RTC Top 25: Week 2

Posted by KDoyle on November 26th, 2012

Let’s cut right to the chase: Duke is #1 and Indiana #2. This may upset some, considering Indiana began the season as our #1 team, is a perfect 6-0 with a good win against Georgetown, has perhaps the best offensive attack in college basketball, and has shown little — if any — weakness. But, there is little denying Duke’s resume at this point (more on that after the jump). Two Big East squads—Georgetown and Cincinnati—made power moves up in the rankings after impressive weeks, while two other teams have plummeted right out of the Top 25—UCLA and Memphis. There wasn’t just movement at the top of the rankings, as five new teams have entered the Top 25 after strong showings during “Feast Week.”

This week’s QnD after the jump…

Quick ‘n Dirty Analysis.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Mid-American Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 16th, 2012

Ethan Back is the MAC correspondent for RTC.

Top Storylines

  • Will Ohio Be Able to Reach the Sweet Sixteen Again? After an extremely successful season that ended in an overtime loss in the Sweet Sixteen against ACC power North Carolina, Ohio will look to make another deep NCAA Tournament run. The Bobcats have a lot of hype to live up to, as they return all of their significant contributors from a season ago, including standouts D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt. Not all of the personnel returns from a season ago, however, with former head coach John Groce now at Illinois, but new head coach Jim Christian will look to keep momentum going.

Ohio’s D.J. Cooper Hopes To Follow One Head-Turning Season With Another. (AP Photo/T. Dejak)

  • Toledo’s Postseason Ban: Toledo has a very solid core intact from the 2011-12 season, so it’s a real shame that the Rockets won’t be able to qualify for postseason play due to its academic problems. Luckily for the Rockets, two of its best players (Rian Pearson and Julius Brown) are underclassmen, so they’ll still get a chance to win the MAC Tournament in future years, assuming they stay in school beyond the 2012-13 season.
  • East vs. West: Last season, the East had five teams finish with a winning record, whereas the West had a measly one. This clear imbalance within the MAC doesn’t have serious ramifications, as the conference tournament seeds are not based on division, but for the sake of self-respect, the West will hope to have a better season than it did last year.
  • No More Zeiglers: Winning games hasn’t been an easy task for Central Michigan these past two seasons, as its 12-20 conference record during that span indicates. It won’t be any easier this year after the firing of head coach Ernie Zeigler led to the transfer of his son and the Chippewas’ leading scorer Trey Zeigler to Pittsburgh. New head coach Keno Davis brings great experience to the program, but his first season on the job will likely be a rough one.

Reader’s Take I

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Rushed Reaction: #1 North Carolina 73, #13 Ohio 68 (OT)

Posted by dnspewak on March 23rd, 2012

Three Takeaways.

  1. Ohio Ran Out of Gas: Whether Ohio physically felt fatigued in the extra period hardly matters. What matters is Ohio missed all six field goal attempts in overtime, suddenly looking lost after shredding North Carolina’s defense throughout the second half. Reggie Bullock set the tone by draining a three on the first possession of overtime, then UNC sealed the game at the free throw line after clamping down defensively. D.J. Cooper‘s woes continued in overtime, as he missed two threes and threw the ball away with 32 seconds remaining. The star point guard finished 3-20 from the field, though he did dish out six assists.
  2. Reggie Bullock and Tyler Zeller Carried The Heels: Harrison Barnes found his stroke in overtime and made a critical three-pointer to tie the game in the second half, but he disappeared for much of the game in a 3-16 shooting effort. Luckily, Bullock emerged to hit two late threes to give the Heels the lead, and Zeller played like a madman for 45 minutes. Ohio had no answer for his size and tenacity — he fought, fought and fought some more for 23 rebounds and 20 points. He may not have made a defining, highlight-reel shot in a critical moment, but his presence changed the game for UNC.
  3. A Valiant Defense Effort: After shooting 23% in the first half, it seemed unbelievable the Bobcats trailed by just seven points. They hung around because North Carolina committed 13 turnovers in the first half, but once the shots began to fall for Ohio, the game tilted in coach John Groce‘s favor. Walter Offutt made five three-pointers after halftime and even added an and-1 to take the lead late in the second half. The Bobcats took their energy from the defensive end and translated it to the offensive end, as it harassed a Kendall Marshall-less UNC team for every single second of both halves and overtime. They weren’t kidding about this defense — it ranked fourth nationally in turnovers forced entering the game, and Ohio turned UNC over a total of 23 times.

Star of the Game. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina. An easy choice here. Zeller’s double-double was a man’s man’s double-double, as he bullied the small Bobcats frontline possession after possession. He scored eight points in the first five minutes of the game and threw down a few dunks with authority to signal his presence right out of the gate. Zeller hardly says much on the court, and his expression never changes. But in the end, his physicality in the post wore down Ohio.

Quotable. “They just stepped up and made some plays. And we didn’t.” — D.J. Cooper, Ohio.

What’s Next. North Carolina survives to face either Kansas (for a Roy Williams special) or North Carolina State on Sunday, either game a sure-fire maelstrom of emotion and rivalry.

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Ohio University Fighting the Cinderella Label

Posted by dnspewak on March 23rd, 2012

Danny Spewak is an RTC Correspondent covering the Midwest Regional in St. Louis this weekend. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.

They hail from a league nestled in America’s heartland, playing in relative anonymity in the Mid-American Conference. Each winter, they travel through Ypsilanti, Mount Pleasant, Kalamazoo and a host of other industrialized college towns with funky names, occasionally appearing on ESPNU or regional television. They toil in obscurity behind one of the largest and most powerful state universities in the United States, keeping to themselves in a town called Athens situated about 157 miles away from Cincinnati and 217 miles from Cleveland.

The point guard grew up in Chicago but had no offers from the Big Ten out of high school. The team’s vocal leader and second-leading scorer used to average five minutes a game at Ohio State. The two leading rebounders stand tall at an undersized 6’8”, each averaging just 5.0 boards per game. The head coach is a young, refreshing sparkplug with a load of energy, but his shaved head and small stature seem to fit the mold of an athletic trainer– not the leader of a team in the Sweet Sixteen.

D.J. Cooper Is Getting the Last Laugh in the Sweet 16 (AP Photo/T. Dejak)

At first glance, nothing about the Ohio Bobcats suggests they should have any shot against top-seeded North Carolina Friday evening, even if standout point guard Kendall Marshall’s wrist injury leaves him unavailable to play. UNC center Tyler Zeller, a former McDonald’s All-American from a well-known basketball family in Indiana, paid polite compliments to the 13th-seeded Bobcats on Thursday afternoon. But even he admitted they are vulnerable in the frontcourt, claiming his team “can attack them a little bit down low and try to play to our strengths.” So it’s settled: as long as the bigger, badder Tar Heels show up to play, they’ll have no trouble dispatching a little Cinderella that finished third in the MAC East Division.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Friday

Posted by EJacoby on March 23rd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Kevin Doyle (South) and Evan Jacoby (Midwest) contributed to this preview.

#3 Baylor vs. #10 Xavier – South Regional Semifinal (at Atlanta, GA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Baylor was supposed to be here, Xavier was not. That is the beauty of March Madness and the NCAA Tournament though: play it out on the floor. One can review all the matchups, crunch the numbers, and look at past tournament history, but sometimes simply getting hot at the right time is a more important factor than anything else. The Xavier Musketeers, an up-and-down team all year following the brawl against Cincinnati back in December, are peaking at just the right time. After a 21 game stretch in the middle of the year that saw Xavier go 10-11, they rebounded by winning five of six; the melee seems like a thing of the distant past right now. What teams should now begin to take notice of: Tu Holloway is back to playing at the level of an All-American. Not to mention, Kenny Frease is looking like one of the most dominant big men in the country after dismantling the Lehigh front line last Sunday. Despite all of this, Baylor is a downright scary team to be playing this weekend, especially with the shooting prowess of Brady Heslip who is a combined 14-22 from downtown. Xavier’s three-point defense is one of the best in the nation as they allow opponents to shoot just 30% from the outside, but can they contain the hot shooting Heslip and the steady Pierre Jackson? Consequently, if Heslip and Jackson are not connecting from distance, the onus will be on Perry Jones III. The Jones-Frease matchup down low is one to keep an eye on, and if we are to take any stock in the first two games, Frease is the one playing better of the two as Jones has combined to score just nine points on 4-14 shooting against South Dakota State and Colorado. A streaky scorer throughout the year, Jones has scored in single digits nine times and double digits 19 times; the Bears will need the latter of Jones’ scoring efforts to keep Xavier honest on defense. Baylor’s only losses this year have come against Big 12 opponents, and I expect this trend to continue as the Bears hold off Holloway and the Musketeers.

The RTC Certified Pick: Baylor

#1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio – Midwest Region Semifinals (at St. Louis, MO) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

The storylines leading up to this game have been completely taken over by Kendall Marshall’s “wrist watch”, but once the ball tips off on Friday night and Marshall is presumably unable to play, then we can finally focus on the matchups in-game. Of course, Marshall’s expected absence will then be the main factor to watch in the game. How will North Carolina distribute minutes at the point guard position against the harassing perimeter defense of D.J. Cooper? Expect Roy Williams to explore several different options, including seldom-used reserves Stilman White and Justin Watts. Both White and Watts average under seven minutes per game and were never expected to be significant factors for the team, but they are the only players with experience at the lead guard spot. But since neither guy is likely to make much of an impact offensively, UNC also could experiment by placing Harrison Barnes at the position in a point-forward role. Barnes has the size to see over any defenders but has never been asked to run an offense. P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock, two primary wing shooters, could help Barnes bring the ball up in a point guard by-committee approach, as well.

Regardless, as long as the point guard replacements or by-committee members don’t turn the ball over at an alarming rate, then Carolina should still have the advantage in this game on both ends because of its tremendous forwards. Ohio’s regular rotation only includes two bangers in the post in Reggie Keely and Jon Smith, and while Keely is a solid post defender with bulk at 265 pounds, neither of those players is taller than 6’8”. It will be an adventure trying to defend the most talented front line in the country. Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo should have a field day in the paint, and the lack of a point guard means that every UNC possession should include an early paint touch. Expect big numbers from this trio. But if Ohio is somehow able to key on the UNC bigs and stop the domination in the paint, then the Bobcats can pull another upset by gaining an advantage on the perimeter. Nick Kellogg and Walter Offutt must hit a high percentage of shots from the outside and D.J. Cooper will need another breakout performance to carry this team. It just seems unlikely that Ohio has enough firepower to hang with Carolina’s athletes on the interior. With or without Marshall, roll with North Carolina in this one.

The RTC Certified Pick: North Carolina

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.20.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 20th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

South Region

Midwest Region

  • Fans and media aren’t the only ones caught up in great performances by major talent among the mid-major ranks. It was recently revealed that in 2010, Baylor coach Scott Drew and then-Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl allegedly contacted Ohio‘s D.J. Cooper about transferring, which would constitute NCAA violations if the allegations are true. It will be interesting to see whether the subject is raised during Baylor’s media session this week.
  • Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde opines that even if North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall returns to the fold for a potential regional final, the odds are stacked heavily against the Heels.
  • The Tar Heels’ aren’t the only team from the state recovering from some health concerns. N.C. State will face Kansas Friday, and C.J. Williams and C.J. Leslie are recovering from fatigue. The severity isn’t even comparable to North Carolina’s situation, but a few days of rest will be especially helpful to the Wolfpack.
  • Basketball Prospectus’ C.J. Moore breaks down how Kansas topped Purdue on Sunday, from Elijah Johnson‘s fortitude to Bill Self‘s halftime adjustments.
  • There are already two coaching vacancies in the Big Ten, and Ohio coach John Groce could fit the bill at either Nebraska or Illinois after the season. Groce’s Big Ten connections, when combined with his team’s head-turning performance this postseason, make him appealing to the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is a tough job, but with a heavy commitment to hoops, Athletic Director Tom Osborne could find a catch.
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ATB: Sweet Sixteen Set – #1 Seeds Roll, Cinderellas Emerge, and It’s Good to be From Ohio

Posted by EJacoby on March 19th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. After one of the craziest nights in recent Big Dance history on Friday, perhaps we all needed a bit of a break from the chaos this weekend. Fortunately, that didn’t exactly happen. Most of the higher seeds advanced in the round of 32, but the Midwest Region led the way with some crazy results. Almost every season, we see a double-digit seed reach the Sweet Sixteen; this year, we have three, and it easily could have been five. Of the 16 teams remaining, four come from the Big East, four are of the Big Ten, and four represent the state of Ohio, including both of the guilty parties from the Crosstown Shootout Brawl back in December. It’s the first time ever that one single state sends four teams to the Sweet Sixteen. Let’s go over the great moments from the weekend…

Your Watercooler Moment. #13 Ohio University is This Year’s Cinderella Story

D.J. Cooper Hasn't Allowed #13 Ohio to Lose (AP Photo/B. Rucker)

What would the NCAA Tournament be without a mid-major, double-digit seed in the Sweet Sixteen? This year it’s Ohio, the #13 seed of the Midwest Region that had a fairly favorable draw in terms of matchups but still had to defeat two power conference teams on the way. A victory over #12 seed South Florida on Sunday sent the Bobcats to the second weekend of the Big Dance, pretty amazing considering they finished third in the MAC conference this season. But Ohio is no joke, as D.J. Cooper continues to prove himself as one of the best lead guards in the entire tourney. Cooper outplayed USF’s Anthony Collins in the round of 32 and tallied 19 points, six rebounds, and seven assists with several big shots late in the game to help his team advance. The other recognizable name from this squad is Nick Kellogg, the sophomore guard who is the son of CBS analyst and former collegiate star Clark Kellogg. Clark’s son is a terrific shooter at 41.8% from three and 89.2% from the foul line, giving the Bobcats a nice one-two punch from the perimeter. Interestingly enough, Ohio now draws #1 North Carolina in the Regional Semifinal in what most would expect to be a blowout, but the Tar Heels just lost their indispensible point guard to a wrist injury, which will make things interesting next weekend. Could Ohio’s perimeter attack lead to a truly incredible Cinderella story with a win over UNC? Stay tuned.

Also Worth Chatting About. Kendall Marshall Suffers Broken Wrist for #1 Seed North Carolina

The single biggest storyline from the past weekend was not anything that happened in the box score or even in between the lines on the court. But when North Carolina’s star point guard and the nation’s leader in assists, Kendall Marshall, got fouled and pushed on a layup and landed on his right wrist in the out-of-bounds baseline, the entire dynamic of this NCAA Tournament changed. Marshall suffered a fractured wrist on this play with 10:55 remaining in the second half of Carolina’s game against #8 seed Creighton. Marshall continued to play in this game for a few minutes and wasn’t immediately in so much pain that he had to leave. It’s also an injury to his non-shooting hand, so it could have been worse. In addition, the sophomore is set for surgery on Monday which will leave him in a position to play shortly thereafter if he is able to tolerate the pain. Unfortunately, it’s a huge long shot to think that Marshall will be back and effective going forward. The injury he suffered usually requires three-plus weeks of a cast and rest, and even bracing the hand and tolerating pain to play will make for a huge liability on the floor. Already a weak defender, Marshall would be even less effective on that end and he would surely be forced to his right hand on offense by opposing teams. There’s just as strong of a chance that he’d be a detriment to UNC by being on the court than he would be a benefit, depending on the true impact of the injury. As things stand, Carolina needs to start preparing for a Championship run without its point guard, leaving that position to be filled by either unused backup Stilman White (4.2 minutes per game) or by a player like P.J. Hairston or Harrison Barnes in some sort of point-forward role. One of the most irreplaceable players in the country, Marshall’s injury leaves a giant question mark surrounding the Tar Heels’ title hopes.

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Rushed Reaction: #13 Ohio 62, #12 South Florida 56

Posted by David Changas on March 18th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Ohio’s Guards were Fantastic.  It’s not easy to win a third round game in the NCAA Tournament when you get 11 points from your frontcourt. But that’s exactly what Ohio did tonight, thanks to its stellar backcourt and the outstanding performances of D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt. The pair combined for 40 of Ohio’s 62 points and got nine more from the team’s third starting guard, Nick Kellogg.  South Florida did a much better job than Michigan of disrupting the flow of Ohio’s offense, especially in taking Ohio forward Ivo Baltic and the rest of the Bobcat frontcourt out of the game, but the Bobcats shot 50% from the floor in the second half and were able to get more open looks. The Bobcat backcourt was simply too good on this night, and Cooper and Offutt are the biggest reason Ohio is moving on to its first Sweet Sixteen since 1964.
  2. Five-point Possessions turn Game.  It’s not often that you see a five-point possession in a game.  It’s downright rare that you see two in one half, but Ohio had two such possessions in the second half and they were game changers.  The first came with 16:03 remaining when Victor Rudd, Jr., was called for an intentional foul on Walter Offutt after he grabbed Offutt on the perimeter. Offutt made both free throws and then knocked down a three from the left corner to tie the game.  Then, with 9:23 left, Jawanza Poland was on the receiving end of a beautiful alley-oop pass from Collins and was called for hanging on the rim by referee Tony Greene.  It was a questionable call, and it took away South Florida’s momentum. The Bulls had taken a 42-37 lead on the play, but Kellogg knocked down both technical free throws and made a three to tie it back up. The play sparked a 19-6 run that gave Ohio a lead it would not relinquish.
  3. South Florida’s Offense not Enough.  The Bulls play ugly and get the job done on the defensive end. Offensively, though, they simply weren’t worthy of a Sweet Sixteen run, especially on the perimeter. For the game, South Florida went 2-15 from three-point range, and many of those misses came on good looks.  Had they been able to knock down a few more of those shots, the early second half lead may have been too much for Ohio to overcome. Instead, their inability to make enough shots ended the Bulls’ season.

Star of the Game Walter Offutt, Ohio. The Bobcat junior, who spent his first two years at Ohio State, showed why he was a high-major recruit in this game, going 7-9 from the field and scoring 21 points.  He hit all four of his three-point attempts. This honor easily could have gone to Cooper, who had 19 points and seven assists, but on this night, Offutt provided the offensive spark that carried the Bobcats to St. Louis.

Quotable.  “I don’t ever want to blame one play, but it certainly changed the momentum. All season long, we didn’t let one play bother us, but we did here. The response was not normal for us.” – South Florida Coach Stan Heath, on Poland’s technical.

Sights and Sounds.  St. Patrick’s Day came a day late, as green was everywhere in this one.  Even the NCAA got into the act, assigning referee Tony Greene to the game.

Wildcard. In the Twitter era, news travels fast. At halftime, the media room was abuzz with word of North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall‘s fractured wrist, and the general consensus was that the Tar Heels’ chances of winning the national title are over if Marshall can’t play or perform at his usual high level.

What’s Next?  Ohio has a huge challenge ahead, as it gets to take on the region’s top seed, North Carolina.  Of course, no one knows what the Tar Heels will look like at this point, given Marshall’s injury. Still, despite the fact that Ohio’s backcourt is superb, the Bobcats’ lack of size will be a big problem against the huge North Carolina front line.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Third Round – Sunday

Posted by EJacoby on March 18th, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East), Kevin Doyle (South), Evan Jacoby (Midwest) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#3 Georgetown vs. #11 N.C. State – Midwest Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Thompson's Team is a Real Wildcard in this Region

We originally picked Georgetown to get upset in the round of 64 by Belmont, but that was with knowledge that the Hoyas could be the biggest threat to stopping Kansas from reaching the Elite Eight if they were able to escape that opening game. Not only did Georgetown escape, but it was one of the most impressive showings of any team in the tournament thus far. The Hoyas used their length and athleticism to deny the efficient Belmont offense from ever getting started, and they were unreal at their own end offensively with a 61.2% field goal percentage for the game. This matchup will be more difficult, however, against an North Carolina State team that’s getting better every game and playing spectacular offensively. The Wolfpack have great size inside to match Georgetown, with C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell as long and athletic as any Hoya. Howell had his best game of the season with 22 points on 10-12 shooting last game, but that will also change as he goes up against much stronger post defenders. Georgetown primarily plays zone defense but will also switch things up and defend man-to-man when needed. It will be a battle inside all night as the Hoyas surely won’t let Scott Wood get open looks from three. This game, though, will be decided on the other end of the floor. NC State was not particularly strong defensively throughout the year, but they completely shut down San Diego State on Friday by allowing just 37.7% field goal shooting. The Aztecs played a lot of one-on-one ball, the exact opposite of what the Hoyas will show. It’ll be up to Henry Sims to make smart decisions in the high post, something he’s done all year. Jason Clark was great last game and is a reliable playmaker in this game, while Otto Porter remains rock solid as an X-factor offensively. Both of these teams looked great last round, but Georgetown has the advantage because it should pose a much greater defensive threat to the Wolfpack while also running a motion offense that will be difficult to defend.

The RTC Certified Pick: Georgetown

#1 Michigan State vs. #9 Saint Louis – West Region Third Round (at Columbus, OH) – 2:45 PM ET on CBS

Two top ten teams in defensive efficiency. Two coaches with a well-earned reputation for X-ing and O-ing with the best of them. It isn’t likely to be one of the prettiest displays of basketball you’ll ever see, but if you like fundamentals and you like basketball as chess match, this is a can’t-miss game. The Billikens advanced to this round behind great team defense and great individual offensive performances by Kwamain Mitchell (22 points including four threes) and Brian Conklin (16 points, earned largely from his ten-of-11 performance from the line). But Conklin also turned the ball over eight times, in part due to the active hands of Memphis defenders; he’ll see more of that on Sunday and will need to take better care of the ball. Defensively, the Billikens will need to come up with some sort of answer for Draymond Green, who was brilliant Friday against Long Island, registering a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists. But perhaps the biggest battle of the game will be on Michigan State’s offensive glass. The Spartans have historically made a living creating offensive on second-chance opportunities, but the best Rick Majerus-coached teams have been proficient in securing defensive rebounds. If the Billikens can limit the Spartans’ offensive rebounding (a feat easier said than done), Tom Izzo will need to find other ways for his Spartans to score in the halfcourt, and there have been times this year when that MSU offense has bogged down a bit. While sophomore guard Keith Appling is usually excellent getting penetration, SLU is no liable to allow that very often, and there is no one else on the Spartan roster capable of creating his own offense off the dribble on a regular basis. Guys like Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton have been very efficient three-point shooters, but, with the exception perhaps of Green, they need someone to create open looks for them. In short, if SLU can do what no other team has been able to do all year – keep Michigan State in check on their offensive glass – then the Billikens could drag this game down into the mud and pull out a win. But, if the Spartans do what, you know, they always do, I have a hard time seeing Saint Louis pulling this one out.

The RTC Certified Pick: Michigan State

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Four Thoughts from Nashville …

Posted by David Changas on March 18th, 2012

Here are few thoughts on Friday’s NCAA Tournament action in Nashville, and a look ahead to Sunday’s action.

1) The first thing that stood out in watching the eight teams in the NCAA Tournament pod in Nashville was the level of parity that was on display, and which is prevalent throughout college basketball.  In the first half of the day’s first game, the East Region’s #11 seed, Texas, took futility to a new level, hitting 4 of 25 shots on its way to a 31-17 halftime deficit against #6 seed Cincinnati. After falling behind by 19 early in the second half, the Longhorns eventually tied the game, which wasn’t decided until the final minutes. In the nightcap, South Florida, the #12 seed in the Midwest Region, made Texas look efficient by going 3 for 27 and scoring 15 points in the first half.  Somehow they trailed Temple by only four, and the Bulls came out of the locker room on fire and shot 60% for the second half on their way to a 58-44 win over #5 seed Temple. That was the largest spread of any of the final scores here.  Each of the day’s games was up for grabs going into the final minutes.

FSU May Be The ACC Champs, But They Had Their Hands Full

Beyond the obvious – that #12 and #13 seeds won here on Friday, and that two #15 seeds won elsewhere on the same day – it is apparent that the disparity in talent between the mid-majors and the BCS schools continues to narrow.  In watching teams in a pod in which there were no 1-16 or 2-15 matchups, it was clear that parity abounds.  St. Bonaventure, the East Region’s #14 seed and the lowest-seeded team here, played ACC Tournament Champion Florida State to the wire and easily could have won the game. The Bonnies were the fourth-best team in what many consider the best mid-major league – Atlantic 10 – and they were able to control most of their battle with arguably the ACC’s best squad.  And while it would have been an upset, no one here would have been shocked if it had happened.  St. Bonaventure had good players, including the sensational Andrew Nicholson, and the overall difference in talent levels between the two squads was not as vast as it may have been in the past.

Transfers are also an important part of this equation. Case in point is Ohio forward Walter Offutt, who left after two years at Ohio State in which he rarely saw the floor. Offutt, a top-100 player coming out of high school, is one of many former high-major players we have seen over the years make a difference at the mid-major level.  He is flourishing in Coach John Groce’s system and is the team’s second leading scorer. While he couldn’t get into the rotation in two years in Columbus, Offutt has flourished in relative obscurity in Athens. He is the type of player that allows a team like Ohio to compete when it faces better competition in March.

Upsets have long been a part of March Madness, but as we see more of them, we should be less surprised. The George Masons, Butlers, and VCUs of the world have shown us that there is plenty of talent outside the BCS leagues, and the parity on display in Nashville on Friday typified that.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.17.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 17th, 2012

The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.

Midwest Region

West Region

  • It didn’t take long for a darling to emerge in this season’s tournament. It’s been a whirlwind day for Norfolk State forward Kyle O’Quinn since the Spartans knocked off Missouri. In about an hour after Friday’s epic upset went final, O’Quinn’s Twitter account more than doubled in followers.
  • In Florida‘s opening win over Virginia, it wasn’t one of the Gators touted guards who made the biggest impact, nor was it heralded big man Patric Young. Casey Prathercame to play Friday, coming off the bench to score 14 points on a perfect 6-6 day from the field.
  • Marquette will look to take down Murray State with a fast but physical style. The New York TimesRay Glier gives interesting insight into the Golden Eagles’ calling card.
  • Card Chronicle breaks downLouisville‘s game with New Mexico. Rick Pitino‘s team is 4-1 when facing a 5-seed, which appears to bode well for the Cardinals’ chances to crack the Sweet 16 today.
  • The last team standing from Missouri isn’t the Tigers, but the Saint Louis University Billikens. Rick Majerus‘ experience, tough defense and high basketball IQ have been the stand-by’s this season.

South Region

East Region

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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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