Breaking Down the Preseason Mags… pt. 3

Posted by rtmsf on October 21st, 2007

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.

TSN / S&S Cover 08

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 Memphis are 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.


Grading Scale:

  • 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
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Let’s Go Orange!!

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2007

Ok, so the Cuse doesn’t know which end is up with respect to its next coach

Fine.

But at least they know how to bust a backboard on the break. Sweet sweet glass shards.

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.435764&w=425&h=350&fv=]

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Consensus Conference Picks – #31-#23

Posted by rtmsf on October 19th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

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.

#31-#23 Conf Picks

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.

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Conference Primers: #23 – Metro Atlantic

Posted by rtmsf on October 19th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Loyola (MD) (19-9) (14-4)
  2. Siena (18-9) (13-5)
  3. Marist  (16-11) (12-6)
  4. Manhattan (16-12) (11-7)
  5. Niagara (13-13) (9-9)
  6. Rider  (11-16) (8-10)
  7. Fairfield (10-18) (8-10)
  8. Iona (8-21) (6-12)
  9. St. Peter’s (7-21) (5-13)
  10. Canisius (5-23) (4-14)

 MAAC Logo

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 ConsideredSiena 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.   

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10.19.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 19th, 2007

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.
  • Basketball Prospectus is up and running (woohoo!) – the first post that captured our attention was this one on what makes an assist an assist?
  • 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.     
  • And more preseason chatter from various sources.
    • MSNBC has its preseason top 25 out (UNC #1).
    • Luke Winn spent the week slurping up whatever they’re selling in the RTP these days. 
    • Meanwhile, Jeff Goodman did a Tennessee three-step – Memphis, Vandy & UT
    • 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. 
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Beach Blanket Hurricane

Posted by rtmsf on October 18th, 2007

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.

Kids sandbox

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.

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Conference Primers: #24 – Big South

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. High Point (18-8) (10-4)
  2. Winthrop (18-9) (10-4)
  3. Coastal Carolina (14-14) (8-6)
  4. VMI (15-11) (8-6)
  5. UNC-Asheville (15-14) (7-7)
  6. Liberty (12-17) (6-8)
  7. Charleston Southern (12-17) (5-9)
  8. Radford (7-22) (3-11)

Big South logo

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 Marymount VMI 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.

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Conference Primers: #25 – America East

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Vermont (21-7) (13-3)
  2. Boston U. (18-10) (12-4)
  3. Albany (16-13) (10-6)
  4. Binghamton (14-13) (9-7)
  5. Maryland-Baltimore County (13-16) (8-8)
  6. Maine (9-19) (6-10)
  7. Stony Brook (10-18) (6-10)
  8. Hartford (9-21) (5-11)
  9. New Hampshire (6-21) (3-13)

America East Logo

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.

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10.16.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 16th, 2007

An absolute ton of newsworthy stuff to catch up on from the weekend…

  • 2008 #1 player Greg Monroe committed to Georgetown after his visit there this weekend.  It couldn’t have had anything to do with that now-ubiquitous Jerry Rice dance, could it?  “Hoops” Weiss has the definitive take on how Monroe will impact the Hoyas.  Above the Rim writes that Duke (who was hot-n-heavy for Monroe) isn’t used to losing out on these guys. 
  • Making the Dance reports that after Georgetown (who obviously had the best MM weekend), Illinois (Bruce Weber can recruit after all?!?!), Indiana, Louisville and several others had good weekends. 
  • Lots of Midnight Madness and practice coverage from the weekend…
    • Huggins taking over the reins at his alma mater.  (there’s an amusing wmv file floating around where Huggins is giving a speech to some WVU booster club – it’s longwinded and rambling, but the DerMarr Johnson payoff is funny) 
    • A general roundup of MM from Lexington to Lawrence.
    • Catching up with Tubby in Minnesota. 
    • Pat Forde takes in the scene at UK with Billy Gillispie.  Apparently Goodman did the same.   
    • Andy Katz checks in on the hype surrounding Memphis. 
    • Goodman also took a road trip to Saluki country to report on the best mid-major not named Gonzaga, while en route to seeing Pitino in Louisville
    • Wake’s first practice without Skip Prosser
    • Dave Odom tries to save his job with transfers at South Carolina.
    • Pitt has XXXL expectations for DeJuan Blair
    • The defending champs (2x) start the rebuilding process.
  • Sad news that former Georgia star and current surgeon Alec Kessler died of a heart attack last weekend. 
  • Injuries, suspensions and dismissals:
    • Gonzaga’s Josh Heytvelt was reinstated on Friday but will miss the first week of practice due to shroom farming foot pain.
    • Louisville’s Juan Palacios injured his ankle and may have to redshirt his senior season. 
    • Brandon Rush reports that he’s on target for his Dec. 1 return to Kansas.
    • Georgia suspended three players for not attending classes, including top two scorers Takais Brown (9 games) and Mike Mercer (15 games).  Seriously, fellas?  SEC Hoops:TGTBTD has the take on how this will affect the Bulldogs.
    • Northwestern’s best player Kevin Coble is taking a leave of absence to be with his sick mother. 
    • Ball St. coach Billy Taylor booted two more players off the team, making a total of six since he was hired in August. 
  • More Preseason goodies:
    • Gary Parrish and Ben Howland converse about whether the Pac-10 will have the most first round picks ever this year.
    • Pitino bitches about the difficulty of the unbalanced league schedule Louisville is being forced to play. 
    • MMAS continues its comprehensive review with its non-BCS top 25
    • Seth Davis asks us 20 questions, then he answers them. 
    • Gary Parrish lists his start-of-practice top 26.  Memphis, eh?
    • The Fanhouse wonders if Memphis is even the best team in its own state.
    • Jeff Goodman takes a realistic look at Duke’s expectations for this season.
    • ESPN plans on showing a grand total of TWO Pac-10 games this year!  Up from zero last year. 
    • The Big 12 handed out its preseason awards – DJ Augustin is the projected POY. 
    • Shawn Siegel lists his top 25 Big 12 players and top 25 Big 10 players for 07-08. 
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The Fraud 5 or Fab 5?

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2007

The Detroit Free-Press reported today that Jalen Rose is responsible for the following monstrosity memorial to the Fraud 5 Fab 5, Michigan’s controversial, engaging, frustrating, overachieving and underachieving teams of the early 90s. 

Fab Five billboard

We’re no Mitch Albom, so you won’t see a treatise on five people you meet in Michigan or basketball played in heaven here today, but we do recognize that the team represented on the billboard above was probably the most widely discussed yet schizophrenic college hoops team of the past two decades.  When focused, the team was without question one of the best conglomerations of talent in one class ever assembled; when not, they were as maddeningly frustrating as they were enticing.   

Were Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson the Fab 5 or the Fraud 5?  Ultimately, it depends on your perspective.  We took a shot at comparing the two below. 

Fab 5 or Fraud 5

For a recap of the group and their effects on the game at large, check the below ESPN clip: 

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Kelvin Sanctions – Should IU be Worried?

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2007

Lost amidst all the Midnight Madness celebrations this weekend was news from Indiana that head coach Kelvin Sanctions Sampson was caught violating the terms of his agreement with the NCAA related to recruiting violations while he was at Oklahoma.  Citing “an environment of deliberate noncompliance” in May 2006, the NCAA Infractions Committee placed several restrictions on Sampson for making excessive phone calls to recruits.   One of the key added restrictions was that Sampson was not allowed to initiate phone calls to recruits or be present when a staff member made such calls for a year hence.  The meat:

Therefore, his current employing institution shall, pursuant to the provisions of NCAA Bylaw 19.5.2.2 (l), show cause why it should not be penalized if it does not prohibit the former head coach, for a period of one year from the date of the release of this report (May 25, 2006 through May 24, 2007), from 1) making any phone calls that relate in any way to recruiting or being present when members of his staff make such calls; and 2) engaging in any off-campus recruiting activities.

So what does he do?  He makes phone calls to recruits, of course. 

Kelvin Sampson IU

IU athletic director Rick Greenspan said a two-month review determined that on approximately 10 occasions, an assistant coach initiated three-way calls that connected Sampson into an on-going recruiting conversation with prospective student-athletes, their parents or coaches.

Indiana, fearing that the NCAA would come down hard on the program for such an egregious violation of noncompliance by their coach, handed out its own punishment to Sampson this weekend.  As a result, Sampson will not receive his scheduled $500k raise this season and the team will lose a scholarship for the 2008-09 campaign (nevermind that IU recruit Bud Mackey effectively surrendered his scholarship back to IU a couple of weeks ago).  The assistant coach who initiated the calls will also give up his raise and not be allowed to recruit away from campus.  Here’s Sampson’s explanation:

All of the calls were kids that were calling me. Our coaches did a great job in telling kids that ‘Coach can’t you call you because of the sanctions so will you call him?’ And that’s what we did. I found out about the three-way calls after they looked at the records. They saw that there had been three-way calls made and found out that Rob (Senderoff) had, after the kid had called me and tried to reach me on my cell phone, they would call coach Senderoff back and say ‘Coach Sampson was unavailable. I tried him on his cellphone.’ So what Rob was doing was patching the calls into me, and I was getting them not knowing that Rob had made the connection. But when I answered the phone in these situations, the kid would start talking.

Will this be enough to satisfy the NCAA?  We’re not sure about that, but we are a little appalled that Kelvin & Co. had the cojones to run the same trick again.  This willful noncompliance on the part of his staff suggests that IU fans may have reason for concern.  One of the oft-repeated statements during the weekend by IU brass was that Indiana basketball has not had a major NCAA violation since 1960.  Sampson is clearly pushing the envelope with his bosses, and many fans remain skeptical of his legitimacy based upon issues he had at Oklahoma.  It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, opinion of Sampson changes with the likelihood of IU’s best team in years taking the court this season. 

Update:  Say what you want about Sampson’s wilfullness here, but nobody can accuse him of covering things up (yet).  Apparently an intern in the compliance department was the person who uncovered these phone calls.  He likely works for free school credit, and yet he’s costing Kelvin Sampson $500k/year.  Memo to intern – probably don’t want to hit up the IU head man for a rec anytime soon.  (h/t March to Madness)

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The Best from The Madness

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2007

A few leftovers and detritus we found from last night’s Midnight Madness festivities around the nation:

JTIII gets funky at Georgetown:

Cool clip of Roy Hibbert bouncing with the students:

UK fans doing what they do:

More strange skits at Late Night with Roy:

Maryland doing likewise?:

DeAndre Jordan at Maroon Madness:

WVU throwdown:

If anybody’s seen any other really cool ones, send us the link or leave a comment. Thanks.

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