Rushed Reactions: #1 Oregon 69, #8 Saint Joseph’s 64

Posted by Kenny Ocker on March 20th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregionKenny Ocker is at the Spokane pods of the South and West regionals this week.

Three Key Takeaways.

It wasn't easy, but top-seeded Oregon is advancing to the Sweet Sixteen (Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

It wasn’t easy, but top-seeded Oregon is advancing to the Sweet Sixteen (Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Oregon saved the Pac-12 for another few days: The conference took a beating. Every other team lost in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, some in painful fashion, some in blowouts, some in both – Utah. But with a pair of clutch three-pointers from Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks, the Ducks kept their title run alive and made their second Sweet Sixteen in three years with the late win Friday. Crisply run zone-busting offense generated the wide-open shots, and great shooting and execution finished them.
  2. Turnovers did in Saint Joseph’s: Hawks coach Phil Martelli told his players before the game they would win going away if they had fewer than 10 turnovers. They had 12, eight in the first half, but the two late in the second half crushed them. Papa Ndow turned down a wide-open three-pointer as the shot clock expired, passing to a teammate and committing a 30-second violation. Then, with just seconds left, DeAndre’ Bembry lost his dribble and turned the ball over at the top of the three-point line. Without those two turnovers, the Hawks’ NCAA Tournament hopes might not die.
  3. Have fun with Duke, Ducks: Here you go, one seed, you’ve made the Sweet Sixteen. And now you get to face a coach who has made 23 of them. Oregon wasn’t flustered tonight, despite going down seven late in the second half at 58-51. They made big stops, they made big shots, and it resulted in a big comeback on a big stage. It will be interesting to see how Duke’s offense, heavily reliant on the outside shooting of Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen, interacts with Oregon’s defense, which relies on the elite interior defense of Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell. Duke lacks elite shot-blocking, which means a jump-shot-happy Oregon team should be able to succeed if it decides to go inside. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #8 Saint Joseph’s 78, #9 Cincinnati 76

Posted by Kenny Ocker on March 18th, 2016

Kenny Ocker is an RTC columnist and correspondent. He is covering the Spokane pods of the South and West regionals this week.

Three Key Takeaways.

DeAndre Bembry was phenomenal on Friday night. (Photo: USAT)

DeAndre Bembry was phenomenal on Friday night. (Photo: USAT)

  1. DeAndre Bembry is phenomenal: The 6’6″ junior wing for Saint Joseph’s has an NBA future, and it’s obvious why. Scoring 20 first-half points against one of the country’s best defenses is no joke. And after being held to three points for most of the second half – and with his Hawks down 71-68 – he hit a floater, set up a three-pointer with a skip pass, grabbed a pair of defensive rebounds and led a 7-0 run to put the game back in Saint Joseph’s control. And the game-winning three-pointer from Isaiah Miles? That was from a Bembry setup, too. The SJU star finished with 23 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals, two blocks and nearly a full 40 minutes played.
  2. Coreontae DeBerry had the half of his life, and so did Jacob Evans: Cincinnati’s backup senior center topped his career high with 14 points…in the first half. Then Evans, the Bearcats’ freshman wing, poured in 17 second-half points, which included a personal 8-0 stretch at one point. DeBerry finished with 18 points on 6-for-6 shooting and had a career-high-tying four blocks, while Evans had career highs with 26 points and nine rebounds.
  3. Sunday should be fun: Watching Oregon attempt to defend Bembry should be entertaining. His combination of length and savvy would test any team, and it seems like the Ducks could be particularly vulnerable to his game. The Hawks’ refusal to give up free throws will also take away easy scoring opportunities for the Ducks. But Oregon’s length – and shot-blocking ability – is not something that’s easy to prepare for in a situation with less than a 48-hour turnaround.

Star of the Game: DeAndre Bembry. Not only did he have a fantastic day on the stat sheet, but he came up big in the game’s biggest moments. One of the nation’s most under-appreciated stars.

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St. Joseph’s Solidifying Its Position as NCAA Tournament Worthy

Posted by Chris Stone on February 11th, 2016

The college basketball season is quickly approaching that time of year when mock brackets pop up daily, resumes are scrutinized intensely, and every win matters just a bit more. But don’t tell St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli any of that. When asked after the Hawks’ dominating 84-66 win over a good George Washington team if he’d thought about his team’s position relative to the upcoming NCAA Tournament field, Martelli’s response was sharp and simple, “Nope.” He followed up with a few more nopes before proclaiming, “We have practice tomorrow.” And yet, it’s difficult to ignore just how much his team helped its NCAA Tournament chances on Wednesday night.

Isaiah Miles slams home two of his 21 points against George Washington. (USATI)

Isaiah Miles slams home two of his 21 points against George Washington. (USATI)

Despite holding a 20-4 record (9-2 in the A-10), the victory, which Martelli called “a very poised effort,” is St. Joseph’s first RPI top 50 win of the season. Entering the contest, the Hawks’ best win had been against a Princeton team that currently trails Yale for first place in the Ivy League. St. Joe’s had been 3-4 against the RPI top 100, but 0-4 against the top 50 with losses to Florida, St. Bonaventure, VCU and Villanova. The win over George Washington gives the team a quality win that it can rely on come Selection Sunday. Senior Isaiah Miles touted the triumph as the team’s best road win, an impressive feat given that St. Joe’s schedule is littered with them. The Hawks are undefeated away from home this season, something Martelli hopes will resonate in March. “I’m hanging my hat on [the fact that] we’re undefeated on the road and that is an unbelievable achievement in today’s college basketball,” he told the media.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on January 6th, 2016

Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Three Things We Learned in the First Weekend

  1. Davidson won’t repeat as the regular season champion. The Wildcats are 1-4 away from the Belk Arena so far, including their 97-85 loss to St. Bonaventure on Saturday. With away games still to come versus Dayton, George Washington, VCU, Richmond and Fordham, along with tough home games against VCU, Saint Joseph’s and George Washington, Davidson could lose as many as eight conference games over the next two months.

    Despite his elite coaching prowess, it doesn't look like Bob McKillop and Davidson will repeat at conference champs this time around. (Tim Cowie/DavidsonPhotos.com)

    Despite his elite coaching prowess, it doesn’t look like Bob McKillop’s team will repeat at conference champs this time around. (Tim Cowie/DavidsonPhotos.com)

  2. A strong defense, some unanticipated player development and a favorable conference schedule means Saint Joseph’s should follow its 6-1 December with a 7-2 January. The players appear to be “getting it” — meaning head coach Phil Martelli’s approach to the game — and it shows in the Hawks’ defense and team-oriented approach to offense. St. Joseph’s field goal shooting still needs to improve, but the team is already showing up in a number of midseason brackets. If all goes well this month, February’s schedule features a handful of more difficult games that will ultimately determine whether the team is a legitimate contender for the conference title.
  3. It was a 69-63 loss, but Fordham’s players and fans are optimistic. The road venue was the Smith Center in Washington, D.C., and the Rams, down 15 at the half, managed to climb back in and stay within three possessions of the Colonials through the remainder of the game. The players are buying into what first year coach Jeff Neubauer is selling, as Fordham carried a 9-2 record into conference play and is on track to win between six to eight Atlantic 10 games. If the Rams hit inside that window, they will post their first winning season since 2006-07. A winning program in the New York City metropolitan area provides a huge boost to the conference’s overall profile, and correspondingly, Neubauer’s recruiting. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 29th, 2015

Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Last Week… and This Week

Conference teams played 12 games over the abbreviated week, going a total of 7-5. A winning percentage of only 58 percent continues the conference’s declining winning percentage this month, but Atlantic 10 teams have 12 more games through New Year’s Eve to rebuild their momentum. Four more games featuring Power Six opponents, two of which offer the signature-type of wins that can help a team’s postseason resume, are still to play — see the Five Games to Catch This Week section below. We then turn quickly to conference play over the weekend, with five games on Saturday and two more Sunday, two of which should have long-term conference race implications.

Jack Gibbs has paced what has been an impressive showing by the A-10's top tier guys this season. (USA TODAY Sports)

Jack Gibbs has paced what has been an impressive showing by the A-10’s top tier guys this season. (USA TODAY Sports)

The All Non-Conference (OOC) Teams

KenPom observed that “players do jump from being decoys to go-to guys in one season, and some even regress the other way. Those are the exceptions. By and large, a player’s role on his team in one season is a good indicator of his role the following season.” Non-conference play suggests that the following players are the engines that drive their team’s performances. The question is whether they can maintain that status through conference play. For those on the All-Freshman and All-Surprise Teams, the question on the eve of conference play is whether the roles and momentum they have established so far will continue.

Non-Conference First Team

It should not surprise anyone that three of the names on the First Team at the midpoint of the season are known commodities who were named to the preseason All-First Team, while the other two were named to the All-Third Team. Their roles as outstanding players on their respective teams have not changed much from last season. Read the rest of this entry »

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Isaiah Miles’ emergence Just What Doctor Ordered at Saint Joseph’s

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 25th, 2015

Though they returned 81 percent of the minutes and 86 percent of the points scored from last season, even the Atlantic 10 coaches were not optimistic about coach Phil Martelli’s Saint Joseph’s prospects this season. True, the coaches voted junior forward DeAndre’ Bembry, a projected first or high second round pick in the NBA Draft next June, as the preseason Player of the Year, but the talent behind him was thin — a ceiling low enough to project the Hawks no higher than seventh in their poll released on Media Day. So far, Bembry has not disappointed —  “plays with a great pace, incredibly tough to guard, 16-17 feet and in, an elite passer” as Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams described after the Hawks defeated the Hokies, 79-52, at the Barclays Center Tuesday. Going into the Virginia Tech game, Bembry led the Joe’s in minutes played (367), points scored (159) and rebounds (79). Nipping at his heels was senior forward Isaiah Miles, who was second to Bembry in all three of those categories. Going into Tuesday’s game Miles had scored at least 10 points in all 10 of his games, matched his career-high 24 points versus Buffalo, logged double-doubles (points and rebounds) three times and was named to the All-Tournament Team for the Hall of Fame Classic in November for his play versus Florida and Old Dominion.

Isaiah Miles has become the second option that the Joe's have been searching for. (PHILLY.com)

Isaiah Miles has become the second option that the Joe’s have been searching for. (PHILLY.com)

Identified as the Hawks’ most efficient offensive player by KenPom‘s possession-based statistics with a 122.5 offensive rating and most effective offensive rebounder (9.1 percent, ranked #351), Miles set new career-highs for points scored and rebounds gathered in Tuesday win over Virginia Tech when he scored 36 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in 39 minutes of play. His year-over-year progress is unusual, from 2.3 points per game as a freshman to 10.7 points per game as a junior, but gave no hint that he would jump to his current 17.4 points per game this season. When did Martelli have an inkling Miles might have a game like this? “In August,” he said. “Really, in August. Because he lost a lot of weight.” Indeed, Miles, who tipped the scales at 226 pounds his junior year, lost 11 pounds during the offseason. Martelli took it as a sign of a more focused commitment Miles would have this season. “Seniors have two choices,” Martelli continued, “They can be ‘been there, done that’ and they can go through their 30 games. (Miles) leads this team in charges taken (combined). This game was decided on his two offensive put-backs at the end of the second half.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 22nd, 2015

Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Breaking Down the Non-Conference Season

As KenPom’s eighth-ranked conference, the Atlantic 10 is securely in the top 25 percent of Division I basketball, well above the next conference (the WCC) and at the head of the Basketball-First group of conferences that typically expect at least two NCAA Tournament bids every season. The A-10 has drawn at least three bids every season since 2007 and this year should be no different. The non-conference composite record again shows that the league is capable of competing with the elite conferences while dominating (to varying degrees) the other 24.

Table01151221

(Note: The conference is 4-0 versus non-Division I teams. No conference members have games scheduled with teams from the Big West, the Mountain West, the Summit and the WAC).

The conference’s overall winning percentage sits at 68 percent going into the Christmas break, with its splits reflected by the level of the competition. The A-10 has a winning record against five of the top seven conferences, but poor showings against the ACC (3-10) and Big East (2-6) account for most of the losses against the elite leagues. The Colonial Athletic (6-6) and the Missouri Valley (2-4) conferences account for 10 of the 11 losses to its peer conferences. And the conference won 90 percent of its games scheduled with the bottom nine leagues, but the OVC strangely enough accounts for two of those three losses. While a solid finish to the non-conference season will help and the Selection Committee has emphasized that conference comparisons are not part of its selection calculus, the league’s overall record should help A-10 members when conference play resumes in January.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 17th, 2015

Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Is the Atlantic 10 Fading?

Did Feast Week foretell a conference-wide stumble? After compiling a 36-10 (0.783) record through the season’s first 10 days, Atlantic 10 teams cooled off to a still solid 21-10 (0.677) record during the height of the early season invitational tournament events. Rolling into Finals Week (an academic, not an ESPN-inspired, reference), the conference’s December results of 29-19 (0.604) show another decline. The best win in December so far — Dayton‘s 72-67 win at Vanderbilt on December 9 — stands nearly alone among the consensus top seven conferences (AAC, ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC). This month’s games have established that the A-10’s better squads are better than the top seven’s stragglers — George Washington has beaten Penn State (Big Ten) and Rutgers (Big Ten); Fordham demolished St. John’s (Big East); and there have been a number of near-misses. The sheer number of double-figure losses are numerous and troubling for those contemplating four or more bids come March, however. December losses that the Selection Committee may have trouble ignoring should those teams find themselves on the bubble include Richmond’s loss at Florida (12/1), Massachusetts’ loss to Mississippi on a neutral court (12/5), and Davidson’s big loss to North Carolina (12/6).

Mike Lonergan

Mike Lonergan and George Washington have been the class of the A-10 so far. (USA TODAY Sports)

Their Season So Far

Five of the conference’s better postseason prospects …

  • George Washington (#21 AP, 9-1) — The conference’s first team in a Top 25 poll this season (the Colonials are #22 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll) gained some national press when they knocked off ACC preseason favorite Virginia, 73-68, in their second game back on November 13. A five-point loss to #23 Cincinnati in the Barclays Center Classic championship finals remains their only blemish. The Colonials’ resume is heavily sprinkled with teams from the top seven conferences –Tennessee (SEC), Seton Hall (Big East), Penn State, Rutgers (Big Ten) and South Florida (AAC) — all wins. Virginia and Cincinnati are favored to hear the call come Selection Sunday; Tennessee and Seton Hall may find themselves in the conversation by the end of February. With St. Peter’s (NEC) and two more lower division top eight conference teams (Central Florida — AAC and DePaul — Big East) still to play, coach Mike Lonergan’s squad should start their conference slate with a 12-1 record … and a target on their back.

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Checking in on… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on December 1st, 2015

Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Feast Week Feedback

With St. Bonaventure’s 77-73 win over Canisius last Tuesday, the Atlantic 10 pushed its non-conference record to 44-11, pushing its winning percentage over 80 percent for the second time this season. Senior guard Marcus Posley scored 37 points, including the two free throws that broke the tie that put the Bonnies up for good. So started Feast Week, but unfortunately momentum stalled as A-10 teams tallied a good but not spectacular 21-10 record in games spanning the Thanksgiving Holiday. Still, the league’s composite record on Monday, November 30, is 58-20 (0.774) — terrific by any measure. Should the conference keep up this pace through December, the Atlantic 10 should have at least six NCAA Tournament candidates with several others drawing attention for other postseason tournaments.

The big-time effort that Marcus Posley produced was just one of many standout performances from A-10 players during Feast Week. (AP)

The big-time effort that Marcus Posley produced was just one of many standout performances from A-10 players during Feast Week. (AP)

Seven conference teams (highlighted in the table in yellow below) participated in tournaments that concluded last week. Four of those teams (Dayton, George Washington, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) finished second. Richmond finished third, losing its semifinal game but beating star-studded California in the third place game. Duquesne placed fifth in the Gulf Coast Showcase, dropping its first game to Pepperdine but salvaging wins versus Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Western Kentucky. Like most of these Feast Week tournaments, the Brooklyn Hoops Classic relied on preliminary rounds played on campuses, usually prior to the semifinal and final rounds. The tournament field was held to five teams and they played a round-robin with a single round played at two “tournament site” locations. St. Louis beat three of the participating schools — North Florida, St. Francis-Brooklyn and Hartford. They also lost to Louisville by 20 points at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Table01151130

Nine Games to Catch This Week

The party is on as eight Atlantic 10 teams will face eight elite conference opponents (and a Missouri Valley Conference power in Northern Iowa) over the next seven days. Elite conference opponents represent 33 percent of the composite non-conference schedule, which is at the high end of the range for the past several seasons. Read the rest of this entry »

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All Eyes on DeAndre Bembry as Saint Joseph’s Looks to Surprise

Posted by Ray Curren on December 1st, 2015

As you’d expect late in a tie game, veteran Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli drew up a play that heavily involved his best player. After all, junior DeAndre Bembry — whom Florida coach Mike White had just called the day before “their pro” — was the Atlantic 10’s top scorer last season, while also leading the Hawks in rebounds, assists, and steals. But after inbounding the ball, Bembry never came close to touching it, as Martelli’s carefully designed play descended into chaos. The end result, however, made Bembry one of the happiest people in Mohegan Sun Arena, as sophomore teammate Shavar Newkirk found a way to hit an awkward 15-footer with one second remaining to give Saint Joseph’s a 66-64 victory over Old Dominion a week ago Sunday. The win moved the Hawks to 4-1 on the young season, setting up an intriguing matchup with local rival and national power Villanova tonight.

Arguably the Atlantic 10's premier player, Bremby has the Hawks off to a solid start. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Arguably the Atlantic 10’s premier player, Bembry, with the help of teammates, have the Hawks off to a solid start. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

“We’re winning, so as long as we’re winning, everything is positive,” Bembry said after the win. “I haven’t played my best the last few games, but I’m trying to figure out ways to push through it and help the team win. If I have to play horrible all year and we win, so be it. That’s the thing about last year, we didn’t win. So any way we can win, I’ll take it.” Indeed, Bembry had a heck of an individual season in 2014-15, as the All-Atlantic 10 first teamer was the first ever Saint Joseph’s player to win the conference scoring title. Along the way, his athleticism and well-rounded game left opposing coaches in awe and NBA scouts curious, often conjuring up next-level buzzwords like “versatile” and “wingspan.” (“He’s a lot quicker and athletic than he looked on tape,” White added last Saturday, even after Bembry managed just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting in a loss to Florida.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback on January 1st, 2014

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

All-Conference — Midseason Edition

First Team

With about a third of the 2013-14 season in the books and conference play coming next week, it is time to review the strongest candidates for a midseason All-Conference Team. Some of the same players show up a second year in a row. Chaz Williams, for example, is doing what everyone thought he would… just better. Other names (Cady Lalanne and Cedrick Lindsay) might be new to the list, but fans of the Minutemen and Spiders know who they are.

The RTC pre-A10 first team consists on a eclectic group of standouts.

The RTC “Pre-A10 season” first team consists on an eclectic group of standouts.

  • Guard — Chaz Williams, Massachusetts. With the resurgence of the Minutemen program, Williams stands an excellent chance to take Player of the Year honors at season’s end. The senior guard leads the conference in total assists (82) and assists per game (7.8),and leads Massachusetts in scoring (173) and points per game (15.7).
  • Guard — Cedrick Lindsay, Richmond. The junior point guard leads the Spiders in points scored (205), points per game (18.6), assists (54) and minutes played (378). Given Chris Mooney’s preference for a deep rotation, the last statistic is especially impressive as it represents 76.3 percent of the available minutes at Richmond’s point guard spot. With three games left before they start conference play — two of them very winnable — the chances are good that Richmond will start conference play with at least 10 wins in the book.
  • Guard — Treveon Graham, VCU. The 6′ 6″ off guard leads Shaka Smart’s squad in scoring (203) and points per game (15.6) and is second in rebounding (85).
  • Forward — Dwayne Evans, St. Louis. Evans was named to the preseason All-Conference First Team along with Chaz Williams, and like his UMass rival, Evans has not disappointed. The 6’6″ senior forward leads the Billikens in points scored (207) and has been a crucial piece in their 11-2 season.
  • Center — Cady Lalanne, Massachusetts. The 6’10” center might be Williams’ teammate but also his biggest competitor for Player of the Year honors. Lalanne and Williams have both been named Player of the Week twice. The junior has started all 11 games for UMass, averages a double-double (14.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG), and leads the conference in blocked shots (32).

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