Rushed Reactions: #11 Dayton 60, #6 Ohio State 59

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 20th, 2014

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

Three Key Takeaways.

Dayton pulled off a stunner in Buffalo. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Dayton pulled off a stunner in Buffalo. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

  1. The Battle of Ohio was even better than expected. When this game popped up on Selection Sunday, it was tabbed as one of the better round of 64 matchups, and it more than lived up to the hype. There were several huge momentum swings throughout the game, both fan bases had their moments, and the final five minutes – a taut five minutes – was rife with huge plays. The first game of the day will be tough to top throughout the rest of this round’s action.
  2. These Flyers are resilient. Sam Thompson sparked a big Ohio State run midway through the second half to put the Buckeyes back on top, and it looked like danger zone for Dayton. Unable to get any looks underneath and completely out of sync offensively, the Flyers very well could have faded into oblivion over the final 10 minutes. Instead, they kept attacking in transition and never hung their heads on the defensive end. It paid off. They reached the bonus relatively early on, hit some free throws, and kept the game tight. And when Aaron Craft’s layup fell through with 10 seconds on the clock, Archie Miller’s guys confidently ran the ball up the floor, got it into Vee Sanford’s hands, and he made the magic happen – a Raftery-sizedkiss off the glass to finish off the upset.
  3. Aaron Craft’s career ends. Regardless of how you feel about Craft, you should not remember him for the bad intentional foul he committed late in the second half. Instead, the lasting image should be the way he responded – by attacking the rim and making several enormous baskets down the stretch. If that Sanford shot had rimmed out, we’d be talking about Craft as the hero, again. Hate him, love him, the guy is a tough player who did a lot of great things in Columbus over the past four years. Remember that side of it.

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The RTC Podcast: The KenPom Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 14th, 2014

Running very late with the post this week, but this week’s RTC Podcast has already been up on iTunes since Monday night (even more reason to subscribe and automatically get the updates as soon as they drop!). As always, Shane Conolly (@sconnolly114) hosts, guiding us through a really interesting weekend of action that included a number of upsets within conference play and some very early takeaways about a number of highly-ranked teams. There will of course also be an interesting series of emails and a fired-up #rootforthesuit segment.

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We’re also pleased to bring back the Rush the Takes segment, featuring advanced metrics guru and bowling aficianado Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) this week. You’ll learn about a team that Pomeroy the fan disagrees with Pomeroy the statistician, and understand a little better what the future of advanced metrics holds in the arena of college basketball. Pomeroy gives a really good interview, and we hope that you’ll give it a listen.

  • 0:00-8:41 – Iowa Hands Ohio State Another Loss
  • 8:41-13:08 – Examining Other Upsets
  • 13:08-19:16 – Iowa State Can’t Muster Enough Hilton Magic Against Kansas
  • 19:16-30:21 – Rush The Take With Metrics Guru Ken Pomeroy
  • 30:21-34:58 – Most Indispensable Player
  • 34:58-39:41 – Piece of Memorabilia Worth $119,500
  • 39:41-42:21 – #rootforthesuit
  • 42:21-47:19 – Week Preview
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NCAA Regional Reset: Midwest Region

Posted by EJacoby on March 21st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region correspondent. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

The Midwest Regional begins Friday night in St. Louis with with North Carolina vs. Ohio followed by Kansas vs. NC State. Our East Regional Reset and West Regional Reset published Tuesday, while our South Regional Reset will publish later today.Make sure to follow RTCMWRegion for news and analysis from St. Louis throughout the weekend.

New Favorite: #2 Kansas (29-6, 16-2 Big 12). How do the Jayhawks become the favorite in this region after nearly being upset last round by #10 Purdue, in a game they should have lost? First of all, the regional semifinals and finals are being played in St. Louis, a much closer destination for KU fans than any of the other teams, making for a solid home-court advantage for the #2 seed. But more importantly, the #1 seed just lost its point guard and floor leader to a broken wrist. Kendall Marshall is arguably the most indispensable player to his team in this entire tournament, and North Carolina has no backup for its star PG. This makes Kansas the favorite going forward in the wacky Midwest.

St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome Hosts the Midwest Regional Finals

Horse of Darkness: #11 NC State (24-12, 9-7 ACC). Don’t let the #11 fool you; NC State is an incredibly talented team from the ACC that has the talent, size, and coaching experience to compete with anyone it matches up against. Despite underachieving for much of the season and barely getting into this tournament, the Wolfpack found that perfect match of offensive firepower and collective defense to take down their first two opponents. It won’t be a shock if this team can give Kansas a game on Friday night. NC State used its size inside (Richard Howell, C.J. Leslie) to hold Henry Sims of Georgetown to just four points last round, and they will look to do the same against Thomas Robinson and Kansas this weekend. Should they advance, the Wolfpack are familiar with conference foe UNC and nearly beat the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament, and that was with a healthy Kendall Marshall. NC State is a serious dark horse here, despite facing the regional favorite on Friday.

Biggest Surprise, 1st Weekend: #13 Ohio (29-7, 11-5 MAC). We thought that John Groce’s team had a great matchup in the round of 64 against #4 Michigan, a team that plays a similar perimeter style, but it’s still a huge surprise that the #13 seed took down the Big Ten co-champions in a game that it controlled almost the entire way. D.J. Cooper and company then outplayed #12 South Florida in the second half to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, becoming this year’s Cinderella story as the mid-major, double-digit seed to advance to the second weekend. Now Ohio has to match up with powerhouse #1 North Carolina on Friday, but the Bobcats are on a roll and will try to make magic happen once again.

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ATB: Absolute MADNESS – Chaos Ensues As Round of 64 Concludes…

Posted by EJacoby on March 17th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede – Thursday was a fairly slow first day of NCAA Tournament action, producing just two total upsets and leaving much to be desired in terms of thrilling finishes. Friday was a completely different story – two #15 seeds won on the same day for the first time ever, with the results coming just a couple of hours apart. We also saw a #13, #12, #11, and two #10 seeds come out victorious in one of the craziest days in Big Dance history. Half of the games on the schedule resulted in upsets, including seven of the final nine contests on this freaky Friday night. Without further ado, we provide everything you need to know in this installment of After The Buzzer…

Your Watercooler Moment. #15 Norfolk State Stuns #2 Missouri.

It was supposed to be the late afternoon game to fill the only quiet block of the evening. #15-seed Norfolk State against #2 Missouri, the exciting up-tempo team that produced the most efficient offense in the country this season with its four-guard attack. Mizzou was a very popular Final Four pick, considered the team with the greatest upside in the West Region. But then things got interesting; pesky Norfolk State was hanging around and had the game tied at halftime. Every time you looked up at the scoreboard in the second half, Norfolk was ahead or behind by a couple of points and that’s when it was time to tell all your friends that we might have a serious bracket-buster taking place. Sure enough, it happened. The Spartans of the MEAC conference became the first #15-seed to win an NCAA Tournament game in 11 years since a fellow MEAC school did it in the form of Hampton University over Iowa State in 2001. This year, it was dominant big man Kyle O’Quinn who paced the way with a monster double-double for a team that shot 54.2% from the field and went 10-19 from three. Missouri played fine offensively, shooting 52.7% itself, but the Tigers allowed the tournament’s least-efficient offense to hit shots from everywhere on the floor as well as out-hustle them to loose balls and open rebounds. Little did we know, the madness was only beginning on this night.

Also Worth Chatting About. Hours Later, #15 Lehigh Makes History

Most brackets were busted from Missouri’s loss alone, but those who happened to have the Tigers falling early in their pools surely didn’t survive the rest of the night, either. The 7:00 PM ET block of games blew the roof off of this tournament, beginning with the little guys from the Patriot League. #15 Lehigh had a terrific year led by mid-major star guard C.J. McCollum, but nobody thought this team had a chance against Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils, the most successful NCAA Tournament team of the past 20 years. #2-seed Duke, though, was vulnerable because of an injury to starting forward Ryan Kelly and an overall trend of weak recent play thanks to a porous defense. The Mountain Hawks took advantage early and often, leading this game early in the first half and continuing to put the pressure on Duke’s ‘D’. McCollum was the star of the show, Duke wasn’t hitting from the perimeter, and Lehigh really had a chance to win this game. Late in the second half it was anyone’s game, but McCollum made big play after big play while no Duke guard could counter. Seth Curry, Austin Rivers, and Andre Dawkins combined to shoot 4-19 from three. Gabe Knutson matched Mason Plumlee inside going for 17 points on 5-5 shooting. And when the buzzer sounded, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks were winners in a thorough victory that made history. For the first time ever, two #15 seeds won in the same year of the NCAA Tournament. And it all happened on the same evening, just two-and-a-half hours apart.

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Beware Bracket Advice! (Note: Bracket Advice Enclosed)

Posted by jstevrtc on March 17th, 2009

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.

We love brackets of all types!  (photo credit: alibaba.com)
We love brackets of all types! (photo credit: alibaba.com)

For the next 72 hours you’re going to be bombarded with advice on how to fill out your NCAA Tournament bracket.  It’ll be a steady diet of punchy one-liners like “Always pick 12s against 5s!” and “Ones always beat sixteens!”  Sure, there’s some good advice out there.  Some of it’s pretty obvious.  And some of it just blows.  I’m not saying I’ve got the market cornered on how to pick a perfect bracket, and you should beware anyone who makes that claim.  But I think it’s good to take a quick look at some of what these so-called experts are telling you.

First, there are two things we can accept as axiomatic and move on:

1) One-seeds always beat 16s.
2) All four one-seeds almost never get to the Final Four (we know last year is the exception).

Right.  We get it.  Anyone who uses one of those as a selling point in their analysis is someone you should ignore.  If you’re reading a piece on NCAA tournament bracket-filling advice, it’s certain that you already have those pieces of information.  It isn’t news to you.  So let’s move on…

ALWAYS TAKE 12-SEEDS

Wrong.  This is my favorite piece of bracket-building advice.  It’s a fad statement because of how, in the past several years, 12-seeds have almost always scored at least one victory against 5-seeds in a given tournament.  Most people take this too far and choose three or even all four 12s to move on in their brackets.  But according to BBState.com (a hoops stat nerd’s wet dream — this means you, rtmsf), the all-time record for 12s against 5s is a discouraging 34-83, or about 29%.  This means that you’re completely justified picking a single 12-seed that you’ve got a hunch about to score a win over a 5, but leaving the rest alone.  If you choose right, great!  You showed those punk opponents of yours how it’s done.  Worst-case scenario if youre wrong is you drop a couple of points if another 12 that you didn’t select pulls off the upset.  Chances are, one 12 will pick up a win.  So I wouldn’t leave it alone and take all the 5s.  But choose a SINGLE 12-seed, and don’t sweat it if you’re wrong.

2008 Version of WKU. Are they a 12 over a 5 this year? (photo credit: cbc.ca)

THE NCAA TOURNAMENT IS ABOUT UPSETS

That isn’t necessarily an untrue statement, since we all love a good tournament upset unless it’s our alma.  Those stories are often what make the event so special and add to its legend.  But it does not apply to bracket-building.  Notice how most brackets have increasing point values as the rounds progress, i.e. you get a single point for correctly picking a first-round winner, two points for a second-round winner, etc.  So if you have a bunch of upset-picks advancing to later rounds, since higher-seeded teams usually end up rising to the top, all you’ve done is penalize yourself in the big-reward games.  Some bracket competitions assign even higher point values than I’ve mentioned above (8 points for a correct Final Four pick, 15 for a national champion, and so on) so it’s more important in those systems.  The payoff, then — keep the upsets limited to the first round and maybe the second where you can’t get hurt much if you choose wrong.  Now, I’m not telling you pick a totally worthless and boring bracket where the “better” seed always wins.  That’s the height of douchebaggery.  This is indeed about having fun, and it’s fun to pick a couple of mid-major upstarts to stick it to one or two BCS goons for a round or two.  It adds meaning to games you might not even watch or care about under any other circumstance.  If you’re wrong, and your favorite 10-seed doesn’t make it to the Sweet 16 and that 14 doesn’t score that first-round victory you predicted, big deal.  It’s your bracket and you took the chance.  But if you care about winning, keep that stuff in the early round games, and fill in your later rounds with more established programs.

CHOOSE A CHAMPION WITH GOOD GUARDS

A generic piece of advice.  Otherwise stated as “You have to have good guard play to win the title.”  What are you going to do, choose a team with bad guards?  Even if the person espousing this really means that you should choose a championship team and/or Final Four teams that are “led” by guards, be careful.  Look at every champion crowned in the 2000s.  Every one of them has forwards and/or centers who meant just as much or even more to the team than any of their guards.  This is why these coaches are out there busting their tails on the recruiting trail.  It’s talent at EVERY position that determines success at a program and in the Big Dance.  You can’t just have good guards, you need good players.  The statement that you have to have “good guard play” as a necessary component for tournament success is a bit of advice that sounds insightful and has therefore spun out of control in recent years as some sage bit of wisdom.  Don’t even consider this piece of pseudo-advice when you’re filling in your bracket.

Carmelo Athony.  Not exactly a typical guard.
Carmelo Athony. Not exactly a typical guard. (photo credit: enquirer.com)

The best piece of advice you can possibly keep at the front of your mind when building your bracket is to have fun with it.  Even if you fill out an all-upset or an all-chalk bracket (bag… of… douche!), it’s your bracket and you should do whatever adds to your enjoyment of the tournament.  It’s kind of like playing hardways or snake-eyes at a casino in Las Vegas.  True, the insiders and experts might roll their eyes and snicker at you as you reduce your chances of making money with those plays.  But, I figure, I don’t get to Vegas too often, so while I’m there I might as well have fun and do what I want.  And of course it’s great if it hits!  Yeah, it might not be the smartest play, but when I go home and someone asks me “Did you have fun?” I don’t want to say, “No, but at least the experts don’t think I’m an idiot.  I think I may have impressed those guys.”  Same thing with filling in tournament brackets, as far as I’m concerned.  But I think if, as I’ve outlined above, you can put a critical eye on those oft-repeated bits of advice, you’ll be able to maximize both how much fun you’ll have with this and your chances of winning.

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Checking in on the… Mountain West

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2008

Jordan Freemyer is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky and Mountain West Conferences.

It has been an eventful and mostly successful week for teams in the Mountain West this week. Here’s a look at the three Mountain West teams that are still undefeated, along with a couple other contenders that have stumbled once so far.

BYU has gotten off to a 5-0 start so far, and only one opponent, Long Beach State, has really been able to keep the game close. None of the Cougars’ opponents are marquee names, but BYU is blowing out inferior teams as they should. Senior guard Lee Cummard leads the Cougars with 19.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game thus far, and junior forward Jonathan Tavernari has added 15.8 points and 7.4 boards per game.

This week’s schedule:

  • Saturday at Idaho State
  • Wednesday at Weber State

UNLV has also started 5-0. The Runnin’ Rebels are coming off an 80-67 victory at UTEP on Tuesday night. The other four wins for UNLV have come at home, with the toughest game coming against San Diego. Senior guard Wink Adams has carried the Runnin’ Rebels, averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

This week’s schedule:

  • Friday vs California
  • Wednesday at Fresno State

The surprise undefeated in the Mountain West is Wyoming. The Cowboys are 3-0 on the season, taking advantage of five straight home games to start the season. Freshman forward Afam Muojeke has averaged 24 points in his first three college games and last year’s leading scorer, senior guard Brandon Ewing, is averaging 7 assists per game.

This week’s schedule:

  • Tonight vs Texas State
  • Saturday vs Denver
  • Wednesday at Boise State

Utah suffered a shocking opening night loss to Division II Southwest Baptist, but the Utes have bounced back to win their next three games, including an 82-73 victory at Ole Miss. Senior center Luke Nevill has averaged a double-double, with 18.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game.

This week’s schedule:

  • Friday at Missouri State
  • Wednesday vs Oregon

The lone loss for San Diego State was less shocking, a 59-52 setback at Arizona State. The Aztecs are 2-1 with blowout wins over UC San Diego and Fresno State. Senior forward Kyle Spain has led San Diego State with 17.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

This week’s schedule:

  • Thursday vs Western Carolina
  • Wednesday at Northern Colorado
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Back From Vegas…

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2008

We’re back from Sin City, with a few dozen new STDs and liver transfusions in tow. Just walking The Strip among all the depraved humanoids, skeezers and trash these days makes you long for a Purell shower. What a town. There was even one celebrity sighting (using a very liberal usage of the word). We swear we saw new Arkansas St. coach John Brady outside the Treasure Island chumming up to a woman not named Misty Champagne (his wife).

LV Strip

First off, we need to throw some major love to our proxy while away, N-Bug, for keeping the site afloat and otherwise making a bunch of obnoxious predictions. Hey man, we’re the only ones around here who is allowed to choose every wrong team (currently sitting dead last in the RTC pool).

Next, on to the games. We watched the majority of all 32 weekend games, and besides the typical visual and other sensory overload of a Vegas sportsbook, we’d guess that roughly half of them were actually worth it. Here are a few of the thoughts we jotted down for each day… (Round 2 updated in a separate posting)

Thursday 3/20 – Round 1

Overall, a largely boring day. Fears of all-chalk reign after favorites go 14-2 (one #11 over a #6, and a #9 over a #8 – barely an upset).

  • Xavier 73, Georgia 61. We thought Georgia would get rocked by Xavier in the first round (see: Syracuse 2006 after G-Mac’s run through the Big East Tourney), but boy, were we ever wrong. For thirty minutes, it appeared Georgia was going to keep the run alive. Ultimately, tired legs prevailed and XU won (as well as a backdoor cover, much to the delight of the Caesars Palace sportsbook).
  • Marquette 74, Kentucky 66. Kentucky’s Joe Crawford finally fulfilled the promise that he brought with him to Lexington four years ago, torching Marquette with 35 pts before succumbing to the overall superior team. 64 of UK’s 66 pts came from Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Perry Stevenson, two of which are seniors. Where are the points going to come from next year aside from currently-injured Patrick Patterson?
  • UNLV 71, Kent St. 58. Kent St. blew up for a whopping ten points by halftime of this one, and it was significantly in doubt whether the Flashes would reach double-digits. Tremendous upset pick in our bracket there.
  • Purdue 90, Baylor 79. Wow, Purdue looked fantastic in this game.
  • Kansas St. 80, USC 67. We were kicking ourselves for listening to the hype on this one and going with USC. K-State was playing two hours from home – why didn’t we listen? This was a clunker of a game. Aside from a brief early second-half run by USC, they never seemed very interested in winning this game. Beasley was the and1 master, and surprisingly Mr. Oh-fer Bill Walker (22/5 on 7-12 shooting) got the best of his former and more heralded Rose Hill/Indian Hills teammate OJ Mayo (20/5 on 6-16 shooting).
  • Duke 71, Belmont 70. Game of the Day and monumental near-miss on par with 89 Princeton-Georgetown and 96 Purdue-Western Carolina. There were a 999 people in Caesars rooting for Belmont that night, and only one person standing right behind us rooting for Duke. The sad part is that this young shemale Dookie actually acted smug and self-righteous after nearly losing to Belmont. What the hell was that lob play to no one anyway?
  • Washington St. 72, Winthrop 41. We’ve never seen a team play so completely on par with one team in the first half only to be thoroughly dismantled and crucified in the second half. A halftime score of 29-29 quickly became 72-41. Wow.
  • West Virginia 75, Arizona 65. No, Kevin O’Neill, just because you were 16-6 with Nic Wise and Jerryd Bayless doesn’t make you a good team. Most of those 16 wins were in the pre-conference schedule.

Friday 3/21 – Round 1

Somehow we wormed ourselves into the high-rollers roped-off section at the Caesars book, even though our average bet was around $20. Must have been the million-dollar haircuts and the winning smiles. On a day when two of our preseason F4 (Gonzaga & Indiana) were eliminated, this was the day to have great seats, though, as there were six upsets by seed, and three absolutely classic games.

  • Davidson 82, Gonzaga 76. We can’t add more value than has already been written about Stephen Curry and Davidson, but a 30 pt second half (40 for the game) on 8-10 shooting from three to lead a second half comeback for the Wildcats was absolutely thrilling to watch. At least we nailed this one back in October. As for the Zags, we’re so over them. The nation’s favorite mid-major is largely el busto come March (two S16s and no further in the last seven seasons).
  • Miami 78, St. Mary’s 64. Didn’t see this one coming, but Miami’s Jack McClinton equaled SMC’s score 32-32 in the second half all by himself. Oh, and he was sick too.
  • W. Kentucky 101, Drake 99. Like everyone else, we really believed that Drake had pulled off the improbable comeback from down 9 with 3:32 to go. But what an unreal shot by Ty Rogers to win that game. Not only did he pull the trigger from about 28 feet, he only cleared the defender’s outstretched hand by mere inches. This was one of the best Tourney first round games in several years.
  • Butler 81, S. Alabama 61. NCAA Tourney Committee, please stop pitting mid-majors against mid-majors in the first round!!!
  • San Diego 70, Connecticut 69. Would you have believed that out of the troika of WCC teams Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and San Diego that USD would be the one to win its first round game? Against a power like UConn, no less? Of course, we didn’t pick it, but UConn was clearly a flawed team, and they haven’t been a serious threat the last two seasons. Great upset win for the Toreros on an absolutely brass-balls shot by De’Jon Jackson.
  • Siena 83, Vanderbilt 62. Vandy was garbage away from home all season, and it was no more apparent than ever in this game. Siena led from start to finish, and the Dores never seriously threatened them. Worst protected seed selection of the Tourney by far.
  • Arkansas 86, Indiana 72. What a wasted season for DJ White and Eric Gordon. We’ll never know how good this team could have been had phone-gate not delivered the termination of Kelvin Sampson, but it was clear from there forward this IU team was just going through the motions.
  • Villanova 75, Clemson 69. A most improbable 12-over-5 matchup, considering that Nova was probably the last team invited, and Clemson had been playing so well lately. Yet, in typical Clemson self-destruction fashion, the Tigers blew a ginormous first-half lead of 16 pts and gave Villanova the preferred entree into the second round against a waiting #13 seed.
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Here We Go…

Posted by rtmsf on January 23rd, 2008

We were off the grid last weekend, which figures, because for all intents and purposes the college hoops season got under way while we were gone.  What are we talking about?  Upset Saturday, baby.

A couple weeks ago we pointed out that this season to date has been boring uninspiring due largely to the complete lack of upsets among the top teams.  No more.  Last weekend the carnage in the Top 25 was significant, as nine ranked teams (incl. 3 of the top 10) took a loss.  The most shocking were the twin home losses of #2 UNC and #4 UCLA to unranked conference rivals Maryland and USC, respectively.  Throw in last night’s loss by #7 Tennessee at Kentucky, and we’re starting to see a trend here.

But we shouldn’t be too shocked.   Conference play is tough, no matter who you are or where you’re ranked.  And now that we’re heading into late January, some teams that may have looked like complete garbage a month or more ago are starting to show signs that there was a larger plan after all.  In addition to the Terps and Trojans, take a bow, UConn, K-State, Kentucky and Cincinnati.  Meanwhile, some other teams that looked like worldbeaters in December are now starting to exhibit some mental and/or physical fatigue.  UNC, Texas A&M, Marquette and Ole Miss fall into this category.

Rollercoaster

Let’s Strap In and Enjoy the Ride.  

We watched the good weekend games on Tivo last night, and what really struck us as impressive was the level of intensity being played by teams on both ends of the court.  For example, we’ve seen Maryland play a handful of times this year, and the Terps have typically looked like they’d rather be somewhere else.  Not Saturday – Maryland may have come into Chapel Hill with a record of 11-7 and a loss to American on its resume, but they played every second of the game as if they belonged on the same court with the unbeaten Heels.  At Florida, the bloody carcass known as Kentucky may have come into Gainesville with a record of 0-3 on the road, but they played as if Chuck Hayes and Tayshaun Prince were once again taking it to Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh (in other words, hard).  To keep the analogy going, USC may have been a meager 1-3 in the Pac-10, but their HS all-americans played as if they were talking smack and running with the older but slower UCLA guys on the Santa Monica courts.

What all this means is that we’re hitting the last third of the season, and teams are, as usual, finding life in conference play to be tough.  For most of the Top 25, there will be far fewer easy victories than before; for the teams that struggled through the first half, seasons can be saved with a few key victories at the right time.  Everyone who follows college hoops rightly loves March for its wild and unpredictable nature, but we shouldn’t sleep on the next six weeks either.  The end of January and all of February is where the seeds of March Madness are sown.  Let’s all strap in and enjoy the ride…

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What Parity?

Posted by rtmsf on January 7th, 2008

Is it just us, or has college hoops halfway through the season been almost completely devoid of big upsets so far this year? Last night’s UNC-Clemson game was exciting on many levels, but it failed to deliver in the one key area that makes the college hoops regular season so great – the big upset (leading to a home team RTC, of course).

RTC

On the Horizon – More of This?

In the aftermath of the wild and wacky college football season that saw several teams out of the national title hunt/back into the picture/out/then in again, as well as some eye-opening early college basketball losses (ahem, Gardner-Webb, Mercer), pundits wondered aloud whether we were in store for another zany hoops season where a new #1 team would last about as long as it takes to hang the banner (sup, Carolina fans).

This may all become completely irrelevant as conference play begins in earnest, but this is one of the quietest pre-conferences we’ve seen in many years. It turns out that the Kentucky loss to Gardner-Diego wasn’t that much of an upset as anyone with a starting five can beat UK this year, and the few other eyebrow-arching intra-top 25 losses (e.g., Texas over UCLA and Tennessee) aren’t what we’re talking about. Don’t agree?

  • Consider that we’re two months into the season and the AP top 10 consists of nine of the same teams as the preseason poll (Louisville has been replaced by Duke).
  • Consider that those preseason top ten teams are a combined 127-9 and four of those nine losses are accounted by Rick Pitino’s injury-prone Louisville squad.
  • Of the five other losses, two of them came against other preseason top tenners (Georgetown against Memphis; Michigan St. against UCLA), and two of them were against Texas (#15 preseason). The other top ten loss was Indiana against Xavier.

So this means one of two things. Either we can expect an oligarchy of about 6-8 power teams this year running roughshod through their respective conferences; or, none of this analysis means a damn thing and we’ll have a brand new top 10 in a couple short weeks of conference play. Let’s lace em up and find out.

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The Constant Gardner

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2007

Some day-after reactions from around Blogadelphia to last night’s amazing upset of Gardner-Webb over Kentucky…

Michael David Smith over at AOL Fanhouse is on board with us in pointing out just how terrible of a loss this was for UK:

After Kentucky’s stunning loss to Gardner-Webb last night, a lot of comparisons have been made to Michigan’s stunning loss to Appalachian State at the start of the college football season.  But let’s get one thing clear: Gardner-Webb is no Appalachian State.  Appalachian State was the best football team in Division I-AA last year. The Sagarin ratings at the end of the season had Appalachian State as the No. 53 team in the country, ahead of Big Ten teams Purdue, Michigan State, Indiana, Northwestern and Illinois.  

The Love of Sports points out that wins like this are good for college basketball because it produces publicity it wouldn’t have otherwise gotten:

For this program, it’s by far the biggest win they’ve ever seen. And that goes back to the days of Artis Gilmore and John Drew, who eventually made it into the NBA.  Yes, both Artis Gilmore and John Drew went to Gardner Webb. Bet you didn’t know that one.  But this is bigger than anything they ever did there. This is Kentucky. And this is now one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport.  Congrats go out to you, fellas. You slayed the dragon. And we love you for it.

Interesting point from Dan Shanoff on his daily roundup:

Be honest. If Tubby Smith had still been UK’s coach and lost to Garner Webb – Gardner Webb – he would have been fired this morning.  New coach Billy Gillispie gets a little more wiggle room in only his second game, but it can’t possibly be comfortable right now. This ain’t losing to Tennessee or Florida.

A Sea of Blue informs us that some Cat fans are blaming Tubby anyway!

I see an awful lot of people blaming this loss on Tubby Smith.  Folks, that is just silly.  Even if we were to accept the argument that Smith left the cupboard bare, blaming this loss on lack of talent is utterly non-sequitur.  We have two seniors who were highly ranked, one of them a high school all-American, several highly ranked sophomores, two freshmen high school all-Americans, and a hot new coach who has resurrected programs far worse off than us.  I wonder if Gardner-Webb had a 3-star among them? 

Kentucky Sports Radio had this to say:

Here, according to Joe Lunardi, are the Running Bulldogs’ best wins according to RPI Rating over the last five seasons:

• 2002-03: 4-24 (2-14 conference), Appalachian State, No. 162
• 2003-04: 7-20 (6-14 conference), Mercer, No. 208
• 2004-05: 16-12 (13-7 conference), at Central Florida, No. 108
• 2005-06: 17-12 (13-7 conference), at Minnesota, No. 83
• 2006-07: 8-21 (7-11 conference), Lipscomb, No. 179

Now we can add Kentucky to that list as well. What bothers me about the loss is not that it happened, although losing to the worst team that I can remember Kentucky falling to is bad enough. But what really bothers is me is just how bad a loss it was. Kentucky was never in the game. After the first few minutes, they were never closer than 7 and never, at any point, looked like the best team on the court. Also, this wasnt a case of a group of pesky guys getting hot and hitting ridiculous shots…..many, if not most, of the points came from layups…..often WIDE OPEN. The performance was pitiful and as a good friend of mine said at work today…..”I have never seen the Cats play worse.”

The pressure is on in Lexington.  How will Billy G. respond?

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ATB: Worst UK Loss in 18 Years

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2007

ATB v.4
11.07.07

Upset of the Year? We had a lot to say already on the UK upset at the hands of Rick Scruggs’ Gardner-Webb squad, but we didn’t really discuss the numbers behind an upset of this magnitude. Obviously, not much went well for the Cats – they shot a tepid 36% while allowing 53% (god only knows the last time an opponent shot that well at Rupp Arena) and they were outrebounded by eight. The dearth of any noticeable inside game aside from Patrick Patterson (12/12) is obvious – one night after Mark Coury pulled a double-double, he followed it up with 2/4. The two “stars” of this team, Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford, combined for 6-21 shooting and it appears at first blush that UK will only go as far as the offense of these two (+ PP) will take them. Which means… probably not very far. The one other bright spot for the Cats was freshman Alex Legion, who came off the bench for 13 pts. Gardner-Webb has a lot to be proud of, and they can ride a win like this to far greater heights than expected in the Atlantic Sun. With four starters in double figures, great shot selection and patience with the ball, they very well may be a team to watch this season in that league.

Connecticut 69, Morgan St. 65. Before the Gardner-Webb upset, we were all set to discuss how overrated UConn was again this year, and how excited we were to see read about the big intra-sectional matchup tomorrow night between the Huskies and Holy Cross. Oh wait, Jim Calhoun don’t play like that. No offense to Todd Bozeman’s Morgan St. squad, but we’ll just have to settle for UConn being overrated. What’s not to like? Well, for starters, the Huskies are having trouble shooting the ball again, going a mere 3-15 from behind the arc. And while the nation’s #1 defensive fg% team last year held MSU to 35% shooting, they might want to concentrate a little more on stopping the long shots (11-22 from downtown). Jeff Adrien (12/10/7 blks) and Jerome Dyson (20/2) carried the Huskies, but 7’3 Hasheem Thabeet (3/6/2 blks) continues to underwhelm us. It seems as if UConn has a long way to go if they want to get back to the NCAA Tournament this year.

 

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Other Games: Buffalo 89, Ohio Valley 82. What is Ohio Valley and why is it playing in this tournament?

On Tap Tonight (all times EST). The Storrs Regional continues and the Norman Regional gets started.

  • Denver (NL) v. East Central Oklahoma 5:30pm – gotta love multi-directional D2 teams.
  • Oklahoma (-16) v. San Francisco (ESPNU) 8pm – interested to see how Blake Griffin starts his career at OU.
  • Connecticut (-17) v. Buffalo (ESPNU) 9pm - this is the only time all season Buffalo will have a winning record – enjoy it, Bulls.
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Is firebillygillispie.com up yet?

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2007

Absolute shocker from Lexington tonight: Gardner-Webb 84, Kentucky 68.

Is it safe to say that Billy Gillispie’s honeymoon at Kentucky is already over? Before we can even start talking about what happened there tonight (since we didn’t see it! thanks again, ESPNU), we should give a little historical perspective.

Consider that UK was a 25.5 point favorite and lost by 16 points for a spread difference of 41.5 pts. We know that Stanford was a 39 point underdog vs. USC in football when the Cardinal won 24-23 this year, but at least those teams are in the same conference, right? Honestly, we can’t remember another spread reversal quite so large in basketball.

Then consider that Gardner-Webb (9-21 in 06-07) was by all objective measures one of the worst teams in America last year (#279 Pomeroy; #265 RPI; #300 Sagarin), and was picked to finish near-last in the Atlantic Sun among its NCAA-eligible teams. The Bulldogs from Boiling Springs, NC, lost to UNC by 53, Georgia by 29, Wisconsin by 58 and Wake Forest by 32 pts last season, and its entire conference was 0-34 as a whole against BCS teams in 06-07.

Billy Gillispie Arrested

Coach Gillispie Has Bigger Problems Now than His Sordid Past

How could this have possibly happened?

Folks, Gardner-Webb never trailed.

Gardner-Webb scored the game’s first 14 points, led by as much as 16 and took a 38-27 lead at intermission. The Runnin’ (and thinkin’) Bulldogs played with one purpose and repeatedly got good scoring opportunities. Backdoor cuts nullified UK’s pressure defense. Plain scrappiness netted other scoreboard rewards. At times, the Cats looked like the same disjointed team that so frustrated former coach Tubby Smith and the fans in recent seasons.

Gardner-Webb took immediate charge of the game. Grayson Flittner, a 6-foot native of Sharpsville, Ind., who walked on the Gardner-Webb team because his girlfriend played on the women’s team, scored 22 points. He hit a pair of three-pointers in the 14-0 run. Thomas Sanders, who was home schooled until college and came to Gardner-Webb through an “Availables Game” designated for unsigned junior college players, added 21 points and 10 rebounds. Kentucky responded with too many solo flights of fancy. None were more ugly than Joe Crawford’s leaning, one-hand flip shot [airball] that evoked thoughts of a YMCA pickup game.

(Sidenote: Grayson Flittner – isn’t he the Professor from And1?)

All that gladhanding and backslapping that Coach Gillispie has been getting in the Bluegrass State for the past seven months is over – the good-time wagon has lost a wheel and the pioneers are pissed. As far as we can tell, the much-maligned Tubby Smith’s worst loss in ten seasons at the helm of UK was to Western Kentucky at home in 2001-02, and WKU made the NCAAs as a #14 seed that year. What must ole Ten-loss Tubby be thinking right now? Obviously, G-W is far beneath WKU in historical status considering they just joined D1 in 2000. This is probably UK’s worst loss in almost twenty years, dating back to a 1989 home loss against SW Louisiana in the old UKIT during Rick Pitino’s first year at the helm – of course, he was playing with essentially a bunch of walk-ons, some chewing gum and silly putty that year, so that loss was none too surprising.

After the game, Gillispie had this to say:

You can’t just show up on the court and think you’re going to beat somebody because you wear a certain jersey. We didn’t play like a hunter tonight.

Well, Coach, UK fans were already booing tonight, and with good reason. You’re going to have to figure out how to become Daniel Boone in a hurry, or things could get very ugly for you there.

For a tough-love assessment of this upset from a fan’s perspective, A Sea of Blue gives it to Gillispie for his lack of um, coaching logic in this game.

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