Checking In On… the Big Sky Conference

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2012

Jonathan Reed of Big Sky Basketball is the RTC correspondent for the Big Sky conference. You can find him on Twitter at @bigskybball.

Reader’s Take

 

The Past Couple Weeks

  • Montana establishes itself as #2 again – They came into the year ranked second, and at different times they looked like they might relinquish that role. However, they are back solidly among the top two after beating Portland State soundly, and then following that up with a tough win over Eastern Washington. They are playing well on both ends of the court, and they should be considered the top challenger to Weber State.
  • Spots 4-9 are wide open – Eastern Washington has solidified themselves as a legitimate top-three team, but after that, the race is wide open. Nobody else is above .500, and nobody was able to distinguish themselves at the beginning of conference play. All of those teams are likely to beat up on each other all year, and it is just a matter of which three can do it the best to move to the conference tournament. It should be a crazy race.
  • Damian Lillard still leads nation in scoring – I talk about Lillard in all of these check-ins, but for good reason. He is the best player in the conference, and one of the most dynamic players in America. He is the most efficient player in America, and has evolved into a very complete player. Catch him while you can – he is a junior but there is a chance this will be his last season in Ogden. Reportedly, as many as 25-30 NBA scouts will be in attendance in Portland when they play the Vikings.

Montana And Weber State Will Tangle On Jan. 14, Marking The First Big Game Of The Big Sky Season. Talented Guards Will Cherry (left) and Damian Lillard Lead The Charge For Each Squad.

Power Rankings

  1. Weber State (10-3, 2-0) – They are still awaiting the return of Kyle Bullinger and Frank Otis, but they started out conference play with solid wins over Sacramento State and Idaho State. Scott Bamforth is beginning to get free a bit more again, and that is huge for them because it takes some of the pressure off of Damian Lillard (25.2 PPG/5.8 RPG). Byron Fulton is also starting to play better, and he can be a nice scorer himself.
  2. Montana (9-5, 2-0) – As talked about above, they have established themselves again as the second best team in the Big Sky. Will Cherry (14.6 PPG/4.3 RPG) is the reigning conference player of the week, and is looking like the guy that is the top challenger to Damian Lillard for the unofficial “best player in the Big Sky” award. In addition, they have some solid offensive weapons in Kareem Jamar, Derek Selvig, and Mathias Ward. This is a team that is on the rise, and they always seem to get better under Coach Wayne Tinkle. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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O26 Primers: Big Sky, Summit League and Sun Belt Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 6th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

Three more conferences begin things tonight. The Big Sky and Sun Belt look to be very competitive with multiple teams capable of getting hot at the right time and running away with the title, while the Summit League features the Oakland Golden Grizzlies at the head of the pack and everyone else trying to keep up. All three conferences are definite single-bid leagues meaning all games will be played with a great sense of urgency; the agony of defeat and glory of victory becomes that much more apparent as well.

Big Sky

The Favorite: Northern Colorado has played the best ball in the Big Sky over the course of the past month and they also have arguably the league’s best player in Devon Beitzel on their side. Montana will have their chance to prove me wrong, but right now it is the Bears who are the favorite.

Dark Horse: Any team that is proficient at shooting the three ball cannot be discounted in a game. Despite having a middle of the road 9-7 record within the conference, Northern Arizona can stroke it with anyone. Cameron Jones, Gabe Rogers, and Eric Platt all shoot well over 40% from downtown.

Who’s Hot: Northern Colorado has won eight of their last nine games and 15 of 18 to enter the Big Sky tournament as the hottest team.

Player to Watch: Cameron Jones has had his way with Big Sky teams this year as he is averaging just shy over 20 points on the year and has scored in double figures in every game save one. He’s got Northern Arizona playing well entering the tournament as the Lumberjacks have won four of five games with the lone loss coming to Northern Colorado by a point.

First-Round UpsetEastern Washington over Weber State. Although they have struggled for most of the season, Eastern Washington is riding a modest two game winning streak entering the Big Sky tournament with their last win coming against the team they will do battle with in the tournament’s first round: Weber State.

How’d They Fare? It was one of the most heroic performances that you have never heard of in college basketball. Anthony Johnson’s performance in the second half of the Big Sky Championship game against Weber State propelled Montana to the NCAA Tournament where they narrowly lost to #3 seed New Mexico. Montana was trailing 40-20 at the intermission, but Johnson scored 34 of his 42 points in the decisive half to defeat the Wildcats. If Johnson’s unbelievable performance carried over to the New Mexico game, Montana advances to the second round. Instead, they were defeated by the Lobos 62-57.

Interesting Fact: Not an interesting fact, but simple one of the greatest moments—if not the very greatest—in Big Sky history came in the 1999 NCAA Tournament. North Carolina fans, close your eyes:

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O26 Primers: CAA, MAAC, SoCon and WCC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 4th, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

As we near the weekend, more of the higher profile Other 26 conferences are beginning their postseason tournaments. In the east, the CAA, MAAC, and Southern Conference all get going with matinee affairs between Georgia State and UNC-Wilmington in the CAA and UNC-Greensboro and Davidson in the SoCon. Out west, the West Coast Conference kicks off their first round in what looks to be a very competitive tournament with St. Mary’s recent struggles and the resurgence of Gonzaga.

Colonial Athletic Association

The Favorite: Behind Cam Long and Ryan Pearson, George Mason has dominated the CAA and is the clear favorite to win the league. Old Dominion will be a tough challenger for the Patriots though.

Dark Horse: There have been many instances throughout the year that Virginia Commonwealth looks to be just as good as George Mason, but ending the year losing four straight games in the CAA will not instill confidence in many people. The Rams’ ability and talent is clearly there, and if they can string some wins together they can win the CAA championship.

Who’s Hot: George Mason winning 14 straight CAA games makes them easily the hottest CAA team.

Player to Watch: One of the most decorated players in Hofstra basketball history, Charles Jenkins is the best player to don a CAA uniform this year. The senior from Queens, NY is averaging 23.2 points per game.

First-Round Upset: William & Mary over James Madison. After having a very successful 2009-10 season, the Tribe has largely struggled this year, but is entering the CAA tournament having win two of three games. They have also split the season series with JMU this season winning the last game 73-67 and losing the first one 84-79.

How’d They Fare? Old Dominion, as a #11 seed, defeated Notre Dame 51-50 and then fell to Baylor in the second round.

Interesting Fact: The last time the CAA sent two teams to the NCAA Tournament was in 2007 when Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion went; it appears as if the CAA will be a multi-bid conference this year.

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Weekend Check-Ins…

Posted by rtmsf on December 13th, 2010

From the in-case-you-missed-it department… the weekend’s conference check-ins.

  • Atlantic SunEast Tennessee State notched an impressive win last Wednesday at Dayton, which had a 40-game winning streak at UD Arena against non-conference foes. So with all that momentum behind them, the Buccaneers naturally went down to USC Upstate and face-planted, losing 60-59 in a game which saw them hit nine of their first 40 shots and blow no less than a dozen layups.
  • Big SkyDon’t look now, Weber State, but the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona are on a roll! Coach Mike Adras has his team firing on all cylinders. They have won the last seven games in a row, with three of those wins coming on the road.
  • Big SouthWhile the Big South has mounted appropriate marks of 3-3 against SoCon foes and 2-2 vs. A-Sun opponents so far this season, other records may not reflect as well on the league, most notably an 0-6 total against the Colonial–and throw in a combined 0-4 vs. teams from the MEAC, MVC, and Patriot.
  • Missouri ValleyEveryone anointed Wichita State the preseason favorites. Some thought Creighton was ready to break out even with a new coach. There were others that said Northern Iowa would just reload. But very quietly, Missouri State has strung together the most consistency so far.
  • NECA few hours later, St. Francis (NY) came from four down to edge defending NEC champion Robert Morris in Brooklyn. Senior guard Akeem Bennett hit two free throws with four seconds left to put the Terriers on top. Bennett then raced down court and blocked a potential game winning three-point attempt to seal the verdict.  It is going to be that type of year….
  • Patriot League.  The Patriot League has yet to win that one game that causes the rest of the Mid-Major world to turn their collective heads in. In years past, the league has beaten the likes of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College, and Maryland, but right now, the two best wins for the league are against Boston University (Bucknell) and George Washington (Navy)—hardly a blip on the radar.
  • Sun Belt.  Tristan Thompson had a masterful four-game stretch for North Texas recently, averaging 26.5 points per game against Rice, Texas State, Texas Arlington and Grambling. Although Josh White and George Odufuwa are also All-Conference performers, nobody’s been better than Thompson.
  • WCC.  It began as a whisper earlier in the season, but recent events have given it full throat – the WCC is down this year. Gonzaga, which has waved the conference’s banner brilliantly for over a decade, has stumbled to a 4-4 record, most recently Wednesday’s 81-59 beat-down at Washington State. Saint Mary’s, coming off a Sweet Sixteen year with high expectations, has whiffed in its only two statement games.
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Weekend Check-Ins…

Posted by rtmsf on November 29th, 2010

Remember, every Friday is mid-major day here at RTC.  Half of the mid-major leagues are covered one week, with the other half the next.  Here are last week’s Check-Ins in case you missed them while dealing with the holiday weekend…

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Morning Five: 11.02.10 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on November 2nd, 2010

  1. The NCAA ruled on Monday that there would be no penalty forthcoming as a result of Kutchergate at the University of Iowa. We use that portmanteau in jest, of course, since there was never really any chance of the NCAA seeing anything sinister about what they agreed was an “unintentional and incidental” encounter. Still, we think that if Iowa’s going to have celebrities from their state visible at Hawkeye athletic events, they might want to take steps to keep it on the level of, say, Tom Arnold, or even Cloris Leachman. That way, there’s less chance that visiting high schoolers will end up talking about it in the papers or show up in a tweeted photo.
  2. Tom Izzo has suspended Korie Lucious for Michigan State’s exhibition against Saginaw Valley State tonight and the November 12 season-opener versus Eastern Michigan as a disciplinary action for Lucious’ DUI arrest back in August. Lucious eventually pleaded guilty in September to misdemeanor reckless driving. It’s obvious that he’d rather be playing, but at least he’ll have that much longer to rest that surgically repaired left knee.
  3. We were at Rupp Arena last night for Kentucky’s exhibition game against in-state NAIA opponent Pikeville College, and even though it was an exhibition it still got our juices flowing to commense our travels this season. Less excited about the whole affair was UK head coach John Calipari, who, despite a 97-66 victory and a 22-point performance from new floor general Brandon Knight, lamented his team’s lack of toughness and energy, noting in the post-game presser that right now his players “don’t get it yet; we need to get more physical…the guys are going to have to accept it.” While praising Pikeville’s effort and confirming that the NAIA squad “outworked” his team, Calipari (who coached this one sans necktie, oddly) drove home his frustration with his players seeming lack of interest by adding, “this isn’t about cool, this isn’t about style points,” and insinuated that Tuesday’s practice might divide the men from the boys.
  4. As of yesterday, a pair of schools “be gettin’ over in the Big Sky Coun-try…” OK, if you can’t tell by the lyric, the Big Sky Conference just got bigger. It announced yesterday that it will add Southern Utah and North Dakota to its roster starting with the 2012-13 season. While the decision was motivated largely by something called “football,” it shouldn’t be ignored that the revenue sharing bonus nets each athletic team at the schools an extra $135,000. And you thought conference realignment was all through.
  5. Is it possible that West Virginia’s Kevin Jones rebounded 12% of all shots missed by the Mountaineers last season? And that WVU rebounded 41.8% of their misses as a team?!? Both of those are staggering figures, and just part of the reason you should check out this article from SI.com’s Luke Winn as he crystal balls the Big East. Six days until the first games, people…
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RTC Conference Primers: #18 – Big Sky Conference

Posted by jstevrtc on October 18th, 2010

Rush The Court is seeking a Big Sky Conference correspondent. If you are interested in covering this league, email us for more information at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Weber State (14-2)
  2. Montana (12-4)
  3. Northern Colorado (11-5)
  4. Northern Arizona (11-5)
  5. Montana State (10-6)
  6. Eastern Washington (8-8)
  7. Portland State (6-10)
  8. Sacramento State (5-11)
  9. Idaho State (3-13)

All-Conference Team (key stats from last season in parenthesis)

  • Damian Lillard (G) – Weber State (19.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 85.3% FT)
  • Cameron Jones (G) – Northern Arizona (19.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 50.2% FG)
  • Devon Beitzel (G) – Northern Colorado (14.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.0 SPG)
  • Brian Qvale (C) – Montana (10.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 61.5% FG)
  • Bobby Howard (F) – Montana State (14.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 51.8% FG)

Sixth Man

  • Broderick Gilchrest (G) – Idaho State (15.5 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2.0 SPG)

Top Newcomer

  • Vaughn Autry, Montana

Lillard, Now Only A Junior, Is Your Reigning Big Sky MVP

What You Need To Know

  • In the mood to watch some Big Sky hoops? You’re in luck. The only thing standing between you and it is either a road trip to a game, or a visit to www.bigskytv.org, where the conference will live-stream every game played at any Big Sky gym — and it’s free!
  • The Big Sky Tournament is one seriously exclusive gathering, probably second only to that in the Garden of Eden. Only six teams get into the conference’s post-season bash — the bottom three regular season finishers can start studying for finals early.
  • It might be a small conference, but they don’t exactly grow ’em small in Big Sky country. Montana will boast nice length along their front line, starting 6’11 Brian Qvale and 7’0 Derek Selvig (6.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG last year in 20.8 MPG). They’ll get their shots at the big time when they travel to Nevada, Utah, and UCLA early in the season and host Oregon State on December 15.

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The New NCAA Tournament — We Can Live With It

Posted by jstevrtc on July 12th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

The NCAA got around to announcing “The Decision” regarding the layout of the now 68-team tournament and specifically the makeup of the competitors in the four “play-in games” today, and the end result?  Punt.

Getting the terminology out of the way first, these games are officially no longer part of the Opening Round, nor are they “play-in games” (not that they ever were). They now make up the entirety of the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, otherwise known as the First Four. Those games that get played on Thursday and Friday? Those are now the Second Round, with the weekend games now the Third Round, with the winners there still advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

We knew before today that there were three main options that the NCAA was considering: the final eight at-large teams matching up, the lowest eight automatic qualifiers matching up, or some combination of the two. That last one, that’s what we got. And you know what? That’s probably the best decision.

The NCAA dropped back and punted, here -- but the resulting field position isn't that bad.

If the NCAA had chosen to send only the lowest eight qualifiers to these games, there would have been numerous problems, not the least of which would be a continuation of the idea that those first four games aren’t really part of the NCAA Tournament. The teams that advance from one-bid conferences like the MEAC, SWAC, American East and Big Sky (to name just a few of the usual suspects) would battle it out in Dayton in relative anonymity for the right to advance to their chance to get killed by a one-seed, while your typical college basketball fan would ignore the whole thing. In the process, sure, the teams involved would have a better chance at winning a game in the NCAA Tournament and thereby earning themselves an extra share of the proceeds from the tournament, but once the “actual” tournament started, there would be four less automatic qualifiers sticking around for their chance to get on national television and test out their slingshot against Goliath. Then there’s also the fact that after spending $10.8 billion on the rights to the tournament, the first four games of the package would be a total wash for the television networks, stuck broadcasting games like Mississippi Valley State against Northern Arizona to a national television audience of almost four digits.

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Morning Five: 03.11.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

  1. Folks, if there was ever a day in our history where we actually fit the word ubiquitous in our little slogan at the top of the screen there, today is that day (ok, maybe tomorrow and Saturday too).  Nevertheless, we will be providing coast to coast coverage at no fewer than six of the major conference tournaments today and throughout the weekend — ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-10, Conference USA and the WAC (tomorrow we’ll add the Mountain West to our slate) .  We’ll be reporting from each venue with RTC Live (see RTC Live box above left), but we’ll also provide nightly diaries from our correspondents on site as well.  Whether in the comments, the live-blogs or lurking, we hope to have you stop by throughout the weekend.
  2. From the that-didn’t-take-very-long department, Jeff Goodman reported last night that Iowa State’s Craig Brackins is expected to announce his intention to go pro within the next few days.  Iowa State’s season probably ended in an 82-75 loss to Texas in the Big 12 Tournament first round yesterday evening.  Brackins’ teammate, Marquis Gilstrap, had applied for a sixth year of eligibility, but the NCAA denied his request and he too has finished his career as a Cyclone.
  3. The SEC Tournament begins today, and the league may re-visit how it seeds its teams as soon as next year given that schools such as East #3 Tennessee and #4 Florida went 12-0 against the SEC West this season but still did not earn a bye into the quarterfinals.  If you include the two SEC East teams who received byes — Kentucky and Vanderbilt — these four teams went an incredible 24-0 against the western half of the conference.  Re-seeding teams #1-#12 would reward the four best teams in the league rather than the two best in each division.
  4. You undoubtedly know that Oregon’s Ernie Kent has told his players that he’s out as the coach of the Ducks and that he predicted his team would win the Pac-10 Tournament this week, but did you know that former Seton Hall coach PJ Carlesimo is angling for the job?  Will Latrell Sprewell also be joining the staff as an assistant?
  5. In case you missed it elsewhere, we have the potential for one of the greatest feel-good stories in NCAA Tournament history this coming weekend at Montana if Anthony Johnson’s wife, Shaunte Nance-Johnson, can help her team (the Lady Grizzlies) make it to the NCAAs in much the same way her husband did last night (a ridiculous 42-point shooting exhibition).  Even if she doesn’t put the team on her back — she is a reserve, after all — the fact that she  was the one who resurrected AJ’s career a few years ago when he was out of basketball completely is cause for celebration.  We don’t know for a fact that a husband/wife pair have never played in the NCAA Tournament at the same time, but the odds of it are minuscule and we’d absolutely love to see it happen for both of them.  Sorry, Sacramento State/Montana State, no offense intended, but we here at RTC (America?) will be rooting for Montana on Friday to move into the Big Sky Championship game and beyond.
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Set Your Tivo: 03.10.10

Posted by THager on March 10th, 2010

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2012
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

NEC Championship – Robert Morris @ Quinnipiac – 7:00 on ESPN2 (***)

A few weeks ago, Robert Morris had a chance to secure home court advantage throughout the Northeast Conference tournament, but a pair of losses now have the Colonials playing in Hamden, Connecticut.  RMU is just 9-7 on the road this year, while the Bobcats are 14-0 at home.  However, that statistic can be attributed to the weak out of conference schedule Quinnipiac played, and they rank #343 in the Jeff Sagarin’s strength of schedule ratings.  Neither team ranks high in offensive or defensive efficiency, but Quinnipiac’s #233 ranking on defense is eye-catching in a negative way.  In the only meeting of these teams earlier in the year, Quinnipiac’s James Johnson scored a season-high 28 points, and the Bobcats came out with an 87-79 road win.  The team also shot over 50% from the field in that game, and if they can duplicate that shooting performance at home, they should cement their place in the NCAA Tournament.

Big East Second Round – Notre Dame vs. Seton Hall – 7:00 pm on ESPN (****)

This is not an elimination game for the Irish, but this is a must win game for the Pirates, who are still on the outside looking in due to a #10 seed in the Big East tournament and a weak RPI.  Seton Hall is stealing some of Notre Dame’s thunder late in the season, but people are getting fooled by this overrated Pirates team.  Their last six wins have come against DePaul, St. John’s, Rutgers (twice) and Providence (twice).  The Irish, on the other hand, have defeated Pitt, Georgetown, Connecticut and Marquette, with the wins over the Hoyas and Golden Eagles coming on the road.  This game will feature two of the best players in the Big East, as Luke Harangody is back from an injury and Jeremy Hazell scores over 21 points per game.  In the only meeting between these two teams this year, Hazell scored 35 points while Harangody was limited to 13 points.  Notre Dame’s imbalance (#3 offense, #173 defense) has been well publicized, but Seton Hall has had defensive problems of their own.  The Pirates rank #96 in offensive efficiency and a ridiculous #238 on defense.  Although people are jumping on the Seton Hall bandwagon as of late, the Irish are a superior team and should get into the Tournament even with a loss tonight.

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ATB: Mid-Major Tourney Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2010

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.

Murray Wins 30 Games For the First Time in OVC History (M. Dann)

  • Ohio Valley.  Murray State pulled away late from the #2 seed, Morehead State, to win its eighth conference championship in the last sixteen years.  The Racers also reached the 30-win mark for the first time in school and OVC history en route to its fourteenth NCAA Tournament bid.  In an ugly, defensive-oriented game, it was Isaiah Canaan who came off the bench for the Racers to provide offensive punch (16/5), but it was his block on a breakaway dunk attempt (called a foul) that electrified the crowd and made the ESPN top 10 plays tonight.  Murray will be a nightmare of a matchup for the team that draws them in the first round of the NCAAs this year.
  • Big South.  #3 Winthrop pulled off the upset at top seed Coastal Carolina in their building tonight, winning 64-53 behind a strong second half and a suffocating defense that held CCU’s best player, Joseph Harris, to a mere three points on 1-6 shooting.  This is Winthrop’s fifth Big South title in the last six years, an amazing feat considering that the original architect of the program, Gregg Marshall has since moved on to Wichita State (playing for its own bid tomorrow).  The Eagles are probably looking at a #16 seed this year.
  • Atlantic Sun.  East Tennessee State won its second consecutive A-Sun Tournament tonight, this time as a #5 seed.  The Bucs’ pressure defense forced sixteen Mercer turnovers and held their two stars, James Florence and Danny Emerson, to nearly half their typical offensive output.  Justin Tubbs had 18/3 for the winning team, This clearly isn’t a vintage ETSU team, but Murray Bartow has them back in the Dance for the third time in his career there, where they’re likely looking at a #16 seed again.
  • Missouri Valley.  At Arch Madness, the top two seeds advanced today with #1 Northern Iowa shutting down everything #5 Bradley tried to do on offense today, and #2 Wichita State surviving a close one against Illinois State.  Of course, UNI is already secure in an NCAA Tournament bid, but they’re attempting to win back-to-back MVC titles, while Wichita will not be invited unless they earn the auto-bid tomorrow.  The two teams split home-and-home this year, and you’d have to believe that the Shockers will bring everything they’ve got tomorrow afternoon.  RTC Live will be there covering the game.

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