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 (

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. (

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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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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