So What If Towson’s Losing Streak Ended? One 90-Year Old Alumnus Shows It Matters…

Posted by rtmsf on February 3rd, 2012

Last weekend the longest losing streak in NCAA Division I history finally — mercifully — came to an end. The Towson Tigers defeated conference foe UNC Wilmington by a score of 66-61, ending a 13-month winless streak of 41 games for the school. Often we as media get caught up in the esoteric and mundane, focusing on the statistic and accompanying storyline rather than the fact that there are actually people involved in a story such as this one.

Towson Lining Up to Shake Hands After Its First Win (credit: Baltimore Sun)

Certainly a major burden/albatross has been relieved from the backs of head coach Pat Skerry (responsible for 22 of those losses) and his players — they are now free to move on with their season with the goal of building for the future (the Tigers lost to Hofstra, 74-49 on Wednesday night). But there’s also an element of relief for students, alumni, and fans no doubt fatigued with seeing the (negative) publicity rained on the school as a result of this losing streak. If you ask the question, why does this matter, take a look at the prose of one of Towson’s oldest living alumni, QD Thompson, in a Letter to the Editor posted on Sunday in the school’s newspaper.

Speaking as a 90-year-old Towson Tiger, and with tears in my eyes after reading a long summary of the Towson Tiger men’s basketball team’s recent victory (66-61) over UNC-Wilmington that broke the Tigers’ 41-game losing streak, I just wanted to say hallelujah and congratulations to Coach Pat Skerry, his staff and players, whose warm victory blood I am sure is still bubbling in their vessels. It reminds me of my days at the Towson State Teachers College in the late ‘30s, when I was a sophomore. One day, I was speaking with the Director of Athletics Dr. Donald I. Minnegan, who was also my coach and mentor, and he heard me say, “But, Doc, I can’t do that.” And with that, he clamped his hand over my mouth and screamed out, “Thompson, don’t ever let me hear you say, ‘I can’t’ again, because there is always a way to accomplish anything.”  I soon learned that Doc was absolutely right. Attention Coach Skerry, I pass this little story along to you and suggest you place it in your pipe and smoke it.

Thompson Still Clearly Loves His Tigers (credit: D. Gross)

According to the Towson sports information staff, Thompson played basketball for the school in the late 1930s/early 1940s (Class of 1942) and clearly still has a very strong emotional connection to the university located just north of Baltimore, Maryland. This once again shows that the bond between alumni and their schools (and by proxy, their school’s teams) is exceptionally strong. Professional teams are represented by an amalgam of logo, colors and personnel both past and present, but with few exceptions does physical location actually mean anything — Lambeau, Fenway, Yankee, and a few others — but mostly not. Universities, on the other hand, have all of those things too, but more importantly, the essence underlying the connection is one of place. Location matters, and that’s the primary advantage that college sports has over the pros.

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Xavier Doles Out Punishment For The Crosstown Shootout Brawl To… Its Student Section?

Posted by nvr1983 on January 5th, 2012

Like most college basketball fans we recoiled at the scenes from this year’s Crosstown Shootout where what should have been an easy Xavier win over Cincinnati quickly turned into one of the uglier on-court incidents in college basketball history. As we noted in a post the following day, while the incident was unfortunate it was blown out of proportion to a degree by a media and fan base that wants rivalries to be all-consuming, but acts shocked when that passion boils over and we get an ugly incident like what happened four weeks ago. In the aftermath, there was quite a bit of criticism by various observers directed at both sides with the attention focused primarily on Cincinnati for its on-court actions and Xavier for its off-court actions. Suspensions for the involved players ranged from one to six games with Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin saying that his players would not return even after their suspensions were complete unless he felt that they had proven to him that they understood what they had done was wrong. While some media members and fans questioned the relatively short suspensions, eventually most commended both programs for taking some responsibility for what happened.

The People Being Held Accountable Include Those Not On The Court

One group that was largely left out of the conversation were the fans at the game in particular the student sections that have been known to get a little rowdy at times (a quality that is not unique to these schools). As a society, we tend to laugh off the majority of the comments and actions of members of the student section as humorous or merely immature. The only times where we take aim at student sections are when they pose a physical threat to the opposition or cross some line defined by societal mores such as racist or homophobic taunts. Typically these actions are met with either a verbal reprimand or a glare of disapproval from authority figures. The administration at Xavier apparently feels differently as they sent out a letter today stating that due to the actions of the student section during the Cincinnati game that included “unacceptable chanting, verbal expletives, and objects being thrown onto the arena floor” those who were seated in that area would not be allowed to receive any more tickets to men’s basketball games this season unless they attended one of three one-hour long “reflection sessions” being offered on-campus between 7 and 8 PM on January 8, 9, and 10.

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The Next Jimmer? Creighton’s Doug McDermott Is Well On His Way to National Stardom…

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2011

Charlie Parks is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Creighton vs. Tulsa game on Monday night.

If you don’t know about Doug McDermott yet, then get ready, because you are about to. I didn’t know much about McDermott myself before the game Monday night. I knew the 6’7″ sophomore from Ames, Iowa, was second in the nation in scoring with 25.2 points per game, and that his play has put Creighton in the Top 25 and positioned him as the early favorite for Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. What I didn’t expect (but quickly found out) was that McDermott just might already be one of the best players in the country. He has a different type of game than last season’s mid-major darling from BYU but he’s equally effective, even more efficient, and still has two-and-a-half more seasons of eligibility in front of him.

Get to Know Him Now... (AP)

McDermott not only dropped a career high 35 points in 34 minutes on the road against Tulsa, but he put together one of the most complete and fundamentally sound basketball games I have ever seen.  He finished the night shooting 16-of-23 from the field (.695 FG%) with seven boards (four offensive), and he was automatic within ten feet of the hoop. But what was the most impressive about McDermott’s game was the way in which he put up those numbers.

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San Diego State On the Rise?

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2011

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.

Four years ago, the San Diego Toreros were taking their turn as the latest mid-major Cinderella, upsetting No. 4 seed Connecticut in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. That same year, San Diego State was smashed in the first round of the NIT, losing 73-49 to Florida. Oh, how things have changed. The Toreros and the Aztecs met at Jenny Craig Pavilion on Wednesday night, and although San Diego put up a good effort, SDSU came away as the clearly superior team. Although the Aztec defense appeared lackadaisical and out-of-whack for stretches of the game, SDSU did what superior teams do, which is to find a way to win the games you should win, even if the team isn’t firing on all cylinders.

Steve Fisher Is Doing It Again

At 9-2 on the year and heading into a weaker part of their schedule, San Diego State has once again asserted itself as a team to be reckoned with. This is no small task considering the Aztecs lost four of their five starters from last year’s magical Sweet Sixteen run, including NBA-bound Kawhi Leonard and all-important point guard D.J. Gay. It’s a sign that coach Steve Fisher has truly built a program with staying power, a team that has won 20 consecutive games against California opponents, with quality wins this season over ranked Cal and Arizona teams.

Now, amidst news that SDSU’s other sports besides football will most likely move to the Big West starting in 2013, Steve Fisher is able to respond positively, asserting that the program could stand alone regardless of the conference they played in. He complimented the fiercely loyal fans that some Pac-12 schools are envious of, and he cited the positive factor of the Big West ESPN TV deal. But most of all, Fisher can point to the near-Top 25 success of this year’s team as a sign that the 2011 NCAA Tournament run was not a one-time fluke. SDSU basketball has officially arrived as a program, firmly entrenching itself as the basketball darling of not only San Diego, but quite possibly the entire region of southern California.

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Crosstown Shootout 2011: Overwhelmed By Passion

Posted by Gerald Smith on December 10th, 2011

Gerald Smith is an RTC correspondent. He filed this column from today’s Crosstown Shootout game between Cincinnati and Xavier.

Our Alma Mater, proud and strong. Fight to the finish, never give in.

We want athletics to be our battleground: My team versus your team, my color better than yours. Local foes — the enemy you know best — often extract the most passion. The one game of the year that secures bragging rights. It’s definitely more than just a game for the players, coaches and fans. Xavier’s 76-53 victory against Cincinnati in today’s Crosstown Shootout, like most deep-seated rivalries, brought out the best and the worst of everyone involved. Yet somehow we’re all supposed to act outraged when the passion becomes overwhelming.

Dezmine Wells got overwhelmed. He saw Ge’Lawn Guyn put his hands on Tu Holloway. Wells, in his first Crosstown Shootout, snapped and shoved Guyn. The frustrated Bearcats — and their especially-animated coach Mick Cronin — snapped. Xavier snapped back. The whole arena of fans snapped. For close to a minute of real time, shades of the Malice in the Palace were exhibited in a corner of the Cintas Center with pushes, punches, haymakers, stomps, shoves and general mayhem involved. Order was finally restored short of a complete chaos, and with 9.6 seconds left, the refs called the game over. The pressure had been building all game. The Xavier home crowd was especially livid; they knew what was said about Tu Holloway by Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick. Student’s chanted “Tu’s your daddy!” when Kilpatrick and others took free throws.

At the end of the first half, the teams met at half court with just a smidge of bumping. The refs took a look at the tape and decided to warn the coaches of the players who were mouthing. The mouthing didn’t stop: Musketeer Mark Lyons and Kilpatrick mouthed at each other off-and-on through the latter half. Posing and three-goggles were busted out.

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BYU’s Brandon Davies Keeps His Profile Low, Productivity High

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2011

Kraig Williams is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between BYU and Weber State in Provo.

You don’t have to be a huge college basketball fan to know the story of Brandon Davies last season. As the calendar turned from February to March, BYU was America’s darling. The team was ranked #3 in the nation and had vanquished conference foe and #4 San Diego State on the road in its last outing.

Davies Is Back on the Team and Keeping a Low Profile (Salt Lake Tribune)

The national spotlight that had shown so brightly on BYU quickly turned into an interrogation lamp with the news that Davies had been kicked off the team and out of school for an honor code violation. The violation was widely reported as him having premarital sex with an undetermined female. [ed. note: the actual facts surrounding the honor code violation remain unknown to us at this time, and we make no further claim as to the identification this female or any other sexual partner.] Something that would be so commonplace at many colleges and universities around the country ended Davies season in March and consequently sparked a firestorm of national debate regarding BYU’s honor code. Without him in the post,  the Cougars still went on to have a dream season before being knocked out in the Sweet Sixteen by Florida.

Whether you believe Davies deserved the punishment or not, he accepted it without complaint.  After the season ended, Davies quietly went about getting himself reinstated to the university and did just that and on August 26 when he was readmitted for the fall semester. When BYU had its first exhibition game against Midwestern State in late October, Davies was noticeably cheered louder than the rest of the starting lineup. The BYU faithful had forgiven and forgotten, his sins had been redeemed, and basketball could again become the focus.

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Don’t Doubt Shaka: Can VCU Make Another Run?

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Sunday’s BB&T Classic.

New year, new team.  Somebody tell the press. “Half the questions from the media, even now, December 4, are about last year” said VCU coach Shaka Smart after Sunday’s 75-60 win over George Washington in the first game of the BB&T Classic.  “In our mind, last year’s over, and it’s not gonna win us any games this year.”

Way Too Early to Count Out Shaka Smart's VCU Rams

Fair enough, Coach.  But while VCU can’t carry over any wins from last season, what it has replicated is the same style of play that took the Rams on their historic run to the Final Four.  Just like last year, this year’s team relies on a frenetic, turnover-generating defense with heavy ball pressure.  And just like last year, the offense is not built around a super-efficient field goal percentage.  Rather, the Rams will try to beat you with second-chance points and three-point shots.

Despite losing four starters to graduation, VCU showed on Sunday just how effectively the current team can execute this approach.  Against a GW squad undergoing its own transition — from coach Karl Hobbs to coach Mike Lonergan — VCU generated 17 turnovers and turned them into 21 points.  They torched the Colonials from the three-point line on 12-24 shooting.  And while GW did a better job of keeping the Rams off the offensive glass in the second half, VCU built a 17-point first half lead on the strength of a 39% offensive rebounding rate.

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Life After Jimmer: How Has BYU Moved On This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

Kraig Williams is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Oregon vs. BYU game on Saturday.

Both figuratively and literally, the shadow of Jimmer Fredette looms large over the BYU program.  Last year’s National Player of the Year has not missed a Cougar game yet this season. Fredette has taken up a permanent spot behind the BYU bench while waiting for his professional career to begin later this month with the Sacramento Kings. From the best seat in the house, Jimmer watched the new-look Cougars easily handle Oregon at Energy Solutions Arena on Saturday, 79-65.

The Looming Presence of Jimmer Hangs Over the BYU Program

It would be natural to assume that the Cougars would struggle to replace the offense of a guy who led the nation in 2010-11 with nearly 29 points a contest. Early into the new season, though, you wouldn’t even know the difference looking at the numbers. When looking at the tempo-free statistics, the BYU offense has hummed right along. The Fredette-led Cougars were the nation’s 16th most efficient offense last year, averaging 1.102 points per possession. In early results this year, BYU has slipped all the way down to 1.101 points per possession. That .001 loss moves them to 29th in the nation this year. Dave Rose’s team plays a little bit slower than last year’s run-and-gun model (down to 70 possessions from 72 last year), and consequently it doesn’t average quite as many points. However, that is more likely just the result of games against Utah State and Wisconsin early in the season, two of the slowest-paced schools in the country.

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Reflections on Big 5 Basketball in Philadelphia…

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2011

Joe Dzuback is an RTC correspondent. He filed this column after Villanova’s win over Pennsylvania Saturday, reflecting on the history and importance of Big 5 basketball in Philadelphia.

Five schools all within a 12-mile radius of center city Philadelphia square off each season to play a 10-game, round-robin series that decides who has the bragging rights to the city’s collegiate basketball scene. There is a Crosstown Shootout, an Iron Bowl (for both basketball and football), Oaken Buckets, Backyard Brawls and Border Wars, but no single city has five schools willing to set aside so much of their 29-game allotted schedule to settle a local rivalry. The Big 5 is not an informal agreement (this is Philadelphia we are talking about, everything is in writing), as the first agreement, a five-year deal that ran from the 1955-56 season through the 1959-60 season has been renegotiated (and modified) and re-signed at regular intervals since.

The Big 5 Has Captured Philadelphia's College Hoops Hearts for Over 50 Years

Over the last 56 years, from the first game played under the joint agreement on December 14, 1955 (Saint Joseph’s beat Villanova, 83-70) to the last game last season (on March 5, Temple defeated La Salle, 90-82), the five Philadelphia schools played 520 games using the original round-robin format, except for the years between 1992 and 2000 when each school’s four-game slate was reduced to two. What is the tie that binds one of America’s most prestigious private colleges, founded by one of the country’s Founding Fathers (Penn), to three Catholic universities founded nearly a hundred years later (St. Joe’s, Villanova and La Salle), and a public university with an alumni base of 270,000 (Temple)? “It began… as a loveless marriage,” wrote Rich Hoffman in his introduction to The Big 5-0, a commerative to the 50th anniversary of the Big 5 published in 2005. “Everybody walked to the altar while trying to figure out exactly what angle the other guys were working.”

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Late Night Loss Exposes Some Of UNC’s Flaws

Posted by nvr1983 on November 26th, 2011

When college basketball fans wake up in the morning they will have a new #1. Ok, maybe that will not officially come until Monday when the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls are released, but for all intents and purposes Kentucky is your new #1 team in the country. Around 12:40 AM, while much of the East Coast was already asleep, UNLV took down top-ranked North Carolina, 90-80. While the loss will inevitably send Tar Heel message boards into a panic, it isn’t the end of the world, but it is instructive in some of the weaknesses that it revealed (or refreshed in our minds).

Moser And UNLV Exposed Some Of UNC's Weaknesses (Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

  • Kendall Marshall: Like every other college basketball fan we love some parts of his game. His court vision is exceptional and he makes a lot of great passes without making the “And 1 Mix Tape” pass. Having said that, he is not very athletic nor is he a good shooter. We don’t expect our point guard to jump out of the gym, but there are times (and there will be times) where Marshall’s lack of lateral quickness will cost the Tar Heels. Marshall does enough things well and he has enough help inside when he gets beat that this will not be an issue, but against a team with a quick point guard and good interior players that UNC’s big men cannot help off of without giving up easy points, this could be an issue. As for his shooting, we cringe every time Marshall takes an outside shot. He can make them (37.7% from three-point range last year on just 53 attempts), but if we were a defender we would happily concede that to fall back on occasion to block some of his entry passes.
  • Free throw shooting: The Tar Heels shot 60.6% (20-33) from the free throw line tonight. We would be willing to let this go, but they were shooting 60.7% coming into this game, which puts them at 299th in the nation. This wouldn’t be such a big issue except that UNC’s strength is on the inside, which means they should get to the free throw line a lot. Tonight they were in the bonus with almost 10 minutes to go, but their inability to hit free throws and then their reluctance to go into the post (perhaps a fear of missed throws?) cost them a relatively easy opportunity to get back into the game. What is even worse is that they do not have a single player on the team who can be counted on to consistently hit free throws. After tonight’s game they only have two players shooting over 70% from the free throw line (P.J. Hairston at 83% on 12 attempts all year and Marshall at 75% on eight attempts all year). We don’t want to go “sample size” on you, but those are really small sample sizes. Hairston is a freshman so we don’t have a reliable prior free throw percentage for him, but Marshall shot 69% last season. As for the players on the team that actually get to the line? None of them even hit two-thirds of their attempts. You are probably thinking that 60.7% isn’t that bad and there is some data to suggest that we tend to overrate the importance of free throw shooting. Still 60.7% is really, really bad. How bad is that? Do you remember the most famous bad free throw shooting team of all-time? The 2007-08 Memphis Tigers? The ones that shot so poorly from the line that their coach went on-air to defend them before their season collapsed when they missed key free throws down the stretch? They shot slightly better at 61.4% from the free throw line as a team.
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Getting Through the 24 Hour Tip-Off Marathon: Five Maxims For Survival

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2011

The ESPN 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon starts at midnight tonight. If you are a bored college student, a chronic insomniac, or a college basketball blogger, you may be planning on making a run at the ridiculous, meaning staying up for the entire event. While we can’t officially tell you that this is a good idea and recommend that you go ahead and do it, we don’t blame you, either. It’s a great event. We wish all the decision-makers could organize it so that this “Tip-Off Marathon” actually was a tip-off to the season, but even though it doesn’t really tip anything off, it’s still a blast. You’ll get an early edge on your hoops-loving friends and sound ever-so-insightful as you talk intelligently in late November about mid-majors your buddies and bud-ettes won’t even plan on watching until Championship Week. Of course, even if you don’t remember, say, that power forward from Northern Iowa who really caught fire, or why Rider’s man-to-man defense impressed you, you’ll still have the memory of watching as these teams and their fans all got together and did something…well, really bizarre. And you never know; someday ESPN might decide to feature your school for the 4 AM ET game, and you’d want people to watch, too, right?

Most importantly, though, once you’ve made it through an entire 24-hour marathon, nobody can take it away from you. ESPN has held the event three times, now, and RTC’s John Stevens has stayed up for all three and live-blogged each of them. He rides around town like some college basketball version of General Patton, with his front license plate bearing three gold stars on a red background, one for each marathon he’s survived. And we won’t even get into the matter of those ivory-handled revolvers; that’s another story altogether. Eccentricities aside, John has a few useful tips for you if you’re headsworn on showing you’re at least as much of a man as Andy Katz by going the distance.

#1: KNOW THYSELF, AND KNOW THINE ENEMY

I used to have a job that, once or twice a week, required me to stay up for anywhere from 24 to 35 consecutive hours. Because I knew when those were coming, I could plan accordingly. I knew what to bring with me to the job to help pass the time, and my family and friends knew not to expect me to answer the phone (or my door, after it was over and I was sleeping) or meet them for a night out, or whatever. In other words, the earlier you can get all your preparations done and get into the spirit of this thing, the better it will go for you. You need to get your supermarket trip done immediately — seriously, as in right after you’re done reading this — if you haven’t already. Don’t get into a spot where you’re watching Drexel at Rider (6 AM ET) or Morehead State at College of Charleston (8 AM) and you suddenly find that you’ve run out of Sun Chips or Chee-tos or whatever your bagged fuel of choice is. Now you’re screwed, unless you have friends who will bail you out by bringing you provisions. Play it safe, here. Always get a little more at the supermarket than you think you’ll need.

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Spotlight on Rising Mid-Major Coaches: Tim Miles & Wayne Tinkle

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2011

Montana traveled to Colorado State on Friday night in a game that did not garner much national intrigue (the Rams beat the Grizzlies, 64-58). Neither team made the NCAA Tournament last season and they will be fighting tooth and nail to make it this season. Montana is predicted second in the Big Sky heading into the season, and Colorado State is projected as the fourth best team in the Mountain West. However, the game did feature of the best young mid-major coaches in all of college basketball.

Tim Miles Has CSU Moving in the Right Direction (AP/L. Boomerang)

Colorado State is coached by Tim Miles, who at age 45 is beginning his fifth season in Fort Collins. He began his Division I coaching career at North Dakota State, where as head coach of the transitional team (they are now Division I), he took NDSU into then #12 Wisconsin and won (2006), and then into #8 Marquette and won (in 2007). He left after a 20-win season, and two years later the players he recruited went to the NCAA Tournament.

His CSU career started somewhat rocky, as the Rams went winless in his initial Mountain West campaign. They have improved every year, however, and they were a bubble team last year after going 19-13 in a Mountain West Conference that included powerhouse teams at BYU and San Diego State. He is an energetic and charismatic guy (example: I talked to him after the game and told him I went to North Dakota, a rival of NDSU. He responded with, “Did you lose a bet?”). His players enjoy playing for him, and he has a player’s style. Wes Eikmeier, CSU’s leading scorer, took a couple of questionable shots late in the game, and Miles responded by saying he was comfortable with those shots because if Eikmeier felt like he could make them, then he should take them. That’s what players love to hear. He will get Colorado State to the Tournament either this year or next year, and then larger schools could come calling.

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