RTC Summer School: Atlantic 10 Conference

Posted by rtmsf on August 31st, 2012

This weekend represents the end of the summer, and as such, our last offseason status of the high mid-major leagues. Up next: the Atlantic 10.

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Five Offseason Storylines

Majerus Will Be Missed by A-10 Fans and Foes Next Season

  1. The Evolving Conference. Recruiting new members to replace those moving on, hiring new coaches to meet rising expectations and postseason performance, and finding a brand new venue to highlight the conference championship tournament, the Atlantic 10 and its individual members continue to respond proactively to the Division I conference realignments of the past eight years.
  2. Changing Membership. “Atlantic 10” is a misleading description for this conference. The footprint stretches from Kingston, Rhode Island, south to Charlotte, North Carolina, and west to Saint Louis, Missouri. The membership will expand from 14 to 16 for the 2012-13 season (only… at this point). The “not quite Atlantic, not quite 10” conference will add Virginia Commonwealth University (late of the Colonial Athletic Association) and Horizon League powerhouse Butler, before returning to 14 teams in 2013-14. Two schools – Temple, a conference stalwart since 1982 will depart for the Big East, and Charlotte, a member since 2005, will rejoin Conference USA. The faces may change, but all the departing and arriving members share a common passion – outstanding college basketball.
  3. Changing Faces. Since expanding to 14 teams in 2005, the conference has welcomed 14 new head coaches, an average of 1.75 new regimes per season. In the early weeks of the 2012 offseason both Rhode Island and Duquesne fired their head coaches. Jim Baron’s curmudgeonly reputation was tolerated (barely) as his teams recorded four consecutive 20-win seasons. The 25-year veteran (11 in Kingston) had no good will to draw on as the Runnin’ Rams struggled through a 7-24 season. Rhode Island AD Thorr Bjorn tabbed Wagner head coach Danny Hurley as the man to bring the program back to the NCAA Tournament. The offseason shocker came with Duquesne AD Greg Amodio’s announcement that 18-year (the last six at Duquesne) veteran Ron Everhart was out. Everhart interviewed for the Penn State job in the 2011 offseason before he withdrew from consideration (much to the relief of Dukes fans). Duquesne hired 14-year veteran coach Jim Ferry, who spent the last 10 years at Long Island University, to bring stability to the roster and coaching staff.
  4. Changing Venues. When Saint Bonaventure cut down the nets in Boardwalk Hall last March, the conference closed out a six-year run in the venerable old facility. The 2012 conference championship will be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on track for completion next month. The brand new venue offers 675,000-square feet devoted to state-of-the-art sports and entertainment with an 18,000 seat basketball arena as the centerpiece. Given the access to the New York City media, will the stage be bright enough for the geographically diverse membership, which includes seven members not located along the Mid-Atlantic coast?
  5. Rick Majerus Takes a Leave of Absence from Saint Louis. For those who attended postgame pressers hosted by the Billiken mentor last season knew that head coach Rick Majerus was in fragile condition. Though he was attentive and animated during the games, his voice was lower and answers more deliberate than in previous years afterward. Athletic Director Chris May’s August 24 announcement that the 25-year veteran — the last five with Saint Louis — was in California “undergoing evaluation and treatment for an ongoing heart condition” and would not take the first chair this season at SLU was not surprising. Jim Crews, a former head coach at Evansville (1986-2002) and Army (2003-09) will assume the job on an interim basis. Crews was hired in October 2011 and was set to start his second season as an assistant when Majerus made the decision to step aside temporarily. Crews will be assisted by Jim Whitesell, also hired last offseason. The timing – late August after a stent operation in July – speaks to both Majerus’ reluctance to step aside and to his confidence in Crews and Whitesell.

Reader’s Take I

 

Summer Team Notes

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RTC Summer School: Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on August 14th, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Up next: the Mountain West.

Drew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West Conference. You can also find his musings on Twitter @amurawa.

Three Summer Storylines

  • Tectonic Movement Continues. For the second straight year, the landscape of the MW shifts. Last year it was BYU and Utah heading off to greener pastures with Boise State landing in their place. This year TCU is on its way out the door with Fresno State and Nevada on their way in. And next year Boise State and San Diego State will depart with San Jose State and Utah State coming in. All in all, this will still be a good basketball conference even after all these moving parts settle, but the loss of a rapidly improving Aztec program will be tough for MW fans to take. TCU and Boise State certainly aren’t major losses on the basketball side, but the strength of their football programs could have provided stability for the conference and the potential for improved programs on the hardwood. Between the four newcomers, each of Fresno State, Nevada and Utah State have had good runs over the course of a handful of years, but they’ll all need to prove their ability to compete with more established programs like UNLV and New Mexico, while SJSU figures to step directly into the basement of the conference.

  • The Mtn. Crumbles. On May 31, The Mtn., the Mountain West’s television network, went dark, ceasing all operations after six years. Now, say what you will about the network, a channel that eschewed HD programming, struggled with distribution and had issues with their on-air talent, but the shuttering of its doors leaves some questions for MW hoops fans. In the era of The Mtn., if you wanted to follow MW hoops, it was easy to do so. Now, it remains to be seen exactly how much exposure teams from this conference will get during the year. Sure, the MW still has deals in place to get games shown on NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network, but what about that Air Force/Boise State game on some random February Wednesday? Should you want to watch that game and you’re not in Idaho or Colorado, odds are pretty good you’re going to be out of luck.
  • Continued Success? For all the uncertainty about the membership of the conference, the last three years have been something of the golden age of Mountain West basketball. In the past three seasons, the MW has received 11 NCAA Tournament berths. Two years ago there were dual Sweet Sixteen appearances by BYU and SDSU. We’ve had Jimmer and Kawhi grab national headlines, while other guys like Dairese Gary and Darington Hobson, Billy White and Drew Gordon, D.J. Gay and Hank Thorns, Andy Ogide and Malcolm Thomas have kept us all entertained. But, even with all of those players now gone, there is still plenty to be excited about in the conference. San Diego State and UNLV lead the way again, with both expected to start the season in the preseason Top 25. New Mexico and Colorado State, who joined the Aztecs and Rebels in the Big Dance last year, both should be in the hunt for another tourney bid, while Nevada could be a sleeper in its first season in the conference. And, as always, we could be in for another surprise or two.

Reader’s Take #1

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RTC Summer School: Ivy League

Posted by rtmsf on August 13th, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Up next: the Ivy League.

Michael James is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League. You can also find his musings on Twitter at @mrjames2006 and @ivybball.

When the final horn sounded, Harvard had finally claimed the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, sending it back to the Big Dance for the first time since 1946. There would be no rushing of the court, no cutting of the nets. In fact, the Crimson team was nowhere to be found. In a situation that can only happen under Ivy League rules, Harvard grabbed its automatic bid by watching one league rival (Princeton) knock off another (Penn). If the result had gone the other way, there would have been a one-game, winner-take-all playoff between the Crimson and Quakers at Quinnipiac University on Conference Championship Saturday. It was the second straight year that the title chase had come down to the final game, as Princeton won at Penn the season prior to earn a playoff against Harvard, from which it emerged victorious, grabbing the Ivy bid.

Harvard Finally Broke Through to the NCAAs Last Season (AP)

With the way the 2012-13 campaign is shaping up, there’s plenty of reason to believe that the Ivy League might just go 3-for-3.

Three Key Storylines

  1. Roster Flux - With nearly half of the 2011-12 All-Ivy spots going to graduating seniors, the league had hoped to weather the storm with the return of several key players that missed most or all of last season with injuries. Brown will see 6’8″ forward Tucker Halpern return to the lineup, while Cornell gets back 6’6″ forward Errick Peck. Penn will finally get to see the much heralded forward Greg Louis, who missed his entire freshman season with hip surgery. That’s the good news. The bad news, though, is pretty bad. Columbia had hoped that 2010-11 All-Ivy First Team guard Noruwa Agho would take a second crack at a senior season, but he has opted not to return. The surprises weren’t limited to injury-related situations either. Brown’s roster release came with a huge surprise, as center Andrew McCarthy was dropped from the roster prior to what would have been his senior season.
  2. Conference Tourney Debate – The Ivy League remains the only Division I basketball conference to hand its NCAA berth to its regular season champion, rather than deciding the bid via a postseason tournament. For a while this offseason, that distinction looked to be in serious jeopardy. The eight Ivy coaches unanimously supported a proposal that would have brought the league an eight-team tournament in exchange for each school dropping one non-conference game from its schedule every season.  The eight athletic directors wasted no time in shooting down the proposal before it could even take the final step to the Ivy presidents. For the Ivy ADs, the trade of a game for a tournament missed the point, as they cited the philosophical belief in the superiority of the true round-robin in deciding a champion as the reason for rejecting what had been the most serious attempt at instituting a conference tournament in quite some time.
  3. What Goes Around, Comes Around – When Penn lost Fran Dunphy to Temple in 2006, its exhaustive search for a new head man led it to another institution within its own league, as the Quakers poached then-Brown coach Glen Miller. This offseason, that move came full circle – sort of. Miller is long gone from Philly, fired just a month into the 2009-10 season, but Mike Martin, a Brown alumnus and one of the assistants Miller brought along with him from his previous stint in Providence, remained on with the Quakers even after his former boss’ departure. So, when Brown jettisoned Jesse Agel following an 8-23 campaign, the Bears made Martin a high priority target. It took Brown until the beginning of June to decide on its choice, but the result was bringing Martin back to his alma mater and handing him the keys to a program that has been on a steady decline since Craig Robinson took the squad to the CBI Tournament in 2008.

Reader’s Take

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RTC Summer School: West Coast Conference

Posted by rtmsf on August 10th, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Up next: the WCC.

Michael Vernetti is the RTC correspondent for the West Coast Conference.

Three Key Storylines

  • Ex-champs Fight Back. Gonzaga’s streak of 11 consecutive seasons with at least a share of the WCC crown came to an end last year as Saint Mary’s won both the regular season title and the WCC Tournament. How will the Zags react as a challenger rather than defending champion? Is Saint Mary’s for real or just a pretender? This is the key storyline for the WCC heading into the 2012-13 season. Gonzaga answers with a strong returning lineup boasting conference leaders Elias Harris at strong forward and dual freshmen sensations Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr. at the guard spots. Rather than miss the graduated Robert Sacre, Zag partisans insist more playing time for Sam Dower will equal more production in the post. Saint Mary’s answers with a possibly even stronger backcourt of Olympics hero Matt Dellavedova and defensive terror Stephen Holt. The Gaels will have a rebuilt front line anchored by redshirt sophomore Brad Waldow and transfer forward Matt Hodgson, and looks forward to proving last year’s title was no fluke.

These WCC Stars Will Determine the Storyline of the 2012-13 Season

  • Revamp or Disaster? San Francisco coach Rex Walters was consistently cool when asked about the unsettling defection of six players from his roster following last season’s disappointing season (8-8, fifth place in WCC). For the most part he knew they were leaving, Walters said, and he has replaced them with players of equal or better value. Maybe, but any time a team loses its top four scorers (Angelo Caloiaro, Perris Blackwell, Rashad Green and Michael Williams) and returns only two players with significant game experience – Cody Doolin and Cole Dickerson – it puts tremendous pressure on the newcomers. Of the many new faces on the Hilltop, former UCLA recruit De’End Parker, recently cleared to participate in the upcoming season, looks to be the Dons’ best bet for stardom.
  • Broncos Healthy Again. Things could not possibly have gone worse for Santa Clara last year – really, they lost all 16 conference games – so maybe karmic forces are aligned to bring the Broncos salvation. Marc Trasolini, the hard-nosed 6’9″ forward who was looked upon to provide senior leadership, instead tore his ACL in the preseason. Outstanding shooting guard Kevin Foster was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence following a Bronco home loss to Saint Mary’s, and never returned to action. With Trasolini and Foster back this season, Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating should smile more. Keating will also have improving 7-foot center Robert Garrett and slick point guard Evan Roquemore back in the fold, so the Broncos have a solid foundation for success

Reader’s Take

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RTC Summer School: Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Up next: the CAA.

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @CAAHoops and find him online at CAAHoops.com.

Three Key Storylines

  • A Different Look. Perhaps no conference faced the realignment wars more head on than the CAA. Georgia State announced in April it was moving to the Sun Belt effective in 2013. VCU and George Mason were both wooed by the Atlantic 10 — Shaka Smart took his Rams to a new conference while Paul Hewitt’s squad stuck. And Old Dominion followed Georgia State, making a football-driven decision to go to Conference USA. The summer was mostly spent managing off-court drama, so the season tip-off will be welcomed. Due to a longstanding CAA rule that programs leaving the CAA are not eligible for championships, ODU and Georgia State will essentially play lame duck seasons. When you factor in Towson and UNCW’s ineligibility due to APR results, the CAA Tournament — annually a raucous affair that plays to a sold-out Richmond Coliseum — will be a seven-team battle in March.

Frantz Massenat Returns For Drexel, The Early Favorites In The New-Look CAA. (AP)

  • Southern Bias No More? No team north of George Mason has won a CAA title since the conference expanded in 2000 to include four America East programs. In fact, VCU, Old Dominion, and George Mason have combined to win six straight CAA championships and eight of the last nine. However, VCU has moved to the A-10 and ODU is ineligible due to its impending move to Conference USA. Drexel finished 16-2 last year, losing to VCU in the CAA Tournament finals and Delaware returns every key player, adding St. Joseph’s transfer Carl Baptiste. Plus, Bill Coen has a senior backcourt and one of the conference’s top players in sophomore Quincy Ford. That leaves Hewitt’s team to fend off northern aggressors to keep the streak going.
  • Channeling Medeleev. Several CAA coaches face as many chemistry concerns as X-and-O hurdles. Hofstra’s Mo Cassara could start as many as five transfers, led by former UConn Husky Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. The Pride went 14-4 and 3-15 in Cassara’s two seasons in the conference and his ability to combine elements could give rise to either record this year. Pat Skerry has a similar challenge at Towson. Skerry is rebuilding around a trio of Big East transfers that includes former Georgetown Hoya Jerrelle Benimon, Providence grad Bilal Dixon, and South Florida transfer Mike Burwell. And Ron Hunter replaces six seniors with a blend of freshmen (including his son, RJ Hunter, who turned down offers from ACC and Big Ten programs) and Virginia Tech transfer Manny Atkins. Hunter may also get Southern Cal transfer Curtis Washington eligible.

Reader’s Take

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RTC Summer School: The Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 2nd, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Today, the Summit League.

Charlie Parks is the RTC correspondent for The Summit League.

Reader’s Take

 

Key Storylines

  • Southern Utah and Oral Roberts Head For Greener Pastures: Southern Utah made its long-awaited transition to the Big Sky while Oral Roberts made a quicker exit to the Southland Conference, ending the most successful stretch of sustained competition for Summit League basketball. With the League favoring the Dakota teams and a move northward, ORU made a business decision: Cut ties and shift its focus south to more natural competition and recruiting. ORU was the most successful team in the recent history of the Summit League, but it was clear that league officials had a vision for the direction of the conference that ORU wasn’t too thrilled with.
  • IPFW and Oakland Lobby For Open Horizon League Spot: Speaking of new directions, this story came out a couple months ago reporting that Oakland was interested in filling Butler’s vacated spot in the Horizon League. Oakland has been courting that conference for a long time, but it is not likely they will get their wish; there hasn’t been any movement on the Horizon’s end in several months, if at all. Even IPFW kicked around the idea of moving up in the world to join the Horizon. The Horizon could use a mid-major like Oakland to give it back some of the firepower they lost in Butler, but IPFW should get comfortable with its spot in the Summit. They aren’t going anywhere.

Point Guard/Advanced Stats Community Dreamboat Nate Wolters Shines For The Jackrabbits. (South Dakota State Photo)

How They Stack Up

  1. South Dakota State: Oakland closed the gap a little bit with their recruiting haul, but South Dakota State still boasts the best player and arguably the best front court of any team in the conference. Its recruiting class wasn’t as flashy as in years past, but it addressed several holes they had and added some depth. The Jacks should still be the favorites heading into the season. Notable additions: Jacob Bittle, point guard; Connor Devine, center.
  2. Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies impressed the most out of all the teams with their recruiting class, adding two transfers that can help right away in Tommie McCune (West Virginia) and Ralph Hill (Dayton). They also added Lloyd Neely, The Detroit Public School League MVP from 2012 and Mr. Basketball finalist. The Golden Grizzlies had to find a way to replace Reggie Hamilton, the 2012 NCAA scoring leader, and it looks like they are well on their way. Notable Additions: Tommie McCune, guard; Lloyd Neely, forward, Michigan Mr. Basketball finalist. Read the rest of this entry »
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RTC Summer School: Missouri Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 1st, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Today we start with the MVC.

Patrick Marshall is MVC Correspondant for Rush the Court.  You can find his other musings on Twitter @wildjays and on White & Blue Review. 

Three Summer Storylines

1. Doug McDermott Continues All-American Status. Doug McDermott was named a first team All-American last season.  While the rest of the first team decided to leave school early for NBA riches, McDermott decide to stay in school. He did this to not only improve his game, but also has hopes to take the Creighton Bluejays further into the NCAA Tournament after leading them to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007 and advancing to the Round of 32.  His summer has been spent going to all of the skills camps including the Deron Williams/Amare’ Stoudemire Skills camp as well as the Lebron James Skills Academy, continuing to impress onlookers. With McDermott back, expectations are high in Omaha and many fans fear that if he does have the same kind of year or better that it might be hard for him to hold off on the NBA a second time.

What does All-American Doug McDermott have in mind for an encore in 2012-13?

2. Coaching Changes Welcome Back Familiar Faces. Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery was let go after a tumultuous time in Carbondale during his final four seasons as head coach that saw the program hit rock bottom. To resurrect the Saluki program, MVC coaching veteran Barry Hinson returned to the league to take over the head coaching job. Hinson spent the past four seasons at Kansas in a supporting role as the Director of Basketball Operations. He becomes the second coach in the past three seasons to leave the MVC and come back to coach another team in the league (Greg McDermott is the other). Hinson was let go from Missouri State in 2008 despite being pretty successful, but he couldn’t get his team to the NCAA Tournament.  The question will be whether he can take Southern Illinois back to the postseason.

3. Teams Lose With Transfers. The resurgence of the MVC in 2012 caused a few of the better players in the league to look for greener pastures.  Drake’s Rayvonte Rice decided to leave the Bulldogs and ended up at Illinois, a school where he had hoped for an offer coming out of high school.  There was speculation even before last season that Rice was looking to transfer, but he had tried to dismiss it.  The departure of Rice, an MVC-All Freshman selection two years ago and a second team All-MVC selection last season, puts a dent into Drake’s drive to rise in the league for next season.  On the other end of things, Illinois State’s Nic Moore decided to leave the Redbirds after his All-MVC Freshman season. After an impressive showing at the MVC Tournament and the departure of head coach Tim Jankovich, Moore decided a change was in order.  However, there were not as many teams looking for Moore to join them as he probably expected and eventually followed Jankovich to SMU.  Illinois State was looking to be a contender this season, but again could take a hit due to the transfer of Moore and a coaching change.

Reader’s Take

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