ACC Weekend Review: 02.01.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 1st, 2016

It was not a weekend of tight games in the ACC, with all but one of the seven contests featuring a final margin in double figures. Saturday’s heavyweight matchup between Virginia and Louisville turned out to be completely one-sided, as the visiting Cavaliers dominated from the outset in the nationally-televised game. N.C. State pulled off the biggest upset of the weekend by taking out Miami behind a remarkable performance from its star point guard. North Carolina easily dispatched Boston College, as expected; Florida State avenged an earlier loss by beating Clemson in Tallahassee; and Syracuse edged Georgia Tech in the only close contest on Saturday. Sunday featured two home wins for teams that remain a part of the crowded upper half of the ACC standings – Notre Dame easily handled Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh took care of Virginia Tech. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Malcolm Brogdon led the way in Virginia's domination over Louisville. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Malcolm Brogdon led the way in Virginia’s domination over Louisville.
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

  • Best Win: Just a short week ago, we still weren’t sure what to make of Tony Bennett’s team. They were clearly in a rut, having lost all three league road games, and they were facing a week with two more away games. For 39 minutes in Winston-Salem on Tuesday it appeared as if those woes away from home would continue. But a miracle comeback gave Virginia its first ACC road win and appears to have sparked something more. The Cavaliers manhandled the ACC’s second place team, 63-47, in a masterful defensive performance that held Louisville’s two leading scorers (Damion Lee and Trey Lewis) without a point in the first half (the pair finished with 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting). The Cardinals never challenged, allowing Virginia to cruise to its most impressive ACC performance of the year. Seniors Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill led the charge with 13 points each. If this weekend’s performance is any indication, it may be a bit premature to count out the Cavaliers with respect to a third consecutive ACC regular season title.

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Who are the Hoos? The Ups and Downs of Virginia

Posted by Shane McNichol on January 15th, 2016

When the Virginia Cavaliers dropped two consecutive games on the road against the Techs of the ACC (in-state rival Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech), serious questions about how good Tony Bennett’s squad started to pop up. They opened last year on a tear and were among the nation’s best teams until Justin Anderson’s injury. Now, with Anderson permanently gone (to the NBA) the Cavaliers look suddenly vulnerable. Could losses to two of the ACC’s least sexy outfits signal more troubles to come?

Tony Bennett's Team Has Struggled On The Road This Season (AP)

Tony Bennett’s Team Has Struggled On The Road This Season (AP)

The Cavaliers silenced some of the doubters by beating a good Miami team on Tuesday. But while the nice win washed away some of the concern, the cracks in Virginia’s armor are still very noticeable. The most glaring difference between its losses last week and the Miami win this week is where the games were played. The Cavs topped Miami at home, while both losses came on the road. Virginia has only played four true road games to date and has struggled mightily in them, losing three of four.

Digging into the stats a bit reveals that on the road, Virginia has not been playing nearly as effectively as we’ve come to expect a Tony Bennett coached team to play.

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Virginia’s Offense Fueled By Most Underrated Backcourt in America

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 22nd, 2015

Since Tony Bennett turned around Virginia’s program during his third season in Charlottesville, the program’s staple has been a suffocating pack-line defense annually among the nation’s stingiest units. But times may be changing for the two-time defending ACC regular season champs, as the Cavaliers have been downright offensive this season. In fact, after Saturday’s impressive 86-75 victory over Big East power Villanova (which included a 53-point Cavalier second half), Virginia ranks not only first in KenPom’s overall ratings, but the Cavaliers are also first in adjusted offensive efficiency. It’s not like there’s been a huge dropoff on the defensive end — Virginia currently  ranks 14th in adjusted defensive efficiency — but the Cavaliers are now scoring at a rate of efficiency we haven’t seen in the Bennett era, making them even a greater threat to get over the Sweet Sixteen hump this season.

Anthony Gill has been dominant in the paint recently for Virginia. (Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports)

Anthony Gill has been dominant in the paint recently for Virginia. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

Virginia’s offensive improvement — 77.3 PPG compared with 68.8 PPG in the team’s first 10 games a year ago — can be attributed to a combination of tempo and efficiency. Always one of the nation’s slowest teams, the Cavaliers once again rank near the bottom of college basketball in pace (#348). Still, Virginia could act as the poster child for the NCAA’s new rules and enforcement strategy, as its adjusted tempo of 63.5 possessions per game would have ranked about 100 places higher a season ago. That difference in tempo is almost completely due to Bennett’s squad playing a little more quickly on the offensive end. Opponents still take a long time to find a good shot against the Cavaliers (19.2 seconds per possession compared with 19.5 last season), but on the other hand, Virginia has cut its length of offensive possession by over two seconds (from 21.1 to 18.9). The main reason that Virginia’s scoring is up, however, is its increase in efficiency (particularly with respect to its shooting). The shot selection table below shows that the Cavaliers are more accurate shooters this season from all areas of the floor. Additionally, the Cavaliers have lowered the percentage of two-point jumpers taken (easily the least efficient way to score) and are getting to the rim much more often. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: #10 Virginia 70, #14 West Virginia 54

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 8th, 2015

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. “Press Virginia”. Bob Huggins’ athletic group of Mountaineers imposed their style of play from the opening tip, forcing Virginia into 11 first half turnovers. The Cavaliers came into the game averaging only 7.3 turnovers per game, best in the country. It was amazing to watch West Virginia make Virginia look like an awful ball handling team. Even when the Cavs were able to get the ball over half court, the hectic pace still forced them into a number of mistakes. West Virginia certainly came prepared on both ends of the floor, but Virginia’s discipline and experience took control after halftime, as the Cavaliers finally looked like themselves. It’s the mark of a great team when it can look completely overmatched in the first half of the game but make the proper changes and go on to dominate the second frame. The halftime adjustments made by Virginia’s experienced backcourt is the main reason the Cavaliers prevailed.
  2. Virginia has a handful of great players but London Perrantes may be the most important. The junior guard was shut out in the first half tonight in his first game back after recovering from an appendectomy, but Perrantes was the Cavalier catalyst in the second half. College basketball is a guard’s game and Perrantes is one of the finest point men in all the land. He does an incredible job running the team on the floor and makes it look effortless — almost as if he never breaks a sweat while working hard. His strengths go beyond his poise, however. Perrantes is a sniper from beyond the arc, and it was his trey from the left wing with 4:38 to play that pretty much salted this game away. Perrantes totaled 13 second half points while assisting on three UVA buckets. Tony Bennett is happy to have him back.
  3. The pack-line stood tall in the end. After surrendering 24 points in the paint to West Virginia in the first half, Virginia constructed a fortress around the basket after halftime. The Mountaineers managed only 10 points in the paint after halftime (and just 18 total for the half) in a game that was quite clearly a tale of two halves. UVA did a good job containing Devin Williams offensively (18.7 PPG on the season, just 10 tonight) while also limiting him to just three rebounds. Virginia as a team controlled the glass (+5 in rebound margin) — an incredibly important task against any Bob Huggins team.
Anthony Gill's 15 Point, 8 Rebound First Half Kept Virginia Close (Photo: USAT Sports)

Anthony Gill’s 15 Point, 8 Rebound First Half Kept Virginia Close Early (Photo: USAT Sports)

Star of the Game: Anthony Gill, Virginia. Gill kept his team afloat during a difficult first half, scoring 15 points on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting. For the game, he totaled 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, his first double-double of the season. While Perrantes highlighted the second half, Gill was the one constant on the floor for the Cavaliers. His leadership and energy were crucial in Virginia’s efforts to keep the game close early on, giving the Cavs the chance to eventually turn it around and take control in the second half.

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Ten Takeaways From the Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Posted by Andy Gripshover on December 3rd, 2015

Another year down, another tally in the win column for the Big Ten in what is the top challenge series that college basketball has to offer. Per the norm, the teams that have traditionally dominated this series continued to do so, but there were some surprises along the way. Here are 10 key takeaways from this season’s event.

1. The Big Ten won again. Iowa’s thrilling 78-75 overtime victory over Florida State in Iowa City clinched back-to-back Challenge victories for the conference, with five of the last seven events going to the Big Ten. With the other two ties (2012 and 2013), it remains true that the ACC hasn’t won the challenge since George W. Bush was still President back in December 2008. That’s a really long time. It’s even longer when you consider that the ACC won every challenge during his presidency as well as the final two years of Bill Clinton.

Iowa guard Peter Jok, left, celebrates with teammates after an NCAA college basketball game against Florida State, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in Iowa City, Iowa. Jok scored 24 points as Iowa won 78-75 in overtime. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Peter Jok (left), who notched 24 points in Iowa’s 78-75 victory in overtime over Florida State, was one of the shining stars of the challenge. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

2. Duke won again. The Blue Devils are a staggering 15-2 lifetime in the challenge and are undefeated at Cameron Indoor Stadium (7-0) during that time. This is even more impressive when you consider that Duke almost always draws one of the Big Ten’s best teams. You have to go back to 2011 Michigan State (19-15) to find a Duke opponent that didn’t win at least 28 games that season, and before that, 2006 Indiana (19-12) is the other one that didn’t win at least 20. Granted, this year’s Indiana squad is looking like it will slot in nicely with those couple of outliers. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part I Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 19th, 2015

morning5_ACC

Note: To gauge relative team strength, we use current KenPom ratings.

  1. Puerto Rico Tip-Off: Miami (#23) tips off the ACC’s early season tournament action later today, taking on Ben Howland’s rebuilding Mississippi State (#133) squad in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (ESPN2 – 5:00). With an otherwise less than challenging non-conference schedule, Jim Larranaga’s team could pick up some quality wins here, with potential meetings against Utah (#20) in the second round and Butler (#31) in Sunday’s finals (ESPN2 – 7:30). This trip was arranged in no small part to give senior guard Angel Rodriquez a homecoming. A native of Cupey, Puerto Rico, the senior will be highly motivated to lead the Hurricanes to the tournament title on his home island.
  2. Charleston Classic: Tony Bennett will try to get Virginia (#4) back on track after Monday’s upset loss at George Washington. The 73 points that the Cavaliers gave up were the most they have allowed in regulation since an 87-52 blowout loss to Tennessee in December 2013. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of problems ahead for Bennett’s vaunted defense, which was whistled for 24 fouls against the Colonials. The competition at the Charleston Classic this weekend is not of the highest caliber, however, as the Cavs open with Bradley (#272) tonight (ESPN2 – 9:30) and could face a couple of the three non-top 50 major conference schools also in the event — Oklahoma State (#56), Mississippi (#64) and Seton Hall (#73). This tournament’s championship game will be played on Sunday night (ESPN2 – 9:30).
  3. Paradise Jam: If the first two games of the year for Florida State (#35) are any indication, Leonard Hamilton will have his highest scoring team in years. The Seminoles are averaging 103.5 points per game after registering two beatdowns over weak competition and freshman Dwayne Bacon has been a star, scoring 23 and 27 points in back-to-back games. Florida State is the co-favorite in the Paradise Jam along with a Tulsa (#41) squad which upset Wichita State earlier this week. If the two favorites meet in the finals, it will be on Monday night (Nov. 23 – CBSSN – 10:00). The Seminoles will face Hofstra (#95) in Friday’s opening day of play (CBSSN – 4:30) and could meet up with an interesting South Carolina (#47) team in the next round.
  4. 2K Sports Classic: Another team looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss earlier this week is Duke, which travels to Madison Square Garden for the 2K Sports Classic this weekend. Mike Krzyzewski’s perimeter corps had a difficult time finding good looks against the quicker Kentucky backcourt in Tuesday’s loss at the Champions Classic, and the Blue Devils’ transition defense was carved up to the tune of 14-point deficit in fast break points. Individually, sophomore Grayson Allen will look to bounce back after a miserable 2-of-11 shooting performance and just six points against Kentucky. The opponents in New York will not be of Kentucky’s ilk, but they will still be a challenge for this young Duke squad. Friday’s (ESPN2 – 7:30) opponent will be VCU (#51) and Sunday will bring either Georgetown (#44) or last year’s NCAA title game opponent, Wisconsin (#24).
  5. Brooklyn Hoops Holiday InvitationalLouisville (#22) has already begun play in this event, which is not a traditional tournament in any form. Every game has predetermined matchups and Louisville gets to host the first three games, including Tuesday’s 87-52 win over Hartford (#312). Also visiting the KFC Yum! Center as an exempted game will be North Florida (#100) on Saturday (November 21) and St. Francis (NY) (#239) next Tuesday (November 24). In the Cardinals’ only game of the event away from home, they will meet St. Louis (#152) in Brooklyn on Saturday, November 28. Collectively, these games will not be much of a boost to an already weak non-conference schedule that Rick Pitino has lined up for his inexperienced squad this season.
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George Washington’s Huge Win Poised to Catapult Program Forward

Posted by Chris Stone on November 17th, 2015

It started before the ball had even been tipped last night at the Smith Center in Washington, DC. George Washington students rang out in chants proclaiming their opponent, Virginia, as “overrated.” It’s always weird when fans look to minimize an opponent rather than build them up to make their team look as strong as possible in victory, but that’s a discussion for another time. And certainly the Colonials’ coaches and players didn’t see it that way.

George Washington court storm

George Washington Students RTC After Their Team’s 73-68 Win over Virginia Monday night.

During the postgame press conference, senior Patricio Garino made it clear that, even though he believes that his team is on the level of a national power like Virginia, he has all of the respect in the world for the Cavaliers. The Colonials certainly looked it in their huge 73-68 victory, a win that already puts Mike Lonergan‘s squad in great position to earn an NCAA Tournament berth next March. Garino, a lanky 6’6″ forward who was successful in playing the four against the Cavaliers’ larger defenders, scored 18 points on the night. Junior Tyler Cavanaugh , also with 18 points, got the chance to prove he could play with the ACC’s elite after transferring out of the conference (Wake Forest) in July 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

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2015 ACC Basketball Power Rankings

Posted by Matt Patton on November 16th, 2015

Over the last two weeks, we previewed each of the 15 ACC teams individually to get you ready for the season. Links to those previews can be found within each of the preseason power rankings listed below, which were voted on by our crack microsite staff of three. Also look for our preseason conference awards, which will publish a bit later today.

PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

Virginia Cavaliers 1. Virginia (304): Can the Cavaliers win the ACC regular season for a third straight year? With a veteran cast led by Malcolm BrogdonAnthony Gill and maybe the nation’s stingiest defense, Tony Bennett probably has the squad to do it. This season, Virginia should take the next step and make a deep run in March.
North Carolina Tar Heels 2. North Carolina (290): Marcus Paige‘s injury could prove to be a setback, but Justin Jackson is poised to become one of the top players in the country. The team returns nearly all its production from last season, and assuming Joel Berry makes the leap we all expect, this group of Tar Heels should absolutely be one of the national favorites come March.
Duke Blue Devils 3. Duke (213): It’s not fair to expect this highly-touted class of Blue Devils’ freshmen to live up to the exploits of last year’s superstar class. Expect this team to take a while to find its stride, with a lot of ups and downs along the way. But if the youngsters grow up in time, Mike Krzyzewski should find himself with another tough out come March.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4. Notre Dame (202): The Irish will lean heavily on the production of three returning starters and a successful offensive philosophy that led to the second best efficiency in the country last season. It will need to make up for the loss of departed leaders Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, but Demetrius Jackson looks like one of the best point guards in the country.
Miami Hurricanes 5. Miami (157): The last time Jim Larranaga had a squad this experienced was in 2013, when Miami won both the ACC regular season and tourney titles. The conference appears to be much stronger at the top than it was three years ago, but this veteran group of Hurricanes could still be a sleeper contender, led by three all-ACC caliber seniors.
Syracuse Orange 6. Syracuse (132): Dajuan Coleman holds the keys to Syracuse’s success this season even if senior Michael Gbinije looks to be the team’s star. After a lackluster finish a year ago, this team could become one of the best in the conference if the pieces fit together well. If the NCAA’s nine-conference game suspension stands for Jim Boeheim, though, it could be tough for the Orange to find their stride.
Florida State Seminoles 7. Florida State (105): The Seminoles are a trendy darkhorse candidate this year thanks to superstar freshman Dwayne Bacon joining Xavier Rathan-Mayes in Tallahassee. Leonard Hamilton will have to find a defensive stopper in the frontcourt, however, if this team wants to crack the top of the league.
LouisvilleLogo 8. Louisville (104): With considerable turmoil surrounding the program off the court, the Cardinals will rely on two graduate transfers and a Hall of Fame coach to navigate the loss of its top four scorers. Never count out Rick Pitino, but he’s facing an uphill climb to succeed in the ACC this season.
NC State Wolfpack 9. NC State (81): This team has a lot of good pieces, but how will Cat Barber handle being the alpha dog without big shot Trevor Lacey around? A trim Beejay Anya should terrify ACC players hoping to score in the paint. This team oozes potential, but will need time for everyone to adjust to life without Lacey and Ralston Turner.
Pittsburgh Panthers 10. Pittsburgh (62): Last year’s Panthers were the worst defensive team and among the weakest rebounding units in Jamie Dixon’s long career. As a result, mproving those two areas has been a major topic of discussion for Pittsburgh’s head coach this preseason. Dixon hopes that a pair of graduate transfers are good enough to toughen up the front line, where last year’s problems originated.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 11. Wake Forest (29): Look for Danny Manning‘s winning ways to creep into Winston-Salem this year, although a move up the standings will be tough because the ACC is much stronger top-to-bottom than in previous years. Devin Thomas needs to have a first team All-ACC caliber season for the Demon Deacons to approach the top half of the league.
Clemson Tigers 12. Clemson (16): Once again, we expect the Tigers to defend like crazy while struggling to score – just as they have throughout Brad Brownell’s tenure. Can Brownell survive another year of not making the Big Dance? It won’t help that Clemson has to play all of its home games in Greenville this season, 30 miles from campus, while Littlejohn Coliseum gets a needed facelift.
Virginia Tech Hokies 13. Virginia Tech (15): It’s only taken Buzz Williams two years to almost completely turn over this roster, with junior Devin Wilson currently the only scholarship holdover from the past regime. The Hokies’ talent level is improved, but his youngters are probably another year or two away from getting close to the upper half of the league.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 14. Georgia Tech (12): It’s another year on the hot seat for Brian Gregory, who has yet to post a winning ACC record in his four previous campaigns in Atlanta. Pathetic outside shooting has been a constant problem during the Gregory era, and the Yellow Jackets desperately need senior transfer Adam Smith to help turn that around to give a decent frontcourt room to operate.
Boston College 15. Boston College (3): This team is one of the younger teams in the country, but Jim Christian brought in Florida transfer Eli Carter to beef up the team’s experience. If one of the freshmen turns out to be a diamond in the rough, this team might find a way to escape the ACC cellar.
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30-Second Shot Clock Most Likely to Impact Wisconsin & Virginia

Posted by William Ezekowitz on November 13th, 2015

As the 2015-16 college basketball season tips off this afternoon and evening, fans will notice that the shot clock in arenas all across the country has been shortened from 35 to 30 seconds. The change, which was first implemented in NIT, CBI and CIT last year, has been ostensibly made to increase scoring and excitement across the sport. However, the shorter clock will also effectively change the way teams play the game. Success has often been found in extremes in tempo in college basketball (see: the run-and-gun offense of BYU, or the patient efficiency of Wisconsin), and a shorter shot clock will absolutely have an impact on traditional powerhouses’ styles of play and efficacy.

Bo Ryan's crew was the most efficient offense in the country last season. With five less seconds to work with now, will Ryan have to slightly tweak what he preaches? (Getty)

Bo Ryan’s crew was the most efficient offense ever recorded last season. With five less seconds to work with now, will Ryan have to slightly tweak what he preaches? (Getty)

First, let’s look at the data from last season’s NIT, CBI and CIT. Ken Pomeroy ran the numbers on these games and concluded that games with the shorter shot clock averaged about 2.4 more points than in the regular season (with the normal clock). This rise in scoring is because teams added about two more possessions per game using the shorter clock. Working backwards, this means that possessions lasted a little under 18 seconds, as opposed to the norm of 18.4 from last season. Even though this data set is a bit limited in that it is very small (only 75 games) and that it leaves out both very good teams and very bad teams, the general trends exhibited there will probably hold true for the upcoming regular season.
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ACC Preview: Virginia’s Burning Question

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 11th, 2015

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage.

Can Virginia win a third straight ACC Regular Season title?

After back-to-back ACC regular season titles, Virginia enters the 2015-16 season as a consensus top-10 team nationally. More importantly, Tony Bennett’s program has established itself as one that looks like it can sustain serious success going forward for years to come. Using a proven system of tight half court defense and a balanced efficient offense that doesn’t depend much on individual explosiveness, Bennett is now in a position that any coach would envy. Each year Virginia seems to lose a couple of key guys that are replaced with experienced, tough players. Just like that, the Cavaliers’ machine rolls on. This year’s big loss is Justin Anderson, who left a year of eligibility on the table to leave early for the NBA. Anderson’s mid-season broken hand and subsequent appendectomy may have cost Virginia a chance at greatness last season, but at least it gave other Cavaliers more preparation for this year. Before looking ahead, let’s appreciate what Tony Bennett and company have accomplished over the past two seasons. 2Year VaThis two-year run by Virginia ranks as the ninth best (by winning percentage) in ACC regular season history (a 62 year span). In addition to that impressive conference performance, the Cavaliers have now posted back-to-back 30-win seasons, a feat which has been accomplished only seven other times in the ACC. In fact, Virginia is the only school on that list other than perennial league powers Duke (5 times) and North Carolina (2). The core reason for that success has undoubtedly been the Cavaliers’ stingy pack line defense, a philosophy that produced some amazing defensive performances last year. Here are some examples of such efforts, and note that these contests span a period of four months — Virginia’s defense was outstanding throughout the entire season: Read the rest of this entry »

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Reviewing Several ACC Offseason Storylines

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 19th, 2015

With the start of the college basketball season now fewer than four weeks away, it’s time to ramp up our preseason coverage here on the ACC microsite. Over the next few weeks we will preview the fortunes of all 15 ACC schools by asking and answering One Burning Question for each, projecting how each squad will fosters its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses this season. We will also be attending and reporting from ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte on October 28, which should provide a great number of interesting bits of information. But first, let’s tip off the relaunch of the microsite by getting caught up on several of the important offseason storylines that have emerged since Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis last April.

Louisville Under Investigation

Rick Pitino clashes with in-state rival Kentucky and its coach, John Calipari yet again (AP).

Rick Pitino’s Louisville program is facing serious allegations (AP).

The latest offseason story is easily the biggest as well. In early October we learned about the upcoming release of a book called Breaking Cardinal Rules by someone named Katina Powell that contained serious allegations about the way Louisville has been entertaining its basketball recruits over the last several years (i.e., using paid escorts to dance and provide sex at on-campus parties on recruiting visits). Both the NCAA and the university have since launched investigations into the matter to determine all the facts. As of now, there’s a lot of hearsay in lieu of hard evidence, but it’s a bad look for Rick Pitino‘s program no matter how this all unfolds. As for the Cardinals’ head coach, he claims to have had no knowledge or any involvement in these allegations and can only speculate as to why it may have occurred under his watch. Ultimately, if the school’s internal investigation confirms any violations, it would probably be in its best interest to go the same route that Syracuse did a season ago. The Orange — some would argue while conveniently mired in a down season that wasn’t going anywhere in March — voluntarily chose to ban themselves from postseason play. Many expect Pitino’s upcoming Louisville team to find itself in a similar situation, struggling to put together a squad that is NCAA Tournament caliber.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Michigan State 60, #2 Virginia 54

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 22nd, 2015

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

Three Key Takeaways.

Tom Izzo and Michigan State beat a higher seeded Virginia for the second straight year. (rushthecourt)

Tom Izzo and Michigan State beat a higher seeded Virginia for the second straight year.

  1. Michigan State’s defense is toxic for Virginia shooters. For the second year in a row, the Cavaliers struggled to put the ball in the hoop against the Spartans in NCAA play. In last year’s East Regional semifinal, Virginia shot 35 percent from the field and things were even worse in this one, as the Cavaliers went 17-for-57 (29.8%) from the floor. Malcolm Brogdon, in particular, has not liked seeing the green Spartan jerseys. Last year he suffered through a 4-for-14 shooting night and this time he only managed nine points, going 3-of-12 from the floor. As expected, the Cavaliers’ defense and rebounding kept them in the game, but in the end, Virginia’s offense just wasn’t up to par for the second year in a row.
  2. Michigan State is one tough #7 Seed.  As soon as the brackets came out last Sunday night, almost everyone agreed that the Spartans were underseeded. That certainly appears to be a correct assessment and Virginia paid the price for it. Perhaps if the Big Ten Tournament title game was played earlier in the day last Sunday, the Selection Committee would have had time to more properly seed Michigan State. In any event, that day’s tough overtime loss to Wisconsin, combined with this win, show that the Spartans are capable of getting Tom Izzo back to the Final Four again. And it doesn’t hurt that the East Region’s top seed, Villanova is already home too.
  3. Branden Dawson did it again. Last year, Dawson torched the Cavaliers with 24 points and 10 rebounds, and he proved to a tough match-up again – on both ends of the floor. Today, the senior forward punished Virginia in the paint, finishing the game with 15 points, nine boards, and four blocks. Just like we thought, it was a man’s game inside, and Dawson was the baddest dude of them all. His first leap is so quick and explosive, which enabled him to outreach everyone for many fifty-fifty balls.

Star of the Game. Travis Trice, Michigan State. The senior guard got the Spartans off to a blazing start with an amazing offensive display. In the first five and a half minutes of the game, Trice had 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting including three 3-pointers, as Michigan State grabbed an early 11 point lead. He finished with 23 points and his dagger three with just under three minutes to go giving the Spartans enough breathing room to close the game out.

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