O26 Power 13: WCC Teams Reign Supreme

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 8th, 2016

With the start of the regular season now just a few days away, it’s time to examine the O26 programs we think will shine in 2016-17. The school atop this list should come as no surprise.

1. Gonzaga  West Coast. No Kyle Wiltjer (20.4 PPG) or Domantas Sabonis (17.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG) this year? No problem. Like a true power program, Gonzaga simply reloads, adding three high-major transfers — guard Jordan Mathews (California), forward Johnathan Williams III (Missouri) and point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington) — along with several elite recruits to an already-talented lineup. Williams-Goss, a second team All-Pac-12 performer in 2014-15, should be a legitimate contender for WCC Player of the Year, while Mathews (41.6% 3FG in 2015-16), Williams (7.1 RPG in 2014-15), and McDonald’s All-American big man Zach Collins add scoring pop and defensive strength to the roster. With guard Josh Perkins (4.1 APG), rim-protector Przemek Karnowski (now healthy) and several other contributors back in the fold, Gonzaga’s ceiling appears higher than ever.

The stakes will be high when Gonzaga and Saint Mary's meet up this season. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

The stakes will be high when Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s meet up this season. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images North America)

2. Saint Mary’s — West Coast. Based purely on returning production, Saint Mary’s should probably top this list. The Gaels welcome back everyone from a unit that ranked 17th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, including All-WCC point guard Emmett Naar (121.6 Offensive Rating) and forward Dane Pineau (126.2 Offensive Rating), arguably the league’s two most effective players at their positions. But really, the offense is everywhere. Forwards Even Fitzner (8.7 PPG) and Calvin Hermanson (10.9 PPG) each shot better than 40 percent from behind the arc on 130-plus attempts. Joe Rahon (10.7 PPG, 4.5 PPG, 5.4 APG) is among the most versatile guards in the conference. Center Jock Landale — one of five Aussies on the roster — scored 8.0 PPG in just 14.5 minutes per game last season, and should see more of the court this year. This might be Randy Bennett’s best team yet in Moraga. Read the rest of this entry »

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O26 At-Large Watch: Early Season Games With Late Season Impact

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 7th, 2016

With March still several months away, it’s impossible to know which non-conference match-ups will actually prove critical once Selection Sunday arrives. But we here at the Other 26 microsite can certainly take an educated guess. Here are 11 pre-January contests that we think may play a significant role in deciding which O26 contenders will be in position to earn at-large bids on March 12.

Princeton will have several opportunities for resume-defining wins. (goprincetontigers.com)

Princeton has several opportunities for resume-defining wins. (goprincetontigers.com)

  • Princeton at Brigham Young – November 14, 10:00 PM EST, ESPN2. BYU essentially struck out in non-conference play last season and wound up paying the price on Selection Sunday. The Cougars’ margin for error may be even slimmer this year. As it stands, Princeton (#39 RPI in 2015-16) is probably BYU’s best non-league opponent, making this Tip-Off Marathon home tilt critical for Dave Rose’s offensively gifted group. For the Tigers — who also play VCU, California and Monmouth in the season’s first two months — a victory at the Marriott Center would be a giant feather in their non-conference cap.
  • San Diego State at #14 Gonzaga – November 14, 11:59 PM EST, ESPN2. If the Mountain West has another down year, San Diego State could find itself with a very hollow resume come March even if it lives up to its preseason billing. The Aztecs simply don’t have many opportunities for quality non-conference wins. Luckily, the bulk of their roster back, and the addition of two power-conference transfers should enable one of the nation’s most effective defensive teams to become more impactful on offense. Which is to say that Steve Fisher’s group should be able to compete with a talented-but-unproven Gonzaga unit, especially early this season. A win in the Kennel would be huge.

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O26 Stars in the Making: A Non-Comprehensive Guide to Breakout Candidates

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on October 24th, 2016

If you’re reading this post, chances are you already know about Alec Peters, Justin Robinson, E.C. Matthews, and a number of Other 26 players who have cemented themselves among the nation’s best. Look past those names, though, and you will find another tier of players on the fast-track to (relative) stardom. Whether because of increased minutes, increased visibility or both, here is a list of guys outside the power conferences poised to break out in 2016-17.

  • Jeremy Morgan, G – Sr., Northern Iowa – 2015-16: 11.3 PPG, 1.9 SPG: There’s no two ways about it: Northern Iowa’s collapse against Texas A&M last March was a brutal, all-time debacle that will not soon be forgotten in Cedar Falls. If there was a silver lining, though, it’s the fact that Morgan (36 points) accounted for a whopping 41 percent of his team’s scoring that night. In an MVC that saw many of its best players graduate (including the Panthers’ top two scorers), the 6’5″ senior—whose Valley-leading steal rate already earned him All-Defensive Team honors—should see his offensive numbers increase and his national profile rise.
Northern Iowa's Jeremy Morgan should become a household name in 2016-17. (Credit: Getty Images/ Ronald Martinez)

Northern Iowa’s Jeremy Morgan should become a household name in 2016-17. (Getty Images/ Ronald Martinez)

  • Markis McDuffie, F – So., Wichita State – 2015-16: 7.4 PPG. 3.3 RPG: McDuffie is a true breakout candidate in the sense that his minutes and usage are almost surely going to skyrocket this season. The 6’8″ wing showed flashes of brilliance in limited action last year, using his versatility and athleticism to impact nearly every facet of the game. Among Missouri Valley Conference players, McDuffie finished among the top 15 in offensive rating, offensive rebounding percentage, and two-point percentage. As a defender, his length enables him to defend several positions. Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet may be gone, but McDuffie—who will be relied on heavily to help fill that void—has the talent to become another Shockers legend.
  • Cameron Oliver, F – So., Nevada – 2015-16: 13.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.6 BLK: As a freshman, Oliver logged 12 double-doubles and earned Mountain West All-Defensive Team honors before nearly turning pro. His game-changing ability on both ends of the floor helped Nevada turn in its first winning season since 2012, including a CBI championship run on which Oliver averaged 19.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks per contest. Now in his second year, the powerful, athletic forward will be the unquestioned anchor for a Nevada club with its highest expectations since the Mark Fox era ended in 2009. Expect Oliver to shine, the Wolfpack to contend, and the basketball world to take notice. Just don’t count on him returning to Reno next season if he lives up to expectations.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Miami 65, #11 Wichita State 57

Posted by Chris Stone on March 19th, 2016

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:

Miami's Angel Rodriguez Led His Team to the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

Miami’s Angel Rodriguez Led His Team to the Sweet Sixteen (USA Today Images)

  1. The Shockers are gritty and tough, but so is Miami. After the Hurricanes jumped out to an early 27-6 first half lead, Wichita State fought back using offensive rebounding and turnovers to take a one-point lead on a Ron Baker three-pointer with 10:26 remaining. It was what we’ve come to expect from a Wichita State team that is never completely out of it. Miami’s response, though, was noteworthy. The Hurricanes could have wilted under the pressure, but they held strong behind impressive performances from Sheldon McClellan (18 points) and Davon Reed (10 points).
  2. Angel Rodriguez went from Hurricane to drizzle to Hurricane. Rodriguez started the game on fire for Miami, scoring 16 points in the first 10 minutes without missing a shot. But then things turned for the worse. As the Shockers made their eventual comeback, Rodriguez was nowhere to be found. He didn’t attempt a shot for the rest of the first half and didn’t make another field goal until there was just 2:05 left in the game. During that drought he also committed five turnovers, but he woke up to close out the game, scoring the Hurricanes’ final 10 points (including a dagger three to push the lead to seven). This performance only reinforces the idea that a good Angel Rodriguez is the Hurricanes’ most important factor this March.
  3. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, it’s been a pleasure. The Shockers’ two senior guards have been college basketball mainstays for the past four seasons, helping Wichita State to a Final Four, an undefeated regular season and another Sweet Sixteen. Throughout the weekend, it’s been clear that opposing coaches and players hold VanVleet and Baker in high regard because of how they play the game. What’s next for the two guards is uncertain, but their time at Wichita State sure was fun while it lasted.

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Rushed Reactions: #11 Wichita State 65, #6 Arizona 55

Posted by Chris Stone on March 17th, 2016

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:

Gregg Marshall calls out to his team during its win over Arizona on Thursday. (Credit: AP/Charles Krupa)

Gregg Marshall calls out to his team during its win over Arizona on Thursday. (Credit: AP/Charles Krupa)

  1. It’s time to quit talking about if Wichita State deserves to be here. In the lead up to the NCAA Tournament there was an interesting debate about whether the Shockers should be in the field — in large part because the answer would help define how the Selection Committee makes its decisions. Now that they’re here, that debate can end. Wichita State is a very good basketball team (something we already knew), just as capable as nearly any team in the field of making it to Houston. Now the question is whether future committees can start getting seeding right by using metrics as a better arbiter than resume.
  2. The Shockers have the best defense in the country. This isn’t that bold of a statement given that Wichita State has the top-ranked defense nationally, according to KenPom, but the Shockers had critics because of their weak league. On Tuesday, Wichita State held Vanderbilt’s top 50 offense to 0.72 points per possession. They then one-upped themselves tonight by completely shutting down an Arizona offense that ranks in the top 15. The Shockers play a stingy man-to-man defense that creates turnovers (23 percent turnover rate, fifth nationally), doesn’t allow offensive boards (23.6 percent, fourth) and protects the paint (41.7 two-point percentage, seventh). If they do make it to Houston in two weeks, their defense will be the reason why.
  3. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing season for Arizona. The Wildcats started the year ranked in the top 15 of both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll before climbing into the top 10 with a 12-1 non-conference record. Unfortunately, Arizona couldn’t get it going away from the McKale Center during Pac-12 play, finishing 12-6 in the conference before bowing out in the conference tournament semifinals. The additions of Allonzo Treier, Kadeem Allen and Ryan Anderson were supposed to result in more than a first round exit for the Wildcats. Sean Miller has is still searching for that elusive first Final Four.

Star of the Game: Sean Miller’s soaked dress shirt captivated Twitter audience after the he sweated completely through it with eight minutes remaining in the first half. It even drew the attention of Gregg Marshall’s son, Kellen, who hollered across the court at Miller to let him know that Men’s Warehouse is having a two-for-one sale tomorrow. On the court, it was the Shockers’ stellar defense that starred more than any one player could.

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Bracket Prep: South Region

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 15th, 2016

bracketprep22

On Monday and Tuesday we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: Monday (East and West); Tuesday (South and Midwest). Here, Tommy Lemoine (@hoopthink) breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

Region: South

Favorite: #1 Kansas (30-4, 15-3 Big 12). Who else? With perhaps his least talented squad in recent memory (from an NBA perspective), Bill Self led Kansas to yet another Big 12 regular season title – its 12th in a row – and the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks enter the Dance on a 14-game winning streak and its 30 wins include victories over Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia (twice), and Baylor (twice). One of only two teams with four losses, Kansas possesses such a complete resume, such a cohesive roster, and such strong advanced metrics that it’s hard not to consider the Jayhawks odds-on National Championship favorites, much less favorites in the South. Self’s group ranks #1 in KenPom – with offensive and defensive efficiency numbers near the top – and boasts one of the country’s best players in 6’8” forward Perry Ellis (16.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG). Scoring is seldom an issue with Ellis, Devonte’ Graham (44% 3FG) and Wayne Selden Jr. (13.3 PPG) in tow, and nearly every player on the roster plays consistently stingy, team-oriented man-to-man defense. Even if it faces a high-talent opponent like #4 seed California or an experienced, spread-you-out club like #2 seed Villanova, Kansas easily remains the best bet from the region to reach Houston.

Expect more smiles from Kansas in the coming weeks. (Nick Krug)

Expect more smiles from Kansas over the next few weeks. (Nick Krug)

Should They Falter: #2 Villanova (29-5, 16-2 Big East). If you’re down on the Wildcats, don’t be. Sure, they lost to Seton Hall in the Big East title game, and yes, their recent NCAA Tournament record isn’t great – Jay Wright’s team has not reached the second weekend since 2009 despite being a #2 seed or better three times. But if past performance is no sure indicator of future results, then there’s also no reason to think that Villanova – with one of college basketball’s most balanced rosters – cannot make a very deep run. The Big East regular season champions rank among the top 15 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, with five players averaging more than 9.7 PPG and a true rim protector in 6’11’ senior Daniel Ochefu (7.8% block rate). The bottom half of the South is not swelling with raw talent, so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the Wildcats and their spread attack to push deep into March.

Grossly Overseeded: #10 Temple (21-11, 14-4 American Athletic). Temple’s inclusion as a #10 seed seems to be proof that the committee simply didn’t give a darn about advanced metrics – nor quality non-conference wins, for that matter. The Owls enter the NCAA Tournament as the lowest-ranked at-large selection in KenPom (#86 overall) by a staggering 26 spots, with perhaps their best non-conference victory being a five-point neutral court win over 8-23 Minnesota. If its KenPom number holds, Temple will finish the season as the lowest-ranked at-large unit since Colorado State in 2012 (95th). Yuck.

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State Your Case: Wichita State, Monmouth, Valparaiso, Saint Mary’s

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 9th, 2016

It’s an all-too-familiar story: Several of college basketball’s most promising mid-majors – potential bracket-busters that made mincemeat of their conferences during the regular season – bulldoze their way into March, only to see their dreams of an NCAA Tournament appearance crushed during Championship Week. Nice to know ya; enjoy the NIT; better luck next year. In fact, of the 11 conference tournaments completed so far in 2016, only one top seed (Chattanooga) has managed to clinch its league’s automatic bid. Luckily, for a few of the unfortunate champions, this season may offer new hope. An exceptionally weak bubble, combined with some strong Other 26 resumes, has enabled several teams from non-power conferences to remain in the at-large conversation. In the spirit of election season, let’s allow these candidates to state their cases leading up to Selection Sunday.

Will Ron Baker and the Shockers get another shot on Selection Sunday? (kwch.com)

Will Ron Baker and the Shockers get another shot on Selection Sunday? (kwch.com)

Wichita State

  • The At-Large Argument. Advanced metrics love the Shockers more than any other team on the bubble, and it’s not close. KenPom currently ranks Wichita State #11 in the country – ahead of Miami (FL), Arizona and Xavier, among others – thanks in large part to its second-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency. Sagarin is not quite as high on Gregg Marshall’s group, but he still ranks the Shockers among the top 25. For the sake of comparison, fellow bubble comrades Syracuse and Ohio State do not fall within the top 40 of either ranking. On top of that, the Shockers are a classic example of a team the NCAA Selection Committee might – and perhaps should – judge differently now that they are at full strength. Three of Wichita State’s eight losses came without All-American Fred VanVleet, who missed four games in late November with an ankle injury. In two of those losses, the Missouri Valley champs didn’t have starting center Anton Grady either, who suffered a nearly career-ending injury against Alabama – a game they lost by just four points. There were other injuries, too. Now healthy, Wichita State seems to be a genuinely better basketball team. Oh, and did we mention that non-conference victory over Utah?

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RTC Top 25: Final Regular Season Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on March 8th, 2016

Another regular season has come and gone. In a season that was defined by utter craziness throughout, the final week was laced with mostly expected results. Previously #22 Wichita State, however, suffered an unexpected defeat to Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley Tournament semifinals. That loss is part of a less than spectacular NCAA Tournament résumé that will have Gregg Marshall’s Shockers sweating all the way up to Selection Sunday. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty is after the jump.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 8.57.56 PM

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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RTC Top 25: Week Fifteen Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on February 29th, 2016

Another wild week of college basketball was accompanied by another helter-skelter poll in which each of our seven pollsters remain significantly divided on team placement within the RTC25. This week was notable in a Big East where #5 Xavier finally shook the monkey off its back to defeat #4 Villanova on Wednesday, only to follow that up with each team responding to the result in an equal and opposite way. Villanova recovered with a win at Marquette on Saturday while Xavier was dominated in a loss at Seton Hall on Sunday. Villanova still leads the Big East and is in good position to take home the regular season conference title. But with the parity in college basketball this season, the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden could be defined by inherent uncertainty. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty is after the jump.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.41.34 PM

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Wichita State Should Make The NCAA Tournament, Right?

Posted by Chris Stone on February 16th, 2016

Even after Saturday’s home loss to Northern Iowa, it would be difficult to make a case that Wichita State is not one of the best 68 teams in college basketball. After a bounceback victory over New Mexico State on Monday evening, the Shockers are ranked 23rd on Team Rankings and 27th in the Sagarin Ratings. They appear even better using KenPom’s efficiency metrics, ranking a robust 13th out of 351 teams. The reason these systems like Wichita State so much is simple: its defense. Despite having one of the worst defensive free throw rates in the country, the Shockers still rank third in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom. While Wichita State gives away too many points at the foul line, its defense is still effective because it excels at creating turnovers (23.5 percent turnover rate) and preventing second shot opportunities (opponents grab just 24.1 percent of their misses).

Gregg Marshall's team could be in trouble come Selection Sunday? (Credit: Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

Gregg Marshall’s team may be in trouble come Selection Sunday. (Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

The Shockers also have the star power of an experienced Top 25 program. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker were role-playing freshmen when Wichita State went to the Final Four in 2013, and their growth as players helped the Shockers to an undefeated regular season and #1 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament before going to the Sweet Sixteen last year. VanVleet is the engine that makes the Shockers’ offense hum. He ranks fifth nationally in assist rate (41.9%) and works masterfully in pick-and-roll sets to help free up his teammates. Baker, a former walk-on, is an explosive outside shooter (37.3% career 3FG) who has enough size at 6’4″ and 210 pounds to give him a shot to play in the NBA. Read the rest of this entry »

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