The rejuvenation of UNLV’s rebounding machine, Roscoe Smith

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In two seasons at UConn, forward Roscoe Smith was a contributor on two NCAA tournament teams, with his freshman season featuring improbable runs to the Big East and NCAA tournament titles with guard Kemba Walker leading the way. After averaging 6.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as a freshman and tallying 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest as a sophomore, Smith made the decision to transfer with the hope of enjoying a greater role on the floor.

Smith would wind up at UNLV, and after sitting out last season few people expected him to be as productive as he’s been through 11 games. The Baltimore native’s averaging 12.8 points and 13.2 rebounds per game, with the latter also being the nation’s best by nearly a full rebound per game. While the greater number of opportunities that have come in Dave Rice’s system can be cited as a reason for the jump, there’s also the fact that Smith made good use of his season away from game action.

And while there were physical strides to be made, Smith used the time in which he could only practice with his teammates to become a better player mentally as well.

“In my year off I really just focused on my game mentally,” Smith told NBC Sports following the Runnin’ Rebels’ 82-50 win over Sacred Heart on Friday night. “Nothing too specific physically, I just really worked from a mental standpoint because sitting out is extremely hard.

“Playing college basketball nonstop for two years at UConn and then sitting out,” continued Smith. “It was definitely hard, so I really had to come in and be mentally strong and be a leader for the young guys who were on the team as well.”

Last season Smith had the chance to compete against players such as Anthony Bennett, Mike Moser and Khem Birch, testing them as a member of the scout team while also honing his craft with an eye towards the 2013-14 campaign. And the results have been remarkable, as a player who tallied just one double-double and three double-digit rebounding performances in his entire UConn career has seven double-doubles this season. He’s been aggressive on both ends of the floor, especially when it comes to attacking the boards.

“I think that his experience is huge for us,” Rice said of Smith following Friday’s win. “He thinks that every loose ball is his, and it just seems as if he gets a double-double every night. To have a guy like that is big.”

One question that was asked when Smith made the decision to leave UConn was what position does he play. Was he best utilized as a three or a four? At which position did he hope to be utilized? At UNLV it can be argued that he’s played the four primarily, forming a talented and productive partnership with another Big East (at the time) transfer in Khem Birch. But Smith doesn’t exactly subscribe to the rigid positions that many have grown accustomed to in basketball.

“I’m a basketball player,” Smith said with a smile when asked about his position. “I do anything the team needs in order to win. Whatever coach needs me to do I’ll do. I don’t go home every day wondering what position I am because that doesn’t define me. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to win basketball games.”

Now 7-4 on the season entering Monday night’s game against Mississippi State, the majority of UNLV’s issues have been on the offensive end of the floor. And given the number of newcomers looking to establish their roles that’s to be expected, even with the amount of talent that the Runnin’ Rebels possess. Defense hasn’t been an issue however, and UNLV has its two transfers to thank for this. UNLV currently ranks sixth nationally in effective defensive field goal percentage, and they’re tops in defensive free throw rate.

They may not turn teams over, but with Smith and Birch leading the way the Runnin’ Rebels have made life difficult for teams in the half court. And those two have a competition of sorts when it comes to rebounding, and it’s one that has benefitted both players to this point in the season.

“It’s always a good thing when you have a guy who wants to out-rebound you every night,” Birch said of Smith. “Usually guys don’t want to go after every rebound, but playing with Roscoe is a blessing because he wants to get every rebound.”

UNLV didn’t get off to the start that many expected when the season began, but the way in which they’ve overwhelmed opponents they should beat convincingly is a positive sign for this group moving forward. And for that they’ve got Smith to thank, as he’s been a valuable commodity for UNLV both physically and mentally. With the start of Mountain West play right around the corner, his championship experience will be something the team can draw from as it looks to make a run at a conference title especially when it comes to the development of a young player like Christian Wood.

“I just tell Christian that it’s a process,” said Smith. “You have to take things one day at a time. I know he wants to run before he walks, so I just tell him to slow down a little bit and let the game come to him.”

With the improved production and leadership abilities Smith has found a concrete role in the desert, even if we can’t affix a specific label to him in regards to the position he plays. And whether he’s a three or a four, Roscoe Smith’s been an integral player for UNLV and that will continue to be the case as the season wears on.

2018 NCAA Tournament Conference Breakdown: ACC, Big 12 make up half of the Sweet 16

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With a crazy first weekend of the 2018 NCAA tournament in the books, it is time to examine the field’s conference breakdown heading into the Sweet 16.

While some multi-bid leagues like the AAC, Atlantic 10 and Pac-12 were shut out of the second weekend after miserable tournament showings, other leagues like the ACC and Big 12 lived up to the hype.

Here’s a look at the tournament’s conference breakdown before the Sweet 16.

4 — ACC

  • No. 2 Duke
  • No. 5 Clemson
  • No. 9 Florida State
  • No. 11 Syracuse

Notes: It’s not surprising to see the ACC with four teams in the Sweet 16 after getting nine teams in the Field of 68. What is surprising is that Clemson, Florida State and Syracuse are three of the four teams still left. The ACC could have dominated the field if No. 1 seed Virginia and No. 2 seed North Carolina held up their end of the bargain. Both were upset in blowout fashion. No. 6 seed Miami, No. 8 seed Virginia Tech and No. 9 seed N.C. State were all dropped in the first round as well. It’s also worth noting that three of these four teams (sorry, Florida State) reside in the Midwest Regional as the ACC will be guaranteed at least one Elite Eight team from Duke and Syracuse’s Sweet 16 matchup. The Blue Devils won the regular season matchup, 60-44, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in February as they’re looking like the best Final Four contender left from the bunch.

4 — Big 12

  • No. 1 Kansas
  • No. 3 Texas Tech
  • No. 5 West Virginia
  • No. 9 Kansas State

Notes: Many people considered the Big 12 the best (and toughest) top-to-bottom conference in America this season. By tying the ACC with the most teams still left in the field, the Big 12 backed up that sentiment with its first-weekend performance. Getting 40 percent of your conference into the Sweet 16 is a major accomplishment. It’s also notable that the top four teams in the Big 12’s regular season standings are all still playing basketball. The regular season results actually stayed true-to-form during the tournament. The league’s only disappointments stem from No. 6 TCU’s upset loss to No. 11 seed Syracuse, Trae Young and No. 10 seed Oklahoma falling in overtime to No. 8 seed Rhode Island and No. 10 seed Texas blowing a double-digit lead No. 7 seed Nevada.

2– Big Ten

  • No. 2 Purdue
  • No. 3 Michigan

Notes: This is a decent showing for the Big Ten as all four tournament teams won in the first round while two of the teams advanced to the second weekend. Purdue lost big man Isaac Haas to an elbow injury but the No. 2 seed Boilermakers still beat No. 10 seed Butler for the second time this season. Amidst all of the chaos on the left side of the bracket in the South and West Regionals, No. 3 seed Michigan is the highest remaining seed among that group of eight teams. It was stunning to see No. 3 seed Michigan State get bounced by a double-digit seed for the second time in three years as they fell to No. 11 seed Syracuse. The Spartans were a credible national title threat, as their early exit does tarnish some of the Big Ten’s success. No. 5 seed Ohio State also finds themselves out after losing to No. 4 seed Gonzaga in the Round of 32. The Big Ten was certainly down this season. Michigan State’s loss is a major letdown. But it could have been much worse. At least the Big Ten might have a dark horse Final Four contender pan out in red-hot Michigan and Purdue is still dangerous without Haas.

2 — SEC

  • No. 5 Kentucky
  • No. 7 Texas A&M

Notes: The SEC finally might have showed its true colors after a bizarre regular season that nobody could have predicted. Only two of eight NCAA tournament team are still left as the SEC was gutted after losses. After both failing to live up to preseason projections for most of the season, No. 5 seed Kentucky and No. 7 seed Texas A&M are both peaking at the right time. It’s hard to believe, but the Wildcats are now the favorite in the South Regional now that the top four seeds have all been eliminated. And after the Aggies earned a blowout win over defending champion and No. 2 seed North Carolina, they should also be taken seriously. It’s the rest of the SEC that is hard to take seriously after this weekend. Co-conference regular season champions No. 4 seed Auburn and No. 3 seed Tennessee were both ousted — the Tigers were flat-out embarrassed by No. 5 seed Clemson. No. 6 seed Florida and No. 9 seed Alabama both won openers before bowing out in the second round. No. 7 seed Arkansas and No. 8 seed Missouri both exited the event after the first round. With only two of eight teams left in the field, this wasn’t what the SEC had in mind after a resurgent season for basketball. The two remaining teams could still salvage the SEC’s season with a deep tournament run. Both of those inconsistent teams could implode at a moment’s notice.

1 — Big East

  • No. 1 Villanova

Notes: The 2018 NCAA tournament has been brutal for the six-bid Big East. The Wildcats have shot the ball at an extremely high level for two games. The rest of the conference was a disaster. Xavier, the league’s second No. 1 seed, was upset by No. 9 seed Florida State. No. 8 seed Seton Hall and No. 10 seed Butler were both bounced in the second round as well by No. 1 seed Kansas and No. 2 seed Purdue, respectively. Creighton and Providence couldn’t even make it out of the first round after losses to No. 9 seed Kansas State and No. 7 seed Texas A&M. This was a year to forget for the Big East.

1 — Missouri Valley Conference

  • No. 11 Loyola

Notes: The Ramblers advancing to the Sweet 16 is important for the Valley because it signifies that the league can still make noise in March without Wichita State. It probably feels even better for the Valley knowing that the Shockers also lost in the first round to No. 13 seed Marshall. One Valley head coach even made sure to mention all of that on Twitter.

1 — Mountain West

  • No. 7 Nevada

Notes: The Wolf Pack are in the Sweet 16 for the second time in program history (2004) as the tournament’s comeback kids are a dangerous bunch. With two double-digit second-half comebacks already, Nevada is a team that you can never count out. No. 11 seed San Diego State, the league’s only other tournament team, got Rob Grayed against No. 6 seed Houston in the first round, but the Aztecs at least made a respectable second-half comeback before losing.

1 — West Coast Conference

  • No. 4 Gonzaga

Notes: Back in the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive season, Gonzaga has remained one of the tournament’s most consistent teams in recent years. Even after losing multiple pieces from last season’s national runner-up, the Zags managed to be the last Final Four team from last season still in the 2018 field.

Sweet 16 betting lines, point spreads, over-unders

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Here is the full TV schedule, with spreads, over-unders and betting lines, for every game for final day of the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Odds via



  • 7:07 p.m.: No. 11 Loyola-Chicago vs. No. 7 Nevada (-2.5), CBS (143.5)
  • 9:37 p.m.: No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 5 Kentucky (-5.5), CBS (138.5)


  • 7:37 p.m.: No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 3 Michigan (-3), TBS (134)
  • 10:07 p.m.: No. 9 Florida State vs. No. 4 Gonzaga (-5.5), TBS (154.5)



  • 7:07 p.m.: No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 1 Kansas (-4), CBS (143)
  • 9:37: No. 11 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Duke (-11.5), CBS (133.5)


  • 7:27 p.m.: No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 1 Villanova, TBS
  • 9:57 p.m.: No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 2 Purdue (-1.5), TBS (137.5)

The 2018 NCAA tournament bracket looks wide open after a wild opening weekend

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The wild opening weekend of the 2018 NCAA tournament is finally in the books.

The bracket officially turns its attention to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight this week as teams are trying to punch tickets to San Antonio during an especially wide-open year.

Major upsets, double-digit seeds advancing into the Sweet 16 and the loss of all four top seeds in the South Regional means there’s still plenty of action to watch over the next several weeks.

Here’s how the updated bracket looks after the first weekend of March Madness.

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Recap: Four top three seeds fall

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Caleb Martin was, once again, a monster for Nevada on Sunday.

He finished with 25 points. He handed out seven assists. He put the No. 7-seed Wolf Pack on his back and carried them back from a 22-point deficit in the final 12 minutes of a game that looked like it was lost.

It was impressive.

But he’s not our player of the day. His teammate Josh Hall is. Because he’s the one that grabbed this offensive rebound and scored this put back and sent Nevada into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

That lead was Nevada’s first lead of the game.


  • JEVON CARTER, West Virginia: 28 points. Five steals. Five assists. Four boards. Eight turnovers for Marshall’s Jon Elmore. Jevon Carter was terrific this weekend.
  • T.J. STARKS, Texas A&M: While Tyler Davis and Big Bob Williams combined for 26 points and 22 boards, it was Starks that was the star for the Aggies on Sunday, finishing with 21 points and five assists in a blowout win over UNC.


No. 9-seed Florida State erased a 12-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to send No. 1-seed Xavier back to the Queen City. Both Xavier and Cincinnati blew late leads on Sunday.

It was not a pretty game, but No. 11-seed Syracuse knocked off No. 3-seed Michigan State in a game where the Spartans completely forgot how to make a jump shot.


Playing without their starting center, who is recovering from a broken elbow, Purdue’s Dakota Mathias buried this shot to send in-state rival Butler home:


Michigan State shot 8-for-38 from three on Sunday afternoon, which was the major reason that the Spartans found a way to lose to Syracuse in the second round.

But one of the eight threes that they did hit was this one:


Auburn never stood a chance. No. 5-seed Clemson led by 41 points at one points as they sent Bruce Pearl’s boys packing.

The dream died. No. 16 UMBC lost to No. 9 Kansas State, ending their “run” in the NCAA tournament at two games.

VIDEO: Roy Williams reflects on recent run: ‘Those kids on the court were my salvation’

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North Carolina head coach Roy Williams took a moment to reflect on a special three-year run after the Tar Heels were eliminated from the 2018 NCAA Tournament with a blowout loss to No. 7 seed Texas A&M on Sunday.

After back-to-back national title game appearances and a championship win last season, Williams grew quite fond of seniors like Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson. Williams also mentioned some of the tumultuous circumstances surrounding the program from the past few years as he maintained that his players helped him through a difficult stretch in his life.

Speaking to reporters at the postgame press conference, Williams tried to subdue the emotion in his voice as he talked about this Tar Heels team.