AAC M5: 10.31.13 Edition
Posted by CD Bradley on October 31st, 2013
- The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, suspended Memphis freshman Kuran Iverson for the Tigers’ first regular season game against in-state foe Austin Peay for playing basketball in two different cities this summer. Iverson, a Hartford, Connecticut native, played summer league games in both Memphis (the Bluff City Classic) and Waterbury, Connecticut (the Hartford Pro Am). The NCAA limits players to one team in one league during the summer, and Memphis self-reported the violation. “He assumed he could (play in the Hartford summer league) because it was in his backyard, in his neighborhood, and he grew up watching the league” Memphis coach Josh Pastner told the Commerical-Appeal. “He didn’t think anything would be against it.” Iverson can play in preseason exhibitions and scrimmages, will sit against Austin Peay (ranked #283 in the country by Ken Pomeroy) and will return for a road trip to Oklahoma State, who Pomeroy ranks #4. The timing is convenient for the Tigers, who shouldn’t have much trouble with Austin Peay, but will need all the help they can get against Marcus Smart and the Cowboys.
- Speaking of Memphis preseason games, coach Josh Pastner said he is trying to focus on defensive pressure ahead of this weekend’s “secret” scrimmage against Baylor. The Tigers’ defense has improved each year under Pastner; in 2009-2010, his first season, the team ranked #163 in Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Defense at 101.2 (which roughly translates to allowing 101.2 points per 100 possessions against the average D-1 offense). The team rose to #60 in the ranking in 2010-2011 (96.4), #16 in 2011-2012 (91.6) and #13 last season (90.0). The defense played the crucial role in Pastner’s first NCAA tournament victory, when the Tigers snagged nine steals and limited St. Mary’s to 33% shooting. Maintaining a stout defense this season (Pomeroy projects the Tigers to rank #15 at 92.5) will be particularly crucial with the step up in competition to the American.
- A year ago, Connecticut had only thing left to play for: “Pride,” junior guard Ryan Boatright said to USA Today. “Pride and proving the world wrong.” Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun had just retired in the face of the Huskies’ ineligibility for the NCAA tournament due to academics. Kevin Ollie was named the interim coach, “but I looked at it like I had a lifetime deal,” Ollie, a former Connecticut point guard, told USA Today. “I look that way at every aspect of my life, everything. That’s how I want my players to look at things. Sometimes you’ve got to believe in the dark. You don’t know the outcome, but you just keep believing in one another.” Playing for pride, and believing in one another, carried Connecticut to a 20-win season and now has them ranked #19 in the preseason coaches poll. Ollie got a new contract, and now finds himself as one of brightest young coaching stars in the game. Once Louisville leaves of the ACC, Connecticut will be the clear face of the league, and Ollie’s early success has them well poised to for that role.
- The major obstacle to Connecticut’s success this year certainly appears to be its thin frontcourt, and Wednesday’s easy exhibition win over Southern Connecticut State can’t be too comforting on that issue. The Huskies were outrebounded by their Division II foes 48-43, and managed only five offensive rebounds compared to SCSU’s 18. “I wasn’t happy with the rebounding effort, and they’ll understand that when we get back Friday,” Kevin Ollie said after the game, but singled out sophomore Phil Nolan for praise. “He as six rebounds in 11 minutes, that’s pretty damn good. If he does that, he’ll play.” For his part, Nolan said the rebounding would improve. “We’ll get back in the lab and work on rebounding, and you’ll see improvement next time,” Nolan said, adding that “People say we have a small team, but you look at it, we’re pretty big. We can do a lot of things.” The American promises to be a perimeter-oriented league, but the Huskies must improve their rebounding (they ranked #278 in offensive rebounding percentage and #319 in defensive rebounding percentage last year, according to Pomeroy) if they want to live up to their lofty preseason ranking.
- Temple coach Fran Dunphy has been a head coach in college for 24 years – with 15 NCAA tournament trips – but thinks this year might be his toughest yet. “I think this is as challenged as I’ve been as a basketball coach,” Dunphy told CBSSports.com. “It should be a very interesting experience for us this year to see where we wind up. There’s a lot of unknowns and a lot of apprehension at this point.” That’s reasonable, as the Owls find themselves in a new league with many new faces in their team photo. The team lost five seniors off a squad that won 24 games, including one in the tournament. Those five combined to average 52.9 points per game while the team averaged 72.8. Dunphy’s first team at Temple finished 12-18; the next six (also the last six) have each won 21 games and made the NCAA tournament, so it’s tough to count him out. But facing a tough non-conference slate and a stronger league, it seems highly unlikely that Temple will be dancing in March.