AAC M5: 03.28.14 Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on March 28th, 2014

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  1. When the next AAC Morning 5 is published, only four teams will remain to vie for a national championship. Will an AAC school be one of them? Both AAC squads still remaining, Louisville and Connecticut, will hit the floor in their respective regional semifinals tonight. While Louisville will face a familiar foe in Kentucky, Connecticut will experience some familiarity of its own by playing in Madison Square Garden. It will be a nostalgic night for the Connecticut faithful, especially for former coach Jim Calhoun. Calhoun built Connecticut into a basketball power after taking over the program in 1986 and had great success in the Garden.
  2. Last year on the way to a national championship, Louisville guard Russ Smith could lean on the play of big man Gorgui Dieng and backcourt mate Peyton Siva. Those two have since moved on to the NBA, but that doesn’t mean Smith isn’t getting help from them. Smith said he talks almost daily with the two, mainly asking for advice about leadership. “It’s been really tough not to have them on the court with me,” he said. “They helped me so much last year.” Siva took Smith under his wing from the moment he stepped on campus. Siva’s advice to Smith: Don’t stress what other people are saying and just play your game. Dieng said Smith needed to stand up if something was going bad and now he understands and does so.
  3. Louisville assistant coach Kevin Keatts will be the next head coach at UNC-Willmington, unless of course, he didn’t actually graduate from college. It marks the fourth assistant-to-head coach move in four years from Louisville. He is known as one of the best recruiters in the game and played a large role in signing Montrezl Harrell, Luke Hancock, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier, all players that will be a major part of the Cardinals’ Sweet 16 game tonight with Kentucky. Keatts was also instrumental in the landing of the Louisville 2014 recruiting class headlined by guard Quentin Snider.
  4. Sean Vinsel of cardsandcatsstats.com welcomes the Sweet Sixteen match-up between Kentucky and Louisville. The Indiana grad’s website breaks down both teams statistically using measures not usually seen in the college game such as NBA’s plus/minus system. Louisville’s most productive line-up according to Vinsel is Chris Jones, Russ Smith, Wayne Blackshear, Montrezl Harrell and Stephan Van Treese. Kentucky’s is the Harrison twins, James Young, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. The X-factors, he said, will be Luke Hancock and Cauley-Stein.
  5. Larry Brown said SMU owes everything to its fans. The Mustangs faithful made NIT home games feel like regular season finales with a conference championship on the line. SMU won 12 out of 13 games at Moody Coliseum this season, including the third round NIT victory over California, securing a spot at Madison Square Garden. “I think it plays a big part,” Senior Shawn Williams said of the crowd. “Those five-or-six-point runs turn into 10-or-12-point runs with the crowd.” The Mustangs were hoping for an NCAA Tournament berth, but a chance to play three more games at home wasn’t a bad consolation prize.
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AAC M5: 01.14.14 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on January 14th, 2014

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  1. I understand the value of coaches’ speeches and motivational tactics, but don’t put too much stock into rhetoric when it comes to impacting the team’s play on the floor. That said, asking his players to stop trying to live up to last year’s team seems like the right message for Rick Pitino to be sending right now. Even we here at the AAC microsite started the season expecting Louisville to look very similar to last year’s team, but it didn’t take long to realize how much the Cardinals would miss Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng. The national championship picture is pretty wide open and anyone who says they are confident about their chances is probably saying it through gritted teeth. Pitino is well aware of this, and while the Cardinals have probably dropped out of the conversation altogether with their recent play, Pitino knows there is still major talent on his roster and that in March, anything can happen. If the message gets through to guys like Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear and they start to consistently pick up their play, the Cards still have more than a puncher’s chance at repeating.
  2. Raise your hand if you saw UConn center Amida Brimah‘s performance against Central Florida coming? After scoring 37 total points in the first 15 games of his career and taking a grand total of three shots in his previous four games, the freshman exploded for 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting while chipping in eight rebounds and five blocks as the Huskies won their first conference game of the season. It might be a little early to say Brimah is “beginning to blossom” considering the small sample size and quality of the opponent, but if Brimah can even contribute a fraction of that performance on a nightly basis, head coach Kevin Ollie would probably be ecstatic. Much has already been made about UConn’s underwhelming frontcourt and Brimah probably has the most upside of anyone in that rotation, but he just needs to learn to stay out of foul trouble and play more consistently. Brimah has been playing basketball for fewer than five years now and his talents are obvious to everybody. He is going to be a really good player down the road; it would just be nice for Ollie and the team if he could start to fulfill that potential a little ahead of schedule.
  3. It’s hardly a secret anymore that Ge’Lawn Guyn‘s grasp on the starting point guard role for Cincinnati is in name only, and that freshman Troy Caupain is the better and more trusted player right now. That’s not a knock on Guyn, who is a nice veteran presence to have in the rotation, but it’s more an indication of Caupain’s ability and upside. It should be required to mention that Caupain celebrated his 18th birthday fewer than two months ago and he is playing with poise, shooting the ball extremely well, and showing flashes of vast defensive potential. Many pundits felt that the Bearcats would only be as good as whomever took over for Cashmere Wright this season, and if you have been watching, Caupain is getting better every game and the Bearcats have been improving along with him. Caupain has an NBA frame but is still very obviously growing into his body, so the tough grind of a full season should be somewhat concerning to head coach Mick Cronin. He needs the freshman at his best if Cronin wants to take the Bearcats back to the Sweet Sixteen.
  4. Is it too early to start drumming up support for South Florida guard Anthony Collins to get a medical redshirt and retain two years of eligibility? Isn’t there someone who can issue a preemptive strike about the hypocrisy of the NCAA so that Collins can get his year back hassle-free? Injuries have temporarily derailed Collins’ promising career, and although he has played in eight games for the Bulls this season, lingering issues with his knee never allowed him to get back to 100 percent and now he is sidelined indefinitely again. I am sure the NCAA will take a look at the fact that Collins played in eight games after getting cleared by the team, but since the decisions on transfer waivers and redshirts have been so consistently arbitrary, there is no good reason for the NCAA to deny Collins an extra year. It’s not his fault that he had an inflamed bursa sac over the summer and has been forced to deal with continued tendinitis in the same knee. Nobody is trying to take advantage of anyone in this situation and the right thing to is just give him the extra year. All aboard the bandwagon!
  5. Houston never looked that good when they were at full strength, so it is incredibly impressive what they have been able to do in their first three conference games without the services of Danuel House or L.J. Rose – a pair of starters and two of the team’s best players. The team is 2-1 in conference play with a one-point loss to unbeaten Cincinnati as its lone blemish and a match-up with Louisville looming on Thursday. There may be good news on the way, though, as both Rose and House are considered “questionable” to return on Thursday and coach James Dickey said he is “more optimistic” that the duo will play. The Cougars travel to the YUM! Center this week, so even with House and Rose at full strength and no rust it will be an uphill battle against the Cardinals; but they may benefit from being thrown to the fire and their return has much greater long-term implications for the team than just Thursday’s game.
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Louisville Is Not (Yet) Who We Thought They Were

Posted by Will Tucker on November 26th, 2013

One year to the day after eventual national champion Louisville fell to a different ACC team in a different non-conference tournament, the program’s longest winning streak ended with a 93-84 whimper against North Carolina on Sunday. Aside from the date, the two losses couldn’t have been more different. Last year’s team admirably traded punches with an Elite Eight-caliber Duke squad playing at full strength; this season’s squad was a Russ Smith 36-point performance away from getting run out of the gym by what appeared to be a borderline Top 25 team playing without its best player.

(Michael Dwyer / AP)

Louisville’s porous transition defense gave up a number of demoralizing buckets (Michael Dwyer / AP)

Simply put, the Cardinals are not yet what we expected them to be. As much as they dazzled on both ends of the floor in five dominant wins, new starters Chris Jones and Montrezl Harrell were exposed as behind schedule defensively by North Carolina’s skill and athleticism. Jones scores baskets in ways that Peyton Siva rarely attempted in college, but that’s not what Rick Pitino needs out of his point guard this year. Against the Tar Heels’ efficient transition offense, Jones struggled to get back into position several times – sometimes seeming a little too eager to gamble on a steal or an offensive rebound – resulting in some of the uncontested dunks and layups that helped UNC shoot a strong 55 percent from inside the arc.

Nor did his on-ball defense live up to prior performances: Pitino’s new point guard forced only one steal, while the Louisville press generated a season-low 18 percent turnover rate, a full 10 percent below its average. In fairness to Jones, Russ Smith was as much to blame for this issue, recording only a single steal himself. Smith’s explosive offense has distracted from the fact that his steal percentage has dipped noticeably this season, although that probably speaks to the growing pains the Cardinals’ new lineup is experiencing more than a sudden deficiency on Smith’s part.

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AAC M5: 11.18.13 Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 18th, 2013

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  1. Despite the fact that he was practicing and had played some in the preseason, Kevin Ware didn’t make his official return to the court until Friday when he played 13 minutes and scored five points in Louisville‘s romp over Cornell. Ware didn’t seem to be feeling any lingering pain from last season’s gruesome leg injury and that is good news not just for Ware’s basketball future but also the Cardinals’ prospects on the court. Assuming Ware continues to work his way back into coach Rick Pitino’s rotation, the Cardinals will boast one of the deepest and best backcourts in the entire country. Somewhat lost in the concern over whether Ware would ever play again was the fact that Ware developed into a pretty good player last season. It doesn’t seem like Chris Jones will have any trouble replacing Peyton Siva at point guard and Russ Smith is one of the best in the country at his position, but it’s still nice to have such a talented security blanket for both positions.
  2. Temple is the only team in the conference that has lost more than one game this season and that is because the Owls  haven’t figured out how to hold on to a second-half lead yet. To be fair, Temple has played the conference’s most difficult schedule to this point, but the opportunities to win all of their games have been there. They led for all but the final four minutes of the loss to Kent State, and they led for all but the final five minutes of the loss to Towson. They also very nearly kicked away a big second half lead in the season-opening win against Penn. The struggle to close out games isn’t terribly surprising considering the Owls are very young and inexperienced, but that excuse also won’t help the team’s case in March if they find themselves perched precariously on the bubble. It is pretty clear there is talent in North Philadelphia but it will be up to coach Fran Dunphy and his veteran leaders to make sure there is discipline as well.
  3. Cincinnati picked up a mostly irrelevant win Saturday over Appalachian State but we may have seen the light go on for freshman point guard Troy Caupain. The freshman was pressed into a larger role when starter Ge’Lawn Guyn left early in the game with a right knee injury and he didn’t disappoint, filling the box score with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, four rebounds, and four assists. The performance did come against an overmatched opponent, but if Caupain can continue to play that well it would be huge for a Bearcats team with big questions about the point guard position heading into the season. Cashmere Wright was the team’s offensive engine last season, and now that he has graduated, many wondered how Cincinnati would score points without its best playmaker. Guyn is a steady and experienced hand, but at 6’3″ and 200 pounds, Caupain has more talent and upside, meaning his development will play a big role in how well the Bearcats’ offense operates this season.
  4. South Florida thumped Bowling Green Friday night to give head coach Stan Heath his 200th career victory. It would be a more impressive milestone if Heath didn’t also have 186 career losses, but hey, a coach on the bubble will take what he can get. The game also marked the return of point guard Anthony Collins, who played 26 minutes and finished with seven points and five assists and didn’t appear to be affected by his surgically repaired left knee. The Bulls have won their first three games of the season rather easily, but we still don’t know anything about the team because the Falcons are the best team they have faced thus far and they are not very good at all. The good news is that Corey Allen has been something of a revelation albeit against vastly inferior competition and freshman big man John Egbunu has the look of a legitimate post presence already. The bad news is that the Bulls are still going to struggle to score points as their schedule gets more difficult, and it gets more difficult in a hurry as they welcome Oklahoma State to town a week from today.
  5. It wasn’t pretty. Well, it was actually pretty ugly and uninspiring, but Rutgers came away from its weekend bout with mighty Yale with a one-point win and some guts in coming from behind and getting the win when senior J.J. Moore hit a clutch three-pointer when a layup could have tied the game. Unfortunately, the struggle also exposed one of the Scarlet Knights’ major flaws – rebounding. The team outrebounded Yale but firsthand observers weren’t fooled because outrebounding Yale is a lot easier than doing the same against Cincinnati or Memphis. The Scarlet Knights have some size up front in Kadeem Jack, Wally Judge and Greg Lewis, but Judge and Lewis have yet to get going and depth is nonexistent behind that trio, so rebounding will need to be a point of emphasis for the team going forward. Eddie Jordan really only has eight players to work with, so there are going to be a lot of holes that will need patching up along the way. Still, for now, getting after it on the glass will be especially important for this team as the schedule becomes more difficult.
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What We Learned in the AAC’s First Weekend

Posted by Will Tucker on November 11th, 2013

The inaugural weekend of American Athletic Conference basketball is in the books, and the nine members who kicked off their seasons each emerged from their first contest unscathed. We took a quick look at a couple of the early story lines from around the league.

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Chris Jones gives Louisville a major scoring threat at point guard (Brandon Fry/Card Chronicle)

Will: Louisville’s Chris Jones appears to be a more-than-adequate replacement for Peyton Siva. While Siva’s value, particularly as an on-ball defender, was indispensable to the Cardinals’ national championship, Jones looked no less critical to Louisville’s offense than his predecessor in his first game. Racking up 12 points, six rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes during their win against College of Charleston, Jones’ value was most obvious when he was off the court, at which point the Cardinals’ offense seemed stagnant with Russ Smith and freshman Terry Rozier sharing ball-handling responsibilities. In addition to an ability to hit the three in transition, the junior college transfer showed glimpses of a polished mid-range game that Siva never fully mastered in his time at Louisville, hitting a couple of floaters with a feathery touch. And while the Cardinals’ offense still looked like a work in progress on Saturday, their three total turnovers in Jones’ debut was the fewest any Louisville team had committed in a single game since 2007. One game might be a small sample size, but Jones passed his first official test under intense scrutiny.

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All Eyes on Louisville’s Chris Jones in Repeat Quest

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 6th, 2013

In a sport that loves its unpredictability, the last two NCAA Champions were relatively easy to predict before those seasons even started. In 2012, the argument that Kentucky’s freshman inexperience would be a problem lasted for all of two weeks before the Wildcats trampled everything in their path en route to a wire-to-wire season as the nation’s best team. Last year, Louisville was seen as the contender with the fewest holes and that held true as well. The Cardinals may have relinquished the No. 1 ranking a few times but throughout the season they remained most smart pundits’ favorite to hoist the trophy in March. This season the unpredictability is back. Kentucky has possibly more young talent than any other team in the history of college basketball, but inexperience remains an issue. Michigan State has talent and experience, but inconsistency plagued them last year and remains a question mark. Florida and Arizona are both loaded with talent but have questions about ideal lineup personnel and outside shooting. For Louisville, assuming Chane Behanan is back in a uniform when the games start to matter, the primary question that needs answering is “Can Chris Jones really replace Peyton Siva?”

Chris Jones Might Hold the Key to Louisville's Repeat Title Hopes

Chris Jones Might Hold the Key to Louisville’s Repeat Title Hopes

Replacing Gorgui Dieng will be difficult as well, and it may even become the more pressing concern as the season unfolds, but Montrezl Harrell will slide into the starting lineup and everyone has seen what he is capable of doing. Jones comes to Louisville with plenty of hype, but he has spent the past two seasons toiling away in obscurity at Northwest Florida State. His numbers were gaudy and he was named the Junior College Player of the Year, but junior college is still junior college, where the statistics and accolades can be easily discounted. This is the most competitive league of college basketball in the country and he is being asked to replace one of the team’s most important players and lead the Cardinals to another National Championship.

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From JuCo to Division I: Four Newcomers Have Valuable Roles to Fill

Posted by David Harten on October 18th, 2013

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During their run to the Final Four last season, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall relied heavily on junior college products. Players like leading rebounder Carl Hall, starting point guard Malcolm Armstead and leading scorer Cleanthony Early all spent time in junior college during their playing careers before playing vital roles for the Shockers. They came from places normally reserved for those with some sort of problems — exposure, physical make-up, grades or off-the-court issues — and banded together to make a run that became one of the best stories of the 2013 Big Dance.

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Wichita State Rode Some JuCos All the Way to the Final Four in 2013

Every year, the nation’s top junior college talent heads to new, big-time programs and, at least in the case of most of the the upper-tier players, they’ll be asked to contribute right away. So who are the JuCo targets that will be asked to do the most this season? The options are plenty, and so are their talents. The first that comes to mind has to be Louisville point guard Chris Jones. The national junior college player of the year last season helped Northwest Florida State College to back-to-back JuCo national title game appearances. He’ll be asked to step into the role left open by the graduation of Peyton Siva. Jones’ is a better scorer than Siva (21.8 points per game), on par with him as a distributor (4.2 assists per game vs. Siva’s 5.7) and is a better rebounder (5.1 boards per game vs. Siva’s 2.4). If Louisville wants to reach its third straight Final Four appearance and win a second consecutive national title, Jones will be relied on heavily to help get the Cardinals there.

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Big East Recruiting Superlatives

Posted by mlemaire on May 23rd, 2013

Sometimes it is OK to choose an arbitrary date in the college basketball recruiting process and take stock of things, using our Big East goggles of course. That said, this date really isn’t all that arbitrary. Most of the top basketball recruits in the Class of 2013 signed National Letters of Intent last week . Rather than break down and rank the Big East recruiting classes from top to bottom — which the guys at recruiting sites do much better than we would anyway — we figured to have some fun and bring you back to high school for some good old-fashioned superlatives. Again, we recognize the Big East is breaking up, but we are still looking back rather than forward.

He Didn't Have To Look Far, But Buzz Williams Reeled In Perhaps His Best Recruiting Class Ever (AP)

He Didn’t Have To Look Far, But Buzz Williams Reeled In Perhaps His Best Recruiting Class Ever (AP)

Most Likely To Earn Praise For His Recruiting Prowess: Buzz Williams, Marquette

In the always useless world of recruiting rankings, most experts have recruiting classes at Louisville and Syracuse ranked ahead of Marquette’s class, but that shouldn’t keep Williams from receiving the praise he is due. Williams hangs his hat on his program’s ability to develop talent, not in recruiting superstars, but this class could easily be his most ballyhooed yet. Of course it helps Williams look good when much of the talent is in the same city as the school, but he still had to beat out a number of high-major programs for those kids. Duane Wilson is a local point guard with size who may earn the first crack at replacing Junior Cadougan and fellow local product Deonte Burton is a physical and athletic wing who will rebound and defend. The third local product by way of junior college in Iowa is 6’8″ forward Jameel McKay who has everyone excited about his athleticism, rebounding, and motor. The real prize for the Golden Eagles is slashing guard JaJuan Johnson who Williams and his staff plucked out of Memphis’ backyard despite an offer from the Tigers. Everyone in the Southeast recruited the attacking guard who may be asked to step in immediately and replace some of Vander Blue’s now-missing production.

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Draft Deadline Winners and Losers: Big East Edition

Posted by mlemaire on May 3rd, 2013

The deadline to declare early entry for the NBA Draft has passed and as is apt to be the case with a league as good as the Big East, there were a number of teams in the conference that were waiting down to the wire to see who they would lose to the professional ranks and who they would get to keep on campus for one more season. 45 players officially announced they were declaring for the NBA Draft and six of those players came from the Big East. Here is some brief on analysis on which teams are feeling good about who they got back, and which teams were left wishing for just one more year. And yes, we do realize some of these teams won’t be in the Big East next season, but we are nostalgic and are looking into the past for as long as we can.

Winners:

Louisville

Russ Smith's Return Makes The Cardinals A Trendy Repeat Candidate (AP Photo).

Smith’s Return Makes The Cardinals A Candidate To Repeat (AP Photo)

Gorgui Dieng knew his stock wasn’t going to get any higher and so he headed off to the NBA, but Louisville expected that. What they likely didn’t expect was that All-Big East guard Russ Smith would announce his return to school, especially after his father was quoted as saying his son was as good as gone. Smith immediately becomes an early favorite for Big East Player of the Year honors and his play-making and shot-creating ability will be even more important to the Cardinals’ success now that Peyton Siva has graduated. The Cardinals defense will undoubtedly take a step back without Dieng, but Montrezl Harrell is ready to be a starter and don’t sleep on Stephan Van Treese, who showed signs in the NCAA Tournament of becoming more than just a serviceable backup.

Providence

There is no doubt that Ricardo Ledo could help the Friars next season and you could easily make the argument Ledo would be the most talented player on the team from the first day of practice but it is still good news that Ledo declared for the NBA Draft and is leaving the program without having played a single minute. It’s nothing against Ledo, who was only forced on to a college campus because the NBA barred their gates and has clearly had the NBA on his mind since he graduated high school, but in order to rebuild Providence for the long haul, coach Ed Cooley needs to build a foundation and one-and-done players like Ledo don’t help. The Friars have a chance to plant their flag near the top of the new Big East, and if Ledo came back, he would absolutely make the Friars better, but there is no guarantee  there would be enough shots to go around with chucker Bryce Cotton as his backcourt mate. There is also no chance that Ledo would be back for his junior season, which means a year of development for Ledo would be a wasted opportunity to get valuable experience for another guard. Ledo has always had his eye on the NBA and good for him, he shouldn’t have been dropped onto a college campus in the first place, now the program and fans can let him go and focus on the improvement of his classmates who will be back – Joshua Fortune or Kris Dunn.

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National Championship Game Analysis

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 8th, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC Contributor and filed this preview of tonight’s game for all the marbles. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.

The National Championship Game: #1 Louisville (34-5) vs. #4 Michigan (31-7) – 9:23 PM ET on CBS. Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr will have the call live from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.

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After five months and 5,744 regular season, conference tournament and NCAA tournament games, the college basketball season comes down to one game on one night in Atlanta. Top overall seed Louisville enters the game as the favorite but by no means will this be a walk in the park. The Cardinals are in search of their third national championship this evening and their first since 1986. On the other side, Michigan is looking for its second national title, having won it all once before in 1989. It is somewhat hard to believe given the strength of the two leagues over the years but this is the first national championship game between Big East and Big Ten schools since the aforementioned Wolverines held off Seton Hall in overtime to win it all at the Kingdome in Seattle 24 years ago.

Louisville has now won 15 straight games after surviving a major scare from Wichita State on Saturday night. In fact, the Cardinals have won 18 of their past 19 games since a three game losing streak in January and the one loss was in five overtimes to Notre Dame. This game features the nation’s best defense (Louisville) and the most efficient offensive team in the land (Michigan) going head to head in what should be a terrific basketball game. For the Cardinals to win, they must attack the rim and use their defense to fuel their offense. Rick Pitino’s team is no slouch offensively (#5 in efficiency), but its offense is largely predicated off its ability to create live ball turnovers and score in transition. Louisville is lethal in transition but not great in the half court unless it attacks the basket, either with its guards off the bounce or great athletes like Montrezl Harrell and Chane Behanan working the baseline and the low block. In Saturday’s national semifinal, Wichita State forced Louisville into way too many jump shots for Pitino’s liking and it almost cost the Cardinals dearly. The Shockers were rattled by a series of turnovers late in the second half and lost the game because of it. Louisville’s ball pressure is the best in the country and it starts with Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. Both play the passing lanes so well but Smith in particular is among the nation’s best defenders. After it scores, Louisville’s full court pressure takes full effect. The big question in this game will be whether the Cardinals (#2 in forcing turnovers) can turn over the Wolverines (#1 in ball protection) enough to fuel their offense. When Michigan played VCU in the round of 32, the Wolverines obliterated Shaka Smart’s “havoc.” There is, however, one major difference between VCU and Louisville. The Rams are not a great defensive team in the half court while Louisville plays the best half court defense of any team in America. Siva has to slow down Trey Burke, who picked up just about every imaginable award this week. Michigan showed just how good of a team it is by winning its semifinal game against Syracuse without its star sophomore point guard being a major factor. While it’s fair to say Michigan has never seen a defense like this all season long, Louisville hasn’t seen an offense with as many weapons as this one. When Michigan has the ball, the battle between the best offense and the best defense could be one of epic proportions.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XV

Posted by jbaumgartner on April 2nd, 2013

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…. Mach Five speed. There reached a point in Sunday’s regional final between Louisville and Duke where lateral movement ceased to exist. There was Peyton Siva, there was Russ Smith, and there was 94 feet of court from end to end. It didn’t matter where and when they got the ball – they were heading straight to the hole, and you could try to keep up if you wanted. Those two bring a dimension that no other team in the country has, and they made some decent Duke guards look downright tortoise-like on both offense and defense throughout the second half rout. They ran ‘em straight out of the gym.

I LOVED…. Wichita State “shocking” (sorry, too easy) the world and making it out of the West Region, and more importantly striking another solid blow for mid-majors with its convincing win over a very good Ohio State team. While Gonzaga making it just two games as a #1 seed was rough, this WSU run helps erase some of that damage for quality schools in small conferences going forward.

I LOVED…. Trey Burke deciding to become The Man. For nine minutes against Kansas, literally everyone in the building knew exactly who the ball was going to and what he was trying to do. Didn’t matter. Ping, ping, ping, ping – the jumpers just kept raining in as he willed his Wolverines into overtime and on to victory. Any Player of the Year questions should have been answered right there.

Trey Burke Took Over, and Michigan Advanced…

I LOVED…. just how dumb the NCAA Tournament selection committee looked by putting Oregon as a #12 seed. I honestly believe it was one of the worst hack jobs in selection history, and the Ducks, who were possibly underseeded by about five slots or so, powered their way to the Sweet Sixteen and hung with a star-studded Louisville team for the full 40 minutes. Someone needs to take a long hard look at what went wrong there, and make sure we don’t ever, ever see it again.

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ACC M5: 04.02.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on April 2nd, 2013

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  1. Raleigh News & Observer: Mark Gottfried’s roster at NC State took two more hits Monday, as CJ Leslie (unsurprisingly) announced he was headed for the NBA Draft and Rodney Purvis (more surprisingly) announced he is transferring. While there were some rumblings about Purvis, his loss is a big blow to NC State’s next season. Instead of bringing back two of the more accomplished sophomores in the ACC, NC State will bring back TJ Warren (and Tyler Lewis, who should improve markedly with more college conditioning). That means that all five starters from this year’s team are now gone, but there should be some addition by subtraction here (although there’s probably a lot more subtraction).
  2. Yahoo! Sports: As you almost certainly know, Duke took a beating from Louisville in Indianapolis Sunday night. The game was neck-and-neck until Duke appeared to run out of gas midway through the second half. Who knows how much was Duke’s lack of lateral quickness on the perimeter, how much was just injuries piling up, and how much was just the better team taking control. Watching from home it appeared to be some combination of all three. Duke just couldn’t get stops, as Peyton Siva and Russ Smith came to life. It’s a shame this wasn’t a Final Four game, though. Duke’s resume deserved that much, and the game would’ve likely stayed competitive for longer with more rest for the Blue Devils. But Louisville was the sharpest buzzsaw Duke has seen since the beatdown it took at Coral Gables back in February.
  3. Chapelboro: For two coaches in the rivalry on Tobacco Road, you don’t see many direct comparisons of Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski. That’s largely because they’re two very different coaches with completely different styles both on and off the court. Both fan bases to some extent complain about their quirks (i.e., why won’t Coach K develop his bench more? Why won’t he play zone against athletically superior teams? Why won’t Williams change his system to fit his roster? Why won’t Williams start PJ Hairston?), but direct comparisons largely come out looking dumb. Coach K has the better overall resume, hands down; but Roy Williams has the more successful decade. This article comes across as someone who felt personally offended by the praise heaped on Krzyzewski. It’s true he hasn’t continued the unseemly Final Four pace of the late 1980s and early 1990s, but he’s also had two seasons hurt dramatically by injury (this season and 2010-11). Both years, Duke looked like the prohibitive favorite before long-term injuries hit. Likewise, North Carolina lost 2009-10 to the NBA Draft and 2011-12 to untimely injuries (I still contend the Tar Heels were the only team with a chance against Kentucky). They’re both great coaches. They both deserve praise.
  4. Hampton Roads Daily Press: David Teel ruminated a bit on Syracuse possibly winning the ACC in its first season next year. Right now — before the NBA Draft declarations, which could hurt the Orange a lot — I’d put Syracuse right behind Duke. The teams in the ACC with the most to gain or lose from early entries are the Orange and North Carolina. If both teams keep nearly all of their talent, they’ll be in very good places. If not, they both could struggle. But if nothing else, this article should remind you that the future ACC has two Final Four teams still standing.
  5. Washington Post: Maryland is the last ACC team remaining in the NIT. The Terrapins take on Iowa in the semifinals in a match-up of two “snubbed” power conference teams. Ironically that means Maryland’s season is coming full circle and back to New York City, which is where it began on November 9 against Kentucky. Mark Turgeon is looking at a different team now: They’ve got different expectations but are playing with the same fire the country saw back then.

EXTRA: The side story from Duke’s Elite Eight game was gruesome but also one of the rawest emotional moments you could ever see on live TV. After Kevin Ware broke his leg, the shock through the stadium spread like wildfire. CBS’ cameras caught Tyler Thornton catching a glimpse of Ware’s leg, causing the Duke guard to look physically pained. The reaction from the Louisville bench was even more visceral with several players ending up on the floor and others reportedly vomiting. I personally thought CBS did a masterful — and lucky — job with the injury. They captured some of the most poignant moments from the NCAA Tournament while also maintaining a respectful distance.

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