Summer School in the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on September 8th, 2010


Alex Varone of College Basketball Daily is the RTC correspondent for the CAA and MAC.

Around the CAA

  • In 2010, the Colonial Athletic Association represented itself well in March, sending a league-record six teams to the postseason. That group was led by league champion Old Dominion, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32 after upending Notre Dame. Both second-place Northeastern and third-place William & Mary fell in the first round of the NIT in a pair of close road losses at Connecticut and North Carolina, respectively. Fifth-place VCU swept Saint Louis in a best-of-three final to win the third annual CBI tournament, while seventh-place Hofstra fell in the CBI’s first round, and fourth-place George Mason lost its first game in the CIT.
  • Two of the CAA’s twelve teams will be under the direction of a new coach in 2010-11. Tom Pecora left Hofstra after nine seasons to lead the rebuilding effort at Fordham. Replacing Pecora is not Tim Welsh, like it was originally intended, but rather Mo Cassara, a first-time head coach who spent the last four seasons under Al Skinner at Boston College. UNC-Wilmington also made a coaching change, “reassigning” four-year head coach Benny Moss within the athletic department. The Seahawks’ new head man is the well-traveled Buzz Peterson, who has already made stops at Appalachian State (twice), Tulsa, Tennessee, and Coastal Carolina.
  • For the second consecutive year, a Virginia Commonwealth Ram was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, this time being First Team All-CAA center Larry Sanders, who elected to forgo his senior season at VCU. Even with the loss of Sanders, the Colonial boasts a wealth of returning talent, especially at the guard spots. Two members of last year’s First Team are back, led by 2010 CAA Player of the Year and senior Charles Jenkins. Northeastern’s senior guard Chaisson Allen is also back, along with four seniors who made the 2010 Second Team: Delaware guard Jawan Carter, George Mason guard Cam Long, VCU guard Joey Rodriguez, and James Madison forward Denzel Bowles.

Larry Sanders brought the CAA a ton of pub last season, but skipped his senior season to go pro. (VCUAthletics.tv)

Power Rankings (last year’s overall and conference standings in brackets)

  1. Old Dominion [27-9 (15-3)] – The Monarchs look to make it back-to-back Colonial Athletic Association championships this season. Leading scorer and First Team All-CAA forward Gerald Lee is gone, but four starters from last year’s title team are back, led by 6’8 senior forward Frank Hassell (9.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG). Hassell anchors a frontline that will once again be Old Dominion’s strength, a luxury in a league that doesn’t feature much frontcourt depth. Teaming with Hassell are a pair of seniors: the versatile Ben Finney (8.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and Keyon Carter (7.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG). There are question marks about the guard play, but there are worse alternatives in this league than junior Kent Bazemore (8.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG), a defensive specialist, and senior Darius James (7.0 PPG). Head coach Blaine Taylor has done a great job in leading the Monarchs to seven straight winning seasons and six straight postseason appearances, and while a number of teams are capable of winning the Colonial this year, Old Dominion is once again the team to beat until someone knocks them off.
  2. VCU [27-9 (11-7)] – In year one of the post-Anthony Grant & Eric Maynor era, VCU won 27 games, second-most in school history, reached the postseason for the fourth consecutive year, and won the CBI tournament. Not bad for what was supposed to be a “transition year” at Virginia Commonwealth. This year, the Rams have to deal with the heavy loss of First Team All-CAA center Larry Sanders, who finished in the top five in the league in rebounding, blocked shots, and field goal percentage. The burden of some of that production will fall on the shoulders of 6’9 senior Jamie Skeen (8.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG), but expect the 2010-11 Rams to be a guard-oriented squad. Second Team All-CAA senior Joey Rodriguez is the top returning scorer (12.9 per game), but also led the CAA in assists (5.8 per game) and steals (1.9 per game). Seniors Brandon Rozzell (8.8 PPG), Ed Nixon (7.9 PPG), and wing Bradford Burgess (10.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG) should all see increased production this year. VCU was a bit unfortunate in close games last year, as all eight conference losses were by five points or fewer, including a four-point overtime loss to Old Dominion in the CAA Tournament semifinals. If a few of those close losses go the other way in Shaka Smart’s second year, VCU could very well be headed back to the NCAA Tournament.
  3. George Mason [17-15 (12-6)] – In 2010, George Mason showed flashes of being a league contender; a seven-game win streak last January left the Patriots with a 15-7 (10-1) record, but they lost eight of their last ten games, and subsequently bowed out in the CAA quarterfinals. But all five starters are back this season, led by senior guard Cam Long (12.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG), a 2010 Second-Team All-CAA performer and 2011 Player of the Year candidate. Long will be complemented by a trio of juniors in forward Ryan Pearson (11.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG), guard Andre Cornelius (9.4 PPG), and forward Mike Morrison (8.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG). If forward Luke Hancock (7.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG) and guard Sherrod Wright (5.5 PPG) can both blossom as sophomores, this could be one of Jim Larranaga‘s most talented teams and the most talented team in the CAA. As is, George Mason will likely be more consistent in 2011, and with that, the Patriots should be considered one of the favorites. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the ACC

Posted by Brian Goodman on September 7th, 2010

Steve Moore is the RTC correspondent for the ACC and an occasional contributor.

Around The ACC:

  • Encore, Encore: Duke won the national title by toppling Butler in a hard-fought final, but unlike recent championship squads, there’s no major mass exodus of talent from Durham (unless you’re related to Jon Scheyer or Brian Zoubek), so the Blue Devils will have a legit chance to repeat.
  • New Faces, New Places: Former Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, best known for elevating the Big Red from NCAA Tournament floormat to the Sweet 16, takes the lead for Boston College. Another import is former Wright State general Brad Brownell, who will lead Clemson after the departure of Oliver Purnell. Brownell previously served at UNC-Wilmington, so it shouldn’t take long for him to reopen that pipeline. Lastly, Jeff Bzdelik comes to Winston-Salem, hoping to provide Wake Forest with long-term stability.
  • No News Is Good News: Rumors came and went surrounding conference realignment, but in the end, the ACC held steady amongst the national wave of teams changing conferences.

McDonald's All-American Kyrie Irving looks to complement an already-stacked Blue Devils squad on their way to a repeat.

Power Rankings (last season’s conference and overall records in parentheses)

  1. Duke (13-3, 35-5): The Blue Devils don’t rebuild, they just reload. Losing Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek hurts, but when Coach K gets back from Turkey, he’ll be happy to see familiar faces in Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Mason and Miles Plumlee. College basketball fans everywhere can also rejoice in another season of Curry, as Stephen’s brother Seth is eligible to play after transferring in 2009, and Kyrie Irving (West Orange, NJ) makes his long-awaited debut. The frontcourt will have to pick up for the loss of Zoubek, but with this much talent to being with and Josh Hairston arriving in Durham, I don’t think it’ll be a problem.
    BETTER OR WORSE?: If you can believe it, I think Duke might be even better. They can’t top last year’s national title, obviously, but I don’t see any other ACC team touching them for the regular season title.
  2. Virginia Tech (10-6, 25-9): The Hokies lose no one. I repeat: NO ONE. Find me another team in the nation that doesn’t lose a key contributor. With one of the ACC’s most exciting players, Malcolm Delaney, coming back, Tech also learned its lesson from NCAA snubs in the past and scheduled at least a couple interesting nonconference games, including Kansas State (away), Purdue, Penn State, Mississippi State and possibly Oklahoma State, depending on how the 76 Classic plays out in Anaheim.
    BETTER OR WORSE?: Better, at least by enough to not be sweating it out come Selection Sunday. Whether they can make noise in March, no one really knows, but the Hokies will dance this season.
  3. Boston College (6-10, 15-16): Experience, experience, experience. No one has more of it in the ACC than the Eagles. BC’s new coach, former Cornell boss Steve Donahue, has more Sweet 16 experience than most coaches in the ACC. Don’t underestimate the Eagles this season (this coming from a Boston University grad and card-carrying BC hater). With so much youth all around the ACC, BC’s experience will be invaluable, and Donahue was an absolute no-brainer to replace Al Skinner.
    BETTER OR WORSE?: Better – much better. With Corey Raji, Joe Trapani and others leading the way, BC will join NC State as the league’s most improved teams, and should get an NCAA invite. Now if only they’d man up and put my alma mater back on their schedule. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the Big 12

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 27th, 2010

Around The Big 12:

  • One Foot Out The Door: The big news in the Big 12 is that it’s no longer the Big 12.  This season will be the final season with the Big 12 as we know it.  Nebraska departs for the Big Ten and Colorado will eventually make the jump to the Pac-10, either in 2011 or 2012.  Either way, the transformation in the conference has major implications as far as basketball is concerned, as the unbalanced schedule that has existed since the league’s inception goes away, and a new 18-game conference slate could become the norm.  In an ideal world, no more excuses – everybody plays everybody at home and on the road from here on out.
  • New Coaches: Two teams in the conference will have new head coaches in 2010. Colorado lost Jeff Bzdelik to Wake Forest and his self-described dream job.  The timing couldn’t have been worse for Colorado, as the program seemed to be gaining some traction, and any time there is a lack of stability, it can hurt a program.  In terms of the hire itself, Tad Boyle from Northern Colorado doesn’t necessarily have the name recognition, but he was able to keep all the current pieces in place for Colorado and in the short term, that’s very important.  Things at Iowa State didn’t necessarily shake out quite as well.  The Cyclones are bringing back “The Mayor,” Fred Hoiberg, who has an extremely limited coaching resume, but tremendous amount of clout with the Iowa State faithful.  The program lost the top two players from a year ago and then some.  With the new start and a fresh face on the bench, it’s a full-blown rebuilding job awaiting an Ames legend.
  • Diaper Dandies: The Big 12 has made a name for itself as a league that can reload. This year is no exception; around the league, a host of high-profile recruits join various programs, ensuring the viability of the league as a basketball power for the future.  Perry Jones at Baylor, Josh Selby at Kansas, Tony Mitchell at Missouri and both Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph at Texas join each respective program as big-time national recruits. The only problem right now is that both Tiger and Jayhawk fans are awaiting eligibility news related to their blue chip talents.
  • An I-70 Battle: Three teams situated on or very close to Interstate 70 look poised to battle for the conference title.  In years past, the gripe from the Big 12 South has always been the competitively unbalanced schedule and the built-in advantage that it provided Kansas in winning the conference.  In 2010, three North teams in Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri all appear to be legitimate contenders for the conference crown.  Mike Anderson and Frank Martin have done a tremendous job in recruiting players to their respective programs, developing talent and getting the buy-in that it takes to step onto the national stage.  Both appear to be inching ever closer to Bill Self and the Jayhawks and the three-way “rivalry” will no doubt play a major role in who wins the Big 12.

With or without Josh Selby, Kansas is ready to defend its string of six consecutive regular season conference titles.

Power Rankings:

  1. Kansas: When you lose three starters, the common belief is that you will take a step back.  With Kansas however, the cupboard is far from bare.  The Jayhawks were easily one of the deepest teams in the country a year ago and while losing Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich certainly isn’t an easy pill to swallow, Kansas returns a Big 12 POY candidate in Marcus Morris, depth and talent at every position, and they add one of the top recruits in the country in McDonald’s All-American Josh Selby, who as of this writing, has yet to be cleared to play. Two players who could prove critical to success in 2010 are Markieff Morris and Tyshawn Taylor. Both have enjoyed success off and on in their careers thus far, but neither has found the consistency or leadership on the court that’s necessary to be viewed as a leader.  With the turnover in the program, the opportunity is there for one or both to make that leap.
  2. Kansas State: The Wildcats return a good amount of talent from their Elite Eight team of a year ago.  Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly could easily represent the best inside-outside combination in the league. But the biggest reason to not doubt Kansas State is their coach, Frank Martin. A hire that was highly criticized when it was made, Martin’s move to the head job in Manhattan has proven to be a great one. His teams play an extremely hard, tough, physical brand of basketball, and as a coach, he’s found a way to put together a team that buys into that style.  The biggest question mark will be finding a way to replace Denis Clemente, arguably the most athletic player in the Big 12 a year ago.  Martin will look to sophomores Rodney McGruder and Wally Judge to step up and provide support for the Wildcats as they battle for the conference title
  3. Missouri: Mike Anderson has stocked up on quality depth and added the top recruiting class in the conference to boot.  While the eligibility of blue-chip talent Tony Mitchell remains a question mark, the Tigers have made another major addition on the interior in the top ranked junior college forward, Ricardo Ratliffe. The biggest thing the Tigers will have to replace is leadership.  The departures of seniors J.T. Tiller, Keith Ramsey and Zaire Taylor aren’t major blows in terms of production, but they are in terms of leadership.  All three were part of the initial transition from the Quin Snyder era to Anderson and all three were in the top four in minutes played a year ago.  The talent in Columbia is there for a Big 12 run, the question is who will lead them? Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the America East

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 26th, 2010

Matt McKillip is the RTC correspondent for the America East Conference.

Around The America East:

  • A Carousel for Two: Hartford coach Dan Leibovitz jumped ship after his program took a sharp decline following a 2008 run to the AE title; he will join Penn as an assistant coach. Taking the reins is former Hartford assistant John Gallagher…who served last season as a Penn assistant.
  • Just a Fling: Binghamton‘s All-America East performer Greer Wright filed for a transfer waiver and flirted with the idea of attending Connecticut or Cincinnati before deciding to return to Binghamton for his senior season.
  • The Departed: Binghamton was less fortunate with last season’s AE Rookie of the Year, Dylan Talley, who decided to take his services elsewhere. Other notable transfers are Vermont’s All-Defensive team player Garvey Young and UMBC leading scorer Chauncey Gilliam, who packed his bags for Akron.
  • Big Haul: After having only three players left on Boston University‘s roster at the end of last season’s AE runner-up finish, second-year head coach Patrick Chambers hauled in a seven-man recruiting class to surround the league’s premier player, John Holland.
  • Break Out the Vegemite: Coach Will Brown and his Albany Great Danes have welcomed freshman Luke Devlin from Australia to campus. The 6’8 Aussie has three-point range and should quickly become a favorite among a fan base eager for something to cheer about.
  • Catching On With the Clippers: Vermont standout Marqus Blakely received a two-year, partially guaranteed contract with the LA Clippers and has angled himself towards a spot on the roster.

Star swingman John Holland is a powerful weapon for BU, but will he be able to power the Terriers into the Big Dance?

Power Rankings:

  1. Boston University: The Terriers’ hopes revolve around two-time all-conference star John Holland, the heir apparent to the AE POY title. An NCAA trip is hardly guaranteed – an exodus of senior guards leaves BU with only three returning players (none of whom are guards) and many question marks. The loss of Corey Lowe especially hurts; the four-year starter carried the Terriers to last year’s title game when teams cued in on Holland, the league leader in scoring. During the AE tournament, Holland was held to an eFG of 38% and 10.3 PPG, well below his season averages of 52% and 19.9, respectively. Alongside Holland, BU returns 2009 AE ROY Jake O’Brien, who can score in volume, and hard-nosed center Jeff Pelage, who is a banger inside. Former Marquette swingman Patrick Hazel should make his presence felt immediately, but the most pressing question is which of the four incoming freshman and two transfer guards will land the role of primary ball handler.
  2. Maine: Maine’s defense propelled them to a surprising 11-5 conference record last year, but the Black Bears were promptly upset by New Hampshire in the first round of the conference tournament. Despite the setback, they are well-positioned to build on last year’s success. They graduated Junior Bernal, an all-league defender, but the core of their lineup returns. Central to the offense is all-league guard Gerald McLemore, the league leader in three-point field goals. Last season, the offense exhibited a tendency to stall if opponents could take McLemore’s shot away (as UNH did in the tournament). Help could be on the way for the offense in the form of juco transfer Raheem Singleton, a point guard whose game and appearance is eerily reminiscent of former Pittsburgh floor general Levance Fields. Maine fans are also excited about incoming forward Alasdair Fraser, who has had a stellar summer playing for Scotland in the European under-18 championships, and could form a formidable frontcourt alongside Sean McNally.
  3. Stony Brook: Stony Brook won the conference regular season title, but will have to defend that title without conference POY Muhammed El-Amin, who graduated in the spring. What was a very effective supporting cast will be forced into a starring role. The identity of the team will likely flow from Tommy Brenton, the best defensive big man in the league at only 6’5.  Brenton personifies hustle and is a rebounding machine – he averaged nearly ten boards per game last season. The x-factor for the Seawolves is speedy guard Chris Martin. He was one of the best in the nation in drawing fouls and should continue to frustrate opposing guards, especially if he can improve his jump shot (44% from the floor last year). The emergence of Martin is essential to keeping the defense from focusing on marksman Bryan Dougher, who led the AE in three-point shooting percentage. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the Big West

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 25th, 2010

Steve Coulter is the RTC correspondent for the Big West Conference.

Around The Big West:

  • Turner In At UC-Irvine: The college coaching carousel is not something that is unfamiliar when the offseason rolls around. The Big West Conference, like a majority of Division I men’s basketball conferences, endured a coaching change this past offseason when Russell Turner left his job as an assistant for the Golden State Warriors to take the job at UC Irvine in April. It will be Turner’s first tenure as a head coach at any level, though he has collegiate experience at Stanford and Wake Forest, where he worked with All-Americans Josh Childress and Tim Duncan, respectively. He replaces Pat Douglass after the Anteaters went 14-18 and finished near the bottom of the conference last season. Douglass had a 13-year tenure with UCI and left the school as the Anteaters’ all-time winningest coach with 197 victories.
  • LBSU’s Recruiting Class Gets Props: Scout, Inc.’s Michael LaPlante gave a B- grade to the Long Beach State 49ers’ recruiting class. The 49ers were the only team from the Big West on LaPlante’s list of 12 schools from non-power conferences, which included higher-profile mid-majors such as New Mexico and Dayton. The 49ers were able to get on the list due to the fact that they are bringing in six new faces to fuel what was already a sprouting program under head coach Dan Monson. The list of recruits is split in half between high school recruits and junior college transfers. Highly-touted shooting guard Jacob Thomas will pair with transfer guards Corey Jackson and Khalid Gerard to join what is already a young and athletic backcourt. The 49ers were also able to add Edis Dervisevic, who spent the past two seasons at Western Texas College. Monson chose the 6’8 forward for his shooting ability (48.3% from three-point range in the past two seasons) and his knack for passing the ball.  All six players seem to be ready to play now, but may have to sit behind a talented 49ers roster, which includes T.J Robinson and Casper Ware.
  • Byrd Returns to Pacific After Woliczko Resigns: While at Pacific as an assistant coach, Calvin Byrd played a key role in the school collecting many wins, and now the man that helped set a school record of 27 victories in 2004-05 will return to the same post to help guide a veteran Tiger club that has several seniors looking to break that very record.  In his five years away from Pacific, Byrd rendered his services to Loyola Marymount and the University of San Francisco. His hiring occurred almost two months after Tigers assistant Aaron Woliczko resigned from his job to take the head coaching position at Montana Tech.
  • Early Dap For Johnson: The awards keep piling for Orlando Johnson. After leading UC Santa Barbara to the 2010 NCAA tournament, the junior forward was honored as the Big West Player of the Year in addition to being the Big West Tournament Most Valuable Player. Johnson has garnered some preseason attention, and we’ll see if he earns it come springtime. According to Rivals.com, Johnson was selected as one of five players to make up the Mid-Major All-America Team for 2010-11.  The selection comes a year after the 6’5 Johnson scored 18 points per game, while snaring 5.4 rebounds per contest. Even more impressive was that Johnson became a leader on an extremely young Gauchos squad that started four sophomores in their 2009-10 campaign.

Orlando Johnson is Ready to Explode in 2010-11

Power Rankings

  1. UC Santa Barbara Gauchos: Although trampled by Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Gauchos seem poised to make another run at the conference’s regular season and postseason championships, which will mean another NCAA berth. They have a pretty complete starting lineup heading into the 2010-11 season. In terms of additions and subtractions, the Gauchos are a team that can’t be really evaluated only because this is a team that is mostly the same from last season. However, they did lose guard James Powell, who was their third-leading scorer in 2009-10. The team landed a transfer, New Mexico’s Nate Garth, who could help them in future seasons, but is ineligible in 2010-11. Also transferring is Colorado forward Keegan Hornbuckle, who will spend the upcoming year on the bench. Despite the new players, the Gauchos shouldn’t need to look forward with their aspirations. The duo of James Nunnally and Orlando Johnson is one of the best the conference has seen in the past decade as both players enter their junior seasons. The time to win games and build the program’s reputation is now, which means both Johnson and Nunnally, who averaged 18 and 14.7 points per game last season, respectively, have a rare responsibility this upcoming year — put Santa Barbara and the Big West Conference on the national map. It is possible for the Gauchos, as they have the experience to play deep into March and again represent the Big West in the NCAA Tournament. However, they will have to ward off Long Beach State and Pacific, who will look to throw off the defending champs.
    Projected 2010-2011 record: 23-8 (13-3).
  2. Long Beach State 49ers: The 49ers are in contention for a Big West crown this season. They bring back a pair of star forwards in Eugene Phelps and T.J Robinson, while only losing a few seniors, most notably Stephan Gilling, who averaged 9.4 points per game last season. Also returning are guards Casper Ware, Larry Anderson and Greg Plater, who make up what could be considered to be the best backcourt trio in the conference. Add in prized recruit Jacob Thomas, a lengthy shooter from Columbia Heights, Minnesota, who turned down Wisconsin and Minnesota to play for head coach Dan Monson, and the 49ers have at least six players who can average nine or more points again. The team will get tested early and often, as they have already scheduled themselves for two tournaments early in the year. Big matchups include games versus Clemson, Washington, Utah State, St. Mary’s and Arizona State, which make the 49ers’ nonconference schedule arguably the toughest in the Big West. However, they do have the talent to pull an upset over a power conference team like Washington on November 30, which would build momentum heading into a big matchup against St. Mary’s in the first round of the John R. Wooden Classic on December 18.
    Projected 2010-2011 record: 21-10 (12-4).
  3. Pacific Tigers: No team in the Big West can sleep on Pacific. They return five of their six top leading scorers from last season and have not only the depth but the size to out play any team in the league. Although they aren’t the best offensive team in the conference, the combination of Demetece Young, Terrell Smith, Pat Eveland and Sam Willard give the Tigers a threat that will be tough to defend. Willard is as good as any post player in the conference and the duo of Smith and Young will be tough for anyone to contain in the open court. The addition of freshman Khalil Kelley, a 6’8 forward from Rancho Cucamonga, California, gives the team even more versatility and some raw talent to work with. Some other key offseason addition include Andrew Brock, a point guard who transferred from Creighton after his freshman season, and shooting guard Spencer Llewellyn, who averaged 26.7 points per game last season playing in Australia. Giving the Tigers even more depth is sophomore guard Allen Huddleston, who averaged 5.5 points per game last season despite playing under 15 minutes per contest.
    Projected 2010-2011 record: 21-13 (10-6)
    Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the Pac-10

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 24th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences.

Around the Pac-10:

  • Down Times: Last season was clearly one of the low points in Pac-10 basketball history. It took a late-season run out of Washington to ensure two NCAA Tournament bids from the conference, with California earning the other after a strong but somewhat disappointing season. The conference had just one player (the Huskies’ Quincy Pondexter) picked in the first round of the NBA Draft, and just two players picked overall (with Stanford’s Landry Fields somewhat surprisingly being drafted by the Knicks, much to the chagrin of New York fans in attendance, with the 39th pick). The two total players drafted were the lowest total for the league since 1986.
  • Returning Fire: Despite the lack of players picked in the NBA Draft, just nine of the league’s top 20 scorers from last year return, although Rihard Kuksiks is still uncertain whether he will return for his senior season at Arizona State. Likewise, just 11 of the league’s top 20 rebounders return.
  • Fresh Blood: But not to worry, plenty of excellent new talent is headed the Pac-10’s way. Or not. Actually, out of Scout’s Top 100 list, just ten players (and just four out of the top 50) committed to Pac-10 institutions, with the highest ranked player, Washington’s Terrence Ross, checking in at #26. According to ESPNU’s projections, the outlook is slightly rosier, with the Pac-10 accounting for 12 of the top 100 players, five of the top 50, and UCLA’s Josh Smith checking in at #20. Either way, while there is some new talent, it is not of the caliber of the other BCS conferences. There was some intrigue here, however, as Enes Kanter (Scout #3 overall recruit, ESPNU #25) originally verbally committed to Washington before backing out and heading to Kentucky. Additional salt in the wound came when Washington’s top recruit, Terrence Jones (ESPU #9 overall, Scout #8) announced at a press conference that he would be committing to Washington, but then failed to sign a letter of intent and wound up changing his mind and committing to Kentucky as well, giving Husky fans an entirely new Cal to dislike.
  • Head Honchos: While a lot of familiar players have moved on, there is consistency in the hot seat for all but one team: Oregon ended the Ernie Kent era and will welcome new head coach Dana Altman, formerly of Creighton. While Altman wasn’t the sexy hire that Pat Kilkenny and Phil Knight wanted to start the new era in Oregon basketball, he is an excellent coach who will likely have the sleeping giant in Eugene back in the thick of things in the Pac-10 very quickly.
  • Home Cooking: The coaching change isn’t the only big news in Eugene, as the Ducks will break in a new arena this season, when the brand-new gleaming Matthew Knight Arena (named after Knight’s son who died prematurely in a scuba-diving accident) replaces the venerable old McArthur Court in January. The Ducks had planned to kick off the Pac-10 season in the new venue, but the move-in date has been pushed back for a variety of reasons.

Newcomer Terrence Ross will look to keep Washington atop the Pac-10.

Power Rankings:

  1. Washington: The Huskies lose last year’s lone Pac-10 NBA first rounder in Quincy Pondexter, but just about everyone else of consequence returns. Pint-sized point Isaiah Thomas (no, not the suspiciously crazy one who ran the Knicks into the ground) leads the way in a talented backcourt, with energetic pace-setter Venoy Overton back for another season of annoying opposing guards. Also keep your eye on sophomore Abdul Gaddy, who was at one time considered the second-best point guard in the ’09 high school class. He struggled as a 17-year-old freshman, but Lorenzo Romar will certainly give him plenty of chances to earn more playing time this season. Up front, senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning will need to take a big step forward as the frontcourt scoring threat for this squad, with Tyreese Breshers and Darnell Gant doing the dirty work in the paint. Additionally, Romar welcomes three freshmen, including Terrence Ross to add some more talent to the backcourt and 7’0 juco transfer Aziz Ndiaye to add size, if not a polished offensive game, to a relatively small frontcourt. Senior Justin Holliday and junior Scott Suggs will add depth at the wings. The Huskies suffered from lapses in concentration last season, but an additional year of experience for a veteran roster should fix that problem.
  2. Arizona: The Wildcats are on their way back from their struggles at the end of legend Lute Olson’s regime. But while I’ll nab them as my number two team here, this is not a Wildcat team that is going to make any McKale denizens forget the 1988 or 1997 teams – this ranking is more of an indication of the conference’s weakness. However, sophomore forward Derrick Williams is the conference’s fourth leading returning scorer and second-leading returning rebounder and an absolute beast in the paint. Senior Jamelle Horne will start alongside Williams, and he’ll be called on to improve on the nine points and six rebounds he provided nightly last season. Shooting guard Kyle Fogg displayed some nice offensive punch last season, and he’ll be asked for even more, but the most pressure will be felt by sophomore point Lamont “MoMo” Jones, who will be tasked with taking over for departed fixture Nic Wise. The development of frontcourt sophomores Solomon Hill and Kyryl Natyazhko and incoming freshman guards Daniel Bejarano and Jordin Mayes will be important for team depth. This is still an undersized team, which hurts them a bit on the boards and on defense, two areas where they will need to improve from last season.
  3. UCLA: While the 2009-10 season was a nightmare for the Bruins, the cupboard is not completely empty in Westwood. There are a lot of unanswered questions here, however, and the biggest one is at the point. Malcolm Lee got plenty of time there last season, but he is more ideally suited to play on the wing, and if all goes well for the Bruins, that’s where he’ll be this season. With the Jerime Anderson era justifiably considered a failure to this point, Ben Howland has brought in juco transfer Lazeric Jones to man the point, with any positive contributions that Anderson might provide just being bonus. Sophomore Tyler Honeycutt is a skilled ball handler and passer at the three, so he’ll be around to add an additional guard when necessary. Up front, Reeves Nelson was perhaps the biggest bright spot for UCLA in his freshman season, when he averaged 11 points and six rebounds a night in just over 20 minutes per game. He’ll need to keep out of foul trouble to gain additional minutes, and he’ll need to improve his horrid free throw shooting as well, but he looks ready for a big leap forward, especially considering he’ll be joined by UCLA’s big (and I do mean big, once listed at 320, now working towards approaching 270) freshman Josh Smith, a skilled and soft-handed center. Freshman wing Tyler Lamb will also get some early run. But the fact is, there is plenty of talent here, and if the Bruins get nothing more than a caretaker at the point, Howland will win games in a weak Pac-10 with this team. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the Ohio Valley Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 16th, 2010

Greg Waddell is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference

Around the OVC

  • He’s Baaack…: Kenneth Faried has decided to return. An Associated Press All-American honorable mention last season, the 6’8 power forward is back in Morehead after garnering NABC All-District honors and sweeping the Ohio Valley Conference awards, earning Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and First Team All-Conference. His 16.9 points and 13.0 boards per game captured the attention of NBA scouts as he turned down what might have been a second-round pick to return to school. Clocking in at No. 25 on Chad Ford of ESPN’s Big Board, he is viewed as a mid to late first rounder by the worldwide leader.
  • The Rich Get Richer…and So Do The Poor: Recruiting is a funny thing, and sometimes, crazy things happen. Take this season’s OVC recruiting haul, for example. The top two ranked players entering the conference according to ESPN.com, Shawn Jackson and Jeverik Nelson, went opposite routes with one choosing the conference’s best team (Jackson to Murray State) and the other the worst (Nelson to Tennessee-Martin). Martin, which limped to a 4-25 record and finished last in conference play (excluding SIU-Edwardsville, who is technically not a member of the conference yet), benefited the most from recruiting as they added three highly-touted players.

Kenneth Faried's return to Morehead State spells trouble for the rest of the OVC in 2010-11. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Power Rankings:

  1. Murray State: After winning the OVC regular season title, conference tourney, upsetting Vanderbilt in the NCAA tournament, and falling just short of knocking off national runner-up Butler, the 2009-10 Murray State team was one to remember. The scary thing is the 2010-11 edition may be better. Despite losing senior stalwarts Tony Easley and Danero Thomas, there is help on the way. Easley, the Racers’ emotional leader from last season, looks to be the biggest hole to fill but head coach Billy Kennedy managed to work his magic yet again, luring 6’9 big man Shawn Jackson from Florida. Jackson, arguably the best freshman in the conference, should start immediately and looks to be a force in the paint from his first day on campus while Chris Griffin, the other freshman recruit, will look to back up the three, potentially sophomore high-flier Ed Daniel. With the two-headed scoring attack of guards Isacc Miles and B.J. Jenkins returning, OVC Tournament MVP Isaiah Canaan may be relegated to sixth man again. What a good problem for Kennedy to have as the Racers look to be the class of the Ohio Valley once again.
  2. Morehead State: The other MSU had a decent season as well. Okay that might be a bit of an understatement. Led by Kenneth Faried, who won almost every award the OVC has to offer, the Eagles soared to a second place finish in league play and captured an NIT berth that led to a beatdown of Colorado State and a narrow loss to Boston University in overtime. Projected as a second-round pick in the NBA draft, it seemed that Faried was all set to try his luck in the league, until he decided to come back. Although Morehead State does say goodbye to second leading scorer Maze Stallworth, (12.6 PPG) they welcome back three of their top four scorers and look like a promising pick come tournament time.  The only team standing in their way is Murray but after dashing the Racers’ hopes of an undefeated conference run, they’ve shown they can hang with Billy Kennedy’s squad.  The OVC is a two-team league, and if Morehead can take out their rivals to the west, March Madness may find more than two MSUs dancing.
  3. Austin Peay – After last season’s unexpected finish, a loss at the hands of Tennessee Tech in the first round of the OVC Tournament, the Govs will look to pick up the pieces and build on their 17-15 2009-10 campaign. The only problem is they’ll be forced do so without two main components. Guard Wes Channels, whose 16.9 PPG led the team, has graduated, and 6’8 forward Duran Robertson fell victim to a career-ending knee injury in a preseason pickup game. Robertson’s injury will affect the Govs’ frontline depth where Austin Peay returns 6’9 junior center John Fraley (9.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG) and 6’7 second-team all-Ohio Valley Conference forward Anthony Campbell (15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG), The Govs do add Tyshawn Edmonson, a transfer from St. John’s via Midland (Texas) College, who will look to push for playing time. Edmonson played high school ball at nearby University Heights Academy. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the Big East

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 16th, 2010


Rob Dauster of Ballin’ is a Habit is the RTC correspondent for the Big East Conference.

Around The Big East:

  • NCAA Sanctions: From a basketball perspective, the biggest story in the Big East this summer was up at UConn. The Huskies received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in May, informing them of eight major violations in the recruitment of Nate Miles. UConn will find out its final punishment from the NCAA in October, but the violations have already cost them two assistants — Beau Archibald and Brad Sellers, the son of former Husky star Rod Sellers. Jim Calhoun avoided the heavy artillery — getting grazed with a citation for “failure to monitor” the program, which is ironically what the best coaches need to do to succeed.
  • Coaches: The NCAA infractions weren’t the only reason Calhoun was in the news. Ailing health as he nears 70, impending NCAA sanctions, a team that is going to need some rebuilding, and the fact his contract was up made many believe Calhoun would hang ‘em up this summer. Wrong. He signed a five-year deal instead.  Calhoun had far from the worst summer for coaches in the Big East. Rick Pitino let the world — and every single opposing student section — know about his 15-second tryst on a restaurant table with one Karen Sypher. Bob Huggins fell, a result of being in Vegas the medicine he took on an empty stomach making him light-headed, and broke seven ribs. Fred Hill was run out of Rutgers, in part because he lost it on the Pittsburgh baseball team’s coaching staff. Through all of that, perhaps the worst summer was had by Bobby Gonzalez, who lost his job at Seton Hall, had the entire episode come out in the New York Timessued his former employer, was unable to receive credentials at the NBA Draft, and then find himself arrested for attempting to steal a $1,400 man-purse satchel. The three new coaches to the conference: Oliver Purnell left Clemson for DePaul; Mike Rice left Robert Morris to fill in for Hill at Rutgers; and Kevin Willard left Iona and took Gonzo’s spot at Seton Hall.
  • LOIs: Three Big East teams made headlines for issues with recruits signing LOIs. DePaul initially refused to release Walter Pitchford, Jr., from his LOI. He signed with Jerry Wainwright, who was at DePaul before Purnell was tabbed. After appealing both the school and the NCAA, DePaul finally released Pitchford. The same thing is currently happening to Joseph Young at Providence, who as of this writing has not yet been granted a release by the Friars. At MarquetteDJ Newbill was dropped from his LOI when Buzz Williams had the opportunity to bring in former top 100 recruit Jamil Wilson, a transfer from Oregon. All in all, Big East members did not shine bright this summer.
  • Back to Providence: Man oh man, did they have a rough summer. Two freshmen kicked out of school for beating up a student. Their star, Greedy Peterson, thrown off the team. Another player arrested.  Did Keno Davis have this much trouble in mind when he took the job two years ago?
  • Seton Hall Didn’t Fare Much Better: Aside from their coach being kicked to the curb, the Pirates had their best big man spend nearly a month in the hospital because he collapsed after finishing a workouts and saw Robert “Sticks” Mitchell get arrested for (get this) robbing eight people at gunpoint just two days after being kicked off the team.

Villanova stumbled towards the finish line last season. This year, Jay Wright’s troops are Rob Dauster’s favorites to take the Big East in 2010-11.

Power Rankings:

  1. Villanova: While the Wildcats lose All-American Scottie Reynolds, Jay Wright‘s club (as always) will be more than fine in the backcourt. Corey Fisher, fresh off an alleged 105-point performance in a Bronx summer league, and Maalik Wayns will be as dynamic as any backcourt in the country and should be able to thrive in Scottie’s absence. Corey Stokes is still going to be a lights out shooter. Dominic Cheek and James Bell will be dangerous on the wings. Up front, the five-man rotation of Antonio Pena, Mouph Yarou, Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Sutton, and JayVaughn Pinkston gives Villanova a very deep, very talented roster for the upcoming season. The Wildcats should compete for the Big East title and, depending on how well some players develop (Armwood, Cheek, Wayns, Yarou) and how good a couple of freshmen are (Bell, Pinkston), Nova could very well make a run at the Final Four.
  2. Pittsburgh: The Panthers were the surprise of the Big East last season, and with the majority of their roster coming back this season, its tough to envision Pitt falling off. Pitt has almost reached the level of a Wisconsin — no matter who is on their roster, this is a team that is disciplined and well-coached to the point that they are always going to be competitive. As always, expect a gritty, defensive-minded team from the Panthers. An already-solid back court of Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Travon Woodall will be bolstered by the addition of freshmen Isaiah Epps, JJ Moore and Cameron Wright, as well as Lamar Patterson finally getting healthy. Gilbert Brown, who missed the first half of last season due to academic issues, will be back at the small forward spot. Brown had an inconsistent season in 2010, but showed flashes of some serious potential. Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson will bolster the front line, but the real x-factor on this team is going to be sophomore Dante Taylor. Taylor was one of the most highly-touted recruits last year, but it took him awhile to adjust to the Big East. If Taylor can live up to his promise, Pitt is a potential Final Four team. If not, this is still a club that will be competing for a league title.
  3. Syracuse: It is easy to look at the Orange and think that, with the players they lost (Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onuaku), they will be down next season. Well, they might not win a Big East title, but they certainly will be in the mix atop the conference standings. Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine will anchor the backcourt, with freshman Dion Waiters providing an offensive spark as an off-guard. Kris Joseph should blossom into a dangerous weapon as a slasher on the wing, and if he can add some strength and a jumper this summer, could very well be in the running as a first-team all-Big East selection. Rick Jackson will be paired with Fab Melo, who Jim Boeheim has been raving about (he raved about Johnson last summer, and look how that turned out), in the frontcourt. With guys like CJ Fair, Mookie Jones, James Southerland and DaShonte Riley providing minutes off the bench, there is no doubt Syracuse will be a good team. How good — borderline top-25 or a potential Big East champ — remains to be seen. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the Southland Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 14th, 2010


Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Around The SLC:

  • Back To School: Former NBA lottery pick Corliss Williamson was hired as head coach of the University of Central Arkansas on March 12. Williamson was an NCAA All-American at the University of Arkansas and an NBA champion with the Detroit Pistons. Williamson coached the last three years at Arkansas Baptist.
  • Out With The Old, In With The New: Sam Houston State University hired assistant coach Jason Hooten to run the Bearkats’ operation after long-time head coach Bob Marlin fled to greener pastures as he accepted the job at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. ULL hired Marlin after he led SHSU to the NCAA Tournament, where the Kats lost a close game to Baylor. Marlin coached the Bearkats for 12 years.
  • UTSA Sticks With Thompson: The University of Texas-San Antonio decided its program is in good hands with Brooks Thompson at the helm and gave him a three-year contract extension through the 2014-15 season. Thompson has coached the Roadrunners for four years and checks in with a career mark of 37-51, but posted a winning campaign of 17-12 in 2009-10.
  • Called Up: The wait is finally over for Central Arkansas, which was notified in mid-July by the NCAA that the school achieved Division-I active membership after a five-year transition process.
  • Latching On: After concluding their basketball careers, former SLC players Patrick Sullivan (Southeastern Louisiana) and Kevin Palmer (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) both found their way onto NBA Summer League rosters in July. Sullivan played for the Memphis Grizzlies, while Palmer ran the court for the Washington Wizards.
  • Parlez Vous Francais: Former UT-Arlington guard Marquez Haynes signed a contract with Chalon in the French First Division to begin playing in 2010-11. Haynes averaged 22.6 points per game last year.

Corliss Williamson takes the reins at UCA, but is he ready for the challenge? (ucasports.com)

Power Rankings:

EAST

  1. Nicholls State (11-19, 7-9): The Colonels had an up-and-down season, but finished strong with a close 62-57 loss to SLC champion SHSU in the conference tournament. The big news for the Colonels is that they didn’t have a single senior on the roster, therefore, all five starters return, including first-team all-SLC pick Anatoly Bose (21.1 PPG). This will be a big jump for Nicholls, but they definitely have the offensive firepower to make a run.
  2. Southeastern Louisiana (19-12, 10-6): The Lions only lost one star player, but Patrick Sullivan is a huge loss. The 6’9 Sullivan led SELA with 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season and could find himself on an NBA roster when the season begins. The Lions will have their next six top scorers returning, but will have to find someone to man the middle. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the WAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 12th, 2010

 

 

Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net is the RTC correspondent for the WAC.

Around The WAC:

  • Ch-Ch-Changes: Change is the only constant in the WAC and this year is no different. New coaches, new players, a new tournament format and a farewell tour for one WAC school all headline the offseason ticker.
  • Realignment: The WAC wasn’t the biggest story in this summer’s conference realignment, but it was more of an unwilling participant as Boise State announced its intention to join the Mountain West Conference beginning in 2011. The decision led to the WAC’s announcement that they will play as an eight-team league during the 2011-12 season.  Unlike on the football side, Boise State is not one of the perennial powers in the WAC, despite their co-co-co-co regular season title and conference tournament title in the 2007-08 season. The 2010-11 year will not be a “one final shot at the bully” tour for Boise State basketball opponents, as it will be for Boise State football opponents.
  • Out With The Old, In With The New:  Two programs, Hawai’i and Boise State, find themselves with new head men after saying adios to a pair of longtime associates.  Hawai’i hired USC assistant Gib Arnold after three lackluster seasons (34-56 record) from Bob Nash.  Nash had been associated with the Hawai’i program as a player, longtime assistant and then head coach.  Boise State got rid of one of the WAC’s elder statesmen in Greg Graham and brought in Gonzaga’s top assistant, Leon Rice.  Graham had served as the Bronco head man for the past eight seasons, compiling a 142-112 record.
  • Protecting The Top Seeds: The WAC announced a change to the conference tournament format which will put more emphasis and reward on the regular season standings.  The format is identical to the one used by the West Coast Conference, in which the top two seeds get byes through the semifinal round.  Day one of the tournament will see the 5-seed vs. the 8-seed and the 6-seed vs. the 7-seed.  Day two of the tournament will see the winners of the 5-seed vs. 8-seed and 6-seed vs. 7-seed take on the 4-seed and 3-seeds, respectively.  Day three of the tournament will then see the top two seeds finally get some tournament action as they’ll take on the winner of the quarterfinal games.  As was the case last season, only the top eight teams advance to the conference tournament.
  • The Association:  The WAC boasted two first-round NBA draft picks, plus a second-round draft pick this year as Fresno State‘s Paul George went tenth to Indiana, Nevada‘s Luke Babbitt went 16th to Minnesota (and was subsequently traded to Portland) and Armon Johnson landed in Portland with his college teammate Babbitt with the 34th pick, signing a contract with the Blazers on August 2.

Adrian Oliver will be a major weapon for the Spartans, but he can't carry them on his own.

Power Rankings:

  1. Utah State – If the WAC power rankings had been published immediately after the season ended, the northern Aggies might have been ranked third.  Instead, they find themselves at the top of the heap and it’s a ranking that has almost as much to do with defections from two other teams (New Mexico State and Nevada) as it does with Utah State.  The Aggies return four seniors from last year’s NCAA Tournament team and are stockpiling junior college talent for the 2011 season, one in which they’ll have to replace half their roster due to graduations.
  2. New Mexico State: The southern Aggies would have likely landed in the top spot in the power rankings but the unexpected loss of would-be senior guard Jahmar Young means New Mexico State will have to replace two 20-point scorers instead of just one.  The Aggies have added Cristian Kabongo (Canada) and Tshilidzi Nephew (South Africa) to an already internationally flavored roster.  New Mexico State is also taking a preseason trip to Canada and as a result, had 10 extra practice days, something that will certainly help as the staff looks to build early chemistry with the squad.
  3. Nevada: With Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson off to the NBA, Brandon Fields, Joey Shaw and Ray Kraemer gone after graduation, Nevada welcomes eight new players to the roster. Those eight newbies, plus the returning Wolf Pack players must figure out a way to replace the departed 84% of the team’s scoring.  Junior college transfer Illiwa Baldwin and Olek Czyz (eligible in December after transferring from Duke) should have an immediate impact on the Wolf Pack squad. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the MAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 11th, 2010


Alex Varone of College Basketball Daily is the RTC correspondent for the Mid-American Conference

Around The MAC:

  • Will Ohio Dance Again?: Three Mid-American Conference teams reached postseason play in the 2010 season, led by the Ohio Bobcats, who shocked the nation by handing third-seeded Georgetown a 14-point loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Kent State Golden Flashes, MAC regular season champions, also represented themselves well by winning a first round NIT contest over Tulsa before falling to Illinois. The Akron Zips were the third team to reach the postseason, qualifying for the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament by virtue of 24 regular season wins.
  • A Different Coach K: The conference’s lone coaching change this offseason took place at Toledo, where Gene Cross resigned amidst allegations of an inappropriate physical relationship. Cross spent only two seasons on the sidelines at Toledo, compiling a meager 11 wins against 53 losses. Tod Kowalczyk takes over at Toledo, and had previously spent the last eight seasons in the Horizon League with Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he posted a 136-112 mark.
  • Top Players: In player news, 2010 MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player Armon Bassett left Ohio after his junior season to enter the NBA Draft. The guard had originally joined the Ohio program after transferring out of Indiana, and averaged 17.1 points per game in his only year as a Bobcat. On the recruiting trail, Central Michigan received national headlines as 6’5 guard and ESPNU Top 100 recruit Trey Zeigler decided to join the Chippewas and play under his father and CMU head coach Ernie Zeigler.

MAC leading returning Xavier Silas hopes to propel Northern Illinois to the top of the West Division (espn.com)

Power Rankings [Division and last season's record in brackets]

  1. Ohio [East, 22-15 (7-9)]: On March 1, 2010, the Ohio Bobcats were a struggling 16-14 (6-9) outfit that many fans felt would be fortunate enough to win a game in the MAC Tournament. Twenty days later, Ohio wrapped up its season with a second round NCAA Tournament loss to Tennessee, a team that would go on to reach the Elite Eight.  So how will the Bobcats respond this season, with the target of being MAC champions on their back? Had Armon Bassett decided not to forgo his senior season and enter the NBA Draft, Ohio would have been a clear-cut favorite to repeat as MAC champs. Even with the losses of Bassett, center Kenneth van Kempen, and the transferring Jay Kinney, Ohio is still in good hands with sophomore point guard D.J. Cooper. The 2010 MAC Freshman of the Year is the likely 2011 MAC Player of the Year favorite if he can improve on last year’s numbers of 13.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.9 APG, and 2.5 steals per contest. Senior forward DeVaughn Washington (11.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG) and senior three-point marksman Tommy Freeman (10.5 PPG, 97 three-pointers made) are returning contributors from last year’s team that will complement Cooper. With the combination of the returning talent and the experience of last season’s run, Ohio has a solid claim on the MAC’s number one ranking.
  2. Akron [East, 24-11 (12-4)]: Akron was an overtime loss to Ohio in the MAC Tournament final away from reaching the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year. Leading scorer and First Team All-MAC performer Jimmy Conyers is gone, but the Zips were hardly a one-man team in 2010. Eight Zips averaged between 16.8 and 27.6 MPG and 5.1 to 10.1 PPG last season, five of whom are back for the 2010-11 campaign. Headlining that group is senior forward Brett McKnight, who averaged ten PPG in just under 20 minutes per contest, numbers which figure to increase this season. Also returning is the senior backcourt duo of Steve McNees (8.3 PPG) and Darryl Roberts (7.3 PPG), both of whom are capable outside shooters. Joining McKnight in the frontcourt will be 6’8 junior Nikola Cvetinovic (6.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG) and 7’0 sophomore center Zeke Marshall (5.1 PPG, 1.7 BPG). Marshall, a 2010 MAC All-Freshman performer, but who weighs in at just 218 pounds, will be an interesting player to watch develop this season. This isn’t a flashy group — nor was last year’s — but Akron has been a MAC Tournament finalist four years running, and is in position to make it five.
  3. Kent State [East, 24-10 (13-3)]: The Golden Flashes were the MAC’s best team during the regular season, but flamed out in the tourney quarterfinals by way of a 17-point loss to Ohio. After a 1-2 start to the MAC season, Kent State reeled off 12 wins in its final 13 conference games, including a No. 1 seed-clinching win at Akron in the season’s final game. Returning from last year’s team is leading scorer and rebounder Justin Greene, a strong post presence who contributed 13.6 PPG and 6.9 RPG as a sophomore. But fifth-year senior guard Rodriguez Sherman (10.6 PPG) is the only other returning starter from last year’s squad, which will have to replace the all-around consistency of First Team All-MAC performer Chris Singletary. Overall, four of the top six scorers from last year’s team are gone, which signals a step back for this program, even with the expected continued development of Greene. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 10th, 2010


Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and the NEC.

Around The MAAC:

  • Changes at the Helm: Fran McCaffery, off his outstanding run at Siena, is in Big Ten country at Iowa. The Siena administration did the right thing in promoting assistant Mitch Buonaguro to take his spot. Buonaguro recently added Craig Carter, who was on Fred Hill’s Rutgers staff, as an assistant.
  • Iona replaced Seton Hall-bound Kevin Willard with Tim Cluess. At Division-II CW Post, Cluess made himself quite a name in just four seasons. He is revered as an outstanding tactician. Realizing other facets of the game have to be covered to succeed at the Division-I level, Cluess made outstanding hires in John Morton and Jared Grasso. Morton, formerly of John Dunne’s St. Peter’s staff, knows the MAAC extremely well. Grasso did a commendable job in a tough situation as a Fordham interim head coach last winter. He knows the area and has outstanding contacts with AAU and high school coaches which will serve well in recruiting.
  • Picking Up the Pieces: The MAAC also was in the news regarding a coaching move of three years ago. The Matt Brady exit from Marist to James Madison is still a point of contention and debate in Poughkeepsie. Marist is still trying to recover on the men’s side, and their leadership filed suit against Brady alleging that he breached his contract by asking prospective and then-current Marist players to accompany him to JMU. A hearing is set for December.
  • On The Tube: On the women’s side, it was announced the conference championship will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The change of the women’s championship from a Sunday to Monday afternoon time slot was crucial in securing the national audience. The possibility of another finals appearance by Marist, one of the most celebrated and successful mid-majors in the women’s game, didn’t hurt, either. If a viewer tunes in has an opportunity to learn a little more about the MAAC, that exposure should benefit the men’s side as well. Getting your name and product out there is the thing. And this can only help the conference.

Marist looks to recover from its ugly divorce with Matt Brady. (jmusports.com)

Power Rankings

  1. Siena: Recent glory years appear to be at an end with the departure of Edwin Ubiles, Ronald Moore and Alex Franklin. Despite losing that trio and weathering a coaching change, it would be wise not to write the Saints off as of yet. Junior guard Kyle Downey, senior Clarence Jackson, a dangerous outside shooter, senior forward Ryan Rossiter and junior forward Owen Wignot are all proven players who have experienced success. Siena is not the program they were the past two seasons, but they are very good and won’t give up the title without a fight.
  2. Iona: Twenty-one wins, 12-6 and third place in the MAAC — it was a fine showing by the Gaels last season and things should keep headed in a similar direction this year. Scott Machado, an outstanding performer at guard, and Jermel Jenkins are two of the headliners back for Iona. The Gaels did lose some inside presence with the graduation of Jonathan Huffman. At 7’0, Huffman was more apt to shoot a three but still afforded a respectable presence in the paint. In his absence, there’s a stocked cupboard for new coach Tim Cluess to work with, a rarity for new coaches at this level.
  3. St.Peter’s: AD John Dunne brought in veteran coach Bruce Hamburger to replace John Morton, who exited for Iona. Marlon Guild was also promoted to full-time assistant, along with Dalip Bhatia, who makes the leap from video coordinator. On the floor, everyone is back from a surprising 11-7 MAAC finish last season. There’s no sneaking up on anyone this season and there’s a strong veteran cast to meet the challenge. Ryan Bacon returns in the low post, Nick Leon is a tough three-point shooting and penetrating guard and Wesley Jenkins is a proven offensive threat. This is a team that should contend. Read the rest of this entry »
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