• Unknowns have TV to thank for early NCAA scouting advantage

    By: DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer

    Updated:
    WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Seton Hall's Desi Rodriguez was an admitted fan of "Rock Chalk Nation" right up until the moment he realized the Pirates would have to face Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

    "I'm not no more," he said with a grin.

    Still, that fandom meant the senior forward from the Bronx knew plenty about the Jayhawks before the teams arrived at Intrust Bank for the opening rounds of the Midwest Region. Rodriguez would catch them on television whenever he could, and given their blueblood status and the Big 12's wide-ranging TV deals, that meant dozens of chances to see Kansas compete this season.

    "They always give you a good game," he said. "Other than the scouting report coach is going to give me, I have my own scouting report. I've been watching their games."

    The Jayhawks? They've hardly seen Seton Hall play, despite Seton Hall being a member of the Big East.

    That reveals an advantage some off-the-radar schools have this time of year: While they fly under the radar, big-brand schools are always in the spotlight, giving them a chance to learn a little about them before trying to scout them in the 48 hours between first- and second-round games.

    It's a slight advantage, to be sure. But in a tournament where games are decided by the thinnest of margins, that can be the difference between advancing to the Sweet 16 and heading home.

    "Yeah, we watched a couple of their games. I don't think they really watched us," said Stanford Robinson of seventh-seeded Rhode Island, when asked about facing No. 2 seed Duke on Saturday.

    "Someone told me they seen them in Chipotle yesterday, two days ago," Robinson said, "and they asked them about Rhode Island, and they said they didn't know who we were."

    Which is somewhat surprising, given the fact that Rhode Island went 25-7, won the regular-season Atlantic 10 title and spent most of the season hanging around the AP Top 25.

    Robinson understands the difference between the haves and have-nots, though. He spent his first two seasons at Indiana, another blueblood that's always on television.

    For the sake of comparison, the Rams appeared on ESPN networks eight times and CBS once this season. Duke had 22 games on ESPN networks and appeared on CBS four times.

    "I think after yesterday they're probably watching film," Robinson said. "It's a basketball game. You want to respect your opponent. I think they know who we are now."

    There are other examples where high-profile teams forced to play catch-up against less-known opponents. How much of Loyola-Chicago do you think Rick Barnes and Tennessee have seen ahead of time in the South Region? Probably a lot less than Kentucky has seen of Buffalo.

    The fifth-seeded Wildcats probably thought they were headed for a second-round date with Arizona, but the No. 13 seed Bulls ran roughshod over those Wildcats. That set up a showdown between John Calipari's club, with its eight NCAA Tournament titles and bushels of conference championships, and a team that's been to the dance three times and just won its first game.

    In fact, Calipari said he often equates lesser-known schools to the Power Five teams Kentucky plays to help scouting reports to sink in. When the Wildcats drew Davidson in the opening round, he referred to Tennessee, which plays a similar style and runs a similar system.

    "We had a short term. We had a day off, one day of practice, and then open gym here to get ready," Calipari said. "If we had never seen this stuff before, we would have had no chance. None."

    As it was, the Wildcats struggled to a 78-73 victory over the plucky upstarts.

    "Rick Barnes and Bobby (McKillop) are really good friends," Calipari said, "so a lot of stuff that Tennessee runs is similar to what we faced. So we had an advantage."

    Not as much of an advantage as seeing the Wildcats on TV all the time. And that may be one of the advantages that allowed the A-10 Tournament champs to hang tough for 40 minutes.

    "With us being the MAC team, it's easy to look at us as a team that can't compete with a high-major or a team that's got four NBA prospects," Buffalo's Wes Clark explained. "But we know deep down, watching enough film, looked at things, that our confidence is there."

    That confidence runs through a lot of lower-seeded teams this time of year.

    "We've been talking about, 'Put it in the bank, put it in the bank,' because we've been doing that for a while now," Loyola coach Porter Moser said. "We got that one, now we've got to move on. They are looking at it like we're still chasing. We're really chasing for another one."

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    AP Sports Writers Will Graves and Eddie Pells contributed to this report.

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