Circle of March: Vol. XXVI

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2015

And then there were two. With Saturday’s eliminations of Kentucky and Michigan State, the Circle of March is down to its final permutation before we crown this season’s National Champion.

2015_CircleofMarch_V26

Eliminations (04.04.15)

  • Michigan State
  • Kentucky
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.05.15 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 5th, 2015

RTC_NCAA15

March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

Duke

Coach K and Duke Will Compete For Their Fifth Title Monday Night (USA Today Images)

Coach K and Duke Will Compete For Their Fifth Title Monday Night (USA Today Images)

  • Duke has been criticized this season for not being as defensively sharp as some of the past Blue Devils teams. After last night’s dominant Final Four victory over Michigan State, however, the doubters are starting to come around. “A lot of people said we couldn’t play defense,” Duke guard Matt Jones said. “For the most part in the NCAA Tournament, we’ve been a very good defensive team. Now we just have to do it one more time on Monday.”
  • Taunting or not, there’s no doubt that Grayson Allen‘s monster dunk sent a message to Michigan State.
  • On Monday night, Duke will play for a National Championship in the same place where it won its last one: Indianapolis.
  • Jahlil Okafor‘s father believes that his son should have been named National Player of the Year over Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. Okafor will have the chance to prove it on Monday, as the Blue Devils will go up against Kaminsky’s team.
  • Justise Winslow is a name you might want to remember for the future… Take it from Charles Barkley. During the pregame show last night, Barkley referred to Winslow as “Winstons Justice.” Ouch.

Wisconsin

  • Sam Dekker wasn’t as dominant as he had been in the past two games, but he was just as clutch. Tied 60-60, Dekker hit a step-back three to give Wisconsin the lead, then drew a charge on Kentucky’s very next possession.
  • Perhaps Frank Kaminsky‘s 2011 Tweet of “I hate Kentucky” foreshadowed last night’s victory over the previously undefeated Wildcats.
  • Wisconsin did it. Against all odds, the Badgers gave Kentucky its first loss of the season in a matchup they’ve wanted since last March. “This is something we’ve been talking about since day one this season,” Sam Dekker said. “Look where we are now.”
  • Somehow, Trey Lyle’s slap on Josh Gasser wasn’t called a flagrant one foul, but it didn’t matter for Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin lost to Duke earlier this season but the Badgers are far from scared. “They were a tough team,” [point guard Bronson] Koenig said. “They have a great backcourt and they’ve got Jahlil [Okafor]. So it’s going to be a tough game.”

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.01.15 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on April 1st, 2015

RTC_NCAA15

March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

Michigan State

Tom Izzo Is Loving This Team (USA Today Images)

Tom Izzo Is Loving This Team (USA Today Images)

  • Of all people, Duke’s Coach K is perhaps least surprised to be facing Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in the Final Four. “Nothing surprises me that he and his program would do,” Krzyzewski said. “They don’t have a team; they have a program. As he develops each team, I don’t know what the time frame of it is until that group understands what the program is about, whether it be offense, defense or just character-wise, but they’re going to keep improving because it’s a program. It’s a program of excellence.”
  • For Michigan State, the emergence of freshman LouRawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn Jr. has been paramount to the Spartans’ turnaround this season. He hasn’t scored much so far in the NCAA Tournament, but that’s not what makes him so valuable. “He does so much for our team that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet,” said senior guard Travis Trice. “He helps break the press, he gets other guys involved. Tum’s also that energy guy. There are times [before or after practice] where guys are kind of tired and Tum’s there with all the energy and boosts everybody up. Tum does a lot of things for us that people really don’t see.”
  • Michigan State may not have as much individual talent as it usually does, but this bunch has played very well as a team. “This is some of the things that has separated this year’s team: from top to bottom there is a – I don’t know if you can use the word, but there is a true love for one another,” Izzo said, “and that is a powerful, powerful thing, so I’m appreciative of those upperclassmen.”
  • Check out Tom Izzo‘s postgame speech to his team after the Spartans punched their ticket on Sunday to the Final Four.
  • With a BCS Bowl victory and another Final Four appearance, it’s a good time to be a Michigan State fan.

Duke

  • No matter the year, the moment, or the personnel on his team, Coach K is consistently great. “There’s not just one way,” [assistant coach Nate] James said. “Some coaches are stuck in their ways, like ‘I want to do it this way, the way I’ve always done it.’ No. If you do it that way, it may hurt this group. He adjusts.”
  • Even though Duke is a mainstay at the top of college basketball, Krzyzewski insists that this team has worked its way to a “magical season,” just like everyone else. “It’s not a birthright; it’s earned each year,” he said.
  • From losing Rasheed Sulaimon to hitting some midseason lulls back in January, this Duke team has learned to be resilient.
  • Is Coach K the greatest college basketball head coach of all time? Chris Chase seems to think so.
  • Duke may be in the Final Four, but Jahlil Okafor hasn’t exactly dominated in March. Is the freshman standout somewhat overrated?

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.31.15 Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on March 31st, 2015

RTC_NCAA15

March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

Kentucky

38-0 and Still Standing. (USA Today Images)

38-0 and Still Standing. (USA Today Images)

  • Duke handled Michigan State in November’s Champions Classic, but a “true” champions classic would see the Blue Devils face undefeated Kentucky for the National Championship game on Monday night. Luckily for college basketball fans, that potential matchup is just one spectacular round away.
  • Big Blue Nation is notorious for traveling to games, but John Calipari isn’t so sure that the Wildcats will have a boost from the crowd in Indianapolis. “My hope is our [fans] have figured out how to get the tickets more than the other people, but you just don’t know,” he said.
  • Despite having a historic level of amateur talent, Kentucky has benefited from keeping that talent grounded off the court. Sports psychologist Bob Rotella visits Lexington every so often to keep the Wildcats loose and motivated. “The challenge, ultimately, is to get really talented people to go after it that intensely, with that much energy,” he said.
  • Kentucky walk-ons Sam Malone and Brian Long may not be heading to the NBA, but after this season, they’ll have played with possibly 21 future and current NBA players.
  • When it comes to getting his players to the professional ranks, John Calipari goes above and beyond the call of duty. Not only does he showcase each of his 10 (nine after junior Alex Poythress’ midseason injury) rotation players, but he even set up a pseudo Pro Day for his players before the season.

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Circle of March: Vol. XXV

Posted by rtmsf on March 30th, 2015

And then there were four, as in Final Four. What a weekend of basketball. We were gifted with several fantastic games that resulted in one of the best fields that we’ve seen on the sport’s biggest stage in quite some time. The Circle of March may be looking a little stark, but Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and Wisconsin will more than compensate with their oversized games. Is it Saturday evening yet?

2015_CircleofMarch_25

Eliminations (03.29.15)

  • Gonzaga
  • Louisville
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Non-Conference Scheduling: How Does the ACC Stack Up?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 2nd, 2015

While watching a Virginia Tech football game this year — or at least as much of it as I could stomach — I was reminded of head coach Frank Beamer’s reputation as a special teams guru. As the Hokies’ head coach back in the 1990s, Beamer’s approach to emphasizing special teams play was quite effective — he coached the kicking units himself and used his best athletes to cover, return and block kicks. After a few years of using this innovation, the media caught on and his teams’ reputation as great on special teams was established. About five to seven years ago, however, and despite announcers’ best efforts to remind us, it became apparent that Virginia Tech no longer had that same advantage. Crossing over to basketball this winter, any time Michigan State plays a November or December game, an announcer will inevitably say something like, “Tom Izzo ALWAYS plays a brutal non-conference schedule.” But is it actually true? As the Beamer example shows, once a public narrative is established, it’s very difficult to break.

Recently we looked at the ACC’s non-conference schedules and declared North Carolina the clear winner of the ACC’s competition for the toughest slate this season. Today we will examine how the Tar Heels and the other traditional ACC powers stack up in non-conference scheduling when compared with several of the other national programs. For this analysis we chose the 15 winningest college basketball programs of the last 10 years from the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and Big East. The underlying assumption is that top programs from each of these conferences should be fairly comparable in terms of scheduling opportunities to play whichever teams they want, including various made-for-TV contests and routine invitations to the major early-season tournaments. Teams like Gonzaga from the West Coast Conference were removed from the data set because their non-conference scheduling agendas are far different than those of the power conference schools. The full table, including five ACC schools — Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh — is below.

NonConf 10YrsWe ranked schools based on the average ranking between two metrics — KenPom strength of schedule (SOS) and Top 25 opponents. For overall SOS, we averaged the last 10 years using Pomeroy’s end-of-season non-conference schedule strength rating (which does not include postseason or non-Division I opponents). We also counted the number of Top 25 opponents (using KenPom’s final season ratings) each school played in the 10-year span, showing it as a per-year average. As you can see above, both Duke and North Carolina perform very well in both metrics, while recent ACC additions Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh struggle. Among non-ACC schools, Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas are clearly the other national programs willing to play the best non-conference opponents on an annual basis, and surprisingly, Michigan State ranks more in the middle of the pack despite what we are led to believe from most media members. How do things look when we feature the same ratings categories over the last five years instead?

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Big Ten M5: 12.22.14 Edition

Posted by Eric Clark on December 22nd, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye narrowed his list of potential schools to six on Sunday, tabbing Big Ten schools Wisconsin and Illinois as possible destinations. The former four-star recruit also listed Creighton, Washington, SMU and Oregon as potential landing spots. The Ottawa, Kansas, native saw little playing time as a true freshman in 2013-14, averaging only 1.6 points and 0.9 rebounds per game while appearing in 17 contests. This year, Ojeleye averaged 10.5 minutes per game while tallying 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, but he found his playing time slipping as freshman Justise Winslow serving as the second power forward behind Amile Jefferson. Ojeleye’s athleticism is off the charts and he’s got a solid long-range game. A 6’7 stretch forward with those kind of abilities would fit in well at Illinois or Wisconsin – or any other Big Ten squad, for that matter.
  2. Iowa took another one on the chin this weekend, dropping a game to Northern Iowa by a score of 56-44. Losing to an in-state rival is tough enough, but the Hawkeyes’ shooting and guard play has been lackluster at best. Iowa shot 27.5 percent from the floor and they currently rank 220nd and 272nd in two and three-point field goal percentage, respectively. Head coach Fran McCaffery has been very calm in his response to the players’ struggles. He told the media that he knows his players are good shooters and he’ll continue to have confidence in them. Anthony Clemmons is shooting a less-than-impressive 35.7 percent from the field – the best from all guards playing significant minutes. The Hawkeyes are already hurting without departed Roy Devyn Marble’s playmaking ability, and they’re going to have to make up for the team’s lack of athleticism with more jump shots. If they continue to be off the mark, then Big Ten play and 2015 won’t be kind to them.
  3. Michigan State’s overtime loss to Texas Southern was surprising, but it helped identify exactly how important Branden Dawson is to this Spartan squad. Michigan State doesn’t have a go-to player to create shots and take the reigns in late-game possessions, writes Graham Couch. And even with Dawson in the lineup, the Spartans still lack a spark on the wing. No Keith Appling, no Kalin Lucas, and no Drew Neitzel (a blast from the past, for certain). Michigan State ranks 318th n the country in free throw efficiency according to KenPom, a prime effect of having no go-to rim runner. The loss to lowly Texas Southern may have come at the right time, Couch added, as it showed that Michigan State can’t beat anyone without giving it all they’ve got – with or without Dawson. One thing is certain, though – the Spartans are in the market for a playmaking guard.
  4. Michigan head coach handed the starting center job to true freshman Ricky Doyle, removing redshirt freshman Mark Donnal from the starting lineup. Beilein made the move a day before the Wolverines dropped their fourth consecutive game in a loss to SMU. The offensive results were good for both Doyle and Donnal, as the two held the highest offensive ratings of any Michigan player. Defense was a different story. SMU’s Yanick Moreira led the Mustangs with 19 points, and Michigan was outrebounded 44-27. The Wolverines have been struggling to find consistency from their big men and there’s no doubt that they miss Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan. Michigan is experiencing some excruciating growing pains right now, but they should be able to get back on track against 1-9 Coppin State tonight, barring a repeat of the NJIT debacle.
  5. Penn State closes up its non-conference schedule tonight against Dartmouth as it eyes the program record for most non-conference wins. The Nittany Lions are 11-1, tied for tops in the conference. Those 11 wins aren’t exactly against the cream of the college basketball crop, though. As Ben Jones of statecollege.com found, Penn State only plays one team with a sub-100 KenPom ranking in its non-conference slate. The one-loss record sure looks good on paper, but few pundits trust that the success will last in conference play. Penn State opens with Wisconsin on New Year’s Eve – and KenPom is predicting a 17-point loss for Pat Chambers’ squad.
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Champions Classic Report Card: Grading Hoops’ Biggest Early-Season Event

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 19th, 2014

College basketball reentered the national consciousness on Tuesday night as familiar blue-bloods Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State squared off in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis. Let’s examine, assess and grade a few of the event’s most interesting themes and outcomes.

Kentucky’s platoon system: B+

Kentucky vs. Kansas lacked drama, but the Champions Classic remains a great event. (Darron Cummings AP)

Kentucky vs. Kansas may have lacked drama, but the Champions Classic remains a great event. (Darron Cummings AP)

With the glut of talent on this year’s Kentucky roster (as if Kentucky ever doesn’t possess a glut of talent), John Calipari has taken to a ‘platoon’ system wherein he substitutes five guys at a time – two entirely different lineups – throughout each game. That approach, seldom seen at college hoops’ highest level, went swimmingly on Tuesday night as the ‘Blue Platoon’ (38 points, seven blocks) and ‘White Platoon’ (28 points, four blocks) each had an important hand in dominating Kansas from start to finish. Works like a charm, right? Well, maybe. While Calipari denies that his scheme amounts to ‘communism,’ one does have to wonder if the more inefficient or ineffectual players will end up receiving too much playing time as a result of this strategy in the future. Let’s say, for example, that Marcus Lee is consistently less effective than his Blue Platoon counterpart for a prolonged stretch – it wouldn’t make much sense to continue giving him equal or similar minutes each night. That said, the Wildcats drubbed the Jayhawks by 32 points, and – as the saying goes – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Early-season drama: D-

This event has generally produced very good, very tight contests,in the previous three iterations, with only a few points separating each team. Even last year’s 11-point Kansas win over Duke – the Jabari Parker vs. Andrew Wiggins game – was tied with under five minutes to play. That level of drama was nowhere to be found on Tuesday night, however, as Duke largely controlled things for the full 40 minutes against Michigan State, and Kentucky absolutely manhandled Kansas. We’ve been spoiled up to this point and were probably due for a couple blowouts (it’s a testament to the consistent excellence of each program that the first three years were so good), but it’s still a bummer. Hopefully the drama returns in 2015.

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Where 2014-15 Happens: Reason #4 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 11th, 2014

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2014-15 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on November 14. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. For all of this year’s released posts, click here

#4 – Where Every Princess Needs a Prince Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-13 and 2013-14 preseasons.

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The RTC Podblast: Big Ten Preview Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2014

Welcome to conference preview season. In this, our third of eight conference preview RTC Podblasts that we’ll be rolling out before the dawn of the season, Big Ten microsite columnist Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) joins us to discuss the key storylines, teams and players to watch among the 14 teams of the Big Ten. As always, Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts the podblast, and the full rundown of topics is below. Make sure to tweet at us (@rushthecourt) if you have any opinion on which team should be the gang’s new favorite heading into the 2014-15 season.

Also remember to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. And don’t forget to check out our 2014-15 Preseason Storylines Podcast, and feel free to contact us at any time — we’re listening.

  • 0:00-6:41 – Wisconsin’s Place as Preseason Favorites
  • 6″41-12:17 – Searching for a Number Two Team
  • 12:17-23:42 – Potential Surprise Teams
  • 23:42-25:05 – Teams Set Up to Disappoint
  • 25:05-30:10 – Big Ten Star Power
  • 30:10-32:48 – Tournament Predictions for the League
  • 32:48-34:20 – Bold Calls
  • 34:20-37:10 – Randy’s New Favorite Team Nomination

 

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Big Ten M5: 11.03.14 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 3rd, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Can you believe that this upcoming year is Tom Izzo‘s 20th season in the Big Ten? Time certainly flies, doesn’t it? After this season he will become the third most-tenured coach in the nation after Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim. The Detroit Free Press recently asked the Michigan State head coach about the unexpected journey from when he first took the job in the mid-1990s to today. Regardless of when he retires from the game, Izzo will without question be one of the top four or five coaches in the history of Big Ten hoops. It is unlikely that he will get to his seventh Final Four this year without a true scoring threat on the roster, but it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to bet on him returning to the promised land before he retires in the next decade or so.
  2. Leadership is absolutely essential on a Final Four contender, and Michigan had two excellent ones over the past two seasons: Trey Burke during its run to the national championship game in 2012-13 and Nik Stauskas during its Elite Eight run last year. One of the reasons why the Wolverines aren’t likely to be a contender this season is their clear lack of leadership, but head coach John Beilein doesn’t seem to be worried about that too much. Junior wing Caris LeVert should carry most of the offensive load this year but he has long way to go before he can prove leadership similar to Stauskas or Burke. When asked about his ability to lead, LeVert said, “I think naturally, I’m kind of wanting to lead by example more, but the coaches have been pushing me and my teammates as well, to kind of talk more and be more vocal, on the court as well as off the court.”
  3. Indiana sophomore wing Devin Davis was seriously injured over the weekend in an accident involving a vehicle near Assembly Hall. According to his family, Davis is recovering very well, which should be positive news for Tom Crean’s squad. The following is the official statement: “As all parents can understand, the last 40+ hours have been difficult for us and for all of those who care about our son. Devin’s condition is improving and we know that there is a road to recovery ahead.” Davis only averaged 2.5 PPG last year and wasn’t expected to have a tremendous impact for the Hoosiers this season, but an event like this could have an adverse effect on the overall morale of a young team two weeks before the season tips off. His recovery is in all of our thoughts.
  4. With only two weeks left until season tip-off, scrimmages are useful for coaches to figure out their rotations. While Ohio State has a lot of question marks on offense with the departure of LaQuinton Ross, freshman D’Angelo Russell has provided some hope for the Buckeyes’ fans after his most recent performance. In addition to his scoring, he also comforted Thad Matta with his passing because he needs more ball-handlers to complement Shannon Scott. Speaking of Scott, he too had a good performance and should be one of the best guards in the Big Ten as a senior because he can push the pace faster than Aaron Craft.
  5. Continuing with the theme of scrimmages, Maryland‘s exhibition win on Saturday night provided more information about what to expect from the Terps in their first Big Ten season. The new-look team shot a whole bunch of perimeter jumpers — making 14 of 27 threes — which could be a consistent theme with this squad. Dez Wells in particular will need to be more consistent offensively if the Terps expect to have any shot of competing for an NCAA Tournament bid this season. He he shot a dismal 30.4 percent from deep last year, but he can do more damage in taking his man off the dribble than merely settling for deep jumpers.
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Where 2014-15 Happens: Reason #16 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2014

Here we go… headfirst into another season heralded by our 2014-15 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season completely guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on November 14. We’ve captured what we believe were the 30 most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head in astonishment. For all of this year’s released posts, click here

#16 – Where Defense Wins Championships Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-13 and 2013-14 preseasons.

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