Four Thoughts From the Atlantic 10 Tournament Evening Quarterfinals Session

Posted by CNguon on March 16th, 2013

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. He’s covering the Atlantic 10 tournament in Brooklyn this week. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Virginia Commonwealth eliminated a gutty Saint Joseph’s squad, 82-79. After holding double-digit leads for much of the second half, the Rams withstood an uncharacteristically furious press and scoring blitz from the Hawks. Meanwhile, Chaz Williams led Massachusetts to a 79-74 upset of Temple to close out the quarterfinal round. The two teams, playing within a six-point margin for the entire 40 minutes, evoked memories of the John Calipari vs. John Chaney matches of a decade ago. Without the vitriol.

Four Thoughts After Session Two:

  1. Quarterfinal results may have an impact on the NCAA field: La Salle’s loss appears by consensus to put the Explorers in the dreaded Last Four In category, a disappointment for coach John Giannini who promised to “go nuts” watching all of the bubble team games this weekend. Turns out he did not have to leave the Barclays Center to catch one of those bubble games, as Massachusetts eliminated Temple, 79-74, for the second consecutive time in the quarterfinal nightcap. The upset put the Minutemen in Jerry Palm’s play-in list with a #12 seed, slated to play opposite Villanova on Tuesday. If Palm’s scenario holds, the conference will pull an unprecedented six dance cards, as many as the Big 12 and more than the ACC, the Pac-12 and the SEC.

    Spike Lee (with phone) made his way south from Madison Square Garden to catch some A-10 action Friday evening. (Staff photo)

    Spike Lee (with phone) made his way south from Madison Square Garden to catch some A-10 action Friday evening. (Staff photo)

  2. Spike Lee loves him some Shaka Smart: The five boroughs’ second most famous film director (and most famous basketball fan) abandoned his courtside digs in Manhattan (Madison Square Garden) to catch the Virginia Commonwealth-Saint Joseph’s quarterfinal (see photo – in the green windbreaker) in Jay-Z’s digs in Brooklyn. Unable to get a courtside seat, the filmmaker had first rows just behind the scorer’s table. Maybe he will be back for the semifinals this afternoon. Maybe Jay can score him something courtside for that one. Read the rest of this entry »
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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On Virginia, North Carolina, National COY, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2013

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Brian Otskey is an RTC columnist. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. If there is one team that personifies this rollercoaster season of unpredictability, it is probably Virginia. Last week was the Cavaliers’ season in a nutshell as they toppled Duke in Charlottesville before laying an egg at Boston College on Sunday. At 20-9 (10-6), Virginia sits squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble with two regular season games to play. In my heart of hearts, I believe this is a tournament-quality team. Virginia has impressive victories against aforementioned Duke as well as NC State, North Carolina and a huge road win at Wisconsin earlier in the season. Additionally, the Cavs sport wins over bubble buddies Tennessee and Maryland (on the road). Unfortunately for Virginia, the story doesn’t end there and turns sour rather quickly. Tony Bennett’s team has lost a stunning seven games to sub-100 RPI opponents, six of them coming on the road or at a neutral site. The loss to #315 Old Dominion is particularly puzzling. With just a 2-6 road record in conference play, an RPI in the 60s and an embarrassing non-conference strength of schedule, Virginia is not in a great spot despite its good wins. Joe Harris and the Cavs need to take care of business against Florida State and Maryland before putting together some kind of ACC Tournament run. This is one of the more bizarre NCAA resumes I’ve ever seen and one sure to create a lot of debate in the committee room.

    Joe Harris and Virginia haven't been consistent

    Joe Harris and Virginia haven’t been consistent

  2. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s comments after his team’s loss to Virginia created a stir throughout the college basketball world over the last few days. Coach K complained about his team not being able to safely get off the floor while Virginia’s students rushed the court after their team’s big win. While the video does show the Duke team unable to enter the tunnel and head to the locker room, I feel Krzyzewski is out of line. His team was protected by multiple arena security personnel who formed a human wall between the Duke team and the Virginia students. At no time were the Duke players in any danger. I understand why things this man says get noticed, after all he is the sport’s winningest coach. But why does everything Coach K says have to be taken as gospel? Let the kids have some fun and stop with the “get off my lawn!” attitude. Unless your team is in danger of being hurt, comments like these serve as a distraction and quite honestly look like sour grapes to me.
  3. After suffering the loss to Virginia, Duke rebounded in a big way by taking down Miami and exacting a measure of revenge for the blowout loss earlier this year in Coral Gables. It was a struggle though as the Blue Devils needed a career-high 36 points from Ryan Kelly (in his first game back since January 8) just to win by three on their home floor. While Kelly clearly sparked Duke offensively in this game, he makes a bigger difference on the other side of the basketball. Kelly is an outstanding defender because he’s a tall, agile forward who can get up into a player on the perimeter and force him to shoot over or pass around Kelly, often going east-west instead of north-south. Kelly’s presence on the floor did not make a huge difference in this particular game when it comes to Miami’s offensive efficiency but he did frustrate the Hurricanes from the three point line. Miami shot just 6-21 from deep and a big reason for that was Kelly and his length. As we head into postseason play, Kelly’s return will make a huge difference on the defensive side of the ball for Duke. Anything he does offensively is gravy for this team. Duke is undefeated with Kelly in the lineup and that bodes well for the Blue Devils as they look to grab a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and make a run at the program’s 16th Final Four appearance. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big East M5: 03.01.13 Edition

Posted by mlemaire on March 1st, 2013

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  1.  Just when you thought the conference realignment mumbo jumbo couldn’t get more confusing, news broke yesterday that the Catholic 7 will be starting their own league next season and they will be calling themselves the Big East conference. From what I can tell, the old Big East, now built around football, will be selling its name to the Catholic 7 and renaming itself something different. Meanwhile the Catholic 7 gets to keep a conference name that is synonymous with excellent basketball and plans to add Xavier, Butler, and probably Creighton as it establishes itself as a basketball-first conference. The move is being spearheaded by the Fox Sports Network which has promised the schools from the Catholic 7 a lucrative TV deal and is helping grease the wheels for their impending exit. Ignoring the ridiculousness of a television network being the driving factor in conference realignment (hardly a new idea) the best part of this news is that for once, we will have a basketball-first conference.
  2. The NCAA tried its best to make sure that St. John’s forward Orlando Sanchez never played a single game for the Red Storm, but in the end, the school and the talented big man won their appeal, on their fourth try. Sanchez has sat out the entire season while waiting for the NCAA to sort out his eligibility issues that stem from his time with a club team in the Dominican Republic. The NCAA denied his appeal three times and the Red Storm were actually forced to bring in seasoned litigators and threaten to go to federal court and now finally Sanchez is free to play…next season anyway. The news is great for coach Steve Lavin and his club. Sanchez will be 25 when he suits up next season and has impressed scouts with his size, versatility, and athleticism. The Johnnies have been sorely lacking an offensive threat on the interior and if they can put Sanchez on the floor with shot-blocking phenom Chris Obekpa, the Johnnies could be a dangerously balanced team next season.
  3. Not everything about UConn‘s double overtime loss to Georgetown on Wednesday was disheartening as mercurial sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels had his best game as a collegiate, finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double. Daniels’ impressive performance was probably one part excitement for fans who have been waiting for the uber-talented underclassmen to live up to his hype as a recruit, and one part frustration as it is somewhat puzzling as to why Daniels hasn’t been able to have more games like this. The fact that a player of Daniels’ size and athleticism has just one double-double is somewhat absurd and only serves to highlight what a streaky player he has been this season. But assuming Daniels returns to school next season alongside the rest of his team, and assuming he continues to improve and get better, the Huskies could be a very dangerous team next season.
  4. The Pittsburgh Panthers are likely headed back to the NCAA Tournament this season after a one-season hiatus. But while it is a nice accomplishment and one that the team and coach Jamie Dixon should be proud of, the program has set the bar so high in the past decade, that the new questions about what it will take for Pitt to have serious success in the NCAA Tournament have already started to arise. Somehow, for all of their success and talent, the Panthers never made the Final Four under Ben Howland or Jamie Dixon, and they have made the Elite Eight just once. Most programs would take 11 tournament appearances in the last 12 seasons and boast about it for years, but Panthers’ fans expect more and Dixon expects more as well. Dixon really only has himself to blame for helping set the bar so high, but the program’s shortcomings in the NCAA Tournament are troublesome and rather glaring. They have never beat a higher seed? That is shocking given how good some of Dixon’s teams have been. This season will be another interesting case study because as much as advanced metrics love the Panthers and as much talent as they have on their roster, they have been inconsistent this season and they need to make sure that occasional complacency doesn’t spill over into the NCAA Tournament.
  5. At this point I feel like Bud Poliquin is just trolling the rest of us with his column. One day after a jumbled and meandering column about Jim Boeheim‘s decorum in press, Poliquin was back, republishing a column from 1989 that centers around Boeheim getting a little bit combative in a press conference and proves Poliquin was just as difficult to follow then as he is today. The man is an institution at the Syracuse Post-Standard and an excellent columnist, especially when it comes to Syracuse basketball, but the column from March of ’89, just like the column from the other day, doesn’t really make much of a point and contains so much flowery language and prose that it is very difficult to follow along. So let me try to synthesize what the previous two columns have been about: Jim Boeheim, coach of the Syracuse basketball team, can occasionally get a bit snarky with reporters when he doesn’t like their questions, and he has been doing this for years.
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Big East M5: 02.22.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on February 22nd, 2013

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  1. The major institutional news around the league yesterday was that ESPN had elected to match a prior offer from NBC in an attempt to retain media rights to the Big East. ESPN’s bid of $130 million over seven years would shell out $10 million for men’s basketball in 2013-14 before doubling for the latter six years to incorporate football games as well. Should Mike Aresco and the league’s school presidents agree to the deal, each school would make $1.8 million annually in a 12-team format, which is less than they make in the current ESPN contract. Annually, each member would make $1.2 million less than Catholic Seven schools will reportedly fetch from FOX; about $18 million less than members of the other five power conferences; and about $12 million less than they would have made off the ESPN offer they torpedoed in 2011.
  2. On the heels of the ESPN offer, Rumble in the Garden excerpts and interprets some substantial Catholic Seven logistical updates from the blog of writer Mark Blaudschun. The two developments that immediately jump off the page are speculations that the C7 won’t inherit the Big East name, and that it’s unlikely to secure a long-term commitment from Madison Square Garden to host its conference tournament. While the naming issue might seem trivial, RITG points out that its outcome could carry major implications on the matter of disbursing NCAA Tournament units and exit fees from schools departing to the ACC and Big Ten.
  3. With Steve Lavin back on the sideline, St. John’s has three remaining NCAA Tournament-caliber opponents on the regular season schedule, and they each present prime opportunities to help the Johnnies build their own Tournament resume. Despite taking losses on the road to Syracuse and Louisville in Lavin’s absence, St. John’s RPI actually improved from #59 to #58 before defeating USF on Wednesday night. It’s not enough to earn an at-large bid yet, but at least they’re positioned to control their own destiny. Howard Megdal at Capital New York points out that a 2-2 split of the remaining schedule would bring St. John’s to 10-8 in the league, and that only twice since 2005-06 have 10-win Big East teams failed to earn an NCAA berth.
  4. In anticipation of this weekend’s highly anticipated installment of the storied Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry, Mike Waters at the Syracuse Post-Standard breaks down his top 10 moments in the series. Some of the anecdotes recalled from the annals of this vitriolic feud put the relative civility of its recent history in perspective. Michael Graham’s punch of Andre Dawkins in 1984 (which didn’t result in ejection), followed by Patrick Ewing’s serendipitously misplaced haymaker thrown at Pearl Washington the following year highlight a more violent era in the rivalry.
  5. UConn overcame unfavorable momentum and dismal rebounding among other things to overcome a slumping Cincinnati team in overtime last night, 73-66. Shabazz Napier’s 11 points in overtime helped the Huskies match the point total of their entire second half (18) in just five minutes. Napier finished with 29 points on 6-of-9 from beyond the arc, and Kevin Ollie credited him with architecting his team’s victory down the stretch: “The last three minutes of the game, and OT, it was just put it in Shabazz’s hands and let him make a play… there weren’t a lot of X’s and O’s.” Napier didn’t glamorize his performance either, telling reporters, “In overtime, I just want to get the game over with. I get tired of playing.”
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Big East M5: 02.14.13 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on February 14th, 2013

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  1. Syracuse and UConn played for the final time as Big East rivals at the XL Center in Hartford on Wednesday night.  It wasn’t the prettiest game in the world, and after an incredibly poor offensive performance by the Orange, UConn captured a 66-58 win. However, the postgame headlines weren’t about the end of a major college basketball rivalry or another hiccup by a top 10 Syracuse squad. Rather, in true Jim Boeheim-ian fashion, a press conference has become the most notable part of what was otherwise a historic night. Earlier in the evening, ESPN’s Andy Katz reported that he had learned that James Southerland’s academic issues, for which the forward missed six games, stemmed from two paragraphs in a term paper. What seemed like an interesting scoop at the time turned into a major issue when Boeheim refused to answer Katz’s questions after the game, calling him “an idiot” and “disloyal.” If Katz, who has had solid access to the Syracuse program in the past, reported on something that was supposed to be off the record, then Boeheim has a gripe. The Auburn Citizen‘s Ben Meyers has a great take on the situation; while he believes that the situation set Boeheim off, the Syracuse head coach used the issue to take attention off of his team’s bad play, a technique that he has successfully used in the past.
  2. The play in the Big East this season has been relatively sloppy and unbecoming of what has been arguably the greatest basketball conference in the country. Grantland‘s Charles P. Pierce relates this, specifically Monday night’s ugly Georgetown-Marquette match-up, to the overall state of the Big East: “As the game was a perfect fractal view of the season, the season, of course, is a perfect fractal view of what’s going on in college basketball, generally. The sport has lost its logic. It has lapsed into incoherence, and nowhere more obviously than in the Big East, once the premier conference in the country, and now a listing hulk that everyone expects to be demolished and sold for parts in the very near future.” Pierce goes on to describe the conference’s break-up, which he blames on the “heroin of college sports,” football, and waxes poetic on the league which we all love. It’s a great read for Big East fans.
  3. Russ Smith has certainly earned his “Russdiculous” nickname this season, for better and for worse. In a post on the Louisville site “Card Game”, Charlie Springer contends that Smith hasn’t yet proven that he is “comfortable as a teammate,” and that his occasional moments of basketball greatness are often countered when the guard goes rogue and makes poor decisions. The Cards haven’t gotten some of the production that they expected out of a number of their players, including Peyton Siva, who many expected to take a jump to stardom. Smith, eccentric play and all, is one of the Cardinals who has actually exceeded expectations, so much so that he’s won a few games by himself this year. Rick Pitino needs to find a way to bottle that energy and ability in order to keep the talented junior from blowing his own team’s season up.
  4. Once upon a time, Pat Forde called Rutgers-Seton Hall one of the hottest rivalries in the country. This was just a few years ago, so it’s unclear what time period Forde was describing, but I’ll take his word for it. However, today the battle for New Jersey is dying, and not because of conference realignment or the other normal factors. It’s being killed by apathy. Under 5,000 people filled the RAC for the 2013 edition of this showdown, and by the sound of Steve Politi’s article on the subject, those who were there didn’t seem surprised by the proceedings. Rutgers squeaked out a 57-55 victory over its intrastate rivals in a game between two teams destined for mediocrity. Seton Hall last made the NCAA tournament in 2006; Rutgers, 1991. New Jersey has seen some bad basketball over the years, and interest in the sport just isn’t there to the point where the two fan bases can overcome all those lean years.
  5. It remains to be seen who the Catholic Seven look to recruit when they break off and form their own league, but one hot name is Xavier, and current athletic director Mike Bobinski (who, incidentally, is leaving the school for the Georgia Tech job) recently stated that if the C7 looks his school’s way, it will have to at least listen. Xavier is a Jesuit school in Cincinnati, a metropolitan area the C7 loses when the Big East with the hometown Bearcats, and they have a very good basketball history. The Musketeers certainly seem to be a very solid fit for the burgeoning conference.
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Big East M5: 01.29.13 Edition

Posted by Will Tucker on January 29th, 2013

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  1. Marquette ushered in its shiny new Top 25 ranking with a 63-50 win over USF in the Bradley Center last night. The Golden Eagles improved to 6-1 and moved into a tie with Syracuse atop the Big East standings. Vander Blue followed up his impressive dunk on LaDontae Henton with a more comprehensive performance against the Bulls, scoring a career-high 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting. Blue is the first Marquette player to eclipse 30 in a Big East game since Steve Novak did it for Tom Crean back in 2006. With Louisville finally getting off the schneid last night, Marquette’s trip to the River City on Sunday suddenly carries great consequence for the top of the league standings.
  2. Were it not for some creative environmental engineering from Marquette’s athletic department personnel, Vander’s big game would have never been possible. The Bradley Center Bat that terrorized Ed Cooley during the Providence-Marquette game over the weekend was evicted in an appropriately absurd spectacle mere hours before the USF game. Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal reports: “Marquette officials replicated the opening light/music show that precedes every game, complete with the chords of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” roaring. The bat responded, swooping down from the heavens and then settling in the building’s lobby. That’s where a waiting team of ‘bat experts’ caught the critter.” Bat Experts: Marquette’s new 6th man.
  3. Villanova’s 6’6″ sophomore shooting guard Darrun Hilliard was recognized as the Big East Player of the Week yesterday. Against heavily favored Louisville and Syracuse teams, Hilliard shot 64.7% from the field while averaging 18 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. While Ryan Arcidiacono and JayVaughn Pinkston received a bulk of the (sparse) hype around this team prior to last week, Hilliard has outperformed both of late and may hold the key to Villanova’s bubbling NCAA Tournament run.
  4. Speaking of Villanova, Mike Aresco told reporters yesterday that the league is negotiating a possible 2014 exit for the Catholic Seven. Aresco is recruiting a 12th school to join the remaining Big East, and it seems that group is willing to make concessions on contractual exit fees and waiting period so long as they can keep the Big East brand. Aresco also described the schism (no pun intended) as amicable, and seemed enthusiastic about the possibility of non-conference scheduling between Big East and Catholic Seven schools.
  5. Membership logistics weren’t the only item discussed after Aresco’s appearance at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Middletown, Connecticut (which, having lived in Middletown, sounds like something only Mike Aresco could get excited about). The Big East commissioner also dismissed any lingering hopes that UConn would appear in this year’s Big East Tournament. In December, university president Susan Herbst argued that UConn’s participation in the Big East Tournament would be good for conference solidarity. I tend to agree. When eight of the top nine teams in the current Big East standings won’t be in the Big East in two years, upholding UConn’s retroactive punishment seems like the ultimate case of the tail wagging the dog under the circumstances. But that’s for another discussion. For now, the Huskies’ season ends on March 9.
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Crazy Thought: Should the Big 12 Pursue Basketball-Only Schools to Get Back to 12?

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 4th, 2013

On New Year’s Eve Monday the Gonzaga Bulldogs played (and won) their fifth non-conference game against a Big 12 opponent when they beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater. They won their first four games against West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Baylor… which got me thinking: Why shouldn’t the Big 12 consider bringing along basketball-only institutions to help shore itself up in conference realignment? The Big East’s attempt at having football and basketball schools coexist was unsuccessful for two primary reasons: The league was created for basketball, not football, in the late 1970s; and the conference’s mainstays in football, Miami and Virginia Tech, were ultimately poached away by the ACC.

Don't know about you but I'd love to see Gonzaga-Baylor on the regular (James Snook/USA Today Sports)

Don’t know about you but I’d love to see Gonzaga and Baylor play on the regular (James Snook/USA Today Sports)

The Big 12 is arguably the second best power conference in college football. The league will enter a new alliance with the Champions Bowl in New Orleans, which will place the Big 12 football champion against the SEC champion each season. A new television deal with ESPN/ABC and FOX will keep their football anchors in place (Oklahoma and Texas) through the year 2025. With Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby saying recently that larger isn’t necessarily better, he would however listen if adding a school geographically or financially “moved the needle.” Whether that would happen in this scenario is up for debate, but that’s what makes it fun. Now if the Big 12 were to look at adding hoops-only schools, two would be the best number to add in order to get back to the original 12-team format. The league would have to move quickly as the seven basketball-only schools leaving the Big East are expected to meet Friday to discuss their options. With a “lot on the agenda,” you can bet expansion will be a big part of the conversation. So who should the Big 12 pursue?

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The 10 Biggest CBB Stories of 2012 — #1: The End of the Big East As We Know It

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 31st, 2012

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College basketball gave us plenty of memorable moments and stories in 2012. After sorting through the main headlines, we’ve come up with the 10 most consequential items and, for the sake of maintaining publishing sequence symmetry, releasing two per-day over the next five days to lead into the New Year. It was an excellent year for the sport, though I can’t promise you won’t regret reliving at least one or two of the choices. In any case, here’s to summing up a great year and to hoping that 2013 is better than the 365 days that preceded it.

Of all the stories that gripped the college athletics world in 2012, none was more powerful than conference realignment. Programs shuttled between leagues and switched allegiances to chase television money and improved positioning in the new football playoff landscape. In the face of multi-million-dollar deals and ego-tripping conference commissioners, other sports were silenced, dragged along without a choice, and forced to deal with the consequences. It was a low point for college sports, and it marked a significant shift in the longstanding values that used to define conferences – geographic proximity, cultural coherence, academic solidarity, like-minded schools of thought. None of that mattered; the new forces ruling the land ran twofold: broadcast rights and football.

Victims were manifold, ranging from leagues big to small, east to west, monied to impoverished. The most public martyr was the Big East, whose slow deconstruction culminated this year when the seven non-football playing Catholic schools – DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova – agreed to pack up, ditch their football counterparts, and strike out to form a new basketball-only league. Long aggravated with being shoved around by pigskin-motivated leaders who had lost sight of the league’s original mission – the Big East was founded in 1979 as a way to bring together elite basketball programs along the eastern seaboard – the seven schools banded together to salvage their unity and common mission from the Big East’s crumbling infrastructure. The conference was a shell of its former self, robbed of its original identity, replaced by a transnational hodgepodge of C-USA transplants and new western emigres.

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