Checking In On… the Mountain West Conference

Posted by AMurawa on February 14th, 2012

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-12 conferences.

Reader’s Take

 

A Look Back

For months now we’ve heard talk of a merger, in some form or another, between the Mountain West and Conference USA. Monday, we got a clearer picture of what that will look like, as it was reported that the remaining members from those two conferences will join together in a newly named conference, beginning as early as the 2013-14 season. So, here we are in the middle of yet another great Mountain West basketball season, and we’re faced with the eventuality of the MW going away.

We’ve known (but tried to forget, at least temporarily) that Boise State’s stopover in the conference was a short-term thing, as they would be headed to the Big East, but the fact that San Diego State would be sending its football team with them (because, you know, San Diego just screams East!) and sending its other sports to the Big West was a low blow. TCU already had plans to head to the Big East (Texas, frontier of the wild, wild East!), but reneged on that and chose a more suitable landing spot in the Big 12. But, with Nevada and Fresno State set to move to the conference next season, it looked like the MW was well on its way to guaranteeing survival in pretty solid shape. Now, however, we’re looking at a future where teams like UNLV and New Mexico are going to be shoehorned into a new conference with teams like Rice and Marshall (not to be confused with Dave Rice and Anthony Marshall).

In short, it has been an extremely fun ride in the MW, specifically over the last five years or so, but that wild ride is coming to an end. Maybe the next ride will be even more fun and exciting than this one has been, but it is hard to imagine a mid-major basketball conference that can survive the subtraction of such great rivalries as SDSU/UNLV, Utah/BYU, and UNLV/BYU and not skip a beat.

Mountain West, Conference USA

Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming Appear Headed To A Still-To-Be-Named New Conference

But, let’s put all that behind us for the next month or so. Right now we’ve got high quality basketball to salve those wounds. First and foremost, this past weekend marked the start of the second half of the MW schedule, and we were treated to another excellent battle between the two teams at the top of the conference. You can read more about UNLV’s win over SDSU below.

Elsewhere, New Mexico won its fifth straight in an absolute slugfest (and some would say abomination) with Wyoming, while Colorado State’s NCAA Tournament chances took a huge hit in a loss at TCU and their RPI continues its downward spiral; two weeks ago they had an RPI of #18, last week it dropped to #24 and today it sits at #30. Couple that with a rather unimpressive schedule that features only an upset of SDSU as any kind of quality win and I’m considerably less bullish on their NCAA chances today that I was two weeks ago.

Lastly, Boise State won its first conference game of the year, knocking off an Air Force team that had quite a shakeup, as head coach Jeff Reynolds was fired last Wednesday and replaced by assistant coach Dave Pilipovich. We’ll have more on this below, but this marks the second time in as many seasons that a MW coach was let go in the middle of the season, a trend is not particularly appealing.

Team of the Week

UNLV – In a short week like this, when each team only played one conference game, it is easy to just pick the team that beat the best team as Team of the Week. And that honor goes to the Rebels, who knocked off San Diego State and created a three-way tie at the top of the conference. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Memphis to Big East a Huge Win for Both Sides

Posted by EJacoby on February 7th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular RTC contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

The college basketball landscape incurred another major shuffle on Tuesday, as Memphis is reportedly headed to the Big East for all sports beginning in the 2013-14 season. At this point, geographical alignment is a non-factor when it comes to conference separation, so fretting over the fact that a school in western Tennessee will be a part of the ‘Big East’ is simply a waste of time. Instead, looking at this deal from a basketball competition angle shows that the move is a benefit for both parties.

Josh Pastner Will Likely be Coaching Memphis in the Big East in Two Seasons

Memphis, an elite basketball program with the third-best winning percentage of the past decade, gets to join a top tier conference that provides enough guaranteed challenges and limits the amount of difficult non-conference scheduling that the team must make. Playing teams like Connecticut, Villanova, and Marquette every year will greatly boost the Tigers’ overall profile each season so they don’t have to schedule as many pre-conference contests against Tennessee, Michigan, Louisville, and Georgetown like they did this year. Meanwhile, the Big East Conference is adding an upper echelon basketball school to help replace the impending departures of West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. Memphis has reached the NCAA Tournament in six of the past eight seasons, including a Final Four run and two Elite Eight appearances in the last six years. Memphis is also a C-USA school, the conference that once harbored Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul, and South Florida. So the Tigers have familiar ties to several current Big East schools that make it a logical fit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Night Line: Larry Eustachy Has Southern Miss On Track For Its First NCAA Bid in 21 Years

Posted by EJacoby on February 2nd, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Head coach Larry Eustachy hasn’t led a team to the NCAA Tournament since his two-seed Iowa State Cyclones were upset in the first round of 2001. But the Southern Miss basketball program has waited even longer, as it’s been 21 years since the Golden Eagles went dancing. This season, the combination of Eustachy’s guidance and a collection of veteran players have USM in prime position to earn a ticket to the Big Dance, whether as the champion of their league or an at-large selection. On Wednesday night, the Golden Eagles snapped a 17-game losing streak against Memphis by defeating the Tigers, 75-72, to earn sole possession of first place in Conference USA. A program that has never won an NCAA Tournament game is well on their way to having a chance to do so this season.

Larry Eustachy is Back in Control of a Potential NCAA Tournament Team (AP/S. Coleman)

Southern Miss (20-3, 7-1 C-USA) has quietly put together a solid resume this season, and Wednesday’s win was the signature victory they needed to justify their sparkling record. The Golden Eagles have only lost to undefeated Murray State in Alaska, at Denver in its first ‘real’ game, and at Memphis by two points earlier in the season. The Denver loss appears rough, but the Pioneers are actually a top 100 RPI team at 16-6, 6-3 in the Sun Belt, and it’s never easy to play a true road game at the start of the season. Meanwhile, Southern Miss has been flawless in the rest of its conference games and also boasts road wins at Colorado State and Arizona State and home victories over Ole Miss and South Florida, both of which are above .500 in the SEC and Big East, respectively. Tally it all up and the Golden Eagles have a spectacular RPI of #11, which is music to the NCAA Tournament committee’s ears.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Set Your TiVo: 02.01.12

Posted by EJacoby on February 1st, 2012

Evan Jacoby is an RTC correspondent and regular contributor. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Two previously Top 10 teams (UConn and Indiana) are in major slides right now and have a chance to regain confidence with road wins tonight, though both are in very difficult spots. Also, perhaps the biggest game of the C-USA season takes place this evening. Here’s what to look for:

#22 Indiana at #20 Michigan – 6:30 PM ET on Big Ten Network (****)

Can Indiana Stop Trey Burke's Dribble Drive Tonight? (AP Photo)

  • The Hoosiers have lost four of six games and are rapidly descending in the rankings. However, they are coming off a 103-point scoring performance in a win over Iowa and they hung tough at Wisconsin in their previous game before coming up short. If Tom Crean’s team is really turning the corner in the Big Ten, then they need to prove it tonight with nothing other than a victory. Cody Zeller has been outstanding in conference play and will be the go-to man tonight against a suspect Wolverines interior defense that allowed the freshman to go 8-10 with 18 points in their first meeting, a slim Indiana win at home. IU has been efficient offensively lately without being overly reliant on the three-point shot, which is a good formula on the road. But their chances at winning tonight really boil down to  their ability to stop Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s penetration, as both players have the ability to carve up soft defenses. Indiana has an insanely high 110.4 defensive efficiency in conference, which will not cut it tonight. An improved defensive effort, however, will give them a great chance to win.
  • The Wolverines have held serve at home this season at 12-0 and will look to feed off the Ann Arbor crowd. As discussed above, this game is all about Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. for Michigan. The two guards are the only players in double-figure scoring (14.1 PPG and 15.2 PPG, respectively) and should have plenty of opportunities to penetrate a weak Indiana half-court defense. If they are making plays and setting up Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, and Evan Smotrycz for open threes, UM is right where they want to be. Michigan has played much better defense at home this season and should not allow Indiana to shoot the lights out like they have been able to in some games.
  • It’s probably getting repetitive, but this game completely comes down to Indiana’s defensive intensity in the half-court. Michigan has the advantage at home and is a four-point favorite, but this would be no upset if Indiana won. If early in the game you see Burke bouncing the ball for 20 seconds during possessions and struggling to get into the paint, you’ll know IU is doing a good job on the perimeter. Prediction: Michigan comes through with a slim victory.

Connecticut at #15 Georgetown – 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2 (****)

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

$2,000 Stipend: Is the NCAA on the Verge of Allowing Payments to Players?

Posted by rtmsf on October 24th, 2011

Perhaps the winds of change are in the air after all.  Not a month after Taylor Branch’s opus in The Atlantic excoriated the NCAA for its stubborn adhesion to the twin tenets of amateurism and the “student-athlete,” and not five months after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney floated an idea to provide a “full cost of attendance” stipend to its players, the NCAA’s president, Mark Emmert, appears to be on board. Emmert told the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics Monday that he feels the time is ripe for addressing such an inequity for the first time in a couple of generations.  What does the NCAA say the gap between the value of tuition, fees, room, board, and books versus the full cost of attendance amounts to?  Try $2,000 per year.

Emmert Appears Willing to Open the Floodgates

This week, I’ll be asking the board to support a proposal to allow conferences — not mandate anyone, but allow conferences, not individual institutions — to increase the value of an athletic grant in aid to more closely approach the full cost of attendance. […] We are going to create a model that would allow — probably… up to $2,000 in addition to tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies.

Interesting.  A couple of grand may not seem like much considering the astronomical dollar figures that schools make on the backs of these players, but it’s not insignificant either.  A two-semester school year encompasses roughly nine months for an athlete: dividing that figure by 39 weeks results in an allowance of roughly $51 per week. What college student couldn’t use a little shy of ten bucks a day to buy pizza, fill up his gas tank and occasionally join his buddies for an evening out to the movies and some greasy spoon afterward?  It seems a pittance given the figures going into the coffers of the power conference schools, right?  But therein lies the problem.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Summer Updates Wrap-Up

Posted by rtmsf on August 23rd, 2011

Now that we’ve spent the last six weeks reviewing most of the Division I conferences, let’s take a look back at the entire list with the summer #1 power ranking for each as we head into the fall…  [ed note: to see all of the Summer Updates in order of release, click here]

We currently have openings for conference correspondent roles with the following six leagues. Please email us at rushthecourt@yahoo.com with links to writing samples if you have an interest.
  • Atlantic Sun
  • Big West
  • MAC
  • MEAC
  • SWAC
  • Southland
Share this story

Renewing a Classic Rivalry: Memphis vs. Louisville in the HOF Shootout

Posted by rtmsf on June 1st, 2011

There are many, many things to love about college basketball, but one of the best parts of being a fan is to glance at your team’s schedule for the upcoming season and quickly locating the two, three or four ‘big’ games on the slate.  The mind’s eye wanders with anticipation of a season filled with opportunities to lord over the fans of the schools one hates the most, whether longtime conference foe, annoying regional rival, or up-and-coming frenemy.  Those ‘rivalry games’ on the schedule are often just as intense and in some cases more important than the other 30+ games combined — just ask Carolina fans how important it is that the Heels beat Duke, or Tennessee fans how badly they want the Vols to beat Kentucky.  In the absence of any other major successes in a given season, that one victory can carry the day for an entire fanbase through the offseason.

Pitino & Calipari Elevated the Memphis-Louisville Rivalry

Some of the very best such rivalries in the game today involve pre-conference matchups between regional rivals where the fanbases simply do not care for one another.  Kentucky-Indiana.  Wisconsin-Marquette.  Missouri-Illinois.  Gonzaga-Washington.  Cincinnati-Xavier.  BYU-Utah State.  Any Big Five game.  A few others have either been lost to the dustbins of history for any number of reasons, or never got started to begin with.  Maryland-Georgetown.  Connecticut-UMass.  Ohio State-Cincinnati.  Memphis-Louisville.  Ah yes, that one.  With today’s announcement that the former MVC/Metro/Great Midwest/Conference USA powerhouses will meet this coming December as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout, one of the grand old rivalries of the sport will soon resurrect from the dead.  

The game, on December 17 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, will represent the first of a two-year home-and-home series that we hope the schools have enough sense to continue.  They have not played since the Cardinals left CUSA for the Big East in 2005, the longest such drought in nearly fifty years between the two schools; and while the press releases all state that Louisville owns the all-time record against Memphis, 51-34, the insider nugget is that the two schools are deadlocked at 24-24 since the 1980-81 season.  In the modern era, this rivalry has been one of the most competitive in the entire landscape of college basketball, and the two fanbases are already juiced for the opportunity to see their old enemies again.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

O26 Primers: Conference USA, Mountain West, Southland, SWAC and WAC Tourneys

Posted by KDoyle on March 9th, 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.

With three conference tournaments concluding last night, it is only appropriate that five more get underway today. Conference USA and the Southland Conference are two of the most balanced leagues in the nation, while the WAC and Mountain West were just the opposite as they were dominated at the top. The SWAC is always a bit of a mystery come Championship Week and tournament time, but Texas Southern is the class of the league this year and will no doubt do their best to bring respect to the league if they are fortunate enough to advance to the Dance.

Conference USA

The Favorite: UAB won the regular season title with a 12-4 record, but that means very little in the ultra competitive CUSA this season as five teams are just behind the Blazers. There is something to be said though about UAB’s strong play down the stretch and the steady play of Jamarr Sanders and Cameron Moore. These reasons alone amidst several injuries that Mike Davis‘ club has overcome makes UAB the slight favorite over the rest of the bunch.

Dark Horse: Southern Mississippi is one the teams that are nipping at UAB’s heels. Although they fell in their last three games of the regular season, Larry Eustachy’s squad proved throughout the year they can beat anyone in the conference. Having Gary Flowers roam around the pain never hurts either.

Who’s Hot: UAB has won their last four games and seven of eight heading into the tournament. As well as UAB is playing, it would be very easy for that to stop on a dime. Throughout each week during the conference schedule, it appeared that one team in CUSA was emerging as the top dog, but they would quickly fade. Can UAB keep their streak going all the way into the NCAA Tournament?

Player to Watch: Papa Dia, Southern Methodist’s senior forward all the way from Senegal, is enjoying the best season of his career as he is averaging 18.5 points and 9 rebounds a game. In each of the previous three seasons, SMU has been below .500; Dia and his teammates clearly have something to prove in this tournament.

First-Round UpsetCentral Florida over East Carolina. UCF was the nation’s favorite story in the early going as they jumped out to a 14-0 record with wins over Florida, Miami (FL), and Princeton. The Knights then went onto lose eight straight games, thus proving that their early success was a fluke. Now, UCF has won five of seven games and if they can regain that success they had in those 14 games, a victory over East Carolina is absolutely within reach.

How’d They Fare? After going 7-9 in the conference, Houston caught fire in the tournament to surprise everyone by winning the title. In doing so, the Cougars stole a bid from a team on the bubble and earned a #13 seed in the Tournament where they lost to Maryland 89-77. UTEP—the team Houston beat to advance onward—was trounced by Butler as a #12 seed.

Interesting Fact: The last team to win an NCAA Tournament game hailing from Conference USA not named Memphis was Louisville in the 2005 Tournament. The ‘Ville advanced all the way to the Final Four that year where they lost to Illinois 57-52 in the semifinals. Both UAB and Cincinnati also won Tournament games that year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Live: UTEP @ Tulsa

Posted by rtmsf on January 29th, 2011

Game #121.  RTC Live visits Tulsa this evening for what should be a key Conference USA battle.

We are expecting a good game tonight in this high-stakes bout between the UTEP Miners (17-4, 5-1) and the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (10-10, 3-3). For Tulsa, this is a revenge game. They were defeated 69-59 by the Miners in the conference opener on January 5, and they would love nothing more than to upset the C-USA standings, and hopefully right the ship with a win tonight. UTEP has a little more than just pride on the line. They are currently tied atop the conference standings with Memphis; I’m sure they would love for things to stay that way. It will also be a matchup between the conferences two biggest stars. Tulsa is led by leading scorer Justin Hurtt, who is averaging 20.7 points per game, while UTEP is led by Randy Culpepper; the returning Conference USA Player Of The Year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

The Other 26: Week 10

Posted by KDoyle on January 21st, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.

Introduction

The week is here, long at last. Going into the season, BYU and San Diego State were projected to be strong, but this strong? Just to give you an idea of where these two juggernauts stood before the season, the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll had San Diego State receiving 73 votes and BYU 55 votes in the top 25 poll. In Zach Hayes’ Bracketology—a bracket that, in my mind, is very accurate for his latest edition—he had SDSU as a six seed and BYU a seven. Clearly, each team has exceeded many of the critics and so called experts expectations. Who would have thought that the teams would combine to have a 38-1 record at this stage of the season? Not even Steve Fisher or Dave Rose would have thought that.

In the grand scheme of things, the tilt in Provo, Utah, next week will not have an impact on whether or not either team will make the NCAA Tournament—it is a foregone conclusion that both are in—but this may be San Diego State’s biggest roadblock between them having an undefeated regular season or not. Can the magic carpet ride that San Diego State has been flying on continue, or will Jimmer Fredette and Co. take the air right out from under them? It will all go down on Wednesday evening in Provo.

The Other 26 Rankings

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

That’s Debatable: Most Compelling Conference Race

Posted by rtmsf on January 20th, 2011

That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude.  Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people.  We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season.  We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

This Week’s Topic: We’re a couple of weeks into conference play and early results are in on some of the contenders and pretenders.  Which conference race have you found the most compelling so far and why?

Tom Wolfmeyer, RTC contributor

The most compelling conference race this year is in the SEC.  The reason is that out of the twelve conference teams, only Auburn is so ridiculously bad so as to not cause problems for another conference team on a given night.  And hell, even the Tigers beat Florida State (y’know, the team that defeated Duke last week).  It’s a veritable trainwreck of a league this year, but what’s the adage?  You can’t take your eyes away from it, because you have no idea what will happen.  Which Tennessee team will show up — the one that beat Pitt and Villanova or the one that lost to Oakland and Charlotte?  Will Mississippi State gets its act together or will Renardo Sidney start throwing haymakers on some fans during a timeout?  Will Kentucky figure out how to play on the road or will they self-destruct due to selfish m*****f***** play?  Consider that the SEC East, by far the better division, has South Carolina at the top of its standings at 3-1.  South Carolina!  Three of the teams from this division projected to make the Tournament are 2-2 already.  On the other side, Alabama and LSU are on top.  This isn’t football, folks — those two teams have been largely terrible for the better part of the last three or four years.  Yes, this year’s most compelling league is the SEC, if for no other reason that nothing would surprise us about this basketball quagmire of a conference.

JL Weill, RTC contributor

Another year, another dog fight in the Missouri Valley. No unbeatens in the conference and all five teams with three losses or fewer have a chance. And as with most so-called mid-major conference teams, there isn’t a lot of meat on the pre-conference menus for any of the contenders. Wichita State beat Virginia and LSU, but they already have two losses in the MVC. Last year’s NCAA Tournament darling Northern Iowa took out Indiana and Iowa State but has three losses to conference foes.  The firing squad effect means that the team that finally emerges from the pack will be battle-hardened for the conference and postseason tournaments. It also means that there’s a good chance that for the fifth year in a row only one team from the MVC will make it to the NCAAs. While the conference has four teams in the RPI top 100, only one of them is in the top 40 — Missouri State — and Cuonzo Martin’s Bears haven’t beaten anyone of note. Finding an at-large berth from the MVC, even with an expanded field, could be tough. Wins are at a premium, and it’s a multi-horse race. Gotta love it.

Kevin Doyle, RTC contributor

It is anyone’s best guess as to what team will be the last one standing in the Atlantic 10. Throughout much of the non-conference slate, the Temple Owls and Richmond Spiders emerged as the frontrunners. Bill Clark and the Duquesne Dukes quickly knocked Temple off of their pedestal, while Richmond lost a heartbreaker to Bucknell at the buzzer in their final OOC game. Now, it is the school from Pittsburgh along with Xavier who are the lone squads undefeated in the A10. There are, however, five schools that are 3-1 in the conference who are nipping at the heels of the two leaders. You’d be foolish to think that the two teams up front won’t fall at some point in the coming weeks. Even Dayton—the lone .500 team in conference—has a supreme amount of talent and is fully capable of going on a run. But, losses at UMass and Xavier have set them back in the conference. Unlike many of the BCS conferences—although, the Pac-10 and ACC sure are weak this year—the Atlantic 10 is likely to only receive two bids to the NCAA Tournament this year. Ranging from 2-2 Dayton all the way up to 4-0 Xavier and Duquesne, there are a total of eight teams that are vying for an Atlantic 10 championship and that coveted automatic berth.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Tuesday’s Conference Check-In Teaser…

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 11th, 2011

Our conference correspondents around the world of college hoops get you caught up on the week that was in their conference check-ins. For the full articles, click the links or point your mouse to the “Conference Check-Ins” dropdown tab at the top of the page.

  • ACC: Duke (15-0, 2-0) dominated UAB before getting the job done against Maryland.  Duke’s two close wins to start conference play might be cause for concern, but no one has waltzed through their schedule so far.  The Blue Devils are going to lose a couple of games this year, probably on the road when threes aren’t falling–and the other team is shooting well.  But wins are wins, and it’s very important to know how to win close games as well as blowouts.” (Matt Patton)
  • Big Ten (The conference names will be hyperlinked to live posts): “The Big Ten powers continued to dominate this week, as Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State are a combined 10-0 in conference. The other teams though are starting to look very vulnerable. Michigan State’s loss at Penn State revealed some problems with the Spartans’ attack, while Minnesota doesn’t seem to have the firepower to hang with the top teams in the conference. And where is Wisconsin going to be when this all shakes out? The Badgers are the conference’s biggest enigma.” (John Templon)
  • Big 12: “Outside of conference play, there were two more games of note.  Saturday, Texas dropped one at home to the ninth ranked Connecticut Huskies late in overtime by just a point.  Right now, the sense is that the Longhorns have solved the concerns from a year ago, but this Longhorn team actually sits at a worse record than the team that collapsed so epically last season.” (Owen Kemp)
  • Missouri Valley: “The Missouri Valley Conference has been known historically as a guard-oriented league, but several teams are relying on their frontcourt players to lead them along:   Missouri State’s front line of Kyle Weems and Will Creekmore, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Kenny Lawson, and Gregory Echenique, and Southern Illinois’ Gene Teague, Mamadou Seck and Carlton Fay are examples of players that are carrying their teams that are not necessarily guards.” (Patrick Marshall)
  • Conference USA: “It took three overtimes to decide the winner of UTEP at UAB on Saturday afternoon. In a nationally televised game, the Blazers and Miners went back and forth with UAB coming away with a much-needed 100-97 win in their conference opener. The Blazers had been beaten by more than 20 points earlier in the week by No. 1 Duke. Before that, the team had won five in a row. As for the Miners, they had been winners of ten of their last eleven until Saturday’s loss.” (Stephen Coulter)
Share this story