A Three-Pac of Teams in the Sweet Sixteen Party

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 25th, 2015

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Four of our friends were invited to this party last weekend along with a bunch of other people. It’s been a crazy, crazy time. If I told you about everything that went down, it would probably burn off both your ears. We’ve got some stories we’ll tell the next time this group gets together, but for now, three of our crowd are still going strong. And the way things are going, there’s a chance at least one of this cast of characters closes this party down. Before we get to those party animals, let’s pay tribute to the one we lost along the way.

Oregon Is The Only Pac-12 Team To Leave The Party Early (USA Today)

Oregon is the Only Pac-12 Team To Leave The Party Early. (USA Today)

Oregon came into the year a complete mess. The offseason was literally scandalous. There was a whole new group of players to meet. Expectations were low. The whole thing could have gone off the rails at any time. Instead, chalk up a Pac-12 Player of the Year award, a Pac-12 Coach of the Year award, a second-place conference finish, an NCAA Tournament win and another chance to throw one hell of a scare into Wisconsin before fading late. By any reasonable measure, this season in Eugene will go down as a resounding success. Joseph Young’s trailblazing two years came to an end, but a fine young group of talented players remain in his stead. And frankly, a changing of the guard could be the breath of fresh air the program needs. Jordan Bell and Dillon Brooks will headline a group of talented sophomores, while Snoop Dogg Dwayne Benjamin will be the scrappy play-making veteran he established himself as this year. As long as Dana Altman returns along the sideline (which, given that previous scandal, is not exactly a 100 percent sure thing), there’s no reason to expect anything less than another strong upper-division finish next year from the Ducks. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Wisconsin 72, #8 Oregon 65

Posted by Eric Clark on March 22nd, 2015

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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. 

Frank the Tank Showed His Muscle as the Badgers are Sweet Sixteen Bound (USA Today Images)

Frank the Tank Showed His Muscle as the Badgers are Sweet Sixteen Bound (USA Today Images)

  1. Wisconsin survived a below-average performance. Wisconsin looked like it was in a funk for most of the game but the Badgers still showed flashes of the greatness that they exhibited during the regular season. Oregon hung around for most of the game before Bo Ryan’s team put the Ducks away late. Wisconsin rode a balanced attack from its starters and only turned the ball over six times, but this was not a performance that the Badgers will think fondly of. Nevertheless, they got the result they wanted — a trip to the Sweet Sixteen in Los Angeles. Wisconsin has shown few weaknesses this year so it’s not crazy that they experienced a bit of a lapse here today; what is crazy, though, is that they had such a lapse and still defeated an explosive Oregon team by seven points.
  2. Joe Young went down in a blaze of glory. The senior attempted 25 shots on Sunday, more than three times the Ducks’ second-most active shooter, Dillon Brooks. Young, who scored 30 points, might drive a casual college basketball fan up the wall with his gunner tendencies, but his domination of the offense is the very thing that makes Oregon go. He is really the only Duck who is capable of creating space to get his own shot, so Dana Altman’s strategy to ride him for as long as his team could was a reasonable one. Oregon’s going to miss the Pac-12 Player of the Year for his scoring and toughness, but Altman has proven that he can mold a good team around the strengths of his roster. The round of 32 felt like the limit for Joe Young and this year’s Oregon team, but they should be proud of the way they battled and challenged the most fundamentally sound team in the country.
  3. Sam Dekker’s stock grew tonight. Dekker has been somewhat of an afterthought with all the publicity centered around Frank Kaminsky this season, but tonight he showcased his entire basketball arsenal. He dunked, defended, blocked shots, sank threes and took care of the basketball. Without him lifting the Badgers, this game would have been even closer at the buzzer. He led the Badgers with 17 points and seven rebounds, but he did so without stealing the show. Dekker’s ability is so often hidden among Wisconsin’s great balance (outside of his magnificent dunks), so it’s great to see him get some of the recognition that he’s deserved all year long.

Star of the game. Sam Dekker. Dekker guided the Wisconsin offense through an atypically mediocre offensive performance here on Friday, sinking two clutch three-pointers and scoring 14 points in the second half to push the Badgers into the Round of 32. Dekker was the only Badger in double-figure scoring in the second stanza today, as he took over as the Badgers’ primary scorer in Sunday’s win.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Third Round, Sunday

Posted by RTC Staff on March 22nd, 2015

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For the majority of programs around the country, making the Sweet 16 is the start of what would be considered a “successful” season. While many of the programs set to participate in today’s Third Round have aspirations that extend well beyond the final 16, making it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament has always been a mark of accomplishment. After today, eight teams will punch their ticket to next week. Here are eight preview’s of Sunday’s games.

#2 Virginia vs. #7 Michigan State – East Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 12:10 PM ET on CBS

Virginia faces Michigan State for the second-straight March. (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)

Virginia faces Michigan State for the second-straight March. (Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

The good news for Virginia is that Justin Anderson – still recovering from a broken finger – looked more like his old self against Belmont on Friday, scoring 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting and earning several trips to the free throw line. The bad news is that its vaunted defense allowed the #15-seeded Bruins to shoot 59 percent from two-point range and hang around for most of the afternoon. Michigan State, meanwhile, made relatively easy work of Georgia. Which makes one wonder: Is an upset a-brewin’ in Charlotte? Belmont found success by using its three-point barrage to spread out the Cavaliers’ Pack-Line defense, then exploiting the resultant lanes. The Spartans – while not quite as deep-ball oriented – attempt over one-third of their shots from behind the arc and hit nearly 39 percent of the time. On top of that, Tom Izzo’s club is very effective on both the offensive and defensive glass, led by rejuvenated forward Branden Dawson (12 PPG, 9 RPG). If Michigan State can stretch the defense, penetrate those openings and create second-chance opportunities, it might be able to find success against America’s second-most-efficient defense. Unfortunately, if Anderson takes another step forward, that might not be enough. With the 6’6” wing knocking down perimeter jumpers and attacking the lane on Friday, Virginia scored 1.22 points per possession – its most since February 28th – and looked much closer to the patient-but-efficient offense that dominated opponents in December and January. No matter how well the Spartans spread the floor, they are never going to score at will against Tony Bennett’s defense – no one does – so their ability to get stops will become crucial. But if Anderson is earning trips to free throw line and scorching from behind the arc, I’m not sure Izzo’s bunch can get enough stops to win this game. Expect Michigan State to stay within striking distance for 35-plus minutes, but count on Anderson to make the difference in the end.

The RTC Certified Pick: Virginia

#1 Duke vs. #8 San Diego State — South Region Third Round (at Charlotte, NC) — 2:40 pm ET on CBS

Steve Fisher is Leading This Year's Aztecs to Unexpected Success (Getty Images/K. Horner)

Steve Fisher vs. Coach K? Sign me up! (Getty Images/K. Horner)

Duke and San Diego State will play for the first ever in what highlights as an extremely intriguing matchup. The Aztecs were clinical in discarding St. John’s Friday night, even showing an unusual accuracy from three-point range (9-of-22 on threes). When Steve Fisher’s team can find ways to score the basketball – from three-point range or elsewhere – they become a difficult team to beat. There is little inconsistency to the Aztecs’ efforts on the defensive end, where they regularly cause intense trauma to opponents. That defensive activity is what should have Coach K’s attention right about now. Duke guards Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones stand 6’2” and 6’1”, respectively; no Aztec guard is shorter than 6’3”, and wings like Winston Shepard (6’8”) and Dwayne Polee (6’7”) will also take turns harassing Duke’s pair of star guards. The Blue Devils did manage well against Virginia and their bigger group of guards, but San Diego State presents a longer, more athletic challenge than even the Cavaliers. Of course, the question on the flip side is one that has long plagued the Aztecs: How will SDSU score points? Duke’s defense has taken nights off this year, sure, but there should be some trust that Coach K can devise a game plan capable of removing easy-bucket opportunities. The Aztecs’ best bet may be a continuation of the long-range prowess they displayed Friday night. There are guys on the roster who can knock down those deep shots – Quinn, Shrigley and Polee prime among them. Can they hit enough to complement the terrifying SDSU defense?

San Diego State would be a more appealing pick to pull the stunner if this game were not being played in Charlotte. As is, they are faced with defeating a #1 seed in a virtual road game, a proposition that even the strongest of stylistic matchups can fail to enact. Duke should be scared – the Aztecs are a truly scary matchup in this spot – but expect San Diego State to fall a shot or two short of swinging the upset. Duke will leave the home cooking behind in advancing to Houston.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reaction: #8 Oregon 79, #9 Oklahoma State 73

Posted by Eric Clark on March 20th, 2015

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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.

Joe Young Was a Load For Oklahoma State to Handle Today (USA Today Images)

Joe Young Was a Load For Oklahoma State to Handle Today (USA Today Images)

  1. The game was a beautiful, ugly mess. Oregon and Oklahoma State each had 12 turnovers and played little to no defense – but it led to an exciting game with plenty of runs and a quick tempo. Combined, the Ducks and Cowboys shot 48 three-pointers and connected on 17 of them. The extra pass was rarely made by either team on any occasion, as the two teams combined to register for 22 assists. Throw in the color-on-color jersey matchup with Oregon in highlighter yellow and Oklahoma State in highlighter orange, and the game was a glorious blur. If dunks were tallied on the postgame box score, we’d give you the exact number – but trust me when I say there were approximately 1,000. Oregon gets the unenviable task of (probably) taking on Wisconsin in the next round. The Badgers, they of preposterous efficiency, had to be salivating at the sight of this #8/#9 contest. Oregon is explosive in both a good and disastrous way (check out its most recent Pac-12 performance against Arizona), and that plays precisely into Wisconsin’s hands.
  2. Joe Young has no fear. Young began the first half by primarily sticking to pull-up jumpers and three-pointers, whether it was on the fast break or in a half-court set. He came out of his shell in the second half, particularly when he blew by Oklahoma State’s Anthony Hickey and threw down an emphatic left-handed dunk. Young showcased his versatility as a scorer (27 points), beating the Cowboys every which way and confirming his status as the Pac-12 Player of the Year. He played every single minute on Friday night and seemingly never ran out of gas. His four turnovers are simply a byproduct of his aggressiveness, and that’s something the Ducks are going to have to live with for the remainder of his career. But Young is Oregon’s sparkplug, catalyst and leader. He kept himself fresh on offense, picking up no fouls and only getting one steal, but he’s not out there to dominate defensively. He does his best work with the ball in his hands.
  3. Le’Bryan Nash ended his career on a sour note. Nash is undoubtedly a professional talent, but his final game as a Cowboy will certainly leave an ugly mark on his collegiate career. While he was solid on the boards, he matched his rebound total in turnovers with seven. His 18 points were a team-high but those turnovers were incredibly costly – not to mention surprising. A big, strong player like Nash probably shouldn’t have the ball taken away so easily in the post as he did tonight. He voiced his disappointment at the postgame press conference, and it’s hard to see such a good player go out that way. March Madness is odd – it gives us insanely dramatic storylines, makes heroes out of unknowns, and ends careers abruptly. Luckily for Nash, his basketball career isn’t over. Hopefully his last NCAA Tournament performance will only further his motivation to become a solid professional player somewhere.

Star of the game. Joe Young, Oregon. The Pac-12’s best gunner and electric floor general was phenomenal, putting up 27 points, canning 8-of-8 free throws and dishing our four assists in the process. He showed he could do it all, from acrobatic layups to long jumpers and even a couple of contested dunks. Even though he had plenty of support from Dillon Brooks (17 points) and Elgin Cook (18 points), it was Young who was the Cowboys’ primary concern and ultimately, their downfall, here on Friday.

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NCAA Game Analysis: Second Round, Friday Evening

Posted by RTC Staff on March 20th, 2015

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In what was certainly one of the most competitive and jam-packed “opening” days in NCAA Tournament history, Friday’s slate of games will have a hard time following Thursday’s remarkable act. However, today offers a fair share of fascinating matchups as well. Here is a preview of Friday’s evening games.

#8 Oregon vs. #9 Oklahoma State – West Region First Round (at Omaha, NE) – 6:50 PM ET on TBS.

The game plan is simple when playing Oregon: Stop Joe Young. (USA TODAY Sports)

The game plan is simple when playing Oregon: Stop Joe Young. (USA TODAY Sports)

For the Ducks, it all begins and ends with Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young. A deadly shooter, Young is stroking it at 36.1% from three (a career-low), 50.3% from two and 92.6% from the free throw line. He’s adept as a pull-up shooter from deep, a catch-and-shoot guy coming off a screen or on the bounce and on the attack. He’s scored 20 or more 17 different times this season. In other words: stop Young, stop the Ducks. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they don’t appear to have a ready-made matchup for Young, unless they put 6’6” Le’Bryan Nash – ostensibly a power forward on this team – on him. On the other end of the court, the Ducks can throw a combination of Dwayne Benjamin, Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks at Nash – the ‘Pokes leading scorer – and feel relatively comfortable, while they’ll let Young, or any of their other fresh guards, chase Phil Forte off screens and try to limit his clean three-point looks. In the end, the Cowboys are more reliant on three-point shooting, while the Ducks can score in all three ranges. Unless Forte and senior Anthony Hickey get super hot from deep, the Ducks should have the edge

The RTC Certified Pick: Oregon

#1 Duke vs. #16 Robert Morris – South Region Second Round (at Charlotte, NC) – 7:10 PM ET on CBS.

Robert Morris sprung a mild upset in Dayton on Wednesday, knocking off favored North Florida in impressive fashion. To further extend their season, the Colonials will need another unexpected victory, but quite obviously, this upset may be slightly less attainable. Duke has had their share of recent struggles in the Tournament’s second round, but stubbed toes against foes such as Mercer and Lehigh can only offer RMU so much solace. Jahlil Okafor dominated small-conference foes in November and December – the Colonials, like almost every team in America, has no player capable of slowing Duke’s freshman star. Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones have proven virtually unstoppable as a duo: stopping one is possible, but forcing poor shooting nights from both is rare. The Colonials made only 4-of-16 three-point field goals against North Florida but have shot the three-ball well this season (37.7 percent). Getting hot from long range would be a great way for Andy Toole’s team to begin the task of hanging around in this game. To finish that chore — even if it ends in defeat — Robert Morris will need to pitch a perfect game. This is the life of a #16 seed, and while it’ll be Duke moving on to face the winner of San Diego State-St. John’s, Robert Morris should head home with heads held high, a proud season in the books.

The RTC Certified Pick: Duke Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: About Those Tourney Teams?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 18th, 2015

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Four Pac-12 teams are going dancing. And we’ve got four Burning Questions. Coincidence? Yeah, probably. But, below, you’ll get takes from Adam Butler and Andrew Murawa about what to expect from the teams around the Conference of Champions this week and beyond.

Q: So, UCLA’s in the Tournament. On a scale of 1 to Holy Crap Really! how surprised are you. And can they do anything with their good fortune?

Adam Butler: I don’t know why but when the Bruins’ name was called on Sunday I wasn’t all that shocked. It makes no sense because they haven’t impressed by the numbers or the eyeball tests. But at the same time I like so many things about this team in a tournament setting. They’re the only Pac-12 team to keep things close on two occasions with Arizona and – while I don’t love moral victories – that’s something. Of course the committee doesn’t pay attention to any of the storylines so it’s not like Larry Brown ever coached UCLA or anything. I remain concerned about the Bruins’ cohesiveness but if all I need is to win one game, it’s hard not to at least be somewhat impressed with Kevon Looney and Norman Powell.

Yep, we had the same reaction, Bryce. (AP)

Yep, we had the same reaction, Bryce. (AP)

Andrew Murawa: I’m definitely all the way over on the Holy Crap Really! side of things. I just don’t get how the Bruins have done anything to deserve playing in this Tournament. They have home wins over Oregon and Utah which are, yeah, whatever, fine. Beyond that, the biggest smiley-face on their report card is only losing by an average of eight points in their two games against Arizona. Is that all you need to do these days? Play in a big conference and lose to good teams? All that said, when the Bruins have things clicking, they’re pretty fearsome. Tony Parker is coming along in the post, Kevon Looney makes “Wow!” plays on a regular basis, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton have proven themselves capable of big games. And Norman Powell is just playing lights out right now. This is a team that could beat SMU by 20. Or go 10 minutes without a bucket in the second half and fade into obscurity.

Q: Oregon gets an #8 seed and has to play Oklahoma State in Omaha. Did the Ducks get screwed?

AM: Given the lack of any truly notable wins on their non-conference slate, the Ducks’ relatively strong finish to the season in a weak Pac-12 shouldn’t really hold much sway. And it didn’t. But the fact that they’ve got to go to Big 12 country to play a Cowboys team that really didn’t do a whole lot to earn much good favor can’t sit well either.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: How Great Was That Pac-12 Tournament?

Posted by Andrew Murawa & Adam Butler on March 16th, 2015

Another March to Vegas has concluded and now the Pac-12 conference takes its talents to a national stage. But, before we dig deeper into what’s coming in this year’s NCAA Tournament, Adam Butler and Andrew Murawa discuss what went down at the MGM over the weekend with a series of important questions.

Q: Brandon Ashley was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He shot 19-of-26 across three games and clearly deserved the award. After the junior, however, there were some other great performances. Who was your non-Ashley Most Outstanding Player?

At Precisely The Right Moment, Brandon Ashley Is Playing His Best Ball (Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)

At Precisely The Right Moment, Brandon Ashley Is Playing His Best Ball. (Casey Sapio/USA TODAY Sports)

Adam Butler: I would like the record to show that I said Brandon Ashley was fantastic. After him, the guy I’d most like to call out is UCLA’s Norman Powell. He scored 35 points on 47 percent shooting. Solid numbers, yes, but I’d most like to highlight his effort against Arizona. As the nation questions UCLA’s qualifications as an NCAA-worthy team, the committee alluded to the Bruins passing the eyeball test. If you had eyeballs on the UCLA-Arizona game, specifically. For large portions of that game he got his and his effort was similar throughout the last month of the year.

Andrew Murawa: The funny thing is that, as well as Brandon Ashley played, I could easily make a case for at least three of his teammates. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a defensive dynamo and T.J. McConnell is above reproach. But Stanley Johnson remains an absolute freak (16.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG). And in the one game over the weekend where the ‘Cats actually had a chance to lose, it was Johnson who stepped into a three-pointer and effectively sealed the game. Sure, at times he gets caught somewhere between over-exuberance and offensive-foul-induced passivity. But when Johnson is making jumpers like he did at the MGM, the Wildcats are darn near impossible to beat. Read the rest of this entry »

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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Pac-12 Teams

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 16th, 2015

Three Pac-12 teams turned on the Selection Show Sunday knowing they’d hear their names called. A fourth turned it on probably expecting to be disappointed. Below we’ll break down those four conference teams, from highest seed to lowest.

Arizona's Path To The Elite Eight Makes Them The NCAA's Unofficial Fifth #1 Seed (USA Today)

Arizona’s Path To The Elite Eight Makes the Wildcats the NCAA’s Unofficial Fifth #1 Seed (USA Today)

Arizona (#2 seed, West Region). The Wildcats certainly have the type of resume that would have landed them squarely on the #1 seed line in most seasons. But in a year with many qualified contenders for the top line, Arizona has no reason to be disappointed. The Wildcats got a #2 seed out West where they’ll play first weekend games in Portland before advancing to the regional in Los Angeles. Fan support in both places will be high, so it’s realistic to view Arizona as this year’s fifth #1 seed. Now that certainly doesn’t mean we can pencil them into the Final Four because, you see, that #1 seed in their region is none other than Wisconsin, a high-caliber team in their own right. Over the weekend in Las Vegas, Sean Miller‘s program exorcised the demon of not having won a Pac-12 Tournament since 2002. For Miller to kill off that other big demon – the tag of being the best head coach to have never made a Final Four – the Wildcats may get a chance to avenge last year’s overtime regional final loss to Wisconsin, again in the Elite Eight.

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Five Takeaways from Championship Week Saturday

Posted by Henry Bushnell on March 15th, 2015

As we reach the pinnacle of Championship Week over the next few days, we’ll take a breath each morning to run down the top five storylines from the previous day’s action. With the Selection Show now hours away, here are the headline makers from Saturday’s games.

1. Notre Dame Stuns North Carolina

Notre Dame Notched Its First Conference Tournament Championship Ever (USA Today Images)

Notre Dame Notched Its First Conference Tournament Championship Ever (USA Today Images)

Halfway through the second half of yesterday’s ACC championship game, I was all prepared to rave about the boys in baby blue. North Carolina came out of the gates fast in the second half and looked to be on its way to another ACC Tournament championship. At the same time I was legitimately thinking about the Tar Heels as a possible Final Four team. They’d already knocked off Louisville and Virginia on consecutive nights and had been impressive in doing so. But then Notre Dame happened. The Tar Heels didn’t necessarily fall flat, but when the Irish’s 26-3 run came it was as if the two teams were playing a different game. With its many talented shooters and ball-handlers, Notre Dame presented the Tar Heels with matchup problems that it eventually exploited. Their ball movement was exceptional. Carolina, of course, will be just fine and is still a candidate for a deep NCAA Tourney run, but Notre Dame’s ACC crown this weekend was a real head-turner. When the Irish are running hot, they can beat anybody in the country — they may also have elevated themselves to a #2 seed with their play over the last three days.

2. Iowa State Does it Again

Down 14 at halftime, Iowa State had Kansas… um, right where it wanted the Jayhawks? Apparently. The Cyclones have made a strange habit of staging colossal second-half comebacks this season. In their previous four games, they had rallied from deficits of 11, 16, 10 and 21 points to win all four. So when Kansas took a 17-point lead early in the second half, the Cyclones didn’t panic. Fred Hoiberg’s bunch simply decided it was their time to push forward. Jameel McKay and Georges Niang led a seemingly inevitable 17-2 run that got Iowa State right back in the game, and although the Jayhawks went down swinging, the Cyclones eventually pulled through. Fred Hoiberg’s team has so many weapons that it will be a unique and extremely tricky challenge for anybody for the rest of March.

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Joseph Young Makes a Statement at Pac-12 Tournament

Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 14th, 2015

When it was announced on Monday that Joseph Young had earned the votes of the majority of the Pac-12 coaches and had been named the conference’s Player of the Year, the news was met with surprise around much of the conference. In Salt Lake City and Tucson, it was met with derision. Despite leading the conference in scoring, carrying his inexperienced Oregon club to a surprising second place conference finish, and revising his game to further the goals of the team, Utah and Arizona fans thought that their senior guards – namely, Delon Wright and T.J. McConnell – had stronger claims on that title. They viewed the conference tournament this weekend in Las Vegas as an opportunity to make such statements.

Young made his own statement to the assembled crowd at the MGM Grand Arena on Thursday, scoring 20 of his game-high 30 points in the second half as his Ducks soared past Colorado. Last night, he took that statement nationwide, drilling a 30-foot three-point game-winner as time expired to send the Ducks to the championship game against Arizona. It’s the kind of play that will be shown time and again in future years in Pac-12 Tournament clips, and it is the kind of play that will re-introduce Young to the casual college basketball fans. I’ve already seen it four times on ESPN in the 20 minutes since I’ve gotten back to my hotel room.

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Five Takeaways from Championship Week Friday

Posted by Henry Bushnell on March 14th, 2015

As we reach the pinnacle of Championship Week over the next few days, we’ll take a breath each morning to run down the top five storylines from the previous day’s action. There were 44 games spread across 18 conference tournaments on Friday — here’s the TL;DR version of what happened.

1. Which ACC Loss Was More Troubling: Duke or Virginia?

The story of Championship Week Friday is a complex one, but it has to open with what transpired in Greensboro last night. Top-seeded Virginia and second-seeded Duke were toppled in the ACC semifinals by North Carolina and Notre Dame, respectively; and both upsets, in their own ways, were startling. First, there’s Virginia, which in a 71-67 loss gave up more points than it had in any other contest in conference play. Despite a late Cavaliers’ charge, the Tar Heels led the game from wire to wire and made Tony Bennett’s team look frighteningly ordinary for about 35 minutes of action. In the nightcap, Notre Dame, a little over a month after being waxed by Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, got its revenge. The Fighting Irish held the high-powered Blue Devils to 0.97 points per possession in a 74-64 win.

Notre Dame All Smiles After Last Night's Big Win (USA Today Images)

Notre Dame All Smiles and Hugs After Last Night’s Big Win (USA Today Images)

So which loss is more worrying? I’d have to say Virginia’s. Duke was outplayed by the Irish but the primary reason the Blue Devils lost was a 3-of-17 shooting mark from beyond the arc. On the other hand, Virginia doesn’t look like the same team it was earlier this year. The Cavaliers have continued to dominate lesser teams on the defensive end, but when they are coming face to face with teams that can match up with them physically, they don’t look nearly as special. Furthermore, Justin Anderson’s return — zero points in 26 minutes over two games — is troubling. Virginia fans should be somewhat worried.

2. Can Iowa State and Oklahoma Play Every Week?

The Cyclones and Sooners played another barnburner in the second Big 12 semifinals Friday night. Both regular season clashes had been instant classics, and while Friday’s meeting was maybe a tad more sensible — as in there were no 20-point comebacks or 59-point halves — it was back and forth all game long. In the end, Iowa State who pulled out a 67-65 victory when Ryan Spangler missed a bunny at the rim that would have tied the game. The Cyclones get a rubber match with Kansas Saturday, which will be another episode of Big 12 must-watch television.

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Circle of March: Vol. XIII

Posted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2015

What a Friday of college basketball. Bookended by Davidson’s buzzer-beater in the Atlantic 10 to Oregon’s in the Pac-12, it was a wild and wooly day across 18 conference tournaments that resulted in another 27 removals from the Circle of March. With approximately 36 hours until the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68 is announced, we still have 96 eligible teams still bubbling along. Admittedly, there are a few names on the CoM that probably don’t stand much of a chance at an at-large bid, but the Selection Committee has surprised us all before so we’re erring on the side of caution for the next couple of days. Enjoy Championship Saturday — 15 more teams will join the 12 who are already automatically qualified in a college hoops extravaganza of action.

2015_CircleofMarch_V13

Eliminations (03.13.15)

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