For Real or Fraudulent: Sean Kilpatrick’s Hot Start?

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 13th, 2013

Although his stated reason for passing on the NBA Draft and returning to Cincinnati for his senior season was that he wanted to be the first player in his family to graduate and get his degree, it’s not hard to imagine that Sean Kilpatrick also wanted to make up for a disappointing junior campaign on the court as well. Charged with becoming the new face of the program following the graduation of hulking forward Yancy Gates and leading a younger Bearcats’ team coming off a Sweet Sixteen appearance, Kilpatrick faltered slightly.

Sean Kilpatrick Has Been Unstoppable Through 8 Games, But Red Flags Remain

Sean Kilpatrick Has Been Unstoppable Through Eight Games, But Red Flags Remain

Kilpatrick raised his scoring average to 17 points per game, but a five percent increase in usage rate combined with an unexpected inability to shoot the three-pointer (37% in 2012 to 30% last season) led to an effective field goal percentage of less than 50 percent and didn’t exactly paint Kilpatrick as the picture of efficiency. He was still able to create his own shot and was plenty capable of filling it up (as Marquette found out when he went for 36 in a win in January) but the onus was on him to carry the offensive load every night and his shot-selection and decision-making suffered because of it. He was still an above-average rebounding guard and plus defender but the breakout that so many had expected never really happened and the Bearcats were as a result bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Creighton.

A fringe NBA prospect, Kilpatrick decided to return to school for his senior season and coach Mick Cronin must be glad he did. After the 2012 season much was made about how the departure of Gates would affect the team, but the Bearcats actually lost far more production from last season than they did from the season before. Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker graduated and took nearly 24 points per game and more than 600 shot attempts with them, which meant that opposing defenses this season were going to be even more focused on Kilpatrick.

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Big East NCAA Tournament Capsules: Cincinnati

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 22nd, 2013

Cincinnati came into the year as one of the favorites for a top four finish in the Big East, and that looked like a good bet through non-conference play. However, the Bearcats were totally inconsistent all season once the Big East schedule began, and after an injury to guard Cashmere Wright in January, Cincinnati has struggled to put points on the board. Wins over Iowa State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Villanova were enough to get the Bearcats into the tournament, but Cincinnati was probably a game or two from being in serious bubble talks.

Mick Cronin

Mick Cronin and Cincinnati came into the season as a favorite to win the Big East. Now, they get to prove that all over again. (Getty)

Region: Midwest
Seed: No. 10
Record: 22-11 (9-9 Big East)
Matchup: v. Creighton in Philadelphia, PA

Key Player: Sean Kilpatrick is far and away the most important Bearcat. He is the team’s leader in minutes, points, and is just .6 rebounds off of Titus Rubles pace for the team lead in that category, and he’s doing it from the guard position. On a team that often struggles to find the bottom of the net, Kilpatrick is the only consistent option, and the opposition knows it, which helps explain the low shooting percentages for the Yonkers native. Read the rest of this entry »

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Big East Tournament Day Three: Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 14th, 2013

The quarterfinals are here, which means the Big East tournament is in full swing, and the top four seeds will get their chance at the league as-we-know-it’s final crown.  Georgetown and Cincinnati open today’s festivities at Noon, followed by a 21st century ACC donnybrook between Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

#9 Cincinnati

Cincy

The Bearcats knocked off Providence 61-44 yesterday afternoon.

No. 9 seed Cincinnati had a strong showing against Providence yesterday afternoon, defeating the Friars 61-44 behind 17 points from Sean Kilpatrick and 15 points and 10 rebounds from JaQuon Parker.

Next game: Cincinnati will look to upset top seeded Georgetown at Noon.

  • Best Case: Cincinnati nearly took down Georgetown at Fifth Third Arena in February, losing a tight one, 62-55.  Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright were a combined 3-of-15 from three point range in that one; if Cincinnati’s guards can knock down some shots from the outside they should not have much of an issue keeping up with Georgetown’s scoring.  Consistent guard play is the key for the Bearcats; if Kilpatrick keeps up his solid play and Wright finally returns to the level that he was playing at before he missed time due to injury, Cincinnati can make a run in this tournament.
  • Worst Case: The Bearcats get frustrated against Georgetown’s probing Princeton offense and Otto Porter flashes his normal brilliance, and the Hoyas run away with a double-digit victory.  Cincinnati’s next conference tournament game is played in front of 4,000 fans at the Izod Center against Tulane.

#5 Syracuse

C.J. Fair continues to act as a steadying presence for Syracuse.

Syracuse struggled down the stretch of the regular season, but a strong second half propelled them to a 75-63 win over Seton Hall. The Orange dropped their game at The Pete earlier this year, but were without forward James Southerland. Will an Orange-friendly crowd and Southerland’s three-point prowess make the difference for Jim Boeheim’s squad?

Next game: Syracuse faces No. 4 seed Pittsburgh in the 2:00 PM slot.

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Big East M5: 03.04.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on March 4th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. Twelve points doesn’t seem like a particularly crazy total, but in a 58-53 defensive deadlock in a bustling Carrier Dome against a Syracuse team desperate to get back in the win column, Luke Hancock‘s four three-pointers were key to Louisville‘s big Saturday win. As Adam Himmelsbach writes, three of Hancock’s treys came in the final nine minutes of the game, the final one breaking a 48-all tie and giving the Cardinals the momentum to ride to the victory. While Louisville struggled against Syracuse’s zone for much of the game, Hancock brought a three-point threat to the floor which the Cardinals had lacked for much of the game, and he hit big shot after big shot down the stretch.
  2. While there aren’t too many optimists in Central New York right now, one important person is keeping faith that the Orange can right the ship come tournament time: Jim Boeheim. After the loss to Louisville, Boeheim discussed the recent three game slide, and his team’s prospects going forward: “I like what we can be… We’ve lost to three ranked teams. We haven’t played very good. We haven’t shot very good and we could’ve won two of the three. If we were getting beat by 15 or 20 points, I’d be worried. I’d be very worried. But we’re right there.’’ Syracuse has a brief reprieve from their brutal season-ending stretch with a game against DePaul before heading down to Washington for their last Big East regular season game, a fitting match-up with Georgetown.
  3. The Marquette-Notre Dame rivalry is another that may be lost after conference realignment rears its head. The Golden Eagles can count another victory over the Irish after a comfortable eight point win this weekend. Without Jack Cooley, Notre Dame had no answer for Marquette bigs Chris Otule and Davante Gardner. Chicago Sun-Times writer Dan McGrath suggests that the nature of this rivalry added a lot of weight to this game, especially for Marquette: “Notre Dame’s perceived haughtiness over a higher national profile and stronger academic reputation can stir resentment in the most level-headed Marquette types. So a victory over the Irish in anything is cause for celebration on a campus that embraces celebrating as part of the culture.”
  4. The winner of the Big East’s regular season is usually a good bet for a number one seed in the NCAA tournament, and this year it is looking more and more like Georgetown will hold on to win that crown. However, many projections haven’t included Georgetown on the top line of their brackets. The Hoyas have moved into the top five in the polls and they’re winners of 11 straight games going back to a now-inexplicable loss to USF, not to mention that they have one of the nation’s best players in Otto Porter. With the top few teams losing seemingly every week, it shouldn’t shock anyone that a consistent winner like Georgetown could be staring at a top seed at this point, as crazy at that may have sounded just a few weeks ago.
  5. After a gutty 20-point, five-rebound, three-assist game that helped propel Cincinnati over UConn, Mick Cronin heaped plenty of praise on guard Sean Kilpatrick: “Mental toughness and work ethic is the hardest thing to find in recruiting, and you really don’t know until you get a guy in practice. I knew during his redshirt year the way that guy attacked practice every day with the life and the energy he had.” Cronin also went out of his way to mention Kilpatrick among Bearcat greats like Kenyon Martin and Steve Logan. Kilpatrick has carried Cincinnati with 17.7 points per game, and was especially key during stretches mid-season when Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker struggled to give the Bearcats strong secondary scoring options.
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Big East M5: 02.15.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 15th, 2013

bigeast_morning5(2)

  1. As expected, more details have emerged in the Jim Boeheim-Andy Katz “feud”, which came to a head last night when Boeheim called Katz an idiot and refused to answer his questions at the presser that followed Syracuse’s loss at Connecticut.  What was originally assumed by many to be an issue with Katz sharing some information about James Southerland’s academic issues now seems to be more about last year’s Bernie Fine fiasco.  Let’s hear from Boeheim: ”It’s really simple. I went to New York last year to play in the (NIT Pre-Season Tip-Off) Tournament in November and he (Katz) asked if he could interview me about the tournament. And I said, ‘Yeah, but I can’t talk about the (Bernie Fine) investigation.’ We got in the room and he put me on camera — there were several witnesses there — and he asked me what I’d told him I couldn’t answer. I kept telling him, ‘I can’t answer that.’ And he asked me, like, 10 times on camera. He never took the camera off me. Two or three people in the room were so disgusted they walked out of the room. The producer came over and apologized afterward. And I told Katz right then and there, ‘Don’t talk to me. Do not try to talk to me again.’” Katz issued a response following the Syracuse.com article: “There was no deal. I don’t cut deals. He might have thought there was a deal, but I have never, ever made a deal… The reason I did that is because with guys like Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Jim Calhoun they’ll, say there’s a certain subject they don’t want to talk about and then they’ll talk about it. If I asked it one too many times, fine, criticize me. I was just trying to see if he’d answer the question.”
  2. On the brighter side for Syracuse fans… err, maybe not so much after Wednesday night in Hartford… Michael Carter-Williams continues to grab headlines for his play.  Mike DeCourcy of  Sporting News went into depth with MCW about his high-risk, high-reward play this season, and how his scant playing time last season has helped in his maturation process.  Carter-Williams, like Dion Waiters before him, is a fiery competitor, and is has gotten the best of him in games before, including one instance last season when he snapped at Jim Boeheim after being taken out of a game: “Definitely, there were a couple of times when it got the better of me and I lashed out at Coach. Those were mistakes I made. Coach told me if I wasn’t yelling at him, he wouldn’t know what to expect from me. I was a McDonald’s All-American and I wasn’t playing … he knew I wanted to be out there.”  Carter-Williams’ play has been up and down this Big East season, but few deny his talent, and the fact that if Syracuse has a chance at making a final four run this season, it will be in large part due to MCW’s play.
  3.  College basketball is wide open this season, and the Big East is no different. It seems like half of the league is still in contention for the conference crown, and no one knows what will happen once the Big East tournament kicks off at Madison Square Garden. UConn was never supposed to be in the discussion this season.  After being handed a full post-season ban due to APR issues, and losing a number of talented players from their NCAA tournament team last season, UConn was largely an afterthought in the league.  However, with the win over Syracuse, the Huskies sit just a game out of first place in the conference, and the team may be especially dangerous, as a regular season Big East title is all that they can play for this year.
  4. Cincinnati’s offensive woes have been well-documented, especially since Cashmere Wright’s injury in January.  Sean Kilpatrick has been a one man show for the Bearcats, and that hasn’t been a winning formula.  In their recent win over Villanova, Cincinnati was able to find offense from another sourceJaQuon Parker.  Parker averages 10.9 points per game for Cincy, but had been in a bit of a scoring drought before breaking out with 19 points against the Wildcats.  The significance of his contribution was not lost on Mick Cronin: “He’s got to stay aggressive and I’ve got to help him with that. Put him in situations to where he can be aggressive and he’s thinking offense.  He’s thinking attack. For us to win, he’s got to play that way. For us to be a high-level team, he’s got to be a double-figure guy.”
  5. The ballad of Todd Mayo at Marquette has hit frequent rough notes, but he is a rare talent that could become a major asset for Buzz Williams’ squad if kept in check.  Mayo spent the early part of this season on academic suspension, and he has had his playing time cut at points since his return for what many expect is disciplinary reasons.  When Mayo does suit up, he is a dangerous offensive weapon, averaging over 17.5 points per 40 minutes played.  The trouble is, for every double digit game he tallies, he only plays five minutes in another.  There are rumblings that Mayo may not be long for Marquette, but while he is still on the team, they can certainly use him in their race for the top of the Big East.
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Providence Shows Its Growth With Recent Big East Wins

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 7th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC Big East microsite contributor who also writes for the Syracuse blog, “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Wednesday night’s match-up between Cincinnati and Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Providence has played this entire season teetering on the edge.  On one side, losses to the likes of Penn State, UMass, Brown, and DePaul don’t inspire much confidence for Ed Cooley‘s squad going forward.  On the other hand, the only game this season that really got away from the Friars was the January 2nd 80-62 loss to then #4 Louisville.  Every other Friar loss has been within ten points, with two having gone to overtime – the games against Penn State and UConn.  Since the loss to UConn, however, Providence’s luck has seemed to turn a bit.  They went to Villanova, a team that had just logged back to back home wins against the conference’s two big dogs Louisville and Syracuse, and knocked off the Wildcats, and then followed that up with last night’s close win at home against #17 Cincinnati.

Kadeem Batts' 25 points and nine rebounds were essential in Providence's upset of #17 Cincinnati.

Kadeem Batts’ 25 points and nine rebounds were essential in Providence’s upset of #17 Cincinnati.

Providence’s road to relevance under Cooley has been a treacherous one, but there has been reason for hope.  Cooley has been recruiting well above the expectations laid forth by Providence’s 42-53 record over the last three seasons.  Last season Cooley reeled in five-star prospects Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo and he currently has 2013 commitment from four-star small forward prospect Brandon Austin.  He also inherited a team with capable players like Kadeem BattsBryce Cotton, and Vincent Council.  However, in a college basketball landscape where inexperience is no longer an excuse for poor performance, Providence’s turnaround hasn’t translated to on-the-court success as quickly as some fans probably hoped.

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Who’s Got Next? Cincinnati Lands Highly Touted Jermaine Lawrence…

Posted by CLykins on February 6th, 2013

whos-got-next

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

With the spring signing period rapidly approaching for the high school basketball senior class, only six players remained uncommitted from the ESPN 100 prior to Sunday. Now, there are five. New York native Jermaine Lawrence, the No. 19 overall prospect from the class of 2013, celebrated his 18th birthday over the weekend by verbally committing to the Cincinnati Bearcats. Lawrence, out of Pope John XXIII High School (New Jersey), pledged his commitment via social media by choosing the Bearcats over St. John’s and UNLV.

Jermaine Lawrence celebrated his 17th birthday by committing to the Cincinnati Bearcats

Jermaine Lawrence celebrated his 18th birthday by committing to the Cincinnati Bearcats

“I’m blessed to celebrate a milestone birthday!” Lawrence said in a statement on his Tumblr account. “My family and I would like to thank all the schools that showed interest. I’m humbled to have had the experience of being recruited. After a long decision with my parents, I’ve decided I’ll be attending the University of Cincinnati!” Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin had made Lawrence his most targeted recruit since last year’s spring recruiting period. Despite suffering a right hand injury during the AAU season that ultimately required surgery last October, Cronin and his staff remained persistent in their pursuit for the 6’9″ power forward.

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Big East M5: 12.06.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on December 6th, 2012

  1. Teams that wear various shades of orange from ‘T’ states should probably quit scheduling Georgetown. In their last two games, the Hoyas gave up a combined 77 points against Tennessee and Texas. Georgetown is still finding its way on offense, but the young Hoyas have bought into what John Thompson III is selling on the defensive end. Georgetown is currently 21st in the country in giving up 56.1 points per game, and while Texas and Tennessee are far from world-beaters this season, holding any major conference team to 40 points is impressive. The Hoyas will need to get some of their other guys to step up as a scorer, as forward Otto Porter can’t afford to carry the whole load when the Big East rolls around, but Georgetown looks to be a dangerous team going forward.
  2. The Syracuse bandwagon is filling up quickly this season, but don’t expect Jim Boeheim to hop into the driver’s seat anytime soon. During his press conference following Syracuse’s win over Eastern Michigan, Boeheim went on a long, unprovoked diatribe about the expectations surrounding his team in the early season. Syracuse fans have been relatively spoiled by unprecedented regular season success – the Orange are 97-16 since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, and take up real estate in the top five of the polls on a regular basis. Boeheim doesn’t appreciate the attitude that these non-conference games are all automatic wins for his team, and he used the press conference to express this sentiment: “Anybody that we play can come in here and beat us. To just assume that we’re going to win games is the most arrogant thing that I have ever seen in my life. It’s nothing but arrogance. And I don’t like arrogance. And I don’t like arrogant people.”
  3. The Cincinnati Bearcats have flown under the radar so far this year as one of the quietest really good teams in the country. Cincy entered the year with perhaps the highest expectations the program has had in years, and have not disappointed yet. After a 7-0 start, the Bearcats find themselves at #11 in the latest AP poll. They have yet to play a real juggernaut of an opponent, but wins over Iowa State, Oregon, and Alabama all look very good on the resume. The Bearcats are getting tremendous production from their three top backcourt players Sean Kilpatrick (19.9 PPG), Cashmere Wright (15.3 PPG), and JaQuon Parker (10.9 PPG), who are each shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. The Bearcats are currently 11th in the country scoring 82.7 points per game, and could end up being one of the most fun teams to watch in the Big East this season.
  4. Many Big East squads are involved in intense rivalries, but some, like Providence-Rhode Island, slide a bit under the radar despite being quite heated. John Rooke of GoLocalProvSports has penned a great piece about the 123-or-125 game series (depending on whom you believe) over the years. Through various events like the creation of the Big East, which saw Rhody left out, to the recruitment of Sly Williams, the PC-URI game continues to grow in magnitude. It may not have the national panache of a Syracuse-Georgetown or a Cincinnati-Xavier, but to diehards in the ‘Ocean State,’ it means just as much.
  5. You’re too much sometimes, internet. As you may have noticed, a nasty rumor about Jay Wright made its way through various message boards and the Twittersphere earlier this week. The good news is that the entire sordid situation appears to be completely false. The bad news is that Jay Wright, who as a neutral observer seems to be one of the classier guys in the sport, had his name dragged through the mud for no reason other than someone was bored on the internet. We’re all so lucky to have this incredible shared space for discourse on things like college basketball, let’s not sully it by buying into and spreading inflammatory rumors.
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Tipping Off The Big East Countdown: #4 Cincinnati

Posted by mlemaire on November 8th, 2012

Few teams had as interesting a season as the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2011-12. High expectations looked overblown when the Bearcats stumbled to losses against Presbyterian and Marshall in the early part of the schedule. Talk of failing to live up to expectations was quickly drowned out however amidst the noise that followed the Bearcats’ nasty brawl late in a losing effort against crosstown rival Xavier. Mick Cronin’s team could have faded from the national conversation right then, but instead they responded by winning 12 conference games and reaching the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Ohio State. It was the Bearcats’ second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and it was proof that Cronin has the program headed in the right direction. Now, the expectations are back, as are 10 players who averaged at least five minutes per game last season. If last season was proof that Cronin is capable, then this season could be a statement that the Bearcats are ready to once again take their place among the conference elite.

2011-12 Record: 26-11, 12-6

2011-12 Postseason: Sweet Sixteen, lost to Ohio State 81-69.

Mick Cronin Has Cincinnati Poised For Its Best Season Since Kenyon Martin. (Photo credit: AP).

Schedule

Last season the Bearcats thought they had scheduled few non-conference challenges, and it almost cost them a spot in the Big Dance. This season Cronin’s team will play a slightly more difficult slate, although they will rarely stray far from home. The rematch with a depleted but talented Xavier team looms in December but before that they will also have to get by at least Iowa State in the Global Sports Invitational and then a talented Alabama team in the SEC/Big East Challenge. A visit from a dangerous New Mexico squad will cap off non-conference play and 2012 for the Bearcats. The conference schedule holds few surprises or interesting information worth gleaning. The one bit worth a mention is that the Bearcats will only play Syracuse, Louisville, and Georgetown once, which could help them rise to the top of the conference heap.

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Big East Summer Capsules: Cincinnati Bearcats

Posted by mlemaire on August 14th, 2012

While most relish the onset of Summer, college basketball junkies do not. Most of the news surrounding the sport is recruiting rumors and commitments or injuries and transfer news. In order to help keep folks up-to-date on what their teams are doing during the summer, we put together these summer capsules for each team in the conference. Next up is Cincinnati.

1. Can the Bearcats make the leap?

Mick Cronin Has Cincinnati Headed In The Right Direction, But Can He Keep It That Way?

The program is about to enter its seventh season with coach Mick Cronin at the helm, and there is no doubt that the Cincinnati native has the program turned around and is now headed in the right direction. From losing records to a winning record to the NIT to the Round of 32 to finally the Sweet Sixteen last season, Cronin’s teams have improved their finish almost every season to the point where Bearcats’ fans are beginning to believe like they used to believe when Bob Huggins ran the ship. Now the question is whether Cronin can continue to build on the momentum and success and establish the Bearcats as a long-term contender for the conference crown. Despite the loss of two of their best scorers in Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates, the Bearcats still return a veteran — albeit not very deep — team that should be well-prepared for the rigors of conference play. But can they make it back to the Sweet Sixteen? The team’s run last season was unexpected, but given the talent that returns, it’s not unrealistic to imagine the Bearcats making it back to the NCAA’s second weekend of action. The Bearcats’ fans haven’t been exposed to this level of expectations since Kenyon Martin was still patrolling the paint, but whether they can live up to those lofty goals will be the true barometer of whether Cronin can establish this program among the Big East elite.

2. You can’t teach size and you can never have enough of it.

Already set to boast a frontcourt that features 6-foot-10 Cheikh Mbodj, 6-foot-10 Kelvin Gaines, and 6-foot-8 Justin Jackson, Cronin went out this month and added more size and depth up front anyway in the form of 7-foot-1 center David Nyarsuk. The Sudan native originally signed with West Virginia but never qualified and enrolled at NAIA Mountain State University instead. Nyarsuk averaged 9.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.91 blocks per game against inferior competition last season, but don’t expect him to be quite such a dominant force in the Big East. He will likely make his presence felt immediately on the defensive end of the floor, though, and if he can stay out of foul trouble and hold his own on the blocks, he should receive plenty of playing time because of his shot-altering prowess. He made 55 percent from the field last season but I would guess his offensive game is still a work in progress. He may be good for a few putbacks and an easy dunk or two, but don’t expect the Bearcats to run their offense through him next year. Bearcats’ fans should certainly temper their expectations, but they should also be pleased that their team’s frontcourt now features one more live, athletic body for Cronin and his staff to work with.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen Thursday

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 22nd, 2012

RTC Region correspondents Brian Otskey (East) and Andrew Murawa (West) contributed to this preview.

#1 Syracuse vs. #4 Wisconsin – East Region Semifinals (at Boston, MA) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

Bo Ryan Is Looking For His Second Trip to the Elite Eight at Wisconsin

Perhaps the most fascinating matchup to date in the entire NCAA Tournament will take place in tonight’s first game from Boston. Wisconsin, the most patient and deliberate team in the country, takes on a Syracuse team that has won 33 games due in large part to a lethal transition attack. While Syracuse ranks #202 in tempo, the Orange thrive on the fast break. You hear a lot about Jim Boeheim’s team struggling on the defensive glass and some of that is due to the fact that his guards already start out on the break when a shot goes up, taking them completely out of position to rebound. Without Fab Melo around to man the middle, Syracuse’s rebounding issues could be a major problem against the physical and deliberate Badgers. It’s always easier to slow a game down than to speed it up and that’s what Wisconsin is going to do. Syracuse will be forced to score in the half court against one of the strongest defenses in the entire nation. The big question will be whether Syracuse, already not one of the better half court teams, can get the ball inside and avoid settling for jump shots. At times this season the Orange have been frustrated and forced into shooting contested jumpers. Syracuse needs to utilize strong ball screening action in order to free up shooters. Wisconsin’s players will fight through screens and stick with you so using the pick-and-roll also wouldn’t be a bad idea. As for Wisconsin, the Badgers match up very well on the defensive end. The question for them will be whether they can score enough to win. Syracuse obviously has more offensive weapons but Bo Ryan has Jordan Taylor to take control of the game for his team. Taylor is the only player on Wisconsin capable of creating his own shot and that will be critical against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Wisconsin shoots a bunch of three-pointers and it will have to make quite a few in order to knock off the top-seeded Orange. Syracuse’s zone encourages opposing teams to shoot over it but Wisconsin can actually make them, a major difference from Kansas State last week. If Boeheim chooses to extend his zone out on Wisconsin’s shooters, that will free up the Melo-less middle for Jared Berggren to go to work off screen and rolls in addition to opening up driving lanes for Taylor. Expect Jim Boeheim to adjust how his defense attacks Wisconsin as the game goes along, something he certainly has experience with. This will be a clean game between two teams with great defenses and terrific ball protection. Should it come down to free throws, Wisconsin has the edge. Syracuse is the better team and has many more offensive threats but the Tournament is all about matchups. We think the Badgers will make just enough shots to pull off the upset.

The RTC Certified Pick: Wisconsin

#1 Michigan State vs. #4 Louisville – West Regional Semifinal (at Phoenix, AZ) – 7:47 PM ET on TBS

One of the things we college basketball fans tend to really like about this time of year are the surprises. Not just the obvious ones like Butler running to the national title game or Villanova playing the perfect game against Georgetown, but more subtle ones like teams unveiling a new wrinkle to their offense or players making plays that you hadn’t known they were able to make. As for this game, however, don’t expect many surprises; we all more or less know how this is going to go down. We’ve seen Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino enough over the years to know what they want to do, and we’ve seen the 2012 vintages of both of these clubs to know what they are capable of. Michigan State is going to defend like crazy in the halfcourt, pound the glass on both ends of the court and try to knock Louisville around enough so that the Cards will be forced into submission late in the game. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are going to turn up the pressure defensively, try to force turnovers, rely on Gorgui Dieng to block shots in the middle and watch Peyton Siva get penetration and create offense off the bounce. It is likely going to be a low-scoring game that is still in doubt late into the second half and it will come down to which of these teams is capable of making the most plays down the stretch. While Siva’s numbers on the season are not great, he has been a different player since the Big East Tournament started, getting into the lane seemingly at will, creating opportunities for himself and for others and pitching in everywhere on the floor on his way to 13 points, 5.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game over the six-game stretch. He does a lot of damage in the pick-and-roll game, so not only will Spartan guard Keith Appling have to be on his game defensively, but whichever big man gets involved in the screen needs to do a good job of keeping Siva out of the lane. Draymond Green is clearly the big factor for Michigan State, and he too has been on fire of late, averaging 20 points, 12.5 rebounds, 8.0 assists and shooting it at a 64.3% eFG in the NCAA Tournament. Freshman Chane Benahan appears to be the most obvious individual matchup for Green, but it is going to have to be a full team effort for the Cards to slow the All-American down. Louisville will need to pressure the Spartan guards, keeping them from getting into their halfcourt offense easily and, perhaps more importantly, dedicate themselves to keeping Spartans like Green, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix off the offensive glass. However, given their relative lack of size (only Dieng is taller than 6’8”) and struggles with defensive rebounding, this could be the eventual downfall of the Cards. While they’ll certainly get their share of stops and turnovers, allowing Green and company second opportunities is a recipe for disaster.

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Big East Morning Five: 03.06.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 6th, 2012

  1. The Big East handed out a few more postseason superlatives yesterday. Syracuse center Fab Melo highlighted the selections as he was named the Defensive Player of the Year. Melo, who was likely also a candidate for Most Improved Player, had a breakout season for the Orange. The seven-foot sophomore averaged 3.9 blocks per game in Big East play to lead the league to go with 6.1 rebounds but it was Melo’s presence and activity in that vaunted Syracuse zone that set him apart. Speaking of the Most Improved Player, that honor went to Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley. After playing just 10.3 minutes and scoring 3.7 points per game as last year, the 6’9” junior nearly averaged a double-double this season (12.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG). Cooley earned a second-team All-Big East distinction on Sunday and was a fixture in this season’s Big East weekly honors, garnering Player of the Week once to go with six Honor Rolls. This year’s Sixth Man Award will come as a shock to no one. Syracuse’s Dion Waiters has been described as the team’s best player, and thrived in his off-the-bench role on the nation’s deepest team. Waiters, a sophomore guard, was the Orange’s second leading scorer at 11.9 points per game, to go with 2.4 assists per contest. Finally, the Sportsmanship Award went to Georgetown’s Jason Clark. The senior guard, who is also an All-Big East first-teamer this year, has been involved with Georgetown related community service organizations. Big East Player, Coach, Rookie and Scholar-Athlete of the Year will be announced today between the afternoon and evening sessions of the Big East Championship.
  2. With all of the Big East honors rolling out over the past couple of days, we cannot forget the final installment of the conference’s weekly distinctions. West Virginia’s Kevin Jones is your Player of the Week.  Jones looked to solidify his case for Player of the Year with typically monster efforts two Mountaineer wins, averaging 20.0 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Providence’s LaDontae Henton took home his third Rookie of the Week award of the season, averaging 18.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in a 1-1 week for the Friars. Henton, a candidate for Big East Rookie of the Year, averaged 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for the regular season, while shooting 40.2 % from three-point range. This week’s Honor Roll recipients: Marquette’s Jae Crowder kept pace with Kevin Jones in the Player of the Year race by averaging 21.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals in a 1-1 week; DePaul’s Cleveland Melvin who averaged 17.5 points and 8.5 rebounds, including 14 points and nine boards in the Blue Demons’ thrashing of Seton Hall; Rutgers’ Dane Miller who averaged 13.0 points and 9.5 rebounds including a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) in the Scarlet Knights’ victory over St. John’s; Cincinnati’s JaQuon Parker registered a career-high 28 points coupled with seven rebounds in the Bearcats’ huge win over Marquette. Syracuse’s Brandon Triche closes out the Honor Roll. Triche registered 18 points, four rebounds and four assists in Syracuse’s regular-season finale, a win over Louisville.
  3. The Nerlens Noel watch continues as it was reported yesterday the 6’10 center will visit Georgetown this weekend. Last month Noel announced his intention to reclassify to the class of 2012, and quickly became the number-one rated prospect in that group. In addition to the Hoyas, Noel is considering Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse and Connecticut. Noel is scheduled to be in attendance with Georgetown players and coaches while the NCAA tournament field is selected. Of course it is a field that will include 22-7 Hoyas and, as pointed out by CasualHoya.com, selection Sunday visits have been a successful recruiting tactic for Georgetown in the past.
  4. Fans and pundits alike will be focused this week on conference tournament performance as we rumble toward selection Sunday and rightfully so, but it never hurts to that number next to your name. Louisville no longer has one has the Cardinals, ranked 19th last week, plummeted out of the polls following back-to-back regular season ending losses to South Florida and Syracuse.  Syracuse (30-1, 17-1) continued to roll but remained stuck behind Kentucky at #2. Marquette (25-6, 14-4) had an even week, losing to Cincinnati while beating Georgetown but slipped one spot to #9. The afore mentioned Georgetown (22-7, 12-6) fell two rungs to #13 because they were distracted by the prospect of Nerlens Noel dropping by. The lone remaining ranked team in the Big East is Notre Dame (21-10, 13-5) at #23, but the Fighting Irish also trended in the wrong direction moving down three notches after being stifled by the Hoyas. Louisville (22-9, 10-8) did remain on the cusp of a ranking, gaining 84 votes and Cincinnati (22-9, 12-6), winners of five of their last six games, checked in with five votes.
  5. Look for a more comprehensive Big East tournament preview from us here later this morning but as a bit of a primer Seton Hall, a team with a lot on the line this week, may have to go to battle a bit banged up and short-handed.  Guard Aaron Cosby, who averaged 30.1 minutes per game during the regular season, has the flu per South Orange Juice and could miss this evening’s game against Providence. Further, the site also reports star big man Herb Pope, who injured his toe on Saturday in the Pirates’ loss to DePaul, was seen wearing a walking boot.  While the severity of the injury is not known, it is expected that Pope will play. Aaron Geramipoor is a player who would figure to have an increased role should Pope be limited, but is also expected to miss the game as he continues to battle a hip injury that has held him out the last two games and limited him for the past month.
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