SEC Tournament’s Semi-Permanent Move to Nashville Good For Some Schools

Posted by rtmsf on October 15th, 2013

According to reports from sources within the SEC, the league will announce today that it plans on making Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena the semi-permanent home of the SEC men’s basketball tournament. Why is it semi-permanent? Because the conference has already awarded several upcoming years to Atlanta (2014, 2020), Saint Louis (2017) and Tampa (2018), to go along with previously-established plans for Nashville to host in 2015, 2016 and 2019. What today’s announcement changes is that the Music City will also host the league’s marquee basketball event for a six-year run from 2021-26, meaning that nine of the next 13 SEC Tournaments will take place on the banks of the Cumberland River. Semi-permanent, indeed.

Ole Miss Won Its 2013 Title In Front of a Sparse Crowd

Ole Miss Won Its 2013 Title In Front of a Sparse Crowd

SEC commissioner Mike Slive mentioned last spring that the conference was exploring the notion of holding the SEC Tournament at a “primary” location in much the same way that Atlanta hosts the annual SEC Championship in football, and Hoover, Alabama, hosts baseball’s version of the SEC Tournament. Athletic directors and league officials at the time pointed to the sustained success of those events as the driver toward consolidation of the event in a single, primary venue, but the league’s dirty little basketball secret remained unspoken among public officials. Unlike SEC football, whose cultural hegemony vacuums up year-round fan and media attention in the deep South from College Station eastward all the way to Columbia, SEC basketball outside of a few select schools remains mostly an afterthought. Nashville as the primary SEC Tourney site makes sense not only because the city really embraces the event and provides a superb downtown “fun zone” that allows fans a great weekend experience, but also because it’s a relatively easy driving trip for the few schools’ fans that will show up because they at least marginally care about basketball (we’re talking about Kentucky, Missouri, Vanderbilt, and sometimes Tennessee and Arkansas here).

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Morning Five: 05.11.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 11th, 2012

  1. One of the last remaining longtime traditions in Division I college basketball will stay intact with the news released Thursday that the venerable Ivy League will keep its automatic NCAA Tournament bid reserved for its regular season champion. The league had been bouncing around the idea of adding a conference tournament (as every other D-I league has now done) in pursuit of the marquee ESPN broadcast slot during Championship Week and obvious revenue boost. Reasonable minds prevailed this time — after all, the Ivies aren’t exactly hurting for dollars — but Dartmouth was so angry about the decision that the boys from East Hanover are reportedly contemplating a move to replace Butler in the Horizon League.
  2. The NCAA is a tradition-rich organization, but in recent years we have to give them credit for exploring ways to make the NCAA Tournament on its 75th anniversary more fan-friendly. Their latest idea to move both the D-II and D-III championships to the same location as the Final Four (Atlanta in 2013) is a good one. The Sunday between the Final Four and National Championship game is a long, empty one for college basketball junkies, so adding another element of competitive hoops to help fill the time will without question be a success. On the same topic, if you’re interested in leading the direction of the NCAA Tournament for years to come, they’re now accepting applications for the VP of the men’s and women’s tournaments. We’re sure that they’ll get a surplus of strong candidates, but if you care about the future of the best event in all of sports (and we know you do), get creative and throw an app their way.
  3. We’re written about this topic so many times that we’re frankly just exhausted thinking about it any more. But on Thursday the NBA Player’s Association responded to NBA commissioner David Stern’s prior comments about the NBA Draft eligibility rule — colloquially known as the 1-and-done rule — and in summation, they want something in return for raising the age to 20 years old. In other breaking news, water is wet, the sun shines, and gay North Carolinians still can’t marry each other. Snark aside, the NBAPA seeks an increased rookie pay scale and some kind of incentive system for players who stay in school longer, with the argument being that 18- and 19-year olds are giving up two prime wage-earning years if they’re not allowed to play on bad teams mired in the draft lottery. The reasons are obvious why such an increase is good for the NBA, for college basketball, and for the players themselves, but if you’re really interested, here’s our missive on the topic from a couple of years ago.
  4. We all heard a couple of nights ago about the NCAA taking a closer look at the eligibility of Nerlens Noel before he heads off to Kentucky later this summer, another stark example of a player with a coterie of followers surrounding him that may or may not have his collegiate eligibility at the forefront of their minds. In a well-argued piece, Jeff Borzello at CBSSports.com writes that the NCAA/Noel situation is simply another in a long and ongoing string of inquiries that the governing organization must deal with in an era where so many people handling/helping/assisting/counseling/advising elite prospects are difficult to track. “Nearly every high-major recruit could fit in that category,” he writes, and fans of schools who recruit elite players really should give up the persecution act and recognize that the system of AAU basketball combined with a 1-and-done mentality has created this particular, unfortunate reality.
  5. The NCAA released its attendance figures for the 2011-12 season yesterday, and there were a few notable tidbits from last season’s action. John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats set a new record for total attendance in a single season (including home, road, and neutral games), with 885,953 fans watching the team over its 40 games. This total defeated a 23-year old record by 1989 Syracuse, when 855,053 fans over 38 games watched the Orangemen led by Sherman Douglas and Derrick Coleman rumble to an Elite Eight finish. The usual suspects remained as the top home crowds (#1 Kentucky, #2 Syracuse, #3 Louisville, #4 UNC), but the biggest year-over-year increase last season belonged to Creighton, who, with All-American sophomore Doug McDermott as a draw, added over 3,000 more fans per contest at home in 2011-12. For all the numbers, check out the NCAA’s report here.
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Welcome to Championship Fortnight: 14 Days of Elimination Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on February 27th, 2012

Unbelievably, even though the calendar reads February 27 and March is still a full 60 hours away, Championship Fortnight begins tonight in Lexington, Virginia, and High Point, North Carolina. The Big South Tournament opening round tips off this evening with two games hosted at VMI and High Point versus Radford and Gardner-Webb, respectively. Tomorrow night the Horizon League Tournament will tip off with games at Butler, Detroit, Youngstown State, and Milwaukee. In all, 16 different conferences will begin their tournaments this week, but only four will crown their champions by next Sunday — the Big South, the OVC, the Atlantic Sun, and the Missouri Valley. The full schedule of each round through next Sunday is below.

If you buy into the theory that (almost) every team has a shot to win it all through its conference tournament’s automatic bid, over the next 14 days we’ll whittle down roughly 321 contenders to the ballyhooed 31 AQs along with the chosen 37 at-larges. Even if you don’t care about that, it’s still worth noting that we start elimination-style, win-or-g0-home basketball as of tonight. No matter the month, that’s always a good thing.

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Championship Fortnight: Introducing the Circle of March

Posted by rtmsf on March 1st, 2011

Conference tournaments start tonight, as both the Big South Conference and Horizon League tip things off with opening round postseason action.  As of right now, there are approximately 325 teams still “alive” for the 2011 national championship.  Each of their names is somewhere below in the Circle of March, as we’re calling it.  When a team is formally eliminated, either through a loss in their mid-major conference tourney, a discharge by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, or a subsequent defeat in the NCAAs, we’ll remove its name from our circle.  On April 4, there will only be one team left from amidst this chaos — see if you can find which one. 

To celebrate the start of the postseason, we’ve also put together a nice little chart to help you follow along.  The next thirteen days — a/k/a Championship Fortnight — will without question be wild as teams play their way in and out of the NCAA Tournament picture and correspondingly exhibit the heartache and unadulterated joy that goes along with the beauty of March Madness. 

 

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. XII

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a weekly college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore and Mike Walsh that occasionally touches on relevant subjects. This week the guys debate the merit of conference tournaments — and you can guess where the Ivy Leaguer stands.

DAVE ZEITLIN: Let me start by saying that I love everything about March. The weather is better. The food is tastier. People are friendlier. Even this German kid is less annoying. Such is the power of college basketball. From the first day of the conference tournaments until the final lyric of One Shining Moment (which is, as you probably guessed, “one shining moment”), wall-to-wall college hoops takes a hold of you and doesn’t let go until your eyes are bloodshot, your voice is hoarse and all your dreams are of Digger Phelps’ ties. And if I just made watching college basketball sound creepy, that wasn’t my intention. Everything about March Madness is perfect. Well, almost everything…

You guys may disagree, but I think conference tournaments need to be changed. More specifically, I find it unfair that automatic NCAA bids go to conference tourney champs as opposed to the winners of the regular season. Did I just pour a bucket of cold water over my gooey-gushy first paragraph? Maybe.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m still delighted to watch the final few minutes of any conference championship game and get even more excited when there’s an upset involved. It just doesn’t make sense that a team that gets hot over a few days gets rewarded over the team that already proved it’s the best in the conference over the regular season. Read this recent column by Jeff Goodman if you disagree. Or read this disgustingly pretentious column I wrote in college. You’ll come around.

Every Game Counts?

Now, you guys may be thinking I’m just saying all this because I’m an Ivy Leaguer and the Ivy League is the only conference in America that doesn’t have a tournament. I guess that’s part of it. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the value of league play with so many titles coming down to a thrilling regular season finale between Penn and Princeton. But even now, as Penn has floundered to the bottom of the league standings, I wouldn’t feel right about my Quakers having a chance to go dancing just by going on a three-game winning streak. I mean, come on, they have 20 losses. I love the idea that every team can win a national championship, but don’t you think the regular season should hold just a little value?

I’m not saying get rid of tournaments. I just think there should be some compromises. Make it so it’s a privilege (not a right) to play in the conference tournament, kind of like the way it is in Division II or III. Sorry but if you’re in the bottom half of your league, you don’t deserve the chance to steal a bid from a 25-win team just so you can play in Dayton on Tuesday. And how about home games and byes for top seeds in every league?

All that said, I have no problem with the big-conference tournaments (other than the fact I can never tell which of the NCAA locks are actually trying). The Big East Tournament at the Garden, especially, has given me many great memories over the years. And any team that runs the table against the nation’s giants over the course of a few days (remember Georgia?) deserves a bid in my mind. So by all means, keep the money pouring in for those leagues. It’s just the one-bid conferences (where revenue isn’t as much of an issue) that seem to be doing a disservice to the NCAA Tournament — and mostly their own teams.

So what do you guys think? At the very least can we agree that the changes I suggested would be much better than that heinous 96-team NCAA tournament proposal?

MIKE WALSH: First off, let me go on record as saying that I’d rather be strangled with one of Digger Phelps’ aforementioned ties while he was still wearing it than see the tournament expanded to 96 teams. In a world where everyone gets a trophy just for trying, I think a little disappointment is good for the teams whose bubbles burst each year. Sorry, Rhode Island, better luck next year! And let’s be honest with ourselves, stretching the field to 96 teams is just another way to get more power conference schools in the Big Dance – or would we have to call it the Bigger Dance? And who doesn’t want to see Rutgers get in? Those kids try so hard…

This concludes the soap box portion of the show.

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ATB: Mid-Major Tourney Sunday

Posted by rtmsf on March 8th, 2010

Conference Tourneys.  Given the propensity of conference tournaments this weekend, we’ve divided up the ATB this weekend so that this post will cover only the eleven mid-major tourneys that were in action today, while our other ATB post will discuss the end of the regular season for the major conferences.

Missouri Valley Championship – Northern Iowa 67, Wichita State 52.  When Northern Iowa held Drake without a field goal for 28 minutes during their quarterfinal matchup on Friday, many people on press row who were unfamiliar with their stingy defense dismissed it as a statistical anomaly made possible by an inferior opponent. After holding #2 seed and NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch team Wichita State scoreless for 12 minutes during a 23-3 second half run today, those same people became believers. The Panthers had the second best defense in the country this year, and over three days in St. Louis, they showcased that defense in winning their second consecutive Arch Madness title.  In a 67-52 victory over the Shockers, UNI got big contributions from their bench: 25 points and a contagious energy level that gave their starters a chance to breathe easier in their third game in as many days. “Our bench stepped up huge for us tonight just like they did the night before,” commented Ali Farokhmenesh. “I think our bench was the biggest difference in that (23-3 run) and then probably in the entire game overall. They made huge plays for us and they wore down the starters for Wichita.” Jack Koch was the chief contributor off the UNI bench, hitting three clutch treys and finishing with 13 points.  Kwadzo Ahelegbe, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, led the way with 24 points, which included 12-14 from the free throw line. He also hit two big three-pointers for the Panthers, whose other starters struggled for most of the day. “I have an easy job,” Ahelegbe told reporters after the game. “When you can get to the basket and nobody’s there because you have two great shooters, it’s easy, easy money.” Along with Ahelegbe, teammate Jordan Eglseder was also named to the All-Tournament team. Eglseder had remarkably consistent lines all weekend, scoring 10 points in each game, and grabbing 4, 5 and 5 rebounds in the three games while blocking five shots in the final.  Northern Iowa earns the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they haven’t won a game since a 1989 upset of Missouri in an era before they joined the MVC. They’ll almost certainly be favored to win their game this year, however, as the 28-4 Panthers should be a “protected” seed when the brackets come out. Can the Panthers stay motivated over the 12-day layoff between now and their first round game, though? “The players get to decide as a team what their goals are, and there are a couple still on there that we have not gotten,” noted coach Ben Jacobson after the win. “So there is a lot of motivation still. I really like how we played here. I knew today was going to be a close game, so that momentum helps as we go into practices getting ready for this. That’s an important part and we’ve got momentum and confidence.”  As for Wichita State, they’re a bubble team that likely finds itself on the outside looking in come Selection Sunday. Coach Gregg Marshall tried to make a case for them after the game to reporters. “We’ve got 25 wins, a couple of top 25 victories, we were undefeated at home. We’re a very talented team…we’ve got size, we’ve got 7-footers, we’ve got long, rangy athletes. We’re going to defend.” He then defended the league itself. “This is a pretty good basketball league. We had to play a team with 20 wins in the quarterfinals that was getting top 25 votes for December as a 2 seed. So that goes to show you the depth of the conference.”  In the end, what Northern Iowa showed against a good Wichita State team is that their defense is for real, and that they’re one of the better teams in the country. As Marshall noted afterwards, “Northern Iowa’s a great team. They’re well coached, they’re seasoned and they’re experienced. They’ll win games in the NCAA Tournament. Period.”

Back to Back Championships for UNI (WCF-Courier/M. Putney)

Colonial.  The CAA semis resulted in two excellent games, and RTC Live was there for both this afternoon in Richmond.  Top seed Old Dominion survived a tough-minded attack by VCU, whose campus is merely a few blocks down the road from the Richmond Arena.  Gerald Lee was awesome, scoring 26 points on 10-13 FGs, but it was his teammated Ben Feeney (11/6) who saved the day down the stretch as the Monarchs came from behind in regulation to tie VCU and send the game to overtime.  In the other semifinal, #3 William & Mary held on to outlast #2 Northeastern in a game that also came down to the last shot of regulation.  The Tribe’s David Schneider hit a three with 35 seconds remaining in the game — his only field goal — giving W&M the lead on a clutch shot for the second consecutive night.  Northeastern had seven chances on the final possession to tie or win, but none of them dropped for the Huskies.  ODU and W&M played twice previously this season, with the Monarchs winning both, and as you probably have heard, the Tribe will play for their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid tomorrow night.

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ATB: Mid-Major Tourney Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2010

Wild Saturday.  Obviously, there’s a million things to talk about this weekend, but this special ATB Saturday edition will focus exclusively on the thirteen conference tournaments that were going on across the country today.  In our usual weekend edition on Sunday night, we’ll discuss all the other games from the bigger conferences who are still finishing up regular season action, including the upsets of #1 Syracuse, #5 Kansas State and so forth.  Bear with us, as we’ll be back tomorrow.

Conference Tourneys.  The ‘expanded’ NCAA Tourney continued today with another 35 teams eliminated on this glorious Saturday of hoops across the nation.

Murray Wins 30 Games For the First Time in OVC History (M. Dann)

  • Ohio Valley.  Murray State pulled away late from the #2 seed, Morehead State, to win its eighth conference championship in the last sixteen years.  The Racers also reached the 30-win mark for the first time in school and OVC history en route to its fourteenth NCAA Tournament bid.  In an ugly, defensive-oriented game, it was Isaiah Canaan who came off the bench for the Racers to provide offensive punch (16/5), but it was his block on a breakaway dunk attempt (called a foul) that electrified the crowd and made the ESPN top 10 plays tonight.  Murray will be a nightmare of a matchup for the team that draws them in the first round of the NCAAs this year.
  • Big South.  #3 Winthrop pulled off the upset at top seed Coastal Carolina in their building tonight, winning 64-53 behind a strong second half and a suffocating defense that held CCU’s best player, Joseph Harris, to a mere three points on 1-6 shooting.  This is Winthrop’s fifth Big South title in the last six years, an amazing feat considering that the original architect of the program, Gregg Marshall has since moved on to Wichita State (playing for its own bid tomorrow).  The Eagles are probably looking at a #16 seed this year.
  • Atlantic Sun.  East Tennessee State won its second consecutive A-Sun Tournament tonight, this time as a #5 seed.  The Bucs’ pressure defense forced sixteen Mercer turnovers and held their two stars, James Florence and Danny Emerson, to nearly half their typical offensive output.  Justin Tubbs had 18/3 for the winning team, This clearly isn’t a vintage ETSU team, but Murray Bartow has them back in the Dance for the third time in his career there, where they’re likely looking at a #16 seed again.
  • Missouri Valley.  At Arch Madness, the top two seeds advanced today with #1 Northern Iowa shutting down everything #5 Bradley tried to do on offense today, and #2 Wichita State surviving a close one against Illinois State.  Of course, UNI is already secure in an NCAA Tournament bid, but they’re attempting to win back-to-back MVC titles, while Wichita will not be invited unless they earn the auto-bid tomorrow.  The two teams split home-and-home this year, and you’d have to believe that the Shockers will bring everything they’ve got tomorrow afternoon.  RTC Live will be there covering the game.

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Thus Begins Championship Fortnight…

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2010

You know why we don’t need NCAA Tournament expansion to 96 teams?  The are a lot of other good reasons, but the simplest reason is that we already have it.  In fact, about 300 of the 347 Division I teams have an opportunity starting tonight to ‘play their way into’ the NCAA Tournament.  It’s easy — survive and advance.  As long as you win, you’re still alive.  And if you win three or four games in (mostly) consecutive days, you’ll see Greg Gumbel reading your name off the Big Board on Selection Sunday.  Keep winning beyond that and suddenly you’re channeling NC State circa 1983.

Tickling or Madness?

There will be thirty conference tournaments played from coast to coast (and all points in-between) in the coming days, with the Big South, Ohio Valley and Horizon all starting postseason action tonight.  The Atlantic Sun and Patriot will get going tomorrow, and by Saturday night, we’ll have already crowned the first three automatic bids.  Twenty-seven more (plus the Ivy) will be decided over the course of the following week of play.  It seems like a lot to keep up with (and it is), which is why we’ve come up with an internal tracking matrix (below) that we’re happy to share with everyone.

During our nightly ATBs, we’ll be keeping you updated as well, but here’s the high-level view of the world.  Strap in folks, because March is here!

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06.24.09 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on June 24th, 2009

What’s this?  Two days in a row with FBs?  Indeed.  There’s a lot to get caught up on…

  • Duke Downer.  The biggest news today was the news that Duke point guard Elliot Williams (he of the happy, happy feet) will be leaving the Duke program so that he can move closer to Memphis, his hometown.  Reportedly his mother is facing a life-threatening illness there and Williams wants to be nearby for support as she battles her disease.  He plans on petitioning the NCAA to waive the one-year transfer obligation so that he will be able to play immediately at his new school (presumably Memphis).  This is undoubtedly a major blow to Coach K’s backcourt in 2009-10, as he’ll now be left with only Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith to log minutes there.  Big things were expected of Williams based on his insertion into the starting lineup at midseason and his excellent all-around play down the stretch.  Duke fans are largely crushed by this news, given the unfortunate circumstances causing it as well as the huge, gaping hole in the backcourt it leaves (while, ironically, the perfect fix named Seth Curry can only wait and watch next season).  In other Duke news that came out today, Coach K is the highest paid Duke employee by far ($3.6M last year) – no surprise there.
  • Like Father, Not Like Son.  A bit of a surprise today is that Jeffrey Jordan (you know, that Mike guy’s son) is ending his basketball career at Illinois to focus on his studies.  This comes on the heels of news from earlier this year that Jordan’s hard work and commitment to the program had resulted in a scholarship for the rest of his time at the school.  Guess he’d had enough.  Actually, we can totally understand this.  Jordan was undeniably under more pressure to perform than any walk-on turned scholarship player in the history of college basketball, and although it made for nice copy, it’s safe to say that Jordan probably didn’t love the sport anywhere near the same as his famous dad.  He probably reached a personal epiphany of some kind that included a heart-to-heart with pops, and once MJ gave him the blessing, he’s now free to pursue the activities he truly enjoys.  Good for him.  And good for him for working his tail off in his two years at Illinois to go from walk-on to scholarship to expected contributor, despite limited talent.
  • Vegas, Baby.  The WAC has followed its mid-major brethren WCC and Mountain West Conferences by moving its postseason tournament to Las Vegas, where the Orleans Arena will host beginning in 2011.  This comes on the heels of a very successful WCC Tournament at the Orleans last year, where a sold-out, raucous arena was shown on national television for St. Mary’s vs. Gonzaga.  The MWC already holds its conference tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center down the street, and this move by the WAC means that Vegas will become the basketball destination for every legitimate conference (save the Pac-10) west of the Rockies every March.  Sounds like a really fun environment for fans of these leagues.
  • No, No, NoEveryone got this wrongDerrick Rose wasn’t flashing a gang sign in the below pic, he was practicing universal remote hand signals for the letter “B” on the SAT exam.

derrick rose hand signals

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WAC Quarterfinal Recap & Semifinal Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 13th, 2009

Kevin McCarthy of Parsing the WAC and Sam Wasson of bleedCrimson.net are the RTC correspondents for the WAC.

Note: Rush the Court will be live-blogging tonight’s WAC Semifinals, which starts at 8:30 PM ET.

The quarterfinals of the 2009 WAC Tournament are in the books and the league’s top two seeded teams–Utah State and Nevada–advanced. The #3 and #4 seeds Idaho and Boise State? Not nearly as fortunate. Each session brought its own upset as in the tournament’s first game #5 seed New Mexico State upended #4 seed Boise State. The Broncos had won the first two meetings of the season and were looking to make it three straight and looked to be off to a good start when they built a 30-20 lead midway through the first half. However, New Mexico State found its shot and took a 38-36 lead into the break. Boise State tied the game at 38 apiece less than a minute into the game after a pair of made free throws but that’s as close as they would get the rest of the way. Spurred by an 8-0 run, New Mexico State seized control of the game and timely free throws and a second half barrage of three pointers by junior guard Jonathan Gibson helped the Aggies to advance to the semifinals. Gibson finished with a team high 22 points for the Aggies. Boise State was led by Mark Sanchez who scored a game high 25 points. In all four Aggies finished with double figures in scoring while three Broncos achieved that mark. Boise State finishes the season at 19-12 and will await their postseason fate. The Aggies improve to 17-14 and will face top seed Utah State at 6:00 p.m. PT.

In the first session’s second game the regular season champion Utah State took on #9 seed Fresno State. Most Aggie fans approached this game with a bit of guarded optimism not normally seen in a 1 vs. 9 matchup. However, there was due cause for their concern as Fresno State had pushed Utah State to the brink in both regular season meetings. The Bulldogs had lost by just four in the always tough Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum in Logan and then later took Utah State to overtime before eventually losing. After Fresno State escaped the 8/9 play-in game against Hawai’i, they looked to spring the upset. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the Aggies had different plans. Utah State jumped out to a 16-3 lead and never looked back. Utah State hit a season high 13 three pointers en route to an 85-68 victory. Utah State’s Stavon Williams finished with 22 points on 8-11 shooting including 6-8 from three point distance. Gary Wilkinson and Jared Quayle each pitched in 18 for the Aggies. Fresno State had four players reach double figures led by freshman Paul George with 16. Senior Dwight O’Neil, playing in his final game scored 14 points. Utah State rekindles their rivalry with New Mexico State in the first semifinal game at 6:00 p.m. PT.

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Sun Belt Conference Tourney Wrapup

Posted by nvr1983 on March 13th, 2009

Toppers Return to The Dance
As we predicted last time around, Western Kentucky will represent the Sun Belt Conference in the Big dance this year. This was no surprise to avid Belt followers. However, what was a surprise was the opponent they faced in the finals – South Alabama.

South Alabama came into the tournament as the sixth seed, and slid into the finals after winning their first two games by a combined total of five points. One of their opponents was Troy, who’s magical run came to a close by just three points. Not that they didn’t have their fair share of chances to get the win themselves. Trojan guard Michael Vogler missed the front end of a one-and-one and then two 3-point tries in the final 17 seconds as Troy tried to tie the game.
Ironically, South Alabama’s last leg into the final game came with little difficulty when they knocked off  Arkansas Little-Rock, a team that also struggled to find its range, by ten points. The Trojans had no answer for the loss of Moore, their top scorer, and it showed, as they went 16-61 from the floor on the night. However, South Alabama would not be so fortunate against WKU in the finals.

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Big 10 Wrapup & Tourney Preview

Posted by nvr1983 on March 11th, 2009

Josh & Mike from Big Ten Geeks are the RTC correspondents for the Big Ten Conference.

The Season That Was
Politicians often talk about “Two Americas” – there’s the super-rich, lighting Cuban cigars with $100 bills, and then there’s the rest of us. Well, this year, there were “Three Big Tens.” First, there was Michigan State, who won the conference title in a walk by four games. That’s the largest margin in a very long time (over 10 years). And just like this little credit crisis hasn’t forced Warren Buffett to fly coach [Ed. Note: Having read about Warren, he might fly coach anyways.], Raymar Morgan‘s long bout with pneumonia didn’t slow down the Spartans one bit. We predicted Michigan State to win, we just didn’t know it would be this easy.

Then there’s the middle, which was filled with parity. Second place through ninth place was separated by 3 games. Call it the Big Ten’s middle class. Purdue didn’t develop into the team everyone thought they would. Sure, Robbie Hummel‘s extended absence hurt, but it was really the big steps back taken by E’Twuan Moore and Keaton Grant that made the biggest difference. Illinois actually overachieved this season, after last year’s debacle. The truth is that the Illini weren’t that bad last year, but suffered a lot of close losses. A big turnaround was to be expected. But to go from 16 wins to 23 (and counting) without adding a single player of significance was beyond optimistic. That’s exactly what Bruce Weber‘s team did though. Wisconsin will see their streak of 30-win seasons come to an end this year, and despite what you might read or hear about this team, it was the defense that let them down. In fact, the Badgers sported the league’s best offense on a per possession basis. But without twin towers Brian Butch and Greg Steimsma, opponents shot much better from inside the arc.

Penn State continued its happy-go-lucky ways, going 10-8 in conference play despite being outscored (handily) by its opponents. But good for the Nittany Lions, it’s wins that punch Dance tickets, not scoring margins. Ohio State might have had the most talent in the league, but finished right in the middle of the pack. We said that before the season started that Ohio State would be hard-pressed to improve on last year’s performance. We were right – Thad Matta is finding out that landing All American Recruits isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Speaking of attrition, Northwestern had virtually none, and that went a long, long way into fueling their best post-war season. The Wildcats will come up short for landing an NCAA Tourney bid unless they win the conference tournament, but that shouldn’t diminish the job Bill Carmody‘s done. Another turnaround was present in Ann Arbor, where John Beilein has Michigan on the brink of their first NCAA Tournament appearance in over 10 years. The Wolverines have looked like giant killers that took down Duke, UCLA, and nearly UConn; but this is also the same team that was outscored by opponents in conference play. They need to find that early-season magic for the stretch run. Minnesota has been somewhat of an oddball team as well this year in that this is the worst field goal shooting team in the conference, but they’re also tied for the best free throw shooting team in the conference. Clearly they have the talent to score more, but it just hasn’t happened.

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