Summer School in the Mountain West

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 9th, 2010

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

Around the MWC:

  • NBA Draft Early Entries: At the end of the season, there were a handful of players around the conference that seriously considered giving up their eligibility to play in the NBA. San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard committed early on to returning to school for his sophomore season and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette went right up to the deadline before announcing his decision to return for his senior season, but New Mexico was not so lucky, as the 2009-10 Mountain West Player of the Year and third-team All-America selection Darington Hobson left his name in the draft and was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 37th pick in the draft.
  • Trouble With the Law: Likely the biggest story of the summer in the MWC was the arrest of UNLV’s leading scorer, senior Tre’Von Willis, following some ugly accusations involving a domestic disturbance that led to felony charges. Willis has pleaded not guilty, and as of this report is still a full-fledged member of the Runnin’ Rebels, but his status for the upcoming season is still very much in doubt. Teammate Matt Shaw’s future is in less doubt, as he will not be playing for the Rebels this season after dismissal from the team from a failed drug test.
  • Remaking a Roster: After struggling through an up-and-down season last year, Utah hoped to reap the benefits of the time they gave to their young prospects this season. Unfortunately, they’ll have to start all over again as their leading scorer and would-be senior Carlon Brown led an exodus from Jim Boylen’s program. Promising rising sophomore Marshall Henderson was the second big blow, and combo guard Jordan Cyphers and power forward Matt Read round out the list of ex-Utes. In an effort to replace those departed, along with a couple of seniors, Boylen will welcome in eight new players this season, including four junior college transfers.
  • Transfers In – there are quite a few impact transfers in the conference this season, with the biggest splashes at New Mexico, where Steve Alford welcomes 6’9 center Drew Gordon from UCLA (eligible at the semester break) and 6’7 forward Emmanuel Negedu from Tennessee, who is eligible immediately after the Vols would not clear him following his scary cardiac arrest during a workout last September. Negedu has been cleared by New Mexico doctors (although not without plenty of controversy) and is ready to play a big role for the Lobos. Elsewhere, San Diego State will add the services of Santa Clara transfer James Rahon, and he should help bolster the Aztecs’ limited outside shooting. Colorado State will welcome Iowa State transfer Wes Eikmeier after his year off. TCU will get the services of Virginia Tech transfer Hank Thorns, a tiny little jitterbug point, after he sat out last season. For UNLV, forward Quintrell Thomas is now eligible after transferring from Kansas, and the athletic sophomore should be ready to make an immediate impact. The Rebels also welcome UCLA transfer Mike Moser, but he’ll sit out this season. Finally, Wyoming just got a commitment from USC transfer Leonard Washington, who’ll have two years of eligibility remaining when he suits up for the Cowboys in 2011-12.
  • Transfers Out: Although the Lobos have a couple transfers coming in, there are some going out, with point guard Nate Garth headed out on his own volition and center Will Brown dismissed from the team. BYU’s Michael Loyd, who had a huge 26-point game in BYU’s opening round NCAA win over Florida and figured to play a big role in this year’s edition of the Cougars, transferred to Division-II Midwestern State, a move that apparently didn’t exactly leave coach Dave Rose all that upset. San Diego State guard Tyrone Shelley opted for his second transfer in three seasons after losing his starting role at the end of last season. TCU loses point guard Xavier Roberson after a promising freshman season and forward Kevin Butler also moves on.
  • Welcome Back: Colorado State will welcome back point guard Jesse Carr, who started 18 games as a true freshman but missed most of last season with a hip/pelvis injury. San Diego State will have forward Tim Shelton back for his junior year, after his third knee surgery in four years caused him to miss the last month and a half of last season.
  • Mission-Critical: BYU brings back Chris Collinsworth as a sophomore, following an eventful LDS mission. Luckily, Collinsworth is back to full strength and will join his brother, Kyle, for a season on the Cougar roster before Kyle likely goes on his own mission. At the same time, the Cougs lose talented forward Tyler Haws for a couple years as he goes on his mission. Expect him to be back in Provo in 2012-13.

Whether Tre'Von Willis will be cleared to play is one of the MWC's biggest storylines heading into the season.

Power Rankings

  1. San Diego State: The Aztecs return all five starters from last year’s Mountain West Tournament championship team, plus get a couple big fellas (Tim Shelton and senior Mehdi Cheriet) back from injuries. But the biggest improvement awaiting Steve Fisher’s squad may be Leonard’s improvement from his freshman to sophomore seasons. Leonard was always a high-flying rebounder for the Aztecs, but as his rebounding numbers soared down the stretch, so did his offensive game. They’ll need to shore up their free-throw shooting, but this is the most talented starting five in the conference, with senior point D.J. Gay, sophomore guard Chase Tapley, senior forward Billy White and senior center Malcolm Thomas expected to join Leonard in the starting five, and worthwhile depth to boot.
  2. BYU: Jimmer Fredette returns for his senior season as the likely co-favorite (with Leonard) for the conference player of the year. With underrated backcourt mate Jackson Emery giving coach Dave Rose an all-senior backcourt and young frontcourt players like Chris Collinsworth, Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and James Anderson all ready to take on bigger roles, the Cougars will be gunning for the conference title. One out of the group of Kyle Collinsworth, returned-missionary Nick Martineau or incoming freshman Anson Winder will need to step into the backup point guard role left by the departed Michael Loyd.
  3. UNLV: While the availability of Tre’Von Willis hangs over the head of coach Lon Krueger and his program, the Rebels have a talented roster either way. Assuming Willis returns, he’ll join Oscar Bellfield in a strong backcourt, with skilled and athletic frontcourt threats like Chace Stanback and Derrick Jasper helping initiate the offense. Junior center Brice Massamba showed drastic improvement, despite continued inconsistency at the end of last season, and any contributions he can bring will be a bonus. Additional young talent such as sophomore wings Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins litters the roster. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the Ivy League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 9th, 2010

Howard Hochman is the RTC correspondent for the Ivy League.

Around The Ivy League

  • Coaching Carousel: Everything began when Steve Donahue left Cornell for his new home in Chestnut Hill, replacing Al Skinner as the new head man at Boston College, a considerable leap up in competition. Donahue’s leaving could not have come as a shock to the Cornell hierarchy. His stock was never higher thanks to the run his Big Red team made in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.  In a bit of tit-for-tat, Cornell AD Andy Noel looked to the ACC for a replacement for Donahue, and found one in Bill Courtney, recruiter extraordinaire, who has had stints at Virginia, Virginia Tech, VCU and most notably George Mason, whom he assisted to an improbable Final Four run in 2006. Can it be too long before Cornell, with a lot of rebuilding ahead, is once again loaded? The Columbia Lions went clear across the country and hired Kyle Smith, the longtime right-hand man to Randy Bennett at St. Mary’s. That school enjoyed much success the past few years with a roster composed of Australian imports. Finally, the Big Green of Dartmouth found a familiar face to take over the reins in the person of Paul Cormier. Cormier spent a few seasons in the NBA after a mediocre string as head man at Fairfield, and if you go further back, a rather successful run at — you guessed it — Dartmouth. The most recent hoop success in Hanover came way back when Cormier was the head guy. Good luck, Paul; while we applaud you giving it another shot, your team is light years away from being able to recruit and compete with the top dogs in the league.
  • Ivy Controversy: Normally, recruiting violations and sanctions are reserved for the bigger programs, but Harvard may find itself in hot water. Tommy Amaker never made it to the Big Dance while at Michigan, but he cleaned up a program that was rife with violations. Now, on the verge of taking Harvard to its first NCAA appearance since 1946, he’s had to answer to what the NCAA calls “secondary violations.” It seems former Duke chum Kenny Blakeney did some circuitous traveling to play in summer pick-up games with potential Crimson recruits, including current Harvard players and Penn POY candidate Zack Rosen. Amaker later hired Blakeney as an assistant coach. These allegations aren’t as reprehensible as those allegedly committed by John Calipari, Tim Floyd, or Jerry Tarkanian; nor will they lead to any meaningful sanctions. But a hint of impropriety in a program that gained prominence because of their national recruiting success does raise some eyebrows.
  • On Another Level: Two former Ivy stars are making news on the pro level tradition. First, former Harvard star Jeremy Lin signed a two-year contract with the Golden State Warriors. Lin became a YouTube sensation after holding his own against top overall pick John Wall when the two went head-to-head during the fourth quarter of a Summer League game. Off the court, former Yale star and 14-year NBA vet Chris Dudley just received the Republican nomination for Governor from the state of Oregon.

New Big Red coach Bill Courtney has the task of keeping Cornell at the top of the Ivy League (

Power Rankings (predicted league record in parenthesis):

  1. Harvard (12-2): Yes, they lose Jeremy Lin, but they return three ultra-talented sophomores, including Freshman of the Year Kyle Casey. The 6’7 forward began last season as the 6th man but started the last ten games, averaging ten points and five rebounds per game. They also boast a sophomore backcourt that we see as a potential top-10 duo in the country in Brandyn Curry and Christian Webster. The latter scored 24 points in only 28 minutes in Harvard’s postseason loss to Appalachian St. Sprinkle in another prized recruiting class that includes a few players in the top 150 and you have all the ingredients for an Ivy Championship.
  2. Princeton (11-3): They were six points away from hoisting the conference championship trophy last season, as two heartbreaking three-point losses to eventual champion Cornell did them in. Most publications project the Tigers as 2010-11 champs, as this is another team that returns a talented trio in top scorer Doug Davis, leading rebounder Dan Mavraides and late-blooming freshman Ian Hummer. We see a nip and tuck race with the depth of the Crimson being the deciding factor.
  3. Penn (10-4): Don’t be surprised if Penn projects itself into the Ivy race this season. And if they do, it will be most assuredly on the back of last year’s RTC Ivy POY Zack Rosen. The 6’1 junior was at or near the top in five key stats, including leading the league in scoring. If he continues to mature as a player, he very well could receive a lot of national recognition, a la Jeremy Lin and Ryan Wittman last season. Now, if only the rest of the roster can remain healthy — a difficult task the past two years — the Quakers can take aim at what they consider their rightful place at the top of the league. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the SEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 7th, 2010

Jared Quillen from Big Blue Cats is the RTC correspondent for the SEC.

News: At the spring meetings in Destin, Florida, SEC officials discussed scrapping the divisional format in conference tournament play. Under the current system, the top two teams in each division get a bye in the opening round of the SEC tournament. Going to a one-through-twelve seeding instead of two groups of one-through-six would effectively protect the top teams in the SEC, and increase the likelihood of the SEC getting five, six, or even seven teams in the NCAA tournament (the goal should be eight). Last year Mississippi State and Mississippi finished first and second, respectively, in the Western division, but only fifth and sixth overall in the conference behind Eastern division teams Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Florida, yet both teams were awarded opening round byes in the conference tournament and still missed the NCAA Tournament.

The West as a whole finished a putrid 9-27 against the East. Take away the West’s five wins against Georgia and it gets really ugly. Despite the uneven seeding the Eastern division managed to go 8-3 in the SEC tournament, so there is a strong case for going to a one-through-twelve tournament.

As you might expect, SEC West coaches wanted to keep the status quo. As Arkansas coach John Pelphrey put it, “There was a lot of discussion about it. I was for the way things are right now. Year in and year out, the fairest way to do it was to seed it by how you fare in your division,” which is pretty much what you would expect from a coach whose team finished third in the West but only seventh overall. “The problem is….you could have a team in the East that has a similar or same record as a team in the West, but it’s really a different record because of the teams you’re playing.” SEC teams play teams in their division twice and non-division opponents once. “What happens when you have two teams vying for a bye, and they have the same record?” as Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “That’s where we came to a stalemate. We didn’t know what direction to go.”

Donovan highlights a good point as all of the coaches prefer keeping the current divisional format for league play and, as Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl explained, “There was some concern that if they re-seeded the SEC tournament one through twelve (like the Big 12), it would be the first step to doing away with the divisions.” In the end the SEC opted to do just as they did when other conferences were trading teams — nothing. It remains the opinion of Rush The Court, however, that the best and fairest system is to reward the teams with the best records and play a one through twelve tournament.

Coaching Carousel: On March 24th Tony Barbee was hired to replace Jeff Lebo at Auburn whose teams went 96-93 during Lebo’s six-year tenure. Barbee will be one of six coaches in the SEC with three years or less in the league, a list that includes up-and-comers Pelphrey (three years), Anthony Grant (two), Darrin Horn (two), Trent Johnson (two), and Mark Fox (one). With this crew in place, the SEC has a glut of rising coaches equaled by no conference in America.  The sad reality, however, is that there are only so many wins to go around, and some of these coaches are going to lose their up-and-coming status just as Kentucky’s Billy Gillispie and Georgia’s Dennis Felton did.

Recruiting: The SEC boasts 18 players in ESPN’s top 100, a number matched only by the ACC. Indeed, five of twelve SEC teams brought in at least two players in the top 100, including Kentucky with five. That’s the kind of talent the SEC’s going to need if the league is to reestablish itself as a dominant basketball conference.

Trent Johnson Has His Work Cut Out...

Power Rankings The following rankings are not necessarily a prediction of order of finish as much as an indicator of which teams have done the most to improve and to address deficiencies in the off-season.

  1. Kentucky – Kentucky’s entire team (John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Pattrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton) went to the NBA. Kentucky also lost Perry Stevenson, Ramon Harris and Mark Krebs to graduation, and Darnell Dodson is gone for the season for undisclosed reasons. So what did John Calipari do? He signed the number one class in the America, again. Calipari’s haul includes five top 50 players in point guard Brandon Knight, shooting guard Doron Lamb, small forward Stacey Poole, power forwards Terrence Jones and Enes Kanter, and center Eloy Vargas who comes to Kentucky after playing one year at Florida and one year at Miami Dade College. The new Cats will be asked to contribute immediately as Kentucky will enter the 2010-11 season with only four returning scholarship players, two of which played less than five minutes per game last year. Time will tell, however, if number one in the summer power rankings translates into another SEC championship and deep NCAA run.
  2. Tennessee – Tennessee had as turbulent a season as any team in America last year, losing Tyler Smith for the season and Cameron Tatum, Melvin Goins and Brian Williams to suspension early in the year. After the Volunteers barely lost to Michigan State — just missing their first Final Four in the process — they also lost seniors Bobby Maze, Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince. Coach Bruce Pearl has proven himself one of the better recruiters in the nation, however, and this year is no different. Pearl brings in top flight power forward Tobias Harris and talented shooting guards Jordan McRae and Trae Golden. Pearl also adds John Fields, a transfer from UNC Wilmington. Fields, a 6’9” forward who played one year after Wilmington after playing two years at East Carolina, will have one year of eligibility remaining and should be able to play immediately as NCAA rules allow a transfer player who has graduated to play immediately if he is enrolling in graduate school. Last year Fields averaged 10.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds in one season at Wilmington where he also set the school single game rebounding record with 21 against Towson.
  3. Florida – Florida could use a little depth up front and that’s about it. The Gators return their entire starting five and all but five of their 72 points per game. After just slipping into the NCAA Tournament last year, Florida enters the 2010-11 season as the SEC favorite and a legitimate top ten team. With no significant losses, freshmen power forwards Patric Young, Will Yeguete, and Cody Larsen will fill the final pieces in Florida’s march back to relevance after three less-than-stellar years following its two championships. Coach Donovan also brings in shooting guard Casey Prather and early high school graduate Scottie Wilbekin at point guard. Donovan is already adding talent for 2011, as well. Rutgers’ leading scorer Mike Rosario will sit out this season and be eligible for next year. Look for Donovan’s critics to hush now that the Gators are back on track. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the Big South

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 6th, 2010

Mark Bryant, the Coordinator of New Media for the Big South Conference and writer of Big South SHOUT, is an RTC correspondent.

Around The Big South

  • Back to the Future for Gardner-Webb – The GWU Runnin’ Bulldogs called on a former assistant to get the program going back in the right direction with the departure of Rick Scruggs after a 15-year tenure in Boiling Springs.  New head man Chris Holtmann was with GWU’s staff from 2003-08, but his more recent time with Ohio University had him on the up-and-coming coach prospect lists — that performance by the Bobcats last year in winning the MAC Tournament and upending Georgetown at the NCAA Tourney opened lots of eyes to Holtmann’s contributions as lead assistant there.
  • Association Aspirations – While not impacting the upcoming season directly, two NBA storylines have gotten lots of Big South attention:  Art Parakhouski and Reggie Williams.  Parakhouski, a two-time Big South Player of the Year, was considered by many as a draftable prospect for the NBA, but did not get selected, missing what many thought was the Big South’s best chance to date of having someone taken in the modern two-round format for the first time.  The big man from Radford landed on the Celtics’ Summer League team, trying to work his way into a spot.  Meanwhile, that’s just what former Big South and VMI star Reggie Williams did.  Once college basketball’s leading scorer, he started doing the same thing in the NBA’s D-League, which will get you noticed.  He signed a ten-day deal with the Golden State Warriors, and then another, earning his way onto the team roster with lots of praise from teammates and coaches.

Kierre Greenwood is back to lead CCU to the top. (Ted Richardson/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT)

Power Rankings

  1. Coastal Carolina – no one’s expecting the Chanticleers to crow through the season at last year’s astonishing pace (28-7 ,15-3, regular season champion), but here’s some consideration for them repeating a run at the title nonetheless.  CCU loses team leader and All-Conference forward Joseph Harris, but we suspect Chad Gray (also All-Conference First Team) will step into that role and get sufficient help from last season’s Freshman of the Year Kierre Greenwood.  Big South Coach of the Year Cliff Ellis seemed to finally get the pieces put together last year, and their tournament final loss may provide adequate motivation to reach the next rung on the ladder this time around.
  2. Winthrop – okay, so the Eagles lose a cornerstone in Defensive Player of the Year Mantoris Robinson from last year’s Big South Championship squad, but coach Randy Peele said it best when WU managed that upset title run: this team is built for tournament play.  In other words, there will be some ugly play along the way (as seen when the shooting ices over, like in the NCAA opening round game), but this team will stay in games and stay in the race and stay a thorn in the side of everyone else.  Just ask the Coastal fans who watched the Eagles celebrate on the CCU court this spring… can’t count Winthrop out, so let’s credit them with contender status here.
  3. High Point – If coach Scott Cherry can keep his team on its improvement pace, he’ll do even better than this spot, but let’s consider the Panthers as a notch better than last year’s 15-15, 10-8 squad.  That mark was an increase of six wins (conference and overall) over the previous season.  Granted, HPU has to bid farewell to big man and shot-blocker Cruz Daniels, along with the talented Eugene Harris, but they still have the offensive production of standouts Nick Barbour (All-Conference) and Tehran Cox.  For his senior year, Cox will also get the emotional boost of seeing his team play preseason games in his native Bahamas.  As for Barbour, beware when this shooter is on the mark – he can hit from anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the Summit League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 5th, 2010

Eli Linton is the RTC correspondent for the Summit League.

Around The Summit:

  • Dakota Invasion: The Summit League plans on joining the realignment-party beginning next season (2011-12) when Centenary will move down to Division-III, and the University of South Dakota will take their place. There has also been talks of adding an eleventh team, likely the University of North Dakota, joining the conference in the near future, which would mean FOUR teams from the Dakotas in the Summit. Good for rivalries, bad for the warm-blooded.
  • An Oak In Oakland: The top teams in the conference made some key additions that fit nicely into their team philosophies. Oakland is happy to have Summit POY Keith Benson back, but they also added a center for the future: 7’0, 220-pound Kyle Sykora. The big man shot 71 percent from the field and blocked 5.6 shots per game during his high school years in Miami. It’s not often a seven-footer comes to the Summit League, and the addition of Sykora will assure Oakland of big-man dominance for years to come.
  • New Guard: IUPUI and Oral Roberts also added some nice guard pieces to their depth.  P.J. Hubert (IUPUI) was an Associated Press honorable mention all-state selection in Indiana, and Jake Lliteras (ORU) was Player of the Year in the Carolina 9 conference. Both guys should have an immediate impact on the floor for two teams vying for a conference title. And last but not least, South Dakota made the most improvement when they picked up Rock Valley H.S. Stars Jordan Dykstra and Marcus Heemstra; both were given high grades by ESPN Insider.

Kevin Ford is gone, but the rest of the pieces remain intact for perennial favorite Oral Roberts

Power Rankings

  1. Oral Roberts – They lost one starter, and since they were a 20-win team last year (including victories over Stanford, #12 New Mexico, and Missouri) with only seven scholarship players healthy, the Golden Eagles have a golden opportunity ahead of them. They have won the conference title three of the past five seasons, and as long as Scott Sutton is still the head coach, this team will be one of the favorites. Known in the past for their strength at the guard position, ORU is especially strong there this year with five guards who have starting-five ability. Summit Newcomer of the Year Warren Niles leads the way.
  2. Oakland – Don’t sleep on the defending champs. Even though Oakland lost tournament MVP Derrick Nelson and the conference’s best guard, Jon Jones, the Golden Grizzlies return the Summit League POY Keith Benson and several key players from last year’s dominant squad that won 26 games, including 17 of 18 conference games. In a conference that only showcases three quality teams, Oakland has as good a chance as any to capture a second straight title, and they could replace ORU as the top team by the time the season starts, depending on how their recruits shape up. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the MVC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 5th, 2010

Patrick Marshall of White & Blue Review is the RTC correspondent for the Missouri Valley Conference.

Around the MVC

  • Go Dancing – Despite UNI’s major upset of Kansas, the Missouri Valley Conference suffered a third straight season with just one bid to the NCAA Tournament after four teams received bids in 2006.
  • Coaching Carousel—In April, Dana Altman was wooed from Creighton to Oregon, where he’ll deal with the benefits as well as the slings and arrows of having Phil Knight as a booster.   A few weeks later, longtime Altman assistant and Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna left the Sycamores to be reunited with Altman in Oregon. Creighton wasted no time in hiring a new basketball coach.  Greg McDermott was tabbed as the new head coach a mere 48 hours after Altman took the Oregon job.  McDermott left a situation at Iowa State where he had trouble making Hilton magic, with several Cyclones transferring out during his tenure and NBA-caliber players on a team that could not get wins.  Creighton got a coach with previous success in the Valley and Iowa State was able to move in a different direction a year early, so the change looks like a win-win.
  • Indiana State did not waste any time either as they promoted assistant Greg Lansing to the head coaching position.  Lansing was a strong candidate the last time the Sycamores had a vacancy four seasons ago before the hiring of McKenna.  The continuity will be important for Indiana State this season.
  • Coaches on the Hot Seat—The Valley is an interesting place to be a coach.  If you do well, you get a promotion to the big conferences (Keno Davis, Mark Turgeon, Dana Altman, Bruce Weber, Matt Painter). If you struggle , do not meet fan expectations, or wear out your welcome, you are likely out of a job (Steve Merfeld, Porter Moser, Royce Waltman)  So it is not totally surprising that the coaches  with the longest active tenures,  Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois and Jim Les of Bradley,  are on the hot seat, though for different reasons.  Lowery has had to replicate the success that his predecessors, Bruce Weber and Matt Painter, established, and has struck out during the past two seasons with no postseason appearances and losing records.   In Les’ case, after taking Bradley to the Sweet 16 in 2007, the Braves have gradually lost ground, mustering just an NIT appearance in 2008 and a CBI appearance in 2009. They sat out the dance again last year and Braves fans are starting to get restless.
  • MVC Tiebreaker Change—For years, the Valley used a special point system formula for seeding in the MVC tournament. It was unusual in that ties between teams who finished with identical conference were not separated by their head-to-head results.   Well, that is no more.  They have gone to a more simple formula of basing the tiebreaker on the non-conference strength of schedule for the schools involved.  This might be a subtle message to get the Valley schools to do some better scheduling, likely a reason behind the aforementioned NCAA Tournament struggles.

Ali Farokhmanesh is Gone, but UNI Isn't (AP/T. Gutierrez)

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Summer School in the Atlantic 10

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 4th, 2010

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Around the Atlantic 10

  • The conference elected to continue with the tournament format developed for the 2010 championship, which excludes the two worst teams in the A-10.  CBS reported that last year’s A-10 championship game drew approximately two million viewers, which is unprecedented for the league. Subsequently, CBS will again carry the final in 2011 (more on that partnership later in this article).
  • Jordan Crawford, Xavier’s sophomore wing, became the Atlantic 10’s first player since Temple’s Mardy Collins in 2006 to be taken in the first round of the NBA draft. Crawford, selected as the 27th pick by the New Jersey Nets, was a transfer who logged a single season with the Musketeers before jumping to the NBA. He was the 15th Xavier player drafted since 1990, and follows Derrick Brown, who was drafted in the second round in 2009.
  • More player recognition came from the USA Basketball organization when they invited Dayton swingman Chris Wright and Temple power forward Lavoy Allen to join the Select team that served as the scout team for the US National squad during run-throughs in Las Vegas this summer. The Select team worked the National Team in a series of practices and exhibition games out in Las Vegas, Nevada, in late July. At least seven A-10 players from three conference teams have or will see playing time on international teams this summer.
  • The conference’s facilities race continued this off season, as Duquesne and George Washington both improved their on-campus arenas. Duquesne replaced the seats in the Palumbo Center and added a center-hung Daktronics video scoreboard. George Washington has nearly completed a three-phase renovation of the Charles E. Smith Center. The last phase includes a makeover of the building’s exterior, the lobby, several other interior spaces and a new scoreboard. Temple announced a $48 million renovation project for Pearson/McGonigle Halls that will include a new practice facility for the men’s basketball program. The athletic department has launched a campaign to raise about a third of the money privately.

How will the departure of Xavier's Jordan Crawford impact the A-10?

Power Rankings

Checking a given team’s returning minutes against their Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) from the previous season (conference games only) is a good predictor of how that team will fare in the following season. Four teams (St. Louis, Richmond, Xavier and Rhode Island) had a  PWP above average, plus above-average returning minutes, which strongly suggests they will do no worse in 2011 than they did in 2010. In fact, teams in that boat will most likely improve their position in the conference the next year. Four others (Fordham, St. Bonaventure, La Salle and Saint Joseph‘s) had below-average PWPs and below-average returning minutes, which suggests that the team is more likely to regress.

  1. Temple – The Owls may fall outside of the “above average” quadrant, but Temple returns +4.8% (above the conference average) of their points scored and +2.4% of their rebounding. Gone are glue guys Ryan Brooks and Luis Guzman, but Juan Fernandez, Lavoy Allen (who flirted briefly with the NBA draft before returning to school),  Michael Eric and A-10 Sixth Man of the Year Ramone Moore all return. Five Temple players have benefitted from a summer that included structured practices and staunch competition. Rising sophomore guard T.J. DiLeo logged time with the U20 German team in the FIBA U20 European Division A Championship. Incoming freshman Aaron Brown, a recent graduate of the famed St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey, had an extended run with the Virgin Island team, first competing in the U18 Americas Cup in San Antonio, Texas, then with the Virgin Islands in the Centrobasket Championship in the Dominican Republic. Rising sophomore Carmel Bouchman logged time with the Israeli U20 team, which also competed in the U20 European Division B Championship. Allen was selected to the scout team which helped prepare Team USA for the upcoming FIBA World Championship in Turkey. Fernandez, who is competing in the same event for his native Argentina, will arrive on campus late this semester, as the tournament runs through September 12.
  2. Richmond – The Spiders say goodbye to the streaky David Gonzalvez and Ryan Butler, but Coach Chris Mooney will have another season of A-10 Player of the Year Kevin Anderson. With returning numbers better than the conference average in minutes, points and rebounding, Richmond is positioned to challenge for the conference title. The one cloud in this picture is the style of play. Last season, Richmond’s inside/outside stat was -3.8, suggesting the Spiders leaned towards the perimeter. The inside/outside stat for the returning players is +7.88, indicating that the Spiders’ offense will move closer to the basket to score. To maintain the style of play installed by Coach Mooney, a variation on the Princeton Offense, the staff will have to find someone from the current roster or an incoming player like the promising Cedrick Lindsay, who can score more frequently from beyond the arc. Justin Harper and Kevin Anderson cannot fill that need alone. Wayne Sparrow, a 6-3 shooting guard out of Maryland and 6-9 combo forward/center Derrick Williams out of St. Anthony’s in New Jersey, round out the recruiting class. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the Horizon League

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2010

John Templon of Chicago College Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Horizon League.

Around The Horizon League:

  • NBA Draft: The Horizon League doesn’t always pop up on the NBA’s radar, but Gordon Hayward shot up the draft boards last season and ended up being drafted ninth overall by the Utah Jazz. Haywardof course led Butler to the NCAA Tournament title game before going pro.
  • Coaching Changes: It took until the middle of July, but the UIC Flames officially announced the retirement of long-time head coach and all-time wins leader Jimmy Collins. The move is effective August 31 and the coaching search is already on. The Flames are conducting a nationwide hunt for someone who can bring them out of basement of the Horizon League.
  • Keeping It In The Family: Ray McCallum, Jr. is considered one of the top players in the 2010 freshman class. The fact that he chose the Detroit Titans stunned no one. McCallum is going to play for his father, and will help make Detroit one of the favorites in the Horizon League.
  • Brownout: The other big head coaching change in the league was the departure of Brad Brownell from Wright State. Brownell had finished 12-6 in conference each of the past three seasons with the Raiders. He took over at Clemson for the departed Oliver Purnell in a classic game of coaching musical chairs. Brownell’s replacement, Billy Donlon, will be expected to maintain the high level of play the program has reached recently and maybe even make an NCAA Tournament. Donlon was the team’s associate head coach under Brownell, so there is a lot of continuity in the program.
  • Going Young: When head coach Todd Kowalczyk left Green Bay for a bigger payday at Toledo, not many people expected the Phoenix to hire one of the youngest coaches in all of Division I basketball. Green Bay made the intriguing decided to stay in house and hire Brian Wardle. Wardle had been an assistant with the Phoenix before the hire.

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Summer School in the NEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 2nd, 2010

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

Around the NEC

  • The NEC will have a different look this fall with coaching changes abound, including two of the top three schools from last season (conference champs Robert Morris and third-place finisher Mount St. Mary’s) undergoing changes at the helm.
  • Mount St. Mary’s head man Jim Phelan never had to go through a change of address during his tenure, but Mountaineer fans will miss him and his famous bow tie pacing along the sideline. Phelan retired after last season, capping a career during which he amassed 834 wins over nearly half a century, all of which was spent in Emmitsburg.
  • Postseason success remains hard for the NEC to come by. Despite Robert Morris giving Villanova all they could handle in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats escaped with a 73-70 overtime victory, leaving the NEC with an all-time 3-29 record in the Big Dance.

James Feldeine may be gone, but Quinnipiac is positioned to for a run at the NEC title.

Power Rankings:

  1. Quinnipiac: The Bobcats lost a heartbreaker in the NEC final to Robert Morris, but a strong returning cast labels Tom Moore’s group as the NEC favorite heading into the fall. James Feldeine, the team’s leading scorer at 16.5 PPG game last season, exits, but Justin Rutty and James Johnson make for a returning duo who will bring their combined 27 PPG back to Hamden. Rutty, who averaged a double-double last year, also makes a living on the glass and is one of the best offensive rebounders in the college game. Seniors Jonathan Cruz and Deonte Twyman will also be counted upon to make key contributions.
  2. Robert Morris: The Colonials promoted assistant Andrew Toole when Mike Rice exited for a Rutgers program in shambles. As is often the case with coaches who guide mid-major teams to successful runs, Rice’s departure for a higher-profile school comes as one of the more predictable moves in the off-season. He had a solid three year run at Robert Morris capped off by a near upset of two seed Villanova in the NCAA tournament opening round.  Toole is fortunate in that Rice’s recruits stayed committed to RMU when he exited, a definite benefit of promoting from within. Toole was able to finish off the recruiting class over the spring and summer months, and Toole is confident they will mesh with the returnees to continue the recent success.
  3. Mount Saint Mary’s – Losses include outstanding lead guard Jeremy Goode. The Mountaineers also lose an accomplished player and double digit scorer in 6’5 Kelly Beidler.  Paramount among those need replacing is assistant coach Milan Brown who accepted the head coaching position at Holy Cross. Robert Burke, an American University assistant last winter and former Georgetown aide, is on board to replace Brown. The Mount has enjoyed recent success and Burke has a solid coaching pedigree. A lead guard replacement for Goode is a primary concern entering this season, and Jean Cajou, a returning starter, will look to fill that hole as a senior. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the WCC

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 30th, 2010

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

St. Mary's Will Again Have Something to Say About This

Around The WCC

  • Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have finished first and second in the league standings for six of the last seven seasons (Santa Clara finished second in 2006-07).
  • Saint Mary’s won its first-ever WCC Conference Tournament in 2010, crushing the Zags 81-62 and earning an NCAA Tournament bid that saw them sweep through two rounds over Richmond and Villanova before crashing and burning in the Sweet 16 game against Baylor.
  • The Zags received an at-large bid to the NCAAs, and beat Florida State before losing in the second round to Syracuse. Both will be back with strong squads in 2010-11.
  • It has been a relatively quiet off-season in the WCC, with no head coaching changes or game-changing player transfers. All teams recruited well, and all are jockeying for position in the upcoming season.

Power Rankings

  1. Saint Mary’s, with its WCC Tournament victory over Gonzaga and success in the NCAA Tournament, has established itself as the team to beat in the league. Although the Gaels return five of the top seven players who propelled it to a 28-6 season, questions will arise over the candidates to replace the two who won’t be back – dominating 6’11 center Omar Samhan, who compiled a 20-10 season, and his frontcourt sidekick Ben Allen, the 6’11 Australian who contributed 10.7 PPG and 7.6 rebounds per contest.  Creighton transfer Kenton Walker, who stands 6’9, will be Samhan’s replacement in the post, and Walker is credited with giving Samhan all he could handle at practices during his mandatory year on the Gaels’ bench. Gael insiders expect him to surprise a lot of teams with his athleticism and defensive quickness. Saint Mary’s returns starting guards Mickey McConnell and sophomore Matthew Dellavedova, who combined for nearly 26 points and 10 assists per game last year. McConnell was the nation’s leading three point shooter last season. The duo will also make for tough practice competition for prized incoming freshman guard Stephen Holt.  At the power forward spot, coach Randy Bennett will most likely start Rob Jones, the San Diego transfer who, like Walker, sat out last season after changing schools. The Gaels are also looking for a big year from junior small forward Clint Steindl, who showed flashes of three-point shooting brilliance the past two years, and will be called upon to contribute more consistently on offense while avoiding foul trouble.
  2. Gonzaga: The Zags’ decade-long dominance of the WCC showed signs of weakening last year, with losses to Loyola Marymount and San Francisco in the regular season and a shellacking by Saint Mary’s in the conference tournament. If they are to win the regular season conference championship for the 11th straight year in 2010, the Zags must answer questions about backcourt leadership. Marquise Carter is a talented plug-in for the departed Matt Bouldin, but it will be a challenge for him to provide the leadership and all-around court presence that Bouldin did. Senior sharpshooter Steven Gray will be asked to help fill the leadership void, and the Zags could get a major boost from Mathis Keita and Mathis Monninghoff, two European players whose addition to the roster has yet to be made official.  Stepping into a strong frontcourt will be Sam Dower, a 6’9 center from Minnesota who red-shirted last season. Dower will add depth to a lineup that includes the spectacular Elias Harris, ever-improving Robert Sacre and promising sophomore Kelly Olynyk.  The Zags suffered the largest rash of player defections, with four highly-touted players leaving – Bol Kong, Andy Poling, G.J. Vilarino and Grant Gibbs. Turnover is also taking place on the coaching staff, with Few breaking in a new assistant, Donny Daniels, from UCLA.
  3. Loyola Marymount: The biggest news for Lions fans is the return of 6’10 center Edgar Garibay, who redshirted last year after tearing his ACL in the team’s seventh game of the season. When he went down, the Lions lost a strong, young player who was poised to make a major impact as a freshman.  With everyone back from last year’s Lions squad except starting forward Kevin Young and substitute guard Given Kalipinde, it may be time for the Lions to roar. They are balanced, as Garibay’s return will be coupled with an experienced backcourt of Vernon Teel and Jarrod DuBois (15.4 PPG and 12.3 PPG last season, respectively). They also will benefit from Drew Viney’s polished moves and accurate shooting at small forward. If head coach Max Good can keep the injury bug away, LMU’s depth will lead them to contention for a top spot in the WCC and a post-season tournament berth, so they’re my Dark Horse for 2010-11. Read the rest of this entry »
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Summer School in the SoCon

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 30th, 2010

Justin Glover is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference.

Mike Young's Terriers Look to Lead the SoCon Again

Around The SoCon

  • Former Citadel coach Ed Conroy moves on to coach Tulane University. The Bulldogs hired former Maryland assistant coach Chuck Driesell, who was with the Terps for four seasons under head coach Gary Williams.
  • The Mountaineers hired former UNC star forward Jason Capel, who becomes the youngest head coach in Division I at 30 years old, to replace Buzz Peterson, who departs for UNC-Wilmington.
  • The Georgia Southern Eagles made a splash in its recruiting class coming in, ranking sixth among mid-major programs, according to
  • Asheville, North Carolina, has been awarded the league’s men’s and women’s basketball tournament for 2012-14, to be held in the Asheville Civic Center, just a stone’s throw away from the Western Carolina campus. The facility will undergo a considerable renovation to prepare for the event.

Power Rankings

The Southern Conference will likely be a one-bid league in 2010-11, but the recent NCAA tournament expansion will certainly add motivation for teams on the rise to perform. With the return of forward Noah Dahlman (16.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG last season), Wofford is the early favorite to repeat as SoCon champs next season.

North Division

  1. Western Carolina – The Catamounts lost some very good talent from a team that won 22 games in 2009-10, including an impressive 14-2 home record. WCU lost its top two scorers in Brandon Giles and Jake Robinson, but return former freshman of the year Harouna Mutombo. Also, the Catamounts bring back spark plug Mike Williams, who contributed 9.4 points off the bench last season. Starting center Richie Gordon returns after posting 8.5 ppg and 4.6 rebounds per game last season. WCU welcomes four newcomers, including 6’4 guard Brandon Boggs, from Greenville, South Carolina. Boggs averaged 16 PPG in his senior season, earning him a spot on the South Carolina all-star team. Boggs scored a game-high 24 points in the contest.
  2. Appalachian State – The Mountaineers lost Buzz Peterson to UNC-Wilmington and welcome a new era with Jason Capel, who becomes the nation’s youngest head coach heading into the 2010-11 season. ASU won an impressive 24 games en route to the North Division crown last season. To repeat as champs, they are going to need Donald Sims to perform at a level similar to last season, when he averaged 20.4 points per game and was a sure thing from the stripe, with a league-leading 95 percent. Also returning is Isaac Butts, who led the team in rebounding, grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game last season. Two newcomers for the Mountaineers are Anthony Breeze, who transferred from Coastal Carolina last season, and Omar Carter, who transferred from Charleston Southern.
  3. Chattanooga – The Mocs have three starters returning from a team that went 15-18 last season. Chattanooga went 6-12 in conference play, tying UNC-Greensboro for third in the north division. Rising junior guard Ricky Taylor returns after putting up 11.4 points per game in 2009-2010. Keegan Bell, who averaged 7.6 points per game last season, is another starter from a year ago. Together, Taylor and Bell will look to provide the Mocs with a 1-2 punch in the backcourt. Three newcomers round out the roster, including some size in the frontcourt in Philip Jurick, who stands 6’11 and played at Chattanooga State Community College last season.
  4. Samford – The Bulldogs head into 2010-11 returning three starters from last year’s team, including leading scorer Josh Davis, who averaged 12.5 points per game and netted a team-high 85 three pointers. Also returning is starting center Andy King, who posted 6.6 points per game last season. The Bulldogs struggled on the road last season, going 4-10 away from Birmingham, and the team hopes that more veteran leadership will change their fate this season. Three newcomers will join the squad, including two in the frontcourt in Levi Barnes (6’10) and Drew Windler (6’9). Guard Greg Wooten rounds out the recruiting class for Samford.
  5. UNC-Greensboro – The Spartans return rising sophomore Kyle Randall, who was second on the team in points per game with 9.5. Also returning is fellow guard Brandon Evans, who averaged 8.5 points per game last season. The Spartans had a tough non-conference slate containing six ACC opponents, which contributed to a 2-11 record before conference play started. While overmatched in most of those contests, they hung around with Virginia Tech until late in the game Six of those losses came at home. Three newcomers join the team this season in Aaron Brackett, David Williams, and Aloysius Henry, who hopes to contribute right away.
  6. Elon – The Phoenix return their leading scorer in Drew Spradlin, who averaged 13.3 points per game last season as a sophomore. Also returning is starting guard Chris Long, who posted 9.9 points per game in his junior season. Sixth man Terrance Birdette returns as well, after scoring 6.8 points per game and seeing court time in all 32 games last season. There are five newcomers who join the Phoenix hoops squad in 2010. Incoming freshmen include Ryley Beaumont, Jack Isenbarger, Sebastian Koch, Lucas Troutman. Sophomore transfer Egheosa Edomwonyi from Rice will be a part of Elon’s quest for a Southern Conference championship. Isenbarger was a McDonalds All-American nominee and could be the prize in the recruiting class.

South Division

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