ATB: UConn Remains Relevant and Other Assorted Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on January 25th, 2010

This Weekend’s Big Games.  This wasn’t an exceptional weekend of games, but there were three that, at least on paper, held significant hope.  Two of the three turned out pretty well, but the third was a disappointment.  Let’s see if you can figure out which.

Good to See Ya Back, UConn...

  • #22 Connecticut 88, #1 Texas 74.  If you haven’t beaten a ranked team all year long, then what better place to start than to take out the team on top.  True, Texas was a lame-duck #1, having lost to Kansas State earlier in the week, but let’s not quibble.  For the Huskies, this wasn’t exactly a great time for a possible NCAA Tournament top seed to show up in town; so far this year, UConn had underachieved their way to an anemic 12-6, dropped three of their last four, fallen out of the AP Top 25, and their coach — a man known for his toughness as much as his two titles — was going to miss his second straight game because his doctors told him to get away from basketball for a while.  It’s not a matter of talent on the team, that’s never been questioned.  It just hasn’t been there for UConn; they’ve shown nothing close to the confidence and will to win that they’ve possessed for so long.  Sure, Texas had lost on Monday and was probably going to lose the top spot in the polls, but they were still a potential #1 seed come March, and the K-State loss wasn’t exactly a shocker.  After a half, this looked exactly like the game everyone expected.  Connecticut was listless and turnover-prone.  Texas looked like so many fine teams coming off a loss — angry, and wanting someone to pay.  The Huskies were down 42-34 at the break and showed no signs of a likely second-half charge.  And then — they found something.  Hard to say what it could have been — did they suddenly realize how talented they were?  Did they rally around a “Let’s do it for Coach Calhoun!” mentality?  If you’re a Connecticut fan, do you even care?  Because a different Connecticut team came out of the locker room.  Suddenly, you saw UConn players getting down in defensive stances instead of standing straight up.  They seemed three times as quick and hundred times as interested as their first half doppelgangers.  Like it so often is, defense was the trigger.  Runs of 13-0 and 9-0 paced the Huskies to a second half that saw them outscore the ‘Horns by 22, shut down Dexter Pittman, and frustrate Texas into a game total of 30 fouls.  The offense flowed through Jerome Dyson, whose 32 points (on 12-32 shooting) often came courtesy of Kemba Walker’s 10 assists (not that his 19 points and six steals didn’t help) on possessions started by one of Stanley Robinson’s (17/12) 12 rebounds.  For Texas, Damion James’ 23/7 and Avery Bradley’s 15 points simply couldn’t match whatever transfused into Connecticut at halftime.  Lots of questions, now, mostly on the UConn side.  We know Texas hasn’t peaked already, but what of Connecticut?  Can they continue to summon whatever it was that visited them at halftime of this game?  If they can, the Big East just got even more interesting than it was 48 hours ago.
  • #6 Duke 60, #16 Clemson 47.  This was what you call a defensive lockdown by the Devils.  Taking a page from the way they played Gonzaga earlier this season, Duke allowed do-it-all Clemson forward Trevor Booker to go to work (22/6), but other than Demontez Stitt’s 10-point effort, the rest of the Clemson starters had a grand total of one field goal.  The openings just weren’t there, and with no three-point shooters on the court to help instigate a prolonged run, the Tigers couldn’t get enough consecutive buckets to ever threaten Duke in the second half.  Nolan Smith (22/3) continues to play impressive basketball, as he shot 8-13 yesterday and is showing an aura of confidence that well suits a player shooting lights-out this season (49% FG, 51% 3FG).  It was his nine points during an 11-2 Duke run early in the second half that broke open the game and quieted the combustible Littlejohn faithful.  If you want to know one reason of many that Duke is playing so well this year, look no further than how well the Duke backcourt holds onto the ball.  The trio of Jon Scheyer, Andre Dawkins and Smith all rank among the top 315 players in the country in turnover percentage, with each turning it over less than 15% of the time.  As an example of this, Duke had twelve TOs yesterday in a hostile road environment against a team in Clemson that ranks in the top in forcing them — the Duke backcourt only had three.  We still have concerns about the Duke players wearing down over the course of the season, as both Kyle Singler and Scheyer played the full forty minutes and Smith logged thirty-seven.  But for now, Duke has avoided the injury bug and Coach K is very good at providing his players spot rest during games when needed.  As for Clemson, it’s back to the drawing board for Oliver Purnell’s team.  The Tigers are going to have to figure out how to find more offense beyond the consistently good play of Trevor Booker and the occasional good night from Demontez Stitt and Tanner Smith.

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Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by jstevrtc on January 16th, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Current Standings as of Jan. 15, 2009:

EAST

  1. SE Louisiana 10-5 (2-0)
  2. Stephen F. Austin 11-4 (1-1)
  3. Nicholls State 5-10 (1-1)
  4. McNeese State 5-10 (0-1)
  5. Central Arkansas 6-10 (0-2)
  6. Northwestern State 5-10 (0-2)

WEST

  1. UT-San Antonio 12-3 (2-0)
  2. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 7-8 (2-0)
  3. Sam Houston State 9-5 (1-0)
  4. Lamar 9-8 (1-1)
  5. Texas State 7-9 (1-1)
  6. Texas-Arlington 7-7 (0-2)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Sam Houston State University power forward Gilberto Clavell recently earned his second Player of the Week honor. The 6’7 junior scored 21 points and ripped down 12 rebonds in the Bearkats’ 66-57 Southland Conference opening win over Stephen F. Austin on Jan. 9.  Clavell and UTA’s Marquez Haynes are the only two players in the SLC to have won the award two times.

MID-MAJOR POLL

The Southland Conference is well represented in The CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll heading into league play. Texas-San Antonio, off to a 12-3 start, is ranked No. 22, while Sam Houston State University and Stephen F. Austin were listed among others receiving votes.

OFF TO A GOOD START

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, UTSA, Sam Houston and Southeastern Louisiana are the four unbeaten teams in the conference after the opening week, while Central Arkansas, Northwestern State and UT-Arlington have yet to pick up a win.

TEAM UPDATES

EAST

SE LOUISIANA – Opened SLC play by thumping Lamar by 22 points, then eased past Northwestern State on the road, 70-64. We’ll see if the Lions can make a stand this week as they face SHSU at home, then travel to Lake Charles to face McNeese State.

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN – Things didn’t get off to a good start for the ‘Jacks as they were defeated in Huntsville, 66-57, in the 181st meeting between SFA and SHSU. Stephen F. Austin bounced back with a 15-point victory over Central Arkansas. They will take on Nicholls State in Thibodeaux, then host UTA.

NICHOLLS STATE – Played two close games to open its SLC season, beating Northwestern State by seven, then losing to UTSA by five. The Colonels will play SFA and Central Arkansas in the second week of conference play.

MCNEESE STATE – Got off to a bad start in conference action with a 78-69 loss to UTSA, but the Cowboys played well against the 12-3 Roadrunners. Nearly every stat was close, except McNeese let UTSA shoot it too well from the field (49%). The Pokes head west to face Lamar, then back to Louisiana for a showdown with Southeastern Louisiana.

CENTRAL ARKANSAS – Began SLC action 0-2 with a five-point loss to 2-0 A&M-Corpus and a 15-point defeat at the hands of SFA. The game with TA&M-CC was tied 51-51 with 1:50 to play, but the Islanders pulled away with great free throw shooting.

NORTHWESTERN ST. – Also started league play with a rocky start, losing to fellow Louisianans Nicholls State and Southeastern. The Demons led by six at the half against Nicholls State, but were outscored 43-30 in the second half. A&M-Corpus and Nicholls State are on tap next for the Demons.

WEST

UTSA – Still the class of the conference thus far. The Roadrunners beat two schools from Louisiana (McNeese and Nicholls) to begin at 2-0. UTSA is off to its best start since the 2001-20002 season. UTSA faces UTA in Arlington, then hosts A&M-Corpus.

TA&M-CC – Depsite being 5-8 heading in SLC play, the Roadrunners won against Central Arkansas and Texas State to open up 2-0. Kevin Palmer hit 11 of 12 free throws in the game and scored eights points down the stretch to give Corpus the win. The Roadrunners have a legitimate chance go 4-0 as they play Northwestern State and Lamar.

SHSU – Played only one SLC game, but came away with a big win over arch-rival SFA in Huntsville. Held the Lumberjacks to 12% shooting from beyond the arc, while SLC Player of the Week Gilbert Clavell scored 21 points to go with 12 rebounds. The Bearkats hit the road against 2-0 SELA, then host Texas State.

LAMAR – Managed to go 1-1 as it started conference play losing to SELA, then downed UTA. All things point to another 1-1 mark as the Cardinals face McNeese and A&M-Corpus in the coming week. Lamar got bad news this week when it was learned that senior forward Ashton Hall would require season-ending knee surgery.

TEXAS STATE –  Surprised some with a four-point victory on the road against UTA. The Bobcats then lost at home to A&M Corpus. TSU faces Central Arkansas at home and travels to SHSU.

UT-ARLINGTON – A disappointing 0-2 mark left the Mavericks in the cellar in the SLC West. UTA fell at home to Texas State and on the road to Lamar. Senior Marquez Haynes continues to be the only real scoring threat for the Mavs as he averaged 21.5 PPG in the losses. Senior forward Tommy Moffitt has missed eight games with a broken foot and will be out another three to four weeks.

BOXSCORE BREAKDOWN

SELA torched the nets at a 61% clip from the field and 56% from 3-point land in the win over Lamar.

Northwestern State shot a miserable 31% from the field in a loss to SELA, and point guard Mike McConathy continued to have problems putting the ball in the hole. McConathy was 1-10 against the Lions and is shooting only 29% for the year.

In the win over Central Arkansas, the Lumberjacks outrebounded the Bears 28-16 to offset a distinct free throw advantage by Central Arkansas, who shot ten more shots from the charity stripe.

Nicholls State had three players score 20 or more points in the victory over Northwestern State. Kellan Carter and Anatoly Bose played all 40 mintues, while Chris Iles logged 35 mintues.

A&M-Corpus Christi made 19 of 23 free throws, while Central Arkansas hit only three of 11 as the Islanders made away with the win.

The number 14 was lucky for UTSA against Nicholls State. Devin Gibson, Omar Johnson and Morris Smith IV all pitched in 14 points, while Terry Fields netted 13 in a 64-59 victory.

Junior Josten Crow was a big reason Sam Houston State beat SFA on Jan. 9.  At just 6’4, Crow scored 14 points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds. Crow also dished out six assists and had three steals.

Lamar’s Donley Minor scored a career-high 16 points to help Lamar past UTA. Minor’s scoring average this year was 3.1 PPG before he went off for 16.

Junior Anatoly Bose picked up his seventh straight 20 point game as he scored 24 points in a loss to UTSA.

As conference play begins and defenses start to stiffen, individual scoring may plummet. Fred Hunter (Nicholls State) and Marquez Haynes (UTA) each scored 25 points in their respective games and had the high-point total during the first week of action.

Texas State and Texas-Arlington combined to shoot a dismal 23% (8-34) from 3-point land in Texas State’s win on Jan. 9.

In Southland Conference play, TAM-CC’s Kevin Palmer is on fire – from the free-throw line. The senior from Baltimore has made 23 of 27 shots (85%) from the charity stripe.

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Checking in on… the Southland

Posted by rtmsf on January 2nd, 2010

Russell Burnett is the RTC correspondent for the Southland Conference.

Current Standings (as of Dec. 30, 2009)

EAST

  1. Stephen F. Austin 9-3
  2. SE Louisiana 7-4
  3. Northwestern St. 5-6
  4. McNeese State 5-7
  5. Central Arkansas 5-7
  6. Nicholls State 4-9

WEST

  1. UTSA 8-3
  2. Sam Houston 8-4
  3. UTA 5-5
  4. Lamar 6-7
  5. A&M Corpus 5-6
  6. Texas State 4-8

PLAYER OF THE WEEK.  UT-Arlington guard Marquez Haynes scored 31 points and grabbed seven boards in a 101-85 win over Texas Wesleyan. This is the second POW honor for Haynes this year.

NON-CONFERENCE.  With Southland Conference action slated to begin the second week of the New Year, let’s take a look at the games, players and statistics from non-conference play in 2009:

GAMES

  • Sam Houston State University set several Rupp Arena records as they lost to the nation’s fourth-ranked team, Kentucky, 102-92, then hammered fellow SEC member Auburn 107-89 a month later.
  • The Nicholls State Colonels began the season losing their first eight games after being picked second in the SLC East in the preseason polls. Included in the 0-8 start was a 72-58 loss to Division II Alaska.
  • Texas A&M Corpus Christi started the season off with a bang by downing Oregon State, of the Pac-10, 67-43, in Lubbock of all places. The Islanders were led by Kevin Palmer’s 23 points.
  • In its first contest of the year in Ames, Iowa, UTSA bested Iowa 62-50. The loss snapped Iowa’s 46-game winning streak in home openers.
  • The Southland Conference has battled numerous Top 25 teams in non-conference thus far, including teams ranked No. 1 (Kansas), 2 (Texas), 3 (Kentucky).

PLAYERS

  • One of the biggest surprises has been the improvement of Lamar’s Anthony Miles. The 6’1 sophomore guard from Clear Brook High School is seventh in the league in scoring (15.2) after averaging 6.3 ppg as a freshman last year. Miles has doubled his stats in nearly every statistical category this year.
  • UTA’s Haynes, a senior transfer from Boston College, has lived up to his billing as a preseason All-Southland Conference selection. Haynes has scored in double figures in all 11 Maverick games and has posted 30 or more points four times. He leads the conference in scoring at 24.7 ppg.
  • Another All-SLC preseason pick, SHSU’s Corey Allmond, has been streaky thus far. The senior guard from Maryland torched Kentucky and Auburn for 37 and 25 points, respectively. He hit 11 of 16 three-pointers against Kentucky, which is a Rupp Arena record. The 37 points are a career high.
  • Nicholls State’s Anatoly Bose is on a tear. The 6’6 junior from Australia has scored more than 20 points in five consecutive games with a season-high of 27 points coming against Southern-New Orleans. It’s no coincidence that the Colonels have won four of their last five games as Bose has heated up.
  • Kevin Palmer, a 6’6 senior at A&M CC, has scored at least 20 points in six of the Islanders’ 11 games this year. He is second in the SLC in scoring at 20.2 ppg.
  • Lamar’s Justin Nabors continues to lead the SLC in rebounding. His 9.2 boards a game is nearly three more than the 6’7 senior averaged two years ago. Nabors pulled down a league-high 24 rebounds against Louisiana College.
  • SLC newcomer and junior college transfer Gilberto Clavell has helped SHSU to an 8-4 mark. Clavell averaged 25.2 points per game during a four-game stretch. His 34 points against Auburn are a season and career high.
  • Stephen F. Austin’s Jordan Glynn had a stretch where notched a double-double in five straight games, averaging 13.8 points and 11.2 rebounds a game during that span.

TEAM BREAKDOWNS

EAST

  • Stephen F. Austin – Put together winning streaks of three and four games to start the year 9-3. Nearly missed on big wins against Texas Tech and Arkansas. Won the SLC West last year with a 12-4 mark. Looks to start the New Year and SLC season off right when they play arch-rival Sam Houston State in Huntsville on Saturday, Jan. 9.
  • Southeastern Louisiana – Might be a little of an unknown quantity in the SLC this year. Picked to finish third in the East, SELA played Mississippi State and LSU relatively well, but has played a relatively weak non-conference schedule with three non-Division games. Senior center Patrick Sullivan (15 ppg, 8.4 rpg) will need to play big as conference play begins.
  • Northwestern State – Looking to improve after a dismal season last year, the Demons are streaky at best. They are last in the SLC in free-throw percentage (61 percent) and in the middle of the pack in field goal and 3-point percentage. The Demons have no real go-to player, but senior guard Damon Jones tries to fit that bill, having scored in double figures in six of the last seven games.
  • McNeese State – Led by senior Diego Kapelan and sophomore Patrick Richard, the Cowboys played eight of their 12 games on the road thus far. Kapelan has increased his scoring average each year, and after scoring five points a game as a freshman last year, Richard is now throwing in 12 ppg.as a sophomore. McNeese closes out the non-conference schedule with Texas Tech and LSU before playing three tough SLC games to open the season.
  • Central Arkansas – Picked by most to finish last in the SLC East, the Bears lost four of their first five games, then went on a four-game winning streak and sit at 5-7. UCA boasts a balanced scoring attack with five players netting double figures. Junior guard Chris Poellnitz leads the way with 13.8 points a game. The play of JC transfer Tadre Sheppard (11 ppg.) has the Bears optimistic they can better last year’s 3-13 mark in the SLC.
  • Nicholls State – The Colonels were picked to finish second in the rough and tumble SLC East, but began the 2009 campaign by losing their first eight games. NSU rebounded by winning four of its next five, but the Colonels have an 18-day layoff until their SLC season begins. Forward Anatoly Bose has been a beast of late, but NSU will need more production from Fred Hunter and Maurice Foster if they want to start the SLC off the right way.

WEST

  • UTSA – Junior point guard Devin Gibson (13.7 ppg.) from Cy-Falls in Houston has led an experienced group of Roadrunners to an SLC West best 8-3 mark. Of UTSA’s eight leading scorers, six of the players are either a junior or senior. The Roadrunners played in the championship game of the SLC Tournament last year, losing to SFA. UTSA begins SLC play on the road in two of its first three games.
  • SHSU – Year in and year out the Bearkats are one of the teams to beat in the SLC. Picked to finish first in the West, SHSU has played well in non-conference, but four of its eights wins have come against non-Division I teams. JC transfer Gilberto Clavell has been labeled by his coach as a “beast” and he brings toughness down low to the Kats, who rely heavily on their guard play. SHSU tips off conference play at home against bitter rival Stephen F. Austin.
  • UTA – The Mavericks have one of the best scorers in college basketball on their side. Senior guard Marquez Haynes has scored in double figures every time he has stepped on the court, and along with fellow senior Brandon Long (16.6 ppg.) make up a troublesome duo for teams in the SLC. Things could be rough for the Mavs without senior guard Tommy Moffitt, who broke his foot in early December. UTA opens with Texas State in Arlington on Saturday, Jan. 9.
  • Lamar – Had a stretch of six of seven games on the road, but has won three of its last four to stand at 6-7. Senior forward Ashton Hall (9 points, four rebounds a year ago) has only played one minute this year due to a knee injury. The Cardinals are picked to finish second-to-last in the West after finishing in last place a year ago. Look for guard Anthony Miles and senior Justin Nabors to carry the load.
  • TAMU-CC -The Islanders are picked to finish right behind SHSU in the West, and have played some stiff competition in non-conference to check in with a 5-6 mark. Mr. Everything Kevin Palmer was an All-SLC pick a year ago and he hasn’t disappointed thus far. Palmer scores 20 points per game to go with 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists and 3 steals. The Islanders start conference play with Central Arkansas, Texas State, Northwestern State and Lamar and could be 4-0 on Jan. 20.
  • Texas State – After finishing fifth in the West last year, the Bobcats are picked to be the team in the cellar this season. TSU has losing streaks of five and three games this year and open the SLC campaign against two strong opponents in UTA and A&M-CC. The Bobcats have three players scoring 10 points each – John Rybak (10.9), Cameron Johnson (10.9) and J.B. Conley (10.2). One of these players will need to step up for Texas State to be competitive in 2009-10.

LOOKING AHEAD

Saturday, Jan. 9

  • Stephen F. Austin at Sam Houston State, 2 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 13

  • Southeastern Louisiana at Northwestern State, 7 p.m.
  • Nicholls State at UTSA, 7 p.m.
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2009-10 Conference Primers: #18 – Southland

Posted by jstevrtc on October 19th, 2009

seasonpreview

Predicted Order of Finish:

East

  1.      Southeastern Louisiana (12-4)
  2.      Nicholls State (11-5)
  3.      Stephen F. Austin (10-6)
  4.      Northwestern State (7-9)
  5.      McNeese State (5-11)
  6.      Central Arkansas (4-12)

West

  1.      Sam Houston State (13-3)
  2.      Texas-San Antonio (11-5)
  3.      Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (10-6)
  4.      Texas-Arlington (9-7)
  5.      Lamar (7-9)
  6.      Texas State (6-10)

All-Conference Team:

  •    Marquez Haynes (G), Sr, Texas-Arlington
  •    Ashton Mitchell (G), Sr, Sam Houston State
  •    Anatoly Bose (F), Jr, Nicholls State
  •    Kevin Palmer (F), Sr, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
  •    Corey Allmond (G), Sr, Sam Houston State

6th Man. Devin Gibson (G), Jr, Texas-San Antonio

Impact Newcomer. Rodney Jones (G), Jr, Southeastern Louisiana

What You Need To Know.  The Southland is comprised of twelve schools over three states (you can probably figure them out from the schools’ names).  The conventional wisdom says that the league is “West-heavy,” though we feel that’s giving Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls State a little less credit than they deserve.  Stephen F. Austin was last year’s representative in the NCAA Tournament but they lost their two best players from last year (actually, the conference’s last two Players-Of-The-Year!), Josh Alexander and Matt Kingsley.  And, with transfers and new freshmen, half of their personnel are totally new.  Since the 1985 NCAA Tournament, the Southland’s tournament representatives have logged only two wins in the Big Dance, both by Northwestern State:  2001′s play-in game against Winthrop, and that thriller against #3-seed Iowa in 2006.

Predicted Champion.  Sam Houston State (NCAA Seed: #14).  Ashton Mitchell and Corey Allmond are a formidable guard combo who blend together seamlessly; Mitchell was 8th in the nation in assists (6.5 APG) last season and averaged 12.5 PPG as well, while Allmond is more than happy to accept those dimes from Mitchell as the leading returning scorer (15.3 PPG) on the team and ranking 4th in the conference in 3FG% (43.4).  Senior forward Preston Brown will see a rise in minutes and touches as the main inside scoring threat though he’ll be partnered with Gilberto Clavell, a promising junior college transfer.

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