It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XV

Posted by jbaumgartner on April 2nd, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. Mach Five speed. There reached a point in Sunday’s regional final between Louisville and Duke where lateral movement ceased to exist. There was Peyton Siva, there was Russ Smith, and there was 94 feet of court from end to end. It didn’t matter where and when they got the ball – they were heading straight to the hole, and you could try to keep up if you wanted. Those two bring a dimension that no other team in the country has, and they made some decent Duke guards look downright tortoise-like on both offense and defense throughout the second half rout. They ran ‘em straight out of the gym.

I LOVED…. Wichita State “shocking” (sorry, too easy) the world and making it out of the West Region, and more importantly striking another solid blow for mid-majors with its convincing win over a very good Ohio State team. While Gonzaga making it just two games as a #1 seed was rough, this WSU run helps erase some of that damage for quality schools in small conferences going forward.

I LOVED…. Trey Burke deciding to become The Man. For nine minutes against Kansas, literally everyone in the building knew exactly who the ball was going to and what he was trying to do. Didn’t matter. Ping, ping, ping, ping – the jumpers just kept raining in as he willed his Wolverines into overtime and on to victory. Any Player of the Year questions should have been answered right there.

Trey Burke Took Over, and Michigan Advanced…

I LOVED…. just how dumb the NCAA Tournament selection committee looked by putting Oregon as a #12 seed. I honestly believe it was one of the worst hack jobs in selection history, and the Ducks, who were possibly underseeded by about five slots or so, powered their way to the Sweet Sixteen and hung with a star-studded Louisville team for the full 40 minutes. Someone needs to take a long hard look at what went wrong there, and make sure we don’t ever, ever see it again.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.01.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on April 1st, 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.

Midwest Region

  • Louisville senior associate athletic director for media relations Kenny Klein tweeted a photo of Cardinals guard Kevin Ware moving around on crutches Monday morning, less than 24 hours after suffering a gruesome broken leg in the first half of Sunday’s victory over Duke.
  • An outstanding column from Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports discussing how the courage and strength shown by Louisville guard Kevin Ware after his horrific leg injury served to inspire the Cardinals to get past Duke and reach the Final Four.
  • Has Louisville forward Gorgui Dieng improved his NBA Draft stock during the team’s NCAA Tournament run?
  • Louisville guard Russ Smith was named Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional. The dynamic junior has dominated the tournament thus far, as he is averaging 26 points per contest.
  • Duke freshman swingman Rasheed Sulaimon was quite emotional after his subpar performance in Sunday’s loss to Louisville and in the process, he left no doubt that he truly cares about success and his teammates.
  • Andrew Jones of FoxSportsCarolinas.com writes that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski got just about everything he could out of this year’s Blue Devils.

West Region

  • Wichita State is confident that it belongs in the Final Four. The ninth-seeded Shockers are in the Final Four for the first time since 1965.
  • Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall reminded his team to “play angry” at halftime of the Shockers’ Elite Eight victory over Ohio State and after notching the Elite Eight victory, they are playing angry into the Final Four.
  • Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall took Sunday to re-charge after Saturday’s thrilling Elite Eight victory over Ohio State, but he is back at work Monday preparing for Saturday’s Final Four match-up with top-seeded Louisville.
  • Here is an interesting story about a man from Long Beach, California, who put a $10 bet on Wichita State to win the national title. The Shockers had 750-1 odds to cut down the nets at the beginning of the NCAA Tournament, so he would win $7,500 off that bet if they do end up winning the title.

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Initial Questions About Michigan vs. Syracuse

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 31st, 2013

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

Take a deep breath Big Ten basketball fans; Michigan‘s win over Florida might have avoided a full week of  coverage from the hoops media about the conference being “overrated.” The Gators were surprisingly a great match-up for the Wolverines because they were run out of the building (79-59), but the Final Four match-up against Syracuse will undoubtedly pose a tough challenge for John Beilein. Jim Boeheim already dismantled Tom Crean with his defensive game plan and Beilein may not get much sleep over the next week because the 2-3 zone can befuddle his team without an effective game plan that can be executed with his personnel. The following are three key questions about the Wolverines’ game against the Orange:

Can Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams in check in Atlanta?

Can the Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams in check in Atlanta?

  • Can the Wolverines keep Michael Carter Williams from getting into the paint? Williams had his way against Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and used his length (6’6″) to consistently attack the basket to finish with 24 points. Beilein has a tough decision to make on this defensive match-up because Trey Burke gives up at least five inches and not to mention could pick up some a quick foul or two if he tries to strip the ball away from Williams. In order to match Williams’ length, Beilein may have to go with  Nik Stauskas or Tim Hardaway Jr. which could be trouble because neither of the Wolverines wings are known for their defense. Stauksas enjoyed a great game (22 points) against the Gators but may not be effective on the offensive end if he is assigned to check Williams throughout the game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #4 Michigan 79, #3 Florida 59

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the South Regional in Dallas, TX this weekend.

Three Takeaways.

  1. Michigan played phenomenally well today. They came out of the gate on fire and never really let up. Sure there were a few moments where Florida looked like they might get back in it as they cut the lead to 11 with 17:35 left on a pair fo free throws by Scottie Wilbekin, but Michigan never let them back in it. It was perhaps the most impressive performance that the Wolverines have put together this season (only their 25-point win over a good, but still inferior VCU team comes close). The star of the game was Nik Stauskas, who Florida apparently didn’t realize is one of the best shooters in college basketball. Stauskas was nearly perfect in first half with 19 points as his only missed shot was a missed free throw at the end of the half after an idiotic Michael Frazier foul with 0.4 seconds left gave Stauskas three free throws. Stauskas finished with 22 points as the team went away from him int he second half. To leave it at Stauskas would be a disservice to the rest of the Wolverine team who overcame awful shooting performances from Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr who were a combined 8-29 from the field. Mitch McGary added 11 points and 9 rebounds with most of them coming in an early run that set that tone for the game. Burke made up for his poor shooting with with 8 rebounds and 7 assists with just one turnover. After the game he said that when he is struggling from the floor he makes a concerted effort to facilitate and make sure he makes an impact on defense.

    Everybody was impressed with Michigan even if Beilein appeared unenthusiastic at this point (Credit: @nickbaumgardner)

    Everybody was impressed with Michigan even if Beilein appeared unenthusiastic at this point (Credit: @nickbaumgardner)

  2. On the other sideline it was a complete no-show by the Gators. For a team that was supposed to have experience on its side having made the past two Elite 8s the Gators seemed overwhelmed by the Wolverines. Outside of the ugly shooting from the field (41%) the Gators also failed to make the three-point shot a weapon as they only made 2 of 10 when they came into the game making 8 a game. When the other team goes 10 of 19 from beyond the arc as Michigan did you are not going to win many games. Looking back on the season this will be yet another Elite 8 appearance that ended in disappointment. It was a marvelous season for the Gators where they throttled opponents for much of the season, but in the end they lacked a dominant player to take over when the team was in trouble. It may not have been enough to overcome a hot Michigan team today, but it would have made things a lot more interesting. For Billy Donovan it will be back to the drawing board as he loses a ton of experience and will have to remake his team. The media will harp on Florida losing three straight Elite 8 games, but that undersells the difficulty in getting to that point, which is an impressive accomplishment in itself.
  3. Looking forward for the Wolverines their performance today should scare every Syracuse fan, but that doesn’t mean we should expect them to catch fire from beyond the arc again in Atlanta. Coming into the game this was a team that shot 38% from three-point range and this 53% performance probably won’t be repeated although it might if Syracuse leaves Stauskas as open as Florida did. The Michael Carter-Willliams-Trey Burke match-up should be a great one and one that will attract a lot of NBA scouts, but there should be plenty of other great match-ups that we will get into next week.

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South Regional Final Game Analysis: #3 Florida vs #4 Michigan

Posted by nvr1983 on March 31st, 2013

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#3 Florida vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Final (Los Angeles, CA) – 7:05PM ET on CBS

Florida-Michigan may be an undercard to the ridiculous Louisville-Duke game later today, but that doesn’t mean that it will be of much lower quality as it features two teams that were in the top 10 for most of the season and in the top 5 for long stretches. It was only late season slides that kept these teams from being on the 1 or 2 line on Selection Sunday. Despite those late season struggles both teams have recovered and have managed to play excellent basketball leading up to today.

Florida is of course the darling of advanced metrics fans as they have put up impressive efficiency numbers, but many observers have questioned whether the team has the ability to win close games as they have lost all six games they have played this year that were decided by single digits. The flip side of that is that their other 29 wins have been by double digits showing just how effective they can be. The Gators will have a tough time making this their 30th double-digit win of the season as Michigan is much better than anybody they have beaten this season and probably better than anybody they have played this year with the possible exception of Arizona (one of Florida’s six single-digit losses). To beat the Wolverines the Gators will need to find a way to contain Trey Burke who rebounded from a scoreless first half to score 23 points to go along with 10 assists. The task of containing Burke will likely fall on Scottie Wilbekin, who compared Burke to Phil Pressey yesterday. While Pressey is an excellent player and creator he lacks the explosive offensive game of Burke. In addition, Burke has been exceptional in his ability to create while taking care of the ball as he came into the weekend with a 3.11 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks 4th in the nation.

Burke Will Be The Focus Of The Gator Defense

Burke may be the star for Michigan, but Florida will have to contend with a trio of outstanding perimeter players in Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas who all can provide scoring from the outside if Burke struggles to find his shot. On the inside, Patric Young will be matched up with Mitch McGary, who has recovered from a slow start to his freshman season, which he has openly admitted was due to his poor conditioning and effort, to lead the Wolverines in scoring in the NCAA Tournament with 19.7 points per game while making a ridiculous 75.7% of his shots from the field and has added 12.3 rebounds per game for good measure. Young should have the ability to overpower McGary, but based on the comments of the Gators yesterday (essentially admitted they knew nothing about him) they may be underestimating his game. And as Jeff Withey and Kansas found out that could be a very bad idea.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.13 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 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.

Midwest Region

West Region

  • Wichita State guard Malcolm Armstead transferred from Oregon to join the Shockers without a scholarship and that gamble is paying off as Wichita State preps for a chance to go to the Final Four.
  • Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com writes that Saturday’s game between Ohio State and Wichita State should not be viewed as a “David/Goliath” match-up.
  • Would Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall be the greatest catch of this year’s coaching carousel?
  • Ohio State sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross has matured during his second season in Columbus to become a playmaker for the Buckeyes.
  • Ohio State coach Thad Matta was unhappy with the way Buckeyes guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. performed defensively in the team’s Round of 32 victory over Iowa State, but the junior stepped up his play significantly in Thursday’s victory over Arizona.
  • Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas has a well-earned reputation as a “bad shot taker and maker” and this moniker has not prevented him from becoming the Buckeyes’ most lethal weapon offensively.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Michigan 87, #1 Kansas 85

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2013

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RTC is reporting from the South Region in Dallas, Texas this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. This loss will be a tough one for Bill Self and the Jayhawks to swallow. The Jayhawks led by 14 with 6:50 remaining in the second half only to see that lead evaporate thanks to some questionable decision-making on their part and some big shots by Michigan. The story will end up being Trey Burke’s shot, but Mitch McGary deserves a lot of credit for his game-high 25 points and 14 rebounds. McGary came into his senior year of high school as one of the top recruits in the country, but slid down the rankings after some weak performances, which led many to question his impact for the Wolverines this season, but he has stepped up his play in the NCAA Tournament and seems to be getting better with every game.
  2. In a NCAA Tournament that has had several memorable moments, Trey Burke may have provided us with the defining moment of the NCAA Tournament so far. His 28-footer with 4 seconds left in regulation seemed to hang in the air forever. From floor level (literally with the raised court) the shot seemed like it would fall short, but it just made it over the front of the rim and dropped in. Whether or not this will propel Michigan into the Final Four remains to be seen, but it is a moment that will last well beyond this year’s One Shining Moment.

    Trey Burke's 28-Footer Will Be Talked About For A Long Time in Ann Arbor (Credit: AP)

    Trey Burke’s 28-Footer Will Be Talked About For A Long Time in Ann Arbor (Credit: AP)

  3. Given the financial situation of his family it seems like a forgone conclusion that Ben McLemore is headed to the NBA Draft. Honestly, most neutral observers would probably tell him it is a bad decision not to enter the NBA Draft. If this was McLemore’s last game as a Jayhawk, it was certainly a solid one, but like much of McLemore’s freshman campaign it left you wanting more. When McLemore finally ended his NCAA drought with a 3-pointer with 8:48 left in the first half he put together a stretch that reminded you he was the best player on the court and he finished with a team-high 20 points, but McLemore seems to lack that killer instinct where he puts teams away and tends to disappear in big moments. McLemore is still young so perhaps he will outgrow that weakness at some point, but it is something that NBA teams will worry about.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 29th, 2013

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We continue the Sweet Sixteen tonight with games from the South Region in Arlington, Texas, and the Midwest Region in Indianapolis. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon Midwest Regional Sweet Sixteen (at Indianapolis, IN) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

It's Russ' World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It’s Russ’ World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Midwest Regional descends on Indianapolis this weekend, with Louisville and Oregon kicking off the action in a matchup of red-hot teams. If not for Florida Gulf Coast’s otherworldly Tournament performance last week, we would likely be looking at the two most impressive teams of the first weekend. As the top overall seed in the Tournament, Louisville’s tour de force in Lexington may not have been unexpected, but it did drive home the notion that the Cardinals are still the team to beat – in this region, and beyond. On the flip side, Oregon’s pair of resounding victories were not expected (despite getting significant play as the most underseeded team in the field on Selection Sunday), but have quickly afforded the surging Ducks a lot of respect. They will head into a virtual road game as massive underdogs on Friday, but the last two weeks have proven that this is a talented and tough basketball team.

Do not expect Oregon to struggle with the aggressive Louisville defense as much as North Carolina A&T and Colorado State did. A quick briefing of the Oregon statistical profile may suggest otherwise – the Ducks are 264th nationally in turnover percentage – but that number is a bit misleading. For one, quick tempo teams are generally going to turn the ball over more, and Oregon plays fast (48th nationally in possessions per game). Also remember that starting PG Dominic Artis (I know, I know — how could we forget at this point?) missed more than half the Pac-12 season, and that backup PG Johnathan Loyd is just now beginning to hit his stride. These two guards will come as close to replicating the quickness and athleticism of that Louisville Siva-Smith combo as any duo the Cardinals have seen all season. Throw in athletes almost everywhere else on the floor – Emory and Dotson on the wings, Kazemi and Woods in the post – and there can be reasonable expectation that Oregon might actually be able to weather the turnover storm that has felled many Louisville foes.

If Oregon can manage that turnover battle, expect this to be a 40-minute game. Points will not come easily for the Cardinals against a well-school (and athletic) Oregon defense, and the Ducks are also a better rebounding team — at least on paper. Dana Altman’s X-factor will be the burgeoning freshman Dotson. If Dotson and others – here’s looking at you EJ Singler — can replicate the three point barrage that undid Saint Louis, Altman’s group has a legitimate change to swing the upset. Too much to ask for? Probably. This is not your typical #12 seed (how is Oregon a #12 seed again?), but they have run into a #1 seed that is playing its role all too well. I expect Oregon to prove a worthy challenger in all facets – managing turnovers, defending the dynamic Louisville backcourt, finding ways to score themselves – but ultimately they run into a team that is just a little better across the board. The Ducks will hang around, but Louisville should be safely bound for the Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

#1 Kansas vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 7:37 PM ET on TBS

The last time Michigan advanced this deep into the NCAA Tournament was all the way back in 1994 with the Fab Five coached by current San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. Ranked in the Top 10 for much of the season, John Beilein’s team certainly won’t be content just advancing to the second weekend; it is Atlanta or bust for the young Wolverines. To advance to Sunday’s South Regional Final, they will have to knock off a team with a wealth of NCAA Tournament experience in the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas advanced to the championship game last season losing to Kentucky, but are missing two key components of that squad—Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While Bill Self has led Kansas to another very successful season—a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship and 30+ wins for the fourth straight year—this edition of Kansas basketball is lacking a rock-solid point guard and dominant scorer. One could certainly make the argument that freshman Ben McLemore is that scorer, but he has largely been a no-show in Kansas’ first two games scoring just 13 points on 2-14 shooting from the field. The combination of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe at point guard has dished out 11 assists to ten turnovers. Nobody will argue their frontcourt dominance anchored by the defensive prowess of Jeff Withey, but seniors Kevin Young and Travis Releford are prototypical role players and not go-to threats. As such, when looking up and down the roster, this has been yet another good coaching job by Bill Self. If Kansas is to defeat Michigan and advance to Atlanta, Ben McLemore must play up to his Top 5 NBA Draft pick ability. Kansas’ most glaring weakness happens to be Michigan’s clear strength: point guard play. This game will be decided in the backcourt, and Trey Burke along with Tim Hardaway Jr. are simply playing much better basketball than Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. Also, let’s not forget the emergence of freshman Mitch McGary who has stepped up in a big way with Jordan Morgan’s nagging ankle injury. Morgan may return to the regular rotation tonight, but he is just 6’8” and would struggle handling Jeff Withey on the insdie. John Beilein doesn’t expect McGary to have a double-double kind of game like he had against Virginia Commonwealth, but if he is able to neutralize Withey then it is mission accomplished. Kansas would be the first one to tell you that they played just 20 good minutes of basketball in their first two games. If they get off to another slow start out of the gate like they did against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, they’ll be hard-pressed to climb their way back into the game.

The RTC Certified PickMichigan

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Kansas and Bill Self In Familiar Territory Against Michigan

Posted by KoryCarpenter on March 28th, 2013

Bill Self and Kansas are back in the Sweet Sixteen for the sixth time in seven years, and that’s not good news for Michigan, the #4 seed in the South Region that the Jayhawks will meet Friday night in Cowboys Stadium. Self is 5-1 in this round in nine seasons at Kansas and 7-2 for his career dating back to Tulsa at the turn of the century. But Michigan fans shouldn’t be worried about an arbitrary record in a certain round of the NCAA Tournament. They should be worried because Bill Self has an entire week to game plan for the Wolverines, and that is where he has made his teams most dangerous in March.  Between Tulsa, Illinois, and now Kansas, Self has made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and has 13 losses, winning the NCAA Tournament in 2008. Of those 13 losses, nine came in the second game of the weekend (Round of 32, Elite Eight or National Championship game). As Self likes to point out, the NCAA Tournament is basically split into three two-game tournaments over three weekends. For teams not in the preliminary play-in games, there are four or five days to prepare for their first opponent after the bracket is announced, followed by a roughly 48-hour turnaround. The next week is the same at the regionals and it continues at the Final Four. With that near-week or so to prepare, Self is nearly automatic. He is 12-2 in the Round of 64,  7-2 in the Sweet 16, and 2-0 in National Semifinal games, or 21-4 overall with a week to prepare. The short turnaround has stung him, though. He is 9-3 in the Round of 32, 2-5 in the Elite Eight, and 1-1 in National Championship games, although a month of preparation wouldn’t have been enough time against last season’s Kentucky team. He has won at an 84% clip with a week to prepare and his winning percentage drops to only 57% with a quick turnaround. But the game still has to be played, and Michigan is not your average #4 seed.

Bill Self Is Money With Extra Time To Scout

Bill Self Is Money With Extra Time To Scout.

Let’s take a look at the match-ups in this game:

Backcourt

Michigan has one of the best players in the country in sophomore point guard Trey Burke, a Sporting News First-Team All-American Selection and possible National Player of the Year. Burke averages 18.8 PPG and 6.7 APG for the Wolverines and controls their offense almost exclusively. According to Ken Pomeroy, his possession percentage of 29.9% (65th nationally) is higher than all but one player remaining in the Tournament, Louisville’s Russ Smith (31.6%). Of the 12 teams remaining that had a player in KenPom’s top 100 for usage percentage, Michigan and Louisville are the only teams remaining. Since 2005 when Pomeroy began publishing possession percentages, only three Final Four teams had a player in the top 100 nationally: UCLA’s Jordan Farmar in 2006, and last year with the Cardinals’ Russ Smith and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson. That’s 90.6% of Final Four teams that have not relied heavily on one player. Fortunately for Michigan fans, Kansas has been torched by point guards several times this season. Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson had 28 points and 10 assists while handing Kansas its last defeat on March 9. Fellow All-American point guard Marcus Smart had 25 points, nine rebounds, and five steals in an Oklahoma State win over Kansas on February 2. Like Jackson and Smart, Burke should have the advantage over Jayhawk guards Elijah Johnson and his backup, Naadir Tharpe. Off the ball, expect to see Travis Releford guarding Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Ben McLemore on Nik Stauskas. Stauskas is a 43.4% three-point shooter and it will imperative that McLemore — or whichever Jayhawk is guarding him — chases him off the three-point line and funnels him into the paint. Burke is going to have a big game regardless. But if Stauskas and/or Hardaway (39.3% from deep) start knocking down threes, Kansas’ best defensive weapon slowly becomes irrelevant. Offensively, Kansas will need better production from McLemore, who had two points on 0-of-9 shooting against North Carolina. He leads the Jayhawks with 15.8 PPG but has disappeared at times this season. He is averaging only 7.0 points per game in the last four outings despite being the most talented player on the court in nearly every situation. Look for Self to draw up a few plays early designed to get McLemore easy buckets and to give him some confidence.

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It’s Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 26th, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. the swag of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Absurd (and questionably timed) alley-oops, the wing walk, tongues wagging, unknown jigs while running downcourt – it’s hard not to like the amount of fun that these kids have on the court, and they have the talent to back it up.

Florida Gulf Coast: the Story of the NCAA Tournament This Year

I LOVED…. Duke’s defense on Creighton. The Blue Devils didn’t play well in this one, but man did they defend. I thought Creighton got the exact pace they wanted and the ideal defensive effort to slow down Duke’s perimeter play, and it still didn’t matter. Duke just continued to bang with a relentless Doug McDermott and got the stops that allowed them to finally pull away when a few threes began to drop. That’s the kind of game you have to grind out in March, and they did it comfortably.

I LOVED…. that I don’t have to watch Marshall Henderson for another weekend (and believe me, I was worried there for a while). In case you were wondering, Henderson’s stats in the tourney were about as prolific as the regular season – 14-of-42 from the field (33%), and 7-of-27 on three-pointers (26%). I’d love to see the Ole Miss coach explain to his players why they would build their team next year around a guard that shoots too much, and not particularly well.

I LOVED…. the statement game. For me this was an easy one to pick – Michigan seemed to be fading a bit, but they put on an absolute clinic against a very talented VCU team and showed just how versatile they can be when freshman Mitch McGary can stay on the floor for an extended period of time. It opens up everything else for the Wolverines, and with Trey Burke dancing around the lane and Tim Hardaway, Jr., able to spot up, this looked like a squad ready to make a legit run.

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NCAA Regional Reset: South Region

Posted by KDoyle on March 25th, 2013

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Kevin Doyle (@KLDoyle11) is the NCAA Tournament’s South Region correspondent. 

The South Regional begins Friday night in Arlington, Texas, with Kansas vs. Michigan followed by Florida vs. Florida Gulf Coast. The East Region ResetWest Region Reset and Midwest Region Reset published earlier today. Also make sure to follow RTCSouthRegion for news and analysis from Texas throughout the week.

Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Hosts the South Regional

Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Hosts the South Regional

New Favorite: #3 Florida. It hasn’t been an arduous road to the Sweet Sixteen as Florida dismantled #14 Northwestern State and #11 Minnesota to advance to Arlington. Although the Golden Gophers cut a 21-point halftime deficit down to eight midway through the second half, they never truly challenged Florida and the Gators coasted to an easy win. Did we learn anything that we already didn’t know about Florida in the process? Probably not. Billy Donovan’s team is as good as anyone at blowing out inferior competition, but it was impressive to see their resolve demonstrated against Minnesota. The common belief is that the Gators crumble down the stretch in close games — amazingly, they have not won a game by single digits this year — but there was no need for late-game drama this weekend. To reach the Elite Eight, Florida will have to next beat #15 Florida Gulf Coast. Not exactly murderer’s row to get to the South Region final by having to play against all double-digit seeds, but FGCU has already proven that it is far from a traditional #15 seed. After posting big wins over Georgetown and San Diego State, the Eagles have shown they can more than hang with any team in the NCAA Tournament. With that said, I projected Florida to win the region when the bracket was initially released and they’ve only confirmed that belief after the first weekend.

Horse of Darkness: #4 Michigan. So much for Shaka Smart’s vaunted havoc defense. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. had little problem dealing with Virginia Commonwealth’s pressing defense en route to a convincing 25-point victory. The Rams’ 71 point swing— a 46-point win against Akron and 25-point loss to Michigan — is by far the greatest two-game switcheroo in NCAA Tournament history, as the Wolverines demonstrated that all a team needs to foil Smart’s plan is a backcourt consisting of two NBA-level players. Michigan is grossly underseeded and is probably closer to a #2 seed than #4. This is a team that was ranked in the Top 10 for virtually the entire season, but limped into the NCAA Tournament after going 6-6 in its final 12 Big Ten games. It has been evident that Michigan’s style of play has kicked up a notch against non-Big Ten teams; South Dakota State and VCU’s urge to speed up the pace of the action seemed to play right into Michigan’s hands. With Trey Burke running the show, John Beilein has the best point guard in the South Region going up against a Kansas team that clearly lacks a steady one of its own. Kansas played one good half in the first two rounds — albeit an extremely good second half against North Carolina — but is ripe for the taking.

Burke Played Like a NPOY Candidate Last Game (AnnArbor.com)

Burke Played Like a NPOY Candidate Last Game (AnnArbor.com)

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend): #15 Florida Gulf Coast 78, #2 Georgetown 68. What, like you thought there could possibly be a surprise that trumps what Florida Gulf Coast did in Philadelphia on Friday and Sunday? Not only did the Eagles make history as the first #15 seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, they did so with flying colors — quite literally — in beating Georgetown and San Diego State by 10 points each. FGCU’s win over Georgetown was certainly a major surprise, as a 24-10 team that finished in second place in the Atlantic Sun and had been swept by Lipscomb soundly beat a 25-6 Big East team with a slew of wins over top teams. Yet after its resounding win over the Hoyas, was anyone that surprised with its victory over a San Diego State team that proved to be mostly average in a Mountain West Conference that went 2-5 in this year’s Dance? Neither win was a fluke for Andy Enfield’s squad; the Eagles flat out beat these two teams that spent much of the season ranked in the Top 25. From Andy Enfield’s story — a former NBA assistant with Rick Pitino, owning his own company called “Tract Manager,” and marrying a supermodel — to the fact that FGCU has been a Division I program for less than a decade, the endless stream of alley-oops and ridiculous dunks thrown down by high-flying no-name players, the swagger and jovial attitude of Sherwood Brown, and the heartwarming story of Brett Comer, among many other things… words simply cannot do justice to what Florida Gulf Coast accomplished over the weekend.

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Two Observations From Michigan’s Dominant Win Over VCU

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 23rd, 2013

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

The full-court press is a dangerous strategy that throws the opposing team out of its rhythm, but once figured out, it leads to easy baskets. That’s what happened in Michigan’s dominating win (78-53) over VCU today. It was clear by the first TV timeout that the Wolverines already understood how to break the Rams’ “havoc” offense. With multiple ball-handlers at his disposal – Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Nik Stauskas – John Beilein prepared his team to handle a press that forces the most turnovers per possession in the nation. The following are two key observations from today’s game:

Mitch McGary dominated against the VCU Rams.

Mitch McGary dominated against the VCU Rams.

  1. Mitch McGary hit every weak spot of VCU’s defense perfectly. The Rams’ press exposes them on the offensive glass as indicated by a weak 38.9% offensive rebounding percentage, and McGary took advantage of it by pulling down 14 rebounds. He was also at the right spot at the right time throughout the game to help his guards break the defense. Once Burke and Stauskas got past the half-court, McGary consistently attacked the basket with the backdoor to make several easy layups and dunks, helping the the Wolverines build a lead and boosting the team’s early energy. Without Jordan Morgan in the lineup, it was essential for McGary to stay on the court, and he delivered in a big way for Beilein. This game will serve as a great confidence booster for the freshman because the Wolverines need him to be effective against future opponents like Kansas or Florida. Read the rest of this entry »
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