National Championship Game Analysis

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 8th, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC Contributor and filed this preview of tonight’s game for all the marbles. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

The National Championship Game: #1 Louisville (34-5) vs. #4 Michigan (31-7) – 9:23 PM ET on CBS. Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr will have the call live from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.

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After five months and 5,744 regular season, conference tournament and NCAA tournament games, the college basketball season comes down to one game on one night in Atlanta. Top overall seed Louisville enters the game as the favorite but by no means will this be a walk in the park. The Cardinals are in search of their third national championship this evening and their first since 1986. On the other side, Michigan is looking for its second national title, having won it all once before in 1989. It is somewhat hard to believe given the strength of the two leagues over the years but this is the first national championship game between Big East and Big Ten schools since the aforementioned Wolverines held off Seton Hall in overtime to win it all at the Kingdome in Seattle 24 years ago.

Louisville has now won 15 straight games after surviving a major scare from Wichita State on Saturday night. In fact, the Cardinals have won 18 of their past 19 games since a three game losing streak in January and the one loss was in five overtimes to Notre Dame. This game features the nation’s best defense (Louisville) and the most efficient offensive team in the land (Michigan) going head to head in what should be a terrific basketball game. For the Cardinals to win, they must attack the rim and use their defense to fuel their offense. Rick Pitino’s team is no slouch offensively (#5 in efficiency), but its offense is largely predicated off its ability to create live ball turnovers and score in transition. Louisville is lethal in transition but not great in the half court unless it attacks the basket, either with its guards off the bounce or great athletes like Montrezl Harrell and Chane Behanan working the baseline and the low block. In Saturday’s national semifinal, Wichita State forced Louisville into way too many jump shots for Pitino’s liking and it almost cost the Cardinals dearly. The Shockers were rattled by a series of turnovers late in the second half and lost the game because of it. Louisville’s ball pressure is the best in the country and it starts with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Both play the passing lanes so well but Smith in particular is among the nation’s best defenders. After it scores, Louisville’s full court pressure takes full effect. The big question in this game will be whether the Cardinals (#2 in forcing turnovers) can turn over the Wolverines (#1 in ball protection) enough to fuel their offense. When Michigan played VCU in the round of 32, the Wolverines obliterated Shaka Smart’s “havoc.” There is, however, one major difference between VCU and Louisville. The Rams are not a great defensive team in the half court while Louisville plays the best half court defense of any team in America. Siva has to slow down Trey Burke, who picked up just about every imaginable award this week. Michigan showed just how good of a team it is by winning its semifinal game against Syracuse without its star sophomore point guard being a major factor. While it’s fair to say Michigan has never seen a defense like this all season long, Louisville hasn’t seen an offense with as many weapons as this one. When Michigan has the ball, the battle between the best offense and the best defense could be one of epic proportions.

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Three Reasons Why Michigan Can Beat Louisville

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on April 7th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

Monday night’s National Championship game features several intriguing match-ups. The nation’s best offense (Michigan) against the best defense (Louisville). A four-year veteran point guard (Peyton Siva) against arguably the best point guard this season (Trey Burke). We could continue with the list of match-ups but the game will not be determined by their strengths, but rather, which team best exploits the other’s weaknesses during the game’s 40 minutes. The following are three key reasons why the Wolverines should have an edge over the Cardinals on Monday night.

The hottest player of the Tournament could give Louisville's frountcourt trouble in the Title game.

The hottest player of the NCAA Tournament could give Louisville’s frontcourt trouble in the title game.

  1. Michigan’s forwards may be too quick for the Louisville frontcourt. The Shockers were a 10-point underdog against Louisville but it was clear after the first eight minutes that the game would go down to the wire because the the Cardinals’ frontcourt - Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear – were having trouble keeping up with quick forards like Cleanthony Early and Mike Hall. Early and Hall dominated the game with 37 points by consistently attacking the basket and running circles around the Cardinal bigs. In case you haven’t heard, Mitch McGary may be the hottest player of the NCAA Tournament and he has great quickness to finish around the basket, which could be a huge Michigan advantage in the title game. Combine McGary’s hot play with Glenn Robinson’s shooting range and both could get Dieng into foul trouble early. On the flip side, it is possible that McGary could pick up quick fouls of his own but it is unlikely because Dieng and Behanan haven’t been very assertive on the offensive end this tournament. Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.05.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 5th, 2013

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The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Michigan

  • Michigan point guard Trey Burke‘s postseason award tour continued Friday when he was named as the winner of the Wooden Award.
  • Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. writes on his shoes before every game to honor friends and family who have passed away.
  • Michigan sharpshooter Nik Stauskas entered Sunday’s Elite Eight game against Florida in a tough shooting slump – he was just 2-of-16 from deep in his last four games – but the freshman found his stroke in the team’s victory over the Gators, finishing 6-of-6 from deep. With Stauskas in a groove from the three-point line, Michigan’s offense has yet another dimension entering Saturday’s game against Syracuse.
  • Throughout his 35-year coaching career, Michigan coach John Beilein has been quite meticulous in his game preparation and that has not changed this season, as the veteran coach is still a stickler for all the details.
  • Michigan senior captain Josh Bartelstein has not made much of an impact for the Wolverines on the court, but his leadership off the court has been quite significant for the youthful squad.

Syracuse

Louisville
  • Louisville coach Rick Pitino is expected to be selected for enshrinement into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The official announcement will come Monday at 11 A.M.
  • Is there a bit of the Big East in the way Wichita State plays defense? Louisville coach Rick Pitino thinks so. He described the Shockers defense, as “Marquette on steroids.”
  • Louisville sophomore forward Wayne Blackshear was named the recipient of the Elite 89 Award for the 2013 Final Four. The Elite 89 Award is presented to the player with the highest-cumulative grade point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s championships.
  • Former Louisville assistant coach Ralph Willard will be collecting a dinner from Cardinals coach Rick Pitino in the future, as Pitino once wagered a meal with Willard that dynamic guard Russ Smith will never be a prime time player for Louisville.
  • Louisville swingman Luke Hancock transferred to the program from George Mason after Jim Larranaga was hired by Miami in 2011. Hancock’s college career was almost entirely different, as Larranaga almost passed on offering a scholarship to him.

Wichita State

  • In the current culture of conference realignment in collegiate athletics, Wichita State has remained the rock of the Missouri Valley Conference.
  • Before arriving in Wichita, Shockers coach Gregg Marshall had a very successful tenure as the head coach at Winthrop. Marshall’s success at Winthrop led to him getting the Wichita State job and the rest has been history.
  • Rob Dauster of NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk writes that Wichita State will benefit from the absence of Louisville guard Kevin Ware. With Ware sidelined, Louisville will have to turn to seldom-used walk-on Tim Henderson to play a much bigger role in Saturday’s game.
  • Wichita State forward Carl Hall has overcome a heart problem, known as neurocardiogenic syncope, to become a standout on the Shockers’ run to the Final Four.
  • Wichita State guard Ron Baker is from the small town of Scott City, Kansas. While Baker is still a small-town kid, his impact on the Shockers during their tournament run has been quite large.
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Final Four

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 5th, 2013

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Two games to get to Monday night… here are our breakdowns.

#1 Louisville vs. #9 Wichita State – National Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 6:09 PM ET on CBS

Pitino is Inching Closer to His Second Title (AP)

Pitino is Inching Closer to His Second Title (AP)

Let’s get this out of the way right off the top – Louisville is the heavy favorite. Vegas calls them a 10-point favorite and KenPom.com agrees. They’re on a 14-game winning streak and have won those games by an average of 18 points. In a season where for the most part there has been no clear-cut favorite all year long, we certainly have a clear-cut favorite now. If some team other than the Cardinals are cutting down the nets on Monday night, it will be a surprise. So, with that said, let’s ask how Wichita State can keep this game close? First, it begins with playing the type of defense it has played in the tournament so far (0.94 PPP allowed in their four games). In particular, the Shockers have caused trouble for some big-time guards, limiting Tray Woodall of Pitt to what he called his worst game ever, harassing Kevin Pangos into 6-of-17 shooting, holding La Salle’s perimeter players to a combined 14-of-47 shooting, and making Aaron Craft a non-factor offensively. If guys like Malcolm Armstead, Tekele Cotton, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker can turn in a similar performance and limit potentially erratic guards like Russ Smith and Peyton Siva (who, for instance, in Louisville’s last loss, combined to shoot just 5-of-25 from the field in a five-overtime loss) to poor shooting nights, that is step one for the Shockers.

Step two is having the Shocker “big” guys, Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall (both just 6’8”), stay out of foul trouble and stay effective against the likes of Gorgui Dieng inside. Hall and Early have both been foul prone this season, but on a team without a ton of skilled depth up front, Gregg Marshall will need the services of those two for the bulk of the game. But not only are the Cardinals a potent offensive team, they are the nation’s best defensive team – by a long shot. In the KenPom era (dating back to 2003), they’re the only team with an adjusted defensive rating below 82.0, essentially equivalent to allowing less than 0.82 points per possession. And while Wichita has had good success offensively in this tournament (1.09 PPP), they are about to face a whole different animal. The good news is, they just got done withstanding the pressure defense of Craft, one of the nation’s best perimeter defenders. The bad news is, Smith is even better. And he’s paired with Siva who is also one of the nation’s best on-ball defenders. And should Wichita escape the perimeter pressure and get the ball inside, either on the bounce or on the pass, there’s Dieng waiting for them as a potent shot-blocker. For Wichita to have success against that defense, they’ll need to have guards like Baker, Armstead and VanVleet to connect from deep, and they’ll need Early to be able to bring his man out of the middle and knock down some perimeter shots as well, essentially softening up the Cardinal interior for exploitation later in the game.

One bit of good news for the Shockers, with Dieng attempting to block almost every shot in the paint, the Cards don’t do a great job cleaning the defensive glass, while the Shockers are among the best in the nation at getting on the offensive boards; that trend will also have to continue for the Shockers to have a chance. So, those are a whole lot of ifs and buts. And we haven’t even mentioned potent Louisville weapons like Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear. The fact is, it is going to take a major confluence of events for the Shockers to stick around in this game. They’ve shown that they not only get great coaching, but they take that coaching well. And, as always, they’re going to play angry, so if you look up at the final media timeout and see the Shockers in the ball game, don’t be, well, shocked. But more likely the talent advantage that the Cardinals have slowly but surely wears Wichita down and Rick Pitino advances to his third national championship game.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

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Four Stat Lines That Will Determine Michigan’s Chances of Advancing Past Syracuse

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on April 5th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

As we approach a very intriguing Final Four match-up between Michigan and Syracuse, the game has been analyzed through many angles using statistics like points per possession, effective field goal percentage or turnovers per game. The result of this game will basically be determined by one question: Can the Wolverines break the Orange’s 2-3 zone defense? The following are four key stat lines that could determine Michigan’s rhythm on the offensive end against the mighty zone and if it can get past Syracuse to play either Louisville or Wichita State in the National Championship game on Monday night.

It is a bad sign for the Michigan offense when Trey Burke shoots more than 20 times in a game. (annarbor.com)

It is a bad sign for the Michigan offense when Trey Burke shoots more than 20 times in a game. (annarbor.com)

  • Trey Burke’s total number of shot attempts: 17.5. Burke was not rewarded the AP Player of the Year because he takes 20 shots per game and averages over 20 PPG, but rather because he makes plays by controlling the tempo and involving his teammates. When he shoots over 20 times per game, the Wolverines suffer because most of those shots come from beyond the arc which indicates that he wasn’t able to get into the paint to involve his teammates for easy looks. It could be a bad sign if Burke takes more than 17 shots on Saturday because reversing the ball to force the zone to move and getting past the initial layer of defense will be key to a Michigan victory. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 04.05.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on April 5th, 2013

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  1. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon and point guard Tray Woodall made some sympathetic comments about the Panthers’ former assistant, Mike Rice. Dixon was careful not to defend Rice’s actions but became visibly emotional as he called the disgraced coach “a good friend” and “a good person.” Woodall, who said Rice was the reason he came to Pitt in the first place, defended his former coach unequivocally. “They are going at my man Mike Rice too hard,” Woodall tweeted, contending he was “not the only coach to put his hands on a player, or talk the way he did.” If Woodall’s comment was in earnest and there are other college basketball coaches behaving like Rice, we can only hope they’re exposed and swiftly purged from the coaching ranks.
  2. Saturday’s Syracuse-Michigan game represents an elite point guard match-up between Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke: It’s only the second meeting of two players with season averages of 12 points and six assists per game to take place in the Final Four since officials began tracking dimes in 1983. The first such meeting? UNC’s Raymond Felton versus Illinois’ Deron Williams in the 2005 National Championship game. ESPN’s stat divination personnel tells us (predictably) that Burke holds an advantage on offense –– particularly in running the pick-and-roll –– while MCW is more productive on defense. Surprisingly, advanced stats reveal that Burke is a very competent on-ball defender, holding opposing players to 36% shooting and 0.75 points per play, while his Syracuse counterpart yields 32% and 0.79 points in on-ball situations. MCW’s overall defensive efficiency of 0.87 points per possession is second only to Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart among power conference point guards.
  3. C.L. Brown points that out Russ Smith is putting together a potentially historic individual NCAA Tournament effort. His 13 steals already place him at the top of that category in his program’s history, and he’s gaining ground in a number of record book stats both at Louisville and nationally. Through four games, Smith has averaged 26 points per game, shot 54% from the field, and hit 80% of his 40 free throw attempts. Extrapolating through two more games, Smith is on pace to finish ninth all-time in NCAA Tournament history in total points (156); second in steals (19); and, fourth in free throws made (48).
  4. Jim Boeheim says Rick Pitino should have been inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame last year. The Hall will announce its 2013 inductees on Monday, and Boeheim told the press assembled in Atlanta Thursday that “[Pitino’s] got better credentials than probably 80 percent of the coaches in there.” Pitino bestowed his own sound bite upon the media when he jokingly predicted that his mentor’s thriftiness would ensure he’s coaching for quite a while longer. “He’s just a cheap guy… and he’s going to coach until he’s 90 and hoard away every penny he’s ever made.” On the topic of his own retirement, Boeheim said he’s stopped making predictions: “People really used to get excited when I said [I would retire soon] because [if] we didn’t go to the Final Four that year, they didn’t want me back. But now the majority still probably wants me back next year — right now. After Saturday, who knows?”
  5. Rob Dauster points out that Boeheim had a hand in developing the careers of both Pitino and Michigan’s John Beilein. The Boeheim-Pitino connection is well documented, but the Louisville coach yesterday noted in a more obscure anecdote that Boeheim brought him to central New York as an assistant coach in part because he wanted a man-to-man defensive mind on staff. Ironically, it was Pitino who got the most out of the experience, learning the aggressive 2-3 zone that would become a trademark of his best Louisville teams some 30 years later. Beilein also revealed that Boeheim had been a huge advocate of his while the Wolverines coach was slowly moving up the coaching ranks. “He assisted me a great deal in actually getting my first Division I job,” Beilein noted, referencing an influential call the Syracuse coach put in to Canisius in 1992 on his behalf after Beilein had been passed over by several opportunities to graduate from Division II coaching.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.04.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 4th, 2013

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The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Michigan

  • A report broke Thursday morning that Wolverines guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. will declare for the NBA Draft when their season comes to an end.
  • A great profile by Rod Beard of the Detroit News on the decisive leadership of Trey Burke. Burke’s leadership on and off the court has helped lead Michigan to its first Final Four in 20 years.
  • Michigan forward Mitch McGary has lost 20 pounds since the beginning of the season and the now lighter freshman has been a key component of the team that is set to make its first Final Four appearance since 1993.
  • On Thursday, Michigan coach John Beilein refused to discuss the report that his guards Burke and Hardaway Jr. will declare for the NBA Draft.
  • Michigan freshman reserve point guard Spike Albrecht was headed to Appalachian State before the Wolverines gambled and gave him a late scholarship offer. That gamble has paid off majorly for the Wolverines, as Albrecht has developed into a very capable back-up to star guard Trey Burke.

Syracuse

  • Bud Polquin of Syracuse.com writes that it is coach Jim Boeheim‘s fourth Final Four appearance and it is probably not his last.
  • A lot has been made about rumors that this could possibly be Jim Boeheim‘s final season at Syracuse, but the veteran coach made known that “he fully intends to coach Syracuse in the ACC.” 
  • The path Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams has taken in his Orange career to the Final Four is quite similar to the path former Syracuse point guard Lazarus Sims took to the 1996 Final Four.
  • Syracuse has decided that its motto for the week is to become legendary.
  • It is possible that Syracuse forward C.J. Fair will declare for the NBA Draft following the end of the season, but the junior is just focused on playing in the Final Four right now. Read the rest of this entry »
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2012-13 Rush the Court National Awards

Posted by KDoyle on April 4th, 2013

As we move into Final Four weekend, it’s time for us to reveal our National Player, Freshman and Coach of the Year Awards. As mentioned in yesterday’s RTC All-America teams, we tend to believe that the postseason is an integral part of a player and team’s overall season, so unlike the other awards, we include everything up to this point. This season, our NPOY and FrOY awards were near-unanimous choices, but our COY selection had some dissent. Here are the choices:

National Player of the Year

Trey Burke is the RTC NPOY (AP Photo)

Trey Burke is the RTC NPOY (AP Photo)

Trey Burke, SO, Michigan (18.8 PPG, 6.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.1 A/TO). After a promising freshman campaign when he averaged 14.8 PPG and 4.6 APG and was unanimously named to the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team and voted by the media as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, expectations were high for Trey Burke and Michigan heading into the 2012-13 season. Compound a strong nucleus of returning players with a talented incoming freshman class, and the Wolverines were picked by many as a preseason Top 10 team. For Burke individually, there certainly was unfinished business to take care of as he struggled in Michigan’s opening round NCAA Tournament loss to Ohio as a #4 seed shooting just 5-of-15 from the field and hitting only two long-range attempts. As Burke goes, so does Michigan, and the Maize and Blue have produced a 30-7 season and advanced all the way to the Final Four this year thanks in large part to his masterful play. He has scored in double figures in every game this season except Michigan’s opening game against South Dakota State in the NCAA Tournament, and his offensive rating and assist rate both rank among the nation’s top 50 players. Burke will be most remembered this year for his clutch play in the waning minutes against Kansas in the South Region semifinals, though. Michigan trailed 74-69 with just over a minute remaining in regulation, and Burke scored 13 of the Wolverines’ next 18 points to lead the team to the Elite Eight, and ultimately, to its first Final Four in 20 years. Not only does Burke have all the tools to excel at point guard, but he also has the “it” factor. No player has arguably meant more to his team than he this season, and he is an appropriate choice for the 2012-13 RTC National Player of the Year.

Others Receiving Votes: Russ Smith, Louisville.

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Final Four Profiles In-Depth: Michigan Wolverines

Posted by Chris Johnson on April 3rd, 2013

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

The last team remaining from the best conference in the country quietly enters the Final Four with much the same youthful construction of last season’s Kentucky Wildcats. Don’t believe it? True story: Michigan starts three freshman – forwards Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and center Mitch McGary – a sophomore (Trey Burke) and a junior (Tim Hardaway Jr). It is the youngest team left in this NCAA Tournament and, like Kentucky, heavily relies on three first-year stars. This weekend, that youth, the legs that power the nation’s No.1 offense, will meet a defense unlike any it has seen all season. The Wolverines have already eliminated #5 seed VCU, #1 seed Kansas and #3 seed Florida, with each game presenting a different challenge from the previous. Syracuse offers something completely unique – a hellacious 2-3 zone defense operating at full force. So let’s peel back the curtains and explore whether Michigan can survive Saturday’s semifinal and, if so, whether a follow-up win in the national championship is in the offing.

(Also feel free to revisit Tuesday’s Final Four team du jour: Wichita State)

Pre-Tournament Capsule. From November to January, everything about Michigan suggested the bullish preseason predictions – that Michigan was a top-five team, that Trey Burke was an All-American, that John Beilein’s perimeter-oriented system would flourish with so much talent at his disposal – were rooted more in reality than typical overzealous summer conjecture. The Wolverines got out to a 16-0 start, claiming non-conference wins over Kansas State, Pittsburgh and Arkansas, and entered a January 13 game at Ohio State with the No. 2 ranking and all the signs of a true Big Ten title contender. The Wolverines fell behind early and never made it back, and after following up the OSU loss with four straight wins, lost three of their next four during a brutal four-game stretch that included games at Indiana, home against Ohio State, at Wisconsin and at Michigan State.

But for a rocky scheduling patch in early February, Michigan ran into few problems it couldn't handle in the regular season (Getty Images).

But for a rocky scheduling patch in early February, Michigan ran into few problems it couldn’t handle in the regular season (Getty Images).

The constant grind of Big Ten competition – from the raucous arenas to the physicality of the play to the demanding mental and physical toll of a 40-minute contest against a multitude of top-10 teams – left Michigan tied for fourth at the end of regular season play. The early sizzle of the Wolverines’ high-powered offense and freshman star power was fading fast, and a convincing nine-point loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament only hammered home the idea that Michigan was probably still too young and inexperienced to cause any serious damage in an NCAA Tournament setting.

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2012-13 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by KDoyle on April 3rd, 2013

If this was baseball, a batting average of .333 would represent Hall of Fame type numbers. Back in November when our group of RTC pollsters and hoop experts selected their preseason All-America teams, just five names lived up to expectations that we originally had placed on them: Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas, Michigan’s Trey Burke, and Kansas’ Jeff Withey. In fact, the only player who was named to the preseason All-America First Team and finished there was McDermott. If there is one thing to take away from this exercise, it’s that projecting player performance is far from an exact science.

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

McDermott Was Our Only Preseason First Teamer Who Stayed There

The 10 players we selected as preseason All-Americans who failed to live up to our hype were: Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum — let’s remember McCollum missed more than half the season due to injury — UNLV’s Mike Moser, Missouri’s Phil Pressey, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin, North Carolina’s James Michael McAadoo, North Texas’ Tony Mitchell, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, and Florida State’s Michael Snaer. It would be foolish to think that most of these players did not have exceptional seasons — look no further than Canaan, who averaged 21.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 4.3 APG for the Racers this year. He had a very good senior season, but it’s not his fault that a guy like Victor Oladipo came out of nowhere to prove he was one of the best players in the country. Of course, there were a few disappointments, and we can look right at Mitchell as the most obvious example. Whether fair or not, expectations were probably too high for Mitchell, who many project to be a future NBA player. Mitchell averaged 13.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG, but his team slogged to a rough 12-20 season.

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the players who met or exceeded our expectations this season. After tallying up the votes from our nine experts, here are the 2012-13 RTC All-America Teams.

Note on methodology: voters took postseason performance into consideration. Players earned three points for a First Team vote, two points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote. Burke, Porter, and Oladipo were consensus First Team All-America selections.

First Team All-America

No Doubt Burke Won Over Many With His March Performances (AnnArbor.com)

No Doubt Burke Won Over Many With His March Performances (AnnArbor.com)

  • Trey Burke, SO, Michigan (consensus) (18.8 PPG, 6.8 APG, 1.6 SPG, 3.1 A/TO). After spearheading arguably the nation’s most potent offense during the regular season, Burke was named a First Team All-American by the AP. His virtuoso performance in the South Region semifinal against Kansas where he singlehandedly brought Michigan back in the final minutes of regulation supplanted himself as not just a surefire First Teamer here at RTC, but perhaps the National Player of the Year as well. More than just his knack for hitting the big shot, Burke’s most impressive attribute may be as a distributor; boasting a 3.1 A/TO ratio is downright impressive given the responsibility John Beilein has bestowed upon him in running the offense.
  • Otto Porter Jr., SO, Georgetown (consensus) (16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 48.0% FG, 42.2% 3FG). Many often lamented Georgetown’s stagnant Princeton-style offense as the reason for its lack of production, but imagine where the Hoyas may have been this season without Porter. The sophomore emerged as one of the nation’s best players after consecutive games in Brooklyn where he led Georgetown past then #11 UCLA and nearly upset top-ranked Indiana the following night. Porter was expected to be a key cog for Georgetown this season after averaging just south of 10.0 PPG as a freshman, but his outburst was a surprise to many this year. His stark improvement with his three-point shot — a 22.6% to 42.2% increase — has made Porter a much more complete player, and bodes well for his future at the next level.
  • Victor Oladipo, JR, Indiana (consensus) (13.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 59.9% FG, 44.1% 3FG). A role player in his first two seasons at Indiana, Oladipo emerged as Indiana’s best and most valuable player as a junior, surpassing more celebrated teammate Cody Zeller in that regard. While his offensive game improved in nearly every department — how often is it that a guard shoots 60% from the field? — it was Oladipo’s defense which made him an invaluable part of Tom Crean’s team. There may not be a better on-ball wing defender in the country as Oladipo created havoc — to borrow a term from Shaka Smart — on the perimeter. In looking at just his statistics, one would think Oladipo is a 6’10 power forward given his high shooting percentage and rebounding totals; that’s what makes him such a unique and dominant player.
  • Doug McDermott, JR, Creighton (26) (23.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 54.8% FG, 49.0% 3FG, 87.5% FT). Perhaps the most prolific and talented offensive player in college basketball, it came as no surprise to find McDermott’s name on the First Team All-America list. His shooting percentages in all three departments are off the charts, and were a big reason Creighton was tops in the nation in team 3FG% and third in 2FG%; McDermott went off for 20+ points in 26 of his 36 games this season. While his defensive and athletic abilities are both question marks, there’s no denying that McDermott is a natural scorer who is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. Assuming he returns for his senior season, McDermott will most likely eclipse the 3,000-point mark as a collegian which has only been done seven times in history.
  • Kelly Olynyk, JR, Gonzaga (24) (17.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 62.9% FG). Playing behind Robert Sacre and Steven Gray for his first two seasons at Gonzaga, Olynyk averaged just 12.3 MPG as a freshman and 13.5 MPG as a sophomore. For his redshirt junior season, however, he owned the frontcourt. A legit seven-footer, Olynyk runs the floor like an athletic forward and scores in a variety of ways. His 62.9% FG was especially impressive considering he spent a fair amount of time outside of the paint in Gonzaga’s offense. He was the biggest reason that Gonzaga ascended to its first-ever #1 ranking in the polls and commensurate #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Second Team All-America

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John Beilein Has Proven That He is a Great Players’ Coach

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on April 3rd, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g.

It is certainly possible that Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense could confuse the Michigan freshmen, meaning that the Wolverines may end their great season with just a Final Four appearance on Saturday. In the age of the 24-hour sports news cycle, most of the basketball pundits will be quick to point out that John Beilein has never beaten Syracuse during his time at West Virginia and it will likely raise discussions about his ability to coach on the biggest stage against the Hall of Famer. But before we get to the Final Four, let’s take a few moments to recognize the Michigan head man for his performance this season. Regardless of the result on Saturday, Beilein has not only proven that he is one of the best coaches in the nation, but more importantly, he has proven that he trusts his players and can incorporate their diverse skills into his offensive sets to field a competitive team. The following are two reasons why Beilein deserves to be respected as a players’ coach.

John Beilein's track record in Michigan shows that he can adapt quickly to the personnel on his team.

John Beilein’s track record in Michigan shows that he can adapt quickly to the personnel on his team.

  • He handled each of his freshmen in a different but effective manner. Recruiting a top-15 freshman class does not guarantee success because the coach needs to earnestly handle expectations about playing time and keep his talented players satisfied throughout the season. Kentucky’s John Calipari has somehow mastered this art of coaching freshmen but not every coach knows how to effectively use his available talent. Every one of Michigan’s “fresh five” is unique and Beilein did an excellent job in building a cohesive team by making each a key contributor this season. Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III were supposed to be the studs from this class but few expected Nik Stauskas to take off offensively the way he did. As soon as Beilein recognized Stauskas’ strengths as not just a three-point shooter, but also as an effective ball-handler in the half-court, he did not hesitate to increase his playing time in December. Robinson’s skill set is very similar to that of Tim Hardaway Jr. because both have the athleticism to attack the basket and shoot from beyond the arc. Beilein did an excellent job of handling both of their expectations about roles in the offense and neither showed any outward sign of frustration. McGary’s development over the course of the season has been well-documented but Beilein kept him motivated in practice and once he noticed that his confidence began to grow in February, he immediately changed his offensive sets to include McGary’s strengths in the pick-and-roll with Trey Burke. Jordan Morgan’s injury also paved the path for McGary’s minutes but once Morgan came back into the rotation, the head coach stuck with the freshman, which has clearly paid off during the NCAA Tournament. Most old-school coaches may have gone back to the more experienced player in that situation, but Beilein knew something that most of us didn’t because McGary has played lights out in March. Even the other freshman, Caris Lavert and Spike Albrecht, played just enough minutes over the past few weeks to be in a position to contribute whenever needed. Every one of the freshmen has played a key role at some point during the season and it proves that Beilein knows how to handle different players with different skills. Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 2nd, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Louisville

  • Many people around the country are very surprised that Wichita State has advanced to the Final Four, but Louisville coach Rick Pitino is not one of them. “I picked Wichita State to go to the Final Four,” Pitino said Monday during a conference call.
  • Louisville junior guard Russ Smith was named a third team All-America selection by the Associated Press.
  • When Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered his horrific compound fracture Sunday, one teammate rushed to be by his side as he laid on the court writhing in pain; that teammate was swingman Luke Hancock.
  • With the injury to guard Kevin Ware, Louisville’s backcourt depth took a bit of a hit. Walk-on Tim Henderson will be called upon to play increased minutes in Ware’s absence and Cardinals coach Rick Pitino expects him to step up in his unexpected role.
  • The injury to Ware definitely has caused and will continue to cause some adversity for Louisville, but as Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports explains, this injury is not the worst adversity head coach Rick Pitino has had to handle.

Wichita State

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