Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by Walker Carey on March 17th, 2015

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Throughout Tuesday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), South (11:00 AM), Midwest (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCMWregion).

Midwest Region

Favorite: #1 Kentucky (34-0, 18-0 SEC). The unbeaten Wildcats enter the NCAA Tournament as not only the favorites in the Midwest Region but also for the entire tournament. John Calipari’s squad has been able to reach 34-0 due to its star power combined with its ability to play tremendously well as a unit. It will be utterly shocking if Kentucky is tripped up before reaching the Final Four. The reason why the Wildcats are such a lethal team is that they possess top-flight talent at each position. Their backcourt is loaded with sophomores Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison and freshmen Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. The insanely long and athletic front line is led by junior Willie Cauley-Stein, sophomores Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee, and freshmen Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns. Toss in the fact that Kentucky’s veteran players have Final Four experience from a season ago and you will understand why the Wildcats are the overwhelming favorite to advance to Indianapolis.

Will John Calipari Be Smiling This Time Next Week? (AP)

John Calipari and the Wildcats have had a lot to smile about this season. (AP)

Should They Falter: #3 Notre Dame (29-5, 14-4 ACC). The ACC Tournament champion Fighting Irish enter the NCAA Tournament fresh off playing some of their best basketball of the year. Notre Dame possesses an elite offensive attack with multiple options that makes it a very tough team to defend. That attack is led by senior star guard Jerian Grant, an All-American senior who has the ability to take over a game each night out. Grant is the alpha dog star of Mike Brey’s team, but senior Pat Connaughton and sophomores Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia all strongly contribute to the Irish’s success. It will be a stunner if Kentucky loses at any point in this region, but if it does, look for Notre Dame to take home the Midwest Region trophy and advance to the Final Four.

Grossly Overseeded: #8 Cincinnati (22-10, 13-5 AAC). The Bearcats enjoyed a solid season but their résumé suggests that they should have been a double-digit seed. While Cincinnati had good victories over SMU (twice), San Diego State and NC State, it also had head-scratching losses to Nebraska, East Carolina and Tulane. The Bearcats finished the AAC season tied for third in the conference standings. Temple — the team they were tied with, and Tulsa, the team that finished one spot ahead of them — did not even earn bids to the NCAA Tournament. That’s not to suggest that Cincinnati didn’t deserve inclusion in the NCAA Tournament, but a #8 seed is very generous.

Grossly Underseeded: #7 Wichita State (28-4, 17-1 MVC). The Missouri Valley Conference does not provide many opportunities to pick up marquee victories, but Wichita State was able to pick up one on February 28 though when Gregg Marshall’s team got revenge from an early-season loss by topping Northern Iowa. The rest of the Shockers’ résumé was not very exciting, but they managed to win 28 games overall and only stumbled once in conference play prior to the MVC Tournament. Wichita State’s core is essentially the same (minus Cleanthony Early) as the one that started 34-0 last season. Gregg Marshall’s team is too talented and experienced to be a #7 seed and it would not be surprising at all to see it make a run to the second weekend.

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NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Tuesday Night

Posted by Andrew Murawa & Walker Carey on March 17th, 2015

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The First Round/Opening Round/Play-In Games/Mild Annoyance of the NCAA Tournament begins tonight, getting under way at 6:40 PM tonight on truTV (go ahead, try to remember where that channel is again). From 68 to 16 in the next six days… let’s analyze the first two games this evening.

#16 Manhattan vs. #16 Hampton— Midwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 PM ET on truTV.

Manhattan and Hampton Start Us Off in Dayton Tonight (USA Today Images)

Manhattan and Hampton Start Us Off in Dayton Tonight (USA Today Images)

Battling for the right to face unbeaten #1 Kentucky in Louisville on Thursday are MAAC champion Manhattan and MEAC champion Hampton. The 19-13 Jaspers pulled off a stunner over heavy favorite Iona to take home the MAAC title, and as winners of seven of their last eight, they seem to be playing their best basketball of the season. If you recall, Manhattan was in the NCAA Tournament last year where it was a #13 seed and pushed #4 Louisville to the edge before the Cardinals grabbed the victory in the last few minutes. Gone from last year is standout guard George Beamon, but experienced forwards Emmy Andujar and Ashton Pankey are still around to carry the load for Steve Masiello‘s group. Hampton is the only team in this season’s field with a losing record, as the Pirates are just 16-17. While the 16-17 mark is less than ideal, it should be noted that they are a very respectable 5-1 in neutral site games, and Dayton certainly qualifies as that. Hampton’s offensive attack is led by forward Dwight Meikle and Tennessee transfer guard Quinton Chievous. The advantage in this one looks to be when Manhattan has the ball, as Hampton’s defense enters the game 224th in the country in points per game allowed. Look for Andujar and Pankey to set the tone early for the Jaspers, as they will advance to the main bracket to take on Masiello’s alma mater in what will be truly a David versus Goliath matchup.

The RTC Certified Pick: Manhattan

#11 BYU vs. #11 Mississippi – West Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) – Approx. 9:10 PM ET, truTV.

Kyle Collinsworth is Worth Watching Tonight (Jaren Wilkey/BYU)

BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth is Worth Watching Tonight (Jaren Wilkey/BYU)

While Ole Miss limps into the First Four as losers of five of their last eight games including an opening round loss to South Carolina in the SEC Tournament, BYU comes in playing as well as it has all year. The Cougars won eight games in a row, including a win at Gonzaga, before running out of gas in the WCC championship game. Still, with a talented backcourt highlighted by senior leading scorer Tyler Haws and junior do-everything guard Kyle Collinsworth, head coach Dave Rose has to feel confident in his group. Andy Kennedy’s Rebels, meanwhile, are an experienced team too, with upperclassmen representing all three of the team’s leading scorers. Junior Stefan Moody is one of the nation’s best shooters, while senior Jarvis Summers is a no-mistakes kind of lead guard. With both teams interested in playing a quick tempo and with both squads better with the ball than defensively, this could be a fun, high-scoring, back-and-forth game. In the Big Dance, benefit of the doubt goes to the team playing its best ball.

The RTC Certified Pick: BYU

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Morning Five: 03.11.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on March 11th, 2015

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  1. The automatic bids are starting to fill up. In the past two days, automatic bids have gone to Northeastern (Colonial), Manhattan (Metro Atlantic), Wofford (Southern), Valparaiso (Horizon), Robert Morris (Northeast), North Dakota State (Summit), and Gonzaga (West Coast). There are obviously some big story lines from Monday night that Tommy Lemoine covered in his Bracket Prep for Wofford, Northeastern, and Wofford. We will cover last night’s story lines a little more later today, but the things that jumped out at us were St Francis-Brooklyn remaining one of only five original Division I programs to never make the NCAA Tournament (Army, Citadel, Northwestern, and William & Mary are the others) and the questions surrounding whether or not BYU will receive an at-large bid.
  2. The coaching carousel is starting to heat up as three new positions opened up with SIU-Edwardsville firing Lennox Forrester, Illinois-Chicago firing Howard Moore, and Citadel firing Chuck Driesell. Forrester had been the coach at SIU-Edwardsville for eight seasons going 83-149 with losing seasons in each of his final seven seasons after going 17-11 in his first season, which also happened to be the school’s last year in Division II. Moore went 49-111 in five seasons with his only winning season happening in 2012-13 when he went 18-16. Driesell, the son of the legendary Lefty Driesell, had his best season in the last of his five seasons. Unfortunately, that was only 11-19 and he finished 42-113. Like the other positions we mentioned before, none of these would be what we consider big-time jobs, but the Illinois-Chicago position offers the appeal of being in one of the best basketball areas in the country and a decent conference (Horizon) to play in, which could entice a high-major assistant who might feel that he has waited long enough.
  3. The coaching carousel might generate most of the attention in terms of movement, but be sure to keep an eye for some potentially significant transfers now that many players are having their seasons end. One of the first big ones to hit the transfer market is Evan Payne, who announced on Instagram that he would be transferring from Loyola Marymount. Payne, who averaged 18 points and 2.8 rebounds per game this past season, will probably end up at a high-major school especially since he has two more years of eligibility remaining even if he has to sit out a year as we have not heard anything about him looking for a hardship waiver.
  4. If you thought there were grey areas with social media, just wait until we get into the crowdfunding. According to a report from Darren Rovell, FanAngel is proposing to allow fans to contribute money towards an athlete who returns to school instead of leaving to play professionally. The company would take 9% off the top as its commission. Of the remaining 91%, when the athlete completes his or her eligibility, the athlete would get 80%, the athlete’s teammates would get 10%, and the remaining 10% would put into a scholarship fund. Although this has generated quite a bit of buzz based on it being featured on ESPN.com, we have a hard time believing this will ever be approved as even the company’s founder admits that the NCAA has not signed off on it and expressed reservations about it. There are also issues with how the money gets distributed to the athlete since neither the athlete nor anybody representing him or her is supposed to contact the company before the athlete’s eligibility is complete. Given all of these issues, we have a hard time seeing how this will hold up to NCAA scrutiny.
  5. With the start of the NCAA Tournament a little over a week away (don’t get us started on the ridiculous event in Dayton) you are going to start seeing a lot of lists talking about the best games, players, shots, etc. We doubt that you are going to see many lists like Ken Pomeroy’s most tense NCAA Tournament games since 2010. Like many things that Pomeroy does, some of these are obvious and are easily remembered by even the most casual fan while others are things you would not have remembered without his work. Now, you can question his methodology here, which is admittedly not as rigorous as his usual statistical analysis, but it is a fun trip down memory lane.
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Bracket Prep: Wofford, Northeastern & Manhattan

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 10th, 2015

As we move through Championship Week, we’ll continue to bring you short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. Here’s what you need to know about the most recent bid winners

Wofford

Wofford will be a scary #12-seed next week if the matchup is right. (AP Photo/Adam Jennings)

Wofford will be a scary #12-seed next week if the matchup is right. (AP Photo/Adam Jennings)

  • Southern Conference Champion (28-6, 16-2)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #48/#90/#86
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +5.0
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #12

Strength: Control is the name of the game for Wofford, on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Terriers like to slow things down (19.1 seconds per possession) and look for the best shot, which often winds up in the hands of conference Player of the Year Karl Cochran; the guard takes more than one-third of his team’s shots when he is on the floor. The SoCon champs also do a great job of taking care of the ball, coughing it up just four times in their 55-54 upset over North Carolina State in December. Still, as steady as its offense can be, Wofford’s real bread and butter is on the defensive end where it holds opponents to just over 0.97 points per possession. The Terriers tend not to gamble in the full-court (in line with that whole ‘control’ idea), but they do like making life difficult on the perimeter – reflected in their 30.8 percent three-point defense (26th-best mark in college hoops).

Weakness: Wofford severely lacks size – ranking 329th nationally in effective height – and it shows against much bigger opponents. In its season opener against Stanford, the Terriers were single-handedly beaten by 6’11” big man Stefan Nastic, who scored 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting. It was a similar story in Cameron Indoor Stadium, where Duke’s Jahlil Okafor shot 11-of-14 and scored 24 points. Forwards Lee Skinner and C.J. Neumann are both good players, but their lack of height (6’6” and 6’7”, respectively) could become a liability against a much larger NCAA Tournament opponent.

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Circle of March: Vol. IX

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2015

Three more leagues crowned their champions last night, as Manhattan (MAAC), Northeastern (CAA) and Wofford (Big South) punched their respective tickets to the Big Dance. The Circle of March dropped 12 more teams from its ranks last night, leaving us with 210 eligibles still alive and a whole slew to come over the next six days. There will be three more championships completed this evening, as the NEC, Summit League and WCC finish off their tournaments before most of the big boys really get going on Wednesday.

2015_CircleofMarch_V9

Eliminations (03.09.15)

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Conference Tourney Primers: Metro Atlantic

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 5th, 2015

We’re in the midst of Championship Fortnight, so let’s gear up for the continuing action by breaking down each of the Other 26’s conference tournaments as they get under way.

MAAC Tournament

Dates: March 5, 7-9

Site: Times Union Center (Albany, NY)

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What to expect: Iona will be heavy favorites in the MAAC Tournament this week after going 24-7 and controlling the regular season from start to finish. The uptempo Gaels are an exceptionally efficient offensive unit, led by one of the country’s best scoring duos – guard A.J. English and big man David Laury – who account for nearly 40 points per game. But beware: Monmouth, Canisius and crosstown rival Manhattan each gave Iona trouble this winter and the top seed has not won the event since 2010. Rider, the second-place finisher, would be more of a threat if seven-footer Matt Lopez hadn’t torn his ACL in late February. Count on the regular season champs to clinch another NCAA Tournament appearance – its third since 2011 – but don’t expect a cakewalk.

Favorite: Iona. Along with its stellar inside-out duo, Iona boasts the conference’s premier freshman in 5’10” guard Schadrac Casimir. His shooting prowess (44% 3FG on 203 attempts) combined with English, Laury, wing Isaiah Williams (45% 3FG) and athletic transfer Kelvin Amayo makes the Gaels incredibly difficult to stop.

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O26 Weekly Awards: Iona, Chris Wood, Bob Williams & Texas A&M-CC

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 17th, 2015

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition.

O26 Team of the Week

A.J. English and the MAAC-leading Gaels showed grit last week. (Andrew Theodorakis / New York Post)

A.J. English and the MAAC-leading Gaels showed grit last week. (Andrew Theodorakis / New York Post)

Iona. The Gaels battled a pair of tough MAAC contenders on the road this past weekend and beat them both, despite playing some (at times) less-than-pretty basketball. On Friday, against cross-town foe Manhattan – a rivalry game Steve Masiello once compared to Kentucky vs. Louisville – Iona overcame 21 turnovers, withstood several second-half runs and edged the Jaspers by three for its first victory in Draddy Gymnasium since 2012. “I heard a lot about this game, and there is nothing like a Manhattan crowd,” freshman guard Schadrac Casimir, who hit several big shots in the second half, said afterward. He finished with 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but it was junior A.J. English who drilled a clutch triple with 32 seconds left to seal the deal. Less than 48 hours later, the Gaels showed arguably more grit at Quinnipiac in not just erasing a seven-point second half deficit but overcoming their worst shooting performance (31.5%) since Tim Cluess took over the program in 2011. A team usually known for its fast-paced and free-flowing offense – the 28th-most efficient in America – put together its best defensive showing of the season to beat the Bobcats by three despite scoring just 0.86 points per possession. “We know that our shots aren’t going to fall every game and we have to find other ways to win,” Iona forward David Laury (18 points, nine rebounds) said. The Gaels have now won eight straight contests and sit two full games up on second-place Rider in the MAAC standings, their gritty weekend inching them one step closer to a second straight conference crown.

Honorable Mentions: San Diego State (2-0: vs. Wyoming, vs. Colorado State); Chattanooga (2-0: at Wofford, vs. Samford); UC Santa Barbara (2-0: vs. Long Beach State, at Cal State Northridge); Central Michigan (2-0: at Ohio, at Buffalo); Rice (2-0: vs. Middle Tennessee State, vs. UAB); Valparaiso (2-0: vs. Green Bay…at UW-Milwaukee)

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O26 Weekly Awards: Northern Iowa, Craig Bradshaw, Pat Duquette & Eastern Washington

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 1st, 2014

Throughout the season, the Other 26 microsite will run down our weekly superlatives, including team, player, coach and whatever else strikes our fancy in that week’s edition. 

O26 Team of the Week

Northern Iowa began the week in Cancun and ended it with a home victory over Richmond. (unipanthers.com)

Northern Iowa began the week in Cancun and ended it with a home victory over Richmond. (unipanthers.com)

Northern Iowa. With all of the marquee tournaments and showdowns taking place over the holiday weekend, it’s understandable if Northern Iowa’s trip to Mexico for the ‘Cancun Challenge’ was lost in the shuffle to some extent, especially considering the fellow competition: Virginia Tech, Northwestern and Miami (OH). If you did miss it, here’s a quick synopsis: after hammering Virginia Tech by 19 points, the Panthers held Northwestern to a paltry 0.76 points per possession and pounded the Wildcats by 21 to claim the championship. But although a tournament title is certainly a nice preseason prize, it’s not even the hardware that made Northern Iowa’s week so impressive. No, the reason Ben Jacobson’s club is our Team of the Week is because after delivering those back-to-back drubbings against high-major (if subpar) opponents, thousands of miles away from Cedar Falls, the Panthers flew back to the United States and kept the train rolling against an even better Richmond team. All signs pointed to a post-Thanksgiving, post-showcase letdown, especially against a tough, well-rounded Spiders unit ranked 54th in KenPom and boasting one of the Atlantic 10’s best guards in Kendall Anthony. But instead of coming out emotionally lethargic or physically fatigued or preoccupied with thoughts of warm resort towns, Northern Iowa took control of the game – just as it had in Cancun – and completely outclassed Richmond from start-to-finish, never once relinquishing the lead and defeating the Spiders, 55-50. In all, the Panthers maintained a lead for roughly 110 of 120 minutes this week against Virginia Tech, Northwestern and Richmond combined, a trio of dominant victories that has both propelled Jacobson’s unit to an impressive 7-0 start and further improved its at-large prospects.

Honorable Mentions: Gonzaga (2-0: N-Georgia, N-St. John’s); Green Bay (3-0: N-East Carolina, N-Evansville, N-Florida Gulf Coast); Colorado State (3-0: N-Missouri State, N-Pacific, N-UC Santa Barbara); Valparaiso (3-0: N-Drake, N-Murray State, N-Portland).

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Tip-Off Marathon: The O26 Menu

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 17th, 2014

Tonight kicks off ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon, a jam-packed, 24-plus hour slate of basketball featuring numerous mouthwatering options for O26 fans. And with many of these games serving as important resume-building opportunities, you better come hungry. Let’s check out the menu.

Appetizers/Starters

R.J. Hunter and the Panthers take on Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum. (AP Photo | Gerry Broome)

R.J. Hunter and the Panthers take on Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum. (AP Photo | Gerry Broome)

  • UC Santa Barbara at Florida Gulf Coast – 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3, Tonight. We are not even sure if this is formally part of the Marathon, but what better way to whet your appetite than by watching Alan Williams take on Dunk City? After logging 22 points and 13 rebounds against Kansas on Friday, UC Santa Barbara’s 6’8’’ center gets a shot at the Atlantic Sun favorites in Fort Myers – the first of two contests between the Gauchos and Eagles this season. Florida Gulf Coast’s Brett Comer is among the better point guards in the country, while his running mate, Bernard Thompson, is a conference Player of the Year candidate. Both squads could wind up dancing in March.
  • Georgia State at #14 Iowa State – 9:00 PM ET, ESPNU, Tonight. Certain to be one of the most popular appetizers on the menu, this game features a loaded underdog taking on a top-15 team in one of college basketball’s best environments. The Cyclones better be prepared for Georgia State, which boasts a pair of Bluegrass State transfers – Ryan Harrow (Kentucky) and Kevin Ware (Louisville) – and arguably the Sun Belt’s best player, guard R.J. Hunter (18.3 PPG in 2013-14). Hilton Coliseum will be rocking, as always, but perhaps maybe its magic will work in the Panthers favor, instead of the other way of around.
  • #22 SMU at #13 Gonzaga – 11:00 PM ET, ESPN, Tonight. This is one of those fill-you-up-before-the-entrée type items, a hearty match-up of Top 25 units with high expectations. SMU took a serious hit when forward Markus Kennedy, the team’s best player, was ruled academically ineligible for the first semester, so Gonzaga is in great position playing at home. Still, even though Mark Few’s bunch looked utterly dominant in its opener against Sacramento State (with newcomers Byron Wesley, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis combining for 44 points), the Bulldogs must come out and execute against Larry Brown’s defensively-tough Mustangs. Kevin Pangos vs. Nic Moore is one of the best point guard match-ups of the young season.

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College Basketball’s Five Best Games of 2013-14

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveler) on April 15th, 2014

As we continue to sift through the memories of the 2013-14 college basketball season, we take a look back at some of the best games of the season. In order, here are the five best games from 2013-14. We covered the five best stories of the season last week, if you’re interested.

  1. November 12: Kansas 94, Duke 83 – Two of the most anticipated freshmen in recent college hoops history matched up in the Champions Classic nightcap, and neither Wiggins (22 points, eight rebounds) nor Parker (27 points, nine rebounds ) disappointed. Kansas broke open a close game behind a late push from Wiggins and Perry Ellis (24 points, nine rebounds), in the process earning one of the season’s first true statement victories. The young Jayhawks would go on to win 25 games and the Big 12 regular season title, but their finest (and most entertaining) win may have come in their second outing of the year.

    Star Freshmen Jabari Parker And Andrew Wiggins Matched Up In What Was A Memorable Champions Classic Battle. (Getty)

    Star Freshmen Jabari Parker And Andrew Wiggins Matched Up In What Was A Memorable Champions Classic Battle. (Getty)

  2. March 29: Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 (OT) – The low-possession game that everyone expected came to fruition, but both the Badgers (1.05 PPP) and Wildcats (1.03 PPP) managed solid offensive efforts in this Elite Eight battle. Neither team was able to build more than a three-point lead during the final 17 minutes of play (including overtime) in a tangibly tense seesaw battle, but it was the offensive clinic put on by the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky (28 points, 11 rebounds) that proved to be the ultimate difference. After a controversial replay review in the final seconds that gave the ball back to Arizona, Nick Johnson was unable to get up a winning shot attempt in time, and Wisconsin was headed to the Final Four for the first time under Bo Ryan. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #4 Louisville 71, #13 Manhattan 64

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Luke Hancock Showed His Poise in Saving Louisville Tonight (Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)

Luke Hancock Showed His Poise in Saving Louisville Tonight (Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Luke Hancock, For the Win. Experience might be somewhat overrated, but winning experience probably isn’t. Having been in tight spots before and come through them successfully gives players the resolve to repeat those achievements, and that’s what we saw from Luke Hancock tonight. With Louisville having trouble scoring and Manhattan firmly believing that it could actually beat the defending champs, Hancock used his ice-cool moxie to pick off a crosscourt pass that led to a foul and two free throws followed by a couple of huge momentum-swing threes. Those eight points from the 1:53 mark on finally gave the Cardinals enough breathing room to survive and advance, but what was remarkable about it was just how unremarkable it was. Hancock has proven to be an assassin, and he’s done nothing to change that reputation.
  2. Eye of the Cardinal. Many people are picking Louisville to make another deep run in this year’s NCAA Tournament from the #4 seed, but it’s clear that this team has some deficiencies that last year’s group did not have. What I was hoping to see, though, was some of their patented aggressiveness — the we-shall-bend-you will that the 2013 Cardinals carried in spades — and I only really saw it in the final few minutes of the game. Much of this no doubt had to do with an off shooting night and the difficulties that Manhattan’s pressure caused the Cardinals, but given that this year’s team has much less margin for error, they’d probably be best served bringing a complete effort from the opening tip next time around.
  3. All Credit to Steve Masiello. The Manhattan head coach probably earned himself a lot of money tonight — either from his own school or a possible suitor. His players competed with fantastic intensity throughout the game, and they never relented until the final buzzer. Much will be made about how Manhattan nearly out-Louisvilled Louisville, but the fact of the matter is that Masiello was quite the apt pupil working for Pitino all those many years (from ballboy to assistant coach and everything in-between). The way he stalked around the sidelines, cajoled and encouraged his players, even the way he speaks about the game of basketball — some might say that they were looking at another young Pitino.

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Bracket Prep: Midwest Region Analysis

Posted by Walker Carey on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) breaks down the Midwest Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC Midwest Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCmwregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Walker breaking down the Midwest Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

Midwest Region

Louisville dominated UConn on Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Louisville dominated UConn on Saturday. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Favorite: #4 Louisville (29-5, 15-3 AAC). Not to take anything away from the fantastic seasons completed by #1 seed Wichita State, #2 seed Michigan and #3 seed Duke, but Louisville is one of the hottest teams in the country entering the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals were likely dropped to a #4 seed due to their weak non-conference schedule and the fact that some of their wins in AAC play were over vastly inferior competition. However, when you have the talent and winning experience that Louisville possesses, seeding does not really matter all that much. Guard Russ Smith is one the nation’s elite scorers and he has shown throughout his collegiate career that he can go off for a monster night in any game against any team. Forward Montrezl Harrell has taken a huge step forward during his sophomore season and his 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game give the Cards an outstanding post presence. Toss in the fact that Louisville’s defense only allows 61 points per game and averages 10.1 steals per game and it should be clear why Rick Pitino’s squad is the favorite to return to the Final Four to defend its national title.

Should They Falter: #1 Wichita State (34-0, 18-0 MVC). If favorite Louisville is to stumble before reaching the Final Four, the undefeated Shockers are the team that is most equipped to do the job. While Wichita State has caught a ton of unnecessary criticism for its “easy” schedule, it is impossible to discount the fact that the team completed the nearly impossible task of finishing the regular season and conference tournament with an unscathed record. Throughout all the monotonous discussion about Wichita State’s merit as a top seed, it was often forgotten that Gregg Marshall’s squad has a solid nucleus that was on the team that advanced to the Final Four last April. Guards Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, and Tekele Cotton, along with forward Cleanthony Early, played big minutes for the team last season and all four have experienced even more success in greater roles this season. Not only is Wichita State talented enough to return to the Final Four, it is also talented enough to cut down the nets at Cowboys Stadium on the first Monday in April.

Grossly Overseeded: #6 Massachusetts (24-8, 10-6 A-10). Derek Kellogg’s Minutemen had a fine season, but their résumé does not suggest that they were worthy of a #6 seed. After winning 16 of its first 17 games, Massachusetts went 8-7 over its final 15. Those seven losses included setbacks to non-Tournament teams Richmond, Saint Bonaventure and George Mason. The Minutemen were a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team as a result, and that was evident by the fact that they were the #6 seed in their conference tournament. What really makes the placement here a headscratcher is that George Washington and Saint Joseph’s finished ahead of them in the conference and they were given a #8 and a #10 seed, respectively.

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