The Other 26: Week Two

Posted by jstevrtc on November 27th, 2010

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.  For an introduction to this series, please click here.


We are getting into the thick of the things as teams are now well into their non-conference slate. While many small-conference schools take their lumps at the hands of larger-conference opponents as often happens at this time of year, other are emerging as legitimate contenders within the world of the “Other 26.” At this point in most seasons the Maui Invitational controls much of the discussion within college basketball circles, and this year has been no different. The tournament encompasses some of the nation’s best teams, and for about a week the focal point of college basketball is the Lahaina Civic Center. Suited more for an AAU championship game than a premiere college basketball venue, the Civic Center witnessed one of the most dominating performances in the history of the Invitational. Averaging 30 points, missing only two of 28 free throws, and guiding the young Huskies to the title is the mark of a champion, and Kemba Walker did all of those. Walker’s first heroics of the Invitational came against Wichita State, who so nearly thwarted Connecticut’s chances at winning the Invitational on the first day. In the process, however, the Shockers garnered my full admiration in how they competed with some of the top teams in America. In the end, Kemba Walker and Connecticut prevailed, but Wichita State was heard and will continue to make noise throughout the year.

What team impressed the most?

Following a tough season-opening loss to Georgetown by three points, Old Dominion has run off four straight victories. Their wins were hardly against cupcake opponents either as two came against Clemson and Xavier (it should be known that both the Tigers and Musketeers have both fallen only to Old Dominion). It is a grave task for any opponent to combat the Monarchs’ attack as no one ODU player is far and away the most significant contributor. Frank Hassell is the team’s leader from a statistical perspective as he averages nearly a double-double and is an extremely efficient offensive player, shooting better than 60% from the field. Blaine Taylor, ODU’s coach, is the mastermind behind this balanced attack. Check out these numbers: six players are averaging between 5.5 and 8.8 shots a game, and seven players average between 4.2 and 12.6 points a game. While not a flashy team by any means, Old Dominion plays a true team game — a truce recipe for success come March.

Best Individual Performances

  • Tu Holloway (Xavier) — Who could ever forget the Xavier-Kansas State game in last year’s NCAA Tournament? In one of the year’s most memorable games — a game that featured one amazing huge shot after another — guard Tu Holloway singlehandedly forced the game into overtime, and then forced a second overtime by scoring 10 of Xavier’s 13 points in the first extra session. That was all last year, but his explosive play and limitless range have carried over to this season. In three games, Holloway averaged 24 points and has gotten to the line 41 times, making 33 of them. Maybe the most unbelievable statistic for Holloway, however, is the 117 minutes he played over the course of the three game span. The guy is durable and knows how to keep himself out of foul trouble.
  • Ryan Rossiter (Siena)—In years past, Siena basketball was the Kenny Hasbrouck (now on the Miami Heat) Edwin Ubiles, and Alex Franklin show. Ryan Rossiter was a mere role player. Now, following the graduation of those three, Rossiter is the leader. Although Siena has gotten off to a rough start, Rossiter has certainly not. In games against Northeastern and Butler he nearly duplicated his point and rebound totals (28 and 15 against Northeastern, and 26 and 15 against Butler). For a big man, he has been fabulous at the line as well, shooting above 80%.
  • Mickey McConnell (St. Mary’s) — McConnell has toyed with the feeble competition the Gaels have gone up against this year. In particular, he has played near flawless basketball in SMC’s last two games. In these games, McConnell combined to go 14-19 from the field (11-15 from distance) for 41 points, and had a masterful 4:1 assist to turnover ratio.
  • Chris Gaston (Fordham) — There has not been a lot to cheer about in the Bronx with regard to Fordham basketball in quite some time. In fact, you would have to go back almost two decades — 1992, to be exact — when Fordham was competing in the Patriot League to find the last time the Rams tasted the sweet waters of the NCAA Tournament. Chris Gaston, however, has been a real bright spot for Fordham in his time playing in the Rose Hill Gym; the man is a rebounding machine. Although he stands at just 6’7, Gaston is the nation’s leading rebounder, corralling almost 15 boards a game. He can also score a bit, too, averaging 16.3 PPG. He is averaging a double-double for his career, and the scary thing is…he is only a sophomore.

Sharpshooter of the Week

Brandon Rozzell (Virginia Commonwealth) — In the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off, Tennessee went on a 10-0 midway through the second half that seemed to deflate VCU and put the game on ice for the Vols, yet Brandon Rozzell would not have any of it. Rozzell drilled five shots from behind the arc in the game’s last 11 minutes to constantly draw the Rams back to within a possession or two, but in the end the Vols were too much. On the young season, Rozzell is shooting above 50% from three and has made an average of four threes a game.

Clutch Performer of the Week

Justin Hawkins (UNLV) — Wisconsin and UNLV staged an intense contest on November 20th , and with Wisconsin down by just a point with eight seconds remaining in regulation, the Badgers were inbounding the basketball near UNLV’s basket needing a bucket to all but clinch it. Hawkins, who played sparingly throughout the game and had only attempted one shot, stole the inbounds pass and thwarted Wisconsin’s game-winning shot attempt. There were still six seconds remaining when Hawkins was fouled, and the sophomore walked to the opposite end of the floor and calmly drained two free throws — his only points of the day.

Beating the BCS

  • San Jose State over OregonJustin Graham’s three-point play with only 2.8 seconds remaining lifted San Jose State to a victory over previously unbeaten Oregon. The Spartans had a bit of a letdown in their following game against CSU-Bakersfield losing by five points, but their 3-1 record is their best start since 2007 when they were 3-1 as well.
  • Dayton over Mississippi — By many accounts, Mississippi looked to be a legitimate contender to make some noise in the SEC this year after making it to the NIT semifinals last year and returning two preseason All-Conference players in Terrico White and Chris Warren. They still may yet prove those predictions correct. The Dayton Flyers, though, were not daunted by the preseason accolades the Rebels received by the SEC. Chris Johnson erupted for 20 points and 11 rebounds to defeat Mississippi 78-71 in overtime. Dayton, now 5-0 on the year, is proving they will again be a top team in the A10.
  • Old Dominion over Clemson — For ODU, beating opponents starts on the defensive end. Clemson could only muster 19 points in the first half against the Monarchs, and while the Tigers would make a run in the second half, ODU would hang onto the one point victory in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam tournament. For the season, ODU is giving up, on average, less than 60 points a game.
  • Texas Southern over Oregon State — Hailing from most critics consider the worst conference in the nation — the Southwestern Athletic Conference — Texas Southern made the journey to Oregon and knocked off the Beavers to pick up their first victory of the season. The SWAC has a combined out of conference record of 8-44, and even though Oregon State is not one of the stronger teams in the Pac-10, a victory against any power-six conference team is noteworthy for the SWAC.
  • La Salle over Providence — The Explorers are yet another team from the Atlantic 10 people need to keep a close eye on throughout the year. La Salle handed Providence their only loss of the season — a game that saw five Explorers score in double figures — and played two top 25 teams very competitively thus far (lost to Baylor by 10 and Missouri by 12). La Salle’s go-to player is their sophomore center Aaric Murray, who is averaging 17.3 PPG and 9.3 RPG. Against the Friars, Murray notched a double-double (20/11).

Coaching Profile

Gregg Marshall is a winner. There really is no other way to describe him when speaking of his coaching career, credentials, and accolades. I knew he was a bright and young up-and-coming coach during his days at Winthrop from the gaudy records he compiled. I recall tuning into the Big South Championship game on Saturday afternoons in March — a game Winthrop seemed to be in every year — and always witnessing a fiery Marshall traipsing about the Winthrop bench in hte process of leading them to another title. Following his departure from Winthrop for a more appealing job at Wichita State, I failed to keep tabs on how his transition to the Kansas-based school went.

Marshall Is a Proven Winner

Mark Turgeon, the former coach at Wichita State and the current head man for Texas A&M, built a solid program in Kansas — the banner year coming during the 2005-06 season where he guided the Shockers to the Sweet 16 — but they dipped in his final year by going 17-14 overall and 8-10 in the Missouri Valley Conference. It was Greg Marshall’s job to bring the Shockers back to stardom. After struggling his first year, guiding them to an 11-20 mark, just two years later that win total improved by an impressive 15 games. Things are looking even brighter for Marshall and Wichita State this year as he finally has a program of his own recruits learning a system designed for success. Take a gander at his basketball timeline:

  • 1985: Assistant at Randolph-Macon College (his alma mater)
  • 1988: Assistant at the College of Charleston who worked under the tutelage of one of the game’s coaching legends in John Kresse. Kresse has the fifth highest winning percentage (79.7%) of any Division I coach. Marshall aided in Charleston making a successful transition from the NAIA to D1.
  • 1996: Assistant at Marshall
  • 1998: After paying his dues by spending 13 years as an assistant, Marshall is given the reigns of a program he can call his own. The Winthrop Eagles, a school of modest size located just hours away from Marshall’s birthplace in Greenwood, SC, morphed into a “basketball school” following the hire.
  • 2006: Becomes the all-time winningest coach in Winthrop history.
  • 2007: Accepts the head coaching job at Wichita State.

In Marshall’s nine seasons at Winthrop, the Eagles advanced to the NCAA Tournament in seven of those. As a result of his winning ways, Marshall was awarded the Big South Coach of the Year five times. In the 2006-07 season, by far his most successful, Winthrop compiled a wonderfully gaudy record of 29 wins to a mere five losses. Included in this special season was a win in the NCAA Tournament against Notre Dame. All five of the losses came against top 25 teams that year.

After his enormous success with Winthrop, the transition to Wichita State was a rough one at first if you looked just at his record. That first year he finished with the only losing season of his career, but the steady improvement since his inaugural season is suggestive of his winning mentality. The 2008-09 season saw Wichita State advance to the CBI, and the 2009-10 the NIT. If this trend continues, Marshall and his troops should be dancing come March. Winners like Coach Marshall expect and accept nothing less than such results.

Clip of the Week

William & Mary is by no means a basketball school. They have only won 20 or more games four times, have never been to the NCAA Tournament, and have just a .357 winning percentage since joining the CAA in 1986. That being said, W&M had an opportunity to win one of the biggest games in the history of their program against 10th ranked Syracuse, but had the game slip through its fingertips in the final minutes. Want to hear what’s worse? While trailing 62-60 in the final seconds, Quinn McDowell’s foot hit the sideline and turned the ball over to the Orange; they never even had the opportunity to hoist a final shot. McDowell had played a superb game, too, chipping in 16 points, three rebounds, and three assists in the loss.

Important Upcoming Games

Dayton @ Cincinnati (Nov. 27) — Ohio State is dominating the college basketball discussion in the state of Ohio — and for good reason, as they are the ranked 3rd in the country and have been nothing short of fantastic so far — but there are two other undefeated teams in Ohio as well. Cincinnati has yet to face a formidable opponent this season; the Flyers will be a good test.

San Diego State vs. St. Mary’s (Dec. 1) — The most intriguing game of the week for me. It will be interesting to see how St. Mary’s (a WCC team) matches up with the Aztecs. This game has resume-booster written all over it…for both sides, since both teams could have RPIs in the top 50 at regular season’s end.

Old Dominion vs. Richmond (Dec. 1) — What the SDSU vs. St. Mary’s game is to the West Coast, the ODU vs. Richmond game is to the East Coast.

UCF vs. Florida (Dec. 1) — Memphis has been the only team discussed in-depth from Conference USA. Central Florida, who has begun the season 4-0, will be out to prove they are also worthy of discussion when the Gators make the trek down to Orlando.

Butler @ Loyola-Chicago (Dec. 1) — Conference games are rare for this time of the year, but this conference clash is between two of the Horizon League’s two top teams. Loyola has sprinted out to a torrid 6-0 start, and will look to gain the early upper hand in the conference table on Butler with a win.

American @ West Virginia (Dec. 1) — The Patriot League, as a conference, has struggled at the start of the year, but American has not. The Eagles are 5-0, playing with confidence behind do-it-all forward Vlad Moldoveanu, and are out to prove they are the class of the league. To date, they have largely beaten cupcake teams, but the Mountaineers are certainly no cupcake. A win would firmly put AU in the driver’s seat of the Patriot League, even if only by reputation.

jstevrtc (547 Posts)

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