Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor. For an introduction to this series, please click here.
As every week of the college basketball season evaporates right before our eyes—like a double-digit lead is whittled down to a single possession in a matter of minutes—more and more stories subsequently develop. To draw a comparison to mathematics for you brainiacs out there, this is the classic inverse relationship. As “X”—the number of weeks in the season—decreases, “Y”—the amount of stories—increases. Think about it, when are there the most stories surrounding college basketball? At the end of the year during the NCAA Tournament, of course. From the moment Selection Sunday rolls around all the way to that final, depressing buzzer in the NCAA Championship game rings signaling an end to another season, it seems as if college hoops are being discussed 24/7. Just this past week, there were several major developments in the world of the Other 26:
The top three teams in the Mountain West—SDSU, BYU, and UNLV—are a combined 27-0.
Butler and Gonzaga have identical, albeit very mediocre, records: 4-4.
Temple defeated Maryland and Georgetown, and in the process Fran Dunphy picked up his 400th win.
Cleveland State has the most victories in the country with 11.
One of the biggest recruits in the nation—Adjehi Baru—signed with the College of Charleston over a couple of ACC schools. Bobby Cremins really has something brewing down there in South Carolina. Could Charleston be the next Davidson? Both schools, after all, hail from the Southern Conference.
Illinois and Oakland were getting in touch with their feminine side by using a women’s basketball for the first seven minutes of the first half of their game.
The inverse relationship will not fail as the season progresses. I promise.
There really wasn’t going to be any question tonight, was there? Pe’Shon Howard announced his presence to the college basketball world by spinning, driving and fading his way into a 12-footer from the right side that dashed the dream of College of Charleston earning a statement ACC road win to use as a shiny gold star on its postseason resume. What — we’re talking about postseason resumes on only the second night of the season? Of course we are. For SoCon schools like Bobby Cremins’ club, there are limited opportunities available in a season to notch the marquee win that could give the Cougars a shot at an at-large NCAA bid (or a nicer seed if the auto-qualifier), and Howard’s play down the stretch of this game may have single-handedly eliminated that possibility. CofC will have more opportunities with games at North Carolina and Tennessee plus a home date versus Clemson, but it’s unlikely that the Cougars will stumble into the same perfect storm of a turnover-prone home team that goes 5-18 from the line and makes only two treys during the entire game. If Cremins’ team looked up the phrase “missed opportunity” on the Google, we’re pretty sure they’d see a mirror image staring back at them.
As for Gary Williams’ Terps, it’s clear that they still have some things to figure out. But don’t be fooled — we’ve watched Maryland teams that looked like they belonged in the MEAC in November playing as well as anybody in the country by March. RTC Live was courtside for the Terps’ 75-74 win tonight, and our correspondent Rob Dauster writes that “the Terps need a point guard and a leader… [despite] a dominating, 26/15 performance from their star center, Jordan Williams. They have other holes — perimeter shooting, depth up front — but in two games they now have 47 turnovers. Is Howard the answer? Right now, he looks like it. He’s an excellent passer, a talented penetrator, and a capable shooter. But perhaps the more telling sign was his poise and confidence at the end of the game. He wanted the ball in his hands with time winding down. And he succeeded. That kind of leadership is what Greivis Vasquez provided.” And it’s true — in merely two games, Howard is 8-11 from the field with 12 assists and five steals. Throw in the ability to finish ballgames as he’s already done once, and Gary Williams definitely has another star in the making on his bench.
The Tournament That Isn’t. Right, it’s actually a “Classic.” Not a tournament, remember. The 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic played three other games tonight that at first blush appeared to be tournament-style, but actually were just glorified fixes (average margin = 37 points). #5 Pittsburgh “moved on” with a 97-54 win over Illinois-Chicago behind dominant performances from Ashton Gibbs (24/7 assts), Brad Wanamaker (17/6/9 assts) and their glass-eating corps (+22 rebs), while Bruce Weber’s #16 Illinois squad “advanced” with an overpowering 47-18 first half en route to a 39-point victory over Toledo. Texas also looked impressive in another destruction at home, this time over Louisiana Tech 89-58 to “survive.” In two games this year, the Horns are proving to be a second-half team, breaking open both games by wide margins in the second stanza.
Next Week in NYC. With tonight’s wins, the four regional hosts now move on to face each other in next week’s semifinals in Madison Square Garden. Unlike this week’s games, though, next week’s contests are not already predetermined past Thursday night’s double-header of Pittsburgh vs. Maryland and Texas vs. Illinois. The winners and the losers will play each other on Friday night for the right to claim the championship, and based on what we’ve seen thus far, those should be two pretty great matchups. More next week on that, of course.
Tonight’s Quick Hits & Misses.
The Pitt Backcourt. In two games, Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker are averaging 44/7/14 APG on 60% shooting with a ridiculous 4.6:1 assist to turnover ratio.
Andrew Goudelock. His jump shot was ripping the Maryland nets with such exceptional rotation that it was actually changing the trajectory of the ball as it zipped through. Goudelock’s 27/10 (although with eight TOs) showed everyone why he’s the projected SoCon POY.
Jordan Hamilton. Hamilton, so smooth on Monday night, didn’t look nearly as good this evening, too often settling for the three-ball (1-6) when it clearly wasn’t dropping.
Peterson Events Center. Pitt’s home court has witnessed 134 wins versus only 11 losses in its nine years, for a winning percentage of 92.4% in that span.
Terps Fans. Ok, it’s one thing if Texas fans can’t be bothered to show up; but Maryland? Not only is UMCP unequivocally a basketball school, but the Terps were playing a solid mid-major (as proven by the close finish). There better have been a reason we’re not aware of for such a lackluster fan showing.
Tweet of the Night. Tonight’s best tweet comes from SI.com’s Andy Glockner, a fella who captured what the rest of us were thinking as we watched the Andrew Goudelock Show turn into the Announcement of Pe’Shon’s Presence.
***** – 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 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.
The 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer continues with four games at regional sites tonight. Here’s your schedule/bracket, as well as one game you might want to check out. All times eastern.
College of Charleston @ Maryland – 7 pm on ESPNU (**)
Cremins Will Face His Old Foe Williams Tonight
You just get the feeling that this is one of those Maryland teams that Gary Williams always finds a way to overachieve with. The Terrapins, picked sixth in the ACC preseason poll, are coming off a 105-76 rout of Seattle on Monday night. Jordan Williams led the folks from College Park with 17 points and 15 rebounds on 6-10 shooting while teammate Sean Mosley led all scorers with 21 points. Maryland also received a nice lift off the bench from freshmen Terrell Stoglin (15/5 assts) and Pe’Shon Howard (8 assists/3 steals). However, the game was incredibly sloppy on both sides. Maryland committed 29 turnovers to Seattle’s 27 for an astounding total of 56 in a forty-minute game. Against College of Charleston tonight, 20+ turnovers could cause problems for the Terps. Led by former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins, who led the Yellow Jackets to the 1990 Final Four, the Cougars have some key pieces back from last year’s 22-win team which knocked off #9 (at the time) North Carolina and also won at George Mason. Charleston’s leader is senior Andrew Goudelock, a contender for Southern Conference player of the year along with Noah Dahlman of Wofford. If you’ve heard of him, it’s probably because of the big time triple (28 feet away) he hit to send the game into overtime against UNC last season. Point guard Donavan Monroe (15/6 assists vs. UNC) and low post presence Jeremy Simmons (18/13 at George Mason) are the key players for Cremins’ team. Charleston averaged 75 PPG last year so you’d think they’d like to push the pace a little. For a team that scored that many points, their turnover average wasn’t bad at all last year (11.2 per game). The turnover battle is something to pay attention to tonight, especially considering what happened in Maryland’s first game. Though he led the team in turnovers last year, the loss of Greivis Vasquez may create a little uncertainty on the part of Maryland’s ball handlers early this year. A good matchup should be the one down low between Williams and Simmons. Williams has the height and weight advantage but Simmons can certainly hold his own on the glass and in the paint. If Williams has another big game, it’s hard to see Maryland losing at home even to a somewhat talented mid-major. For Charleston to pull the upset, Goudelock, Monroe and Simmons all have to be at their best. The Cougars also can’t allow Maryland to shoot over 50% from the floor as they did on Monday night. Defense, rebounding and turnover margin will be the keys for Bobby Cremins and his team if they hope to steal a road win against a storied ACC program. As for Maryland, another solid effort from the starters along with some positive contributions off the bench should be enough to earn a win.
Justin Glover is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference.Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.
Predicted Order of Finish:
North Division- Two Divisions in the SoCon
1. Western Carolina (14-6 SoCon) 22-11 Overall
2. Samford (12-8 SoCon) 16-15 Overall
3. Applachian State (10-10 SoCon) 17-14 Overall
4. Chattanooga (9-11 SoCon) 15-17 Overall
5. Elon (8-12 SoCon) 16-16 Overall
6. UNC Greensboro (3-17 SoCon) 4-26 Overall
South Division- Two Divisions in the SoCon
1. College of Charleston (16-4 SoCon) 24-9 Overall
2. Davidson (12-8 SoCon) 19-14 Overall
3. Citadel (11-9 SoCon) 17-15 Overall
4. Wofford (9-11 SoCon) 16-17 Overall
5. Georgia Southern (7-13 SoCon) 11-20 Overall
6. Furman (6-14 SoCon) 10-21 Overall
Western Carolina (13-5 SoCon) 22-11 overall
Samford (11-7 SoCon) 16-15 overall
Applachian State (9-9 SoCon) 17-14 overall
Chattanooga (8-10 SoCon) 15-17 overall
Elon (7-11 SoCon) 16-16 overall
UNC-Greensboro (2-16 SoCon) 4-26 overall
College of Charleston (15-3 SoCon) 24-9 overall
Davidson (11-7 SoCon) 19-14 overall
Citadel (10-8 SoCon) 17-15 overall
Wofford (8-10 SoCon) 16-17 overall
Georgia Southern (6-12 SoCon) 11-20 overall
Furman (5-13 SoCon) 10-21 overall
Andrew Goudelock (G) – College of Charleston (Jr.) – 16.7 ppg
Cameron Wells (G) – The Citadel (Jr.) – 15.6 ppg
Harouna Mutombo(F) – Western Carolina (So.) – 14.4 ppg
Bryan Friday (F) – Samford (Sr.) – 12.5 ppg
Noah Dahlman (C) – Wofford (Jr.) – 17.8 ppg
6th Man.Jake Robinson – Western Carolina (Sr) – Led the team in three pointers made (60) and attempted (167), coming off the bench in 19 games.
Impact Newcomer.Rashad Wright – College of Charleston – Intimidating presence inside with his 6’9″ frame, averaged 10.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and four blocks a game at South Kent High School last season will look to contribute to a team that is lacking in size.
What You Need to Know. Although this conference lacks the star power of a certain recently departed, diminutive guard from Davidson, the conference is not devoid of talent as witnessed by the fact that the aforementioned guard didn’t even make the NCAA tournament last year. While the Wildcats will certainly fall off this year, don’t be surprised to see the second most famous basketball personality in the league last year (Bobby Cremins) getting plenty of airtime in March.
Predicted Champion: College of Charleston (NCAA Seed: #15) – Made it to the SoCon Championship game last season after a Cinderella type run knocking off the favorite in Davidson on their way to the finals. They have always been an athletic team that uses stellar guard play to offset lack of size inside. With the starting back court of Tony White Jr., who scored 31 points in the SoCon finals game against Chattanooga, and junior all-conference candidate Andrew Goudelock who led the team in points per game and three pointers. CofC should be the team to beat in the Southern Conference this season with close to 75% of its scoring coming back from a team that made the finals in the conference tournament.
It has been a loooooong week around these parts, but now that we’ve crowned a Team of the 2000s, let’s move on to some other goings-on and nuggets of news floating around the college hoops world…
Comings and Goings. There have been a few announcements of players who are out for the upcoming semester as we’re heading into fall matriculation. The most notable are Villanova wing Reggie Redding and Florida big men Eloy Vargas and Adam Allen. Redding was suspended by the university arising out of an incident where marijuana was allegedly found in his car at an accident, but he is expected to return for the spring semester. Allen recently had surgery for a stress fracture and Vargas is academically ineligible for the fall semester. Although neither were major contributors for Florida in 08-09, they were expected to provide depth in the frontcourt this season. On the flip side, former Dookie Elliot Williams received his waiver from the NCAA and will be eligible to suit up immediately for his hometown Memphis Tigers this season.
2009 NIT Bracket. The pairings were announced a week ago, but we’re just now getting around to analyzing it. They’ve seeded the top four teams by region (#1 Duke, #2 UConn, #3 LSU, and #4 Arizona St) in a solid, if not spectacular, field. But did anyone else notice that they mismatched the seedings? Take a closer look at the thumbnail below. If the top eight seeds win their first game, then we should be left with pairings of 1/8, 2/7, 3/6 and 4/5, right? In this NIT bracket, #1 Duke would play #8 Charlotte, so that’s ok; but, #2 UConn would play #6 Hofstra, #3 LSU would play #5 WKU, and #4 Arizona St. would play #7 TCU. What’s the point of this? If you’re going to take the time to seed teams by expectation, you should probably do it properly rather than trying to slot teams based on regional travel convenience. Sigh… For what it’s worth, Duke seems to always win this thing, but depending on how quickly replacement players develop on the other top seeds, any of the others could surprise.
Memphis/Calipari Post-Mortem. Memphis plans to appeal the decision that was handed down on Thursday by the NCAA to vacate all 38 of their wins in 2007-08 as a result of using an ineligible player (Derrick Rose) and ‘accidentally’ providing said player’s brother flights on the team plane. If upheld (and it will be), Memphis will be on the hook for $530k in NCAA revenue-share funds to CUSA, but even more interestingly to those who say that the former coach is completely untouched by this mess, Coach Cal will have to return $300k in bonus money to Memphis as a result of the NCAA’s penalties. His $32M contract with Kentucky will help ease that particular pain, but these odd coincidences involving ineligible players really need to stop following this guy around if he expects to ever be taken seriouslyoutside of the Bluegrass State again. One other thing… failure to respond to mail? Really?
I’m not sure why everyone complains about February. Sure the NFL season is over, but at least we don’t need to hear about steroids, holdouts, and whether or not both feet were in bounds. There isn’t a blockbuster “Game of the Year” match-up today, but there are several solid games for the hoops aficionado. So just settle into your favorite spot on the couch and dig in. In the spirit of promoting healthy habits, we suggest that you try to have some vegetables today so use some ketchup on your food today.
#20 Syracuse at #16 Villanova at Noon on ESPN and ESPN360.com: The appetizer for a great day of basketball. This isn’t necessarily a must win for either team, but a win today would probably boost their NCAA seed by at least a spot on Selection Sunday. Both teams have virtually assured themselves a NCAA bid (particularly with Syracuse’s relatively easy remaining schedule in the Big East). One of the more interesting aspects of this game is that if the Orangemen lose, there is a decent chance that they will drop out of the top 25 leaving the Big East with only 5 teams in the top 25 after having as many as 9 teams earlier this season. Anyways, back to the game. Watch the match-up at point guard featuring Jonny Flynn against Scottie Reynolds. The winner of that match-up will likely win the game barring an explosion by either Eric Devendorf or Dante Cunningham.
Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Cincinnati at Georgetown at Noon on The Big East Network, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: Georgetown is killing me this year. I saw them play in Orlando against Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic. They lost that game, but it was pretty clear to me that day that they had the talent to make it to the Sweet 16 at the very least. I never imagined that they might be in a position at this point in the season that they might not make the NCAA tournament. To be fair, at that time I was also operating under the assumption that Tennessee was good. The Hoyas were able to break their 5-game losing streak against Rutgers and will need to beat the Bearcats if they want to get some momentum heading into their game against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. If John Thompson III is able to figured out a way to keep Deonta Vaughn in check, the Hoyas should be able to ride Greg Monroe and DaJuan Summer to a victory.
Notre Dame at #12 UCLA at 1 PM on CBS: The Irish are desperate for a victory having lost 6 straight games. They will have to end their losing streak in one of the rare non-conference match-ups this month. Everybody knows Luke Harangody is going to get his (25.3 PPG and 13.2 RPG), but Notre Dame will need Kyle McAlarney to break out of his prolonged shooting slump and get a great game out of Tory Jackson, who will be matched up against the Bruins veteran PG, Darren Collison. Look for UCLA to pull away in the 2nd half behind Collison, Josh Shipp, and Jrue Holiday.
Miami (FL) at #3 Duke at 1:30 PM on Raycom, ESPN Full Court, and ESPN360.com: I’m fully expecting Duke to come back strong at home after the massacre at Littlejohn on Wednesday night, which is something that rtmsf actually predicted before the game (sort of), but nobody picked up on until after the game. (Ok, nobody has really picked up on it yet.) On the other hand, Miami was on the right side of the other blowout upset beating Wake Forest by 27. Look for Kyle Singler to rebound with a strong game after a weak “effort” against Clemson that was plagued by foul trouble. Coach K will likely use Gerald Henderson, the only Blue Devil who showed up against Clemson, on Jack McClinton in an attempt to slow down the mercurial Miami star. If Singler and Henderson can contain or at least equal Dwayne Collins and McClinton, respectively, the Blue Devils should return to their winning ways. Well at least until UNC invades Cameron on Wednesday night.
#17 Texas at Nebraska at 2 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Texas will be looking to rebound after back-to-back losses on the road. Today, they return to Austin to take on the Cornhuskers. Look for A.J. Abrams and Damion James to have big games as Rick Barnes‘s squad will definitely be motivated in this one after falling 3.5 back of conference leader Oklahoma. If Abrams and James have big games that should be enough to hold off Nebraska’s balanced attack.
Michigan at #1 UConn at 6 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: This is a game that the Huskies should be able to win fairly convincingly particularly with the game in Gampel Pavillion, but as this year has taught us never expect too much out of the #1 ranked team in the country. A Michigan win would obviously do wonders for their NCAA tournament chances, but it will tough particularly with John Beilein‘s recent changes in his rotations including bringing DeShawn Sims off the bench in their 71-51 win over Penn State in their last game. The new lineup, which is still led by Manny Harris, may provide some match-up problems for UConn and their big men. I expect UConn to pull this one especially with the recent play of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, but Michigan could give them problems and Beilein certainly knows all about the Huskies dating back to his days as the coach at West Virginia.
Charleston at Davidson at 6 PM on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com: Most people will tune in just to watch Stephen Curry, but this could actually be a realtively close game (a rarity for the Wildcats in the weak Southern Conference). When these teams met earlier this season, the Wildcats escaped with a 4-point win on the road after Charleston had a chance to tie it with a 3 with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game. This is particularly meaningful as the Wildcats haven’t lost a Southern Conference game since January 20, 2007 (a 43-game winning streak). As an added bonus, you can see Bobby Cremins (former head coach of Georgia Tech) try to come up with a scheme to guard Curry. Cremins is one of the few coaches in the country who has had a player who was at Curry’s level or even above that as he coached Kenny Anderson (along with Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver aka “Lethal Weapon 3”) to the NCAA Final 4 in 1991.
Florida State at #10 Clemson at 7 PM on NESN and Fox Sports: I’m actually more interested in this game than the others for my own selfish reason since I’ll be doing another RTC Live when Clemson comes to Boston College on Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers have returned to Earth after their beatdown the hated Blue Devils just a few days ago. Oliver Purnell‘s squad had better be ready because the Seminoles are a fairly dangerous team (ask Roy Williams, who needed a Ty Lawson 3 at the buzzer to pull out a win against FSU). This is a classic letdown game so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on it especially if Toney Douglas gets hot or if either Trevor Booker or K.C. Rivers isn’t on his game after the celebrations following the Duke win.
#19 Minnesota at Ohio State at 8 PM on The Big Ten Network: Minnesota will be licking its wounds after getting crushed by Michigan State at the Breslin Center earlier this week. Unfortunately for Tubby Smith, the Gophers have to head to Columbus to take on a Buckeye team that just knocked off Purdue. If Evan Turner is hot, the Buckeyes could make a move into the top 25 with a win here knocking the Gophers out in the process.
#23 Arizona State at Oregon State at 8:30 PM on Fox Sports: James Harden and the Sun Devils will be looking to complete the Oregon sweep against Craig Robinson‘s Beavers. [Ed. Note: Isn’t Robinson related to some famous guy? I thought I heard something about it on the news.] The Beavers, who were undefeated following Barack Obama‘s Inauguration, finally lost to Arizona ending Oregon State’s hopes of riding Obama-mania to an undefeated term. If the Sun Devils can contain Calvin Haynes, they should hand the Beavers a second consecutive defeat.
No, Mr. President. I’m not Reggie Love.
#15 Memphis at #18 Gonzaga at 9 PM on ESPN and ESPN360.com: Spokane is the site of ESPN GameDay today and it features a match-up of two highly regarded programs that hit rough patches this season, but have rebounded well. Gonzaga appears to have used their victory over Tennessee in Knoxville as a catalyst for their resurgence (Patty Mills‘s injury didn’t hurt either). Memphis, on the other hand, appears to have found its rhythm again with John Calipari‘s decision to move freshman Tyreke Evans from shooting guard to point guard (the kid is lost when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands). Evans has responded with his best play of the season and the Tigers have not lost since the move. Interestingly, both teams dominance in their leagues means that this is a huge game for each in terms of NCAA seeding. A win today would probably be worth 2 seeds on Selection Sunday assuming both teams are able to run the table for the rest of the regular season. Despite the fact that both teams have pretty balanced scoring attacks (4 starters in double figures for each team), the key to this game will likely be the PG match-up of Evans versus Jeremy Pargo. If the more experienced Pargo can outplay Evans, the Bulldogs should be able to run away with this one. If he isn’t, we could be in for a hard-fought game.
Andrew Baker is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic Sun and Southern conferences.
Predicted Order of Finish:
Davidson Wildcats (22-6, 19-1)
College of Charleston Cougars (20-10, 15-5)
UT-Chattanooga Mocs (19-13, 14-6)
Georgia Southern Eagles (18- 11, 13-7)
Appalachian State Mountaineers (17-12, 13-7)
Elon Phoenix (14-13, 11-9)
UNC-Greensboro Spartans (14-15, 11-9)
Furman Paladins (13-16, 8-12)
Samford Bulldogs (13-16, 7-13)
Western Carolina Catamounts (10-20, 7-13)
Wofford Terriers (9-20, 6-14)
The Citadel Bulldogs (10-21, 4-16)
WYN2K. In 1921, the Southern Conference was founded with a hodgepodge of future SEC and ACC members. Since the league has hosted many different schools who have left for other conferences, the only constants since 1936 have been The Citadel and Furman (Davidson left for three seasons from 1988-1991). Since 1921, the SoCon has never had two bids into the NCAA Tournement. That’s the entire history we’re talking about boys and girls, not just in the modern era. Last year was the best chance the SoCon has seen in a while. Had Elon beaten Davidson in the conference tournament finals, it would have been a tough justification to leave the Wildcats out. Davidson looks to be on track for another title, but upsets do happen and should Davidson have the same kind of regular season they had last year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the first two-bid SoCon ever.
Predicted Champion. Davidson (#8 NCAA). The Davidson Wildcats were one of the best teams in the country in the year. There are several good reasons for this. Most people will point to one man: Stephen Curry (25.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) (see one of his explosions last year vs. Chattanooga below). It is true that having Curry on any team would make them very hard to beat, but Coach Bob McKillop has built a team that is more concerned with ball control and defense. It also helps that Davidson scored at a clip of 80.9 ppg last year. Looking at their numbers makes it easy to realize how they went 20-0 in SoCon play last year. Their numbers last year were astounding, and are the underlying reason they were able to make it to the Elite Eight and one shot away from the Final Four. Davidson gave up 11.6 to/g and forced their opponents into 16.2 to/g. That’s a turnover rate of 24% for their opponents as opposed to 16.5% for Davidson, both good for 12th in the nation. Check it here if you don’t believe me. Look for Davidson to use ball control and their not so secret weapon, Curry, to continue to dominate the league. It is very difficult to say whether or not the Davidson is going to sweep the league as they did last year because their 20-0 record was the first time any team in the Southern Conference has won twenty games in league play. It will be hard to go through the season unbeaten again, as every team who will play the ‘Cats will bring their A game, and even with the addition of Samford, the league’s 12th team, teams will still play a 20-game conference slate.
Others Considered. Who are we kidding, no team is going to get the #1 seed for the Southern Conference Tournament unless something terrible happens to Stephen Curry. However, the beauty of the oldest conference tournament in the land is that everyone gets a chance at redemption and glory.
College of Charleston looks to be in the best position to pull off an upset down the road. The Cougars return all of their starters from last season and are led by the 1990 Naismith Coach of the Year, Bobby Cremins. The Cougars will need to see improvement in their ball control and defensive capabilities if they are to succeed Davidson to the throne. More turnovers to assists (.910 A/TO) and a turnover rate of 19.6% of the time killed the Cougars in close games last year. In every game that CofC lost last year by less than 10 points, the Cougars had more turnovers than their opponents. Their defensive prowess was only mediocre, ranking at 192nd in the land with their opponents connecting on 44.3% of their shots. Look out for CofC if there is early season improvement in these areas.
UT-Chattanooga also looks to be in a advantageous position for a deep SoCon tourney run. The Mocs excelled in shooting (45.9% FG) and on the boards last year. However, turnovers caused them to have a less than impressive 18-13 record last year. Turning the ball caught up with them, as was the case when the Mocs’ 7-0 SoCon start ended in a disappointing 6-7 record the rest of the way. The Mocs horrific turnover rate was 24.2% and landed them worst in the SoCon and 317th in the nation. The Mocs are hoping that incoming freshmen Jasper Williams will provide some depth at the one slot. If the Mocs don’t see improvement in the turnover category then look for them to slump to another disappointing season.
Important Games/RPI Boosters. The Southern Conference will also be looking to improve their OOC record against the major and money leagues, as SoCon teams were only 5-24 against the BCS conferences plus CUSA and Mtn West last year. However, the SoCon did much better against their mid-major brethren with a record of 30-27 against their contemporaries. Like most mid-major leagues, the most important game of the season is the SoCon Tournament Final on Monday, March 9th, 2009. However, there will be plenty of intrigue as the regular season moves forward. Davidson has again loaded their non-conference schedule with big boys and should they win one or more of those games there is no reason to believe they can get a higher seed than this preview has listed. The 7th of January could be huge if Davidson and College of Charleston can pull off huge upsets against the boys from Durham and Chapel Hill, respectively. Here are some important conference and RPI booster games that you should keep an eye out for:
Chattanooga @ Tennessee (11/15/2008)
Chattanooga @ Missouri (11/17/2008)
Chattonooga @ Memphis (11/20/2008)
Winthrop @ Davidson (11/21/2008)
Elon @ Virginia Tech (11/26/2008)
South Carolina @ CofC (11/28/2008)
NC State v. Davidson (12/6/2008)
Davidson v. West Virginia (12/9/2008)
Davidson @ Purdue (12/20/2008)
Chattanooga @ Alabama (12/22/2008)
Davidson @ Duke (01/07/2009)
CofC @ North Carolina (01/07/2009)
Neat-o Fact.36. Davidson currently has the longest conference winning streak in the country dating back two seasons. The last conference loss the Wildcats had was against Appalachian State on January 20, 2007, by a score of 81-74. Their first conference game is on the 13th of December, meaning the between the time of their last loss and that game that the country will have elected a new President and a new Congress, two world champions have been crowned in every professional and amateur sport, and nearly 13% of Division I members have seen a coaching change.
65 Team Era. With Davidson’s three wins last year on its run to the E8, the conference doubled its win total to six during the modern era (6-24, .200). That record, however, belies just how tough the SoCon representative has traditionally been in the NCAA Tournament first round. From ETSU to College of Charleston to UT-Chattanooga to Davidson, SoCon teams have made many high seeds sweat bullets to survive and advance, as nine of the twenty-one first round losses of the era were ‘close’ losses (<10 pts), and five of those were a mere possession away (<4 pts), despite a relatively poor average seed of #13.7 over the period.
Final Thoughts. While many people will only see the Southern Conference as Davidson’s to lose, there will be other interesting story lines that you should pay attention to that could have effects through this season and spill over into future seasons. College of Charleston returns all starters from a season that will only be remembered as the season that broke a long streak of winning seasons, and should challenge for the conference tournament title. Chattanooga will be looking for more consistent point guard play in an attempt to build on season that saw a great beginning but crashed as ball control killed in the long run. In conclusion, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the first two bid Southern Conference in history should Davidson be upset in the Conference Tournament.
WYN2K. The Southern Conference has a reputation as a league on the rise, and deservedly so. After stellar regular seasons in 2006-07 from division winners Davidson and Appalachian St., including five wins over BCS schools among the league members (the highest total wins among the conferences we’ve rated thus far), the league has its sights on breaking into mid-major territory. If this is to ultimately happen, it will likely be led by Davidson, who with spectacular sophomore guard Stephen Curry, will challenge itself with several elite OOC games this season. Even though the league has been a one-bid conference throughout the 64/65 team era, last year Appalachian St. was very close to earning an at-large NCAA bid before ultimately settling for an NIT berth. And with the name cachet of Bobby Cremins bringing in exceptional recruits at College of Charleston, this league could be knocking on the door for two bids sooner rather than later.
Predicted Champion. Davidson (#9 seed NCAA) is the clear choice here. Davidson returns all five starters from the team that pushed extremely talented and athletic Maryland in the NCAA first round last year (down only four after the last tv timeout), including the aforementioned Curry, who had sick numbers for a freshman guard (22 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg, 2 spg, .408 3fg%, .855 ft%) including a run of 26.1 ppg the last ten games. But this is no one-man show. Aside from excellent point guard Jason Richards (#2 nationally in total assists), post men Thomas Sander and Boris Meno also both had outstanding seasons manning the inside, clearing boards and playing tough defense. Coach Bob McKillop also adds two significant recruits – Aaron Bond, who received some Burger Boy consideration last year; and his son, Brendan McKillop, who turned down ACC teams Virginia Tech and NC State to play for his pops. Knowing that Davidson needs a high RPI to offset any chance of being left at the altar should the Wildcats stumble in the conference tourney, McKillop has beefed up the OOC schedule considerably, setting up made-for-tv games with local bullies UNC and Duke in Charlotte and a trip to Raleigh to play NC State. Another road trip will include a game vs. UCLA at the Wooden Classic. All four of those teams are ranked in the Top 25.
Others Considered. We don’t expect another team to push Davidson like Appalachian St. did last season, but if Davidson gets lackadaisical or suffers a significant injury, we’d expect UNC-Greensboro to be next in line. Believe it or not, Curry didn’t win conference POY last year, and it’s not a sure thing that he will this year either. This is due to the fact that UNCG has a 6’6, 230 lb. Sir Charles clone named Kyle Hines returning in the post. Hines has scored in double figures in fifty straight games, and the last time a team went single coverage on him, he dropped 38 on their heads. Although #2 scorer Ricky Hickman is gone, UNCG returns a trio of talented sophomore wing scorers who all showed promise of bright futures. Appalachian St. is another team to watch despite losing three key seniors. The key is that two post men, Donte Minter (who should be healthy this year) and Jeremy Clayton, are returning, and in a league of little size, this could carry them a long way. One concern is the loss of heady PG DJ Thompson, who led the team’s uptempo attack, along with two other guards that saw significant time. Georgia Southern is another team on our radar, simply because they have an all-conference performer in the post (Louis Graham – #18 nationally in defReb%) and at the point guard position (Dwayne Foreman – #32 nationally in asstRate). And although College of Charleston lost three starters and a transfer from a 13-5 team, Bobby Cremins brought in the best recruiting class the league has seen in some time, and we should keep an eye on his team for that reason alone.
Games to Watch. The SoCon is going to a 20-game round robin conference schedule this season, which is the largest we’ve ever seen. Next year when the league expands to twelve teams with the addition of Samford, we suspect there will be a push by league coaches to return to a more reasonable sixteen game schedule. But for this year, it guarantees that Davidson will have to visit every road arena to test its mettle.
Davidson @ Appalachian St. (11.26.07) & Appalachian St. @ Davidson (02.27.08)
UNCG @ Appalachian St. (01.12.08) & Appalachian St. @ UNCG (02.16.08)
Southern Conference Championship Game (03.10.08) ESPN2
RPI Booster Games. We alluded to it above, but the SoCon went 5-38 (.118) against BCS teams last year (Appalachian St. – 2; Davidson – 1; Furman – 1; Wofford – 1). The number will be reduced this year, thanks to the additional conference games, but we expect a similar showing.
UNCG @ Georgia Tech (11.09.07)
Western Carolina @ Cincinnati (11.10.07)
Davidson vs. UNC (Charlotte) (11.14.07) ESPN
College of Charleston @ Arkansas (11.15.07) ESPNU
Chattanooga @ S. Illinois (11.22.07) ESPNU
Wichita St. @ Appalachian St. (11.28.07)
Davidson vs. Duke (Charlotte) (12.01.07) ESPNU
Tennessee @ Chattanooga (12.04.07) ESPNU
Davidson @ UCLA (12.08.07)
Georgia Southern @ Florida (12.15.07)
Western Carolina @ Illinois (12.17.07)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. This one is interesting, because if Davidson performs well against the ACC trio + UCLA, has a great SoCon record (like 18-2), yet loses in the conference tourney, we believe that this will be a two-team league.
Neat-o Stat. The Citadel must be one of the most historically horrific basketball programs in the NCAA. It joined the Southern Conference in 1937, and has yet to see its first NCAA or NIT bid. Pat Conroy wrote of his losing season there in the 60s, and not much has changed since. His cousin, Ed Conroy, will begin his second season at the school with what he calls the youngest team in America – 15 freshmen (incl. redshirts), one sophomore, one junior and one senior. Good luck, Ed, you’re going to need it.
64/65-Team Era. The SoCon has been a one-bid league throughout this era, and it will probably remain so this year (unless Davidson lays an egg in the conference tourney). The conference record (3-23, .115) reflects the success of two Tennessee teams, one of which is no longer in the league. In 1992, #14 ETSU defeated #3 Arizona 87-80 in one of Lute Olson’s earlier tankjobs, and in 1997, #14 UT-Chattanooga went to the Sweet 16 by defeating #3 Georgia (the year prior to Tubby Smith winning the NCAA title at Kentucky) 73-70, and #6 Illinois 75-63. Since then the conference (as an average #13.6 seed) has lost ten straight first round games by an average of 13.0 pts – not too encouraging. Still, the last four years show improvement, as the league representative has only lost by an average of 9.8 pts. Below is a nice clip of Curry dropping three of his thirty against Maryland.
Final Thought. This league is all about Davidson this year. The MSM will remember the Wildcats’ performance against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament and pundits like Dickie V. will be touting Curry as a PTPer all season long. Even if Davidson merely pulls one upset against the four ranked teams it plays in the pre-conference schedule, that’ll be enough to entice everyone to claim it as their Cinderella come March. But there are other good teams in this conference, so Davidson shouldn’t be reading its press clippings too closely. Several other teams could surprise much as Davidson did last year, and the level of talent entering the league is rising. It should make for a very fun SoCon season this time around.
Today is the final installment of the three-part series where we wanted to take a look at the NBA Draft broken down by school over the history of the modern NBA Draft (1949-2006). In Part I, we examined the raw numbers and made a rudimentary attempt at tying NBA talent to NCAA Tournament success. In Part II, we broke out the raw numbers by round selected, and then further sliced that data into an examination of “Top 10” and “Top 5” selections. Today we finish off the series by looking at draft selections by decade, hoping to see how things have trended over the entire era of the NBA Draft. See Table C below.
Table C. NBA Draft Picks by School & Decade (1949-2006)
Notes: this table is sorted by the Total Draftees column, and is limited to schools with a minimum of ten or more draft picks since 1949. The yellow shading refers to the highest number in that column.
Consistency. The first thing that struck us as interesting were the schools that were fairly consistent in providing draft picks throughout the NBA Draft era. UNC, Louisville, Kentucky and St. John’s do not lead any particular decade, but each school has provided at least two picks per decade throughout. UCLA and Indiana have been similarly consistent over the entire period, but each also led a decade in picks (UCLA during the 70s; Indiana during the 80s).
Less Volume, but Still Consistent. Look at Big 10 stalwarts Illinois and Minnesota, along with Villanova and Utah. We’ve been clowning the Gophers all week, but surprisingly, they’ve consistently produced between 2 to 7 picks per decade – guess it’s easy to forget about Willie Burton and Joel Przybilla. The same is true for the Illini (between 2 to 7 per decade), Villanova (2 to 5) and Utah (2 to 5). Maryland, Syracuse, Ohio St., Marquette, Wake Forest, Temple, USC, Stanford, Memphis, Tennessee, Oregon, BYU, Mississippi St., LaSalle and Bradley are some of the other schools with at least one draft pick per decade.
The USF Dons Represent a Bygone Era
Whatever happened to…? The University of San Francisco, led by KC Jones and Bill Russell, produced fourteen draft picks from 1949-79, and only two since. Eight of Kansas St.‘s fourteen total draft picks were produced from 1949-69, but there’s only been one since 1989 (Steve Henson in 1990) – it even led the 1940s/50s with seven picks. And despite its recent renaissance under John Beilein and the proliferation of draft picks to come under Bob Huggins, West Virginia has only had one draft pick since 1968 (seven overall)! Another early producer Holy Cross (six overall) hasn’t had any picks since 1969; and Grambling (nine overall) hasn’t had any since 1978.
These Two Schools Have Come On Strong
Late Bloomers. The biggest examples of late bloomers have to be Arizona and Connecticut. Arizona’s first draft pick was in 1974, and it has produced thirty-three more since, good enough for sixth (tied with UK) all-time. Connecticut is even more shocking – the Huskies’ first pick was Cliff Robinson in 1989 (!!!), but it has produced twenty picks since (1.11 picks per year). Duke also has to be mentioned here. The Devils had good success in the early years (seven picks through the 70s), but have had thirty-two draft picks since 1980, twenty-six of those since 1990 (1.44 picks per year). They were second in the 90s with fifteen picks, and are currently tied with UConn leading the 2000s with eleven picks. No wonder they’ve been so good. Other late bloomers include Georgia Tech (22 of its 24 picks since 1982), Michigan St. (24 of its 26 picks since 1979), Georgetown (17 of 18 since 1980), Alabama (19 of 23 since 1982), Texas (15 of 17 since 1982), and Georgia (13 of 14 since 1982). After tonight’s draft, Florida could have as many as 14 of its 15 picks since 1984, but we already knew the Gators were a late bloomer. As a bit of an anomaly among the traditional powers, Kansas didn’t really begin consistent production of draft picks until the 70s (24 of 27 picks since 1972).
Coaches. The one trend we see with many of these late bloomers is how important coaches are to the talent level of a program. UNC, Louisville, UCLA, Kansas, Kentucky and Indiana have had great coaches throughout most of their histories. It makes sense that these schools have also been the most consistent at putting talent into the NBA Draft. But look at some of the other schools, particularly the late bloomers. Jim Calhoun has been responsible for every single one of UConn’s draft picks; Lute Olson has been responsible for all but five of Arizona’s draft picks (85%), and Coach K for 74% of Duke’s all-time picks. Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech (79%), John Thompson at Georgetown (83%), and the Jud Heathcote/Tom Izzo reign at Michigan St. (92%) show just how important a single coach can be to a program.
Final Thoughts. This has been a fun experiment, and in only a few hours, we get to update all of our data with draft data from 2007. Something tells us that Florida and Ohio State’s numbers are going to be rising. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and commentary. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming…
Mrs. Donovan appears thrilled at the press conference naming her husband the new coach of the Orlando Magic.
Memo to Billy Donovan:
Listen to your wife before you sign the contract next time. As a married man of over a decade, you should have known better. Sure, her lips may have been mouthing “do whatever you want, honey” but the eyes… look at those eyes!!! were saying something completely different.
Because of this egregious infraction in marital comprehension, you now look like a circus clown (isn’t Barnum & Bailey’s college around there too?) and more than a little flakey in front of the basketball universe. Sure, others have been down this road – most recently, Dana Altman (Creighton to Arkansas and back) and Gregg Marshall (Winthrop to College of Charleston and back) – but neither of them were foolish enough to sign a contract prior to backing away. The last person we can remember who actually signed the contract while still employed was Bobby Cremins (Georgia Tech to South Carolina and back), and has he been heard from since? Not really. (Note: Majerus was unemployed/retired/at the trough when he backed out on USC in 2004; and Cremins is now the head coach at College of Charleston in an ironic twist.)
So let’s be honest, Billy. Despite complete radio silence coming out of Gainesville, and Orlando officials stating publicly that you are still in a “dialogue” with the Magic, we all know that this is simply legal saber-rattling for the sake of saving face. The buyout/settlement that you will pay Orlando will surely be substantial. Wouldn’t that money have been better spent on a new convertible Benz for your wife – which, incidentally, you’re going to have to buy her anyway (look at the eyes). A Benz might actually be getting off easy – imagine all the painstaking interrogations and whispering that is already going on behind her back at the PTA meetings and at the pool’s social committee. Her ears are burning and her eyes are furious.
Actually, Billy, here’s another thought. After you get off the phone with Orlando management, maybe you should call Tiffany’s as well. We heard that diamond earrings look just divine while driving an SL 55 Roadster.
Update: Andy Katz wrote that Donovan started having second thoughts on Friday afternoon at the Florida farewell press conference, and upon waking Saturday morning, he was sure he had made the wrong decision. This dovetails very nicely with the Christine Donovan effect. Who hasn’t gone home thinking a decision is final only to learn that your opinion is far less valuable than you believed when it results on you sleeping on the couch that night?