s Hope Buzz Keeps This in the Closet If He Makes the Elite Eight

Two coaches and teams that have significantly overachieved this season collide in tonight’s first regional semifinal game in our nation’s capital. Marquette has been the quintessential “survive and advance” team through its two games of this NCAA Tournament having gotten by Davidson and Butler in thrilling fashion. In this match-up, the Golden Eagles will have to overcome some notable disadvantages coming in to it. Even though Reggie Johnson will not play for Miami, he hasn’t been playing all that well of late so his loss isn’t a huge hit for the Hurricanes. Marquette is a team that thrives off of dribble penetration and offensive rebounding so Jim Larranaga’s game plan will no doubt focus on that. Buzz Williams doesn’t have the three point shooters needed to open up his offense, one that is highly dependent on Vander Blue and others creating and getting into the paint. If Miami defends the paint well, can keep Marquette off the free throw line for the most part and win the turnover battle (Marquette averages 14 per game and Miami is #18 in offensive turnover percentage) it should win the game. However, it’s not always so simple. In addition to the dynamic Blue, Jamil Wilson could be a very difficult match-up for Miami. Wilson is a bouncy 6’7 player who can create off the bounce and isn’t afraid of contact around the rim. He could be Marquette’s most important player in deciding the outcome of this one. The intangibles in this game strongly favor the Golden Eagles. It hasn’t just been in this tournament but Marquette has a ton of experience playing in and winning close games over the last few seasons. This team knows how to win and make plays in big moments down the stretch and that becomes such a valuable asset in the NCAA Tournament. We think Miami’s game against Illinois, where the Hurricanes were pushed a bit, was a good thing but it could be only a matter of time as the Hurricanes lack of tournament experience catches up to them. This may be the game as the pressure and scrutiny ramps up, especially against a team with so much experience in one or two possession games. Although this appears to be a good match-up for Miami on paper, there’s a reason why they play the games. The Golden Eagles may come away with another squeaker of a win.

The RTC Certified Pick: Marquette.

#2 Ohio State vs. #6 Arizona – West Regional Semifinal (at Los Angeles, CA) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

The Thad Matta/Sean Miller backstory gives this matchup plenty of pizzazz, but even without that part of the story, this is quite a battle. You can just run down this game matchup by matchup and find plenty of compelling storylines. At point guard, the Mark Lyons vs. Aaron Craft face-off alone makes this a must-watch game, with Craft one of the nation’s most disruptive perimeter defenders and Lyons one of the most dangerous offensive players off the bounce. While Lyons has the reputation of a guy who is a killer in the clutch, he’ll need to play within himself against Craft and make sure not to force too much against his pressure. Meanwhile, on the other side of the court, Lyons is no slouch on defense himself and Craft an improving, but still somewhat limited scorer. You could do worse that spending the entire 40 minutes of action just watching those two go at it. Elsewhere, the next biggest potential matchup is DeShaun Thomas and Solomon Hill. Thomas is the Buckeyes lone pure scoring threat and Hill will certainly be guarding him for much of the game. Thomas has got a pretty complete offensive game, with range from three, a solid pull-up game off the bounce, some post-up ability and the ability to get on the offensive glass. But, luckily for Arizona, Hill’s defensive versatility can match Thomas’ game, as he’s as comfortable guarding in the post as he is away from the hoop. On the other end of the court, Thomas’ defensive game has improved, but he’s still a long ways from a defensive stopper, although depending on the matchups on the court, he might not be the guy tasked with checking Hill. Arizona doesn’t necessarily need Hill to outscore Thomas in this matchup, but if he can take him out of his comfort zone, OSU will have to count on other less polished scorers to have big games. And there are other great matchups all across the court. Nick Johnson is Arizona’s best perimeter defender and he could take a crack at anyone from Craft to Lenzelle Smith to Shannon Scott, even to Thomas for a stretch if needed. In the paint, Arizona’s three freshman bigs have been playing well of late, but they’ve got big physical veteran Bucks ready to bang with them all day long. And then there are X-factors like Kevin Parrom and LaQuinton Ross. Parrom, a senior, has turned into an excellent third-scorer for the Wildcats, while Ross is starting to live up to the high expectations he earned back in high school. All over the rosters there are strength-on-strength battles, leading me to believe that when we come out of the final media timeout, we’ll be in a dead heat. In that situation, give me the team most capable of putting the ball in the net in a variety of ways. And in this case, that is the Wildcats, with Lyons, Hill, Parrom and even Johnson and Grant Jerrett all capable of filling it up.

The RTC Certified Pick: Arizona

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The RTC Podblasts: South and Midwest Regions

Posted by rtmsf on March 27th, 2013


Happy Sweet Sixteen, everyone. The RTC Podcast crew is back with several of our NCAA Tournament Region correspondents this week to break down what we saw over the weekend and what to expect in the coming one. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) is our host, with Kevin Doyle (@KLDoyle11) and Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) joining us to discuss the South and Midwest Regions, respectively. We’ll have our podblasts for the other two regions up a bit later today, so be sure to watch for those as well. Enjoy the Sweet Sixteen!

South Region

  • 0:00-6:47 – DUNK CITY!
  • 6:47-11:41 – FGCU Chances Against In-State “Rival” Florida
  • 11:41-16:18 – Kansas Under the Radar Struggles
  • 16:18-20:04 – Michigan Looking Good Again (With Kevin’s Florida Love Mixed In)
  • 20:04-25:11 – Previewing a Hypothetical Florida-Michigan Game
  • 25:11-33:35 – Minnesota-UCLA Battle of the Walking Dead Coaches


Midwest Region

  • 0:00-3:30 – Oregon’s Proving the Committee Wrong
  • 3:30-7:22 – Louisville Proving the Committee Right
  • 7:22-11:13 – Clash of the Coaching Titans in Duke-Michigan State
  • 11:13-13:53 – Final Four Picks
  • 13:53-17:20 – Favorite Game of the Region
  • 17:20-20:15 – Surprises of the Opening Weekend
  • 20:15-24:40 – Opening Weekend MVPs and More Oregon TAlke
  • 24:40-27:00 – Opening Weekend LVPs
  • 27:00-31:22 – Coaches That Deserve Ben Howland-Tubby Smith Treatment
  • 31:22- 34:50 – Hedge Your Bets Predictions
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ATB: Syracuse Survives, OSU Recovers, and Upset City in the West…

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. Half of our Elite Eight teams are set, with the East and West regions completing their semifinal matchups on Thursday night. The East Region in Boston finished as expected, with chalk advancing to the Elite Eight in the form of Syracuse and Ohio State for what should be a fantastic regional final on Saturday. But the story in Phoenix was much different, as the favored #1 and #3 seeds went down in games that were dominated by the lower seeds. Only one game on the night finished in single digits but there was plenty of exciting basketball that took place. And the one game that was a close one happened to be one of the Big Dance’s best. Let’s break it down… 

Your Watercooler Moment. Jordan Taylor’s Shot Falls Short, #1 Syracuse Survives.

Wisconsin is Devastated After Coming so Close Against Syracuse (Getty Images/J. Rogash)

Our first game of the night was a classic, one that featured two very different teams that both executed at an extremely high level offensively. Four-seed Wisconsin brought its patented ball-control, super-slow tempo game plan into Boston with hopes of knocking off top-seeded Syracuse with a methodical approach, good shooting, and strong collective defense. But no defense could stop what either team was bringing to the table in this one. The Badgers executed their plan offensively, hitting an amazing 14-27 from three-point range in a wonderful display of outside shooting that would usually be enough for a victory. But the Orange were just as strong on the other end, converting 55.1% of their field goals with easy baskets in the paint from a variety of one-on-one scorers. The two teams combined for just 12 turnovers and this game came down to the very last shot, one that fell short on a long three-point attempt from Jordan Taylor on a broken offensive play. Despite the fairly low 64-63 final score, the game featured crisp execution throughout its entirety. Syracuse was just one possession better, thanks to its easy offense earned through superior athleticism and playmaking in the half court. It’s on to the Elite Eight for the Orange!

Also Worth Chatting About. The First #1-Seed to Fall are Tom Izzo’s Spartans.

Everyone knows that March is Michigan State’s month. Tom Izzo has brought the Spartans to six Final Fours in his tenure, and he had never been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament before the final weekend when his team was a #1 seed. That came to an end on Thursday, when Michigan State was outplayed from the start by Rick Pitino’s #4 Louisville Cardinals. The Spartans racked up more turnovers (15) than made field goals (14) while shooting 28.6% from the field. Louisville was too athletic and strong defensively, essentially beating Michigan State at its own game. The Cardinals won the battle on the boards, in the turnover margin, and from behind the arc (they shot 9-23 compared to 5-21 for MSU). Gorgui Dieng racked up seven blocks and three steals to go along with nine rebounds in an elite defensive performance, and Peyton Siva ran the offense well with nine assists. Izzo’s March mystique could not get his players to put the ball in the basket, and our first #1 seed finally goes down.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Thursday

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 22nd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#1 Syracuse vs. #4 Wisconsin – East Region Semifinals (at Boston, MA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Bo Ryan Is Looking For His Second Trip to the Elite Eight at Wisconsin

Perhaps the most fascinating matchup to date in the entire NCAA Tournament will take place in tonight’s first game from Boston. Wisconsin, the most patient and deliberate team in the country, takes on a Syracuse team that has won 33 games due in large part to a lethal transition attack. While Syracuse ranks #202 in tempo, the Orange thrive on the fast break. You hear a lot about Jim Boeheim’s team struggling on the defensive glass and some of that is due to the fact that his guards already start out on the break when a shot goes up, taking them completely out of position to rebound. Without Fab Melo around to man the middle, Syracuse’s rebounding issues could be a major problem against the physical and deliberate Badgers. It’s always easier to slow a game down than to speed it up and that’s what Wisconsin is going to do. Syracuse will be forced to score in the half court against one of the strongest defenses in the entire nation. The big question will be whether Syracuse, already not one of the better half court teams, can get the ball inside and avoid settling for jump shots. At times this season the Orange have been frustrated and forced into shooting contested jumpers. Syracuse needs to utilize strong ball screening action in order to free up shooters. Wisconsin’s players will fight through screens and stick with you so using the pick-and-roll also wouldn’t be a bad idea. As for Wisconsin, the Badgers match up very well on the defensive end. The question for them will be whether they can score enough to win. Syracuse obviously has more offensive weapons but Bo Ryan has Jordan Taylor to take control of the game for his team. Taylor is the only player on Wisconsin capable of creating his own shot and that will be critical against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Wisconsin shoots a bunch of three-pointers and it will have to make quite a few in order to knock off the top-seeded Orange. Syracuse’s zone encourages opposing teams to shoot over it but Wisconsin can actually make them, a major difference from Kansas State last week. If Boeheim chooses to extend his zone out on Wisconsin’s shooters, that will free up the Melo-less middle for Jared Berggren to go to work off screen and rolls in addition to opening up driving lanes for Taylor. Expect Jim Boeheim to adjust how his defense attacks Wisconsin as the game goes along, something he certainly has experience with. This will be a clean game between two teams with great defenses and terrific ball protection. Should it come down to free throws, Wisconsin has the edge. Syracuse is the better team and has many more offensive threats but the Tournament is all about matchups. We think the Badgers will make just enough shots to pull off the upset.

The RTC Certified Pick: Wisconsin

#1 Michigan State vs. #4 Louisville – West Regional Semifinal (at Phoenix, AZ) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

One of the things we college basketball fans tend to really like about this time of year are the surprises. Not just the obvious ones like Butler running to the national title game or Villanova playing the perfect game against Georgetown, but more subtle ones like teams unveiling a new wrinkle to their offense or players making plays that you hadn’t known they were able to make. As for this game, however, don’t expect many surprises; we all more or less know how this is going to go down. We’ve seen Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino enough over the years to know what they want to do, and we’ve seen the 2012 vintages of both of these clubs to know what they are capable of. Michigan State is going to defend like crazy in the halfcourt, pound the glass on both ends of the court and try to knock Louisville around enough so that the Cards will be forced into submission late in the game. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are going to turn up the pressure defensively, try to force turnovers, rely on Gorgui Dieng to block shots in the middle and watch Peyton Siva get penetration and create offense off the bounce. It is likely going to be a low-scoring game that is still in doubt late into the second half and it will come down to which of these teams is capable of making the most plays down the stretch. While Siva’s numbers on the season are not great, he has been a different player since the Big East Tournament started, getting into the lane seemingly at will, creating opportunities for himself and for others and pitching in everywhere on the floor on his way to 13 points, 5.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game over the six-game stretch. He does a lot of damage in the pick-and-roll game, so not only will Spartan guard Keith Appling have to be on his game defensively, but whichever big man gets involved in the screen needs to do a good job of keeping Siva out of the lane. Draymond Green is clearly the big factor for Michigan State, and he too has been on fire of late, averaging 20 points, 12.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists and shooting it at a 64.3% eFG in the NCAA Tournament. Freshman Chane Benahan appears to be the most obvious individual matchup for Green, but it is going to have to be a full team effort for the Cards to slow the All-American down. Louisville will need to pressure the Spartan guards, keeping them from getting into their halfcourt offense easily and, perhaps more importantly, dedicate themselves to keeping Spartans like Green, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix off the offensive glass. However, given their relative lack of size (only Dieng is taller than 6’8”) and struggles with defensive rebounding, this could be the eventual downfall of the Cards. While they’ll certainly get their share of stops and turnovers, allowing Green and company second opportunities is a recipe for disaster.

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