Is West Virginia This Bad, Or Is Its 1-3 Record a Product of Scheduling?

Posted by dnspewak on November 27th, 2012

West Virginia is not the worst team in the Big 12. Far from it. And yet there’s no team in the league right now with a worse record than the Mountaineers, who have lost three of their first four games and own a sole victory against Marist in the Old Spice Classic’s consolation bracket (hey, that’s more than Vanderbilt can brag about). If not for that one win, it’d have been fair to call the tournament in Orlando a Thanksgiving disaster for Bob Huggins‘ team, especially on the heels of that embarrassing season-opening loss to Gonzaga by, what was it, 700 points?

West Virginia Is Enduring an Early Losing Skid

With three transfers playing major minutes and a remade roster after losing Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant, nobody expected November and December to be easy for West Virginia. You’ll also hardly see a power-conference team play a schedule like this in the opening weeks of the season. It’s no secret how good Gonzaga or Davidson are, and Oklahoma’s no slouch this season either. Still, we expected to see Huggins’ team embody a completely different mentality. He openly admitted after bowing out early in last season’s NCAA Tournament that he had never coached such a poor defensive team. That was after a blowout loss to those same Zags — and sure enough, seven months later, it happened again in the 2012-13 season opener. Different team, but more of the same issues (GU hit 52% from the floor including nine threes).

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Bidding Them Farewell: Paying Homage to the Undrafted College Seniors

Posted by EJacoby on July 2nd, 2012

The NBA Draft is only two rounds long, so it’s quite difficult to crack the top 60 eligible draftees into the league in a given year. It’s even more challenging for graduating seniors, who not only compete with younger collegians but also foreign prospects from around the world who possess greater ‘upside’ in the minds of NBA evaluators. Constantly in search of the next hidden gem, general managers tend to overlook the players they’ve watched over the past four seasons in college. Only four seniors were picked in the first round during last Thursday’s draft, and while another 17 made it into the second there was still a large pool of graduates who didn’t hear their names called. There were far more than 21 impactful seniors in college basketball last season, and we’re here to honor the careers of those who didn’t get selected. We won’t forget the contributions of these following players, and with hard work and a little luck they should have a strong chance of cracking an NBA roster in the future.

Kevin Jones had a brilliant college career but wasn’t recognized on draft night (Getty Images)

  • Kevin Jones, West Virginia – A career that included a trip to the Final Four as a sophomore and leading the Big East in scoring and rebounding as a senior wasn’t enough to merit consideration by the NBA. Jones averaged 19.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks last season on 50.9% shooting from the field and 78.0% shooting from the line while also making a three-pointer per game. He also led the conference in Offensive Rating, this all coming on a squad with little offensive help elsewhere.
  • William Buford, Ohio State – Buford was a McDonald’s All-American guard with prototypical 6’6″ size who averaged double figures every season at Ohio State, making two Sweet Sixteens and a Final Four. He shoots it well and has shown a strong tendency to fit into an offensive scheme with other talented scorers, but his inability to take over games perhaps made him overlooked by scouts.
  • Scott Machado, Iona – Machado led the country in assists last season (9.9 per game) while also reaching career highs in points, rebounds, steals, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage as the leader of an at-large NCAA Tournament team. Even in a weak point guard draft, no team pulled the trigger on Machado, but he’ll have a great chance to dazzle in Summer League as one of the more polished floor leaders. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East Weekly Five: 06.14.12 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on June 14th, 2012

  1. It has been a while since we have checked in with some recent news from everybody’s favorite basketball conference that is slowly falling apart, and for that we apologize. We have real jobs (womp womp) and occasionally it can be difficult to find time to recap the week’s Big East news. That said, we recognize our recent shortcomings and will make amends starting now. Weekly Fives will come out on Tuesday morning, and barring some minor catastrophe, they will become a regular staple again. So rejoice, and enjoy some much belated news.
  2. Maybe Villanova isn’t going to lose center Markus Kennedy after all. The rising sophomore made the understandable announcement that he was transferring two weeks ago, presumably because there weren’t a lot of minutes to go around next season. Well now he appears to be reconsidering that decision, although it is still unknown whether coach Jay Wright would even take him back. Kennedy had an unremarkable freshman campaign, but did look like someone who could develop into a quality contributor down the road. The question now becomes whether he is good enough to continue to take up a scholarship Wright could give to a more talented recruit in the next year or two.
  3. The frontcourt that Rick Pitino has assembled at Louisville for next season will be very talented and very deep, but that didn’t stop the Cardinals from adding to the mix as they landed one of the last 2012 Top 100 recruits left unsigned in Montrezl Harrell. Harrell asked for his release from Virginia Tech when the Hokies fired Seth Greenberg, and now the undersized but rugged power forward — who also was recently named to the US Men’s U-18 national team — will be headed to the Bluegrass State. Considering the depth the Cardinals already boast in the paint, it will be tough for Harrell to crack the rotation and find consistent minutes as a freshman, and the addition also forces Louisville to play the always fun game of musical scholarships, but the late signing is still quite a coup.
  4. Like so many others who cover the conference, we were guilty of doubting Steve Lavin’s ability to recruit talent to St. John’s given the doubts about his long term future with the Red Storm. Well, consider us properly shamed, as not only has Lavin continued to make progress health-wise, but the program’s recruiting continues to flourish under the leadership of their charismatic coach. First, Lavin convinced Jakarr Sampson to recommit, and most recently, Top 100 big man Christopher Obekpa committed too, giving the Red Storm another talented class highlighted by big men. Given the well-publicized transfers, recruiting defeats, and early departures that marked the Red Storm’s season, this recruiting class is huge from a momentum standpoint. With Lavin’s health improving, he is set to return to the bench next season, and it looks like St. John’s has successfully avoided a catastrophe and continues to move in the right direction.
  5. Two Big East teams made news this week thanks to transfer decisions, although the teams made news for opposite reasons. First, former Providence combo guard Gerard Coleman is officially transferring to Gonzaga, where his ability to score and rebound will make a huge impact in Spokane once he sits out a year. It is never a good thing to lose a player of Coleman’s caliber, but the Friars’ backcourt is already so crowded, it at least gives coach Ed Cooley one less headache to worry about. The second transfer involves Huggy Bear and his West Virginia squad, who landed well-traveled forward Matt Humphrey. The 6-foot-5 forward has already made stops at Oregon and Boston College and will be eligible to play immediately because he earned his degree from BC last year. He will have one year of eligibility remaining and after an impact season in Chestnut Hill, Humphrey should give Huggins an experienced and multi-faceted swing player who can step out and knock down the three-pointer as well as defend multiple positions. At the very least it should help the Mountaineers recover from the loss of its Mr. Everything, Kevin Jones.
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What Can We Learn From NBA Draft Combine Measurements?

Posted by EJacoby on June 11th, 2012

The top 60 prospects for the upcoming NBA Draft were invited to Chicago for the official NBA Draft Combine late last week, where players seek to impress the loads of pro scouts and executives in attendance in preparation for June 28. Before players even began competing in drills and scrimmages, they were first tested by the ‘tape’ in an extensive set of measurements. This year’s numbers were released on Friday, which include everything from height and weight to hand width and horizontal wingspan. But do these physical measurements really mean anything? Does the fact that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist measured a half-inch shorter than expected, or Jae Crowder’s hands are some of the widest of the group, have an impact on that player’s chances to succeed in the league? Adjusting to the elite size and speed of NBA competition is important for all incoming prospects, but a ball player is a ball player, regardless of his standing reach or hand size. History shows that some Combine measurements become useful in predicting future success while others bear no weight at all, making it a difficult data set to analyze.

Kevin Jones didn't measure out well at the Combine; does this mean anything for his NBA potential? (AP Photo/D. Smith)

This year’s athletic testing results (bench press, agility drill, vertical jump, etc.) are not yet released, so we’ll just take a look at the player measurements and what they mean. Some notable numbers from this year include Meyers Leonard’s massive height without shoes (6’11.75”), Andre Drummond’s ridiculous wingspan (7’6.25”), John Henson’s skyscraping standing reach (9’3.5”), Kevin Jones’ excessive body fat (11.2%), and Andrew Nicholson’s enormous hands (10” long, 10.75” wide). But didn’t we already know these things? We knew that Drummond was a freakish physical specimen, and Henson’s intrigue as a prospect stems from his elite length. We know Leonard is huge and Jones doesn’t look like much of an athlete. But that becomes the dilemma – should scouts put more stock in Kevin Jones’ physical measurements, or his versatile skill set that’s been on display at West Virginia for four years? The hard part is determining to what extent, if any, a player’s body will impact his ability to contribute in the NBA.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Kevin Jones

Posted by EJacoby on May 22nd, 2012

The 2012 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll work backwards, starting with players who are projected near the end of the first round before getting into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Kevin Jones

School: West Virginia

Height/Weight: 6’8” / 250 lbs.

NBA Position: Power Forward / Small Forward

Projected Draft Range: End First Round / Early Second Round

Kevin Jones is a Fiery Competitor That Had a Great Career at West Virginia (Getty Images/J. McIsaac)

Overview: Kevin Jones enjoyed a decorated four-year career at West Virginia that included a run to the Final Four as a sophomore and ended with a phenomenal senior season in terms of productivity. This past year, Jones led the Big East in scoring (19.9 PPG) and rebounding (10.9 RPG) while shooting over 50% from the field and committing just 1.3 turnovers per game. He was one of the most productive forwards in the country and helped his draft stock tremendously. Jones remains a bit of a ‘tweener’ without a set position and is limited athletically in terms of explosiveness, but he has a strong upper body and an impressive wingspan (7’4”) that allows him to get easy buckets in the paint. Combine that with a relentless motor for loose balls and you’ve got a player willing to do all the dirty work on offense. He’s also expanded his range all the way to the three-point line and has gained confidence in the outside shot. Jones still has much work to do defensively, where he averaged just 1.0 blocks and 0.7 steals in 38 minutes per game, but his length and work ethic should allow him to hold his own at the next level on that end. Jones is the typical senior with limited ‘upside’ that will get him overlooked by some teams, but his tremendous productivity last season certainly opened eyes to his potential to be a contributor in the NBA.

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2011-12 Rush the Court All-America Teams

Posted by zhayes9 on March 29th, 2012

If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s Rush the Court All-America team, it’s that none of us are as smart as we think.

Back in November, our voters were on the same page as the majority of national writers, pegging Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Jordan Taylor, Terrence Jones and Tu Holloway for our preseason All-America first team. Only Sullinger followed that up with a spot on the postseason squad. As for our Ashton Gibbs-John Jenkins-Jeremy Lamb-Perry Jones-Tyler Zeller second team, only Zeller lived up to the billing. Nostradamus is not walking through that door.

Rather than discussing players who failed to match those high hopes, let’s delve into the players who exceeded or met expectations. After tallying the votes and discarding any hanging chads, here are our postseason 2011-12 RTC All-Americans:

Note: voters took conference and NCAA Tournament results into consideration.

Anthony Davis edged out Thomas Robinson for player of the year

First Team All-America

Anthony Davis, Kentucky (RTC National Player of the Year)- A near-unanimous player of the year selection, Davis made more of an impact on the defensive end of the floor than any other contender for the award. His 4.6 blocks per game doesn’t adequately account for how many shots he altered, turnovers he caused and general fear he struck in the minds of opponents. Causing havoc on defense is one thing, but Davis also showed off a rapidly improving post-up and face-up repertoire, displaying incredible offensive versatility in an efficient manner. Davis picked his spots well on a loaded Kentucky team, shooting 67% from inside the arc, grabbing 10 rebounds per game and shooting 71% from the charity stripe. From overlooked recruit to McDonald’s All-American to Final Four to Player of the Year frontrunner and soon the number one overall pick, it’s been quite the magical ride for Davis.

Thomas Robinson, Kansas- After coming off the bench behind the Morris twins last season, Robinson was pegged as the popular pick to break out in a big way in 2011-12. Robinson delivered on those predictions and more, averaging 17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and shooting 51% from inside the arc. Robinson, who was asked to carry the load for a Jayhawks squad ravaged by early entry and graduation, quickly emerged as the premier low-post scorer in America. Robinson is flush with gifted athleticism, an NBA veteran’s body and unstoppable post moves. For a player who overcame indescribable adversity a season ago, any neutral observer during this year’s Final Four could do a lot worse than root for Robinson.

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Big East Morning Five: 03.27.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 27th, 2012

  1. Syracuse’s super sixth man Dion Waiters is not going to wait around for his starting slot next season with the Orange as Waiters announced he will be entering the NBA Draft.  The athletic 6’4” guard will sign with an agent, eliminating any possibility of returning for his junior year.  Waiters did not start a game this season for Syracuse but was widely regarded as the team’s most talented player.  He posted averages of 12.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 24.1 minutes per game while being named the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year and making All-Big East Third Team.  There could be quite a bit of roster turnover this offseason as Waiters joins departing seniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph, while fellow sophomore Fab Melo, who was suspended for the NCAA Tournament due to academic issues, may be soon to follow Waiters into the NBA draft.
  2. Another Big East guard, Providence’s Vincent Council, ended speculation that he might be leaving school to turn pro when he told Brendan McGair of the Woonsocket (RI) Call, who reported via Twitter,  “I wasn’t really thinking about leaving (Providence College) at all.”  It had been said Council was considering foregoing his senior year and that academics may have been a driver.  An All-Big East Third Team selection this past season, Council averaged 15.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and a conference best 7.5 assists per game. The 6’2” New Yorker figures to be one of the top returning Big East point guards in what should be an entertaining backcourt next year as the Friars welcome in top 25 recruits Ricardo Ledo and McDonald’s All-American Kris Dunn.
  3. There are so many storylines around the Louisville versus Kentucky Final Four matchup there could be a two-week Super Bowl-type hype period to analyze and dissect.  While everyone loves some good old-fashioned overkill, the good news is we only have until Saturday to anticipate how this historic match-up might play out.  Certainly the head coaches are at, or near, the forefront of it all and as Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel points out, Louisville’s Rick Pitino will enjoy playing the underdog role in an effort to perhaps tighten Kentucky coach John Calipari and his team up a bit.  While there is no question the pressure rests on Calipari and Kentucky, it is hard to fathom the magnitude of the moment getting by either team.  As much as Pitino might love his side to play loose, he and his team both know the margin for error will be thin on Saturday.
  4. Plane ticket from Kentucky to New Orleans? $500-$1800.  Hotel room in New Orleans? $400-$600 per night.  Ticket to see Louisville take on Kentucky in the Final Four? $377.  A chance to see one of the most anticipated match-ups in college basketball history?  Well…pricey!  If this weekend is any barometer of the economic state of our country things are progressing nicely.  Despite the price tag demand is high for all of the above and supply is getting low as basketball crazy residents of the Bluegrass state have been more than willing to pony up. Getting to New Orleans is one thing.  Plane seats are limited and anything involving a gas powered vehicle, whether car, SUV or bus comes with the pain of surging gas prices.  What to do when one gets there is another. As of yesterday there were only about 2,200 of New Orleans’ 22,000 hotel rooms available even with hotels setting four-night minimums. It is great to go to a big game but will also be interesting to see if television sales in Final Four markets increase this week as people decide to ditch the planes, trains, and automobiles and use that money to purchase a longer-lasting Toshiba.
  5. The Associated Press revealed its All-America teams yesterday and while the Big East cannot boast any first teamers, the conference was well represented overall.  Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder of Marquette (17.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG) and West Virginia’s Kevin Jones (19.9 PPG, 10.9 RPG) represented two of the six players who received second team honors while Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb (17.7 PPG, 4.9 RPB) took home an honorable mention distinction.  Members of the first team included: Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Thomas Robinson (Kansas), and Jared Sullinger (Ohio State).  Robinson was a unanimous selection.
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Big East Morning Five: 03.21.12 Edition

Posted by Patrick Prendergast on March 21st, 2012

  1. The good news for Georgetown was with their NCAA Tournament second round victory over Belmont the Hoyas snapped a two-year NCAA one-and-done streak.  The bad news?  A third round loss to #11 seed North Carolina State meant another early tournament upset exit at the hands of a double-digit seed.  Of course this type of thing falls right into the wheelhouse of doomsday embracing fans and nay saying media but, as this Bleacher Report piece by Bryan Toporek aptly points out, to call for John Thompson III’s head at this point would not only be premature, it would be foolish.  Thompson has led the Hoyas to six twenty win seasons in the last seven, including a Final Four appearance in 2007.  He has consistently brought in high level recruits and players that fit his system well and is one of three finalists for Nerlens Noel, the nation’s best high school senior and a potential game changer.  Lastly, even if one could put the previous points aside and still want Thompson III to go, who do you replace him with?  The grass is not always greener on the other side.
  2. This just in.  College kids party. That is why it comes as no surprise to find out that six Marquette players, who are not of drinking age, received citations for being in a nightclub back on January 29. The players: Todd Mayo, Vander Blue, Jamail Jones, Juan Anderson, Derrick Wilson, and Jake Thomas were not believed to be drinking.  Head coach Buzz Williams acknowledged the issue was dealt with later the same day as January 29 was a Sunday.  Reading between the lines it sounds like Williams handled it the old fashioned way with some good old intense physical fitness early on a Sunday morning.  It is not known if the February partial game suspensions of Mayo, Blue as well as Junior Cadugan and Darius Johnson-Odon during Marquette’s February 24 game at West Virginia were related to the nightclub incident. This is also not expected to impact any of the players’ status for the Golden Eagles sweet sixteen contest against Florida on Thursday.
  3. The University of Rhode Island has hired a young upstart coach in Danny Hurley away from Wagner to be its head coach and revive a struggling program that has not been heard from nationally for awhile.  College basketball fans in southern New England only have to look back a year, and a short distance up route 95 north, to when Providence hired Ed Cooley with the same goals in mind. Providence and Rhode Island have a great and long standing interstate rivalry, so it is likely that the comparisons between Hurley and Cooley will be fodder for discussion in the Ocean State for some time to come as their journeys are now aligned. Further, as this article by Kevin Farrahar of friarbasketball.net outlines, Friar fans should be happy about Hurley’s hire because it gives more cachet to the rivalry, especially if both coaches have overall success, and is good for the suffering state of college basketball in Rhode Island on the whole.  Further buzz will be created by the news that Danny’s brother Bobby, the former Duke star, apparently will join him in Kingston as an assistant rather than moving into the head role at Wagner as had been rumored.
  4. Marquette received a verbal commitment from a hometown star yesterday as Milwaukee’s Dominican High School point guard Duane Wilson, a member of the class of 2013, pledged for the Golden Eagles.  Wilson is ranked 128th nationally by Rivals.com and an ESPN.com grade of 92 (out of 100).  “The main reason that made me go to Marquette was coach Buzz Williams,” Wilson told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “That was my first scholarship offer and they stayed on me. I just really liked his attitude. He gets the best out of his players all the time and they just play hard.”  The highly recruited Wilson chose Williams and Marquette over the likes of Missouri and Memphis among others.
  5. The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) announced its All-America teams yesterday and the Big East checked in with three honorees spanning the second and third teams.  West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones (19.9 PPG, 10.9 RPG) and Syracuse senior forward Kris Joseph (13.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG) were named to the NABC’s second team. Marquette senior forward Jae Crowder (17.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG), who edged out Jones for Big East Player of the Year honors, received third team All-America honors.  The first team consisted of: Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Thomas Robinson (Kansas), and Jared Sullinger (Ohio State).
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Rushed Reaction: #3 Marquette 88, #14 BYU 68

Posted by jstevrtc on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Not Just the Big Three For Marquette. In the first half, BYU had nobody who could contain Davante Gardner. The Marquette big fella scooped in 12 first-half points that all came from either attempts within five feet or free throws. We mention him specifically (he finished with 15/6) because his first-half performance was indicative of Marquette’s wise and efficient shot-selection on the day. Jae Crowder (10-20) was phenomenal, posting a 25 point/16 rebound performance enhanced further by the fact that he led his team with six offensive rebounds and pilfered five steals. Darius Johnson-Odom was his usual imposing self, as well (20/5), but Buzz Williams will laud his team’s effort from top to bottom; the Warriors had four players in double-figures (Todd Mayo added 10/6) and had six players pull down at least five rebounds.
  2. Hump Day. As in, the 10-point one BYU just couldn’t get over. BYU improved their shot selection in the second half and, for the most part, played much better defense than they did in the first. Seemed like every time they’d string a few nice possessions together, Marquette would drill an open three. This happened on four different occasions when the Cougars were able to cut the lead to ten.
  3. Your Turn, Kevin. No disrespect to WVU’s Kevin Jones, but Jae Crowder showed why he’s the Big East player of the year. The 6’6” senior was everywhere, playing the one, two, three, or four at any given time, talking like mad on defense, and being the leader they expect (and need) him to be.

Star of the Game. Crowder, without question. BYU was led by Brandon Davies (19/12), but he left a lot of points at the free throw line (5-11). Crowder was the best player on the floor right from the tipoff.

Sights & Sounds. What in the world was going on with the slippage? For years we’ve been talking about players slipping on the floor decals of tournament sponsors, but this wasn’t decal-related. Four stoppages of play to wipe the floor, multiple players slipping, sliding, falling…did they sneak a hockey rink under the Yum! Center floor while nobody was looking?

Marquette Fans Appreciate a Balanced Effort From Their Warriors

What’s Next?  Marquette gets Murray State on Saturday. Marquette showed that it’s going to be a tough out in this tournament. They shot well (30-66, 45.5%), hit from range (9-20 from three, 45%), and absolutely owned the boards against the Cougars (48-32). Of the two winners today, Marquette would our choice to move on based on their opening performances.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Second Round — Thursday Afternoon

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2012

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

#6 Murray State vs. #11 Colorado State – West Region Second Round (at Louisville, KY) – 12:15 PM ET on CBS

Steve Prohm Brings His One-Loss Team to the Dance (US Presswire)

Anytime you enter the NCAA Tournament with just one loss and 4-0 record over NCAA Tournament teams, you’re a big story and a threat to go deep in the tournament. That’s the situation Murray State finds itself in. The fact that they’ve got a recent history of some success in the tournament (they knocked off Vanderbilt in the first round in 2010 before losing a heartbreaker to eventual national runner up Butler) makes them an even bigger challenge. In that 2010 loss to Butler, then-freshman guard Isaiah Canaan had the ball in his hands with the clock running down and threw an errant pass that got deflected by Gordon Hayward, effectively sealing the Racers’ fate. Two years later, Canaan is this team’s leader and one of the best guards in the nation, capable not only of getting his own opportunities in a variety of ways, but also creating for his teammates. And he’ll certainly be a problem for a Colorado State team whose guards, though talented scorers offensively, struggle to stay in front of their men on defense. Another issue for the Rams is the fact that they are one of the smallest teams in the nation (there are only five teams smaller, according to Ken Pomeroy’s effective height statistic), with a frontline that doesn’t go any larger than 6’6”. Murray may not have a lot more height (their two main interior players – Ivan Aska and Ed Daniel – go just 6’7”), but the lack of size has been an issue for CSU this year. Still, the Rams can score with just about anybody, but their inability to lock down defensively will be a problem. A bigger problem could be the fact that the Racers are playing not only within an easy drive of their campus, but that the hordes of Kentucky fans who show up for the early session will most certainly convert their allegiance to the Racers, at least temporarily.

The RTC Certified Pick: Murray State

#8 Kansas State vs. #9 Southern Miss – East Region Second Round (at Pittsburgh, PA) – 12:40 PM ET on truTV

This could be an ugly game right off the bat. Neither of these two teams shoots the ball particularly well, especially Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have an awful two point field goal percentage (43.3%) and rank second to last among NCAA Tournament teams in effective field goal percentage. Only 16th seeded Western Kentucky is worse. Despite the poor shooting numbers, Larry Eustachy’s Golden Eagles have a respectable offensive efficiency number thanks to a minimal turnover percentage and solid offensive rebounding. If Southern Miss is going to win this game, it must rebound the basketball and score on second chance opportunities. While Kansas State is regarded as a team that plays terrific defense and rebounds well, the Wildcats are vulnerable on the defensive glass. Provided Southern Miss and point guard Neil Watson can keep a good handle on the ball and get some decent looks, this team will hang around. For Kansas State, it must get Rodney McGruder going early and often. McGruder is the best offensive player on this team and has been playing at a high level of late. Kansas State should win the game if it rebounds well and plays its typical brand of physical hard-nosed basketball. The Wildcats should get plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities against a Southern Miss team that has just one player taller than 6’7.” The free throw battle could be important as well. Each team gets to the line well but also fouls a lot when playing defense. The Golden Eagles shoot it much better from the stripe and they’ll need to today in order to offset the rebounding disadvantage.

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Bracket Prep: East Region Analysis

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 12th, 2012

Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), South (11 AM), Midwest (2 PM), West (4 PM). Here, Brian Otskey (@botskey) breaks down the East Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC East Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCeastregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Brian breaking down the East Region here.

East Region

Favorite: #1 Syracuse (31-2, 17-1 Big East). Despite losing to Cincinnati in the Big East semifinals, the Orange are the clear favorites and will have plenty of fans in Beantown to cheer them on, assuming they advance. SU features a transition attack that’s arguably the best in the nation, usually sparked by Dion Waiters off the bench.

Jim Boeheim and Syracuse Are The Favorites, But The Path to New Orleans Is Loaded With Tough Opponents (AP)

Should They Falter: #2 Ohio State (27-7, 13-5 Big Ten). I was tempted to slot #3 Florida State in this space but the Seminoles are too inconsistent for my liking to be a legitimate Final Four threat. Ohio State is a terrific team but not nearly as good as last year’s outfit which had Jon Diebler to bury a perimeter jumper. Even so, the Buckeyes are still capable of reaching New Orleans.

Grossly Overseeded: #11 Texas (20-13, 9-9 Big 12). This is an exaggeration because I thought the Selection Committee did a very nice job with the seeding across all regions. But I have to pick someone, right? I’ll go with the Longhorns, a team I didn’t have in my projected field of 68. Texas has four RPI top 50 wins but three of those came against teams seeded on the eighth line in this tournament. The Longhorns are 4-11 against top 100 competition, a fact that I felt should have kept them out of the Big Dance.

Grossly Underseeded: #5 Vanderbilt (24-10, 10-6 SEC). Again, this is a very minor quibble. As I said before, I thought the Committee did an admirable job seeding the teams. I had Vanderbilt pegged for a #4 seed after beating the best team in the country (Kentucky) in the SEC championship on Sunday. The Commodores won 16 games against the RPI top 100, with two of those coming against top 10 opponents either on the road (Marquette) or a neutral site (Kentucky). In fact, only one of Vandy’s five RPI top 25 wins has come at home. That’s impressive and an indicator of a team that can do some damage in this event despite its recent history of early flameouts.

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Four Thoughts: Connecticut vs. West Virginia Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 7th, 2012

Game recaps are boring. If you want to read them, search your local newspaper or the Associated Press. With the Big East Tournament upon us, we figured we would try to offer four thoughts about several of the key games throughout the week.

1. In a season marked by inconsistency, the good Shabazz Napier showed up for UConn down the stretch.

Shabazz Napier Stepped Up When His Team Needed Him Most

With the Huskies trailing West Virginia 55-48 with just under seven minutes left to play, Napier took matters into his own hands and pretty much ensured that his team would be dancing later this month. The streaky sophomore had a hand in all but two of the team’s final 15 points, scoring nine points in a row at one point to go with three assists and two steals as the Huskies fought back to send the game into overtime. If you want to nitpick, his three-pointer at the end of regulation was a questionable decision and he did foul out rather quickly in overtime. But his final line (26 points, six assists, four rebounds, three steals, and three blocks) showed just how large of an impact he made in every facet of the game. Jeremy Lamb carried the team offensively in the first half while Napier struggled to find his groove, but when they needed him the most, Napier put the team on his back and carried them into the quarterfinals.

2. If this was the last game of Kevin Jones’ college career, his teammates owe him a fruit basket.

While Napier used the final seven minutes of the game to show off his wide array of skills, West Virginia used the final seven minutes of the game to basically forget that they had the conference’s best player on their team. Jones’ last points of the game came on two free throws with a little more than six minutes to play. From that point on, including the overtime period, Jones attempted just three field goals — including zero in the last six minutes of regulation — and missed all of them.  For the first 30 minutes of this game, Jones showed off why he probably should have been the conference’s player of the year. He abused whomever the Huskies put on him, scored at will, and despite his disappearing act, finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds. It is an absolute shame that his teammates didn’t make more of a concerted effort to get him the ball down the stretch and if the Mountaineers end up on the outside of the bubble looking in, it will have been a disappointing end to an incredible season and career.

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