2008-09 Season Primers: #15 – MAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2008

Greg Miller of WPSD Local 6 is the RTC correspondent for the Mid-American Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

MAC East

  1. Kent  (22-9, 12-4)
  2. Miami (OH) (16-13, 11-5)
  3. Ohio  (20-9, 10-6)
  4. Akron  (16-15, 8-8)
  5. Bowling Green  (16-13, 7-9)
  6. Buffalo  (12-17, 6-10)

MAC West

  1. Western Michigan  (18-12, 10-6)
  2. Eastern Michigan  (16-14, 10-6)
  3. Central Michigan  (14-15, 9-7)
  4. Toledo  (13-17, 6-10)
  5. Ball State  (10-19, 4-12)
  6. Northern Illinois  (7-22, 3-13)

WYN2K.  The MAC’s new logo is just a small part of the change that the Mid-American Conference is hoping will push their league to the next level.  Seven of the league’s twelve head coaches are either in their first or second year, a sign that it really is a new era in the MAC.  The league is hoping to make the leap that leagues such as the Missouri Valley have made over the past decade.  It’s been ten long years since the MAC has had two teams in the NCAA Tournament.  That was back in 1999 when Kent earned the automatic bid while Miami (OH) picked up the league’s last at-large bid.  They proved very worthy as Wally Szczerbiak carried the RedHawks to the Sweet 16.  But the MAC has not since been able to recapture the glory of 1999.  Yes, they did watch Kent make a run to the Elite Eight in 2002, but it’s been quantity rather than quality that has plagued the MAC in the new century.  Since that multiple bid year of 1999, the league has sat back and watched a number of conferences do what they’ve been unable to do.  We mentioned the Valley, who has been a multi-bid league eight times in the interim.  Additionally, the Mountain West (8), WAC (7), West Coast (5), Horizon (2), CAA (2), Sun Belt  (1) and Big West (1) have all been a multi-bid league at least once.  In order to make that leap to a multi-bid league, the MAC must schedule better and most importantly take advantage of the opportunities they do get against the major conference teams.

Predicted Champion.  Kent (#13 NCAA).  As it’s been 7 of the past 10 years, the winner of the MAC will come from the East.  Just what team from the East remains to be seen?  Miami, Kent and Ohio all should make serious runs at the title, but none would be anything higher than a #12 seed in the Big Dance. 

  • As long as Jim Christian was at Kent, the Flash were guaranteed a 20-win season (ten straight).  But Jim Christian left for TCU.  Kent assistant coach and former MAC superstar Geno Ford (Ohio ’97) takes over the bench for the Flashes, but he will have some familiar faces to help him in his first season.  Guard Al Fisher (13.9 ppg, 4.0 apg) is the first returning MAC Player of the Year since 2002.  Fisher leads a group of eight returners that made up 65.1% of the KSU attack.  Chris Singletary and Jordan Mincy help Fisher solidify the backcourt.  The frontcourt is where Kent will have to fill some holes.  Gone are  Hamminn Quaintance and Mike Scott, both All-MAC performers who averaged over 23 points and 13 rebounds per game. 
  • Miami (OH) has veteran leadership on their side.  Charlie Coles, the dean of MAC coaches, is back for his 13th season with the RedHawks and he returns four starters and eleven letterwinners.  The most significant is Michael Bramos, a POY candidate.  Bramos (16.3 ppg) is a sharp-shooter who has the ability to light it up at anytime.  He went for 30+ points four times last year.  His scoring and the RedHawks always-frustrating defense will keep Miami in the hunt all year.  Miami has to find someone to replace the production of All-MAC frontcourt star Tim Pollitz. 
  • Ohio might be the longshot of these three, but don’t sleep on the Bobcats.  Like Kent, they have a new head coach in John Groce who comes from Ohio State where he played a big part in the recruiting of Greg Oden and Mike Conley.  It will take Groce some time to work his recruiting magic in Athens, but he does have some talent to work with.  Jerome Tillman (13.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg) might be the best player in the league.  He’s been very solid the past three years for the ‘Cats, posting 18 double-doubles.  The only question with Tillman is can he do it without his tag-team partner of the past two years?  Gone is Leon Williams, who garnered double and triple teams throughout his career in Athens.  Williams opened things for Tillman, but with him gone on the inside, how will Tillman handle the bulk of the attention?  The Bobcats also return senior starter Justin Orr in the frontcourt, a player who has yet to tap into his full potential.  Michael Allen is the only other senior on the team.  He’ll be asked to be a leader on the floor from the point guard spot where he showed flashes of brilliance last year.  The Bobcats must find a way to win on the road if they want to be a serious contender.  They were 7-1 at home in the MAC, 2-6 on the road last season.

Others Considered.  Eastern Michigan hasn’t been dancing since 1998 and hasn’t had a winning season since 1999-00.  So why would we mention the Eagles?  Well, they could be a darkhorse in the West.  All-MAC guard Carlos Medlock returns as well as 2006-07 All-MAC freshman forward Brandon Bowdry who missed all of last year with a stress fracture.  The Eagles did finish second in the West last year at 8-8, so a winning season in 2008-09 is not out of the question.  Western Michigan will be considered the West favorite thanks to the return of All-MAC guard David Kool.  Along with having one of the best names in the MAC, he averaged over 16 points per game.  The Broncos will struggle trying to find a replacement for inside workhorse Joe Reitz.  In the East, Bowling Green and Buffalo could be sleepers.  BG returns almost everyone and has a talented coach in Louis Orr.  Buffalo was only 3-13 in the MAC last year, but they return all five starters and ninth-year head coach Reggie Witherspoon has won in this league before.

RPI Boosters.

The MAC does have a number of games against the BCS schools.  But overall, the league has done a pretty poor job of scheduling.  They’re aren’t nearly enough key games at home.  It’s been an ongoing problem for years in the MAC in trying to get bigger schools to come on-campus and play.  This year is no different.  But with that being said, there are chances to make some noise in the non-conference season.  The league plays quite a few mid-majors including a handful of teams from the MVC and Atlantic 10.  Here is a list of the top 25 games where the MAC really has a chance to put themselves on the map.  The italicized games are the rare times a big school has agreed to play at a MAC school.  If the MAC is able to pull a few upsets in these games, then what those teams do in conference will go a long way in earning them a possible at-large bid. 

  • Miami at UCLA  (11.13.08)
  • Toledo at Florida  (11.14.08)
  • Miami at Pitt  (11.17.08)
  • Toledo at Xavier  (11.17.08)
  • Eastern Michigan at Purdue (ESPN2)  (11.17.08)
  • Akron at Pitt  (11.21.08)
  • Bowling Green at Ohio State  (11.24.08)
  • Kent vs. Illinois (South Padre Invitational)  (11.28.08)
  • Kent vs. Texas A&M/Tulsa (South Padre Invitational)  (11.29.08)
  • Miami at Xavier  (11.29.08)
  • Kent at Kansas (ESPNU)  (12.01.08)
  • Central Michigan at Marquette  (12.02.08)
  • UMass at Toledo  (12.03.08)
  • St. Mary’s at Kent (12.04.08)
  • UConn at Buffalo  (12.04.08)
  • Ohio at Louisville  (12.07.08)
  • Purdue at Ball State  (12.09.08)
  • Ohio at Xavier  (12.10.08)
  • Eastern Michigan at Michigan  (12.13.08)
  • Western Michigan at UNLV  (12.14.08)
  • Southern Illinois at Northern Illinois  (12.17.08)
  • Miami at WVU  (12.20.08)
  • Houston at Toledo  (12.20.08)
  • Western Michigan at Southern Illinois  (12.22.08)
  • Eastern Michigan at Illinois  (12.28.08)
  • Central Michigan at Kentucky  (12.29.08)

The league is set up for teams to open with five division games, six cross-division games and then five division games to finish.  So we’ll have a good idea of the front-runners in both the East Division and West Division by late January.  It also sets up for some potentially big games in late February/early March to decide the division races.  On paper, the East Division is again stronger than the West Division.  The Michigan directional schools will all get their cracks at the East to prove otherwise in late January.

  • Kent at Ohio  (01.11.09)
  • Ohio at Miami  (01.14.09)
  • Miami at Kent  (01.17.09)
  • Eastern Michigan at Kent  (01.27.09)
  • Kent at Western Michigan  (01.31.09)
  • Miami at Eastern Michigan  (01.31.09)
  • Eastern Michigan at Ohio  (02.07.09)
  • Ohio at Western Michigan  (02.11.09)
  • Bowling Green at Toledo  (02.11.09)
  • Western Michigan at Miami  (02.14.09)
  • Miami at Ohio  (02.16.09)
  • Ohio at Kent  (02.17.09)
  • Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan  (02.18.09) 
  • Eastern Michigan at Central Michigan  (02.28.09)
  • Kent at Miami (03.01.09) (could decide East champion)
  • Central Michigan at Western Michigan  (03.08.09)

Neat-O Stat.  If history is any indicator, Kent will be there in the end.  They’ve played in the MAC Tournament title game 7 of the last 10 years, winning five of them.

Hello, My Name Is…

The league has 7 coaches who are either in their first or second years.

First-Year Head Coaches

  • John Groce – Ohio
  • Geno Ford – Kent
  • Gene Cross – Toledo

Second-Year Head Coaches

  • Louis Orr – Bowling Green
  • Ernie Ziegler – Central Michigan
  • Billy Taylor – Ball State
  • Ricardo Patton – Northern Illinois

Veteran Coaches

  • Charlie Coles – Miami (13th year)
  • Reggie Witherspoon – Buffalo (9th year)
  • Keith Dambrot – Akron (5th year)
  • Charles Ramsey – Eastern Michigan (3rd year)
  • Steve Hawkins – Western Michigan (6th year)

65 Team Era.   There’s a reason every coach gets a lump in his throat when the brackets first come out and he sees a MAC team opposite his sqaud, and it’s not necessarily because he thinks they’re going to lose.  Rather, if history is any indication, he’s likely to win the first-round game, but he’s in for an all-out war in doing so.  Despite an average seed of #11.9 throughout the era, MAC teams play their first-round opponents very tough, losing by 12 pts or less in all but seven of their first-round matchups.  The overall conference record of 15-29 (.341) with four trips to the Sweet Sixteen isn’t too shabby either.  Unfortunately for MAC fans, however, the conference is on a five-year streak of first-round losses, which is the longest such streak of the era.

Final Thoughts. 

  • While the MAC desperately wants to make the move to the next level and earn multiple NCAA bids, the reality is, this might not be the year for that to happen.  The league lost a lot of star power from last year and with a ton of new coaches, it might be a year or two before this league really starts to take off and maybe even return to the form of the late 1990s where they were not just earning NCAA bids, but winning NCAA games.  2008-09 will be like most years in the MAC.  Once they get to conference play, it will be an all-out war with teams beating up each other.  That makes it tough to earn an at-large out of this league.  Despite the top-heavy league records, the MAC is a tough league to win within, especially on the road. 
  • On a more positive note, this league is getting better.  You will see some budding coaching stars in Geno Ford, John Groce and Gene Cross.  Not to mention a few coaches who have been around the block that know a thing or two about winning like Charlie Coles, Ricardo Patton and Louis Orr.  They do have stars to replace, but there are stars ready to shine.  Keep an eye on Jerome Tillman (Ohio), Michael Bramos (Miami), Al Fisher (Kent), Carlos Medlock (EMU), Tyrone Kent and Boomer Tucker (Toledo) and David Kool (WMU).
  • This might not be a league who earns multiple NCAA bids in 2008-09, but they will make noise out of conference.  Miami always gives people fits.  Ohio is usually good for an upset.  Kent has been rock-solid for the last decade.  And with the much-improved Bowling Greens, Eastern Michigans and Toledos of the world, the MAC could jump up and surprise a big boy or two if they’re not careful.
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Physician: Stroke Led to Olson’s Retirement

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2008

We’re experiencing Lute Olson fatigue around here lately, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t put a period on this story by reporting what Olson’s physician revealed to the world in a press conference today.  Dr. Steven Knope stated that Olson was being treated for severe depression and impaired judgment for several months and had not responded favorably when an MRI taken early last week showed that Olson had endured a stroke in his frontal lobe at some point within the past year.  Dr. Knope impressed upon Olson to retire from coaching, which he did last Thursday.  From the East Valley Tribune:

“He is frankly devastated,” Knope said. “This is something that is simply beyond his control.”  [...] Knope said he had advised Olson in recent weeks to step down from his head coaching position, saying Olson “just couldn’t put the pieces together.”  Knope decided to request an MRI for Olson because he wasn’t responding to therapy and medication for depression.  “He knew something was wrong, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it,” Knope said.

(Photo Credit: Tucson Citizen)

The doctor stated that Olson was otherwise in good health (he has a familial tremor and atrial fibrillation that are being treated), but there were concerns that additional stress from coaching could lead to more problems with his already-compromised judgment.  For Arizona fans, they can finally move on and put the mess Olson left in his wake behind them.  Already the Class of 2009 recruits are looking elsewhere, and the new interim coach was last seen stalking the sidelines in AAU ball, but there is a strong enough foundation there for continued success supposing the right person (Mark FewJohn CalipariJamie Dixon?) is hired to lead it.

Oh, and stay well, Lute.  Strokes are no joke.  We hope he can continue to live a life of freedom and facility.   

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Testing the Waters Rule to be Tested

Posted by rtmsf on October 28th, 2008

This is verrrry interesting.  The ACC, in all of its infinite basketball wisdom, is reportedly set to propose NCAA legislation that will allow players considering the NBA draft only ten days from the date of the NCAA Championship game to decide on whether they’re staying at Mother So Dear another year or leaving for the riches of the D-League Europe NBA.  From the Raleigh News & Observer:

The ACC plans to propose NCAA legislation that would force men’s basketball underclassmen to decide whether they are in the NBA Draft within 10 days after the NCAA title game.  ACC officials are considering submitting the proposal in time for an NCAA Board of Directors meeting on Thursday. If they wait, officials said Sunday, they will propose the idea next July.  Under the proposal, “there would be no grace period — either you’re in or you’re out,” said Karl Hicks, the ACC’s associate commissioner for basketball operations. “We feel that’s what would work best for the student- athletes and that’s what would work best for the coaches.”

Best for the coaches, we see…  yeah, this has the Roy and K’s dirty little hands all over it.  Last year’s players had 21 days to decide to go pro, but another 49 days after that to withdraw if they liked.  That gave them plenty of time – the ACC would say way too much time – to go through predraft workouts, talk to agents, GMs and other NBA people, and effectively gauge their overall draft stock before making a final decision.  And letting a kid have time to get informed about the most important decision of his life is a bad thing? Here’s a shortened list of players who used the information they garnered to make a sound decision during last year’s ‘testing the waters’ period, all were considered marginal first-round (read: guaranteed contract) prospects.

  • Ty Lawson, UNC
  • Lee Cummard, BYU
  • Wayne Ellington, UNC
  • Lester Hudson, UT-Martin
  • AJ Abrams, Texas
  • Robert Dozier, Memphis
  • Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga
  • Josh Akognon, Cal St. Fullerton
  • Danny Green, UNC
  • Robert Vaden, UAB

How different might their teams have looked if all of these players had kept their initial decision to leave school intact?  On the final day of NBA training camp cuts, where would these players be now?  Time is fleeting, but we suppose that everyone has forgotten how we got to the ‘test the waters’ rule in the first place.  In the mid-90s, the NCAA decided that players should actually have a chance to, gasp!!!, learn about the draft process and their draft stock PRIOR to being locked into declaring (and henceforth throwing away their remaining college eligibility on mere whimsy).  Imagine that – rather than hearing from their girlfriend’s second cousin about an ‘agent’ who thinks he has enough game for the L, Mr. Star Player was given a chance to actually make that determination himself. According to the RN&O article, this was taken into consideration:

Hicks said the ACC’s eight-member men’s basketball subcommittee, which included Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton and Virginia’s Dave Leitao, discussed whether the time period may be too short for players to make proper choices. However, he said, “there’s a sentiment that the longer the time goes on, the longer the lure of the NBA becomes more real in their mind, and they tend to make decisions based not on information that they’re necessarily getting from NBA teams or from coaches, but from other people. The notion is that if you do this and it does get passed, there could be some kids that make bad decisions, rushing into it. But there’s another thought that if that happens, after a year or two, then those that are coming after that would be all the wiser.”

Did Anyone Consult the Players on This?

Hogwash.  Actually, Mr. Hicks, the exact opposite occurs.  When a player feels rushed to make a decision, he is more likely to not gather all the appropriate information and listen to all the wrong people – i.e., the idiots and hangers-on closest to him with dollar signs in their eyes.  Clemson’s KC Rivers, an actual PLAYER on an actual team with other players that this rule would impact, nails it:

Clemson senior K.C. Rivers, who briefly pondered submitting his name last April, said he disagreed with the legislation because he doesn’t think it will give players enough time to gather information from NBA teams and make an informed decision. “If this rule had been in effect [last spring] … I would probably have not been back at Clemson,” he said.

So congrats are in order for Roy, Coach K, and all the other ACC coaches who find it reprehensible for an athlete to have a proper amount of time to make an informed decision on his future (sidenote: 70 days may be too long, but 10 days is way too short).  Perhaps the next time you make a life decision, you’ll appreciate having someone rushing you through the process as well.  Oh, it hurts your recruiting?  How so?  Name one player who actually would have contributed to your program you were unable to recruit because of this rule – just one.

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Is the 2008-09 Big East the Best Conference Ever?

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2008

We’re barely over a week into practice and there’s already been some talk that this year’s version of the Big East, with as many as four legitimate F4 contenders (UConn, Pitt, Louisville & Notre Dame) and another five or six legitimate NCAA Tournament teams, could be the deepest, most competitive conference of all-time.  When put in those terms, it’s difficult to disagree… but you know us, we don’t take kindly to sweeping claims of superiority without some measurable statistical basis to back it up.

(photo credit: Bob Eckstein)

The problem is figuring out how to measure such a thing.  Take last year’s Pac-10, for example.  The conference was widely considered by pundits to be the strongest, deepest conference in America.  Computer ratings tended to agree.  At various points during the season, as many as eight of its ten schools were touted as NCAA-caliber teams.  Six ultimately were invited to the NCAA Tournament, but only three of those made it to the Sweet Sixteen, with UCLA the sole conference representative in the Final Four.  Was the Pac-10 stronger than the Big East, who had six teams ranked in the final AP poll last year (vs. three for the Pac-10) and had two more teams invited to the Big Dance but only found itself with a pair standing on the second weekend (and zero in the F4)?  Or was the Pac-10 superior to the Big 12, who had the strongest NCAA showing of the major conferences with a 6-0 first round ultimately resulting in Kansas cutting down the nets?  It’s hard to say, because depending on how you set the parameters, you can make fair and defensible arguments for the strength of multiple conferences in any given year (our friends dealing with the BCS go through this every year). 

Just thinking back to last season, we could break it down this way.  AP poll?  Big East.  NCAA Tournament success?  Big 12.  Computer rankings?  Pac-10.  Pundits?  Take your pick, but leaning Pac-10.    Choosing which source to buy into is based on personal taste, but for the sake of this post, we’ll admit that there is no perfect measurement and focus exclusively on Jeff Sagarin’s computer ratings.  Using his data, we like that we can take stock year over year in relative terms.

(photo credit: sportsbubbler.com) 

So here’s our question: how good does the Big East need to be from top-to-bottom this year to be statistically considered the top conference of the last decade (Sagarin’s archive only goes back to the 1998-99 season – we requested data back to 1984-85, to no avail)?  For the sake of comparison, here are the top ten conferences by Sagarin’s computer ratings of the last ten years.   

As you can see, the 2008 version of the Big East wasn’t bad from top-to-bottom, but it was still a good distance away from the top ten conferences of the last decade.  The problem is that when people talk about how strong conferences are, are they really talking about team #10 or team #12 or team #16 in the cellar?  Of course not – they’re really talking about the NCAA-caliber teams, i.e., the top half of the conference.  So how does this list change if we only consider the top half of the major conferences of the last ten years (also represented graphically)?

It’s interesting to imagine if the Big East were still an eight-team conference like the old days, as last year’s top half alone would have rated the league as the second-best conference of the last decade (2004 ACC at 87.31 would still be #1).  As it stands, though, the Big East’s mammoth size probably ensures that from a statistical standpoint (Law of Large Numbers, much?), it will never be able to have enough great teams to overcome what some of the smaller conferences have been able to do.

Nothing is conclusive here, but we feel safe in saying that the 2008-09 Big East is unlikely to rise to the top of either of these lists, but it wouldn’t shock us if the conference ended up in the top ten (esp. the top-half list).  Notwithstanding where the conference Sagarin ratings finish, there shouldn’t be any question using the eyes and ears test that the Big East will be the most competitive and interesting conference in America this season.

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Where 2008-09 Happens: Reason #15 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2008

Shamelessly cribbing from last spring’s very clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present to you the Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we gear up toward the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube. 

#15 – Where A Tall Goofy Dude Gets The Roll Happens

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2008-09 Season Primers: #16 – Southern

Posted by rtmsf on October 27th, 2008

Andrew Baker is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun and Southern conferences.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Davidson Wildcats  (22-6, 19-1)
  2. College of Charleston Cougars  (20-10, 15-5)
  3. UT-Chattanooga Mocs  (19-13, 14-6)
  4. Georgia Southern Eagles  (18- 11, 13-7)
  5. Appalachian State Mountaineers  (17-12, 13-7)
  6. Elon Phoenix  (14-13, 11-9)
  7. UNC-Greensboro Spartans  (14-15, 11-9)
  8. Furman Paladins  (13-16, 8-12)
  9. Samford Bulldogs  (13-16, 7-13)
  10. Western Carolina Catamounts   (10-20, 7-13)
  11. Wofford Terriers  (9-20, 6-14)
  12. The Citadel Bulldogs  (10-21, 4-16)

WYN2K.  In 1921, the Southern Conference was founded with a hodgepodge of future SEC and ACC members.  Since the league has hosted many different schools who have left for other conferences, the only constants since 1936 have been The Citadel and Furman (Davidson left for three seasons from 1988-1991).  Since 1921, the SoCon has never had two bids into the NCAA Tournement.  That’s the entire history we’re talking about boys and girls, not just in the modern era.  Last year was the best chance the SoCon has seen in a while.  Had Elon beaten Davidson in the conference tournament finals, it would have been a tough justification to leave the Wildcats out.  Davidson looks to be on track for another title, but upsets do happen and should Davidson have the same kind of regular season they had last year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the first two-bid SoCon ever.       

Predicted Champion.  Davidson (#8 NCAA).  The Davidson Wildcats were one of the best teams in the country in the year.  There are several good reasons for this.  Most people will point to one man: Stephen Curry (25.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) (see one of his explosions last year vs. Chattanooga below).  It is true that having Curry on any team would make them very hard to beat, but Coach Bob McKillop has built a team that is more concerned with ball control and defense.  It also helps that Davidson scored at a clip of 80.9 ppg last year.  Looking at their numbers makes it easy to realize how they went 20-0 in SoCon play last year.  Their numbers last year were astounding, and are the underlying reason they were able to make it to the Elite Eight and one shot away from the Final Four.  Davidson gave up 11.6 to/g and forced their opponents into 16.2 to/g.  That’s a turnover rate of 24% for their opponents as opposed to 16.5% for Davidson, both good for 12th in the nation.  Check it here if you don’t believe me.  Look for Davidson to use ball control and their not so secret weapon, Curry, to continue to dominate the league.  It is very difficult to say whether or not the Davidson is going to sweep the league as they did last year because their 20-0 record was the first time any team in the Southern Conference has won twenty games in league play.  It will be hard to go through the season unbeaten again, as every team who will play the ‘Cats will bring their A game, and even with the addition of Samford, the league’s 12th team, teams will still play a 20-game conference slate.

         

Others Considered.  Who are we kidding, no team is going to get the #1 seed for the Southern Conference Tournament unless something terrible happens to Stephen Curry.  However, the beauty of the oldest conference tournament in the land is that everyone gets a chance at redemption and glory. 

  • College of Charleston looks to be in the best position to pull off an upset down the road.  The Cougars return all of their starters from last season and are led by the 1990 Naismith Coach of the Year, Bobby Cremins.  The Cougars will need to see improvement in their ball control and defensive capabilities if they are to succeed Davidson to the throne.  More turnovers to assists (.910 A/TO) and a turnover rate of 19.6% of the time killed the Cougars in close games last year.  In every game that CofC lost last year by less than 10 points, the Cougars had more turnovers than their opponents.  Their defensive prowess was only mediocre, ranking at 192nd in the land with their opponents connecting on 44.3% of their shots.  Look out for CofC if there is early season improvement in these areas. 
  • UT-Chattanooga also looks to be in a advantageous position for a deep SoCon tourney run.  The Mocs excelled in shooting (45.9% FG) and on the boards last year.  However, turnovers caused them to have a less than impressive 18-13 record last year.  Turning the ball caught up with them, as was the case when the Mocs’ 7-0 SoCon start ended in a disappointing 6-7 record the rest of the way.  The Mocs horrific turnover rate was 24.2% and landed them worst in the SoCon and 317th in the nation.  The Mocs are hoping that incoming freshmen Jasper Williams will provide some depth at the one slot.  If the Mocs don’t see improvement in the turnover category then look for them to slump to another disappointing season. 

Important Games/RPI Boosters.  The Southern Conference will also be looking to improve their OOC record against the major and money leagues, as SoCon teams were only 5-24 against the BCS conferences plus CUSA and Mtn West last year.  However, the SoCon did much better against their mid-major brethren with a record of 30-27 against their contemporaries.  Like most mid-major leagues, the most important game of the season is the SoCon Tournament Final on Monday, March 9th, 2009.  However, there will be plenty of intrigue as the regular season moves forward.  Davidson has again loaded their non-conference schedule with big boys and should they win one or more of those games there is no reason to believe they can get a higher seed than this preview has listed.  The 7th of January could be huge if Davidson and College of Charleston can pull off huge upsets against the boys from Durham and Chapel Hill, respectively.  Here are some important conference and RPI booster games that you should keep an eye out for:

  • Chattanooga @ Tennessee   (11/15/2008)
  • Chattanooga @ Missouri  (11/17/2008)
  • Chattonooga @ Memphis  (11/20/2008)
  • Winthrop @ Davidson  (11/21/2008)
  • Elon @ Virginia Tech  (11/26/2008)
  • South Carolina @ CofC  (11/28/2008)
  • NC State v. Davidson  (12/6/2008)
  • Davidson v. West Virginia  (12/9/2008)
  • Davidson @ Purdue  (12/20/2008)
  • Chattanooga @ Alabama  (12/22/2008)
  • Davidson @ Duke   (01/07/2009)
  • CofC @ North Carolina  (01/07/2009)

Neat-o Fact.  36.  Davidson currently has the longest conference winning streak in the country dating back two seasons.  The last conference loss the Wildcats had was against Appalachian State on January 20, 2007, by a score of 81-74.  Their first conference game is on the 13th of December, meaning the between the time of their last loss and that game that the country will have elected a new President and a new Congress, two world champions have been crowned in every professional and amateur sport, and nearly 13% of Division I members have seen a coaching change.    

65 Team Era.  With Davidson’s three wins last year on its run to the E8, the conference doubled its win total to six during the modern era (6-24, .200).  That record, however, belies just how tough the SoCon representative has traditionally been in the NCAA Tournament first round.  From ETSU to College of Charleston to UT-Chattanooga to Davidson, SoCon teams have made many high seeds sweat bullets to survive and advance, as nine of the twenty-one first round losses of the era were ‘close’ losses (<10 pts), and five of those were a mere possession away (<4 pts), despite a relatively poor average seed of #13.7 over the period. 

Final Thoughts.  While many people will only see the Southern Conference as Davidson’s to lose, there will be other interesting story lines that you should pay attention to that could have effects through this season and spill over into future seasons.  College of Charleston returns all starters from a season that will only be remembered as the season that broke a long streak of winning seasons, and should challenge for the conference tournament title.  Chattanooga will be looking for more consistent point guard play in an attempt to build on season that saw a great beginning but crashed as ball control killed in the long run.  In conclusion, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the first two bid Southern Conference in history should Davidson be upset in the Conference Tournament.     

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Charlotte’s Charlie Coley Has No Use For Your Silly Sidelines

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2008

(h/t to College Hoops Net for this find of Charlotte’s Charlie Coley figuring out inventive new ways to dunk at Midnight Madness last week)

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10.27.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2008

Ok, we’ve got the Midnight Madness nonsense past us, and now we’re officially two weeks away from the first game… 

  • Somewhat surprising turn of events in Tucson in the wake of Lute Olson’s retirement.  The presumptive next coach, Mike Dunlap, reportedly turned down the interim coaching offer, and instead Russ Pennell (a longtime assistant at Arizona St., of all places) will take over the (interim) reins at Arizona.
  • Didn’t see this coming…  UNC was picked #1 in the ACC by, um, everyone.   Over in the WCC, Gonzaga was picked first also, but only slightly ahead of St. Mary’s. 
  • Injury Update.  Cincy’s frosh PG, Cashmere Mafia Wright, tore his ACL in practice and will be out for the season.   He was expected to play a big role for the Bearcats this season.  Marshall’s starting PF, Tyler Wilkerson, broke his hand and will miss about three weeks.
  • Central Michigan’s top rebounder, Marcus Van, was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules.   
  • Here’s Parrish’s Top 30 wings for this season.
  • Cleveland St. head coach Gary Waters inked a five-year extension today after making the NIT last year. 
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Where 2008-09 Happens: Reason #16 Why We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2008

Shamelessly cribbing from last spring’s very clever NBA catch phrase, we here at RTC will present to you the Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball as we gear up toward the start of the season a little over a month from now.  We’ll be bringing you players to watch for this season and moments to remember from last season, courtesy of the series of dump trucks, wires and effluvia known as YouTube. 

#16 – Where Don’t Forget This Guy Happens

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2008-09 Season Primers: #17 – MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2008

Ray Floriani from College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Northeast (NEC) and Metro Atlantic Athletic (MAAC) conferences.

Predited Order of Finish:

  1. Siena    (15-3,  20-8)
  2. Niagara   (14-4,  21-10)
  3. Fairfield   (13-5,  19-10)
  4. Rider    (12-6,  19-10)
  5. Loyola (MD)   (11-7,  16-13)
  6. Manhattan   (9-9,  16-13)
  7. Iona   (7-11,  11-17)
  8. Canisius   (6-12,  10-19)
  9. St. Peter’s   (5-13,  11-18)
  10. Marist    (4-14,  10-20)

WYN2K. The MAAC was formed in the 80s and tipped off the 1981-82 season.  Yours truly covered the first MAAC contest ever, an Iona romp over Army at the Gaels’ Mulcahy Center. The MAAC began with six charter members – Army, Fairfield, Fordham,  Iona, Manhattan  and  St.Peter’s. Four schools – Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan  and St.Peter’s – remain from that original group as change has altered the league over the years. The conference tournament previously alternated between Buffalo and Albany, but two years ago it was in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Last year Albany, NY, hosted it and will once again showcase it come this March.  Some brief notes…

  • Siena, the defending champion, returns a strong cast with three players who could be considered for player of the year honors: 6-3 senior guard Kenny Hasbrouck, 6-6  forward Edwin Ubilies and 6-5 forward Alex Franklin, both  juniors.
  • Niagara’s fine junior guard Tyrone Lewis was MVP of the MAAC tournament as a freshman. Niagara captured the title in 2006-07.
  • Niagara and Canisius (the ‘dreaded’ western New York swing) are a few miles apart, but six of the league members – Rider, St.Peter’s, Iona, Manhattan, Fairfield and Rider – are within a 120 mile radius, which makes for a not too distant road trip.  

Predicted Champion.  Siena (#13 NCAA).  The Saints captured last season’s MAAC tournament championship, then gave a great showing in the NCAAs, as Siena defeated Vanderbilt 83-62 (see below) before falling to Villanova in the second round. That momentum of March should carry over into this year as coach Fran McCaffery has virtually everyone back.  Siena, in theory, could make this a two bid league.  If the Saints earn 15 or 16 conference wins, have a respectable non-conference showing against a murderous slate and get knocked out of the MAAC tournament, they could go as an at-large based on last year’s strong NCAA showing. That idea, however, is not one the competitive McCaffery is looking at as a realistic option, nor is it likely to happen.

  

Others Considered.  Niagara and Fairfield are the prime candidates. The Purple Eagles return an outstanding guard in junior Tyrone Lewis. Big East transfers Bilal Benn (Villanova), a 6-5 guard and 6-2 guard Rob Garrison (UConn) will contribute to a strong cast. Fairfield has a defensive reputation anchored by 6-8 junior Anthony Johnson (7.3 RPG and 43 blocks). Senior lead guard Jonathan Han is vital on offense. Han averaged 11.7 ppg while handing out 6 assists per outing. Rider is a dark horse. The Broncs have a sharpshooter in senior guard Harris Mansell (13.7 ppg) and return another Thompson. Ryan Thompson, Jason’s brother, is a 6-6 junior forward who is a strong player (15 ppg) in his own right. 

Key Games/RPI Boosters.

  • Rider @ St.Joseph’s  (11/14/08)
  • Fairfield @ Memphis  (11/15/08)
  • Niagara @ Villanova (Hoop Group Classic – Philadelphia)  (11/19/08)
  • Siena v. Tennessee  (Old Spice Classic) (11/27/08)
  • Marist @ Memphis  (12/2/08)
  • Rider v. Rutgers (Trenton)  (12/3/08)
  • Niagara @ Loyola (MD)  (12/7/08)
  • Seton Hall v. St.Peter’s (Jersey City)  (12/13/08)
  • Siena @ Pitt  (12/17/08)
  • Iona @ Ohio State  (12/20/08)
  • Marist @ St. John’s  (Holiday Festival)  (12/20-21/08)
  • Fairfield @ UConn  (12/26/08)
  • Loyola (MD) @ Duke  (12/31/08)
  • Siena @ Kansas  (1/6/09)
  • Manhattan v. Iona (MSG)  (1/24/09)
  • Siena @ Niagara  (2/27/09)
  • Loyola (MD) @ Iona  (3/1/09)

Neat-o-Stats.  

  • Jimmy Patsos has been on the job four years at Loyola (MD) and he has the second LONGEST tenure in the conference. The ‘grey beard’ among the group is Joe Mihalich who has been at Niagara for a decade.  Mihalich has only had one season below .500 during his tenure.
  • Siena committed only 11.1 turnovers per game last season. Their turnover rating (TO divided by possessions) was 15.4 (anything under 20.0 is excellent).
  • Niagara has won at least a dozen MAAC contests in 8 of the past 10 seasons. 

65 Team Era.  MAAC schools have been a traditionally tough out and in several cases, got a win under their belt before a competitive second round exit. The conference is 6-25 (.194) over the era, but two of those wins are from the PiG (2002 and 2007).  But in four of the last seven NCAA Tournaments, the MAAC has won a game in the Big Dance.  Last year Siena thoroughly dominated #4 Vanderbilt in the first round, which should help the Saints cause several ways this winter.  Besides Siena, LaSalle (1990) and Manhattan (1995 and 2004) were the other conference schools to post a first round NCAA win.   

Final Thoughts.  

  • It was ironic that NBA scouts monitored the progress of Rider big man Jason Thompson last winter because the MAAC, for years, has been known as a guard oriented league. Thompson was the twelfth player to go in last June’s NBA draft. 
  • The MAAC runs a unique postseason tournament (others conferences do it but there aren’t many) in that  both the men and women play their tournaments at the same site. This gives the true hoop junkie a chance to see each school’s program showcased on the men’s and women’s side. It also makes for a real ‘good feeling’ atmosphere that reaffirms what college athletics is all about.  It’s not uncommon to see a men’s team take a break from preparations to sit in the stands and cheer the women’s team on and vice versa.
  • Under the watch of veteran Commissioner Rich Ensor, the MAAC has been a pleasant media experience and the same for its fan base.
  • Cold winter nights at Manhattan’s Draddy Gym are classic.  Where else can you sit press row with the ‘ubiquitous’ Ronnie (the ultra Jasper supporter) on one side and the school’s president, Brother Thomas Scanlon, on the other?   
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2008-09 Season Primers: #18 – Sun Belt

Posted by rtmsf on October 24th, 2008

 

Rick Henderson of The Owl’s Nest is the RTC correspondent for the Sun Belt conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

East

  1. Middle Tennessee  (19-11, 13-5)
  2. Western Kentucky  (18-11, 12-6)
  3. South Alabama  (18-11, 11-7)
  4. Florida Atlantic  (17-14, 10-8)
  5. Florida International  (15 -16, 8-10)
  6. Troy  (12-20, 5-13)

West

  1. Arkansas-Little Rock  (17-9, 12-6)
  2. North Texas  (16-13, 10-8)
  3. Louisiana-Lafayette  (15-14, 10-8)
  4. Arkansas State  (14-15, 8-10)
  5. Denver  (12-17, 7-11)
  6. Louisiana-Monroe  (15-14, 7-11)
  7. New Orleans  (11-19, 4-14)

WYN2K.  The Belt took a step forward last season with the NCAA Tourney appearance of South Alabama, and the deep run of Western Kentucky into the Sweet 16, jumping from 17 to 14 in the RPI rankings.  Accordingly, recruiting is on the way up all around.  However, this year the final league standings should look different as both teams lose key contributors from last year’s roster (we’ll get to that later).  You can expect a couple games difference in parity within the final standings at season’s end.  Here are our preseason SBC All First Teamers and Player of the Year picks:

  • Desmond Yates – MTSU
  • Carlos Monroe – FAU  (Player of the Year)
  • Josh White – NT
  • Russell Hicks – FIU
  • Brandon Davis – USA

Trio of new Head Coaches a big plus for the League.  The SBC welcomes the return of Mike Jarvis to the coaching ranks as the new Head Coach for the Fighting Owls of Florida Atlantic.  Jarvis boasts a conference best resume with 350 career wins and a myriad of post season tournament appearances – 9 NCAA and 5 NIT.  He is confident the Owls are a stock on the rise, having all but promised that they will make a return trip to The Big Dance in the very near future.  Jarvis is known for the development of NBA Hall of Fame player Patrick Ewing, and also coached a talented Ron Artest while at St John’s University. He has added a pair of nationally recognized prep guards to the already solid nucleus he inherits at FAU. PF Carlos Monroe (15.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg) will get some much needed double team help from this duo.  A little further north and west, John Brady joins The Sun Belt assuming the reins of the recently rebranded Arkansas State Redwolves program.  Brady enjoyed very successful tutelages with Samford (89 wins), and LSU (192 wins), where he led the Tigers all the way to The Final Four in 2006.  A heralded recruiter, Brady has coached an impressive 25 All TAAC (now The Atlantic Sun) and Southeastern Conference selections.  He hit the JUCO recruiting trail hard in the off-season, with four transfer signees heading to Jonesboro for the upcoming season.  Rounding out the trio of newcomers, Ken McDonald returns to Bowling Green to take over for the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky.  McDonald previously served as an Assistant Coach at WKU and most recently as the top assistant under Rick Barnes at the University of Texas.  He is a talented recruiter and was instrumental in the Longhorns signing of NBA draftees Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin.  McDonald will have his hands full though, as this year’s team will be without the services of Courtney Lee, who was drafted by the Orlando Magic in the first round of the NBA draft (22nd).
 
Predicted Champion
Arkansas-Little Rock (#13 Seed NCAA).  Bold pick?  Absolutely.  Realistic?  Definitely. Destiny?  Perhaps.  Here’s why:  The Trojans have finished atop the West Division in three of the last five years, but have never won the crown.  Unlike all other West Division teams (and even the East minus MTSU), all five starters return for UALR.  Couple this with a weaker East Division, and a potential homecourt advantage for the SBC Tournament and you have the makings of a championship.  Rest assured that someone will knock out one of the higher eastern seeds given its parity this season – paving the way for UALR.  The Sun Belt has gained much needed size all around this year, but UALR will display the truest balanced attack.  They will feature the league’s lone true big man down low in Ole Miss transfer Mike Smith 6-7, 295Lbs (52.9 FG%).  And that will be a big advantage (pun intended) along the way.  Joining him will be SG Steven Moore who should emerge even more this season after shooting a staggering 42-97 (43.3%) from downtown last season.  The clincher:  come March they can both click their heels like Dorothy, and say “there’s no place like home.”  Despite the fact that the SBC front office claims the tournament site is neutral this season, the championship will be played in Hot Springs, AR, which is 52 miles from UALR.  This virtually ensures them home court advantage during the SBC Tournament.
 
Others Considered.  They will be formidable opponents on a number of nights this season, but Western Kentucky has flat out lost too much: a whopping 60.3% of total offense, 59.2% of total assists, 50.3%  of total steals, and 39.6% of total rebounds.  A lot of this can be attributed to the departure of both SG Courtney Lee (20.4 ppg), and PG Tyrone Brazelton (14.4 ppg).  The same goes for South Alabama who must find backcourt answers for the losses of 1st Team All SBC guard Demetric Bennett (19.7 ppg), and 2nd Team All SBC guard Daon Merritt (11.5 ppg, 5.5 apg).  North Texas could be in the race for the West Division with the return of PG Josh White (13.9 ppg), but like the others considered, they face key losses with only two starters returning.  MTSU should be atop the East Division as season’s end, and does have talented returnees in both Desmond Yates (16.0 ppg) and Demetrius Green (12.5 ppg), but it’s a long drive to Hot Springs come tournament time. 
 
Games to Watch.  Traditional powers South Alabama and Western Kentucky will face off in a nationally televised contest that is sure to be entertaining.  The Deuce will also air the SBC Championship live:

  • South Alabama @ Western Kentucky (02.07.09) 1:00PM ESPN2
  • Sun Belt Conference Championship Game (03.10.09) 9:00PM ESPN2

RPI Booster Games.  Quite a few non-conference games could help elevate the SBC in the RPI standings this season.  SEC opponents are strewn throughout league schedules, as well as a few quality west coast opponents.  Winning these contests would certainly offer nudges here and there.  And some are winnable.  But upsetting the bad boys below would do some serious damage.  Are they winnable?  Probably not.  Cliché alert: That is why they play the game. Well, that and some guarantee money.  Without any further ado, please cue: “Facing the Giants.” 

  • Florida Atlantic @ Arizona (11.17.08) 10:00PM
  • Tennessee @ Middle Tennessee (11.21.08) 7:00PM
  • Western Kentucky @ Louisville (11.30.08) 2:00PM

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids.  Last year was a pleasant surprise, with both WKU and USA making the tourney.  If the West Division represents the SBC in The Big Dance, there is a long shot that an East Division top finisher could get in.  But it is highly unlikely and would take some serious non-conference results to convince the committee.

65 Team Era.  During the era, the Sun Belt is 13-34 (.277), but with WKU’s two additional wins last year, the Hilltoppers are responsible for seven of those wins and both of the conferences trips to the Sweet 16.  In fact, WKU is the only Sun Belt team to win an NCAA game in the past sixteen seasons (Louisiana-Lafayette won a game in 1992).  Seven times during this era has the Sun Belt gotten more than one team into the Dance, including last year’s duo of S. Alabama and W. Kentucky.  Speaking of which, who can forget what was arguably the (second) most exciting moment of the 2008 Tournament?


 
Final thought.  The SBC is one to two years away from making the climb back to where it was prior to adding football as a sponsored collegiate sport.  Serious recruiting classes have come in during the off-season.  It will be fun to watch some of the young talent begin to develop and blossom on the hardwood this upcoming season.

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Lute Olson Retirement Wrapup

Posted by rtmsf on October 24th, 2008

People have had over 24 hrs now to think about the ramifications of Lute Olson’s sudden retirement yesterday.  Reading through the various reports and testimonials on Lute’s career, we were struck by how many Arizona fans are absolutely livid with Olson’s handling of the past year or so.  While we’ve been the first around here to scold Olson publicly for his certifiable insanity of the past year, we sorta figured that UA fans would be a little more gracious for you know, creating something out of nothing, as a whole.  Guess not. 

Here’s what some folks, both MSM and blogosphere, are saying…

Pat Forde, ESPN - Why can’t anyone else do that these days? What has happened to the graceful exit?  Lute Olson is the latest college coaching legend to thoroughly bollix his closing act. The Arizona basketball coach’s retirement was announced Thursday, ending a 12-month saga that did considerable damage to his remarkable rep. [...] For the second straight season, Olson pulled the rug out from under his program at the worst possible time. For the second straight season, the school was left squirming to explain the erratic actions of a legend — at times seemingly compelled to fib on Olson’s behalf. For the second straight season, Arizona basketball has been thrown into turmoil by the very man who breathed life into it.  Sadly, a guy who projected an aura of control and composure has turned his exit from basketball into an absolute mess. Even sadder is the fact that Olson is merely the latest in a line of college coaching legends who don’t seem to know when or how to walk away.

Nowahoo, Thirty-Five Seconds – While it’s tempting to say that you or I would have handled our health or personal problems better, I think we know that’s wishful thinking.  The standards we (or at least Pat Forde) set for others in their final acts is kind of a joke.  Almost all of us will retire someday, but almost none of us will do so in a satisfying way.  Most of us will retire when we can’t make the commute anymore because of a slipped disc that never healed right, or when the people we work with stop giving us worthwhile work, or when the thought of one more condescending continuing ed seminar gives us the howling fantods to the point where we just fire off a retirement memo and hope we’ve enough in the kitty (or at least educated the shit out of our kids, so we can flip the script get our mooch on).

Paola Boivin, Arizona Republic - A coach’s final ride into the sunset should be a leisurely gait, not a series of angry bucks and sudden halts.  Lute Olson’s brilliant coaching career, which came to a sudden end when he announced his retirement Thursday, will not be remembered without an unflattering footnote. When he had the opportunity to bow out gracefully from the basketball dynasty he built at the University of Arizona, he chose instead to let his final months be defined by conjecture, defiance, silence. It shouldn’t diminish his accomplishments, but the ending does reflect Mark Twain’s perfect description of golf: a good walk spoiled.

Gary Parrish, CBS SportsTruth be told, I never spoke with a person close to Olson during the past year who believed it was a good idea for him to return to the sideline. Most who know him well recognized a noticeable change in recent months, and now seems like as good a time as any to revisit a scene from what turned out to be Olson’s last game as a coach.

Dashiell Bennett, DeadspinPerhaps that’s because he decided to inform more important people first. The order of ranking goes something like this—insane color commentator, then the assistant coaches, then the families of the high school kids you are recruiting, your ex-wife, the mailman, the guy who runs the wax dispenser down at the car wash … then if there’s time, you tell your team and maybe your employers. It’s important that you respect the process.

Andy Katz, ESPN – On Monday, Chase Budinger gave maybe the most detailed description of Olson’s demeanor last year: “It was tough because in the beginning he really never gave the team an explanation of why he left. He felt very fatigued all the time. He looked tired.”   Budinger said there were times prior to when Olson took his leave of absence that he would make mistakes on the practice court. He said the coach simply wasn’t right.  “He kind of seemed like he was depressed all the time, it was kind of hard for him to coach out on the court,” Budinger said.

Dick Vitale, ESPN - No one has been a bigger supporter of what he has done in Tucson. He is the ultimate Frank Lloyd Wright and has built the program into something very special over the years. Arizona had been in the depths of despair, and he took the school to greatness. There was an excitement in the desert that was so special.

Zach, Northwestern WinsThis entire operation has been botched. How do two fathers of Arizona recruits know the news, ESPN gets a gift-wrapped scoop on the news….yet prominent players like Jordan Hill and some administration have no idea where this story is coming from. It would have been wise to hold a team meeting this morning to alert the Wildcats and let the entire staff know before this leaked out (I know, easier said than done) rather than have members of the team “not knowing a damn thing” and spending the entire day thinking Lute Olson was their coach when I heard the news around 11:30 AM central time.

Scott Bordow, East Valley (AZ) TribuneOlson is not leaving Arizona gracefully. Players, recruits and, most certainly, Kevin O’Neill, have every reason to be upset about how he’s handled himself the past year. UA is in disarray, and he’s responsible.  But once those emotions subside, he’ll be remembered for his accomplishments rather than his departure. He came to a basketball Siberia 25 years ago and turned it into a winter wonderland.

Grant Wahl, CNNSII did interviews with his assistant and did speak with Olson last Wednesday for half an hour. It was clear at that point that he wasn’t as energized as he had been in April when he announced that he was coming back. I left that meeting thinking something might be up, and so I’m not entirely surprised by this news.

Achilles, (UCLA) Bruins Nation - While I’ve rooted hard against Lute Olson’s teams over the years, I’ve great respect for what he accomplished. Arizona was not a basketball powerhouse when he went there, but he turned them into one. At their peak, Arizona teams played exciting, uptempo basketball. Olson also deserves respect as a top recruiter with an eye for talent.  More than anything else, it is sort of sad to see him go out the way he is now. Try and find his most recent press appearances on an Arizona site or YouTube. He’s become practically incoherent and appears to be in poor health.  I’ll personally prefer to remember him as a fiery, rival coach, prowling the sidelines for some really great UCLA-Arizona match-ups.

Vince Marotta, Arizona Sports Hub - According to various sources, the fathers of two members of the 2009 Arizona recruiting class, Solomon Crawford (father of recruit Solomon Hill) and Abdul Gaddy’s father, Abdul Sr. both received information that Olson was retiring. Further judging from the reports, nobody from the University, nor the current players or their families were notified about anything. How do recruits know this information before the guys who already suit up for the Wildcats?

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