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

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on January 22nd, 2014

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

O26 Team of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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Who Won The Week? Indiana, Arkansas, and a Team Led by the Nephew of an NBA Hall of Famer…

Posted by Kenny Ocker @KennyOcker on January 17th, 2014

Who Won the Week? is a regular column that will outline and discuss three winners and losers from the previous week. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game. But he’s not biking anywhere with a sub-zero wind chill.

WINNER: Indiana

The Indiana faithful certainly had something to cheer about this week. Could the Hoosiers be on the upswing? (Getty)

The Indiana faithful certainly had something to cheer about this week. Could the Hoosiers be on the upswing? (Getty)

The Hoosiers were off to a poor start in Big Ten play, falling at Illinois in overtime and then getting blown out at Assembly Hall by Michigan State. The second week of conference play proved to be far better in Bloomington. Led by freshman forward Noah Vonleh’s 19 points and six rebounds, the Hoosiers went into State College and beat Penn State 79-76 on Saturday. And when I say “led by,” I mean “Vonleh was the only Hoosier to make more than half of his shots, and his teammates combined to go 16-of-49 from the field.” A road win is a road win, after all, and when it’s your first win in conference, it’s nothing to complain about. But what really won the week for Indiana was its performance against heretofore undefeated Wisconsin on Tuesday night. The Badgers, one of four teams in the nation undefeated to that point, came into Assembly Hall riding a 12-game winning streak against the Hoosiers. Yeah, that’s over. Yogi Ferrell made sure of that. The sophomore guard lit up the nets for 25 points while also dishing four assists, leading his team to an instant resume-building win, downing the Badgers 75-72. Considering that Indiana’s best win to that point was over an 11-7 Washington team, the Hoosiers picked a mighty fine time to show up huge. Because of their skimpy resume, though, the Hoosiers will likely have to go at least 10-8 in conference, if not 11-7, to get an NCAA Tournament at-large bid come March. This week’s turnaround from a slow start will give them a much better opportunity to get to that point, and to get a ticket to the Big Dance.

(Related winners: Undefeated-in-conference Michigan State and Michigan, who have the conference lead to themselves now. Related losers: Penn State, which is a painful 0-5 in conference so far; Wisconsin; Wisconsin forward Duje Dukan, who got one rebound in 11 minutes, ruining his chance at 11 trillion in the box score.)

LOSER: Iowa State

So much for that 14-0 start in Ames. A pesky trip to Norman undid that. And then the familiar hoodoo against Kansas reared its head again. And now the Cyclones are 14-2. Somewhere in the middle, star guard and Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane got hurt, although you wouldn’t know it by his performances. Iowa State went into Oklahoma’s gym and decided that letting Ryan Spangler grab every rebound he possibly could (15, including seven on the offensive glass) would be a fantastic idea. Spangler turned that into 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 shooting from the free throw line. The Cyclones also forgot to guard guard Buddy Hield, who had 22 points and hit six three-pointers. That’s a really good way to blow a game in which Kane had 23 points and nine rebounds before rolling his ankle late, and the Robin to his Batman, Melvin Ejim, having 21 points and six rebounds of his own.

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Six

Posted by Connor Pelton on December 19th, 2011

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the sixth week of Pac-12 games. Here we go!

1. Stanford, 9-1: Stanford took care of business in their only game of the week, a 20-point drubbing of a mediocre San Diego club. The Cardinal defense has been outstanding in these types of game so far this season, as they have not given up more than 59 points to a non-power conference team. They have two more chances to keep that streak alive before Pac-12 play begins. Up Next: 12.19 vs. Bethune-Cookman

Dwight Powell can smell other player's arms AND average 3.6 RPG. (credit: Richard Drew)

2. California, 9-2: Across the bay we have our number two team, who also went 1-0 this week with a 20-point win over a mediocre team. The Golden Bears defeated Weber State 77-57, making them the first Pac-12 team to reach the nine-win plateau. While the Wildcats as a whole are mediocre, they are home to the nation’s leading scorer, Damian Lillard. The Bears held Lillard to 14 points, 11.4 under his season average. Up Next: 12.19 vs. UC Santa Barbara

3. Oregon State, 9-2: On paper, Oregon State’s 289-193 outscoring of their three low-major opponents this week looked great, but I didn’t like most of what I saw, especially against Portland State on Sunday. On offense, the Beavers looked great. They were shooting the ball with ease, passing with great efficiently, and flying high on dunks. But those plays led to too much celebrating and not enough getting back, making the Beavs look slow against the already-quick Viking guards. If they do this in Pac-12 play, opponents will be scoring in the 7os and 80s instead of the 60s, leading to more losses and making their chances of an NCAA Tournament bid even smaller. Up Next: 12.21 @ Chicago State

4. Arizona, 7-4: The Wildcats hold steady after dropping a 71-60 decision to Gonzaga in Seattle. Most will look at Arizona’s four losses and think they are a middle-of-the-pack team, but considering those four have come against Mississippi State, San Diego State, Florida, and Gonzaga, they don’t seem that bad at all. Group that in with the growing pains coach Sean Miller has had to endure so far, I really like UA at fourth. Up Next: 12.20 vs. Oakland

5. Oregon, 6-3: The Ducks opened up the week with an ugly nine-point win over Portland State, but the real challenge was to come six days later when Virginia came calling. Oregon was able to stay with the Cavaliers for 30 minutes, but Virginia used a stifling defense and hot shooting down the stretch to pull away for a 13-point win. Virginia forward Mike Scott led all scorers with 17 points. Up Next: 12.20 vs. North Carolina Central

6. Washington State, 7-4: The Cougars only game of the week was a less-than-stellar win over DII Western Oregon, but they trade places with rival Washington anyway. The Cougars have now won five in a row going into the Cougar Hardwood Classic. Up Next: 12.22 vs. Pepperdine in Seattle Read the rest of this entry »

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On the Record: 10.21.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 21st, 2010

In addition to our ongoing RTC Interview series there are plenty of other interviews going on across the country and as a way to get you ready for the season and into the minds of the coaches and players we will be bringing you a few of those interviews each week. If you know of any interviews that should be included in the next installment, please send them to rushthecourt@gmail.com.

  • ACC Media Day Chat – ESPN with an interesting idea of having various coaches and players from the ACC stop by and answer user-submitted questions.
  • Q & A with Vernon Macklin - A personal look at the Florida senior center where he talks about stealing Erving Walker‘s car and scooter and also mentions playing on a four-on-four team with Chandler Parson, Nolan Smith, and Shelvin Mack that went undefeated at a LeBron James camp this summer.
  • One-On-Two with Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith – A banal interview with fairly boring answers from the two Duke co-captains. The only somewhat interesting thing is when Singler is asked about his favorite artists and he lists David Garibaldi and Salvador Dali (an artist, but probably not the type that the interviewer expected) as well as Tupac (not the answer that anybody expected from Singler). We also might raise an issue with Smith who lists Jennifer Hudson as his favorite singer “especially when she sang ‘One Shining Moment'” unless he is referring to the fact that his team was celebrating when it was being played.
  • David Glenn Chats With Chris Collins – Has a link to a radio interview of the Duke assistant coach where he talks about the whirlwind off-season including the World Championships in Turkey, Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, and Coach K‘s legacy.
  • Pullen his weight at K-State – Jeff Goodman talks to Jacob Pullen, the Kansas State star, about the upcoming season. A solid interview and since we are friends with Jeff we’ll assume that it was his editor that came up with the title.
  • Selby speaks out – Goodman stops by Kansas where he talks to Josh Selby about being stuck in NCAA eligibility limbo. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 07.13.10 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on July 12th, 2010

So we heard there was some news about our beloved NCAA Tournament yesterday. . .

  1. As was reported here at RTC, the NCAA has announced the format of the “First Four”. Over the next few days you will see a ton of analysis online, but be sure to keep checking back here, as we’ll probably have more to say on this topic, and we want to hear your takes as well.  Later this morning, our first Bracketology taking into account the 68-team field for 2011 will be released.
  2. Some of you may remember Royce White from his bizarre YouTube exit from Minnesota almost seven months ago. White recently announced that he intends to play for Iowa State and Fred Hoiberg.  White is filing an appeal to play for the Cyclones next year instead of sitting out the usual one season. Hoiberg could really use some talent inside after losing Craig Brackins and a group of other decent-if-not-great inside players to NCAA rulings or transfers.
  3. To all the couch coaches out there, you will have to wait there until at least the middle of November as Chicago State filled the final head coaching vacancy in Division 1 men’s basketball when they named Tracy Dildy as their new head coach yesterday. We would like to congratulate Dildy on his first college head coaching position after spending nearly two decades as an assistant at six different schools.
  4. Boise State rising senior guard La’Shard Anderson was arrested on Saturday night on two misdemeanors: disorderly household and resisting/obstructing officers. Based on reports, it seems like police responded to a loud party complaint at Anderson’s residence and he refused to cooperate with police when he spoke with them outside the house. A hearing is set for August 2nd. To date, Boise State’s only response is that the school is reviewing their conduct policy (read: hoping that the charges against Anderson are dropped so the school can give him the minimum punishment possible).
  5. Some good news for Kentucky fans although it will be hard to ever top getting five 1st round picks (I’m joking.  Seriously, don’t shut down GMail with hate mail). Fresh off their FIBA U17 World Championship, future Wildcats Marquis Teague and Michael Gilchirst talk about how winning is more important to them than stats (shocking thing to say in the news), but UK fans have to be impressed with the stats that the future Wildcats put up even though Teague did struggle with his shooting during the tournament.
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The Great West Conference Finds a Home For Its Champion

Posted by nvr1983 on September 29th, 2009

Last year we brought you news about the creation of the newest Division I basketball conference, the Great West Conference, which will start organized operations this season. As we noted at the time, the league wasn’t exactly a “Who’s Who” of basketball powerhouses. In fact, the most notable program in the league was the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which went 0-29 in the 2007-2008 season before finally winning a game last season.

The full list of GWC members:

  • Chicago State University
  • Houston Baptist University
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • University of North Dakota
  • University of South Dakota
  • University of Texas-Pan American
  • Utah Valley University

Not exactly a murder’s row of programs that will challenge the ACC in the conference power rankings any time soon.  However, most people expect that under current NCAA guidelines the GWC could have an play-in automatic bid to the NCAA tournament by 2020. This would obviously impact the NCAA tournament by either removing one at-large team (unlikely) or expanding the NCAA tournament (more games = more money = very likely). The question for the GWC and its teams is what they are supposed to strive for until 2020. Theoretically they could qualify for an NCAA at-large bid (or maybe more realistically an NIT bid) if they hired some renegade coach who loaded them up with players who needed a little “SAT help.”  However, barring that not altogether improbable scenario (seriously, have you seen the headlines out of college basketball this week?) the champions would be relegated to watch the 2nd half of March from their couches like the rest of us.

CIT logo

Fortunately for the GWC and its members, the people at the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) have stepped into that void by offering the conference’s tournament champion an automatic bid in the CIT’s 16-team field. For those of you who missed the CIT last year, here is a rundown of the teams that participated, which was won by Old Dominion. While you shouldn’t expect to see ESPN and CBS keeping cameras in the offices of the James Madison Dukes this March to see if they are crushed when they don’t make the CIT, it does mark the first time that a D1 conference has had an agreement to get one of its teams an automatic bid into a tournament other than the NCAA Tournament and it also offers the new league something (albeit something very small) to entice recruits to join it in its formative years.

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