The Ultimate Kentucky Villain Will Coach In Rupp Arena

Posted by jstevrtc on October 4th, 2011

Kentucky basketball fans, get ready. He…is…coming.

Just under two weeks ago, several Kentucky outlets reported that another one of these NBA lockout-induced games was in the works, this time one that would pit a squad of former Kentucky players against a team comprised of guys considered “villains” of the UK program. We’re talking about players like Kemba Walker, who, along with the rest of Connecticut mates, bumped Kentucky from the Final Four last season. Tyler Hansbrough would certainly be a candidate for such a team; UK thought they had Hansbrough wrapped up during his recruitment in 2005, and his eventual signing with North Carolina seriously irked Kentucky fans. Then he came into Rupp Arena for an ESPN GameDay game in 2007 and put 14/11 on the Wildcats en route to an 86-77 win.

If It Happens, Surely It Was Predicted in the Book of Revelations.

So, as far as the Team of Villains, you get the idea. We have to admit — it’s a darn good one. We were even inspired (cue shameless self-promotion) to have some fun and come up with other villain teams for other schools. But to actually stage a game like this in Kentucky, where passion for college hoops — and the ability to hold a basketball grudge — resides in the very bone marrow of its citizens, is a strong play.

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The RTC Interview Series: One on One With Tom Brennan, Part II

Posted by rtmsf on June 30th, 2011

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Yesterday we brought you Part I of our One on One interview with the always-entertaining Tom BrennanIn addition to learning that integration helped knock him out of a starting spot at Georgia and that his athletic director at Yale all but pushed him out the door to Vermont, we re-discovered that the man simply loves to tell stories.  Whether it involves him telling his new boss that he’s already fulfilled all his career goals or thinking he had coaching all figured out at the tender age of 27, he had us riveted to each and every word.  Part II is only better.

Ed. Note: Brennan uses some colorful language during this interview, so if you’re sensitive to such things, you may want to skip past this one.

Rush the Court: Guys like us who study the sport knew you were pretty good in ’03 and ’04, but most of America, though, didn’t know about you guys until that ’05 season.  The ESPN program helped with that, but then of course the NCAA Tournament run built upon it.  You guys really caught lightning in a bottle in terms of national coverage, and with Taylor Coppenrath, TJ Sorrentine, and yourself, you all became national names almost overnight.  What was that like?

Tom Brennan: We were pretty.  We really were pretty.  I had this radio show every morning during morning drive-time.  It was like something out of a novel.  Sorrentine was the little street kid from Pawtucket [RI], you know, who was the leader and had his hat on sideways.  And Coppenrath was like Lil’ Abner; he was from a town of 200 people, and they loved him.  They loved him!  He never complained; he was really a treat.  And then I had three or four other guys that just really blended in.  I always say this — like, David Hehn — the first year we won [in 2003], we won at BU, and he made a jumper with about five seconds to go to win the game.  So now, it’s Vermont’s first championship, we win it on the road.  Everybody’s nuts, but then we had Coppenrath and Sorrentine.  You know, Sorrentine was out that year, and he’s coming back and he’d been the MVP.  And the year he was out, Coppenrath was the MVP.  So now I got these two studs, and they’re both really good, but I also have to manage all this sh– to make sure everybody is on the same page.  Like Hehn went from a superhero to A Chorus Line — he went back, “just let me guard the other team’s best player.”  But if any of those kids had ego problems, I think we could have blown up.  They were just so good about it, and everybody really was into the idea that we’re all better if we’re together, and we’re all better if we don’t care who gets the credit and that kind of stuff.  As cliched as it sounds, it really was the truth.  Coppenrath and Sorrentine were both ultimate teammates, and the other three guys were as well.  And we were tough!  We’d been around — all the same guys — for three years, then ESPN got interested.  ESPN The Magazine did a big story on us, and Sports Illustrated.  It was off the hook, and it’s such a little state and we’re the only Division I school, and people just went crazy about it.  Really, those guys were like the Beatles — they really were.

The Vermont Rock Stars Knowns as Brennan's Catamounts (Getty/J. McIsaac)

RTC:  So let me ask you about those three NCAA Tournaments.  In succession, you went up against Lute Olson, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim and Tom Izzo.  [laughter]  There’s no break there, right?  What was that like?  Olson’s now retired — he coached until he was about 150, but these other guys continue to get it done even as they advance well into their coaching careers.  What is it about these coaches that makes them so successful?

TB:  I always said, “if God had another son, he would look like Lute Olson.”  It was remarkable what Calhoun did last year — he finished ninth in their league!  And it’s not like he’s going to rally them — he’s a bad-ass.  You know, he gets in those kids’ faces; he doesn’t take no for an answer.  I mean, he’s just ruthless, and yet, man, they did it.  They did it.  I was always impressed with that, and what happened was… it was funny.  I was so in awe of Lute Olson — it was just unbelievable, because, again, the guy was like a god to me — and I didn’t know him, but I just knew of him, and what he’d done and what he’d accomplished and how he looked and he was always so gracious.  And so I’m walking down, we’re getting ready to play them, and what happened was that his wife had died a while back, and then he ended up with this woman from Pennsylvania [Christine Olson] — I don’t even know how the hell it happened, but she was like a Republican leader, some big deal from Pennsylvania — and I read this thing where he was very happy.  That he’d met this woman and she’d really made him happy, so I didn’t think much of it, but when I was walking down to say hello to him, I was so nervous.  Honest to God, I wasn’t even nervous about the game, I was nervous about him!  Because I knew, they’re a #1, we’re a #16 — I mean, they had [Andre] Iguodala, they had all kinds of players on that team.  We had been stuck in the snow, we didn’t get to Salt Lake until 1:30 in the morning, and we played at 11.  It was crazy.  It was just crazy.  Our kids were like, “f—, look where we are.”  And that’s the thing, by the time the second year came around [against UConn in 2004], we really weren’t that shook, and by the time the third year came around [against Syracuse in 2005], we knew that we could win.  We really knew we were good enough.  So, anyway, I go up to Lute Olson, and he said, “Coach, how are you?”  And I said, “Coach, I just wanna say that I’m just so happy that you’ve found peace in your personal life.”  I’m thinking to myself, “what the f— are you saying?!?!”  I’m hearing these words come out, and I’m thinking, “you a–hole!”  I didn’t even know what to say to him; I was so awestruck, honest to God.  So he said, “well, thank you.”  And I just turned and ran like a rabbit, and thought “jeezus… good first impression, there.”  But you know what, when I retired, he wrote me the nicest letter.  He wrote me a beautiful letter, and so it was nice.  But you know, we never had a chance.  [Vermont lost 80-51.]  I have a picture on my cell and we were up, like 7-6, got it blown up and put it on my wall.  But then, and this is a cute story too.  We got stuck in the snow, and I went on [Tony] Kornheiser’s show, PTI or whatever it was — I guess it was his radio show at the time — and I said, “you know, this is ridiculous.”  I said, “they make billions of dollars on this thing, and they can’t get us from Denver to Salt Lake City?  If you think this was Duke in this hotel, we’d still be here.”  I wasn’t even finished, and the AD knocked on the door: “hey, yo, that’s enough about that.”  [laughter]  So that was enough about that.  So then anyway, but what happened was, we did get tapped out, and to take us home, the NCAA felt so bad and I guess my rant had a little bit to do with it, they sent us a plane that [Bruce] Springsteen uses, the Rolling Stones use, and you couldn’t even tell it was a plane.  So now, my wife and I are standing at the back, and the captain comes down, and he says, “are you the coach?”  I said, “yes, sir.  I’m the coach.”  He said, “well, you come with me, I’m going to take you to Mick Jagger’s suite.”  So I turned to Lynn [Brennan, his wife], I said, “hey, you gotta turn into a Brazilian model by the time we get to the top of the stairs.”  [laughter]  It was wild.  But it was a great experience; it was a great experience for our kids.  And I knew that we had a chance to keep going, that we had this group that was good.  So then the next year we played UConn, played them tougher than anybody as I recall, on their march to the championship.  [Vermont lost 70-53.]  I think they beat us less than anybody else, and then the next year we got Syracuse.     

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RTC Mock Draft: Final Edition

Posted by zhayes9 on June 23rd, 2011

1) Cleveland Cavaliers- Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke

2) Minnesota Timberwolves- Derrick Williams, PF, Arizona

3) Utah Jazz- Enes Kanter, C, Turkey

4) Cleveland Cavaliers- Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania

5) Toronto Raptors- Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky

6) Washington Wizards- Jan Vesely, PF, Czech Republic

7) Charlotte Bobcats- Bismack Biyombo, PF, Congo

8) Detroit Pistons- Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas

9) Charlotte Bobcats- Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State

10) Sacramento Kings- Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU

11) Golden State Warriors- Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State

12) Utah Jazz- Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut

13) Phoenix Suns- Marcus Morris, SF, Kansas

14) Houston Rockets- Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State

15) Indiana Pacers- Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas

16) Philadelphia Sixers- Nikola Vucevic, C, USC

17) New York Knicks- Iman Shumpert, PG, Georgia Tech

18) Washington Wizards- Alec Burks, SG, Colorado

19) Milwaukee Bucks- Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence

20) Minnesota Timberwolves- Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas

21) Portland Trail Blazers- Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State

22) Denver Nuggets- Tobias Harris, SF, Tennessee

23) Houston Rockets- Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Lithuania

24) Oklahoma City Thunder- Kyle Singler, SF, Duke

25) Boston Celtics- Reggie Jackson, PG, Boston College

26) Dallas Mavericks- Nikola Mirotic, SF, Serbia

27) New Jersey Nets- Justin Harper, PF, Richmond

28) Chicago Bulls- Charles Jenkins, SG, Hofstra

29) San Antonio Spurs- Davis Bertans, SF, Latvia

30) Chicago Bulls- Jeremy Tyler, C, Japan

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Kenneth Faried

Posted by jstevrtc on June 21st, 2011

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Kenneth Faried

School: Morehead State

Height/Weight: 6’8/228 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

Overview: We certainly hope you’ve heard by now… Kenneth Faried is the all-time leading rebounder in college basketball history. He might have played at a little school in a relatively little conference, but don’t let that fool you into thinking this fellow displays less than anything but a rapacious attack on the boards at all times. The only year of his four-year career as an Eagle in which he didn’t lead the OVC in rebounding was his freshman season. In 2007-08, Faried averaged — heh heh — a mere 8.0 RPG (it would eventually become 13.0, 13.0, and 14.5 over the next three seasons) and finished third in the conference. He must have been slacking.

It's Hard To Pass Up (Or Root Against) a Player With a Specific Skill

Will Translate to the NBA: Besides the rebounding, Faried showed a penchant for blocking shots, which should not surprise anyone since both of those skills are based on timing and vertical speed. He led the OVC in blocks in his senior season and finished in the top three in the conference in that statistic in his sophomore through senior years. Faried has a rock-solid physique that helped him body up to anyone defensively that he faced in college, but that outstanding hand speed also helped him finish in the top three in steals in the OVC in each of this last three seasons. His dedication to excelling on the defensive side plus his commitment to glass-cleaning are traits that have several coaches rubbing their hands in anticipation.

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2011 RTC Mock Draft: Final Version

Posted by zhayes9 on June 21st, 2011

Zach Hayes is a editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court.

One final stab at how Thursday night will play out before we finally send off some of our favorite college players to the next level:

1 ) Cleveland Cavaliers- Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke. Any Derrick Williams-to-Cleveland rumor is searching for intrigue that’s simply non-existent. Irving was the pick the night the Cavaliers struck gold at the lottery and remains the pick today. Irving is  a safe bet to develop into a dynamic player at such a vital position on the floor.

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Kyrie Irving appears to be the near-unanimous choice at #1

2) Minnesota Timberwolves- Derrick Williams, SF/PF, Arizona. Ideally, Minnesota would be eyeing a 2-guard, but they’ll have to swing a pre-draft deal to fill that need, as no shooting guard is worth taking this high. My money’s on GM David Kahn holding on to the pick and trying to trade Michael Beasley later. Williams has all of the skills to be an eventual All-Star.

3) Utah Jazz- Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky. The Jazz are fairly set up front with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors waiting in the wings, so look for #3 to come down to either Knight or Kemba Walker. Given Knight’s shooting ability, size and character, I see the former Kentucky point as the most likely choice.

4) Cleveland Cavaliers- Enes Kanter, C, Turkey. Rumors are spreading that Cleveland is looking to trade #4 for more picks to fill multiple needs, but passing up on Kanter here could be a grave mistake. The young Turk has a great attitude, impressed at the Chicago combine and could mold into the best post player in the entire draft.

5) Toronto Raptors- Jan Vesely, PF, Czech Republic. Toronto has a major need at power forward and worked out both Vesely and Bismack Biyombo this past weekend. The Raptors have been connected with Vesley since the first draft prognostications began and we see no reason to change our minds now. Vesley is a high-level athlete with commendable versatility for his size.

6) Washington Wizards- Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State. Washington could be a candidate to move up to either #4 or #5 and take Kanter or Vesely. If they hold fort here, look for Leonard to be the selection. The former Aztec is a phenomenal rebounder and athletic freak that can instantly boost a position of dire need for the Wizards.

7) Sacramento Kings- Kemba Walker, PG, Connecticut. The Kings wouldn’t mind if Leonard fell to them at #7, but if Washington grabs him, point guard is the next choice with Tyreke Evans more suited as a scoring guard. This pick will come down to Walker, Alec Burks and even Jimmer Fredette. Walker could instill some character to a shaky locker room and can contribute immediately.

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RTC 2011 NBA Mock Draft: Version 1.0

Posted by zhayes9 on May 19th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an RTC contributor, columnist and bracketologist.  For the next six weeks, he’ll also be our chief draftnik, mocking up the place with his first round selections.  For additional detail, be sure to also check out our 35 draft profiles of the top collegians that we are rolling out over the next five weeks. 

As a college basketball fan, the NBA Draft has always represented a final sendoff to the previous season and for the players we’ve followed religiously over the course of their collegiate careers. Even though some stops (Derrick Rose, John Wall, Greg Oden) have been shorter than others (Tyler Hansbrough, J.J. Redick, Evan Turner), each player has provided a long list of memories while making their individual imprint on the college game. Similar to a parent sending their kids off to school for the first time, the draft in late June serves as one last chance to say goodbye.

It's 2003 All Over Again For the Cavs... Sorta

Now that the lottery order has been unveiled, it’s time to introduce our first ever 2011 NBA Mock Draft here at RTC. As someone who annually follows the happenings surrounding the draft for weeks leading up to the big night, hopefully my mock selections will provide both insight and expectation into what will transpire in around five weeks time, although with this year’s weak draft class we could see more trades than ever with teams looking to exchange picks this year for 2012 selections.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke.  In a point guard heavy league where a gifted court general is essential for any team with championship aspirations, Irving makes the most sense of any single pick in the draft. Irving has tremendous playmaking ability at the position both setting up teammates and generating his own offense.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves- Derrick Williams, SF, Arizona.  The most efficient player in college basketball who possesses phenomenal athleticism and excels in isolation, Williams is the clear cut choice if Minnesota hangs onto this pick. Although Williams is a bit of a tweener, an improved mid-range game will render Williams a matchup nightmare for opposing threes.

3. Utah Jazz- Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky.  This pick could certainly go in a different direction if the Jazz head honchos feel Devin Harris is their point guard for the foreseeable future. Even if Harris sticks around, Knight needs some grooming as a distributor before he’s ready to shine. Knight is already a capable shooter and offensive threat.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers- Enes Kanter, C, Turkey.  After selecting Irving, it only makes sense to grab the best available big man and pick Kanter. A supremely skilled 7-footer with advanced footwork and scoring ability in the post, Kanter’s ceiling is very high. Kanter hasn’t played outside of a Kentucky practice in over a year, so there’s risk in this selection.

5. Toronto Raptors- Jonas Valanciunas, PF, Lithuania.  The Raptors have never been bashful about selecting international players and there’s certainly a need for more athleticism in the low post for Toronto. If the question marks surrounding Valanciunas’ buyout can be resolved, the Raptors are nabbing a projectable low-post threat who can really rebound.

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Season in Review: By the (Jersey) Numbers

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is an RTC contributor.  When he’s not traveling all night to get to Vegas, Los Angeles, Tucson or Anaheim to cover games in the southwestern quadrant of the country, he’s acting as the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 Conferences and writing about whatever strikes his basketball fancy.

When it comes to wrapping up a college basketball season, I have a hard time doing an All-American team, because, for one, it just seems hard to narrow down four and a half months of basketball to just five names (or even ten or 15 if I add a second or third team – although, I’ll probably do that too). Instead, in the interests of recognizing more of the players that filled up my brain this season, what I’ll do here today is take all 37 possible uniform numbers (only digits zero through five are possible uniform numbers in NCAA basketball, to aid referees in calling fouls and the foulers) and pick one player for each jersey number.  Note that I am not always going to pick just the best player here. My own prejudices and likes/dislikes will factor in, plus I want to be able to pick a guy that I will most remember from this season. And, in the case of a tie, a senior will get the nod. So without further ado, here is my list of Players of the Year by uniform number.

A Famous Man Once Said We're All Rooting For Laundry, Ultimately

0 – Jacob Pullen, Sr, Kansas State – As I said before, tie goes to the senior, and in this case, the freshman Jared Sullinger gets beat out by a guy who left his heart on the court in his final game as a Wildcat, scoring 38 amazing points in a loss to Wisconsin in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament. Pullen goes down in history as the all-time leading scorer in Kansas State history, and his exploits in March will be talked about there for years to come.

00 – Rick Jackson, Sr, Syracuse – As far as the scorekeeper is concerned, there is no difference between 0 and 00, but I see two big zeroes on Jackson’s back, and opponents saw a double-double machine for the majority of the season. He posted 17 double-dips on the season and, despite fading a bit down the stretch, was one of the most improved seniors in the country this year.

1 – Kyrie Irving, Fr, Duke – Irving’s college career is complete as he declared for the NBA Draft on Wednesday.  You won’t find his name on any all-timer lists in Durham, as he played just 11 games in his time as a Blue Devil due to a toe injury. When he was on the court, however, he was among the handful of the best players in the nation, with quickness, awareness and maturity rarely seen among freshmen.

2 – Nolan Smith, Sr, Duke – His college career ended with one of the worst games of his career, but for huge swaths of this season, Smith was in the conversation for National Player of the Year. He took over the point guard role when Irving went down with his injury and did a fantastic job of balancing his team’s need for a creator with its need for Smith to score.

3 – Jeremy Lamb, Fr, Connecticut – Jim Calhoun’s precocious freshman earned this honor almost entirely in March. Sure, he had a streak of eight-straight double-digit scoring games in January and early February, but in March, Lamb took his game to a new level and became a consistent second option to Kemba Walker. From the start of the Big East Tournament straight through to the National Championship game, Lamb never failed to score in double figures and averaged 15.3 points per game over that stretch.

4 – Jackson Emery, Sr, BYU – Aaron Craft almost got the nod here, but once again we’ll give the upperclassman the benefit of the doubt. And make no mistake, Emery is very deserving on his own merits, regardless of class, averaging 12.5 points and 2.7 steals per game as Jimmer Fredette’s sidekick in the Cougars’ playmaking backcourt. Emery goes down in history as the career steals leader at BYU.

5 – Kendall Marshall, Fr, North Carolina – I’m not sure Marshall is the best player in the country wearing a single five on his back, but he was likely the most important one – and the biggest story at that. He took over the starting point guard position in Chapel Hill in mid-January and led the Tar Heels to a 17-3 record from there, averaging 7.7 often spectacular assists per game and kick-starting much-heralded freshman wing Harrison Barnes along the way.

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That’s Debatable: NCAA First Weekend

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2011

As we head into the Sweet Sixteen round, let’s take a look back at some of the key questions and moments of the first two, er, three rounds…

RTC Take:  It was more interesting than it was the last nine years when it only involved two #16 seeds, but the only way to make it truly compelling is to pick teams with a little more national oomph than USC, VCU, UAB and Clemson. 

RTC Take: The fouls at the end of Butler/Pitt offset each other and the two no-calls appeared to be play-on situations in those games.  The Kalin Lucas travel probably wouldn’t have impacted the outcome anyway.  But the Texas five-second call seemed to be a fast whistle, and it essentially gave Arizona the daylight it needed to win the game. 

RTC Take:  We really liked the ability to surf between games without too much trouble, and the free online platforms worked great.  We did not like having entire afternoons on Saturday & Sunday limited to one game per window, though.  That could end up poorly in future years with blowouts. 

RTC Take:  It’s true that Barkley/Jet don’t do their homework, but the scene where Barkley razzed Pitino about Louisville losing in their first game and clowning the Big East was priceless, well worth putting up with the rest of it.  We’ve never seen someone so openly disdainful and dismissive of Pitino in his presence.  Awesome.

RTC Take:  Was Jimmer, still Jimmer.  His performance against Gonzaga was phenomenal, and although Kemba was equally awesome, we still think BYU would essentially be Air Force without Fredette in the lineup.

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Morehead State Pulls Off The First Upset Of The Tournament

Posted by nvr1983 on March 17th, 2011

When the Louisville-Morehead State match-up was announced it was panned online as more of an inside joke about Rick Pitino‘s extracurricular activities by the Selection Committee. Instead it provided us with our first upset of the NCAA Tournament. Led by Terrence Hill‘s 23 points and 8 rebounds and Kenneth Faried‘s 12 points and 17 rebounds the Eagles knocked off the Cardinals 62-61. The Eagles made a statement early jumping out to a 15-2 lead in the first 8 minutes before the Cardinals clawed their way back into the game taking the lead briefly before Hill ended the half with a 3 to tie it at 33 heading into the intermission.

The Cardinals, who got minimal contributions from Peyton Siva and Preston Knowles, appeared to take command in the second half opening up an 8-point lead before Morehead State made a run of its own to grab the lead. After that the teams traded mini-runs before Morehead State called timeout as they were down 61-59 with 24 seconds left. The Eagles set up an isolation play for Demonte Harper who made the first “ONIONS!!!” shot of this year’s NCAA Tournament.

On the following play Louisville rushed down the court and Mike Marra appeared to have a chance at a good look at a game-winning 3, but Faried blocked his shot on what appeared to be a lot of contact. We are sure that there will be plenty of discussion in Louisville about whether or not it was a foul, but it appeared to us on the replay that Marra initiated the contact by jumping into Faried.

Faried and the Eagles await the winner of Vanderbilt-Richmond

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The Other 26: Bracket Analysis Part II

Posted by KDoyle on March 17th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC Contributor.

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

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

Ability to advance to the second weekend

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

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

 

Harper is a Tough Matchup for Vandy

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

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

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.15.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 15th, 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.

East:

  • Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim discusses the Orange’s history in the Final Four with columnist Bud Poliquin.
  • Indiana State is using creativity as the Sycamores practice for Syracuse on Friday.
  • A possible distraction for Georgia: Mark Fox being mentioned as a candidate at NC State.
  • Balance and consistency have been keys for Washington this season.
  • Wright State head coach Billy Donlon is happy for his former boss, Clemson‘s Brad Brownell.
  • Can Kentucky make a run to the Final Four?

 Southeast:

Southwest:

  • Illinois guard DJ Richardson crossed paths with several UNLV players when he spent his final high school season at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas.
  • Vanderbilt‘s opening round survival against Richmond could hinge on bench production.
  • Kenneth Faried‘s tenacious rebounding style draws comparisons to Dennis Rodman, according to first-round opponent Rick Pitino.
  • The matchup that almost wasPurdue coach Matt Painter is relieved that the scenario of facing St. John’s wouldn’t come up until the Final Four. Painter played at Purdue for current Scarlet Knight coaches Gene Keady and Steve Lavin.
  • 15-seed Akron will hope to contain Notre Dame with some overbearing size down low.
  • USC coach Kevin O’Neill learned a valuable lesson after his suspension from a verbal confrontation with an Arizona booster during the Pac-10 Tournament last week.

West:

  • An update on college basketball’s most-watched toe indicates there’s a chance that Kyrie Irving will return for Duke at some point in the tournament.
  • Hampton has a shot at one-upping its memorable upset of two-seed Iowa State in 2001.
  • An emphasis on perimeter defense is the norm this week in Tennessee‘s practices as it preps for Michigan.
  • A Q&A with Arizona‘s Derrick Williams discusses a variety of topics, including being recruited by his first-round opponent, Memphis.
  • Sticking with the feline motif, Missouri will try to buck a foreboding trend against Cincinnati, as Big East teams have ended the Tigers’ last two seasons.
  • Teammates will rally around Temple junior guard Ramone Moore, who has been instrumental in providing a leadership element to the Owls’ season.
  • Kawhi Leonard may be an NBA prospect for the Aztecs, but DJ Gay is San Diego State‘s Iron Man, having played at least 39 minutes in his team’s last seven games, without the benefit of a single overtime.
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Morning Five: 03.15.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2011

  1. Every year the announcement of the NCAA Tournament field gets athletic directors across the country to puff their chests out and tell the secretary to be ready for the alumni/boosters to being calling in with their checkbooks open. And every year the following day another announcement (one detailing the academic performance of those teams) makes those same athletic directors slouch their shoulders and tell their secretary to tell the administration that they are in meetings all day and won’t be available to speak to them at this time. The latest report indicates that basketball players across the board are doing marginally better in terms of graduating, but the gap between Caucasian and African-American student-athlete graduation rates is widening. The relative graduation rates of different schools will undoubtedly become message board fodder, but the atrocious graduation rates at many schools (particularly for African-American players is appalling).
  2. Over the past 36 hours there has been a lot of talk about teams being snubbed, but one team that has notably been left out of the discussion is Harvard. While there have been a few readers on our site who have been quite vocal in their support for the Crimson today they have largely gone unrecognized except for one national/local (ok, a hated local) writer who is beating the drum for Harvard as being worthy of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
  3. We will be releasing our All-American teams in the near future, but to get a sneak peak of what our voting might look like check out the results of the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) voting where we are a member. It is hard to argue with any of the selections, but is surprising and refreshing to see Kenneth Faried honored as a 2nd team All-American despite playing in a lower-profile conference.
  4. With all the movement along the coaching carousel there are inevitably rumors about coaches at relatively big-name schools moving to even bigger name schools. One of the most prominent figures has been Tubby Smith who was rumored to be in the running for the recently open Arkansas position. However, it seems like Smith is not interested in becoming the Razorbacks head coach at least according to his statement from his local radio show yesterday as intends to return to Minnesota next season.
  5. One of my favorite aspects of the NCAA Tournament is when non-college basketball fans try to show off their college basketball knowledge. (I’m really trying not to come off as a snob here. I would love to have more people be serious college basketball fans.) In recent years this has been altered slightly by people trying to break out sophisticated statistical analysis to find the key to unlocking a perfect bracket. We at RTC love statistical analysis so when The New York Times tried its hand at picking the bracket we were interested until we saw the result, which was essentially all chalk except for six “upsets” (three #9s beating #8s, two #10s beating #7s, one #11 beating a #6, and one #3 beating a #2).

 

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