Bracket Prep: Delaware, Manhattan, Wofford

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 11th, 2014

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As we move through Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. None of the bids handed out Monday night were easily earned, but Delaware, Manhattan and Wofford all ended up on the right side of close margins to punch their tickets to the Big Dance.  Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners.

Delaware

Delaware Capped A Dominant Season In The Colonial With A Tournament Title. Welcome To The Field Of 68, Blue Hens.

Delaware Capped A Dominant Season In The Colonial With A Tournament Title. Welcome To The Field Of 68, Blue Hens.

  • Colonial Champion (25-9, 17-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #74/#107/#111
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +4.2
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #13

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. Another dangerous mid-major earned a Tournament bid on Monday night when Delaware eluded William and Mary to earn the Colonial’s auto-bid. The Blue Hens profile is heavily deficient in good wins – their most notable victory is a home conquest of Towson (Ken Pom rank of 130) – but take a closer look at their nine losses. Six of them came to top-100 teams, including a four point defeat at possible #1 seed Villanova, a two-point loss at Richmond, and a 12-point loss at Ohio State. Delaware has proven they can hang with some of the nation’s best teams, but can they finally put one in the win column next week?
  2. The Blue Hens are not especially stingy defensively, but they show little mercy on the other end of the floor. Coach Monte Ross’ team loves to get out and run (8th nationally in possessions/game), but at little expense to efficiency (55th nationally in offensive efficiency). Delaware is the only team in the country with three players averaging at least 18 PPG – Devon Saddler (19.8), Davon Usher (19.7), and Jarvis Threatt (18.1) – and all five starters average double figures. Delaware opponents will struggle to target any one Blue Hen in particular, but keep a special eye on Jarvis Threatt. The junior missed eight February games after being suspended for a violation of athletic department policies, but the Blue Hens were undefeated in the CAA when their floor general – and his eye-popping stat line (18.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.6 APG, 2.6 SPG) was in the lineup.
  3. That indifferent defensive effort (196th nationally in defensive efficiency) could prove problematic as Delaware seeks the first Tournament win in program history, but a lack of depth should also be a concern for Blue Hen believers. Few coaches used their bench less frequently than Ross did (17, to be exact) this season, which is an odd trait considering the up-tempo assault that Delaware prefers to employ. The margin for error will always be slim for the higher-seeds looking to craft the next great March upset, which means a bit of Blue Hen foul trouble could easily steer a well-intentioned upset bid off course. Read the rest of this entry »
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Circle of March: Vol. IX

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2014

With six days of hoops left until Selection Sunday, we still have a lot of work to do. Thirteen more teams were eliminated on Monday night, and that leaves a grand total of 211 “eligible” schools remaining on the Circle of March. Eight of those teams are now locked into next week’s field of 68, with Delaware, Wofford and Manhattan last night joining the previous five automatic entrants. Penn and Princeton finish their regular seasons this evening and four other championship games will be held in the Horizon, NEC, Summit and WCC Tournaments, but we won’t really start to see a lot of progress (also known as white space) in the Circle until the Thursday and subsequent editions.

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Teams Eliminated From National Title Contention (03.10.14)

  • Maryland-Eastern Shore
  • Ball State
  • Kent State
  • William & Mary
  • Iona
  • Denver
  • Central Michigan
  • Bowling Green
  • South Carolina State
  • Saint Mary’s
  • Western Carolina
  • South Dakota State
  • San Francisco
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Conference Tournament Primer: Southern Conference

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 7th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with two more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the next week-plus of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the CAA and SoCon get started.

Dates: March 7-10
Site: Asheville Civic Center (Asheville, N.C.)

2014 socon bracket

What to expect: The Davidson Wildcats are looking for their third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Remember that these Wildcats blew a six-point lead in the final 70 seconds against Marquette last season in the first round of the Big Dance. Davidson ran through the SoCon with a 15-1 mark this year, leading the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. For the kings of the Southern Conference, it’s Davidson’s automatic bid to lose in its final season before moving to the Atlantic 10 next year.

Favorite: Davidson. The Wildcats started out the season 4-10, falling to teams like Duke, Virginia and Wichita State along the way. Then league play began and Davidson ran roughshod over the rest of the conference like it always seems to do. The Wildcats have won 12 straight games, with only one of those coming by single digits.

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Checking In On… the Southern Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 28th, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference and Atlantic Sun Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

  • Davidson created some separation in the South Division, besting Charleston, 87-69, on Saturday. The Cougars then lost at Georgia Southern on Monday to fall behind the Eagles, as well as Wofford, in the South standings. Jake Cohen led the Wildcats as he matched his career-high with 29 points (24 coming in the first half).
  • In the North Division, Elon remained in first place, defeating preseason favorite Chattanooga, 88-87, on Monday.

One for the Record Books

In the final scheduled non-conference game in the SoCon (four will play on Feb. 18 a part of the 2012 BracketBusters event), Western Carolina put itself in the company of Texas, Purdue and Long Island, becoming just the fourth school to ever defeat an opponent by at least 100 points. The Catamounts defeated Toccoa Falls 141-39.

From the Notebook

  • College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins owns 226 wins at a SoCon school (100 at Appalachian State from 1975-81; 126 at College of Charleston) to move into a share of fifth place on the SoCon win list. He matched Duke’s Eddie Cameron (the namesake for Cameron Indoor Stadium) against Elon on Jan. 14. He will take a temporary leave of absence for a non-life threatening health condition beginning this weekend.
  • In its last three games, Samford’s starting five of Tyler Hood, Drew Windler, Jeffrey Merritt, Raijon Kelly and Will Cook has combined to score 70.3 of the team’s 75.7 points per game.

    Davidson's J.P. Kuhlman Reached The 1,000-point Milestone

  • Davidson’s J.P. Kuhlman joined the 1,000-point club on January 14 at Appalachian State, the eighth active player in the league to reach that milestone.
  • Wofford’s Brad Loesing leads the nation in minutes per game at an even 39.0 MPG. He has played in 819 of the team’s 845 minutes this season.

B.M.O.C.

UNC Greensboro’s Derrell Armstrong averaged 27.7 points and six rebounds in the Spartans’ last three games (wins against Chattanooga, Samford and Appalachian State). The junior, who prior to this stretch had averaged 7.9 points per game on the season, notched a season-high 29 points against the Mocs. He hit a season-best five three-point field goals. He followed that performance up with consecutive 27-point efforts.

Power Rankings

Last week’s ranking in parentheses:

  1. Davidson (15-4) (1): The Wildcats remained undefeated in SoCon play thanks to Nik Cochran’s free throw at Chattanooga with 1.2 seconds remaining. Davidson joins Oral Roberts, Middle Tennessee and Saint Mary’s as the only schools in the country with conference records of 9-0 or better. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Southern Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 13th, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

Reader’s Take 

 

Looking Back

  • In the only regular-season meeting between Western Carolina and Davidson, the Wildcats established SoCon supremacy by beating the Catamounts, 88-67, in a contest between the early division leaders on Thursday. Jake Cohen, who entered averaging 12.4 points per game, torched the Catamounts for 26 points and connected on all four of his three-point attempts. Davidson has now won 13 of its last 14 SoCon regular-season games, dating back to last season.
  • Meanwhile, College of Charleston – who entered Thursday one game behind Davidson in the South Division – suffered a shocking home defeat at the hands of UNC Greensboro.

Non-Conference Recap

  • Despite the strong non-conference showings by Davidson and College of Charleston, the conference has ranked weaker than in years past. CollegeRPI.com rates the conference 23rd. A year ago they ranked 19th and haven’t finished a year as low as 23rd since 2005-06.
  • In spite of the low rankings, the conference did enjoy a successful non-conference season, at least in terms wins against schools from the BCS leagues. Southern Conference schools picked up five wins against BCS schools highlighted by Davidson finally getting revenge against Kansas, taking down the Jayhawks in Kansas City.

Jake Cohen (15) and Davidson Remain The Class Of The SoCon (AP)

South Rising Up

Led by the Wildcats and the Cougars, the South Division has emerged as the power half of the league. The Cougars picked wins against Clemson and Tennessee and have approached the RPI top 50. The six South Division teams own a 33-11 record at home while the six North Division schools are just 26-16 at home.

Worth Noting

  • College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins owns 224 wins at a SoCon school (100 at Appalachian State from 1975-81; 124 at College of Charleston) to move within one victory of fifth place on the SoCon win list. He can tie Duke’s Eddie Cameron (the namesake for Cameron Indoor Stadium) on Saturday against Elon.
  • Davidson and the Wildcats’ Nik Cochran pace the nation in free-throw percentage. Cochran sits atop the leaderboard at 93.8% and as a team, the Wildcats connect at an 81.1% clip.

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ACC Game On: 01.02.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on January 2nd, 2012

After a weekend of largely uneventful blowouts, lowlighted by the Ivy League getting the best of the ACC in an impromptu and unofficial interconference challenge that saw Harvard smash Boston College, Yale come within one point of defeating Wake Forest, and Miami losing to Princeton in triple overtime, the teams of the ACC face their final non-conference tune-ups before the beginning of league play. It has been an odd time for the conference and the balance of power is very much in the air. While North Carolina and Duke appear to still be the class of the conference and Boston College looks to be the joke of the conference, the other nine teams have yet to stake out clear identities or even a presumptive pecking order. With ACC play on the near horizon, teams are running out of opportunities to make statements in inter-conference play.

A Defensive Showdown

  • Virginia at LSU at 7:00 PM on ESPN3.com

The Cavaliers are one team that has done a pretty good job in staking out an identity in the ACC. They are the clear third best team in the league, featuring a tenacious, unyielding defense and a probable All-ACC player in Mike Scott. Ironically, when Virginia takes its trip down to the bayou to take on the Tigers, they will be facing one of the most hard-to-pin-down teams in the nation. LSU’s early losses to Coastal Carolina, Northwestern, and the University of Southern Alabama were discouraging losses, but the fact remains that these Tigers have rebounded and haven’t lost a game since November. LSU has been getting it done on defense and despite the team’s youth and utter rawness on offense they have managed some impressive wins including a win over a very good Marquette team. Virginia is probably the better team and their tough defense figures to make life far too difficult for an LSU team that struggles to score against mediocre defenses. Still, Virginia is playing on the road, and Lousiana State certainly has enough talent to pull off an upset making this a game that should prove to be fairly intriguing.

The Last Likely Win For Boston College

  • Rhode Island at Boston College at 1:00 PM on ESPN3.com

Boston College is going to have a hard time winning games in the ACC. Looking at Boston College’s conference schedule, it is hard to pick out games where the Eagles could be called the favorites, or failing that, even a reasonable pick. Outside of a home game against Wake Forest, the spring of 2012 could be a very tough time for fans in Chestnut Hill. It’s a bleak prospect, so hopefully this game will offer some succor to the Eagles’ fans. Rhode Island is having an equally disastrous season as BC, and with the game being played at home, I don’t think it would be crazy to call the Eagles the favorites. That’s something worth savoring, since this might be the last time this season that I can say that.

For Fans Only

  • UNC Greensboro at Miami at 9:00 PM on ESPN3.com
  • Wofford at Wake Forest at 7:00 PM on ESPN3.com

Miami’s tough loss against Princeton on Friday seems like bad news for UNC Greensboro. The Hurricanes will be out to prove that the loss was a fluke and will be eager to crush their over-matched Southern Conference foe. If you change the home team to “Wake Forest”, the previous result to “a narrow win against Yale”, and the Southern Conference opponent to Wofford, you will likely have a creeping feeling of déjà vu.

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RTC Live: Wofford @ Georgia

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2011

RTC Live tips off the first big night of the year with a couple of warm-up games. Tonight Kevin Doyle  (@KLDoyle11) travels to Athens to see how Mark Fox’s team will recover from some key personnel losses; join the conversation from SEC country below, after the jump.

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RTC Conference Primers: #15 – Southern Conference

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2011

Will Rothschild is the RTC correspondent for the Southern and the Atlantic Sun conferences. He can be found on twitter @warothschild.

Reader’s Take I

Top Storylines

  • The Arrival of Adjehi Baru. The highest-rated prospect ever to choose the College of Charleston, Baru is a 6’9″ native of the Ivory Coast who picked the Cougars from a final group that included North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia Tech. Bobby Cremins has always been known as a great recruiter – if not exactly John Wooden on the bench – but this was clearly his biggest coup since he beat out North Carolina, Georgetown, St. John’s and Syracuse for Kenny Anderson back in 1988. Though Baru has only been playing basketball a short time and his offensive game is a major work in progress, he quickly established himself as a game-changer on the AAU circuit and shot up the recruiting rankings, eventually settling in as a consensus top-five center prospect. He will be an absolute load to deal with in the SoCon. After his eligibility was initially held up the NCAA Clearinghouse, he was cleared to play this season in early October.

Steward Will Be an Absolute Load in the SoCon

  • The Big Dogs Are Back: Will it be Davidson or Chattanooga?  The two most tradition-rich programs in the Southern Conference are back on top this season and appear head and shoulders above what otherwise looks to be a very balanced league. Each team returns four starters, top-notch point guards, and a nice blend of versatile wings and size in the post. They also have coaches – Bob McKillop at Davidson and John Shulman at Chattanooga – who know how to get a team through the SoCon tournament and into the Dance. Davidson will be looking for its 6th NCAA trip under McKillop and its 11th overall, but its first since the team that was a rimmed-out Jason Richards jumpshot from making it to the Final Four in 2008. Chattanooga is also after its 11th NCAA trip, its third in eight seasons under Shulman, and its first since 2009.
  • How Far Will Wofford Fall?  After two straight Southern Conference championships and NCAA Tournament bids (in which they lost first-round games to Wisconsin and BYU by a combined 12 points), the consensus is Wofford won’t be much of a threat in 2011-12. Coach Mike Young, who has turned down a couple of overtures from other schools the past two springs, watched five of the most celebrated players in program history graduate in May. But even with POY Noah Dahlman, the two title teams were more a testament to Young and his staff’s ability to bring the right kind of players to Wofford, one of the most challenging liberal arts colleges in the South. Indeed, those teams always had a sum-is-better-then-their-parts ethos about them. Meanwhile, Young and his staff are excited about their past two recruiting classes, including a freshman group seven strong. Expecting the Terriers to win 20 games for the third straight season isn’t realistic, but in his 10th season Young has this program rolling and stocked with young talent that will keep the Terriers from slipping very far down the standings.
  • Will Appalachian State be better WITHOUT Donald Sims?  While the 6’1″ Sims was a dominant scorer (21 PPG in 2010-11) he also dominated the basketball, and his teammates deferred too much at times to his one-on-one offensive ability. With the graduation of the school’s all-time leading scorer and 2010 SoCon POY, the sense around Boone is that Jason Capel’s second team will be much more balanced and difficult to defend. Omar Carter, a 6’5″ forward, is back after averaging 16.3 points and nearly 6 rebounds, and 6’10” center Isaac Butts returns after missing all of last season with an injury. As a junior in 2009-10, Butts averaged 8.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, and he makes Appalachian one of the few teams in the league with someone to physically match up with Baru. Capel also welcome a pair JUCO transfers – Rodney Milum, a 6’0″ guard from Houston, and Jamaal Trice, a 6’6″ forward from L.A. – who are expected to step in and contribute immediately.

Predicted Order of Finish

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Morning Five: 09.14.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 14th, 2011

  1. The NCAA has been getting a lot of criticism lately. Ok, they always get a lot of criticism. Despite what some people thinks sometimes the NCAA gets things right. The case of Lionel Gomis is one example of that. Gomis, who is starting his freshman year at Siena, grew up in Senegal moving from house to house after his mother died when he was 14 and unable to go to school for two years due to financial hardship before he was brought to the US as sports development program enrolling in a school in the United States. Gomis was able to overcome his rough beginnings and receive a scholarship at Siena. However, a NCAA rule that was recently adopted that stated a student-athlete had to complete his or her core curriculum in a five-year period.  Due to the two years that Gomis was not in school in Senegal he failed to meet these requirements so the NCAA said that he would have his eligibility reduced by three years (two years for the time he was not in school in Senegal and one year when he came to the United States and had to be reclassified due to his limited English proficiency). If the decision was upheld, Gomis would have only been able to play one year of college basketball. However, the NCAA ruled yesterday that Gomis would get two years of eligibility back for the time he missed in Senegal although they were sticking with their earlier ruling regarding his reclassification so as of right now he would not be eligible to play until next season. Siena is appealing that part of the ruling, but it looks like the NCAA may have gotten one right (at least partially)
  2. Last week, Billy Donovan welcomed Erik Murphy back to the Florida basketball team without having to miss any playing time after his involvement in an incident in April where he was arrested with two others (Cody Larson and team manager Josh Adel) for breaking into a car outside a bar after getting into an argument with staff about a lost wallet. Larson’s status is a little less certain as he was previously arrested for sharing hydrocodone pills (his account of the story). Larson appears to have gotten a bit of good news as he has avoided any jail time for now after accepting a plea agreement of 200 hours of community service, submitting to a substance abuse evaluation and potential treatment, paying the victim $240 and writing him a letter of apology, paying $200 for costs related to the case, serving one year of supervised probation, and not consuming any alcohol or other controlled substances during that year. The next step is whether or not the agreement will affect his previous case in South Dakota. If a court there decides that it does, Larson may face additional penalties including potential jail time as a condition of his suspended sentence in his home state. Neither UF nor Donovan have released a statement on Larson yet.
  3. Yesterday, we mentioned that the proposal to name the court after Gary Williams at the Comcast Center was facing significant resistance. It looks like it wasn’t that significant as Maryland announced yesterday that it was going to name the court after Williams. We all know what Williams has accomplished and his resume at Maryland stacks up well with any ACC coach of recent vintage outside of Mike Krzyzewski, Dean Smith, and Roy Williams. Even though naming the court after Williams will cost the school the potential revenue for naming rights for the court it does open up a myriad of advertising opportunities for antiperspirant deodorant.
  4. Normally, the hiring of a Division II coach without a major track record or a history of scandal wouldn’t merit an inclusion in our exclusive Morning Five. However, when the coach is Mark Prosser, the son of the late Skip Prosser, it qualifies. Yesterday, Prosser was named head coach of Brevard College after working as an assistant at Wofford since 2008. For Prosser, who had spent five years as an assistant at Bucknell before going to Wofford, this will be his first college head coaching position. Prosser has a tough task ahead of him as Brevard went 13-14 last year and only his predecessor, Mike Jones, had spent more than four seasons as a head coach at the school.
  5. USC guard Jio Fontan underwent ACL surgery yesterday at a Los Angeles orthopedic center that deemed “successful” although we are not that certain about a claim this early well before many complications can occur. For his part, Fontan appeared upbeat heading into surgery and looking forward to rehab as he sent this tweet prior to his surgery and apparently responding to well-wishers after his surgery via his Twitter account. We wish Fontan the best in his rehab and hope to finally see him playing in a Trojan uniform in the near future.
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Weekend NCAA Diary From Denver

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: Denver, CO
Round: Third
Teams: Morehead State, Richmond, BYU, Gonzaga
Date: 19 March 2011

God Bless Jimmerica, Indeed

  • The crowds at the Pepsi Center have been good both days, with stated attendances in the 18,000-19,000 range. The place seemed to be completely full for BYU-Gonzaga tonight, and arguably 75% of that crowd was either a BYU fan or a Jimmer Fredette fan, whichever comes first. Considering that the closest school was in fact BYU (roughly 500 miles away), and that there were no Big 12 schools in town for this weekend’s games, there’s no other way to spin it than to say that the Denver site was a resounding success.
  • In the Richmond vs. Morehead State game, it was clear from the first few minutes that UR wasn’t going to let themselves get rattled by the situation of playing for a trip to the schools’ second-ever Sweet Sixteen. They acted and played like a much higher seed than a #12, while Morehead State was the team that looked considerably more shaky. Kenneth Faried said about the Richmond defense, afterward: “The whole team, we couldn’t get in a rhythm. That’s a credit to Richmond. That defense is great and it’s hard to play against if you never played against it.”
  • Kenneth Faried has impressed the hell out of me in several ways this weekend. First, his motor doesn’t stop for anything. I spent one entire four-minute segment during today’s game tracking his movements, and it was fascinating to see how he reacted to the ball’s position on the floor. The only way to describe his activity underneath the basket is relentless — he never stops moving and as soon as the ball goes up he figures out a way to get as close to the rim as he can., and his second and third jumps are often just as explosive as his first. I also noticed that he sometimes tries to utilize the Dennis Rodman technique of tipping the ball away from the traffic to himself so that he can catch it under control. Second, even at only 6’8, his defensive abilities near the rim are NBA-quality. His hand-on-leather rejection of Justin Harper’s drive at the very peak of his jump was spectacular and had the crowd buzzing about it for a good while afterward. Third, his attitude is a winning one — often smiling, clapping and supporting his teammates, Faried is confident but not cocky. He has the general makeup of a player who came into his talents later in his basketball career, someone who seems to truly appreciate that he’s having the time of his life playing the game that he loves. NBA scouts are going to nitpick his size and his extremely raw offensive game, but his heart and tenacity are characteristics that cannot be taught and will end up serving some NBA team very well in the long run. The kid is a winner.

Faried is a Quality Kid With a Bright Future

  • The way Richmond is playing now, it’s somewhat hard to believe that they were on the bubble until making a run through the Atlantic 10 Tournament last weekend. The Spiders’ talent in no way approximates some mid-major #12 seed — between the speed of Kevin Anderson, the length and shooting ability of Justin Harper, the touch of Dan Geriot and the wowing athleticism of Darrius Garrett, you feel like you’re watching an ACC or SEC team more than an Atlantic 10 squad. Then when you consider that all of these players have been together for at least three seasons, you can understand why they’re peaking so well right now. Not many teams even in those leagues have two 6’9 or 6’10 players like Harper and Geriot who have the ability to make long mid-range jumpers (and in Harper’s case, threes). These kinds of players, inasmuch as they exist, usually end up at places like Maryland or Texas or Florida, not Richmond. Of course the Spiders will have their hands full with Kansas next weekend, but if Boston U. can play with KU for more than a half, there’s no reason to believe that these guys cannot.
  • I love that Dan Geriot had a great Third Round game tonight, with 13/7 and showing a real confidence in his shot from the mid-range (and even knocking down a three in the second half to essentially put the game away). If you’re unaware, Geriot was a rising superstar after his sophomore season (averaging 14/6), but a summer ACL injury in 2008 robbed him of some of the already-marginal athleticism that he had, and he had to sit out the entire 2008-09 season. His redshirt junior year was a struggle, as his numbers fell across the board, and only this year has he been able to find a groove as a sweet-passing center less reliant on scoring than on picking spots to complement his talented colleagues. These are the stories that make college basketball great.

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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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The Other 26: Bracket Analysis Part II

Posted by KDoyle on March 17th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC Contributor.

Call it what you want with this seemingly erroneous preamble of the NCAA Tournament known as the “First Four,” but the opening game of this year’s edition of the Dance could not have been much more entertaining. We have already had a clutch shot in the final seconds and an overtime game under our belts. Many people will not even remember that UNC-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock even partook in the Tournament, but for a few hours last evening the stage was all theirs. Even if it is merely a play-in game—errr, first round game—this is the NCAA Tournament and keen basketball observers were no doubt glued to their screens and smartphones last night tracking the game.

Just as a refresher in case you missed yesterday’s look into the Other 26 teams in the East and West Regions, I elected to break down the 16 teams by inserting each into one of the four categories: 1) Have a legitimate shot at actually advancing far into the Tournament; 2) Can win a game, but not much more; 3) If their shots are falling and their opponents are not, they have an outside shot; and, 4) We are just happy to be here.

Ability to advance to the second weekend

(8, Southwest) UNLV—After the conclusion of the 2010 Tournament, there is no doubt that a bitter taste was left in UNLV’s mouth. The Runnin’ Rebels lost to Northern Iowa in the final minute and then two nights later, in one of the gutsiest shots in Tournament history, Ali Farokhmanesh drilled a three from the wing to seal the victory over Kansas. UNLV had to painfully watch the remainder of the Tournament and endure the arduous offseason pondering the question: “Why couldn’t that have been us?” Now, UNLV is in a similar situation, as they are in the 8 vs. 9 game again. They are an experienced bunch with Tournament experience under their belts; if they are fortunate enough to get by Illinois, they will ironically play none other than Kansas.

(12, Southwest) Richmond—The Spiders were upset by St. Mary’s last year, and this year they are the ones who will have to be playing spoiler. Richmond has arguably the most dynamic player in the field with 6’10 senior forward Justin Harper. To make a comparison, Harper is the Atlantic 10’s version of Dirk Nowitzki. Although he spends most of his time inside the arc, his ability to step outside and hit a three poses endless match-up problems for opponents. Harper is complemented nicely by his running mate Kevin Anderson. Richmond matches up well against Vanderbilt, but containing John Jenkins—maybe the best shooter in the Tournament—will be a challenge. Expect a variety of match-up and 2-3 zones from Chris Mooney.

 

Harper is a Tough Matchup for Vandy

(3, Southeast) BYU—It is painfully obvious that the loss of Brandon Davies has detrimentally affected BYU’s play considerably; in the first game after his absence the Cougars were thrashed by New Mexico 82-64 on their home floor. While there is little doubt that Jimmer Fredette is the face of the program and their top player, the country is now officially seeing that there is much more going on in Provo, Utah, that can be attributed to BYU’s success  other than simply Fredette. While a deep run no doubt becomes more difficult without the services of Davies, the backcourt of Fredette and Jackson Emery has the ability to carry the Cougars to the second weekend.

(9, Southeast) Old Dominion—ODU presents all of the intangibles to be successful in the Tournament. They have an intelligent and proven coach in Blaine Taylor, a senior-laden team with NCAA experience, and the confidence that they belong here and can win—especially after knocking off Notre Dame as an 11 seed last year. It is more than merely intangibles for ODU though. The Monarchs are quite possibly the best rebounding team in the field, incredibly tough on the defensive end—according to Frank Hassell: “We go 50% man and 50% zone”—and run a deliberate offense that minimizes their opposition’s possessions. Blaine Taylor has created a formula for his team to have success in the NCAA Tournament.

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