Introducing the Preseason Pac-12 Superlatives

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 11th, 2013

We continue our opening weekend coverage with predictions for the major superlatives throughout the conference from the Pac-12 microsite team.

Preseason All-Defense Team

Jordan Bachynski's Shotblocking Ability Makes Him A Lock For Our Preseason All-Defensive Team

Jordan Bachynski’s Shot-blocking Ability Makes Him A Lock For Our Preseason All-Defensive Team

  • G Nick Johnson, Jr, Arizona
  • G Spencer Dinwiddie, Jr, Colorado
  • G Mark Lyons, So, Arizona
  • F Josh Huestis, Sr, Stanford
  • C Jordan Bachynski, Sr, Arizona State

Johnson, now an upperclassmen with Arizona, averaged just short of 2.0 SPG in 2012-13 and had a knack of locking down an opponent’s top threat in big games. Starting in last year’s Charleston Classic, Dinwiddie stepped up his defense and led Colorado to a win and he hasn’t faltered since. Huestis and Bachynski represent the bigs on our list. The senior from Stanford averaged 2.1 BPG last season and was a key cog in the middle, while the 7’2″ Bachynski was even more impressive with 3.4 BPG.

All-Shooting Team

  • G C.J. Wilcox, Sr, Washington
  • G Joseph Young, Jr, Oregon
  • G Jordan Adams, So, UCLA
  • G Jahii Carson, So, Arizona State
  • F Jonathan Gilling, Jr, Arizona State

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2013-14 RTC Class Schedule: Arizona Wildcats

Posted by BHayes on September 26th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler. Periodically throughout the preseason, RTC will take an in-depth look at the schedules of some of the more prominent teams in college basketball.

Sean Miller’s fifth season in Tuscon could easily turn out to be his best. Despite the graduation of key seniors Solomon Hill (a first round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft), Mark Lyons, and Kevin Parrom – in addition to the surprising departure of freshman Grant Jerrett to the professional ranks, Miller has assembled the most talented roster that Arizona has seen in quite some time. A solid Pac-12 conference and challenging non-conference schedule will challenge the Cats’, but a nice blend of returnees and newcomers should give the man at the helm ample leeway to steer this storied program deep into March.

Nick Johnson will be asked to do more -- both on and off the court -- for this young but talented Wildcat team

Nick Johnson will be asked to do more — both on and off the court — for this young but talented Wildcat team

  • Team Outlook: This will be a new-look Arizona team, as last year’s squad was built around departed seniors Lyons and Hill. Some familiar faces will be back and poised to fill leadership roles this time around, with junior Nick Johnson (11.5 PPG, 3.2 APG, 1.9 SPG) most prominent among them. The athletic two-guard shot the ball better from three-point range as a sophomore (39% after 32% as a freshman), and should also serve as the Cats’ best perimeter defender in 2013-14. Sophomores Kaleb Tarczewski (6.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 22.2 MPG) and Brandon Ashley (7.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 20.5 MPG) return to anchor the frontcourt, with each likely seeing a slight minutes increase, despite the arrival of a duo of freshman studs in the same frontcourt. Both Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson were McDonald’s All-Americans last spring, and immense immediate contributions from both freshmen would surprise no one. Gordon especially shapes up as a good candidate for a jump to the NBA after a season of stardom in Tuscon, as he is currently projected as a Top-20 pick in the 2014 draft on NBADraft.net. Gordon’s production will be one of the keys to this Wildcat season, but he may not be Sean Miller’s most important player. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell (11.4 PPG, 5.5 APG, 2.8 SPG in 2011-12) will be filling Lyons’ shoes and running the show in Tucson this season. McConnell was an efficient lead guard in the Atlantic-10 and should quickly acclimate to the Pac-12, but the absence of proven ball-handlers elsewhere on the roster means his transition has to be a smooth one for Arizona to be successful. He will be a welcomed change-of-pace for teammates used to the shoot-first Lyons dominating the ball, and his steal % of 4.7 (12th best in the nation in 2012) is ample indication of a dedication to both ends. The talented youngsters around him will keep expectations low for McConnell individually, but don’t be shocked if he emerges as the leader of this club. Read the rest of this entry »
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Arizona Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 11th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Next on our list: Arizona.

What Went Right

You know, after all is said and done, after all the chatter about his strengths and weaknesses, you gotta say that the Mark Lyons experiment turned out pretty well. Yes, the end of the season and a not-quite-buzzer-beating loss to Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen is disappointing, and a fourth-place Pac-12 finish isn’t what was expected, but down the stretch, this team was clicking pretty well behind Lyons. With a dearth of other create-for-themselves offensive players (outside of Solomon Hill), Lyons was a pretty good fit here. He never materialized as the distributing floor general some had hoped, but he was a good version of himself — scoring efficiently, playing hard and zipping people up defensively.

Despite Some Ups And Downs, You've Got To Call The Mark Lyons Experiment A Success, Right?

Despite Some Ups And Downs, You’ve Got To Call The Mark Lyons Experiment A Success, Right?

What Went Wrong

For a team with three hardened veterans among the seven-man rotation, this was a surprisingly inconsistent team. Much of that can be chalked up to three freshmen occupying the rotation at the four and five spots. As talented as Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett are, they were still freshmen growing into their bodies and into their games. There were blown assignments, soft defense and the handful of boneheaded plays. But, the bright side is all three of these guys got tremendous experience, displayed their major upside and are expected to return next season.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.29.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 29th, 2013

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  1. Another day another UCLA coaching search update. With Shaka Smart officially out of the picture, talk about Butler’s Brad Stevens is starting to heat up. First, ESPN broke the completely obvious news that he is UCLA’s top target, while also briefly reporting that Stevens and UCLA were in contract negotiations. Later, FoxSports reported that Stevens was actually in Westwood in the middle of negotiations with UCLA. This report has not been confirmed anywhere, though. However, as should be expected of the calm and quiet Stevens, he’s not commenting on the job at all, other than to say he is still the coach at Butler. And all Butler president James Danko can offer is that he hopes his head coach stats. Elsewhere, N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried tweeted out that he is “committed” to staying in his current job, which really means nothing, as offering that statement does little but make him have to answer some tough questions if he were to wind up taking the UCLA job. Although you can probably read the tea leaves to find that Gottfried hasn’t received a whole lot of encouragement from those in charge of the UCLA search.
  2. One other thing on the UCLA coaching search: for some reason, writers tangentially associated with the Colorado program keep trying to float Tad Boyle as a candidate for the Bruin job. And for no apparent reason. Certainly he’s a fine coach and the job he has done taking the Buffaloes to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances (and, let’s face it, it should be three straight – CU got screwed in 2011) while building up a passionate new fanbase is commendable. But the UCLA job search would probably have to go pretty poorly, with name after name passing on the job, before Boyle gets hired. Again, no offense to Boyle who I think the world of as a coach and expect to have a bright future, but at this point, as a “deranged buffalo” points out, he just hasn’t done enough quite yet to merit the attention of athletic directors at the six elite “blueblood” college basketball programs.
  3. Oh, and in case you forgot, the USC coaching job is also open, though there is nowhere near the speculation about it as there is across town. With some of the top candidates already out of the picture, names like Tommy Amaker, Tubby Smith, Tim Floyd, Mike Hopkins and, get this, Ben Howland, are at the top of the list.
  4. Speaking of coaching searches, Oregon head coach Dana Altman has been a party in a couple entertaining searches. First, there was the extended and wildly optimistic Oregon search that wound up landing Altman, only after like 600 (note: that number is only an estimate) other coaches turned down Nike U. But Pac-12 fans may have forgotten the 2007 debacle where Altman accepted Arkansas’ offer for their head coaching position, only to renege a day later after a change of heart. I only bring this up now because, (1) well, I needed an additional point for my morning five, but also because (2) it goes to show just how drawn out and dramatic these coaching searches can be and (3) it is a testament to how lucky Oregon is to have Altman, one of the best coaches in the nation.
  5. And, as we wrap up another week, we also wrap up the career of some great Pac-12 players, as Arizona’s demise in the Sweet 16 last night ends the college careers of Mark Lyons, Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill. Hill, for one, did not go down without a fight, as Bruce Pascoe writes. He scored nine-straight in the middle of the half to rescue the Wildcats from a rough patch spanning the half and to keep his team within shouting distance of Ohio State. While his career at UA is done, he does go down in the record books, tied with Kyle Fogg for most games played in Wildcat history.
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Rushed Reactions: #3 Ohio State 73, #6 Arizona 70

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is reporting from the West Region semifinals in Los Angeles, California, this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

laquinton ross osu

It Was a Sea of Red in LA Tonight

  1. Madness. After 39 minutes, 40 seconds and change, these two teams were dead even subsequent to a wild exchange of runs. One team killed it for the first 15 minutes, the other controlled the next 20-plus. And then down the stretch it was two prizefighters standing in the middlle of the ring throwing haymakers. Arizona’s seniors Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons threw together a barrage of scoring. Ohio State responded with play-making from Aaron Craft and shotmaking from LaQuinton Ross. And both teams went at it defensively. There was a crazy late run for Arizona to tie things up, but for the second straight game with the clock running down in regulation, the Buckeyes got a huge three-point bucket, this one from the newly confident Ross in the waning seconds, to provide the difference.
  2. The Buckeyes Have Found Their Additional Scorers. Much of the year the talk was about “who can Ohio State find to be its second scorer?” DeShaun Thomas has regularly been the leading man for the Bucks, pacing the team in scoring all year long and again tonight. But down the stretch tonight, it was Ross who made play after play after play for them, and in a variety of ways. He scored 14 of the Buckeyes last 17 points and he did it both with the drive, the ability to get to the line and, shown most spectacularly on the final bucket, with deep three-point range. Once a highly regarded recruit, it has taken awhile, but Ross has blossomed in a hurry in March. Meanwhile, Thomas was largely silent late after scoring 20 points in the games’ first 31 minutes.
  3. Tale of Two Arizonas. For the first 15 minutes or so, the Wildcats looked like the best team on the court, with Lyons getting to the hole regularly and drawing a couple of fouls on Craft. The freshman bigs were contributing, Nick Johnson looked like the best player on the floor and the Arizona fans in attendance were confident. Then, over about an 11-minute stretch spanning the half, the Ohio State defense turned on the juice, the Cats got frustrated and they gave up a 22-6 run over an 11:24 period. To knock off a team as solid and experienced as the Buckeyes, you’ve really got to play well for all 40 minutes.

Star of the GameLaQuinton Ross, Ohio State. For the second straight game, Ross came up large for the Buckeyes, scoring 17 for the game. Fourteen of those came after the break and all of those came in the last eight minutes. As recently as March 10 against Illinois, he was earning just single-digit minutes, but as the Buckeyes forge ahead into the Elite Eight, Ross has become a major factor, a 6’8” match-up nightmare who can shoot over smaller, quicker defenders or blow by bigger defenders.

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How Far Can Arizona Go?

Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013

Three weeks ago, coming off an 0-2 road trip to Los Angeles, Arizona was just about ready to be left for dead. It’s not that a pair of conference road losses – one to a team in the middle of a 6-2 streak, the other to the eventual conference champion – were egregious, it’s that they were playing uninspired ball and none of the pieces were showing great cohesion. Mark Lyons was 6-of-24 that weekend with three assists while getting outplayed by Jio Fontan and Larry Drew II; Nick Johnson was in the midst of his regularly scheduled mid-season downturn; and Sean Miller could seemingly never get more than one of his freshman bigs – Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett – to play well at any given time.

Sean Miller, Arizona

Sean Miller Has His Wildcats In The Sweet Sixteen, But How Much Further Can They Go?

Flash forward to the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Against a pair of physically overmatched opponents, Lyons was among the best players in the nation, going for 25 points per game in a highly efficient manner. Johnson is now in the midst of a string of unbelievably good defensive performances (dating back to the season finale against Arizona State) and looks to have regained his confidence in his jumper. The freshman bigs have suddenly shown strides to the point where it looks like at least two out of the three can be counted on in any given game. In other words, Miller’s got this team coalescing at precisely the right time. But still, like we said, those two tournament wins were against seriously overmatched teams. Just how far can this Wildcats team go now that the strength of the opponents are about to undergo a serious uptick?

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Previewing Ohio State vs. Arizona: Can Aaron Craft Stop Mark Lyons?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 27th, 2013

Deepak is a writer for the Big Ten microsite of RTC. Follow him on Twitter for more about B1G hoops at @dee_b1g. 

The Ohio State Buckeyes haven’t lost since February 17 when they took a shellacking in Madison, but since that debacle they have ripped off 10 straight wins and have arguably been the hottest team from the Big Ten. Junior guard Aaron Craft is creating a new role for himself by controlling games in the critical minutes and proving that he isn’t afraid to take the big shot. But standing between the Buckeyes and another Final Four is an equally hot Arizona squad who has won two NCAA Tournament games by an average 20 points. Can the Buckeyes get past Sean Miller’s Wildcats? Let’s assess two key factors that will determine the outcome of the game.

Aaron Craft will be tested by Arizona's Mark Lyons on Thursday.  (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire).

Aaron Craft will be tested by Arizona’s Mark Lyons on Thursday. (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire

  • Craft will have his toughest defensive assignment so far this season. Craft defended quality point guards in the Big Ten such as Trey Burke and Andre Hollins but he may have an even tougher time defending Mark Lyons. Lyons has the ability to take anybody off the dribble and Miller likes to call isolation plays for him at the top of the key during the final minutes of the game. Even though he only shoots 33% from beyond the arc, confidence is not one of his weaknesses because he will pull the trigger at any time. He’s also been scorching hot in the NCAA Tournament so far, averaging 25 PPG. Craft did an effective job on Burke but the Michigan guard settled for a number of long jumpers in both games against the Buckeyes. It will be interesting to see if Craft will have anything left in his tank this week during the last six minutes of the game after exhausting most of his energy trying to lock down Lyons. The Buckeyes’ recent wins have been a direct result of Craft impacting the game offensively, but this match-up will certainly test his stamina.  Read the rest of this entry »
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NCAA Regional Reset: West Region

Posted by AMurawa on March 25th, 2013

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Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the NCAA Tournament’s West Region correspondent.

The West Regional begins Thursday night in Los Angeles with Arizona vs. Ohio State followed by La Salle vs. Wichita State. The East Regional Reset published earlier today, and be sure to look out for the South and Midwest Regional Resets later this afternoon. Also make sure to follow RTCWestRegion for news and analysis from Los Angeles throughout the week.

Downtown LA is the Site of the West Regional

Downtown LA is the Site of the West Regional

New Favorite:  #2 Ohio State. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. In a region where the Buckeyes are the only one of the top five seeds still alive, they’re the no-brainer. We proclaimed them the favorite a week ago and the madness that has gone down since then has only cemented the Buckeyes as the best bet to advance to Atlanta out of this region. Yeah, they needed to dodge an abnormally unimpressive performance from Aaron Craft down the stretch on Sunday while getting a bit of late help from a referee, but OSU survived and advanced and will be favored to win any games they play between now and Atlanta.

Horse of Darkness:  #9 Wichita State. Responsible for eliminating the region’s #1 seed, we’re skipping right over Arizona to the Shockers. They’ll be a favorite to advance to the Elite Eight against La Salle and they’ve shown their ability to both lock up the glass against elite rebounding teams and to knock down threes at an astounding rate, although not yet in the same game. It would be a surprise to see the Shockers in Atlanta, but they’re within striking distance.

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend):  Ohio State Advancing To The Sweet Sixteen. In a region where everything else has gone straight to hell and as the Buckeyes got everything they wanted from Iowa State on Sunday, you couldn’t have been blamed to have expected Thad Matta and company to join the scrap heap of favorites to lose on the first weekend of NCAA play. Gonzaga? Gone. New Mexico? Never stood a chance. Wisconsin? Who dat? But somehow, in a region of Davids taking down Goliaths, the Buckeyes still stand strong.

Wichita's Stunning Late-Game Turnaround Against Gonzaga Was Just One Of Many Unexpected Results (Steve Dykes, USA Today Sports)

Wichita’s Stunning Late-Game Turnaround Against Gonzaga Was Just One Of Many Unexpected Results (Steve Dykes, USA Today Sports)

Completely Expected (1st Weekend): Almost Nothing Else. Harvard going nuts and earning its first-ever NCAA Tournament win. Wichita State outrebounding one of the nation’s best rebounding teams. Ole Miss out-Wisconsining the Badgers. La Salle pulling off the front leg of the old VCU First-Four-to-Final-Four marathon. Iowa State blowing out Notre Dame and then giving the Buckeyes everything they could handle until a poor late call hurt their chances. And then the wild statistical anomalies as Wichita State went from up 13 to down eight to knocking off Gonzaga. Really, it’s easier to come up with a bevy of surprises than it is to find expected occurrences.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Arizona 74 #14 Harvard 51

Posted by AMurawa on March 23rd, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Round of 32 game between #6 Arizona and #14 Harvard at the Salt Lake City pod this afternoon.

Three Key Takeaways.

It Was Great While It Lasted...

It Was Great While It Lasted…

  1. Physical Mismatch. It was clear just a couple of minutes into the game that Harvard was going to need to catch a lot of breaks to keep up in this game. As good as Wesley Saunders has been all year, he had no chance guarding Solomon Hill in the post. Harvard’s Kenyatta Smith was tough on Thursday against the New Mexico bigs, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley were a whole different ball game. Freshman point guard Siyani Chambers looked overmatched and intimidated early by Mark Lyons, while Nick Johnson and Hill largely stuck with the Crimson’s shooters Laurent Rivard and Christian Webster, using their length, athleticism and confidence in the rest of their team’s defense to limit any good looks. In short, barring some seriously strange goings-on, Harvard never really had a chance in this one.
  2. Is Arizona Playing Well?. At times, as the lead hovered somewhere around 20 for the final three-quarters of the game, the Wildcats lost focus and let up some. Kevin Parrom wound up inexplicably fouling out in just 14 minutes of action. Grant Jerrett bruised an elbow early in the first half and never returned. Johnson attempted just three field goals in the 34 minutes of action (to be fair, he made two threes in those attempts). Ashley again showed glimpses of excellence intermingled with frustrating decision-making. But in a game where the talent mismatch was so apparent, it was really hard to gauge just how well this team was playing as a whole. But, give them credit for doing to Harvard exactly what a team with this size and talent should have done to Harvard.
  3. New Mexico Redux. If anybody associated with the New Mexico program watched this game, from Steve Alford on down to the lowliest Lobo fan, they had to be going absolutely crazy. A Harvard team that shot a 61.9 eFG% on Thursday night shot 31.9% tonight. The Lobos definitely didn’t have quite the athletic advantage that Arizona did, but it was pretty close. But, the Lobos failed to close out on shooters, couldn’t stop Chambers’ dribble penetration and never found a guard who could make an impact against inferior defenders. Can’t feel too bad for the Lobos.

Star of the GameMark Lyons, Arizona. The much-maligned Wildcat point guard had perhaps the best game of his time in Tucson today, getting past Harvard defenders with ease, knocking down threes whenever the mood struck him and zipping up Chambers defensively. With Aaron Craft potentially looming next week in Los Angeles, things are about to get much more difficult, but Lyons has certainly picked a perfect time to peak.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Arizona 81, #11 Belmont 64

Posted by AMurawa on March 21st, 2013

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Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #6 Arizona and #11 Belmont in Salt Lake City.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. First Half Domination. It’s the same old song and dance for Belmont: great season, plenty of love on Selection Sunday as a possible Cinderella, then they come out and lay an egg in the tournament against a bigger and more athletic opponent. The Bruins turned in perhaps their worst half of the season on Thursday evening, grabbing just 9.1% of their own misses and only 50% of their opponents misses, while also getting outshot 52.2% to 29.6% in effective field goal percentage. While senior Ian Clark cobbled together enough offense to tally 11 points, the rest of his team combined to make just 2-of-17 field goal attempts. All of which combined to equal a 32-20 halftime deficit. Belmont played Arizona pretty tight in the second half, but the first-half damage was done.

    Mark Lyon was the star of the game for Arizona. (AP)

    Mark Lyon was the star of the game for Arizona. (AP)

  2. Too Much Size and Athleticism. With the tallest guy on Belmont checking in at just 6’7” and with Arizona featuring four rotation guys along the frontline at least that tall, not to mention significantly more athletic, you probably should have seen this coming to some extent. But the sheer level of the domination along the frontline was startling. Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett have been improving slowly but surely all year and today, after getting through the grind of the Pac-12 and similar level athletes, they seemed to get a lot of joy out of beating up on overmatched opponents. And Mark Lyons? After seeing guys like Jahii Carson and Larry Drew II and Dominic Artis and Spencer Dinwiddie, he seemed to know he could get by whichever Belmont guard was checking him and get into the lane with ease. Credit the Wildcats for exploiting mismatches and advancing, but things are about to get much more difficult.
  3. Pac-12. Underrated? On a day when the Pac-12 went 3-0 in the Tournament you’ve got to start to wonder just how good this conference is. They haven’t had much of a chance to prove it outside of the league since December, consider what Oregon did to Oklahoma State today. And consider that Arizona, for instance, has wins against teams like Miami, Florida, San Diego State and now Belmont in their undefeated non-conference slate, but struggled to seven losses against Pac-12 competition. Maybe the Pac-12 is better than we thought?

Star of the Game. Mark Lyons, Arizona. Look, Lyons is never going to be the type of distributing point guard that would fit in so well on this Arizona team. But tonight at the very least he was the guy Mark Lyons is really good at being. He attacked off the bounce and seemed to get to the rack just about whenever he wanted. And when the ball found its way to him around the perimeter in the halfcourt game, he stepped up and drilled catch-and-shoot jumpers. And, especially in the first half, he harassed Kerron Johnson and got inside his head, limiting Belmont’s second-leading scorer to just four first-half points.

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The Official RTC Bracket: Midwest And West Regions

Posted by KDoyle on March 20th, 2013

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We released the Official RTC Bracket for the South and East Regions earlier today — be sure to check that out if you need a refresher on our methodology for this exercise — and we’ll save you the fluff this time and cut right to the chase with the Midwest and West Regions. (note: our Final Four selections are after the analyses)

Midwest and West Regions

Quick Hitters From the Midwest Region

  • Advancing to Atlanta: #1 Louisville
  • Round of 64 Upset: #11 St. Mary’s over #6 Memphis
  • Later Round Upset: N/A
  • Three Most Disputed Games: #5 Oklahoma State over #12 Oregon, #11 St. Mary’s over #6 Memphis, #2 Duke over #3 Michigan State

Four Questions About the Midwest Region

Louisville is the odds-on favorite to not just advance out of the Midwest Region, but win the National Championship. Which team has the best chance at dashing Louisville’s title hopes?

Does Pitino Have Another One of These In His Immediate Future? (Getty Images)

Does Pitino Have Another One of These In His Immediate Future? (Getty Images)

Andrew Murawa: After giving the Cards the nod as the overall #1 seed, the selection committee certainly didn’t do them any more favors, dropping them in, what is to me, the toughest region in the bracket. Once they get out of the Round of 64 in this region, Rick Pitino’s club could be facing nothing but dangerous clubs, from the nation’s best rebounding team in Colorado State, to one of the nation’s hottest teams in Saint Louis, to possibly Michigan State or Duke in the Elite Eight. All of those teams can beat the Cards. But the team with the best chance is certainly the Blue Devils, a squad that has already beaten them this season, albeit without Gorgui Dieng.

The #8 vs. #9 game is usually a coin-flip type of game, but it is a 100% consensus that Colorado State beats Missouri. Are the Rams that much better than Missouri?

Zach Hayes: The Rams are by no means world-beaters, but the consensus opinion probably stems from their ability to compete where Missouri excels: on the boards. Colorado State ranks in the nation’s top two in both offensive and defensive rebounding, a glass-crashing tenacity which should work to negate the rebounding prowess of both Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers. The confidence also resides in how shaky Missouri has been at the tail end of close games despite featuring an elite point guard in Phil Pressey. Most bracket prognosticators would rather go to war with a Rams team starting five seniors over Missouri’s constant unpredictability away from home, where their only scalps came against the dregs of the SEC.

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Bracket Prep: West Region Analysis

Posted by AMurawa on March 18th, 2013

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (9 AM), Midwest (11 AM), South (1 PM), West (3 PM). Here, Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) breaks down the West Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC West Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCwestregion).

You can also check out our RTC Podblast with Andrew breaking down the West Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

West Region

Favorite: #2 Ohio State (26-7, 16-5 Big Ten). Not to take anything away from Gonzaga, a team and a program that should be very pleased with itself for the excellent season it has had, but the Buckeyes get the nod by an eyelash. While the Zags have been coasting through WCC play for the past couple months, Thad Matta’s club has dealt with the gauntlet of the Big Ten and emerged with an eight-game winning streak, boasting wins over teams like Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State (twice). Aaron Craft, a veteran guard with plenty of great basketball in his past, is probably playing the best ball of his distinguished career. And guys like LaQuinton Ross, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith are tossing in just enough offense to aid big-time scorer Deshaun Thomas. Throw in the nation’s sixth-best team in defensive efficiency and let’s make the battle-tested Buckeyes a slight favorite to repeat as a Final Four team.

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes Have Been Through The Big Ten Gauntlet, Making Them The Slight West Regional Favorite

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes Have Been Through The Big Ten Gauntlet, Making Them The Slight West Regional Favorite

Should They Falter: #1 Gonzaga (31-2, 18-0 WCC). It would be easy to play the contrarian here and offer up plenty of backlash to the Bulldogs’ first-ever #1 seed and name New Mexico – a pretty darn good team in their own right – as the next best team in this region. But make no mistake, Gonzaga can ball. With Kelly Olynyk, a first-team All-American favorite, the Zags have the third-most efficient offense in the nation and Mark Few’s best offensive team in his time in Spokane. And while there are some concerns about the Zags’ ability to match up defensively with big and athletic guards, this is a team that is also Few’s most efficient defensive team ever – by far. While there are plenty of potential stumbling blocks (regardless of who they face in the Round of 32, that looks like a serious rumble, for instance), the Zags definitely have the ability to reach an Elite Eight. Or better. Read the rest of this entry »

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