2008-09 Season Primers: #17 – MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2008

Ray Floriani from College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Northeast (NEC) and Metro Atlantic Athletic (MAAC) conferences.

Predited Order of Finish:

  1. Siena    (15-3,  20-8)
  2. Niagara   (14-4,  21-10)
  3. Fairfield   (13-5,  19-10)
  4. Rider    (12-6,  19-10)
  5. Loyola (MD)   (11-7,  16-13)
  6. Manhattan   (9-9,  16-13)
  7. Iona   (7-11,  11-17)
  8. Canisius   (6-12,  10-19)
  9. St. Peter’s   (5-13,  11-18)
  10. Marist    (4-14,  10-20)

WYN2K. The MAAC was formed in the 80s and tipped off the 1981-82 season.  Yours truly covered the first MAAC contest ever, an Iona romp over Army at the Gaels’ Mulcahy Center. The MAAC began with six charter members – Army, Fairfield, Fordham,  Iona, Manhattan  and  St.Peter’s. Four schools – Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan  and St.Peter’s – remain from that original group as change has altered the league over the years. The conference tournament previously alternated between Buffalo and Albany, but two years ago it was in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Last year Albany, NY, hosted it and will once again showcase it come this March.  Some brief notes…

  • Siena, the defending champion, returns a strong cast with three players who could be considered for player of the year honors: 6-3 senior guard Kenny Hasbrouck, 6-6  forward Edwin Ubilies and 6-5 forward Alex Franklin, both  juniors.
  • Niagara’s fine junior guard Tyrone Lewis was MVP of the MAAC tournament as a freshman. Niagara captured the title in 2006-07.
  • Niagara and Canisius (the ‘dreaded’ western New York swing) are a few miles apart, but six of the league members – Rider, St.Peter’s, Iona, Manhattan, Fairfield and Rider – are within a 120 mile radius, which makes for a not too distant road trip.  

Predicted Champion.  Siena (#13 NCAA).  The Saints captured last season’s MAAC tournament championship, then gave a great showing in the NCAAs, as Siena defeated Vanderbilt 83-62 (see below) before falling to Villanova in the second round. That momentum of March should carry over into this year as coach Fran McCaffery has virtually everyone back.  Siena, in theory, could make this a two bid league.  If the Saints earn 15 or 16 conference wins, have a respectable non-conference showing against a murderous slate and get knocked out of the MAAC tournament, they could go as an at-large based on last year’s strong NCAA showing. That idea, however, is not one the competitive McCaffery is looking at as a realistic option, nor is it likely to happen.

  

Others Considered.  Niagara and Fairfield are the prime candidates. The Purple Eagles return an outstanding guard in junior Tyrone Lewis. Big East transfers Bilal Benn (Villanova), a 6-5 guard and 6-2 guard Rob Garrison (UConn) will contribute to a strong cast. Fairfield has a defensive reputation anchored by 6-8 junior Anthony Johnson (7.3 RPG and 43 blocks). Senior lead guard Jonathan Han is vital on offense. Han averaged 11.7 ppg while handing out 6 assists per outing. Rider is a dark horse. The Broncs have a sharpshooter in senior guard Harris Mansell (13.7 ppg) and return another Thompson. Ryan Thompson, Jason’s brother, is a 6-6 junior forward who is a strong player (15 ppg) in his own right. 

Key Games/RPI Boosters.

  • Rider @ St.Joseph’s  (11/14/08)
  • Fairfield @ Memphis  (11/15/08)
  • Niagara @ Villanova (Hoop Group Classic – Philadelphia)  (11/19/08)
  • Siena v. Tennessee  (Old Spice Classic) (11/27/08)
  • Marist @ Memphis  (12/2/08)
  • Rider v. Rutgers (Trenton)  (12/3/08)
  • Niagara @ Loyola (MD)  (12/7/08)
  • Seton Hall v. St.Peter’s (Jersey City)  (12/13/08)
  • Siena @ Pitt  (12/17/08)
  • Iona @ Ohio State  (12/20/08)
  • Marist @ St. John’s  (Holiday Festival)  (12/20-21/08)
  • Fairfield @ UConn  (12/26/08)
  • Loyola (MD) @ Duke  (12/31/08)
  • Siena @ Kansas  (1/6/09)
  • Manhattan v. Iona (MSG)  (1/24/09)
  • Siena @ Niagara  (2/27/09)
  • Loyola (MD) @ Iona  (3/1/09)

Neat-o-Stats.  

  • Jimmy Patsos has been on the job four years at Loyola (MD) and he has the second LONGEST tenure in the conference. The ‘grey beard’ among the group is Joe Mihalich who has been at Niagara for a decade.  Mihalich has only had one season below .500 during his tenure.
  • Siena committed only 11.1 turnovers per game last season. Their turnover rating (TO divided by possessions) was 15.4 (anything under 20.0 is excellent).
  • Niagara has won at least a dozen MAAC contests in 8 of the past 10 seasons. 

65 Team Era.  MAAC schools have been a traditionally tough out and in several cases, got a win under their belt before a competitive second round exit. The conference is 6-25 (.194) over the era, but two of those wins are from the PiG (2002 and 2007).  But in four of the last seven NCAA Tournaments, the MAAC has won a game in the Big Dance.  Last year Siena thoroughly dominated #4 Vanderbilt in the first round, which should help the Saints cause several ways this winter.  Besides Siena, LaSalle (1990) and Manhattan (1995 and 2004) were the other conference schools to post a first round NCAA win.   

Final Thoughts.  

  • It was ironic that NBA scouts monitored the progress of Rider big man Jason Thompson last winter because the MAAC, for years, has been known as a guard oriented league. Thompson was the twelfth player to go in last June’s NBA draft. 
  • The MAAC runs a unique postseason tournament (others conferences do it but there aren’t many) in that  both the men and women play their tournaments at the same site. This gives the true hoop junkie a chance to see each school’s program showcased on the men’s and women’s side. It also makes for a real ‘good feeling’ atmosphere that reaffirms what college athletics is all about.  It’s not uncommon to see a men’s team take a break from preparations to sit in the stands and cheer the women’s team on and vice versa.
  • Under the watch of veteran Commissioner Rich Ensor, the MAAC has been a pleasant media experience and the same for its fan base.
  • Cold winter nights at Manhattan’s Draddy Gym are classic.  Where else can you sit press row with the ‘ubiquitous’ Ronnie (the ultra Jasper supporter) on one side and the school’s president, Brother Thomas Scanlon, on the other?   
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2008-09 Season Primers: #27 – America East

Posted by rtmsf on October 14th, 2008

Corey Johns is the RTC correspondent for the America East conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Boston U (13-3)
  2. Vermont (12-4)
  3. UMBC (12-4)
  4. Hartford (9-7)
  5. Binghamton (8-8)
  6. Albany (8-8)
  7. New Hampshire (5-11)
  8. Maine (2-14)
  9. Stony Brook (2-14)

What You Need to Know (WYN2K).  Last year nobody could predict what happened in this conference.  One of the pre-season favorites, Vermont, had a new star in Marquis Blakely but still couldn’t crack the top two in the league, while the other preseason favorite, Boston U., didn’t even finish in the top half of the league.  UMBC and Hartford shocked everybody by being the two top teams.  Both built their team in different ways: UMBC through transfers, Hartford through the tremendous improvement of returning players (along with a freshman and one transfer).  But this year don’t expect Vermont and Boston U. to disappoint – they should be ready to regain their spots on top of the conference.

Predicted Champion.  Boston U. (NCAA #15 Seed) This is truly a toss up between Boston U. and Vermont.  Both teams are similar – Vermont has one of the top forward/guard tandems in the conference in Marquis Blakely and Mike Trimboli, and BU has John Holland and Corey Lowe.  Last year BU’s Holland won the freshman of the year award and was a major reason for their turnaround at the end.  After a horrid 5-14 start to the season, the Terriers put it together and finished 9-3 to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.  BU returns every significant player from last year’s team, including second team all conference point guard Corey Lowe (Am East #2 scorer – 18.8 ppg).  But what truly sets Boston U. above Vermont is that head coach Dennis Wolff runs a very good defense on his team.  They gave up the least amount of points per game in the conference last year (64.8 ppg) and if the offense picks up they should win the title.

Others Considered.  Vermont has a lot of talent on their team and can certainly put together a run for another conference championship (three titles from 2003-05).  Marquis Blakely and Mike Trimboli are a great one-two punch but the Catamounts added another factor with Maurice Joseph, a transfer from Michigan State who averaged 6.2 ppg there as a freshman.  The only thing that might hurt them is they lose two starters including Kyle Cieplicki, the lone member on the team last year who was on the 2005 team that upset #4 seed Syracuse in the NCAA tournament.

The Rest of the Conference.  UMBC took major losses by graduating three all-conference players from last season, but they return and add plenty to remain competitive.  Jay Greene and Darryl Proctor were both first team all-conference players last year and possibly the best at their positions.  Greene was second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and was fourth in the nation with 7.2 assist per game.  One thing about Greene is he can be one of the best scorers in the conference if he chooses to shot the ball.  He only averaged 8.8 ppg but when he needed to score had games of 26, 21, and 17. Hartford is another team that still has enough to make an impact with four starters back, led by Joe Zeglinski and Jaret Von Rosenberg. The big issue that could keep the Hawks out of the conference championship game is their lack of rebounding.  Last season they were last in the conference in that category and lost their best rebounder and major inside presence.  If they can develop another big body to take control of the paint then they may still have hope.  Binghamton and Albany will be relying on the development of transfers, combining for eight between the two teams.  Transfers did wonders for UMBC last season but it is always a gamble in terms of team chemistry.  Both teams lost three of their top players but if the transfers can have an impact right away then both teams can be dangerous.  New Hampshire has been one of the bottom dwellers for a while but can move up if Dane DiLiegro steps up at center and inproves the team’s rebounding.  With a lack of quality big men they might end up starting four guards including Tyrece Gibbs, who is one of the premier scorers in the conference, and Alvin Abreu, who was the top freshman guard a year ago. As for Maine and Stony Brook they will likely finish in the bottom two spots again.

Games to Watch.  As a one-bid league, only one game will matter to most people.

  • America East Championship Game (03.14.09) ESPN2.

RPI Boosters.  The America East in one of the conferences where if you don’t win it, you don’t get in the NCAA Tournament.  Two years ago Vermont went 15-1 in conference play but lost in the conference finals and took a nice consolation trip to the NIT.  With the win-or-go-home aspect of the conference the teams also know they have to do everything they can in OOC games to get higher than a #15 or #16 seed, which is tough to do.  UMBC won 24 games last year, beating American and almost beating Ohio State but still ended up with a 15th seed.  This year four of the top Am East schools all scheduled games against big-time opponents where an upset wouldn’t be out of the question and they all could have a major bearing on where the winner of the conference is seeded.

  • Albany @ DePaul (11.17.08)
  • Hartford @ Penn State (11.20.08)
  • Vermont @ Maryland (11.21.08)
  • Boston U. @ Notre Dame (12.13.08)
  • UMBC @ Nebraska (12.13.08)
  • Hartford @ Baylor (12.22.08)
  • Boston U. @ Cornell (12.29.08)

Impact Transfers. The America East might soon get the nickname “The Conference of Transfers.”  Between the nine teams in the conference there are 17 eligible transfers either cleared from sitting their transfer year or coming from junior college.  Last year transfers did wonders for UMBC and other teams hope for the same this year.  This year the transfer list is headlined by Vermont’s Maurice Joseph, a transfer from Michigan State who averaged 5.9 ppg in 16.8 minutes per game as a sophomore (get a look at Joseph in HS below).  Other key guys include Binghamton’s quartet of transfers, Tiki Mayben, Malik Alvin, Sean Watson, and Theo Davis (eligible in the second semester), Albany’s Louis Barraza (20.1ppg at the JuCo level), and UMBC’s 6’7” Ricky Flemming, a transfer from Fairfield.

Neat-o-Stat.  Since 1980 when the conference started, the champion has repeated 44% of the time while the regular season champion has won the conference championship 75% of the time.  The lowest seed to ever win the conference tournament was a #3 seed which happened once in 1993 when Delaware beat the #1 seed Drexel (67-64).

65-Team Era. The America East is 3-23 (.115) since the field moved up to 65, with three first-round victories from 1989 (#14 Siena over #3 Stanford), 1996 (#12 Drexel over #5 Memphis), and 2005 (#13 Vermont over #4 Syracuse). But the America East is surprisingly the only mid-major conference in the northeast that has never been apart of the play-in game. 

Final Thought. Usually two or three teams have a chokehold on the top of the conference, but this year the conference remains top heavy but it is still anybody’s league.  Vermont and Boston U. are projected to be the top teams this year but Hartford, UMBC, Albany, and Binghamton all can make some noise and should make the year very interesting.

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #28 – Ohio Valley

Posted by rtmsf on October 12th, 2008

Ron Harris is the RTC correspondent for the Ohio Valley Conference.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Murray State  (16-2)
  2. Austin Peay   (13-5)
  3. Tennessee-Martin  (12-6)
  4. Morehead State  (11-5)
  5. Tennessee Tech  (8-8)
  6. Tennessee State  (6-10)
  7. Eastern Kentucky  (6-10)
  8. Eastern Illinois  (5-11)
  9. Southeast Missouri State  (3-13)
  10. Jacksonville State  (1-15)

What You Need to Know (WYN2K):  Murray State and Austin Peay are the traditional powers in the OVC, winning six of the last nine championships. In the 90s MSU won the title nine times. This year the league’s marquee player will be Tennessee-Martin’s Lester Hudson, who dropped 35/10 on national runner-up Memphis last year and became the first D1 player ever to record a quadruple-double (25/12/10 assts/10 stls). Hudson initially declared himself eligible for the draft but pulled his name from consideration when it became obvious he would not be selected in the first round (see video below).

Predicted ChampionMurray State (#15 NCAA) returns four starters from last year’s team and adds combo guard Isacc Miles to the mix. Miles played as a freshman at Creighton two years ago and was named to the Missouri Valley Conference all-freshman team. The Racers also added the Florida 4A-5A-6A Player of the Year in 6’7 Ivan Aska. While MSU might not be as strong as they were in the late 90s, head coach Billy Kennedy is starting to get the kind of players that made the Racers the class of the league back then.

Others Considered.  You can never overlook Austin Peay. Head coach Dave Loos always has them ready to play and they have a former OVC Player of the Year in Drake Reed. On the other hand they lost three starters in Todd Babbington, Fernandez Lockett and Derek Wright.  Tennessee-Martin has the league’s best player in Hudson but last year was their first winning season (17-16) in what seems like a century. Marquis Weddle knocks down 3s when opponents double-team Hudson and the Skyhawks have a couple of big bruisers inside who sat out last season. But even head coach Brett Campbell says they lack offensive skills.  Morehead State is solid inside with Leon Buchanan and Kenneth Faried. But they lose point guard Nikoila Stojakovic who finished fifth in the nation in assists last year. Head coach Donnie Tyndal says they will replace him with a point guard by committee scheme. But the lead candidate for the job seems to be JUCO transfer Robert Murry who is a shoot-first lead guard.  The bottom line is: Murray State has the fewest question marks.

Important Games / Key Games / RPI-Booster Games.  The OVC has not had many marquee wins against non-conference opponents in recent years although Tennessee St. did win at Illinois last season. The best chance for a marquee win this year comes on December 13 when Murray State visits Missouri. The first league games are on December 4 and 6 when Murray State plays at Eastern Kentucky and Morehead. If they can sweep those two games it will validate their status as the favorite.

Neat-O Stat.  Did you know that former Murray State alum Joe Fulks was named the best player of the first 50 years of the 20th century and was called The Babe Ruth of Basketball? Fulks is credited by some with inventing the jump shot.

65 Team Era.  The era hasn’t been good to the OVC, as it currently stands at 19 first-round losses in a row.  But the league isn’t stuck in #16-seed land (only twice in the last 24 years) so the opportunities have been there.  The most recent upset attempts were in 2006 (#14 Murray St. pushed #3 UNC to the wire, losing 69-65) and 2005 (#15 Eastern Kentucky took in-state rival #2 Kentucky deep before succumbing 72-64). 

Final Thoughts.  If Murray State stumbles you have to like Austin Peay’s chances to win the championship. They have one of the league’s best coaches in Loos and they have tradition on their side. The Racers are the last current OVC team to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, having beaten North Carolina State in the first round in 1988. Look to their game against Missouri and their games in the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico against South Florida, Oral Roberts and Wright State as barometers of their ability to repeat that feat this year.

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Preseason Tourney Brackets

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2008

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive listing of the preseason tournaments, rather just the best ones, but if you feel like we omitted something relevant, link to it in the comments.  And against our better judgment, we’re putting those ridiculous CBE and Legends Classic “brackets” into the post as well.  Losers. 

The 2kSports Coaches v. Cancer tips off the season with games beginning on Nov. 10.  Duke, S. Illinois, UCLA and Michigan are expected to make it to the semis at MSG, but don’t sleep on UMass or Northeastern as spoilers.   

The Maui Invitational, on the Mon-Wed of Thanksgiving week, as usual, shouldn’t disappoint.  There are at least five NCAA teams here, and UNC-Notre Dame in the finals could be seen again in late March or early April. 

Another Thanksgiving week classic, the Preseason NIT, with the semis on the Wednesday prior to the holiday and the finals on Friday night, is a little weaker than normal.  But any chance to see Stephen Curry on the big stage at MSG is worth watching, so let’s all root for Davidson to pull off the second-round upset over Oklahoma.  A number of teams could win this tourney, but we guess Purdue is most likely?  Arizona?  Cornell?

The Old Spice Classic is a newer tournament also airing during Thanksgiving weekend, but what a great lineup!  There are literally no bad teams here – all eight could be playing in March Madness 2009, and it would be a huge disappointment if any fewer than six do.  We like Siena to pull the upsets to play Gonzaga in the finals there, with mid-major glory all around. 

The Anaheim Classic is another ESPN property airing during Thanksgiving weekend – the lineup is solid, although not as strong as the Old Spice.  We like the young Deacs to play run-n-gun Baylor in the finals. 

Sigh…  here is the “Championship Round” bracket for the Legends Classic.  Remember, each of these teams has already been slotted into these spots no matter what happens in the previous two rounds of this ‘tournament.’  So… disgustingly… weak.  Pitt should roll here no matter what happens in the other game. 

Along the same lines, the CBE Classic is so lame that they won’t even give us a bracket to put up for you.  The matchups aren’t bad, but we’re still bitter (see Legends Classic).  We like Florida and Kansas to play in the final, with UF taking the title. 

—CHAMPIONSHIP ROUNDS—


Semifinal Doubleheader
(November 24 – 7:30 ET)
Syracuse vs. Florida- ESPN2
Kansas vs Washington- ESPN2
Championship Doubleheader
(November 25 – 7:45 ET)
Consolation Game- ESPNU
Championship Game- ESPN2

Any others?  We’ll revisit these when they actually start, but we wanted to get them all in one post as part of the preview. 

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #29 – Atlantic Sun

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2008

Andrew Baker is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun and Southern conferences.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Belmont Bruins  (23-6) (17-3)
  2. ETSU Buccaneers  (20-10) (15-5)
  3. Jacksonville Dolphins  (18-11) (14-6)
  4. Stetson Hatters  (16-13) (12-8)
  5. Lipscomb Bisons  (15-14) (11-9)
  6. Mercer Bears  (14-17) (9-11)
  7. Kennesaw State Fighting Owls  (13-16) (7-13)
  8. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles  (11-20) (6-14)
  9. Campbell Fighting Camels  (10-18) (6-14)
  10. USC-Upstate Spartans  (9-21) (5-15)
  11. UNF Ospreys  (4-25) (1-19)

What You Need to Know (WYN2K).

Non-Conference.  I know how far of a stretch this may seem, but all signs point to an improving Atlantic Sun Conference.  Some of you will ask, ‘How can a conference that has been mired in the bottom three of the conference RPI be improving?’  Well it can’t get much worse than 29th in the conference RPI ratings, but there is proof of improvement just over the last two seasons.  During the 2006-07 campaign the conference went 1-38 against the power conferences (including Mountain West and CUSA).  During 2007-08 the conference went 8-41 with three wins coming over SEC teams (Gardner-Webb over Kentucky, Belmont over Alabama, and ETSU over Georgia).  Look for the Atlantic Sun’s top five to play tougher against the power conference teams as all those teams are returning a great deal of talent and scoring.  The conference also improved upon their overall non-conference record at 46-108 (.299) last year, with 17 more OOC wins than the previous year (excluding non-D-I games).  Look for the Atlantic Sun to pull a few more upsets this fall.     

Conference.  There are two teams in the Atlantic Sun who are thinking about the three time defending champion Belmont Bruins with an incredible amount of rage.  The East Tennessee Bucs and Jacksonville Dolphins are both coming into this season with huge chips on their shoulders after losing to Belmont in last season’s Atlantic Sun Championship semifinals and finals respectively.  ETSU hates to be reminded of the circumstances, but for those that don’t know it’s worth watching the below video to see why they can’t wait for their games with Belmont.  Jacksonville was never competitive in the final and got completely dismantled by Belmont’s signature three-point attack.  Only seven teams are eligible for the A-Sun tournament this year out of the eleven in the conference, so expect a dogfight at the top to secure that first round bye into the semifinals.

 

Champion.  Belmont Bruins (#15 NCAA) – Many will think this pick is made because the Bruins are the three time champions.  This is partially correct.  The real reason is that the Bruins are 30-2 against conference opposition in February and March over the last three years including the conference tournament.  They simply find ways to win late in the season.  While Jacksonville and ETSU may have more talented squads, the Bruins make up the difference with superb coaching.  Belmont has the longest tenured coaching staff in the conference.  Rick Byrd has brought his program along from NAIA in 1996 and found a successful formula for winning in this league that has helped them become the first back to back to back champions the A-Sun has ever seen.  It also helps that the Bruins will return four starters (Dansby, Wicke, Renfroe, and Dotson) that have 42.1 PPG between them.  Wicke and Dotson have not had a season where they haven’t come out as A-Sun Champions.  However, it won’t be easy, as ETSU and Jacksonville won’t be far behind the defending champs. 

Others Considered.  With the departure of Gardner-Webb, the Atlantic Sun will be one big happy family again without the north and south divisions.  What does this mean?  Well it means teams like Jacksonville and Stetson will have to play more games against Belmont, Lispcomb, and East Tennessee, which for these teams usually ends in an L.  This is not to say that Jacksonville won’t be good.  They will be excellent, but they will have to play six games against these teams whereas they only played four against them last year, including the A-Sun Final against Belmont.  Jacksonville did not come up with a single W against those three squads.  Stetson didn’t fare much better, going 1-2 and losing to Garnder-Webb (North) in the A-Sun Quarters.  Both teams will have to expect to run at least 4-2 against these teams to even have a shot at the title.  Of the two, Jacksonville has the better shot.  The Dolphins return fours starters and most of their production.  If Stetson is to win then they will do it with defense.  Stetson ranked first in the conference last season limiting conference opponents to only 67.4 PPG and only 27.8% from beyond the arc.   

What can you say about East Tennessee State?  They had the semifinal game in their grasp to move on to the finals, but one technical and a subsequent missed front end of a 1 & 1 doomed their season (see video above).  Does ETSU have the talent?  Of course they do.  Kevin Tiggs (14.6 ppg & 5.6 rpg) and Courtney Pigram (15.8 ppg & 3.2 rpg) are two of the best players in the conference.  ETSU’s supporting cast will be bolstered by the arrival of 6’11” Seth Coy and 6’6” PG Adam Sollazzo, whom ETSU considers one of their finest prospects ever.  The presence of a big man should add some depth to the ETSU attack and make them a dangerous team come conference time.  The Bucs offense is a potent one, but where they struggled was in assists/turnovers (.802 A/TO Ratio).  Turning the ball over 20% of the time is just not going to cut it for any team that has aspirations of a trip to the Dance.  Can the Bucs break their duck against Belmont?  Maybe, but Coach Murray Bartow is going to have to find a way to get a W against the Bruins to get back to the promised land.

Important Games/Games to Watch:  Make sure you jot down any game between that involves Belmont and the following teams: ETSU, Jacksonville, and Lipscomb.  Belmont has an intense rivalry with Lipscomb being as that they are only two miles away on Belmont Boulevard and have always fought for attention in the saturated sports world of Nashville.  The Battle of the Boulevard has gone into overtime five times since Lipscomb’s move into the Atlantic Sun in 2003-04 including the 2005-06 Atlantic Sun Championship Game.  The ETSU v.  Jacksonville games should be great as well.  The most important game of the year of course is the A-Sun Tournament Championship Game in March as only one team in the Atlantic Sun is going to get to Dance.

  • Atlantic Sun Championship Game  (03/07/09)

RPI Boosters.  The Atlantic Sun will be looking to improve on the eight wins they had over power conference opponents last year.  ETSU is also going to be involved in the Charleston Classic which should add some quality competition, so keep an eye out on their schedule as well.  Here are some dates to keep in mind for the top five:

  • Stetson @ Texas   (11/14/08)
  • Jacksonville @ Florida State  (11/15/08)
  • Jacksonville @ Georgetown  (11/17/08)
  • Stetson @ Florida State  (11/20/08)
  • Jacksonville @ Baylor  (11/24/08)
  • Belmont @ Pittsburgh (11/25/08)
  • Jacksonville @ Georgia Tech  (11/28/08)
  • Belmont @ Tennessee (12/20/08)
  • Stetson @ Miami (FL)  (11/29/08)
  • Jacksonville @ Ohio State  (12/17/08)
  • Lipscomb @ NC State (12/20/08)
  • Stetson @ Missouri   (12/20/08)
  • Lipscomb @ Indiana  (12/28/08)
  • Stetson @ Florida   (12/30/08)

Neat-O Stats.

The Curse of Two.  The Atlantic Sun has sent two teams to the dance only once.  In 1993-94, the College of Charleston and Central Florida broke through as 12 and 16 seeds respectively.  They both lost in the first round.  The only teams that were in the league when that happened were the Mercer Bears and the Stetson Hatters.  Both the Bears and the Hatters have seen only two winning seasons since.

University of Northern Fail.  The UNF Ospreys have had a tough life since joining Division I.  The Ospreys have only scrounged five Atlantic Sun wins in their first three seasons.  New members Florida Gulf Coast and USC-Upstate both equaled and in FGCU’s case surpassed them with six wins in their maiden seasons.  Coach Matt Kilcullen will most likely be feeling the heat this season if they don’t start seeing better results.

65-Team Era.  The A-Sun is 3-24 during the modern era, and despite Belmont’s ridiculously close 71-70 loss to Duke last year, they have simply not been able to get over the hump in the NCAA Tournament during their otherwise impressive run. 

    

Final Thoughts.  The Atlantic Sun should be more fun to watch than it has been in recent years.  Expect games between the top five schools to be knock-down, drag-outs.  A massive amount of talent returns for these schools and it should be fascinating to watch.  Don’t expect to see two bids out of this league unless someone wins a majority of their power OOC games and sweeps through the conference schedule only to lose in the final.  Is the Atlantic Sun Conference one on the rise?  Only if the Atlantic Sun can muster more OOC wins and their champion can again come close or win a NCAA Tournament game when March rolls around. 

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #30 – MEAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 7th, 2008

JC of HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the SWAC and MEAC conferences. 

Predicted order of finish:

  1. Morgan State University  (22-11) (14-2)   
  2. Hampton University  (18-12) (11-5)   
  3. Norfolk State University  (16-15) (11-5)  
  4. Delaware State University  (14-16) (10-6) 
  5. N.C. A&T State University  (15-16) (9-7)   
  6. Florida A&M University  (15-17) (9-7)   
  7. Coppin State University  (16-21) (7-9)   
  8. South Carolina State University   (13-20) (7-9)     
  9. Bethune-Cookman University  (11-21) (5-11)  
  10. Howard University  (6-26) (3-13)  
  11. Maryland – Eastern Shore  (4-28) (2-14) 

MEAC Logo

What You Need to Know (WYN2K). The MEAC is not a conference you want to sleep on this year. Two teams from the conference earned automatic bids to postseason play last year, with the conference champion Coppin State Eagles making it to the play-in game of the Big Dance, and regular-season MEAC champion Morgan State appearing in the NIT. With a loaded stock of Division I transfers across the board, in-conference parity and out-of-conference guaranteed games against power-conference opponents, the MEAC will be among the toughest mid-major conferences in the country this season.

Predicted Champion. Morgan State (#16 Seed NCAA).  While the MEAC is usually relegated to play-in purgatory (four of the last five years), the Morgan State Bears could reverse the 16-seed blues this season. In several mid-major polls last season, the Bears were ranked in the Top 25 as a result of strong showings against the Big East (4-pt loss at UConn) and ACC (4-pt loss at Miami). Todd Bozeman is the reigning MEAC Coach of the Year, and returns two key starters in All-MEAC forward Marquise Kately and sharpshooting guard Reggie Holmes.

Others Considered. Norfolk State could surprise many in the conference this season. An early season road victory against the Richmond Spiders last year served notice of their depth and offensive talent, and they have several seniors returning. Despite the transfer of forward Matt Pilgrim, Hampton is also a team to watch because of forward Theo Smalling, who will likely be among the conference leaders in rebounding and minutes played this season.

Games to Watch. The MEAC doesn’t have many games with national intrigue, but in conference, these contests will be a litmus test for post-season mettle.

  • Morgan State vs. Coppin State (12.6.08) – In the first game since the Eagles defeated the Bears to capture the conference championship and advance to the NCAA Tournament, the intensity of this Charm City rivalry will heighten one of Baltimore’s signature athletic contests.
  • Hampton vs. Virginia Commonwealth (12.27.08) - Could be a bracket-busting test for an NCAA tournament-tested program in VCU. A win for the Pirates contributes to state bragging rights and boosts recruiting efforts at home.

RPI Booster Games. Several MEAC teams are participating in tournaments and classics, which present the best opportunities for upset wins.

  • Hampton @ Virginia (12.23.08)
  • Morgan State @ Utah (Glen Wilkes Classic) (11.22.08)
  • NC A&T @ Akron (12.13.08)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Nah.

Neat-o Stat. Of the top ten individual scoring leaders in the MEAC last year, only Howard’s Eugene Myatt will be playing this season. Morgan’s Jamar Smith, Coppin State’s Tywain McKee, Bethune-Cookman’s Dewayne Pettus, and Delaware State’s Roy Bright were all seniors, while UMES’ Ed Tyson is academically ineligible for his senior season.

65-Team Era. The MEAC is responsible for two of the only four #15 over #2 seed wins in history,  #15 Hampton over #2 Iowa St. in 2002, and #15 Coppin St. over #2 South Carolina in 1997.  The only other win of the era was in 2004 in the PiG over Lehigh. 

Final Thought. At least the MEAC isn’t the SWAC, right?

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2008-09 Conference Primers: #31 – SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 6th, 2008

JC of HBCUSportsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the SWAC and MEAC conferences. 

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Alabama State  (20-11) (15-3)   
  2. Jackson State  (14-20) (10-8)   
  3. Miss. Valley State  (17-16) (12-6)   
  4. Southern  (11-19) (9-9)   
  5. Alabama A&M  (14-15) (11-7)  
  6. Arkansas-Pine Bluff  (13-18) (8-10)  
  7. Grambling State  (7-19) (7-11)  
  8. Prairie View A&M  (8-22) (6-12)
  9. Texas Southern  (7-25) (6-12)  
  10. Alcorn State  (7-24) (6-12)   

What You Need to Know (WYN2K). The SWAC Conference has long been the laughingstock of Division I basketball. They are the perennial #16 seed in the national tournament (nine straight years), and are generally viewed as a warm-up for the number one team in the nation in their quest for the Final Four.  Last year the league champion, Mississippi Valley St., set a record for worst FG% (19.7%) in an NCAA Tournament game en route to 29 total points against UCLA.   The SWAC is a casualty of out-of-conference guaranteed games, limited resources and a sports audience that knows it by its alias, “Who is North Carolina playing in the first game?”

Predicted Champion. Alabama State University (#16 Seed NCAA). The Hornets finished with the SWAC’s regular-season championship, a closer-than-expected loss in the opening round of the N.I.T., and a whole lotta media coverage for their center, Chief Kickingstallionsims.

Others Considered.  Jackson State University returns two of the conference’s top-ten leading scorers in Grant Maxey and Darrion Griffin, and  Southern University was the SWACs best three-point shooting team and among its best defensive units.

Games to Watch. No reason to pretend that SWAC regular season games have national interest, but here’s a few contests that basketball purists will enjoy.

  • Jackson State vs. Alabama State (01.3.09). It’s the rematch from the 2008 SWAC tournament, with Alabama State hosting the Tigers who upset them in the semi-final.
  • Southern vs. Mississippi Valley State (02.16.09). If the Jaguars continue their hot-shooting ways from the 07-08 season, this game could have tournament seeding implications for the favored Delta Devils.

RPI Booster Games. Arizona State had a close call in the 2008 N.I.T. against Alabama State, and while it won’t be close at home against the Delta Devils, you can’t blame a guy for trying.

  • Mississippi Valley State @ Arizona State (11.14.08)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Not gonna happen. No need to pretend.

Neat-o Stat.  Joel Bosh, a standout forward for the Alabama State Hornets last season, was invited to participate with the Toronto Raptors summer league team. If the name sounds familiar, it should be; he is the brother of NBA all-star and gold medal Olympian Chris Bosh.

65-Team Era.  The SWAC is 4-28 all-time in the NCAA Tourney, and the last time a SWAC team won a game was in 1993, when Southern University defeated Georgia Tech.

Final Thought. The way to be a fan of SWAC basketball is not to look solely at wins and losses, but to look at the historical place of the conference and how hard they are working to get better. Or, you could just not watch at all.

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2008-09 Season Preview

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2008

Yes, it’s that time again.  We at Rush the Court are 100% focused and ready to provide comprehensive coverage of every scrap of interesting news that occurs in college basketball this year.   The quips, the clips, the stats, and of course the commentary and analysis that so many of you come to this site for. 

We’re once again kicking off the five-month sprint from the November 10th opening tipoff  to the April 6th finish line in D-town with our Season Preview materials.  Will anyone be able to challenge the ridiculously loaded North Carolina Tar Heels for the crown?  Find out over the next several weeks as we roll out the following features beginning this weekend. 

1. Conference Primers – we have 31 correspondents lined up who are experts in each of the D1 conferences in NCAA basketball; they’ll be providing comprehensive primers on the names and games to watch for this season from the America East to the West Coast Conference.  Transitioning into the regular season, these correspondents will keep us up to date with their respective conferences as we roll on to March Madness 2009.

2. Feature Columnists – we also have several feature columnists lined up to write for us this year; one columnist will focus exclusively on Vegas odds in college basketball; another will provide quality pieces on timely issues facing the game at-large; and still another will provide an alternative voice to the one you’re already reading here every day.

3. Preseason Magazine Reviews – we did this last year, and will be doing this again this season with a few changes, including some additional analysis into the predictive acumen of these magazines.

4. Blogpoll - once again, we’ll be contributing to the preseason blogpoll and its various iterations as we progress through the season.

5.  Projected Bracket – we’re not satisfied with simply letting the correspondents have all the fun with preseason predictions; we too will be updating a projected bracket as we get closer to opening tipoff.

5. 30 Reasons – just for fun, we’re going to provide a new YouTube feature to get everyone riled up and excited for the new season: Where 2008-09 Happens – 30 Reasons We Love College Basketball.

7. Anything Else – we’ll continue with our usual fare of linkage and thought-provoking (gulp…) commentary where appropriate. If anyone has an idea of something else they’d like to see, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

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