Your Watercooler Moment. Yes, Paul Hewitt is still at Georgia Tech, and yes, the Ramblin’ Wreck is still one. If your memory was hazy as to why major conference schools don’t like visiting mid-majors on their home floors, Kennesaw State’s blitzing of Georgia Tech tonight, 80-63, is your reminder. But be honest — have you even heard of Kennesaw State before? The Owls joined Division I a mere five years ago and its best win in five-plus years of basketball at the highest collegiate level was a two-point victory over conference rival Belmont in 2007-08. It’s quite a leap to go from sneaking by a mid-100s RPI conference opponent to obliterating an ACC foe from start to finish, even one as generally unpredictable and disappointing as Georgia Tech, but the sellout crowd at the school a half-hour north of Atlanta loved it. Kennesaw State took a fourteen-point lead into the half, and except for a couple of minor pushes by the Jackets, they were never truly threatened tonight. Paul Hewitt reportedly has a huge buyout in his contract, but we figure eventually Georgia Tech is going to tire of year after year of mediocrity despite the lure and promise of star recruits coming onto campus, right? We think there’s no greater tell of the abilities of Hewitt to get it done at Georgia Tech than the fact that he’s never in ten years in Atlanta finished better than 9-7 in the ACC — and he’s only done that once (in 2004). And consider the players who have come through GT: Chris Bosh, Jarrett Jack, Will Bynum, Javaris Crittenton, Anthony Morrow, Thaddeus Young, Derrick Favors, Gani Lawal. Only a handful of schools nationally have put more players into the NBA than Paul Hewitt, yet this surfeit of talent simply hasn’t translated to success at the collegiate level. He needs to go, and this loss may have been the ugly slap to the face that Tech administrators need to finally cut him loose.
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Predicted Order of Finish
Fred Landers (F) – UNF. Normally we would go with Lester Wilson, a forward out of Knoxville who decided to stay in Tennessee when he signed with ETSU, but the glut of perimeter players on the Buccaneer roster will probably limit Wilson’s playing time. Landers won’t have such a problem at UNF where he should get plenty of playing time at power forward and should contribute immediately for a team with an anemic offense where their leading scorer only scored 9.0 PPG.
What You Need To Know
Belmont (NCAA Seed: #14). With their solid performance in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year last year, Rick Byrd should expect to make a trip back to the NCAA Tournament this year if they are able to overcome ETSU and Lipscomb. Even though the Bruins will rely heavily on Clark and Mick Hedgepeth (11.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG), they will need to get production out of Scott Saunders and Jon House on the inside and steady perimeter play from Drew Hanlen, Jonny Rice, and Jordan Campbell to win the Atlantic Sun.
Wild Saturday. Obviously, there’s a million things to talk about this weekend, but this special ATB Saturday edition will focus exclusively on the thirteen conference tournaments that were going on across the country today. In our usual weekend edition on Sunday night, we’ll discuss all the other games from the bigger conferences who are still finishing up regular season action, including the upsets of #1 Syracuse, #5 Kansas State and so forth. Bear with us, as we’ll be back tomorrow.
Conference Tourneys. The ‘expanded’ NCAA Tourney continued today with another 35 teams eliminated on this glorious Saturday of hoops across the nation.
Folks, it’s March and we’re now approximately eight days until Selection Sunday sets the sports world on fire. By our count, there are about twenty teams fighting for half as many at-large spots, and this weekend’s games will have increased importance in the all-too-important ‘sniff test.’ The NCAA Selection Committee is made of humans just like the rest of us, and if they see a couple of teams look great on tv this weekend, it could be the little extra push needed to earn a Dance card next Sunday. But it’s not just about those so-called bubble teams; it’s also about positioning. Which team will step up in the last week to grab the likely one remaining #1 seed, along with Syracuse, Kansas and Kentucky? Who will be able to secure a top four regional seed in order to play closer to home? There are so many questions unanswered still remaining. Today is the last Saturday of the regular season, and as always, we’ll be with you on Boom Goes the Dynamite throughout the day. Below are the key games we plan on keeping an eye on — of special note is that three more automatic bids will be delivered today, in the Big South, Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley Conferences.
We will be back at 11 AM for our continuing coverage so check back then and feel free to comment or ask questions in the comment section.
11:00: Nice showing by the Duke student for GameDay. Not going to be Kentucky because of the smaller student body and smaller arena.
11:10: Ugh. Speedo guy segment coming on GameDay. I will be switching the channel for a few minutes when that segment is going to start. Way to show segments that your audience will be interested in. Would they do a “Bikini girl” segment or would that not be PC?
11:20: Coach K does not approve of “Speedo guy”. I think we have finally found something that UNC fans will agree with him on. Seriously ESPN. Why are you featuring this idiot?
11:25: Be back in 5 minutes. Tell me when it is over.
11:30: Back again. Knight does not look amused, which amuses me.
11:45: So Sherron Collins was a great athlete in high school, plays video games, and like macaroni. I’m glad we found that out. Why can’t GameDay do legit segments like the one on the Syracuse zone they did earlier this year?
Noon: Hubert picks UNC. Big surprise. Knight and Bilas are calling for a Duke beat down. I’d go with something in between the two.
12:05: Three interesting games on right now none of which is the FSU-Miami game that ESPN2 decided to show over Cincinnati-Georgetown. The best of the three games is clearly the West Virginia-Villanova game, which we are doing a RTC Live for so be sure to check that out.
12:15: Interesting news: Both Luke Harangody and Austin Freeman will play today according to Seth Davis and Jeff Goodman respectively.
Big Red Freshness Lasts Right Through It. Cornell 95, Brown 76. It probably took a little longer than the nervous Big Red faithful hoped to put away the pesky Brown Bears tonight, but in the end, it was simply a formality because Cornell players were so narrowly focused on winning their third straight Ivy League title and NCAA bid that there was no way they were going to lose this game tonight. How focused were they? Try a season-best 57% shooting and an utterly ridonkulous 20-30 from deep tonight. At one point during the conflagration of shot-making by the Big Red, they hit eight treys in a row en route to an 11-13 first half. But it was the second half where Cornell exhibited its dominance, using a 14-4 run early to take control of the game and ensure another title coming to Ithaca this season. All five starters reached double figures, but it was lesser-known forward Jon Jaques who took the scoring honors with 20/7 tonight (including six threes). In all, four players had four or more threes, which we figure has to be some kind of a record for versatile and voluminous shooting! Cornell will now wait to see where their NCAA seed lies, but the smart money is on a #12 seed when the brackets are released. Anyone up for a #12/#5 upset this year?
Conference Tourneys. Eight conference tourneys tonight, and a ridiculous thirteen tomorrow. Let’s see what was interesting…
Large Wednesday. It was a big-time night of games, the kind of evening that has you checking the clock all day long in nervous anticipation. Most of the games ended in predictable fashion, but that didn’t make them any less interesting. To get this out of the way, ranked teams #3 Kentucky, #6 Purdue, #10 New Mexico, #13 Tennessee, #15 BYU, #16 Temple, #17 Wisconsin and #24 Texas A&M all won, most easily. UNM won the Mountain West title outright, and Kentucky grabbed at least a share of the SEC title tonight. We’ll focus on the biggest games, the key games of bubbular interest, and the conference tourneys in this space tonight, though.
Huge Bubble Games.
Ryan Dunn in the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.
News and Notes
The wild and wacky year in the A-Sun will continue as we head into the tournament which will take place March 3-6 at the University Center in Macon, Georgia (Mercer’s home arena). The tournament takes the top eight teams in the league. There was never a clear-cut leader in the league through most of the regular season and we were thinking that perhaps a team or two would separate from the rest of the league; however, that never happened and instead got even more jumbled after the last weekend of the regular season.
Campbell led the league through the first half of the regular season but then fell back a few spots after a tough road swing in January. The Camels got back in the thick of things after winning six straight that catapulted them to the top of the league once again. But a loss at Jacksonville on Thursday night looked to end Campbell’s hopes of winning a league title until the Dolphins turned around and lost to ETSU in the season finale on Saturday. With Lipscomb and Belmont winning their final two games of the regular season, both found themselves tied for the league’s number one spot when play concluded on Saturday night. With that, four teams tied for the regular season championship (Lipscomb, Jacksonville, Belmont, and Campbell). After all of the tiebreakers took place, Lipscomb earned the #1 seed, Jacksonville #2, Belmont #3, and Campbell #4 for the upcoming A-Sun tournament. ETSU earned the #5 seed, Mercer #6, UNF #7 and Kennesaw State #8.
With the parity of the A-Sun this season, I have a feeling that there will be some extremely exciting games in the upcoming tournament. There are no clear favorites; however, I will say that playing on Wednesday can be an advantage because the winners on Wednesday will get to have a much valuable day off before playing in the semifinals on Friday. So I would give a very slight advantage to Lipscomb and Jacksonville just for that reason.
You know why we don’t need NCAA Tournament expansion to 96 teams? The are a lot of other good reasons, but the simplest reason is that we already have it. In fact, about 300 of the 347 Division I teams have an opportunity starting tonight to ‘play their way into’ the NCAA Tournament. It’s easy — survive and advance. As long as you win, you’re still alive. And if you win three or four games in (mostly) consecutive days, you’ll see Greg Gumbel reading your name off the Big Board on Selection Sunday. Keep winning beyond that and suddenly you’re channeling NC State circa 1983.
There will be thirty conference tournaments played from coast to coast (and all points in-between) in the coming days, with the Big South, Ohio Valley and Horizon all starting postseason action tonight. The Atlantic Sun and Patriot will get going tomorrow, and by Saturday night, we’ll have already crowned the first three automatic bids. Twenty-seven more (plus the Ivy) will be decided over the course of the following week of play. It seems like a lot to keep up with (and it is), which is why we’ve come up with an internal tracking matrix (below) that we’re happy to share with everyone.
During our nightly ATBs, we’ll be keeping you updated as well, but here’s the high-level view of the world. Strap in folks, because March is here!
Ryan Dunn in the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Key Upcoming Games
We hope everyone had a great holiday – over the weekend, we had a few check-ins, so here goes…
Atlantic 10 – Joe Dzuback (READ MORE)
A10 coaches have no illusions that the conference’s reputation (however good among the non-BCS conferences) will carry a bubble team into the field of 65. While few subscribe to former Temple head coach John Chaney’s “Anyone, Anywhere” philosophy, everyone recognizes the virtue of playing invitational tournaments and having a healthy dose of road games on the resume. Most of their OOC resume-building games may come from traditional rivalries and invitational fields, but the road games, at worst, help their squads prepare for the hostile crowds they will face when playing conference opponents. How did the conference members do this OOC season? (…)
Mountain West - Andrew Murawa (READ MORE)
For the most part, it was just a really ugly week for the MWC. Aside from BYU’s win in the Vegas Classic and UNLV’s success in the first couple rounds of the Diamond Head Classic (and really, despite their names, neither of the fields at those tournaments deserved the “Classic” label), there was carnage all around. New Mexico survived an upset bid by Creighton, only to slip up at Oral Roberts for their first loss of the year. Utah lost to Illinois State and Pepperdine (yes, Pepperdine, a team who improved their record to 4-10 with that win over Utah). Air Force fell to Northern Arizona. TCU got drilled by Houston. San Diego State looked lost against Arizona State. Colorodo State couldn’t take advantage of a weakened UCLA team. And, Wyoming fell apart in the second half at Northern Iowa, and in the process the MWC lost the inaugural MWC/MVC Challenge (although, given the results, perhaps they ought to switch the conference billings in the title) 5-4. (…)
Ryan Dunn is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun Conference.
The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have not had much success since their transition to the Division I level to this point. However, this current stretch might be their most successful that includes one of their best wins in program history. Just the other night the Eagles knocked off Big East member DePaul in front of their home crowd. The win was the first for the Eagles against a Big East opponent. FGCU has now won four games in a row which is their longest streak since becoming a Division I member. Sophomore point guard Reggie Chambers has been stellar during the winning streak. He has won back-to-back A-Sun player of the week honors, the first player this season to do so. He along with Reed Baker and Anthony Banks can make this team a legitimate threat in the A-Sun race.
The Jacksonville Dolphins were predicted by many to win the conference this season. I had them picked second but nonetheless the Dolphins are playing bad basketball right now. They have started out league play at 0-2, losing by a combined 39 points in their first two A-Sun games to Campbell and ETSU. I thought that perhaps their brutal non-conference schedule would better prepare them for league play but that has not been the case at all. The Dolphins are only averaging 63 points per contest while giving up 78 points per game and allowing teams to shoot close to 52 percent from the floor. Their field goal percentage defense is last in the league. The Dolphins are also last in the league in assist to turnover ratio. Most thought this season could be the one for the Dolphins to finally win the league as they return four starters from last season’s runner-up team. JU still has plenty of time left to get it back together but they need to get back on track sooner rather than later.
Best of the Rest
Key Upcoming Games