Morning Five: 12.15.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on December 15th, 2010

  1. Quiz time: of conferences which are eligible for consideration in the CollegeInsider.com mid-major rankings, which league has racked up the most wins against teams from the big six? Time’s up — it’s the Atlantic Sun. We dig it when a small conference takes an opportunity to strut a little bit, especially when they provide good evidence as to why you should take heed. Yes, that’s the A-Sun’s Belmont tucked in neatly at 66th in the latest KenPoms, and that is indeed the A-Sun listed in the top half of all conferences at CollegeRPI.com (14th). Another good thing about the linked article is that it reminded us about the names of the two divisions in the Cancun Challenge: Riviera and Mayan (won by the A-Sun’s North Florida). Come on. At least it skunks Leaders and Legends.
  2. We can’t say for sure, but hopefully the folks at Siena take it as a compliment that we’ve come to expect so much from them every year, especially come tournament time. It’s in that spirit that we ask…what happened, here? We all knew it wouldn’t be easy replacing studs like Alex Franklin and Edwin Ubiles, not to mention departed coach Fran McCaffery. Sure, the Saints seem to have taken a serene, trance-like approach to playing defense at times this season, but nobody handicapped a 3-6 start. Mark Singelais of the Albany Times Union details how Siena has decided to put the first month of the season behind them, and proclaim Tuesday’s win over Florida Atlantic as the new beginning to their 2010-11 campaign.
  3. There’s now a Wolf among the Huskies. Connecticut has announced the mid-season addition of Enosch Wolf, a 7’1 center from Germany, to the squad. He’s enrolled and ready to go, eligible to practice on Sunday and play his first game on Monday. Coppin State – the Huskies’ foe on that night, whose tallest player playing at least 20 MPG stands at 6’8 — is not amused. Wilkommen in Connecticut!
  4. If Syracuse’s Rick Jackson looks different to you this season…good eye. Here’s a nice piece from Fanhouse about how Jackson’s lopping off of about 10% of his body mass during the off-season has led to increased expectations for Jackson from his coaching staff and teammates. You can sense the pride that fellow Orange(-man) Kris Joseph and guru Jim Boeheim feel toward Jackson in the way they talk about him in the article. More noteworthy is that you get the same sense of increased confidence from how Jackson talks about himself, his increased responsibility, and his improved skills. Averaging a robust 14.0 PPG and 12.5 RPG doesn’t hurt the ol’ confidence, either. But it’s all cyclical…
  5. We’re among those who really want New York to become a college hoops town again, and New York magazine’s Will Leitch — yes, that guy — has provided a tidy summary of how the NYC schools are doing so far. It’s shocking to see the depths to which Manhattan has plunged, and to note that, even though the Johnnies are limping right now, there’s still a Secretariat-like gap between St. John’s and the next-best NYC team (Long Island). So, even though the Steve Lavin rebuild of SJU is still in its infancy (or possibly still a fetus), all hopes of turning NYC back into the college basketball town that it should be still rest with them. We really want this to happen, no matter which school leads the way, but if it’s the Johnnies, that’s fine with us. Plus, that means we’ll probably all have more Erin Sharoni in our lives (SJU sideline reporter — it’s only a matter of time for her), and that’s just good for everyone.
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The Other 26: Week Two

Posted by jstevrtc on November 27th, 2010

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.  For an introduction to this series, please click here.

Introduction

We are getting into the thick of the things as teams are now well into their non-conference slate. While many small-conference schools take their lumps at the hands of larger-conference opponents as often happens at this time of year, other are emerging as legitimate contenders within the world of the “Other 26.” At this point in most seasons the Maui Invitational controls much of the discussion within college basketball circles, and this year has been no different. The tournament encompasses some of the nation’s best teams, and for about a week the focal point of college basketball is the Lahaina Civic Center. Suited more for an AAU championship game than a premiere college basketball venue, the Civic Center witnessed one of the most dominating performances in the history of the Invitational. Averaging 30 points, missing only two of 28 free throws, and guiding the young Huskies to the title is the mark of a champion, and Kemba Walker did all of those. Walker’s first heroics of the Invitational came against Wichita State, who so nearly thwarted Connecticut’s chances at winning the Invitational on the first day. In the process, however, the Shockers garnered my full admiration in how they competed with some of the top teams in America. In the end, Kemba Walker and Connecticut prevailed, but Wichita State was heard and will continue to make noise throughout the year.

What team impressed the most?

Following a tough season-opening loss to Georgetown by three points, Old Dominion has run off four straight victories. Their wins were hardly against cupcake opponents either as two came against Clemson and Xavier (it should be known that both the Tigers and Musketeers have both fallen only to Old Dominion). It is a grave task for any opponent to combat the Monarchs’ attack as no one ODU player is far and away the most significant contributor. Frank Hassell is the team’s leader from a statistical perspective as he averages nearly a double-double and is an extremely efficient offensive player, shooting better than 60% from the field. Blaine Taylor, ODU’s coach, is the mastermind behind this balanced attack. Check out these numbers: six players are averaging between 5.5 and 8.8 shots a game, and seven players average between 4.2 and 12.6 points a game. While not a flashy team by any means, Old Dominion plays a true team game — a truce recipe for success come March.

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First Round Game Analysis: Friday Afternoon

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Over the next two days in a series of separate posts, RTC will break down all 32 of the first round games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses.  Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds.  Here are the Friday afternoon games.


12:15 pm – #2 West Virginia vs. #15 Morgan State  (Buffalo pod)

West Virginia enters the NCAA Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation. They squeaked out an enormous road win at Villanova to end the regular season then swept through Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Georgetown en route to a Big East championship riding the heroics of Da’Sean Butler. The Mountaineers are an extremely gifted rebounding team; in fact, sometimes their best offense comes after a missed shot. They feature multiple weapons that can step out and shoot a mid-range jumper or three from Wellington Smith to Kevin Jones to the all-around dynamo Butler. Also, few teams can match West Virginia’s intensity in the halfcourt defensively. Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman will need a gigantic scoring output from their own star, Baltimore native Reggie Holmes. Holmes scored 25 or more points fifteen times this season, averaging 21.3 PPG and ranking in the top-50 in percentage of shots taken. The Bears also feature a rugged forward named Kevin Thompson who comes in at fifth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. In fact, Morgan State ranks 11th in the country as a team in that very category. Unfortunately for the underdogs, West Virginia is never outworked on the glass, not with Jones, Devin Ebanks and Bob Huggins prominently involved.

The Skinny: This one shouldn’t be close from the tip. Morgan State dominated the MEAC all season, but West Virginia is flying high at this point. Expect the Mountaineers to dominate by 25-30 points.

12:25 pm – #6 Xavier vs. #11 Minnesota  (Milwaukee pod)

The answer to which team will win this game depends entirely on which Gopher team shows up to play in Milwaukee.  Will it be the defensive juggernaut that held Purdue to 11 first  half points last Saturday, or will it be the team that got obliterated by Ohio State 52-29 in the second half on Sunday?  Tubby Smith’s team has been schizophrenic like that all year, following up strong wins with disastrous performances (two losses to Michigan?  really?), which probably explains why they were a bubble team up until Sunday evening.  Xavier comes into this one with the stronger resume, but it’s difficult to say if the Musketeers are the better team.  When he plays under control, XU’s Jordan Crawford is a talent, and his supporting case of Jason Love on the interior and Terrell Holloway running the show makes for nice balance throughout the Xavier lineup.  The question we have is who will win the defensive battle, though.  Xavier defends the three really well, while Minnesota behind Blake Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook both shoot it equally as well.  This game is essentially a tossup (Vegas agrees, setting Minny as a one-point favorite), and we really liked the first seven halves of basketball that the Gophers put up in Indianapolis on a neutral floor last week, so we’re going with the extremely mild 6/11 upset here, in a close game that comes down to the last possession. 

The Skinny: Despite the seedings, this is a tossup game and we like the Gophers to win it on the last possession. 

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Bracket Prep: Northern Iowa, Old Dominion, Siena, St. Mary’s

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

As we move through the next few days when automatic bids will be handed out on a regular basis, we’re going to break down the teams for you so that you can start thinking about your bracket ahead of time.  The pearls of wisdom are meant to help you better understand what these teams are good at and how to make fair comparisons between them — all too often, the capsules you see have a lot of information in them, but very little of it is actually helpful.  If you have additional ideas, leave them in the comments.  For the good/bad matchups, we’re not necessarily saying that Team X will win; we’re simply pointing out that in an ideal situation, some of that team’s strengths will be more likely to manifest against those particular opponents — so save the emails.  We’re still catching up, but these should be the teams through the early part of the week.

#5. Northern Iowa Panthers (28-4, 15-3 MVC) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #7-#9

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. It’s all about methodical offense and sticky defense for the Panthers.  This team will not beat themselves with mistakes, so you’d better be disciplined in your approach if you hope to beat them.  Sixty points is the magic number — the Panthers were 16-0 this year when reaching that score.  Possession basketball is the key; a 10-point deficit in the last five minutes against UNI is nearly impossible to recover from, as they take care of the ball (only 10.5 turnovers/game) and hit free throws (75.5%).
  2. Not many mid-majors have a legitimate seven-footer but UNI’s Jordan Eglseder is one such player.  He only plays about 22 minutes per game, but he’s an effective scorer in the low post, draws a lot of fouls and is one of the best per-minute rebounders in the nation on both ends.  He’s not a game-changer in the sense that he will own the paint, but he is a tough wrinkle to prepare for in the game plan.
  3. The Panthers beat up on some bad major conference teams this year (Iowa, Iowa State, BC) in addition to knocking off some mid-major powers in Old Dominion and Siena.  The one confounding loss was to DePaul in the Virgin Islands early in the year where Mac Koshwal (12/19) dominated Eglseder (2/6) inside.  Don’t assume that as a trend, though, as Eglseder played well against ISU’s Craig Brackins (20/14) and Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson last season (13/5).

Good Matchups:  Wake Forest, Clemson

Bad Matchups: Marquette, UNLV

#6. Old Dominion (26-8, 15-3 CAA) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #9-#11

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. There’s no one player you have to stop to beat ODU, but if you can slow down 6’10 center Gerald Lee, you’ll have a better chance.  The versatile big man was seen in the CAA Tournament taking the ball upcourt against pressure on occasion, in addition to lending his usual 15/5 and 54% shooting from the field.  He has six teammates who contribute between six and nine points per game, so keying on any one of them is precarious because the Monarchs share the wealth.  They only had six occasions where a player scored 20+ points in a game this year, and five of those were Lee (Marsharee Neely was the other).
  2. ODU is another one of those mid-majors that thrives on possession basketball.  They limit your possessions by defending and rebounding among the best in the nation.  They also gang-rebound on the offensive glass, giving themselves an extra chance on nearly half of their scoring opportunities.  Those extra chances help to make up for what is a fairly lousy three-point (31.5%) and two-point shooting percentage (49.4%).
  3. ODU’s signature win was at Georgetown during Snowpacalypse I in December.  They did it by forcing GU point guard Chris Wright into a difficult game (2-8 FG; 4 pts) and collecting eighteen Hoya turnovers.  It should be noted that if you can turn over the Monarchs, as Missouri, Northern Iowa and Dayton successfully did in the nonconference slate, they struggle scoring enough points to win.

Good Matchups:  Oklahoma State, Texas

Bad Matchups: Clemson, Richmond

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ATB: Nobody Wants to Play These Middies

Posted by rtmsf on March 9th, 2010

Championship Monday Night.  Four middies had their conference tourneys tonight, and we’ll be damned if we didn’t see at least a couple of RTCs out there (and a half-RTC in the WCC just for good measure).  Make no mistake, though, the four mid-major teams that won their leagues tonight are all excellent teams that nobody, we repeat, NOBODY, is going to want to see opposite their name in the brackets next week.  Every one of these four squads are seasoned, experienced and battle-tested units that won’t get rattled by seeing some bright lights, a big arena and a brand-name team standing at the other end of the court.  If none of these four teams pulls a first-round upset, then we don’t know anything about this game.

WCC ChampionshipSt. Mary’s 81, Gonzaga 62.  This game came down to a team that looked like it was playing for its NCAA life versus a team that was just happy going through the motions.  It was a complete mismatch in the second half of the WCC title game, as St. Mary’s confirmed its bona fides in a cathartic victory over its biggest rival and in the process serving notice that there are two powers coming out of the WCC this season.  The Gaels broke up a close game at halftime with a 51-point second half that included 68% shooting in the second half led by multiple threes from Mickey McConnell (26/6 assts/4 stls) and Ben Allen (20/9/4 assts).  Essentially it was a do-no-wrong kind of half for Randy Bennett’s team to the point where his team didn’t even need a big offensive night from their superstar center Omar Samhan (9/7/6 blks).  As for Gonzaga, this was the latest in a series of disappointing no-shows during the last six weeks where Mark Few’s team looked largely uninterested and apathetic — losses to San Francisco and LMU were similar occurrences.  Elias Harris in particular was miserable tonight, shooting 3-13 for eight points, and the entire team seemed to have grease on their hands with fourteen TOs in the game.  We realize that the Zags are always a threat to do some damage in March, but we’re just not convinced that this is one of Mark Few’s better teams, so it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if it was St. Mary’s that sticks around a little longer next week than their better-known counterparts in the NCAA Tournament.

Nope, SMC Didn't Surprise Us (AP/I. Brekken)

MAAC ChampionshipSiena 72, Fairfield 65 (OT). For an oh-so-brief moment, every bubble team in America held its collective breath.  Colin Nickerson’s three-pointer from the left corner was in the air to win the MAAC title for Fairfield, and if it had dropped, the weak bubble would have suddenly gotten a little more crowded with Siena joining the party.  Of course, it didn’t fall, and instead Siena capped off its title game comeback by dominating the overtime period and capturing its third straight MAAC championship to return to the NCAA Tournament.  For the third straight night, Siena found itself down at the half (this time by eleven) but as appropriate for a seasoned team, they never panicked, instead keeping their cool and eventually working their way back.  Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin, veterans of four NCAA Tournament games in their careers, combined for 49/19 to lead the Saints, but it was Ubiles’ 360-dunk in the second half that signaled to Fairfield and the rest of the building that Siena was not going to leave without a victory tonight.  Forget about the six losses on Siena’s record this year — five of those were away games, and the last we checked, the Tournament is played on neutral floors, and we know what this group is capable of in that respect.  Ask Vanderbilt or Ohio State: nobody wants to play this team next Thursday or Friday.  To close out the MAAC, check out this video from SienaSaintsBlog of the RTC tonight.  Great stuff.

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MAAC Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 5th, 2010

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

LYNDHURST, NJ – The MAAC tournament begins on the men’s side on Friday at the Times Union Center in Albany. The distinction has to be made as the women tip off on Thursday. The MAAC showcases both the men’s and women’s events at the same locations giving fans the opportunity to see the respective programs of all ten members.  Siena is a clear cut favorite. The homecourt advantage and rabid following doesn’t hurt but Siena is a talented, battle tested and well-coached club. They have one loss in the MAAC, a late season setback at Niagara which might have been a blessing in the long run.

The bracket:

All conference honors went to the following:

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Checking in on… the MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on February 13th, 2010

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

JERSEY CITY, NJ – During a timeout at the Canisius-St.Peter’s game, the PA announcer was putting an advertising pitch in for the upcoming MAAC postseason tournament in Albany. “See who will emerge as the MAAC men’s and women’s champions in 2010,” the announcer said.  At which yours truly remarked to a press row neighbor, ‘Siena and Marist.’ The neighbor chuckled but didn’t disagree.

The Marist women are a clear cut favorite but that’s another story. On the men’s side Siena is ahead of the pack. It’s ‘their championship to lose’  as they say and not because it is being contested on their Times-Union homecourt. Siena is extremely talented, battle-tested and well-coached. A very imposing combination indeed.

Notes and Milestones

  • St. Peter’s overtime win over Canisius on Super Bowl Sunday earned the Peacocks a 4-0 sweep of Niagara and Canisius for the first time in program history.
  • Siena’s Ronald Moore scored the 1000th point of his career in the win over Iona. This marks the second straight season Siena has three 1000-point scorers on the floor the same time.
  • The win over Canisius was St. Peter’s’ second OT win of the season. The last season that happened was during 2005-06 when the Peacocks won three of four extra session meetings.
  • Frank Turner became the sixth player in Canisius history to attempt 600 free throws. Turner hit the charity stripe mark in the loss at Niagara.
  • Iona hit the 18-win mark for the 19th time in the program’s 70-year history. The Gaels hit double digits in conference wins for the 13th time in 29 MAAC seasons.
  • The schedule for ESPN’s BracketBusters is set. Rider at Hofstra is a ‘rematch’ from the days both schools were in the old East Coast Conference. Arguably the marquee matchup of the MAC schools (see full schedule below) is Siena at Butler on Saturday February at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Player of the Week: Alex Franklin (F) , Siena – Scored 23 points and added 7 rebounds in Siena’s win over Iona. Franklin was 7 of 9 from the field and 9 for 12 from the line.

Rookie of the Week: Derek Needham (G), Fairfield – Needham scored 20 points, his second straight 20-point outing, in the win over St. Peter’s. He added 5 rebounds and four steals in 37 minutes in that contest.

Team Breakdowns

  • Canisius – Dropped three games last week. Included were losses at Iona, Niagara and St. Peter’s. The game at St. Peter’s was an overtime contest. Turnovers were the story as the Griffins committed 64 for the three games, including 22 against St. Peter’s. Frank Turner continued his fine play and the senior guard tied the game at St. Peter’s with a coast to coast trip that ended with a buzzer-beating driving layup.
  • Fairfield – Earned their 10th home win of the season with a victory over St. Peter’s. Last time the Stags reached double figures in home wins was  the 1995-96 season when they eventually went to the NIT. After allowing 88 points to Rider two games prior, Fairfield held St. Peter’s to a season-low 46 points. Defense has been a key as the Stags have allowed less than 60 points in nine of its sixteen wins this season. Anthony Johnson, the MAAC leader in blocked shots, rejected eight against St. Peter’s.
  • Iona - Took two of three with the lone blemish a loss to Siena, something everyone in the MAAC is experiencing these days. The loss to the Saints snapped the Gaels’ eight-game win streak, their longest in a decade. Junior Alejo Rodriguez narrowly missed his fourth straight double-double in the win over Marist. Sophomore guard Scott Machado contributed steady scoring with a carreer high 24 points at Siena followed by 17 at Marist.
  • Loyola (MD) - Swept a road weekend for the first time in three years with wins at Rider and Manhattan. Greyhounds had five double figure scorers against Rider. It was the first time since January 2009 the Greyhounds performed that feat as no Loyola player attempted more than eight shots in the contest. Loyola clicked on both ends at Rider as they shot 54% for the game while holding the Broncs to eight field goals  in the second half. Shane Mack collected his first MAAC double-double in that game with a 12 point, 12 rebound outing.
  • Manhattan – Split two conference games last week. Senior guard Darryl Crawford led the way with 20 points and 4 rebounds in a win over Marist. The win snapped a seven-game losing streak and was the Jaspers’ first since January 8th. Manhattan dropped a tough 62-56 decision to Loyola on Super Bowl Sunday. Crawford and Rico Pickett shared scoring honors with 19 apiece against Loyola. Pickett still paces MAAC scorers with 20.9 PPG in MAAC play.
  • Marist – Dropped both of their conference games. Freshman guard Candon Rusin led the Red Foxes both games in scoring and had a weekly high mark of 17 points in the loss to Iona.  Rusin has hit a three pointer in 21 of Marist’s 24 games this season. Junior forward Keory Bauer who tends to favor the perimeter, used his 6’9 frame underneath to pull down 10 rebounds against Iona. Marist plays four of its last five regular season games away from home. Their final home game is a February 26 meeting with St.Peter‘s.
  • Niagara – Used defense to defeat rival Canisius 66-54. Niagara held the Golden Griffins to 4 of 15 shooting, forced nine turnovers and blocked three shots the final ten minutes. Anthony Nelson scored all of his 17 points in the second half for Niagara. Bilal Benn pulled down 11 rebounds in the win.
  • RiderJustin Robinson scored 19 points in the loss to Loyola. Robinson and teammate Ryan Thompson are the two leading free throw shooters in the MAAC. Rider had five players in double figures against Loyola. The Broncs play four of their last five games at home.
  • St. Peter’s – Bounced back from a loss at Fairfield to defeat Canisius in overtime at Yanitelli Center. The Peacocks are guaranteed a .500 MAAC record for the first time in four years. Their 14 wins is the most by a Division I school in the state of New Jersey. Wesley Jenkins led the way against Canisius with 25 points  and 10 rebounds while Darius Conley also added a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards.
  • Siena – Captured a showdown with Iona 88-68 before a sold out Times-Union Center. Win pushed the home court win streak to 33 games, second longest in the country. Ryan Rossiter has posted a double-double in eight of his last nine games and the junior forward has done it thirteen times this season. Since the New Year six Player of the week awards have been cited. Alex Franklin winning the most recent makes it four out of six for the Saints.

Upcoming…The BracketBusters

February 19 –

  • William and Mary-Iona

February 20 –

  • Siena-Butler
  • New Hampshire-Loyola
  • Buffalo-St.Peter’s
  • Towson-Manhattan
  • Fairfield-Vermont
  • Rider-Hofstra
  • Marist-UC Irvine
  • James Madison-Canisius
  • Niagara-Wisconsin Milwaukee

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles…

Posted by zhayes9 on February 9th, 2010

RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every week as the season progresses.

1. One team that I believe could make a run for the Final Four that people seem to be slightly ignoring is Wisconsin. The Badgers should be favored in every game the remainder of their schedule other than possibly at Minnesota or at Illinois. Remember, Wisconsin already played their six games against fellow Big Ten contenders Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State and emerged clean with a 3-3 split. Finishing the season on a 6-1 run basically guarantees the Badgers a top-three finish depending on the fortunes of those rival teams and that could put Wisconsin in the tremendous position to play their first two NCAA games in nearby Milwaukee. Bo Ryan’s team is incredibly efficient, ranking in the top-20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They’re top-40 in the nation in two-point FG%, FT%, blocks and steals and rank just below in effective FG%. The Badgers boast tremendous computer numbers- #9 RPI, #10 SOS, #53 non-conference SOS- and have three wins against the RPI top-15. Not many teams can match that overall portfolio. Throw in the committee factoring in the Jon Leuer injury, and it’s entirely plausible Wisconsin could go from being predicted ninth in the Big Ten to earning a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Throw Bo Ryan’s name in there along with Jim Boeheim, John Calipari and Steve Alford for National Coach of the Year.

Trevon Hughes has emerged as a star during his senior year

2. One team that no high-major wants to see in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is Siena. We know their recent history of winning tournament games, toppling 4-seed Vanderbilt two years ago and pulling out a 2OT classic over 8-seed Ohio State a season ago largely due to the heroics of Ronald Moore. While the Saints did blow their chances to pick up quality wins out of MAAC play- losing to Northern Iowa, Georgia Tech and Temple- Siena is inching towards the polls, boasting an unblemished 13-0 conference record and a winning streak that stretches back to mid-December. A win in Hinkle Fieldhouse against Butler on February 20 would make it an absolute certainty Siena earns a bid regardless of the MAAC Tournament, but even with a loss the Saints should run through their conference regular season and postseason at 21-0 and garner a seed in the 9-11 range. Other than Kenny Hansbrouck, head coach Fran McCaffrey has nearly his entire squad returning from that Ohio State victory. Moore is averaging an incredible 8.1 APG to lead the nation while Edwin Ubiles appears to be inching towards 100% after a banged-up start to the campaign. Ryan Rossiter has developed into a legitimate low-post threat and effective rebounder and fellow frontcourt mate Alex Franklin is one of the most efficient scorers around. There’s plenty to like with regards to Siena’s chances to pulling off another first round upset: top-50 efficient offense, tremendous coaching, four double-digit scorers and, most notably, the experience of success in March.

3. There are a few reasons why the Atlantic 10 has earned an astonishing six bids in Monday’s bracket: 1) the Pac-10 turning into a one-bid league, 2) Big Ten teams like Michigan and Minnesota disappointing and 3) a mediocre middle of the Big East. Most of all, though, the league is just really good. The top-flight teams all challenged themselves out-of-conference and picked up impressive wins to show for it, from Temple knocking off Villanova, to Richmond downing Missouri and Florida, Rhode Island beating Oklahoma State and Charlotte dominating Louisville in Freedom Hall. With the exception of Rhode Island, all of the other five bid-earners have a win over the RPI top 25, and the Rams have the highest overall RPI of the bunch mostly because they played the 28th strongest non-conference schedule in the nation. Dayton could be the team closest to the bubble; if they had fallen to Xavier at home on Saturday, the Flyers likely would have been on the outside looking in this week. Still, Dayton did beat Georgia Tech in November and if they can split their two challenging road games at Temple and at Richmond in February, Brian Gregory’s team should be in decent shape. I’d fathom that Charlotte is still the most likely team to fall out even if they currently sit at the top of the standings. They barely edged George Washington and Fordham on the road this week and still have four games against these NCAA contenders, including roadies at Dayton and URI.

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Breaking Down the Bracketbusters…

Posted by rtmsf on February 2nd, 2010

Special to RushTheCourt.  Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!

The BracketBuster matchups are out, and as promised, RTC is here with some analysis of some of the top games!  Five Colonial Athletic Association teams lead the pack into these February weekend matchups. The Western Athletic Conference drew four bids and the Missouri Valley drew three.  One problem with the BracketBusters? Five of the television games will be on ESPNU, which of course means they’re not available on ESPN360.  However I’d say there are five games where you must, to quote another piece here, “quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live.”

Friday 2/19  (RPI)

Old Dominion (#46) @ Northern Iowa (#17)  – 7 pm on ESPN2/ESPN360

Get to Know Gerald Lee

The Monarchs will travel to Cedar Rapids to play where the Panthers have won every home game by an average of 14 points per game entering this week. 6’8 UNI senior Adam Koch is a tough-to-contain inside presence, scoring a team high 12.7 points per game. 6’10 ODU senior Gerald Lee will likely be assigned to the task of guarding Koch, an he has been a beast this year for the Monarchs, shooting 53% from the field and leading the team with 14.3 points per game. The matchup to watch in this game will be to see if Old Dominion can defend Koch on the inside while keeping their shooters, junior Kwadzo Ahelegbe (11.1 ppg) and Senior Ali Farokhmanesh (team high 42 3-pointers made), at bay. Both teams are first in their respective conferences in FG percentage defense at eerily similar numbers: Old Dominion’s 39.5% FG-defense is 21st while Northern Iowa’s 39.9% ranks 37th nationally. The Monarchs have had some defensive trouble lately, trying zones at Northeastern on Saturday when facing a team with similar size and offensive weapons as the Panthers, to give up a season high 59.5% field goal percentage. 

Saturday 2/20 (RPI)

Siena (#44) @ Butler (#19) – 11 am on ESPN2/ESPN360

The owner of the nation’s longest winning streak, Siena at thirteen straight, will go into an extremely tough environment at Butler in Saturday’s first Bracketbuster game. The Saints are led by 6’5 senior Edwin Ubiles and his 15.8 points per game as he makes his case for MAAC Player of the Year despite some lingering shoulder issues. Alex Franklin plays bigger than his 6’5 frame to lead the Saints down low with 16.1 points per game. On the other side, Butler’s Gordon Hayward has been a beast for the Bulldogs this year, scoring 16.1 points per game and tying a season-high 25 in Sunday’s comeback win over UW-Milwaukee. Hayward, a sophomore, is already attracting the attention of NBA scouts. Fellow sophomore Shelvin Mack has scored 15 points per game and Matt Howard, when not in foul trouble, scores 11 points per game. Howard has been tough to defend inside, going off for 23 points in Butler’s nine-point loss to Minnesota, but has had issues with foul trouble, getting disqualified in three of the Bulldogs’ four losses. It will be interesting to see how Siena defends Hayward and Howard and how this veteran Saints team led by seniors Ubiles, Franklin and Ronald Moore can contain this explosive offense on the road.

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Checking in on… the MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2010

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

JERSEY CITY , NJ – Siena took their unblemished MAAC record into Yanitelli Center on Thursday evening and edged St. Peter’s 66-58 . The Peacocks had been riding a five-game win streak and Siena was without the services of injured senior forward and offensive threat, Edwin Ubiles. In addition, a crowd of 1,609, one of St. Peter’s biggest this season,  was animated and provided an intense and exciting atmosphere.  Junior forward Ryan Rossiter was huge with a 21 point, 9 rebound night for the Saints. In the final minute Alex Franklin, nine points on the night, muscled his way in the paint for a crucial field goal for the Saints. Siena closed out the final seconds from the charity stripe.  “We never gave up the lead (in the stretch) and we got stops when we needed to,” said Siena coach Fran McCaffery.  “We came in and prepared for a close game. St.Peter’s is too good a team. You are not going to blow them out.”

Player of the Week.   Alex Franklin (F), Siena – Franklin averaged 24.5 PPG, 9 RPG and 2 BPG during the week. He scored a season high for Siena with a 27-point outing in the win over Manhattan.

Rookie of the WeekRashard McGill (G), Iona – Hit for 9 PPG while averaging 5.5 RPG as the Gaels went 2-0 for the week. McGill scored a career-best 13 points and added 7 rebounds in the Iona win at Manhattan.

Milestones:

  • Jeron Belin became the 29th player in St.Peter’s history to hit the 1000 point mark.
  • Ronald Moore of Siena inched closer to the all time and season record for assists. Moore is also targeting the all time MAAC assist total.
  • With 15 wins, Iona coach Ralph Willard’s Iona club already eclipsed the win total of the past two seasons.

Standings and tempo free breakdowns (courtesy of Basketball State). Only MAAC games are computed. Efficiency margin is the difference between offensive and defensive efficiency. Like a checking account, positive is good, negative not so good.

Team Breakdowns

  • Canisius – Split with New Jersey based schools, defeating Rider before dropping a decision to St. Peter’s. Progress!  The Griff win over Rider was number ten of the season and fifth in the MAAC. Last season Canisius put the uniforms away with ten wins  overall and just four in conference. The Canisius win over Rider saw the Griffs commit only seven turnovers and shoot 88 % from the charity stripe. Senior guard Frank Turner continued his torrid play averaging 19.5 PPG for the week.
  • Fairfield - Split the last two games, defeating Marist and losing at Iona. Anthony Johnson had a double-double week with 16.3  PPG and 11 RPG . The Stag center has eight double-doubles on the season.  Derek Needham continues his outstanding play at the point. A freshman, Needham is set to crack the school’s top ten single-season list in assists. Fairfield held Marist to 50 points, the eighth time they have held an opponent under 60 points this season.
  • Iona – Extended the win streak to six with victories at Manhattan and at home against Fairfield. Jermel Jenkins preserved the win at Manhattan with a late steal then matched his career high with 14 points and 7 assists against the Stags. Gael reserves outscored Fairfield’s bench 50-5 in the 68-58 decision. Iona’s 15 wins and .715 winning percentage is the highest among the fourteen Division I programs within a 30-mile radius of Madison Square Garden.
  • Loyola (MD) – Finished a stretch of three road games in seven days with a win at Marist. That was just after taking Siena to the wire in a six-point decision. Loyola had a seven-point lead before the Saints closed out with a 17-4 run. Loyola did not score a field goal the last eight minutes in that contest. Senior Garrett Kelly was a surprise against the Saints . He entered the game with eight career points and no treys. Kelly scored 11 points and canned three beyond the arc. Against Marist the Greyhounds shot 58.6 % the first half and never looked back.
  • Manhattan – The Jaspers close out January on the road. Manhattan has lost six of seven conference games in January but the first four by a combined total of 12 points. Guard Rico Pickett averaged 22 PPG for the week. Pickett hit 50% (8 of 16) from three and pulled down 4.7 rebounds per game. The rebounding leader is a guard — Darryl Crawford with 6.1 RPG. Crawford is also scoring 14.7 points per game. The Jaspers are the MAAC leaders, committing only 11 turnovers per game (a conference best 14.5 TO Rate).
  • Marist – Dropped games to Fairfield and Loyola. Junior forward Corey Bauer set the pace with a 16 PPG and 7.5 RPG week. Bauer hit for 21 against Loyola which tied the high scoring game for a Marist player this season. Sam Prescott, Marist’s freshman guard, also had 21. Ironically Prescott’s performance was against Loyola on January 15th in Baltimore.
  • Niagara – Dropped home games to St. Peter’s and Rider. Tyrone Lewis was out both games with an injury. Sophomore Austin Conley got the starting nod in Lewis’ absence. Conley had a career-high 13 points against Rider. Demetrius Williamson paced the Purple Eagles with a 20 PPG scoring mark over the two games. The loss to Rider left Niagara at 11-11. The last time they were 11-11 in late January was 2007 when they went on a 12-game winning streak that included a MAAC title and a first round NCAA Tournament victory.
  • Rider – Lost at Canisius where they had won six of the last eight and won at Niagara where they hadn’t in eight years. At Niagara, the Broncs erased an 11-point deficit and won on Novar Gadson’s tip-in. Gadson finished with 11 points and 11 boards. Rider has played 15 of its first 22 away from home. They return to Alumni Gym to play six of their final nine regular season games. Junior Justin Robinson canned five three-pointers at Canisius. Robinson has hit 15 consecutive free throws. Earlier this year he hit 26 straight from the charity stripe.
  • St. Peter’s - Swept Canisius and Niagara on the road to improve to 13-7, their best record after twenty games in eight years. Balance is a key. Nick Leon and Wesley Jenkins are factors outside while Ryan Bacon mans the paint. Against Canisius however, the leading scorer was junior forward Jeron Belin with 16 points. Bacon tied a career high with 16 rebounds against Niagara. Leon had 19 in the game, 18 of which came in the second half.
  • Siena – Entered the week on an eleven-game win streak, the second longest in program history and third longest current win streak in the country. Siena has a 32-game home winning streak and dominates virtually every statistical category in the MAAC. The only negative point to date is the medical report. Kyle Downey broke his foot on January 19th in practice and is out indefinitely. Edwin Ubiles missed several games with soreness in his back and shoulder and freshman guard Jonathan Breeden missed several contests with a migraine headache. Point guard Ronald Moore continues to excel with a gaudy 8.1 APG mark, the nation’s best.

Upcoming games :

January 30 – Rider at Fairfield

January 31

  • Niagara at Loyola
  • Manhattan at St.Peter’s

February 1 – Canisius at Iona

February 5

  • Iona at Siena
  • St.Peter’s at Fairfield

February 7

  • Iona at Marist
  • Loyola at Manhattan

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Checking in on… the MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 2nd, 2010

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

LYNDHURST, NJ – Just before the New Year teams rounded out the non-conference schedule before MAAC play heats up not long after the ball drops in Times Square. The significant contest of note was two days before Christmas as Siena ‘held serve’ defeating conference contender Rider in a game at Albany.

The other big news came in the boardroom not on the court. The MAAC weighed bids and decided to award their championships to the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. The tournament will be held there 2012-14. In choosing the 8,000 seat facility, MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor wanted a truly neutral site. Ensor feels the facility is in proximity to member schools and the conference can draw at a locale where a member school does not use as a home facility on a full or part-time basis. The Basketball Hall of Fame in the same city is prepared to help setting up a special exhibit regarding MAAC history.

A tempo-free look at defensive efficiency. The metric is simply points per possession allowed multiplied by 100. The average possessions per game for the respective teams is noted in the first column. This includes all games. The next time out we will focus on MAAC play only as everyone will have at least four conference games in the books which should allow us to see trends start to take shape. Again, stats are courtesy of Basketball State.

St.Peter’s was sort of a surprise though the 6-6 record is deceiving as John Dunne’s club had a few tough losses. Niagara’s 96 is high but can be explained given the schedule and injuries. The fact that the Purple Eagles have been able to weather those setbacks (notably injuries to Bilal Benn and Tyrone Lewis) and find a way to start 2-0 in conference play (9-5 overall) speaks volumes of their resiliency and the job coach Joe Mihalich is doing.

Milestones

  • Rider junior Justin Robinson leads the MAAC in free throw shooting and is 17th nationally.
  • Tyrone Lewis is four steals away from setting the all-time record at Niagara. Lewis is five assists from becoming the 5th MAAC player in history to record 2,000 points, 200 assists and 200 steals.
  • In Canisius’ 63-48 win over New Orleans, the 48 points marked the lowest total allowed by the Griff defense since last century. Fairfield scored 45 on February 8,1997 in a Canisius victory .
  • Derek Needham of Fairfield is second in conference scoring (15.8) and assist (6.1) totals.

MAAC Co-Players of the Week :

  • Brett Harvey (G), Loyola – Led the Greyhounds to a big 72-67 upset at Indiana. Harvey scored nine of his game high 25 points down the stretch as Loyola sealed the victory. He added four assists and five rebounds in 29 minutes.
  • Alex Franklin (F), Siena – Scored 22 points (9 of 13 shooting) and added 11 rebounds in the Saints’ big victory over conference contender Rider in Albany. It was Franklin’s second double-double of the season.

Rookie of the Week. Rashard McGill (G), Iona - Averaged 11.5 points and 3.5 rebounds off the bench in a win over FDU and a loss at UConn.  McGill scored his career-high 12 points in the game against the nationally ranked Huskies on Sunday.

Team Breakdowns

  • Canisius - Finished second at the Southern Miss Christmas Classic by winning two out of three games in the round-robin event. Canisius fell to North Florida but defeated Southern Mississippi and New Orleans. The loss was Southern Mississippi’s first in the three years of the event. Senior guard Frank Turner continued his outstanding play, averaging 19 points for the three games. A good sign is scoring help from junior forward Elton Frazier who had 17 in the New Orleans game and averages 11 ppg on the season.
  • Fairfield - Derek Needham is now second in conference scoring with 15.8 ppg. Needham is one of two Fairfield players to start all eleven games to date and have double figures scoring in ten of them. Not just a scorer, the freshman guard averages 6.1 assists per outing. Fairfield owns a 5-0 home record to date. The Stags played Holy Cross, Fordham and St.Francis (NY) at the on campus facility, Alumni Hall.
  • Iona – Started a six-game road trip, the season’s longest, with an 82-60 win at FDU. That was followed by a 93-74 setback at UConn. Sophomore Scott Machado and freshman Rashard McGill were the only Gaels to average double figures for the two games. Machado has shown no signs of a sophomore jinx and has displayed the ability to hand out assists as well as score. Senior Milan Prodanovic knocked down five three-pointers, accounting for all of his 15 points in the win at FDU.
  • Loyola - The Greyhounds had never defeated a Big Ten team in eight tries. Number nine was the one as they defeated Indiana 72-67 in Bloomington. Loyola led by 24 the first half before the Hoosiers came back and held a three-point lead in the stretch. Resiliency and senior guard Brett Harvey secured the victory, Loyola scored 10 of the game’s last 12 points with Harvey scoring nine of them. Harvey finished with a game high 25 points, added five assists and had two four-point plays the second half.
  • Manhattan – The Jaspers have spent virtually the entire month on the road. After the New Year the trek  continues with a visit to Marist January 2nd before returning to the friendly confines of Draddy Gymnasium. Darryl Crawford and Antoine Pearson have been steady contributors. Of late, Manhattan is also getting contributions from upperclassmen Patrick Bouli and Andrew Gabriel. The Jaspers had their longest layoff of the season going from December 19 until December 30 between games.
  • Marist - Dropped their first nine games. Freshmen are getting most of the minutes, 24 of the first 45 starts, and account for 55% of the team’s scoring those initial nine outings. First year point guard Delvin Price had a recent three-game run with a 9:4 A/TO ratio. Veteran contributions are coming for the Red Foxes as well. Sophomore guard RJ Hall returned to the lineup after sitting out the first semester due to academics. Hall, a solid performer at guard last year, scored nine points and had four assists in a recent loss to Lehigh. Junior guard Daye Kaha scored  a team high 11 off the bench in that same contest.
  • Niagara – Came back from 19 down to defeat rival St. Bonaventure. Niagara was without the services of All-MAAC performer Bilal Benn. The Purple Eagles, in fact,  have played eight of the first dozen games minus a first team all-conference performer as Tyrone Lewis missed a few contests earlier in the season. Senior sixth man Demetrius Williamson has answered the call filling in for injured teammates and posting 12 points per game. He had a career high 22 against St. Bonaventure and hit several crucial threes down the stretch.
  • Rider - There is something about 8-6. Rider’s loss to Siena just before Christmas to drop to 8-6. Rider was 8-6 last year then proceeded to win 10 of 13 down the stretch and be selected for postseason play. Rider was 8-6 in ‘08 and finished with 23 wins. The Broncs were 8-6 in ‘07 and doubled the win total from the previous year. So 8-6 is no cause for immediate concern. Rider has won 15 of its last 22 (.682) regular season MAAC games. Mike Ringgold had a double-double at Siena with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
  • St. Peter’s – Traveled to Piscataway and came out on the short end of a 66-42 decision at the hands of Rutgers. In that contest, the Scarlet Knights rejected 18 St. Peter’s shots. A positive note was Steven Samuels who led St.Peter’s with 14 points and 7 rebounds. The Peacocks bounced back for a road win at Stony Brook on Monday. Wesley Jenkins leads the team (13.7 ppg) in scoring while Nick Leon has contributed steadily from his guard spot. Darius Conley has also been a factor off the bench.
  • Siena – Drew first blood in conference action knocking off contender Rider 84-62 in a pre-Christmas meeting in Albany. LaSalle transfer Kyle Griffin saw his first action in a Siena uniform. Griffin, coming off three knee surgeries, played both guard positions and scored five points in 13 minutes. Griffin will contribute and add depth to what is undoubtedly the MAAC’s best starting five unit. The senior lead guard is running away with the national assist race. Moore, at last count, was averaging 8.4 assists per game. With the likes of Alex Franklin and Edwin Ubiles, Moore has capable teammates that are converting his passes.

ON TAP…

January 2

  • Rider at Loyola
  • Iona at Niagara
  • Manhattan at Marist
  • Mount St. Mary’s at Siena

January 4

  • Marist at St. Peter’s
  • Fairfield at Niagara
  • Siena at Loyola
  • Iona at Canisius

January 6

  • Princeton at Marist

January 9

  • Canisius at Marist
  • Niagara at Siena
  • Iona at Rider

January 11

  • Niagara at St. Peter’s

To all A Happy and prosperous New Year…

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RTC 2009-10 Impact Players – Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2009

impactplayersOver the course of the last ten weeks we’ve broken down sixty players from around the country whom we expect will have the biggest impact on college basketball this season.  We performed this exercise geographically, choosing five high-major and one mid-major player from each of the somewhat arbitrary ten regions of the country.  If you’d like to read through the individual regions (and we highly encourage that), you can check all ten here.

impactcountry(2)

If you don’t have the time or inclination to read through all of the previous posts, we’ll summarize here for you by rating the strongest to the weakest regions.

(ed. note: we started this so long ago that Binghamton still had a promising basketball program, and DJ Rivera still had a place to play)

1.  Lower Midwest Region (OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, KS)

lower mw summary

Overview. This seemed pretty clear just at a first glance.  Aldrich, Collins and Harangody are three of the 1st team AAs on the RTC preseason list, and Brackins and Turner are on the 2d team.  This group has unbelievable scoring ability, size and experience.  The only weak link is the mid-major inclusion of Eldridge, who is a fine player, but not in the class of the rest of these superstars.  The nation’s heartland is the epicenter of college basketball talent this year.

Best Players Left Out. Where to start?  The depth in this region is incredible.  Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard at Butler, Robbie Hummell and E’Twaun Moore at Purdue, even Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati.  The #6-10 players in this region would probably be better than all but a few of the other regions.

2.  Mid-South Region (KY, TN, MO, AR, OK)

mid-south summary

Overview.  It was a very close call between this region and the South Atlantic, but we felt that the guard play of Warren and Wall with Anderson on the wing would compensate for what this team gives up in size.  And it doesn’t give up much, considering Patterson, Smith and Jordan are all exceptional inside.  Tough call, but Wall is the likely #1 pick, so he’s the x-factor.

Best Players Left Out.  Plenty of raw size here, including Samardo Samuels at Louisville, Michael Washington at Arkansas and DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky.  Throw in the skilled size of AJ Ogilvy at Vanderbilt and Wayne Chism at Tennessee and this area will punish you on the interior.

3.  South Atlantic Region (DC, VA, NC, SC, GA)

s.atlantic summary

Overview.  This is the third region that’s chock full of NBA talent – each of the rest below have smatterings of it, but not nearly as much.  Aminu, Booker and Singler all define skilled versatility, while Monroe could end up the best big in the entire country if he wants it enough.  Sanders is a little undersized but relentless as well.

Best Players Left OutEd Davis at UNC was a lighting rod topic, as some felt that he’d be an all-american this year with his length and skill set.  Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are two others.  A good argument could be made that this region had the best players left out, but it sorta depends on how this year plays out due to their relative youth and inexperience.

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