Tough week at Pepperdine. First, their top returning player Kingsley Costain was dismissed from the school; now they don’t have anywhere to practice due to the insane fires in Malibu.
Now that Maryland has instituted a new alcohol awareness program, what’s the over/under on some Terp like James Gist getting a DWI? Or maybe it’ll be our favorite tool, Gus Gilchrist? He committed to the Terps over the weekend and will play next season.
Maybe Purdue’s Gordon Watt should transfer to Maryland now – he was kicked out of Purdue for a DWI last week.
Katz explains why Calipari opted to stay in Memphis over taking the NC State job two years ago.
DeCourcy gives USC some love for tough scheduling (even though they’re going to lose all those games), while he rates crosstown rival UCLA #1 in his poll.
STF gets us up to speed on what the mid-major conferences are bringing to the table this year.
SEC Hoops:TGTBTD chooses Jamont Gordon over Chris Lofton for SEC POY. Interesting…
Final thought – believe it or not, the Colorado Lady Buffaloes actually have a Brittany Spears and a Whitney Houston on their squad this season. Coke dealers in Boulder are already calculating their profits.
WYN2K. For possibly the first time in two decades, the Ivy League basketball championship is wide open. The twin towers of power – Penn and Princeton – have held the Ivy title on one of their campuses each of the last twenty seasons. This year, however, Princeton will be recovering from the Joe Scott disaster (18-24 in three seasons culminating in an atrocious 2-12 debacle last year), while Penn will have to deal with the loss of the core group that won three straight Ivy championships. Penn has enough returning to make another run at the title, but don’t expect another 13-1 blitzkrieg through the league, as several other contenders will make their own push toward an NCAA bid.
Predicted Champion.Penn (#14 seed NCAA). Ok, ok, so we’re too chicken to pick anybody else here. We know that on paper there are other Ivy schools with more returning talent (ahem, Yale), but consider the weight of history that Penn has behind it – 5 of the last 6 titles… 7 of the last 9… 10 of the last 15. Every other champion during that time was Princeton. With the Tigers almost completely out of the picture, how can we not make our pick for Penn? Despite losing two-time Ivy POY Ibrahim Jabber and Mark Zoller, the Quakers still have the most depth of any team in the league to go along with the best home court advantage at the Palestra. This year’s squad will be led by Brian Grandieri and Justin Reilly, the latter of whom showed some decent post skills during the NCAA Tourney loss to Texas A&M last year. Sorry, Ivy faithful, but we just can’t pick against Penn until someone outside of Princeton knocks them off their perch.
Others Considered. Should Penn crash and burn this year, Princeton assuredly will not be the beneficiary, which means that a team not used to winning this title will be doing so for the first time in a generation. We like Yale as next in line. The Bulldogs return four starters plus their top two reserves, including prohibitive POY favorite Eric Flato, a do-it-all guard who nailed 71 treys last season. The only reason to lend a skeptic’s glance toward Yale is their maddening tendency to lose “shoulda” games, such as when they dropped a home game vs. Columbia immediately prior to a big showdown at Penn last year, effectively ending their conference title hopes. Cornell is another team that appears ready to make the leap on paper, but simply hasn’t been able to get past the monolith in Philly. Coach Steve Donahue is a tidy 0-14 in his career vs. the Quakers, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in winning a conference race that depends solely on regular season performance. Still, the Big Red, who was the last non-P&P team to make the NCAA Tourney back in 1988, has a nice set of guards returning (Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale) along with the 2006 ROY Adam Gore (redshirted last year) and USC transfer Collin Robinson.
Games to Watch. Since the Ivy League decides its champion via round-robin and not a conference tournament, there are a few key home-and-homes to watch this season.
Penn @ Cornell (02.09.08) & Cornell @ Penn (03.07.08)
RPI Booster Games. Last year the Ivy League went 2-17 against BCS schools, but surprisingly, middle-of-the-packers Cornell (defeated Northwestern 64-61) and Brown (defeated Providence 51-41) were the two winners. Penn, on the other hand, was 0-5 – go figure. There are 23 games on the slate this year, and here are a few highlights.
Yale @ Stanford (11.20.07)
Virginia @ Penn (11.23.07)
Brown @ Northwestern (11.24.07)
Michigan @ Harvard (12.01.07)
Cornell @ Syracuse (12.20.07)
Penn @ Miami (FL) (01.02.08)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Zippo.
Neat-o Stat. With the hiring of Tommy Amaker at Harvard and Sydney Johnson at Princeton, six of the eight head coaches in the Ivy League are now black. Unthinkable a generation ago, this means that the Ivy has a higher percentage of black head honchos (75%) than all but the two historically black D1 conferences, the SWAC and MEAC. We’re not sure if that will necessarily translate to more wins at those two schools, but it can’t be a bad thing in terms of inspring qualified minority hiring practices at other schools (ed. note – we guess that assumes Amaker is qualified. Apologies).
64/65-Team Era. The Ivy League has gone 3-23 (.115) over the era, with all three wins concentrated in the mid- to late-90s. The Ivy tends to receive a favorable seed from the NCAA committee, averaging a #12.8 over this period, which equates to an expected value of around seven wins. This shows that the league has really underperformed compared with its seed over the years. Of the three wins, two belong to Princeton (1996 – #13 Princeton 43, #4 UCLA 41; 1998 – #5 Princeton 69, #12 UNLV 57) and one to Penn (1994 – #11 Penn 90, #6 Nebraska 80). With that said, the league’s NCAA representative (well, Penn, really) has in recent years consistently played its first round opponent tough before ultimately succumbing to superior talent.
2003 – #11 Penn down four to #6 Oklahoma St. with 2:25 remaining
2006 – #15 Penn down one to #2 Texas with 6 mins left
2007 – #14 Penn tied with #3 Texas A&M with 11 minutes to go
Nothing says thrilling like Gus Johnson, so we’ll leave you his call of 1996 Princeton-UCLA.
Final Thought. We actually look at this year’s Ivy a little bit like we look at the Big South. You have one program (Penn and Winthrop, respectively) that has clearly been the class of the league for the better part of a decade going through some serious changes, and you have a smattering of challengers ready to stake their claims on the league crown. The problem in both cases is more psychological than physical – can the likes of Yale and Cornell overcome the mental hurdles that Penn has constructed for them over the years by winning a key game in late February on the road when it really counts? It should make for an interesting winter in our nation’s smartest league, that’s for sure.
A month ago we gave you our reviews of the Athlon and Lindy’s preseason mags.
We’ve been busy plugging away at the conference previews, but in the interim, a few more mags have hit the shelves. So here’s the third installment of our continuing series of reviews of the preseason magazines.
Next Up: Sporting News/Street & Smith’s.
Note: Yes, TSN and S&S, two of the oldest and most respected preview issues, have joined forces this year on their college basketball preview. It remains to be seen whether this is a good idea.
I. Covers (5 pts) –are they cool? inclusive?
12 regional covers hitting only the BCS conferences. Definitely a major conference bias here.
Coolest Cover – see above – one thing we really like is that most of the covers are full-color action shots. The Roy Hibbert (getting serviced by Vandy’s Ross Neltner?) and Mario Chalmers shots are our favs after Richard Hendrix above. Great cover.
Oops. The Athlon, Lindy’s and TSN issues all use the exact same action shot for Brook Lopez of Stanford on their Pac-10 cover. Unfortunately for Cardinal fans, Lopez is not reaching for a textbook.
Total Points = 4
II. Ease of Use (5 pts) – how hard is it to find confs/teams?
Not a fan of their setup here. They divide the conferences into high, mid, and low-major categories, then list them alphabetically within each section. Quick – is the Big West a mid-major or low-major league? The MAC? How about the Southern Conference? TSN considers the MAC a high major (???) and the others as mid-majors, which means we were flipping all over the place to find these leagues. Difficult navigation.
Within the league, they then list each team by predicted order of finish. Typical fare here.
Standard format otherwise – roundup, features, analysis of teams, recruiting, stats and schedules in that order.
Total Points = 2.5
III. Roundup (10 pts) – every mag has one – tell us something new!
The Late, Late Show is a short article explaining the basis behind TSN’s pick of UCLA as the #1 team in America.
Decourcy’s Directives are short narratives on the following topics: Coach Calipari’s calculations; Don’t Cry for Duke; One-and-Outs to Watch; and, Recipe for a Championship. The only interesting information here is in the Recipe section, which explains that most national champions for the last 20 yrs have had at least one NBA-caliber big man and guard on their roster (exceptions: MSU-2000; Arkansas-1994; Syracuse-2003).
TSN also provides three teams of All-Americans, led by seven sophomores and two freshmen among the fifteen. We like that they took some chances, going with Eric Gordon (Indiana) and Chase Budinger (Arizona) on the first team over some of the better-known names.
There is also a Top 25 with a couple of sentences describing each team’s strengths, but it is notable that TSN doesn’t bother with predicting the NCAA field anywhere within the magazine.
There is one page devoted to listing the Top 100 freshmen, but rather than listing them #1-#100, they made a confounding decision to order them geographically (all-east, all-south, etc.) and then alphabetically. There’s no way to intelligently distinguish OJ Mayo (all-east) from Edwin Rios (all-south).
Another page lists transfers eligible this season and next, but again they’re not ranked in any discernible manner. This page also lists all the coaching changes from the offseason.
Overall, this section is incredibly weak compared to the other previewed magazines, and especially considering that TSN and S&S were once considered the bibles of this genre. We literally learned nothing new in this section.
Total Points = 3
IV. Features (15 pts) – give us some insightful and unique storylines.
Features – what features? There is only one feature article, which if we said was shocking would be severely understating our sentiment. So surely that one article has something to do with this season, right? Nah. Try Whatever Happened To… Teddy Dupay, JR Van Hoose and Dane Fife, three (white) players who were HS stars ten years ago but didn’t ultimately make it to the League. Don’t get us wrong, we actually appreciate the concept of an article like this. The problem is that it’s the only feature article TSN felt necessary to give us in the entire magazine. That’s beyond unacceptable, especially when you consider the cache of writers that TSN has at its disposal.
Cheerleaders. Ok, we enjoy a photo collage of college cheerleaders as much as the next guy, but the only other “feature” that TSN insults us with offers us is a five-page spread of various gals in tricky positions. Again, this just seem so beneath TSN and S&S to pull out the cheerleader photo section to try to increase sales. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that they just don’t care anymore. Good grief – they even put the Duke cheerleaders in the spread (Doherty was right)!!
FWIW, the Texas gal on p. 21 is absolutely scorching hot, with nods to Miss UCLA and Miss Florida on p.19. Surprisingly, we found Miss Kentucky (p.20) to be one of the fugliest of the group, along with Miss Hawaii (p.19). And Miss Wichita St. (p.18) can bend in ways that aren’t quite believable.
Total Points = 3
V. Predictions (20 pts) – how safe are their picks? do they take any chances? are they biased toward the big boys?
TSN’s Top 25 is pretty standard issue big conference fodder. They do put Memphis at #2, Gonzaga at #12 and Xavier at #25, but every other team is a BCS school. Since there are no NCAA predictions, we can only assume their top 4 is their predicted F4, which would mean UCLA, Memphis, UNC and Kansas are their choices.
Big Conference Bias. Assuming top 16 = Sweet 16, then Gonzaga and Memphisare the only exceptions. As for the Top 25, here’s the conference breakdown – Pac-10 (5), Big 12 (4), Big East (4), ACC (3), SEC (3), Big 10 (3), CUSA (1), WCC (1), A10 (1).
Surprises. Some teams that are getting some preseason pub that TSN doesn’t think much of include: Syracuse (10th in the Big East, which presumably would mean not an NCAA team); UConn (7th); USC (7th in Pac-10) & Vanderbilt (5th in SEC East). On the flip side, teams that TSN values more than others include: Georgia (3d in SEC East); Penn St. (4th in Big 10) & NC State (3d in ACC).
Boldest Prediction. Not much in the way of excessively bold predictions, but we believe that a lot of these prognosticators are going to regret giving a 5-11 ACC team (NC State) so much preseason hype this year.
We’re really annoyed that TSN doesn’t give us a field of 65, at minimum.
Total Points = 12
VI. Conference Pages (5 pts) – as a primer for the conference, how much can we learn here?
High Majors. The twelve conferences TSN designates as high majors each gets a full page primer, and there’s a lot to like here. The predicted order of finish uses a cool feature with arrows that shows how the team is trending this year – up, down, or steady. There’s a five man all-conference team, a short narrative breakdown of the league, and the most inclusive list of superlatives we’ve yet seen (15-20 different superlatives). There is also a third of the page devoted to ranking the recruiting classes within the conference and short analyses of each incoming player.
Mid Majors. TSN anoints only six leagues as mid-major leagues, and each of these leagues gets a half-page of analysis, including the predicted order of finish, a short narrative, an all-conference team, recruiting rankings and three superlatives.
Low Majors. The remaining conferences receive one page each, nearly the same as the mid-majors with the exception that the narrative is really just a paragraph wrapup.
Total Points = 5
VII. Team Pages (20 pts) – how in-depth is the analysis? where does it come from? is it timely and insightful given this year’s squad or is it just a rundown of last year’s achievements?
Roughly the top 2/3 of the high major teams get a full page of analysis from TSN; the remainder get a half page. Again, there’s a lot to like here – the writing is solid, giving decent insight into the strengths and weaknesses of each team without merely another rundown of each player and his stats. There is also a section on power ratings by five categories, a five-year wins trend, an impact rookie blurb and a brief but useful team statistics table.
The mid-major conference projected champions get the same treatment as the lower third teams of the high majors – a half-page with much of the same information above. The remainder of mid-major teams simply get the one-paragraph rundown treatment.
The low-majors all get a single paragraph, whether they’re the projected champion or not.
For the top twelve conferences, the analysis is the best we’ve seen this year thus far. The writers clearly know these teams and do a good job at breaking down what to watch for this season. The remaining leagues get short shrift, but those fans are not the target audience.
Total Points = 16
VIII. Recruiting (5 pts) – we want to know who the top players are coming into college bball, where they’re going and who to watch for next year.
As mentioned above, each major conference page has a substantial section on recruits for each school and rankings within each league.
See above for our issue with their list of the top 100 incoming players.
There is no listing of the best incoming recruiting classes nationally anywhere in the magazine, which is incomprehensible to us.
Once upon a time, S&S was the best place to get recruiting information, but that time again seems to have passed. They have four pages of names of players without ranking any of them outside of their Boys All-America Team (top 20). It’s nice they give a paragraph describing the skill set of each of those twenty players, but there’s just no way to compare players outside of that grouping.
With that said, we continue to enjoy the All-Metro Teams of twenty or so HS basketball hotbeds around the country. It gives us something to look for in our local area.
We also enjoy that TSN lists the top 25 HS teams for 2007-08.
This magazine has more information on high school prospects than any other we’ve seen, and yet they muff it by not presenting the information in a way most people would want to see it. Lists are fine, but they have to be useful for comparison.
Total Points = 4
IX. Title IX Guilt (aka Chick Ball) (5 pts) – the less the better…
The women’s preview is a Top 25 with four pages of analysis, but thankfully they stuck it in the back of the magazine.
Where they really go wrong is by wasting five more pages in the back on girls’ HS All-Americans and a HS top 20. We cannot believe that anyone would buy this magazine to get this information.
Total Points = 2
X. Intangibles (15 pts) – what’s good and bad about the magazine as a whole?
This magazine is trying to be everything to everyone. You can easily tell which parts were the expertise of TSN and which were the responsibility of S&S, and as such, the magazine seems random and incomplete in parts. For example, in addition to the prep information in the back, the magazine also gives us a full page on D2, D3 and NAIA basketball (with top 10s and All-Americans). And if that’s not enough, it also has a juco section, complete with a Top 10 and an article explaining why juco talent is getting deeper.
There is also a full page of individual and team stats for D1, D2, D3 and NAIA, plus two pages of women’s stats. Wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense to give us six pages of D1 stats instead? Are a substantial number of NAIA fans really buying this magazine?
Schedules. By virtue of its release date, TSN has most every team’s schedules in complete form at the very back of the magazine. The back page also has a nice roundup of all the in-season tourneys and conference tournament information.
The writing of this magazine is better than Lindy’s and Athlon, but the only writing actually performed is in the conference and team previews. It was very disappointing there weren’t more features at the front.
Total Points = 10
RTC Grade for Sporting News/Street & Smith’s = 61.5 pts
Basis: We have to say that we were really disappointed with this magazine, largely because when we were growing up, the TSN and S&S previews were must-reads in our house. Wow, how the mighty have fallen. How can you not have feature articles or build an NCAA field? How can you not rank-order recruits? How can you add a cheerleader section and spend page after page giving us NAIA stats? At this point, and we never thought we’d say this, the TSN magazine is definitely worse than Lindy’s and no better than Athlon. This would have been unheard of a few short years ago. The only value of this magazine is in the quality of the writing of the analyses for the high major conferences and teams – that is the one (and only) area where TSN trumps the other two. What a disappointment.
90-100 pts – exceptional quality in all areas – must buy and keep on-hand all season!
80-89 pts – very good quality mag – worthy of purchasing and reading cover-to-cover
70-79 pts – average, run of the mill magazine – some value in certain areas but weak in others – tough call as to whether to purchase it
60-69 pts – magazine on the weaker side, but may still have some positive attributes – probably not worth the money, though
0-59 pts – such a low quality magazine that it’s not worth any more than the five minutes you thumbed through it at the store
Every year, all the preview magazines, bloggers, media pundits and the like make myriad predictions about conferences, all-americans, bracketology, etc., but come March, very few of them ever own up to those prognoses. Usually that’s because they were wrong about nearly everything. So we’re going to try to provide a modicum of accountability here. The idea is that we’ll post the predictions of the varoius media outlets now with the intent to revisit them next spring.
And if you never hear about this again, you’ll know that our predictions were waaaaaay off. :-)
So for starters, we’re going to post consensus conference predictions for the leagues we rated #31 through #24. We’ll show you every media outlet’s pick for conference winner in addition to the school that got the most picks (if there is one). If we’re missing anyone, please notify us so we can add them as well. Our picks are below in red.
As you can see, we agree with the consensus pick in five of the nine leagues we’ve reviewed so far – NEC, A-Sun, OVC (wow, Austin Peay has a lot to live up to –unanimous!), Big South and the MAAC. We don’t understand the Grambling pick (we have them 3d) nor the Hampton pick (4th). The BU pick in the America East makes sense to us (2d in our prediction) and the Southland is a three-way tie, with understandable choices of UT-Arlington and Texas A&M-CC.
We’ll update this accordingly as we complete another group of leagues for the season preview.
WYN2K. The Metro Atlantic, or the MAAC in local parlance, is a league that usually has a handful of good teams that can consistently compete with the mid-majors and beat the low-majors, but just doesn’t have the horses to run with the high majors. As a case in point, the league went 1-19 against BCS teams last year (Marist 63, Minnesota 56), but still managed to have one of the best low-major records against nonconference opponents over the last three years (122-174, .412). This is also exhibited by the league’s average seeding (#13.8) in the NCAA Tournament over the last decade – only two times has the MAAC received a #16 seed (2001 – Siena; 2007 – Niagara), and both times it won the PiG as a result. As such, the league is typically competitive at the top, and this year is no different as we can foresee as many as five teams making a run at the title.
Predicted Champion.Loyola (MD) (#15 seed NCAA). We’re a bit of a sucker for a great turnaround story, and none this year could possibly be better than Loyola. In 2004 the Greyhounds endured a 1-27 season, tied for the fewest victories in D1. Enter Jim Patsos, a smooth-talking optimist who guided Loyola to 6 wins, then 15 wins, then 18 wins last season as he has re-energized the program. Now in his fourth year, the Greyhounds are poised to win the MAAC and earn an NCAA bid, led by former transfers such as Gerald Brown (22.2 ppg – #8 nationally) from Providence, Hassan Fofana (a 6’10 bruiser) from Maryland and Joe Miles (an instant-offense guy) from Marshall. With four returning starters from a 12-6 conference record last year, we think that Loyola is the team to beat in the MAAC this year.
Others Considered. Siena is another school that returns a slew of talent from a 12-6 team, including Kenny Hasbrouck, the 2006 MAAC ROY and an all-league selection last year. The Saints won nine of their last ten games last year before losing to Niagara in the MAAC title game, but we feel that the loss of big man Michael Haddix gives Loyola the edge here. It will be a close race in any case. Last year’s regular season champ Marist returns a good amount of experience and adds some key transfers (including former Syracuse guard Louis McCroskey), but the loss of second-round NBA draft pick point guard Jared Jordan, who led the nation in assists for two years in a row, will be tough to replace. We also expect Manhattan to make some noise this year, as the Jaspers return seven sophomores from a team that surprised the MAAC by going 10-8 last season. Niagara also should be mentioned even though it lost four starters from its NCAA team; after all, the Purple Eagles have won two of the last three NCAA bids, and the one starter returning is all-MAAC forward Charron Fisher, who will be assisted by the MAAC conference tourney MVP Tyrone Lewis. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention Rider, if for no other reason than they have an NBA prospect named Jason Thompson on the team, the only returning 20/10 player in all of D1 this season.
Games to Watch. We’re still in the low-majors, so only one game matters.
MAAC Championship Game (03.10.08). ESPN2.
RPI Booster Games. The MAAC doesn’t play many BCS games in a typical season, and this year is no different with 21 on the slate. As always, there are a few opportunities to grab a handful of wins against some BCS bottom-feeders in addition to improving the overall profile of the league simply by showing up and taking your medicine.
Siena @ Syracuse (11.12.07)
Marist @ Miami (FL) (11.15.07)
Stanford @ Siena (11.17.07)
Loyola (MD) @ Seton Hall (11.20.07)
NC State @ Rider (11.22.07)
Fairfield @ Georgetown (12.01.07)
Niagara @ St. John’s (12.15.07)
Loyola (MD) @ Illinois (12.28.07)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Once again, for the record, zero.
Neat-o Stat. Former Pitino assistant Kevin Willard takes over for Jeff Ruland at Iona after the Gaels’ horrendous 2-28 performance last season. How do you lose that many games? Well, first, you turn the ball over on more than a quarter (26.1%, 329th nationally) of your possessions; and second, when you manage to hang onto the ball long enough to get to the foul line, you convert at only a 57.7% rate (334th nationally). Iona lost six conference games by <5 points or in overtime – you think extra possessions and making foul shots might have helped?
64/65-Team Era. The MAAC is 5-24 (.172) over this era, which actually accounts for the second-best record among the traditional low-majors (only the Mid-Continent is better), but this is a little misleading because two of those wins were from PiGs. As we stated above, the league tends to receive a favorable seed (among low-majors), averaging a #13.0 over the entire period. Still, only three teams have managed to win a true first round game, and one of those was as a surprising #4 seed (1990 – LaSalle and Lionel “L-Train” Simmons over #13 Southern Miss 79-63 – believe it or not, we found a clip of the L-Train in action in 1988 below). The other two upset victories for the MAAC were in 1995 (#13 Manhattan over #4 Oklahoma 77-67) and 2004 (#12 Manhattan over #5 Florida 75-60). Seems as if only the Jaspers can pull off the upset from this conference.
Note: video cannot be embedded, so double-click on the YouTube logo above to get it to play.
Final Thought. The MAAC as a whole has seen better days, but really it’s the bottom half of the league that’s keeping it down. It’s an exaggeration, but it seems as if every year the worst team in America (as judged solely by records and media coverage) comes from the MAAC. Several years ago it was Loyola, and last year it was Iona. Part of this probably derives from increased media attention due to its location of schools centered in and around New York. Nevertheless, the perception of this league is worse than its actual performance. Still, it has been slipping a smidge over the past couple of years and it needs to put together a strong season this year to earn back some of that respect.
More news and notes from a busy first week of practice.
Everyone is piling on Kelvin Sampson for his phone indiscretions. AOL Fanhouse looks into the poor cell phone service excuse, while DeCourcy takes shots at IU’s compliance office. One blogger wrote an open letter to Kelvin Sampson asking him to just go away. Yesterday Sampson resisted talking about the issue at his press conference.
Speaking of Indiana coaches causing trouble, the NCAA instituted a point of emphasis this year on abusive behavior by coaches on the sideline. M2M has the definitive take on this.
More IU-related content: Bob Knight felt the need to talk about the MLB playoffs during his presser this week.
MJ expects to watch his son sit the bench play at least once this year in Champaign.
On Monday it was official that Mike Hopkins would succeed Jim Boeheim at Syracuse upon his retirement; by Tuesday, it wasn’t official anymore.
So what really went down in practice between OJ Mayo and Daniel Hackett? Was it an errant ‘bow or a flat-out haymaker to the schnozz?
One of the underrated coaches at an underrated program, Randy Bennett at St. Mary’s got a two-year extension (through 2013).
Katz dissects the budding UCLA-USC rivalry, comparing it to UNC-Duke. What he fails to mention is that SoCallers don’t care about college hoops nearly as much as the NCers. That’s a Laker area, through and through.
Injuries, Suspensions, etc.
Is Brook Lopez planning on playing this year? He’s already out for the first nine games – now he’s indefinitely suspended for breaking team rules, which means he can’t even practice.
Wisconsin starter Michael Flowers is going on a leave of absence for the cryptic reason of “medical problems.”
Notre Dame super-soph Luke Harongody will miss 3-6 weeks with damage to his thumb ligaments.
Mizzou senior forward Darryl Butterfield was arrested for domestic assault and suspended indefinitely by the team.
Remember our pal Frank Tolbert? The good state of Alabama did not agree with local prosecutors that Tolbert was drunk while stealing driving his SUV away from the towing lot. He is not expected to miss any games.
A bunch of UK players are injured in various ways. Oh, and Alex Legion isn’t hurt, but his mom is some kind of prophet.
SEC:TGTBTD has it’s all-SEC teams ready – 3d Team, 2d Team, 1st Team (Chris Lofton, Jamont Gordon, Patrick Beverly, Richard Hendrix, Shan Foster).
Gary Parrish has his all-american teams + 10 ready (we like his balls to put Derrick Rose on the first team).
Big 12 talk – apparently K-State is loading up on players, while KU is striking out on recruiting. Yahoo asks if the Big 12 will ever win a title again, and oh yeah, Tom Osborne is the new AD at Nebraska.
Will Florida even make the NCAA Tourney this year? Billy D. isn’t sure.
Can UConn’s AJ Price stay away from the computer lab this year? Jim Calhoun thinks he can.
The ACC likes to tout itself as the best basketball conference year after year, much to the annoyance of fans everywhere else. While the merits of that stance is arguable (ahem, 2007), one thing that is not is that on balance the ACC is the most passionate conference about its hoops. The history and culture of a league that has identified predominantly with roundball for over fifty years has created rabid fanbases from College Park to Atlanta that make home court advantage really mean something.
With expansion of the ACC from its base in the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic to now entail western Virginia, parts of Florida (Tallahassee & Miami), and Boston College, the culture of ACC basketball has proliferated in these remote outposts – with one exception. Florida St. has fostered a tough home environment (for a formerly dominant football school) at the Leon County Civic Center since joining the league in 1991. Virginia Tech’s Cassell Coliseum has already become a bottomless pit for ACC teams in only its first few years in the conference. BC’s fans were already rabid, and that hasn’t changed. Which brings us to our exception – the curious case of the University of Miami.
Miami Fans Burying a Terp?
Since joining the ACC in 2004-05 in a purely football-related decision, Miami has gone 18-30 in ACC basketball, worst in the league. This relative on-court ugliness is reflected in the stands too, as Miami in 2007 finished outside the top 100 schools in home game attendance, dead last among ACC schools (next lowest: BC #81). Look, we get that there are other things to do in the dead of winter in Miami other than heading downtown to see the Canes take on Georgia Tech on a 75-degree Saturday afternoon, but still, even we were amazed by what the school’s administration has cooked up in an effort to increase student attendance this year.
Determined to boost men’s basketball attendance, UM is about to unveil some of the most creative ideas we have ever seen from a local team. Besides dropping most season-ticket prices by about 50 percent, UM will add a hot tub, a sandbox and lifeguard tower in the student seating section — students will be encouraged to attend in beach attire — and elsewhere in the arena, in-game shoe-shines, massages, haircuts and a computer work-station will be offered.
Yes, creative is putting it lightly. What the Miami Herald really meant to say is certifiably insane. We’re so completely disturbed by this idea that we’re not even sure how to process it. Nothing says ACC hoops like a bunch of SoBe kids in swimwear building sand castles at the arena. We’re sure the Cameron Crazies are already planning on shipping in their own sand from the Outer Banks – that’ll show Tyler Hansbrough and Sean Singletary what’s up. Please, Miami hoops, for all of us who remember ACC basketball, just go away.
ACC expansion – killing the league one marketing campaign at a time. Since 1991.
WYN2K. Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. The Big South has not traditionally been a very good league. The only thing keeping it from the conference dregs along with the likes of the MEAC and Atlantic Sun has been the ascendence of Winthrop (seven of the last nine conference NCAA appearances) as a legitimate mid-major program. During the last three years the Big South has gone 87-171 (.337) against nonconference opponents, but nearly a quarter of those wins (20) belong to the Eagles (including all four conference wins over BCS opponents). With coach Gregg Marshall’s move up the food chain to Wichita St. and the loss of three key starters (not to mention the untimely death of DeAndre Adams in a car accident in May), the Big South championship just might be open to an enterprising suitor no longer cowed by Winthrop basketball.
Predicted Champion.High Point (#16 seed NCAA). We believe that there is too much turnover (eight new players + a new coach) and potential turmoil for Winthrop to hang on to their crown this season, but we also think it will be a very tight race at the top (predicting both teams to finish tied in the regular season, with HP taking the tournament title). High Point returns conference POY Arizona Reid and two other starters to a second-place Big South squad that was 14th in the nation in 3pt% defense last year. More importantly, High Point was the team that played Winthrop the toughest during its 14-0 conference run last year, losing by a single point at home and twelve on the road (no other team had a lower combined margin of -13 points).
Others Considered. Should High Point stumble, we know that Winthrop will be there to pick up the pieces. We also think Coastal Carolina, with new coach Cliff Ellis, could make a run at the conference title. Ellis inherits Jack Leasure, the 2006 conference POY, in addition to Joshua Mack, the 2007 conference ROY, so clearly he has some talent to work with. We’re not ready to jump on the Loyola MarymountVMI bandwagon just yet (101 ppg), but their surprising run to the conference finals and scare of Winthrop (VMI lost 84-81) raised some eyebrows. Reggie Williams alone (28.1 ppg, 53% FG) might be worth the price of admission. UNC-Asheville returns four starters, but six straight losing seasons doesn’t exactly inspire confidence despite the presence of 7’7 mantree Kenny George, who averaged decent numbers (5.5 ppg; 3.5 rpg) in only ten minutes per game.
Games to Watch. One-bid league = one important game.
Big South Championship Game (03.08.08). ESPN2.
RPI Booster Games. As we alluded to above, the Big South doesn’t perform very well when facing BCS teams (2-23, .080 in 2006-07). In fact, all four wins against BCS opponents in the last three years have come at the hands of Winthrop (big surprise there) – Mississippi St. (2007), Notre Dame (2007), Marquette (2006), and Providence (2005). Still, there are a few opportunities for Big South teams to win against bottom-feeder BCS teams this year.
Coastal Carolina @ Cincinnati (11.16.07)
Auburn @ Charleston Southern (11.19.07)
VMI @ Ohio St. (11.25.07)
Winthrop @ Mississippi (12.13.07)
Winthrop @ Miami (FL) (12.29.07)
High Point @ Florida (01.02.08)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. None. Winthrop would have trouble getting a bid as an at-large last year had it lost the title game, and nobody is going through this league unbeaten this year.
Neat-o Stat. Gotta be VMI, right? The Keydets set NCAA records for threes made (442), threes attempted (1383), threes per game (13.4) and total steals (490) in a season. Coach Duggar Baucaum‘s philosophy is for his players to take over 100 shots a game (half of which are 3s). All he needs now is a Hank Gathers and a Bo Kimble and he’ll be all set.
64/65-Team Era. The Big South began participating in the NCAA Tournament in 1991, and the league has gone 2-16 (.111) during this period, with one of those wins being the 2003 PiG (UNC-Asheville defeated Texas Southern). The other win, of course, was last year’s #11 Winthrop over #6 Notre Dame 74-64. Part of this is due to seeding, as the league has averaged a 15.2 seed over the era. In fact, the only three times that the league has gotten a seed better than #15 were all Winthrop (2000 – #14, 2005 – #14, 2007 – #11). So what does this mean for a non-Winthrop team such as High Point who might make the NCAAs this year? Probably not much – the last two times another school made it (2003 – UNC-Asheville; 2004 – Liberty), they both got #16 seeds and were blitzed by twenty in the first round. So for now, let’s just enjoy highlights of last year’s upset over the Irish.
Note: video cannot be embedded, so double-click on the YouTube logo above to get it to play.
Final Thought. This season will be the test to determine whether Winthrop has staying power like its fellow mid-major sister schools Gonzaga and Southern Illinois, to name a couple. Gonzaga survived the loss of its coach and architect Dan Monson without missing a beat, and SIU did the same when Bruce Weber left Chris Lowery at the helm in 2003. Let’s sit back and see what Randy Peele can do.
WYN2K. The Am East has a tendency toward top-heaviness, with a couple of good teams in a given year that are competitive with mid-major and (sometimes) high-major teams while the rest are relegated to the morass of low-major fiefdom. Over the last several years, the three sentinels of America East basketball have been Vermont , Boston U. and Albany, the three of which have won the last six regular season and conference tourney championships of the league (although only once in the same year – Vermont in 2005) . Led by these programs, the conference has gone 119-176 (.403) against nonconference opponents over the last three seasons, which is a clear step up in success from the conferences below it. We expect the same three programs to battle it out for this year’s crown.
Predicted Champion. Vermont (#16 seed NCAA). Choosing UVM here was an extremely close call, as we fully expect BU and Albany to make a push for the league crown as well. Despite the losses of rebounding fiend Chris Holm (#3 in oReb% nationally) and rising star Joe Trapani (transfer to BC), the Catamounts return probable Am East POY Mike Trimboli at the point guard slot. We feel that his heady play, combined with the losses at the other schools will allow Vermont to hang on to the top spot.
Others Considered. BU is rising quickly, led by a quartet of precocious sophomores who surprised the league by finishing 8-8 in the conference last season. The most interesting of these players is Tyler Morris, reigning Am East ROY who also has the distinction of being the HS teammate of Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. See if you can find him in the video below (look very closely for the white kid in green). Two-time defending NCAA entrant Albany must also be dealt with, despite losing Am East POY (twice over) Jamar Wilson. Brent Wilson and Brian Lillis (Am East DPOY) have more than enough support to make another run at the title. A final consideration goes to Binghamton, who hired Georgetown assistant coach Kevin Broadus to bring the Princeton offense to upstate NY. Considering that Binghamton was already one of the most sure-handed offenses in the nation (#9 in oStl%), we think this group will be ready for the transition. It also doesn’t hurt that the 2008 conference tourney will be located in Binghamton. Watch out for the Bearcats as a darkhorse.
Games to Watch. As a one-bid league, only one game will matter to most people.
America East Championship Game (03.15.08). ESPN2.
RPI Booster Games. The America East shies away from playing numerous BCS conference teams (18 games scheduled last year; 16 this year), but it makes up for it by playing quite a few winnable games against mid-major teams. For example, last year Albany defeated Utah to go along with the league’s three wins vs. BCS opponents (Vermont 77, BC 63; Binghamton 79, Miami (FL) 74; Stony Brook 59, Penn St. 51). There are several such opportunities this season.
Vermont @ George Mason (11.09.07)
Vermont @ Virginia (11.11.07)
Boston U. @ George Washington (11.14.07)
Maryland-BC @ Wichita St. (12.04.07)
Albany @ Duke (12.17.07)
Boston U. @ UMass (12.29.07)
Albany @ Iowa St. (12.30.07)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids.Zip. Even with Vermont going 15-1 in the league last year and losing to Albany by one point in the conference tourney final, they were relegated to the NIT (losing to Kansas St. 59-57). This year will be a more competitive race, which leaves no opportunity for multiple bids.
Neat-o Stat. We have several today. The Am East is a league where coaches get their starts – names like Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino, Mike Jarvis, Mike Brey, and Jay Wright all earned their chops in the league before moving onto bigger and better things. Will Binghamton’s Kevin Broadus be the next coaching star from the America East? Also, just call Maryland-Baltimore County’s Brian Hodges the Human Cannon this season – he ranked sixth in the nation in shots attempted, taking 37.4% of his team’s shots while on the floor. Finally, everyone thinks UVM stands for University (of) Ver… Mont, right? Well, no – it actually is latin (Universitas Viridis Montis) for University of the Green Mountains. Go figure.
64/65-Team Era. The America East is 3-23 (.115) over this era, with three first-round victories from 1989 (#14 Siena over #3 Stanford), 1996 (#12 Drexel over #5 Memphis), and 2005 (#13 Vermont over #4 Syracuse). #13 Albany was blitzed last year by #4 Virginia, but in 2006 the Great Danes were leading #1 seed UConn 60-48 with eleven minutes remaining before Marcus Williams took over and finished them off down the stretch (34-9 run by the Huskies). And who can forget the Sorrentine and Coppenrath show vs. Cuse in 2005?
Final Thought. The Am East is one of our favorite low-major leagues. In the few games we see involving these teams, the fans seem to be incredibly rowdy and into the games. The level of basketball as a rule is decidedly below the rim, but teams make up for it in execution and shooting. And how can you not like resident Am East cheerleader (and former UVM coach) Tom Brennan doing studio work for ESPN all winter.