Top of the O26 Class: A-10, A-Sun, Big South, Colonial, MEAC & SoCon

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on October 30th, 2014

Leading up to the season, this microsite will preview the best of the Other 26 conferences, region by region. In this installment, we examine the leagues that have a traditional footprint in the Mid-Atlantic/Southeastern region of the U.S: the Atlantic 10, Atlantic Sun, Big South, Colonial, MEAC and Southern Conference. Previous installments include the Northeast region leagues and the Midwest region conferences.

Top Units

Which mid-major will make the most noise this season? in Rush the Court's Polls on LockerDome

Atlantic 10

  • VCU – 2013-14 record: 26-9 (12-4). Shaka Smart has led VCU to four straight NCAA Tournaments including a Final Four run in 2011, and yet this might be his most talented bunch to date. Perhaps his most highly motivated, too. After suffering a bitter, never-should-have-happened defeat to Stephen F. Austin in the Round of 64 last March, preseason all-conference picks Treveon Graham and Briante Weber return, along with several other key pieces and Smart’s best recruiting class. Graham, a 6’6″ forward, is poised to break the school scoring record this season, while the quick-handed Weber looks to build on the career steals mark he already shattered – it’s like the guy was built for HAVOC. The presence of forward Mo Alie-Cox, backcourt contributors JeQuan Lewis and Melvin Johnson, and a trio of heralded freshmen – including four-star Terry Larrier – makes this team more than ready for a tough non-conference slate. Expect a bunch of wins, an A-10 title and big things come March.
VCU is loaded with talent this season. (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

VCU is loaded with talent this season. (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Dayton – 2013-14 record: 26-11 (10-6). Last year’s Cinderella should be top-three good in the A-10, but it may need some time to rediscover the magic. Gone is Dayton’s best all-around player, Devin Oliver, its most important big man, Matt Kavanaugh, and two productive guards. Luckily, Archie Miller’s tendency to use a deep rotation last season – 10 to 12 guys a game – should pay off; this year’s newly-anointed starters all saw quality minutes in 2013-14. Among them will be Scoochie Smith, who steps in as starting point guard following the transfer of Khari Price. Smith’s ability to open up the offense, along with the continued emergence of forwards Jalen Robinson and Devon Scott, will be important factors. Dyshawn Pierre and sharpshooter Jordan Sibert should lead the way, but it is the (probably large) supporting cast that will determine the Flyers’ ceiling.

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O26 Superlatives, Part II: CAA, C-USA, MAC, MEAC, MVC, SoCon, Summit & WCC…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 10th, 2014

In Part II of our three-part series, we pass out 2013-14 superlatives to the best teams, performers and performances from eight different O26 conferences: CAA, Conference USA, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, SoCon, Summit and WCC. In alphabetical order:

Colonial Athletic Association

The Blue Hens outworked the rest of the CAA for much of 2013-2014. (The Post and Courier)

The Blue Hens outworked the rest of the CAA for much of 2013-2014. (The Post and Courier)

  • Team of the Year – Delaware (22-9, 14-2). Not even early- and late-season suspensions of two of Delaware’s best players could stop the Blue Hens’ run to a CAA regular season title. Monte Ross’ up-tempo club raced off to an 11-0 start in conference play, amassing a large enough lead that preseason favorite Towson was never able to catch up.
  • Player of the Year – Jerelle Benimon – Towson. You want beastly numbers? How about these: In 32 games, the 6’8’’ Benimon averaged 18.9 points, 11.7 boards, 3.7 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, recorded an NCAA-best 20 double-doubles and reached the free throw line 258 times, good for sixth in the country.
  • Coach of the Year – Monté Ross – Delaware. Ross found a way to keep things together, to keep winning after guard Devon Saddler – the team’s leading scorer – missed seven games due to suspension early in the season and Jarvis Threatt – the team’s third-leading scorer – was suspended for the entire month of February.
  • Upset of the Year – Northeastern over Georgetown, 63-56. In the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, miles from Boston or Washington D.C., Scott Eatherton and the Huskies pounded Georgetown in the paint and pulled off an unexpected upset. Alas, it was another full month before Bill Coen’s bunch wound up back in the win column.
  • Dunk (or Dunker) of the Year – Johnathan Burroughs-Cook – College of Charleston. Burroughs-Cook cares not that you are D-II school or that he is playing in a preseason game—he will still annihilate your attempt to draw a charge.

Conference USA

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Conference Tournament Primer: Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 7th, 2014

Championship Fortnight continues with two more conference tourneys tipping off today, so what better way to get you through the next week-plus of games than to break down each of the Other 26′s postseason events. Today, the CAA and SoCon get started.

Dates: March 7-10
Site: Baltimore Arena (Baltimore, MD)

CAA.jpg

(caasports.com)

What to expect: Help may have arrived just in time for Delaware. After starting 11-0 in conference play, the Blue Hens dropped two of their final five games and appeared vulnerable without starting point guard Jarvis Threatt and key reserve Marvin King-Davis, each suspended at the end of January. Both players have since returned to the court and will likely prove much-needed in the team’s run for the automatic bid. It won’t come easy: Towson, the preseason league favorite, enters the tournament on a six-game winning streak and is equipped with the conference’s best player, Jerrelle Benimon. Since the event will be held in Baltimore instead of Richmond this year, both teams should feel comfortable — Towson is right down the road, and Delaware’s campus is only one hour away. Drexel and William & Mary could be semifinal threats, but expect a Hens-Tigers championship game on Monday night.

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O26 Weekly Awards: Wichita State, Davon Usher, Gary Waters & Yale…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 12th, 2014

With just over a month until Selection Sunday, many teams across the landscape of college basketball are beginning to show their true colors, for better or for worse. Some early conference pace-setters have returned back to the pack, while a number of apparent-disappointments have readjusted and begun to find their way. And others yet just keep on winning. Let’s pass out a few awards to those who took care of business last week.

O26 Team of the Week

Wichita State. The Shockers have been written about and discussed at length over the past several days, so there’s no need to overanalyze the implications of last week’s big road victories, followed up with a closer-than-expected home win on Tuesday night — most everyone understands the undefeated potential that now lies ahead. But that does not mean we shouldn’t still celebrate the accomplishment. The fact is, no other O26 program had near the expectations, attention or build-up that Wichita State did entering the week, and perhaps no other O26 team proved as focused, unwavering and simply excellent on the basketball court either. In two of its most difficult conference road tests of the season, Gregg Marshall’s club displayed the same mental and physical toughness it has all year long, locking down defensively — especially in key moments, when it needed it most — and draining timely shots to remain perfect and march one step closer to history.

Wichita State got the job done on the road last week. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Wichita State got the job done on the road last week. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

First, on Wednesday in Terre Haute, the Shockers found victory by responding with immediate answers for each crowd-igniting, lead-dwindling run that Indiana State threw at them. After the Sycamores used a late first half surge to pull within one at the break, Wichita State responded by outscoring the home squad 14-4 in the opening eight minutes of the second. When Greg Lansing’s team went on an 8-0 spurt to then cut the lead to two, the Shockers punched back with four straight points and five straight stops. And when the gap was again sliced to a single possession with under two minutes remaining, Marshall’s guys earned key trips to the free throw line and shut things down on the defensive end. The ultimate result: a 65-58 victory and a season sweep of the Missouri Valley’s second-best unit. Three nights later in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the story was much the same. Wichita State was again too deep, too physical, too consistent over a full 40 minutes, pounding Northern Iowa on the glass — they secured 46 percent of available offensive rebounds — and squashing potential threats to the lead before they could gain traction. The effect was both defeating and demoralizing for the Panthers: “They play every possession perfectly,” UNI sophomore Matt Bohannon said after the game. Again, ‘perfect’ was the prevailing word used to describe the Shockers. Those perfect possessions led to another perfect week, a three-game stretch that might be crucial in their quest for an even greater form of perfection this season.

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Despite (More) Suspensions, Delaware Still in Great Position to Win CAA

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on January 31st, 2014

Just when it looked like the Blue Hens were going to run away with the CAA, Delaware announced Wednesday that starting point guard Jarvis Threatt and forward Marvin King-Davis had been suspended one month for an unspecified violation of team rules. If the nebulous infraction sounds familiar, that’s because it is — star shooting guard Devon Saddler was also suspended for an unspecified violation back in November, missing seven games as a result. Now without its leading distributor and a key frontcourt piece, Monte Ross’ team must once again adjust to playing short-handed for an extended period. And although that might spell trouble for an already-thin bunch, the good news is this: The Hens still have a big enough lead in league play and plenty of remaining offensive talent to weather the storm and claim the conference crown.

Delaware showed Wednesday that they can still win big short-handed. (AP)

Devon Saddler and Delaware showed Wednesday that they can still win big short-handed. (AP)

If you were to examine Wednesday night’s effort at William & Mary in a vacuum, you might even think Delaware could thrive in the absence of Threatt and King-Davis. The Hens dispatched the second-place Tribe, 89-72, behind Davon Usher’s 28 points and Carl Baptiste’s career-high 23, along with team-wide 10-of-22 shooting from behind the arc. It was an impressive outcome, prompting Ross to label it “one of the most unbelievable performances” he’s been associated with as head coach. The bigger story, though, might have been Saddler — who recorded seven first-half assists in his interim point guard role — and Cazmon Hayes, whose 24 minutes were by far his most since early December. If Saddler can adapt to being both a scorer and distributor, and Hayes and forward Devonne Pinkard can be dependable contributors, Ross’ club is capable of winning more games like it did on Wednesday.

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O26 Weekly Awards: Toledo, Jerrelle Benimon, UTEP & Chicago State…

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on January 22nd, 2014

The rigors of conference play began taking its toll last week as several O26 league favorites discovered just how hard conference road games can be. Some teams dealt with these hurdles better than others, the results of which ranged anywhere from surprising upsets to crazy comebacks to clutch shots. Let’s pass out a few awards to the performers who handled themselves best during the O26 week that was.

O26 Team of the Week

In part thanks to some Juice Brown heroics, Toledo had an excellent week. (BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH)

In part thanks to some Juice Brown heroics, Toledo had an excellent week. (Jeremy Wadsworth/Blade)

Toledo. First it was the expected-but-still-disappointing loss to Kansas followed by a forgettable defeat at Western Michigan, and all of a sudden the Rockets — once unbeaten and the talk of the mid-major world — were in serious jeopardy of losing their groove. Some teams might have become deflated, lost confidence and continued to slide, but not Toledo. Head coach Tod Kowalczyk remained calm after falling to the Broncos, noting “We didn’t play well in two games all year. This is one of two… we’ll be fine.” His team has responded in similar fashion, handling Central Michigan with ease two Saturdays ago before collecting a pair huge wins this past week to remain the MAC West kings. First was a home contest against surging Buffalo, a squad on a four-game winning streak that looked poised to make it five in a row. The Bulls jumped out to a quick lead in the opening minutes that it wouldn’t hand over until midway through the second half, even then not backing down from the Rockets. A big reason for that was because Javon McCrea was his usual beastly self, finishing with 20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks and enabling his team to keep pace and ultimately knot things up at 59 with a minute and a half to play. But just when the game appeared to be headed for overtime, Toledo point guard Julius “Juice” Brown made the magic happen, capping off an eight-point, 90 second stretch by receiving the second pass off a full-court inbounds play, hoisting from just inside the arc, and nailing a buzzer-beater to win the game, 67-65. It was one of the most exciting finishes you will see all season and an emphatic completion to an important win for the Rockets.

Despite the mid-week heroics, though, it was Saturday morning’s match-up at Akron that was supposed to provide the drama, with two teams pegged to win their respective divisions in the preseason and each featuring first-team all-conference talent. But as the game wore on, it became more evident that this was not going to be the hotly contested battle many thought — Toledo thoroughly and resolutely outplayed the Zips for much of the 40 minutes, pounding them on both ends of the glass and putting the game completely out of reach midway through the second half. Brown finished with his second straight 20+ point outing, while former Ohio State forward J.D. Weatherspoon — who has emerged as a vital paint presence in recent games — scored 20 points and secured a game-high 14 rebounds. The win was something of a statement for the Rockets, an assertion of dominance over a club predicted by many to win the league and return to the NCAA Tournament this season. Now 15-2, Kowalczyk’s group has regained its status as one of the more dangerous non-power conference teams in America, a position it hopes to maintain through MAC play and into the postseason. The wins over Buffalo and Akron were key steps on that path and important demonstrations of resiliency, earning Toledo our award for Team of the Week.

Honorable Mentions: George Washington (2-0: vs. VCU, @St. Bonaventure); Towson (2-0: @Drexel, @College of Charleston); UTEP (2-0: @Middle Tennessee State, @UAB).

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Can Drexel Win the CAA Without Damion Lee?

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 6th, 2013

After losing senior guard Chris Fouch for almost the entire season and finishing in the bottom half of its league last year, Drexel’s 2013-14 campaign seemed to be one filled with resurgent optimism, especially after a promising month of November. The Dragons nearly beat UCLA in Pauley Pavilion on college basketball’s opening night before winning three straight contests, including victories over Elon and Rutgers, to advance to the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals in Madison Square Garden. There, Bruiser Flint’s squad jumped out to an early 27-8 lead on fourth-ranked Arizona, proving to a national audience — and perhaps itself — that it could play with anyone. But in the second half, CAA Player of the Year candidate Damion Lee went down with a torn ACL, and the outlook for Drexel this season changed in an instant. A team predicted to compete for the league title was suddenly and decidedly shorthanded.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Season Tip-Off-Drexel vs Arizona

Does Damion Lee’s Injury Change the Outlook for the Dragons?

With Lee, Frantz Massenat and Fouch, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility because of his ankle injury, the Dragons were set to have arguably the best backcourt in the conference. And while they still might, what with Massenat’s preseason all-conference stature and Fouch’s elite shooting ability, losing a player as dynamic as Lee undoubtedly lowers the team’s ceiling going forward. The question will be to what extent. At 6’6″, Lee led the team in scoring last season with 17.1 points per game, consistently displaying his ability to pull up from anywhere on the court and attack the rim when his team needed it. He was also an effective rebounder for his position, compiling four 20+ point, 10+ rebound performances over his career up to this point. With all three guards back and healthy this year, merely keying on Lee or attempting to shut down Fouch or Massenat was simply not a viable strategy for opponents; if one or even two guys had bad night, another of the backcourt stars was there to carry the load. Perhaps most importantly, the three of them on the court together meant that no one had to play outside of their comfort zones, unlike last season when Massenat struggled to be both point guard and relied-upon scorer each night.

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Calipari, CAA’s Connection to NBA Storyline to Watch

Posted by Chris Johnson on November 22nd, 2013

Most coaches never love their teams as much as you do. This is an important fact fans rarely consider when coaching changes occur. They condemn smart, aspirational, full-grown men for leaving to pursue a better opportunity. They yell and shake their fists and go on message boards and commiserate with each other about feeling “betrayed.” They try to rationalize the move by telling themselves their former coach will fail at his new job, or that his replacement will be just as good or better than the former coach ever was. Really, though, coaching changes are a lot less complicated than that. When coaches leave jobs of their own volition (but for a few exceptions), they are typically acting in their own best interests (financial and otherwise). Doing what’s best for their careers. Untying emotion from an important professional decision. Making a smart, rational choice. So when it seems like a coach would never, ever, leave his current job – that he’s such a good fit, no other job offer would ever tempt him – think again. Coaches, like most of the rest of us, have proven over time that they are always looking for the next best move.

John Calipari

Will John Calipari be on the move again? (Kentucky Athletics)

Which brings us to Kentucky coach John Calipari. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wrote an interesting column yesterday suggesting Calipari is a logical candidate to become the next head coach of the New York Knicks. Before we get to Kentucky’s wildly popular coach, a few words the Knicks’ convoluted front office situation:

For those of you who don’t follow the NBA, know that the Knicks are more reliant on one player, Carmelo Anthony, than any other team in the league (you can make an argument for the Lakers and Kobe, or the Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving). Since trading for the former Syracuse star in February 2011, the Knicks have tried to improve their roster by adding players that best complement Anthony’s skills. He is the centerpiece, the superstar, the main attraction. Without him, the Knicks would be an afterthought in the Eastern Conference. The prospect of Anthony leaving the Knicks through free agency this summer, when he can opt out of his contract, makes Knicks fans shudder. It would also be a huge blow to the Knicks’ chances of competing for an NBA championship, the goal owner James Dolan had in mind when he allegedly strong-armed former GM Donnie Walsh into compromising the team’s future by trading multiple draft picks and young players for Anthony. So the Knicks are doing everything in their power to make sure Anthony is happy in New York – that he won’t consider opting out and joining a different team this summer, even if it means a clearer path to an NBA Championship.

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Morning Five: 10.17.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2012

  1. News like that which came out of Bowling Green, Ohio, yesterday is nothing less than extremely disappointing from a societal standpoint. Ignorance, of course, knows no bounds, and it’s clearly alive and well in northwestern Ohio. The Toledo Blade reports that a swastika along with the words “white power” were written in chalk sometime Saturday night outside the home of Bowling Green head coach Louis Orr, an African-American. A former star at Syracuse in the 1970s, Orr has been the head coach at the MAC school for the last five seasons, owning a 76-82 record. A city police representative stated that no direct threats were made against Orr and his family nor where they in danger of “immediate harm,” but that’s more or less like putting fancy lipstick on a pig. Much like the pig, these actions by a coward (or group of them) are disgusting and have no place in modern American society. 
  2. How about some better news, like cancer research and treatment? UCLA and Texas yesterday announced the naming of a double-header between its men’s and women’s basketball teams that will be called (get ready for this mouthful) the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Showcase. Even thought it sounds more like a theoretical physics convention than a basketball extravaganza, the Longhorns and Bruins will meet under this moniker on December 8 of this season at Reliant Stadium in Houston, with plans to make this an annual event featuring other prominent programs from around the country. Anderson’s Proton Therapy Center touts itself as one of the leading cancer treatment centers in the world, and attaching its name to this game will no doubt increase awareness to all of the innovative and impressive radiation therapies they’re successfully utilizing there
  3. While on the subject of UCLA this season, the LA Times‘ Bill Plaschke writes that the black cloud hanging over Ben Howland’s program while waiting on the NCAA to rule on the eligibility of Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson is pervasive around the joint. As he put it, it’s “never a good sign” when “the team’s media day [is] monitored by the school’s vice chancellor for legal affairs.” In the weeks prior to the big unveiling of a statue of John Wooden and a renovated Pauley Pavilion in anticipation of what many pundits believe will be a renaissance year in Westwood, we’re instead left with a group of fab freshmen who are off limits to reporters and a testy coaching staff habitually checking for any contact from Indianapolis. Unfortunately for every school involved with elite recruits these days, this is the world we live in.
  4. A little recruiting news leaked out about Jabari Parker last night, but not the kind anyone wants. After narrowing his list to five schools a couple of weeks ago — BYU, Stanford, Duke, Michigan State, and Florida — there was some hope that the nation’s top prospect in the Class of 2013 (according to some) would be ready to make his choice during the November 14-21 signing period. Alas, no dice, according to his father. Parker is planning on taking all five of his official visits in coming weeks, with his final trip to Provo ending on November 20. With just one day to then narrow his list from five schools to one, the 6’8″ forward has decided to put off his verbal commitment until December at the earliest — meaning, of course, that no pen will touch paper until next April. Also, the recent decision by the Church of Latter-Day Saints to allow its members to begin serving their missions at the age of 18 could also play a role in Parker’s (a practicing Mormon) recruitment. Although we can’t imagine that the talented young player would preclude his manifest destiny into the NBA for an additional one or even two years, it must be considered as a factor in the analysis.
  5. The Colonial Athletic Association held its Media Day in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday, and it is certainly strange to not see VCU represented among its now-11 members. Without the Rams to get in the way, the league’s coaches and media voted Bruiser Flint’s Drexel Dragons as the top team in the league, with Delaware, George Mason, and Old Dominion following behind. Junior point guard Frantz Massenat, an all-CAA first teamer last season when he averaged 14/3/5 APG while leading the Dragons to a 29-7 overall record (16-2 CAA), was selected as the preseason CAA Player of the Year. Delaware in the second slot in the preseason standings is surprising because the Blue Hens have been so bad for so long since joining the CAA in 2001 (only two winning conference seasons) that it’s hard to believe that they may have finally turned the corner (they probably have). Good for them.
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CAA Decision Shows Why Conference Realignment is More Complex Than You Think

Posted by EJacoby on June 20th, 2012

With a number of schools changing conference affiliation every six months or so, conference realignment remains a dominant factor in the college basketball landscape. Will the Big East soon lose its distinction as the most consistently good hoops league to the ACC? Perhaps so, given that three of the league’s premier teams – West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh – will have departed for new conferences after next year, the latter two headed south to the ACC. It begs the question why some schools even consider sticking with their current leagues if they have offers on the table to join a more flourishing conference or – for the mid-majors of the world – the Atlantic 10. But Tuesday’s news that the CAA will disallow departing schools Georgia State and Old Dominion from competing for a conference championship next season sheds some light on the drawbacks of bolting for greener pastures. Not only will these two schools be forced to pay a hefty exit fee of $250,000, but both must wait out a lame duck season in their current leagues without a chance to play for a conference championship. This is especially detrimental to the Monarchs, a team which finished fourth in the CAA last season and should have another good team next year. ODU essentially will waste a year of basketball competition that could significantly affect player focus and development and potentially result in transfers from young players who don’t want to wait two or three seasons for its transition to Conference USA to run smoothly.

Blaine Taylor’s ODU Monarchs won’t have much to play for in the CAA next season (AP Photo)

As we mentioned earlier in today’s Morning Five, it’s been surprising that other conferences haven’t imposed similar restrictions on departing schools. How crazy would it be if Syracuse and Pittsburgh were unable to compete in the Big East Tournament next season? The CAA has a long-standing rule that migrating schools are not allowed to compete in their postseason tournament, and conference commissioner Tom Yeager says that the universities fully understood the punishments when they decided to bolt. “The conference bylaws were well understood and evaluated when the institutions made their decision to withdraw from the conference,” he said. “We desire to have those institutions that are fully invested in the continued prosperity of the conference represent the conference as its champion.” So now, unless ODU puts together one of the 37 most impressive at-large resumes in hoops next season (highly unlikely), the Monarchs won’t have a realistic shot at the Big Dance despite a flourishing young roster. This puts in perspective how fortunate VCU is to have received immediate acceptance into the Atlantic 10. The Rams won one, and nearly two, games in the NCAA Tournament last season after winning the CAA Tournament (firmly on the bubble at the time). Shaka Smart’s team likely would not have qualified for the Big Dance had it not have played so well to win the league tourney.

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Morning Five: 06.20.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 20th, 2012

  1. There are many coaching hires where the logical process makes normal and complete sense to everyone – a longtime assistant is promoted to the top job; a big personality moves on to a school to match his ego; a mid-major guy is looking for more resources and talent. Occasionally, though, a random hire has everyone around the industry scratching his head wondering what they missed. It’s not very often that you’ll see a career assistant coach — mostly at the collegiate level, at that — make the jump to NBA head coach, but that’s exactly what St. John’s assistant Mike Dunlap did this week. Other than a handful of games when head coach Steve Lavin was out with prostate cancer last season, Dunlap has spent the last six seasons as an assistant, and the extent of his head coaching experience came at Division II Metro State from 1997-2006. Dunlap reportedly beat out more prominent names such as Jerry Sloan, Brian Shaw, and Quin Snyder for the position, and although according to Jeff Goodman everyone knows he can coach, this is a real gamble on the part of the GOAT as part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats.
  2. If a player only sets foot on your campus for the better part of eight months, is it OK for an alumnus to claim that star as one of his own? That’s the question posed by Grantland’s Bryan Curtis as a Longhorn considering the provenance of one Kevin Durant, one of the NBA’s brightest stars but a player who probably wasn’t around Austin long enough to even witness the bats on Congress Avenue Bridge. Curtis ultimately settles on the answer “yes,” – shocking, we know – but he actually digs up some thoughtful and relevant examples of other prominent Texas grads who were early entries into the work force well before it was fashionable. A couple of those names? Walter Cronkite and Michael Dell.
  3. Stop the presses, but Fab Melo has decided to speak about his suspensions last season at Syracuse. If you recall, the Big East DPOY was suspended twice during the season, including a devastating NCAA Tournament suspension that essentially killed the Orange’s realistic chances at a national title. The reason: (drum roll) academics. Melo is touring around the country in an effort to improve his draft stock, and he decided to talk about his time away from Jim Boeheim’s team during his sophomore year this week. To wit, “They ask, I explain (what) happened — that I came from another country and until four years ago didn’t even speak English.” This is all fine and well, but if we were an NBA scout, we might be willing to look past one indiscretion — but dropping the ball during the most important month of his collegiate career is an altogether different story. Did he forget how to stay eligible between the first part of his sophomore year and his second? Or did he realize he was going to be a millionaire soon and decided to stop caring about classes? That’s the question that should be asked — whether the answer is relevant to his future prospects as a ball player isn’t for us to decide.
  4. With all the bad blood surrounding conference realignment, we’re actually surprised that we haven’t seen what the CAA has decided to do more often. The league announced on Tuesday that departing members Old Dominion and Georgia State – both of which will remain in the league in 2012-13 – will not be eligible to compete for conference championships next year. The CAA’s Council of Presidents voted unanimously to uphold a longstanding rule meant to dissuade schools from jumping ship. VCU, which will join the Atlantic 10 next month, will obviously not be impacted, but this goes to show that conference realignment at its core is something of a bloodsport, and memories of such influential people at the highest levels tend to not easily erase.
  5. We sorta love it when in-state rivalries are exacerbated through the local media, and NC State is only the latest and greatest to use the old standbys — billboards and television ads — to make declarations of grandeur based on nothing more than marketing, spit, and perhaps a little duct tape. Whether you measure it by success or fans, there’s virtually no possible way to justify an assertion that the great state of North Carolina belongs to NC State, but hey, whatever gets the juices running (and it’s still funny). Of course, even if NC State has won the last 10,000 football games against UNC, Duke, and Wake Forest combined, that’s still not what matters in the Tar Heel State any more than Auburn beating Alabama in basketball matters a lick. Kudos to NC State for giving it a shot, but nobody is fooled.
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Bracket Prep: Creighton, Loyola (Maryland) & VCU

Posted by EJacoby on March 6th, 2012

As we move through Championship Week (the second half of Championship Fortnight, of course), we’ll continue to bring you these short reviews of each of the automatic qualifiers to help you fill out your bracket next week. In this post, we’ve got the MVC, MAAC, and CAA champions ready to go…

Creighton

The Bluejays Celebrate Their First MVC Title Since 2007 (Omaha W-H/M. Miller)

  • Missouri Valley Champion (28-5, 17-4)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #21/#35/#24
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +10.5
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #5-#7

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. With Creighton’s MVC Tournament victory over Illinois State on Sunday, the Bluejays sit at 28 wins and are just one win away from tying the most in its history. Given that Greg McDermott’s team has one of the best players in the country along with a talented and experienced group of complementary players, it’s not inconceivable that the school could reach 30 wins to break the record. Should Creighton advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1974, it would represent the culmination of a year that CU fans, some of the best in college basketball, have dreamed of for some time. This team is capable of getting there.
  2. The primary reason they’re capable has a lot to do with the scoring wunderkind known as the coach’s son, Doug McDermott. The sophomore wing can quite literally score from anywhere on the court — his 23.2 PPG includes a ridiculously efficient 61.2% field goal percentage (49.5% from three) and he has an array of moves by which he finds open looks all over the floor. The offense quite clearly runs through him, but his supporting cast of guard Antoine Young (12.5 PPG, 4.5 APG) and Gregory Echinique (9.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG) provide additional punch when needed.
  3. The problem for Creighton lies with its defense. Contrasted with an elite offensive unit (#5 nationally), the defense is downright ugly (#186 nationally). Creighton could arguably end up with the biggest disparity between the two ends of the court in the entire tournament field, excluding a crazy #16 seed perhaps. This means that matchups for the Bluejays are exceptionally important because they will only win by outscoring another team, not by stopping them. Ideally, Creighton would find itself in a first game matchup against an equally bad defensive power conference team such as Northwestern or Mississippi State. Getting past that one, they’d then face a team like Florida or even Duke to give themselves a fighting chance to get into a gunner’s delight showcase with the other team. If Creighton, however, sees a team like Wisconsin or Georgetown up ahead, they’re going to have trouble breaking through for that elusive 30th win.

VCU

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