Justin Glover is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference, but he is moving on and therefore we are seeking a skilled, knowledgeable writer familiar with this conference.
Predicted Order of Finish
Appalachian State: 21-11 (13-5)
Chattanooga: 17-14 (11-7)
Western Carolina: 16-15 (9-9)
Samford: 14-18 (9-9)
UNC Greensboro: 9-23(7-11)
Elon: 8-23 (5-13)
Wofford: 25-10 (14-4)
College of Charleston: 21-13 (13-5)
Furman: 17-15 (10-8)
Davidson: 16-17 (8-10)
Georgia Southern: 13-19 (6-12)
Citadel: 10-21 (3-15)
All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parentheses)
Andrew Goudelock (G) – College of Charleston (19.4 PPG)
Donald Sims (G)– Appalachian State (20.4 PPG)
Amu Saaka (F) – Furman (15.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG)
Tim Johnson (F) – Wofford (6.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG)
Noah Dahlman (C) – Wofford (16.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG)
Omar Carter – Appalachian State: The Charleston Southern transfer will look to contribute early on as a junior. While in the Big South, he was freshman of the year in 2007-08.
James Carlton –College of Charleston: One of the top prospects out of the state of North Carolina, Carlton played in the 2010 NCCA East-West All-Star Game and Carolinas All-Star Basketball Classic. Carlton averaged 15 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and four blocks per game as a senior at South Central High School and is rated as a three-star power forward by Rivals.
Wofford head coach Mike Young has his Terriers on a mission in 2010-11.
What You Need to Know
Not surprisingly, the losses of Stephen Curry and Andrew Lovedale from Davidson led to a slide from the Wildcats, who made major strides under Bob McKillop in the latter part of the decade.
All 24 men’s and women’s teams will take part in the annual SoCon Tournament, the longest-running conference tournament in the nation. McKenzie Arena in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will serve as host during March 3-7.
The Southern Conference ranks as the fourth oldest major college athletic conference in the United States. Only the Big Ten (1896), Missouri Valley (1907), and Southwestern Athletic (1920) are older.
When we saw this game on the early-season calendar, we knew right away what the angle would be — the media darling mid-major of the last couple of years in Davidson taking on the presumptive new one in Butler. The changing of the guard probably already happened, though, with 2008-09 being the bridge season. The two teams played last year at Davidson as part of the Bracketbusters on February 21, and Butler took advantage of a slowed Stephen Curry (coming off a layoff with an ankle injury) to pull away in the second stanza to win fairly easily. Gordon Hayward was fantastic with 27/9 in a dominant inside/outside effort, while his Davidson counterpart Stephen Curry struggled from deep (2-13) in a difficult situation where Davidson’s ship appeared to be sinking and Curry was heroically trying to keep it afloat.
Of course, this year Butler is the home team and they return virtually everyone, while Davidson lost Curry as the #7 pick in the NBA Draft (along with Andrew Lovedale and Max Paulhus Gosselin). On paper, Butler should roll, but Bob McKillop’s teams aren’t in the habit of getting smoked, so it’ll be interesting to see how his remaining nucleus of Will Archambault, Bryant Barr and Stephen Rossiter have progressed and how the team plans on running their offense without the spectacular Curry dominating the ball this year. In any event, we’re always happy to give mid-major programs who have national aspirations our coverage. Join us on Saturday for some hoops from Hinkle.
I originally wanted this to be a post for the entire weekend, but after looking at the schedule for the weekend I realized that the only games worth watching were on Saturday so I had to make a slight revision and consequently this will be a Saturday only post. The way I look at it is to view Sunday as a day off to rest up (maybe get a little bit ahead on either school work or “real world” work so you can do absolutely nothing next week) for the first set of big games, which will be start on Monday. Unfortunately as you will soon see even Saturday might be a bust unless you live in about a 200-mile radius near the Indiana or Ohio border. Fortunately, your fearless editors have come through with RTC Live coverage at 2 out of 3 sites with the third site being less enlightened about new media.
Creighton at #22 Dayton at 1 PM on WHIO-TV: Yeah. That’s right. Only on local television, but like I said we will be there with RTC Live coverage. This will be the first game for both teams so both teams will be hyped up for this game even though the Flyers come in with significantly higher expectation not that the Bluejays are slouches. After being snubbed by the NCAA Selection Committee two years ago, the Flyers now have a target on their back after knocking off West Virginia in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament. Brian Gregory‘s team is led by Chris Wright, everyone’s preseason A-10 POY (everyone also conveniently forgets that Wright wasn’t even 1st team A-10 last year), but if the Flyers are to live up to their preseason ranking they will need other players to step-up. If we were to pick out two players to fit that description would be London Warren, who picked apart West Virginia with 9 assists and only 1 turnover, and Marcus Johnson, a sophmore swingman who put up solid if unspectacular numbers (6.3 PPG and 5.2 RPG) last year, but has been pegged by Gregory as a breakout star this year. On the other sideline, Dana Altman will be hoping that P’Allen Stinnett can fill the void left by Booker Woodfox, last year’s Missouri Valley Conference POY and need center Kenny Lawson (8.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and conference-leading 1.6 BPG last year) to dominate the Flyers on the inside. If the Bluejays can get big performances out of those two and some big shots by Kaleb Korver (yes, he is Kyle’s brother and he can shoot–45% from beyond the arc last year). However, the Bluejays’ biggest advantage might be that the Flyers could be looking ahead to their next opponent–#20 Georgia Tech and its hyped freshman Derrick Favors in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Davidson at #10 Butler at 2 PM on WHMB-40: Yeah. Local television again, but once again we have come through for you with yet another RTC Live from historic Hinkle Fieldhouse (the site of Milan’s famous 1954 win over Muncie and where they filmed Hoosiers–anybo are dy got the odds that Bill Simmons has ever travelled there since he references the movie so often?). Of course, we have a funny feeling that if Stephen Curry were still in a Wildcat uniform ESPN might have found a way to get them on one of their networks. Instead this game will give us a look at Butler, everyone’s top mid-major team and one of the highest ranked mid-majors that I can remember in recent years. Butler coach Brad Stevens managed to lead the Bulldogs to 26-6 record last year despite starting three freshmen in every game, a remarkable feat for the 2nd year coach who has more wins (56) in his first two years than any coach in D1 history other than Bill Guthridge (58). This year, Stevens will have significantly higher expectations for his Bulldogs who are led by sophomore Gordon Hayward (13.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.5 SPG) and junior Matt Howard (14.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.7 SPG). On the other side of the ball, Davidson coach Bob McKillop will have his hands full trying to manage an inexperienced and Curry-less group in a hostile environment. In addition to losing Curry and his nation-leading 28.6 PPG, the Wildcats also lost Andrew Lovedale (a solid inside presence who provided both points and rebounds) and Max Paulhus-Gosselin (an excellent defender who to the best of my knowledge is not related to Jon, Kate, or any of the 8). This year, McKillop will be relying on Will Archambault (8.3 PPG and 4.3 RPG), Bryant Barr (7.1 PPG and 2.0 RPG), and Stephen Rossiter (6.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG). Unfortunately, the Wildcats strength is on the inside where Hayward and Howard will be dominating. The Bulldogs relative weakness is on the outside where Curry could have done some major damage, but he’s hanging out with Nellie now so expect the Bulldogs to be out to send a message to the rest of the nation that they deserving of this extremely high ranking.
Mount St. Mary’s at #16 Oklahoma at 2 PM on ???: This is ridiculous. I can’t find this game on any TV listing and we won’t be there thanks to Big 12 policy against new media so we will just assume that Jeff Capel will hire one of those courthouse artists to let the rest of us know what the action was like. There are only really two reasons to watch this game if you happen to be in Norman, Oklahoma (since you can’t see it anywhere else–seriously Oklahoma’s site doesn’t even list a local TV station carrying the game): to see how the Sooners adapt to life without Blake Griffin and to see how Willie Warren plays as the main option for the Sooners playing against the Mountaineers’ backcourt of Jeremy Goode (15.9 PPG and 3.1 RPG), Kelly Beidler (12.1 PPG and 6.5 RPG), and Jean Cajou (13.6 PPG and 3.4 RPG). We expect the Sooners to be ok, but don’t be surprised to see them struggle a bit in the early going. They shouldn’t have a problem with the Mountaineers, but if Milan Brown‘s backcourt gets hot from beyond the arc we could have an interesting game that nobody outside of the arena will see.
Preseason Expectations: The Wildcats were the heavy favorites to repeat as Southern Conference champions and both the AP and the ESPN/USA Today poll had Davidson at No. 20 in their preseason polls. It can be argued that ranking was inflated because of the star status of Stephen Curry because this team was clearly not the same without players like Jason Richards and Thomas Sander.
Best Wins: Davidson beat North Carolina State (72-67) and West Virginia (68-65) in back-to-back games in early December and a quick glance at the schedule shows that those wins were far and away the team’s best although the win over West Virginia should come with an asterisk.
Worst Losses: With Curry out with a gimpy ankle, Bob McKillop‘s club got shellacked, 64-46, by the Citadel on February 18th. The Citadel, under the guidance of Ed Conroy, has made vast improvements this season and finished third in the Southern Conference, but getting trounced by the Bulldogs was inexcusable for a team hoping for an at-large bid—even if Curry was out.
Where it ended: Right around the beginning of the second half of today’s game against College of Charleston. The Cougars outscored the Wildcats 39-23 in the second half to send Curry and company home in the semifinal of the Southern Conference tournament.
What went wrong: Aside from the second half of the game against College of Charleston, it can’t be stressed enough how important former point guard Richards was to this team. He averaged 12.7 points per game along with 8.1 assists per game, and had one of the better assist/turnover ratios (2.8/1) in the country. Without his steady hand to run the offense, Curry was forced to move over to the point guard and was unable to run around the court trying to get free on screens. Teams were able to focus their defense on Curry and he struggled with all the attention.
What’s next: It is a very good question, and one that Bob McKillop would more than likely like to put off thinking about it for at least another month. But if the Wildcats fail to make the tournament, it is a realistic possibility that Curry will go pro. While the cupboard won’t be bare, the Wildcats will have scoring issues without Curry and Andrew Lovedale (a senior) on the court. The team will be forced to shift their offensive focus to developing players like Ben Allison and Frank Ben-Eze.
Best wins: Maryland has two fantastic wins on their resume: they had a borderline miraculous comeback victory over North Carolina, 88-85 in overtime, and they also had a big win over Michigan State, 80-62, early in the season when they played in the Old Spice Classic.
Worst losses: Unfortunately the Terps also have two very bad losses. They had every opportunity to solidify their tournament resume on Saturday in Charlottesville against the Virginia Cavaliers, but they blew their opportunity with sloppy play and porous defense as the Wahoos prevailed 68-63. But, possibly a worse loss was back in early January when the Terps let a double-digit lead slip away at home and they lost to Morgan State 66-65.
Where it ended: When Mamade Diane hit a 3-pointer with just under 40 seconds left to give the Cavaliers a three-point lead, Terps fans could see the NCAA tournament slipping away. The Cavaliers gave Maryland every opportunity to step up and run away with the game, but the Terps let the Cavaliers hang around and eventually take the lead in the second half. From that point on Maryland was forced to play catch up and they just didn’t have the firepower to pull it off.
What went wrong: Gary Williams had all year to develop someone to play second fiddle to Greivis Vasquez, and at times, Cliff Tucker, Landon Milbourne, and Dave Neal all played that role. But the role players on the squad were maddeningly inconsistent, disappearing for stretches of the season. In the end the Terps were too reliant on Vasquez to create offensive opportunities with his drive and kick, and Vasquez didn’t respond well to all the responsibility as there were times when he forced bad shots and tried to do too much.
What’s next: If Williams and company don’t make it to the NCAA tournament, Terps fans can take solace in the fact that it will give Williams more time to court top prospect Lance Stephenson, who would be the perfect offensive weapon to add to the Terp arsenal. Neal is the only player who will be moving on unless Vasquez decides to go pro, and the Terps add depth on the frontline with the addition of recruits Jordan Williams and James Padgett. Even if Stephenson does not end up in College Park, the Terps will have a great shot to end their tournament drought.
Michael Hurley is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Southern Conferences.
Stephen Curry is back to full strength from his ankle injury. That is the single most important factor in the Southern Conference tournament. Curry just was voted the Southern Conference’s Player of the Year for the second straight year. Davidson started out conference play by winning 15 straight games before hitting a rough patch and going 2-2with both losses at home. Since then, Davidson has won their final three conference games by an average margin of 25 points. First teamers Curry and Andrew Lovedale have led this team back to the brink of the NCAA tournament. They are sitting on the other side of the bubble right now, so a Southern Conference Tournament Championship is what they need to feel secure come Selection Sunday. We all would like a chance to see Curry and Davidson tackle the giants in the tournament again. With an 18-2 conference record, they are heavy favorites.
Tonight’s a special night at the East Coast RTC headquarters, as I will intently be watching a game on ESPN based on a little column I wrote a few days ago. The results of this game (more specifically how one player does) will lead to one of two options:
(1) He will go off and the site will be bombarded by hateful comments by people questioning my manhood and my intelligence.
(2) He will pull a 7-for-25 or something similar and the site will be silent. It’s not really right, but that’s just the way these things work. I guess I can be like a superstar walking out of an opposing stadium enjoying the sweet sound of silence. [Note: This doesn’t mean I would enjoy seeing Curry struggle. It would just add some validity to my theory.]
Anyways, onto the games. . .
– Davidson at #2 Duke on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Even though Duke is the obvious favorite here and the Goliath to Davidson’s, uh, David, I think the Wildcats have more pressure on them going into this game. They have had 2 shots at the big boys (Oklahoma and Purdue) and came up short both times including a beat-down at the hands of the Boilermakers. Even with a win over West Virginia, the Wildcats non-conference resume is a little weak for a team that came into the season ranked 20th in the nation after their scintillating run last March. If they lose this one, they can forget even getting a 6 seed. This isn’t a death knell for the Wildcats season (see last year), but it would be disappointing for Bob McKillop’s crew after coming into the season with such high expectations. To get a win at Cameron, Stephen Curry will need to have a huge game (40+ points) and get some help from Andrew Lovedale, who will probably have his hands full with Kyle Singler. In addition, McKillop will have to hope that the Blue Devils have an off-night beyond the arc like they did in their only loss this year. As you know the Blue Devils have a much more balanced attack led by Singler with help from Jon Scheyer, Gerald Henderson, and Nolan Smith. One of the interesting things to watch for early in the game will be the mobility of Smith, who will be guarding Curry and is coming off a knee injury. If Smith isn’t up to the task, the task of guarding Curry will be left up to blogosphere whipping boy Greg Paulus. If that is the case, I will be taking back my earlier prediction for Curry for tomorrow night.
The Cameron Crazies will be out in full force
– #21 Louisville at South Florida on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: The Cardinals will be riding high after their rollercoaster win over intrastate rival Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. They should be careful though going into the Sun Dome where the Bulls nearly beat then #11 Syracuse in a 59-54 game despite a horrendous night from Jesus Verdejo (3/17 FG including 0/10 from 3). Rick Pitino will be expecting a more consistent performance out of freshman sensation Samardo Samuels, who only had 4 points and 1 rebound in 11 minutes due to foul trouble. I’m sure Pitino will be praying for another solid performance from Edgar Sosa, who responded to Pitino’s interesting motivational techniques (reminiscent of my high school coach threatening to put all of us on JV before every game) with a season-high 18 points including a game-winning 3 with 2.8 seconds against Kentucky. Like usual, Louisville has the talent to run away with this game, but the question is whether they will continue to play down to the level of their competition.
– #15 Marquette at Rutgers on ESPN Full Court and ESPN360.com: Honestly, this isn’t a particularly exciting game, but it should be fun to see if Rutgers finds the Golden Eagles below the level of their typical competition (last 3 games vs. last week’s #1 UNC, #2 UConn, and #3 Pittsburgh). The Golden Eagles are only considered the 15th best team in the country. You gotta love the Big East this year.
– College of Charleston at #3 UNC on Fox Sports South: See if the Tar Heels, currently in last place in the ACC, can dig its way out the cellar. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about the Tar Heels.
– Gonzaga at #24 Tennessee on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: That’s not a typo. The Bulldogs, who were once ranked 4th in the country, are no longer ranked. I’m not sure what to make of Gonzaga. After being the underdog for so many years, they suddenly became a favorite, but have continued to disappoint and frustrate the nation each March after repeated failures to live up to their NCAA tournament seed. This year, they rose to their 2nd highest ranking ever (spent 2 weeks at #3 at the end of the 2004 regular season) before going into a freefall losing their last 3 and 4 of their last 5 games. To be fair, those 4 losses have been by a combined 18 points and included 2 road games and an overtime loss to then #2 UConn. Despite that, there’s no reason that a national title contender should go through a stretch like that. The Volunteers will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss at Kansas. The key to this game will be on the inside with Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism battling against Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye. If the Volunteers are able to control the paint, they will have a good shot at knocking off the Bulldogs, who will also need some help from their perimeter guys (Matt Bouldin, Steven Gray, and Jeremy Pargo).
John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC. His columns appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.
I can’t believe how I soaked my parents when I was a kid. Right after Thanksgiving they’d start asking me to make a Christmas list so they could just go ahead and start buying me everything on it and I’d have yet another memorable holiday. My sisters did the same thing. True, we were good kids; we racked up enough academic and athletic achievements during the rest of the year to keep them stocked in stories to bore the crap out of their friends and the rest of the extended family with, but looking back on it, we were really lucky. Still are.
These days, when Christmas rolls around, my wants are not of games for my Atari 2600, or life-size Shogun Warriors, or the like. Today, I only ask for one thing for the holidays, and that is Time. I want to sit in the recliner at our home in the country with a drink in one hand and a remote control in the other, my brain awash in college basketball images, Christmastime tournaments and match-ups lighting up my television screen until I can hardly remember my own name. There will be family time, present-opening time, time for playing with the nieces and nephews of the family. All of that is fantastic and it can’t be beaten. But this year I’m especially looking forward to having the time to just devour Mom’s cooking, forget what my next obligation is, stay warm from the marrow-cracking cold outside, and enjoy some college hoops as we close the book on non-conference play for this season.
Santa is Checking John's Holiday Wish List
But make no mistake. I’m a giver, as well. I don’t just want those things above for myself, I want them for everyone. And as I got a headstart on things this past Saturday by watching some freaking amazing games, I couldn’t help but wonder – what would be my college basketball wish list for this year? Hey, sounds like a column idea! So, here goes. Six things I want inside the world of college basketball for this season. Why six? Because I say so. I even ranked them for you. You’re welcome.
John Stevens’ Holiday Wish List
#6. Davidson to find other options. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE watching Stephen Curry and his lightning-quick release go nuts for 42/8/10, and I don’t want to minimize the work by Andrew Lovedale (13.5 and 10.1), for whom I actually feel a little sorry. Its not easy being Salieri, is it? Those are solid numbers and yet almost nobody knows this guy’s name. But after him there’s just not a lot going on. I think this is something we all suspected but didn’t want to admit because we’ve been mesmerized by Curry’s game, and we wanted to think this Stephen could lead this team to heights even loftier than last season. That is yet to be disproved, but the Purdue game this past Saturday was damning. Davidson’s tournament chances hinge on other options emerging when Curry is smothered by excellent defense like he was this past weekend, or when he’s just plain having a tough shooting night. ESPN’s Pat Forde had a great article about this topic yesterday, incidentally. We’ve seen what Curry can do as a virtual one-man show. Now I’d like to see other fellows step up and for the team to go even farther even if it means that Curry might take a hit on his scoring average.
(Will settle for: more amazing feats by Curry; no matter how deep Davidson’s tournament run, Curry is that enjoyable to watch.)
#5. A nice airplane companion for my Vegas trip in March. I haven’t taken that many flights in my life, but the ones I have taken have been pretty lengthy and there’s only been one case where I had an enjoyable neighbor in the seat next to me. I was flying to California this past Summer to attend a friend’s wedding and the fellow to my right just happened to play Division I college hoops about 40 years ago. He told me stories of games he played against Wooden’s UCLA and Rupp’s Kentucky; the secret, behind-the-scenes stuff was amazing, some of the best sports stories I’ve ever heard. I sat there motionless and listened until he got tired and actually had to take a nap. But that was my only pleasant experience so far, as far as who I’ve had next to me on a plane.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You’re sitting there in your seat as the plane loads, watching who’s coming down the aisle, and every attractive girl who approaches you’re thinking, “Come on, come oooooon…” but then you end up getting some foul-breathed 400-pound pet store employee who didn’t have time for a shower that morning and wants to talk to you about how his life totally changed after he saw The Blair Witch Project. I don’t care if you’re single, married, or whatever, if you’re a male and you’re flying alone on a long trip, it’s the same. We all want the Padma Lakshmi or Robin Meade look-alike, or maybe the stray USC Song Girl, to slide into the neighboring empty seat, look at us with puppy-dog eyes and whisper to us about how she’s “the bad girl of the team” but, alas, doesn’t have a place to stay in your destination city. Hasn’t happened yet. Maybe someday.
Gals Like Her Don't Sit in Coach...
(Will settle for: the plane to land in one piece, both coming and going.)
#4. A Final Four for Gonzaga. I’m not affiliated with the place in any way – didn’t go to school there, never have even been to the state of Washington, though I’d love to visit – so here’s my thinking on this. I’m hearing more and more alleged college hoop pundits using the terms “high mid-major” and “low mid-major” to denote a certain cadre of teams that…well, I probably don’t have to explain it. A few years ago there were just mid-majors. A few years before that there were just the big time programs and the rest of the world. I kind of miss those days. Now we have teams that actually feel insulted when you call them a low mid-major when they think they’re a high mid-major, and so forth. That’s pure crap. Gonzaga was the first team to really relish the “mid-major” moniker since I’ve been into this sport and they’ve certainly put in their time. Mark Few has always come off as a perfectly nice guy and quite honestly his teams, without exception, play a brand of basketball that’s always been fun to watch for me, even though I can’t point to one particular thing that makes it so. We’re long past the honeymoon phase with Gonzaga, meaning that it was one thing when they did well in the tournament while nobody was looking, but for over a decade now we’ve come to expect more from the Zags. It’s important that they get to a Final Four when people actually expect something from them – like maybe this season. I specifically admire Josh Heytvelt’s comeback and Austin Daye’s a pleasure to watch. A Final Four would also move Coach Few more toward that elite level of coaches, which is due for a new member.
Another reason: go back a few years to another Vegas trip. Some of the boys and I are in the front row of a standing-only section of one of the sportsbooks watching the end of a game; the start of Gonzaga’s first game of that tournament was a couple of minutes away. The Gonzaga supporters – and there were well over a hundred of them – gathered behind us and were definitely a polite crowd, meaning no pushing or jockeying to steal a spot in front of us, or anything. And they certainly came prepared to support their team. They were a fun lot, and definitely social. Many of them started conversations with us and we shared a few beers and so on. Pretty cool, eh? Well, I noticed that from where I was standing, just behind and to the right of me was a pretty dark-haired girl in a big Gonzaga sweatshirt and an almost-empty beer in her hand. I figured I’d maybe talk to her before the game started, so I turned to say hello, when, at that very millisecond, she takes a deep breath and, at a deafening volume, belts out: “GOOOOOON-ZAG-UH BAAAAAAS-KET-BAAAAAALLLLL!!!!” The crowd behind her echoed this offering. I thought, “OK, she’s cool, probably knows the game, definitely loves her team. Here we go…” and I turned around again. What does she do? She lets fly another, “GOOOOOOOOOON-ZAG-UH BAAAAAAS-KET-BAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!” at twice the original volume. The crowd behind her really began frothing. I was impressed on one hand but hoped she would be able to at least carry a conversation or scream another cheer. I never really found out, because for the next two hours, at random times she would scream this same cheer, in the manner of the Detroit Pistons’ announcer Mason. I never heard her say anything except that as she kept pounding those beers. So, maybe if Gonzaga finally gets to a Final Four, this girl, wherever she is, will feel that her yelling has done its job and she can now preserve her voice, or learn another cheer. In all seriousness, they were good fans, and they deserve a Final Four.
This Was Not Her
(Will settle for: an iTunes gift card.)
#3. Eric Devendorf to get this nonsense settled and rejoin his team. According to the ESPN.com article, Devendorf’s suspension for introducing his hand to a female student’s face earlier this year is that he has to complete 40 hours of community service before he can ask to be reinstated as a student by Syracuse University and resume his place on the basketball team. The spring semester on the Syracuse campus starts January 12th and the Orange(men) have a game two days later at Georgetown.
Devendorf has said all the right things in the press since this incident, and he seems genuinely contrite. He probably knows that to sock a female student in the jaw with the heel of your hand for any reason is the move of a black-belt douchebag and I’d speculate he understands the need for punishment. Fine. 40 hours. I say get it done as fast as you can, Eric. Do a Monday-through-Friday, eight hours a day. Better still, do four ten-hour days. By getting it done quickly, you get it over with, and you send a message to your teammates that you really can’t wait to get back on that squad, if they’ll have you. You’re showing them that you want to miss as little game and practice time as possible. That ruling, in point of fact, came down on December 19th, which means that by the end of today you could been DONE with this if you’d have chosen the ten-hour-day option. Whatever schedule you can set – the point is, get it done as fast as you can. You’ll impress your teammates, you’ll fulfill your obligation, you’ll send a message to your coaches, and I bet you’ll return to the Carrier Dome to more cheers than anything. Your team is good, but they’re better with you there. Despite their curious history in the NCAA Tournament, they are a dangerous team this year and I wouldn’t want to be the guy responsible for Syracuse fans wondering how good they could have been.
(Will settle for: Nothing. This one’s not negotiable.)
#2. An end to the objectification of Miss Erin Andrews. That’s right. I’m going to be the champion for Miss Andrews’ cause. I think it’s high time that we recognize the hard work this woman puts into actually being a journalist, interviewing coaches at halftime when they’re more annoyed than anything and don’t want to convey any real information to the viewers. It’s thankless, and I for one want to say a big Thank You to Miss Andrews. And on top of all that, she has to do it while most of the viewers are wondering how snug her shirt is or how high her heels are, probably not even hearing what she’s saying. I can’t even fathom the catcalls she must endure from horny college kids while she’s just trying to do her job. I even hear that some sports blogs actually use any possible reason to post pictures of her on their sites, hoping to generate cheap pageviews. I am appalled! Who, I ask you, WHO would do such a thing?!? Anyway, I think we need to do a better job of showing her how much we love her reporting as well as her…*sigh*…looks. And, I dunno, if Miss Andrews feels like talking about this subject with me, she can use the e-mail link for this site located at right, and perhaps we can discuss it over dinner. Not that I said all that stuff above for that reason, or anything.
I Have No Objectification to this Photo of Ms. Andrews
(Will settle for: Not taking a beating. You see what I’m doing there, right? Remember that kid back in, like, the 8th or 9th grade who was friends with all the girls because he sucked up to them like crazy? You know the guy, he always thought he could parlay that ill-gotten friendship into something else if he wanted (even though the girls knew it would never happen) once he got to high school, and he liked to rub your nose in it a little. I ALWAYS wanted to administer a beating for the ages to that guy. If you see what I’m doing with my above paragraph about Erin, you’ll exempt me from a similar throttling.)
(Will also settle for: ESPN to make some airtime for another Andrews, namely Thea, who I always dug in a major way even though Cold Pizza was an abomination.)
And finally, the number one item on the John Stevens Holiday List for 2008 is:
#1. A Duke fan to admit that…it’s getting to be a little much. Well, this should be good. It all started with those American Express commercials a couple of years ago where Coach K talked about how he doesn’t just prepare you for basketball, he also prepares you for life, etc. Then I’m sitting watching the amazing United States victory over the Europeans in the 2008 Ryder Cup on TV earlier this summer and what do I see? A smiling Krzyzewski on my TV screen doing a lead-in to the coverage about every hour; I mean, it’s a GOLF tournament. And it happened in Louisville, which means that among college basketball coaches, Rick Pitino would have been a more appropriate choice. It’s an event that Coach K’s mug should have been nowhere near. In my opinion, the most mind-blowing example of the Coach K free pass is his weekly hour-long talk show on Sirius XM, called “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K,” now entering its fourth season. It’s basically an hour of Coach K hanging out with special guests, talking about basketball, talking about life in general, talking about whatever he wants.
Many people have argued that these appearances by Krzyzewski constitute a recruiting advantage, and it’s a tough argument to refute. He seems to be the only coach out there doing it, though it should be said that he’s probably the most desirable spokesman out there, as far as coaches go. But honestly, in addition to everywhere else he shows up, the guy’s got an hour of satellite radio time every week where he kicks it with famous friends and espouses his opinions on just about everything – including subjects that might even come up during, oh, I don’t know…in-home and/or campus recruiting visits?
To be sure, I don’t know if these things provide much of a recruiting advantage; let’s be honest, even without Coach K’s extra appearances there’s a lot about Duke that sells itself. We all know the place’s academic reputation, and the basketball program had reached elite status long before Krzyzewski started with the commercials/promos/radio shows/etc. But the problem is that other coaches certainly don’t get to do these things. Yes, Krzyzewski has created these opportunities through his achievements as a college basketball coach. But let’s say Coach K retires tomorrow and Sirius XM decides to give a show to only one coach – say, Ben Howland, or Roy Williams, or Billy Gillispie, or Jamie Dixon. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the NCAA stepped in and nixed it, saying it provided an unfair advantage. As chronicled by this very website, the NCAA chooses to apply its disciplinary bitch-slap in such strange and uneven ways at times – but THIS, a weekly hour-long pulpit for a coach – ANY coach – to freestyle about any subject he wants to millions of people – is allowed? The NCAA claims to try to keep things fair, to keep the playing field even. Is that what we’ve had for the past few years with Coach K preening himself as the official brand face and name of college basketball?
So that’s my number one wish for this holiday season. One single Duke fan to admit that their coach, despite his successes, might just be getting away with something. In the meantime, enjoy this clever YouTube spoof of Coach K’s AMEX ads.
(Will settle for: a winning Powerball ticket. I’m more likely to actually get that.)
Super Saturday is a term usually reserved for the final Saturday of the US Open where the two men’s semifinals and the women’s final are played, but this Saturday of college basketball trumps any day at Flushing Meadows (unless we could somehow get a Kournikova-Ivanovic final). Normally I would cover all the interesting games on the docket, but today is so good that I’m only going to cover the ones featuring ranked teams matched up against each other.
No naps this Saturday afternoon
The Undercard: On any other Saturday, these games would be the headliners, but today they are merely an appetizer to get you ready for the even bigger match-ups to follow.
– #22 Michigan State at #5 Texas at 2 PM on CBS: Tom Izzo’s Spartans come into Saturday badly in need of a victory against a quality foe. Although Michigan State comes in with a respectable record of 7-2, they have been underwhelming and certainly nowhere near the level they were predicted to be coming into the season (AP #5 back on November 24th). On the other side, the Longhorns have been surprisingly strong with their only loss coming against Notre Dame (81-80) in what was the best game of the Maui Invitational. Texas has responded well to the setback with wins over 2 ranked teams in December (UCLA and Villanova). The last time Michigan State played a team of this caliber was in their much-anticipated match-up against UNC (clearly Texas isn’t quite at that level), they were blown off the court in a virtual home game. Tom Izzo will need a big game from Raymar Morgan and hope that his defense can contain A.J. Abrams and Damion James if he hopes to steal one in Austin.
– #20 Davidson vs. #18 Purdue at 4 PM on CBS: Both teams are all but assured of NCAA tournament bids. However, neither team has a signature win yet. Davidson certainly has the marquee value with national POY contender Stephen Curry, but they lost their only game against a ranked team (82-78 at #14 Oklahoma on November 18th). While the Wildcats can hardly be faulted for losing a road game against Blake Griffin and the Sooners, it still leaves them without a win they would need to merit a potential 5 seed or better. If they are unable to win today in Indianapolis, their only other chance to beat a top 25 team will be on January 7th against Duke at Cameron (ESPN might be hyping that game a little bit in the time leading up to the BCS title game). The Boilermakers are in a similar situation albeit without a star anywhere close to the level of Curry. The Boilermakers lost their only games against ranked teams back-to-back (87-82 in OT against Oklahoma on November 28th and 76-60 at home against Duke on December 2nd) and after tomorrow they don’t have a game against a currently ranked team until February 3rd against Ohio State. This game will likely come down to how well the Boilermakers can contain Curry (31.9 PPG and 6.8 APG) and limit his sidekick on the inside Andrew Lovedale (13.9 PPG and 10.7 RPG). The Boilermakers will counter with a much more balanced attack (4 players averaging between 9.9 and 15.6 PPG).
– #11 Syracuse at #21 Memphis at 6 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The Orangemen (other than Jim Boeheim) responded well to their crushing loss at the buzzer on Monday night. However, they will be without Eric Devendorf for at least 2 games so Jonny Flynn will have to hope that Paul Harris and/or Arinze Onuaku can pick up the slack as John Calipari will almost certainly be focusing on Flynn on the perimeter. The Tigers could use a quality win here as they have lose both of the games they have played against quality opponents (Xavier and Georgetown). Tyreke Evans and Shawn Taggert will need to play well, but this is a game that the Tigers should win.
The Title Bouts: These games are as good as you will find any time this season (in-conference or out-of-conference) until we get to March.
– #7 Xavier vs. #6 Duke at 2 PM on CBS: Although this game is a “neutral” site game and quite far away from North Carolina, East Rutherford, New Jersey has become a de facto home for Coach K and the Blue Devils over the past 20 years. Despite that edge, I don’t think Coach K will be starting his bench (including everybody’s favorite whipping boy Greg Paulus) like he did in the Blue Devils last game against UNC-Asheville. Sean Miller didn’t have quite the same luxury in Xavier’s last game as they had to fight hard to beat crosstown rival Cincinnati 76-66 a week ago. Both teams rely on a balanced scoring attack, but the outcome of the game will likely be decided by Duke’s ability to hit the 3. The Blue Devils don’t shoot a particularly high percentage from 3 (32% for the season), but they are such high-volume shooters (20.6 attempts per game compared to 15.3 attempts per game for the Musketeers) that it becomes a major factor in all of their games. Their only loss this year was their rematch against Michigan in Ann Arbor where they opened the game hitting 3 of their first 27 attempts for 3 point range before hitting 4 in a row late to close the gap. The key match-up in this game should be Kyle Singler versus Derrick Brown, which should be interesting to watch if Singler tries to pull Brown away from the basket with his outside shooting. This should be a close game, but look for Duke to win this one as they have had a tendency to pull out big games before conference play starts.
– #2 UConn vs. #7 Gonzaga at 4 PM on CBS: This game could have very easily been a 2-4 match-up if Gonzaga hadn’t slipped up last week against Arizona in Tucson. One of the interesting subplots, which I’m sure that CBS will cover repeatedly, is that it was match-up that introduced the nation to Gonzaga basketball less than 10 years ago and propelled UConn to its first Final 4 trip. While I remember the game for its significance for Gonzaga’s program, I had completely forgotten that it gave UConn its first Final 4 trip ever (won the title that year in a nail-bitter over Trajan Langdon’s Blue Devils). This Gonzaga team is significantly different than the one you might see on ESPN Classic. They are no longer just the team that relies on exceptional skill and execution. Now they have the athletes to compete with anybody in the nation. However, UConn has been playing better than anyone in the nation not wearing baby blue so Gonzaga will have its hands full trying to keep up with the Huskies, who have a balanced scoring attack led by Jerome Dyson, Hasheem Thabeet, and Jeff Adrien. Dyson leads the Huskies in scoring at 15.4 PPG and provides Jim Calhoun with a versatile one-on-one scorer. Thabeet, his counterpart on the inside, has finally started to show some of the promise that has had NBA scouts salivating over him in the past as he has started to score on a consistent basis to compliment his always strong defensive presence. The one area that the Huskies need to improve upon if they want to compete for the national title (read: challenge UNC) is for A.J. Price to step up as an elite college PG. His 35% FG and 36% FT isn’t going to cut it in March and may even be a liability in Big East play, which may be more competitive than the NCAA tournament itself on a nightly basis. The Bulldogs have also been playing exceptionally well this year with the exception of their loss last week to Arizona last week. They also come in with a balanced attack, but they are led by PG Jeremy Pargo whose scoring is slightly down (12.1 PPG to 8.9 PPG) from the past 2 season as he has focused more on running the team (3.4 assist:turnover ratio compared to 1.8 last year). To beat the Huskies, Mark Few will need everybody–Pargo, Austin Daye, Josh Heytvelt, and Matt Bouldin–to be near the top of their games. In the end, the Huskies depth and superior interior defense will probably be too much for Gonzaga to overcome.
Game of the Day.Xavier 63, Virginia Tech 62 (OT). This ending was almost as ridiculous as the Brandon Roy nonsense from a couple of weeks ago. After it appeared the Va Tech had won the game on a layup by Jeff Allen with under three seconds remaining, Xavier threw it up ahead to Dante Jackson, who at that point was 0-8 with 2 pts in the game. So of course he throws in a bank shot from 50 feet to win (see below). This was easily the best game-winner of the young season, and will probably be in the running for best of the season this year. XU’s Derrick Brown led the Musketeers with 16/6, but Va Tech may not have been in that position if their star had shown up on the offensive end – AJ Vassallo had a mere 4 pts on 2-13 (0-6 3FG) shooting, 15 pts below his average. At least he stepped it up otherwise, though, with 10 rebs and 8 assts.
Duke 71, Michigan 56. Hey, Duke won another tournament title at Madison Square Garden! Never seen that before! Coach K is only 94-10 in November at Duke, so if you didn’t see this one coming, then you haven’t watched college basketball in the last three decades. It got us wondering, how many of these tourneys has Coach K won over the years? Surpisingly, he’s only won three of the five PNITs that he’s been in (1985, 2000, 2008) – sure feels like more. The Blue Devils relied on a balanced attack–both in terms of depth and playing both halfs (looking at you Henderson and Singler)–to vault themselves into a #1 seed in everyone’s Week 3 NCAA tournament mock bracket. On the other side, John Beilein and the Wolverine faithful should leave New York City happy though as their win over #4 (not for long) UCLA has served noticed that the Wolverines should be significantly better than last season’s 10-22 record. Perhaps the biggest thing last night’s win over UCLA may have done is make more recruits think about heading up to Ann Arbor so one day Beilein can start more Manny Harrises (game-high 25 points) and less. . .well everybody else on his team. We may find out just how far along these Wolverines have come on December 6th when they get a rematch against Duke in Ann Arbor.
UCLA 77, S. Illinois 60. UCLA improved its east coast record to 2-3 under Howland by pulling away from SIU in the last quarter of this game today. The Bruins relied on a 20-2 second half run to win this game. This trip to MSG should be a useful motivation tool for Ben Howland to motivate his team, which is made up of hyped freshmen and remnants of a team that has made 3 straight Final 4s. The Bruins relied on their veteran leaders (Alfred Aboya, Josh Shipp, and Darren Collison) to win the game as that trio combined for 49 of the Bruins’ 77 points. If Howland is going to make a 4th consecutive trip to the Final 4, his freshmen will have to grow up fast.
More Paradise Jammation.
Miami (FL) 70, Southern Miss 60. Honestly, I’m more interested in what Larry Eustachy was doing between games in the Virgin Islands than this game. However, I suspect that most of you are here for some keen insight into the game. Cliffs Notes summary: Lance Hurdle led the Canes to a victory despite an off night from Jack McClinton. I wouldn’t read too much into this game as a top 25 team should win games against teams like Southern Miss fairly easily, but it is still November so I’ll give The U the benefit of the doubt tonight, but they will have to step it up when they face the winner of. . .
UConn 89, Lasalle 81. Speaking of teams that didn’t quite play up to expectations, #2 UConn struggled to put away LaSalle, a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team. Jim Calhoun got big games out of Kemba Walker and Jeff Adrien to avoid the huge upset against the Explorers (seriously, what kind of nickname is that?) who shot 50% from the field. However, the biggest story of the night (other than Psycho T returning) was the return of A.J. Price, who was solid if not spectacular in his return. In a related story, Price maybe getting a Facebook invite from Cameron Newton that is assuming, um, Newton can find a computer to log onto the site.
USC 73, UT-Chattanooga 46. It’s the return of Taj Gibson who was AWOL for much of last season (I’m not sure who to name that type of performance after–Taj Gibson or Steve Slaton? We’re a college basketball site, so I’ll go with “pulling a Taj Gibson”.) Gibson paced the Trojans with 17 points and 15 rebounds. For the adolescent girl demographic, the big news of the night was that Lil Romeo took his first college shot. . .and missed.
San Diego, 73, Valparaiso 66. The Toreros were led by center Gyno Pomare’s 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Toreros, who knocked off UConn in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year as a #13 seed face the winner of. . .
Wisconsin 60, Iona 58 (OT). The 25th-ranked Badgers snuck by the Gaels behind 21 points from Trevon Hughes. Somehow, the Badgers won despite going 15 of 48 (31.2%) from the field. So basically, it was a typical Bo Ryan win. I can’t wait to put my Big 10 TV channel to use this year.
Other Games of Mild Interest.
Utah 83, Ole Miss 72. The SEC is now 21-7 with losses to Mercer (x2), VMI, Utah, Illinois, Loyola (IL), and UNC. Other than UNC, not exactly murderer’s row there.
Syracuse 86, Oakland 66. Jonny Flynn brought 18/4 off the bench to assist four others in double figures, but most importantly, SU held Oakland’s Johnathan Jones to 7-23 shooting and only 16 pts.
Pitt 86, Akron 67. I’ll just leave you with this quote from Akron coach Keith Dambrot about Sam Young:
Sam Young physically reminds me of LeBron. Obviously, he’s not as good a player as LeBron, but he’s got that quick-twitch strength and ability to put the ball down. He’s a tough matchup.
I will be waiting to see Young try LeBron’s patented bullrush to/through the basket this year.
Davidson 97, Winthrop 70. Stephen Curry with a ho-hum 30 points and 13 assists. The bigger news for Bob McKillop is the 20 and 15 from Andrew Lovedale. If the Wildcats can get a legitimate inside game going this year, they could be an extremely tough out in March with Curry bombing away from outside.
Memphis 84, Seton Hall 70. Not much to say here. Memphis took an early lead and never looked back. One interesting stat: 30/46 or 65.2%. I’ll let you guess what that represents. (Hint: Don’t ask John Calipari about it.)
Maryland 89, Vermont 74 (OT). That’s not a typo. The Terrapins outscored the Catamounts 17-2 in the 5-minute OT period. I think even Gary Williams will have to be happy with how his team finished the game. He may be a little pissed off about the other 40 minutes though. . .
Tennessee 76, MTSU 66. A thoroughly unimpressive win for the Volunteers. Do top 25 teams really struggle to put away Middle Tennessee State?