Earlier in the week, we had this bit of scuttlebutt going on:
According to the four letter network, LaQuinton Ross has decided to forgo his last year of his college eligibility and opt in to the NBA draft next season. Here is the official word from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman:
Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross will declare for NBA Draft, sources told ESPN.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 24, 2014
It is now official; LaQuinton Ross notified the Ohio State coaching staff today that he intends to forego his senior year for the purpose of pursuing a professional basketball career. So here we are; LQR is “gone, baby, gone”.
Ross averaged 16 points and 6 rebounds this last season as the offensive catalyst for the Buckeyes. After a strong tournament performance his sophomore season, the Jackson, Mississippi native carried Ohio State at points during his junior season. Upping his average minutes by 13 this season, Ross shot 45% from the floor and 73% from the charity stripe.
LQR has had some impressive moments as a member of the Ohio State Buckeyes, including his dagger of a three that sent his squad to the Elite 8 last year with the defeat of a very talented Arizona Wildcat team.
It is unclear where Ross is projected to land in the NBA Draft. The experts have pinned him to be drafted anywhere from the mid first to the late 2nd round if drafted at all.
There is no doubt that Ross was a unique talent and brought something to campus that the Buckeyes haven’t had in a while. He was a treat to watch, especially as he developed over his three years under Thad.
A true diverse weapon, was he. LaQuinton, thank you for the memories, and the best of wishes in your career.
Only Eight teams are left, and after tonight, there will be two fewer.
Come chat with us through the games!
Now it begins, we’ve made it to the “Sweet 16” level of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Today, I’ll look at the Midwest Region. The Midwest will play the first of its two games on Friday evening when the #2 seed University of Michigan (27-8, Big Ten) plays the #11 seed University of Tennessee (24-12, SEC). Michigan defeated Wofford and Texas to get to the Sweet Sixteen. Tennessee defeated Iowa, UMass and Mercer to reach this point.
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Arena: Lucas Oil Stadium (Home of the Indianapolis Colts)
TV Affiliation: CBS
Game 1: Friday, 7:15 PM #11 Tennessee vs. #2 Michigan:
The Matchup: Michigan and Tennessee bring similar games to this contest. Both teams average 64 possessions per game and are offensively quite efficient. They both shoot well and take care of the ball, with both teams averaging around 10 turnovers per game. Michigan has a slightly better effective FG%, since they take more 3-pointers per game (21 to 17) and are more accurate with them (40% to 33%). The advantage that does go to Tennessee is their rebounding. The Vols average 7 more rebounds per game than the Wolverines (39 to 32) and 5 more offensive rebounds (14 to 9).
Michigan’s offense is powered by Nik Stauskas (17.4 ppg), Caris LeVert (13.1 ppg) and Glen Robinson III (13.0 ppg). Although not prolific scorers, forwards Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford will have to play at a high level with their rebounding. Tennessee is led Jordan McRae (18.6 ppg), Jarnell Stokes (15.2 ppg) and Josh Richardson (10.0 ppg). Stokes also leads the team in rebounding, with 10.7 per game.
Size will be pretty equal since both teams use a 3G/2F lineup. Each squad starts a 6’1”-2” G, with the other four players ranging from 6’6” – 6’8”.
Coaching Corner: This matches up a seasoned, and very successful coach in Michigan’s John Beilein, who at 61 years old, has over 32 years coaching experience and a career winning percentage of 63% (700-411). Beilein’s approach is to utilize a motion offense utilizing screens to free up shooters. This provides a flexibility of scoring from the perimeter as well as finding gaps in the defense to attack with short-to-mid range jump shots. On defense, Beilein often favors the man-to-man defense, but changes it up with variations (2-3, 1-3-1) of a zone defense.
In contrast, this is the 42 year old Cuonzo Martin’s sixth season, third with the Volunteers. His coaching career got off to a delayed start because he had a brief two year professional career, cut short by a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In terms of his coaching style, you may recognize shades of him being ‘Purdue’ish” since he played there in the early 1990′s for Gene Keady. One item of note is that one of Martin’s Purdue team mates was Glenn Robinson, whose son Glenn Robinson III will be taking the floor for Michigan on Friday.
Players to Watch: Nik Stauskas for Michigan is the Wolverine to watch. He is tall (6’6″), is very active without the ball, and as we’ve seen, a deadly shooter. He needs to get open off screens and hit his shots for Michigan to win this game.
For Tennessee, the player is 6’8″, 260 pound forward Jarnell Stokes. Jarnell averages double-double (15.2 pts, 10.7 rbs) per game and is an accurate shooter (53%). In his three year career at Tennessee. he has never attempted a 3-point shot so he does not extend the defense, but with his size and shooting, he batters it. He’ll be a handful for Michigan.
Prediction: This is actually a pretty good matchup for both teams. Michigan is a 2-point favorite, and I think that sounds about right. It will be a close game, but Michigan’s Morgan/Horford offset Tennessee’s rebounding superiority while Stauskas’ outside shooting opens up the interior for LaVert and Robinson to get good mid-range looks. The Wolverines move on to the Elite Eight.
Game 2: Friday, 9:45 PM #8 Kentucky vs. #4 Louisville:
The Matchup: Louisville and Kentucky bring similar approaches to this game. So much so, that Louisville enters the game as a 5 point favorite. Based on the teams’ offensive efficiency (below), that’s not many possessions.Both teams have a good offensive pace (Louisville 69 PPG, Kentucky 67 PPG) and are offensively efficient with Louisville averaging 1.18 points per possession and Kentucky 1.12. They both shoot well and take care of the ball, with both teams averaging around 11 turnovers per game. Louisville has a slightly better effective FG% because they are better mid-range shooters and they take more 3-pointers per game (21 to 16) and are more accurate with them (37% to 33%). Not a big advantage, but over the course of a close game, it could be a decisive one. Kentucky does have a slight rebounding edge, 3 per game, and an advantage at the free throw line.
Louisville’s offense is powered by four double-digit scorers; Russ Smith (18.1 ppg), Montrezl Harrell (14.0 ppg), Luke Hancock (12.1 ppg) and Chris Jones (10.4 ppg). Harrell also leads the team in rebounding with 8.4 per game, and Stephan Van Treese contributes 5.6 rebounds. Kentucky also has four double-digit scorers; Julius Randle (15.1 ppg), James Young (14.3 ppg), Aaron Harrison (14.1 ppg) and his twin, Andrew Harrison (10.9 ppg). All these gentlemen are freshmen. Yes, that’s right. The sophomore “veteran” Willie Cauley-Stein Stokes contributes 7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, but the Wildcats’ leading rebounder is Julius Randle with 10.6 rebounds per game.
Size definitely favors Kentucky as their starters range in height from 6’6″ to 7’0″. Louisville’s starters range in height from 5’10″ to 6’8″.
Coaching Corner: Rick Pitino vs John Calipari. Quite a coaching matchup, no? These are two high profile (for events on and off the court) coaches who have been very successful (Pitino 74%, Calipari 76%) at winning basketball games. Interestingly, there are a couple of non-related threads that connect these men. Pitino played at UMass in the early 70′s, Calipari coached UMass in the early-mid 90′s. Pitino, in his 13th year at Louisville, previously coached at Kentucky. Calipari is in his 5th season at Kentucky.
This will be an entertaining game, if for no other reason you watch the coach’s sideline reactions. Of course, the real action will be on the court, but Rick Pitino and John Calipari will do their part to get their teams attention.
Players to Watch: Although Luke Hancock rightfully gets attention, I think the player to watch is 6’8″ forward Montrezl Harrell. He has a solid all around game and is an efficient shooter at 60%. For Kentucky, the player to watch is 6’9″ forward Julius Randle. He leads the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding. If Harrell and Randle are matched up against one another, settle in for some interesting basketball.
Prediction: This is actually a pretty good matchup of two very talented teams. As talented as Kentucky is, they are very young, starting four freshmen and a sophomore. I think that the Louisville “seniority” of three seniors, one junior and one sophomore will carry the day. Louisville moves on to the Elite Eight.
Now it begins, the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Two Ohio teams, the #6 seed Ohio State Buckeyes (25-9) of the Big Ten Conference and the #11 seed University of Dayton Flyers (23-10) of the Atlantic 10 Conference shuffle off to Buffalo for, what I consider, the opening round of the tournament. It would have been more convenient for the teams to play in Springfield, OH. I’m sure the good folks at Wittenberg University would have been accommodating. But, the weather is nice up here in Buffalo and there are things to do for the discerning fan during “downtimes”.
Dayton has a great history in basketball. They have been to the NCAAs 15 times, have had 6 Sweet Sixteen appearances and made it to the Finals once, in 1967. The Don May led Flyers lost the championship game that year to UCLA, who had a kid named Lew Alcindor playing for them.
Here’s their Profile:
School: University of Dayton
Our Bracket Breakdown gets a little close to home…
The South Region is of some interest to us since that is Ohio State’s “Region”. It also has a few other top-rated teams such as Florida, Kansas, UCLA and Syracuse. Whoever emerges from this Region has a legitimate chance to be in the Finals and possibly win it all.
Rather than go through game-by-game in the Region, I’ll focus on five (5) topics; 1) the team likely to win region, 2) the region’s Cinderella team, 3) team most likely to be upset, 4) who is region’s unheralded player and 5) my Elite 8 picks. Envelopes, please…
Regional Favorite: Florida is my choice to win this Region. The Gators haven’t lost a game since December 2nd, and it’s unlikely they lose this week, until possibly the Finals. They are a well-balanced team, play decently on offense, but are a top notch defensive team. In their last 14 games, dating back to February 1st, they have allowed less than 60 points in 7 of them. A capable offense and a tough defense will carry this team to the Final Four.
Cinderella: The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks could be wearing the Glass Slipper, at least until midnight. They aren’t rated well (RPI 55, SOS 315) but they come in as the #12 seed against VCU and the Rams are only a 6 point favorite. They have a decent defense and are efficient of on offense (1.16 PPP). And, a #11/#12 seed moving on is not unheard of; just ask VCU. Read More
Before you do, read this. I make no guarantees, but this will help you not finish last. Ethel the mail lady won’t read this. Let her finish last.
Like one of my favorite one-hit wonders we will Head East and preview the region nobody is really talking about.
That happens when the Midwest Region has all the best teams and somehow, the 1996 Bulls as well.
East games are in Raleigh, Spokane, San Antonio and Buffalo and finish at Madison Square Garden in The Big Apple.
Favorite: Virginia is the No. 1 seed on the strength of a regular-season and ACC tournament championship. The politicking (reads: whining) about how good the ACC is by Coach K didn’t hurt either.
That’s how the conference ended up with a team in the First Four. Not a great team in my opinion but good enough to make it to New York because of the draw.
Michigan State is the sexy pick here. The Spartans did struggle at times in the regular season due to injuries, but they are healthy now and on a roll after winning the Big 10/11/12 Tournament.
Adreian Payne is a beast inside and Gary Harris makes the Spartans go at both ends. Tom Izzo knows how to coach in the NCAA Tournament as well.
In fact, this senior class is the only one that hasn’t been to a Final Four under Izzo. Don’t think for a second he hasn’t reminded them of that.
But I’m not convinced they are title bound as you will soon see.
Cinderella: Harvard upset New Mexico last year and there is almost always a 12-5 upset. Cincinnati was one of the best teams in the country for a stretch in the middle of the season, but they weren’t as good at the end.
Providence was uncomfortably on the bubble until the Friars won the Big East Tournament, likely knocking Xavier into the First Four. The No. 11 Friars are hot and could knock off No. 6 North Carolina, which is as hard to figure out as one of Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s string theories.
Either of those teams could win a couple games or more.
Most Likely to be an upset: In addition to the aforementioned Providence-UNC matchup, and perhaps Harvard, I would put my money on St. Joseph’s to knock off UConn. Granted it’s only a 7-10 game, and either team is a procedural bump away from being an 8 or 9 so it’s not much of an upset. But it is the Atlantic 10 beating the American Athletic Conference and let’s face it. We were talking about St. Joseph’s as a bubble team and potential First Four participant. The Hawks were seeded 38th overall, UConn 26th.
Unheralded Player: James Bell makes No. 2 Villanova go. He can jump out of any gym and is fun to watch in transition. He has good size at 6-foot-6 and can play a wing or mix it up inside. Bell has solid range from 3-point land as well. Scoring nearly 15 points a game and grabbing 6 rebounds he will have the ball in his hands a lot, especially late in a close game as he is an 81% free throw shooter.
Elite Eight Teams: As I mentioned, I’m not drinking the Green and White Kool-Aid. Someone will beat Sparty before they get to the regional final. I just have that feeling. That said, I like Virginia to make it, even though I think they are not one of the four best teams in the country. The other Elite Eighter is a team I have yet to mention: Iowa State.
Kind of like the San Antonio Spurs, the Cyclones quietly go about their business without much fanfare, although winning the Big 12 title in Kansas’ backyard was impressive and certainly made other teams take notice. Conference player of the year Melvin Ejim scores a ton and he will need to because Iowa State is horrible at defense, like 272nd nationally horrible. Despite that, I like them to play the Cavaliers in the Garden.
Should be an interesting regional final.
Have you filled out your brackets and entered tBBC’s annual bracket challenge? If not, what are you waiting on? Get on it.
We head West for the second of our four region previews in preparation for the greatest weekend in sports. After our first preview of the loaded Midwest region, the West is a bit less exciting as on paper it is probably the easiest of the four regions, challenged only by the East.
Favorite – Arizona had to be thrilled about their draw in this one. Not only is the West the easiest of the regions, the Wildcats will also get to avoid a lot of travel as they never play more than 471 miles from their campus and fans will have easy access to direct flights that last no more than an hour and a half for the first two weekends; no other team’s fans will have it that easy. Travel will be even easier for the team as getting out of the first weekend means just a fairly short drive up the coast from San Diego to Los Angeles.
It’s not just the short travel and large fan support that the Wildcats will get that makes them the favorite in the region; Arizona put together an impressive season, finishing in second place in the RPI with a 30-4 record while playing the nation’s fourth hardest schedule. The Wildcats won their first 21 games of the season in a stretch that included wins over San Diego State (4 seed in the West), Duke (3 seed in the Midwest), Michigan (2 seed in the Midwest), and UCLA (4 seed in the South), among others. The loss of Brandon Ashley to injury hurt the Wildcats, they’ve gone 9-4 without him, but this team still has offensive weapons. The key to Arizona’s success has been a stifling defense that has limited opponents to 58.1 points per game on 38% shooting; this defense doesn’t seem to have lost a beat following Ashley’s injury.
Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll be giving you our insight into each reason, looking for the stories that you may not have read elsewhere.
The Midwest Region is a tough Region, not that any Region will be easy, but this one is particularly top-loaded. In this Region are Wichita State (ranked #2 AP and the only undefeated team in the nation), Louisville (#5), Duke (#7), TTUN (#8), St. Louis (#18) along with UMass and Kentucky. Four teams in the AP Top Ten and another in the Top Twenty. All of the other Regions have two Top Ten teams each.
This Region is a bit odd; it has the most Top Ten teams and it also has three of the four play-in game winners playing as well. So, it seems to me, this Region is comparatively very good at the top, then comparatively not-that-good in the middle seeds and below. For example, the play-in game for the #11 seed involves Iowa (20-12) vs Tennessee (21-12). Frankly, if you’re good enough to “play” into the #11 seed, something is amiss with the selection process. If you have to play yourself in to the field of 64, then you go to the back of the line at a #16 seed. /steps off soapbox. Read More