2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2012

Mark Selig of the Daily News-Record and http://jamesmadison.rivals.com is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can follow him on Twitter at @markrselig.

Top Storylines

  • Strange League Makeup: Perennial contender VCU left for the Atlantic 10, leaving 11 teams in the CAA, but only seven of those squads will participate in this year’s league tournament held in Richmond. Outgoing Old Dominion and Georgia State are ineligible under CAA bylaws, while UNC-Wilmington and Towson are ineligible for any postseason play because of low APR scores. College of Charleston recently approved a move from the Southern Conference and will likely join next season.
  • Can Bruiser Take The Dragons Dancing? Drexel’s 12th-year coach has won 199 games with the Dragons, but Bruiser Flint has never brought the team to the NCAA Tournament (his last Tourney appearance was in 1998 with UMass). The Dragons, champions of the regular season last year, are the favorites to repeat and this time also win the conference tourney now that VCU isn’t around to boast what was essentially home-court advantage at the Richmond Coliseum. Flint has had his share of headaches in the Virginia state capital, but a lot of them would go away if he could just snip that Coliseum net.

Frantz Massenat Leads The Dragons As Preseason Favorites. (AP)

  • Multiple Bids? That seems to be the question every year in the CAA, a conference that sent multiple teams to the tournament in 2011, 2007 and 2006. Without VCU – a fringe Top 25 team – that appears unlikely. But a team like Drexel could theoretically build itself a strong enough at-large résumé and then get upset in the CAA Tournament. It would take a big season from a George Mason or Delaware to have the Colonial flag waved at multiple NCAA sites, though. Old Dominion, ineligible for the league title, created a rugged enough non-conference schedule for itself to be an at-large consideration, but the Monarchs probably aren’t talented enough this year to breeze through that slate.

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Drexel (15-3)
  2. Delaware (13-5)
  3. George Mason (13-5)
  4. Northeastern (10-8)
  5. Old Dominion (9-9)
  6. James Madison (9-9)
  7. Georgia State (7-11)
  8. Hofstra (7-11)
  9. William & Mary (6-12)
  10. Towson (6-12)
  11. UNC-Wilmington (4-14)

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by rtmsf on December 30th, 2009

Joe Dzuback of Villanova by the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Go-to Guys

The term “Go-to” guy was Ken Pomeroy’s first attempt to describe a player who took more than 25% of his team’s possessions and shots when he was on the floor. The term might be a cliche, a slight misrepresentation even, so Pomeroy over time modified the adjective several times, eventually settling on “Major Contributor” to describe a player who took 24% or more of the team’s possessions (irrespective of the number of minutes played).

Who are the “Go-to” guys of the A10? If the first 10-12 games of the season are an indication, these 27 players will find their names in game previews, usually at the end of sentences that begin “…must shut down.” And of course in postgame newspaper and blog accounts. Maybe even a highlight spot or two. Note, the A10’s All-Conference team pool is not limited to these players alone (there is, after all, about 224 conference games still to play), but more than a few of these guys will find their way onto voter ballots by late February.

Player stats for games through 12/20/09. Many thanks to Ken Pomeroy for providing player breakdowns on his web site.

The names ought to be familiar, especially if the reader follows the conference’s Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week awards. Ten of the players listed above have earned “OtW” (“Of the Week”) recognition at least once. To be sure more will be recognized before the end of the regular season.

Shamari Spears and Darrio Green (Charlotte) are typical of a number of players in the table — “Significant/Major Contributors” in either (or both of) possessions and shots, but a bit light on playing time (Min%). I set the lower (%Min) boundary at 50% in an effort to find those players whose time is/will be increasing over the course of the non-conference schedule. It’s a shame Jio Fontan bailed out on Fordham this season, as the sophomore could have paired with freshman Chris Gaston to form a potent scoring combination on both the perimeter and with penetration in the lane. Instead he will sit a year at another school, rumored to be USC, before he can resume his career. La Salle’s freshman Aaric Murray forms a kind of odd couple with senior guard Rodney Green. According to Ken Pomeroy’s inside/outside measure, Green is an “inside” player with a rating of 9.7, but the 6’10, 250 pound Murray, with a rating of 3.0, veers more to neutral (0.0) than even Green. Murray has taken 17 3-point attempts (and converted 9) and gotten to the line for only 20 free throw attempts. Murray’s 98.1 offensive rating is typical of freshmen (see also Chris Gaston and Carl Jones of St. Joseph’s). In time he will learn to use his body to score more efficiently near the basket, instead of stepping away from the defender for a three. St. Louis’ pair, Willie Reed and Kwamain Mitchell, along with Xavier’s Jordan Crawford, epitomize the notion of the “Go-to” guy — they combine lots of minutes (well maybe not so much for Mitchell…) with high usage (possessions and shot taking) and efficiency (ORtgs greater than their team). These guys consume a lot of possessions, but they make their teams better in the process.

And Then There Is…

I wanted to keep the list to 1-2 players per team at most, but a few teams/player combinations posed a challenge. Charlotte, Duquesne and La Salle are cases in point. Charlotte’s freshman Chris Braswell will most likely make the short list for the All-Conference Newcomers team, but his 24.8% possession rate was probably inflated by his 26.5 turnover rate. His 98.3 offensive rating (about 0.98 points per possession), though low for a “go-to” type player, is typical for a freshman. Braswell may well find the ball in his hands at a crucial juncture of a few of Charlotte’s games this season, but Green and Spears will probably have to pass on their shots first. La Salle’s junior forward, Jerrell Williams, also had a high possesion rate (about 24.4%), but took relatively few shots, 18.6%, more typical of a role or basic “starter”, rather than a go-to type player. The difference between possession and shot rates may be explained by Williams’ outstanding offensive rebounding rate (15%) and FTA/FGA rate (about 90%). Duquesne’s Malquan Bolding has been out with a broken wrist, injured  in the Dukes’ first game of the season. His offensive role may well have passed to guards Bill Clark and Eric Evans. Bolding logged an offensive rating of 102.7 by the end of the 2009 season, an efficiency mark Evans (79.7) and Clark (99.5) have been unable to achieve, though both were more efficient last season than this. Which may explain in part why the Dukes have been tagged with four losses so early in this season. The last two, a road loss to Summit League member UIPIU and a blowout in Morgantown at the hands of West Virginia, have to be especially damaging to Duquesne’s postseason expectations. Temple’s Lavoy Allen takes even fewer possessions just below “Regular” (or Pomeroy’s new descriptor “Significant Contributor”), but any team taking on the Owls has to account for Allen’s board work, under both baskets, and his efficienct conversion rate (52% eFG%). Richmond’s David Gonzalvez logs 82% of the minutes, takes 21.3% of the shots and converts at a very efficient 59.8% (eFG%), but possessions, and even shots when compared to Anderson (and Harper when he is in) suggest those two get looks before Gonzalvez. Too bad, given that his offensive rating is an outstanding 117.4 (100.0 is good). If he could develop consistency, game-to-game, Coach Mooney would probably figure out how to get him more looks and shots.

Standings as of 12/29/09

  1. Temple (10-2)
  2. Rhode Island (10-1)
  3. Charlotte (10-2)
  4. Dayton (10-2)
  5. Richmond ((10-3)
  6. George Washington (9-2)
  7. Duquesne (9-4)
  8. St. Louis (9-4)
  9. Xavier (8-4)
  10. La Salle (7-5)
  11. St. Bonaventure (6-5)
  12. Massachusetts (6-6)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (4-7)
  14. Fordham (2-9)

Team Rundowns

Charlotte

The 49ers hosted Mercer Tuesday night, beating them soundly, 91-80, before 5,400 hometown fans. Dario Green and Shamari Spears (see above) led the way with 23 points apiece. Freshman forward Chris Braswell logged his fifth double-double of he season, scoring 14 points to go with 14 rebounds. Reserve center Phil Jones also scored 10 points. The 49ers have won 8 of their last 9 games.

Charlotte will host the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech on Saturday (1/2) and then travel to Knoxville to play Tennessee next Wednesday (1/6) before they open their A10 schedule against St. Bonaventure.

Dayton

The Flyers dropped out of the rankings on the heels of their 1-2 trip to Puerto Rico at the end of November are back and knocking at the door this week. The AP has them ranked #28 (listed among “those receiving votes”), 50 votes below #25 Northwestern. While guard Marcus Johnson is working himself back into game shape after his sprained ankle, wing Luke Fabrizius is doubtful, having not practiced (according to local reports) last week. Guard Chris Johnson was also doubtful, but the sophomore wing logged 16 minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points in Dayton’s 74-60 win over Boston University on Tuesday (12/29). Rob Lowery might be approaching 100%, the guard led all scorers with 23 points in 23 minutes of play. Forward Chris Wright was the third Flyer to log double digit minutes with his 19 points on 8-10 (0-1, 8-9) and 3-4 shooting. The Flyers led end-to-end, with a 2-2 tie the closest Boston came.

Dayton will celebrate New Year’s at New Mexico’s home court, the Pit, in Albuquerque, then return home to host Ball State on Tuesday (1/5) before opening their A10 schedule with Duquesne a week from Saturday (1/9).

Duquesne

The Dukes await the return of Melquan Bolding as they travel to Norfolk, VA, to play Old Dominion Wednesday night (12/30). Duquesne will then take another week to get ready for Richmond on 1/6.

Fordham

Coach Grasso’s team will take a Southern Swing before starting their A10 schedule. Against the Kennesaw State Owls, the Rams lost a 13 decision, 79-66 on Tuesday (12/29). Chris Gaston logged his eighth double-double of the season, and led the Rams in scoring, notching 26 points on 11-23 (0-2, 11-21) and 4-8 shooting. Senior guard Brenton Butler scored 25 points on 9-21 (2-7, 7-14) and 5-5 shooting. Butler tied his season-high effort against Stony Brook, and has now scored 20 or more points 8 times in his 4 years on Rose Hill. Fordham heads up to Virginia to play Hampton on 1/3.

George Washington

The Colonials squeaked by the Crusaders, 70-68, extending their run to 5 of the last 6 games, as they have won 5 road games so far this season. Damian Hollis scored a team-high 19 points on 7-14 (1-4, 6-10) and 4-4 shooting. Freshman forward Dwayne Smith broke his career-high 19 minutes at East Carolina with a 21 minute run Monday night. Smith’s 13 points were second on the team. Sophomore guard Tony Taylor chipped in 10 points and 5 assists in 36 minutes of play.

George Washington will swing into Cambridge, MA to play Harvard Wednesday (12/30), then return home and close out their OOC schedule with a game against cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.

La Salle

La Salle dropped a 78-75 decision to Cornell of the Ivy League on Tuesday (12/29) at the Tom Gola Arena on campus. Big Red senior forward Ryan Wittman led all scorers with a 34 point on 11-21 (4-9, 7-12) and 2-3 shooting. The win can only fuel speculation that Cornell head coach Steve Donahue, a former assistant under Fran Dunphy at Penn, will be a “person of interest” as Penn AD Steve Bilsky looks around for a candidate for the Quakers’ vacant coaching position. Rodney Green led the Explorers with 19 points, as all of their starters scored double digit points.

The Explorers will take to the road to play Binghamton on Saturday (1/2), then open their A10 schedule against Xavier on 1/6.

Massachusetts

The Minutemen swing back into action on Wednesday (12/30) with a trip to Davidson. They return to host Fordham in their A10 opening game on 1/6.

Rhode Island

Someone has noticed the Rams’ great start as Rhode Island received 5 votes in the AP’s 12/27 poll, making them the 3rd A10 team to receive votes in the poll this week. The nine day layover ended Tuesday (12/29) as the Rams squeezed by the Dragons of Drexel University 80-79 in Philadelphia. Rhode Island was led by senior guard Keith Cothran’s game-high 28 points (no surprise, see table above), augmented by rotation player Orion Outerbridge, a sophomore forward who scored 13 points on 5-6 (0-0, 5-6) and 3-5 shooting, in just 16 minutes of play.

The Rams travel to Uncasville, CT to meet Oklahoma State in the 9,500 seat arena in the Mohegan Sun casino on Saturday (1/2). Not quite a neutral setting, the Rams have a great opportunity for a Top 50 RPI win (Ok State is #40) for their resume. Rhode Island will close out their out of conference schedule with a trip to Ohio to take on the Akron Zips on Tuesday (1/5).

Richmond

The Spiders scraped by UNC-Wilmington 66-64 on Monday night. Richmond took a 5 point lead into the locker room at the half,but lost it quickly in the 2nd half, dropping behind by 10 at the 5:00 mark. Led by Kevin Anderson who scored 13 points (with support from David Gonzalvez and junior forward Kevin Smith), the Spiders launched a 22-10 blitz to overtake the Seahawks and close out the game.

Richmond will take an extended road trip as a bridge to the New Year. They face Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC on Thursday (12/31), then travel to Lewisburg, PA to play the Bison of Bucknell on Saturday (1/2), then swing down to Pittsburgh to open their A10 schedule against Duquesne the following Wednesday (1/6).

Saint Joseph’s

Congratulations to Carl Baptiste for his Rookie of the Week honor. The forward scored a career-high 13 points in 22 minutes of play when the Hawks downed Lehigh,77-66, on 12/20. The Hawks lost to the Saints of Siena 92-75 in Albany, NY on Tuesday (12/29). Junior forward Idris Hilliard scored a team-high 13 points as the Hawks were again outrebounded 29-39 by an opponent.

Saint Joseph’s will host the Princeton Tigers at the Hagan on Saturday (1/2), then travel across town to play Temple on 1/6.

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies play their last game of 2009 on Wednesday (12/30), hosting Canisius in Olean, NY. They then take to the road to play Marshall Saturday (1/2) before starting their A10 schedule by hosting George Washington the following Wednesday (1/6).

St. Louis

The Conference Office named Kwamain Mitchell the Player of the Week, citing his career-high 33 points scored in St. Louis’ 61-54 win over Missouri-Kansas City and noting that 20 of those points came in the 2nd half. The Billikens hosted, and clobbered, Eastern Illinois, 60-42 on Tuesday (12/29). Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed led all scorers with 19 and 13 points respectively. Mitchell shot 7-17 (5-12, 2-5) and 0-0, while Reed’s numbers were 5-7 (0-0, 5-7) and 3-6.

The Billikens travel to Bowling Green for a game with the Falcons on Saturday (1/2), then return home to open the A10 season against Richmond the following Saturday (1/9).

Temple

Coach Dunphy’s Owls strangled the MAC’s Bowling Green, 63-39, on Monday night. Concerned the semester break would cut into attendance, Temple moved the game to the old McGonigle Hall, where, according to reports, they sold out their 3,700 seat gym and even turned fans away. The Owls donned retro unis reminiscent of the 1990s when playing in McGonigle and residing in the AP Top 25 were the norm. Maybe the old time feeling accounts for the smothering defense they put on the Falcons, as the Owls limited Bowling Green to an outstanding 0.66 points per possession in a game that played for about 59 possessions. Temple’s 1.06 ppp is very respectable. Ryan Brooks, Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez continued to dominate possessions and shots, with junior Lavoy Allen again contributing as a 4th/5th option on offense. Brooks played virtually the entire game (90% of the available minutes) and logged an impressive eFG% of 81.8% (with a PPWS of 1.54), Ramone scored an notable 17 points in 21 minutes, recording an eFG% of 83.3% and a PPWS of 1.56. The duo of Fernandez, and Allen (along with senior guard Luiz Guzman) logged eFG%s in the range of 50.0 – 55.0 as well.

The Owls close out the MAC portion of their schedule at Northern Illinois on Wednesday (12/30) when they travel to De Kalb, IL. Temple plays D1-A (Bowl Division) football in the Mid American Conference, and are obligated to schedule 4 teams from that conference in basketball. Temple’s standing should help the MAC’s conference RPI this season. Temple will return to Philadelphia to host Kansas on Saturday night (1/2) before starting their A10 schedule with a game against Saint Joseph’s on 1/6.

Xavier

Xavier hosted Louisana State on Tuesday (12/29) and pummelled the Tigers 89-65 at the Cintas Center. Four Musketeers, led by guard Terrell Holloway’s 20 points, scored in double digits. Junior forward Jamel McLean recorded his second career double-double (10 & 10) and the first this season. X’s record versus Top 100 (RPI) teams improves to 3-3.

The Musketeers take to the road with a game in Winston-Salem, NC against Wake Forest on Sunday (1/3). And then to Philadelphia to open their A10 schedule against La Salle next Thursday (1/7).

Games to Catch

  • Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 – This is the last big OOC opponent for the Spiders. And another opportunity for a top 75 RPI win (the Demon Deacons’ RPI is #51).  Richmond’s front court contingent, Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
  • Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 – New Mexico’s home court, the Pit, is a notoriously difficult place for a visitor to win. The Lobos, expected to contend in the Mountain West Conference this season, are off to a 12-1 start and sport a #16 RPI. A good line on the resume and a great confidence builder going into conference play (the Flyers are 3-2 when playing away from their home court), if the Flyers can bring home a win.
  • Temple vs Kansas,  Saturday 1/2 — The #19 ranked Owls host #1 ranked Kansas in a game that could be a signature win for their tournament resume, and boost their chances of an at-large bid should they fail to win the A10 Tournament.
  • Charlotte vs Georgia Tech, Saturday 1/2 — Ranked #20 in the Coaches’ Poll, the Jackets are Charlotte’s second ACC opponent this season, and provide a great opportunity to add another signature win to their resume.
  • Rhode Island vs Oklahoma State, Saturday 1/2 — The Rams have a short  trip down I-95 (to I-395) to Uncasville, CT where they will match up with the #40 ranked (RPI) Cowboys in a sort of neutral site game. Big 12 teams have been very tough to beat this season (ask Dayton, La Salle and Xavier). A good win if the Rams can bring it home.
  • Xavier at Wake Forest, Sunday 1/3 — The Demon Deacons are the X-Men’s last BCS opponent this season.  Xavier is 1-3 (thank heaven for LSU!), so this one is for the tournament resume. Win or lose, another road test can only make the Musketeers stronger for conference play.
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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by jstevrtc on December 25th, 2009

Joe Dzuback of Villanova By the Numbers is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Road Warriors

A few BCS schools developed reputations for rarely venturing far from their home arenas during their out of conference seasons and relying on their conference’s RPI to bolster their resumes come Selection Sunday.  Coach Jim Calhoun masked the inexperience of his 2007 Huskies by keeping them at home from early November to late December where they ran off 11 straight wins and rose to #12 in the polls.  They opened the Big East season with a 10 point loss to West Virginia, and continued to implode with an 6-14 record through January, February and early March.  The 1st round of the Big East Tournament was their post-season.  Florida State’s Len Hamilton nursed his 2006 Seminole squads to an 9-1 OOC record, leaving home once before ACC conference play (a loss to in state rival Florida).  FSU finished with a 9-7 conference record, and despite a signature win over #1-ranked Duke at the end of the conference season, could not tease a dance bid out of the Selection Committee come Selection Sunday.

A10 coaches have no illusions that the conference’s reputation (however good among the non-BCS conferences) will carry a bubble team into the field of 65.  While few subscribe to former Temple head coach John Chaney’s “Anyone, Anywhere” philosophy, everyone recognizes the virtue of playing invitational tournaments and having a healthy dose of road games on the resume.  Most of their OOC resume-building games may come from traditional rivalries and invitational fields, but the road games, at worst, help their squads prepare for the hostile crowds they will face when playing conference opponents.  How did the conference members do this OOC season?

The statistics, drawn from each team’s Game Plan page at Ken Pomeroy’s website, shows the team’s road (away and neutral site) record, the team’s efficiency (points per possession the team scored – offense and allowed – defense), the team’s shot efficiency (on offense and defense) and the estimated average possessions per game.

Temple looks better with each passing week.  The road wins in particular are very encouraging and suggest the Owls will be able to score and defend in hostile venues. Seton Hall is a resume win, and the 46-45 loss at Georgetown (provided the Hoyas don’t implode again in 2010…) will be a good loss.  The nucleus of Fernandez, Brooks, Allen and Guzman (see Temple Team Capsule below) are putting together a very nice run, which they may well be able to sustain going into conference play.  File Rhode Island and Charlotte under “Surprised in a Good Way” also.  Though the Rams’ slate is a bit light (they did not participate in any MTE tournaments this season), it does include a double-digit win over Boston College from the ACC and a 2 point loss to a well-regarded 7-2 Virginia Commonwealth team on 12/2.  Charlotte was torched early in the season by Duke at the Cameron, but has bounced back nicely with double-digit wins over Hofstra, Louisville of the Big East and Winthrop, each of whom has a record of .500 or better.

Filed under “Surprised in a Bad Way” — try Dayton, Duquesne and Richmond. The Flyers participated in the Puerto Rico Tip Off and started strong, taking out Georgia Tech in their first round.  They dropped their next two games to two more BCS teams (Villanova and Kansas State) and have scraped by their two road opponents — Miami, OH and George Mason.  Mason having a down year, is teetering at .500 (5-5) at this point and will, should the trend continue, watch the post-season on CBS and ESPN.  Duquesne started out well, housing Iowa in their second game of the season, but the two-overtime, neutral court loss to Pittsburgh seems to have thrown the team out of synch. They were hammered by West Virginia and lost to UIPIU last weekend.  The Jaguars may be the pick of the litter in the Summit League, but they too have taken three double-digit beatings.  Hardly makes for a stirring endorsement of the Dukes.  Bolding’s return may spark the Dukes, but heading into conference play (they have 2 more OOC games left), Duquesne’s prospects for A10 road wins seem uncertain at best.  Taking South Carolina may have been a stretch for Richmond, but their losses to in-state rivals William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth (both of the CAA) gives me pause to think.  Those games most resemble the conference road conditions Richmond will probably encounter in conference play.  Both may have been “close” losses, but they were losses nevertheless.

George Washington’s 4-0 road record may look impressive, but know the opponents were UNC – Wilmington, Boston University, Navy and Towson. Not a BCS team to be found in a group whose collective record is 15-24.  Their extended, post holiday trek through New England should provide a bit more insight into the state of the program and their prospects in conference road play.  The unimpressive road/neutral records posted by Xavier, Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s and St. Louis (a combined 3-18) maybe due in large measure to the youth of all three squads.  Ken Pomeroy ranks them by experience level as #259, #305, #156 and #346 respectively, out of D1’s 347 D1.

Standings as of – 12/21/09:

  1. Temple (9-2)
  2. Rhode Island (9-1)
  3. Charlotte (9-2)
  4. Dayton (9-2)
  5. Richmond (9-3)
  6. George Washington (8-2)
  7. Duquesne (8-4)
  8. La Salle (7-4)
  9. Xavier (7-4)
  10. St. Louis (8-4)
  11. St. Bonaventure (6-5)
  12. Massachusetts (6-6)
  13. Saint Joseph’s (4-6)
  14. Fordham (2-8)

Team Rundowns…

Charlotte

Taking to the road, the 49ers beat Winthrop by ten, 57-47, on Sunday (12/20).  Junior forward Shamari Spears delivered from the field, going 5-11 from the floor for 13 points (his 45.5% shooting percentage well ahead of the team’s overall 39.1%), while senior point guard DiJuan Harris delivered from the line, hitting 7 of 8 free throws to pace Charlotte to the win.  Junior center Phil Jones grabbed 11 rebounds as the taller, more physical 49er team dominated with inside play.  The A10 team received ten more free throw opportunities than the host, and made the most of the advantage by converting 13 more times, going 18-22, compared to 5-12 for the Eagles. There indeed was the margin of victory.  Charlotte has now won five straight, all by double-digits.  The Niners traveled to Old Dominion on Wednesday (12/23) for one last game before the Holidays and got thumped, 81-48, after shooting 16% in the first half and appearing generally uninterested.  They resume their schedule when they host Mercer on the 29th.

Dayton

The Flyers beat Presbyterian by 19 (71-52) at the UD Arena on Saturday (12/19), paced by junior forward Chris Wright and senior back-up point guard Mickey Perry, each of whom scored 15 points.  Perry, normally in the rotation for about 17 minutes per game saw 25 minutes when off-guard Marcus Johnson went down with an ankle sprain in the 1st half.  Redshirt freshman Josh Benson scored 10 points, also in extended action, when starter Chris Johnson left the game after a blow to the head, also sustained in the 1st half.  Dayton beat Appalachian State, 65-49, on Monday night.  The Blue Hose and Mountaineers should have been double digit wins, and the Dayton team many expected in November appears to be rounding into form as the conference season approaches.  Wright and Perry led the team in scoring for both games, grossing 29 and 30 points apiece respectively for the two games.  The Flyers return to action after the Holidays with a game versus Boston University on the 29th.  They will ring in the New Year in Albuquerque, New Mexico as they take on the Lobos of New Mexico on New Year’s Day.

Duquesne

The Dukes needed two overtimes to put down the Griffins of Canisius 86-77 on Wednesday 12/16.  Duquesne used size and speed to force turnovers and alter shots, but they did not control the boards.  The game, played for 68 possessions (adjusted for the overtimes), was a bit low for Duquesne home games this season.  The Dukes’ offensive efficiency was about 1.00 (points per possession), very slightly above their home court average, the defense, at 0.90, was higher than the Dukes’ 0.81 home average, suggesting the stifling defense, especially on opponent’s shooting, was simply not there.  Duquesne dropped a nine point road game, 73-64, to IUPUI in Indianapolis, IN on Saturday 12/19.  Continuing a trend for road games, Duquesne’s defensive efficiency again turned in a >1.00 defensive effort, 1.05 this time.  The Iowa game in November aside, the Dukes have had problems keeping opponent’s points per possession under 1.00 this season.  The culprits appear to be shot defense (the Dukes let the Jaguars hit at a 56.5% eFG% clip) and rebounding.  Duquesne hosts St. Francis, PA on Tuesday 12/22, then break for Christmas. They finish their OOC schedule with a trip to Virginia to play the Monarchs of Old Dominion on Wednesday 12/30.

Fordham

The Rams “hosted” Villanova at the IZOD Center, in the New Jersey Meadowlands last Saturday.  Before a Villanova-friendly crowd, Fordham dropped a 96-53 decision to the #9-ranked Wildcats.  The good news has to be that forward Chris Gaston had another good day scoring.  Another Ram has to step into the vacuum left by Jio Fontan.  Fordham faced James Madison in Virginia on Wednesday and dropped a disappointing one, 85-73, after leading by nine at the half.  They now break for the Holiday.  They resume their pre-conference road trip with games against Kennesaw State (in Georgia, Tuesday 12/29) and Hampton (back to Virginia, Sunday 1/3) in the fortnight before they take on Massachusetts in their A10 opener.

George Washington

George Washington took a week to finish the fall semester.  They squeaked out an 84-80 victory at  East Carolina on Tuesday 12/22, led by Damian Hollis’ 21/3 and Tony Taylor’s 20/6/4.  They will take a New England road trip the week after Christmas, facing Holy Cross in Worcester, MA on Monday 12/28, then travelling east to Cambridge, MA to face Harvard on Wednesday 12/30.  They will return to Washington to face cross-town rival Howard on Saturday 1/2.

La Salle

The Explorers beat Bucknell, 83-70, at home on Saturday then dropped a road game to Oklahoma State 77-62, on Monday night.  The Explorers continue to feel the effects of being an undermanned squad.  With senior PG Ruben Guillandeaux out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot, and senior swingman Kimmani Barrett nursing a fractured middle finger on his non-shooting hand, La Salle needs to free Rodney Green to cut and shoot, rather than take over the ball-handling duties.  Green continues to lead the Explorers in points scored — he scored 22 in each of last week’s games (Barrett scored the team-high 23 points versus Bucknell), but needs to maintain his stamina through the end of the game.  La Salle will host Cornell on 12/29 in what may be their last best chance to score a signature win in the OOC. Cornell beat St. John’s to take the ECAC Holiday Festival on Monday (12/21) night.

Massachusetts

Coach Derek Kellogg’s squad scored their best win of the season Saturday night when they downed the Tigers of Memphis 73-72 in Boston.  Freshman Terrell Vinson scored a team-high 21 points on 8-13 (0-1, 8-12) and 5-7 shooting.  Vinson grabbed nine boards, missing the chance to log his second consecutive double-double.  The Minutemen headed out of town to Chestnut Hill to take on Boston College on Wednesday night and were stifled from beyond the three-point arc, shooting 3-21 (14.3%) resulting in a 67-79 loss to the Eagles.  After the Holiday break they conclude their OOC schedule with a trip into the South to play Davidson on Wednesday 12/30.

Rhode Island

The Rams extended their winning streak to five when they beat Fairfield 89-84 on Saturday (12/20).  Senior guard Keith Cochran stepped back a bit in this game, letting the forward tandem of Delroy James and Lamonte Ulmer take the offensive lead.  The seniors did not disappoint, scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively.  James logged his first double-double of the season by grabbing 11 rebounds as well.  Marquis Jones and Stevie Mejia handled the point guard duties effectively, dishing ten assists (with only four turnovers) between them.  Rhode Island has three more OOC games before they commence conference play, the first coming next Tuesday (12/29) when they travel to Philadelphia to play Drexel.

Richmond

The Spiders dropped their road game to South Carolina last Wednesday (12/16), 76-58.  The result may not have surprised; after all, Devan Downey, Sam Muldrow and Brandis Raley-Ross can be a handful, especially in front of a Gamecock-friendly crowd.  The margin was troubling as the Spiders will — should their fortunes during conference play pan out —  be looking for an at-large bid from the selection committee come that Sunday in March.  Justin Harper, Dan Geriot and Kevin Anderson took large amounts of the possessions when they were on the floor (29.5%, 28.4% and 30.0% respectively — Anderson played the entire game), but of that core only Harper converted efficiently.  With an eFG% of 54.2% and a PPWS of 1.16, Harper developed an offensive rating of 111.6; an offensive rating greater than 100 is good, greater than 110 is very good.  For Geriot and Anderson however, the numbers were not nearly as impressive.  Both converted (eFG%) in the high 30s to mid 40s, but worse, both lost high percentages of their possessions:  Geriot lost 30.4% of his possessions, while for Anderson the number was 26.1%.  Where was David Gonzalvez? Out of action with four fouls, for starters.  The senior guard logged only 65% of the minutes, in large measure because he picked up his second foul at the 12 minute mark of the first half, sat for five minutes, came back in for another five minutes before picking up his third foul for the half.  Gonzalvez picked up his fourth foul two minutes into the second half, and found himself watching as the Spiders four point advantage became a five point deficit.  The Spiders managed to bring the score to a tie, 52-52, with eight minutes left, but the Gamecocks launched a 24-6 run over the last eight minutes, running away from the Spiders and handing them their third road loss of the season.  Richmond bounced back with a 56-53 win over #13 Florida in the Orange Bowl Classic on Saturday.  The game, played at Sunrise, FL (and not Florida’s homecourt at Gainesville), found the Spiders paced by the backcourt duo of Gonzalvez (16 points) and Anderson (14 points).  The two minute mark of the 1st half found the Spiders down by 13 (32-19), but Gonzalvez and senior center Geriot scored five unanswered points.  Still trailing by eight (32-24), Coach Mooney and his squad took to the locker room to regroup.  A 22-5 run over the first nine minutes of the 2nd half saw the Spiders blow by the Gators and take a nine point lead.  The Gators scored six unanswered points (a jumper by Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin, two converted free throws by sophomore guard Erving Walker and a layup by senior forward Dan Werner) to cut the deficit to three over the next 90 seconds.  The two teams were locked in a tug-of-war, never separated by more than four points (and tied twice) for the last 9:30 of the game.  The Spiders took the lead for good on a Gonzalvez three-pointer at the 1:34 mark, and the Spiders hit their free throws down the stretch to bring home the win.  After beating UNC – Greensboro, 89-63 (David Gonzalves posted a season-high 25 points), the Spiders can now break for the holidays.  Richmond will return to action on the 28th against another North Carolina school, the Seahawks of UNC – Wilmington.  The Spiders will spend New Year’s Eve on the road with yet a third North Carolina school, the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.

Saint Joseph’s

The Hawks beat Lehigh 77-66 on Sunday (12/20) and are off until after Christmas.  Senior guard Darrin Govens paced the team with 15 points, while three others, starting sophomore guard Chris Prescott along with two freshmen, forward Carl Baptiste and guard Carl Jones chipped in 13 apiece.  Sophomore forward Bryant Irwin scored a career-high 11 points.  Saint Joseph’s will travel to Albany, NY and will face the Siena Saints on Tuesday (12/29).

St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies dropped a 13-point decision to the Orange of Syracuse 85-72, Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore forward Andrew Nicholson and senior guard Chris Matthew led the Bonnies with 18 and 17 points, respectively. The Orange answered with 17, 18 and 17 points from junior forward Rick Jackson, transfer wing Wes Johnson and sophomore forward Kris Joseph, respectively.  St. Bonaventure traveled to Little Three rival Niagara on Tuesday (12/22) for one last game before Christmas, but couldn’t get the job done, losing 71-77.  They return to action on Wednesday the 30th, as they host Canisius.

St. Louis

Coach Majerus’ squad beat Belmont, 75-67, on Wednesday (12/16), then lost to Missouri State, 73-63, on Saturday (12/19).  Sophomore guard Kwamain Mitchell, poked in the right eye with 2:59 to go in the Belmont game, was held out of the Missouri State game.  The Billikens could have used his 14.3 PPG on Saturday.  After winning by seven (61-54) at home against Missour-Kansas City on Tuesday 12/22, the Billikens break for Christmas, and return to action against Eastern Illinois on Tuesday 12/29.  Let’s hope Mitchell’s recovery is swift and complete.

Temple

Looking for a definition for “on a roll?”  Check out the Owls!

After knocking off Villanova on the 13th, the Owls headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark and housed the Seton Hall Pirates in their downtown arena, the Rock.  Down by 13 twice early in the 2nd half, Temple took a 40-21 run in the last 16 minutes to hand yet another Big East team their first loss of the season.  The two game snapshot above suggests that a nucleus of Ryan Brooks, Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen has taken the reins on offense and has efficiently converted possessions into points.  Fernandez and Brooks took turns having career games, but that each was able to step in is a very good sign going forward.  Scootie Randall and Craig Williams should see their minutes grow; Randall because he has provided timely offense in both games, and Williams has taken the injured Michael Eric’s spot in the rotation.  Of particular interest is the Owls’ rebounding.  They dominated both of their Big East opponents, a bit surprising given the Big East’s reputation for physical inside play.  Especially noteworthy is the defensive rebounding coach Fran Dunphy is getting from his backcourt and wing players (Brooks, Guzman, Moore and Di Leo); 15% is a good number for a front court player, the 14%+ the four are registering is terrific.  Allen and Williams’ DR% is phenomenal, but simply not sustainable.  Guzman’s turnovers are high, but he has brought the ball up against two teams known for their press and ability to harass ball handlers.  Like Allen and Williams’ defensive rebounding, the number will probably not hold.

Xavier

The Musketeers traveled to Indianapolis, IN to take on the Butler Bulldogs, losing a 69-68 nail-biter on an unusual clock malfunction.  Xavier trailed through the first half, dropping behind by double digits ranging out to 15. They closed the gap to seven before the break, then came out with an 11-0 run to overtake the Bulldogs.  Jason Love and Kenny Frase were beginning to control the paint, as Terrell Hollaway hit several critical threes from the outside.  The X-Men were held the lead for over 13 minutes in the second half, but a Butler surge tied the game at the four-minute mark, and the teams traded the lead (and tied) five more times over the last four minutes.  Jordan Crawford’s trey with 45 seconds left broke the fourth tie and gave Xavier a three point cushion.  Holloway’s fifth foul at the 39 second mark put Butler guard Shelvin Mack on the line.  Mack hit both free throws, but Xavier had possession with just over a shot clock’s worth of time left.  A steal by Butler guard/forward Gordon Hayward with 36 seconds left gave Butler three tries (two misses and offensive rebounds) before Hayward converted on a layup with an unknown amount of time left on the clock.  According to the clock itself there appeared to be 1.8 seconds left, but the time keeper reported an earlier malfunction had prevented the clock from starting properly earlier in the Butler possession.  The referees (D.J. Carstensen, Sid Rodeheffer and Bo Borowski) decided there was no time left and called the game.  Xavier then hosted in-state rival Miami, OH on Wednesday 12/23.  The Muskies almost fell victim once again to a clock-related question at the end of that one.  Xavier’s Dante Jackson stole an in-bounds pass with less than seven seconds left which would have sealed the Xavier victory, but the play was blown dead because one of the zebras was checking the clock.  On the re-do, Miami’s Kenny Hayes missed a long three at the buzzer that would have tied it and Xavier won, 70-67.  After breaking for the Holiday, the Musketeers will conclude the OOC portion of their season with two BCS opponents — LSU (at home) on Tuesday 12/29 and Wake Forest (in Winston-Salem) on Sunday 1/3.

Games to Catch

  • La Salle vs Cornell, Tuesday 12/29 — The Big Red are heavy favorites to grab the Ivy’s bid to the NCAA.  I am interested, given Cornell’s win over St. John’s (a team looking to improve it’s standing in the Big East this season) in the ECAC Holiday Festival, to see how the Explorers match up.
  • Xavier vs LSU, Tuesday 12/29 — The Musketeers host the Tigers during holiday week.  While LSU was not expected to be a force in the SEC West this season, Xavier has a good chance to match up (indirectly) with two BCS teams expected to make some noise in their respective conferences, Connecticut and Arizona State.  The Huskies beat the Tigers by 26 at the NIT Season Tip-Off (semifinal game), while the Sun Devils took LSU by 19 a round later.
  • Richmond at Wake Forest, Thursday 12/31 — The Spiders get another road test, this time against ACC contender Wake. The Spiders’ front court contingent of Dan Geriot, Justin Harper and Ryan Butler will have to match up with the Deacons’ Al-Farouq Aminu and Chas McFarland.
  • Dayton at New Mexico, Friday 1/1 — The Lobos are not a BCS power, nor are they favored to take their conference bid (the Mountain West) this season.  But their homecourt, an 18,000 seat hole-in-the-ground in Albuquerque, NM known simply as “The Pit,” is a legend.  A notoriously difficult place for visitors to win.  The Flyers are expected to win the A10 title this season, and The Pit will be a good place to get ready for hostile crowds, and lots of noise.
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