Atlantic 10 Season Preview

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vtbnblog) on November 17th, 2014

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Looking Back

The schools in the Atlantic 10 broke a conference record by sending six teams to the NCAA Tournament last March. Although the seeds fell in a narrow range from #5 (Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Louis) to #11 (Dayton), the A-10 drew one bid fewer than the Big 12 (seven), tied the Big Ten and Pac-12 (six each), while outdrawing the American (four), the Big East (four) and the SEC (three). What a way to end a season that began with hand-wringing over the departures of Charlotte, Temple and Xavier. Although the conference standard-bearers Saint Louis and VCU did not survive the first weekend (VCU went from the hunter to the hunted, falling to Stephen F. Austin in an overtime Round of 64 game) and A-10 Tournament Champion Saint Joseph’s fell to eventual National Champion Connecticut, Dayton did advance to the Elite Eight before falling to Florida, 62-52.

Will Shaka Smart Be Interested In The Open Position In Westwood? (US Presswire)

It was a great year for Shaka Smart, VCU, and the rest of the A10 last season. (US Presswire)

Rumors swirling around the Barclays Center during the Atlantic 10 Tournament had the A-10 in negotiations with Barclays and the Atlantic Coast Conference over access to the venue for their 2017 conference tournament. The conference had Barclays locked up through 2017, but the ACC (with ESPN’s backing) wanted a New York City venue for its 2017 and 2018 conference tournaments. The A-10 eventually agreed to relocate its tournament site for the 2017 (Pittsburgh’s Consol Center) and 2018 (Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center) seasons in exchange for an extension at the Barclays for the 2019-21 seasons and a commitment for three conference double-headers to be staged annually there in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pitt’s Bruising Toughness on Display at Legends Classic

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 26th, 2013

Bennet Hayes is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Monday night’s Pittsburgh vs. Texas Tech game from the Legends Classic.

Texas Tech has a long ways to go before becoming a complete basketball team, but that doesn’t mean that the Red Raiders couldn’t have offered Pittsburgh its first real challenge of the season on Monday night. After all, when you begin the campaign with a quartet of opponents (Savannah State, Howard, Lehigh and Fresno State) sporting a combined 4-16 record versus D-I competition, any foe with a power conference membership may be enough to constitute a challenge. But any hope of a taut battle was quickly erased, as Pittsburgh used a 34-8 first half run to power themselves to a 23-point halftime lead, ending this Legends Classic semifinal before it ever really began. It was a dominant show of strength from a program quite accustomed to delivering them, but is this Panther team capable of conjuring up the echoes of past glory? Wins over Big-12 also-rans won’t answer that question in isolation, but Jamie Dixon seems to believe this Pitt team, as bruising and tough as so many of those that came before them, may have the talent and chemistry to do just that.

Lamar Patterson's Career Night (23 Points) Helped Undefeated Pittsburgh Surge To A 76-53 Victory Over Texas Tech

Lamar Patterson’s Career Night (23 Points) Helped Undefeated Pittsburgh Surge To A 76-53 Victory Over Texas Tech

Pitt’s 23-point victory was achieved despite an unusual Panther failing: Its opponent grabbed more rebounds than the men in blue and gold. Jamie Dixon’s teams have classically been downright fearsome on the offensive boards – their offensive rebounding percentage has been among the nation’s five best in four of the past five seasons – but the physical identity that Dixon breeds impacts the backboards at both ends. Dixon admitted that “rebounding hurt us tonight,” but the scoreboard showed that little else did. Pitt continued its early season display of offensive efficiency by making more threes (10) than lost turnovers (eight), along the way to making 16 of 21 free throw attempts. Dixon said after the game that he had felt like Pitt’s offense had been ahead of their defense all season long. With all due respect to a stellar Panthers effort on the defensive end (it took a late barrage of Texas Tech made field goals to lift their field goal percentage to just 39 percent for the evening), crisp ball movement and a career day from emerging leader Lamar Patterson (23 points on 8-of-13 shooting) certainly substantiated Dixon’s claim. The offensive precision is a great sign for Pitt. Dixon can turn a good defensive team into an elite one with his coaching; It’s far harder for him, or any coach, to turn an average shooting team into an excellent one.

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Seven ACC Non-Conference Battles to Watch This Season

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 6th, 2013

Today we will look at some of the most interesting ACC non-conference games of 2013-14. For this feature we will not include games in early season tournaments because we earlier previewed those events in three parts – Part I, Part II, and Part III. Also, we will not look at any of the specific match-ups in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in this feature because we’ll focus on that annual event at a later date. That still leaves a good inventory of ACC-related non-conference games to choose from, and as you will see, most of these games will be played in New York City, which is not entirely by accident. Counting tournament appearances, eight different ACC teams are scheduled to play a total of 16 games in the Big Apple — it’s obvious that the ACC is serious about taking advantage of the most recent expansion into the Northeast. A strong presence in New York is clearly part of the conference plan. By comparison, only four ACC teams played a total of five games in the New York area last season, counting a Duke-Temple game played in East Rutherford, New Jersey. In chronological order, here are the seven non-conference games that will be crucial to win for the ACC to meet its goal as the top conference in the nation this season.

Dez Wells Will Lead Maryland in Opener vs. UConn (Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback)

Dez Wells Will Lead Maryland in Opener vs. UConn (Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback)

Friday November 8 – Maryland vs. Connecticut (Barclays Center – Brooklyn) – 6:30 PM  ESPN2

Without injured point guard Seth Allen, the Terrapins will be underdogs against the Huskies on opening night. The explosive Connecticut backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright will be hard covers for the bigger but slower Maryland guards. Dez Wells and Nick Faust must limit their turnovers, a problem for both last season, but the Terps hope to counter with the punishing post duo of Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare.  A wild card for Maryland may be 6’8″ sophomore Jake Layman, who reportedly has been a standout in preseason scrimmages.

Tuesday November 12 – Duke vs. Kansas (Champions Classic – Chicago) – 9:30 PM ESPN

The college basketball world will be focused on the Champions Classic doubleheader on this night. #1 Kentucky squares off with #2 Michigan State in the opener, but most of the buzz seems to be about the nightcap. There are plenty of storylines for this one including the match-up of the top two freshmen in the country, Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Jabari Parker for Duke. Also, the game is in Chicago, Coach K’s hometown, and the Midwestern backyard of Bill Self. This year’s #1 high school senior Jahlil Okafor lives in Chicago and reportedly will decide soon between Duke and Kansas. Finally, it should be a great game to watch with plenty of top athletes on the floor. Kansas holds a decided edge in the paint while Duke has a more proven backcourt. The game may come down to which team’s newcomers best handle playing on the big stage for the first time.

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ACC M5: 02.04.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 4th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Duke Basketball Report: This is a phenomenal article from Al Featherston, looking back at Duke winning number 1,000 nearly four decades ago. The article also includes two of the biggest ACC “What ifs?” ever:
    1. What if Lefty Driesell was given the Duke job?
    2. What if Adolph Rupp had taken over for Duke in the mid-1970’s?

    The first question is fascinating. Driesell built Maryland, but Duke already had a history of success (only five teams beat the Blue Devils to the 1,000 win mark). Could he have taken the Blue Devils to similar heights (and lows)? Just how different would Duke’s program be today if the (aptly described) “mercurial” Driesell ushered in the modern era instead of Coach K. Also, what would have happened to Mike Krzyzewski? Similar butterfly effects happen if Rupp takes over. The article also has historical anecdotes about the dominance of the Durham YMCA in the 1920’s. Seriously, give it a read.

  2. ESPN: Well, the inevitable has arrived. Despite not receiving bids from Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center in New York City, “because of the league’s changing membership,” those two arenas will still be in the running for the 2016-2021 ACC Tournaments. The move makes sense, but it has the potential to be a major flop too. The atmosphere at the ACC Tournament the past few years hasn’t been the same. The declining excitement is largely thanks to an increase in noncompetitive teams, the addition of Thursday and an expanding geographic footprint. Moving the tournament to New York could exacerbate the issues if the league continues to aim for a balanced allotment of tickets.
  3. ACC Sports Journal: The ACC is slowly rebuilding. Almost all programs appear to be moving in the right direction, though there are still plenty of questions surrounding almost all of the new coaches: Can Jim Larranaga and Steve Donahue recruit at the ACC level consistently? Can Brian Gregory and Brad Brownell break through to the next level? And can Jeff Bzdelik and Donahue pull their teams out of the cellar? The next couple of seasons are critical to the success of the ACC going forward because coaching stability is a huge factor in sustained success.
  4. Raleigh News & Observer: NC State took a gut-punch against Miami without junior guard Lorenzo Brown. The Wolfpack controlled for most of the game, but a late Miami run and some costly errors from CJ Leslie (missed foul shots, turnovers, and dumb fouls) gave the Hurricanes the chance to win. But two stories more important than Reggie Johnson‘s buzzer-beating tip are starting to show through the game. For one, Miami is a solid two games ahead of Duke in the loss column (everyone else has three or more losses). That’s a very, very good place to be going into the second half of conference play. Second, Tyler Lewis finally started showing why he was a McDonald’s All-American. Lewis ran NC State’s offense very well against the best defense in the ACC, and he didn’t look nearly as lost on defense. He still needs some work, but developing Lewis is crucial in the long run.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia Tech was a different team Sunday than the one that got smacked in Charlottesville (to be fair the home-road splits are looking fairly dramatic for Virginia too). The Yellow Jackets looked like they might be due for a repeat of their last game with the Cavaliers as they went into the half down by nine. Brian Gregory said after the loss that his team needed to learn how to finish. Well, the second time around they did just that. Georgia Tech held Virginia to six points in the final 9:40 of the game. The Yellow Jackets were the first ACC team to drop 60 on Virginia. Good luck ranking the middle and bottom of the ACC this season. It’s a train-wreck, though it’s a train-wreck played at a higher level than last year.
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Alex Len’s Coming Out Party Nearly Spoils Kentucky’s Title Defense Debut

Posted by EJacoby on November 9th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. He filed this report from the Kentucky-Maryland game tonight in Brooklyn. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. 

We assumed it was nearly impossible for Kentucky to repeat the kind of immediate, dominant success it had last season with a brand new crop of young players this year. For the first half of their season-opening game against Maryland on Friday night, though, the Wildcats came out on fire and efficient on both ends en route to opening a 15-point lead just minutes into the second half in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But it didn’t take long for the inconsistency, poor decision-making, and defensive mistakes that are typical of freshmen players to crop up for John Calipari’s team, which opened the door for Maryland to make a run in front of a very pro-Terrapin crowd. Led by emerging sophomore center Alex Len, the Terps went on a 15-0 second half run and eventually took the lead before seesawing to a tough, 72-69 loss. Len was the catalyst on both ends for Maryland’s near-upset, as the sophomore seven-footer finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks — all game-highs. He shot 10-18 from the field and committed zero turnovers. Despite failing to capitalize with a monster non-conference victory, Maryland and its fans must feel confident about this season’s outlook on the heels of Len’s dominant opening performance.

Alex Len nearly led his Maryland team to a big-time upset win over Kentucky on Friday night (Maryland 247 Sports photo)

The big sophomore showed flashes of greatness last season for Maryland, but he did not put together any dominant performances that could propel Mark Turgeon’s team to big wins. The center from the Ukraine recorded six total games in double-figure scoring last year, and none after February 4. He averaged 4.1 points per game in his final 10 games and amassed just one double-double all season. Tonight was a completely different story, as Len looked much more polished in the paint with offensive moves, finishes at the rim, rebounding prowess, and strong defensive positioning. Len turned national consensus #1 recruit Nerlens Noel of Kentucky into an afterthought, dominating the freshman in the paint as well as beating him down the floor in transition on multiple occasions. Noel had just four points on 2-6 shooting to match his nine rebounds and three blocks. If not for the unlikely late-game heroics of former Kentucky walk-on Jarrod Polson, who scored 10 points tonight after recording a total of seven previous points in his career, the Terps could have left Barclays Center with a defining victory.

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The Big East’s Top 25 (or so) Non-Conference Games of 2012-13

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 9th, 2012

While Big East basketball is always a spectacle, this conference season has even more added juice with the impending departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and (eventually) Notre Dame.  However, before we get to conference games, the Big East is involved in some really intriguing non-conference games this season. Big East teams will be playing all over the United States, Germany, and on a few aircraft carriers. Let’s take a look at the best that the Big East has to offer in the non-conference slate this season.

Syracuse and San Diego State tip off the season on the deck of the USS Midway this Sunday (AP)

25. Pittsburgh v. Oakland, November 17, 7 PM

The Panthers have a rather light non-conference slate this season, but don’t expect them to look past the Golden Grizzlies. Oakland has a history of playing tough schedules, and won’t be intimidated by the Zoo. Oakland is coming off of a bit of a down year in 2011-12 when they finished 20-16 (11-7), but made the NCAA Tournament in both 2009-10, when they were knocked out in the first round by Pittsburgh, and 2010-11.

24. DePaul @ Auburn, November 30, 9 PM

Look for DePaul to try to do the conference proud when they head down to take on the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC-Big East Challenge. This DePaul squad should be better than it has been in years past, returning dynamic forward Cleveland Melvin and dangerous guard Brandon Young.  Auburn is coming off of a poor 15-16 season, and could be ripe for a big non-conference road win for the Blue Demons.

23. Rutgers v. Iona, Madison Square Garden, December 8, 9:30 PM

One of these New York metropolitan-area teams is coming off of a great season that ended in a heartbreaking NCAA tournament loss to BYU. The other is continually striving to build its program, and aspires to have such success.  It almost seems backwards that Iona is the more accomplished team at the moment, but isn’t that what makes college basketball so great? A big performance by the Scarlet Knights at the Garden could go a long way in setting the tone for a run at a tournament berth in the Big East.

22. St. John’s v. Detroit, November 13, 2 PM

The Johnnies tip off their season against a very dangerous Detroit squad led by superstar Ray McCallum. St. John’s has a number of impressive young players themselves, and head coach Steve Lavin will return to the sideline after battling cancer last season. While many look forward to what should be a fun match-up between McCallum and D’Angelo Harrison, the St. John’s star was recently benched in the team’s final exhibition for disciplinary reasons. If Lavin continues to have issues with his top guard, it could prove very problematic for the Red Storm next week.

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Tipping Off the Big East Countdown: #9 St. John’s

Posted by Dan Lyons on October 26th, 2012

Few programs in the country went through the adversity that St. John’s found itself facing last season.  Head coach Steve Lavin underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer in October of last year, and he was only able to coach four games in early November before deciding to sit out for the rest of the season. Multiple key players left during the season for various reasons, and at times the Red Storm were only able to play with a six-man rotation of scholarship players. This year should prove to be a challenge for the Johnnies, especially after the departure of Moe Harkless following last season, but they return a solid nucleus and add a number of talented freshmen who look to continue the restoration project that is Steven Lavin’s St. John’s basketball program.

2011-12 Record: 13-19, 6-12

2011-12 Postseason: None

Steve Lavin returns to the St. John’s bench in 2012-13. Can he bring back the success of the 2010-11 campaign?

Schedule

St. John’s non-conference schedule is fairly light. The Storm open with Detroit and the ever-dangerous Ray McCallum at Carnesecca Arena before heading to Charleston, South Carolina, for the DirecTV Charleston Classic. In the opening round of the tournament the Storm take on host College of Charleston before facing either Auburn or Murray State. The field also features Big 12 power Baylor, Boston College, Colorado, and Dayton. St. John’s will also host South Carolina in Queens in the Big East/SEC Challenge.  St. John’s plays one non-conference game in Madison Square Garden, against Fordham, and will play one game in Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center against St. Francis. In the Big East, the team opens at Villanova on January 2, and has home-and-homes with Rutgers, Georgetown, Notre Dame, and DePaul.

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Morning Five: 09.26.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 26th, 2012

  1. Yesterday, the college basketball world received some excellent news when North Carolina announced that the biopsy from the surgical procedure on Roy Williams‘ right kidney came back as an oncocytoma, a relatively rare but benign tumor. Of course, there still is the issue of the unknown mass on his left kidney, which the surgical team now plans to biopsy next week. As many media outlets have reported (presumably regurgitating the UNC press release) there is a “good chance” that it will also be benign, but it is worth noting that the literature on the subject cites a 10% risk of the other kidney biopsy coming back as renal cell carcinoma, a type of malignant tumor. So while we were glad to hear the great news about Williams’ initial biopsy, we remain cautiously optimistic about next week’s procedure as well as concerned about the medical ailment that initiated the work-up that led to the discovery of his renal masses. Everyone around the college basketball community is assuredly crossing fingers for more good news out of the UNC camp next week.
  2. Despite recent news to the contrary, it’s an Apple world and the rest of us are merely technology enablers. The company well on its way to a market capitalization of a trillion dollars has invented and led the wave of iPhones, iPads, and other forms of mobile computing over the past decade. As organizations of all shapes and sizes have jumped on the user-friendly platforms to update their business models, improve outreach, and foster efficiencies, it was only a matter of time before they made their way into sports. Following the recent lead of several NFL and college football teams, Duke has now equipped all of its players with new iPads for the purposes of scheduling, statistic tracking, scouting reports and film work. Given that these are still college students who sometimes get distracted and lose things, each iPad will be equipped with tracking software that will allow those sensitive Duke game plans and evaluations of opponent tendencies to be remotely wiped clean.
  3. We don’t mean to make this an all-ACC M5 today, but it seems to be heading that way with yesterday’s news that neither the venerable old Madison Square Garden nor the spanking new Barclays Center apply to host a future ACC Tournament in the next eight years. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reported that bids for the 2016-21 ACC Tournaments came and went with no bids from a New York City venue, raising the much bigger question as to why not? We’ll delve deeper into this topic later today, but a conference tournament with Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and a host of others wouldn’t make for a viable viewing experience in the Big Apple? Do the Barclays Center owners mean to tell us that the Atlantic 10 Tournament is a stronger draw than the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament? Something is very much off about these decisions, and we’re not sure what.
  4. It’s been enough time now since Jim Calhoun‘s retirement at Connecticut for folks to take a step back and carefully evaluate whether the way in which the legendary coach “handed” the program to assistant Kevin Ollie just a month before practice begins was the right move. It’s impossible to predict the future now any more than it was when Dean Smith pulled a similar maneuver in 1997 by leaving his bosses no choice but to hire top assistant Bill Guthridge (for all his recruiting troubles, Gut did get two teams to the Final Four in three seasons, including a 2000 squad that had no business being there). Mike DeCourcy writes that despite what Calhoun is saying about the program’s strength — all true things — Ollie is still “deficient” in coaching experience (two years as a UConn assistant) and, in the worst of all possible scenarios, could find himself in way over his head very quickly. It will certainly be an interesting season up in Storrs.
  5. It’s always preseason here in the blogosphere, and so it’s time for the myriad lists of top players, teams, coaches, and so on to begin leaking out in earnest. SBNation‘s Mike Rutherford has put together a list of the top 100 players in college basketball for the 2012-13 season, and some of his results might surprise you. Early NPOY candidate Cody Zeller is his top overall player, but a North Carolina forward who didn’t get a chance to show terribly much last year makes his top five. From a team perspective, Kentucky, Louisville, Missouri and Florida ended up with four players each on his list, with the Cards grabbing a quartet of the top 46 chosen (full disclosure: Rutherford is a Louisville guy). He writes up the top 50 and even if you don’t agree with some of his selections, just perusing through the list will no doubt get your juices flowing. Enjoy.
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Morning Five: 07.19.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on July 19th, 2011

  1. He has virtually no profile on Scout or Rivals. Just a few days ago, he had a few scholarship offers from small- and mid-major D1 schools. Then came the summer’s first ten-day recruiting period and the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis. Now Dillon Graham has offers from some of the biggest programs in the game. How does something like this happen? CBS’ Gary Parrish explains how and why Graham is now ascending the recruiting rankings for the 2012 class.
  2. Barclays Center will be the Brooklyn-based home of the New Jersey Nets  — or the Moscow Beyonces, or whatever they’ll be called by that time — when it officially opens in September of 2012. The site’s dance card is filling up pretty quickly, and the word on the street is that the first college basketball game to be played there will be a matchup between Maryland and Kentucky. It’s probably no coincidence that the announcement of the involvement of these teams is getting out there right now — that is, right in the middle of a hot recruiting period. Mark Turgeon and John Calipari are certainly cognizant of the cool factor perceived by young prospects that would come from playing the first college game in the massive Brooklyn arena serving as the home of Jay-Z’s team.
  3. Last year, the attendance leader (by percentage of seats filled on an average night) in the Big Sky Conference was…wait for it…Northern Colorado. On an average game night at the 2,734-seat Butler-Hancock Athletic Center, 2,261 fans were there, yielding a rate of 83%. Second place went to Portland State, but the attendance dips all the way down to 64%. The worst average attendance by percentage in the league belonged to the Eastern Washington Fighting Colin Cowherds, whose 6,000-seat Reese Court welcomed just 1,100 basketball fans (18%!!!). Is the sky falling in the Big Sky, or is this just life in a small conference? What can be done to improve hometown (or even on-campus) attendance in a conference that actually produces some pretty darn good hoops? BigSkyBBall.com examines the issue.
  4. You know the guy who arrives at a party and owns it from the very first moment? The guy who walks in like Dangerfield or Rickles and just starts cutting the room to pieces from the word go, gaining both the attention and admiration of everyone there? That’s Jay Bilas on Twitter. Since he arrived last year, he has combined college basketball insights, both self-aggrandizement and self-deprecation, social commentary, and Young Jeezy lyrics (not a typo) into a 140-character-at-a-time tour de force. When Bilas tweets Young Jeezy lyrics, it makes news.
  5. If you take the name “Krzyzewski” and translate it into Chinese characters, it turns out to be something like four letters. The website at China Daily tells us so, as it does with every word on which you freeze your cursor. They’re talking about Coach K there because he’s about to take his 2011-12 Duke team to China in late August. Our favorite quote from the write-up: “According to Coach K, playing in an Olympic venue will help nurture his student athletes’ sense of honor.” Hmm. Well, maybe so. At the very least, we can reasonably assume that playing in such a venue will make playing in, say, Chapel Hill a little less intimidating. And hey, Grant Hill’s going, too!
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