20 Questions: Which Non-BCS League Will Be the Best This Season?

Posted by rtmsf on October 30th, 2011

Andrew Murawa is the Pac-12 and Mountain West correspondent for RTC and a microsite writer. You can find him on Twitter @amurawa.

Question: Which Non-BCS League Will Be the Best This Season?

In each of the past four years, the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA, Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley Conference have all been ranked by Ken Pomeroy somewhere between the seventh- and tenth-best conferences in the nation. Going back nine years, at least three of those conferences have been among the top ten conferences in the nation every season, and no other non-BCS conference outside of these four has rated higher than ninth in that span. Now, as good as the Colonial may be this year, as good as the West Coast Conference or even the MAAC may be this season, I’m willing to wager that this year will be no different. One of the MW, the A-10, the MVC or C-USA will be the best non-power conference this season.

The Mountain West Will Take a Step Back With Losses of SDSU Stars (and BYU)

Further, I’ll be willing to wager that the Mountain West, a conference that has only once in that span ranked lower than eighth, will not be the best of those conferences this season. Last year as it rode BYU and San Diego State (not to mention UNLV, Colorado State and New Mexico), it was almost unquestionably the best non-power conference. But, gone are Jimmer Fredette and Kawhi Leonard. And in fact, BYU is gone altogether, as is Utah. UNLV and New Mexico return, and both of them will be very good, but SDSU will take a big step back this season, Colorado State looks to be ordinary, and the rest of the conference ranges from unspectacular to bad.

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Big 12 Morning Five: 10.11.11 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 11th, 2011

  1. It’s official: TCU has accepted an invitation to join the Big 12, and it will formally become a member on July 1, 2012. If you’re keeping track, the Big 12 marks the fifth league the Horned Frogs have accepted an invite from since 1996, along with the WAC, C-USA, Mountain West and Big East. With TCU officially in the fold, the attention now turns to the Big 12’s additional options during this time of Realignment Apocalypse.
  2. Speaking of those options, how does Notre Dame sound on the basketball side? A report obtained by the Associated Press mostly centered around Missouri’s conference affiliation, but it also included a small piece of information about the Irish: apparently, they are mentioned in the document as a potential Big 12 target for all sports besides football. This is nothing more than wild speculation, but that’s what realignment is all about, right?
  3. The news about Notre Dame wasn’t the important part of that document, though. It was all about Missouri‘s possible move to the SEC– and the financial impact of that scenario. The school could make up to $12 million annually, and the report said the SEC would not significantly harm the university’s academic reputation. Interestingly, MU would actually rank lower in average SAT scores if it moved from the Big 12 to the SEC, though.
  4. Staying with Missouri, the end of the bench at Mizzou Arena just got a little more crowded. Frank Haith already added walk-ons Tony Lester and Danny Feldmann this summer, and now KOMU-TV’s Eric Blumberg reports that he’s added forward Andy Rosburg. That news actually has major implications for Missouri’s program, considering Rosburg’s brother, Ryan, is a 6’9″ high school senior on the Tigers’ radar. According to Rivals.com, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech and a load of other schools have already offered the younger Rosburg a scholarship. Perhaps the presence of his older brother in Columbia will be enough to sway him — at least that’s what Haith certainly is hoping.
  5. With Midnight Madness just days away, the Big 12 announced last week that three teams from the league will participate in ESPN’s coverage of the event this Friday. Scrimmages from Baylor, Kansas and Texas A&M will all air on ESPNU, and it’s hardly surprising that the network chose three of the Big 12’s main title contenders for national exposure.
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RTC Top 25: Week 4

Posted by rtmsf on December 6th, 2010

Not a lot of movement at the top of the polls this week as we move into the part of the schedule where schools generally lighten their loads around exams.  This poll will likely look very much the same through the holiday season.  Quick n’ dirty analysis after the jump…

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Tuesday’s Check-Ins

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2010

A good number of Conference Check-Ins went up on Tuesday, including the following major conferences…

Remember, the quickest way to keep up with these is to keep an eye on the box above — every time a new one is released it appears at the top of the Check-Ins box.  But we’ll keep doing these semi-daily updates as a reminder as well.

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RTC Live: Oral Roberts @ Tulsa

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2010

Game #13.  Our first rivalry game of the young season takes us to the Heartland where Tulsa and Oral Roberts hook up; their campuses are a mere seven miles apart.

Here we go. Another edition to the crosstown rivalry that has become a must-see event here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is the 47th meeting between the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane—this time it is in front of a nationally-televised audience in game seven of the ESPN’s 24 Hours  of Hoops marathon. Tulsa is coming off a disappointing 2009-10 campaign, where after being picked as the preseason favorites to win C-USA, fell before reaching the tournament finals. Now they are looking for some stability after losing to Appalachian State, 89-86, in their opener.  Oral Roberts is in the same boat, a threat to win the Summit League, but needing to look much better than they did in a weekend 78-61 loss to Missouri State. This game may not appear to mean much outside the area since both teams need to win their conference in order to get a bid to the NCAA tournament—but these schools strongly dislike each other and they want to win this rivalry game desperately, especially now that both started the season with a loss. This game will set the mood for the rest of the season, and the winner will leave with a ton of confidence and bragging rights as the best basketball team in the city, at least for one more year.

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Morning Five: 06.28.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 27th, 2010

  1. We mentioned this on Twitter over the weekend, but this is scheduled to be a huge week for the future of the NCAA Tourney.  How to deal with the four play-in games is on the agenda at this week’s meeting of the NCAA men’s basketball committee, and any hope that this would be a relatively simple decision has been thrown out the window with the realization that despite additional dollars available, nobody wants to play in these games.  The small conference teams from weaker leagues do not want to be pigeonholed in those games on an annual basis, and the BCS league teams don’t feel like they should have to play the extra games.  Well, if anyone over at the NCAA is reading this, we certainly have our opinion.
  2. This had been rumored for some time, but MJ’s progeny will be playing together beginning in 2011-12 as Illinois transfer Jeff Jordan will join little bro Marcus Jordan at Central Florida.  Marcus was a standout freshman at UCF last year, averaging 8/3/3 assts and making the all-CUSA freshman team, while Jeffrey has made a name for himself during spot minutes as a hustling, defensive-oriented type of player.  The two last played together four years ago in high school.
  3. And you thought that conference realignment was finished this summer?  Pfshaw!  The Summit League is considering adding North Dakota to its nine-team conference, which would help bring the two Peace Garden State schools into the same fold (North Dakota State is already a member).  There’s no timetable on this possibility, but a reasonable expectation would be two or three years.  UND is currently a member of the Great West Conference, which does not have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
  4. Mike DeCourcy asks if Oregon is ready to take control of the Pac-10 with Dana Altman on board and a strong commitment from the UO administration.  It’s really not far-fetched.  It’s no secret that the league has been way, way down the last two seasons, and UCLA and Arizona are struggling to get back to where they were.  The additions of Colorado and Utah are not threatening in the short term on the hardwood, and as DeCourcy states, there is a good amount of talent coming out of that area seemingly every year.
  5. Gary Parrish takes a look at his top thirty prospects for the 2011 NBA Draft here.  His top six players are projected 1-and-doners next year.  We really can’t wait until the NBA institutes a two-year minimum on its draft eligible players.
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On Conference Realignment and the Consolidation of Power

Posted by rtmsf on April 27th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

Overview

College sports fans dodged a major bullet last week when the NCAA announced that the men’s basketball tournament would only be expanding to 68 entrants, rather than the 96-team field that had been widely rumored. However, the face of college sports as we know it is still in jeopardy, as the specter of widespread conference realignment still looms, with the much-speculated-upon expansion of the Big Ten as the key domino that could start a wave of changes leaving the college sports landscape drastically altered.

The elephant in the room issue is the consolidation of power away from the existing six BCS conferences and into a smaller number of “superconferences” with the possibility looming that once any realignment sorts itself out and we’ve got four 16-team conferences, those conferences break away from the NCAA and form their own structure. As Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins puts it: “At some time, the major conferences are going to have their own quasi-NCAA. They’re going to do their own thing.” Former Syracuse AD Jake Crouthamel was even more specific, saying that eventually the Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Pac-10 would expand and ultimately leave the NCAA, even to the point of forming their own competing basketball tournament: “If you look at the history of what’s been going on for the last decade, I think it’s leading in that direction.”

We Promise It Won't Get This Complicated

The potential expansion of conferences detailed below is not the first shot fired in the consolidation of power, but the next step in an already-existing series of moves that has widened the financial gap between the biggest athletic departments and the rest of the supporting cast. And, as those at the top get bigger and bigger, the underdogs not only fall behind in terms of funding, but they may ultimately be left completely behind: no more Boise State and Utah to steal BCS bowl spots from big-money institutions during the winter, and no more Butler and George Mason sneaking into the Final Four in the spring. While that type of doomsday scenario is still several decision points down the line, what happens in the Big Ten over the next twelve months or so could be the monumental tipping point to drastically move things in that direction.

At present, the most widely rumored targets for Big Ten expansion are Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse from the Big East and Nebraska and Missouri from the Big 12, although as always occurs when the Big Ten thinks about expansion, Notre Dame is in the mix and likely their number one choice. With the Pac-10 also in the midst of contemplating expansion within the next year, these moves could send a ripple effect throughout all of the Division I conferences causing some conferences to get bigger, others to contract, and even some to disappear.  While the specifics remain conjecture and speculation at this point, there are enough common-sense scenarios out there to fuel theories to create one of the most helter-skelter flowcharts ever seen. We’ll take a look conference-by-conference at what could happen, and what kind of fallout might be created by each move, starting with our eleven midwestern friends.

Big Ten

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany confirmed last Wednesday that his conference is considering not only expanding to 12, but also perhaps even 14 or 16 teams. While some of the rationale for the expansion would be the addition of a football championship game for more revenue, the accumulation of more content and more markets for the Big Ten Network is probably more important to their plans. Delany noted that while discussions for this expansion are ongoing, the 12-18 month timetable that was originally announced in December is still the current framework.

Starting with the first domino, there is little doubt that the Fighting Irish would be the Big Ten’s first choice and the most logical fit for the conference, in terms of geography, academics and, frankly, football. Notre Dame and the Big Ten have flirted with each other many times in the past, but there is likely a greater chance that they will consummate their relationship this time around than any time before. For the Big Ten, the attraction is obvious: a huge fan base in historic “Big Ten country,” a ton of athletic history, and excellent academics. For Notre Dame, however, the question is a lot tougher. The Irish have been a football independent throughout their history and current athletic director Jack Swarbrick recently said that their “highest priority is maintaining football independence.” Notre Dame is currently in the middle of a television contract with NBC for the rights to broadcast home football games, a contract that runs through 2015 and an issue that will need to be confronted somehow if the Irish are eventually invited and accept Big Ten membership. The amount of the NBC deal (about $15 million annually) is not prohibitive enough to prevent them from considering membership in the Big Ten, whose member schools currently receive about $20 million annually from their television contracts. It is even possible that if the Big Ten and Notre Dame can come to an agreement, all this expansion talk will end right there: Notre Dame joins up, the Big Ten stops at 12 teams, the Big East poaches a team from CUSA like Central Florida as an additional football school and geographic partner to South Florida or a basketball-only school from the A-10 like Rhode Island or Massachusetts and the end-of-the-world scenario is averted. At present, however, it is being reported that Notre Dame is not being considered in the Big Ten’s expansion plans (a report that nobody in their right mind believes), but if Notre Dame is interested, the Big Ten will certainly be interested as well.

Figure 1: Big Ten Best Case Scenario

However, it is also realistic that with or without Notre Dame, the Big Ten is aiming for 14 or 16 teams to become the first superconference. While the addition of teams such as Missouri and Nebraska makes the most geographic sense, this expansion thing is not really about logic but about dollars, and Delany seems most interested in all the potential viewers that the bigger east coast markets present — notably Rutgers and Syracuse, but also Pittsburgh and potentially Connecticut. Adding three or even all four of those schools would effectively kill Big East football as we know it and potentially damage the Big East basketball enough to persuade a fence-sitting Notre Dame to leap off onto the Big Ten side as well. Swarbick himself admitted in March that “there are things that are large enough to challenge our ability to remain independent and remain in the Big East.” All four (or even three) of those flagship Big East programs bolting for the Big Ten could be one of those “large enough” things.

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RTC Live: UTEP @ Tulsa

Posted by rtmsf on February 20th, 2010

It should be a great battle tonight between the UTEP Miners and the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. UTEP is rolling into the matchup with a an almost perfect conference record (10-1) and a seemingly unstoppable offense. Five players are scoring in double figures for the Miners, averaging 77.3 points per game. They are clearly the odds-on favorite to dethrone Memphis. UTEP currently has a nine-game winning streak, but they are a mediocre 5-3 on the road. The Miners are only one game ahead of Memphis for the conference lead, and it seems like a win in Tulsa would really go a long way for this team’s confidence and momentum. Tulsa (19-7, 8-4) has dropped to fourth in C-USA, and has lost three of their last four—including 73-59 at UTEP. This is more of a gut-check and a prove-your-worth stand for the Golden Hurricanes as it is an act of supremacy by the Miners. Tulsa has been accused of playing a cup-cake schedule this year, and they haven’t really proved anyone wrong—losing to the top three C- USA teams (UAB, Memphis , UTEP). Tulsa has the talent to win this conference, but the effort we have seen from them so far is not enough. For Tulsa to come out on top tonight, and have any shot at winning the conference, they will have to ride their big man, Jerome Jordan, who is dreaming of the NBA in his future. In my book, this is a must win for Tulsa—and seeing that their resume is not good enough for the dance as is, they will have to get that automatic bid if they want to keep playing in March. For both teams, a win would mean reaching the 20-win mark, and positioning themselves for an opportunity to win C-USA.

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Checking in on… Conference USA

Posted by rtmsf on January 19th, 2010

Change

Bob Dylan wrote a famous song, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” One could make a valid argument that this could be the theme song for the Conference USA Men’s 2009-10 basketball season. For the first time since conference realignment and the 2005-06 season, a new preseason champion was selected (Tulsa), the conference tournament will not be held in Memphis (again, Tulsa) and the de facto commissioner of the league is no longer with us (John Calipari).

How will this “change” translate for the rest of the league? In speaking with many of the coaches around the league by the national media, most coaches are drooling at the chance of being the first to knock off Memphis and their amazing conference winning streak (currently the streak stands at 64 games lasting since March 2, 2006). While Memphis might not be the runaway favorite that so many have become accustomed too, this should translate into a positive for the league giving the conference regular and postseason a competitive edge it hasn’t seen in over five years. Nipping at the heels of Memphis this year will be the usual suspects of UTEP, Houston and Tulsa. The surprise of the year so far has been the excellent play of Marshall. Young, long, and talented, this will be one of the most exciting Marshall teams to date and one of the most competitive. CUSA shouldn’t sleep on this year’s sleeper team.

In the wake of John Calipari’s voluntary departure (or declaration of war as most Memphis fans have described) from Memphis, many coaches throughout the league are finding themselves on the proverbial hot seat. Fan bases are seeing this as the year certain coaches need to produce before Memphis has a chance to recuperate from its losses (Memphis brings in the #1 ranked recruiting class for the 2010-11 season) and return to league dominance. We start with Houston. Coach Tom Penders brings back one of the elite scorers in the league named Aubrey Coleman and a team that always seems to give Memphis a run each time they play. However, his lack of production in the postseason has put the coach in a sticky situation. Coach Mike Davis at UAB also finds himself looking over his shoulder more and more year after year. After initially getting a commitment from one of the top big men in the country last year in DeMarcus Cousins, it seemed that Coach Davis was finally going to turn the corner on recruiting in the state of Alabama. Unfortunately, Mr. Cousins is wearing blue not green this year, and to make matters worse, another seemingly solid pick up for Davis left the state for bluer pastures as well in Eric Bledsoe. Pair these mishaps with a disappointing season last year and Davis needs to produce this season with a team capable of pulling off some upsets. Lastly, Matt Doherty at SMU seems to already have a foot out of the door. This has been one of the biggest mysteries in my mind. With immaculate facilities, one of the largest cities in the US to recruit, and a fan base with deep pockets looking for a winner, Doherty has continually underachieved. A record of 33-58 over three years for Doherty looms ominous over a coach without a signature win.

What should be an entertaining year for the league has only gotten better with the improved play of Marshall and UAB. Both of these teams have some signature wins already under their belt this year along with currently being undefeated in league play. Tulsa and Memphis also find themselves undefeated but with a few losses that will not help the resume come NCAA tourney time. Let’s take a look at each team and see how their season is going.

Team Reviews

Marshall (4-0, 15-2) - HASSAN WHITESIDE HASSAN WHITESIDE HASSAN WHITESIDE… Remember that name folks. What is possibly the feel-good story of the year depending on if you are playing Marshall or not, Marshall has consistently improved year after year under coach Donnie Jones. With the addition of possible CUSA newcomer of the year Hassan Whiteside, Marshall boasts on of the best frontcourts in the league with he (13/9) and Tyler Wilkerson (13/7). Marshall trails only Tulsa in team rebounding at 40.1 per game. The post presence for Marshall will be the key all year.The early development has been the storyline of the year for the Thundering Herd. Throw in Tirrell Baines and Dago Pena and you have quality depth in your frontcourt along with guards Chris Lutz, Shaquille Johnson and Damier Pitts and Marshall could be poised to make a run not only at the regular season title but the conference title as well. Key out of conference wins for the Herd includes a win against an Old Dominion team who can boast a defeat of Georgetown. So long as this team can stay healthy and continues to play the uptempo style of ball that fits their personnel, the sky is the limit for the Thundering Herd in CUSA this year.

Tulsa (4-0, 14-3) – Even with the loss of shut down defender Ray Reese, Tulsa seems poised to snap Memphis’ streak of conference wins and tourney titles. Doug Wojcik returns a team with a lot of firepower both in the frontcourt and backcourt with many upperclassmen. Scouts are salivating over 7’0 PF/C Jerome Jordan. Jordan (14/8) continues to grow as a player with a developing back to the basket game and toughness on the defensive end of the court, and he is the star of this team. Bishop Wheatley, while undersized for a power forward, consistently outworks and outhustles bigger opposing players with his nonstop motor. Not a go to scorer or rebounding machine under the basket, Wheatley is the “glue” guy of this team giving minutes and hustle plays that don’t show up on a stat sheet.  In the backcourt, Tulsa relies on Ben Uzoh. A tweener in the mold of Elliot Williams for Memphis, Uzoh (17/5/4) is not a true PG but can get the job done and is a terrific on the ball defender. Justin Hurtt (16/4) is also a reliable threat with the ball in his hands. Tulsa can boast they have possibly the best backcourt in CUSA along with Memphis.  With wins against Oklahoma State and Nebraska out of conference and a big conference win at Houston, Tulsa has solidified themselves as the team to beat so far in CUSA. The season and conference tourney position could come down to the final game March 6 at Memphis. Tulsa travels to Duke on February 25 in what will obviously be used as a measuring stick for not only Jerome Jordan’s development as a play but Tulsa’s chances in the NCAA tournament. 

UAB (3-0, 15-2)Mike Davis has the Blazers on a roll. With the only truly bad loss on the schedule coming against a mediocre Kent State team early in the season, there is legitimate talk about UAB being the other sleeper in CUSA. With wins against solid SEC opponents Georgia and Arkansas and a solid Big East team in Cincinnati and mid-major power Butler, UAB has also quietly built a nice resume for the NCAA tourney. Consistency will be the key with this young team.  Transfer Elijah Millsap is as versatile of a player you will find in CUSA. At 6’6 and 218 lbs, Millsap (17/10) has the ability to break down a defender and get to the basket with his size and strength. Posting solid minutes against Cincinnati and super frosh Lance Stephenson, Millsap put up a solid line of 22 points and 15 rebounds in a win. Howard Crawford, starting at forward for the Blazers, has a developing inside-out game but is more comfortable around the basket where he can use his 240 pound frame to impose his will on opposing defenders.  With a bulk of their tough conference games still remaining, home/home with UTEP and Memphis, and home versus Houston, Tulsa and Marshall, it will remain to be seen how UAB will hold up against opponents that are familiar with their game plan. UAB will be a top four team come conference tournament time. 

Memphis (3-0, 13-4) – The streak continues. Some things have changed for the University of Memphis, this has not. Over 1100 days have passed since their last defeat in conference play. Will this be the year that streak comes to an end? All signs point to yes; however, don’t tell this team that or their new coach Josh Pastner.  Contending for Player of the Year honors with Aubrey Coleman and Newcommer of the Year honors with Hassan Whiteside, Elliot Williams (20/4/4) has been a true gift to Memphis in the wake of the turmoil that ensued in March. The key to the season for the Tigers will be who can step up as another reliable scorer for Memphis when teams key on him. Roburt Sallie (10/4) and Doneal Mack (10/2) have been inconsistent at best this year for the Tigers and no real inside presence has been established. Wesley Witherspoon (11/4) is a utility player able to play the 2, 3, 4 or 5 position for Memphis but is most comfortable on the wing. Will Coleman (7/6), the number two ranked JUCO player for 2008-09, has yet to produce consistently and adapt to the D1level. A prime example of Memphis’ erratic play can be seen in their one bad loss this year at UMass. Constantly outrebounded by smaller and less skilled players due to lack of hustle and poor positioning was the Achilles heel for Memphis in the UMass game. Usually one of the top rebounding teams in conference, it is rebounding by committee this year for the Tigers due to their lack of frontcourt depth. Will the streak continue? Watch ESPN on January 20 and 23 to find out.

Houston (3-1,10-7) – The roller coaster ride continues for a Houston squad that came into the season with high expectations. Losing starters Marcus Cousins (10/8) and Qa’rraan Calhoun (10/5) in the frontcourt obviously has hurt the Cougars. JUCO transfer Maurice McNeil (8/8) has helped weather the storm in the loss of Cousins and Calhoun but he is not getting much help from his cast of supporters: Sean Coleman, Nick Mosley and Kahmell Broughton. While the frontcourt is struggling for the Cougars, the back court tandem of Aubrey Coleman and Kelvin Lewis is thriving. Coleman (25/7/3 apg) and Lewis (17/4) could be considered the top backcourt in the league. Coleman continues to be Mr. Reliable with the basketball getting to the rim with ease due to his size and speed and Lewis could be described as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Houston leads the league in scoring at 83 points per game. Get ready for a track meet when UH comes to play. The lone “signature” win of the season for the Cougars comes against a struggling Oklahoma team dealing with frontcourt losses of their own in the Griffin brothers. Losses to Nevada, San Diego, Louisiana Tech and UT-San Antonio will leave Houston fighting in conference play and the conference tournament for a shot at the NCAA. The seat is getting a little hotter for Coach Penders down in Houston.

UTEP (2-1, 11-5) – Head coach Tony Barbee got a wonderful Christmas present this year named Derrick Caracter. The biggest question about Caracter will be his character. Can Barbee control this super-talented kid? Will he be able to ever produce like he did in high school and was recruited to do the same at Louisville? Can UTEP replace the scoring production vacated by Stefon Jackson? Many questions surround Tony Barbee down in El Paso.  The knock on Caracter about his attitude and overall approach to the game seems to have subsided somewhat now that he is playing under control. Averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds a game, it seems as he is showing a renewed commitment to the game and to his coach who, like his mentor John Calipari, is giving his star pupil a second chance. Randy Culpepper is not disappointing on the offensive end, averaging 16 points and 2.5 assists a game. The knock on Culpepper is his size. Listed at 6’0, Culpepper is more 5’9 to 5’10. However, you can’t teach will power, hustle or the way he can put the ball in the basket. After securing the starting job opposite Culpepper, Christian Polk as turned into a viable offensive threat averaging 11 points and 2 assists per game. After a big summer with USA basketball, Arnett Moultrie has gone from an under the radar forward — the kid with big potential — to averaging a solid 12 points and 7 rebounds a game. His production has slipped some since the arrival of Caracter, but he still continues to be a force in and around the basket that could earn him a big paycheck one day.  With a tough loss on the road to Houston, people have begun to question UTEP. I, on the other hand, feel this is as dangerous of a team as Marshall, Tulsa or UAB. The problem I see is effort for the whole game. With a frontcourt of Moultrie and Caracter, there is no reason UTEP should not be in the top five of the league in rebounding. This will be a scary team come conference tournament time and a tough out.

UCF (1-2, 9-8) – UCF will be a scary team this year in the conference as their overall record does not depict properly the type of team they have shown to be this year. Wins over UMass and Auburn and close defeats at the hands of USF and UConn, the Knights have a solid yet very young and inexperienced team. Consistency will play a key role with this team all year long.  Going up against Marshall earlier last week, UCF showed poise down the stretch running with a team that honestly was just better than they were. Guards Isaac Sosa and A.J. Rompza are good with the ball in their hands and excellent defenders even if they are undersized. Scoring distribution for this team is even as six players on the team average between 10 and 6 points per game.  While this is still a developing year for UCF, a #5 or #6 seed in conference play is not out of reach. Look for UCF to surprise some people at home this year.

Tulane (1-3, 6-11) – Tulane coach Dave Dickerson has amassed a record of 60-62 in his four-year tenure at Tulane. Quite a feat considering the academic standards he must abide by and a school still struggling in many ways post-Katrina. Posting a win already this year over conference foe Rice, Tulane relies heavily on the play of their guards Kris Richard (14/4/3) and Kevin Sims (12/3/3). As with any team that relies heavily on their guards, rebounding will be the biggest enemy of the Green Wave as they rank last in CUSA in rebounds per game. With recruit Rakeem Brookins on deck for the 2010-11 season, Tulane will only get stronger.

SMU (0-3, 6-10) - Coach Matt Doherty enters his fourth year with the Mustangs with an experienced roster yet not many expectations. Most recently against UAB the Mustangs were leading by 24 points yet lost the game 63-62. With the low post presence of Papa Dia (12/8) and Mouhammad Faye (12/6) and guard play of Derek Williams (16/3) and Paul McCoy (8/4), few can find a reason as to why the Mustangs aren’t more competitive. Consistently underachieving year in and year out, Doherty is running out of excuses. Boasting some of the best facilities in the league and being able to recruit from one of the largest cities in the US, SMU has to produce better. Non-conference games against Occidental College, Florida Gulf Coast, and Houston Baptist are unacceptable in D1 basketball. The four-point win against Huston-Tillotson was laughable at best.

Southern Mississippi (0-3, 10-7) - Larry Eustachy finds himself with one of his more talented teams in recent memory at Southern Miss. Newcommers Maurice Bolden and Gary Flowers give the Golden Eagles something to cheer about down in Hattiesburg. Flowers (14/8) is a physical small forward that can use his size and strength to get to the basket at will. Highly recruited out of high school from Texas, Flowers spent the last year at Chipola Junior College before transferring to the Golden Eagles to give them more depth in the frontcourt.  As with any young team, the Golden Eagles have experienced some growing pains this year but have displayed the ability to hang with teams more talented than they. After leading for a majority of the Ole Miss game, Southern Miss fell 81-79 in the final minutes. Against a Memphis team that came out firing on all cylinders, the Golden Eagles trailed by 15 at the half, yet came out with much more intensity in the second half holding Memphis to only two made FGs only to fall by a bucket, 59-57. Another team that is looking to the future, Eustachy has a talent base growing down in Hattiesburg that will cause the rest of the conference to take notice in the coming years.

East Carolina (0-4,6-12) – East Carolina finds themselves struggling this year. Losses to Wake Forest and Clemson can be deemed acceptable for a team continuing to build; however, losses to Campbell and Northern Iowa hurt the overall conference RPI and can deal a blow to a team that was expecting to win between 14 and 16 games this year. Brock Young is possibly one of the best players in America you haven’t heard of. Playing with a lack of interior post presence, Young is a 5’11 PG putting the team on his shoulders and getting what he can while averaging 16 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists a game. While 0-4 in conference, the meat of their conference schedule is behind them (@UAB, @Memphis, Houston, Marshall) and the rest of the conference schedule sets up nicely for this young team to continue to grow and develop the young talent they have in Wakefield Ellison, Corvonn Gaines and Erin Straughn. While eight wins in conference play might be asking a lot for a young team without much frontcourt help, it is a solid goal that I believe the Pirates can achieve.

Rice (0-4, 6-11) - With a newly renovated arena and one of the best freshman classes the Rice basketball program has seen, the future looks bright for the Owls. Unfortunately, this year will be a year of growing pains for a team with a bright future. With the only true loss from the 2008-09 season being Rodney Foster (13.4 ppg), the Owls return Trey Stanton, Conor Frizzelle and Lawrence Ghoram. The additions of highly touted Tamir Jackson and Arsalan Kazemi will be a solid foundation for the Owls to build on.  Having watched the Rice versus Memphis game this past week, I came away very impressed with Stanton (9/4), Jackson (12/3) and Kazemi (10/8). Kazemi is a basketball coach’s dream. He is a  hard-nosed player who has a knack for always attacking the basket. With Memphis’ lack of size and aggressiveness inside, Kazemi (15/11 vs. Memphis) had an array of putback dunks and a quick first step to the basket driving against his defender. Trey Stanton, while not your typical low post player, is a versatile big man that can step out and hit the mid-range jumper to the three-point line. He will not be much of a force against powerful low post players but can use his speed and range to exploit slower lumbering defenders. Against Pierre Niles and Will Coleman for Memphis he put up 18 points on 6-12 shooting from the field and 2-3 from the 3-point line. Tamir Jackson had a tougher night going up against two of the better on-ball defenders in the league in Willie Kemp and Elliot Williams. Yet, he showed poise and tempo under pressure that should make Ben Braun a happy coach for the next few years.

Games of the Week (January 17-23)

1/20 – #12 West Virginia @ Marshall – How far would this go in solidifying Marshall as a legitimate power in Conference USA? It would put them ahead of Tulsa as league leader in my book. Marshall averages 40.1 rebounds per game and relies heavily on Hassan Whiteside who Bob Huggins will almost assuredly key all of his defensive focus. Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks will be a tough threesome for Marshall to handle. Tyler Wilkerson and Whiteside will have their hands full inside. Coming off a one point loss to Syracuse, West Virginia will be looking to rebound. Marshall would love to pick up this win as their next stretch of games includes UAB and Memphis at home. This is a critical stretch of games in the schedule for the Thundering Herd as it could spell huge success for the season or whether there is still growing to do. 2-1 through this stretch would work wonders for the Herd’s confidence but I see more along the lines of 1-2.

Prediction: West Virginia comes out on top in this one, 85-70.

1/20 – UTEP v. Memphis (CSS) – Tony Barbee returns to Memphis with probably his best chance of beating the Tigers at home for the foreseeable future. The frontcourt of Moultrie and Caracter will be a lot for Pierre Henderson-Niles, Will Coleman, Wesley Witherspoon and the undersized DJ Stephens to handle. The backcourt tandems provide intriguing matchup possibilities. Randy Culpepper returns home to Memphis with Julyan Stone and Christian Polk to match up against Willie Kemp, Elliot Williams and Roburt Sallie. Kemp, Williams and Sallie are three of the most tenacious on ball defenders in CUSA routinely shutting down threats from outside every week. Randy Culpepper always seems to put on a show when he comes to Memphis so look for some fireworks in this matchup. The key to this game will be whether Memphis do a good enough job by committee on Caracter and Moultrie while the guards go to work. You could see a lot of zone from Memphis in this game if Niles, Coleman or Witherspoon get into foul trouble.

Prediction: I think FedEx Forum and the crowd Memphis will have on their side keeps the streak alive, 73-68.

1/23 – Houston v. Memphis (ESPN2) – Memphis will be coming off an emotional game against UTEP three days earlier, while Houston will be coming off a game against UCF. Memphis matches up much better against Houston than UTEP but Aubrey Coleman can keep Houston in any game. Houston faces some of the same interior problems Memphis faces when it comes to play of their big men. JUCO big men Will Coleman and Maurice McNeil will go head to head in this one at some point. This will be a good game to gauge how far each has come since the beginning of the season as each of their skill sets mimic each other. In this one, the battle again will be between the guards, Elliot Williams and Aubrey Coleman. Coleman has not seen a defender like Williams. Elliot can play on both ends of the court while Coleman is a much greater offensive threat than defensive. I believe you will see Tom Penders run a team of defenders against Elliot Williams or at some point play a zone if Memphis is cold from outside the arc. Games like these are where Elliot’s supporting staff needs to step up. The solid play of Willie Kemp again has been a surprise, but Doneal Mack, Roburt Sallie and Wesley Witherspoon need to step up and make plays. 

Prediction: Memphis escapes again thanks to the Sixth Man, the FedEx forum crowd, 79-71.

1/23 – UAB v. Marshall – Marshall will be coming off a highly emotional game against West Virginia. Elijah Millsap will be key getting to the basket and taking advantage of his mismatches. This game could determine conference positioning from #2-#5. A must-win at this point early in the season for both teams.

Prediction: Marshall takes it at home, 68-63.

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RTC Top 25: Week 8

Posted by zhayes9 on December 29th, 2009

Here’s this week’s Top 25, and you might be surprised as a new #1 takes over even though the top six all won last week.  Analysis after the jump…

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RTC Top 25: Week 5

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2009

The Top 10 is still fairly static after five weeks of polling, but we’re seeing all kinds of movement in and out at the bottom of the poll on a week-to-week basis.  Analysis after the jump…

rtc blogpoll 12.07.09

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Conference Report Card – Sweet 16 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 25th, 2009

We’re back with the second annual review of how the major conferences are doing after one weekend of the NCAA Tournament.  As we all are aware, the Dance eliminates the pretenders – that means you, Wake and Washington – so that the teams with legitimate chops remain standing.  Chalk has predominantly ruled this tournament so far, but that doesn’t keep us from evaluating which conferences are performing better or worse than expectations.   We review the conferences with multiple bids below…

Simpsons Chalkboard

Big East  (7 bids, 5 remaining, 11-2 record)

The Big East was the most powerful conference all year and they are proving it in the postseason.  West Virginia was the only first round loser, and Marquette was outlasted by a tough-as-nails Missouri team in the second round.  All other Big East teams advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, setting a new record for the total number from one conference (5).  What’s more is that each of these teams are F4-caliber; there isn’t a single Cinderella in the group.  It wouldn’t surprise us if this league managed to get 75% of the F4 entrants this year, and we fully expect all five to play into the national quarterfinals.

Verdict:  A.  The Big East’s expected # of wins for the tournament is 16.2, and there’s a solid chance that the league will bust through twenty wins this season in setting another new record.

Big 12  (6 bids, 3 remaining, 9-3 record)

For the second consecutive year, the Big 12 had another great first round (6-0), culminating in their three best teams making it to the Sweet Sixteen.  The league hasn’t had an upset yet, and the three losing teams – Texas, Oklahoma St., and Texas A&M, acquitted themselves nicely in five of their six games (lone exception: TAMU vs. UConn).  Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma all have tough but winnable games if they play well, and the Big 12 should reasonably expect to see one of them playing into next weekend.  For a “down” year in the league, this is a great performance.

Verdict: A.  The Big 12 already has nine wins against an expected performance of 10.57 wins, which basically means they’re doing really well so far.

Atlantic 10  (3 bids, 1 remaining, 3-2 record)

The A10 got three teams into the Dance and made the most of its opportunity, winning two first round games (one an upset with #11 Dayton over #6 WVU), and sending Xavier to yet another Sweet Sixteen.  We don’t feel that XU has much of a chance to advance the league’s banner further against Pitt, but never count out a Sean Miller team.  Xaviercruised to the Sweets against two good teams.

Verdict: A-.  The league was expected to win 2.52 games and they’ve already won three, so anything beyond that is gravy.  How pathetic is it that the A10 is outperforming the SEC by a country mile?

Horizon (2 bids, 0 remaining, 1-2 record)

The Horizon had a chance to make some serious noise in this Tournament, but typically-solid Butler couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain when it lost to #8 LSU (who was probably underseeded).  However, Cleveland St. so far has had the upset of the Dance with its throttling of #4 Wake Forest, so we’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt here.

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