NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.04.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 4th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

Butler

  • Many felt that it would be impossible for a mid-major to ever win a national title; nevertheless, Brad Stevens and Butler are about to turn what once was a myth into a reality. If the Bulldogs are able to cut down the nets tonight, the question emerges whether Butler can still be considered is a mid-major.
  • Athletic Director Barry Collier has made it known that keeping head coach Brad Stevens is a major priority. We think that it is unlikely that Stevens goes anywhere, as his personality does not correlate with that of a mercenary head coach looking to go anywhere to make his next buck.
  • Before Butler was able to advance to two consecutive national championship games, a 2007 three-way phone call between Zach Hahn, Matt Howard, and Shawn Vanzant changed the fortunes of the Bulldog program. The phone call revolved around the future of the program’s leadership when then-head coach Todd Lickliter left the school for Iowa. The three decided to give the unproven Brad Stevens a chance, and it has undoubtedly paid off.
  • Matt Howard has been a great player for Butler throughout his career, but with his various quirks and his general personality, he oozees greatness in an indefinable way.
  • The matchup between Shelvin Mack and Kemba Walker will likely decide the national championship. Walker is a fantastic playmaker and an an unbelievable scorer, but we acknowledge that Mack and the Bulldogs will be a tough out for Kemba and the Huskies.
  • While last season against Duke felt more like a David/Goliath matchup for the Butler Bulldogs, this season they enter their national title tilt with UConn not feeling as if they are underdogs. The huge role experience plays in easing the nerves of lower seeded teams makes the argument rational, even if it doesn’t sound like it at first glance.
  • After losing to Butler, giant killer VCU reflects positively on its season. The word “improbable” hardly scratches the surface when describing the Rams’ run, and a Final Four berth is something the team will always get to cherish.
  • Despite falling to the Bulldogs, VCU’s fans remain proud of what their team accomplished. Shaka Smart could have taken the approach of “playing with house money” after Selection Sunday and nobody would have blamed him, but he and his team quickly altered the perception of the Rams.

Connecticut

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.03.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 3rd, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

Butler

Connecticut

  • Kemba Walker finally admitted what most onlookers believed: he’s getting tired. While his supporting cast has stepped up, he’ll need to reach back for just a little more on Monday.
  • Elite company awaits Jim Calhoun if the Huskies beat Butler. With one more win, Calhoun would become just the fifth coach in NCAA Tournament history to win three titles. The others are John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight and Adolph Rupp.
  • Shabazz Napier cooly made the decisive free throws to put Connecticut up four with two seconds to go. As a freshman at the Final Four, it takes a lot of guts to succeed in a pressure situation like that.
  • UConn’s freshmen starred alongside Kemba Walker, but senior big man Charles Okwandu has fought perhaps harder than anyone in the Huskies locker room for his spot on the team.
  • The news of Nate Miles‘ willingness to speak with the NCAA about his recruitment comes at an inconvenient time for UConn, and at least one columnist believes the gesture is reprehensible and that any new information revealed will be tough to vet.
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Final Four Daily Diaries: Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on April 3rd, 2011

RTC is at the Final Four in Houston, our sixth as a fan but our first as a member of the working media. What that means, exactly, we’re still trying to figure out, but we think it has something to do with wearing a rectangular piece of plastic with our mug on it and nodding approvingly at the people in the NCAA blazers walking around the innards of Reliant Stadium. Or maybe it means dropping dime on one of the coaches at the dais for one thing or another — we’re not sure. Anyway, over the next four days of collegiate basketball activity here in H-town, we’ll be providing a daily diary in much the same way we’ve done with our correspondents throughout this year’s Tournament — equal parts observation and analysis, with a hint of the absurd.

Saturday, April 2 – Houston, Texas

  • For my money, of which I will have very little after this trip to Houston, the moments prior to the start of the first game at Semifinal Saturday are the absolute best of the entire season.  The anticipation, buzz, nervous vibe, whatever you want to call it… is off the charts, as all four schools dare to dream the impossible.  Bands are playing, fans are screaming, media are flittering, and the whole place contains an electricity that is only captured in my opinion at the collegiate level of sports.  There’s something peculiar about schools and fandom that makes this so, and it’s different than what you see with fans in the various professional sports leagues around the country and world.  At any rate, if I could bottle that energy in the air in those fifteen minutes prior to the first tipoff, I’d strap a nipple to that thing and drink it down as a part of my daily regimen.  No question.

VCU Fans Were More Amped Than Anybody Here Tonight

  • That said, my seating arrangement in the pressbox of Reliant Stadium (remember, this is a football stadium by design) left a little to be desired.  The worst part actually wasn’t the view — I could see the players and the ball going through the hoop fine, and so forth — rather, it was the giant windows that kept the noise of the stadium below from reaching all of us within the box.  It muffled everything to the point where I felt I wasn’t actually watching the game live inasmuch as viewing it as a tourist observes the sharks as the local aquarium.  It was more like watching the game on television rather than being there, even though I didn’t have a high definition screen in front of me and the PA announcer was clear as day (piped into the room).

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 30th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

Butler

Connecticut

  • Jim Calhoun warns that the shine will eventually wear off of prodigious coaches like Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens. One element both coaches will have to consider in potential moves to higher-profile schools down the line is whether they want to take on the balance of increased scrutiny and higher expectations.
  • The Huskies returned to campus for a couple days to recharge their batteries, but passers-by on campus are still as excited as they were on Saturday. The team arrives in Houston Wednesday night, and its rock star status can’t go to the players’ heads if they want to succeed.
  • Patrick Sellers, a former UConn assistant, left the staff in the wake of the NCAA’s investigation of the program last May. Now coaching in China, Sellers remains pumped for his former employer, and, cleared by the NCAA, can seek work at the Division-I level if he wishes.
  • Calhoun believes there are no great teams in college basketball this season, with which we agree, but gives a reason with which we disagree. Calhoun insists that the transience of college basketball’s top players hurts the game, but without those players, even if they only stay one season, the game would be far less interesting.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.07-01.09

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 7th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

The first big hoops weekend of 2011 features many important games across the land. Here are five key games followed by a host of others. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Cleveland State @ Butler – 7 pm Friday on ESPNU (****)

With Butler’s loss at Milwaukee on Monday, folks in the Horizon League used to the Bulldogs’ dominance are excited that this may be the year someone else takes the title. Cleveland State leads the league by a game over Detroit and Wright State while holding a one and a half game lead over Butler heading into tonight’s game. Should the Vikings win on the road tonight and plow through the rest of their Horizon schedule, expect to see Cleveland State win the league. Obviously we’re a long way off from that but CSU is currently in a nice position. Butler’s problems have been on the defensive end. The Bulldogs have given up an average of 73.6 PPG in their losses while their defensive efficiency has dropped significantly from their top five ranking of a year ago.

The Bulldogs Need Mack Back On Track Tonight, And From Now On

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Set Your Tivo: 12.09.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 9th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

A clash of offense vs. defense in Philly and a huge game between two teams needing a big win headline tonight’s schedule. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#8 Georgetown @ Temple – 9 pm on ESPN (****)

Georgetown & Austin Freeman Have Taken On All Comers This Season

Temple earned their biggest win of the year in Washington, D.C. on Sunday night defeating Maryland in the BB&T Classic. Tonight they welcome Georgetown to the Liacouras Center hoping to pick up their fourth win over a power conference team. Temple ranks #7 in defensive efficiency while Georgetown is #6 in offensive efficiency so it’ll be interesting to see which team can impose their will on the other. After all, you’d have to figure something has to give. There are also two great individual matchups, one at the point guard position and the other in the paint. Chris Wright runs the offense for the Hoyas and he’ll go up against Juan Fernandez. They’re both point guards but one can really stroke it. Wright shoots the three extremely well and has distributed the ball effectively, averaging seven assists per contest. Fernandez lacks a strong shooting game but uses his body and basketball IQ to his advantage, driving to the bucket and creating for his teammates. His production is down a bit this year but he’s still a dynamic threat when he has the ball in his hands. In the post we’ll see Georgetown’s Julian Vaughn battle for position and rebounds with Temple’s Lavoy Allen. Each player averages seven rebounds per game and whoever holds the edge on the glass stands a good chance to win this game. Extra rebounds will give Georgetown more opportunities to get the ball back out to the perimeter where they’re one of the best in the country while Temple will look to use extra possessions in the paint. The Owls get 67% of their points inside the arc, tops in the nation in that department. Georgetown is the complete opposite, leaning on the back court trio of Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark for 63% of their scoring output. Freeman is 25-46 (54%) on the year from three while averaging 20 points each time out. The preseason Big East player of the year has lived up to the hype and carried Georgetown to a top ten ranking. Clark has seen his minutes drop by two a game but his production has increased drastically. He’s the glue guy for John Thompson III, a steady hand and a clutch shooter in late game situations. One area of concern for Georgetown tonight will be turnovers. The Hoyas average 15 per game and cannot afford to be handing out extra possessions on the road in what should be a hostile arena. This is Temple’s marquee non-conference home game so you can expect the Philly fans to be ready to rock. Temple can win this game by shutting down Georgetown’s three point attack and you have to believe Fran Dunphy emphasized that in practice this week. Georgetown is the better team however and has already won two games in tough environments, at Old Dominion and against Missouri in Kansas City. This will be a close game but Georgetown has the talent and experience to come away with a very good road win.

Butler @ Xavier – 9 pm on ESPN2 (***)

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Final Four Game Analysis

Posted by rtmsf on April 2nd, 2010

RTC will break down the Final Four games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are Saturday evening’s national semifinals…aka…THE FINAL FOUR!

6:07 pm – #5 Michigan State vs. #5 Butler The winner of this game will have a built-in motivational mechanism, since this game is popularly considered the “Who will lose to West Virginia or Duke on Monday?” game.  Best be careful, because as we know, there’s almost no better way to get your guys ready to play than to tell them that it’s them against the world.  That nobody respects them.  That everyone expects them to lose and lose big.  In the case of Butler, I know I wouldn’t want to face a team playing in their home city and with that motivational tool.  A lot is being made of the home crowd advantage that Butler supposed to enjoy this weekend, but I ask you: because people love the storyline of a mid-major getting to the Final Four, in what city could you play this thing where Butler wouldn’t have most of the fans in the arena rooting for them?  I’ll tell you — East Lansing, Durham, and Morgantown (or anywhere else in West Virginia).  Well, we’re not in any of those towns.  Let me just add this…walking around this downtown area, I see mostly Butler fans, which is understandable.  But it’s not like the Duke, Michigan State, and West Virginia fans stayed home.  It’s Lucas Oil Stadium, people.  It seats over 70,000 (it must, to qualify to host this thing).  The freakin’ Colts play here.  The Butler cheers might be loud, but the other squads will have their supporters, too.  As to what’s going to happen on the floor, watch the boards.  This will be a rebounding battle for the ages, because it’s the biggest disparity between the two teams.  It’s not something Butler does particularly well, and it’s Michigan State’s greatest strength.  Brad Stevens knows his boys have to swarm the glass to have a chance.  They’ve done everything else he’s asked of them in each tournament game, not to mention the rest of the season, and I wouldn’t doubt that you’ll see them turn in their biggest effort on the boards this whole year on Saturday evening. Can Butler do it but still stay out of foul trouble?

We only picked against you three times, Coach Izzo. And we're sorry. (AP/Al Goldis)

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RTC Final Four Tidbits: 04.01.10

Posted by THager on April 2nd, 2010

Each day this week during the regional rounds of the NCAA Tournament we’re asking some of our top correspondents to put together a collection of notes and interesting tidbits about each region.  If you know of something that we should include in tomorrow’s submission, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.


Michigan State (Tom Hager)

  • ESPN’s Jemele Hill has never been one to shy away from controversy, but she caused quite a stir when she said that head coach Tom Izzo was the best coach in the history of the state.
  • According to guard Korie Lucious, although the Spartans are anticipating a hostile environment, they are used to big crowds cheering against them.
  • Ryan Fagan of The Sporting News says that MSU’s experience is what will set them apart, and that the only players who treat the Final Four like an ordinary game have never played at that level before.
  • USA Today points out that Michigan State’s win margin of 13 total points in their first four games is the lowest total since the field expanded to 64 teams.
  • If the Spartans win on Saturday, East Lansing police can expect some rioting, even before the national championship game.

Butler (Andrew Murawa)

  • In the basketball-mad state of Indiana, Butler has now vaulted Indiana University and other stalwarts to the head of the class, if only temporarily.
  • The Bulldog roster features 10 players from the state of Indiana, including such key contributors as Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard, Zach Hahn and Andrew Smith.
  • But while the Bulldogs may be riding high, they aren’t so famous that head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t get mistaken as a player on the team by a Lucas Oil Field security guard.
  • While, thankfully, the Butler/”Hoosiers” comparison has tired out some, it is pretty cool to note that Bobby Plump, the Milan High star upon whom the Jimmy Chitwood character in the movie was based, actually went on to star at Butler.
  • Speaking of the movies, Butler junior forward Howard has earned a reputation as quite the actor when trying to draw a charge.

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RTC Class Schedule 2009-10: Butler Bulldogs

Posted by zhayes9 on October 13th, 2009

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This is my last installation of the RTC Class Schedule series. Here are the first nine:

The nightmare for mid-major haters out there has been realized: Butler will be a top ten- yes, top ten- team for the next two full seasons. Their starting backcourt of Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored are both sophomores. One of the best frontcourts in the nation- post presence Matt Howard and inside-outside stud Gordon Hayward- is a junior and sophomore, respectively, with neither likely to enter the NBA Draft before four years at Butler. They lose two seniors who receive regular minutes after this season with swingman Willie Veasley (8.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and forward Avery Jukes (3.2 PPG) departing, but neither should pose a crippling loss. Sharpshooter Zach Hahn (41% 3pt) is just a junior and backup guard Shawn Vanzant is a junior, as well. Coach Brad Stevens has lured the #32 center in the nation Andrew Smith into the fray for this year and the #22 small forward in the country Khyle Marshall for 2010. The Bulldogs are loaded for the foreseeable future and should run roughshod over the respectable Horizon League, possibly beginning a historical conference run for the next two campaigns beginning with a visit from rival Valparaiso on December 5.

Butler has a realistic shot at a top-three seed in the NCAA tournament and backed up their high standing with a challenging non-conference slate coupled with a Horizon League schedule that has Hinkle Fieldhouse inhibitors wondering if undefeated is possible within the conference. Let’s dig deeper into the path Butler must take in hopes of being the first mid-major to reach the Final Four since George Mason in 2006.

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Non-Conference Schedule Rank: 8.5. The Bulldogs will be challenged in mid-November when they make a trip to fringe-NCAA contender Northwestern in Evanston. The Wildcats return star forward Kevin Coble and his perimeter shooting along with senior point guard Michael Thompson. They have hopes of making the field of 65 for the first time in school history. Butler enters the most difficult preseason tournament this season in Anaheim with a tremendous first round game against Big Ten contender Minnesota (returns nearly everyone including freshman Royce White entering) and a possible second round contest against UCLA. Potential top-ten team West Virginia looms in a possible championship game along with Texas A&M and Clemson. Butler also welcomes a bolstered Ohio State team to Hinkle followed by a visit a week later from Xavier and new coach Chris Mack. Butler also faces Georgetown- featuring Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Greg Monroe- to headline the Jimmy V Classic in NYC and travels to rebuilding UAB. Even with the high standards at Butler, that’s a hell of a non-conference schedule for a mid-major.

Cupcake City: The frosting isn’t too heavy for Butler. Stevens does have a return game from Davidson, who obviously won’t be nearly as lethal without Stephen Curry. Evansville has some decent pieces- and Butler must travel there- but the Aces shouldn’t challenge Butler too long. A short trip to Ball State also looms as less-than-imposing. That said, those 300+ RPI teams that most teams stack at least a few times on their non-conference slate is lacking from Butler’s schedule. Once again, give Brad Stevens tremendous credit.

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