With the movement we had seen from some very prominent schools in the past few weeks and the relatively meager TV deal offered to the Big East we figured it was only a matter of time before something big happened with the conference. It looks like that event may be on the verge of happening as the conference’s seven Catholic, non-FBS schools met with the conference’s commissioner to discuss the direction of the league in a move that some say might be the first step in a process that could lead to the dissolution of the league. As the anonymous sources say it is very early in the process, but it has been clear that this is a league in decline with the moves we have seen in conference realignment. We will have to take a wait-and-see approach with this story, but two things stand out: the report that Madison Square Garden may no longer host the Big East Tournament if the Big East continues to have its membership change and that member schools are concerned that the entrance of Tulane will affect its RPI, which in Twitter terms would be a #midmajorproblem.
We always take whatever we hear on social media sites with a grain of salt unless the information is coming for a highly reputable source, but the reports surrounding a reported incident involving Michael Carter-Williams at a Lord & Taylor seem suspicious at best and led to a fair amount of reckless speculation on some gossip sites that thought they were breaking news. When reports first surfaced on Sunday afternoon with what was reported to be pictures of Michael Carter-Williams being led away in handcuffs by a (giant) security guard. We haven’t had much in the way of a statement from the school, which is what we would expect given the evidence, but both the store and Carter-Williams are offering what is probably most accurately described as non-denial denials. Given the lack of reasonable evidence we doubt anything will come of it (until Syracuse goes on the road in conference play).
This week’s edition of his Fast Break is filled with Seth Davis’ usual accolades highlighting the best and worst of the past week as well as an interview with John Beilein in which the Michigan head coach talks about his team that is quietly in the top five of almost every poll out there. Davis also attempts to defend the “Texas Tip-Off” (Mark Hollis’ idea to play four games at the same time in the same building) by comparing it to the Wright Brothers initial attempts to fly. We usually think Seth is a pretty reasonable guy, but we can’t defend him on this one. Maybe next week Seth will propose playing every NCAA Tournament game at the same site with all 32 first round games being played at the same time with the stands being combined for the 16 second round games that would be played at the same time and so on.
With all the negative stories about college athletes that are out there so it is nice to occasionally find a positive one such as the one that Diamond Leung wrote about Adreian Payne, the Michigan State center who has managed to put together an impressive in-class resume despite the rigors of being a student-athlete and having ADHD. Payne, who was not diagnosed with ADHD until arriving in East Lansing, should serve as evidence of the support that athletes can get if they are interested in being successful off the court. You probably won’t hear Payne’s story mentioned on national TV like you might if Payne played for another program so it is nice to hear about some of the good stories in other areas of college basketball.
Trey Zeigler may have garnered the most attention for his decision to transfer after his father’s dismissal as head coach, but he is not the only player to transfer after his father lost his job. Billy Baron is one other notable case as he transferred to Cansius from Rhode Island after his father switched jobs. Baron might not have the talent that Zeigler does, but his season has been more successful (or at the very least less controversial). Barron has helped put Cansius at the top of the MAAC with the biggest test of their season coming up on Saturday as they travel to Syracuse. If Cansius makes it to the NCAA Tournament this is a story you will be hearing much more about in March.
Early Season Performances – The Oooh Aaaah Variety (Teams & Individuals)
The A-10 evened the record versus the six power conferences again last week, largely on the strength of performances by Xavier and Richmond. Xavier needed overtime to beat Vanderbilt in Nashville. Down by two with just under four minutes in regulation, Xavier held Vanderbilt scoreless and managed to tie on a Mark Lyons jumper with six seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime the Musketeers took the lead for good 68-66 on two Dezmine Wells free throws and Tu Holloway put a large enough margin between the teams (about eight points) when he hit two threes in successive possessions to absorb a Commodore mini-run. Vanderbilt chipped the Musketeers’ lead down to four, but could get no closer. Forced to foul, Holloway and Travis Taylor went a perfect 6 for 6 from the line to stretch the lead to 10 and suck the life out of the Commodore comeback.
Hosting Purdue five days later, Xavier again went down early, allowing Purdue to take the lead at the 18:49 mark of the first half and hold it for the next 37 minutes of play. The Boilermakers took an 11-point lead into the intermission and stretched it to 15 in the first 6:30 of the second half. Over the next 12:24 Xavier outscored Purdue 29-13 to take the lead for only the second time in the game. Once in control, the Musketeers did not let the Boilermakers back in, pushing their lead out to three in the last minute of the game.
Those numbers are more interesting, however, when you break up the game. For example, with 3:30 left in overtime against Vanderbilt, Holloway had just 14 points on 4-17 shooting. That stat line looks much more impressive after he hit back-to-back threes on the next two possessions and four straight free throws down the stretch to seal the win. Likewise, against Purdue, Holloway had just 10 points and six turnovers in the first 38 minutes of the game, but in the final two minutes he hit a three on three consecutive possessions (video of the last two below) and followed that up with two free throws, completing the most impressive comeback of the young season…in the final three minutes against Vanderbilt and the last two minutes against Purdue, Holloway had 21 points, went 5-6 from beyond the arc and knocked down all six of his free throws attempts.
The Richmond squad had to replace 59% of their minutes and 68.6% of their scoring from the squad that won the A-10 conference tournament and ran to the Sweet Sixteen last March. Freshman point guard Kendall Anthony, three times designated Rookie of the Week by the conference, has picked up a load of time and scoring responsibilities for the Spiders so far. Richmond leaned heavily on Anthony along with sophomores Cedrick Lindsay and Derrick Williams for offense. Both chipped in double digit points to complement Anthony’s production. Lindsay was a serviceable back-up to senior point guard Kevin Anderson last season, but Williams, who has started all eight games for the Spiders, saw very little action as a freshman.
Overlooked Temple off guard Aaron Brown turned heads the summer before coming to North Broad, but had few opportunities to show Temple fans and the A-10 what he could do. Brown scored 21 points in 22 minutes in a display during Temple’s 86-74 win over Central Michigan. Ken Pomeroy would find hard to ignore his performance, as he hit 7-11 (4-7 from three point land, 3-4 from inside the arc) shots from the floor while getting to the line for five free throws, of which he hit three. That computes to an 81.8% eFG% with a 1.57 points per weighted shot, an outstanding outing for the sophomore, who was pressed into action due to the injury-depleted squad.
Early Season Performances – The What the !@#!@@!# Variety (Teams & Individuals)
After winning their early season invitational tournaments, beating four power conference opponents (two each) during the tournament, both Dayton and Saint Louis stumbled in post tournament games. The losses are puzzling because for both teams, the games were winnable. Saint Louis took an “and-one” game with Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference, losing by seven with a performance that had team observers scratching their heads. Dayton compounded the first post tournament loss (by 29 to Buffalo of the MAC) with a second loss, this one by 17, to Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference. The opponents were beatable, making the scoring margins downright consternating. Dayton was pegged to finish in the middle of the conference, but the two unexpected losses (albeit the Racers will most likely contend for the OVC title this season) could damage the Flyers chances for a post season NIT bid. Other inexplicable losses go to Saint Bonaventure’s home loss to Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference, a 3-4 team no one expects to make noise this season. The Bonnies were not helped by a lackluster six-point, nine-rebound effort from Andrew Nicholson.
The Power Rankings are shuffled again this week in response to the Ooohs, Aaaahs and What the heck games listed above. For the Atlantic-10 the post season margin for error is exceedingly slim. Three losses going into the first or second week of December can take a school off the RPI short list pretty quickly.
1. Xavier (6-0) #8 AP – Xavier took down two more power conference programs last week in fashion impressive enough to climb three more spots in the AP poll. I listed many of the impressive details in the impressive performances section above, but in addition to the video link below that shows two of Tu Holloway’s three “last two minute” three point field goals below (h/t to Dana & Victory Blog for the link). I should also mention that in Nashville Mark Lyons (19 points) and Travis Taylor (11 points) chipped in more than 10 apiece to go with Holloway’s 24 point performance, while Antoine Walker collected 14 rebounds in his return to Vanderbilt where he played for three years. Versus Purdue three Musketeers, Lyons (14 points), Walker (10 points) and Kenny Fraese (10 points) chipped in double digit points to complement Holloway’s 21 point outburst.
Xavier will travel to Indianapolis Wednesday for a game with Butler, then return home to host this season’s Crosstown Shootout versus Cincinnati on Saturday. Win these next two and Chris Mack’s squad deserves something special, like Christmas in Hawaii…wait.
2. Saint Louis (7-1) –Their top 25 ranking proved surprisingly short, the penalty for stumbling against the Lions last Tuesday. St. Louis recovered to beat another WCC team, Portland by 20, 73-53 at the Chaifetz. The Billikens’ defense limited Portland to 0.90 points per possession, much as they had Boston College and Oklahoma. Scoring centered on Brian Conklin and Cody Ellis, with Kyle Cassidy and Mike McCall providing efficient long-range scoring. They will host Vermont on Wednesday and Division II Illinois-Springfield on Saturday.
Xavier's Tu Holloway Is A First-Team All-American Candidate And One Of The Nation's Best Seniors
A-10 to Barclays in 2013: Barclays Center, under construction in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is in the market for multi-day sporting events while the Atlantic 10 is looking for a bigger stage for their post season tournament — a perfect match perhaps? The two announced a deal late last month that will move the 2012-13 A-10 Conference Tournament to the 675,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that will feature an 18,000 seat arena for basketball. The Atlantic 10 has vacillated between rotating campus sites and a “permanent neutral” site since the first conference tournament in 1976-77. The current location since the 2006-07 tournament, Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, is a 10,500 seat amphitheater. While technically neutral, the attendance is up when one or more of the Philadelphia contingent (La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and/or Temple) advances to the quarterfinal round and beyond, and down when they do not. The conference will return to Boardwalk Hall for their 2011-12 tournament, then move over to Barclays Center the following season.
With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our Atlantic 10 correspondent, Joe Dzuback. You can read more of his in-depth writing and analysis at Villanova By The Numbers.
Reader’s Take I
Bobinski to Chair NCAA Selection Committee: While the conference again sent seven teams, half of its membership, to the postseason — three to the NCAA, one to the NIT and three to the CBI, the Final Four runs by Butler (Horizon League) and Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial Athletic Association) overshadowed a showing, Xavier’s loss to Marquette excepted, that exceeded 2010’s NCAA results. The NCAA announced that Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski will succeed Connecticut’s Jeff Hathaway as Chairman of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Bobinski just completed his third year of a five-year term on the Selection Committee. While the Atlantic 10 has been the most successful non-BCS conference in placing teams in the tournament field (with 20 NCAA bids allotted to six teams since 2004), its representatives have tended to draw the short straw when it comes to seeding, and Bobinski will likely lobby hard for that cause.
The Coaching Carousel: The conference had two coaching vacancies during the early phase of the coaching carousel. If the 2010 offseason saw coaching turnovers due to firings, the 2011 offseason saw suitors come to call on the Atlantic 10 coaching fraternity. Tennessee, having fired Bruce Pearl on March 21, made its first call to Xavier to talk with Chris Mack. Mack reportedly turned aside an offer of $2 million per year to coach the Volunteers in favor of staying in Cincinnati with the Musketeers. Richmond’s Chris Mooney signed a 10-year contract extension, his second extension in two years, ending Georgia Tech’s courtship. Mooney’s decision triggered a spate of articles (see “Old coaching assumptions are fading” by Dana O’Neil for example) about non-BCS coaches who pass on BCS offers to stay with their programs. The Yellow Jackets turned their attention to Dayton’s Brian Gregory, who succumbed to the lure of the BCS and packed his bags for Atlanta on March 28. Dayton conducted a six-day search and hired Archie Miller, brother of former Xavier head man Sean Miller, away from Arizona to succeed Gregory. In late April, George Washington’s Athletic Director, Patrick Nero, fired 10-year veteran Karl Hobbs. Nero, who succeeded retiring AD Jack Kvancz on June 30, was hired on April 20, and wasted no time in turning over the men’s basketball staff. Nero reached into his old stomping grounds, the American East Conference, and hired the league’s premier head basketball coach, MikeLonergan of Vermont, on May 6 to replace Hobbs. The resignation of Penn State head coach Ed DeChellis on May 24 (DeChellis took over the Navy program) triggered a few tense days among the Duquesne faithful as coach Ron Everhart landed an interview for the Happy Valley position. The Dukes exhaled on June 1 when Everhart withdrew his name from consideration in favor of staying with the Pittsburgh school next season.
Media Coverage: The Atlantic 10 and ESPN renewed their deal to have eight games (selected by ESPN) televised on either ESPN or ESPN2 in each of the next two seasons. The ESPN networks are committed to broadcasting the Women’s Championship and up to 32 appearances in each of the next two seasons.
As the season moves into the final month, players are starting to wear down. There have been quite a few injuries lately, and yesterday was no different. Northern Iowa’s heart and soul, Lucas O’Rear, an undersized senior “center” who was averaging a team-high 5.7 rebounds this season, will miss the remainder of the season with a broken ankle. This comes at a tough time for UNI, as the Panthers are on an eight-game winning streak in the Missouri Valley and are only one game behind leader Wichita State. O’Rear ends his college basketball career, but he has a promising professional baseball career ahead of him as a pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization, so we’re happy to see that he will be able to continue with that dream.
As always, Luke Winn’s Power Rankingsare chock full of goodies, from how Jared Sullinger receives the ball in the post to how Texas shuts down the opposing team’s best scorers to a new statistic created by HSAC to track free throw efficiency. Get on over there.
Everybody has an opinion on what’s wrong with the Michigan State Spartans after their horrendous 20-point loss to Iowa on Wednesday night. Here are two of the better ones we’ve read: Gary Parrish, who thinks that MSU simply can’t be fixed at this point; and Dave Dye’s piece that calls out Izzo’s two seniors, Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers, as having tuned him out this season. Games coming up at Wisconsin and later at Ohio State are not a recipe for getting better, and at this point we’re not counting on it, but if there is anybody in this business who can turn this thing around, it’s certainly Izzo. For a contrarian opinion on MSU hitting “rock bottom,” check out Mike Miller at Beyond the Arc.
As Virginia head coach Tony Bennett can attest, it’s a strong incentive to play for your dad. That’s why UVA freshman Billy Baronwill transfer back to Rhode Island to play for his father, Jim Baron, next season. Billy had a strong start to the season this year, scoring 19 against William & Mary and 14 against USC-Upstate, but he’s gone scoreless in ten of the last twelve games as his time has diminished. Hopefully in a couple of years, we’ll be talking about the Barons in much the same way we do the Drews and Valpo.
Much has been made about UConn guard Kemba Walker’s shooting slump, but the fortunes of the Huskies seem to rise and fall with the play of his peers, and the most important sidekick he has is Alex Oriakhi. After a strong couple of weeks where the UConn big man averaged a double-double, he’s fallen off again in the last three. In the two losses against Louisville and Syracuse, he’s contributed fifteen points and thirteen rebounds, solid enough numbers but well short of what UConn needs from him on a consistent basis to beat teams in the rugged Big East (and also less than what he’s capable of).