Atlantic 10 Tournament Finals, Daily Diary

Posted by nvr1983 on March 11th, 2012

Three Bids? Four Bids?
If the nearly unanimous opinion leaving the Boardwalk Hall Saturday night was that Xavier was definitely “in”, the feeling was less certain as the Championship game wound toward a conclusion. Xavier looked like the January 24 edition rather than the March 10 edition. Saint Bonaventure had seized the automatic bid, had Xavier’s lackluster performance knocked them out of tournament? The Selection Committee must have liked their body of work, because Xavier drew a #10 seed in the South Region and will face fellow Midwesterner Notre Dame in the second round, while Saint Bonaventure drew the #14 seed (fitting for a team not even in the bubble discussion a week ago) in the East Region and will play Florida State in Nashville on Friday. Saint Louis and Temple were “in” to start the week, so elimination before the Championship game hurt at most a seed. Saint Louis was seeded #9 in the West Region and will face Memphis on Friday in Columbus and lastly Temple was seeded #5 in the Midwest Region and will face either California or South Florida (the winner of the #12 seed playoff in Dayton on Tuesday) on Friday, also in Nashville. The conference did draw 4 bids, the third time in conference history that four teams have made the field of 64 (or 68…). The conference has earned five bids twice, in 1996-97 and in 1997-98. This marks the 13th time in the last 17 post seasons that the conference has earned more than two bids.

Nicholson Helped Guide Saint Bonaventure To An Automatic Bid

The Gate, Again
The announced attendance for the Championship game was 6,101, as Saint Bonaventure fans from all over the Northeast drove in overnight to cheer their Bonnies on. The absence of the three Philadelphia teams did not appear to depress the attendance numbers as many feared, while the crowd, loud and enthusiastic from the introductions to the final buzzer gave the barrel-ceiling auditorium the intimate feel of a college campus arena.

Temple is Out, Who’s Got Next?
Though the Owls are due to play another season of basketball in the Atlantic-10, speculation has begun about who will replace Temple as the 14th member of the conference. Concern about presence in media markets have some looking at another New York metro area school while those concerned about quality of the basketball (what else?) program look elsewhere. New York metro area teams mentioned include Iona (too small perhaps) of the MAAC and Quinnipiac (located in Connecticut) of the NEC. Given the conference’s extremely large footprint, George Mason, a Virginia state school with excellent facilities and reputation, was also mentioned. The Patriots would make a good “traveling companion” for Charlotte, Richmond and George Washington. George Mason’s affiliation with the CAA, combined with their run to the Final Four in 2005-06, make it an attractive acquisition target for the A-10. Given Commissioner McGlade’s southern orientation (she spearheaded the move of the conference’s headquarters from Philadelphia to Virginia Beach when she became commissioner) gives credence to George Mason rumors. Another intriguing candidate, mentioned frequently, is Butler, the Horizon Conference power whose runs to the Final Four in 2010 and 2011 along with their historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, speak to a long and successful tradition in basketball.

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Atlantic 10 Tournament Semifinals, Daily Diary

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2012

Joe Dzuback filed this report from the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Coach Rick Majerus is a Gentleman. The Saint Louis coach was as effusive in his praise of Xavier, winners over his Saint Louis team earlier today, as he was of La Salle, the Billikens quarterfinal victim on Friday. The coach began each of his postgame press conferences this weekend with complementary remarks about the play and dedication of their opponents. The referee crew assessed Saint Louis player Brian Conklin with a “Flagrant 1” foul early in the second half, effectively benching Saint Louis’ man in the middle for another precious five minutes during a crucial part of the second half. The call put Tu Holloway on the line and gave the ball back to Xavier. Given how miserly Saint Louis is with possessions, giving the ball back to Xavier must have hurt at least as much as the free throws. When asked about that call and some of the other no-calls at the end of regulation, Majerus, in a sharp contrast to NC State Coach Mark Gottfried’s postgame comments, blamed himself for not being more demanding on his players.

Does the NCAA Tournament Have Room For a Fourth A-10 Team?

Two, Three or Four? Speculation over the number of bids the conference could get took a dramatic turn this afternoon when Xavier eliminated Saint Louis in its semifinal game. Both Temple and Saint Louis will get at-large bids, leaving the third bid to go to the conference tournament winner tomorrow. If, as suggested by RTC’s Zach Hayes and CBSSports’ Jerry Palm, Xavier is in, then a Saint Bonaventure win tomorrow should bring a fourth bid to the conference. Will the Selection Committee see it that way? The conference final is played on Sunday and for the last two postseasons, the Selection Committee appears to have set the conference’s seeds on Saturday night rather than working out alternative scenarios that might account for multiple outcomes. By seeding the 2009-10 tournament champion Temple #5 and runner-up Xavier #6, and the 2010-11 tournament champion Richmond on the #12 seed line, the committee appears to settle on a compromise seeding  that would account for either outcome (a Temple or Xavier win in the 2009-10 conference tournament and Richmond or Dayton win in the 2010-11 conference tournament) in the conference tournament championship game. Will the committee develop a “compromise seed line” this time around? According to virtually every bracketologist near a microphone tonight, Xavier’s win over Saint Louis seals a bid for the Muskies irrespective of tomorrow’s outcome. Of course having Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski on the Selection Committee should also help motivate the committee to do its homework.

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Four Thoughts From the Pac-12 Final

Posted by bmulvihill on March 10th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday’s final round at the Pac-12 Tournament.

The Colorado Buffaloes won the Pac-12 Tournament in their first year as a member of the conference. Driven by strong inside play, senior leaders, a 2011 snub, and 50 of their most rabid fans, the Buffaloes are making an unlikely appearance in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

1. Strong inside play and missed free throws - Prior to the game, the key match-ups were going to be in the paint. Arizona’s Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry, and Angelo Chol versus Colorado’s Andre Roberson, Austin Dufault, and Shane Harris-Trunks. The Buffs ended up dominating the glass with a 37-29 rebounding margin and 12-10 second chance point margin. The long arms of Roberson proved to be the difference on the glass. Additionally, Arizona’s inability to make free throws cost them the game. The Wildcats were 10-18 from the free throw line. With a tournament bid on the line, free throws are too important to miss in these tight games.

The 2012 Pac-12 Tournament Champions - Colorado Buffaloes

2. 2011 Bubble Motivation - After going 21-13 and 8-8 in the Big 12 in 2011, the Buffaloes sat squarely on the bubble. The Tournament selection committee did not end up giving them a bid and it has stuck with the team all season long. At the post-game press conference, coach Tad Boyle said he sent a text at 1:30AM to six of the players on that team last season and told them today’s game was for them. Boyle welled up with tears when asked what this win meant to him relative to the emotions he and his team went through last year. This win meant more to the Buffs than most of us could have imagined.

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Mountain West Tournament Diary: Championship Saturday

Posted by AMurawa on March 10th, 2012

Saturday night’s Mountain West Championship game between San Diego State and New Mexico provided plenty of great storylines: the two regular season co-champions meeting in a rubber match; the two-time defending tournament champion Aztecs against a Lobo team that hadn’t won this tournament since 2005, when Ritchie McKay was still the head coach; and the battle between the top two candidates for the conference Player of the Year, the winner, Jamaal Franklin and the jilted, Drew Gordon.

Gordon had made no bones about the fact all week that he felt he deserved the individual honor and that other awards, such as Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth-Man of the Year, should have wound up in Lobo hands, and he played with a chip on his shoulder all weekend, averaging 15.3 points and 10.7 boards in the tournament on his way to the Most Outstanding Player award. But the win on Saturday night was a total team affair. Tony Snell got things off on the right track, scoring the first five points of the game and turning in his third straight double-digit scoring game after slumping through February. Freshman point guard Hugh Greenwood continued his do-whatever-it-takes style and contributed ten boards and a couple threes. And bench players Phillip McDonald, Demetrius Walker, and Cameron Bairstow all made major contributions. McDonald, who has lost minutes this season as Snell and Walker have stepped up, came off the pine and had a three, an assist, a rebound and drew a charge, all in his first couple minutes of action. Bairstow battled on the boards and at one point scored six straight points for the Lobos. And Walker, despite not making a field goal, provided energy and hit clutch free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.

Drew Gordon, New Mexico

Drew Gordon, The Tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Is Mobbed By New Mexico Fans

But more than anything else, this win was about the New Mexico defense. They held San Diego State to 0.86 points per possession (the number was quite a bit lower than that until Chase Tapley went nuts late) and at times in the second half just completely froze the Aztecs out in the paint. Kendall Williams took San Diego State point Xavier Thames completely out of rhythm and Snell helped frustrate James Rahon into an 0-for-8 shooting night. Franklin, meanwhile, was hounded into six-of-14 shooting and six turnovers. And, despite wrapping up their semifinal game late in the evening on Friday night, the Lobos never showed fatigue and kept competing (and hard) right to the final whistle. They were consistently first to loose balls and always scrapping and making multiple attempts at rebounds.

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Four Thoughts From Semifinal Friday at the Pac-12 Tournament

Posted by bmulvihill on March 10th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Friday’s semifinal round at the Pac-12 Tournament.

  • Too much Arizona defense for Oregon State - Arizona led the Pac-12 this season in eFG% defense. By the second half of its game against Oregon State in the Pac-12 semifinal, it became apparent that its defense was wearing the Beavers out. OSU shot 27.3% in the second half and looked to be out of gas after a third game in three nights. If Angelo Chol can continue to provide an inside defensive presence like he did in this game and the Arizona perimeter defense performs as it has all season, Sean Miller’s team is going to be difficult to beat in the finals.
  • Craig Robinson is committed  – The best part of the Pac-12 Tournament thus far is listening to the coaches talk about their players after the game. After hearing Oregon State coach Craig Robinson talk in the postgame press conference, there is no reason to believe that OSU will not continue to improve next season. Robinson is completely dedicated and totally passionate about Oregon State basketball. In a game where coaches’ egos can become bigger than their teams, Robinson is clearly all about his players. Keep an eye out for the Beavers to push the rest of the Pac-12 next season with almost its entire team coming back.

Colorado fans have helped the Buffs reach the finals

  • Colorado Athletic Director Mike Bohn rocks - He paid the way for 50 Colorado student season ticket holders to come to the Pac-12 Tourney and cheer on the Buffs. In an event that is lacking significantly in fan energy, the Colorado fans have been able to provide some much needed energy to an almost empty building. It would have been fantastic to see the other ADs do the same thing — perhaps then maybe the event wouldn’t be moving to Las Vegas next year.
  • Austin Dufault has skills – The 6’9″ senior showed all kinds of skills against a decent Cal front line Friday night. He can handle the ball and has excellent post moves. He could be the X-factor tomorrow against an Arizona interior that played well against Oregon State. It’ll be interesting to see how he does against a shot blocker like Chol.
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Big 12 Tournament Semifinals Thoughts

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 10th, 2012

Brian Goodman is an RTC editor. He filed this report from the Big 12 Tournament semifinals in Kansas City. You can follow Brian on Twitter at @bri_goodman.

Baylor 82, Kansas 71

The Baylor Bears have deservedly had their share of doubters all season. After starting the campaign 17-0, Scott Drew‘s team was swept by the top two teams in the Big 12 and suffered losses to the other two squads in the conference that are locks for the NCAA Tournament. While Baylor played one of its most complete games of the season in a drubbing of Kansas State on Thursday in Kansas City, the knock remained that the talented Bears didn’t have the defensive toughness, focus and heart to match up with its seemingly endless supply of tools and athleticism the other teams offered. One game doesn’t erase an entire reputation, but Baylor put a dent in that line of thinking by withstanding a furious Kansas run in front of a de facto road crowd to hold on for the win in the first Big 12 semifinal Friday night. “This was a night we grew up,” Drew later said.

Brady Heslip's Late Threes Were Key to the Baylor Victory

The outcome derailed what hoopheads have been hoping for in a rubber match between Kansas and Missouri, but the Bears are hardly concerned with such matters. With Thomas Robinson battling foul trouble, Baylor went on a 13-4 run to take a 13-point lead early in the second half. Kansas was taxed physically, but the Jayhawks weren’t going to go down without making a run of their own, and that’s exactly what they did. Kansas answered with a 19-4 spurt, keyed by great defense from Jeff Withey and a collective effort on offense, and briefly surged ahead. “Tonight, you knew they were going to make a run,” Drew said after the game. The Bears, prone to disappointment despite a slew of young talent, were tasked with answering. Perry Jones III led the response, scoring six of his game-high 18 points to help Baylor pull ahead for good, but it was one of the overlooked Bears, Brady Heslip, who delivered with the knockout punches. A pair of threes by the sophomore guard put BU ahead for good and Drew’s biggest smile of the night came during the postseason press conference as he spoke about Heslip’s background. “He has an unbelievable work ethic (with) a good bloodline.”

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RTC Live: Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2012


The Atlantic 10 quarterfinal round has already opened up with top seed Temple losing to Massachusetts earlier this afternoon. Among tonight’s teams, Xavier, Dayton, and St. Louis all have dreams of at-large bids, while La Salle is thinking tournament title. It should be an equally competitive and fun evening from Atlantic City tonight down on the Boardwalk.

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Thoughts From Quarterfinal Thursday at the Pac-12 Tournament

Posted by bmulvihill on March 9th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Thursday’s quarterfinal round at the Pac-12 Tournament.

Here are a few quick thoughts from Quarterfinal Thursday of the Pac-12 Tournament in Los Angeles.

Buffs fans have come out in full force at the Pac-12 Tournament

  1. It’s a one bid league – Based on the play of each team thus far in the tournament, only California has shown the skill set to be a NCAA Tournament team. They have a go-to scorer in Jorge Gutierrez, solid guard play from Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe,  and some decent inside play with Harper Kamp and David Kravish. They showed an ability to knock down shots tonight against Stanford and make free-throws in clutch situations. None of the other teams pass the proverbial “eye test.” Whatever that means.
  2. Give Colorado credit - There’s only one team in the Pac-12 Tournament that is playing for their basketball lives and that’s the Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffs shot well in the first half and hung on for a big win over Oregon. Tad Boyle seems to have made it very clear to his guys that their only way to dance is to win. Credit his players for playing with passion and credit the Buffs’ fans for providing support. If you aren’t on the Colorado bandwagon yet, jump aboard because they are the most exciting thing going on at the Pac-12 Tourney thus far. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big West Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2012

David Gao is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference. You can also find his musings online at Zotcubed, a UC Irvine blog, or on Twitter @dvdgao.

 

League Wrap-Up

By and large, the Big West wound up largely like the preseason prognosticators predicted. Long Beach State dominated with their senior-laden team, winning 15 straight in conference play before Cal State Fullerton tripped them up. CSF was probably the biggest surprise and also most improved over the season, as coach Bob Burton pulled together his team of transfers and formed an offensive powerhouse. UCSB once again had a slightly disappointing conference season, while UC Irvine did better than predicted, tying for sixth when they were picked last overall. UC Riverside peaked early, upsetting a few teams early in the season, threatening to break into the top half of the conference. However, they faded down the stretch, and finished tied for sixth, about where they were picked. UC Davis, picked to finish seventh, had an abysmal season that was only slightly salvaged by a late season surge where they managed to upset both Pacific and CSF.

Ultimately, the top four and bottom five divide was very evident for the 2011-12 season. It will be one of the top four: Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, UCSB or Cal Poly, who will have a realistic chance at going dancing.

League Accolades

Co-Players Of The Year – Larry Anderson & Casper Ware: So technically there’s only supposed to be one POY, but this one was too hard to choose. Ware is still the go-to player on the best team in the conference, a guy that seemingly steps up in crunch time game after game. At the same time, his 16.9 PPG and 3.2 APG are both slight dips from last year’s numbers, when he also won POY. Picking up the slack was fellow 49er senior Anderson, who won defensive player of the year for good reason. When he was injured against Cal State Fullerton in the season finale, Titans guard DJ Seeley went off, carrying CSF to victory. Without either Anderson or Ware, I don’t think the 49ers go 15-1. Really, the same case could be made for TJ Robinson. It’s been a three-headed beast all year.

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Mountain West Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by AMurawa on March 8th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference.

Tournament Bracket


Coming into the year, we thought we had a couple really good teams in New Mexico and UNLV, and six other teams with more questions marks than answers. Four months later, add San Diego State to the list of really good teams, but add the other five teams in the conference as, at a minimum, pretty good. Only Air Force and Boise State end the season with losing records, and each of those teams has risen up and played one of the top three tough at some point, with the Falcons even pulling off a win over San Diego State. There are four teams (so far) with 20 or more wins and it looks more and more like Colorado State, with home wins over each of the top three teams in the conference, will join them in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, Wyoming and TCU both remain strong candidates for NIT inclusion. All told, this was an excellent encore performance for a conference that was coming off their best season on the national stage, especially given the turmoil surrounding the Mountain West’s hits and misses in the conference realignment game. In short, despite a few bumps and bruises along the way, the MW is still alive and well. At least for now.

Final Standings

  1. San Diego State      24-6      10-4
  2. New Mexico            24-6      10-4
  3. UNLV                         25-7        9-5
  4. Colorado State       19-10      8-6
  5. TCU                            17-13      7-7
  6. Wyoming                  20-10     6-8
  7. Air Force                   13-15      3-11
  8. Boise State                13-16      3-11

Superlatives

Player of the Year. Drew Gordon, Senior, New Mexico. This was a tight race, with Gordon, UNLV’s Mike Moser and San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin all neck and neck at the finish line. But, I’ll always hold true to the theory that when in doubt, a tie goes to the senior. And I’ll still gladly make the argument that Gordon edges out the other two on his own merits as well. The one thing that all three players do well is rebound the ball, but Gordon is the best of the three. Franklin is more capable of creating his own shot than Gordon, but Gordon generally plays within himself and is more efficient offensively; likewise, while Moser has a perimeter jumper that is missing from Gordon’s game, it doesn’t go far enough to make up for the other advantages that the Lobo star has. And, defensively, Gordon is significantly more polished than either of his younger competitors. The race is very close, and in no way am I denigrating either Moser or Franklin. But likewise, I don’t want to take the easy way out and just call it a three-way tie. Call Gordon the better of equals.

Drew Gordon, New Mexico

Drew Gordon Earns Our MW Player Of The Year In A Close Race (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Coach of the Year. Steve Fisher, San Diego State. It has been a year of great coaching jobs in the Mountain West as well, but the race here is slightly less contentious. While we give Gordon the MW POY award by a nose, Fisher wins this by a full body length over guys like Jim Christian, Larry Shyatt, and Tim Miles. Christian and Shyatt took teams with basically the same personnel as last year and led a complete 180, while Miles took a team that lost three of its best players and has them a nose ahead of where they were last year. Meanwhile, Fisher took a team that lost its four leading scorers, including NBA First Round pick Kawhi Leonard, off a Sweet 16 team and led a ragtag bunch that included a undermanned frontline (Tim Shelton and his three knee surgeries, basketball novice Deshawn Stephens, and graduate transfer Garrett Green) to an unlikely Mountain West title. Along the way, he helped transform Chase Tapley from a role player into a team leader and a go-to scorer and Jamaal Franklin from a little-used reserve to a big-name player on the national scene. Oh, and then there’s the whole conference title and national top 25 ranking. That’s nice too.

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WAC Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2012

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing The WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC. You can follow Sam on Twitter @AgsBleedCrimson.

WAC Tournament Glance

Conference Tournament Preview

It may sound cliché, but the tournament is wide open.

Even though top seed Nevada ran away with the league, the second half of the conference schedule was not a cakewalk. The Wolf Pack won the first seven games by over 10 points per game, but won by just under four points per game in the second go-round (and took a loss against Idaho). There was much jostling in the final weekend of play with seeds two through six up for grabs heading into the final game this past Saturday.

The first round boasts three intriguing matchups with upset potential (seed-based) in all three. New Mexico State struggled to put away Fresno State in both regular season meetings, winning by four and then by five in overtime (overcoming a 19-point second half deficit in the process).

Idaho and Hawai’i split the regular season meetings with each winning on the other’s home floor. 

Utah State swept the season series with Louisiana Tech, but the Bulldogs lost by just four points in the first meeting and has won five of their last six games.

With apologies to San Jose State, they don’t stand much of a chance against Nevada and this one should be a breeze although the Spartans did play tough in the game in San Jose losing by just six points.

Can Wendell McKinnes And New Mexico State Defend Their WAC Tourney Crown? Based On How NMSU Has Been Playing Lately, Don't Bet Against Them (AP)

  • Favorites: Nevada and New Mexico State. They’re the top two seeds and it would be a shame if the two didn’t meet in the championship game.
  • Dark Horses: Idaho and Utah State. Two schools with similar styles of play, well coached (Idaho’s head coach Don Verlin was Stew Morril’s understudy at Utah State) tons of sets in their offense, not likely to beat themselves. Utah State boasts the league’s best coach in Stew Morrill. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Conference Tournament Preview

After a thrilling regular season, it’s on to Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Despite being a three-seed, Ohio State has to be considered the favorite given how well they ended the regular season. If either Michigan State or OSU wins the Big Ten Tournament, they will get strong consideration for a one-seed. Teams like Wisconsin, Indiana and Purdue can all improve their NCAA Tournament seeds with strong showings this weekend.

Northwestern is the only clear bubble team in the conference, and as such is under the most pressure to string some wins together. If the Wilcats can beat Minnesota in the first round, they’ll face a Michigan team that they only lost to twice this season, though both losses came in overtime. Two wins in the Big Ten tournament should make them a virtual lock for their first-ever tournament birth, but it’s much easier said than done with this level of competition.

A Look Back

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