Checking In On… the Atlantic Sun Conference

Posted by EMoyer on February 18th, 2012

Eric Moyer is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference and Southern Conference and a contributor to the RTC SEC Microsite. You can find him on Twitter @EricDMoyer.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

  • Tickets Punched: The conference’s two newest programs, USC Upstate and FGCU, secured the first General Shale Brick A-Sun Championships berths recently. Eight of the 10 schools will earn spots for the event, set to begin on Wednesday, February 29. For the third straight year, Mercer will serve as host.
  • High Scoring Defeats: Stetson’s grasp on the eighth and final qualifying position became more tenuous as the Hatters dropped a pair of high-scoring affairs to Lipscomb (99-91) and Belmont (106-93). The Hatters have lost six games this season when scoring at least 80 points. Only one other school in the country has suffered even five such defeats (VMI).

The Talented Torrey Craig Of USC Upstate Was More Than Deserving Of The RTC Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Honor

End-of-Year Awards

Since this edition is the last “Checking In On” for the A-Sun before the end of the season, no time seemed more appropriate than now to dole out some hardware (hardware not included).

  • Coach of the Year: Bob Hoffman, Mercer – In the preseason, Belmont dominated the top of the polls, garnering a combined 36 of the 39 first-place votes between the coaches and media. Hoffman’s Bears reached 20 wins for just the seventh time in 106 years and did it without the star power of someone like past standouts such as James Florence, Danny Emerson or Brian Mills. Six players average between 8.1 and 11.0 points per game this season.
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Isiah Brown, ETSU – Brown moved into the top 10 in A-Sun history in blocks and top 20 in rebounds. He also surpassed the 100-steal mark for his career.
  • Game of the Year: While Mercer scored the only win against a BCS school (at Georgia Tech) and ETSU’s Jarvis Jones buried a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer at Charlotte, the winner goes to USC Upstate taking down Belmont for the first time in program history. The Spartans rallied from 16 points down in the first half and only took the lead on a game-winning bucket by Torrey Craig with two seconds left. That win started a three-game win streak for USC Upstate against Belmont, Lipscomb and ETSU, a streak not seen in the league in six years.
  • Freshman of the Year: Brett Comer, FGCU – After teaming with Austin Rivers in high school, Comer fit right in at FGCU by averaging 9.1 points and a league-leading 5.5 assists. He is on pace to be one the few freshmen in the country to record both 100 rebounds and 100 assists.
  • All-Conference Team: Torrey Craig, USC Upstate (17.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.3 SPG); Jake Gollon, Mercer (10.6 PPG, 5.7 APG, 83.3 FG Pct) Kerron Johnson, Belmont (13.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, 52.5 FG Pct); Adam Pegg, Stetson (14.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 50.4 FG Pct); Adam Sollazzo, ETSU (15.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.5 APG)
  • Player of the Year – Torrey Craig, USC Upstate. Craig reaps the benefits of the balance attacks featured at Mercer and Belmont to earn the league’s top individual honor. Of course pacing the league in scoring and ranking second in rebounding didn’t hurt his candidacy.

Bob Hoffman (coach), Isiah Brown (defensive), and Brett Comer (freshman) also earned RTC honors for their impressive regular season campaigns

Power Rankings

  1. Mercer (20-7, Previous Ranking: 2): The Bears won the highly-anticipated showdown with USC Upstate on Feb. 4, then survived a tight road contest an in-state rival Kennesaw State to reach 20 victories for the seventh time in school history and for the first time since 2002-03. The regular-season title, top seed in the A-Sun Championship and the league’s automatic NIT bid could be at stake when the Bears welcome Belmont in the regular-season finale.
  2. Belmont (20-7, Previous Ranking: 3): In improving to 12-2 in A-Sun play, the Bruins extended their streak of seasons with at least 12 league victories to nine-in-a-row. No other school can boast such an active streak, however, Kansas needs to win just one of its final five Big 12 contests to join the Bruins at eight.
  3. USC Upstate (17-10, Previous Ranking: 1): The Feb. 4 loss to Mercer likely ended the Spartans’ dreams of an A-Sun regular-season crown. However, they are in a strong position to post the biggest turnaround in the nation. The Spartans have 12 more victories than a season ago, matching Manhattan for the biggest win improvement from 2010-11.
  4. FGCU (13-13, Previous Ranking: 4): The Eagles held steady in the #4 position thanks to scoring their largest victory against a league foe not named USC Upstate, a 21-point win against Lipscomb on Monday.
  5. ETSU (13-12, Previous Ranking: 6): The Bucs’ offensive woes in losses reared their ugly heads again in recent losses at Mercer an at home against Jacksonville. In the two losses, the Bucs shot only 31.8 percent from floor (22.2 percent from 3-point arc). ETSU needs only one win or a Jacksonville loss to clinch its spot in the A-Sun Championship.
  6. North Florida (13-15, Previous Ranking: 7): After winning four of five to return to the .500 level, the offensive fire power left the Ospreys on their road trip to ETSU and USC Upstate. They were outscored by 20.0 points per game. The sputter came after shooting nearly 56 percent in wins against Stetson and FGCU. Like the Bucs, the Ospreys need only a win or a Dolphin loss to return to the A-Sun Championship.

    Lipscomb Released Jordan Burgason Due To A Violation Of Team Rules (AP)

  7. Lipscomb (12-14, Previous Ranking: 5): The Bisons suffered a major setback last week when the school kicked out Player of the Year contender and the nation’s top 3-point shooter, Jordan Burgason, citing a violation of team rules. In the team’s first game without him, the Bisons came within one point of matching the all-time NCAA Division I record for points in an overtime session when they scored 24 in besting Stetson on Saturday.
  8. Jacksonville (6-20, Previous Ranking: 9): One considered dead in the water, the Dolphins have re-entered the picture for making an sixth straight appearance in the A-Sun Championship. They have closed to within one game of Stetson by scoring big recent victories against the Hatters and at ETSU. The Dolphins close with three home games and could use their recent stingy defense (60.8 PPG) to claim that eighth spot.
  9. Stetson (8-18, Previous Ranking: 8): Despite increasing their scoring in league games by more than 10 points per game on last season, the Hatters, once a sure bet to return to the A-Sun Championship now hold only a one-game lead on Jacksonville and face road games at FGCU, USC Upstate and ETSU to close out the regular season. As an add on to the Hatters’ bad luck when scoring at least 80 points, the rest of the country is 1407-197 when scoring at least 80 points (87.7 win percentage); the Hatters are 0-6.
  10. Kennesaw State (3-24, Previous Ranking: 10): The Owls’ modest streak of qualifying for the A-Sun Championship in consecutive years officially ended as the Owls fell to 0-14 in league play. No A-Sun school has gone winless in league games since Campbell in 2004-05.

Looking Ahead

Here are a couple of games in the coming days for fans to keep an eye out for:

  • Monday, February 20: USC Upstate at Belmont: The only A-Sun school to beat Belmont besides Lipscomb since the start of last season came on Jan. 21 at USC Upstate. The Spartans rallied from 16 down at the half to score their first-ever victory against the perennial heavyweight. Torrey Craig hit the game-winning shot with two seconds left, part of a 22-point effort. The Spartans will attempt to become just the fifth team to sweep the Bruins in the last seven years.

    Justin Cecil and Mercer Have A Huge Game Looming Against Belmont (mercer athletics)

  • Friday, February 24: North Florida at Jacksonville: With Belmont leaving for the OVC next season, the “SunTrust River City Rumble” becomes the conference’s lone crosstown rival. The Dolphins have controlled the series until very recently. Beginning at last year’s A-Sun Championship where the Ospreys broke an 11-game losing streak to the Dolphins, UNF has won the last two meetings. Jacksonville will need to keep winning to pass Stetson for the eighth spot in the upcoming A-Sun Championship.
  • Saturday, February 25: Belmont at Mercer: This game could loom monumental of both teams postseason aspirations. With two weeks to play, the Bears and Bruins own identical 12-2 marks in league play with Belmont owning the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to a 82-78 home victory on Dec. 3. Despite all the advantages that come to the top seeds, the loser can take solace in the fact that the top seed has won only two of the last 10 A-Sun Tournament titles.
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Checking In On… the Atlantic Sun Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 18th, 2011

Will Rothschild is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun and the Southern Conferences. Y­­ou can also find his musings online at www.hoopsismymethadone.com or on Twitter @warothschild.

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was

  • KSU Suspends Cummings: In a move that sent shock waves through the league, rookie head coach Lewis Preston announced Tuesday that he had indefinitely suspended Markeith Cummings for “conduct detrimental to the team.” The 6’7” Cummings led the A-Sun in scoring last season and was named the league’s preseason POY. Preston would not provide specific details in our interview with him the day after the announcement, but suspending Cummings is a clear sign that Preston has a long-term vision for building his program that he will not allow to be held hostage by any player – no matter how talented. For more on this, check out our Q&A with Preston at the end of this post.
  • Respectable Showings, But No Signature Wins: While a number of teams acquitted themselves well in matchups with teams from higher-RPI conferences over the season’s first week, a headline-grabbing upset eluded the A-Sun. Obviously, the closest was Belmont’s 77-76 loss to No. 6 Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Bruins nearly overcame a 16-point second-half deficit, but Andre Dawkins’ cold-blooded three-pointer with 16 seconds remaining sealed it. On the same night, Florida Gulf Coast and first-year coach Andy Enfield dropped a one-point decision at TCU, East Tennessee State led for much of the first half before cold shooting (29 percent) doomed them in an 11-point loss at Virginia Tech, and Jacksonville overcame a big early deficit to get back in the game and play Florida State to a standstill over the final 30 minutes in a 12-point defeat.

Belmont Acquitted Itself Well But Couldn't Pull Off the Upset (Belmont Sports)

  • Stetson’s Newcomers Make Statement: When Casey Alexander was hired last spring at Stetson, league observers predicted the longtime Belmont assistant would quickly energize the long-floundering program. So far, so good: Alexander got the Hatters off to a 2-0 start with solid wins over Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M. (The “That-Can’t-Be-Right” nugget of the week: The 2-0 start was the first for Stetson since 19-friggin’-52. Right after Dwight Eisenhower was elected president. Seriously.) Stetson is benefitting from more than just a new face on the bench. Adam Pegg, a 6’9” transfer from Delaware, was named A-Sun Newcomer of the Week after averaging 14.5 points in the two victories.

Quote of the Week: “When your team can come into Cameron Indoor Stadium and make that kind of a comeback… and almost win the game, then as I just told (the players), we’re no worse a team because we lost by one than we would have been had we won. We’d have been a lot happier if we had won by won, but the team’s the same. The two points are nothing.” -Belmont coach Rick Byrd

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by jstevrtc on January 11th, 2010

Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.

Standings (as of 1/10):

  1. William & Mary (12-3, 4-1)
  2. Old Dominion (12-5, 4-1)
  3. George Mason (9-7, 4-1)
  4. Northeastern (9-7, 4-1)
  5. Drexel (8-9, 3-2)
  6. VCU (10-4, 2-3)
  7. James Madison (8-7, 2-3)
  8. Hofstra (9-8, 2-3)
  9. Georgia State (8-9, 2-3)
  10. UNC Wilmington (6-9, 2-3)
  11. Delaware (5-11, 1-4)
  12. Towson (3-11, 0-5)

Important Games This Week:

Wed 1/13

  • Delaware @ Northeastern — Northeastern will likely run their winning streak to eight matching a winning streak from five years ago.
  • Old Dominion @ UNC Wilmington — Wilmington is a good sleeper candidate, they face a tough week playing ODU and then going to hot Northeastern.

Sat 1/16

  • George Mason @ James Madison — Another tough road test for the Patriots, who only have one road win all season. They’ve lost their last two road games by 25 and 27 and the Dukes are 5-1 at home this season.

Team Reviews:

William & Mary (4-1)

Monday night The Tribe snapped their school-record tying 10 game win streak on a John Fields tip in with 3.4 seconds to go. The Tribe tied a 1929-30 record with that 10 game win streak. Not only were they outrebounded in the second half, 29-16, but they gave up 13 offensive rebounds in the second half alone. William & Mary senior forward Steven Hess put it best, “I think teams are going to come after us on the boards now. We just kind of got manhandled inside.” On Wednesday senior David Schneider nailed a three pointer with 2.8 seconds left to give the Tribe a 74-73 overtime win at Delaware. Schneider scored 11 of his season-high 26 points in overtime. His first three pointer set a new school record for threes with 224. Saturday the Tribe shot 65.2% in the second half and the defense held Drexel to a 24.1% field goal percentage in a 73-48 rout. Sophomore Quinn McDowell led all scorers with 20 points and has scored at least one point in every single game in his career.

Old Dominion (4-1)

The Monarchs made a position switch Monday night moving sophomore Kent Bazemore to point guard, senior Gerald Lee to small forward and junior Darius James came off the bench to play shooting guard. All of the switches paid off this week. Lee scored a team-high 19, Bazemore set career highs in points (14) and assists (9) as Old Dominion cruised to a 16 point win over Towson. Wednesday night wasn’t as easy. After a crucial block with the game tied, ODU went on a two-on-one break leading to Ben Finney’s layup with 13 seconds to go to beat the Dukes, 74-72. Bazemore beat his career high again with 19 points and had only one turnover. On Saturday, the Monarchs shot a season-low 33.3% from the field but held on to a lead as large as 15 in a 57-46 win over Hofstra. Making 14-34 free throws, (41.2%) the Monarchs struggled to barely beat their season worst free throw percentage when they made just 2-5 at Georgetown.

George Mason (4-1)

Sophomore Ryan Pearson scored 10 of his team-high 17 points in the final 5:40 in a hard fought 67-63 win over Hofstra  on Monday. The Patriots made 14-18 free throws in the second half, making eight in the final three minutes to seal the win. Sophomore Andre Cornelius and freshman Luke Hancock scored 21 of their combined 24 points in the second half. On Wednesday the Patriots got run over by Northeastern’s three-point barrage in a blowout loss,  71-46. The Huskies went on a 14-3 run to secure a double-digit lead. Ryan Pearson led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds.  On Saturday, the Patriots reversed their performance by using runs of 16-1 and 10-3 to take a double-digit lead they would never give up in a 13-point win over UNC Wilmington. Sophomore Mike Morrison led the way with a team-high 15 points.

Northeastern (4-1)

Northeastern, the only team to beat the Rams in their last 23 home games, won by forcing the Rams to take outside shots and playing tough defense in a 62-57 win. Manny Adako scored a season-high 23 points on 11-14 shooting. Chaisson Allen followed up Thursday, tying a career-high making six three-pointers in a 71-46 win over George Mason. The Huskies stifled the young Patriots at home committing a season-low eight turnovers to a season-high 16 assists. To cap it off Saturday, Matt Janning led the way with a season-high 23 points on 8-15 shooting as the Huskies shot 51.2% in a 66-54 victory at Georgia State. The Huskies are currently on a seven game winning streak, their best since their eight game win streak in the 2004-05 season.

Drexel (3-2)

The Dragons started out hot and never surrendered the lead at Georgia State, shooting a season high 68% in the first half and getting a career-high 32 points from Jamie Harris, in a 72-57 win Monday night. Wednesday, Drexel snapped a seven game losing streak against VCU with a 75-72 win. Gerald Colds and Chris Fouch each scored 19 points. Harris helped stifle VCU’s aggressive defense with 15 points and 8 assists. Saturday was a completely different story as Drexel shot a season-low 24.1% from the field in a 25 point home loss to William & Mary. Gerald Colds led the way for the Dragons with 15 points.

VCU (2-3)

The Rams started out with a 21-4 run, but went cold making just four of their next 21 shots and Northeastern grinded out baskets dealing the Rams a 62-57 loss. Larry Sanders (10 points) was forced to take outside shots and made his first field goal with 17:25 left. Northeastern never let VCU get to the bonus, a team that averaged 17.8 free throws made per game going into the game, forcing them into a season-low four free throws (they hit three). The last time VCU made three or fewer free throws in a game was a February 17, 2007 loss against Bradley (3 for 8), a span of 84 games. On Wednesday, VCU made 20 of 21 free throws but Sanders missed the only one with a chance tie the game with 13.1 seconds left in a 75-72 road loss to Drexel. VCU’s best defender Ed Nixon played only one minute and that played into the hands of Drexel’s hot shooting (10-17) from behind the arc. Derek Burgess scored a career high 30 points on 9-14 shooting. Saturday the Rams had to go without Larry Sanders due to a one game suspension for hitting Drexel’s Evan Neisler but junior Brandon Rozzell led the way scoring a career-high 19 points as VCU was able to coast past Delaware 77-64.

James Madison (2-3)

The Dukes found out sophomore Andrey Semenov’s lingering back issue will cost him the season. Last Saturday’s one game suspension for Denzel Bowles was for three alcohol-related misdemeanors on New Year’s Day. Bowles and Julius Wells combined to shoot 22-41 (53.6%) while the rest of the team combined to take only 18 shots in the Dukes’ 71-65 win over Delaware. Wells, however, could not hit a three pointer with time expiring in a 74-72 loss at Old Dominion. The Dukes made one field goal in the final four and a half minutes. A clutch Ben Louis three pointer with 1.5 seconds left gave the Dukes a 69-66 win over Towson. Wells went for 23 points, scoring 20+ points in each game this week, and Bowles added 21. The star power of Wells (76 points) and Bowles (64 points) combined for two-thirds of the Dukes scoring (212 points) this week.

Hofstra (2-3)

Freshman Chaz Williams scored a career-high 20 points but junior Charles Jenkins was held to 11 points as Hofstra lost 67-63 to George Mason. Halil Kanacevic had a career-high 18 points, 10 rebounds and career-high 5 blocks in Hofstra’s 77-61 Wednesday win over Towson. Williams scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half, leading Hofstra on a 20-6 run to close out the first half. Hofstra could not keep the momentum, struggling in the half court and could not close the gap late in a 57-46 Saturday loss at Old Dominion. Jenkins, their only double-digit scorer on the night, led the way with 18 points. The Pride turned the ball over 21 times, one off their season-high.

Georgia State (2-3)

Head coach Ron Barnes said the Panthers got a wake up call Monday night, but he needed one for the whole week. The Panthers struggled, trailing by as many as 21 points in a 72-57 home loss to Drexel, snapping an eight game home win streak. Wednesday night, Trae Goldston missed a potential game-tying three with 24 seconds left in a 57-50 loss to UNC Wilmington. Joe Dukes had a team-high 21 points on 8-23 shooting but the rest of the team shot 30.7% for the game. Georgia State saw an early lead evaporate Saturday versus Northeastern, and an 11-0 Huskies run put them in control in a 12-point home loss. The Panthers had closed the Northeastern lead to two at halftime, but the Huskies stormed out on a 16-3 run to put the game out of reach. Dukes (15 points) led the way on 5-13 shooting. The Panthers have been plagued by poor shooting and have shot under 40% in 10 of their 17 games this season. The Panthers were outrebounded this week by 17 (106-91).

UNC Wilmington (2-3)

Chad Tomko’s layup missed but John Fields fought successfully for the tip in with 3.5 seconds left to beat William & Mary, 62-61. UNC Wilmington had the lead only three times, twice with under a minute to go. They beat the Tribe on the glass by outrebounding William & Mary 45-34, which included 19 offensive rebounds. On Wednesday, Fields scored 13 points and grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds to lift UNC Wilmington in a 57-50 win over Georgia State, despite the Seahawks shooting 34.6% in the second half. Tomko, cousin of major league pitcher Brett Tomko, added 6 of his 10 points in the second half. Saturday was a different story. Fields got frustrated against swarming George Mason defenders and the Seahawks struggled to score, falling at George Mason, 59-46. Fields, constantly double- and triple-teamed, scored only four points as they disrupted his post game and tempted him to go to his weak side. Turnovers plagued the Seahawks as they have turned the ball over 20 times or more in four of their last five games.

Delaware  (1-4)

Jawan Carter had a career-high 11 assists and scored double digit points (18) for the seventh straight game but the Blue Hens could not extend their two-game win streak, falling 71-65 at James Madison on Monday. Wednesday was an even better chance for their second CAA win; Jawan Carter made a three pointer with 22 seconds left to send the game to overtime but the Blue Hens could not hold their largest lead of the game — up by seven with 32 seconds left — in a tough 74-73 loss to William & Mary. The Blue Hens shot a season-best 12-26 from three-point range. Sophomore Adam Pegg scored ten at James Madison and set a new career high of 13 against the Tribe. On Saturday, Delaware missed their first eight shots of the second half and could not recover as VCU put them away, 77-64.  Carter, the only double-digit scorer for the Blue Hens, scored 22 points. Delaware has lost 14 straight conference road games.

Towson (0-5)

Head Coach Pat Kennedy notched his second career ejection in 893 games when he drew two straight technical fouls with 8:56 to go as Old Dominion blew out his Tigers, 87-71, on Monday night. Towson shot 48.3% against a tough defense, their best since their season-opening win over Miami (Ohio) when they shot 52.6%, but they were outrebounded by 21. Wednesday, Robert Nwankwo had his fourth double-double of the season (14 points, 10 rebounds) while recording a team-high six blocks but the Tigers could not close the gap, losing 77-61 at Hofstra. The Tigers tied a team high in free throws made (20) but tied a team low in field goals made (19). On Saturday, the Tigers held the lead twice in the last two and half minutes but JMU got a three pointer from Ben Louis to deal the Tigers a 69-66 loss. The Tigers are on a six game losing streak and are the only team yet to record a win in the CAA.

When not covering the CAA for Rush The Court, Ryan writes about Fantasy Baseball on Rotosavants.com and writes on his own website: RyanRestivo.com. Ryan is busy being immersed in baseball draft prep and has a very cool Fantasy Baseball project for drafts. You can contact him here.

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