NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 18th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#3 Georgetown vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Thompson's Team is a Real Wildcard in this Region

We originally picked Georgetown to get upset in the round of 64 by Belmont, but that was with knowledge that the Hoyas could be the biggest threat to stopping Kansas from reaching the Elite Eight if they were able to escape that opening game. Not only did Georgetown escape, but it was one of the most impressive showings of any team in the tournament thus far. The Hoyas used their length and athleticism to deny the efficient Belmont offense from ever getting started, and they were unreal at their own end offensively with a 61.2% field goal percentage for the game. This matchup will be more difficult, however, against an North Carolina State team that’s getting better every game and playing spectacular offensively. The Wolfpack have great size inside to match Georgetown, with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell as long and athletic as any Hoya. Howell had his best game of the season with 22 points on 10-12 shooting last game, but that will also change as he goes up against much stronger post defenders. Georgetown primarily plays zone defense but will also switch things up and defend man-to-man when needed. It will be a battle inside all night as the Hoyas surely won’t let Scott Wood get open looks from three. This game, though, will be decided on the other end of the floor. NC State was not particularly strong defensively throughout the year, but they completely shut down San Diego State on Friday by allowing just 37.7% field goal shooting. The Aztecs played a lot of one-on-one ball, the exact opposite of what the Hoyas will show. It’ll be up to Henry Sims to make smart decisions in the high post, something he’s done all year. Jason Clark was great last game and is a reliable playmaker in this game, while Otto Porter remains rock solid as an X-factor offensively. Both of these teams looked great last round, but Georgetown has the advantage because it should pose a much greater defensive threat to the Wolfpack while also running a motion offense that will be difficult to defend.

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#1 Michigan State vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 2:45 PM ET on CBS

Two top ten teams in defensive efficiency. Two coaches with a well-earned reputation for X-ing and O-ing with the best of them. It isn’t likely to be one of the prettiest displays of basketball you’ll ever see, but if you like fundamentals and you like basketball as chess match, this is a can’t-miss game. The Billikens advanced to this round behind great team defense and great individual offensive performances by Kwamain Mitchell (22 points including four threes) and Brian Conklin (16 points, earned largely from his ten-of-11 performance from the line). But Conklin also turned the ball over eight times, in part due to the active hands of Memphis defenders; he’ll see more of that on Sunday and will need to take better care of the ball. Defensively, the Billikens will need to come up with some sort of answer for Draymond Green, who was brilliant Friday against Long Island, registering a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. But perhaps the biggest battle of the game will be on Michigan State’s offensive glass. The Spartans have historically made a living creating offensive on second-chance opportunities, but the best Rick Majerus-coached teams have been proficient in securing defensive rebounds. If the Billikens can limit the Spartans’ offensive rebounding (a feat easier said than done), Tom Izzo will need to find other ways for his Spartans to score in the halfcourt, and there have been times this year when that MSU offense has bogged down a bit. While sophomore guard Keith Appling is usually excellent getting penetration, SLU is no liable to allow that very often, and there is no one else on the Spartan roster capable of creating his own offense off the dribble on a regular basis. Guys like Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton have been very efficient three-point shooters, but, with the exception perhaps of Green, they need someone to create open looks for them. In short, if SLU can do what no other team has been able to do all year – keep Michigan State in check on their offensive glass – then the Billikens could drag this game down into the mud and pull out a win. But, if the Spartans do what, you know, they always do, I have a hard time seeing Saint Louis pulling this one out.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Rushed Reaction: #1 North Carolina 77, #16 Vermont 58

Posted by mpoindexter on March 16th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways

  1. The Tar Heels Need Henson. While James Michael McAdoo has shown flashes of inspired play, North Carolina is a significantly better team with John Henson on the floor. McAdoo and fellow freshman Desmond Hubert are much less physically imposing when defending opposing big men. What’s more, UNC’s usually stunning rebounding takes a hit without Henson. They can get by a 16-seed without him, but Roy Williams needs John Henson on Sunday.
  2. Slow Start for UNC. Harrison Barnes wasn’t shooting well. McAdoo was missing point-blank layups. Kendall Marshall made a couple of sloppy passes. It looked like UNC came out trying to get by the Vermont Catamounts with minimal effort, and the score for the first ten minutes–small 2 to 3 point leads–reflected that effort. Tepid starts have been somewhat of a problem for this UNC team, but it’s an especially dangerous way to play in March. If an opponent comes out firing, UNC could find themselves playing catch-up in a sudden death tournament.
  3. No Shame for the Catamounts. Despite the score, Vermont actually looked better than an outsized #16 should look against North Carolina. They played smart, sound basketball, and only unraveled due to North Carolina’s superior size and talent. The game wasn’t close, but it was a promising sign for a young team that should have expectations of dancing again in 2013.

Star of the Game. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina. When his teammates started sluggishly, Tyler Zeller put the Tar Heels on his back, leading all players with 13 points and nine rebounds in the first half. In the second half, when Vermont trying to cut the deficit to single digits, Zeller made two outstanding blocks near the rim, bringing new energy to a quiet North Carolina crowd.

Sights and Sounds. James Michael McAdoo shot 1-for-6 in the first half, looking lost at times. That’s why the standing ovation sounded so sweet for his second half performance: 5-of-8 from the floor, getting him to a new career high of 17 points. As he came back to the UNC bench with a little more than three minutes left in the game, each UNC teammate wore broad smiles, congratulating him on a game well played.

What’s Next? The Heels meet Creighton on Sunday, which means a matchup between former high school teammates Doug McDermott and Harrison Barnes. The big question is: does John Henson play? Today was the first time in the past week Henson wasn’t wearing a wrist brace on the bench. If Roy Williams has him in the rotation against the Jays, the Heels should be safe. If not, anything could happen given Creighton’s talented front line.

Share this story

NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round – Friday Afternoon

Posted by EJacoby on March 16th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#6 Cincinnati vs. #11 Texas – East Region Second Round (at Nashville, TN) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

These are two teams with similar statistical profiles but the Texas Longhorns are missing Alexis Wangmene, a big senior forward who would have added an extra body for Rick Barnes to go up against Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates in the paint. With a guard-oriented team and a thin front court, the Longhorns have some difficulty against the physical Bearcats. Cincinnati doesn’t have a deep front line either but Gates is the team’s third leading scorer and a key cog in its offensive flow. Neither team shoots the ball particularly well but Cincinnati has an edge on the perimeter with multiple players who can make a three. Texas ranks sub-200 in defending the triple and that’s something that could cost it the game. Cincinnati is a streaky hit-or-miss team with four capable guards surrounding Gates on the floor. As for Texas, leading scorer J’Covan Brown is pretty much the team’s only major threat. If Cincinnati can lock up Brown defensively, it will win the game rather easily. If Brown manages to get free and score close to his average of 20.1 PPG, the Bearcats will be in for a nail biter. Although Brown is the best player on the floor in this game, the edge has to go to Cincinnati because of its more balanced talent on the perimeter (including limiting turnovers), Gates in the post and the team’s overall experience. The majority of Cincinnati’s rotation is made up of juniors and seniors while four of Texas’ top six scorers are freshmen.

The RTC Certified Pick: Cincinnati.

#6 San Diego State vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Second Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

Jamaal Franklin is a Ferocious Competitor on Both Ends for SDSU (US Presswire)

A very popular upset pick, North Carolina State comes into this game on a roll having won four of its last five games with the only loss in the ACC Tournament semifinals to North Carolina by one possession. But NC State was on the bubble just one week ago; this team has been inconsistent throughout the season. The Wolfpack lost four games in a row prior to that strong finish to the season. The key to pull this upset will be to keep pressure on a strong SDSU defense, keyed by pounding the ball inside to find points in the paint with C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and C.J. Williams. It’s doubtful that San Diego State will give Scott Wood any wide open looks from three. The Aztecs, meanwhile, may have the two best overall players in this game with Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin (17.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) and savvy guard Chase Tapley (15.7 PPG, 43.3% three-pointers). Both players shoulder a lot of the scoring load but have been reliable in big games this season against strong MW competition. SDSU is a much stronger defensive team (93.5 defensive efficiency) and holds opponents to 40% shooting from the field. NC State has a 99.9 ‘D’ efficiency and allows too much easy offense. We’ll take the Aztecs, the stronger team all season long that has Sweet Sixteen experience from last season.

The RTC Certified Pick: San Diego State

#8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama – Midwest Region Second Round (at Greensboro, NC) – 1:40 PM ET on TBS

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

SEC NCAA Tournament Primer: Friday/Sunday Games

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 16th, 2012

On Friday, Florida and Alabama open their NCAA Tournament runs facing Virginia and Creighton, respectively. Here we preview the Friday/Sunday possibilities for the Gators and Crimson Tide.

SEC NCAA Tournament Friday/Sunday Capsules

WEST Region 

  • #7 Florida: Tournament appearances: 16; Record 32-14; Best Finish: National Champion – 2006, 2007; Final Four appearances: 4; How Qualified: At-Large, SEC; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, Regional Final
  • #10 Virginia: Tournament appearances: 16; Record 22-16; Best Finish: Final Four – 1981, 1984; Final Four appearances: 2; How Qualified: At-Large, ACC; Last Appearance: 2007 – L, Second Round
  • #2 Missouri: Tournament appearances: 24; Record 22-23; Best Finish: Elite Eight – 2009, 2002, 1994* (vacated by NCAA), 1976, 1944; Final Four appearances: 0; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Big 12; Last Appearance: 2011 – L, First Round
  • #15 Norfolk State: Tournament appearances: 0; Record 0-0; Best Finish: N/A; Final Four appearances: 0; How Qualified: Automatic Bid, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference; Last Appearance: N/A
All-Time Meetings
  • Florida vs Virginia: Virginia leads 1-0; Last Meeting: March 30, 1992 (Virginia 62, Florida 56)
  • Florida vs Missouri: Never met
  • Florida vs Norfolk State: Never met

The Gators Have A Tough Road To Get To The Sweet Sixteen

A Starting 5 of the Top Players Florida Could Face
  • Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State, Sr. C: O’Quinn is the anchor for a Norfolk State team excited for its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. If the Spartans could somehow make it past Missouri, Florida’s Patric Young would battle O’Quinn in the post. The beast of the MEAC averaged 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
  • Mike Scott, Virginia, Sr., F: The Gators will have their hands full with one of the ACC’s top talents. Scott finished the year averaging 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game earning him first team All-ACC honors. The forward has been on a tear of late, finishing with a double-double in his last three outings. He scored 28 against Florida State, 35 against Maryland and wrapped up with 23 points in his final game against North Carolina State.
  • Kim English, Missouri, Sr. F/G: English lit it up from three-point land this season, shooting 47.3 percent from downtown. English’s overall shooting percentages improved from 36.6 percent a year ago to a cool 53 percent this season. The improvements he’s made in his offensive game have the Tigers thinking about their first ever Final Four.
  • Marcus Denmon, Missouri, Sr. G: Denmon has shown he can do a little bit of everything. The 6’3″ guard averages 17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game to lead a balanced Tigers attack in scoring. Denmon has been consistent, shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc on the season.
  • Phil Pressey, Missouri, So. G: Pressey is just a sophomore, but he is the court general for the poised Missouri Tigers. Pressey is averaging 10 points, 6.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds and over 2 steals per game. He doesn’t always score in bunches, but finds ways to get his teammates involved in the game as evidenced by his double-digit assists in seven games this season.
Share this story

ACC Morning Five: 03.14.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 14th, 2012

  1. The Diamondback: The Maryland student newspaper doesn’t say it, but Terrell Stoglin‘s NBA draft decision comes down to whether or not he gets along with Mark Turgeon. if he does there aren’t many reasons for Stoglin to enter the draft this year, as he’s undersized and yet to show NBA-level passing or defense. However, if he’s unwilling to remain in Maryland’s program, the NBA Draft is probably the way to go (at best, I think he’s a second round pick). Stoglin is a player who would need to prove his worth in the summer league before earning a contract.
  2. Testudo Times: This is a fascinating interview with  Turgeon. He talks about the ACC’s NCAA Tournament chances (even ranking the ACC talent, starting with North Carolina, Florida State, NC State and then Duke); he talks about Stoglin possibly turning pro; he even talks about life as a mid-major and his bracket. These are the kind of interviews I wish every coach would give. Sure, he carries some biases but he also carries a lot of insight. That’s better than the normal coachspeak we hear day in and day out.
  3. Charlotte Observer: Despite claims that John Henson’s wrist injury won’t hurt North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament, I think Henson is especially valuable in one-and-done settings where there’s less time for opponents to prepare. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I would expect Henson’s non-conference effect to be much higher than his conference effect, where teams have more tape and general preparation time for the shot-blocking machine. Kendall Marshall may be the Tar Heels’ most valuable offensive player, but Henson allows guards to overplay the perimeter, knowing the lanky junior is available inside to swat field goal attempts.
  4. CSNWashington: I don’t think Chris Knoche gives Tyler Zeller enough credit for his conference performance, but I do think he captures Mike Scott‘s importance very well. I’ll be surprised if Scott isn’t the first senior whose name is called during the NBA Draft. I’m not a draft expert, but Scott’s polished mid-range game is worth a late first-round pick alone.
  5. Orlando Sentinel: [Author’s note: How can Florida State/Tallahassee be responsible for T Pain and Creed?] Apparently Roy Jones, Jr., released a rap video complimenting Florida State‘s recent basketball relevance. Seriously, with lyrics like “Step onto the court, hit you with a three, crossover eyes on me. … Jump shot in your face, call me Dulkys,” how could you go wrong?

EXTRA: Forbes has an explanation for the declining attendance in college basketball. Patrick Rishe’s argument rests on two main points: a lack of talent, and a lack of fan connection. I agree — somewhat — with both of his points, although I’d add the increasing popularity of the NBA into the first point, and emphasize high definition and game availability over both points. Even with shortened careers, we live in an age of social media where athletes can interact directly with fans for the first time; the one-and-done rule also increased the amount of talent on the floor for local colleges. The fan connection point is legitimate and true for smaller schools and bigger schools alike.

Share this story

ACC Tournament: Three Thoughts On NC State – North Carolina

Posted by mpatton on March 11th, 2012

A lot of controversy surrounded North Carolina‘s 69-67 win over NC State and the officiating. I already wrote my comments on the officiating. This article is about the game.

  • NC State was moving the wrong direction when CJ Leslie fouled out. All of the controversy surrounding the calls that lead to Leslie’s fifth foul overshadowed the events surrounding the game. North Carolina was on a 7-0 run, and NC State’s body language was really bad. Leslie, who up to that point had carried the Wolfpack, looked worse than anyone else. Even the coaching staff was in disarray: Mark Gottfried admitted after the game that he didn’t know it was Leslie’s fifth. But when he fouled out, it fired up NC State–namely Lorenzo Brown–and it finally pushed back to having a chance to win it in the last minute. Two turnovers–the second of which thwarted a wide open game-tying layup by DeShawn Painter–are what directly cost the Wolfpack the game. And give credit to Justin Watts for hustling and getting his hands on that pass when it looked like Painter was all alone.

    Lorenzo Brown Took Over After CJ Leslie Fouled Out.

  • Kendall Marshall played another very good, multi-faceted offensive game. Don’t look now but he’s scored in double figures in each of his last three games shooting 53% from the floor (and 6-11 from beyond the arc). He’s continued his record-setting assist campaign, dishing 10, 12 and 10 dimes in the games. If that continues, North Carolina is really tough to guard.
  • Tyler Zeller had another outstanding game, but he wasn’t able to take it to the next level until NC State bigs got in foul trouble. Obviously, that’s a little bit of a circular argument because guarding him is what got them in foul trouble to begin with. But it will be interesting to see how he performs against Florida State‘s physical front line with limited time from Henson (in the first game Zeller went for 14 points and 14 boards; Henson went 10 points and only 3 boards).
Share this story

A Rational Discussion of ACC Officiating

Posted by mpatton on March 11th, 2012

I waited a few hours to write this article because I wanted a chance to digest the game and get past the officiating. Instead it became about the officiating in NC State‘s loss to North Carolina, which I think was bad throughout but also very one-sided. I don’t think there’s a conspiracy in the ACC. I also can guarantee I couldn’t do a better job than the guys on the floor. But I do think that referees, no matter how hard they try not to, come to games with biases that affect 50/50 calls. Officiating requires making a split-second decision. That’s why selling contact is so successful. There’s no slow-mo or replays, and officials can’t even wait to see which way you fall (when they do, everyone including myself rips them for making late calls). Blocks and charges are the most difficult of these calls. Anytime someone falls down there are three choices: block, charge or no-call. But someone could hit the deck at any time. It’s not like players raise their hands and say, “Sir, I’m going to get a little out of control here but not lower my shoulder. Keep an eye on my defender’s feet for me.”

Gottfried Wouldn't Discuss Officiating Afterward

The biases come into play when it’s truly a 50/50 call, but you have to make the call. No matter what, officials are going to know that North Carolina is a good team and Tyler Zeller is a good player. Even if you brought in a top-notch official who’d never heard of Zeller, it wouldn’t take very long for him or her to figure it out. Knowing this, when a 50/50 play happens with Zeller, an official is more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt. In an ideal world, would they see everything and make the right call regardless of the context (player, team, time, etc.)? Yes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on March 6th, 2012

  1. You probably already knew this, but the ACC released its All-ACC teams yesterday headlined by Tyler Zeller (unanimous) and Mike Scott (nearly unanimous). Tomorrow the league will announce its individual awards and we’ll release our own conference awards. The biggest snubs were Kendall Marshall (Harrison Barnes edged him out by two points to make the first team) and Bernard James (who somehow lost to Mason Plumlee).
  2. Streaking the Lawn: Well, he wasn’t snubbed but Mike Scott definitely wasn’t given his due by one or two voters. He finished two points (probably two second-team selections) from being a unanimous first-team selection. Props to Tim Mulholland for taking the only known offender, Caulton Tudor, to task for the omission. You’re welcome to choose Tyler Zeller as your Player of the Year. I waffled between him and Scott more times than I can count. But you can’t leave Scott off the first team. That’s just ridiculous. It’s almost as ridiculous as this headline: “Great Scott Sinks Terps in OT.”
  3. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Tim Tucker sat down with John Swofford for a pretty interesting interview. For those keeping score at home, Swofford called college athletics a “business” twice during the conversation. He also reaffirmed his support for a four-team football playoff and keeping the NCAA tournament at 68 teams amidst discussion of the ACC’s new TV contract renegotiation and the recent NCAA violation issues. All in all, the interview gave a favorable impression of Swofford.
  4. Charlotte Observer: Luke DeCock looks at coaches’ “motivating moments.” Every coach has his own style: Mike Krzyzewski berates his team with a fire (and tongue) you’d never expect from his interview demeanor (or maybe it’s Krzyzewski interviews with a mild manner you’d never expect from his on-court persona); Roy Williams keeps things under control most of the time, but he loses his temper with the best of them. As NC State’s CJ Williams pointed out, “All coaches are pretty much the same […] when it comes to yelling.”
  5. Fayetteville Observer: Harrison Barnes keeps a list. It’s a list of his goals shaped like an inverted pyramid with “National Championship” sitting at the top. This sort of story is the reason I never doubt that Barnes will have a long, successful professional career. I’m still not sure whether he’s a go-to guy or “just” a 10-year starter in the League, but someone who works this hard to reach his goals will reach many of them.

EXTRA: In semi-ACC-related news, Syracuse is back in the news for all the wrong reasons. Charles Robinson and Pat Forde caught wind that the Orange have been playing team members who failed drug tests. There were at least 10 former players involved, and the NCAA is aware of the problem. I’m not sure what exactly could become of this, but certainly, it’s never good to associate your brand with drugs. Still, many of the infractions are beyond the NCAA’s statute of limitations.

Share this story

ACC Game On: 03.04.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on March 4th, 2012

It’s the last day of the regular season, but today will inevitably pass in yesterday’s shadow. While Miami managed to push away Boston College to make its bid for the last bye in the conference tournament, Georgia Tech pulled itself out of the conference cellar with a home court win against Wake Forest. At the top of the conference, however, North Carolina made the biggest play, defeating Duke at Cameron Indoor by 18 points and winning the regular season title outright. All five Tar Heel starters scored double digits with Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall all putting up double-doubles. Despite a second half swoon, North Carolina displayed a resiliency that the team hadn’t yet demonstrated against elite competition. Yesterday did a lot to erase those doubts and set up a post-season run.

North Carolina Vaulted Over Duke For The Regular Season Title (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Redemption vs. Legitimacy.

  • Clemson at #19 Florida State at Noon on ESPN2

Florida State has already wrapped up the third seed in the conference tournament, but this game offers a chance at redemption for the Seminoles who endured the early season indignity of a loss to Clemson. For the Tigers, there is a lot more at sake. Somehow, the Tigers have played their way into borderline post-season relevance. If the Tigers can win against Florida State and beat some good teams in the ACC tournament, Clemson has an outside shot at making the NCAA Tournament, an outcome that seemed unlikely a month ago. The Tigers have played well done the stretch, but a bid still seems unlikely. Still, as Jeff Foxworthy once mused, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

ACC Game On: 03.03.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on March 3rd, 2012

A Totally Underhyped Game

  • North Carolina at Duke at 7:00 PM on ESPN

Thte Last Meeting Ended With a Magical Shot ((AP/Jim R. Bounds)

I wish more people knew about this game. Despite the obscurity of each school’s basketball program, these two teams have quietly cultivated a solid if yet underexposed rivalry. When these teams met earlier this season, this hidden gem of a rivalry resulted in an amazing comeback and an impressive buzzer-beater by freshman Austin Rivers. It was quite a highlight, and I only wish that the game had been televised so you would have had the opportunity to glimpse this rare, unseen footage (we found a long forgotten image above). Playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium, North Carolina will have a chance to avenge the shocking loss and win the regular season conference title.

For Duke, replicating its earlier success against North Carolina may be a challenge. The Blue Devils shot 36 three-pointers and connected on 14 of them. Despite the stunning volume of treys, North Carolina’s perimeter defense still remains suspect, and this might be an easier feat to achieve than getting to the line 26 times. Over the last four years only three team-seasons have matched UNC’s opponent free throw rate of 21.1%. Duke will be hard-pressed to replicate the 41.9% mark they managed in Chapel Hill. If Duke is going to win the rematch, I think the Devils will have to find other ways to win. I expect this game to be very close, and at home, it’s hard to pick against Duke. On the other hand, Tyler Zeller has been cutting a swath of destruction across the ACC to close out his final college campaign. Zeller has never won in Cameron (he was injured in 2009) and after his embarrassing role in the loss in Chapel Hill (an inadvertent tip-in and a late contest on Rivers’ shot), I’d be afraid to stand in his way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story