Game On: 11.11.11 Tip-Off Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 11th, 2011

Eight of the twelve ACC teams are beginning their seasons tonight, though Virginia Tech is playing their first game on Saturday, while Virginia and Maryland first play on Sunday. For whatever reason, Boston College won’t be playing a game until Monday. For this inaugural edition of Game On, let’s confine ourselves to looking at tonight’s slate of games.

Tyler Zeller and UNC Are Ready For Basketball

The Main Event
North Carolina vs. Michigan State 7pm EST on ESPN

The Carrier Classic is an exciting match-up in a unique setting between two storied programs who are both looking to make a run in the NCAA tournament this year. While this is the first chance for the nation to see top ranked North Carolina in action it’s also a time to see a Michigan State program that is in flux. Tom Izzo remains one of the best coaches in the nation, but the success of this year’s roster is hardly a sure thing. We may have spent a little bit of time talking about this game, but I can’t really remember.

The Undercard
Belmont at Duke 9pm EST on ESPNU

Lots of folks have this game pegged as a potential upset and it’s hard to say that they are wrong. Belmont is a sweet-shooting team that blasted it’s way through the Atlantic Sun Conference last season. This is a skilled and hungry team that failed to notch a truly big win in their otherwise successful 2010-11 campaign. Duke certainly fits the bill for a “quality win” and the inexperienced guards who play suspect perimeter defense might leave the Blue Devils particularly vulnerable to the high-volume three-point attack that Belmont thrives on. We previewed this game in greater detail over here.

For Connoisseurs
Loyola (MD) at Wake Forest 7pm EST on ESPN3.com

This is a dangerous game for a Wake Forest team that kicked off it’s last season by losing to Stetson. Loyola is a much better team than Stetson was, making them a real threat to a still-developing Wake Forest squad. Advanced stats like Loyola quite a bit, and in fact, the pre-season Ken Pomeroy rankings actually have Loyola ranked slightly higher than Wake Forest. Both teams really want this win, I’m sure, and while the home court advantage of Wake Forest might give them an edge, this game has perhaps the most potential of the entire night’s slate for an upset.

UNC-Asheville at North Carolina State 7pm EST

UNC-Asheville made the NCAA tournament last year while NC State did not. Granted, UNCA got in with the benefit of the Big South’s automatic bid, but that’s not to say that they are undeserving. The Bulldogs won plenty of games last season and enter the season hoping to repeat last year’s performance. The Wolfpack still ought to beat Asheville’s teamfairly easily, but at the very least, this game should give some insight into how realistic UNCA’s chances are at upsetting North Carolina or Connecticut later on in the schedule.

Jacksonville at Florida State 7pm EST on ESPN3.com

Jacksonville took out a very good Florida team in a shocking overtime win last year. Teams that have experience taking down Goliaths have a tendency to relish their David role. That said, last year’s Jacksonville team had a hard time scoring the ball. Starting off against the defensive juggernaut that is Florida State means that there is a very good chance that the Seminoles make Jacksonville’s offense look even uglier. Though Jacksonville does have a legitimate shot at an upset, there’s a much greater chance that Leonard Hamilton’s team turns this game into a rout.

For Fans Only
Florida A&M at Georgia Tech 8pm EST on ESPN3.com
Gardener Webb at Clemson 8pm EST on ESPN3.com
Tennessee Tech at Miami (FL) 7pm EST

It’s not that these are bad games per se, but most people who don’t have a dog in this fight aren’t going to be particularly entertained watching the ACC’s middle class stomp small-conference cupcakes. If you had to pick a game to watch, Tennessee Tech is probably the best among these challenging teams. Of course, this is the one game that ESPN3.com won’t be carrying.  Thems the breaks.

 

 

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ACC Morning Five: 11.11.11 Edition

Posted by mpatton on November 11th, 2011

ACC Basketball is upon us! The conference kicks off basketball with a bang tonight. Only two of the games are televised; luckily, they’re two excellent games. North Carolina is taking to the high seas to play Michigan State in the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic at 7:00 PM EST on ESPN. Meanwhile on ESPNU, Duke welcomes the talented Belmont Bruins to the unfriendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium in what many are (and should) be predicting as a potential upset at 9:00 PM EST. But on to the links!

  1. Columbia Daily Tribune: Former Miami coach Frank Haith‘s new job didn’t get started off as planned. In addition to cries of dismay from fans at the hire (and apparently the Columbia Daily Tribune, which offers this description of Haith’s departure from Miami: “A guy facing an NCAA Tournament-or-unemployment season at the basketball backwater of Miami was suddenly in charge of a senior-laden team built to contend for a Big 12 title”, Haith brought baggage after the Miami scandal hit like a ton of bricks over the summer. However, his luck since coming to Missouri hasn’t been the best either: Mike Anderson left him no recruits for this season; he lost an incoming transfer and had another player leave; and he lost one of the team’s most pivotal players in Laurence Bowers to injury. Ouch.
  2. Boston Herald: Steve Donahue is very, very patient. It’s hard to tell from reading this article whether Donahue is patient or just resigned. While it’s true you want to ground yourself in reality, it won’t help you recruit: “He’s conceded that he won’t win recruiting wars with ACC powers Duke and North Carolina for blue chip prospects.” The fact is, a good recruiter absolutely can win those battles (see: Sean Miller at Arizona or even Mark Gottfried at NC State in recent weeks). Boston College has something to offer high-level recruits that Duke and North Carolina do not always have available, though: playing time. The article also makes a great point that Donahue has a history of starting slow, as his teams faced losing seasons in his first six years at Cornell.
  3. Burlington Times-News: With the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the ACC won’t just see its overall basketball talent increase, but it will also have to change scheduling dramatically. Currently teams play 16 games, four of which include home-and-homes against rivals (i.e., Duke plays North Carolina and Maryland twice every year) and three other rotating home-and-home series. But the addition of two more teams will mandate the conference move to at least an 18-game conference season (basically, the same parameters would exist with two more one-time opponents factored in). Nothing is as satisfactory as a round-robin schedule where everyone gets two shots against everyone else, but conference expansion has made that impossible.
  4. Richmond Times-Dispatch: The writers over at the Richmond Times-Dispatch put together five trivia questions about the ACC. One very interesting fact I found was that Florida State has never won an ACC title (with the Seminoles’ last basketball title of any kind coming in 1978 in the Metro Conference). Although I’m going to disagree with number four: James McAdoo is not this year’s Harrison Barnes. Partially because Barnes came into last season so hyped (but mostly because guys like Barnes and Jared Sullinger returned for another year of college), the media hasn’t crowned any freshmen as the next big thing this year. If there’s an apt comparison for McAdoo, it’s Marvin Williams (the most gifted member of the Tar Heels’ 2005 National Championship team, who also came off the bench).
  5. Asheville Citizen Times: Looking for a pie-in-the-sky local preview of the UNC-Asheville vs. North Carolina game coming up this Sunday? Then the Asheville Citizen Times is your paper! The piece actually points out a couple of interesting tidbits: (1) the last time Roy Williams generously christened a non-BCS arena, the Tar Heels lost to College of Charleston in 2009 (the year after the National Championship); and (2) the Tar Heels won’t arrive in Asheville until 5:00AM Saturday morning before the Sunday game because of a cross-country flight back from tonight’s Carrier Classic. UNC Asheville is the favorite to repeat in the Big South and to receive a 16-seed for the Big Dance.

EXTRA: Former Duke basketball player Reggie Love will leave the White House by the end of the year. Love is currently working on an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at Penn and cited focusing on education as the reason for his departure. In addition to missing a very valuable teammate for pick-up hoops games, President Obama will also miss Love for his cultural influence: “The president also credited Love for expanding his musical repertoire, introducing him to artists like Nas and Lil Wayne.”

Image of the Day:

The Aircraft Carrier Setting for Tonight's Game between Michigan State and North Carolina Looks Epic

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ACC Team Previews: North Carolina

Posted by KCarpenter on November 4th, 2011

North Carolina fans are developing a severe case of whiplash. In 2009, the Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson squad led the team to a dominant and resounding NCAA championship. The next year, Roy Williams had arguably his worst year ever as a coach as the Tar Heels missed the NCAA Tournament entirely. Last year, a late-surging UNC team came within spitting distance of the Final Four, losing to the ever-young and ever-loaded Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight.

This year? North Carolina is again the overwhelming favorite to win it all.  Let me put that on a timeline. A year ago, a despondent UNC fan base was praying for a great start to the new season to wipe away the memories of a catastrophically disappointing season. This year, Chapel Hill is bubbling over with excitement. People are throwing all kinds of superlatives around when they talk about this team. We can talk about whether those superlatives are earned or not some other time, but let’s make one thing abundantly clear: UNC is a championship caliber team.

Harrison Barnes Leads A Loaded North Carolina Team

The only losses from last year’s Elite Eight crew are graduate school transfer Justin Knox, who served as a solid if not spectacular backup for the starting frontcourt.  The loss of Leslie McDonald to an ACL tear during the summer, however, is slightly more troubling. Though still a backup, McDonald made the second most threes on the team and was the Heels’ most reliable threat from behind the arc. If he comes back at all this season, which seems unlikely considering the severity of the injury, it would apparently be near the start of the ACC Tournament. So for the regular season, I think it’s safe to say that McDonald won’t be playing.  Larry Drew, II, of course, left the team mid-season after he lost the starting point guard job. It’s hard to call this a loss, however, since Drew’s departure seemed to catalyze a middling North Carolina team and transform it into the tough and capable offensive team that played deep into March. It’s a textbook case of addition by subtraction.

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Preseason Bracketology: 10.28.11 Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on October 28th, 2011

Zach Hayes is RTC’s official bracketologist.  He will periodically put together his latest bracket projections throughout the season.  Tell him where you agree or disagree @zhayes9 on Twitter.

  • Last Four In: Drexel, Illinois, Kansas State, Notre Dame.
  • First Four Out: Virginia Tech, Georgetown, Oregon, Minnesota.
  • Next Four Out: Northwestern, BYU, Princeton, Oklahoma State.

Click to Enlarge Bracket

Notes

  • This was the most clear-cut foursome for the top line that I can recall during any previous preseason bracket and all four deserve to be anointed Final Four teams here in October.
  • Maybe a bit of a surprise in both instances, but I’m taking Texas A&M and California to win their respective leagues. Maybe their talent level is not up to par with the likes of Kansas and UCLA, but I like their stability, coaching and players like Khris Middleton and Allen Crabbe are primed to explode.
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ACC Team Previews: Wake Forest

Posted by KCarpenter on October 18th, 2011

Wake Forest had a rough season this past year. No, wait, that’s not right. Bad? Terrible? Catastrophic?  I’m having a hard time capturing the scale and scope of how bad last season was. The ideal word would capture a sort of hopeless, inevitable despondency mixed with mind-blowing, frustrating futility. Imagine a turtle trying to climb up a hill. Then the camera zooms out, and the turtle is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon trying to scale the side of a cliff. Now imagine that the turtle accidentally falls onto it’s back. Now imagine a mob gathering at the top of the cliff to push boulders down onto the turtle. That’s how last season felt in Winston-Salem.

Jeff Bzdelik Has A Lot Of Work To Do After Last Season's Disaster

Wake Forest had a single win in the Atlantic Coast Conference against lowly Virginia. Wake Forest won a single game away from its home court: a neutral court win against Elon at Greensboro Coliseum. Wake Forest stunned the world by losing the season opener against Stetson and then proceeded to lose to Winthrop, UNC Wilmington, and Presbyterian. They also lost to a number of very good basketball teams, but that kind of goes without saying when Stetson and Presbyterian are giving you the business on your floor. Ken Pomeroy’s basketball efficiency statistics demonstrate that this wasn’t just a few unlucky games. This was a systemic and utter, season-long failure. Every 16-seed in last year’s NCAA tournament was significantly better than Wake Forest. For the record, that group included UNC-Asheville, Boston University, Arkansas-Little Rock, and Texas-San Antonio. Last season, in short, was an unmitigated disaster. I hope we’re clear on that. That said, this summer may have been worse.

While Jeff Bzdelik had certainly counted on losing senior starter Gary Clark, it’s unlikely he had prepared for the other losses. Another starter, Ari Stewart, announced that he was transferring to USC. Melvin Tabb was hardly a major contributor to the Demon Deacons, but on a shrinking roster, it didn’t help that he was suspended and then released from the team after facing charges of breaking/entering and fraud. Another starter, freshman sensation J.T. Terrell, left school after he was charged with driving under the influence. Finally, 7’0″ senior Ty Walker was ruled ineligible to compete with the team throughout the duration of the fall semester due to a violation of Wake Forest’s honor code. All of this happened from the months of April to September. Ouch.

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That’s Just The Way It Is: Bruce Hornsby’s Kid Can Get Up

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2011

Back in the late 1980s when Bruce Hornsby was probably at the peak of his pop/rock star persona with his band The Range, he wrote a song called The Old Playground. The smooth Virginian probably could have guessed given his musical acumen that there were great things ahead of him in his professional career, but he was rolling the dice of serendipity when he wrote the following lyrics to the song:

Take me to the old playground
Where the old ones rule, and the young ones do their time
Take me to the old playground
Where the talk is cheap
And the restless stalk the baseline

The old sage frowns, he says just pass it on around
But all-world junior’s pulling up from downtown
For some it’s a way out, for some it’s a way in
Most of us don’t even care
We’re just looking for another gym to get in

All-world junior may not be pulling up from downtown, but he is capable of going with a windmill reverse jam off the bounce.  Check out Keith Hornsby, a freshman guard at UNC Asheville, who also happens to be the basketball-playing child of the three-time Grammy winner.

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RTC Conference Primers: #26 – Big South Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 9th, 2011

Mark Bryant, Big South Director of Multimedia Development and writer of BigSouthSHOUT, is the RTC correspondent for the Big South Conference. You can find him on Twitter at @BigSouthSports

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • Mountain High Expectations: Will UNC Asheville hold serve as the favorite, now that the team is no longer in its typical role as the scrappy underdog?  Observers and opponents will not have their focus elsewhere this year, and Asheville will be showing off a new arena, no longer in the extra-cozy confines of the Justice Center which always provided a significant home court edge.
  • New to the Big South: Some familiar names to SEC fans have found their way to the Big South.  Mamadou N’Diaye, who played for Cliff Ellis at Auburn, will join Ellis on the Coastal Carolina bench, and B.J. McKie, who played at South Carolina when Barclay Radebaugh was an assistant there, will be part of Radebaugh’s staff at Charleston Southern.  Meanwhile, Radford is the lone school with a new head coach, as Mike Jones comes in to lead the Highlanders.  Campbell, a founding member of the Big South, rejoins the conference for the 2011-12 season.
  • Tourney Turnover: Changes to the Big South Championship format will allow all ten eligible teams into the field (Presbyterian College has one remaining year of transition to Division I and cannot play in the postseason).  Championship Week will be a wild ride, with the #7 & #8 seeds hosting the #9 and #10 seeds as “play-in” games on Monday night to get into the straight eight-team bracket.  The winners will be reseeded as the #7 and #8 seeds for the quarterfinals to allow for traditional pairings (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5).  Wednesday and Thursday of that week will be the quarterfinals and semifinals, all planned for the top seed’s home, with the Saturday final at the home of the higher surviving seed.

Predicted Order of Finish

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RTC Summer Updates: Big South Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 11th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Big South correspondent, Mark Bryant.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

  • New Kids On The Block:  The most obvious changes from last hoops season to the one upcoming are the new faces in the Big South Conference. First and foremost, there’s a whole new team to account for this year, as the Campbell Fighting Camels have returned. CU was a founding member of the Big South in 1983, but left in 1994. Now the boys from Buies Creek are back where they belong, nestled in among more geographic rivalries and familiar old foes. And while it’s not as dramatic as a whole new team, plenty of eyes will be on the new head man at Radford, where Mike Jones will be in charge of a rebuilding process for the Highlanders.
  • Old Faces, New Places: And while every conference sees plenty of shuffling among assistants from year to year, the Big South had a couple notable arrivals–particularly for those who have followed SEC hoops in the past. Charleston Southern added former South Carolina standout B.J. McKie to the coaching staff. McKie joins coach Barclay Radebaugh, who was on the USC bench in BJ’s days as a guard to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, up the beach from Charleston, Coastal Carolina and head coach Cliff Ellis have added their own familiar name in Mamadou N’Diaye, who played at Auburn for Ellis before launching his NBA career.
  • Changes of Scenery: Big South basketball locales will take on different looks both at home and away this year, as UNC Asheville and Coastal Carolina are putting the finishing touches on entirely new facilities, while several schools are hitting the road less traveled and going abroad.  Summer trips will take Presbyterian College to Italy, Gardner-Webb to the Bahamas, and Liberty to Belgium and France, plus once the season begins, we will see Winthrop head off to the Virgin Islands.

What do Asheville's Matt Dickey (2) and JP Primm have in store for an encore after last season's NCAA Tournament bid?

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Weekend NCAA Diary From Washington

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2011

As you’re no doubt aware, we’ve had our cadre of correspondents traveling around the country to each of the eight NCAA sites over the weekend.  We’ve asked the guys to produce a weekend diary of the games they witnessed including analysis, commentary and opinion concerning the sights and sounds at their venues.  Our hope is that the diaries will give you insights into the games that you may not have otherwise had from watching them on television or catching the highlights package afterward.  Let us know how we do…

Note: for all of the opening weekend diaries, click here.

Location: Washington, DC
Round: Third
Teams: Butler, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Connecticut
Date: 19 March 2011
Correspondent: Kevin Doyle

Butler Continues Escaping Doom (AP/N. Wass)

  • No matter what I write or how I write it, quite simply nothing can convey what transpired in the final seconds of the Pittsburgh-Butler game at the Verizon Center on Saturday evening. It doesn’t matter how proficient with words one is—you could be Billy Shakespeare—the feeling of every single person in the arena whether they were pulling for Butler, Pittsburgh or were indifferent to the outcome cannot possibly be duplicated. Suffice to say, I will merely provide you with my experience and reaction to how everything went down.
  • It all began following a timeout called by Brad Stevens with just a shade over seven seconds remaining. After Jamie Dixon saw what Butler came out in, he elected to use a timeout. Both teams had none left. What transpired next was actually a very similar play that the Bulldogs ran against Old Dominion just two days prior. Shawn Vanzant—going toward the same basket as he had against ODU—drove down the right side of the lane and threw the ball across his body to a wide open Andrew Smith who calmly laid the ball home. Against the Monarchs, Vanzant flung the ball in the direction of the basket and was fortunate enough to have Matt Howard clean up the garbage; this time the play worked a bit better. After Smith’s bucket, the game looked to be well in hand—far from the case. We had only just begun.
  • After sophomore Andrew Smith hit what looked to be at the time the game-winning basket for Butler, the Bulldogs’ bench and section of fans, students, and alums alike erupted in jubilation—they had just knocked off the Pittsburgh Panthers in one of the most dramatic of fashions. The emotional high they were on sunk to the lowest of lows in a matter of seconds as Shelvin Mack bumped Gilbert Brown right in front of the scorer’s table—the play happened so close to me that if I had Yao Ming’s wing span I could have made contact with Brown—sending the 78% free throw shooter to the line for two. The joyous jumps, hugs, and high fives that could be seen in the Butler section of the arena abruptly turned to a crowd of people stunned. They stood motionless with hands grasping their heads and mouths wide open. I distinctly remember turning to the gentleman next to me and we just stared at one another in disbelief. The roles had suddenly reversed as the Pittsburgh fans began to celebrate. Gilbert Brown was arguably their best free throw shooter—he had not missed a freebie since February.

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NCAA Second Round Game Analysis – Thursday

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2011

Now that the Play-In First Four games are finished, let’s get back to normalcy with the best weekend of the year beginning this afternoon.  Sixteen games, eight sites, four television channels, and several million brackets busted by roughly 3:30 PM eastern time.

#5 West Virginia vs. #11 Clemson – East Region Second Round (at Tampa, FL) – 12:15 pm ET on CBS

Expect a low-scoring, gritty and physical opener for Thursday’s NCAA Tournament action, and not just because the tip time is barely after noon and Clemson arrived in Tampa just before the sun came up on Wednesday. Both of these teams pride themselves in their toughness defensively and play extremely hard on every possession. Clemson specializes in limiting opposing offenses inside the arc behind senior forward Jerai Grant prowess in the paint, while West Virginia limits their competition to below 30% shooting from the three-point line. While both Brad Brownell and Bob Huggins have a history of trotting out stalwart defenses, the edge offensively has to side with the Mountaineers. Kevin Jones has been playing his best basketball of the season as of late, posting three double-doubles in his last four outings. Casey Mitchell is a 38% gunner from deep that is tremendous off screens in catch and shoot situations where he barely needs any room to fire. Deniz Kilicli and John Flowers have aided what has turned out to be the sixth best offensive rebounding team in the nation, no surprise coming from a Huggins-coached squad. Clemson is merely middle of the pack in Division I in allowing offensive rebounds, so the Mountaineer frontline may be able to churn out extra possessions for their perimeter weapons throughout this game. Limiting Grant is certainly a challenge, but the WV frontline should be up to the task. Combine tired legs with Mitchell feasting on a perimeter defense that just surrendered 12 threes to UAB and the edge in this 5/12 matchup has to side with the Mountaineers.

The RTC Certified Pick: West Virginia.

#8 Butler vs. #9 Old Dominion – Southeast Region Second Round (at Washington, D.C.) – 12:40 pm ET on truTV.

Both teams have won their past nine games en route to conference tournament championships. Defense has been the key for each club during their winning streaks with Butler giving up 58 PPG and ODU at 57.7 PPG against over their last nine games. Old Dominion is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation and that is where they have to take advantage of the Bulldogs. This game will be played almost exclusively in the half court with both teams preferring a slower pace. Butler ranks #11 in defensive rebounding percentage but the Monarchs are the best offensive rebounding team in the land. Blaine Taylor’s team must win this battle and protect the basketball in order to advance. They struggle at times with turnovers and lots of giveaways will negate their expected edge on the glass. Look for the Monarchs to work inside utilizing star big man Frank Hassell as well as Keyon Carter and Kent Bazemore. Butler allows 48.7% FG inside the arc and that could hurt them against the frontcourt-oriented Monarchs. Butler shoots almost 21 threes per game behind Shelvin Mack, Zach Hahn and even Matt Howard (44%). Add in the recent play of Shawn Vanzant and you have a team playing as well as they have all year. ODU is very poor against the three, their biggest vulnerability. Bazemore is a terrific defender and needs to come up big on that end against the Bulldog guards. Both teams are experienced and obviously did well in last year’s tournament so they won’t be intimidated by the big stage. While the focus will be on Howard vs. Hassell in the post, this game could be determined by guard play.

The RTC Certified Pick: Butler.

#4 Louisville vs. #13 Morehead State – Southwest Region Second Round (at Denver, CO) – 1:40 pm ET on TBS.

We’re quite sure that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino could only shake his head in disgust when he saw his team’s opening matchup on Thursday.  An in-state mid-major whose greatest strength — a dominant glass-eater by the name of Kenneth Faried — bears stark contrast with his Cards’ greatest weakness, interior play.  Over the years, Pitino has mastered the art of using team defensive principles to stymie players like Faried by throwing two and three bodies at him everywhere on the floor.  The Cards will need to again, because Faried’s nonstop motor and Rodman-esque knack for finding the ball is the best in the nation (he corrals 20% of offensive rebounds and 31% of defensive rebounds while he’s on the floor), something his players know all too well after facing Morehead State (and Faried) in the same round two seasons ago (Faried went for 14/11 in a 20-point loss).  He’s gotten better, and so has his team.  The good news for Pitino is that MSU is often sloppy with the ball, committing nearly fifteen turnovers a game, and the Eagles don’t defend the three very well (36.9%), which will allow ample opportunities for the Louisville shooters to get good looks from deep.  Two seasons ago a stronger Louisville team went into halftime only up two points on a weaker Morehead State team; expect a similar situation this year, as the relative strengths and weaknesses offset each other.  Ultimately, the Cards will find enough points through hustle and desire to fend off the school located two hours east, but we’ll forgive Pitino if he lambastes the committee for giving him this dangerous opponent for the second time in three years.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville.

#7 Temple vs. #10 Penn State – West Region Second Round (at Tucson, AZ) – 2:10 pm ET on TNT.

While the Owls are 25-7 and the higher seed here, this is not a team that is at full strength. They have played their last eight games without center Michael Eric, who will not return this year, and the last seven without swingman Scootie Randall, who is holding out hope that he will be able to go Thursday. The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, are at full strength, but their full strength means that their five starters are ready to play a whole lot of minutes, with only sporadic contributions from the bench, which averages less than eight total points per game. And given the pace at which Penn State plays (their games average just 60 possessions, in the bottom two percent of the nation), a pace which Temple will have little objection to, we’ll have a low-scoring, limited possession, defensive battle that will likely come down to seeing which of the two teams makes the most plays in the final few minutes. Because of that, the Lions may have the edge. Not only do they have four seniors amongst their five main players, but Talor Battle is an explosive scorer given the limited number of possessions he works with. And, among their five man rotation, only Andrew Jones is a poor free throw shooter. For Temple to counteract the experience of the Lions, they’ll need to get plenty of inside production from physical freak Lavoy Allen, while perimeter players like Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt and point guard Juan Fernandez will have to take advantage of a PSU defense that likes to pack it in and force their opponents to beat them with their jump shot. Unfortunately for the Owls, even if Randall does make it back for this game, their most efficient offensive player does not figure to have his legs back, and Temple may come up a bit short.

The RTC Certified Pick: Penn State

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Around The Blogosphere: On The Eve Of The NCAA Tournament

Posted by nvr1983 on March 17th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We are talking a slightly different approach to this post today due to the nature of the NCAA Tournament, but we will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

East Regional

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NCAA Daily Diaries: First Four – Tuesday

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2011

RTC will be covering the NCAA Tournament from cover to cover this year, with correspondents at each of the fourteen sites over the next three weeks.  These diaries are intended to give you insights to the games, coaches, players, fans media and everything else that you wouldn’t otherwise have known simply from watching on television.  As always, feel free to offer suggestions for feedback in future versions that we can pass along to our correspondents.  Here’s Tuesday’s Diary from Dayton…

The First Four, Tuesday – by John Stevens

What a privilege to be in attendance for history. Assuming the First Four sticks and they bring it back every year, we can say we were at the first First Four. It took a while for UD Arena to fill, but not only was the 6:30 PM ET start time a tad early for a Tuesday night game, but the interstate highways near the arena are undergoing construction, resulting in several bottlenecks and resultant standstills. If you were hoping to slide in just a few minutes before tipoff of either game, there’s no way you made it. By the late second half of UALR vs UNCA, the place was about 80% full.

Here’s how cruel fate can be: when UAB (and VCU, for that matter) were announced as having made the Tournament, you probably heard what ESPN’s Jay Bilas thought of it. That soundbite, by now, is famous; you know, the one where he slams the committee for letting those two teams in ahead of Colorado and Virginia Tech, even wondering if the committee was aware that basketballs were, in fact, round. On the drive up here today, I was listening to ESPN radio play a clip with the response by UAB’s senior guard Aaron Johnson, the Conference USA Player of the Year. In it, Johnson said, “Nothing stopped me from dancing in my room when they announced us, and even when Jay Bilas was talking down about us and everything, we’re just happy to get to play.” That’s a great response, a kid sticking up for his team and his school. There is no other response. Late in the game against Clemson, the matter all but decided, Johnson hustled back to defend what turned out to be a run-out layup with an and-one opportunity for Clemson. Johnson fell awkwardly, but the play happened right in front of me and it looked like a simple cramp. Wrong. Johnson broke his tibia on the play. The replay showed a left limb that simply should not move the way a foot and leg should. When he was taken off the floor, he tried to restrain his tears. He failed. He and his trainers went right by me en route back to the locker room. The look on Johnson’s eyes was not just one of immense pain. It was one of soul-consuming fear, a look of a kid who wondered if he’d ever walk normally again, let alone ever play basketball for money, as he was poised to do someday. A broken tibia entails an arduous recovery and a long rehab. We hope he makes it all the way back, and fulfills his dreams. The most evil aspect of this was noted in a tweet by Mid-Majority’s Kyle Whelliston — and that’s the fact that if UAB wasn’t selected for the Tournament, Johnson doesn’t play in this game.

What strange statistics at halftime of UAB/Clemson. At the break, UAB was 2-12 from inside the two-point arc, but 7-15 outside of it. Clemson, by contrast, couldn’t hit from three-point range, shooting 1-7. Inside the arc, they fared much better in the first half, hitting a blistering 14 of 20 shots! In the second half, the Tigers fared slightly better from range, hitting 3-6, but a couple of those were late-minute bombs from subs. With just about three minutes remaining, Clemson had shot only two treys, hitting one of them. It’s not something Clemson does well to begin with, and this is the time of year where one of the best things you can do is know yourself. By now, teams should know their strengths and weaknesses, what to avoid, and the best way to play up what they do best. If you don’t have long range shooters, hey, don’t shoot a lot of threes. Not that seven three-point attempts is a lot for a half, but you know this was a point emphasized by Clemson head coach Brad Brownell at halftime. His team followed through, and put the Blazers away easily in the second half on the strength of good shot selection — and, of course, multiple turnovers by UAB.

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