O26 Shake-Up: Assessing an Ugly Week of Suspensions & Injuries

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 4th, 2014

The past 10 days have been especially fraught with injuries and suspensions and ineligibility rulings, many of which are sure to affect conference races across the Other 26. Let’s examine some of the major losses and their impact as the season approaches:

Isaac Fotu's career could be over at Hawaii. (Photos courtesy Charles Simmons / www.chasingthemomentphoto.com)

Isaac Fotu’s career might be over at Hawaii. (Charles Simmons/chasingthemomentphoto.com)

Isaac Fotu – F – Hawaii. Just a couple days after head coach Gib Arnold was abruptly fired, Hawaii lost its best player last week when Fotu was ruled ineligible due to an ongoing improper benefits investigation. The 6’8’’ all-conference forward averaged 14.9 PPG and 6.1 RPG a year ago and figured to at least keep the Warriors competitive in the Big West. Without him, the outlook is much grimmer. Christian Standhardinger – last year’s leading scorer and rebounder – graduated and starting point guard Keith Shamburger transferred to Missouri, leaving shooting guard Garrett Nevels (13.1 PPG) as Hawaii’s lone returning starter. In fact, he will be the only returner who averaged more than five points per game in 2013-14, meaning Hawaii is effectively a collection of young, unproven players adapting to a new coach with the season opener right around the corner. If Fotu does not return – which appears to be the case, as of late Monday night – this could be a rough season in Honolulu. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 10.29.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 29th, 2014

morning5

  1. With all of the talk about scholarship reform and of power conferences moving towards creating a separate division the news that the Pac-12 has passed a measure that would lead to significant reforms in scholarships is certainly noteworthy. Beginning with next season, all athletes receiving scholarships will be guaranteed four-year scholarship, be able to return to complete their degree if they do not graduate in four years, increased medical support, removing many of the restrictions on intra-conference transfers, and increased representation in conference governance. The conference also stated that it intends to provide cost of attendance stipends, which are expected to range between $2,000 and $5,000 per athlete. While we will need to see this in action to fully embrace it as reality, it appears to be a significant step towards scholarship reform and might lead other major conferences to follow suit.
  2. We are less than three weeks away from the college basketball season starting, but Central Connecticut State might have suffered a big blow with the news that Kyle Vinales had been suspended indefinitely following his arrest on Friday for disorderly conduct and third-degree assault. According to reports, Vinales is accused of hitting his girlfriend in the head as he was exiting her car slightly before midnight. Vinales was the team’s leading scorer last season at 17.3 points per game, which was actually a career low. While we normally brush off these indefinite suspensions the fact that Vinales is not due in court until December 5 could indicate that he could be sitting for at least the first three weeks of the season.
  3. At this point we are not sure how much further we can go with this recruiting announcement culture. On Monday night, Skal Labisserie, a five-star recruit in the class of 2015, announced that he would be attending Reach Your Dream Prep, a school that does not even exist yet, for his senior year. Labisserie’s story is a little more complex than committing to a non-existent school this late in the academic year. He will actually be attending Memphis’ Lausanne Collegiate School, but he was declared ineligible by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. Now Labisserie and his legal guardian are trying to circumvent the system. While this might work to get him to play high school basketball we are not sure that it will fly with the NCAA.
  4. One of the things we have been looking forward to this season is how John Calipari would implement his idea of creating “platoons” for his deep Kentucky roster. On Monday, Calipari revealed his first draft of the platoons prior to the team’s annual Blue-White scrimmage with one group consisting of he Harrison twins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Derek Willis and the other made up of Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson, and Dominique Hawkins. At this stage it appears that the former is well ahead of the latter as that group won the scrimmage 94-66. Although these groups intuitively make sense as the starting and second lines we would expect them to be dynamic as Calipari tinkers with them to make them more effective.
  5. Every year the NCAA’s report on the graduation rates of student-athletes are picked apart by many analysts eager to criticize the organization. This year is no different especially with several schools dealing with very public academic scandals. The headline numbers in the NCAA’s latest release show that student-athlete graduation rates have increased from 82% graduating in six years to 84% doing so (full searchable database here). The men’s college basketball numbers are less impressive with just 74% graduating, which is actually up by one percent from last year and a record for the sport. As critics point out these numbers just scratch the surface as some of these athletes who graduate are just kept eligible so they can produce for the university and sometimes are able to graduate without getting an education. Now an argument can be made that the diploma itself has some value as a signal mechanism that goes beyond just an education.
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Morning Five: 05.27.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 27th, 2013

morning5

  1. When the Mike Rice story broke last month it led to a Saturday Night Live skit, but at this point Rutgers is veering dangerously close to territory so ridiculous that South Park might consider the plot far-fetched (ok, maybe that is a stretch). The latest embarrassment for the school is the revelation that Julie Hermann, the athletic director the school hired to clean up the program after the Rice fiasco, has faced allegations of abuse from her players in the past too. Perhaps Hermann and the school hoped that these allegations (made just sixteen years ago at a small school named Tennessee) would never come up despite this thing called the Internet, which manages to find out almost everything about anybody in a matter of days. With the way this has gone we have a hard time believing that Hermann will be able to formally take the new job, which she is scheduled to start working at on June 17, and school president Robert Barchi should be looking for a new job too.
  2. Lost in the wake of the Rice/Rutgers fiasco was the continuing investigation into Wisconsin-Green Bay coach Brian Wardle who had been accused of abusing his players both verbally and physically. On Friday, the school announced that an outside investigation had cleared Wardle. Unlike Rice, Wardle had the support of many of his players and perhaps most importantly did not have a video of his alleged actions floating around for the world to see. Given what was released the school’s decision should not be that much a surprise. What is interesting is the concessions that Wardle will have to make despite being cleared–receive a disciplinary letter, have someone overseeing him, and not be able to renegotiate his contrast, which ends in 2017. Given those concessions it would seem like there was something happening at Wisconsin-Green Bay (perhaps something considered as benign in sports as cursing) even if it was not as bad as what Wardle was initially accused of.
  3. After setting off a round of speculation about where he would transfer to and briefly committing to play at Toledo, Kyle Vinales has decided to return Central Connecticut State. The rising junior, who averaged 21.6 points per game last season, initially stated that his decision to transfer was based on his desire to play in the NCAA Tournament–something his seventh place NEC team with 13-17 record didn’t seem destined to do–before deciding that he wanted to lead his team there rather than move onto a better situation. While we applaud Vinales for his decision to stick around (he had already transferred once in his college career) we wonder how easily he will transition back into the team concept at Central Connecticut where his coach has already stated that his role will be changed on the team due to a change in the abilities of his teammates. Given Vinales’ penchant for transferring we will be interested to see how long his decision to stay at Central Connecticut lasts or if he has another change of heart if they struggle next season.
  4. There were a few players who actually decided to follow through on their intention to transfer. The biggest news is the decision by Memphis transfer Will Barton to transfer to Tennessee spurning schools such as Maryland, Texas A&M, and Kansas State. Barton showed signs of promise early in his career averaging 8.2 points per game as a freshman before seeing his minutes and production fall the next two seasons. Barton, who will be eligible to play this fall as he will graduate from Memphis by then, will be a welcome arrival in Knoxville as the Volunteers are in need of a point guard with Trae Golden’s transfer. The addition of Barton makes them a potential top-three team in the SEC. The other transfer news is not quite as newsworthy on a national scale, but it may be more interesting as Stephen Hurt, the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year, decided to transfer from Lipscomb to Northwest Florida State. The move is interesting for several reasons with the primary one being the decision by a player who would attract interest from high-majors to head to a junior college where he can play immediately and then be recruited to play for a high-major without having to sit out any time. The other interesting aspect of the case is that Northwest Florida State is coached by Steve Forbes, who has been mentioned before in this space for having started over at the junior college level after receiving a one-year show-cause penalty for his association and possible involvement with Bruce Pearl’s infractions. You should keep your eyes on Forbes as a potential candidate for a Division I job if he continues to land recruits the caliber of Hurt.
  5. It seemed to be just an off-the-cuff comment in a 45-minute press conference, but Mike Krzyzewski‘s declaration that the 2013-14 ACC would be the best conference ever raised a few eyebrows. On the surface it appears to be an absurd comment, but as several writers have pointed out that depends on how you define “best”. It almost certainly will not touch the Big East’s 1985 where it had three teams in the Final Four or the Big East’s 2009 where it had 11 teams make the NCAA Tournament including a ninth-place team that won the title. However, with a core that includes Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, and Syracuse the ACC is poised to be as good at the top as any conference in recent memory and will likely be in the same category for the next few years. The bigger question for the conference is what it will look like at the middle and the bottom of the conference where it is soft to put it gently. Certainly the addition of Andrew Wiggins to Florida State would have bolstered at least one of those teams. For the time being, the best ever comments may seem outlandish, but we will probably have to wait until February to make a better judgement on that.
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Morning Five: 05.14.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 14th, 2013

morning5

  1. We are not that familiar with the finances of the city of Chicago, but we have a hard time believing that it has a lot of money to spend on a new arena for DePaul. Still it appears that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to announce his plans for an (at least partially) funded $300 million arena for the school that is part of a bigger project that the city is undertaking. There is still a lot of speculation on what this will involve including how much taxpayers will be expected to contribute and reports vary widely so we will hold off on commenting on the situation too much other than to say we have a hard time believing this will pass without a huge fight. The other interesting aspect of this proposal is the possibility that a casino could play a prominent role in the area. We doubt that being a NCAA Tournament site would be a major deal to a city the size of Chicago, but it could be an issue for whatever conference DePaul ends up in by the time the project is completed.
  2. The ever-growing transfer list appears to have added one of its biggest names as it appears that Deuce Bello will transfer from Baylor. Bello, who was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school thanks in large part due to his dunking ability, has never really blossomed as a college player averaging just 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds per game last season as a sophomore. Given his production we wouldn’t expect him to be that highly recruited, but his athleticism and the fact that he has been “coached” by Scott Drew the last two seasons will probably lead several top programs to take a look at him.
  3. You know a program has made it when other schools begin to raid its bench for head coaches. Such is the case for VCU (if you didn’t already know they had made) it as Chattanooga hired VCU assistant Will Wade to be its new head coach. We are always hesitant to give an assistant too much credit for their program’s success as Chattanooga is attempting to bill Wade as the driving force behind the success of both VCU (citing him as a driving force behind the “Havoc” defense) and Harvard (landing a top 25 recruiting class and helping mold Jeremy Lin into the player he is today–or make that last year actually). Outside of that we do not have much to add on Wade’s hiring (we will give it some time–a few years–before grading the hire), but will point out that it is kind of cute how the school starts off the press release by mentioning a public reception for Wade tomorrow that everybody is invited to attend.
  4. We are not sure who got in Kyle Vinales ear today, but he or she certainly had a pretty quick impact as the Central Connecticut State transfer backed out of his commitment to transfer to Toledo hours after announcing it. Vinales is one of the top transfers available in terms of his scoring ability and should have the ability to score at almost any Division I level and certainly would have at the bottom of the MAC. The question is how far up he can go. The ability to put the ball in the basket is certainly a universal skill, but at some point the athleticism of the players you are playing against limits your ability to score. Vinales certainly has the ability to play at a higher level than Toledo, but in doing so he should be careful not to go to such a high level that his minutes decrease significantly as we have seen with several transfers.
  5. We do not have much information about Brown sophomore Joseph Sharkey, who is in critical condition after being assaulted early on Sunday morning. According to reports, Sharkey was walking with a group of women when a man approached Sharkey and punched him in the face in what has been described as an unprovoked attack. To be frank at this point the details of the report and what led to the incident are not particularly important. Instead, we will focus on Sharkey and his health while wishing him the best in his recovery.
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Checking In On… the NEC

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2011

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

 

Looking Back

The pre-2012 portion of the Northeast Conference schedule didn’t give us a whole lot to discern, with a couple of exceptions. Defending conference champ Long Island will once again be a tough out for rival foes. Central Connecticut State appears to be a threat with more players stepping up to help standout guard Ken Horton. Robert Morris has its young talent playing well and Wagner, despite having the “luck” to open the conference season at LIU, gave the host Blackbirds all they could handle. At the start of the season, I labeled Wagner (7-2) as a dark horse for the NEC title. Now, they are getting referenced in the same sentence as “contender.”

Leading Off: On December 6, Wagner defeated a talented Hofstra squad (58-43) in Staten Island, signaling another solid non-conference win for Danny Hurley and company. Meanwhile, King Rice earned win number one on the season as Monmouth nipped Navy (69-67) in Annapolis on Tuesday.

Player of the Week:  Ken Horton, 6’8″ Sr. F, Central Connecticut State – Has averaged 31 points in the Blue Devils’ two NEC games so far, highlighted by an impressive 32-point outburst against Bryant. Horton was dangerously effective inside (nine rebounds) and out (6 of 10 from three).

Rookie of the Week: Lucky Jones, 6’5″ Fr.  G/F., Robert Morris – Jones averaged 12.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in the Colonials’ two wins. Ironically, a product of New Jersey and famed high school national power St. Anthony’s, Jones face off against the Garden State’s two NEC schools.

Central Connecticut State's Ken Horton is averaging a conference-best 22.5 points per game so far this season (ccsubluedevils.com)

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Checking In On… the NEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2011

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

Looking Back

Early-season returns proved Long Island will have some challenges if they hope to defend their Northeast Conference crown. Wagner is off to a good start with a competitive loss at Connecticut being their only blemish so far. Robert Morris likewise, is fast out of the gate. Central Connecticut found some scorers which will make them a more dangerous club and take pressure off their senior do-everything star Ken Horton. Quinnipiac found another tough rebounder and will prove again to be a force under the glass. St. Francis (NY) lost at Seton Hall in overtime and the Terriers have struggled thanks to some late game  problems.

Player of the Week: Ike Izotam, 6’7” So. F, Quinnipiac – Averaged 16 points and 16 rebounds in a 2-0 week for the Bobcats. Izotam is tied for first in the nation and leads the NEC in rebounding with 14.0 per game.

Rookie of the Week: Kyle Vinales, 6’4” guard, Central Connecticut – In a 39 point outburst against Niagara, Vinales scored 29 in the first half, including 16 in the game’s opening six and a half minutes. That performance marked the most points by a player in this young season.

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The Other 26: Week Two

Posted by KDoyle on November 20th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor and the Patriot League correspondent. Each week he will examine the other 26 non-power conferences in college basketball. You can find him on twitter @KLDoyle11.

Introduction

Well this is refreshing, isn’t it? College basketball on the tube every night, several Other 26 teams already knocking some ranked BCS teams off of their high horses, and a whole lot of goodness upcoming with more early season tournaments and games. There is not a specific theme that has made itself apparent to open the season — I will usually try to hone in on a theme during the introduction of each column — but business has been usual to open the season. We have seen two major upsets with Long Beach State and Cleveland State shocking Top 10 teams — both have crawled into our Top 10 as a result — and we have not seen The Jimmer all over ESPN routinely hitting shots from 35 feet, something that was all too common last year. Rest assured though, as more and more games are played, storylines and themes will naturally develop. For now, let’s dig into the Top 10 teams for the week.

The Top 10

Tidbits from the Rankings

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Morning Five: 08.29.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on August 29th, 2011

  1. Jimmer Fredette will be moving up to the next level soon, and what we’re talking about there has nothing to do with basketball. The Jimmer announced his engagement to his girlfriend (and BYU cheerleader) Whitney via Twitter over the weekend with a photo and statement summarizing his excitement. Subsequently, jokes — most of them well-meaning, it seemed — began to fly throughout the tweetosphere regarding how Whitney is a senior at BYU and therefore still under the school’s honor code, so she’d have to play, er, a sort of defense a little longer, a subject on which she could educate him. Ah, those clever Twitter kids. In all seriousness, we extend our congratulations to the pair.
  2. What do you have when you take a Marquette guy who loves advanced statistics and wants to apply them to college basketball, a possible brand new and downright compelling new statistic developed by that fellow that could help determine the most valuable players in college hoops (and finds that Jordan Taylor of his rival Wisconsin is atop the list!), a college basketball blog we love, and combine all that into a Luke Winn article? You have what we call a good time, friends. Ever heard of Ken Horton from Central Connecticut State? Familiarize yourself. Is Taylor more valuable than Jared Sullinger or Tu Holloway? Hmmm. See for yourself. All we can say is God bless you, John Pudner.
  3. What’s Oklahoma State boss Travis Ford got up his sleeve? Via Twitter last week he made a cryptic reference to some “exciting non-conference schedule information” as well as “a possible roster addition early next week.” Well, now that’s this week, and there’s some speculation that the surprise may come in the rather large form of 7’0”, 235-pound Marek Soucek from the Czech Republic, a highly sought-after recruit whose name happens to now appear in the OSU student directory. Actually, Soucek hasn’t left the Czech Republic yet. What’s going on here? John Helsley of The Oklahoman wonders, too.
  4. Everyone obviously knows about the Georgetown vs Bayi fight during the Hoyas’ trip to China from a couple of weeks ago. While the fiasco itself is likely ever to be pointed to by historians as a high-impact moment in the arc of Sino-American relations, it is interesting to examine reasons that might have led to such an event. Tom Gold is a sociology professor from UC Berkeley and is something of an expert on events in the (so-called) Far East; in a recent interview with Asian American Press, Dr. Gold discussed the thinking that may have been behind this from the Chinese viewpoint. A short piece, but it contains some interesting takes.
  5. Retirement, schmetirement, let’s play ball. That’s evidently the mindset of San Diego State’s Steve Fisher, who just signed a four-year extension with the Aztecs, according to a late-night report from ESPN’s Andy Katz. As Katz points out, leading the school to its first-ever Sweet 16 could have served as an appropriate exiting point for Fisher, and then you throw in that the coach was treated for prostate cancer just over three years ago and his star from last season is gone…well, such an extension might come to some as a surprise. We doubt anyone in San Diego’s complaining, though, and if we’re talking about good health and normal blood tests (look at Katz, dropping some PSA knowledge!), we’re glad to see this happen.
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Cupcakes Wanted: Inquire Within

Posted by nvr1983 on April 15th, 2011

Every March the topic of scheduling rears its ugly head as fans and analysts rip teams for their soft non-conference schedules. Did you ever wonder how teams come up with those schedules? Surely it involves putting together the team statistician, the chairman of mathematics, and the chairman of computer sciences at the university to crunch the numbers to come up with the optimal schedule to allow their school to appease that all-important Selection Committee on Selection Sunday, right? It turns out that it really isn’t that advanced. In some ways, it comes down to a representative of the basketball program putting up a request and basically announcing “call me if you are interested”.

 

It's cupcake city, baby!

As John Ezekowitz noted it is basically “NCAA Basketball’s Craigslist” where teams try to figure out how to fill their schedules and potentially offer monetary incentives in what are commonly known as “guarantee games”. Essentially a guarantee game is one in which a lesser team is paid (often rather handsomely) to travel to a better team’s arena for a game (read Kyle Whelliston’s account of one such game for more details). These games have often been derided as being against the spirit of the game. Obviously the financial incentive for the proverbial “sacrificial lamb” is a little unseemly and viewed by some as unsportsmanlike. Then there is the competitiveness issue as these games often are blowouts. Some coaches, including Lefty Driesell in our interview with him before this season, have expressed unhappiness at the fact that it does not allow for the traditional home-and-home match-ups that could generate a lot of buzz and ticket revenue for the smaller program, but the bigger program does not want to do so because frankly there is nothing in it for them. If they go on the road and win, who cares? They beat a team that means nothing on the national level and they lost the ability to sell themselves in front of a major recruit. And if they lose on the road? The world ends for a few days as boosters and fans call for the coach’s head and the players have their Facebook walls and Twitter accounts bombarded by all sorts of profane messages.

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O26 Primers: America East, Missouri Valley, and Northeast Conference Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 3rd, 2011

RTC’s Kevin Doyle, author of the weekly column, The Other 26, and the Patriot League Correspondent, will be providing conference tournament previews for all non-BCS conferences.

Three more conferences get underway this evening with teams in the America East and NEC all gunning for the coveted automatic-bid to the Tournament, while the Missouri Valley is vying to send two teams to the Dance. Boston University is all of a sudden the favorite to win the America East with the uncertainty of Evan Fjeld‘s ankle, while Missouri State and Long Island are the favorites in their respective leagues. Something tells me though that the Wichita State Shockers will be looking for vengeance following their two losses to the Bears earlier this year.

America East

The Favorite: Vermont appears to be the favorite, but a lot depends on the status of Evan Fjeld’s ankle that he injured in UVM’s final regular season game against Boston University. In what very well could be the America East championship game, BU went on to defeat the Catamounts in overtime. Allison Shepherd told John Fantino of the Burlington Free Press Blog that: “[Fjeld] is receiving daily care and treatment for the injury. We will have a better idea regarding his playing status for the upcoming America East tournament as the weekend approaches.” Something tells me that even if Fjeld and his ‘Stache are able to go, he will not be at 100%. I like Boston University.

Dark Horse: Behind senior Tim Ambrose, Albany is a team that has come on strong as of late and is capable of making a run in the A-East tournament. The Great Danes have won four straight to end the regular season, but getting by Stony Brook will be no easy task in the first round.

Who’s Hot: Boston University has not lost in February and is 8-0 during the month. They defeated Vermont to conclude the regular season and are flying high with John Holland—arguably the league’s best player—leading the way.

Player to Watch: John Holland has been a staple in BU’s rotation since the day he stepped on campus. The senior has averaged double-figures in scoring for all four years, and his 19.2 points a game this year is tops in the league.

First-Round Upset: Hartford over Maine. The Black Bears were an intriguing team and story to follow early on in the season. They beat a solid Penn State team and began league play with an 8-1 record, but since then they have fallen flat on their faces. Although their date with Hartford is technically not in the first round—the America East essentially has a play-in game between the #8 and #9 seeds to begin the tournament—fourth seeded Maine will have their hands full with Hartford who has already beaten them twice.

How’d They Fare? As a 16 seed last year, Vermont could not handle the athleticism or shooting ability of Syracuse as they lost 79-56.

Interesting Fact: Not an interesting fact, but simply one of my favorite NCAA Tournament highlights of all-time:

Easily the best part of the clip is Tom Brennan’s reaction after T.J. Sorrentine swishes home the three from about 35 feet away, and if you look even further past Brennan the reaction of the guys sitting on press row are priceless too. This is what makes March so Mad!

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The Other 26: Week 15

Posted by KDoyle on February 26th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

And down the stretch they come! Just like a commentator of a competitive horse race fervently belches when the horses make the final turn, college basketball commentators, analysts, and enthusiasts alike all speak of the game with greater eagerness and zeal at this time of the year. Judgment Week—still am not sure what ESPN is trying to do with this—has passed us, Championship Week is nearly upon us, and we all know what comes after that: the Madness!

While the majority of Other 26 teams around the country still have one or two remaining games left in the regular season, there are a handful of teams out there who have completed the second part of their season. Many coaches, especially those coaching in perennial single bid leagues, break down their year into three seasons: 1) the non-conference, 2) conference play, 3) the postseason. The opportunity is presented for many teams that have struggled during much of the season to get hot at the right time and advance onto the greatest postseason tournament in all of sports.

At the beginning of conference play, I wrote in a previous article the concept of “three games in March” which is often the mentality of teams from smaller conferences who have to win three games, or four in some cases, to advance to the Dance—it is their only way in. Well, here is that opportunity.

The conference tournaments will officially begin in the middle of next week with a few of the smaller conferences going at it. If one really wants to get technical though, the argument can be made that the Ivy League has a season-long conference tournament that commences at the beginning of league play.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

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Checking in on… the NEC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 2011

 

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Northeast Conference.

A Look Back

The top spot is decided, as Long Island clinched the regular season title on the road last week. In the NEC, the top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament. The individual games are at the home court of the higher seed, and this week’s action will have bearing on that all important seeding.  Heading into the final week, three teams are battling for the number four spot. Another three are in the hunt for the eighth and final seed. Wagner could finish anywhere from the second to seventh seed, depending on how the week plays out.  Two days of action are left, and scoreboard-watching will be very much in vogue in the NEC.

Power Rankings

1. LIU (22-5, 14-2) The Blackbirds won twice away from home to wrap up the conference, edging Wagner 83-79 before an ‘easier’ win at Mount St. Mary’s, 84-64. The Blackbirds are averaging 75 possessions per game and were over 70 in both games the past week. Efficiency margin was modest, +5 (109-104) at Wagner. The EM at the Mount was outstanding, +27 with a 115-88 difference. Despite the ‘NASCAR’ pace, the offensive TO rate is a vanilla 21% on the season.

Notable: Freshman point guard Jason Brickman was selected NEC Rookie of the Week. Brickman averaged 8.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2 steals and had only three turnovers in 63 minutes for the Blackbirds.

2. Quinnipiac (19-8, 11-5 overall) A clean sweep on the road. The Bobcats defeated Bryant 80-60 before getting a nailbiter, 68-67 , at CCSU. Efficiency margin was an outstanding +31 (125-94) in the win at Bryant. At Central Connecticut, the margin was more down to earth at +1 (106-105). The Bobcats had a 23% TO rate in the Bryant win, but that was offset by an outstanding 61% eFG percentage. The Offensive rebounding percentage in that game was 40-24% in Quinnipiac’s favor.

Notable: James Johnson averaged 17 points for the week. The senior guard scored 24 points against Bryant, going 7-11 from three point range. Johnson has the Quinnipiac Division-I record with 91 consecutive games started.

3. Central Connecticut (18-9, 11-5). If nail-biters are your specialty, Central was the team to watch. The Blue Devils split at home, edging  Sacred Heart 57-56 before falling 68-67 to Quinnipiac. The efficiencies mirrored the closeness of the scores. CCSU enjoyed an 86-85 advantage against Sacred Heart and was on the short end of a 106-105 offensive efficiency against Quinnipiac. The Blue Devils forced Sacred heart into a 32% TO rate.

Notable: Ken Horton, the NEC Co-Player of the Week, averaged 26.5 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. The junior forward scored a career high 35 points against Quinnipiac.

4. Robert Morris (14-13, 10-6). A good road weekend was had by RMU with victories at Fairleigh Dickinson (74-50) and Monmouth (62-60). The Colonials enjoyed a +38 (117-79) efficiency margin in the win at FDU. The TO rate in that game was an outstanding 6%. The Monmouth game was a tougher go as the Colonial TO rate increased to 26% and the host Hawks enjoyed a 56% eFG showing.

Notable: Russell Johnson, a redshirt sophomore, hit a jumper with 3.3 seconds left to defeat Monmouth. Johnson finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds and three assists. Sophomore forward Lijah Thompson averaged 13.5 points, 5 rebounds on the week.

5. Wagner (13-14, 9-7) The Seahawks lost two at the friendly confines of the Spiro Center. LIU defeated Wagner 83-79 before St. Francis (NY) emerged a 77-73 victor. Averaging 69 possessions per game, both outings were faster than the norm. The Pace was 76 and 71 possessions in the respective meetings. Wagner shot a gaudy 61% eFG mark against St. Francis but were guilty of a 28% TO rate, six percentage points above the season‘s average.

Notable: A three-pointer with three seconds remaining by Chris Martin forced overtime against LIU. Martin finished with 16 points, 14 after halftime. Latif Rivers, a freshman guard, enjoyed an 18 point, six-rebound, five-assist day against the Blackbirds.

6. St. Francis (NY) (13-14, 8-8). The flair for the dramatic. The Terriers captured road games over Mount St. Mary’s, 63-60 and Wagner 77-73. St. Francis averages 98 in offensive efficiency and was over 100, highlighted by the 108 at Wagner, both games. On the defensive end, they allowed a 99 efficiency. The TO rate was only 15% at the Mount. On defense, the Terriers force opponents into a 25% To rate. At Wagner that defensive number was  above average at 28%.

Notable: Senior guard Ricky Cadell earned NEC Co-Player of the Week accolades averaging 22 PPG for the two games. The Terriers clinched an NEC tournament berth and Cadell scored 13 points the final three minutes in the win at Wagner.

7. Mount St. Mary’s (10-19, 8-8) missed a chance to move up. The Mount suffered two home losses, to St. Francis (NY) 63-60 and LIU 84-64. The efficiency margin was a -5 against St. Francis but a whopping -27 (88-115) in the LIU meeting. The Mount had an impressive 57% eFG showing in the St. Francis game. Both contests, though, saw the Mount post a high 23% TO rate.

Notable: Senior forward Shawn Atupem scored 23 points against LIU on Senior Day. Atupem is coming on strong of late. Over the last five games he is averaging 15.2 points and shooting 73% from the floor.

8. Bryant (9-19, 7-9). Two games dropped at home. Quinnipiac defeated Bryant 80-60 before Sacred Heart squeaked by 83-77. Bryant averages 99 in offensive efficiency and exploded for a 126 against Sacred Heart. Bulldogs TO rate has been under 20% the last three games. Despite a one-sided loss to Quinnipiac, the Bulldogs did force a 23% defensive TO rate in that meeting. Both recent opponents also shot over 60% eFG percentage against Bryant.

Notable: Senior swingman Cecil Gresham averaged 20 points for the two games. Gresham scored a season-high 29 points against Sacred Heart on Bryant’s Senior Day.

9. St. Francis (PA) (8-19, 6-10) came up short, 57-51 at Monmouth but bounced back for a 77-65 victory at FDU. The EM (efficiency margin) was -11 at Monmouth, but a few days later, it improved dramatically to +19 (122-103) in the victory at FDU. The Red Flash were strapped with a 25% TO rate at Monmouth. Against FDU, the offense was in better synch. St. Francis To rate was only 19% and their eFG percentage, a sparking 67%.

Notable: A deadly three point shooter, sophomore guard Umar Shannon exploded for 25 points on 7-10 from beyond the arc. In the win at FDU. Shannon added 5 rebounds and two assists.

10. Sacred Heart (10-17, 5-11) – The Pioneers were one for two on the road. They dropped a close one, 57-56 at Central Connecticut. Sacred Heart rebounded to defeat Bryant 83-77. After posting an 85 offensive efficiency at CCSU, Sacred Heart had a season high 136 at Bryant. A 65% eFG percentage and a fine 18% TO rate helped the offensive cause. The defense was a season high in opposition efficiency as Bryant rang up a 126 in that contest.

Notable: Inserted as a starter four games ago, freshman forward Louis Montes has made an impact. Montes is averaging 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and shooting 62% from the field during that stretch.

11. Monmouth (9-19, 5-11) Took a home split. The Hawks downed St. Francis (PA) 57-51 and were nosed out by Robert Morris 62-60. Monmouth had an outstanding 86 defensive efficiency against St. Francis. That contest was a deliberate, even by Monmouth’s 65 average standard,   59 possession affair. Hawks’ defense gave up a 102 efficiency mark to Robert Morris, but hung close, as the Colonials were guilty of a 26% TO rate.

Notable: Jesse Steele came off the bench to score a game-high 20 points against St. Francis (PA). The sophomore guard averaged 16 points, 3.5 assists and had no turnovers in the two games.

12. FDU (2-14, 4-23) Two home losses, to Robert Morris 74-50 and St. Francis (PA) 77-65. The Knights have lost ten straight and 20 of 21. Defensive woes continued as the last two opponents were over 50% eFG and under 20% in TO rate. FDU had a -38 (79-117) efficiency margin against Robert Morris and -19 (103-122) in the St. Francis (PA) contest.

Notable: John Galvin scored his 600th point and Terence Grier his 800th in a senior day loss to St. Francis (PA). Galvin had his fourth double-double of the season in that game with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

A Look Ahead

February 24:

  • Mount St. Mary’s at Robert Morris
  • FDU at Sacred Heart
  • Bryant at LIU
  • Wagner at St. Francis (PA)
  • Central Connecticut at St. Francis (NY)
  • Monmouth at Quinnipiac

February 26:

  • Central Connecticut at LIU
  • FDU at Quinnipiac
  • Monmouth at Sacred Heart
  • Bryant at St. Francis (NY)
  • Monmouth at St. Francis (PA)
  • Wagner at Robert Morris
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